Category Archives: MSM

The radicalization of Phil Donahue


From The Real News Network, a tree-part interview with a television talk show pioneer about his decades of experience talking with seminal figures in the American political and cultural scene.

Unlike most talk show hosts, Donahue didn’t demean guests who didn’t share his own causes and beliefs.

Beneath the pleasantly liberal facade, however, Donahue’s openness to experience was leading him through a progressive radicalization, a process he discusses in conversation with Paul Jay as part of TRNN’s ongoing Realty Asserts Itself series.

Part 1: The Radicalization of Phil Donahue – Reality Asserts Itself

From the transcript:

JAY: So here’s a little bit of introduction. Phil Donahue’s an Emmy Award-winning media personality. He’s best known as the creator and host of the Donahue Show, which ran for 29 years on cable TV and I think was the longest-running talk show on TV, or still is. Still is? That’s a funny way to phrase it. It is not on the air anymore, but it’s still the longest running. Nobody has caught up to you yet, I believe.

DONAHUE: To my knowledge. I’m not sure.

JAY: So Wikipedia says, anyway. He also was the host of Donahue, which ran from July 2002 to March 2003, before msnbc canceled it because of his vocal opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. This was despite it being the most highly rated show at the time on msnbc network. He’s also the codirector of Body of War, a documentary film about the struggles of an Iraq War veteran and antiwar activist, Tomas Young.

So, for those of you at home that don’t know, although I think most of you that watch do know, we usually start with a personal segment, and that’s what we’re going to do with Mr. Donahue, kind of more about what helped shape his view of the world. And then we’ll talk about his views on more recent events.

So you’re born in 1935 in Cleveland.

DONAHUE: I was.

JAY: You sort of come of age, consciousness of sorts, about nine, ten years old. I think that’s about at the end of one war and the beginning of another. It’s not very long before the Cold War begins, with McCarthyism and House Un-American Activities Committee.

DONAHUE: Right.

JAY: What was the politics of your household like?

DONAHUE: We weren’t desperately political. My parents certainly supported Roosevelt, although I recall my mother leaned Stevenson.

But I was totally American. I thought we were the best in all things. I thought I was blessed. I lived in a country that stopped Hitler’s advance in Russia. I didn’t really understand the help we had from Russian soldiers, but it was America who defeated Hitler and it was America who defeated the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. I wore a bill that said “Remember Pearl Harbor”. My uncle was in the Battle of the Bulge. And I was a member of the one true church. I was Catholic. I was not only Catholic; I was Irish Catholic. So I’m born?by accident, at birth I’m born in the greatest nation on earth that wins everything, all its wars, is all good in all things?the Marshall Plan, Lend-Lease. And I’m a member of the one true church. Holy cow.

JAY: So this is deeply part of your identity.

Part II: Corporate Media is Destroying Democracy

From the transcript:

JAY: Dayton. I’m sorry. You were born in Cleveland, but the show’s in Dayton. Sorry.

When you got picked up later, in the ‘80s, by the network, they knew the kind of show you were doing.

DONAHUE: Yeah.

JAY: They knew the kind of guests you had on.

DONAHUE: Well, yeah. But we had numbers.

JAY: You had numbers.

DONAHUE: Yes. And by then, certainly, everybody was scratching their head and saying, maybe the Vietnam War was not a good idea. So it took a lot less courage.

JAY: Okay. But in 2003, you got numbers. You’re doing a show on msnbc. You’re the highest-rated show on msnbc. And in spite of having numbers, you get canceled because of the kind of guests you have, and people understand from the way you’re talking and framing questions that you’re opposed to this Iraq War. Something changes.

DONAHUE: Well, first of all, it’s less than a year after the Towers. In October 2002, both houses of Congress passed the Iraq War Resolution?a fascinating bit of material that is included in my documentary, by the way, titled Body of War, available on Netflix (thank you). Everybody, it seemed, wanted to bomb somebody.

And if you recall that I worked for msnbc at that time, the cable channel, msnbc was owned by General Electric. General Electric is one of the five largest defense contractors in the nation. General Electric’s biggest customers: the president and Donald Rumsfeld. And they got this has-been, gray-haired talkshow host on their own station criticizing all of these major players. And it was an interesting study in corporate media. Corporate media does not want to rock the boat. Corporate media is the boat. That’s what makes The Real News Network important.

You know, you can’t. When I was a reporter — if I could just take a second — when I was a reporter in Adrian, Michigan, I worked for a radio station. I was the news director, ‘cause I was the only person in the news department. And I was a reporter. I didn’t take a test. I didn’t pee in a bottle. I just said, I’m a reporter. And I was. I had a Norelco tape recorder with vacuum tubes in it and a microphone that said WABJ on it. And a very small radio, the signal went across the street. But I covered my first murder there. I covered the city hall. I played on the police softball team to cultivate my sources. You know?

And I couldn’t get over how much power I had. I could stop the mayoral boom. I was, like, 21, I must’ve looked 12, and I couldn’t you know, you saw those letters. And I began to appreciate how important journalism was, how powerful it was, how important it was. This was my nirvana. . .It made me understand that this was a very noble calling.

And the reason I was able to be a reporter without all these screenings is that because if that’s the case, then you have a lot of people reporting the news. That means that if you have a whole bunch of people, somewhere in the collective middle of this large crowd will be found the truth.

The problem today is that that middle is today occupied by five international, multinational corporations much more interested in the price of their stock than they are in making Donald Rumsfeld angry. And that is the dilemma of corporate media. And it is ruining our democracy.

And there’s a group out there. They call themselves media reform. And that is their banner. And they’ve all got their cameras and their [incompr.] They’re going to where elite media cover elite power. That’s why you never see Dennis Kucinich on Meet the Press, or Amy Goodman or Paul Jay, or anybody who’s likely to wind up in this venue.

JAY: Go back and tell the story of what happened at msnbc.

DONAHUE: Well, I was criticizing the invasion. I wanted to know why we don’t know if there’s weapons of mass [destruction there (?)]. And suddenly my executive producer would go to a meeting every morning, and then suddenly the rules: they wanted me to do more celebrities; they wanted no part of?they had to concede that I had to have some of these protesters on, but they sent the rule down I had to have two conservatives on?

JAY: Pro-war.

DONAHUE: Yeah, for every one liberal. I was considered two liberals. This is a study in how terrified they were.

Part III: Whistle Blowers, Dissenters, and Progressives are the Patriots

From the transcript:

DONAHUE: Well, I came to the realization that America has become, we are a nation of law unless we’re scared. And we’re scared. Nobody likes us. I think we’ve got our presidents–I don’t know how long it’s going to take before our president is going to have to visit a church picnic in a Bradley armored vehicle. You know, America, the ones who boast most about America are the ones turning their back on the jewel of America, which is the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. The framers were right: don’t let one man have the power to declare war. And, as you know, we haven’t done that since–. And if I’m scared, you can listen in on my phone; I’ve got nothing to hide. How many times have you heard that? Which is probably what they said in Nazi Germany, too, in advance of the rise of the Third Reich.

There is a failure to appreciate the whole purpose of the First Amendment. You know, if you can’t speak, if you can’t dissent, then stop sending our young men and women to war to protect these fabulous virtues of the American experience, which is to get a neo-Mussolini, and he’ll tell us what’s good for us, and people will make–old men will tell us what’s good for us behind closed doors. It’s amazing what you can do if you scare the people.

And in many ways the biggest defense against this kind of harvesting of power that the political elite take unto themselves is the whistleblower. But it does no good to blow the whistle if the people can’t hear it. And the only way that people are going to be able to hear it is if we have journalists brave enough to take notes, listen to these brave people, who risk, often, their careers, journalists who are respected for the work that they do and not besieged by a frightened administration who perceive this as somehow undermining their own power to protect us. Give–the Scripps Howard motto when I was a kid–the Cleveland Press Building in downtown Cleveland, big marble building, across the top was etched in stone, “Give light and the people will find their own way.” You remember? The lighthouse that would sweep around was there logo. That’s largely been lost, or the importance of it has been lost.

And I think that’s why America enters the 21st century with a lot on its mind. We are kidding ourselves. You know, the brave troops, all the wonderful troops, all those troops are just so–we can’t say enough about the–the troops come home and the VA doesn’t call them back. Pretense is palpable. We think if we say it, it’s true: we’re exceptional, we’re exceptional, exceptionalism. Well, I’m saying, easy, big fella. If we are exceptional–and I think certainly our Constitution is exceptional. It’s fabulous. But it’d be better if someone from another country said that about us. We’re beginning to look a little bit insecure.

Jerry Seinfeld: Biting that hand that fetes him


The Clios are advertising’s version of the Oscars, and since celebrities are always a crowd-pleasers, the Clio crowd decided to give one to Jerry Seinfeld.

And while we’ve never been partial to his peculiar sense of humor, we were delighted to find his remarks when he was given an honorary Clio last week.

And the fact that the audience roars approval at certain moment is ipso facto proof of the cynicism and rapacity that lie at the heart of an industry substantially shaped by Edward Bernays, a propagandist who helped sell Americans on World War I, only adds to event.

Via vlogger Affan Khokhar:

Jerry Seinfeld’s Clio Acceptance Speech

Program notes:

Last night, comedian Jerry Seinfeld deadpanned at the CLIOs: “I love advertising because I love lying…”

The 55th annual CLIO Awards, the most prestigious international advertising awards, were held in NYC. Whoopi Goldberg hosted the event, which also featured a performance by Aloe Blacc and lively acceptance speeches from CLIO Honorary winners Blondie (Debbie Harry and Chris Stein) and Jerry Seinfeld.

Quartz has posted a transcript. of the speech.

An excerpt

I love advertising because I love lying.

In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was. I don’t care that it won’t actually be like when I actually get the product being advertised because, in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy, and that’s all I want. Tell me how great the thing is going to be. I love it. I don’t need to be happy all the time. I just want to enjoy the commercial. I want to get the thing. We know the product is going to stink. We know that. Because we live in the world, and we know that everything stinks. We all believe, hey, maybe this one won’t stink. We are a hopeful species. Stupid but hopeful.

But we’re happy in that moment between the commercial and the purchase, and I think spending your life trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy.

Our takeaway: The whole event could’ve come from a Seinfeld episode.

EbolaWatch: U.S. fears, aid delays, laws, more


Lots of ground to cover, so we start with this from the Washington Post:

D.C., Maryland hospitals evaluating two patients who have Ebola-like symptoms

Two Washington area hospitals said within hours of each other Friday that they had admitted a patient with symptoms and travel histories associated with Ebola.

A patient, who had recently traveled to Nigeria, came to Howard University Hospital in the District overnight “presenting symptoms that could be associated with Ebola,” spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton said in a statement.

“In an abundance of caution, we have activated the appropriate infection control protocols, including isolating the patient,” she said. “Our medical team continues to evaluate and monitor progress in close collaboration with the CDC and the Department of Health.”

Just hours later, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Md., confirmed that it is evaluating a patient who “presented with flu-like symptoms and a travel history that matches criteria for possible Ebola.”

Voice of America gets political:

Lawmakers Express Concern about US Readiness to Deal with Ebola

Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman, Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette asked why a Dallas hospital initially discharged the man and sent him home, even though he had told a nurse of his recent trip from Liberia.   The Democrats say the Dallas case should serve as a wakeup call of the need to address the ongoing public health crisis in Africa, and the possibility of more Ebola cases in the United States.

Republican Congressman Tim Murphy announced Friday that he will chair a hearing on the Ebola outbreak on October 16, with the two top U.S. health officials testifying:  the Director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, Tom Frieden, and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, Anthony Fauci.

Murphy said the hearing would look into all aspects of the federal response, including airline passenger screening procedures by Customs and Border Control.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, asking that every available precaution be taken to prevent additional Ebola cases from arriving in the United States.

On to Texas with the New York Times:

Health Officials in Dallas Pinpoint 10 People Most at Risk for Ebola

Health officials said on Friday that they had identified 10 people who are most at risk of contracting Ebola after coming into contact with an infected African man now in isolation in a Dallas hospital.

Among them, health officials said, are the four people who shared an apartment with the patient, Thomas E. Duncan, and medical workers who came into contact with him. Another 40 people are being monitored daily but are considered at relatively low risk, officials said. No one has developed any symptoms of the disease.

For those who have been exposed to the virus, there is nothing to do but wait.

More from the Los Angeles Times:

Dallas Ebola case: 50 under daily checks, 10 are high risk

Fifty people in Texas will be monitored daily for possible Ebola symptoms, including 10 who are considered at high risk because of their exposure to a patient now being treated for the virus, public health officials said on Friday.

The larger group includes healthcare workers and the ambulance team that brought the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he has been in isolation and undergoing treatment since Sept. 28. Included in the smaller group are four people who were in the apartment where Duncan stayed after his arrival from Liberia on Sept. 20.

The four — a woman, her 13-year-old son and two adult nephews — have been ordered to remain in the apartment and not have contact with other people. A hazardous materials team arrived Friday morning to begin cleaning the home, a process that was expected to take three hours, officials said. The family will remain in the apartment during the cleaning, though officials said they would like to move them to better quarters at some point.

BBC News cleans up:

Ebola crisis: US patient’s flat cleaned by specialists

A cleaning crew has begun sanitising the flat in Dallas, Texas, where a man stricken with Ebola spent several days before being taken to hospital.

The private hazardous materials contractors were expected to spend about three hours there.

Thomas Duncan, who caught the disease in his native Liberia, was the first person diagnosed with Ebola on US soil. Up to 10 people who had contact with him are at high risk of contracting the disease, Texas health officials said.

An admission, via the Guardian:

US Ebola case: hospital admits ‘flawed’ initial response as officials scramble

Hazardous materials team arrives to clean Thomas Duncan’s apartment as officials work to rehouse other residents in the complex in Dallas

Officials in Texas were still struggling to implement an effective strategy to manage the close associates of the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola outside Africa on Friday, as the hospital where he first presented himself admitted a “flawed” initial response.

A hazardous materials team arrived on Friday to clean the apartment where four people are under quarantine, a day after a cleaning crew was forced to leave, lacking the appropriate permit to dispose of the waste.

Sweat-stained sheets and towels remained in the apartment for four days since the Ebola sufferer, Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, was placed in isolation at the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas.

The Los Angeles Times covers containment:

Dallas officials say they had to order Ebola family to stay home

Dallas officials said that relatives of the man infected with Ebola left their apartment after agreeing not to, which prompted officials to issue a confinement order overnight.

“They were noncompliant with the request to stay home,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s highest elected official, said at a news conference Thursday.

He said the individuals needed to stay home so that they could be tested at the same time daily, to ensure they have not been infected with the Ebola virus that sickened Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who traveled last month to Texas and began to show symptoms during his visit.

More from Sky News:

Ebola Patient’s Apartment Watched By Cops

  • Four people close to the infected man are ordered to stay at home as Liberian officials say he lied before leaving the country

Police and armed security guards are keeping guard at the apartment where the first man to be diagnosed with ebola in the US had been staying.

Four people close to Thomas Duncan have been quarantined, and cannot leave their home in the apartment complex in Dallas.

They were hit with a confinement order after they failed to comply with a request to stay home, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

From BuzzFeed, covering up:

Ebola Patient In Texas Lied On Travel Paperwork When He Left Liberia

  • A Liberian man diagnosed in Dallas denied that he had contact with Ebola patients when he left Liberia, according to government officials

A Liberian man who has tested positive for Ebola in Texas lied on his exit form and may face prosecution, a Liberian official has said.

Thomas Eric Duncan left Liberia for the United States, via Brussels, on Sept. 19 and developed symptoms on Sept. 24. He was isolated at a hospital in Dallas, Texas, on Sept. 28, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC confirmed an Ebola diagnosis on Oct. 1.

“False declaration is an offense here in Liberia; this man lied about his activities in a questionnaire screening form we have at the airport, so he must face prosecution,” Liberia Airport Authority Board Chairman Binyah Kesselly said at a news conference in Monrovia on Thursday.

China’s Global Times covers a consultation:

Obama discusses Ebola case with Dallas mayor: White House

US President Barack Obama called Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings Thursday afternoon to discuss the first Ebola case diagnosed on American soil and pledged full support to prevent the epidemic.

“The President called to make sure the mayor was getting the resources he needed from the federal government, including the Centers for Disease Control, to treat the patient safely, and control this case so that it does not spread widely,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

The President pledged that federal agencies will remain in close coordination and reiterated his confidence in America’s doctors and national health infrastructure to handle this case safely and effectively, Schultz said.

Reassurance, via The Hill:

White House says it has Ebola virus under control

Top White House officials on Friday worked to reassure the American public that the national response to Ebola is under control.

Leaders of the country’s health, defense and military branches stressed that they are taking the right steps to contain the spread of the deadly virus, which was first diagnosed in the U.S. on Tuesday.

“We know how to do this, and we will do it again,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said at a press briefing.

From Punch Nigeria, lethally gaming the system:

Ebola: Travellers take ibuprofen to beat airport screening

The infection control specialist, and President of Behavioral-based Improvement Solutions in Atlanta, Sean Kaufman, on Friday said people who contracted Ebola in West Africa could get through airport screenings and onto a plane.

Kaufman said that more must be done to identify infected travelers who could lie and take a lot of ibuprofen to beat the airport authorities.

“People can take ibuprofen to reduce their fever enough to pass screening, and why wouldn’t they?”

Doubling down with the New York Times:

White House to Discuss Broader Efforts to Contain Ebola in United States and West Africa

The United States Army announced on Friday that it will more than double the number of soldiers it is sending to West Africa, to 3,200, to help contain the Ebola virus as White House officials prepared to confront concerns about the chaotic response to the disease’s arrival in the United States.

President Obama’s senior homeland security adviser and other top White House officials will hold an on-camera briefing at the White House late Wednesday afternoon, officials said. The briefing comes amid reports that a series of mistakes were made when Thomas E. Duncan, a Liberian man, arrived in Texas and was later told he had Ebola.

Television images from Monrovia, Liberia and Dallas during the last several days have raised new questions about the adequacy of the American response on both continents.

More from Reuters:

U.S. ramps up Ebola troop deployments, total may near 4,000

The Pentagon said on Friday it may send nearly 4,000 troops to West Africa to support America’s response to the Ebola crisis, almost 1,000 above its previous estimate, and cautioned its projections may change further.

The increased Pentagon forecast came as the World Health Organization hiked the estimated death toll from Ebola to 3,439 people, and as U.S. authorities scrambled to contain the spread of the virus after the first person was diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

Rear Admiral John Kirby said American troops preparing to deploy to West Africa would take all the necessary precautions and added the Pentagon would disclose as much information as possible about the health of deployed forces, who are mainly headed to Liberia.

Another casualty from the north, via the New York Times:

Ashoka Mukpo, NBC Cameraman With Ebola, to Return to U.S.

NBC News on Friday identified the freelance cameraman who contracted Ebola in Liberia as 33-year-old Ashoka Mukpo, who had been working with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the network’s top medical correspondent.

Mr. Mukpo is the fourth American known to have contracted the disease in Liberia.

Speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, the parents of Mr. Mukpo said their son was in good spirits. “Obviously he is scared and worried,” said the father, Dr. Mitchell Levy.

Mr. Mukpo’s mother, Diane Mukpo, said her son would be flown back to the United States this weekend for treatment. “I think the enormous anxiety that I have as a mother or that we share as parents is the delay between now and him leaving on Sunday,” Ms. Mukpo said.

More from the Associated Press:

Infection has news organizations looking at risks

For media covering the spread of Ebola in West Africa, the infection of a cameraman who works for NBC offers both a reason to emphasize precaution and to continue to bear witness.

The New York Times’ approach is emblematic of many news organizations: “We want to figure out a way to have maximum protection for people involved in the coverage and also to continue the coverage,” said Joseph Kahn, the newspaper’s international editor.

Other than NBC, no news outlet has publicly cited Ashoka Mukpo’s infection as the impetus for removing personnel from Liberia, where the freelance cameraman had been covering the disease’s rapid spread and the strains it placed on its health care system. CNN announced Friday that it was sending reporter Nima Elbagir to that country this weekend and Sanjay Gupta, its most visible medical correspondent, said he’s lobbying his bosses to send him there.

Mukpo, who previously covered Ebola for several news outlets, began working for NBC on Tuesday and fell ill the next day. NBC said Friday it was concentrating on how to get him and his colleagues out of the country before discussing future coverage plans. He was working with medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who said she and others with NBC feel fine, though the network ordered them to return to the United States and quarantine themselves until any danger has passed.

A Japanese pledge from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Japan to extend $22 million for anti-Ebola measures

The government decided at a Cabinet meeting Friday to extend $22 million in emergency grant aid for combating the spread of Ebola hemorrhagic fever. The aid will be provided through organizations such as the World Health Organization.

The support is part of Japan’s $40 million assistance pledged by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a high-level meeting at the U.N. headquarters in September.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at a press conference that Ebola is a threat to international security and peace and that Japan will cooperate further in efforts to contain the epidemic.

After the jump, on to Sierra Leone and an Australian effort under fire and a plea from Sierra Leone, Cuba sends doctors and aid, Muslims warned on Eid handshakes, new help for orphans, Ebola carriers criminalized, Ebola compared to terrorism, the sad story of aid delayed, on to Liberia and carriers criminalized, American military labs arrive, German aid arrives, press coverage regulated, a watchdog installed, and a look at the neighborhood America’s first Ebola fled, quarantines questioned, an Ebola scare in Denmark, and a look at the role of poverty in the epidemic’s spread. . . Continue reading

John Cleese: The science behind Fox News


Indeed.

Via Robert Grimsby:

John Cleese on stupidity

Program note:

Cleese explains why extremely stupid people do not have the capability to realize how stupid they are. (excerpt from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8Afv…)

EbolaWatch: Numbers, aid, desperate measures


We begin with a number from Bloomberg:

70: The Magic Number That Could End the Ebola Epidemic

There are a lot of scary numbers floating around about Ebola. Take 1.4 million: the CDC’s worst-case scenario for Ebola cases in Western Africa by the end of January. Or two: the approximate number of healthy people infected by each new Ebola patient.

But perhaps the most important Ebola number right now is 70 percent. That’s the proportion of patients who need to be isolated — in treatment centers or at least in their homes — in order to put a quick end to the Ebola outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Once 70 percent of patients are effectively isolated, the outbreak decreases at a rate nearly equal to the initial rate of increase,” researchers wrote today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. If 70 percent of the current outbreak was achieved by late December, the epidemic “would be almost ended by January 20.”

From AllAfrica, just what’s needed, another czar:

West Africa: Obama to Announce Ebola Czar As Businesses, Senators Press for More

President Obama will announce the appointment of a high-level coordinator to manage the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak when he visits Atlanta on Tuesday, administration sources have told AllAfrica.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the president is visiting the Atlanta, Georgia-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive a briefing from officials at the organization, whose director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, visited the region last month.

Obama will also discuss U.S. assistance to fight the Ebola virus and will thank the doctors, scientists and health care workers who have been engaged in the effort to stop its escalating spread. A stepped-up administration plan, which has been discussed by officials from across the executive branch for more than a month, received higher level attention this past week as the scope of the outbreak became more widely acknowledged – at least partly in response to pressure from private sector companies engaged in the most-affected countries and from members of Congress.

From Agence France-Presse, a videographic of a prototypical Ebola treatment center:

Ebola treatment centres

Program notes:

An American doctor who was exposed to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has been admitted Sunday to a clinic outside Washington as a precautionary measure. He had been volunteering as a physician in a unit treating those suffering from the tropical fever that has already killed more than 3,000 people in west Africa since the end of last year. Despite being trained in strict infection control practices, medical staff in the region are at constant risk of infection

The Washington Post embraces the military approach:

Will AFRICOM’s Ebola response be watershed moment for international action on human security?

On Sept. 18, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) held an unprecedented emergency meeting on a public health crisis and officially declared the Ebola epidemic that has killed an estimated 2,803 people in West Africa a threat to international peace and security. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the creation of the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), which he tasked with treating the infected, containing the disease and preserving stability. Last week, President Obama announced the deployment of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which will set up a joint force command in Liberia to coordinate the activity of 3,000 U.S. forces; expedite the transportation of equipment and supplies; and train an estimated 500 health-care workers per week.

Although Kim Yi Dionne, Laura Seay and Erin McDaniel raised concerns in The Washington Post last week about U.S. military forces engaging in a large-scale humanitarian operation, the deployment of AFRICOM and the creation of UNMEER are different from previous militarized humanitarian missions. The emphasis on human security, supported by the recent UNSC proclamation, shifts the policy conversation. This is a potential watershed moment for future humanitarian interventions if key actors recognize the core comparative advantages of both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and militaries and work together in a partnership.

Shanghai Daily covers an opening:

UN opens Ebola headquarters in Ghana

THE UN mission to combat Ebola opened its headquarters yesterday in Ghana, where it will coordinate aid for the accelerating West African crisis.

The spread of Ebola has spiraled into the worst ever outbreak, and the World Health Organization says it has linked more than 3,000 deaths to the disease, although that is likely an underestimate of the true toll. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been hit hardest. Senegal and Nigeria have also been touched, but have not reported a new case in weeks.

Some have criticized the response to the outbreak as too slow and haphazard. Ebola was first identified in March in Guinea. But more recently promises of aid have poured in, with many countries committing to sending health care workers, building hospitals or providing much-needed supplies, like protective suits for doctors and nurses.

From the Japan Times, on the ground:

Beds, staff scarce in Ebola-hit Monrovia

The Island Clinic recently opened. By the next day, its 120 beds were full.

“As of Friday, we had 206 patients,” a spokesman for the U.N World Health Organization, which runs the center, said.

Like all the NGO-run Ebola centers in Liberia, the Island Clinic is under-resourced and overrun by demand, forced to fill in for a public health infrastructure that has been decimated by 14 years of civil war and grinding poverty.

“There is supposed to be a system to allow the patients to talk to their families while keeping a distance of several meters (yards) — but apparently it’s not up and running yet,” a clearly embarrassed WHO official there says.

More from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: Liberia’s newest, largest treatment clinic already at capacity

  • CBC News was granted access to the Island Clinic in Monrovia

Liberia’s newest and largest Ebola treatment centre was desperately needed to combat the spread of the fatal virus, yet the facility has barely helped to stop the worst outbreak in recorded history.

The centre, known as Island Clinic, was exactly seven days old when CBC News toured the “green zone,” or safe zone, of the facility on Sunday. It has almost doubled the Ebola treatment capacity in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia, a major urban centre overwhelmed by an exponentially increasing number of cases of the deadly virus.

When it opened, there were 120 beds available. Within hours, the clinic was already stretched — every space available filled with the city’s most frightened and seriously ill. Somehow, room was made for more patients and currently, by adding beds and sofas where possible, staff estimate the total number is likely closer to 200.

AllAfrica covers another facility in another country:

Sierra Leone: President Koroma Commissions Mobile Lab and Holding Centre

As Government continues to intensify its efforts in the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD), President Ernest Bai Koroma on Friday 26th September 2014, commissioned the BSL-3 mobile laboratory at the Sierra Leone-China Friendship Hospital at Jui.

The occasion also saw in attendance officials from the Ministries of Health and Sanitation and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Medical team from China.

President Koroma noted that the facility will increase the response time in sample throughput, especially during this trying moment of the Ebola outbreak and also create opportunities for capacity development of health workers in the country. With this, President Koroma urged Sierra Leoneans working at the Hospital to exploit the opportunities and develop their various capacities.

From the Guardian, a public health basic:

Media and communications: the first line of defence against Ebola

  • As well as healthworkers, journalists are on the frontline of the Ebola outbreak and have vital role in stopping the epidemic

Misinformation is hampering efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in west Africa as rumours and speculation exacerbate the epidemic. In such a climate, local media can help to save lives.

In recent weeks, fear and misunderstanding have claimed new kinds of victims, including the three journalists killed in Womme, Guinea, along with five health workers, after they were attacked by villagers so terrified of the disease that they feared any outsider could infect their village.

In Womme, a local policeman said villagers believe that Ebola is nothing more than an invention of white people, to kill black people.

On Monday, a Liberian official said misinformation is hampering efforts to tackle the outbreak there, citing rumours that an educational film shown to villagers is intended merely to distract people while officials literally poison the wells.

TheLocal.de encounters an obstacle:

Germany’s Ebola mission stranded in Gran Canaria

Germany’s military transport planes are causing embarrassment for yet another Bundeswehr mission. The military’s much-heralded delivery to help Ebola-stricken countries in western Africa has stalled in Gran Canaria.

The poor state of the Bundeswehr’s Transall planes led to delays last week to Germany’s delivery of arms and soldiers to northern Iraq. Two of the 50-year-old planes broke down.

And on Monday it emerged that a flight delivering medicine and field tents to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has been stuck in Gran Canaria since Friday.

The Transall C-160 plane has a defect and technicians and a replacement plane are being flown to the Spanish island.

Star Africa News covers another aid infusion:

China grants DRC $900,000 to fight Ebola

The Chinese government has disbursed $900,000 to help the Democratic Republic of Congo’s fight the Ebola epidemic, which has ravaged the north-east of the country, an official source informs APA on Sunday.A funding agreement was signed on Friday in Kinshasa between Congo’s International and Regional Cooperation vice-minister, Dismas Mangbengu and China’s ambassador to the DR Congo, Wang Ying Wu.

President Joseph Kabila, on Thursday claimed in an address at the 69th United Nations General Assembly that the Ebola epidemic has been contained in its area of origin, located in Djera sector, about 1,200 km from Kinshasa, in Equateur Province.

About forty people have died of the disease there.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, aid from closer to hand:

35 train in handling Ebola cases

A team of health workers from East Africa have completed training in prevention and control of diseases, especially epidemics such as Ebola. Majority of them will be sent to West African countries to help to manage Ebola that has killed thousands of people.

The team of 35 personnel from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, as well as other participants from the US and UK were trained on infection prevention and control measures.

Twenty three of the participants said they were ready to be deployed in West Africa where they will be expected to train another 300 health workers.

Yet another alarm in Europe from TheLocal.se:

Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden

Doctors in Stockholm are checking a patient suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus.

The patient is understood to be at least the fifth case investigated in Sweden since the virus started spreading rapidly in Africa earlier this year.

They have been been transferred to the infectious diseases clinic at Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, according to news agency TT.

“Despite the fact that there were very low suspicions, we decided to take the test. We will get the answer within a day,” Åke Örtqvist, spokesperson for doctors dealing with infectious diseases in the Stockholm region.

Science covers a lamentation:

Ebola vaccine tests needlessly delayed, researchers claim

Stephan Becker is tired of waiting. The virologist at the University of Marburg in Germany is part of a consortium of scientists that is ready to do a safety trial of one of the candidate vaccines for Ebola. But the vaccine doses he’s supposed to test on 20 German volunteers are still in Canada. Negotiations with the U.S. company that holds the license for commercialization of the vaccine—which contains a gene for the Ebola surface protein stitched into a livestock pathogen known as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)—have needlessly delayed the start of the trial, Becker and several other scientists tell Science. “It’s making me mad, that we are sitting here and could be doing something, but things are not moving forward,” Becker says.

Today and tomorrow, Ebola scientists and representatives from companies and regulatory bodies are meeting at the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss how to speed up clinical development of vaccines, a process that normally takes years. More and more public health specialists believe that vaccines will have an important role to play in stopping the catastrophic outbreak in West Africa, which has so far caused at least 6553 cases and more than 3000 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. (Those are the reported numbers; the real toll is known to be much higher.)

Given the urgency, it’s inexplicable that one of the candidate vaccines, developed at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in Winnipeg, has yet to go in the first volunteer’s arm, says virologist Heinz Feldmann, who helped develop the vaccine while at PHAC. “It’s a farce; these doses are lying around there while people are dying in Africa,” says Feldmann, who now works at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Hamilton, Montana.

And Punch Nigeria has help anticipated:

2,000 German volunteers expected in Africa over Ebola

Over 2,000 Germans have heeded the German government’s call to register as volunteers, indicating their readiness and availability for deployment to fight against Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, said AU in a statement on Monday.

German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has informed AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, after the Chairperson briefed him on AU’s ongoing efforts to fight the disease.

The two officials met on the sidelines of the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, said the statement.

On to coverage of day to day life via the African media, starting with this from The Analyst in Liberia:

Bassa Ebola Toll Rises -Six Survivors Rejoin Families

Six persons who survived the Ebola virus in Grand Bassa County have been reunited with their families and communities, a county health official has disclosed. Speaking during the Ebola Task Force briefing held in Buchanan at the weekend, Joyce Garblah, a member of the County Health Team, said the six survivors who earlier tested positive with Ebola, were transferred to the Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia.

She said after undergoing treatment and observation, they were pronounced free of the virus and allowed to rejoin their families. Madam Garblah has disclosed that 26 confirmed Ebola deaths occurred in Grand Bassa County from July to September 26, 2014. She said out of the 26 confirmed Ebola deaths, 15 were males and 11 females, while 44 Ebola probable and suspected cases were recorded in the six districts of the county.

According to statistics, Buchanan District recorded 20, Owensgrove District six, District #One, seven; District #Two, six; District #Three, four and District #Four, one. Meanwhile, Garblah has disclosed that five samples taken to the National Diagnostic Lab in Marshall are awaiting results.

AllAfrica covers a process of elimination:

Liberia: Police Barrack Cleared

Some officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and their relatives, who were quarantined for 21 days at the Police Barracks on Camp Johnson Road as a result of the deadly Ebola virus, were last week Friday, September 26, 2014, declared free of the virus after intensive medical treatment and thorough observation by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Monrovia.

Those police officers were quarantined along with their relatives at the Police Barracks on Camp Johnson Road after one of their colleagues’ wife died there as a result of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Director of the Liberia National Police, Clarence Massaquoi, disclosed that those officers along with their relatives, who were quarantined for 21 days in the Police Barracks did not complain, but were taking the preventive measures as prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the WHO.

From the New Republic in Liberia, political concerns:

Cape Mount Ebola Death Toll Troubles Caucus — Sen. Dagoseh

Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Dagoseh says the County Legislative Caucus is concerned about the Ebola death rate in the county.

He disclosed that the caucus is formulating strategies to proffer to the County Task Force that will help avoid the further spread of Ebola and destruction of lives.

“The County Legislative Caucus is doing everything possible to seek financial and medical supplies, including PPEs and drugs, for health facilities in the county,” Senator Dagoseh told reporters in Garwular District at the weekend.

Senator Dagoseh is, meanwhile, appealing to health workers in the county to return to work so that health facilities that have been shut down as a result of the Ebola outbreak will re-open to provide services to the people.

The Analyst covers an epidemiological spread in Liberia:

1st Ebola Case Confirmed in Gbarpolu County

Gbarpolu County has registered its first case of the Ebola disease with a 14-year-old boy confirmed positive with the virus. Medical authorities in the county told the Liberia news Agency that the boy contracted the virus from his father who reportedly died of the disease in Parker Farm in Gbarma District.

The authorities said several family members of the boy, including his mother, have been quarantined in the same area by the County Ebola Task Force to avoid the spread of the disease to other parts of the county.

According to the Task Force, the boy was confirmed Ebola positive when the result from his blood specimen test was received by medical authorities working with the Task Force recently. The authorities said modalities are being worked out by the Task Force to have the boy transferred to the new Ebola Center at the old Island Clinic on the Bushrod Island for treatment.

New Republic covers help from another quarter:

Agriculture Ministry Joins Ebola Fight

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), has disclosed that it has embarked on a nationwide Ebola awareness campaign aimed at helping to eradicate the virus.

In a statement, the Assistant Director of Communications, Ken Kumeh said the outbreak is a national disaster that requires the collective efforts of each and every Liberian regardless of status, religion or political affiliation, indicating that, “the disease does not discriminate.”

Mr. Kumeh said as part of the ministry’s campaign, it last month donated two heavy duty trucks and several food items to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

And for our final item, CCTV Africa has the not-unexpected:

Ebola: Liberians Turn To God for Healing

Program note:

A Plague from God. More Liberians have been expressing their fear of Ebola. They say it is affecting the fabric of society and despite warnings to stay away from public gatherings, Liberians are turning to religion for comfort.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, cops, hacks, more


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

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

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

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

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

More from the London Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

Another body for the huddle from  CBC News:

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

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

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

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

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

TheLocal.no adds another:

Norway commits military staff in fight against Isis

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

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

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

RT has numbers for another:

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

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

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

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

Reuters has one reaction:

Wary of air strikes, Islamic State insurgents change tactics

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

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

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

Reuters has another:

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

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

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

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

And possibly another from the China Post:

IS jihadists execute female rights activist in Iraq’s Mosul

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

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

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

From TheLocal.fr, alerting:

France slaps travel warnings on 40 countries

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

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

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

Discouragement from Homeland Security News Wire:

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

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

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

Reuters has numbers:

Nine Japanese said to have joined Islamic State

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

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

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

The Mainichi debunks:

FBI: About 12 Americans fighting in Syria, not 100

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

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

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

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

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

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

Süddeutsche Zeitung has a blast from the hitherto secret past

The Aborted Origins Of The First Hunt For Osama Bin Laden

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

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

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

TheLocal.dk covers a military hack attack:

Danish defence secrets obtained by foreign spies

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

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

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

Deutsche Welle ponders a visit:

Could Snowden come to Berlin?

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

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

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

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

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

Huntsville schools say call from NSA led to monitoring students online

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

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hysteria, hacks, pols


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Program notes:

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

BBC News responds:

French hostage beheading: France to boost Syria rebels

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

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

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

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

Allegations, via the Associated Press:

Iraqi PM: Plot to attack US, Paris Subways

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

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

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

Consequent disparagement from BBC News:

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

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

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

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

From BBC News, warming up the jets:

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

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

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

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

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers recruits:

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

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

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

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

From Kyodo News, Abe antes up:

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

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

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

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

VICE News covers consequences:

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

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

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

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

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

TheLocal.no covers noble aspirations:

‘Norway can stop drone war’: UN advisor

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

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

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

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

Drone ground rules advance, with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Drones for moviemaking win FAA approval

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Independent, another lethally trigger-happy cop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept 4 Groubert traffic stop

Program note:

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

And an update form USA Today:

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

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

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

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

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

Ferguson Police Chief Offers Apology to Michael Brown’s Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From CCTV America, a mighty fine notion:

Denver police to record public interactions

Program note:

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

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

Policeman kills blasphemy accused in Adiala jail

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

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

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

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

Louisiana high school attempts to raise money raffling guns

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

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

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

After the jump, cartel petrocrimes in Mexico, blood on the Mexican newsroom floor, an Italian presidential mob trial courtroom appearance, Potemkin nuclear ignorance enshrined, declining NSA Yahooing, FBI cybernanxiety, Shellshock the cybermegavirus, ISIS or isn’t it in China, Hong Kong Occupy activists challenge Beijing, a deadly attack in northwestern China, Abe does a semantic remilitarization two-step, Tokyo moves toward an Aussie military alliance, a push for China to beef up special forces, and a provocative Russian visit. . . Continue reading