Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Kids in religious countries lose in science, math


A new study of the impact of religion on the minds of growing children reveals a disturbing finding: When religion dominates, kids fare poorly in science and mathematics.

The study offers a hint of things to come in the United States, where the government is now controlled by a party eager to hand off education to church schools while simultaneously declaring an allegiance to improving the nation’s economic competitiveness.

With the Department of Education headed by a confirmed Christianist who made her billions off private schools, the outlook is bleak for our children.

From Leeds Beckett University:

The more religious people are, the lower children in that country perform in science and mathematics, according to new research at Leeds Beckett University.

The research [$35.95 to access] , published today in the academic journal Intelligence, reveals that more religious countries had lower educational performance in science and mathematics.  The study also shows that levels of national development and time spent on religious education played a role in students’ attainment.

The research, led by Gijsbert Stoet, Professor of Psychology at Leeds Beckett, alongside David Geary, Curators’ Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, is relevant for the government’s announcement in the budget that it will be investing £320 million into new free schools, including faith-based schools.

Professor Stoet explained: “Science and mathematics education are key for modern societies. Our research suggests that education might benefit from a stronger secular approach. In that context, the current UK policy of investing more money in faith-based should be reconsidered.

“The success of schools and education in general directly translates in more productive societies and higher standards of living. Given the strong negative link between religiosity and educational performance, governments might be able to raise educational standards and so standards of living by keeping religion out of schools and out of educational policy making.”

The researchers combined data from the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA), OECD’s Education at a Glance, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the World Values Survey, the European Social Survey, and the United Nationals Human Development Report.

Analysis of the data sets allowed conclusions to be drawn about international levels of religiosity, schooling and educational performance, and levels of human development (measures in regard to health, education, and income).

Levels of religiosity were determined using representative questionnaires carried out around the world in the World Values Survey and the European Social Survey among the adult population. Levels of school performance in mathematics and science literacy were based on scores from children aged between 14 to 15 years old.

Considering the relationship between religiosity and educational performance, the findings suggest that by engaging with religion, this may lead to a displacement of non-religious activities.  Although relatively few countries have data on the time spent on religious education, it appears that the time spent on religion has a negative correlation with educational performance in mathematics and science.

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Intolerance I: Who are America’s worst terrorists?


This is the first of two offerings on intolerance.

President Pussygrabbers seized the White House at the end of a campaign designed to rouse racist fears in a masterful act of misdirection, shifting blame for the very real pains of his grass roots base away from the real culprits — people like Trump himself — onto alien Others.

Always at play within his rhetorical was the portrayal of the Other as a violent criminal, a murderer and rapist in the case of folks from south of the border, or as a bombing-and-beheading non-Christian fanatic, in the case of the Muslim.

But who are the real terrorist fanatics in the United States?

[Hint: They don’t pray toward Mecca.]

A wide-ranging, multi-university study looks at the numbers, and the terrorists probably voted the Trump.

The study, Threats of violent Islamist and far-right extremism: What does the research say?, is published in The Conversation, an open source academic journal written in conversational English.

The authors are William Parkin, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Seattle University; Brent Klein, a doctoral student at the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice; Jeff Gruenewald, Assistant Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Joshua D. Freilich, Professor of Criminal Justice at City University of New York; and Steven Chermak, Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

From The Conversation:

On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, the American experience with terrorism was fundamentally altered. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were murdered in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Thousands more, including many first responders, lost their lives to health complications from working at or being near Ground Zero.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Islamist extremists, resulting in nearly 18 times more deaths than America’s second most devastating terrorist attack – the Oklahoma City bombing. More than any other terrorist event in U.S. history, 9/11 drives Americans’ perspectives on who and what ideologies are associated with violent extremism.

But focusing solely on Islamist extremism when investigating, researching and developing counterterrorism policies goes against what the numbers tell us. Far-right extremism also poses a significant threat to the lives and well-being of Americans. This risk is often ignored or underestimated because of the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We have spent more than 10 years collecting and analyzing empirical data that show us how these ideologies vary in important ways that can inform policy decisions. Our conclusion is that a “one size fits all” approach to countering violent extremism may not be effective.

By the numbers

Historically, the U.S. has been home to adherents of many types of extremist ideologies. The two current most prominent threats are motivated by Islamist extremism and far-right extremism.

To help assess these threats, the Department of Homeland Security and recently the Department of Justice have funded the Extremist Crime Database to collect data on crimes committed by ideologically motivated extremists in the United States. The results of our analyses are published in peer-reviewed journals and on the website for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism & Responses to Terrorism.

The ECDB includes data on ideologically motivated homicides committed by both Islamist extremists and far-right extremists going back more than 25 years.

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Between 1990 and 2014, the ECDB has identified 38 homicide events motivated by Islamist extremism that killed 62 people. When you include 9/11, those numbers jump dramatically to 39 homicide events and 3,058 killed.

The database also identified 177 homicide events motivated by far-right extremism, with 245 killed. And when you include the Oklahoma City bombing, it rises to 178 homicide events and 413 killed.

Although our data for 2015 through 2017 are still being verified, we counted five homicide events perpetrated by Islamist extremists that resulted in the murders of 74 people. This includes the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, which killed 49 people. In the same time period, there were eight homicide events committed by far-right extremists that killed 27 people.

These data reveal that far-right extremists tend to be more active in committing homicides, yet Islamist extremists tend to be more deadly.

Our research has also identified violent Islamist extremist plots against 272 targets that were either foiled or failed between 2001 and 2014. We are in the process of compiling similar data on far-right plots. Although data collection is only about 50 percent complete, we have already identified 213 far-right targets from the same time period.

blog-chart-2

The locations of violent extremist activity also differ by ideology. Our data show that between 1990 and 2014, most Islamist extremist attacks occurred in the South (56.5 percent), and most far-right extremist attacks occurred in the West (34.7 percent). Both forms of violence were least likely to occur in the Midwest, with only three incidents committed by Islamist extremists (4.8 percent) and 33 events committed by far-right extremists (13.5 percent).

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InSecurityWatch: Fear, malls, hacks, terror, war


With begin with CNBC and the latest shrieking from Europe:

Nato must prepare for Russian Blitzkrieg, warns UK general

Nato forces must prepare for an overwhelming Blitzkrieg-style assault by Russia on an eastern European member state designed to catch the alliance off guard and snatch territory, the deputy supreme commander of the military alliance has warned.

Openly raising the prospect of a conventional armed conflict with Russia on European soil, the remarks by Sir Adrian Bradshaw, second-in-command of Nato’s military forces in Europe, are some of the most strident to date from Nato. They come amid a worsening in relations with the Kremlin just days into a second fragile ceasefire aimed at curbing continued bloodshed in Ukraine’s restive east between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London on Friday, Sir Adrian warned that as well as adapting to deal with subversion and other “hybrid” military tactics being used by Russia in Ukraine, allied forces needed to be prepared for the prospect of an overt invasion.

The Christian Science Monitor sounds the latest alarm:

Big US, Canadian shopping malls: Next terrorist target?

A new video threat from the Al Qaeda-linked extremist group Al Shabab calls for terrorist attacks on major shopping malls in the US, Canada, and Britain. Malls are adding extra security.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says he’s “confident” that big shopping malls will enhance security measures in the wake of new threats of attack by Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked extremist group based in Somalia.

Still, Secretary Johnson said on CNN Sunday, “Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously.” Johnson spoke on five Sunday morning TV news programs.

On Saturday, Al Shabab released an online video calling for attacks on western shopping centers, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, and Oxford Street in London.

From the Washington Post, first responder/worst responder?:

DHS tackles endless morale problems with seemingly endless studies

Afflicted with the lowest morale of any large federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security did what comes naturally to many in government.

It decided to study the problem. And then study it some more.

The first study cost about $1 million. When it was finished, it was put in a drawer. The next one cost less but duplicated the first. It also ended up in a drawer.

So last year, still stumped about why the employees charged with safeguarding Americans are so unhappy, the department commissioned two more studies.

And from the Guardian, cashing in:

Al-Shabaab mall threat ‘all the more reason’ to avoid shutdown, says homeland security chief

  • Somali terror group releases video threatening US, Canada and UK malls
  • DHS funding will end Friday if immigration impasse is not solved

The US homeland security secretary on Sunday seized on a new threat of attacks against western shopping centres by Islamist terrorists to pressure Congress to avert a partial shutdown of his department and agree to a funding deal.

Jeh Johnson said a propaganda video released by al-Shabaab on Saturday calling for strikes on the Mall of America in Minnesota, Oxford Street and two Westfield malls in London, and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, showed “all the more reason why I need a budget”.

“It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’s inability to fund homeland security in these challenging times,” Johnson told CNN. On ABC, he said “it’s imperative that we get it resolved”, adding that senators and members of the House were each blaming those in the other chamber for the impasse.

The Independent covers a precedent set:

How Britain’s treatment of ‘The Hooded Men’ during the Troubles became the benchmark for US ‘torture’ in the Middle East

When Amal Clooney flies into Belfast shortly to meet a group of former Irish prisoners known as ‘The Hooded Men’ it will be the latest chapter of an extraordinary story concerning a quest for justice that has lasted almost half a century.

The international law and human rights specialist has joined the legal team representing all but one of the surviving men who say they were tortured under the British Government’s internment programme. More than 340 men were rounded up on 9-10 August 1971 but a group of just 12 were chosen for “deep interrogation” and subjected to hooding, prolonged stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink – the torture methods developed by the British Army during the Troubles and collectively known as the “five techniques”. Two more men suffered the same treatment later that year.

The Hooded Men won their case against the UK in 1976 when the European Commission of Human Rights ruled the techniques were torture, but the findings were overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on appeal two years later. It ruled that while the five techniques amounted to “a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment” they did not cause suffering of the intensity and cruelty to constitute torture.

From BuzzFeed News, solidarity in the North:

Muslims In Norway Form Human Shield Around Synagogue In Sign Of Solidarity

More than 1,000 people attended the peaceful demonstration in Oslo, with many holding hands and surrounding the synagogue in a protective ring.

Hundreds of Muslims formed a human protective shield around an Oslo synagogue Saturday in a sign of solidarity with the Jewish community there, Reuters reported.

The peaceful demonstration followed the killings of two people at a Copenhagen synagogue the previous week by a Danish-born son of Palestinian parents.

Pictures of the event circulated through social media tagged with the hashtag #ringofpeace.

From teleSUR, old school spookery:

Spying Scandal Threatens to Hurt Ties Between Chile and Peru

  • Peruvian media reported Thursday that three Peruvian navy officers were under investigation for allegedly spying on behalf of Chile.

The Chilean Foreign Minister stated Sunday that he is in consultation with the Chilean ambassador in Peru in order to help prepare the official response to Peru’s diplomatic letter concerning the alleged spying by Chile.

Bilateral relations between Peru and Chile were shaken last week as news broke that three Peruvian navy officers were under investigation for having allegedly spied for Chile between 2005 and 2012. Peru’s Minister of Defense confirmed that the officials were arrested and are being investigated by a military court.

“Ambassador Ibarra, our ambassador in Lima, is currently enjoying a legal vacation in Chile, we are going to keep him in Chile for consultations precisely so he can help prepare the (diplomatic) response to the Peruvian diplomatic letter,” said Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.

Clouding the issue, via Nextgov:

DOD Wants Physical Separation for Classified Data in the Cloud … For Now

The Defense Department’s evolving cloud strategy and recently updated security requirements govern how commercial cloud service providers can — and in some cases, have already begun to — host some the Pentagon’s most sensitive data.

But the Pentagon isn’t ready yet for classified information to be stored off-premise in the cloud.

In the immortal words of Olivia Newton-John, DOD wants to get physical with classified data that ends up in the cloud, meaning it wants “physical separation” between systems with classified workloads and that of other systems.

From the New York Times, wink, wink:

Chip Maker to Investigate Claims of Hacking by N.S.A. and British Spy Agencies

Gemalto, a French-Dutch digital security company, said on Friday that it was investigating a possible hacking by United States and British intelligence agencies that may have given them access to worldwide mobile phone communications.

The investigation follows news reports on Thursday that the National Security Agency in the United States and the Government Communications Headquarters in Britain had hacked Gemalto’s networks to steal SIM card encryption codes.

The claims — reported on a website called The Intercept — were based on documents from 2010 provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

The Register covers an ongoing hacking embarrassment in Foggy Bottom:

Hellooo, NSA? The US State Department can’t kick hackers out of its networks – report

  • Email servers still compromised after THREE months

An attack against US State Department servers is still ongoing three months after the agency spotted miscreants inside its email system, it’s reported.

In November the State Department was forced to suspend its unclassified email systems after it was successfully infiltrated by hackers unknown. At the time the agency said its classified emails were unaffected by the hack.

Now Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report multiple sources saying that the attack is still ongoing: the bad guys and girls still have remote access to internal computers.

Every time sysadmins find and delete a malware infection, installed by the hackers, another variant pops up.

The latest from Nextgov:

EXCLUSIVE: State Department Trashed 30,000 Log-in Key Fobs After Hack

The State Department over the past few months replaced some 30,000 network log-in fobs and digital tokens that employees had been using to access its systems remotely, after the agency’s unclassified network was hacked, according to a department official.

During the switchover, some State personnel said they were not able to access work outside the office for months.

“All of us had to turn them in and go through a very extended procedure of changing every aspect of our internal passwording,” said one foreign service officer. “Every one of us had to create new passwords and new PIN numbers to go along with our fobs. They changed the type of format that you use to create a PIN to make it more secure and they changed the requirements for your basic State Department password to make it more secure.”

After the jump, Android malware fakes a shutout to grab your data, hacking your car wash, Italy scores a win over the Googles, France pleads for anti-terror help from Silicon Valley giants, the big guns pull back in Ukraine’s civil war, Isis suicide bombers claim dozens in Libya as Isis woes in Libya fuel an Italian immigrant panic, hints of Isis schisms, Qatar finds itself on the outs over terror, Turkey leverages border fears to gain intel, on to Boko Haram and an abductee reunion, Boko Haram launches another bloody raid, and France calls for support for an all-African anti-Boko Haram force, Australia proclaims a new anti-terror strategy, China irked by an Indian visit to disputed territory, Myanmar rebels claim a government body count, China’s threat to Western eyes in the sky, on to Japan and a call to unleash the military abroad, Shinzo Abe wants Japanese civilian hands to relinquish defense department control, a decision nears on a Japanese insular deployment, another Japanese insular move sparks a South Korean protest, Japan plans an Iraqi diplomatic expansion, and another base relocation protest. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Fox fustian, crime, fear, war


And so very much more. . .

First up, from Al Jazeera’s AJ+, it’s official:

Fox News Says…The Holy War Is Here!

Program notes:

A Holy War has begun and you should be very afraid! That’s according to Fox News, the news network famous for fear mongering and “fair and balanced” reporting.

From the Washington Post, a domestic security problem:

Threatening ‘white power’ letters appear at police department with a history of racial tensions

Dozens of copies of a threatening and racially charged letter were circulated within a Connecticut police department with a long history of racial tensions, black officers said.

The note, typed on official City of Bridgeport Department of Police letterhead, began and ended with the words “WHITE POWER.” “These Black Officers Belong in the toilet,” the letter reads in part.

Bridgeport Police Lt. Lonnie Blackwell said the unsigned letter comes as no surprise to officers of color in the department, which has long struggled to remedy discrimination claims dating to at least the 1970s.

“This is not the first race-based letter that has circulated recently throughout the Bridgeport Police Department, but this is the most severe and damaging letter,” Blackwell, an African American department veteran, told The Washington Post in an interview. “We’re very concerned for our safety and our well-being as black police officers.”

From the Washington Post, we are not surprised:

Lying in the military is common, Army War College study says

A new study by Army War College professors found that not only is lying common in the military, the armed forces themselves may be inadvertently encouraging it.

The study, released Tuesday, was conducted by retired Army officers and current War College professors Leonard Wong and Stephen J. Gerras. They found that untruthfulness is “surprisingly common in the U.S. military even though members of the profession are loath to admit it.”

The paper’s release follows a series of high-profile incidents involving bad behavior across the services, including a still-widening corruption case involving senior Navy officers and at least two incidents in which Army generals were accused of sexual assault.

From The Hill, similarly unsurprising:

White House: Israel ‘cherry-picking’ intel that distorts Iran talks

The White House is accusing Israel of “cherry-picking” information that distorts the U.S. position in nuclear talks with Iran.

“There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate. There’s no question about that,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“We’ve also been very clear about the fact that the United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

The White House spokesman said those involved in the talks are obligated to act in “good faith.”

From the New York Times, reasonable suspicions:

Fear of Israeli Leaks Fuels Distrust Over U.S. Talks With Iran

With the Obama administration racing to negotiate the outlines of a nuclear deal with Iran by the end of March, aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel have charged in recent days that they are being deliberately left in the dark about the details of the talks. The Americans have said that is untrue, but even one of Washington’s closest negotiating partners reports being warned about being too open with the Israelis, “because whatever we say may be used in a selective way.”

The tensions between the United States and Israel over negotiating with Tehran have a long and twisted history, and they plunged to a new low when Mr. Netanyahu engineered an invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress, in less than two weeks, to warn against a “bad deal.”

Now, with Mr. Netanyahu maneuvering to survive a March 17 election, and Mr. Obama pressing for a breakthrough agreement that could end three decades of enmity with Iran and reduce the chances of a military confrontation, it seems that Washington and Jerusalem are engaging in the diplomatic equivalent of posting notes to each other on the refrigerator door.

From the Guardian, Jeb endorses the panopticon:

Jeb Bush backs brother’s NSA surveillance program ‘to keep us safe’

  • Presidential contender says of NSA dragnet ‘this is a hugely important program’, in sharp contrast to Republican rivals for the White House

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush delivered a full-throated defense of government surveillance programs on Wednesday, expressing a resounding faith in techniques pioneered by his brother, George W Bush, and staking out a position in sharp contrast with other prospective 2016 presidential candidates.

Dragnet metadata collection by the National Security Agency and similar programs were necessary to keeping US citizens safe from foreign terror threats, Bush said – unprompted – during remarks laying out his foreign policy vision as a prospective 2016 presidential candidate.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand – the debate has gotten off track, where we’re not understanding and protecting,” Bush said in a major speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

From the Associated Press, an accessory pays up:

Poland to pay $262,000 to inmates held at secret CIA prison

Poland will pay 230,000 euros ($262,000) in compensation to two terror suspects who say they were tortured at a CIA secret prison that Poland hosted from 2002-2003, a government minister said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna spoke after the European Court of Human Rights in France rejected Poland’s appeal of its earlier ruling.

“We will abide by this ruling because we are a law-abiding country,” Schetyna told Polish Radio 3. “It is a question of the coming weeks, a month.”

But he questioned how the money would be used and whether it needed to be paid directly to the suspects, who are imprisoned in Guantanamo.

From the Guardian, NSAnywhere:

Google warns of US government ‘hacking any facility’ in the world

  • Google says increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise ‘monumental’ legal concerns that should be decided by Congress

Google is boldly opposing an attempt by the US Justice Department to expand federal powers to search and seize digital data, warning that the changes would open the door to US “government hacking of any facility” in the world.

In a strongly worded submission to the Washington committee that is considering the proposed changes, Google says that increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise “monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide”.

The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.

From the Guardian, the penultimate contempt:

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications

  • Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The Independent covers InSecurity in British high places:

Downing Street accused of being ‘systemically negligent’ with national security secrets after name of ex-SAS officer finds its way into the public domain

Downing Street has been accused of “systemic” negligence in its approach to the handling of sensitive information – by the body charged with keeping threats to national security out of the media.

No 10 is at the centre of an extraordinary row with the secretive DA Notice Committee after the name of a senior former SAS officer found its way into the public domain, The Independent can reveal.

The officer was named when he took up his post as military adviser to No 10 last year. The DA Notice Committee alleges that the name of the ex-SAS man was deliberately given to The Sun newspaper in direct contravention of rules governing the identification of present or former members of Britain’s Special Forces.

After the jump, French surveillance gaps, Aussie metadata storage scheme costs still secret, another claim Pyongyang hacked Sony, whipping up malware with a British cooking site, fake Windows 10 update sites serve up malware too, a unique twist to an Israeli malware attack, a biased Pakistani web crackdown, while Obama disses North Korea’s hacker team, on to the Isis front and a fragmenting Iraq, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria changes course on arming “moderates,” whilst Washington admits having vetted at least 1,200, Isis threatens to flood an increasingly xenophobic Europe with refugees and Italy’s already alarmed, and a reminder of an American bad example, civilians killed in an anti-Boko Haram air strike in Nigeria while Nigeria claims beaucoup Bokos slain, another Tanzanian albino infant butchered for black magic, Pakistan orders a mass expulsion of Afghans, allegations Indian weaponized rape, India greenlights six nuclear subs, seven stealth frigates, mass flight from Myanmar civil war, China tells neighbors to order Uighur returns, Seoul censors a “Comfort Women” book, and a Japanese paper sued over “Comfort Women”a articles, Shinzo Abe’s government readies an overseas deployment law, Abe targets legalized foreign weaponry sales, and new Tokyo/Beijing security talks slated, And two reminders of some nasty old habits resurfacing, first in a racist rank by Brits in Paris, and then in dramatic evidence of prejudice against would-be Latino-named voters in the U.S. . . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Torture, murder, escalation


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

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

Program notes:

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

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

Shooting suspect slams religion while defending liberty

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

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

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

BBC News covers a threat in Germany:

Germany: Braunschweig parade halted over terror alert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background, via the Independent:

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

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

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

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

From the Associated Press, opportunism:

Israeli leader calls for mass Jewish influx after attack

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

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

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

And a rebuff, via Reuters:

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

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

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

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

From Deutsche Welle, sad echoes of a tragic past:

Jewish cemetery vandalized in France

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

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

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

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

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

Report: Nuke lab failed to keep some information classified

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Violence, hacks, war, & more


Much more.

We begin with the sadly expected, via the Guardian

One dead and three injured in Copenhagen ‘terrorist attack’

  • Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced death threats for caricaturing prophet Muhammad, was at blasphemy debate in cafe hit by estimated 200 shots

One civilian has been killed and three police officers injured after armed men opened fire on a cafe in Copenhagen where a debate on Islam and free speech was being held.

The meeting was attended by Lars Vilks, the controversial Swedish artist who has faced death threats for caricaturing the prophet Muhammad. Also in attendance was François Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark.

“They fired on us from the outside. It was the same intention as [the 7 January attack on] Charlie Hebdo except they didn’t manage to get in,” Zimeray told AFP.

“Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200. Bullets went through the doors and everyone threw themselves to the floor,” the ambassador added.

And an update from BBC News:

Injuries in second Copenhagen shooting

Several people have been injured after shots were fired near a synagogue in Copenhagen, Danish police say.

One person was reportedly hit in the head, and two police officers suffered arm and leg injuries. The attacker is believed to have fled.

It is not clear whether the shooting is connected to an earlier attack on a cafe in the city.

CBC News covers semantic antics in high profile Nova Scotia arrests:

Randall Steven Shepherd, Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath charged in Halifax shooting plot

  • Peter MacKay calls suspects ‘murderous misfits’

Police have charged two people with conspiracy to commit murder in the case of a foiled plot to kill a large number of people at the Halifax Shopping Centre in the city’s west end.

American Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath from Geneva, Illinois, 23, and Randall Steven Shepherd from Halifax, 20, have been charged.

A third person, a 17-year-old male from Cole Harbour, has been released without charges. At this time, police say there is no evidence to link him to the charges before the courts, but the investigation is ongoing.

Police tracked down a fourth suspect, a 19-year-old, to a home on Friday on Tiger Maple Drive in Timberlea, N.S., about 20 minutes outside of Halifax. Police entered the house and found the suspect dead early Friday. His death is under investigation by Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team.

From Deutsche Welle, more semantic antics:

Thwarted Canada mass shooting ‘not linked to terrorism’

  • Police in Canada have dismissed the possibility that a plan to commit a mass shooting in Nova Scotia on Valentine’s Day was linked to terrorism. Residents have been urged to stay vigilant.

And something else Canada shares with the U.S., via CBC News:

Freddie James’s racial profiling complaint is part of larger issue inside Montreal police force

  • Montreal’s police chief Marc Parent admits racial profiling is a problem in Montreal

The Montreal police force does have a problem with racial profiling, admits Chief Marc Parent. However, he says, the department is working continuously to improve relationships with the city’s cultural communities.

“We do have a racial profiling problem… It’s not the majority, but we have to work on that every day,” Parent said on Daybreak Friday morning.

His comments capped off a week in which Montreal singer Freddie James went public with his own racial profiling complaint.

The Christian Science Monitor raises a question:

Muslim world asks: Were Chapel Hill shootings an act of terrorism?

As US authorities investigate the cause of the murder of three young Muslims in North Carolina this week, Muslims around the world push for the tragedy to be treated as a hate crime – perhaps even an act of terrorism.

US officials say the motivation for the shootings Tuesday of three young Muslim-Americans by a self-avowed atheist in North Carolina remains unclear. But growing numbers of Muslims around the world are weighing in with suspicions that the murders were an American hate crime and, perhaps, as the Palestinian foreign ministry suggested on Saturday, even an act of terrorism.

The killings of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha shook the greater Raleigh metro area, a former Southern backwater turned international destination for students and high-tech workers.

More deeply, the shootings came amid a backdrop of political tension in the US, highlighted last month at Duke University in Durham, N.C., just a few miles from where the shootings took place, when university officials, amid complaints and threats, cancelled a plan to amplify the Friday Islamic call to prayer through the university’s iconic clock tower.

An ancillary concern from USA Today:

North Carolina murders revive Islamophobia concerns

Less than 24 hours after the murders of three young Muslim students Tuesday afternoon in North Carolina, Aymen Abdel Halim had counted a dozen postings on social media praising the execution-style killings.

Abdel Halim, who works with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said he forwarded some of the more menacing messages to law enforcement and found himself seething over the dark perception that many Americans have about his religion.

“There were Facebook pages saying (the killer) is a hero, kill all Muslims and that we’re going to continue his work,” Abdel Halim said. “There’s a culture of violence toward Muslims that is not brewing, but that is already here.”

From Reuters, a case of domestic terrorism?:

FBI monitoring investigation of fire at Houston Islamic center

The FBI is monitoring an investigation into a fire that destroyed a building at an Islamic institute in Houston and could take a more active role, a bureau spokeswoman said on Saturday.

The blaze early on Friday at the Quba Islamic Institute destroyed one of three buildings there, but no one was injured, fire officials have said. The institute has continued operating since the blaze.

Houston Fire Department arson investigators were working to pinpoint the cause of the fire, but no official determination has been made, officials said.

SecurityWeek covers a notable statement of the increasingly obvious:

Snowden Filmmaker Says US Surveillance ‘Out of Control’

For most Oscar nominees, the weeks before the February 22 ceremony are a whirlpool of stress.

But Laura Poitras, up for best documentary for “Citizenfour,” insists it is like going for a healthy walk — compared to what she went through to get here.

When former National Security Agency (NSA) consultant Edward Snowden, who revealed the massive scope of US intelligence surveillance, contacted the filmmaker, she found her life turned into a spy novel.

And by way of more proof, this from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s DeepLinks:

Go to Prison for File Sharing? That’s What Hollywood Wants in the Secret TPP Deal

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) poses massive threats to users in a dizzying number of ways. It will force other TPP signatories to accept the United States’ excessive copyright terms of a minimum of life of the author plus 70 years, while locking the US to the same lengths so it will be harder to shorten them in the future. It contains DRM anti-circumvention provisions that will make it a crime to tinker with, hack, re-sell, preserve, and otherwise control any number of digital files and devices that you own. The TPP will encourage ISPs to monitor and police their users, likely leading to more censorship measures such as the blockage and filtering of content online in the name of copyright enforcement. And in the most recent leak of the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter, we found an even more alarming provision on trade secrets that could be used to crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers who report on corporate wrongdoing.

Here, we’d like to explore yet another set of rules in TPP that will chill users’ rights. Those are the criminal enforcement provisions, which based upon the latest leak from May 2014 is still a contested and unresolved issue. It’s about whether users could be jailed or hit with debilitating fines over allegations of copyright infringement.

The US is pushing for a broad definition of a criminal violation of copyright, where even noncommercial activities could get people convicted of a crime. The leak also shows that Canada has opposed this definition. Canada supports language in which criminal remedies would only apply to cases where someone infringed explicitly for commercial purposes.

From Threatpost, vulnerability in esnl’s own blogging platform:

Lack of CSPRNG Threatens WordPress Sites

WordPress has become a huge target for attackers and vulnerability researchers, and with good reason. The software runs a large fraction of the sites on the Internet and serious vulnerabilities in the platform have not been hard to come by lately. But there’s now a new bug that’s been disclosed in all versions of WordPress that may allow an attacker to take over vulnerable sites.

The issue lies in the fact that WordPress doesn’t contain a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator. A researcher named Scott Arciszewski made the WordPress maintainers aware of the problem nearly eight months ago and said that he has had very little response.

“On June 25, 2014 I opened a ticked on WordPress’s issue tracker to expose a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator, since none was present,” he said in an advisory on Full Disclosure.

From the New York Times, barons of the bank hack:

Bank Hackers Steal Millions via Malware

In late 2013, an A.T.M. in Kiev started dispensing cash at seemingly random times of day. No one had put in a card or touched a button. Cameras showed that the piles of money had been swept up by customers who appeared lucky to be there at the right moment.

But when a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, was called to Ukraine to investigate, it discovered that the errant machine was the least of the bank’s problems.

The bank’s internal computers, used by employees who process daily transfers and conduct bookkeeping, had been penetrated by malware that allowed cybercriminals to record their every move. The malicious software lurked for months, sending back video feeds and images that told a criminal group — including Russians, Chinese and Europeans — how the bank conducted its daily routines, according to the investigators.

Then the group impersonated bank officers, not only turning on various cash machines, but also transferring millions of dollars from banks in Russia, Japan, Switzerland, the United States and the Netherlands into dummy accounts set up in other countries.

After the jump, the acronyms of Obama’s cybersecurity agenda, Pakistan takes down an FBI “most wanted” cybercrook, an Oregon plea to a Pakistani suicide bombing, a hot run-up to a Ukrainian ceasefire, Washington accuses Moscow of Ukrainian dirty pool, Iraqi troops on the brink of losing Anbar, ISIS runs a bloody purge of “sexual deviants,” fears that ISIS is doing the Bitcoin, and Western fears of ISIS metastasis, Boko Haram provokes a Nigerian presidential plea to Washington, Nigerian troops repel Boko Haram attack on Gombe, an account of Boko Haram abductees, on to Yemen and more violence, Argentinian presidential woes continue, a schoolbook purge in Pakistan, could Aussie uranium shipments feed Indian nuclear arms?, China deploys electromagnetic pulse weapons, on to Tokyo and signs of dissent on remilitarization in Shinzo Abe’s coalition, Japanese textbooks hew to the government line, tensions rise between Tokyo and Okinawa over an American military base move — as opponents lose a U.S. court challenge, and Philippine survivors of Japanese World War II atrocities seek an apology from Tokyo, then on to threats to the Fourth Estate, first in Sweden, then in Spain, plus oglers infest Norwegian  tanning salons with a plague of concealed cameras. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, war, hacks, divisions


First, from teleSUR, Latin American perpetrators of a lethal Washington-backed secret purge [previously] face legal retribution:

Latin America’s Mass Murderers to Be Trialed in Italy

Former military chiefs and politicians implicated in the deaths of thousands through Operation Condor will have to face justice.

After decades of impunity, those responsible for the wave of political violence that swept Latin America under the dictatorships of 1970’s and 1980’s will be trialed this week in Rome, Italy.

Formally 33 people have been charged for their links to the operation, which left 50,000 people dead, 30,000 disappeared and 400,000 jailed.

Amongst those killed were 23 Italian citizens, which is why Italy’s justice is now ruling on the case, opened in 1999.

Operation Condor was a coordinated political assassination and persecution plan drafted by the South American military dictatorships, with the help of foreign governments. It sought to eliminate any resistance or political rivals, mostly targeting left-wing groups.

An Iranian fish-or-cut-bait mandate, via Al Jazeera America:

Iran says its time to reach nuclear deal

  • Foreign minister, after meeting with Secretary of State Kerry, says it would be unproductive to extend negotiations

With a deadline approaching to resolve a 12-year standoff over Tehran’s atomic ambitions, Iranian officials on Sunday signaled a willingness to come to an agreement, with Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif telling a gathering of the world’s top diplomats that “this is the opportunity.”

The United States and its five negotiating partners, the other members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, hope to clinch a deal setting long-term limits on Tehran’s enrichment of uranium and other activity that could produce material for use in nuclear weapons.

Negotiators have set a June 30 final deadline for a nuclear deal, and Western officials have said they aim to agree on the substance of such an accord by March.

Taking an Israeli political campaign to Congress disunites, via United Press International:

Israeli PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress creating rift in Jewish community

Pro-Israeli leaders have urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his controversial speech to Congress, while some condemn the possibility of a speech boycott.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said it was a “bad idea” for Netanyahu to carry out his speech to Congress so closely to the elections in Israel to be held March 17. The Union for Reform Judaism is one of the largest Jewish organizations in North America.

Other leaders have also called on Netanyahu to cancel his speech, stating the controversy surrounding the speech is becoming a distraction that may take away from the goal of stopping Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Our lone drone story, via Nextgov:

Few Privacy Limitations Exist on How Police Use Drones

[T]he Federal Aviation Administration only takes safety into consideration when it grants a law enforcement agency approval to use drones, leaving privacy protections to legislation—which, depending on the state in question, may or may not exist.

Agencies as large as the Michigan State Police and as small as the Grand Forks County [N.D.] Sheriff’s Department have received FAA approval to use drones. Most departments use them for missions like search-and-rescue or for photographing a crime scene or an accident site.

But unless a law enforcement agency is within one of the 14 states that have passed privacy legislation limiting how police can use drones, there’s little in theory keeping it from using a drone for a less innocuous end—such as surveillance without a warrant. “While the federal government retains responsibility for the airspace, under most circumstances a state/local government can impose restrictions on the agencies for which it’s responsible,” an FAA spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Pentagon cyberwarrior recruiting slows, via Nextgov:

Need a Job? Cyber Command Is Halfway Full

The Pentagon is at the midway point of staffing a projected 6,000-person Cyber Command, officials said, amid fears of a catastrophic threat to U.S. networks.

The military appears to be backing away from a long-held goal of establishing a full force by 2016.

Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Nextgov,”We are about halfway through the overall build, in terms of manning for the cyber mission forces and continue to make progress in training and equipping the teams.” She declined to provide a timeline for reaching that size.

Deutsche Welle brings a Turkish tapping takedown:

Turkey launches fresh raids over Erdogan wiretapping case

  • Turkish police have launched a fresh series of raids to round up suspects accused of wiretapping the communications of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The suspects are themselves all police officers.

Turkish media reported on Sunday that the raids had been launched in several cities as a result of 21 arrest warrants issued by the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the suspects, all polices officers, had been arrested and prosecutors were not available for comment. However, Turkish television station NTV broadcast footage of several suspects being led away by plain clothes police.

The warrants were issued in connection with a scandal in which wiretap recordings of senior officials were leaked and posted on the Internet, which shook the government in late 2013, while Erdogan was still prime minister.

People’s Daily offer cyber-reassurance:

Cyber security rules won’t close markets

US lobbies represented by the US Chamber of Commerce have recently asked the US government for help over China’s new cyber security regulations, saying they may hurt US firms’ overseas business opportunities.

The Chinese government has not officially published the new rules.

The US information technology firms said they will be forced to hand over source codes and adopt Chinese encryption algorithms when doing business with Chinese banks.

Observers said the US business lobbies meant to press Beijing to change its decision.

The New York Times does hacking foreshadowing:

Data Breach at Anthem May Lead to Others

Medical identity theft has become a booming business, according to security experts, who warn that other health care companies are likely to be targeted as a result of the hackers’ success in penetrating Anthem’s computer systems. Hackers often try one company to test their methods before moving on to others, and criminals are becoming increasingly creative in their use of medical information, experts say.

“The industry has become, over the last three years, a much bigger target,” said Daniel Nutkis, the chief executive of the Health Information Trust Alliance, an industry group that works with health care organizations to improve their data security.

The publicity surrounding the breach, which exposed information on about 80 million people, is already generating phishing email scams, in which criminals posing as legitimate businesses try to persuade people to sign up for bogus credit protection services and provide personal information about themselves.

A feeble turnout foils Slovakian homophobes, via the Independent:

Referendum to entrench gay marriage ban in Slovakia overwhelmingly supported but fails due to low turnout

A referendum which aimed to restrict gay rights was overwhelmingly supported in Slovakia, but failed to become legally binding as the turnout was too low.

Saturday’s poll asked voters if they agreed that marriage can only be a union between a man and a woman; that same-sex partners must be barred from adopting children; and it is for parents to decide whether their children receive sex education.

In response, a clear majority, 95, 92 and 90 per cent of those who voted agreed with the respective statements.

British Muslims stage an anti-Charlie Hebdo protest, via the hugely hyperbolic London Telegraph:

Huge crowd of Muslim protesters picket Downing Street to protest at Charlie Hebdo cartoons

  • The protesters, many of whom were divided into groups of men and women, and included children, gathered just yards from the Cenotaph

At least 1,000 Muslim protesters gathered outside the gates of Downing Street to protest against the depictions of the Prophet Mohammed in Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine.

The protestors, many of whom were divided into groups of men and women, gathered just yards from the Cenotaph which remembers Britain’s war dead, and blocked half of Whitehall as they demonstated.

The protest was organised by the Muslim Action Forum, which said that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons had helped “sow the seeds of hatred” and had damaged community relations.

The alternative Pegida draws a feeble Dresden turnout, via Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Rival group to Germany’s PEGIDA draws just 500 at first rally

A new German movement that broke away from the anti-Muslim PEGIDA group drew just 500 people to its first rally in the city of Dresden on Sunday, highlighting the obstacles they face in winning further support and making a national impact.

“Direct Democracy for Europe”, led by Kathrin Oertel who was a founding member of PEGIDA but quit last month, wants tighter immigration controls, more referendums to decide policies and more money for the police.

Oertel and four other founding members broke from PEGIDA last month following the resignation of figurehead Lutz Bachmann who quit after a photo was published of him posing as Hitler and prosecutors opened an investigation for inciting hatred.

Pediga in Hitler’s would-be retirement home hits a brick wall, via TheLocal.at:

Pegida in Linz meets fierce resistance

The first protest in the Austrian city of Linz by Germany’s “anti-Islamization” movement Pegida drew just 150 supporters Sunday and was dwarfed by a counter-demo by some 2,000 people, police said.

A planned Pegida march through the centre of the northern city was abandoned after several hundred counter-demonstrators blocked their way, chanting “Auf Wiedersehen” (“Goodbye”), the Austria Press Agency reported.

During a standoff lasting around an hour a few snowballs were thrown there were no incidents of violence. “There were no arrests,” a police spokesman told AFP.

After the jump, British police make daily ISIS-related arrests, European parents grief-stricken over their ISIS-recruited children, on to the battlefront, with a combatant profile, mixed senatorial messages on boots on the ground, ISIS archaeological annihilation, lethal football violence in Cairo, on to the Boko Haram battlefront, first with a video on fatally divided families in Chad, the miserable plight of Nigerian Boko Haram violence, a young Nobel laureate targeted by fundamentalist hate make a plea on behalf of Boko Haram victims, and a Nigerian poll delay sparks protests, a 15-kilometer human chain protest against Bangladeshi violence, surviving members of a Pakistani school bombing seek recompense, a rally for Pakistani Charlie Hebdo decapitation advocates, North Korea fires off as missile salvo, a China-inspired Asian submarine arms race, partnerships in submarine subterfuge, and pepper-sprayed protesters in Hong Kong, Japan’s prime minister gains for hostage beheadings, his popularity rises, and the government grabs the passport of a would-be war photographer. . . Continue reading