Category Archives: Law

EnviroWatch: Climate, water, eruption, fuels


First up, a fait accompli from the Guardian:

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

  • Evidence from around the world supports scientists’ assertion that global warming is already happening

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet’s warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country’s president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. “He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating,” Tony de Brum, the islands’ foreign minister, revealed recently.

From the Associated Press, water woes in parched California:

California’s water agencies look to budget water

As California’s severe drought continues, state and local agencies are looking at budgeting water use by creating a daily water allocation for each household.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1xsETsi ) that under such a scheme, a household would be allotted a certain number of gallons for indoor water use and another for outdoor water use.

The amount allocated is calculated using census data, aerial photography and satellite imagery to determine a property’s efficient water usage amount. Those using above their designated amount would pay extra.

Such a system is already in use or being considered by several municipalities statewide.

A similar crisis half a world away from the Los Angeles Times:

Iran prays for rain amid acute water shortage

Concern is mounting about dwindling water supplies across Iran, from the densely populated, smog-ridden capital and its parched suburbs to provincial towns and cities to far-flung corners of the nation, much of which is desert. Lakes and rivers have been drying up, reservoirs are at historic lows and water supplies have been cut in some areas. The annual snowmelt from the mountains is on the decline.

On the streets here, people grumble about cuts in water service. Many buildings have tanks on the roofs to collect rainwater. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained in months. Bottled water is available, but many Iranians have little excess income for purchasing it. Most Iranians rely on tap water for both drinking and washing.

“On some days of the week, our tap water is cut for seven or eight hours,” said Akbar Aziz, 40, a printing-house employee who lives in the capital’s working-class Khorasan district. “We are consuming as little as possible,” said Aziz, a father with young daughters. “We shower only two times a week. So we are not responsible for the water shortages.”

Environmental Health News covers another water woe:

Fish still contaminated with phased-out Scotchgard chemical

A persistent chemical formerly used in Scotchgard still contaminates most fish in U.S. rivers and the Great Lakes despite a phase-out a dozen years ago, a new federal study shows.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers found perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in all of the 157 fish sampled from nearshore waters in the five Great Lakes and in 73 percent from 162 rivers.

The study, the largest of its kind in freshwater fish, suggests that eating bass, trout, walleye and catfish could be a major source of exposure for anglers and their families. The chemical remains widespread in wildlife, people and water around the world.

From BBC News, a body count:

Japan volcano: Mt Ontake rescue teams find 31 bodies

The bodies of 31 hikers have been found near the top of Japan’s Mount Ontake a day after a sudden volcanic eruption.

The hikers were not breathing and their hearts had stopped. The search for a total of 45 missing climbers has now been called off for the night.

The volcano, about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, erupted without warning on Saturday, spewing ash and rocks. About 250 people were trapped on the slopes of the popular beauty spot, but most got down safely.

Deutsche Welle covers the story:

Hikers killed in Japan earthquake

Program notes:

More than 30 people have been killed after a volcano in Japan erupted unexpectedly. Mount Ontake continues to spew ash and smoke into the air, creating difficulties for rescue teams attempting to reach hikers still stranded on the slopes. Experts were taken by surprise by the eruption; they say there were no warning signs in the preceding hours.

From BBC News, Big Oil taps an arctic vein:

Rosneft and Exxon discover Arctic oil

Russian energy giant Rosneft says it has discovered oil with its US project partner Exxon Mobil at a controversial well in the Arctic. Drilling was completed in record time, it said, but questions remain about how quickly the well can be developed.

Exxon has said it will “wind down” the project following US sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Environmentalists have campaigned hard against drilling for oil in the pristine region.

“Rosneft successfully completed the drilling of the northernmost well in the world – the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Arctic,” the company said in a statement.

Big Oil fracks your British basement, via the Guardian:

Fracking trespass law changes move forward despite huge public opposition

  • Ministers reject 40,000 objections to allow fracking below homes without owners’ permission

Fracking will take place below Britons’ homes without their permission after ministers rejected 40,000 objections to controversial changes to trespass laws.

The UK government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.

There were a total of 40,647 responses to a consultation on the move to give oil and gas companies underground access without needing to seek landowners’ permission, with 99% opposing the legal changes. Setting aside the 28,821 responses submitted via two NGO campaigns, 92% of the remaining responses objected to the proposals.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore signals a major nuclear [power] proliferation:

India turns to nuclear as energy crisis deepens

  • Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, and it is now looking at nuclear options to ease a power crisis

India’s new prime minister is turning to nuclear energy to ease a power crisis made worse by the cancellation of hundreds of coal mining permits, but he faces scepticism both at home and abroad.

Energy-starved India relies on coal to produce two thirds of its electricity, but power blackouts are common and demand is rising quickly as the economy and middle class expand.

On Wednesday (Sep 24), the Supreme Court cancelled over 200 coal mining permits because the licensing process was deemed illegal, making the need for alternative energy sources yet more pressing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made nuclear a priority as he seeks to fulfil his campaign pledge to kickstart the country’s flagging economy.

Want China Times takes seaborne nuclear power in a whole new direction:

China ready to construct floating nuclear power plant

The 719th Research Institute of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation was appointed to establish China’s first R&D center for floating nuclear power plants in central China’s Hubei province, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a contract with president Xi Jinping of China during his visit to Shanghai in May for the two nations to collaborate in constructing such a plant. As China Shipbuilding Industry Corp’s website writes, the floating plant will be used to provide electricity to Chinese facilities in the disputed South China Sea.

Equipped with a smaller nuclear reactor, some vessels can also be used to exploit the natural resources beneath the sea floor. When natural disasters and accidents strike, emergency assistance can be deployed from the floating station. If China gathers experience in operating such plants, they will be able to construct nuclear reactors for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the future.

And for our final item, a nuclear reminder from the Mainichi:

Ex-mayor raps gov’t before 15th anniv. of Japan’s 1st criticality accident

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 was brought about as the government neglected to learn lessons from Japan’s first criticality accident that occurred 15 years ago, the former mayor of the affected village said Sunday.

Speaking before an audience of some 350 people who gathered for a public meeting ahead of the accident’s 15th anniversary, Tatsuya Murakami, who served as mayor of Tokaimura in Ibaraki Prefecture until last year, said despite the accident Japan has persisted to maintain a “safety myth.”

“Japan was caught up in a ‘safety myth’ that a serious nuclear accident would not happen in this country when the criticality accident occurred at a nuclear fuel processor in this village” on Sept. 30, 1999, he said.

The myth and the failure to firmly clarify the cause of the accident eventually led to the Fukushima meltdown, he said.

EbolaWatch: Arts, shortages, suffering, more


We begin today’s coverage with two videos from CCTV Africa focusing on the Ebola crisis and the performing arts.

Our first offering focuses on Ugandan playwright Phillip Luswata’s Get Away from Me, a dramatization of the Ebola crisis and its impact on everyday life:

Ebola Crisis: Fighting Ebola Through Theatre

Program notes:

Until this outbreak, Uganda had suffered the greatest number of ebola flare-ups. But this time, it’s managed to avoid any cases. Officials attribute that to good awareness among the population. The virus has even inspired a stage-play in Kampala. CCTV’s Leon Ssenyange reports.

Next, a report on the use of music to educate an anxious and often-misinformed public:

Ebola Crisis : Songs of Awareness on The Virus

Program notes:

Authorities have been resorting to drastic measures to try and curb the spread of Ebola. In Sierra Leone, a full two million people are to be sealed off – and quarantined. Yet some are convinced there are more effective ways to save lives. CCTV’s Jane Kiyo has more

From CBC News, tragic failure:

Ebola outbreak: Clinics still short on doctors, supplies 6 months later

  • Bulk of promised global aid has yet to materialize on the ground

Doctors are in short supply. So are beds for patients. Six months after the Ebola outbreak emerged for the first time in an unprepared West Africa and eventually became the worst-ever outbreak, the gap between what has been sent by other countries and private groups and what is needed is huge.

Even as countries try to marshal more resources, those needs threaten to become much greater, and possibly even insurmountable.

Statistics reviewed by The Associated Press and interviews with experts and those on the scene of one of the worst health disasters in modern history show how great the needs are and how little the world has done in response. Some foreign medical workers have bravely fought on, a few even contracting Ebola themselves as they cared for patients.

IPS Inter Press Service News Agency raises more aid questions:

Militarising the Ebola Crisis

It’s unclear whether any U.S. healthcare personnel will actually treat patients, but according to the White House, “the U.S. Government will help recruit and organise medical personnel to staff” the centres and “establish a site to train up to 500 health care providers per week.”

The latter begs the question of practicality: where would these would-be health workers be recruited from?

According to the Obama administration, the package was requested directly by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (Notably, Liberia was the only African nation to offer to host AFRICOM’s headquarters in 2008, an offer AFRICOM declined and decided to set up in Germany instead).

Punch Nigeria makes a plea:

Ebola: Lab scientists want more protection for members

Chairman of the Association of Medical Laboratories Scientist in Nigeria, Oyo State Chapter, Akinbola Idowu, has called on the federal and state governments protect the interest of health workers especially laboratory scientists in their efforts to end the spread of Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

During a workshop held in Ibadan on Ebola for health laboratory workers and other categories of health workers who are considered vulnerable to the disease, because of the hazard involved in treating a suspected case and handling test samples, Idowu called on participants to be on the alert and take necessary precaution against possible infection.

He said, “It is highly important to appreciate the timing of this program because of the collective fight against EVD in our country.”

While the Guardian raises questions:

Liberian Senate calls for more transparency over Ebola funds

  • Full disclosure demanded over how $5m of government funding allocated for fighting outbreak has vanished so quickly

Stately and unassuming, Liberia’s national Ebola taskforce coordinator James Dorbor Jallah announced at a press conference in late August that the government’s initial $5m (£3m) contribution to contain the disease had been spent.

As he fumbled with the numbers in his expenditures report, the blogosphere exploded with queries about how all that money could vanish so quickly. Now, the Liberian Senate is demanding full disclosure of the Ebola funds’ whereabouts. To his credit, however, Jallah was attempting something that donors have yet to do: answer to the people in whose name “the war on Ebola” is being fought in west Africa. As we have seen all too often in international emergency response operations, the stakes are too high to forgo systems of accountability.

Médecins Sans Frontières, the leading health relief organisation in Liberia, has complained for weeks that resources committed to the Ebola crisis have been “entirely insufficient”. The latest projections from the UN indicate that almost $1bn will be needed to contain the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. Significant amounts of money have now started pouring in, with the fanfare we have come to expect in such situations. But commitments have not been matched with relevant tools and reports to track the flows of promised aid disbursals.

RFI covers those already marginalized:

Most vulnerable in Sierra Leone suffer under Ebola quarantine

As ordinary Sierra Leoneans navigate government-imposed curfews and quarantined areas in a new reality shaped by the deadly Ebola virus, the country’s most vulnerable are getting left behind.

Health ministries in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have made an effort to educate the public, calling on them to wash their hands and avoid physical contact. But this has caused problems for the most vulnerable.

Voice of America covers crisis compounded:

Life Harder for Liberians Post-Ebola Quarantine

In West Point, one the Liberian capital Monrovia’s poorest neighborhoods, the situation is calm a month after the government forced quarantine on its inhabitants. But residents complain that businesses, social life and entertainment have suffered and other Monrovians treat them like outcasts.

On a cloudy day in the coastal city, fishermen can be seen offshore. Fishing is one of the city’s main livelihoods.

West Point made global news last month, when the government forced a quarantine on the entire community, following a high number of diagnosed Ebola cases.  The community rebelled with violent protests.

And a didactic headline from Angola Press News Agency:

Angola: Passengers At Airports Learn About Ebola Danger

The Angolan health authorities are is conducting awareness raising campaigns with passengers and workers at airports around the country about the danger posed by the Ebola epidemic hitting several West African nations.

The measure that includes the floating of banners in strategic locations near airports migration, check-in counters, embarking and disembarking lounges, is intended to inform the citizens and avoid the entry of the epidemic into the country.

With the outbreak of the disease in various African countries, the Angolan Health Ministry adopted strict surveillance measures at ports, airports and transports from regions with Ebola prevalence.

For our final item, another impact from New Zimbabwe:

Daring Sex Workers Introduce ‘Ebola Risk Allowance’

Commercial sex workers at Nyamapanda Border Post have started charging “Ebola risk insurance” in a bid to use the deadly outbreak to shake down truck drivers from outside Zimbabwe for extra cash.

Nyamapanda, on the border with Mozambique, is one of the access points used by truckers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has been affected by the Ebola outbreak that has now killed more than 3,000 in West Africa.

The sex workers said they decided to use Ebola to make more money because business was down with local clients who have decided to zip it because of the country’s economic challenges.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, borders, hacks, threats


Today’s tour of the realms where paranoia and politics intersect begins with this from Xinhua:

Iran to counter IS militants in Iraq if threatened: commander

Iran will target Islamic State militants “deep inside the Iraqi territory” if they intend to approach the Iranian borders, a senior Iranian commander was quoted as saying by Press TV on Saturday.

“We will not allow the IS terrorist group to approach the country’s borders. We are fully prepared to counter them,” Commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, Brigadier General Ahmadreza Pourdastan, said on Saturday. “If the IS terrorist group intends to come near the country’s borders, we will target them deep inside the Iraqi territory.”

The commander added that Iran has deployed ground forces in western border regions to beef up the security there, and that those forces have high operational capability and would “nip the threats in the bud.”

The New York Times covers another border:

Turkey Hesitant to Ally With U.S. in Syria Mission

No American ally is closer to the threat of the Islamic State than Turkey, and no country could play a more important role in a coalition that President Obama is assembling to combat the extremist Sunni militants. Yet Turkey has been reluctant to enlist, in part because of the desperate conflict playing out on its border with Syria.

On Saturday, outgunned Kurdish fighters, just a few hundred yards inside Syria and clearly visible from hilltop olive groves in this frontier village, battled Islamic State militants advancing from a village less than a mile away. They fought with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns within sight of Kobani, the central town in a besieged Kurdish area of Syria that has been falling village by village to a weeklong onslaught by the Islamic State.

Turkish soldiers in armored vehicles stood by at the border fence, taking no action except to block Turkish and Syrian Kurds from crossing into Syria to defend Kobani, where Kurds fear a massacre. That has fed the fury of Kurds on both sides of the border, who accuse Turkey, with its long history of conflict with Kurdish separatists, of tacitly supporting the Islamic State against them.

From the London Daily Mail, intrafamilial culture clash:

Arab woman pilot who is poster girl for Gulf states’ blitz on ISIS is ‘disowned by her family’ for bombing ‘Sunni heroes of Iraq and the Levant’

  • Mariam Al Mansouri’s F-16 bombing raids were celebrated in the West
  • But a statement purporting to be from her UAE family has ‘disowned’ her
  • It attacks her for ‘taking part in the brutal aggression against Syria’

The female air force pilot whose missions against Isis were dubbed ‘boobs on the ground’ has reportedly been disowned by her family and labelled an ‘ingrate’.

Mariam Al Mansouri’s participation in F-16 bombing raids for the UAE was celebrated in the West, but an anonymous statement claiming to be from her family ‘disowned’ her for ‘taking part in the brutal international aggression’ against Syria.

It also expressed support for the Islamic State, saying ‘we are proud of the Sunni heroes in Iraq and the Levant’. The brutal terrorist group’s original name was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Isil.

Bombast from Deutsche Welle:

Al Qaeda splinter group claims responsibility for US embassy attack in Yemen

An extremist group linked to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the US embassy in Yemen. The incident comes after Washington urged US citizens to leave the Gulf country.

The rocket landed around 200 meters from the heavily fortified embassy in the capital Sanaa on Saturday, hitting several members of the Yemeni police force who were guarding the compound. At least two were injured, authorities said.

Police told news agency Reuters that the rocket came from a M72 light anti-tank weapon fired from a car.

Shortly after the attack, the embassy said it did not believe it was the target of the rocket, and that Yemeni authorities were investigating.

USA Today covers collateral damage:

Another casualty of war in the Arab world: Education

In Kurdistan, the schools are full of refugees. In Gaza, many have been reduced to rubble. In Libya and Yemen, teachers and students can’t get to class because of fighting.

In the Iraqi city of Mosul, Islamic State militants have decreed that the school bell should ring to draw students, but few are going to classes.

As school starts across the Arab world this month, hundreds of thousands of students from across the Middle East and North Africa won’t be going. Conflict, turmoil and even destruction have put these children at great risk.

From the New York Times, a wrist slap:

Police Behavior in Ferguson Draws Attention of Justice Department

The Justice Department on Friday pressured the Ferguson Police Department to stop its officers from wearing bracelets stamped with the message “I am Darren Wilson,” in solidarity with the police officer who is being investigated for shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old, and from covering up their name plates with tape.

The bracelets, dark blue with white lettering, were photographed on the wrists of several Ferguson police officers who were interacting with demonstrators this week as protests flared up once again in this small city in the suburbs of St. Louis. A grand jury is looking into the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, and the police department is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.

In a stern letter to Chief Thomas Jackson, Christy E. Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that the bracelets “upset and agitated people.”

Questions from the Los Angeles Times:

Growing use of police body cameras raises privacy concerns

For many departments, questions remain about when officers should be allowed to turn off such cameras — especially in cases involving domestic violence or rape victims — and the extent to which video could be made public.

Such video “sometimes captures people at the worst moments of their lives,” American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said. “You don’t want to see videos of that uploaded to the Internet for titillation and gawking,” he said.

Video from dashboard cameras in police cars, a more widely used technology, has long been exploited for entertainment purposes. Internet users have posted dash-cam videos of arrests of naked women to YouTube, and TMZ sometimes obtains police videos of athletes and celebrities during minor or embarrassing traffic stops, turning officers into unwitting paparazzi.

From the Daily Dot, espiocorporatism:

The NSA is renting its technology to U.S. companies

The National Security Agency (NSA), which develops surveillance tools that are both dazzling and terrifying, has been making money on the side by licensing its technology to private businesses for more than two decades.

So if you’re looking to buy a tool to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone’s touched your phone’s SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn’t available on the open market, try the world’s most technologically advanced spy agency.

It’s called the Technology Transfer Program (TTP), under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they’re swayed by an American company’s business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out.

From BBC News, reasonable requests:

Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators

European data privacy regulators have put renewed pressure on Google to alter its privacy policy. It follows changes to the policy two years ago which regulators felt breached European rules.

Among other things, it says Google must tell users exactly what data is collected and with whom it is shared.

Google said it was working with regulators to “explain its privacy policy changes.” The dispute has been running since March 2012 when Google consolidated its 60 privacy policies into one and started combining data from YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps.

Hacking away, via the Guardian:

Russian malware used by ‘privateer’ hackers against Ukrainian government

  • Attackers were carrying out hits to make money, but were ‘co-opted’ into carrying out state espionage, say security researchers

A hacker tool popular across underground Russian crime networks has been used in attacks on the Ukrainian government, indicating the use of “privateers” for digital espionage, according to researchers.

The malware, known as BlackEnergy, appears to have been used in cyberattacks against Georgia during the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008 too, but has also been operated by criminals as a means to steal credit card data.

This summer, it was tailored to hit a number of Ukrainian targets. Researchers from security firm F-Secure said Ukrainian Railways and infrastructure related to government bodies in Dnipropetrovsk, a city in the southeast of Ukraine, were in the crosshairs of the hackers. The researchers uncovered the hackers’ use of proxy servers – used to reroute internet traffic – linked to those targets’ networks.

And RT covers more iCloud-hacking agony:

Have mercy! Tons more of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrity nudes leaked online

There seems to be no end in sight for celebrities this season, as the “third round” of nude photo leaks adds top model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and more of Jennifer Lawrence to the mix.

The FBI promised earlier in the week to widen its probe into the leaks after new nude images of celebrities Kim Kardashian, Vaness Hudgens and others popped up online. It launched an investigation in the aftermath of the first leak linked to a security flaw in Apple’s iCloud file storage service, but has so far come up empty.

This Friday, however, a newer leak surfaced on the online communities Reddit and 4chan, exposing, among many others, superstar model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and T-Mobile ad star and top model Carly Foulkes. Other celebrities exposed include three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, a host of other soap opera and movie actresses – and topping that are 55 more images of Jennifer Lawrence.

Drones are for we, not thee, say the cops, via Photography is Not a Crime:

L.A. Drone Activist Jailed Four Days After Refusing Deal to Revoke Right to Fly Them

Daniel Saulmon, Southern Californian’s notorious video activist, spent four days in a crowded county jail this week after refusing a plea deal that would have forbade him from flying his quadcopter for two years within Los Angeles County.

“It was terrible,” he said of his experience in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime hours after his release.

“I watched deputies nearly beat a guy to death with batons and tasers. I saw another man go into a seizure and almost die. It was not good.”

After the jump, lashes for gays in Indonesia, turmoil and arrests in Hong Kong, a Taiwanese rebuff of a Beijing gambit, China stakes an oceanic claim and crosses the line, Japanese remilitarism justified, Washington/Tokyo military ties tightening, and a real security threat in New Mexico. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, cops, hacks, more


First up, from the Los Angeles Times, piling on:

Britain, Belgium and Denmark to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq

The British Parliament voted Friday to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq against the extremist group Islamic State.

The motion approved by a vote of 524 to 43 does not allow Britain’s air force to also conduct operations in neighboring Syria, where the militants have seized large swaths of territory.

Prime Minister David Cameron made the case for military intervention to lawmakers, who were recalled to London during a recess for Friday’s vote.

More from the London Telegraph:

British air strikes on Iraq in hours after MPs vote for action

  • Bombing is backed by 524 to 43 MPs after David Cameron said the “psychopathic terrorists” must be destroyed

Air Strikes could begin within hours after MPs backed Government plans for a bombing campaign against “psycopathic” Isis terrorists in Iraq.

Six Tornados supported by a Voyager refuelling tanker have been at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in mid-August and could be ready to begin air strikes within hours.

Sources said the Tornados could quickly be fitted with Paveway IV guided bombs or Brimstone missiles to carry out strikes on Isil vehicles and convoys.

Another body for the huddle from  CBC News:

Stephen Harper says Canada won’t ‘stand on the sidelines’ of ISIS fight

  • PM calls Islamic State a ‘direct threat to the security of this country’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will not sit idly while Islamic State militants in the Middle East threaten to slaughter thousands of innocent people.

“We do not stand on the sidelines and watch. We do our part,” Harper said following a meeting with European Union leaders on Parliament Hill Friday.

“That’s always how this country has handled its international responsibilities, and as long as I’m prime minister that’s what we will continue to do.”

TheLocal.no adds another:

Norway commits military staff in fight against Isis

Norway’s government officially ruled to let five Norwegian officers be included in the US-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Iraq, on Friday.

The five officers of the Norwegian military will be made available “for relevant headquarters planning and leading the international effort against ISIS in Iraq” for no more than twelve months, informed the Department of Defence.
Minister of Defence Ina Eriksen Søreide said to NTB: “It is important to show that the global society stands together in the fight against international terrorism, and that serious violations on human rights will not be tolerated. The government has decided that Norway will contribute with five officers, who will take part in the military planning and be able to contribute to a stronger basis for decision-making for an evaluation of possible further Norwegian military contributions.”

The Norwegian officers will first be sent to Tampa, Florida to begin their tasks as soon as possible.

RT has numbers for another:

Denmark to send F-16 jets to aid anti-ISIS strikes in Iraq

Denmark is to dispatch seven F-16 fighter jets to Iraq to aid in the struggle against Islamic State militants, Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced Friday.

The US filed a request with Denmark on Thursday to contribute to the international air campaign against Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, or ISIL) in Iraq. Thorning-Schmidt said that the F-16s would be limited to flying in Iraq and would not be targeting any areas in neighboring Syria.

“I am very pleased that there now is a broad coalition, including countries in the region who want to… contribute,” she told a press conference. “The terror organization ISIS cannot be defeated with military means alone.”

Reuters has one reaction:

Wary of air strikes, Islamic State insurgents change tactics

Islamic State militants are changing tactics in the face of U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq, ditching conspicuous convoys in favor of motorcycles and planting their black flags on civilian homes, tribal sources and eyewitnesses say.

They reported fewer militant checkpoints to weed out “apostates” and less cell phone use since the air strikes intensified and more U.S. allies pledged to join the campaign that began in August, saying the militants had also split up to limit casualties.

A tribal sheikh from a village south of Kirkuk said Islamic State elements “abandoned one of their biggest headquarters in the village” when they heard the air strike campaign was likely to target their area.

Reuters has another:

U.S.-led strikes pressure al Qaeda’s Syria group to join with Islamic State

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, is facing mounting pressure from its own members to reconcile with its rival Islamic State and confront a common enemy after U.S.-led air strikes hit both groups this week.

But that move would require pledging loyalty to Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, which would effectively put an end to the Nusra Front, fighters in the group say.

Nusra, long one of the most effective forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was weakened this year by battles with Islamic State, an al Qaeda splinter group that routinely employs ruthless methods such as beheadings and mass executions.

And possibly another from the China Post:

IS jihadists execute female rights activist in Iraq’s Mosul

The jihadists who rule Iraq’s northern city of Mosul have executed a female rights activist who criticized the Islamic State (IS) group on social media, several sources said Thursday.

According to rights groups and residents, Samira Saleh al-Nuaimi was executed on Monday. A source at Mosul morgue confirmed to AFP that her body was brought in earlier this week.

“I have also had contact with the morgue and sadly I can confirm that she is dead,” Hana Edward, a prominent Iraqi rights activist who knew Nuaimi, told AFP.

From TheLocal.fr, alerting:

France slaps travel warnings on 40 countries

Following the beheading of a French hostage, authorities have expanded to 40 countries the list of places where French visitors should use “utmost vigilance”. Some on the list may surprise you.

With France carrying out air strikes against Isis in Iraq and one of its nationals beheaded at the hands of jihadists, French authorities have added new countries to a warning list for its citizens.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expanded the list from 31 to 40 countries on Thursday, warning French people to use their “utmost vigilance” if they visit these places.

Discouragement from Homeland Security News Wire:

New DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz said on Tuesday. Boston was chosen “for the strength of our existing relationships, community engagement and community oriented policing programs,” Ortiz added.

Reuters has numbers:

Nine Japanese said to have joined Islamic State

Nine Japanese nationals have joined Islamic State, Japan’s former air force chief, Toshio Tamogami, quoted a senior Israeli government official as saying, but the government’s top spokesman said on Friday it had not confirmed the information.

Tamogami, now a senior official of a tiny new political party, said on his blog that Nissim Ben Shitrit, the director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, told him this month that nine Japanese had taken part in Islamic State.

Asked about the possible participation of Japanese citizens in the militant group, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference, “The government has not confirmed such information.”

The Mainichi debunks:

FBI: About 12 Americans fighting in Syria, not 100

The U.S. believes there are about 12 Americans fighting alongside extremist groups in Syria, not more than 100, as has been cited for months.

That’s not to say there is no concern about these other 88 or so Americans who officials say have been killed, arrested, traveled or attempted to travel to join the fight. But the U.S. only knows of about 12 who are currently in Syria fighting, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.

The 100 figure, however, had taken on an urban legend status over the past few months as the Obama administration made its case to the American public for military action in Iraq and Syria. It’s unclear what significance the discrepancy has as far as Americans’ support for the U.S. military action, which so far has been strong.

And from the London Daily Mail, adding fool to the fire:

Hero company CEO, who works part time as a cop, shot Muslim convert employee, 30, as he BEHEADED female co-worker and stabbed another after trying to convince colleagues to join Islam

  • Alton Nolen, 30, had just been fired when he drove up to Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma and ‘attacked the first two people he saw’
  • He beheaded Colleen Hufford, 54, and stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, before Mark Vaughan, an off-duty officer and the company’s former owner, shot him
  • Nolen and Johnson are both being treated in hospital
  • Co-workers revealed that Nolen, who has an extensive rap sheet, had recently converted to Islam and had tried to get them to convert as well
  • He has a Jesus tattoo on his chest and a Muslim greeting inked on his abdomen, court records show
  • In 2010, after he eluded cops and sparked a massive overnight manhunt, he was ordered to take an anger management course
  • 911 call reveals the chaos inside the entrance to the building after the suspect entered and attacked at random before he was gunned down
  • FBI now investigating whether conversion to Islam linked to attack

Süddeutsche Zeitung has a blast from the hitherto secret past

The Aborted Origins Of The First Hunt For Osama Bin Laden

Some of the drones the United States used to hunt for Osama bin Laden were once piloted out of Ramstein Air Base in Germany, apparently without the knowledge of officials in Berlin.

It was known that the data for all drone attacks flowed through Ramstein, but according to both internal documents and U.S. officers, the drone pilots themselves were located there for at least part of the time (pictured: ground control station in New Mexico).

In the summer of 2000, (more than a year before the Sep. 11 attacks) a team from the U.S. Air Force 32nd Expeditionary Air Intelligence Squadron in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate began a remote-controlled drone hunt for Osama bin Laden. At the time, the CIA and the National Security Council were developing various plans to capture or kill bin Laden. The idea of armed drones was discussed, although at the time this was thoroughly new ground and the military was skeptical of their use.

TheLocal.dk covers a military hack attack:

Danish defence secrets obtained by foreign spies

Denmark’s largest weapons company and up to four other defence targets were successfully hacked over a period of four years, and signs point to China.

The Danish defence industry was the target of successful hacks by a foreign state, mostly likely China, DR reports. The news comes just days after DR revealed that sensitive Danish business information was obtained by state-sponsored hackers in 2012.

The defence hack was targeted at the Danish contributions to the American F35 Joint Strike Fighter jet programme.

Deutsche Welle ponders a visit:

Could Snowden come to Berlin?

  • German opposition members appealed to the country’s highest court to allow former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden to testify at a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin

A German parliamentary inquiry looking into US National Security Agency (NSA) spying in Germany initially decided it would not invite whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked the documents revelaing the US intelligence agency’s massive spy programs, to testify in Berlin.

The Green and Left opposition parties on Friday requested that the German Constitutional Court, the country’s highest legal institution, to rule on whether Snowden should testify in front of the inquiry committee in Berlin to provide a “global overview of the technical conditions of mass surveillance,” according to Greens lawmaker Konstantin von Notz.

Although the German government appears not to want to risk harming its relationship with the US by allowing Snowden to speak in Berlin, inquiry committee members from Germany’s governing parties have said they also want to hear from Snowden. They, however, want to do it via video link or in Russia, where Snowden currently lives in exile, rather than in the German capital.

From the Birmingham News, a very, very curious story:

Huntsville schools say call from NSA led to monitoring students online

A secret program to monitor students’ online activities began quietly in Huntsville schools, following a phone call from the NSA, school officials say.

Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski says the system began monitoring social media sites 18 months ago, after the National Security Agency tipped the school district to a student making violent threats on Facebook.

The NSA, a U.S. agency responsible for foreign intelligence, this week said it has no record of a call to Huntsville and does not make calls to school systems.

Regardless of how the program started, Huntsville City Schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence.

After the jump, apology rejected in Ferguson, military arrests in Mexico, Argentine tax cheats pursued by drones, Shellshock implacability, a horrendous online vulnerability revealed, Down Under spook spoofing Pakistan expands its nuclear horizons, censoring soaps in Thailand, An Internet purge in China, Hong Kong protests end in clash and Hillary’s chickens come home to roost, illustrative imprisonment in China, a Sino/Indian border spat,  Nazi-ness in Japan, and an attack of liberal newspaper. . . Continue reading

Big Data cyberstalking in the classroom


A 2012 video from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, a video distilling the inherent absurdities of the reductionism of the corporate quantifier when interjected into classroom:

Knewton – Education Datapalooza

Program notes:

What if your math syllabus could tell you what to eat for breakfast to score higher on your quiz tomorrow? Jose Ferreira, CEO of Knewton, shares his vision for a future where every student receives a truly personalized curriculum best suited to his or her needs. Knewton collects millions of data points about student users in order to provide them with more effective timing and content to enhance learning.

Such are the results of usually well-intentioned people seduced by the dream of reducing individuals to numbers in order to predict and shape behavior to meet the criteria set by like-minded and similarly schooled bureaucrats.

It helps, perhaps, that they are often further seduced by the notion of making millions. In the words of Tom Lehrer, “doing well by doing good.”

The problem with people, as with nature in general, is that complexity is the rule, not the exception, and attempting to constrain the actual to the numerical ideal often leads to the destruction of both.

From Lehrer & Anthems:

Tom Lehrer – The Old Dope Peddler

 

EbolaWatch: Numbers, quackery, aid, history


We open today’s compendium with the latest numbers, via Reuters:

West Africa Ebola Death Toll Passes 3,000-WHO

The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has risen to at least 3,091 out of 6,574 probable, suspected and confirmed cases, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

Liberia has recorded 1,830 deaths, around three times as many as in either Guinea or Sierra Leone, the two other most affected countries, according to WHO data received up to Sept. 23.

An outbreak that began in a remote corner of Guinea has taken hold of much of neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, prompting warnings that tens of thousands of people may die from the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

The WHO update said Liberia had reported six confirmed cases of Ebola and four deaths in the Grand Cru district, which is near the border with Ivory Coast and had not previously recorded any cases of Ebola.

The district of Kindia in Guinea also reported its first confirmed case, the WHO said, a day after it said the spread of Ebola appeared to have stabilised in that country.

China Daily delivers a call:

FM calls for action on Ebola

The growing threat posed by the West Africa Ebola outbreak requires the international community to take further actions to fight against the epidemic, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday.

Wang made the remarks at a high-level meeting on response to Ebola during the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Epidemics know no borders, and Ebola is a common challenge for all countries around the world and all lives are equal,” said Wang. “The international community should take further action to build up confidence, stay united in adversity and adopt resolute measures to contain the epidemic.”

Optimism from the New York Times:

Ebola Doctor Shortage Eases as Volunteers Begin to Step Forward

Doctors and nurses are finally volunteering to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa after a long period of paralyzing fear in which almost none stepped forward.

But, experts say, even though money is now pouring in from the World Bank, the Gates Foundation and elsewhere, and the United States Army is to start erecting field hospitals soon, there is likely to be a long gap before those hospitals can be fully staffed to care for the growing numbers of people sick with Ebola.

“As a result, thousands of people will die,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, which treats more patients than any other entity. “I can’t say the exact figure because we don’t know how many unreported cases there are. But thousands for sure.”

Star Africa News announces more help:

UK to build treatment center for Sierra Leone’s infected Ebola workers

To build confidence among a demoralized work force in Sierra Leone, Britain is building a 16-bed treatment center exclusively for health workers infected with the Ebola virus, Sierra Leone officials have said.

The West African country has lost about 50 health workers to the epidemic which continues to spread. Health workers are most at risk, due mainly to lack of proper training but also unavailability of protective gears. Nurses have been particularly restless witnessing so many of their colleagues dying.

Their frustration grows as foreign doctors are evacuated while local doctors are left to die at home where weak health systems leave very little chance for survival.

The Ministry of Information said Thursday the new facility being built by the British army is part of the UK`s rejuvenated support for the anti-Ebola effort.

From CCTV Africa, another report on the woeful shortages of treatment facilities, this time in Liberia:

Liberia’s Ebola Victims Dying at Home amid Shortage of Treatment Centres

Program notes:

Liberians have raised fresh concerns about a lack of Ebola treatment facilities. They say many victims of the virus have nowhere to go and instead stay at home. That increases the chances of infecting family members

Homeland Security News Wire covers a conundrum:

Models of Ebola spread cannot model people’s behavior

The most effective way to limit the spread of the Ebola virus is by tightly quarantining infected individuals in hospitals, Ebola treatment units (ETUs), or in their homes. The developer of a sophisticated model to predict the pace and scope of the spread of Ebola admits that the most important variable — predicting the most effective way to convince infected individuals to report their cases to health authorities and be admitted to a quarantined facility, or even just stay at home – is beyond the model’s reach. “The trouble is to get people to believe that going to the hospitals is in their best interest,” said CDC’s Dr. Martin Meltzer. “We’ve got to get people to understand that. You can go around to villages and cities and slums all you want and say, ‘If you’re ill, go to the hospital.’ Why should anybody believe? We can’t model that.”

In the early stages of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called the world’s first Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO), Doctors Without Borders, and other health-aid organizations worked to limit the spread of the disease by convincing patients to report their symptoms to doctors or let aid workers quarantine their homes and villages. The strategies deployed have had little positive effect on the two most affected countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The WHO recently reported that the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last three weeks. As of 25 September, the (CDC) recorded 6,263 cases of Ebola, resulting in 2,917 deaths.

From Star Africa News, a sign of tragic desperation:

Sierra Leonean minister advocates use of new drug to treat Ebola

Sierra Leone`s Information Minister, Alpha Kanu has said the controversial Ebola treatment solution, Nano Silver, does not need any approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that Sierra Leone was considering using it to treat Ebola patients.

Nano Silver is a natural solution-based treatment therapy. While it is not specifically made for Ebola but its proponents say it slows down the development of the virus. However, those opposed to it say it is unsafe.

Sierra Leone has been awaiting an assessment of a batch of the solution. Kanu, a chemist by training, has been a fervent supporter of the idea of deploying any treatment that can help alleviate the suffering of infected Ebola patients.

The US FDA is known to be vehemently opposed to the use of the drug which it considers as a fertilizer.

Not only is there no evidence whatsoever of the compound’s usefulness in treating Ebola, the main effect of its use seems to be in turning the skin blow.

On Monday [23 September] The Food and Drug Administration ordered the manufacturer, Natural Solutions Foundation of Newton, N.J., to stop promoting the compound’s use in treating the disease.

The letter noted some of the spurious claims falsely raising hopes in Africa:

On the home page you have a YouTube video embedded titled, “URGENT MESSAGE to EBOLA-STRICKEN NATIONS’  HEADS OF STATE.” In the video you state:

  • “As of now it is said that there is no treatment against Ebola, and that is not true. In fact there is a well-known, well characterized,  nutrient. That is Nano Silver….  [I]t does kill every pathogen against which it has been tested, worldwide, without exception. There is no other effective solution …Nano Silver …is unlimited in its effectiveness …[and is a] safe, non-toxic …and available solution against Ebola and every other communicable disease….”  (00:35- 2:12)

On your “Smoking Gun: US Suppressing Ebola Therapy Since 2009″ page, which is accessed from a link on your home page:

  • “2009 DOD Funded Study Finds Nano Silver Inhibits Ebola Virus”
  • “[] US GOVERNMENT  RESEARCH SHOW[S] THAT THERE IS A CURE FOR EBOLA …AND IT IS NANO SILVER. …” ·
  • “They DID come up with a cure, prevention and treatment for it [Ebola]: 10 PPM Nano Silver.”
  • “[] Nano Silver at 10 PPM IS the definitive prevention and therapy for Ebola virus…
  • [T]here is a cure, treatment and prevention for Ebola virus”
  • “[N]ano silver was known …as the definitive antiviral agent against Ebola virus[]”
  • “[] NANO SILVER, at 10 PPM, effectively kills the Ebola virus.”
  • “[T]here IS a …cure and prevention for Ebola Virus.”
  • “[T]he CBD will alleviate the terrible pain of the disease while the silver works its wonders….”

The FDA notes:

The therapeutic claims on your websites establish that the products are drugs because they are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. As explained further below, introducing or delivering these products for introduction into interstate commerce for such uses violates the Act.

Star Africa News covers a press crackdown:

S/Leone legislators summon radio manager over Ebola funds reportage

The Station Manager of a leading radio station in Sierra Leone’s Ebola-hit eastern Kenema District has been summoned to parliament over his handling of reportage of funds allocated to Members of Parliament (Mps).

The MPs are angry with the media over the manner they are reporting on the epidemic generally, but that anger took a dramatic turn recently when they themselves came on the spotlight for a controversial allocation of funds in the name of anti-Ebola sensitization.

Star Line Radio, located in Kenema, was one of the stations fingered for its “inciteful” coverage of the matter. Its Station Manager Sidie Yaya Fofanah was summoned to answer to questions by parliamentarians, some of whom have been calling for the station’s suspension for “irresponsible” reporting.

Mr. Fofanah is due to appear on Friday at what some journalists concerned about media freedom term as a trial of the media.

From Al Jazeera English, big help from a small country:

Cuba sends 300 more doctors to fight Ebola

  • Cuban government’s pledge comes as European health experts urge their governments to ramp up relief efforts in region

Cuba says it will send nearly 300 more doctors and nurses to West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic.

The Cubans will work in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Regla Angulo, head of the Cuban medical relief agency, said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement means that up to 461 Cuban medical personnel would have been sent to help address the epidemic spreading across West Africa.

Angulo said the staff were currently undergoing intense training ahead of their deployment, working in a mock field hospital of the kind they expected to find in the region.

Punch Nigeria delivers a warning:

Ebola: World Bank warns Nigeria against complacency

The World Bank has advised Nigeria not to become complacent over the success it has achieved in the management of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease.

At a briefing in Abuja on Friday, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Marie-Francois Marie-Nelly, commended Nigeria for the effective way it managed the outbreak of the disease but emphasised that the guard should not be lowered.

Marie-Nelly said although Nigeria had been able to contain the contagious disease, it was important all states of the federation should be on the watch in case of any eventuality.

From the Japan Times, another treatment in the offing:

Fujifilm says French Ebola patient is taking its Avigan drug

Fujifilm Corp. said its influenza medicine Avigan is being given to an Ebola patient at a French hospital along with another experimental drug, the latest treatments to be deployed in the global push to curtail the deadly virus.

The French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety asked for the drug and the female patient has been given the combination since Sept. 19, the Japanese company said in a statement Friday.

The Fujifilm treatment, also called Favipiravir, was discovered by Yousuke Furuta at the Toyama Chemical unit of Tokyo-based Fujifilm in 1998. It targets polymerase, an enzyme that viruses use to replicate inside the body, to stop the viruses from spreading.

To close, historical perspective from der Spiegel:

Interview with Ebola Discoverer Peter Piot: ‘It Is What People Call a Perfect Storm’

  • Almost four decades ago, Peter Piot was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus. In a SPIEGEL interview, he describes how the disease was isolated and explains why the current outbreak is different than any that have come before.

SPIEGEL: Professor Piot, as a young scientist in Antwerp, you were part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976. How did it happen?

Piot: I still remember exactly: One day in September, a pilot from Sabena Airlines brought us a shiny blue thermos and a letter from a doctor in Kinshasa in what was then Zaire. In the thermos, he wrote, there was a blood sample from a Belgian nun who had recently fallen ill from a mysterious sickness in Yambuku, a remote village in the northern part of the country. He asked us to test the sample for yellow fever.

SPIEGEL: These days, Ebola may only be researched in high security laboratories. How did you protect yourself back then?

Piot: We had no idea how dangerous the virus we were dealing with was. And there were no high security labs in Belgium back then. We just wore our white lab coats and protective gloves. When we opened the thermos, the ice inside had largely melted and one of the vials had broken. Blood and glass shards were floating in the ice water. We fished the other, intact test tube out of the slop and began examining the blood for pathogens using the methods that were standard at the time.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hysteria, hacks, pols


Today’s collection of headlines from the realm of threats and secrets, bombs and bugs, begins with a bit of déjà vu all over again from the Guardian:

US aims to wipe out Isis funding with air strikes on oil wells in Syria

  • Groups control an oil field for a few weeks until another leader seizes it while the engineers who serviced the wells have fled

The latest US air strikes in Syria targeted oil facilities controlled by Islamic State (Isis) in a deliberate attempt to wipe out a lucrative source of income for the rapidly expanding jihadist group.

US central command said 13 air strikes were launched against refineries in the east of the country. They included at least four oil installations and three oil fields around the town of Mayadeen. Also hit were targets near Al Hasakah, Abu Kamail and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates river.

The US said that these “small-scale refineries” provided fuel for Isis’s military operations as well as money to finance “continued attacks throughout Iraq and Syria”. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 14 Islamic state militants were killed in Wednesday’s attacks. Another five people who lived near one of the refineries in Hasakah province also died. The Observatory said that they were probably the wives and children of the militants.

From the Independent, a man with a point to make:

Iraq and Syria crisis: Iran’s President Rouhani accuses West of turning Middle East into ‘haven for terrorists’

President Hassan Rouhani delivered a searing indictment of western governments in a speech in New York saying they were responsible for sowing the seeds of the outbreak of extremism that has brought turmoil to the Middle East and demanded that they “acknowledge their errors” and apologise.

“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one,” Mr. Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly. “Currently our peoples are paying the price. Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism. Today’s anti-Westemism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism.”

“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists,’ President Rouhani declared. “Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East.”

And for anyone interested, here are his full remarks, via RT:

‘Certain states helped create Islamist extremism’ – Iran’s Rouhani to UN Gen Assembly

Program notes:

The rise of violent extremism around the world is the fault of “certain states” and “intelligence agencies” that have helped to create it and are failing to withstand it, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in an address to the UN General Assembly

BBC News responds:

French hostage beheading: France to boost Syria rebels

France has announced it will tighten security around transport and public places following the killing of a French hostage by jihadists in Algeria.

It will also boost its support for Syrian opposition forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The move was announced by the office of President Francois Hollande after a high-level emergency meeting.

Militants allied to IS killed French tourist Herve Gourdel after demanding that France halt air strikes on IS.

Allegations, via the Associated Press:

Iraqi PM: Plot to attack US, Paris Subways

Iraq’s prime minister said Thursday that captive Islamic State militants told his intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris.

A senior Obama administration official said no one in the U.S. government is aware of such a plot, adding that the claim was never brought up in meetings with Iraqi officials this week in New York. President Barack Obama met with al-Abadi Wednesday.

The administration official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Consequent disparagement from BBC News:

Islamic State crisis: US ‘no evidence’ of subway plots

US officials have no indication of a plot by Islamic State militants to attack underground rail systems in the US and Paris.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his intelligence officials had uncovered plans for such an attack. Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, he said the details he received looked credible.

But senior US sources have said they have no knowledge of a plot on any subway systems.

From BBC News, warming up the jets:

Islamic State air strikes in Iraq ‘would be legal’ – No 10

The Iraqi government’s request for support in its fight with Islamic State means UK air strikes in the country would be legal, Number 10 has said.

A summary of the government’s position said the call “provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces”.

On Friday MPs will debate a motion backing strikes against IS militants in Iraq – but not in Syria.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers recruits:

1,000 fighters from Asia join IS group: US commander

About 1,000 volunteers from the Asia-Pacific region have sought to join the Islamic State group, a senior military officer said on Thursday (Sep 25).

Admiral Samuel Locklear, who oversees American forces across Asia as head of Pacific Command, gave the estimate a day after the United States pushed for a resolution committing major powers to block the movement of foreign militants to Iraq and Syria.

“It certainly is an issue that we’re paying very close attention to today,” Locklear told a press conference in Washington. There’s probably been about 1,000 potential aspiring fighters that have moved from this region, based on kind of our overall assessment. That number could get larger as we go forward, but certainly that’s about the size or the magnitude that we perceive at this point in time,” the admiral said.

From Kyodo News, Abe antes up:

Abe pledges $50 mil. in humanitarian aid to stem Islamic State crisis

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $50 million in emergency aid for the Islamic State-induced humanitarian crisis in the Middle East in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.

World leaders have gathered in New York at a crucial time when the international community is grappling with three major issues — the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL, the Ukraine crisis and the outbreak of the Ebola virus striking West Africa.

The ISIL is “a serious threat to international order,” Abe said. “What is important now is preventing extremism from taking root while also responding swiftly to the region’s humanitarian crises.”

VICE News covers consequences:

Australia’s New Anti-Terror Campaign Backfires Against Its Own Citizens

This summer, as Australian domestic politics hit a tumultuous peak amid mass protests on the government’s draconian federal budget reforms, a complex conflict in far-flung lands threw a lifeline to the country’s leadership.

The Islamic State has posed a real and terrifying threat for thousands since the group began its violent offensive across Syria and Iraq. For Australia’s wildly conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, who has stumbled, winked, and nodded from one scandal to another, the crisis abroad has also presented a chance to redeem his drop in popularity at home.

At a key moment when the PM, elected in November 2013, was at risk of becoming mired in dissatisfaction over his unpopular social policies — including regressive stances on health, higher education, and climate change — the government’s new anti-terror campaign has tranquilized the public’s animosity. But the proposed raft of reforms presented with it has also opened the doors to increased anti-Muslim sentiment and threatens Australians’ right to free speech, movement, and fair prosecution.

“Tony Abbott is fully aware that potential threat plus strong leadership equals good poll outcomes,” Clive Williams, a former Australian military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism lecturer, told VICE News.

TheLocal.no covers noble aspirations:

‘Norway can stop drone war’: UN advisor

Norway has been urged by one of the UN’s top human rights advisors to challenge the US-led coalition for an end to the drone war, branding it ‘dangerous’ and ‘a violation of international law.’

Professor Christof Heyns asked Norway on Thursday to challenge its allies on the US’s use of armed drones which Heyns states violates international law and will, in the long run, make the world become a more dangerous place, reported NTB.

Heyns, who normally investigates and reports to the UN on extra-judicial and illegal executions, said: “The world listens to the voice of Norway for it is often the voice of reason.”

The professor thinks Norway should bring the case to a human rights council of the UN and the general assembly.

Drone ground rules advance, with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Drones for moviemaking win FAA approval

The government granted six movie and television production companies permission to use drones for filming, an important step toward greater use of the technology by commercial operators, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.

Dozens of other industries are lined up to follow Hollywood’s lead. Until now, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, had banned commercial drone operations with the exception of a lone oil company in Alaska.

The FAA permits come with limitations, including that the unmanned aircraft be used only in a restricted area, that they be flown under 400 feet in altitude and that flights last no more than 30 minutes at a time. Nighttime flights are prohibited, and reality television shows or other unscripted events won’t qualify for the permits.

From the London Daily Mail, utterly abominable bankster kill-switchcraft:

Driver nearly crashes when her car suddenly shut down on a busy interstate because auto lender hit remote kill switch when she missed a payment

  • T. Candice Smith had to have her car pushed out of on-coming traffic
  • Starter Interrupt Devices allow auto lenders to ‘shut down borrower’s cars at any moment’
  • The devices emit flashing lights, beeping noises and then shuts down the car and prevents it from starting
  • These devices have been installed in more than two million vehicles

T. Candice Smith, 31, and her friend were driving down a three-lane Las Vegas interstate in 2012 when her steering wheel began to lock up. The car’s engine stopped and Smith’s friend had to push the car to the side of the highway to avoid being hit.

Smith told the New York Times that the car’s shutdown wasn’t due to a mechanical failure — it was her auto lender.

Smith’s story is similar to that of many people who have borrowed from auto lenders that utilize what are called ‘Starter Interrupt Devices.’

From the Independent, another lethally trigger-happy cop:

‘Disturbing’ footage shows US officer asking to see man’s driving licence and then shooting him as he tries to fetch it

Shocking video footage has emerged of the moment a US patrol officer asked to see a man’s driving licence and then shot him as he reached inside his car to get it.

In a case described as “disturbing” by South Carolina police, state trooper Sean Groubert, 31, pulled driver Levar Edward Jones over at a petrol station in Colombia for allegedly not wearing his seatbelt while driving.

Footage captured by the dashboard of a patrol vehicle shows Groubert pulling up in front of Mr Jones’ car and asking to see his licence.

When the 35-year-old reaches into his car to fetch it, Groubert suddenly shouts: “Get out of the car!” and then “get on the ground!” while firing four shots at him. At least one of the bullets hit Mr Jones in the hip, leaving him requiring hospital treatment.

Here’s the video via The State in Columbia — and we suspect you can guess the respective skin colors of the shooter and his victim:

Sept 4 Groubert traffic stop

Program note:

Sept. 4, 2014 traffic stop by Trooper Sean Groubert of a motorist for a seat belt violation. The motorist was shot during the traffic stop.

And an update form USA Today:

Ex-S.C. trooper who shot unarmed man faces charges

A former South Carolina state trooper who shot an unarmed man was charged Wednesday with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Sean Groubert, 31, was booked at the Richland County Detention Center. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The charges were brought by the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which reviewed the findings of an investigation into the incident conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division.

The New York Times covers a rare thing, an apology:

Ferguson Police Chief Offers Apology to Michael Brown’s Family

The police chief of Ferguson, Mo., issued a rare public apology on Thursday, for the death of Michael Brown, addressing the Brown family directly in a short video posted online.

“I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” the police chief, Thomas Jackson, said, wearing a polo shirt and standing in front of an American flag.

“I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Chief Jackson said. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

Another case of lethal misconduct by people with badges from the Guardian:

Mentally ill North Carolina inmate held in solitary confinement dies of thirst

  • Medical Examiner’s Office said Anthony Michael Kerr died of severe dehydration in March of this year

A North Carolina inmate with mental illness who had been held in solitary confinement died of thirst, according to an autopsy report released Thursday.

Anthony Michael Kerr, 53, was found unresponsive in the back of a van on 12 March after being driven roughly three hours from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety subsequently fired a captain and four nurses at Alexander. A nurse and a staff psychologist resigned.

At the time, Public Safety Secretary Frank L Perry pledged an “an aggressive, yet thorough internal investigation” into Kerr’s death. However, nearly nine months later the agency has not made public any results of that probe.

From CCTV America, a mighty fine notion:

Denver police to record public interactions

Program note:

It’s a high-tech tool that could lessen tensions between the police officers and the citizens they’re paid to protect.

From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani cop turns religious executioner:

Policeman kills blasphemy accused in Adiala jail

A policeman shot two men in jail on Thursday, killing one accused of blasphemy and wounding another condemned to death on the same charge, lawyers and an activist said.

Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti was killed and 70-year-old British man Muhammad Asghar, who has a history of mental illness, was wounded in the attack in Rawalpindi, next to the capital, Islamabad.

In recent weeks, Bhatti had received death threats in prison from both inmates and guards, his family told a human rights group Life for All. He was being held in the same cell as Asghar.

From the Independent, and go they come with apple pie?:

Louisiana high school attempts to raise money raffling guns

An American high school band has attempted to raise money by raffling off guns, in a state which claimed the sixth highest number of firearm murders in the United States just three years ago.

Students at Ovey Comeaux High School, in Lafayette, Louisiana, attempted to sell 52 guns after successful similar fundraisers were held at two schools in neighbouring parishes.

Prolonging the fun, students planned to raffle off a gun every week for the next year, and had already sold an estimated 50 tickets at $50 each – totalling $2,600.

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