TBR News September 8, 2017

Sep 08 2017





The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 8, 2017:”Allthough it is not a secret and major media has certainly mentioned it, living close to the sea is not a safe idea.

It is known that the sea levels are rising, especially on the US east coast (although the lunatic fringe claims the land is sinking) and that in the event of a strong ocean storm or a hurricane, the storm surges will do terrible damage along coasts.

In spite of these warnings, more and more of the erect sheep are building on the coasts.

The current hurricane about to impact on southern Florida will no doubt wreak terrible havoc that will entertain the media, and the inland-dwelling public, for weeks but believe it, once the debris and the rotting corpses have been removed, others will eye the vacant properties with lust and a desire to build.

The fact that most insurance companies will no longer insure for storm damage to coastal properties seems more like a challenge than a warning.”


Table of Contents

  • Seas Rising but Florida Keeps Building on the Coast
  • Irma Threatens to Wash Away Florida Buildings After Tearing Through Caribbean
  • Hurricane Irma will ‘devastate’ part of U.S.: emergency services head

The Voice of the Loons!

  • Hurricane Irma: No such thing as a category six storm
  • Hurricane blame: Harvey & Irma ‘punishment’ for Trump & gay mayor, internet says
  • ShadowBrokers accelerating NSA leaks to twice a month
  • Equifax hack attack exposes data of 143 million customers
  • Israeli Espionage Against the United States
  • U.S. requires enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey
  • Buried in backlog, Feds give top-secret clearances to murderers, rapists
  • Mexico earthquake kills at least 32 and sparks mass evacuations


Seas Rising but Florida Keeps Building on the Coast

Sea level rise as a result of global warming is not stopping developers of Florida’s coast

June 20, 2016

by Erika Bolstad,

Scientific American

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—The home that Stanley Young and Rich Cusmano are building here will hover above an infinity pool, a shimmering glass-and-concrete icon of tropical luxury set on one of the coastal city’s scenic waterways.

Anyone willing to pay upward of $4 million for such a showpiece will, of course, want some certainty about his or her investment. The home sits on a waterfront lot that was just 2.79 feet above sea level, on a street that already floods during extreme tides and in a region where climate change will fuel sea-level rise by as much as 10 inches over 1992 levels by 2030.

“Buyers are becoming very savvy,” Young said. “The first question they say to us is: Will it flood?’”

Therein lies the uneasy reality in South Florida, home to 6 million people and projected to grow by 3 million over the next three decades. Its very existence depends on the continued allure of the beaches, waterways and natural environment. Yet, by 2050, an estimated $15 billion to $36 billion of Florida’s coastal property will be threatened by sea-level rise, according to a report last year from the Risky Business Project, a Bloomberg Philanthropies effort that quantifies economic risks from climate change.

In South Florida, sea-level rise and climate change are already having an effect on available drinking water, roads and sewer lines in low-lying areas, and storm and flood insurance rates.

Given those conditions, residents say the only way people will want to continue living, working, raising families and retiring in Florida is if they have some reassurance that their investments will be safe—or that there will even be a place to call home in the future. Many are beginning to realize that protecting people and property from more intense storms, higher temperatures and sea-level rise will require a massive investment in ideas and infrastructure, as long as the state wants to retain a vibrant, viable economy in the face of a changing climate.

There’s every indication it does.

“We live in paradise,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler. “When paradise goes under water, we’re all going to feel the impact. It is now an environmental and economic discussion. What is our economy going to be like? What is our economy going to look like if we don’t prepare our community for rising sea levels and climate change?”

It comes as no surprise, then, that there’s an emerging industry eager to find a way to help people stay in that paradise, a place born of real estate speculation and rebirthed cyclically out of natural disasters like hurricanes and man-made disasters like real estate bubbles.

Developers have started marketing storm-resistant homes and resilient buildings, like a high-rise in downtown Miami designed to withstand 300-mph winds. In Miami Beach, the city is beginning to implement building codes that require new construction and city infrastructure to be elevated. Fort Lauderdale is considering raising the height limits on sea walls.

And businesses have begun emerging to offer guidance to potential property owners wary of the consequences of sea-level rise.

‘We did this to get climate-ready’

For the house he’s building, Young turned to Coastal Risk Consulting, a new company started by environmental attorney Albert Slap with former Florida Atlantic University climate scientist Leonard Berry and others. Using Army Corps of Engineers sea-level-rise predictions, the company assigns flood scores to properties. Its formula can show how much of a threat sea-level rise poses to a property, giving homeowners, local governments and anyone else who uses the software a realistic picture of their future risk.

Young connected with Slap’s company after the property where he planned to build the luxury home was mentioned in a newspaper article as an example of a low-lying lot that was currently flooding and could benefit from a risk assessment. The property, once owned by billionaire former Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, sits on the Las Olas Isles, man-made finger islands that gave the city its nickname of the Venice of America. A developer purchased the lot and subdivided it into six new lots. Based on existing flooding concerns, the developer installed a new, higher sea wall, an estimated $1 million investment. The original developer also brought in soil to build the entire lot 3 feet higher, Young said.

Slap, who started Coastal Risk Consulting in retirement, is an aggressive promoter of his company. But he also likes to point out that it’s not a Silicon Valley startup “thinking up technology to make a billion dollars.” It’s about empowering consumers with more information, Slap said.

“We did this to get climate-ready and storm-safe,” Slap said. “We’re not affiliated with construction or insurance or anything. Nobody is selling anything on our site except information and analysis that will help you get climate-ready and storm-safe.”

To show the work the firm did to make the property higher and more resilient, Young got his own flood report for potential buyers. It demonstrates the flood risk of the property both before and after the land was filled in, and before and after Young boosted the base elevation of the home. It’s evidence that the house is “now, effectively, safe,” Young said.

“We embraced what they are doing. Why not?” he said. “It makes sense. If they can give us a report that says our property will not flood for the next 50 years based on predicted sea-level-rise rates and king tides and everything else, that’s a positive thing.”

Yet Young also notes that the city infrastructure lags behind the work he and other builders are doing to raise homes higher or make them more resilient to sea-level rise. He argues that because developers like him are putting millions of dollars of their own capital into improving the housing stock, they should see some of that returning to local infrastructure.

Otherwise, based on sea-level-rise projections, future owners of his property and others on the street may want to buy a boat with their house.

“If you look at the property itself, it’s protected,” Young said. “Yeah, you’re going to be living in a nuisance area, because it’s going to be impossible within the current infrastructure around the house to get in and out. But your actual property itself is going to be safe.”

Can building codes catch up with climate change?

Cities and counties in the region say they’re beginning the highly technical process of upgrading building codes and planning and zoning ordinances, as well as considering the kind of money they might have to spend to upgrade municipal infrastructure. That means building roads and water and sewer and electrical lines higher, as well as bigger sea walls or pumps to return to sea any water that collects from rainfall or flooding.

Fort Lauderdale is considering an ordinance that raises the minimum height of sea walls.

The current limits hadn’t been changed in 40 years, said Stephen Tilbrook, a land-use and environmental lawyer there who sought a variance to the current guidelines for the developers of a large coastal condominium building. The county changed the way it calculated minimum floor elevation, creating a steep drop-off between the ground floor of their proposed building and the sea wall height limit in the city. The planning and zoning appeals board had some concerns about aesthetics, Tilbrook said. He argued the exception was warranted “because we have a changing world.”

“Sea level is rising, and we have to plan for the next 50 to 100 years. You have to, for the purposes of marketing, build for the future. You have to build for the future, even if the code may not allow it.”

The city is moving forward with regulations that raise the minimum height of sea walls. The rules could be mandatory in neighborhoods with existing flooding problems, but property owners would have time to comply with the new regulations. The new height guidelines would also affect property owners who are replacing old sea walls. Everyone will likely have to build sea walls strong enough so that another foot could be added to them as seas rise.

“It’s not easy for cities to make these changes,” Tilbrook said. “It’s time-consuming, it’s controversial.”

Bryan Soukup, a lobbyist who heads up resilience initiatives for the International Code Council, said that building codes can be one of the most effective tools for creating resilient communities, whether it’s to adapt to climate change and sea-level rise or extreme weather risks.

“Many people don’t think of building codes when they think of resiliency,” Soukup said. “People don’t realize that resilience starts with the building codes. It certainly doesn’t end with the building codes. But it certainly must start with a strong foundation.”

He points to an oft-cited study by the National Institute of Building Sciences, which found in 2005 that for every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation, society as a whole saves $4 on post-disaster spending. The White House recently announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be updating the study.

“Even though most jurisdictions don’t want to take the time, effort, or political capital or money to invest in improving their codes now, they’ll save money on the back end,” Soukup said. “It’s really a fiscal responsibility issue as well as an environmental protection issue and a basic issue of building safety. It’s all about planning for the future, that’s really what resilience is all about.”

South Florida counties ‘get it’ and lead the way

It can be challenging to act in a proactive way, said Susanne Torriente, an assistant city manager in Miami Beach and the city’s chief resilience officer.

The city has been upgrading building codes that require new construction to match the work it has done to lift the minimum height of city infrastructure, including raising roads. The City Council has approved increases to its base flood elevation requirements, increases in its sea wall elevation and a minimum yard elevation, among other changes. They apply only to new construction or renovations that change more than 50 percent of a building, and the new rules don’t yet apply to its two historic districts. That’s a trickier change the city is studying now.

Creating a “new urban fabric” isn’t always seamless, Torriente said.

“Easy? No,” she said. “It’s science, it’s engineering, it’s sort of the practical application of how it’s going to look. It’s how we’re building this city in transition.”

But she notes that it’s an area where municipal government can have a major impact on climate change policy, by strengthening building codes that make homes and offices and shops more resilient, and by enacting zoning ordinances that steer new development away from the riskiest areas.

“Building and zoning and planning, those are all very much local government issues,” she said. “And those are decisions that we have the authority over, and we can rewrite and modernize the rules of engagement.”

There’s marginal leadership on sea-level-rise issues on the state level in Florida, where an unwritten rule discouraged many in Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration from using the term “climate change.”

Most action in South Florida has been led by a four-county Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact formed in 2009 to address climate issues on a regional scale. Among the changes the compact embraced was a 2011 law signed into law by then-Gov. Charlie Crist (D) allowing for “adaptation action areas.” Those are special planning tools Florida communities can use under the Community Planning Act of 2011.

The law gives communities a way to prioritize funding for infrastructure and adaptation planning in areas that not only experience coastal flooding but are vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels. Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Miami-Dade County and several towns in the region have already identified such areas or are considering them.

“Everybody gets it in South Florida,” said Seiler, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lauderdale. “From the Florida Keys to Palm Beach, we’re all working together. I think we all get it.”

Tomorrow’s threat: climate gentrification

Seiler says there are “people and individuals that get it in Tallahassee.” And then there are “parties that don’t want to focus on it,” he said.

“I really don’t believe that they don’t get it,” he said of Republicans. “They just don’t want to focus on it. You can’t be in politics and not recognize that this is a real issue. You sure as heck have to be prepared to talk about how we’re going to resolve it … and adapt.”

Even under the best circumstances, though, bureaucracy, land use, development and market forces can clash. There is a growing realization in Florida and elsewhere that climate change may disproportionately affect people who have the least means to adapt to it.

A study released last month by the Urban Land Institute takes aim at the social inequities inherent in adapting communities to climate change in Florida, specifically the threat of so-called climate gentrification. The ULI study, which looked at the Arch Creek Basin north of downtown Miami, aimed to use a sliver of Miami-Dade County to illustrate how to put social equity at the heart of climate resilience planning.

The study urged government officials to consider buying out the people in the creek basin whose homes have flooded multiple times over the years. Many are either low-income homeowners or renters. If they want to move, the land could then return to its original purpose as a floodplain, the ULI panel suggested.

The panel also suggested that people who are asked to leave be given the right of first refusal on any new development on higher ground, including a limestone ridge that was the site of the first railroad into the region. There, some residents have concerns that developers are buying up higher ground as a hedge against flooding.

Market forces, though, mean the demand for waterfront property in tropical locations is likely to stay strong, and plenty of luxury homes are on the way. An estimated 11,000 condominium units are under construction in more than 100 buildings in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to a monthly guide to regional real estate published by Westside Estate Agency Florida.

“The value of real estate with water access and a view, it’s just remarkable,” said Jim Murley, the chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade County. “And they’re living still in places vulnerable to hurricanes, wind and storm surge. And something we’ve never thought about before, which is sea-level rise.”

Young and Cusmano say they want to build something timeless that will stand the test of tides, sea-level rise and storms. Decades from now, they want their home in Fort Lauderdale to be on architectural tours, like the art deco buildings in Miami Beach. It’s important to them that they’re seen as responsible, Young said.

“It needs to be sustainable,” Young said. “We like to think we’re leaving a legacy.”


Irma Threatens to Wash Away Florida Buildings After Tearing Through Caribbean

September 8, 2017

by Erik Ortiz, Corky Siemaszko, Alex Johnson and Jason Cumming

NBC News

Hurricane Irma continued its deadly and destructive path through the Caribbean on Friday morning, and is still on track to slam into Miami this weekend.

The storm, which went from a Category 5 to a 4, remained powerful, with winds of 150 mph, according to an 11 a.m. ET National Hurricane Center bulletin. Irma was about 405 miles southeast of Miami, with potential landfall in Florida appearing more likely for Sunday morning.

Irma grazed the Turks & Caicos Islands earlier Friday as it swept toward the southeastern Bahamas and Cuba — promising more devastation after flattening homes and cutting power to a string of Caribbean islands and killing at least 12 people.

A swath of South Florida remained under mandatory evacuations, including coastal communities in Miami and Palm Beach. In addition, Gov. Rick Scott said Friday morning that evacuation is mandatory for those living in cities south of Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in the state.

“This decision was made due to our sole focus on life safety as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida,” Scott said.

With long lines at gas stations and highways clogged, emergency officials advised people not to travel far, but locate local shelters that are safely away from storm surges.

“I can guarantee you that I don’t know anybody in Florida that’s ever experienced what’s about to hit South Florida,” Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a news conference Friday morning. “They need to get out and listen and heed the warnings.”

Ahead of Irma, Miami Beach was virtually deserted Friday morning, Mayor Philip Levine told TODAY. He said the city used buses and trolleys to help move people, including senior and homeless populations.

Hurricane warnings were issued Thursday night from Jupiter Inlet south around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as for the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay. Storm surges in those areas could be anywhere from 3 feet to 6 feet or higher, according to the hurricane center.

The National Weather Service said that “locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months” because of extreme winds, adding that “structural damage to buildings, with many washing away” was possible in some coastal areas.

The hurricane center said Thursday that a slight westward shift in Irma’s projected path indicated that it could make landfall just east of Key Largo, bringing its eye wall, which carries the most destructive winds, over Miami with major hurricane winds.

Hurricane conditions were expected in portions of southern Florida and the Florida Keys on Saturday night or early Sunday.

“During this weekend, all significant hurricane impact threats are possible, including especially life-threatening storm surge flooding and damaging winds,” the hurricane center added late Thursday.

The good news is that Irma “has peaked in intensity.” But even a slightly weaker Irma could do serious damage to Miami and lash the low-lying city with 129-mph winds and gusts of up to 159 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extended 70 miles from the center, so even if Irma somehow doesn’t make direct landfall on Florida at all, its very large wind field promises dangerous surf and coastal flooding throughout the Southeast coast well away from the center into early next week, forecasters said.

“We could see a little bit of weakening as it interacts with land and moves farther north into some high wind shear, but Irma’s going to remain dangerous for the next several days,” Michael Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist for the National Hurricane Center, told NBC News.

“This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, told NBC Miami, referring to Hurricane Harvey.

Scott warned Floridians on Thursday: “If you’re told to evacuate, get out quickly. Based on what we now know, Miami-Dade will have major hurricane impacts with deadly storm surge … and life-threatening winds.”

About 31,000 people have already fled the Florida Keys, Scott said, who invoked the memory of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that struck 25 years ago, killing 44 people and doing more than an adjusted $47.8 billion in damage just in the Sunshine State alone. It nearly wiped the city of Homestead off the map.

“This is much worse and more devastating on its current path,” he added.

The governors of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have all declared states of emergency.

On its way to Florida, Irma passed the Turks & Caicos Islands, a low-lying British territory, and parts of the Bahamas.

It hit Puerto Rico with a glancing blow late Wednesday, killing at least three people, after battering the islands of Barbuda, St. Bart and St. Martin.

Thousands of people were left homeless in French-controlled St. Martin, where four people were reported dead and thousands more were left homeless after Irma demolished 95 percent of buildings on the island. One death was reported on the Dutch side of the island. Another death was reported on the island of Barbuda.

Video obtained by NASA had the eye of Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, passing just to the north of the Dominican Republic on Thursday morning.

“Extremely dangerous Hurricane Irma heading for the Turks and Caicos islands,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Hurricane and storm surge watch are in effect for portions of South Florida and the Florida Keys.”

Florida Power & Light, the nation’s third-largest electric utility, warned that damage to the state’s energy grid could be devastating.

“Our service area will likely see widespread and substantial destruction that will require crews to literally rebuild parts of our electric system,” Eric Silagy, the utility’s president and chief executive, said Thursday. “Restoring power through repairs is measured in days, while rebuilding our electric system could be measured in weeks.”

Silagy said FPL, which has mutual-assistance agreements with utilities in other states, was positioning 11,000 employees and contractors in areas that are expected to be hardest hit. “But no utility is hurricane-proof, especially when facing a storm such as Irma,” he said.

The state was also working to get more fuel to drivers as many areas began running low on gas.

About 39 percent of gas stations in Miami-Fort Lauderdale were without fuel late Wednesday afternoon, according to GasBuddy, a Boston company that tracks fuel prices and availability. As far north as Gainesville, near the Georgia border, 44 percent of stations had run dry, it said.

“We know fuel is very important. And we’re absolutely devoting every state resource to addressing this and we’re talking to the federal government about their support,” Scott said.

In Washington, President Donald Trump said, “Florida is as well prepared as you can be for something like this, and we’ll see what happens.”

“We are with the people of Florida,” added the president, whose Mar-a-Lago mansion is in Palm Beach.


Hurricane Irma will ‘devastate’ part of U.S.: emergency services head

September 8, 2017

by David Shepardson


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Anticipating that Hurricane Irma will “devastate” part of the United States, U.S. officials were preparing a massive response to the storm, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on Friday.

With Irma set to hit Florida as early as Saturday night, parts of Florida was expected to lose electricity for days, if not longer, and more than 100,000 people may need shelter, FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned at a news conference.

“Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the southeastern states,” Long said.

Irma was a Category 5 hurricane, the most dangerous measure by the National Hurricane Center, before being downgraded to Category 4 early Friday after pummeling islands in the Caribbean.

The United States has experienced only three Category 5 storms since 1851 and Irma is far larger than the last one to hit the United States in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, according to Long.

He warned people not to ignore evacuation orders.

“They need to get out and listen and heed the warnings,” Long said.

Officials have thousands of personnel ready to respond and millions of meals and liters of water in place nearby, Long said.

The National Weather Service said that Friday was the last day to evacuate before winds would start to reach unsafe speeds in Florida.

Airlines added extra flights from Florida on Thursday before announcing plans to halt service from some southern Florida airports starting Friday afternoon.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called Irma a “remarkably dangerous storm and the window to get yourself in the right spot … is closing rapidly.”

Price said the main hospital in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands was closed after being damaged by Irma, and critically ill patients were being evacuated to Puerto Rico or other islands.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted 80-17 to approve a measure to more than double funding to $15.25 billion to FEMA and for local block grants to handle natural disasters. FEMA’s disaster assistance fund could run out of money Friday without action, senators said.

The House is expected to approve the measure on Friday. It had already approved $7.85 billion on Wednesday.

Editing by Bill Trott and Jeffrey Benkoe


The Voice of the Loons!

Hurricane Irma: No such thing as a category six storm

September 7, 2017

by Georgina Rannard

BBC  News

Striking video and reports are emerging about Hurricane Irma catastrophically hitting the Americas – but don’t believe everything you see.

As with Storm Harvey in Texas last week, fake news, videos and doctored images about Irma have spread rumours about the scale and path of the hurricane – which meteorologists have been keen to warn against online.

Irma, which is the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, has devastated parts of the Caribbean with wind speeds of 285km/h (180mph), leaving at least 10 people dead and reducing buildings to rubble.

Fake videos

One popular video posted on Thursday morning appears to show the force of hurricane winds hitting Puerto Rico, in the Caribbean, accompanied by howling winds which sound like a train engine. It was retweeted over 3,000 times.

But Irma did not hit Puerto Rico directly, instead the hurricane passed by the island causing power cuts.

Matching footage, which appears to be from the British Virgin Islands was posted on Wednesday, seven hours ahead of the video labelled Puerto Rico.

However, this footage was posted on Twitter without sound. It was picked up by a Turkish meteorological site and later by video uploading platform LiveLeak.com, as well as other social media users, who described the scene as San Juan, Puerto Rico. At some point along the way, the soundtrack was added.

The result was confusion among Twitter users, some of whom accused @Whippodilly of “fake news” – while others asked about the video from Wednesday night, which they had seen labelled as Puerto Rico.

Another video, with almost 8,000 likes and retweeted more than 9,000 times, was also shared on Wednesday night by American weather reporter Jamie Erle, but matches footage which is over a year old and likely to be from Tornado Dolores in Uruguay, Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed tracked the spread of the video.

The  video – with the caption ‘Hurricane Irma’ – has been viewed almost 28 million times on Facebook. It was later tweeted with the claim it was taken in Barbados.

Another video, with more than half a million views, claims to show the hurricane passing over Barbuda but – as Twitter user @PicPedant. pointed out – the same YouTube account posted the same footage the day before, claiming it to be from the Virgin Islands, although a voice on the video claims it to be from “Tropical Storm Gonzalo,” a hurricane which hit Bermuda in 2014.

Meanwhile, a Facebook Live purporting to show passengers trapped in an over-turned bus during Irma gained millions of views, only for the footage to match clips from Cyclone Vardha, which struck Chennai, India in 2016.

Not ‘Category 6’

Reports regarding the strength of Irma and its path across the Atlantic have generated thousands of reactions online, as well as caused concern by residents who were led to believe they live in the storm’s trajectory.

An article titled “Category 6? If Hurricane Irma Becomes The Strongest Hurricane In History, It Could Wipe Entire Cities Off The Map” published last week on the blog The Economic Collapse was shared more than two million times from blogs and Facebook pages such as Sons of Liberty Media and Freedom Outpost.

Although the article did not categorically state that the hurricane had been classified as ‘Category 6′, it implied there was serious scientific suggestion it should be, and some on Twitter understood it to be.

On Wednesday, the claim Irma was a category six storm was repeated by InfoWars’ Alex Jones.

Hurricanes cannot currently be categorised as category six according to the Saffir-Simpson scale – the highest rating is category five, which scientists describe as bringing catastrophic damage. However, many were led to believe the unusual force of Irma had caused it to be categorised as off the established scale.

How does Irma compare to other category five storms?

One American meteorologist put the record straight on Twitter.

Last week rumours spread that Houston, Texas was going to receive a second battering from hurricane winds and rain, after photoshopped images appeared of Irma’s path through the Americas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who monitor meteorological conditions in America, reposted a tweet from its National Weather Service account, warning about fake weather forecasts. It came after a Facebook post showing the path of Irma hitting Houston, which was hit by Storm Harvey last week, was shared almost 40,000 times.

As Irma is predicted to hit more of the Caribbean and the southern coastal areas of the United States by the weekend, it is likely that fake news will continue to come with it.


Hurricane blame: Harvey & Irma ‘punishment’ for Trump & gay mayor, internet says

September 8, 2017


As the US prepares for its second major hurricane in a matter of weeks, the internet is struggling to explain the natural disasters. The outlandish explanations range from storms being punishment for President Trump to Texas being the “worst state.”

Hurricane Irma has already made its mark on the Caribbean, leaving at least 19 dead. It’s now preparing to hit Florida over the weekend, just two weeks after Hurricane Harvey left parts of Texas, particularly Houston, under historic-level floodwaters.

Some have blamed climate change for the back-to-back hurricanes, while others say it’s just Mother Nature in a bad mood. However, there are those who say the natural disasters are actually “punishment.”

The first such claim to make headlines occurred in late August, when Kenneth Storey, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Tampa, took to Twitter to suggest that Texans deserved Hurricane Harvey because they voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

“I don’t believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn’t care about them,” said the tweet, which was later deleted.

Storey – who was fired for his sentiments – isn’t the only person who believes Texas deserved the wrath of Harvey, which left at least 70 people dead in the state.

Harris County, where Houston is located, overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton.

“Y’all know this Hurricane Harvey [is] punishment for Texas being the worst f**king state in America, right,” another person wrote on Twitter.

Even actress Jennifer Lawrence chimed in, also suggesting that Mother Nature was hitting the US hard because Donald Trump was elected president.

“You know you’re watching these hurricanes now, and it’s really hard especially while promoting this movie, not to feel Mother Nature’s rage and wrath,” she told Britain’s Channel 4, after noting that the result of the presidential election was “startling.”

However, some conservatives believe Harvey hit Texas because of Houston’s former mayor, Annise Parker, who was openly gay. Houston’s current mayor, Sylvester Turner, is African-American

One of those people is Minister Kevin Swanson, who hosts an online radio show titled ‘Generations.’

According to Swanson, Houston has sinned because it voted for a “very, very aggressively pro-homosexual mayor.”

“Jesus sends the message home, unless Americans repent, unless Houston repents, unless New Orleans repents, they will all likewise perish,” he told his radio show. “That is the message that the Lord Jesus Christ is sending home right now to America.”

His comments came just days after Christian radio personality Rick Wiles also blamed Houston for its progressive stance on issues including homosexuality.

“Here’s a city that has boasted of its LGBT devotion, its affinity for the sexual perversion movement in America. They’re underwater,” he said.

Former child star Kirk Cameron, known for his conservative Christian views, made a video in which he cited scripture as saying that God sends weather for one of two reasons – “for punishment, or to water his land and demonstrate his faithful love.”

He said the hurricanes are a “spectacular display of God’s immense power. And when he puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose… it’s not random.”

While Cameron did not specifically mention any reasons the hurricanes may be hitting the US, he said weather is “set to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe, and repentance.”

Meanwhile, conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who is no stranger to controversy, said that while she doesn’t believe Harvey was punishment for Houston’s (former) gay mayor, that explanation is “more credible than climate change.”

In response, one person tweeted to Coulter that Harvey is actually God’s punishment for passing laws against abortion and homosexuals.

“God loves all people [and you] shouldn’t judge others,” he wrote.

Another person said Harvey was the result of Houston’s acceptance of millionaire pastor Joel Osteen, whose ‘megachurch’ is located in the city.

Osteen faced backlash during Harvey for not opening his massive church’s doors as a shelter, claiming it was flooded when photos on social media appeared to show otherwise.

Meanwhile, others have looked outside of Texas and focused more on national reasons why Harvey and Irma might be pounding the US.

“If I wasn’t an atheist, I would think that Harvey and Irma are a punishment from a superior entity for withdrawing from the Paris agreement,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another person said the hurricanes were punishment for Trump’s controversial travel ban for citizens of mainly Muslim countries.

American’s general treatment of immigrants must be to blame, according to another.

One person claimed Harvey was due to the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia – the scene of a white nationalist rally in August. Back in 2006, Pastor John Hagee said that Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated the city of New Orleans the year prior, was “the judgment of God.”

“New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God,” Hagee said, because “there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”


ShadowBrokers accelerating NSA leaks to twice a month

September 17, 2017

by Joe Uchill

The Hill

The ShadowBrokers, a group that for more than a year has been leaking documents they claim were taken from the National Security Agency, have resurfaced once again.

“Missing theshadowbrokers? If someone is paying then theshadowbrokers is playing,” they wrote in a blog post sent Wednesday.

In the group’s latest missive, the ShadowBrokers announced that they will now leak documents twice a month and will continue to double the cost to access the leaks each release. According to the blog post, written in the group’s trademark broken English, “September dumps is being exploits.”

Previous exploits released from the group have caused massive damage. The global outbreaks of WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware were both based on the same Windows vulnerability released by the ShadowBrokers

Between the two, the systems held hostage by the ransom seeking malware totaled in the hundreds of thousands, including taking out several British hospitals, shipping and pharmaceutical giants and other major global companies.

The Brokers first emerged last summer and have tried various schemes to sell the NSA documents, which appear to be authentic but have not been confirmed by the government. Those documents included tools that could circumvent cybersecurity hardware and breach Windows systems.

The group has tried auctioning the documents, selling them a la carte, crowdfunding a bulk release and, most recentlyas a subscription leak service the Brokers have likened to a “wine of the month club.”

The subscription service has generated skepticism in the cybersecurity community. The pricing system appears to be over the top — the price doubles every release, leaving an upcoming October release costing more than $3.8 million, well above the market value of sophisticated hacking tools for products sent sight unseen.

There is little information about what files, if any, have actually been released to justify those prices. In their latest statement, the ShadowBrokers gave some clue, including a manual to a product they say was released in a prior leak — UNITEDRAKE, described as a “fully extensible remote collection system designed for Windows targets.”


Equifax hack attack exposes data of 143 million customers

The credit reporting agency Equifax has admitted that hackers have stolen the personal data of nearly half the US population. Customers in the UK and Canada were also affected by the breach in July.

September 8, 2017


Equifax said on Thursday it “acted immediately” with the help of a cybersecurity firm after learning of the security breach on July 29. But the Atlanta-based credit scoring agency didn’t explain why it waited more than a month to go public and warn about the risk to its clients of identity theft.

As many as 143 million US consumers were affected along with clients in the UK and Canada.

Credit card numbers stolen

The company said names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers were stolen from the company’s database. It said some 209,000 US customers had their credit card numbers compromised, while credit dispute documents for some 182,000 people were also accessed.

This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” said company chairman and chief executive Richard Smith.

“I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”

Equifax collects information about the public and businesses. Its credit ratings are used to decide whether loans and other financial products get approved. Ironically, it has touted itself as offering protection against identity theft.

Six-week window

The hack attack took place between mid-May and July, according to a statement from the company. The credit scoring firm said it has reported the breach to the FBI and was carrying out its own internal investigation. It said staff would work with authorities in Canada and the UK to inform customers in those countries.

Equifax said it had set up a website to help customers determine whether their personal details were compromised.

Executives sold stock

The company’s shares fell nearly 19 percent in after-hours trading as investors reacted to the news, along with revelations that three Equifax executives sold shares in the company just days after the firm learned of the breach.

Chief Financial Officer John Gamble and two other executives, Rodolfo Ploder and Joseph Loughran sold some $1.8 million in stock.

But the firm told the AFP news agency that the executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.”


Israeli Espionage Against the United States

September 8, 2017

by Christian Jürs

Between 2010 and early 2017, more than 600 Israeli nationals were arrested or detained inside the United States, on a variety of visa violations and other nominally petty violations, including low-level drug trafficking. The majority of these detainees claimed they were Israeli art students, peddling art work to cover their college tuitions; or were toy vendors, employed by an Israeli-owned Miami Beach company, Quality Sales Corporation, which investigations link to Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency.

The emerging pattern of surveillance of American government facilities, and established links to suspected Arab and Islamic terrorist cells prior to Sept. 11, by these Israeli nationals, set off alarm bells, following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Prior to Sept. 11, a series of highly-classified government memos had been circulated by the CIA and the NSA, pronouncing this Israeli espionage operation a major national security problem.

Israel is not a friend of the United States. This is because Israel runs a most aggressive and damaging espionage networks that targets the US. The fact of Israeli penetration into the country is not a subject that is ever discussed in the media or in the circles of governance, due to the extreme sensitivity of the US-Israel relationship coupled with the burden of the Israel lobby, which punishes legislators who dare to criticize the Jewish state.

In 2014 the FBI noted that Israel maintains “an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States.” A key Israeli method, said the FBI report, is computer intrusion. In 2016, the Defense Intelligence Service, a branch of the Pentagon, issued a warning that “the collection of scientific intelligence in the United States [is] the third highest priority of Israeli Intelligence after information on its Arab neighbors and information on secret US policies or decisions relating to Israel.”

Further, the middle level of CIA employees has been thoroughly infiltrated by Israeli citizens and it is said, in other agencies, that anything the CIA has, goes at once to Tel Aviv.

In 2016, the Central Intelligence Agency produced a scathing survey of Israeli intelligence activities that targeted the US government. Like any worthy spy service, Israeli intelligence early on employed wiretaps as an effective tool, according to the CIA report.

In 1954, the US Ambassador in Tel Aviv discovered in his office a hidden microphone “planted by the Israelis,” and two years later telephone taps were found in the residence of the US military attaché

In a telegram to Washington, the ambassador at the time cabled a warning: “Department must assume that all conversations [in] my office are known to the Israelis.”

The former ambassador to Qatar, Andrew Killgore, who also served as a   foreign officer in Jerusalem and Beirut, reported that Israeli taps of US missions and embassies in the Middle East and that this was an integral  part of a “standard operating procedure.”

According to the 2016 CIA report, the Israelis, while targeting political secrets, also devote “a considerable portion of their covert operations to obtaining scientific and technical intelligence.” These operations involved, among other machinations, “attempts to penetrate certain classified defense projects in the United States.” The penetrations, according to the CIA report, were effected using “deep cover enterprises,” which the report described as “firms and organizations, some specifically created for, or adaptable to, a specific objective.” . . .

The agency, called the Office of Special Plans (OSP), was set up by the former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to second-guess CIA information and operated under the patronage of hard-line conservatives in the top rungs of the administration, the Pentagon and at the White House, including Vice-President Dick Cheney.

As the most powerful man in the White House, Cheney was deeply involved in the intelligence field and made three trips to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to demand a more ‘forward-leaning interpretation’ of information relating to the possibility that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

That there were no such weapons and that the CIA so advised the Vice President, he refused to accept their analysis and continued to insist that they produce documents supporting his thesis. In this he was aided by his chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby. (or Leibowitz)

The latter was later convicted of a felony connected to the intelligence community and sentenced to prison. Libby threatened to expose serious legal violations of the Bush administration and President Bush quickly commuted Libby’s jail sentence.

The OSP had access to an enormous amount of “raw” intelligence which came, in part, from the CIA’s directorate of operations whose job it is to receive and evaluate incoming reports from their agents around the world.


U.S. requires enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey

September 7, 2017

by David Shepardson


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said on Thursday it is issuing a new security directive requiring enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey.

The change was “to adequately address emerging threats to cargo and raise the baseline for global aviation security,” TSA spokesman Michael England said.

The directive mandates voluntary measures already in use by Turkey and will ensure “cargo flying to the United States is screened and secured in accordance with the Air Cargo Advance Screening Program,” he said.

Officials said the decision to impose the security directive and an emergency amendment was made after an incident in Australia and came in response to intelligence reports.

In July, an Australian man sent his unsuspecting brother to the Sydney airport to catch an Etihad Airways flight carrying a home-made bomb disguised as a meat mincer built at the direction of a senior Islamic State commander, police said.

Detailing one of Australia’s “most sophisticated” militant plots, police said two men, who have been charged with terror-related offences, also planned to build a device to release poisonous gas in a public area.

High-grade military explosives used to build the bomb were sent by air cargo from Turkey as part of a plot “inspired and directed” by the militant Islamic State group, police Deputy Commissioner National Security Michael Phelan said in August.

The plot targeted an Etihad Airways flight on July 15, but the bomb never made it past airport security, he said.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Bernadette



Buried in backlog, Feds give top-secret clearances to murderers, rapists

September 6, 2017

by Tim Johnson


WASHINGTON-Under a crushing backlog in the issuing or renewing of security clearances, federal authorities have given interim clearances to people they later discovered were murderers and pedophiles, a senior government official said Wednesday.

“This is very, very dangerous,” said Daniel E. Payne, head of the Defense Security Service, a federal office that oversees the granting of temporary clearances.

Payne said roughly 100,000 people hold interim clearances while working for companies with Defense Department contracts or at 13,000 cleared facilities and plants around the country and as they await a full comprehensive background investigation

“I’ve got murderers who have access to classified information. I have rapists. I have pedophiles. I have people involved in child porn,” Payne said. “This is the risk we are taking.”

Payne spoke on a panel about the backlog in security clearances at the Intelligence & National Security Summit in Washington.

The backlog “grew precipitously” in 2015 and 2016, and stands at near record levels today, said Charles S. Phalen, director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, a federal service provider under the Office of Personnel Management.

The backlog encompasses roughly 700,000 cases, but only 300,000 or so people are seeking a first-time clearance to enter government service, Phalen said. The remainder may be federal employees or contractors seeking a periodic renewal of a security clearance or a change in their clearance level, he added. They stay in federal jobs.

Payne, a career counterintelligence officer with the CIA, said the concerns about interim clearances only affect the Defense Department and its associated industrial base, not the nation’s intelligence agencies, where temporary clearances are never granted.

“I grant the interim clearances for the DOD. I also take the interim clearances away,” Payne told a reporter after the panel ended. Asked how many cases his office had discovered of people with a murder in their background, he said: “It’s more than several. I would say less than a dozen.”

One case happened just a month ago when a man with an interim clearance got in an argument at a bar. “He pulls out a gun and shoots them in the face and kills them,” Payne said.

Applicants obtain interim clearances after filling out a lengthy government form, known as an SF-86, and undergoing a credit check and an initial FBI background check.

The full, comprehensive clearance involves far deeper research, including interviews with neighbors and work associates, deeper financial inquiries, checks of family history and probes into overseas travel.

“You’re looking on average at close to a year for a top-secret clearance,” Payne said, adding that a lower level secret clearance takes an average of nine months.

He said the backlog is so great the Pentagon has little choice but to offer interim clearances to keep weapons development programs at full steam.

“If we did not give these individuals interim clearances, the production of these programs would shut down,” Payne said. “It would have a horrific impact.”

The backlog in security clearances soared in 2014 after one of three major contractors involved in conducting background checks, US Investigations Services LLC, lost its government business amid allegations that it had bungled and falsified results.

Other officials bemoaned bureaucracy in their attempts to make the clearance process more agile and up-to-date, including in the types of questions asked on the SF-86 form.

“It took eight years to change one question on the SF-86,” said William R. Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the nation’s top agency for catching foreign spies.

Investigations entail sending agents to the homes of neighbors of an applicant.

“I had FBI agents all over my neighborhood and my neighbors got very worried that I was in trouble,” said Beth McGrath, a former Pentagon management officer who now is managing director of federal strategy of Deloitte Consulting.

Yet checking social media accounts of applicants has not been fully embraced, she said.

“Some people think, ‘Oh, you’re infringing on my privacy,’” said McGrath. “This is where the process of government sometimes feels like it takes more steps than it should because you have to actually change the policy to say we’re going to allow social media information to be part of the background investigation.”

Several officials said they expected the backlog to diminish as federal agencies and departments embrace a process of continuous evaluation of employees rather than periodic reappraisals every five to 10 years. The Defense Department now has 500,000 employees enrolled in the constant vetting program, a number that should grow to one million by year’s end, Payne said.



Mexico earthquake kills at least 32 and sparks mass evacuations

September 8, 2017 Buildings collapse and power cut for a million people as magnitude 8.1 quake made houses ‘move like chewing gum’

September 8, 2017

by Sam Jones, David Agren and agencies

The Guardian

The strongest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century has left at least 32 people dead, toppling houses, damaging hospitals and government offices, and sparking mass evacuations.

The magnitude 8.1 quake struck off the country’s southern Pacific coast, 100 miles (165km) west of the state of Chiapas just before midnight on Thursday local time.

The governor of Oaxaca said at least 23 people were killed in his coastal state. Civil defence officials said at least seven died in Chiapas and two others in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

Manuel Velasco, the governor of Chiapas, said three people had been killed in the San Cristóbal de las Casas municipality, including two women who died when a house and a wall collapsed.

He called on people living near the coast to leave their houses as a protective measure.

“There is damage to hospitals that have lost energy,” he said. “Homes, schools and hospitals have been damaged.”

The Tabasco governor, Arturo Núñez, said the two dead in his state were children. One died after a wall collapsed and the other, a baby, died in a children’s hospital after a power cut stopped electricity to its ventilator.

On Friday morning, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, tweeted: “Sadly, there are reports that people have died. My deepest condolences to their families.”

The president said at least a million people had been left without electricity after the quake, but power had since been restored to 800,000 of them. He urged people to be vigilant and to check gas supplies as well as walls and columns.

The US Geological Survey recorded at least 20 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater within about five hours after the main shake, and the president warned that a major aftershock as large as magnitude 7.2 could occur.

In a series of tweets, Peña Nieto said schools would be closed for the day in Mexico City, the state of Mexico, Chiapas, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Guerrero, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Puebla and Tlaxcala. He said the suspension of classes would allow experts to determine the damage to schools.

The Pacific tsunami warning centre said waves as high as three metres could strike the coast but the president sought to allay fears about huge waves rushing towards the coastline, telling the Televisa TV network: “The tsunami risk on the Chiapas coast does not represent a major risk. It’s not very big, it’s not a major worry.”

Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, told Associated Press his house had “moved like chewing gum” during the quake.

Reports suggested that a hotel in the south of the country was among the buildings that suffered severe damage, and rescuers were searching for trapped people.

In Mexico City, windows were broken at the airport and power went out in several neighbourhoods.

People in the capital, one of the world’s largest cities, ran out into the streets in their pyjamas after the quake struck, a Reuters witness said. Helicopters hovered overhead a few minutes later, apparently looking for damage to buildings.

Liliana Villa, 35, who had fled her apartment, said: “It felt horrible, and I thought ‘this is going to fall’.”

Luis Carlos Briceño, a 31-year-old architect visiting Mexico City, said: “I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much. At first I laughed, but when the lights went out I didn’t know what to do. I nearly fell over.”

A video quickly went viral showing the Ángel de la Independencia monument swaying as it was bathed in green light.

The tremor appears to have been stronger than the magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 1985 that levelled large portions of the capital, killing 5,000 people and destroying 10,000 houses.

Much of Mexico City was built on the soft soil of a former lakebed, leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes. Building codes have been tightened since 1985, and earthquake drills for apartment dwellers and officer workers have become common in recent years.

Public officials were quick to provide updates on damage and give instructions, unlike in 1985 when the country’s politicians went missing in action and residents, many left homeless, fended for themselves and teamed up to pull people out of piles of rubble.

The tsunami warning centre recorded initial waves a metre over tide level off the city of Salina Cruz. It predicted waves of between 30cm and a metre for the Cook Islands, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guatemala and Kiribati.

Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, said he had reports of an unconfirmed death near the border with Mexico, in San Marcos state. “We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don’t have details,” he said.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist in California who works with the US Geological Survey, said such a quake was to be expected. “Off the west coast of Mexico is what’s called the subduction zone: the Pacific plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula,” she said.

The Mexican seismological authority said the quake was 19km deep and triggered a series of magnitude 6 aftershocks.

“Chiapas is historically a very seismic state due to the interaction of five tectonic plates,” it said in a report on the earthquake. The state has suffered three tremors above magnitude 7 since 1970, including one on 7 November 2012 that measured 7.3.





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