The Case Against Masks at School | Water Sector & Cyberattacks | Anti-Vaxxers Will Believe Anything, and more

UK Anti-Terror Police Make 2 More Arrests in Texas Synagogue Hostage Probe; 4 Total in Custody  (Fox News)
U.K. anti-terrorism police arrested two more men in Manchester Wednesday in connection with their investigation of a British man who took Jewish worshippers hostage at a Texas synagogue. Four of the six arrested are still in custody. British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, 44, took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 15. The nearly 11-hour standoff ended with the remaining three hostages running out safely and the alleged gunman shot and killed when FBI agents stormed the building. He was heard on the synagogue’s Facebook livestream demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, also known as “Lady Al Qaeda,” a Pakistani national imprisoned in Fort Worth for allegedly trying to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Two teenagers were detained in South Manchester the day after the Texas incident, but both were later released without charges after three nights in custody. Reports said they were Akram’s sons. Two other men were arrested Jan. 20 in Birmingham and Manchester. On Jan. 21, U.K. anti-terrorism officers “were granted an extension of custody to continue to question them further,” Greater Manchester Police said at the time.

Student Who Opened Fire During Lecture Linked to Neo-Nazi Party  (Tim Hume, Vice)
The teen gunman who killed a fellow student and wounded three others in a shooting spree at a German university had previous links to a neo-Nazi party, German media reported on Wednesday. Shortly after midday on Monday, the 18-year-old gunman, named only as Nikolai G. in line with German privacy laws, entered an organic chemistry lecture at Heidelberg University in southwest Germany armed with a rifle and a shotgun and about 100 rounds of ammunition, and began firing. The attack killed a 23-year-old woman, who died of her injuries in hospital several hours later, and injured three other students – two women and a man. The gunman, who had reportedly sent his father a WhatsApp message shortly before the attack saying that “people have to be punished” and asking to be buried at sea, then fled the lecture hall before turning the gun on himself, police said. The members of the 32-strong team investigating the incident – the first shooting at a German school or university since 2009 – are still working to establish a motive of the attacker, who was previously unknown to authorities, and who recently purchased the firearms in another country, police said.

France Targets Groups, Websites with Expanded Powers Under Anti-Terror Law  (Layli Foroudi, Reuters)
The French government said this week it was closing down an activist-run media outlet and a Muslim website deemed at odds with “national values”, the latest in a series of steps that rights groups and lawyers say infringe on democratic freedoms. Following a violent protest against the extreme right in Nantes, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he would shut down “Nantes Révoltée”, a local media platform, which had relayed information about the protest. Days earlier, he had announced plans to close the website “La Voie Droite”, which publishes Islamic religious content. The government has been making increasing use of powers to shut down organizations or groups. In the last two years, there have been 12 such shutdowns, an uptick from seven between 2016 and 2019, according to French public records. Before dissolving an association, the Ministry of Interior informs the concerned party, which has 15 days to reply with its counter-arguments. Then, once the decree is published, the organization can take the case to the Council of State, an administrative court.

Electric Grid Is ‘Attractive Target’ for Domestic Violent Extremists in US, Intel Brief Says  (Geneva Sands, CNN)
Domestic violent extremists will “likely continue” to plot and encourage physical attacks against electrical infrastructure in the United States, according to a recent Department of Homeland Security intelligence briefing obtained by CNN. Since at least 2020, domestic extremists have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure, the memo dated January 24 says, noting that these extremist groups have identified the “electric grid as a particularly attractive target given its interdependency with other infrastructure sectors.” Absent significant technical knowledge or insider assistance, small-scale attacks are unlikely to cause widespread, multi-state power loss, the intelligence brief notes, but this type of attack may cause physical damage, putting people and operations at risk. The memo, which was first reported by The Daily Beast, lists several past incidents of concern that informed the intelligence assessment, including an investigation into potential election-related threats.

Twitter Suspended 44K Accounts for Promoting Terrorism, Violent Orgs in First Half of 2021  (Zoe Strozewski, Newsweek)
In the first six months of 2021, Twitter suspended 44,974 individual accounts for promoting terrorism or violent organizations, according to the social media platform’s new transparency report. Of those accounts, 93 percent were “proactively identified and actioned,” the report said. Twitter began releasing so-called transparency reports in 2012 to give insights on certain data regarding the platform. This newest update, covering January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021, also documented millions of tweet removals. The company’s guidelines on violent organizations prohibit users from promoting terrorism and violent extremism. Certain criteria set by Twitter must be met in order for a collective to be classified as either a violent extremist group or organization, and a given group’s actions both on and off the platform are considered in Twitter’s assessment, according to the policy.

EPA Leading Effort to Secure the Water Sector Against Cyberattacks  (Miriam Baksh, Nextgov)
This is the third in a series of 100-day sprints to shore up industrial control systems used in critical infrastructure.

The Shady Site That Shows Anti-Vaxxers Will Believe Anything  (Mark Hay, Daily Beast)
Experts say it distorts data to advance the bonkers and baseless theory that red states are receiving toxic doses, while others get placebos.