What is the Schengen Information System (SIS)

France has flagged more than 78,000 people as security threats in a database intended to let European police share information on the continent’s most dangerous residents, more than all other European countries put together.

A German parliamentarian, Andrej Hunko, was the first to raise the alarm about potential misuse of the Schengen Information System (SIS) database in a question to his country’s Interior Ministry about “discreet checks” , secret international checks on people considered a threat to national security or public safety.

But, why different countries seemed to apply very different criteria? “The increase in alerts cannot be explained by the threat of Islamist terrorism alone.

Europol reports a four-digit number of confirmed foreign fighters, yet the increase of SIS alerts in 2017 is several times that, That response included a spreadsheet detailing for the first time how many people were flagged for checks by each European country last year , more than 134,000 in all.

“This could mean that families and contacts of these individuals are also being secretly monitored. It is also possible that the measure is being used on a large scale for combatting other criminal activity,”

But a relatively unknown provision in European law allows countries to flag people for the “discreet checks”, allowing law enforcement in one country to quietly notify counterparts elsewhere of a person’s location and activities.

Use of the system , intended for individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety , has expanded enormously since Islamic State extremists attacked Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016, from 69,475 in 2015 to 134,662 last year, according to data from EU-LISA and Germany.

If someone is flagged for a check, their name will come up for any law enforcement official who has stopped them anywhere in Europe , whether trying to cross an external border or running a red light.

In the entry, the requesting country can ask for a subsequent action, ranging from simply reporting back their location, vehicle, and traveling companions to detaining them immediately for arrest.

The checks, unlike arrest warrants, expire after a year, although the countries are notified of pending expirations and can renew them at will.

Vast disparities in its use by individual countries raise questions about both the effectiveness of the tools and the criteria countries are using to updating the sistem

People are not informed about the existence of this alert, which makes this correct. But at the same there needs to be a proportionality assessment, take of that certain member states are introducing alerts en masse to the system.

G.S.

Photo: G/Spadafora/M.G.Security

Synthetic marijuana: Warning as drug kills two people and causes outbreak of ‘severe bleeding’ near Chicago.

Side effects of synthetic marijuana are far less predictable than the real thing, experts warn. Synthetic marijuana products have been linked to a spiralling public health crisis in Illinois, where authorities say two people have died and dozens more have been hospitalised.

In dozens of cases that have rippled through the greater Chicago area in recent weeks, people have reported severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoid products, the Illinois Department of Public Health warned.

The toll has risen rapidly in recent days, climbing from 38 recorded incidents last week to 56. Nine of the afflicted have tested positive for a lethal ingredient often used as rat poison.

The agency has sent warning notices to emergency medical workers and local health departments around the state warning them to be alert. Noting that people sickened during the current outbreak have obtained the products from convenience stores and dealers, the department urged residents to not use any synthetic cannabinoids they’ve purchased in the last month.

Also referred to by names like “K2” and “spice”, synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana’s active components. But their effects are far less predictable and can include physical harm.

Manufacturers are known to alter the chemical content to elude government prohibition, authorities say. “Some of these substances may have been around for years but have reentered the market in altered chemical forms, or due to renewed popularity”, the Illinois health department said.

Even as states across the country have relaxed their laws governing marijuana usage, allowing people to possess the plant and its derivatives for medical and recreational purposes, a series of new laws have sought to crack down on synthetic marijuana.

 

Fifteen oil workers killed in Kuwait bus crash

Fifteen expatriate oil workers were killed Sunday when two buses collided in southern Kuwait, officials said.

Among the dead were seven Indian nationals, five Egyptians and three Pakistanis, said Mohammed al-Basri of the state-owned Kuwait Oil Company (KOC).

An Indian national is fighting for his life, after the head on collision. Another Indian and a Kuwaiti were also injured.Fire department spokesman Colonel Khalil al-Amir said that the workers were employed by Burgan Drilling, a private subcontractor for KOC.

Kuwait’s state news agency said the two buses collided, leading to the high death toll, with firemen having to cut some of the injured out of the wreckage.

Black Mamba warning after seven Birmingham deaths

Drug workers in the West Midlands were sent an alert after “a cluster” of incidents in a short period last week.

Public Health England (PHE) confirmed it is investigating the deaths, which happened across Birmingham and the Black Country.

West Midlands Police confirmed one death, at a city centre hostel, was linked to Black Mamba. A second death, also at the hostel, is believed to be drug-related.

Black Mamba mimics the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis. PHE said “an alert was sent out to commissioners of services and outreach drug workers,” following the deaths.

A man in his 30s died in the city centre last April after taking a lethal dose of the drug.

Russian shopping centre fire

At least 64 people killed after blaze at busy Winter Cherry mall in Siberia, another 16 people still missing after cinema complex engulfed in flames in Kemerovo.

Fire exits were locked and a security guard had switched off the building’s warning system, according to investigators.

Flames took hold in the four-storey Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo, Siberia, at about 5pm local time on Sunday as parents and children enjoyed the first weekend of the school recess.

Photo: AFP

 

Peru opposition alleges vote ‘buying’ to keep Kuczynski in power

Peru’s biggest opposition party released audio and video recordings late on Tuesday in which supporters of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski appear to offer lawmakers public work projects in exchange for help defeating an impeachment motion.

In a press conference two days before Congress votes on whether to force Kuczynski from office, the spokesman of rightwing party Popular Force said the snippets of surreptitious recordings of lawmakers and a government official shown to journalists were proof Kuczynski was trying to “buy” votes.

 

Photo: Reuters

What you need to know about Facebook & Cambridge Analytica

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are the two main actors in an enormous data privacy scandal that touches on the Trump campaign, 50 million Facebook users and even two presidential elections in Kenya.

In a nutshell, because the personal data of 50 million people was pulled from Facebook by a company contracted by Cambridge Analytica and used for … we’re not sure exactly what.

The third-party firm (Global Science Research) used a clicky personality quiz to get people to interact with the app, which then used a loophole to pull all the behind-the-scenes data of that user, and also the same data relating to all their friends  typically 200-300 other people per user.

Facebook issued a press release Friday saying they had banned Cambridge Analytica, Aleksandr Kogan and Christopher Wylie from its platform because they had improperly shared and failed to delete that data, but that seems to have been a pre-emptive move.

Hacker Adrian Lamo who turned in Chelsea Manning has died

Adrian Lamo, the computer hacker who turned in whistleblower Chelsea Manning to law enforcement for giving thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, has died at the age of 37.

The cause of his death is unknown, but a coroner in Sedgwick County, Kansas, where Lamo lived, confirmed the news.

Lamo gained notoriety in the early 2000s when he was arrested and convicted of computer fraud for hacking several high-profile companies including Microsoft and The New York Times.

But he became infamous for his part in the prosecution of Manning, a former US army intelligence analyst who had befriended Lamo.

Lamo reported Manning to the US military after the transgender soldier, who was known as Bradley but now identifies as a woman, admitted leaking the trove of classified military documents.

It was the largest breach of its kind in US history, and included damaging videos like footage of a US airstrike killing Iraqi civilians.

 

Italy police break up macrobiotics slavery ‘sect’

Police in Italy say they have broken up a “psycho sect” that enslaved members by forcing them to adhere to a strict macrobiotic diet and cut off contact with the outside world.

Five people are under investigation over allegations including maltreatment and tax evasion. Among the suspects is a business mogul who is accused of manipulating followers of the diet he created.

Mario Pianesi reportedly told them that Ma.Pi. would provide miracle cures. The investigation started in 2013 after a young woman left the sect and denounced its head to police.

They found that as well as having to pay for the diet and give donations, members were coerced into working long hours with next to no pay. Mr Pianesi, a well-known macrobiotics entrepreneur in Italy, is said to have given long speeches espousing the doctrine of his diet and brainwashing followers.

The weight of one woman dropped to 35kg (77lb) as a result of adhering to his rigid regime, local media report. Investigators said sect leaders specifically manipulated people with mental health problems, persuading them to turn away from traditional medicine.

The allegations include criminal organisation with the aim of reducing people to slavery.

Risk of sea-level rise: high stakes for East Asia & Pacific region countries

Sea level is rising, and the rise in sea level will continue beyond the year 2100, even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized today.

Expected to rise by at least one meter during this century according to the current scientific consensus, sea levels may even rise by three meters by 2100, in light of the new evidence on ice-cliff instability of the Antarctic.

Tens of millions of coastal inhabitants of East Asia and the Pacific must prepare for sea-level rise.

All island nations and countries with heavy concentrations of population and economic activity in low-lying coastal regions are vulnerable to sea-level rise, including in the East Asia and Pacific region.

A World Bank study identified coastal areas with low elevation, and assessed the probable consequences of continued sea-level rise for eighty-four developing countries, using satellite maps of the world overlaid with data on population growth (assuming that the current locational distribution is unchanged).

Including twelve countries – Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, D.P.R Korea, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the study’s findings indicate that the impact of sea-level rise will be particularly severe for this region.

 

Photo: Curt Carnemark