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 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.
Tweets from Navalny:
Translation: The detention of one person loses any sense if there are many of us. Someone come and replace me
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Google has also launched a person finder.
The storm is now on its way to Vietnam:
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.”
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:
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.
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’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 forensic scientists 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.
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?
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, France, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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!!
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.