Category Archives: Media

InSecurityWatch: Bigots, hackable Hillary, war


From the Independent, some things never change:

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

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

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

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

BBC News covers a spooky plea deal:

Ex-CIA chief in federal charge plea

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

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

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

From the Intercept, the business of justice as usual:

Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks

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

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

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

Reuters covers a return contemplated:

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

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

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

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

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

From Nextgov, Hillary insecurity:

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

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

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

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

From the National Journal, Hillary hucksterism:

Clinton Emails Raise Red Flags for Keystone Review, Greens Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Threatpost, not reassuring:

Government Report Critical of FAA Security Controls

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

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

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

From the Guardian, a Berlin/London spooky rift:

British refusal to cooperate with spy inquiry causes row in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hacking songs British tabloid style, via the Independent:

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

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Stalkers, hacks, war, spies, law


From the Observer, the worst of both worlds:

Spyware and malware availability sparks surge in internet stalking

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

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

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

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

A spy with conviction, via BBC News:

Ex-Colombian spy chief Maria del Pilar Hurtado convicted

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

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

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

Cold War 2.0 expostulation, via the Guardian:

Former MI6 chief warns over Russian threat

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

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

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

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

And from the New York Times, Cold War 1.0:

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

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

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

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

And so it continues, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New York Times covers the defense:

‘Jihadi John’ Stirs Britain to Defend Spy Agencies

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

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

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

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

Mid-South professor targeted by ISIS

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

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

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

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

BBC News covers a designation:

Egypt court puts Hamas on terrorist list

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

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

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

From the New York Times, agitation:

Online, American Helps Fuel Attacks in Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

So sit back and enjoy a remarkable work of journalism.

From Breaking the Set:

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

Program notes:

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

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

Program notes:

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

Cuba Part III: The Evolution of Revolution

Program notes:

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

Breaking the Set: Abby Martin’s last edition


Artist, activist, and journalist Abby Martin tonight aired the final episode of her RT America nightly news magazine, and this journalist, for one, will sorely miss her passionate and engaging work.

Martin launched her television right her in Berkeley on the community television platform that was one of the concessions Comcast made to win the local cable franchise.

It’s been a pleasure to watch as her style and skills were honed, and we wish her well.

Martin took the helm of the news magazine after the departure of the Alyona Show‘s Alyona Minkovski for the presumably more lucrative pastures of the Puffington Host [an operation we have boycotted on principle for its exploitation of all but a very, very few contributors].

With that said, from Breaking the Set, the final episode:

Abby Martin Breaks the Set One Last Time

Program notes:

On this final episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin, discusses the power of grassroots activism in getting the FCC to uphold net neutrality. Abby then speaks with Eugene Puryear, Organizer with the ANSWER Coalition, about effective activism as it relates to issues from combating police brutality to taking on prison reform. Abby then speaks with BTS producer, Anya Parampil, about the best moments of the show. Abby then features a montage of some of her favorite monologues and guest appearances on the show. Abby concludes the final episode by explaining why BTS has been such an important part of her life and why we should never stop Breaking the Set.

A look at Al Jazzera’s espionage cable leaks


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

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

From Al Jazeera:

The Spy Cables: Decoded – Episode one

Program notes:

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

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

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

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

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

    Presenter: David Foster

    Guests:

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

EbolaWatch: Numbers, warnings, cases, money


We begin with the latest numbers, via the World Health Organization [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Ebola

Next, a warning from the U.N. News Center:

Amid uptick in Ebola cases, UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected communities

New cases of Ebola rose again in Guinea and transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported as it and the UN Ebola response mission both raised concerns about challenges in engaging communities to win the fight against the disease.

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In its latest update issued Wednesday afternoon, WHO reported that new cases in Guinea continued to arise from “unknown chains of transmission” and that transmission remained “widespread in Sierra Leone” but transmission continued at very low levels in Liberia, with 1 new confirmed case reported in the 7 days to 22 February associated with a known chain of transmission.

“Engaging effectively with communities remains a challenge in several geographical areas,” WHO said in its most recent update Nearly one-third of prefectures in Guinea reported at least one security incident in the week to 22 February, often as a result of rumours and misinformation linking response efforts with the spread of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease], according to WHO.

From the Guardian, excoriation:

US quarantine for Ebola health workers ‘morally wrong’

  • Bioethics commission blasts 21-day confinement for medical staff and says government must prepare better for health emergencies

Quarantine restrictions imposed in the US on healthcare workers returning from saving lives in the Ebola epidemic in west Africa were morally wrong and counterproductive, according to Barack Obama’s bioethics commission.

A comprehensive report on the US response to Ebola at home and in Africa found there was no good scientific evidence for the mandatory 21-day quarantine imposed in states including Maine, which tried to confine nurse Kaci Hickox to her home on her return from Sierra Leone. Hickox defied the order and went for a bike ride, later challenging the restrictions in court and winning permission to move freely while regularly monitoring her temperature.

The presidential commission for the study of bioethical issues said the US must be better prepared for a future emergency, arguing that the federal government has a moral and prudential responsibility to get involved in the global response.

From the Guardian again, a notable example:

New York Ebola doctor criticises ‘vilification’ by politicians and media

  • Dr Craig Spencer says his case was ‘caught up in election season’
  • Controversy included quarantine rules imposed by Christie and Cuomo

Craig Spencer, the doctor who was found to have Ebola days after returning to New York City from Guinea, wrote in an essay published on Wednesday that he was mistakenly cast as a “fraud, a hipster, and a hero” by the media as he fought for his life from a hospital bed.

“The truth is I am none of those things,” Spencer wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. “I’m just someone who answered a call for help and was lucky enough to survive.”

In the essay, Spencer details how his diagnosis and illness affected him physically and psychologically during the 19 days he spent recovering at New York’s Bellevue hospital.

“Though I didn’t know it then – I had no television and was too weak to read the news – during the first few days of my hospitalization, I was being vilified in the media even as my liver was failing and my fiancée was quarantined in our apartment,” he wrote.

GlobalPost covers strategy:

EU, African countries to convene on Ebola recovery

The European Union (EU) has invited African countries for a high level conference in Brussels to review current efforts of fighting Ebola and place a plan to help Liberia and the other African countries to recover from the hit of the disease.

An emailed EU statement reaching Xinhua on Thursday said the presidents and ministers of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo as well as representatives of the African Union Commission, the UN, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the European Union will all be attending at the very highest level.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf will co-chair the conference on Ebola and she will be speaking as spokesperson for the Mano River Union (MRU).

During this High Level Conference, the 11th European Development Fund National Indicative Program for Liberia 2014-2020 will be signed between Liberia and the EU.

From the New York Times, some notably good news:

Fatality Rate in West Africa Ebola Clinics Is Dropping

As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa wanes, physicians from Doctors Without Borders are confronting a mystery: More of their patients are surviving. They do not know why.

“The reasons are really unclear,” said Dr. Gilles van Cutsem, who helped run the agency’s response in Liberia and gave a presentation describing its experience at an AIDS conference here.

Doctors Without Borders, better known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières — has cared for more Ebola patients in West Africa than any other organization. At its peak, it was running 22 centers; it now runs eight.

Since last March, the average death rate at those remaining centers has dropped to 52 percent, from about 62 percent.

On to Liberia, first with a withdrawal from CBC News:

Ebola outbreak: U.S. military ends mission in Liberia months early

  • More than 4,000 Liberians have been killed by the virus

The U.S. military officially ended a mission to build treatment facilities to combat an Ebola outbreak in Liberia on Thursday, months earlier than expected, in the latest indication that a year-long epidemic in West Africa is waning.

Washington launched the mission five months ago and the force peaked at over 2,800 troops at a time when Liberia was at the epicentre of the worst Ebola epidemic on record.

“While our large scale military mission is ending…the fight to get to zero cases will continue and the (Joint Force Command) has ensured capabilities were brought that will be sustained in the future,” said U.S. Army Maj.- Gen. Gary Volesky.

The Monrovia Inquirer covers some numerical good news:

Only 2 Ebola Confirmed Cases Now…Mont. Goes 7 Days Without New Outbreak

It has been announced in Monrovia that of the nineteen Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) spread through the country, only two confirmed Ebola cases are being treated as of February 14, 2015.

Acting Information Minister, Isaac W. Jackson told the daily Ebola press briefing yesterday that this is an indication that Liberia is making significant progress in the fight against the Ebola demon.

Minister Jackson used the occasion to dispel rumors that there is a new outbreak of Ebola in Margibi County but noted that there were only two cases which have since been dealt with.

Minister Jackson also disclosed that for the past seven days there has been no new case of Ebola in Montserrado while Lofa County which was the epicenter for the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has had no new case in more than forty days.

More numbers, first from the New Dawn:

Liberian households return to work

-as Ebola wanes

The World Bank Group says nearly 20 percent of Liberians, who had stopped working since the Ebola crisis, have returned to work in the last month.

The Bank’s report is contained in its most recent round of cell-phone surveys, signaling both important progress and the magnitude of the challenge ahead.

The report, released Tuesday, described this improvement as an encouraging sign of a shift toward economic normalization, mainly driven by a large increase in wage work in urban areas.

According to the World Bank Group, a substantial percentage of those working pre-crisis remain out of work, however; those in self-employment continue to be the hardest hit by the Ebola crisis, pointing to a lack of working capital and a lack of customers as the main barriers to their operation.

More from AllAfrica:

Liberia: World Bank Spots Food Insecurity in Liberia

The World Bank says food insecurity will persists nationwide in Liberia as nearly three-quarters of households are worried over enough harvest to eat.

The World Bank in a release noted that despite improvement in the outlook of Ebola cases in the country, agriculture remains a concern as nearly 65 percent of agricultural households surveyed believe that their harvest would be smaller than the previous year.

However, the 65 percent fear is a decrease from the 80 percent in the previous survey in December 2014.

The survey noted labor shortages and households inability to work in groups.

After the jump, giving the press a vaccination briefing, finds for assessing psychological impacts, on to Guinea and a debunking of deadly Ebola myths, on to Sierra Leone and a call for a corruption purge and a case of missing connections. . .   Continue reading

John Oliver wins: FCC endorses net neutrality


It’s not very often that a singular political victory can be ascribed to a few minutes of air time, but that seems to be the case in today’s three-two Federal Communications Commission vote mandating rules to ensure net neturality.

From the the Christian Science Monitor:

Net neutrality’s stunning reversal of fortune: Is it John Oliver’s doing?

  • A year ago, few outside the telecom community had ever heard of net neutrality, despite extensive news coverage. Here’s how a comedy program made the general public care about a topic considered ‘even boring by C-SPAN standards.’

Less than a year ago, when a wonky policy debate over the principle of net neutrality and prioritized Internet “fast lanes” seemed to interest only telecom company suits and nerdy open Internet advocates, a comedian’s 13-minute segment may have helped turn the national conversation’s tide.

At the time, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a former top lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries, was mulling new rules to allow broadband companies to provide “fast lanes” for content providers who were willing to pay for it.
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“Yes, the guy who used to run the cable industry’s lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it,” said John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” in June. “That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo…. ‘Make sure they’re in bed by 8, there’s 20 bucks on the table for kibbles, so please don’t eat my baby.’” He then urged his viewers to contact the FCC.

Tens of thousands did, crashing the agency’s website and flooding it with comments the next few days, with millions more to come – the vast majority calling for net neutrality. And Chairman Wheeler, appointed by President Obama to lead the commission in 2013, was a good sport about it, telling reporters, “I would like to state for the record that I am not a dingo.”

From HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, here’s the segment, posted 1 June 2014 and attaining 8,063,173 views by the time we reviewed today:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Net Neutrality

Program notes:

Cable companies are trying to create an unequal playing field for internet speeds, but they’re doing it so boringly that most news outlets aren’t covering it.

John Oliver explains the controversy and lets viewers know how they can voice their displeasure to the FCC.

Four months after the segment aired, David Bauder of the Associated Press wrote:

Oliver has journalists who worked at the New York Times Magazine and ProPublica on his writing staff.

Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, calls Oliver’s work “investigative comedy.” Thompson has played the net neutrality segment for his students.

Research indicates that young people are much more likely than their elders to take a deeper dive into news stories that interest them, searching for more information online, said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute. What Oliver is doing responds to that desire, he said.

“There is a natural link between committing journalism and committing comedy,” Rosenstiel said. “They’re both in the uncovering and unmasking business, but with different approaches.”

So congratulations to John Oliver for stepping on some powerful toes and accomplishing — aided by a wide range of activist organizations and individuals — a defeat, at least for now, on yet another attempted by media monopolies to pick our pockets.