Category Archives: Latin America

InSecurityWatch: Threats, ISIS, hacks, cops, spies


Plus a whole lot more. . .

We begin with bodacious bluster via the Japan Times:

North Korea warns of wiping Japan ‘off world map’ over U.N. resolution

North Korea on Sunday denounced a recent U.N. resolution condemning its human rights violations, warning of retaliation against Japan and other sponsor countries.

“We will take toughest counteraction” against the United States, and “Japan, too, can never escape this toughest counteraction,” the North Korean National Defense Commission said in a statement, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

“Japan should bear in mind that if it continues behaving as now, it will disappear from the world map for good, not just remaining a near yet distant country,” the statement continued.

More from Punch Nigeria:

N’Korea furious over UN human rights ruling

North Korea’s top military body has warned of “catastrophic consequences” for supporters of the latest United Nations censure on its human rights record, as state media reported leader Kim Jong-Un presided over fresh military drills.

A resolution asking the UN Security Council to refer North Korea’s leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible charges of “crimes against humanity” passed by a resounding vote of 111 to 19 with 55 abstentions in a General Assembly human rights committee last week.

Introduced by Japan and the European Union and co-sponsored by some 60 nations, the resolution drew heavily on the work of a UN inquiry which concluded in February that the North was committing human rights abuses “without parallel in the contemporary world”.

On to the war of the moment, via the Associated Press:

Islamic State group recruits, exploits children

Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists’ headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.

Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.

From Deutsche Welle, German recruits:

German intelligence: Dozens of Germans killed fighting for ‘IS’

German intelligence sources say some 60 Germans have died fighting for the jihadist group “Islamic State.” Many others have returned from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq – and now pose a threat at home.

At least 60 Germans have died fighting alongside militants from the jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS) with at least nine being killed in suicide attacks, Germany’s domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen said in an interview published Sunday.

Maassen told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that some 550 radical German Islamists had gone to conflict regions in Syria and Iraq to help IS in an offensive that has seen the group capture large amounts of territory in both countries in recent months.

German authorities were increasingly concerned about the high figure, which had gone up more rapidly in the past six weeks, he said, calling it “a sad success for Islamist propaganda.”

The London Telegraph covers those from Britain:

Muslim MP: 2,000 Britons fighting for Islamic State

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood says 2,000 jihadists have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK – a fourfold increase on official estimates

As many as 2,000 Britons are fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, a senior Muslim MP has claimed.

Officials had suggested that the number of British jihadists within the ranks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other terrorist groups was about 500.

However, Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, a constituency with a significant number of Muslims, has suggested this was a fourfold underestimate of the number of British jihadists fighting in the region.

“The authorities say there are 500 British jihadists but the likely figure is at least three to four times that,” he said. “I think 2,000 is a better estimate. My experience in Birmingham is it is a huge, huge problem.”

And the Guardian covers the inevitable:

Increased terror threat is stretching resources, says Met police chief

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says security services have halted four or five plots this year, as terrorism awareness campaign begins

Security services have foiled four or five terrorist plots this year and the threat is increasing, Britain’s top policeman has said.

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the heightened threat was putting pressure on resources and hinted that he expects the government to increase funding in the autumn statement.

The comments, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, came before the launch of a nationwide terrorism awareness campaign. Officers will be briefing more than 6,000 people at 80 venues including schools, universities, airports, shopping centres, cinemas and farms in a bid to engage the public and businesses in preventing attacks.

From TheLocal.fr, a French recruit:

Armed Isis Islamist grew up in small French village

One of three Kalashnikov-wielding Islamists seen burning their French passports in an Islamic State propaganda video this week grew up in a small village in southern France, the mayor said Saturday.

The 26-year-old, who goes by the name of Abou Ossama Al-Faranci in the Internet video, left the village of some 1,400 people five years ago, residents told the newspaper La Depeche du Midi.

The bearded blue-eyed man seen in the footage urging Muslims to stage attacks in France was reported to have gone to school in the village and have converted to Islam, studying the Koran in a Muslim centre in a private home.

And from TheLocal.se, the Swedish contingent:

Up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis: report

As many as 300 Swedes could have joined the Islamic State insurgency, Sweden’s intelligence chief said Saturday.

“A hundred cases of people who have left to join the fighting have been confirmed, then there are the presumed cases…, and then there are those that have not been counted, which brings the total to between 250 and 300,” said the head of the intelligence services, Anders Thornberg, on Sveriges Radio.

Thornberg said the flow of youths leaving to become jihadists in Syria was rapidly rising.

“A certain number of young Swedish men are leaving and training in camps, learning to become terrorists to use explosives and weapons,” he said.

And from north of the U.S. border via CBC’s The National:

Canadians volunteer to fight ISIS

Program notes:

Canadian volunteers have joined the ground war against ISIS. Are their actions legal? And would they fire at a radicalized Canadian?

While the Diplomat covers other Asian concerns:

Islamic State and a South Asian Caliphate

Islamic State has its eyes on South and Southeast Asia. The threat is long-term, but should not be ignored.

Although Islamic State’s ultimate aspirations are unrealistic, some of its targets in Asia are vulnerable, most notably that cradle and crucible of terrorism on the continent, Pakistan. Bordering Afghanistan, where terrorist violence is already resurgent with NATO thinning out, Pakistan is a promising base for Islamic State in South Asia. It also offers a huge bonanza that Islamist movements would willingly bleed for: nuclear weapons.

Although Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are guarded by a professional army, the degree to which the Pakistan Army itself has been radicalized is not easily quantifiable. After all, this is the same Army that sends its officers for tenures in the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Whether these officers return to the army with or without any radical leanings is anyone’s guess.

Pakistan-based terror groups seem to be leaning more and more towards Islamic State. Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) is a fractured entity today. More and more of its members are openly declaring their allegiance to Islamic State. The recluse Taliban supremo, Mullah Omar, and the staid al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Jawahri are losing ground.

Afghanistan also offers fertile ground for terror. The Afghanistan Taliban shares with Islamic State a strategic approach in which both prefer control and domination of territory as the prime objective. However, the Afghanistan Taliban would like to retain its primacy in Afghanistan. It may not want to be an Islamic State surrogate. Its long association with al-Qaeda is another obstacle.

Unrest in France from the Guardian:

Protesters clash with police in France over young activist killed by grenade

  • Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed by a so-called ‘offensive grenade’ during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project

Protesters clashed with police in southern France on Saturday over the death of a young activist killed by a police grenade, in the latest of a series of demonstrations which have embarrassed the Socialist government.

At least 16 people were arrested in Toulouse after garbage containers were set on fire and bus stops smashed on the margins of an otherwise peaceful march where demonstrators held placards reading “end to the licence to kill”.

Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed last month by a so-called “offensive grenade” during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project in wetlands near Toulouse. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve later ordered these devices banned.

From RT, Falangist frolics:

Far-right Spaniards mark anniversary of General Franco’s death

Hundreds of far-right activists gathered in Madrid center to commemorate the anniversary of the death of General Franco. Fascist symbols were seen at the rally which praised the late dictator.

Around 300 far-right activists gathered on Orient Square in Central Madrid on Sunday to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the death of the fascist dictator and Falange party’s leader Francisco Franco. The general died on November 20, 1975.

Organized by several far-right political parties and nationalist organizations including Nudo Patriota Espanol, Movimiento Catolico Espanol and Patriotas, the event also marked the anniversary of the death of Jose Primo de Rivera, the founder of Falange Espanola who was executed by the Spanish republican government on November 20, 1936. Falange Espanola, created in 1933, was a nationalist party inspired by Italian fascism.

More questions about an Old Blighty coverup, via the Independent:

Child abuse cases are ‘tip of the iceberg’ in sexual exploitation of young people, said Theresa May

The cases of child abuse exposed so far are only the “tip of the iceberg” of the extent of sexual exploitation of young people, the Home Secretary Theresa May has warned.

Ms May spoke of her dismay over the number of abusers who have been able to operate with impunity both in the past and today.

She said it was impossible to assess whether the activities of a paedophile ring involving senior figures in public life were covered up in the 1980s, but insisted an independent inquiry into historical sex abuse would establish the full facts.

“It’s not possible to say whether there was a cover-up, that is why I think it is so important we have the inquiry so we get at the truth,” she told the Andrew Marr Show.

From the Los Angeles Times, misconduct afloat:

Captain of San Diego-based warship relieved of duty

The captain of one of the Navy’s premier warships has been relieved of command after an investigation found that he routinely used foul and abusive language toward crew members and engaged in inappropriate touching and questioning of women.

Capt. Wayne Brown was relieved as commander of the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship Boxer after an investigation concluded that he had “lost the respect, trust and confidence of his subordinates” because of his temper and his behavior toward female crew members that included touching and also asking them whether they were using birth control with their husbands or boyfriends, according to the investigative report.

Brown created a “hostile, offensive and intimidating work environment,” according to the investigation that was undertaken after complaints from enlisted personnel and junior officers.

From BBC News, superbug:

Regin, new computer spying bug, discovered by Symantec

A leading computer security company says it has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen.

Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world. Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.

Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most. It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say.

Hacks in China, from Want China Times:

Domain names in China hacked by overseas IPs

Nearly 60% of dot-com domain names in China were hijacked by backdoor programs in the first half of 2014 and 48.8% of them were controlled by overseas IP addresses, the Beijing-based China Securities Journal reports.

Huang Chengqing, director of China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China (CNCERT or CNCERT/CC) disclosed the statistics at a forum on cyber security at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province on Nov. 20.

Domain names are the addresses websites use to allow internet users to find them. When one gets hijacked, the person looking for that site gets redirected to a site controlled by hackers. In many cases though, hackers can be traced back to their IP address or special idenifier each computer has.

After the jump, Chilean colonels convicted of torturing a presidential father, a controversial Israeli redefinition, an Israel warning to France over Palestinian recognition, an Israeli solder busted, a British arms sale exposed, China seeks stronger security ties with Egypt as Cairo tightens the reins of internal repression, Iranian nuclear deal hits stumbling blocks as Kerry pushes against the deadline, on to China and a military espionage arrest, an academic’s prison sentence upheld, new China missile can reach the U.S., China seeks insular partnerships while Uncle Sam objects to one Chinese insular development as a Chinese officer gives the rationale, Coast Guard militarization, and another press prosecution. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Graves, arrests, anger, context


We begin with the latest body discovers in the search for 43 missing college students apparently abducted on orders of a cartel-running mayor, via teleSUR:

More Mass Graves in Mexican Search for Missing Students

Human bones were found by civilians and non governmental organizations inside the four mass graves.

Civilians and nongovernmental organizations in Mexico found four more mass graves Sunday, as part of the search efforts to locate the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College that went missing after being detained by Iguala police on the night of September 26.

Since that date, more than 15 mass graves and dozens of bodies have been found. However, none of the remains found as of yet have been linked to the missing students.

The most recent mass graves were found in La Laguna, just west of Iguala, the place where federal authorities say police officers shot at several buses that were transporting the students, killing three of them along with another three civilians, before handing over the survivors to a local gang.

And from VICE News, the latest on those arrested in Mexico City during a day oif protest on the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution:

Mexico Moves Detained Protesters to Maximum Security Prisons

Mexican authorities have placed 11 people in maximum security prisons for protesting the disappearance of 43 teaching students in the country.

The detained protesters — mostly students who were arrested Thursday during a massive demonstration in Mexico City — are currently accused of attempted homicide, criminal association, and mutiny, local outlets reported. The Mexico City protest turned violent when protesters began throwing Molotov cocktails and burning an effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

But the families of the detained students said police had arbitrarily arrested and hit them, and that the group had been prohibited from hiring a lawyer other than the government’s public defense attorney.

Human rights defenders also denounced the drastic measure, and a lawyer for Mexico’s Institute for Human Rights and Democracy requested that the government share videos that prove the protesters are indeed guilty. The lawyer, Alejandra Jimenez, said the government had attempted to “criminalize” the protests by imprisoning the demonstrators.

More from Fox News Latino:

Arrests at Mexican protest over missing students draw criticism from human rights group

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office announced Saturday that eight men and three women, who face charges including attempted homicide, were being held at prisons in the states of Nayarit and Veracruz that normally house dangerous inmates.

The 11 were among tens of thousands of people who gathered in Mexico City’s main plaza to demand justice in the disappearance and apparent killing of 43 students from a rural teachers college.

Alejandro Jimenez of the non-governmental Mexican Institute of Human Rights and Democracy accused authorities of attempting to “criminalize” civil protest and of using the prison system for “political use.”

A graphic response to the change of prisons from Mexico Herido:

BLOG Mexico

The accompanying text:

The world must know!

Today 11 students illegally arrested on november 20th during the demonstratio #20novmx are being transfered to the High Security Federal Prisons in Nayarit and Veracruz states. (7 and 5 hours from mexico city)

General Attornye’s Office (PGR) is violating their rights and the due process in the Judicial Trials.

Also, they’ve been beaten, most of them are pacific students, some of them were taken form restaurants where they’ve been all night, there are tons of videos of this, you can look around, please HELP US SPREAD THE WORD!

Green Left Weekly covers solidarity:

Global protests support students’ campaign for justice

November 20 is the day the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution is officially commemorated. However, normal celebrations were suspended in light of the protests. Protesters are demanding the students be returned alive and are calling on President Enrique Pena Nieto to resign.

That day, actions were held around the world in solidarity with protesters. “Mexico, the world is watching over you,” said the banner of a flash mob gathered at Lille, France.

Meanwhile, students at the University of Nottingham held a silent march inside the university dressed in black and holding banners with different messages under the refrain: “It’s not only 43.”

One banner said: “It’s not only 43. It’s the 22,322 missing people since 2006.”

Protesters also marched in London and students gathered across Germany also gathered to support the Mexican demands for justice. Protesters were held in Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, a Mexican football player playing for Real Madrid, tweeted “#WeAreAllAyotzinapa” and “#UnitedForAyotzinapa”.

There were also actions in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, New Delhi and Melbourne. Demonstrations took place right across Latin America, with thousands of people marching in La Paz in Bolivia.

From teleSUR, a criticism for another president:

Uruguay’s Mujica Says Mexico Resembles a Failed State

  • The Uruguayan president said that events like those in Ayotzinapa are due to the “mass corruption” in Mexico.

Uruguay’s outspoken President, Jose ´Pepe´ Mujica likened Mexico to a “failed state with public powers that are totally out of control and decayed.”

Mujica made the remarks during an interview with Foreign Affairs when questioned about the case of 43 missing students in the violence-wracked country.

The Uruguayan president said that events like those in Ayotzinapa are due to the “mass corruption” in Mexico.

“Seen from a distance I think corruption is established as a tacit social custom. Most likely corrupt people aren’t frowned upon; on the contrary, they’re seen like winners; like splendid people. If it’s like that we’re screwed,” he said.

euronews has the predictable response:

Mexico summons Uruguay ambassador over president’s comments on missing students

Mexico said on Sunday it was summoning Uruguay’s ambassador after Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said that the disappearance of 43 students in southwest Mexico suggests the country is a failed state.

The students, who were likely murdered, were abducted by rogue Mexican police in league with gangs, fuelling nationwide protests and creating a political crisis for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

“It gives one the sense, seen from a distance, that this is a kind of failed state, in which public authorities have completely lost control,” Mujica said in an interview with Foreign Affairs Latin America that was published on Friday.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was “surprised and categorically rejects some of the comments expressed in the interview.”

From ThinkMexican, another perspective:

#FueElEstado: How the Mexican Government Is Guilty of State Crime in Ayotzinapa Case

The Mexican government is undertaking radical reforms favoring private investors at a blitzkrieg pace. Dismantling public institutions in this manner has a destabilizing effect on the Mexican public’s ability to sustain themselves, diminishes our quality of life and has led to our mass economic migration to Western countries. Like the ongoing privatization of PEMEX and recent attempt to narrow curriculum at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, the attack on Ayoztinapa students intended to cripple their ability to fulfill fundamental educational and social needs in rural Mexico. Perhaps the thinking was that once the students were placed into a more precarious position, the Mexican State could advance a ‘solution’ in the form of technocratic educational reforms. Therefore, we believe that the attacks in Iguala, Guerrero, on September 26, 2014, were motivated by the federal government’s desire to advance radical economic and educational reforms without opposition.

The Mexican government’s attack against Ayotzinapa students was an extremely flagrant human rights violation. In fact, the National Commission of Human Rights in Mexico has enough evidence to call it a ‘forced disappearance.’ The Ayotzinapa case ranks high in depravity even when comparing its details to other well documented state crimes. In recent memory, attacks against Mexican social activists, students and other civilians have risen in frequency and sophistication, involving coordination between multiple state actors. Along with these acts of state sponsored terrorism, there exist media narratives that serve to justify or absolve state complicity in these violent acts.

Initially, the attack on the Ayotzinapa students was justified in the name of law and order by some local media outlets The attacks against the Ayotzinapa students were first presented as simply heavy handed acts by the police on unruly students. Fortunately, the students had documented the violence and had anticipated omissions and defamation (see timeline). This is partly why the students were able to strongly declare that they were targets and victims of state repression, a point now well understood globally.

And from teleSUR, parents speak:

Parents of Mexican Missing Students Speak at Calle 13 Concert

  • The Puerto Rican music group also joined in solidarity with Ayotzinapa during the Latin Grammy Awards on November 20.

The Puerto Rican duo, Calle 13, allowed some parents of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa to deliver speeches during their concert in Mexico City Saturday night.

René “Residente” Pérez announced Saturday at a press conference that although the Mexican laws do not allow him, being a foreigner, to speak against Mexican politics and policies, he would allow Mexicans — the parents of the missing students — to speak about the issue, and he did.

“I met with a father and a mother of a missing student and the story of their sons was very moving; since I recently became a father it was heartbreaking, I support these causes because I can’t avoid doing it, it is my duty. For me it is impossible to be on a stage and not mentioning these situations in Latin-America […] I will not speak tonight at the stage, the Mexicans will,” said “Residente” Perez.

We close with an important reminder that “disappeared” students have a long history under Mexican PRI governments. The video describes the 8 October 1968 massacre of students at the Tlatelolco plaza in the center of Mexico City.

Via the fereesayn2k14 Tumblr:

Masacre en Tlatelolco, 2 De octubre 1968

Program notes:

2 De octubre 1968

DIRECTED BY.: Alan Tomlinson

CINEMATOGRAPHY.: Eduardo Flores Torres TATO

Mike Sandoval: The two faces of a president


An emblematic magazine cover featuring Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto gets a makeover from artist/illustrator Mike Sandoval:

BLOG Penatoon

InSecurityWatch: War, crime, spies, & threats


And lots of bad news for the Fourth Estate.

We open with a fascinating report certain to make a reader more secure, from the Los Angeles Times:

Banking industry culture primes for cheating, study suggests

Is your banker honest? Not if you remind him of where he works, a new study suggests.

Employees of an international bank were more inclined to lie for financial gain if they were thinking about their jobs than if they were thinking about their home life, according to a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The conclusions imply that cheating propensity is embedded in the business culture of the banking industry, and not in the type of person who goes into banking.

“These are not generally dishonest people,” said University of Chicago behavioral economist Alain Cohn, lead author of the study. “What our results suggest is that current norms in the banking industry tend to favor dishonesty and that the banks should initiate a change in norms.”

Domestic insecurity from Al Jazeera America:

FBI sends in reinforcements ahead of Ferguson grand jury announcement

  • FBI sends 100 agents to Missouri town that became flashpoint for racial tensions after policemen shot unarmed black teen

Police and protest organizers painstakingly laid the groundwork this weekend to avert street violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and the FBI sent in nearly 100 extra agents as a St. Louis-area grand jury was expected to soon announce its decision on whether to indict the white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August.

In a possible sign that an announcement on the grand jury’s decision is imminent, prosecutors told media organizations that they were making plans for a news conference to announce the outcome — but the date, time and location remained undetermined.

Protests on Friday night led to the arrest of three demonstrators as hundreds blocked traffic along South Florissant Road, the main thoroughfare through Ferguson where marchers and police have tangled regularly since the late-summer unrest over the Brown shooting.

Ancillary reinforcements, via Fusion:

Across the tracks from Ferguson, Clayton enlists private army to brace for trouble

The predominantly white residents of Clayton seem convinced that the protesters will take out their anger there, and are hurrying to insulate themselves from the threat with private security firms.

Asymmetric Solutions, a St. Louis-based security and intelligence company that is staffed by U.S. special-operations veterans, has been working with companies around the metropolitan area whose assets are valuable enough to justify the firm’s steep rates. A project manager for the company, who asked not to be named, predicts that outside of Ferguson “most of the difficulty will occur in the Clayton area…the bastions of white wealth and privilege.”

When the grand-jury decision comes down, the firm will deploy its operatives to probable flashpoints. “You’ll never notice any of our people,” he said. “We’re not putting fighters out there—we’re putting thinkers and managers out. Their ability to wage war effectively is simply one more tool in the toolbox.”

From United Press International, war prolonged:

Obama signs secret order expanding U.S. role in Afghanistan

President Obama reportedly signed a classified order authorizing an expanded military mission in Afghanistan in 2015, allowing U.S. forces to carry out missions against the Taliban

President Obama quietly signed a classified executive order authorizing a more expansive role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2015, ensuring American troops will be fighting in the country for at least one more year, The New York Times reported.

The order allows American troops to take a direct role in missions against militant groups that include the Taliban.

It’s a broader mission than the president described in a May announcement, when he said the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year and the remaining 9,800 troops would be focusing on training Afghan forces and handling al-Qaida threats.

And a possible stimulus, via the New York Times:

Hour’s Drive Outside Kabul, Taliban Reign

The explosion ripped through the floor of the Humvee, tearing a hole in the armored vehicle and injuring the district governor. The crack of Taliban gunfire followed.

Seeking cover, the Afghan police convoy sped behind a mud compound and unleashed a hail of bullets. Undeterred, the Taliban fighters edged closer. As bullets smacked around his head, an Afghan soldier in a white head scarf crouched behind a waist-high wall trading shots with the insurgents, a cigarette tucked in his lips.

“This is our daily life,” said the police chief of Tagab district, a mostly Taliban-controlled patch of Kapisa Province about an hour from Kabul, as rounds struck the compound’s edges, showering his men with dirt. “Everything is like this — you can see it with your own eyes.”

In areas like this, it is the government that operates in the shadows, following the dictates of the Taliban in order to stay alive. Afghan soldiers in Tagab district will not leave their base except for one hour each day starting at 9 a.m., when the Taliban allow them to visit the bazaar as long as the soldiers remain unarmed.

From Deutsche Welle, terror talk:

Inside IS – The Structure of Terror | Quadriga

Program notes:

After beheading yet another western hostage, the Islamic State terrorist organization is now threatening direct attacks on the US and Britain. Documents that have recently come to light allow some insights into the group’s structure, and reveal an extensive finance network and sophisticated logistics systems for weapons and supplies. Is IS more powerful than experts previously believed?

Guests:

Amir Musawy, Berlin correspondent for Iraqia TV

Asiem El Difraoui, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Media and Communication Policy in Berlin

Antje Bauer, reporter specializing in the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Read more: http://www.dw.de/quadriga-inside-is-the-structure-of-terror-2014-11-20/e-18014096-9798

From the New York Times, hardly surprising:

Among Pakistan Militants, Signs of Affinity With ISIS

Across Pakistan, the black standard of the Islamic State has become seemingly ubiquitous.

From urban slums to Taliban strongholds, the militant group’s logo and name have appeared in graffiti, posters and pamphlets. Last month, a cluster of militant commanders declared their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.

Such is the influence of the Islamic State’s steamroller success in Iraq and Syria that, even thousands of miles away, security officials and militant networks are having to reckon with the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

More Pakistani news from the New York Times:

Eavesdropping on Pakistani Official Led to Inquiry Into Former U.S. Diplomat

American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.

That conversation led to months of secret surveillance on the former diplomat, Robin L. Raphel, and an F.B.I. raid last month at her home, where agents discovered classified information, the officials said.

The investigation is an unexpected turn in a distinguished career that has spanned four decades. Ms. Raphel (pronounced RAY-full) rose to become one of the highest-ranking female diplomats and a fixture in foreign policy circles, serving as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration.

And from the New York Times once more, tortuous deliberations:

Senate Democrats Clash With White House on C.I.A. Torture Report

In a tense confrontation with President Obama’s closest adviser on Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats accused the White House of trying to censor significant details in a voluminous report on the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.

During a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, the senators said that the White House was siding with the C.I.A. and trying to thwart negotiations over the report’s release. The negotiations have dragged on for months because of a dispute over the C.I.A.’s demand that pseudonyms of agency officers be deleted from the report.

The C.I.A., supported by the White House, has argued that even without using the real names of the officers, their identities could still be revealed.

According to several people in attendance, the meeting was civil, but neither side gave ground, and it ended without resolution. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent five years working on the 6,000-page report, which is said to provide grim details about the torture of detainees in C.I.A. prisons during the Bush administration, and describe a persistent effort by C.I.A. officials to mislead the White House and Congress about the efficacy of its interrogation techniques. The committee voted this year to declassify the report’s executive summary, numbering several hundred pages, but the fight over redactions has delayed the release.

From IDG News Service, spooky business as usual:

NSA director: No changes in telephone record collection coming

The U.S. National Security Agency is planning no major changes in its domestic telephone records collection program after a bill to rein in those efforts failed in the Senate this week, the agency’s director said.

The NSA will continue to collect U.S. telephone records in bulk, while operating under some restrictions President Barack Obama put on the program back in January, Admiral Michael Rogers, the NSA’s director, said during a House of Representatives hearing on cybersecurity Thursday. The NSA would rather wait to see what specific changes to the program Congress will require before making major changes, he told the House Intelligence Committee.

The NSA had hoped to get direction from Congress in the short term, but the agency may have to re-evaluate the telephone records program “if we’re unable to gain consensus in the window that we thought,” Rogers said. “I don’t have an answer to that in my own mind.”

The Los Angeles Times covers Fourth Estate outrage in Old Blighty:

British journalists slam police surveillance in lawsuit

British freelance video journalist Jason Parkinson had set his camera on a tripod outside London’s upscale Dorchester Hotel to film a protest against a group of delegates from an arms and defense trade show who were dining inside. He wore a red bandanna on his right wrist, a winter vest, a red-and-white striped shirt and a pair of blue jeans with a tear in the right knee.

The details of his attire are recorded in a 12-page police file Parkinson, 44, obtained through a freedom of information request which makes clear the extent to which British authorities have monitored him and other journalists as they carried out their work.

Britain’s National Union of Journalists, along with Parkinson and five others who obtained their own police intelligence records, filed a lawsuit this week against London’s Metropolitan Police and the British government. The action challenges police surveillance of journalists, including the retention of the information collected on a national database, as a violation of British law and the European Convention of Human Rights.

More Fourth Estate suppression from the Observer:

Media ‘gagged over bid to report MP child sex cases’

  • Security services accused of aiding Westminster paedophilia cover-up

The security services are facing questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.

Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle.

The other said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House, in southwest London, where a group of high-profile paedophiles was said to have operated and may have killed a child. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.

From PCWorld, Windows™ into a corporate soul, eliminating yet more jobs:

Microsoft turns to robotic security guards to watch for trouble

OK, so the robot apocalypse probably won’t happen any time soon, but the new robot sentries guarding Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus seem like something straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

According to ExtremeTech, each of the K5 security guard robots from robotics company Knightscope stands 5 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, so you probably don’t want to mess with one.

The K5 robots don’t come with any weapons onboard—thankfully—but they use a suite of alarms, sirens, and cameras to monitor and patrol the grounds of Microsoft’s campus. If one spots trouble, it’ll either sound an alarm or dispatch a human security guard to its location.

From the Guardian, another European separatist movement:

European parliament set to call for break-up of Google in antitrust case

  • Draft motion seeks to serve as solution to Google’s dominance of search markets in Europe and is seen as drastic escalation of running antitrust case

The European parliament is reportedly poised to call for a break-up of Google in a drastic escalation of Europe’s long-running antitrust case against the tech giant.

A draft motion seen by the Financial Times, and expected to be agreed next week, calls for the “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services” as a potential solution to Google’s dominance of the search market in Europe.

The European Commission has been investigating concerns that Google has abused its dominant position in search since 2010 and the dispute has become increasingly bitter. In September the EU’s incoming digital commissioner Günther Oettinger warned that any settlement with Google could “cement its strength in the market rather than diluting it”.

After the jump, hackers busted, crime and the power of privilege, dronal decadence, a kidnapped Colombian general’s release promised, Fourth Estate woes in Libya, terrorism leads to call for Nigerian school closures, a split in the Hong Occupy movement, a Fourth Estate prosecution, Chinese journalism woes in the Philippines, a major development in China Seas Game of Zones, China denigrates criticism of its military expansion,  Washington calls for settlement of a Seoul/Tokyo insular spat, and yet another delay in settlement of that controversial Okinawa U.S. base relocation. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Disease, climate, critters, nukes


We begin with another African outbreak, via the Guardian:

Plague kills 40 people in Madagascar

  • World Health Organisation is concerned about risk of disease spreading in the capital where two cases have been recorded

An outbreak of the plague has killed 40 people out of 119 confirmed cases in Madagascar since late August and there is a risk of the disease spreading rapidly in the capital, the World Health Organisation has said.

So far two cases and one death have been recorded in the capital Antananarivo but those figures could climb quickly due to “the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system,” WHO warned.

“The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country,” it added.

And another one in Europe, from DutchNews.nl:

More cases of bird flu in the Netherlands, poultry farmers fear the worst

Three more cases of avian flu have been identified at Dutch poultry farms, this time near Kamperveen in Overijssel, the economic affairs ministry said on Friday.

The first farm, which rears broiler chickens and has around 10,000 birds on site, was identified on Friday morning. One of the other two farms had some 15,000 ducks. All three farms are being cleared.

On Thursday avian flu was found at a farm in Ter Aar. That has now been confirmed the same infectious type as on the first farm last weekend. A nationwide ban on the movement of eggs, poultry and poultry manure will remain in force, the ministry said.

While the Guardian covers taxation as an instrument of public health:

Largest American Indian reservation approves junk-food tax to fight obesity

  • A 2% increase on sales tax for food with little to no nutritional value
  • One-third of Navajos are diabetic or prediabetic
  • Obesity rate in some age groups is as high as 60%

The sales tax on cookies, chips, sodas and other junk food sold on the country’s largest American Indian reservation is going up.

Navajo nation president Ben Shelly signed legislation Friday to increase by 2% the sales tax on food with little to no nutritional value, starting next year. No other sales tax on the Navajo nation specifically targets the spending habits of consumers. It will remain in effect until 2020, but it can be extended by the Navajo nation council.

Navajos advocating for a junk-food tax said they wanted to pass a bill that could serve as a model for Indian country to improve the rates of diabetes and obesity among tribal members. Proposals targeting sugary drinks with proposed bans, size limits, tax hikes and warning labels haven’t gained widespread traction across the country.

And from AllAfrica, when one epidemic displaces another:

Liberia: Ebola Hampers HIV/Aids Care

Ebola has crippled the provision of treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Liberia, according to health workers and patients.

“We cannot get treatment normally now because of the outbreak of the Ebola disease in Liberia,” said 36-year-old Jeff Thompson, from Monrovia’s Jallah Town, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011. “Our care centres are closed and all the health workers are scared to come to work.”

There are an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Liberia, according to UNAIDS.

Before the Ebola outbreak, more than 70 percent of them had access treatment via 144 HIV/AIDS care centres scattered across the country. But now, due to a shortage of health workers and fear about Ebola transmission, more than 60 percent these facilities have shut their doors, according to the National AIDS Control Program (NACP)

From Al Jazeera America, water rustlers:

California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough

  • In northern areas of the state, counties report illegal diversions from tanks, wells and streams

Something rare quickly becomes valuable. So it should come as no surprise that the latest target of thieves in a state suffering a historic drought is water.

California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity.

They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

And from CBC News, another kind of contagion:

Jelly-covered plankton multiplying in Canadian lakes

  • Low calcium levels from acid rain, logging blamed

Jelly-covered plankton that look like tapioca are multiplying in many Canadian lakes, clogging up water pipes and potentially disrupting the food chain.

The population of freshwater plankton called Holopedium has doubled in Ontario lakes between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s, reports a study published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The plankton are thriving in lakes that are low in calcium — and the calcium levels of many lakes have fallen in recent decades because of acid rain and logging.

From the New York Times, a global warming identity crisis:

Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive.

In 30 years, there may be none.

A warming climate is melting Glacier’s glaciers, an icy retreat that promises to change not just tourists’ vistas, but also the mountains and everything around them.

Streams fed by snowmelt are reaching peak spring flows weeks earlier than in the past, and low summer flows weeks before they used to. Some farmers who depend on irrigation in the parched days of late summer are no longer sure that enough water will be there. Bull trout, once pan-fried over anglers’ campfires, are now caught and released to protect a population that is shrinking as water temperatures rise.

From the Los Angeles Times, combinatorial crises:

‘Looming environmental crisis’ at Salton Sea prompts plea for help

The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a plea to a state water board to help avert a “looming environmental and public health crisis” at the Salton Sea.

In a letter this week to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board, the irrigation district asked that the board sponsor negotiations to get the state to fulfill its obligation to stop the deterioration of the sea caused by the sale of Imperial Valley water to San Diego County.

After a six-month negotiation period, the irrigation district wants the control board “to condition water [sales] on the state satisfying its unmet restoration obligation at the Salton Sea.”

And from the Guardian, forestalling crises?:

Polar code agreed to prevent Arctic environmental disasters

  • International Maritime Organisation committee adopts measures to protect the environment in face of predicted polar shipping rush

The international body in charge of sea safety adopted measures on Friday to protect people and the environment during a predicted shipping rush in the Arctic.

But environment groups and insurers said the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee had failed to address key issues including a proposed ban on heavy fuel oil and how to safeguard against cowboy operators.

The committee, which met in London this week, signed off on the Polar Code and various amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention. These changes, which include mandatory requirements for ship design, crew training and search and rescue protocols, are expected to be ratified by the full IMO next year and come into force in 2017.

After the jump, a wildlife crisis in Kenya, tourism threatening indigenous cultures, boosting tools to fight environmental crime, Big Coal buys Fabebook Likes, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with a radioactive water freeze trap foiled and a more concrete solution, and removal of more hot fuel commences along with exclusion zone landlocked shipwrecks, plus a radiation release in Scotland. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, arrests, anger, parents


We begin with a video report from Fusion on the Mexico City protests demanding justice and reform:

Mexican protesters flood capital, pressure government on missing students

Program notes:

Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Mexico City Thursday to demand justice for 43 missing college students and voice their frustration with the government’s inability to stamp out corruption, impunity and drug violence.

Next, a report from Reuters:

Molotov cocktails, clashes as thousands of Mexicans protest over massacre

Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and clashed with riot police outside Mexico City’s National Palace on Thursday as thousands protested against President Enrique Pena Nieto’s handling of the apparent massacre of 43 trainee school teachers.

Hundreds of police in riot gear blocked access to the palace in the capital’s main square, the Zocalo, where thousands of protesters had gathered in support of the students, apparently murdered after their abduction by corrupt police on Sept. 26.

Three marches had been peaceful until they reached the Zocalo, when the protesters incinerated an effigy of Pena Nieto. Protesters managed to burn down the door of the National Palace during a Nov. 9 march.

A smaller group of protesters then swarmed the entrance of the palace before police charged as they cleared the square.

More from Latin Times:

Ayotzinapa Protests: Thousands Of Mexicans Take El Zócalo And Burn Figures Of Mexican President

Mexico has a very deep wound right now after the disappearance of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa. On September 26, dozens of students took several buses to Iguala, and after a violent encounter with the police, 43 of them were allegedly taken to the police headquarters and never heard from them again. The government claimed the students where there to boycott a political event, but the students claim they were there to raise funds for their school. Mexican authorities eventually declared the students dead after weeks of investigation, but the people of Mexico are not letting this one go so easily.

They’ve had enough with the government, and this atrocious act was the last straw, which detonated a series of protests around the whole country. On November 20, 2014, multiple manifestations both in Mexico and of Mexicans living in other countries took place to show their support to the Ayotzinapa students and to tell the government that they’re tired of the corruption. The protest in Mexico City specifically took place at El Zócalo, where protesters took a cardboard figure of Enrique Peña Nieto and burned it at a stake, showing that the president’s approval rating might be dropping to an all time low.

One of the effigies, via the It’s My Life Tumblr:

BLOHG effigy

And from teleSUR, the first two reports with an interesting contrast:

Mexico: 11 Arrested and Charged With Terrorism After Protest

Mexico City’s Federal District and National Human rights commissions condemned the violent acts and informed that a report by their observers is expected to determine if the detentions were arbitrary.

On Thursday, eleven individuals were arrested during clashes with police in Mexico City’s central “El Zocalo” square, under charges of terrorism, organized crime, homicide attempt and mutiny, which prevents them from making bail. They were temporarily held at a Specialized Investigation Deputy Attorney for Organized Crime (SIEDO) facility, before being sent to high security prisons in the states of Veracruz and Nayarit.

The number of detainees was confirmed by Alejandro Jimenez, lawyer from the Mexican Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.

According to the counselor of two of the detainees, both of them were arbitrarily arrested on the square, and some of the others detainees refused to testify.

And from teleSUR again, a very interesting contrast:

Mexican Police Violently Attack Protesters in Mexico City

Repression unleashed last night could be a sign of President Peña Nieto’s disposition to use greater force against the movement.

Police violently removed protesters from Zocala Square Thursday, the main plaza in downtown Mexico City, injuring dozens, despite pleas from the protesters for police to not use repression against the crowd.

The Zocalo demonstration was one of the largest rallies in support of the missing 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college. The earlier rally had already concluded when police marched on those who remained in the square. Police claimed they were provoked by masked protestors and were forced to respond.

However, police indiscriminately attacked all those present, including Juan Martin Perez, the executive director of the Network for the Rights of Children, who was in the square with his family. A photographer from Mexican magazine Proceso was also among the injured when an officer threw a sharp piece of metal at him.

Solidarity from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Latin America Demands Justice for 43 Missing Students in Mexico

Thousands of people have united, armed with placards and slogans, across Latin America to demand justice for 43 Mexican students who went missing on Sept. 26, from the state of Guerrero, in southern Mexico.

The marches, which reportedly went about peacefully in several countries in Central and South America on Thursday, were a part of the fourth day of protests called by several civil organizations in Mexico.

The peaceful demonstrations in Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Paraguay and Cuba were in stark contrast to the ones in Mexico where violent clashes took place with the security forces.

And the government response from BBC News:

Mexico missing students: Action vowed on rule of law

Mexico’s government has vowed to take action to restore the credibility of institutions after the disappearance of 43 students more than two months ago.

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told the BBC that a “crusade” was needed to “re-establish the rule of law”. Mr Sanchez said the government wanted dialogue, but added that some groups had “taken advantage of the situation to provoke violent acts and that is absolutely inexcusable”.

He said the government was working on reforms to re-establish the rule of law. Mr Sanchez said: “We are aware that there is an institutional weakness in some local governments, where we need to work harder for them to uphold the rule of law, where citizens respect the authorities and the legislations.”

While Al Jazeera America diminishes expectations:

Don’t expect an Aztec Spring with Mexico protests, analysts warn

  • Although thousands took to the streets in Mexico City, experts doubt the status quo of violence will change

“It’s really important to temper expectations,” says David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego and a scholar of the Mexican justice system. “This is another terrible event, but Mexico has turned so many corners of this kind that it seems to be still going in the same direction.”

Ernesto López Portillo, director of the Institute for Security and Democracy, a Mexican think tank, agrees. “This is not the Aztec Spring,” he says, adding that street protests alone are unable to tackle the underlying problem of the a lack of accountability for those in power.

Neither protests nor the promises of politicians have achieved the institutional changes he says are essential to changing life in Mexico, he says. Moreover, despite the intensity of the protests, they have not so far drawn the active support of a majority of Mexicans. Portillo is more inclined to favor strengthening the rule of law and the mechanisms that enforce it.

Previous similar protest movements over the past decade have not resulted in any curbs on the onslaught of violence sweeping through Mexico.

And from United Press International, Uncle Sam advises:

U.S. travelers urged to avoid Acapulco region of Mexico

  • Anger over the disappearance of 43 university students in September has fueled protests and violent clashes

U.S. citizens are being urged to avoid non-essential travel to the popular destination of Acapulco because of ongoing protests and violence linked to the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has issued a message saying that all of its personnel have been told to defer non-essential travel by air and land to Acapulco and that road travel in all parts of Guerrero state is prohibited.

“The Embassy cautions U.S. citizens to follow the same guidelines,” the message says.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers an arrest:

Fugitive Police Chief Arrested in Missing Students Case

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office has confirmed the arrest of a former deputy police chief who is a suspected member of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel and is linked to the disappearance of 43 trainee teachers in the southern state of Guerrero.

Cesar Nava Gonzalez, ex-deputy police chief of the town of Cocula, Guerrero, had been on the lam since shortly after Sept. 26, when police attacked students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a nearby teacher’s college, leaving six dead, 25 wounded and 43 missing in the town of Iguala, the AG’s office said in a statement.

Corrupt police officers from Iguala and Cocula detained those 43 students that night and handed them over to the Guerreros Unidos gang, which killed them and burned the bodies to eliminate all traces of the victims, Mexican authorities say, citing statements by suspects in the case.

And from teleSUR, an independent assessment:

Mexico: Missing Students’ Parents to Start Independent Search

  • The protesters declared that they will start an independent search for their missing children

On Friday relatives of the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher’s Training School, declared that they will start an independent search for their missing children.

“We will go armed and backed up by the Community Guard (Community Authorities Regional Coordination),” stated one of the student’s parent.

At the end of a meeting among the Federal Detail and a commission of parents and the counselors from the Tlachinollan Centers for Human Rights on the Mountain, the relatives of the 43 spontaneously demonstrated at the front doors of the Chilpancingo Human Rights Commission, while chanting, “¡Murderers!” to federal officials.

The parents, angry about the lack of official response to their demands, threw water and soda bottles against the Federal Government retinue — headed by Commissioner of the Federal Police, Enrique Galindo Ceballos, the General Attorney’s (PGR) Criminal Investigation director Tomaz Zeron and Deputy Interior secretary Jaime Ramos — in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state’s capital.

InSecurityWatch: War, terror, spooks, hacks


We begin with the Guardian:

Ferguson protesters and police clash as grand jury decision nears

  • Police charge at demonstrators in freezing temperatures as Ferguson awaits decision on whether officer will be charged

Police in riot gear clashed with a small group of protesters in a sub-freezing Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday night, as tensions grew over a coming announcement on whether a white officer will be charged for killing an unarmed black 18-year-old.

About 50 officers wearing riot helmets and carrying batons and shields repeatedly charged at demonstrators, who were gathered outside the Ferguson police headquarters to demand the indictment of officer Darren Wilson, who shot dead Michael Brown on 9 August.

In the most serious confrontation since a grand jury decision on Wilson became imminent in mid-November, protesters sounded sirens, shouted abuse at police and revived chants of “hands up – don’t shoot” from the nights of unrest in the St Louis suburb after Brown’s death.

And elsewhere, from the Washington Post:

Fear of deadly ‘religious war’ between Jews and Muslims raised after synagogue attack

Israelis and Palestinians expressed fear Wednesday that their decades-old conflict was moving beyond the traditional nationalist struggle between two peoples fighting for their homelands and spiraling into a raw and far-reaching religious confrontation between Jews and Muslims.

The threat — perhaps more accurately the dread — of an incipient but deadly “religious war” was expressed by Muslim clerics, Christian leaders and Jewish Israelis one day after a pair of Palestinian assailants, wielding meat cleavers and a gun, killed five Israelis, including a prominent American Israeli rabbi, in a Jerusalem synagogue.

“All of us are scared that there will be a religious war, that extremists from both sides will start fighting each other,” said Oded Wiener, an Israeli Jew from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

More from the Associated Press:

Israeli mayor’s ban on Arab workers ignites uproar

The mayor of a southern Israeli city sparked a national uproar Thursday by barring Israeli Arab construction workers from jobs in local preschools, citing security concerns after a rash of attacks by Palestinian assailants elsewhere in the country.

The proposal was condemned as racist by Israeli leaders, but it reflected the tense mood in the country and deepened longstanding divisions between the nation’s Jewish majority and Arab minority. An opinion poll showed solid public support for the measure.

Israel has been on edge following a wave of Palestinian attacks that has killed 11 people over the past month, including five this week in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue. Most of the attacks have occurred in Jerusalem — whose population is roughly one-third Palestinian — with deadly stabbings in Tel Aviv and the West Bank as well.

From The Hill, a hint of things to come:

Pentagon, in reversal, won’t wait for Congress to deploy Iraq troops

The Pentagon said Thursday that it would begin deploying 1,500 new troops to Iraq “in the next weeks” without first securing funding from Congress, reversing previous comments.

“We can deploy troops to the theater, but — so that — that process can and will continue,” said Defense Department press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.
Kirby also said Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, has also moved about 50 U.S. forces within Iraq to Anbar Province to get a “jump start” on expanding the advise-and-assist mission, as well as starting to train Iraqi forces in their fight against Islamic militants.

“But it doesn’t mean that we still don’t need the authorization in terms of the resources that will go with the much more robust program that we’re trying to get done,” Kirby said. “He can start it and he is.”

The origins of the specie, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

Islamic State reportedly buying silver, gold as it prepares to issue currency

The Islamic State is accumulating gold, silver and copper in markets throughout northern and western Iraq, dealers report, in an apparent effort to stockpile enough precious metal to follow through on a pledge to mint its own currency.

On Nov. 11, the Islamic State’s Beit al Mal, an ancient Islamic term akin to “Department of Treasury,” announced that the group would reintroduce the dinar currency of the Umayyad Caliphate, which ruled an empire that stretched from modern Iran to Spain for much of the seventh and eighth centuries. The announcement – which included images of three types of coins in gold, copper and silver – drew skepticism from experts, who doubted that the Islamic State could arrange a system to mint and issue a modern currency.

But interviews with dealers in precious metals indicate that the Islamic State has begun the complex process of issuing the currency, a reminder that as the best-financed non-state actor in history – with a revenue stream from oil sales and aggressive taxation – it’s been able to install bureaucratic controls over the large swath of territory it’s claimed in Iraq and Syria.

From the Guardian, commitment:

French Isis fighters filmed burning passports and calling for terror at home

  • Emergence of video showing four men comes as France reels from the identification of two of its nationals partaking in a mass beheading in Syria

A film released by Islamic State (Isis) shows jihadi fighters burning French passports and calling on others to bring terror to the streets of the European country.

Released by one of Isis’s main media outlets, Al Hayat, the video shows four men who purport to be from France, including three who deliver messages in French to camera.

Burning what appear to be several French passports in a campfire, a masked man can be heard saying: “We disbelieve in you and your passports, and if you come here we will fight you.”

The Guardian brings it on home:

Three men planned Isis-inspired public beheading, court hears

  • Nadir Ali Sayed, Yousaf Shah Syed and Haseeb Hamayoon charged over alleged plot to decapitate member of public with knives

Three men were preparing a terrorist plot to behead a member of the public, inspired by the propaganda of Islamic State militants, a court has heard .

The men were arrested a fortnight ago, shortly before Remembrance Sunday, and were preparing to carry out an imminent plan to decapitate a person with knives, Westminster magistrates court was told on Thursday.

Nadir Ali Sayed, 21, from Hounslow, west London, Yousaf Shah Syed, 19, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Haseeb Hamayoon, 27, from Hayes, west London, are accused of planning acts of terrorism.

And the McClatchy Washington Bureau covers death from afar:

Use of drones against Islamic State changes the meaning of warfare

In America’s war against the Islamic State, many of those fighting sit in a dark, cold room and stare at computer screens for 12 hours at a stretch.

There are dozens of them, men and women, each wearing camouflage, looking for suspected Iraqi and Syrian jihadists scurrying across the screen. If something changes on the screen – a group of dark figures crossing a street, a string of vehicles racing down a road – they pass the information to another pilot, who might decide to open fire with a Hellfire missile or an electronically guided bomb.

The greatest combat hazard they face is from the Red Bull and other sugary drinks they devour to stay awake; their unit has the worst rate of cavities in the Air Force.

“I would rather be deployed,” said Capt. Jennifer, a reservist and intelligence analyst whose full name the Air Force withheld for security reasons. “My daughter calls me because she is sick and I have to pick her up from school. When I am deployed forward I am deployed. I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day.”

Cyberwar, via the Washington Post:

Foreign powers steal data on critical U.S. infrastructure, NSA chief says

Several foreign countries, including China, have infiltrated the computers of critical industries in the United States to steal information that could be used in the planning of a destructive attack, the director of the National Security Agency said Thursday.

That was one of the cyberthreats outlined at a congressional hearing by Adm. Michael S. Rogers, who also said he expects criminal gangs may become proxies for nations carrying out attacks on other nations.

“There are multiple nation states that have the capability and have been on the [industrial] systems,” he said before the House Intelligence Committee.

From the New York Times, gee, what a surprise:

N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Could Go On, Even if a Law Expires

A little-known provision of the Patriot Act, overlooked by lawmakers and administration officials alike, appears to give President Obama a possible way to keep the National Security Agency’s bulk phone records program going indefinitely — even if Congress allows the law on which it is based to expire next year.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday night used a filibuster to block consideration of a bill to end and replace the N.S.A. phone records program. The debate about what may happen next has played out based on a widely held premise: that the legal basis for the program, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, will expire on June 1, so if Congress remains gridlocked, the program will automatically shut down.

“I believe that if we do not pass this bill, the metadata program is at risk because the 215 program sunsets next year,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in Tuesday night’s debate. But that premise may be incorrect. If the summer arrives and the program is facing a shutdown, Mr. Obama could invoke the provision to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to keep it going.

From the Associated Press via the Japan Times, notable:

Years before the Snowden revelations, senior NSA codebreaker objected to mass surveillance program

Years before Edward Snowden sparked a public outcry with the disclosure that the National Security Agency had been secretly collecting American telephone records, some NSA executives voiced strong objections to the program, current and former intelligence officials say. The program exceeded the agency’s mandate to focus on foreign spying and would do little to stop terror plots, the executives argued.

The 2009 dissent, led by a senior NSA official and embraced by others at the agency, prompted the Obama administration to consider, but ultimately abandon, a plan to stop gathering the records.

The secret internal debate has not been previously reported. The Senate on Tuesday rejected an administration proposal that would have curbed the program and left the records in the hands of telephone companies rather than the government. That would be an arrangement similar to the one the administration quietly rejected in 2009.

The now-retired NSA official, a longtime code-breaker who rose to top management, had just learned in 2009 about the top-secret program that was created shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the U.S. He says he argued to then-NSA Director Keith Alexander that storing the calling records of nearly every American fundamentally changed the character of the agency, which is supposed to eavesdrop on foreigners, not Americans.

From the Washington Post, piping down:

Utah legislature considers shutting off NSA’s water

A Utah state legislative committee will consider a bill that could eventually cut off millions of gallons of water for a major National Security Agency facility south of Salt Lake City as a protest against the mass collection of Americans’ data.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marc Roberts (R), would prohibit any municipality from providing “material support or assistance in any form to any federal data collection and surveillance agency.”

That’s a barely veiled reference to the Utah Data Center, a massive collection facility operated by the NSA in Bluffdale, a small suburb of Salt Lake City. The facility, completed last year at a cost of about $1.7 billion, houses super computers that require 65 megawatts of power, enough to power about 33,000 homes, according to the Associated Press.

Homeland Security News Wire sounds an alarm:

NSA director: China and “one or two” other nations can damage U.S. critical infrastructure

Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command, told lawmakers yesterday that China and “one or two” other countries are capable of mounting cyberattacks which would paralyze the U.S electric grid and other critical infrastructure systems across the country.

A cyberattacks of such scope has been discussed in the past – it was even dubbed a “cyber Pearl Harbor” – but Rogers was the first high official to confirm that such a crippling attack on the United States was not a mere speculation.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Rogers, speaking at a hearing of the House intelligence committee, said U.S. adversaries are conducting electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they will be well-positioned to damage and disrupt the industrial control systems which run chemical facilities, nuclear power plants, water treatment facilities, dams, and much more.

On a similar note and interesting time, from Sky News:

NATO’s Cyber War Games Amid Surge In Attacks

  • NATO faces cyber attacks almost daily, data shows, as Sky News gains access to the organisation’s biggest ever security exercise

NATO’s computer servers are detecting 200 million suspicious cyber events every single day, the alliance has revealed.

On average the military organisation is the victim of five major cyber attacks each week and that has increased “significantly” since Russian aggression in Ukraine started. The figures were published as NATO carried out its biggest ever cyber security exercise involving hundreds of computer analysts.

The three-day event, taking in 28 nations, was held on a former Soviet base in the city of Tartu, close to the Russian border.

The Washington Post covers considerately:

CIA Director John Brennan considering sweeping organizational changes

CIA Director John Brennan is considering sweeping organizational changes that could include breaking up the separate spying and analysis divisions that have been in place for decades to create hybrid units focused on individual regions and threats to U.S. security, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said.

The proposal would essentially replicate the structure of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and other similar entities in the agency — an idea that reflects the CTC’s expanded role and influence since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

U.S. officials emphasized that the proposal is in its preliminary stages, and could still be scaled back or even discarded. Already the idea has encountered opposition from current and former officials who have voiced concern that it would be too disruptive and might jeopardize critical capabilities and expertise.

And from the London Telegraph, an ominous development in Old Blighty:

Theresa May to give MI5 and police power to force terror suspects to move

  • Terror suspects will be forced to move towns and leave their associates behind under plans to revive relocation powers

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is to give police and the security services the power to force terror suspects to move to towns far away from their homes as she restores a key element of control orders.

The ability to relocate suspects to other areas was abandoned when control orders were replaced by the weaker terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) following a series of court rulings.

The Conservatives said that they wanted to re-introduce them earlier this year amid growing concerns about British jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq, but were met with opposition from the Liberal Democrats.

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