Category Archives: MSM

Ebola crisis, deaths vastly underestimated


Finally, a journalist gets it right.

We’ve been focused intensely on the Ebola crisis for two reasons: The sad relative neglect given the crisis by mainstream medium in the U.S. and Europe [except, that is, when a Westerner/Northerner gets sick or when there's a false alarm] and because it is our conviction that the current Ebola is the biggest news story of the year.

Yes, what’s happened in the Mideast is atrocious, but the flaws in the global health system and the instinctive ethnocentrism exhibited by the industrialized nations revealed by the crisis are a harbinger of things to come. And the wide-scale spread of the outbreak and the resulting horrendous human tragedy demand far more than our own sadly diminished news media have thus far been able to give.

Thus, it’s left to alternative media such as Democracy Now! to give the crisis the attention it merits, as in this interview with Pulitzer-winning public health journalist Laurie Garrett.

From Democracy Now!:

Underestimated and Ignored, Growing Ebola Epidemic Requires Unprecedented Global Mobilization

Program notes:

The World Health Organization is warning that the number of new Ebola cases in West Africa is growing faster than relief workers can manage. The organization says that thousands are at risk of contracting the virus in the coming weeks and more medical professionals are urgently needed to help contain the outbreak. So far, Ebola has claimed some 2,400 lives and continues to ravage Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It is the worst outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone has lost a fourth doctor to Ebola after efforts to transfer her abroad for treatment failed. The loss is a major setback for the impoverished country, which is already suffering from a shortage of healthcare workers. Since the Ebola outbreak began, approximately 144 healthcare professionals have died while serving affected populations. We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

InSecurityWatch: Wars, cops, spies, bluster


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

Pope Francis warns on ‘piecemeal World War III’

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

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

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

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the conditionally belligerent:

Americans ready for military action – for now

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

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

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

From Fox News, semantic disagreement:

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

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

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

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

From the New York Times, another human sacrifice:

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

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

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

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

From MintPress News, a reminder:

How The West Created ISIS

… with a little help from our friends

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

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press sounds another alarm with a familiar name:

al-Qaida’s Syrian cell alarms US

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

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

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

The Hill covers the predictable:

Senators: Curbing NSA could help ISIS

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

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

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

Vice News plays catchup:

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

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

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

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

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

TV3 News Auckland covers contested Kiwi claims:

Key hits back at Greenwald’s claims of mass surveillance

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

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

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

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

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

From Ars Technica, seeking a memory hole patch:

Senator demands US courts recover 10 years of online public records

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

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

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

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

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sadly familiar story:

Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

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

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

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

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

Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town

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

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

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

From the New York Times again, tax farming reconsidered:

Mistrust Lingers as Ferguson Takes New Tack on Fines

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

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

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

From the Guardian, another Ferguson revelation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swatting prank sends real life SWAT teams after gamers’ opponents

Program notes:

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

From Reuters, about damn time:

Next for Corporate America: Body wires and wire taps?

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

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

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

Reuters again, with a loathsome threat:

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

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

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

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

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

Quote of the day: Naomi Klein on climate change


From an essay she wrote for the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

Read the rest.

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

BLOG Toles

EnviroWatch: Water, fracking, forests, nukes


We begin with the latest on that other outbreak, the one in Asia, via Jiji Press:

Dengue Infections in Japan Surpass 100

Nine more people in Japan have been confirmed to have dengue fever, raising the total number of cases to 105, the health ministry said Thursday.

All nine are likely to have been bitten by dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park or nearby areas, where most of the recent infections are believed to have originated, the ministry said.

The 105 infected people come from 16 prefectures across Japan. The nine people developed symptoms between Aug. 30 and Tuesday, according to the ministry. The first domestic case of dengue fever in nearly 70 years was reported late last month.

From Mother Jones, Hillary’s other legacy:

How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World

  • A trove of secret documents details the US government’s global push for shale gas

Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel. But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials—some with deep ties to industry—also helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the programme actually serves.

Geologists have long known that there were huge quantities of natural gas locked in shale rock. But tapping it wasn’t economically viable until the late 1990s, when a Texas wildcatter named George Mitchell hit on a novel extraction method that involved drilling wells sideways from the initial borehole, then blasting them full of water, chemicals, and sand to break up the shale—a variation of a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Besides dislodging a bounty of natural gas, Mitchell’s breakthrough ignited an energy revolution. Between 2006 and 2008, domestic gas reserves jumped 35%. The United States later vaulted past Russia to become the world’s largest natural gas producer. As a result, prices dropped to record lows, and America began to wean itself from coal, along with oil and gas imports, which lessened its dependence on the Middle East. The surging global gas supply also helped shrink Russia’s economic clout: profits for Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, plummeted by more than 60% between 2008 and 2009 alone.

Clinton, who was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, believed that shale gas could help rewrite global energy politics. “This is a moment of profound change,” she later told a crowd at Georgetown University. “Countries that used to depend on others for their energy are now producers. How will this shape world events? Who will benefit, and who will not? … The answers to these questions are being written right now, and we intend to play a major role.” Clinton tapped a lawyer named David Goldwyn as her special envoy for international energy affairs; his charge was “to elevate energy diplomacy as a key function of US foreign policy.”

From the Japan Times, another tragedy:

Police in Indian Kashmir collect bodies floating in worst floods in years

Authorities in Indian Kashmir collected the bodies of women and children floating in the streets on Thursday as anger mounted over what many survivors said was a bungled operation to help those caught in the region’s worst flooding in 50 years.

Both the Indian and Pakistan sides of the disputed Himalayan region have been hit by extensive flooding in recent days, and about 450 people have been killed, with Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar particularly hard hit.

“Some air force officials have reported that they have seen bodies of women and children floating. We are making every effort to collect the bodies as soon as we can,” said Srinagar police officer Faizal Wani.

Some aerial footage from RT:

Sub(merged)-Continent: Aerial footage of India’s fatal floods

Program notes:

Indian Air Force helicopters continue rescue efforts on to evacuate people stranded in flooded areas in Indian Kashmir. The flooding began earlier this month, causing landslides. More than a million people have been affected, with thousands losing their homes to the rising water.

And from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a look at the grievous condition in the American West, where water shortage is the rule [click on the image to enlarge]:

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

BBC News covers another tragedy:

Amazon rainforest destruction in Brazil rises again

The rate of destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has increased for a second year running.

Brazilian government figures show deforestation was up by 29% in the 12 months up to the end of July 2013. Satellite data showed that almost 6,000 sq km (2,315 sq miles) of forest were cleared during that period.

The largest increases in deforestation were seen in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, where most of Brazil’s agricultural expansion is taking place.

From the New York Times, tragedy within tragedy:

Peru Investigates the Killing of an Environmental Advocate

The authorities here are investigating the killing of an environmental advocate and indigenous leader who died along with three other men in a remote region of the Amazon jungle that he had sought to protect from illegal logging.

The advocate, Edwin Chota, 54, was a leader of the Ashaninka Indian village of Saweto, near the Brazilian border. Mr. Chota was killed after leaving Saweto on Aug. 31, while on his way to meet with leaders from another Ashaninka village some days walk away, according to his widow, Julia Pérez, and media reports.

Three other Saweto leaders accompanying him were also killed, officials said.

It took several days for villagers to discover the killings and make the trip by river to the regional capital, Pucallpa, to report the crime. Environmental and indigenous advocates announced the deaths over the weekend.

From the Guardian, motivation for rapacity:

Tropical forests illegally destroyed for commercial agriculture

  • Forest Trends warns that demand for palm oil, beef, soy and wood has fuelled rapid deforestation, especially in Indonesia

Increasing international demand for palm oil, beef, soy and wood is fuelling the illegal destruction of tropical forests at an alarming rate, according to new analysis that suggests nearly half of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of unlawful clearing for commercial agriculture.

The report, by the Washington-based NGO Forest Trends, concludes that 71% of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2012 was due to commercial cultivation. Of that deforestation, 49% was caused by illegal clearing to make way for agricultural products whose largest buyers include the EU, China, India, Russia and the US.

The global market for beef, leather, soy, palm oil, tropical timbers, pulp and paper – worth an estimated $61bn (£38bn) a year – resulted in the clearance of more than 200,000 square kilometres of tropical forest in the first decade of the 21st century, the report says. Put another way, an average of five football fields of tropical forest were lost every minute over that period.

Guardian Professional covers another failure:

Monoculture is failing Nicaragua’s farmers

  • NGOs must acknowledge the risks to livelihoods and food security and teach smallholders to diversify for higher profits

For the farmers on western Nicaragua’s volcanic range, who tend to favour beans over almost all other crops making a living from just beans is far from stable, despite the fertile soils.

As farmers fell trees to make space for land, deforestation has a negative effect on crop yields as increased erosion and surface run-off wash the nutrients from the once-rich volcanic soils. Similarly, environmental pressures such as meteorological variation leads to a high fall in yields.

Marginalised communities with limited access to water for even basic needs have no capacity to irrigate in a dry year. They also rely on the rains relenting between July and August. If there is no dry spell, they cannot dry their beans which then spoil quicker. In some areas, should the winds change and the volcanoes’ acidic smoke billow over farmland, acid rain can destroy an entire harvest.

While the Christian Science Monitor covers tragic dispossession:

Kenya conundrum: Kick out Maasai herders to develop geothermal energy?

  • In East Africa, a clash of two virtues: ancient homelands and clean energy. Kenya has incredible geothermal potential, but much of it sits below indigenous people’s land near volcanic Mt. Suswa.

lready, Kenya is Africa’s largest producer of geothermal and the ninth-largest worldwide. But the 424 megawatts currently generated represent less than 1/20th of the energy locked beneath a string of volcanic fields in the Rift Valley. Suswa alone has an estimated 600 untapped megawatts.

Realizing Kenya’s geothermal potential would cut energy costs and power economic expansion. But it could come at a high price: displacing thousands of indigenous Maasai people who, after a century of losing land rights, are upset at being moved again.

“We don’t like it,” says [Maasai herdsman Daudi] Maisiodo of the budding geothermal exploration at Suswa. “We fear many people will come and take our land.”

After the jump, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, including a disaster for a Japanese newspaper, questions for the ruling party in Japan, more revelations about the nuclear disaster, and a refusal to shut down a California nuclear power plant built on the coast near another fault. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, drones, zones


We begin today’s tales from the work of the insecure with a not-so-surprising helping hand from the Japan Times:

Israel provides intelligence on Islamic State, Western diplomat reveals

Israel has provided satellite imagery and other intelligence in support of the U.S.-led aerial campaign against Islamic State in Iraq, a Western diplomat said on Monday.

Once “scrubbed” of evidence of its Israeli origin, the information has often been shared by Washington with Arab and Turkish allies, the diplomat said.

Israel’s Defence Ministry neither confirmed nor denied involvement in any international efforts against the militant group.

The London Telegraph has one possible result:

Predator drones being flown over Isil’s Syrian ‘capital’

  • Attempt to target al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s leader, comes as Iraq’s MPs back first government, appointments by new prime minister

US drones are being flown over Isil’s Syrian “capital” for the first time as part of a drive by America to target Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s elusive leader.

Residents of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa have captured photo and video footage of remotely-piloted planes, which Western weapons experts have identified as American Predators, the same drones used in Pakistan and Yemen to attack suspected terrorists.

The US has not publicly stated that it is flying drones over Syria, and the sightings over Raqqa are the first indication that it is doing so.

While Homeland Security News Wire questions another assault:

State Department’s social media campaign against ISIS questioned

The State Department is advancing its anti-terrorism efforts on social media by reaching out to vulnerable English-speakers who could be recruited to join the Islamic State (IS).

The campaign emphasizes IS’s brutality, and, mockingly, advises would-be recruits to learn “useful new skills” such as “blowing up mosques” and “crucifying and executing Muslims.”

Experts say that there is a psychological error in trying to scare people off with threats that something might be exciting and thrilling. “If you challenge a young adult, particularly a male, with the fact that something might be especially difficult or challenging, you’re just exciting them,” says an expert in the psychology of terrorists.

From the Guardian, another sort of insecurity:

Petition calls on Obama to respect rights of journalists to do their job

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the New York-based press freedom body, has launched a petition today calling on President Obama’s administration to respect journalists’ right to gather and report news.

The petition, “Right to report in the digital age”, makes three key demands of the US government:

It should prohibit the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organisations; it must limit prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers; and it must halt the harassment of journalists at the US border.

In its preamble to the petition, the CPJ argues that incidents of surveillance, intimidation and exploitation of the press “have raised unsettling questions about whether the US and other western democracies risk undermining journalists’ ability to report in the digital age.”

And from the New York Times, insecurity that flows from the barrel of a gun:

The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing

Posse comitatus is not a phrase that trips lightly off every tongue. It is typically translated from Latin as “force of the county.” Anyone who has ever watched an old Western movie will instantly recognize the first word as referring to men deputized by the sheriff to chase down some varmints who went thataway. (Rappers and their tag-alongs later gave “posse” a different context.) The full phrase is more obscure, but the concept that it embraces is enshrined in American law. The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 at the end of Reconstruction and amended but slightly over the decades, prohibits the nation’s armed forces from being used as a police force within the United States. Soldiers, the reasoning goes, exist to fight wars. Chasing local wrongdoers is a job for cops.

But many police departments today are so heavily armed with Pentagon-supplied hand-me-downs — tools of war like M-16 rifles, armored trucks, grenade launchers and more — that the principle underlying the Posse Comitatus Act can seem as if it, too, has gone thataway. Questions about whether police forces are overly militarized have been around for years. They are now being asked with new urgency because of the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of a teenager faced off for a while against mightily armed officers in battle dress and gas masks. What the world saw were lawmen looking more like combat troops in the Mideast than peacekeepers in the Midwest.

And the accompanying online video from the New York Times:

SWAT: Mission Creep | Retro Report | The New York Times

Program note:

SWAT teams were created in the 1960s to combat hostage-takings, sniper shootings, and violent unrest. But today they’re often used in more controversial police work.

From the Guardian, insecurity commodified in Oakland:

Urban Shield: after Ferguson, police and suppliers consider fate of military-grade tactical gear

Giant black armoured vehicles, assault rifles, gas masks and drones: the modern face of policing in America is on display at a four-day police trade show in Oakland, held mere weeks after a fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri

“Warriors”, says the sign emblazoned in huge letters across the top of the Marriott conference center in downtown Oakland. It refers to the Golden State Warriors, the hometown basketball team who have their practice facilities here, but it might equally apply to the unusual gathering inside the hotel.

Sprawled across the ground floor of the Marriott, a trade show was under way that represents the modern face of policing in America. Hundreds of burly men (they are largely men), heads shaved and dressed in battlefield uniforms in black, green or camouflage are milling around in groups of 10 or 20. There to greet them are scores of weapons manufacturers and military-grade technology companies eager to win their business.

On three sides of the hall, giant black tactical armoured vehicles are stationed, wheels chest-height, sides armour-plated to resist an AK-47 round or blast of a roadside bomb, roofs decked out with spotlights, surveillance cameras and swivel turrets able to house machine guns. One of the vehicles, the aptly named Sentinel – 21ft long, 17,500lbs in weight, and costing $250,000 and up – was developed by a Florida-based company called International Armored Group that began supplying the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan. “With all that experience in blast resistance, we decided to branch off into tactical vehicles tailored to police departments at home,” said the company’s Sally Stefova.

The Guardian again, with the same in Spain:

Spain prepares for an autumn of discontent by buying €1bn of riot gear

  • Amid concerns about heavy handed policing, protesters will face a newly equipped force and truck-mounted water cannon

The Spanish government is readying itself for an autumn of discontent, spending nearly €1bn on riot gear for police units as disparate protest groups prepare a string of demonstrations.

Since June, the interior ministry has tendered four contracts to purchase riot equipment ranging from shields to stab vests. The ministry also finalised its purchase of a new truck-mounted water cannon, an anti-riot measure used during Spain’s dictatorship and the transition to democracy but little seen in recent years. Despite attempts by opposition Socialist politician Antonio Trevín to paint the purchase as “a return to times that we would rather forget”, the ministry said in its tender that the water cannon was necessary, “given the current social dynamic”.

The government’s spending spree comes as groups across Spain are predicting a season of protests. “We’re calling it the autumn of confronting power and institutions,” said the activist group Coordinadora 25-S which has its roots in the indignados movement.

From TheLocal.de, overly Aryanized?:

Police ‘must do more’ to reflect diversity

People from immigrant backgrounds are massively under-represented in Germany’s police forces and security agencies, which are not making enough effort to track the problem, a study published on Monday found.

Migration information service Mediendienst Integration asked all 16 state police agencies, the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), the Federal Police and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution about their workers’ origins.

Most states do not collect figures on the backgrounds of their entire police forces, and neither do the federal agencies.

In the states which do record such figures, numbers were low.

Ditto, from EnetEnglish.gr:

Greek island police chief snapped giving Nazi salute

  • In 1999, same officer fired shots at funeral of junta leader Papadopoulos
  • Hydra island police chief is photographed giving a Nazi salute in a transport museum in Germany, where such behaviour is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine

A photograph has emerged showing the police chief of a Greek island giving a fascist salute in front of a Nazi-era train in a German museum.

In the image, published in Ethnos on Sunday, Lieutenant Yiorgos Kagkalos, chief of police on the island of Hydra, can be seen with an outstretched right arm. Behind him, on a red locomotive, is a large Reichsadler, a stylised eagle combined with the Nazi swastika used as a national emblem in Nazi Germany.

According to Ethos, the photograph was taken on 13 March 2011 when Kagkalos visited the Nuremburg Transport Museum. The train appears to resemble a Elektrolokomotive E 19 12, a model of which is kept at the museum.

And the key part of said image:

BLOG Heiler

From the Guardian, stirring the insecurity pot:

DHS chief: ‘unacceptable security risks’ if Congress withholds border funds

  • Obama administration’s Homeland Security chief renews request for $1.2bn as flow of unaccompanied migrants slows

The Obama administration renewed its plea Monday for Congress to provide additional money to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border. The request seemed likely to fall on deaf ears as neither party showed an appetite to revive the issue.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that without the $1.2bn in additional funding for 2015, he will be forced to take money from other accounts, such as $405m moved earlier this summer from the disaster relief fund.

“This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks,” Johnson said.

From the Los Angeles Times, insecurity in the ranks:

Scathing report on Alaska National Guard forces out commander

The Alaska National Guard’s commander was forced to resign after a six-month federal investigation found that some members of the Guard had been ostracized and abused after reporting sex assaults and that Guard members lacked trust and confidence in their leaders.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell asked the National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations to conduct the review. After receiving the report,  he requested  the resignation of Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, who also served as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The scathing 229-page report, released late Thursday, found that complaints by some sexual assault victims before 2012 were not properly documented, that the victims were not referred to victim advocates, that their confidentiality was breached and that “in some cases, the victims were ostracized by their leaders, peers and units.”

Reuters covers a body count:

Fueling drug gangs’ impunity, unidentified corpses pile up in Mexico

Authorities’ failure to catch the killers in the vast majority of cases or even identify many of the dead is largely down to poor police work and a haphazard patchwork of forensic services across Mexico.

It also helps fuel impunity and further violence. More than 100,000 people have been killed since former President Felipe Calderon ordered a military offensive against drug gangs in late 2006, a move that led to waves of extreme violence.

Despite repeated requests by Reuters, the attorney general’s office did not say how many victims are yet to be identified.

But partial figures from the National Human Rights Commission offer a glimpse: Between 2006 and 2011, more than half of the 40,000 people reported killed in armed confrontations were never identified.

On to the spooky front, first with the predictable, from National Journal:

NSA Reform Will Likely Have to Wait Until After the Election

Legislation to reform the government’s surveillance programs looks destined for a lame-duck session of Congress—and might not get touched at all until next year.

A bill that would curtail the government’s broad surveillance authority is unlikely to earn a vote in Congress before the November midterms, and it might not even get a vote during the postelection lame-duck session.

The inaction amounts to another stinging setback for reform advocates, who have been agitating for legislation that would rein in the National Security Agency ever since Edward Snowden’s leaks surfaced last summer. It also deflates a sudden surge in pressure on Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, which scored a stunning endorsement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last week.

The hard-fought bill has a wide array of backing from tech companies, privacy and civil-liberties groups, the White House, and even the intelligence community. But multiple sources both on and off Capitol Hill say the measure is not a top legislative priority on a jam-packed Senate calendar filled with other agenda items, including unresolved fights over a continuing resolution and the Import-Export Bank.

RT gets protective:

Switzerland ‘unlikely to extradite Snowden’, if he appears for NSA testimony

Switzerland will most likely guarantee safety to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, if he comes to testify against the NSA’s spying activities, Swiss media said.

In the document, titled “What rules are to be followed if Edward Snowden is brought to Switzerland and then the United States makes an extradition request,” Switzerland’s Attorney General stated that Snowden could be guaranteed safety if he arrives in the country to testify, Sonntags Zeitung reported.

In the document, the authority said that Switzerland does not extradite a US citizen, if the individual’s “actions constitute a political offense, or if the request has been politically motivated,” Swiss ATS news agency reported.

A different response in a different country from TheLocal.no:

‘If Snowden wins Nobel Prize, arrest him!’: MP

Should Edward Snowden get a Nobel Peace Award this year, the US dissident faces arrest if he comes to Norway to collect his prize, said Norwegian politician Michael Tetzschner on Monday.

MP Michael Tetzschner of the Conservative Party believes that if the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden receives the Nobel Peace Prize in December this year, then Norwegian police could and should arrest him if he comes to Norway.

Snowden has been nominated for the Peace Prize amid growing support for him to receive the award this year.

A counterprovocation from Canadian Press:

Canadian warship HMCS Toronto buzzed by Russian fighter jets during NATO military exercise in Black Sea

A Canadian frigate taking part in a NATO exercise in the Black Sea was buzzed by Russian military jets off the southern coast of Ukraine on Sunday.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson calls the incident unnecessarily provocative and says it risks escalating tensions in the region even further at a time when a fragile ceasefire is just taking hold.

The minister says the planes circled HMCS Toronto in a manner that did not pose a threat.

From intelNews, he shoulda been a Bush:

Egypt ex-president charged with spying for Qatar, faces death penalty

Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi has been officially charged with spying for the government of Qatar, in what Egypt’s state prosecutor calls the biggest espionage case in the country’s history.

In the summer of 2012, Morsi, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected national leader in Egyptian history, after winning the presidential election with nearly 52 percent of the vote. But he was ousted in a military coup a year later, following widespread protests against him and the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been held in prison ever since.

Now Egypt’s state prosecutor has charged Morsi and eight others, including two former presidential aides, with spying on behalf of the government of Qatar. Egypt’s government accuses Morsi of selling classified documents “with direct bearing on Egypt’s national security” to the intelligence services of Qatar in exchange for $1 million. The documents allegedly included sensitive information on Egyptian military strategy, as well as tactical “positioning and the nature of its armaments”.

After the jump, the latest the Asia and the Game of Zones, including Chinese military budgets reimagined, Japanese sartorial stupidity in China, a Sino/Formosan realignment sought, another alleged Chinese line-crossing and a Japanese response, Heil fellows well met in Tokyo, and more opposition to a U.S. base in Okinawa. . . Continue reading

50 years ago today, politics changed forever


They called it the “Daisy Girl” ad, a brilliantly brutal effort by the campaign of President Lyndon Johnson to derail the campaign of Republican challenger Barry Goldwater.

The ad set off a firestorm of its own, including justifiable claims that the Democrats had engaged in hysterical hyperbole, but it did its job. Back in the pre-cable, pre-Internet days, when viewers watched only three commercial networks and, sometimes, a public television station and an independent local station or two, the ad was seen by a large share of the public, since it ewas aired during the telecast of a sword-and-sandals Biblical epic.

Coming less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a period of horror when Americans went to bed not sure they wouldn’t be incinerated while they slept in a nuclear apocalypse, the ad indelibly seared into viewers’ brains a link between paleoconservative Goldwater and the horrors of Armageddon.

The irony, of course, that Johnson himself proved the belligerent militarist, ramping up the country’s engagement on the battlefields of Vietnam and setting the stage for the country’s first military defeat.

The ad’s legacy was toxic, transforming political commercials from simple expository declarations into the early prototypes of the Orwellian masterpieces accompanying today’s campaigns.

InSecurityWatch: War, spies, Apple hacks, zones


First, from the Dept. Of Haven’t We Seen this Headline Before, via Reuters:

Obama says key allies ready to join U.S. action in Iraq

Next, guess who might be one of those allies? Via BBC News:

Iran ‘backs US military contacts’ to fight Islamic State

Iran’s Supreme Leader has approved co-operation with the US as part of the fight against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, sources have told BBC Persian.

Ayatollah Khamenei has authorised his top commander to co-ordinate military operations with the US, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, sources in Tehran say. Iran has traditionally opposed US involvement in Iraq, an Iranian ally.

However, Iran’s foreign ministry officially denied it would co-operate with the US against IS.

From the London Daily Mail, and, uh, gee, so why was Osama so hard to find, then?:

‘Isis are using Snowden leaks to evade US intelligence’: Former NSA boss warns terror group are exploiting massive breach of security

  • Chris Inglis, NSA deputy chief during leaks, says IS ‘clearly’ harder to find
  • Says they altered tactics, allowing them to operate away from gaze of U.S.
  • He says Snowden spill went ‘way beyond disclosing privacy concerns’
  • Leaks also cover NSA’s top-secret ‘means and methods’ of hunting enemies

Islamic State extremists have studied and exploited the leaks made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to operate under the radar of U.S. intelligence, a former agency chief has claimed.

Chris Inglis said militants in Iraq and Syria are ‘clearly’ harder to track down since the rogue agent made freely available a wealth of top-secret information about how the U.S. government hunts its enemies online.

And from The Intercept, some of what he was up to:

The U.S. Government’s Secret Plans to Spy for American Corporations

Throughout the last year, the U.S. government has repeatedly insisted that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage, in an effort to distinguish its own spying from China’s infiltrations of Google, Nortel, and other corporate targets. So critical is this denial to the U.S. government that last August, an NSA spokesperson emailed The Washington Post to say (emphasis in original): “The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”

After that categorical statement to the Post, the NSA was caught spying on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras; economic summits; international credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In response, the U.S. modified its denial to acknowledge that it does engage in economic spying, but unlike China, the spying is never done to benefit American corporations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for instance, responded to the Petrobras revelations by claiming: “It is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters…. What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”

But a secret 2009 report issued by Clapper’s own office explicitly contemplates doing exactly that. The document, the 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review—provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—is a fascinating window into the mindset of America’s spies as they identify future threats to the U.S. and lay out the actions the U.S. intelligence community should take in response. It anticipates a series of potential scenarios the U.S. may face in 2025, from a “China/Russia/India/Iran centered bloc [that] challenges U.S. supremacy” to a world in which “identity-based groups supplant nation-states,” and games out how the U.S. intelligence community should operate in those alternative futures—the idea being to assess “the most challenging issues [the U.S.] could face beyond the standard planning cycle.”

From The Week, and along the same lines:

This is why you can’t trust the NSA. Ever.

New documents show the agency missing a massive number of violations. And that’s before it set up a new program with virtually no oversight.

The notion that the National Security Agency could police its own internet dragnet program with minimal oversight from a secret court has long drawn scoffs from observers. Now it appears that skepticism was completely justified, following the release of a bunch of documents on the program earlier this month by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (ODNI), which came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Exhibit A is a comprehensive end-to-end report that the NSA conducted in late summer or early fall of 2009, which focused on the work the agency did in metadata collection and analysis to try and identify people emailing terrorist suspects.

The report described a number of violations that the NSA had cleaned up since the beginning of that year — including using automatic alerts that had not been authorized and giving the FBI and CIA direct access to a database of query results. It concluded the internet dragnet was in pretty good shape. “NSA has taken significant steps designed to eliminate the possibility of any future compliance issues,” the last line of the report read, “and to ensure that mechanisms are in place to detect and respond quickly if any were to occur.”

Motherboard debunks ornamental “reform”:

CISPA’s Clone Will Undermine NSA Reform, Civil Liberties Groups Warn

When Congress comes back from its five week vacation, the Senate will have to decide what to do with the NSA-reforming USA FREEDOM Act and the CISPA clone called CISA. In many ways, the two bills are directly opposing forces.

Passing USA FREEDOM would be a huge step forward in curbing NSA abuses; passing CISA would immediately undo all that progress, according to several dozen civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press Action Fund, Center for Democracy and Technology, and TechFreedom.

“The Senate cannot seriously consider controversial information-sharing legislation such as CISA without first completing the pressing unfinished business of passing meaningful surveillance reform,” the groups wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Reader Mitch McConnell, and senators on the Intelligence, Judiciary, and Homeland Security committees.

From the Guardian, domestic insecurity:

Arab-American activists chased and threatened with beheading in Brooklyn

  • Police allegedly took more than 45 minutes to respond
  • Man charged after NYPD deploys hate crime investigators

A drunken man chased two female Arab-American community organisers in Brooklyn, New York, threatening to behead them and throwing a large metal garbage can at them.

Despite two separate 911 calls, the New York police department took more than 45 minutes to respond. The department sent top hate crime investigators after one of the women, a prominent activist, told her story at an NYPD community relations meeting that happened soon after the incident on Wednesday.

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said she initially found the man leaning against the wall near her social services agency.

More of the same from Salon:

“I wish someone would pull a Ferguson on them”: Louisiana cop resigns for racist texts

  • 15-year veteran Michael Elsbury wrote, “I enjoy arresting those thugs with their saggy pants”

Glenn Beck was right–the events in Ferguson really have brought out the best in people. Let’s take, for example, a police officer from Baton Rouge who resigned on Thursday after a local news channel reported that he had sent a series of violently racist text messages, including one in which he said he wished his fellow officers would “pull a Ferguson” on a “bunch of monkeys.”

The police officer in question is 15-year veteran of the force Michael Elsbury who resigned after the texts were shown to his superiors. In another text, he wrote, “I wish someone would pull a Ferguson on them and take them out. I hate looking at those African monkeys at work… I enjoy arresting those thugs with their saggy pants.”

From the Department of Don’t They Hate ISIS Because They Force People to Swear Allegiance to their Religion?, via Al Jazeera America:

Air Force spurns atheist airman for refusing religious oath, group says

  • Serviceman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada alleges he was denied reenlistment for refusing to say ‘so help me God’

An airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, was prohibited from reenlisting in the U.S. military last month for omitting the words “so help me God” from a service oath he was required to recite, and for refusing to sign the oath containing the same words on his enlistment form, according to the American Humanist Association (AHA).

In a letter of complaint sent to the Air Force’s inspector general on Tuesday, Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the AHA’s legal wing, said the soldier – who is an atheist – “was told that his options were to say ‘so help me God’ or to leave the Air Force.’”

The AHA, which describes itself as “advocating values and equality for humanists, atheists, and freethinkers,” characterized the ultimatum as a civil-rights violation and demanded the Air Force correct the matter.

And from Britain’s Western Daily Press, a real security threat to the working class:

Robots help deliver meals for patients at Bristol’s new £430million super Southmead Hospital

This is the incredible fleet of robots helping to provide food for almost 1,000 patients at a new £430 million super hospital.

Southmead Hospital in Bristol has deployed a fleet of 12 automatic guided vehicles to deliver meals to its 950 patients.

The droids, which start work at 10.15 every morning, are capable of opening doors, operating lifts and picking up food without any human assistance. They transfer chilled dishes to kitchens scattered around the hospital, where they are heated and then served to patients.

Another security threat to millions of Americans where secrecy is the name of the game, via Bloomberg News:

Secret Network Connects Harvard Money to Payday Loans

Alex Slusky was under pressure to put the money in his private-equity fund to work.

The San Francisco technology financier had raised $1.2 billion in 2007 to buy and turn around struggling software companies. By 2012, investors including Harvard University were upset that about half the money hadn’t been used, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Three Americans on the Caribbean island of St. Croix presented a solution. They had built a network of payday-lending websites, using corporations set up in Belize and the Virgin Islands that obscured their involvement and circumvented U.S. usury laws, according to four former employees of their company, Cane Bay Partners VI LLLP. The sites Cane Bay runs make millions of dollars a month in small loans to desperate people, charging more than 600 percent interest a year, said the ex-employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

From The Verge:

Competition heats up to sell drones to the average consumer

After jump, Canadian arctic drone tests, militia identity theft, the IRS memory hole expands, iCloud blames celebrities for hacks, hackers crack OSX, retail invites hacks, Chinese hackers loot the country’s rich and a lawsuit embarrasses, Google Glass-detector coming soon, an Indo/Aussie uranium deal, Australia goes postal, Indo/Pakistani tensions, Japan pushes for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and takes control over media content, and that sex slave issue just won’t go away. . . Continue reading