Video Games, Extremism and Terrorism | Ghost Guns | What It’s Like to Fight a Megafire, and more

QAnon Backer Sentenced to 14 Months for Attack on Army Reservists  (AP / Navy Times)
QAnon supporter accused of attacking two U.S. Army reservists in a Milwaukee suburb earlier this year was sentenced Thursday to 14 months in federal prison.
Prosecutors say Ian Alan Olson, of Nashotah, drove a car spray-painted with QAnon slogans to the Wisconsin Army Reserve Center in Pewaukee on March 15 and shouted, “This is for America” before firing two or three paintball rounds at the soldiers. His gun then jammed.
The rounds did not hit the reservists, who initially believed Olson was holding a real firearm. One of the servicemen tackled Olson and held him to the ground until police arrived, investigators said.

FBI Tracks Threats Against Teachers, School-Board Members  (Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha, Wall Street Journal)
Many Republicans see prospect of criminalizing concerned parents

Taliban Victory Has ‘Heightened Risk’ from Militant Insurgents around the World, Say Terror Analysts  (Kim Sengupta, Independent)
Afghanistan’s fall to Taliban control has created the conditions for terrorist groups to use the country to launch attacks abroad, while Africa’s Sahel region has seen the rise of the fastest growing Islamist insurgency in the world, according to a report by a leading security company. The Islamist victory across the border has led to the formation of new militant alliances in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the rise in assaults on security forces there are likely to continue, says Control Risks which raises the terrorism rating in those parts of Pakistan from “high” to “extreme”. The report states “it will come as no surprise that Afghanistan has moved to ‘extreme’ from ‘high’. The Taliban, a sanctioned terrorist organization, is in control. Or maybe it is not, which is one of the elements of volatility in that country for the coming year. The risk is very high that Afghanistan becomes a safe haven for terrorists with ambitions within its border and beyond.” A number of states in Africa – the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and parts of the CAR (Central African Republic), and South Sudan have also moved to the “extreme” category in the company’s annual “RiskMap”. However clashes between the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and a faction of Boko Haram has weakened the militant influence in Nigeria’s Borno state and limited their expansion to the south.

Prosecutors Say Facebook Deleted Crucial Evidence in a Crackdown on Extremist Groups  (Sarah Al-Arshani, Business Insider)
Prosecutors said Facebook deleted crucial evidence when it shut down the accounts of a New Mexico militia group during a crackdown on extremist groups, The Washington Post reported.  In August 2020, Facebook announced the New Mexico Civil Guard was removed from the platform. Business Insider’s Charles Davis previously reported that the right-wing vigilante group’s leaders include “a neo-Confederate with a swastika tattoo and a self-styled ‘national anarchist’ with a history of denying the Holocaust.” The Post reported that in June 2020, a group of men dressed in military-style camouflage confronted a group protesting a statue of a Spanish conquistador in Albuquerque, when one protester was shot and wounded. The outlet reported that prosecutors accused the New Mexico Civil Guard of starting the violence even though the alleged shooter was not a member of the militia group. On Monday, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez filed a petition in California, where the social media network is based, asking a judge to force Facebook to hand over information about accounts created by the militia. Prosecutors want information that could help them identify members of the group, Torrez said at a news conference on Monday.

A ‘Truth Commission’: Paris Terror Trial Grips France  (Financial Times)
François Hollande had just finished four hours of testimony in the terrorism trial of 20 men accused of carrying out the November 13 2015 attacks in Paris when one of them stood up as if to address the packed courtroom. It was Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving alleged member of the Isis-backed extremists who struck targets in the French capital, killing 130 people. A showdown loomed between the former president and the defendant, who had earlier in the trial justified the attacks as a moral response to French air strikes in Syria and blamed Hollande directly for them. “Ah no, Mr Abdeslam, if you have questions you can go through your lawyers!” Jean-Louis Périès, the presiding judge, interjected to cut short the confrontation and end a marathon day of hearings. Hollande’s presence and his stand-off with one of the alleged protagonists encapsulated how the criminal trial, now in its third month, has been acting as a cathartic moment for France. Not only is the country trying the individuals accused of the attacks at the Bataclan theatre, café terraces and Stade de France, it is also having a public reckoning over the events, and the damage they inflicted on French society. A purpose-built courtroom in a heavily fortified Palais de Justice in Paris has become a stage for the accused, investigators, survivors and politicians in power at the time to give testimony, and for experts in psychology and sociology to explain the context.”

Canada Spy Service Increasingly Worried About Violent Online Rhetoric  (Reuters, VOA News)
Canada’s spy service said on Friday it was increasingly concerned about the rise of violent ideologically motivated online rhetoric, which it blamed in part on tensions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said since the start of the pandemic, threats posed by extremists had “evolved with unprecedented multiplicity and fluidity.”
COVID-19, it said, had worsened existing strains of xenophobia and anti-authoritarianism. Violent extremists were exploiting the pandemic by amplifying false information about government measures and the virus, it said.
Protesters opposed to mandatory vaccinations have blocked access to hospitals across Canada and abused medical staff, both in person and online.
“Online rhetoric that is increasingly violent and calls for the arrest and execution of specific individuals is of increasing concern,” CSIS said in a statement.

New Report: “Network of Networks: The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”  (European Eye on Radicalization)
A new report, “Network of Networks: The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”, republished here, was recently released by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group of the European Parliament. The report was launched on 10 November in a webinar organised and hosted by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Charlie Weimers, Chair of the ECR’s Working Group on Religious Freedom, which included the authors of the report, as well as other experts on the Muslim Brotherhood to discuss the organisation’s ideology and its threat to European values and fundamental rights.

Video Games, Extremism and Terrorism: A Literature Survey  (Sam Andrews and Joshua Skoczylis, Global Network on Extremism & Technology)
Video games are extremely popular, with a market worth over $175 billion per year and at least 3 billion players worldwide. High-speed Internet has also made multiplayer gaming a social activity, facilitating the growth of a gamer subculture and identity, supplemented by online forums  and offline meetups, leading to a growing community around this hobby.
Today speculation is rife that many of these video gaming communities are vulnerable to extremist and terrorist groups. Researchers and practitioners are concerned that video gaming forums and games are used as recruitment tools, and that extremist and terrorist groups are producing their own video games, serving as effective propaganda to an overwhelmingly young audience.
Due to this interest, there is a growing literature on video games, terrorism, and extremism. This Insight looks to provide an overview of this literature and the associated literature on Internet masculinities. The article is split into two parts, looking first at online video gaming communities, and then at video games themselves. While recent research has also been interested in gamification, this is beyond the scope of this review. Additionally, this review looks only at online gaming communities. Further work is needed to link the offline and online gaming communities. This too is beyond the scope of this review.

Politicians Face Violence and Threats from Voters—and Each Other. Are We Nearing a Civil War?  (Brian Michael Jenkins, NBC Think)
At least one noted American historian is comparing today’s pugnacious politics with that of the republic in the years leading up to the Civil War. And indeed, Americans around the country seem to endorse bellicose behavior. According to a survey published on Nov. 1, 18 percent of all Americans (30 percent of Republicans, 17 percent of Independents and 11 percent of Democrats) believe that “patriots” might have to resort to violence to save the country. Another poll earlier in the year found that 46 percent of people thought the country was somewhat or very likely to have another civil war.
Are they right? Does America’s increasingly uncivil behavior mean we are heading toward civil war?

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California, Arizona and Nevada in Talks on New Plan to Save Colorado River Water  (Ian James, Los Angeles Times)
Two and a half years after signing a deal aimed at averting a damaging crisis along the Colorado River, water officials from California, Arizona and Nevada are discussing plans to take even less water from the shrinking river and leave it in Lake Mead in an effort to prevent the reservoir from falling to dangerously low levels.
Representatives of water agencies from the three states said they are firming up the details of a deal that would leave an additional 500,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir next year, and the same amount again in 2023—about double the quantity of water used annually by Las Vegas and the rest of southern Nevada.
For California, the deal would mean participating in water reductions prior to Lake Mead reaching levels that would otherwise trigger mandatory cuts.

SAGO Has a Politics Problem, and WHO Is Ignoring It  (The BMJ)
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) has recently been established to “define and guide studies into the origins [of Novel Pathogens]” and “advise WHO on prioritising studies and field investigations into [Novel Pathogens].” In both of these, an attention to political questions like “which pathogens deserve investigation?” and “how should countries’ possible pathogen origins be prioritised?” will need to be addressed.

C.D.C. Says ‘Smallpox’ Vials Found in Lab Did Not Contain Disease-Causing Virus  (Johnny Diaz, New York Times)
In a new statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the vials found in a Pennsylvania lab contained vaccinia, the virus used in the smallpox vaccine.

Four Takeaways from the Iranian Election Interference Indictments  (Joseph Marks, Washington Post)
Iran is shaping up to be one of the United States’ most nettlesome cyber foes.
That’s one of several clear takeaways from sanctions and indictments leveled yesterday against two Iranian hackers for attempted interference in the 2020 election.
Iran has been a major U.S. cyber opponent since at least 2011, when it launched a barrage of attacks against financial institutions that overwhelmed their websites with Internet traffic until they couldn’t operate.

Iran Is “Leapfrogging Our Defenses” in a Cyber War  (Eric Rosenbaum, CNBC)
On Thursday, the U.S. government revealed an indictment of two Iranian hackers for election interference.
Kevin Mandia, CEO of Mandiant, says Iran is among the nation-state sponsors of hacking that has improved its cyberattack capabilities in recent years to bypass U.S. defenses.
Mandia worries that whether it is Iran, China, Russia or North Korea, the rapid advances made by geopolitical rivals in cyberthreats is leading to a war the U.S.“will lose.”

The US Must Turn the Tables on Russia’s Psyops  (Ivana Stradner, Defense One)
A post-Cold War fixation on hard power has sapped us of the 21st century’s most potent force.

How an Entire Soviet Town Disappeared from the Face of the Earth in a Matter of Minutes  (Yekaterina Sinelschikova, Russia Beyond)
For Severo-Kurilsk, with its 6,000 population, 5 November 1952 turned into an apocalypse.

America’s Infrastructure Struggles with New Weather Forecast  (Arian Campo-Flores and Katherine Blunt, Wall Street Journal)
Historically anomalous heat and rain have overwhelmed systems designed to withstand old meteorological patterns, and climatologists expect still worse with climate change

Why Health-Care Workers Are Quitting in Droves  (Ed Yong The Atlantic)
About one in five health-care workers has left medicine since the pandemic started. This is their story—and the story of those left behind.

‘Ghost Guns’: Firearm Kits Bought Online Fuel Epidemic of Violence  (Glenn Thrush, New York Times)
The untraceable weapons, assembled from parts, can be ordered with a click by children, gang members and felons. They are increasingly the lethal weapon of easy access around the U.S., but especially California.

Report: Hackers with China Ties Linked to Global Password Thefts  (Adriann Zhang, VOA News)
A U.S. cybersecurity firm says a hacking group possibly linked to China has breached nine global organizations including at least one in the United States.
The report by Palo Alto Networks of Santa Clara, California, said it found malicious actors were actively stealing passwords from target organizations with the goal of maintaining long-term access.

Calibrating Domestic Intelligence at the 20-Year Mark  (Genevieve Lester and John P. Sullivan, HSToday)
The divide between foreign and domestic intelligence, while grounded in legitimate civil liberties concerns, can inhibit detection of transnational threats.

What It’s Like to Fight a Megafire  (M. R. O’Connor, New Yorker)
Wildfires have grown more extreme. So have the risks of combatting them.

Personality Type, as well as Politics, Predicts Who Shares Fake News (Asher Lawson and Hemant Kakkar, Scientific American)
Highly impulsive people who lean conservative are more likely to share false news stories. They have a desire to create chaos and won’t be deterred by fact-checkers