Category Archives: Mideast

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spies, hacks, terror, pols


We begin with a positive development, via CNN:

Ferguson police chief resigns, says it’s ‘hard pill to swallow’

Embattled Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned Wednesday, a week after a scathing Justice Department report slammed his department. Jackson and the city “have agreed to a mutual separation,” Ferguson officials announced.

“It’s a really hard pill to swallow,” Jackson said in a text message responding to CNN’s request for comment. He also confirmed his resignation in a letter to Ferguson’s mayor.

“It is with profound sadness that I am announcing I am stepping down from my position as chief of police for the city of Ferguson, Missouri,” Jackson said, adding that serving the city as police chief “has been an honor and a privilege.”

From BuzzFeed News, young-uns quick on the trigger:

Younger Police Officers Are More Likely To Shoot People Than Older Ones

Research shows that younger officers are more likely to be involved in shootings, even though age is rarely mentioned as a factor in the aftermath. “It’s a dirty little secret that we’re hiring police officers too young,” a veteran Boston officer said.

The age of an officer is perhaps the least-discussed factor in a fatal encounter with police, and the maturity of an officer rarely comes up in news conferences after an incident. Age wasn’t mentioned in the Justice Department’s deep, 86-page analysis of Brown’s fatal shooting released last week.

Yet research shows that younger officers are more likely to be involved in shootings, and that the risk of shootings declines as officers age. That may be because younger officers are more likely to be working on the street than behind a desk, according to researchers, but it could also be that younger officers are predisposed to react with deadly force.

Unions for the Ferguson Police Department, New York City Police Department, and Cleveland Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

What’s a little snooping between friends?, via the Guardian:

Australian spy officer was sent to New Zealand to lead new surveillance unit

  • New revelations also show NZ’s spy agency, GCSB, had access to NSA program to hack phones and computers of targets in the Asia-Pacific

Australia’s defence intelligence agency sent an officer to work with New Zealand’s spy agency to help them develop their cyber capabilities and lead a new operational unit, new documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal.

On Wednesday the New Zealand Herald and the Intercept published new revelations about the role of New Zealand’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) which disclose new details about its role gathering intelligence from Vietnam, China, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Pacific nations and other countries.

The disclosures also reveal that the GCSB had access to an NSA program codenamed WARRIORPRIDE used to access phones and computers that “can collect against an Asean target”. A March 2013 report describes New Zealand working towards improving its cyber capabilities to improve detection, discovery of new tools and disruption of the source of intrusions.

From the Verge, flying high to get the downlow:

The CIA helped develop planes that scrape cell phone data

The US may be using cellphone-sniffing planes to find suspects across the world, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. In November, the Journal revealed the US Marshal’s secret program to locate specific fugitive through airplane equipped to mimic cell towers. Flying over an urban area, the planes can pinpoint the location of a single number amid a million or more phones. The new report shows the technology first originated with the CIA, which guided the initial deployment of the planes by the Marshal Service. Furthermore, Journal sources say continues to be used to locate intelligence targets overseas.

If true, the report unveils a powerful weapon in US intelligence efforts abroad, but also reveals a troubling trend of foreign intelligence tools used for domestic law enforcement purposes. The plane-mounted cellphone detector is a potentially ingenious tool for intelligence gathering, but it seems to have moved from CIA intelligence work to domestic fugitive tracking with little to no oversight, a troubling reminder of how easily tools designed for the War on Terror can be put to domestic ends. Electronic privacy advocates have already raised doubt about the practice. “There’s a lot of privacy concerns in something this widespread, and those concerns only increase if we have an intelligence agency coordinating with them,” the EFF’s Andrew Crocker told the Journal.

Norse cops busted for doing what American cops — and spooks — do routinely, via TheLocal.no:

Norway police broke law with fake base stations

Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) persistently violated the law as it established a network of fake mobile phone base stations across Oslo last year, Norway’s Aftenposten has revealed.

According to the paper, police and PST deliberately ignored a requirement that they should inform the country’s telecoms authority before setting up ‘IMSI catchers’, which mimic mobile base stations, allowing their operators to intercept and eavesdrop on mobile phone calls made nearby.

The newspaper last December identified a series of “fake base stations” outside Norway’s parliament, outside its government headquarters, and outside the residence of the prime minister, using a German CryptoPhone 500 to identify them.

It now appears that many, if not all of the devices, were set up by Norway’s own security services.

From Agence France-Presse, a Dutch metadata and email collection defeat:

Dutch court nixes data storage law, says privacy breached

A Dutch court on Wednesday struck down a law requiring telecoms and Internet service providers to store their clients’ private phone and email data, saying it breached European privacy rules.

“The judge ruled that data retention is necessary and effective to combat serious crime. Dutch legislation however infringes on the individual’s right to privacy and the protection of personal data,” the Hague district court said.

“The law therefore contravenes the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,” the court said in a statement. Seven groups and organisations including privacy watchdog Privacy First and the Dutch Association of Journalists dragged the Dutch state to court last month over the issue.

From SecurityWeek, don’t phone it in:

Dropbox Android SDK Flaw Exposes Mobile Users to Attack: IBM

IBM researchers discovered a flaw in Dropbox’s Android SDK which can leave mobile users vulnerable to attack.

The issue was not in the Dropbox service or the mobile app itself, but rather in the company’s SDK that third-party developers include to let users easily connect to their Dropbox files, Michael Montecillo, director of security intelligence at IBM Security, told SecurityWeek.

The vulnerability (CVE-2014-8889) was present in the SDK versions 1.5.4 through 1.5.1.

From the Associated Press, Cold War 2.0 intensifies:

Ukraine’s neighbor Poland to test resilience to attack

Poland will hold an exercise this year to test its resilience to a “crisis” like the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, President Bronislaw Komorowski said Wednesday.

Komorowski spoke to reporters during an annual meeting of army commanders and the defense minister that examines Poland’s defense potential and outlines key security tasks.

He said the nation needs to raise its defense potential in the face of threats, including the armed conflict that involves Poland’s two neighbors, Russia and Ukraine.

More casualties in the Forth Estate, via Fox News Latino:

2 Journalists murdered in Guatemala

Two journalists, one who worked for the daily Prensa Libre and another employed by Radio Nuevo Mundo, were murdered in front of a government office building in Suchitepequez, a province in Guatemala, emergency services officials said.

Danilo Lopez and Federico Salazar were gunned down on Tuesday in the city of Mazatenango’s central park by two individuals riding a motorcycle.

Lopez, a reporter for Prensa Libre, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Salazar, who worked for Radio Nuevo Mundo, died at a hospital in the city.

From RT, the Hexagon at high alert:

France to keep 10,000 troops on streets as terror threat remains high

As the threat of attacks by Islamist extremists remains high in France, President Francois Hollande has decided to continue the deployment of 10,000 troops on the streets across the country.

“The threat of terrorist attack against our country remains high. The head of state has decided to maintain the level of the army on the national territory at 10,000 troops in support of security forces from the Interior Ministry,” Hollande’s office said in a statement after a meeting of senior ministers, AFP reported.

A total of 7,000 troops will be monitoring and protecting religious buildings that are “particularly threatened,” the statement added.

From TheLocal.it, ISIS insanity:

Italian police: ‘Isis flag’ was jacket in tree

Police called to investigate an alleged Isis flag hanging outside an apartment building in Italy made a surprise discovery, finding what they feared may be extremist propaganda was, in fact, a resident’s washing put out to dry.

Police were called to an apartment block in Porto Recanati, on Italy’s eastern coast, after locals raised the alarm that an Isis sympathizer may be within their midst.

The officers searched the building and questioned residents, but were unable to recover the mystery black cloth spotted hanging from a tree next to the apartment block.

On further investigation police discovered that the supposed propaganda tool was nothing more than a jacket, swept into the trees after being hung out to dry, Corriere della Sera reported on Wednesday.

From Agence France-Presse, Britain’s NSA goes all how-to:

UK spies write ‘how to catch a terrorist’ guide

Secrecy is a cornerstone of spycraft, but Britain’s GCHQ communications agency has gone public with a guide on how to catch a “terrorist” as the government calls for increased online snooping powers.

In an apparent effort to make the secret services more transparent, the five-step guide illustrated with the image of an old-school spy in a trenchcoat was published on the monitoring agency’s website.

Entitled “How does an analyst catch a terrorist?”, it takes readers through the ways in which GCHQ analysts identify a suspicious stranger spotted overseas.

Under the scenario, the guide says an MI6 source based overseas spots  a leader of the Islamic State group handing a stranger a message containing information “that will cause carnage across London”.

After the jump, the Saudi/Swedish schism widens after a denunciation and an arms deal ended, on to the ISIS battlefront, first with another archaeological assault, ISIS on the brink of losing Tikrit while another city threatens to fall under ISIS guns, America’s top general voices concerns of events after an ISIS collapse, Washington frets over its own anti-Assad forces, hundreds of medics killed in the Syrian conflict, the UN’s plan to send Syrian refugees to northern Europe, and ISIS hacks Japanese websites while Anonymous down an ISIS social network, it’s on the the Boko Haram front and the claim of hundreds slain, France pledges more troops to the effort, and the U.S. backs a U.N. call for a regional anti-Boko Haram command, Indonesian fears of an ISIS insurgency and Indonesia threatens to flood Australia with refugees, Chinese island-building draws a Philippine demand, Japan mulls extending North Korean sanctions, the U.S. Marine commandant frets an Okinawan base relocation, and after Ringling Brothers retires its elephants, the Pentagon ponders using them as bomb detectors. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Netanyahu takes a ratings hit


The Israeli prime minister’s American sojourn ended with fewer Americans liking Benny the Bellicose, according to the latest from Gallup:

BLOG Benny

InSecurityWatch: Cops, crime, war, terror, history


We begin with cops, first with the Christian Science Monitor:

From Wisconsin to Georgia, police shooting investigations are changing

In the past three days, three unarmed black men in three cities were shot by police. In two out of three cases, the shootings will be examined by an outside investigator as jurisdictions try to instil greater accountability.

The decision by police in Dekalb County, Ga., to hand an investigation into the officer-related shooting of an unarmed, and naked, black man to the state bureau of investigation is part of a dramatic re-think, amid continuing street protests, of how to adjudicate cases where unarmed civilians die at the hands of US police officers.

Dekalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander tied the decision to investigate the death of Air Force veteran and aspiring R&B singer Anthony Hill to a broader movement toward having independent investigators handle officer-involved shootings, especially in cases where unarmed black men are killed.

The killing of Mr. Hill became the third shooting of an unarmed black man in a span of three days across America. The shootings in Aurora, Colo., Madison, Wisc., and Chamblee, Ga., have put police on guard against another wave of public backlash like the one that swept the US last year in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

More from the New York Times:

Georgia Investigators Look Into Police Shooting of Naked, Unarmed Man

A witness to the fatal police shooting of a naked, unarmed man here said Tuesday that the man had approached the officer with his hands in the air, prompting the frightened officer to shoot at close range with a handgun.

The witness, Pedro Castillo, 43, is a maintenance man at the Heights at Chamblee, the apartment complex northeast of Atlanta where Anthony Hill, 27, was shot and killed Monday afternoon. Mr. Castillo, speaking Spanish, said that Mr. Hill, a black man, had seemed out of sorts. He was naked and on all fours in the parking lot when the police officer, who is white, arrived in his squad car, parking a good distance away. Mr. Castillo said.

When Mr. Hill saw the officer, Mr. Castillo said, he stood up and moved toward him with his hands raised, and the officer, obviously frightened, yelled for him to stop. Mr. Castillo said that he had not seen a scuffle, but that he did see the officer pull out the handgun and shoot Mr. Hill.

Ted Rall of the Los Angeles Times ponders another police shooting of an unarmed man in his city:

BLOG Cops

And from Al Jazeera America, revenge by hacking:

Cyber attack hits Madison police department after shooting of unarmed teen

  • Anonymous, the loose network of hackers, has taken credit for the attack on the Madison PD’s computer systems

Cyber attackers have compromised computer systems at the Madison Police Department in retaliation for the police shooting death of a 19-year-old unarmed black man in the Wisconsin capital city, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

The cyber attack appears to be continuing and could be hitting other city and county websites beyond the police department, said police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

The attack, which began Monday afternoon, was thought to be initiated by Anonymous, an international network of activist computer hackers, in response to the fatal shooting of Tony Robinson by a white Madison police officer on Friday.

On to Ferguson with CNN and a resignation:

Judge resigns, Ferguson cases moved after scathing DOJ report

Ferguson’s municipal judge has resigned and the city’s court cases are getting moved after the U.S. Justice Department said the court discriminated against African-Americans.

“To help restore public trust and confidence in the Ferguson municipal court division, the Supreme Court of Missouri today transferred Judge Roy L. Richter of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, to the St. Louis County Circuit Court, where he will be assigned to hear all of Ferguson’s pending and future municipal division cases,” the Supreme Court said in a statement Monday.

“Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis,” Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said in the statement.

The announcement came the same day Municipal Court Judge Ronald Brockmeyer resigned as Ferguson’s judge.

More from the Guardian:

Ferguson judge behind aggressive fines policy resigns as city’s court system seized

  • Ronald J Brockmeyer, accused in a scathing report of aggressively using the municipal court to raise revenue for the city, has stepped down

A scathing report by the Department of Justice last week concluded that Ferguson’s police and court system was blighted by racial bias. Investigators accused Brockmeyer and his court officials of aggressively using the municipal court to raise revenue for the city. The policy is blamed by many for damaging relations between the city’s overwhelmingly white authorities and residents, two-thirds of whom are African American.

Brockmeyer, 70, was singled out by investigators as a driving force behind Ferguson’s strategy of using its municipal court to generate revenues aggressively. Investigators found that Brockmeyer had boasted of creating a range of new court fines, “many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful”.

Ferguson is accused in a class-action federal lawsuit, brought by public defenders and legal non-profits, of imprisoning impoverished residents in the city jail for being unable to pay fines of a few hundred dollars for minor offences. While jailing residents, Brockmeyer owes more than $172,000 in unpaid taxes to the US government, the Guardian disclosed last week. A staff member at Brockmeyer’s law offices in St Charles County did not return a call seeking comment.

And the New York Times covers another quitter:

Ferguson City Manager Cited in Justice Department Report Resigns

The city manager of Ferguson, whom a Department of Justice report blamed for overseeing the financially driven policies that led to widespread discrimination and questionable conduct by the police and the courts here, has agreed to resign. The announcement came during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, about a week after the scathing Justice Department report was released.

The manager, John Shaw, 39, had held the post since 2007. As Ferguson’s chief executive, he was the city’s most powerful official.

Mr. Shaw, who has not spoken publicly since the report was issued, offered a staunch defense in a page-long letter to the community that city officials distributed during the Council meeting.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, tackling gender-based murder:

Brazil passes femicide law to tackle rise in gender killings

Brazil, where a woman is killed every two hours, is imposing tougher punishments on those who murder women and girls, as part of a government bid to stem a rise in gender killings.

President Dilma Rousseff said the new law gave a legal definition to the crime of femicide – the killing of a woman by a man because of her gender – and set out jail sentences of 12 to 30 years for convicted offenders.

The law also includes longer jail terms for crimes committed against pregnant women, girls under 14, women over 60 and people with disabilities.

From Der Spiegel, Berlin sounds an alarm over Washington war-mongering:

Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine

  • US President Obama supports Chancellor Merkel’s efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. But hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin’s approach. And NATO’s top commander in Europe hasn’t been helping either.

It was quiet in eastern Ukraine last Wednesday. Indeed, it was another quiet day in an extended stretch of relative calm. The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn’t holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine — with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” having been sent to the Donbass. “What is clear,” Breedlove said, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

A response to other Washington war-mongering, via the Los Angeles Times:

Iran leader says GOP senators’ letter implies U.S. ‘not trustworthy’

Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday said that a letter from 47 Republican senators warning that any agreement on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program must receive congressional approval suggests that the U.S. is “not trustworthy.”

The open letter released Monday also warned Iran’s leaders that the next U.S. president could revoke a deal reached with President Obama.

“This kind of communication is unprecedented and undiplomatic,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, according to a state-run television website. “In fact it implies that the United States is not trustworthy.”

More from the Guardian:

Senate Democrats denounce Republican letter to Iran as call for war

  • Republicans’ attempt to ‘sabotage’ negotiations between western nations and Iran could escalate into military response, senators say

Prominent Senate Democrats have accused their Republican rivals of wanting to start a war with Iran on Tuesday, a day after conservative senators penned an open letter to Tehran.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer said that the 47 signatories to the letter are trying to “sabotage” talks between western powers and Iran. Boxer described the Republicans’ letter as “bizarre, inappropriate” and a “desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement” that she said is “in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world”.

“It appears that for most of my Republican colleagues in the Senate, a war in Afghanistan and a war in Iraq were not enough,” said Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with the Democratic Party, in a statement. “They now apparently want a war in Iran as well.” The Vermont senator called the letter “an outrage”.

After the jump, a Wikimedia suit targets the NSA, the curious case of the rich Spanish cop, old school terror thwarted in the Emerald Isle, neo-nazis busted in an Austrian xenophobic protest, anger follows a German mayor’s resignation under neo-nazi pressure, Sweden ends a lucrative Saudi arms trade, more French arrests of men linked to a slain terrorist, Spain claims a win over an Islamist attack cell, Iraq pushes ISIS back in Tikrit, The ten-year-old soldiers of ISIS, and an ISIS play in Libya facilitated by chaos, an ISIS announcement of more gay men executed, and a child executes an alleged spy, Chinese ISIS recruits head home to Xinjiang, the curious state of that ISIS/Boko Haram hookup, the Boko Haram campaign heats up with stronger foes and a new Nigeria raid, the CIA’s stealthy spookery to crack the iPhone, the man who makes Edward Snowden’s encryption tool, new software enables capture of Facebook login sites, cell phone records track and keep your every move, Spain’s ubiquitous downloading pirates, a rape documentary banned in India gets a gilded U.S. debut, a free speech protest meets a brutal Myanmar crackdown, China prepares a foreign NGO crackdown, Beijing decries Japanese media Nanjing Massacre revisionism, On to Tokyo and a Shinzo Abe advisor’s plea for a prime ministerial acknowledgment of Japanese WWII aggression, Japan’s military popularity hits an all-time high, and Angela Merkel tells Abe to get straight with South Korea on Comfort Women. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Divisions, warfare, militarism


We begin with a real source of InSecurity, via the Independent:

Britain’s divided decade: the rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer

The gap between richest and poorest has dramatically widened in the past decade as wealthy households paid off their debts and piled up savings following the financial crisis, a report warns today.

By contrast, the worst-off families are far less financially secure than before the recession triggered by the near- collapse of several major banks. They have an average of less than a week’s pay set aside and are more often in the red.

Younger workers have fallen behind older people while homeowners – particularly those who have paid off their mortgages – have become increasingly affluent compared with their neighbours who are paying rent.

From the New York Times, more real InSecurity:

U.N. Finds ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence Against Women

The evidence is ubiquitous. The gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi sets off an unusual burst of national outrage in India. In South Sudan, women are assaulted by both sides in the civil war. In Iraq, jihadists enslave women for sex. And American colleges face mounting scrutiny about campus rape.

Despite the many gains women have made in education, health and even political power in the course of a generation, violence against women and girls worldwide “persists at alarmingly high levels,” according to a United Nations analysis that the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to present to the General Assembly on Monday.

About 35 percent of women worldwide — more than one in three — said they had experienced physical violence in their lifetime, the report finds. One in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex, it says.

From the Guardian, Netanyahu’s acolytes:

Republicans threaten Iran nuclear deal may not survive Obama tenure

  • Letter from 47 senators says nuclear accord needs congressional backing to last
  • White House accuses Republicans of ‘rush to war’ with Iran

Forty-seven Republican senators warned on Monday that any agreement the Obama administration strikes with Iran to limit Tehran’s nuclear programme may be short-lived unless Congress approves the deal. The White House accused the Republicans of advocating a “rush to war”.

In an open letter to Iranian leaders, freshman Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other Republicans said that without congressional approval any deal between Iran and the US would be merely an agreement between President Barack Obama and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen,” they wrote, “and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

From StarAfrica, plumbers summoned:

S/Africa probes leaking of spy docs to Al Jazeera

South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) has launched a full investigation into the leaking of documents detailing its operations following the recent leakage of sensitive documents to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV news network, APA learnt on Sunday.

“A full investigation has been launched into the purported leakage, its veracity and verification will be handled in terms of the protocols governing the management of classified information,” State Security Minister David Mahlobo said.

The probe follows the web of dealings between the South African spy agency and several foreign agencies which have been revealed through hundreds of documents leaked to Al Jazeera, which broadcast the items last week.

Among other issues the documents, dated from 2006 to 2012, included an alleged assassination plot against African Union (AU) Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Iran’s efforts to use Pretoria to work around its international sanctions imposed by Western powers and the flawed capabilities of the country’s intelligence, according to the Al Jazeera, which did not reveal who leaked the documents to it.

From Deutsche Welle, did you Hope™ for this Change™?:

US deploying 3,000 troops to the Baltics

  • The US announced it is deploying 3000 troops to the Baltics to take part in military exercises over the next three months. The Baltic states and other eastern European nations are wary of renewed Russian aggression.

The United States is sending 3,000 troops to the Baltic states to partake in joint military exercises with NATO partners in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania over the next three months, US defense officials announced Monday.

The mission, part of “Operation Atlantic Resolve” is designed to reassure NATO allies concerned over renewed Russian aggression amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Around 750 US Army tanks, fighting vehicles and other military equipment arrived in Latvia Monday, and US ground troops are expected to begin arriving next week, US Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters.

According to a US military source speaking on condition of anonymity, the military equipment will remain in the Baltics even after the US troops return to base.

From the Guardian, suppression:

Saudi Arabia accused of blocking criticism of human rights record

  • Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, has said the kingdom stopped her addressing an Arab League meeting

Sweden’s foreign minister has reportedly accused Saudi Arabia of blocking her speech at an Arab League meeting to stop her highlighting human rights cases such as the imprisonment of a blogger for insulting Islam.

Speaking in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Monday, Margot Wallström told the TT news agency: “The explanation we have been given is that Sweden has highlighted the situation for democracy and human rights and that is why they do not want me to speak.

“It’s a shame that a country has blocked my participation.”

An Arab diplomat confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Riyadh had stopped her making the speech.

A sharp Saudi response to flogging condemnation, via the Independent:

Raif Badawi: Saudi Arabia accuses western media of attacking its sovereignty

Saudi Arabia has finally responded to the international outcry over the treatment of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, accusing the western media of launching an unjustified attack on its sovereignty under the “pretext of human rights”.

In its first official statement on the case, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would not allow outside interference with Saudi Arabia’s judicial system and that pressure from the media and human rights groups would have no impact on his punishment.

Mr Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – of which so far only 50 have been carried out – for using his liberal blog to criticise Saudi Arabia’s clerics. Judges in the country’s criminal court want him to undergo a retrial for apostasy, which carries the death sentence.

From the Guardian, Indian free speech suppression:

Activist arrested for showing rape documentary in Indian village

  • Ketan Dixit used borrowed equipment and bedsheets to screen India’s Daughter, which has been banned by the authorities, to 60 people

A young activist who defied the Indian government’s ban on the documentary India’s Daughter and screened the film for a village audience near the northern city of Agra has been apprehended by police.

Ketan Dixit was quoted on Monday as saying he was ready to “face any action that was initiated” after showing the documentary on Sunday on a makeshift screen made of white bedsheets in the compound of a journalist’s family home in Roopdhanu, around 30km from the Taj Mahal.

Around 60 men, women and children watched the film, which has been the subject of furious controversy since the Indian authorities’ decision to pull it from the air last week. The film, by British documentary-maker Leslee Udwin, is about the fatal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012.

From BBC News, a German mayor resigns facing xenophobic agitation:

German Mayor Markus Nierth resigns over NPD protest fears

A village mayor in eastern Germany has resigned after threats to march on his house from far-right protesters angry about plans to house asylum seekers.

Markus Nierth, who was honorary mayor of Troeglitz in Saxony-Anhalt, south of Berlin, said he quit because local authorities refused to ban the march. He said he would not expose his family to “racist and hate-filled chants”.

Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Ministry said it opposed “all forms of xenophobia and racism’‘.

After the jump, Netanyahu adopts a harder line as a former spy boss declares him the country’s biggest threat, on to the ISIS war, first with advances in the battle for Tikrit, and fears of retribution if ISIS withdraws, Germany mulls an Islamist military checkup, on to Africa and an advance on Boko Haram, Islamist oil field kidnapping in Libya, Pakistan extends its nuclear missile reach to all of India, on to Japan as Shinzo Abe pushes for rapid legislative realization of his remilitarization agenda, Merkel urges Abe to hold to the traditional apology for World War II actions, and Tokyo issues a testy response, and Abe wins metadata enabling legislation. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, climate, toxins, water, nukes


We begin with an outbreak from Outbreak News Today:

Ecuador city declares chikungunya ‘state of emergency’

The northwestern Ecuadorian city of Esmeraldas has declared a state of emergency due to the spread of chikungunya, according to a Globedia report (computer translated).

Esmeraldas mayor, Lenin Lara, declared the state of emergency to allocate resources to combat the spread of the mosquito borne viral disease.

Since the first autochthonous transmission of chikungunya reported was reported in the country in December, Ecuador has seen in excess of 200 cases, with approximately half being reported from the city of Esmeraldas, which borders Colombia.

Another epidemic via Outbreak News Today:

Dengue fever in the Americas: 100,000 cases through February

Brazil has reported the most cases in the Americas with 72,254 of the 106,465 suspected and confirmed cases, or 68 percent.

Following Brazil in case burden is Colombia, which has seen 11,242 cases to date. Paraguay and Peru have reported in excess of 1,000 cases this year.

Central America and Mexico account for more than 17,500 cases with Mexico (6391), Nicaragua (3823) and Honduras (4302) seeing the most.

From the Associated Press, a connection:

UNICEF warns lack of toilets in Pakistan tied to stunting

More than 40 million people in Pakistan do not have access to a toilet, forcing them to defecate in the open, which in turn is a major contributor to stunting in the country, a top UNICEF official said.

“There are 41 million people who do not have access to a toilet in Pakistan and as a result they are defecating in the open. And open defecation has significant health and nutritional consequences,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director at UNICEF. She recently spoke to The Associated Press during a trip to Pakistan to draw attention to the problem.

“Open defecation is a major contributor to stunting and that’s why we’ve got to do all we can to stop it,” she said.

Pakistan is the third-largest country when it comes to people going to the bathroom in the open, behind India and Indonesia. The problem can spread disease and lead to intestinal infections, which can contribute to stunting in young children, she said.

And from BBC News, a canine diagnostician:

Frankie the dog ‘sniffs out thyroid cancer’

A dog has been used to sniff out thyroid cancer in people who had not yet been diagnosed, US researchers say. Tests on 34 patients showed an 88% success rate in finding tumours.

The team, presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, said the animal had an “unbelievable” sense of smell.

Cancer Research UK said using dogs would be impractical, but discovering the chemicals the dogs can smell could lead to new tests.

From the Guardian, accelerating:

Global warming ‘set to speed up to rates not seen for 1,000 years’

  • By 2020 the average temperature rise per decade will be 0.25C in the northern hemisphere, more than double the 900 years preceding the 20th century

People need to brace themselves for accelerating climate change that could alter the way we live even over short time scales, scientists have warned.

New evidence suggests the rate at which temperatures are rising in the northern hemisphere could be 0.25C per decade by 2020 – a level not seen for at least 1,000 years.

The analysis, based on a combination of data from more than two dozen climate simulation models from around the world, looked at the rate of change in 40-year long time spans.

Lead scientist Dr Steve Smith, from the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said: “We focused on changes over 40-year periods, which is similar to the lifetime of houses and human-built infrastructure such as buildings and roads.

“In the near term, we’re going to have to adapt to these changes.”

And from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Republican insanity:

In Florida, officials ban term climate change

The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.

But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

Homeland Security News Wire adds a complication:

Sea level rise causing changes in ocean tide levels, tidal ranges

Scientists have found that ocean tides have changed significantly over the last century at many coastal locations around the world. Increases in high tide levels and the tidal range were found to have been similar to increases in average sea level at several locations.

Scientists from the University of Southampton have found that ocean tides have changed significantly over the last century at many coastal locations around the world. Increases in high tide levels and the tidal range were found to have been similar to increases in average sea level at several locations.

The findings of the study are published online in the journal Earth’s Future.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/2014EF000282/

While the New York Times discovers greener ag in the heartland:

Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil

Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice.

“The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences.

Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.

He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.

Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.

From the Guardian, a call to clear the air:

‘Environmental racism’: Bronx activists decry Fresh Direct’s impact on air quality

Whites and minorities in the US breathe different quality air, with the latter exposed to 38% higher levels of nitrogen dioxide. And it is decisions like the one to place trucking operations for Fresh Direct in the Bronx, says activist group South Bronx Unite, that exacerbate the problem

A comprehensive 2006 study carried out by NYU researchers found a direct correlation between the air pollution (diesel fumes in particular) in [Danny] Chervoni’s neighborhood and the high rates of asthma among residents. The densely populated area – there are over 90,000 people living within 2.2 sq miles – is surrounded by four major highways funneling commercial and other traffic in and out of Manhattan. And the waterfront, where as a child Chervoni and his friends used to swim in the river and pick fruit from the apple and pear trees, is now home to several fossil fuel plants, a 5,000-ton-a-day waste transfer station, a sewage treatment facility, a FedEx hub and a Wall Street Journal/New York Post printing and distribution center.

One of the key recommendations of the NYU study was to curb pollution from truck exhaust. So when state and local officials proposed in 2012 to subsidize the relocation of Fresh Direct, a major trucking business, to one of the few remaining vacant lots on the waterfront – a move that would add an estimated 1,000 more truck trips through the neighborhood every day – a variety of community groups decided enough was enough. They joined together to form South Bronx Unite, and they’ve been fighting the proposal ever since.

The group contends that the levels of pollution their community is being subjected to is “environmental racism”. It is a claim echoed by many low-income communities of color around the country, whom research has shown are disproportionately impacted by polluting industries – specifically trash incinerators, landfills and fossil fuel power plants.

From the Guardian, more water woes ahead:

Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis

  • Last week drought in São Paulo was so bad, residents tried drilling through basement floors for groundwater. As reservoirs dry up across the world, a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. Rationing and a battle to control supplies will follow

Water is the driving force of all nature, Leonardo da Vinci claimed. Unfortunately for our planet, supplies are now running dry – at an alarming rate. The world’s population continues to soar but that rise in numbers has not been matched by an accompanying increase in supplies of fresh water.

The consequences are proving to be profound. Across the globe, reports reveal huge areas in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up. More than a billion individuals – one in seven people on the planet – now lack access to safe drinking water.

Last week in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, home to 20 million people, and once known as the City of Drizzle,drought got so bad that residents began drilling through basement floors and car parks to try to reach groundwater. City officials warned last week that rationing of supplies was likely soon. Citizens might have access to water for only two days a week, they added.

In California, officials have revealed that the state has entered its fourth year of drought with January this year becoming the driest since meteorological records began. At the same time, per capita water use has continued to rise.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Mainichi:

Radiation decontamination volunteers not supported by national gov’t

At least 30,000 volunteer workers have been involved in forays into areas in Fukushima Prefecture that fall under direct management of the national government due to high level of radiation, it has been learned from volunteer organizations.

These volunteer workers, who are not given any support by the national government for the management of their radiation levels, have engaged in decontamination work such as cutting grass over 2,500 times, efforts supposed be carried out by the government.

While the national government introduces volunteers to work in areas of relatively low radiation that are being decontaminated by municipal governments, it has little awareness of volunteer work in areas under its own direct jurisdiction.

From JapanToday, a continuing conflict:

Fukushima residents torn over nuclear waste storage plan

Norio Kimura lost his wife, father and 7-year-old daughter Yuna in the March 2011 tsunami.

Now, he fears he may lose his land, too, as Japan’s government wants to build a sprawling radioactive waste storage site in the shadow of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.

Like many here, Kimura is angry the government is set to park 30 million tons of radioactive debris raked up after the nuclear accident on his former doorstep. Few believe Tokyo’s assurances that the site will be cleaned up and shut down after 30 years.

“I can’t believe they’re going to dump their trash here after all we’ve been put through,” said Kimura, 49, standing near the weathered planks on a shrub-covered hill that represent all that’s left of his home.

From the Asahi Shimbun, piling up:

FOUR YEARS AFTER: Radioactive debris continues to stack up at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant

With nowhere to put it, refuse and debris contaminated with radioactive materials continue to pile up at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant here.

A total of 258,300 cubic meters of radioactive debris was produced from the March 2011 accident to the end of this January in the plant, where decommissioning work is under way.

The amount is equivalent to the capacity of about 650 25-meter-long swimming pools.

NHK WORLD covers a delay:

Public housing for Fukushima facing delays

Construction of public housing in Fukushima Prefecture is facing significant delays. The housing is meant for those forced to leave their homes after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the ensuing nuclear accident.

Fukushima Prefecture plans to build around 2,700 units for people affected by the earthquake and tsunami. 4,900 are planned for those affected by the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

But only 44 percent of the units for quake and tsunami victims were ready for occupancy at the end of February. Only 5 percent has been completed for the nuclear evacuees.

And from the Mainichi, a symbolic move:

Evacuated Fukushima town to remove ironic nuclear signboards

The town of Futaba, which has been evacuated since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, decided Monday to remove street signboards propagating the positive aspects of nuclear power.

The signboards in desolated streets carry slogans promoting atomic energy, including one reading, “Nuclear power: the energy for a bright future.” Town officials said they will be removed because they have become decrepit.

The town authority on the same day submitted to the municipal assembly the fiscal 2015 draft budget earmarking some 4.1 million yen for the removal. If the budget is approved, the removal will begin from as early as in August, the officials said.

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, vandals, war, hacks


We begin with consideration from the New York Times:

Holder Weighs Dismantling the Ferguson Police Dept.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. vowed a firm response on Friday to what he called “appalling” racial misconduct by law enforcement officials in Ferguson, Mo., suggesting he was prepared to seek the dismantling of the police force there if necessary.

“We are prepared to use all the powers that we have, all the power that we have, to ensure that the situation changes there,” Mr. Holder told reporters here after returning from Columbia, S.C., where he appeared with President Obama at a town hall-style meeting at Benedict College. “That means everything from working with them to coming up with an entirely new structure.”

Asked if that included dismantling the police force, Mr. Holder said: “If that’s what’s necessary, we’re prepared to do that.”

From the Intercept, notable spooky news:

Documents Shine Light on Shadowy New Zealand Surveillance Base

Near the heartland of New Zealand’s renowned wine country, there is a place that visitors are not allowed to go. The peculiar large white domes that protrude from the earth in the Waihopai Valley are surrounded by razor wire and shrouded in secrecy.

But now, newly revealed documents from the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden shine a light on what is behind the security perimeter. The buildings there are crammed with sophisticated NSA spying technology, used by New Zealand to sweep up text messages, emails, phone calls, and other communications in bulk across the Asia-Pacific.

The documents, revealed Saturday by the Sunday Star-Times in collaboration with The Intercept, show how closely New Zealand has worked with the NSA to maintain surveillance coverage of the region. The files also offer an unprecedented insight into the Waihopai base, exposing how it’s been integrated into a global eavesdropping network.

The spying station intercepts data from satellites, and is operated by Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA. Waihopai is part of a group of surveillance stations used by the so-called Five Eyes, an alliance that New Zealand is part of alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.

CBC News covers options exercised:

Counter-terrorism work has ‘sidetracked’ 300 RCMP criminal probes

  • RCMP head Bob Paulson says he hopes full, unedited Zehaf-Bibeau video will be released eventually

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says he thinks the full, unedited version of Parliament Hill shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s self-filmed video will eventually be released.

In an interview airing Saturday morning on CBC Radio’s The House, host Evan Solomon asked Paulson if 18 seconds from the beginning and end of the video made on the day of the shooting would one day be made public by police.

“I think so, eventually. I would like to think so,” he said. “I can’t give you a time estimate, I don’t think anything is lost in terms of what Canadians are seeing from Zehaf-Bibeau.”

Next, a fusion, via BBC News:

Nigeria’s Boko Haram pledges allegiance to Islamic State

Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), according to an audio statement. The message, which could not immediately be verified, was posted on Boko Haram’s Twitter account and appeared to be by the group’s leader.

Boko Haram began a military campaign to impose Islamic rule in northern Nigeria in 2009. The conflict has since spread to neighbouring states. It would be the latest in a series of groups to swear allegiance to IS.

Boko Haram’s insurgency has threatened Nigeria’s territorial integrity and triggered a humanitarian crisis. It has carried out frequent bombings that have left thousands dead and has also attacked targets in the capital, Abuja.

From the Guardian, yet another attempt to reboot history — a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

Isis militants destroy remains of Hatra in northern Iraq

  • 2,000-year-old city has been demolished, says tourism and antiquities ministry

Islamic State militants have bulldozed ancient remains of the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra in northern Iraq.

An official said the tourism and antiquities ministry had received reports from its employees in Mosul, which is controlled by the radical Islamist group, that the site at Hatra had been demolished.

A nearby resident said he heard a powerful explosion early on Saturday and that neighbours had reported that Isis militants had destroyed some of the larger buildings in Hatra and were bulldozing other parts.

The destruction follows a similar incident this week when Isis fighters bulldozed the ancient Assyrian archaeological site of Nimrud, south of Mosul. Some of the works had survived for more than 1,500 years.

Here’s a video tour of what once was, via UNESCO:

Hatra (UNESCO/NHK)

Program notes:

A large fortified city under the influence of the Parthian Empire and capital of the first Arab Kingdom, Hatra withstood invasions by the Romans in A.D. 116 and 198 thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers. The remains of the city, especially the temples where Hellenistic and Roman architecture blend with Eastern decorative features, attest to the greatness of its civilization.

From the Observer, archaeological anxiety spreads:

Isis vandalism has Libya fearing for its cultural treasures

  • With five World Heritage sites and historical remains stretching back to before Roman times, archaeologists worry a unique legacy may be lost

The Libyan capital of Tripoli lies more than 1,700 miles from the ancient Iraqi city of Nimrud. But for Mustafa Turjman, head of archaeological research at the University of Tripoli, the reported destruction of Nimrud’s ruins last week by the bulldozers of Islamic State (Isis) must have seemed rather closer to home.

For Libya, like Iraq, is home to a prized array of temples, tombs, mosques and churches, including five Unesco world heritage sites. And Libya, like Iraq, is racked by a complex civil war in which Isis plays a key role.

“Everything is unpredictable,” Turjman told the Observer. “But our heritage is in danger and it’s very difficult to protect it. We [academics] can protect it through restoration, but to protect it from people and explosions is very difficult. Sites, in particular in the centre and populated areas, are very endangered and very much at risk.”

The Washington Post covers the predictable:

Strains plague Iraqi, U.S. assessments of long-term fight against Islamic State

Signs of strain have emerged recently between the United States and Iraq over the timetable and military components of a campaign to retake major population centers occupied by the Islamic State.

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter told Congress this week that the U.S. Central Command was “inaccurate” when it told reporters recently that an offensive in Mosul could begin as early as April. But that timeline had already provoked a retort from Carter’s Iraqi counterpart, who said the United States was “not familiar” with Iraq’s battle plan for the northwestern city.

Speaking at a news conference late last month, Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said that Baghdad would determine the timing for the Mosul offensive.

From VICE News, more cadaverous messaging:

Islamic State Hangs Corpses Over Iraq City Entrance During Tikrit Battle

Islamic State militants hung the bodies of men believed to be Iraqi soldiers at the entrance to the town of Hawija in northern Iraq. In a video posted to Youtube, the corpses are shown strung from Hawija’s gates as vehicles passed below.

Witnesses quoted by local Iraqi reports said the bodies, strung upside down, were bodies of Iraqi government soldiers killed while battling ISIS forces in Tikrit, located about 74 miles away.

The gruesome display comes as Iraqi troops and allied Shiite militias mount a massive push to retake Tikrit from Islamic State fighters. Approximately 30,000 troops used jets and helicopters to try to push into the Islamic State-held city that is only 100 miles from Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the assault on Tikrit last Sunday during a press conference.

The Washington Post considers things to come:

U.S. sees even bigger test for Iraq and Iran in the aftermath of Tikrit battle

The top U.S. military officer will press the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during a visit to Iraq this week about its plans for avoiding sectarian fallout once the Iranian-backed operation to dislodge the Islamic State from the city of Tikrit concludes.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was confident that Iraq would ultimately defeat the Sunni militants in Tikrit, a largely Sunni city north of Baghdad. He said the group’s fighters numbered only in the hundreds there, while the force of Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed militia fighters advancing on the city stands around 23,000.

“The important thing about this operation in the Tikrit in my view is less about how the military aspect of it goes and more about what follows,” he told reporters ahead a visit to Iraq, where he will meet with Iraq’s Shiite-led government. “Because if the Sunni population is then allowed to continue to live its life the way it wants to, and can come back to their homes … then I think we’re in a really good place.”

Mediterranean escalation, via Reuters:

EU considers bigger naval presence to tackle Libya security issues

The European Union is discussing with the United Nations ways to bolster security in Libya, including a naval presence, if U.N.-backed peace talks lead to a settlement, the EU’s foreign policy head said on Saturday.

Libya’s warring factions had held talks on Thursday in an effort to end a conflict between two rival governments that threatens to drive the country into full-blown civil war.

The EU currently has ships that patrol the Mediterranean Sea to help rescue migrants trying to flee from Libya and other North African countries. But Federica Mogherini said this presence could go further.

From Reuters again, more Libyan anxiety:

U.N. experts concerned Libya arms could be diverted to militias

U.N. sanctions monitors said on Friday they are concerned that if a United Nations Security Council committee approves a request by Libya’s government for weapons, tanks and jets, some of the equipment could be diverted to militias supporting them.

The experts, who monitor violations of an arms embargo imposed on Libya in 2011, said in a letter – obtained by Reuters – that arms could also end up in the hands of other militia after battles or if Libyan troops lose control of stockpiles.

Libya’s internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has operated out of the east since a rival armed faction called Libya Dawn took over Tripoli in fighting last year and set up its own administration.

After the jump, Morsi supporters executed in Egypt, the U.N. Human Rights Council takes up the cause of privacy, the Internet of [hacked] Things, a lie-detecting app for corporate execs, the Saudis spurn blogger-flogging critics, on to the Boko Haram front with a suicide bombing assault in Nigeria and women protesting in Niger, the lynching of an alleged Indian rapist results in a trucker boycott, China jails women activists on the eve of International Women’s Day, an anti-hijab warning in eastern China, on to Tokyo and a hint Shinzo Abe may scale back remilitarization legislation, support for Abe’s agenda on the rise, Tokyo and Taipei ink a Game of Zones fishing pact, and mixed messaging inn the Okinawa/Tokyo feud over a U.S. base move, plus hints the Pope may help solve a four-decade-old murder mystery. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Ferguson, spooks, hacks, war


We begin with Ferguson, first from the New York Times:

Some in Ferguson Who Are Part of Problem Are Asked to Help Solve It

Many of those same officials will now be the ones attempting to carry out the reforms demanded by the Justice Department.

“We cannot just leave this region to its own devices to take care of this problem itself,” said Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman in Ferguson and the surrounding area who has become a national critic of the Police Department since Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in August. “I know that people in power do not have the courage, the boldness or the persistence to actually do the right thing.”

In particular, the responsibility for making changes will fall to John Shaw, the 39-year-old city manager. He is the city’s chief executive, responsible for supervising the police department, nominating the municipal judge and running the city. And he is cited repeatedly in the Justice Department’s scathing report.

From the Guardian, a law-enforcing Ferguson scofflaw:

Ferguson judge behind aggressive fines policy owes $170,000 in unpaid taxes

  • Ronald J Brockmeyer, who is accused of fixing traffic tickets for himself and associates, was a driving force behind using fines and fees to generate revenue

The judge in Ferguson, Missouri, who is accused of fixing traffic tickets for himself and colleagues while inflicting a punishing regime of fines and fees on the city’s residents, also owes more than $170,000 in unpaid taxes.

Ronald J Brockmeyer, whose court allegedly jailed impoverished defendants unable to pay fines of a few hundred dollars, has a string of outstanding debts to the US government dating back to 2007, according to tax filings obtained by the Guardian from authorities in Missouri.

Brockmeyer, 70, was this week singled out by Department of Justice investigators as being a driving force behind Ferguson’s strategy of using its municipal court to aggressively generate revenues. The policy has been blamed for a breakdown in relations between the city’s overwhelmingly white authorities and residents, two-thirds of whom are African American.

United Press International covers quitters:

Two Ferguson police officers resign over racist emails

Two Ferguson police officers resigned Thursday after a U.S. Department of Justice report revealed some city officials sent racist emails using their work accounts.

Ferguson city spokesman Jeff Small told CNN officers Rick Henke and William Mudd left the department. Small told NBC News the two men were placed on administrative leave from the department Wednesday for sending racist emails.

The emails were uncovered in a Justice Department investigation into the city’s law enforcement and judicial system after the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. A second report from the department found the officer responsible for the shooting, Darren Wilson, shouldn’t face charges for the incident.

From the Guardian, she’s outta there:

Ferguson clerk fired over racist emails also accused of fixing traffic tickets

  • Senior court official Mary Ann Twitty, who lost her job after scathing Justice Department report was released, accused of dismissing tickets for acquaintances

A senior court official in Ferguson, Missouri, who was fired by the city over racist emails, is also accused of fixing traffic tickets for colleagues.

Mary Ann Twitty, Ferguson’s influential court clerk, has been identified as the first city official to lose her job as a result of the Department of Justice’s scathing report on the St Louis suburb’s criminal justice system that was published this week.

Twitty, 60, was fired in connection with racist emails that were detailed in the report, according to the New York Times. “This type of behaviour will not be tolerated in the Ferguson police department or in any department in the city of Ferguson,” Mayor James Knowles III told a press conference on Wednesday.

From the New York Times, a spooky shakeup:

Major Overhaul Set for C.I.A., With Thousands to Be Reassigned

John O. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is planning to reassign thousands of undercover spies and intelligence analysts into new departments as part of a restructuring of the 67-year-old agency, a move he said would make it more successful against modern threats and crises.

Drawing from disparate sources — from the Pentagon to corporate America — Mr. Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. Instead, C.I.A. officers will be assigned to 10 new mission centers focused on terrorism, weapons proliferation, the Middle East and other areas with responsibility for espionage operations, intelligence analysis and covert actions.

During a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan gave few specifics about how a new structure would make the C.I.A. better at spying in an era of continued terrorism, cyberspying and tumult across the Middle East. But he said the current structure of having undercover spies and analysts cloistered separately — with little interaction and answering to different bosses — was anachronistic given the myriad global issues the agency faces.

Allegations a matter of dispute, via the Los Angeles Times:

South African officials draw ridicule for probe of alleged CIA spies

South Africa’s government was accused Friday of trying to smear the ombudsman and several top opposition politicians when it announced an inquiry into allegations they were CIA spies that were based on claims of an anonymous blog.

U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard dismissed the allegations as “rubbish.” “I have faith in intelligence of South Africans,” said Gaspard on Twitter. “This story is a joke in any serious nation.”

The government announced Thursday night that the State Security Agency was probing claims that ombudsman Thuli Madonsela, opposition figures Julius Malema and Lindiwe Mazibuko, and union leader Joseph Mathunjwa were CIA spies.

From BBC News, a former CIA operator yearns for Swiss asylum:

US spy case: Snowden seeks Switzerland asylum move

The fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden says he would love to get asylum in Switzerland. He was speaking via video link to a Geneva audience, from Moscow where he is sheltering from US prosecutors.

“I would love to return to Switzerland, some of my favourite memories are from Geneva,” he said. Previously he worked in Geneva undercover for the CIA.

“I do think Switzerland would be a sort of great political option because it has a history of neutrality,” he told the Geneva audience. He said he had requested asylum in 21 countries, most in Central and Eastern Europe, but none had granted his wish. He blamed US “political interference”.

Ecuador promotes a spooky expose, via teleSUR:

Ecuador Alerts Public to CIA Actions Across the Continent

  • The Foreign Ministry is backing a new book outlining CIA actions in Ecuador to raise public awareness of interventions committed by the organization.

Imprisoned on various occasions and subjected to numerous interrogations, Dr. Jaime Galarza Zavala is one of the estimated 120 direct victims of the CIA’s record in Ecuador.

Persecuted by the CIA for his political organizing, Galarza described to teleSUR English that “they told me that I was working as a guerrilla in the Dominican Republic. I, to this day, have never visited the Dominican Republic. But they accused me of being a guerrilla leader in the Dominican Republic. And this was a common theme with various interrogations.”

He added that, “while they interrogated me, there was somebody that called every now and then from another room. Afterward, they told me that this person they were talking with was a gringo, a North American, who never presented himself to me. But he gave them instructions as to how to continue the interrogation,” said Galarza.

A fierce critic of U.S foreign policy in the region, Galarza recently published a book titled, “The CIA Against Latin America, the Special Case of Ecuador,” co-authored  by Francisco Herrera Arauz.

From Reuters, spooky ambitions:

Japan eyes MI6-style spy agency as it seeks to shed pacifist past

Japan is looking into creating an overseas intelligence agency possibly modeled on Britain’s MI6 spy service, ruling party lawmakers say, 70 years after Allied victors dismantled Japan’s fearsome military intelligence apparatus following World War Two.

A new foreign intelligence agency would be an integral part of a security framework Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is building as he seeks to loosen the post-war pacifist constitution’s limits on the military’s ability to operate overseas.

The idea that Japan’s fragmented intelligence community needs a makeover has also gained momentum since the killing of two Japanese captives by Islamic State militants in Syria earlier this year showed how much Tokyo relied on friendly countries for information.

Abe has already set up a U.S.-style National Security Council and enacted strict state secrets legislation, and is now working on laws to lift a ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense, or militarily aiding an ally under attack.

TheLocal.it covers Italian domestic insecurity:

Mafia threats against local politicians rising

Italy’s local councils are increasingly being intimidated by the mafia and other criminals, a new Senate investigation has found.

There were 1,265 acts of intimidation in the 15 months to April 2014, recorded in a Senate report presented on Thursday.

Discussing the findings on Thursday, Senator Doris Lo Moro said such incidents were on the increase across Italy. “Since the start of the year [2013] hundreds and hundreds of acts of intimidation have been recorded,” she told journalists in Rome, with cases ranging in severity from insults to murders.

From the Independent, a car-killing military laser debuts:

Laser beam capable of burning hole in car from one mile away unveiled by Lockheed Martin

A photo of a car on fire, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood action movie, has displayed the startling power of a new laser weapon which can disable a running car from over a mile away.

Demonstrating the power of the 30 kilo-watt laser, the image shows a small truck with smoke billowing from a hole seared into its bonnet.

The prototype of the device known as Advanced Test High Energy Asset (Athena) successfully disabled the engine of the vehicle in a matter of seconds in its test run.

And another generation of French intelligence malware, via SecurityWeek:

Reconnaissance Tool Linked to French Intelligence Malware Babar

Researchers at security firms ESET and Cyphort continue to analyze the malware families believed to have been developed by a French intelligence agency. The latest threat uncovered by experts has been dubbed “Casper.”

In March 2014, the French publication LeMonde published some slides from Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) describing “Operation Snowglobe,” a campaign discovered by the agency in 2009. Additional slides were made available by the German publication Der Spiegel in January 2015. The presentation revealed details on a piece of malware named Babar, which appeared to be the work of a French intelligence agency.

Based on the information from the slides, researchers first uncovered a piece of spyware, dubbed “EvilBunny,” which they believe is linked to Operation Snowglobe. Last month, G DATA and Cyphort published the details of a threat which they believe is Babar, the malware described in the CSE slides. Now, they have come across Casper, which also appears to have been developed by the same authors.

After the jump. Bunga Bunga wiretaps disclosed, a Pentagon hacker busted, Old Blighty conducts a major cybercrime crackdown, busts in a billion e-mail address theft, ISIS hones its Twitter skills, on to the ISIS front and well-honed Twitter skills, Iran’s growing influence in the ISIS crisis, the Iraqis retake a key town, their archaeological vandalism raises global ire, And they raise big bucks from Afghan smack, on to the Boko Haram battlefront as forces mass, then on to Tanzania and a crackdown on albino killers and two are sentenced to death, Europe warned of massive Libyan immigration, another Latin American journalist slain, Sri Lanka warns of attacks on Indian fishing boats, massive displacement from war against Philippine Muslim rebels, Laos and Japan tighten ties in a strategic alliance, South Korea suspects the north in an ambassadorial attack, Japan’s Shinzo Abe aims at militaristic constitutional revisions, Parsing the semantics of military emergencies, citizen resistance, and ISIS provides handy justification, while Abe’s state broadcaster renounces the government’s official recognition of World War II sexual slavery. . . Continue reading