Sunday Reads

Good Morning

What a sunny way to start a Sunday post….a sun on skis. So, the images of today’s thread are from artist Celestino Piatti. You can see a bunch of his work here and read more about the artist here, Celestino Piatti – Swiss Graphic Design Foundation.

 

Why don’t we start of with a few tweets:

This tweet from @eaglewoman4 seems like a brilliant idea…if it could work:

Read some of the comments. Some claim that there could be precedent for this exact protection, as some tribes afforded protection to citizens during WW2 who faced being placed in internment camps. (I looked online and could not find any information on this…but it was not a very thorough search.) Still, it does seem like an idea to flesh out.

 

Meanwhile, it appears John Lewis isn’t the only one boycotting the SOTU:

 

I don’t think we will get anything together unless we go back to using paper ballots:

 

Over here tRump has been overly suggesting prison for his former opponent Hillary Clinton, in Russia…tRump’s puppet master has done just that:

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrested during protests – CNN

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested Sunday during anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow as rallies continue nationwide.

“I’ve been detained. This doesn’t matter. Come to Tverskaya (Street). You are not going there for me, it’s for you and your future,” Navalny tweeted after his arrest.
Within minutes of arriving at Pushkinskaya Square, where hundreds of protesters had gathered, Navalny was wrestled into a patrol van by police, in dramatic footage posted on Youtube.
Moscow Police said Navalny was taken to a police station for arraignment and to be charged for illegally organizing a protest. If found guilty, he faces 30 days in detention and a fine.
How long before we get the jealous tweet from the orange dictator?

Tweets from Navalny:

Translation: The detention of one person loses any sense if there are many of us. Someone come and replace me

Moving on…

 

Oh brother.

This weekend marks another Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,

There is a key word here…which I think you may miss without knowing it.

It begins with the letter M.

 

I will leave with this latest breaking news:

Pennsylvania shooting rampage leaves 5 dead

Five people were killed and another was wounded Sunday in a shooting rampage in a small town 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Police said four people died at the scene and one died after being rushed to a hospital. The shootings took place at a car wash in Melcroft at about 3 a.m. ET. The facts were still being sorted out, but it was possible the shooter was among the victims, police said.

“There is no threat to the community, no imminent danger,” police said in a statement to USA TODAY. The identity of the victims, three men and two women, were not immediately available, police said.

Pennsylvania Shooting Rampage Live Updates: Deadly Attack at Small Town Car Wash

11:10 a.m. – A source at the scene told a KDKA reporter that the suspected shooter used a semi-automatic rifle. Police have not confirmed the weapon that was used.

This is an open thread.

 

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Sunday Reads: Killer Typhoon, Failed Talks and a Pop-Up Super Privacy Tent

Book label designed by Josef Váchal

Book label designed by Josef Váchal found on Pinterest

Good Morning

The first half of this post is bad, just a warning there…so as you drink your coffee, tea, chai, beer or Bourbon…we’ll just get through this tough stuff as quickly as possible.

As expected, the death toll from the Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda is in the thousands, from Voice of America: 10,000 Feared Dead in Philippines

Local officials say the death toll in a central province that took the brunt of Typhoon Haiyan could reach as high as 10,000.

Police and provincial officials provided the estimate on Sunday after assessing damage in Leyte province, where they say the destruction was overwhelming. The regional police chief said most of the deaths resulted from drowning and collapsed buildings

Philippine Interior Secretary Mar Roxas says it is difficult to describe the extent of damage in Leyte’s capital, Tacloban.

“The devastation is – I do not have the words for it. It is really horrific. It is a great human tragedy. There is no power. There is no light.”

AP is reporting 400 bodies have been recovered so far.

Reuters has a few images of the devastation at their link, however, there are very few pictures available as of now. Philippine super typhoon kills at least 10,000, official says | Reuters

Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon that churned through the Philippine archipelago in a straight line from east to west, packing wind gusts of around 275 kph (170 mph), weakened significantly before hitting northern Vietnam on Sunday.

Leyte province’s capital of Tacloban, with a population of 220,000, bore the brunt of Haiyan, which was possibly the strongest storm ever to make landfall.

The city and nearby villages as far as one kilometer from shore were flooded by the storm surge, leaving floating bodies and roads choked with debris from fallen trees, tangled power lines and flattened homes. TV footage showed children clinging to rooftops for their lives.

A man stands atop debris as residents salvage belongings from the ruins of their houses after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013.

“From a helicopter, you can see the extent of devastation. From the shore and moving a kilometer inland, there are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami,” said Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who had been in Tacloban since before the typhoon struck the city, about 580 km (360 miles) southeast of Manila.

[…]

Debris litter a damaged airport after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 9, 2013. REUTERS-Erik De Castro

Debris litter a damaged airport after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 9, 2013.

City officials said they were struggling to retrieve bodies and send relief supplies to survivors. They also reported widespread looting as authorities struggled to restore order and repair shattered communications.

“There is looting in the malls and large supermarkets. They are taking everything even appliances like TV sets, these will be traded later on for food,” said Tecson John Lim, the Tacloban city administrator.

“We don’t have enough manpower. We have 2,000 employees but only about 100 are reporting for work. Everyone is attending to their families.”

[…]

“The dead are on the streets, they are in their houses, they are under the debris, they are everywhere,” he said.

International aid agencies said relief efforts in the Philippines are stretched thin after a 7.2 magnitude quake in central Bohol province last month and displacement caused by a conflict with Muslim rebels in southern Zamboanga province.

The World Food Programme said it was airlifting 40 tons of high energy biscuits, enough to feed 120,000 people for a day, as well as emergency supplies and telecommunications equipment.

Tacloban city airport was all but destroyed as seawaters swept through the city, shattering the glass of the airport tower, leveling the terminal and overturning nearby vehicles.

Huffington Post has a picture on the main page of their website that shows a single dead man, face down. He is blue. His skin is blue.

I saw that picture last night just before going to sleep and it haunted me…it really is an upsetting image.

More pictures here: AP PHOTOS: High death toll feared in typhoon

and BBC News – In pictures: Tacloban in ruins

Meanwhile, the US has offered some aid: U.S. aid on the way to devastated areas of Philippines

Help is on the way to areas of the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development and humanitarian relief groups.

The Obama administration made an initial $100,000 available Saturday to provide basic health care, clean water and sanitation following the Philippines government’s request for international assistance. That figure is likely to grow as damage and humanitarian needs are assessed.

And according to the BBC:  UK commits aid for 500,000 in Philippines

Britain has committed £5m to help up to 500,000 people affected by the typhoon that swept through the Philippines.

The Department for International Development (DfID) said the money would be given to pre-approved organisations to provide “crucial humanitarian aid”.

That 5 million pounds is like 8 million US dollars. Makes that 100,000 bucks seem like a mere single ply, scratchy…dingleberry producing roll of toilet paper.

How to help: Organizations offering relief to Typhoon Haiyan survivors

The organizations listed below are deploying urgent relief efforts on the islands. See how you can help:

The Philippine Red Cross said it has mobilized teams on the ground to help with rescue and relief operations. Click the link to learn more.

The American Red Cross has launched a family tracing service among other aid operations. If you are unable to reach a family member in the Philippines, you can contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross to initiate a tracing case. Click on the link for more.

UNICEF is taking donations to help provide children with shelter, clean water, nutrition and vaccines.

World Food Programme, a United Nations organization, said it will be sending meals to those affected and working with local authorities on restoring communications. Click the link to donate or, if you are in the United States, text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10.

Save the Children is also mounting disaster relief efforts to help children and families in the region with emergency assistance.

World Vision said it will provide food and water to those in evacuation shelters. Click the link to make a donation.

Habitat for Humanity plans to offer shelter repair kits for families who need to re-build their damaged houses.

Operation USA said it will allocate donations directly to relief and recovery efforts.

National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) has created a disaster relief fund for victims in the Philippines.

Google has also launched a person finder.

The storm is now on its way to Vietnam:

AFP: 600,000 evacuated as typhoon nears Vietnam

Philippines reels from catastrophe as Typhoon Haiyan heads to Vietnam – CNN.com

More photos at that CNN link.

In other world news: Talks With Iran Fail to Produce a Nuclear Agreement

Marathon talks between major powers and Iran failed on Sunday to produce a deal to freeze its nuclear program, puncturing days of feverish anticipation and underscoring how hard it will be to forge a lasting solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Emerging from a last-ditch bargaining session that began Saturday and stretched past midnight, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said they had failed to overcome differences. They insisted they had made progress, however, and pledged to return to the table in 10 days to try again, albeit at a lower level.

“A lot of concrete progress has been made, but some differences remain,” Ms. Ashton said at a news conference early Sunday. She appeared alongside Mr. Zarif, who added, “I think it was natural that when we started dealing with the details, there would be differences.”

Iran nuclear talks fail; new talks in 10 days | The Raw Story

They agreed to meet in Geneva again in 10 days to try to make a deal happen.

Talks on a deal to temporarily curb Iran’s nuclear program ran into trouble Saturday when France questioned whether the proposal went far enough, casting doubt an agreement could be reached during the current round of negotiations.

Chances of bridging all differences diminished as the day went on.

A Western diplomat in Geneva said that the French were holding out for conditions on the Iranians tougher than those agreed to by the U.S. and France’s other negotiating partners, diminishing hopes of a done deal Saturday.

It really seems like the French are the ones voicing the most concern and skepticism.

Meeting without Iran

The foreign ministers of the seven delegations discussing Iran convened a meeting late Saturday night, and the Iranian officials were not included.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke of “several points that…we’re not satisfied with compared to the initial text,” telling France-InterRadio his nation does not want to be part of a “con game.”

He did not specify, but his comments suggested France thought a final draft of any first-step deal was too favorable to Iran, echoing concerns raised by Israel and several prominent U.S. legislators.

The French position was confirmed by another Western diplomat. Both gave no specifics and demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the diplomatic maneuvering.

Iranian state TV strongly criticized the French position, calling France “Israel’s representatives at the talks.”

Iran’s IRNA news agency cited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as urging world powers to reach a deal.

“I hope the parties negotiating with Iran in the 5+1 group use the exceptional opportunity that the Iranian nation has provided to the West and the international community so that we achieve a positive result in a reasonable time,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as telling a Japanese foreign minister visiting Tehran Saturday evening.

Rouhani said sanctions and threats don’t benefit anyone.

Iran “has insisted that threats and sanctions have not resolved any problem and further complicate the path forward, and believes that the only solution is talks on the basis of respect and mutual confidence,” IRNA quoted him as saying.

Optimism about an interim agreement had been high when the talks were extended for a third day on Saturday and raised to a ministerial level.

There is a lot more at both the New York Times link above, and this Raw Story link…which goes on a bit more to say:

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal pointed to “rather large cohesion” among the negotiators and said France wanted “the international community to see a serious change in the climate” of talks with Iran.

“There have been years of talks that have led to nothing,” Nadal said, alluding to the need for tough terms on Iran.

Years of talks, yes…but this is the first time that the US is involved face to face with Iran in these talks. I think that gives this round of discussions a sense of urgency and more pressure on the matter with the international community coming together on one page.  But then, it is late…and I am a little overwhelmed by the story out in the Philippines. I will just put a link to an update on Syria’s chemical weapons stash: Katrina vanden Heuvel: A surprising silence on success in Syria – The Washington Post

Last week, buried beneath banner headlines blaring about Obamacare hearings, National Security Agency surveillance revelations and the Boston Red Sox’ World Series win, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) quietly reported that Syria “has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable.”

On the heels of winning the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, the unglamorous but undeniably effective OPCW, using saws, sledgehammers and cutting torches in the middle of a war zone, defied predictions by meeting the Nov. 1 deadline to disable Syria’s chemical weapons program. The bombshell was that there was no bombshell — at least, not of the unconscionable chemical kind.

[…]

But the manner in which we arrived at this moment seems to obscure the legitimate success we ought to celebrate. There remains, of course, difficult work ahead. The OPCW must meet a Nov. 15 deadline to destroy more than 1,000 metric tons of weapons stockpiles, even as fierce fighting continues in many of the parts of Syria where the weapons are located. Syria’s foreign minister requested that some weapons factories be spared , calling into question the country’s genuine commitment to disarmament. And the country’s deadly civil war continues unabated.

Still, even with these caveats, what the OPCW accomplished is no small victory. It’s a meaningful step toward meeting what has long been a major U.S. foreign policy goal – eliminating weapons of mass destruction.

Yes, it’s an op/ed, so go ahead and take it for what it is….read the rest at the link.

Another updated news story for you this morning: Schools chief: Nothing in records indicates Nevada middle school shooter was bullied – The Washington Post

A northwestern Nevada superintendent said there’s no evidence a seventh-grader was bullied before he fatally shot a teacher and wounded two classmates at Sparks Middle School last month.

Jose Reyes, 12, killed math teacher Michael Landsberry with a semi-automatic handgun outside the school on Oct. 21 before taking his own life.

Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez told KTVN-TV (http://bit.ly/1eqRcfw) that “there was nothing in our official records about bullying for this child, whether at the elementary school or the middle school. Even the parents recently said there was no indication from what they saw.”

The parents, Jose and Liliana Reyes, earlier this week used the word “teased” to describe what their son faced about a speech problem but said he never showed signs of harboring anger or resentment that could help explain the schoolyard shooting.

Their attorney, Kent Robison, told KTVN that Reyes was teased at school and even saw a counselor.

Some students have said bullying played a role in the shooting, but police said they have no evidence of that and have refused to comment about anything that might have provoked the attack.

The parents of the two 12-year-olds recovering successfully from gunshot wounds have said they don’t believe their children were targeted in the attack on the asphalt basketball court 15 minutes before the morning bell.

I wonder if we will ever know why Reyes did what he did that day.

Remember that nugget of news outta Sanford Florida? Where the police chief was making all neighborhood watch volunteers “gun free” while on “duty.”  Well, Sanford police backtrack on neighborhood watch gun restriction | Al Jazeera America

Police in the Florida city where George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin have backed off a plan to explicitly ban neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns while on duty.

Earlier this month, police in Sanford, Florida, announced new rules on how civilian patrols can operate in an attempt to revive the program’s reputation, and was expected to announce Tuesday that neighborhood watch volunteers shouldn’t carry guns or follow suspects.

But now the police department has backtracked on those rules, saying that while it recommends that neighborhood watch volunteers not carry weapons, it won’t formally prevent volunteers from doing so.

[…]

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith refused repeated requests to explain the reversal.

“That was the choice of the chief. That was my decision,” Smith said. “What my thought is unimportant.”

Smith introduced the new rules and a new handbook for the town’s neighborhood watch program at a community meeting on Tuesday.

He said anyone who carries a gun can still participate in the neighborhood watch program, and no one will be asked if they have a concealed weapons permit. But block captains will be required to sign a waiver saying the city will relinquish liability if they decide to carry a weapon.

Last week, his spokesman told Reuters the new rules would explicitly state that residents acting under the authority of neighborhood watch may not carry a firearm or pursue someone they deem suspicious.

Smith says his change of rules was not influenced by the gun rights advocacy groups who were pissed off about his earlier decision to ban guns on neighborhood watch. (Bullshit.)

Want some more bullshit? Tom Cruise — My Job’s As Hard As Fighting in Afghanistan | TMZ.com

Tom Cruise not only thinks he trains harder than Olympic athletes, he believes his job as a professional actor is as grueling as fighting the war in Afghanistan — this according to legal docs obtained by TMZ.

As we reported, Cruise recently sat for a deposition in his $50 million libel suit against a magazine publisher that claimed he abandoned daughter Suri — and his quotes are GOLD.

First, the Middle East — Tom says his location shoots are just like serving a tour in Afghanistan, “That’s what it feels like. And certainly on this last movie, it was brutal. It was brutal.”

Oh, I see another South Park episode in Tom’s future.

BTW, if you missed this past weeks episode, you need to see it…Ginger Cow (Season 17, Episode 6) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios

Okay, since I’ve segued into the Hollywood/movie section of the post, here is another movie oriented link  for you: Hans Zimmer on the Classic Films He’s Scored  Zimmer is one of those composers who has scored so many films…that it really boggles your mind when you see his list of credits: Hans Zimmer – IMDb  The two films that really feature amazing soundtracks and original scores by Hans Zimmer are Thelma and Louise, Rain Man. I think the scores of those films really fit the mood of the story, especially the one he did for Thelma and Louise. But he also was part of the group that started the whole video revolution on MTV:

Hey, I thought this was kind of funny…at least thinking about the logistics of this thing: Obama’s Portable Zone of Secrecy (Some Assembly Required)

Pete Souza/White House

President Obama discussing Libya inside his security tent during a trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2011.

When President Obama travels abroad, his staff packs briefing books, gifts for foreign leaders and something more closely associated with camping than diplomacy: a tent.

Even when Mr. Obama travels to allied nations, aides quickly set up the security tent — which has opaque sides and noise-making devices inside — in a room near his hotel suite. When the president needs to read a classified document or have a sensitive conversation, he ducks into the tent to shield himself from secret video cameras and listening devices.

American security officials demand that their bosses — not just the president, but members of Congress, diplomats, policy makers and military officers — take such precautions when traveling abroad because it is widely acknowledged that their hosts often have no qualms about snooping on their guests.

Yeah, no shit…which makes that whole Merkel spy thing a, “duh?” realization doesn’t it?

The United States has come under withering criticism in recent weeks about revelations that the National Security Agency listened in on allied leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. A panel created by Mr. Obama in August to review that practice, among other things, is scheduled to submit a preliminary report this week and a final report by the middle of next month. But American officials assume — and can cite evidence — that they get the same treatment when they travel abroad, even from European Union allies.

“No matter where you are, we are a target these days,” said R. James Woolsey Jr., the director of central intelligence during the Clinton administration. “No matter where we go, countries like China, Russia and much of the Arab world have assets and are trying to spy on us so you have to think about that and take as many precautions as possible.”

On a trip to Latin America in 2011, for example, a White House photo showed Mr. Obama talking from a security tent in a Rio de Janeiro hotel suite with Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, and Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary at the time, about the air war against Libya that had been launched the previous day. Another photo, taken three days later in San Salvador, showed him conferring from the tent with advisers about the attack.

I don’t think any of this matters. I am so sick of the media right now. I just want to see what 60 Minutes does tonight, and if there is any big news follow-up on that Benghazi story.

The rest of today’s links in dump fashion:

Mormon Church to buy nearly 400,000 acres in Florida Panhandle. – Orlando Sentinel

The Mormon church stands to own nearly 2 percent of Florida by completing a deal to buy most of the real estate of the St. Joe Co. for more than a half-billion dollars.

That is more than Disney! But seriously:

According to the announcement, a church entity, AgReserves Inc., will buy 382,834 acres – the majority of St. Joe’s timberlands – in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties for $565 million.

Completion of the deal will leave the Utah-based church with 678,000 acres, an area larger than any other private holding in Florida, according to widely shared but unconfirmed rankings of top landowners.

Kidney damage in first responders linked to 9/11– Science Daily

For the first time, researchers have linked high levels of inhaled particulate matter by first responders at Ground Zero to kidney damage. Researchers from the WTC-CHEST Program, a subset of the World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center for Excellence at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, presented their new findings at the 2013 American Society of Nephrology meeting on Nov. 9 during National Kidney Week.

BBC News – The loneliness of language difficulties

Imagine listening to a foreign language you are not familiar with all day. It would be tiring and confusing. You would miss important information and you’d have to work very hard to understand what people were saying.

That’s what it’s like to have a specific language impairment in your own language, says Gina Conti-Ramsden, professor of child language and learning from the University of Manchester.

“These children aren’t mute. They can talk – but it’s a hidden disability,” she says.

“They can’t understand what is said all the time and they find it difficult to put words together, and to express themselves.”

Tutankhamun may have spontaneously combusted– Phys.org

Tutankhamun’s body may have spontaneously combusted due to a botched mummification, British scientists claim in a new programme to be broadcast Sunday.

Egyptologist Chris Naunton and a team of performed a “virtual autopsy” on the young pharaoh in the Channel 4 television documentary “Tutankhamun: The Mystery of The Burnt Mummy”.

I wish I could get to see that documentary.

Photos Of Victorian London Show Difficulties Of Life On The Streets -Huffpo Some wonderful pictures to look at…very sad to see.

Nazi anatomy history: The origins of conservatives’ anti-abortion claims that rape can’t cause pregnancy.- Slate That is one interesting article, its a long read but you will find it fascinating and disturbing.

These animations of famous paintings are freaking hilarious– Sploid

Not all of us can stand and stare at artwork and pretend to be impressed and then stare again and then focus in on how the brushstrokes add up to the emotion of what the artist was feeling during his struggle when his father did not approve of his calling. Some of us want more fun when it comes to art. This hilarious animation of famous paintings are that fun.

Cartoon Brew spotted this video made by animators Doug Bayne, Ben Baker and Trudy Cooper and it’s a good one. The short animations were featured in Austrlian sketch comedy show The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting. You can watch them all below, make sure you stay to the end for the epic finish.

Video is at the link above.

It is real late, and at this point I am not sure this post is making much sense. So I will leave it at that and ask you all, what’s up in your neck of the woods. What are you thinking about today?


Tuesday Reads: U.S. Spies on Foreign Countries and Other “Blockbuster” News

woman-by-a-window.matisse

Good Morning!!

In the weeks since Edward Snowden absconded with thousands of top secret National Security Agency (NSA) files and traveled to Hong Kong and then Moscow and handed over the documents to Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, we’ve learned that the U.S. spies on lots of other countries. Snowden has revealed that NSA has spied on China, Russia, Germany, FranceBrazil, MexicoIsrael, Iran, and the UN. Oddly, we haven’t gotten much new information from Snowden about illegal or abusive NSA spying on Americans, which Snowden initially suggested was his reason for stealing the secret documents.

To most nominally intelligent and informed people, the fact that NSA spies on foreign countires is not particularly surprising; since collecting foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) is the primary purpose of NSA as stated publicly on their website. Here is NSA’s statement of their “core mission”:

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) products and services, and enables Computer Network Operations (CNO) in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances.

The Information Assurance mission confronts the formidable challenge of preventing foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information. The Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations. This Agency also enables Network Warfare operations to defeat terrorists and their organizations at home and abroad, consistent with U.S. laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

Spying on foreign countries is what NSA does. Why that is perceived as somehow illegal and/or shocking by Greenwald, Poitras, Snowden, and their cult followers, I have no clue. But the fact that a spy agency collects foreign signals intelligence really should not be considered breaking news; and the countries that are complaining about it are well known for spying on the US in return–and in some cases (e.g., China, Russia, and Israel) for famously stealing U.S. secrets and technology.

Today the Washington Post has a new “blockbuster” article that reveals that the U.S. is particularly focused on spying on Pakistan. Now I wonder why that would be? Anyone want to speculate? It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Pakistan concealed the location of Osama bin Laden for years, could it? Or the fact that Taliban and al Quaeda operatives regularly hide in Pakistan? Just a couple of wild guesses…

Here’s an excerpt from the WaPo article:

A 178-page summary of the U.S. intelligence community’s “black budget” shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, cites previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there, and details efforts to assess the loyalties of counter­terrorism sources recruited by the CIA.

Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else.

The disclosures — based on documents provided to The Washington Post by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden — expose broad new levels of U.S. distrust in an already unsteady security partnership with Pakistan, a politically unstable country that faces rising Islamist militancy. They also reveal a more expansive effort to gather intelligence on Pakistan than U.S. officials have disclosed.

The United States has delivered nearly $26 billion in aid to Pakistan over the past 12 years, aimed at stabilizing the country and ensuring its cooperation in counterterrorism efforts. But with Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda degraded, U.S. spy agencies appear to be shifting their attention to dangers that have emerged beyond the patch of Pakistani territory patrolled by CIA drones.

“If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing,” said Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. “The mistrust now exceeds the trust.”

The stolen files also reveal serious human rights issues in Pakistan and fears about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Raise your hand if you’re shocked by any this. I can certainly see why these revelations would be harmful to U.S. national security and foreign relations, however.

Via The Jerusalem Post, another Snowden leak revealed by the Washington Post showed that members of terrorist organizations have tried to join the CIA.

…individuals with past connections to known terrorist entities such as al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas, have repeatedly attempted to obtain employment within the CIA, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

Among job-seekers that seemed suspicious to the CIA, approximately 20% of that grouping reportedly had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections.” The nature of the connections was not described in the document.

“Over the last several years, a small subset of CIA’s total job applicants were flagged due to various problems or issues,” an anonymous CIA official was reported as saying. “During this period, one in five of that small subset were found to have significant connections to hostile intelligence services and or terrorist groups.” [….]

The document also allegedly stated that the CIA re-investigates thousands of employees each year to reduce the possibility that an individual with these connections may compromise sensitive information.

Can anyone explain to me why this should be considered criminal or why the person who revealed it should be called a “whistle-blower?” It seems to me, the only reason for revealing the methods the U.S. uses to collect foreign SIGINT is a desire to harm U.S. Government and damage its foreign policy. Here’s Bob Cesca, who has consistently critiqued libertarians Snowden and Greenwald and their anti-government motives from a liberal, rational point of view: Greenwald Reports NSA Spied on Presidents of Brazil andMexico.

We’re not sure exactly which section of the U.S. Constitution protects the privacy rights of foreign leaders, but Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden appear to believe it’s in there somewhere. The tandem crusaders for the Fourth Amendment have once again extended their reach beyond what was intended to be their mutual goal of igniting a debate in the United States about the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations, and, instead, opted to reveal that, yes, the U.S. spies on foreign leaders. Shocking, I know.

Specifically, on the Globo television show “Fantasico” in Brazil, Greenwald described a July, 2012 document stolen from NSA by Snowden, which describes how NSA had intercepted communications made by the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, as well as Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff. (Incidentally, the Globo article contains 13 corporate trackers or “web bugs.”)

The goal of revealing this information is clear. Greenwald and Snowden have successfully exploited the “sparking a debate” motive as a Trojan Horse for injecting unrelated information into public view as a means of vindictively damaging the operations of U.S. and U.K. intelligence communities, not to mention the reputation of the United States as a whole, while also pushing the unrealistic message that surveillance is generally impermissible. Yes, we already knew that nations spy on other nations, but to publicly disclose specific instances of international spying — while on the soil of one of the nations being surveilled — confirms these suspicions and sorely embarrasses everyone involved.

But guess what? Both Mexico and Brazil have powerful spy agencies that conduct “active surveillance” on the U.S.

In Brazil, it’s called the Agência Brasileira de Inteligência (ABIN or the Brazilian Intelligence Agency). It deals with external and domestic intelligence gathering: collection and analysis of information that’s intercepted via both signals (SIGINT collects email, phone calls and so forth) and human resources.

In Mexico, it’s called S-2. Like ABIN or NSA, S-2 also collects SIGINT on foreign targets, with a special focus on the military operations of foreign governments. Along with its counterpart, the Centro de Información de Seguridad Nacional (Center for Research on National Security or CISIN), S-2 is tasked with counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism operations.

Has anyone overheard Greenwald mention, even in passing, either of these agencies? Likely not, and don’t hold your breath waiting for Greenwald to attack Brazil’s intelligence community, even knowing that it wiretapped its own Senate and Supreme Court several years ago. Along those lines, we don’t know exactly whether these agencies have attempted to spy on any of our presidents or government officials, but wouldn’t Greenwald, as a U.S. citizen and resident of Brazil, want to find out using the same “Glennzilla” tenacity he’s employed while exposing U.S. spying? If his crusade now involves universal privacy, wouldn’t that include violations by the Brazilian government, especially knowing that Greenwald lives in Rio de Janeiro?

Read more at the link.

In other news….

The civil war in Syria continues to be the top international story, and The New York Times has a couple of helpful articles. The first is an explainer that deals with Key Questions on the Conflict in Syria. I won’t excerpt from it–read it at the NYT if you’re interested. Next, an article that explains how American policy on Syria may affect possible negotiations with Iran: Drawing a Line on Syria, U.S. Eyes Iran Talks.

As the Obama administration makes a case for punitive airstrikes on the Syrian government, its strongest card in the view of some supporters of a military response may be the need to send a message to another country: Iran. If the United States does not enforce its self-imposed “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons, this thinking goes, Iran will smell weakness and press ahead more boldly in its quest for nuclear weapons.

But that message may be clashing with a simultaneous effort by American officials to explore dialogue with Iran’s moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, in the latest expression of Washington’s long struggle to balance toughness with diplomacy in its relations with a longtime adversary.

Two recent diplomatic ventures have raised speculation about a possible back channel between Washington and Tehran. Last week, Jeffrey Feltman, a high State Department official in President Obama’s first term who is now a senior envoy at the United Nations, visited Iran to meet with the new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and discussed possible reactions to an American airstrike in Syria.

kerry assad

In line with the international beating up on the U.S. that has followed the Snowden-Greenwald-Poitras “revelations” that NSA spies on foreign countries, The Daily Mail has a snarky article with numerous photos about a dinner that John Kerry had with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in 2009.

An astonishing photograph of John Kerry having a cozy and intimate dinner with Bashar al-Assad has emerged at the moment the U.S Secretary of State is making the case to bomb the Syrian dictator’s country and remove him from power.

Kerry, who compared Assad to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein yesterday, is pictured around a small table with his wife Teresa Heinz and the Assads in 2009.

Assad and Kerry, then a Massachusetts senator, lean in towards each other and appear deep in conversation as their spouses look on.

A waiter is pictured at their side with a tray of green drinks, believed to be lemon and crushed mint.

Now, why would Kerry be having dinner with Syria’s president? The Daily Mail tells us:

The picture was likely taken in February 2009 in the Naranj restaurant in Damascus, when Kerry led a delegation to Syria to discuss finding a way forward for peace in the region.

At the time, Kerry was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and what he was doing is called “diplomacy.” But looking back in the age of Snowden, it seems that instead of having a polite dinner, Kerry should have punched Assad in the nose and screamed at him at the top of his lungs to get with the program–or something…

From the Wall Street Journal: Syrian Electronic Army Hacks Marines Website

A collection of pro-Syrian government hackers apparently defaced a Marine Corps recruitment website Monday.

The Syrian Electronic Army, which has hacked a series of websites, posted a letter on the Marines.com website arguing the Syrian government is “fighting a vile common enemy.”

“The Syrian army should be your ally not your enemy,” the letter read. “Refuse your orders and concentrate on the real reason every soldier joins their military, to defend their homeland. You’re more than welcome to fight alongside our army rather than against it.”

See a screen shot at the link. The site is now back up and running normally.

I’ll end there and post my remaining links in the thread below. As always, please post links to the stories you’re following in the comments as well.


Thursday Reads: Edward Snowden Becomes a Refugee in Russia

Madame_Lebasque_Reading_in_the_Garden_by_Henri_Lebasque

Good Morning!!

The news is breaking as I write this (around 8:15AM ET) that NSA leaker Edward Snowden has received papers that grant him refugee status in Russia for one year. From Reuters:

Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Thursday after Russiagranted him refugee status, ending more than a month in limbo in the transit area.

A lawyer who has been assisting Snowden said the young American, who is wanted in the United States for leaking details of secret government intelligence programs, had left the airport for a secure location which would remain secret….

His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told state television: “I have just seen him off. He has left for a secure location … Security is a very serious matter for him.”

Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena holds Edward Snowden's entry papers from Russian Immigration Service

Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena holds Edward Snowden’s entry papers from Russian Immigration Service

So what will life in Russia be like for Snowden? A number of knowledgeable writers have weighed in on this question.

Last week, when rumors circulated that Snowden had been granted asylum and would soon leave Sheremetyevo, Russian-American journalist Julia Ioffe wrote in The New Republic that Snowden would probably

be given an apartment somewhere in the endless, soulless highrises with filthy stairwells that spread like fields around Moscow’s periphery. He will live there for five years before he will be given citizenship. He’ll likely be getting constant visits from the SVR (the Russian NSA) to mine the knowledge he carries in his brain. Maybe, he will be given a show on Russia Today, alongside the guy who got him into this pickle to begin with, Julian Assange. Or he, like repatriated Russian spy Anna Chapman, might be given a fake job at a state-friendly bank where he will do nothing but draw a salary. (Chapman, by the way, recently tweeted this at Snowden: “Snowden, will you marry me?!”) Maybe he will marry a Russian woman, who will quickly shed her supple, feminine skin and become a tyrant, and every dark winter morning, Snowden will sit in his tiny Moscow kitchen, drinking Nescafe while Svetlana cooks something greasy and tasteless, and he will sit staring into his black instant coffee, hating her.

Was it worth it to trade Hawaii and a pole-dancer girlfriend for that? Snowden will have plenty of time on his hands to think about it. He certainly won’t get a job in Russian intelligence. The Russians, at least, know you can’t trust a leaker even though he may be a convenient source of information.

Mark Ames, who lived in Russia for years and published and wrote for an alternative newspaper in Moscow with partner Matt Taibbi, recently wrote a short piece on Snowden’s future prospects at NSFWCORP with quotes from some Russian sources that I can no longer find on-line. Ames writes:

The latest on Edward Snowden from Newsru.com: officials from the Federal Migration Service (FMS) say that Snowden could be transferred to a refugee center currently overflowing with Syrian war refugees, likely families tied to the Russian-backed regime of Bashir Assad. Or not.

Both Russian officials and Snowden’s Kremlin-tied lawyer are making a big show about how difficult the bureaucratic process is for anyone, even someone like Snowden, to get his temporary asylum papers. If you read the Russian press accounts, the surface statements about the Tsar’s alleged helplessness before the almighty bureaucracy are pure Gogol, without the ha-ha’s, a sort of no-laughter-through-tears. Beneath the surface, there’s something more menacing, a growing sense I get reading the Russian press that Snowden is a kind of Kremlin toy whom they’re intentionally fucking with, out of either contempt, or for the sheer fun of it…

Clearly, Russian President Vladimir Putin is having a blast sticking it to the US and soaking up praise from deluded Glenn Greenwald cultists (previously Obots) and Julian Assange fans who think Russia is a land of freedom and opportunity as in contrast to America, where jackbooted Obama administration thugs supposedly run a horrifying reign of terror.

crime_punishment

Ames has a fascinating take on Snowden’s attorney’s bringing him a copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment to read.

…the Kremlin gifting Snowden a copy of “Crime and Punishment” is itself a not-subtle mind-fuck on many levels. Dostoevsky’s book is a profoundly reactionary novel about a young foolish and desperate student full of second-hand radical ideas about his superiority against established morality. His name is Raskolnikov and he thinks he’s above ordinary human laws, so he kills his landlord according to these higher laws – and later goes crazy unable to believe in the radical ideas that led him to commit a crime, so he turns himself in to the authorities, and serves his time in Siberia as penance. The name of Dostoevsky’s hero, “Raskolnikov,” itself means “cracked” or “split” – as in his cracked conscience.

Last week Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told journalists…

“I bought [for Snowden] Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment,’ because I think that Raskolnikov, who murdered his old landlord — I think that he needs to read about this. Not necessarily because of their similarities in their internal contradictions, but nevertheless…”

I loved this quote from opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta (via Ames):

“Well, what can you say? If that infantile leftie Snowden really wanted to be a hero, he should return to the USA: crucify or not crucify, they’d probably give him 10 years, and he’d do five.”

“Snowden wanted to become a digital world’s Christ — without having to hang on the cross. Now Snowden’s going to spend not five years, but the rest of his life as a guest of the FSB.”

In another display of black humor, the Kremin website compared Snowden to British defectors and spies Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and Don Maclean. In the posting the Kremlin notes that Philby and Burgess “drank themselves to death in their state-allocated flats, awaiting a world revolution that never came,” while Maclean got along better because he took the trouble to learn Russian. You can read more about Kim Philby at The Guardian. 

Russian refugee center

Russian refugee center

State supported newspaper Russia Today also speculated about Snowden’s future: Spook out of water: What Snowden can expect if Russia grants him asylum.

If the application is accepted and Snowden is given the 12-month temporary asylum that enables him to leave the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport, he will have to undergo a daunting medical assessment designed especially for immigrants. Along with a standard screening for HIV and tuberculosis, he will also be checked for leprosy and the rare sexually-transmitted disease chancroid. Russian Health Ministry officials have said that they are ready to administer the tests at a moment’s notice, but so far have not been asked to do so by Snowden.

After Snowden registers his whereabouts with the police – to avoid risking a $150 fine – he will be free to apply for placement in a processing facility for asylum seekers. There are no such facilities in Moscow, and ones in the vicinity have been flooded with refugees escaping the Syrian conflict. Elena Ryabinina, a human rights lawyer who works with asylum seekers, told Gazeta.ru newspaper that most of her clients get offered a bed in a center near Perm – a city by the Ural mountains, more than 1,000 km east of Moscow.

Sounds like tons of fun. But according to the article Snowden could choose to try to find a place on his own–but he’d have to get a bodyguard since he’s a “wanted man.”

Even if Snowden does acquire a personal bodyguard and a high security flat at an undisclosed location – presumably courtesy of the Russian state – his future is hazy, and the reality of it likely different to what he imagined when he recorded his first revelations.

A temporary asylum seeker is allowed to work, but not to put further strain on the testy relationship between Moscow and Washington. Vladimir Putin said “no longer undermining the US” is a pre-condition for his asylum bid, and the former NSA contractor publicly promised to comply when he met Russian human rights activists a fortnight ago. One wonders who it is that Snowden’s bodyguards will be protecting from danger.

Who knows if we’ll even find out what happens to Snowden now? All we can do is watch and wait. Something tells me he may eventually wish he had just come back home to face the music.

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald posted another “bombshell” about a “top secret program” called XKEYSCORE. According to Greenwald, this “NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet.'” I googled and learned that hundreds of companies are publicly advertising job openings for people with experience on XKEYSCORE–so how can it be so secret? I guess Greenwald didn’t bother to do a google search. He didn’t bother to talk to Marc Ambinder either. Ambinder wrote a whole book on US intelligence methods in which he described XKEYSCORE in detail. Can Greenwald actually be writing about these intel programs without reading any of the literature on them?

Ambinder writes in The Week:

I quibble with the Guardian‘s description of the program as “TOP SECRET.” The word is not secret; its association with the NSA is not secret; that the NSA collects bulk data on foreign targets is, well, probably classified, but at the SECRET level. Certainly, work product associated with XKEYSCORE is Top Secret with several added caveats. Just as the Guardian might be accused of over-hyping the clear and present danger associated with this particular program, critics will reflexively overstate the harm that its disclosure would reasonably produce.

XKEYSCORE is not a thing that DOES collecting; it’s a series of user interfaces, backend databases, servers and software that selects certain types of metadata that the NSA has ALREADY collected using other methods. XKEYSCORE, as D.B. Grady and I reported in our book, is the worldwide base level database for such metadata. XKEYSCORE is useful because it gets the “front end full take feeds” from the various NSA collection points around the world and importantly, knows what to do with it to make it responsive to search queries. As the presentation says, the stuff itself is collected by some entity called F6 and something else called FORNSAT and then something with the acronym SSO.

But Greenwald insisted on Chris Hayes show last night that XKEYSCORE does collect data–all your data–and someone creepy is probably reading it right now!!

394651-xkeyscore-450

In his piece at The Guardian Greenwald had to admit that NSA analysts need to get a warrant to look at and individual’s data, but he claims the warrants are worthless. He also admits that analysts don’t have access to all your personal data, but he says they could hack into it illegally. But isn’t that true for employees of any company or government agency? They could look at personal data by criminally working around limitations and ignoring regulations.

Charles Johnson at LGF: Greenwald’s Latest Article Distorts the Truth Again

Greenwald’s purpose with this latest article is to try to shore up Edward Snowden’s absurd claim that he could “wiretap anyone, even the President,” without any oversight. Here’s how he frames this defense:

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

Read this section carefully — because what Greenwald is detailing does not support Snowden’s claim at all. Greenwald is describing searching a database for information on non-US citizens. How is this the same thing as “wiretapping the President?” Of course, it’s not. He’s not describing any kind of “wiretapping” at all.

On top of all that, it turns out that the Powerpoint presentation that Greenwald wrote about yesterday is from 2008! (See slide pictured above.) Presumably much has changed at NSA since then. Read more at Joshua Foust’s blog–it’s well worth the time to read the whole thing.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Thursday!!


Monday Reads

bohemiaGood Morning!

Last week, I wrote about the debacle behind the study that was used to promote fiscal austerity in a time when just the opposite policy is prescribed by economic theory.  One of the big questions I had was if the results of study’s hypothesis was now insignificant–which in scientific method  means the conclusions were not proven–would we see a stop to these crazy austerity policy pushers. We’ve learned the answer is no.  Dumber and Dumber–heads of the so-called cat food commission–who couldn’t lead their committee to a written conclusion are on the road touting their call to deficit hysteria based on the always controversial and now highly flawed study.

On April 19, just after I had written about how the key academic research used to bolster austerity policies was exposed by a 28-year-old grad student at U Mass-Amherst, I got a surprise in my email inbox: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson giddily announced their new deficit-reduction plan, which includes, among other things, a recommendation to increase the eligibility age for Medicare. Their plan would reduce debt as a share of GDP below 70 percent by 2023, and as the Washington Post reports, “seeks far less in new taxes than the original, and it seeks far more in savings from federal health programs for the elderly.”

What’s incredible is that over the last week, the study by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff that famously warned of the dangers of government debt has been proven to be riddled with errors and questionable methodology. To recap: R&R’s paper purported to show that countries with public debt in excess of 90 percent of gross domestic product suffered negative economic growth. Austerity hawks everywhere used it to justify cuts that have cost people jobs and vital services. The original spreadsheet used by R&R was obtained by a U Mass grad student, who found that in addition to the mistakes already noted by several economists, there was a coding error in their Excel spreadsheet that significantly changed the results of their study.

As New York magazine’s Jon Chait has pointed out, that same discredited research has been used by Bowles and Simpson to formulate their deficit-reducing austerity plans.

You simply cannot get these tools of the plutocracy to come clean.  They’re going to go down with the stupidity and are trying to bring the rest of the country with them.

I promised myself to make sure we pointed to injustice and suffering around the world as well as our own home towns.  Today I want to provide information about Myanmar–a country I’ve spent time studying and a country trying to change–with a history of brutal ethnic cleansing of its Muslim minority population.

Ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have been committed against Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya people, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based nongovernmental organisation.

According to the report released on Monday, entitled All You Can Do is Pray, more than 125,000 ethnic Rohingya have been forcibly displaced since two waves of violence in May and October 2012.

Satellite images show almost 5,000 structures on land mostly owned by Muslim Rohingya have been destroyed, says the report.

The October attacks, the report states, were coordinated by Myanmar government officials, an ethnic Rakhine nationalist party and Buddhist monks. The deadliest attack took place on October 23, in which witnesses say at least 70 Rohingya – including 28 children – were massacred in Mrauk-U township.

The UN has described the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Most Rohingya who live in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state are denied citizenship by the Myanmar government, which claims they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and often refers to them as “Bengali”.

The Myanmar government has done nothing to prevent the violence, alleges the report, and at times government forces have joined in the attacks on the Rohingya.

“The Burmese government engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement,” Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said.

“The government needs to put an immediate stop to the abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable or it will be responsible for further violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the country.”

LaHabana-290x400

I am so ashamed to read that Buddhist monks may have been participants. They have been targets themselves and this behavior violates the most important teaching of the Buddha which is the vow of non harming. No real Buddhist would participate in such horrors.

I also wanted to mention the return of CISPA and its impact on internet users in this country.  This was slipped back into Congress while we were all watching Boston.

Described as “misguided” and “fatally flawed” by the two largest US privacy groups, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) threatens the online privacy of ordinary US residents more so than any other Bill since Congress amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008.

Its sole purpose is to allow private sector firms to search personal and sensitive user data of ordinary US residents to identify this so-called “threat information”, and to then share that information with each other and the US government — without the need for a warrant.

By citing “cybersecurity”, it allows private firms to hand over private user data while circumventing existing privacy laws, such as the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act. This means that CISPA can permit private firms to share your data, such as emails, text messages, and cloud-stored documents and files, with the US government.

It also gives these firms legal protection to hand over such data. There is no judicial oversight.

To make matters worse, because there is little transparency and individual accountability, those who have had their data handed to the US government may not even know about it or be given a chance to challenge it.

Norway’s ruling party is pushing for drilling around environmentally sensitive areas in the Arctic Circle.  Could this impact a return to attempts to drill the area by US Oil companies?  I hope this doesn’t lead to a race to destroy ANWR

Norway took a major step towards opening up an environmentally sensitive Arctic area to oil and gas exploration when the ruling Labour Party gave the go-ahead on Sunday for an impact study.

Exploration in the waters around the Lofoten islands just above the Arctic circle is becoming one of the most contentious issues for parliamentary elections in September.

The picturesque area had been off limits because it is home to the world’s richest cod stocks, with environmental groups and the tourism industry opposed to any development.

The Labour party voted for the study, a precursor to any exploration, but also said it would take another vote in 2015, before actual drilling could begin.

Oil is the Norwegian economy’s lifeblood – the nation is the world’s seventh-biggest oil exporter and western Europe’s biggest gas supplier.

Its sprawling offshore energy sector continuously needs new areas to explore to halt the decline in production and energy firms have argued that they should be allowed to investigate the Lofoten islands.

Norway’s oil production will fall to a 25-year low this year as North Sea fields mature. Even a series of recent big finds, like the giant Johan Sverdrup field, which could hold over 3 billion barrels of oil, will only arrest the decline.

Waters off Lofoten are estimated to hold 8 percent of Norway’s undiscovered oil and gas resources with seismic tests identifying 50 prospects that could hold recoverable reserves or around 1.27 billion barrels of oil equivalent, the petroleum directorate said earlier.

With Labour’s support, Norway’s top three parties now favor exploration in the area, raising the chance that the next government would begin the process.

15-japan-mag024So, here’s what Boston’s “union thugs” will be doing this morning: Boston Teamsters vs. Westboro Baptist Church: Teamsters to form a human shield at Bombing victim’s funeral,  Look out BB and our Boston friends!  These Westboro folks have come to disrupt funerals there.  Down here, our Bikers block them.

Teamsters from Local 25 in Boston will protect the family of bombing victim Krystle Campbell during her funeral tomorrow morning. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are expected to protest.

The Associated Press reports,

Family and friends are saying final good-byes to Krystle Campbell, one of the three people who lost their lives in the bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line.

A wake for Campbell is being held Sunday at a funeral home in Medford, where the 29-year-old restaurant manager was raised and graduated from high school in 2001. A private funeral is scheduled for Monday at St. Joseph Church.Local 25 was contacted by some concerned citizens of Medford asking for help to keep members of the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting the funeral of Krystle Campbell, scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10 AM in Medford.

Local 25 President Sean O’Brien asked all off-duty Teamsters to participate:

Teamsters Local 25 will be out in full force tomorrow morning at St. Joseph’s Church in Medford to form a human shield and block the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting the funeral of Krystle Campbell. The Campbell family and friends have already endured immeasurable amounts of heartache and tragedy this week, and deserve a peaceful funeral with time to grieve privately.

Westboro Baptist Church should understand that we will go to great lengths to make sure they don’t protest any funerals of the victims of the past week’s tragedies, and that those we lost receive a proper burial.

Teamsters Local 25 represents 11,000 hardworking men and women from the Boston area.

There are three dead from the bombing.  Westboro is also connected to a law firm that makes money from the antics of these folks.  They usually claim their first amendment rights were violated and then collect government money defending their case.

And just because I’ve quit watching CNN around a year ago after watching the station for years, I thought I’d end with this: “Last Week, CNN Itself Became the Poop Cruise”. Frankly, I’ve thought they were full of it and lacking substance for some time.

As reactions to the media’s handling (or rather, mishandling) of breaking news during a busy week continue to flow in, perhaps none is more condemning than David Carr’s latest column in The New York Times. The media critic came down hard on correspondent John King, newly appointed chief Jeff Zucker and the rest of the CNN news team that famously fumbled during the aftermath of the Boston bombing and hunt for the suspects. Most notably, the network erroneously reported the arrest of a suspect on Wednesday, when everybody now knows that a suspect wasn’t arrested until Friday when police found Dzokhar Tsarnaev hiding in the back of a boat.

Carr has an analogy for that. In discussing the mistake, one that more than one person described as “devastating,” Carr reminded us of the most recent moment that CNN’s stolen the limelight — perhaps not in a good way:

It was not the worst mistake of the week — The New York Post all but fingered two innocent men in a front-page picture — but it was a signature error for a live news channel. … Until now, the defining story in the Zucker era had been a doomed cruise ship that lost power and was towed to port, where its beleaguered passengers dispersed. This week, CNN seemed a lot like that ship.

Zing. Inevitably, Carr’s piece comes off almost as apologetic. In his parting words, the veteran journalist points out how even the president “wants CNN to be good.” So when it’s bad, it’s hard to watch.

I’m just praying for a better week and that we can get some attention on the small town of West Texas that really needs our help.

What’s you your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: After the Strike Round-up…“Vado a bordo, cazzo!” Edition

Good Evening!

We’re baaaaaack!  Or should I say, we are back on board?

So, did you miss us? If you did, I certainly hope you sent a message to your congresscritters about stopping SOPA/PIPA.

Since we have been post free and comment free this Wednesday, today’s evening reads is going to be a big fat juicy one! Lots of links for you today, so grab your afternoon drink of choice and let’s get down to business.

I’ll go ahead and break the links down into sections.

First lets dive into the ripple effect today’s blackout is having on the proposed SOPA/PIPA bills. Hmmm…what shall we call this section? How about “Catching up on the Blackout Revolution!”

It looks like the blackout may be working, for now…but concerns about the bills being slipped through within a larger piece of legislation are still in the backs of people’s minds.

First a few video links:

You may have already seen this video via vimeo…

Here is a clip from RT News, discussing the blackout from a foreign press point of view…

From the Video Cafe at Crooks and Liars…MSNBC Brings on MPAA Lobbyist Chris Dodd for ‘Fair and Balanced’ Discussion on SOPA Protest | Video Cafe

MSNBC decided to bring on recently retired Senator and now lobbyist for the motion picture industry, Chris Dodd, for a nice “fair and balanced” discussion on the blackout. Dodd more or less accused the web sites participating in the blackout of acting like a bunch of spoiled children and offered little in the way of details to address the concerns of those who are against the legislation.

And here are a couple basic links discussing the blackout:

Your SOPA and PIPA Crash Course – Truthdig

SOPA, PIPA, Righthaven, NewsRight – and going dark | Pam’s House Blend

For a geeky way to understand and follow the events of today, this flowchart is fantastic, take a look at it: Choose Your Own PIPA-SOPA Protest Adventure [Flowchart] | Geekosystem

Let’s focus on the effects of the blackout, from the users point of view. From gamers to right wing megalomaniacs to students, this blackout has given many time to think and ponder just how important freedom of speech on the web is…

First let me say that I would never do a report that relied on Wikipedia…that said, here are a few tweets from the crowd who depends on their Wiki resources.

Wikipedia Blackout | Tweets From Students | SOPA | PIPA | Mediaite

Just like Jon Hendren’s Christmas brat list, fellow Internet superstar Katie Notopoulos’ tweet curation is a brilliant way to peek into a world of obliviousness. Apparently some people just have a hard time accepting an important symbolic gesture when that big book report is on the line.

Here’s a sample:

Don’t these people know who to actually look something up other than on the Wikipedia site? Sorry, but this is a bit ridiculous. Hopefully, these people will stop a minute and realize just what the blackout was about…and that their complaints are proving the point!

From the Gaming perspective: EA Speaks Out on SOPA | Piki Geek

SOPA is a hot topic among gamers, and understandably so. The effect the bill would have on the gamer community would be huge, as much of our culture revolves around the internet with things ranging from streams, to Let’s Play videos on YouTube, to sites like this one. So, it’s reasonable to want to know what our favorite game companies feel about the bill, especially since the ESA has put their support behind it.

Responding to a user on reddit, EA’s head of corporate communication, Jeff Brown detailed their lack of a stance on the legislation.

“EA has not expressed a position on SOPA,” Brown said, “We never supported so, naturally, never withdrew. We tried to correct the record but there is still plenty of confusion.”

Brown went on to point out that while the ESA supports SOPA, not all of publishers and developers that are members individually support it.

From some of the Wikipedia’s volunteer editor’s standpoint: Today’s e-Reads: Some Wikipedia Editors Question Blackout; E.U. to Decide Soon on Google Probe – Juliana Gruenwald and Josh Smith – NationalJournal.com

Some of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are criticizing the site’s decision to protest controversial antipiracy legislation by blacking out the site, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal editorial also assailed the blackout protest by many websites.

Murdoch has been in a furry today, thank you Boston Boomer for these next three links on Murdoch’s reaction to the blackout…it was a big help as I was putting this long post together.

The Story Behind Rupert Murdoch’s Rants About Google and SOPA – Forbes

How Rupert Murdoch’s Fear Is Getting in the Way of Internet TV – Technology – The Atlantic Wire

Rupert Murdoch tweets his fury at Google in US piracy row – Telegraph

From a legal perspective, the First Amendment and connecting it to the “corporations are people” decision, this is a good one: The Volokh Conspiracy » The Google Anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act Statement, Corporate Speech, and the First Amendment

Following Citizens United, I heard many people argue that the Court was wrong because corporations should not be seen as having First Amendment rights — not just that they do have First Amendment rights but that there’s some special compelling interest that justifies restricting corporate speech about candidates, but that corporations aren’t people and therefore can’t have First Amendment rights at all. (UPDATE: I don’t agree with this, for reasons that include those briefly sketched here, but I set those arguments aside for now.) Let me then ask this question of our readers who take this view:

Today, Google’s U.S. query page features an anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act statement from Google. Say that Congress concludes that it’s unfair for Google to be able to speak so broadly, in a way that ordinary Americans (including ordinary Congressmen) generally can’t. Congress therefore enacts a statute banning all corporations from spending their money — and therefore banning them from speaking — in support of or opposition to any statute. What would you say about such a statute?

Here is the “Abuse of power” angle: SOPA Blackouts: Free Speech or ‘Abuse of Power’? – Josh Smith – NationalJournal.com

Among the thousands of lesser-known websites that blocked access to their content or posted statements against the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act, were big names such as Wikipedia, Craigslist, and the online news aggregator Reddit.

But the names not on the list highlight a fine line for companies that depend on neutrality to maintain their credibility.

While they oppose the legislation, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter, whose CEO called the blackouts “foolish,” decided to sit the protest out.

Google, which is so sensitive to its neutral reputation that it recently punished itself after inappropriately promoting its own web browser, was among those taking a middle road. The search giant remained up and operating but blacked-out its logo and linked to a petition against the bills.

And now for the important reactions to the blackout, meaning the change in various congresscritter support for the bills…Support for Internet Bill Wanes as Protests Spread – NYTimes.com

A freshman senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising Republican star, was first out of the starting gate Wednesday morning with his announcement that he would no longer back antipiracy legislation he had co-sponsored. Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly followed suit and urged Congress take more time to study the measure, which had been set for a test vote next week.

By Wednesday afternoon, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah and one of the Senate bill’s original co-sponsors, called it “simply not ready for prime time” and withdrew his support.

[…]

Protests organized in the real world drew far less attention. A rally convened in Midtown Manhattan outside the offices of Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who co-sponsored some of the proposed legislation, drew a few hundred protesters.

Members of Congress, many of whom are grappling with the issues posed by the explosion in new media and social Web sites, appeared caught off guard by the enmity toward what had been a relatively obscure piece of legislation to many of them. The Internet sensibility of the Senate was represented a few years ago in remarks by the late Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, who called the Internet “not a big truck” but a “series of tubes” — an observation enshrined in the Net Hall of Shame.

In reaction to the pending legislation, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia went dark. Google’s home page had a black banner across its home page that led to pointed information blasting the bills.

Such new-media lobbying was having an impact.

Give that New York Times a read through, it has more info on the support flip-flops the blackout seems to have influenced today.

More on the “…new-media lobbying” i.e. blackout that is having an impact. Oh yes it is…Terry to remove name from bill – Omaha.com

Rep. Lee Terry said Tuesday that he will pull his name as a co-sponsor of a heavily debated bill that has taken aim at online piracy and intellectual property protection.

The Nebraska Republican co-sponsored the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, because of the economic impact that online piracy has on the U.S. economy, said Charles Isom, a Terry spokesman.

But after waves of negative sentiment toward the bill from free speech and civil rights groups, technology companies and others, Isom said, Terry has concluded that SOPA, as currently drafted, isn’t the solution.

SOPA blackout leads co-sponsors to defect – Jennifer Martinez and Tony Romm – POLITICO.com

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who was a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act — became the latest lawmaker Wednesday to pull his support. In the House, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), originally a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, pulled his name from the list of sponsors on Tuesday. A spokesman for Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), meanwhile, told the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday that the congressman is also unable to support SOPA as written.

The widespread Internet protest is even bringing new Washington voices into the fray. Mostly silent in the debate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) tweeted Wednesday he doesn’t back the bills.

“I support intellectual property rights, but I oppose SOPA & PIPA,” DeMint tweeted. “They’re misguided bills that will cause more harm than good.”

And this from The Maddow Blog – Senator Blunt withdraws sponsorship of PIPA, blames Senator Reid I especially love the picture associated with this post at Maddow!

Photo: Andrew Dallos

Protesting today in New York, where Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are both listed as supporters of PIPA. Click for whip list.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) has pulled his sponsorship of the Protect IP Act, or PIPA. He writes:

“American innovation is a cornerstone to our nation’s economic growth, and job creators have lost $135 billion in revenue annually as a result of rogue internet sites.
“While I believed the bill still needed much work, I cosponsored the Senate version of the Protect IP Act because I support the original intent of this bill – to protect against the piracy of lawful content.

“Upon passage of this bill through committee, Senate Judiciary Republicans strongly stated that there were substantive issues in this legislation that had to be addressed before it moved forward. I agree with that sentiment. But unfortunately, Senate Leader Harry Reid is pushing forward with legislation that is deeply flawed and still needs much work.
“That is why I’m withdrawing my co-sponsorship for the Protect IP Act.

“The right to free speech is one of the most basic foundations that makes our nation great, and I strongly oppose sanctioning Americans’ right to free speech in any medium – including over the internet.
“I continue to believe that we can come to a solution that will cut off the revenue sources for foreign websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy that steal American jobs, hurt the economy, and harm consumers. But the Protect IP Act is flawed as it stands today, and I cannot support it moving forward.”

We trust that Senator Blunt’s decision had nothing to do with Vice magazine exposing him earlier today as a violator of copyright laws himself. In the last 24 hours, Senators Scott Brown, Marco Rubio, and Jeff Merkley have come out against PIPA. Senator Ben Cardin, a cosponsor of PIPA, said earlier this week that he won’t vote for it.
UPDATE: Senator Tim Holden, another cosponsor, withdraws his support. And Senator John Cornyn.

Look for more links in the comment section.

Moving on, we come to the Global “Extra Extra” portion of the post…after the jump…as I said this is a looooong ass post!

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