Featured Post



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Kenya : Boda boda riders torch Syokimau police post in protest over killings

Boda boda riders torch Syokimau police post in protest over killings

Syokimau AP police post goes up in flames as irate boda boda riders protest over killing of Josephat Mwenda. (Photo: Peterson Githaiga/Standard) 

Boda boda riders burnt the Syokimau AP police post during a protest against the killing of one of their own, his lawyer and taxi driver.
The over 6,000 boda boda riders from Syokimau, Mlolongo and Athi-river stormed the police post to demand justice for boda boda rider Josephat Mwenda, his lawyer Willie Kimani and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri.
Reacting to the incident, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said he had ordered police to investigate the arson and arrest those responsible.
"It is wrong to burn such a structure that serves locals for prosperity. I have ordered that those behind it be arrested," said Mr Boinnet.
The protest by boda boda riders began at the Makadara grounds before proceeding to Mavoko law courts.
Transport along the busy Mombasa road came to a standstill for close to three hours during the protest.
The riders ignored appeal by area MP Patrick Makau not to torch the police post.
"The killing of the trio is painful for every patriotic Kenyan but I urge you not to take law into your own hands. Conduct peaceful protests because I am sure the relevant arms of the Government and security will take up the matter with the seriousness it deserves," said Mr Makau.
Other politicians who addressed the protesters included Kathiani MP Robert Mbui and East African Legislative Assembly MP Peter Mathuki.
Syokimau Residents Association condemned the burning of the local AP camp.
Chairman Humphrey Odhiambo said the welfare association raised money to construct the structure for their own safety.
"We have lost much in this arson and ask police to get those behind it," said Mr Odhiambo.
It is at the camp that lawyer Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri were held before they were found murdered and their bodies stuffed in sacks dumped in Ol-Donyo Sabuk River in Machakos County.
The group of about 100 boda boda riders arrived at the camp as about 20 officers present retreated before they torched it. They later escaped when a reinforcement team arrived.
The cell where the three had been held was closed and marked as evidence in the ongoing investigation into the murder incident. 

Mugabe's Party Says Western Embassies Back Zimbabwe Protests

--> Bloomberg Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ruling party accused western embassies of sponsoring Wednesday's strike by civil servants over the government's failure to pay salaries on time.

Sent from my iPad

Ethiopia: Town Calls for Additional Support to Cope With Flooding - allAfrica.com

Ethiopia: Town Calls for Additional Support to Cope With Flooding

By Girmachew Gashaw
Ayalew Tesfaye is a businessman in Shoa Robit town. He owns a shop. The overflow of a river that crosses the town damaged the property of many people last April. Now, it has become a threat to town residents who have repeatedly notified the woreda administration of flood threat. The flood hit the town again before the administration takes any action causing huge devastation on the bridge and soil.
"Now, my fear is how to cope with the flood that follows this main rainy season. If the bridge collapses, it will have a heavy impact on the lives of many people. Last time, flash floods affected some parts of the town. By then, I was moving my property from the shop to my residence. Even a shop at nearby was on the verge of collapse. We are still in great fear. We have no power to stop the disaster. It is beyond our capacity, "Ayalew said.
In spite of its long service, the bridge has been serving beyond its capacity, some people say. "Previously, when the river is filled with siltation, the town administration has been removing the alluvial using machinery. Now, no one cares about it and the flood came destroying its right and left side. The soil it eroded could have helped people in cultivation. We need lasting solution."
Yigermal Arage is also town resident. He said: "We are in a precarious situation owing to the flood. Last April, my home was partly flooded. Now it seems worse and is likely to cause heavy loss to the town as a whole. No repair work was done on the bridge built by Italians many decades back. It is now in crack."

According to Town Municipal Service Eng. Demoze Addis, whenever flood occurs, the office devises emergency solution. "But, we are now working to save the town from the devastating main rainy season flood. We do not think that we could fully prevent the town from possible flood disaster. We will do our level best though we are faced with financial constraint."
Noting that the state government has allocated 1.5 million Birr for flood prevention activities, Eng. Demoze calls for additional state and federal government support to address the problem.
Town Deputy Mayor Denbegnaw Taffesse said that as both the town and farmland are exposed to flood, protecting and enclosing the mountain from any intervention brings permanent solution. "We are also working to transplant seedlings on mountains exposed to erosion. Accordingly, 257-meter long gabion construction work is underway. We also try to clear siltation. Constructing the two major bridges is beyond the capacity of the town administration.

IMF cuts South Africa's 2016 growth forecast to 0.1 percent, says outlook sobering - CNBC Africa

IMF cuts South Africa's 2016 growth forecast to 0.1 percent, says outlook sobering

IMF cuts South Africa's 2016 growth forecast to 0.1 percent, says outlook sobering. Photo: Wikimedia.
The International Monetary Fund cut South Africa's 2016 growth forecast to barely above 0 percent on Thursday, saying that Africa's most industrialised economy was not keeping up with the increasing population.
The economy would grow by 0.1 percent in 2016 versus a previous estimate of 0.6 percent given by the global lender in May, IMF mission chief for South Africa, Laura Papi, and senior economist with its African department, Yi Wu, said in a column in the Business Day newspaper.
Growth is seen expanding by 1.1 percent in 2017, the officials said.
"The outlook is sobering... This means the economy is not keeping up with the rate of population growth, which is 1.7 percent," they said.
South Africa's economy is struggling to grow, hobbled by low commodity prices linked to a slowdown in key consumer China as well as a severe drought in the region which has pushed food prices and inflation higher.
Investors are also uncertain about Pretoria's commitment to sound economic policy as it deals with political ructions triggered by President Jacob Zuma inexplicably changing finance ministers twice in four days in December.
(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia)

New ISIS threats: Scenarios for South-east Asia,

New ISIS threats: Scenarios for South-east Asia

The self-styled Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is coming under increasing pressure as Western-led coalitions drive it out of territories in two Arab states, such as through the recapture of Fallujah near Baghdad. However, there may be little to cheer as the more pressure is piled on ISIS, the more dangerous it will become.
While ISIS' power is shrinking physically, the consequences of a weakened and defeated ISIS may be more horrendous, as the suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad on Sunday demonstrate. This attack in the holy month of Ramadan, in which 150 people were killed, and the recent attacks in Brussels, Paris, Baghdad, Istanbul, Puchong (Malaysia) and Solo (Indonesia) were led or inspired by ISIS.
Following a string of military conquests in Iraq and Syria in 2013 and 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became the self-proclaimed caliph of a self-declared caliphate on June 29, 2014. Since then, ISIS has been in decline. Thousands of its fighters and several military commanders have been killed in coalition air raids, with the militant group losing key cities and about one-quarter of its territory.
ISIS will crumble, but it may not disappear immediately, especially if Libya emerges as the new epicentre of the caliphate. The endemic problems of governance in Iraq and Syria, as well as the heightening Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian divide in the Middle East, will delay the immediate death of ISIS. However, its dwindling power may heighten the threat to the world, especially South-east Asia.
Four scenarios are likely to present themselves:
Scenario 1

The scene of a suicide bomb attack at a police station in Solo, Indonesia, on Tuesday. The more ISIS comes under siege in the Middle East, the more it will be motivated to strike targets outside the region, says the writer. PHOTO: REUTERS
With ISIS under challenge in Iraq and Syria, its worldwide affiliates are likely to initiate attacks in various parts of the world. The more ISIS comes under siege in the Middle East, the more it will be motivated to strike targets outside the region. In South-east Asia, this could lead to attacks by ISIS returnees and supporters, including by non-South-east Asians, such as the Uighurs and Arabs.
This trend is already visible in the southern Philippines, which has emerged as the regional hub for ISIS' activities. Since April this year, with the appointment of Isnilon Hapilon as emir, a wilayah (province) has been declared in the southern Philippines, literally a de facto self-declared Islamic State in the region.
ISIS' attacks in Brussels and Istanbul are symptomatic of this strategy. An ISIS under threat will see its affiliates widen their attacks abroad to deflect and deter various coalition members from attacking ISIS in the Middle East. This is also to demonstrate to its supporters that it is capable of hurting its "enemies". This danger is likely to increase in South-east Asia in the coming months and years.
Scenario 2
South-east Asia has to be even more prepared for acts of terrorism conducted in the name of ISIS once it is weakened or defeated in Iraq and Syria. In fact, South-east Asia's larger war with terrorism would begin once ISIS is defeated in the Middle East.
There may be a "business as usual" approach as ISIS will not be easily defeated militarily because of the weakness of Iraq and Syria. While ISIS' territories may shrink, it will still be in a position to control large swathes of land and continue to recruit fighters because of the power of its ideology and the weaknesses of most Sunni-majority Muslim states.
The hatred against the West will continue to provide powerful motivation to win adherents for ISIS. A weakened ISIS will still be able to pose a serious threat to most of South-east Asia. Thus, even if ISIS is not physically dismantled, its threat to South-east Asia will remain.
Scenario 3
A military defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is also unlikely to end the threat it poses. Just like Al-Qaeda, following its defeat in Afghanistan in 2001, ISIS' affiliates will be able to pose a serious threat to various regions, including South-east Asia. This is because of the presence of a large number of trained and ideologically fortified South-east Asians in Iraq and Syria as well as a large pool of supporters and sympathisers in the region.
In Iraq and Syria, South-east Asian fighters are organised under an ISIS affiliate called Katibah Nusantara, and the return of its battle-hardened fighters will not augur well for the region. Even more chilling is the "buy-in" of the ISIS ideology by members of the security apparatus, raising the possibility of attacks by some military and police personnel in the region.
Scenario 4
The defeat of ISIS may also not end the threat posed by terrorism. A new round of low-insurgency warfare may surface as most of the issues that led to the rise of ISIS remain unresolved. Just as local extremist groups were attracted to Al-Qaeda and later to ISIS, there is every likelihood that a post-ISIS threat will emanate. Middle East geopolitics has been conducive for extremism and terrorism, and this is unlikely to change.
A new threat may be even more lethal than the one posed by ISIS. One possibility is the merger of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which are ideologically aligned but split by personal differences. South-east Asian fighters with the pro-Al Qaeda Al-Nusra Front may link up with ISIS fighters to pose an existential threat to the region.
In May this year, an ISIS video showed South-east Asian fighters in Katibah Nusantara declaring war on the region. Hence, South-east Asia should remain vigilant rather than laud the end of ISIS.
As ISIS weakens, its danger stems from its willingness to strike at international targets through its global franchises. This is to remain relevant politically, gain more recruits and justify its raison d'etre ideologically. The more ISIS shrinks territorially, the more it will free up its fighters for acts of global terrorism. The more ISIS is threatened, the more fighters are likely to return to their home countries, bringing ISIS' fight to various regions of the world, including South-east Asia.
This would be similar to what happened to the Afghan mujahideen following their success in the Afghan War in the 1980s. In short, South-east Asia has to be even more prepared for acts of terrorism conducted in the name of ISIS once it is weakened or defeated in Iraq and Syria. In fact, South-east Asia's larger war with terrorism would begin once ISIS is defeated in the Middle East.
•The writer is an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore and adjunct senior fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
•This article first appeared in RSIS Commentary.

South China Sea - Part One: Fish Wars,

South China Sea - Part One: Fish Wars

A Chinese vessel (right) using a water cannon on a Vietnamese vessel near the Paracel islands in May 2014. Chinese boats reportedly rammed Vietnamese vessels near disputed waters where China had stationed an oil drilling platform. Fish produce at a m
A Chinese vessel (above) using a water cannon on a Vietnamese vessel near the Paracel islands in May 2014. Chinese boats reportedly rammed Vietnamese vessels near disputed waters where China had stationed an oil drilling platform.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
KOTA KINABALU (Malaysia) • The calm, sun-dappled waters off the capital of Sabah have long been a magnet for international tourists seeking diving adventures.
These days, the fear of deadly kidnappings by pirates from southern Philippines has cast a shadow over the allure of its colourful marine life beneath the waves.
But for commercial fishermen like Mr Simon Hong, who sports a military-style crew cut, pirates aren't his worry. Poaching fishermen from neighbouring countries that ring the South China Sea are.
Mr Jamali Basri, who heads the fishing community in the port town of Miri in the neighbouring Sarawak coast, is more direct. He says that roughly 1,000 fishermen from the state live in fear of "Chinese gunboats" that are providing cover to Chinese commercial fishing boats as they muscle into their traditional fishing grounds of Luconia Shoal, about 100km from Miri's shores.
"We've heard stories about how the Chinese (coast guard vessels) have rammed boats from the Philippines and Vietnam. We are scared and our navy is doing nothing," he tells The Sunday Times. "Maybe if the navy plants our flags there and keeps a presence, our fishermen may be more brave."
Flags to assert sovereignty won't be enough to deter China. And the problem is expected to worsen as demand for fish rises and countries become more assertive in exercising their rights under their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
As the population in China and South-east Asia grows and consumers become more affluent and discerning about their diet, the pressure on wild fish stocks in the South China Sea will only worsen.
Neighbouring Indonesia has caught 153 fishing vessels for poaching in its waters since late 2014, including 50 from Vietnam, 43 from the Philippines and one from China. It regularly destroys these boats by blowing them up in highly publicised media events in a bid to deter poaching. Malaysia's Foreign Ministry last week summoned China's ambassador after some 100 Chinese fishing boats were spotted in waters just off Sarawak.
But the growing appetite for fish, coupled with shrinking stocks, is driving fishermen farther and farther from their shores. Argentina last month sunk a fishing trawler from China that it said was poaching in its EEZ.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations estimates the value of global fish trade last year amounted to roughly US$130 billion (S$176 billion).
As the population in China and South-east Asia grows and consumers become more affluent and discerning about their diet, the pressure on wild fish stocks in the South China Sea will only worsen. "There will be less wild-caught seafood on the plate in South-east Asia in the future and much more farmed fish," says FAO's fishery expert Simon Funge-Smith.
But fish farming is suitable only for certain forms of seafood such as bass, salmon and shellfish, not so for the much prized tuna and swordfish. It also has its downsides, including depleting smaller species such as anchovies used to feed the farmed fish and leaving poor coastal communities without even this cheaper form of protein.
According to a 2015 University of British Columbia study, the South China Sea produces at least 10 million tonnes of fish or 12 per cent of the global catch each year, but the true number is likely much higher as the data does not take into account illegal and unregulated fishing.
The depletion of fish stocks is of serious concern as seafood provides a major source of protein and income for millions of poor people in coastal areas. Shortages and increased competition also aggravate the problem in other ways. Unregulated trawling and illegal methods such as blast fishing destroy breeding grounds, racking up even greater problems for the future.
"It's increasingly hard to catch fish. We now have to venture farther out into the seas," said Chinese fisherman Li Zhongming, 38, from southern Hainan.
In the Philippines, 10 out of the 13 designated fishing grounds have been overfished. As a result, the population and size of small pelagic fish species, such as sardines and scad, are shrinking. Data from the fisheries bureau shows that the average daily haul of a Filipino fisherman has fallen to 4.76kg from as much as 20kg in the 1970s.
The main culprit has been industrial fishing. The Philippines has a fleet of about 1,000 commercial boats feeding a booming canned food industry and Japan's ever-growing hunger for quality tuna. Each boat, in terms of fish haul, is equivalent to 65 outrigger canoes, and their larger nets typically catch fish too young to reproduce, threatening stock viability.
Vietnam is one of the world's top five seafood exporters, together with Indonesia and Thailand, and has the world's third largest fishery production and aquaculture industry after China and India. Including farmed species, Vietnam exported US$6.57 billion worth of seafood in 2015.
Indonesia, home of the world's largest tuna fishing grounds, produces more than 100,000 tonnes of tuna a year. But 90 per cent of the roughly 5,400 local and foreign vessels that ply the Indonesian waters have no permits, putting the sector's losses to poaching at as high as US$25 billion annually.
The growing competition is fuelling rows over maritime borders and fishery rights. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines - countries that form the perimeter of the South China Sea - are locked in territorial disputes. While countries can claim rights under the EEZs, there is Beijing's nine- dash line that virtually claims all of the South China Sea as its own. Diplomats say Beijing is trying to add heft to its claim that the tongue- shaped nine-dash line represents the country's "traditional fishing grounds" through the presence of large numbers of private fishing vessels protected by its coast guard.
"It is a clever strategy because the marine fishing industries in the region aren't as equipped as the Chinese vessels which venture all over the globe," says one diplomat.
Tension is stoked as South-east Asian nations try to police their fishing grounds, leading to shoot-outs at sea. But it is a tough job as regional coast guard patrols cannot cope with their limited crew and equipment. Greenpeace oceans campaigner Vince Cinches noted that fishermen from southern Philippines have ventured more than 500km to the waters around the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Often they fly the Indonesian flag to evade the coast guard.
The Philippines is itself a major victim to poaching. South of Scarborough Shoal, in the disputed Spratly archipelago, more than 300 Chinese fishing boats can be seen on any given day, according to Mr Eugenio Bito-onon, mayor of a town that covers a Philippine-held island in the Spratlys.
But it is not just the Chinese. In recent years, the Philippine coast guard has arrested fishermen from Vietnam and Taiwan. To protect its depleting maritime resources, the Philippines is acquiring 100 new patrol boats to add to the current 20.
In Indonesia, senior fisheries official Slamet Soebjakto told reporters last week that the government is planning to bar foreign vessels from entering waters considered breeding grounds. These will cover areas in Kendari, Sikakap and Natuna. "We want to maintain our sovereignty,'' he said.

Additional reporting by Raul Dancel in Manila, Teo Cheng Wee in Sanya (Hainan), Francis Chan and Arlina Arshad in Jakarta and Nirmal Ghosh in Bangkok

‘Zuma must act on Zim unrest’ - NewsDay Zimbabwe

'Zuma must act on Zim unrest'

SOUTH Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has urged President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress (ANC) government to speak out on the unfolding civil unrest in Zimbabwe.

South Africa President,Jacob Zuma
DA International Relations and Co-operation shadow minister, Stevens Mokgalapa said Zuma could not remain silent if South Africa was to play its part to mitigate the escalating unrest in Zimbabwe.
"The quiet diplomacy of the past cannot be allowed to repeat itself and, as history has shown, has the potential to allow for human rights violations to persist," he said.
"The situation in Zimbabwe appears to be the result of a shortage of resources – food and cash – as well as dissatisfaction with the administration of President Robert Mugabe. We call on Zuma – as a leader in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region – and International Relations and Co-operation minister, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane to break their silence and condemn the atrocities currently being carried out in Zimbabwe."
Mokgalapa said Zuma must give effect to South Africa's human rights-based foreign policy to ensure that no more human rights abuses occur on the country's watch.
"Our government's silence in this regard will make us complicit in the escalation of the use of force against civilians," the DA official warned.
"South Africa's most recent track record on human rights on the international stage has left a lot to be desired and it is time for us to step up and restore our commitment to human rights."
Mokgalapa said the time was ripe to find a solution that would ensure that the will of the people in Zimbabwe prevailed and also the upholding of democratic principles and constitutionalism.
"Furthermore, the situation in Zimbabwe should serve as a wakeup call for the South African government that, without sound economic policies and a caring government, the people will suffer and their dissatisfaction will only be silenced for so long," the shadow minister said.
"Zimbabwe, like many other African nations, helped South Africa in its fight for freedom and democracy. We have a duty to ensure that Zimbabwe finds legitimate freedom and democracy."

How nuclear deal has cooled Iran-US cyberwar

How nuclear deal has cooled Iran-US cyberwar

A man poses in front of a display showing the word "cyber" in binary code, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dec. 27, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
Sitting in a brightly lit apartment in Brooklyn, an American hacker who asked Al-Monitor to call him Alex scribbled down a dizzying array of cyberstrikes between the United States/Israel and Iran since 2010. The page was fast being covered in Alex's rushed handwriting, and his eyes glimmered with excitement.
Summary⎙ Print Once-threatening cyberattacks between the United States and Iran appear to have slowed since the countries reached a nuclear pact.
"They've gotten incredibly sophisticated," he said as he marveled at the speed at which Iranian hackers have been able to create a defensive and offensive arm against Western cyberattacks. Yet, as he neared 2015 on his ad hoc timeline, his pen began to slow.
"With the Iran [nuclear] deal, we saw a parallel cooling down of attacks in the cyberworld. The nuclear deal has not only opened discussion with the Iranians on nuclear issues, but it has created a mutual detente in the cyberworld, and that's huge, because cyberwarfare between Iran and the West was getting to really bad levels."
David, an Iranian-American internet security specialist who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, agreed. He said, "Before the Iran deal, we were witnessing a heightened level of cyberwarfare between Iran and the US/Israel. It was getting to a very [worrisome] level, as Iran's capabilities had increased exponentially in a very short period of time. But the Iran deal has put a halt to all of this." David's employer is one of the leading US firms that monitor Iranian cyberactivity.
Until the 2011 emergence of Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm reportedly built by the United States and Israel to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, Iranian cyberstrike capabilities were virtually nonexistent. Until then, the Islamic Republic was focusing on its own citizens. Local hackers contracted by the authorities spent time monitoring domestic netizens. With the advent of the 2009 Green Movement, Iran officially created the "Iranian Cyber Army," further tapping into the extensive surveillance network that German firm Siemens had installed in the country. The key stakeholders in the Cyber Army include the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij paramilitary militia. To counter Stuxnet, Iran began pouring cash into both defensive and offensive cybercapabilities. David, the internet security specialist, said in this regard, "It wasn't until Stuxnet that Iran realized it could use cybercapabilities as a weapon on such a large scale." 
"Iran went from being a nuisance in the cyberworld to starting big cyberattacks around the world," Alex, the hacker, said. "They began stealing encryption keys and attacking US banks. But the biggest was Operation Shamoon [2012] in which Iranian hackers were able to completely bring down Saudi Aramco, targeting 30,000 Saudi Aramco workstations. The rate at which they were able to expand caused paranoia in cybersecurity circles across the world, but especially in the Gulf countries."
He added, "Iran's attack against Aramco was no joke — it brought down the entire system. That's huge."
The West and Israel reportedly targeted Iran with four pieces of cyberweaponry between 2010 and 2012: Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame and Gauss. Each time, the Islamic Republic retaliated almost tit for tat, stealing encryption keys and certificates. In 2013, Israel said Iran was constantly attacking its power grid and water systems.
David said, "It was with Operation Cleaver [2014] that targeted US defense contractors, energy firms and educational institutions, that the United States began to really look at and study Iran's cyberactivities. We concluded that Iran's cyberactivities are now on par with China." The FBI issued warnings about Operation Cleaver, which was known to have hit US Navy servers and caused breaches in other major targets.
"Unlike the Chinese or Russian cyberarmies — which stage massive attacks like a conventional army would in the real world — the Iranian Cyber Army works in a much more guerrilla fashion. They work patiently and slowly, and that's why it is much harder to detect their activity until they have completely hacked a system," David said. "The Iranian hackers are experts at 'personifying' by creating fake profiles on social media sites and slowly connecting to people. They establish relationships with users on other ends, and after a long period of time they will hack the system. It's ingenious, because there is no way to detect this. They did a hack on Gmail and were able to get a lot of personal information in the same way."
Unlike China and Syria, for instance, where cyberwarriors are official members of their country's military and intelligence units and report to work every day, Iran keeps a bit of a distance from its hackers. In this vein, the Islamic Republic rather operates along the lines of the US model, in which private companies and hackers are mostly contracted to do the work, according to a 2013 report by California-based cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. Like the United States and its National Security Agency (NSA), Iran also has cybercapabilities in certain intelligence bodies, but for the most part it relies on outside contractors.
One of those firms is Ajax Security, a private security company in Iran monitored by FireEye. It is thought to be one of the leading enablers of the Islamic Republic's quest to enhance Iranian cybercapabilities. Ajax Security is thought to be behind "Operation Saffron Rose," a series of attacks that features spear-phishing emails as well as spoofed Microsoft Outlook Web Access and virtual private network pages. The operation also includes trolling for user credentials from defense contractors and other members of the defense industry. Ajax Security is additionally active in helping the Iranian authorities monitor activists by luring them with legitimate anti-censorship tools rigged with malware. According to the FireEye report, Ajax Security has become the first Iranian hacking group known to use custom-built malicious software to launch espionage campaigns.
In a 2014 interview with Reuters, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said, "I've grown to fear a nation-state that would never go toe to toe with us in conventional combat and that now suddenly finds they can arrest our attention with cyberattacks."
Alex said he agrees with Hayden's assessment. "That's why the Iran deal has been so significant. These cyberattacks were happening because the United States and Iran distrusted each other and we were after their nuclear program, so they were retaliating in kind. The Iran deal has slowed all of this down and hopefully will ensure that we don't have to be attacking each other in this fashion," he said.

Verdict still out on climate change impact on military

Verdict still out on climate change's impact on military

On the military's view of climate change

Concerning retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney's column ("Climate change threatens national, global security," June 30): Respecting the blessings of our planet is one issue. Thwarting evil is an entirely separate mission.

Letters and commentary policy

The U-T welcomes and encourages community dialogue on important public matters. Please visit this page for more details on our letters and commentaries policy.
  • E-mail letters@sduniontribune.com
  • Mail: Andrew Kleske, Reader Outreach Editor
    San Diego Union-Tribune
    P.O. Box 120191
    San Diego, CA 92112-0191.
Only government bureaucrats and think-tank pundits believe they can snooker us by mixing the two with platitudinous lecturing.
Deborah Christian
Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney emphasizes the not-often-mentioned danger to national security posed by climate change.
While it is sometimes still debated in the political arena, flag officers from all branches of the armed services have long realized its role as a "threat multiplier" in putting American military men and women in harm's way. Conflicts in the Middle East can often be tied to the effects of climate change, as evidenced by the five-year drought that preceded the "Arab Spring."
And it's not too great a stretch to connect these uprisings to the acts of terrorism we are seeing every day. Now, more than ever, it's time for the United States to accept a leadership role in combating climate change, and support for the Clean Power Plan is possibly the best way we can show the world that we are ready to accept this challenge.
Robert Gilleskie
Del Mar

Good news would help as election approaches

I totally agree with letter writer Clarence Wilkinson ("Save space in the paper for some good news," July 1) on having a page in the paper for only good news.
It would be a real change especially with the presidential elections coming up this summer. Please make it possible.
Betty Nelson

Give dog owners a break on Fiesta Island

I take strong issue with the op-ed piece by Judith Swink ("Dog owner concerns blocking Fiesta Island improvements," July 2). She claims dog owners are trying to "dictate" usage when we have been and are working towards a fair arrangement for all. For example, we want to protect the off-leash area from being cut in two by a road for kayakers with inadequate fences put up that many dogs could easily jump and be put in harm's way.
That is just one of the many issues at hand. Swink has simplified the issue and doesn't seem to understand the full scope of the debate. I hope you will give a representative of Fiesta Island Dog Owners a chance to present the dog owners' side as well. This has been a long-going debate and the public needs some clarity on the real issues at hand.
Susan Matthews
Point Loma

Fleet should be on list of 40 notable locals

Clearly, it was a daunting task to select and highlight the brilliant talents shown in "San Diegans who changed the world" (July 1).
Of course, the U-T will get the anticipated deluged of letters from your readers suggesting others who should have been included.
However, there is one in particular that must be noted. It is Reuben H. Fleet, the founder of Consolidated Aircraft Corp., which located to San Diego in 1935.
It became a world leader in building seaplanes in numbers beyond all other flying boat manufacturers in total. And Consolidated outpaced production of World War II B-24s at nearly 30 per day beneath Pacific Highway's camouflaged buildings. Fleet was accorded "Mr. San Diego" in 1968 and elected to the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1975.
Max Lund
San Diego

Lindbergh's beliefs disqualify his exploits

Finally our local print media has spoken out of Charles Lindbergh's shameful Nazi sympathies ("'America First' echoes an anti-Semitic past," July 2) and his public indictment of Jews.
While naming an airport after a famous aviator might seem proper, further examination proves it as incorrect as if we were to name a theater after a famous actor named John Wilkes Booth.
Lawrence Morrow
San Diego

Lynch, Clinton story wasn't in print edition

As I opened the U-T on Friday, I was curious to see what it said about Loretta Lynch meeting Bill Clinton in Phoenix ("Clinton and Lynch met privately at Phoenix airport," June 30). I didn't expect to see it on the front page. In fact, I told my wife that it'd be buried on the inside pages.
Wow, it wasn't even mentioned. You can see the far left turn the U-T has taken with its new ownership. I'm sure the story will be covered because of all the publicity it's gotten. Sad. I liked the old U-T.
John Horne
Rancho Santa Fe

The fix is in to keep Clinton out of trouble

Regarding "No charges recommended in Clinton email probe, FBI says" (July 5): Let's see if I've got this straight. "Career Department of Justice" people will decide the fate of Hillary Clinton, not any political appointee like Loretta Lynch. Career DOJ employees are permanent employees and would like to keep their promotion chances as high as possible, which generally means "pleasing your boss."
Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton are clearly "buddy buddy," discussing "golf and grandchildren." Obama, Lynch's boss, says that Clinton has done "nothing wrong." So what career DOJ employees are going to put their job futures (they probably can't be fired, but they sure can languish in whatever position they hold) on the line and risk recommending an indictment? Especially since half the Democrats out there don't care what she's done or how corrupt she is, they'll still vote for her. Ain't government wonderful?
Steve Bepko

One Paseo projectdoes not address traffic

Regarding "Dense One Paseo project approved" (June 28): Shame on the City Council for approving One Paseo. I'm not against it per se, but nothing should be built there that involves pedestrians going back and forth between One Paseo and the Del Mar Highlands center without a pedestrian crossover between the two.
Having people push the button to get a green light to cross between the two will cause more traffic problems than anything else.
I brought it up to several people during the planning stages and all I heard back was "there are no current plans for such a crossover." Well, duh. Make plans and make the developer pay for it. The people on the City Council are so inept.
Of course council members don't care about the traffic mess. They just care about tax revenue, votes and, of course, their nice pensions.
Jim Cronin
San Diego

Thanks for making the tough observations

Kudos to the U-T for the editorial "Can we focus on Clinton's foreign policy?" (July 3).
Much of the media throw "softballs" when writing/talking about Hillary Clinton. This time the editor threw a real "hardball."
Merv Spahn
La Mesa

China’s devastating floods can be traced back to corruption and overbuilding — Quartz

China's devastating floods can be traced back to corruption and overbuilding

Climate change plagues Madagascar's poor: 'The water rose so fast' | Global development | The Guardian

Climate change plagues Madagascar's poor: 'The water rose so fast'

A young girl waters the garden at Masindray primary school, in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Angenie, 21, lives in a country many people think of as an ecological paradise, home to a unique diversity of plants and animals. Yet within the past three years she has witnessed droughts and floods so severe she has had to flee her home to escape them – twice.
Angenie grew up in southern Madagascar where, as a child, she remembers "things being green". But for the past few years a severe drought, blamed on the devastating effects of El Niño, has gripped the southern region. "The land got dry, really dry," she says. "It got to the point we were not able to grow anything. People ate only dried cassava or cactus fruit."
More than 80% of Madagascar's rural poor are, like Angenie and her family, reliant on small-scale farming or fishing. With no way to feed themselves, she and her husband moved to the coastal city of Morondava three years ago, settling in a suburb called Tanambao, little more than a collection of ramshackle wooden houses on a strip of land wedged between a river and the sea.
She says: "At first life was a bit better here because at least we could go out and catch shrimps for our food. But last year we had floods. The water rose so fast. I had to carry my baby on my shoulders to get out. When we came back, everything was destroyed."

François, who has lived in Tanambao village, Madagascar, all his life, shows his daughter a mark on his house that indicates the water level during last year's floods.

François, 58, has lived in Tanambao all his life, in a traditional wooden house on stilts. "At high tide the water only used to come up to here," he says, pointing to a tide mark just a few centimetres off the ground. "That was in 1998. Now it comes up to here," he says pointing to a mark more than a metre higher.
Water levels are rising each year and weather patterns are becoming more unusual and extreme. Madagascar is one of the countries most exposed to cyclones in Africa. Climate change is expected to bring stronger cyclones and further droughts, which will have a dramatic impact on food security and infrastructure in a country where about 90% of the population already lives on less than $3 a day.
Morondava's mayor, Kolo Friof, says the city is not equipped to withstand another cyclone or flood. The cyclone four years ago tore apart what was left of the old colonial sea defences, and he says he has no funds to rebuild them. "Tourism is our only industry here," he says. "I am trying to work with the hotel owners to engage them to work with me by planting new mangroves. But what we are able to do ourselves isn't enough."
Tanambao's community president blames newcomers like Angenie and her family for making the situation worse. "Urbanisation and the growing population is the problem," he says. "We are getting more and more people coming here from the south. I tell them they have gone from something already bad there to something that is getting worse here. Every new household here means more trees cut in order to burn charcoal. Everyone is destroying the mangroves."
Alan Walsch from the German aid agency GIZ says the situation is far more complex. "We know that many people are fleeing the south. Madagascar is an island, so people can rarely afford to leave the country – they move internally. But there hasn't been a census in several years so we don't know how many people have migrated or where to, which makes it impossible to plan programmes effectively. I often hear migrants getting the blame for cutting down trees, but in reality many communities are also doing it themselves. When you fly over Madagascar it is horrifying because you can really see the devastation and degradation caused by slash-and-burn farming techniques and deforestation. Only 10% of Madagascar's original forest remains."
GIZ is working in rural areas to replant and manage forests and support coastal communities. "We need to be working to tackle the effects of climate change and provide sustainable farming methods so that people don't have to migrate and can stay in their own communities," says Walsch.
But, he adds, "chronic underfunding" is a huge problem. "Madagascar does not have time to spare when it comes to the effects of climate change. Last year there was tremendous, unprecedented heavy rain, which flooded 60% of the capital city, causing landslides. Then, in March, heavy storms destroyed harvests in the north, while in the south there was no rain at all. There are big contradictions in weather patterns."

The remains of a hotel and swimming pool that was flooded several years ago by rising sea tides, in Morondava, Madagascar
The remains of a hotel and swimming pool that was flooded several years ago by rising sea tides, in Morondava, Madagascar.

Louise Whiting, senior policy analyst on water security and climate change at WaterAid, says changing weather patterns are making the future of water supplies more uncertain in Madagascar, where, already, 12 million people – just over half the population – don't have access to clean water. WaterAid is working to install flood-proof water points and improved sanitation points across the most at-risk areas.
Whiting believes the Paris climate deal reached last year falls far short of what is needed to help cities like Morondava. "In Paris only 16% of climate change funding was earmarked for adaptation," she says. "The rest is marked for mitigation or to help countries stop emitting gases. This is not nearly enough."
Angenie feels cornered: "I can't go back to the south and I now have nothing here. I am frightened. I live only for today. I don't know about tomorrow."

PressTV-Zimbabwe beset by nationwide strikes

Nationwide strikes, protests bring life to near halt in Zimbabwe

Nationwide protests and strikes against the economic crisis in Zimbabwe have almost brought normal life in the African country to a halt.
Zimbabwean riot police resorted to tear gas and warning shots to disperse small gatherings in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday, following weeks of unrest in the African country over the government's inability to pay the salaries of public sector employees.
The strike on Wednesday, called by a little known social movement called ThisFlag and dubbed the "stay-away day," was the latest of a series of strikes staged in the past couple of days.

Zimbabwean riot police are deployed during clashes with public transport drivers, in the capital, Harare, July 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

"This is a sign of economic collapse, which has left people with nothing more to sacrifice and nothing to lose," said Dumisani Nkomo, a spokesman for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition campaign group.
"We are heading toward a tipping point as a country, where citizens will express their pain by any means," he warned.
Inside the once bustling capital, people are seen camping outside banks hoping to withdraw their savings. In some suburbs of Harare, angry protesters set tires ablaze and blocked streets to stop vehicles from reaching the city center.
Meanwhile, police, too, have set up numerous roadblocks on the streets, purportedly forcing drivers to pay bribes, causing further anger against the government.

Protesters hurl stones in Harare on July 4, 2016 during clashes with Zimbabwe's riot police. (AFP)

According to Dirk Frey, of the Occupy Africa Unity Square opposition movement, the protests were successful in forcing President Robert Mugabe to hear people.
"Despite sporadic incidences of violence, all over the country people have responded to the call. The state's crackdown in response, however, is of concern as it is a violent way of silencing people," he said.
On Tuesday, teachers, doctors and nurses began a strike over their unpaid salaries, leaving schools and hospitals crippled.
The opposition says the 92-year-old president has failed to properly address issues such as economic decline, mass unemployment and emigration in Zimbabwe while accusations have also been leveled about the repression of dissent and vote-rigging during his tenure.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the nation's independence in 1980. He has promised that he will run again for presidency in 2018.

PressTV-Four border guards killed in SE Iran

Armed bandits kill four border guards in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan

Armed bandits have killed four Iranian border guards during clashes in the country's southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.
An informed source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IRNA on Wednesday that the guards were killed in an ambush by terrorists in the border region of Jakigour in the southern Sarbaz district of the province.
Police and military forces are investigating the attack, which was followed by clashes in which a number of terrorists were also killed or injured, the source added.
Reza Abdi, head of the provincial branch of the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization, confirmed that they had received bodies of four soldiers, saying the names of the victims will be released soon.
Iranian forces have recently engaged in clashes with terror groups, thwarting their terrorist activities on the border and within the country, arresting several of them and confiscating large amounts of explosives and bomb-making materials.  
Last month, a police officer and five members of the so-called Jaish ul-Adl terror group were killed in the Khash region in Sistan and Baluchestan Province.
Police spokesman, General Saeed Montazer-al-Mahdi, said the terrorists sought to conduct acts of terror inside the country, noting that a huge amount of ammunition was confiscated from them.
Jaish-ul-Adl has claimed responsibility for a number of criminal activities in Iran and Pakistan in recent years.
In June, Iran's Intelligence Ministry also thwarted a Takfiri-Wahhabi plot to stage attacks in Iran's major cities, including the capital city of Tehran.
The ministry released a video depicting raids by security forces on the hideout of the terrorists in Tehran. Last Monday, it also released another video footage of confessions by two terrorists, who detailed their plot to conduct terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital.
Earlier, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi had briefed reporters on the recent swoop, saying that as many as 10 terrorists had been detained from June 14 to 20 in Tehran and three border and central provinces.

PressTV-67 hate crimes a day in UK after Brexit

Three hate crimes every hour since Brexit referendum

British police say the number of hate crimes in the United Kingdom has dramatically increased by more than 50 percent since the country voted to leave the European Union.
On Tuesday, a new report published by the British media cited the UK Metropolitan Police, aka Scotland Yard, as saying that the number of hate crimes in London has sharply risen by more than 50 percent since the Brexit vote, with an average of 67 incidents of hate crimes reported every day.
New figures revealed that between June 24, the day on which the result of the EU referendum was announced, and  July 2, 599 incidents of hate crime had been reported to Scotland Yard.
British officials said the vast majority of these incidents involve abusive and offensive language, adding that anti-refugee sentiment has also been on the rise in the UK.
"We are carefully analyzing every incident to see what is happening across London and these figures may change as victims come forward and report incidents after the event," said Commander Mak Chishty, Britain's senior police chief. "I would strongly urge both victims and witnesses to come forward and report any such incidents to police as soon as possible."
Chishty further said police recognize that people "are feeling anxious at the perception of increased intolerance against certain communities".
In the latest incident, a Polish man suffered "significant injuries" following a "racially aggravated assault" by two men on the day the Leave decision was announced.
The 30-year-old victim was walking in the street as two men approached him and asked if he spoke English, before repeatedly punching and kicking him.
He sustained an eye injury, a fractured cheekbone and substantial bruising to his body, police said.
Hate crime is defined as an offense, perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.
In the June 23 referendum, about 52 percent of British voters opted to leave the EU, while roughly 48 percent of the people voted to stay in the union. More than 17.4 million Britons said the country should leave the bloc just over 16.14 million others favored remaining in the EU.

PressTV-US warships sail near Chinese-held islands

US warships sail near Chinese-held islands

US naval officials say American warships have sailed close to Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea in recent weeks, patrols likely to fuel tensions between Washington and Beijing.
US Pacific Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Clint Ramsden said Thursday the patrols were part of a "routine presence" but that he could not go into operational or tactical details.
"All of these patrols are conducted in accordance with international law and all are consistent with routine Pacific Fleet presence throughout the Western Pacific."
The US destroyers were conducting patrols within 14 to 20 nautical miles (25 to 37 kilometers) of Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands near the Philippines.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned US Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington must not harm Beijing's sovereignty and security in the South China Sea.
The patrols come ahead of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Dutch city of The Hague about the dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea.
China has refused to participate in the case and vowed to ignore the rulings which the US insists are binding and an important test of Beijing's willingness to adhere to international law.
The South China Sea has become a source of tension between the US, China and some regional countries who are seeking control of trade routes and mineral deposits.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, despite partial counterclaims by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. China is also locked in disputes with Japan and South Korea over the East China Sea.
Aside from challenging China's sovereignty claims politically, the US has also on numerous occasions sent warships near Chinese artificial islands in the disputed waters.
China has repeatedly criticized US military presence in the region and suspects the military drills are part of efforts to contain Beijing.

High risk of wildfire projected for Amazon

High risk of wildfire projected for Amazon

The long-lasting effects of El Niño are projected to cause an intense fire season in the Amazon, according to the 2016 seasonal forecast from scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine.
El Niño conditions in 2015 and early 2016 altered rainfall patterns around the world.  In the Amazon, El Niño reduced rainfall during the wet season, leaving the region drier at the start of the 2016 dry season than any year since 2002, according to NASA satellite data.
"It's the driest we've seen it at the onset of a fire season, and an important challenge now is to find ways to use this information to limit damages in coming months," said Jim Randerson, Chancellor's Professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine. He developed the forecast methodology with UC Irvine research scientist Yang Chen and colleagues at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. "Just as El Nino is known to have an impact on precipitation in the western United States, it also affects the Amazon, but in that case it causes drier conditions."
Wildfire risk for the dry-season months of July, August and September this year now exceeds the danger in 2005 and 2010, drought years when large areas of Amazon rainforest burned, said Doug Morton, NASA Earth scientist.
"Severe drought conditions at the start of the dry season set the stage for extreme fire risk in 2016 across the southern Amazon," Morton said.

Tracking Amazon fire season in near-real time

The forecast uses the relationship between climate and active burn detections from NASA satellites to predict fire season severity during the region's dry season. Developed in 2011, the forecast model is focused particularly on the link between sea surface temperatures and fire activity. Warmer sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific (El Niño) and Atlantic oceans shift rainfall away from the Amazon region, increasing the risk of fires during dry season months.
The team also uses data on terrestrial water storage from a joint NASA/German mission to follow changes in groundwater during the dry season. Satellite measurements serve as a proxy for the dryness of soils and forests.
For 2016, El Niño-driven conditions are far drier than 2005 and 2010 – the last years when the region experienced drought. The team has also developed a web tool to track the evolution of the Amazon fire season in near-real time. Estimated fire emissions from each forecast region are updated daily, based on the relationship between active detections – made by the Moderate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument on NASA's Terra satellite – and fire emissions data from the Global Fire Emissions Database in previous years. So far, however, the region has seen more fires to date than those years, another indicator that aligns with the fire severity forecast.
Fires in the Amazon have local, regional, and long-distance impacts. Agricultural fires that escape their intended boundaries can damage neighboring croplands and Amazon forests. Even slow-moving forest fires cause severe degradation, as the rainforest trees are not adapted to burns. Together, intentional fires for agricultural management, deforestation, and wildfires generate massive smoke plumes that degrade regional air quality, exacerbating problems with asthma and respiratory illness. Smoke eventually flows south and east over major urban centers in southern Brazil, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, contributing to air quality concerns.
"When trees have less moisture to draw upon at the beginning of the dry season, they become more vulnerable to fire, and evaporate less water into the atmosphere," said Randerson. "This puts millions of trees under stress and lowers humidity across the region, allowing fires to grow bigger than they normally would."
While scientists have been working with South American officials to broadcast the results of the forecasts and increase awareness of fire risk, they also said that the work could lead to better wildfire forecasts in other regions of the world. The team recently identified nine regions outside the Amazon where fire season risk can also be forecast three to six months ahead of peak activity. It may be possible to build operational seasonal fire forecasts for much of Central America and for many countries in Southeast Asia, Randerson said.