Category Archives: Latin America

EbolaWatch: Politics, quarantines, Africa


But we begin with another aspect of the crisis from the World Food Program:

Ebonomics: The Price Of Keeping The Ebola Crisis From Becoming A Hunger Crisis

Program notes:

WFP’s Chief Economist Arif Husain visits West Africa to analyse how the outbreak affects the overall economy, particularly the food sector, and explains what types of assistance WFP is offering to different communities depending on their needs.

From Reuters, expectations:

Americans may still see some Ebola cases, Obama says

President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that Americans may continue to see individual cases of Ebola in the United States until the outbreak in West Africa is contained.

Obama said it was essential the United States and other countries work to stop the Ebola outbreak at its source in Africa.

Until the outbreak is stopped, he said, “we may still continue to see individual cases in America in the weeks and months ahead.”

“We can’t hermetically seal ourselves off,” he said at the White House.

From the Associated Press, impasse:

Maine in standoff with nurse over Ebola safeguards

Insisting she is perfectly healthy, nurse Kaci Hickox again defied the state’s Ebola quarantine Thursday by taking a bike ride with her boyfriend, and Maine health authorities struggled to reach a compromise that would limit her contact with others.

Hickox, 33, stepped out of her home on the remote northern edge of Maine for the second day in a row, practically daring authorities to make good on their threat to go to court to have her confined against her will. On Wednesday evening, she went outside for an impromptu news conference and shook a reporter’s outstretched hand.

By evening, it was unclear whether the state had gone to court or whether there had been any progress toward ending the standoff that has become the nation’s most closely watched clash between personal freedom and fear of Ebola. The governor’s office and Hickox’s lawyers would not comment.

More form the Los Angeles Times:

Maine fails to reach quarantine compromise with nurse Kaci Hickox

It’s the type of battle made for flinty New England, where personal liberty vs. the government’s interpretation of public good has been a frequent theme. A nurse, hailed by some as a hero for helping treat Ebola patients in Africa, has defiantly rejected the power of Maine officials seeking to quarantine her in the name of protecting the public from a virus that the healthcare worker insists she doesn’t have.

Maine health authorities so far have failed to reach a compromise with nurse Kaci Hickox that would require her to keep her distance from other people. Hickox has personified the closely watched clash between personal freedom and fear of Ebola since she arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey last Friday and found herself in quarantine.

Early Thursday, Hickox stepped out of her home in Fort Kent, at the remote northern edge of Maine, and took a bicycle ride with her boyfriend. It was the second time in as many days that Hickox had flouted the state’s rules that she stay away from the public until Nov. 10, the end of the 21-day incubation period for the Ebola virus.

Complications from Reuters:

In U.S. Ebola fight, no two quarantines are quite the same

In the U.S. battle against Ebola, quarantine rules depend on your zip code.

For some it may feel like imprisonment or house arrest. For others it may be more like a staycation, albeit one with a scary and stressful edge.

If they are lucky, the quarantined may get assigned a case worker who can play the role of a personal concierge by buying groceries and running errands. Some authorities are allowing visitors, or even giving those in quarantine permission to take trips outside to walk the dog or take a jog.

A month after the first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States, state and local health authorities across the country have imposed a hodgepodge of often conflicting rules.

Politics from CNN:

State Department denies it has a secret plan to admit foreign Ebola patients

The State Department discussed plans to transport non-U.S.citizens infected with Ebola to the United States for medical treatment, but decided to shelve the proposal and insists it was never considered at senior levels.

But Congressional Republicans are seizing on an internal State Department memo outlining a possible joint State-Homeland Security department program to provide Ebola care at U.S. hospitals for non-Americans. They say the memo is evidence the Administration was working on a new plan but wasn’t being transparent about it.

The memo, obtained by CNN, is labeled “SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED – PREDECISIONAL” and drafted by State Department officials. It recommends that the two federal agencies come up with a system to admit into the United States non-citizens “as long as they are otherwise eligible for medical evacuation from the Ebola affected countries and for entry in the United States.” It outlines the steps the U.S. government would need to take to contract with a commercial aviation company that specializes in bio containment. It also mentions other non-governmental agencies the U.S. is working with to assist with medevacing health care workers out of West Africa to European countries.

More of the political from the Washington Post:

Politicians fueling Ebola fear before midterms

Program notes:

Polling shows the public is worried about an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. — and politicians on both sides of the aisle are feeding into the fear, just weeks away from the midterm elections.

Strategizing from the Associated Press:

Nations in Americas join in battle against Ebola

Countries from around the Americas have agreed to work together in their response to Ebola, adopting similar procedures in such things as the establishment of epidemiological monitoring centers and coordinating the transport of biological samples.

About 200 epidemiology experts and health officials from 24 countries, including the United States and Canada, met in Havana on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss their response to the epidemic.

A document from the meeting lays out “lines of action” that the countries say they’ll follow to combat the disease.

And a walkout from the Contra Costa Times:

National Nurses Union plans strike to demand greater protections against Ebola

Stepping up demands to protect nurses from Ebola, the national nurses’s union said Thursday that nurses coast-to-coast are planning a National Day of Action on Nov. 12 that includes strikes at 21 Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California.

Zenei Cortez, co-president of the California Nurses Association, which is part of National Nurses United, said Kaiser nurses plan to strike Nov. 11-12.

When it comes to Ebola, “the message that nurses have been getting around the nation is that we are expendable,” said Deborah Burger, co-president of National Nurses United and president of the California Nurses Association. “At first there was shock, then anger — and now we want action.

“They don’t have the appropriate training and protection,” she said of nurses in her organization and nationwide, urging that hospitals provide nurses with hazmat suits, proper protective equipment and training to safeguard against Ebola. “These are human beings. We’re talking about our nurses that are heroes and take care of this country.”

Genetics from the Japan Times:

Ebola symptoms may hinge on gene functions: U.S., Japanese researchers

Ebola’s symptoms may differ depending on whether certain genes in the victim are active or not, a U.S.-based research team said in a paper published in Science magazine on Thursday.

The findings from experiments on mice are likely to help understand why Ebola manifests itself differently from one case to another. They may also aid the treatment of critical patients, the researchers said.

Led by Michael Katze of the University of Washington, the research team includes Japanese scientist Atsushi Okumura and members of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

More from the London Telegraph:

Ebola outbreak: Ebola may not be a deadly disease for everyone, scientists find

  • Researchers have found that natural immunity may exist to Ebola, after discovering that some animals get over the disease quickly, without major symptoms

Ebola may not be a deadly disease for everyone, after scientists discovered that some people are likely to be naturally immune to the virus.

A study in mice showed that genetic variations govern how ill victims will get after contracting the disease.

Some completely resist the disease, while others suffer only a moderate illness. However many still succumb to bleeding, organ failure and shock.

The research was conducted in a highly secure, state-of-the-art bio lab in Montana, US.

Researchers found that all mice lost weight in the first few days after infection. However, nearly one in five of the mice not only survived, but also fully regained their lost weight within two weeks.

The Los Angeles Times covers the seriocomic:

When an Ebola joke becomes a crime

An Ohio man was arrested and jailed after he told a dealer at a Cleveland casino that he was there, ha ha, to keep his distance from his ex, who had come back from Africa with Ebola.

The charge against Emanuel Smith:  “felony inducing panic.” Smith is alleged to have broken a law that in part bans “initiating or circulating a report of an alleged or impending fire, explosion, crime or other catastrophe, knowing that such report or warning is false.”

In Ohio, if a crack about Ebola causes a panic or costs a business money, you could face criminal charges.

Smith’s ex-wife, of course, didn’t have Ebola, but after the remark was reported to management, the casino cleared out the pit where he’d been gambling, which meant lost revenue, and according to the law in Ohio, the more money is lost by the “panic,”  the more serious the felony.

Another joke gone bad from RT:

‘Ebola’ coffee cup puts plane on lockdown at Dublin Airport

An unidentified man who scribbled an Ebola warning on a cup of coffee caused quite a stir on a Dublin-bound flight. After putting the plane on lockdown for nearly an hour in the Irish capital, authorities determined that it was all a hoax.

The incident occurred on Air Lingus Flight EI 433, which had set off from Milan on Thursday. Upon arriving in Dublin, passengers were held onboard for roughly 50 minutes until paramedics were able to investigate the matter.

“Following a minor security incident on board an Aer Lingus flight from Milan to Dublin, passengers were held on board the aircraft after it landed at Dublin Airport just before 1pm today,” a spokesperson for Dublin Airport Authority told the Irish Independent.

From USA TODAY, harkening to the days of the “Dark Continent”:

Ebola fears spark claims of racism in Europe

Italian mothers in suburban Rome recently organized a petition drive to keep a 3-year-old black girl from attending kindergarten after her family traveled to Uganda — a country thousands of miles away from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

In Germany, soccer fans chanted “Ebola, Ebola” when Charles Atsina, a black player from Ghana, came onto the field to play.

Two British landlords refused to rent an apartment to a black Sierra Leone radio newscaster, Amara Bangura, who was moving to England to study. The landlords feared he might bring the deadly virus with him.

As Americans debate quarantining health workers returning from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone or banning travelers from those countries — as Australia has already done — fears of Ebola have also gripped Europe. And that fear is giving some people license to vent racist attitudes.

Entry not denied from Science:

Ebola researchers still welcome at European infectious diseases meetings

As ScienceInsider reported yesterday, the state of Louisiana has told researchers to stay away from the world’s biggest tropical medicine meeting next week if they have been in contact with Ebola patients in the past 21 days—or even if they’ve just visited Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone, the three nations where the epidemic is raging. Many scientists object to the policy; the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), which organizes the event, disagrees but accepts Louisiana’s decision, says incoming president Christopher Plowe.

But Ebola is a hot topic at many special sessions and late breakers these days. Are scientists who may have been exposed to the virus still welcome at other infectious diseases meetings? Here’s a quick sample.

People returning from West Africa are definitely expected, and are welcome, at the European Scientific Conference on Applied Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, held next week in Stockholm. Sweden currently does not have travel restrictions for people coming from affected countries, says a representative for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which organizes the event.

From Voice of America, a map of countries placing some restrictions on trvel from the hot zone:

BLOG Ebola travel

After a ban, back in the hot zone from FrontPageAfrica:

Back to Ebola Zone – Washington Post Duo –DuCille and Bernstein Return

Just days after he was barred from a teaching workshop class at Syracuse University over fears that he may have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus following his recent assignment to Liberia, Washington Post Photographer Michel duCille is heading back to the epicenter of the outbreak. DuCille, along with health reporter Lenny Bernstein will arrive in Monrovia Friday for a second assignment stint since the outbreak in March.

Michel DuCille, a three-time Pulitzer prize winning photographer received the shock of his life recently when he was disinvited by the university over fears that he had Ebola after covering the virus outbreak in Liberia, even though he is symptom-free and has been in the United States for more than the recommended incubation period. FrontPageAfrica’s Newsroom Chief Wade Williams received similar news the same day when she too was disinvited from a previously-arranged speaking engagement at the University of Georgia.

DuCille did not hide his disgust of the University’s decision to disinvite him when he told Time: “I am disappointed in the level of journalism at Syracuse, and I am angry that they missed a great teaching opportunity. Instead, they have decided to jump in with the mass hysteria. They missed a great teaching opportunity here for the students; to show them how to report the facts and practice good journalism Instead they went the alarmist route.”

Asian readiness from Reuters:

In Guangdong, nervy Chinese ramp up Ebola watch

Chinese authorities have identified the southern province of Guangdong, home to Asia’s biggest African population, as a frontline in their efforts to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from entering mainland China.

The province bordering Hong Kong has proven susceptible to infectious diseases in the past, shouldering a large share of SARS and bird flu cases, prompting local authorities to take no chances with Ebola.

Local authorities say they have expanded testing procedures at provincial entry ports and 27 hospitals have been designated to handle possible Ebola cases. Travelers arriving from Ebola-affected nations must leave their contact details.

“The central government has asked Guangzhou to strengthen preventative measures,” Mao Qun’an, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, told Reuters. “Of course in Guangzhou, there are many people from outside China’s borders.”

And another warning from the Japan Times:

Chinese risk of Ebola outbreak ‘not rocket science’: expert

A scientist who helped to discover the Ebola virus says he is concerned that the deadly disease could spread to China, given the large numbers of Chinese workers traveling to and from Africa.

Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said Thursday it’s not “rocket science” that with many exchanges between the two regions the disease could spread.

“The concern I have is that I don’t think you can really stop people from traveling. These patients will show up in any country in the world, but China is quite vulnerable,” Piot said.

“The issue is: What is the quality, the standard of infection control? In public hospitals in China, the ones that I’ve visited, the level of infection control is very poor,” he said.

Unprepared from NHK WORLD:

Hospitals in Japan not fully prepared for Ebola

An NHK survey shows that most hospitals in Japan designated to treat Ebola patients are not fully prepared.

NHK surveyed 45 designated medical institutions across the country, and received responses from 39. Regarding preparedness to accept Ebola patients, 32 hospitals, or 82 percent, said they are not fully prepared.

As for the reason, 75 percent cited insufficient training for doctors, nurses and other health workers. 53 percent said they have not yet carried out drills for accepting Ebola patients. 38 percent cited a lack of supplies such as protective suits to prevent secondary infections of health workers.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore takes it all the way:

North Korea orders Ebola quarantine on all foreigners

Britain, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, issued a travel advisory on its government website on Thursday (Oct 30), detailing the quarantine order which was apparently issued to all foreign missions in the North Korean capital

North Korea has announced it intends to quarantine all foreigners entering the country for 21 days, no matter what their country of origin, as a measure against the spread of the Ebola virus.

Britain, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, issued a travel advisory on its government website on Thursday (Oct 30), detailing the quarantine order which was apparently issued to all foreign missions in the North Korean capital.

According to the advisory, travellers to North Korea from regions or countries that Pyongyang considers affected by the Ebola virus, will be quarantined for 21 days “in a government-appointed hotel under medical supervision”. Travellers from any other country or region will also be quarantined in hotels appointed by the organisation hosting their visit.

After the jump, on to Africa and more World Bank loans for the hot zone, Chinese military help, Nigerian helpers bankrolled, a prescription of trust, and a sad colonial heritage, and a funereal solution prescribed, on to Sierra Leone and cremations enforced, a plea for help from a Japanese volunteer, scenes from a crisis center, a plea to end air embargoes, a campaign against misinformation, and official optimism, then on to Liberia and cremation confusion, waiting in limbo, and the plight of a the multiply victimized, thence to Guinea and ravaged agriculture, Gambia next and actors enlisted for prevention, plus a warning form the World Bank. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Who’s the most satisfied?


From People in Emerging Markets Catch Up to Advanced Economies in Life Satisfaction [PDF], a new report from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Happy

InSecurityWatch: Robots, terror, hacks, drones


And a lot more.

We begin with a threat to jobs, one that will only get worse and lead to yet more global instability. First, from TheLocal.ch:

Nestlé to ‘employ’ robot clerks in Japan stores

Swiss-based food giant Nestlé says its Japan unit is hiring 1,000 robots as sales clerks at stores across the country.

The first batch of the robots — a chatty humanoid called Pepper — will report to work by the end of this year at outlets that sell coffee capsules and home espresso machines.

“From December, they will start selling coffee machines for us at big retail stores,” said Nestlé Japan spokeswoman Miki Kano.

“We are sure that our customers will enjoy shopping and being entertained by robots.”

More from PCMagazine:

Lowe’s Hires Robots for the Holidays

Lowe’s is hiring some new workers for the holiday season, but they’re not human.

The hardware store just announced plans to test customer service robots, which will be able to help you locate items in the store, and share real-time information about product promotions and inventory. Dubbed OSHbot, the robots can speak multiple languages and remotely connect with expert employees in other locations to answer project-related questions.

Unfortunately, the robots won’t yet be making an appearance at Lowe’s stores nationwide. Lowe’s will deploy two of the bots at its Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose, Calif. to see whether customers and employees embrace the technology.

The OSHbots roll right up to you, say hello, and ask what you need. They also feature 3D-scanning technology, so you can bring in a spare part, scan it under a 3D-sensing camera, and OSHbot will identify the product, tell you how much it costs, and then guide you to where you can find it on store shelves.

And another robotic development that’s particularly spooky, via United Press International:

Israeli company showcases manned/unmanned patrol boat

  • A patrol boat for homeland security applications that can operate autonomously or by personnel on board is being highlighted by Israel Aerospace Industries at an exhibition in France

A manned/unmanned patrol boat for homeland security and other applications is being highlighted in France this week by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The vessel being shown at the Euronaval International Naval Defense and Maritime Exhibition is the Katana, which the company launched earlier this year.

The Katana can operate autonomously through the use of an advanced command-and-control station or controlled by personnel on board.

On to the crisis of the year, via BBC News:

Islamic State crisis: Peshmerga fighters head to Turkey

Iraqi Kurdish forces are travelling to Turkey, from where they plan to cross into Syria to battle Islamic State (IS) militants besieging the town of Kobane.

Officials said a plane carrying 150 Peshmerga had left Irbil. Their heavy weapons will be transported by land.

Turkey agreed to the deployment last week after refusing to allow Turkish Kurds to cross the border to fight.

Earlier, the Turkish prime minister rejected claims that he was not doing enough to end the jihadists’ assault.

More from Reuters:

How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)

“Many antique collectors unwillingly support terrorists like Islamic State,” Michel van Rijn, one of the most successful smugglers of antique artifacts in the past century, told German broadcaster Das Erste this month.

And smuggling is booming in Iraq and Syria right now. In Iraq, 4,500 archaeological sites, some of them UNESCO World Heritage sites, are reportedly controlled by Islamic State and are exposed to looting. Iraqi intelligence claim that Islamic State alone has collected as much as $36 million from the sales of artifacts, some of them thousands of years old. The accounts data have not been released for verification but, whatever the exact number is, the sale of conflict antiquities to fund military and paramilitary activity is real and systematic.

Grainy video from soldiers fighting for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at Palmyra, an ancient capital in what is now Syria, shows delicate grave reliefs of the dead, ripped out, gathered up and loaded into the back of their truck. The soldiers present the heads of decapitated statues to the camera. Other stolen Palmyrene treasures were exposed by an undercover reporter for The Sunday Times. Sculptures, pillar carvings and glass vessels were found to be on sale for knock-down prices in Beirut, Lebanon. Roman vases had been robbed from graves and were being sold by the box.

And this from Der Spiegel:

Interview with an Islamic State Recruiter: ‘Democracy Is For Infidels’

  • How does Islamic State think? How do its followers see the world? SPIEGEL ONLINE met up with an Islamic State recruiter in Turkey to hear about the extremist group’s vision for the future.

The conditions laid out by the Islamist are strict: no photos and no audio recording. He also keeps his real name secret as well as his country of origin, and is only willing to disclose that he is Arab. His English is polished and he speaks with a British accent.

He calls himself Abu Sattar, appears to be around 30 years old and wears a thick, black beard that reaches down to his chest. His top lip is shaved as is his head and he wears a black robe that stretches all the way to the floor. He keeps a copy of the Koran, carefully wrapped in black cloth, in his black leather bag.

Abu Sattar recruits fighters for the terrorist militia Islamic State in Turkey. Radical Islamists travel to Turkey from all over the world to join the “holy war” in Iraq or Syria and Abu Sattar examines their motives and the depth of their religious beliefs. Several Islamic State members independently recommended Abu Sattar as a potential interview partner — as someone who could explain what Islamic State stands for. Many see him as something like an ideological mentor.

And on a related note, via Reuters:

U.S. boosts security at government buildings, citing calls by terrorist groups

The United States is stepping up security at government buildings in Washington and other major cities in response to “calls by terrorist organizations for attacks on the homeland and elsewhere,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday.

“Given world events, prudence dictates a heightened vigilance in the protection of U.S. government installations and our personnel,” Johnson said in a statement.

From Reuters, a reminder of an earlier regime change venture:

Libya near ‘point of no return’, U.N. says as fighting toll rises

Factional warfare in Libya is pushing the oil producer “very close to the point of no return”, the U.N. special envoy to the country said on Tuesday with efforts to bring about a ceasefire and political dialogue showing no result.

The death toll from two weeks of street fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist armed groups in the eastern city of Benghazi has risen to 170, medics said. Seven people were killed alone on Tuesday, 15 on Monday.

The North African country has had two governments and parliaments since a militia group from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli in August, setting up its own cabinet and assembly.

From BuzzFeed, can you say “Hubris”?:

Blackwater Founder Blames “Anti-War Left” For The Convictions Of Guards Who Killed Iraqi Civilians

“In the Vietnam War, the anti-war left went after the troops and this time they went after contractors and Blackwater represented anything they love to hate.”

The founder and former CEO of Blackwater Erick Prince blamed the anti-war left Tuesday for the conviction of four former guards for the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad.

“There’s a lot of politics that surrounds the event,” Prince said on NewsMax TV’s Midpoint. “The government spent tens of millions of dollars after this one case and a lot came after that Nisour Square event.”

“The bureaucratic attack the company withstand because of this. It’s all wrapped into the anger of the Iraq War. In the Vietnam War, the anti-war left went after the troops and this time they went after contractors and Blackwater represented anything they love to hate.”

Panopticon pervasiveness from the Guardian:

GCHQ views data with no warrant, government admits

  • GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material revealed in documents submitted to UK surveillance watchdog

British intelligence services can access raw material collected in bulk by the NSA and other foreign spy agencies without a warrant, the government has confirmed for the first time.

GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material are revealed in documents submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the UK surveillance watchdog, in response to a joint legal challenge by Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International. The legal action was launched in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations published by the Guardian and other news organisations last year.

The government’s submission discloses that the UK can obtain “unselected” – meaning unanalysed, or raw intelligence – information from overseas partners without a warrant if it was “not technically feasible” to obtain the communications under a warrant and if it is “necessary and proportionate” for the intelligence agencies to obtain that information.

The rules essentially permit bulk collection of material, which can include communications of UK citizens, provided the request does not amount to “deliberate circumvention” of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which governs much of the UK’s surveillance activities.

And from National Journal, we’ll show you yours if you’ll show us ours:

British Spies Allowed to Access U.S. Data Without a Warrant

Newly released documents from the British government reveal a lack of judicial oversight for how it sifts through communications data collected by the NSA and other foreign governments

British authorities are capable of tapping into bulk communications data collected by other countries’ intelligence services—including the National Security Agency—without a warrant, according to secret government documents released Tuesday.

The agreement between the NSA and Britain’s spy agency, known as Government Communications Headquarters or GCHQ, potentially puts the Internet and phone data of Americans in the hands of another country without legal oversight when obtaining a warrant is “not technically feasible.”

The data, once obtained, can be kept for up to two years, according to internal policies disclosed by the British government. GCHQ was forced to reveal that it can request and receive vast quantities of raw, unanalyzed data collected from foreign governments it partners with during legal proceedings in a closed court hearing in a case brought by various international human-rights organizations, including Privacy International, Liberty U.K., and Amnesty International. The suit challenges certain aspects of GCHQ’s surveillance practices.

Threatpost covers the bottom line:

Cyberespionage: ‘This Isn’t a Problem That Can Be Solved’

“This isn’t a problem that can be solved. Don’t think it has a solution,” Joel Brenner, former head of national counterintelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and former senior counsel at the NSA, said in a keynote speech at the Kaspersky Government Cybersecurity Forum here Tuesday. “We are economically interdependent with the Chinese in an extraordinary way.”

Brenner pointed out a number of factors that have hoped lead to the current state of affairs, including the interconnection of virtually every conceivable asset and what he says has been the stasis in defensive thinking and operations in the last 10 years or so.

“If you thought the state of cyber defense had become substantially better in the last ten years, you’d be wrong,” he said. “We’ve been walking backward on cybersecurity for more than a decade and we’ll continue to walk backward unless and until we can address the core issues. The defensive stance needs to change from filter and guard to hunt and kill.”

From the Japan Times, the high price of apocalyptic security:

Imminent U.S. revamp of nuclear weapons, subs and planes is too costly, some say

Over the next 30 years, Washington will have to overhaul or replace much of its nuclear arsenal, an effort that experts say could cost as much as a trillion dollars. The problems will lie in choosing what is truly indispensable, and in how to pay for it.

The congressionally mandated National Defense Panel put it bluntly in a July review of the Pentagon’s defense plans, saying the effort to build a new triad of nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines is “unaffordable” under present budget constraints.

With legislation in 2011 putting in place a decade of budget spending cuts, analysts say the White House will ultimately have to delay some systems, trim others or find more money. Most likely, it will have to do all three.

Gee, they’ve got mail! From the New York Times:

Report Reveals Wider Tracking of Mail in U.S.

In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.

The number of requests, contained in a 2014 audit of the surveillance program by the Postal Service’s inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax.

The audit, along with interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, offers one of the first detailed looks at the scope of the program, which has played an important role in the nation’s vast surveillance effort since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Kansas City Star’s Lee Judge offers his take on the snail mail “hack”:

BLOG Mailer

And they’re looking for more, via the Guardian:

FBI demands new powers to hack into computers and carry out surveillance

  • Agency requests rule change but civil liberties groups say ‘extremely invasive’ technique amounts to unconstitutional power grab

The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement that would grant it significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the US and around the world.

Civil liberties groups warn that the proposed rule change amounts to a power grab by the agency that would ride roughshod over strict limits to searches and seizures laid out under the fourth amendment of the US constitution, as well as violating first amendment privacy rights. They have protested that the FBI is seeking to transform its cyber capabilities with minimal public debate and with no congressional oversight.

The regulatory body to which the Department of Justice has applied to make the rule change, the advisory committee on criminal rules, will meet for the first time on November 5 to discuss the issue. The panel will be addressed by a slew of technology experts and privacy advocates concerned about the possible ramifications were the proposals allowed to go into effect next year.

South China Morning Post has the latest plumbing news:

FBI net closing on ‘Edward Snowden-style’ leaker of terror watch-lists

The net is closing on a second “Edward Snowden-style” whistle-blower who has reportedly been identified by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, it emerged yesterday.

Agents had identified an employee of a US contracting firm who was suspected of leaking a US government watch list of terrorists to a journalist linked to Snowden, Yahoo News reported.

Agents had reportedly searched the suspect’s home and a criminal investigation had been opened by prosecutors in the US state of Virginia. However, no one had been arrested or charged, the report said.

It is believed that the suspect was inspired by Snowden.

From the Associated Press, pressing the issue:

AP, Seattle Times object to FBI’s fake news story

The Associated Press and The Seattle Times are objecting after learning that the FBI created a fake news story and website using their names to catch a bomb threat suspect in 2007.

Police in suburban Lacey, near Olympia, sought the FBI’s help as repeated bomb threats prompted a week of evacuations and closures at Timberline High School in June 2007.

After police interviews of potential suspects came up empty, the agency obtained a warrant from a federal magistrate judge to send a “communication” to a social media account associated with the bomb threats, with the idea of tricking the suspect into revealing his location, according to documents obtained by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The “communication,” which contained a software tool known as a “computer and Internet Protocol address verifier,” turned out to be a link to a phony AP story about the bomb threats posted on a fake Seattle Times webpage. The 15-year-old suspect clicked on the link, revealing his computer’s location and Internet address, and helping agents confirm his identity.

The boy was arrested.

Defense One covers hackery:

NATO’s Take on Cyberspace Law Ruffles China’s Feathers

Recent revelations by a group of security researchers of another China-based hacking group, reportedly more sophisticated than Unit 61398, is likely to set off the usual recriminations and denials, but have very little impact on the U.S.-China bilateral relationship. The Chinese embassy has already responded that “these kinds of reports or allegations are usually fictitious,” a response that Robert Dix, vice president of government affairs for Juniper Networks, colorfully and baldly describes as the Chinese giving “a big middle finger to anybody in the United States that’s tried to out them or point fingers in their direction.”

The report on the group, called Axiom, describes a six-year campaign against companies, journalists, civil society group, academics, and governments, and may preclude any real discussion on cyber issues between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next week. There was, however, very little chance that their sidebar discussion was going to lead to major progress. The differences between the two sides are deep.

An article that ran last week in the People’s Liberation Army Daily [Chinese] criticizing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and efforts to develop the laws of armed conflict in cyberspace shows just how deep the differences are.

And from CNET, most interesting:

People trust NSA more than Google, survey says

  • In a result consistent with previous polling, a new poll has respondents claiming they’re more concerned about Google seeing all their private data than the government

People don’t always say what they think. Especially in business and love.

Please, therefore, consider this question: whom would you trust more with your private data: the NSA, a company like Google, or your mom?

I ask because I’m looking at the results of a survey, conducted between October 9 and12, that asked just that. It asked simple questions, to which its sponsors hoped to get simple answers.

The results went like this. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being “I am shivering uncontrollably with fear”) the idea of Google or a similar concern having access to all your private data got a concerned score of 7.39.

The idea of the NSA having its eyes and hands all over you? 7.06. What about your boss snooping? That merited a mere 6.85. While the notion of your parents knowing it all got a 5.93.

From PandoDaily, another reason to make you hinky about da Google:

You can run, but you can’t hide: Google expands its real-world surveillance system with Google Fit

The company has developed an application that allows Android smartphone owners to collect health-related information in one place. It’s called Google Fit, and besides challenging Apple’s HealthKit service, it also represents Google’s efforts to gather real-world data to complement the information it already has about the digital world.

It’s no longer enough for companies to track someone’s activity across the Web by monitoring their emails, analyzing their browsing history, or keeping tabs on their online searches. All that information now needs to be supplemented with data about what someone’s doing in the real world, whether that’s demonstrated through location tracking or through a health application.

Why else would so many companies rush to help people track their steps, count their calories, or collect other health-related information? It’s not just about making self quantification more convenient for the few self-obsessed consumers who actually use that information. It’s also about increasing the amount of information that can be offered to advertisers — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but certainly as soon as these companies can get away with it.

From the Daily Dot, can you hear them now?:

Verizon is launching a tech news site that bans stories on U.S. spying

  • Verizon is getting into the news business. What could go wrong?

The most-valuable, second-richest telecommunications company in the world is bankrolling a technology news site called SugarString.com. The publication, which is now hiring its first full-time editors and reporters, is meant to rival major tech websites like Wired and the Verge while bringing in a potentially giant mainstream audience to beat those competitors at their own game.

There’s just one catch: In exchange for the major corporate backing, tech reporters at SugarString are expressly forbidden from writing about American spying or net neutrality around the world, two of the biggest issues in tech and politics today.

Unsurprisingly, Verizon is deeply tangled up in both controversies.

After the jump, killing the Fourth Estate with impunity, blood on the newsroom floor, White House hackery, a major hack of a cell-phone-based electronic payment system, millions of Californians lose personal data to hackers, a major malware breach of Gmail Drafts, hacking arrests to come at an amoral media baron’s Old Blighty holding, feds crack down on stadium droners while others drones may carry heart-zappers, cops arm for violence in Ferguson, sending a battlewagon to bust grandpa, On to Mexico and probing for graves in the search for missing Mexican students as more arrests ensue and parents confront a president, a police purge in Venezuela, droning up Down Under as civil rights take a hit, an assassination plot in Bangldesh, on to Hong Kong and pressing the fight, two bizarre tales from North Korea, a call for a purge in a Japanese shrine, and those threatening clowns and trolls of Europe. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Canada, war, spies, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

We begin with a familiar routine, this time with Canada sacrificing civil liberties, via Reuters:

Canada must do more to rein in threat from radicals: police head

The head of Canada’s national police told a parliamentary committee on Monday the government must do more to stop homegrown radicals, such as those who killed two soldiers on home soil last week, from going overseas for militant training.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said last week’s killings in Ottawa and outside Montreal, which he said appeared to be carried out with minimal planning or preparation, show the nation faces a “serious” threat.

“While we are facing this threat at home, we must focus our efforts on preventing individuals traveling abroad to commit to commit acts of terrorism,” Paulson said. “Preventing the individuals from traveling is critical. If these individuals return with training and/or battle experience, they pose an even greater threat to Canada and our allies.”

More from Xinhua:

Canadian government introduces protection of Canada from terrorists act

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney Monday announced that the Canadian government has introduced the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act to better protect Canadians.

The announcement came five days after an armed terrorist stormed into the Canadian parliament after killing a soldier at the War Memorial nearby last Wednesday. The attacker, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a homegrown radical, was killed later by security officers in the parliament.

Blaney said terrorism remains a serious threat to Canada and Canadian interests. The nature of this threat continues to be apparent both abroad and at home.

And from The National, a surprisingly realistic assessment:

Panel: What do we sacrifice to be safe?

Program notes:

Given the killings of two Canadian soldiers this week, should police and intelligence officials have more power to stop terror attacks and other security threats? Brian Stewart, Veronica Kitchen and Barry Cooper talk through the implications.

From Reuters, China follows the same course:

China to streamline counter-terrorism intelligence gathering

China will set up a national anti-terrorism intelligence system, state media said on Monday, as part of changes to a security law expected to be passed this week after an upsurge in violence in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Hundreds of people have been killed over the past two years in Xinjiang in unrest the government has blamed on Islamists who want to establish a separate state called East Turkestan.

Rights groups and exiles blame the government’s repressive policies for stoking resentment among the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang home.

More from SINA English:

China to set up anti-terror intelligence gathering center

China will set up an anti-terrorism intelligence gathering center to coordinate and streamline intelligence gathering in the field, according to a draft law submitted for reading on Monday.

The counter-terrorism law aimed to improve intelligence gathering and the sharing of information across government bodies and among military, armed police and militia, and enhance international cooperation, said Lang Sheng, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the top legislature.

Explaining the draft to lawmakers, Lang said China is facing a serious and complex situation against terrorism, with more influence from “international factors.”

And in Old Blighty, a trial date is set, via the Guardian:

June trial for four accused of Isis plot to kill police and soldiers in London

  • Group allegedly swore allegiance to Islamic State and carried out “hostile reconnaissance” on military targets

Four men accused of a terror plot to kill police or soldiers in London will face a jury next June, a court has heard.

The four are alleged to have sworn allegiance to Islamic State (Isis) and carried out “hostile reconnaissance” on police and military targets, as part of a plot in which a gun, silencer and ammunition were obtained, as well as a moped.

The four men, all from London, appeared at the Old Bailey on Monday. Tarik Hassane, 21, Suhaib Majeed, 20, and Momen Motasim, 21, appeared by video link, speaking only to confirm their names. A fourth man, Nyall Hamlett, 24, appeared in the dock.

From the Intercept, a symptom of endless war:

Iraq War Now Being Fought By People Who Were Just Kids When It Started

Last week, the Pentagon announced the death of the first American serviceman in the war against ISIS. Marine Lance Cpl. Sean Neal was killed in what was described as a “non-combat incident” in Iraq, making him the first American to die in “Operation Inherent Resolve” – America’s latest military excursion into that country.

Cpl. Neal was only 19 years old. He would have only been eight at the outset of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and merely six on 9/11 – a child at the time of both these events.  The fact that he ended up losing his life in Iraq is on one hand tragic, and on the other completely absurd.

The tragedy here is that a young man with a long future ahead of him ended up dying in a distant country before even reaching the age of twenty. The absurdity is that men such as him are still losing their lives as a result of still-inexplicable decisions made over a decade ago. The Iraq War never ended, but now it’s being fought by men who were just children when it started. Walter Lippman once said, “I don’t think old men ought to promote wars for young men to fight.” In our time, old men have been promoting wars that kids would ultimately end up fighting.

The New York Times ups the ante:

Missiles of ISIS May Pose Peril for Aircrews in Iraq

From the battlefield near Baiji, an Islamic State jihadist fired a heat-seeking missile and blew an Iraqi Army Mi-35M attack helicopter out of the sky this month, killing its two crew members.

Days later, the Islamic State released a chilling series of images from a video purporting to capture the attack in northern Iraq: a jihadist hiding behind a wall with a Chinese-made missile launcher balanced on his shoulder; the missile blasting from the tube, its contrail swooping upward as it tracked its target; the fiery impact and the wreckage on a rural road.

The helicopter was one of several Iraqi military helicopters that the militants claim to have shot down this year, and the strongest evidence yet that Islamic State fighters in Iraq are using advanced surface-to-air missile systems that pose a serious threat to aircraft flown by Iraq and the American-led coalition.

From the Associated Press, nothing succeeds like failure:

INSIDE WASHINGTON: Profiting from failure

The Army’s $5 billion intelligence network has largely failed in its promise to make crucial data easily accessible to soldiers and analysts in the field. But for a select group of companies and individuals, the system has been a bonanza.

Designed to provide a common intelligence picture from the Pentagon to the farthest reaches of Afghanistan, the Distributed Common Ground System has proven crash-prone, unwieldy and “not survivable,” in the words of one memorable 2012 testing report.

Meanwhile, the defense companies that designed and built it continue to win multi-million-dollar intelligence contracts. And a revolving door has spun between those and the military commands that continue to fund the system, records show.

Several people who worked in key roles in Army intelligence left for top jobs at those companies. In the world of government contracting, that’s not illegal or entirely uncommon, but critics say it perpetuates a culture of failure.

Legal challenges, via the Associated Press:

NSA surveillance challenges moving through courts

While Congress mulls how to curtail the NSA’s collection of Americans’ telephone records, impatient civil liberties groups are looking to legal challenges already underway in the courts to limit government surveillance powers.

Three appeals courts are hearing lawsuits against the bulk phone records program, creating the potential for an eventual Supreme Court review. Judges in lower courts, meanwhile, are grappling with the admissibility of evidence gained through the NSA’s warrantless surveillance.

Advocates say the flurry of activity, which follows revelations last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of once-secret intelligence programs, show how a post-9/11 surveillance debate once primarily hashed out among lawmakers in secret is being increasingly aired in open court — not only in New York and Washington but in places like Idaho and Colorado.

“The thing that is different about the debate right now is that the courts are much more of a factor in it,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. Before the Snowden disclosures, he said, courts were generally relegated to the sidelines of the discussion. Now, judges are poised to make major decisions on at least some of the matters in coming months.

From Yahoo News, the second Snowden?:

Feds identify suspected ‘second leaker’ for Snowden reporters

  • The FBI recently searched a government contractor’s home, but some officials worry the Justice Department has lost its ‘appetite’ for leak cases

The FBI has identified an employee of a federal contracting firm suspected of being the so-called “second leaker” who turned over sensitive documents about the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case.

The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect’s home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said.

But the case has also generated concerns among some within the U.S. intelligence community that top Justice Department officials — stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases — may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern “there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases.”

From Gallup, a source of high anxiety:

Hacking Tops List of Crimes Americans Worry About Most

As the list of major U.S. retailers hit by credit card hackers continues to grow this year, Americans are more likely to worry about having credit card information they used in stores stolen by computer hackers than any other crime they are asked about. Sixty-nine percent of Americans report they frequently or occasionally worry about this happening to them. Having a computer or smartphone hacked (62%) is the only other crime that worries the majority of Americans.

Here’s the full list of America’s top criminal worries:

BLOG Compucrime

A security breach, via SecurityWeek:

Tor Exit Node Found Maliciously Modifying Files

A researcher has identified an exit node on the Tor anonymity network which is set up to maliciously modify the files that go through it.

Josh Pitts, a researcher with the Leviathan Security Group, has been analyzing ways to alter binary files during download with the aid of man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. In a presentation he made at the DerbyCon security conference this year, the expert noted that cybercriminals had probably been using techniques similar to the one he disclosed, but he only had circumstantial evidence.

To put his theory to the test, Pitts developed a module for Exitmap, a Python-based tool that allows users to check Tor exit nodes for traffic modifications. Roughly an hour after he started running the tool, the researcher identified a “very active” Russian exit node that was wrapping binary files that passed through it with malware.

Network World covers another costly hack attack:

Disaster as CryptoWall encrypts US firm’s entire server installation

“Here is a tale of ransomware that will make your blood run cold,” announced Stu Sjouwerman of security training firm KnowBe4 in a company newsletter this week and he wasn’t exaggerating.

One of his firm’s customers contacted him on 14 October for advice on how to buy Bitcoins after all seven of its servers containing 75GB of data had been encrypted by a recent variant of the hated CryptoWall ransom Trojan.

An admin had clicked on a phishing link which was bad enough. Unfortunately, the infected workstation had mapped drives and permissions to all seven servers and so CryptoWall had quickly jumped on to them to hand the anonymous professional a work day to forget.

From SecurityWeek, not altogether surprising:

Hackers Target Ukraine’s Election Website

Hackers attacked Ukraine’s election commission website Saturday on the eve of parliamentary polls, officials said, but they denied Russian reports that the vote counting system itself had been put out of action.

The http://www.cvk.gov.ua site, run by the commission in charge of organising Sunday’s election, briefly shut down. Ukrainian security officials blamed a denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, a method that can slow down or disable a network by flooding it with communications requests.

“There is a DDoS attack on the commission’s site,” the government information security service said on its Facebook page.

The security service said the attack was “predictable” and that measures had been prepared in advance to ensure that the election site could not be completely taken down.

Network World covers metastasis:

The ‘Backoff’ malware linked to data breaches is spreading

The number of computers in North America infected by the Backoff malware, which is blamed for a string of payment card breaches, has risen sharply, according to research from network security company Damballa.

The company detected a 57 percent increase between August and September in devices infected with Backoff, which scrapes a computer’s RAM for leftover credit card data after a payment card has been swiped, said Brian Foster, Damballa’s CTO.

Damballa based its finding on data it collects from its ISP and enterprise customers, who use its traffic analysis products to detect malicious activity.

Damballa sees about 55 percent of internet traffic from North America, including DNS requests, though for privacy reasons it doesn’t know the IP addresses of most of those computers, Foster said.

From BuzzFeed, America’s finest allies, at it again:

Saudi Lawyers Sentenced To Eight Years Behind Bars For Tweeting

The criminal court, which usually tries terrorism cases, said that the lawyers’ actions on Twitter “undermines general order.”

A Saudi Arabian court on Monday sentenced three lawyers to up to eight years in jail for sending tweets critical of the government.

The tweets were directed against the justice ministry, which has since 2010 promised to reform the courts system and codify just how the country’s legal adherence to Sharia law works.

Prosecutors charged the three lawyers with “contempt of the judiciary, interfering with its independence, criticizing the justice system and the judiciary.”

For unexplained reasons, the case took place under the auspices of the Specialized Criminal Court — which was created in 2008, ostensibly to conduct trials against suspected terrorists.

After the jump, ghosts from World War II including Italian compensation demands to Germany and the Greek demand for repayment of war debt incurred at gunpoint plus Uncle Sam’s Nazi minions, latter-day wannabes, rising pressure over a murdered Mexican journalist, arrests in the case of the missing Mexican students as a town waits for answers and a new governor is named, repression in Egypt, India builds up its military, China and Vietnam seeks maritime accommodation, on to Hong Kong and Beijing allegations and a media campaign, China accuses Taiwan of spy games, and America’s Kafka Kops. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: ISIS, spooks, cops, Hong Kong


And the latest from the search for those missing Mexican college students.

We begin with amped volume from The Hill:

Feinstein warns police, military personnel to guard against lone wolf attacks

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein warned on Sunday that police and military personnel should be “on guard” for lone wolf attacks inspired by Islamic jihad.

“The police and the military have to be on guard,” Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We need to think in some new ways.”

Last week, a lone wolf attacker killed a Canadian soldier, and a man who had recently converted to Islam attacked four police officers with a hatchet in New York.

Feinstein said Internet propaganda and specific individuals are “really firing up this lone wolf phenomenon.”

Disputation from the Jakarta Globe:

Kurds Reject Erdogan Report of Deal With Syrian Rebels to Aid Besieged Kobani

A senior Syrian Kurdish official on Friday rejected a report from Turkey’s president that Syrian Kurds had agreed to let Free Syrian Army fighters enter the border town of Kobani to help them push back besieging Islamic State insurgents.

The Free Syrian Army is a term used to describe dozens of armed groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but with little or no central command. They have been widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents such as Islamic State.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is a leading opponent of Assad and has allowed his more secular, Western-backed opponents such as FSA fighters to use Turkey as a base and sanctuary.

Erdogan said on Friday said 1,300 FSA fighters would enter Kobani after the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) agreed on their passage, but his comments were swiftly denied by Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the PYD.

And linkage denied, via BBC News:

Ottawa shootings: No Islamic State link found

There is no evidence so far that a gunman who attacked Canada’s parliament had links to Middle Eastern Islamist extremists, the government has said.

Foreign Minister John Baird told the BBC gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was “certainly radicalised”, but was not on a list of high-risk individuals.

Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at Ottawa’s war memorial before being shot dead in the nearby parliament building. Police have released video showing how the gunman stormed parliament.

It has also emerged that Prime Minister Stephen Harper hid in a cupboard in parliament for about 15 minutes during Wednesday’s attack as MPs sharpened flagpoles to use as spears against the gunman.

Fuel thrown on flames, via the Jakarta Globe:

India ‘Love Jihad’ Claims Fuel Hindu-Muslim Tensions

When a Hindu woman tearfully claimed to national media recently she had been kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam, India’s religious hardliners seized the chance to hike their “love jihad” fears.

Hardline Hindu activists, encouraged by the media attention, claimed scores of Muslim boys were attempting to abduct, seduce and elope with Hindu girls across the country for the sole purpose of conversion.

On websites and leaflets, right-wing groups warned India’s Hindu majority of the “dangers”, and a senior government minister called for talks between religious leaders “to find a solution to the issue”.

Last week, the woman, from northern Uttar Pradesh state, sensationally retracted her claims, saying she had in fact been pressured by her family to concoct the story.

But hardliners remain adamant that Muslims, numbering about 150 million in India, have a secret strategy to turn the secular country of 1.25 billion into their own.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, and they’ve done it before:

British forces hand over control of last base in Afghanistan

The handover was hailed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, but the southern Helmand province that foreign troops are leaving behind still confronts a resilient Taliban insurgency

British forces on Sunday (Oct 27) handed over formal control of their last base in Afghanistan to Afghan troops, ending combat operations in the country after 13 years which cost hundreds of lives.

The handover was hailed by British Prime Minister David Cameron but the southern Helmand province that foreign troops are leaving behind still confronts a resilient Taliban insurgency and remains a hub for opium production. The Union Jack was lowered at Camp Bastion while the Stars and Stripes came down at the adjacent Camp Leatherneck – the last US Marine base in the country.

All NATO combat troops will depart Afghanistan by December, leaving Afghan troops and police to battle Taliban insurgents on their own.

The Independent covers a curious conversion:

Councillor from French far-right party Front National converts to Islam – and urges others to follow

A local councillor representing Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, the Front National, has announced he has converted to Islam – and has urged fellow party members to do the same.

Maxence Buttey, 22, has been suspended from a regional Front National committee after he went public with his decision and sent out a “proselytising video” to the party in which he praised the “visionary virtues of the Koran and urged them to convert, the Telegraph reported.

Mr Buttey, who is a councillor in the eastern Paris suburb, Noisy-le-grand, said the Front National and Islam had a lot in common.

He told French newspaper, Le Parisien: “Like Islam, the FN defends the weakest. The party denounces exorbitant interest rates charged on the debt of our country, and Islam is against the practice of usury.”

From InfoWorld, notable:

Clueless FBI sabotages its own anti-encryption campaign

  • FBI Director Comey says smartphone encryption puts law enforcement in peril. Too bad he doesn’t seem to understand technology

FBI Director James Comey continues to bang the drum about the evils of smartphone encryption and the harm it will do to U.S. law enforcement efforts. Fortunately, few people are persuaded, possibly because Comey himself seems of two minds — and baffled by technology to boot.

Comey has been on a media tear denouncing the default smartphone encryption provided by Apple, with its recently released iOS 8, and Google, with its next-generation Lollipop Android OS. No one without the passcode — not even Apple or Google — can break the encryption, which leaves law enforcement “struggling to keep up” with criminals, Comey said in a speech to the Brookings Institution.

Comey called on Congress to update CALEA to require tech companies to build into their systems “lawful intercept capabilities” (don’t call them backdoors), saying mistrust of government in response to the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden “has gone too far.”

But in an interview with “60 Minutes” this month, Comey led off by saying, “I believe that Americans should be deeply skeptical of government power. You cannot trust people in power.” He then illustrated this by sidestepping the question of whether the FBI gathers electronic surveillance and passes it to the NSA, and insisting (incorrectly) that the FBI can never read your email without a court order.

Tech companies have good reasons for adding extra data protection to their products. And the FBI’s own website recommends using encryption on mobile devices “to protect the user’s personal data in the case of loss or theft.”

Drones over the Ukraine, from TheLocal.at:

Austrian drones fly high, over Ukraine and beyond

In the middle of the Austrian countryside, a few sleek, high-tech drones sit in a bright production hall, ready for missions over Ukraine, the Mediterranean or the Middle East.

Schiebel, a small company originally specialised in landmine detection, has been manufacturing Camcopters — a 3.5-metre (11.5-foot) long mini-helicopter equipped with cameras, radars and other sensors — for close to 10 years.

But it has gained prominence with a new mission in Ukraine, where the Camcopter will assist observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels.

The latest from Mexico, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Relatives Say They Won’t Let Mexican Government Incriminate Missing Students

Relatives of the 43 trainee teachers who went missing nearly a month ago in the southern Mexican city of Iguala after being attacked by municipal police warned the federal government not to try to lower social tensions by leveling false accusations against the students.

“The federal government should know that we’re not at peace, much less so now that they’re trying to distract attention from this (crime),” Felipe de Jesus, a relative of one of the missing youths, told Efe Friday, insisting that the families will not rest until they are found.

Relatives and classmates of the students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, a nearby teacher-training facility in Guerrero state, said their attorneys have learned that the federal Attorney General’s Office is pursuing a line of investigation that seeks to link the missing youths to the Los Rojos cartel.

And from Agence France-Presse, a report on the troubled Mexican state where the tragedy has been unfolding:

Gangsters paradise: Mexico’s Guerrero state

Program note:

For years drug cartels have been waging bloody turf wars in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state.

After the jump, China throws a bank into the Game of Zones, government and businesses direct warnings at protesting Hong Kong Students and a shift in their plans, Washington and Tokyo plan for joint military actions in time of crisis, and growing discontent with Japan’s new official secrets law. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, fear, blowback, crime


Plus the latest on the ongoing uproar over those missing Mexican college students, Hong Kong, and hacks.

First, from USA TODAY, a chronic constitutional condition:

The United States is in a perpetual state of national emergency.

Thirty separate emergencies, in fact.

An emergency declared by President Jimmy Carter on the 10th day of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 remains in effect almost 35 years later.

A post-9/11 state of national emergency declared by President George W. Bush — and renewed six times by President Obama — forms the legal basis for much of the war on terror.

Tuesday, President Obama informed Congress he was extending another Bush-era emergency for another year, saying “widespread violence and atrocities” in the Democratic Republic of Congo “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”

Those emergencies, declared by the president by proclamation or executive order, give the president extraordinary powers — to seize property, call up the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will.

From the Associated Press, terror in the north:

Gunman in Canada attack complained about mosque

The gunman who shot and killed a soldier in plain daylight then stormed Canada’s Parliament once complained that Vancouver mosque he attended was too liberal and inclusive, Muslim leaders said Friday.

Assam Rashid, spokesman for the British Columbia Muslim Association, said Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, visited the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque for several months in 2011 before he was told not to come back.

Rashid said the association has been working on a preventive program that focuses on minimizing the effect of terrorist and criminal propaganda in Canada.

And the inevitable demand for the same things that happen south of the border from CBC News:

Ottawa shooting: Harper government wants to make terror arrests easier

  • ‘Accelerated review of police abilities’ underway, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney is giving more indications of how the government intends to strengthen Canada’s security laws in the wake of Wednesday’s attack in Ottawa on Parliament Hill.

The minister told Radio-Canada on Friday that the government is eyeing the thresholds established in Canadian law for the preventive arrests of people thought to be contemplating attacks that may be linked to terrorism. Officials are considering how to make it easier to press charges against so-called lone-wolf attackers.

“The challenges are the thresholds — the thresholds that will allow either preventive arrest, or charges that lead to sentences, or more simple operations,” Blaney said in French. “So what the prime minister has asked is for us to review in an accelerated manner the different mechanisms that are offered to police to ensure everyone’s security.”

While Al Jazeera America focuses on the cause:

Foreign policy shift puts Canada in extremists’ crosshairs

  • Unprecedented stance on Middle East affairs is putting Canada ‘on the map’ for armed attacks

A drastic shift in Canada’s Middle East policy has put the country “on the map” of international armed groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), said one analyst, after two lethal attacks in the span of a week — one of which is said to have been inspired by the group.

“Canada seems to have gone far right” under the administration of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said Roksana Bahramitash, director of research for the Canada research chair in Islam, pluralism and globalization at the University of Montreal.

His administration’s dramatic stance on Middle Eastern affairs, what analysts call an unprecedented departure from that of previous governments, which focused their diplomacy on aid and peacekeeping missions, “puts Canada in a position it has never been in before,” she said.

And from Reuters, what as surprise. . .:

U.S. weighs passport, border changes in wake of Ottawa attack

U.S. officials are debating whether to tighten controls on the border with Canada and make it easier to revoke the passports of suspected militants, steps that could gain traction following two attacks in Canada this week.

The officials cautioned on Thursday that the discussions are in preliminary stages and that no immediate action appeared likely by either U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration or Congress.

While there was no specific evidence of a new threat in the United States, federal and state authorities were on a heightened state of alert following a gunman’s attack in Ottawa on Wednesday and another by an assailant in Quebec on Monday.

An interesting development from the Washington Post:

Russian fighter suspected of terrorism and held in Afghanistan to be prosecuted in U.S.

A Russian captured fighting with insurgents in Afghanistan and held for years at a detention facility near Bagram air base will be flown to the United States to be prosecuted in federal court, according to U.S. officials.

The move marks the first time a foreign combatant captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan and held at Bagram will be transferred to the United States for trial, a decision the Obama administration has weighed for months. With combat operations winding down, the administration’s authority to continue to hold the man was in question, and U.S. officials said Russia had little interest in getting him back.

The detainee, known by the nom de guerre Irek Hamidullan, is suspected of leading several insurgent attacks in 2009 in which U.S. troops were wounded or killed. He was captured that year after being wounded in a firefight.

Disputing Kerry via Xinhua:

Russia, U.S. reach no agreement on sharing intelligence against IS: Russian FM

Russia has reached no agreement with the United States over sharing intelligence against the extremist Islamic State (IS) group or sending military instructors to Iraq, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.

“There was no agreement that we would share information in the context of the activities of the so-called coalition set up by the Americans to combat the Islamic State, nor was there an agreement that we would send our instructors to train the Iraqi army,” Lavrov told a local TV channel.

Lavrov made the clarification in response to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks after their meeting in Paris on Oct. 14 that the two had agreed “to intensify intelligence cooperation with respect to ISIL (Islamic State) and other counter-terrorism challenges.”

BuzzFeed claims a scalp:

Exclusive: Shakeup At NSA After BuzzFeed News Reports On Potential Conflict Of Interest

Top National Security Agency official Teresa Shea is leaving her position after BuzzFeed News reported on her and her husband’s financial interests. The move comes as the NSA faces more questions about the business dealings of its former director Keith Alexander, and potential ethics conflicts. This post has been updated to include a response from the NSA.

One of the nation’s top spies is leaving her position at the National Security Agency (NSA), a spokesman confirmed Friday, amid growing disclosures of possible conflicts of interest at the secretive agency.

The shakeup comes just a month after BuzzFeed News began reporting on the financial interests of the official, Teresa Shea, and her husband.

Shea was the director of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, which involves intercepting and decoding electronic communications via phones, email, chat, Skype, and radio. It’s widely considered the most important mission of the NSA, and includes some of the most controversial programs disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, including the mass domestic surveillance program.

The NSA provided a statement Friday that said Teresa Shea’s “transition” from the SIGINT director job was routine and “planned well before recent news articles.” The agency indicated she would remain employed, but did not provide specifics.

From the Washington Post, their lips are Sealed:

In a federal trial examining a classified military deal, don’t mention the Navy SEALs

Witnesses, attorneys and even the judge took special care not to let the phrase “Navy SEALs” pass their lips during a federal criminal trial in Alexandria this week, further cloaking an already mysterious case involving the purchase of hundreds of unmarked rifle silencers for the military.

Instead, people involved in the trial referred obliquely to “the program,” “operators” and “other entities in the government” when discussing who might have wanted to use the silencers, which were acquired through a classified Navy contract.

On Wednesday, a key defense witness was interrupted almost immediately after he introduced himself as the weapons accessory manager for the Naval Special Warfare Command — which oversees the Navy’s commando units, including the furtive SEALs.

“Has it been explained to you that certain terms are not to be used?” U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema cautioned. The witness, Rodney F. Lowell, replied that he had been advised of the restrictions, but noted that the name of the Navy command itself was hardly a secret.

RT covers a Polish black prison appeal:

CIA secret prison ruling sees Poland appeal to European Human Rights Court

Poland has lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights against a condemning ruling on the country’s so-called ‘black sites’. The court found Warsaw had violated two terror suspects’ rights as it let the CIA interrogate them on its territory.

The appeal to review the case was lodged by Poland’s Foreign Ministry, which announced the move on Friday. Details of the appeal are withheld, but it is said to have been prepared on procedural grounds, according to Reuters.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland violated an international treaty to protect human rights in 2002-2003 as it stroke a deal with the CIA. The rights the Polish authorities were cited to have abused include cover-up of torture, the right to liberty and the right to an effective remedy for victims of crime.

From the Guardian, sea hunt cancelled:

Sweden calls off hunt for submarine

  • Reports of foreign underwater activity in the Stockholm archipelago triggered week-long search

Sweden’s navy has cancelled its week-long operation in the archipelago off Stockholm after finding no trace of the Russian submarine widely anticipated by military specialists and the media.

“Our assessment is that in the inner archipelago there was a plausible foreign underwater operation,” Rear Adm Anders Grenstad said. “But we believe that what has violated Swedish waters has left.”

Whatever was there could not have been a conventional submarine, Grenstad said, but a “craft of a lesser type”. It was not possible to state how big it was or to what country it belonged, he added. “The operation is substantially complete. The vessels and amphibious units have gone to port and resumed normal preparedness,” he said.

The Guardian covers a Whisper-ing campaign:

Top senator demands explanation from Whisper after user tracking revelations

  • Senator Jay Rockefeller emphasises concern over location tracking and says Guardian revelations raise ‘serious questions’

The chair of the Senate commerce committee has said revelations about how the “anonymous” social media app Whisper is tracking its users raise “serious questions” over privacy and demanded an explanation from the company.

Senator Jay Rockefeller wrote to the chief executive of Whisper to ask for a detailed, in-person briefing for his committee staff. He emphasised his concern over the location tracking of supposedly anonymous users of the app and demanded documents from Whisper.

Rockefeller’s intervention comes a week after the Guardian revealed how Whisper is tracking the location of its users, including some who have specifically asked not to be followed by opting out of geolocation services. Privacy experts have already called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the app’s business practices.

From the Guardian again, keeping them in suspense:

Whisper CEO suspends staff pending inquiry into ‘anonymity’ revelations

  • Editor-in-chief reported to be placed on leave
  • Heyward: Guardian reporting ‘just plain wrong

The chief executive of the “anonymous” social media app Whisper has placed at least two employees on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation by the company.

Earlier this month, the Guardian revealed that Whisper, which promises users anonymity and claims to be “the safest place on the internet”, was tracking the location of its users, including some who had specifically asked not to be followed.

Michael Heyward made the announcement the day after it emerged that a powerful Senate committee chairman had written to the company, raising “serious questions” about its use of data.

SecurityWeek covers a doubly ominous development:

Malvertising Campaign Infected Visitors to Yahoo, Other Sites With Ransomware

Researchers at Proofpoint have uncovered a malvertising campaign that hit a number of high-profile sites, including Yahoo, Match.com and AOL domains.

According to Proofpoint, the scheme generated an estimated $25,000 a day for the attackers.

“Without having to click on anything, visitors to the impacted websites may be stealthily infected with the CryptoWall 2.0 ransomware,” blogged Wayne Huang, vice president of engineering at Proofpoint. “Using Adobe Flash, the malvertisements silently “pull in” malicious exploits from the FlashPack Exploit Kit.”

“The exploits attack a vulnerability in the end-users’ browser and install CryptoWall 2.0 on end-users’ computers,” he continued. “Similar to the behavior of other “ransomware,” CryptoWall then encrypts the end-users’ hard drive and will not allow access until the victim pays a fee over the Internet for the decryption key.”

And the Independent covers woes for a Murdoch minion:

Phone-hacking: The Piers Morgan connection – Mirror admits some stories during Morgan’s tenure may have been obtained by illegal means

The publisher of the Daily Mirror has admitted for the first time that articles likely to have been the product of illegal phone hacking appeared in editions of the newspaper during the period when Piers Morgan was its editor.

In new defence documents produced by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the company accepts that several stories which appeared in the Daily Mirror between 2002 and 2004 were likely to have involved “unlawful interceptions of voicemails” and the blagging of call data.

The publisher is currently fighting dozens of civil claims which allege a “widespread and habitual” use of hacking inside its three national titles.

From the Contra Costa Times, another selfie scandal:

Warrant: CHP officer says stealing nude photos from female arrestees ‘game’ happened in L.A., Dublin offices

The California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos from a DUI suspect’s phone while she was in custody told investigators such image-stealing has been going on for years in the state law enforcement agency, stretching from its Los Angeles office to his own Dublin station, according to court documents obtained by this newspaper Friday.

CHP officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez confessed to stealing explicit photos from a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect without her permission in August and forwarding images to at least two other CHP officers. The five-year CHP veteran called it a “game” among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit. Harrington told investigators he had done the same thing to female arrestees a “half dozen times in the last several years,” according to the court records, which included graphic text messages between Harrington and his Dublin CHP colleague Officer Robert Hazelwood.

“It appears as though other women have fallen victim to this ongoing ‘game’ while in the custody of law enforcement,” said Rick Madsen, a Danville attorney representing a 23-year-old San Ramon who was the first to report that Harrington stole her photos while she was in custody at County Jail in Martinez on Aug. 29. “The callousness and depravity with which these officers

From the Guardian, yet another broadside:

Ferguson protests: Amnesty report criticises police excesses

  • Rights group raises concerns about heavy-duty equipment, ammunition, curfew and children affected by teargas

An excessive police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of an unarmed 18-year-old earlier this year ran the risk of killing demonstrators and impinged on their human rights, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The report, by Amnesty observers deployed to monitor the protests, found that the militarised reaction to a small minority of violent demonstrators “impacted the rights of all participating” to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly under the US constitution and state law.

Heavily armed police clashed with demonstrators in Ferguson on successive nights in August after Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson. Teargas, stun grenades and rubber and wooden bullets were shot at crowds to force them to leave the streets.

Noting that the so-called “less-lethal” ammunition that was shot at crowds in Ferguson “can result in serious injury and even death”, Amnesty’s 23-page report said on Friday that “at least two children were treated for exposure to teargas” during the protests.

After the jump, more graves found in hunt for missing Mexican students, the chief suspects, a governor recuses himself but fails to alleviate, a Mexican editor is murdered, life sentences for Argentine junta murderers, ISIS splits the Afghan Taliban, Comfort Women cloud Seoul/Tokyo relations, North Korean nukes go ballistic, on to Hong Kong and an ominous observation as protest leaders submit to their own vote, a backlash protest targets journalists, and a pronouncement from Beijing, and an unanticipated national security issue in France. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, climate, critters, & nukes


With begin with an enigma, via the Atlantic Monthly:

The Mysterious Polio-Like Disease Affecting American Kids

  • Doctors are stumped about the condition’s origins—and its treatment

More than 100 cases of a polio-like syndrome causing full or partial paralysis of the arms or legs have been seen in children across the United States in recent months, according to doctors attending the annual meeting of the Child Neurology Society.

Symptoms have ranged from mild weakness in a single arm to complete paralysis of arms, legs, and even the muscles controlling the lungs, leading in some cases to a need for surgery to insert a breathing tube, doctors said.

The outbreak, which appears to be larger and more widespread than what has largely been previously reported by medical and news organizations, has neurologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scrambling to find out what is causing these cases and how best to treat it.

“We don’t know how to treat it, and we don’t know how to prevent it,” said Keith Van Haren, a child neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “It actually looks just like polio, but that term really freaks out the public-health people.”

And another outbreak spreads, via MercoPress:

France reports four cases of chikungunya locally acquired infections

On 21 October 2014, WHO was notified by the National IHR Focal Point for France of 4 cases of chikungunya locally-acquired infection in Montpellier, France. The cases were confirmed by tests conducted by the French National Reference Laboratory for arboviruses on 20 October 2014. This is the first time that locally-acquired transmission of chikungunya has been detected in France since 2010.

The 4 cases of chikungunya infection occurred within the same family, with symptoms onset between 20 September and 12 October. The cases live in Montpellier in the vicinity of a chikungunya case imported from Cameroon. The cases have no history of travel out of their district of residence in the 15 days prior to the onset of symptoms.

Big Agra, deep pockets, via the Guardian:

Pro-GM labelling campaign hugely outspent in Colorado and Oregon ballot

  • Industry giants are spending more than $25m to defeat campaigns for mandatory GM food labelling in the two states, in the runup to next month’s vote

Biotech and supermarket giants are spending more than $25m (£15.6m) to defeat ballot initiatives in two western states that would require labelling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

In Colorado, Dupont and Monsanto food companies are outspending supporters of mandatory labelling by 22-1 ahead of the 4 November vote, according to state campaign finance records.

In Oregon, meanwhile, industry is outspending supporters of the ballot measure by about 2-1.

The heavy industry spending resembles the last-minute infusions of cash for television ads, direct mail, and campaign staff that helped defeat earlier campaigns for mandatory GM labelling in California and Washington state.

From the Los Angeles Times, the first of two California Scorched headlines:

A parched farm town is sinking, and so are its residents’ hearts

Beneath this small farm town at the end of what’s left of the Kings River, the ground is sinking.

Going into the fourth year of drought, farmers have pumped so much water that the water table below Stratford fell 100 feet in two years. Land in some spots in the Central Valley has dropped a foot a year.

In July, the town well cracked in three places. Household pipes spit black mud, then pale yellow water. After that, taps were dry for two weeks while the water district patched the steel well casing.

In September, the children of migrant farmworkers who usually come back to Stratford School a few weeks late, after the grape harvest, never came back at all. By October, there were new faces in the drought relief line in front of the school, picking up boxes of applesauce, canned tomatoes, peanut butter, rice.

And the second, via the Los Angeles Times:

For Sierra resident, the well runs dry — along with her options

Things were bad enough for Rochelle Landers before her well went dry. No job. No money for eye glasses or dentures. And now, for the last month and a half, no water.

Landers, a onetime school secretary, does not live in the parched heart of the state: the San Joaquin Valley, where some people get sand when they turn on the faucet.

She has an acre in the Sierra foothills, in a sparsely populated town an hour northeast of Sacramento with a seemingly abundant water supply despite the drought. Except for one thing: Her water comes from a well. And her well, which is shallow, has gone dry.

Last month, when her faucet stopped working, Landers thought her water pump was broken. What did she know? She’d purchased her dilapidated home 18 months earlier, moving back to California after a stint in Virginia. Four men from the drilling company slid the heavy concrete cover off her well and peered inside.

“Can you believe it?” she said. “They charged me $150 to tell me it was dry.”

Going, going, and how soon gone? From the Washington Post:

Collapse of Antarctic ice sheet is underway and unstoppable but will take centuries

The collapse of the giant West Antarctica ice sheet is underway, two groups of scientists said Monday. They described the melting as an unstoppable event that will cause global sea levels to rise higher than projected earlier.

Scientists said the rise in sea level, up to 12 feet, will take centuries to reach its peak and cannot be reversed. But they said a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions could slow the melt, while an increase could speed it slightly.

Warm, naturally occurring ocean water flowing under the glaciers is causing the melt. “We feel it is at the point that it is . . . a chain reaction that’s unstoppable,” regardless of any future cooling or warming of the global climate, said Eric Rignot, a professor of Earth science at the University of California at Irvine. He was the lead author of a NASA-funded study that was one of the two studies released Monday.

The only thing that might have stopped the ice from escaping into the ocean and filling it with more water “is a large hill or mountains,” Rignot said. But “there are no such hills that can slow down this retreat,” he added.

And on a parallel note, via the Ecologist:

Experts ‘stunned’ at how fast oceans are warming

Southern hemisphere oceans are warming at double the expected rate, a new study has found. This may explain why surface warming has slowed over the last decade – the oceans have absorbed the ‘missing’ heat.

Southern Hemisphere ocean temperatures have been rising much more quickly than previously thought, so much so that global ocean warming may have been underestimated by as much as 24 – 55%, according to a new study.

Published by the journal Nature Climate Change and carried out by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the study sought to determine just how much we’ve underestimated long-term upper-ocean warming given the scarcity of data collected on Southern Hemisphere ocean temperature increases.

“It’s likely that due to the poor observational coverage, we just haven’t been able to say definitively what the long-term rate of Southern Hemisphere ocean warming has been”, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Paul Durack.

Likewise, via VICE News:

Here’s How San Francisco is Bracing for Sea Level Rise Estimated to Impact $48 Billion in Assets

San Francisco’s Capital Planning Committee (CPC) has adopted what is being called the most comprehensive guidelines in the nation for preparing for the impacts of sea level rise on a city’s infrastructure.

“This is the first time that I’ve seen a city really actively assessing the risks to new public investments,” Jessica Grannis of Georgetown’s Climate Center told VICE News.

The guidelines assume sea level rise of 11 inches, plus or minus 4 inches, by 2050 and as much as 66 inches by 2100.

San Francisco’s Pacific coastline, the Embarcadero, a roadway and pedestrian promenade along the city’s eastern and northern coastline, the Port of San Francisco, and the San Francisco International Airport already experience periodic flooding.

From CCTV America, a battle for the land:

Indigenous groups fight Illegal logging in Peru

Program notes:

In Peru, officials estimate that nearly 80 percent of the country’s timber exports are harvested illegally. Often this takes place on the lands of local populations where indigenous residents are not only intimidated, but sometimes killed.

Invaders digging in Down Under, via the Guardian:

Biosecurity gaps led to 36 invasive species entering Australia since 2000

  • Invasive Species Council says Australia has not heeded lessons from decision to introduce cane toad in Queensland in 1935

Large gaps in Australia’s biosecurity regime have led to 36 invasive species entering the country since 2000, with potentially ruinous consequences for the environment, documents lodged with the Senate have warned.

Creatures such as the yellow crazy ant, the red-eared slider turtle and the smooth newt have either established themselves in Australia or threaten to do so, while Mexican feathergrass and Myrtle rust pose a threat to Australia’s plant life.

The Invasive Species Council has warned that Australia has not heeded the lessons from the decision to introduce the cane toad in Queensland in 1935, a move that has proved disastrous for native mammals and snakes in northern Australia.

On the wrong track, from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Facing lawsuit, California oil train terminal to shut down

A legal victory in California this week over crude oil operations could have a spillover effect, emboldening critics of crude-by-rail shipments to press their concerns in other jurisdictions.

EarthJustice, a San Francisco-based environmental group, won its battle to halt crude oil train operations in the state as InterState Oil Co., a Sacramento fuel distributor, agreed to stop unloading train shipments of crude oil next month at the former McClellan Air Force Base.

Sacramento County’s top air quality official said his agency mistakenly skirted the state’s environmental rules by issuing a permit for the operation.

EcoWatch covers the inevitable:

Outrage Continues at Susan G. Komen’s ‘Frack for the Cure’ Pinkwashing Campaign

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in what seems to be getting to be a regular occurrence, it’s bringing unwanted awareness to the activities of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (SGK), the behemoth of breast cancer charities, founded in 1982.

Charges of “pinkwashing”—slapping their pink-ribbon logo on hundreds of items manufactured in their signature hot pink—reached a whole new level earlier this month when a story came out that the foundation had made a deal with Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes to launch a “Doing Our Bit for the Cure” campaign. The centerpiece of the campaign is painting 1,000 fracking drill bits hot pink and packing them with information about breast cancer which presumably the mostly male oilfield workers will devour eagerly. “Baker Hughes supports Susan G. Komen’s Mission to End Breast Cancer Forever,” the campaign website proclaimed.

“For the second consecutive year, Baker Hughes is donating $100,000 to support Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization,” said Baker Hughes. “The year-long partnership with Komen is an extension of the company’s participation each year in the Komen Houston Race for the Cure, where Baker Hughes sponsors the Survivor Pin Celebration. This year, the company will paint and distribute a total of 1,000 pink drill bits worldwide. The pink bits serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening and education to help find the cures for this disease, which claims a life every 60 seconds.”

From RT, the perfect transition to Fukushimapocalypse Now!:

Insulated undies: Radiation-proof, sperm-friendly boxers launched

While harm from cell-phone rays has so far been lacking sufficient scientific proof, a US firm wants men to take no chances with radiation – at least when it comes to the most precious of male body parts.

Boxer shorts made with the use of thin silver textile “absorb radiation” will help “protect men’s reproductive organs and maintain fertility health,” according to their producer, Manhattan-based Belly Armor company.

It only launched its male underwear sales this week, but among the company’s earlier products are radiation-proof blankets, belly bands and tops for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

From Reuters, yeah, what could be wrong with that?:

Japan’s Suga: See no problem with trade minister holding Tepco shares

Japan’s top government spokesman said on Friday he does not see any problem with the trade minister holding shares of Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that newly appointed trade minister Yoichi Miyazawa is following the appropriate procedures for holding the shares during his tenure based on rules for ministers.

Miyazawa said on Thursday that his political support group spent funds at a sado-masochism-themed bar in his home district and that he owned shares in the power company, known as Tepco.

Miyazawa said earlier on Friday that there is no change in his stance towards Tepco despite his owning shares in the firm.

Protesting with Jiji Press:

Radioactive Waste Facility Surveys Put Off Again in Miyagi

The Environment Ministry, again on Saturday, failed to begin drilling surveys in three candidate sites in Miyagi Prefecture for a final facility to store radioactive waste produced by the March 2011 nuclear accident.

As was on Friday, a survey team in the town of Kami, where one of the candidate sites is located, was blocked from entering the site by some 60 protesters.

Also in the city of Kurihara and the town of Taiwa, the ministry refrained from taking soil samples to study geographic conditions.

In the northeastern prefecture, the ministry selected government-owned land tracts in the three municipalities as candidate sites to dump waste tainted with fallout from the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Reuters foreshadows:

Japan warns of increased activity at volcano near nuclear plant

Japan warned on Friday that a volcano in southern Japan located roughly 64 km (40 miles) from a nuclear plant was showing signs of increased activity that could possibly lead to a small-scale eruption and warned people to stay away from the summit.

The warning comes nearly a month after another volcano, Mt Ontake, erupted suddenly when crowded with hikers, killing 57 people in Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years.

Ioyama, a mountain on the southwestern island of Kyushu, has been shaken by small tremors and other signs of rising volcanic activity recently, including a tremor lasting as long as seven minutes, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s volcano division said.

For our final item, NHK WORLD hedges its bets:

Japan to ratify nuclear compensation treaty

The Japanese government decided at a cabinet meeting on Friday to seek Diet approval for a treaty to share liability with other countries in compensation for nuclear accidents.

The government will ask the Diet to approve the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage during the current session.

Five countries, including the United States, have signed the treaty. The pact will take effect once it is ratified by Japan.

The treaty obliges each signatory to set aside at least 430 million dollars in the event of a nuclear accident.

If the cost of paying compensation for an accident in Japan exceeds that reserve, the other signatories would provide an additional 65 million dollars.