Today’s collection of headlines from the realm of threats and secrets, bombs and bugs, begins with a bit of déjà vu all over again from the Guardian:
US aims to wipe out Isis funding with air strikes on oil wells in Syria
Groups control an oil field for a few weeks until another leader seizes it while the engineers who serviced the wells have fled
The latest US air strikes in Syria targeted oil facilities controlled by Islamic State (Isis) in a deliberate attempt to wipe out a lucrative source of income for the rapidly expanding jihadist group.
US central command said 13 air strikes were launched against refineries in the east of the country. They included at least four oil installations and three oil fields around the town of Mayadeen. Also hit were targets near Al Hasakah, Abu Kamail and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates river.
The US said that these “small-scale refineries” provided fuel for Isis’s military operations as well as money to finance “continued attacks throughout Iraq and Syria”. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 14 Islamic state militants were killed in Wednesday’s attacks. Another five people who lived near one of the refineries in Hasakah province also died. The Observatory said that they were probably the wives and children of the militants.
From the Independent, a man with a point to make:
Iraq and Syria crisis: Iran’s President Rouhani accuses West of turning Middle East into ‘haven for terrorists’
President Hassan Rouhani delivered a searing indictment of western governments in a speech in New York saying they were responsible for sowing the seeds of the outbreak of extremism that has brought turmoil to the Middle East and demanded that they “acknowledge their errors” and apologise.
“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one,” Mr. Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly. “Currently our peoples are paying the price. Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism. Today’s anti-Westemism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism.”
“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists,’ President Rouhani declared. “Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East.”
And for anyone interested, here are his full remarks, via RT:
‘Certain states helped create Islamist extremism’ – Iran’s Rouhani to UN Gen Assembly
The rise of violent extremism around the world is the fault of “certain states” and “intelligence agencies” that have helped to create it and are failing to withstand it, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in an address to the UN General Assembly
BBC News responds:
French hostage beheading: France to boost Syria rebels
France has announced it will tighten security around transport and public places following the killing of a French hostage by jihadists in Algeria.
It will also boost its support for Syrian opposition forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants.
The move was announced by the office of President Francois Hollande after a high-level emergency meeting.
Militants allied to IS killed French tourist Herve Gourdel after demanding that France halt air strikes on IS.
Allegations, via the Associated Press:
Iraqi PM: Plot to attack US, Paris Subways
Iraq’s prime minister said Thursday that captive Islamic State militants told his intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris.
A senior Obama administration official said no one in the U.S. government is aware of such a plot, adding that the claim was never brought up in meetings with Iraqi officials this week in New York. President Barack Obama met with al-Abadi Wednesday.
The administration official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Consequent disparagement from BBC News:
Islamic State crisis: US ‘no evidence’ of subway plots
US officials have no indication of a plot by Islamic State militants to attack underground rail systems in the US and Paris.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his intelligence officials had uncovered plans for such an attack. Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, he said the details he received looked credible.
But senior US sources have said they have no knowledge of a plot on any subway systems.
From BBC News, warming up the jets:
Islamic State air strikes in Iraq ‘would be legal’ – No 10
The Iraqi government’s request for support in its fight with Islamic State means UK air strikes in the country would be legal, Number 10 has said.
A summary of the government’s position said the call “provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces”.
On Friday MPs will debate a motion backing strikes against IS militants in Iraq – but not in Syria.
Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers recruits:
1,000 fighters from Asia join IS group: US commander
About 1,000 volunteers from the Asia-Pacific region have sought to join the Islamic State group, a senior military officer said on Thursday (Sep 25).
Admiral Samuel Locklear, who oversees American forces across Asia as head of Pacific Command, gave the estimate a day after the United States pushed for a resolution committing major powers to block the movement of foreign militants to Iraq and Syria.
“It certainly is an issue that we’re paying very close attention to today,” Locklear told a press conference in Washington. There’s probably been about 1,000 potential aspiring fighters that have moved from this region, based on kind of our overall assessment. That number could get larger as we go forward, but certainly that’s about the size or the magnitude that we perceive at this point in time,” the admiral said.
From Kyodo News, Abe antes up:
Abe pledges $50 mil. in humanitarian aid to stem Islamic State crisis
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $50 million in emergency aid for the Islamic State-induced humanitarian crisis in the Middle East in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.
World leaders have gathered in New York at a crucial time when the international community is grappling with three major issues — the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL, the Ukraine crisis and the outbreak of the Ebola virus striking West Africa.
The ISIL is “a serious threat to international order,” Abe said. “What is important now is preventing extremism from taking root while also responding swiftly to the region’s humanitarian crises.”
VICE News covers consequences:
Australia’s New Anti-Terror Campaign Backfires Against Its Own Citizens
This summer, as Australian domestic politics hit a tumultuous peak amid mass protests on the government’s draconian federal budget reforms, a complex conflict in far-flung lands threw a lifeline to the country’s leadership.
The Islamic State has posed a real and terrifying threat for thousands since the group began its violent offensive across Syria and Iraq. For Australia’s wildly conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, who has stumbled, winked, and nodded from one scandal to another, the crisis abroad has also presented a chance to redeem his drop in popularity at home.
At a key moment when the PM, elected in November 2013, was at risk of becoming mired in dissatisfaction over his unpopular social policies — including regressive stances on health, higher education, and climate change — the government’s new anti-terror campaign has tranquilized the public’s animosity. But the proposed raft of reforms presented with it has also opened the doors to increased anti-Muslim sentiment and threatens Australians’ right to free speech, movement, and fair prosecution.
“Tony Abbott is fully aware that potential threat plus strong leadership equals good poll outcomes,” Clive Williams, a former Australian military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism lecturer, told VICE News.
TheLocal.no covers noble aspirations:
‘Norway can stop drone war’: UN advisor
Norway has been urged by one of the UN’s top human rights advisors to challenge the US-led coalition for an end to the drone war, branding it ‘dangerous’ and ‘a violation of international law.’
Professor Christof Heyns asked Norway on Thursday to challenge its allies on the US’s use of armed drones which Heyns states violates international law and will, in the long run, make the world become a more dangerous place, reported NTB.
Heyns, who normally investigates and reports to the UN on extra-judicial and illegal executions, said: “The world listens to the voice of Norway for it is often the voice of reason.”
The professor thinks Norway should bring the case to a human rights council of the UN and the general assembly.
Drone ground rules advance, with the San Francisco Chronicle:
Drones for moviemaking win FAA approval
The government granted six movie and television production companies permission to use drones for filming, an important step toward greater use of the technology by commercial operators, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.
Dozens of other industries are lined up to follow Hollywood’s lead. Until now, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, had banned commercial drone operations with the exception of a lone oil company in Alaska.
The FAA permits come with limitations, including that the unmanned aircraft be used only in a restricted area, that they be flown under 400 feet in altitude and that flights last no more than 30 minutes at a time. Nighttime flights are prohibited, and reality television shows or other unscripted events won’t qualify for the permits.
From the London Daily Mail, utterly abominable bankster kill-switchcraft:
Driver nearly crashes when her car suddenly shut down on a busy interstate because auto lender hit remote kill switch when she missed a payment
T. Candice Smith had to have her car pushed out of on-coming traffic
Starter Interrupt Devices allow auto lenders to ‘shut down borrower’s cars at any moment’
The devices emit flashing lights, beeping noises and then shuts down the car and prevents it from starting
These devices have been installed in more than two million vehicles
T. Candice Smith, 31, and her friend were driving down a three-lane Las Vegas interstate in 2012 when her steering wheel began to lock up. The car’s engine stopped and Smith’s friend had to push the car to the side of the highway to avoid being hit.
Smith told the New York Times that the car’s shutdown wasn’t due to a mechanical failure — it was her auto lender.
Smith’s story is similar to that of many people who have borrowed from auto lenders that utilize what are called ‘Starter Interrupt Devices.’
From the Independent, another lethally trigger-happy cop:
‘Disturbing’ footage shows US officer asking to see man’s driving licence and then shooting him as he tries to fetch it
Shocking video footage has emerged of the moment a US patrol officer asked to see a man’s driving licence and then shot him as he reached inside his car to get it.
In a case described as “disturbing” by South Carolina police, state trooper Sean Groubert, 31, pulled driver Levar Edward Jones over at a petrol station in Colombia for allegedly not wearing his seatbelt while driving.
Footage captured by the dashboard of a patrol vehicle shows Groubert pulling up in front of Mr Jones’ car and asking to see his licence.
When the 35-year-old reaches into his car to fetch it, Groubert suddenly shouts: “Get out of the car!” and then “get on the ground!” while firing four shots at him. At least one of the bullets hit Mr Jones in the hip, leaving him requiring hospital treatment.
Here’s the video via The State in Columbia — and we suspect you can guess the respective skin colors of the shooter and his victim:
Sept 4 Groubert traffic stop
Sept. 4, 2014 traffic stop by Trooper Sean Groubert of a motorist for a seat belt violation. The motorist was shot during the traffic stop.
And an update form USA Today:
Ex-S.C. trooper who shot unarmed man faces charges
A former South Carolina state trooper who shot an unarmed man was charged Wednesday with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
Sean Groubert, 31, was booked at the Richland County Detention Center. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The charges were brought by the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which reviewed the findings of an investigation into the incident conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division.
The New York Times covers a rare thing, an apology:
Ferguson Police Chief Offers Apology to Michael Brown’s Family
The police chief of Ferguson, Mo., issued a rare public apology on Thursday, for the death of Michael Brown, addressing the Brown family directly in a short video posted online.
“I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” the police chief, Thomas Jackson, said, wearing a polo shirt and standing in front of an American flag.
“I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Chief Jackson said. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”
Another case of lethal misconduct by people with badges from the Guardian:
Mentally ill North Carolina inmate held in solitary confinement dies of thirst
Medical Examiner’s Office said Anthony Michael Kerr died of severe dehydration in March of this year
A North Carolina inmate with mental illness who had been held in solitary confinement died of thirst, according to an autopsy report released Thursday.
Anthony Michael Kerr, 53, was found unresponsive in the back of a van on 12 March after being driven roughly three hours from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety subsequently fired a captain and four nurses at Alexander. A nurse and a staff psychologist resigned.
At the time, Public Safety Secretary Frank L Perry pledged an “an aggressive, yet thorough internal investigation” into Kerr’s death. However, nearly nine months later the agency has not made public any results of that probe.
From CCTV America, a mighty fine notion:
Denver police to record public interactions
It’s a high-tech tool that could lessen tensions between the police officers and the citizens they’re paid to protect.
From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani cop turns religious executioner:
Policeman kills blasphemy accused in Adiala jail
A policeman shot two men in jail on Thursday, killing one accused of blasphemy and wounding another condemned to death on the same charge, lawyers and an activist said.
Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti was killed and 70-year-old British man Muhammad Asghar, who has a history of mental illness, was wounded in the attack in Rawalpindi, next to the capital, Islamabad.
In recent weeks, Bhatti had received death threats in prison from both inmates and guards, his family told a human rights group Life for All. He was being held in the same cell as Asghar.
From the Independent, and go they come with apple pie?:
Louisiana high school attempts to raise money raffling guns
An American high school band has attempted to raise money by raffling off guns, in a state which claimed the sixth highest number of firearm murders in the United States just three years ago.
Students at Ovey Comeaux High School, in Lafayette, Louisiana, attempted to sell 52 guns after successful similar fundraisers were held at two schools in neighbouring parishes.
Prolonging the fun, students planned to raffle off a gun every week for the next year, and had already sold an estimated 50 tickets at $50 each – totalling $2,600.
After the jump, cartel petrocrimes in Mexico, blood on the Mexican newsroom floor, an Italian presidential mob trial courtroom appearance, Potemkin nuclear ignorance enshrined, declining NSA Yahooing, FBI cybernanxiety, Shellshock the cybermegavirus, ISIS or isn’t it in China, Hong Kong Occupy activists challenge Beijing, a deadly attack in northwestern China, Abe does a semantic remilitarization two-step, Tokyo moves toward an Aussie military alliance, a push for China to beef up special forces, and a provocative Russian visit. . .
From the Mainichi, because that’s where the money is:
Mexican cartels steal billions from oil industry
Mexico overcame 75 years of nationalist pride to reform its flagging, state-owned oil industry. But as it prepares to develop rich shale fields along the Gulf Coast, and attract foreign investors, another challenge awaits: taming the brutal drug cartels that rule the region and are stealing billions of dollars’ worth of oil from pipelines.
Figures released by Petroleos Mexicanos last week show the gangs are becoming more prolific and sophisticated. So far this year, thieves across Mexico have drilled 2,481 illegal taps into state-owned pipelines, up more than one-third from the same period of 2013. Pemex estimates it’s lost some 7.5 million barrels worth $1.15 billion.
Pemex director Emilio Lozoya called the trend “worrisome.”
Journalism in the Americas covers blood on the Mexican newsroom floor:
Mexican journalists rally for protections after colleague beaten in newsroom
In the aftermath of the severe beating of a young journalist, a police chief is on the run and journalists are rallying for protection of freedom of expression across Mexico.
Karla Janeth Silva Guerrero, a 24-year-old reporter for El Heraldo de Leon, sustained life-threatening head injuries after three men threatened and beat her at the paper’s office in Silao, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, on Mexico on Sept. 4.
The men entered the newsroom in the afternoon when Silva and her associate Adriana Palacio were present, according to news reports. They asked to see Silva and then proceeded to repeatedly hit her in the head and body as she tried to find refuge under a desk. The men ordered Silva to alter her reporting.
Silva’s writing is known to be critical of municipal authorities. Much of her work has focused on the mayor and his perceived mishandling of municipal issues, as well as his alleged blind eye to police abuse of authority.
TheLocal.it courts the mob:
Italian president must testify at mafia trial
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano must testify at a trial into allegations that the government held secret negotiations with the Sicilian mafia over a series of deadly bombings in the early 1990s, a Palermo court has said.
The court upheld a call by prosecutors last year for the president to give evidence, Ansa reported.
“I have no difficulty in giving testimony,” the 89-year-old was quoted by the news agency as saying on Thursday, adding that he would do so “as soon as possible”.
The case dates back to the early 1990s when Nicola Mancino, a former interior minister, allegedly negotiated with the mafia to stop a string of bomb attacks in Sicily that killed 21 people, including the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
From Reuters, Potemkin nuclear ignorance enshrined:
U.N. nuclear assembly rejects Arab bid to pressure Israel
Member states of the U.N. nuclear agency on Thursday rejected an Arab resolution targeting Israel over its assumed atomic arsenal, in a diplomatic victory for the Jewish state and Western countries opposing the initiative.
Arab states had submitted the non-binding text – which called on Israel to join a global anti-nuclear weapons pact – to the annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, in part to signal their frustration at the lack of progress toward banning atomic arms in the Middle East.
The United States and its allies argued that the resolution would have been counterproductive. Western officials said progress has been made in preparatory talks over the last year on holding a conference to discuss the creation of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
From Network World, declining NSA Yahooing:
Yahoo reports a drop in government data requests
The amount of personal information held by firms like Google and Facebook has made them ripe targets for data-hungry governments and intelligence agencies. But the bull’s-eye on Yahoo’s back may be losing its appeal.
Government data requests served on Yahoo have been falling. The firm received about 18,000 requests for user data from governments worldwide during the first six months of 2014, the company revealed Thursday in its third report on such matters. The highest number of requests, which generally deal with criminal investigations, came from the U.S. at around 6,700.
The requests may include content like emails, Flickr photos, Yahoo address book entries, even posts on Yahoo Answers. “Non-content data,” meanwhile, includes information that is just as sensitive such as IP addresses, billing information, and the “to”, “from” and date fields in email headers.
FBI cybernanxiety from Network World:
FBI director concerned about encryption on smartphones
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is concerned about moves by Apple and Google to include encryption on smartphones, the agency’s director said Thursday.
Quick law enforcement access to the contents of smartphones could save lives in some kidnapping and terrorism cases, FBI Director James Comey said in a briefing with some reporters. Comey said he’s concerned that smartphone companies are marketing “something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” according to news reports.
An FBI spokesman confirmed the general direction of Comey’s remarks. The FBI has contacted Apple and Google about their encryption plans, Comey told a group of reporters who regularly cover his agency.
Shellshock the cybermegavirus from BBC News:
Shellshock: ‘Deadly serious’ new vulnerability found
A “deadly serious” bug potentially affecting hundreds of millions of computers, servers and devices has been discovered.
The flaw has been found in a software component known as Bash, which is a part of many Linux systems as well as Apple’s Mac operating system.
The bug, dubbed Shellshock, can be used to remotely take control of almost any system using Bash, researchers said.
On to China, first ISIS or isn’t it in China with VICE News:
Are Militants from China’s Xinjiang Region Really Being Trained by the Islamic State?
Many scholars have heavily criticized China’s earlier claims of links between Uighur terrorist groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and “hostile foreign forces.” James Millward, a Georgetown University professor specializing in Chinese and Central Asian history, argued in a 2004 study that the Chinese government’s characterization of the threat posed by organized Xinjiang militants “contains much inaccurate, questionable, or contradictory reporting and slanted conclusions reflecting ulterior agendas.”
Besides their uncertain capacity to plan and carry out attacks, even the existence of groups like ETIM has been questioned. Although 22 Uighurs were interned at Guantanamo after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, none appear to have been linked to al Qaeda and all have since been released. Many academics and human rights campaigners have argued that the Chinese government’s strenuous invocation of the international terrorist threat is designed to deflect attention from the legitimate grievances of Uighurs, which include economic inequality, cultural and religious repression, and a lack of political representation.
“Identifying these external ‘provocations’ remains important to the narrative about Uighurs perpetuated by the Chinese state,” Sean Roberts, director of international development studies at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, told VICE News. China’s government, he said, “suggests its policies are gracious and generous to the Uighurs and immune of criticism. Thus, if Uighurs are resisting the Chinese state, it must be due to external forces seeking to destabilize what is harmonious and prosperous. Now that the international community’s imagination has been captivated by the Islamic State, it does not surprise me at all that the Chinese government is seeking to link IS to Uighurs.”
Hong Kong Occupy activists challenge Beijing, via South China Morning Post:
Students march to C.Y. Leung’s door as dissent grows
We will force him to respond, vow students, as classroom boycott organiser threatens to escalate action in civil-disobedience campaign
Students staging a classroom boycott marched to Government House last night in an escalation of the civil-disobedience campaign against Beijing’s restrictive framework for political reform.
The rally – staged without seeking approval from the police – came after the expiry yesterday of a 48-hour ultimatum that students gave to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to meet them. Student leaders said about 4,000 joined the march. A headcount by a Post reporter estimated about 1,300 at the start of the rally.
Minor scuffles broke out last night after the protesters defied police advice and insisted on marching on the road – instead of the pavement – when they reached the junction of Lower Albert Road and Garden Road.
Shanghai Daily covers a deadly attack in northwestern China:
40 rioters dead in Luntai county violence in Xinjiang
FORTY rioters died in a series of explosions in Luntai County of northwest China’s Xinjiang on Sunday, and six civilians, two police officers and two auxiliary policemen were killed, local media reported Thursday.
Another two rioters were captured by the police, according to the official Tianshan website.
The explosions occurred at a shop, an open market and two police stations at around 5pm. Sunday, the website said, adding 54 civilians including 32 ethnic Uygurs, were injured.
Xinjiang police said it was an “organized and serious” terrorist attack.
From JapanToday, Abe does a semantic remilitarization two-step:
Abe pledges in U.N. speech to work against ‘war culture’
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Thursday to eliminate “war culture” from the world as he highlighted Tokyo’s aid in crises from the Middle East to Ukraine.
Abe—who has frequently faced anger in neighboring countries that accuse him of historical revisionism—used a speech before the U.N. General Assembly to highlight Japan’s peaceful nature since World War II.
Japan has pursued a “postwar path abhorring the atrocities of war that brought tragedy to innocent people both at home and in other nations renewing its pledge toward peace,” Abe said.
From the Japan Times, Tokyo moves toward an Aussie military alliance:
Japan, Australia leaders agree to speed up work on defense cooperation pact
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart have agreed to speed up work on a new defense pact that would facilitate joint exercises and deployments.
“We would like to work on our security cooperation in a positive manner and to start arrangements for the new pact as early as possible,” Abe was quoted by a Japanese government official as telling Prime Minister Tony Abbott in New York on Wednesday.
The meeting came on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Want China Times covers a push to beef up special forces:
PLA should expand special forces, says PLA paper
The People’s Liberation Army should expand the scale of its special forces to adapt itself to future wars, in line with China’s military reform, writes the PLA Daily, the official paper of China’s armed forces.
“The form of war has changed, so has the way operations are carried out,” Xi Jinping, China’s president and head of the Central Military Commission, said in a recent speech. “Our [the PLA’s] military mindset and principles for operations must progress with time” to strengthen our capability in information gathering, the system itself, elite troops and collaboration.
Special forces carry out specific missions on a limited scale. Their task-oriented nature, along with their high mobility and efficiency makes them ideal for regional contingencies.
And our final item, a provocative visit from Reuters:
Japan says visit by Putin aide to disputed island ‘regrettable’
Japan will lodge a protest with Russia after President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff visited a contested island chain, but there would be no change to Tokyo’s policy to maintain dialogue with Moscow, Japan’s top government spokesman said on Wednesday.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the comment after Sergei Ivanov visited one of the contested islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and Southern Kurils in Russia, earlier on Wednesday.
“A visit like this by a high-ranking person within the Russian government goes against Japan’s stance regarding the Northern Territories,” Suga told a news conference. “It hurts Japanese people’s feelings and is extremely regrettable.”