Earthquake Preparedness: A Reminder

Last night I was awoken but a loud noise and the bed having a good shake, just one really. I thought it was the dog having a bad dream, and had hit the bed (not unlike some videos posted to social media of dogs having bad dreams and hitting the wall…see the end of the blog for the video).

Anyhow, my friend texted me shortly thereafter and asked if I had felt ‘it’ too, whatever ‘it’ was. Through my sleep-heavy mind, it slowly dawned on me that the dog was fine and that the bang and shake (sounds like some sort of dance move) was likely an earthquake. Sure enough, this morning I read that the south coast had experienced a minor earthquake, about 4.3 on the Richter Scale, with the epicentre off of Vancouver Island. No surprise there either about the location, that is where the Juan de Fuca and Pacific plates are vying for power and when one of them gives, we’re in for a doozy.

earthquake, BC, earthquake safety, earthquake preparednessCoincidentally, I just finished updating my emergency pack for my car two days ago, so thought it timely to share what you should put together for your emergency pack. Ideally, you should have one for the home and for the car (if you have a car, that is). I update mine about once per year, exchange out old toiletries for new ones, make sure the clothes are still sound. I have a spare set of clothes in my pack, nothing brand new, just some clothes I don’t use anymore but may come in use in an emergency. You just never know, I figure.

So for my kit, I’ve got the following:

First aid kit
Roll of toilet paper (people forget about this!)
Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, hair brush, deodorant, soap, hygiene items, laundry powder)
Clothes (reflective vest, shirt, sweater, socks, undergarments, scarf, hat, rain poncho…realized I am missing a pair of pants. Also, the clothes are a mix of cotton/polyester as particularly the polyester dries quickly…cotton just because it’s nice)
Sewing kit
Water purification tablets
Canned food (tuna and soup…might as well make it tasty to your preferences)
Can opener (don’t forget the opener, so critical!)
Food-related utility items (Fork, knife, spoon, camping plate set, mug with leak-proof lid)
Camping lantern that can double as a small stove (with fire starter and additional candles)
Waterproof matches
Deck of cards (you may be bored!)
Survival cards (edible plants, edible mushrooms, wilderness survival)
Compass
Mini toolkit
Extra durable plastic bags (can double as sleeping bags or tarps in a pinch)

Sample Earthquake Preparedness Kit

Sample Earthquake Preparedness Kit

Everything is sealed in large ziplock bags, and then I’ve put it in a bright orange waterproof duffle bag so it’s easy to grab. The pack is always in the back of my car.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a new pack; it’s easy enough to start one with an old backpack or duffel bag, and start putting in all your extra stuff that you might want in an emergency. I’m still missing a wind-up radio, wind-up flashlight, some sort of battery power for my cell; the whole pack is a work in progress, as I tweak it with every annual update.

The other thing you should do is have a plan of who to contact out of province/state so that you can contact someone to let them know where you are and that you are safe (or not), and any loved ones in your area have the same contact, so that it is easy to have that single point of contact and communication. For example, for my parents and myself, our contact is my brother who lives in another province, and we know to contact him rather than each other.

At least I know that I’m relatively prepared for an earthquake, the zombpocalypse (zombie apocalypse), or getting stranded in the middle of nowhere due to a faulty GPS device.

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(poor dog!)

 

A Lesson in Security for the Ruling Elite

data securityThe recent sacking of Yair Ramati, Israel’s now-former missile defence chief, seems the latest of a string of high ranking officials succumbing to the lure of using their personal computers for work purposes. What would possess Ramati to store top secret data on Israel’s defences on a very unsecure and very hackable piece of equipment? He’s rightly lost his job but let’s note, Ramati is not alone in this tendency.

Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton was raked over the proverbial for having used a personal email server for government business, including emails containing information that was labeled as ‘top secret.’ Clinton’s email fiasco may potentially cost her the presidency (should she progress to becoming the leader of the Democrats), depending on the results of a FBI investigation into the issue. The investigation is examining the extent to which US government’s security was compromised, and to whom the responsibility lies for any security breaches.

Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian PM, is currently using a private email server, as well as various mobile apps for the purposes of communication. His justification? Because government servers aren’t necessarily more secure. Fair enough, but they certainly strive to be, and there’s also that niggling question of transparency to the people who voted you in…

Here in BC, our premier Christy Clark has been triple deleting sent emails, meaning that sent emails are deleted, then the trash folder contents deleted, then the backup folder contents deleted. Each step is manual. It’s not accident to triple delete. She begged ignorance of the practice. Our provincial laws dictate that all government information be available to a Freedom of Information request (with some limitations, pertaining to confidentiality, privacy, and security), so this particular data deletion is damning to Clark, should the voter care.

Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to care about these kinds of security breaches. These articles come and go, and it is only really the tech (and intelligence) community who understand the depth and seriousness of these incidents. Data, information that is to say, is pure gold to foreign entities. Improper storage of confidential and secret data is like leaving the front door open to your house, and just begs to be broken into.

The irony is that most organizations demand confidentiality and secure use of organizational data by the Joe Average employee. Somehow, the ruling elite seem to think that security rules don’t apply to them. Perhaps it’s even ‘just’ a case of that they can’t be bothered to learn their organization’s security protocols. Many of us have witnessed the blatant eye rolling and glazed expressions of executives when faced with having to learn something about the computers that they use on a day-to-day basis. Such an attitude is not only disrespectful to IT departments, it is also a colossal mistake to disregard the importance of data security.

For better or for worse, it’s good that Yair Ramati was fired; his mistake could have potentially cost the security of his country. In these troubled times in the Middle East, Israel can’t afford mistakes. Other countries, governments, organizations, would do well to heed Israel’s example, and perhaps more importantly, educate their ruling elites.

 

 

 

Where to Bomb? Presidential Candidates Use of Force Tracker

Came across this spreadsheet tracking all the military action envisioned by each presidential candidate, both Democrat and Republican, through the Guardian.

The tracker is from “Council on Foreign RelationsMicah Zenko [who] is tracking all the people and places each presidential candidate has said he or she wants to bomb.” The chart reads like the text to a game of Risk being played by a group of teenagers.

Source: Presidential Candidates Use of Force Tracker

risk

Inadvertent Street Cred to Trump

Donald TrumpI thought myself very clever the other day, as I thought that the rise in temperatures this year, allegedly making 2015 the hottest on record, coincided with the hot air being spewed by Donald Trump this year, during his campaign for the mastery of the Republican party. I’m sure lots of other people have drawn the same analogy.

It’s been interesting reading the myriad assortment of opinions about Trump’s recent comments about proposing to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. This proposal is just another populist statement that, unfortunately, echoes a minority percentage of American sentiment on the matter. The minority, is still several million, by all accounts, but it is still a minority (for more info, see this study from Brookings). This statement is a perfect example of Trump’s rhetoric: he grabs onto populist notions that delve deep into the American psyche with the affinity of a leech for blood, and nary a cigarette will burn him off his prey.

His sycophants love him. Of course they would: he seemingly validates their deep dark secret thoughts that are only spoken of in like-minded company or not at all, because these opinions are often neither constitutional, respectful, or thoughtful. These opinions are formed in ignorance of the unknown, without caring to seek out truth or understanding. Trump is drawn to these kinds of fringe ideas like a fly to, well, you know what.

Any educated individual knows to dismiss Trump’s rants as hot air, and certainly leaders around the globe, no less, and journalists aplenty are all up in arms at how someone in a position of power – in which Trump certainly is – can spout such gibberish and still get away with it. Certainly Trump is not representative of the American people. Obama is right now, thankfully. And I really hope that Trump never advances past the primaries.

The problem is that the media keeps covering the drivel shoveled out by Trump. By giving him air time, all the media is doing is serving Trump’s interests in stirring up the voting population, in polarizing voters, and in getting mentioned more often than other candidates. It’s a calculated move to keep his name in people’s minds. I’d hazard a guess that Trump pulls doozies out the back pocket every time he seems to be slipping in the polls in order to try to make some additional percentage points with fence-sitting voters who harbour dark thoughts.

The best way to keep Trump down is to not pander to his interests and to not give him the air time, let alone the time of day. It would be best to just stop covering him and his campaign any more than is allocated to any other candidate, and, when he does spout of something that is so profoundly anti-American in its sentiment as to potentially escalate a conflict somewhere else in the world, then don’t report out on it, or perhaps just give it the smallest mention possible, so that he fades into the background like he should.

He is not a serious presidential candidate, nor should he ever have been provide the opportunity to become one via leadership of the GOP. However, because we all live in a democratic society, we have to take the good and the bad, and even halfwits are given the opportunity to grandstand; I have to respect that.

What I do encourage, however, is for the media to stop providing credibility to Trump by reducing their coverage of him and his antics, and let the serious candidates go about their business of formulating well-thought out and solid policies that will help shape America, and the rest of the world (as we are all impacted by what happens in the States), and let voters decide as such. It’s time to take back Trump’s street creds and give them to those who actually give a damn about the state of their country, and all the people within it.

Full text of Hilary Benn’s extraordinary speech in favour of Syria airstrikes – Spectator Blogs

I listened to this speech this morning, and Mr. Benn summarized every sentiment that I’ve had about continuing air strikes and military action against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

Hilary Benn is the shadow foreign secretary for the British Labour Party. There was a vote yesterday in the British Parliament seeking support for engaging in air strikes against ISIS in Syria – Britain has already been participating in air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. The Conservative government of David Cameron needed the support of at least part of Labour party in order for the military action to continue into Syria (the final numbers were as follows: Ayes 397: Conservatives 315, Labour 66. Nays 223: Conservatives 7, Labour 152).

I’ve had some excellent debates in the past few weeks on the issue of continued air strikes against ISIS in the Middle East, and have felt that we have a moral obligation to keep fighting against that evil entity. Benn put all those good arguments into a single, succinct, moving speech. It’s well worth a listen, or have a read of the text below.

______________________

 

Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Before I respond to the debate, I would like to say this directly to…

Source: Full text of Hilary Benn’s extraordinary speech in favour of Syria airstrikes – Spectator Blogs

An Analysis of Current Threats to the Security of Canada

Yemen, Houthi, President Hadi, Mansour Hadi, Shiite, Sunni, Wahhabism, Saudi ArabiaThe 2014 establishment of a so-called caliphate in the Middle East by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Syria (ISIL/ISIS) has greatly increased the incidence of terrorist activities aimed at disrupting global security, of which Canada is a part. An influx of foreign-born jihadist fighters has flowed into ISIL territory, creating a hive of terrorist activity that aims to install a extremist theocracy, based on a severe and restrictive interpretation of Sunni Islam. The foreign-born fighters – travelling extremists – stem from various Western, Middle Eastern, and north and central African countries.

Of particular concern to Canadian interests are, of course, those Canadians who have become radicalized, and then made some sort of leap of faith, if you will, into violent extremism. There are approximately 60-120 Canadian travelling extremists currently abroad and participating in a wide variety of jihadi-related activities, including fighting on ISIL’s behalf in Syria and Iraq, participating in Al-Qaida cells in northern and central Africa, and supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The concern is two-fold: what those individuals are wreaking in the foreign state in which they are currently residing, and what they will do upon their return to Canada. Firstly, these individuals are tarnishing the name of Canada abroad, and it is up to Canadian security agencies to identify and follow the paths of these individuals in order to try to stop them from engaging in terrorist activities.

To this end, the Canadian government has established laws that make it a prosecutable offence to travel and to participate in terrorist activities, as well by coordinating the efforts security agencies such as CSIS, the RCMP, CBSA, CSE, FINTRAC et al… through the Building Resilience Against Terrorism strategy of 2012.

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AFP, Paris AttacksMore so than the recent Russian airline bombing, or the Beirut Shia bombing, the Paris Attacks of November 14, 2015, have given Western countries, Canada included, a sober reminder that these travelling extremists have a mandate to return to their home countries in order to create terror. ISIL’s policy has shifted from being domestic – that is to say, establishing a caliphate – to being global in outlook. They want to take the fight to our doorsteps.

Several of the French attackers were EU citizens who had fought in the Middle East with ISIL. It is not known whether they were brought together in the Middle East, or whether they had been put in touch with each other upon their return to Europe, and was their return to Europe mandated by ISIL leadership as the first of a new global policy of terror.

What does this mean for Canada? The act of terror in France is one that could be reproduced in Canada. Canada, as mentioned earlier, has approximately 60-120 travelling extremists abroad at the moment, and 80 who have returned to Canada after having been abroad. It is of vital importance that Canadian security agencies monitor the whereabouts and movements of those jihadists both in Canada and those abroad.

Given that the only way that ISIL seems to view non-believers is through an extremist lens – all non-believers should be killed – it would be naïve to assume that retracting any support to Canada’s allies in the fight against ISIL in Syria and Iraq would somehow negate the potential of a terrorist attack on Canadian soil. One must also remember that Canadians are particularly global themselves, and we are fortunate that there was no Canadian casualty in the Paris Attacks – there easily could have been.

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Black Sea Fleet in SebastopolI have noted earlier that it was the Paris Attacks that struck a particular chord in Western countries. Given that Russia is on the fringe in terms of Western diplomacy, both over its annexation of Crimea and support of rebel groups in Ukraine, and its support of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, Western sentiment was not particularly empathetic to the killing of the 224 people on the Russian aircraft on October 31, 2015. The incident was tragic, yes, but the heart strings were not pulled. People were more interested in finding out whether the incident was a bomb or a malfunction, than concerned with the loss of life (for more than the read of a headline at least).

As for the Beirut bombing of November 12, the Middle East, and all that it entails, is a distant annoyance. Beirut, that city that once was hailed as the Paris of the Middle East, has not been a tourist destination for decades. The country is notoriously unstable and its politicians prone to being assassinated. Unfortunately, Lebanon is just not bad enough to be on the radar, nor sympathetic enough for people to care. 43 people died in these attacks.

I will caveat that the above interpretation of the Russian airliner and Beirut bombings mean that I do not care for the tragic loss of life. I do care, and deeply. I am, however, trying to understand why the Paris Attacks resonated over the other two incidents.

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One thing to note in all this is the Russian variable. Russia’s backing of Assad has been interesting to say the least. On some level, what do you do if Assad were to be taken out of the equation? The moderates only constitute about 10% of the power in Syria right now, and you can’t rule a country with only 10% support. The power is essentially split between Assad and the extremist rebels (Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL being the strongest). The Kurds have the only successful boots on the ground, and Turkey would like nothing more than to see the Kurds put in their place again. I remember reading an article about an underground blogger from Raqqa (ISIL’s stronghold) who noted the evils of ISIL and also expressed a rather strong negative emotion at the Kurds and Shias. There is no guarantee at all that a peace process would hold given the amount of hate that people seem to have for each other in that region.

Back to Russia. Their support of Assad has forced the Allies to come to terms with a reality that they initially rejected: Assad will have to be part of any peace process and transitional government. The recent Paris Attacks even brought France’s President Hollande to the Russian table looking for support in bombing the bejesus out of ISIL, something that the Americans are more cautious about committing to. And Hollande moved on the idea that Assad maybe can stay at the table a bit longer, something that a few months ago Hollande never would have entertained. This means that there is perhaps a better chance of peace for Syria, which means a reduction on possible threats to Canada, vicariously.

The Turkey-Russian confrontation may have thrown a bit of a wrench into the mix, and though NATO supports Turkey on paper, it is interesting to note that NATO is not condemning Russia either. I suspect that after some grand-standing for another week or two by both leaders, the whole issue will settle down and some meaningful conversation occur on how to move forward on the Syrian crisis, which is of course in Canadian security interest.

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The knee-jerk reaction of Western powers to the Paris Attacks has been to throw blame on the refugee crisis through which Europe is currently suffering. Many countries have moved to throw up further restrictions on refugee movements through the various entry points to the continent. One of the more positive outcomes of the Paris Attacks has been the renewed efforts by Western countries to try to find a solution to the Syrian civil war, and there has even been a softening of the stance against Assad as participating in any solution.

Alan Kurdi, Syrian refugees, refugee crisisBack to the refugees. Canada will be accepting 25,000 refugees by March of 2016. This is a laudable effort by Canadian government to help desperate people fleeing a horrendous situation. For those anti-refugee voices, I will remind that many of those refugees will be Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Mulsims. ISIL followers are Sunni. Not all Sunni’s are extremists. Security checks are being carried out by the UN and by Citizenship and Immigration Canada at the refugee camps in Lebanon from whence the 25,000 refugees are to come.

Pro-radical Poster North Vancouver Oct 2014The only possible issues I foresee with the Syrian refugees that Canada will be accepting are issues of integration if some of those individuals do not receive the support necessary to integrate into Canadian society. Some of the young men and women, if they have difficulty integrating into Canadian society, may become radicalized to a political or ideological objective, perhaps joining Hezbollah or whatever fringe party will likely be born of the fires of any Syrian peace process, but I do not believe that will necessarily mean that they would become jihadists.

shooting_CBCNo, the threat to the security of Canada remains in those Sunni Muslims who have become radicalized, who travel abroad to follow an extremist path and who participate in terrorist activities, and who return to Canada to propagate their twisted world views. Canada needs to remain focused on identifying these in-house threats.

An important tool in identifying threats to the security of Canada is social media, and more should be invested in monitoring social media feeds to identify those individuals who are in conversation with extremists, or even just following extremists on social media. Lone wolf attacks, like the ones that killed Patrice Warren and Nathan Cirillo in 2014, may still occur.

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Oddly enough, I think that the climate change conference in Paris may actually potentially stir an activist in Canada to become an environmental terrorist, in the Weibo Ludwig stream, for reasons that either Canada is not doing enough to stem climate change, or that Canada is implementing climate change action plans too slowly. We have several oil and gas pipeline projects proposed in BC: the Northern Gateway Pipeline (crude oil transported from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, BC), the liquid natural gas (LNG) pipelines (terminating in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, and Squamish, respectively), and the expansion of the extant Trans Mountain pipeline (crude oil transported from Strathcona, Alberta, to Burnaby, BC). There is a potential for a terrorist incident of this critical infrastructure should the pipelines be given the green light by the federal government.

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Lastly, espionage. The world is focused on the Middle East and the terrorist threat emanating from that region. This is the perfect time for an interested foreign power to try to undermine any weaknesses in Canadian cyber security and get at our data. This data could be private or government, and it is valuable. Economic reasons propel much modern espionage, whether human or cyber based. Canada is a wealthy nation with much successful innovation in various sectors, and that innovation, and the information relative to, is worth billions of dollars to very interested parties. We should be particularly vigilant, when all eyes are focused on a particular topic, when public opinion is pressuring government for action, and government reacts with programs and policies that are more tactical than strategic. This is the time when our security will be tested. Cyber isn’t glamorous, and when we read that a worm has infected millions of computer, most of us just think passingly, glad that wasn’t me, and think nothing more. We forget how much of our own personal data is stored in our computers and in our online accounts. That amount of data multiplies exponentially for businesses and government, and data is oh so valuable.

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lady-justice1Threats to the security of Canada can take many shapes, from the obvious to the less so, and it is important for us to be vigilant, in whatever ways we can, and to take stock that there are many people out there, in that grand world, that envy Canada, that seek to directly and/or indirectly harm Canada, and that would like nothing more than to see Canada’s constitutional democracy compromised in some way.