Furor grows in Europe over NSA spy network revelations

Secret Information Societies: “I want to know what you’re thinking. There are some things you can’t hide.” – Information Society, 1988 – “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”  -George Orwell, 1984
July 1, 2013 – EUROPE – The saga of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden took several more twists over the weekend as new revelations about US electronic snooping emerged. Susan Rice says Snowden leaks have no significant diplomatic consequences but Europeans are outraged at the US allegations of espionage. The German magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday that the NSA had bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks where it was able to read documents and emails. United Nations offices were similarly targeted, reports Der Spiegel based on information provided by Mr. Snowden. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said that if the report was correct, it would have a “severe impact” on relations between the EU and the United States, reports Reuters. “On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations,” he said in an emailed statement. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Der Spiegel: “If these reports are true, it’s disgusting. The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately.”
Snowden himself remains in what amounts to protective custody at the airport in Moscow – unable to leave a transit hotel because he doesn’t have a Russian visa, unwilling at this point to return to the United States to face espionage charges, stuck there because no third country has yet to offer him asylum. As of Sunday, Snowden had been at the airport in Moscow for a week – a sort of “man without a country” (or at least without a proper US passport, since his has been invalidated). For a while, it seemed, Snowden was headed to Ecuador (by way of Cuba), the country that has provided refuge to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at its embassy in London. But Ecuador appears to be having second thoughts about that; at least it seems to have created a Catch-22 situation by announcing that it can’t consider asylum for Snowden until he presents himself in the country. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden has kept up official US pressure – urging Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa in a telephone conversation Friday to reject any application for political asylum from Snowden. “As in all of our communications with foreign governments regarding Edward Snowden, we have advised the government of Ecuador of the felony charges against Mr. Snowden and urged that he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States,” a US official told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday. –CSM
Rise of the police state: Surveillance of our society is everywhere and will become increasingly more so with time. As prison populations continue to swell, sky-rocketing rates of crime and lawlessness ravage cities, and as terrorism goes high-tech; the emphasis of combating crime will undoubtedly shift more to the arena of prevention and monitoring. Cameras, eavesdropping, digital message intercepts and flying overhead drones, blimps, and satellites will saturate the planet- all furiously and meticulously searching the trail left by your digital information fingerprint. –The Extinction Protocol, pp 460, 461

Arab Summer: violent protests on streets of Cairo leave 10 people dead

July 1, 2013 – EGYPT – The armed men who ransacked the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo on Monday had crossed a red line of violence, the ruling movement told Reuters, adding that it was considering action to defend itself. Gehad El-Haddad, spokesman of the Islamist movement, told Reuters in a telephone interview that Egyptians would not sit by and tolerate attacks on their institutions. “It’s very dangerous for one entity in society to take up violence as a means of change because it may entice others to do so. The Muslim Brotherhood is a disciplined organization,” he said, criticizing the security forces for failing to protect the headquarters in Sunday’s attack. “The people will not sit silent,” the spokesman said. The headquarters stormed and ransacked following deadly clashes there between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi who hails from the group. The building in Cairo’s Moqattam district was set ablaze before people stormed inside and began throwing things out of the windows, as others were seen leaving with items including furniture, according to AFP news agency. Witnesses told AFP there were no Brotherhood members still inside the building, after they were escorted out by a group of people early on Monday. After millions of protesters flooded streets across Egypt, the country was locked in a tense standoff on Monday as demands for the resignation of Mursi remain stern, and the opposition plans its next moves. At least 10 people were killed during Sunday’s protests and more than 600 wounded during clashes between Mursi’s supporters and opponents, according to Al Arabiya reports on the ground and medical sources. Reuters news agency reported that five of the dead were shot in towns south of Cairo, one each in Beni Suef and Fayoum and three in Assiut.
Two more were killed by gunfire during an attack on the Muslim Brotherhood national headquarters of in a suburb of the capital, medical sources confirmed. The demonstrations, which brought half a million people to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and a similar crowd in the second city, Alexandria, were easily the largest since the Arab Spring uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Around 150 “thugs” attacked the building in the Moqqattam neighborhood with molotov cocktails, birdshot and stones, said Gehad al-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition National Salvation Front said protesters will remain in the streets until the fall of the regime. A leading opposition figure told AFP on Sunday that Egypt’s army should intervene Mursi refuses to step down in response to calls from anti-government protests. “The  armed forces must act, because they have always been on the side of the people,” which “has expressed its will,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 presidential election, running as a left-wing nationalist candidate. Opposition leaders, who have seen previous protest waves fizzle after a few days in December and January, were to meet on Monday afternoon to plot their next move, Reuters news agency reported. The Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, also vowed that the pro-Mursi coalition will also remain in sit-ins to defend until opposition end their rallies. –Al Alarabiya  

19 firefighters die battling raging Arizona wildfire

July 1, 2013 – YARNELL, Ariz.— Gusty, hot winds blew an Arizona blaze out of control Sunday in a forest northwest of Phoenix, overtaking and killing 19 members of an elite fire crew in the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. for at least 30 years. The “hotshot” firefighters were forced to deploy their emergency fire shelters — tent-like structures meant to shield firefighters from flames and heat — when they were caught near the central Arizona town of Yarnell, state forestry spokesman Art Morrison told The Associated Press. The flames lit up the night sky in the forest above the town, and smoke from the blaze could be smelled for miles. The fire started after a lightning strike on Friday and spread to 2,000 acres on Sunday amid triple-digit temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. Officials ordered the evacuations of 50 homes in several communities, and later Sunday afternoon, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office expanded the order to include more residents in Yarnell, a town of about 700 residents about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix. Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said that the 19 firefighters were a part of the city’s fire department. “We grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city,” he said at a news conference Sunday evening. “We’re devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you’ll ever meet.” Hot shot crews are elite firefighters who often hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and backpacks filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires. They remove brush, trees and anything that might burn in the direction of homes and cities. The crew killed in the blaze had worked other wildfires in recent weeks in New Mexico and Arizona, Fraijo said. “By the time they got there, it was moving very quickly,” Fraijo told the AP of Sunday’s fire. He added that the firefighters had to deploy the emergency shelters when “something drastic” occurred. “One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective — kinda looks like a foil type — fire-resistant material — with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it,” Fraijo said. “Under certain conditions there’s usually only sometimes a 50 percent chance that they survive,” he said. “It’s an extreme measure that’s taken under the absolute worst conditions.” –DMN

Increasing earthquake numbers reported at Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano

July 1, 2013 – ECUADOR – The number of earthquakes associated with fluid movement within the volcano has risen from 10 daily earthquakes on June 20 to 54 earthquakes on 29 June. These so-called long period (LP) earthquakes often reflect an increase in pressure inside the volcano. So far, the earthquakes are small and not felt by people. In the afternoon of 29 June, mild fumarolic activity was observed in the crater area. Gas sensors installed near the volcano showed no increase in the concentration of SO2 gas, which suggests that the conduit is currently blocked by a plug, which supports the idea of increasing pressure inside the volcano. Based on the above, IGPEN warns that the pressure build-up could lead to an explosion that destroys the plug, as has happened on other occasions, such as on 16 December last year, and result in new activity of the volcano such as in March and May this year. –Volcano Discovery

Planet’s megaquakes caused volcanoes in subduction zones to sink

July 1, 2013 – GEOLOGY – Massive earthquakes can cause distant volcanoes to sink, according to research in Japan and Chile published on Sunday. The magnitude 9.0 tsunami-generating quake that occurred off northeastern Japan in 2011 caused subsidence of up to 15 centimeters (9.3 inches) in a string of volcanoes on the island of Honshu as much as 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the epicenter, a Japanese study said. And the 8.8 magnitude Maule quake in Chile in 2010 caused a similar degree of sinking in five volcanic regions located up to 220km (130 miles) away, according to a US-led paper. It was not clear whether the phenomenon boosted eruption risk, the authors wrote. Both the Japan and Chile quakes were of the subduction type, caused when one part of Earth’s crust slides beneath another. If the movement is not smooth, tension can build up over decades or centuries before it is suddenly released, sometimes with catastrophic effect.  In both cases, the sinking occurred in mountain ranges running horizontally to the quake. The 2011 quake “caused east-west tension in eastern Japan,” Youichiro Takada of the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University told AFP in an email. “Hot and soft rocks beneath the volcanoes, with magma at the centre, were horizontally stretched and vertically flattened. This deformation caused the volcanoes to subside.” The researchers for the Chilean volcanoes said subsidence occurred along a stretch spanning 400km (250 miles).
As in Japan, the ground deformation in Chile occurred in huge ellipse-shaped divots up to 15km by 30km (nine miles by 18 miles) in size, although the cause appears to be different. Pockets of hot hydrothermal fluids that underpinned the volcanic areas may have escaped through rock that had been stretched and made permeable by the quake. Two earthquakes in the Chilean subduction zone in 1906 and 1960 were followed by eruptions in the Andean southern volcanic zone within a year of their occurrence. However, no big eruptions in this volcanic hotspot can be associated with the 2010 temblor, says the study led by Matthew Pritchard of Cornell University in New York. Takada said the impact of the 2011 quake on volcano risk on Honshu was unclear. “At this stage we do not know the relation between volcanic eruption and the subsidence we found. Further understanding of the magmatic movement would be necessary,” he said. The subsidence in Japan was spotted at the volcanoes Akitakoma, which last erupted in 1971; Kurikoma (1950); Zao (1940); Azuma (1977); and Nasu (1963). The studies, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, used data from satellite radar which mapped terrain before and after the quakes. –Times of India

Kilauea’s eruption continues apace with two ocean entry points

June 30, 2013 – HAWAII – Breakouts from the Kahaualea 2 lava flow burned forest areas north of Kilauea’s middle east rift zone today as eruption activity continued with little change. Tiltmeters at the Kilauea summit recorded only minor fluctuations, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Seismic tremor levels were also low, according to the observatory. The tiltmeter at Puu Oo cone in the middle east rift zone also recorded only minor fluctuations. According to the observatory, the northeast spatter cone continued to feed the Kahaualea 2 flow, which extended about 1.6 miles to the north. Breakouts fro the flow burned forest at the north edge of a flow field created between 1983 and 1986. A second active front, about 1.2 miles north-northwest of Puu Oo, expanded to the west and burned the edge of the forest to the north, the observatory reported. Meanwhile, the so-called Peace Day flow fed a pair of ocean entries via lava tubes. The main entry area was just east of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park boundary; a smaller entry was located just inside the park. –Star Adviser




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