Category Archives: Politics

From BBC 2: ‘Super Rich: The Greed Game’


Broadcast, fittingly, on 1 April 2008 just as the bubble was bursting, this BBC 2 documentary, produced and directed by John O’Kane and narrated by Robert Peston, is a reminder that the modern “wealth creator” is rarely the inventor of some new product that makes our lives better but is rather an expert at manipulating the money game, in which creation of notional riches becomes the end rather than a mere byproduct of their efforts.

And at the center of the debacle were the central banksters, acting to ensure that confidence in currency, the prerequisite for green game players, was bolstered, despite all the screeching alarm bells.

And note that facilitating it all were the so-called “liberal” political parties, with Britain’s Labour Party and the Democrats in the U.S. greased the skids in the 1990s by deregulating financial markets and paving the way to an explosion of hedge fund wealth.

What is particularly galling is the rampant and unalloyed arrogance of the players to whom the rest of us, as one of them offhandedly remarks, are mere riffraff.

From BBC 2 via Underground Documentaries:

Super Rich: The Greed Game

Program note:

As the credit crunch bites and a global economic crisis threatens, Robert Peston reveals how the super-rich have made their fortunes, and the rest of us are picking up the bill.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, pollution, fracking, nukes


First up, the last Ebola numbers, via USA TODAY:

BLOG Ebola

And the story, via the Associated Press:

WHO: West Africa Ebola death toll rises to 1,350

The World Health Organization says the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now at least 1,350 people.

The latest figures Wednesday show that the deaths are mounting fastest in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the deaths. The U.N. health agency also warned in its announcement that “countries are beginning to experience supply shortages, including fuel, food, and basic supplies.”

This comes after a number of airlines and shipping services have halted transport to the worst affected capitals of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

From the New York Times, the inevitable:

Clashes Erupt as Liberia Imposes Quarantine to Curb Ebola

Liberia’s halting efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak spreading across parts of West Africa quickly turned violent on Wednesday when angry young men hurled rocks and stormed barbed-wire barricades, trying to break out of a neighborhood here that had been cordoned off by the government.

Soldiers repelled the surging crowd with live rounds, driving hundreds of young men back into the neighborhood, a slum of tens of thousands in Monrovia known as West Point.

One teenager in the crowd, Shakie Kamara, 15, lay on the ground near the barricade, his right leg apparently wounded by a bullet from the melee. “Help me,” pleaded Mr. Kamara, who was barefoot and wore a green Philadelphia Eagles T-shirt.

China Daily dispatches:

UN Ebola coordinator to visit West Africa

The public health expert coordinating UN efforts to fight Ebola said on Tuesday that he’s heading to Washington and then to West Africa to determine the best ways the world body can support people, communities and governments affected by the deadly disease.

David Nabarro told a news conference that he will have “intensive interactions” on Wednesday with the World Bank, experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others before flying to Dakar, Senegal on Wednesday night.

Nabarro, who was appointed a week ago, said he will then travel to the four countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak – Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.

From the Independent, a telling number:

Ebola virus outbreak: This is why ‘75%’ of victims are women

Julia Duncan-Cassell, Liberia’s minister for gender and development, said health teams at task force meeting in Liberia found three-quarters of those who were infected or died from Ebola were female.

She told the Washington Post: “Women are the caregivers — if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom.’

“The cross-border trade women go to Guinea and Sierra Leone for the weekly markets, [and] they are also the caregivers. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.”

Agence France-Presse covers a unique program putting survivors to work:

Survivors enlisted in Sierra Leone’s Ebola battle

Program note:

In Ebola-hit Sierra Leone, virus survivors are being enlisted to look after sick people in a centre run by an NGO in Kailahun.

From the Jakarta Globe, alarms in Southeast Asia:

Vietnam, Myanmar Test Three Patients for Ebola

Vietnam and Myanmar are testing three patients for the deadly Ebola virus after they arrived in the Southeast Asian nations from Africa while suffering from fever, health officials said.

Two Nigerians were sent to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tropical Diseases Hospital for isolation after they arrived in the city by plane, Vietnam’s health ministry said, adding that they did not have symptoms other than fever.

Airline passengers sitting next to the pair — who travelled to Vietnam on Monday from Nigeria via Qatar — have been advised to monitor their own health.

And from RT, needless tragedy:

All 365 of Sierra Leone’s Ebola-related deaths pinned on one healer

Sierra Leone’s Ebola crisis has been traced back to a single healer in an isolated border village, who had claimed to be in possession of special powers to cure the deadly disease that started penetrating the border, it has emerged.

“She was claiming to have powers to heal Ebola. Cases from Guinea were crossing into Sierra Leone for treatment,” top medical official, Mohamed Vandi, who was based in the crisis-struck Kenema district, told AFP.

“She got infected and died. During her funeral, women around the other towns got infected,” he told the agency. The woman was based in the eastern border village of Sokoma.

The Times of India prescribes:

Experimental Ebola drugs needed for up to 30,000 people

Up to 30,000 people could have used experimental treatments or vaccines so far in the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola currently plaguing West Africa, British scientists said on Wednesday.

The calculation highlights the dilemma facing officials considering how to distribute the tiny quantities of unproven drugs that are likely to be available in the near term to fight the deadly disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is hoping for improved supplies of experimental treatments and progress with a vaccine by the end of the year, after last week backing the use of untested drugs and vaccines.

CBC News offers a possible treatment:

Ebola could be treated with drug shown to fight cousin virus

  • Approach holds promise as a strategy to treat infection in humans, journal editors say

An experimental type of drug shown to protect rhesus macaques against the Marburg virus could also be tried in the fight to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, a scientist says.

The Marburg and Ebola viruses are deadly cousins. Both are filoviruses that cause severe and often fatal hemorrhagic fever and neither has any vaccines or drugs approved for use in humans.

Researchers in Texas and Vancouver-based Tekmira Pharmaceuticals have now shown that giving rhesus macaques an experimental treatment using “small interfering RNA” (siRNA) protected the primates even when treatment began three days after infection with the Angola strain of Marburg virus. Their results are published in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

From Computerworld, yet another approach:

As Ebola death toll rises, scientists work on nanotech cure

  • With more than 1,200 dead in latest outbreak, nanotech could lead to treatment

Scientists at Northeastern University are using nanotechnology to find an effective treatment for the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 1,200 people and sickened even more.

What makes finding a vaccine or cure such a formidable job is that the virus mutates so quickly. How do you pin down and treat something that is continually changing?

Thomas Webster, professor and chairman of bioengineering and chemical engineering at Northeastern, may have an answer to that — nanotechnology.

Homeland Security News Wire reassures:

Ebola poses no risk in U.S.: Experts

Ebola has infected nearly 2,000 people in West Africa because the disease is spreading in populated areas with poor public health infrastructure, and where health workers might not be taking proper infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves, experts say. These experts note that Ebola can be contracted only from patients who have the symptoms, not those who are infected, and even then infection occurs only when coming into contact with bodily fluids. They say that SARS and the flu are more contagious than Ebola.

Dr. Diane Weems, the acting director of the East Central Health District, at last week’s meeting with the Richmond County Board of Health, acknowledged that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been of serious concern to American health workers, but she explained that it takes more than casual contact to cause an infection, adding that Richmond County has faced far bigger public health threats in the past and will likely deal with worse in the future.

Ebola has infected nearly 2,000 people in West Africa because the disease is spreading in populated areas with poor public health infrastructure, and where health workers might not be taking proper infection control procedures, such as wearing gloves. “We know it is not passed through the air, like a cold or like the flu,” Weems said. “It’s by infected body fluids. Health care workers who are not using good infection control, not wearing gloves, are disproportionately being impacted there, in those communities.”

And Nextgov questions:

Is There Ebola on That Smartphone?

Medical staff treating patients with Ebola and other communicable diseases in Africa face a novel kind of smartphone security problem.

When aiding Ebola patients, “What about the mobile device that you hand off to the next medical person?” said Rocky Young, a practicing physician assistant and director of cybersecurity, information assurance, outreach and mobile security for the Defense Department. “These devices have to be hardened. They have to be secured. Alcohol will damage them if you clean them.”

He was speaking at a mobile industry summit in Washington on Wednesday.

On to another climate change threat, via Newswise:

Climate Change Will Threaten Fish by Drying Out Southwest U.S. Streams, Study Predicts

Modeling suggests fish will lose habitat as steady flow of surface water is depleted

Fish species native to a major Arizona watershed may lose access to important segments of their habitat by 2050 as surface water flow is reduced by the effects of climate warming, new research suggests.

Most of these fish species, found in the Verde River Basin, are already threatened or endangered. Their survival relies on easy access to various resources throughout the river and its tributary streams. The species include the speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus), roundtail chub (Gila robusta) and Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis).

A key component of these streams is hydrologic connectivity – a steady flow of surface water throughout the system that enables fish to make use of the entire watershed as needed for eating, spawning and raising offspring.

Models that researchers produced to gauge the effects of climate change on the watershed suggest that by the mid 21st century, the network will experience a 17 percent increase in the frequency of stream drying events and a 27 percent increase in the frequency of zero-flow days.

Another cost, via the Associated Press:

Report: Firefighting costs eroding conservation

The Obama administration detailed on Wednesday the toll that the escalating cost of fighting forest fires has had on other projects as it pushes Congress to overhaul how it pays for the most severe blazes.

In a new report, the Agriculture Department said that staffing for fighting fires has more than doubled since 1998. Meanwhile, the number of workers who manage National Forest System lands has dropped by about a third.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that accommodating the rapid rise in firefighting costs has harmed an array of conservation efforts. For example, spending that helps restore vegetation and watersheds after a fire has fallen 22 percent since 2001. Another program that partners with states and private landowners to conserve wildlife habitat has been cut by 17 percent during that same period.

On a related front, this from BBC News:

Greenland ice loss doubles from late 2000s

A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice each year.

Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

“The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute. “To us, that’s an incredible number,” she told BBC News.

The Irish Times covers another threat:

Iceland evacuates area amid concerns over volcanic activity

  • Authorities cannot rule out eruption and warned airlines about increased seismic activity

Iceland’s civil protection agency has decided to evacuate an area north of the country’s Bardarbunga volcano, saying it could not rule out an eruption.

The move came after authorities on Monday warned airlines about increased seismic activity at Iceland’s largest volcanic system. Ash from the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe’s airspace for six days.

“This decision is a safety measure,” the agency said on its website. “It cannot be ruled out that the seismic activity in Bardarbunga could lead to a volcanic eruption.”

From MintPress News, a challenge to Big Ag:

Missourians Fight ALEC Over Big Agriculture’s “Right to Farm”

  • Grassroots efforts will likely push a recount on an amendment to Missouri’s bill of rights that favors the interests of corporate agriculture.

On Aug. 5, Missouri residents voted on the state’s Right-to-Farm, Amendment 1, a new addition to the state’s bill of rights. The results were extremely close: 498,751 voted in favor of the new amendment, while 496,223 opposed it. With a difference of less than half a percent, a recount is almost certain.

Though the Humane Society of the United States donated $375,000 in opposition, the amendment had the financial backing of Big Agriculture and its deep pockets as well as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the secretive organization which writes legislation on behalf of major corporations.

That the bill came so close to defeat is a testament to the efforts of grassroots Missouri activists like the members of People’s Visioning, a coalition of diverse progressive organizations led by Columbia, Missouri, resident Monta Welch. MintPress News spoke with Welch and other members of her coalition as they rested from what they described as an exhausting campaign and considered what their next steps might be if the recount fails.

BBC News covers another people-produced environmental dilemma:

‘Growth drives UK flooding problems’

Part of the UK’s problem with flooding is self-imposed, new research suggests.

The study says the number of reported major flood events has increased, but in parallel with population growth and a boom in building in vulnerable areas.

It says it is unclear if climate change is implicated in recent flooding.

But the Southampton University team urges government to continue spending on flood defences as more homes are likely to be vulnerable due to sea level rise and more intense rainfall.

Reuters covers a corporate coverup:

Mexico minister says Grupo Mexico account of toxic spill ‘totally false’

Mexico’s environment secretary said on Tuesday that Grupo Mexico gave false information about a toxic spill at its Buenavista mine in northern Mexico, a day after the environmental authority said it would file a criminal complaint against the company.

In a statement on Aug. 12, Grupo Mexico said that “unusual rainfall” had caused the spill. But Environment Secretary Juan Jose Guerra told local radio on Tuesday that this was “totally false” and that there was zero precipitation on Aug. 6, the day the spill was detected.

“They unfortunately did not have dams. They hadn’t put infrastructure there to contain leached (fluids) in case of a spill,” he said.

After the jump, more woes from Fukushima [including flawed contamination treatment reboots, missing information, evacuation questions, and more], German nuclear waste woes, new fracking-spawned earthquakes in two states, and a fracking promise in Mexico. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Asian arms in the game of Zones


From Reuters, the respective arms of the nations engaged in the high stakes, ever-intensifying competition for resources and influence. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Asian arms

New developments in the war on the press


Plus other casualties, one liely self-inflicted, a thousand more the consequence of harsh new economic “realities.”

First up, via The Real News Network, a report on the epidemic of arrests of journalists covering the unfolding drama in Ferguson, Missouri:

Police Continue to Violate Press Freedom In Ferguson

Program note:

With 11 journalists arrested thus far, Truthout.org investigative reporter Mike Ludwig describes how Ferguson police are using intimidation tactics against journalists

Next, from the Associated Press, a reporter withholding a confidential source is treated better in Afghanistan than in the U.S.:

Afghanistan orders NYT reporter to leave country

Afghanistan ordered a New York Times journalist Wednesday to leave the country in 24 hours and barred him from returning over a story he wrote saying that a group of officials were considering seizing power because of the impasse over who won its recent presidential election, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The attorney general’s office called Matthew Rosenberg, 40, into their office Tuesday and asked him to reveal his sources, which he refused to do, the Times reported. On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office said the story threatened Afghanistan’s stability and security, announcing that he was being expelled. The statement suggested that the reporting, which relied largely on unnamed sources, was fabricated.

The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry and security agencies had been notified of the expulsion, the statement said.

From Deutsche Welle, finding a message in killing the messenger:

Islam expert on IS: ‘The main message is revenge’

A video depicting the beheading of a US journalist is part of a highly professional media strategy by the “Islamic State,” Islam expert Christoph Günther tells DW.

DW: The “Islamic State” (IS), previously known as ISIS, has published a video which purportedly depicts the beheading of US journalist James Foley. What was the message of this video?

Christoph Günther: The main message is revenge. The aesthetic presentation speaks a clear language. By dressing the victim in an orange jumpsuit like the detainees in Guantanamo, they’re saying, “We are turning the tables on you.”

The second message is one of deterrence: “If you use military force against us, then we will hit back with all means available to us. If need be, we will target all of your citizens that we can get our hands on: Journalists, employees of Western companies in the Kurdish region, and people who work for aid organizations.”

More from the Associated Press:

Militants use British killer as propaganda

Islamic militants are using a beheading video to send a chilling message — not just through the gruesome act, but also by the choice of messenger.

The black-clad fighter who appears to kill journalist James Foley speaks with an English accent, underscoring the insurgents’ increasing use of Western militants to mobilize recruits, terrify opponents and project the image of a global force.

He is the latest in a string of international jihadis — Britons, Australians, Chechens, Chinese and Indonesians — to appear in propaganda for the Islamic State group.

“They like to suggest they have a presence around the world much stronger than it is,” said Charlie Cooper, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism think tank. “It does suggest that people all over the world are going off to fight in the tens of thousands.”

From the International Business Times, a mission that failed:

US Special Forces Operation Attempted Rescue Of American Journalist James Foley Before Beheading

Dozens of U.S. Special Forces conducted an operation with both air and ground components earlier this summer to rescue American citizens being held by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria, the White House said Thursday. The news came just a day after the militant group published a video showing the gruesome beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

The dangerous rescue mission focused on a “particular captor network” within the Sunni militant group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Several ISIS members were killed and one U.S. soldier was wounded, according to CNN. The operation failed when no Americans were found.

“The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by ISIL,” the Pentagon said on Wednesday. “This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.”

Vanity Fair hints at more potential tragedies to come:

James Foley’s Execution Raises Fears for Journalists Whose Kidnappings Remain Secret

Foley was not alone. I’d known for some time that he, along with a number of other Westerners, remained in the custody of ISIS. Many people who knew Jim, including his family and his employer, GlobalPost, had been making patient and valiant attempts to secure his release. In the video, the executioner shows off another kidnapped American journalist, Steven Sotloff, a freelancer who has contributed to Time magazine and was seized by ISIS in northern Syria in the summer of 2013, and threatens to kill him too. Foley’s family went public early with the news of his abduction, but most people don’t know about many of the other kidnappings. In large part this is because governments and families have persuaded themselves that the best strategy is to institute a “media blackout” in the hope of quietly securing the release of loved ones. Such blackouts don’t necessarily end with the release of hostages. The few who have been released from the custody of ISIS (about a half dozen, none of them American) appear to have been let go for money or other benefits—and to have been sworn to secrecy. There are arguments for and against such blackouts, and there have been lively debates among the families of the missing about their strategic value, but in principle they seem inimical to the spirit of journalism—and potentially counterproductive.

As a crime, kidnapping is uniquely cruel. Amid all the international concern about chemical weapons, thousands of ordinary Syrians have quietly been kidnapped in the last three years; there are no security companies to look out for them, and there is little outcry when they don’t come back. For a long period of time, Foley’s family, like many other families, had no idea whether their son was alive or dead. According to someone close to one of the cases, other prisoners who spent time with Foley noted that he had been severely tortured. He was also well liked: despite his travails over nearly two years of captivity, he remained upbeat and optimistic until the end. His killing will likely ignite a furious debate about the merits of President Obama’s decision to intervene in Iraq, and whether the administration could have done more to protect kidnapped Americans in Syria.

The Associated Press covers another journalistic fatality:

Press groups urge probe of Honduras reporter slay

Press freedom groups are urging Honduran authorities to thoroughly investigate the slaying of a broadcast journalist who was shot to death outside his home last week.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday condemned Nery Soto Torres’ killing and urged authorities to launch a full investigation and punish those responsible.

Police say two gunmen waiting in motorcycles shot Soto Torres to death Thursday as he arrived home in the city of Olanchito, in northern Yoro state.

The 32-year-old journalist directed and hosted a news program on Olanchito’s Channel 23. At least 46 journalists, broadcasters and media executives have been killed in Honduras since 2003.

From Reuters, the journalism body count graphically depicted:

Journalists in danger worldwide

From the London Telegraph, another kind of information control:

Viewing or sharing beheading video could be a criminal offence, police warn

  • As YouTube and Twitter suspend the accounts of people who share the graphic beheading video, Scotland Yard ones sharing it online could be a crime

Viewing or sharing the harrowing video of James Foley’s beheading online could be regarded as a terrorist offence, Scotland Yard has warned.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said specialists from the Counter Terrorism unit were continuing to examine the footage in order to look for clues as to the identity of the suspected British jihadist but said the public should refrain from viewing the video.

In a statement a spokesman said: “We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation.”

While India Today covers another journalistic wound, possibly self-inflicted:

Fareed Zakaria faces fresh plagiarism charges

Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria, who two years ago got away from a plagiarism controversy claiming he made a “terrible mistake”, is facing fresh plagiarism charges from anonymous internet watchdogs.

The website “Our Bad Media” in a Tuesday report by @blippoblappo and @crushingbort cited 12 instances where Zakaria appears to have lifted passages wholesale from other authors.

“Their findings cast doubt on the three news outlets — Time Magazine, CNN and The Washington Post — which claimed to have conducted reviews of Zakaria’s work and found the so-called ‘mistake’ to be an isolated incident,” said Politico, an influential news site.

And Columbia Journalism Review spots hypocrisy bordering on the surreal:

Why Obama’s statement on reporters’ arrests in Ferguson is hypocritical

Obama defends reporters in Ferguson, but demands compliance from James Risen

In a news conference Thursday addressing the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and resulting unrest in Ferguson, MO, President Barack Obama criticized the arrests of two reporters there on Wednesday night.

“Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” Obama said in a news conference televised from Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s vacationing. On Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested when working out of a McDonald’s in Ferguson. After being taken to the Ferguson Police Department, both were quickly released.

Just minutes after the president finished his remarks, a coalition of journalism organizations at the National Press Club in Washington began a news conference condemning the Obama administration’s attempt to compel James Risen, a New York Times reporter, to identify a confidential source. The menagerie of groups this morning presented a petition, signed by more than 125,000 people, calling on the Justice Department to end its six-year effort to force Risen to testify against his source.

In June, the US Supreme Court turned down a last-ditch appeal from Risen, removing the final legal barrier for federal prosecutors who want him to take the stand.

And from Common Dreams, another war on the press, this time in the interests of another nation:

The Double Identity of an “Anti-Semitic” Commenter

  • Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel

Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.

A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.

His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.

Finally, from the Guardian, another body count:

News Corp Australia leaked accounts show 1,000 jobs cut across mastheads

  • Major leak of confidential operating accounts reveal extent of losses with the Australian losing about $30m a year

The financial health of News Corp Australia’s newspapers has been laid bare by a leak of its confidential operating accounts, which reveal the extent of the Australian losses and that the company has quietly shed more than 1,000 staff.

Earlier this month it was revealed that News Corporation’s full-year profit was more than halved as revenue from its Australian newspapers continued to slide.

But the leak gives far more detail about the picture across the mastheads.

InSecurityWatch: Nukes, hacks, cops, zones


Today’s compendium of security woes open with two stories about America’s nuclear arsenal and the folks charged with its oversight.

First up, via the Associated Press, merely the latest instance of a phenomenon all too common these days, given that earlier this year similar cheats were exposed amongst Air Force officers overseeing nuclear missiles:

Navy kicks out 34 for nuke cheating

At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy’s nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press.

The number of accused and the duration of cheating are greater than was known when the Navy announced in February that it had discovered cheating on qualification exams by an estimated 20 to 30 sailors seeking to be certified as instructors at the nuclear training unit at Charleston, South Carolina. Students there are trained in nuclear reactor operations to prepare for service on any of the Navy’s 83 nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.

Neither the instructors nor the students are involved in handling nuclear weapons.

After further investigation the Navy determined that 78 enlisted sailors were implicated. Although the cheating is believed to have been confined to a single unit at Charleston and apparently was not known to commanding officers, the misconduct had been happening since at least 2007, according to Adm. John M. Richardson, director of naval reactors. The exact start of the cheating was not pinpointed.

From the Associated Press again, nuclear spooks:

Former lab worker sentenced in nuke secrets plot

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory contractor has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for conspiring with her physicist husband to sell nuclear secrets.

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the sentencing of 71-year-old Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, who pleaded guilty to charges accusing the couple of plotting to communicate classified nuclear weapons data to an undercover agent who they thought was a Venezuelan government official.

Her husband, 79-year-old Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, has also pleaded guilty in the case and is in federal custody pending his sentencing. He was a scientist at the lab from 1979 to 1988. She did technical writing and editing from 1981 to 2010. Prosecutors say both held security clearances that allowed them access to certain classified information and restricted data.

Defense One covers up:

Yet Again, CIA is Concealing Information Americans Should See

Once again, the CIA is concealing information that Americans have a right to know, and once again President Obama should ensure its release.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is set to release a landmark report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. But Obama allowed the CIA to oversee redactions, and it predictably went to town with the black marker. According to committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the redactions “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions.”

From The Intercept, seriously surreal:

U.S. Military Bans The Intercept

The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.

According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.

A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents.

From the Guardian, does that include begonias?:

US police given billions from Homeland Security for ‘tactical’ equipment

  • With little oversight, federal agency awarded billions to local police for spending on drones, drugs, vehicles and ‘animals and plants’, among eligible purchases

Billions of federal dollars have been spent since September 11 on purchasing modern and often military-grade equipment for state and local police. But there is little that limits the use of that hardware to counter-terrorism purposes, and oversight of the spending is difficult, according to federal sources and documents reviewed by the Guardian.

In the wake of the Ferguson protests, much attention has gone to the Department of Defense’s program to supply surplus military equipment to police. But that program is eclipsed in size and scope by grant money from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which enables purchases of similar “tactical” equipment.

Under existing federal requirements, police departments and state law enforcement agencies do not need to spend much of that money on preventing terrorism or preparing for disaster relief.

The Wire covers a benching:

ACLU: Officer Who Threatened to ‘F*cking Kill’ Ferguson Protesters Taken Off Duty

A Ferguson Police officer who threatened to kill protesters has been taken off duty after a complaint from the Missouri ACLU, the organization announced Wednesday.

The organization tweeted, “SUCCESS! In response to our letter, officer who threatened to kill #Ferguson protesters has been removed from duty,” soon after posting a copy of a letter addressed to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The ACLU’s Vanita Gupta tweeted “Highway patrol called. They identified the cop. He will no longer be in ferguson.”

In a letter sent Wednesday, the ACLU called on the Missouri Highway Patrol to “identify and remove” an officer featured in the video below. In the video, the officer points a gun protesters and says he’ll “fucking kill” one man. When asked what his name is, he replies “Go fuck yourself.” While Ferguson protests have had “tense moments,” the ACLU argues that the officer’s behavior was “from start to finish wholly unacceptable.”

From the Christian Science Monitor, another containment effort:

After Foley murder, an effort to stamp out jihadi Twitter accounts

The jihad group IS videotaped its murder of American journalist James Foley as a propaganda exercise, fueling a debate over when and how often such groups should be censored on social media sites.

The gruesome murder of American journalist James Foley yesterday was an opportunity for the self-styled Islamic State (IS) to put on a propaganda show. The jihadi group uploaded video of the killing to YouTube and Vimeo and its social media team bombarded Twitter – including targeting journalists and others who closely follow the war in Syria and Iraq – with the links.

Within minutes YouTube deleted the original post and Twitter was not far behind, announcing it would suspend accounts spreading the distressing video. But by that time the clip had multiplied. Users posted slightly different versions to evade detection – YouTube has an algorithm that prevents re-uploads. By Tuesday evening, dozens of copies of the footage could be found with just a simple web search.

As social media sites fought to shut them down, the online followers of IS reveled in the butchery of a hostage and called for more, part of the point of the exercise for the group. Social media has become an important fund-raising and recruitment tool for them. While to most people the murder was nihilistic and repugnant, for would-be internet mujahideen it was a moment of celebration.

PandoDaily catches a contradiction:

Twitter suspends users that share graphic James Foley images — Unless you’re a New York tabloid

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced a new policy, tweeting, “We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery.” But far from setting this controversy to rest, Costolo’s announcement has only sparked a greater debate over a social network’s responsibility when it comes to policing graphic imagery posted by users.

For example, Costolo’s tweet seems clear enough — post images of Foley’s beheading and you will be suspended. And yet accounts belonging to the New York Post and the New York Daily News, which both tweeted out today’s front pages depicting what by any standards is “graphic imagery” of Foley, are still chugging along.

A Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider that these accounts would not be suspended, arguing that, depending on a user’s media settings, at least one of the tweets included a warning in place of the photo. But not all users saw that warning, and in any case, letting these accounts off the hook because (presumably — Twitter would not comment on this) they belong to major media organizations, directly contradicts Costolo’s tweet, which didn’t leave much room for interpretation. Making matters even worse, Twitter even suggested the Post’s tweet to one user who didn’t even follow the New York tabloid.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, numbers to the north:

Spy agency intercepted, kept communications of 66 Canadians

Canada’s electronic security agency intercepted and retained the communications of 66 citizens during its spying on foreigners last year in actions that were taken without a judicial warrant or a court order.

That level of detail on the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), disclosed in a report issued on Wednesday by its watchdog commissioner, had never before released by the Canadian government.

Nor has such information been divulged by other allied intelligence agencies, observers say.

“All of the activities of CSEC reviewed in 2013-2014 complied with the law,” Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe wrote in his annual report.

Via SecurityWeek, Se habla español:

‘Machete’ Cyber Espionage Attacks Target Spanish-Speaking Countries

  • Researchers have identified a cyber-espionage campaign focused on Spanish-speaking countries.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have dubbed the attack ‘Machete.’ It is believed the attack campaign started in 2010 and was renewed in 2012 with an improved infrastructure.

“Some time ago, a Kaspersky Lab customer in Latin America contacted us to say he had visited China and suspected his machine was infected with an unknown, undetected malware,” Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team explained in a blog post. “While assisting the customer, we found a very interesting file in the system that is completely unrelated to China and contained no Chinese coding traces. At first look, it pretends to be a Java related application but after a quick analysis, it was obvious this was something more than just a simple Java file. It was a targeted attack we are calling “Machete”.”

The malware at the center of attacks is capable of a number of actions, including logging keystrokes, capturing audio and screenshots, taking photos from the victim’s webcam and capturing geo-location data. The malware can also copy files to a USB device if inserted, and can also copy files to a remote server. In addition, it can hijack the clipboard and capture information from the target machine.

From TheLocal.se, is should come as no surprise:

Top ministers count cost of ‘less secure world’

Foreign and Finance Ministers Carl Bildt and Anders Borg held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss how Sweden was being affected by a “less secure” world, and how it would foot the bill for a growing influx of refugees.

“Things are changing and we’re heading towards a much less secure world,” Bildt told reporters at Stockholm’s government offices on Wednesday.

“We have a lot more of Sweden in the world today, and a lot more of the world in Sweden.”

From Wired threat level, does it make you feel more secure?:

Researchers Easily Slipped Weapons Past TSA’s X-Ray Body Scanners

Two years ago, a blogger named Jonathan Corbett published a YouTube video that seemed to show a facepalm-worthy vulnerability in the TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners: Because metal detected by the scanners appeared black in the images they created, he claimed that any passenger could hide a weapon on the side of his or her body to render it invisible against the scans’ black background. The TSA dismissed Corbett’s findings, and even called reporters to caution them not to cover his video.

Now a team of security researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins plans to reveal their own results from months of testing that same model of scanner. And not only did they find that Corbett’s weapon-hiding tactic worked; they also found that they could pull off a disturbing list of other possible tricks, such as using teflon tape to conceal weapons against someone’s spine, installing malware on the scanner’s console that spoofed scans, or simply molding plastic explosives around a person’s body to make it nearly indistinguishable from flesh in the machine’s images.

From the London Telegraph, ditto:

Innocent couple branded shoplifters in CCTV release

  • Police in Devon apologise for airing a ‘caught on camera’ CCTV photograph which told the public to report any sightings of a couple who had done nothing wrong

An innocent young couple found themselves wrongly accused of shoplifting after bungling police issued a CCTV ‘wanted’ photograph of the pair to the public.

CCTV shots of Charlotte and James Cozens shopping in their local Boots with their three-year-old son were sent to the media as part of a “caught on camera” appeal.

They were accompanied by a description of the pair and details of how they stashed stolen goods in their toddler’s pushchair.

After the jumps, the latest from the Asian Games of Zones, including Afghan anxieties, escalating Pakistani tensions, Thai coup consolidation, trouble in Thibet, trash talk in Pyongyang, lecturing Tokyo, and Japanese eyes in the sky. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, global woes, toxins, nukes


Another hefty compendium of alarms and alerts about the increasingly destruction relationship betwixt people and planet, starting with that most urgent of events, the continuing Ebola catastrophe in Africa.

International Business Times covers one deadly consequence:

Ebola Outbreak: Liberian Army Ordered to ‘Shoot on Sight’ Anyone Crossing Sierra Leone Border

Liberia’s armed forces have been given orders to shoot people on sight who are attempting to illegally cross the border from Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone, according to local media reports.

The order was given to soldiers stationed in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties on the border with Sierra Leone in hope of preventing the spread of the deadly virus, deputy chief of staff, Colonel Eric Dennis said.

Liberia has the highest death toll from the disease with approximately 400 citizens killed. So far, more than 1,200 people have died from the disease, which has been described as the worst ever outbreak of the virus.

And an earlier omnibus report from Deutsche Welle:

African governments take isolation measures

  • African governments are sealing their ports and airports in an attempt to halt the spread of Ebola. But will fever checks and entry bans really make any difference?

With more than 1,100 dead and 2,100 suspected cases of Ebola, authorities in many African countries are holding their breath. Many are nervous, and some have begun to isolate themselves.

From Tuesday onwards, Kenya Airways has suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ivory Coast is no longer allowing ships from Ebola-hit countries to pass through its waters. In Nigeria, no one is allowed to board a plane unless their temperature is normal and they have passed the airport’s “fever check.”

“I think the restriction of air traffic is an expression of the helplessness of the authorities there when it comes to containing the disease,” said Dieter Häussinger, director of the Hirsch Institute of Tropical Medicine. He thinks that monitoring people’s temperature is a questionable method, because it’s impossible to separate those infected with Ebola from people who’ve got the flu.

United Press International ups the aid ante:

Food distribution to Ebola quarantine sites scaled up as death toll hits 1,200

  • The World Health Organization and the U.N.’s World Food Program have teamed up to provide needed food to quarantine sites in Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. “Providing regular food supplies is a potent means of limiting unnecessary movement,” WHO noted.

The World Health Organization issued an update Tuesday regarding the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

As of August 16, WHO recorded 2,240 cases of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, including 1,229 deaths.

The distribution and classification of the cases are as follows:

  • Guinea, 543 cases (396 confirmed, 140 probable, and 7 suspected), including 394 deaths;
  • Liberia, 834 cases (200 confirmed, 444 probable, and 190 suspected), including 466 deaths;
  • Nigeria, 15 cases (12 confirmed, 0 probable, and 3 suspected), including 4 deaths;
  • Sierra Leone, 848 cases (775 confirmed, 34 probable, and 39 suspected), including 365 deaths.

From the Associated Press, a hopeful sign in a disease that kills 90 percent of its victims:

Liberia: 3 receiving untested Ebola drug improving

Three Liberian health workers receiving an experimental drug for Ebola are showing signs of recovery, officials said Tuesday, though medical experts caution it is not certain if the drug is effective.

The World Health Organization said that the death toll for West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has climbed past 1,200 but that there are tentative signs that progress is being made in containing the disease.

The three Liberians are being treated with the last known doses of ZMapp, a drug that had earlier been given to two infected Americans and a Spaniard. The Americans are also improving, but the Spaniard died.

CBC News makes a critical note about a continent where Africans have all been treated as Big Pharma lab rats:

Ebola outbreak: Africans understandably wary about promised cures

  • Past drug trials likely affecting public suspicion in West Africa today

New concerns that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is much worse than reported are adding to the global pressure to find a solution – even if that means testing unproven drugs on desperate Africans. But medical ethicists and others in the drug-testing business say the focus on miracle cures for Ebola is misplaced.

And, in any event, Western nations owe Africans a huge debt of gratitude for even considering being the ones to try these experimental medications.

Untested drugs and vaccines are now in the spotlight after reports that three Westerners received the experimental Canadian drug ZMapp, and about the Canadian government announcing it would donate up to 1,000 doses of a potential Ebola vaccine that is in the development stage.

The Japan Times rounds up:

Liberia says all 17 runaway Ebola patients have been located

Liberia has found all 17 suspected Ebola patients who fled a quarantine center in Monrovia at the weekend and transferred them to another clinic, the information minister said on Tuesday.

“We are glad to confirm that all of the 17 individuals have been accounted for and have now been transferred to JFK Ebola specialist treatment center,” said Lewis Brown.

He also said that three infected African doctors who had received the experimental Ebola drug Zmapp were showing “remarkable signs of improvement,” quoting an assessment by the doctor overseeing their treatment.

TheLocal.fr raises aerial objections:

Air France staff object to flying to Ebola countries

Air France cabin crew are so concerned about the threat of the Ebola epidemic that unions have started a petition calling for flights to be stopped to those West African countries most affected by the disease.

A union representing Air France staff has launched a petition to try to persuade company chiefs to stop flying to Guinea and Sierra Leone until the Ebola crisis is under control.

The two countries are heavily affected by the epidemic, that has killed over 1,200 people, and staff fear their lives are in danger each time they touch down in those countries.

Latin American Herald Tribune makes ready across the Atlantic:

Mexico City Airport Prepares to Deal with Ebola

The Mexico City International Airport is ready to deal with any possible cases of Ebola, a viral disease that is spreading through West Africa, aviation officials said.

Posters informing travelers about the disease and the measures to take to avoid spreading it are being put up around the airport.

The airport “is fully complying with the regulations established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the outbreak affecting Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, countries where people have been infected with the virus,” airport management said in a statement.

And from the Los Angeles Times, a photojournalist covers the crisis:

Ebola crisis: Photographer John Moore chronicles the outbreak in Liberia

Program notes:

Getty Images photographer John Moore travels to Liberia to cover the burgeoning Ebola outbreak in the West African country, and he describes the scene and precautions he and health workers have taken.

From TheLocal.de, a false alarm:

Stomach bug behind Berlin ‘Ebola’ scare

Around 600 people were held for several hours in emergency quarantine at a Berlin Job Centre on Tuesday after a West African woman collapsed with Ebola-like symptoms.

The emergency services cordoned off the premises in the city’s northeastern Prenzlauer Berg district after the 30-year-old collapsed. The woman then told medics she had had contact with victims of the deadly disease in her homeland.

She was immediately taken for hospital testing along with several other people who had been with her in the building.

However, doctors said that Ebola was unlikely and that the woman was probably suffering from an acute stomach bug.

TheLocal.at covers another false alarm:

All-clear given on suspected Ebola cases

Austria’s health ministry gave the all-clear Tuesday evening after regional authorities earlier reported two suspected cases of Ebola in two men recently returned from Nigeria.

“The test results in both cases were negative,” the health ministry said.

The news came hours after the governor of Upper Austria province, Josef Pühringer, said two men who returned last Wednesday from Lagos had been hospitalised on suspicion of carrying the deadly disease.

Blood samples were sent to a laboratory in Germany, which announced late Tuesday that the results were negative, Pühringer later said.

On to another environmental front with Newswise:

World’s Primary Forests on the Brink

An international team of conservationist scientists and practitioners has published new research showing the precarious state of the world’s primary forests.

The global analysis and map are featured in a paper appearing in the esteemed journal Conservation Letters and reveals that only five percent of the world’s pre-agricultural primary forest cover is now found in protected areas.

Led by Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, the authors are experts in forest ecology, conservation biology, international policy and practical forest conservation issues.

Representing organisations such as the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Geos Institute and Australian National University, they conclude that primary forest protection is the joint responsibility of developed as well as developing countries and is a matter of global concern.

Primary forests – largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats – are forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted.

From the Guardian, another global alarm:

Earth sliding into ‘ecological debt’ earlier and earlier, campaigners warn

  • World has already exhausted a year’s supply of natural resources in less than eight months, Global Footprint Network says

Humans have used up the natural resources the world can supply in a year in less than eight months, campaigners have warned.

The world has now reached “Earth overshoot day”, the point in the year when humans have exhausted supplies such as land, trees and fish and outstripped the planet’s annual capacity to absorb waste products including carbon dioxide.

The problem is worsening, with the planet sliding into “ecological debt” earlier and earlier, so that the day on which the world has used up all the natural resources available for the year has shifted from early October in 2000 to August 19 in 2014.

Al Jazeera America covers a consequence of perverted appetites:

Ivory poachers killing elephants faster than they are being born

  • Study says tipping point reached as poachers kill 7 percent of African elephants annually; birth rate is 5 percent

African elephants are being pushed over the tipping point, a new study said, with more being killed by poachers for their ivory than are born each year.

“We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent,” said the study’s lead author, George Wittemye of Colorado State University. The peer-reviewed report was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Poaching has killed 7 percent of the continent’s elephant population annually from 2010-2013, but their birth rate is just 5 percent, according to the report. At those rates the animals could be wiped out within 100 years, and conservationists are worried.

After jump, tainted food, metallic toxins, catastrophic mine leaks, fracking protests, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and one for the birds. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Cops, hacks, spooks, busts, zones


Lots going on in the realms of spies, lies, media, and that constantly shifting and increasingly inflammatory Asian Game of Zones.

buzzfeed covers an intelligence failure:

White House “Did Not Know” National Guard Was Being Deployed In Ferguson

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called the National Guard to Ferguson late Sunday without letting the White House know first.

“Folks didn’t know,” an administration official told BuzzFeed Monday. “The White House did not know they were sending it in.”

Nixon gave “no heads-up,” the official said.

From The Wire, and we hope that headline’s not literal:

Pentagon Fires Back At Critics of ‘Police Militarization’ Program

The Pentagon on Tuesday mounted a vigorous defense of the surplus military equipment transfer program that has drawn criticism following the police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Defense Department’s chief spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters during a briefing that the 1033 program was not “some program run amok,” despite images of heavily armored officers in Ferguson that have fed concerns about the “militarization” of local law enforcement.

Congress created the program in 1990 to allow police departments to apply for free transfers of excess military equipment as local authorities sought to beef up security to combat drug gangs. Transfers have increased as the Pentagon wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vocativ militarizes the neighborhood schools:

Back to School: Make Sure You Pack Your AR-15, Honey

  • If Compton schools were hoping to dispel stereotypes about their area, allowing school police to pack assault weapons is not the way

School’s back in session next week, and the campus police in Compton are packing more heat than ever. That’s not a reference to the hot drought California has faced in 2014—we’re talking guns. Specifically: controversial AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, approved for use on school campuses to prevent future gun rampages.

“This is our objective—save lives, bottom line,” Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told the city’s school board. The board has been told that select campus police officers will be allowed buy the rifles and keep them in their cars, in case of a mass shooting incident or terrorist attack.

On to the spooky front with Deutsche Welle:

Binney: ‘The NSA’s main motives: power and money’

  • Whistleblower William Binney recently made headlines when he told the German parliament that the NSA, his former employer, had become “totalitarian.” DW spoke to him about NSA overrreach and the agency’s power.

DW: In your testimony, you described the NSA as “totalitarian,” and many commentators say that Germany’s Stasi history has made the country more sensitive to NSA revelations. But others have suggested this comparison is too easy. After all, the Stasi also targeted intellectuals and general writers opposed to the East German regime.

Binney: Sure, they haven’t gone that far yet, but they tried to shut down newspaper reporters like Jim Risen [who is fighting legal action by the Department of Justice to testify against an alleged source - the eds.]. Look at the NDAA Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process. That’s the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis, [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that – it says exactly the same thing.

These were totalitarian processes that were instituted. And it’s not just us – it’s happening around the world. Totalitarianism comes in the form first of knowledge of people and what they’re doing, and then it starts to transition into using that power against people. That’s what’s happening – in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes. That’s a direct violation of our constitution.

TechWeekEurope covers a digital Baedecker:

GCHQ Is Mapping Open TCP Ports Across Whole Countries

  • The reconnaissance operation codenamed ‘Hacienda’ supplies the agency with some of the information needed to compromise systems

German journalists and academics have criticised Britain’s intelligence service GCHQ for scanning servers round the world, and maintaining a database of open ports which could be used in attacks.

British intelligence agency GCHQ has been cataloguing open TCP ports across entire countries as part of a secret programme codenamed ‘Hacienda’, reports German publication Heise Online.

The database resulting from the scans is used in other GCHQ surveillance projects and shared with the rest of the Five Eyes – the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – using the secure MAILORDER transport protocol.

An open port can enable the attackers to identify services that are running on a server with the view to compromise it. According to Heise, Hacienda targeted 32 countries since 2009, and has completely mapped ports of at least 27.

From  Nextgox, and significant:

Exclusive: Nuke Regulator Hacked by Suspected Foreign Powers

Nuclear Regulatory Commission computers within the past three years were successfully hacked by foreigners twice and also by an unidentifiable individual, according to an internal investigation.

One incident involved emails sent to about 215 NRC employees in “a logon-credential harvesting attempt,” according to an inspector general report Nextgov obtained through an open-records request.

The phishing emails baited personnel by asking them to verify their user accounts by clicking a link and logging in. The link really took victims to “a cloud-based Google spreadsheet.”

From the Guardian, domestic espionage:

25 Turkish police officers arrested amid Erdogan wiretapping scandal

  • Swoop in cities including Istanbul and Izmir during investigation linked to government corruption claims

Twenty-five police officers have been arrested by Turkish authorities in the latest nationwide swoop to detain suspects alleged to have illegally wiretapped key government figures, including the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports said.

Police carried out raids in 12 cities, including Istanbul and Izmir, as part of an investigation into allegations of espionage and illegal wiretapping, the private Dog(an news agency reported.

The swoop on Tuesday was the third such roundup since July in a probe that has resulted in dozens of arrests and raised tensions as Erdog(an prepares for his inauguration as president on 28 August.

From intelNews, evoking suspicions of Mossad?:

‘Sensitive files’ stolen as Saudi motorcade is ambushed in Paris

A 12-vehicle entourage transporting a Saudi royal to a Paris airport was ambushed on Monday in cinematic fashion by heavily armed men, who stole a suitcase full of cash and diplomatic files described as “sensitive”.

French police are trying to determine whether the ambush, which occurred on Monday evening just north of downtown Paris, was aimed at the money or the documents, which French newspaper Le Parisien described as “sensitive”. According to French police, the Saudi motorcade was heading from the renowned Four Seasons George V hotel on the Champs Elysées to Le Bourget airport, 15 miles north of Paris, which handles private jets. But as the convoy drove through Porte de la Chapelle, two BMWs without license tags suddenly made their way to the top of the motorcade and forced it to stop.

Within seconds, eight heavily armed men brandishing handguns and AK-47s stormed out of the two cars and hijacked a Mercedes minivan that was part of the motorcade. Several of them boarded the vehicle and drove away, taking with them its three occupants, a driver, a bodyguard and another official. Later on, the three hostages were abandoned by the side of the road. The minivan, as well as one of the two BMWs used by the armed assailants, were later found burnt out in the village of Saint-Mesmes, northeast of the French capital. But the thieves took with them a suitcase containing €250,000 ($330,000) in cash, as well as what the French press said were “important diplomatic documents”.

Deutsche Welle covers spooky journalistic blowback:

BND head to discuss Spiegel report with top Turkey spy

The German and Turkish intelligence heads will meet to discuss reports that Berlin routinely spied on its NATO partner. On Monday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador in Ankara, Eberhard Pohl.

Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu reported that the chiefs of the two countries’ spy agencies had agreed to meet after Turkey’s Ahmet Davutoglu spoke by phone with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his German counterpart, whose office confirmed that the two foreign ministers engaged in a “long talk.”

A spokeswoman for Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, would neither confirm nor deny the meeting to news agencies on Tuesday.

Turkish officials have demanded an explanation after news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Germany had repeatedly eavesdropped on officials from the country. Anakara called the spying “unacceptable.”

From MIT Technology Review, a red light alert:

Researchers Hack Into Michigan’s Traffic Lights

  • Security flaws in a system of networked stoplights point to looming problems with an increasingly connected infrastructure.

With permission from a local road agency, researchers in Michigan hacked into nearly 100 wirelessly networked traffic lights, highlighting security issues that they say are likely to pervade networked traffic infrastructure around the country. More than 40 states currently use such systems to keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible, helping to reduce emissions and delays.

The team, led by University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, found three major weaknesses in the traffic light system: unencrypted wireless connections, the use of default usernames and passwords that could be found online, and a debugging port that is easy to attack.

“The vulnerabilities we discover in the infrastructure are not a fault of any one device or design choice, but rather show a systemic lack of security consciousness,” the researchers report in a paper they’re presenting this week at a computer security conference. They did not disclose exactly where in Michigan they did the research.

Network World takes wing:

Senator questions airlines’ data privacy practices

A senior U.S. senator is asking airlines about their data privacy practices, saying he’s concerned about what information the companies are collecting and sharing with third parties.

Some consumer advocates have raised concerns that airline privacy policies “can contain substantial caveats and that it is difficult for consumers to learn what information airlines and others in the travel sector are collecting, keeping, and sharing about them,” Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, wrote in a letter to 10 U.S. airlines Monday.

The airlines receiving the letters included United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Airlines contacted about Rockefeller’s letter didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments.

From the Los Angeles Times, security for conspicuous consumers:

New Corvette will record every move a valet driver makes

  • Attention valet drivers: Don’t get frisky with the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette — big brother is watching.

General Motors is offering next year’s model of the famous sport coupe with a data recorder that captures video, audio and driving data from the vehicle when switched into a special “Valet Mode.”

Valet Mode is displayed on the touchscreen panel of the 2015 Corvette. Data and video can be viewed instantly by the owner on the screen when the car is parked, or it can be downloaded to a computer. (GM / Associated Press)

The Vette’s owner can come back from dinner and check out if the valet was testing the sports car’s 3.8 second zero to 60 mph time. The car will have recorded data such as speed, engine RPM, which gears have been used and the highest level of g-force incurred on that joy ride to the parking garage.

EUobserver covers critique:

EU justice chief criticises Google on ‘right to be forgotten’

The EU’s justice commissioner has accused internet giant Google of leading a campaign to shoot down data protection reforms.

Speaking in Lyon, France on Monday (18 August), the commissioner, Martine Reicherts, said: “Google and other affected companies who complain loudly” about a recent EU court verdict on personal data are “detractors … attempting to throw a new spanner in the works”.

The Luxembourg-based EU court in May ruled that Google must remove links to any content that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” or face a fine.

From Deutsche Welle, with a suggestion that they try American police departments:

Uncertain outlook for German arms industry

  • German tanks, submarines and weapons are in high demand. They’re exported to Israel despite the war in Gaza, and Kurdish fighters would also welcome a shipment. Yet the defense industry is worried about its future.

When trade unions look to politicians for help, they’re generally hoping for backing in the fight against managers planning job cuts. But when workers’ representatives from the German arms industry met at the Ministry for Economic Affairs on Tuesday, it was for a very different cause.

In this case, it’s the minister of economic affairs himself, Sigmar Gabriel, who is putting their jobs at risk by approving fewer and fewer German arms shipments to worldwide customers. In a letter sent to Gabriel in July, the unionists said that the minister’s decisions were threatening the very existence of a number of corporations in the security and defense industry.

Ernst-August Kiel, an employee representative with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, said after the meeting with Gabriel that they’d debated some “dicey deals,” involving thinner order books and fewer follow-up orders.

And from Sky News, semantics rebooting on the ground:

Exclusive: US Recruits Iraq Security ‘Advisers’

  • The US Army looks to beef up its ‘Office of Security Assistance’, despite Barack Obama ruling out sending troops back to Iraq.

Barack Obama may have ruled out sending “boots on the ground” back to Iraq but in the face of a growing threat from the Islamic State (IS), the Pentagon appears to have hit upon a way to get them back in by the back door.

The US Army’s Contracting Command has issued a tender notice for companies capable of deploying security assistance mentors and advisers in Iraq.

These individuals would be required for a 12-month contract, potentially extendable to a total of 36 months.

After the jump, that latest from the Asian Games of Zones — including Indo-Pakistani tensions rising, Pakistani protests, an Aussie/Malaysian rift abated and terrorism foiled in Malaysia, a high-level Taiwanese security sacking, Chinese border and terror strategems, Japanese armaments move, Shinzo Abe’s militarism redux, Japanese Korean fears, semantic riffs, and a Nazi pasta invasion. . . Continue reading

Arrests, a notable death in the war on the press


Notable headlines of the day, first from The Wire:

ISIL Claims to Behead an American Photojournalist

A video posted by ISIL terrorists on Tuesday purported to the show the beheading of an American photojournalist who has been missing since 2012. The group claims the beheading is a message to President Obama to end the American intervention in Iraq. The incident is reminiscent of the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. Pearl was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, taken hostage and killed by Al-Qaeda.

James Foley was a photojournalist who has worked for a variety of news organizations. He was working at Agence France-Presse’s company GlobalPost when he went missing while covering the conflict in Syria in 2012. His disappearance was ruled a kidnapping by the FBI. Before Foley was killed, he was forced to give an anti-American speech.

In the video, the group also shows journalist Steven Joel Soltoff, a journalist who worked for Time, The National Interest, and Media Line. He last tweeted on August 3, 2013. Soltoff went missing on August 4, 2013 outside of Aleppo, Syria. His family was aware of the situation and was advised not to publicize the information for his safety. He was held in Raqqa.

From Reuters, the video minus the gruesome finale:

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Program note:

Islamic State insurgents release a video which purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago, and images of another U.S. journalist whose life they said depended on U.S. action in Iraq. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

UPDATE: Another journalist detained, this time in Afghanistan. Via the Washington Post:

Afghanistan bars New York Times reporter from leaving country

Afghanistan’s attorney general banned a New York Times reporter from leaving the country Tuesday pending an investigation into a controversial story about purported plans by unidentified officials to take power if a political crisis continues.

Matthew Rosenberg, 40, said Tuesday night that he was summoned to the attorney general’s office in the afternoon and asked numerous questions about the story. He said he rejected requests to reveal his sources and was then told to return the next day with a lawyer to face more questions.

“They did not explicitly tell me I couldn’t leave the country, but it was clear I was not free to go,” Rosenberg said. He said he was questioned by three men who were “polite but insistent” and who seemed equally concerned by the “idea” of the story and which officials and political leaders had spoken with him. He said the Times was consulting lawyers about his next step.

Next woes closer to home, first from The Intercept:

Intercept Reporter Shot With Rubber Bullets and Arrested While Covering Ferguson Protests

reporter Ryan Devereaux was arrested this morning while on the ground covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, who witnessed the apprehension, Ryan and a German reporter he was with were both taken into custody by members of a police tactical team. They were handcuffed and placed in a wagon, and Carson was told they were being taken to St. Louis County jail.

We haven’t been able to reach officials with the St. Louis County Police Department or Ferguson Police Department to find out if Ryan has been charged, or under what pretext he was detained. But needless to say, it’s an outrage that he was stopped and handcuffed by police in the course of lawfully doing his job on the streets of Ferguson. We are trying to contact Ryan now.

At a press conference early this morning, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told reporters in Ferguson that 31 arrests had been made, including members of the “criminal element” from “as far away as New York.” When asked by a reporter if any of those 31 had been reporters, he immediately–and falsely–replied, “these people were not journalists that were arrested.”

TheLocal.de covers two more of those “not journalists” arrested in Ferguson:

German journalists arrested in Ferguson

“To be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America,” writes veteran reporter of his ordeal.

Ansgar Graw and Frank Hermann were cuffed and jailed for three hours the day after arriving in the beleaguered suburb of St. Louis. Graw and Hermann were there to cover the town of Ferguson, whose African-American population has clashed fiercely with local police since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer on August 9.

The journalists had wanted to take pictures of a burned out gas station on Florissant Avenue, the street at the centre of the week-long protest. The building was looted and burned the night of Brown’s death.

From RT, an interview with one of the German journalists:

‘I was handcuffed where I took thousands of photos’

Program notes:

A senior political correspondent for Die Welt – a major German newspaper – was among those detained during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Ansgar Graw talks to RT about his experience.

Wait, we’re still not done. Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Getty photographer Scott Olson arrested in Ferguson

SAG-AFTRA, which represents broadcast journalists, issued a statement on Monday criticizing authorities in Ferguson, Mo., for arresting journalists as they covered ongoing protests over the police shooting of a black teenager.

Last week, the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly were among the reporters arrested as they were covering the scene. On Monday, Reilly reported that Getty Images photographer Scott Olson was arrested.

NBC News confirmed with Getty Images that Olson was arrested. When NBC News asked police why Olson was arrested, one of the officers reportedly responded, “He was supposed to keep moving, just as you’re supposed to keep moving.”

The last images he captured prior to his arrested were posted here by the National Journal.

Vocativ summarizes:

Press in Ferguson Become Targets Themselves

  • Of the 31 arrests in Ferguson on Monday night, a startling number were journalists simply standing around doing their job

Monday night saw even more disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, as police failed to quell protesters who continued to take to the streets in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting. A total of 31 people were arrested overnight, with four police injured by rocks and two people shot. As the National Guard arrived on the streets, journalists’ numbers swelled to the point that some questioned who were there in greater force, protesters or those covering the protests. Police frustration at the media presence has been evident since the first arrests of journalists in Ferguson on Wednesday. Targeting the media has become commonplace.

The arrests weren’t restricted to American journalists. Two German reporters were detained for standing still. They had been warned not to loiter around a shopping center where police had gathered, and police told them to keep moving. When they asked the officer to identify himself, he gave his name as Donald Duck.

Quote of the day: The real looters in Ferguson


From Guardian columnist Steven W Thrasher:

The symptoms of structural racism stain America everywhere, but its execution is particularly perverse in places like Ferguson. It’s not just that black drivers are stopped more often for alleged crimes than white drivers, despite the Missouri attorney general’s report that white people break the law more often. It’s not that Ferguson’s police force is 94% white in a town that’s two-thirds black. It’s not even, as Jeff Smith wrote in Monday’s New York Times, that black people – many unemployed – “do more to fund local government than relatively affluent whites” by way of those stops and the subsequent fines.

The real perversion of justice by way of modern American racism is that black people in Ferguson – like black people in the greater St Louis metropolitan area and nationally – are marginalized economically and physically from day one. That is the real looting of Ferguson.

We are consistently twice as likely to be unemployed – and in and near St Louis, “47 percent of the metro area’s African-American men between ages 16 and 24 are unemployed”. Our men are more likely to be convicted and our women are more likely to be evicted. We are more likely to be victims of predatory loans. Our children are twice as likely to have asthma (even before you teargas them). Our babies are twice as likely to die before the age of one – and their mothers are three or four times more likely to die as a result of bearing them.

In America, as Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in the Atlantic,“White flight was a triumph of social engineering, orchestrated by the shared racist presumptions of America’s public and private sectors.” But that engineering was perfected in St Louis, which Al Jazeera reported “has spent enormous sums of public money to spatially reinforce human segregation patterns”.

Read the rest.

America’s militarized police: Finally in the open


And it’s true both nationally, and in esnl’s own back yard.

First up, a pair of editorial cartoons from California papers, with the first from David Horsey, graphic commentator for the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Horsey

And then there’s this, from Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee:

BLOG Ohman

Next, from RT America’s Breaking the Set, the Bay Area’s own Abby Martin weighs in on a program designed to turn beat cops into paramilitary troopers:

US Police Train with Foreign Militaries to Crackdown on Dissent

Program notes:

Abby Martin remarks on the growing militarization of America’s local police forces in the midst of the unrest in Ferguson, MO, highlighting a program known as Urban Shield, where US police forces train and learn military tactics together.

Here on the shores of San Francisco Bay, the region’s own Urban Shield copfest is scheduled for five days starting 4 September.

Here’s how the operation’s website describes the program:

Urban Shield has grown into a comprehensive, full-scale regional preparedness exercise assessing the overall Bay Area UASI Region’s response capabilities related to multi-discipline planning, policies, procedures, organization, equipment and training. Urban Shield continues to test regional integrated systems for prevention, protection, response and recovery in our high-threat, high-density urban area. The exercise evaluates our existing level of preparedness and capabilities, identifying not only what we do well, but areas in need of improvement. The previous years’ After Action Reports are referenced and used to assist in prioritizing upcoming expenditures possible for the region so we may become more prepared for any type of critical event or incident in our area.

And there’s even a video produced by Dolphin Graphics and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office [and featuring an assistant sheriff with an Orwellian name] designed to entice would-be participants into signing up:

Urban Shield, “First Responder Training” Short Documentary

Program notes:

Urban Shield Alameda County is a full-scale exercise, designed to assess and validate the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of response capabilities, as well as test the adequacy of regional policies, plans, procedures and protocols. The Urban Shield exercise incorporates regional critical infrastructure, emergency operation centers, regional communication systems, equipment and assets, new technologies, as well as personnel representing all aspects of emergency response teams including intelligence, law enforcement, Explosive Ordinance Disposal Units, Fire, EMS, etc.

And guess what Bay Area city won top SWAT team honors in last year’s competition?

We have the picture:

BLOG Berkeley SSWAT

On a more permanent basis, militarization of Bay Area police has been enhanced by another program from the Department of Homeland Security, the Bay Area UASI, a ten-county regional government managed by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

From the program’s website:

The Bay Area UASI is a regional program that provides financial assistance to improve the Bay Area’s capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist incidents or related catastrophic events. Projects facilitated by the program enhance regional capability through regional collaboration and efficient allocation of funds available.

>snip<

The UASI program is the only federal homeland security grant program that requires regional governance, strategic planning and investing involving all disciplines (law enforcement, fire service, public health and medical, public works, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and emergency management) in order to acquire the necessary plans, organization, equipment, training and exercises. In 2006, DHS combined the three previously independent jurisdictions of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose into the current Bay Area UASI. The Bay Area UASI is located in northern California and is comprised of twelve counties and three core cities. The twelve counties are inclusive of over 100 incorporated cities and a combined total population exceeding 7.5 million people.

BLOG Urban shielding

On a final note, and as we’ve reported previously, as part of Urban Shield, UC Berkeley’s own campus police held a training session with Israeli border police before applying their newly won skills in cracking heads whilst dispersing student Occupy protesters. And the Minister, er, Secretary of Homeland Security back in those days is now president of the entire University of California system.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, toxics, nukes, solar kill


Once again, we open with Ebola news, first with a perhaps needless tragedy via CBC News:

Dying Sierra Leone Dr. Sheik Umar Khan never told Ebola drug was available

  • Just days later, same experimental drug given to U.S. doctor, missionary

The story of Sierra Leone’s “hero doctor” does not have a happy ending.

Even though Dr. Sheik Umar Khan was an experienced virus warrior, and hemorrhagic fevers were his specialty, he tested positive for Ebola on July 22 and died in seven terrible days.

His friends and colleagues from around the world are sick with grief, and a haunting question hangs in the air. Did doctors make the right decision in refusing to treat him with an experimental drug?

From Reuters, border-crossing carriers:

Guinea reopens Ebola clinic as sick spill over border

Guinea said on Saturday it will reopen an Ebola clinic in its remote southeast as sick nationals living in Liberia and Sierra Leone spill over the borders in search of better treatment.

West Africa’s Guinea, the first country in the region to be affected by the deadly virus which has killed more than 1,100 people, says it has brought the outbreak under control. But it is worried that a poor response to the epidemic from its neighbors will reverse its progress.

“We are concerned about the length of the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia, specifically in Macenta and Pamelap,” said Sakoba Keita from Guinea’s Health Ministry, referring to border towns.

The Associated Press covers another aspect:

Ebola health workers battle death, heat, rumors

Doctors and nurses fighting Ebola in West Africa are working 14-hour days, seven days a week, wearing head-to-toe gear in the heat of muddy clinics. Agonizing death is the norm. The hellish conditions aren’t the only problem: Health workers struggle to convince patients they’re trying to help them, not hurt them.

Rumors are rife that Western aid workers are importing Ebola, stealing bodies or even deliberately infecting patients. Winning trust is made harder by a full suit of hood, goggles, mask and gown that hides their faces.

“You want to say so much … because they’re in so much pain,” said nurse Monia Sayah, of Doctors Without Borders. “They suffer so much, but they can only see your eyes.”

The outbreak has hit three of the world’s poorest countries, where health systems there were already woefully understaffed and ill-equipped. In Liberia, there is only one doctor for every 100,000 people, while in Sierra Leone there are two, according to the World Health Organization; there were no statistics available for Guinea. The figure is 245 for the United States.

The Associated Press covers a call:

UN urges exit screening for Ebola at some airports

Ebola-affected countries should immediately begin exit screening all passengers leaving international airports, sea ports and major ground crossings, the U.N. health agency said on Monday.

The agency didn’t spell out which countries should start screening passengers, but noted that the Ebola outbreak involves transmission in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leona and a “small number of people in Nigeria.”

All countries, even those unaffected by the outbreak in West Africa, need to strengthen their ability to detect and immediately contain new cases without doing anything that unnecessarily interferes with international travel or trade, the agency said. But countries don’t need to impose travel restrictions and active screening of passengers if they do not share borders with Ebola-affected countries, it said.

More from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

WHO sets up Ebola task force with global airline and travel sector

The World Health Organisation said on Monday (Aug 18) that it had set up a task force with the global airline and tourism industry in an effort to contain the spread of Ebola.

The UN agency said it was working hand in hand with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the World Tourism Organization, Airports Council International (ACI), the International Air Transport Association and the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The goal, it said in a statement, was to “support the global efforts to contain the spread of the disease and provide a coordinated international response for the travel and tourism sector”. It added that the task force would “monitor the situation and provide timely information to the travel and tourism sector as well as to travellers”.

Still more, via Businessweek:

Airlines Urged to Keep Flying in West Africa Amid Ebola Outbreak

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has reached crisis proportions but poses no particular risk to air travelers, according to health officials and airlines—and air service should continue to serve affected areas to help combat the disease. That’s the message the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for global airlines, is pressing, bolstered by the World Health Organization, which says there’s no need for travel bans over the virus.

“Ebola is a terrible disease, but it is not easy to contract,” IATA’s vice president for Africa, Raphael Kuuchi, said today at an aviation conference in Johannesburg. “It can only be caught through contact with bodily fluids. It is almost impossible to be infected by someone on a flight.”

Researchers believe the virus cannot be transmitted through the air. “Because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola,” Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response, said in an Aug. 14 news release.

On to climate change and future woes for the Napa Vally via Want China Times:

Climate change may mean China could be top wine producer by 2050

Warmer temperatures caused by climate change may mean that the south of France will no longer be able to produce high-quality wine in the future, which may present new wine-producing opportunities for northern Europe and China in the future, reports Shanghai-based China Business News.

A report published in 2005 by Professor Gregory Jones and his coworkers compared the temperatures at 27 wine-producing regions during grape-growing seasons over 50 years and concluded that the south of France will likely be unsuitable for producing wine by 2050. Li Yangang, one of ten Chinese nationals who has received a Level 4 certificate from the world renowned wine education institute WSET, said the region may still be able to produce wine but it would be of a lower quality

The future of major wine producers in Spain, Italy, the United States and Australia has been threatened by climate change. Jones’ research team predicted that between 2000 and 2049, the average temperature during grape’s growing system will increase 2.04°C, which would be devastating for wine producers who will have a hard time finding enough water for their vineyards.

Sky News covers ecocrisis:

Trains Carrying Toxic Chemicals Crash Head-On

Hundreds of people are evacuated after the trains smashed into each other and exploded into flames in northeast Arkansas.

Two freight trains carrying toxic chemicals have crashed head-on in the US, killing two people and injuring two others. Firefighters spent seven hours extinguishing the fire as diesel and chemicals on board burst into flames.

Around 500 people were evacuated from the crash scene in Hoxie, a small town in northeast Arkansas.

From Shanghai Daily, we’ll have the unleaded, please:

Lead found in baby cereal from Heinz

Heinz baby products are at the center of a health scare after food safety authorities in east China’s Zhejiang Province sealed 614 boxes of cereal made by the US food giant.

Excessive levels of lead were found in 400-gram boxes of “AD Calcium Hi-Protein Cereal” with batch number 20140413 during a regular food inspection, the Zhejiang Provincial Food and Drug Administration said yesterday.

Food safety staff launched a special inspection of 303 food vendors in the province. The sealed products were 483 boxes from two trade companies in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, and 131 from retailers.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a homecoming invitation from the Asahi Shimbun:

Second group of Fukushima residents given OK to return home in evacuation zone

Some residents of this village who lived within the 20-kilometer restricted zone surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were told on Aug. 17 that they can soon return home, only the second time the right of return has been granted.

The lifting of the evacuation order will allow the return of 275 residents living in 139 households in the eastern area of the village of Kawauchi.

The government made the announcement during a meeting with residents of the village on Aug. 17.

The Mainichi adds a critical element:

Gov’t decides to lift evacuation order on Fukushima village despite residents’ protests

An evacuation order for the eastern part of this village that has been in place since the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be lifted on Oct. 1, government officials agreed on Aug. 17, despite residents protesting that it is too early to lift the order.

The order covers an area with 139 households where 275 people live within 20 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Also on Oct. 1, a stricter evacuation order covering 18 households where 54 people live will be lowered in severity to allow more access.

The agreement was reached by Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kazuyoshi Akaba and Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo. Akaba is also head of the national government’s local nuclear disaster-response headquarters.

And from the Asahi Shimbun, a nuclear payoff proposal:

TEPCO, Tohoku Electric to ‘donate’ 200 million yen more to village hosting nuclear reprocessing complex

Embattled Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. will make a final combined 200 million yen ($1.95 million) “donation” to a village hosting the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, despite industry ministry criticism, The Asahi Shimbun has found.

The payment, which the two utilities have made annually since fiscal 2010, will go to assist the local fisheries industry in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture.

An Asahi Shimbun investigation into the village’s financial data and interviews with local officials showed that the Rokkasho government sent a document requesting financial assistance to TEPCO and Tohoku Electric on July 14.

And the cold shoulder, from NHK WORLD:

Town rejects plans to build radioactive waste site

The mayor of Shioya, in Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo, has demanded that the government retract its plan to build a permanent radioactive waste storage site in his town.

The Environment Ministry is seeking to construct facilities in 5 prefectures within the Tokyo metropolitan area and northern Japan. The facilities will permanently hold sewage sludge, incinerated ash, and other debris contaminated with more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive materials. The highly radioactive waste was incurred by the nuclear accident in Fukushima in March 2011.

Last month, the ministry decided to use state-owned land in Shioya to build one of the facilities. The ministry wants the town’s cooperation in field surveys in the area. But the town is opposed to the construction. Town Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata and the speaker of the local assembly visited the ministry on Monday.

Kyodo News exports:

Japan resumes exporting Fukushima rice after 2011 nuclear crisis

Exporting of rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture has resumed after it was halted in the wake of the nuclear crisis in 2011 and concerns about radiation contamination, a national agricultural cooperative said Monday.

Three hundred kilograms of the Koshihikari brand of rice produced in Sukagawa City, Fukushima, has arrived in Singapore, and will be sold at a supermarket from Friday after clearing customs, according to the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations.

Fukushima Prefecture, a major producer of rice, had exported some 100 tons of rice in the year to March 2011 to such regions as Hong Kong, before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear accident in the prefecture.

Meanwhile, another troublesome fuel gets a legal thumbs up, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Court rejects challenge to big tar sands oil pipeline

A federal judge on Monday rejected environmentalists’ challenge to a nearly 600-mile pipeline designed to carry tar sands crude oil between Illinois and Oklahoma.

In a 48-page decision, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson concluded the Flanagan South Pipeline could proceed without further federal study.

“This much is clear,” Jackson wrote. “A private company is constructing the FS Pipeline project largely on privately-owned land; the federal agencies that have been consulted about aspects of the pipeline project have control over only a small portion of the land and waterways that the pipeline traverses; and no statute authorizes the federal government to regulate or oversee the construction of a domestic oil pipeline.”

And for our final item, via the Associated Press, green maybe, but also medium rare:

BrightSource solar plant sets birds on fire as they fly overhead

  • Death estimates range from 1,000 to 28,000 per year

Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the concentrated beams of solar energy focused upward by the plant’s 300,000 mirrors — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

John Oliver tackles militarized police & Ferguson


Cutting through the bullshit, when done in a non-plummy British accent, is somehow funnier than the same message conveyed in plain old American media English. But when the accent comes with rapier-sharp wit, the result is simply delicious.

Sure, you can find fault with John Oliver’s message, but he gets a lot more right than otherwise, and his take on the Orwellian machinery at the heart of paramilitary hardware and attitudes employed in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the police shooting of yet another unarmed black teenager merits kudos.

Pop it up to full screen and enjoy, via HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization

Program note:

In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, John Oliver explores the racial inequality in treatment by police as well as the increasing militarization of America’s local police forces.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, Assange, Taps, Zones


Straight to it, first with the unsurprising from Defense One:

Congress Is Not Canceling the Pentagon-to-Police Weapons Program Anytime Soon

Rep. John Conyers, the House Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, and two of his Democratic colleagues are asking committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte to convene hearings on the militarization of police forces. And Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia said Thursday he will introduce a bill that would limit the kinds of military equipment local police forces can acquire.

Libertarian-leaning Republicans are joining the chorus as well. Republican Sen. Rand Paul penned a piece for Time protesting the “cartoonish imbalance between the equipment some police departments possess and the constituents they serve,” and Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan spoke out against police militarization via Twitter as well.

The response from congressional Republican leadership, however, has been measured or nonexistent, suggesting the issue is unlikely to make the agenda when Congress returns from recess in September. And even if it does, the program that connects police forces to military equipment has well-placed defenders in Congress.

TPM Livewire covers a First Amendment crackdown:

Three More Journalists Detained In Ferguson

Relations between police in Ferguson, Mo. and members of the media covering protests against law enforcement there broke down again Sunday night.

Echoing the arrests of the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery earlier this week, three reporters said they were briefly handcuffed and detained by police. Other reporters said officers threatened them with mace, while one radio reporter caught an officer’s threat to shoot him on tape.

Three journalists — Neil Munshi of the Financial Times, Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated and Rob Crilly of the Telegraph — tweeted that they were briefly detained and handcuffed by Missouri highway police Capt. Ron Johnson. Munshi emphasized that the three of them were held by police but were not arrested.

From the Guardian, the harsh reality of Hope™ and Change™:

James Risen calls Obama ‘greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation’

  • Journalist refuses to reveal source of story about CIA operation
  • President’s support for press freedom called ‘hypocritical’

The New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jail over his refusal to reveal a source and testify against a former CIA agent accused of leaking secrets, has called President Barack Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation”.

Speaking to his colleague Maureen Dowd, Risen accused the president of aggressively pursuing journalists, including himself, who report sensitive stories that reflect poorly on the US government.

Risen faces jail over his reporting of a botched intelligence operation that ended up spilling nuclear secrets to Iran. The Justice Department has long been seeking to force him to testify and name the confidential source of the account, which is contained in his 2006 book State of War.

From Techdirt, more of that good ol’ Hope™ and Change™:

Government’s Response To Snowden? Strip 100,000 Potential Whistleblowers Of Their Security Clearances

  • from the surface-issues-neutralized.-underlying-causes-unaddressed. dept

Snowden just re-upped for three years in picturesque Russia, a land best known for not being a US military prison. Not exactly ideal, but under the circumstances, not entirely terrible. The government knows where Snowden is (more or less) and many officials have a pretty good idea what they’d like to do to him if he returns, but the NSA is still largely operating on speculation when it comes to what documents Snowden took.

But they do have someone looking into this. The government has tried to assess the damage posed by Snowden’s leaks, but so far all it has come up with is vague proclamations that the released have caused grave and exceptional damage to US security and an even vaguer CIA report claiming that a bunch of documents Snowden theoretically has in his possession might severely harm the US if a) they are released and b) they exist.

The Associated Press complains of buggery:

Turkey calls German ambassador over spying claims

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry says the German ambassador has been summoned for talks over reports that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency had eavesdropped on conversations between officials in the U.S. and Turkey, both NATO allies.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday that the agency, known by its German acronym BND, had listened to calls made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton. It also cited a confidential 2009 BND document listing Turkey as a target for German intelligence gathering.

A Foreign Ministry official said Monday the ambassador was summoned to “discuss” the report.

Peter J. Espina of China’s state-published Global Times offered his take on a certain irony of German “unintentional” eavesdropping on calls by John Kerr and Hillary Clinton:

BLOG Spooky

More from Der Spiegel:

Targeting Turkey: How Germany Spies on Its Friends

For years, the BND has intercepted satellite telephone conversations from its listening station in Bad Aibling in Bavaria in order to obtain knowledge of the Islamist terrorist scene. But intelligence sources now say that US office holders have also fallen into the BND’s crosshairs while making satellite telephone calls from airplanes. Sources described it as a kind of unintentional “by-catch”.

That’s how Clinton got caught in the BND’s net in 2012. The former secretary of state had telephoned with former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. At the time, he was serving as the joint UN-Arab League special envoy for the Syrian crisis. Annan had just left the latest negotiations in Syria and wanted to provide Clinton with an update.

Following protocol, staff at BND headquarters prepared a several-page-long transcript of the conversation and passed it along to senior agency officials. They in turn ordered that the transcript be destroyed. Sources say that the document was not forwarded to Merkel’s Chancellery.

But the person tasked with destroying the transcript was Markus R., an employee in the agency’s Areas of Operations/Foreign Relations department, who also turns out to be the same man recently accused of serving as an agent for the Americans.

And still more from Deutsche Welle:

German surveillance upsets Turkish trust

Germany’s surveillance of Turkey has damaged the trust between the two nations, Turkish experts say. An apology would be appropriate, they argue – but they don’t really expect one.

It took two days before the Turkish government reacted to the news that Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country’s foreign intelligence agency, had allegedly been spying on Turkey for years.

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara summoned Germany’s ambassador Eberhard Pohl, making it clear that the surveillance is unacceptable and must stop.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu called Germany’s behaviour “inexcusable.” There were principles of interaction that must always be considered, he said, adding the German government owed Turkey an explanation. Davutoglu, favored to take over the post of premier after new President Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes office, said he would discuss the issue with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the phone.

From Techdirt, why are we not surprised?:

From The Unsealed ‘Jewel v. NSA’ Transcript: The DOJ Has Nothing But Contempt For American Citizens

  • from the and-[local]-god-help-you-if-you’re-a-foreign-citizen dept

With some of the proceedings unsealed in the EFF’s long-running Jewel vs. NSA lawsuit, more details can finally be exposed. Not that what’s already been exposed hasn’t been damning enough. Over the past several months, the DOJ has run interference for the NSA, traveling from courtroom to courtroom, destroying and saving (or at least pretending to…) collected data amongst a flurry of contradictory orders.

Not that it ultimately mattered. The NSA just kept destroying relevant evidence, claiming the system was too complex to do anything with but allow to run its course. Evidence would be destroyed at the 5-year limit, no matter what preservation orders were issued. The NSA, of course, has a vested interest in destroying evidence that its 215 and 702 programs collect the data and communications of Americans. Thanks to Snowden’s leaks, it can no longer pretend it doesn’t. But despite this, the DOJ still claims Section 702 targets only foreigners and American suspects located outside of the US.

The mock concern about compliance with court orders was a hustle. The DOJ wants as much evidence that might be useful to plaintiffs gone as swiftly as possible. Thanks to the unsealing of Jewel court documents, the EFF can now relate that the DOJ’s efforts went much further than simply letting aged-off collections expire. It also actively tried to change the historical record of the Jewel case, as Mike covered here recently.

Al Jazeera English announces a move:

Julian Assange ‘to leave’ Ecuador embassy

  • WikiLeaks founder says he will leave Ecuador’s embassy in London “soon”, but gives no further details.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he plans to leave Ecuador’s embassy in London “soon”, having spent the last two years avoiding extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.

Assange told reporters during a news conference on Monday that he would be “leaving the embassy soon” but not for reasons “reported by the Murdoch press”, without elaborating further.

“I am leaving the embassy soon… but perhaps not for the reasons that Murdoch press and Sky news are saying at the moment,” he said.

And a video report from RT:

‘Important changes coming’ – Assange’s friend

Program note:

After spending more than two years trapped in a tiny embassy room, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has made a sudden announcement that he will leave the embassy ‘soon’. For more perspective on what Assange had to say, and why he said it RT talks to someone who knows him personally – Gavin Macfadyen, Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism.

A video of Assange’s full statement is here.

But the London Telegraph promptly threw a bucket of cold water:

Home Office shoots down Julian Assange’s claim about extradition law change

  • Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, says he plans to leave the Ecuador embassy in London after spending two years there

Mr Assange and his legal advisers appeared to have made an embarrassing error by misunderstanding a basic aspect of the new legislation.

The Home Office quickly undermined his key claim by confirming the changes would not apply in the case of Mr Assange, who has been a wanted man in Sweden since 2010, because they are not retrospective.

Mr Assange, 43, is alleged to have raped a woman known as SW, then aged 26, and committed other sexual offences against AA, a 31-year-old woman.

From the Register, the Rupester crows:

Rupert Murdoch says Google is worse than the NSA

  • Mr Burns vs. The Chocolate Factory, round three!

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter and labelled Google worse than the NSA.

Here’s The Dirty Digger’s missive:

Rupert Murdoch     @rupertmurdoch

NSA privacy invasion bad, but nothing compared to Google.
10:15 AM – 17 Aug 2014

Murdoch and Google have history, with the former accusing the latter of stealing his newspapers’ content (yet never putting in place a robots.txt file that would prevent search engines crawling it). Uncle Rupert has also criticised Google as enabling the theft of films by indexing torrent sites.

Reuters covers a hack:

Community Health says data stolen in cyber attack from China

Community Health Systems Inc (CYH.N), one of the biggest U.S. hospital groups, said on Monday it was the victim of a cyber attack from China, resulting in the theft of Social Security numbers and other personal data belonging to 4.5 million patients.

Security experts said the hacking group, known as “APT 18,” may have links to the Chinese government.

“APT 18″ typically targets companies in the aerospace and defense, construction and engineering, technology, financial services and healthcare industry, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc’s (FEYE.O) Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June.

From TechWeekEurope, cyberwarfare:

Syrian Malware Is On The Rise, Warns Kaspersky

  • As the civil war in Syria enters its fourth year, cyber warfare shows no sign of abating

The number of cyber attacks against Internet users in Syria is growing, with organised groups relying on increasingly sophisticated strains of malware to target media agencies, activists and dissidents, warns Russian security vendor Kaspersky Labs.

According to a report by Kaspersky’s Global Research & Analysis Team (GReAT), groups from both sides of the civil war are using advanced social engineering techniques, modifying legitimate apps and obfuscating their code in order to infect target machines with Remote Access Tools (RATs) such as the ‘Dark Comet’.

The company says people should be extra careful when they access online material that relates to the conflict.

From PetaPixel, delinquency of a [data] miner:

Tumblr Will Soon Scan Your Photos for Clues About What Brands You Use

Tumblr users post approximately 130 million photos every day. And starting this week, they will begin to sort through every single one of them for various brands and items, with the help of Ditto Labs.

The Yahoo-owned social media platform and Ditto are officially signing a deal this week that will help Tumblr take advantage of the unfathomable amount of images shared on its services every day. Specifically, the technology Ditto owns will allow Tumblr to analyze photos posted by users and draw out brand-related data.

This means, if someone shares an image with a pair of Beats headphones, Nike shoe, Starbucks drink or Canon camera, Ditto’s technology will be able to pinpoint the products, more effectively defining demographics for advertisers. However, accorfing to T.R. Newcomb, head of business development at Tumblr, “right now, we’re not planning to do anything ad-related.”

After the jump, a Chinese media crackdown and the latest on the Asian Game of Zones, including border crossings, peace feelers, a Japanese military woe and internal doubts, more allegations of Japanese ethnic intolerance, and more ghosts from World War II troubled the Asian present. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day: Dept. of Holy Crap, Batman!


We’ll leave the comments to you, dear reader.

From the Guardian:

Police tell Detroiters to buy guns in city riven by race issues and crime

• City police chief has encouraged residents   to  arm themselves as stark racial disparities in ‘shoot first’ laws become clear

Detroit police chief James Craig – nicknamed “Hollywood” for his years spent in the LAPD and his seeming love of being in front of the camera – has repeatedly called on “good” and “law-abiding” Detroiters to arm themselves against criminals in the city.

His words have not fallen on deaf ears.

>snip<

Detroit experienced 12,935 burglaries last year. With around 250,000 households, that means Detroiters have roughly a 1 in 20 chance of being burgled. To residents who have been victims of crime, being allowed to carry a weapon, whether openly or concealed, is not just reassuring, it’s part of the pragmatic reality of living in the Motor City. Wayne County, which encapsulates Detroit and its metro area, counted 83,950 active concealed-pistol permits as of 1 August 2014 – meaning one permit for every 21 households.

The city, strapped for cash, has only 2,300 police officers – unchanged from a year ago, before the bankruptcy, but still not enough. Many Detroiters feel they have to rely on themselves first for their own security and survival.

InSecurityWatch: Cops amok, hacks, spies, zones


We begin today’s look at the world of the dark side with America’s sudden realization that America’s police forces look a lot like those of a police state.

First up, the San Francisco Chronicle looks at the impact on Bay Area cops:

How local police forces got outfitted for warfare

The paramilitary hardware that police in Missouri deployed against demonstrators angered by an officer’s killing of an unarmed black teenager has become commonplace in police departments in the Bay Area and around the country, thanks to billions of dollars in homeland security money and surplus military equipment that the federal government has showered on communities.

Big-city police departments have long had riot gear, shields and even lightly armored vehicles to deal with unrest. What has changed in recent years is the volume of military equipment finding its way to smaller, suburban police agencies like the ones that confronted protesters last week in Ferguson, Mo.

The federal programs that delivered heavy weaponry and armored vehicles to police there are the same ones that allowed the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to obtain a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter. They enabled Concord police to acquire an armored personnel carrier that the U.S. military once used in Kuwait.

Police in South San Francisco, Vallejo, San Jose, Napa and Antioch now have specially reinforced armored personnel carriers like those that carried U.S. troops in battle areas in Afghanistan and Iraq, courtesy of a Pentagon program that distributes surplus war equipment to cities around the country.

From the Daily Dot, we hope it’s more than wishful thinking:

Social media may have turned the tide of police militarization

In many respects, last Wednesday night may turn out to be the single most important event in the history of American law enforcement in a generation.

For most of the week, the images flooding out of Ferguson, Mo., and onto social media resembled nothing so much as a military occupation. Officers from the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department patrolled the streets in full body armor while toting machine guns, as millions of Americans started to suddenly wonder why law enforcement officials were outfitted as if they were going into a war zone.

When all you have is riot gear, even peaceful protests start to look like riots. By giving police officers the tools to use overwhelming force and military-style tactics at every opportunity, it creates a situation that may be safer for individual police officers, but is significantly more dangerous for society as a whole.

From Bloomberg of all places, confronting a real source of national insecurity:

Ferguson Unrest Shows Poverty Grows Fastest in Suburbs

A week of violence and protests in a town outside St. Louis is highlighting how poverty is growing most quickly on the outskirts of America’s cities, as suburbs have become home to a majority of the nation’s poor.

In Ferguson, Missouri, a community of 21,000 where the poverty rate doubled since 2000, the dynamic has bred animosity over racial segregation and economic inequality. Protests over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9 have drawn international attention to the St. Louis suburb’s growing underclass.

Such challenges aren’t unique to Ferguson, according to a Brookings Institution report July 31 that found the poor population growing twice as fast in U.S. suburbs as in city centers. From Miami to Denver, resurgent downtowns have blossomed even as their recession-weary outskirts struggle with soaring poverty in what amounts to a paradigm shift.

On to the world of secrecy-cloaked acts of dubious legality with the Guardian:

UK ambassador ‘lobbied senators to hide Diego Garcia role in rendition’

  • Rights groups claim that top-level talks were part of bid to redact link to Diego Garcia from report

Logs released under the Freedom of Information Act have reinforced claims that the UK lobbied to keep its role in the CIA’s torture and interrogation programme out of what is expected to be a damning Senate report.

They show that the UK ambassador to the US met members of the Senate select committee on intelligence 11 times between 2012 and 2014 – as they were investigating the CIA’s rendition programme. This included two meetings with the committee’s chair, Diane Feinstein, which took place as crucial decisions were being made regarding how much of its report into the programme should be made public.

The revelation has prompted fresh concern that the government lobbied for key parts of the report referring to Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean leased to the US as a military base, to be redacted. Human rights groups believe that the territory played a key role in facilitating the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme – the movement of high-value terrorist suspects to “black sites” around the world without legal oversight.

The Register looks at hacking made easy:

Who needs hackers? ‘Password1′ opens a third of all biz doors

  • GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords

Hundreds of thousands of hashed corporate passwords have been cracked within minutes by penetration testers using graphics processing units.

The 626,718 passwords were harvested during penetration tests over the last two years conducted across corporate America by Trustwave infosec geeks.

The firm’s threat intelligence manager Karl Sigler said in a post that half of the plundered passwords were cracked within “the first few minutes”.

While Computerworld rings an alarm:

Microsoft urges customers to uninstall ‘Blue Screen of Death’ update

  • One of last week’s security updates has bricked an unknown number of PCs running Windows 7

Computerworld – Microsoft on Friday quietly recommended that customers uninstall one of last week’s security updates after users reported that it crippled their computers with the infamous “Blue Screen of Death” (BSOD).

The update, identified as MS14-045 in Microsoft’s numbering, was one of nine released on “Patch Tuesday,” Aug. 12, was designed to fix three separate flaws, including one related to a font vulnerability and another in the Windows kernel, the heart of the operating system.

Within hours of its release, however, users reported that MS14-045 had generated a Stop 0x50 error on some systems, mostly on Windows 7 PCs running the 64-bit version of the OS.

Off the Asia, first with South China Morning Post:

More than 20,000 rally in Islamabad, calling for Sharif to resign as PM

  • Cleric Qadri and cricket star turned politician Khan lead rallies in capital

More than 20,000 anti-government protesters flooded the centre of Pakistan’s capital yesterday, vowing to stay in the streets until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns.

The numbers were far below what protest organisers expected, but the power of protesters to paralyse the central business district has presented the biggest challenge yet to the 15-month-old civilian government.

The unrest has raised questions about Pakistan’s stability, at a time when the nation of 180 million is waging an offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants and when the influence of anti-Western and sectarian groups is growing.

More from the Express Tribune in Karachi:

Govt to form separate committees to negotiate with Imran, Qadri

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that the government is willing to listen to each and every constitutional demand of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Express News reported.

“As a goodwill gesture, we have decided to constitute two separate committees to negotiate with PTI and PAT,” said Nisar while addressing a press conference late Sunday night. “We are ready to hear all their constitutional demands,” he added.

Earlier in the day, PAT chief Tahirul Qadri and PTI chief Imran Khan reiterated their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in separate addresses to their supporters, with the latter announcing the launch of a civil disobedience movement.

Reuters covers another form of protest:

Pakistan opposition leader calls for tax boycott in anti-government protest

Leading opposition politician Imran Khan urged Pakistanis on Sunday not to pay taxes or utility bills as a protest against the government and vowed to force the country’s “corrupt” prime minister to step down this week.

“After two days … your time is up,” Khan shouted to thousands of supporters at a rally in central Islamabad.

Police estimated on Sunday that around 55,000 people have occupied two streets in the center of the Pakistani capital as part of separate protests led by Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri.

From the Diplomat, walking a fine line of the subcontinent:

India-China Border Engagement

As India races to catch up on infrastructure, its military is increasingly engaged with the PLA.

For the Indian military, this is a time of some fairly fundamental changes.

After decades of pursuing Pakistan-centric war planning, the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force are recalibrating their sights towards the hitherto neglected northern frontiers with China, giving a hard push to improving its war-fighting capabilities against its more powerful neighbor and at the same time, increasing on-the-ground interaction with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

This two-track policy, outcome of the experience of the past five years, is aimed at preventing any unnecessary flare ups along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as the contested border between the two countries is known.

While the Times of India invokes dubious imagery:

I’m Hitler for thieves misusing funds, Telangana CM says

A crucial meeting between two warring chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana failed to bring about a change of heart as both chose to remain on the warpath over several issues, including the Governor’s special powers in Hyderabad and the controversial household survey, on Sunday.

Governor ESL Narasimhan had brought K Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana and N Chandrababu Naidu of AP to the negotiation table, for the first time since the bifurcation of the state. But the two chief ministers stuck to their guns, with KCR threatening to be a “Hitler” for those who allegedly misuse government’s schemes and funds, ahead of the controversial household survey.

“There is nothing wrong in being a Hitler for the people’s cause. I would like to be a Hitler for those who want to misuse the government schemes and funds. Yes, I am a Hitler for thieves,” he said after the meeting.

And Deutsche Welle covers another protest, this tiem one against another protest:

Tens of thousands stage Hong Kong pro-government rally

A protest march with tens of thousands of participants has taken place in Hong Kong. The rally was organized in response to a planned pro-democracy disobedience campaign in the former British colony.

Tens of thousands of people protested in Hong Kong on Sunday against plans by pro-democracy activists to shut down the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s financial district with a mass sit-in unless China allows electoral reforms.

The Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which organized Sunday’s rally in sweltering heat, claims that most people in the city of seven million do not support the pro-democracy campaign run by the Occupy Central group.

The Alliance says it has so far collected almost 1.5 million signatures – including that of leader Leung Chun-ying – from people opposed to the Occupy campaign on the grounds that it would tarnish Hong Kong’s reputation and harm business.

From Reuters, another spooky saga:

Chinese national charged with hacking U.S. defense contractors

A Chinese businessman has been indicted in California on charges he hacked the computer systems of Boeing Co and other U.S. defense contractors and stole confidential plans for military aircraft, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

According to the indictment in federal court in Los Angeles, Su Bin traveled to the United States at least 10 times between 2008 and 2014 and worked with two unidentified co-conspirators based in China to steal the data.

Prosecutors said the trio stole plans relating to the C-17 military transport plane and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, and attempted to sell them to Chinese companies.

The Japan Times orders:

U.S. military told troops not to visit Yasukuni Shrine

  • Trip to war-related shrine canceled before Obama visit in April

U.S. military leaders in Japan advised against a planned visit by some of their troops to war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in early April, before President Barack Obama’s visit to Tokyo, apparently out of consideration to South Korea and China, an American military source said Saturday.

U.S. Forces Japan headquarters warned against the visit to the controversial shrine by more than 20 troops, leading to the trip’s cancellation, according to the source.

The Shinto shrine honors past Japanese leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals, along with millions of war dead. Beijing and Seoul consider it a symbol of Japan’s past militarism and wartime aggression and bristle when Japanese politicians make state visits viewed as glorifying the war.

From SINA English, another play:

Japan freezes assets of N Korean shipping firm for smuggling arms

Japan has frozen the assets of the operator of a North Korean ship seized for smuggling arms, the Foreign Ministry said, just as Tokyo is engaged in talks with Pyongyang to return Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents decades ago.

The sanction against Ocean Maritime Management, which operated the ship detained near the Panama Canal a year ago carrying Soviet-era arms, follows similar steps by the United States and U.N. blacklisting of the North Korean firm in July.

It is not immediately clear how much assets, if any, Ocean Maritime Management holds in Japan, the Finance Ministry said Saturday.

The Diplomat poses a scary question:

Nuclear Weapons for South Korea

Under threat of a possible fourth North Korean nuclear test, should South Korea develop its own nuclear weapon?

Nuclear tensions are again ratcheting up on the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang threatening a fourth nuclear weapons test in what one U.S. analyst described as its new “allergic reaction” to routine military exercises by South Korea and United States scheduled to start on August 18.

A fourth nuclear test could further influence the debate in Seoul and Washington over whether South Korea should consider the “nuclear option.” Such a decision – if South Korea were to seriously consider it – could upturn the 60-year South Korean-U.S. alliance, global nonproliferation efforts, not to mention dozens of international obligations that tie one of Asia’s wealthiest nations to the global economy.

Even talk of “going nuclear” has some in South Korea’s political class worrying out loud that the debate has already moved from the political fringe to occupy center stage.

From Want China Times, bulking up:

China considers buying four Russian Amur-Class AIP submarines

China reportedly signed two military sale frameworks with Moscow, of which Russia will jointly build four Amur-Class AIP submarines with China and sell them to the country while China will buy 24 Su-35 fighters from Russia, reports Sina’s military news portal.

It is the first major military procurement China has made with Russia in 10 years, said the report. China needs submarines to counter threats from India’s fleet and build a fleet to resist America’s influence, said the Voice of Russia, the Russian government’s international radio broadcasting service. A manager for a Russian national defense export company said Moscow and Beijing have been negotiating over submarine technologies. China has not revealed how many submarines it wants to buy and has not scheduled to sign a supply contract.

It is natural for India and China to show interest in Russia’s Amur-Class submarines, said a retired Russian Navy general named Sivkov. The submarine is superior to the export version of China’s 877 submarine and China would want the Amur-Class vessel since India has them. The Russian submarine can also effectively fight against American submarines and destroy Los Angeles and Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines from long distances.

Jiji Press bolsters the borders:

Japan to Strengthen Analysis of Information on Foreigners

Japan’s Justice Ministry will set up an intelligence center at the Immigration Bureau to strengthen the ability to analyze information on foreigners in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, informed sources said Sunday.

The ministry will seek about 220 million yen in related expenditures as part of its fiscal 2015 budget request, the sources said.

By 2020, the government aims to boost the annual number of visitors to Japan to 20 million, about double the 10.36 million in 2013.

From the Japan Times, learning from the University of California:

Japan plans fund to develop military technology with universities

  • Ministry plans fund to aid schools engaged in military research

The Defense Ministry plans to set up a fund to develop military technology by aiding research projects at universities and other civilian institutions, government sources have revealed.

In a move aimed at keeping down development costs and bolstering civilian-military cooperation, the ministry plans to seek roughly ¥2 billion for the fund in its budget request for fiscal 2015 beginning next April, raising it to ¥6 billion in three years, the sources said Saturday.

The fund, which will be modeled after the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to expand the nation’s military capabilities. It will finance promising projects in such fields as surveillance radar technology and aviation materials.

The Japan Times again, with another sort of education:

Japan to hold seminar to pitch defense equipment exports to ASEAN

The government plans to hold a seminar in late September attended by officials from ASEAN countries to make a pitch for exports of Japanese-made defense equipment to those Asian nations, government sources said Sunday.

It will be the first gathering of Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to hold full-fledged discussions concerning such exports since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet decided in April to ease restrictions on arms exports.

During the seminar in Tokyo, the government plans to discuss how Japanese equipment and technology could help enhance the defense capabilities of ASEAN nations, as it seeks business opportunities to export Japanese defense equipment.

And for our final item, JapanToday covers box office militancy:

Film on 1597 victory over Japan breaks Korean box office records

A film depicting a famous 16th century naval victory against Japanese invaders has set records at the South Korean box office, drawing the largest audience and becoming the first local movie to take more than $100 million.

“Myeongryang” (“Roaring Currents”) attracted 13.62 million viewers as of Saturday after 18 days of screening, distributor CJ Entertainment.

The previous frontrunner, Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar”, drew 13.61 million Korean cinema goers over a span of four months.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, glacial melt, nukes, more


Today’s headlines from the world of the interface between people and planet opens again with the story of the year, at least so far.

From Foreign Policy, a frightener by a public health expert:

You Are Not Nearly Scared Enough About Ebola

  • Experimental drugs and airport screenings will do nothing to stop this plague. If Ebola hits Lagos, we’re in real trouble.

Attention, World: You just don’t get it.

You think there are magic bullets in some rich country’s freezers that will instantly stop the relentless spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa? You think airport security guards in Los Angeles can look a traveler in the eyes and see infection, blocking that jet passenger’s entry into La-la-land? You believe novelist Dan Brown’s utterly absurd description of a World Health Organization that has a private C5-A military transport jet and disease SWAT team that can swoop into outbreaks, saving the world from contagion?

Wake up, fools. What’s going on in West Africa now isn’t Brown’s silly Inferno scenario — it’s Steven Soderbergh’s movie Contagion, though without a modicum of its high-tech capacity.

The Associated Press adds a new number:

Ebola may leave 1 million starved

The deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 in West Africa is disrupting the flow of goods, forcing the United Nations to plan food convoys for up to a million people as hunger threatens the largely impoverished area.

Amid roadblocks manned by troops and pervasive fear among the population of the dreaded disease, the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola is increasingly impacting the food supply in three countries.

While none of the regulations restricts the movement of basic necessities, fear and inconvenience are disrupting supplies. Some 1 million people in isolated areas might need food assistance in the coming months, according to the U.N. World Food Program, which is preparing a regional emergency operation to bring food by convoy to the needy.

From the Associated Press again, ramped up efforts:

Liberia expands Ebola treatment in capital

Liberian authorities expanded Ebola treatment centers in the capital Saturday to cope with increasing numbers of patients, while two more airlines announced they were halting flights to the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the deepening crisis.

Kenya Airways and regional carrier Gambia Bird join a number of other airlines in temporarily cancelling flights to avoid transmitting the disease beyond the four countries already affected in West Africa.

The Kenya Airways flights will stop as of midnight Tuesday, said Titus Naikuni, the chief executive officer of Kenya Airways. The decision was made with guidance from the country’s health ministry, Naikuni said. Gambia Bird said it had stopped flying to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

And the New York Times offers hope for a very, very few:

3 Liberian Health Workers With Ebola Receive Scarce Drug After Appeals to U.S.

Three Liberian health care workers who have contracted Ebola received an extremely scarce experimental serum on Friday at a hospital outside the national capital, Monrovia, a Liberian health official said Saturday.

The official, Tolbert G. Nyenswah, an assistant minister of health and social welfare, would not say if any of the three were doctors.

The drug, a mix of monoclonal antibodies called ZMapp, has been tested in animals, but has not been studied for safety or effectiveness in humans. It arrived in Liberia on Wednesday after appeals by leaders there to top officials in the United States and a letter from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to President Obama.

From the New York Times again, a quackery alert:

Agencies Issue Warnings Over Bogus Ebola Cures

Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.

Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims. Neither agency listed products or companies they accused of fraud or explained why they had acted so suddenly.

Nigeria’s health minister was widely reported on Thursday to have endorsed an American nutritional supplement, one that the W.H.O. said was an example of the sort of “false rumors of effective products” it was trying to quell.

The Japan Times reassures:

Ebola unlikely to spread to Japan: health ministry

The Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa recently is unlikely to spread to Japan, health ministry officials say.

Although the probability is deemed low, Japan is making preparations at international airports and other entry points to deal with the possible arrival of Ebola-infected people, the officials also say.

“This is not an unknown disease and we have a system for dealing with it, so the disease is unlikely to spread (in Japan) even if an infected person appears,” a health bureaucrat said. “In developed countries, fatality rates are said to be around 20 percent.”

From the Associated Press, another consequence:

US Basketball: No Africa trip after Ebola outbreak

The U.S. national team has canceled a trip to Senegal after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Americans were scheduled to interrupt their World Cup of Basketball preparations to travel to the African continent for the first time, conducting a joint clinic on Aug. 27 with the Senegal national team. They planned to tour Senegal’s Goree Island and attend a reception hosted by the Senegalese government.

But USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Friday the Americans had no choice but to call off the trip because of the risk involved with Senegal’s location near countries where the outbreak has been deadly.

SINA English covers lust for bucks amidst a plague:

Chinese investors’ enthusiasm toward Africa undiminished despite Ebola outbreak

Nigeria, a magical land that raises the biggest population in Africa and boasts the continent’s biggest economy, is like a magnet that keeps attracting Chinese investors.

Even the current rampant outbreak of Ebola virus could not dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese entrepreneurs, who keep coming into the country to build bridges, establish factories and farms, bringing changes to the country and the life of people living there.

And from Defense One, looking for help, Pentagon style:

The Pentagon Wants You to Help Them Find the Next Pandemic

Ever heard of Chikungunya? It’s a mosquito-borne virus that causes joint pain and fever and can be debilitating. It’s also spreading fast, having hit the Americas for the first time in decades at the end of last year and new cases were reported in Florida this last month. There is no official cure, yet, but recent research into a vaccine shown promise.

If you can build a model for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, explain where it’s going next, and do it by the end of September, they’ll give $150,000.

The initial submission, the entry exam if you will, should “contain a detailed description of the planned data sources and model applicability.” That has to be in by Sept. 1. It should include “predictions for the next six months, followed by five monthly update submissions, due on the first of each subsequent month, with predictions for the remaining period of the challenge.”

That model should include items like this, via the London Daily Mail:

Government scientist took shortcuts in handling deadly bird flu virus and then tried to cover up dangerous cross-contamination, CDC says

  • Scientist took shortcuts to speed up the work and accidentally contaminated the samples, mixing a deadly strand with a benign one
  • Accident occurred at Center for Disease Control HQ in Atlanta, Georgia, in January, a new report found
  • CDC shipped a virulent avian flu virus rather than a benign strain to a poultry research laboratory of the Department of Agriculture
  • No one became infected and the pathogen was destroyed
  • Took CDC six weeks to admit to the blunder
  • Follows the recent exposure of dozens of employees to live Anthrax

From the Christian Science Monitor, the melting point:

Humans now the major cause of alpine glacier melt, researchers say

  • The researchers estimate that between 1990 and 2010, some 69 percent of the mass lost by the world’s alpine glaciers can be traced to human influence – basically global warming.

Retreating alpine glaciers in a warming world may seem to have an obvious connection. But glaciers respond to environmental changes, well, glacially. At any point, it’s hard to tell how much of a glacier’s retreat is due to human-triggered factors now and how much is due to natural factors that might have held sway years ago, researchers say.

Now comes an analysis estimating that between 1990 and 2010, some 69 percent of the mass lost by the world’s alpine glaciers can be traced to human influence – basically global warming. That compares with only 25 percent traceable to human influence averaged over the entire study period of 1850 to 2010. The team picked 1850 since that is when a prolonged, modest cooling period known as the Little Ice Age, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, ended.

The study shows that throughout the 160-year period, an increasing proportion of mass loss could be traced to human influence, which becomes significant from about 1950 on, notes Ben Marzeion, a researcher at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria who led the team performing the analysis.

CIP Americas covers another environmental dilemma:

Coffee, a crisis about to explode

The dual plagues of blight and price fixing are causing the scarcity and high prices of the fragrant bean, but the real problem for communities is the need to grow other foods.

“The scarcity of coffee and the price increases will have an affect on the indigenous population,” warns Eliseo Gómez Álvarez, member of a small association of coffee growers in the community of San Pedro, in Chenalhó, in the highlands of Chiapas. Jorge Santiago, who works alongside the local communities, explains that “the coffee economy is not an alternative, they have to be able to produce corn and other foods.”

During the months of January and February 2014, coffee prices rose in Chiapas. One explanation was coffee rust, a fungus that infects coffee trees. However, as local experts explain, there are many factors working together to turn production into a crisis. “There’s not far to go until the situation becomes explosive,” explains Javier Galván, member of the coffee network of the National Union of Regional Autonomous Rural Farmworker Organizations (UNORCA, in Spanish).

And from north of the border. Alien invaders via CBC News:

Goldfish dumped by Coquitlam pet owners become invasive species

  • City says goldfish just one of several invasive species breeding in local lakes where they were dumped

They’re easy to take care of, inexpensive and entertaining, but goldfish and other aquatic pets including exotic fish, turtles, bass and carp are getting into local waterways and breeding and competing with native species.

In Coquitlam, so many goldfish are winding up in Como Lake that the city is cracking down with hefty fines ranging from $2,500 to $250,000.

David Scott, from Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, said there’s good cause for concern. “If you have non-native species that become established in let’s say the Fraser River, they would be competing and influencing dozens of local species that we have here including salmon which are economically important,” he said.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with an NGO [NPO] fraud with friends in high places via Jiji Press:

Tokyo NPO in N-Accident Fraud Scandal May Have Been Dummy

A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization at the center of a fraud scandal related to nuclear accident compensation is suspected to have been a dummy organization since its establishment, it was learned Saturday.

Business reports submitted to the Tokyo metropolitan government by the NPO, established in August 2011, said no operations were carried out in fiscal 2011-2012 for various reasons, showing zeros for all categories of costs such as personnel expenses and energy bill.

The NPO, headed by former Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, did not submit its business report for fiscal 2013 by the deadline at the end of June 2014.

Associated Press sounds a domestic nuclear dilemma:

Delays for SC nuclear plant pressure industry

Expensive delays are piling up for the companies building new nuclear power plants, raising fresh questions about whether they can control the construction costs that crippled the industry years ago.

The latest announcement came this week from executives at SCANA Corp., which has been warned by its builders the startup of the first of two new reactors in South Carolina could be delayed two years or more. SCANA Corp. and plant co-owner Santee Cooper have not accepted that timeline from the companies designing and building the reactors, nor have they accepted responsibility for additional costs.

That announcement may well foreshadow more delays for a sister project in eastern Georgia, and they have caught the attention of regulators and Wall Street.

And for our final item, TheLocal.at covers more nuclear discontent:

Austrian province wants Swiss nuclear power halt

  • The head of the regional Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) in Voralberg, Roland Frühstück, wants to exert pressure on the Swiss government to speed up decommissioning of its aging nuclear power reactors due to concerns over safety.

Switzerland has four remaining active nuclear power plants, one of which is the oldest non-military reactor operating in the world.

The Swiss government decided in 2011 to shut down one of the plants, which was commissioned in 1972.  The plant, in Mühleberg, is now more than 42 years old, and has a similar design to the ill-fated Fukushima plant – although it isn’t on the coast in a tectonically active region.

A similar decision has yet to be taken by Switzerland in connection with its Beznau Nuclear Power Plant, which was commissioned in 1969, making it 45 years old.

InSecurityWatch: Buggery, hacks, spies, zones


Though it’s a Saturday here in ol’ Berzerkeley, the news from the dark side continues to flow unabated.

We open with the disingenuous, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

Germans say they accidentally tapped Clinton, Kerry calls

The German Foreign Intelligence Agency has admitted tapping “at least one” phone call each by current Secretary of State John Kerry and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while they were aboard United States government jets, according to German media reports.

The reports claim Kerry’s intercepted communication was a satellite phone call from the Middle East in 2013. Clinton’s communication was also a satellite call, in 2012, and was reportedly to then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Both calls were reported to have been intercepted accidentally while German intelligence was targeting terror suspects in the Middle East and northern Africa.

The intelligence agency (the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND) told German media that terror groups often use the same frequencies that the secretaries phone calls were made over, so the calls were picked up. The calls were among what the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said intelligence sources described as several cases of U.S. official phone calls being picked up accidentally during anti-terror communications monitoring.

From the Guardian, more buggery deprecated:

Tony Abbott says phone hack did not compromise talks with Julie Bishop

  • The prime minister responds to a report the foreign minister’s phone was hacked saying sensitive discussions were secure

Following reports the foreign minister’s phone was hacked, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has said sensitive discussions were conducted over secure phone lines and were not monitored.

The Herald Sun reported that Julie Bishop’s mobile phone was compromised while she was overseas. The newspaper said Australian intelligence officials seized the phone when she returned from a trip negotiating access to the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

Australian intelligence agencies know which country those responsible for compromising the phone were from, the report said. The phone was not used to discuss sensitive communications and was replaced.

And Network World goes for the vulnerable:

British spy agency scanned for vulnerable systems in 32 countries, German paper reveals

British intelligence agency GCHQ used port scanning as part of the “Hacienda” program to find vulnerable systems it and other agencies could compromise across at least 27 countries, German news site Heise Online has revealed.

The use of so-called port scanning has long been a trusty tool used by hackers to find systems they can potentially access. In top-secret documents published by Heise on Friday, it is revealed that in 2009, GCHQ started using the technology against entire nations.

One of the documents states that full scans of network ports of 27 countries and partial scans of another five countries had been carried out. Targets included ports using protocols such as SSH (Secure Shell) and SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), which are used for remote access and network administration.

The results were then shared with other spy agencies in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. “Mailorder” is described in the documents as a secure way for them to exchange collected data.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, they’d tell us, but then they’d have to kill us:

(REDACTED) memo released on killing (REDACTED) American overseas

The government on Friday made public a heavily redacted memo that was used to legally justify the killing of an American overseas.

Acting under pressure from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the New York Times, the Justice Department turned over the long-sought Feb. 19, 2010 Office of Legal Counsel memo relating to the killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi.

Characterized as “egregiously over-redacted” by ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, the seven page memo is signed by then-Acting Assistant Attorney General David J. Barron. Barron is now a judge on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

The only words that survive the redacting knife on pages 2 and 3 are “top secret.” Snippets that survive include the ominous sounding word play “killings in self-defense are not assassination.” More elaborately, the memo declares that “the use of lethal force would not violate the Fourth Amendment” if certain conditions prevail, including a “capture operation ts infeasible and the targeted person is part of a dangerous enemy force and poses a continued and imminent threat to U.S. persons or interests.”

Ars Technica covers the action:

Five American Muslims sue FBI, attorney general over travel watch list

  • Plaintiffs decry “invisible web of consequences that are imposed indefinitely.”

A group of five Muslims (four of whom are United States citizens) have sued top American government officials, alleging that their constitutional rights have been violated for having been put on a federal watch list.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday in federal court in Detroit, accuses numerous leaders—including the attorney general, the directors of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and others—of violating their constitutional rights to due process and the right to be free from religious discrimination.

In the complaint, each person outlines a similar story: being detained at the border, often having digital devices seized, and being subject to prolonged physical searches. One was told that he was on the no-fly list and was later offered a chance to work on behalf of federal law enforcement in exchange for removal. He seems to have declined.

Next up, with all the talk about militarized police in the U.S., just how well has Uncle Sam armed them. A Los Angeles Times graphic has the numbers:

BLOG Cop arms

From International Business Times, context for Missouri misery:

Mike Brown Shooting: What It’s Like To Grow Up Black In A Town Where 94% Of Cops Are White

When Gregory Carr was growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, his father gave him and his four brothers advice about dealing with the police.

“He’d say ‘let me tell you something, when you’re black and you get stopped by the man you just say, yes sir, no sir, and cooperate. Because that man will crack your head.’”

A generation later, Carr, 49, who teaches speech and theater at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, said that he tells his own son the same thing.

“I’m very concerned, he’s only six years younger than Mike Brown,” he said, referring to the shooting of Brown, 18, who was unarmed when he was killed by police Saturday in this St. Louis suburb, an incident that sparked six days of protests, a violent police backlash, sympathetic protests across the country and a national discussion about race and segregation in America.

From the Independent, hooded bigotry gone bananas:

Michael Brown shooting: Ku Klux Klan raises ‘reward’ for officer who shot unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri

The Missouri chapter of a faction of the Ku Klux Klan is allegedly raising money as a reward for the white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson a week ago.

On its website, the South Carolina-based New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has published a series of racist posts describing Brown as “a black punk” and “not a good kid”, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch (SCPLCHW) blog has reported.

The group has also advertised a fundraiser asking for donations of $10 (£6) and above, with all proceeds going to “the cop who did his job against the negro criminal”.

And from Boing Boing, a note about a podcast for the modern journalist:

Essential gadgets while reporting on civil unrest

In this episode, we talk to journalist Quinn Norton, who writes about digital rights, hacker culture, copyright, and the strangeness of the world and the complexity of the people who inhabit it for Medium and other outlets. She has covered the Occupy Wall Street movement and civil unrest around the world for Wired and other publications.

News Corp Australia covers aquatic hack attacks:

Sharks eat the internet but Google fights back

A NEW food craze is sweeping the underwater world with sharks taking a fancy to Google’s undersea data cables.

Vision has emerged showing sharks munching away on the cables, mistaking them for dinner.

Google has been forced to take action, reinforcing parts of the trans-Pacific fibre-optic cables and wrapping them in material to keep the sharks at bay.

From TheLocal.dk, information control in the name of IP. [And if you do want to see a picture, Wikipedia has ‘e here]:

Denmark’s icon… that we can’t show you

  • The Little Mermaid is perhaps the most photographed attraction in the entire country, but Danish media outlets are extremely hesitant to publish a photo of the sculpture.

Earlier this week, The Local reported that Seoul’s mayor wants a miniature version of Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue for his own city.

Rather than illustrate the photo with a beautiful picture of the sculpture – thousands of which can be found all over the internet – we chose a photo in which the famous landmark was surrounded by tourists and thus not the main focus of the image.

There was a reason for that. The family of sculptor Edvard Eriksen is known for being very aggressive about the sculpture’s copyright and numerous Danish media outlets have received a large bill in the mail for using a photo of the Little Mermaid – even though it is arguably the most recognisable image in all of Denmark.

The newspapers Politiken, Berlingske and the now-closed Nyhedsavisen have all been fined for using an image of the Little Mermaid. Berlingske had to pay 10,000 kroner ($1,800) for using a photo of the statue in connection with a 2005 story on Denmark’s tourism industry.

From Ars Technica, check your grocery bills:

Grocery shoppers nationwide probably had credit card data stolen

  • Coast-to-coast: Albertsons, Acme Markets, Jewel-Osco and more were hit

Two major supermarket chains announced that their customers’ credit card information may have been stolen during a network intrusion.

SuperValu, the Minnesota parent company of Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, Shop ‘n Save, and Shoppers Food and Pharmacy, announced that 180 stores in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota, and Minnesota were affected.

“The Company has not determined that any such cardholder data was in fact stolen by the intruder, and it has no evidence of any misuse of any such data, but is making this announcement out of an abundance of caution,” SuperValu said in a statement Friday.

Consortiumnews.com covers a sin of MSM omission:

The Hushed-Up Hitler Factor in Ukraine

Behind the Ukraine crisis is a revision of World War II history that seeks to honor eastern European collaborators with Hitler and the Holocaust by repackaging these rightists as anti-Soviet heroes, a reality shielded from the U.S. public, as Dovid Katz explains.

Would America support any type of Hitlerism in the course of the State Department’s effort to turn the anti-Russian political classes of Eastern Europe into paragons of PR perfection that may not be criticized, howsoever mildly?

It was frankly disconcerting to see Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, embracing the leader of Ukraine’s far right, anti-Semitic, pro-fascist Svoboda party last December. It was disturbing to learn of the neo-Nazi elements that provided the “muscle” for the actual Maidan takeover last February (BBC’s Newsnight was among the few major Western outlets to dare cover that openly).

Most disturbing of all has been the mainstream Western media’s almost Soviet-grade wall somehow erected against critical mention of the far-right component of Ukraine’s 2014 history, rendering any such thought as worthy of ridicule on New York Times opinion pages last spring.

And the Associated Press covers an offer:

EU Offers to Take Charge of Gaza Border, Says Status Quo ‘Is Not an Option’

The European Union offered Friday to take charge of Gaza’s border crossings and work to prevent illegal arms flows, insisting on a durable truce and saying a return to the status quo for the region “is not an option.”

As EU foreign ministers held an urgent meeting in Brussels about global conflicts, Hamas negotiators met with the Islamic militant group’s leadership in Qatar to discuss a proposal for a long-term truce with Israel. An official said the group was inclined to accept the Egyptian-mediated offer.

The Gaza blockade remains the main stumbling block. It has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

After the jump, the last from Asia, where the Game of Zones continue to boil. There’s turmoil in Pakistan, Indian assertiveness, bellicose rhetoric, avowals and disavowals, dubious ploys, and data protectionism — plus a flatulent tale from up north and an apology that’s not nearly enough. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Taps, hacks, zones, bluster


Today’s headlines from the world of spies, deep politics, hackery, state violence, and the ongoing Asian Games of Zones is agenda’s so full we opted to switch the order of our compendia today, and we’ll get straight to it, first with a pair of stories about prominent conversations overheard.

We open with this from International Business Times:

Germany Recorded Hillary Clinton When She Was Secretary Of State, German Media Says

Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) recorded a conversation of Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state, three German media outlets reported on Friday. Clinton was recorded while flying in a U.S. government aircraft. Reports did not specify the exact date of the recording.

Germany’s largest daily newspaper and two public broadcasting services broke the story on the alleged incident and cited anonymous government sources that said the recording was by accident. One source said the recordings should have been destroyed immediately and it was “idiocy” that they weren’t. The report also mentions the BND recorded other “American politicians and other friendly countries,” but did not specify which politicians or what countries.

The disclosure came after last year’s revelation by Edward Snowden that the U.S. ran an espionage operation on Germany, one of America’s closest allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was bugged and recorded by the U.S., was highly critical of the surveillance, saying there must not be “spying among friends.” More recently, German officials revealed in July that the U.S had been working with a spy in Germany for more than two years.

And the other eavesdropping saga, via News Corp Australia:

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s phone was hacked at the height of the MH17 crisis

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Julie Bishop’s mobile phone was compromised while she was overseas leading tense negotiations to win access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine.

Australian intelligence officials seized Ms Bishop’s phone on her return from a two-week trip to the United States, Ukraine and Holland, having secured a deal to get Australian police into the crash area.

Russian-backed rebels shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight with a surface-to-air missile on July 17, killing 298 passengers and crew, including 38 Australians.

It is thought that our intelligence agencies know which country those responsible for compromising Ms Bishop’s phone were operating from.

American accessory convicted, via Al Jazeera:

Court: Poland culpable for CIA secret prisons

  • The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Poland to pay reparations to two Saudis being held in Guantanamo Bay

On July 24, seven judges on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Poland in a landmark case, making it the first European Union country to be held accountable for its involvement in the United States’ systematic, extrajudicial detention of suspects, known as the “extraordinary rendition” programme. Established by the George W Bush administration in the aftermath of September 11 attacks, the programme was run by the CIA, and designed to detain suspects deemed to be of “high value”.

In the unanimous ruling, the judges stated that “Poland had cooperated in the preparation and execution of the CIA rendition, secret detention, and interrogation operations on its territory” and that it had failed in its duty under the European Convention on Human Rights to “ensure that individuals within its jurisdiction were not subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The ECHR ordered Poland to pay $175,000 to Saudi-born Palestinian Abu Zubaydah and $135,000 to Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Both applicants are currently being held in US custody in Guantanamo Bay, isolated from the outside world.

From the Daily Californian, an alarm sounds in Berkeley:

UC to evacuate affiliates in Pakistan after bombing this week

The university is initiating evacuation of UC affiliates in Pakistan after a bombing in the city of Quetta on Tuesday.

Two UC Berkeley faculty members are currently in Pakistan on UC-related business, according to campus risk manager Andy Goldblatt. No students or staff have been reported to be in the country, although an email was sent Wednesday to campus deans, directors and chairs asking for help identifying other UC faculty, staff and students in Pakistan.

Campus professor Ron Gronsky, special faculty assistant to the chancellor for international relations, said in the email that not all UC affiliates take the recommendation that they register their international travel with the university.

The Los Angeles Times plays the overture for the next act:

Nouri Maliki’s departure sets stage for deeper U.S. role in Iraq

The resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki after a bitter final power struggle sets the stage for increasing U.S. arms shipments and military advisors, deepening America’s role in a conflict President Obama had sought to avoid.

White House officials, who had urged Maliki to step down, praised him for agreeing Thursday to back Haider Abadi, a less divisive successor who they hope can unite Iraq’s political and religious factions against the Islamic State militants who control or threaten much of the country.

“Iraqis took another major step forward in uniting their country,” national security advisor Susan Rice said in a statement. “These are encouraging developments that we hope can set Iraq on a new path.”

And from the Associated Press, hints of Perry-less times ahead for the Lone Star State:

Texas’ Perry indicted for coercion for veto threat

A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday for abusing the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption — making the possible 2016 presidential hopeful his state’s first indicted governor in nearly a century.

A special prosecutor spent months calling witnesses and presenting evidence that Perry broke the law when he promised publicly to nix $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit, which is run by Travis County District Rosemary Lehmberg’s office. Several top aides to the Republican governor appeared before grand jurors in Austin, including his deputy chief of staff, legislative director and general counsel. Perry himself wasn’t called to testify.

He was indicted by an Austin grand jury on felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. Maximum punishment on the first charge is five to 99 years in prison. The second is two to 10 years.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press challenges First Amendment insecurity:

Media coalition protests police treatment of reporters during Ferguson events

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press led a coalition of 48 national media organizations that sent a protest letter [PDF] objecting to the treatment of reporters during the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown.

The letter was sent to the heads of the city and county police, as well as the state highway patrol.

“Officers on the ground must understand that gathering news and recording police activities are not crimes,” the letter states. “The actions in Ferguson demonstrate a lack of training among local law enforcement in the protections required by the First Amendment as well as the absence of respect for the role of newsgatherers. We implore police leadership to rectify this failing to ensure that these incidents do not occur again.”

From the Washington Post, another source of insecurity:

Ex-cop who burned body again gets 17 years

For a second time, a former New Orleans police officer has been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for burning the body of a man shot to death by another New Orleans police officer in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina.

Gregory McRae, 53, already is imprisoned for burning Henry Glover’s body. However, an appeals court had ordered a recalculation of his original 17-year sentence after one of his original convictions was thrown out.

In giving the same 17-year, 3-month sentence, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said Friday that McRae was guilty of covering up an unlawful killing by fellow Officer David Warren. Africk’s assertion comes despite a jury’s earlier acquittal of Warren.

The Center for Investigative Reporting covers another insecurity on the borders:

Ousted chief accuses border agency of shooting cover-ups, corruption

More than two dozen people have died in violent clashes with U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010. Despite public outrage over some of the killings, no agent or officer has faced criminal charges – or public reprimand – to date.

Yet at least a quarter of the 28 deaths were “highly suspect,” said James F. Tomsheck, the agency’s recently removed head of internal affairs. In a sweeping and unauthorized interview with The Center for Investigative Reporting, he said the deaths raised serious questions about whether the use of lethal force was appropriate.

Instead, Tomsheck said, Border Patrol officials have consistently tried to change or distort facts to make fatal shootings by agents appear to be “a good shoot” and cover up any wrongdoing.

The Oakland Tribune covers questionable consistency:

Judge orders investigation into Oakland’s police arbitration losses

A federal judge with sweeping power over Oakland’s police department ordered an investigation Thursday into why the city consistently loses arbitration cases with officers who are appealing discipline.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson wrote that an arbitrator’s recent decision overturning the termination of an officer videotaped tossing a tear gas grenade into a crowd of Occupy Oakland protesters struck at the heart of a reform drive that he has overseen for more than a decade.

“Just like any failure to impose appropriate discipline by the (police) chief or city administrator, any reversal of appropriate discipline at arbitration undermines the very objectives of the (reform program),” Henderson wrote.

From the London Daily Mail, yet another way to bug you:

Are apps secretly listening to your calls? Security experts discover gyroscopes can identify voices from VIBRATIONS

  • Computer scientists from Stanford University and Israeli defence research group Rafael have turned a phone gyroscope into a crude microphone
  • Smartphones contain the sensors which are used for games and orientation
  • They found gyroscopes can pick up frequency of soundwaves around them
  • Vibrations are then decoded by software, making it possible for experts to eavesdrop on phone conversations – with 65 per cent accuracy
  • No permission is needed from third parties to access gyroscopes

Many people are careful to protect their pin numbers, and are vigilant about giving smartphone apps access to their microphone in case they could be listened in on.

But now there’s a new snooping threat, and it comes from a smartphone’s gyroscope.

From the Guardian, security questions:

Australian intelligence watchdog wants clarification on national security plan

  • Inspector General of Intelligence and Security also wants increased budget for effective oversight of expanded surveillance

Australia’s intelligence watchdog has called on the Abbott government to clarify various elements of its national security reforms – and also increase its budget so that it is in a position to carry out effective oversight in an environment where the surveillance footprint is being significantly expanded.

In a public hearing in parliament on Friday, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) said the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) should be required to report more extensively on the use of new powers proposed in the Coalition’s national security reforms.

IGIS said the government should consider adding a requirement to the first tranche of its security legislation requiring Asio to report on instances where it used force in operations, where it accessed third party property, or where it disrupted computers.

From the Guardian, those with info want others to have less info:

CIA security luminary: ‘Right to be forgotten is not enough’

  • Leading security expert Dan Geer says the EU ruling does not go far enough in protecting users’ privacy

The EU’s so-called “right to be forgotten” laws have not gone far enough to protect citizens’ privacy, according to Dan Geer, one of the world’s best-known security experts.

Geer, currently chief information security officer at the CIA’s venture capital arm, told delegates at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas that he was confused by the Guardian’s coverage of the issue. The so called “right to be forgotten” issue stemmed from a European court of justice ruling, forcing Google to remove a link relating to a 1998 newspaper article from its search results after a complaint from the person named in the article.

Geer described it as “notably ironic” that the Guardian had championed Edward Snowden’s revelations about intrusion by government agencies into civilians’ privacy, while also claiming in one editorial (though he did not specify which) that nobody has a right to be forgotten.

From the Washington Post, why are not surprised?:

U.S. firm helped the spyware industry build a potent digital weapon for sale overseas

CloudShield Technologies, a California defense contractor, dispatched a senior engineer to Munich in the early fall of 2009. His instructions were unusually opaque.

As he boarded the flight, the engineer told confidants later, he knew only that he should visit a German national who awaited him with an off-the-books assignment. There would be no written contract, and on no account was the engineer to send reports back to CloudShield headquarters.

His contact, Martin J. Muench, turned out to be a former developer of computer security tools who had long since turned to the darkest side of their profession. Gamma Group, the British conglomerate for which Muench was a managing director, built and sold systems to break into computers, seize control clandestinely, and then copy files, listen to Skype calls, record every keystroke and switch on Web cameras and microphones at will.

According to accounts the engineer gave later and contemporary records obtained by The Washington Post, he soon fell into a shadowy world of lucrative spyware tools for sale to foreign security services, some of them with records of human rights abuse.

More of the same from The Verge:

Hacking Team is spreading government malware through YouTube and Microsoft Live

You don’t have to click on a sketchy link to end up downloading malware. A new report from Citizen Lab’s Morgan Marquis-Boire shows how companies can spread targeted malware by intercepting web traffic en route, sending malicious traffic from an otherwise friendly link. A company called Hacking Team has been using the tactics on traffic from YouTube and Microsoft’s login.live.com servers, seeding innocent videos with surveillance software designed to track the target’s activities online.

The attacks are more targeted than traditional malware, usually targeting a single person at a time, and relying on access to government internet infrastructure to intercept the traffic. Hacking Team typically works with governments like Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, but Marquis-Boire says similar capabilities have been used by intelligence agencies in the US, Britain, Russia, China and Israel. Snowden documents released in The Washington Post have identified NSA malware injection attacks that infected more than 80,000 different devices.

Since the attacks are injected into everyday web traffic, defending against them is difficult, but many companies have already adopted HTTPS encryption as a possible defense. HTTPS would encrypt the connection between the user and the server, preventing injection attacks. At the moment, only a small fraction of web traffic is encrypted, but Google is offering incentives to sites that switch over, including a small boost in search rankings. It’s unclear whether login.live or YouTube will switch to default HTTPS, but Marquis-Boire says both Microsoft and Google “have taken steps to close the vulnerability by encrypting all targeted traffic.”

intelNews lays blame:

Malware targeting ex-Soviet states has Russian hallmarks

A malicious software that has infiltrated the computer systems of dozens of embassies belonging to former Eastern Bloc nations “has all the hallmarks of a nation-state” cyberespionage operation, according to researchers.

Security firm Symantec said last week that the malware appears to be specifically targeting embassies of former communist nations located in China, Jordan, as well as in locations across Western Europe.

In a report published on its website, Symantec said “only a nation state” was likely to have the funds and technical resources to create a malware of such complexity. Additionally, the malware seems to be designed “to go after explicit government networks that are not easy to find”, according to Symantec senior security researcher Vikram Thakur.

Big Brother still seduces, via Nextgov:

The Snowden Effect

Revelations last year that the National Security Agency is collecting Americans’ telephone metadata soured some people’s opinions about the U.S. intelligence community, but they apparently haven’t affected the views of many computer security professionals.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that leaks by Edward Snowden, the former systems administrator and contractor with the National Security Agency, have not hindered efforts to recruit or retain cyber staff at the three-letter agencies. Instead, the disclosures actually might have helped intelligence agencies attract computer aficionados by spotlighting the agencies’ bleeding edge technology.

“We have had no indication that cyber pros have any reticence about working for the government,” says Mark Aiello, president of Massachusetts-based Cyber 360 Solutions, a staffing firm. “It is probably the opposite, and mostly for the opportunity to work with some advanced tools or techniques. The Big Brother aspect is appealing if you are the watcher, not the watched.”

From Motherboard, young accomplices:

DARPA Uses Preteen Gamers to Beta Test Tomorrow’s Military Software

Sieg Hall doesn’t look like much from the outside. Located at the University of Washington, the building was constructed in the 1960s, when it was  a focal point for Vietnam-era antiwar protests. Before renovations were carried out it had become so dilapidated that students had a tradition of taking home chunks of rock off its façade. If I didn’t know better, Sieg is just another nondescript computer science building, not a front line in military research and development.

But it’s here, tucked away on the third floor, that you’ll find precisely that: the Center for Game Science, a research lab that makes educational video games for children, and that received the bulk of its funding from the  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the wing of the US Department of Defense that supports research into experimental military technology.

Why is DARPA the original primary funder of the CGS? According to written and recorded statements from current and former DARPA program managers, as well as other government documents, the DARPA-funded educational video games developed at the CGS have a purpose beyond the pretense of teaching elementary school children STEM skills.

Instead, the games developed at CGS have had the primary purpose of using grade-school children as test subjects to develop and improve “adaptive learning” training technology for the military.

From MercoPress, invoking the T-word in a curious context:

Cristina Fernandez will use anti-terrorism law against US company that closed its Argentine plant

Argentina’s government will use an anti-terrorism law for the first time to seek criminal charges against a U.S.-based international printing firm which closed its Argentine plant without warning, president Cristina Fernández said on Thursday. She linked the company to some of the hedge funds in litigation with Argentina over defaulted bonds.

Several hundred workers were left jobless when RR Donnelly abruptly filed for bankruptcy and shut down its printing presses on the outskirts of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.

“We are facing a real case of fraudulent behavior and an attempt to intimidate the population,” said Cristina Fernandez in a speech at Government House.

“We will apply the anti-terrorist law. We filled a motion under charges of altering the economic and financial order and terrorizing of people,” the head of state expressed after blaming Donnelly with tax fraud and evasion.

On to other attempts to suppress information, first from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Sexism of Authorities Aggravates Violence Against Women Journalists in Mexico

The sexism of Mexican authorities generates impunity and has led to a 300 percent increase in violence against women journalists in just a decade, according to a report presented by an NGO.

In the last few years 86 cases of violence against women journalists were reported, of which 54 percent occurred in 2013, the study by the Communication and Information for Women organization (CIMAC) revealed.

It added that Mexico City reported 35 percent of the total number of cases, thus making the capital “the most dangerous place for women in this profession.”

GlobalPost sends up a rocket:

Hamas says it has deported foreign journalists for reporting on missile launches

  • The group that runs Gaza says foreign media coverage of this latest conflict with Israel was skewed against the Palestinians.

Did Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, intimidate, harass or even deport journalists trying their damnedest to cover a dangerous war with Israel?

If you take Hamas’ word for it, the answer appears to be yes.

In an interview with the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen TV, Hamas spokeswoman Isra Almodallal said that foreign journalists have been deported from Gaza for filming Hamas rocket launches.

Why? According to Almodallal, they “were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative. So when they were conducting interviews or when they went on location to report they would focus on filming the places from where the missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.”

From the Associated Press, many questions remain:

Liberian police seal newspaper office

Dozens of riot police have sealed the offices of a newspaper critical of the Liberian government and officers attempted to detain its publisher. Police spokesman Sam Collins says the paper’s criticisms could “plunge the country into confusion” when the government is struggling to contain an Ebola outbreak.

Philibert Brown’s National Chronicle has often accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government of corruption and on Wednesday it called for the government to step down.

Brown has been ordered to report for questioning Friday.

Sirleaf’s government has come under stiff criticism for its record on press freedoms. Sirleaf has signed the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for the Africa-wide repeal of defamation and “insult” laws, but multiple libel convictions have been handed down since she came to power in 2006.

From International Business Times, more media under fire:

China’s Anti-Corruption Crackdown Increasingly Targets CCTV, Flagship Network

In the latest sign that China Central Television, the country’s state-run television giant, is in political trouble,  the government announced Friday that one of the network’s top officials is under detention.

China arrested Huang Haitao, deputy director of CCTV 8, a channel devoted to scripted dramas, according to 163.com, a popular news portal. His arrest is in connection with a wide-ranging government audit of CCTV, which claims an audience of more than 1 billion viewers.

Huang is only the latest prominent CCTV personality to run afoul of Chinese authorities since the December 2013 arrest of Li Dongsheng, a former vice president of the network. In late May, authorities arrested Guo Zhenxi, the head of CCTV’s financial news network, while high-profile anchor Rui Chenggang, whose “Economic News” program has an estimated 10 million viewers, was detained on July 11.

After the jump, more tensions in the Asian Games of Zones, including Pakistani protests and violence, a resounding chorus of moans from the ghosts of history, claims and counterclaims, U.S. marines of a Japanese island, and as story that really is too good to be true. . . Continue reading

The war on the press: A petition and a victory


Two significant stories to cover in the ongoing war of Washington politicians and law enforcement agencies at all levels to rein in what’s left of the badly depleted news media.

First up, from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

Free press groups petition Attorney General on behalf of journalist James Risen

More than 100,000 people, including 20 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a petition submitted to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder today urging the administration to rethink its policy of subpoenaing journalists to reveal their sources.

Seven representatives of free press organizations announced the delivery of the petition at the National Press Club this afternoon and called on the administration to drop its threatened subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen.

Risen has been fighting since 2007 to protect a confidential source he used in writing a book about the Central Intelligence Agency, and he joined the panel at the press conference today.

“The events today are part of a very strongly accelerated effort across this country to lance a boil of fear and intimidation,” said Norman Solomon, whose Institute for Public Accuracy and RootsAction.org started the petition.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Government Accountability Project, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders were also represented on today’s panel, along with veteran journalist Phil Donahue.

“Freedom of the Press is the most important freedom,” said Delphine Halgand, the director of Reporters Without Borders’ Washington office. “It is the freedom that allows us to verify the existence of all other freedoms.”

Risen said the level of support the petition generated “leaves me speechless.”

Read the rest.

And a video report from The Real News Network:

Freedom of the Press in Jeopardy as Obama Goes After Times Reporter Risen

From the transcript:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: In Washington, D.C., on August 14, journalists and advocates spoke out at the National Press Club and demanded the Obama administration stop its efforts to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his source in the 2006 book State of War that detailed a botched attempt at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

JAMES RISEN, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The Justice Department and the Obama administration are the ones who turned this, really, into a fundamental fight over press freedom in their appeal to the Fourth Circuit. They said that this case, the central issue of this case was not some details or specifics or anything, that the fundamental thing that this case was about was that there was no such thing as a reporter’s privilege. If you read the government’s brief in the Fourth Circuit appeal, that’s what they say: there is no such thing as a reporter’s privilege. And so they turned this case into a showdown over the First Amendment and over the freedom of the press in the United States. And so I’m happy to carry on that fight, but it wasn’t me who really started it.

NOOR: Risen has been fighting the subpoena since 2008. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Risen’s appeal of a lower court decision ordering him to testify and reveal his source.

RISEN: I think what–you know, this has been a long case. I got subpoenaed in 2008 first. But what I can say now is with all of these people showing their support, I’m willing to keep fighting, because now I know that I have just an enormous group of people supporting me.

And one of the things that I’d like to say is that the real reason I’m doing this is for the future of journalism. My oldest son, Tom, standing right there, is a journalist, and I want to make sure that the same protections that I’ve had in my career are there for the future reporters in America, because there is no way we could do our jobs if we don’t have the ability to have aggressive investigative reporting in America and to have the ability to maintain confidential sources.

NORMAN SOLOMON, COFOUNDER, ROOTSACTION.ORG: It was 60 years ago that in perhaps his most well-known and well-remembered TV broadcast Edward R. Murrow said, “we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” He said that at a time when it was essential for journalists to step forward to lance a boil of fear and intimidation that had gripped official Washington for years and the entire country as well. That was 1954. Here we are in 2014, and the events today are part of, I think, a very strongly accelerating effort across this country to lance a boil of fear and intimidation.

On a related note, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Missouri law enforcement agencies following arrests of reporters covering the event, seeking to enforce the right of press and public to record officers in public. Here’s a video report from MSNBC via Mox News:

ACLU Sues St Louis Cops for Telling People They Can’t Film Them

Their action bore prompt results, reports the St. Louis American tonight:

ACLU confirms right to film officers with Ferguson, County and Highway Patrol

The City of Ferguson, St. Louis County and the Missouri Highway Patrol have signed an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union acknowledging the right of the public and the media to film the actions of police officers.

The agreement was reached after the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the entities after numerous complaints of media and public intimidation, specifically those videotaping officers.

Wednesday, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, and Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post were arrested by St. Louis County Police officers only to be released later the same day with all charges dropped.

EnviroWatch: Asteroids, Ebola, fracking, more


Before we get to the latest on the Ebola front, the Independent warns of a potential global catastrophe ahead:

Huge asteroid that ‘could end human life’ defying gravity as it moves towards Earth, scientists say

  • Scientists have moved closer to being able to stop a huge asteroid colliding with the Earth and potentially wiping out human life

Researchers at the University of Tennessee have discovered that blowing the space rock up could make the collision worse by causing several devastating impacts. Instead, small changes could be made to its surface to disrupt the forces keeping it together and cause it to break up in outer space.

They were studying asteroid 1950 DA, which has a one in 300 chance of hitting the planet on 16 March, 2880.

Although the odds seem small, it is the most likely asteroid to collide with Earth and the odds are higher than being shot dead in the US.

On to Ebola, first with a sobering headline from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Ebola outbreak even deadlier than previously thought, WHO warns

The official death toll from the Ebola outbreak has been vastly underestimated and the crisis will need “extraordinary measures” to bring under control, the World Health Organization has warned.

The outbreak in four West African countries has killed at least 1,145 people already, after a further 76 deaths were reported on Friday, but the latest WHO statement suggested that the actual toll could be much higher.

“Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” the WHO said in Geneva.

The WHO also cautioned against “unrealistic expectations” about experimental Ebola medicines and vaccines, including a Canadian vaccine that has been offered to the Ebola-affected countries. Those drugs won’t have a major impact on the outbreak, it said.

More from the Japan Times:

Ebola centers filling faster than they can be opened

Beds in Ebola treatment centers are filling up faster than they can be provided, evidence that an outbreak in West Africa is far more severe than the numbers show, an official with the World Health Organization said Friday.

The outbreak sweeping Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria is already the largest and deadliest ever recorded, killing more than 1,060 people, according to the latest WHO figures.

But the U.N. health agency said Thursday that official counts of the dead and infected may still “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

Another warning from the Global Post:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is like ‘wartime,’ experts warn

‘I think the wake-up call was too late in calling it a public health emergency of international concern,’ the international president of Doctors Without Borders said.

It will take about six months to bring under control the Ebola epidemic, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday, saying the outbreak in West Africa felt like “wartime, is moving, advancing.”

Joanne Liu, international president of MSF (Doctors Without Borders), speaking after a 10-day trip to West Africa, said more experts were needed on the ground and was critical of the World Health Organization (WHO) for declaring Ebola a “public health emergency of international concern” only on Aug 8.

“We need people with a hands-on operational mindset,” to combat the outbreak, Liu told a news briefing in Geneva.

From the London Telegraph, a UK Ebola alert:

Woman tested for Ebola in Scotland

  • NHS investigating ‘possible’ case of Ebola after woman from Sierra Leone falls ill at immigration removal centre

A woman is being tested for the Ebola virus in Scotland after falling ill at an immigration removal centre.

Health authorities have confirmed they are investigating a “possible” case of the deadly virus but have said it so far appears “highly unlikely” the test will turn out to be positive.

The woman is believed to have arrived from Sierra Leone, one of the countries most affected by the epidemic that has claimed more than 1,000 lives across West Africa.

Homeland Security News Wire covers a procedural change contemplated:

Texas Medical Center considering “reverse quarantine” to prevent Ebola infections

The Texas Medical Center (TMC), home to more than fifty health care institutions (it is considered the world’s largest medical district), is considering using a preventive measure, known as reverse quarantine, to keep potentially at-risk employees and students from spreading Ebola to other medical staff or patients. Concerned that the Ebola outbreak could reach Texas, hospital executives are reviewing their emergency management plans, usually reserved to guide more than 100,000 employees at TMC during hurricanes and tropical storms.

The Texas Medical Center (TMC), home to more than fifty health care institutions (it is considered the world’s largest medical district), is considering using a preventive measure, known as reverse quarantine, to keep potentially at-risk employees and students from spreading Ebola to other medical staff or patients. Concerned that the Ebola outbreak could reach Texas, hospital executives are reviewing their emergency management plans, usually reserved to guide more than 100,000 employees at TMC during hurricanes and tropical storms.

The reserve quarantine was once used on Dr. Tom Wheeler, when he returned to Houston from a visit in Mexico in 2009, during the height of the H1N1 epidemic. Upon his return, the Baylor College of Medicine’s (BCM) pathology chief was told by his employer to stay home for a day before he returned to work. “I was just told to stay at home, no special precautions,” said Wheeler. “I came to work the next day.”

From USA Today, a homecoming ahead:

American Ebola victim looks forward to family reunion

In a new statement issued Friday, Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the two American missionaries to come down with Ebola while serving in Africa, says he is “recovering in every way” and looks forward to a reunion with his family “in the near future.”

Brantly is being treated in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, along with the other American Ebola victim, Nancy Writebol. The statement issued Friday was through Samaritan’s Purse, the organization Brantly was serving. Writebol was a missionary with SIM USA. Earlier reports indicated that she was recovering, but no new information was available Friday.

Brantly says he still has hurdles to clear in his recovery before he can be discharged, but he is holding on to the hope of a family reunion.

Homeland Security News Wire covers testing:

Ebola vaccine to be tested on humans

Efforts to test an Ebola vaccine on humans have reached a milestone when BioProtection Systems, through its parent company, NewLink Genetics Corporation, confirmed that it is prepared to launch the first human safety trial of a vaccine, which the company licensed after it was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada. Thevaccine replaces the genes from vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a pathogen found in livestock, with a gene from the Ebola virus. The Ebola gene then develops a harmless protein that sits on the virus’s outer coat.

Efforts to test an Ebola vaccine on humans have reached a milestone when BioProtection Systems, through its parent company, NewLink Genetics Corporation, confirmed that it is prepared to launch the first human safety trial of a vaccine, which the company licensed after it was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada. The company has also arranged to manufacture tens of thousands of vaccine doses within “the next month or two,” Dr. Charles Link, NewLink’s chief executive, said.

And China Daily asserts:

We’re ready if Ebola arrives, say health officials

China is on guard against the Ebola virus and well prepared to respond to any threat from it, health officials say as global concerns mount over the outbreak in West Africa.

Dong Xiaoping, deputy director of the emergency response division at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the nation is far from the areas affected and there are no direct flights to these countries.

“The possibility of Ebola entering China remains remote, although it does exist,” Dong said. “But a mass outbreak in China can be ruled out, given the capacity for responding to it here.”

Frontera NorteSur covers another water woe:

A Toxic Shade of Orange

A Mexican federal official has accused the mining giant Grupo Mexico with concealing an August 5 toxic spill that contaminated two rivers in the northern border state of Sonora.

Cesar Lagarda Lagarda, northwestern division chief for the National Water Commission (Conagua), said in a press conference this week that Grupo Mexico “deliberately hid the failure” of a waste storage facility that held a mixture of sulfuric acid and heavy metals from its Cananea copper mine, which is located south of the Arizona-Sonora border.

The toxic soup first spilled into the Bacanuchi River before entering the Sonora River and threatening water supplies for downstream communities and the state capital of Hermosillo. The pollution was first noticed by local residents last week who were surprised to see the Sonora River transformed into a odd, orange color. Residents also feared contamination of their groundwater.

Lagarda reported that authorities have detected excessive levels of arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, iron, manganese, nickel, and copper near the municipality of Baviacora, as well as dead fish. The official warned of long-term, fatal effects to cattle. An estimated 10 million gallons of toxic material spilled from Grupo Mexico’s property.

From the Asahi Shimbun, our lone Fukushimapocalypse Now! item:

Utilities still spending consumer fees to run nuclear-promotion centers

Seven electric power utilities continue to spend billions of yen to run facilities that promote nuclear power despite dwindling visitor numbers and pressure on the companies to cut costs.

Operating expenses for these public relations centers are covered by consumer payments for electricity, the rates for which were raised after the utilities’ nuclear reactors were taken offline following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The government approved the higher charges on households based on the premise that the companies would take thorough measures to improve efficiency and reduce spending.

On to the fracking front, first with Mother Jones:

Why the Scientific Case Against Fracking Keeps Getting Stronger

  • Anthony Ingraffea argues that fugitive methane emissions turn natural gas from a climate benefit into yet another strike against fossil fuels.

How things have changed. Nowadays, explains Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea on the latest installment of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream above), the scientific argument against fracking and unconventional gas drilling is more extensive. It involves not simply groundwater contamination, but also at least two other major problems: earthquake generation and the accidental emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

On the show, Ingraffea laid out the science on these issues—and it is certainly not something a reasonable person can ignore. Take earthquakes, for instance. According to Ingraffea, “there is now, in my opinion, scientific consensus that human-induced seismicity does occur” as a result of a particular aspect of unconventional gas drilling (namely, disposing of chemically laden “flowback water” in underground wastewater injection wells).

Ingraffea isn’t the likeliest scientific foe of fracking. His past research has been funded by corporations and industry interests including Schlumberger, the Gas Research Institute, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. His original doctoral work, in the 1970s, involved the study of “rock fracture mechanics”—in other words, how cracks in rock form and propagate, a body of knowledge that is crucial to extractive industries like oil and gas. “I spent 20, 25 years working with the oil and gas industry…helping them to figure out how best to get oil and gas out of rock,” Ingraffea explains.

ProPublica covers fracking infractions:

Report: Drillers Illegally Using Diesel Fuel to Frack

An analysis by an environmental group finds hundreds of cases in which drillers used diesel fuel without obtaining permits and sometimes altered records disclosing they had done so

A new report charges that several oil and gas companies have been illegally using diesel fuel in their hydraulic fracturing operations, and then doctoring records to hide violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The report, published this week by the Environmental Integrity Project, found that between 2010 and July 2014 at least 351 wells were fracked by 33 different companies using diesel fuels without a permit. The Integrity Project, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., said it used the industry-backed database, FracFocus, to identify violations and to determine the records had been retroactively amended by the companies to erase the evidence.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires drilling companies to obtain permits when they intend to use diesel fuel in their fracking operations. As well, the companies are obligated to notify nearby landowners of their activity, report the chemical and physical characteristics of the fluids used, conduct water quality tests before and after drilling, and test the integrity of well structures to ensure they can withstand high injection pressures. Diesel fuel contains a high concentration of carcinogenic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and they disperse easily in groundwater.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, another fuel, another problem:

Oil sands among riskiest energy plays in the world: report

A new report says some of the world’s costliest energy projects are in Alberta’s oil sands and many could be cancelled without higher oil prices.

The study by the Carbon Tracker Initiative highlighted 20 of the biggest projects around the world that need a minimum oil price of $95 (U.S.) per barrel to be economically viable.

Most on the list require prices well north of $110 per barrel and a few in the oil sands even need prices higher than $150.

And our final item, via the Guardian:

Rarest dolphins under threat from oil exploration in NZ sanctuary, say Greens

  • New Zealand Greens and International Whaling Commission say Maui’s dolphins need more protection, but minister disagrees

The New Zealand government has been accused of threatening the survival of the Maui’s dolphins, one of world’s rarest dolphin breeds, with just 55 of the animals remaining.

The Maui’s dolphin is endemic to New Zealand and is only found off the west coast of the country’s north island. The IUCN lists the species as critically endangered.

Although a special sanctuary for the species was established in 2008, conservation groups have accused the New Zealand government of hastening its demise by allowing oil exploration and fishing in the area.