Category Archives: Deep Politics

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, oil, air, climate, nukes


And more. . .

We begin with the Express Tribune and a Pakistani vaccination crisis:

Sehat ka Ittehad struggles as WHO recommends extension of restrictions

There has been no documented international spread of the poliovirus since March 2014 – with the exception of “one new exportation from Pakistan into Afghanistan documented after 13 November 2014″.

The fourth meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee announced the spread of polio still constitutes a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”. The committee has recommended extending the “temporary recommendations” for another three months. Among others, these include declaring a national public health emergency, restricting departure of any residents from the country if they lack an international certification of vaccination and maintaining these measures till the country has stopped exporting polio. The WHO statement is available on their website.

Hours after the WHO pointed to Pakistan as the only country still spreading the preventable, crippling virus. Sehat ka Ittehad’s recent drive came to a close and left at least 33,601 children unvaccinated, but not without efforts to the contrary.

And closer to home for esnl, a deadly hospital-based outbreak spreads, via the Guardian:

Cedars-Sinai hospital in LA investigates outbreak of deadly ‘superbug’

  • Hospital says four patients have been infected with bacteria from a contaminated medical scope, and 67 other people may have been exposed

The Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles announced a possible “superbug” outbreak linked to gastrointestinal devices, the second hospital in a month to link the potentially deadly germs to devices called duodenoscopes.

The bug, called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), is a bacteria resistant to some of medicine’s strongest antibiotics. The duodenoscope is a difficult-to-clean, complex flexible tube inserted through the throat of patients to check for issues in the upper intestines.

Cedars-Sinai hospital officials linked four transmissions of CRE to duodenoscopes. The hospital sent letters and home-testing kits to 71 more patients who may have been exposed between August 2014 and February 2015, “out of an abundance of caution”.

From the Associated Press, regulatory failure:

Maker of device in ‘superbug’ outbreak lacked FDA clearance

The manufacturer of a medical instrument at the center of a recent “superbug” outbreak in Los Angeles did not receive federal clearance to sell an updated version the device, according to officials from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA confirmed that Olympus Corp. did not seek agency clearance for the redesign of its specialized endoscope, which it began selling in 2010. FDA clearance is required for all substantive updates to medical devices sold in the U.S.

Despite the lack of clearance, the FDA said doctors should continue using the device because it’s not clear that a federal review would have prevented the recent infections in patients.

From National Geographic, a story we’ve been covering since our earliest posts:

Chemical Exposure Linked to Billions in Health Care Costs

Researchers conclude they are 99 percent certain that hormone-altering chemicals are linked to attention problems, diabetes, other health problems.

Exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is likely leading to an increased risk of serious health problems costing at least $175 billion (U.S.) per year in Europe alone, according to a study published Thursday.

Chemicals that can mimic or block estrogen or other hormones are commonly found in thousands of products around the world, including plastics, pesticides, furniture, and cosmetics.

The new research estimated health care costs in Europe, where policymakers are debating whether to enact the world’s first regulations targeting endocrine disruptors. The European Union’s controversial strategy, if approved, would have a profound effect on industries and consumer products worldwide.

Linda Birnbaum, the leading environmental health official in the U.S. government, called the new findings, which include four published papers, “a wake-up call” for policymakers and health experts.

From Newsweek, one of those chemicals and twisted regulatory semantics:

BPA Is Fine, If You Ignore Most Studies About It

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is either a harmless chemical that’s great for making plastic or one of modern society’s more dangerous problems. Depends whom you ask.

BPA is in many types of plastics and the epoxy resins that line most aluminum cans, as well as thermal papers like receipts. It is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, a hormone especially important in sexual development, and the fact that it’s all over the place worries many people. Newsweek spoke with about 20 scientists, leaders in the field of BPA research, and the majority say it is likely (though not certain) that the chemical plays a role in a litany of health concerns: obesity, diabetes, problems with fertility and reproductive organs, susceptibility to various cancers and cognitive/behavioral deficits like ADHD.

“There’s too much data consistent across studies…time and time again…to ignore it and suggest BPA has no effect on humans,” says Gail Prins, a physiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But the plastic industry, researchers it funds and, most important, many regulatory agencies—including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)—say BPA is safe for humans at the levels people are exposed to.

From VICE News, and not so surprising for students of history:

Deforestation May Be Helping to Spread the Plague in Africa

The destruction of forests is known to cause the release of massive amounts of greenhouse gases, destroy critical wildlife habitat, and increase soil erosion, which can lead to deadly floods and landslides.

But converting forests to farmland can also increase the spread of the plague, according to researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB).

“It pops up every other year or so, and the number of cases per year is quite variable and it’s also poorly reported,” Hillary Young, an ecologist at UCSB, who led the study, told VICE News. “So we don’t have a good sense of the number of cases per year in the region.”

Madagascar’s complex climate woes, via IRIN:

Disaster-prone Madagascar battles flooding and drought

Authorities in Madagascar are struggling to respond to increasingly severe flooding in the central highlands region of the country that includes the capital, Antananarivo, in addition to a prolonged drought in the south.

The latest round of flooding, which started when three rivers that cross Antananarivo – the Sisaony, Ikopa and Imamba – burst their banks during a storm on 24 February, has left 19 people dead and an estimated 36,000 displaced, according to the National Office for the Management of Risks and Catastrophes (BNRGC in French). A further 40,000 people were displaced in 13 other districts.

On Wednesday, BNRGC issued a new alert warning that a low-pressure system just off the island’s west coast was expected to bring more torrential rainfall to the central highlands region. Several neighbourhoods in Antananarivo remain braced for further flooding and landslides over the coming days.

Getting bad air off their chest, via the Los Angeles Times:

Cleaner air is linked to stronger lungs in Southern California children

Cleaner air has for the first time been linked to bigger and stronger lungs among school-age children, according to findings released Wednesday from a two-decade study in Southern California.

The research by USC scientists, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the region’s steep decline in air pollution since the mid-1990s is strongly associated with “statistically and clinically significant improvements” in children’s lung function and growth.

The analysis, which studied more than 2,000 children in five cities over the years, provides the strongest evidence yet that years of government regulations to reduce air pollution in California and across the nation are paying off with measurable improvements in children’s health.

The accompanying graphic tells the story:

BLOG Lungs

From the Associated Press, and we wonder just how safe those “small” levels are over time?:

FDA study finds little evidence of antibiotics in milk

In an encouraging development for consumers worried about antibiotics in their milk, a new Food and Drug Administration study showed little evidence of drug contamination after surveying almost 2,000 dairy farms.

In response to concerns, the agency in 2012 took samples of raw milk from the farms and tested them for 31 drugs, almost all of them antibiotics. Results released by the agency Thursday show that less than 1 percent of the total samples showed illegal drug residue.

Antibiotics and other drugs can end up in milk when they are used on dairy cows to keep them healthy. Small levels of drugs are allowed in milk, but residues that go beyond certain thresholds are illegal.

Some delightful news for bees, via DutchNews.nl:

Amsterdam bee population is booming

Amsterdam bee population is booming Society March 5, 2015 Honey comb and a bee workingBee populations may be in trouble elsewhere but in Amsterdam there are now 61 different bee species, up from 51 in 2000, according to new research.

The most common bee in the city is the common furrow (Lasioglossum calceatum) while the hairy-footed flower bee, which was very rare in 2000, now lives in abundance in the city’s Vondel park, the research shows.

The research was commissioned by the city council. Bee expert and researcher told the Parool the city council should be extremely pleased the city has such committed people managing its green spaces. ‘The city can thank their expertise for the increase,’ he said.

Ten years ago the city council took a new, environmentally-friendly approach to its green areas and roadside verges. It no longer uses pesticides and wild flowers have been sown in many places. Specific bee friendly projects have also been set up.

After the jump, Brits sign a Mexican dirty energy deal, an oil company settles a cleanup complaint in Peru, Britain’s central bank sounds a fossil fuel alert, Oklahoma scientists play Big Oil’s music, Feds find the Arctic oil they want drilled will most likely lead to a major oil spill, allegations industry corrupted Europe’s clean air laws, separating fossil fueled climate change from oceanic changes, flooding predicted to triple in 15 years, a new African environmental alliance announced, Brazilian peasants seize a paper plant over plans to plan GMO trees, Arctic Sea ice thinning accelerates, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with more radioactive leaks, local communities protests TEPCO’s concealing of a major leak for ten months, another radioactive fuel removal planned, evacuees plagued with blood clots, the governor calls for extending reconstruction programs, Japanese tourism recovers from Fukushimaphobia, nearby factories suffer from major labor shortages, regulators find major flaws in plans for the restart of another Japanese nuke plant shut down after the earthquake that shattered Fukushima, a lawsuit challenges plans for a new British nuke plant, and, finally, fears over new Nuclear plants in a Pakistani seismic hot spot. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Assault, leaks, hacks, war, more


We begin with a violence in South Korea, via SINA English:

US ambassador to South Korea attacked and hurt: local media

U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert was attacked by a man wielding a razor and screaming that the rival Koreas should be unified, South Korean police and media said Thursday. TV images showed Lippert bleeding from his head and wrist, but his injuries weren’t immediately clear. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

YTN TV reported that the man screamed “South and North Korea should be reunified” during the attack. The rival Koreas have been divided for decades along the world’s most heavily armed border. The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea, and some South Koreans see the U.S. presence as a barrier toward a unified Korea.

YTN TV said Lippert’s injuries weren’t seen as life threatening. Police confirmed that Lippert was attacked and a suspect was detained and being questioned but didn’t have other details, including the type of weapon and the extent of Lippert’s injuries. YTN said a man only identified by his surname, Kim, was detained after the attack.

BBC News covers a clearance:

Darren Wilson will not face US charges over Brown killing

The US Justice Department has said it will not charge former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson over the killing of black teenager Michael Brown.

But the same department has accused city’s police and court system of widespread racial bias.

The investigation found no evidence to disprove Mr Wilson’s testimony that he feared for his safety or other evidence enough to bring civil rights charges.

A Missouri grand jury also declined to charge him with murder in November.

From United Press International, blowback:

One Ferguson official fired, two suspended in wake of DOJ report

“This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson Police Department or any other department. We must do better not only as a city, but also as a state and country.” — Ferguson Mayor James Knowles.

In the wake of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report accusing the Ferguson judicial system of systematic racism, one police official was fired and two others were suspended, the city’s mayor said Wednesday.

Mayor James Knowles spoke to reporters Wednesday evening after Attorney General Eric Holder presented the results of two investigations stemming from the August shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson.

The department determined no charges would be brought against Wilson but found evidence of racism and misconduct in Ferguson’s police department and municipal court system.

Knowles said one police official was fired and two others were suspended in response to the Justice Department uncovering several racist emails sent by police and court employees.

The Atlantic Monthly‘s headline notes the distinction:

Officer Cleared, City Indicted

In two sweeping reports, the Justice Department cleared former officer Darren Wilson, but lambasted Ferguson’s police department for discriminatory practices.

Almost seven months after Michael Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department cleared Wilson of civil-rights violations in a report released on Wednesday. But the tenor of the report— along with a separate 105-page report that excoriated the Ferguson Police Department for “racial bias”—was hardly tame.

“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the report read, in a cutting use of negative space. It also concluded that there were no “prosecutable violations” by Wilson and that witness accounts of Brown surrendering with his hands up, a gesture that became the inspiration for the protests that followed his death, “are inconsistent with the physical evidence.”

The more incendiary details came from the investigation into Ferguson’s police department and its municipal court, the practices of which “both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes,” the report read. “Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities.”

From Reuters, a stacked deck asserted:

Snowden says U.S. not offering fair trial if he returns

Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of the government’s mass surveillance programs, said on Wednesday he is not being offered a fair trial if he returns to the United States.

“I would love to go back and face a fair trial, but unfortunately … there is no fair trial available, on offer right now,” he said in a live question and answer discussion organized by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Ryerson University and the CBC.

“I’ve been working exhaustively with the government now since I left to try to find terms of a trial.”

More context from the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald:

The “Snowden is Ready to Come Home!” Story: a Case Study in Typical Media Deceit

Most sentient people rationally accept that the U.S. media routinely disseminates misleading stories and outright falsehoods in the most authoritative tones. But it’s nonetheless valuable to examine particularly egregious case studies to see how that works. In that spirit, let’s take yesterday’s numerous, breathless reports trumpeting the “BREAKING” news that “Edward Snowden now wants to come home!” and is “now negotiating the terms of his return!”

Ever since Snowden revealed himself to the public 20 months ago, he has repeatedly said the same exact thing when asked about his returning to the U.S.: I would love to come home, and would do so if I could get a fair trial, but right now, I can’t.

His primary rationale for this argument has long been that under the Espionage Act, the 1917 statute under which he has been charged, he would be barred by U.S. courts from even raising his key defense: that the information he revealed to journalists should never have been concealed in the first place and he was thus justified in disclosing it to journalists. In other words, when U.S. political and media figures say Snowden should “man up,” come home and argue to a court that he did nothing wrong, they are deceiving the public, since they have made certain that whistleblowers charged with “espionage” are legally barred from even raising that defense.

From CBC News, weakness north of the U.S. border:

Edward Snowden says Canadian intelligence gathering has ‘weakest oversight’

  • NSA whistleblower says he would return to U.S. to face charges but can’t be guaranteed a fair trial

U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden says Canada has one of the “weakest oversight” frameworks for intelligence gathering in the Western world.

Snowden made the comments during a teleconference discussion hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Ryerson School of Journalism, moderated by CBC Radio host Anna Maria Tremonti. He was speaking via video link from Russia.

“Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any Western intelligence agency in the world,” he said.

Snowden said he wouldn’t specifically weigh in on the government’s new anti-terror legislation, saying that whether it is good or bad is ultimately up for Canadians to decide.

Bill C-51 provides for a sweeping range of measures that would allow suspects to be detained based on less evidence and lets CSIS actively interfere with suspects’ travel plans and finances.

Critics say the legislation is too broad and lacks oversight.

CBC News covers a needed resource:

Edward Snowden archive aims to ‘piece together the bigger picture’

  • Canadian project to create fully searchable database began last summer

A Canadian team has created a searchable database of all the publicly released classified documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in hopes it’ll help citizens better understand the complex files trickling out around the world.

The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Politics of Surveillance Project at University of Toronto’s faculty of information revealed the archive on Wednesday before hosting a live Q&A with Snowden, the U.S. whistleblower and subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour.

“What we’re hoping this database can do is start to piece together the bigger picture,” said Laura Tribe, CJFE’s national and digital programs lead.

The database may be found online here.

Advice from one who knows, via CBC News:

The apps Edward Snowden recommends to protect your privacy online

There are a host of free, easy-to-use apps and programs that can help protect your privacy online, and if everybody uses them it can provide a sort of “herd immunity” said Edward Snowden in a live video chat from Russia on Wednesday.

Snowden recommended using programs and apps that provide end-to-end encryption for users, which means the computer on each end of the transaction can access the data, but not any device in between, and the information isn’t stored unencrypted on a third-party server.

“SpiderOak doesn’t have the encryption key to see what you’ve uploaded,” said Snowden, who recommends using it instead of a file-sharing program like Dropbox. “You don’t have to worry about them selling your information to third parties, you don’t have to worry about them providing that information to governments.”

“For the iPhone, there’s a program called Signal, by Open Whisper Systems, it’s very good,” said Snowden. He also recommended RedPhone, which allows Android users to make encrypted phone calls, and TextSecure, a private messenging app by Open Whisper Systems.

“I wouldn’t trust your lives with any of these things, they don’t protect you from metadata association but they do strongly protect your content from precisely this type of in-transit interception,” said Snowden.

The Guardian covers a franchise operation:

New Zealand spying on Pacific allies for ‘Five Eyes’ and NSA, Snowden files show

  • Secret papers show NZ spy agency GCSB is collecting calls and internet traffic in bulk and sending it to the US National Security Agency

New Zealand is spying indiscriminately on its allies in the Pacific region and sharing the information with the US and the other “Five Eyes” alliance states, according to documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The secret papers, published by the New Zealand Herald, show that the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) collects phone calls and internet communications in bulk in the region at its Waihopai Station intercept facility in the South Island.

Since a 2009 upgrade, Waihopai has been capable of “full take” collection of both content and metadata intercepted by satellite, the documents showed. The data is then channelled into the XKeyscore database run by the US National Security Agency, where it also becomes available to agencies in each of the “Five Eyes” countries: the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

A leaked NSA memo credits the GCSB with providing “valuable access not otherwise available to satisfy US intelligence requirement”.

From TheLocal.de, intention or irony?:

NSA inquiry chief suffers phone tampering

Patrick Sensburg, chairman of the Bundestag (German parliament) inquiry into spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA), asked security experts to examine his phone after suspecting he might have been hacked – only for it to be tampered with in the post.

Die Welt reported on Wednesday that Christian Democratic Union (CDU) MP Sensburg’s encrypted Blackberry Z30 wasn’t working properly in February.

Parliamentary officials immediately packed it in a lead-lined container (to block wireless signals) and sent it for testing at the Federal Office of IT Security (BSI) in Bonn by ordinary DHL parcel post.

It was the first time an MP’s phone had had to be transported in this way. But the Bundestag confirmed to Die Welt that the BIS found the signal-proof container had been opened before the phone arrived at their offices.

From Nextgov, a panopticon deadline looms:

Time is Running Out to Reform NSA Mass Surveillance

There’s another national security clock ticking in Congress.

Lawmakers have less than 100 days left to decide whether they want to reform the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of U.S. call data—or risk losing the program entirely. Core provisions of the post-9/11 Patriot Act are due to sunset on June 1, including Section 215, which grants intelligence agencies the legal authority they need to carry out mass surveillance of domestic metadata—the numbers and timestamps of phone calls but not their actual content.

Government officials have said they have no backup plan for replacing the intelligence void if Congress fails to reauthorize the law in some fashion. And earlier this week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested lawmakers should bear the brunt of blame if the program lapses and the homeland is struck by terrorism.

After the jump, a 2014 U.S. identity theft tally, a GoDaddy-based hack attack spree, Merkel issues a Russian sanctions threat, a Pakistani convicted of a Big Apple bomb plot, Charlie Hebdo arson arrests in Germany, France faces a long-term attack-level terror alert as drones send Paris into another flurry, the House of Lords lays out a British drone boom, another Colombian journalist assassinated, on to the ISIS front and a major strike at Syrian Air Force Intelligence, America’s top soldier welcomes Iran’s involvement in the ISIS war, and ISIS grows desperate for cash, Libyan fundies grab oil fields, on to the Boko Haram front and an ultimatum from Chad, and more than a million Nigerian refugees, ISIS threatens a Pakistani university, India’s prime minister bans a powerful lethal gang rape documentary, a leak reveals a self-serving Sri Lanka hyperbole, Indonesian press limitations, China ups its military budget again and an admiral calls for more aircraft carrier to control the Indian Ocean, China reassures tech firms over new cyber-backdoor demands and inaugurates a crackdown on foreign NGOs, Japan marks a distancing from South Korea, the Comfort Women issue sparked a South Korean visit, Japan announces a watch of the Chinese military budget, and a debate erupts over allegations of Shinzo Abe media meddling. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bigots, hackable Hillary, war


From the Independent, some things never change:

Netanyahu speech: Far-right blogger calls for Black Congressional Caucus Democrats boycotting speech to be hanged

A far right-wing radio host has sparked a race row, after she called on Democrat politicians, including members of the Black Congressional Caucus, to be hanged if they boycotted a controversial speech by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress today.

More than four dozen House and Senate Democrats said in advance they would not attend the event in a highly unusual move given historically close ties between the two allies.

Andrea Shea King, a member of the populist Tea Party movement, said in her weekly talk-radio show: “I would like to think that these guys [Congressmen boycotting the speech] could pay with their lives, hanging from a noose in front of the US Capitol Building.”

BBC News covers a spooky plea deal:

Ex-CIA chief in federal charge plea

David Petraeus, a former CIA director and four-star general, has reached a plea deal with the US Justice Department in which he will admit to mishandling classified materials.

It ends a long investigation into whether he provided secret information to his mistress. He resigned from his post at the CIA in 2012, after it emerged he was having an affair with his biographer.

A Justice Department statement said a plea agreement had been filed. The deal means that Mr Petraeus will plead guilty to one count of unauthorised removal and retention of classified material, but could avoid an embarrassing trial.

From the Intercept, the business of justice as usual:

Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks

David Petraeus, the former Army general and CIA director, admitted today that he gave highly-classified journals to his onetime mistress and that he lied to the FBI about it. But he only has to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor that will not involve a jail sentence thanks to a deal with federal prosecutors. The deal is yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.

According to the plea deal, Petraeus, while leading American forces in Afghanistan, maintained eight notebooks that he filled with highly-sensitive information about the identities of covert officers, military strategy, intelligence capabilities and his discussions with senior government officials, including President Obama. Rather than handing over these “Black Books,” as the plea agreement calls them, to the Department of Defense when he retired from the military in 2011 to head the CIA, Petraeus retained them at his home and lent them, for several days, to Paula Broadwell, his authorized biographer and mistress.

In October 2012, FBI agents interviewed Petraeus as part of an investigation into his affair with Broadwell — Petraeus would resign from the CIA the next month — and Petraeus told them he had not shared classified material with Broadwell. The plea deal notes that “these statements were false” and that Petraeus “then and there knew that he previously shared the Black Books with his biographer.” Lying to FBI agents is a federal crime for which people have received sentences of months or more than a year in jail.

Reuters covers a return contemplated:

Fugitive ex-U.S. spy Snowden in talks on returning home: lawyer

A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden said on Tuesday the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of the government’s mass surveillance programs was working with American and German lawyers to return home.

Anatoly Kucherena, who has links to the Kremlin, was speaking at a news conference to present a book he has written about his client. Moscow granted Snowden asylum in 2013, straining already tense ties with Washington.

“I won’t keep it secret that he… wants to return back home. And we are doing everything possible now to solve this issue. There is a group of U.S. lawyers, there is also a group of German lawyers and I’m dealing with it on the Russian side.”

The United States wants Snowden to stand trial for leaking extensive secrets of electronic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA). Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite him.

From Nextgov, Hillary insecurity:

Were Clinton’s Personal Emails an Open Door to Hackers?

Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account during her time as secretary of state is raising alarm over how secure her communications were from hackers and foreign governments interested in prying into private files of the nation’s top diplomat.

Clinton, who is expected to be the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, exclusively relied on a personal account to conduct official business during her four-year stint running the State Department, The New York Times first reported late Monday.

“The focus here really needs to be on the information-security piece,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s irresponsible to use a private email account when you are the head of an agency that is going to be targeted by foreign intelligence services.”

From the National Journal, Hillary hucksterism:

Clinton Emails Raise Red Flags for Keystone Review, Greens Say

  • Revelations that Clinton used private email at State erode trust among key environmental allies

Major environmental organizations are sounding the alarm over revelations that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account to conduct official business during her tenure as secretary of State, pointing to disputes about her review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Green groups Friends of the Earth and 350.org warn that the private correspondence could have been used to cover up a conflict of interest during Clinton’s review of the controversial pipeline. And Clinton’s penchant for private email, first reported by The New York Times on Monday, is all but guaranteed to deepen distrust between the likely 2016 Democratic front-runner and her presumed allies in the environmental movement.

“This is deeply concerning,” said Ben Schreiber, the climate and energy program director for Friends of the Earth. “The total lack of transparency is a real red flag for us and adds to other concerns that we have about Clinton’s ties to the oil industry.”

From the ACLU Blog of Rights, mum’s the word:

Feds Refuse to Release Documents on “Zero-Day” Security Exploits

Federal agencies served with a Freedom of Information Act request are refusing to release documents related to their purchase, use and disclosure of zero-day exploits, keeping the American public in the dark about a practice that leaves the Internet and its users less secure.

Zero-day exploits are special software programs that take advantage of security vulnerabilities in software that are unknown to the software’s manufacturer. These exploits are frequently used by intelligence agencies and the military as well as, we suspect, by federal law enforcement agencies. But they can be used by any hackers, whether they work for the U.S. government, a foreign government, a criminal group, or anyone else. Zero-day vulnerabilities and the tools that exploit them are extremely powerful, because there is very little that potential targets can do to protect themselves.

But the effectiveness of such exploits depends on their secrecy—if the companies that make the affected software are told about the flaws, they will issue software updates to fix them. Governments thus have a strong incentive to keep information about the exploits they have developed or purchased secret from both the public and the companies who create the software we all use.

On February 5, we received a response from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed for the disclosure of guidance or directives related to the government’s policies for the purchase, discovery, disclosure and exploitation of zero-days. The ODNI claimed that these records are classified under Executive Order 13526, Section 1.4(c), which states that information can be considered for classification if its disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage to national security issues pertaining to “intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology.” This response is consistent with the Obama administration’s refusal to make public most information related to its surveillance and cybersecurity policies.

From Threatpost, not reassuring:

Government Report Critical of FAA Security Controls

Federal Aviation Administration has been put on notice that its information security controls are not up to par and that a risk-based program must be implemented from the ground up in order to assure the safety of its networks and passengers in the sky.

A scathing Government Accounting Office (GAO) report released earlier this year hammered the FAA about vulnerabilities on the networks used to support communication between the ground and aircraft and monitoring systems for air traffic control that make up the national airspace system (NAS).

The GAO contends that the FAA has ignored mandates and procedures as outlined by NIST and FISMA guidelines, and has not established a governance structure in order to align security decisions with its overall mission. More specifically, the GAO said the FAA has not established specific security roles and responsibilities for the NAS, or updated its information security strategic plan in order to line it up with the FAA’s reliance on computer networks.

From the Guardian, a Berlin/London spooky rift:

British refusal to cooperate with spy inquiry causes row in Germany

  1. Committee under pressure to censor disclosures about UK activity after Downing Street threatens to break off intelligence-sharing with Berlin

Downing Street and the German chancellery are embroiled in a worsening dispute over intelligence-sharing and the covert counter-terrorism campaign because of conflicts arising from the surveillance scandals surrounding the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ.

According to German newspaper reports citing government and intelligence officials in Berlin, the Bundestag’s inquiry into the NSA controversy is being jeopardised by Britain’s refusal to cooperate and its threats to break off all intelligence-sharing with Berlin should the committee reveal any UK secrets.

The weekly magazine Focus reported last month that a national security aide to David Cameron had written to Peter Altmaier, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, refusing all requests for help in the inquiry and warning that Britain would cease supplying terrorism-related intelligence to the Germans unless Berlin yielded.

It emerged during the NSA revelations that the Americans had hacked into Merkel’s mobile phone, generating outrage in Germany and feeding growing anti-American sentiment.

From Techdirt, so that’s why your calls are dropping:

In Unsealed Document, FBI Admits Stingray Devices Will Disrupt Phone Service

  • from the making-Stingray-omelets-required-breaking-a-few-communications dept

A small crack in the FBI’s Stingray secrecy has appeared. A 2012 pen register application obtained by the ACLU was previously sealed, but a motion to dismiss the evidence obtained by the device forced it out into the open. Kim Zetter at Wired notes that the application contains a rare admission that Stingray use disrupts cellphone service.

[I]n the newly uncovered document (.pdf)—a warrant application requesting approval to use a stingray—FBI Special Agent Michael A. Scimeca disclosed the disruptive capability to a judge.

“Because of the way, the Mobile Equipment sometimes operates,” Scimeca wrote in his application, “its use has the potential to intermittently disrupt cellular service to a small fraction of Sprint’s wireless customers within its immediate vicinity. Any potential service disruption will be brief and minimized by reasonably limiting the scope and duration of the use of the Mobile Equipment.”

Hacking songs British tabloid style, via the Independent:

Mirror hacking trial: Staff ‘sung Ying Tong song’ as they hacked Yentob’s phone

The “industrial scale” phone hacking conducted by journalists at Mirror Group Newspapers went “right to the top” of the organisation, the High Court has heard.

Senior journalists at Trinity Mirror’s three national titles presided over a culture that made hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World “look like a cottage industry”, the first civil trial related to voicemail hacking was told.

Phone hacking was so endemic that one senior journalist even suggested that an Enigma-style code-breaking machine should be developed that would automatically “crack” protected voicemail pin-numbers, to make listening to messages even easier.

After the jump, Ukraine demands a Crimean return, Russia and Egypt hold naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, imams lose visas for Dutch speeches, a  Gaddafi kin’s European 9/11/ warning, the Turkish president’s high tech food tasters, a Mossad report debunks Netanyahu’s Iranian claims, straight from the plot of a 1983 James Bond thriller to the phone in your pocket, allegations of overzealous federal monitoring of corporate cybersecurity, your hardwired-for-self-subervison tech?, casting an iCloud over iPhone security, an American military satellite explodes, and on to the ISIS front with Iran engaged and the battle for Tikrit bogs down, Iran eyes a Japanese nuclear reactor buy, then on to the Boko Haram front with a beheading video and Cameroon vows a prolonged Boko Haram fights as the country’s own youth sign up, Pakistan welcomes a prolonged U.S. Afghan stay, a Chinese admiral welcomes tension with the U.S., and Beijing documents Japanese militarism for a World War II reminder, Shinzo Abe mulls his own World War II declaration, a Japanese minesweeping mission assertedwhile Abe faces a donor conflict of interest allegation, plus U.S. police chiefs financially tied to a body cam maker. . .
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Quote of the day: Netanyahu, liar for lebensraum


There is no world leader more arrogant than Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as he demonstrated in a secretly recorded discussion with illegal Israeli settlers on occupied Palestinian land is 2001, in which he openly bragged about controlling the U.S. political process and lying to Israeli voters in the 1996 Israeli parliamentary elections when asked about whether or not he would abide by the Oslo Peace Accords:

“I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.

“They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords],” he said. “I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this race back towards the 1967 borders. How do we manage to do this? Nobody said what defined military facilities are. So I defined them as security zones;. The entire Jordan Valley for me, is a security zone. . .Yes, like the entire Ben Sh’ean Valley. You See? Go figure.”

Here’s the video:

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We leave the last word to Gideon Levy, columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

These remarks are profoundly depressing. They bear out all of our fears and suspicions: that the government of Israel is led by a man who doesn’t believe the Palestinians and doesn’t believe in the chance of an agreement with them, who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes.

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.

A look at Al Jazzera’s espionage cable leaks


Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit scored an impressive journalistic coup when they were handed a major cache of top secret cables and documents sent to South Africa by the Israeli, Russian, Australian, and other intelligence services, as well as from the South African State Security Agency.

In this, the first of two parts, Al Jazeera looks at the cables and their implications.

From Al Jazeera:

The Spy Cables: Decoded – Episode one

Program notes:

  • In the first of two programmes, we assess the impact of Al Jazeera’s release of hundreds of classified documents

    The Spy Cables captured headlines the world over – and was described as massive and unprecedented in newspapers as far afield as China as South America.

    Evidence that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu misled the United Nations lead news in a number of countries.

    The CIA’s desire to talk to Hamas; snooping on the head of Greenpeace; a plot to kill the head of the African Union; all grabbed global attention.

    In the first of two programmes, we assess the impact of Al Jazeera’s release of hundreds of classified documents – ranging from confidential to top secret – the widest-ranging leak of intelligence papers ever.

    Presenter: David Foster

    Guests:

  • David Maynier , in Cape Town – Member of South African Parliament and opposition Deputy Minister of State Security.
  • Justice Malala , in Johannesburg – political analyst
  • Ferial Haffajee , on set – the editor of the South African weekly newspaper, The City Press

ISIS emulates the GOP in destroying history


Hoe is ISIS like the Grand Old Party?

Consider the following ISIS video, depicting the destruction of 4,000 years of history in the museum of Mosul, Iraq, located in the region of the world that served as cradle of  Western Civilization:

The story, via Newsweek:

ISIS Smashes Thousands of Years of History at Museum

Ultra-radical Islamist militants in northern Iraq have destroyed a priceless collection of statues and sculptures from the ancient Assyrian era, inflicting what an archaeologist described as incalculable damage to a piece of shared human history.

A video published by Islamic State on Thursday showed men attacking the artifacts, some of them identified as antiquities from the 7th century BC, with sledgehammers and drills, saying they were symbols of idolatry.

“The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him,” an unidentified man said in the video.

Lamia al-Gailani, an Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology, said the militants had wreaked untold damage. “It’s not only Iraq’s heritage: it’s the whole world’s,” she said.

“They are priceless, unique. It’s unbelievable. I don’t want to be Iraqi any more,” she said, comparing the episode to the dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Afghan Taliban in 2001.

The action follows the destruction of thousands of manuscripts and books in libraries in ISIS-occupied areas of Iraq and Syria.

Even before we learned to write our own name in cursive, we insisted that our teacher help us write out the word “archaeology,” and between the years five and eighteen, we were resolved to become an archaeologist working on digs in Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers.

After witnessing firsthand the vicious pettiness that all too often marks the world of academic politics, we surrendered our trowels and camel hair brushes to dig in more contemporary dirt as a journalist.

But we never relinquished our first love, and have kept abreast from afar of some of the remarkable discoveries made since we wrote our first newspaper story a half-century ago.

In covering politics, we discovered that fundamentalist zealots are ever eager to annihilate a past that contradicts their version of events, along with the artifacts and institutions that would remind them of a time when things were different.

While ISIS seeks to annihilate five thousand years of history and purge culture of anything reminding them of that “idolatrous” past, the GOP seeks similarly to purge America of the institutions and creations evolved under a different vision of humanity in the form of the institutions of the relatively mild social welfare state implemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight David Eisenhower, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Just as ISIS smashes statues, the GOP would destroy Social Security, Medicare, the Post Office, public schools, public land, public health, and so much more. And along with government institutions, they would also smash our historical legacy in the form of the architectural creations of the past, eager to build those stark, cheaply built high rises and McMansions they so deeply love.

Similarly, GOP radicals would purge classrooms and school libraries of thousands of books contradicting their own versions of religious, pseudoscientific, and political beliefs.

The one notable difference between the GOP radicals and ISIS lies in the domain of honesty, where ISIS holds all the cards.

Very few in the GOP are so frank, knowing that even with their control of campaign money and much of the media, frank expression of their real agenda would turn off even many in their own party — people with children and parents who benefit from those very programs the Koch-heads would annihilate in order to increase their already dominate control of the world’s money and resources.

We’ll leave the last word to Bernie Sanders:

Pope Francis