GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications | UK news Britain's spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA). The sheer scale of the agency's ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate. One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months. "It's not just a US problem. UK officials could also claim GCHQ "produces larger amounts of metadata than NSA".
Michigan 'Rape Insurance' Bill Passes Into Law Michigan lawmakers passed a controversial measure on Wednesday that will ban all insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman's life is in danger. The law, which takes effect in March, will force women and employers to purchase a separate abortion rider if they would like the procedure covered, even in cases of rape and incest. Supporters of the "Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act" argue that it allows people who are opposed to abortion to avoid paying into a plan that covers it. Opponents have nicknamed it the "rape insurance" initiative, because it would force some women to anticipate the possibility of being raped by purchasing the extra abortion insurance ahead of time. “This tells women who were raped … that they should have thought ahead and planned for it,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) during debates. "This body made up of 80 percent men will make a decision that will impact 100 percent of women," he said. Also on HuffPost:
Islamist Wave Is Driving Out Syria's Revolutionaries GAZIANTEP, Turkey -- A couple of months ago, Noureddine al-Abdo started feeling increasingly trapped inside his own house. A popular and well-known opposition activist and citizen journalist, al-Abdo once had free rein over the liberated countryside he called home, in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. "When the liberation happened, it was like a release -- we felt we were released," al-Abdo said recently. "The whole countryside of the north, from Homs to Aleppo to Bab al Hawa, I felt that it was mine." There, for more than two years, he worked tirelessly to bring news about Syria's northern region to the world. That feeling of freedom made the campaign against the rule of President Bashar Assad -- the risks and sorrows, the friends and close family members lost to war -- feel worth it, he said. But lately, something has changed. Many of them are Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda -- people al-Abdo doesn't recognize from other regions, even other countries. He is not alone.
Twitter abuse: Why cyberbullies are targeting women 29 July 2013Last updated at 09:06 ET Women are growing more vocal about the abuse they experience online, say experts Does it matter whether this article was written by a man or a woman? The politically correct answer may be no, but for some readers it could be an important factor. The threats of sexual violence which Caroline Criado-Perez received online following her campaign for a woman to be featured on British bank notes has highlighted the prevalence of gender-based bullying across social media. Facebook was forced to change its policies in May after thousands complained about the posting of material which portrayed violence against women in a positive way on the site. This included Facebook groups with titles such as "This is why Indian girls get raped" and individual uploads of graphic photographs showing abused women. One image of a woman lying at the foot of a flight of stairs was captioned: "Next time, don't get pregnant." Fight harder Visibility Form filling "Have you seen the form?
New GOP debt-limit demands: Ban late-term abortion and approve Keystone pipeline? The good news: This time around, most GOP lawmakers agree they probably should not block a debt-limit increase, halt Treasury borrowing and let the government default on its obligations. According to GOP aides who attended the meeting, the “hell no” caucus appears to be radically diminished. The bad news for President Obama: Republicans will demand some kind of prize for voting to raise the debt limit, preferably some policy that serves to reduce the debt. They say they will not simply roll over again, as they did in January when they voted without much fuss to suspend enforcement of the debt limit through this weekend. “It’s pretty clear we’re not going to do that. But what should they ask for? At the meeting, 39 lawmakers lined up at microphones to offer suggestions. At least one person wanted to take on late-term abortion in the wake of the conviction of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell. Another open question: When should the House act? “We’re not hurrying this.
Walmart outlines own Bangladesh safety plans Walmart, the world's largest retailer, will conduct its own safety inspections at its Bangladesh factories instead of joining an accord with other retailers. More than 1,100 people died when the nine-storey Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed on 24 April. Labour groups have since drawn up an industry-wide pact to improve fire and building safety conditions. But Walmart, along with several other US retailers, said it would not participate. Walmart plans to perform its own inspections at its 279 factories, saying that will yield faster results. The company also said every worker would be provided with fire safety training. More than a dozen European companies, including discount clothing company Primark and UK supermarket chain Tesco, have signed up to the legally binding "Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh". European non-governmental organisations IndustriALL and UNI Global Union, which had drafted the agreement, had set a deadline of 15 May. Global response
Syria crisis: UN's Del Ponte says evidence rebels 'used sarin' 6 May 2013Last updated at 11:06 ET Carla Del Ponte: "I was a little bit stupefied by the first indication of the use of nerve gas by the opposition" Testimony from victims of the conflict in Syria suggests rebels have used the nerve agent, sarin, a leading member of a UN commission of inquiry has said. Carla Del Ponte told Swiss TV that there were "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof". Ms Del Ponte did not rule out the possibility that government forces might also have used chemical weapons. Later, the commission stressed that it had "not reached conclusive findings" as to their use by any parties. "As a result, the commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time," a statement added. The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the statement was terse and shows that the UN was taken by surprise at Ms Del Ponte's remarks. 'Unsupported' Continue reading the main story Analysis Bridget KendallDiplomatic correspondent, BBC News “Start Quote
Restaurant tantrum exposes Mexican class divide 5 May 2013Last updated at 20:28 ET By Will Grant BBC News, Mexico City A tantrum in a restaurant in Mexico City made headlines this week - because it revealed so much about the country's struggle with class hierarchy. Sometimes the story lands right on your doorstep. Over the road from the BBC office is a trendy-looking restaurant with black decor and wooden tables outside called Maximo Bistrot. Occasionally we'd go for their set lunch menu, although it is a bit on the expensive side. Good food, though. You could often spy politicians and starlets of Mexican society lunching alongside you. It was in the Maximo Bistrot that the country's latest political scandal unfolded. The place was packed, as it tends to be at the weekend. In walks Andrea Benitez, a wealthy 20-something, looking for a table. Told that the one she wanted wasn't available, she threw what can only be described as a tantrum and used the ace up her sleeve, her daddy. Faster than you can say "do you know who I am?" “Start Quote
Egypt minister's remarks fuel sexual harassment debate 4 May 2013Last updated at 02:31 ET By Aleem Maqbool BBC News, Cairo Aleem Maqbool watches the controversial exchange between Egypt's information minister and journalist Nada Mohamed A recent UN survey suggested an astounding 99.3% of Egyptian women had experienced harassment of one form or another. Of course, the problems started within Egyptian society long before the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, but they do appear to be worsening. And just when the issue of sexual harassment needs decisive action, Egypt's Information Minister Salah Abdul Maksoud has caused outrage by making remarks to a female reporter that appear highly derogatory, though the minister himself is unrepentant. "In the news conference, I asked him: 'Where is media freedom?'" "He said to me: 'Come here and I'll show you.' As it happens, Ms Mohamed's parents both accompanied her to the news conference. "Then the minister said what he did and I was so angry, but it was not the place to start shouting.
From Bahrain With Love: FinFisher's Spy Kit Exposed Download PDF version Introduction Click here to read the Bloomberg News article. The FinFisher Suite is described by its distributors, Gamma International UK Ltd., as “Governmental IT Intrusion and Remote Monitoring Solutions.” 1 The toolset first gained notoriety after it was revealed that the Egyptian Government’s state security apparatus had been involved in negotiations with Gamma International UK Ltd. over the purchase of the software. This post contains analysis of several pieces of malware obtained by Vernon Silver of Bloomberg News that were sent to Bahraini pro-democracy activists in April and May of this year. As well as directly examining the samples through static and dynamic analysis, we infected a virtual machine (VM) with the malware. This analysis suggests the use of “Finspy”, part of the commercial intrusion kit, Finfisher, distributed by Gamma International. Delivery In early May, we were alerted that Bahraini activists were targeted with apparently malicious e-mails.
For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying by: Morgan Marquis-Boire, Bill Marczak, Claudio Guarnieri & John Scott-Railton Citizen Lab is pleased to announce the release of “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying.” Read the Report [PDF]*(updated on 16 September 2013) The report features new findings, as well as consolidating a year of our research on the commercial market for offensive computer network intrusion capabilities developed by Western companies. Our new findings include: We have identified FinFisher Command & Control servers in 11 new Countries. Locations of FinFisher Command & Control Servers Found To Date: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.
BBC bullies 'creating climate of anxiety and fear' | Media A BBC inquiry set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal has uncovered widespread allegations of bullying and an inadequate complaints procedure which meant whistleblowers' concerns often went unheeded. The report arising from the review, published on Thursday, said there had been 37 complaints of sexual harassment at the corporation over the past six years, with a "very small number" ongoing. The inquiry also highlighted a problem of "known bullies" – reported by multiple members of staff in different parts of the BBC – who would verbally abuse staff and leave them living in a "climate of anxiety ... and fear". New BBC director general Tony Hall said parts of the report make "uncomfortable reading" and pledged a "zero tolerance of bullying". Nearly 1,000 staff contributed to the report, Respect at Work, overseen by barrister Dinah Rose QC. The report said concerns about bullying and "other forms of inappropriate behaviour" were "much more prominent". Complaints 'swept under the carpet'
Syria clashes destroy ancient Aleppo minaret 24 April 2013Last updated at 11:34 ET Pictures show the once famous landmark reduced to a pile of rubble The minaret of one of Syria's most famous mosques has been destroyed during clashes in the northern city of Aleppo. The state news agency Sana accused rebels of blowing up the 11th-Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque. However, activists say the minaret was hit by Syrian army tank fire. The mosque, which is a Unesco world heritage site, has been in rebel hands since earlier this year but the area around it is still contested. Last October Unesco appealed for the protection of the site, which it described as "one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world". Images posted on the internet showed the minaret reduced to a pile of rubble in the mosque's tiled courtyard. Continue reading the main story Aleppo's Umayyad Mosque Other parts of the mosque complex - which dates mostly from the 12th Century - have been badly damaged by gunfire and shell hits.
Koch Brothers Making Play for Tribune’s Newspapers Tannen Maury/European Pressphoto Agency Tribune’s newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, have caught the interest of a number of suitors. The first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media. Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion. Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas.