UK police use loophole to hack phones and email

Dominic Kennedy reports for The Times:

‘Police are hacking into hundreds of people’s voicemails, text messages and emails without their knowledge, The Times has discovered.

Forces are using a loophole in surveillance laws that allows them to see stored messages without obtaining a warrant from the home secretary.

Civil liberties campaigners reacted with concern to the disclosure that police were snooping on personal messages so often, without any external monitoring and with few safeguards.

Surveillance laws protect the public from having live phone messages, texts and emails accessed by police unless a warrant is granted by the home secretary.’

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Album of the Week ~ Syro by Aphex Twin (2014)

‘Ethical’ funds still pouring money into coal, oil and gas, new report finds

Rupert Jones reports for The Guardian:

‘Should ethical investment funds be putting millions of pounds of people’s money into oil, gas and coal companies?

A new report says too many UK ethical funds are still invested in fossil fuels and heavily polluting industries, at a time when growing numbers of people are looking to reduce their exposure to these sectors.

Launched to coincide with Good Money Week (the new name for National Ethical Investment Week), which kicks off on Sunday 19 October, the report from ethical independent financial adviser firm Barchester Green names the “sinners” and “winners” of the multibillion-pound ethical and environmental funds industry.’

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Japanese Governor Says It’s Too Soon To Restart Nuclear Reactors After Fukushima

Mari Yamaguchi reports for the Associated Press:

‘A Japanese governor said Wednesday the country should not restart any nuclear plants until the cause of the Fukushima meltdown is fully understood and nearby communities have emergency plans that can effectively respond to another major accident.

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of central Niigata prefecture — home to the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant — said regulators look at equipment but don’t evaluate local evacuation plans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart two reactors in southern Japan that last month were the first to be approved under stricter safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has called the new standard one of the world’s highest.

Abe has said he will restart all reactors deemed safe, reversing the previous government’s policy of phasing out nuclear power.’

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Marshall Islands nuke suit against U.S. gets Nobel winners’ support

Bob Egelko reports for the San Francisco Chronicle:

‘The Marshall Islands, a small nation in the northern Pacific that endured 67 U.S. atomic tests in the 1940s and 1950s, has sued the United States in a Bay Area federal court, claiming violations of an international nuclear weapons treaty and seeking a court order that would require the U.S. to enter negotiations on nuclear disarmament within a year. The suit appears to be a longshot — Justice Department lawyers are seeking dismissal on multiple grounds, including a lack of judicial authority over the issue — but it recently picked up some eminent support.

In an open letter to the islands’ government and its people, 68 advocates of disarmament and human rights from 22 nations, including two Nobel Peace Prize winners, endorsed the federal lawsuit and a parallel suit the Marshall Islands have filed in the World Court against all nine nuclear weapons nations.’

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The Maldives’ Trash Island

Stephanie Valera reports for Weather.com:

Miles of litter: Thilafushi is an artificial island in the Maldives where about 400 tonnes of rubbish is dumped every day‘With its luxurious resorts, white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, the Maldives is known as a luxury destination. Its tourism industry has been steadily growing the past few years. In 2013, the stunning archipelago located in the Indian Ocean , according to Maldives’ Minivan News.

But there’s a dark side to paradise.

Not far from the Maldives’ capital of Male, only a half-hour boat ride away, mountains of trash and waste pile up on Thilafushi island, marring the seascape of the normally idyllic archipelago. The artificial island, created as a municipal landfill, receives almost 400 tons of garbage a year.’

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False Advertising: Red Bull to pay $13m because it doesn’t ‘give you wings’

Pamela Newenham reports for The Irish Times:

‘So, a can of Red Bull doesn’t give you wings after all. The energy drink giant has agreed to pay $13 million to settle a lawsuit in the US over false advertising.

The drinks maker is refunding customers who were allegedly deceived by a marketing slogan that said “Red Bull gives you wings.”

The Austrian company admitted no wrongdoing, but said it would give a $10 refund or $15 worth of products to US customers who purchased Red Bull between January 1st 2002 and October 3rd 2014.’

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Citizenfour: Laura Poitras on the Crypto Tools That Made Her Snowden Film Possible

Andy Greenberg writes for Wired:

‘As a journalist, Laura Poitras was the quiet mastermind behind the publication of Edward Snowden’s unprecedented NSA leak. As a filmmaker, her new movieCitizenfour makes clear she’s one of the most important directors working in documentary today. And when it comes to security technology, she’s a serious geek.

In the closing credits of Citizenfour, Poitras took the unusual step of adding an acknowledgment of the free software projects that made the film possible: The roll call includes the anonymity software Tor, the Tor-based operating system Tails, GPG encryption, Off-The-Record (OTR) encrypted instant messaging, hard disk encryption software Truecrypt, and Linux. All of that describes a technical setup that goes well beyond the precautions taken by most national security reporters, not to mention documentary filmmakers.

Poitras argues that without those technologies, neither her reporting on the Snowden leaks nor her film itself would have been possible. In an interview ahead of the October 24th opening of Citizenfour in theaters, she talked about the importance of those crypto tools, how to make a film in the shadow of the NSA, and a new era of high-level whistleblowing.’

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Citizenfour: Snowden Film Tests Hollywood’s Obama Backers

Michael Cieply writes for The New York Times:

‘Early in Laura Poitras’s documentary “Citizenfour,” Edward J. Snowden, who exposed vast electronic surveillance by the United States government, tells what pushed him to go public.

“As I saw the promise of the Obama administration betrayed, and walked away from,” says Mr. Snowden, referring to drone strikes and invasive monitoring by the National Security Agency, “it really hardened me to action.”

But do some of President Obama’s staunch Hollywood supporters share his sentiment?

Her provocative, and deeply admiring, look at Mr. Snowden — which had its premiere at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 10 — arrived here this week amid high hopes, intense curiosity and more than a few raised eyebrows over its sharp critique of Mr. Obama, a president who has enjoyed strong support in the movie world.’

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The NSA’s Moonlighting Problem

Allen McDuffee reports for The Atlantic:

‘In Washington, the revolving door between government service and more lucrative ventures is common, if not expected. However, having one foot in each has raised questions for the National Security Agency, which has launched an internal review of one senior official who was recruited by former NSA director Keith Alexander to work for his new—and very lucrative—cybersecurity private venture.

Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s Chief Technological Officer, is allowed to work up to 20 hours a week for Alexander’s firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, Inc., according to Reuters, which broke the story on the deal. Although the arrangement was apparently approved by NSA managers and does not appear to break any laws on its face, it does raise questions about ethics and the dividing line between business and one of the most secretive agencies in government.’

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What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition‘One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”’

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iEmpire: Apple’s Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think

Arun Gupta writes for AlterNet:

‘Behind the sleek face of the iPad is an ugly backstory that reveals once more the horrors of globalization. The buzz about Apple’s sordid business practices comes courtesy of the New York Times series on the “iEconomy.” In some ways it’s well reported but adds little new to what critics of the Taiwan-based Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, have been saying for years. The series’ biggest impact may be discomfiting Apple fanatics who as they read the articles realize that the iPad they are holding is assembled from child labor, toxic shop floors, involuntary overtime, suicidal working conditions, and preventable accidents that kill and maim workers.

It turns out the story is much worse. Researchers with the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) say that legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months’-long “internships” in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple products. The details of the internship program paint a far more disturbing picture than the Times does of how Foxconn, “the Chinese hell factory,” treats its workers, relying on public humiliation, military discipline, forced labor and physical abuse as management tools to hold down costs and extract maximum profits for Apple.’

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The age of loneliness is killing us

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

File:Thoma Loneliness.jpg‘What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void filled by marketing andconspiracy theories. Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous 20. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.’

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Russian social network hosts ‘Miss Hitler 2014′ contest

Haaretz reports:

A screenshot of the Adolf Hitler fan page advertising the contest.‘An anti-Semitic beauty contest is currently underway on the Russian social networking website VKontakte, the local equivalent of Facebook.

Called Miss Ostland 2014 (Ostland was the name Nazi Germany gave to the occupied Baltic states and eastern Poland), the contest is hosted on the site’s Adolf Hitler group page, which has more than 7,000 followers, according to the vocative website.

Women interested in participating in the competition are asked to send in sexy photographs of themselves, as well as to write about their love for Hitler. The candidate who receives the most likes will be declared the winner.’

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The great British money launderette

Jim Armitage reports for The Independent:

‘Front companies in the UK are at the heart of an investigation into one of Europe’s biggest money-laundering operations, allegedly forming part of a conspiracy to make $20bn (£12.5bn) of dirty money look legitimate. The funds are believed to have come from major criminals and corrupt officials around the world wanting to make their ill-gotten cash appear “clean”, so they can spend it without suspicion.

At least 19 UK-based front companies are under suspicion. The scandal highlights how lax corporate rules have made this country an attractive destination for global organised crime. The secrecy company directors are entitled to under UK law is also hindering attempts to identify the “Mr Bigs” behind the scam.

An investigation by The Independent and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an NGO, has identified dozens of firms in a global web spreading from Birmingham to Belize.’

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Richest 1% of people own nearly half of global wealth, says Credit Suisse study

Jill Treanor reports for The Guardian:

1percent 300x201 The Global 1%: Exposing the Transnational Ruling Class‘The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.

According to the Credit Suisse global wealth report (pdf), a person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%.

“Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year.’

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From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes

‘Cambodia’s aggressive anti-trafficking campaign is designed to rescue and rehabilitate sex workers. But many women say authorities in Cambodia are actually forcing them into a trade where conditions and pay are even worse: making clothing for Western brands. VICE founder Suroosh Alvi traveled to Phnom Penh to speak with former and current sex workers, officials, and labor organizers to investigate what is happening to those swept up in the country’s trafficking crackdown.’ (VICE)

Christopher Columbus: The ISIS Of His Day

Building a super-prison for children is a terrible idea

Frances Crook writes for The Guardian:

‘The Ministry of Justice has come up with the idea of building a super-prison for children as young as 12, at the core of which will be a regime of punishment and physical restraint. The jail will house around 300 boys and a handful of girls, and includes a planned unit for babies in case the girls get pregnant.

No one, but no one, supports this bizarre proposal, except for the companies that would profit from building the £85m complex. The government has refused to publish the rules or any details about what it is euphemistically calling a “secure college”. Next week the House of Lords will scrutinise the legislation and consider an amendment suggesting the whole idea be put on hold until more details are published.’

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AP reporter asks Admiral Kirby: Has NATO expanded to Russia, or Russia moved towards NATO?

Editor’s Note: The U.S./NATO never see their actions as aggressive or confrontational. Actions are always taken in the name of “defence” because they’re the “good guys”. Either they’re so wrapped up in their own moral crusade to “bring democracy to the world” (which is quite clearly bullshit when you look at history), or they wilfully refuse to see how the other side might perceive their actions because it’s to their advantage not to. 

Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand and Spain win U.N. Security Council seats, Turkey bid fails

Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau report for Reuters:

‘Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand and Spain won seats on the United Nations Security Council on Thursday for two years from Jan. 1, 2015. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly elected Venezuela with 181 votes, Malaysia with 187 votes, Angola with 190 votes.

All three countries campaigned unopposed for their seats after being chosen as the candidates for their respective regional groups, but still needed to win the votes of two-thirds of the General Assembly to secure their spots.

The only contest was between New Zealand, Spain and Turkey for two seats given to the Western European and others group. New Zealand won a seat during the first round of voting with 145 votes. Spain beat Turkey in a third round of run-off voting.’

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George W. Bush was still completely wrong about Iraq’s WMDs

Matt Purple writes for Rare:

‘Yesterday the New York Times published a major scoop: American troops had uncovered chemical weapons during the Iraq war, and on at least six occasions were injured by chemical agents. The government then frantically tried to conceal the WMDs, keeping the information classified and, in some cases, denying soldiers care for chemical-related injuries.

There are plenty of conclusions to draw from the Times story.

That the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq is vindicated is not one of them.

The Times reports that many of the chemical weapons were empty, most were unusable, and all were manufactured before 1991. This fits with the current wisdom that Saddam Hussein abandoned his chemical weapons program after the First Gulf War.

As the Times concludes, “The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.”

Still that hasn’t stopped many conservatives from engaging in a little hackneyed told-you-so. “Put that ‘Bush lied, kids died’ in your pipes and smoke it!!!” went today’s typical Tweet.’

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When the West wanted Islam to curb Christian extremism

Ishaan Tharoor writes for The Washington Post:

Russian and Ottoman forces battle in 1788 over a port on the Black Sea. (Wikimedia Commons)‘[...] Islam and those who practice it were not always perceived to be such a cultural threat. Just a few decades ago, the U.S. and its allies in the West had no qualms about abetting Islamist militants in their battles with the Soviets in Afghanistan. Look even further, and there was a time when a vocal constituency in the West saw the community of Islam as a direct, ideological counter to a mutual enemy.

Turn back to the 1830s. An influential group of officials in Britain — then the most powerful empire in the West, with a professed belief in liberal values and free trade — was growing increasingly concerned about the expanding might of Russia. From Central Asia to the Black Sea, Russia’s newly won domains were casting a shadow over British colonial interests in India and the Middle East. The potential Russian capture of Istanbul, capital of the weakening Ottoman Empire, would mean Russia’s navy would have free access to the Mediterranean Sea–an almost unthinkable prospect for Britain and other European powers.’

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Dutch and German biker gangs join the Kurds in the battle against ISIS

David Charter reports for The Australian:

Biker gangs join the fight against ISIS‘It is not just air strikes that the jihadists of Islamic State have to watch out for. Kurdish forces have received a boost from an unlikely source — Dutch and German Hell’s Angels.

Western governments avoided putting boots on the ground but that has not deterred Ron from the Netherlands, one of several members of the No Surrender biker gang who have joined the anti-Isis struggle.

A group has reportedly also travelled to the region from the Cologne-based Median Empire biker gang, made up of Kurdish Germans.’

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British hostage John Cantlie says ‘third Gulf war coming’ in latest ISIS propaganda video

Josie Ensor reports for The Telegraph:

British hostage John Cantlie held by Islamic State militants at an undisclosed location‘The Islamic State has released the latest propaganda video delivered by captured British journalist John Cantlie, in which he warns of a “third Gulf war”.

In the fourth video from the Lend Me Your Ears video series posted online by the jihadists, the abducted photojournalist said media rhetoric was whipping up support for a “full-blown war” and that Isil was prepared.

Mr Cantlie warned that Isil has “grown exponentially until not even the US military, the policemen of the world, are able to contain them”.

He said the media had learnt nothing from previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the mujahideen were happy to “sit back and watch them (the West) waste trillions more (dollars) to avoid the spectre of another 9/11.”’

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Ex-chief of CIA’s bin Laden unit says Islamic State needs U.S. to intervene

Will Porter reports for Antiwar:

‘In recent media appearances, ex-chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, came out strongly against the latest American military campaign in Iraq. Echoing past criticisms, thoroughly voiced in his books Through Our Enemies Eyes, Marching Toward Hell, and Imperial Hubris, Scheuer offers a case against the new Iraq intervention based on his 20+ years of experience as a US intelligence officer, as well as an intimate and detailed knowledge of Islamic extremism.

In Scheuer’s view, another US military intervention in the Middle East against groups such as the Islamic State (IS) will not meet its stated objectives, and will fall into the same errors made in past operations of a similar character. Continuing this policy, he says, will only help to motivate and radicalize Muslims the world over, and will provide exactly the impetus IS needs to step up their drive to establish a long-sought Islamic caliphate in the Levant region.’

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General Allen: ISIS has made ‘substantial gains’ in Iraq

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Former Afghan War commander and President Obama’s point-man on the new ISIS War, retired General John Allen continued to offer assessments on the ongoing conflict, insisting today that it was too soon to say whether or not the US is winning the war.

That said, Allen conceded that ISIS is continuing to make “substantial gains” on the ground in Iraq, and still has “tactical momentum” in several areas around western Iraq.

Most of ISIS territorial gains in Iraq in recent days have centered around the Anbar Province, where they are quickly mopping up the last of the Iraqi government’s territory and moving on the second largest airbase in the country. The push to Anbar’s edge leaves them only a stone’s throw from Baghdad itself.’

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Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire: Interview with Deepa Kumar

Editor’s Note: Below are parts three and four of a five part interview with Deepa Kumar, author of ‘Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire‘. You can view the other parts of the interview at The Real News.

U.S. Air Force’s Supersecret Spacecraft Comes Back to Earth After Two Years

Justin Bachman reports for Business Week:

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle on the runway during post-landing operations on Dec. 3, 2010, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California‘The U.S. Air Force has kept an unmanned space shuttle in orbit for the past two years, and it seems no one without security clearance knows what it’s been doing up there.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, which can enter orbit and land without human intervention, is scheduled to touch down this week—the best guess is sometime on Tuesday—at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, Calif. The landing will mark completion of the program’s third and longest mission, which was launched on Dec. 11, 2012. The Air Force has two such spacecraft for these low-earth orbit missions, all of which are classified, as are the precise launch and landing times.

“The mission is basically top secret,” says Captain Chris Hoyler, an Air Force spokesman. The X-37B program came from technologies developed by Boeing (BA), NASA, the Air Force, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).’

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