Category Archives: Media

InSecurityWatch: Robots, terror, hacks, drones


And a lot more.

We begin with a threat to jobs, one that will only get worse and lead to yet more global instability. First, from TheLocal.ch:

Nestlé to ‘employ’ robot clerks in Japan stores

Swiss-based food giant Nestlé says its Japan unit is hiring 1,000 robots as sales clerks at stores across the country.

The first batch of the robots — a chatty humanoid called Pepper — will report to work by the end of this year at outlets that sell coffee capsules and home espresso machines.

“From December, they will start selling coffee machines for us at big retail stores,” said Nestlé Japan spokeswoman Miki Kano.

“We are sure that our customers will enjoy shopping and being entertained by robots.”

More from PCMagazine:

Lowe’s Hires Robots for the Holidays

Lowe’s is hiring some new workers for the holiday season, but they’re not human.

The hardware store just announced plans to test customer service robots, which will be able to help you locate items in the store, and share real-time information about product promotions and inventory. Dubbed OSHbot, the robots can speak multiple languages and remotely connect with expert employees in other locations to answer project-related questions.

Unfortunately, the robots won’t yet be making an appearance at Lowe’s stores nationwide. Lowe’s will deploy two of the bots at its Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose, Calif. to see whether customers and employees embrace the technology.

The OSHbots roll right up to you, say hello, and ask what you need. They also feature 3D-scanning technology, so you can bring in a spare part, scan it under a 3D-sensing camera, and OSHbot will identify the product, tell you how much it costs, and then guide you to where you can find it on store shelves.

And another robotic development that’s particularly spooky, via United Press International:

Israeli company showcases manned/unmanned patrol boat

  • A patrol boat for homeland security applications that can operate autonomously or by personnel on board is being highlighted by Israel Aerospace Industries at an exhibition in France

A manned/unmanned patrol boat for homeland security and other applications is being highlighted in France this week by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The vessel being shown at the Euronaval International Naval Defense and Maritime Exhibition is the Katana, which the company launched earlier this year.

The Katana can operate autonomously through the use of an advanced command-and-control station or controlled by personnel on board.

On to the crisis of the year, via BBC News:

Islamic State crisis: Peshmerga fighters head to Turkey

Iraqi Kurdish forces are travelling to Turkey, from where they plan to cross into Syria to battle Islamic State (IS) militants besieging the town of Kobane.

Officials said a plane carrying 150 Peshmerga had left Irbil. Their heavy weapons will be transported by land.

Turkey agreed to the deployment last week after refusing to allow Turkish Kurds to cross the border to fight.

Earlier, the Turkish prime minister rejected claims that he was not doing enough to end the jihadists’ assault.

More from Reuters:

How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)

“Many antique collectors unwillingly support terrorists like Islamic State,” Michel van Rijn, one of the most successful smugglers of antique artifacts in the past century, told German broadcaster Das Erste this month.

And smuggling is booming in Iraq and Syria right now. In Iraq, 4,500 archaeological sites, some of them UNESCO World Heritage sites, are reportedly controlled by Islamic State and are exposed to looting. Iraqi intelligence claim that Islamic State alone has collected as much as $36 million from the sales of artifacts, some of them thousands of years old. The accounts data have not been released for verification but, whatever the exact number is, the sale of conflict antiquities to fund military and paramilitary activity is real and systematic.

Grainy video from soldiers fighting for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at Palmyra, an ancient capital in what is now Syria, shows delicate grave reliefs of the dead, ripped out, gathered up and loaded into the back of their truck. The soldiers present the heads of decapitated statues to the camera. Other stolen Palmyrene treasures were exposed by an undercover reporter for The Sunday Times. Sculptures, pillar carvings and glass vessels were found to be on sale for knock-down prices in Beirut, Lebanon. Roman vases had been robbed from graves and were being sold by the box.

And this from Der Spiegel:

Interview with an Islamic State Recruiter: ‘Democracy Is For Infidels’

  • How does Islamic State think? How do its followers see the world? SPIEGEL ONLINE met up with an Islamic State recruiter in Turkey to hear about the extremist group’s vision for the future.

The conditions laid out by the Islamist are strict: no photos and no audio recording. He also keeps his real name secret as well as his country of origin, and is only willing to disclose that he is Arab. His English is polished and he speaks with a British accent.

He calls himself Abu Sattar, appears to be around 30 years old and wears a thick, black beard that reaches down to his chest. His top lip is shaved as is his head and he wears a black robe that stretches all the way to the floor. He keeps a copy of the Koran, carefully wrapped in black cloth, in his black leather bag.

Abu Sattar recruits fighters for the terrorist militia Islamic State in Turkey. Radical Islamists travel to Turkey from all over the world to join the “holy war” in Iraq or Syria and Abu Sattar examines their motives and the depth of their religious beliefs. Several Islamic State members independently recommended Abu Sattar as a potential interview partner — as someone who could explain what Islamic State stands for. Many see him as something like an ideological mentor.

And on a related note, via Reuters:

U.S. boosts security at government buildings, citing calls by terrorist groups

The United States is stepping up security at government buildings in Washington and other major cities in response to “calls by terrorist organizations for attacks on the homeland and elsewhere,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday.

“Given world events, prudence dictates a heightened vigilance in the protection of U.S. government installations and our personnel,” Johnson said in a statement.

From Reuters, a reminder of an earlier regime change venture:

Libya near ‘point of no return’, U.N. says as fighting toll rises

Factional warfare in Libya is pushing the oil producer “very close to the point of no return”, the U.N. special envoy to the country said on Tuesday with efforts to bring about a ceasefire and political dialogue showing no result.

The death toll from two weeks of street fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist armed groups in the eastern city of Benghazi has risen to 170, medics said. Seven people were killed alone on Tuesday, 15 on Monday.

The North African country has had two governments and parliaments since a militia group from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli in August, setting up its own cabinet and assembly.

From BuzzFeed, can you say “Hubris”?:

Blackwater Founder Blames “Anti-War Left” For The Convictions Of Guards Who Killed Iraqi Civilians

“In the Vietnam War, the anti-war left went after the troops and this time they went after contractors and Blackwater represented anything they love to hate.”

The founder and former CEO of Blackwater Erick Prince blamed the anti-war left Tuesday for the conviction of four former guards for the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad.

“There’s a lot of politics that surrounds the event,” Prince said on NewsMax TV’s Midpoint. “The government spent tens of millions of dollars after this one case and a lot came after that Nisour Square event.”

“The bureaucratic attack the company withstand because of this. It’s all wrapped into the anger of the Iraq War. In the Vietnam War, the anti-war left went after the troops and this time they went after contractors and Blackwater represented anything they love to hate.”

Panopticon pervasiveness from the Guardian:

GCHQ views data with no warrant, government admits

  • GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material revealed in documents submitted to UK surveillance watchdog

British intelligence services can access raw material collected in bulk by the NSA and other foreign spy agencies without a warrant, the government has confirmed for the first time.

GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material are revealed in documents submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the UK surveillance watchdog, in response to a joint legal challenge by Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International. The legal action was launched in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations published by the Guardian and other news organisations last year.

The government’s submission discloses that the UK can obtain “unselected” – meaning unanalysed, or raw intelligence – information from overseas partners without a warrant if it was “not technically feasible” to obtain the communications under a warrant and if it is “necessary and proportionate” for the intelligence agencies to obtain that information.

The rules essentially permit bulk collection of material, which can include communications of UK citizens, provided the request does not amount to “deliberate circumvention” of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which governs much of the UK’s surveillance activities.

And from National Journal, we’ll show you yours if you’ll show us ours:

British Spies Allowed to Access U.S. Data Without a Warrant

Newly released documents from the British government reveal a lack of judicial oversight for how it sifts through communications data collected by the NSA and other foreign governments

British authorities are capable of tapping into bulk communications data collected by other countries’ intelligence services—including the National Security Agency—without a warrant, according to secret government documents released Tuesday.

The agreement between the NSA and Britain’s spy agency, known as Government Communications Headquarters or GCHQ, potentially puts the Internet and phone data of Americans in the hands of another country without legal oversight when obtaining a warrant is “not technically feasible.”

The data, once obtained, can be kept for up to two years, according to internal policies disclosed by the British government. GCHQ was forced to reveal that it can request and receive vast quantities of raw, unanalyzed data collected from foreign governments it partners with during legal proceedings in a closed court hearing in a case brought by various international human-rights organizations, including Privacy International, Liberty U.K., and Amnesty International. The suit challenges certain aspects of GCHQ’s surveillance practices.

Threatpost covers the bottom line:

Cyberespionage: ‘This Isn’t a Problem That Can Be Solved’

“This isn’t a problem that can be solved. Don’t think it has a solution,” Joel Brenner, former head of national counterintelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and former senior counsel at the NSA, said in a keynote speech at the Kaspersky Government Cybersecurity Forum here Tuesday. “We are economically interdependent with the Chinese in an extraordinary way.”

Brenner pointed out a number of factors that have hoped lead to the current state of affairs, including the interconnection of virtually every conceivable asset and what he says has been the stasis in defensive thinking and operations in the last 10 years or so.

“If you thought the state of cyber defense had become substantially better in the last ten years, you’d be wrong,” he said. “We’ve been walking backward on cybersecurity for more than a decade and we’ll continue to walk backward unless and until we can address the core issues. The defensive stance needs to change from filter and guard to hunt and kill.”

From the Japan Times, the high price of apocalyptic security:

Imminent U.S. revamp of nuclear weapons, subs and planes is too costly, some say

Over the next 30 years, Washington will have to overhaul or replace much of its nuclear arsenal, an effort that experts say could cost as much as a trillion dollars. The problems will lie in choosing what is truly indispensable, and in how to pay for it.

The congressionally mandated National Defense Panel put it bluntly in a July review of the Pentagon’s defense plans, saying the effort to build a new triad of nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines is “unaffordable” under present budget constraints.

With legislation in 2011 putting in place a decade of budget spending cuts, analysts say the White House will ultimately have to delay some systems, trim others or find more money. Most likely, it will have to do all three.

Gee, they’ve got mail! From the New York Times:

Report Reveals Wider Tracking of Mail in U.S.

In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.

The number of requests, contained in a 2014 audit of the surveillance program by the Postal Service’s inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax.

The audit, along with interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, offers one of the first detailed looks at the scope of the program, which has played an important role in the nation’s vast surveillance effort since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Kansas City Star’s Lee Judge offers his take on the snail mail “hack”:

BLOG Mailer

And they’re looking for more, via the Guardian:

FBI demands new powers to hack into computers and carry out surveillance

  • Agency requests rule change but civil liberties groups say ‘extremely invasive’ technique amounts to unconstitutional power grab

The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement that would grant it significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the US and around the world.

Civil liberties groups warn that the proposed rule change amounts to a power grab by the agency that would ride roughshod over strict limits to searches and seizures laid out under the fourth amendment of the US constitution, as well as violating first amendment privacy rights. They have protested that the FBI is seeking to transform its cyber capabilities with minimal public debate and with no congressional oversight.

The regulatory body to which the Department of Justice has applied to make the rule change, the advisory committee on criminal rules, will meet for the first time on November 5 to discuss the issue. The panel will be addressed by a slew of technology experts and privacy advocates concerned about the possible ramifications were the proposals allowed to go into effect next year.

South China Morning Post has the latest plumbing news:

FBI net closing on ‘Edward Snowden-style’ leaker of terror watch-lists

The net is closing on a second “Edward Snowden-style” whistle-blower who has reportedly been identified by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, it emerged yesterday.

Agents had identified an employee of a US contracting firm who was suspected of leaking a US government watch list of terrorists to a journalist linked to Snowden, Yahoo News reported.

Agents had reportedly searched the suspect’s home and a criminal investigation had been opened by prosecutors in the US state of Virginia. However, no one had been arrested or charged, the report said.

It is believed that the suspect was inspired by Snowden.

From the Associated Press, pressing the issue:

AP, Seattle Times object to FBI’s fake news story

The Associated Press and The Seattle Times are objecting after learning that the FBI created a fake news story and website using their names to catch a bomb threat suspect in 2007.

Police in suburban Lacey, near Olympia, sought the FBI’s help as repeated bomb threats prompted a week of evacuations and closures at Timberline High School in June 2007.

After police interviews of potential suspects came up empty, the agency obtained a warrant from a federal magistrate judge to send a “communication” to a social media account associated with the bomb threats, with the idea of tricking the suspect into revealing his location, according to documents obtained by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The “communication,” which contained a software tool known as a “computer and Internet Protocol address verifier,” turned out to be a link to a phony AP story about the bomb threats posted on a fake Seattle Times webpage. The 15-year-old suspect clicked on the link, revealing his computer’s location and Internet address, and helping agents confirm his identity.

The boy was arrested.

Defense One covers hackery:

NATO’s Take on Cyberspace Law Ruffles China’s Feathers

Recent revelations by a group of security researchers of another China-based hacking group, reportedly more sophisticated than Unit 61398, is likely to set off the usual recriminations and denials, but have very little impact on the U.S.-China bilateral relationship. The Chinese embassy has already responded that “these kinds of reports or allegations are usually fictitious,” a response that Robert Dix, vice president of government affairs for Juniper Networks, colorfully and baldly describes as the Chinese giving “a big middle finger to anybody in the United States that’s tried to out them or point fingers in their direction.”

The report on the group, called Axiom, describes a six-year campaign against companies, journalists, civil society group, academics, and governments, and may preclude any real discussion on cyber issues between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next week. There was, however, very little chance that their sidebar discussion was going to lead to major progress. The differences between the two sides are deep.

An article that ran last week in the People’s Liberation Army Daily [Chinese] criticizing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and efforts to develop the laws of armed conflict in cyberspace shows just how deep the differences are.

And from CNET, most interesting:

People trust NSA more than Google, survey says

  • In a result consistent with previous polling, a new poll has respondents claiming they’re more concerned about Google seeing all their private data than the government

People don’t always say what they think. Especially in business and love.

Please, therefore, consider this question: whom would you trust more with your private data: the NSA, a company like Google, or your mom?

I ask because I’m looking at the results of a survey, conducted between October 9 and12, that asked just that. It asked simple questions, to which its sponsors hoped to get simple answers.

The results went like this. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being “I am shivering uncontrollably with fear”) the idea of Google or a similar concern having access to all your private data got a concerned score of 7.39.

The idea of the NSA having its eyes and hands all over you? 7.06. What about your boss snooping? That merited a mere 6.85. While the notion of your parents knowing it all got a 5.93.

From PandoDaily, another reason to make you hinky about da Google:

You can run, but you can’t hide: Google expands its real-world surveillance system with Google Fit

The company has developed an application that allows Android smartphone owners to collect health-related information in one place. It’s called Google Fit, and besides challenging Apple’s HealthKit service, it also represents Google’s efforts to gather real-world data to complement the information it already has about the digital world.

It’s no longer enough for companies to track someone’s activity across the Web by monitoring their emails, analyzing their browsing history, or keeping tabs on their online searches. All that information now needs to be supplemented with data about what someone’s doing in the real world, whether that’s demonstrated through location tracking or through a health application.

Why else would so many companies rush to help people track their steps, count their calories, or collect other health-related information? It’s not just about making self quantification more convenient for the few self-obsessed consumers who actually use that information. It’s also about increasing the amount of information that can be offered to advertisers — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but certainly as soon as these companies can get away with it.

From the Daily Dot, can you hear them now?:

Verizon is launching a tech news site that bans stories on U.S. spying

  • Verizon is getting into the news business. What could go wrong?

The most-valuable, second-richest telecommunications company in the world is bankrolling a technology news site called SugarString.com. The publication, which is now hiring its first full-time editors and reporters, is meant to rival major tech websites like Wired and the Verge while bringing in a potentially giant mainstream audience to beat those competitors at their own game.

There’s just one catch: In exchange for the major corporate backing, tech reporters at SugarString are expressly forbidden from writing about American spying or net neutrality around the world, two of the biggest issues in tech and politics today.

Unsurprisingly, Verizon is deeply tangled up in both controversies.

After the jump, killing the Fourth Estate with impunity, blood on the newsroom floor, White House hackery, a major hack of a cell-phone-based electronic payment system, millions of Californians lose personal data to hackers, a major malware breach of Gmail Drafts, hacking arrests to come at an amoral media baron’s Old Blighty holding, feds crack down on stadium droners while others drones may carry heart-zappers, cops arm for violence in Ferguson, sending a battlewagon to bust grandpa, On to Mexico and probing for graves in the search for missing Mexican students as more arrests ensue and parents confront a president, a police purge in Venezuela, droning up Down Under as civil rights take a hit, an assassination plot in Bangldesh, on to Hong Kong and pressing the fight, two bizarre tales from North Korea, a call for a purge in a Japanese shrine, and those threatening clowns and trolls of Europe. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: Obama’s transparency fail


From Erik Wemple, writing in the Washington Post:

At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama hates the press”; and CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, who said, “This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”

USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page has added a sharper edge to this set of knives. Speaking Saturday at a White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) seminar, Page called the current White House not only “more restrictive” but also “more dangerous” to the press than any other in history, a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act.

The WHCA convened the event both to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not.

Peter Baker, the veteran Washington reporter from the New York Times, provided perhaps the best instance of White House-administered madness. In covering a breaking story recently, Baker received a note from a White House handler indicating that President Obama had been briefed on the matter in question.

That information came to Baker “on background.” The gist: Not from me — a meeting has occurred..

InSecurityWatch: Canada, war, spies, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

We begin with a familiar routine, this time with Canada sacrificing civil liberties, via Reuters:

Canada must do more to rein in threat from radicals: police head

The head of Canada’s national police told a parliamentary committee on Monday the government must do more to stop homegrown radicals, such as those who killed two soldiers on home soil last week, from going overseas for militant training.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said last week’s killings in Ottawa and outside Montreal, which he said appeared to be carried out with minimal planning or preparation, show the nation faces a “serious” threat.

“While we are facing this threat at home, we must focus our efforts on preventing individuals traveling abroad to commit to commit acts of terrorism,” Paulson said. “Preventing the individuals from traveling is critical. If these individuals return with training and/or battle experience, they pose an even greater threat to Canada and our allies.”

More from Xinhua:

Canadian government introduces protection of Canada from terrorists act

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney Monday announced that the Canadian government has introduced the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act to better protect Canadians.

The announcement came five days after an armed terrorist stormed into the Canadian parliament after killing a soldier at the War Memorial nearby last Wednesday. The attacker, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a homegrown radical, was killed later by security officers in the parliament.

Blaney said terrorism remains a serious threat to Canada and Canadian interests. The nature of this threat continues to be apparent both abroad and at home.

And from The National, a surprisingly realistic assessment:

Panel: What do we sacrifice to be safe?

Program notes:

Given the killings of two Canadian soldiers this week, should police and intelligence officials have more power to stop terror attacks and other security threats? Brian Stewart, Veronica Kitchen and Barry Cooper talk through the implications.

From Reuters, China follows the same course:

China to streamline counter-terrorism intelligence gathering

China will set up a national anti-terrorism intelligence system, state media said on Monday, as part of changes to a security law expected to be passed this week after an upsurge in violence in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Hundreds of people have been killed over the past two years in Xinjiang in unrest the government has blamed on Islamists who want to establish a separate state called East Turkestan.

Rights groups and exiles blame the government’s repressive policies for stoking resentment among the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang home.

More from SINA English:

China to set up anti-terror intelligence gathering center

China will set up an anti-terrorism intelligence gathering center to coordinate and streamline intelligence gathering in the field, according to a draft law submitted for reading on Monday.

The counter-terrorism law aimed to improve intelligence gathering and the sharing of information across government bodies and among military, armed police and militia, and enhance international cooperation, said Lang Sheng, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the top legislature.

Explaining the draft to lawmakers, Lang said China is facing a serious and complex situation against terrorism, with more influence from “international factors.”

And in Old Blighty, a trial date is set, via the Guardian:

June trial for four accused of Isis plot to kill police and soldiers in London

  • Group allegedly swore allegiance to Islamic State and carried out “hostile reconnaissance” on military targets

Four men accused of a terror plot to kill police or soldiers in London will face a jury next June, a court has heard.

The four are alleged to have sworn allegiance to Islamic State (Isis) and carried out “hostile reconnaissance” on police and military targets, as part of a plot in which a gun, silencer and ammunition were obtained, as well as a moped.

The four men, all from London, appeared at the Old Bailey on Monday. Tarik Hassane, 21, Suhaib Majeed, 20, and Momen Motasim, 21, appeared by video link, speaking only to confirm their names. A fourth man, Nyall Hamlett, 24, appeared in the dock.

From the Intercept, a symptom of endless war:

Iraq War Now Being Fought By People Who Were Just Kids When It Started

Last week, the Pentagon announced the death of the first American serviceman in the war against ISIS. Marine Lance Cpl. Sean Neal was killed in what was described as a “non-combat incident” in Iraq, making him the first American to die in “Operation Inherent Resolve” – America’s latest military excursion into that country.

Cpl. Neal was only 19 years old. He would have only been eight at the outset of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and merely six on 9/11 – a child at the time of both these events.  The fact that he ended up losing his life in Iraq is on one hand tragic, and on the other completely absurd.

The tragedy here is that a young man with a long future ahead of him ended up dying in a distant country before even reaching the age of twenty. The absurdity is that men such as him are still losing their lives as a result of still-inexplicable decisions made over a decade ago. The Iraq War never ended, but now it’s being fought by men who were just children when it started. Walter Lippman once said, “I don’t think old men ought to promote wars for young men to fight.” In our time, old men have been promoting wars that kids would ultimately end up fighting.

The New York Times ups the ante:

Missiles of ISIS May Pose Peril for Aircrews in Iraq

From the battlefield near Baiji, an Islamic State jihadist fired a heat-seeking missile and blew an Iraqi Army Mi-35M attack helicopter out of the sky this month, killing its two crew members.

Days later, the Islamic State released a chilling series of images from a video purporting to capture the attack in northern Iraq: a jihadist hiding behind a wall with a Chinese-made missile launcher balanced on his shoulder; the missile blasting from the tube, its contrail swooping upward as it tracked its target; the fiery impact and the wreckage on a rural road.

The helicopter was one of several Iraqi military helicopters that the militants claim to have shot down this year, and the strongest evidence yet that Islamic State fighters in Iraq are using advanced surface-to-air missile systems that pose a serious threat to aircraft flown by Iraq and the American-led coalition.

From the Associated Press, nothing succeeds like failure:

INSIDE WASHINGTON: Profiting from failure

The Army’s $5 billion intelligence network has largely failed in its promise to make crucial data easily accessible to soldiers and analysts in the field. But for a select group of companies and individuals, the system has been a bonanza.

Designed to provide a common intelligence picture from the Pentagon to the farthest reaches of Afghanistan, the Distributed Common Ground System has proven crash-prone, unwieldy and “not survivable,” in the words of one memorable 2012 testing report.

Meanwhile, the defense companies that designed and built it continue to win multi-million-dollar intelligence contracts. And a revolving door has spun between those and the military commands that continue to fund the system, records show.

Several people who worked in key roles in Army intelligence left for top jobs at those companies. In the world of government contracting, that’s not illegal or entirely uncommon, but critics say it perpetuates a culture of failure.

Legal challenges, via the Associated Press:

NSA surveillance challenges moving through courts

While Congress mulls how to curtail the NSA’s collection of Americans’ telephone records, impatient civil liberties groups are looking to legal challenges already underway in the courts to limit government surveillance powers.

Three appeals courts are hearing lawsuits against the bulk phone records program, creating the potential for an eventual Supreme Court review. Judges in lower courts, meanwhile, are grappling with the admissibility of evidence gained through the NSA’s warrantless surveillance.

Advocates say the flurry of activity, which follows revelations last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of once-secret intelligence programs, show how a post-9/11 surveillance debate once primarily hashed out among lawmakers in secret is being increasingly aired in open court — not only in New York and Washington but in places like Idaho and Colorado.

“The thing that is different about the debate right now is that the courts are much more of a factor in it,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. Before the Snowden disclosures, he said, courts were generally relegated to the sidelines of the discussion. Now, judges are poised to make major decisions on at least some of the matters in coming months.

From Yahoo News, the second Snowden?:

Feds identify suspected ‘second leaker’ for Snowden reporters

  • The FBI recently searched a government contractor’s home, but some officials worry the Justice Department has lost its ‘appetite’ for leak cases

The FBI has identified an employee of a federal contracting firm suspected of being the so-called “second leaker” who turned over sensitive documents about the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case.

The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect’s home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said.

But the case has also generated concerns among some within the U.S. intelligence community that top Justice Department officials — stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases — may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern “there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases.”

From Gallup, a source of high anxiety:

Hacking Tops List of Crimes Americans Worry About Most

As the list of major U.S. retailers hit by credit card hackers continues to grow this year, Americans are more likely to worry about having credit card information they used in stores stolen by computer hackers than any other crime they are asked about. Sixty-nine percent of Americans report they frequently or occasionally worry about this happening to them. Having a computer or smartphone hacked (62%) is the only other crime that worries the majority of Americans.

Here’s the full list of America’s top criminal worries:

BLOG Compucrime

A security breach, via SecurityWeek:

Tor Exit Node Found Maliciously Modifying Files

A researcher has identified an exit node on the Tor anonymity network which is set up to maliciously modify the files that go through it.

Josh Pitts, a researcher with the Leviathan Security Group, has been analyzing ways to alter binary files during download with the aid of man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. In a presentation he made at the DerbyCon security conference this year, the expert noted that cybercriminals had probably been using techniques similar to the one he disclosed, but he only had circumstantial evidence.

To put his theory to the test, Pitts developed a module for Exitmap, a Python-based tool that allows users to check Tor exit nodes for traffic modifications. Roughly an hour after he started running the tool, the researcher identified a “very active” Russian exit node that was wrapping binary files that passed through it with malware.

Network World covers another costly hack attack:

Disaster as CryptoWall encrypts US firm’s entire server installation

“Here is a tale of ransomware that will make your blood run cold,” announced Stu Sjouwerman of security training firm KnowBe4 in a company newsletter this week and he wasn’t exaggerating.

One of his firm’s customers contacted him on 14 October for advice on how to buy Bitcoins after all seven of its servers containing 75GB of data had been encrypted by a recent variant of the hated CryptoWall ransom Trojan.

An admin had clicked on a phishing link which was bad enough. Unfortunately, the infected workstation had mapped drives and permissions to all seven servers and so CryptoWall had quickly jumped on to them to hand the anonymous professional a work day to forget.

From SecurityWeek, not altogether surprising:

Hackers Target Ukraine’s Election Website

Hackers attacked Ukraine’s election commission website Saturday on the eve of parliamentary polls, officials said, but they denied Russian reports that the vote counting system itself had been put out of action.

The http://www.cvk.gov.ua site, run by the commission in charge of organising Sunday’s election, briefly shut down. Ukrainian security officials blamed a denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, a method that can slow down or disable a network by flooding it with communications requests.

“There is a DDoS attack on the commission’s site,” the government information security service said on its Facebook page.

The security service said the attack was “predictable” and that measures had been prepared in advance to ensure that the election site could not be completely taken down.

Network World covers metastasis:

The ‘Backoff’ malware linked to data breaches is spreading

The number of computers in North America infected by the Backoff malware, which is blamed for a string of payment card breaches, has risen sharply, according to research from network security company Damballa.

The company detected a 57 percent increase between August and September in devices infected with Backoff, which scrapes a computer’s RAM for leftover credit card data after a payment card has been swiped, said Brian Foster, Damballa’s CTO.

Damballa based its finding on data it collects from its ISP and enterprise customers, who use its traffic analysis products to detect malicious activity.

Damballa sees about 55 percent of internet traffic from North America, including DNS requests, though for privacy reasons it doesn’t know the IP addresses of most of those computers, Foster said.

From BuzzFeed, America’s finest allies, at it again:

Saudi Lawyers Sentenced To Eight Years Behind Bars For Tweeting

The criminal court, which usually tries terrorism cases, said that the lawyers’ actions on Twitter “undermines general order.”

A Saudi Arabian court on Monday sentenced three lawyers to up to eight years in jail for sending tweets critical of the government.

The tweets were directed against the justice ministry, which has since 2010 promised to reform the courts system and codify just how the country’s legal adherence to Sharia law works.

Prosecutors charged the three lawyers with “contempt of the judiciary, interfering with its independence, criticizing the justice system and the judiciary.”

For unexplained reasons, the case took place under the auspices of the Specialized Criminal Court — which was created in 2008, ostensibly to conduct trials against suspected terrorists.

After the jump, ghosts from World War II including Italian compensation demands to Germany and the Greek demand for repayment of war debt incurred at gunpoint plus Uncle Sam’s Nazi minions, latter-day wannabes, rising pressure over a murdered Mexican journalist, arrests in the case of the missing Mexican students as a town waits for answers and a new governor is named, repression in Egypt, India builds up its military, China and Vietnam seeks maritime accommodation, on to Hong Kong and Beijing allegations and a media campaign, China accuses Taiwan of spy games, and America’s Kafka Kops. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Fears, pols, profits, and Africa


And after the jump, there’s an extensive compendium of reports from African news media covering the crisis day-to-day.

First, a warning from South China Morning Post:

Ebola outbreak will hit China, virus pioneer Peter Piot warns

  • Number of workers in Africa raises threat, says Peter Piot, who also dismisses HK screening

One of the scientists who discovered Ebola has warned that China is under threat from the deadly virus because of the huge number of Chinese workers in Africa.

Professor Peter Piot also made the grim prediction that Ebola would claim thousands more lives in the months ahead.

“It will get worse for a while, and then hopefully it will get better when people are isolated,” said Piot, who is in Hong Kong for a two-day symposium. “What we see now is every 30 days there is a doubling of new infections.” He estimated the epidemic would last another six to 12 months.

“In Africa, there are many Chinese working there. So that could be a risk for China in general, and I assume that one day [an outbreak of Ebola in China] will happen,” said Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

More from the New York Times:

As Ebola Spreads, Asia Senses Vulnerability

“What happened in the [United] States took us by surprise,” said Louis Shih, the president of the Hong Kong Medical Association. “We were sort of feeling like, ‘Oh, don’t worry’ — the medical sector is now quite alarmed.”

An analysis published online last week by The Lancet, a medical journal, reviewed International Air Transport Association data for flights from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 this year, as well as data from 2013, out of the three countries in West Africa with the biggest outbreaks of Ebola virus: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It found that six of the top nine estimated destinations for travelers from these countries were elsewhere in Africa. The others were in Europe: Britain, France and Belgium.

But the 10th-largest destination was China. India was 13th. (Mali, a West African country that reported its first Ebola death on Friday, was 11th, and the United States was 12th.)

And another warning from the NewDawn in Monrovia, Liberia:

Ebola’s Next Frontier

Which countries, beyond those in West Africa, are most susceptible to the Ebola epidemic? Most epidemiologists do not fear much for the developed world, with its effective quarantine measures and tracking procedures, or even for sparsely populated developing countries. An outbreak could easily be contained in both groups of countries. But large, densely populated areas, lacking the proper containment mechanisms are highly vulnerable.

India, with its large emigrant population (the second largest in the world), high urban density, and inadequate public health-care infrastructure, potentially has the most to lose if the Ebola virus spreads. Links to West Africa are close and go back over the last century, with almost 50,000 Indians or people of Indian origin living in the region.

Indeed, scores of people fly between Accra, Lagos, Freetown, Monrovia, or Abidjan and New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, or Chennai on a daily basis, transiting through the Middle East or Europe. While exit controls are in place in all of the international airports in the affected regions, the virus’s incubation period (which averages eight days in the current outbreak but can be up to 21 days) means that someone with no symptoms from a recent infection could make the trip to India without triggering alarms.

The Los Angeles Times has the domestic scare de jour:

Child is being tested for Ebola in New York; mother in quarantine

A child who had recently been in the Ebola-affected nation of Guinea took ill in New York City on Sunday night and is being isolated at a hospital, health officials said Monday.

The child was being tested for Ebola, and results were expected by the afternoon, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a statement.

The patient was taken to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and did not have a fever when first examined there but developed one around 7 a.m., the department said.

The child’s mother is being quarantined at Bellevue and has “no symptoms whatsoever,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Monday news conference.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the denouement:

New York 5-year-old tested negative for Ebola

An unidentified minor who recently arrived in the United States from West Africa and was placed in isolation over concerns that he might have contracted Ebola tested negative for the virus Monday, New York City health officials said.

“Out of an abundance of caution, further negative Ebola tests are required on subsequent days to ensure that the patient is cleared,” according to a statement from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The patient will also be tested for common respiratory viruses. The patient will remain in isolation until all test results have returned.”

Once positive, now negative, via the Los Angeles Times:

Nurse quarantined in New Jersey tests negative for Ebola, can go home

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday that a nurse who was quarantined in Newark after returning from treating Ebola-afflicted people in West Africa would be released and allowed to go home after she tested negative.

Christie’s move followed a barrage of criticism from civil rights groups, aid agencies and White House officials, who said the quarantine measures announced Friday would discourage much-needed medical personnel from going to fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Nurse Kaci Hickox complained that she was put in an unheated tent on the grounds of Newark University Hospital after returning from Sierra Leone on Friday. She tested negative for Ebola, which has a 21-day incubation period.

In a statement Monday from New Jersey’s department of health, officials said Hickox “has thankfully been symptom free for the past 24 hours.”

Reuters coveys a plea:

Don’t let quarantine hysteria deter Ebola health workers: U.N.

Governments must not deter health workers from coming to West Africa to fight Ebola and quarantine decisions should not be based on hysteria, the head of the U.N. mission battling the virus said on Monday.

The U.S. states of New York, New Jersey and Illinois have issued new quarantine rules for people returning from West Africa in response to fears that U.S. federal guidelines do not go far enough to contain an outbreak centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that has infected 10,000 people.

Some groups have challenged the rules as too extreme and a nurse who was quarantined after returning from Sierra Leone criticised her isolation on Sunday saying she posed no health threat.

“Anything that will dissuade foreign trained personnel from coming here to West Africa and joining us on the frontline to fight the fight would be very, very unfortunate,” Anthony Banbury, head of the U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER), told Reuters.

More from The Hill:

CDC wants tight restrictions on only high-risk Ebola workers

The Obama administration is pushing back against several states’ quarantine policies for Ebola health workers, unveiling new restrictions Monday that apply only to “high-risk” individuals returning from West Africa.

The guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stop far short of 21-day quarantines imposed by several states that have been heavily criticized by public health experts and the Obama administration.

Only individuals known to have direct exposure to the disease, such as a family member who cared for an Ebola patient without protective gear, are told to remain home under the new recommendations.

Surveillance from Reuters:

Virginia to boost Ebola monitoring, state health official says

Virginia will boost Ebola monitoring for travelers arriving from the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, state Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine said on Monday.

All travelers will be assessed for Ebola and for their health status, Levine said on a conference call. They will be required to sign an agreement to follow health care steps such as taking temperatures, she said

From Reuters, a story about one prominent political figure willing to abide by any quarantines in effect on her return to the U.S. from the hot zone:

Samantha Power will “abide” by quarantine requirements – State Dept.

Program notes:

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is not expected to visit any Ebola treatment centers during her trip to West Africa but will abide by any relevant quarantine requirements, the State Department says

Another quarantine development from Reuters:

U.S. isolates soldiers after Ebola response mission in West Africa

The U.S. Army has started isolating soldiers returning from an Ebola response mission in West Africa, even though they showed no symptoms of infection and were not believed to have been exposed to the deadly virus, officials said on Monday.

The decision goes well beyond previously established military protocols and came just as President Barack Obama’s administration sought to discourage precautionary quarantines being imposed by some U.S. states on healthcare workers returning from countries battling Ebola.

The Army has already isolated about a dozen soldiers upon their return this weekend to their home base in Vicenza, Italy. That includes Major General Darryl Williams, the commander of U.S. Army Africa, who oversaw the military’s initial response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Another front-line contingent from the New York Times:

For New York Crew, Fighting Ebola With Brush and Cleanser

Around the time New Yorkers started fretting over the city’s first diagnosis of Ebola last Thursday, Sal Pain began drawing up plans for four decontamination chambers, customized for a cramped Harlem hallway.

The narrow dimensions of the hallway — it was only four feet wide — outside the fifth-floor apartment Dr. Craig Spencer, the Ebola patient, shares with his fiancée was among the more difficult situations confronted by hazardous-materials workers in their efforts to contain the Ebola virus. The standard decontamination station, a bulging, inflatable unit, would not do.

So Mr. Pain, the chief safety officer for Bio-Recovery Corporation, which has cleaned Dr. Spencer’s apartment and the Gutter, a bowling alley Dr. Spencer had visited in Brooklyn, improvised. He lined the hallway walls with 6 millimeters of plastic on Friday morning, and then made a frame out of PVC pipe. About 12 hours later, after sterilizing everything from four bicycles to a cuticle cutter, the 10-member crew stood in the hallway and washed themselves with chemical and water showers.

Scapegoating from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Anguished and afraid, West Africans in U.S. stay clear of new arrivals

Charlotte, N.C., merchant Tonieh Ross says her heart cries for the orphaned children back home in Liberia who aren’t getting the hugs they so need, for fear of the deadly Ebola virus.

Ross, the owner of the Virtuous D Boutique, also frets about her younger sister in Monrovia, Eugenia, whose paycheck disappeared when her employer shuttered his business and left the disease-ravaged country. Now Eugenia is among some 20 desperate Liberians, mostly children, phoning Ross “over and over and over until something happens” – that is, until she or her friends send money or food, she said.

“I have given everything just to be available and help my country,” Ross said.

While Ross and other West Africans living in cities across America are traumatized by images of suddenly orphaned kids or children lying ill in the streets in their native lands, they also live in fear themselves.

They know they may be among U.S. residents facing the greatest risk of exposure to the deadly disease. Visitors and immigrants from Ebola-stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea are likely to first visit or live among their friends and relatives, just as Thomas Eric Duncan planned to do when he flew to Dallas before taking ill with Ebola, infecting two nurses. He died Oct 8.

More from BuzzFeed:

Two Senegalese Boys Got Beat Up And Called “Ebola” In New York City

Local lawmakers called the attack a “hate crime” and warned of a “bullying crisis” stemming from misinformation about the Ebola virus. Members of New York City’s West African community complained that people are avoiding their businesses for fear of contracting the disease.

Two Senegalese-American middle school students were taken to the hospital on Friday after suffering a beating at the hands of their classmates, in an attack apparently motivated by fear of the Ebola virus that local lawmakers called a “hate crime.”

The attack took place at Intermediate School 318 in the Bronx, where the students — brothers Abdou and Amedou Drame — are enrolled in the eighth and sixth grades. The students recently arrived to the United States from Senegal. Both of the boys suffered minor injuries and were released from the hospital later on Friday.

Speaking at a Monday press conference at the Harlem headquarters of the Association of Senegalese in America, Rep. José Serrano and State Sen. Bill Perkins called the attack a “hate crime” and warned of rising discrimination and xenophobia against West Africans in the wake of the Ebola epidemic.

From the Associated Press, a very important question:

Could more have been done for Thomas Eric Duncan?

Dr. Thomas Geisbert, an Ebola expert at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said he had trouble understanding why four days elapsed between Duncan’s confirmed test results on Sept. 30 and his first treatment. And he was surprised by the choice of experimental drug given to Duncan.

“The guys who do what I do, working in this field, find it puzzling,” said Geisbert, a professor of microbiology and immunology who has been studying Ebola since the early 1990s and was consulted on two of the U.S. cases. “It kind of came out of left field. I think the jury is still out on why this would have any activity against Ebola.”

Although treatments have varied, ZMapp and TKM-Ebola are the only drugs proven to protect nonhuman primates from Ebola, Geisbert said.

While the manufacturer of ZMapp ran out of the drug before Duncan’s diagnosis, limited doses of TKM-Ebola were available, according to Julie Rezler, a spokeswoman for the drugmaker, Tekmira.

The latter was given to Dr. Rick Sacra, an American physician who was infected with Ebola in Liberia. He was treated at a Nebraska hospital and released healthy on Sept. 25, five days before blood tests confirmed Duncan’s diagnosis.

Other survivors include American medical missionaries Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who received doses of ZMapp in Liberia before they were flown to the United States.

Quarantine at the Aussie border from BBC News:

Australia suspends visas for people travelling from Ebola-hit countries

Australia temporarily stops issuing visas to people from countries affected by Ebola, in a bid to stop the virus from entering the country.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told parliament that Australia would suspend its immigration programme for such travellers.

The restriction comes after an 18-year-old who arrived from West Africa earlier this month was admitted to hospital with a fever. She later tested negative for Ebola.

Mr Morrison said on Monday that those who have received non-permanent or temporary visas and who have not yet left for Australia will have their visas cancelled. Those with permanent visas can enter the country, but have to be quarantined for 21 days prior to arriving.

While the Guardian covers more Australian concerns:

Australia seeks hospital back-up for volunteers in Ebola-hit countries

  • As Coalition signals change in policy on relief workers, minister wants to ensure that Australians can call on western-run medical treatment

The Abbott government is considering whether western-run field hospitals in west Africa would have the capacity to cater for any Australian health volunteers who contract Ebola, and what quarantine rules should apply to workers when they return home.

Australia has previously resisted calls to send medical experts to the region on the basis that it has been unable to secure iron-clad guarantees from other countries to help transfer volunteers in the event they contracted the virus.

The health minister, Peter Dutton, signalled on Monday that the government would “have further comments to make in relation to these matters” and was considering whether health workers would have access to “appropriate medical assistance on the ground”.

And the Italians act on theirs, via TheLocal.it:

US troops isolated in Italy over Ebola fears

US troops returning from West Africa are being placed under isolation at a base in Italy as a precaution to prevent the potential spread of the Ebola virus, the Pentagon said on Monday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the army directed a small number of personnel, about a dozen, that recently returned to Italy, to be monitored in a separate location at their home station of Vicenza,” spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

But he added: “None of these individuals have shown any symptoms of exposure.”

Major General Darryl Williams, who stepped down Saturday as head of the military mission in Liberia helping to fight the Ebola outbreak, and 11 members of his staff, were assigned to a separate location at the base in Italy and were being monitored by a medical team, Warren said.

From El País, a quarantine ends:

Ebola victim’s husband released from hospital after 21 days in isolation

  • Javier Limón will speak to the media on Monday afternoon to discuss plans for legal action

The husband of Teresa Romero, the Spanish nursing assistant who became the first known Ebola transmission case outside of Africa, has been discharged from hospital.

Javier Limón left Carlos III Hospital in Madrid after spending 21 days in isolation because of his close contact with the infected patient. He did not develop any Ebola symptoms, health officials said.

Limón, who has been acting as a buffer between his wife and the outside world, where media interest in the couple remains huge, left in the company of his lawyer at 9.45am. He used a different entrance from the one where journalists and camera crews were waiting for him, around 400 meters away.

And fury ensues. Via TheLocal.es:

They treated us as scum: husband of Ebola nurse

The husband of Spanish nursing assistant Teresa Romero who beat the Ebola virus has slammed the handling of the country’s Ebola crisis as a “complete disaster”, saying he now plans to take Madrid’s health boss to court over comments made about him and his wife.

“They laughed at us, they treated us like scum,” said Romero’s huband Javier Limón in an interview with Spain’s El Mundo newspaper.

“They destroyed our life, they killed our dog, and they nearly killed my wife,” said an angry Limón who left Madrid’s Carlos III hospital on Monday morning after three weeks in isolation.

“On top of all that, this guy comes out and says that my wife — who volunteered (to treat two Ebola-infected Spanish missionaries who were repatriated to Spain) — is a liar, that she lied about her fever,” said Limón, referring to controversial comments by Madrid’s regional health chief, Javier Rodríguez.

A Tokyo tempest from the Japan Times:

Man arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda airport tested for Ebola

A man in his 40s who arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport Monday after spending two months in Liberia was found to have a fever, and officials decided to check him for Ebola, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

The result of the blood test at a Tokyo research facility will be known early Tuesday, the officials said.

The man, reportedly a 45-year-old journalist whose name was not released, was transported to the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Shinjuku Ward. The blood test was conducted at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo.

And the result, from Nikkei Asian Review:

Tests find no Ebola for suspected case in Japan

A viral summit from the Japan Times:

Cabinet preparing to hold Ebola prevention meeting

A select group of Cabinet ministers will meet soon to discuss countermeasures for the deadly Ebola virus, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Monday.

Shiozaki told reporters about the plan after meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier in the day. Abe instructed him to hold the ministerial meeting as soon as possible, according to Shiozaki.

He also told Shiozaki to formulate thorough measures against Ebola and strengthen cooperation among the ministries and agencies, with relevant developments to be reported to the National Security Council.

After the jump, insurance companies play the Ebola policy game, a Big Pharma wager, belated approval of crucial equipment on to Africa and a regional assessment, a plea for help from afflicted nations and a European call for thousands of helpers for African work, the depleted ranks on the ground, on to Sierra Leone and new anti-Ebola measures that inflict their own hardships and high praise for burial measures, then on to Liberia and cremations aplenty spelling bad news for coffin-makers, pairing survivors with orphans, another sad impact on a devastated healthcare system, an American mission underway, movie night in an Ebola ward, aid from China and Norwegian girls, an American pledge to Guinea and Guinean survivors head back to the hot zone to help, don’t stigmatize our people pleads the Nigerian president, and preparedness in Zimbabwe. . . Continue reading

Hungarians rebel against tax on net useage


While Americans have protested against Federal Communications Commission policy changes ending net neutrality, Hungarians are confronted with an even more chilling measure by their own government, an internet user tax, based on volume of traffic, that would apply to everyone going online.

Their response? Let’s just say that a lot of old electronics found their way into the offices of a certain ministry. . .

From RT:

Free Internet! Thousands light up Budapest at rally against web tax

Program notes:

Furious with the government plan to impose tax on Internet data traffic, thousands of Hungarians rallied in front of the Economy Ministry in Budapest on Sunday evening to protect the freedom of the internet from the ‘anti-democratic’ measure.

Their protest didn’t succeed in tanking the tax, but they did force a scaling back, as the Wall Street Journal reported this afternoon:

Hungary Waters Down Planned Tax on Internet Use

  • Government Amends Proposed Tax After Tens of Thousands Protest Across Country

Hungary’s government said Monday it will soften its stance on a proposed tax on Internet access after tens of thousands protested the plan that initially saw a steep levy on every gigabyte of online traffic.

After protests in Budapest and other cities in Hungary over the weekend, the administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it filed a new version of its tax proposal, capping the tax at 700 forints ($2.87) a month for each individual subscriber and 5,000 forints for businesses. Internet service providers rather than subscribers are to pay the tax, according to the bill.

The original bill sent to parliament would slap a 150 forint tax for every gigabyte of Internet traffic.

InSecurityWatch: Terror, war, Mexico, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

First up, from the Associated Press:

2 dead in shooting attack at Canada’s Parliament

A gunman with a scarf over his face killed a soldier standing guard at Canada’s war memorial Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that rocked the building with the boom of gunfire and forced lawmakers to barricade themselves in meeting rooms. The gunman was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the rampage the second deadly terrorist attack on Canadian soil in three days. “This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere,” Harper said.

He added: “We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.”

Canada was already on alert at the time of the shooting rampage because of a deadly hit-and-run assault Monday against two Canadian soldiers by a man Harper described as an “ISIL-inspired terrorist.” ISIL is also known as Islamic State.

More from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.

Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government and that his passport had been seized – the same circumstances surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau has a record in Quebec in the early 2000s for petty crimes such as possession of drugs, credit-card forgery and robbery. He was also charged with robbery in 2011 in Vancouver.

The soldier who was killed was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, according to his aunt. Cpl. Cirillo, who was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a regiment of Reserve Forces based in Hamilton, was training to join the Canada Border Services Agency, his aunt told The Globe and Mail.

On to the Mideast with Reuters:

Consumed by Islamic State, Iraq’s Anbar province a key battleground again

In recent weeks, the world has watched the battle to save Syria’s border town of Kobani from Islamic State. But the radical jihadists have for longer been engulfing another strategically more vital target – Iraq’s western Anbar province and its road to Baghdad.

The vast desert region – where Sunni tribes rose up in 2006 and 2007 to drive out al-Qaeda with the Americans – has throughout 2014 been parcelled up, city by military camp, before the Iraqi government and U.S. forces could act.

Now Anbar’s largest airbase Ain al-Asad, the Haditha Dam – a critical piece of infrastructure – and surrounding towns are encircled by Islamic State to the west from the Syrian border and to the east from militant-controlled sections of Ramadi.

Droning on with Old Blighty via the Guardian:

UK to fly military drones over Syria

  • Government says Reaper drones will be deployed soon to gather intelligence, but insists move is not a military intervention

Britain is to send military drones over Syria to gather intelligence in a move that will deepen its involvement in the campaign against Islamic State (Isis), Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has revealed.

Downing Street insisted that the flights did not amount to military intervention and said there was a clear legal case for drone surveillance in Syria under the principles of “national and collective defence”.

The Reaper drones have already been active in Iraq, after parliament gave its approval for Britain to take part in air strikes against Isis. However, this will be the first time they will have ventured into Syrian territory, where David Cameron has not sought approval for military action because of fears it would be blocked by Labour and some within the prime minister’s own party.

From the London Daily Mail, that old-time religion:

ISIS releases sickening video clip showing Syrian woman being stoned to death by group of men – including her own father

  • Shocking footage understood to have been filmed in Syrian city of Hama
  • Cleric seen ranting at woman and accusing her of committing adultery
  • Woman told to be ‘content and happy’ at stoning as it is ordered by God
  • She pleads for her life before asking if her father could ever forgive her
  • He responds telling her not to call him father, then orders murder to begin
  • A man was also stoned to death for adultery in a separate incident

From the Guardian, before the fall:

Life inside Kobani before Isis attacked

Program notes:

New video footage filmed inside Kobani shows what life was like for the Kurdish civilians living there just a few days before Islamic State, or Isis, attacked the city.

In footage obtained by the Guardian, local journalist Moustafa Ghaleb records candid interviews with friends and family, as coalition air-strikes buzz overhead and the Isis advance prompts people to evacuate to the Turkish border.

From SciDev.Net, demanding science:

ISIS besieges universities but allows scientists’ return

Scores of students and professors have left Iraqi universities as the militants of the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) continue to advance in Iraq and Syria — but now the group appears to want the researchers to come back.

“We grant all teachers … whose place of work or residence is within the caliphate [an Islamic state], a maximum period of ten days from the date of this statement to return and resume their work. If they fail to do so, their moveable and immovable property will be confiscated,” reads a leaflet, reportedly distributed by ISIS on 3 October.

Having captured large swathes of Syria and Iraq, in late June ISIS stated it had created a caliphate stretching from Aleppo in Syria to the province of Diyala in Iraq. The group has reportedly replaced the name ‘Republic of Iraq’ on some universities and research institutions with ‘Islamic State — Knowledge Bureau’.

And from MintiPress News, hints of a hidden hand:

Erdogan: The Man Pulling The Strings In A Middle Eastern Puppet Show

Turkey certainly didn’t invent ISIS, but the Turkish government under former Prime Minister, current President Erdogan has been stoking Islamic radicalism to further its own political goals — namely, the fall of Assad and the return of something reminiscent of the Ottomans

As noted by Veli Sirin in a report for the Gatestone Institute, “Turkey under a stronger Erdogan presidency may become more Islamic, more neo-Ottoman, and more directed to the East rather than the West.”

“Neo-Ottoman” and “Islamic” seem very much the order of the day when referring to Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign agenda, which supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, which later merged with the Nusra Front and ISIS — especially vis-a-vis the rise of ISIS in the greater Levant.

According to many, Erdogan’s alleged shadow games with ISIS represent little more than the manifestations of a desire to see rise a new Ottoman Empire, the impetus of which will be fed by ISIS crusaders. Egypt’s foreign ministry issued a statement in September, slamming Erdogan for his promotion of terror in the region. The statement read, “The Turkish President, who is keen to provoke chaos to sow divisions in the Middle East region through its support for groups and terrorist organizations … Whether political support or funding or accommodation in order to harm the interests of the peoples of the region to achieve personal ambitions for the Turkish president and revive illusions of the past.”

Even more damaging was the April publication of Seymour Hersh’s work, “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” in which the veteran journalist argues Turkey would have orchestrated the Ghouta sarin gas attack in order to drag the United States into a war.

The Christian Science Monitor points to the unseen obvious:

America’s Saudi problem in its anti-IS coalition

  • Saudi Arabia sentenced dissident Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death. That’s trouble for a strategy that rests on ending sectarianism in Iraq

Following two years in jail, most of that time in solitary confinement, Saudi Arabia sentenced dissident Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr to death [15 October] for leading demonstrations and “inciting sectarian strife.” Mr. Nimr’s predicament – and that of at least 5 other Shiite activists Saudi Arabia has sentenced to death this year – illustrates a problem for the US strategy for taking on the so-called Islamic State in Iraq.

The Obama administration believes that a non-sectarian government in Iraq is the key answer to the country’s problems. There’s little doubt that the Shiite dominated politics that emerged after the US invaded Iraq in 2003 has fueled support for IS among the country’s Sunni Arabs.

But with country’s like Saudi Arabia in the coalition the US is trying to build against IS, you have one of the greatest forces for sectarianism in the region. Nimr has long been an influential figure among Saudi Arabia’s repressed Shiite minority, who are concentrated in the country’s oil-rich east.

While the Washington Post covers a problem for the press:

New Afghan government investigates newspaper for ‘blasphemous article’

Top staffers at an Afghan newspaper are being investigated for blasphemy after the publication of an article that questioned whether Muslims should embrace the possibility that more than one God exists.

The investigation, apparently being led by intelligence and cultural affairs officials, came at the request of Afghanistan’s new president and chief executive officer.

Afghan officials stressed Wednesday that no arrests have been made.

More domestic blowback from the Associated Press:

FBI: Denver girls may have tried to join jihadis

The FBI said Tuesday that it’s investigating the possibility that three girls from the Denver area tried to travel to Syria to join Islamic State extremists.

An FBI spokeswoman says agents helped bring the girls back to Denver after stopping them in Germany. Spokeswoman Suzie Payne says they’re safe and have been reunited with their families.

She didn’t identify the girls or provided other details.

The announcement comes one month after 19-year-old Shannon Conley of Arvada, Colorado, pleaded guilty to charges that she conspired to help militants in Syria.

And in Germany, via CNN:

From Jewish football to jihad: German ISIS suspect faces jail

At first Alon Meyer thought it was a bad joke.

When Kreshnik Berisha, the first suspected member of ISIS to stand trial in Germany, was arrested upon his arrival back in Frankfurt in December after spending six months in Syria, youth team football coach Meyer was left shell-shocked.

The coach thought for a while and then it slowly sank in — this was the same boy who had once stood by his side and taken the field in the shirt of Makkabi Frankfurt, Germany’s largest Jewish sports club.

Meyer’s phone began to buzz with journalists trying to ask him whether he remembered Berisha, a 20-year-old born in Frankfurt to Kosovan parents.

And to toss another ingredient into the stew, this from BBC News:

Iraq Blackwater: US jury convicts four of 2007 killings

A US federal jury has found four Blackwater security guards guilty of killing 14 Iraqis in a square in Baghdad in 2007.

One former guard was found guilty of murder with three others guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

A further 17 Iraqis were injured as the private contractors opened fire to clear the way for a US convoy.

The shootings sparked international outrage and a debate over the role of defence contractors in warfare.

From intelNews, interesting:

Iran announces arrest of alleged spies at Bushehr nuclear plant

Senior Iranian government officials have announced the arrest of a group of alleged spies in Iran’s southwestern province of Bushehr, home to the country’s only nuclear energy plant. Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alawi told the semi-official Fars News Agency on Tuesday that the spies had been “identified and sent to justice”.

Located along Iran’s coastal Persian Gulf region, the Bushehr nuclear power plant has a long history. Its construction initially began in the mid-1970s by German engineers. But work on the plant was halted in 1979, immediately following the Islamic Revolution. Iraqi forces repeatedly bombarded the site during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. But the government began to rebuild it in the 1990s with the help of Russian technicians.

In September of 2011, the Bushehr nuclear power plant was inaugurated in a widely publicized ceremony that was attended by several Russian officials, including Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko. The completion of the facility made it the first civilian nuclear power plant anywhere in the Middle East

A spooky anti-Snowden valedictory from the Guardian:

Outgoing GCHQ boss defends agency activities after Snowden revelations

  • Sir Iain Lobban uses valedictory address to praise extraordinary job of staff with ‘mission of liberty, not erosion of it’

Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing director of Britain’s eavesdropping agency GCHQ, has used his valedictory address to deliver a full-throated defence of its activities in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

In a speech referencing cryptographer Alan Turing and wartime codebreaking efforts, Lobban praised GCHQ staff as “ordinary people doing an extraordinary job”, and said his agency’s mission was “the protection of liberty, not the erosion of it”.

The usually secretive agency has been under unprecedented scrutiny since June 2013 when the Guardian and other news organisations revealed how it and its US counterpart, the NSA, were scooping up vast quantities of internet and phone traffic.

More from the London Telegraph:

GCHQ chief: Internet has become refuge for plotters

Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing head of GCHQ, says that the idea the internet doesn’t need policing is a flawed ‘Utopian dream’ as he argues the security services need ‘strong capabilities’ to stop those who want to harm Britain

The Internet has become a refuge for the “worst aspects of human nature” and the security services are making huge sacrifices to protect the public from “plotters, proliferators and paedophiles”, the outgoing head of GCHQ has warned.

In his valedictory speech Sir Iain Lobban said that his staff are “ordinary people doing an extraordinary job” who have been “insulted time and again” by allegations that they carry out mass surveillance.

But he warned that the “Utopian dream” that the Internet should remain a “totally ungoverned space” is “flawed” and said that Britain needs “strong intelligence and cyber capabilities” to identify those who “would do us harm”.

Severance from Reuters:

Exclusive: Ex-spy chief’s private firm ends deal with U.S. official

Former National Security Agency director Keith Alexander has ended a deal with a senior U.S. intelligence official allowing the official to work part-time for his firm, an arrangement current and former officials said risked a conflict of interest.

Reuters reported on Friday that the U.S. National Security Agency had launched an internal review of the arrangement between NSA Chief Technical Officer Patrick Dowd and IronNet Cybersecurity Inc, which is led by Alexander, his former boss.

On Tuesday, Alexander said: “While we understand we did everything right, I think there’s still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company,” that it was best for him to terminate the deal.

U.S. intelligence officials past and present said the agreement risked a conflict of interest between sensitive government work and private business, and could be seen as giving favoritism to Alexander’s venture, even if the deal was approved by NSA lawyers and executives.

Vice News makes a telling point:

We Can’t Properly Debate Drone Casualties Without Knowing The Names of Those Killed

The most important question to ask of the Global War on Terror should be the most simple to answer. Instead, it is a perennial shadow cast over US counter-terror operations since 9/11.

We still don’t know, and still must ask: Who exactly is the enemy?

In 2001, the Authorization of Military Force Act told us that the enemy was whoever perpetrated the September 11 attacks and their affiliates. In 2013, President Barack Obama stated that this meant “al Qaeda, the Taliban, and its associated forces.” But associated forces was not defined. Administration officials told the New York Times that Obama’s method for counting combatants “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone.” A Justice Department memo released this summer told us that US citizens, too, could be legitimate targets. Then, the Islamic State, a terror group actively disaffiliated with al Qaeda and the Taliban, were included as “the enemy.”

“The enemy,” then, is whomever gets targeted as the enemy. The validity and legality of these targets is debated post hoc, often after they are dead. A chilling illustration of this comes in the form of a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based organization that tracks US drone usage and the victims of drone strikes. The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project makes clear quite how little we know about the casualties of these strikes, which stretch the notion of “targeted” beyond recognition.

The Washington Post gets testy:

Panetta clashed with CIA over memoir, tested agency review process

Former CIA director Leon E. Panetta clashed with the agency over the contents of his recently published memoir and allowed his publisher to begin editing and making copies of the book before he had received final approval from the CIA, according to former U.S. officials and others familiar with the project.

Panetta’s decision appears to have put him in violation of the secrecy agreement that all CIA employees are required to sign, and came amid a showdown with agency reviewers that could have derailed the release of the book this month, people involved in the matter said.

The memoir, which is almost unfailingly complimentary toward the spy service where he served as director from 2009 to 2011, was ultimately approved by the CIA’s Publications Review Board before it reached store shelves.

But preempting that panel — even temporarily — carried legal risks for both Panetta and his publisher. Other former CIA employees have been sued for breach of contract and forced to surrender proceeds from sales of books that ran afoul of CIA rules.

And from the Guardian, a resource chiller:

Russia prepares for ice-cold war with show of military force in the Arctic

  • Vladimir Putin sends troops and jets to oil- and gas-rich region also coveted by Canada, United States, Norway and Denmark

Yaya is a very small Arctic island, barely one metre above sea level and covering only 500 square metres. Russian pilots discovered it at the beginning of October. With the Admiral Vladimirsky research ship having confirmed its presence in the Laptev Sea, Yaya will soon be added to the map of the Arctic Ocean and will become part of Russian territory, the RIA Novosti state news agency announced. In its determination to defend its interests in this icy waste, Russia is no longer content to leave its mark, as it did in 2007 when it planted a Russian flag, in a titanium capsule, 4,200 metres below the north pole. Now it is engaging in large-scale militarisation of the Arctic, a vast area coveted by itself and its four neighbours: Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark.

RIA Novosti says that former Soviet bases are being reactivated in response to renewed Nato interest in the region. According to the Russian authorities, the airstrip on Novaya Zemlya can now accommodate fighters and part of the North Fleet is establishing quarters there. A new military group will be formed in the far north consisting of two brigades, totalling 6,000 soldiers, deployed in the Murmansk area and then the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region. Radar and ground guidance systems are also planned for Franz Josef Land (part of Novaya Zemlya), Wrangel Island and at Cape Schmidt. The federal security service plans to increase the number of border guards on Russia’s northern perimeter.

During the recent Vostok 2014 full-scale military exercises – the biggest since the end of the Soviet Union – Russian troops carried out combat missions in the Arctic, using the Pantsir-S and Iskander-M weapon systems. Such moves may bring back the atmosphere of the cold war, when the region was the focus of US and Nato attention, as they were convinced that it would be a launchpad for nuclear strikes.

After the jump, Swedish sub anxieties and a declaration of force and purse strings opening, secret dealings in Germany, Germany arms deal secrecy, unfriending the Feebs, hacking Flash, an epidemic of cybercrime in Old Blighty, posting an award for those missing Mexican students amidst a massive manhunt and a mayor named as the instigator of the disappearances and a human rights chief’s ouster demanded, a Chilean Dirty War murder suspect busted, provocative bluster Down Under, a Malaysian jibe at Canberra, then on to Hong Kong and a frustrating meeting followed by charges and a threat plus a provocative protest, Beijing stakes an insular claim, Japan/South Korean feelers and posturing, agreements and dissent over American military bases on Japanese soil, Continue reading

Chart of the day: Women targeted online


From a troubling new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Harrass