Category Archives: Organized crime

InSecurityWatch: Cops, rage, hacks, spies, zones


We begin with the obvious from United Press International:

No charges for Ferguson officer in death of Michael Brown

  • The officer could have faced one of five charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter

A grand jury decided Monday not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in August.

St. Louis County, Mo., prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the 12-member grand jury made its decision after two days of deliberation.

“They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson,” McCulloch said.

The announcement was made at 9:25 p.m. as crowds gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department, at McCulloch’s offices in the county seat of Clayton and on West Flourisant Street, where Brown died.

The New York Times covers the inevitable:

From Plains to Both Coasts, Fury Boils Over

Months of anger and frustration, in the end, led only to more anger and frustration.

There were smoke bombs, tear gas and random gunshots. But in Ferguson, the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown was almost as bitter and hollow as his killing itself.

Brien Redmon, 31, stood in the cold watching a burning police car and sporadic looting after the announcement that there would be no indictments for Mr. Brown’s death at 18.

“This is not about vandalizing,” he said. “This is about fighting a police organization that doesn’t care about the lives they serve.”

More from Al Jazeera America:

Gunfire and flames after officer cleared in Ferguson teen’s shooting death

Police, protesters clash in Ferguson after grand jury does not not indict white policeman who killed unarmed black teen

[W]ithin minutes of the announcement, crowds began pouring into Ferguson streets to protest the decision. Some taunted police, shattered windows and vandalized cars. As many as 15 gunshots were also heard, though it’s unclear whether they came from law enforcement authorities or protesters.  Officers released smoke and pepper spray to disperse the gatherings. The storefront glass of at least two businesses were also broken on South Florissant Road. Fires erupted.

Well before the grand jury decision was announced, hundreds of protesters were already massed near the Ferguson police department. Shortly after McCulloch said Wilson would not be indicted, police streamed out of the station wearing riot helmets, and carrying batons and shields. Some of the protesters began throwing plastic bottles at the officer. Police fired what differing reports have described as either smoke or tear gas.

Thousands of protesters also gathered in downtown Manhattan, where they marched from Union Square to Times Square.

Closer to home with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Ferguson ruling sparks Oakland protest that shuts down freeway

Sorrow and anger over the decision by a grand jury in Missouri not to indict a white police officer in the killing of an unarmed black man sent demonstrators into the streets in the Bay Area, with hundreds of people shutting down Interstate 580 in Oakland for hours.

From Oakland and Berkeley to San Francisco and San Jose, crowds massed to denounce the lack of criminal charges in the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., marching and chanting slogans against what they considered racial injustice. Civic leaders echoed President Obama’s call for peaceful demonstrations, but the mood of the crowds gave the gatherings the air of a tinderbox.

The most tense and disruptive action unfolded in Oakland, where hundreds of protesters marched downtown, blocking intersections before surging onto I-580 via the Lakeshore Avenue offramp around 8 p.m. There they played cat-and-mouse with police for hours, stopping traffic in both directions before being forced off the freeway by lines of officers in riot gear.

Another California story, via the Los Angeles Times:

Michael Brown protesters scatter as LAPD uses nonlethal

Demonstrators protesting the killing of Michael Brown were dispersed shortly near downtown Los Angeles after midnight Tuesday by Los Angeles police officers using non-lethal projectiles.

The demonstrators, who at one point numbered more than 300, marched across Los Angeles on Monday night, briefly closing the 110 Freeway as they protested a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the controversial shooting of the black teenager.

The main group marched to USC and then towards the Staples Center, where confrontations with police grew  tense. A group of protesters pushed at a fence that blocked off a hill that led to the 110 Freeway and knocked it over. People streamed over the fallen gate and climbed onto the freeway and sat down, shutting down traffic on the freeway. About 150 protesters gathered on the road and chanted “No justice, no peace. No racist police!”

And before the verdict, an abysmal quotation, from teleSUR:

St. Louis Cop Association: It’s Like ‘Night Before Christmas’

The head of the St. Louis County Police Officers’ Association has been criticized for comparing the situation to Christmas.

While many observers have warned the situation Monday is tense in St Louis County ahead of the widely anticipated grand jury decision on police officer Darren Wilson, one man thinks a little differently.

“It’s just like the night before Christmas,” said St. Louis County Police Officers’ Association president, Gabe Crocker.

“We all get a little excited, we all get a little impatient, and so on, and so forth,” Crocker told CNN.

On to another “police action” also generating outrage, via the Guardian:

41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground

  • New analysis of data conducted by human rights group Reprieve shared with the Guardian, raises questions about accuracy of intelligence guiding ‘precise’ strikes

A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.

Reprieve, sifting through reports compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, examined cases in which specific people were targeted by drones multiple times. Their data, shared with the Guardian, raises questions about the accuracy of US intelligence guiding strikes that US officials describe using words like “clinical” and “precise.”

The analysis is a partial estimate of the damage wrought by Obama’s favored weapon of war, a tool he and his administration describe as far more precise than more familiar instruments of land or air power.

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise’. But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the US goes after,” said Reprieve’s Jennifer Gibson, who spearheaded the group’s study.

From the Los Angeles Times, the deplorable:

Jordan sending refugees back into Syria, Human Rights Watch says

Jordan has sent Syrian refugees, including wounded civilians and unaccompanied minors, back across the border in violation of international responsibilities, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The New York-based monitor issued a statement accusing Jordan of ignoring long-accepted principles forbidding governments from returning people back to areas where their lives may be in danger.

There was no immediate response from officials in Jordan, now home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

And from South China Morning Post, we always like a pun in the headline:

It’s time to chuck Hagel: Obama pressures Pentagon chief into stepping down

  • Pentagon chief resigns under pressure, paving way for first female defence secretary

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, senior administration officials said, following a tenure in which he has struggled to break through the White House’s insular foreign policy team.

Hagel is the first senior Obama adviser to leave the administration following the sweeping losses for Obama’s party in the midterm elections. It comes as the president’s national security team has been battered by multiple foreign policy crises, include the rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

At a White House ceremony Obama said Hagel had been an “exemplary” defence secretary, adding: “Last month, Chuck came to me to discuss the final quarter of my presidency and determined that, having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service.”

From New York Times, delayed again:

U.S. and Allies Extend Iran Nuclear Talks by 7 Months

A yearlong effort to reach an enduring accord with Iran to dismantle large parts of its nuclear infrastructure fell short on Monday, forcing the United States and its allies to declare a seven-month extension, but with no clear indication of how they plan to bridge fundamental differences.

In a news conference hours before a deadline on Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry said a series of “new ideas surfaced” in the last several days of talks. He added that “we would be fools to walk away,” because a temporary agreement curbing Iran’s program would remain in place while negotiations continued. In return, Iran will receive another $5 billion in sanctions relief, enabling it to recover money frozen abroad — something that is likely to add to the threat of new sanctions from the newly-elected Republican Congress.

But the fundamental problem remained: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has yet to signal that he is prepared to make the kind of far-reaching cuts in Iran’s enrichment capability that would be required to seal an accord. And it is unclear that his view will change before a March 1 deadline for reaching a political agreement, the first phase in the seven-month extension.

From the Guardian, Chuckie’s missives:

Prince Charles letters: minister’s veto of publication was lawful, court told

  • Supreme court hears QC James Eadie open the government’s latest effort in its nine-year campaign to keep the letters secret

The prince has gained a reputation for writing private letters to government ministers promoting his views. The letters have been called “black spider memos” because of his scrawled handwriting.?

At issue in the supreme court hearing are 27 letters exchanged between the heir to the throne and ministers in seven Whitehall departments between September 2004 and April 2005.?

Three judges in a freedom of information tribunal ruled in 2012 that the letters should be disclosed, on the basis that the public was entitled to know how and when the prince sought to influence government.?

Grieve, however, used his power of veto to overrule the tribunal, arguing that publication would seriously damage Charles’s future role as king. He said the letters had to be kept secret to preserve the prince’s political neutrality.?

From the Guardian again, the past returns to haunt:

Amnesty urges Ireland to reopen hooded men case against UK

  • European court of human rights cleared UK of torture in 1978 but recent film alleges some evidence was withheld

Amnesty International has challenged the Irish government to take the UK back to the European court of human rights (ECHR) over the British security forces’ alleged torture of suspects during the Troubles.

The court ruled in 1978 that five interrogation techniques used on 14 men who were detained without trial in the early 1970s constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.

The techniques included hooding suspects, putting them into stress positions, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation and the use of white noise. The 14 became known as the hooded men.

In June this year an RTE documentary alleged that the UK withheld evidence from the court, which Amnesty argues may have affected the outcome of the case. It also called on the UK to launch an independent investigation.

While Network World looks an panopticon enhancements coming:

UK plans to introduce new Web snooping law

A U.K. counterterrorism bill would require ISPs to retain IP addresses in order to identify individual users of Internet services.

The proposed law is meant to bridge a “capabilities gap” that authorities face when trying to obtain communications data, said U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May, who introduced the bill, in a speech on Monday.

The measures will build on emergency legislation that the U.K. introduced during the summer, May said, who added that “it is not a knee-jerk response to a sudden perceived threat.”

From Network World, closer to home panopticon posturning closer to home:

NSA privacy director defends agency’s surveillance

The U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programs are legal and under close scrutiny by other parts of the government, the agency’s internal privacy watchdog said Monday in an online Q&A.

NSA surveillance and data collection programs conform to the U.S. Constitution, Rebecca Richards, the agency’s first civil liberties and privacy director, wrote during an hour-plus Q&A on Tumblr.

The NSA operates under rules that “ensure that its activities fall within the parameters of the Constitution,” Richards wrote when asked why she believes the surveillance programs are constitutional.

Techdirt captures contradiction:

NSA Chief Warns Of Pending Cyberattack… Which He Wants To Make Easier With Backdoors

  • from the ridiculous dept

NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers has often seemed somewhat more reasonable than his predecessor, but he’s still not above spewing FUD. The latest is that, last week, he pulled out the favorite of surveillance state supporters everywhere: the pending cyberpocalypse, in which hackers take down the economy. Prepare for the “dramatic cyberattack” that is inevitably on the way:

The director of the National Security Agency issued a warning Thursday about cyberthreats emerging from other countries against networks running critical U.S. infrastructure systems.

Adm. Michael Rogers said he expects a major cyberattack against the U.S. in the next decade. “It’s only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ that we are going to see something dramatic,” he said.

Of course, as venture capitalist/entrepreneur Marc Andreessen pointed out in response, the best way to stop that from happening would be to not require that software have backdoors that can easily be hacked.

After the jump, the Dutch get aggressive over privacy protection, Uncle Sam linked to the latest complex malware, malware in your E-cigs, more complications for the kidnapped Colombian general, incendiary institutionalized Israeli discrimination draws nigh, Pakistan’s nuclear program accelerates, Thai editor jailed for lèse majesté, cops prepare for Hong Kong Occupy eviction, Beijing ups the surveillance ante, Predictions of heightened tension in the insular Game fo Zones, hints of a Chinese supersonic drone, rising tensions over basing on a growing Chinese island with U.S. objections spurned, South Korea stages a challenge to a Japanese island claim, a clue as to some of what the island game is about, more criticism of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s militarization push, and a lawsuit over French nuclear tests in the Pacific. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Threats, ISIS, hacks, cops, spies


Plus a whole lot more. . .

We begin with bodacious bluster via the Japan Times:

North Korea warns of wiping Japan ‘off world map’ over U.N. resolution

North Korea on Sunday denounced a recent U.N. resolution condemning its human rights violations, warning of retaliation against Japan and other sponsor countries.

“We will take toughest counteraction” against the United States, and “Japan, too, can never escape this toughest counteraction,” the North Korean National Defense Commission said in a statement, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

“Japan should bear in mind that if it continues behaving as now, it will disappear from the world map for good, not just remaining a near yet distant country,” the statement continued.

More from Punch Nigeria:

N’Korea furious over UN human rights ruling

North Korea’s top military body has warned of “catastrophic consequences” for supporters of the latest United Nations censure on its human rights record, as state media reported leader Kim Jong-Un presided over fresh military drills.

A resolution asking the UN Security Council to refer North Korea’s leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible charges of “crimes against humanity” passed by a resounding vote of 111 to 19 with 55 abstentions in a General Assembly human rights committee last week.

Introduced by Japan and the European Union and co-sponsored by some 60 nations, the resolution drew heavily on the work of a UN inquiry which concluded in February that the North was committing human rights abuses “without parallel in the contemporary world”.

On to the war of the moment, via the Associated Press:

Islamic State group recruits, exploits children

Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists’ headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.

Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.

From Deutsche Welle, German recruits:

German intelligence: Dozens of Germans killed fighting for ‘IS’

German intelligence sources say some 60 Germans have died fighting for the jihadist group “Islamic State.” Many others have returned from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq – and now pose a threat at home.

At least 60 Germans have died fighting alongside militants from the jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS) with at least nine being killed in suicide attacks, Germany’s domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen said in an interview published Sunday.

Maassen told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that some 550 radical German Islamists had gone to conflict regions in Syria and Iraq to help IS in an offensive that has seen the group capture large amounts of territory in both countries in recent months.

German authorities were increasingly concerned about the high figure, which had gone up more rapidly in the past six weeks, he said, calling it “a sad success for Islamist propaganda.”

The London Telegraph covers those from Britain:

Muslim MP: 2,000 Britons fighting for Islamic State

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood says 2,000 jihadists have travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK – a fourfold increase on official estimates

As many as 2,000 Britons are fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, a senior Muslim MP has claimed.

Officials had suggested that the number of British jihadists within the ranks of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other terrorist groups was about 500.

However, Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, a constituency with a significant number of Muslims, has suggested this was a fourfold underestimate of the number of British jihadists fighting in the region.

“The authorities say there are 500 British jihadists but the likely figure is at least three to four times that,” he said. “I think 2,000 is a better estimate. My experience in Birmingham is it is a huge, huge problem.”

And the Guardian covers the inevitable:

Increased terror threat is stretching resources, says Met police chief

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says security services have halted four or five plots this year, as terrorism awareness campaign begins

Security services have foiled four or five terrorist plots this year and the threat is increasing, Britain’s top policeman has said.

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the heightened threat was putting pressure on resources and hinted that he expects the government to increase funding in the autumn statement.

The comments, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, came before the launch of a nationwide terrorism awareness campaign. Officers will be briefing more than 6,000 people at 80 venues including schools, universities, airports, shopping centres, cinemas and farms in a bid to engage the public and businesses in preventing attacks.

From TheLocal.fr, a French recruit:

Armed Isis Islamist grew up in small French village

One of three Kalashnikov-wielding Islamists seen burning their French passports in an Islamic State propaganda video this week grew up in a small village in southern France, the mayor said Saturday.

The 26-year-old, who goes by the name of Abou Ossama Al-Faranci in the Internet video, left the village of some 1,400 people five years ago, residents told the newspaper La Depeche du Midi.

The bearded blue-eyed man seen in the footage urging Muslims to stage attacks in France was reported to have gone to school in the village and have converted to Islam, studying the Koran in a Muslim centre in a private home.

And from TheLocal.se, the Swedish contingent:

Up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis: report

As many as 300 Swedes could have joined the Islamic State insurgency, Sweden’s intelligence chief said Saturday.

“A hundred cases of people who have left to join the fighting have been confirmed, then there are the presumed cases…, and then there are those that have not been counted, which brings the total to between 250 and 300,” said the head of the intelligence services, Anders Thornberg, on Sveriges Radio.

Thornberg said the flow of youths leaving to become jihadists in Syria was rapidly rising.

“A certain number of young Swedish men are leaving and training in camps, learning to become terrorists to use explosives and weapons,” he said.

And from north of the U.S. border via CBC’s The National:

Canadians volunteer to fight ISIS

Program notes:

Canadian volunteers have joined the ground war against ISIS. Are their actions legal? And would they fire at a radicalized Canadian?

While the Diplomat covers other Asian concerns:

Islamic State and a South Asian Caliphate

Islamic State has its eyes on South and Southeast Asia. The threat is long-term, but should not be ignored.

Although Islamic State’s ultimate aspirations are unrealistic, some of its targets in Asia are vulnerable, most notably that cradle and crucible of terrorism on the continent, Pakistan. Bordering Afghanistan, where terrorist violence is already resurgent with NATO thinning out, Pakistan is a promising base for Islamic State in South Asia. It also offers a huge bonanza that Islamist movements would willingly bleed for: nuclear weapons.

Although Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are guarded by a professional army, the degree to which the Pakistan Army itself has been radicalized is not easily quantifiable. After all, this is the same Army that sends its officers for tenures in the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Whether these officers return to the army with or without any radical leanings is anyone’s guess.

Pakistan-based terror groups seem to be leaning more and more towards Islamic State. Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) is a fractured entity today. More and more of its members are openly declaring their allegiance to Islamic State. The recluse Taliban supremo, Mullah Omar, and the staid al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Jawahri are losing ground.

Afghanistan also offers fertile ground for terror. The Afghanistan Taliban shares with Islamic State a strategic approach in which both prefer control and domination of territory as the prime objective. However, the Afghanistan Taliban would like to retain its primacy in Afghanistan. It may not want to be an Islamic State surrogate. Its long association with al-Qaeda is another obstacle.

Unrest in France from the Guardian:

Protesters clash with police in France over young activist killed by grenade

  • Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed by a so-called ‘offensive grenade’ during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project

Protesters clashed with police in southern France on Saturday over the death of a young activist killed by a police grenade, in the latest of a series of demonstrations which have embarrassed the Socialist government.

At least 16 people were arrested in Toulouse after garbage containers were set on fire and bus stops smashed on the margins of an otherwise peaceful march where demonstrators held placards reading “end to the licence to kill”.

Remi Fraisse, 21, was killed last month by a so-called “offensive grenade” during a standoff between police and opponents of a dam project in wetlands near Toulouse. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve later ordered these devices banned.

From RT, Falangist frolics:

Far-right Spaniards mark anniversary of General Franco’s death

Hundreds of far-right activists gathered in Madrid center to commemorate the anniversary of the death of General Franco. Fascist symbols were seen at the rally which praised the late dictator.

Around 300 far-right activists gathered on Orient Square in Central Madrid on Sunday to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the death of the fascist dictator and Falange party’s leader Francisco Franco. The general died on November 20, 1975.

Organized by several far-right political parties and nationalist organizations including Nudo Patriota Espanol, Movimiento Catolico Espanol and Patriotas, the event also marked the anniversary of the death of Jose Primo de Rivera, the founder of Falange Espanola who was executed by the Spanish republican government on November 20, 1936. Falange Espanola, created in 1933, was a nationalist party inspired by Italian fascism.

More questions about an Old Blighty coverup, via the Independent:

Child abuse cases are ‘tip of the iceberg’ in sexual exploitation of young people, said Theresa May

The cases of child abuse exposed so far are only the “tip of the iceberg” of the extent of sexual exploitation of young people, the Home Secretary Theresa May has warned.

Ms May spoke of her dismay over the number of abusers who have been able to operate with impunity both in the past and today.

She said it was impossible to assess whether the activities of a paedophile ring involving senior figures in public life were covered up in the 1980s, but insisted an independent inquiry into historical sex abuse would establish the full facts.

“It’s not possible to say whether there was a cover-up, that is why I think it is so important we have the inquiry so we get at the truth,” she told the Andrew Marr Show.

From the Los Angeles Times, misconduct afloat:

Captain of San Diego-based warship relieved of duty

The captain of one of the Navy’s premier warships has been relieved of command after an investigation found that he routinely used foul and abusive language toward crew members and engaged in inappropriate touching and questioning of women.

Capt. Wayne Brown was relieved as commander of the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship Boxer after an investigation concluded that he had “lost the respect, trust and confidence of his subordinates” because of his temper and his behavior toward female crew members that included touching and also asking them whether they were using birth control with their husbands or boyfriends, according to the investigative report.

Brown created a “hostile, offensive and intimidating work environment,” according to the investigation that was undertaken after complaints from enlisted personnel and junior officers.

From BBC News, superbug:

Regin, new computer spying bug, discovered by Symantec

A leading computer security company says it has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen.

Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world. Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.

Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most. It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say.

Hacks in China, from Want China Times:

Domain names in China hacked by overseas IPs

Nearly 60% of dot-com domain names in China were hijacked by backdoor programs in the first half of 2014 and 48.8% of them were controlled by overseas IP addresses, the Beijing-based China Securities Journal reports.

Huang Chengqing, director of China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China (CNCERT or CNCERT/CC) disclosed the statistics at a forum on cyber security at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province on Nov. 20.

Domain names are the addresses websites use to allow internet users to find them. When one gets hijacked, the person looking for that site gets redirected to a site controlled by hackers. In many cases though, hackers can be traced back to their IP address or special idenifier each computer has.

After the jump, Chilean colonels convicted of torturing a presidential father, a controversial Israeli redefinition, an Israel warning to France over Palestinian recognition, an Israeli solder busted, a British arms sale exposed, China seeks stronger security ties with Egypt as Cairo tightens the reins of internal repression, Iranian nuclear deal hits stumbling blocks as Kerry pushes against the deadline, on to China and a military espionage arrest, an academic’s prison sentence upheld, new China missile can reach the U.S., China seeks insular partnerships while Uncle Sam objects to one Chinese insular development as a Chinese officer gives the rationale, Coast Guard militarization, and another press prosecution. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Shootings, parents, rage, pols


We begin with another shooting, first from teleSUR:

Mexican Students Shot by Police

  • One student was shot in the leg and another grazed by a bullet, according to early reports.

At least two people were shot Saturday as an individual alleged to be a police officer fired on students at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who were meeting to discuss their participation in the upcoming national strike.

One student was shot in the leg while another was grazed by a bullet, although both of them are in stable condition, according to early reports.

The incident occurred around 13:00 pm (local time), when a group of soldiers and federal police officers occupied the entrance of the iconic university as students held a meeting on the national strike called for November 20 in protest of the disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teachers’ training college.

According to eyewitnesses, a car of the Office of the General Prosecutor (PGR) parked outside of the auditorium where the meeting took place, with four armed men getting out of the car. A number of the students asked them to leave the grounds before one of men from the car opened fire on the group.

The four individuals managed to escape in a taxi and left the car in the parking lot.

Photos of an injured student from the Pugrider Tumblr:

BLOG Mexico student

The accompanying text:

Around noon, members of the PGJ (Procuraduría General de Justicia. Like, special cops) entered the UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, which, as it’s name says, is autonomous, so the police has no right to go in and, well, do their job. It’s out of their jurisdiction.

The problem started when these agents were seen taking pictures of some students, (who may have been pacifical anarchists, but were doing nothing at the moment) when these students asked them what were the photos for, they started running. A group of people, including more students, followed them, either to stop them or make them leave, but one of the agents took out a gun and started shooting. Several times. Hitting a student in the leg, and even a dog. Luckily, no one else. Now outside of the University, a couple of these ‘cops’ fled in a cab, while a third one, the one who shot, was arrested by the regular Police Department itself.

Later, members of this Police Department (Public Safety Secretary) went to University grounds (once again, they can’t do this) and, in an attempt of getting students out of where the morning shooting happened, a violent conflict started. The Police retreated but is still in the outside of the University.

Please share this, what we want is to make some noise about our situation. We won’t remain silent about how we’ve constantly been opressed for no reason. Not anymore.

Mexico City, November 15, 2014.

More from teleSUR:

Mexico University Rector Allegedly Aiding Student Repression

  • The case of the 43 missing students has mobilized university students in numbers not seen in many years and the state is responding with repression

Alberto Bravo, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) told teleSUR in an exclusive interview that the President of UNAM, Jose Narro is, “complicit not only in the repression that occurred this past Saturday but also in other incidents where police have entered the campus.”

Bravo also told teleSUR that Narro, “maintains close ties with the [governing] Institutional Revolutionary Party,” and that as a result he works to preserve the image of the government. He also stated that, “inside the university there are many complaints regarding police harassment and there are many infiltrators.” He added that these complaints have not been pursued and those who speak out against the authorities face intimidation tactics.

On Saturday, police from the office of the Attorney General of the Federal District shot and injured two students. The shooter arrived alongside 3 other officers and university police at the Che Guevara auditorium and began photographing the students at which point they were told to leave, the shooter then took out a gun and fired.

But it’s not just students who have been protesting. Teachers are taking to the streets as well, as CNN reports:

Teachers of missing students riot

Program notes:

With little developments in the mystery of 43 missing students in Guerrero, Mexico, the community is outraged.

From Reuters, more blowback for the abduction of the 43:

Main Mexico leftist party on verge of dissolution, leader says

The elder statesman of Mexico’s main leftist party said on Sunday the group was on the verge of falling apart after a series of mistakes and the disappearance of 43 students in a state it runs in the southwest of the country.

Three-times presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas said the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which finished runner-up in Mexico’s last two presidential elections, had lost its moral authority and needed urgent reform.

The PRD, which Cardenas helped found in 1989, rules Guerrero state and the city of Iguala, where the government said 43 trainee teachers were abducted by police on the night of Sept. 26 and apparently handed over to a drug gang and killed.

A president besieged, via the Guardian:

Mexico’s president faces wave of fury across country over fate of missing student teachers

The brutal killing of 43 students has become a national cause, and the government’s inaction and perceived disdain risk a social explosion and political instability

The pent-up fury of the parents reflected the intensity of the violent protests that marked a dramatic week in Mexico, which has deepened the political crisis facing President Enrique Peña Nieto as he returns from a week-long trip to China and Australia, seen by many as a sign of disdain for the suffering and anger at home.

The most significant thing the president said during his trip was on an outward stopover in Alaska, when he condemned an arson attack on the door of the ceremonial presidential palace in Mexico City. “Mexican society says no to violence,” he said, referring to the burning door. “We say yes to justice, order, harmony, tranquillity, and we say yes to the application of justice.”

The president made no mention of the fact that, immediately before the door was set on fire, the streets of the capital were filled with thousands of peaceful demonstrators. Many had carried banners proclaiming “ya me cansé”, which means “I’m tired” or “I’ve had enough”. The phrase was used by the attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, to cut short questions at the end of a press conference two days earlier, in which he had revealed the government’s new claim that the students were probably massacred in a rubbish tip not far from Iguala, hours after they had been arrested by municipal police and handed over to a local drug gang called Guerreros Unidos on 26 September.

And an inconvenient complication, via Reuters:

Mexican president promises answers on tainted luxury home

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said late on Saturday the government would next week give answers about a luxury house acquired by his wife that has raised questions about the ethical standards of his administration.

Days after the government canceled a $3.75 billion rail contract won in an uncontested bid by a Chinese-led consortium, local media reports identified the property as linking one of the Mexican partners in the group to Pena Nieto.

Reports about the house have swelled a recent tide of public anger about the government, which has been under heavy fire for its management of the disappearance of 43 students in the southwest of the country in late September.

And from teleSUR, presidential thuggery:

Mexican President Warns of Further Force Against Protestors

  • At a press conference, Enrique Peña Nieto said he will address corruption allegations this week and issued a warning over protests demanding justice in the case of the 43 missing the Ayotzinapa protesters

Mexican President Peña Nieto has said that while he will try to establish a dialogue with protesters demanding justice over the 43 missing students but warned that the state will use force “when all other mechanisms to restore order have been exhausted.”

His remarks, during a Saturday night press conference, came just hours after the police in the capital shot and injured two students at a meeting planning solidarity events for the 43. Later 500 heavily-armed police forcefully entered the campus of the university, provoking clashes with students.

Peña Nieto condemned the violent acts of some protesters during recent weeks, although, he said that the government understands the pain and concern of the Mexican population for the atrocities carried out in Ayotzinapa.

While the Latin American Herald Tribune voices neoliberal anxiety:

Mexico’s Central Bank: “Social Developments” Could Hurt Investor Confidence

Recent “social developments” in Mexico could have an adverse impact on investor confidence, the central bank said, according to the minutes of its most recent policy meeting.

Although the Bank of Mexico did not mention any event in particular, all indications are the monetary authority was referring to the case of 43 missing teacher trainees in the southern state of Guerrero – which has made headlines worldwide – and nationwide protests demanding their safe return.

That perception stems from statements Thursday by Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray, who pointed to the potential negative repercussions of the missing students’ case on the national economy.

And CNN turns the focus on those most impacted by the crimes of Iguala:

Crying for justice, clinging to hope: The parents of Mexico’s missing 43

In parental torment over what became of his son and 42 other missing Mexican students, Isrrael Galindo rejects official accounts they apparently were massacred. He hopes that somehow his son and the others are still alive.

“I think they have him arrested or locked up. I don’t know where he is, but if I knew, I would go get him,” Galindo said of Israel, 19, his namesake son with a different spelling.

“I want him to know that I love him,” he added, beginning to weep. “I want him alive.”

Anguish overwhelms Galindo and grows daily, ever since the aspiring primary school teachers disappeared September 26 in a violent clash with police during a political protest that also left six people dead, including three other students.

More on the parents, from Reuters:

Parents of Mexico missing students lead rally

Program notes:

Parents of 43 students who have gone missing in Mexico lead rallies demanding the government bring back their children alive. Yiming Woo reports.

And to close, via the Associated Press, a judicial story:

Mexico begins court proceeding in other crimes for mayor investigated in missing students case

A federal judge has opened a court proceeding against the former mayor of a southern Mexico city in crimes that preceded the case of 43 missing students from a teachers’ college.

The Federal Judiciary Council said in a statement late Saturday that Jose Luis Abarca has been charged with organized crime, the kidnapping of seven people and the killing of another in crimes that occurred before the students disappeared. Abarca was mayor of Iguala, in Guerrero state, when the students went missing.

Abarca has been behind bars since he and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, were arrested Nov. 4 in a crowded Mexico City neighborhood.

Help, the IRS called and they’re gonna arrest us!


Yep, that’s what the robocall said when we answered the landline this afternoon. It struck us as rather bizarre, given that we’ve always paid taxes and always scrupulously reported all income [sometimes even when an accountant of long said we could safely get by omitting some].

So we we rather surprised to get a robocall telling us we had to pay the IRS immediately or face imminent arrest.

Given that we hadn’t received any form of written communication attesting to alleged unpaid taxes, we were somewhat skeptical. We were even more sketpical that the voice on the call spoke in an Indian subcontinent accent so thick as to be almost unintelligible to our chemo-damaged hearing.

So we hung up, then did the old Googling, where we chanced upon a warning from Amy Hebert of the Fair Trade Commission:

Tax season may be over, but scammers posing as IRS officials continue to call, saying people owe taxes and better pay up. They threaten to arrest or deport people, revoke a license, or even shut down a business. How do they do it? By rigging caller ID information to appear as if the IRS is calling, and sometimes even making a follow-up call claiming to be the police or the DMV.

We posted about this last month, and got a tremendous response from readers. Lots of people wrote to tell us about variations of the scam: robocalls from “Heather” from the IRS, or calls claiming to be from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and mentioning IRS codes. But the scam always ends the same way: a demand for money loaded on a prepaid debit card, sent through a wire transfer, or paid by credit card.

If you get a call or email like this, report it. Here’s how:

  • File a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint. From the complaint homepage, select “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” In the notes, please include “IRS Telephone Scam.”
  • If it’s an email, forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those emails.
  • If you owe — or think you owe — federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or go to irs.gov. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.

The IRS doesn’t ask people to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and doesn’t ask for credit card numbers over the phone. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they do it by postal mail, not by phone. Read Government Imposter Scams for more tips on avoiding a scam.

And what if you got a robocall from Heather or someone else? In addition to reporting it:

  • Hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
  • Consider contacting your phone provider and asking them to block the number, and whether they charge for that service. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.

We pass all this on in case you, dear reader, happen to be on the receiving end of a similar call.

Here’s more from the Internal Revenue Service [which also notes that the scammers had added an email component to their hustle]:

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

  1. Call to demand immediate payment, nor will we call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill..
  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
  • You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Given our ongoing frustration with endless robocalls, we did find some amusement in this video report from  WLOS News 13 in Asheville, North Carolina:

Warrant Phone Scam

Program notes:

A new phone scam is preying on victims on both sides of the state line.

Buncombe and Spartanburg County deputies say a caller will claim there is a warrant out for your arrest and that you must wire money to them to settle it.

The callers use high-pressure tactics, fake arrest warrants and elements of your criminal or financial history to make the call seem real.

Deputies want to remind everyone that law enforcement does not operate this way.

“Basically what they’re trying to do is take advantage of the fact that people trust law enforcement. When a law enforcement officer calls you, there’s a certain amount of credibility,” said Natalie Bailey with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.

Both sheriff’s offices say if you receive one of these calls, hang up and dial your local law enforcement agency to check if you have any outstanding criminal matters.

Now why were we so amused?

Well, Buncombe County, as we learned back in high school, is the place that gave us a word derived from the county’s first spoken syllable.

Yep, it’s the place that gave us bunk and bunco squads, police units assigned to fighting scam artists and giving a name to a 1950 film: and a short-lived CBS dramatic radio series:

BLOG Bunco

Plagued by robocalls and longing for drones


One of the realities of growing older is that doctors and pills play an increasingly important role in your life. . .or at least that’s our own experience and friends of a similar vintage tell us it’s theirs too.

But there’s on affliction we didn’t count on: An endless barrage of robocalls.

They fall into two categories, and it’s the second that really piques our curiosity.

The first variety of robocall comes from “Cardholder Services” or some variant thereof, and it begs us to get a consolidation loan to pay off our credit card balances [and never mind that we don’t have credit card balances, since we pay our bill in full every month].

If you “press one for more information,” you get a pitchman or woman, often but not always speaking in an Indian accent, and if you ask them which credit card company they represent, an immediate disconnect follows.

After the first two or three calls, we asked the huckster to remove our name from their list and were assured it would be done.

Yeah, right. The next call came later that same day.

When we went through our four miserable months of chemo a year-and-a-half ago, we received between one and three calls daily with precisely the same spiel.

Getting such calls is bad enough, but it’s vastly worse when you’re riding waves of nausea and fatigue. Disconnect the phone, you say? Well, I couldn’t, since calls from doctors, nurses, and schedulers mandated keeping the line open.

Finally we recalled some advice we once received from a friend who was a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney years earlier, during another spate of phone hucksterism. “Get a whistle and blow in the mouthpiece.” It didn’t stop the calls, but we did receive a certain cathartic relief.

The Cardholder Services scam is ubiquitous and has been the subject of countless warnings, as in this 27 February 2013 alert from Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen:

Consumer Alert: Don’t Fall for “Cardholder Services” Robocalls

Consumers beware:  Prerecorded phone calls from “Rachel” or “Wendy” from “cardholder services” offering to significantly lower credit card interest rates are likely nothing more than scams, Attorney General George Jepsen said today.

“My office has received numerous complaints and calls about these robocalls, and the best advice for any consumer who receives one of these calls is to immediately hang up,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “For consumers looking to lower their interest rates, your best option is to avoid a persuasive sales pitch, call the customer service number on the back of your credit card and request a reduced rate.”

The automated robocalls claim to have an “important message” regarding an opportunity to reduce high credit card interest rates. Consumers are urged to “press 1″ to connect with a live representative or “press 2″ to discontinue getting such calls. Consumers who press 1 are connected to live telemarketers, who claim that, for a fee, they will deliver a reduced rate on a credit card and see significant savings on finance charges. Often, consumers have no way to screen these calls using Caller ID, as the incoming number is “spoofed,” or displayed as a false number.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that after consumers pay an up-front fee – sometimes totaling thousands of dollars – the companies do little or nothing to lower credit card interest rates. The FTC advises consumers that federal law prohibits companies that sell relief services from charging a fee before a debt is settled or reduced. With few exceptions, prerecorded sales calls such as these are illegal under state and federal law.

Here’s an 3 August 2012 report from Robin Taylor of WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh:

Stopping Robocalls & How They Get Around the Do Not Call List

Four months earlier, in a 6 April article headlined “Scams: 2.6 Billion Robo-Calls Later, Why Won’t Rachel from Cardholder Services Just Go Away?,” Time reported:

The Federal Trade Commission, which in 2010 shut down a massive robo-calling operation that was responsible for a huge number of the calls from Rachel — and Stacey, a similar friendly voice selling auto warranties — said the responsible company made 2.6 billion calls in a year and a half period, of which 1.6 billion were answered by consumers. Of those, 12.8 million people actually spoke with an agent, the FTC said. Yes, it took a lot of calls (generated by computers, which don’t get too tired), but nearly 13 million people bit.

Following that shutdown, the FTC saw a decline in complaints from people on the national Do Not Call registry. But it was short-lived, with complaints soaring to a new record in 2011. Last week, the FTC settled a case against SBN Peripherals (a.k.a. Asia Pacific Telecom), agreeing to a permanent ban from telemarketing and a payment of $3 million in assets.

So, now that the company that made billions of calls is gone, why is Rachel still calling? Why are so many consumers still filing Do Not Call list complaints against her and her ilk? (She recently called my cell phone.)

While SBN and its related companies might have been Rachel’s biggest launching pad, it was hardly her only one. The FTC, which is in charge of policing Do Not Call violators, recognizes consumers’ frustration with Rachel’s persistence and the annoyance of these calls, which do not discriminate between home or cell phone. “Rachel is a sort of generic name recording that different scammers use,” explained FTC spokesman Frank Dorman. “It’s not just one big operation.”

And on 1 November 2012 the FTC announced:

FTC Leads Joint Law Enforcement Effort Against Companies That Allegedly Made Deceptive Cardholder Services Robocalls

  • Agency Gets Court Orders Disconnecting Five of Them

The Federal Trade Commission escalated its campaign against illegal, unwanted robocalls announcing that it pulled the plug on five companies based in Arizona and Florida allegedly responsible for millions of illegal pre-recorded calls from “Rachel” and others from “Cardholder Services.”  State partners in Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida also took legal action against similar companies.

Just two weeks after the FTC held a summit in Washington, DC, to examine the robocall problem, federal courts granted the agency’s request to temporarily halt five robocall operations that allegedly deceived consumers into paying hundreds or thousands of dollars by making phony claims that they could reduce credit card interest rates in return for an upfront fee.

“At the FTC, Rachel from Cardholder Services is public enemy number one,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.  “We’re cracking down on illegal robocalls by bringing law enforcement actions and pursuing technical solutions to the problem.”

The FTC gets more than 200,000 complaints each month about telemarketing robocalls, including calls from “Rachel” that pitch consumers with a supposedly easy way to save money by reducing their credit card interest rates.  After collecting an up-front fee, however, the FTC believes that the companies do little if anything to fulfill their promises.

And that’s just a sample of developments in 2012. More stories followed in 2013, and they’re still coming strong in 2014.

So Rachel, it seems, has more lives than a cat and is harder to kill than Godzilla.

Instead of sending our drones after people in other countries we unintentionally [or otherwise] provoked into striking back, why not send ‘em after Rachel and her enablers? I have had my left endlessly interrupted by anyone with turban, and no Muslim ever awakened me from a rare moment of peaceful sleep in the middle of an onerous course of chemo.

And why not sic the NSA on ‘em? After, they’re real enemies of domestic peace and tranquility. . .at least in our humble opinion.

At the very least, try these sociopathic assholes as organized crime under the federal RICO statutes [the way they should have gone after the banksters].

But wait, you say, didn’t I start this infernal essay with something about the afflictions of the elderly?

We’ve fallen and we can’t get up!

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Rachel seems to be an omnivore, as predator feasting on the phones of folks of all ages.

But there’s another predator out there who seem to know if you’re receiving Social Security or Medicare benefits.

We learned about it the moment the first call came in back in 2012, and we are reminded of it on more days than not, often three or four times a day.

Once again, WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh was on the story with this segment from 29 August 2013:

Medical Alert Robocall Scheme

From the 4 June 2013 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Senior citizens warned about ‘robocalls’ for medical alert equipment

The state Attorney General issued a warning on Tuesday to older Pennsylvanians about a recent spike in so-called “robocalls” designed to deceitfully obtain billing information to charge $35 a month for purported monitoring services that may be unnecessary.

The businesses sometimes identify themselves as “Senior Medical Alert” or “Senior Medical Advisors,” state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said. She said recorded messages tell pople they have been approved for medical alert equipment “at no charge.” When people respond, however, they are pressured into providing billing information, Kane said.

She said the robocalls use scare tactics to get seniors to respond quickly. Some seniors have received follow-up calls from telemarketers who are even more aggressive and harassing, Kane said.

A story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that same day marks the only instance we ever felt sympathy for the company that made the most obnoxious commercial ever:

Life Alert rides to the rescue on medical alert robocalls

The suit filed in a California federal court accuses a company named ConnectAmerica.com of robocalling consumers and leading them to believe that the calls and the products being sold are from Life Alert. That’s in no small part, the suit says, because callers sometimes mention the “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” slogan that most people equate with Life Alert.

Life Alert told the court the robocalls are diluting its trademarked name and slogan.

The company asked the court to order Connect America and partners including LifeWatch Inc. to surrender the profits gained through the calls.

The medical alert calls have become as prevalent as those old Rachel calls used to be.

And here’s an announcement from Colleen Tressler of the Federal Trade Commission issued on 13 January of this year:

To robocall scammers who lied about free medical alert devices: We’ve got your number

The FTC warned people last summer about illegal prerecorded sales calls from scammers pitching safety alert systems for older adults. And now, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General have acted to temporarily halt and freeze the assets of an Orlando-based operation that not only used illegal robocalls to pitch so-called “free” medical alert devices to older consumers, but also lied about the cost and quality. The FTC and the Florida AG are working to permanently ban the operation from illegally pitching their products and to get refunds for victims.

The scammers lied when they said the devices had been bought for consumers by a relative or friend. Really? Don’t you think your friends and relatives would tell you if they bought you a gift, especially if you have to pay an activation and monthly monitoring fee? I know mine would. The scammers continued their lies when they told people they wouldn’t be charged anything before the devices were activated. In fact, the scammers started charging people who agreed to receive the system immediately, regardless of whether the system had been activated or not. Makes me so mad I could spit nails. A lot of the victims were elderly, live alone, and have limited or fixed incomes.

And that worked about as well as the stop-Rachel actions, given that we are getting the calls on average once a day.

On 19 June, the American Association of Retired People notified members:

Two New Twists in Returning Medical Scam

Remember those bogus offers for a free medical alert device? That robocall ripoff, which went viral last year, has returned with a vengeance – with two new twists.

But don’t be fooled. It’s the same old scam that tries to get your credit or bank account information for supposed monitoring fees for the “free” device that never arrives.

Provide that info and you risk identity theft.

The latest twists: Some robocalls now also promise that you’re entitled to $3,000 in money-saving coupons. Others falsely claim that the free-device offer is being made on behalf of AARP.

But what really makes us curious is how the phone criminals [and that’s what they are, even though none ever seems to wind up in handcuffs] managed to get massive lists of older people. Databases were breached. Which ones? How often?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Now the final irony. . .

Whilst compiling this fulminatory response to endless harassment, we mused that at least our cell phone was free from targeting.

Pride goeth before the fall.

No more than 10 minutes later, it rang. Just take a brief survey, we were told by recording, and we would be flown off to the Bahamas, accompanied by a companion, for a free cruise!

We punched O in a futile effort to reach a human, only to discover later while compiling this screed that my button-punching could’ve have inadvertently allowed a breach to personal data.

So don’t push buttons. . .

The cell does have a number capture, which whycall.me traced back to Brooks Fiber Communications in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Two folks logged calls from the number at the site, one reporting the same free cruise spiel, and the other:

Pre-recorded telemarketing message promotes resolving student loans. I NEVER HAD A STUDENT LOAN! This company does not vet their call list! I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS COMPANY TO ANYBODY! ! ! ! ! VERY RUDE.

And to conclude. . .

Two offerings from the Federal Trade Commission’s Robocalls webpage, beginning with a short information video from FTC attorney Kati Daffin:

Robocalls Gone Wrong

Program notes:

Kati Daffin, attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, explains about the recent dramatic increase in illegal telemarketing robocalls, what the FTC is doing about it, and why it’s difficult to trace these calls.

And finally, for the nerds amongst, the infographic: How Does a Robocall Work?, A visual guide. And click on it to embiggen:

BLOG Robocalls

And call out the drones!

InSecurityWatch: ISIS, spooks, cops, Hong Kong


And the latest from the search for those missing Mexican college students.

We begin with amped volume from The Hill:

Feinstein warns police, military personnel to guard against lone wolf attacks

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein warned on Sunday that police and military personnel should be “on guard” for lone wolf attacks inspired by Islamic jihad.

“The police and the military have to be on guard,” Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We need to think in some new ways.”

Last week, a lone wolf attacker killed a Canadian soldier, and a man who had recently converted to Islam attacked four police officers with a hatchet in New York.

Feinstein said Internet propaganda and specific individuals are “really firing up this lone wolf phenomenon.”

Disputation from the Jakarta Globe:

Kurds Reject Erdogan Report of Deal With Syrian Rebels to Aid Besieged Kobani

A senior Syrian Kurdish official on Friday rejected a report from Turkey’s president that Syrian Kurds had agreed to let Free Syrian Army fighters enter the border town of Kobani to help them push back besieging Islamic State insurgents.

The Free Syrian Army is a term used to describe dozens of armed groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but with little or no central command. They have been widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents such as Islamic State.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is a leading opponent of Assad and has allowed his more secular, Western-backed opponents such as FSA fighters to use Turkey as a base and sanctuary.

Erdogan said on Friday said 1,300 FSA fighters would enter Kobani after the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) agreed on their passage, but his comments were swiftly denied by Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the PYD.

And linkage denied, via BBC News:

Ottawa shootings: No Islamic State link found

There is no evidence so far that a gunman who attacked Canada’s parliament had links to Middle Eastern Islamist extremists, the government has said.

Foreign Minister John Baird told the BBC gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was “certainly radicalised”, but was not on a list of high-risk individuals.

Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at Ottawa’s war memorial before being shot dead in the nearby parliament building. Police have released video showing how the gunman stormed parliament.

It has also emerged that Prime Minister Stephen Harper hid in a cupboard in parliament for about 15 minutes during Wednesday’s attack as MPs sharpened flagpoles to use as spears against the gunman.

Fuel thrown on flames, via the Jakarta Globe:

India ‘Love Jihad’ Claims Fuel Hindu-Muslim Tensions

When a Hindu woman tearfully claimed to national media recently she had been kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam, India’s religious hardliners seized the chance to hike their “love jihad” fears.

Hardline Hindu activists, encouraged by the media attention, claimed scores of Muslim boys were attempting to abduct, seduce and elope with Hindu girls across the country for the sole purpose of conversion.

On websites and leaflets, right-wing groups warned India’s Hindu majority of the “dangers”, and a senior government minister called for talks between religious leaders “to find a solution to the issue”.

Last week, the woman, from northern Uttar Pradesh state, sensationally retracted her claims, saying she had in fact been pressured by her family to concoct the story.

But hardliners remain adamant that Muslims, numbering about 150 million in India, have a secret strategy to turn the secular country of 1.25 billion into their own.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, and they’ve done it before:

British forces hand over control of last base in Afghanistan

The handover was hailed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, but the southern Helmand province that foreign troops are leaving behind still confronts a resilient Taliban insurgency

British forces on Sunday (Oct 27) handed over formal control of their last base in Afghanistan to Afghan troops, ending combat operations in the country after 13 years which cost hundreds of lives.

The handover was hailed by British Prime Minister David Cameron but the southern Helmand province that foreign troops are leaving behind still confronts a resilient Taliban insurgency and remains a hub for opium production. The Union Jack was lowered at Camp Bastion while the Stars and Stripes came down at the adjacent Camp Leatherneck – the last US Marine base in the country.

All NATO combat troops will depart Afghanistan by December, leaving Afghan troops and police to battle Taliban insurgents on their own.

The Independent covers a curious conversion:

Councillor from French far-right party Front National converts to Islam – and urges others to follow

A local councillor representing Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, the Front National, has announced he has converted to Islam – and has urged fellow party members to do the same.

Maxence Buttey, 22, has been suspended from a regional Front National committee after he went public with his decision and sent out a “proselytising video” to the party in which he praised the “visionary virtues of the Koran and urged them to convert, the Telegraph reported.

Mr Buttey, who is a councillor in the eastern Paris suburb, Noisy-le-grand, said the Front National and Islam had a lot in common.

He told French newspaper, Le Parisien: “Like Islam, the FN defends the weakest. The party denounces exorbitant interest rates charged on the debt of our country, and Islam is against the practice of usury.”

From InfoWorld, notable:

Clueless FBI sabotages its own anti-encryption campaign

  • FBI Director Comey says smartphone encryption puts law enforcement in peril. Too bad he doesn’t seem to understand technology

FBI Director James Comey continues to bang the drum about the evils of smartphone encryption and the harm it will do to U.S. law enforcement efforts. Fortunately, few people are persuaded, possibly because Comey himself seems of two minds — and baffled by technology to boot.

Comey has been on a media tear denouncing the default smartphone encryption provided by Apple, with its recently released iOS 8, and Google, with its next-generation Lollipop Android OS. No one without the passcode — not even Apple or Google — can break the encryption, which leaves law enforcement “struggling to keep up” with criminals, Comey said in a speech to the Brookings Institution.

Comey called on Congress to update CALEA to require tech companies to build into their systems “lawful intercept capabilities” (don’t call them backdoors), saying mistrust of government in response to the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden “has gone too far.”

But in an interview with “60 Minutes” this month, Comey led off by saying, “I believe that Americans should be deeply skeptical of government power. You cannot trust people in power.” He then illustrated this by sidestepping the question of whether the FBI gathers electronic surveillance and passes it to the NSA, and insisting (incorrectly) that the FBI can never read your email without a court order.

Tech companies have good reasons for adding extra data protection to their products. And the FBI’s own website recommends using encryption on mobile devices “to protect the user’s personal data in the case of loss or theft.”

Drones over the Ukraine, from TheLocal.at:

Austrian drones fly high, over Ukraine and beyond

In the middle of the Austrian countryside, a few sleek, high-tech drones sit in a bright production hall, ready for missions over Ukraine, the Mediterranean or the Middle East.

Schiebel, a small company originally specialised in landmine detection, has been manufacturing Camcopters — a 3.5-metre (11.5-foot) long mini-helicopter equipped with cameras, radars and other sensors — for close to 10 years.

But it has gained prominence with a new mission in Ukraine, where the Camcopter will assist observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels.

The latest from Mexico, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Relatives Say They Won’t Let Mexican Government Incriminate Missing Students

Relatives of the 43 trainee teachers who went missing nearly a month ago in the southern Mexican city of Iguala after being attacked by municipal police warned the federal government not to try to lower social tensions by leveling false accusations against the students.

“The federal government should know that we’re not at peace, much less so now that they’re trying to distract attention from this (crime),” Felipe de Jesus, a relative of one of the missing youths, told Efe Friday, insisting that the families will not rest until they are found.

Relatives and classmates of the students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, a nearby teacher-training facility in Guerrero state, said their attorneys have learned that the federal Attorney General’s Office is pursuing a line of investigation that seeks to link the missing youths to the Los Rojos cartel.

And from Agence France-Presse, a report on the troubled Mexican state where the tragedy has been unfolding:

Gangsters paradise: Mexico’s Guerrero state

Program note:

For years drug cartels have been waging bloody turf wars in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state.

After the jump, China throws a bank into the Game of Zones, government and businesses direct warnings at protesting Hong Kong Students and a shift in their plans, Washington and Tokyo plan for joint military actions in time of crisis, and growing discontent with Japan’s new official secrets law. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, a drone, spies, lies, more


First, via Reuters, blowback:

U.S.-led air strikes intensify as Syria conflict destabilizes Turkey

American-led forces have sharply intensified air strikes in the past two days against Islamic State fighters threatening Kurds on Syria’s Turkish border after the jihadists’ advance began to destabilize Turkey.

The coalition had conducted 21 attacks on the militants near the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani over Monday and Tuesday and appeared to have slowed Islamic State advances there, the U.S. military said, but cautioned the situation remained fluid.

U.S. President Barack Obama voiced deep concern on Tuesday about the situation in Kobani as well as in Iraq’s Anbar province, which U.S. troops fought to secure during the Iraq war and is now at risk of being seized by Islamic State militants.

And another Arab Spring country bombed by yet another, via the Associated Press:

Egypt warplanes hit Libya militias, officials say

Egypt deepened its involvement in the fight against Islamist militias who have taken over key parts of Libya on Wednesday, with officials saying Egyptian warplanes have bombed their positions in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The two officials, who have firsthand knowledge of the operation, said the use of the aircraft was part of an Egyptian-led campaign against the militiamen that will eventually involve Libyan ground troops recently trained by Egyptian forces.

The operation, they said, was requested by the internationally recognized Libyan administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk. That elected administration was thrown out of the capital, Tripoli, by rival militias allied with Islamic political factions.

That drone we promised you, via the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Drone-sparked fighting ends Serbia-Albania match

A small drone dangling an Albanian banner and circling the soccer field touched off fighting between Serbian and Albanian players and fans Tuesday, forcing a European Championship qualifier to be called off.

English referee Martin Atkinson halted the match in the 41st minute when a Serbian player grabbed the banner and Albanian players tried to protect it. Several Serbian fans ran onto the field and clashed with Albanian players. The score was 0-0 at the time.

The Union of European Football Associations said the match was later abandoned because of a “disturbance” on the field.

From Reuters, partnering up:

EU, China agree to step up cooperation against terrorism: EU

Leaders from China and the European Union agreed to step up cooperation to counter extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, the EU said on Thursday.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday evening on the sidelines of a gathering of Asian and European leaders known as the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan.

“They reviewed the situation in the Middle East, northern Africa and the Sahel (region of Africa) and agreed to increase cooperation to counter the common threat of extremism and terrorism in these regions,” an EU statement issued after the talks said, without specifying what kind of cooperation.

From TheLocal.de, the singing Nazi judge:

‘Neo-Nazi’ magistrate quits Bavarian post

A magistrate in Bavaria resigned on Tuesday after police discovered that he was a former singer in a neo-Nazi band and had long standing links to the far-right scene.

The young lawyer, who was working in a court in Lichtenfels, Upper Franconia, met the president of the higher state court in Bamberg on Tuesday and resigned.

After studying in Brandenburg, the lawyer was named as a magistrate on a provisional basis by the Bavarian judiciary in November 2013.

While a student, he had been under observation by the Brandenburg security services between 2003 and 2013 due to his alter ego as “Hassgesang” (“hate song”), his neo-Nazi one-man music project.

From the Independent, Old Blighty’s money laundry:

The great British money launderette: At least 19 UK firms under investigation for alleged conspiracy to make $20bn of dirty money seem legitimate

Front companies in the UK are at the heart of an investigation into one of Europe’s biggest money-laundering operations, allegedly forming part of a conspiracy to make $20bn (£12.5bn) of dirty money look legitimate. The funds are believed to have come from major criminals and corrupt officials around the world wanting to make their ill-gotten cash appear “clean”, so they can spend it without suspicion.

At least 19 UK-based front companies are under suspicion. The scandal highlights how lax corporate rules have made this country an attractive destination for global organised crime. The secrecy company directors are entitled to under UK law is also hindering attempts to identify the “Mr Bigs” behind the scam.

An investigation by The Independent and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an NGO, has identified dozens of firms in a global web spreading from Birmingham to Belize.

The scam appears to have gone on for four years before being shut down in May by investigators in another of its main centres – the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

From TheLocal.it, proving crime really does pay, at least in a neocon world:

Sex and drugs help lift Italy out of recession

Italy learnt it was no longer in a recession on Wednesday thanks to a change in data calculations across the European Union which includes illegal economic activities such as prostitution and drugs in the GDP measure.

Adding illegal revenue from hookers, narcotics and black market cigarettes and alcohol to the eurozone’s third-biggest economy boosted gross domestic product figures.

GDP rose slightly from a 0.1 percent decline for the first quarter to a flat reading, the national institute of statistics said.

Google hack, with Network World:

Security vendors claim progress against Chinese group that hacked Google

A group of security companies say a collaborative effort has helped counter several hacking tools used by a China-based group most known for provoking strong condemnation from Google four years ago.

The companies, which include Cisco, FireEye, F-Secure, iSIGHT Partners, Microsoft, Tenable, ThreatConnect, ThreatTrack Security, Volexity, Novetta and Symantec, said their efforts have led to a better level of protection in their products against the hacking tools used by the group. How long the effort will stymie the hackers remains to be seen.

“We’re not naïve,” said Novetta CEO Peter LaMontagne in a phone interview Tuesday. “Our view is that the threat actors that are out there are absolutely focused on staying ahead of our defensive efforts.”

But China is worried about being spied on, as Want China Times reports:

Retired ROC military officers recruited to spy for PLA

To steal crucial intelligence regarding the Republic of China Armed Forces’ new weapons systems, China has recruited several retired officers through Taiwanese businesspeople working in mainland China, getting them to conduct espionage against their own country, Wendell Minnick wrote in his article for the Washington-based Defense News.

Minnick lists the officers who sold information on the E-2K Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and PAC-2 anti-ballistic missile systems, the Hawk air defense missile system, and the Raytheon Palm IR-500 radiometric infrared camera to China in recent years.

Peter Mattis, a research fellow from the Jamestown Foundation, said that contrary to popular opinion, China hires professionals and not “amateur free-for-all sources” to steal information from Taiwan.

And from the Intercept, if its ours, it’s theirs:

Local Cops Say Your Driving History Is Public — Unless You Want a Copy

What’s public for me is private for thee. At least that’s what Monroe County, N.Y. believes when it comes to where you drive your car.

Monroe Police have been using high-speed cameras to capture license plates in order to log vehicle whereabouts. As of July, the County’s database contained 3.7 million records, with the capability to add thousands more each day. The justification for cops having records of the whereabouts of law-abiding citizens is that the vehicles are driven in public and therefore drivers have no expectation of privacy. It’s an argument that’s at odds with the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in U.S. v. Jones. In Jones, a GPS tracking case, the court held that individuals do have an expectation of privacy when it comes to their long-term whereabouts, even when using public roads.

If cops are determined to violate this privacy, then at least they could behave more consistently. Last summer, Rochester, N.Y.’s Democrat & Chronicle filed a state open records request — more commonly called a FOIL (for Freedom Of Information Law) — for information on seven of it’s reporter’s license plates as well as two city and county government vehicles. After all, if such information is public when collected, why would it change merely because it’s sitting in a database?

On to Asia, starting in Hong Kong with the Guardian:

Hong Kong police use pepper spray as video of beating reignites protests

  • Hundreds gather to express outrage at violent police attack on pro-democracy party member

Hong Kong police used pepper spray early on Thursday to stop pro-democracy protesters from blocking a major road near the office of the city’s embattled leader amid public anger over the police beating of a protester a day earlier.

At the police HQ in the nearby district of Wan Chai, hundreds of people gathered outside into the early hours of the morning to express outrage at the beating, with dozens queuing to lodge formal complaints over the incident.

Authorities said on Wednesday that police involved in the beating of Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, a member of the pro-democracy Civic party, would be suspended.

Footage of the beating has gone viral and injected fresh momentum into a protest movement that had been flagging after nearly three weeks of demonstrations over Chinese restrictions on how Hong Kong will choose its next leader.

Here’s the video, via corc buhs:

Hong Kong Police Carry a Protester to a Dark Spot for a Beating

Program notes:

Hong Kong police officers involved in an apparent assault on a protester have been “removed” from their positions, the city’s security chief said Wednesday, after video emerged of a handcuffe.

The London Telegraph covers censorship:

China blocks BBC website as Hong Kong tensions rise

Broadcaster defends move as ‘deliberate censorship’

Chinese censors have blocked the website of Britain’s national broadcaster, the BBC said in a statement late on Wednesday, coming as tensions rise in Hong Kong between pro-democracy protesters and police.

The broadcaster said that the move seemed to be “deliberate censorship”. It did not say what may have prompted the move by Beijing, which also blocks the websites of the New York Times, newswire Bloomberg and the BBC’s Chinese language website.

“The BBC strongly condemns any attempts to restrict free access to news and information and we are protesting to the Chinese authorities. This appears to be deliberate censorship,” said Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service Group.

The BBC’s English-language website was still inaccessible in China on Thursday morning.

From Want China Times, a strategic edge:

PLA’s DF-21D missiles already in service, says US report

A forthcoming report from the bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review Commission indicates that two brigades of DF-21D ballistic missiles have already entered service with the People’s Liberation Army, Bill Gertz, senior editor of Washington Free Beacon, wrote in an article on Oct. 13.

The report will be published on November to discuss China’s military expansion. Citing China’s development of two stealth fighter models, the first deployment of a naval expeditionary amphibious group to the Indian Ocean and aerial bombing exercises in Kazakhstan, the report paints an alarming picture of China’s growing aggressiveness and expanding power that the country could bring to bear against the United States and its regional allies.

Despite the strong trade and financial links between Beijing and Washington, the report said that the Communist Party government in China still views the United States as its primary adversary. China’s rapid military buildup is changing the balance of power in the Western Pacific, it said, which may bring destabilizing security competition between China and its neighbors while exacerbating regional hotspots in Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, and the East and South China seas.

And from the Japan Times, refusing to learn from history:

Web page on ‘comfort women’ donations taken down by Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has again deepened international suspicion that it aims to revise history despite repeated denials.

The Foreign Ministry has deleted a page from its website that carried a 1995 appeal for donations to a government-linked fund for former “comfort women” forced to work at Japanese wartime military brothels.

The move drew immediate protest from the South Korean government, which issued a written statement by a spokesperson at its Foreign Ministry, because it came at the demand of a right-leaning lawmaker who has called for the retraction of the government’s apology, made in 1993.

A key part of the appeal read: “Particularly brutal was the act of forcing women, including teenagers, to serve the Japanese armed forces as ‘comfort women,’ a practice that violated the fundamental dignity of women. No manner of apology can ever completely heal the deep wound inflicted on these women both emotionally and physically.”

For our final item, a Toky0/Washington disagreement from Kyodo News:

U.S. opposed to Japan’s plan to end Futenma base operations by 2019

The U.S. government is opposed to Tokyo’s plan to end the operations of a key U.S. military base in Okinawa by February 2019, according to U.S. government sources.

The U.S. side conveyed to Japan during a meeting of the countries’ foreign and defense officials in Tokyo on Oct. 2 that the timing for the end of operations at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station should be 2022 at the earliest, given the time required to complete construction of a replacement facility in the prefecture, the sources said.

Washington was “surprised” by Tokyo’s announcement last month that it will aim to end operations at the Futenma base by February 2019 and views the Tokyo-set deadline as “fanciful speculation,” U.S. officials told the meeting, adding that the announcement placed the United States in a “difficult position,” according to the sources.