Category Archives: Idiocy

EnviroWatch: Health & water woes, GMOs, nukes

First up, via Want China Times, an outbreak discovery:

New H5N2 virus found in Taiwan first of its kind anywhere: expert

A new type of the H5N2 avian influenza virus detected at goose farms in southern Taiwan has never been seen before, the director-general of Taiwan’s government-run Animal Health Research Institute said Sunday.

Tsai Hsiang-jung said the H5N2 subtype flu strain is a recombinant virus, and “after reporting the case to the World Organization for Animal Health, it will be the first of its kind in the world.”

The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture confirmed Sunday an outbreak of the new H5N2 strain at four goose farms in Yunlin county and a duck egg farm in Pingtung county. It also confirmed an outbreak of H5N8 avian flu at a goose farm in Chiayi county.

The Washington Post has the latest on a very troubling issue we’ve been following for a while:

BPA alternative disrupts normal brain-cell growth, is tied to hyperactivity, study says

In a groundbreaking new study, researchers have shown why a chemical once thought to be a safe alternative to bisphenol-A, which was banned by the government for baby bottles and sippy cups, might itself be more harmful than BPA.

University of Calgary scientists say they believe their research is the first to show that bisphenol-S, an ingredient in many products bearing “BPA-free” labels, causes abnormal growth surges of neurons in an animal embryo.

This disruption of prenatal cellular activity in zebra fish, which share 80 percent of their genes with humans and are considered a good model for studying human brain development, has been directly linked to hyperactivity, according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lund University debunks the junk:

Do viruses make us smarter?

A new study from Lund University in Sweden indicates that inherited viruses that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterise the human brain.

Researchers have long been aware that endogenous retroviruses constitute around five per cent of our DNA. For many years, they were considered junk DNA of no real use, a side-effect of our evolutionary journey.

In the current study, Johan Jakobsson and his colleagues show that retroviruses seem to play a central role in the basic functions of the brain, more specifically in the regulation of which genes are to be expressed, and when. The findings indicate that, over the course of evolution, the viruses took an increasingly firm hold on the steering wheel in our cellular machinery. The reason the viruses are activated specifically in the brain is probably due to the fact that tumours cannot form in nerve cells, unlike in other tissues.

“We have been able to observe that these viruses are activated specifically in the brain cells and have an important regulatory role. We believe that the role of retroviruses can contribute to explaining why brain cells in particular are so dynamic and multifaceted in their function. It may also be the case that the viruses’ more or less complex functions in various species can help us to understand why we are so different”, says Johan Jakobsson, head of the research team for molecular neurogenetics at Lund University.

And from the New York Times another neurological conundrum:

After Enterovirus 68 Outbreak, a Paralysis Mystery

A nationwide outbreak of a respiratory virus last fall sent droves of children to emergency departments. The infections have now subsided, as researchers knew they would, but they have left behind a frightening mystery.

Since August, 103 children in 34 states have had an unexplained, poliolike paralysis of an arm or leg. Each week, roughly three new cases of so-called acute flaccid myelitis are still reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Is the virus, called enterovirus 68, really the culprit? Experts aren’t certain: Unexplained cases of paralysis in children happen every year, but they are usually scattered and unrelated. After unusual clusters of A.F.M. appeared this fall, enterovirus 68 became the leading suspect, and now teams of researchers are racing to figure out how it could have led to such damage.

From Climate Desk, sadly unsurprising:

72 Percent of Republican Senators Are Climate Deniers

  • These are the people who make our laws.

As Climate Progress revealed Thursday, more than half of the Republican members of the new Congress “deny or question” the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change. If you just look at the Senate, the numbers are even more disturbing. Thirty-nine GOP Senators reject the science on climate change—that’s 72 percent of the Senate Republican caucus.

The list includes veteran lawmakers like James Inhofe (Okla.), who is the incoming chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) and has written a book titled, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. And it includes new senators like Steve Daines (Mont.), who thinksclimate change might be caused by solar cycles. (For a great interactive map showing exactly how many climate deniers represent your state in Congress, click here.)

What’s more, the Climate Progress analysis shows that many of the congressional committees that deal with climate and energy issues are loaded with global warming deniers:

…68 percent of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate deny human-caused climate change. On the committee level, 13 out of 21 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, or 62 percent, reject the science behind human-caused global warming, joined by 67 percent, or 21 out of 31 Republican members, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee…In addition to Inhofe, 10 out of 11, or 91 percent, of Republicans on EPW have said climate change is not happening or that humans do not cause it.

The Associated Press covers water woes:

Farmers in dry California decry water decision favoring fish

California farmers struggling with drought say a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued Monday that keeps strict water restrictions in place to protect a tiny, threatened fish has forced them to leave thousands of acres unplanted in the nation’s most fertile agricultural region.

The justices rejected appeals from farmers in California’s Central Valley and urban water districts who had challenged a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to safeguard the 3-inch-long Delta smelt, a species listed as threatened in 1993 under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The smelt lives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast that supplies much of California with drinking water and irrigates 4.5 million acres of farmland. Farmers contend that vast amounts of water sent into the ocean under the smelt regulations have made the three-year drought worse for them.

Farmers say their economic interests have been ignored while officials seek to protect the fish.

And from Mother Jones, a graphic look at impacts of one of the biggest of water hogs, the California almond agribiz, an industry that outguzzles the Golden State’s massive vineyards [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Almonds

From the article:

The value of the California almond market hit $4.8 billion in 2012—that’s triple the level of a decade earlier. Only dairy is worth more to the state than almonds and grapes. In fact, almonds, along with California-grown pistachios and walnuts, are becoming so lucrative that big investment funds, eager to get in on the boom, are snapping up land and dropping in trees.

There’s just one problem: Almond orchards require about a third more water per acre than grape vineyards. In fact, they’re one of California’s thirstiest crops. It takes a gallon of water to produce a single almond—more than three times the amount required for a grape and two and a half times as much for a strawberry. There’s more water embedded in just four almonds than there is in a full head of lettuce. But unlike row crops, which farmers can choose not to plant during dry spells, almond trees must be watered no matter what.

Next, via teleSUR, allegation of GMO business as usual:

Peru: Transnationals Accused of Interfering With GM Food Laws

Concerns are being raised about the effect of the introduction of genetically modified food, which threatens the country’s biodiversity.

Civil society groups denounced on Monday the intervention by transnational corporations like Monsanto in stopping the implementation of a genetically modified (GM) foods prohibition law.

Three years ago Peru banned genetically modified seeds to protect its rich biodiversity that includes 56 types of corn and close to 4000 thousand types of potatoes among thousands of other products.

Luis Gomero, is the executive coordinator of Alternative Agriculture Action Network.  This is a group of NGO’s, agricultural associations, municipalities and other governmental and non-governmental institutions. He says the large multinationals are penetrating the government to push for the allowance of GM foods.

Fox News Latino brings us to the the world of mother[earth]-fracking:

Environmentalists target fracking in Gulf of Mexico

The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the U.S. government, alleging it has failed to release public documents revealing the extent and risks of offshore hydraulic fracturing by oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico.

The public has a right to know where, when and how much fracking the federal government is allowing in the Gulf of Mexico,” Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the center, said.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., argues that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement must disclose permits, reports, e-mails and other documents related to the federal government’s approval for oil and gas companies to frack offshore wells in the gulf.

And a case of frack-o-fail from the Guardian:

Poland’s shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests

  • Fear and loathing stalk Poland’s shale fields, where a 400-day site occupation stopped a Chevron drill earlier this year

Plans for a shale gas-fuelled economic revival appear to be evaporating as test wells have not performed as expected or have suffered regulatory delays. Foreign investors have pulled out and sustained environmental protests like that in Zurawlow have hampered drilling plans.

Officials privately talk of the shale experiment as a ‘disaster’.

In September, 3Legs Resources became the latest firm to call a halt on investments after disappointing results. Six weeks before, its chief financial officer, Alex Fraser, had said they were “potentially on the threshold of a very significant result,” involving “potentially hundreds of wells”.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Asahi Shimbun:

Fukushima evacuees pledge to rebuild communities on Coming-of-Age Day

Outside of their hometowns and a day earlier than usual, hundreds of evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture celebrated Coming-of-Age Day with the nuclear disaster still looming large in their thoughts.

The evacuees, who have turned 20 or will do so over the next three months, had their later teenage years shaped largely by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

They are entering adulthood with the nuclear disaster still unresolved and reconstruction efforts blocked by high radiation levels.

And a Fufu-up closer to home, via the Los Angeles Times:

Los Alamos lab contractor loses $57 million over nuclear waste accident

The contractor managing the nuclear weapons laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M., was slapped with a $57-million reduction in its fees for 2014, largely due to a costly nuclear waste accident last year.

The contractor, Los Alamos National Security, saw its fee reduced 90% because of the accident, in which a 55-gallon drum packaged with plutonium waste from bomb production erupted after being placed in a 2,150-foot underground dump in the eastern New Mexico desert.

The Department of Energy determined that the contractor had a “first-degree performance failure” and cut its fee to $6.25 million — a pittance compared with the $63.4 million that the contractor could have earned if it had met all of its 2014 contract incentives.

#foxnewsfacts: Sharia Law rules in Old Blighty

First up, a stunning revelation about one of Britain’s leading cities from Fox News, America’s most trusted news network [no, really] via vlogger urbanimage:

Steven Emerson On Fox News – Birmingham is all Muslim

Program notes:

Fox News madness : Birmingham is a no go city for non-Muslims and London has police enforcing Sharia law .

Emerson has given evidence to at least one congressional committee, and reportedly been called as an expert witness on terrorism-related issues by at least six others.

The Hollywood Reporter covers what happened next:

Pundit Apologizes After Calling U.K.’s Birmingham “Totally Muslim” on Fox News

A commentator who appeared on Fox News has apologized after arguing that the British city of Birmingham was “totally Muslim” and a place where “non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”

Steven Emerson, who was speaking as part of the news channel’s coverage of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, also claimed that there were parts of London where “Muslim religious police” beat “anyone who doesn’t dress according to religious Muslim attire.”

The statements caused a firestorm on social media in the U.K., especially from residents of Birmingham. Approximately 80 percent of the city’s population of almost 1.1 million is non-Muslim. The hashtag #FoxNewsFacts began trending after being used by those mocking Emerson’s comments.

Others also reacted, reports the London Evening Standard, including one fellow who owes much to the support of the British arm of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire:

Fox News commentator Steve Emerson is ‘clearly a complete idiot,’ says David Cameron

David Cameron has hit out at an American terrorism expert who referred to Birmingham as a “totally Muslim” city, calling him “a complete idiot”.

The Prime Minister admitted choking on his porridge when hearing the comments made by Steve Emerson on Fox News.

Mr Emmerson also claimed that parts of London were controlled by “Muslim religious police”. He has since issued an apology.

Mr Cameron said: “Frankly I choked on my porridge and thought it must be April’s Fools Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot.”

And a headline from the Guardian describes the reaction at ground zero:

Birmingham laughs off Fox News commentator’s caliphate claim

  • At central mosque and in Balti Triangle, there is bafflement over suggestion that city is a no-go zone for non-Muslims

The train passengers’ calm consumption of crisps and bored checking of emails on the 11.43am to Birmingham suggested they hadn’t heard the news. Their destination, a city of more than a million people, had shockingly become Britain’s first caliphate and a no-go zone for non-Muslims – at least, according to an “expert” on Rupert Murdoch’s US-based Fox News channel.

“There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” Steve Emerson, a commentator on terrorism, told millions of viewers on Sunday.

“You know what it sounds like to me, Steve?” said the show’s concerned host Jeanine Pirro. “It sounds like a caliphate.”

Emerson, who describes himself as one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks and who regularly briefs the US government and Congress, made the staggering comment as millions marched in Paris against the Islamist attacks last week that claimed 17 lives.

The Independent’s Dave Brown offered his own satirical take on the Foxspurt’s bodaciously bilious blatherskite:

BLOG Birmingham

More from France 24:

Fox News expert mocked for saying UK’s Birmingham ‘totally Muslim’

A self-proclaimed expert on Islamic extremism who told right-wing US news channel Fox News that the British city of Birmingham is “totally Muslim” has issued a grovelling apology that has so far failed to save him from widespread ridicule online.

Steven Emerson, an American whose website describes him as a leading authority on Islamic extremist networks, told Fox News in a live broadcast Sunday that in Britain “there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”

Emerson, who was discussing last week’s terror attacks in Paris with host Jeanine Pirro, went on to claim that in parts of London, “Muslim religious police [attacked] anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim religious attire.”

Another graphic response, via the #foxnewsfacts Twitter feed:

BLOG Birmingham 2

And yet another Tweet from #foxnewsfacts:

BLOG Birmingham 3

And finally, this one:

BLOG Birmingham 4

Emerson better not head to Birmingham anytime soon or those religious police might have just the place for him, as Leadbelly can attest:

When the headline doesn’t match the story

Whoever wrote this Sky News headline didn’t even both to read the the last sentence of the accompanying two-paragraph story because, well, the headline wouldn’t have been such good clickbait, right? [click on it to embiggen]:

BLOG Shooter

InSecurityWatch: Cops, rage, hacks, spies, zones

We begin with the obvious from United Press International:

No charges for Ferguson officer in death of Michael Brown

  • The officer could have faced one of five charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter

A grand jury decided Monday not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in August.

St. Louis County, Mo., prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the 12-member grand jury made its decision after two days of deliberation.

“They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson,” McCulloch said.

The announcement was made at 9:25 p.m. as crowds gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department, at McCulloch’s offices in the county seat of Clayton and on West Flourisant Street, where Brown died.

The New York Times covers the inevitable:

From Plains to Both Coasts, Fury Boils Over

Months of anger and frustration, in the end, led only to more anger and frustration.

There were smoke bombs, tear gas and random gunshots. But in Ferguson, the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown was almost as bitter and hollow as his killing itself.

Brien Redmon, 31, stood in the cold watching a burning police car and sporadic looting after the announcement that there would be no indictments for Mr. Brown’s death at 18.

“This is not about vandalizing,” he said. “This is about fighting a police organization that doesn’t care about the lives they serve.”

More from Al Jazeera America:

Gunfire and flames after officer cleared in Ferguson teen’s shooting death

Police, protesters clash in Ferguson after grand jury does not not indict white policeman who killed unarmed black teen

[W]ithin minutes of the announcement, crowds began pouring into Ferguson streets to protest the decision. Some taunted police, shattered windows and vandalized cars. As many as 15 gunshots were also heard, though it’s unclear whether they came from law enforcement authorities or protesters.  Officers released smoke and pepper spray to disperse the gatherings. The storefront glass of at least two businesses were also broken on South Florissant Road. Fires erupted.

Well before the grand jury decision was announced, hundreds of protesters were already massed near the Ferguson police department. Shortly after McCulloch said Wilson would not be indicted, police streamed out of the station wearing riot helmets, and carrying batons and shields. Some of the protesters began throwing plastic bottles at the officer. Police fired what differing reports have described as either smoke or tear gas.

Thousands of protesters also gathered in downtown Manhattan, where they marched from Union Square to Times Square.

Closer to home with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Ferguson ruling sparks Oakland protest that shuts down freeway

Sorrow and anger over the decision by a grand jury in Missouri not to indict a white police officer in the killing of an unarmed black man sent demonstrators into the streets in the Bay Area, with hundreds of people shutting down Interstate 580 in Oakland for hours.

From Oakland and Berkeley to San Francisco and San Jose, crowds massed to denounce the lack of criminal charges in the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., marching and chanting slogans against what they considered racial injustice. Civic leaders echoed President Obama’s call for peaceful demonstrations, but the mood of the crowds gave the gatherings the air of a tinderbox.

The most tense and disruptive action unfolded in Oakland, where hundreds of protesters marched downtown, blocking intersections before surging onto I-580 via the Lakeshore Avenue offramp around 8 p.m. There they played cat-and-mouse with police for hours, stopping traffic in both directions before being forced off the freeway by lines of officers in riot gear.

Another California story, via the Los Angeles Times:

Michael Brown protesters scatter as LAPD uses nonlethal

Demonstrators protesting the killing of Michael Brown were dispersed shortly near downtown Los Angeles after midnight Tuesday by Los Angeles police officers using non-lethal projectiles.

The demonstrators, who at one point numbered more than 300, marched across Los Angeles on Monday night, briefly closing the 110 Freeway as they protested a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the controversial shooting of the black teenager.

The main group marched to USC and then towards the Staples Center, where confrontations with police grew  tense. A group of protesters pushed at a fence that blocked off a hill that led to the 110 Freeway and knocked it over. People streamed over the fallen gate and climbed onto the freeway and sat down, shutting down traffic on the freeway. About 150 protesters gathered on the road and chanted “No justice, no peace. No racist police!”

And before the verdict, an abysmal quotation, from teleSUR:

St. Louis Cop Association: It’s Like ‘Night Before Christmas’

The head of the St. Louis County Police Officers’ Association has been criticized for comparing the situation to Christmas.

While many observers have warned the situation Monday is tense in St Louis County ahead of the widely anticipated grand jury decision on police officer Darren Wilson, one man thinks a little differently.

“It’s just like the night before Christmas,” said St. Louis County Police Officers’ Association president, Gabe Crocker.

“We all get a little excited, we all get a little impatient, and so on, and so forth,” Crocker told CNN.

On to another “police action” also generating outrage, via the Guardian:

41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground

  • New analysis of data conducted by human rights group Reprieve shared with the Guardian, raises questions about accuracy of intelligence guiding ‘precise’ strikes

A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.

Reprieve, sifting through reports compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, examined cases in which specific people were targeted by drones multiple times. Their data, shared with the Guardian, raises questions about the accuracy of US intelligence guiding strikes that US officials describe using words like “clinical” and “precise.”

The analysis is a partial estimate of the damage wrought by Obama’s favored weapon of war, a tool he and his administration describe as far more precise than more familiar instruments of land or air power.

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise’. But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the US goes after,” said Reprieve’s Jennifer Gibson, who spearheaded the group’s study.

From the Los Angeles Times, the deplorable:

Jordan sending refugees back into Syria, Human Rights Watch says

Jordan has sent Syrian refugees, including wounded civilians and unaccompanied minors, back across the border in violation of international responsibilities, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The New York-based monitor issued a statement accusing Jordan of ignoring long-accepted principles forbidding governments from returning people back to areas where their lives may be in danger.

There was no immediate response from officials in Jordan, now home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

And from South China Morning Post, we always like a pun in the headline:

It’s time to chuck Hagel: Obama pressures Pentagon chief into stepping down

  • Pentagon chief resigns under pressure, paving way for first female defence secretary

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, senior administration officials said, following a tenure in which he has struggled to break through the White House’s insular foreign policy team.

Hagel is the first senior Obama adviser to leave the administration following the sweeping losses for Obama’s party in the midterm elections. It comes as the president’s national security team has been battered by multiple foreign policy crises, include the rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

At a White House ceremony Obama said Hagel had been an “exemplary” defence secretary, adding: “Last month, Chuck came to me to discuss the final quarter of my presidency and determined that, having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service.”

From New York Times, delayed again:

U.S. and Allies Extend Iran Nuclear Talks by 7 Months

A yearlong effort to reach an enduring accord with Iran to dismantle large parts of its nuclear infrastructure fell short on Monday, forcing the United States and its allies to declare a seven-month extension, but with no clear indication of how they plan to bridge fundamental differences.

In a news conference hours before a deadline on Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry said a series of “new ideas surfaced” in the last several days of talks. He added that “we would be fools to walk away,” because a temporary agreement curbing Iran’s program would remain in place while negotiations continued. In return, Iran will receive another $5 billion in sanctions relief, enabling it to recover money frozen abroad — something that is likely to add to the threat of new sanctions from the newly-elected Republican Congress.

But the fundamental problem remained: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has yet to signal that he is prepared to make the kind of far-reaching cuts in Iran’s enrichment capability that would be required to seal an accord. And it is unclear that his view will change before a March 1 deadline for reaching a political agreement, the first phase in the seven-month extension.

From the Guardian, Chuckie’s missives:

Prince Charles letters: minister’s veto of publication was lawful, court told

  • Supreme court hears QC James Eadie open the government’s latest effort in its nine-year campaign to keep the letters secret

The prince has gained a reputation for writing private letters to government ministers promoting his views. The letters have been called “black spider memos” because of his scrawled handwriting.?

At issue in the supreme court hearing are 27 letters exchanged between the heir to the throne and ministers in seven Whitehall departments between September 2004 and April 2005.?

Three judges in a freedom of information tribunal ruled in 2012 that the letters should be disclosed, on the basis that the public was entitled to know how and when the prince sought to influence government.?

Grieve, however, used his power of veto to overrule the tribunal, arguing that publication would seriously damage Charles’s future role as king. He said the letters had to be kept secret to preserve the prince’s political neutrality.?

From the Guardian again, the past returns to haunt:

Amnesty urges Ireland to reopen hooded men case against UK

  • European court of human rights cleared UK of torture in 1978 but recent film alleges some evidence was withheld

Amnesty International has challenged the Irish government to take the UK back to the European court of human rights (ECHR) over the British security forces’ alleged torture of suspects during the Troubles.

The court ruled in 1978 that five interrogation techniques used on 14 men who were detained without trial in the early 1970s constituted inhuman and degrading treatment but not torture.

The techniques included hooding suspects, putting them into stress positions, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation and the use of white noise. The 14 became known as the hooded men.

In June this year an RTE documentary alleged that the UK withheld evidence from the court, which Amnesty argues may have affected the outcome of the case. It also called on the UK to launch an independent investigation.

While Network World looks an panopticon enhancements coming:

UK plans to introduce new Web snooping law

A U.K. counterterrorism bill would require ISPs to retain IP addresses in order to identify individual users of Internet services.

The proposed law is meant to bridge a “capabilities gap” that authorities face when trying to obtain communications data, said U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May, who introduced the bill, in a speech on Monday.

The measures will build on emergency legislation that the U.K. introduced during the summer, May said, who added that “it is not a knee-jerk response to a sudden perceived threat.”

From Network World, closer to home panopticon posturning closer to home:

NSA privacy director defends agency’s surveillance

The U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programs are legal and under close scrutiny by other parts of the government, the agency’s internal privacy watchdog said Monday in an online Q&A.

NSA surveillance and data collection programs conform to the U.S. Constitution, Rebecca Richards, the agency’s first civil liberties and privacy director, wrote during an hour-plus Q&A on Tumblr.

The NSA operates under rules that “ensure that its activities fall within the parameters of the Constitution,” Richards wrote when asked why she believes the surveillance programs are constitutional.

Techdirt captures contradiction:

NSA Chief Warns Of Pending Cyberattack… Which He Wants To Make Easier With Backdoors

  • from the ridiculous dept

NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers has often seemed somewhat more reasonable than his predecessor, but he’s still not above spewing FUD. The latest is that, last week, he pulled out the favorite of surveillance state supporters everywhere: the pending cyberpocalypse, in which hackers take down the economy. Prepare for the “dramatic cyberattack” that is inevitably on the way:

The director of the National Security Agency issued a warning Thursday about cyberthreats emerging from other countries against networks running critical U.S. infrastructure systems.

Adm. Michael Rogers said he expects a major cyberattack against the U.S. in the next decade. “It’s only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ that we are going to see something dramatic,” he said.

Of course, as venture capitalist/entrepreneur Marc Andreessen pointed out in response, the best way to stop that from happening would be to not require that software have backdoors that can easily be hacked.

After the jump, the Dutch get aggressive over privacy protection, Uncle Sam linked to the latest complex malware, malware in your E-cigs, more complications for the kidnapped Colombian general, incendiary institutionalized Israeli discrimination draws nigh, Pakistan’s nuclear program accelerates, Thai editor jailed for lèse majesté, cops prepare for Hong Kong Occupy eviction, Beijing ups the surveillance ante, Predictions of heightened tension in the insular Game fo Zones, hints of a Chinese supersonic drone, rising tensions over basing on a growing Chinese island with U.S. objections spurned, South Korea stages a challenge to a Japanese island claim, a clue as to some of what the island game is about, more criticism of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s militarization push, and a lawsuit over French nuclear tests in the Pacific. . . Continue reading

Fox stoops to new low: ‘Boobs on the ground’

Via TPMTV, conclusive proof that. . .well, just watch this clip aired today on Fox News:

Fox Hosts Dub Female Fighter Pilot ‘Boobs On The Ground’

Context from the New York Times:

Emirates’ First Female Fighter Pilot Led Mission in Syria

When fighter jets from the United Arab Emirates took part in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria on Monday night, the mission was led by a woman, the country’s ambassador to the United States said Thursday morning.

The pilot, Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, was among the first women to graduate from the Emirates’ air force academy after it began to admit women, and became the nation’s first female fighter pilot.

“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat-ready pilot, and she led the mission,” the ambassador, Yousef Al Otaiba, said on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.”

Also taking to the air at the stick of a jet with full load of bombs and similarly photogenic was Saudi Prince Khaled bin Salman, though not so easy a target for Foxy boyish boorish bombast.

John Oliver tackles militarized police & Ferguson

Cutting through the bullshit, when done in a non-plummy British accent, is somehow funnier than the same message conveyed in plain old American media English. But when the accent comes with rapier-sharp wit, the result is simply delicious.

Sure, you can find fault with John Oliver’s message, but he gets a lot more right than otherwise, and his take on the Orwellian machinery at the heart of paramilitary hardware and attitudes employed in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the police shooting of yet another unarmed black teenager merits kudos.

Pop it up to full screen and enjoy, via HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization

Program note:

In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, John Oliver explores the racial inequality in treatment by police as well as the increasing militarization of America’s local police forces.

Rightist Israeli Jews adopt Nazi campaign slogan

Remember that ol’ Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer [One people, One land, One leader]?

You know, the one the Nazi’s continually intoned first to win elections, then to justify their swallowing up other countries? As in this poster celebrating Hitler’s peaceful takeover of hiss native Austria?


Well, if any group of folks should be aware of the implications of the slogan, it’s Israeli Jews. So image our chagrin to discover an photo [via] of militants staging a pro-government counter-protest during Saturday’s anti-war march in Tel Aviv.  But that’s how Louis Proyect translates the Hebrew phrase on the posters held up by these right wingers: One People, One State, One Leader:

BLOG Israelis

If it’s ignorance, it’s appalling; if it’s not, it’s simply pathological.