Category Archives: Law

EbolaWatch: Alarms, shortages, communities


We open with the apocryphal via the London Daily Mail:

U.S. scientists say Ebola epidemic will rage for another 12 to 18 months

  • U.S. scientists say the Ebola crisis is worsening
  • They predict the virus will rage for another 12 to 18 months
  • As of September 7, there had been 4,366 Ebola cases including 2,218 deaths, more than half of them in Liberia
  • The most recent figures from Liberia reported 400 new cases as of September 7 – almost double the number reported the previous week

Epidemiologists have been creating computer models of the Ebola epidemic for the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department.

The model they have created is a far less optimistic estimate than that of the World Health Organization (WHO), which last month said it hoped to contain the outbreak within nine months and 20,000 total cases.

The McClatchy Foreign Staff covers tragic contribution:

UN: Doctors, nurses play role in both treating, spreading Ebola

Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, told reporters Friday at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva that “the number of new patients is moving faster than the capacity to manage them.” She said the world health community needs three to four times as many resources at it has committed “to catch up with the outbreaks.”

As of Friday, 4,784 people have fallen ill with Ebola, of whom more than 2,400 have died, she said. The most affected countries are Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where, Chan said, “there is not a single bed available for an Ebola patient in the entire country.”

Sarah Crowe, an official of the U.N. Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF, said there were 370 beds occupied by Ebola victims in Liberia. “There’s a real sense this virus is taking over the whole country,” she said via a teleconference hookup from Monrovia, the Liberian capital.

Chan said the WHO still is seeking 500 to 600 doctors from abroad and at least 1,000 more nurses to dispatch to Africa to counter the epidemic. But with 301 health workers known to be infected with the virus _ almost half of whom have died _ finding volunteers has been difficult.

StarAfrica covers the military front:

ECOWAS defence chiefs join anti-Ebola crusade

Regional security chiefs in West Africa have made a joint declaration, registering their unequivocal backing for the ongoing crusade against the Ebola epidemic which has ravaged the region since February.In a statement on Sunday, the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS) described the outbreak as a threat to regional security which requires an emergency response.

The CCDS said every material and human resource must be deployed in the campaign to banish the disease from West Africa where some 2, 400 people have died as the epidemic goes on the rampage in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

“The military is ever ready and always the first to respond to any emergency such as this outbreak, which is a threat to regional security,” the CCDS declared.

The Guardian covers another casualty:

Ebola outbreak: fourth doctor dies in Sierra Leone

  • Country, which has a shortage of healthcare workers, asked for Dr Olivet Buck to be treated abroad but was turned down

Sierra Leone has lost a fourth doctor to Ebola after efforts to transfer her abroad for treatment failed, a government official said Sunday.

The death is a huge setback to the impoverished country, which is battling the virulent disease amid a shortage of healthcare workers.

Dr Olivet Buck died late Saturday, hours after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it could not help medically evacuate her to Germany, Sierra Leone’s chief medical officer Dr Brima Kargbo confirmed to the Associated Press.

Sierra Leone had requested funds from WHO to transport Buck to Europe, saying the country could not afford to lose another doctor. WHO said it could not meet the request but instead would work to give Buck “the best care possible” in Sierra Leone, including possible access to experimental drugs.

From the Washington Post, the sad reality:

As Ebola cases accelerate, Liberia’s sick must fend for themselves.

With each day, the small group of caregivers trying to cope with the worst outbreak of Ebola on record falls further and further behind as the pace of the virus’s transmission rapidly accelerates. Health facilities are full, and an increasing number of infected people are being turned away, left to fend for themselves.

The epidemic has killed more than 2,200 people in five African countries and now poses a threat to Liberia’s “national existence,” according to its defense minister. The World Health Organization says the epidemic’s growth has been “exponential” in recent weeks, especially in Liberia.

The Doctors Without Borders center in Paynesville, on the outskirts of Monrovia, has 160 beds and is scheduled to add 25 on Monday. It needs 1,200 — and a corresponding increase in staff — to cope with the epidemic, said Sophie-Jane Madden, a spokeswoman for the organization. As Ebola begins to race through this city, that number is certain to increase.

“We’re just running behind the virus, aren’t we?” Madden said. “And taking the sickest people because we don’t have the capacity” for more. On Friday, 23 people were admitted, 25 were turned away, nine died and seven were released after recovering, she said.

From the Liberian Observer, local initiative:

Alfalit, LGM Ebola Staff Storm Johnsonville Community

  • Promises Solid Structures for Ebola Burial Site Hand washing Reservoir

Phase 2 of Alfalit-Liberia and Liberia/Ghana Missions Ebola virus outreach drive support kicked off last week, leading staff and officials of the entities to storm the Johnsonville community with sensitization and awareness messages.

In an emotional encounter with the weary Ebola news residents and officials last Thursday, the group donated 300 bags of safe drinking water and awareness T-shirts as initial assistance.

The LGM and Alfalit-Liberia’s officials were quick to disclose that following intensive discussions among members of the leadership, the entities decided to construct a solid structure to memorialize the Ebola virus dead bodies.

Besides, the officials also promised to make available 1000 bags of pure drinking water to residents and citizens of Johnsonville Community up to December 31, 2014 due to the bad nature of well water in the area.

BBC News punishes deserters:

Ebola outbreak: Liberia ‘sacks absentee officials’

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has sacked 10 government officials who have been “out of the country without an excuse,” amid a national Ebola crisis.

She said the officials had shown “insensitivity to our national tragedy and disregard for authority”.

The 10 were given a one-week ultimatum more than a month ago to return home. The 10 officials include two commissioners, six assistant ministers and two deputy ministers at the justice ministry, Wheatonia Dixon-Barns and Victoria Sherman-Lang.

From the Liberian Observer, more local initiative:

Bomi Ebola Taskforce Receives Anti-Ebola Materials

A local-based non-governmental organization under the auspices of Bomi Citizens against Ebola (BCAE) has donated anti-Ebola materials to the county’s Ebola Taskforce and Health Team in Tubmanburg.

BCAE donation comes against the backdrop of the ongoing fight against the deadly Ebola virus that has spread across the country.

The donated items included chlorine, Clorox, faucets bucket, mattresses and fuel.

Presenting the items, BCAE’s steering committee chair, Mr. Kederick F. Johnson, informed the County Superintendent Samuel Brown and Acting County Health Officer, Dr. Gabriel Logan, that the materials valued US$1,000 and is the organization’s initial contribution toward the county’s taskforce efforts to eliminate the disease.

The Liberian Observer again, with more local initiative:

FTP Identifies With LBS, JFK in Ebola Fight

The Flomo Theater Production, a local dramatic group, last Friday donated an amount of L$10,000 to the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) and several bottles of mineral water to the Ebola Treatment Unit within the compound of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital.

The donation according to the authority of FTP is meant to intensify the fight against Ebola as the media and hospital have cardinal roles to play.

Presenting the items on behalf of the group, Siafa Ballah, Executive Director of FTP, said the donation is their own way of identifying with the station as well as people who had been infected with the virus and currently undergoing treatment at the Ebola Treatment unit at JFK.

From CBC News, a Canadian’s fears:

Ebola crisis: Nursing student returns from ‘terrifying’ aid trip

  • Ian MacKay, 23, spent a month in quarantine after 2 aid workers at his clinic contracted Ebola

A 23-year-old nursing student’s trip to Liberia to try and help contain the spread of Ebola has left him haunted by the memories and compelled to return.

“It was absolutely terrifying,” Ian MacKay told CBC’s Chris Brown. “I’ve never feared for my life as much as I did in Liberia.”

“Knowing that I had been exposed to the virus … and it was a bloody, painful death was the scariest part of it all,” he said.

Der Spiegel covers a German’s fears:

‘His Father Had Lied to Us’: German Doctor Shares Harrowing Ebola Encounter

After the discovery of Ebola at the only children’s hospital in Sierra Leone, nurses and doctors alike fled. German physician Werner Strahl of the aid organzation Cap Anamur, who stayed behind to provide care amidst the chaos, shares his story.

Werner Strahl, 70, is chairman of the Cologne, Germany-based medical aid organization Cap Anamur. The organization has operated Sierra Leone’s only children’s hospital in the capital city of Freetown for the past five years. Strahl, a pediatrician who has worked for Cap Anumur for three decades, visited the Ola During Children’s Hospital in August just as its staff unwittingly admitted its first Ebola-infected child. In the following account, compiled from an interview Strahl conducted with SPIEGEL reporter Katrin Elger, the doctor describes the chaos that ensued. Strahl says he has never returned from a trip feeling as “glum” as he did his harrowing visit to Freetown.

We were sitting in the morning meeting when it dawned on us that something must have gone terribly wrong. A few days earlier, a four-year-old boy with a high fever had been brought to us at the hospital. As a matter of course, a nurse responsible for admissions asked the father if he had been in contact with anyone who had suddenly fallen ill. Had anyone in the family been buried recently? Any suspected cases of Ebola?

The father answered “no” to every single question and a blood test also confirmed that Melvin-Vincent, his gravely ill son, was suffering from Malaria.

StarAfrica demands oversight:

S/Leone: MP wants NGOs Ebola funds monitored

The Majority Leader in Sierra Leone’s parliament Sunday urged fellow citizens to be vigilant in monitoring NGOs over funds they received on behalf of the nation to deal with the Ebola pandemic, rather than focusing all their attention on Mps.

Ibrahim Bundu, member of parliament for the governing All Peoples Congress (APC), said some $26M has been received by NGOs from international donors and that these funds were solicited in the name of Sierra Leoneans.

He said citizens must ensure that such funds were spent accordingly.

He however expressed frustration that despite the huge amount of money pouring into the hands of the NGOs, people keep complaining of the unavailability of gloves and personal protective gears, among others, for health workers.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, the plight of those who help:

Health staff live in classrooms

This was revealed by the Kalangala District chairman, Mr Willy Lugoloobi, after Daily Monitor had asked him to comment on the state of the health sector in the district.

Kalangala- Lack of housing facilities in Kalangala District has forced a number of health workers in the area to sleep in school classrooms, health centre kitchens and dilapidated houses.

Those most affected include nurses and clinical officers in the district.

This was revealed by the Kalangala District chairman, Mr Willy Lugoloobi, after Daily Monitor had asked him to comment on the state of the health sector in the district.

Mr Lugoloobi told Daily Monitor that even the few which house staff such as Bukasa Health Centre IV, can only take a few of their staff. But can only sufficiently accommodate nine staff out of 29 health workers.

Punch Nigeria urges caution:

‘Don’t subject yourself to victimisation’

Nigerian pilgrims travelling for the 2014 Hajj have been warned not to display unnecessary panic about the Ebola Virus Disease at Saudi Arabia airports.

The Operations Manager of Hajj Mabrur Ventures Limited, Alhaji Zulkifli Adewunmi, gave the warning during a seminar organised by the HMVL for intending pilgrims.

Adewunmi explained that showing fear would result to stigmatisation of the pilgrims.

He noted that the use of sanitisers had become more pronounced in Nigeria because of the positive cases recorded in the country.

StarAfrica covers a call:

S/Leone: Minority leader urges ban on religious gatherings

The leader of the minority party in Sierra Leone’s parliament has called for the banning of all large religious gathering until the end of the prevailing state of emergency.The MP, Dr Bernadette Lahai, is concerned that despite the prohibition of all public gatherings across the country due to the state of emergency prompted by the Ebola epidemic, Christian and Muslim worshippers were still assembling.

The opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party parliamentary lawmaker said Sunday that this poses high risk of spreading the Ebola virus. She was speaking on national TV, SLBC, during a live talk show aimed at defending the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency.

The government is preparing for a nationwide shutdown which it plans to use to sensitize the general public on the disease and seek to identify sick people for treatment.

For our final item, from the London Daily Mail, hailing money from the North:

Microsoft to the rescue: Co-founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates donate nearly $62 MILLION to fight Ebola in West Africa and stop the spread of the deadly disease

  • Co-founder Paul Allen has pledged a donation of $9 million just a month after donating $2.8 million to fight Ebola
  • Allen’s donation joins that of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pledged $50 million to support the cause

The good people from Microsoft Corp are at it again.

The tech giant’s co-founder, Paul Allen, says his charitable foundation is donating $9 million to support the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, just a month after donating $2.8 million to the American Red Cross for its work on the outbreak.

The gift to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes at a time when international groups, including Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization, have said resources to contain the epidemic and treat those affected are falling tragically short.

Chart of the day: How Californians see police


From the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Cops

InSecurityWatch: Wars, cops, spies, bluster


Today’s coverage from the world of spies, politicians, militarists, and the merely criminal opens with this from BBC News:

Pope Francis warns on ‘piecemeal World War III’

A “piecemeal” World War III may have already begun with the current spate of crimes, massacres and destruction, Pope Francis has warned.

He was speaking during a visit to Italy’s largest military cemetery, where he was commemorating the centenary of World War I.

“War is madness,” the Pope said at a memorial to 100,000 Italian soldiers at Redipuglia cemetery near Slovenia.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the conditionally belligerent:

Americans ready for military action – for now

A nation furious about the beheading of two Americans is eager for military action. At least for the moment. And at least for the kind of low-risk military action now planned.

But the moment could change. As history in Iraq and the Middle East shows, the campaign against the Islamic State might not go as planned. Allies could prove unreliable. The enemy could adapt. The U.S. might have to send in its own troops. And the image could _ could _ change from two U.S. citizens being beheaded to American GIs coming home without limbs.

The country has little patience for an extended campaign involving American combat troops and casualties. Years of prolonged, inconclusive U.S. fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Vietnam, linger in the public American psyche.

From Fox News, semantic disagreement:

White House, Pentagon contradict Kerry, say US ‘at war’ with ISIS

The White House and Pentagon acknowledged Friday that the U.S. “is at war” with the Islamic State — contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry and others who a day earlier refused to use that term, prompting criticism from lawmakers that the administration was downplaying the conflict.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby used almost identical language when pressed by reporters Friday whether or not the expanded military operation against the terrorist group is in fact a war.

“In the same way that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates … the United States is at war with ISIL,” Earnest said.

From the New York Times, another human sacrifice:

ISIS Video Shows Execution of David Cawthorne Haines, British Aid Worker

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released a video Saturday of the third beheading of a foreign hostage, a British aid worker. The execution was a clear message to Britain, a vital ally of the United States as it builds an international coalition to target the militant group, which has made stunning advances across Syria and northern Iraq in recent months.

The video shows the aid worker, David Cawthorne Haines, kneeling on a bare hill under the open sky, in a landscape that appears identical to where two American journalists were killed by the group in back-to-back-executions in the past month. In the moments before his death, the 44-year-old Mr. Haines is forced to read a script, in which he blames his country’s leaders for his killing.

“I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution,” he said. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State.” He added: “Unfortunately, it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”

From MintPress News, a reminder:

How The West Created ISIS

… with a little help from our friends

Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS/IS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday, in his much anticipated address, he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.

“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”

Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region and UK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.

The Associated Press sounds another alarm with a familiar name:

al-Qaida’s Syrian cell alarms US

While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

The Hill covers the predictable:

Senators: Curbing NSA could help ISIS

Critics of a proposal to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) say the rising threat of terrorism in the Middle East should give lawmakers pause as they consider harnessing the government’s spy powers.

The bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would handicap American intelligence officials at a crucial moment, they say, and make it harder to track terrorists around the globe.

Supporters of the bill — including top legal and intelligence officials in the Obama administration — deny that it would hamper the country’s ability to track groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They say that it’s a practical response to the uproar over the NSA programs that were exposed by Edward Snowden last summer.

Vice News plays catchup:

The NSA Has Revealed New Details About Its Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden’s Emails

Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden’s available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency’s vast surveillance programs.

According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.

In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA’s associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a “comprehensive” investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs “would be expected to be found within the agency.” Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a “original classification authority,” which means he can classify documents as “top-secret” and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he’d raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden’s account and emails “obtained by restoring back-up tapes.” He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with “NSA affiliates” with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.

TV3 News Auckland covers contested Kiwi claims:

Key hits back at Greenwald’s claims of mass surveillance

The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.

John Key was responding to the arrival of journalist Glenn Greenwald, with thousands of documents taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that he says prove New Zealanders have been subjected to wholesale spying by the Government.

Mr Key has always said that he would resign if that was proven, but tonight he’s launched a counterattack.

Mr Greenwald claims he will produce evidence that could take down the Prime Minister, but just a short while ago Mr Key hit back and upped the ante big time, promising to get ahead of Mr Greenwald and declassify top-secret documents that will prove him wrong.

Mr Key has repeatedly denied spy agency the GCSB conducts mass surveillance of New Zealanders, even saying he would resign if it were prove, and he was standing by that today.

From Ars Technica, seeking a memory hole patch:

Senator demands US courts recover 10 years of online public records

  • “Restore access,” lawmaker says of docs purged because of computer upgrade issue.

The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the federal bureaucracy to restore a decade’s worth of electronic court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history.

“Wholesale removal of thousands of cases from PACER, particularly from four of our federal courts of appeals, will severely limit access to information not only for legal practitioners, but also for legal scholars, historians, journalists, and private litigants for whom PACER has become the go-to source for most court filings,” Leahy wrote Friday to US District Judge John D. Bates, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO).

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sadly familiar story:

Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned.  The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame it, “institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet,” providing for harsher penalties for incitement or “glorification” of terrorism conducted online.  Furthermore, the bill (in Article 9) allows for “the possibility for the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites inciting or apologizing for terrorism” without distinguishing criteria or an authority to conduct the blocking.

Apart from specific concerns that the bill treats online speech as distinct from other speech, other provisions are just as problematic. For example, while Article 4 refers to “provocation aux actes de terrorisme” or “incitement to terrorism”—a clearly defined legal concept—it also refers to “apologie du terrorisme” or “apologizing” or “glorifying” terrorism, implying a condemnation of opinions alone rather than any overt acts, as Reporters Without Borders points out.  La Quadrature du Net’s mini-site on the bill addresses further concerns (in French).

Anti-terror laws have been used in various countries around the world to prosecute individuals for their speech about unpopular ideas. In the United States, the prosecution of Tarek Mehanna—a young Muslim who translated and posted material referred to by prosecutors as “Al Qaeda propaganda”—involved the use of conspiracy and so-called “material support” laws. In Ethiopia, anti-terror laws have been used to silence journalists and are currently being used to prosecute the dissident Zone9 Bloggers. And the list goes on.

From Davis, California, via the New York Times, buyer’s remorse:

Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town

The police department of this modest college town is among the latest California beneficiaries of surplus military equipment: a $700,000 armored car that is the “perfect vehicle,” the police chief told the City Council, “to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.”

It is well maintained, low-mileage and free, the chief, Landy Black, said in explaining why the department had augmented its already sizable cache of surplus matériel, including rifles, body armor and riot helmets, with an MRAP: a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.

But the City Council directed Chief Landy last month to get rid of it in the face of an uproar that had swept through this community, with many invoking the use of similar equipment by the police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

From the New York Times again, tax farming reconsidered:

Mistrust Lingers as Ferguson Takes New Tack on Fines

On Tuesday, the City Council decided to abolish fines that are routinely issued if a defendant fails to show up for court, repeal a “failure to appear” law that led to many incarcerations, and give people a month to come forward and void their warrants. It also created a special docket for defendants who have difficulty making payments on outstanding fines and moved to establish a civilian review board to oversee the Police Department, which is under investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Residents and experts said that while the actions were significant, the problems many drivers face across St. Louis County, where a patchwork of municipal courts enforce an array of ordinances, were so widespread that Ferguson alone could not fix them. Many African-Americans, who are pulled over at higher rates than whites, face traffic fines that, if not paid, can land them in jail.

So the trust level was not high in court and at the police clerk’s window in Ferguson this week.

From the Guardian, another Ferguson revelation:

Ferguson video shows witness saying Michael Brown’s hands were raised

  • Footage of two construction workers moments after black teenager’s fatal shooting appears to support other witness accounts

Video of the moments after black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, indicates that a witness on the scene said the unarmed 18-year-old’s hands were raised when he was killed.

The cell phone footage, released by CNN, of two construction workers at the scene early last month appears to support accounts by other witnesses that Brown was retreating or surrendering when he was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, legal experts said on Friday.

The video shows one of the men raising his hands immediately after the fatal shooting and shouting, “He had his fuckin’ hands up.”

From the London Daily Mail, notable mostly because the victim was white:

Family’s outrage at cops who violently arrested a father of two for ‘appearing intoxicated while taking care of his kids’… but actually has a TERMINAL ILLNESS that makes him look that way

  • Jeffrey Banes, 39, was arrested in West Virginia by four cops who left him choking on his own blood while subduing him
  • His family says Banes’ illness, Huntington’s disease, can make it seem as if he’s intoxicated because it affects his motor functions
  • The violent arrest was captured on camera

And then there’s another arrest caught on camera, raising some interesting questions by an insanely idiotic form of pranking certain to lead to violent deaths should it continue. From RT America:

Swatting prank sends real life SWAT teams after gamers’ opponents

Program notes:

Online gamers are falling victim to a new prank known as swatting. The practice involves pranksters calling police with fake emergencies, resulting in heavily armed SWAT teams busting down gamers’ doors looking for hostages. California is among the first states to propose legislation formalizing a punishment for such fake distress calls, but many are worried the penalties may go too far. RT’s Marina Portnaya takes a look at the trend and the controversy surrounding it.

From Reuters, about damn time:

Next for Corporate America: Body wires and wire taps?

Wall Street executives may have personally escaped the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice but executives at companies accused of foreign bribery schemes may not be so lucky.

Prosecutors say they are clearly shifting away from only big corporate settlements in such cases and are beginning to target more individuals. The numbers are not eye-popping. But officials say the results are encouraging and these cases may provide road maps for other financial fraud prosecutions.

“Certainly…there has been an increased emphasis on, let’s get some individuals,” said Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Reuters again, with a loathsome threat:

Foley family says was ‘threatened’ by U.S. official over ransom: ABC

The family of murdered American journalist James Foley says it was threatened by a U.S. official who warned that family members could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors, ABC News reported on Friday.

ABC News quoted Foley’s mother and brother as saying a military officer working for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council had told them several times that they could face criminal charges if they paid a ransom.

The White House refused to discuss conversations that the family had with officials, but said they involved people from different government branches, including the White House, the FBI, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department.

After the jump, with self-censoring cameras, the dance floor panopticon, Nazi nastiness in Germany, metadata revelations, a Crimean underwater warrior handover, a new malware threat, a stalemate in Pakistan, an anti-terror treaty sought, Down Under underwater hesitation, America’s pro-Japanese remilitarization push continues, Tokyo goes for the metadata, an American spy light justification, A Washington concession to Beijing, and a dispute over prisoners. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Race in the incarceration nation


From the Christian Science Monitor:

BLOG Jail

Quote of the day: Naomi Klein on climate change


From an essay she wrote for the Guardian:

If we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, major cities will drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas; our children will spend much of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. Yet we continue all the same.

What is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and benefit the vast majority – are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media.

That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our collective misfortune that governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988 – the exact year that marked the dawning of “globalisation”. The numbers are striking: in the 1990s, as the market integration project ramped up, global emissions were going up an average of 1% a year; by the 2000s, with “emerging markets” such as China fully integrated into the world economy, emissions growth had sped up disastrously, reaching 3.4% a year.

That rapid growth rate has continued, interrupted only briefly, in 2009, by the world financial crisis. What the climate needs now is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.

Read the rest.

UPDATE: The latest from Tom Toles, editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post:

BLOG Toles

InSecurityWatch: Spies, lies, protests, and more


We turn to The Hill for our first headline from the world of spies, cops, cybercrooks, and suchlike:

Spy court renews NSA metadata program

With a surveillance reform bill stuck in the Senate, the federal court overseeing spy agencies on Friday reauthorized the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

Reauthorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) allows the NSA to continue to warrantlessly collect “metadata” in bulk about people’s phone calls. The records contain information about which numbers people called, when and how long they talked, but not the actual content of their conversations.

“Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program,” the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement, referring to the section of the Patriot Act that authorizes the program.

From the Guardian, a challenge:

Julian Assange lawyers lodge appeal against Swedish ruling

  • Prosecutors accused of gross breach of law by not travelling to UK to interview WikiLeaks founder in Ecuadorian embassy

Swedish lawyers for Julian Assange have argued that prosecutors are in “gross breach of Swedish law”, as they lodged an appeal in a fresh attempt to break the deadlock that has seen the WikiLeaks founder begin his third year living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“Julian Assange has been kept under house arrest for two years with no medical treatment, no sunshine, no family, no nothing, and this harm should be taken into account when applying Swedish law,” Per Samuelsson, a lawyer for Assange in Stockholm, told the Guardian.

In July, a Stockholm judge ruled that Sweden’s prosecutor had sufficient cause to continue to pursue the arrest of Assange in order to question him about the crimes of which he is suspected. On Friday, his lawyers lodged their anticipated appeal against this ruling.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, umbrage is taken:

New sparks fly between CIA, Senate Intelligence Committee

Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency’s interrogation program.

The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report’s public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill.

After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.

From United Press International, the perfect selfie venue:

Berlin’s newest tourist spot: abandoned spy station

  • The empty buildings at Teufelsberg, and their tour guides, are drawing crowds.

A Cold War listening post in the former West Berlin, used by Allied forces and now an abandoned ruin, has become a tourist attraction since the NSA spy scandal.

Admissions by the U.S. National Security Agency that it listened in on telephone conversations of German government leaders was the impetus for German citizens to reexamine Berlin’s days as a spy center. That means a climb up Teufelsberg hill to examine what is left of a collection of buildings erected by the NSA in the late 1950s to listen in on military radio traffic of the Soviet Union, East Germany and other Communist nations.

The facility closed in the early 1990s. After years of neglect, vandalism and trespassing, the property was bought in 2012 by Shalmon Abraham, and visitors can now wander the corridors of the vacant spy center legally after paying a 15-euro ($19.42) entry fee. With its many walls between offices, graffiti is encouraged.

BuzzFeed gets it right:

The U.S. Adds Another Enemy In A War Without End

  • After vowing to repeal post-9/11 war authority, Obama has now vastly expanded it by invoking it in the war against ISIS.

Last night President Obama said he already had the “authority” to carry out strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In a background briefing with reporters a senior government official explained exactly what authority the president was referring to: the 2001 AUMF.

Lawyers on both the right and the left, including some who used to work in the Obama administration, were shocked. Robert Chesney, a professor of national security law at the University of Texas, wrote in a quick reaction post that the decision was “just stunning from a legal perspective.” In a post titled “Democracy’s Failure,” Jennifer Daskal, a lawyer who once worked for the Obama administration, called the interpretation “implausible” and a case of “politics over law.” Writing for Time, Jack Goldsmith, a former attorney for the Bush administration, called it “presidential unilateralism masquerading as implausible statutory interpretation.”

Rarely in today’s deeply divided world of bipartisan politics do so many lawyers speak so forcefully and with such unison. The reasons we are seeing this sort of legal unanimity is because of what David Cole, writing in the New York Review of Books called “a presidential sleight of hand.”

BBC News ups the estimate:

Islamic State fighter estimate triples – CIA

The CIA says the Islamic State (IS) militant group may have up to 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria – three times as many as previously feared.

A spokesman said the new estimate was based on a review of intelligence reports from May to August.

IS has seized vast swathes of Iraq and beheaded several hostages in recent months, leading to US airstrikes.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Turkey, seeking more support for action against IS.

From BuzzFeed a spooky pitch:

GOP Congressman: Spy On U.S. Mosques To Stop ISIS Recruitment

“Undocumented Democrats are more important to [President Obama] than national security,” Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King says.

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is calling for the U.S. government to begin spying on American mosques to stop ISIS’ recruitment efforts, charging the militant organization is actively operating in mosques across the country.

Although there is no evidence that ISIS is running a nationwide recruitment effort or using mosques as centers to target would be jihadis, King insisted the Obama administration must target mosques for domestic surveillance activities.

“Here’s a thought that occurred to me,” King said speaking to the Deace Show Thursday. “I didn’t look at the population of Germany at the beginning of the Third Reich but it’s probably in the area of 70-80 million is my guess. And out of that Hitler in a few years build something that cost the lives of roughly 60 million people. The radical islamists have 1.3 or more billion muslims to work with. Now they aren’t all supporters. Daniel (inaudible) says 10-15% of them, but that is a huge population to draw from.”

And from TheLocal.fr, the odd couple:

France offers military help to Iraq against ISIS

During a state visit to Iraq on Friday France’s president pledged additional military support to the country as it struggles to combat the ISIS extremists who seized large swathes of its territory.

Eleven years after refusing to follow Britain and the United States into Iraq, France is now trying to take centre stage in a country overrun by jihadists with a leading diplomatic — and possibly military — role.

Just days before an international conference in Paris on peace and security in Iraq, French President Francois Hollande on Friday visited Baghdad, pledging “support and solidarity” for the country’s embattled government.

From BBC News, when spies draw the line:

Israeli intelligence veterans refuse to spy on Palestinians

Dozens of veterans of an elite Israeli military signals intelligence unit have said they will no longer serve in operations against Palestinians.

Forty-three past and present reservists signed a letter about Unit 8200, which carries out electronic surveillance. They said the intelligence it gathered – much of it concerning innocent people – was used to “deepen military rule” in the Occupied Territories.

Israel’s military said it held the unit to ethical standards “without rival”.

And a video report from the Guardian:

The Israeli military intelligence refusing to serve in Palestinian territory

Program notes:

Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.

The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs from the country’s equivalent of America’s NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, known as Unit 8200 – or in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim.

From the Guardian again, militarizing the campus:

Tanks at the school gates? San Diego school police acquires its own MRAP

  • Police captain plays down fears of militarisation and says ‘When we have an emergency at school, we’ve got to get in and save kids’

The nation gaped at the sight of a military-grade Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle trundling through Ferguson, but it turns out that was relatively restrained policing.

Relative, that is, to San Diego, where police will use a similar steel behemoth for the city’s schools. The San Diego Unified School District Police Department has acquired its own vehicle, known as a MRAP, and expect it to be operational by October.

From the London Daily Mail, the unspeakable:

‘I will f**king kill you. Do you know who I am?’ George Zimmerman is accused of threatening to shoot driver in road rage incident

  • Matthew Apperson, 35, reported Zimmerman pulled up next to him and the passenger asked, ‘Why are you pointing a finger at me?’
  • ‘Do you know who I am?’ Zimmerman followed up, and allegedly threatened the life of the other motorist
  • In 911 call, Apperson says Zimmerman, threatened to ‘kick my ass and shoot me’ and said ‘he was gonna shoot me dead’
  • The driver also reported seeing Zimmerman in his truck parked outside his work two days later
  • Zimmerman was acquitted last year of second-degree murder charge in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen

Reuters covers borderline discontent:

Mexico President slams Texas governor over border crackdown

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s deployment of National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexican border is “reprehensible” and puts neighborly relations at risk, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said in an interview published on Friday.

Perry, considered a possible contender for the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential nomination, in July ordered up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border, citing an influx of child migrants from Central America and drug cartel criminality.

“Not only is it displeasing, but I think it’s reprehensible,” Pena Nieto told Mexican daily El Universal in an interview published on Friday. “It is an attack on good relations and neighborliness.”

Off to Old Blighty and good intentions run amok with the Worcester News:

Dan Roach in EU right-to-be-forgotten plea to Google over old picture

CONTROVERSIAL internet regulations have struck the Worcester News for the first time.

Google has removed a five-year-old article from its searches, as part of the disputed EU ‘right to be forgotten’ law.

A ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this year means stories deemed irrelevant or outdated can be removed from search engine results. The story in question was about artist Dan Roach, who received a scholarship from the University of Worcester in 2009.

In a statement to your Worcester News, Mr Roach said: “Since 2009, when the story and photograph originally appeared in the Worcester News, my paintings have developed; the work depicted in the 2009 article bears little resemblance to the paintings I’m now making.”

Reuters conveys a request:

Iran wants U.N. atomic agency to condemn Israeli drone ‘aggression’

Iran has called on the U.N. atomic agency to condemn an “act of aggression” by Israel for sending, Tehran says, a drone last month to spy on a site which is at the center of its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

The Iranian move comes ahead of a meeting next week of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency where Tehran likely faces Israeli and Western criticism for failing to address IAEA concerns about its suspected atomic bomb research.

In late August, Iran said it had shot down an Israeli drone that was heading for its main uranium enrichment site near the central town of Natanz.

BBC News covers blowback from that other 9/11:

Chilean MP charged over Pinochet-era killings

  • Rosauro Martinez (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional) Rosauro Martinez is member of the conservative National Renewal party

A member of Chile’s parliament has been charged with the killing of three left-wing militants during the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Rosauro Martinez was an army captain at the time of the incident in 1981.

He led a patrol in southern Chile in search of members of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), which sought to overthrow the Pinochet regime.

A gun battle followed in which at least 11 people died, but the exact details of what happened remain a mystery.

And a video report from CCTV America on events in Chile Thursday marking the anniversary of that other lethal 9/11, a catastrophe back by Washington:

Memorials and violence mark 41st anniversary of Chilean coup

Program notes:

On Thursday, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 military coup that toppled Marxist President Salvador Allende by calling for more information for the victims of crimes during the country’s dictatorship. CCTV America’s Joel Richards reports from Santiago.

BBC News covers the curious:

India probes identity card for monkey god Hanuman

Authorities in India are investigating how Hanuman, the monkey god, has been issued a biometric identity card. The card photo features the character from the Hindu epic Ramayana wearing gold and pearl jewellery and a crown.

It emerged when a postman attempted to deliver the card, but could not find a Hanuman at the address.

When he looked at the photograph he realised it was probably a prank. It is not clear who the iris scan and fingerprints on the card belong to.

And from Al Jazeera America, preparing for blowback:

Australia raises terrorism threat level

  • Government says the move is in response to domestic threat posed by Islamic State movement supporters

The Australian government on Friday elevated its terrorism threat level to the second-highest warning in response to the domestic threat posed by Islamic State movement supporters.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the increase from “medium” to “high” on a four-tier scale on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

The domestic spy agency’s Director-General David Irvine said the terrorist threat level had been rising in Australia over the past year, particularly in recent months, mainly due to Australians joining Islamic State to fight in Syria and Iraq.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, a lèse majesté warning:

Thai coup leader warns against insulting the monarchy

Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday (Sep 12) said his regime would use legal, psychological and technological measures to protect the monarchy against defamation in his first official policy speech as premier.

The warning came as Amnesty International said an “unprecedented” number of people have been charged with insulting the royals since the coup, with 14 Thais indicted under the controversial lese majeste law in less than four months.

Revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is already protected by one of the world’s toughest royal defamation laws – anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. “We will use appropriate legal measures, psychological measures and communication technology against ill-intentioned people,” Prayuth said in a televised speech to members of the National Legislative Assembly, without elaborating on the exact methods of scrutiny.

And for our final item, the Independent entertains suspicions:

‘Tiger’ Zhou Yongkang: Did China’s former security chief murder his first wife?

Little is known about the exact circumstances in which Wang Shuhua was killed. What has been reported, in the Chinese media, is that she died in a road accident some time in 2000, shortly after she was divorced from her husband. And that at least one vehicle with a military licence plate may have been involved in the crash.

Fourteen years later, investigators are now looking into her death. Their sudden interest has nothing to do with Ms Wang herself, it has to do with the identity of her ex-husband – once one of China’s most powerful men and now the prime target in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

Investigators are probing the death of the first wife of Zhou Yongkang, China’s retired security czar, a source said. They are looking for evidence of foul play by Mr Zhou in the crash, the source added.

EnviroWatch: Dengue, Sharks, Fukushima


For some reason, it’s been a very slow news day on the environmental front, leaving us very little ground to cover.

First, from the Japan Times, that other outbreak continues:

Tokyo dengue outbreak prompts blood donation advisory; 113 infected

In a move that could exacerbate the already shrinking pool of blood donors, the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRC) is asking people who recently visited Yoyogi Park and other Tokyo parks where mosquitoes are spreading dengue fever to refrain from donating, an official said Friday.

The dengue fever virus is not transmitted from person to person, but it can be contracted through blood transfusions.

As of Thursday, the JRC said on its website that people who have recently visited Yoyogi, Shinjuku Chuo and Sotobori parks should wait at least four weeks before making a blood donation.

Deutsche Welle covers an aquatic crisis:

Protecting tuna stocks

  • Tuna is consumed all over the world. But experts believe that certain species, such as the popular bluefin tuna, are being fished to the brink of extinction. This would be disastrous to those who depend on tuna fishing for their livelihoods.

BBC News forestalls another:

Shark cull in Western Australia blocked by regulator

Western Australia’s shark cull is to be halted after the state’s environmental regulator advised against it.

Earlier this year, baited traps known as drum lines were set up as a trial along seven beaches to catch sharks, after a series of fatal attacks. But the policy was controversial, with critics arguing it could damage the marine ecosystem.

The regulator cited “a high degree of scientific uncertainty” about the impact on the white shark population.

And with that, off to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with the Asahi Shimbun:

Yoshida feared nuclear ‘annihilation’ of eastern Japan, testimony shows

Plant manager Masao Yoshida envisioned catastrophe for eastern Japan in the days following the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to his testimony, one of 19 released by the government on Sept. 11.

The testimonies of 19 of the people interviewed by the Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Co. shed light on the early days of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the front-line response.

They include statements from then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano when the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration was in power.

More from RT:

Late Fukushima manager flagged ‘density danger’ risks plaguing Japan’s big nuclear plants

Recently disclosed documents show the late manager of Japan’s destroyed Fukushima plant warned of safety risks in restarting nuclear power stations in the seismic-prone country, which is considering rebooting full-scale nuclear energy production.

Transcripts of interviews with Masao Yoshida, who headed the emergency response team at Fukushima nuclear plant after the disaster, reveal that Japan’s big nuclear facilities with six or seven reactors had inherent safety risks and were difficult to operate.

“When you’re talking about demerits, most other plants have four [reactors] at one site,” said Yoshida, who died of cancer last year, according to transcripts released by the Japanese government Thursday. “I’ve always disliked dense location [of nuclear reactors].”

The Japan Times settles up:

Tepco to settle 3/11 suit over hospital evacuee’s death for ¥13.5 million

Tokyo Electric Power Co. agreed Friday to pay ¥13.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed over the death of a woman who was forced to evacuate from a hospital during the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a relative of the woman said.

During the trial over the ¥31 million damages suit, the utility accepted the Chiba District Court’s opinion that Tepco was at least 75 percent responsible for the deaths of many patients who were forced to leave Futaba Hospital to avoid the radiation being released by the core meltdowns at the plant.

The suit said the woman, then 83, failed to receive appropriate care because Futaba Hospital had its lost water, electricity and gas supplies just after the devastating earthquake and tsunami crippled Tepco’s aging power plant.

The woman later died of dehydration at an evacuation facility.

Jiji Press covers restart questions:

Japan Govt Seeks Kagoshima’s Understanding of Reactor Restart

The Japanese government on Friday submitted a document to Kagoshima Governor Yuichiro Ito clarifying the government’s support for restarting idled reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in the southwestern Japan prefecture.

The document was handed to Ito by Agency for Natural Resources and Energy Commissioner Takayuki Ueda when they met in the prefectural capital of Kagoshima.

The submission of the document in the name of industry minister Yuko Obuchi followed a request from Ito. All nuclear reactors in the country are currently offline.

And for our final item, the Japan Times steams ahead:

Sendai nuclear evacuation plans get Tokyo’s nod despite Kagoshima misgivings

The central government said Friday it “approves” of evacuation plans drawn up by local authorities near a nuclear plant that could become the first in the country to go back online, as officials attempt to ease persistent fears about the effectiveness of the plans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a government meeting on nuclear disaster prevention that the evacuation plans for residents near the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture are “concrete and reasonable.”

The central government initially said the plans should be drawn up and evaluated by local municipalities. It then decided to increase its involvement in the matter to dispel residents’ doubts in the wake of the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture.