Before ‘suicide,’ Argentine prosecutor left a note — not a suicide note, but a shopping list

There is still a lot of skepticism being voiced about whether the Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, committed suicide or was murdered. Although his body was found inside and blocking the bathroom in which he died, there are no reports of him leaving a suicide note which might have explained what happened. Instead, he apparently left his maid a shopping list for groceries. Why would a man contemplating his own death, be concerned about running out of food?

The Guardian reports: Few believe it was suicide, although that is the version the government immediately espoused. “How can we know what went through the prosecutor’s head at that moment?”, asked the presidential secretary, Aníbal Fernández, on Monday morning speaking to the press.

Those with longer memories recall a tradition of political “suicides” in Argentina going back decades, including the mysterious death of Juan Duarte, the brother of the legendary Evita Perón, who was “suicided” in 1953, less than a year after his sister had died of cancer, a death that some versions say was related to the post-war transfer of Nazi funds to Argentina.

Nisman’s death has reverberated through the country. News coverage has been round the clock and the two top trending topics on Twitter in Argentina are #MuerteDeNisman (Death of Nisman) and #CFKAsesina (CFK Murderer).

Journalists who had spoken with Nisman in the past few days found him anything but suicidal. The prosecutor was due to speak to a special committee of congress on Monday to reveal more details of his intercepts.

To one journalist, Nisman said he had revealed only 5% so far of what he had discovered.

The New York Times reports: Facing a public outcry over the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor leading the investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center here, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her allies lashed out at the dead man on Tuesday, questioning whether he had allied himself with forces seeking to weaken her government.

In a rambling 2,100-word letter posted on her Facebook page, Mrs. Kirchner, whom Mr. Nisman had accused of orchestrating a cover-up to protect Iranian officials implicated in the bombing in exchange for Iranian oil, said that Mr. Nisman had been part of an effort to “sidetrack, lie, cover up and confuse” attempts to finally resolve the case.

The attacks on Mr. Nisman after his death, including assertions in the state-controlled news media that he had been manipulated by Antonio Stiusso, a former intelligence official ousted last month by Mrs. Kirchner, raised questions here on whether her government was supporting efforts to determine the cause of his death. [Continue reading…]


Overlooked Syrian conflict hits new death toll record

Foreign Policy: As the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza over the weekend, the bloodiest 48-hour period in Syria’s civil war went largely unnoticed. More than 700 Syrians were killed on Thursday and Friday, according to an NGO tracking the conflict, providing a stark reminder that a war that has raged for years shows no signs of winding down.

The Shaar gas field in central Syria saw some of the heaviest fighting. It is a crucial gas supply facility for the country’s central region and among the largest in Syria. Islamic State fighters attacked the field Wednesday night — just hours after Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a third, seven-year term as president — and seized it Thursday, killing 270 government soldiers, guards, and staff. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO, at least 40 militants from the group formerly known as ISIS were killed. Over the weekend the body count grew by 100. [Continue reading…]


Internet administration to shift from U.S. to global stage

n13-iconPolitico reports: The U.S. Commerce Department is relinquishing its hold over the group that manages the Internet’s architecture amid pressure to globalize its functions in the wake of reports about NSA surveillance.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration, a Commerce Department agency, said Friday it is transitioning the function to the “global Internet community.” The decision marks a dramatic change. Since the Internet’s inception, the United States has played a leading role in the management of critical back-end Web work, including management of .com and other domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has performed those functions under U.S. Commerce contract since 2000.
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The United States will give up its oversight role when the current contract with ICANN expires in fall 2015, NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling said. He set out a series of four principles required for the transition, including that ICANN maintain the openness of the Internet. Some U.S. officials and businesses have expressed fears about the United Nations, or governments like Russia and China, taking over control of the Web.

“We will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an intergovernmental solution,” Strickling said in a conference call.

ICANN, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, has been pushing to transform itself into a global organization without U.S. oversight. European Union officials have strongly backed the globalization campaign, which has picked up steam in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s sprawling surveillance programs. [Continue reading…]


Russian roulette: The invasion of Ukraine

Part Eight — On the night of Thursday, March 13 VICE News reporter Robert King captured this scene on the streets of Donetsk, where a large group of pro-Russian activists attacked a group of pro-Ukrainian demonstrators calling for unity.

Part Seven — Simon is back in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, where both pro and anti-Russia demonstrations are dividing the region. Pro-Russia protesters believe that the country’s strong economy will help Crimea, while anti-Russia protesters feel that their land has been taken over by bandits.

Part Six — VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky travels to the Kherson region of mainland Ukraine to both the Ukrainian and Russian checkpoints. At the Ukrainian checkpoint, Simon goes inside one of their tanks, and speaks to the commander, who says that despite his Russian blood he will defend all invaders. But at the Russian checkpoint, the exchange isn’t quite as cordial.


Video: GCHQ data-exorcism — the slaying of Guardian hard drives



DNI Clapper caught lying again?

NewsThe Associated Press reports: The top U.S. intelligence chief, James Clapper, said this week that the loss of state secrets as a result of leaks by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden was the worst in American history. Clapper backed up his assertion with dire forecasts about emboldened enemies abroad, but some historians and researchers said the U.S. has struggled with even more devastating intelligence breakdowns over the past century.

Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has said Snowden’s disclosures and the resulting media coverage are giving away blueprints for surveillance programs. “Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods and tradecraft,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

At the start of that hearing, Clapper staked a claim he had not previously made in public. Snowden’s leaks, he said, were “the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history.”

Historians and researchers said Clapper’s remark ignores the most devastating intelligence loss of the 20th century — the theft of America’s top-secret atomic bomb design by Soviet spies. Others say a trio of Americans who spied for Russia in the 1980s and 1990s — Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and John Walker — caused immense intelligence damage that led to the loss of vital secrets and the deaths of American informants. [Continue reading…]


Interrupted by cold weather

With a high of 26° today and a low of 6° expected tonight, the last two days have not been a good time for our furnace to break down. This is one of those times where taking care of the shelter has to take precedence over maintaining this website.


Message for readers using mobile devices

mobileI recently changed the WordPress “theme” (layout, etc.) for War in Context and inadvertently made the site unreadable on smart phones. The problem should now be fixed. If not, please let me know.


On the road — updated

From Saturday through Thursday Saturday? I will be on the road driving from North Carolina to Illinois and back. I will be updating the site as circumstances allow. During this period, I will be posting fewer news items and more of the free-ranging items that I’m now clustering under my catchall — attention to the unseen. This brief message will remain at the top of the page throughout this period. PW