Category Archives: Politics

EnivroWatch: Illness, pols, climate, water, nukes


We begin with the latest measles update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first with the numbers:

BLOG Measles graf

Then the distribution:

From January 1 to February 27, 2015, 170 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles [AZ (7), CA (113), CO (1), DC (2), DE (1), GA (1), IL (15), MI (1), MN (1), NE (2), NJ (2), NY (3), NV (8), PA (1), SD (2) TX (1), UT (2), WA (7)]†. Most of these cases [125 cases (74%)] are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

From January 1 to February 27, 2015, 170 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles [AZ (7), CA (113), CO (1), DC (2), DE (1), GA (1), IL (15), MI (1), MN (1), NE (2), NJ (2), NY (3), NV (8), PA (1), SD (2) TX (1), UT (2), WA (7)]†. Most of these cases [125 cases (74%)] are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

From the United Nations News Center, another global health tragedy:

Over 5 billion people worldwide lacking access to essential medicines, says UN Report

Three quarters of the world population has no access to proper pain relief treatment, according to a report by the United Nations body charged with overseeing Governments’ compliance with international drug control treaties, which was released in London today.

Around 5.5 billion people still have limited or no access to medicines containing narcotic drugs such as codeine or morphine the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says in its Annual Report for 2014, which went on to point out that around 92 per cent of all morphine used worldwide is consumed by only 17 per cent of the world population, primarily living in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The report, which calls on Governments to address the discrepancy in order to comply with International Drug Control Conventions, notes that natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world can further limit access to essential medicines and the Board stressed that in cases of emergency medical care, simplified control measures can be applied.

For example in the Philippines following the destruction by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the Board pointed out to all countries as well as to providers of humanitarian assistance the simplified procedures for the export, transportation and delivery of medicines containing substances under international control.

In its Report, the INCB notes that drug control measures do not exist in a vacuum and that, in their implementation of the drug control conventions, States must also comply with obligations under other treaties, including international humanitarian law and their international human rights obligations, such as allowing civilians to have access to medical care and essential medicines during armed conflicts.

Additionally, the INCB noted that States were charged with deciding specific sanctions for drug-related offences, but should avoid application of the death penalty for such cases.

Newswise covers a question of costs:

U.S. Spends More on Cancer Care, Saves Fewer Lives than Western Europe

  • Dartmouth study finds costly U.S. cancer care may provide less value than previously thought

Despite sharp increases in spending on cancer treatment, cancer mortality rates in the United States have decreased only modestly since 1970, Samir Soneji, PhD of Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice has found. Refuting previous studies, Soneji published his paper “New Analysis Reexamines the Value of Cancer Care in the United States Compared to Western Europe,” today in the March issue of Health Affairs.

“Our results suggest that cancer care in the U.S. did not always avert deaths compared to Western Europe and, when it did avert deaths, it often did so at substantial cost,” explained Soneji. “The greatest number of deaths averted occurred in cancers for which decreasing mortality rates were more likely to be the result of successful prevention and screening rather than advancements in treatment.”

U.S. cancer mortality rates decreased by 12 percent since 1970, compared to a 62 percent decrease for heart disease. Such findings have raised questions about the additional value of U.S. cancer care derived from the additional spending, in comparison to the situation in other high-income countries. This study compared U.S. and Western European spending between 1982 and 2010 for 12 of the most common cancers.

Compared to Western Europe, the U.S averted 67,000 breast cancer deaths, 265,000 colorectal cancer deaths, and 60,000 prostate cancer deaths between 1982 and 2010. The U.S. experienced 1,120,000 excess lung cancer deaths in this study period compared to Western Europe. The ratio of incremental cost to quality-adjusted-life-years saved equaled $402,000 for breast cancer, $110,000 for colorectal cancer, and $1,979,000 for prostate cancer. These amounts exceed most accepted thresholds for cost-effective medical care. The U.S. lost quality-adjusted-life-years despite additional spending for lung cancer where the cost was negative $19,000 per quality-adjusted-life-year saved.

From the Washington Post, a medical enigma:

Mystery paralysis in children is perplexing parents — and researchers

For most of the children who fell ill last year during an outbreak of enterovirus, the symptoms were relatively mild — fever, runny nose, coughing and sneezing.

But then there was this mystery: More than 100 kids suffered an unexplained, polio-like paralysis that struck quickly but even now continues to stump researchers and upend the lives of the families across the country.

For Priya Duggal and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, the biggest puzzle is why those children became paralyzed while their brothers and sisters, who also were exposed to the virus, escaped largely unscathed.

From the Times of India, tallying an outbreak’s toll:

40 more dead as swine flu toll climbs to 1,115

Swine flu claimed the lives of 40 more people in the country as the toll from the disease reached 1,115 while the total number of cases breached the 20,000 mark.

The Health Ministry said that 1,115 persons have succumbed to the H1N1 virus while the number of those affected by it stands at 20,795 on March 1.

With heavy rainfall lashing Delhi and other parts of the north, health officials said it was difficult to ascertain whether the rains will have any effect on the incidence of swine flu.

However, the officials said that, during monsoon, the virus increases and it was possible that whatever decline was being seen over the last few days in the intensity of the disease may not continue. They said that there will be no decrease in the virus due to the rains and added that high temperatures are a deterrent for the virus.

Outbreak News Today covers an online virus of another sort:

Colorado: Craigslist kitten turns out rabid, 20 people get rabies prophylaxis

A 6-month-old kitten obtained on Craigslist has turned out positive for the nearly 100 percent lethal virus, rabies, requiring nearly two dozen people to receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

The family of four from northeast Colorado Springs named the kitten Jello. The owners said the cat was fine for 2 weeks and then the black cat “took a turn for the worse” and got very sick. The family’s two other dogs and a cat had to be put down since they were exposed.

El Paso County Public Health officials say the kitten tested positive for rabies late last week.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Laboratory performed the initial test and the CDC is in the process of determining the type of rabies the kitten had.

Another group of Liberian healthcare workers asks for hazard pay, via the Liberian Observer:

Health Workers at TB Annex Demand Hazard Benefits

At least 101 workers at the TB Annex Hospital are demanding payment of hazard benefits owed them by the Ministry of Health for the past six months.

The patients at the hospital, located directly behind the Health Ministry in Oldest Congotown, are infected with tuberculosis which is a very highly contagious disease.

The health workers told this paper that their benefits are due for the period September 2014 to February 2015.

They stated that during the heat of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) crisis, they did not close the hospital but remained there at their own risk, taking care of hundreds of TB patients who came in daily when most other health centers and hospitals were closed.

GMOoooos, via BBC News:

Scientists produce TB-resistant cows

Scientists in China have produced a herd of genetically engineered cows that are better able to ward off bovine TB infection.

The long-term goal of the research is to avoid the need to cull livestock by breeding disease resistant cattle.

Bovine TB is a risk in many areas, including New Zealand, England and Wales, and parts of Africa and Asia. In the UK over 26,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2013 at a cost to taxpayers of £100m.

Politically cowed, via the New York Times:

Indian State Passes Beef Ban Championed by Right-Wing Hindus

The western state of Maharashtra this week became the first Indian state to ban the possession and sale of beef, imposing fines and up to five years in prison for violations.

The ban, which was passed on Monday, came as an amendment to a 1972 law prohibiting the slaughter of cows, which has been expanded to ban the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and calves. The slaughter of water buffaloes will still be allowed under the new law, subject to permission from the authorities. The populous western state includes Mumbai, the Indian financial capital.

The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, championed by right-wing Hindu organizations, was first passed in 1995 but languished for two decades under a governing coalition between the Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a clear majority in state elections last October, after Narendra Modi, the party’s leader, took office as prime minister in May.

Cognitive pollution, via  Medical Daily:

Air Pollution Slows Cognitive Development In Children Due To Brain Inflammation

Schools that are located near busy roads may be more dangerous than remote schools due to the increased levels of air pollution generated by passing cars, a new study finds.

Toxic chemicals found in the air pose a growing concern for scientists studying brain health, especially among adolescents. Experts call them neurotoxicants, and they’ve been linked with a higher risk of suicide, autism, and the myriad direct physical effects of breathing in harmful air, such as asthma and diseases of the lungs.

“From animal studies we know that ultrafine particles cross the blood brain barrier, interact with the microglial cells, which in turn affects neurons,” said Dr. Jordi Sunyer, lead author of the recent study from the University of Barcelona. This can result in chronic low-grade brain inflammation, he added, which delays brain maturation.

And from EcoWatch, Oedipus Bush:

Jeb Bush Trashes Father’s Clean Air Legacy to Woo Far Right-Wing

Jeb Bush trashed the Clean Air Act last week. He was speaking to the far right-wing Club for Growth, notorious for mounting mostly unsuccessful challenges from the right against Republican candidates during congressional primaries.

The Clean Air Act is estimated to achieve almost $2 trillion in yearly benefits to the American people by 2020. These vast benefits are delivered in the form of “significant reductions in air pollution” related premature death and illness, improved economic welfare of Americans, and better environmental conditions.” The estimated annual costs to achieve these benefits will be about $65 billion by 2020.

So this staggering Bush senior achievement is one that Bush junior singles out for condemnation. It’s bewildering. One might even say it takes one’s breath away.

After the jump, endless drought woes for the Golden State, a rich California coastal city looks to desalination, an Environmental Protection Agency disclosure fail rebuked, air pollution kills hundreds of thousands of Europeans a year, China hopes for an air pollution reprieve, mineral water home delivered as Sao Paulo taps run dry, a Mexican mine hit with a river pollution fine, a call for Costa Rican shark protection, prison-farmed fish for sale at Whole Foods, a new threat from the DEA — Utah rabbits dazed on legal weed, a key African food staple lags behind growing populations, and the FBI comes a-knockin’ at the doors of Keystone Pipeline foes, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with another year’s radioactive water cleanup delay, an Olympic Fukushima food fare bid, and corporate payouts continue, plus Mount Everest grows a crown of human feces. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Cautions, risks, protest, an arrest


And more, but we begin with the cautionary, first from the Guardian:

Ebola death toll in west Africa ‘could be much higher than initial estimates’

  • Brussels conference attended by three west African presidents warned of funding shortfall in reaching zero-cases target and a death toll higher than first thought

Regional and world leaders have called on the international community to scale up their efforts to rebuild the nations devastated by Ebola amid fears the death toll from the outbreak could be even higher than previously thought.

Although the epidemic, which has ravaged Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, appears to be drawing to a close, the secretary general of the Red Cross warned that the true number of victims could be substantially greater than official estimates.

“Even though statistics show that over 9,000 people died of Ebola, our volunteers on the ground were called on to bury 14,000, which means that many more died from Ebola,” Mohammed El-hadj Assy told a conference on the Ebola crisis in Brussels on Tuesday.

Another cautionary note, via the United Nations News Center:

Ebola: UN tells Brussels meeting world must ‘stay on course’ to get to, remain at zero cases

Representatives of United Nations organizations engaged in the response against Ebola today pledged their support to the worst-affected West African countries in “each stage of this journey; the drive to zero, the early recovery, the medium and longer term development.”

The pledge was made at a high-level international conference on Ebola sponsored by the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, aimed at maintaining global attention on the crisis, taking stock of the fight against the epidemic and on coordinating next steps and discussing the recovery process.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, said that current phase of the response “is the hardest part and a bumpy road” and urged the international community to remain fully engaged until the task is completed, especially as the virus is moving and as some communities are reticent about being engaged in the response.

Dr. Nabarro, as well as World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, both emphasized the need to build trust with communities to eradicate the disease, which has affected nearly 24,000 people with more than 9,714 deaths.

“We need to build trust with the communities,” Dr. Chan said, and added: “Without meaningful community engagement, we will not get to zero cases.”

More cautionary news, via NBC News:

The Next Ebola Zone: Report Finds 28 High-Risk Countries

Where else could an epidemic of Ebola or some other disease come? Try Somalia, Chad, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic, Guinea, Niger, and then Mali. They all have weaker health care systems than Sierra Leone, Save the Children warns [PDF].

The group, which has been fighting the epidemic ravaging Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, says 28 countries have near-nonexistent health systems.

Public health experts agree that poor health systems helped Ebola turn from a series of outbreaks into a full-fledged epidemic. It’s infected nearly 24,000 people and killed around 10,000 by official count. People carried the virus to the U.S., to Europe and to neighboring countries.

Another Save the Children story, via the Guardian:

Save the Children head apologises for upset over award to Tony Blair

  • Charity’s UK chief executive admits its ‘global legacy’ honour to former British prime minister has damaged the organisation

Save the Children has apologised to those who were upset by its decision to give Tony Blair a “global legacy award” last year, saying the prize was bestowed solely for the former British prime minister’s work on Africa and was not intended as a celebration of his “wider legacy”.

On Tuesday Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children UK and a former aide to Blair, admitted the move had damaged the international charity.

The prize, which was given to Blair by the US arm of Save the Children (STC) last November, drew immediate criticism from inside and outside the organisation.

An internal letter, signed by more than 500 staff members, said the award was not only “morally reprehensible, but also endangers our credibility globally”, and called for it to be withdrawn.

Reuters covers calls for help:

Ebola-hit countries seek help to repair their economies

The three West African states hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak asked for help from donors on Tuesday to repair the damage to their economies now that the epidemic seems to be waning.

Leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone voiced confidence at a major international conference on the Ebola outbreak in Brussels that they were winning the battle but said they must remain focused on stamping out new infections.

The epidemic has killed around 10,000 people in the three countries and delivered a severe setback to their economies, which had previously been performing well.

“Victory against the virus is in sight but we must guard against complacency. There will not be total victory until we get to a resilient zero (new cases) in the three most affected countries,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma told the conference.

The Associated Press covers one of those pleas:

Liberia calls for Ebola ‘Marshall Plan’ to rebuild economies

Liberia’s president on Tuesday called for an Ebola “Marshall Plan” to help rebuild economies in West African nations devastated by the virus.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that “we need our international partners to remain committed to us,” as the number of deaths from the disease approaches 10,000.

Sirleaf told fellow regional leaders and delegates at an international conference on Ebola in Brussels that restoring economic growth in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone is a long-term and costly task.

And from FrontPageAfrica, opposition encountered:

How Liberian Protester Upstage EJS White House Welcome

The central theme in the long sought meeting on the part of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with US President Barack Obama took place on Friday at the White House, and ironically “corruption” became the menu and not the usual diplomatic pomp and pageantry reserved for visiting deserving heads of state, especially for a leader who “won” the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize that deservedly was also won by historical black heroes: Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Barack Obama himself.

That this dreaded word, corruption became the focus of the US President in lecturing Sirleaf may have had a sidekick to it by engineered a determined group of Liberians in the United States who not only protested but also wrote the US President.  And how they did it so effectively forms the basis for this essay..

The group knew it would be the second and perhaps the last of such meetings between the two: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first woman president, a publicity craving Nobel Laureate and lame duck leader invited into the most powerful office on earth, and coincidentally and historically is occupied by the first black president of the United States of America. So what could have gone wrong for President Obama to preach corruption to Ellen?

After the jump, a notable Liberian landmark, on to Sierra Leone and Ebola official detained, a call for a young leadership, prenatal care suffers under Ebolaphobia, on to Guinea, with hunger and anger on the rise, plus Liberians blocked at the border. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Euroenvironmental woes


From SOER 2015 — The European environment — state and outlook 2015 [PDF], a major new report from the European Environment Agency on the deteriorating state of Europe’s, land, rivers, oceans, biota, and more:

The European environment — state and outlook 2015: synthesis

MexicoWatch: Politics, protests, murder, a probe


We begin with politics, via The News.mx:

PAN requests Iguala update

National Action Party (PAN) Senators asked that Luis Raúl González Pérez, president of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), attend a session of the Senate so that he can present the progress on the Iguala case.

PAN Senators Francisco Salvador López Brito, Mariana Gómez del Campo Gurza and Jorge Luis Lavalle Maury want to hear the CNDH’s position with respect to the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College. This request comes after the parents of the missing students rejected the findings of the Attorney General’s Office.

“The students were deprived of liberty, life, burned and thrown into San Juan River,” said Attorney General Jesus Murillo on Jan. 27. The parents and relatives have steadfastly refused to believe the account offered by the government.

The PAN senators said the results of investigations carried out by the CNDH need to be brought before the Senate as quickly as possible in order for the legislators to have time to make recommendations.

And a protest, via teleSUR:

UK Welcomes Controversial Mexican President Amid Public Protest

  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was welcomed with fanfare in London, despite intense controversy about his human rights and corruption history in Mexico.

President Enrique Peña Nieto arrived in London this week to meet for talks with Prime Minister Dave Cameron and members of British royalty amid protests against his visit.

London’s Mexico Solidarity Society held protests outside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, which they said hundreds attended:

Human rights campaigners are using Peña Nieto’s visit to highlight what NGOs have described as “out-of-control” torture in Mexico. The Mexican president has faced growing pressure and massive protests – some of which have turned out violent – over the handling of the enforced disappearance and alleged murder of the 43 trainee teachers.

A graphic response to the visit, via Plokkeas:

BLOG Ayotz

A political protest, via Reuters:

Mexico calls on U.S. to probe police killings of its nationals

Mexico’s government on Monday called on the United States to investigate a string of killings of its nationals by American police, voicing “profound consternation and irritation” at what it called a presumed excessive use of force.

The Mexican foreign ministry said it had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to help investigate the fatal shooting of Mexican citizen Ernesto Javier Canepa Diaz on Feb. 27 by police in Santa Ana, California.

It was the third fatal shooting of Mexicans by U.S. police in under a month, the Mexican government said.

And a murder, via Fox News Latino:

Leftist politician’s body found in western Mexico

The body of a leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, councilman who disappeared last month in the western Mexican state of Michoacan was found at a trash dump, state prosecutors said.

Ruben Magaña’s body was discovered near the municipal dump in Penjamillo on Sunday afternoon, the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office said.

The 67-year-old politician’s body did not have any visible “signs of violence,” the AG’s office said in a statement.

Mexico News Daily exposes:

Corruption uncovered in auditor’s office

  • Legal director dismissed for taking bribes from malfeasant mayors

Not even the agency whose purpose is to keep a watchful eye on government expenditures can be trusted to resist the temptation of corruption.

An official in the Oaxaca State Auditor’s Office has been relieved of his duties after it was found that he had been bribed by malfeasant mayors to hide the illegal diversion of public funds.

Legal director Adán Córdova was suspended along with 10 internal auditors suspected of delaying inquiries, withholding or filtering confidential information from investigators and altering the results of audits.

Another allegation of corruption, via The News,mx:

Party members file graft complaint against leader

ational Action Party (PAN) senators and deputies filed several corruption complaints against PAN President Gustavo Madero before the Federal Election Institute (IFE) and the PAN National Election

Organizing Commission Thursday. Madero has not officially decided whether he will run for an unprecedented second term as PAN party president or not. He has been facing graft allegations made by his contender Ernesto Cordero, who has said that “the party could still be saved” by drowning Madero.

The charges brought before the IFE accuse Madero of violating article 134 of the Mexican Constitution by being involved in using public resources — both human and financial — to promote his personal image.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a major sign of impending crisis:

Mexico Records 43.5% Fall Year on Year in Oil Revenues

Oil revenues in the Mexican public sector fell to $3.86 billion in January, a drop of 43.5 percent in real terms compared to the same month in 2014.

According to the Mexican Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) in its report released Monday on public finances and debt in January, total public sector income for the month stood at $24.33 billion, 3.4 percent less than the same month in 2014.

The Secretariat attributed the fall in oil revenues to lower production of crude oil (-6.5 percent) and natural gas (-3.6 percent), and the lower average export price for Mexican oil blend, at $52.4 per barrel against $91.8 in the same period of last year.

Fox News Latino covers a replacement:

Mexican Senate confirms new attorney general

The Mexican Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to confirm Arely Gomez as the nation’s new attorney general.

Gomez, who was nominated last Friday by President Enrique Peña Nieto, sailed through on a vote of 105-5 with one abstention and was immediately sworn-in.

She succeeds Jesus Murillo Karam, who resigned last week at the behest of the president and is now secretary of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development.

Murillo Karam leaves the AG’s office amid controversy over his handling of the investigation of last September’s disappearance of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero.

And to conclude, a teleSUR English report on the start of a major investigation into the fates of the Ayotzinapa students:

Inter-American Commission on HR to investigate Ayotzinapa case

Program notes:

Officials of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met with the parents of the 43 Ayotzinapa students who were forcibly disappeared last September. The Commission officials announced that they will open an investigation into the case, which will last six months. The parents of the missing students said that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration should not have closed the case.

InsecurityWatch: Hyper, hacks, terror, bluster


We begin with the hyperbolic, via the Guardian:

US intelligence chief warns Congress of danger of failing to renew Patriot Act

  • Congress must accept responsibility if ‘untoward incident’ occurs
  • James Clapper also discusses Syria, Russia and North Korea

If Congress fails to renew a controversial provision of the Patriot Act by June, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, says opponents of the bill on Capitol Hill should bear the blame if an otherwise preventable terrorist attack happens afterwards.

In a question-and answer-session at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Clapper reiterated his support for renewing Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the FBI and NSA to collect domestic phone records in bulk, is set to expire on 1 June. He expressed this support strongly and pointed a finger at opponents of the legislation on Capitol Hill. Clapper, America’s top-ranking intelligence official, said if Congress decides not to renew the legislation and an “untoward incident” occurs as a result, he hopes “everyone involved in that decision assumes responsibility” and doesn’t just blame the intelligence community.

However, Clapper did indicate his support for the reforms proposed to Section 215 by Senator Patrick Leahy last year, which shift responsibility for retaining phone records to individual phone companies from the FBI. This proposal failed to receive the needed supermajority in the Senate for a final vote in 2014 on a near party-line vote where 41 Republicans and one Democrat opposed it.

From the Intercept, cognitive dissonance:

Bush White House’s Repeated Torture Denials Led CIA Torturers to Seek Repeated Reassurances

The Bush administration was so adamant in its public statements against torture that CIA officials repeatedly sought reassurances that the White House officials who had given them permission to torture in the first place hadn’t changed their minds.

In a July 29, 2003, White House meeting that included Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet went so far as to ask the White House “to cease stating that US Government practices were ‘humane’.” He was assured they would.

The memo describing that meeting is one of several documents that were unclassified last year but apparently escaped widespread notice until now. Georgetown Law Professor David Cole called attention to the trove of documents on the Just Security blog.

The documents were apparently posted in December at ciasavedlives.com, a website formed by a group of former senior intelligence officials to rebut the newly released Senate report that documented the horrors that CIA officers inflicted upon detainees and the lies about those tactics’ effectiveness that they told their superiors, would-be overseers and the public.

VICE News reminds:

Violence Caused by Far-Right Extremists Has Surpassed That Caused by Domestic Jihadists, Study Says

Since the September 11 attacks, the notion of terrorism has looked somewhat one-dimensional in United States public discourse, with the majority of Americans coming to think of political violence as the acts of organized, foreign groups — from al Qaeda in the early 2000s to Islamic State (IS) today.

This frequently one-dimensional understanding in the US of terrorism has led both the public and law enforcement to overlook a very different kind of homegrown threat — one posed by antigovernment radicals, white supremacists, and other domestic and far-right ideologues.

In both cases — radical Islamism and far right extremism — a majority of terrorist attacks on US soil have been at the hands of individual “lone wolves” acting outside established groups. But violence caused by far right extremism has surpassed that caused by domestic “jihadis,” according to a study published last month by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

From the Los Angeles Times, no comment needed:

‘Jihadi John’ suspect took anger management classes, says teacher

The British-educated Muslim man now believed to be the notorious Islamic State killer “Jihadi John” reportedly took anger management classes as a student.

A teacher at Mohammed Emwazi’s high school told the BBC he used to get into fights as a teenager and had difficulty keeping his emotions in check.

“We would find that he would get very angry and worked up and it would take him a long time to calm himself down,” the teacher said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security sake, according to the BBC. “We did a lot of work as a school to help him with his anger and to control his emotions and it seemed to work.”

From the London Daily Mail, conclusion about biased cops behaving badly:

‘Racially biased’ Ferguson police sent emails laughing at black people and ticketed African Americans to make money before Michael Brown shooting, Justice Department report to reveal

  • Justice Department report due to be released later this week
  • Will find some white officials targeted black people in Ferguson, Missouri
  • Traffic tickets were used to boost police department’s coffers, officials say
  • Will also feature a racist joke circulated by officers via email
  • Expected to say attitude was ‘avoidable’ and created racial tension
  • Reached a climax when Michael Brown was fatally shot in August 2014

From the Associated Press, Attica! Attica!:

3 Attica guards plead guilty as assault trial about to begin

Three Attica prison guards charged with beating a jewelry thief until bones in his face and legs broke in 2011 pleaded guilty Monday in an agreement that will spare them jail time.

Keith Swack, Sean Warner and Matthew Rademacher admitted to misdemeanor charges of official misconduct as jury selection was about to begin for their trial in Wyoming County Court.

The guards, who had been suspended without pay since 2011, were given conditional discharges and agreed to resign.

“This is the first time in New York state history that a correction officer has been prosecuted and pleaded guilty to committing an unauthorized violent act to an inmate while on duty,” Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen said at a news conference.

A corporate media hack in Canada, via SecurityWeek:

Rogers Says Hackers Accessed Small Number of Business Accounts

A hacker group called TeamHans has leaked hundreds of megabytes of data allegedly stolen from the systems of Canadian communications and media company Rogers.

According to DataBreaches.net, the attackers leaked sensitive corporate information such as contracts, emails, documents, and even VPN data. TeamHans said it gained access to the information on February 20 after tricking support staff into changing the password for an employee’s email account.

The information found in the targeted employee’s email account led TeamHans to an online tool used by Rogers to manage contracts.

Hackable Microsoftness from SecurityWeek:

Internet Explorer Exploit Added to Angler Kit: FireEye

Hackers have modified an exploit for a vulnerability in Internet Explorer fixed last October and added it to a notorious exploit kit.

The vulnerability is a use-after-free issue patched in MS14-056, which fixed a total of 14 IE bugs altogether. According to FireEye Staff Research Scientist Dan Caselden, the exploit has been added to the Angler exploit kit. Angler is often associated with exploits for Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash Player and Microsoft Silverlight.

“The Angler Exploit Kit (EK) recently implemented a modified version of k33nteam’s exploit targeting the same patched vulnerability,” Caselden blogged. “This is interesting because it is the first instance we’ve seen of an attack in the wild targeting IE deployments that are using Microsoft’s new MEMPROTECT mitigations. It shows that exploit authors are still interested in attacking IE.”

MEMPROTECT (Memory Protector) was introduced by Microsoft in July to make it difficult for hackers to execute use-after-free attacks. While the mitigations are not unbeatable, they increased the difficulty for exploit authors developing new IE exploits as evidenced by the absence of new IE exploits discovered in the wild, Caselden blogged.

Beheadings and burnings as bad fund-raising PR, via the London Telegraph:

Donations dry up for Islamic State, says US spy chief

  • Brutal beheadings have shocked Middle East and many donors have withdrawn support

Donations to Islamic State jihadists have dramatically declined in the wake of brutal executions by the group that have shocked public opinion in the Middle East, the chief of US intelligence said Monday.

“I think there is change afoot in the Mideast,” said James Clapper, director of national intelligence, referring to perceptions of the IS group in the region.

“It’s not going to occur overnight. But I think these brutalities, publicized brutalities by ISIL (IS), beheadings, immolation and the like, have really had a galvanising effect even in the Mideast,” Clapper said at an event in New York organized by the Council on Foreign Relations.

As a result, donations to the extremists in Islamic countries were dropping off, according to Clapper. “There’s been a big decline,” he said.

From the New York Times, Clintonism at work:

Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules

Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.

After the jump, Isis threatens Twitter over blocks, the battle for Tikrit commences, more Aussie troops on the way, Saudi terrorist prisons a suite deal, Pakistan stages an Afghan mass expulsion, an ominous North Korean hint to Washington’s master spy, Pyongyang fires off demonstrative missiles, A Red Army military crackdown, Shinzo Abe spells out a Japanese foreign military agenda, and allegations of massive U.S. military rapes in Germany as World War II drew to a close. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Direct U.S. Israeli financial aid


BLOG Israel

From Reuters, based on U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel [PDF], an April, 2014 report from the Congressional research Service, which notes:

From 1966 through 1970, average aid per year increased to about $102 million and military loans increased to about 47% of the total. In 1971, the United States provided Israel with military loans of $545 million, up from $30 million in 1970. Also in 1971, Congress first designated a specific amount of aid for Israel in legislation (an “earmark”). Economic assistance changed from project aid, such as support for agricultural development work, to a Commodity Import Program (CIP) for the purchase of U.S. goods. In effect, the United States stepped in to fill the role that France had relinquished when French President Charles de Gaulle refused to supply Israel with military hardware to protest its preemptive launch of the Six Day War in June 1967. Israel became the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in 1974, and has only been superseded at various times by Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade because of short-term U.S. aid aimed at building those countries’ indigenous security capabilities. From 1971 to the present, U.S. aid to Israel has averaged over $2.6 billion per year, two-thirds of which has been military assistance.

EnviroWatch: Vaccines, toxins, fracking, nukes


We begin with a vaccine crackdown, via the Mainichi:

Pakistan police arrest parents refusing kids’ polio vaccine

Hundreds of parents in northwest Pakistan were arrested and jailed on charges of endangering public security after refusing to give their children polio vaccinations, officials said Monday.

Parents targeted by police starting this past weekend were not arrested if they agreed to vaccinate their children, said Shakirullah Khan, a senior police officer in Peshawar.

Feroz Shah, a spokesman for the district administration in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said 471 people were jailed in the city and surrounding villages under government orders.

From Al Jazeera America, accommodation:

Most doctors agree to alter kids’ vaccine schedules

  • Physicians give in to parents’ wishes in order to build trust with families, study finds

Pediatricians are facing increasing pressure from parents to delay vaccinating their children — and most of them are complying despite concerns that they are putting the children at risk for contracting preventable illnesses such as measles and whooping cough, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

In a national survey of 534 pediatricians and family doctors sent out via email and mail in 2012, 93 percent of the doctors reported that the parents of children under age 2 asked them to spread out or delay the child’s vaccination schedule. And 21 percent of the doctors reported that at least 10 percent of the parents asked to delay the vaccine schedule, according to the survey conducted by Children’s Hospital Colorado, the University of Colorado and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most doctors said they agreed to do so, even though 87 percent of them thought that delaying the vaccine schedule was putting the children in danger of catching a vaccine-preventable illness. They complied either “often” or “always” 37 percent of the time and “sometimes” 37 percent of the time, while 26 percent of the doctors said they did so “rarely.”

Tallying up another outbreak, via Outbreak News Today:

Malaysia dengue death toll up to 62

With 25,000 cases of dengue fever reported in Malaysia during the first two months of 2015, the country appears on a trajectory to see more cases than last year’s 100,000.

In addition, the Malaysia Health Ministry has put the death toll due to dengue at 62, up eight in less than a week.

In 2013, Malaysia reported 79 fatalities, while last year, at least 189 deaths were counted.

Selangor continues to report the most cases in the country at nearly 15,000, or six out of 10 cases nationwide.

From Science, a reasonable move:

Escape of dangerous bacterium leads to halt of risky studies at Tulane

The apparent escape from a high-security lab of a dangerous bacterium that led federal officials last month to suspend research on certain high-risk pathogens at Tulane University has left questions about an ongoing investigation of the incident and broader risks.

According to a lengthy 1 March news article in USA Today, two rhesus macaques at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana, that fell ill in early November later tested positive for infection with Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is found naturally in soil and water in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Center researchers had been working with rodents on a vaccine for the bacterium, which can cause a sometimes serious illness called melioidosis in animals and people. The two macaques, which later had to be euthanized, and two other rhesus macaques that tested positive for the bacterium may have been exposed while being treated at the center’s hospital.

Adding to concerns, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigator who visited the site in late January fell seriously ill a day later and tested positive for Burkholderia pseudomallei. It is not clear whether the investigator, who has since recovered, was infected at Tulane or earlier during travel abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in February. The agency said it had suspended all studies at the center involving select agents, a list of dangerous viruses, bacteria, and toxins that are tightly regulated. That includes about 10 projects, USA Today reports.

Science covers a call for more:

More environmental action needed, European agency says

The latest big-picture analysis of the state of the environment in Europe finds that although the continent is making progress in energy efficiency, it is falling short in protecting biodiversity and natural resources. In some areas, the financial recession led to improvements in trends, but the gains may be short-lived, the report warns.

Every 5 years since 1995, the European Environment Agency provides a broad assessment of status and trends. The refrain is familiar to Andrew Jordan, an environmental policy analyst at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. “They’ve continuously said the same thing: We’re not moving as rapidly toward sustainable development as we should.”

Among the bad news:

  • Biodiversity is still declining: 60% of protected species have a conservation status that is unfavorable.
  • 91% of fish stocks assessed in the Mediterranean Sea were overfished in 2014.
  • Air pollution leads to 400,000 premature deaths annually.

From the Ecologist, meat hunger devastates Chinese ecology:

Meat boom propels China’s ecosystems into total collapse

  • China’s farming boom has massively increased food production, writes John Dearing – especially of meat. But it has come at a massive cost: the wholesale pollution and destruction of core ecosystems.

China’s push for more intense farming has kept its city dwellers well-fed and helped lift millions of rural workers out of poverty. But it has come at a cost.

Ecosystems in what should be one of the country’s most fertile region have already been badly damaged – some beyond repair – and the consequences will be felt across the world.

This is part of a long-running trade-off between rising levels of food production and a deteriorating environment, revealed in recent research I conducted with colleagues from China and the UK.

After the jump, mapping global pesticide runoff, a battle against Amazonian forest destruction, climatic causation for war in Syria, an offshore drilling vote in Southern California, Venezuelan anti-fracking campaigners target the U.S., the Dutch government issues a fracking apology, on to Fukushimapocalypose Now!, starting with evacuee return reluctance, uncertainty haunts restart plans for another nuke plant, Another city vows to eschew nuclear power, and a deadly Africna nuclear legacy lingers on. . . Continue reading