Category Archives: Law

InSecurityWatch: War, crime, spies, & threats


And lots of bad news for the Fourth Estate.

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

Banking industry culture primes for cheating, study suggests

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

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

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

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

Domestic insecurity from Al Jazeera America:

FBI sends in reinforcements ahead of Ferguson grand jury announcement

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

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

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

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

Ancillary reinforcements, via Fusion:

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

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

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

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

From United Press International, war prolonged:

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

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

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

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

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

And a possible stimulus, via the New York Times:

Hour’s Drive Outside Kabul, Taliban Reign

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

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

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

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

From Deutsche Welle, terror talk:

Inside IS – The Structure of Terror | Quadriga

Program notes:

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

Guests:

Amir Musawy, Berlin correspondent for Iraqia TV

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

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

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

From the New York Times, hardly surprising:

Among Pakistan Militants, Signs of Affinity With ISIS

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

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

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

More Pakistani news from the New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From IDG News Service, spooky business as usual:

NSA director: No changes in telephone record collection coming

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

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

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

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

British journalists slam police surveillance in lawsuit

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

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

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

More Fourth Estate suppression from the Observer:

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

  • Security services accused of aiding Westminster paedophilia cover-up

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

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

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

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

Microsoft turns to robotic security guards to watch for trouble

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

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

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

From the Guardian, another European separatist movement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Disease, climate, critters, nukes


We begin with another African outbreak, via the Guardian:

Plague kills 40 people in Madagascar

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

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

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

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

And another one in Europe, from DutchNews.nl:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from AllAfrica, when one epidemic displaces another:

Liberia: Ebola Hampers HIV/Aids Care

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

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

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

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

From Al Jazeera America, water rustlers:

California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough

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

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

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

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

And from CBC News, another kind of contagion:

Jelly-covered plankton multiplying in Canadian lakes

  • Low calcium levels from acid rain, logging blamed

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

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

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

Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

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

In 30 years, there may be none.

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

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

From the Los Angeles Times, combinatorial crises:

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

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

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

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

And from the Guardian, forestalling crises?:

Polar code agreed to prevent Arctic environmental disasters

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

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

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

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

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

EbolaWatch: Politics, denials, aid, and economics


We begin with political posturing, via the Associated Press:

Officials downplay debates over Ebola aid response

U.S. officials on Thursday acknowledged disagreements over coordinating the international response to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, but they say most issues are being worked out and the overall fight against the disease there seems to be succeeding.

In a call with reporters, the officials said disputes have erupted over matters like where to build new treatment centers and getting U.S. military helicopters to transport patients and blood samples from remote areas.

But they also minimized the debates, characterizing them as a natural and fleeting part of an intense and complicated battle against the largest Ebola epidemic in world history.

“The proof in the pudding is they get resolved. And we have seen progress in Liberia,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

From Reuters, criminal opportunism:

Ebola becomes latest stock scam, SEC says

U.S. regulators warned investors of stock scams tied to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak and suspended trading in four small companies that they said have made unverifiable claims about products to prevent or treat the deadly virus.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said on Thursday it had suspended trading in over-the-counter stocks of New York-based Bravo Enterprises Ltd, California-based Immunotech Laboratories Inc and Wholehealth Products Inc, as well as Canada-based Myriad Interactive Media Inc.

The SEC cited a lack of publicly available information about their operations and separately warned that “con artists” may be soliciting investors and claiming to be developing Ebola treatments.

And a belated rectification from BuzzFeed News:

Ebola Cleanup Company Removes “Certifications” From Website After BuzzFeed News Investigation

Bio-Recovery Corp. claimed to be “EPA licensed” and won a contract to clean up the New York City apartment of an Ebola patient. But after BuzzFeed News investigated, some of those claims have disappeared from its website.

The company New York City hired to clean up Ebola has erased some of its “certifications” from some of its web pages, after a BuzzFeed News investigation raised questions about whether it was qualified to do the cleanup.

Until recently, Bio-Recovery Corp.’s website claimed to be “EPA Licensed” and an “EPA Certified Hazardous Waste Hauler” in multiple places. BuzzFeed News’ story found no evidence that the company had any active permits and revealed that Sal Pane and his crew showed up to clean up the Harlem apartment of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer with a truck bearing permits that belonged to a dead man.

Pane has a long and colorful history of telling falsehoods. In 2010, Pane was found “personally liable for engaging in fraudulent and illegal acts” for running a mortgage company that scammed customers. BuzzFeed News’ examination found that he has used fake names and made false claims to inflate his credentials, gained credibility from media interviews, and accumulated a trail of people who feel he exploited them when they were vulnerable.

The Los Angeles Times looks into the mechanism of lethality:

Probing Ebola’s deadly inflammatory effect

New research suggests that the massive and destructive inflammation that characterizes Ebola virus disease may be caused by the release of foreign proteins from infected cells.

Although Ebola is infamous for causing bleeding in some of its victims, doctors say the vast majority of deaths are the result of organ failure and shock brought on by the uncontrolled release of cytokines, compounds that cells use to communicate with one another and control immune response.

It remains somewhat of a mystery to scientists exactly why the immune system spins out of control when confronted by Ebola. It releases an excess of signaling compounds that dilate blood vessels and cause blood pressure to plummet, while immune cells inflict collateral damage on otherwise healthy cells during the fight.

From TheLocal.es, recognition:

Spain grants citizenship to ‘Ebola heroes’

Spain on Friday awarded Spanish citizenship to two African missionaries who helped ensure the recovery of Madrid-based nursing assistant Teresa Romero.

Spain has granted citizenship to Paciencia Melgar Ronda from Equatorial Guinea and Helena S. Wolo from Sierra Liberia for the role they played in Romero’s recovery, Spain’s 20 minutos newspaper reported.

Ronda, 47, a nurse who recovered from Ebola after contracting the virus in Liberia, travelled to Madrid to donate blood plasma to Romero. She also allowed doctors to use her as a test case so they could observe the long-term evolution of her recovery.

The 36-year-old Wolo also travelled from her home country of Liberia to Spain and donated plasma used in the treatment of the infected Spanish nursing assistant.

From the Guardian, a critical report:

UN security council criticises discrimination against those from Ebola-hit regions

  • Security council opposes travel restrictions, like those imposed by Australia, on nationals of Guinea, Malia, Liberia and Sierra Leone

Julie Bishop has read a statement from the UN security council expressing concerns about discrimination towards nationals from Ebola-hit countries from other nations.

Last month the immigration minster, Scott Morrison, announced Australia would stop granting temporary visas to visitors from west Africa. The security council statement criticised such blanket bans and urged countries to maintain links with affected countries.

“The security council expresses its continued concern about the detrimental effect of the isolation of the affected countries as a result of trade and travel restrictions imposed on and to the affected countries as well as acts of discrimination against the nationals of Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone,” Bishop said.

Bishop earlier expressed concern about the Ebola virus outbreak at the security council meeting she chaired on the disease.

From StarAfrica, desiderata:

Ebola treatment requires speed, vaccines – Researchers

Confronted with the Ebola epidemic, West African countries need to act fast and utilize ethical values required to put in place effective treatment regimes and vaccines, African medical researchers said in Dakar on Friday.“The Ebola virus is an epidemic that needs speed and ethics for its treatment and vaccines”, Senegalese specialist in bacteriology-virology, Pr. Souleymane Mboup of the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar (UCAD) told APA.

Sounding out a warning that Ebola is a dangerous disease that has brought an emergency situation, Pr. MBoup opined that the traditional research paradigms for treatment and vaccines, should be scrapped, insisting however that some ethical values should be maintained.

Pr. Mboup was speaking to APA on the sidelines of a two-day meeting of the West African science community on the fight against the Ebola virus organized by the Open Society Initiative in West Africa (OSIWA).

On to Mali, first with the Associated Press:

UN chief: Ebola cases in Mali a ‘deep concern’

The United Nations chief warned Friday that Ebola may be easing in part of West Africa but is still hitting hard in other areas and outpacing the international response.

“If we continue to accelerate our response we can contain and end the outbreak by the middle of next year,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, calling for continued funding and especially health workers to volunteer in the region.

Authorities are closely watching a new front in the outbreak, a cluster of cases in Mali linked to the death of a 70-year-old Muslim imam who was brought to Mali’s capital, Bamako, from neighboring Guinea — and health officials didn’t immediately recognize that he had Ebola.

“The new chain of transmission in Mali is a cause of deep concern,” Ban said. He dispatched World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan to Mali on Friday.

More form the New York Times:

Officials Revise Goals on Containing Ebola After Signs of Wider Exposure in Mali

The leaders of the United Nations and the World Health Organization expressed renewed alarm on Friday about Ebola’s tenacity in Africa and, in particular, its potential to ravage a fourth country, Mali, where they said hundreds of people had been exposed to an infected cleric who died last month.

At a webcast news conference from the World Bank offices in Washington, the United Nations’ secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the W.H.O.’s director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, also appeared to reset their schedules for containing the Ebola virus, which has sickened at least 15,351 people and killed 5,459, according to a W.H.O. update posted earlier Friday.

Mr. Ban said nothing about the goal of safely burying 70 percent of the dead and treating 70 percent of the sick by Dec. 1, and instead expressed hope that the outbreak could be contained by the middle of next year.

And from Associated Press, another new case:

Mali: New Ebola case confirmed, 2 more suspected

Mali on Saturday confirmed a new case of Ebola and said two more suspected patients are being tested, raising concern about a further spread of the disease which has already killed at least five people in the country.

The patient who tested positive “was placed in an isolation center for intensive treatment,” said a government statement distributed Saturday. No details about the patient were provided.

Mali officials are monitoring 310 people to limit the spread of the disease, said the statement.

Mali’s five confirmed Ebola deaths are linked to a 70-year-old imam who was brought to the capital, Bamako, from Guinea, where the regional Ebola epidemic first began.

While StarAfrica covers a precautionary evacuation:

MSF staff member evacuated from Mali for exposure to Ebola

The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières /Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has confirmed that one of its international staff members, a Spanish national, has been evacuated from Mali to Spain as a precautionary measure following an exposure incident.

According to a statement issued by MSF on Friday, the staff member, a Spanish national on assignment in Bamako, was injured while working with a patient who had confirmed Ebola. It adds however that the staff member is not showing symptoms of the disease at this time and has not tested positive for Ebola:

“In line with MSF precautionary procedures, the staff member is being transferred to a treatment centre in Madrid using a private aircraft as a precautionary measure and she will be followed up for 3 weeks.”

After the jump, on to Guinea and a crisis stabilized, a theft of suspected Ebola-tainted blood, an upcoming French visitor, and coping with closed schools, on to Liberia and the latest quarantine measures, a report on electoral campaigns in a time of contagion, the economics of an epidemic, a call for media cooperation, Americans mourn a lost colleague, and the economics of an epidemic, plus a Sierra Leone denial of allegations of rotten food aid. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, arrests, anger, parents


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

Mexican protesters flood capital, pressure government on missing students

Program notes:

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

Next, a report from Reuters:

Molotov cocktails, clashes as thousands of Mexicans protest over massacre

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

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

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

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

More from Latin Times:

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

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

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

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

BLOHG effigy

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

Mexico: 11 Arrested and Charged With Terrorism After Protest

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

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

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

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

And from teleSUR again, a very interesting contrast:

Mexican Police Violently Attack Protesters in Mexico City

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

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

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

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

Solidarity from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Latin America Demands Justice for 43 Missing Students in Mexico

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

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

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

And the government response from BBC News:

Mexico missing students: Action vowed on rule of law

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

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

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

While Al Jazeera America diminishes expectations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from United Press International, Uncle Sam advises:

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

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

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

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

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

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers an arrest:

Fugitive Police Chief Arrested in Missing Students Case

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

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

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

And from teleSUR, an independent assessment:

Mexico: Missing Students’ Parents to Start Independent Search

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

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

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

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

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

How a British company enabled mass spying


When it comes to sheer quantities of information hoovered up from the global data stream, the U.S. National Security Agency is a piker compared to Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], as Edward Snowden’s leaks conclusively demonstrate.

In these videos from Britain’s Channel 4 News, the extent and scope of Britain’s monitoring is revealed, focusing on the island nation’s role as the central hub for the world’s network of data cables [a fact that is leading the BRICs nations to announce plans to develop their own cable system independent of the GCHQ-monitored cables].

As noted in a text story Channel 4 News posted online:

One of the UK’s largest communications firms had a leading role in creating the surveillance system exposed by Edward Snowden, it can be revealed.

Cable and Wireless even went as far as providing traffic from a rival foreign communications company, handing information sent by millions of internet users worldwide over to spies.

The firm, which was bought by Vodafone in July 2012, was part of a programme called Mastering the Internet, under which British spies used private companies to help them gather and store swathes of internet traffic; a quarter of which passes through the UK. Top secret documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by Channel 4 News show that GCHQ developed what it called “partnerships” with private companies under codenames. Cable and Wireless was called Gerontic.

Under the moniker, the company carried out tests on equipment used to carry out the surveillance, it came up with suggestions on how the spies could go about tapping its network, and even had a GCHQ employee working full-time within the company.

And a 2011 document reveals that Cable and Wireless went further. The company rented space on a cable owned by Indian telecoms company Reliance Communications that stretched from Asia across the Middle East and landed in Porthcurno in Cornwall. Reliance’s transatlantic cable lands in Sennen Cove six miles to the north. And the two cables come together at nearby Skewjack Farm. Documents show that in 2011, this allowed Britain’s spies to access all traffic from Reliance’s main cable and send it to the GCHQ base up the coast in Bude.

Top secret documents from GCHQ show it was this access point, codenamed Nigella and run by Cable and Wireless, that allowed Britain’s spies to gather the private communications of millions of internet users worldwide.

The first video examines the program itself and how it works.

From Channel 4 News:

Spy cable revealed: How telecoms firm worked with GCHQ

Program notes:

An unprecedented grab of personal data: this programme reveals that a communications firm not only handed over its own information to GCHQ, but also allowed access to the internet traffic of another telecoms company.

The second video features an aborted debate between a German member of parliament — Green Party legislator Konstanin von Notz — and former GCHQ Director Sir David Omand, a debate that ends abruptly when Omand storms out during questions over the controversy that erupted after it was revealed that the German provider serving the German government — including Chancellor Angela Merkel — was providing GCHQ access to its cables:

Sir David Omand walks out of live interview

Program notes:

Sir David Omand was debating German Green MP Konstantin von Notz, who is part of an inquiry into allegations that Angela Merkel’s conversations were intercepted by the NSA, on Channel 4 News’ main story.

InSecurityWatch: War, terror, spooks, hacks


We begin with the Guardian:

Ferguson protesters and police clash as grand jury decision nears

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

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

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

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

And elsewhere, from the Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

More from the Associated Press:

Israeli mayor’s ban on Arab workers ignites uproar

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

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

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

From The Hill, a hint of things to come:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian, commitment:

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian brings it on home:

Three men planned Isis-inspired public beheading, court hears

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

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

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

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

And the McClatchy Washington Bureau covers death from afar:

Use of drones against Islamic State changes the meaning of warfare

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

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

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

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

Cyberwar, via the Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Associated Press via the Japan Times, notable:

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

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

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

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

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

From the Washington Post, piping down:

Utah legislature considers shutting off NSA’s water

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

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

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

Homeland Security News Wire sounds an alarm:

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

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

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

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

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

NATO’s Cyber War Games Amid Surge In Attacks

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

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

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

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

The Washington Post covers considerately:

CIA Director John Brennan considering sweeping organizational changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the jump, British cops snooping on the press, a very curious California prosecution, curious customers of American spyware makers, allegations of security cam hacking by the Russians, Cuban slams cyberwar attacks, an Assange appeal denied, Gitmo detainees get gone, automotivation for cyberterror, a Colombian kidnap resolution mooted, Chilean justice long delayed, China and Russia strengthen military ties, signs of a split in the Hong Kong Occupy movement, a momentary Great Firewall loosening, Tokyo and Washington play war games, and a critical take on Greenwald’s technomyopia. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, anger president, context


We begin with a musical report from Fusion:

Mexican musicians release protest anthem for missing Ayotzinapa students

Program notes:

The tragedy of 43 disappeared students in Mexico now has a soundtrack. Mexican musician Juan Jose Rodriguez channeled his outrage into creativity and activism by reaching out to friends on social media and organizing a group of 25 musicians to record the protest song “Grito de Guerra,” or “Battle Cry.”

The lyrics allude to Mexico’s national anthem, while criticizing the government for impunity and violence.

“I have listened to this song alone while mixing in the studio, and I have cried from outage, and it hurts,” Rodriguez said. “We hope that the people who listen feel the pain, and that we’ve passed along that feeling of rage.”

He said he hopes the song will “drive people to action.”

The track will be available on iTunes and proceeds will go the families of the missing students, according to Rodriguez.

And a VICE News video focusing on survivors of the attack that ended with the abduction of the missing 43:

The Missing 43: Mexico’s Disappeared Students (Part 1)

Program notes:

On September 26, teaching students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in Mexico were intercepted by police forces en route to a protest in Iguala. In the ensuing clash, six people were killed, and 43 Ayotzinapa students were taken away by the police. Investigations over the following weeks led to the startling allegations that the police had acted at the behest of the local mayor, and had turned over the abducted students to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel. All 43 students are now feared dead.

The case has come to represent the negative feeling of the Mexican public toward the state of justice and the rule of law in Mexico. The events have now galvanized the survivors of the attack and the disappeared students’ parents. Nationwide demonstrations have increased in intensity, and recently led to government buildings in the state of Guerrero to be set on fire.

In this episode, VICE News travels to Guerrero, ground-zero for the protest movement that has erupted since the disappearance of the students, and meets with survivors of the Iguala police attack.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, another kind of turning point:

Mexico Missing Students’ Case Marks Milestone in Web-Based Social Activism

Few had even heard of the small southern Mexican town of Ayotzinapa two months ago but that has changed in the wake of the apparent massacre of 43 students from a rural teacher training college, a tragedy that has caught the attention of tens of millions of people on social networks.

A specialist in social networking Web sites who has analyzed the global repercussions of the events of Sept. 26 in the nearby town of Iguala, Guerrero state, says that roughly 60 million people in countries around the world have posted, read or shared messages about the missing students.

“Since I began monitoring the networks in 2011 (the case of the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School students) has been the most significant” in terms of volume of related comments and messages, Javier Murillo said.

And from the Guardian, the first of a series of reports on Thursday’s massive protest in Mexico City:

Mexico on the brink: thousands to protest over widespread corruption and student massacre

  • Violence and breakdown of law and order threaten to destabilise country after mass murder of students and scandal over presidential home

Mexico is facing an escalating political crisis amid growing fury over a mansion built for the presidential family and the disappearance and probable massacre of 43 student teachers.

The two apparently unrelated issues have fed the widespread perception that unbridled political corruption is the underlying cause of the country’s many problems – ranging from stunted economic growth to a breakdown of law and order that has left parts of the country at the mercy of murderous drug cartels.

“The drama of Mexico is about impunity,” said leading political commentator Jesús Silva Herzog. “This is not about the popularity or unpopularity of the president, that is irrelevant. It is about credibility and trust and, at its root, it is about legitimacy.”

Thousands gathered in Mexico City on Thursday ahead of what was expected to be the largest demonstration so far over the students’ forced disappearance by municipal police in collusion with a local drug gang in the southern city of Iguala.

More from Al Jazeera English:

Clashes in Mexico protest over students

  • Protesters clash with riot police in Mexico City amid anger over 43 missing students believed to have been killed

Protesters have clashed with riot police near Mexico City’s international police at the start of another day of demonstrations as the country bristled with anger over the presumed massacre of 43 students.

Masked protesters burned tyres, threw firebombs and launched firecrackers at police on Thursday, who used tear gas to disperse the group.

The clashes came after hundreds of protesters blocked the main road to the Benito Juarez airport for an hour, while police patrol cars assisted travellers to reach the airport.

The city braced for a bigger rally later in the day, cancelling the annual parade celebrating the 1910 revolution and erecting metal barriers to protect shops.

And an update, from the Washington Post:

Angry Mexicans protest over 43 missing students

The march in Mexico City was overwhelmingly peaceful, in contrast to recent protests that have ended with the burning of government buildings in Guerrero state, where the students disappeared. Whenever masked protesters tried to join Thursday’s march, demonstrators shouted them down with chants of “No violence!” and “Off with the masks!”

The protesters converged on the city’s main square, where families of the missing students stood on a platform in front of the National Palace holding posters of their relatives’ faces. Amid chants for President Enrique Pena Nieto to step down, family members repeated that they do not believe the government’s account that the youths were killed by a drug gang, .

“We’re not tired,” said one man speaking from the platform. “On the contrary, we are mad with this Mexican government and its entire structure, because it has not done anything but deceive the families.”

Earlier in the day, about 200 youthful protesters, some with their faces covered by masks or bandannas, clashed with police as they tried to block a main expressway to the international airport. Protesters hurled rocks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at the police, at least one of whom was hit by the projectiles. Some passengers had to walk to the terminal, but flights were not interrupted and expressways were reopened.

Next, a video report on Thursday’s activities from teleSUR:

Day of massive protests in Mexico on ‘Revolution Day’ holiday

Program notes:

Today, on the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, instead of the usual military parade and other traditional patriotic festivities in Mexico City’s central Zocalo square, another kind of revolution was taking place. Three massive demonstrations protesting against the Mexican governnment and its resonsibility in the case of the kidnapping of 43 young teaching shcool students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College.

Context from Al Jazeera America:

The rebel spirit driving Mexico’s protests has deep roots

  • Analysis: Outrage over case of 43 missing students has helped unleash widespread discontent with a deep historical echo

Three caravans, led by family members of 43 missing students, began winding their way toward Mexico City last week from Guerrero, Chiapas and Chihuahua. On Thursday they will converge in the capital, where they will join student groups, teachers and rights advocates in a megamarch for justice, culminating at the city’s Zócalo Square — the symbolic heart of Mexico and so often the stage for expressions of popular discontent.

But the caravans’ finish line could also mark a starting point for a new challenge to Mexico’s prevailing social order, of which the 43 students are but the latest victims. And both the venue and the date of Thursday’s rally connect with a deep-rooted revolutionary tradition in Mexico. On the same day, 104 years ago, Francisco Madero, an heir to a powerful family in the state of Coahuila, issued the Plan of San Luis de Potosí denouncing the regime of dictator Porfirio Díaz — and ushering in the Mexican Revolution.

In many ways, today’s uprising mirrors — and is inspired by — that revolt. Although Madero’s insurgency quickly petered out, leaving him to seek refuge in Texas, his rallying cry resonated with the frustrations of peasant workers and indigenous communities throughout Mexico, and it was their determination to fight for their rights that fueled the revolution for years. It is the descendants of those foot soldiers of the revolution who are the parents and classmates of the missing students and are leading what could be the largest uprising in Mexico in decades. Thursday’s protest is no longer simply a cry for justice for the 43 missing students. A swath of Mexican society is demanding the ouster of President Enrique Peña Nieto over his administration’s incompetent investigation into the student disappearances and its efforts to portray the crime as an isolated incident.

More background, via Der Spiegel:

Teeth and Bones: Mass Abduction Reveals a Decaying Mexican State

Most murders don’t even make the front page in Mexico anymore. But the recent abduction of 43 students has infuriated the country. The story has exposed the tight relationship between politics, law enforcement and organized crime. And it shows how weak the state has become.

The group that stealthily tightened its grip on power in Iguala and the rest of the state in recent years is called Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). It is one of more than 100 splinter groups that have formed across the country in the wake of the dismantling of the large cartels. Increasingly, they have turned to kidnappings and protection money as a way of generating revenue.

From the perspective of drug bosses, Iguala is a place of strategic importance. The city is nestled in the hilly hinterlands away from the Pacific coast, but it sits astride an important transportation route for cocaine. It is also a growing commercial center offering plenty of opportunities for money laundering. All one needs to carry out important transactions is control over the security apparatus and a close relationship with city hall.

Guerreros Unidos sought to make that relationship as close as possible and simply put up its own candidate in mayoral elections.

His name was José Luis Abarca, a married man whose wife’s brothers were high-ranking members of Guerreros Unidos and fixtures on the government’s most-wanted list — before they died in a hail of bullets. Abarca’s mother-in-law is thought to have been a bookkeeper for Beltrán Leyva, the large cartel that was dismantled in 2011 and which ultimately gave rise to Guerreros Unidos.

Still more context, via the Christian Science Monitor:

As protests rage, what can Mexico do to stop more students from going missing?

Nearly two months have passed since 43 college students disappeared in Iguala. As Mexico looks to improve security in Guerrero, it could look north to cities and states along the US border that have seen marked success in cracking down on violence

Nearly two months have passed since the students disappeared in Iguala, last seen in the hands of local police, who confessed to turning them over to drug gangs. Yet outrage and protests in Mexico are growing: both over the ties between organized crime and local politicians nationwide, and the weak and disorganized federal response to the suspected massacre.

Progress in reforming Mexico’s police force and strengthening the judiciary has been starkly absent in states like Guerrero. Yet some cities and states closer to the US border – Tijuana, Nuevo Leon, and Ciudad Juarez – have seen marked security improvements over the past three years. While the results have not eliminated the presence of organized crime, violence has diminished in these areas, providing some guidance as the country looks for longer-term and broader solutions.

“What everyone wants the government to do is to make sure that its security and justice systems are fair and safe,” says Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center for International Scholars, a Washington-based think tank. “No one expects things to be fixed overnight but [the government] needs to show progress on its justice reform, police reform, and the transparency of its institutions.”

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers presidential disclosure:

Mexican President Reveals Personal Assets after Mansion Controversy

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has made public his personal assets, which includes income, properties and investments, in response to the controversy surrounding a luxurious mansion owned by his wife.

A declaration on the presidential website, dated May 14, 2014, reports an annual income from his government employment of 2.9 million pesos ($214,000).

It also reports an income of 211,350 pesos ($15,530) from financial activities and 249,982 pesos ($18,367) from other sources, amounting to a total of 3.4 million pesos (about $248,000) per year.

Peña Nieto also owns four homes, with the largest one having an area of 2,138 square meters (23,013 square feet), an apartment and four plots, one of them with a surface area of 58,657 square meters (631,379 square feet).

The declaration includes other assets such as works of art, jewelry and furniture worth about 7 million pesos (about $514,000), and several investments, including coins and metallic objects, worth 16.8 million pesos ($1.2 million).

Solidarity, via teleSUR English:

Bolivians march in solidarity with Mexico’s Ayotzinapa 43

Program notes:

Students and teachers from the San Andres University in La Paz, Bolivia today marched and demonstrated in Solidarity with Mexico’s 43 Ayotzinapa teaching college students who were kidnapped by corrupt police in late September, never to be seen again. In a gruesome reminder of the confession made by criminal gang members arrested for the crime who claim to have killed and burned the students, before placing them in plastic bags and tossing them into a river, some demonstrators enclosed themselves in plastic bags, creating a very vivid performance image for the protest.

California solidarity, from the Orange County Register:

Protesters in Santa Ana march for missing students in Mexico

  • More than 100 gather in solidarity with activists south of the border

Peaceful protesters on Thursday – the day that marks the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution – gathered at Cabrillo Park. They carried signs reading “Your pain is our pain” and marched to the Mexican Consulate on Fourth Street.

Many demonstrators were young Orange County residents with roots in Mexico. Others talked about immigrating here from Mexico decades ago.

“We are tired. That’s why we come here from our countries. We come here because of the situation back home. … It’s the reality,” said David Rodriguez, 55, a Huntington Beach resident from Michoacan, Mexico.

“My kids, they feel like Mexico is their country, too, and they say, ‘How can a nation be in that state?’” Rodriguez said.

And from teleSUR English, Mexico as a failed security state:

Interviews from Mexico – Public Security

Program notes:

Interviews from Mexico, hosted by Laura Carlsen, goes straight to the source — the men and women making news and making history in Mexico and throughout the region. Today’s program focus is on the ever-present and increasingly important problem of public security in Mexico. Carlsen interviews John Bailey, emeritus professor at Georgetown University in Governance and Foreign Service and author of the recently published book “The Politics of Crime in Mexico: Democratic Governance in a Security Trap.”