Category Archives: Video

Joseph Stiglitz: On the corporate looting machine


In conversation with Bill Moyers, the Nobel laureate economist deconstructs the parasitic nature of the postmodern neoliberally reconstructed politically empowered machine that is, shall we say, RoboCorp.

From Moyers & Company:

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let’s Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers

Program notes:

A recent report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill Moyers that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values,” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

Sounding the climate alarm: The IPCC report


Sounding the climate alarm: The IPCC report

From The Real News Network, a Sharmini Peries interview with Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University who holds dual appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI) as well a serving as director of the university’s Earth System Science Center (ESSC).

http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holocene/public_html/Mann/about/index.php

From The Real News Network:

Forthcoming IPCC Report Calls for Control of Fossil Fuel Consumption

From the transcript:

PERIES: So, Prof. Mann, this report is synthesizing the information already captured in previous IPCC reports. But can you break down the key findings that has been sent to governments?

MANN: Sure thing. So in a sense there are no surprises, because we know what material is in this report. It’s a summary of the three working group reports that have already appeared, the report on the basic science of climate change, which was followed by the Working Group II Report on climate change impacts, and then there was the Working Group III report, Mitigation, how we can solve this problem. This is the synthesis report. So it brings it all together. And if there is one word or one sort of assessment that I think summarizes what this report has to say, it’s that we really need to get working on this problem now. We don’t have time to waste. We really need to act now if we are going to protect ourselves against what can reasonably be described as truly dangerous and potentially irreversible changes in our climate.

PERIES: What do you think IPCC expects from the warning sent to the governments?

MANN: Well, what’s interesting is that the IPCC, it’s a very conservative organization, because it’s literally made up of hundreds and hundreds of scientists from around the world, experts in various aspects of the science of climate change. And because of that, it represents sort of a scientific lowest common denominator. The report reflects a very conservative viewpoint that can be shared by essentially all of the scientists contributing to the report, who have various views, various findings. So by their nature, the IPCC reports tend to be conservative. In many cases, the IPCC projections, for example, have actually underestimated the rate of climate change that has actually occurred subsequently. And we see that, for example, with the dramatic decrease in Arctic Sea ice. It’s happening faster than the IPCC said it should. The melting of the ice sheets, it’s happening faster than the IPCC said it should.

So what’s particularly interesting, I think, about this latest synthesis report is the stark terms in which the IPCC, a very conservative body, a very staid body, the very stark terms in which they lay out the problem, essentially saying, look, there’s no question the globe is warming, our climate is changing, it’s due to human activity, and if we don’t do something about it, it’s going to be a real problem. It’s already a problem. We are already seeing damages, in many cases way ahead of schedule.

What is interesting about the report as well is that it also makes it quite clear that it is still relatively inexpensive to solve this problem. If we act now, if we bring our fossil fuel emissions down by several percent a year, which is doable, if we scale up renewable green energy to the point where we can meet growing energy demand through less and less fossil fuel based energy, then we can stabilize global warming below levels that are truly dangerous and potentially irreversible. And it would be fairly inexpensive to do so, because we can actually undergo that transition, we can get that transition underway, we can scale up renewable energy, so that in a matter of decades it meets 80, 90, maybe close to 100 percent of our energy needs.

The problem is if we defer that, if we wait to lower our emissions. Then that means we are going to have to make far more austere cuts in carbon emissions in the future. And that’ll be much more expensive economically, and we will have basically entered into a regime where the cost of inaction, the deferred maintenance, the problems that we will begin to see because we didn’t act on the climate change problem in time, will become far more expensive than any measures necessary to mitigate the problem.

Borders only count for people, not corporadoes


From Democracy Now!, an excellent account of the schemes and scams employed by corporations to rip off taxpayers across the globe by forcing citizens rather than corporations to bear the tax obligations that would rationally accrue to them under an equitable system of governance.

From Democracy Now!:

The Biggest Tax Scam Ever: How Corporate America Parks Profits Overseas, Avoiding Billions in Taxes

Program notes:

As Burger King heads north for Canada’s lower corporate tax rate, we speak to Rolling Stone contributing editor Tim Dickinson about his new article, “The Biggest Tax Scam Ever.” Dickinson reports on how top U.S. companies are avoiding hundreds of billions of dollars by parking their profits abroad — and still receiving more congressionally approved incentives. Dickinson writes: “Top offenders include giants from high-tech (Microsoft, $76 billion); Big Pharma (Pfizer, $69 billion); Big Oil (Exxon-Mobil, $47 billion); investment banks (Goldman Sachs, $22 billion); Big Tobacco (Philip Morris, $20 billion); discount retailers (Wal-Mart, $19 billion); fast-food chains (McDonald’s, $16 billion) — even heavy machinery (Caterpillar, $17 billion). General Electric has $110 billion stashed offshore, and enjoys an effective tax rate of 4 percent — 31 points lower than its statutory obligation to the IRS.”

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, zones


From the world of spies, lies, military posturing, hacks, corporate voyeurism, and the ever diminishing realm of the truly personal, we open with a headline from Homeland Security News Wire:

Most of 2013 terrorist attacks took place in only a few countries

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). In 2013, 11,952 terrorist attacks resulted in 22,178 fatalities (including perpetrator deaths) and 37,529 injuries across 91 countries. More than half of all attacks (54 percent), fatalities (61 percent), and injuries (69 percent) occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) based at the University of Maryland. With the addition of nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, the database now includes more than 125,000 events dating back to 1970 and, according to START, it remains the most comprehensive unclassified database of terrorist attacks around the world.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, business as usual:

In Senate-CIA fight on interrogation report, another controversy

The background of a key negotiator in the battle over a Senate report on the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture has sparked concerns about the Obama administration’s objectivity in handling the study’s public release.

Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.

Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.

From the London Daily Mail, a story Lenny Bruce would’ve loved:

Former HHS cyber security chief convicted in CHILD PORN case after using screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ on underground website

  • Timothy DeFoggi was found guilty Tuesday on all seven child-porn criminal charges he faced in federal court
  • Justice Dept says he ‘accessed’ and ‘solicited child pornography … [and] expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children’
  • DeFoggi ‘even suggested meeting one member in person,’ according to the DOJ, ‘to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children’
  • The former cyber security pro was listed near the top of the HHS organization chart in a document describing budget requests for 2014
  • His screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ were mentioned repeatedly in court and are part of the public record

Ars Technica takes the techgeek approach:

Cybersecurity official uses Tor but still gets caught with child porn

  • Timothy DeFoggi wrongly thought he was covering his tracks.

The former acting cybersecurity director for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tim DeFoggi, was convicted yesterday on three child porn charges.

As reported by Wired, DeFoggi is the sixth suspect to be caught by the FBI’s Operation Torpedo, which used controversial methods of defeating the Tor anonymizing software in order to find child porn suspects.

One site frequented by DeFoggi was PedoBook, hosted by Aaron McGrath—a Nebraska man who was convicted earlier for his role in the operations. The websites were only accessible to users who installed Tor on their browsers. DeFoggi used names such as “fuckchrist” and “PTasseater” to register on the sites, where he could view more than 100 videos and more than 17,000 child porn images.

From Bloomberg News, they’ve got you covered:

Homeland Security Arms Local Cops With Super Spy Bug

Humvees and body armor, so jarring to see deployed in Ferguson, Mo., aren’t the only concern when it comes to the militarization of U.S. police forces.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported that police in Tacoma, Wash., bought—and quietly used for six years—surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every mobile telephone call, text message, and data transfer up to a half-mile from the device.

Known as a Stingray and manufactured by Harris (HRS), a Pentagon contractor based in Melbourne, Fla., the device is small enough to be carried in a car. It tricks a mobile phone into thinking it’s a cell tower, drawing information, the paper said. Federal grants, including one from the Department of Homeland Security, were used to buy the equipment, according to public records the newspaper obtained.

Fusion raises an interesting question:

Fusion Investigates: How did America’s police departments lose loads of military-issued weapons?

Fusion has learned that 184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon’s “1033 program” for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.

“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it’s another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly,” said Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “We don’t know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved.”

More troubling yet is the possibility that some of the missing weapons, which were given to local police departments as part of a decades’ old government program to equip cops for the wars on terrorism and drugs, are actually being sold on the black market, Lynch said.

H/T to Cryptogon.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, theatrical posturing:

Texas National Guard Deploys on Mexican Border

The first units of the National Guard contingent Texas Gov. Rick Perry is deploying to the Mexican border amid a surge in the arrivals of unaccompanied minors from Central America are in position, authorities said Tuesday.

“The Texas National Guard currently has troops all along the border between Texas and Mexico in support of Operation Strong Safety,” Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, public affairs officer at Texas Military Forces, told Efe.

Most of the roughly 63,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who have arrived in the United States since last October entered the country via the 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) boundary between Texas and Mexico.

From the Associated Press, Sisyphus on the Mississippi:

In wake of Ferguson, police try to build trust

In the aftermath of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, some police departments are renewing efforts to reach out to black communities to build trust — holding public meetings, fielding questions and letting people voice the anger they feel toward officers who patrol their neighborhoods.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown considers it a preventative step.

“I’d much rather they shout at me at a town hall meeting at a church and get to know me afterward than not have a relationship,” Brown said. After a police shooting has already happened, “it’s too late to try to establish relationships.”

From the Los Angeles Times, a Ferguson moment on Wilshire Boulevard:

Beverly Hills police regret holding black producer before Emmys

Beverly Hills police officials said Tuesday that it was “extremely unfortunate” that officers handcuffed and detained an African American film producer who was in the city to attend a pre-Emmy party.

Producer Charles Belk “matched the clothing and physical characteristics” of a suspected bank robber when he was pulled over by officers on Friday evening after he left a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Belk said on Facebook that he was walking to his car when he was confronted by police, handcuffed and forced to sit on the sidewalk. He said he was detained for six hours.

“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School,” Belk said. “Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.”

LA Observed has the blowback:

Producer’s ‘detention’ by BHPD creates big backlash

Over the weekend I noticed that producer Charles Belk had posted a lengthy, angry account on Facebook about being detained by Beverly Hills police, handcuffed on the curb and denied access to a phone or a lawyer for six hours after he was stopped while walking to feed his parking meter on La Cienega Boulevard. He is black. The police say he was identified as bank robbery suspect. Belt’s post has been shared and liked more than 34,000 times on Facebook and he has been interviewed about the incident by, among others, NBC News. This incident clearly has legs beyond the BHPD’s explanation that he fit the description and they regret his inconvenience. Belk’s Facebook post has triggered what can only be called a massive outpouring of comments from people who feel they have similarly been detained by police essentially for being black. The media coverage? International.

From the Independent, a possible solution to the above?:

Cannabis-smoking couples are ‘less likely to engage in domestic violence’

Married couples who frequently smoke cannabis together are less likely to engage in domestic violence than those who consume the drug less regularly, a new study has suggested.

Researchers from Yale University, University of Buffalo and Rutgers followed 634 married couples for nine years.

They found that those who used cannabis together three times or more each month reported the lowest number domestic violence incidents (intimate partner violence) over the first nine years of marriage.

From the Associated Press, reviving the Cold War:

Finland, Sweden increase ties to NATO

Finland and Sweden plan to work more closely with NATO by signing a pact that allows assistance from alliance troops in the Nordic countries in emergency situations, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as NATO prepares for a summit next week in Wales amid heightened tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

The Finnish government said the Host Nation Support agreement applies to situations which include “disasters, disruptions and threats to security.” It also enables joint training exercises and military cooperation.

While the London Telegraph gets defensive:

Police build ‘ring of steel’ for Wales Nato summit

  • More than 12 miles of steel fencing and more than 9,000 police will guard the UK’s biggest ever gathering of world leaders

Police are putting the finishing touches to a “ring of steel” of more than 12 miles of security fencing to protect world leaders heading to south Wales for next week’s Nato summit.

The two-day summit in Newport is the UK’s biggest ever gathering of international leaders as the military alliance decides how to deal with crises in Ukraine and Iraq.

Nine foot high steel fencing is being put around key parts of the Celtic Manor Resort where the summit is being held and at venues in Cardiff city centre. Police are also setting up checkpoints and entry gates to screen people as they enter the cordon.

The operations is one of the biggest ever police deployments. More than 9,000 police officers will be drafted in to protect 180 VIPs including 60 heads of state and senior ministers.

Meanwhile plans are underway to give all those coppers plenty of work. From the People’s Assembly:

BLOG Nato

From the Guardian, why needs the Magna Carta?:

Met chief calls for new anti-terror powers and backs ‘presumption of guilt’

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe also calls for return of ‘something like’ control orders, which tighten authority over terror suspects

Britain’s most senior police chief has called for wide-ranging new powers to tackle homegrown terrorism, including a “rebuttable presumption” that anyone who visits Syria without prior notice should be treated as a terror suspect.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, chief constable of the Metropolitan police, also called for a return of control orders and said Britons who wage jihad in Syria or Iraq should be stripped of their passports.

Most significantly, however, Hogan-Howe became the first serving police chief to back Boris Johnson’s proposal for the presumption of innocence to be overturned for Britons who travel to warzones.

El País cites another source of insecurity:

Spain on alert over new biker gangs

  • Groups hail mostly from Germany and the Netherlands and have long records of criminal activity

Law enforcement agencies are warning about a new type of criminal in Spain: members of biker gangs, most of whom are coming in from central Europe.

An Interior Ministry report states that “this is the right time to increase preventive police activity and research, considering their incipient state in our country.”

The report mentions gangs such as Hell’s Angels, Satudarah MC, No Surrender MC and Bandidos MC, all of whom are well established in Germany and the Netherlands, among other countries.

All of them also have a long record of criminal activity, ranging from arms and drug trafficking, to money laundering, burglary, extortion and violent robbery.

Bloomberg raises hackery suspicions:

FBI Examining Whether Russia Is Tied to JPMorgan Hacking

Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The attack resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the probe is still preliminary. Authorities are investigating whether recent infiltrations of major European banks using a similar vulnerability are also linked to the attack, one of the people said.

From TheLocal.no, Norse petro-hackery:

300 oil companies hacked in Norway

Around 300 oil and energy in Norway companies has been affected by one of the biggest computer hacking attacks ever to happen in the country, a government source said on Wednesday.

National Security Authority Norway (Nasjonal Sikkerhetsmyndighet – NSM) revealed 50 companies in the oil sector were hacked and 250 more are now being warned by the government agency. NSM is Norway’s prevention unit for serious hack attacks.

The attack was the largest of its kind against Norwegian interests to take place, reported Dagens Næringsliv on Wednesday.

From News On Japan, a terminal alert:

Japan airports’ Wi-Fi allows snooping

Users of free wireless Internet connections at Japan’s Narita, Kansai and Kobe airports are vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping of their e-mail and web browsing, a study by an information and communications specialist showed Tuesday.

Such risks can be prevented by encrypting Wi-Fi connections, but the three airports refrain from doing so in favour of user convenience, as password entry would be required for encrypted Internet connections.

Free Wi-Fi connections are available at about 900,000 locations nationwide including public facilities and convenience stores, but many of them are not encrypted, according to Masakatsu Morii, a professor at a graduate school of engineering at Kobe University.

SecurityWeek gets proactive:

Singapore Boosts Cyber Security After Hacking Incidents

Singapore on Tuesday announced new measures to strengthen cyber security to prevent a recurrence of attacks on government websites including those of its president and prime minister.

Information minister Yaacob Ibrahim said the government is upgrading its Cyber-Watch Centre, allowing it to track malicious activities and respond swiftly when there are security breaches. The upgrades are expected to be completed by January 2015.

“Large-scale cyber security breaches have made headlines and raised public concerns,” Yaacob said in a speech to a conference of experts in Singapore, referring to attacks against US retailer Target and other international incidents. “Governments, businesses, manufacturers and consumers must guard against data leakage, unauthorized access to corporate resources and malware attack against their networks,” he said.

From Network World, ad-umbration:

New malvertising campaign hit visitors of several high-profile sites

Some visitors to several high-profile websites last week were redirected to browser exploits that installed malware on their computers because of malicious advertisements on those sites.

The attack affected visitors to Java.com, Deviantart.com, TMZ.com, Photobucket.com, IBTimes.com, eBay.ie, Kapaza.be and TVgids.nl between Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, according to researchers from Dutch security firm Fox-IT.

“These websites have not been compromised themselves, but are the victim of malvertising,” the researchers said Wednesday in a blog post. “This means an advertisement provider, providing its services to a small part of a website, serves malicious advertisement aimed at infecting visitors with malware.”

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including cyberwar, simultaneous blasts of rhetorical artillery are accompanied by feelers to set out the rules to a game they’ve been [dangerously] improvising, Abe again invokes vanquished imperialists while China evokes their mortal foes, Tokyo diplomatic posturing, a Pakistani challenge, beefed up Aussie security and a healed intel rift, Hanoi/Beijing fence-mending, Seoul/Tokyo talks, a Pyongyang riposte, a Chinese crackdown, and a telling suppression of free speech in the good ol’ U.S.A. . . Continue reading

The American Frankenstein faces its monster


For years the American government’s black ops boys and girls stirred up religious fundamentalists to rise up against strong central governments, invoking populist justifications.

Needless to say, students of history will recognize parallels with other extremists bent on purification through extermination of “impure” or parasitic elements.

And now the blowback, plus a lot more dark arts games are unfolding, with the ironic twists becoming ever more blatant.

First, this from intelNews:

US sharing intelligence with Syrian government, say sources

The United States is secretly sharing intelligence about the Islamic State with the government of Syria, according to sources.

On Monday, American officials told the Associated Press that US President Barack Obama had authorized reconnaissance flights over Syrian airspace with the aim of gathering intelligence on the Islamic State —known previously as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

Pentagon officials said the reconnaissance flights are intended to collect “additional intelligence” on the Islamic State’s troop movements in Syria. Their ultimate goal is reportedly to assist the president and his advisors as they contemplate whether the US should launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets on Syrian soil.

From The Intercept, the latest from Glenn Greenwald:

The Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria

It was not even a year ago when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. The standard cast of “liberal interventionists” –  Tony Blair, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Nicholas Kristof and Samantha Power – issued stirring sermons on the duties of war against Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry actually compared Assad to (guess who?) Hitler, instructing the nation that “this is our Munich moment.” Striking Assad, he argued, “is a matter of national security. It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region.”

U.S. military action against the Assad regime was thwarted only by overwhelming American public opinion which opposed it and by a resounding rejection by the UK Parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to assume the usual subservient British role in support of American wars.

Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed “Bomb Assad!” campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.

The Progressive notes another irony:

ISIS’s Brand of Islam Similar to U.S. Ally’s

While the Obama Administration is figuring out the best way to combat the extremism of groups like ISIS, it continues to maintain close ties with the Middle Eastern regime that promotes the same brand of Islam.

“The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ,” California State University-Stanislaus Professor Asad AbuKhalil tells The Progressive.

In an online column, AbuKhalil elaborates on his view.

“Mainstream Islam frowns upon the views, excesses, practices and interpretations of ISIS,” he writes. “But Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.”

Finally, from The Real News Network, a Jessica Desvarieux interview with veteran Middle East beat journalist Patrick Cockburn, who has reported for both the Financial Times and, currently, the Guardian. His latest book is The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

From The Real News Network:

The Islamic State, Assad, and the Contradictions Faced by the US in Syria

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Patrick, there are so many contradictions in this story. Let’s try to work out some of these contradictions. First explain the U.S.’s objectives in Syria. And how did it come to be that they are now fighting the very same forces that they once supported?

COCKBURN: Yes. It’s something of a diplomatic disaster. The U.S. supported the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad to weaken and replace him over the last three years. But over the last year and a half, the main opposition has been jihadis, al-Qaeda type organizations, and over the last six months it’s been the Islamic State, ISIS, which the U.S. is fighting in or were helping the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government fight in Iraq. So in one country they’re supporting the government against ISIS, in Iraq, and in Syria they’re doing exactly the opposite, they’re opposing the government, which is fighting ISIS. And I don’t think this contradiction can go on very long. I think soon they’ll have to decide whose side they’re on.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah, and that’s a good question, because there are consequences depending on which side they choose, because if they look to topple Assad, that benefits ISIS. If they look to attack ISIS, that helps Assad. So it seems like quite a mess. What would you suggest they do?

COCKBURN: Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that the great threat to both these countries is ISIS, which is a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam. They killed last week a single tribe that opposed them. They killed 700 members. Another 1,500 have disappeared. So these are big-scale massacres. So I think they should oppose ISIS. But they need to do it effectively, which means that they have a parallel policy with the Syrian government, which they’ve been trying to overthrow. I don’t think they’re going to have a U-turn in that policy, because it would be to humiliating. But covertly I think that they’re shifting their ground. They need to prevent Assad’s government falling to ISIS.

DroneWatch: Flying high and on the ground


We open our collection with a video report on the latest military front from RT America:

Obama sending drones to monitor ISIS in Syria

Program notes:

The US is further ramping up its involvement in the Levant as the Islamic State threat grows. On Tuesday, the Obama administration revealed it will conduct surveillance flights over Syria to monitor the radical jihadists that have taken control of large portions of the country. Longtime foes, the US and Syria both announced they are not working together on the operation, and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned that while surveillance is acceptable, unilateral strikes will be viewed as acts of aggression. Matt Southworth of the Friends Committee on National Legislation speaks with RT’s Manila Chan on the expanding conflict.

And by away of an aside, consider a case of an earthbound munition you might call a drone of on wheels, via Spiegel:

Factory and Lab: Israel’s War Business

Israel invests more money in research than most other countries — and in no other place are research institutes, the defense industry, the army and politics as interwoven. The result is a high-tech weapons factory that successfully exports its goods globally.

There’s not much left of the high-tech car. In a warehouse about the size of an aircraft hangar, its remains look tiny. There are no wheels, no chassis, just the angular body of the car. And it’s not in good shape at all. There’s a gaping hole in its side with edges of lacerated metal. “Rocket-propelled grenade,” says Yoav Hirsh, smiling. Had a person been inside, he or she would likely not have survived the blast. But there was no one behind the wheel: The Guardium is a fully automated vehicle.

Pride radiates from Hirsh — who has a mix of gray and white hair, an athletic frame and a determined look on his face — when he talks about his cars. He’s the CEO of G-Nius, one of first companies in the world able to produce an army of robot fighters. The Guardium has been used since 2007 in patrols along the border of the Gaza Strip. It can be guided by remote control or can steer itself through a pre-selected route as its cameras and sensors capture data about the surroundings.

“Guardium already has 60,000 hours of operations behind it,” Hirsh says. “And it has saved many lives.” He says the aim is to complete “missions without any risk to the soldiers.” But in addition to saving lives, G-Nius vehicles can also destroy them, using remote-control weapons systems mounted on top of the unmanned vehicles. Hirsh notes that, although the weapons-equipped vehicles haven’t yet been used, they are deployable. In another warehouse, a standard Ford F350 pick-up truck is parked, one equipped with its own weapons station. The cameras and sensors are real but the machine gun is a dummy. “We’re a civilian firm, after all,” Hirsh says.

Back to those flying machines, this time from the corporate and private sectors.

From RT:

Dawn of Drones: Civilian UAVs to flood US skies amid fears of collision risks

Program notes:

In March a US airways pilot reported a near-miss with a tiny drone over Tallahassee Airport in Florida. And that is just one case of 15 recently registered. RT’s Gayane Chichikyan reports.

From The Hill, another one of those incidents:

FAA investigating drone over NFL game

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking into a drone that allegedly flew over an NFL preseason game in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday evening.

The agency said in a statement provided to The Hill on Wednesday that it “is investigating a report it received from local law enforcement about an unmanned aircraft operating over Bank of America Stadium” while the Carolina Panthers hosted the Kansas City Chiefs.

The incident is not the first time the FAA has investigated drone use in connection with a sporting event. The agency stopped the Washington Nationals baseball team from using drones to photograph some of its spring training games in Viera, Fla., earlier this year.

The FAA also shut down drone operations for a Minnesota beer company earlier this year.

And from The Daily Dot, drones over the Magic Kingdom™:

Disney patents drone technology that’s still technically illegal to use

When you think of the technology at Disney theme parks, the images that likely come to mind are the dated autonomatronics of rides like Pirates of Caribbean and the Country Bear Jamboree. Yet, the Happiest Place on Earth has actually long been a leader in the mass adoption of cutting-edge technologies. Not only is the company investing more than a billion dollars in the tech required to track every move made by every single visitor to the Magic Kingdom, but, according to a newly uncovered trio of patents, Disney wants to get into the drone business.

If Disney decides to actually implement the technologies contained in the patents, the result would be a major step forward in how drones are both used and conceptualized by the vast majority of Americans. However, under current Federal Aviation Administration regulations, actually using that technology would be against the law.

Disney’s patents seem to center around doing large-scale stage shows featuring disney characters. The technology would allow Disney to coordinate multiple drones such that they can operate giant puppets.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, toxins, water, climate nukes


And a whole lot more, so let’s get right to it, first with Reuters:

Senegalese WHO doctor with Ebola arrives for treatment in Germany

A Senegalese doctor who contracted Ebola while working for the World Health Organisation (WHO)in Sierra Leone arrived in Hamburg on Wednesday for treatment at a tropical medicine unit, becoming Germany’s first patient with the disease.

At a news conference on Wednesday the clinic’s tropical medicine specialist said the man would not be given new experimental drugs such as ZMapp but that his treatment would at first focus on managing his symptoms.

The Senegalese doctor arrived in Germany on a specialist plane and was transferred to the university clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf in a special isolation ambulance, accompanied by a police guard.

CBC News adds more:

Ebola-infected WHO scientist in Sierra Leone goes to Germany, Canadians pulled

  • Public Health Agency of Canada pulls its team of 3 from Sierra Leone as precaution

The World Health Organization announced it has shut down a laboratory in Sierra Leone after a Senegalese health worker was infected with the Ebola virus.

Three Canadians from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg are among the six workers who have withdrawn to Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, Christy Feig, a WHO spokeswoman in West Africa, told CBC News.

Feig said the Canadian government made the call to withdraw its workers in consultation with the WHO.

The WHO has sent in a team to see if this was a routine, straightforward infection or if structural changes need to be made to keep health-care workers safe.

Sky News tracks contagion:

Ebola Nurse ‘May Have Caught Virus From Child’

  • William Pooley, who is being treated in a London hospital, formed a bond with a boy whose mother died from the disease

A British nurse infected with ebola in Sierra Leone might have caught it while playing with a toddler whose mother had died of the deadly disease, a colleague has said.

William Pooley was flown home at the weekend and admitted to an isolation unit at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, where he has been given the experimental drug ZMapp.

While working as a volunteer at a clinic in eastern Sierra Leone the 29-year-old developed a bond with a baby boy named Sellu Borbor, according to his supervisor Finda Josephine Sellu.

As does Uganda’s own Daily Monitor:

Man steals phone from Ebola patient, gets infected

Security and medical officials in Kibaale District have registered a case in which a man allegedly went in an isolation ward at Kagadi Hospital and stole a cellular phone from one of the Ebola patients.

The 40-year-old resident of Kyakabugahya LCI in Kagadi Town Council travelled about three kilometers to the hospital to apparently obtain a phone estimated to be valued at Shs60,000 more than two weeks ago.

The suspect allegedly broke into the isolation ward on the night of Tuesday August 14, undetected by hospital guards. The patient, who has since succumbed to the deadly hemorrhagic fever, then reported the theft to the hospital security that then embarked on tracing the alleged thief.

Police detectives began tracking him after he apparently began communicating to his friends using the phone. But as police zeroed in on him, he developed symptoms similar to those of Ebola and sought medication at the hospital.

From the Guardian, another casualty:

Ebola claims life of third doctor in Sierra Leone

  • Dr Sahr Rogers was working in Kenema when he contracted the virus, raising fresh concerns over the country’s ability to fight it

A third top Ebola doctor has died in Sierra Leone, a government official in the west African nation has confirmed. The news came as another scientist, who also contracted the disease there, began treatment in Germany on Wednesday.

Health workers are trying to work out how the scientist, whose identity and condition are being withheld for privacy reasons, contracted Ebola before his overnight evacuation to a Hamburg hospital, it has been reported.

“The international surge of health workers is extremely important and if something happens, if health workers get infected and it scares off other international health workers from coming, we will be in dire straits,” said World Health Organisation spokesman Christy Feig.

Next, a video report from Agence France-Presse:

Liberian medical crew collects suspected Ebola victims

Program notes:

Ambulance workers in the Liberian capital don protective clothing to pick up people suspected of being infected with Ebola.

BBC News announces a shutdown:

Ebola outbreak: Nigeria closes all schools until October

All schools in Nigeria have been ordered to remain shut until 13 October as part of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The new academic year was due to start on Monday.

But the education minister ordered the closures to allow staff to be trained on how to handle suspected Ebola cases.

Reuters covers economic costs:

Ebola travel bans threaten Ivory Coast cocoa crop forecasts

International cocoa exporters in Ivory Coast are restricting staff movements due to the worsening Ebola outbreak on the top grower’s western borders, risking leaving traders and exporters without accurate output forecasts for the upcoming season.

Ivory Coast produced nearly 1.45 million tonnes of cocoa last season, according to International Cocoa Organization estimates, almost 37 percent of world supply. Crop forecasts by experts who visit farms to count pods are closely watched by the market ahead of the main harvest that starts in October.

Traders said there are also concerns there could be an exodus of farmers if the disease spreads to the growing regions in the west of the country.

As does the Guardian:

Ebola epidemic takes toll on business in quarantine zones and across Africa

  • Repercussions have radiated from far-flung villages to financial markets, and from rural farmers to urban dollar boys

When his neighbours began falling ill with Ebola, Sheikh Kallon felt fortunate that he was well enough to continue tending his farm deep in the forested interior of Sierra Leone. Then, one of his drinking buddies died of the disease, and Kallon’s entire family was quarantined for 21 days.

“I asked my workers to keep going to the farm, but they said they don’t want to touch money from my hands in case they get Ebola,” he said.

With his crops rotting in the fields, Kallon now spends his days sitting with his family on their porch surrounded by soldiers enforcing the quarantine. The soldiers hardly need bother: lifelong neighbours are too terrified to approach, and a few miles away an entire community that has been unable to trade altogether has run out of salt.

From People’s Daily, news of absence is not absence of news:

China reports no cases of Ebola

China’s health authorities confirmed on Tuesday that a returnee who was hospitalized as “an observation case of Ebola” has been confirmed not infected.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission told Xinhua the returnee, a translator who arrived in Beijing on Sunday from Libya, developed symptoms of vomiting and fever, and was sent to the hospital as a precaution.

The patient has since been cleared as not infected with Ebola. China currently reports no case of the disease.

From Jiji Press, absent no longer:

Japan Confirms 1st Domestic Dengue Infection since 1945

A Japanese woman under 20 has been infected with dengue fever, the first confirmed domestic infection with the tropical disease since 1945, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Wednesday.

The dengue virus is likely to have been transmitted to the woman from an infected traveler via a mosquito in Japan because she has never traveled overseas. She is in a stable condition in hospital, ministry officials said.

At a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government will identify the route of infection and collect more information on suspicious dengue cases.

From the World Health Organization, a plea:

WHO calls for stronger action on climate-related health risks

Previously unrecognized health benefits could be realized from fast action to reduce climate change and its consequences. For example, changes in energy and transport policies could save millions of lives annually from diseases caused by high levels of air pollution. The right energy and transport policies could also reduce the burden of disease associated with physical inactivity and traffic injury.

Measures to adapt to climate change could also save lives around the world by ensuring that communities are better prepared to deal with the impact of heat, extreme weather, infectious disease and food insecurity.

These are two key messages being discussed at the first-ever global conference on health and climate, which opens today at WHO headquarters in Geneva. The conference brings together over 300 participants, including government ministers, heads of UN agencies, urban leaders, civil society and leading health, climate and sustainable-development experts.

And from the New York Times, the political play:

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

Moving on to water woes with the Los Angeles Times:

Central California residents rely on bottled water as wells run dry

Extreme drought conditions have become so harsh for the Central Valley community of East Porterville, many of its residents dependent on their own wells have run out of water.

Roughly 300 homes have received a three-week supply of bottled water after Tulare County officials discovered their wells had gone dry.

In all, county officials distributed 15,552 1-gallon bottles of water, and have been filling a 2,500-gallon tank with nonpotable water so residents can flush toilets and bathe.

On a comparatively lighter note, this from Jim Morin, editorial cartoonist for the Miami Herald:

BLOG Envirotoon

A call for clearing the air from Newswise:

Trash Burning Worldwide Significantly Worsens Air Pollution

Unregulated trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. A new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimates that more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change.

The new study provides the first rough estimates, on a country-by-country basis, of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Such pollutants have been linked to serious medical issues.

The researchers also estimated emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas produced by human activity.

Unlike emissions from commercial incinerators, the emissions from burning trash in open fires often go unreported to environmental agencies and are left out of many national inventories of air pollution. For that reason, they are not incorporated into policy making.

After the jump, a Reefer Madness recantation Down Under, Japanese whaling intransigence, [including dumps, price tags, and dislocation numbers], an American nuclear green light, offshore drilling anxieties in California and Spain, an Aussie coal mining investment review, water-splitting, and Superfund gentrification. . . Continue reading