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11/24/14

The Netherlands: Dutch jihadi bride: 'Is she a victim or a suspect?' - by Harriet Alexander, and Anna Mees

She was a blonde-haired, blue eyed Catholic girl whose family was a pillar of the Dutch town of Maastricht. He was a smiling, bicycle-riding Dutch former soldier - a man considered such an asset to his country he was encouraged to try out for their elite special forces.

And yet the marriage of Sterlina Petalo and Omar Yilmaz was, for their families, anything but a cause for celebration.

Yilmaz, 26, was one of the most high-profile Europeans to become a jihadi, travelling to Syria to live in the Islamic State and fight on behalf of the extremists. He gloried in the teenage fantasy of war - posting a series of Instagram photos of himself pouting at the camera on a motorbike, amid bombed-out buildings in his combat fatigues, AK47 slung nonchalantly over his shoulder. Miss Petalo was a recent convert to Islam, who fell in love with Yilmaz after seeing him on television, picturing him as a Robin Hood figure.

Last week their story took a remarkable twist when it was revealed that Miss Petalo had in fact returned to her hometown - after her mother travelled to the Turkish-Syrian border to bring the 19-year-old home from the jihadist-held city of Raqqa.

“Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” said her mother, Monique Verbert. “She rang me and said 'Take me home.’ But she could not leave Raqqa without help.”

The pair arrived back in the Netherlands on Wednesday, said Annemarie Kemp, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office. Clad in a niqqab, with only her eyes showing, the teenager - who has changed her name to Aicha - was photographed being driven through the town on her way to custody.

“Upon her arrival, Aicha was detained at once on suspicion of crimes threatening state security,” said Ms Kemp.

Miss Petalo is being held in a police cell - the prosecutor, Roger Bos, ruled on Friday that she should be detained for questioning for three more days. Mrs Verbert, 49, an administrator for BP, argued that her daughter’s flight to Syria was little more than teenage infatuation. Today Monday November 24 the court will decide whether to press charges.

Note EU-Digest: Every civilized human being should condemn the violence and terror IS is using to instill fear and terror in the areas where they operate. In that same breath one should also condemn social media and the International Press for publicizing these horrific scenes of barbarism, including the decapitation of body parts. This is pure commercially based sensationalism, which can only lead to popularizing these horrific acts in the minds of susceptible young people - case in point Ms Petalo who acted upon her teenage fantasy of a "glorified" war and followed this "insanely obsessed man" into certain disaster. 

Kudos to her mother for taking the proper action to bring her daughter back to reality and safety.    

Read more: Dutch jihadi bride: 'Is she a victim or a suspect?' - Telegraph

11/23/14

Israel - Palestine: Recognizing Palestine a 'Grave Mistake?' Israeli Prime Minister Warns France

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that it would be a "grave mistake" for France's parliament to recognize a Palestinian state in a vote on Dec. 2, reported France 24.

"Do they have nothing better to do at a time of beheadings across the Middle East, including that of a French citizen?" he said while talking to reporters in Jerusalem.
"Recognition of a Palestinian state by France would be a grave mistake," he added.
"The State of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, the only state that we have, and the Palestinians demanding a state do not want to recognize the right have a state for the Jewish people."
France's vote to recognize Palestine is reportedly symbolic and, while non-binding, is similar in nature to recent resolutions passed by British and Spanish governments. In October, Sweden ruled to officially recognize Palestine. As of early November 2014, 135 of the 193 United Nations member states have officially recognized Palestine as a state.

The proposal is being used as "an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict," according to France 24, and is modeled after one approve on Oct. 13 by British lawmakers, which was designed to "recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution."

Earlier Sunday, Israel's cabinet approved a bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. While the bill is still waiting to pass parliament before becoming law, Sunday's vote is sure to strain relations with Arab Israelis - which make up about 20 percent of Israel's population - and Palestinians, as it excludes a "significant part of the population, both Arabs and Druze, many of whom serve in the Israeli military," according to France 24.

"The devil is in the details. Will the final bill talk about equality for all of Israel's citizens? Where will the democratic nature of the state fall into this bill?" said Gallagher Fenwick of France 24.
Read more: Recognizing Palestine a 'Grave Mistake?' Israeli Prime Minister Warns France : News : Headlines

Energy Renewables and the Private Sector: IKEA a shining star when it comes to efforts made by the private sector

The lion’s share of debate about the progress of renewable energy is missing an important dimension. It seems that the media, banks and NGOs largely value the worth of each renewable source by their rate of adoption at the national and international level. These measurements seem to rely on macro-economic indicators or on agreements such as that made last week by the U.S. and China. However, the efforts of private corporations to go green, while not wholly unnoticed, do not seem to weigh in. It would make no sense in most other industries to measure their health purely by public efforts. In fact, many renewable energy developers today are seeking to change their industry’s reputation as being dependent on government subsidies and costly to the taxpayer with little return. One way to fight this reputation is to show concrete evidence of global corporations going renewable. This week has given plenty of evidence of just that, with IKEA, Google and Amazon all making real commitments.

Back in March, IKEA acquired the Hoopeston wind farm in Illinois, which is set to produce more than enough energy to power all its stores and distribution stores in the country. 65% more. But this energy will not be sent to IKEA’s stores, instead, the Swedish retailer will sell it off as part of a strategy to offset its entire consumption by 2020. This week, an ever bigger announcement came. IKEA has purchased a 165MW wind farm in Cameron County, Texas, marking “the single largest renewable energy investment made by the IKEA Group globally to date.” IKEA goes on to say that it will invest $1.9 billion in renewables by the end of 2015.

Where IKEA is investing in renewables to offset its energy usage, Google and Amazon are doing so for a far more practical reason: data centers have incredibly high energy consumption and renewable projects can be a good way to reduce that burden. To power its new 600 million euro data center at Eemshaven in the Netherlands, Google has agreed to buy a wind farm being built by Eneco near Eemshaven. The 19-turbine 62MW wind farm will power the data center from day one, and comes on the heels of Google buying two other wind farms in Sweden to provide for its data center in Finland.

Other tech and retail leaders are making forays in the same direction, albeit with less emphasis. After being slammed on Greenpeace’s ranking of the green track records of IT leaders, Amazon seems to want to become more sustainable. Amazon Web Services, responsible for cloud computing, stated that it was taking a “long-term commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint.” Unlike Google and IKEA, though, Amazon has not stated any outright investments it is planning on making. It will likely take years for Amazon to become fully renewable, but even doing so for its cloud computing needs would be a major achievement, given how the likes of Pinterest, Netflix and Spotify rely on Amazon’s cloud.

On the negative side of the equation, Walmart is slipping backwards, having used renewables for 3 percent of its energy needs in 2013, as opposed to 4 percent in 2011. Although long identifying itself in its corporate branding as a green leader, a new think tank has revealed that Walmart is relying on coal for 40% of its energy needs in the U.S. This is a particularly damning accusation since Walmart’s stores use more power than Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont combined, according to the report. Walmart immediately rebutted the report, saying it gets 24 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources—and that it would “expand its renewable energy projects and procurement to reach 7 billion kilowatt-hours of wind, solar, hydroelectric and biogas globally by 2020, up from 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours today.”

Whether companies are making quantifiable commitments to renewables or are fudging the statistics to look sustainable, it is becoming increasingly nonsensical to weigh up the value of renewable energy sources through public investment alone.


EU-Digest

The Internet: Orwellian Big Brother is a Reality: "Government in Your Internet"

From the Snowden leaks to the recent passage of the Brazilian government “Marco Civil da Internet”, a set of legislation designed to enforce net neutrality, freedom of expression and privacy, there is no mistaking that this is a critical time for the internet and it’s digital citizens.

Cloud and hosting providers need to pay close attention to developing legislation and technologies to address the privacy and security needs of its customers in this fast changing environment.

Shortly after the NSA’s PRISM program was first reported, Forrester Research predicted that US cloud providers could lose up to $180 billion in business over the next three years due to concerns around the scope of surveillance the program enabled.

In a March Ted Talk Snowden said, “The best way to understand PRISM, because there has been a little bit of controversy, is to first talk about what prism isn’t. Much of the debate in the US has been about meta data. They’ve said ‘it’s just meta data, it’s just meta data’ and they’re talking about a specific legal authority called section 215 of the Patriot Act. That allows sort of a warrantless wiretapping, mass surveillance of the entire country’s sort of phone records, things like that…PRISM is about content, it’s a program through which the government could compel corporate America, it could sort of deputize corporate America to do it’s dirty work for the NSA.”

Some companies initially resisted compliance, challenging the NSA in court, but they all lost. Later after the Snowden revelations, a new ruling forced the declassifying of the 2008 Prism decision.
“It was never tried by an open court, they were tried only by a secret court,” Snowden said. “And something that we’ve seen…15 federal judges have reviewed these programs and found them to be lawful, but what they don’t tell you is those are secret judges in a secret court based on secret interpretations of law that’s considered 34,000 warrant requests over 33 years, and in 33 years only rejected 11 government requests.

These aren’t the people that we want deciding what the role of corporate America in a free and open internet should be.”

Although the NSA continually tries to explain the measures and secrets as an important part of national security and characterizes its data collection as “only meta data”, it’s having a hard time spinning the Snowden revelations in its favor. Even late night political comedians are picking up on this topic. John Oliver addressed NSA policies Sunday in an interview with former NSA agency chief Keith Alexander which resulted in a funny yet powerful commentary on the organization.

In a blog post Monday, the NSA again addressed its policies in relation to internet security and the Heartbleed vulnerability. It explained some of its thinking on keeping threats secret.

“But there are legitimate pros and cons to the decision to disclose, and the trade-offs between prompt disclosure and withholding knowledge of some vulnerabilities for a limited time can have significant consequences,” Michael Daniel, special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator said.

“Disclosing a vulnerability can mean that we forego an opportunity to collect crucial intelligence that could thwart a terrorist attack stop the theft of our nation’s intellectual property, or even discover more dangerous vulnerabilities that are being used by hackers or other adversaries to exploit our networks.”

Discussion and news on privacy, net neutrality and data sovereignty happens daily. Multi- stakeholder governance as a means to address keeping governments out of the internet or at least equally represented is a hot topic. At the two day NetMundail conference last week,  guidelines were discussed for future internet governance.

As the discussion continues to evolve it’s important for cloud and web hosting providers to stay informed of the issues and new legislation so they can best serve their customers in whatever part of the globe they happen to be. As cloud services become more prevalent and are hosted in multiple countries, service providers may be facing more restrictions based on where data is physically stored and which country has domain over the data.

The WHIR interviewed  Jelle Frank van der Zwet of Interxion at World Hosting Days in Germany. When asked about the need for data centers in foreign countries, he had this to say, “If you want to do business in Germany, you must have a data center and infrastructure in Germany. That goes for Amazon, that goes for any cloud provider, small or large if you want to do business in Germany I recommend you have your infrastructure in Germany. I would say the same for France.”

His comment in the context of the greater discussion about data sovereignty and NSA backdoor access into United States based company’s data underscores the importance of where data is hosted in relation to local laws and policies, a growing concern among cloud and hosting providers.

For example, the US Supreme Court ruled recently that a government search warrant will require American companies providing internet, email, and online storage services to hand over data stored anywhere in the world.

Read more: Orwellian Big Brother is a Reality: Government in Your Internet - WHIR

China - Outer Space Research: Beijing edges ahead in the space race

As united as Asian countries may be in their attempts to keep pace with the West, they are worlds apart when it comes to catching up with its space exploration program. So far, it was clear who was winning the space race –with the US running out of steam, only Russia was left.

But it is rapidly losing its advantage as its Asian neighbors are busy looking to boldly go where no one has gone before. Beijing is especially close on Moscow's heels. Other than the Americans and the Russians, the Chinese are the only ones to have made it to the moon as yet.

China's lunar rover, Yutu – or Jade Rabbit – successfully landed on the moon last year. Even though it soon lost contact with controllers, the Chinese are pushing ahead with their ambitious space program. To be fair, they're not the only ones to have run into problems in the ether. In late October, the US witnessed the failure of two space missions.

First, the unmanned Antares rocket designed to transport supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) exploded seconds after liftoff. Two days later, Richard Branson‘s SpaceShipTwo blew up testing new fuel over the California desert.

Read more: Beijing edges ahead in the space race | Asia | DW.DE | 22.11.2014

Middle East- Syria - Kobani: Kurds seize Islamic State arms cache; Iraq touts progress in Baiji battle

Kurdish fighters captured six buildings used by Islamic State fighters besieging the Syrian town of Kobani on Tuesday, and seized a large amount of the militant group’s weapons and ammunition, a group monitoring the war said.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Iraqi security forces entered the country’s largest refinery for the first time on Tuesday after months of battling Islamic State militants who had surrounded it, a police colonel and state television said. If confirmed, the recovery of the facility could provide critical momentum for government forces.

Read more: Kurds in Kobani seize Islamic State arms cache; Iraq touts progress in Baiji battle - The Globe and Mail

11/22/14

ESA: Philae probe ‘sniffed’ organic building blocks of life, scientists say -by Victoria Bryan

European comet lander Philae “sniffed” organic molecules containing the carbon element that is the basis of life on Earth before its primary battery ran out and it shut down, German scientists said.

They said it was not yet clear whether they included the complex compounds that make up proteins. One of the key aims of the mission is to discover whether carbon-based compounds, and through them, ultimately, life, were brought to early Earth by comets.

The COSAC gas analysing instrument on Philae was able to “sniff” the atmosphere and detect the first organic molecules after landing, the DLR German Aerospace Center said.

The lander also drilled into the comet’s surface in its hunt for organic molecules, although it is unclear as yet whether Philae managed to deliver a sample to COSAC for analysis.

Also onboard the lander was the MUPUS tool to measure the density and thermal and mechanical properties of the comet’s surface. It showed the comet’s surface was not as soft as previously believed.

MUPUS could be used again if enough sunlight gets through to reload Philae’s batteries, which the scientists hope may happen as the comet approaches the sun.

Read more: Philae probe ‘sniffed’ organic building blocks of life, scientists say - The Globe and Mail

Farming: Germany: Greens to confront industrialized farm lobby

Germany's opposition Greens have set their sights on nutrition that avoids mass livestock farming. They have accused Chancellor Angela Merkel's government of giving agriculturalized industry an unrestrained free run.

Seven hundred delegates at the Greens' annual conference in Hamburg voted by a large majority on Saturday to make food and farming reform a key campaign issue, despite their electoral bruising last year.

Part of the Green's two-percent decline in voter support to 8.4 percent in Germany's September 2013 poll was widely attributed to their campaign call for a "Veggie Day," a suggestion that each consumer pick a weekday without meat.

The German farmers' federation (DVB) responded at the time by accusing the Greens of trying to impose eating habits on citizens.

Germans each consume annually about 60 kilograms (130 pounds) of meat, including poultry, pork and beef. An additional 4.3 kilograms ends up in the waste bin, according to a recent study by the Heinrich-Böll Foundation.

At Saturday's Hamburg conference , the party adopted a resolution, saying "what I eat and don't eat is for me to decide according to my tastes. But politicians must ensure safe food products and transparent information."

Anton Hofreiter, the opposition Green's caucus leader in the Bundestag said the "agricultural industry with its monoculture is responsible for species extinction worldwide."

Hofreiter also said the party's decision to push further for an agricultural transformation or "Agrawende" had ecological ramifications similar to the "Energiewende."

That was the centerpiece energy transformation adopted by Merkel, taking Germany toward renewables and away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, especially after Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Hofreiter on Saturday also demanded an end to the massive use of antibiotics in intensive farming of animals. His call for a ban on imported, genetically-engineered soya bean produce drew loud applause from delegates.

Read more: Greens to confront industrialized farm lobby | News | DW.DE | 22.11.2014

Internet: The Cloud -No, your data isn't secure in the cloud - by Lucas Mearian

While online data storage services claim your data is encrypted, there are no guarantees. With recent revelations that the federal government taps into the files of Internet search engines, email and cloud service providers, any myth about data "privacy" on the Internet has been busted.

Experts say there's simply no way to ever be completely sure your data will remain secure once you've moved it to the cloud.
"You have no way of knowing. You can't trust anybody. Everybody is lying to you," said security expert Bruce Schneier. "How do you know which platform to trust? They could even be lying because the U.S. government has forced them to."

While providers of email, chat, social network and cloud services often claim -- even in their service agreements -- that the data they store is encrypted and private, most often they -- not you -- are the ones who hold the keys. That means a rogue employee or any government "legally" requesting encryption keys can decrypt and see your data.

Even when service providers say only customers can generate and maintain their own encryption keys, Schneier said there's no way to be sure others won't be able to gain access.

For example, Apple's SMS/MMS-like communications platform, iMessage, claims both voice and text are encrypted and can't be heard or seen by third parties. But because the product isn't open source, "there's no way for us to know how it works," said Dan Auerbach, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "It seems because of the way it works on functionality, they do have a way to access it. The same goes for iCloud."

Note EU-Digest: The Cloud services are also offered to European Internet users. Given that  the storage data banks of  Google, and Apple for Cloud and other similar systems are kept in the US by American companies, and consequently  fall under US jurisdiction, it probably would not be a good idea for EU citizens and businesses to store sensitive material on these data bank services.

Read more: No, your data isn't secure in the cloud | Computerworld