Wired, By Vince Beiser, March 26
The killers rolled slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.
Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his own 3-year-old boy.
Gunshots thundered through the house. Preeti Chauhan, Paleram’s daughter-in-law, rushed into Paleram’s room, her husband, Ravindra, right behind her. Through the open door, they saw the killers jump back on their bike and roar away.
Police quickly declared the demonstration illegal, arrests made
CBC, March 24
Thousands of protesters hit the streets of downtown Montreal Tuesday night as part of student protests against the province’s austerity measures.
Crowds gathered at Parc Émilie-Gamelin at 9 p.m. before marching along the downtown streets.
Police quickly declared the protest illegal, saying an itinerary of the route was not provided, and began making arrests.
CTV News: Montreal students protest for second night, police disperse crowds
Vice News, By Jason Leopold, March 19
Thirteen years ago, the intelligence community concluded in a 93-page classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq that it lacked “specific information” on “many key aspects” of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.
But that’s not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.
Population growth and climate change will increase global water demand, leaving short supply if usage does not change
Al Jazeera, March 20
The world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, a United Nations report warned Friday.
Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change. As the world’s population grows to an expected 9 billion by 2050, more groundwater will be needed for farming, industry and personal consumption.
With “business as usual” the world is facing a “collapse in our global socioeconomic system,” Richard Connor, lead author of the report, told Reuters.
The report predicts global water demand will increase 55 percent by 2050, while reserves dwindle. If current usage trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030, it said.
Al Jazeera: Water rationing may become a way of life in California drought
I spent the last three days watching Bernardo Ruiz’s Kingdom of Shadows at the SXSW movie festival in Austin. I appear in the film, along with a nun from Monterrey, Mexico and an agent from the Department of Homeland Security in El Paso.
After screenings, we took questions from the audience, but sessions were too short to adequately address issues related to the subject matter of the film—the effect of drugs and drug prohibition on our societies.
BBC, March 15
The US embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh has cancelled all consular services for Sunday and Monday due to “heightened security concerns”.
In a statement, the embassy said consular services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran would not be available.
It urged US citizens to take extra precautions when travelling in Saudi Arabia and to keep a low profile.
On Friday, the embassy warned that Western oil workers could be the target of militant attacks.
It said it had information that “individuals associated with a terrorist organisation” could be targeting people working in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
Embassy of the United States of America Riyadh,Saudi Arabia:
Security Message for US Citizens, March 13
Security Message for US Citizens, March 14
Reuters, By Krista Hughes, March 4
Washington – The United States expects a global deal to cut customs red tape and streamline import procedures to come into force this year, a senior trade official said on Wednesday.
Mark Linscott, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for World Trade Organization and Multilateral Affairs, said Washington was “pretty confident” the deal agreed in Bali in 2013 would be up and running by year-end.
“It’s quite realistic to expect that the trade facilitation agreement [wikipedia: The “Bali Package”, WTO: Trade Facilitation] can come into force by the end of the year,” he told a Washington International Trade Association event.
Virginia Brown, director of trade and regulatory reforms at USAID, said the aid agency was ready to work with countries on implementation steps, which in many cases require lawmakers’ approval. “Our bread and butter is drafting that legislation and getting it through the legislative process,” she said.
France24, March 4
New York City public schools will start observing two of Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing an announcement to be delivered by the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio.
According to the newspaper, the changes to the school calendar are in line with de Blasio’s election pledge to better integrate and represent the city’s increasing Muslim population, which is estimated at between 600,000 and 1 million. New York City public schools already recognise several Jewish and Christian holidays.
In a post on Twitter prior to the announcement, de Blasio said the new policy will represent “a change that respects the diversity of our city.”
A 2008 study carried out by Columbia University showed that around 10 percent of New York City public-school children were Muslim, and that about 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public schools.
Many heads will, no doubt, explode.
The Canadian Press, By Alexander Panetta, February 24
Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on a threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing the two sides in the long-running controversy to a rare point of agreement: their battle is far from over.
”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.
”We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built — not even close.”
Even the White House concurred that the issue is far from settled. It pointed out that Tuesday’s announcement was a step in a long, winding process — not a final destination.
The president cast the veto as a matter of procedural principle. In his letter to Congress, Obama said the bill he was scrapping had improperly tried to usurp presidential authority.
BBC, February 24
The head of the United Nations climate change panel (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, has stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.
A spokesman for Mr Pachauri told the IPCC that he had resigned from his position with immediate effect.
Indian police are investigating a complaint from a 29-year-old woman working in Mr Pachauri’s office in Delhi.
Mr Pachauri has denied the allegations.
Reuters, By Matt Siegel, February 22
Sydney- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday announced a national security crackdown that could deny welfare payments to people seen as potential threats, strip the passports of those with dual nationality and curb travel overseas.
Abbott, bruised politically and facing pressure for dramatic action after surviving a leadership challenge this month, unveiled the measures in the wake of a hostage siege in a Sydney cafe that left three dead in December.
He said some personal freedoms would have to be curtailed to fight what he called a rapidly growing threat from radical groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“For too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt,” Abbott said.
BBC – The UK and the EU have been accused of a “catastrophic misreading” of the mood in the Kremlin in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine.
The House of Lords EU committee claimed Europe “sleepwalked” into the crisis. The EU had not realised the depth of Russian hostility to its plans for closer relations with Ukraine, it said… The committee’s report said Britain had not been “active or visible enough” in dealing with the situation in Ukraine. It blamed Foreign Office cuts, which it said led to fewer Russian experts working there, and less emphasis on analysis. A similar decline in EU foreign ministries had left them ill-equipped to formulate an “authoritative response” to the crisis, it said.
The report claimed that for too long the EU’s relationship with Moscow had been based on the “optimistic premise” that Russia was on a trajectory to becoming a democratic country. The result, it said, was a failure to appreciate the depth of Russian hostility when the EU opened talks aimed at establishing an “association agreement” with Ukraine in 2013.
Mr Cameron rejected claims Britain “sleepwalked” into the crisis in Ukraine.
AP, By Desmond Butler, February 19
Istanbul — Turkey and the United States signed an agreement Thursday to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group, said the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
The two countries have been in talks about such a pact for several months. The deal was signed Thursday evening by U.S Ambassador John Bass and Turkish Foreign Ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, said Embassy spokesman Joe Wierichs. He gave no further details.
Sinirlioglu called the deal “an important step” in the strategic partnership between Turkey and the United States, according to Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.
The Turkish government has said the training by U.S. and Turkish soldiers could begin as early as next month at a base in the central Anatolian city of Kirsehir, and involve hundreds of Syrian fighters in the first year. The U.S. has said the goal is to go after the Islamic State group, but Turkish officials have suggested that the trained rebels could also target the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
Google says increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise ‘monumental’ legal concerns that should be decided by Congress
The Guardian, By Ed Pilkington, February 18
New York – Google is boldly opposing an attempt by the US Justice Department to expand federal powers to search and seize digital data, warning that the changes would open the door to US “government hacking of any facility” in the world.
In a strongly worded submission to the Washington committee that is considering the proposed changes, Google says that increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise “monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide”.
The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.
Los Angeles Times, By Richard A. Serrano, February 14
Abdullah al-Kidd approached the Dulles International Airport ticket counter in March 2003 expecting to catch a flight to Saudi Arabia to study Arabic and Islamic law.
Instead, federal agents slapped handcuffs on the Kansas-born former University of Idaho running back.
He spent the next 16 days in three jails without criminal charges on a warrant as a potential witness in a terrorism-related case. He was shackled, strip-searched and confined in a cell.
The government’s case eventually fell apart, but not before the husband and father had lost his family and livelihood.
More than a decade later, the U.S. government has presented Kidd with something rarely seen in the U.S. war against terrorism: an apology.