Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

TBR News January 12, 2016

Jan 12 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. , January 12, 2016: “Empires rise and empires fall. Some, like Rome, last for hundreds of years, some, like England, last perhaps a hundred years. The American empire, rising since our Civil War, rose to become the most powerful nation and now, as time change, the Empire does not wish to do so. Now we see Obama running after Putin crying, “Wait for me! Wait for me!” in shrill tones. And all around him, the committees, the agencies, the power groups, all are howling advice while a captive media

is pulled this way and pushed that as conflicting orders come to them from above. And the public, the masses who vote and pay supporting taxes, no longer believe what they are, or are not, told and drift with the tides, longing for a safe harbor.”

Russia, as Explained to Russians by Americans

January 8, 2016

by William Blum

Counterpunch

There is a Russian website [inosmi = foreign mass media] that translates propagandistic russophobic articles from the western media into Russian and publishes them so that Russians can see with their own eyes how the Western media lies about them day after day. There have been several articles lately based on polls that show that anti-western sentiments are increasing in Russia, and blaming it on “Putin’s propaganda”.

This is rather odd because who needs propaganda when the Russians can read the Western media themselves and see firsthand all the lies it puts forth about them and the demonizing of Putin. There are several political-debate shows on Russian television where they invite Western journalists or politicians; on one there frequently is a really funny American journalist, Michael Bohm, who keeps regurgitating all the western propaganda, arguing with his Russian counterparts. It’s pretty surreal to watch him display the worst political stereotypes of Americans: arrogant, gullible, and ignorant. He stands there and lectures high ranking Russian politicians, “explaining” to them the “real” Russian foreign policy, and the “real” intentions behind their actions, as opposed to anything they say. The man is shockingly irony-impaired. It is as funny to watch as it is sad and scary.

The above was written with the help of a woman who was raised in the Soviet Union and now lives in Washington. She and I have discussed US foreign policy on many occasions. We are in very close agreement as to its destructiveness and absurdity.

Just as in the first Cold War, one of the basic problems is that Exceptional Americans have great difficulty in believing that Russians mean well. Apropos this, I’d like to recall the following written about George Kennan:

Crossing Poland with the first US diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1933, a young American diplomat named George Kennan was somewhat astonished to hear the Soviet escort, Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village nearby, about the books he had read and his dreams as a small boy of being a librarian.

“We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves,” Kennan wrote, “that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.”

It hasn’t happened yet.

Kennan’s sudden realization brings George Orwell to mind: “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

 

Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.

http://www.amazon.com/Conversations-Crow-Gregory-Douglas-ebook/dp/B00GHMAQ5E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450147193&sr=8-1&keywords=conversations+with+the+crow

 

Conversation No. 113

 

Date: Wednesday, December 1,1997

Commenced: 11:22 AM CST

Concluded: 11:55 AM PST

 

RTC: Good morning to you, Gregory. I wanted to have a little talk with you about your books and other matters. Do you have some time now? GD: Oh, certainly.

RTC: Some people I know of are getting very unhappy with you and your books. The books about Mueller and us. I don’t tell you about some of this but over the past six-eight months I have been contacted, both in person and on the phone, concerning you and your activities. First of all, your detractors have advised me that you are a criminal, a crook, a convict, a dope addict, a mental case, a spy for some foreign country and many other sins of commission. Naturally, I have taken notes and, even more important, I have taken down names and such other information as telephone numbers and, when I can find them, home addresses. And poor Emily has been spoken to about my contacts with you. She has no idea what we talk about and, as is usual with CIA wives, she knows very little about my activities when I was with the Company. Oh yes, a female FBI agent, so sympathetic, came and talked with her about what a thoroughly evil and crazy person you were and warning her to try and keep me away from you. Of course Emily told me all about it and gave me the woman’s card. And two days ago, another wonderful person got in touch with my son, Greg, and told him the same things. The new theme is that old Crowley is getting nuts and perhaps he might be institutionalized for his own good. Greg was horrified because he has mailed boxes of sensitive documents to you in Wisconsin and Greg tends to be somewhat conventional. I think they want to find some nice, discreet way to shut me up. They have given up on you, of course. Kimmel told Bill that you were arrogant, self-important and very dangerous and has warned him to keep away from you.

GD: Yes, well Bill told me my son could get a job with the CIA as you know….

RTC: Of course. And that would be to have him fill in a ten page questionnaire that would let them all know more about you. According to Kimmel, you have used more aliases than the Manhattan phone book. You have at least a dozen passports and have lived in Europe where, they darkly hint, you have somehow fallen into the clutches of the KGB…

GD: Actually, the SVR. Same organization but a different name. A rose by any other name Robert.

RTC: Yes. A thoroughly sinister person. They are so concerned about me that they constantly warn my son and my wife about your evil ways and beg both of them to not only report anything they hear to the really sympathetic agents or former co workers or their wives. And if that fails, perhaps I will fall down the back stairs or on my rare appearances outside this place, be run over by a drunken cab driver while walking in a large shopping mall.

GD: (Laughter) Or how about a dead elephant falling on your head after accidentally being chucked out of an Air America cargo plane on its way to deliver three tons of raw opium to Manhattan drug refiners? That might happen. I would keep away from doctors, Robert, unless you are really sick and then try to get them to make house calls.

RTC: Yes, I am aware of all of that. Used to do it.

GD: I think something ought to be done about all of this. What about doing the book on Kennedy? RTC: I’ve thought about that, Gregory, and I ought to warn you about some of the pitfalls. I’ve told you before that we have a wonderful and very effective disinformation branch and they are even now gearing up to try to convince people not to listen to you or read your books. Of course they have to be careful because you have the reputation for savage personal attacks on people who get in your way so right now, they are after the Mueller material but if you get into Kennedy, then you will have a hornet’s nest come down around your ears. Why? Because in order to keep the sheep from getting curious about the wrong things, we set up a wonderful disinformation machine, complete with retired local policemen, librarians of all kinds, professors of philosophy from jerkwater community colleges and former Marine Corps Master Sergeants who were in the quartermaster section and never heard a shot fired in anger.

GD: And don’t forget Wolfe

RTC: Do spare me, Gregory. I just had lunch and reptiles so soon after feeding make me ill. Yes, Wolfe. Typical. A nobody in a nothing position but he can say he is an employee of the National Archives. Sounds impressive but he has nothing to say and can’t access any records you couldn’t get by just going there. He and hundreds of his kind are right in our pocket. That one gets a pat on the head and a pen set but a few others, key information peddlers, get a check on some unknown charity from time to time and perhaps a job for their airhead daughter or son. That’s how it works. We really don’t have to lay out much money on these fools because they come, panting, to us, begging for that pat on the pointy head and the nice pen set. The CIA  buys them by the gross and I think they’re made in China in a slave-labor factory.

GD: (Laughter) Napoleon once said, concerning the Legion of Honor, ‘With such baubles, men are led.’

RTC: It seems to work. Believe me, we have armies of these people on tap and most of them are pathetic creeps, desperate to be recognized for the brilliant thinkers they are not and never could be. But anyway, Gregory, they are now after you and your writing but I have the feeling I ought to have pity on them. As I said, if and when you get into the Kennedy business, you will kick over a hornet’s nest of vicious, stupid and fanatical idiots. And while some of them are ours and part of our disinformation program, the rest are crazies, entirely on their own. But if you, or anyone else, dare to express opinions different from their very own precious ones, they will screech like banshees and gang up on you. One fat old crazy up in Minnesota who teaches philosophy has decided that some powerful organization used sabot shells on Kennedy. They had real used bullets, but them into a case and shot Jack in the melon and the case fell off.

GD: The Germans had sabot artillery shells but I doubt if anyone used these on a 6.5 piece. Did you put him up to such shit? RTC: No. His uncle is a retired Company man and he is looking for instant fame and fortune.

GD: The uncle? I thought you people were supposed to keep quiet.

RTC: Sorry, the nephew. Whatever. At any rate, beware the questioned cultist and believe me, the Kennedy business has turned into a cult. My God, reading over their psychotic trash gives me acid stomach. Still, they serve a purpose. They sprouted so much underbrush that the real facts will probably never come out. And if you publish even a portion of what I sent you, the howling will begin.

GD: I know how to deal with them, Robert. Make fun of them. Most of them are laughable, pathetic creeps and if you take them seriously, you empower them so the best course is to hold them up to public ridicule. You know, I have a really neat method of dealing with the official creeps and the unofficial ones.

RTC: And…?

GD: Oh yes. And you publish something really awful and then, in the foreword, you praise the slob for all his help with your work. Or, even better, publish something deadly and say they wrote it. I’ll bet this does real wonders for their careers, not to mention their small but vicious circle of friends or family. Imagine some assistant AG writing a piece for some gay newspaper claiming he has come out of the closet and is so proud of it. Or something in defense of pedophilia. Or one fellow I dealt a deadly blow to was supposed to have some awful pictures of Lyndon Larouche in a nut house and was writing a book about it. I got his letterhead, copied it on the notice of the new book and also printed up an envelope. Looked so real, Robert, And when I wrote up the advert, I personally addressed it to about a thousand people, including major newspapers and so on and actually flew to his hometown and mailed the things. For the correct postmark of course.

RTC: (Laughter) And what happened? GD: Actually? His car was set on fire. Someone broke all the big windows in his store. Someone sent him boxes of decaying and smelly animal insides. His business collapsed, his wife left him and he eventually checked into a cheap motel and offed himself with a bottle of sleeping pills. Now the shit is up with Jesus, playing gin rummy with the angels.

RTC: Do you really believe that? GD: Oh, I know he’s dead but about the angels, no, I don’t believe there are such entities. Once the lights go out, I don’t think there is an upwards path you take, bathed in glorious light and at the top stand your entire long-dead family, waving and smiling at you.  I wonder how they might look, Robert. Clothed in shining glory? Rotting flesh dripping from grinning skulls? Looking like they never did alive  with bigger tits, a smaller nose, really clear skin instead of looking like someone put out a fire on their face with an icepick, and not walking on their hands and knees?

RTC: Have you ever discussed such negative sentiments with a priest? GD: Robert, of course not. I’m hedging my bets. No, I know about the congregation of Kennedy nuts and it might be fun to plant my number ten shoe in their number one size scrotum. But the women are worse than the men…that is if there is much of a gender difference. You people have so many nutless wonders working for you.  The women have hairy bowed legs, bad teeth, sagging breasts and hate everyone but their pet Budgie, Mr. Tweety. They get rabid over the stupidest things and shriek with rage if you make fun of their sacred and supportive icons. And the men are mostly prissy busybodies who are laboring under the total misapprehension that are really somebody in particular. Which, of course, they aren’t. Probably a lot of vegetarians represented there with a few dozen Scientologists, Christian Scientists and Jesus freaks thrown in the mix to offset the thick of neck and tiny of brain. And in the men, the brain isn’t the only tiny thing. Jesus, if it weren’t for the common turkey baster, half these shrimp dicks could never father pinhead children. And don’t  knock pinhead children, either. You can give them haircuts in a pencil sharpener and save so much money. And when they get older and housebroken, why your people can recruit them. Put them in charge of the Havana office. Or was that the Sterling Chemical people? I think so.

RTC: Now, it isn’t that bad, Gregory. You know that.

GD: I don’t. Actually, it’s worse. I started out in life, Robert, trusting people and believing everyone was a gentleman or a lady. Of course I had the opportunity of growing up in the second richest community in the country. The children of senators, heads of business empires and the like were my school friends. I was taught manners as a child and always used them. But then, as I got out into the world, I discovered, to my horror, that Jonathan Swift was right and the Yahoos ruled. Oh yes, read ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and discover the world. You take care of the weak and persecuted and destroy the vicious and predatory. Physically or by other means. I detest pedophiles because they ruin the lives of relatively innocent little children and creeps who do that should be publicly castrated with those dull scissors we got in kindergarten and then burned alive. No, you would have never recognized me as a child. I was a very well-behaved, educated person and nice to know, at least reading over my childhood school reports. Ah, but now, I am known as Lord Satan by the boobery, the idiots and the syphilitic cretins that infest this otherwise pleasant planet. And mark this, Robert. Too many people, too little food. And the water will run out and the ice of the world will melt, the oceans rise and Boston will be nothing but a wet dream. I really do hope, Robert, that these catastrophes happen in my life so I can have something to enjoy besides my books and music. There are intelligent, decent people here but they are lost in the jungle of knuckle-draggers.

RTC: Something awful must have happened to you at some point in your life to have given you such a really ugly view of the world.

GD: I think that goes without saying. I told Heini Mueller once that I always pay back my enemies and the flip side of that is that if people leave me alone, why let them go their shambling way to the knackers without any assistance or encouragement from me. Mueller was a good man, Robert, and you knew him. Not many people like that around and probably never were. You see, they outnumber us by a ratio of about a thousand to one. Is that why you like to talk to me, Lord Satan, chief evildoer and disrespecter of vested authority?

RTC: Yes, there aren’t too many like you around, Gregory. Some would say Thank God, like Kimmel, but I enjoy your attitudes and I must say I agree with them, at least mostly.

GD: And I have a perverse sense of humor, Robert. Very perverse. A live-in girlfriend used to pilfer my shampoo and put the empty bottle back on the shelf. I then, angry because when I wanted shampoo, there was only an empty bottle, I filled it with hair remover and she later used it and had to wear a wig for months and when she wasn’t, her short hair made her look like a bull dyke.

RTC: (Laughter) An object of terror.

GD: An object of shame and derision, Robert. Did I ever tell you about the great fake fingerprint game?

RTC: Perhaps you might have, Gregory, but my memory is not what it used to be.

GD: I was at a gun show once and someone had a sheaf of old FBI fingerprint cards from the ‘30s. Bank robbers, car thieves and the rest. I bought about twenty of them for a dollar apiece. Then I had zincs made for me by my print shop…

RTC: Zincs?

GD: Well a reverse negative that is etched in zinc and you use it for rubber stamps. Anyway, I had a number of zincs of the fingerprints of terrible anti-social people so I went to a shop that dealt in theatrical things and bought a bottle of liquid latex and some spirit gum. I painted the latex into the zinc and hey! Presto! I had a perfect copy of the felonious fingerprint. Take a pair of rubber surgeon’s gloves, cut out the new print, use the spirit gum to put it down onto the glove in the right place and then you have the makings of a huge joke. Imagine, if you will, doing something very anti-social and even downright evil and wearing these gloves. Touch every surface in sight. Ah, later the prints are lifted and sent off to the FBI for identification. Wonderful. Some technician screams ‘a fifteen pointer…’

RTC: A what? GD: Fifteen points are fifteen points of identification, Robert. Can’t go any higher unless the perp’s severed hand was found in the woman’s snatch. Anyway, they run these wonderfully clear prints through the system. Amazement, two weeks later, to discover they belonged to Ronald Mung, convicted bank robber and serial flasher. No question at all. One problem. Herr Mung has been dead since the second Roosevelt administration . Confusion rampant. I never hear about this but I have a good imagination. Are they going out to Holy Cross boneyard and dig Mung up and charge him with aggravated mopery? Serial bicycle-seat sniffing? What? Issue a warrant for a very dead man?

RTC: Of  course not. The Bureau would never talk about it and tell the local cops that they could not make any kind of identification but they would keep the prints on record. Phoebe never makes mistakes. Tell me, Gregory, did you ever tell Kimmel about this? GD: Of course. I like my fun.

RTC: I can imagine his response.

GD: Yes, it doesn’t take a Republican to figure that one out. Just another example of my anti-social and mentally disturbed behavior. These people have absolutely no sense of humor and when they get an idea in their heads, that is if, they cling to it like a mama monkey with a dead baby. No imagination, Robert, no sense of humor. And if it isn’t in the little book, it can’t have happened.

RTC: (Laughter) I can just hear the stink when the prints of a long dead car thief show up in some unexpected place. They would never know what to do.

GD: No, if it isn’t in your book, the little book they all carry for guidance and instruction, it can’t exist and if it can’t exist, it doesn’t.

RTC: Did you really do that business with the fingerprints? GD: Oh, a number of times, Robert, but we don’t need to burden you with useless details.

 

(Concluded at 11:55 AM PST) 

 

SECRECY NEWS

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 4

January 11, 2016

ISOO DIRECTOR FITZPATRICK MOVES TO NSC

John P. Fitzpatrick, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), left his position at the end of last week to join the National Security Council staff.

As ISOO director for the past four years or so, Mr. Fitzpatrick was responsible for oversight of national security classification and declassification activities government-wide.

“John led ISOO in carrying out the President’s programs to improve transparency, openness, and access to information while ensuring that classified national security information is properly protected,” wrote David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, in a January 8 notice to employees of the National Archives, where ISOO is housed.

While there remains much to criticize in classification and declassification policy, Mr. Fitzpatrick presided over a four-year decline in original classification activity, such that by 2014 the number of new national security secrets created annually had dropped to the lowest ever reported by ISOO in its 35 year history.

The change in ISOO leadership comes at a delicate moment, since the entire national security classification system is supposed to go through a systematic recalibration, known as the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review, over the next 18 months. This secrecy re-booting process needs to be closely guided and nurtured if it is to yield optimal results.

But Mr. Fitzpatrick is not going very far, geographically or topically.

Beginning Monday, 11 January, I will join the National Security Council Staff, Executive Office of the President, as Senior Director for Records Access and Information Security Management,” he wrote in an email message. “There I will assist the NSC/EOP with a portfolio of federal information security policies for classified and controlled unclassified information (classification, declassification, safeguarding, etc.), the National Industrial Security Program and other related security efforts.  I will also direct the staff who preserve, safeguard, review and help release NSC records via FOIA, automatic declassification and the like.  It promises to be an exciting challenge.”

HOUSE POISED TO PASS FOIA AMENDMENTS

The House of Representatives is expected to approve a new package of amendments to the Freedom of Information Act this week, in a bill known as the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015.

The sponsors of the bill said it “would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to increase transparency and accountability in government, and improve access to government records for citizens. It amends FOIA to provide for more disclosure of records, through both proactive disclosure and limitations on the use of exemptions. [It] also encourages enhanced agency compliance with statutory requirements and improves the FOIA process for both agencies and requesters.”

The bill would codify a presumption of openness, limit the application of the exemption for deliberative records, facilitate electronic submission of FOIA requests, strengthen the Office of Government Information Services (the FOIA ombudsman), mandate Inspector General reviews of FOIA processing, and several other steps. Detailed justification for the bill is provided in a January 7 report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The bill was subsequently modified by the House Intelligence Committee to affirm that its provisions would not require the disclosure of properly classified information or of information that “would adversely affect intelligence sources and methods” that are protected. The term “adversely affect” is not defined but is clearly intended to limit disclosure.

Truth be told, the Freedom of Information Act is a strange law that seems engineered to create an unresolvable tension if not a complete stalemate.

The FOIA empowers individual members of the public (including me and you) to impose a legally binding obligation on a government agency. But while there are no limits on the number or type of requests that a requester may submit at no cost, agencies are nominally supposed to accommodate the demand within a fixed period and with fixed resources. And though it only takes minutes to submit a request, the time required by an agency to fulfill even a simple request is much longer. A sophisticated systems analysis is not needed to anticipate the growth of the backlogs that have in fact developed.

In a further conundrum, those agencies that are more responsive to the FOIA process thereby tend to generate more demand. There is little point in submitting a FOIA request to the Defense Intelligence Agency, to pick one example, because they won’t produce a substantive response in this decade. But other agencies that do respond faithfully are rewarded– with more requests.

The best way to untangle and realign these conflicting imperatives is not clear. More proactive disclosure of information might help, or it might simply shift the burden to more specialized and challenging requests. But just encouraging and making it easier to file FOIA requests is probably not the solution.

SEPARATION OF POWERS, AND MORE FROM CRS

The Congressional Research Service departed from its usual focus on current policy and legislative issues to produce a new disquisition on the separation of powers in the U.S. government.

The separation of powers doctrine “is rooted in a political philosophy that aims to keep power from consolidating in any single person or entity, and a key goal of the framers of the Constitution was to establish a governing system that diffused and divided power.”

However, the branches do not always act in their own structural interests (as is often the case in congressional oversight of intelligence, for example). “Although each branch has strong incentives to protect its prerogatives, in many cases individual political actors have incentives that run counter to their institutional affiliation. In particular, political actors will often, quite reasonably, place the short-term achievement of substantive policy goals ahead of the long-term preservation of institutional power for their branch of government.”

CRS concludes that “the contemporary balance of power between the President, Congress, and the courts is not the same as it was in 1789, and is perhaps not the balance intended or expected by the framers of the Constitution.”

In any case, “the relative power of the President, Congress, and the courts is not on any specific trajectory. At various times since the ratification of the Constitution, the power of each institution has been at times ascendant and at other times on the decline.” See Separation of Powers: An Overview, January 8, 2016

Other Congressional Research Service reports that were issued last week include the following.

History and Conflict at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, CRS Insight, January 7, 2016

Big Data in U.S. Agriculture, January 6, 2016

Federal Health Centers: An Overview, January 6, 2015

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2016 Appropriations, January 7, 2016

Escalating Violence in El Salvador, CRS Insight, January 7, 2016

Perspectives on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, January 8, 2016

Electric Grid Physical Security: Recent Legislation, January 6, 2016

 

 

Giant icebergs are slowing climate change, research reveals

 

Known more as a symbol of global warming, the nutrient-rich plumes that trail melting giant icebergs are in fact sinking carbon deep into the ocean

January 11, 2016

by Damian Carrington

The Guardian

Giant melting icebergs may be a symbol of climate change but new research has revealed that the plumes of nutrient-rich waters they leave in their wake lead to millions of tonnes of carbon being trapped each year.

Researchers examined 175 satellite photos of giant icebergs in the Southern Ocean which surrounds Antarctica and discovered green plumes stretching up to 1,000km behind them. The greener colour of the plumes is due to blooms of phytoplankton, which thrive on the iron and other nutrients shed by the icebergs.

When these tiny algae – or the many creatures that eat them – die, they fall to the bottom of the ocean. This takes the carbon dioxide they have absorbed from the ocean surface and buries it deep below, thereby curbing the CO2 in the atmosphere and the global warming it causes.

If giant iceberg calving increases this century as expected, this negative feedback on the carbon cycle may become more important than we previously thought,” said Professor Grant Bigg at the University of Sheffield, who led the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Giant icebergs, defined as greater than 18km in length, make up half the ice floating in the Southern Ocean, with dozens present at any one time. The researchers calculated that the fertilisation effect of the icebergs in the normally iron-poor waters contributes up to 20% of all the carbon buried in the Southern Ocean, which itself contributes about 10% of the global total.

We detected substantially enhanced chlorophyll levels, typically over a radius of at least four to 10 times the iceberg’s length,” said Bigg. The chlorophyll levels remained 10 times higher than in the surrounding ocean for at least a month and up to 200km behind the iceberg. Some increase in phytoplankton was seen as much as 1,000km behind the iceberg in a few cases.

The discovery was a surprise as previous studies of small icebergs, or using ship-based measurements, has suggested a much smaller fertilisation effect. The largest iceberg analysed in the new study was more than 50km long.

The impact of global warming on melting ice in Antarctica, much of which is far below 0C, has been widely studied. Biggs and his colleagues note that satellite gravity data show a 5% increase in ice discharge from the continent over the past two decades.

In 2014, two separate teams of scientists found that the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet is already under way and is unstoppable. The loss of this entire ice sheet would cause up to 4m of sea-level rise in coming centuries. In 2015, researchers found the melting of floating ice shelves around Antarctica was faster than thought, potentially unlocking extra sea level rise from larger ice sheets jammed behind them.

Professor Andrew Shepherd, director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds, said in 2015 that the rates of ice shelf loss were unsustainable and could cause a major collapse. This is already occurring at the massive Pine Island glacier, where ice loss has doubled in speed over the last 20 years as its blocking ice shelf has melted.

 

Toxic “Reform” Law Will Gut State Rules on Dangerous Chemicals

January 11, 2016

by Sharon Lerner

The Intercept

A new set of bills that aims to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act may nullify the efforts of states such as Maine and California to regulate dangerous chemicals. The Senate’s bill, passed last month, just before the holidays, is particularly restrictive. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act — named, ironically, for the New Jersey senator who supported strong environmental protections — would make it much harder for states to regulate chemicals after the EPA has evaluated them, and would even prohibit states from acting while the federal agency is in the process of investigating certain chemicals.

The Senate’s version has some significant differences from the House bill — the TSCA Modernization Act, which passed in June — and the reconciliation process is now underway. If the worst provisions from both bills wind up in the final law, which could reach the president’s desk as soon as February, the new legislation will gut laws that have put Oregon, California, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, and Washington state at the forefront of chemical regulation.

Toxic Sippy Cups and Baby Bottles

For Mike Belliveau the passage of Maine’s chemical law in 2008 felt like the crowning moment in his career. The environmental advocate had spent years working on the Kid Safe Product Act, which is one of the strongest protections against dangerous chemicals in the country. Since it was passed, Maine has used the law to come up with a list of more than 1,700 “chemicals of concern.” The state has also required manufactures to report the use of a handful of those chemicals, and has banned them altogether when there are no safer alternatives.

Among the chemicals Maine has strictly regulated are flame retardants called PBDEs, which are linked to learning disabilities and behavior problems, and BPA, an endocrine disruptor and likely human carcinogen. Maine phased out the use of PBDEs in furniture and electronics. Manufacturers must now report the use of BPA in certain products and can no longer use it in baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, infant formula cans, or baby-food packaging. The EPA was also looking at the health effects of PBDEs and BPA, but while it was considering them, Maine took action.

Maine’s law turned out to be more than just a local triumph. Its requirement that manufacturers disclose the use of chemicals called NPEs, which are toxic to aquatic life and likely harmful to human development and reproduction, in products sold there led to the revelation that the chemicals were present in hundreds of products sold nationwide, including paint. And the ban on BPA nudged the whole country away from using that chemical. Rather than just changing how it made products sold in Maine, the giant toymaker Hasbro wound up removing BPA from all its products.

It’s been huge,” said Belliveau, who is the executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Bangor. “The little state of Maine helped close the door nationwide on the use of BPA.”

Although the Senate’s TSCA bill would leave existing state restrictions on specific chemicals intact, provisions in the bill would stop states from setting regulations going forward — and obliterate efforts that are already underway. Take Washington state’s pending legislation to ban a group of flame retardant chemicals used in furniture and children’s products. Advocates there have been working for years to ban these endocrine disruptors and likely human carcinogens. “We’re very close,” said Randi Abrams-Caras, senior campaign director of the Washington Toxics Coalition. But perhaps not close enough. Although Washington’s House passed the ban 95-3 and the state Senate is working on a similar bill, TSCA reform could invalidate the whole thing. If the EPA puts these flame retardants on its yet-to-be-drafted priority list, a reasonable expectation since the agency is already looking at some of them, the Senate bill would preempt new state efforts to restrict them. “Our state would have to stop any work we’ve been doing,” said Abrams-Caras.

California’s current efforts to protect people from methylene chloride, a probable human carcinogen used in paint strippers, could also be stopped in its tracks if the state preemption provision in the Senate bill becomes law. So could Maine’s next use of its chemicals law — to ban four types of phthalates, which are used in plastics.

The Senate bill prohibits states from acting on chemicals that the EPA deems “high priority” while the agency is evaluating them. But the agency’s investigations can go on for years and even decades before it takes action. Back in 2002, for instance, the EPA initiated a high-priority review of PFOA, a chemical used to make Teflon and hundreds of other products. Probable links between the chemical and six diseases have been found in the intervening years, and contamination is now known to be widespread, yet the agency has not regulated it.

The EPA has been investigating the safety of some of the flame retardants that would be banned by the Washington state bill for more than 25 years. And the agency has spent at least 30 years looking at the safety of methylene chloride, which is still widely available in hardware stores though its fumes have been killing people since at least the 1940s.

The Best Law $125 Million Can Buy

There is little question that the original Toxic Substance Control Act is broken, as even industry has recently begun to admit. TSCA, passed in 1976, was born from outrage about the health risks of asbestos and PCBs, and it gave the EPA the authority to regulate tens of thousands of toxic substances. But the process was heavily influenced by the chemical industry, which initially opposed regulation before helping to write the law. The final legislation grandfathered in the vast majority of some 82,000 chemicals now registered for commercial use. In the almost four decades since TSCA went into effect, the federal agency has required testing for only about 200 chemicals. Of those, just five were partially regulated at the federal level.

Reform of TSCA, which Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey worked on for more than a decade before his death in 2013, was supposed to close the loopholes. But, as with the original law, after first opposing the legislation, the industry not only got on board but ended up steering the process and flooding Congress with money. In fact, evidence emerged in March that the Senate version of the bill was written by the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s biggest lobbying group.

Since 2014, while Congress was hashing out TSCA reform, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations spent more than $125 million on lobbying. Dow Chemical Company and Koch Industries each spent more than $21 million, while DuPont spent more than $14 million, according to MapLight, a nonprofit group that monitors money in politics. The American Chemistry Council contributed more than $18 million, including $150,000 to the Super PAC supporting the gubernatorial bid of David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana who co-sponsored the bill. Chemical industry contributions were significantly higher for the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors than for other members of Congress.

All of which helps explain why the chemical industry loves the legislation meant to regulate it. The American Chemistry Council, which supports both the House and Senate bills, represents more than 100 chemical companies, several of which stand to have their products spared from pending regulation, including the Occidental Chemical Corporation, manufacturer of methylene chloride, which California is in the process of restricting; Chemtura, which makes a flame retardant that would be banned by a bill pending in Washington state; and Eastman Chemical Company, which makes the plastics additive DEHP, which is under regulatory scrutiny in Maine. Cal Dooley, CEO of the group, was named one of The Hill’s top lobbyists for 2015. The organization, which reportedly has a budget upward of $100 million, has in the past worked to quash regulation in individual states. If the Senate bill survives as is, the ACC may see less of a need for such localized lobbying.

In response to inquiries from The Intercept, the American Chemistry Council provided a written statement, saying it has “been working tirelessly to help pass legislation that will bring TSCA up to speed with modern science and create strong, nationwide regulatory certainty that will build consumer confidence in the U.S. chemical regulatory system for citizens in all 50 states, protect human health and the environment from significant risks, and meet the commercial and competitive interests of the U.S. chemical industry and the national economy.” Chemtura provided the following comment: “Though it is premature to speculate on the impact of an updated TSCA program on specific state legislation or products, Chemtura supports an updated TSCA and looks forward to working with regulators when the time comes for implementation.” Eastman Chemical Company declined to comment for this story.

The Senate bill, which would also override state restrictions on air and water quality and waste disposal if they’re inconsistent with federal law, has a wide range of supporters, including the American Petroleum Institute, the Chambers of Commerce; the Auto Alliance; the National Association of Manufacturers. Perhaps the most damning endorsement came from ExxonMobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, who recently described the bill in an op-ed in Roll Call as “just the comprehensive overhaul we need.”

Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, which preempts states from regulating new chemicals, is supported by more than 100 industry groups, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, CropLife America (which represents pesticide manufacturers and distributors), the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, and the Chlorine Institute.

People closely involved in TSCA reform continue to pass through the revolving door from Congress to K Street. Over the past two years, top aides to Frank Lautenberg and Tom Udall of New Mexico, the two Democratic senators who played important roles in the negotiations over TSCA reform, have left the Senate to take lobbying jobs. Former Lautenberg negotiator Ben Dunham joined Dentons in March 2014, where he is focusing on the environment and chemical safety, while Udall’s former chief of staff, Michael Collins, went to Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas in September. Reached for comment, Dunham noted that he is not representing companies that manufacture chemicals; Collins confirmed that he is focusing on environmental legislation and regulation, among other issues.

In addition to limiting state regulations, the TSCA reform bills now being combined into one law contain provisions making it harder to intercept dangerous chemical imports at the U.S. border and requiring the EPA to designate some chemicals “low priority” without fully evaluating them. And neither version addresses the huge problem of companies being allowed to introduce new chemicals to the market without first proving their safety.

But it’s the state restrictions that would be felt most immediately. In California, which is in the process of banning flame retardant chemicals in toddlers’ nap mats, the impact could be devastating. “If we’re in a situation where the EPA says we’re going to start studying this chemical and that stops the states from acting, that’s a huge setback,” said Ansje Miller, eastern states director for the Center for Environmental Health, which is spearheading the nap mat campaign.

Andy Igrejas, national campaign director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, which works on TSCA reform, remains hopeful that the worst industry loopholes will be left out of the final bill. “This is the critical moment,” said Igrejas, “because they can combine the bills and really change them in new ways.”

At its best, Igrejas said, the new law could be “a reform that’s modest but still meaningful.” At its worst, he continued, “the people who have been leading the way will be silenced without anything meaningful taking their place.”

 

Insider Threat’ Program: Hundred Thousand Pentagon Personnel Under Total Surveillance

January 7, 2016

by Kevin Gosztola

shadowproof

At least a hundred thousand military, civilian, and contractor personnel at the Defense Department have been subjected to a “continuous evaluation” or total surveillance of their electronic activities and communications. The surveillance is part of the department’s “Insider Threat” program and raises concerns about the extent to which whistleblower communications are being intercepted.

According to a 2015 report to Congress obtained by Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, “Multiple pilots and concept demonstrations using ‘push’ and ‘pull’ capabilities to conduct continuous evaluation” have been used to monitor personnel with access to classified information.

Pull” capabilities refers to an Automated Continuing System (ACES), which conducts “point-in-time records checks” and “pulls” data from “trusted data sources.” “Push” capabilities refers to an ACES Next Generation system, which automatically pushes relevant updated information to the system without additional requests for data.

The total surveillance of personnel with access to classified information makes it possible to conduct “insider threat analyses” of “law enforcement, personnel security, human resources, counterintelligence, physical security, network behavior monitoring, and cybersecurity activities,” according to the report to Congress.

There is only one small mention of the issue of privacy and civil liberties in the report. It relates to the issue of having experts who will help the “senior agency official” in charge of “insider threat detection and prevention.” One of the experts is to advise on “privacy and civil liberties” concerns related to information technology, data analysis, and systems engineering. Beyond that, it does not appear the Defense Department believes total surveillance of personnel raises any constitutional questions.

As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has previously described, the system of “continuous evaluation” is designed to monitor “electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job.” Clapper expected the “Insider Threat” program would have six or seven data streams by September 2016, which would be relied upon to detect potential threats.

An Office of Acquisitions posting on the government website for contractors indicated the systems would create “staff profiles.” In other words, data would be used to maintain dossiers on suspicious employees who have security clearances. Their behaviors could trigger special monitoring, even if they have not taken information with the intent to disclose information.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden wrote a letter to Clapper on June 18, 2014, where they argued there should be “constitutional, statutory, and prudential limits” to any monitoring of personnel.

Any monitoring of employees’ ‘electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job’ needs to include safeguards to prevent the chilling of legitimate whistleblower communications and protect the confidentiality of any legally privileged information,” the senators maintained. “Procedural safeguards to prevent the targeting of whistleblowers for extra scrutiny as well as minimization requirements to avoid collecting protected communications are some examples of the sorts of safeguards that should be developed.”

If captured inadvertently, protected disclosures certainly should never be routed back to an official involved in any alleged wrongdoing reported by the whistleblower,” the senators added. Both senators also shared their worries that whistleblower communications to Congress members would be intercepted and members of Congress with security clearances might be subject to surveillance.

According to the 2015 report to Congress, there are no mentioned plans for protecting whistleblower communications by following certain procedures if they would happen to be intercepted.

The Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) oversees the National Insider Threat Task Force. An official from the Task Force recently conducted a presentation, where National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake, who revealed fraud, waste, and abuse, was listed along with Nidal Hasan, Aaron Alexis, and Robert Hanssen. Hasan and Alexis murdered people and Hanssen was a Soviet spy.

As Kenneth Lipp reported, Patricia Larsen of ODNI referred to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as a criminal. She said Drake and Edward Snowden had been “self-radicalized” while the others in the “rogues gallery” were recruited by foreign governments. Each one of them had “strong egotistical streaks,” which led them to do harm to the country.

This is how military and security agencies view “insider threats” and why it should be troubling to whistleblower advocates that a center in the Defense Department is continuously analyzing the activities of at least one hundred thousand personnel.

Twenty-two organizations, including whistleblower advocacy groups, recently sent a letter to the inspector general for the “intelligence community.”

We are concerned about the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) characterization of whistleblowers as insider threats, despite clear policy from the White House that those individuals should not be considered or targeted as such,” the organizations declared.

The organizations noted that Larsen had used an “overly broad definition of insider threats,” which included “any employees and contractors who damage an entity’s reputation, be it government or business, by exposing inside information should be considered insider threats, as they ‘would be in the business world.’”

This kind of wanton misuse of the term ‘threat’ demonstrates that this program fails to distinguish between those who want to fix problems from those who wish to do harm to our national security,” the organizations further stated.

Despite concerns from whistleblower advocates and U.S. senators, like Grassley and Wyden, who have served on oversight committees, the House of Representatives passed a bill in November to expand the “Insider Threat” program to include total surveillance of credit, criminal, and social media activities of Department of Homeland
Security personnel.

The expansion of an “Insider Threat” program in government agencies has ballooned in the aftermath of Chelsea Manning’s disclosures to WikiLeaks and Snowden’s disclosures to journalists.

In 2013, McClatchy Newspapers reported on materials from the “Insider Threat” program, which equate “leaks” with “espionage,” encourage snitching, and instruct employees to be on the lookout for individuals suffering from “narcissism” or “antisocial personality disorder.”

McClatchy also reported in 2013 that thousands of Americans had their personal data passed on to U.S. agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and NSA as part of an effort to uncover “untrustworthy federal workers.” A truly McCarthy-esque list “unprecedented” in nature was disseminated widely with ease when there was no good reason for the government to be sharing this data at all.

 

Cologne attacks’ profound impact on Europe

January 11. 2016

by Gavin Hewitt

BBC News

The events in Cologne and other cities over New Year have left a deep imprint in Germany.

The stories of women running a gauntlet of sexual assault by young men have tapped into society’s deepest fears.

In just the city of Cologne, more than 500 cases of violence have been recorded, although not all were sexual attacks.

The consensus in favour of accepting 1.1 million refugees was already fraying. Now the country is deeply uneasy and sharply divided.

“Cologne has changed everything,” said Volker Bouffier, vice-president of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU party. “People are now doubting.”

What happened during the first hours of 2016 is likely to have a profound impact on the rest of Europe.

Certainly the boldness of the assaults and the sense of a powerless state will haunt the victims, but what has also been lost is trust – the essential glue in any society.

There is now a widely held suspicion that the political elite is not being candid with the German public.

There was the inexplicably bland initial police report describing the evening in Cologne as a “relaxed atmosphere. Celebrations largely peaceful”. It was on social media that news of the assaults first seeped out.

When the Cologne police chief said that many of the young men who had been outside the train station that night had been of North African or Middle Eastern origin, politicians and officials were quick to say they were not drawn from the migrants who in recent months had sought asylum in Germany.

It took the better part of a week to acknowledge that asylum seekers were among the suspects.

The police certainly knew the reality of who had been on the streets. On the night some young men had shown police their asylum documents.

An internal police report describes a man telling the police: “I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly. Mrs Merkel invited me”.

Much not explained

Certainly there is much that remains to be explained. Was this a co-ordinated event and, if so, who was behind it?

The German justice minister believes it was organised, but for what purpose? Or was it just a gathering sparked by social media?

It is also true that large public events like Oktoberfest have been marked by incidents of sexual assault without any migrants being present.

Although the figures are not up to date, it does not appear so far that the crime rate among asylum seekers is higher than among similar groups in the native population.

What has fuelled the sense of crisis is the suspicion – now widely held – that the German establishment is not telling the truth.

The German public-service broadcaster ZDF did not mention the incidents in Cologne in its broadcast until last Tuesday, four days after the attacks.

The broadcaster has now admitted it was a “clear misjudgement” and says that since then, it has been “over-whelmed with hate and anger”.

In parts of social media the idea of a “lying press” has taken root.

Some German papers are quoting police sources saying they are under orders not to report crimes involving refugees.

Many Muslims have spoken out against the assaults, but that has not stopped the main euro-sceptic party Alternativ fuer Deutschland warning against the disintegration of German culture.

In the party’s view, Angela Merkel has become a danger and Germany is being asked to compromise its basic values.

The mayor of Cologne suggested it would be wise in future if women “kept men at arm’s length”.

Echoes from elsewhere

She insists her words were misunderstood. But there have been echoes elsewhere in Europe.

The Viennese police chief Gerhard Pursti said that “women should in general not go into the streets alone in Vienna.”

This has caused an outcry, with women complaining that they are being asked to change their behaviour.

Many of them feel torn; they are outraged but they don’t want to lend any support to racist groups.

Certainly Angela Merkel was quick to understand that these assaults threatened her whole refugee policy.

Very early on in the crisis she said that “women’s feeling of being completely defenceless is intolerable, also to me personally”. She went on to say that “when crimes are committed, there must be consequences.”

The German government is examining changing the law to make it easier to deport those convicted of sexual assault but it is unclear how a refugee who has come from Syria could be deported back there.

Pressure building

So pressure will build on Mrs Merkel to limit the numbers of refugees arriving. Already some of her political allies have demanded that.

She has resisted but her political authority has been weakened by these events.

In the short term, she has enough political capital to withstand the pressure but she will face further tests in the spring.

There are three state elections and members of her party will watch closely how the CDU fares.

And then, of course, the question is whether the warmer weather will increase the numbers arriving.

Chancellor Merkel’s long-stated belief is that migration is not a German problem, but a European one.

It is not seen that way in parts of Eastern and Central Europe.

An EU plan to implement quotas, to relocate refugees across the member states, has failed so far. Only a few hundred refugees have actually been moved.

Mrs Merkel has placed a huge bet on Turkey helping to stem the flow of migrants in exchange for financial help and granting people from Turkey visa-free travel in parts of Europe.

This week, senior European officials could not disguise their frustration with Turkey; they have seen little evidence of migrants being turned around at the Turkish border.

Mrs Merkel has said that the passport-free zone, guaranteed by the Schengen agreement, can only work “if there is joint responsibility for protecting the external borders”.

It is hard to see how that will happen and, in any event, what is being talked about is an orderly system of registering those who qualify for asylum. It is not about reducing numbers.

New border controls

In the meantime checkpoints, border patrols and fences are springing up in different parts of Europe.

Only this week border identity checks were introduced on the Oresund Bridge linking Sweden and Denmark.

It is the first time since 1958 that there have been border controls between the two countries.

 

Denmark has introduced checks on its border with Germany. 

Austria is reinforcing its border.

Italy is considering controls on its border with Slovenia.

Hungary is helping Macedonia to build a fence.

 

In the short term, both Brussels and the European establishment portray these measures as temporary.

Certainly Europe’s leaders will do all in their power to defend the Schengen guarantee of freedom of movement, a key pillar of European integration but the migrant crisis is not receding.

Even in mid-winter, 3,000-4,000 migrants are arriving each day in Germany.

So already in these early days of 2016 the debate about the wisdom of sanctioning large-scale migration in Europe has been re-kindled.

Mrs Merkel herself – in the past – has questioned whether integration is working. Once again there are fears of parallel societies taking root with different cultural rules.

You can sometimes feel that in the banlieues around Paris or in parts of Brussels. But then in parts of London, you see groups of young people hanging out together – regardless of background or creed.

The question for Germany is not just how to protect women without curtailing their lives but how to restore trust with ordinary Germans that they are being told the truth.

It is a question that resonates across Europe. It is hard to think of a series of events so likely to feed the narrative of Europe’s anti-establishment and populist parties that an elite is misleading the people.

 

Who’s paranoid? Personal security tech goes mainstream in surveillance era

Gadget-makers in biometrics and tracking say they used to deal with the tinfoil hat brigade, but now everyone wants to know ‘how to stay secure’

January 11, 2016

by Nellie Bowles

The Guardian

The man selling biometric equipment at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas this week had never seen so much interest in his booth in nearly 30 years.

And he’s horrified. He always thought widespread acceptance of their fingerprint scanners would be for convenience, not surveillance, but he’s not so sure any more.

We’ve been around since 1988, and this year we’re hot, very hot,” said Jeff Brown, the vice-president of sales at optical sensor company SecuGen. “Everything has two sides to it – a butter knife is a weapon. I don’t like seeing it as a weapon but you can make it into that. And that’s what’s happening.”

The personal security department at CES, once a quiet, overlooked corner of the flashy gadget show, was packed and frenzied this year. Its popularity stirred an internal reckoning for the security gadget makers who are now central to the conversation about privacy and politics. Some longtime sellers like Brown are worried about their new buyers.

Others, who said until this year they were always called paranoid, are amazed and delighted how mainstream the interest has become. It’s become an arms race as tracking hardware like the handheld Stingray, which intercepts texts, gets cheaper and better, while people flock to privacy apps and anti-surveillance electronics bags.

At the end of 2015, suddenly there’s a much greater acceptance of biometrics. Sadly, sadly,” said Brown, who sells his fingerprint scanners largely to governments but worries about a dystopian future where corporations and governments always know people’s locations.

With the Russian jet, Paris and San Bernardino, people all of a sudden are saying, ‘OK, what are we gonna need to do to stay secure. I’m willing to do things I wasn’t last year.’”

Across the aisle, Randy Zar and his son run Silent Pocket, which makes attractive leather iPhone and laptop faraday cages of copper and zinc alloy to block electric fields, shielding electronics.

When we first opened, it was mostly the paranoid sort of people. People thought I was crazy. People thought I was paranoid. Now they don’t,” Zar said, gesturing at the curious crowd around his station. “Now it’s more the everyday people here.”

Government officials are getting interested too, though, Zar said. An official was actually meeting with his son at that very moment, he said, pointing her out. She’s wearing a suit and tells me she’s part of the Turkish department of commerce.

I just want to get information,” she tells me, before putting her hand over her name badge.

But not everyone in the security aisle was conflicted about their popularity.

In the same densely packed corridor as the privacy gadgets is something quite opposite: a group called The Findables Company who make trackers.

Cheap, small trackers have so far only operated with bluetooth and stop responding if they’re more than a couple of hundred feet away. But the next generation of small, attachable trackers, coming out this year for $69.99, will have true GPS abilities, able to report on a location anywhere with cell service.

Our normal tracker works where the item tracking is keys, backpacks. It doesn’t help with pets, kids, things that can move on their own. GPS is great for things that can walk,” said sales representative Nick Trouw.

Is he worried about people tracking their wives or exes?

“Not at all. You can already do that. If you’ve got a phone and I’ve had access to it. Or if you have Chrome with location services turned on, I can already track you,” he said. “The privacy boat? That ship’s sailed.”

 

Oregon militia tears down gov’t fence, wants ranchers released

January 11, 2016

RT

Armed men occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon are tearing down part of a fence erected by the government to keep ranchers out of federally owned property.

The escalation comes 10 days into the standoff at the fowl sanctuary south of Burns, Oregon. Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who head the group occupying the refuge, announced they would be tearing down the portion of the fence and replacing it with a gate, to allow local ranchers access to pastures.

The Bundy brothers also said they would not end the occupation until Dwight and Steven Hammond, the two ranchers recently imprisoned by the government, are set free. The Hammonds were prosecuted by the government under a terrorism statute, over fires set on their property that damaged 140 acres of federally owned land. Government prosecutors insisted on a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Following a peaceful protest in Burns on January 2, the Bundys and their fellow militia members seized the empty building at Malheur. The group has been camped at the refuge ever since, calling for the government to abide by its own rules and stop the heavy-handed treatment of the ranchers. Their father, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, successfully faced down federal agents in 2014 in a dispute over grazing fees and land use

The militia insists they are taking the land back on behalf of the locals. While initially sympathetic to the stunt that highlighted their difficulties, Harney County residents called on the militia to leave peacefully, following a town meeting on Friday. Harney County Sheriff David Ward likewise asked the militia to depart the refuge, but was rebuffed.

On Saturday, the brothers’ mother Carol Bundy sent out a call for more supplies, including sleeping bags, toiletries, food, coffee and cigarettes, suggesting that the group was preparing to stay for the long haul

Later that day, a convoy of almost 20 vehicles brought in rifle-armed volunteers from the Pacific Patriot Network, but the Bundys turned them away. Fellow rancher LaVoy Finicum said that while the PPN’s help was appreciated, “we want the long guns put away.”

State lawmaker Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) and several of his colleagues from Washington and Idaho also visited the refuge over the weekend. There were also reports that Nevada state lawmaker Michele Fiore called in. She famously backed the Bundys during their 2014 standoff with armed agents of the Bureau of Land Management.

Cliff Bentz, the Republican lawmaker whose district includes Harney County, called the visit by Heard and his colleagues “inappropriate,” according to The Oregonian.

 

Net-shooting ‘drone catcher’ billed as solution to ‘rogue’ UAVs

January 11, 2016

RT

Citing high-profile security breaches involving unmanned aerial vehicles, a mechanical engineering professor has begun work on a “drone catcher” – a drone that pursues and captures other UAVs by shooting a net from up to 40 feet away.

Small UAVs have been used in close encounters with world leaders, as in an incident a year ago when a quadcopter flew over the White House fence, crashed into the lawn. In 2013, a drone was directed at a campaign rally for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Meanwhile, the US Federal Aviation Administration, the federal agency charged with regulating drone flight, believes that 200,000 small drones flew in US airspace in 2014. During that year, “the FAA received 238 reports of potentially unsafe UAS operations,” the agency said last month, and independent studies have echoed the concern that unmanned aerial systems pose a hazard to air traffic.

With new technologies for drones constantly emerging, including those enabling them to carry explosives, So  Mo Rastgaar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University, came to the conclusion that a method had to be developed to counter rogue drone flights.

Rastgaar’s “drone catcher” is equipped with a large net. Whether flown by a pilot, autonomously, or a combination of both, the it can chase an object, such as another drone, and fire its net from up to 40 feet (12 meters) away to trap the target.

What makes this unique is that the net is attached to our catcher, so you can retrieve the rogue drone or drop it in a designated, secure area,” Rastgaar said in a recent report by Michigan Tech News. “It’s like robotic falconry.”

Rastgaar said he was inspired to create the drone catcher while watching a World Cup match in which snipers were monitoring the crowd. He thought that a drone, if armed as a weapon, might not be the best thing to shoot down over a crowd of people.

“I thought, ‘If the threat is a drone, you really don’t want to shoot it down — it might contain explosives and blow up,” he said. “What you want to do is catch it and get it out of there.”

Rastgaar and his team are seeking a patent for their drone catcher. They said its uses could include catching drones piloted by spies or terrorists, or simply enforcing new federal regulations requiring small, non-commercial drones to be registered with the US government.

 

The FAA has just announced that drones must be registered, and we think the catcher could help enforce the law by catching unregistered drones,” he said.

A specially-trained riot police unit of the Tokyo police force in Japan has been experimenting with a one-meter-wide interceptor drone equipped with a camera, which is capable of wielding a two-by-three meter net.

“Terrorist attacks using drones carrying explosives are a possibility,” a member of the police department’s Security Bureau told Asahi Shimbun. “We hope to defend the nation’s functions with the worst-case scenario in mind.”

 

 

No responses yet

Leave a Reply