Category Archives: Military

EbolaWatch: Numbers, hope, fear, & politics


First, the good news, via the U.N. News Center:

Ebola cases no longer rising in Guinea, Liberia, UN health agency reports

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today that the number of Ebola cases is “no longer increasing nationally in Guinea and Liberia, but is still increasing in Sierra Leone”, and that preparedness teams have been sent this week to Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal.

Earlier today, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, had appealed for funding for Ebola preparedness in the swath of Africa consisting of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal making up one of the poorest regions in the world.

WHO, in its most recent update, said the evolving Ebola outbreak “highlights the considerable risk of cases being imported into unaffected countries.”

“With adequate levels of preparation, however, such introductions of the disease can be contained before they develop into large outbreaks,” it said.

Next, the latest official numbers released today for all countries by the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebola stats

More optimism from the Associated Press:

CDC chief drops worst-case Ebola estimate

he government’s worst-case scenario forecast for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa won’t happen, a U.S. health official said Wednesday.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of people sickened by the Ebola virus could explode to as many as 1.4 million by mid-January without more help.

Things have changed. On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, “We don’t think the projections from over the summer will come to pass.”

Frieden did not provide new estimates.

And still more optimistic numeration from VOA News:

World Bank Sees $3B-$4B Ebola Impact in Africa

A World Bank official says the Ebola epidemic will not be as costly to West Africa’s economy as previously feared, thanks to effective containment efforts.

Francisco Ferreira, the bank’s chief economist for Africa, told an audience in Johannesburg Wednesday that he expects the epidemic’s economic toll on the region will range from $3 to $4 billion.

The World Bank in October had predicted the economic impact could be as high as $32 billion if the virus spread significantly outside the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak.

And the accompanying video report from VOA News:

Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

Program notes:

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion – well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture – warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

From StarAfrica, a vow of solidarity from the regional economic organization:

ECOWAS restates solidarity with Ebola nations

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo has assured that all institutions of the sub-regional organization are fully behind the affected countries battling the Ebola epidemic. “ECOWAS will do its best to help address the current Ebola crisis,” Ouédraogo promised.

“Let me pay a special tribute to you Madam President for your country’s courageous fight against the further spread of the Ebola virus disease.

ECOWAS stands ready to collaborate with your government, the UN System and all partners for an effective and efficient response to the Ebola outbreak,” the ECOWAS Commission President said.

The medium and the message, via Al Jazeera English:

UN Ebola effort faces ‘information challenge’

Top Ebola official says trouble figuring out new infection cases in West Africa makes controlling outbreak difficult.

Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hotspots are in those countries, according to the UN’s top Ebola official in West Africa.

This is harming efforts to get control of the outbreak, Anthony Banbury said on Tuesday.

Over the past week, the US said, Banbury met the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ebola has infected at least 10,000 people and killed roughly half of them, as he focuses on adapting an operational framework for international anti-Ebola efforts.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Banbury told the Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

From Punch Nigeria, a call for screening at the border:

Ebola: NMA wants W’ African travellers tested

The Nigeria Medical Association has urged the government to ensure that passengers coming into the country from West African countries are properly checked during Christmas period to prevent fresh outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

Chairman of the NMA in Osun State, Dr. Suraj Ogunyemi, gave the advice on Wednesday in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, at a press conference to usher in the 2014 Physicians’ Week.

Ogunyemi lauded the Federal Government, states and others who rose up in the battle against Ebola virus when it was brought into Nigeria by the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer.

He said, “We must realise that the threat of importation of the EVD into the country is very much abundant. EVD could be imported from travellers from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to Nigeria, especially through Nigerians who work there and would return by road during Christmas.

“It can also be reintroduced by traders who travel across the nations of West Africa. So, government must ensure that our borders, seaports and airports are manned by health officials with adequate devices to check those coming into the country.”

On to the latest country to be stricken with the Associated Press:

Amid Ebola cases, Mali braces borders and beyond

On Mali’s dusty border with Ebola-stricken Guinea, travelers have a new stop: Inside a white tent, masked medical workers zap incomers with infrared thermometer guns and instruct them to wash their hands in chlorinated water.

After five recent Ebola deaths, Mali has become a front line in the fight against the virus, especially in the border town of Kouremale which two of those victims passed through last month. Malian authorities, with help from the U.N. and aid groups, this week deployed medical teams at the border to try to stop the disease’s spread.

“You are Mali’s portal. Don’t be the weak link in the fight against Ebola. Mali must not become a land of propagation for Ebola in the world,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita urged medical staffers and border guards during a visit as the deployment began. “We are counting on you to meet this challenge.”

Next, the bad news from Sierra Leone from Deutsche Welle:

Sierra Leone hit hardest in latest WHO Ebola numbers

The global Ebola infection tally has surpassed 15,000. Sierra Leone confirmed 533 new cases in the week to November 16, accounting for much of the increase.

Cases of Ebola reached 15,145, with 5,420 deaths, through November 16 – almost all in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which reported the steepest uptick – the World Health Organization announced Wednesday. Sierra Leone has also reported 63 Ebola deaths since Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO announced. Sierra Leone has only managed to isolate 13 percent of Ebola patients, the agency’s figures show.

Ebola does not transmit easily, but it has particularly spread in the capital, Freetown, which accounted for 168, or nearly one-third of Sierra Leone’s 533 confirmed cases in the week to November 16, and nearby Port Loko. A doctor, the first Cuban infected with Ebola, who caught the virus in Sierra Leone will fly to Switzerland in the next 48 hours for hospitalization in Geneva. Five doctors from Sierra Leone have died of Ebola.

More from Reuters:

Ebola spreading intensely in Sierra Leone as toll rises – WHO

The figures, through Nov. 16, represent a jump of 243 deaths and 732 cases since those issued last Friday, and cases continue to be under-reported, the WHO said in its latest update.

Sierra Leone, a former British colony, confirmed 533 new cases in the week to Nov. 16, it said, accounting for much of the increase. It also reported 63 deaths since last Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO said.

The capital Freetown, which accounted for 168 new confirmed cases, and nearby Port Loko were particularly hard-hit.

British National Health Service help on the way, via the Guardian:

First NHS volunteers set to leave for Sierra Leone on Ebola mission

  • The 50 volunteers have undergone extensive training designed to ensure none of them return to the UK with the virus

The first batch of NHS staff who volunteered to treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone are to leave the UK for west Africa after undergoing extensive training designed to ensure none return with the virus.

The 50 staff will depart nearly six weeks after they were shortlisted as suitable by UK-Med, the organisation funded by the Department for International Development to recruit NHS staff for secondment. Nearly 1,000 volunteered, but because of the need for careful selection and training, none have yet flown out.

The particular risk to health workers is highlighted by the news that one of the 250 Cuban doctors and nurses sent to the Ebola epidemic region has become infected. Félix Báez Sarría, one of about 165 Cuban medics in Sierra Leone, is being flown to Switzerland for treatment. “He’s not critical, he’s doing well, in a good condition,” said his boss, Dr Jorge Delgado Bustillo. “The most important thing now is to get him evacuated to Geneva.”

On to Liberia with some ominous numbers from another sector via BBC News:

Ebola crisis in Liberia: ‘One in two workers now jobless’

Nearly half of all Liberians who were employed when the Ebola outbreak began are no longer working, a survey by the World Bank has found.

It said many workers have been told to stay at home or have lost their jobs, while markets have been forced to shut.

Ana Revenga, a senior World Bank official, said even those living areas of Liberia that have not been hit by Ebola “are suffering the economic side effects of this terrible disease”.

The other side of the Ebola coin from StarAfrica:

Liberia’s Sirleaf delighted about decline in Ebola cases

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed delight that most Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) around Monrovia are experiencing a decline in patient intake.She however warned Liberians to continue to follow the measures outlined by healthcare workers in order to break the transmission of the disease, as there are still hotspots and pockets in communities.

According to an Executive Mansion press release, President Sirleaf made the statement following a tour of several ETUs around Monrovia to assess conditions there, including constraints if any, and to thank healthcare workers, partners, and volunteers for their services to the country especially in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

The President’s visit took her to treatment units at ELWA-II, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ELWA-III, Ministry of Defense, the three ETUs under construction at the Samuel Kayon Doe Sports Complex, and the National Ebola Command Center in Sinkor.

An American de-escalation from the Associated Press:

Military scaling back treatment units in Liberia

A Pentagon spokesman says the U.S. military is scaling back the size and number of Ebola treatment facilities it is building in Liberia.

Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday that a total of 10 treatment facilities will be built; the Pentagon previously had planned to build as many as 17. Additionally, seven of the 10 will have 50 beds each rather than the 100 beds previously planned.

The first of the 10 treatment facilities has been completed and two more are expected to be finished this week. They are built by U.S. military personnel and are to be operated by local or international health workers.

Finally, a Liberian political impact from FrontPageAfrica:

Ebola Factor: Virus Crisis Could Dissuade Voters in Grand Bassa

It’s Friday, the busiest and most popular market day in Grand Bassa County’s second most populous district, and many people have turned out to either sell or buy at the Wayzohn Market, Compound Three – the district’s provisional capital. The most dominant issue nowadays is the Ebola crisis and it takes a lot to sway people from this discussion, especially in a county where new cases of the virus have emerged thus sparking fears amongst locals.

The debate now amongst many, not just those gathering at forums or market place, is ‘how much impact will the current Ebola crisis have on the Special senatorial election?’ The answer to this has prompted many to suggest, without any doubt, that the virus has already altered Liberia election’ time table. Like those men at the tea shop, many people who have spoken to FrontPage Africa fear that voters’ turnout will be lower than expected, mainly because of the compounded problem of the Ebola fear and the reluctance of people who see it meaningless to vote only because they claim the government has forsaken them.

“As we all know when elections is coming about this time the momentum is very high, but for this election, we’re only hearing about election, but the momentum is low,” Alexander Flankiah, a resident of Wayzohn, District Three said. Flankiah is expected to be on the campaign trail of one of the famous candidates in the race, but his pessimism about attracting a large crowd for rally is keeping him worried. During a recent trip to a town in rural Grand Bassa, he said it was difficult to bring people together. “People were stopping their immediate family from showing up because of the recent Ebola cases in the county.” he said.

MexicoWatch: Protests, hubris, anger, & threats


We start with an infuriating story from teleSUR, infuriating because uniformed armed thugs hauling students off a bus with threats is exactly what led to the disappearance of those 43 students:

Mexican Soldiers Intimidate, Threaten Students Outside Iguala

The army troops stopped a bus and threatened students from the Vicente Guerrero Teacher Training School.

At a checkpoint south of Iguala in the southern violent state of Guerrero, members of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Mexican Army on Tuesday ordered the bus driver to stop and told the Teloloapan students to get off.

The soldiers lined the students up facing the bus, where they searched them and made insulting, humiliating remarks, especially to the young girls. They threatened the entire group, around 30 students in all, for more than an hour.

The troops specifically  warned the students that they’d better stop making trouble about the disappeared Ayotzinapa students, and then took pictures of each person. Afterward, they ordered them to go back to their school without causing any problems in Iguala.

And the accompanying video report:

Mexican Students intimidated and photographed by army yesterday

Program notes:

Yesterday in the Mexican state of Guerrero, a busload of students returning from a protest in solidarity with the Ayotinapa 43 (teaching college students who were kidnapped in late September by corrupt authorities in Iguala) was stopped by the army, who forced the students out of the bus, intimidated them, and told them to stop protesting, before photographing them and sending then back on their way. Also yesterday, parents of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students recurred to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, with whom they signed a contract. The OAS has pledged to help protect the families from danger, and to help continue the search for their children.

And then there’s strange silence of the media and public temper north of the border via the Chicago Tribune:

Americans ignore the mass murder of students that is roiling Mexico

The violent disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college in Guerrero state has caused a political earthquake the likes of which Mexico has not seen in generations — perhaps even since the revolution of 1910.

That makes it all the more baffling how little attention most people in the U.S. have paid to the unfolding tragedy. To understand the historical significance — and the moral and political gravity — of what is occurring, think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook, of the day JFK was assassinated. Mexico is a nation in shock — horrified, pained, bewildered.

These emotions have been swelling since late September, but have become overpowering since Nov. 10. That’s when Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam held a news conference to detail the federal government’s investigation into the students’ disappearance, a probe that relies heavily on witness testimony from men who allegedly participated in their murders.

Next, via teleSUR, a notable cancellation:

Protests for Ayotzinapa Cancel Mexico’s Official Revolution Parade

Mexico’s Interior Minister announced the cancellation of Thursday’s parade celebrating Mexico’s 1910 revolution, as a mass strike for the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa will occur on the same day

The traditional official celebrations and military parade organized to commemorate Mexico’s 1910 revolution will be moved from the Zocalo square to a military installation in the Polanco neighborhood of the Mexican Capital this Thursday, announced Mexico’s Interior Minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong on Wednesday evening.

“November 20 is a date that we Mexicans celebrate the beginning of our revolution. This time, it was decided that the celebration will not be accompanied by the traditional festivities and parade,” said the minister.

“The Interior Ministry reports that the commemoration of November 20 will consist of a decorations ceremony and promotions of active military personnel from the Defense Ministry and Navy, which will be held in the Base Marte,” he added.

Bringing it home, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Teachers Take Over Judicial Branch HQ in Mexico Protest Over Disappeared

Teachers in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero on Tuesday took over the state judicial branch headquarters and held workers there for four hours as part of protests associated with the disappearance of 43 teaching students.

About 500 members of Guerrero’s state education workers coordinator, or CETEG, took over the Judicial Complex, which houses the offices of the state supreme court in Chilpancingo, the state capital.

The teachers demanded the release of “political prisoners” and the annulment of arrest warrants that, CETEG said, have been issued for their members for recent violent acts that were part of the protests over the students’ disappearance.

And from teleSUR English, national strike coming:

Mexico: national student strike planned in solidarity with Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

In Mexico, public universities and teacher training colleges across the country are organizing for a 24-hour strike to take place on Thursday November 20 to demand the safe return of the 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college who were kidnapped on September 26.

From Reuters, presidential arrogance at its worst:

Mexico president sees anti-government motive in massacre protests

Grappling with outrage over violence and impunity after the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Tuesday accused unspecified groups of seeking to destabilize his government.

Protest marches over the crime, which the government has blamed on corrupt police in league with a drug gang and city officials, have overshadowed Pena Nieto’s efforts to boost years of sub-par economic growth via a raft of economic reforms.

“Structural reforms and big changes have … without doubt affected interests of those who have much and of others who oppose our nation-building project,” Pena Nieto said.

“We have seen violent movements which hide behind the grief (over the missing students) to stage protests, the aim of which at times is unclear,” he added. “They seem to obey interests to generate instability, to foment social unrest.”

Solidarity in Southern California from the Los Angeles Times:

Missing Mexico students: ‘We want them alive,’ L.A. activists chant

Standing in front of photos of 43 missing students in the Mexican state of Guerrero, activists and community members gathered across the street from the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles on Wednesday chanting: “Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos.”

“They were taken alive, we want them alive.”

Immigrant and human rights groups called on people to stand in solidarity with Mexico and the students who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, on Sept. 26, and are presumed to likely be dead.

And a reminder, via Vice News:

There Are More than 43 Missing People in Guerrero and Mexico’s Military May Have a Role

There are more than 43 families looking for their missing sons and daughters in Guerrero, Mexico. The Pita family is one of them.

Felix and Guadalupe Pita’s son, Lenin Vladimir Pita, was 17 when he disappeared on March 1, 2010. He went missing in Iguala, the same city where 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School vanished eight weeks ago.

“Talking about my son breaks my heart,” Felix Pita, a weather-worn man with greying hair and a gravelly voice, told VICE News. “If they could take my son, they can take more. I have been told that they kidnap them and make them work or they sell them to hitmen.”

On a related note, via teleSUR:

Dozen Mexican Mayors under Investigation for Drug Links

The Iguala mayor who was arrested for allegedly masterminding the forced disappearances of 43 students in September is among a dozen Mexican mayors currently under investigation for corruption

Twelve mayors have been investigated between January and July of this year for alleged links to criminal groups, Mexican federal intelligence sources told the Milenio newspaper Monday.

The investigation describes the mayors as “objects of special attention,” and their daily activities are being monitored.

The 12 mayors include four from the ruling center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and eight from the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), including the mayor of Iguala Jose Luis Abarca.

And a video report from Deutsche Welle:

Mexico – The state and the drug cartels

Program notes:

The disappearance of 43 students in Mexico is symptomatic of much larger problems in the country: widespread corruption and drug-related violence. Many people feel their government can’t protect them.

From Reuters, oh, the poor baby:

Mexico’s first lady says will sell house at center of scandal

Mexico’s first lady said on Tuesday she would give up a house at the center of a scandal that created a potential conflict of interest between President Enrique Pena Nieto and a company bidding for a lucrative rail contract.

The Mexican government this month abruptly cancelled a $3.75-billion high speed rail contract awarded to a consortium led by China Railway Construction Corp Ltd that featured a Mexican company known as Grupo Higa.

It then emerged that a subsidiary of Grupo Higa owned a luxury house that Pena Nieto’s wife Angelica Rivera was in the process of acquiring, raising questions about the tender.

In a televised statement, Rivera, who was one of Mexico’s most popular soap actresses before marrying Pena Nieto in 2010, said she had paid off about 14.3 million pesos ($1.05 million) of the value of the house and would sell her stake to settle any outstanding questions about the matter.

Next, via teleSUR, filling in the memory hole:

Mexican Museum to House Ayotzinapa Exhibition

The Museum of Memory’s objective is to highlight crimes against humanity perpetrated by authoritarian groups and governments

The Mexican Museum of Memory and Tolerance will hold a 2015 exhibition about the murders, executions, disappearances and the impunity afflicting Mexico. It will feature the tragic events of the 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa.

The museum, which opened in 2010, seeks to preserve the historical memory of the most shocking crimes against humanity. It houses exhibitions about the Nazi holocaust, the genocides in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and massacres in Guatemala, among others.

According to its director, Shanon Zaga, 2015 will be the year the museum will focus on the crimes against humanity undertaken in Mexico itself.

Exhibitions will range from the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre, to the the mass murder of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez in past decades. Most pressingly, one of the exhibits will focus on the recent events of the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa.

And to close, via CCTV America, corporate angst:

Protests over missing students affect private investment in Mexico

Program notes:

Mexico’s sputtering economy is facing more challenges following recent demonstrations over to the fate of 43 college students missing and presumed killed in a September mass abduction in Guerreo state, in the southern part of the country. CCTV America’s Franc Contreras reported this story from Mexico City.

InSecurityWatch: Serfs, drones, war, hacks. . .


And more, much more.

We begin with an official endorsement oif penal servitude from a very strange place, via BuzzFeed News:

California AG “Shocked” To Learn Her Office Wanted To Keep Eligible Parolees In Jail To Work

Lawyers for California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued releasing non-violent inmates early would harm efforts to fight California wildfires. Harris told BuzzFeed News she first heard about this when she read it in the paper.

Lawyers for California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued in court this fall against the release of eligible nonviolent prisoners from California’s overcrowded prisons — because the state wanted to keep them as a labor force.

Harris, a rising star in the Democratic Party, said she learned about the argument when she read it in the paper.

“I will be very candid with you, because I saw that article this morning, and I was shocked, and I’m looking into it to see if the way it was characterized in the paper is actually how it occurred in court,” Harris told BuzzFeed News in an interview Monday. “I was very troubled by what I read. I just need to find out what did we actually say in court.”

Next, the latest madness from Ferguson, via the London Daily Mail:

Navy veteran FIRED and ‘branded a terrorist’ for taking pictures of scores of Homeland Security SUVs parked at Ferguson hotel where he works – as town awaits grand jury decision on Michael Brown shooting

  • Mark Paffrath worked for the Drury hotel chain in Missouri
  • Paffrath, a Navy veteran, posted photos of dozens of vehicles marked with the logos of the Department of Homeland Security to his Facebook
  • He was asked to take them down, then a day later he was fired
  • Vehicles were located about a 30-minute drive from Ferguson, Missouri

A Navy veteran has been fired and branded a terrorist for posting Facebook pictures of Homeland Security SUVs parked at a hotel where he works near Ferguson.

Mark Paffrath, who worked for the Drury hotel chain, took photos and a video of dozens of vehicles marked with the logos of the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Protection Services which arrived in the parking lot of Chesterfield’s Drury Plaza Hotel last week.

The vehicles are parked about a 30-minute drive from Ferguson, Missouri.

More Ferguson madness, from AJ+:

These Guns Aren’t Being Sold For Hunting Near Ferguson

Program notes:

People living near Ferguson are worried. Guns sales have exploded since the killing of Michael Brown. Local gun store owners say customers are preparing for the worst by buying up home defense weapons.

And some context from VICE News:

Ferguson’s State of Emergency Proves America’s Social Contract Has Been Broken

In Ferguson, Missouri, a festering truth about the entire United States has come to light. It is not a truth about flagrant racism, police impunity, or the systematic quashing of free speech. It is not even the truth that, in the eyes of US justice, black lives don’t matter. These truths, while bolstered by events in Ferguson, have made themselves perfectly evident via prison populations and police statistics for decades.

What Ferguson has made clear, specifically, is that the social contract has been broken. With the expected grand jury non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson likely to provoke renewed and righteous unrest, we are seeing nothing less than the state proving itself illegitimate.

I mean this in a very particular sense. When the decisions of a justice system are so repugnant to a significant mass of people that the state apparatus expects and must contend with popular unrest, then this political system has lost the grounds on which political legitimacy is based. When, on Monday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson ahead of the grand jury decision, I like to think the ghost of Jean Jacques Rousseau looked on and whispered through the icy Missouri air, “Rise up.”

From the Guardian, the storm before the calm:

Critics of surveillance bill lash out hours before vote in US Senate

  • Mitch McConnell: ‘worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our back’
  • USA Freedom Act faces uphill battle despite ‘strong support’ of White House
  • Privacy advocates believe bill lacks the teeth to end dragnet surveillance

Acrimony erupted in the US Senate over a major surveillance overhaul on Tuesday, hours before legislators are due to vote on moving it forward, as opponents labeled it a gift to terrorism.

The incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, sharply warned that the USA Freedom Act, which, if passed, would be the first law to constrain the National Security Agency in decades, would cripple US intelligence against the Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria.

“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our back,” said McConnell, who will become majority leader in January.

“At the moment, we should not be doing anything to make the situation worse.”

And the outcome, from United Press International:

NSA reform bill dies in the Senate

  • Under the potential legislation, the NSA would not have been able to collect phone records of Americans not suspected of a crime

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly defeated a bill designed to overhaul the National Security Agency by halting the collection of phone records of Americans who are not suspected of a crime.

The bill was two votes shy of getting the 60 it needed to pass the USA Freedom Act.

Minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., supported the defeat of the bill.

From Reuters, one in six hundred:

Top German spy says Berlin under cyber attack from other states

German government and business computers are coming under increasing cyber attack every day from other states’ spy agencies, especially those of Russia and China, Germany’s domestic intelligence (BfV) chief said on Tuesday.

Addressing a cybersecurity conference in Berlin, Hans Georg Maassen said that of an estimated 3,000 daily attacks by hackers or criminals on German government systems, around five were the handiwork of intelligence services. The latter are so sophisticated that they can easily be overlooked, he added.

“We have seen that there are ever more frequent attacks by foreign intelligence agencies on the German government IT infrastructure,” he said.

Imitation, flattery, and all that, via Want China Times:

PLA has set up Chinese version of PRISM in HK: Kanwa

The People’s Liberation Army has established a large-scale signals and information monitoring facility in Hong Kong similar to the US PRISM monitoring program exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to the Canada-based Kanwa Information Center.

In a report obtained by CNA, Kanwa, which publishes a monthly magazine on Asian defense issues, said that intelligence experts have made the findings after observing the facility from the top of Tai Mo Shan, the highest mountain in Hong Kong with a altitude of 950 meters.

The facility was reportedly constructed in 2011.

Opting out with Network World:

Swedish ISP to let users shield Internet activity from police

Swedes have started to sign up for a free service from ISP Bahnhof to hide their Internet communications metadata from the police, and the company’s CEO is urging other European ISPs to follow suit.

The Swedish ISP will start offering a free VPN (virtual-private-network) service to its customers on Monday. That same day it will also resume retaining customer location and traffic metadata for law enforcement purposes to comply with Swedish law, something it stopped doing in May. By complying again with the data retention rules, the ISP will avoid a fine of 5 million Swedish Kronor, or about US$678,000.

The free VPN service will let customers be anonymous online and avoid being subject to mass surveillance, Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung said on Tuesday. “It is an alternative. It allows customers to choose whether they want data retention or not,” he said. The ISP is launching the VPN service on the same day it starts to retain customer data again “so we can countermeasure the effect of the data retention.”

And on the the military from, first with Der Spiegel:

The ‘Caliphate’s’ Colonies: Islamic State’s Gradual Expansion into North Africa

Chaos, disillusionment and oppression provide the perfect conditions for Islamic State. Currently, the Islamist extremists are expanding from Syria and Iraq into North Africa. Several local groups have pledged their allegiance.

The caliphate has a beach. It is located on the Mediterranean Sea around 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Crete in Darna. The eastern Libya city has a population of around 80,000, a beautiful old town and an 18th century mosque, from which the black flag of the Islamic State flies. The port city is equipped with Sharia courts and an “Islamic Police” force which patrols the streets in all-terrain vehicles. A wall has been built in the university to separate female students from their male counterparts and the disciplines of law, natural sciences and languages have all been abolished. Those who would question the city’s new societal order risk death.

Darna has become a colony of terror, and it is the first Islamic State enclave in North Africa. The conditions in Libya are perfect for the radical Islamists: a disintegrating state, a location that is strategically well situated and home to the largest oil reserves on the continent. Should Islamic State (IS) manage to establish control over a significant portion of Libya, it could trigger the destabilization of the entire Arab world.

The IS puts down roots wherever chaos reigns, where governments are weakest and where disillusionment over the Arab Spring is deepest. In recent weeks, terror groups that had thus far operated locally have quickly begun siding with the extremists from IS.

And then there’s this, from the Los Angeles Times:

Israel vows tough response in killing of 4 rabbis, 3 of them Americans

Israel vowed a harsh response after two Palestinian attackers slashed and shot to death four rabbis who were praying in a Jerusalem synagogue early Tuesday — an attack that horrified Israelis, drew international condemnation and threatened to further inflame Jewish-Muslim tensions that were already running high over a contested holy site.

At least seven Israelis were hospitalized in the wake of the attack, the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008. The two attackers, shot dead by police units that converged on the scene within minutes, were identified as Palestinian cousins from predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which has been a flashpoint for attacks in recent months.

The attackers — armed with cleavers and handguns and said to have been shouting “God is great!” — burst into the synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof during morning prayers, witnesses said. Many devoutly religious immigrants to Israel have settled in the area, and three of the four rabbis killed held American citizenship, the State Department said. A fourth was a Briton, according to Israeli officials.

Next, corporate thuggery threatened, via the Guardian:

Uber executive apologises after suggesting the firm dig dirt on hostile journalists

  • Emil Michael says his comments that a journalist should have her private life exposed after criticising the site ‘did not reflect his actual views’

Luxury cab firm Uber has been forced to apologise after a senior executive suggested the company hire a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on hostile journalists.

Speaking at a dinner in Manhattan hosted by the Uber consultant and political “fixer” Ian Osborne, the company’s head of business, Emil Michael, singled out Sarah Lacy, the editor of tech news site PandoDaily, as somebody who could be targeted by the researchers.

Ben Smith, the editor of Buzzfeed, reported the comments after he was invited to the dinner by the media columnist Michael Wolff. He writes that Uber’s Michael was particularly incensed by an article in which Lacy accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny” after the firm was reported to be working with a French escort service.

“At the dinner, Michael expressed outrage at Lacy’s column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers,” says Smith. “He said that he thought Lacy should be held ‘personally responsible’ for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted.

“Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber’s dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life.”

After the jump, peeping drones Down Under, a game-changing ruling for photographers who drone, a Colombian capture acknowledged, on to China and a Game of Zones proposal, an ironically timed Internet crackdown, a massive police rollout in preparation for an Occupy crackdown as the first moves are made while protesters stage an attack of their own, an Aussie submarine deal with Tokyo draws near, tensions rise over an American base relocation in Okinawa, and Abe’s militarists continue to deny the past. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, cops, hacks, Asia


We begin with the New York Times:

Governor Activates Missouri National Guard

Anticipating protests after the grand jury’s decision in the death of Michael Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri activated the National Guard on Monday.

The governor said the National Guard will play a limited role as it did during protests in August, providing security at command posts, fire stations and other locations.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Governor Nixon said in a statement.

Under the executive order, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will operate as a unified command, with the St. Louis County police responsible for security in Ferguson.

And then there’s this from the Independent:

Terrorism fuelled by state violence, extra-judicial killings and ethnic tensions

Terrorism has become dramatically more deadly and more widespread across the globe with a 60 per cent rise in the number of deaths and countries affected by major attacks, a study has found.

Fatalities from terrorist incidents rose from just over 11,000 in 2012 to nearly 18,000 last year, while the number of countries which experienced more than 50 deaths from terror attacks rose from 15 to 24, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

The authors of the comprehensive annual survey of terrorist incidents and trends said that the vast majority of the bloodshed was restricted to five countries – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – where groups such as Isis (also known as Islamic State or Isil) adhering to extreme Wahhabist interpretations of Islam are leading attacks.

From the Los Angeles Times:

CIA intelligence gap hinders counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, Iraq

“It’s a black hole,” one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in discussing intelligence, on the challenge of tracking terrorists and assessing casualties in a war zone that is in effect off-limits to U.S. personnel.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials have identified about a dozen Americans fighting with militants in Syria or Iraq, for example, including some who have joined Islamic State. But U.S. intelligence analysts have struggled to develop a complete picture of their movements or what roles they play in the militant groups.

U.S. intelligence agencies have poured resources into the war since the spring, and the CIA has set up a training camp in Jordan for Syrian fighters. They also rely on information gathered from U.S.-backed rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army.

Nordic suspicions from TheLocal.se:

Isis sleeper cells suspected in Sweden

A defector from the rebel group Isis has told a Scandinavian broadcaster that his former organization has terrorist sleeper cells in Sweden awaiting orders.

The man told Norwegian news network NRK: “There are cells awaiting orders, and there is more than one group.” NRK met the defector at a secret location in Turkey, near the border to Syria.

The man claimed to have a background as a special soldier for Isis (also known as the Islamic State or IS) and said he had defected from the terror group a few months ago.

From Homeland Security News Wire:

Terror financiers operate freely in Qatar: U.S.

Qatar’s massive financial support of the most extreme Jihadist movements in the Middle East and North Africa is not exactly a secret – notwithstanding the sheikhdom rulers’ half-hearted denials, and the nominal membership of Qatar in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

Qatar, with a small territory, about 250,000 citizens, and a lot of oil money – some derisively call it “a bank, not a country” — some years ago made the strategic decision that, in order be taken seriously as a regional actor, it had to do things differently. It could not compete with regional power-houses such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so it decided to undermine and weaken both countries by undermining and weakening their rulers and their allies in the region.

Qatar has been doing so in two ways.

In November 1996 Qatar has launched Al Jazeera, which, in addition to some mainstream news reporting and relatively open studio debates and call-in shows, has been a tool of the Qatari government in its propaganda and disinformation campaign to undermine the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, other Gulf Sheikhdoms, and other moderate states in the region (note that this applies to Al Jazeera in Arabic. The English-language Al Jazeera operates in a manner which is largely similar to Western news outlets).

The other way Qatar has sought to weaken moderate government in the region is by providing massive financial aid to Jihadist groups in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories.

Notable, from the Los Angeles Times:

Putin vows to protect Ukraine separatists from defeat

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to prevent the defeat of allied separatists in eastern Ukraine while clinging to his insistence that Russia hasn’t been involved in the deadly, 7-month-old conflict.

In an interview with Germany’s ARD television, Putin repeated his claim that ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine are in danger of repression by a Kiev leadership he suggested was plotting to oust them en route to creating a fascist state.

“We are very concerned about any possible ethnic cleansings and Ukraine ending up as a neo-Nazi state,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin news service account of the interview. “What are we supposed to think if people are bearing swastikas on their sleeves? Or what about the SS emblems that we see on the helmets of some military units now fighting in eastern Ukraine?”

A shotgun wedding from Taiwan’s Want China Times:

US makes ‘fatal mistake’ driving China and Russia closer: Duowei

The United States is making a “fatal mistake” by antagonizing both China and Russia and forcing the two primary opponents closer together, says Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news website.

Washington turned against Moscow following the start of the Ukraine crisis in February this year, leading the European Union and Japan in imposing heavy sanctions against Russia. The increasing distrust between the two countries has been apparent, with Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama coming into contact for only 20-30 minutes during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in Beijing last week, with neither leader having much to say to the other.

Putin also berated the US shortly before the ensuing G20 in Australia, accusing Washington of undermining the very trade institutions it created by imposing sanctions on Russia, a “mistake” that it said went against international law and trade agreements.

Trackin’ pistol-packin’, from MIT Technology Review:

Police in California and Texas Test Networked Guns

  • A chip that tracks how a police officer’s gun is being used could prove useful in investigations and court cases

When a police officer draws a firearm he or she often doesn’t have an opportunity to radio for backup.

YardArm, a California-based company, is building technology that will automatically alert headquarters in such situations. The company makes a chip that goes into the handle of a regular firearm and transmits data over a cell-phone network connection. The data transmitted includes the location of a gun and whether it has been unholstered or discharged. The company is also working to track the direction in which a gun is pointing. The data can be fed to a police dispatch system or viewed on a smartphone.

Founded in 2013, YardArm started out making a consumer product for monitoring a firearm’s location. But since many American gun owners object to technology or policies aimed at regulating firearms, it did not find many customers.

The despicable, enabling the despicable, via the New York Times:

Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons

In 1982, Christopher B. Epps, a young schoolteacher, took a second job as a guard at the facility known as Parchman Farm, the only prison operated at the time by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Eventually he had to choose a path. “It worked out that I was making more as a correctional officer than as a teacher,” Mr. Epps would later recall in an interview for a corrections newsletter.

By the time he spoke those words in 2009, Mr. Epps was being feted as Mississippi’s longest-serving corrections commissioner. The state inmate population had quadrupled, five private prisons had been built to help house them, and, according to a federal grand jury indictment, Mr. Epps had found a new, secretive way to bolster his income.

The 49-count indictment, unsealed last week, accuses Mr. Epps of receiving more than $1 million in bribes from a former Mississippi lawmaker named Cecil McCrory, beginning in 2007. In exchange, the indictment charges, Mr. Epps helped secure lucrative corrections department contracts for private prison companies owned or represented by Mr. McCrory.

More penal despicability, via the Miami Herald:

Detention at Guantánamo grinds on: 13 years and counting, 148 captives remain

It’s the first Tuesday in November, just another day as Guantánamo grinds on toward the detention center’s 14th year as the most expensive prison on earth with no end in sight. President Barack Obama ordered it emptied in 2009, on his second day in office, and people here are dubious that it will be done before his last.

It will close “a year from now, six months from now, 10 years from now — I don’t know,” says Zak, a Pentagon employee who has served as the prison’s Muslim cultural adviser since 2005.

“My focus is to ensure that I have operationally effective and safe facilities for a mission with an indeterminate end date,” says Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the 14th commander of the prison operation.

Bobby despicability, via the London Telegraph:

A million crimes reported by public left out of police figures

  • Watchdog warns that police are failing to record one in five crimes because of the ‘target culture’ in forces

Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.

Its report exposed “indefensible” failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under “inexcusably poor” systems.

Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread “fiddling” it said there was an “undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces” and “wrongful pressure” by managers.

From Network World, a criminal marketing twist:

New ransomware CoinVault allows users to decrypt one file for free

Cybercriminals behind a new ransomware program called CoinVault are trying out a new psychological tactic to convince users to pay up—freebies.

The new threat was discovered by security researchers from Webroot and is similar in functionality to more prevalent ransomware programs like CryptoWall. It uses strong 256-bit AES encryption with keys stored on a remote server, it kills the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service so that users can’t use it to recover their files and only supports Bitcoin as a payment method.

Users are asked to pay 0.5 bitcoins—around $200 at the current exchange rate—in order to receive the key that decrypts their files, but the cost increases every 24 hours.

One aspect that sets CoinVault apart from other file-encrypting ransomware programs is that it allows users to see a list of encrypted files on their computer and choose one they can decrypt for free.

SecurityWeek covers more criminal despicability:

Research Finds 1 Percent of Online Ads Malicious

One percent does not sound like a lot, but multiple it by the right number, and it can be.

Such is the case when it comes to malicious advertising. In research recently presented at the 2014 Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, a team of security experts from Ruhr-University Bochum, University College London and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) examined more than 600,000 online advertisements on 40,000 websites over a three-month period and used multiple detection systems to assess whether they were good or bad. The end result: one percent of the ads were found to be involved in suspicious or malicious activity such as drive-by downloads and link hijacking.

“While this is bad news for the advertising networks, advertisers and Internet users who are all under attack from the malware producers, the good news is there are several things available today that can stop malvertising,” said Giovanni Vigna, co-founder and CTO of Lastline, one of the members of the team that worked on the research. “One of these is the use of the sandboxing attribute in iframes within HTML5. None of the 40,000 websites we observed leveraged this mechanism, even though it could stop the link-hijacking that is by far the most prevalent method by which miscreants are getting past other security measures in order to distribute malware through advertisements.”

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Britain, attacks on immigrant housing in Germany, a Columbian general captured by rebels and a massive manhunt ensues, a disillusioned Mossad agent speaks out, Pakistani police thuggery, a killer Indian medical mob, illegal student protests in Myanmar, a crackdown on Hong Kong Occupy camp nears, more repercussions from the election of an Okianawa govenor opposed to a U.S. base move as activists work to expose the toxic legacy of Vietnam War-era Agent Orange exposures on the island, and a unique Californian match made in prison. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Dancing, death, angst, and hope


And the latest from the African media. . .

We’ll begin with the latest poll of American healthcare concerns from Gallup, with Ebola now ranking number three, above cancer and heart disease:

BLOG Ebola

Next, and on the lighter side, a video report from Agence France-Presse:

Health workers in Sierra Leone dance to cheer up Ebola patients

Program note:

Staff tackling the Ebola virus at a treatment centre in Sierra Leone face death every day but that doesn’t mean they can’t look on the brighter side. They’ve taken to dancing to cheer up their patients.

What’s next? Dancing with the SARS?

And on the very serious side, this from the Associated Press:

Red Cross officials: Ebola flaring anew in Africa

Red Cross officials helping to lead the fight against Ebola in West Africa said Monday the virus is still spreading, and they’re having trouble recruiting health care workers to combat it.

Antoine Petitbon of the French Red Cross said that it’s easier for him to recruit people to go to Iraq, despite the security hazards there. He said the French Red Cross is facing an unprecedented problem: Sixty percent of people it signs up to work in the Ebola zone subsequently back out due to pressure from families and friends.

Birte Hald, head of emergency operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that after a recent surge of optimism that the virus was coming under control, especially in Liberia, it “is flaring up in new villages, in new locations.” On Monday, Hald said, a team of international experts was being set to Mali to assist that nation’s health authorities in stemming an outbreak of Ebola there.

From the Los Angeles Times, Californians prepare to head to the hot zone:

California National Guard prepares for Ebola mission in West Africa

A unit of the California Army National Guard has been ordered to mobilize for possible deployment to West Africa to support U.S. and international efforts to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The linguist detachment of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion is among six National Guard battalions nationwide ordered for involuntary mobilization under an order signed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The others are in Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Iowa and Kansas.

None of the approximately 1,200 soldiers from the battalions will provide direct medical care to Ebola patients, the Army National Guard said in its announcement Sunday. Another 900 Army reservists are also being mobilized for what the Pentagon calls Operation United Assistance.

The Guard soldiers and reservists will provide training on Ebola and malaria prevention and also medical readiness, the Army said.

A reminder from the National Journal:

Why It’s Too Early to Forget About Ebola

The Ebola outbreak is far from over in West Africa. Pay attention, America.

Americans are googling Taylor Swift more than they’re googling Ebola.

The panic that gripped the country following four diagnoses of the virus in the United States seems to have faded into a collective amnesia following a three-week period with no new Ebola cases.

But the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach ignores the crisis that continues to plague West Africa. Funding for the international response has lagged, and positive developments in Liberia have resulted in premature optimism about a situation that we still don’t fully have a grasp on. Health experts have said all along that the only way to eliminate the risk of infection in the U.S. is to end the outbreak there—and we’re still far, far away from the finish line.

“The Ebola focus we had over the past month really has been largely on that in the U.S.; many of us kept saying, ‘Don’t take the eye off the ball in West Africa,’ “ said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “[But] the interest and concern has focused on a few cases in the U.S. This is not surprising—people think, ‘Am I going to contract Ebola? If it’s over there, it’s not my problem.’”

The Guardian registers a protest:

Kaci Hickox accuses governors of exploiting Ebola fears for political gain

  • Nurse says Chris Christie disregarded science and constitution
  • ‘Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House’

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who found herself in the middle of a political storm when she was quarantined on her return from west Africa despite testing negative for Ebola, has launched a blistering attack on two “overzealous” state governors, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Paul LePage of Maine, whom she accused of seeking to advance their careers at her expense.

Of the former, who is widely seen as a possible Republican nomination for president in 2016, she said: “Politicians who tell lies … will hopefully never make it to the White House.”

Writing for the Guardian, Hickox said: “I was quarantined against my will by overzealous politicians.”

“My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear. Christie and my governor in Maine, Paul LePage, decided to disregard medical science and the constitution in hopes of advancing their careers.”

From the Washington Post, lending a hand:

In Ebola fight, private foundations provide critical financial aid

The U.S. emergency response team working on Ebola in Kemena, Sierra Leone, was stuck. The vehicle they had been using to transport patients, deliver oral rehydration packets and do other critical work had two flat tires. It was early October, a time when things seemed to be spiraling out of control in the epicenter of the crisis, and there wasn’t a moment to waste.

The stranded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers knew just where to call for help: a little-known nonprofit — the CDC Foundation — that received millions of dollars in donations in recent months from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and other philanthropists.

Within the hour, the organization authorized enough money for the staff to make the repairs. And within the week, it had ordered, paid for and shipped to the region about 200 additional pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive cars — $5 million worth.

And from New York Times, the latest press-attracting casualty:

Doctor Being Treated for Ebola in Omaha Dies

A surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, Dr. Martin Salia, died Monday while being treated in a biocontainment center in Omaha.

“We used the maximum amount of supportive care and every advanced technique available in an effort to save his life,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“We are reminded today that even though this was the best possible place for a patient with this virus to be, that in the very advanced stages, even the most modern techniques that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they reach the critical threshold,” Dr. Gold said.

More from the Washington Post:

A doctor’s mistaken Ebola test: ‘We were celebrating. . . . Then everything fell apart’

When Martin Salia’s Ebola test came back negative, his friends and colleagues threw their arms around him. They shook his hand. They patted him on the back. They removed their protective gear and cried.

But when his symptoms remained nearly a week later, Salia took another test, on Nov. 10. This one came back positive, sending the Sierra Leonean doctor with ties to Maryland on a desperate, belated quest for treatment and forcing the colleagues who had embraced him into quarantine.

“We were celebrating. If the test says you are Ebola-free, we assume you are Ebola-free,” said Komba Songu M’Briwa, who cared for Salia at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center in Freetown. “Then everything fell apart.”

Salia is now in critical condition at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, his family left to wonder what would have happened if he had received earlier treatment.

Al Jazeera America covers blowback to celebrity tragedy traipsing:

‘We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off’

  • As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it’s a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good

The original campaign, and similar well-meaning Western efforts, have led to an image of an Africa full of countries, and people, unable to help themselves and constantly looking to foreigners for help.

When it was announced last week that, in response to Ebola, Geldof was planning to record a song he thinks is terrible for the fourth time, there was an eruption of criticism from Africans on Twitter and elsewhere.

Though the original song was recorded to raise money for Ethiopia, African critics say the stigma its simplistic message left behind affected not only that country, but a continent of 54 hugely-varied nations.

Detractors say an unintended legacy hinders investment, hurts tourism and inspires the sort of aid that has a negative impact.

NHK WORLD covers more Japanese preparations:

Govt., city to discuss safety steps for Ebola lab

The government and a city within Tokyo Metropolis will start drafting safety measures for an advanced laboratory of infectious diseases to handle possible Ebola cases.

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki on Monday visited a branch of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Musashimurayama City.

The facility’s laboratory is capable of analyzing the Ebola virus and other highly dangerous pathogens as well as developing vaccines for them.

From BBC News, more help on the way:

New Zealand to send Ebola medics to W Africa

New Zealand’s government has approved the deployment of 24 medical workers to West Africa to help fight Ebola.

The volunteers, backed by an investment of NZ$2m (£1m; $1.6m), will be based at the new 100-bed clinic being set up by Australia in Sierra Leone.

New Zealand also committed NZ$1m to a WHO fund to help Pacific nations prepare for a potential outbreak there.

On to the pharma front, first with Voice of America:

Researchers Turn to Deadly Tobacco for Ebola Cure

Notorious for its cancer-causing properties, the nicotine-rich product could soon prove to be effective in treating Ebola. A biopharmaceutical company in Guelph, Canada, called PlantForm, is currently testing a trial drug with the hopes of having it on the market in three to four years.

The company’s president and CEO, Don Stewart, said these are exciting times for the tobacco industry, long seen as a threat to good health.

“The possibility of creating, at very low cost, drugs for Ebola, is an exciting opportunity for us all.”

Next, via Reuters:

No safety concerns yet in trials of GSK’s Ebola vaccine

Almost 200 people have received GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental Ebola vaccine in trials in the United States, Britain, Mali and Switzerland, and the safety data so far are “very satisfactory”, scientists said on Monday.

The trials, which began just over two months ago, have been using healthy volunteers, rather than patients with Ebola, to test whether the vaccine is safe for humans.

The experimental shot uses a single Ebola virus gene from a chimpanzee virus to generate an immune response. Because it doesn’t contain any infectious virus material, it can’t infect those being vaccinated.

A plea, via the Liberian Observer:

“Ebola Must be Isolated, not the people”

European Union Ebola Coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has urged countries unaffected by the Ebola Virus Disease not to discriminate against or isolate people of Ebola affected countries, but isolate the disease itself.

Commissioner Stylianides’ statement comes in the wake of isolation and discriminatory measures by many countries including Morocco, Australia and Canada to prevent people of Ebola affected countries from entering their countries.

Speaking at a brief press conference on November 14 at the EU’s Mamba Point office, Mr. Stylianides reiterated that “we want to isolate the disease, not the people.  We must not allow fear to dictate our actions.  This is the foundation of our commitment and solidarity.”

Commenting further on strategies to curb the disease and take precautionary measures to prevent future outbreaks, the EU Commissioner said now is the time to begin thinking about a plan to build infrastructures, especially the healthcare delivery system on a long-term basis, noting that success cannot be assured without a long-term plan.

And from the Associated Press, an upbeat assessment:

Hagel credits US military with Ebola progress

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday there are encouraging signs of progress against the Ebola virus in West Africa, and he said the U.S. military can take some credit for containing it.

Hagel told a group of 101st Airborne Division soldiers Monday that it is too early to say when the U.S. military’s Ebola mission in Liberia and Senegal will be finished.

“We’re not at the end yet,” he said.

Hagel toured the pre-deployment training that is given to soldiers before they go to West Africa. The soldiers are providing logistics and other support there but are not in direct contact with people infected with the virus. Nevertheless, soldiers are required to undergo 21 days of quarantine upon their return.

After the jump, its on to Africa and an Ebola blackout in the Sudanese press, Ebola fears in the Cote d’Ivoire, on to Mali and a critical time ahead, hundreds monitored for symptoms, and a presidential visit to the border, next to Guinea and villages reluctantly opened and a French clinic readied, then on to Liberia, with accommodations for survivors, a plea to reform responsiveness, a legislator’s call for permanent hospitals rather than mobile emergency treatment units, and Chinese help arrives, plus the woes of the pregnant in Sierra Leone. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Anger, protest, parents, science


We begin with the latest, via Al Jazeera America:

Protests rage over missing students in Mexico ahead of national strike

  • Strike and massive marches called for Nov. 20 in capital and abroad demanding end to government corruption

Protests over the disappearance of 43 missing students raged across Mexico and the United States over the weekend. Activists blamed a government they say has ties to organized crime and called for people in Mexico and the U.S. to support a Mexico-wide strike on Thursday.

Coinciding with the Nov. 20 strike, protest marches will be held in Mexico City, as well as dozens of cities across the U.S. including New York City and Los Angeles.

“We want to warn that these acts of protest will not be silenced while the civil and human rights of our Mexican brothers continue to be violated and trampled on by a government that has colluded with organized crime and to those who blamed the crimes committed by the state on [cartels] — thereby evading their own responsibility in the state sponsored genocide that has been committed with total impunity,” #YoSoy123NY, the New York chapter of a Mexican social movement that opposes Mexico’s current government, said in a statement handed out at a protest in New York City on Sunday.

A video report on the upcoming  protests in Mexico City via teleSUR:

Mexico: Major protests planned for Nov. 20 over Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

This past weekend, several demonstrations were held throughout Mexico to demand that the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa be returned alive. Plans for major demonstrations on November 20 are already underway and include 3 separate marches in Mexico City that will converge in the city’s central square and the possible seizure of the Mexico City International Airport.

From the Washington Post, the ripples spread:

Outrage in Mexico over missing students broadens into fury at corruption, inequality

On the day that pipe-wielding rioters set fire to a government accounting office and ransacked the state congress building, Felipe de la Cruz stepped to the microphone in the floodlit plaza of his missing son’s school.

The protests about his son and dozens of others abducted by police had been building for weeks. The next morning, caravans of buses would drive out of these wooded hills to spread their defiant message to far corners of Mexico, as protesters in different states blocked highways, seized town squares, closed airports, and burned cars and buildings.

“The parents are enraged by so much waiting and so few results,” De la Cruz, who has emerged as a spokesman for the victims’ families, told the crowd last Wednesday. As of Monday, he said, “the flame of insurgency has been lit.”

And from CathNews, a plea:

Mexican bishops plead for peace over student protest violence

“With sadness we recognise that the situation of the country has worsened” – since 2010, when the bishops published a pastoral letter on violence – “unleashing a true national crisis,” the bishops said on November 12 during their semi-annual planning sessions in suburban Mexico City. “Many people live subjected to fear, finding themselves helpless against the threats of criminal groups and, in some cases, the regrettable corruption of the authorities.”

The same day, at the end of his general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he wanted to express to the Mexicans present in St Peter’s Square, “but also to those in your homeland, my spiritual closeness at this painful time.” While the students are legally missing, “we know they were killed,” the Pope said. Their disappearance and deaths “make visible the dramatic reality that exists behind the sale and trafficking of drugs.”

Ordinary Mexicans have taken to the streets, condemning the crimes committed against the students and the apparent collusion between criminals and the political class in parts of the country. The bishops lent their support to peaceful demonstrations, which often have been led by students, and called for a day of prayer on December 12, when millions of Mexicans celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The San Antonio Express-News covers context:

Mexico’s Iguala massacre: criminal gangs and criminal government

Gang and government lawlessness plague Mexico. On Sept. 26, a violent gang and a criminal government combined to massacre 43 students near the Guerrero state town of Iguala.

A perceived attitude of elite indifference by Guerrero state and federal government officials has fanned national outrage. Now, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto faces an expanding crisis of confidence in government institutions.

There are two reasons the crisis could damage Pena’s ability to govern.

Reason No. 1: Atrocities far less hideous and institutionally debilitating than the Iguala massacre have sparked mass revolt.

This column’s first sentence sketches reason No. 2: Mexican government corruption facilitates organized crime. Organized crime enriches a corrupt political class. Cartel gunmen and crooked cops on the streets, cartel comandantes and corrupt politicos through institutions ensnare the Mexican people.

From KNSD-7 in San Diego, solidarity:

Kidnappings, Killings of Students in Mexico Fuel SD Protests

The mass kidnappings and killings of college students in Mexico is fueling protests that have spilled over to this side of the border.

Mexican officials have confirmed the students’ remains were found. But the officials’ response is fueling more demonstrations this week, including here in San Diego.

Here at home, more than 200 students at University of California San Diego showed their support at a candlelight vigil.

“This is something that spans time and space, students being persecuted for their beliefs, for their politics,” said Mariko Kuga, a fourth-year UCSD student.

From the University of Washington student paper, the Daily:

UW students raise awareness for ongoing corruption in Mexico

Chanting filled the streets as a procession made its way around the corner of Brooklyn Avenue Northeast and Northeast Campus Parkway on Friday afternoon. With determined faces, students marched toward Red Square, holding signs and posters calling for justice in Mexico.

These students, most involved with the social justice organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA), were protesting against the corruption of the Mexican government and raising awareness about the recent massacre of 43 students near the small town of Ayotzinapa, Mexico.

“The whole point of this protest is to raise awareness,” said senior Jessica Ramirez of MEChA, who organized the protest. “This is an issue for Latinos and this is an issue for Mexicans, but mostly this is an issue for everybody that cares about social justice and human rights justice.”

KTVX-4 in Salt Lake City covers solidarity in Utah:

Utahns rally for missing students in Mexico

A rally was held at the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City over the weekend. The rally was held to draw attention to 43 missing students in Mexico.

Those at the rally say they believe the Mexican government is somehow benefiting financially from the missing students. They also claim the students were taken to police and then handed over to gangs as a warning to stop protests from the Mexican people.

More solidarity, via the Harvard Gazette:

Murders in Mexico

  • Harvard, Boston experts step in to help

Mexican federal officials now say the 43 students who disappeared were killed by a local drug gang, incinerated in a 14-hour bonfire, and dumped in a local river. (Forensic DNA tests are underway.)

“The brutality of this was huge,” and has to be highlighted to the world, said Miguel Angel Guevara, an M.P.P. candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School. He grew up in Cuernavaca, just a few hours from the scene of the killings. “It reminds me of what the Nazis were doing,” he said.

But unlike the Holocaust’s silent witnesses of seven decades ago, Guevara and other academics are making noise, discussing what may be a six-month blitz of Boston-area events and media outreach. “We felt the story had been underreported,” said Guevara of the missing 43 students — most barely younger than he is. (Guevara, an electrical engineer by training, is 26.)

The project has a pair of YouTube videos up already, on a channel called Boston for Ayotzinapa. One is called “The World Is Watching” and features 136 area students representing 43 countries, one country for each missing student. An Instagram has also appeared, a picture of concerned students demonstrating in front of the gold-domed State House in Boston.

And the video, via Boston for Ayotzinapa:

THE WORLD IS WATCHING: students from 43 countries in solidarity with Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

136 students of 43 countries and 5 universities (Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Berklee College of Music and Tufts) stand in solidarity with the 43 disappeared students in Mexico. Please share this video to raise awareness about the situation and help us pressure the Mexican government.

Countries in solidarity: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.

#JusticeForAyotzinapa #AyotzinapaSomosTodos

Music: Diego Torres and Fernando Faneyte
Edition: Lucia Vergara

From the Nation, a landscape of death:

This Mass Grave Isn’t the Mass Grave You Have Been Looking For

They have found many mass graves. Just not the mass grave they have been looking for. The forty-three student activists were disappeared on September 26, after being attacked by police in the town of Iguala, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. A week later, I set up an alert for “fosa clandestina”—Spanish for clandestine grave—on Google News. Here’s what has come back:

  • On October 4, the state prosecutor of Guerrero announced that twenty-eight bodies were found in five clandestine mass graves. None of them were the missing forty-three.
  • On October 9, three more graves. None of them contained the missing forty-three. The use of the passive tense on the part of government officials and in news reports is endemic. Graves were discovered. Massacres were committed. But in this case, a grassroots community organization, the Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero, searched for and found the burial sites.
  • By October 16, the number of known clandestine graves in the state of Guerrero had risen to nineteen. Still none of them held the forty-three.
  • On October 24, the Unión de Pueblos announced that it had found six more clandestine graves in a neighborhood called Monte Hored. Five were filled with human remains: “hair…blood stained clothing,” including “high school uniforms.”
  • The sixth was empty. It was “new and seemed ready for use,” said a spokesperson for the Unión.

From SciDev.Net, scientific solidarity:

Q&A: Finding the ‘disappeared’ in Argentina and Mexico

The story of 43 students that were kidnapped in Iguala, Mexico — all of whom are now presumed dead — has gripped the country for weeks. But it is just one of many stories of grieving families, outrage and mass graves filled with dozens of bodies, many badly burned. Mexico’s wave of violence continues, making headlines worldwide.

Identifying the victims — to help the police and bring closure to the parents — would be a near-impossible task were it not for forensic scientists. One group that is providing invaluable help is based some 7,000 kilometres away: the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF).

Set up to investigate the crimes of Argentina’s military dictatorship of the 1970s, the team has been identifying skeletal remains of “disappeared people”, often found in unmarked graves. Since then the group has travelled to many of the world’s conflict zones, helping to identify victims of massacres in more than 50 countries, from El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia to former Yugoslavia, the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

From ODN, more Argentine solidarity:

Argentines demonstrate ‘solidarity’ with Mexico over missing students

Program notes:

Demonstrators in Argentina took to the Mexican Embassy on Monday in a show of “solidarity” with the people of Mexico over missing students,. Report by Claire Lomas.

And from the Aurora Sentinel, a reminder of those most concerned:

Mexico couple’s desperate search for missing son

“How is it possible that in 15 hours they burned so many boys, put them in a bag and threw them into the river?” Telumbre says.

Maria Telumbre knows fire. She spends her days making tortillas over hot coals, and experience tells her a small goat takes at least four hours to cook. So she doesn’t believe the government’s explanation that gang thugs incinerated her son and 42 other missing college students in a giant funeral pyre in less than a day, leaving almost nothing to identify them.

The discovery of charred teeth and bone fragments offers Telumbre no more proof of her son’s death than did the many graves unearthed in Guerrero state since the students disappeared Sept. 26. She simply does not accept that the ashes belong to her 19-year-old son and his classmates.

“How is it possible that in 15 hours they burned so many boys, put them in a bag and threw them into the river?” Telumbre says. “This is impossible. As parents, we don’t believe it’s them.”

For Telumbre, her husband, Clemente Rodriguez, and other parents, the official account is merely another lie from an administration that wants to put this mess behind it. Their demands for the truth are fuelling national outrage at the government’s inability to confront the brutality of drug cartels, corruption and impunity.

From Mexico Voices, building on tragedy:

Mexico’s Iguala Crisis: Ayotzinapa Students, Parents and Zapatistas Discuss Establishing National Movement to Locate All Disappeared

Commanders of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and members of the Good Government Council (JBG) agreed with Ayotzinapa Normal School [teachers college] students and parents traveling with the Daniel Solís Gallardo Brigade [part of National Information Caravan] to develop together a national movement for demanding the safe return of Mexico’s disappeared and those extra-judicially executed by the State.

On Saturday morning at the Caracol of Oventic in the Municipality of San Andrés Larráinzar, a four-hour meeting took place with the Zapatistas. Open to all Zapatista supporters, the meeting was attended by Subcomandante Moisés and Comandante Tacho.

That night a press conference was held at the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center during which details of the meeting were unveiled about what they will do in the coming days. Omar García, a student member of the Caravan, said:

“They embraced our indignation and rage. They gave us the greatest attention and expressed their full readiness to support us.”

And to close, via Cube Breaker, a new mural in Ciudad Juarez by the artist Ever to commemorate the missing students:

BLOG Ayoytzinapa mural

InSecurityWatch: War, crime, hacks, cops, zones


First, via the Guardian, one of those responsible warns of collapse:

David Cameron warns that second global crash is looming

  • PM says ‘red warning lights are flashing’ against a backdrop of instability and uncertainty, as G20 summit draws to a close

David Cameron has issued a stark message that “red warning lights are flashing on the dashboard of the global economy” in the same way as when the financial crash brought the world to its knees six years ago.

Writing in the Guardian at the close of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Cameron says there is now “a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty” that presents a real risk to the UK recovery, adding that the eurozone slowdown is already having an impact on British exports and manufacturing.

His warning comes days after the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, claimed a spectre of stagnation was haunting Europe. The International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Lagarde, expressed fears in Brisbane that a diet of high debt, low growth and unemployment may yet become “the new normal in Europe”.

From the Guardian again, boots ahoy:

Western combat troops may be needed to defeat Isis, says Lord Dannatt

  • Former army chief says west may have to ‘think the unthinkable’ and engage forces on ground to counter Islamic State

British combat troops could be required to fight in Iraq and Syria to eradicate the threat posed by Islamic State (Isis), a former army chief has said.

Lord Dannatt said western leaders might have to “think the unthinkable” and send in troops if the combination of air strikes and local forces was unable to counter the jihadis.

The former chief of the general staff said the British government should think again about whether to join in air strikes against Isis targets in Syria, but that ultimately bombing missions may not be enough.

From the New York Times, fanning flames:

U.S. Believes ISIS Video Shows Peter Kassig, American Hostage, After Beheading

The Islamic State released a video Sunday showing a black-clad executioner standing over the severed head of a man it identified as the American aid worker Peter Kassig, a former Army Ranger who disappeared over a year ago at a checkpoint in northeastern Syria while delivering medical supplies.

In recent days, American intelligence agencies received strong indications that the Islamic State had killed Mr. Kassig. But without a body or other corroborating evidence, officials could not be certain.

After the video was released and intelligence analysts were able to conduct an initial assessment, one senior American official said Sunday that the government was increasingly convinced that the video was authentic and that Mr. Kassig was dead.

While Al Jazeera English spun differently:

ISIL beheads Syria troops and US aid worker

  • US confirms footage showing killing of at least 12 Syrian military officers and US aid worker Peter Kassig is authentic

The US has said a video circulated online showing members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group beheading several Syrian soldiers and US aid worker Peter Kassig is authentic.

The footage, released and confirmed by Washington on Sunday, showed the beheading of at least 12 people whom ISIL said were pilots and officers in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military.

From Reuters, more fuel for flames:

Lieberman tells German Foreign Minister no limits on East Jerusalem settlements

Rebuffing international criticism, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his German counterpart point-blank on Sunday that Israel will not stop building homes for Jews in East Jerusalem.

His remarks were likely to compound Western frustration over Israeli settlement policy on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state.

“We won’t accept any limitations on building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem,” Lieberman told a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Associated Press covers business as usual:

Prosecutors troubled by extent of military fraud

In a period when the nation has spent freely to support wars on multiple fronts, prosecutors have found plentiful targets: defendants who bill for services they do not provide, those who steer lucrative contracts to select business partners and those who use bribes to game a vast military enterprise.

Despite numerous cases that have produced long prison sentences, the problems have continued abroad and at home with a frequency that law enforcement officials consider troubling.

“The schemes we see really run the gamut from relatively small bribes paid to somebody in Afghanistan to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of contracts being steered in the direction of a favored company who’s paying bribes,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in an interview.

In the past few months alone, four retired and one active-duty Army National Guard officials were charged in a complex bribery and kickback scheme involving the awarding of contracts for marketing and promotional materials. A trucking company driver pleaded guilty to bribing military base employees in Georgia to obtain freight shipments — often weapons which required satellite tracking — to transport to the West Coast.

A Foggy Bottom shutdown, via the Guardian:

State Department shuts down email system after suspected hacker attack

  • ‘Activity of concern’ occurred at same time as attack on White House
  • Entire unclassified email system closed to repair possible damage

The State Department has taken the unprecedented step of shutting down its entire unclassified email system as technicians repair possible damage from a suspected hacker attack.

A senior department official said Sunday that “activity of concern” was detected in the system around the same time as a previously reported incident that targeted the White House computer network. That incident was made public in late October, but there was no indication then that the State Department had been affected. Since then, a number of agencies, including the US Postal Service and the National Weather Service, have reported attacks.

The official said none of the State Department’s classified systems were affected. However, the official said the department shut down its worldwide email late on Friday as part of a scheduled outage of some of its internet-linked systems to make security improvements to its main unclassified computer network. The official was not authorised to speak about the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

So you thought you were keeping secret? From the Stack:

81% of Tor users can be de-anonymised by analysing router information, research indicates

Research undertaken between 2008 and 2014 suggests that more than 81% of Tor clients can be ‘de-anonymised’ – their originating IP addresses revealed – by exploiting the ‘Netflow’ technology that Cisco has built into its router protocols, and similar traffic analysis software running by default in the hardware of other manufacturers.

Professor Sambuddho Chakravarty, a former researcher at Columbia University’s Network Security Lab and now researching Network Anonymity and Privacy at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi, has co-published a series of papers over the last six years outlining the attack vector, and claims a 100% ‘decloaking’ success rate under laboratory conditions, and 81.4% in the actual wilds of the Tor network.

When iGnorance isn’t bliss, via PandoDaily:

Apple downplays Masque Attack, but don’t be fooled: It’s a problem

It’s true that there isn’t much more Apple can do to protect consumers from Masque Attack. Its software already warns them against installing third-party applications, and tells people when they’re trying to launch software from an untrusted developer for the first time. Masque Attack is only a problem because some people might be too stupid not to use third-party apps anyway.

But that doesn’t mean that the feature doesn’t make people vulnerable to attack, like some have argued. Apple could at least make it easier for people to remove information from their smartphones, like it should have done already, or limit third-party downloads to consumers who enable the feature on their own. Not knowing how to fix a problem isn’t an excuse for not at least trying to solve it.

To repeat the ribcage metaphor: there are obvious advantages to the design we have now, and it seems like it’s worked out for us in the past. But that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t wish their bodies were a little different when something slides through their ribs — the same idea applies to users whose personal data was stolen because they mistakenly used masquerading malware.

From Salon, compromising:

Google’s secret NSA alliance: The terrifying deals between Silicon Valley and the security state

  • Inside the high-level, complicated deals — and the rise of a virtually unchecked surveillance power

Google took a risk forming an alliance with the NSA. The company’s corporate motto, “Don’t be evil,” would seem at odds with the work of a covert surveillance and cyber warfare agency. But Google got useful information in return for its cooperation. Shortly after the China revelation, the government gave Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder, a temporary security clearance that allowed him to attend a classified briefing about the campaign against his company. Government analysts had concluded that the intrusion was directed by a unit of the People’s Liberation Army. This was the most specific information Google could obtain about the source of the intrusion. It could help Google fortify its systems, block traffic from certain Internet addresses, and make a more informed decision about whether it wanted to do business in China at all. Google’s executives might pooh-pooh the NSA’s “secret sauce.” But when the company found itself under attack, it turned to Fort Meade for help.

Up in the air, junior birdmen, via the Verge:

Drones over US soil: the calm before the swarm

An explosion of advanced flying vehicles is about to hit the skies, but regulation lags way behind technology

The Federal Aviation Administration expects there to be more than 30,000 UAVs over our skies by the year 2020 doing work for private companies and law enforcement. Add in the the number of highly advanced vehicles being flown by hobbyists, and that number gets much higher. “I would guess there are already forty or fifty thousand aircraft in the hands of civilians capable of autonomous flight,” says Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, who recently left the magazine to focus full time on his drone company, 3D Robotics, and community, DIY Drones. “That’s far more than our best estimates of what the military has, and the number is going to grow rapidly over the next few years.”

How have things changed so fast? “10 years ago, drones were military industrial technology, extremely expensive and some of it classified,” says Anderson. “What happened over the last decade is that the revolution in your pocket, has made that technology so cheap, and easy, and ubiquitous that regular people could do it.”

Once-rare components like accelerometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes, and GPS trackers have all been driven down in cost by the explosion of mobile devices. “A lot of the technologies to pilot a drone used to be covered under what’s called export control, which is to say they were regulated as military technology,” explains Anderson. That meant you couldn’t simply order these technologies online or find them at your local hobby shop. “But there is a provision in the export control laws that exempts public domain.” In other words, once all these parts became readily available in the smartphones you could pick up at Best Buy, they were no longer banned for civilian use. “Because the stuff became so easy and so cheap, suddenly regular people could do the stuff only defense contractors could do before.”

From the New York Times, junior G-men:

More Federal Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations

The federal government has significantly expanded undercover operations in recent years, with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing, records and interviews show.

At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.

At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers, accountants drug dealers or yacht buyers and more, court records show.

At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud, officials said.

After the jump, killer cops in Brazil, looking at it from Putin’s angle, Egyptian students face a military court over campus protests, environmentalists versus Big Oil in a Congo park, hints that Obama nears an Iranian nuclear deal, another alliance forms to challenge Russia, Hong Kong cops preapre to evict Occupy encampments, Jaspanese election deals setback to Obama/Abe, the dynamic duo draws closer nonetheless while the Okinawa deal grows more elusive, while Obama and Abe partner with the Aussies against China. . . Continue reading