Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wednesday 08-31-16

I would disagree with the last line of the story, abstinence is 100% foolproof

WHO urges shift in STD treatment due to antibiotic resistance (Update)

Chlamydia trachomatis inclusion bodies (brown) in a McCoy cell culture. Credit: public domain
Growing resistance to antibiotics has complicated efforts to rein in common sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday as it issued new treatment guidelines.
Globally, more than one million people contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI) every day, WHO said.
"Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are major public health problems worldwide, affecting millions of peoples' quality of life, causing serious illness and sometimes death," Ian Askew, head of WHO's reproductive health and research division, said in a statement.
WHO estimates that each year, 131 million people are infected with chlamydia around the globe, 78 million with gonorrhoea and 5.6 million with syphilis.
More than one million people contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every single day, WHO medical officer Teodora Wi said.
Until recently, the three diseases, which are all caused by bacteria, had been fairly easy to treat using antibiotics, but increasingly those drugs are failing, WHO said.
"Resistance of these STIs to the effect of antibiotics has increased rapidly in recent years and has reduced treatment options," the UN agency said.
Resistance is caused, among other things, by doctors overprescribing antibiotics, and patients not taking the correct doses.
Injected into the buttock or thigh
Strains of multidrug resistant gonorrhoea that do not respond to any available antibiotics have already been detected, while antibiotic resistance also exists in chlamydia and syphilis, though it is less common, it said.
When left undiagnosed and untreated, the three diseases can have serious consequences, causing pelvic infamatory disease and ectopic pregnancy in women, and increasing the chances of miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death.
They can also greatly increase the risk of being infected with HIV, and untreated gonorrhoea and chlamydia can leave both men and women infertile.
To rein in resistance, WHO on Tuesday presented new guidelines aimed at ensuring that doctors prescribe the best antibiotics, and the right doses, for treating each specific disease.
To reduce the spread of the diseases, national health services will need to "monitor the patterns of antibiotic resistance in these infections within their countries," Askew said.
For gonorrhoea for instance, WHO recommends that health authorities study local resistance patterns and advise doctors to prescribe the most effective antibiotic with the least resistance.
For syphilis, meanwhile, WHO recommended a specific antibiotic—benzathine penicillin—that is injected into the buttock or thigh muscle.
It stressed that condom use was the most effective way to protect against STD infection.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tuesday 08-30-16

Well just a disclaimer on this next article, just to be clear if I had my way all child pornographers either purveyors or consumers would be locked away.  There comes a time when people that want to do right do wrong and over step their bounds and this is one.  Again I'm glad the perverts got caught and hope they spend years in jail and I hope they don't enjoy it.  Anyway


FBI’s massive porn sting puts internet privacy in crossfire

For two weeks in the spring of 2015, the FBI was one of the largest purveyors of child pornography on the internet.
After arresting the North Carolina administrator of The Playpen, a “dark web” child-pornography internet bulletin board, agents seized the site’s server and moved it to an FBI warehouse in Virginia.
They then initiated “Operation Pacifier,” a sting and computer-hacking operation of unparalleled scope that has thus far led to criminal charges against 186 people, including at least five in Washington state.

The investigation has sparked a growing social and legal controversy over the FBI’s tactics and the impact on internet privacy. Some critics have compared the sting to the notorious Operation Fast and Furious, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed the illegal sales of thousands of guns to drug smugglers, who later used them in crimes.
Defense attorneys and some legal scholars suggest the FBI committed more serious crimes than those they’ve arrested — distributing pornography, compared with viewing or receiving it.
Moreover, the FBI’s refusal to discuss Operation Pacifier and reveal exactly how it was conducted — even in court — has threatened some of the resulting criminal prosecutions. Last month, a federal judge in Tacoma suppressed the evidence obtained against a Vancouver, Wash., school district employee indicted in July 2015 on a charge of receiving child pornography because the FBI refused to reveal how it was gathered.
Similar motions are pending in other prosecutions in Washington and elsewhere around the country.
During the two weeks the FBI operated The Playpen, the bureau says visitors to the site accessed, posted or traded at least 48,000 images, 200 videos and 13,000 links to child pornography. At the same time, agents deployed a secret “Network Investigative Technique,” or NIT, to invade their computers, gather their personal information and send it back to the FBI.
According to court documents, between Feb. 20 and March 4, 2015, as many as 100,000 people logged onto the site, which was accessible only by using the anonymous “Tor” browser, which encrypts and routes internet traffic through thousands of other computers to hide the identity of a user.
Tor, which is used for private communications by government officials, lawyers, journalists, judges and others, was thought to be virtually uncrackable until news of the FBI’s operation became public.
Mozilla, the company that offers the Tor browser, asked the FBI to reveal its methods so it can be patched, warning in a court motion that, “absent great care, the security of millions of individuals using Mozilla’s Firefox internet browser could be put at risk” by its disclosure. The Tacoma judge denied the request.
Michaud’s attorney, Colin Fieman, a Tacoma-based federal public defender, is leading a “national defense working group” that is tracking and coordinating challenges to Operation Pacifier cases.
He says the overarching legal issue in all of the cases is the FBI’s decision to search and hack thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of computers around the world based on a single warrant obtained by agents in Virginia.
With few exceptions, Fieman says, the federal rules of criminal procedure require a warrant to be issued in the same district as the search to prevent unconstitutional government fishing expeditions. That, contends Fieman and others, is what has happened with Operation Pacifier.
The case has shown that the “FBI cannot be trusted with broad hacking powers,” Fieman said.
“There is no question that the internet poses serious challenges to law enforcement,” Fieman said.
But he believes that in its desire to overcome those challenges — and fight the scourge of child pornography — the agency “has lost its moral compass and is willing to ignore the rules and even break the law to extend its reach.”
Michaud and other defendants have also sought to have their charges dismissed due to “outrageous government conduct” over the FBI decision to take it over and leave the site running.
“It is impossible to reconcile the Playpen operation with the government’s own view of the harm caused by the distribution of child pornography,” Fieman wrote in motion to dismiss another Washington case filed last week. “The DOJ routinely emphasizes … that possessing and circulating pornographic images re-victimizes the children depicted in them.”
Federal prosecutors routinely seek more stringent sentences for the operators of child-porn websites, Fieman wrote.
Judge Bryan rejected that argument in the Michaud case, stating during a January hearing that agents were “trying to catch the bad guys, so to speak.”
“Whether they did it right is a different thing,” he said. “But they didn’t do it wrong as to be grossly shocking or outrageous to violate the universal sense of justice” and warrant dismissing the charges.

Study Finds Link Between Water Fluoridation And Diabetes

A recent mathematical model study has found a potential link between water fluoridation and type 2 diabetes.
A study from Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine used mathematical modeling to discover a connection between water fluoridation and a rise in diabetes in the United States between 2005 and 2010. The study, Community water fluoridation predicts increase in age-adjusted incidence and prevalence of diabetes in 22 states from 2005 and 2010, was published in the Journal of Water and Health in late May. The study investigated the hypothesis that added water fluoridation has contributed to diabetes incidence and prevalence in the United States.  Kyle Fluegge, author of the paper, concluded that “community water fluoridation is associated with epidemiological outcomes for diabetes.”
Medical Daily reported on the study:
The recent study reveals that fluoridation with sodium fluoride could be a contributing factor to the prevalence of diabetes in the United States, as the chemical is a known preservative of blood glucose. Type 2 diabetes is a growing epidemic in the country with incidence rates quadrupling in the past 32 years. In the study, the sole author of the paper, Kyle Fluegge, used mathematical models to analyze publicly available data on fluoride water levels and diabetes incidence.
‘The models look at the outcomes of [diabetes] incidence and prevalence being predicted by both natural and added fluoride,’ said Fluegge, who performed the study as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
When examining diabetes rates across 22 states, the study found a one milligram increase in average county fluoride levels predicted a 0.17 percent increase in age-adjusted diabetes prevalence. The study suggests that adding fluoride additives to water was “significantly associated with increases in diabetes between 2005 and 2010.” Interestingly, the link to diabetes was different depending on the type of fluoride additive used. The substances known by the name fluoride which are added to municipal water supplies are actually a combination of unpurified by-products of phosphate mining, namely hydrofluorosilicic acid, sodium fluorosilicate, and sodium fluoride.
When sodium fluoride and sodium fluorosilicate were used the increase in diabetes was observed. However,  fluorosilicic acid was associated with decreases in diabetes. Counties that do not add fluoride products, but instead rely only on naturally occurring calcium fluoride also maintained lower diabetes rates. Fluegge observed the positive link when he adjusted fluoride exposure levels to account for an estimated amount of tap water consumption per individual.

“The models present an interesting conclusion that the association of water fluoridation to diabetes outcomes depends on the adjusted per capita consumption of tap water,” Fluegge said. “Only using the concentration [of added fluoride] does not produce a similarly robust, consistent association.” This was the reason why Fluegge adjusted his calculations to incorporate tap water consumption rather than choosing the calculations that relied on “parts per million” measurements of fluoride in the water.
Fluegge says he does not believe the study should change water fluoridation policies just yet, but that this should be a wake-up call for more research on the association between water fluoridation and diabetes. “This is an ecological study. This means it is not appropriate to apply these findings directly to individuals,” stated Fluegge. “These are population-level associations being made in the context of an exploratory inquiry. And water is not the only direct source of fluoride; there are many other food sources produced with fluoridated water.”
Fluegge is correct that the average person comes into contact with fluoride products through showers, canned goods, pesticides, processed foods, and fluoridated toothpaste. In the United States, the process of purposefully lacing water with fluoride additives began in the 1940s. Every year thousands of tons of fluorosilicic acid is recovered from phosphoric acid plants and then used for water fluoridation. During this process the fluoride ion is created.
This process of taking waste from the phosphate industry and putting it into drinking water has long been criticized for its effects on human health, and that of the environment. It is well known that water fluoridation has led to dental fluorosis for millions of children. This discoloring of the teeth was called “cosmetically objectionable” by the Centers for Disease Control. Beyond the cosmetic effect, there have been a number of studies indicating health issues ranging from arthritis, brain problems, reduced thyroid or overactive  thyroid, kidney problems and bone cancers.
While proponents of water fluoridation have long pointed to an apparent drop in tooth decay in fluoridated nations as proof of its validity, those claims have been proven wrong by the World Health Organization. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated the fluoride in the water is directly related to better teeth quality; however, the WHO released its own study showing that tooth decay rates have dropped in all Western nations, whether fluoridated or not.
In 2015, Truth In Media reported that the Cochrane Collaboration, a global independent network of researchers, professionals, and patients, reviewed the most comprehensive, well-designed and reliable papers on fluoride, before analyzing and publishing their conclusion.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday 08-29-16

An Internet Giveaway to the U.N.

If the U.S. abdicates internet stewardship, the United Nations might take control.

When the Obama administration announced its plan to give up U.S. protection of the internet, it promised the United Nations would never take control. But because of the administration’s naiveté or arrogance, U.N. control is the likely result if the U.S. gives up internet stewardship as planned at midnight on Sept. 30.
(Read remainder at)

If you snore, blame it on traffic fumes: People who live close to busy roads found to be most likely to suffer 

It's been linked to everything from age to weight and smoking and booze. 
But research now suggests snoring – as well as tiredness – could be down to traffic pollution.
A study has shown those living close to busy roads or whose bedrooms are nearer highways are more likely to snore.
And the noise from vehicles rattling by is also believed to disrupt sleeping patterns, leaving us tired and restless.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday 08-27-16

Going to be on vacation for about a week starting on Wednesday, WiFi will be spotty at best, so I might not be posting for a couple days starting on the first.  Thanks for looking, I'm up to 75,000 hits for the blog so far.

Word Games: What the NSA Means by “Targeted” Surveillance Under Section 702

We all know that the NSA uses word games to hide and downplay its activities. Words like “collect,” “conversations,” “communications,” and even “surveillance” have suffered tortured definitions that create confusion rather than clarity.
There’s another one to watch: “targeted” v. “mass” surveillance.
Since 2008, the NSA has seized tens of billions of Internet communications. It uses the Upstream and PRISM programs—which the government claims are authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act—to collect hundreds of millions of those communications each year. The scope is breathtaking, including the ongoing seizure and searching of communications flowing through key Internet backbone junctures,[1]the searching of communications held by service providers like Google and Facebook, and, according to the government’s own investigators, the retention of significantly more than 250 million Internet communications per year.[2]

Yet somehow, the NSA and its defenders still try to pass 702 surveillance off as “targeted surveillance,” asserting that it is incorrect when EFF and many others call it “mass surveillance.”
Our answer: if “mass surveillance” includes the collection of the content of hundreds of millions of communications annually and the real-time search of billions more, then the PRISM and Upstream programs under Section 702 fully satisfy that definition.
This word game is important because Section 702 is set to expire in December 2017. EFF and our colleagues who banded together to stop the Section 215 telephone records surveillance are gathering our strength for this next step in reining in the NSA. At the same time, the government spin doctors are trying to avoid careful examination by convincing Congress and the American people that this is just “targeted” surveillance and doesn’t impact innocent people.

Section 702 Surveillance: PRISM and Upstream

PRISM and Upstream surveillance are two types of surveillance that the government admits that it conducts under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, passed in 2008. Each kind of surveillance gives the U.S. government access to vast quantities of Internet communications.[3]
Upstream gives the NSA access to communications flowing through the fiber-optic Internet backbone cables within the United States.[4] This happens because the NSA, with the help of telecommunications companies like AT&T, makes wholesale copies of the communications streams passing through certain fiber-optic backbone cables. Upstream is at issue in EFF’s Jewel v. NSA case.
PRISM gives the government access to communications in the possession of third-party Internet service providers, such as Google, Yahoo, or Facebook. Less is known about how PRISM actually works, something Congress should shine some light on between now and December 2017.[5]
Note that those two programs existed prior to 2008—they were just done under a shifting set of legal theories and authorities.[6] EFF has had evidence of the Upstream program from whistleblower Mark Klein since 2006, and we have been suing to stop it ever since.

Why PRISM and Upstream are “Mass,” Not “Targeted,” Surveillance

Despite government claims to the contrary, here’s why PRISM and Upstream are “mass surveillance”:
          (1) Breadth of acquisition:  First, the scope of collection under both PRISM and Upstream surveillance is exceedingly broad. The NSA acquires hundreds of millions, if not billions, of communications under these programs annually.[7] Although, in the U.S. government’s view, the programs are nominally “targeted,” that targeting sweeps so broadly that the communications of innocent third parties are inevitably and intentionally vacuumed up in the process. For example, a review of a “large cache of intercepted conversations” provided by Edward Snowden and analyzed by the Washington Post revealed that 9 out of 10 account holders “were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.”[8] The material reviewed by the Post consisted of 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant message conversations, 7,900 documents (including “medical records sent from one family member to another, resumes from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren”), and more than 5,000 private photos.[9] In all, the cache revealed the “daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted [but were] catalogued and recorded nevertheless.”[10] The Post estimated that, at the U.S. government’s annual rate of “targeting,” collection under Section 702 would encompass more than 900,000 user accounts annually. By any definition, this is “mass surveillance.”

How to Disappear Off the Grid Completely (Ad)

          (2) Indiscriminate full-content searching.  Second, in the course of accomplishing its so-called “targeted” Upstream surveillance, the U.S. government, in part through its agent AT&T, indiscriminately searches the contents of billions of Internet communications as they flow through the nation’s domestic, fiber-optic Internet backbone. This type of surveillance, known as “about surveillance,” involves the NSA’s retention of communications that are neither to nor from a target of surveillance; rather, it authorizes the NSA to obtain any communications “about” the target.[11] Even if the acquisition of communications containing information “about” a surveillance target could, somehow, still be considered “targeted,” the method for accomplishing that surveillance cannot be: “about” surveillance entails a content search of all, or substantially all, international Internet communications transiting the United States.[12]  Again, by any definition, Upstream surveillance is “mass surveillance.”  For PRISM, while less is known, it seems the government is able to search through—or require the companies like Google and Facebook to search through—all the customer data stored by the corporations for communications to or from its targets.

Seizure: Fourth Amendment and the Wiretap Act

To accomplish Upstream surveillance, the NSA copies (or has its agents like AT&T copy) Internet traffic as it flows through the fiber-optic backbone. This copying, even if the messages are only retained briefly, matters under the law. Under U.S. constitutional law, when the federal government “meaningfully interferes” with an individual’s protected communications, those communications have been “seized” for purposes of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. Thus, when the U.S. government copies (or has copied) communications wholesale and diverts them for searching, it has “seized” those communications under the Fourth Amendment.
Similarly, U.S. wiretapping law triggers a wiretap at the point of “interception by a device,” which occurs when the Upstream mechanisms gain access to our communications.[13]

Why does the government insist that it’s targeted?  For Upstream, it may be because the initial collection and searching of the communications—done by service providers like AT&T on the government’s behalf—is really, really fast and much of the information initially collected is then quickly disposed of. In this way the Upstream collection is unlike the telephone records collection where the NSA kept all of the records it seized for years. Yet this difference should not change the conclusion that the surveillance is “mass surveillance.” First, all communications flowing through the collection points upstream are seized and searched, including content and metadata. Second, as noted above, the amount of information retained—over 250 million Internet communications per year—is astonishing.
Thus, regardless of the time spent, the seizure and search are comprehensive and invasive. Using advanced computers, the NSA and its agents can do a full-text, content search within a blink of an eye through billions, if not trillions of your communications, including emails, social media, and web searches. Second, as demonstrated above, the government retains a huge amount of the communications—far more about innocent people than about its targets—so even based on what is retained the surveillance is better described as “mass” rather than “targeted.”

Yes, it is Mass Surveillance

So it is completely correct to characterize Section 702 as mass surveillance. It stems from the confluence of: (1) the method NSA employs to accomplish its surveillance, particularly Upstream, and (2) the breadth of that surveillance.
Next time you see the government or its supporters claim that PRISM and Upstream are “targeted” surveillance programs, you’ll know better.
[1] See, e.g., Charlie Savage, NSA Said to Search Content of Messages to and From U.S., N.Y. Times (Aug 8, 2013) (“The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country[.]”). This article describes an NSA practice known as “about surveillance”—a practice that involves searching the contents of communications as they flow through the nation’s fiber-optic Internet backbone.
[2] FISA Court Opinion by Judge Bates entitled [Caption Redacted], at 29 (“NSA acquires more than two hundred fifty million Internet communications each year pursuant to Section 702”), (Hereinafter, “Bates Opinion”). According to the PCLOB report, the “current number is significantly higher” than 250 million communications. PCLOB Report on 702 at 116.
[3] Bates Opinion at 29; PCLOB at 116.
[4] Id. at 35.
[5] PCLOB at 33-34
[6] First,  the Bush Administration relied solely on broad claims of Executive power, grounded in secret legal interpretations written by the Department of Justice. Many of those interpretations were subsequently abandoned by later Bush Administration officials.  Beginning in 2006, DOJ was able to turn to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to sign off on its surveillance programs. In 2007, Congress finally stepped into the game, passing the Protect America Act; which, a year later, was substantially overhauled and passed again as the FISA Amendments Act. While neither of those statutes mention the breadth of the surveillance and it was not discussed publicly during the Congressional processes, both have been cited by the government as authorizing it.
[7] See note 1.
[8] Barton Gellman, Julie Tate, and Ashkan Soltani, In NSA-Intercepted Data, Those Not Targeted Far Outnumber the Foreigners Who Are, Washington Post (July 5, 2014),  
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Bates Opinion at 15.
[12] PCLOB report at 119-120.
[13] See 18 U.S.C § 2511(1)(a); U.S. v. Councilman, 418 F.3d 67, 70-71, 79 (1st Cir. 2005) (en banc).


Stranded mariners rescued in Micronesia after 'SOS' spotted in sand

Two stranded mariners are safe Friday after crews spotted their “SOS” in the sand on uninhabited island in Micronesia.
A U.S. Navy aircraft crew spotted the couple on the beach, and relayed their location to the Coast Guard in Guam. The two, who had limited supplies and no emergency equipment, were picked up and transferred to a patrol boat.
The Coast Guard got a report about the couple's 18-foot vessel going missing on Aug. 19.
The two departed Weno Island on Aug. 17, and were expected to arrive at their destination to Tamatam Island the next day. 
Over seven days, the Coast Guard and other agencies searched nearly 17,000 square miles for the two.
On Wednesday, a ship noticed flashing lights emitting from the uninhabited Chuuk State island where the two were later found. The U.S. Navy was alerted and patrolled the island when they spotted the survivors -- and their message -- on the beach.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday 08-26-16

Japan scientists detect rare, deep-Earth tremor

Miami (AFP) - Scientists who study earthquakes in Japan said Thursday they have detected a rare deep-Earth tremor for the first time and traced its location to a distant and powerful storm.
The findings, published in the US journal Science, could help experts learn more about the Earth's inner structure and improve detection of earthquakes and oceanic storms.
The storm in the North Atlantic was known as a "weather bomb," a small but potent storm that gains punch as pressure quickly mounts.
Groups of waves sloshed and pounded the ocean floor during the storm, which struck between Greenland and Iceland.
Using seismic equipment on land and on the seafloor that usually detects the Earth's crust crumbling during earthquakes, researchers found something they had not detected before -- a tremor known as an S wave microseism.
Microseisms are very faint tremors.
Another kind of tremor, known as P waves, or primary wave microseisms, can be detected during major hurricanes.
P waves are fast-moving, and animals can often sense them just before an earthquake hits.
The elusive S waves, or secondary waves, are slower, and move only through rock, not liquid. Humans feel them during earthquakes.
Using more than 200 stations operated by the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention in Japan's Chugoku district, researchers Kiwamu Nishida and Ryota Takagi "successfully detected not only P wave microseisms triggered by a severe and distant North Atlantic storm, known as a weather bomb, but also S wave microseisms, too," said the study.
"The discovery marks the first time scientists have observed... an S wave microseism."
Microseism S waves are so faint that they occur in the 0.05 to 0.5 Hz frequency range.
The study in the journal Science details how researchers traced the direction and distance to the waves' origins, and the paths they traveled.
The discovery "gives seismologists a new tool with which to study Earth's deeper structure," said Peter Gerstoft and Peter Bromirski of the University of California, San Diego in an accompanying Perspective article.
Learning more about microseismic S waves may "add to our understanding of the deeper crust and upper mantle structure."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday 08-25-16

But we are supposed to trust the government with guns?  Make sure you read the last line also.

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands.

Early this year, a Facebook user in Baghdad using the name Hussein Mahyawi posted a photograph of a slightly worn M4 assault rifle he was offering for sale. Veterans of the latest war in Iraq immediately recognized it. It was a standard American carbine equipped with a holographic sight, a foregrip that was military-issue during the occupation and a sticker bearing a digital QR code used by American forces for inventory control. Except for one detail — an aftermarket pistol grip, the sort of accessory with which combatants of the current generation often pimp their guns — it was a dead ringer for any of the tens of thousands of M4s the Pentagon handed out to Iraqi security forces and various armed militias after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003. And here it was on the open market, ready for bids.
Was this a surprise? No. A little more than four years after the United States withdrew all its military forces from Iraq, and not quite two years after a smaller number of American troops began returning to the country to help fight the Islamic State, the open sale of such an M4 was part of Iraq’s day-to-day arms-trafficking routine. Mahyawi’s carbine was another data point attesting to an extraordinary and dangerous failure of American arms-trafficking and public accountability and to a departure from a modern military’s most basic practice: keeping track of the guns.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the United States has handed out a vast but persistently uncountable quantity of military firearms to its many battlefield partners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today the Pentagon has only a partial idea of how many weapons it issued, much less where these weapons are. Meanwhile, the effectively bottomless abundance of black-market weapons from American sources is one reason Iraq will not recover from its post-invasion woes anytime soon.
An inkling of just how expansive these arms transfers were, and how stubbornly resistant they are to precise measurement, is apparent in a new attempt at weapons-tallying compiled in a project led by Iain Overton. Overton is a former BBC journalist who is now the executive director of Action on Armed Violence, a charity based in London that researches and lobbies against weapons proliferation and violence against civilians; he is also the author of “The Way of the Gun,” a dark examination of some of the roles firearms play in modern society. With a string of Freedom of Information Act requests that began last year, he and his small team of researchers pooled 14 years’ worth of Pentagon contract information related to rifles, pistols, machine guns and their associated attachments and ammunition, both for American troops and for their partners and proxies. They then crosschecked the data against other public records. Overton is releasing the data and his analysis today. It covers 412 contracts and merits pause for reflection as the parties to the international Arms Trade Treaty gather this week in Geneva. The treaty, which took effect in 2014 and of which the United States is a signatory, is intended to promote transparency and responsible action in the transfer of conventional arms and to reduce their diversion to unintended hands — exactly what the United States often failed to do in recent wars.
In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq.
Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.
As an illustration of how haphazard the supervision of this arms distribution often was, last week, five months after being asked by The New York Times for its own tally of small arms issued to partner forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all. This is an amount, Overton noted, that “only accounts for 48 percent of the total small arms supplied by the U.S. government that can be found in open-source government reports.”
This gap between the tallies, the Pentagon said, is partly because at first the United States military was trying to stand up to two governments that were busily fighting wars. “Speed was essential in getting those nations’ security forces armed, equipped and trained to meet these extreme challenges,” Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an email. “As a result, lapses in accountability of some of the weapons transferred occurred.” Wright also said that the Pentagon’s current practices have improved, and that to ensure “that equipment is only used for authorized purposes,” its representatives “inventory each weapon as it arrives in country and record the distribution of the weapon to the foreign partner nation.”
Why counting weapons, and making a record of serial numbers and recipients, was seen as so time-consuming that it would have slowed down war is not clear. Anyone who has served in a military unit knows that documenting who received what weapon is both a fundamental task and a habit that fits easily into a routine. It takes no more time than issuing a uniform to a soldier or feeding him a meal. But often the Pentagon did not require these steps — although Wright noted that once a weapon is provided to another force, “It is their responsibility to account for that weapon.”
As Overton worked earlier this year on his own exercise in accounting, I asked Nic Marsh, a researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, to take a crack at the same tally, but using other sources he tracks, most notably export data from the European Union and American military inspector-general reports. Marsh’s back-of-the-envelope total for the two wars also exceeded the Pentagon’s by a large margin. By examining declared arms transfers from Europe, he found official reported totals of more than 465,000 firearms provided by the Pentagon to Afghanistan since 2001. Marsh said the exports included weapons from Albania, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States. He also found at least another 628,000 firearms exported to Iraq from 2003 to 2014, from a similar list of nations, plus Bosnia, Estonia, France, Latvia and Turkey. His Iraq count does not include almost 300,000 more firearms that he suspects were moved there for the Pentagon but for which the records are not quite clear. “The number is much larger” than 628,000, he said, “but we are not certain the exact number exported from Bosnia.”
The weapons sent from Europe to Iraq, and the crates of ammunition necessary to keep them fed, filled cargo planes — though Marsh said the available data also does not say how many were directly paid for by the United States, as opposed to those bought by Iraqi ministries with American-donated funds or those donated by countries unloading old stock. This is an important observation, because the latter two categories – state-to-state gifts via American handlers or otherwise and firearms purchased directly by Afghanistan or Iraq — might not be in Overton’s final count. This is one of many reasons to suspect that the 1.45 million tally might understate the real quantity of weapons disbursements during a long run of years when the Pentagon played the role in Afghanistan and Iraq of small-arms provider. “It could be twice as much, as far as we know,” Overton said last Friday, not entirely in jest.
Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
Adding to the suspicion that the number is even larger, Overton is certain that his tally missed shipments, because the data that the Defense Department made available was incomplete or laden with contradictions that were not readily reconciled. For example, the contracts it released were for more than $6.5 million or $7 million, depending on the year. Overton suspects that this hides many smaller purchases. And the contract data often labeled purchases vaguely, sometimes making it difficult to determine exactly what was bought, much less for whom. The Pentagon’s data, in short, did not declare much of what the Pentagon actually bought.
One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
These spectacular losses were on top of the more gradual drain that many veterans of the wars watched firsthand — including such scams as Afghan National Army recruits showing up for training and disappearing after rifles were issued. They were leaving, soldiers suspected, to sell their weapons. On the outposts where American troops and Afghan and Iraqi units worked together, the local units were often a fraction of their reported strength and dwindled as ever more national police officers or soldiers disappeared or deserted, vanishing with their firearms. The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
By this year, various internet arms traders, including many on Facebook, were hawking a seemingly unending assortment of weapons of obvious American origin, including the M4 offered by Hussein Mahyawi, whose Facebook profile spoke of his background in interior design. In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade. Hussein Mahyawi’s profiled vanished. But many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala. The trade goes on.
The new data also suggest ways in which ground combat for American troops raged and changed over the past decade and a half. According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
Certain lines in Overton’s spreadsheets hint at profound tactical shifts. The United States military entered Afghanistan in 2001 with a small contingent of troops, who pushed the Taliban from power by maneuvering with local allies supported by naval and air-to-ground firepower. It invaded Iraq in 2003 with mechanized columns protected by an overpowering rollout of fire support, including airstrikes, cruise missiles, incendiary bombs and cluster submunitions. The combination swiftly routed Iraq’s conventional forces. Then came years of occupation duty and efforts at reconstruction and nation-building across a sprawling geography. Rotations of soldiers and Marines became bogged down in changing missions and faced the familiar threats of guerrilla warfare reborn — roadside bombs, ambushes and (in Iraq, particularly) snipers.   
The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
Now look away from the data for a moment to consider what it does not show. The Pentagon provided Overton with contract information on small arms up to a caliber of 30 millimeters. This meant that certain classes of infantry weapons were not included, among them mortars, shoulder-fired rockets and powerful Mark 19 automatic grenade launchers that were mounted on many American vehicles and also used in outpost defense. That omission means the data offer no insight into a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
All together, the sheer size of the expenditures, the sustained confusion about totals and the multiple pressures eroding the stock combine to create a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
Any one of these efforts would be difficult on its own. But the United States was trying all these things at once while buying and flying into both countries a prodigious quantity of light military weapons and handing them out to local people and outfits it barely knew. The recipients were often manifestly corrupt and sometimes had close ties to the same militias and insurgents who were trying to drive out the United States and make sure its entire nation-building project did not stand. It should not have been a surprise that American units in disaffected provinces and neighborhoods, and their partners, could encounter gunfire at every turn.
The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.”
Ultimately, Overton’s tallying of the weapons rollout serves as another reminder of a fundamental institutional disconnect between what the Pentagon expects of its troops and it expects of itself. From their earliest days in uniform, Army and Marine recruits are drilled in the near sanctity of their rifles. They quickly learn that no other item of standard equipment will be more rigidly tracked in the routines of accountability and that inspections will continue throughout their careers. Rifles are to be kept properly lubricated and spotlessly clean. Rifles are to be always at hand. Rifles are to be pointed only where meant to be pointed. Rifles are never to be lost. Everything in the armory and each patrol is to be counted, again and again (and again), so that everyone from private to commander knows that nothing has been misplaced and that the weapons are ready for whatever lies ahead. So thorough does this mentality take hold that more than a few veterans, years after returning to civilian life, can recite the serial numbers of service rifles they carried. Some find themselves involuntarily reaching for rifles throughout the day.
When the military distributed weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq, a different dynamic was in play. Keeping track of the weapons in any reliable fashion — documenting who got what and what went where — was often not a priority. It is impossible today. And so no one knows where many of the weapons are, until they turn up on social media or announce themselves in combat or crime with the crack of incoming fire, a reminder of tens of billions of dollars gone into nations where violence and terrorism continue apace. What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.

German Government Instructs Citizens to Stockpile Food, Water and Prepare for Possible Conscription

I’m sure it’s nothing.
From Reuters:
Germany has told its citizens to stock up on water and food in the event of a terrorist attack or national catastrophe and be ready to support the military in the country’s first overhaul of civil defenses for two decades.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the 70-page plan at a time when Germans are particularly on edge after two Islamist militant attacks in July and several much larger-scale, deadly assaults in France and Belgium this year.

The German word for stocking up on provisions in case of an emergency is “Hamsterkaeufe” and some media have mocked the plan for encouraging Germans to hoard like the small, furry animals. 
Although the plan was commissioned in 2012, security is shaping up into a major campaign issue before two regional votes next month and next year’s federal election. Proposed measures include boosting spending on police and a ban on the burqa, the all-concealing garment worn by some Muslim women.
The strategy unveiled on Wednesday outlines precautionary steps for scenarios such as terrorism and chemical weapons and cyber attacks. 
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere rejected suggestions that the report, last published in 1995, was scaremongering and said it was not linked to an immediate threat.
Civilians should also be ready to help the military with tasks such as directing traffic, finding accommodation and providing fuel. The report also raises the possibility of reintroducing conscription in the case of national emergency.
Unfortunately, I continue to think World War 3 will arrive on the scenes by 2020 at the latest. Arguably it has already begun, but I’m referring to overt and undeniable conflict.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday 08-24-16

Since January, police have been testing an aerial surveillance system adapted from the surge in Iraq. And they neglected to tell the public.

The sky over the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on June 23 was the color of a dull nickel, and a broad deck of lowering clouds threatened rain. A couple dozen people with signs—“Justice 4 Freddie Gray” and “The whole damn system is guilty as hell”—lingered by the corner of the courthouse, watching the network TV crews rehearse their standups. Sheriff’s officers in bulletproof vests clustered around the building’s doors, gripping clubs with both hands.
Inside, a judge was delivering the verdict in the case of Caesar Goodson, the only Baltimore police officer facing a murder charge for the death of Freddie Gray. In April 2015, Gray’s neck was broken in the back of a police van, and prosecutors had argued that Goodson purposefully drove the vehicle recklessly, careening through the city, to toss Gray around.

The verdict trickled out of the courthouse in text messages: not guilty, all counts. Ralph Pritchett Sr., who’s spent each of his 52 years in Baltimore, stood on the sidewalk among the protesters. He chewed on a toothpick and shook his head slowly. In a city with more than 700 street-level police cameras, he wondered, shouldn’t the authorities have had video of Gray’s ride?
“This whole city is under a siege of cameras,” said Pritchett, a house painter who helps run a youth center in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood called Johnston Square. “In fact, they observed Freddie Gray himself the morning of his arrest on those cameras, before they picked him up. They could have watched that van, too, but no—they missed that one. I thought the cameras were supposed to protect us. But I’m thinking they’re there to just contradict anything that might be used against the City of Baltimore. Do they use them for justice? Evidently not.”
Pritchett had no idea that as he spoke, a small Cessna airplane equipped with a sophisticated array of cameras was circling Baltimore at roughly the same altitude as the massing clouds. The plane’s wide-angle cameras captured an area of roughly 30 square miles and continuously transmitted real-time images to analysts on the ground. The footage from the plane was instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives, allowing analysts to review it weeks later if necessary.

Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department had been using the plane to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings. The Cessna sometimes flew above the city for as many as 10 hours a day, and the public had no idea it was there.
A company called Persistent Surveillance Systems, based in Dayton, Ohio, provided the service to the police, and the funding came from a private donor. No public disclosure of the program had ever been made.
Outside the courthouse, several of the protesters began marching around the building, chanting for justice. The plane continued to circle overhead, unseen.

TSA Agents Detained Nine-Year Old Boy Because He Had A Pacemaker

Chille Bergstrom was born with a rare heart condition. That's a security threat, apparently.

TSA agents at Phoenix' Sky Harbor International Airport detained nine-year old Chille Bergstrom and his family for more than an hour on Saturday, causing them to miss their flight, because they suspected the kid was hiding a bomb in his chest.
He wasn't, of course.
Chille was born with a rare heart condition that requires him to wear a pacemaker. The tiny medical implant literally keeps him alive, but it means that he can't go through the scanning equipment at airport security checkpoints. Instead, he has to ask for the alternative pat-down screening.
His family told KMSP in Minneapolis, where they live, that they asked for an alternative screening and presented paperwork detailing Chille's medical condition. When they did, TSA agents said they needed a special exemption they did not have, according to Ali Bergstrom, Chille's mother.
That's when things really got out of control. The Bergstroms say they were escorted into a private room with armed police officers and TSA supervisors surrounding them while Chille was subjected to what Ali called a lengthy and demeaning search.
Chille, who has been through airport security several times before, even asked why this screening was so different.
"One of the TSA agents told me they'd prevented terrorist attacks using nine-year-old boys with pacemakers and children before, so I laughed and said, 'Oh when?' At that point, the TSA agent became very quiet and said, 'Oh we're not at liberty to discuss this,'" Ali told KMSP.
The TSA probably doesn't have any record of that, because the TSA has never provided evidence that it stopped even a single terrorist attack in the 15 years since it was created.
The Bergstroms say they never got an apology for the way their son was treated, and the TSA told KMSP they are "reviewing" the incident.
By the time the TSA determined that Chille wasn't concealing a sophisticated explosive device in his chest, the family had missed their flight and ended up waiting 15 hours for the next one.
This isn't the first time Phoenix Sky Harbor has been the scene of TSA hijinks. In May, after a machine that scans checked bags for bombs broke down, agents moved some 3,000 pieces of luggage into the airport's parking lot before eventually putting them on planes to other airports to be scanned.
After that debacle, dozens of agents from Phoenix were reassigned to other airports because that's what passes for accountability inside the TSA.
More importantly, that incident caused city and airport officials to discuss booting the TSA out of Sky Harbor. Sal Diciccio, a Phoenix city councilman, says "the long wait lines, people missing flights, lost luggage and hours of waiting in line are not acceptable." Changing to private security would solve some of those problems and would improve customer service, he argues.
It's hard to imagine worse customer service than what you get with the TSA. A report from the House Homeland Security Commitee found that nearly half of all TSA agents committed some form of misconduct between 2013 and 2015.
Nothing has changed in the last two years. From nine-year old Chille Bergstrom to the 19-year old disabled woman who was bloodied and bruised by TSA agents in Memphis last month to the 90-year old woman who was strip searched last October, the list of humiliating abuses that do nothing to improve security goes on and on.
Private security firms might make mistakes too, but at least they can be fired and new, better firms can be hired to replace them.
Given his age, Chille doesn't know what it's like to go through an airport without experiencing the TSA's security theater. He should just accept this as the norm, like millions of Americans do every day.
Still, Chille told KMSP he had a message for the TSA: "Just be better at your job."
Since that's unlikely, make sure you review Reason TV's guide to dealing with the TSA before the next time you go to the airport.