Showing posts from January, 2013

US to dramatically expand Cyber Command in face of defence cuts

Although US policy makers may be discussing ways of cutting the US military, the Department of Defence intends to increase the size of the Cyber Command dramatically over the next few years.
Scott Borg, director of US Cyber Consequences Unit claims the number of those devoted to cyber security woud be quite small, even when expanded, relative to the size of the US military and also the size of the problem:
"Compared to the size of the American military and of the Pentagon itself, it is a tiny number, and given the importance of cyber security, given the fact that all our defence systems depend upon computers, all of our weapons ... our military operations are completely dependent on computers, devoting fewer than 5,000 people to cyber security seems [like a] very small thing." Defenders of an expansion plan cite the changed nature of 21st century warfare. They claim that cyber attacks at the behest of governments have been increasing. The US has only recently even admitted t…

Turkish sociologist sentenced to life for bombing that experts say was a gas leak accident

Sociologist Pinar Selek has been sentenced to life imprisonment for a 1998 bombing in Istanbul, even though she had been acquitted three times previously and experts say that there was no bombing but the explosion was an accident caused by a gas leak. Selek said she was shocked by the verdict when the court convicted her of a supposed bombing in Istanbul's Spice Bazaar in 1998, after being found not guilty of the crime 3 times already: “I am shocked by the verdict; it is the first time the court found me guilty. I have been acquitted three times before. This is a first, tomorrow I will have a press meeting.I know that people won't let me be sacrificed.I want my acquittal back. It is so hard to express what I feel about this scandalous legal situation. It is like asking a woman how she feels after she was subjected to violence but I can tell you how I remain standing after 15 years. There is incredible solidarity with me." Selek has been living in Strasbourg, France, where…

Former CIA officer and torture whistleblower to serve 2.5 years in jail

John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who blew the whistle on CIA torture practices, was sentenced to more than two years in prison for leaking the name of a covert officer to a reporter.
US district judge of the court in Alexandria Virginia, Leonie Brinkema, said she would have given Kiraikou a much longer sentence if she could. A plea deal in which Kiriakou pleaded guilty last year required the judge to sentence him to 2 and a half years. The judge rejected arguments that he was acting as a whistleblower when he leaked the officer's name.
In the plea bargain, Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. He is the first person convicted under the law in 27 years.
While supporters of Kiriakou say he was a whistleblower who exposed the CIA's torture of detained terrorists, prosecutors claim he was trying to increase his fame and public visibility by using his insider knowledge. John Kiriakou worked for the CIA as an intelligence officer from 19…

As union density shrinks giant inflatable "Scabby the Rat" may be retired

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the percentage of US workers who are members of unions was just 11.3% in 2012, down from 11.8% in 2011. The full set of statistics is available here. As has been the case for some time, the public sector is the most unionized section of the work force but even there, less than half the work force is unionized and the percentage is dropping as well, down from 37% IN 2011 to 35.9% in 2012. As many traditional blue collar industries move overseas, younger workers are less likely to belong to a union. Union membership is highest among workers aged 55 to 64 at 14.9% while the lowest percentage of union membership is among ages 16 to 24 at just 4.2% Union membership provides extra benefits for workers. In wages alone, organized workers earn on average 21% more than those not in companies with unions. Of course in some states now, workers in union-organized plants are able to benefit from the union activity and contract without belonging to the uni…

New Zealand environmentalist want New Zealand cat-free

Gareth Morgan, a New Zealand economist and environmentalist, campaigns to make New Zealand a cat-free country. He claims that cats have contributed to the elimination of nine native species of birds. In an interview with the New York TImes, Morgan maintains that "cats are a 'friendly neighborhood serial killer' of birds." Of course so are native hawks and other bird predators. It is not even certain that cats have contributed to the elimination of those species that are now extinct, because cats also help get rid of rodents that feed on their eggs. As for being serial killers that is just rhetorical overkill. All those Kiwi automobile drivers are serial killers as well. I imagine bird road kill is as common in New Zealand as elsewhere. Morgan has his own website here In an Atlantic interview by email, Morgan suggests four steps for ridding New Zealand of cats: 1. "All cats to be registered chipped and neutered — raising the barriers to cat ownership to those si…

UN to investigate legality of drone strikes and civilian casualties

The UN will launch a formal investigation into the legality of drone strikes and also of the casualties that result from them. The announcement came as there is a report that the latest US drone strike in Yemen is claimed to have mistakenly killed two children. Ben Emmerson, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism said at a press conference in London that he will lead a group of international specialists who will examine drone attacks in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan by the CIA and Pentagon. However, the group will also examine drone use by UK and US forces in Afghanistan, as well as Israel's use of drones against Palestinians. The senior UK lawyer will work with international criminal lawyers, a senior Pakistani judge, and a leading UK forensic pathologist as well as other experts. A serving judge-advocate with the US military will be "assisting the inquiry in his personal capacity." More about the members of the team can be found at the end…

Kurds in northern Syria fight off jihadist attacks across Turkish border

In the city of Ras al-Ain in the Kurdish area of northern Syria, fighting rages between several radical groups who crossed the border from Turkey and joined battle against Kurdish militia defending the city. In order to conserve his military power, Assad withdrew his troops from Kurdish areas of Syria allowing the Kurds to be more or less autonomous. The Kurds themselves are divided on whether to support or fight against the Assad regime and are staying more or less neutral while defending control of the area they occupy. Attacks on Ras al-Ain have caused many residents to flee the city. The jihadists were from the Al-Nusra Front and Ghuraba al-Sham. A resident said that: "the fighting became more intense in the evening after Kurdish fighters received reinforcements to try to stop the fiercest rebel assault ever since insurgents first arrived in the city" Al-Nusra Front is listed by the US as a terrorist organization a designation that is opposed by Syrian rebels since the g…

Tuareg rebels in Mali support French intervention

The Tuareg rebels who want an independent state of Azawad in northern Mali are ready to support French military intervention to help combat Islamic rebels in the north.
Contrary to my report in an earlier article, the rebels in northern Mali are not all united against the French military intervention. Moussa Ag Assarid, a representative of the Azawad National Liberation Movement, said: "We're ready to help, we are already involved in the fight against terrorism. We can do the job on the ground. We've got men, arms and, above all, the desire to rid Azawad of terrorism." After a coup in March of 2012, the Tuareg were able to capture much of the north. On April 6 2012, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. A declaration of Independence was signed but no foreign government recognized the state. Over the next month or so, the MNLA lost territory to Islamists. One group that contested territory with the MNLA was Ansar Dine led by former Tuar…

Protesters in Aden demand independence for South Yemen

Massive protests have broken out in the southern port city of Aden. A southern separatist movement has been demanding an independent state of South Yemen ever since it was absorbed into Yemen more than 22 years ago. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets demanding restoration of the former independent state of South Yemen. Aden was the capital of South Yemen until 1990. The demonstration was held on the anniversary of a 1986 civil war in which the exiled former leader Abdul Ismail returned from Moscow and tried to reclaim power. In 1990 officials agreed to come under rule of the north. Ever since, there have been secessionist groups who want South Yemen to be restored. There have been constant complaints that southern development is ignored by the north. The roots of the South Yemen movement are in contrast to those of the Islamic radicals in the south. South Yemen was a secular state, Marxist oriented, and an ally of Russia. In the spring, when there was an offensive against parts…

Obama carries on and expands Bush policies

In an article in Salon, Alex Kane a reporter for MondoWeiss, lists five ways in which Obama has carried on with Bush policies such as rendition, indefinite detention, warrant-less wiretapping, drone attacks, and use of Guantanamo.
Kane points out that on his second day of office Obama broke with the Bush era by signing executive orders that banned torture and he also promised that Guatanamo would be closed within a year. Guantanamo is still open.
Obama can hardly be blamed entirely for the failure to close Guantanamo since the Republican Party has tried to block attempts to close the base. Nevertheless, Obama has hardly continued to press that hard to close the base and he himself has signed bills that restrict his ability to close it.
As if often his strategy, Obama threatened to veto the NDAA of 2013 but then signed it. In the provisions of the act is one that restricts “the transfer of detainees into the United States for any purpose, including trials in federal court. It also requ…

Fashion show features stealth and anti-surveillance wear

Fashion designers strive for many different effects when designing clothes but few will have in mind trying to make the clothes protect the wearer from surveillance. Adam Harvey, Brooklyn-based artist worked for years as a photographer. However, he claims that in recent years since 9/11 and the Patriot Act, cameras have stopped becoming "art-making tools" and have become "enablers of surveillance societies". Of course this is ridiculous, cameras can be used for both purposes still. Artists just like to make their points in goofy sayings at times. Harvey is certainly correct in that cameras are more and more serving surveillance functions. Harvey began experimenting with household make-up that would make it more difficult for computers to use facial recognition programs to identify people. This is demonstrated on the appended video made back in 2010 that showed off this makeup at a fashion show. At present, the US only uses surveillance drones in the US for surveil…

Hamas and Fatah leaders hold reconciliation talks with President Mursi in Cairo

Leader of Fatah and president of the Palestinian authority Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas head, Khaled Meshal, met separately with Egyptian President Morsi in Cairo. They then held reconciliation talks with president Morsi mediating. The two Palestinian factions signed a reconciliation pact in Cairo in May of 2011 but the main points in that agreement are not yet implemented. Officials from Hamas and Fatah said that the talks will focus on a unity government. This would make it possible to hold parliamentary and presidential elections that are long overdue. Hamas won a majority of seats in elections in 2006 and took over the Gaza strip in 2007. Hamas recently allowed Fatah to hold rallies in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas. Fatah has reciprocated by allowing Hamas rallies in the West Bank. The Hamas delegation is also slated to meet with Egyptian intelligence representatives to talk about the ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip. Hamas was formed in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian …

New Egyptian constitution restricts protests and strikes

The Shura Council's Human Rights Committee has newly granted legislative powers that it has used to draft new laws regulating protests and strikes. Many of the 26 articles drafted so far have been criticized both by labor and human rights groups. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party daily paper has published some of the provisions of the proposed law. The first 18 articles regulate protests and the last 8 put restrictions on the right to strike. The legislation actually continues repressive legislation that dates back to Law 14 of 1923 when Egypt was a British protectorate. The law criminalized anti-occupation protests. Malek Adly of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights notes :"Most of the provisions of this draft law have been copied verbatim from Law 14. This is evident in the use of terms like 'police,' which has long been replaced by the word 'shorta,' along with other outdated terms." Adly explains that this anti-prot…

Next fight and crisis will be about raising debt ceiling

With the fiscal cliff avoided, Obama now faces other challenges soon, including the need to raise the $16.4 trillion borrowing limit. He also has to deal with the more than $100 billion in automatic spending cuts that were delayed for just two months. The spending cuts will probably be replaced by more targeted cuts that could be over a longer period as well. Speaking form Hawaii where he is on a family vacation, Obama said he is willing to consider more spending cuts and tax increases to help reduce the deficit. On the debt ceiling, Obama claimed he would not compromise on the issue. Last time, the Congress had a standoff over the issue and the US credit rating was downgraded. Republicans want to use the issue as leverage to force the Democrats to make more spending cuts. Obama warned about any attempt to block an increase: "If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic. Ou…

IMF official to meet with Egyptian officials about postponed IMF loan

A senior official from the International Monetary Fund will meet with Egyptian officials on Monday. They will discuss the $4.8 billion dollar loan agreement postponed in December because of the political instability in the country. The IMF official, the Middle East and Central Asia director, Masood Ahmed, will meet with President Mursi, Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, some ministers, and the central bank governor as well. Discussion will be about recent developments in the economy and possible help by the IMF in meeting challenges facing the Egyptian economy. The government recently replaced both the finance minister and the interior minister. These moves were made after promises made by President Mursi to assuage anger over the economic situation. Sources in the Egyptian cabinet confirmed the action. Although the IMF loan had been rejected earlier in June 2011, it is now seen as crucial to dealing with the Egyptian deficit and economic slump caused by the continuing political turmoil.…

Cat caught delivering contraband in Brazilian prison

Here is a video link to the cat being searched.

There are no doubt many ways to smuggle goods into prisons but in Arapirica, Brazil an unusual strategy failed. A cat was caught trying to walk through prison gates in the city of Arapirica in north-east Brazil.
The guards noticed the cat walking towards them with tape around its back and stomach. On examination the cat was found to carrying a considerable amount of contraband that included drills, an earphone, a memory card, and a mobile phone with charger. The jail is in Arapirica a city of about 215,000, located about 250km (155 miles) south-west of Recife in Alagoas state. There are 263 detainees in the prison. Every detainee is a suspect, especially those that had pet cats! The local police are investigating the incident. However, a prison official told the local paper Eastado de S Paulo: "It's tough to find out who's responsible for the action as the cat doesn't speak,." The cat was not charge…

Muqtada al-Sadr, Shia leader, supports Sunni protests against PM al-Maliki in Iraq

The popular Shiite Iraqi leader, Muqtada al-Sadr has thrown his support behind Sunni protesters against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al-Sadr said that Maliki must bear full responsibility for the unrest in Iraq. Maliki has made a number of moves to centralise power. His actions have enraged many Sunnis and also officials in the Kurdish autonomous area in northern Iraq. Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, a prominent Sunni politician was charged with various offenses including running death squads, convicted of murder in September, and sentenced to death in absentia. Al-Hashimi took refuge in Turkey. Sunnis say that Maliki is constantly sidelining them. During the rule of Saddam Hussein, Sunnis were dominant in the government. More recently Maliki raided the office and home of the Iraqi finance minister, Rafie al-Issawi, another prominent Sunni politician. Issawi claims that 150 of his guards and employees were arrested in the raids. These actions …

Truce between Maoist rebels and Philippine government ended early

The Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines blame each other for calling off a truce almost two weeks before the scheduled end. This development threatens ongoing peace talks between the Maoist rebels and the government.
The original truce was scheduled to run from December 20th to January 15. However, the CPP called the truce off on January 2nd saying it believed the government wanted the truce to last only until then. A spokesperson for Philippine president Benigno Aquino III said that the Communist Party together with its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA) just wanted an excuse to end the ceasefire early. The CPP statement said: "The [communist New People's Army (NPA)] and the people's militias should immediately assume an offensive posture and confront and frustrate the enemy campaigns of suppression." . A spokesperson for Aquino, however, said that the government would continue to observe the ceasefire until Januar…