Category Archives: Banksters

Chart of the day: And the winners are. . .

No Hope™. Spare Change™?

From the Pew Research Center [PDF]:


InSecurityWatch: Crimes, hacks, terror, war

And so much more. . .

We begin with the most fundamental sort of domestic InSecurity, via the Oakland Tribune:

Criminalization of homeless expensive, inhumane and ineffective, UC law team says

When homelessness increased nationwide in the early 1980s, California cities responded with ever more laws that unfairly punished the poor and failed to improve the problem, according to a critical UC Berkeley report released Thursday.

Over the past 30 years, cities statewide “have been engaged in a race to the bottom by increasing criminalization, hoping to drive homeless people away and make them someone else’s problem,” the study says.

The 53-page report, authored by the UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, says the rising number of anti-homeless laws has been costly for taxpayers and brought more hardship than help to the state’s most vulnerable residents.

From, sounding the intolerance alarm across the Atlantic:

‘France must combat rising racism urgently’

A damning report from the Council of Europe has concluded that the French public are becoming more racist and more intolerant towards minorities, including Muslims and Jews and that there was an urgent need to combat it.

France has “issues” with intolerance, racism, and respect for the human rights of migrants, according to a new report by the Council of Europe, an independent body which aims to improve cooperation between European countries.

The Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, based his findings on a visit in September last year – long before the Charlie Hebdo attacks that left the nation traumatized.

From, a case of Austrian mistaken identity:

Suspect ‘Isis’ house turns out to be drug den

Armed police were called to a council flat on Vienna’s Margaretengürtel on Wednesday after a bailiff reported having seen an Isis-like flag with Arabic writing in the apartment.

The bailiff had entered the apartment because the tenants had not paid a mobile phone bill – but he quickly retreated and called the police when he saw what he thought was an Isis-flag in the hallway.

When armed police and sniffer dogs entered the empty apartment they found that rather than harbouring suspected extremists it appeared to be an amateur drugs lab, where the tenants may have been trying to manufacture crystal meth.

A report in the Heute tabloid said that police found Isis-flags, swords and machines guns in the apartment, but Vienna police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger said this was nonsense and that there was no evidence that the tenants had been radicalized or had anything to do with Isis. The flag with Arabic script was religious rather than Islamist, he said.

From Network World, hacking the world:

NSA, UK’s GCHQ reportedly hacked encryption of SIM card maker

U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have reportedly hacked into the computer network of giant SIM card maker Gemalto and taken smartphone encryption keys potentially used by customers of hundreds of mobile phone carriers worldwide.

The Gemalto hack, by the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), allowed the two spy agencies to monitor a large portion of the world’s mobile phone voice and data traffic, according to a story in The Intercept.

The hack was detailed in a 2010 GCHQ document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the story said.

From the Guardian, a petition for British spooky disclosure:

Thousands sign petition to discover if GCHQ spied on them

  • Privacy International campaign comes after tribunal rules that sharing between US and UK of intercepted communications was unlawful

More than 6,000 people in 24 hours have signed up to a campaign to discover if Britain’s communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, has illegally spied on them.

Privacy International launched the campaign in the wake of a court ruling this month that said regulations governing the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk breached human rights law for seven years until last December.

Privacy International says the decision by the investigatory powers tribunal allows anyone in the world to ask GCHQ if the US unlawfully shared their individual records with Britain. “Did GCHQ illegally spy on you?Have you ever made a phone call, sent an email, or, you know, used the internet? Of course you have,” says the campaign.

Homeland Security News Wire covers the universalized panopticon:

Sensor network

  • Wireless sensors transform real-time monitoring infrastructure

Small wireless computing devices, ranging from the size of a matchbox to the size of a dime, are going to change the way Florida monitors its water quality, sea level rise, hurricanes, agriculture, aquaculture, and even its aging senior population. The types of sensing devices developed by computer scientist Jason Hallstrom, Ph.D., who recently joined Florida Atlantic University, can collect information about the surrounding environment and transmit that information to cloud-based computing systems that store, analyze and present that information to educators, researchers and decision-makers. Deployable at massive scales, the technology represents a paradigm shift in how our world is observed and managed.

“This is a thrilling time to join Florida Atlantic University,” said Hallstrom. “The university is on an amazing trajectory, driven by capabilities and opportunities that span every college, at every campus. There is incredible capacity to build interdisciplinary teams here, teams that are going to have a fundamental impact on the state and the nation.”

An FAU release reports that Hallstrom, a professor in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, will serve as director of the Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering at FAU (ISENSE@FAU). ISENSE will serve as an interdisciplinary research hub, drawing talent from both within and outside FAU to tackle grand challenge problems head-on through novel hardware, software and ideas.

From El País, automotive panopticon disclosure in Spain:

Spanish highway agency to reveal locations of all speed cameras

  • Motorists to be given early warning of upcoming traffic controls, both fixed and mobile

Drivers on Spanish roads will soon know the location of all speed cameras and speed traps and receive early warnings of their presence, the head of Spain’s DGT national highway agency announced on Wednesday.

“Our 2014 figures consolidate us as one of the safest countries in terms of moving around,” said DGT director general María Segui during a congressional appearance.

But the announcement follows news that the decline in road deaths appears to have bottomed out after a decade of sharp drops: 1,131 people died in traffic accidents last year compared with 1,134 in 2013.

From Nextgov, a cell for your cell?:

Justice, DHS Quarantine Smartphones Returning from Abroad

Officials at the departments of Justice and Homeland Security typically expect employees’ smartphones will be bugged when they travel overseas. So, they are experimenting with various ways to neutralize foreign spy gear.

For years, the FBI has warned government and corporate executives not to use hotel Wi-Fi connections, because of reports that foreign travelers were unknowingly downloading spyware.

When DHS personnel travel, “we understand you go there, you go to Ukraine, you come back, there’s a good chance that the BlackBerry or any other device, Androids, iOS, whatever, is probably owned. We get that,” said Vincent Sritapan, a cybersecurity division program manager at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.

To contain the damage, Homeland Security limits what employees can see on their mobile device overseas, and “when it comes back, it’s usually quarantined,” he added.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, lost in translation:

Documents leaked through free online translation service

Documents, including customers’ information of a megabank, have been posted on the Internet without owners’ knowledge after they were translated through a free online translation service, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

There are at least 30 cases of e-mail leaks in which the senders of the information were identified. They include e-mails between a ministry’s official and a major home appliance maker’s employee as well as e-mails from an automobile manufacturer to the company’s affiliate in Indonesia.

This online translation service is not that of major website operators such as Google, Yahoo and Excite. However, about 60 languages, including those spoken in Southeast Asian countries, are translated through the service.

From BBC News, hacked in the factory:

Lenovo taken to task over ‘malicious’ adware

Computer maker Lenovo has been forced to remove hidden adware that it was shipping on its laptops and PCs after users expressed anger.

The adware – dubbed Superfish – was potentially compromising their security, said experts.

The hidden software was also injecting adverts on to browsers using techniques more akin to malware, they added.

Lenovo faces questions about why and for how long it was pre-installed on machines – and what data was collected.

A hacking conviction via Network World:

Swedish man pleads guilty to peddling Blackshades malware

A Swedish man pleaded guilty Wednesday to peddling one of the most prevalent spying programs called Blackshades that was widely used by the criminal underground.

Alex Yucel, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of distributing malicious software. He could face a maximum of 10 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said. He is expected to be sentenced on May 22.

BlackShades, a remote access trojan, was marketed by its developers as a program for legitimate computer monitoring but was mostly used for stealing payment card data, recording a computer’s keystrokes and secretly controlling webcams. It was sold for between US$40 to $100.

A corporate snooping limitation: in Germany, via Deutsche Welle:

In ‘sick-leave secretary’ ruling, federal court limits spying on employees

  • A secretary on sick-leave for two months who was spied on has won a suit against her employer in Germany’s highest labor court. The ruling defines when detectives can be used to monitor employees.

Only under very limited circumstances can German companies spy on their workers, said judges of the Federal Court of Labor on Thursday, in a case that weighed a complaint by a secretary who claimed she had been unlawfully spied on.

“Only when an employer’s suspicions of a breach of duty are concrete and based on fact can a detective be used to monitor an employee,” the judges in Erfurt said on Thursday.

Specifically, the judges said that the secretary – who had been on sick leave – at a small metal parts plant in the western German city of Münster had been unlawfully spied on; her boss, they said, hadn’t possessed concrete justification for hiring a private detective to determine the veracity of her claims.

From the, a Norse alarm:

Norway hunts suspected suicide bomber

Norway’s intelligence services have put out an international alert warning about a female Norwegian Islamic militant suspected of planning a suicide attack in Europe.

According to Sweden’s Göteborgs Tidning newspaper, Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) has put out an “orange notice”  warning that the woman, who has they believe has received weapons training in Syria, is now back in Europe.

According to the newspaper, the agency had received a tip-off from friends of the woman, who said that she may have had weapons training in Syria, and could be planning a suicide attack.

The woman has not been seen by her relatives for more than two months and there are fears that she may have crossed the border into Sweden. Swedish police and security services have been asked to keep an eye out for the potential terror suspect and to pass on any relevant information to authorities in Norway.

Danish announces a $150 million in new anti-terror security measures, via

Denmark announces new anti-terror initiatives

The Danish government will spend nearly one billion kroner over the next four years to better defend the nation against terror, the prime minister announced Thursday.

In the aftermath of the twin shootings over the weekend that shocked the nation, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Thursday presented a new 12-point plan to combat terror.

“Our security level is high. Preparedness is high. But we are also challenged. Militant Islamists are constantly developing new ways of challenging our security,” the PM said at a press conference where she was joined by her ministers of justice, defence and the interior.

The plan will enable the intelligence services to better monitor Danes travelling abroad to fight with Isis, while also targeting the radicalisation of prisoners in jails.

And from Deutsche Welle, a comforting embrace:

Norwegian Muslims show solidarity with Jewish shooting victims

  • Norwegian Muslims are planning to form a “ring of peace” around a synagogue in the country’s capital, Oslo. Deadly shootings targeting free speech and the Jewish community in Copenhagen last week sparked the idea.

Young Muslims in Norway announced an event to a show of solidarity with Jews across Europe, as well as with their neighbors in Denmark: building a peace ring around a synagogue.

On a Facebook invitation for the event, to be held on Saturday, organizers say “Muslims want to show that we strongly reject any type of anti-Semitism and that we are here to support them.”

By Thursday, around 1,500 people had accepted the invitation.

The head of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK he welcomed the idea, and hoped lots of people would turn up.

After the jump, Turkey alarms NATO with a possible Chinese missile deal, Washington reveals an Iraqi military move, Western doubts over more military involvement in Libya, Washington sets parmenters, and a pro-ISIS militia seizes a university, Boko Haram loses ground to Chad troops in Nigeria, Washington promises anti-Boko Haram forces intel and hardware, Afghan Taliban seek Pakistani talks and Pakistan sends signals, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outline legal plans for military support abroad, more questions overs Abe’s WWII apology, and Japanese banks get government data to shut out Yakuza, Abe says gay marriage barred by constitution, and a curious case of corporeal intelligence. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Torture, murder, escalation

We begin with a video report on that first item, via RT America:

CIA torture program was “Dick Cheney’s baby” – John Kiriakou

Program notes:

“Hypocritical” is how CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou describes his arrest and imprisonment for exposing the spy agency’s use of torture while those who actually committed the heinous acts go unpunished. In an in-depth interview with RT’s Ben Swann, Kiriakou discussed only his time in prison, but also the controversial “enhanced interrogation” program, claiming that President George W. Bush personally approved the harsh practices.

From the Associated Press, questions about an act of domestic violence:

Shooting suspect slams religion while defending liberty

If his Facebook page is any indication, Craig Hicks doesn’t hate Muslims. An avowed atheist, his online posts instead depict a man who despises religion itself, but nevertheless seems to support an individual’s right to his own beliefs.

“I hate Islam just as much as christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do,” the man now accused of killing three Muslim college students stated in one 2012 post over the proposed construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York.

Days after the shooting deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a nuanced and sometimes contradictory portrait is emerging of the man charged in their slayings.

BBC News covers a threat in Germany:

Germany: Braunschweig parade halted over terror alert

A carnival parade has been called off at short notice in Braunschweig, northern Germany, due to the threat of an Islamist attack, police said.

A “specific threat of an Islamist attack” was identified by state security sources, they said in a statement. Police urged people planning to attend to stay at home.

The parade – a well-known regional attraction – was cancelled only 90 minutes before it was due to start.

From Al Jazeera America, a suspect dies in a Danish shootout:

Copenhagen attacker, shot dead by police, was on intel agency’s ‘radar’

  • Details emerge about 22-year-old suspect, who was born in Denmark and had record of violence and weapons charges

Danish police staged raids Sunday across the capital to determine why man opened fire at a Copenhagen café and the city’s main synagogue on Saturday, leaving two people dead.

The man was shot dead early Sunday after opening fire on police, officials said, adding that no officers were wounded. The exchange of fire took place in the multicultural inner-city neighborhood of Norrebro where police had been keeping an address under observation since the first shooting at the café, where a free-speech seminar was being held.

“We believe the same man was behind both shootings and we also believe that the perpetrator who was shot by the police action force at Norrebro station is the person behind the two attacks,” police official Torben Moelgaard Jensen said.

Background, via the Independent:

Copenhagen shootings: Suspected gunman Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein was a Danish national with a history of gang violence

The gunman suspected of killing two people after opening fire on a free speech debate and a synagogue in Copenhagen on Saturday was identified tonight as 22-year-old Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish national with a history of gang violence.

Copenhagen Police said the alleged terrorist, who was killed in a shootout with officers in the early hours of Sunday morning, had previously committed “several crimes” including assault and the possession of weapons.

At least two other people were arrested on Sunday, being led out in handcuffs from an internet café in Copenhagen, as part of the police investigation into how the gunman came to arm himself and pick his targets.

From the Associated Press, opportunism:

Israeli leader calls for mass Jewish influx after attack

Israel’s prime minister on Sunday called for the “massive immigration” of European Jews to Israel following a deadly shooting near Copenhagen’s main synagogue, renewing a blunt message that has upset some of Israel’s friends in Europe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel is the only place where Jews can truly feel safe. His comments triggered an angry response from Copenhagen’s chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, who said he was “disappointed” by the remarks.

“People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism,” Melchior told The Associated Press. “If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”

And a rebuff, via Reuters:

Denmark’s Jews, defiant after attack, vow to stay

Denmark’s small but vibrant Jewish community rebuffed Israel’s call to emigrate on Sunday after an attack on Copenhagen’s main synagogue that shook the sense of security Scandinavian tolerance had long provided.

Jewish communities around Europe have been reporting rising hostility against them and an attack last month on a Paris kosher supermarket killed four Jews, prompting the United Nations to say that anti-Semitism was thriving in Europe.

That assault came two days after Islamist militants gunned down 12 people at the weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad.

From Deutsche Welle, sad echoes of a tragic past:

Jewish cemetery vandalized in France

  • A Jewish cemetery in eastern France has been desecrated in an act of anti-Semitic vandalism. The French interior minister has promised to do “everything” to catch the culprits.

Hundreds of graves at a Jewish cemetery in France’s Alsace region were vandalized on Sunday, in what Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has called “a despicable act” against religious freedom and tolerance.

“The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share,” said Cazeneuve, without offering further details about the incident in the town of Sarre-Union, near the German border.

“Every effort will be made to identify, question, and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this ignominious act,” Cazeneuve added. He also urged calm, as many French Jews feel increasingly worried about anti-Semitism one month after an Islamist gunman killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

The Associated Press covers more errors at the bomb’s birthplace:

Report: Nuke lab failed to keep some information classified

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General says a lack of managerial oversight at Los Alamos National Laboratory led to improper disclosures of sensitive information.

In a summary of a report released last week, the inspector general says the lab’s classification officer at times misclassified national security information.

The summary, which is dated Wednesday, says there were at least six incidents where lab documents were misclassified.

After the jump, ISIS stages mass beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya, Egypt vows vengeance, then launches the bombers, an Amazonian drone lament, Obama panopticon ambitions rile Silicon Valley, Japanese Internet censorship calls, terror in Nigeria, and China’s new carrier-killer submarine. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climate, water, fracking

We begin with the measles, via Medical Daily:

California Has 3 New Measles Cases, Arizona Says Outbreak Winding Down

California public health officials have confirmed three more cases of measles in an outbreak that began in late December, bringing to 113 the total number of people believed to have been infected in the state.

Health officials in Arizona, where seven cases of measles have been documented, said the outbreak would likely be considered over in that state if no further infections were reported over the weekend.

Across the United States, more than 150 people have been diagnosed with measles, many of them linked to an outbreak that authorities believe began when an infected person from out of the country visited Disneyland in late December.

rom Outbreak News Today, another continent, another outbreak:

Dengue fever in Malaysia: 18,000 cases and 44 deaths

The dengue fever outbreak in Malaysia last year reached approximately 100,000 cases, about a three-fold increase from 2013.

It would seem that 2015 will be another harsh dengue fever season in the southeast Asian country based on numbers reported by the Malaysia Ministry of Health Friday (computer translated).

The total cumulative dengue cases reported from Jan. 4 to Feb. 13, 2015 is 17,918. This included the 450 cases reported on Friday alone. Of this total, health authorities are reporting 44 dengue-related fatalities.

And another, via Medical Daily:

India Sees Rapid Increase In Swine Flu Deaths

India has seen a sharp rise in the number of swine flu deaths and reported cases this year, prompting officials to investigate the cause and step up efforts to combat the virus.

The H1N1 virus caused 485 deaths in India between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12, additional health secretary Arun Kumar Panda told reporters on Friday.

He said more than 6,000 people had tested positive for the virus during that time.

IPS-Inter Press Service covers another continent and another plague:

Cancer Locks a Deadly Grip on Africa, Yet It’s Barely Noticed

Hidden by the struggles to defeat Ebola, malaria and drug-resistant tuberculosis, a silent killer has been moving across the African continent, superseding infections of HIV and AIDS.

World Cancer Day commemorated on Feb. 4 may have come and gone, but the spread of cancer in Africa has been worrying global health organisations and experts year round. The continent, they fear, is ill-prepared for another health crisis of enormous proportions.

By 2020, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 16 million new cases of cancer are anticipated worldwide, with 70 percent of them in developing countries. Africa and Asia are not spared.

Medical Daily covers another health threat:

Unemployed People Undergo Changes In Personality, Making Them Less Agreeable, Conscientious

It’s well known that being unemployed for a significant amount of time can have a negative effect on your physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s likely to raise your risk of depression and suicide. But according to a new study, being unemployed can actually alter your personality too, making you less agreeable and influencing your levels of conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, examined 6,769 Germans and asked them to self-evaluate the few core personality traits stated above over the course of a couple years. When the participants first began the survey they all had jobs, but a chunk of them slowly lost jobs over the course of a few years. Some remained unemployed, while others found new jobs.

“Unemployment has a strongly negative influence on wellbeing,” the authors wrote, but they wanted to find out if it could also change a person’s basic personality traits. “Whether personality changes arise through natural maturation processes or contextual/environment factors is still a matter of debate. Unemployment, a relatively unexpected and commonly occurring life event, may shed light on the relevance of context for personality change.”

From Reuters, a small but notable comeback accelerates:

U.S. wildlife managers mark population rise for rare wolf

The number of imperiled wolves found only in the American Southwest climbed to 109 in 2014, marking the fourth consecutive year that the population of Mexican gray wolves has risen by at least 10 percent, federal wildlife managers said Friday.

Wild Mexican wolves were believed to be all but extinct in the United States in 1998 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing the animal to its native range.

At that point there had been no sightings of the wolves, which are native to western Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains, in the wild in the United States since the 1970s, said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s southwest regional director.

Fox News Latino covers significant environmental preservation proposed:

Colombia proposes world’s largest eco-corridor with Brazil, Venezuela

Colombia’s government will draw up plans to join with Brazil and Venezuela in creating the world’s largest ecological corridor, a project aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change and preserving biodiversity, President Juan Manuel Santos announced.

The corridor will span 135 million hectares (521,240 sq. miles) of rainforest, Santos said Friday after a Cabinet meeting in Leticia, capital of Colombia’s southeastern jungle province of Amazonas.

The Colombian head of state said he expects the three countries will present the so-called Triple A initiative at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21, late this year in Paris.

“This would become the world’s largest ecological (corridor) and would be a great contribution to that fight of all humanity to preserve our environment, and in Colombia’s case to preserve our biodiversity,” Santos added.

Corporateers and banksters aim to recolonize Africa, via the Ecologist:

Land and seed laws under attack as Africa is groomed for corporate recolonization

  • Across Africa, laws are being rewritten to open farming up to an agribusiness invasion – displacing the millions of small cultivators that now feed the continent, and replacing them with a new model of profit-oriented agriculture using patented seeds and varieties. The agencies effecting the transformation are legion – but they are all marching to a single drum.

A battle is raging for control of resources in Africa – land, water, seeds, minerals, ores, forests, oil, renewable energy sources.

Agriculture is one of the most important theatres of this battle. Governments, corporations, foundations and development agencies are pushing hard to commercialise and industrialise African farming.

Many of the key players are well known. They include the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the G8, the African Union, the Bill Gates-funded ‘Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’ (AGRA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC).

Together they are committed to helping agribusiness become the continent’s primary food commodity producer. To do this, they are not only pouring money into projects to transform farming operations on the ground – they are also changing African laws to accommodate the agribusiness agenda.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, water wonder or water woe?:

Beijing now drinking from vast water project environmentalists decry

Drinking water is flowing to Beijing from China’s controversial south-north water project – enough to fill 20,000 Olympic-size swimming pools in the first six weeks, the city reported Friday.

But concerns continue to swirl about the project’s environmental and human costs even as Beijing taps into a new water source nearly 800 miles away.

The central route of the south-north water project is China’s largest public works undertaking since the Three Gorges Dam, and it’s similarly contentious. It consists of a 400-foot-wide canal, aqueducts and other water works that stretch 798 miles to Beijing, starting at the Danjiangkou Reservoir in Henan province.

Environmentalists say the water diversions are sure to damage the ecology of the Han and lower Yangtze rivers. Construction of the canal also prompted the forced relocation of 100,000 people.

From the Guardian, can you say Frackenstein?:

Germany moves to legalise fracking

  • Four-year moratorium on shale drills set to be overturned as country initiates process to allow regulated hydraulic fracturing for shale gas

Germany has proposed a draft law that would allow commercial shale gas fracking at depths of over 3,000 metres, overturning a de facto moratorium that has been in place since the start of the decade.

A new six-person expert panel would also be empowered to allow fracks at shallower levels

Shale gas industry groups welcomed the proposal for its potential to crack open the German shale gas market, but it has sparked outrage among environmentalists who view it as the thin edge of a fossil fuel wedge.

Senior German officials say that the proposal, first mooted in July, is an environmental protection measure, wholly unrelated to energy security concerns which have been intensified by the conflict in Ukraine.

And our lone entry in the Fukushimapocalypse Now ! category, via EcoWatch:

Will Ohioans Be Forced to Pay the Bill to Keep the Crumbling Davis-Besse Nuke Plant Alive?

As the world’s nuke reactors begin to crumble and fall, the danger of a major disaster is escalating at the decrepit Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio.

Now the plant’s owners are asking the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to force the public to pay billions of dollars over the next 15 years to subsidize reactor operations.

But Davis-Besse’s astonishing history of near-miss disasters defies belief. Its shoddy construction, continual operator error and relentless owner incompetence would not be believed as fiction, let alone as the stark realities of a large commercial reactor operating in a heavily populated area.

Time and again Davis-Besse has come within a fraction of an inch and an hour of crisis management time. Today its critical shield wall is literally crumbing, with new cracks opening up every time the northern Ohio weather freezes (like this week).

Kidnapping an African American baby legally

First the kidnapping, via news department of WESH 2, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, Florida:

3 days after missed payment, dealership repossesses car with 9-month-old inside

  • Mother went inside day care to pick up child when car was taken

A vehicle with a child inside of it was repossessed on Tuesday.

The Orlando Police Department helped the mother track down the vehicle and find the 9-month-old baby girl.

“I thought somebody kidnapped her because my oldest daughter said, ‘It was two white males [who] got in the car and they just left,'” Antoinette Jordan said.

Jordan went inside an Orlando day care to pick up her other two children, and when she went back outside, the car was gone.

Here’s the video report from WESH 2 News:

3 days after missed payment seller repossesses car with baby inside

Program note:

A vehicle with a child inside of it was repossessed on Tuesday.

H/T to Nothing To Do With Arbroath.

A WESH 2 News update answers the question provoked by our post-al headline:

A spokesman for Xpress Finance Inc. declined to appear on camera but said, “The rules are the rules.”

But what about the fact that the car was repossessed with her child still inside?

Because the men were in the process of reclaiming the car legally, under Florida law, WESH 2 legal analyst Richard Hornsby said they are not subject to arrest.

“I think there’s a gap in the law here. There’s no reason someone can take a car that has a child in it and be justified,” Hornsby said.

To which we would respond as we would’ve to high school friends fifty-some years ago, “No shit, Sherlock.”

So the argument, hewing to the letter of the law, is that it wasn’t a kidnapping because they didn’t intend to take the child, only the car, which they were legally entitled to do: After all, as the company says, “The rules are the rules.”

But to the mother, there was no different whether her daughter was taken by repo men or an intentional child-stealer. She only knew that her daughter had been taken, along with her car. The grief and horror she experienced — traumas by any definition of the term — were absolutely real, exerting profound impacts that can [as we can attest] last a lifetime.

One can also argue that the car-takers may have seen the child — how could they not have? — but took the car anyway [and how did they know she was there unless they had been following her, and therefore almost certainly knew of the infant?]. At the very least, how did they not know, given that car repossessers are legally obliged to preserve personal property in that car at the time of repossession?

But, hey, mom would no doubt call the cops, and every ethical repo man notifies the cops about repossessions, as, in fact, they did.

As ownership becomes increasingly a right retained by the seller and no longer transferred to the buyer, possession becomes ephemeral, save for those who have amassed virtually all the world’s capital stock, both material and virtual, employing the machinery of finance to accelerate the accumulation.

In this case one small African American and her family were simply collateral damage.

InSecurityWatch: Cash, war, crime, terror, hacks

From the Guardian, of course they did:

HSBC files: Swiss bank hid money for suspected criminals

  • Documents detail customers who faced allegations including drug-running, corruption, doping and money laundering

HSBC’s Swiss bank concealed large sums of money for people facing allegations of serious wrongdoing, including drug-running, corruption and money laundering, leaked files reveal.

Despite being legally obliged since 1998 to make special checks on high-risk customers, the bank provided accounts for clients implicated in six notorious scandals in Africa, including Kenya’s biggest corruption case, blood diamond trading and several corrupt military sales.

HSBC also held assets for bankers accused of looting funds from former Soviet states, while alleged crimes by other account holders include bribery at Malta’s state oil company, cocaine smuggling from the Dominican Republic and the doping of professional cyclists in Spain.

The Swiss bank also held accounts for “politically exposed people” – defined as senior political figures or their relatives at heightened risk of involvement in corruption, money laundering, or avoiding international sanctions – with little evidence of any extra scrutiny of their activities.

From the Independent, plutocratic hypocrisy:

HSBC leaks: Owners of Le Monde attack paper’s ‘Swissleaks’ coverage in tax row

The newspaper behind the “Swissleaks” revelations about tax evasion has been attacked as irresponsible and “populist” by its proprietor.

To the fury of the staff and editors of Le Monde, Pierre Bergé, 84, a millionaire businessman and long-time lover of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, accused the paper of “acting like informers” and “throwing people to the wolves”.

The incident is the latest in a series of acrimonious disputes between Mr Bergé and Le Monde since he became part-owner of France’s most respected newspaper in 2010. The chairman of Le Monde’s board, Alain Beuve-Méry, accused him of violating his written commitment to the paper’s editorial freedom.

From United Press International, getting ready for another war:

Air Force: A-10s headed to Europe

The U.S. Air Force has announced it is sending 12 A-10 Thunderbolts, also known as Warthogs, to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The A-10s will be sent to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and forward deployed to partner nations in Eastern Europe.

“The Air Force is increasing rotational presence in Europe to reassure our allies and partner nations that our commitment to European security is a priority,” Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, vice commander, United States Air Forces in Europe, said in a statement.

From the Miami Herald, enduring torture:

9/11 defendant still suffering from ‘black site’ injuries, lawyer says at Guantánamo

A defense lawyer for an alleged 9/11 plotter said Thursday that his Saudi captive client was rectally abused in CIA custody — and continues to bleed now, at least eight years later.

Attorney Walter Ruiz made the disclosure in open court in a bid to get a military judge to intervene in the medical care of Mustafa Hawsawi, 46, accused of helping the Sept. 11 hijackers with travel and money.

He was captured in March 2003 with the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 49, and at the CIA’s secret prison was subjected to unauthorized “enhanced interrogation techniques,” according to the recently released so-called Senate Torture Report. He got to Guantánamo in September 2006.

The Toronto Globe and Mail covers cops behaving badly:

RCMP rebuked for firearms seizures during 2013 Alberta floods

The RCMP is being rebuked for a series of “failings” as part of the unauthorized seizure of 609 firearms during its response to the massive High River floods in Alberta in 2013.

In a report released Thursday, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP said that officers who conducted the “warrantless” seizures were undersupervised. The subsequent anger in the population was badly handled by the RCMP communications teams, the report also found, as citizens complained that “their homes were forcibly entered, and in some cases windows were broken, doors were kicked in and firearms were taken.”

“The community’s reaction was somewhat predictable, given that the sanctity of one’s home from state interference is a deeply rooted principle,” the report said.

From the American Civil Liberties Union, they’ve got your number — and your picture:

License Plate Scanners Also Taking Photos of Drivers and Passengers

The Drug Enforcement Administration is using its license plate reader program not only to track drivers’ locations, but also to photograph these drivers and their passengers, according to newly disclosed records obtained by the ACLU via a Freedom of Information Act request.

One internal 2009 DEA communication stated clearly that the license plate program can provide “the requester” with images that “may include vehicle license plate numbers (front and/or rear), photos of visible vehicle occupants [redacted] and a front and rear overall view of the vehicle.” Clearly showing that occupant photos are not an occasional, accidental byproduct of the technology, but one that is intentionally being cultivated, a 2011 email states that the DEA’s system has the ability to store “up to 10 photos per vehicle transaction including 4 occupant photos.”

The DEA documents are just the latest indication that license plate scanners are not always focused just on license plates.

Wired threat level covers suspicious circumstances:

Did the NSA and the UK’s Spy Agency Launch a Joint Cyberattack on Iran?

An NSA document newly published today suggests two interesting facts that haven’t previously been reported.

The Intercept, which published the document, highlighted that in it the NSA expresses fear that it may be teaching Iran how to hack, but there are two other points in the document that merit attention.

One concerns the spy tool known as Flame; the other refers to concerns the NSA had about partnering with the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters and Israeli intelligence in surveillance operations.

In the document, prepared in April 2013 for a meeting between the NSA director and GCHQ, the author cites the Flame attack against Iran as an example of a US/GCHQ partnership. Flame was a massive spy platform exposed by Kaspersky Lab and Symantec in 2012. Flame targeted more than 10,000 machines in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, the Israeli Occupied Territories and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa and was active for at least six years before it was discovered. It used some of the same code that Stuxnet used, leading researchers to conclude that it had been created by the same US/Israel teams that had created Stuxnet. The Washington Post reported in 2012 that the US and Israel were both behind Flame, quoting anonymous US officials. But the new Snowden document hints that GCHQ might have been involved in Flame with the US.

And on the subject of irrational Middle Eastern extremists, consider this from the Washington Post:

Israel Prize judges resign, say Netanyahu meddling

Israel’s prime minister faced accusations on Thursday of politicizing the country’s most prestigious award after moving to disqualify some of the judges because he disagreed with their political views.

A number of judges for the Israel Prize have resigned in protest, while nominees say they won’t accept the award. One of the nominees, author David Grossman, told Channel 10 TV on Thursday that he pulled out in response to the “prime minister’s campaign of incitement,” calling it an attack on “freedom of thought.”

Netanyahu recently rejected the nominations of two judges in the literature category. In a Facebook post, he said the panel is controlled by judges with “extremist views” on the far left of the political spectrum, such as encouraging soldiers not to serve in the army. He said the committee needs to reflect the wider public.

“This man who is supposed to be taking care of the Iranian issue at his speech before the U.S Congress, or the country’s welfare or health issues, is dealing with this? For heaven’s sake what is going on here?” asked filmmaker Hayim Sharir, who was originally supposed to be on the committee.

On to the war with Defense One, and a blank check:

Obama’s ISIS War Powers Request Has Few Limits on Who, Where, How

  • President Obama’s requested authorization for the use of force against ISIS has few limits on how, where, and whom the fight is against

President Barack Obama, who won the White House on promises to end never-ending wars and the Bush-era laws that permitted them, on Wednesday sent Congress a new request for legal authorities to fight the Islamic State, or ISIS, that places few limits on the U.S. war against the terrorist group.

“The resolution we’ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq,” Obama said in his announcement at the White House. “I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East … At the same time, this resolution strikes the necessary balance by giving us the flexibility we need for unforeseen circumstances.”

Already, lawmakers are criticizing the request for being too “ambiguous” about the president’s powers to wage or limit ground combat.

CBC News covers a celebrity interview:

Hayat Boumeddiene, widow of Paris kosher market attacker, gives interview with ISIS

  • Woman believed to have left Paris while Charlie Hebdo and kosher market attacks were unfolding

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group published what it described as an interview with the widow of the French gunman who attacked a kosher supermarket and a police officer in Paris last month, claiming for the first time that she was among extremist fighters.

The text interviews in French and English, published Wednesday and Thursday, did not directly name Hayat Boumeddiene or show images of her, instead identifying her only as the wife of Amedy Coulibaly, or Umm Basur al-Muhajirah. She is considered key to the investigation into the attacks in Paris, which left 20 people dead including the gunmen, although she left France just beforehand.

The publication appeared to be the first confirmation from ISIS that she had joined the group in Syria, as was widely believed after a posthumous video emerged of Coulibaly, pledging allegiance to its leader.

Another development from Reuters:

Islamic State says it’s holding ‘Israeli spy’ in Syria

Islamic State said on Thursday it was holding an Israeli Arab who had posed as a foreign fighter in order to spy for Mossad, an account denied by Israel and by the man’s family, who said he had been kidnapped.

In an interview published by Islamic State’s online English-language magazine Dabiq, Muhammad Musallam, 19, said he had joined the insurgent group in Syria so as to report to the Israelis on its weapons caches, bases and Palestinian recruits.

After his conduct aroused the suspicion of Islamic State commanders, Musallam was quoted as saying, he broke cover by phoning his father in East Jerusalem, leading to his capture.

From Deutsche Welle, trying to cut off the pipeline:

Security Council seeks to block ‘Islamic State’ petrofunding

  • The UN Security Council has passed a resolution to stop “Islamic State” from raising funds through oil, antiquities and hostages. The EU is debating antiterrorism steps that could prove palatable to the 28-nation bloc.

More than 35 countries co-sponsored Thursday’s show of resolve to confront the “ Islamic State” (IS). The council banned all trade in antiquities from besieged areas, threatened sanctions on anyone buying oil from IS and al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants and urged states to stop ransom payments on kidnapped citizens. Fifteen nations unanimously adopted the resolution, drafted by Russia, which gives the council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions but does not authorize using military force.

“We took yet another very important step in suppressing the funding of terrorists,” Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on Thursday.

Following attacks that started January 7 at a magazine in Paris and ended January 9 in a supermarket, France and other EU countries have sought more effective ways to deal with armed militancy, especially the problem of Europeans who leave to fight in Syria or Iraq and then return home. As heads of state and government gathered in Brussels on Thursday, EU President Donald Tusk, the host of an official summit, said he would seek the leaders’ agreement on a “work plan to step up the fight against terrorism.”

From, eclectic fundamentalists:

New Norwegians take top roles in Isis jihadi group

Several Norwegian citizens have risen to leadership positions in Isis, the militant group battling to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, according to the latest information gathered by Norwegian military intelligence.

“We believe that some of the Norwegians in Isil [Isis] have risen to middle-management functions,” Lieutenant General Kjell Grandhagen, head of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, told Dagbladet newspaper  in an interview published on Thursday.

The most prominent Norwegian Isis commander, Bastian Vasquez, a Norwegian Chilean from Bærum, outside Oslo, was reportedly killed in the autumn. But Grandhagen said several others had also been given senior ranks in the organisation.

After the jump, Israel alarmed by an anti-ISIS coalition, a lethal Al Qaeda data breach, Anthem’s healthcare data grows more serious, phishing kits go on sale — cheap, Washington protests new Chinese cybersecurity rules, Jeb Bush spills vital data of his former constituents, West Africa under cyber siege, the Cameroonian president promises Boko Haram defeat, Boko Haram escapees speak out, Al Qaeda seizes a Yemeni army base as the nation borders on collapse, thousand flee from Boko Haram Niger assaults, Afghanistan slides into narco-statehood, Pakistan seeks school massacre planners, a former Pakistani spy says the ISI knew of Osama’s whereabouts, Chinese World War II slave laborers demand retribution from Mitsubishi, Shinzo Abe pushes hard for Japanese constitutional revision, his party promises but his foreign minister ppromises continued passivity,  Japan hits a road block on North Korean abductions, and a reminder of dark forces that just won’t die. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Starving Venezuela of tax

From InSightCrime, a chart of the vast sums stashed by Latin Americans into secret accounts, as revealed in a stunningly revealing insider leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

BLOG Banko

What notable are the vast Venezuelan sums stashed in those secret Swiss accounts, sums which, if taxed, might have prevented or ameliorated the country’s current economic crisis compounded of Washington embargoes and plunging petroleum prices.