Monday, July 6, 2015

250+ Gang Attacks on El Salvador Security Forces in 2015

Gang members in El Salvador with high-power weapons
Gang members in El Salvador with high-power weapons
El Salvador's street gangs have reportedly carried out over 250 attacks on security forces so far this year, statistics that suggests the country is heading towards a new phase of an increasingly bloody conflict, resembling that of a low intensity war.
On May 14, the deputy director of El Salvador's National Civil Police (PNC) Howard Cotto said the country's police and military have engaged in 251 shootouts with gangs so far in 2015, reported El Mundo. Cotto added that 24 police officers have been killed this year, although many were reportedly off duty when they were attacked. The police official made the remarks shortly after handing over 850 bullet proof vests to members of the PNC. 
PNC Director Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde also stated that police weaponry is "insufficient" for officers to carry out their work, despite the force maintaining a stockpile of AK-47, AR-15 and M16 rifles, among other firearms, according to El Mundo.
Meanwhile, on May 16 authorities discovered 23 hidden grenades that they believe gangs were going to use against police stations and vehicles, reported La Prensa Grafica.

InSight Crime Analysis

At a rate of almost two confrontations per day, the conflict between gangs and security forces in El Salvador appears to be taking on the appearance of a low intensity war. Both sides have ratcheted up their aggression since the breakdown of the country's 2012 gang truce early last year, putting El Salvador on track to be the most violent nation in the Western Hemisphere. This surge in violence is surpassing even pre-truce levels: March was the country's most violent month of the past 10 years. 
For their part, the MS13 -- one of the country's principal street gangs -- has reportedly launched a police assassination campaign that has led to the deaths of at least three officers. With rank and file PNC officers feeling outgunned, high-level security officials have advocated for a more confrontational approach to combat the gangs. In January, Landaverde told his officers to shoot at criminals "with complete confidence," while in February another police official stated simply, "we're at war." Earlier this month, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren announced roughly 600 special forces -- most of whom are part of elite military units -- will be sent into urban areas in order to protect the cities' residents from gangs. These troops are not trained to police or patrol, but rather to kill enemies.
This increasingly militarized security approach has likely contributed to the large number of deaths that have come as a result of confrontations between security forces and gangs. Sanchez Ceren has attributed 30 percent of the killings in March to police engaged in shootouts with alleged gang members. 

Northern Triangle is World's Extortion Hotspot

Extortionists burn buses to intimidate victims
Extortionists burn buses to intimidate victims
Statistics suggest that the Northern Triangle -- El SalvadorGuatemala, and Honduras -- constitutes the world's epicenter for extortion, illustrating the importance of street gangs and the extent this crime has taken root.
The statistics, compiled by La Prensa inHonduras, show that Salvadorans pay an estimated $400 million annually in extortionfees, followed by Hondurans, who pay an estimated $200 million, and Guatemalans, who pay an estimated $61 million. These figures may be higher given that extortion is one of the most underreported crimes. 
Public transportation is one of the most affected sectors, with buses and taxis annually paying an estimated $25 million in Honduras and $34 million in El Salvador, La Prensa said.
Small businesses are also hard hit. El Salvador’s small business association (CONAPES) estimated the economic sector it represents pays $30 million monthly to criminal organizations in extortion payments.
Poor neighborhoods in urban areas are particularly vulnerable, the newspaper noted. (See maps of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula below, which show where the newspaper says the transport sector is extorted)
According to La Prensa, extortionists employ similar strategies across the three countries, intimidating victims through death threats, burning or destroying the property of those who do not pay, or killing an employee or a relative of the owner of the business.
Over 300 workers in the Honduran transportation sector have been killed in the last four years, and more than 36 Salvadoran transportation workers have been killed in 2015 alone. Being a bus driver in Guatemala has also become an extremely dangerous professional occupation with hundreds being killed in the last decade.
Extortion in Honduran Cities

InSight Crime Analysis

What makes the Northern Triangle an extortion epicenter can be described in one word: gangs. In the last two decades, powerful local and regional street gangs have spread throughout the region. Most of them target small businesses and public transportation cooperatives for extortion
Honduran gangs, for instance, earn an estimated $54 million annually by charging a "war tax," the newspaper said. 
Jailing gang members en masse, the preferred approach of Northern Triangle governments to deal with gangs, has not slowed the rates of extortion. Many extortionists in the Northern Triangle simply operate from prison via cell phone.
Nonetheless, extortion is not unique to the Northern Triangle countries. On June 30, Colombian authorities arrested 27 members of an extortion ring, three of whom were conducting extortions from behind prison bars.
What's more, gangs are not the only groups extorting. As noted, Hondurans pay an estimated $200 million per year in extortion, only $54 million of which is going to the gangs. But authorities say other groups and individuals use the specter of gangs to scare people into paying extortion fees.   

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

File - A police officer looks on at a voting station during the Lesotho national election in Magkhoakhoeng village outside the capital Maseru, Feb. 28, 2015.
File - A police officer looks on at a voting station during the Lesotho national election in Magkhoakhoeng village outside the capital Maseru, Feb. 28, 2015.
Anita Powell
The tiny nation of Lesotho is threatening to erupt into violence again, less than a year after one of its former leaders fled into exile in South Africa. Now, the brutal killing of a top military officer has sent former leaders back into South Africa - where they are watching anxiously as regional officials head into Lesotho to try to restore peace.
Lesotho has had a disproportionate share of troubles in the last year - from a reported coup attempt in August to a recent spate of violence and reports of a growing political crisis.
The landlocked nation surrounded by South Africa has seen years of political feuding and tension between the police and army.
Lesotho mapLesotho map
The trigger for the most recent tension was the brutal slaying of the former army chief in front of his children last month.

That, said opposition leader Thesele Maseribane, spurred him and two top leaders - including the former prime minister and a top female leader - to flee to South Africa.
Maseribane, who heads the opposition Basotho National Party, spoke to VOA News from Johannesburg, where he said he plans to apply for political asylum.

Maseribane said reliable sources told him that he was on the list of targets of controversial army commander Tlali Kamoli, who Maseribane said is the man who orchestrated the killing of former Lesotho Defense Force commander Maaparankoe Mahao. The two men were bitter rivals.
“We are running away from the Lt. Gen Kamoli’s orders that we must be arrested and must be assassinated.  We flee for our lives. That’s how simply I can put it,” said Maseribane.

South Africa involvement
South Africa has sent its deputy president into Lesotho in an attempt to reduce tensions. Regional leaders from the Southern African Development Community handled last year’s crisis by bringing elections forward, a move that temporarily brought calm; but, Maseribane says mediators have consistently failed to address a major issue in Lesotho.
One of the issues is Kamoli himself, whose firing last August led to the attempted coup. He then was reinstated by the new leader, against mediators’ recommendations.  
“The security issue has been an outstanding issue that was never addressed by the facilitators or by the SADC," said Maseribane. "The issue of the defense force succession, the issue of the arrest of those special forces members that killed people, the issues of the 29th of August, has not been addressed.”
The United States has urged Lesotho to investigate Mahao’s death and to conduct “urgent” security sector reform.
Maseribane said the Lesotho government also needs to clean up its affairs.
“I think that the most important thing that has to happen is that we need a special independent investigation into the matters. We need arrests, we need to see arrests, we need to see justice being outlined in Lesotho," said Maseribane.

"We need to see those people going behind bars, who have killed people. Nobody can just go on hurting people on any day in front of his children," he said. "Nobody has the right to kill people and refusing to go to justice because he is a soldier. This is something that the world has to support.”              
This is an issue that affects South Africa directly -- as Lesotho’s only neighbor, violence in the mountainous enclave could spill over into South Africa.

3 Mexican Journalists Assassinated in Week

Woman arranges altar at the home of journalist Juan Mendoza Delgado as relatives wait for the arrival of the coffin containing his remains, Medellin, state of Veracruz, Mexico, July 3, 2015.
Woman arranges altar at the home of journalist Juan Mendoza Delgado as relatives wait for the arrival of the coffin containing his remains, Medellin, state of Veracruz, Mexico, July 3, 2015.
VOA News
Media rights groups are calling on Mexican authorities to thoroughly investigate the recent murders of three journalists in one week in the states of Oaxaca, Veracruz and Guanajuato.
"We are appalled by all these murders of journalists in Mexico," said Lucie Morillon, Reporters Without Borders program director. "Three deaths in a week — when will the violence stop?"
Morillon called on authorities in the three states "to ensure that impartial, independent and thorough investigations are carried out and that those responsible for these despicable crimes are arrested."
Gunned down
On Thursday, journalist Filadelfo Sanchez Sarmiento was gunned down by two men as he was leaving radio station La Favorita in Maiahuatlan de Porfirio Diaz in southern Oaxaca state.
Reporters Without Borders said Sanchez Sarmiento had received death threats.
"Mexican authorities must thoroughly investigate this killing and establish a motive, including any possible connection of journalism and bring those responsible to justice," said Carlos Lauria, Committee to Protect Journalists senior Americas program coordinator.
"This crime must not become one of the dozens of unsolved journalist murders in Mexico, which has one of the worst impunity rates in the world," Lauria said.
Elsewhere Thursday, Reporters Without Borders says the body of Juan Mendoza Delgado, a local news website editor in Medellin de Bravo, in the eastern state of Veracruz, was found in a morgue, a day after he was reported missing. The media group says Mendoza Delgado was reported to have been run over by a car.
Days before Mendoza Delgado's death, Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte had warned journalists to "behave themselves" and had accused them of being linked to organized crime.
In the central state of Guanajuato on June 26, the body of Gerardo Nieto Alvarez, the editor of El Tabano, a local newspaper was found in Comonfort with a neck wound.
Reporters Without Borders reports the prosecutor in charge of investigating Nieto Alvarez's death immediately ruled out any possibility of a link with his journalism.
However, the journalist's family told the rights group that they are convinced he was killed because of his work.
Nieto Alvarez's son told the media rights group, "My father's laptop has disappeared. It contained all the information he was going to publish. The prosecutor has not said anything about that."
Three other journalists have been killed so far this year in Mexico.
Reporters Without Borders says Mexico is the Western Hemisphere's deadliest country for journalists in 2015 and ranks it 148 out of 180 countries in its current press freedom index.
Mexico was ranked seventh on CPJ's 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free. 
Some material for this report comes from AP.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Urban Sniper Skills

Photos by Jake Swanson
A Former SEAL Schools Us On the Finer Points of Fieldcraft and Marksmanship in the Concrete Jungle
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 80 percent of the American population lives in urban areas. Yet, whenever we see classes or articles about precision marksmanship, they’re usually set against a backdrop of wide-open spaces, with emphasis on the mythical “1,000-yard shot.” Charles Mosier, lead sniper with Las Vegas SWAT and a former Navy SEAL, aims to change that with his urban sniper course.
Basic skills of fieldcraft, navigation, stalking, and trigger pulling don’t change, whether the environment is the tundra of northern Norway or the mountains of Afghanistan. But the methods used to ensure a successful shot and the survival of the shooter must be adapted to circumstance. This is why Mosier teaches through doing. Each student gets the chance to practice with his or her equipment in a hands-on setting to see what works, and if it doesn’t, to come up with an alternative.
Preview   Urban Sniper Skills photo Preview   Urban Sniper Skills photo
Urban Hides
Although the classic ritual of “vegging up” still has its place, even if it’s to take a position in someone’s herbaceous borders, a full-on ghillie suit looks a little incongruous if the sniper is setting up in an office suite. Instead, cloth mesh in various shades is employed to break up the outline and limit visibility from outside.
Start by drawing the blinds and, if there are any other light sources, using a poncho or similar opaque cloth to cut down light from behind you so that you’re not backlit. Then, use black mesh to cover the window you’ll be observing or shooting through — Mosier uses duct tape and king-sized thumbtacks to keep it in place. From the outside, it’ll look like the room is dimly lit, and even if an observer glances in from the sidewalk, your presence will be concealed. Hang an additional layer of mesh from the ceiling between the window and your firing position, and then cover the shooter with mesh as well. The firing position can be constructed from furniture, or a tripod and Hog Saddle shooting rest.
The same construction techniques can be used inside vehicles — start by blocking out as much light as possible, then layer up mesh to improve camouflage. Las Vegas SWAT uses pre-cut cardboard panels that can be taped in place over windows in order to quickly darken the interior, along with suitably sized pieces of mesh to cover the space between a vehicle’s B and C pillars. Backpacks are piled on the rear seat to provide a steady rest and once the shooter has folded himself into position, his partner then covers him with — yes, you guessed it — more mesh. The more layers you add between you and your target, the greater the level of concealment. You may worry about bullet deflection, but at typical engagement distances, its effect on accuracy is negligible.
Making Holes Through Holes
One factor that most definitely will affect hit probability, however, is if your rounds impact a wall before reaching the target. Because the urban environment produces so many opportunities for shots that must be taken through cover, it’s critical to know your sight offset at different distances. To teach this, Mosier places cardboard screens with different sized holes in them a couple of yards in front of students, who are then tasked to engage targets 100 yards downrange. The cardboard represents a wall with a hole through which the shooter would engage targets, referred to as a loophole. Using loopholes can help conceal your location. Shooters must adjust their positions in order to place the reticle on the target, while ensuring their bore axis is clear of the cardboard “wall.” Want to find out exactly what your sight offset is? Set up a target 6 feet from your muzzle, aim at a reference point and fire one round, then use a ruler to measure the distance from your point of aim to the bullet impact. Log this data, as you now know what’s the smallest size loophole you can fire from at that distance.
When you have this information, you can then collect additional data at 10-yard increments out to your zero distance. Once this is in your logbook, you have all the tools you need to overcome another ubiquitous urban obstacle: the chain-link fence. Unlike cloth mesh, clipping a strand of wire with a bullet is guaranteed to send it way off course or cause it to fragment. But once you know your sight offset, it’s possible to confidently send a projectile through the spaces in between. It also helps to remember that each diamond in a fence panel is usually 4.5 inches, corner to corner.

Preview   Urban Sniper Skills photo

Read more:

Preview – 7.62 Full Metal Deathmatch

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne
Three AR-10 Carbines Go Head to Head to Head
Thanks to the Salesman-in-Chief, it seems like everyone’s got an AR-15. With a market awash in 5.56mm rifles, the next item many people will consider adding to their collection is its big brother, a 7.62 NATO version — because although the ammo is heavier and more expensive, by comparison it hits like the hand of an angry god. With that in mind, we assembled three of the best examples of the breed and compared them side by side to see which one might best fit your requirements.
Daniel Defense 7.62

Preview   7.62 Full Metal Deathmatch photo
First up is the newest of the three offerings, which may or may not be on sale by the time you read this. We got our hands on an early prototype DD7.62, so some of its features may change before its release to the public.
With that caveat in place, what’s not going to change is the way the barrel mates to the upper receiver, which is both patented and unique in the AR world. Using threaded steel inserts in the upper, a full-profile flange around the barrel extension is sandwiched by the rail system and clamped by four grade-8 bolts that pass through bosses on the handguard. By doing so, its bearing surface is increased by more than 40 percent compared to a regular barrel nut, and the barrel/upper interface is massively beefed up. The weakest part of that subassembly now becomes its strongest, reducing any influence that pressure on the handguard may have on accuracy.
Seekins Precision SP10

Preview   7.62 Full Metal Deathmatch photo
Seekins started out in the gun industry by making bottom metal and scope rings for precision rifles before branching out into ARs. It’s only natural, then, for them to incorporate both aspects of the business into their latest venture, the SP10. Taking cues from the proven iRMT upper receiver found in their small-frame guns, the SP10 features a massively reinforced barrel nut area that extends the Picatinny rail forward by four slots — as a bonus, the usual no go spot for mounting optics is eliminated. The 12 o’clock rail continues out 15 inches toward the muzzle and is triangular in profile, with a flat bottom surface to aid in shooting from packs or barricades. It takes some getting used to when used offhand — compared to the AR-15 version, this one is 3⁄16-inch wider. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to make us wish our digits were a bit longer.
Grey Ghost Precision Specter Heavy

Preview   7.62 Full Metal Deathmatch photo
Grey Ghost Precision (GGP) was spawned from the fertile minds at Tactical Tailor, in order to expand the work of their Grey Ghost Gear brand into the rifle market. The rifles themselves are built by Mega Arms (who coincidentally are just down the road in the Great Northwet) to GGP specifications. Their home base located just outside the gates of Joint Base Lewis McChord gave ample opportunity for real world testing by guys who use rifles for a living, and feedback from troops, SOF instructors, and competitive shooters was incorporated into the final design.

Read more:

Laser Internet; Android Malware; Windows 10; Mobile Addiction

Today’s Tech Sightings:

Facebook Works to Deliver High Speed Internet Using Laser

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on his social media page that Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is developing a laser communication system that can beam data via drones and satellites, thereby providing Internet connectivity at much higher speeds.

New Android Malware Is Sprouting Like Weeds

A report from G Data Security Labs finds information stored on Android devices to be vulnerable to as many as 4,900 new malware files each day. Increasingly a profitable platform for hackers, the Android operating system is likely to attract more than 2 million new strains of malware this year, according to the company.

Poll: More Americans Reach for Phone Than Partner in Morning

A new poll conducted by Braun Research for Bank of America of about 1,000 participants finds that 35 percent of surveyed millennials reach for their phones first thing in the morning, rather than their partners. Forty-four percent fall asleep with their smartphones in hand, and three percent go to bed with their smartphones.

Microsoft Offers More Details About Windows 10 Rollout Plan

Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10, will start rolling out on July 29 for Windows Insider participants. After that, users who accepted the invitation to upgrade their Windows systems will start getting notifications. The upgrade process will alert users if their systems are not ready for Windows 10 and offer alternatives.

What Awaits Twitter’s Incoming Interim CEO Jack Dorsey

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is taking the helm of the social media giant, temporarily replacing CEO Dick Costolo. Dorsey will focus on making the leadership transition as seamless as possible while the company’s board of directors searches for a permanent CEO.

The 7 Greatest Pivots in Tech History

If you didn’t know, YouTube was a dating site at one point, and Twitter used to be called Odeo. Here’s a look at some of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies that – more or less – had dubious beginnings.

Russians Get Glimpse of Internet ‘Troll Factory’

FILE - A women enters the four-story building known as the
FILE - A women enters the four-story building known as the "troll factory" in St. Petersburg, Russia, where employees work around the clock writing blogs and posting comments on the Internet staunchly supporting President Vladimir Putin and attacking the West. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)


Video Russia’s Online Assault Evaporates Internet Freedom

Russia's government is increasingly censoring the web - and the Russian public may be OK with that

Russia Tightens Grip on the Internet

Kremlin increasingly has clamped down on its critics' access to the web, which Russia's Putin recently called 'a CIA project'

Russian Social Media Mogul Resigns Amid Mounting Pressure

Pavel Durov, Russia's 'Mark Zuckerberg,' exits country's largest social network after Kremlin-friendly executives assume majority ownership
A secretive Russian agency designed to flood the Internet with pro-Kremlin and anti-U.S. comments and posts has been brought into the public eye as a result of a lawsuit brought by a former employee.
In a Russian court, Lyudmila Savchuk sued the Agency for Internet Studies, or AIS, on a variety of charges, including labor violations and lack of payment.
In her suit, Savchuck said she worked at AIS for two months before quitting in March. She alleged she wasn’t paid for her work, was forced to work over-long hours, and is now on a campaign to shed light on AIS activities.
In a surprise move, the suit was quickly settled in late June when lawyers for AIS offered Savchuk a payment of 10,000 rubles.
'Troll factory'
Savchuk accepted the settlement, telling the French news agency: “I am very pleased. They pretended they don't exist at all and now they have come out of the shadows for the first time.”
Savchuck also said she will only feel she fully won “after the troll factory closes completely."
Based in a non-descript warehouse in St. Petersburg, the AIS is a round-the-clock operation that reportedly employs more than 300 workers.
AIS employees create fake accounts on social media and news websites, and then use those accounts to post thousands of comments and posts in accordance with the daily pro-Kremlin talking points, creating the illusion of widespread support for Vladimir Putin’s government.
In her suit, the 34-year-old Savchuk called the AIS a “troll factory,” a reference to the 30,000 comments produced daily by AIS employees.
Many of those comments, she said, are inflammatory in hopes of luring out, or “trolling,” even harsher replies. Those caustic arguments can then be used by the Kremlin as an excuse to ban anti-Putin or pro-Ukranian bloggers and websites.
Authorities in Moscow have declined to comment on the agency.
AIS operations remain shadowy, as do its funding and control.
Officially, AIS is run by Mikhail Bystrov, a retired police colonel.
But RFE/RL has reported that AIS is financed through a holding company headed by Evgeny Prigozhin.
Officially Putin’s “personal chef,” Prigozhin has previously been implicated by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta in another media scandal: this time an elaborate conspiracy to plant false information in different Russian newspapers, disguised as advertisements.
The Kremlin has long operated propaganda campaigns, but since the conflict in Ukraine, Russian authorities appear to have kicked their online efforts into higher gear.
Savchuk said she and others in her department routinely worked 12-hour shifts, banging out as many as 150 blog posts per shift. Others swamped the Web with phony images and fake, pro-Putin “news” stories created to turn up in Web news searches.
Another trolling tactic employed by AIS is the posting of conspiracy theories, designed to muddy facts and leave readers feeling confused.
Conspiracy theories
A few examples were the many conspiracy comments implicating the U.S. in the recent murder of Boris Nemtsov, the ouster of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over rebel-held territories in Ukraine.
“Lena N”, another former AIS employee, recently told RFE/FL that she quit her job after refusing to tow the company line about Nemtsov’s murder.
"It was necessary to bring people to believe that the killing of Boris Nemtsov was a provocation before the march, and [that it was] a murder carried out by his own [supporters]," she said.
And even though her suit was dismissed once she accepted the settlement, Savchuk said she’s committed to shining a light on AIS and other similar operations.
Speaking through her attorney, Ivan Pavlov, Savchuk said she hoped to meet with AIS officials in July for “another chance to make their activities transparent.”