Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The dirtiest war

Posted by Charles II on October 7, 2015

One step closer to outright war between US and Russia. Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian:

The row threatens to further escalate tensions over Moscow’s airstrikes to support the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said his country could not endure Russian violations of its airspace in its campaign in Syria and said Russia risked “losing” Turkey.

“Nato has issued a stern ultimatum,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying ….

Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, had said earlier on Tuesday that the Russian incursions into Turkish airspace did not appear to be an accident, because the incursions had happened twice and lasted for a long time.

If Turkey shoots at Russia and Russia shoots back, Turkey can invoke the NATO mutual defense clause.

Meanwhile, ISIS is trying to score the components of a dirty bomb. Maybe they already have.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Russia, terrorism | 8 Comments »

US wiretap of Greece may have led to death of Vodafone technician who discovered it

Posted by Charles II on October 3, 2015

James Bamford, The Intercept (excerpts, not necessarily in order):

According to previously undisclosed documents from the Snowden archive, NSA has a long history of tapping into Olympic Games, both overseas and within the U.S.

The key to the operation was hijacking a particular piece of software, the “lawful intercept” program. Installed in most modern telecom systems, it gave a telecom company the technical capability to respond to a legal warrant from the local government to monitor a suspect’s communications. Vodafone’s central switching equipment was made by Ericsson, the large Swedish company, and on January 31, 2002, Ericsson delivered to Vodafone an upgrade containing the lawful intercept program, a piece of software known as the Remote Control Equipment Subsystem (RES).

On March 4, after weeks of investigation, Ericsson notified Vodafone that it had discovered a sophisticated piece of malware, containing a hefty 6,500 lines of code — evidence of a large bugging operation. The company also turned up the target phone numbers of the prime minister and his wife, the mayor of Athens, members of the Ministerial Cabinet, and scores of high officials, as well as the numbers for the shadow phones and the metadata describing when the calls were made.

In his testimony, Ericsson’s managing director for Greece, Bill Zikou, laid out the “how,” describing the method by which the bugging was accomplished. “What happened in this incident,” he said, “is that a complex, sophisticated, non-Ericsson intruder piece of software was planted into the Vodafone Greece network,” which by activating the RES function “thus made illegal interceptions possible.”

Sitting in his apartment overlooking Athens’ Plaka, John Brady Kiesling could make little sense of it all. “I don’t see a shred of evidence that this wiretapping did the U.S. government any good,” he said. “I think it’s just important to underscore that intelligence gathering is never free. It always comes at a human and political cost to someone. In this case it was paid by an innocent Vodafone technician [Costas Tsalikidis, who apparently uncovered the mass wiretap].”

Posted in crimes, international, NSA eavesdropping | Leave a Comment »

US blasts Russians for bombing al Qaeda

Posted by Charles II on October 1, 2015

OK. Parry is on the story:

The key sentence in The New York Times’ lead article about Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebel targets fell to the bottom of the story, five paragraphs from the end, where the Times noted in passing that the area north of Homs where the attacks occurred had been the site of an offensive by a coalition “including Nusra Front.”

What the Times didn’t say in that context was that Nusra Front is Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, an omission perhaps explained because this additional information would disrupt the righteous tone of the article, accusing Russia of bad faith in attacking rebel groups other than the Islamic State.

Where was I when this country became an al Qaeda ally?

Posted in Russia, terrorism | 5 Comments »

Erdogan’s Islamists split

Posted by Charles II on September 27, 2015

Owen Bowcott, The Guardian:

Turkey’s government is inflicting “systematic human rights violations” on its judiciary, police and media, according to a scathing report by senior British lawyers that was commissioned by one of president Erdogan’s exiled opponents.

The critical, 95 page-long survey alleges that the AK party government has interfered to produce “supine” courts, censored websites, restricted freedom of expression, stifled corruption investigations and subjected detainees to degrading treatment.

It has been written by Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice, Sir Edward Garnier QC, the Conservative MP and former solicitor general, Prof Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC, the director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and Sarah Palin, a barrister specialising in media law.

Their inquiry was funded by the US-based Journalist and Writers Foundation, whose honorary chairman is the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen – a former ally of Erdogan who has become a fortright critic. Last year, a Turkish court was reported to have issued a warrant for Gülen’s arrest.

The lawyers’ report focuses on Gülen’s Hizmet movement and claims that his followers have suffered systematic purges that have removed as many as 40,000 employees from public positions, led to mass arrests and in some cases periods of detention.

Last year, the ECHR handed down to Turkey 101 judgments confirming violations of human rights; only Russia lost more cases at Strasbourg.

Erdogan has chosen poorly to go after the Gulen movement. That movement has internal popularity and international credibility that Erdogan lacks. I think Erdogan is nearing the end of his rule… at least as a democratically elected leader.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East | 3 Comments »

No Homage from Catalonia: province votes to separate from Spain

Posted by Charles II on September 27, 2015

Ashifa Kassam, The Guardian:

Separatists took control of Catalonia’s regional government in an election result that could plunge Spain into one of its deepest political crises of recent years, by forcing Madrid to confront an openly secessionist government at the helm of one of its wealthiest regions.

A record-breaking number of Catalans cast their vote in Sunday’s election, billed as a de facto referendum on independence. With more than 98% of the votes counted, the nationalist coalition Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) were projected to win 62 seats, while far-left pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy, known in Spain as CUP, were set to gain 10 seats, meaning an alliance of the two parties could give secessionists an absolute majority in the region’s 135-seat parliament.

The PP [conservative ruling party] emerged as one of the election’s biggest losers, said Emilio Sáenz-Francés, a professor of history and international relations at Madrid’s Comillas Pontifical University.

Many Catalans opposed to independence instead turned to centre-right Ciutadans, the regional arm of Ciudadanos

This does not immediately lead to secession. But it’s a strong anti-austerity vote and may presage a tidal wave in the national elections.

Posted in international | Leave a Comment »

How Wisconsin’s GOP-Media Complex Made Scott Walker Governor And Propped Up His Presidential Run

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 27, 2015

If you’re wondering how such a blithering idiot like Scott Walker could become and remain governor of Wisconsin, longtime Kossack “Jake formerly of the LP” has your answer: A local and statewide media that is all but totally in the tank for him.

So Scott Walker’s now back here in Wisconsin, pretending to actually do the job the taxpayers shell out 6 figures for him to do, but more likely trying to get a couple of last grabs of money and power for his paymasters before quitting as Governor to grab some “real money” as a lobbyist or rubber-chicken speaker on the wingnut welfare circuit. And the lessons of Walker’s faceplant on the national stage should ring loud and clear back here in Wisconsin, as all of these flaws were evident before he entered the presidential race, but they were never hammered on with enough consistency by the state’s Democrats, and were never followed up on by the paid-off state media.

This sheltered existence Walker got away with in Wisconsin must change and we must do our part to make it change (because the oligarchs and connected inner circle won’t fix this mess on their own – they’re making too much money in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan). If we do it right, and do remove these cancers that are wasting our state away, it could lead to the major changes in Wisconsin’s political landscape in 2016 and 2018. And that might just save this state, and start to restore its reputation as a place that used to attract talent and maintain a high quality of life.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The harvest rolls in

Posted by Charles II on September 26, 2015


Beets today.

Posted in Good Things | 2 Comments »

VW whistleblower speaks out

Posted by Charles II on September 26, 2015

Hat tip to Thurb at Eschaton. Rupert Neate, The Guardian:

John German has barely had time to catch his breath all week between appearances on TV news channel and radio phone-in shows. He’s … a grey-haired automotive engineer…

German earns a modest salary as US co-lead of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) a small nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping to reduce vehicle emissions and has an annual budget of just $12m.

German explained that the idea to carry out the test, which he described as “very ordinary”, came from Peter Mock, a colleague in Europe, who noticed discrepancies in the emissions of the diesel VW Passat and VW Jetta.

Then German sourced a Passat, Jetta and a BMW X5 (which also showed emissions discrepancies in Europe) and “had a drive around”. “The VWs were massively exceeding their official emissions readings in normal driving conditions…”

Arvind Thiruvengadam, a research assistant professor at WVU, who conducted the tests said: “We were doubting ourselves and our procedures and making sure to double check that we were not doing anything wrong.

German published the research in May 2014 and handed it over to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). …“We did send a courtesy copy to VW…”

There was no response from the EPA either, but keen-eyed German noticed an EPA press release in which VW agreed to recall almost 500,000 vehicles in December 2014 to reinstall software, which it said would solve the higher-than-expected emissions.

German said it was unclear how the defeat device software worked, but the software could work by detecting periods when the steering column wasn’t turning but the wheels were which would indicate the car was on dynamo-meters for testing, or could also test for the precise uniform temperature that the tests are carried out at.

Posted in corruption, crimes, environment | Leave a Comment »

Robert Parry wins IF Stone Award!

Posted by Charles II on September 23, 2015

Nieman Foundation News:

In recognition of a career distinguished by meticulously researched investigations, intrepid questioning and reporting that has challenged both conventional wisdom and mainstream media, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will present journalist Robert Parry with the 2015 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence during a ceremony in Cambridge, Mass., on Oct. 22, 2015.

Parry is known for breaking many of the stories related to the Iran-Contra affair while working at The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He received the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work on Iran-Contra at the AP, where he broke the story that the CIA had provided a manual to the Nicaraguan Contras (“Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare”) that outlined ways to build support for the Contra cause and carry out political assassinations.

In 1985, he was the first to report on Oliver North’s involvement in the affair and along with his AP colleague Brian Barger, was the first to describe the Contras’ role in cocaine trafficking in the United States – stories that led to an internal investigation and a congressional inquiry. Parry also was a 1985 Pulitzer finalist for his work.

In the early 1990s, Parry made several documentaries for PBS’s Frontline on the October Surprise allegations about a plot to influence the outcome of the 1980 presidential election between incumbent Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Former Nieman Foundation curator Bill Kovach, chair of the advisory committee that oversees the annual award, said, “Robert Parry has for decades been one of the most tenacious investigative journalists….he has created a unique news website to replace disinformation with facts based on deep research.”

Parry sacrificed his career to report the news. I hope that people will sacrifice a few dollars to support Consortium News, which continues to deliver real news to a nation starved for it.

Posted in Good Things, media | 2 Comments »

Look out (slightly) below, worldwide edition

Posted by Charles II on September 23, 2015

Asia down 1-3%

NIKKEI -1.96%
HSI -2.56%
STI -0.90%

US futures slightly greater than -0.5%

FTSE futures, similar

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

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