“Pepper Spray” being added to the water cannon by police in Turkey

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The painful effects of being soaked in this toxic liquid last for hours.
The active ingredient in a pepper spray that contains OC is Capsaicin, which describes a complex of related components (C18 H27 NO31) named Capsaicinoids that all work together to produce the “pungency” or burning sensation on contact with skin or mucous membranes (eg eyes, mouth, nostrils).

All hot peppers contain Capsaicinoids. Capsaicin, the strongest and most common of the Capsaicinoid family, is so hot that single drop diluted in 100,000 drops of water will produce blistering on the tongue.

Capsaicin In pure form it is a white powder and has a Scoville Heat Rating of 16,000,000.

News from Iran – Week 04 – 2013

Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand
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Prisoners’ News

A- Transfers

 

  • Student activist Amir Chamani has been transferred from Tabriz Intel detention to Tabriz prison.
  • Human rights attorney Abdolfatah Soltani was transferred back to Evin 350 from Sina hospital.
  • Mehdi Tahaghoghi transferred to Rejaei Shahr  .

 

B- Arrests/Incarcerations

 

  • Reza and Ali Akbari Monfared (father and son) were arrested 2 weeks ago.
  • Mohammad Tavakoli, member of Teachers’ Union of Kurdistan, arrested.
  • Bita Hedayati, Hana Koushkbaghi, Nahid Mahmoudi, Vesagh Sanaei, 4 Baha’i from Gonbad-e-Kavous, arrested.
  • Baha’i Shayda Taeeid was arrested in a raid of her home in Nour.
  • Head of the Kurdistan human rights organization, Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand is back in prison, furlough not extended
  • Furlough extension was denied, lawyer and member of banned Human Rights organisation,  Nasrin Sotoudeh returned to prison.

 

C-Liberations

 

  • Sina Aghdasi, Baha’i, released on bail from Tabriz prison.
  • Journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amouee arrested June 09 released on his first furlough since arrest; wife Zhila Baniyagoub is in prison.
  • 2 journalists, Mahsa Amrabadi and husband Masoud Bastani, released on furlough.
  • Behrooz Ghobadi, brother of filmmaker Bahman, released from prison.
  • Iraj Najafabadi, workers’ rights activist, released on bail in Isfahan.
  • Women’s rights activist and blogger Fereshteh Shirazi has been released from prison.
  • Ahmad Zeidabadi, released on furlough on bail.

 

D-Other News

 

  • Hardline cleric A. Khazali met with his estranged son Mehdi Khazali in Evin Prison.


News of injustice in Iran

  • Vahid Asghari’s death sentence was confirmed. Case sent back to the Supreme Court again.
  • Siavosh Ghanbari has been sentenced to 10 months on charges of collaboration with banned Kurdish group
  • Sentence of 1 year in prison upheld by Appeals for Afsaneh Toghi.
  • One public execution in Urmiah on Sunday.
  • 2 public executions in front of House of Artists in Tehran on Sunday.
  • 3 executions in Zahedan on Sunday.
  • Sentence of fingers amputation of a man convicted of burglary was carried out in public in Shiraz using a special machine created for the purpose.
  • 3 executions on Tuesday.
  • One public execution on Wednesday.
  • One execution in Shahroud on Thursday.
  • One execution in Khorramdareh.
  • 3 executions in Chubin prison.


University – Culture

  • Graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi will debut her paintings in Paris this month.


Protests

  • Retired workers protest at Abadan Petrochemical Company.
  • Protest rally against layoffs at construction company Nasr Jihad.
  • Wave of large-scale protests at most major oil refineries.


Iran Economics

  • $1 over 3500 tomans again.
  • 87,000 retired steel workers have not been paid for the last 3 months.
  • 17 million Iranians to receive food coupons.


Politics in Iran

  • Ex-president Khatami strongly criticizes absence of free elections and political activities in Iran.
  • Political parties compelled to declare funding sources.
  • Parliament receives notice to impeach the Labor Minister.


Iran  abroad

  • Turkey lifts ban on Iranian cargo plane carrying 1.5 tons of gold from Ghana to Iran.
  • First visit to Iran by Russian interior minister since 1979 Revolution.
  • Majlis Speaker arrives in Sudan. He meets with Sudanese President.
  • China freezes $25 billions Iranian assets; they can be released against Chinese goods paid in Yuan.


Miscellaneous

  • A 5.5 magnitude earthquake shook Syrch near Kerman, cell communications have been cut, land line disruptions in the area.
 

Google+ exploit could be bad news for Iran and Syria internet users

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google-plus-exploit

The key point that caused me to write this post has not changed – this issue can have serious negative implications for users in countries like Syria and Iran.

UPDATE 2: It had originally been reported that criminals had created a fake Google website by abusing security certificates. The BBC updated their news report at 22:00 on 4 January to say “criminals could have created a website that purported to be part of the Google+ social media network”.  Note: As Google Inc is now branding a bunch of its services as the Google+ social media network, this refers to *.google.xxx, for example https://mail.google.com.

TurkTrust has said there was only one of the 2 certificates in use and they see no implication of any malicious usage. The information does seem to confirm that the client was using the *.google.com certificate for man-in-the-middle intercepts. I suggest reading the full discussion and content of the embedded links on the the Mozilla security list for more technical details, and the Mozilla Security Blog post for a non-technical overview and explanation.

UPDATE 1: TurkTrust has issued a Press Release concerning the security advisory by Microsoft, Google and other Internet browser producers published on the 3rd of January 2012, GMT 18:00 hours.

Related links:

The company maintains that the situation has no impact on customers at all and says it will continue to provide updates. I have commented in my original post about the coincidental similarities that seemed to exist between this issue and the DigiNotar scandal, so I was not at all comfortable to learn that the flawed system was given a clean bill of health in November 2011 after an audit by KPMG in the Netherlands, DigiNotar’s turf. I could write at length about the circumstances which led to this recent breach of trust and my remaining questions, but I don’t want to bore you senseless about it. I am much more concerned that our efforts are focused on alerting activists in countries with repressive regimes to the potential risks such events pose to their online  and offline security.

Web browser makers have rushed to fix a security lapse that cyber thieves abused [was used - see Update 2] to impersonate Google+.

Chrome has been updated, Firefox will be updated 8 January 2013, and Internet Explorer has issued an update which will be applied automatically for users of Windows 8/RT/Server 2012. Anyone using older versions of Windows will need to use Windows Update. Since Opera requires a successful revocation check in order to show a site as secure, Opera explained that  users were immediately protected, and there was no urgent need to update. As usual, Apple has not commented on when or if they will take action to protect Safari and iOS users.

By using the fake credentials, criminals created a website that pretended to be part of the Google+ social media network. [See Update 2] The loophole exploited ID credentials that browsers use to ensure a website is who it claims to be.

So someone was attempting to perform a man-in-the-middle attack against secure communications intended for Google, but there is no information about who that is or where they are based. [See Update 1]

The fake ID credentials have been traced back to August 2011, when Turkish Certificate Authority (CA) TurkTrust mistakenly issued two “master keys” – higher level certificates used to certify website validity. The issue was not discovered by Google until late on 24 December 2012. Google issued two updates on 25 and 26 December and alerted other browser vendors.

You may recall that August 2011 saw a report from Google about man in the middle attacks linked to the DigiNotar CA which they said mainly affected users in Iran.

So the dates coincide, as does the methodology and the target site, except this time TurkTrust is much closer to Iran and Syria (on many levels, not only geographically) whereas DigiNotar was in the Netherlands.

Google’s post notes that Google “may also decide to take additional action after further discussion and careful consideration,” which hints that the Chrome team are considering the exclusion of  TurkTrust’s root certificates. Mozilla will temporarily revoke  it from 8 January when the patch is released. However, if this CA is removed, it could force many sites in countries like Syria and Iran to use national, not-trusted and completely compromised CA’s like ParsSign.

Turkey: Who’s Bugging Erdogan?

Photo: yenisafak.com.tr
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English: Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip E...

English: Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on state visit in Turkey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During a televised interview on December 21, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed that four unauthorized wiretapping devices had been detected in his parliamentary office and government car. A subsequent report from the Office of the Prime Minister on December 25 said that one more device had been found in Mr. Erdoğan’s home-office at this residence in Turkish capital Ankara. Who is behind the operation? In his December 21 interview, the Prime Minister told a nationwide audience that the bugs had been planted by “elements of a deeper state” within Turkey. “A deeper state exists in nearly every country”, he said, adding: “we try a lot but unfortunately it is impossible to [completely] eradicate the deeper state”. The term ‘deep’ or ‘deeper state’, which is used frequently in Turkey, is meant to signify a covert collaboration of convenience between organized crime and members of the country’s intelligence services.

One example of the Turkish ‘deep state’ that comes to mind is Ergenekon, a clandestine ultra-nationalist organization with secularist and anti-Western objectives. Its membership, which is reportedly drawn primarily from Turkey’s military and security establishments, is involved in both criminal and political activities aiming to preserve the political power of Turkey’s armed forces, while subverting the rise of Islamism and keeping Turkey out of the European Union. The existence of this mysterious organization was revealed in 2001 by Tuncay Güney, an operative of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), who was arrested for petty fraud. In 2009, an investigation into Ergenekon uncovered a clandestine network of safe houses in Ankara, as well as in the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, for the sole purpose of wiretapping the communications of targeted individuals and organizations. The safe houses were reportedly equipped with wiretapping systems purchased in Israel, some of which were portable and were thus moved to various cities and towns in Turkey, in accordance with Ergenekon’s mission directives. But are Ergenekon’s tentacles powerful enough to reach into the Turkish Prime Minister’s residence?

Perhaps. In September of this year, Mr. Erdoğan’s Director of Security, Zeki Bulut, was summarily demoted and reassigned to Turkey’s far-off Anatolia region. In the weeks that followed, most members of Mr. Erdoğan’s 200-strong personal protection force were scattered and reassigned to different posts around the country. Could there be a connection between the demotions and the recent wiretap revelations? Some observers believe so. There were rumors in the Turkish media at the time that Bulut and his team were removed from their bodyguard duties after a routine bug-sweeping exercise by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) discovered wiretaps in Mr. Erdoğan’s office. Others, including members of Turkey’s political opposition, believe that the bugs were placed in the Prime Minister’s residence by a foreign intelligence agency, and accuse Mr. Erdoğan of trying to use their discovery as an opportunity to rout his political rivals. There are clearly more questions than answers at this stage. Meanwhile, the Office of the Turkish Chief Prosecutor in Ankara has announced that an official investigation into the wiretaps is underway and that “a detailed report will be prepared”.

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |

#Mauritania: Sex, Lies and Videotape

February 25 Movement
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Let’s break with tradition and do the sex part first. Yes, it has been suggested that there is a sex angle to the accidental shooting story of president Aziz in Mauritania! This is a quandary, as everyone is adamant that they do want the truth, but at the same time, no one wants it to be some sordid and sleazy tale of the president having an illicit relationship that went horribly wrong, and got him shot or injured or whatever. And yet, in the absence of any reasonable, logical and reliable alternative explanation, more people are gravitating towards this very unofficial yet somehow more credible version of events. I have to say right here: I have no way of knowing if the president was even attacked, let alone shot. All I know for certain is that something happened to him, and I have nothing to rely on apart from outright lies and half-truths peddled by the corrupt regime, or the meandering fantasies of observers (myself included!) whether inside or outside Mauritania.

In trying to keep an open mind I have to allow for two possibilities: that what happened to Aziz might have been staged, or might have been an accident. For me, only his prompt return will confirm the latter. Despite my efforts, I find myself increasingly convinced France and Mauritania are playing a dirty game, one designed to promote the prospect of a military misadventure in Mali. I could not for one moment believe that they are the only countries involved in such a farce.

Aziz’ post-surgery TV appearance last week reveals a gauze dressing on the left side of his lower neck

We have the president of Mauritania holed up in the Percy military hospital in Paris for additional care of an unspecified nature, despite being told his injuries in the October 13th incident were minor, and that the surgery performed in Nouakchott military hospital was a success. Close inspection of the footage of president Aziz’ post-surgery TV appearance last week reveals a gauze dressing on the left side of his lower neck, despite having the sheets pulled up to conceal it. Whatever happened in that area, it is unlikely to be related to the bullet which reportedly damaged in his colon and required a delicate 4-hour surgery.

Visible scarring on Aziz’ neck

Four days after the incident, when the French Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, paid a “social call” on Aziz, there was a small patch of scarred skin visible on Aziz’ neck, just visible above his over-sized pyjamas. It is difficult to tell what; it could just as easily be  a bullet wound or a burn. This is the time to note that the Percy hospital specialises in the treatment of burn injuries. The photos of Aziz and Le Drian were posted on the official ami.mr news site [ar] in Mauritania later on Wednesday, but not on the French Ministry of Defence website. The visit was largely ignored by the French and international media, despite Le Drian having just been widely quoted the day before  promising military action in Mali in “weeks, not months“. There was no press release, and the visit was not mentioned in the minister’s official engagements diary. A request for comment from the Ministry’s press office had not received a response at the time of writing this post.

Then there is the mystery of Ba Mamadou dit Mbaré, the only constitutionally legal replacement in case of the Mauritanian president’s incapacity, as President of the Senate. It was only discovered after Aziz left for Paris that Mr dit Mbaré was already on sick leave there himself. No mention had been made of this in any official media, and he was being reported on as normal, attending to his duties, until a few weeks ago. There has been no statement even now the news is out, and no comment on the nature or likely duration of his medical condition. This is being played as a non-issue, with officials asserting that Aziz is well enough to perform his duties while undergoing treatment. And so, for a week now, the country has been governed by an absent president, sundry unelected government representatives, and his Chief of Defence. The regular Thursday cabinet meeting was cancelled – this is important: because Aziz is the only validly elected official in the entire government, he has to sign off on everything, and every cabinet meeting has to be an “emergency meeting” convened by the president.

Now we are told that the French embassy is denying the President of the National Assembly, Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, a travel visa to Paris. But this is not quite accurate. What is really happening is Ould Boulkheir allegedly objecting to being asked to attend the consular office to give his fingerprints in order to create his visa. Ould Boulkheir holds one of three posts named in the constitution as having the power to declare Aziz unfit to serve, and through this manufactured stalemate, he is effectively prevented from going to Paris to assess the president’s true condition and raising the alarm if required. The other two are the Prime Minister (Laghdaf, a lapdog) and the head of the Supreme Court (the incumbent was recently replaced before the end of his official tenure by Aziz).

While this play unfolds, the external PR and media offensive is being ramped up: trying to tie the “shooting” to terrorists; claiming Mauritania is “seriously concerned” about the terrorist threat; re-hashing of any old news story mentioning AQIM and Mauritania. Over to the East, it would seem we are witnessing a replay of events, uncannily similar to those which preceded the NATO force’s arrival in Libya last year, in which someone busted jihadist contractors out of prison presumably to boost the rebel forces in northern Mali and for all we know, financed by a bank robbery in Yemen. This contrasts with almost total silence about conciliatory gestures being made through negotiations between various groups, and last weekend’s regional Tuareg conference in Lere, Nigeria. We should be on the lookout for increased reports of hostile actions: violence, beatings, rapes, robberies, etc, followed by more in-fighting and divisions. We should also pay attention to a developing story [fr] from Mali, of northerners who originally fled returning home despite the imposition of Sharia by the Islamists, and finding free though erratic power and water supplies, reduced food prices, and paid work. Poverty and misery in the south is said to be providing the impetus for the reversal. Word of this will spread to the refugee camps and, as winter sets in, repatriation could become an increasing trend. No wonder one of the NLP-type catchphrases in the media for the Sahel is “a race against time”. [See here, here, here and here]

The mistaken marksman of Mauritania, Elhaj Ould Hamoudi

Internally, the website Sahel Media was mysteriously unavailable to users in Mauritania of the Mauritel phone service (51% owned by CMC Morocco Telecom) for almost an entire day. Access was lost almost immediately after Sahel Media published a story [ar] about French Islamists* breaching the Western Sahara barrier built by Morocco, near the border with Mauritania, through which is being smuggled cocaine from Colombia. Sites carrying articles quoting AQIM supposedly threatening France remained freely accessible.

Sunday night, Mauritanian national TV produced the poor sap who has been named and shamed as “the shooter” – a rookie lieutenant from Kiffa whom we are told “is normally based in the north”. He was shown on TV [vid, ar] at prime time, to reinforce the official story about mistakenly firing on Aziz as  the president sped past him, in an unmarked car, at top speed. Even after a whole week to prepare and rehearse, there were inaccuracies in the retelling between this on-air confession, and the original official statement [NYT En], and even the words of the president himself [CSM En].

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera managed to do a 2-part interview [vid, ar] with Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, aka Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, the former Al-Qaeda number 3. The interview took place inside Mauritania, where one might expect he would be under strict orders not to talk to the media about his former role with Al Qaeda, as a condition of his recent release from custody. This would appear not to be the case, but even if there are objections, Aziz has his “I was in Paris” alibi. I am actually hoping that both the US government and the jihadists in Mali take notice of Abu Hafs, because he talks a lot of sense.

As for the Mauritanian political opposition, they collapsed like a gurney before the bullet hit the kidney-dish, and declared they would suspend all planned protests out of respect for their opponent’s debilitated state. At this point, please note that every previously elected member of government – ruling party as well as opposition – has collected a year’s salary gratis out of the state coffers, while the poverty-stricken population waits to hear yet another excuse for why there is still no date for either of the postponed elections. The opposition did not stand idle however: they called for an investigation and convened a standing committee to try and determine the true events of  October 13, and have called a press conference for Monday 22 October. One of them, Mohammed Ould Moloud, kept busy with a series of meeting with officials from various EU countries.

February 25 Movement – nothing left in Mauritania but questions

The only breath of fresh air in this whole stinking scenario once again comes from the activist movement of 25 February [ar], who formed a human chain along the main street of Nouakchott last Thursday, each one of them silently holding up a poster which totally captures the mood of the country at this time: a large, solitary “?”.

Some of the members of “m25fev”, as they are known, will be interviewed on Chinguetti TV tonight or tomorrow, if all goes to plan.  The best part of the silent protest was that the police didn’t attack or arrest the demonstrators. The next day the police rediscovered their calling, and attacked and arrested the peaceful pro-morality protesters. People have to remind themselves every time this happens (and it happens too often) that Mauritania is an Islamic Republic.

*For more on France as a breeding ground for Islamists, see Marc Sageman’s 2004 article “Understanding Terror Networks”. Or Google.