Category Archives: Cuba

Yet another American military con game

A blockbuster story from a highly-respected American journalist has detonated with scarcely a peep.

It concerns a fake terrorist attack aboard an American airliner, a staged provocation designed to intimidate Al Qaeda and to reassure Americans about the safety of travel on the nation’s airliners.

A Canadian by birth, Sean D. Naylor is senior writer for Army Times, the privately owned weekly newspaper. Gannett, the media conglomerate that owns the paper, also publishes sister publications devoted, respectively, to the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

Naylor dropped his blockbuster is his newest book, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC], published by St. Martins Press.

JSOC assembles under one administrative roof the ranks of the military’s self-styled “operators,” the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the Army’s Delta Force, and the Air Force’s little-known 24th Special Tactics Squadron. These are the highly trained fighters whose successes and failures rarely reach the public’s eyes and ears, the covert operators, provocateurs, and assassins who thrive best under a shroud of secrecy.

One notable former JSOC commander was four-star Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose career was demolished by Michael Hastings in his reporting for Rolling Stone — leading some to suspect a hidden hand in the journalist’s subsequent death in a curious one-car high-speed accident.

What Naylor discovered was a JSOC plot worthy of a Ridley Scott film, triggered by a 14 September rumor that a hikjacked airliner was sitting on an airport runway outside Washington D.C.

Naylor writes:

Hijackings in the United States were usually the purview of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, but after the September 11 there was a sense at [Ft. Bragg] that the old rules might no longer apply. “We flexed out on that and got ready to deploy the aircraft takedown team up there,” before the there was no hijacking reached Bragg, said the Delta source.

Meanwhile, Delta’s operators brainstormed. To dete future hijackings, they suggested the government, in conjunction with the FBI and the airlines, “leak out that there are Delta operators on board almost every flight and do a fake takedown” using role players “in a first class compartment that’s all stooges” on an otherwise regular commercial flight, said the Delta source. A “terrorist” would attempt a hijacking before operators in plainclothes too him down with “hand-to-hand or something,” the source said. “Get that out [via the media]. Get inside their heads.” The aim was to make [Al Qaeda] think twice and begin to think, “Hey, they’re on to us, there’s special mission guys on every airplane.”

While Delta commander Colonel Jim Schwitters gave the concept only cautious support, higher-ups wisely relegated the plan to the round file.

Lest the reader think the notion was only hare-brained cerebral flatulence, consider the America military’s long history of creating pretexts for military intervention.

To folks of esnl’s generation, one provocation stands, the so-called “Gulf of Tonkin” incident, in which an American destroyer sailed into North Vietnamese waters, triggering a exchange of fire that provided the pretext for a greatly expanded U.S. military presence in Vietnam and leading to the first acknowledged American military defeat in a major war.

But the incident that offers the deepest resonance was part of a package submitted to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara by Admiral Lyman L. Lemnitzer, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on 13 March 1962. The memo [pdf], dubbed Operation Northwoods, was a package of provocation proposals designed to create an incident justifying a full-scale U.S. military invasion of Cuba and the ouster of the government of President Fidel Castro.

One aspect of the plans seems especially notable in light of the proposed post-9/11 JSOC ploy, and here’s the key section from that memo [click to enlarge]:

BLOG Northwoods

In the words of James Bamford, a former Navy intelligence analyst and perhaps America’s premier journalist on the trail of misdeeds of America’s secret world, “the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government.”

And while the plan talks about loading the initial flight with students and then moving them off so an empty aircraft could then be destroyed, the Pentagon planners had to know that local newspapers and television stations would bombard their parents with requests for information about their “dead” children — and that would lead to the truth and consequent international condemnation.

And that leads to one somber conclusion: The Pentagon planners knew that the only way the plan would’ve worked was to have let the airliner passengers die.

Fortunately, saner heads prevailed.

If there is one fact that stands out, it’s that America’s military leaders must always be regarded with suspicion.

Which takes us back to where we began, the curious lack of coverage from the mainstream media.

Aside from a very few blogs, only the blog Gawker gave the story any coverage, with Sam Biddle parsing the key components of the JSOC plot. That the New York Times and other papers failed to sound the alarm should raise a great many questions about the institutions professing to be the watchdogs of democracy and the champions of full disclosure..

InSecurityWatch: Stalkers, hacks, war, spies, law

From the Observer, the worst of both worlds:

Spyware and malware availability sparks surge in internet stalking

  • Domestic violence experts warn malicious software is increasingly being used to compromise victims’ computers and phones

Domestic violence experts have warned that the use of specialist technology that enables abusers to stalk victims online and via mobile phones is growing at an alarming rate.

A series of parliamentary answers has revealed that, in the 12 months up to April 2014, police received 10,731 reports of computers being compromised by spyware and malware (malicious software). Both can be used by abusers to gather information from someone’s computer or phone. They can allow abusers to view documents, photographs or passwords – and even turn on a device’s camera or microphone. Mobile spyware can also reveal a person’s location.

The real number of victims is likely to be considerably higher. “As most victims are unaware that they are being watched or are too scared to come forward, the real number of incidents could be up to 10 times that,” said Harry Fletcher, criminal justice director of the Digital-Trust, a new charity set up to help victims of cyber abuse.

A spy with conviction, via BBC News:

Ex-Colombian spy chief Maria del Pilar Hurtado convicted

The former head of Colombia’s secret police, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, has been found guilty of spying on politicians, judges and journalists. The Supreme Court said Hurtado’s sentence would be announced in 15 days.

Those targeted in the spying, which occurred between 2007 and 2008, were all political opponents of Alvaro Uribe, who was president at the time.

His former chief of staff has also been convicted but Mr Uribe denies any knowledge of the illegal intercepts.

Cold War 2.0 expostulation, via the Guardian:

Former MI6 chief warns over Russian threat

John Sawers says defence spending needs to increase to counter Vladimir Putin’s actions and Europe needs to find a new way to coexist with Russia

Russia has become a greater threat to Britain, and defence spending needs to increase to counter Vladimir Putin’s actions, the former MI6 chief has warned.

Sir John Sawers, who stepped down in 2014 after five years of running the Secret Intelligence Service, said the threat posed by Moscow was “not necessarily directly to the UK but to countries around its periphery”.

“The real problem is how we live with a Russia which feels very exposed. Putin’s actions are ones of a leader who believes his own security is at stake,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday.

And from the New York Times, Cold War 1.0:

Cuba’s Designation as a Sponsor of Terrorism Snarls Negotiations With U.S.

More than a year ago, the State Department held a meeting with bankers and Cuban officials to deliver an unusual request: please accept Cuba’s money.

The one bank that did business with Cuban diplomats in Washington, M & T Bank of Buffalo, had announced that it would no longer serve foreign missions. Cuba could hardly shop around for a replacement, not least because it is on the American government’s list of nations that support terrorism — forcing Cuban diplomats in Washington to carry out many of their transactions with bundles of cash.

Now, Cuba’s spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism is emerging as a major sticking point in the effort to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades.

And so it continues, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

UN cites 2 ‘credible’ reports of torture at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan

The United Nations reported Wednesday that it had uncovered two credible accounts of torture at U.S. military facilities in Afghanistan in recent years during an investigation into the treatment of detainees.

The report, which was devoted primarily to mistreatment of prisoners held in Afghan custody, said the “credible and reliable” accounts came from two detainees who’d been held “in a U.S. facility in Maydan Wardak,” a province whose capital of Maidan Shar lies about 20 miles west of Kabul, and “a U.S. special forces facility at Baghlan,” a province that lies north of the Afghan capital.

The report quoted the prisoners as saying the mistreatment in Baghlan occurred in April 2013 and at Maydan Wardak in September 2013.

Torture as part of the U.S. war on terror has been a controversial issue. A recent report by the Senate Intelligence Committee outlined 20 cases of mistreatment of suspected terrorists held in secret CIA prisons, and U.S. soldiers have been accused of torturing Afghan prisoners, with the most notorious case being the death of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who died after he was hung from the ceiling of his cell by his wrists and beaten in 2002.

But there have been few verified reports in more recent years, though Afghan authorities have accused Americans of abusing prisoners.

The New York Times covers the defense:

‘Jihadi John’ Stirs Britain to Defend Spy Agencies

After disclosures that the man who posed in videos of the murder of Western hostages was known to British intelligence, Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday defended the security services, saying they faced tough decisions and had prevented deadly attacks.

“All of the time, they are having to make incredibly difficult judgments, and I think basically they make very good judgments on our behalf,” Mr. Cameron said at a news conference.

“I think while we are in the middle of this vast effort to make sure British citizens are safe, I think the most important thing is to get behind them,” he said.

And from WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, a target:

Mid-South professor targeted by ISIS

A Mid-South professor is being targeted by ISIS, a group known for its gruesomeness.

“ISIS does not represent my faith, their actions are in contradiction to my faith, and I’m appalled at what they are doing in the name of my faith,” said Rhodes College professor of religious studies, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center Yasir Qadhi.

ISIS is using its propaganda magazine in the name of Islam to call for the assassination of Qadhi.

“I was one two clerics that they targeted in their latest magazine, two American clerics, and basically called for my assassination,” said Qadhi. “And they have said this is an act of of worship…..that if somebody kills me, God is going to reward them.”

BBC News covers a designation:

Egypt court puts Hamas on terrorist list

An Egyptian court has listed the Palestinian group Hamas as a terrorist organisation, accusing it of supporting an insurgency in northern Sinai.

The ruling comes a month after a different court labelled the armed wing of Hamas as a terrorist group. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – itself designated as a terrorist organisation in 2013.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi was ousted that year. The court ruling on Saturday effectively bans Hamas within Egypt, a wider verdict that January’s censure of its armed wing.

From the New York Times, agitation:

Online, American Helps Fuel Attacks in Egypt

Writing from an online perch in Istanbul, he calls on Egyptians to start off-hour attacks against KFC restaurants, banks, mobile phone shops and other corporate outposts. He urges assaults on the military’s commercial interests instead of its security checkpoints.

Nonviolent protests are worse than “futile,” he says, just an opportunity “to get arrested or shot in an exercise in crowd control training for the police.”

This Internet provocateur is an American convert to Islam, Shahid King Bolsen, a college dropout who speaks only rudimentary Arabic and has barely set foot in Egypt. He has nevertheless emerged as the unlikely apostle for a distinctive blend of anti-globalization sloganeering and Islamist politics that is fueling a new wave of violence against businesses across the country.

From the Independent, a Saudi blogger’s fate worsens:

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face the death penalty

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger whose punishment of 1,000 lashes has prompted international condemnation, may now face the death penalty.

Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, told The Independent in a series of messages that judges in Saudi Arabia’s criminal court want him to undergo a re-trial for apostasy. If found guilty, he would face a death sentence.

She said the “dangerous information” had come from “official sources” inside the conservative kingdom, where Mr Badawi has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – administered at a rate of 50 per week – for criticising the country’s clerics through his liberal blog.

After the jump, terror porn and fundamentalist eBayism, China alleged to spy on nuclear power plants, Aussie women head off to ISIS, China’s Muslims increasingly targeted, Pegida marchers outnumbered by foes in Britain, a looted Iraqi museum reopens, more U.S. drone kills in Yemen, Cameroonians stage an anti-Boko Haram rally, a former Peruvian leader charged in a journalist’s killing, terror fears raise a free speech crackdown on the U.K. campus, civil libertarians fear Canada’s anti-terror legislation, and new Turkish laws evoke the police state specter, South Korea pushes Japan for Comfort Women resolution, a partisan challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security state push, and a call for cybersecurity coordination. . . Continue reading

Abby Martin’s swan song: An insightful look at Cuba

Abby Martin’s final week at the helm of RT America’s Breaking the Set with an insightful look at Cuba, offering a rare, and comprehensive, look at the people and its political, economic, and agricultural systems.

In the face of overwhelming opposition and subversion from Washington, fueled by the Cuban exile dominance of the electoral votes of Florida, the small island nation 90 miles from U.S. shores, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union, its main base of support, Cuba faced enduring struggles, yet endured.

In the process, it has created revolutions in healthcare and agriculture, becoming the only nation in which cities provide most of their own food from intensive and organic neighborhood gardens and educating a cadre of physicians who have provided much, often most, of the total global response to medical emergencies around the world.

The outstanding examples set by Cuba in these fields have made a mockery of the enduring U.S. embargo against the island nation, leaving Israel Washington’s only ally in opposition to full normalization of relations.

In these three segments, Abby Martin demonstrates the skills she has honed during, first, her years as an unsalaried journalist at Berkeley Community Television, then during the three years at the helm of her RT America news magazine.

So sit back and enjoy a remarkable work of journalism.

From Breaking the Set:

Cuba Part I: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with a historical look at the tensions between the US and Cuba that have led the two countries to the negotiating table to normalize relations. Abby then discusses the major areas of contention when it comes to these negotiations and where they currently stand. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with members of the largest delegation of peace activists to visit Cuba since the normalized relations announcement, highlighting the role of grassroots diplomacy. BTS than talks to average Cubans both in Havana and in Miami about their views on the state of US-Cuban relations. BTS wraps up the show with an interview with Kenia Serrano, a high ranking Cuban parliament member and President of The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, about everything from internet access to the crackdown on free speech in the country.

Cuba Part II: Ebola Solidarity & Castro’s Daughter on Gay Rights

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights part II of BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with an interview with Cuban doctor, Katiel Llorente Izabelez, who explains how Cuba has managed to maintain such a high life expectancy rate, despite the lack of access to up to date medical supplies. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with students at the Latin American School of Medicine, an international medical school set up by the Cuban government that provides free tuition to low income individuals that want to become doctors. Abby then discusses how Cuba managed to send the largest contingent of doctors to fight the ebola crisis in West Africa, and how this is just the latest example of the country’s medical internationalism. Abby then goes over the US programs meant to encourage Cuban doctors to defect and how this undermines international health efforts. BTS wraps up the show with an exclusive interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President, Raul Castro, and director of Cuba’s sexual education program CENESEX, about the biggest challenges facing Cuba’s gay community.

Cuba Part III: The Evolution of Revolution

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin features the third installment of BTS’ trip to Cuba, focusing on reforms to the country’s economic and agricultural models. Abby first gives an overview of how Cuba’s organic movement evolved and the challenges of the country’s food subsidy system. Abby then speaks with agricultural co-op founder, Miguel Angel Salcines Lopez, about how Cuba’s cooperative and food system works. Abby then talks to Ernesto Blanco, owner of La Fontana restaurant in Havana, about the difficulties of operating a private business in Cuba and how entrepreneurs are being impacted by recent economic reforms. Abby then speaks with Ricardo Alarcón, Cuba’s former minister of foreign affairs and president of the People’s National Assembly of Power, about the normalization process with the US and the biggest hurdles still remaining in the negotiations.

Chart of the day: More favor Cuba than don’t

A dramatic shift in opinion in the U.S., as documented by Gallup:


It’s official: America has totally jumped the shark

If you have any vestigial doubts, consider story about the plight of a Silver Spring, Maryland, family reported by WUSA-TV in the nation’s capital:

Md. parents investigated for letting kids walk alone

A couple being investigated for child neglect because they allow their children to roam freely in their neighborhood says their parenting style is unfairly under assault.

In many ways, the Meitiv family is very traditional. They eat dinner together every night, their kids have fixed bedtimes, do chores and have limits on their sweets and screen time. But the parents are under investigation because they let their kids walk around the neighborhood together, unaccompanied by an adult.

Danielle and Sasha Meitiv say the investigation is an invasion of their privacy and infringes on their rights as parents.

“I grew up in New York City in the 70s and nobody hesitated to let their kids walk around. The only thing that’s changed between then and now is our fear,” said mother Danielle Meitiv.

The kids in question are ten and six, and their parents let them wander the neighborhood so long as it’s together.

But, no, that’s a crime.

Had it been criminal back when esnl was growing up, his parents would’ve been clapped in irons, as would almost every other parent back in 1950s Abilene, Kansas. We were solo neighborhood-wandering from age five or six, and no one thought twice about it, either neighbors or officialdom.

Likewise, when when esnl was a parent in California he and his spouses, he and his mates were comfortable with out offspring wandering the neighborhood with the usual admonitions to avoid crossing busy streets.

But nowadays the notion of free range small humans is under threat, in large part thanks to the pervasive influence of fear-mongering fiction and faction on the boob tube.

It’s all part of the growing fear of the Alien Other, that latter-day pixelated Boogeyman who seems, increasingly, to haunt our every waking moment.

On its altar, we sacrifice the natural exploratory urges of childhood, admittedly vastly easier to do these days what with all the sedentary screen-mediated activities corporations peddle and overworked parents buy for their offspring to make up for the hours lost to their children because ever-more-precarious jobs demand ever-growing segments of our time.

Some of the happiest days of our own childhood were spent wandering the neighborhood, either alone or with friends, discovering and playing.

Now those joys have been criminalized.

What a tragedy.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, cases, aid, campaigns

We begin with the latest total case and death numbers for all countries from today’s World Health Organization Situation Report [PDF]:

BLOG Ebola Numbers

Next, via the Centers for Disease Control, the latest Ebola curves for the three hardest hit West African countries. Note the unrelenting steep rise in Sierra Leone:

BLOG Ebola curves

CCTV America offers a year-end progress report:

Professor Jonathan Moreno discusses progress in fight against Ebola

Program notes:

Healthcare workers have made major strides this year in containing the Ebola virus. CCTV America interviewed physician Jonathan Moreno about the progress made so far and what lies ahead in fighting the virus.

From BBC News, help for a European victim:

Experimental drug for Ebola patient Pauline Cafferkey

Ebola patient Pauline Cafferkey is receiving an experimental anti-viral drug and blood from survivors of the disease, doctors in London have said.

Specialists at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, where the nurse is being treated, did not name the drug.

Dr Michael Jacobs said Ms Cafferkey was in isolation and was sitting up in bed, talking and reading.

As the disease has no known cure and is unpredictable, Dr Jacobs said they would know more in a week’s time.

Case-handling blowback from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

Ebola plans under review after Glasgow positive

Screening measures for Ebola are to be reviewed after a health worker was found to have the virus having flown on from Heathrow after repeated tests

Dame Sally Davies, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, said questions had been raised about airport screening for Ebola after NHS nurse Pauline Cafferkey was found to have the virus after returning to the UK from west Africa.

Mrs Cafferkey flew in to Heathrow before catching a flight to Glasgow where she was placed in isolation after feeling feverish. She had flown to Sierra Leone with other NHS volunteers in November.

“We regularly keep under review what we are doing because this is a new process,” Dame Sally said. “Clearly queuing and things like that are unacceptable and we will review. But we will let people who are well travel because they will not infect the public.”

Another review, via the Guardian:

Scottish Ebola case triggers Save the Children investigation

  • Charity for which Pauline Cafferkey was working to look into how she caught disease in Sierra Leone, as UK reviews screening measures

Save the Children has launched an urgent investigation into how a Scottish nurse contracted the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, as health chiefs promise to review screening measures in the UK.

The charity’s humanitarian director, Michael von Bertele, said he had ordered an inquiry into whether Pauline Cafferkey caught the disease outside the treatment centre in Kerry Town where she had volunteered.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I would say that protection, if people adhere to the protocols, is of a very high standard but … nothing is risk-free, particularly when dealing with a disease like Ebola.”

He said the investigation had started already.

And another Rupert Murdoch minion does her master proud in Old Blighty, via BBC News:

Katie Hopkins’ tweets on ‘Ebola bombs’ examined by police

  • Complaints were made to police about Katie Hopkins’ tweets on Ebola

Police are examining complaints about Ebola comments tweeted by controversial TV personality Katie Hopkins.

After news that a Scots nurse was being treated for the virus, Hopkins wrote: “Sending us Ebola bombs in the form of sweaty Glaswegians just isn’t cricket.”

Another tweet said: “Glaswegian ebola patient moved to London’s Royal Free Hospital. Not so independent when it matters most are we jocksville?”

From the Dept. Of Unconfirmed but Too Noteworthy to Ignore, this from Outbreak News Today:

Ebola in Iraq? Unconfirmed reports hitting the internet

  • A number of unconfirmed reports have hit the internet today concerning Ebola virus case(s) in Mosul, Iraq.

According to a report in Shafaq News today, A medical source in Mosul hospital revealed diagnosing the infection with Ebola virus of elements belonging to ISIS.

Later in the report it states, The source, who asked not to be identified told “Shafaq News”, that “the cases were recorded on foreign fighters of African descent.

The medical source warned from the spread of the disease within the city of Mosul and its transmission to other Iraqi cities

From the New York Times, an economic damage assessment:

Ebola Ravages Economies in West Africa

More than any loss of life or manpower, it is the extreme efforts to check the disease that are proving far more costly to the economies. Shutting schools, quarantining whole districts, sealing borders, canceling flights and banning public gatherings may have helped reduce transmission of the disease, but such measures have crippled trade. The shame of it is that Sierra Leone was growing at an impressive clip — before Ebola hit.

“A shock like this just brings a whole bunch of households back below the poverty line,” said David Evans, a World Bank economist. “It’s a huge setback.”

It is not clear how quickly Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone would bounce back even if the virus were stopped in its tracks right now. The World Bank predicts that Sierra Leone’s economy will contract in 2015 and that West Africa will lose at least $3.8 billion in economic activity. Farming is one of the biggest concerns. In some areas of Sierra Leone, agricultural production has dropped by nearly half because so many cassava and rice farmers were ordered to stay home for mandatory quarantines.

Already 500,000 people in the region have gone hungry because of Ebola, and that number could double by March. In the last two months, the United Nations World Food Program has distributed 22 million pounds of emergency food.

And from the Guardian, a prescription:

Ebola can only be beaten by tackling poverty in Africa

Listening to the NHS staff returning from fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone, it is obvious that poverty still kills as efficiently as it always has. One doctor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning explained that their clinic had no access to any special treatment, but that simply by rehydrating patients they were immediately seeing better than 50% recovery rates. He added that there was not yet any scientific evidence that the new vaccines or treatments made a difference. It may be that outcomes that are just as good and much, much cheaper will come from the absolute fundamentals of good basic care and hygiene.

It is now nearly a year since this tragic story began to unfold. It should have been contained much sooner: prevention and treatment should have been delivered at scale with urgency. But Ebola has become a metonym for the way the west sees the African story, a continent that lives under a perpetual cloud of fear.

It is also a brutal reminder of an everyday fact in rural Africa – that poverty kills. For thousands of families no good will come of the disease. But for the wider continent and for the next generation, something could. In 2015, the UN is reviewing the development goals that it originally set in 2000. Here’s a thought. Make sure the new list includes tackling some of the structural barriers that stand between ordinary Africans and a growing income. Pull down trade barriers, and enforce government transparency. The way to end diseases of poverty is, after all, by ending poverty.

While CCTV America examines the fate of the smallest victims:

Ebola orphans often overlooked

Program notes:

In the race to contain the Ebola virus, the children of Ebola victims are often overlooked. Many children are abandoned, stigmatized, and suffering the pain of incredible loss. CCTV America’s Stephanie Freid reported this story from Conakry, Guinea.

After the jump, it’s on to Sierra Leone with a U.N. warning and a recovered Cuban doctor’s vow to return to the hot zone, on to Liberia with an ex-official’s call for border closures, public gathering ban lifted for New Year’s worship, the central bank announces relief measures — including payments for private school teachers impoverished by ban on classes, and motorized anti-Ebola auxiliaries, collateral damage in Zimbabwe, and a new position at the Centers for Disease Control. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spies, cops, hacks, war, zones

And much more. . .

First, from the Guardian:

St Louis protests after police shooting of black teenager Antonio Martin

  • Protesters held vigils, with some briefly blocking traffic on Interstate 170 but actions were calmer than previous night amid mayor’s call for calm

Demonstrators took to the streets for a second night after a white police officer in Berkeley, Missouri, killed a black 18-year-old who police said pointed a gun at him.

Dozens of protesters held a vigil late Wednesday at the gas station in the St Louis suburb where Antonio Martin was shot, and they briefly blocked traffic on Interstate 170 during a march before returning to the station. Berkeley Police Chief Frank McCall told KMOV-TV that six to eight people were arrested.

Later, about 75 people staged a peaceful protest early Christmas morning outside of a nearby church, according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch. Police in riot gear were present.

Next, somewhat good news from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

South Korea says nuclear reactors safe after cyber-attacks

  • South Korea has moved to allay concerns that hackers could cause a malfunction at one of the nation’s nuclear plants by breaking into its system

South Korea on Thursday (Dec 25) ruled out the possibility that a recent string of cyber-attacks on its nuclear power operator could cause a malfunction at any of the country’s 23 atomic reactors. The designs and manuals for two reactors have been published on Twitter over the past week, along with personal information on some 10,000 workers at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP).

Officials said Tuesday that South Korea has heightened security in the wake of the leaks, with the defence ministry’s cyber warfare unit increasing its watch-level against attacks from North Korean and other hackers.

The presidential Blue House moved on Thursday to allay concerns that hackers could cause a malfunction at one of the nation’s nuclear plants by breaking into its system. “The control system of nuclear reactors are separated from external networks, and hacking into the system is fundamentally impossible,” the presidential office said in a statement quoted by Yonhap news agency.

KHNP has said the material released on the Gori and Wolsong nuclear power plants was not classified and would not affect safety.

Common Dreams sneaks one in:

NSA Spied on Americans for Over a Decade: Report

Files released in response to an ACLU lawsuit shows long-term, unauthorized NSA operations against U.S. citizens

The National Security Agency quietly released a heavily redacted report late Wednesday night showing that its mass surveillance program targeting U.S. citizens went on for more than 10 years.

The documents, which are made up of annual and quarterly reports filed since 2001, were published to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the ACLU.

They note numerous instances in which U.S. citizens were erroneously targeted for spying and information waspassed among servers that were “not authorized” to hold it. Many of these cases were shown to be “marked for purging,” but it is unclear whether they were actually deleted.

The NSA’s executive summary of the reports states, “The vast majority of compliance incidents involve unintentional technical or human error… Data incorrectly acquired is almost always deleted.”

More from Businessweek:

The heavily-redacted reports include examples of data on Americans being e-mailed to unauthorized recipients, stored in unsecured computers and retained after it was supposed to be destroyed, according to the documents. They were posted on the NSA’s website at around 1:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

In a 2012 case, for example, an NSA analyst “searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting,” according to one report. The analyst “has been advised to cease her activities,” it said.

Other unauthorized cases were a matter of human error, not intentional misconduct.

Last year, an analyst “mistakenly requested” surveillance “of his own personal identifier instead of the selector associated with a foreign intelligence target,” according to another report.

And from Business Insider, a lump of coal in many a Christmas stocking:

PlayStation Network And Xbox Live Are Down, And The Notorious Hacker Gang ‘Lizard Squad’ Is Taking Credit

Hours after Microsoft’s Xbox Live went down Wednesday, Sony’s PlayStation Network went down, too.

These are two giant networks that console gamers access to play their games online. It’s especially bad timing since a lot of people are probably getting new PlayStations and Xboxes for Christmas.

Since early Wednesday, the notorious hacker group “Lizard Squad” has claimed responsibility for taking down PlayStation Network on Twitter, saying it has downed both networks with denial of service attacks. That means the hacker group is flooding Sony and Microsoft’s servers with bogus traffic.

Lizard Squad has been tweeting about these outages incessantly, boosting its number of Twitter followers by promising to restore the downed game networks if people favorite and retweet their messages a certain number of times.

On to the war of the moment with the Washington Post:

Hoping to create a new society, the Islamic State recruits entire families

Unlike al-Qaeda, which operates in many countries but is a stateless army, the Islamic State controls territory that it has taken by force in Iraq and Syria. To create the Islamist society it envisions, the group has gone to great lengths to take over existing schools, hospitals and playgrounds, or to build these and other institutions of daily family life.

“The more they are successful at creating a whole new society, the more they are able to attract entire families,” said Mia Bloom, a professor of security studies at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell who has written extensively about women and terrorism. “It’s almost like the American dream, but the Islamic State’s version of it.”

In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s main stronghold, the extremists have established a clinic for pregnant women run by a female gynecologist trained in Britain. Boys attend school, studying almost exclusively religion, until they are 14, when they are expected to start fighting, Smith said. Girls stay in school until they are 18; their instruction is about the Koran and sharia law, as well as learning how to dress, keep house, cook, clean and care for men, all according to a strict Islamic code.

From Deutsche Welle, lèse majesté in Turkey:

High school student arrested for ‘insulting’ Turkey’s Erdogan

A Turkish high-school student has been arrested for allegedly “insulting” the president. This was just the latest in a series of controversial arrests in Turkey in recent weeks.

The 16-year-old high school student, identified by his initials, M.E.A., was arrested in the central Turkey city of Konya, according to a report published in the Hurriyet newspaper on Thursday.

The accusation stems from a speech the boy made on Wednesday in Konya, in which he referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured above) as the “thieving owner of the illegal palace.” The reference alluded to a corruption scandal one year ago that led to the resignations of four ministers in then-Prime Minister Erdogan’s cabinet, as well as a new presidential palace with more than 1,000 rooms, in which Erdogan took up residence back in October.

The youth, who has reportedly denied intending to insult the president, could now face up to four years in prison if convicted on the charge, although this could be reduced due to his young age.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defended the court’s decision to arrest the high-school student. “Everyone must respect the office of president whoever he is,” Davotoglu said.

BuzzFeed News covers the raving unconfined:

Bachmann: Obama Supports The Agenda Of Islamic Jihad “At Every Turn”

“And I have been very surprised, to answer your question, to see the president of the United States, at every turn, cut the legs off of our ally, Israel, and in fact embrace and lift up the agenda of Islamic jihad.”

Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann says President Obama has supported the agenda of Islamic jihad “at every turn.”

“And I have been very surprised, to answer your question, to see the president of the United States, at every turn, cut the legs off of our ally, Israel, and in fact embrace and lift up the agenda of Islamic jihad,” Bachmann said on the show Washington Watch hosted by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

Bachmann was referring to a report in the Wall Street Journal that stated President Obama wrote secret letters to the Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about having a shared interest in fighting the Islamic State and reaching an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

And the raving confined, via

Breivik’s letters seized over terror fears

Norway’s prison authorities said Monday they had seized over 200 letters from mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik to prevent him from setting up a network outside jail.

According to a written ruling from jail authorities “Breivik’s intention is to consolidate his position as frontman and leader figure for a movement that involves using extreme violence and terror as an instrument.”

“We have refused to send some letters from Breivik for reasons of security. We’re talking about roughly 220 letters,” Yling Faeste, a spokesman for the prison administration, told AFP.

“We control his communication, and he is not allowed to set up a network that could commit even more crimes.”

Breivik, who is now aged 35, committed the worst carnage in recent Norwegian history on July 22, 2011.

After setting off a bomb in Oslo’s government district that killed eight, he went on to attack a Labour Party youth camp on the island of Utoeya, where another 69 people died, most of them teenagers. He said he committed the attacks to prevent a “Muslim invasion” of Norway.

From the Guardian, precrime in Old Blighty:

Revealed: Police using pre-charge bail to muzzle protesters

  • Exclusive: Data obtained by the Guardian substantiates claims that hundreds of innocent people banned from attending lawful demonstrations

Police are being accused of trying to muzzle protest movements as figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the widespread use of bail to ban hundreds of innocent people from attending lawful demonstrations.

The data shows that around 85% of those barred from protesting when bailed have not been subsequently charged with any crime. Civil liberties and protest groups accused police of dealing out their own justice and called for a change in the law.

The figures show that a least 732 people have been banned by police forces in England and Wales since 2008 but then never charged. They come as the government confirms it is considering overhauling the police bail rules.

“Bail is becoming an instrument that is being used by people without recourse to the judicial process. It is to essentially punish protesters and curb their right to demonstrate,” said Rachel Harger of leading human rights law firm Bindmans.

From RT, hard times intolerance:

Anti-homeless cages installed around benches in French city on Christmas Eve

The right-wing city council of Angouleme in southwest France has come under fire for banishing homeless people from its city center, after it installed cages that completely cover benches used by local hobos.

The municipal deputy responsible for security, Joel Guitton, told AFP that the benches were “almost exclusively used by people who consume alcohol on a regular basis,” and claimed the decision was taken in concert with local traders, who complained that threatening behavior was driving away customers.

Regional daily Sud Ouest alleged that the Champ de Mars had become a scene of regular fights between the homeless, often provoked by drugs and involving dogs.

But social media users say the unusual severity of the measure shows that local authorities “lack empathy.” and have called for protests, and even unsanctioned demolitions of the cages. Earlier this year, the city of 40,000 people elected Xavier Bonnefont, an ambitious 34-year-old whose rise has already earned comparisons to the career of Nicolas Sarkozy – who himself came to prominence as a young mayor of a small community.

After the jump, it’s on to the Sony hack and allegations of misattribution, at the mediated eye of a media shitstorm, we have a winner [of sorts] at home and abroad, Japan tightens domestic cybersecurity, the NSA’s hand seen in major spooky malware infestation, allegations of Chinese hacks in Afghan computers, growing fears of imminent hospital hacks, Washington’s plain old-fashioned human asset at the heart of Cuba’s cryptoservice, then on to ideological violence, first with a mosque burned in Sweden, terror charges lodged against Saudi women drivers, Pakistan’s top general orders military trials for terror, Beijing sends a signal to an increasingly militaristic Shinzo Abe and embarks on major naval expansion moves with a trans-Pacific nuclear reach, Japanese show growing interest in insular claims, AIDS infection threats used in a Chinese development dispute, the Pentagon want s self-flying insectoid drones, and ensl’s own congressional rep rightly claims vindication. . . Continue reading