Category Archives: Latin America

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spooks, hacks, Hong Kong


First, via the Independent, the usual suspects, faring well:

With US-led air strikes on Isis intensifying, it’s a good time to be a shareholder in the merchants of death

  • Last month American warships fired $65.8m worth of Tomahawk missiles within just 24 hours of each other

So who is winning the war? Isis? Us? The Kurds (remember them?) The Syrians? The Iraqis? Do we even remember the war? Not at all. We must tell the truth. So let us now praise famous weapons and the manufacturers that begat them.

Share prices are soaring in America for those who produce the coalition bombs and missiles and drones and aircraft participating in this latest war which – for all who are involved (except for the recipients of the bombs and missiles and those they are fighting) – is Hollywood from start to finish.

Shares in Lockheed Martin – maker of the “All for One and One for All” Hellfire missiles – are up 9.3 per cent in the past three months. Raytheon – which has a big Israeli arm – has gone up 3.8 per cent. Northrop Grumman shares swooped up the same 3.8 per cent. And General Dynamics shares have risen 4.3 per cent. Lockheed Martin – which really does steal Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers quotation on its publicity material – makes the rockets carried by the Reaper drones, famous for destroying wedding parties over Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by Iraqi aircraft.

And don’t be downhearted. The profits go on soaring. When the Americans decided to extend their bombing into Syria in September – to attack President Assad’s enemies scarcely a year after they first proposed to bomb President Assad himself – Raytheon was awarded a $251m (£156m) contract to supply the US navy with more Tomahawk cruise missiles. Agence France-Presse, which does the job that Reuters used to do when it was a real news agency, informed us that on 23 September, American warships fired 47 Tomahawk missiles. Each one costs about $1.4m. And if we spent as promiscuously on Ebola cures, believe me, there would be no more Ebola.

From United Press International, a very important source of insecurity right here in the U.S.A.:

Stop and frisk causes anxiety in young men, study claims

  • Stop and frisk has been a common practice in New York for well over a decade

A new study suggests the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk practice may be leading to elevated levels of anxiety among young men in the city, especially young black men.

The policy allows police to stop pedestrians and search them for drugs or weapons.

“Although 80% of respondents reported being stopped 10 times or fewer, more than 5% of respondents reported being stopped more than 25 times, and 1% of respondents reported more than 100 stops,” says the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday.

The study found that people who are stopped frequently report high levels of stress and anxiety when roaming the city, while those who are not stopped frequently do not feel those emotions. The study found black respondents were both more likely to feel those emotions and more likely to have been stopped regularly. The study involved 1,200 men ages 18 to 26, and it was conducted over a six month period.

On to the spooky world, first with BuzzFeed News:

Exclusive: Key NSA Official Has Another Business At Her Home

Powerful National Security Agency official registered “electronics” business at her home before her husband set up intelligence business there, BuzzFeed News finds. Her company owns a plane and a condo.

On a quiet street in Ellicott City, Maryland, a blue-grey two-story clapboard house, set back from the road, is shaded by two sycamores and a towering maple. It’s the unassuming home of one of the National Security Agency’s most powerful officials, Teresa H. Shea.

In September, BuzzFeed News disclosed a potential conflict of interest involving Shea, the director of Signals Intelligence. Called SIGINT in espionage jargon, it refers to all electronic eavesdropping and interception, including the controversial domestic surveillance program that collects information about Americans’ phone use.

As BuzzFeed News reported, there’s a private SIGINT consulting and contracting business based at Shea’s home in that quiet neighborhood. Shea’s husband, a business executive in the small but profitable SIGINT industry, is the resident agent for the firm, Telic Networks.

In addition, James Shea also works for a major SIGINT contracting firm, DRS Signal Solutions Inc., which appears to do SIGINT business with the NSA.

Now there’s a new wrinkle, which the NSA has also declined to discuss: Yet another company, apparently focused on the office and electronics business, is based at the Shea residence on that well-tended lot.

More from the Wire:

The NSA’s Moonlighting Problem

  • A former NSA head has recruited one of his underlings for his lucrative cybersecurity firm—but that underling still works for the agency

In Washington, the revolving door between government service and more lucrative ventures is common, if not expected. However, having one foot in each has raised questions for the National Security Agency, which has launched an internal review of one senior official who was recruited by former NSA director Keith Alexander to work for his new—and very lucrative—cybersecurity private venture.

Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s Chief Technological Officer, is allowed to work up to 20 hours a week for Alexander’s firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, Inc., according to Reuters, which broke the story on the deal. Although the arrangement was apparently approved by NSA managers and does not appear to break any laws on its face, it does raise questions about ethics and the dividing line between business and one of the most secretive agencies in government.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Reuters, “This matter is under internal review. While NSA does not comment on specific employees, NSA takes seriously ethics laws and regulations at all levels of the organization.”

But one of the chief antagonists is in trouble, via The Hill:

Top NSA critic could lose seat

Critics of the government’s spy agencies are worried that Colorado’s hotly contested Senate race could end the public career of one of their best allies in Congress.

Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-Colo.) possible defeat would leave a void in the Senate and on the powerful Intelligence Committee, civil liberties and anti-secrecy advocates fear.
“I do think it would be a significant loss for the movement,” said Laura Murphy, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office.

“What Udall has is the institutional memory, and the relationships in the civil liberties community, in the Democratic Party and in the tech industry so that we don’t have to start over again with someone new,” she added, while noting that her concern would be the same if Republican civil liberties advocates were also at risk of losing their seats.

From RT, a reminder that you don’t have to be paranoid to feel they’re out to get you:

Assange fears Ecuador embassy in London bugged

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder have filed eavesdropping claims to the Swedish court, as Julian Assange, who has been stuck in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over two years, fears he is being bugged.

In a submission presented to the Swedish Court of Appeal on Friday, Assange’s lawyers claim that he “is most likely under auditory surveillance,” the Daily Mail reports.

The defense also urged the Swedish side to hand over text messages, sent by one of Assange’s accusers, which they believe could serve as evidence that there was no ground for the arrest warrant. Assange says they reveal the woman’s ambiguity over his arrest and even her opposition to the case, based on sexual assault allegations.

The lawyers also believe that to “break the deadlock,” the 43-year-old Australian should be questioned at the embassy in Knightsbridge, where he is staying, rather than go to Sweden, which he believes could lead to his extradition to the US.

Next up, from TheLocal.se, the Swedish enigma continues:

Mystery deepens over reported Russian sub

Mystery deepened on Sunday over a Swedish military operation triggered by “foreign underwater activity” off the coast of Stockholm, amid an unconfirmed report of a hunt for a damaged Russian submarine.

Late on Saturday, Swedish armed forces stepped up an operation — involving more than 200 men, stealth ships, minesweepers and helicopters — in an area about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the Swedish capital.

The operation was initiated on Friday after the armed forces said they had been informed of a “man made object” in the water.

Officials denied they were “submarine hunting,” calling the mobilization — one of the biggest, barring purely training exercises, since the Cold War — an “intelligence operation”.

More from United Press International:

Sweden puts troops on alert after detecting possible foreign threat

  • Swedish media reported transmissions on an emergency frequency coming from waters of the Stockholm Archipelago to a reciever in Kaliningrad, Russia

Erik Lagersten, spokesman for the Swedish Armed Forces, could not confirm or deny speculations about the threat, including whether it was a missing foreign submarine.

“We are now trying to verify the information we received yesterday, which in our assessment comes from trustworthy sources, and see whether it has any substance or not,” Jesper Tengroth, press officer for the Swedish military, told Swedish media on Saturday.

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that the National Defence Radio Establishment detected emergency radio transmissions coming from the area to a reciever in Kaliningrad, Russia.

The Intercept debunks:

The FBI Director’s Evidence Against Encryption Is Pathetic

FBI Director James Comey gave a speech Thursday about how cell-phone encryption could lead law enforcement to a “very dark place” where it “misses out” on crucial evidence to nail criminals. To make his case, he cited four real-life examples — examples that would be laughable if they weren’t so tragic.

In the three cases The Intercept was able to examine, cell-phone evidence had nothing to do with the identification or capture of the culprits, and encryption would not remotely have been a factor.

In the most dramatic case that Comey invoked — the death of a 2-year-old Los Angeles girl — not only was cellphone data a non-issue, but records show the girl’s death could actually have been avoided had government agencies involved in overseeing her and her parents acted on the extensive record they already had before them.

In another case, of a Lousiana sex offender who enticed and then killed a 12-year-old boy, the big break had nothing to do with a phone: The murderer left behind his keys and a trail of muddy footprints, and was stopped nearby after his car ran out of gas.

And in the case of a Sacramento hit-and-run that killed a man and his girlfriend’s four dogs, the driver was arrested in a traffic stop because his car was smashed up, and immediately confessed to involvement in the incident.

The Guardian covers an accusation:

United States accused of misleading British minister over treatment of Shaker Aamer in Guantánamo Bay

  • Charity claims British resident cleared for release is being beaten by guards before force-feeding

The US government has been accused of misleading a British minister over the brutal treatment endured by the last British resident being held inside Guantánamo Bay.

Testimony from detainees has described increasingly violent “forcible cell extraction” (FCE) tactics, in which an inmate is forced out of his cell by armed guards, usually before being taken to the force-feeding chair.

Earlier this month a federal judge, Gladys Kessler, heard how methods used by the US military to feed inmates against their will present long-term health risks and that lubricating their feeding tubes with olive oil can cause chronic inflammatory pneumonia.

However, attempts by the British government to establish if Shaker Aamer, whose family are in south London, has been mistreated appear to have been dismissed. The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, revealed in a letter dated 7 October: “We made inquiries with US government officials, who assured us that the report of an incident, relayed to you by another detainee, is not accurate.”

From PCWorld, gone phishin’:

Dropbox used for convincing phishing attack

Dropbox’s file storage service was used for a tricky phishing attack, although the service was quick to shut down it down, according to Symantec.

The security vendor said it detected a batch of phishing emails advising recipients that they’ve been sent a large file and included a link to Dropbox-hosted page.

“The email claims the document can be viewed by clicking on the link included in the message,” wrote Nick Johnston of Symantec in a blog post. “However, the link opens a fake Dropbox login page, hosted on Dropbox itself.”

By hosting the fake login page on Dropbox, the scammers gain some benefits over hosting it on a random, strange-looking domain name. The phishing page is contained within Dropbox’s user content domain, similar to shared photos or files, Johnston wrote

And the Guardian covers an admission:

Whisper chief executive answers privacy revelations: ‘We’re not infallible’

  • Michael Heyward releases statement on Guardian reports
  • Does not dispute accuracy of reporting
  • Says: ‘Reasonable people can disagree about online anonymity’

The chief executive of the “anonymous” social media app Whisper broke his silence late on Saturday, saying he welcomed the debate sparked by Guardian US revelations about his company’s tracking of users and declaring “we realise that we’re not infallible”.

Michael Heyward’s statement was his first public response to a series of articles published in the Guardian which revealed how Whisper monitors the whereabouts of users of an app he has in the past described as “the safest place on the internet”.

Whisper hosts 2.6 million messages a day posted through its app, which promises users a place to “anonymously share your thoughts and secrets” and has billed itself as a platform for whistleblowers.

After the jump, the latest on the search for those missing Mexican college students, an on-the-air killing of a Mexican activist, a crime activist slain, and a maverick cop murdered, the two Koreas exchange fire, on to Hong Kong and a protester condemnation, a mediator talks fairness, fear of a violent minority, and claims of foreign influence, Beijing/Washington cybertalks stalled, a shifting submarine balance, a Chinese wound is poked and a military response follows, a major provocation by China, plus a major threat for China’s mistresses. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: West Nile, spider, smog, volcano


We begin with a story close to home [esnl’s], and an enigma, via the Oakland Tribune:

West Nile cases surging in state, Bay Area

In the midst of a historic drought, public health officials are searching for clues as to why cases of West Nile virus have exploded statewide since last year, making this season the worst for human infections in California since 2005.

The surge in mosquitoes found carrying the virus in 2014 has not only reached unprecedented levels, it’s also creating headaches for local vector and mosquito control districts, which are pushing hard to kill the disease-carrying pests and their larvae.

In Santa Clara County, where more than one-third of the state’s entire count of West Nile-positive birds have been found, fogging operations for mosquitoes have hit an all-time high, as have the number of human cases. Alameda County’s Mosquito Abatement District, too, is pulling out all the stops to quell concentrations of infected mosquitoes in otherwise water-starved areas. And in Contra Costa County, the Mosquito and Vector Control District sprayed for adult mosquitoes 14 times between April and September.

Over the summer, the Santa Clara County Vector Control District found as many as 1 in 20 mosquitoes infected with West Nile in the area, acting manager Russ Parman said.

The Guardian covers a growing environmental disaster:

Amazon deforestation picking up pace, satellite data reveals

  • Data indicates 190% rise in land clearance in August and September compared with same period last year

The deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has accelerated rapidly in the past two months, underscoring the shortcomings of the government’s environmental policies.

Satellite data indicates a 190% surge in land clearance in August and September compared with the same period last year as loggers and farmers exploit loopholes in regulations that are designed to protect the world’s largest forest.

Figures released by Imazon, a Brazilian nonprofit research organisation, show that 402 square kilometres – more than six times the area of the island of Manhattan – was cleared in September.

The government has postponed the release of official figures until after next Sunday’s presidential election, in which incumbent Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ party faces a strong challenge from Aécio Neves, a pro-business candidate who has the endorsement of Marina Silva, the popular former environment minister.

And one factor in that deforestation is Europe’s hunger for wood, as Agence France-Presse reports:

Deforestation

Program notes:

Greenpeace denounces the export of wood acquired illegally in Brazil’s Amazon region to European countries like Belgium, France, Sweden and the Netherlands.

From USA TODAY, one damn big arachnid:

Scientist stumbles upon spider as big as a puppy

Strolling through a Guyana rainforest one night, a scientist heard some rustling and thought he’d encountered a furry mammal.

Well, he was right about the furry part.

The creature was actually a Goliath birdeater spider, LiveScience reports — the world’s biggest type of spider, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It can weigh up to 6 ounces. For comparison, National Geographic reports a black widow weighs roughly .035 ounces; that’s 170 times lighter.

Scientist Piotr Naskrecki writes its weight is “about as much as a young puppy,” while its leg span can be a foot long, comparable with a kid’s forearm, notes LiveScience. The body itself is fist-sized, Naskrecki says. The fangs? Two inches long. The thing won’t kill you, but its bite feels “like driving a nail through your hand.”

The Independent covers a Chinese quandary:

Beijing marathon runners choked by smog are forced to wear face masks

Runners were forced to wear face masks as tens of thousands of competitors took part in an international marathon in Beijing under a thick blanket of smog – despite warnings that everyone in the city should avoid outdoor activities.

About 30,000 runners were expected to take part in the event on Sunday morning, with the organising committee making 140,000 sponges available at supply stations along the marathon route so runners could “clean their skin that is exposed to the air,” the Beijing News reported.

“On a normal day, nobody would run in such conditions,” said participant Liu Zhenyu, a computer engineer. “But the event is happening today, so what can we do?”

Although organisers had warned on Saturday night that “there might be slight or moderate smog”, the air was deemed to be severely polluted on Sunday morning, according to the real-time monitoring of Beijing’s environmental centre.

A video report from Deutsche Welle:

Beijing’s Smog Marathon

Program notes:

Thousands of runners have battled thick smog to take part in the Beijing Marathon. Some athletes donned masks as air pollution soared toward 14 times the maximum recommended level. Chinese organizers rejected calls to postpone the event.

For our final item, via JapanToday, an explosive concern:

4,000 take part in Mt Fuji eruption drill

Nearly 4,000 people took part Sunday in a mass evacuation drill to test responses to a possible eruption of Japan’s highest peak Mt Fuji, weeks after a nearby volcano blew its top and killed at least 56.

The 3,776-meter Fuji last erupted in 1707 but geologists have included it as one of 47 volcanoes in the Pacific Rim country believed to be at risk of eruption in the coming century.

Nearly 4,000 residents in 26 cities, towns and villages in Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Kanagawa prefectures around the mountain took part in the first-ever such drill, said a disaster management official for the Shizuoka prefectural government.

Mt Fuji is just 100 kilometers west of Tokyo.

EbolaWatch: Fear, czar, alarms, meds, Africa


And a whole lot more, given the pace at which the outbreak is moving.

We begin with this from JapanToday:

World fears mount that Ebola battle being lost

The World Bank warned Friday the fight to stop Ebola was being lost, as the U.N. pleaded for more money to combat the escalating epidemic and global travel fears mounted.

As the death toll from the world’s worst-ever outbreak of the virus shot past 4,500, a glimmer of hope came from Senegal, which was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization.

The United States, meanwhile, named an “Ebola czar” to coordinate its response, after criticism of how a Texas hospital handled a Liberian victim, with two nurses who treated him now infected.

And a researcher at British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline said a vaccine may not be ready for commercial use until late 2016.

“We are losing the battle,” World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim warned, blaming a lack of international solidarity in efforts to stem the epidemic. “Certain countries are only worried about their own borders,” he told reporters in Paris.

And a continuing alarm from BBC News:

Ebola crisis: No impact from pledges of help, MSF says

International pledges of deployments and aid for Africa’s Ebola-hit regions have not yet had any impact on the epidemic, a major medical charity says.

Christopher Stokes of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the disease was still out of control. He said it was “ridiculous” that volunteers working for his charity were bearing the brunt of care in the worst-affected countries.

The disease has killed about 4,500 people so far, mostly in West Africa.

MSF runs about 700 out of the 1,000 beds available in treatment facilities Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The BBC’s Mark Doyle, at the UN Ebola logistics base in Ghana, says it is generally agreed that at least three times that number are needed.

Shanghai Daily covers a concession:

WHO admits it botched response to Ebola outbreak in West Africa

THE World Health Organization has admitted that it botched attempts to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, blaming factors including incompetent staff and a lack of information.

“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” WHO said in a draft internal document, noting that experts should have realized traditional containment methods wouldn’t work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems.

The UN health agency acknowledged that, at times, even its own bureaucracy was a problem. It noted that the heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr Margaret Chan.

Dr Peter Piot, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, said WHO acted far too slowly, largely because of its Africa office. “It’s the regional office in Africa that’s the frontline,” he said. “And they didn’t do anything. That office is really not competent.”

Piot also questioned why it took WHO five months and 1,000 deaths before the agency declared Ebola an international health emergency in August.

And Kyodo News covers a summit:

Asian, European leaders pledge at Milan summit to stop Ebola

Asian and European leaders wrapped up a two-day summit Friday, highlighting in the chair’s statement their determination to stop the Ebola virus from spreading.

“The spread of the Ebola virus constitutes a serious threat to global health and security,” the leaders of 51 countries attending the Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, said in the statement released after the 10th biennial summit in Milan, Italy.

“They acknowledged the efforts by ASEM partners in providing aid to affected areas and called for further urgent action and greater national, regional and international collaboration to end the Ebola outbreak in a comprehensive and coordinated manner including an exchange of best practices,” the statement said.

From Britain comes another alarm, this one from the Tory-in-chief, via the London Telegraph:

Ebola is the ‘biggest health threat to our world in a generation’ – David Cameron

  • Prime Minister tells other world leaders to ‘look to their responsibilities’” in fighting ebola as Royal Navy sets sail for West Africa

Ebola is the “biggest health problem facing our world in a generation”, David Cameron has said, as he urged foreign leaders to “step forward” with more resources to fight the crisis.

The Prime Minister urged other leaders to “look to their responsibilities” to help tackle the Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa.

Britain, he said, was “leading the way” in providing assistance to the region as he backed a call by United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon for other countries to deliver more funding.

Speaking as he arrived at the Asia Europe summit in Milan, Italy, he said: “This is the biggest health problem facing our world in a generation. It is very likely to affect a number of the countries here today.”

The New York Times crowns a czar:

Ron Klain, Chief of Staff to 2 Vice Presidents, Is Named Ebola Czar

President Obama on Friday named Ron Klain, a seasoned Democratic crisis-response operative and White House veteran, to manage the government’s response to the deadly virus as public anxiety grows over its possible spread.

Mr. Klain, a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joseph R. Biden Jr., is known for his ability to handle high-stakes and fast-moving political challenges. He was the lead Democratic lawyer for Mr. Gore during the 2000 election recount, and was later played by Kevin Spacey in the HBO drama “Recount” about the disputed contest.

“Obviously right now, the news is dominated by Ebola, and we’ve got an all-hands-on-deck approach across government to make sure that we’re keeping the American people safe,” Mr. Obama said on Friday at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he was announcing new antifraud measures for government-issued debit cards.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau backgrounds:

Obama’s Ebola czar is a government insider with no medical background

“He is a brilliant strategist and is known for his ability to manage large, complex operations,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.

But Klain’s lack of medical expertise also drew complaints.

“I think it’s a pretty pathetic gesture to appoint a non-medical person to be in charge of this response, which has already been dangerously futile,” said Richard Amerling, president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and associate clinical professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

“This guy knows nothing about Ebola,” said Robert Murphy, director of the Center for Global Health and a professor of medical and biomedical engineering at Northwestern University. “He’s probably a smart insider political guy. He has no credibility in the field of public health and he has no credibility in Africa, where the Ebola crisis began. . . . I really think that this is a very inappropriate choice.”

From the Guardian, presidential backtracking:

Obama not ruling out travel bans as experts watch for more cases

  • President considers further interventions and appointing crisis leader, while concern grows over infected woman’s air travel

Barack Obama has hinted at possible policy shifts in US efforts to contain Ebola, revealing he is considering fresh leadership to co-ordinate the federal response and is open to implementing travel bans if expert advice on its merits were to shift.

Speaking to reporters at the White House after his second two-hour meeting with advisers in as many days, the president also said extra disease control specialists were being sent to Ohio amid fears that a second nurse infected with the disease may have been contagious for longer than originally suspected.

“It is very important that we are monitoring and tracking anyone who was in close proximity to this second nurse,” said Obama, who earlier spoke with the Ohio governor about sending more experts from the Centers for Disease Control to the Cleveland area.

Others disagree, via the New York Times:

Experts Oppose Ebola Travel Ban, Saying It Would Cut Off Worst-Hit Countries

Fear of Ebola is spreading faster than the disease itself, and the growing paranoia in the United States is fueling calls to impose a travel ban on people coming from the three West African nations struggling with the outbreak.

In a politically tense climate, with the Nov. 4 elections just weeks away, the issue is being supercharged by partisan considerations with prominent Republicans calling for a ban, including John Boehner, the House speaker.

But public health officials say a travel ban would be ineffective and difficult to carry out and would not entirely prevent people in Ebola-hit countries from entering the United States.

Ultimately, health specialists said, a ban would do more harm than good because it would isolate impoverished nations that are barely able to cope with the outbreak, and possibly cut them off from the international aid workers who provide critical help to contain the disease.

Bans legislation tabled from The Hill:

Texas lawmakers to introduce Ebola travel ban legislation

Two Texas Republican lawmakers plan to introduce legislation banning travel between the U.S. and Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa.

The Friday announcement from Reps. Kenny Marchant and Sam Johnson was made the same day the White House disclosed President Obama would appoint Democratic operative Ron Klain to oversee the interagency response to Ebola.

Marchant said the U.S. is “behind the curve” for combatting the spread of the deadly virus and called the pair’s bill, dubbed the Stop Ebola Act, a “proactive approach” to preventing more cases of Ebola in the U.S.

From Science, another surprise Obama move:

U.S. halts funding for new risky virus studies, calls for voluntary moratorium

The White House today stepped into an ongoing debate about controversial virus experiments with a startling announcement: It is halting all federal funding for so-called gain-of-function (GOF) studies that alter a pathogen to make it more transmissible or deadly so that experts can work out a U.S. government-wide policy for weighing the risks. Federal officials are also asking the handful of researchers doing ongoing work in this area to agree to a voluntary moratorium.

The “pause on funding,” a White House blog states, applies to “any new studies … that may be reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses such that the virus would have enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility in mammals via the respiratory route.” The government also “encourages those currently conducting this type of work—whether federally funded or not—to voluntarily pause their research while risks and benefits are being reassessed.” Research and testing of naturally occurring forms of these pathogens will continue.

An accompanying document describes plans for a two-stage “deliberative process” to determine the risks and benefits of GOF experiments and to develop a U.S. policy for approving new studies. It will begin next week when the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), an advisory group that has not meet for 2 years, convenes on 22 October to begin designing a study to assess the risks and benefits of GOF research. The National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) will also hold a symposium to discuss the scientific issues, then later review the NSABB’s recommendations, which are due within 6 months.

And from the New York Times, the fury:

Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama Is Said to Seethe

Beneath the calming reassurance that President Obama has repeatedly offered during the Ebola crisis, there is a deepening frustration, even anger, with how the government has handled key elements of the response.

Those frustrations spilled over when Mr. Obama convened his top aides in the Cabinet room after canceling his schedule on Wednesday. Medical officials were providing information that later turned out to be wrong. Guidance to local health teams was not adequate. It was unclear which Ebola patients belonged in which threat categories.

“It’s not tight,” a visibly angry Mr. Obama said of the response, according to people briefed on the meeting. He told aides they needed to get ahead of events and demanded a more hands-on approach, particularly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “He was not satisfied with the response,” a senior official said.

From The Hill, a false alarm in Washington on sensitive ground:

Woman rushed to hospital from Pentagon does not have Ebola

A woman who was rushed to the hospital Friday after vomiting in a Pentagon parking lot has been cleared for Ebola, Arlington Country official Mary Curtius confirmed Friday.

The hospitalization of the woman, whom officials believe had recently traveled to Africa, set off a chain reaction of preventive measures by Pentagon and Arlington County officials.

Pentagon officials confirmed reports that the woman, a civilian, had briefly boarded a bus with Marines on their way to a change-of-command ceremony for the Marine Corps commandant, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was expected to be in attendance.

From ABC News 2 in Baltimore, a condition report on America’s first homegrown Ebola patient:

Condition of nurse treated in Maryland for Ebola updated to ‘fair but stable’

The Ebola patient recovering here in Maryland was downgraded to fair condition today.

Nina Pham is a nurse from Dallas. Overnight, she was flown to Frederick Airport and driven to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda.

When Pham left Texas, she was listed in good condition. Now, she’s in fair but stable condition.

And from USA Today, more allegations about the hospital where she contracted the disease:

Dallas nurse blasts her hospital’s Ebola response

Program notes:

A Dallas nurse is coming forward to describe the “extreme chaos” following the death of her hospital’s first Ebola patient. She’s now monitoring herself for Ebola symptoms and worried for her colleagues.

A denial from the Washington Post:

Mexico fails to grant access to cruise ship carrying Texas health worker

The cruise ship carrying a Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Dallas Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan is headed back to the United States after Mexican authorities failed to grant permission for the ship to dock off the coast of Cozumel, according to a Carnival spokeswoman.

The Carnival Magic had been waiting off the Mexican coast since Friday morning for its scheduled port visit. Mexican authorities still hadn’t given clearance by noon, so the ship continued to its home port of Galveston, Tex., where it was due back on Sunday, according to Carnival.

The health worker, a lab supervisor who has not been named, has shown no symptoms of the disease but remains on board and in voluntary isolation, according to Carnival. “We greatly regret that this situation, which was completely beyond our control, precluded the ship from making its scheduled visit to Cozumel and the resulting disappointment it has caused our guests,” read a statement from Carnival.

From the Los Angeles Times, the American Ebola watch list:

Ebola in the U.S.: 1,000 people under some level of watch

Whether by land, sea or air, the fear of Ebola has been spreading at a pace far faster than the growth in the number of people diagnosed with the disease.

In recent days, the number of people who have been asked to monitor themselves for symptoms has been steadily growing, especially among healthcare workers who were involved in the original treatment of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who died from Ebola on Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

As of Friday, a pool of about 1,000 people are being watched for symptoms, have been asked to monitor themselves or have been urged to check with a counselor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The group includes a handful of people who have been ordered into quarantine, a larger group that is being closely watched with temperatures taken at least daily and a much larger group of travelers who may haven flown on a Frontier Airlines jetliner used at some point by an Ebola patient traveling with a low-grade fever.

The Guardian covers a condolence call:

Ebola: Liberian president phones Dallas mayor about infected nurses

Exclusive: Mike Rawlings said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had said she felt accountable for the situation in the Texan city

The president of Liberia telephoned the mayor of Dallas and apologised for the fact that the Ebola virus had transferred from her country to his city and infected Americans, the mayor said during a conference call with religious leaders in Texas on Friday.

The mayor, Mike Rawlings, said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had said she felt accountable for the situation in the Texan city, where a man who had recently returned from Liberia infected two nurses who treated him before he died, according to two people on the conference call.

“The mayor said that there was a call to him personally, and that the Liberian president had mentioned apologies, and, in his words, a little bit of responsibility that this was even happening,” Rex Howe, a pastor at Scofield Memorial church, told the Guardian.

And right here on San Francisco Bay, via the Oakland Tribune, the nurses who cared for esnl are marching over perceived lack of training and equipment at the same hospital where we lost bladder and prostate to cancer:

Nurses march in Oakland to demand greater safety for treating Ebola

Kaiser Permanente nurses marched Thursday morning in downtown Oakland to call for increased resources and training to treat Ebola patients.

Zenei Cortez, co-president of the California Nurses Association, said nurses are asking for the same kind of safety and training provided to hazardous materials workers who treat Ebola infected homes.

Following recent reports of nurses who became infected with ebola after treating a patient, nurses are asking for hands-on interactive training in how to handle possible Ebola cases, rather than the classroom training Kaiser is currently offering, Cortez said. They want to learn how to safely put on and take off gear, and the protocol to properly dispose of contaminated gear.

And if a hospital gets a patient, nurses want enough staff to be present to monitor the nurses to keep them safe, Cortez said.

The Washington Post covers a surprising case of Ebolaphobia:

Syracuse University disinvites Washington Post photographer because he was in Liberia 3 weeks ago

Washington Post photojournalist Michel du Cille, who returned from covering the Ebola epidemic in Liberia 21 days ago, has been disinvited by Syracuse University from participation in a journalism workshop this weekend.

Du Cille and his wife, Nikki Kahn, both Pulitzer prize-winning Post photojournalists, were scheduled to take part in portfolio reviews and critique sessions at the university’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. The school’s dean, Lorraine Branham, said a student who was researching du Cille prior to the workshop found out he had recently returned from Liberia and expressed concern. Provost Eric Spina spoke with health officials and made the call.

“It’s a disappointment to me,” du Cille said. “I’m pissed off and embarrassed and completely weirded out that a journalism institution that should be seeking out facts and details is basically pandering to hysteria.”

CBC News covers another one:

Ebola outbreak: diagnosis delayed after Air Canada refuses to transport blood sample

  • Lab tests were not completed for more than 24 hours after being collected in Edmonton

Air Canada refused to fly a blood specimen from a patient suspected of Ebola from Edmonton to Winnipeg last weekend, CBC News has learned.

Officials are blaming poor communication and unclear protocols for the delay of more than 24 hours between when the sample was collected in Edmonton and when it finally arrived in Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab.

Sources tell CBC News the patient in question came in to the emergency room of an Edmonton-area hospital midday last Saturday.

A British extension from BBC News:

Ebola screening extended to Manchester and Birmingham airports

Passenger screening for Ebola is to be extended to Manchester and Birmingham airports, Public Health England says.

Staff at the two airports will begin checking passengers from at-risk countries after it is introduced at Gatwick and Eurostar next week.

Screening of arrivals from West Africa, where 4,500 have died in the outbreak, started at Heathrow on Tuesday.

And the Russian screens are nearly up, via RT:

Russian govt orders extra airport facilities to prevent Ebola

Airports in Russia will be equipped with extra facilities to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading, the government’s press service reported on Friday. Over a thousand African students are already under special medical control.

Cabinet discussed the Ebola outbreak with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday. As the result of the meeting, Russian airports will soon receive special equipment to be installed, to prevent any possible spread of the deadly virus in the country.

According to press service, Russia’s top officials also discussed the vaccine development and medicine for extreme preventive care. Head of Russia’s Rospotrebnadzor health watchdog reported on the work of its special team in Guinea.

After jump, a Canadian vaccine heads for trials, a production push [assisted by Bill Gates] for another drug, a stark prognosis for India, false alarms in Costa Rica and Spain, on to Africa and a celebrity video campaign, a grim food warning for the hot zone, a Rwandan medical assist, East Africa promises medics and money, more Latin American assistance promised, medical staff recruitment problems remain, hot zone religious succor sought, South Sudan takes precautions, WHO outlines plans for African countries thus far spared, the plight of hot zone children, athletes stigmatized, on to Liberia and a stricken family, American/Liberian military bonding as the opening all promised treatment centers is delayed, numbers for one treatment unit, and heightened political divisions. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, hacks, spies


And more. . .

We begin with a very real security threat from Salon:

Americans see economic inequality as a bigger threat than nuclear weapons

  • Asked to name top threat to the world, a plurality of Americans say it’s the gap between rich and poor

Pew polled people in 44 countries for the survey. In the U.S., 27 percent of respondents named income inequality as the biggest danger to the world, followed by religious and ethnic hatred (24 percent), nuclear weapons (23 percent), pollution and the environment (15 percent), and AIDS and other diseas (7 percent). Europe, which was also hard hit by the Great Recession and whose leaders have since embarked on an agenda of economic austerity, joined the U.S. in seeing economic inequality as the top global threat.

The findings are part of Pew’s spring 2014 Global Attitudes poll. Earlier this month, Pew unveiled data from the survey showing that a plurality of Americans support raising taxes as a means of combating economic inequality.

The percentage of Americans naming inequality as the top global threat has increased sharply since the Great Recession. In 2007, just 17 percent of Americans told Pew that they considered inequality the biggest threat.

And on to the highest profile conflict of the moment from BBC News:

Islamic State ‘being driven out of Syria’s Kobane’

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has been driven out of most of the northern Syrian town of Kobane, a Kurdish commander has told the BBC.

Baharin Kandal said IS fighters had retreated from all areas, except for two pockets of resistance in the east. US-led air strikes have helped push back the militants, with another 14 conducted over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the new UN human rights commissioner has called IS a “potentially genocidal” movement. Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein described the group as the antithesis of human rights.

From TheLocal.dk, the latest player in the bombing war:

Danish F-16s carry out first mission against Isis

For the first time since parliament approved Denmark’s military involvement in northern Iraq, Danish jets took to the air to support an American-led mission.

Danish F-16 fighter jets participated in their first mission over northern Iraq on Thursday, the Defence Ministry announced.

“The jets took part in an operation over Iraq in close cooperation with our coalition partners. Our people have made dedicated and highly professional efforts to be ready and I am very pleased that the Danish F-16s are now actively contributing to the international coalition’s fight against the Islamic State,” Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen said in a statement.

Another high-flyer from the Guardian:

UK to send armed drones to assist campaign against Isis

  • Foreign secretary says drones will carry out surveillance over Iraq, and defence secretary says they will add to strike capability

Britain is to send heavily armed Reaper drones to the Middle East to help in the fight against forces from the Islamic State in Iraq.

Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, told MPs that the Reaper drones would add to Britain’s surveillance operations over Iraq. Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said the drones would add to Britain’s “strike capability”.

Hammond told the Commons: “We are in the process of redeploying some of our Reaper remotely piloted aircraft from Afghanistan to the Middle East to add to our surveillance capabilities.”

Blowback from the Guardian:

Threat of extremist attack in UK is escalating, say police

  • About 50 people a week referred to deradicalisation programmes, with 218 terror-related arrests so far this year

Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has said that several plots this year to murder people on Britain’s streets “directed by or inspired by terrorism overseas” have already been disrupted, with police activity to prevent extremist attacks at its highest level for years.

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said Britain’s counter-terrorism network was battling increasing radicalisation via the internet, with fears that young British people are being brainwashed by material including depictions of beheadings, suicides, murder and torture. About 50 people a week are being referred to deradicalisation programmes, he said.

Activity to stop an attack was said by one source to be the highest since the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 attack on London’s transport system, with the threat level escalating as the year has worn on.

From BBC News, gee, we’re shocked:

US ‘hid Iraq chemical weapons incidents’

US troops and Iraqi police were wounded by exposure to abandoned chemical weapons in 2004-11 in a series of incidents largely kept quiet by the Pentagon, a US newspaper has reported.

The New York Times said the weapons were built by Saddam Hussein’s regime during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html

Soldiers and police uncovered about 5,000 warheads, shells or bombs.

The Times based its report on dozens of pages of classified documents, and interviews with soldiers and officials.

And from the Intercept, an ominous development:

New Zealand Cops Raided Home of Reporter Working on Snowden Documents

Agents from New Zealand’s national police force ransacked the home of a prominent independent journalist earlier this month who was collaborating with The Intercept on stories from the NSA archive furnished by Edward Snowden. The stated purpose of the 10-hour police raid was to identify the source for allegations that the reporter, Nicky Hager, recently published in a book that caused a major political firestorm and led to the resignation of a top government minister.

But in seizing all the paper files and electronic devices in Hager’s home, the authorities may have also taken source material concerning other unrelated stories that Hager was pursuing. Recognizing the severity of the threat posed to press freedoms from this raid, the Freedom of the Press Foundation today announced a global campaign to raise funds for Hager’s legal defense.

In August, one month before New Zealand’s national election, Hager published Dirty Politics, which showed that key figures in Prime Minister John Key’s National Party were feeding derogatory information about their opponents to a virulent right-wing blogger named Cameron Slater. Hager published evidence in the form of incriminating emails, provided by a hacker, demonstrating coordination between National Party officials and Slater. The ensuing scandal forced the resignation of a top Key ally, Justice Minister Judith Collins, and implicated numerous other National Party officials and supporters. Despite the scandal, the National Party won a resounding victory in the election, sending Key to a third term as prime minister.

From Al Jazeera America, The Most Transparent Administration in American History™ is a sore loser:

US may appeal release of Guantanamo tape

Federal judge asked to halt plans for releasing video showing Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being force-fed his meals.

The United States government has asked a federal judge to halt plans for releasing videotapes showing a Guantanamo Bay hunger striker being force-fed his meals.

In court papers filed on Wednesday night, the Justice Department told US District Judge Gladys Kessler that the government may appeal an order by the judge that would, for the first time, lead to disclosure of classified information in a proceeding involving a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

The Justice Department told Kessler that she was substituting the court’s judgment for that of executive branch officials, contrary to established precedent.

intelNews covers old school spookery:

Senior Polish defense official detained for ‘spying for Russia’

A high-ranking official in Poland’s Ministry of National Defense has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia.

Poland’s Dziennik Gazeta Prawna said early on Wednesday that a man had been detained by Polish security personnel because it was thought he had been acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Another source, Poland’s commercial news Radio Zet, reported that two men had been arrested, a colonel in the Polish Army and a lawyer with dual Polish-Russian citizenship.

Later in the day, an official statement from the office of the Senior Military Prosecutor said simply that Poland’s “Ministry of National Defense detained a Polish Army officer on suspicion of being a member of a foreign intelligence service.”

And RT covers Cold War 2.0, the latest complication:

US tanks arrive in Latvia to ward off ‘perceived’ Russian threat

US tanks have arrived in Latvia as NATO flexes its muscles in an apparent show of strength towards Moscow. The machines are being deployed across the Baltic States and Poland over the next two weeks and will be used for training exercises.

The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas, was deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital of Riga. 150 soldiers used five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in a training demonstration.

The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said, “This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations’ commitment to reassure our NATO allies,” Reuters reports.

After the jump, neo-Nazi legislators to stand trial in Greece, Another FBI blast at citizen encryption coupled with a shot at China, hackers game the latest online ad tech, cybercam spookery, another corporation found selling our their “secure” devices, an NSA exec’s curious enterprises, an intriguing story about what Greenwald and company haven’t published, “smart meter” hacking, the latest Cold War 2.0 move, more mass grave found as search for Mexican students intensifies and anger rises, an Aussie/Japanese Channel sub deal draws closer, Korean military talks stall, another Korean nuclear threat [from the U.S.], on to Hong Kong as the crackdown intensifies, America responds, and pointless talks are proposed, Taiwan frets over Chinese maritime moves and Japan looks to America for critical help, Japanese lawmakers pay a provocative visit [Abe does it with an offering], and an even more provocative moved aimed at banishing any admission of World War II war guilt. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Warnings, pols, patients, Africa


We begin today’s collection of reports from around the world [with special emphasis on African media] with a fascinating video from USA Today:

Watch CDC Director’s language change on Ebola crisis

Program notes:

CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden shifts his statements as the Ebola crisis deepens.

Another video, from Texas Health Resources, focusing on America’s first endogenous Ebola patient:

Nina Pham Speaks from Her Room at Texas Health Dallas

Program notes:

Before Nina Pham departed Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas for the National Institute of Health’s Clinical Center earlier today, she was visited by her treating physician, Dr. Gary Weinstein, who recorded his conversation with her before she was discharged. Ms. Pham asked that we share the video.

The latest from Dallas CBS affiliate KXAS:

Pham Transported to NIH in Maryland

Dallas nurse Nina Pham, the first person to contract the potentially deadly Ebola virus in the United States, appeared to be in good spirits in a rare, emotional video shot in her Dallas hospital room Thursday, just before she was flown to Maryland en route to the National Institutes of Health.

“Come to Maryland, everybody!” patient Nina Pham told Dr. Gary Weinstein and another health care worker treating her in the video, both of them wearing full protective suits, as the three of them became emotional. “I love you guys,” she said.

Pham, 26, was transported by ambulance Thursday afternoon from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field Airport, where she was able to walk up the stairs into a private jet for the flight to Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland.

She landed in Maryland just before 10 p.m. CDT for the ambulance ride to the National Institutes of Health.

And then there’s this from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Infected nurse’s quarantined dog may inspire Ebola pet protocols

Bentley, the dog owned by Ebola-stricken Texas nurse Nina Pham, is apparently thriving under quarantine – being fed, cared for and played with by Dallas workers in full protective gear.

In the process, the cute King Charles Spaniel has become a media phenomenon, with Twitter followers monitoring his progress through the city of Dallas feed @100Marilla.

His owner, who cared for the first U.S. Ebola victim at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, was transferred Thursday to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

But medical experts still are considering how to treat pets, as public concern about the Ebola virus explodes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture prepare pet protocols.

The latest on the course of the epidemic from the Associated Press:

UN: Ebola death toll rising to 4,500 this week

The death toll from Ebola will rise this week to more than 4,500 people from the 9,000 infected and the outbreak is still out of control in three West African nations, a top official with the U.N. health agency said Thursday.

Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of the World Health Organization’s global capacities, alert and response, said new numbers show the outbreak is still hitting health workers hard despite precautions — with 427 medical workers infected and 236 dead — mainly because Ebola victims are most contagious around the time they die.

Nuttall said the focus of the world’s efforts should remain on the countries where the outbreak has been spreading out of control: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The Independent covers a parallel development:

Ebola outbreak: Famine approaches to add to West Africa’s torment

Sierra Leone’s fields are without farmers. Its crops go un-reaped. In the quarantine areas, feeding is patchy – some get food, others don’t. People then leave the enforced isolation in search of a meal, so Ebola spreads. In three West African countries where many already live a hand-to-mouth existence, the act of eating is increasingly rare.

Ebola, the virus that has ravaged Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea at an unprecedented rate, continues its devastating spread. The number of dead doubles with each passing month; the bodies unburied. More lives are devastated with each passing day.

And in the absence of a mass-produced vaccine, its treatment – enforced isolation, mass quarantines – now threatens to bring a new crisis: starvation.

Reassurance for some from BBC News:

Ebola crisis: WHO says major outbreak in West ‘unlikely’

Christopher Dye, WHO director of strategy, said the introduction of Ebola into the US or other countries in Western Europe was a matter “for very serious concern”

“The possibility that once an infection has been introduced that it spreads elsewhere, is something that everybody is going to be concerned about,” he said.

But he added: “We’re confident that in North America and Western Europe where health systems are very strong, that we’re unlikely to see a major outbreak in any of those places.”

And the Washington Post covers another side effect:

An epidemic of fear and anxiety hits Americans amid Ebola outbreak

Though Ebola’s dangers are real and terrifying, epidemiologists and other authorities say that, for now, its greatest mark could be on the psyche of the country where other health threats are more perilous.

President Obama late Wednesday sought to quell any risk of panic, telling the American people, “The dangers of your contracting Ebola, the dangers of a serious outbreak, are extraordinarily low.”

[A]ll over the country, Americans expressed deep anxiety about the threat of Ebola. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, two-thirds of Americans are worried about an Ebola epidemic in the United States, and more than 4 in 10 are “very” or “somewhat worried” that they or a close family member might catch the virus.

And the perspective of Tom Toles, the Post’s editorial cartoonist:

BLOG Toles

More from Al Jazeera America:

In battling Ebola, fighting panic is as critical as containing virus

  • Allaying fears while urging vigilance is a unique challenge for public health officials

As U.S. public health officials and hospital workers race to help contain the global Ebola epidemic, they are confronting an equally pressing challenge at home: tamping down public hysteria.

Although the virus has wreaked havoc on West Africa, claiming more than 4,400 lives, according to the latest estimates by the World Health Organization, only three cases have been diagnosed in the United States. The disease is not airborne and can be spread only through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is exhibiting symptoms. Still, the news that a second health care worker was infected in Dallas after caring for an Ebola patient and allegations by nurses that the hospital where he was treated had sloppy protocols have added to unease across the United States.

“Ebola is serious. People are understandably afraid of what it means and what the implications are for them,” said Peter Jacobson, a professor of health law and policy at the University of Michigan. “At the same time, we have really excellent public health professionals who are able to communicate the extent of the threat, what we know and what we don’t know.”

Ebolaphobia rampant, via the New York Times:

As Ebola Fears Spread, Ohio and Texas Close Some Schools

An Ebola-infected nurse’s air travel between Dallas and Cleveland has sent ripples of concern through at least two states, leading to school closings and voluntary isolations.

Schools in Texas and Ohio were closed on Thursday after officials learned that students and an adult had either been on the flight with the nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, or had contact with her while she was visiting the Akron area.

Both Ms. Vinson and another nurse who contracted Ebola, Nina Pham, were part of the medical team that treated an Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Ms. Vinson traveled from Cleveland to Dallas the day before she showed symptoms of the disease.

In Akron, Ohio, officials dismissed students at the Resnik Community Learning Center at midday and said it would remain closed until Monday. In a letter to parents, the schools superintendent in Akron, David W. James, said that “a parent at the school had spent time with Ebola patient Amber Vinson when she visited the area this past weekend.”

Another manifestation from the Los Angeles Times:

‘No Ebola here,’ college says after evacuation spurs rumors, fears

The student whose flu-related comments led to a classroom building at Southwestern College in Chula Vista being evacuated Thursday does not have Ebola, a college spokeswoman said.

The student has a sister in the hospital with flu-like symptoms. The sister was not near any Ebola patient or on any airline flight that such a patient may have taken, said college spokeswoman Lillian Leopold.

Concern about a possible Ebola connection spread through rumor and social media faster than officials could confirm whether the student or a family member had been exposed to the deadly virus, Leopold said. Within minutes, local media were reporting a possible Ebola connection.

Southwestern College said in a statement that it had evacuated and cordoned off Building 470 as a precaution. Emergency personnel from the city of Chula Vista were at the scene, but San Diego County public health officials did not send a team.

And from CNN:

How worried is the Pentagon about Ebola? Creating special Ebola boot camp and updating pandemic plans

And then there’s this, via BuzzFeed:

GOP Senator: ISIS Using Ebola Is A “Real And Present Danger”

  • Asked whether the U.S. should be concerned about ISIS militants bringing Ebola into the country, Sen. Ron Johnson said we should do everything possible to prevent such a thing

A Republican senator says he sees the threat of ISIS militants intentionally infecting themselves with the Ebola virus and then traveling to America as a “real and present danger.”

“Well, it’s certainly something I’ve been thinking about ever since this Ebola outbreak started,” Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Wednesday of ISIS using Ebola on America’s Forum on NewsmaxTV.

NewsMaxTV cited Al Shimkus, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, who said last week that that ISIS fighters could infect themselves with the Ebola virus and then travel to U.S. as a form of biological warfare.

From The Hill, Obama concedes an issue to the Republicans:

Obama may appoint Ebola czar

President Obama on Thursday said it “may make sense” to appoint an Ebola czar to oversee the federal government’s response to the deadly virus.

Obama’s remarks represent a significant shift for the White House, which has rejected the czar idea repeatedly.

“It may make sense for us to have one person in part just so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process to make sure we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s,” Obama said after meeting with top health officials in the Oval Office.

“If I appoint somebody, I’ll let you know,” he added.

And the latest American Ebola scare, via China Daily:

Patient with ‘Ebola-like symptoms’ admitted to Connecticut hospital

Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut was evaluating a patient with “Ebola-like symptoms” on Thursday and will likely know within 24 hours whether the person has the deadly disease, a hospital official said.

The patient is one of two Yale University graduate epidemiology students who traveled to Liberia last month to advise the health ministry on using computers to track Ebola, according to Laurence Grotheer, a spokesman for New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

“Yale-New Haven Hospital admitted a patient late Wednesday night for evaluation of Ebola-like symptoms. We have not confirmed or ruled out any diagnosis at this point,” the hospital said in the statement on its website.

Dr. Thomas Balcezak, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said at a press conference that fever was among the patient’s symptoms and they were placed in isolation. Balcezak said the patient was in stable condition.

On to the politics and logistics from the Los Angeles Times:

‘We made mistakes,’ Dallas hospital chief says of Ebola crisis

Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday defended his agency’s handling of the Ebola crisis while conceding the agency may have allowed a Texas nurse to fly on a commercial airline even though she was among a group of healthcare workers involved in treating the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the nation.

The hearing followed partisan lines, with Republicans pushing their agenda for closing the border with a ban on travel from West African countries where the Ebola virus has broken out. Democrats opposed such a ban and called for greater efforts to fight Ebola at the source in Africa. Some Democrats questioned the effect of GOP-backed budget cuts in curbing efforts to fight Ebola at home.

“People are scared,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “People’s lives are at stake, and the response so far has been unacceptable.”

More from the Washington Post:

CDC director’s challenge: Deadly Ebola virus and outbreak of criticism

“I am not protecting West Africa,” Tom Frieden, pacing in his office, tells an unhappy U.S. senator on the other end of a call from Washington. “My number one responsibility is to protect Americans from threats.”

Then: “Respectfully, sir, I don’t agree with you.”

A moment later: “I hope to regain your confidence.”

When he hangs up, Frieden doesn’t identify the senator, other than to say he was a Republican who wants an absolute travel ban on people from West Africa because of the Ebola epidemic. Frieden thinks that’s a misguided idea that will backfire, but the senator would not be persuaded.

“It was pingpong ball against iron safe,” he says.

From BBC News, a mixed report from the UN:

Ebola crisis: WHO signals help for Africa to stop spread

The World Health Organization is to “ramp up” efforts to prevent Ebola spreading beyond the three countries most affected by the deadly virus.

Fifteen African countries are being prioritised, top WHO official Isabelle Nuttall told a Geneva news conference.

They will receive more help in areas including prevention and protection.

But former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he is “bitterly disappointed” with the international community’s response.

More from the New York Times:

New U.N. Ebola Trust Fund Falls Far Short of Goal

The United Nations trust fund for Ebola has received barely one percent of the $1 billion that the world body says it needs to tackle the outbreak — and that too from only one country, Colombia, United Nations officials said Thursday.

It has received pledges of about $20 million from various governments, but only $100,000 in actual cash deposits.

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, had earlier told reporters that the trust fund, announced in mid-September, had received $20 million in cash. His aides later clarified that the $20 million amount referred to pledges, not cash.

From the Guardian, a caution:

Ebola epidemic may not end without developing vaccine, scientist warns

  • Professor Peter Piot, one of the scientists who discovered Ebola, claims scale of outbreak has got ‘completely out of hand’

The Ebola epidemic, which is out of control in three countries and directly threatening 15 others, may not end until the world has a vaccine against the disease, according to one of the scientists who discovered the virus.

Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it would not have been difficult to contain the outbreak if those on the ground and the UN had acted promptly earlier this year. “Something that is easy to control got completely out of hand,” said Piot, who was part of a team that identified the causes of the first outbreak of Ebola in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1976 and helped bring it to an end.

The scale of the epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea means that isolation, care and tracing and monitoring contacts, which have worked before, will not halt the spread. “It may be that we have to wait for a vaccine to stop the epidemic,” he said.

A de facto quarantine in Dallas from the Guardian:

Texas healthcare workers at risk of Ebola asked to stay out of public

  • Seventy-five staff members of Dallas hospital asked to sign ‘binding legal order’ that states they will avoid public spaces

Healthcare workers deemed to be at risk of contracting Ebola after dealing with a patient who died from the virus in Texas are being asked to sign voluntary agreements to stay away from the public, after Dallas authorities decided against declaring a state of emergency.

Seventy-five staff members from Texas Health Presbyterian hospital are being given a “binding legal document and order” that states they will avoid public transport, not go to areas where large numbers of people congregate, and continue to be monitored twice a day for symptoms, county judge Clay Jenkins said on Thursday.

Any of those involved in the care of Thomas Eric Duncan who refuse to sign the agreement would be subject to a legal control order, Jenkins told reporters after a meeting of the county commissioners court in downtown Dallas. “All the remedies of the law are available,” he said. However he said he believed this would not be necessary. “These are hometown healthcare heroes,” he said. “They’re not going to jail.”

One complication, via the Associated Press:

US monitors health care worker aboard cruise ship

Obama administration officials say a Dallas health care worker who handled a lab specimen from an Ebola-infected man from Liberia who died of the disease is on a Caribbean cruise ship where she has self-quarantined and is is being monitored for any signs of infection.

The officials say the woman has shown no signs of the disease and has been asymptomatic for 17 days.

The government is working to return the woman and her husband to the U.S. before the ship completes its cruise. The officials say the State Department is working with a country they won’t identify to secure their transportation home.

Labaor relations complicated, via Al Jazeera America:

Dallas hospital refutes nurses’ allegation of haphazard Ebola protocols

  • Nurses’ union said hospital didn’t properly handle patient who died after becoming first Ebola case diagnosed in US

Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas have countered allegations from a nurses’ union that sloppy protocols were used in dealing with Ebola at the facility, where Thomas Eric Duncan — the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States — died last week. The hospital said Thursday the union’s assertions “do not reflect actual facts.”

The development comes as the U.S. government seeks to ramp up its response to the Ebola crisis after two Dallas nurses also became ill, the second of whom had been cleared to travel on a commercial flight a day before her diagnosis, it has been disclosed.

While Ebola patients are not considered contagious until they have symptoms and only two people are known to have contracted the disease in the U.S., the latest revelations about the handling of the situation have raised alarms about whether hospitals and the public health system are equipped to handle the deadly disease.

Reuters lays blame:

Experts fault changing U.S. guidelines on Ebola protective gear

When Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), visited Ebola-stricken sites in West Africa last August, he was dressed in a full protective bodysuit and ventilator.

That level of protection was far greater than the basic gear the CDC initially recommended for U.S. hospital workers, which at minimum included a gown, a single pair of gloves, a mask and face shield.

After a second nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas fell ill with Ebola after caring for a dying Liberian patient, the CDC this week beefed up its recommendations for personal protective equipment to include hooded full-body suits that cover the neck, more frequent hand washing and a supervisor who oversees the removal of infected gear, steps experts said should have been done long ago.

From the Guardian, the clamor intensifies:

Ebola crisis: Republicans ramp up calls for west Africa travel bans

  • FAA assessing question ‘on a day-to-day’ basis
  • White House says measure would be counter-productive

Republicans are stepping up pressure for travel bans on passengers arriving from Ebola-stricken countries in west Africa, calling for a vote on quarantine measures in the House of Representatives as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acknowledged it was assessing the question “on a day-to-day” basis.

The White House and senior US health officials continue to insist such measures would be counter-productive because they would hamper efforts to control the Ebola epidemic at its source, but the growing clamour from critics in Congress means the issue is becoming a major political battleground in Washington.

During the first hearing into the administration’s handling of the crisis in Washington on Thursday, a succession of Republican congressmen joined the House speaker, John Boehner, in calling on the administration to urgently review its opposition to tighter travel restrictions.

The inevitable, via BuzzFeed:

Boehner Won’t Say If Texas Should Have An Ebola Travel Ban, Too

The nation’s top elected Republican said Wednesday that travel should be halted from West African nations suffering from the Ebola outbreak.

House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday called for a “temporary” ban on flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks, but stopped short of calling for a travel ban for Texas, despite the fact that an Ebola-infected nurse flew to his home state of Ohio from Dallas earlier this month.

In a statement released by his office Wednesday evening, Boehner joined a growing chorus of Republicans insisting the Obama administration impose a travel ban on West African countries suffering from the Ebola conference.

Boehner invoked the Texas Ebola patient in calling for a ban on other parts of the world, saying, “Today we learned that one individual who has contracted the virus flew to Ohio through the Cleveland airport in the last few days. A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider.”

Asked if Boehner also believes flights from Texas to other parts of the country should be halted, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said by email Boehner “said [Obama] should consider a temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus along with any other appropriate actions. That’s where we are right now. Don’t have anything more.”

Meanwhile other countries are jumping on the travel banswagon. From the Associated Press:

Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad impose Ebola travel bans

Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday became the latest countries in the Western Hemisphere to restrict travelers from West African nations struggling with an epidemic of the Ebola virus.

The announcements came a day after Colombia and St. Lucia ordered similar prohibitions.

Authorities in Jamaica imposed an immediate entry ban on anyone who has been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone within four weeks.

The ban was announced shortly after a U.S. couple was quarantined at Sangster International Airport in the northern tourist town of Montego Bay. Airport screeners found one of the Americans had been in Liberia two weeks ago. Officials said the couple was kept in quarantine, found to be healthy, and then sent back to an unspecified city in the U.S.

Guyana’s government said that country’s diplomatic missions had been directed not to issue visas to people from West African nations affected by the virus.

Trinidad & Tobago said it would deny entry any resident of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo or Sierra Leone. Other travelers who have visited any of those nations within six weeks will be quarantined for 21 days upon their arrival.

From Al Jazeera America, heightening intensity:

Obama authorizes National Guard call-up amid criticism over Ebola response

  • President signs executive order permitting Pentagon to use reservists, but resists calls for West Africa travel ban

President Barack Obama has authorized the Pentagon to call up reserve and National Guard troops if they are needed to assist in the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The United States has already committed to sending up to 4,000 military personnel to Ebola-stricken countries to provide logistics and help build treatment units to confront the rapidly spreading and deadly virus.

But amid rising criticism over the handling of the patients in the U.S., the White House resisted calls from Republican lawmakers that a travel ban be imposed on those wishing to fly to America from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the countries that have been worst hit by the outbreak.

And some exceptional praise from BBC News:

Ebola crisis: US says Cuban medical support ‘welcome’

Cuba is a “welcome” addition to the fight against Ebola, a senior US official has said.

A state department spokesman said the Cuban government was doing more than many others to contain the disease. “We welcome their support,” she said. The US has maintained an embargo on Cuba for more than five decades.

Last month, Havana announced it would send about 450 medical and support staff to the region. The BBC’s Will Grant in Havana said that Cuba already had a tradition of sending its doctors and nurses to Africa before the recent Ebola outbreak.

Cuban officials are hosting a regional summit on the virus next week involving left-wing Latin American governments. Health ministers from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador are expected to attend to discuss how to bolster the region’s response to the Ebola crisis.

On to Canada with CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Harper tells Obama more help on the way

  • Republican lawmaker questions whether U.S.-Canada border needs to be better secured

Canada is about to announce new measures in the fight against Ebola, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday amid increased fear over the spreading virus.

The prime minister made the promise in a phone chat with Obama, according to a summary of the call released by Harper’s office.

CBC News learned Wednesday that Canada was contributing an additional $30 million to the fight against Ebola. The new measures will add to Canada’s current contribution of $5 million, as the United Nations pleads for more international help and warns that the virus must be contained within 60 days.

The growing sense of panic was also reflected in a congressional hearing Thursday in Washington.

One lawmaker even briefly questioned whether the northern border might need to be better secured. That improbable reference to the 49th parallel came from a Tennessee Republican, who during a House hearing asked whether America’s land borders were safe from the deadly virus.

After the jump, Canadian alarms, intensified screenings in Europe, good news for Europe’s first endogenous Ebola patient but joined by four new suspect patients, a Danish false alarm and increased aid, still more aid from Germany and Sweden, Latin leaders huddle for preparations plans while Asian and Euopean leader do the same, China and Japan assess strengths and weaknesses and Australia wages an internal political battle, on to Africa and a warning from the African Union, an Ebolaphobia-driven soccer tournament cancellation, from Sierra Leone, a harsh warning for the nation’s capital and a doctor’s despairing prognosis as the nation’s last Ebola-free district falls victim and the biggest corporate benefactor of the Ebola fight goes bankrupt, thence to Liberia where there’s a shortage of body bags, survivors find themselves isolated, healthcare workers go unpaid, children teach each other, a projected civil service purge draws fire, and questionable ‘cures’ flourish, plus economic despir in Zimbabwe and the Gambia. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, spies, borders


We begin with a warning from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Nobel Prize winner Malala told Obama U.S. drone attacks fuel terrorism

The teenager who became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize Friday told President Barack Obama at a White House meeting last year that she worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, as well as Kailash Satyarthi of India, for pushing for young people’s rights, including the right to education.

Malala, now 17, made international headlines after being shot in the head by the Taliban on a school bus two years ago for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. After recovering, she took her campaign for children’s education across the world, writing a book and even speaking at the United Nations last year.

Hysteria in Old Blighty, via the London Telegraph:

Security services monitoring ‘thousands’ of terrorism suspects in London, says Boris Johnson

  • Mayor of London discloses that threat from Isil and other terrorist groups is larger than previously known

The security services are monitoring “thousands” of terrorist suspects in London, Boris Johnson has disclosed, suggesting the threat from Islamist extremists may be far greater than has previously been admitted.

Until now, it was thought that the main danger came from around 500 jihadis who have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK to join Isil or al-Qaeda fighters, around half of whom have returned to Britain.

But the Mayor of London suggested the threat from home-grown terrorist plots was far more widespread than the relatively small numbers of extremists who have gone abroad to fight.

More from the Independent:

UK terror threat: Police put on special terror alert for their own safety

Britain’s 130,000 police officers were urged to be “vigilant for their personal safety” after counter-terror chiefs warned the threat level against them had increased in the past 24 hours.

Mark Rowley, the national lead for counter-terrorism at the Association of Chief Police Officers, refused to discuss specific intelligence but confirmed the threat level against detectives and support staff up and down the country had been “heightened”.

Police and the intelligence agencies are working around the clock to track hundreds of suspected British jihadists as they return from fighting with Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria and Iraq.

Assistant Commissioner Rowley said: “The threat level to police officers and staff has been heightened, but we are used to confronting risk and danger; this is what we do on a daily basis, and we are well trained.

“We are informing our officers and staff of the heightened risk and reminding them to remain vigilant and alert to any possible dangers. We are asking them to follow existing policies and good practice. Measures are being put in place to increase the vigilance of officers and staff.

The Japan Times covers motivation:

Ancient prophecies of apocalypse give Islamic State jihadists hope

An infidel horde flying 80 banners meets a Muslim army at the Syrian town of Dabiq in an apocalyptic battle. The Muslims are decimated but ultimately prevail and conquer the world.

This ancient Sunni Muslim prophecy — mentioned in canonical accounts of the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings — has become a rallying cry for Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, especially since they seized Dabiq in August.

The town itself has negligible military value compared with the strategic Islamic State-controlled cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

But as Islamic State jihadists come under a U.S.-led aerial onslaught to stop their advance, its importance as a symbol has become clear.

Reuters delivers a warning:

U.N. says thousands likely to be massacred if jihadists take Kobani

Thousands of people most likely will be massacred if Kobani falls to Islamic State fighters, a U.N. envoy said on Friday, as militants fought deeper into the besieged Syrian Kurdish town in full view of Turkish tanks that have done nothing to intervene.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said Kobani could suffer the same fate as the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were murdered by Serbs in 1995, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two, while U.N. peacekeepers failed to protect them.

“If this falls, the 700, plus perhaps the 12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” de Mistura said. The United Nations believes 700 mainly elderly civilians are trapped in the town itself and 12,000 have left the center but not made it across the border into Turkey.

From Deutsche Welle, a recruit on trial:

Young man confesses in Germany’s first IS terror trial

A 20-year-old on trial for involvement in a terrorist organization has confessed to fighting alongside the IS in Syria. In a statement, he said he saw it as his duty to defend Sunni Muslims from the tyranny of Assad.

A man on trial in Germany for his alleged involvement in the “Islamic State” (IS) war in Syria has confessed to having joined the militia and fighting in Syria. Twenty-year-old Kreshnik B is on trial for his alleged membership in a foreign terrorist organization.

Born in Hesse to a family from Kosovo, Kreshnik B admitted to going to Syria in 2013 to fight against the Assad regime in his third day of court on Friday, October 10.

In a written confession read out by his lawyer in Frankfurt on Friday, he said, “The inconceivable violence used by the Alawite Assad regime against the Sunni majority was enraging and bewildering. No one wanted to help the people there.”

On to the world of spies and hacks, first with SecurityWeek:

Hackers Show the NSA’s Capabilities Are Not Magic

A group of security researchers, hardware hackers, hardware developers and hobbyists have set out to demonstrate that many of the tools similar to those used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) for surveillance operations can be reproduced on a low budget with open source software and hardware components.

The project, called the “NSA Playset,” came out of a collaboration between security researcher Dean Pierce and Michael Ossmann, founder of Great Scott Gadgets. Shortly after the NSA’s ANT catalog was leaked online, they recruited several others who had already implemented or were working on implementing capabilities that were similar to the ANT tools.

The ANT catalog is a 48-page classified document containing information on the technologies used by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit for cyber surveillance. The document is one of the many files obtained by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

On to the pros, via The Intercept:

Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany

The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use “physical subversion” to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also indicate that the agency has used “under cover” operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency’s “core secrets” when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.

“It’s something that many people have been wondering about for a long time,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, after reviewing the documents. “I’ve had conversations with executives at tech companies about this precise thing. How do you know the NSA is not sending people into your data centers?”

Here’s one of those delightful NSA grahpics accompanying the report:

BLOG NSA

From the Guardian, reunited:

Edward Snowden’s girlfriend living with him in Moscow, film reveals

  • Lindsay Mills, thought to have been deserted by Snowden before NSA revelations, appears beside whistleblower in Citizenfour

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

From the London Telegraph, sadly, partly true:

Big companies snoop on public more than GCHQ, says spy chief

  • Sir Iain Lobban, Director of GCHQ, says private firms are the ones who know everything about you and share data

Private firms snoop far more on the public than the spy agencies, the head of GCHQ has said.

Sir Iain Lobban, Director of the intelligence agency, said it was the “commercial companies” who know everything about people and share the data with each other.

There is an ongoing row over the level of snooping powers the police and intelligence agencies should have.

But Sir Iain’s comments came as it emerged three of the UK’s main mobile phone companies automatically provided data on customers to the police if asked.

The Los Angeles Times covers cops misbehavin’:

LAPD ghost cars: Cops lied about officers on patrol, report finds

Los Angeles police deliberately deceived senior officials by artificially inflating the number of officers on patrol, according to an investigation by the LAPD’s independent watchdog.

In a report released Friday, the inspector general for the Police Commission found evidence that officers in at least five of the department’s 21 patrol divisions were said to be patrolling city streets in cars when, in fact, they were at station desks.

The report’s findings bolstered allegations made by union officials that patrol commanders around the city were using the so-called ghost cars to mask the fact that they did not have enough officers on patrol to meet mandatory staffing levels.

And yet more hacking, via United Press International:

Massive Snapchat nude photo leak targeting everyday people underway, Snapchat blames users

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” Snapchat said.

Hackers posting in the online forum 4Chan are actively leaking at least 100,000 nude or compromising photographs obtained from users of mobile picture message app Snapchat.

Initially suspected to be an elaborate hoax by trolls posting on 4Chan, Snapchat confirmed the leak on its official Twitter account and denied any responsibility for security breach, saying the pictures were lifted from third-party apps that allow users to save photos sent via the history-less mobile app.

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks,” the company tweeted.

Network World covers another hack attack:

Dairy Queen stores hit by ‘Backoff’ malware, payment card data stolen

Dairy Queen said Thursday the “Backoff” point-of-sale malware infected systems at 395 of its stores, stealing payment card data.

The company, which has 4,500 independently owned franchises in the U.S., said in a statement it believes the “malware has been contained.” Most of the stores, including one Orange Julius location, were affected for between three weeks to a month starting in early August, according to a list.

“We deeply regret any inconvenience this incident may cause,” wrote CEO and President John Gainor.

PCWorld covers another one:

Kmart hacked, exposing customers’ card numbers

Sears Holding Corp. said Friday the payment systems at its Kmart retail chain had been breached as a result of malware, compromising shoppers’ credit and debit card numbers.

The U.S. retail chain’s payment systems were infected with a form of malware that went undetected by its anti-virus systems, Sears said. There is no evidence that Kmart shoppers’ personal information, PIN numbers, email addresses or Social Security numbers were stolen, and the malware has since been removed, Sears said.

A forensic investigation indicates that the breach began in early September, Sears said. Kmart’s IT team discovered the breach only this Thursday.

After the jump, Japan orders Google amnesia, more unrest in St. Louis after police shooting, protests in Ferguson, more violence in St. Louis, protests in Ferguson, military misbehavin’ comes home to roost, digital crime in the police station, on to the deepening mystery of the mass graves and missing Mexican students, parental vigils, a missing mayor, and a hunt for masterminds, more murderous criminality, this time military, violence in Brazil, on to Asia and a bloody border battle, a Korean Coast Guard killing of a Chinese fisherman sparks a diplomatic row, Hong Kong protesters hit the street, and Taiwan lends its support. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, pollution, GMOs, nukes


We begin with another outbreak from Global Times:

Guangdong sees over 1,400 new dengue cases

Health authorities of south China’s Guangdong Province said 1,412 new cases of dengue were confirmed in the province on Thursday.

The total number of dengue infections rose to 27,593, over 27 times that of same period last year, said the provincial health and family planning commission on Friday.

The disease, which has killed six people, has been detected in 20 prefecture-level cities in Guangdong. Its capital city Guangzhou was hit worst with 23,484 cases reported.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, not courting illness:

Court suspends trials over Marburg

  • Proceedings halted. Criminal proceedings have been halted and the court is only handling civil cases which do not involve prisoners

The Magistrate’s Court in Kasese District has suspended proceedings after the Mubuku Prison administration refused to admit more prisoners due to fear of Marburg infection in the country.

On Tuesday, the chief magistrate’s court presided over by Agatonica Mbabazi sentenced four people to three months in jail each in Mubuku Prison.

However, they were later released after prison authorities declined to receive them for custody.

“Four convicts were released immediately after the prison authorities refused to take in more inmates due to fear of Marburg outbreak in the country. I had nowhere to put them,” the chief magistrate said.

And from Punch Nigeria, another African concern:

29 million Nigerians risk Lassa fever –FG

The Federal Government has said that 29 million Nigerians are at the risk of Lassa fever, while 26 states are exposed to the disease.

The government also said the recent outbreak of the disease in the country was a signal that it had not received the expected attention.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan, spoke on Friday in Abuja during a press briefing to coincide with the National Lassa Fever Day and public presentation of 5,000 safeguard soaps to the ministry by Procter & Gamble, Nigeria.

And from Public Radio International, another public health tragedy:

Deaths among low-income children are making the US a leader in infant mortality

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the United States is the worst among developed nations when it comes to infant mortality rates. There are 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the United States; compare that to Finland, which had only 2.3 per 1,000 live births, or even Greece with 3.8.

So what’s the reason?

“It’s the period after a month of life — a month to 12 months — where the US is really doing worse,” says Emily Oster, an economist who helped calculate these figures. “Much of the death rate in that period is not really about medical interventions, it’s about things that are happening in the home.”

And in low-income homes, says Oster, a visiting associate professor of economics at Brown University, there’s a lack of support and resources that may be leading to a high number of deaths among babies. While there are other factors, including questions about how the US calculates infant mortality, she says this is the biggest problem.

And another one, via MintPress News:

A Third Of Schoolchildren Vulnerable To Hazardous Chemicals Facilities

While the conversation on hazardous chemicals facilities tends to revolve around risks to the general public, nearly 20 million schoolchildren go to schools located in vulnerability zones. Many of these schools lack plans in case of a chemical emergency.

One in three U.S. students attends school within the formally designated “vulnerability zone” of facilities involved in the manufacture or storage of large amounts of hazardous chemicals, according to new research.

That would translate into nearly 20 million schoolchildren spending near-daily time within the vicinity of at least one hazardous facility, including refineries, chemical manufacturers and wastewater treatment plants. Further, half of that number attend school near multiple facilities like these. And in 102 counties in 22 states, every single student goes to class within one or more vulnerability zones, most of which are a mile or larger.

“Literally tons of inadequately tested, potentially harmful chemicals and known human toxins are in use in industrial production sites and storage facilities across the country. These stocks of toxic chemicals represent a looming, silent risk in communities nationwide,” a new report from the Center for Effective Government, a Washington watchdog group, states.

Another Chinese accomplishment, via the Guardian:

China pollution levels hit 20 times safe limit

Visibility dropped dramatically as small pollutant particles reached dangerous levels in northern China’s Hebei province

Days of heavy smog shrouding swathes of northern China pushed pollution to more than 20 times safe levels on Friday, despite government promises to tackle environmental blight.

Visibility dropped dramatically as measures of small pollutant particles known as PM2.5, which can embed themselves deep in the lungs, reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Hebei, a province bordering Beijing.

The World Health Organization’s guideline for maximum healthy exposure is 25.

In the capital, buildings were obscured by a thick haze, with PM2.5 levels in the city staying above 300 micrograms per cubic metre since Wednesday afternoon and authorities issuing an “orange” alert.

From the Guardian, a marine tragedy in the making:

Great Barrier Reef: ‘a massive chemistry experiment gone wrong’

  • Scientists warn that pollution may be dramatically increasing the rate of ocean acidification in inshore areas, threatening coral

It has long been known that pollution is having a devastating impact on the Great Barrier Reef but now scientists are warning that it may also be dramatically increasing the rate of ocean acidification in inshore areas of the region.

Dr Sven Uthicke, a senior research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, has with colleagues this week published a paper in the journal PLOS one, on ocean acidification in the reef. The study compares the reef’s inshore and offshore waters, and information on present-day water quality with 30-year-old data.

The study, Coral Reefs on the Edge? Carbon Chemistry on Inshore Reefs of the Great Barrier Reef,reads as though a massive chemistry experiment has gone wrong on one of the country’s most precious ecosystems.

Another water woe from BBC News:

Brazil drought crisis deepens in Sao Paulo

The governor of the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo has asked for emergency clearance to siphon the remaining water out of the main reservoir serving Sao Paulo city, which has almost run dry.

After nine months of unprecedented drought, 95% of the water has gone.

Geraldo Alckmin, re-elected in last week’s elections, has been criticised for not imposing water rationing to tackle the crisis.

Twenty-nine other Brazilian cities have been affected by the drought.

From NASA Goddard, changing ice poles apart:

The Arctic and the Antarctic Respond in Opposite Ways

Program notes:

The Arctic and the Antarctic are regions that have a lot of ice and acts as air conditioners for the Earth system. This year, Antarctic sea ice reached a record maximum extent while the Arctic reached a minimum extent in the top ten lowest since satellite records began. One reason we are seeing differences between the Arctic and the Antarctic is due to their different geographies. As for what’s causing the sea increase in the Antarctic, scientists are also studying ocean temperatures, possible changes in wind direction and, overall, how the region is responding to changes in the climate

And the Guardian covers a water dilemma:

China’s water dilemma between farming and growing population

Water stressed China faces a dilemma between safeguarding food production and releasing water to a thirsty population, can new technology and policy reforms help?

In an increasingly volatile world, China’s economic growth has proved remarkably resilient. While the economies of Europe and America have stalled or nose-dived since the 2008 financial crash, China’s has continued to expand. The headlines are startling: since the early 1990s, GDP growth per capita has averaged 8.9%, and nearly 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that China’s growth was kick-started by investment in agriculture. This, in turn, catalysed growth in the wider rural economy and, as China’s rural inhabitants got richer, so they moved to growing towns and cities, building – literally – the skylines of Beijing, Shanghai and other megacities.

In the meantime, China’s agricultural economy has motored on. Despite rapid urbanisation, and an economy now driven by industry rather than farming, the country is still able to feed over 20% of the world’s population. Maintaining self-sufficiency in wheat and rice remains ideologically important, even if imports of feed grains for meat production have soared over recent years.

Agence France-Presse covers a GMO confrontation:

Argentine ecologists block construction of Monsanto plant

Program notes:

In Cordoba, Argentina, a group of environmentalists decided a year ago to block the construction of a corn processing plant of US seed giant Monsanto, in opposition of its use of genetically modified crops.

While China may greenlight GMOs, via Global Times:

China may renew certificates for GM rice

Expired safety certificates for two species of genetically modified (GM) rice developed in China may be renewed, said an official with the Ministry of Agriculture on Friday.

“A safety certificate is a precondition for further use. If the rice did not show safety issues during the previous term of the safety certificate, the certificate will be renewed,” said Kou Jianping, head of technology enforcement at the Ministry of Agriculture, “but it depends on the whole review process.”

In 2009 three safety certificates were issued for GM plants, two for rice and one for corn. They all expired on Aug. 17. On June 9, the ministry received an application from Huazhong Agricultural University to renew safety certificates for the GM rice, but has not received any application for the corn, Kou said.

On to the nuclear, starting in Germany with TheLocal.de:

One in three nuclear waste barrels damaged

Inspectors in northern Germany have found that a third of barrels containing radioactive waste at a decommissioned nuclear plant are damaged, the Schleswig-Holstein Environment Ministry said on Thursday.

Vattenfall, the energy company which manages the Brunsbüttel site in Schlewswig-Holstein, reported that 102 of the 335 barrels stored in the site’s six underground chambers were corroded, leaking or had loose lids.

Some of the containers are so deformed that they can no longer be moved, as they no longer fit into the robotic gripping arms installed at the site, the inspectors reported.

And for our final item, a done deal from Reuters:

South Africa signs nuclear agreement with France

South Africa has signed a nuclear power agreement with France, the government said on Friday, three weeks after it reached a similar deal with Russia as part of Pretoria’s first tentative steps towards building up to 9,600 MW of nuclear power.

The Sept. 20 agreement, which Russia touted as a $10 billion contract to build power plants, took many South Africans by surprise, compelling officials to clarify that it was in fact just the early stages of a long procurement process.

Energy officials also stressed that other intergovernmental agreements – with France, China, South Korea, the United States and Japan – were likely to follow.