Category Archives: Africa

Chart of the day: Resistance to malaria drug

UC Berkeley “bioengineer” Jay Keasling became a media darling after Bill Gates decided to bankroll Amyris [previously], a company that would tweak the genes to the antimalarial drug artemisinin which would be far cheaper than the standard version, refined from plants grown by small farmers in Africa and Southeast Asia.

By the time all was said and done, production of the GMO-derived drug was given to a Big Pharma outfit and produced at a price that was no cheaper than the existing drug.

The net result: Small farmer saw their incomes cut.

The notion of artemisinin as a panacea for the disease, a cause Gates no doubt saw as a way to use his wealth to do good, has been soundly defeated, as indicated in this graphic from the 31 July 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal:

BLOG Artemisinin

World Malaria Day offered some key numbers in April:

BLOG Malaria

Keassling’s company repurposed itself to reengineer the bugs to produce cheap fuel from plant cellulose, fuels more efficient than the ethanol derived from more readily refined plant sugars.

The company went public with much fanfare and media hype, and stock soon rose to $33.85. But as the hype proved just that, shares began to fall, currently selling for $2.13 a share. But Keasling sold out early and walked away with an eight-figure payoff.

And the search for a more effective antimalarial is on.

She’s back: Abby Martin lands a Telesur show

A hearty welcome back to the East San Francisco Bay Area’s own Abby Martin, a passionate video journalist and artist whose RT America series Breaking the Set provided incisive alternative takes on critical issues of the day from September, 2012 to February 2015.

We were saddened by her departure from RT, and welcome the arrival her new show every Friday on Telesur English.

In this edition of The Empire Files, she interviews former New York Times Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Hedges on the power of the media and its spinners in the furtherance of American imperial dreams and the internalization of imperial control in the United States itself:

Abby Martin & Chris Hedges: War, Propaganda & the Enemy Within

Program notes:

Abby Martin interviews Chris Hedges on American myths, war and revolt. Hedges explains the ‘folly of Empire,’ the dangers posed by right-wing extremism and the urgent need for a new system.

Chris Hedges is a former New York Times journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of several books including his most recent, “Wages of Rebellion: the Moral Imperative of Revolt.” He publishes a weekly column on and is the host of Days of Revolt, airing every Monday night on teleSUR english.

teleSUR’s The Empire Files airs every Friday night at 10:00 EST / 7:00 PST. Watch live here:

FOLLOW @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spies, hacks, terror, pols

We begin with a positive development, via CNN:

Ferguson police chief resigns, says it’s ‘hard pill to swallow’

Embattled Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned Wednesday, a week after a scathing Justice Department report slammed his department. Jackson and the city “have agreed to a mutual separation,” Ferguson officials announced.

“It’s a really hard pill to swallow,” Jackson said in a text message responding to CNN’s request for comment. He also confirmed his resignation in a letter to Ferguson’s mayor.

“It is with profound sadness that I am announcing I am stepping down from my position as chief of police for the city of Ferguson, Missouri,” Jackson said, adding that serving the city as police chief “has been an honor and a privilege.”

From BuzzFeed News, young-uns quick on the trigger:

Younger Police Officers Are More Likely To Shoot People Than Older Ones

Research shows that younger officers are more likely to be involved in shootings, even though age is rarely mentioned as a factor in the aftermath. “It’s a dirty little secret that we’re hiring police officers too young,” a veteran Boston officer said.

The age of an officer is perhaps the least-discussed factor in a fatal encounter with police, and the maturity of an officer rarely comes up in news conferences after an incident. Age wasn’t mentioned in the Justice Department’s deep, 86-page analysis of Brown’s fatal shooting released last week.

Yet research shows that younger officers are more likely to be involved in shootings, and that the risk of shootings declines as officers age. That may be because younger officers are more likely to be working on the street than behind a desk, according to researchers, but it could also be that younger officers are predisposed to react with deadly force.

Unions for the Ferguson Police Department, New York City Police Department, and Cleveland Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

What’s a little snooping between friends?, via the Guardian:

Australian spy officer was sent to New Zealand to lead new surveillance unit

  • New revelations also show NZ’s spy agency, GCSB, had access to NSA program to hack phones and computers of targets in the Asia-Pacific

Australia’s defence intelligence agency sent an officer to work with New Zealand’s spy agency to help them develop their cyber capabilities and lead a new operational unit, new documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal.

On Wednesday the New Zealand Herald and the Intercept published new revelations about the role of New Zealand’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) which disclose new details about its role gathering intelligence from Vietnam, China, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Pacific nations and other countries.

The disclosures also reveal that the GCSB had access to an NSA program codenamed WARRIORPRIDE used to access phones and computers that “can collect against an Asean target”. A March 2013 report describes New Zealand working towards improving its cyber capabilities to improve detection, discovery of new tools and disruption of the source of intrusions.

From the Verge, flying high to get the downlow:

The CIA helped develop planes that scrape cell phone data

The US may be using cellphone-sniffing planes to find suspects across the world, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. In November, the Journal revealed the US Marshal’s secret program to locate specific fugitive through airplane equipped to mimic cell towers. Flying over an urban area, the planes can pinpoint the location of a single number amid a million or more phones. The new report shows the technology first originated with the CIA, which guided the initial deployment of the planes by the Marshal Service. Furthermore, Journal sources say continues to be used to locate intelligence targets overseas.

If true, the report unveils a powerful weapon in US intelligence efforts abroad, but also reveals a troubling trend of foreign intelligence tools used for domestic law enforcement purposes. The plane-mounted cellphone detector is a potentially ingenious tool for intelligence gathering, but it seems to have moved from CIA intelligence work to domestic fugitive tracking with little to no oversight, a troubling reminder of how easily tools designed for the War on Terror can be put to domestic ends. Electronic privacy advocates have already raised doubt about the practice. “There’s a lot of privacy concerns in something this widespread, and those concerns only increase if we have an intelligence agency coordinating with them,” the EFF’s Andrew Crocker told the Journal.

Norse cops busted for doing what American cops — and spooks — do routinely, via

Norway police broke law with fake base stations

Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) persistently violated the law as it established a network of fake mobile phone base stations across Oslo last year, Norway’s Aftenposten has revealed.

According to the paper, police and PST deliberately ignored a requirement that they should inform the country’s telecoms authority before setting up ‘IMSI catchers’, which mimic mobile base stations, allowing their operators to intercept and eavesdrop on mobile phone calls made nearby.

The newspaper last December identified a series of “fake base stations” outside Norway’s parliament, outside its government headquarters, and outside the residence of the prime minister, using a German CryptoPhone 500 to identify them.

It now appears that many, if not all of the devices, were set up by Norway’s own security services.

From Agence France-Presse, a Dutch metadata and email collection defeat:

Dutch court nixes data storage law, says privacy breached

A Dutch court on Wednesday struck down a law requiring telecoms and Internet service providers to store their clients’ private phone and email data, saying it breached European privacy rules.

“The judge ruled that data retention is necessary and effective to combat serious crime. Dutch legislation however infringes on the individual’s right to privacy and the protection of personal data,” the Hague district court said.

“The law therefore contravenes the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,” the court said in a statement. Seven groups and organisations including privacy watchdog Privacy First and the Dutch Association of Journalists dragged the Dutch state to court last month over the issue.

From SecurityWeek, don’t phone it in:

Dropbox Android SDK Flaw Exposes Mobile Users to Attack: IBM

IBM researchers discovered a flaw in Dropbox’s Android SDK which can leave mobile users vulnerable to attack.

The issue was not in the Dropbox service or the mobile app itself, but rather in the company’s SDK that third-party developers include to let users easily connect to their Dropbox files, Michael Montecillo, director of security intelligence at IBM Security, told SecurityWeek.

The vulnerability (CVE-2014-8889) was present in the SDK versions 1.5.4 through 1.5.1.

From the Associated Press, Cold War 2.0 intensifies:

Ukraine’s neighbor Poland to test resilience to attack

Poland will hold an exercise this year to test its resilience to a “crisis” like the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, President Bronislaw Komorowski said Wednesday.

Komorowski spoke to reporters during an annual meeting of army commanders and the defense minister that examines Poland’s defense potential and outlines key security tasks.

He said the nation needs to raise its defense potential in the face of threats, including the armed conflict that involves Poland’s two neighbors, Russia and Ukraine.

More casualties in the Forth Estate, via Fox News Latino:

2 Journalists murdered in Guatemala

Two journalists, one who worked for the daily Prensa Libre and another employed by Radio Nuevo Mundo, were murdered in front of a government office building in Suchitepequez, a province in Guatemala, emergency services officials said.

Danilo Lopez and Federico Salazar were gunned down on Tuesday in the city of Mazatenango’s central park by two individuals riding a motorcycle.

Lopez, a reporter for Prensa Libre, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Salazar, who worked for Radio Nuevo Mundo, died at a hospital in the city.

From RT, the Hexagon at high alert:

France to keep 10,000 troops on streets as terror threat remains high

As the threat of attacks by Islamist extremists remains high in France, President Francois Hollande has decided to continue the deployment of 10,000 troops on the streets across the country.

“The threat of terrorist attack against our country remains high. The head of state has decided to maintain the level of the army on the national territory at 10,000 troops in support of security forces from the Interior Ministry,” Hollande’s office said in a statement after a meeting of senior ministers, AFP reported.

A total of 7,000 troops will be monitoring and protecting religious buildings that are “particularly threatened,” the statement added.

From, ISIS insanity:

Italian police: ‘Isis flag’ was jacket in tree

Police called to investigate an alleged Isis flag hanging outside an apartment building in Italy made a surprise discovery, finding what they feared may be extremist propaganda was, in fact, a resident’s washing put out to dry.

Police were called to an apartment block in Porto Recanati, on Italy’s eastern coast, after locals raised the alarm that an Isis sympathizer may be within their midst.

The officers searched the building and questioned residents, but were unable to recover the mystery black cloth spotted hanging from a tree next to the apartment block.

On further investigation police discovered that the supposed propaganda tool was nothing more than a jacket, swept into the trees after being hung out to dry, Corriere della Sera reported on Wednesday.

From Agence France-Presse, Britain’s NSA goes all how-to:

UK spies write ‘how to catch a terrorist’ guide

Secrecy is a cornerstone of spycraft, but Britain’s GCHQ communications agency has gone public with a guide on how to catch a “terrorist” as the government calls for increased online snooping powers.

In an apparent effort to make the secret services more transparent, the five-step guide illustrated with the image of an old-school spy in a trenchcoat was published on the monitoring agency’s website.

Entitled “How does an analyst catch a terrorist?”, it takes readers through the ways in which GCHQ analysts identify a suspicious stranger spotted overseas.

Under the scenario, the guide says an MI6 source based overseas spots  a leader of the Islamic State group handing a stranger a message containing information “that will cause carnage across London”.

After the jump, the Saudi/Swedish schism widens after a denunciation and an arms deal ended, on to the ISIS battlefront, first with another archaeological assault, ISIS on the brink of losing Tikrit while another city threatens to fall under ISIS guns, America’s top general voices concerns of events after an ISIS collapse, Washington frets over its own anti-Assad forces, hundreds of medics killed in the Syrian conflict, the UN’s plan to send Syrian refugees to northern Europe, and ISIS hacks Japanese websites while Anonymous down an ISIS social network, it’s on the the Boko Haram front and the claim of hundreds slain, France pledges more troops to the effort, and the U.S. backs a U.N. call for a regional anti-Boko Haram command, Indonesian fears of an ISIS insurgency and Indonesia threatens to flood Australia with refugees, Chinese island-building draws a Philippine demand, Japan mulls extending North Korean sanctions, the U.S. Marine commandant frets an Okinawan base relocation, and after Ringling Brothers retires its elephants, the Pentagon ponders using them as bomb detectors. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Predictions, politics, and medicines

We begin with a prediction, via the New York Times:

Ebola Outbreak Could Be Ended by Summer, U.N. Says

The Ebola outbreak that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives over the past 15 months could be halted by the summer, but only if international financial support is sustained, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

“This crisis can be stopped completely,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is leading the organization’s response to the epidemic, told reporters in Geneva. “It should be possible to stop transmission by the middle of the year.”

He cautioned, however, that “there’s a need for reinvestment and reinvigoration of the program if we are to get this finished.”

More from the World Health Organization:

WHO and World Food Programme join forces to reach zero Ebola cases

WHO and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are combining their forces in a new partnership in the Ebola-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The arrangement combines the logistics strength of WFP with WHO’s public health expertise to help get the current Ebola outbreak down to zero cases in West Africa. The platform also establishes an alert and response infrastructure for future crises.

“This partnership increases both agencies’ abilities to reach, monitor and respond to the needs of all people touched by Ebola,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “It helps us deploy and maintain technical teams with expertise in infection prevention and control, epidemiology, and contact tracing, enabling dedicated health workers in the deep field to do their best work. The partnership is also a learning opportunity for the future, informing our capacities to launch joint operations during large scale emergencies.”

“Over the past seven months, partnerships have been crucial in fighting this devastating outbreak. WFP has worked with our partners to respond to communities’ most basic needs — making sure food is reaching everywhere that the Ebola virus has hit.

Our logistical support to WHO and the wider humanitarian community has enabled affected people to receive the urgent care and support they need,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “We are making progress, however we must remain vigilant. The Ebola crisis will not end until we identify, reach and successfully treat every last case. Recognizing this goal, the WHO-WFP partnership – a joint technical and operational force – will continue providing the support required to achieve zero cases.”

From the Los Angeles Times, the downside to the upside:

New Ebola cases are declining: Why that’s bad news for a cure

After killing at least 9,936 people and infecting more than 24,202, the Ebola epidemic appears to be running out of steam. And for some medical researchers, this hard-won progress poses a problem.

The Ebola virus has retreated so dramatically in recent months that it may be too late to determine the effectiveness of the many experimental drugs and vaccines that have been rushed into production.

Unless the outbreak explodes again, potential cures such as ZMapp can’t be given to enough patients to accurately determine their effect. Nor is the virus infecting enough people to let researchers test the efficacy of two potential vaccines that are being given to about 18,000 health and emergency workers in Liberia.

Even proposals to treat patients by transfusing into them blood serum from Ebola survivors have become impossible to test with scientific rigor.

Agence France-Presse covers a vaccine trial:

Ebola: first vaccine trials underway in Guinea

Program notes:

Tests of an anti-Ebola vaccine are underway in Guinea on volunteers to assess its effectiveness before being put on the market.

And a new drug trial, via Science:

New Ebola drug trial starts in Sierra Leone

Researchers in Sierra Leone today started a new phase II trial of an experimental drug in Ebola patients. The first participant received an injection of the therapeutic, called TKM-Ebola, this morning at an Ebola treatment unit in Kerry Town. The trial may expand to other sites; the study team hopes to have an answer fast so that it can either move on to another drug or start a phase III study of TKM-Ebola.

Produced by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals in Burnaby, Canada, TKM-Ebola is made of synthetic, small interfering RNAs packaged into lipid nanoparticles. The RNAs target three of Ebola’s seven genes, blocking the virus’s replication. TKM-Ebola has been shown to work well in monkeys; the efficacy trial in humans is only starting now because there was not enough of the drug available earlier. Also, the RNAs have been adapted to the strain circulating at the moment.

The study does not have a placebo arm; all patients at the trial site are eligible for the drug, and researchers hope to determine whether it works by comparing them with patients treated elsewhere.

From the Guardian, another European afflicted:

UK military health worker tests positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone

  • Public Health England confirms case but will not say where the individual was working, as discussions are under way about whether to fly them to Britain

A UK military healthcare worker has tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone, Public Health England has confirmed. No details about the individual have been released.

Discussions are now under way as to whether to fly the healthcare worker back to the UK for treatment in the specialist unit at the Royal Free hospital in London. Two healthcare volunteers, Will Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey, were both repatriated and successfully treated at the Royal Free.

PHE will not say where the latest healthcare worker to be infected was working, but it is likely to have been in the military-run Ebola unit, which is situated in the grounds of the Kerry Town treatment centre run by Save the Children. It was at Kerry Town that Cafferkey was infected, probably during the process of taking off her face mask, which was of a different design to that worn by the rest of the volunteers.

On to Sierra Leone, first with an accountability fund, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

US$178,000 project to enhance citizens’ trust in Ebola response

A consortium of civil society organisations has been formed to revive citizens’ trust and confidence in the governance and management of the emergency and recovery phase of the Ebola response.

With support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the organizations – Campaign for Good Governance, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, Center for the Coordination of Youth Activities, Democracy Sierra Leone, ActionAid Sierra Leone, Institute for Governance Reform, and Budget Advocacy Network – last Friday (6 March) unveiled a project titled: ‘Enhancing Trust between Citizens and Government in Sierra Leone’s Ebola Response’, worth US$178,300.

According to ActionAid’s Governance Advisor, Beatrice Serry, the overall purpose of the project is to strengthen state-citizens relationship through promoting transparency and accountability in the allocation and use of Ebola resources.

The Christian Science Monitor covers a change in direction:

As Ebola threat abates, Sierra Leone turns attention to survivors

  • Having lost family members themselves, Ebola survivors often face discrimination when they return to their communities. They also suffer from unexpected health side-effects from the virus.

Since the start of the outbreak, Sierra Leone has had 8,353 confirmed cases of Ebola, according to the National Ebola Response Center. Of these, 3,086 individuals, or 37 percent, survived, yet now face social discrimination, neglect, and possible life-long health problems.

The government is now turning its attention towards this population and their needs, while it continues to work towards zero new Ebola cases. There is no specific plan in place, but the rollout of support groups and free access for survivors to healthcare could be key indicators of how well the country can rebound from the disease.

The initial government support comes in the form of reintegration packages, worth $200, that provide each survivor with items like food, a mattress, and condoms. It provides a first step for many who have lost everything in a nation that barely a decade ago emerged from a decades-long civil war.

From the Sierra Leone Concord Times again, pledging allegiance:

President Koroma vows to support Chinese policies

While thanking the Chinese government and people for the provision of a fixed level 3 bio-safety laboratory which he described as a great opportunity in the promotion of the health sector, President Ernest Bai Koroma has vowed to support the policies of China in Sierra Leone.

President Koroma noted that, “Our journey with China started 40 years ago and every step has seen evidence of support in development. The journey has been long but very interesting and every step shows significant milestone.”

He said the relationship between China and Sierra Leone was put to test during the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease, noting that Beijing responded promptly and adequately with the provision of financial, logistics and personnel support to fight the scourge.

On to Liberia, first with a commemoration from the Associated Press:

Liberia holds church service for Ebola victims

Liberians held a church service Wednesday for Ebola victims to mark the country’s 99th National Decoration Day, a holiday normally set aside for people to clean up and re-decorate the graves of their lost relatives.

More than 4,100 people have died in in Liberia since the outbreak began about a year ago in West Africa. The vast majority of those victims were cremated, so the gathering at a Presbyterian church in the capital, Monrovia, was held to remember those without graves.

Nearly 20 barrels of ashes from about 3,000 victims will eventually be buried on a plot bought by the government as a cemetery for Ebola victims. Some bodies of suspected victims were buried Wednesday in a new grave site on the outskirts of Monrovia.

And a concession, via the New York Times:

Liberian Leader Concedes Errors in Response to Ebola

The president of Liberia acknowledged on Wednesday that she had erred in ordering a tough security crackdown at the height of the Ebola crisis last year, describing the deadly virus as an “unknown enemy” that had frightened her.

The president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel peace laureate, said that in hindsight, her deployments of troops and police officers to seal off a vast neighborhood in her nation’s capital — which set off skirmishes with residents, fueled distrust of the government and led to the death of a teenager — had been counterproductive.

“It did not take long to know that did not work,” she said in an interview with the The New York Times Editorial Board. “It created more tension in the society.”

InSecurityWatch: Cops, crime, war, terror, history

We begin with cops, first with the Christian Science Monitor:

From Wisconsin to Georgia, police shooting investigations are changing

In the past three days, three unarmed black men in three cities were shot by police. In two out of three cases, the shootings will be examined by an outside investigator as jurisdictions try to instil greater accountability.

The decision by police in Dekalb County, Ga., to hand an investigation into the officer-related shooting of an unarmed, and naked, black man to the state bureau of investigation is part of a dramatic re-think, amid continuing street protests, of how to adjudicate cases where unarmed civilians die at the hands of US police officers.

Dekalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander tied the decision to investigate the death of Air Force veteran and aspiring R&B singer Anthony Hill to a broader movement toward having independent investigators handle officer-involved shootings, especially in cases where unarmed black men are killed.

The killing of Mr. Hill became the third shooting of an unarmed black man in a span of three days across America. The shootings in Aurora, Colo., Madison, Wisc., and Chamblee, Ga., have put police on guard against another wave of public backlash like the one that swept the US last year in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

More from the New York Times:

Georgia Investigators Look Into Police Shooting of Naked, Unarmed Man

A witness to the fatal police shooting of a naked, unarmed man here said Tuesday that the man had approached the officer with his hands in the air, prompting the frightened officer to shoot at close range with a handgun.

The witness, Pedro Castillo, 43, is a maintenance man at the Heights at Chamblee, the apartment complex northeast of Atlanta where Anthony Hill, 27, was shot and killed Monday afternoon. Mr. Castillo, speaking Spanish, said that Mr. Hill, a black man, had seemed out of sorts. He was naked and on all fours in the parking lot when the police officer, who is white, arrived in his squad car, parking a good distance away. Mr. Castillo said.

When Mr. Hill saw the officer, Mr. Castillo said, he stood up and moved toward him with his hands raised, and the officer, obviously frightened, yelled for him to stop. Mr. Castillo said that he had not seen a scuffle, but that he did see the officer pull out the handgun and shoot Mr. Hill.

Ted Rall of the Los Angeles Times ponders another police shooting of an unarmed man in his city:


And from Al Jazeera America, revenge by hacking:

Cyber attack hits Madison police department after shooting of unarmed teen

  • Anonymous, the loose network of hackers, has taken credit for the attack on the Madison PD’s computer systems

Cyber attackers have compromised computer systems at the Madison Police Department in retaliation for the police shooting death of a 19-year-old unarmed black man in the Wisconsin capital city, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

The cyber attack appears to be continuing and could be hitting other city and county websites beyond the police department, said police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

The attack, which began Monday afternoon, was thought to be initiated by Anonymous, an international network of activist computer hackers, in response to the fatal shooting of Tony Robinson by a white Madison police officer on Friday.

On to Ferguson with CNN and a resignation:

Judge resigns, Ferguson cases moved after scathing DOJ report

Ferguson’s municipal judge has resigned and the city’s court cases are getting moved after the U.S. Justice Department said the court discriminated against African-Americans.

“To help restore public trust and confidence in the Ferguson municipal court division, the Supreme Court of Missouri today transferred Judge Roy L. Richter of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, to the St. Louis County Circuit Court, where he will be assigned to hear all of Ferguson’s pending and future municipal division cases,” the Supreme Court said in a statement Monday.

“Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis,” Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said in the statement.

The announcement came the same day Municipal Court Judge Ronald Brockmeyer resigned as Ferguson’s judge.

More from the Guardian:

Ferguson judge behind aggressive fines policy resigns as city’s court system seized

  • Ronald J Brockmeyer, accused in a scathing report of aggressively using the municipal court to raise revenue for the city, has stepped down

A scathing report by the Department of Justice last week concluded that Ferguson’s police and court system was blighted by racial bias. Investigators accused Brockmeyer and his court officials of aggressively using the municipal court to raise revenue for the city. The policy is blamed by many for damaging relations between the city’s overwhelmingly white authorities and residents, two-thirds of whom are African American.

Brockmeyer, 70, was singled out by investigators as a driving force behind Ferguson’s strategy of using its municipal court to generate revenues aggressively. Investigators found that Brockmeyer had boasted of creating a range of new court fines, “many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful”.

Ferguson is accused in a class-action federal lawsuit, brought by public defenders and legal non-profits, of imprisoning impoverished residents in the city jail for being unable to pay fines of a few hundred dollars for minor offences. While jailing residents, Brockmeyer owes more than $172,000 in unpaid taxes to the US government, the Guardian disclosed last week. A staff member at Brockmeyer’s law offices in St Charles County did not return a call seeking comment.

And the New York Times covers another quitter:

Ferguson City Manager Cited in Justice Department Report Resigns

The city manager of Ferguson, whom a Department of Justice report blamed for overseeing the financially driven policies that led to widespread discrimination and questionable conduct by the police and the courts here, has agreed to resign. The announcement came during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, about a week after the scathing Justice Department report was released.

The manager, John Shaw, 39, had held the post since 2007. As Ferguson’s chief executive, he was the city’s most powerful official.

Mr. Shaw, who has not spoken publicly since the report was issued, offered a staunch defense in a page-long letter to the community that city officials distributed during the Council meeting.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, tackling gender-based murder:

Brazil passes femicide law to tackle rise in gender killings

Brazil, where a woman is killed every two hours, is imposing tougher punishments on those who murder women and girls, as part of a government bid to stem a rise in gender killings.

President Dilma Rousseff said the new law gave a legal definition to the crime of femicide – the killing of a woman by a man because of her gender – and set out jail sentences of 12 to 30 years for convicted offenders.

The law also includes longer jail terms for crimes committed against pregnant women, girls under 14, women over 60 and people with disabilities.

From Der Spiegel, Berlin sounds an alarm over Washington war-mongering:

Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine

  • US President Obama supports Chancellor Merkel’s efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. But hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin’s approach. And NATO’s top commander in Europe hasn’t been helping either.

It was quiet in eastern Ukraine last Wednesday. Indeed, it was another quiet day in an extended stretch of relative calm. The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass. “What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

A response to other Washington war-mongering, via the Los Angeles Times:

Iran leader says GOP senators’ letter implies U.S. ‘not trustworthy’

Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday said that a letter from 47 Republican senators warning that any agreement on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program must receive congressional approval suggests that the U.S. is “not trustworthy.”

The open letter released Monday also warned Iran’s leaders that the next U.S. president could revoke a deal reached with President Obama.

“This kind of communication is unprecedented and undiplomatic,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, according to a state-run television website. “In fact it implies that the United States is not trustworthy.”

More from the Guardian:

Senate Democrats denounce Republican letter to Iran as call for war

  • Republicans’ attempt to ‘sabotage’ negotiations between western nations and Iran could escalate into military response, senators say

Prominent Senate Democrats have accused their Republican rivals of wanting to start a war with Iran on Tuesday, a day after conservative senators penned an open letter to Tehran.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer said that the 47 signatories to the letter are trying to “sabotage” talks between western powers and Iran. Boxer described the Republicans’ letter as “bizarre, inappropriate” and a “desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement” that she said is “in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world”.

“It appears that for most of my Republican colleagues in the Senate, a war in Afghanistan and a war in Iraq were not enough,” said Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with the Democratic Party, in a statement. “They now apparently want a war in Iran as well.” The Vermont senator called the letter “an outrage”.

After the jump, a Wikimedia suit targets the NSA, the curious case of the rich Spanish cop, old school terror thwarted in the Emerald Isle, neo-nazis busted in an Austrian xenophobic protest, anger follows a German mayor’s resignation under neo-nazi pressure, Sweden ends a lucrative Saudi arms trade, more French arrests of men linked to a slain terrorist, Spain claims a win over an Islamist attack cell, Iraq pushes ISIS back in Tikrit, The ten-year-old soldiers of ISIS, and an ISIS play in Libya facilitated by chaos, an ISIS announcement of more gay men executed, and a child executes an alleged spy, Chinese ISIS recruits head home to Xinjiang, the curious state of that ISIS/Boko Haram hookup, the Boko Haram campaign heats up with stronger foes and a new Nigeria raid, the CIA’s stealthy spookery to crack the iPhone, the man who makes Edward Snowden’s encryption tool, new software enables capture of Facebook login sites, cell phone records track and keep your every move, Spain’s ubiquitous downloading pirates, a rape documentary banned in India gets a gilded U.S. debut, a free speech protest meets a brutal Myanmar crackdown, China prepares a foreign NGO crackdown, Beijing decries Japanese media Nanjing Massacre revisionism, On to Tokyo and a Shinzo Abe advisor’s plea for a prime ministerial acknowledgment of Japanese WWII aggression, Japan’s military popularity hits an all-time high, and Angela Merkel tells Abe to get straight with South Korea on Comfort Women. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, Britain, responses, mines

We begin with the latest case counts, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, from the World Health Organization, Old Blighty nears a clearance:

United Kingdom is declared free of Ebola virus disease

WHO commends the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on its diligence in containing the transmission of Ebola virus disease (EVD). According to WHO guidelines, the United Kingdom is now free of Ebola virus disease.

On 28 December 2014, a health-care worker returned to Glasgow in the United Kingdom after volunteering at an Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone. The health-care worker, who had displayed no symptoms of EVD during the journey, developed a fever and myalgia on 29 December and was placed in strict isolation at the specialist Brownlee Unit for Infectious Diseases on the Gartnavel Hospital campus.

On the afternoon of 29 December 2014, laboratory testing using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) confirmed that the health-care worker had EVD. WHO was notified of the case. The patient was transferred for treatment in isolation at the Royal Free hospital in London on 30 December 2014 and remained there until fully recovered.

All passengers who travelled on the same flights as the health-care worker from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Casablanca, Morocco, and then to London Heathrow and Glasgow were contacted and monitored for any symptoms of EVD for 21 days. By 18 January, they all had completed the 21-day follow-up period without developing EVD.

From SciDev.Net, insurance:

View on Private Sector: Insurance for the next Ebola

As a result of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim has proposed an insurance policy to cover regional and worldwide disease outbreaks. According to the BBC, he said this could work like fire insurance: “The more you are prepared for a fire, like having several smoke detectors, the lower the premium you pay.” The implication is that the insurance market could be a force that drives countries to build up their health infrastructure.

Another organisation separately considering epidemic insurance is African Risk Capacity (ARC), a special agency of the African Union that helps member states plan for and respond to extreme weather. In 2013, the organisation established ARC Insurance Company, a firm that offers insurance against drought, and soon floods and cyclones, to 25 AU member states. Five countries have taken up the offer, with seven more planning to join them in May. The firm is a mutual, so any profits are reinvested in providing its service.

In January, the AU asked ARC to look into also insuring against epidemics such as Ebola. ARC programme director Joanna Syroka tells me she thinks it will be possible to offer such insurance schemes to one or two member states by 2017.

And from the Associated Press, a reassessment:

WHO creates independent panel to assess its Ebola response

The World Health Organization says it has created a panel of independent experts to assess its response to the biggest-ever Ebola outbreak in history.

In a statement Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said the panel was commissioned after a resolution passed by its executive board. The panel will be chaired by Barbara Stocking, a former chief executive of Oxfam GB. A preliminary report is due in May.

WHO’s handling of the Ebola outbreak that has killed over 9,900 people in West Africa has been heavily criticized. WHO admitted in an internal draft report that it fumbled early attempts to curb the outbreak, blaming incompetent staff and a lack of real-time information. Others also criticized WHO for not declaring an international health emergency until nearly 1,000 people had died.

On to Sierra Leone and a call for diversity from the Guardian:

Ebola crisis could force Sierra Leone to diversify away from mining

  • Crisis in mining industry could bring economic benefits and opportunities for other sectors and place greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility

As Sierra Leone looks to rebuild after the Ebola epidemic, it may be forced to diversify from a mining-heavy economic base. Falling iron ore prices and the effects of Ebola on the industry signal the need for change, according to the chairman of the Chamber of Mines, who said the diversification could be beneficial.

John Bonoh Sisay said mining companies will also have to change the way they interact with local people, placing a greater emphasis on supporting healthcare systems as part of corporate social responsibility.

“In the long term, it’s not a bad thing to mature the economy in that way. There are other opportunities especially in agriculture, which, from a stability point of view, really does create a lot of jobs very quickly [and the] skills base is minimal,” said Sisay, who is also chief executive officer of Sierra Rutile, a mineral sands producer with a rutile mine in the south-west.

Prices for iron ore have dropped as demand in China has slumped, and amid a global glut, causing a shakeup in Sierra Leone’s mining industry, which has also been battered by costs associated with the outbreak of Ebola.

And from StarAfrica, a handoff:

China hands over Ebola lab to S/Leone govt

Chinese has officially handed over a newly constructed EVD BSL 3 laboratory to the government of Sierra Leone. The lab was installed and tested in January and the Sierra Leone government said in a statement on Tuesday that the project took six months to complete.

The head of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control team, Professor Dong, took the Sierra Leonean leader on an inspection tour of the facility before the official handing over ceremony which took place at the China-Sierra Leone Friendship Biological Safety Lab at Jui, a few km outside the capital, Freetown.

Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Zhao Yanbo, disclosed at the ceremony plans to send Sierra Leoneans working with the China CDC team to Beijing to improve on their capacity in handling viral haemorrhagic fevers.

InSecurityWatch: Divisions, warfare, militarism

We begin with a real source of InSecurity, via the Independent:

Britain’s divided decade: the rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer

The gap between richest and poorest has dramatically widened in the past decade as wealthy households paid off their debts and piled up savings following the financial crisis, a report warns today.

By contrast, the worst-off families are far less financially secure than before the recession triggered by the near- collapse of several major banks. They have an average of less than a week’s pay set aside and are more often in the red.

Younger workers have fallen behind older people while homeowners – particularly those who have paid off their mortgages – have become increasingly affluent compared with their neighbours who are paying rent.

From the New York Times, more real InSecurity:

U.N. Finds ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence Against Women

The evidence is ubiquitous. The gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi sets off an unusual burst of national outrage in India. In South Sudan, women are assaulted by both sides in the civil war. In Iraq, jihadists enslave women for sex. And American colleges face mounting scrutiny about campus rape.

Despite the many gains women have made in education, health and even political power in the course of a generation, violence against women and girls worldwide “persists at alarmingly high levels,” according to a United Nations analysis that the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to present to the General Assembly on Monday.

About 35 percent of women worldwide — more than one in three — said they had experienced physical violence in their lifetime, the report finds. One in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex, it says.

From the Guardian, Netanyahu’s acolytes:

Republicans threaten Iran nuclear deal may not survive Obama tenure

  • Letter from 47 senators says nuclear accord needs congressional backing to last
  • White House accuses Republicans of ‘rush to war’ with Iran

Forty-seven Republican senators warned on Monday that any agreement the Obama administration strikes with Iran to limit Tehran’s nuclear programme may be short-lived unless Congress approves the deal. The White House accused the Republicans of advocating a “rush to war”.

In an open letter to Iranian leaders, freshman Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other Republicans said that without congressional approval any deal between Iran and the US would be merely an agreement between President Barack Obama and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen,” they wrote, “and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

From StarAfrica, plumbers summoned:

S/Africa probes leaking of spy docs to Al Jazeera

South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) has launched a full investigation into the leaking of documents detailing its operations following the recent leakage of sensitive documents to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV news network, APA learnt on Sunday.

“A full investigation has been launched into the purported leakage, its veracity and verification will be handled in terms of the protocols governing the management of classified information,” State Security Minister David Mahlobo said.

The probe follows the web of dealings between the South African spy agency and several foreign agencies which have been revealed through hundreds of documents leaked to Al Jazeera, which broadcast the items last week.

Among other issues the documents, dated from 2006 to 2012, included an alleged assassination plot against African Union (AU) Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Iran’s efforts to use Pretoria to work around its international sanctions imposed by Western powers and the flawed capabilities of the country’s intelligence, according to the Al Jazeera, which did not reveal who leaked the documents to it.

From Deutsche Welle, did you Hope™ for this Change™?:

US deploying 3,000 troops to the Baltics

  • The US announced it is deploying 3000 troops to the Baltics to take part in military exercises over the next three months. The Baltic states and other eastern European nations are wary of renewed Russian aggression.

The United States is sending 3,000 troops to the Baltic states to partake in joint military exercises with NATO partners in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania over the next three months, US defense officials announced Monday.

The mission, part of “Operation Atlantic Resolve” is designed to reassure NATO allies concerned over renewed Russian aggression amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Around 750 US Army tanks, fighting vehicles and other military equipment arrived in Latvia Monday, and US ground troops are expected to begin arriving next week, US Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters.

According to a US military source speaking on condition of anonymity, the military equipment will remain in the Baltics even after the US troops return to base.

From the Guardian, suppression:

Saudi Arabia accused of blocking criticism of human rights record

  • Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, has said the kingdom stopped her addressing an Arab League meeting

Sweden’s foreign minister has reportedly accused Saudi Arabia of blocking her speech at an Arab League meeting to stop her highlighting human rights cases such as the imprisonment of a blogger for insulting Islam.

Speaking in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Monday, Margot Wallström told the TT news agency: “The explanation we have been given is that Sweden has highlighted the situation for democracy and human rights and that is why they do not want me to speak.

“It’s a shame that a country has blocked my participation.”

An Arab diplomat confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Riyadh had stopped her making the speech.

A sharp Saudi response to flogging condemnation, via the Independent:

Raif Badawi: Saudi Arabia accuses western media of attacking its sovereignty

Saudi Arabia has finally responded to the international outcry over the treatment of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, accusing the western media of launching an unjustified attack on its sovereignty under the “pretext of human rights”.

In its first official statement on the case, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would not allow outside interference with Saudi Arabia’s judicial system and that pressure from the media and human rights groups would have no impact on his punishment.

Mr Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – of which so far only 50 have been carried out – for using his liberal blog to criticise Saudi Arabia’s clerics. Judges in the country’s criminal court want him to undergo a retrial for apostasy, which carries the death sentence.

From the Guardian, Indian free speech suppression:

Activist arrested for showing rape documentary in Indian village

  • Ketan Dixit used borrowed equipment and bedsheets to screen India’s Daughter, which has been banned by the authorities, to 60 people

A young activist who defied the Indian government’s ban on the documentary India’s Daughter and screened the film for a village audience near the northern city of Agra has been apprehended by police.

Ketan Dixit was quoted on Monday as saying he was ready to “face any action that was initiated” after showing the documentary on Sunday on a makeshift screen made of white bedsheets in the compound of a journalist’s family home in Roopdhanu, around 30km from the Taj Mahal.

Around 60 men, women and children watched the film, which has been the subject of furious controversy since the Indian authorities’ decision to pull it from the air last week. The film, by British documentary-maker Leslee Udwin, is about the fatal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012.

From BBC News, a German mayor resigns facing xenophobic agitation:

German Mayor Markus Nierth resigns over NPD protest fears

A village mayor in eastern Germany has resigned after threats to march on his house from far-right protesters angry about plans to house asylum seekers.

Markus Nierth, who was honorary mayor of Troeglitz in Saxony-Anhalt, south of Berlin, said he quit because local authorities refused to ban the march. He said he would not expose his family to “racist and hate-filled chants”.

Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Ministry said it opposed “all forms of xenophobia and racism’‘.

After the jump, Netanyahu adopts a harder line as a former spy boss declares him the country’s biggest threat, on to the ISIS war, first with advances in the battle for Tikrit, and fears of retribution if ISIS withdraws, Germany mulls an Islamist military checkup, on to Africa and an advance on Boko Haram, Islamist oil field kidnapping in Libya, Pakistan extends its nuclear missile reach to all of India, on to Japan as Shinzo Abe pushes for rapid legislative realization of his remilitarization agenda, Merkel urges Abe to hold to the traditional apology for World War II actions, and Tokyo issues a testy response, and Abe wins metadata enabling legislation. . . Continue reading