FOIA Documents Reveal Massive DEA Program to Record American’s Whereabouts With License Plate Readers

01/26/2015

License Plate Scanners
By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project & Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 7:15pm
(Updated below)

The Drug Enforcement Administration has initiated a massive national license plate reader program with major civil liberties concerns but disclosed very few details, according to new DEA documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act.

The DEA is currently operating a National License Plate Recognition initiative that connects DEA license plate readers with those of other law enforcement agencies around the country. A Washington Post headline proclaimed in February 2014 that the Department of Homeland Security had cancelled its “national license-plate tracking plan,” but all that was ended was one Immigrations and Customs Enforcement solicitation for proposals. In fact, a government-run national license plate tracking program already exists, housed within the DEA. (That’s in addition to the corporate license plate tracking database run by Vigilant Solutions, holding billions of records about our movements.) Since its inception in 2008, the DEA has provided limited information to the public on the program’s goals, capabilities and policies. Information has trickled out over the years, in testimony here or there. But far too little is still known about this program.

In 2012, the ACLU filed public records requests in 38 states and Washington, D.C. seeking information about the use of automatic license plate readers. Our July 2013 report, You Are Being Tracked, summarized our findings with regard to state and local law enforcement agencies, finding that the technology was being rapidly adopted, all too often with little attention paid to the privacy risks of this powerful technology. But in addition to filing public records requests with state agencies, the ACLU also filed FOIA requests with federal agencies, including the DEA.

The new DEA records that we received are heavily redacted and incomplete, but they provide the most complete documentation of the DEA’s database to date. For example, the DEA has previously testified that its license plate reader program began at the southwest border crossings, and that the agency planned to gradually increase its reach; we now know more about to where it has grown. The DEA had previously suggested that “other sources” would be able to feed data into the database; we now know about some of the types of agencies collaborating with the DEA. Continue reading “FOIA Documents Reveal Massive DEA Program to Record American’s Whereabouts With License Plate Readers”

U.S. House of Representatives votes unanimously today to block suspected Nazi war criminals from receiving Social Security benefits

US takes a Stand: No SS for the SS

Thursday, 04 December 2014

After World War II ended, 8,000 high ranking Nazis were recruited by the U.S. This much we know.

Some of them were kicked out of the country once their activities during the war came under scrutiny. But they continued to receive Social Security benefits even after they left.

As an Associated Press investigation found, the Justice Department used a legal loophole to persuade suspected Nazis to leave in exchange for benefits. Millions of dollars were paid out to those who left. That loophole is now a step closer to being plugged, and it only took 70 years.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously today to block suspected Nazi war criminals from receiving Social Security benefits. The measure, introduced after the AP investigation, would end benefits for Nazi suspects who have lost their U.S. citizenship. Under the current law, such benefits only stop after a final deportation order. Continue reading “U.S. House of Representatives votes unanimously today to block suspected Nazi war criminals from receiving Social Security benefits”

World on the brink of ‘sixth great extinction’ as plants, animals dying out faster than ever  

Many animal species are finding places to live scarcer with the encroachment by altered by humans

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 5:50pm

Associated Press in Washington

World on the brink of ‘sixth great extinction’ as plants, animals dying out faster than ever | South China Morning Post


 

The buffy-tufted-ear marmoset habitat has shrunk because of development in Brazil. Photo: AP

Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says. Continue reading “World on the brink of ‘sixth great extinction’ as plants, animals dying out faster than ever  “

2014 Jefferson Muzzles

 

  1. The U.S. Department of Justice
  2. The White House Press Office
  3. The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security
  4. The North Carolina General Assembly Police
  5. The Kansas Board of Regents
  6. Modesto Junior College
  7. The Tennessee State Legislature
  8. Wharton High School Principal Brad Woods
  9. Pemberton Township High School Principal Ida Smith

Continue reading “2014 Jefferson Muzzles”

Philippine vessel evades Chinese Coast Guard ships in disputed waters

Philippines boat carrying supplies to soldiers evades coastguard after a two-hour stand off

392002f0db47700c49d856cb98c530e2.jpg
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 6:02am
Agencies in Manila
A Philippine government ship slipped past a Chinese coastguard blockade yesterday and brought food and fresh troops to a marooned navy ship used as a base by Philippine troops to bolster the country’s territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The cat-and-mouse-like confrontation was witnessed by journalists, who were allowed by the Philippine military to board the government vessel to show what Manila has said is “China’s bullying” in the disputed waters.

The two-hour stand-off was the latest in a series of escalations in a dispute between the two countries over their competing claims to waters and islands close to Philippine land mass.
Continue reading “Philippine vessel evades Chinese Coast Guard ships in disputed waters”

Yulia Tymoshenko, Former Ukraine Prime Minister, Starts Medical Treatment In Berlin

BERLIN (AP) — Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has started medical treatment at Berlin’s Charite hospital after arriving late Friday, but doctors treating her say it’s too soon to say how long this will take.

Hospital chairman Karl Max Einhaeupl says doctors will decide by Monday whether the 53-year-old needs an operation for her severe back pain resulting from slipped discs she suffered more than two years ago.

If she does have an operation the recovery period would typically last about four days followed by further rehabilitation

Einhaeupl told reporters on Saturday that Tymoshenko isn’t suffering any paralysis though she requires a mobility aid to walk around because she cannot put any strain on her right leg. Continue reading “Yulia Tymoshenko, Former Ukraine Prime Minister, Starts Medical Treatment In Berlin”

AG Order No. 3420-2014 Policy Regarding Obtaining Information From, or Records of, Members of the News Media; and Regarding Questioning, Arresting, or Charging Members of the News Media

SUMMARY: This rule amends the policy of the Department of Justice regarding the use of subpoenas, certain court orders, and search warrants, to obtain information from, or records of, members of the news media. The rule also amends the Department’s policy regarding questioning, arresting, or charging members of the news media.

Reporter
Reporter (Photo credit: lierne)

In May of 2013, the Department initiated a comprehensive evaluation of its practices and policies regarding the use of subpoenas, court orders, and search warrants to obtain information from, or records of, members of the news media. As part of this process, the Department convened a series of meetings to solicit input from a wide range of news media stakeholders, First Amendment academics and advocates, and Members of Congress. Based on this review, the Department issued a report on July 12, 2013, announcing changes to the Department’s policies.

This final rule revises the existing provisions in the Department’s regulations at 28 CFR 50.10. The revisions are intended to ensure that, in determining whether to seek information from, or records of, members of the news media, the Department strikes the proper balance among several vital interests: (1) protecting national security, (2) ensuring public safety, (3) promoting effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice, and (4) safeguarding the essential role of the free press in fostering government accountability and an open society. The revisions also ensure more robust oversight by senior Department officials; centralize the internal review and evaluation process; set out specific standards for the use and handling of information obtained from, or records of, members of the news media; and extend the policies to cover the use of subpoenas, court orders issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 2703(d) and 3123, and search warrants. Continue reading “AG Order No. 3420-2014 Policy Regarding Obtaining Information From, or Records of, Members of the News Media; and Regarding Questioning, Arresting, or Charging Members of the News Media”

Israel PM slams Iran move to send ships towards US

EEV: This may eventually lead to the escalation of Iranian missiles being within striking distance of the U.S. Mainland.

AFP

3 hours ago
An Iranian warship docks in the Sudanese town of Port Sudan, on October 31, 2012
          

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel on Sunday denounced an Iranian announcement that it was sending naval ships towards the United States as further evidence that loosening sanctions on Tehran was counterproductive.

The move to send warships to the Atlantic was announced by the commander of Iran’s northern naval fleet on Saturday, who described it as a “message.”

The ships “have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa,” said Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, in remarks quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency. Continue reading “Israel PM slams Iran move to send ships towards US”

US army investigates hundreds of soldiers for recruitment fraud

Officials tell Senate that illegal kickbacks cost the US at least $29m as part of national guard program to boost enlistment

 

Associated Press in Washington

theguardian.com,   Tuesday 4 February 2014 17.43 EST

us army soldier kandahar afghanistan
The recruitment program began to improve enlistment during difficult years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photograph: Massoud Houssaini/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of soldiers and others are under criminal investigation in what the military describes as a widespread scheme to take fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a national guard recruiting program. The fraud cost the US at least $29m and possibly tens of millions dollars more, officials said Tuesday. Continue reading “US army investigates hundreds of soldiers for recruitment fraud”

Navy Yard shooter got clean bill of mental health just weeks before killing 12 people in gun rampage

  • Aaron Alexis left a note saying that he had been targeted by low-frequency radio waves for three months before the September 2013 shooting
  • That time period lines up with when he was regularly visiting Veteran’s Affairs doctors complaining of sleeplessness
  • Medical reports show doctors wrote him off and gave him sleeping pills, concluding ‘no problem there’ in reports
  • Alexis went on to kill 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:          09:21 EST, 31 January 2014

Medical reports have revealed that Veterans Affairs doctors were fooled for years by Aaron Alexis, the gunman who killed 12 people in last year’s rampage at Washington’s Navy Yard.

The records show that he lied so convincingly to those treating him that they concluded he had no mental health issues despite serious problems and encounters with police during the same period.

Just weeks before the shootings, a doctor treating him for insomnia noted that the patient worked for the Defense Department but wrote hauntingly ‘no problem there.’

More than 100 pages of treatment and disability claims evaluation records for Aaron Alexis, spanning more than two years have now been revealed.

They show Alexis complaining of minor physical ailments, including foot and knee injuries, slight hearing loss and later insomnia, but resolutely denying any mental health issues. Continue reading “Navy Yard shooter got clean bill of mental health just weeks before killing 12 people in gun rampage”

US nuclear officer cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500

US nuclear officer cheating scandal widens as top brass investigates

Defence secretary Chuck Hagel summons military chiefs to Pentagon to tackle ‘systemic problems’ of stress and low morale

Associated Press in Washington

theguardian.com,   Thursday 30 January 2014 12.38 EST

Deborah Lee James, US air force secretary
US air force secretary Deborah Lee James speaks to reporters during a trip last week to Minot air force base in North Dakota. Photograph: James MacPherson/AP

The number of nuclear force officers implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500, said the air force secretary, Deborah Lee James. Continue reading “US nuclear officer cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500”

Revealed: Two armed officers took unannounced breaks just MINUTES before a shooter opened fire in LAX in November

  • Two armed officers didn’t tell their dispatcher that they were going on breaks, new details from the investigation reveal
  • Paul Ciana walked into LAX’s Terminal 3 minutes later and took an assault rifle out of his bag and started firing, targeting TSA agents
  • TSA agents fled the scene without hitting the panic button which would have alerted police
  • Dispatcher learned about the shooting a minute and a half later after an airline contractor called it in, and then it was radioed over to nearby police
  • One TSA agent died- the first ever in the line of duty- and three others were injured, as well as the shooter who was hit twice by police and survived

By Daily Mail Reporter and Associated Press

UPDATED:          08:51 EST, 22 January 2014

 

It has been revealed that two armed officers left the area where a shooter opened fire at a Los Angeles airport last fall just minutes before he started his spree and killed one security screener and injured three others.

The new details also note that the armed officers did not tell a dispatcher about their impromptu break as they are required to do.

The Los Angeles Airport Police Department officers were outside Terminal 3 when authorities say Paul Ciancia opened fire with an assault rifle in an attack targeting Transportation Security Administration officers.

On the scene: Police were able to shoot, injure, and take hold of shooter Paul Ciana after he opened fire inside Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport on November 1 (pictured)

On the scene: Police were able to shoot, injure, and take hold of shooter Paul Ciana after he opened fire inside Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport on November 1 (pictured) Continue reading “Revealed: Two armed officers took unannounced breaks just MINUTES before a shooter opened fire in LAX in November”

37 US nuclear missile launch officers involved in drug, cheating scandal

37 US nuclear missile launch officers involved in drug, cheating scandal

© Flickr.com/The National Guard/cc-by

US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says 34 missile launch officers have been implicated in a cheating scandal and three others have been implicated in a drug probe, the latest missteps by those who maintain and operate the nation’s 450 nuclear missiles.

In all, the drug scandal encompasses 11 Air Force officers across six bases. Of the three missile launch officers involved in the drug scandal, two are at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and one is at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

James said those involved in the cheating scandal have lost their certification and nearly 200 missile crew members will retake the test. Continue reading “37 US nuclear missile launch officers involved in drug, cheating scandal”

The thrifty terrorists: Receipts reveal how al-Qaida records every expense down to 60 cents for cake and a $1.60 pot of mustard

  • The extremists left more than 100 receipts in a building occupied by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu earlier this year
  • They assiduously tracked their cash flow, recording purchases as small as a single light bulb
  • The often tiny amounts are carefully written out in pencil and colored pen on scraps of paper and Post-it notes

By Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:          15:05 EST, 29 December 2013       | UPDATED:          15:05 EST, 29 December 2013

 

Al-Qaida is obsessed with documenting the most minute expenses, collecting receipts for every purchase from a 60 cent piece of cake to a $1.60 pot of mustard.

In more than 100 receipts left in a building occupied by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu earlier this year, the extremists assiduously tracked their cash flow, recording purchases as small as a single light bulb.

The often tiny amounts are carefully written out in pencil and colored pen on scraps of paper and Post-it notes: The equivalent of $1.80 for a bar of soap; $8 for a packet of macaroni; $14 for a tube of super glue.

The accounting system on display in the  documents found by The Associated Press is a mirror image of what  researchers have discovered in other parts of the world where al-Qaida  operates, including Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.

Receipts: This receipt for groceries, which includes prices paid for tomatoes, onions, charcoal, meat and a lightbulb, was retrieved from a building occupied by al-Qaida's North African branch in Timbuktu, Mali 

Receipts: This receipt for groceries, which includes prices paid for tomatoes, onions, charcoal, meat and a lightbulb, was retrieved from a building occupied by al-Qaida’s North African branch in Timbuktu, Mali Continue reading “The thrifty terrorists: Receipts reveal how al-Qaida records every expense down to 60 cents for cake and a $1.60 pot of mustard”

Road project in Iceland delayed to protect ‘hidden’ elves

  • In a survey conducted by the University of Iceland in 2007, 62 per cent of those asked thought it was at least possible that the critters exist.

A road project has been stopped until the country’s Supreme Court rules on a case to protect elves and the environment

Kashmira Gander

Monday, 23 December 2013

Humans in Iceland are standing up for the rights of elves – and not because Father Christmas works them too hard.

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project because it might disturb the creatures’ habitat. Continue reading “Road project in Iceland delayed to protect ‘hidden’ elves”

Ethan Couch: Texas quadruple murderer – or a victim of ‘affluenza’?

Texan teen given parole after mowing down four people while drunk – but his family is so wealthy he believed his actions had no consequences

Tim Walker

Friday, 13 December 2013

A wealthy Texan teenager who mowed down and killed four pedestrians while driving drunk has been sentenced to 10 years’ probation at a private rehab centre, rather than 20 years in jail as prosecutors had demanded.

Critics of the lenient sentence are outraged not so much by the sentence itself, as by the defence’s apparently successful argument that 16-year-old Ethan Couch was a victim of “affluenza” – meaning his family is so wealthy, and he so entitled, that he believed his actions would have no consequences.

Psychologist Dr G Dick Miller testified that Couch, from Keller in Texas, had been raised in a household by indulgent parents who never established boundaries for his behaviour, giving him “freedoms no young person should have”. Dr Miller pointed to Couch’s parents’ decision not to punish him after he was found by police in a parked pick-up truck with an unconscious, undressed 14-year-old girl a year before the fatal accident. Continue reading “Ethan Couch: Texas quadruple murderer – or a victim of ‘affluenza’?”

Syrian opposition fighters seize 12 nuns from Christian village

Mother superior says nuns abducted from convent have been taken with three other women to town held by rebels

 

  •  Associated Press in Damascus
  • theguardian.com,              Tuesday 3 December 2013 09.04 EST
(FILES) A Syrian nun lights candles insi
A Syrian nun lights candles in the church of Mar Takla in the Christian village of Maaloula, from where 12 nuns have been abducted. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Opposition fighters have abducted 12 nuns from a predominantly Christian village near Damascus and taken them to a rebel-held town, the mother superior of a Syrian convent said on Tuesday.

Continue reading “Syrian opposition fighters seize 12 nuns from Christian village”

Obama boycott: Major US news outlets refuse to use White House photos

 Published time: November 27, 2013 21:03                                                                            

US President Barack Obama is surrounded by photographers while he eats breakfast. (AFP Photo / Scott Olson)US President Barack Obama is surrounded by photographers while he eats breakfast. (AFP Photo / Scott Olson)

The coalition of major news outlets protesting the White House’s photo policy continues to grow, with McClatchy newspapers adding their name on Wednesday to the list of publications that will no longer print official administration images.

McClatchy’s announcement that it will not be running official  White House images in its papers except in extreme circumstances  follows a similar promise made over the weekend by USA Today amid  growing complaints waged by photojournalists and those in the  news industry who oppose this administration’s tendency to  exclude independent reporters from official events.

Last week, the Associated Press, ABC News, the Washington Post  and Reuters all signed a letter to White House press secretary  Jay Carney imploring the administration of President Barack Obama  to provide photographers with increased access to the  commander-in-chief. According to those outlets, this White House  has more than any other administration prevented credentialed  photographers from shooting images of the president, and instead  has relied on Mr. Obama’s official photography team on a routine  basis to exclusively take pictures to be disseminated among the  press.

The selective nature of the White House’s process of hand-picking  which images to release — as well as its shuttering of a free  press — has raised numerous complaints as of late by news outlets  and media experts. “Journalists are routinely being denied the  right to photograph or videotape the president while he is  performing his official duties,” last week’s letter reads.   “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s  camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the  public from having an independent view of important functions of  the Executive Branch of government.”

Continue reading “Obama boycott: Major US news outlets refuse to use White House photos”

CIA’s most senior officer in Pakistan ‘unmasked’ by Imran Khan’s party

PTI party names man in letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of those responsible for drone strike
  • Jon Boone in Islamabad
  • theguardian.com,              Wednesday 27 November 2013 08.52 EST
Anti-drone protest in Pakistan

Supporters of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party protest in Karachi against drone strikes at the weekend. Photograph: Fareed Khan/AP

The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA‘s most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.

John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an “accused person” for murder and “waging war against Pakistan”.

Continue reading “CIA’s most senior officer in Pakistan ‘unmasked’ by Imran Khan’s party”

WHO apologises for claiming half of Greek HIV infections are self-inflicted

WHO blames ‘gross editing error’ for report claiming half of new cases are acquired deliberately by people trying to claim benefits
Associated Press

theguardian.com, Tuesday 26 November 2013 09.53 EST

A drug user gives blood sample for a HIV test

A drug user gives a blood sample for a HIV test inside a clinic in Athens: in a correction issued on Tuesday, the WHO said its report should have read that ‘few’ new cases of HIV were deliberate. Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters

The World Health Organisation has apologised and blamed an “editing error” for claiming in a September report that half of the new HIV cases in Greece were acquired deliberately by people trying to claim government benefits.

In a correction issued on Tuesday, the WHO said the report should have read that “few” new cases of HIV are deliberate.

“This was just a gross editing error for which the WHO apologises,” said a WHO spokesman, Gregory Härtl.

In the report published by the WHO’s European office, the agency wrote that “about half of new HIV infections are being self-inflicted”.

WHO said it only became aware of the mistake on Tuesday after journalists asked about the claim.

Since the financial crisis first hit Greece several years ago, rates of HIV infection have soared.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/26/who-apologises-hiv-infections-greece-self-inflicted

US loses Unesco voting rights after stopping funds over Palestine decision

Some Americans warn of loss of influence over world culture and education after US misses deadline to pay debt

Associated Press in Paris

theguardian.com, Friday 8 November 2013 06.27 EST

Unesco conference
The Palestinian ambassador to Unesco, Elias Sanbar, at the agency’s general conference. Photograph: Jacques Brinon/AP

American influence in culture, science and education around the world took a high-profile blow on Friday after the US automatically lost voting rights at Unesco after missing a crucial deadline to repay its debt to the world’s cultural agency.

The US has not paid its dues to the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in protest over the decision by world governments to make Palestine a Unesco member in 2011. Israel suspended its dues at the same time and also lost voting rights on Friday.

Under Unesco rules, the US had until Friday morning to resume funding or explain itself, or automatically lose its vote. A Unesco official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the issue, said nothing was received from either the US or Israel.

The suspension of US contributions, which accounted for $80m a year – 22% of Unesco’s overall budget – brought the agency to the brink of a financial crisis and forced it to cut or scale back US-led initiatives such as Holocaust education and tsunami research.

Many in Washington are worried that the US will become a toothless Unesco member with a weakened voice in international programmes fighting extremism through education and promoting gender equality and press freedoms.

Some fear that a weaker US presence will lead to growing anti-Israeli sentiment within Unesco, where Arab-led criticism of Israel for territorial reasons has long been an issue.

“We won’t be able to have the same clout,” said Phyllis Magrab, the Washington-based US national commissioner for Unesco. “In effect, we [now won’t] have a full tool box. We’re missing our hammer.”

The Unesco tension has prompted fresh criticism of US laws that force an automatic funding cutoff for any UN agency with Palestine as a member. The official list of countries that lose their votes was expected to be read aloud on Saturday before the entire Unesco general conference.

Israel’s ambassador to Unesco, Nimrod Barkan, told the Associated Press that his country supported the US decision “objecting to the politicisation of Unesco, or any international organisation, with the accession of a non-existing country like Palestine”.

Unesco is probably best known for its programme to protect the cultures of the world via its heritage sites, which include the Statue of Liberty and Timbuktu in Mali. But its core mission, as conceived by the US, a co-founder of the agency in 1946, was to be an anti-extremist organisation. It  tackles foreign policy issues such as access to clean water, teaches girls to read, works to eradicate poverty, promotes freedom of expression and gives people creative thinking skills to resist violent extremism.

Among Unesco programmes already slashed because of funding shortages is one in Iraq that was intended to help restore water facilities. Also in danger was a Holocaust and genocide awareness programme in Africa to teach about non-violence, non-discrimination and ethnic tolerance, using the example of the mass killing of Jews during the second world war.

This loss is a particular blow to the US, since Holocaust awareness was one of the areas the country aggressively promoted in the agency’s agenda when it rejoined in 2002 after an 18-year hiatus, during which the US had withdrawn from the organisation over differences in vision.

The Palestinian ambassador to Unesco, Elias Sanbar, said other countries were beginning to make up for the US shortfall.

“Is this in the interest of the US, to be replaced?” he asked.

The Unesco director general, Irina Bokova, lamented the change. “I regret to say that I’m seeing, in these last two years … a declining American influence and American involvement,” Bokova said.

“I can’t imagine how we could disengage with the United States at Unesco. We are so intertwined with our message. What I regret is that this decision became so divisive and triggered this suspension of the funding,” she added.

Bokova said she accepted political reality and would find ways for Unesco to continue its work, despite a 2014 budget that is down by an estimated $150m.

Some worry about more serious consequences if Palestine joins other agencies such as the World Health Organisation.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/us-unesco-voting-funds-palestine-decision

 

Top US climate scientists support development of safe nuclear power

Open letter to environmentalists and world leaders says wind and solar power are not enough to diminish carbon emissions

  •  Associated Press in Pittsburgh
  • theguardian.com,   Sunday 3 November 2013 11.03 EST
Nuclear power plant Gosgen Switzerland

Nuclear power is ‘very divisive’ among environmentalists but scientists argue it’s necessary. Photograph: WoodyStock / Alamy/Alamy

Some of the world’s top climate scientists say wind and solar energy won’t be enough to head off extreme global warming, and they’re asking environmentalists to support the development of safer nuclear power as one way to cut fossil fuel pollution.

Four scientists who have played a key role in alerting the public to the dangers of climate change sent letters Sunday to leading environmental groups and politicians around the world. The letter, an advance copy of which was given to the Associated Press, urges a crucial discussion on the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change.

The letter signers are James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist; Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution; Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Tom Wigley, of the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Environmentalists agree that global warming is a threat to ecosystems and humans, but many oppose nuclear power and believe that new forms of renewable energy will be able to power the world within the next few decades. That isn’t realistic, the letter said.

“Those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough” to deliver the amount of cheap and reliable power the world needs, and “with the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology” that has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases.

Hansen began publishing research on the threat of global warming more than 30 years ago, and his testimony before Congress in 1988 helped launch a mainstream discussion. Last February he was arrested in front of the White House at a climate protest that included the head of the Sierra Club and other activists.

Caldeira was a contributor to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Emanuel is known for his research on possible links between climate change and hurricanes, and Wigley has also been doing climate research for more than three decades.

Emanuel said the signers aren’t opposed to renewable energy sources but want environmentalists to understand that “realistically, they cannot on their own solve the world’s energy problems.”

The vast majority of climate scientists say they’re now virtually certain that pollution from fossil fuels has increased global temperatures over the last 60 years. They say emissions need to be sharply reduced to prevent more extreme damage in the future.

In 2011 worldwide carbon dioxide emissions jumped 3%, because of a large increase by China, the world’s most carbon polluting country. The US is second in carbon emissions.

Hansen, who’s now at Columbia University, said it’s not enough for environmentalists to simply oppose fossil fuels and promote renewable energy.

“They’re cheating themselves if they keep believing this fiction that all we need” is renewable energy such as wind and solar, Hansen told the AP.

The joint letter says, “the time has come for those who take the threat of global warming seriously to embrace the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems” as part of efforts to build a new global energy supply.

Stephen Ansolabehere, a Harvard professor who studies energy issues, said nuclear power is “very divisive” within the environmental movement. But he added that the letter could help educate the public about the difficult choices that climate change presents.

One major environmental advocacy organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, warned that “nuclear power is no panacea for our climate woes.”

Risk of catastrophe is only one drawback of nuclear power, NRDC President Frances Beinecke said in a statement. Waste storage and security of nuclear material are also important issues, he said.

“The better path is to clean up our power plants and invest in efficiency and renewable energy.”

The scientists acknowledge that there are risks to using nuclear power, but say those are far smaller than the risk posed by extreme climate change.

“We understand that today’s nuclear plants are far from perfect.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/03/climate-scientists-support-nuclear-power

78 percent of Americans say they weren’t inconvenienced by government shutdown: survey

  • Only 11 percent of Americans reported  being ‘majorly inconvenienced’ by the shutdown
  • Experts warn that another shutdown could  be on the horizon in coming months

By  Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 18:08 EST, 23  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 18:08 EST, 23 October 2013

As politicians and cable news pundits spent  the 16-day shutdown of  the federal government describing the apocalyptic  scenario of the shutdown, the vast majority of ordinary citizens weren’t  even  phased by the fed being closed for business, according to a new  survey.

The Washington Post/ABC News survey, released  Tuesday, finds that  78-percent of those polled say they were not inconvenienced  by the  shutdown at all.

Of the 22-percent who said they were  inconvenienced, 11-percent described their troubles as a ‘minor  inconvenience.’

Barely missed: Only 11 percent of Americans say they were majorly inconvenienced by government shutdown 

Barely missed: Only 11 percent of Americans say they  were majorly inconvenienced by government shutdown

 

The survey was conducted October 17 through  the 20th – after the shutdown had come to an end.

The  surveyors polled 1,002 adults, asking the question ‘Were you  personally  inconvenienced by the partial shutdown of the federal  government or  not?’

If a respondent answered yes, they were asked  the followup question of ‘was it a major inconvenience or a minor  inconvenience?’

Prior to the shutdown, the Associated Press  explained how it would effect regular people, noting that it would have  far-reaching consequences for some, but minimal impact on others.

Deal: a deal to re-open the government was achieved on October 17 

Deal: a deal to re-open the government was achieved on  October 17

AIR TRAVEL

Federal air traffic controllers would remain  on the job and airport-screening staff would keep funneling passengers through  security checkpoints. Federal inspectors would continue enforcing safety  rules.

Shutdown: The tourist trips to Alcatraz would stop running if the federal shutdown goes ahead on Monday 

Shutdown: The tourist trips to Alcatraz would stop  running if the federal shutdown goes ahead on Monday

 

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

The State Department would continue  processing foreign applications for  visas and U.S. applications for passports,  since fees are collected to  finance those services. Embassies and consulates  overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.

BENEFIT PAYMENTS

Social Security and Medicare benefits would  keep coming, but there could be delays in processing new disability  applications. Unemployment benefits would still go out.

FEDERAL COURTS

Federal courts would continue operating  normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown, roughly until  the middle of October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to  begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases  would continue to be heard.

MAIL

Deliveries would continue as usual because  the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It  relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

Lunch is served: School students who qualify for free school lunches and breakfast will not go hungry even if the shutdown goes ahead this week  

Lunch is served: School students who qualify for free  school lunches and breakfast will not go hungry even if the shutdown goes ahead  this week

 

RECREATION

All national parks would be closed, as would  the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo in Washington. Visitors  using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to  make alternate arrangements and leave the park. Among the visitor centers that  would be closed: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York,  Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Alcatraz Island near San Francisco and the  Washington Monument.

HEALTH

New patients would not be accepted into  clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients  would continue to receive care. Medical research at the NIH would be disrupted  and some studies would be delayed. The Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention would be severely limited in spotting or investigating disease  outbreaks, from flu to that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle  East.

FOOD SAFETY

The Food and Drug Administration would handle  high-risk recalls suspend most routine safety inspections. Federal meat  inspections would be expected to proceed as usual.

HEAD START

A small number of Head Start programs, about  20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal  Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would  not be renewed. Over time more programs would be affected. Several of the Head  Start programs that would immediately feel the pinch are in Florida. It’s  unclear if they would continue serving children.

Safety first: Airport-screening staff will remain at work during the shutdown with safety being a top priority 

Safety first: Airport-screening staff will remain at  work during the shutdown with safety being a top priority

 

FOOD ASSISTANCE

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program  for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, could shut down. The program  provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for  pregnant women, mothers and their children.

School lunches and breakfasts would continue  to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance  Program, or SNAP, would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding  programs would not have the money to operate.

TAXES

Americans would still have to pay their taxes  and file federal tax returns, but the Internal Revenue Service says it would  suspend all audits. Got questions? Sorry, the IRS says taxpayer services,  including toll-free help lines, would be shut as well.

LOANS

Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and  first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays  during the shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about  30 percent of home mortgages, wouldn’t underwrite or approve any new loans  during the shutdown. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses would  be suspended.

SCIENCE

NASA will continue to keep workers at Mission  Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space station,  where two Americans and four others are deployed. The National Weather Service  would keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings and the National Hurricane  Center would continue to track storms. The scientific work of the U.S.  Geological Survey would be halted.

 

HOMELAND SECURITY

The majority of the Department of Homeland  Security’s employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents  and officers at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast  Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel  and other law enforcement agents and officers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration  Services employees would continue to process green card applications.

MILITARY

The military’s 1.4 million active duty  personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed. About half  of the Defense Department’s civilian employees would be furloughed.

PRISONS

All 116 federal prisons would remain open,  and criminal litigation would proceed.

VETERANS SERVICES

Most services offered through the Department  of Veterans Affairs will continue because lawmakers approve money one year in  advance for the VA’s health programs. Veterans would still be able to visit  hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get  prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators would still staff the  crisis hotline and claims workers would still process payments to cover  disability and pension benefits. But those veterans appealing the denial of  disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer  for a decision because the board would not issue any decisions during a  shutdown.

WORK SAFETY

Federal occupational safety and health  inspectors would stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

Cultural abyss: The National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. would be one of many to close during a shutdown 

Cultural abyss: The National Museum of Natural History  at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. would be one of many to close  during a shutdown

 

The deal to re-open the government was  reached on October 17. However, it is only temporary, and there potentially  could be another government shutdown in coming months

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2474641/How-government-shutdown-affect-ordinary-Americans.html#ixzz2ib0ywWs2 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Walmart fires employee for coming to the aid of woman being assaulted by her boyfriend in the parking lot

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 00:36 EST, 18  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 00:59 EST, 18 October 2013

Kristopher Oswald says he was doing the right  thing when he jumped to the aid of a woman being assaulted in the parking lot of  the Michigan Walmart where he worked.

Walmart says he violated company policy and  fired Mr Oswald the next day.

The 30-year-old stock clerk in Hartland,  Michigan, was punched six times in the head by the woman’s furious boyfriend,  but he says he never thought the incident would cost him his job.

Jobless: Kristopher Oswald says he never thought he'd be fired for coming to the aid of a woman in distress 

Jobless: Kristopher Oswald says he never thought he’d be  fired for coming to the aid of a woman in distress

 

‘I never expected all of this. And the least  I expected was to not have a job,’ Mr Oswald told WXYZ-TV.

But Walmart says corporate rules demanded  that Mr Oswald not intervene in that circumstance. Mr Oswald’s manager wrote he  was fired ‘after a violation of company policy on his lunch  break.’

‘We had to make a tough decision, one that e  don’t take lightly, and he’s no longer with the company,’ company spokeswoman  Ashley Hardie told the Associated Press.

Mr Oswald said he was in his car on his break  from his job stocking shelves about 2.30am Sunday when he saw a man grabbing a  young woman. It appeared that he was trying to stop her from leaving the parking  lot, Mr Oswald said.

He said he asked her if she needed help and  the man started punching him in the head and yelled that he was going to kill  him. Mr Oswald said he was able to get on top of the man, but then two other men  jumped him from behind.

The assault happened about 2.30am on Sunday in the parking lot while Mr Oswald was on his meal break 

The assault happened about 2.30am on Sunday in the  parking lot while Mr Oswald was on his meal break

 

Livingston County sheriff’s deputies arrived  and halted the fight.

The woman was not seriously hurt.

Police investigated, but could not track down  the suspect.

Mr Oswald had worked for Walmart for about  seven weeks and said he would not have been considered a permanent employee  until after his 180-day probation.

 

 

 

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2465673/Walmart-fires-employee-coming-aid-woman-assaulted-boyfriend-parking-lot.html#ixzz2i3O0xIMz Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Venezuela navy escorts seized US-charted oil vessel into port

Sunday Oct 13, 2013   |    Fabiola Sanchez for The Associated Press

 

Credit: The Associated Press

Venezuelan navy escorts seized US-charted oil survey ship into port; crew remains in custody

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A U.S.-chartered oil exploration ship seized by the Venezuelan navy in Caribbean waters disputed with neighboring Guyana arrived at Venezuela’s Margarita Island on Sunday.

Venezuelan authorities said the ship’s 36 crew members, including five U.S. citizens and two Brazilians, would be held on board while an investigation continued.

Adm. Angel Belisario Martinez told local station Union Radio that the research ship was conducting “unauthorized scientific work” in Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone. He said the case had been turned over to prosecutors.

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry had said Friday that the ship and its crew would be subject to an “inquiry under the International Maritime Law and pursuant to the safeguarding of our sovereignty in maritime areas.”

The 285-foot survey ship Teknik Perdana was detained by Venezuelan sailors Thursday in contested waters off the coast of Guyana. The seizure is threatening to revive a decades-old territorial dispute between Venezuela, South America’s biggest oil producer, and Guyana, one of the region’s poorest countries.

The vessel, sailing under a Panamanian flag, was conducting a seismic study for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. under a concession from Guyana. Guyana’s government says the crew was well within Guyana’s territorial waters.

Texas-based Anadarko said it was working with the U.S. and Guyanese governments to secure the release of the crew and the vessel.

Gregory Adams, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, told The Associated Press that the embassy had not been given any official information on the five detained U.S. citizens.

The ship’s crew also includes two Britons, two Russians, a Frenchman, five Ukrainians, two Brazilians, five Malaysians and 14 Indonesians.

Guyana’s government on Saturday requested a meeting with Venezuelan officials next week to discuss the seizure, which its Foreign Ministry earlier called an “unprecedented” act in Guyana-Venezuela relations.

Venezuela has for decades claimed two-thirds of Guyana’s territory as its own, arguing that the gold-rich region west of the Essequibo River was stolen from it by an 1899 agreement with Britain and its then colony. The area is a fixture of 19th century maps of Gran Colombia, the short-lived republic revered by the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Ties between the two countries had improved recently. Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, made his first visit as president to Georgetown in August to discuss joint oil projects with his Guyanese counterpart, Donald Ramotar. During the visit, Maduro described the dispute as a relic of the colonial era and vowed to peacefully resolve the issue.

Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

http://www.newsdaily.com/article/e86a32eb541da6022a5cb3d0771128b4/venezuela-navy-escorts-seized-oil-vessel-into-port

California allows undocumented migrants to obtain driver’s licences

Governor Jerry Brown predicts that endorsement of driver’s licenses for migrants will mean more states will follow

 

    •  Associated Press in Los Angeles
    • theguardian.com,   Thursday 3 October 2013 17.44 EDT
California governor Jerry Brown

California governor Jerry Brown said: ‘No longer are undocumented people in the shadows.’ Photograph: Ringo Chiu/Corbis

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday adding California to the growing list of states allowing migrants living in the country without papers to obtain driver’s licenses.

Immigration advocates have long lobbied for the change in the nation’s most populous state. The licenses would carry a distinction on the front of the card that states the document may be used for driving, not as federal identification.

Several groups initially raised concerns that the marker will contribute to racial profiling. The bill includes protections against discrimination.

Brown predicted that California’s endorsement of driver’s licenses for migrants will mean more states will follow.

“This is only the first step,” he told a cheering crowd at the signing ceremony outside City Hall in Los Angeles. “When a million people without their documents drive legally and with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice. No longer are undocumented people in the shadows.”

Brown was scheduled to repeat the signing later in Fresno, the heart of the vast Central Valley agricultural region.

State and local officials touted the importance of getting immigrants properly trained and tested so they know how to drive and know traffic rules in California.

“That’s what this bill is about, making the streets of this state safer,” Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck told the crowd.

Over the last two decades, immigrant advocates have pushed to get licenses restored in California. The effort took on added significance in recent years as immigrants caught driving without a license began seeing their cars impounded and wound up being screened by federal immigration authorities for deportation.

Most states don’t allow immigrants in the country illegally to obtain licenses. But a growing number, including Colorado and Oregon, have passed similar measures to issue marked licenses for driving purposes only.

In California, the bill authored by Democratic assemblyman Luis Alejo would grant licenses to anyone who passes written and road tests, regardless of immigration status.

State officials estimate 1.4 million drivers will apply for licenses under the law, which was supported by the state’s Police Chiefs Association and insurance authorities.

It isn’t clear whether entities like local government offices, libraries or banks will accept the license as a form of identification. The licenses are expected to be issued starting in January 2015.

It isn’t the first time the California legislature passed a measure giving licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. Led by former Democratic state lawmaker and current Los Angeles city councilman Gil Cedillo, the legislature passed license bills that were struck down by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Under Brown, immigrant advocates saw a new opportunity to get a bill signed. The bill is one of several immigrant-friendly measures passed by the legislature this year, including overtime pay for domestic workers and an effort to scale back collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

Brown has enjoyed strong support among Latino voters, whose numbers are growing in California, and appears to sense how the broader public has become more welcoming toward immigrants even as the debate over an immigration overhaul has stalled in Congress, said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at California State University, Los Angeles.

On the steps of City Hall, scores of immigration rights activists and state and local officials chanted “champion” in Spanish at the mention of his name. In his speech, Brown urged lawmakers in Washington to move forward on more sweeping immigration reform.

Ismael Salvador, a 63-year-old factory worker from El Salvador, turned out to see the bill signing. He said the change will radically alter the lives of his two daughters who are in the country without papers. One risks driving every morning to her job as a lunch truck cook, and the other cleans houses and relies on rides because she is afraid to get behind the wheel.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/03/california-undocumented-migrants-driving-licences

 

Carter: American ‘Middle Class’ lives in Poverty

 

 

Tuesday, 08 October 2013

Former US President Jimmy Carter said Monday that the income gap in the United States has increased to the point where members of the middle class resemble the Americans who lived in poverty when he occupied the White House.

Carter offered his assessment of the nation’s economic challenges Monday at a Habitat for Humanity construction site in Oakland – the first of five cities he and wife Rosalynn plan to visit this week to commemorate their three-decade alliance with the international nonprofit that promotes and builds affordable housing.

 

The recent economic downturn revealed that families living in even comparatively well-off, but expensive regions like the San Francisco Bay Area are economically insecure, he said.

“Even in one of the wealthiest parts of the world there is a great deal of foreclosures and now a great deal of people who are fortunate to own their own houses owe more on them than the houses are worth in the present market, and that’s all changed in the last eight years,” Carter said during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

Taking a break from framing windows at a new 12-unit town house development in a section of East Oakland where Habitat already has built or repaired 115 homes, the 89-year-old former Democratic president said the federal government is investing less in affordable housing at a time of greater need.

“The disparity between rich people and poor people in America has increased dramatically since when we started,” he said. “The middle class has become more like poor people than they were 30 years ago. So I don’t think it’s getting any better.”

Years of tax breaks for the wealthy, a minimum wage untethered from the inflation rate and electoral districts drawn to maximize political polarization have reduced the quality of life for all but a small fraction of Americans and imperiled the nation’s standing as “a real superpower,” he said.

“Equity of taxation and treating the middle class with a great deal of attention, providing funding for people in true need, like for affordable housing, those are the sort of things that would pay rich dividends for Americans no matter what kind of income they have,” said Carter, looking relaxed in a baseball cap, blue jeans and white sneakers.

“The richest people in America would be better off if everybody lived in a decent home and had a chance to pay for it, and if everyone had enough income even if they had a daily job to be good buyers for the products that are produced.”

http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/24048/61/

 

Obamacare activists STRIP to their underwear in taxpayer-funded, PETA-style stunt to persuade young Coloradoans to ‘get covered’

By  David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

PUBLISHED: 15:53 EST, 3  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 16:25 EST, 3 October 2013

Obamacare organizers in Colorado are taking  Obamacare promotion to a new low – at least in terms of their dress  code.

A health insurance provider is sending  20-something activists out on the streets of Denver in their underwear to  persuade young people to ‘get covered.’

The resulting photos and video footage, which  the organization published on Instagram this week, has a protest flavor that  comes complete with a Twitter hashtag: #getcoveredCO.

And U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for  the risque street performances through a federal government loan.

SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO

Cheeky: Denver's Generation Y is being treated to a gander at healthy bodies while they decide whether they like Obamacare

Cheeky: Denver’s Generation Y is being treated to a  gander at healthy bodies while they decide whether they like Obamacare

The message, 'Without health insurance, you're exposed,' was likely cooked up in a late-night college dorm bull session

The message, ‘Without health insurance, you’re exposed,’  was likely cooked up in a late-night college dorm bull session

ColoradoHealthOP, a statewide insurance co-op  that favors full enrollment in Obamacare and sells the policies through the  state’s exchange, says it  was ‘approved for federal funding within the  Affordable Care Act in July 2012.’

The group’s Instagram photos show a cadre of  five college-age activists in their skivvies, carrying strategically placed ‘Get  Covered’ signs while they talk to their recruitment targets.

The Affordable Care Act’s coverage model  depends on enrolling 7 million Americans, including at least 2.5 million young  people.

Without the insurance premiums from the young  and healthy to offset the higher costs associated with being old and sick, the  Obamacare system won’t be funded enough to sustain itself.

The Associated Press reported in July that Connect For Health Colorado, the state’s Obamacare  exchange, is spending more than $21 million to promote enrollment, and that the  funds are coming from federal government grants.

About $17 million of that money has gone to  58 separate Colorado organizations that are making person-to-person pitches and  helping people – especially young people – sign up for Obamacare.

ColoradoHealthOP CEO Julia Hutchins confirmed  that her organization was formed to sell insurance policies  via the Connect for  Health Colorado marketplace. But she denied that any money changes hands between  the two.

‘We, as a co-op health plan, received our own  federal loan money to start a health insurance company that is member-governed,’  she said.

‘And part of the plan we submitted to apply  for the loan money included outreach expenses, and that promotion, the underwear  thing, was part of it.’

Hashtag fun: A clothed Amy Poehler joined other celebs to encourage a mass rush to Obamacare on its first day of open enrollment -- a strategy that hasn't worked so far

Hashtag fun: A clothed Amy Poehler joined other celebs  to encourage a mass rush to Obamacare on its first day of open enrollment — a  strategy that hasn’t worked so far

This pair flashed their skin Tuesday on Denver's 16th Street pedestrian malll, but the photo suggests they didn't have many takers

This pair flashed their skin Tuesday on Denver’s 16th  Street pedestrian malll, but the photo suggests they didn’t have many  takers

Hutchins said that while she wants to sell  insurance plans to young Coloradoans, the stunt’s stripped-down nature was  equally aimed at the older set.

‘Surprisingly, they really did catch the  attention of everybody,’ she said. It was amazing … Our board members, who are  mostly in their 50s and 60s, would have loved to be there.’

The scantily clad Denver street team handed out brochures to anyone who would come within arm-s reach

The scantily clad Denver street team handed out  brochures to anyone who would come within arm-s reach

Colorado policy experts who don’t agree with  the concept of Obamacare, or the use of their tax dollars to promote it, aren’t  impressed.

‘It’s a bad day for Obamacare when proponents  have to hire models to dress like Miley Cyrus to walk the streets of Denver,’  said Compass Colorado executive director  Kelly Maher.

‘These PETA-style stunts show how truly  desperate they are to get people to sign up for these plans.

Compass Colorado is a conservative group that  argues for fiscal responsibility and smaller government.

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of  Animals, is a group that promotes the improbable and unpopular position that  food, laboratory and fur-bearing animals should have legal rights. Its most  famous for its naked protests that draw attention to its cause.

Jon Caldara, president of  the libertarian-leaning Colorado think tank the  Independence Institute,  told MailOnline  that taking off your clothes isn’t the best way to sell the  merits of the president’s health  insurance overhaul.

‘There  are people who need better health  care in America,’ Caldara said, ‘and what are we  saying to them – that we’re  spending taxpayer money selling these plans  the way a beer company advertises  their product?’

‘This money could be  spent on actual health  care. Give me the hot chicks without the bad  policy and maybe I could be  sold.’

Stripping down is part of the toolbox at PETA, where grabbing attention is the #1 priority

Stripping down is part of the toolbox at PETA, where sex  sells and grabbing attention is the #1 priority


Video Source: Instagram

MailOnline reported  yesterday that some state-level health exchanges have seen fewer than 1 out of  100 website visitors signing up for their insurance plans since they launched  Monday at midnight. Colorado’s exchange administrators didn’t respond to a  request for statistics for that story.

The White House insisted on Wednesday that it  doesn’t have data showing how many Americans have signed up for health insurance  through the federal government’s flagship website, healthcare.gov. The Obama  administration did, however, publish the numbers of Web hits the site received,  along with state covering phone calls and online chats it conducted.

And a Washington Post blogger  pleaded Thursday morning with members of the public who have successfully signed  up for Obamacare coverage to come forward.

‘As of yet, we haven’t tracked this person –  or these people – down,’ the Post writer explained.T’his is not for lack of  effort. Reporters here at The Washington Post and at other publications have  been on the hunt for this mythical creature.’

Connect For Health Colorado, the official  Obamacare insurance exchange in the state said it’s not affiliated with the  nearly-naked stunt. ‘This is not our promotion,’ Bragg-Gamble said in an  email.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2442710/Colorado-Obamacare-activists-STRIP-underwear-persuade-people-covered.html#ixzz2gimoiGaL Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

MIT Scientist: UN Global Waming report is hilarious

 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Not all scientists are panicking about global warming — one of them finds the alarmism “hilarious.”

A top climate scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lambasted a new report by the UN’s climate bureaucracy that blamed mankind as the main cause of global warming and whitewashed the fact that there has been a hiatus in warming for the last 15 years.

“I think that the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence,” Dr. Richard Lindzen told Climate Depot, a global warming news site dedicated to the issue. “They are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed it was 95 percent sure that global warming was mainly driven by human burning of fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases. The I.P.C.C. also glossed over the fact that the Earth has not warmed in the past 15 years, arguing that the heat was absorbed by the ocean.

“Their excuse for the absence of warming over the past 17 years is that the heat is hiding in the deep ocean,” Lindzen added. “However, this is simply an admission that the models fail to simulate the exchanges of heat between the surface layers and the deeper oceans.”

“However, it is this heat transport that plays a major role in natural internal variability of climate, and the IPCC assertions that observed warming can be attributed to man depend crucially on their assertion that these models accurately simulate natural internal variability,” Lindzen continued. “Thus, they now, somewhat obscurely, admit that their crucial assumption was totally unjustified.”

Scientists have been struggling to explain the 15-year hiatus in global warming, and governments have been urging them to whitewash the fact that temperatures have not been rising because such data would impact the upcoming climate negotiations in 2015.

The Associated Press obtained documents that show the Obama administration and some European governments pressured UN climate scientists to downplay or even omit data that shows the world hasn’t warmed in over a decade.

“Germany called for the reference to the slowdown to be deleted, saying a time span of 10-15 years was misleading in the context of climate change, which is measured over decades and centuries,” the AP report said. “The U.S. also urged the authors to include the ‘leading hypothesis’ that the reduction in warming is linked to more heat being transferred to the deep ocean.”

Global warming skeptics have exploited such data to show that the science behind manmade global warming is faulty and politically driven.

“[I]n attributing warming to man, they fail to point out that the warming has been small, and totally consistent with there being nothing to be alarmed about,” Lindzen said. “It is quite amazing to see the contortions the IPCC has to go through in order to keep the international climate agenda going.”

 

http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/24009/53/

Suicide bombers kill 60 Christians outside Pakistan church

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old church in Pakistan after Sunday Mass, killing at least 60 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in recent history.

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old church in Pakistan after Sunday Mass, killing at least 56 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in recent history.

A Pakistani man carries an injured woman on her arrival at the hospital after two suicide bomb attacks on a church in Peshawar Photo: A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images

By Ashfaq Yusufzai, in Peshawar, Taha Siddiqui in Islamabad and Dean Nelson in New Delhi

12:36PM BST 22 Sep 2013

Religious violence and attacks on security forces have been on the rise in Pakistan in past months, undermining Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to tame the insurgency after coming to power in June.

Two suicide bombers are believed to have entered the All Saints Church after shooting dead police guards, and detonated their explosive vests.

A Pakistani man helps an injured victim of a suicide attack at a church in Peshawar, Pakistan (AP)

Police said 350 members of the congregation were in the church when the bombers struck and that the death toll is expected to increase because many were being treated in hospital are in a critical condition. Dr Iqbal Afridi, medical superintendent at the city’s Lady Reading Hospital said he had declared a medical emergency and all leave for surgeons had been cancelled.

People gather outside the Christian church after the twin suicide bombings in Peshawar (EPA)

“The number of dead and will be more than 200 because the Church was full to its capacity,” one worshipper, Caroline White, told The Telegraph. She said something which sounded like a firecracker was thrown at the church before a huge explosion. The police had failed to properly protect the church, she added.

 

Medics help a young victim of the suicide bombing in Peshawar (EPA)

Sahibzada Anees, a local government official, told Associated Press the Sunday service is popular because worshippers receive a free meal on the lawn in front of the church following Mass.

The white walls and the floor of the church, which was built in 1851, were stained with blood and splattered with rice.

Parishioners said survivors were crying and hugging one another after the explosion, which had turned the church into a scene of carnage.

 

A man cries after his brother was killed in the suicide blast at a church in Peshawar (Reuters)

“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us … when I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around,” said Nazir John.

Shadqat Malik, head of the local bomb disposal unit, said most of the victims were women and children because the church is in Kohati Gate, a busy shopping market frequented by women buying food for their households.

The bombers had detonated 12 kilograms of explosive, hidden in their vests, and the intensity of the blast caused considerable damage to neighbouring buildings.

 

Injured Pakistani Christians arrive at hospital after two suicide bomb attacks on a church in Peshawar (AFP/Getty Images)

“We have found one head of one bomber, and are looking for the second one. The mass service had just ended so there were many people who were exiting the church when the bombers struck,” says Ismail Karak, Superintendent Police Security, speaking from the location.

The attack was condemned by Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party controls the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa provincial government, as a “senseless” attack on innocent people. His health minister Shaukat Yousafzai said those behind the attack could not call themselves Muslims.

Residents from the area which dominated by members of Pakistan’s Christian and Hindu minorities – which make up less than five per cent of the country’s population, burned tyres and forced shops to close in protest at the government’s failure to protect them.

 

The site of the blast at a church in Peshawar (Reuters)

“We have been demanding security from the government because the religious minorities have been coming under attack in Pakistan,” says Haroon Sardayal, Chairman All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement who lives in the same neighbourhood where the church is located and was on the site moments later.

“Today’s attack shows that despite our warnings the government is not waking up, which is condemnable,” Mr. Sardyal added.

There has been an upsurge in terrorist attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan in the last decade.

Christian churches have suffered grenade and machine gun attacks, while Pakistan’s Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated in 2011 for opposing the country’s discriminatory blasphemy laws. Seven Christians were burned to death in 2009 when a Muslim mob torched 40 houses and a church.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/10326372/Suicide-bombers-kill-60-Christians-outside-Pakistan-church.html

 

World’s top climate scientists told to ‘cover up’ the fact that the Earth’s temperature hasn’t risen for the last 15 years

  • Leaked United Nations report reveals the  world’s temperature hasn’t risen for the last 15 years
  • Politicians have raised concerns about  the final draft
  • Fears that the findings will encourage  deniers of man-made climate change

By  Tamara Cohen, Political Correspondent

PUBLISHED: 14:40 EST, 19  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 14:41 EST, 19 September 2013

Scientists working on the most authoritative  study on climate change were urged to cover up the fact that the world’s  temperature hasn’t risen for the last 15 years, it is claimed.

 

A leaked copy of a United Nations report,  compiled by hundreds of scientists, shows politicians in Belgium, Germany,  Hungary and the United States raised concerns about the final draft.

Published next week, it is expected to  address the fact that 1998 was the hottest year on record and world temperatures  have not yet exceeded it, which scientists have so far struggled to  explain.

The report is the result of six years’ work  by UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is seen as the  world authority on the extent of climate change and what is causing it – on  which governments including Britain’s base their green policies.

Concerns: Scientists have been urged to cover up the fact that the Earth's temperature hasn't risen for the last 15 years amid fears it would provide ammunition for deniers of man-made climate change 

Concerns: Scientists have been urged to cover up the  fact that the Earth’s temperature hasn’t risen for the last 15 years amid fears  it would provide ammunition for deniers of man-made climate change

 

But leaked documents seen by the Associated  Press, yesterday revealed deep concerns among politicians about a lack of global  warming over the past few years.

Germany called for the references to the  slowdown in warming to be deleted, saying looking at a time span of just 10 or  15 years was ‘misleading’ and they should focus on decades or  centuries.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has changed its tune after issuing stern warnings about climate change for years  

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has  changed its tune after issuing stern warnings about climate change for years

 

Hungary worried the report would provide  ammunition for deniers of man-made climate change.

Belgium objected to using 1998 as a starting  year for statistics, as it was exceptionally warm and makes the graph look flat  – and suggested using 1999 or 2000 instead to give a more upward-pointing  curve.

The United States delegation even weighed in,  urging the authors of the report to explain away the lack of warming using the  ‘leading hypothesis’ among scientists that the lower warming is down to more  heat being absorbed by the ocean – which has got hotter.

The last IPCC ‘assessment report’ was  published in 2007 and has been the subject of huge controversy after it had to  correct the embarrassing claim that the Himalayas would melt by 2035.

It was then engulfed in the ‘Climategate’  scandal surrounding leaked emails allegedly showing scientists involved in it  trying to manipulate their data to make it look more convincing – although  several inquiries found no wrongdoing.

The latest report, which runs to 2,000 pages,  will be shown to representatives from all 195 governments next week at a meeting  in Stockholm, who can discuss alterations they want to make.

But since it was issued to governments in  June, they have raised hundreds of objections about the 20-page summary for  policymakers, which sums up the findings of the scientists.

What it says will inform renewable energy  policies and how much consumers and businesses will pay for them.

The report is expected to say the rate of  warming between 1998 and 2012 was about half of the average rate since 1951 –  and put this down to natural variations such as the El Nino and La Nina ocean  cycles and the cooling effects of volcanoes.

A leaked copy of a United Nations report, compiled by hundreds of scientists, shows politicians in Belgium, Germany, Hungary and the United States have raised concerns about the final draft. Above, the United Nations headquarters building in New YorkA leaked copy of the United Nations report, compiled by  hundreds of scientists, shows politicians in Belgium, Germany, Hungary and the  United States have raised concerns about the final draft. Above, the United  Nations headquarters building in New York

 

A German climate scientist – Stefan  Rahmstorf, who reviewed the chapter on sea levels – yesterday admitted it was  possible the report’s authors were feeling under pressure to address the  slowdown in warming due to the ‘public debate’ around the issue.

The draft report, which is not new research  but a synthesis of all the work being done by scientists around the world, is  likely to be highly disputed at the three-day meeting.

It will make the case that humans are causing  global warming with carbon emissions even more strongly upgrading it from ‘very  likely’ in 2007 to ‘extremely likely’ it is manmade.

But scientists are under pressure to explain  why the warming has not exceeded 1998 levels although the decade 2000-2010 was  the hottest on record.

Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned  Scientists based in Washington, said yesterday: ‘I think to not address it would  be a problem because then you basically have the denialists saying: ‘Look the  IPCC is silent on this issue.’

Jonathan Lynn, a spokesman for the IPCC said  yesterday: ‘This is the culmination of four years’ work by hundreds of  scientists, where governments get a chance to ensure the summary for  policymakers is clear and concise in a dialogue with the scientists who wrote  it, and have the opportunity to raise any topics they think should be  highlighted

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2425775/Climate-scientists-told-cover-fact-Earths-temperature-risen-15-years.html#ixzz2fOcXDsll Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Employment gap between America’s rich and poor at widest level on record – with lowest earners at same jobless rate as the Great Depression

By  Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 09:28 EST, 16  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 09:32 EST, 16 September 2013

The gap in employment rates between America’s  highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels since  officials began tracking the data a decade ago, according to new  analysis.

Rates of unemployment for the lowest-income  families – those earning less than $20,000 – have topped 21 percent, nearly  matching the rate for all workers during the 1930s Great Depression.

But Monday’s Associated Press report shows  U.S. households with an income of more than $150,000 a year have an unemployment  rate of 3.2 percent, a level traditionally defined as full employment.

Different paths: The gap in employment rates between America's highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels since officials began tracking the data a decade ago 

Different paths: The gap in employment rates between  America’s highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels  since officials began tracking the data a decade ago

 

Mind the gap: The new research show an alarming divide in employment between the rich and poor 

Mind the gap: The new research show an alarming divide  in employment between the rich and poor

 

At the same time, middle-income workers are  increasingly pushed into lower-wage jobs.

Many of them in turn are displacing  lower-skilled, low-income workers, who become unemployed or are forced to work  fewer hours, the analysis shows.

‘This was no ‘equal opportunity’ recession or  an ‘equal opportunity’ recovery,’ said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for  Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

‘One part of America is in depression, while  another part is in full employment,’ Sum added.

The findings follow the government’s tepid  jobs report this month that showed a steep decline in the share of Americans  working or looking for work.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama stressed  the need to address widening inequality, warning that proposed budget cuts will  worsen the gap.

Qualified: 'It's pretty frustrating,' says Annette Guerra, 33, of San Antonio, who has been looking for a full-time job since she finished nursing school more than a year ago 

Qualified: ‘It’s pretty frustrating,’ says Annette  Guerra, 33, of San Antonio, who has been looking for a full-time job since she  finished nursing school more than a year ago

 

Downward spiral: Trained middle-income workers are increasingly pushed into lower-wage jobs, displacing lower-skilled and low-income workers, who become unemployed or are forced to work fewer hours 

Downward spiral: Trained middle-income workers are  increasingly pushed into lower-wage jobs, displacing lower-skilled and  low-income workers, who become unemployed or are forced to work fewer  hours

 

‘The folks in the middle and at the bottom  haven’t seen wage or income growth,’ Obama said on ABC’s This Week.

While the link between income and joblessness  may seem apparent, the data are the first to establish how this factor has  contributed to the erosion of the middle class, a traditional strength of the  U.S. economy.

Based on employment-to-population ratios,  which are seen as a reliable gauge of the labor market, the employment disparity  between rich and poor households remains at the highest levels in more than a  decade, the period for which comparable data are available.

‘It’s pretty frustrating,’ says Annette  Guerra, 33, of San Antonio, who has been looking for a full-time job since she  finished nursing school more than a year ago.

During her search, she found that employers  had become increasingly picky about an applicant’s qualifications in the tight  job market, often turning her away because she lacked previous nursing  experience or because she wasn’t certified in more areas.

Guerra says she now gets by doing ‘odds and  ends’ jobs such as a pastry chef, bringing in $500 to $1,000 a month, but she  says daily living can be challenging as she cares for her mother, who has  end-stage kidney disease.

‘For those trying to get ahead, there should  be some help from government or companies to boost the economy and provide  people with the necessary job training,’ says Guerra, who hasn’t ruled out  returning to college to get a business degree once her financial situation is  more stable.

‘I’m optimistic that things will start to  look up, but it’s hard,’ she continued.

Last year the average length of unemployment  for U.S. workers reached 39.5 weeks, the highest level since World War II.

The duration of unemployment has since edged  lower to 36.5 weeks based on data from January to July, still relatively high  historically.

No worries: U.S. households with an income of more than $150,000 a year have an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, a level traditionally defined as full employment 

No worries: U.S. households with an income of more than  $150,000 a year have an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, a level traditionally  defined as full employment

 

Economists call this a ‘bumping down’ or  ‘crowding out’ in the labor market, a domino effect that pushes out lower-income  workers, pushes median income downward and contributes to income inequality.

Because many mid-skill jobs are being lost to  globalization and automation, recent U.S. growth in low-wage jobs has not come  fast enough to absorb displaced workers at the bottom.

Low-wage workers are now older and better  educated than ever, with especially large jumps in those with at least some  college-level training.

‘The people at the bottom are going to be  continually squeezed, and I don’t see this ending anytime soon,’ said Harvard  economist Richard Freeman.

‘If the economy were growing enough or unions  were stronger, it would be possible for the less educated to do better and for  the lower income to improve.

‘But in our current world, where we are still  adjusting to globalization, that is not very likely to happen.’

The figures are based on an analysis of the  Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey by Sum and Northeastern University  economist Ishwar Khatiwada.

They are supplemented with material from the  Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s David Autor, an economics professor  known for his research on the disappearance of mid-skill positions.

John Schmitt, a senior economist at the  Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank, also  contributed to the paper.

Mark Rank, a professor at Washington  University in St. Louis, analyzed data on poverty.

Youth crisis: Fewer teenagers are taking on low-wage jobs as older adults pushed out of disappearing mid-skill jobs, such as bank teller or administrative assistant, move down the ladder 

Youth crisis: Fewer teenagers are taking on low-wage  jobs as older adults pushed out of disappearing mid-skill jobs, such as bank  teller or administrative assistant, move down the ladder

 

The overall rise in both the unemployment  rate and low-wage jobs due to the recent recession accounts for the record  number of people who were stuck in poverty in 2011: 46.2 million, or 15 percent  of the population.

When the Census Bureau releases new 2012  poverty figures on Tuesday, most experts believe the numbers will show only  slight improvement, if any, due to the slow pace of the recovery.

Overall, more than 16 percent of adults ages  16 and older are now ‘underutilized’ in the labor market.

That means they are unemployed,  ‘underemployed’ in part-time jobs when full-time work is desired or among the  ‘hidden unemployed’ who are not actively job hunting but express a desire for  immediate work.

Among households making less than $20,000 a  year, the share of underutilized workers jumps to about 40 percent.

For those in the $20,000-to-$39,999 category,  it’s just over 21 percent and about 15 percent for those earning $40,000 to  $59,999.

At the top of the scale, underutilization  affects just 7.2 percent of those in households earning more than  $150,000.

By race and ethnicity, black workers in  households earning less than $20,000 were the most likely to be underutilized,  at 48.4 percent.

Low-income Hispanics and whites were almost  equally as likely to be underutilized, at 38 percent and 36.8 percent,  respectively, compared to 31.8 percent for low-income  Asian-Americans.

Loss of jobs in the recent recession has hit  younger, less-educated workers especially hard.

Top of the pile: 'One part of America is in depression, while another part is in full employment,' researcher Andrew Sum added 

Top of the pile: ‘One part of America is in depression,  while another part is in full employment,’ researcher Andrew Sum added

 

Fewer teenagers are taking on low-wage jobs  as older adults pushed out of disappearing mid-skill jobs, such as bank teller  or administrative assistant, move down the ladder.

Eric Reichert, 45, of West Milford, N.J., who  holds a master’s degree in library science, is among the longer-term job  seekers.

He had hoped to find work as a legal  librarian or in a similar research position after he was laid off from a title  insurance company in 2008.

Reichert now works in a lower-wage  administrative records position, also helping to care for his 8-year-old son  while his wife works full-time at a pharmaceutical company.

‘I’m still looking, and I wish I could say  that I will find a better job, but I can no longer say that with confidence,’ he  said.

‘At this point, I’m reconsidering what I’m  going do, but it’s not like I’m 24 years old anymore,’ Reichert  added.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2421829/Employment-gap-Americas-rich-poor-widest-level-record–lowest-earners-jobless-rate-Great-Depression.html#ixzz2f7Ns7qKy Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

‘Syrian rebels take responsibility for the chemical attack admitting the weapons were provided by Saudis’ – source

 EEV: Requesting 2nd source confirmation

 

 

24.07.2012 Сирия повстанцы мятежник оппозиция война оружие боевик

Photo: EPA

In an interview with Dale Gavlak, a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and Mint Press News, Syrian rebels tacitly implied that they were responsible for last week’s chemical attack. Some information could not immediately be independently verified.

 “From numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families….many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the (deadly) gas attack,” he writes in the article.

 The rebels noted it was a result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them.

 “My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

 As Gavlak reports, Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels died in a weapons storage tunnel. The father stated the weapons were provided to rebel forces by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, describing them as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

 “They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K’. “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

 “When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

 Gavlak also refers to an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks stating that Prince Bandar threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with terror attacks at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if Russia doesn’t agree to change its stance on Syria.

 “Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” the article stated.

 “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Saudi Prince allegedly told Vladimir Putin.

 Mint Press News stated that some of the information couldn’t be independently verified and pledged to continue providing updates on this topic.

 Voice of Russia might be more credible than US government – Internet users

 Recent publication by the Voice of Russia ‘Syrian rebels take responsibility for the chemical attack admitting the weapons were provided by Saudis’ received a strong outcry among the Internet users as some of them claiming that the company’s reports are more credible than allegations against Syrian government made by US authorities.

 ‘It’s more credible than the US saying we have real evidence of Assad using them [chemical weapons]. Assad doesn’t get weapons from Saudi Arabia. They don’t have ties. The US will use any reason it can to go to war. Even if it means creating one’, writesDylanJamesCo on Reddit.

 Meanwhile, not everyone shares such this point of view.

 KoreyYrvaI writes that ‘The Voice of Russia wants us to believe that the Rebels totally were responsible for the chemical attack, and it was an accident… because Russia has been impartial throughout all of this and I don’t think America(or anyone) needs another war, but this is hardly credible’.

 But one thing unites the users: they believe the US government wants and needs another war in the Middle East.

 ‘America is just getting better at proxy wars. They have firm ties with the Saudis, and they would have no problem destabilizing Syria if it meant the US could eventually target Iran and its oil reserve’, writes NineteenEightyTwo.

 Voice of Russia, Mint Press News

Guards have to escort Chicago kids to new schools as they cross gang boundaries

  • Safe Passage program hires protection  hires for Chicago Public Schools as students cross gang  boundaries
  • No incidents of trouble reported on its  first day today
  • Parents are skeptic over whether the  program will continue to protect kids

By  Associated Press

PUBLISHED: 15:20 EST, 26  August 2013 |  UPDATED: 15:20 EST, 26 August 2013

Thousands of Chicago children whose schools  were shuttered last spring walked to new ones on the first day of school today  under the watchful eye of police officers.

They were also joined by newly hired safety  guards – there to provide protection as the kids crossed unfamiliar streets,  many of them gang boundaries.

No incidents of trouble were reported, police  said.

Chicago Police patrol the neighborhood as Crystal Stoval delivers her niece Kayla Porter from their south side home to Gresham Elementary School todayChicago Police patrol the neighborhood as Crystal Stoval  delivers her niece Kayla Porter from their south side home to Gresham Elementary  School today

A Chicago Police officer patrolling the neighborhood watches school children board a buss outside Gresham Elementary SchoolA Chicago Police officer patrolling the neighborhood  watches school children board a buss outside Gresham Elementary School

While that didn’t surprise parents and  grandparents, they said they were still concerned that the city’s obvious show  of first-day force won’t keep their children safe in the weeks and months to  come.

‘I think it’s just show-and-tell right now,’  said Annie Stovall, who walked her granddaughter, nine-year-old Kayla Porter, to  Gresham Elementary School, which is about five blocks farther from home than  Kayla’s previous South Side school.

‘Five, six weeks down the road, let’s see  what’s going to happen.’

Kathy Miller stood in front of Gresham  Elementary with her three children, waiting for a bus that would take them to  another school.

She scoffed at the Safe Passage program, in  which guards clad in neon vests line Chicago streets, saying it won’t be long  before brightly colored signs announcing the program’s routes will be riddled  with bullets.

Annie Stovall, left, walks with her daughter Crystal Stoval, right, and her granddaughter Kayla Porter to Gresham Elementary SchoolAnnie Stovall, left, walks with her daughter Crystal  Stoval, right, and her granddaughter Kayla Porter to Gresham Elementary School  in Chicago

Thousands of students will walk newly designated Safe Passage routes after Chicago Public Schools announced in May it would close about 50 schools and programsThousands of students will walk newly designated Safe  Passage routes after Chicago Public Schools announced in May it would close  about 50 schools and programs

‘Those signs don’t mean nothing,’ she  said.

The preparation and show of force shows  what’s at stake for Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school  district, after it closed almost 50 schools last spring in the hopes of  improving academic performance and saving millions of dollars.

About 12,000 of the district’s 400,000  students were affected by the closures.

For months, parents, teachers and community  activists have warned that forcing children to pass through some of the city’s  more impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods — where some already walking in  the middle of the street to avoid being ambushed by gang members — to get to  school puts them at undue risk.

Statistics suggest those concerns are valid.  An analysis of Chicago crime data by WBEZ-FM found that in 2013, there have been  133 shootings and 38 homicides in and around areas that have been newly marked  as Safe Passage routes.

Chicago Police patrol the neighborhood as children arrive at Gresham Elementary School Chicago Police patrol the neighborhood as children  arrive at Gresham Elementary School

Crystal Stoval delivers her niece Kayla Porter to Gresham Elementary School on the first day of classes Monday, Aug. 26Crystal Stoval delivers her niece Kayla Porter to  Gresham Elementary School on the first day of classes Monday, Aug. 26

And if the attention Chicago received after a  15-year-old honor student was killed about a mile from President Barack Obama’s  home in January is any indication, there is no doubt a similar media firestorm  will occur if a child is caught in gang crossfire on the way to or from  school.

One officer standing outside Gresham  Elementary summed up the pressure the police department and City Hall are under  this year, joking that children ‘better not get a splinter or we’ll all be out  of a job.’

With the hope of preventing problems, the  financially strapped city hired 600 workers at a rate of $10 an hour to  supplement a Safe Passage program that has existed since 2009, — launched the  same year a Chicago honors student’s beating death was videotaped.

Police worked with residents and CPS to map  out routes near 52 of the so-called ‘welcoming schools’ that are taking in  students from the closed schools. Along those routes, the city has put up scores  of ‘Safe Passage’ signs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also deployed city  departments to repair sidewalks, replace street lights, paint over graffiti and  board up nearly 300 abandoned buildings.

On Monday, Emanuel didn’t mention Safe  Passage, focusing instead on changes that have been made for this school year,  starting with a full day of kindergarten. But last week, he told about 1,000  people at a training session that the program is ‘about more than just building  a route to school.

Safety Guard Renee Green high-fives Demari Hill, 5, as she heads to schoolSafety Guard Renee Green high-fives Demari Hill, 5, as  she heads to school

‘It is about building a route to college,  career and beyond…’ he said.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said  Monday he was pleased with how things were going, particularly in what he saw as  evidence of community and parent involvement.

‘I’m seeing small groups of kids being walked  to school by their parents, or their older brothers or sisters,’ McCarthy told  reporters.

‘This goes to the heart of what we’ve been  talking about since I’ve been here, which is . to me, this is an opportunity.  This is true community policing.’

But crime statistics and shootings, like the  one in the Uptown neighborhood last week along a Safe Passage route, only  underline what parents say is a fact of life: Danger lurks.

‘They will ride to school for the rest of  their life, as long as I’m in Chicago,’ Jennifer Press said, explaining her  determination to keep her kids out of harm’s way and from gangs from preying on  them.

She was at Gresham Elementary to register her  four-year-old daughter there because the pre-Kindergarten class at a school  closer to her home is full.

For her part, nine-year-old Kayla professed  she wasn’t worried about all the gangs and the dangers of the streets that she’s  heard her grandmother, Annie Stovall, and other grown-ups talk about — as long  as her grandmother and aunt who walked with her to school are  nearby.

‘I’m going to be OK, as long as they’re with  me,’ she said.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2402320/Guards-escort-Chicago-kids-new-schools-cross-gang-boundaries.html#ixzz2d9HKB3jN Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

The Pre-Snowden NSA leaks – Bumblehive, Operation Thinthread, Going Dark, Stingray, Trapwire, Total Information Awarness, etc..

Editors Note ( Ralph Turchiano ) – This is a requested Re-post from 2013

The Intelligence community began to lose control prior to Snowden. The Boston Bombing event resulted in over zealous Intelligence Consultants revealing trade secrets. Then Following the AP, and Fox having their communications compromised Snowden became a well timed distraction.

Below are just some of the leaks that occurred months prior to Snowden. In my humble opinion there was an incredible disintegration of intelligence integrity many months in advance of any Wikileaks revelations. So much so, Snowdens impact was not highly relevant to the damage that was already done. If anything, it was a well timed distraction.

https://engineeringevil.com/2013/05/05/are-all-telephone-calls-recorded-and-accessible-to-the-us-government/

https://engineeringevil.com/2013/04/16/is-the-nsa-building-a-1-2billion-data-center-to-spy-on-americans-utah-desert-facility-code-named-bumblehive-will-monitor-emails-of-u-s-citizens/

https://engineeringevil.com/2012/11/14/jane-harman-and-israeli-spying-nsa-wiretap-in-2005-had-picked-up-harman-promising-a-suspected-israeli-agent-that-she-would-aid-people-indicted-for-espionage-on-behalf-of-israel/

https://engineeringevil.com/2012/09/15/nsa-whistleblower-illegal-data-collection-a-violation-of-everybodys-constitutional-rights-the-story-of-thinthread/

https://engineeringevil.com/2012/11/03/fbi-ordered-to-disclose-going-dark-surveillance-program-police-can-place-surveillance-cameras-on-private-property-without-a-search-warrant/

https://engineeringevil.com/2012/10/26/stingrays-the-biggest-technological-threat-to-cell-phone-privacy-you-dont-know-about/

https://engineeringevil.com/2012/09/27/us-rapidly-increased-electronic-surveillance/

https://engineeringevil.com/2012/09/22/speak-up-us-law-enforcement-to-use-russian-software-to-store-millions-of-voices/

https://engineeringevil.com/2013/05/24/eric-holder-personally-approved-the-seizure-of-fox-news-reporters-emails/

Woman Dies After Nurse Refuses to Do CPR / just following company policy

March 4, 2013 by Associated Press

From The Associated Press

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — A central California retirement home is defending one of its nurses who refused pleas by a 911 operator to perform CPR on an elderly woman who later died, saying the nurse was following policy.

“Is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?” dispatcher Tracey Halvorson says on a 911 tape released by the Bakersfield Fire Department aired by several media outlets on Sunday.

“Not at this time,” said the nurse, who didn’t give her full name and said facility policy prevented her from giving the woman medical help.

At the beginning of the Tuesday morning call, the nurse asked for paramedics to come and help the 87-year-old woman who had collapsed in the home’s dining room and was barely breathing.

Halvorson pleads for the nurse to perform CPR, and after several refusals she starts pleading for her to find a resident, or a gardener, or anyone not employed by the home to get on the phone, take her instructions and help the woman.

“Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady?” Halvorson says on the call. “Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her.”

The woman was later declared dead at Mercy Southwest Hospital, officials said.

The executive director of Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer, defended the nurse’s actions, saying she did indeed follow policy.

“In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives,” Toomer said in a written statement. “That is the protocol we followed.”

Toomer offered condolences to the woman’s family and said a “thorough internal review” of the incident would be conducted.

He told KGET-TV that residents of the home’s independent living community are informed of the policy and agree to it when they move in. He said the policy does not apply at the adjacent assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

A call to the facility by The Associated Press seeking more information was not immediately returned.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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US quickly approaching 3rd world status as massive poverty sets in

 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused — on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race.

Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”

“I think it’s going to get worse,” said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

“If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work,” she said. Children, she said, have “nothing better to do than to get on drugs.”

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government’s poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.

http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/23713/61/

 

Pentagon purges Osama bin Laden raid records

Posted By Associated Press On 10:59 AM  07/08/2013 In Politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. special operations commander, Adm. William McRaven, ordered military files about the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout to be purged from Defense Department computers and sent to the CIA, where they could be more easily shielded from ever being made public.

The secret move, described briefly in a draft report by the Pentagon’s inspector general, set off no alarms within the Obama administration even though it appears to have sidestepped federal rules and perhaps also the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

An acknowledgement by Adm. William McRaven of his actions was quietly removed from the final version of an inspector general’s report published weeks ago. A spokesman for the admiral declined to comment. The CIA, noting that the bin Laden mission was overseen by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta before he became defense secretary, said that the SEALs were effectively assigned to work temporarily for the CIA, which has presidential authority to conduct covert operations.

“Documents related to the raid were handled in a manner consistent with the fact that the operation was conducted under the direction of the CIA director,” agency spokesman Preston Golson said in an emailed statement. “Records of a CIA operation such as the (bin Laden) raid, which were created during the conduct of the operation by persons acting under the authority of the CIA Director, are CIA records.”

Golson said it is “absolutely false” that records were moved to the CIA to avoid the legal requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

The records transfer was part of an effort by McRaven to protect the names of the personnel involved in the raid, according to the inspector general’s draft report.

But secretly moving the records allowed the Pentagon to tell The Associated Press that it couldn’t find any documents inside the Defense Department that AP had requested more than two years ago, and would represent a new strategy for the U.S. government to shield even its most sensitive activities from public scrutiny.

“Welcome to the shell game in place of open government,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private research institute at George Washington University. “Guess which shell the records are under. If you guess the right shell, we might show them to you. It’s ridiculous.”

McRaven’s directive sent the only copies of the military’s records about its daring raid to the CIA, which has special authority to prevent the release of “operational files” in ways that can’t effectively be challenged in federal court. The Defense Department can prevent the release of its own military files, citing risks to national security, but that can be contested in court and a judge can compel it to turn over non-sensitive portions of records.

Transferring government records from one executive agency to another must be approved in writing by the National Archives and Records Administration, under the Code of Federal Regulations. There are limited circumstances when prior approval is not required, such as when the records are moved between two components of the same executive department. The CIA and Special Operations Command are not part of the same department.

The Archives was not aware of any request from the U.S. Special Operations Command to transfer its records to the CIA, spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said. She said it was the Archives’ understanding that the military records belonged to the CIA, so transferring them wouldn’t have required permission under U.S. rules.

Other rules from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff dictate that records about military operations and planning are to be considered permanent and after 25 years, following a declassification review, transferred to the National Archives.

Also, the Federal Records Act would not permit agencies “to purge records just on a whim,” said Dan Metcalfe, who oversaw the U.S. government’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act as former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy. “I don’t think there’s an exception allowing an agency to say, ‘Well, we didn’t destroy it. We just deleted it here after transmitting it over there.’ High-level officials ought to know better.”

It was not immediately clear exactly which Defense Department records were purged and transferred, when it happened or under what authority, if any, they were sent to the CIA. No government agencies the AP contacted would discuss details of the transfer.

The AP asked for files about the mission in more than 20 separate requests, mostly submitted in May 2011 — several were sent a day after President Barack Obama announced that the world’s most wanted terrorist had been killed in a firefight. Obama has pledged to make his administration the most transparent in U.S. history.

McRaven’s unusual order would have remained secret had it not been mentioned in a single sentence on the final page in the inspector general’s draft report that examined whether the Obama administration gave special access to Hollywood executives planning a film, “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the raid. The draft report was obtained and posted online last month by the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group in Washington.

McRaven described steps he took to protect the identities of the SEALs after the raid, directing that their names and photographs not be released.

“This effort included purging the combatant command’s systems of all records related to the operation and providing these records to another government agency,” according to the draft report. The sentence was dropped from the report’s final version.

Current and former Defense Department officials knowledgeable about McRaven’s directive and the inspector general’s report told AP the description of the order in the draft report is accurate. The reference to “another government agency” was code for the CIA, they said. These individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.

The Defense Department told the AP in March 2012 it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier from which he was buried at sea. The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed. It said it searched files at the Pentagon, Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and the Navy command in San Diego that controls the Carl Vinson.

The Pentagon also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid. One of the stealth helicopters that carried the SEALs in Pakistan crashed during the mission and its wreckage was left behind.

___

Associated Press writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.


Article printed from The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com

URL to article: http://dailycaller.com/2013/07/08/penatgon-purges-osama-bin-laden-raid-records/

‘I feel like a trapped animal’: U.S. executive is held HOSTAGE by staff at Beijing medical supply plant in dispute over pay

  • Chip  Starnes, 42, said he was being kept captive by scores of  workers
  • He said  they were demanding severance packages
  • The workers  were expecting wire transfers by Tuesday said Mr  Starnes

By  Jill Reilly

PUBLISHED: 07:20 EST, 24  June 2013 |  UPDATED: 07:35 EST, 24 June 2013

Hostage: 

Hostage: American Chip Starnes, co-owner of Specialty  Medical Supplies, looks out from a window in Beijing

An American executive announced today that he  has been held hostage for four days at his medical supply plant in  Beijing.

Chip Starnes, 42,  said he was being kept captive by scores of workers demanding severance packages  like those given to 30 co-workers in a phased-out department.

Mr Starnes, a co-owner of Coral Springs,  Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, said local officials had visited the  10-year-old plant on the capital’s outskirts and coerced him into signing  agreements Saturday to meet the workers’ demands even though he sought to make  clear that the remaining 100 workers weren’t being laid off.

The workers were expecting wire transfers by  Tuesday, he said, adding that about 80 of them had been blocking every exit  around the clock and depriving him of sleep by shining bright lights and banging  on windows of his office.

He declined to clarify the amount, saying he  wanted to keep it confidential.

‘I feel like a trapped animal,’ Mr Starnes  told The Associated Press on Monday from his first-floor office window, while  holding onto the window’s bars.

‘I think it’s inhumane what is going on  right now. I have been in this area for 10 years and created a lot of jobs and I  would never have thought in my wildest imagination something like this would  happen.’

Anguish:  

Anguish: ‘I feel like a trapped animal,’ Mr Starnes said  from his first-floor office window, while holding onto the window’s  bars

Workers inside the compound, a pair of  two-story buildings behind gates and hedges in the Huairou district of the  northeastern Beijing suburbs, repeatedly declined requests for comment, saying  they did not want to talk to foreign media.

 

It is not rare in China for managers to be  held by workers demanding back pay or other benefits, often from their Chinese  owners, though occasionally also involving foreign bosses.

The labor action reflects growing uneasiness  among workers about their jobs amid China’s slowing economic growth and the  sense that growing labor costs make the country less attractive for some  foreign-owned factories. The account about local officials coercing Starnes to  meet workers’ demands – if true – reflects how officials typically consider  stifling unrest to be a priority.

Huairou district and Qiaozi township  governments declined to comment.

A local police spokesman said police were at  the scene to maintain order. Four uniformed police and about a dozen other men  who declined to identify themselves were standing across the road from the  plant.

Demands: 

Demands: Mr Starnes said that dozens of workers  demanding severance packages like those given to co-workers in a phased-out  department

CaptiveCaptive: An unidentified U.S. Embassy employee, left,  and Chinese official walk outside the closed gate at Specialty Medical Supplies  plant where Chip Starnes is being held hostage

‘As far as I know, there was a labor dispute  between the workers and the company management and the dispute is being solved,’  said spokesman Zhao Lu of the Huairou Public Security Bureau.

‘I am not sure about the details of the  solution, but I can guarantee the personal safety of the  manager.’

Representatives from the U.S. Embassy stood  outside the gate much of the day, and eventually were let in. U.S. Embassy  spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said the two sides were on the verge of an agreement  and that Starnes would have access to his attorneys.

It was unclear what agreement might be  reached, and subsequent attempts to contact Starnes were not immediately  successful.

Starnes said the company had gradually been  winding down its plastics division, planning to move it to Mumbai, India. He  arrived in Beijing last Tuesday to lay off the last 30 people. Some had been  working there for up to nine years, so their compensation packages were ‘pretty  nice,’ he said.

Some of the workers in the other divisions  got wind of this, and, coupled with rumors that the whole plant was moving to  India, started demanding similar severance packages on Friday.

Christian Murck, president of the American  Chamber of Commerce in China, said he wasn’t familiar with Starnes’ case, but  that such hostage-taking was ‘not a major problem’ for the foreign business  community.

‘It happened more often say 15 years ago than  today, but it still happens from time to time,’ he said.

‘It rarely leads to personal harm to the  managers involved, but there are cases when it has in years past.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2347313/I-feel-like-trapped-animal-American-executive-claims-held-HOSTAGE-Beijing-medical-supply-plant-staff.html#ixzz2XCAFRXT0 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Feds Must Produce NSA Dragnet Records for Criminal Defense

 

By IULIA FILIP

 

FORT LAUDERDALE (CN) – Citing the NSA telephone dragnet, a federal judge ordered the United States government to deliver telephone records demanded by a man on trial for an armored car robbery in which a Brink’s employee was killed.

Terrance Brown is charged with the attempted robbery of armored cars, which culminated in the murder of a Brink’s armored truck messenger on Oct. 1, 2010. Though Brown did not kill the Brink’s employee, the government claims he was the mastermind behind the robberies.

The actual triggerman, Nathaniel Moss, pleaded guilty to several charges and is serving a life sentence. Brown and five others have pleaded not guilty, according to The Associated Press.

In light of the recently revealed National Security Agency surveillance program, Brown’s attorneys challenged the government’s claim that it has no access to records of Brown’s phone calls.

Prosecutors claimed they were missing records of calls to and from two of Brown’s telephones before Sept. 1, 2010. They claimed Brown’s service provider, MetroPCS, no longer had the records. Prosecution relied on Moss’s and other co-conspirators’ cell phone records to try to prove Brown’s involvement in the armed robberies.

But Marshall Dore Louis, the Miami attorney representing Brown, filed a motion to compel production of records, which he claims may show Brown was not involved in a July 2010 robbery attempt.

The NSA surveillance program that was exposed this month proves that the government can get data on Brown’s calls, the attorney says in his motion to compel.

On June 5, the British newspaper The Guardian published classified material leaked by Edward Snowden, a former employee at an NSA contractor. The article revealed a classified NSA surveillance program created in 2006, which has been reauthorized by Congress several times. Under the program, the government, through NSA, collects cell phone carrier data to identify potential terrorism suspects. Although the leaked court order mentions only Verizon phone records, President Obama and members of Congress have said the phone data surveillance program covers many other service providers, according to court filings.

“The government must be ordered to turn over the records for the two telephones that it attributes to Mr. Brown for the dates which are relevant to this case – the month of July of 2010,” attorney Louis wrote in the motion to compel.

The attorney claims the records are in the government’s possession, and that it is required to turn them over.

“The records are material and favorable to Mr. Brown’s defense; they are evidentiary and relevant to the issues in trial; they are not otherwise procurable by exercise of due diligence; the application is made in good faith and is not intended as a general fishing expedition; and, the records are necessary for Mr. Brown to meet the government’s evidence in this matter,” Louis wrote in the motion.

He asked the court to subpoena the NSA if it determines that the records are not within the government’s possession or control.

U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum ordered the government to respond to Brown’s motion, and said the court would determine whether Brown’s surveillance was lawfully authorized and conducted.

The U.S. attorney general may file an affidavit if he feels that disclosure or a hearing would harm national security interests, according to Judge Rosenbaum’s June 10 order. The judge gave the government two days to produce the records.

“The Court regrets the short deadline for compliance but notes that the evidence that defendant Brown seeks pertains to a trial that has been underway since May 31, 2013, and any order requiring the production of any materials sought would become meaningless if such items were not produced in sufficient time for the defense to use them in its case,” the judge wrote.

It was unclear at press time this morning whether the government has produced the records

http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/06/18/58597.htm

Obama: NSA secret data gathering ‘transparent’

By KIMBERLY DOZIER / AP Intelligence Writer / June 17, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama defended top secret National Security Agency spying programs as legal in a lengthy interview Monday, and called them transparent — even though they are authorized in secret.

‘‘It is transparent,’’ Obama told PBS’s Charlie Rose in an interview to be broadcast Monday. ‘‘That’s why we set up the FISA court,’’ he added, referring to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorizes two recently disclosed programs: one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism.

He added that he’s set up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board to help in the debate over just how far government data gathering should be allowed to go — a discussion that is complicated by the secrecy surrounding the FISA court, with hearings held at undisclosed locations and with only government lawyers present. The orders that result are all highly classified.

‘‘We’re going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place … that their phone calls aren’t being listened into; their text messages aren’t being monitored, their emails are not being read by some big brother somewhere,’’ Obama said.

A senior administration official said the president had asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to determine what more information about the two programs could be made public, to help better explain them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

Obama is in Northern Ireland for a meeting of leaders of allied countries. As Obama arrived, the latest series of Guardian articles drawing on the leaks claims that British eavesdropping agency GCHQ repeatedly hacked into foreign diplomats’ phones and emails with U.S. help, in an effort to get an edge in such high-stakes negotiations.

Obama’s announcement follows an online chat Monday by Edward Snowden, the man who leaked documents revealing the scope of the two programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers. He accused members of Congress and administration officials of exaggerating their claims about the success of the data gathering programs, including pointing to the arrest of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi in 2009.

Snowden said Zazi could have been caught with narrower, targeted surveillance programs — a point Obama conceded in his Monday interview without mentioning Snowden.

‘‘We might have caught him some other way,’’ Obama said. ‘‘We might have disrupted it because a New York cop saw he was suspicious.  Maybe he turned out to be incompetent and the bomb didn’t go off.  But, at the margins, we are increasing our chances of preventing a catastrophe like that through these programs,’’ he said.

Obama repeated earlier assertions that the programs were a legitimate counterterror tool and that they were completely noninvasive to people with no terror ties — something he hoped to discuss with the privacy and civil liberties board he’d created. The senior administration official said the president would be meeting with the new privacy board in the coming days.

‘‘I’ll be meeting with them.  And what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation, not only about these two programs, but also the general problem of data, big data sets, because this is not going to be restricted to government entities,’’ he said.

Congressional leaders have said Snowden’s disclosures have led terrorists to change their behavior, which may make them harder to stop — a charge Snowden discounted as an effort to silence him.

‘‘The U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,’’ he said. He added the government ‘‘immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home,’’ by labeling him a traitor, and indicated he would not return to the U.S. voluntarily.

Congressional leaders have accused Snowden of treason for revealing once-secret surveillance programs two weeks ago in the Guardian and The Washington Post. The National Security Agency programs collect records of millions of Americans’ telephone calls and Internet usage as a counterterror tool. The disclosures revealed the scope of the collections, which surprised many Americans and have sparked debate about how much privacy the government can take away in the name of national security.

‘‘It would be foolish to volunteer yourself to’’ possible arrest and criminal charges ‘‘if you can do more good outside of prison than in it,’’ he said.

Snowden dismissed being called a traitor by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who made the allegations in an interview this week on Fox News Sunday. Cheney was echoing the comments of both Democrats and Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, including Senate Intelligence committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein.

‘‘Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein … the better off we all are,’’ Snowden said.

The Guardian announced that its website was hosting an online chat with Snowden, in hiding in Hong Kong, with reporter Glenn Greenwald receiving and posting his questions. The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify that Snowden was the man who posted 19 replies to questions.

In answer to the question of whether he fled to Hong Kong because he was spying for China, Snowden wrote, ‘‘Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.’’

He added later, ‘‘I have had no contact with the Chinese government.’’

Snowden was working as a systems analyst contractor for NSA at the time he had access to the then-secret programs. He defended his actions and said he considered what to reveal and what not to, saying he did not reveal any U.S. operations against what he called legitimate military targets, but instead showed that the NSA is hacking civilian infrastructure like universities and private businesses.

‘‘These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash,’’ he said, though he gave no examples of what systems have crashed or in which countries.

‘‘Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries — the majority of them are our allies — but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people,’’ he said. ‘‘And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting?’’

Snowden was referring to Prism, one of the programs he disclosed. The program sweeps up Internet usage data from all over the world that goes through nine major U.S.-based Internet providers. The NSA can look at foreign usage without any warrants, and says the program doesn’t target Americans.

Snowden explained his claim that from his desk, he could ‘‘wiretap’’ any phone call or email — a claim top intelligence officials have denied. ‘‘If an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc. analyst has access to query raw SIGINT (signals intelligence) databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want,’’ he wrote in the answer posted on the Guardian site. ‘‘Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on — it’s all the same.’’

The NSA did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. But DNI Clapper has said that the kind of data that can be accessed and who can access it is severely limited.

___

On the Web:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/edward-snowden-nsa-files-whistleblower#start-of-comments

Follow Dozier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberlydozier

US officials found to be using secret government email accounts

AP investigation finds some agency chiefs relying on secondary private accounts, complicating attempts at record-keeping

 

Associated Press in Washington

guardian.co.uk,  Tuesday 4 June 2013 10.57 EDT

obama appointees email

Google can’t find any reference on the internet to the secret address for HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Some of President Barack Obama‘s political appointees, including the secretary for health and human services, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by the Associated Press.

The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: most US agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1m for its email addresses.

The AP asked for the addresses following last year’s disclosures that the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had used separate email accounts at work. The practice is separate from officials who use personal, non-government email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged – but often happens anyway – due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved.

The secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions.

“What happens when that person doesn’t work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request [to review emails] in two years,” said Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, an open government group. “Who’s going to know to search the other accounts? You would hope that agencies doing this would keep a list of aliases in a desk drawer, but you know that isn’t happening.”

Agencies where the AP so far has identified secret addresses, including the Labor Department and HHS, said maintaining non-public email accounts allows senior officials to keep separate their internal messages with agency employees from emails they exchange with the public. They also said public and non-public accounts are always searched in response to official requests and the records are provided as necessary.

The AP couldn’t independently verify the practice. It searched hundreds of pages of government emails previously released under the open records law and found only one instance of a published email with a secret address: an email from Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio to 34 coworkers in 2010 was turned over to an advocacy group, Americans for Limited Government. It included as one recipient the non-public address for Seth D Harris, currently the acting labor secretary, who maintains at least three separate email accounts.

Google can’t find any reference on the Internet to the secret address for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Congressional oversight committees told the AP they were unfamiliar with the non-public government addresses identified so far by the AP.

Ten agencies have not yet turned over lists of email addresses, including the Environmental Protection Agency; the Pentagon; and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce and Agriculture. All have said they are working on a response to the AP.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz declined to comment.

A Treasury Department spokeswoman, Marissa Hopkins Secreto, referred inquiries to the agency’s Foia office, which said its technology department was still searching for the email addresses. Other departments, including Homeland Security, did not respond to questions from the AP about the delays of nearly three months. The Pentagon said it may have an answer by later this summer.

The Health and Human Services Department initially turned over to the AP the email addresses for roughly 240 appointees – except none of the email accounts for Sebelius, even one for her already published on its website. After the AP objected, it turned over three of Sebelius’ email addresses, including a secret one. It asked the AP not to publish the address, which it said she used to conduct day-to-day business at the department. Most of the 240 political appointees at HHS appeared to be using only public government accounts.

The AP decided to publish the secret address for Sebelius – KGS2@hhs.gov – over the government’s objections because the secretary is a high-ranking civil servant who oversees not only major agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but also the implementation of Obama’s signature healthcare law. Her public email address is Kathleen.Sebelius@hhs.gov.

At least two other senior HHS officials – including Donald Berwick, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Gary Cohen, a deputy administrator in charge of implementing health insurance reform – also have secret government email addresses, according to the records obtained by the AP.

Ken Salazar will step down as interior secretary in March

A spokeswoman said ex-interior secretary Ken Salazar maintained only one email address while serving as secretary, but she would not disclose it. Photograph: Jeff Haynes/ReutersThe Interior Department gave the AP a list of about 100 government email addresses for political appointees who work there but none for the interior secretary at the time, Ken Salazar, who has since resigned. Spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said Salazar maintained only one email address while serving as secretary but she would not disclose it. She said the AP should ask for it under the Freedom of Information Act, which would take months longer.

The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay just over $1.03m when the AP asked for email addresses of political appointees there. It said it needed pull 2,236 computer backup tapes from its archives and pay 50 people to pore over old records. Those costs included three weeks to identify tapes and ship them to a vendor, and pay each person $2,500 for nearly a month’s work. But under the department’s own FOIA rules – which it cited in its letter to the AP – it is prohibited from charging news organizations any costs except for photocopies after the first 100 pages. The department said it would take 14 weeks to find the emails if the AP had paid the money.

Fillichio later acknowledged that the $1.03m bill was a mistake and provided the AP with email addresses for the agency’s Senate-confirmed appointees, including three addresses for Harris, the acting secretary. His secret address was harris.sd@dol.gov. His other accounts were one for use with labor employees and the public, and another to send mass emails to the entire Labor Department, outside groups and the public. The Labor Department said it did not object to the AP publishing any of Harris’ email addresses.

In addition to the email addresses, the AP also sought records government-wide about decisions to create separate email accounts. But the FOIA director at HHS, Robert Eckert, said the agency couldn’t provide such emails without undergoing “an extensive and elongated department-wide search.” He also said there were “no mechanisms in place to determine if such requests for the creation of secondary email accounts were submitted by the approximately 242 political appointees within HHS.”

Congress investigating secret account at EPA

Late last year, the EPA’s critics – including Republicans in Congress – accused former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson of using an email account under the name “Richard Windsor” to sidestep disclosure rules. The EPA said emails Jackson sent using her Windsor alias were turned over under open records requests. The agency’s inspector general is investigating the use of such accounts, after being asked to do so by Congress.

An EPA spokeswoman described Jackson’s alternate email address as “an everyday, working email account of the administrator to communicate with staff and other government officials.” It was later determined that Jackson also used the email address to correspond sometimes with environmentalists outside government and at least in some cases did not correct a misperception among outsiders they were corresponding with a government employee named Richard Windsor.

Although the EPA’s inspector general is investigating the agency’s use of secret email accounts, it is not reviewing whether emails from Jackson’s secret account were released as required under the Freedom of Information Act.

The EPA’s secret email accounts were revealed last fall by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington thinktank that was tipped off about Jackson’s alias by an insider and later noticed it in documents it obtained under the Foia. The EPA said its policy was to disclose in such documents that “Richard Windsor” was actually the EPA administrator.

Courts have consistently set a high bar for the government to withhold public officials’ records under the federal privacy rules. A federal judge, Marilyn Hall Patel of California, said in August 2010 that “persons who have placed themselves in the public light” – such as through politics or voluntarily participation in the public arena – have a “significantly diminished privacy interest than others.” Her ruling was part of a case in which a journalist sought FBI records, but was denied.

“We’re talking about an email address, and an email address given to an individual by the government to conduct official business is not private,” said Aaron Mackey, a Foia attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He said that’s different than, for example, confidential information, such as a Social Security number.

Under the law, citizens and foreigners may use the Foia to compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas.

Obama pledged during his first week in office to make government more transparent and open. The nation’s signature open-records law, he said in a memo to his Cabinet, would be “administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/04/us-officials-secret-email-accounts?guni=Network front:network-front main-3 Main trailblock:Network front – main trailblock:Position15

 

Obama’s top appointees use secret email accounts – AP

 

 

Published time: June 04, 2013 16:04

Reuters / Kacper Pempel / Files

 

Human rights, Internet, Obama, Scandal, Security, USA

Some of US President Barack Obama’s high-ranked political appointees are using secret government email accounts, which they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages and spam.

The scale of secret email use across the government remains unknown, as most US agencies have failed to provide lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which AP requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) over three months ago.

The news agency asked for the addresses after it was revealed last year that a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had used separate email accounts during her work, including a secret one under the name ‘Richard Windsor.’

The secret accounts raise suspicions that government officials are trying to hide their actions or decisions from the general public, AP wrote in its report. They also complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to relevant requests – an employees assigned to fulfill such requests may not know of a secret account’s existence.

“What happens when that person doesn’t work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request [to review emails] in two years,” Kel McClanahan, executive director of government transparency watchdog National Security Counselors told AP. “Who’s going to know to search the other accounts? You would hope that agencies doing this would keep a list of aliases in a desk drawer, but you know that isn’t happening.”

The agencies revealed to have used secret addresses, including the Labor Department and Health and Human Services, explained that maintaining non-public email accounts allows senior officials to separate their internal messages with agency employees from emails they exchange with the public. They also assured that, as with public emails, non-public accounts are always searched in response to official requests, and records are provided as necessary.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP)

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP)

According to AP, at least three senior officials at Health and Human Services have secret accounts, including Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Despite objections from the government, AP revealed Sebelius’ non-public address – KGS2(at)hhs.gov – due to the secretary being a high-ranking civil servant who oversees the implementation of Obama’s signature healthcare law.

The Labor Department initially asked AP to pay over $1 million to cover the costs of recovering the requested data, contradicting the agency’s own rules that prohibit it from charging news organizations.

Labor Department spokesperson Carl Fillichio later apologized and provided journalists with email addresses for the agency’s Senate-confirmed appointees, including the secret addresses for Acting Secretary Seth D. Harris – harris.sd(at)dol.gov.

Ten US government agencies have not yet turned over lists of their email addresses to AP, saying they are still working on a response. These include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce and Agriculture.

Aaron Mackey, an FOIA attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, stated that “an email address given to an individual by the government to conduct official business is not private,” and cannot be labeled confidential information.

The Freedom of Information Act allows both US citizens and foreigners to compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for free, as long as the disclosure does not threaten national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets.

In his first week in office, President Obama pledged to make the US government more open and transparent, saying in a memo to his Cabinet that the nation’s signature open-records law would be “administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

Tiananmen Square online searches censored by Chinese authorities

Banned search terms include ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’ and date references in attempt to quell protest

in Beijing

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 4 June 2013 08.55 EDT

Yellow rubber duck

Twitter image mocking Chinese censorship of Tiananmen Square, adapted from AP’s 1989 photograph (the search term ‘Big Yellow Duck’ is banned). Photograph: Twitter/weibo.com/weibolg

It takes a very significant date for the word “today” to be deemed too sensitive to mention. But 24 years after the Chinese government’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, “today” is part of a long list of search terms that have been censored on Sina Weibo, the country’s most popular microblog.

Other banned words include “tomorrow,” “that year,” “special day,” and many number combinations that could refer to 4 June 1989, such as 6-4, 64, 63+1, 65-1, and 35 (shorthand for May 35th).

Chinese Communist party authorities, fearing a threat to their legitimacy, forbid open discussion of the so-called “June 4th incident” in the country’s media and on its internet. Yet internet users have reacted by using ever-more oblique references to commemorate the tragedy, treating censors to an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse.

Many of their posts have been embedded in pictures, which can often elude automatic detection: a girl with her hand over her mouth; a Lego man facing down three green Lego tanks; the iconic “tank man” picture with its tanks photoshopped into four giant rubber ducks, a reference to a well-known art installation in Hong Kong’s Victoria harbour.

Most of these pictures, too, have since been scrubbed clean. By Tuesday afternoon, the term “big yellow duck” had also been blocked.

AP tank man Tiananmen Square

  Monday, June 5, 1989: a Chinese man blocks a line of tanks on Beijing’s Cangan Boulevard in Tiananmen Square. He was pulled away by bystanders. Photograph: Jeff Widener/Associated PressOfficially, the Chinese government considers the Tiananmen protest a “counter-revolutionary rebellion,” and its subsequent crackdown – the declaration of martial law, troops firing indiscriminately at unarmed demonstrators – as necessary for maintaining social stability. Many one-time protesters have since been consigned to the margins of Chinese society. Some have spent long stints in jail; others have fled the country. A large number still face regular harassment by security agents.

On Tuesday, Beijing was both overcast and smoggy, the noon sky as dark as early evening. Volunteer guards with red armbands were stationed every 100 meters on Chang’an Avenue, a broad boulevard which runs past Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city. A group of Hong Kong journalists were briefly detained for filming at an early morning flag-raising ceremony in the historic square and were forced to delete their footage.

Lego tanks

A Lego version of AP’s photo of a man blocking tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests on 4 June 1989. Photograph: Twitter/weibo.com/weibolgOn Saturday, China‘s foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, censured US calls to provide a full account of the crackdown, calling them “political prejudice”. He warned Washington not to make “groundless accusations” and to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs“.

Last week, Sina Weibo appeared to have rolled out a new censorship function – searches for “Tiananmen incident” and “six-four incident” were not blocked, but instead pulled up posts about other historical events, such as a 1976 demonstration in Tiananmen Square mourning the death of Premier Zhou Enlai. Yet as of Monday, searches resulted in the regular message: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results for ‘six-four incident’ cannot be displayed.”

Many prominent intellectuals and celebrities on Sina Weibo have simply taken the day off from posting in an act of quiet protest. One appears to be the prominent film-maker Jia Zhanke. “Don’t worry about forgetfulness – at least the Sina censors remember,” he wrote on 3 June, according to the blog Tea Leaf Nation. The post has since been deleted.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/04/tiananmen-square-online-search-censored

 

Top Democratic spokesman causes Twitter explosion with complaint about news organizations boycotting ‘off the record’ briefing with US attorney general

  • ‘Some in the media refuse to meet with’ Eric  Holder, wrote top DNC flack Brad Woodhouse. ‘Kind of forfeits your right [to]  gripe.’
  • The DO staff ‘can just find how [reporters]  feel via subpoenaed email and phone records,’ snarked one Buzzfeed  journalist
  • ‘Jesus, Brad,’ came a reply from Politico’s  top media reporter
  • ‘Notice how people on both sides of the  aisle are pointing out how dumb that is?’ wrote a Daily Caller  blogger.

By  David Martosko In Washington

PUBLISHED: 21:07 EST, 30 May  2013 |  UPDATED: 08:37  EST, 31 May 2013

The U.S. Department of Justice has offered  major news organizations a chance to sit down with Eric Holder, the embattled  attorney general, for a briefing a Q-and-A session about his agency’s intrusive  surveillance of reporters, but there is one catch: The entire session must be  ‘off the record,’ meaning reporters couldn’t write anything at all about  it.

Most of the media outlets invited to the  meeting have announced that they’re boycotting it, including the Associated  Press and Fox News – the two whose phone records and emails were secretly seized  as part of DOJ investigations into national security leaks. And Brad Woodhouse,  the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, is  angry.

He tweeted Thursday that President Barack  Obama asked Holder ‘to review how leak investigations are done but some in the  media refuse to meet with him.’

That, Woodhouse said, ‘[k]ind of forfeits  your right [to] gripe.’

Cue the outrage, which came equally from  journalists on the political right and left.

Brad Woodhouse, the Americans United for Change spokesman who now flacks for the Democratic National Committee, didn't make any friends in the media on Thursday

 

Brad Woodhouse, the Americans United for Change  spokesman who now flacks for the Democratic National Committee, didn’t make any  friends in the media on Thursday

 

Woodhouse slammed the AP, Fox News, the NY Times, the Huffington Post and other news outlets that refused to attend an 'off the record' briefing with Eric Holder, the embattled attorney general 

Woodhouse started the fracas by slamming the Associated  Press, Fox News, the New York Times, the Huffington Post and other news outlets  that refused to attend an ‘off the record’ briefing with Eric Holder, the  embattled attorney general

Don Surber, an editorial writer at The Daily  Mail – not this news organization’s print edition in London, but a daily  newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia – snarked in a tweeted reply that  ‘forfeits your right’ is ‘the motto of this administration.’

‘Oh, and Brad Woodhouse,’ Surber followed up  in a later tweet, ‘your rights come from God. You cannot forfeit  them.’

 

Politico media reporter Dylan Byers was more  succinct. ‘Jesus, Brad,’ he tweeted.

Gregg Keller, the executive director of the  American Conservative Union, seemed to take joy in seeing the left-leaning  Politico cross swords with the Democratic Party. His tweeted response consisted  of one long guffaw: ‘HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.’

Byers’ news organization is among a list of  very few that have said they will meet with the attorney general on his terms.  Others include ABC News, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the  LA Times and Chicago Tribune, which share a Washington bureau chief in  common.

Politico's Dylan Byers, who reports on the media, is on a first-name basis with the top Democratic communicator but didn't like what he heard 

Politico’s Dylan Byers, who reports on the media, is on  a first-name basis with the top Democratic communicator but didn’t like what he  heard

Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski slapped back, referring to the Department of Justice's now-scandalous seizure of phone records and emails from AP and Fox News journalists 

Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski slapped back, referring to  the Department of Justice’s now-scandalous seizure of phone records and emails  from AP and Fox News journalists

 

 

'TV's Andy Levy,' as he's introduced each night on the Fox News program 'Red Eye,' took a break from his daily yuk-fest to launch a serious barb in Woodhouse's direction 

‘TV’s Andy Levy,’ as he’s introduced each night on the  Fox News program ‘Red Eye,’ took a break from his daily yuk-fest to launch a  serious barb in Woodhouse’s direction

CNN, CBS News, Reuters, McClatchy,  The New York Times and The Huffington Pot  have joined Fox News and The Associated Press in refusing to attend.

The Washington Post’s agreement to meet with  Holder has raised eyebrows in the nation’s capital, but Post executive editor  Marty Baron defended his decision on his newspaper’s media blog.

‘I prefer that any meeting be on the record,’  Baron said. But ‘journalists routinely participate in off-the-record sessions,  whether they prefer those conditions or not, and then continue to report on  events.

‘I am going to this meeting in order to  represent our interests as journalists and to raise our concerns. I’ll also  listen to what the Attorney General has to say. I trust that our journalists  will report on this as vigorously as they would any other  subject.

Ron Fournier, the editorial director at National Journal and a respected voice inside the DC beltway, took isdue with how Woodhouse suggested government should balance the press's First Amendment protections with national security issues 

Ron Fournier, the editorial director at National Journal  and a respected voice inside the DC beltway, took isdue with how Woodhouse  suggested government should balance the press’s First Amendment protections with  national security issues

 

Is Woodhouse right? Journalists do meet with sources for 'off the record' conversations all the time ... 

Is Woodhouse right? Journalists do meet with sources for  ‘off the record’ conversations all the time …

 

There's the rub: Reporters set the terms. Sources can't force journalists to listen -- something he thinks an experienced political spokesman should know 

There’s the rub: Reporters set the terms. Sources can’t  force journalists to listen — something he thinks an experienced political  spokesman should know

Andrew Kaczynski, a BuzzFeed Politics  journalist who is a widely acknowledged master of reporting on political  archival videos, connected the DOJ’s request for secret meetings with its  equally secretive snooping on the AP and Fox News.

If Holder and his staff want reactions from  journalists, he tweeted, ‘I suppose they can just find how they feel via  subpoenaed email and phone records.’

The Daily Caller’s house blogger, Sean  Medlock – a conservative humorist  who writes under the pseudonym ‘Jim  Treacher,’ was quick to pour salt in Woodhouse’s wounds.

‘Notice how people on both sides of the aisle  are pointing out how dumb that is?’ he wrote. ‘You must be doing all kinds of  things right.’

 

Conservative partisans aplenty complemented journalists from left-leaning outlets like Politico and Buzzfeed. Surber is an editorial writer for that 'other' Daily Mail, the newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia 

Conservative partisans aplenty complemented journalists  from left-leaning outlets like Politico and Buzzfeed. Surber is an editorial  writer for that ‘other’ Daily Mail, the newspaper in Charleston, West  Virginia

Josh Earnest, the White House’s principal  deputy press secretary, took questions from reporters aboard Air Force One on  Thursday, and the topic quickly turned to Holder’s attempted charm offensive  aimed at journalists.

‘You can understand that a meeting about  concerns journalists have about the First Amendment being off the record is sort  of on its face hypocritical, don’t you?’ asked one reporter, according to the  White House’s transcript.

‘No,’ Earnest replied. ‘I don’t actually see  that. … I don’t think there’s any doubting the seriousness with which the  attorney general is pursuing what he has identified and what the president has  identified as a genuine priority. And we are genuinely interested in the input,  the opinion, the advice, the expertise of leaders of prominent media  organizations.’

‘Is the President at all concerned that  Holder is just under so much scrutiny at this point that it might affect his  ability to get his job done?’ the reporter pressed Earnest?

‘Not in the least,’ came his  reply.

New York Post columnist and Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz sniped at the Democratic spokesman's tweet-grammar, among other thigns 

New York Post columnist and Commentary magazine editor  John Podhoretz sniped at the Democratic spokesman’s tweet-grammar, among other  thigns

 

The AIDS Policy Project took issue with Woodhouse and hat-tipped the New York Times for being among the first to show 'some spine' in turning the administration down flat 

The AIDS Policy Project took issue with Woodhouse and  hat-tipped the New York Times for being among the first to show ‘some spine’ in  turning the administration down flat

But reporters themselves – those who tweet,  in any event – saw the White House as hypocritical and Woodhouse as  foolish.

‘Wow,’ Fox News personality Andy Levy, a  co-star of the nightly show Red Eye, tweeted at Woodhouse. ‘It’s hard to believe  Americans are cynical about politics with people like you around.’

National Journal editorial editor director  Ron Fournier, a former Associated Press bureau chief in Washington, checked his  sarcasm at the door and engaged Woodhouse seriously.

‘The balance between security/liberty  deserves better than your spin,’ he wrote.

There’s ‘lot of spin on both sides, Woodhouse  wrote, in the his only tweeted reply to a reporter. ‘Are journos not going  saying they never meet with subjects off the record? Happens  everyday.’

‘On our terms,’ Fournier snapped. ‘Not the  government’s.’

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'Jim Treacher,' The Daily Caller's pseudonymous in-house humor blogger, noted the bi-artisan tsunami and kicked Woodhouse while he was down 

‘Jim Treacher,’ The Daily Caller’s pseudonymous in-house  humor blogger, noted the bi-artisan tsunami and kicked Woodhouse while he was  down. his Twitter avatar is a nod to President Obama’s autobiographical  confession that he once ate dog meat while growing up

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2333676/Top-Democratic-spokesman-causes-Twitter-explosion-complaint-news-organizations-boycotting-record-briefing-US-attorney-general.html#ixzz2UsrfrLAP Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

‘I sent him to his death:’ Father of Ibragim Todashev speaks out as friends mourn victims of 2011 triple murder ‘that Todashev confessed to’

  • Ibragim Todashev, 27, was shot dead by an  FBI agent Wednesday after he reportedly turned violent during  questioning
  • He had allegedly confessed to the FBI that  he had played a role in a triple slaying in the Boston area in 2011
  • His father says he sent his son to the U.S. to escape war-torn Chechnya and that he had bonded with Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev
  • Son planned to visit Chechnya this week but  FBI made him delay trip
  • Todashev’s estranged wife denied husband’s  involvement in 2011 murders, but noted that he did travel back to Boston in  the  summer of that year

By  Hayley Peterson and Associated Press Reporter

PUBLISHED: 08:47 EST, 23 May  2013 |  UPDATED: 12:45  EST, 23 May 2013

 

Deceased: Ibragim Todashev was fatally shot by an FBI agent just after midnight on Wednesday 

Deceased: Ibragim Todashev was fatally shot by an FBI  agent just after midnight on Wednesday

The father of a Chechen immigrant shot dead  by U.S. law enforcement agents while being questioned about his ties to a Boston  Marathon bombings suspect said Thursday that he regrets allowing his son to go  to the United States.

Ibragim Todashev, 27, was a mixed martial  arts fighter who had trained with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Boston, and his father  said they had bonded because of their shared interests and heritage as Chechens  from southern Russia. Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shootout with police days  after the April 15 terrorist attack.

Todashev was killed Wednesday after an  altercation with an FBI agent during a meeting with the agent and two  Massachusetts state troopers at his home in central Florida. Law enforcement  officers say that during the meeting, he had implicated himself in a unsolved  2011 triple slaying.

Todashev’s father, Abdul-Baki  Todashev, said he was worried that with  his son was dead, the FBI could now pin any crime on him.

‘Out of fear of the lawlessness in  Chechnya,  I sent him to the U.S., because it seemed like the safest  country at the time,’  the distraught father told the Associated Press. ‘Now I’m thinking  about how to  bring home his body. As it turns out I sent him to his  death.’

He said his son, who has a previous arrest  for aggravated battery after he left a man unconscious following a fight over a  park spot, is ‘not capable’ of killing anyone.

‘There is a clear picture emerging that this  is all fabricated,’ Todashev told the Boston  Globe. ‘They killed my son and then  they made up a reason to explain it.’

Friends and family members of the 2011 murder  victims reacted to news of Todashev’s alleged confession on social media.

On a Facebook memorial for victim  Raphael  Teken, the moderator of the page wrote, ‘Whether we ever know exactly what  happened, there is one thing we surely know and that is that Rafi  deserved a  much better fate.

 

Confession: Todashev had allegedly admitted to being involved in a 2011 slaying and that he was preparing to sign a written statement based on his confession when he turned violent and was subsequently shot dead 

Confession: Todashev had allegedly admitted to being  involved in a 2011 slaying and that he was preparing to sign a written statement  based on his confession when he turned violent and was subsequently shot  dead

The FBI had questioned Todashev in the past regarding his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev (pictured)The FBI had questioned Todashev in the past regarding his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev (pictured) who was killed by police in shootout following the April 15 bombings

The FBI had questioned Todashev in the past  regarding  his ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev (right). Tsarnaev’s younger  brother, Dzhokhar,  (left), has been charged in connection with the  bombings

Investigation: An FBI evidence response team enters an apartment after an FBI agent shot and killed a man who was questioned in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings

 

Investigation: An FBI evidence response team enters an  apartment after an FBI agent shot and killed a man who was questioned in  connection with the Boston Marathon bombings

 

VIDEO  COURTESY OF RUSSIA  TODAY.

‘He was funny, kind, joyful and  generous,’  the message continued. ‘All of us that knew him knew [his death] couldn’t have  been about anything he did, but  are now horrified by what it may have been  about.’

Facebook user Tony Porter wrote, ‘I’m  disappointed that we will never really get to experience true justice for our  friend or know the reasons for what  happened despite the fact that both alleged  suspects are now deceased.

‘I don’t know how you are supposed to feel  when your friend’s killer gets  killed, but I don’t feel “relieved” like I  thought I would.’

 

Moderators of a Facebook memorial for victim  Erik Weissman wrote, ‘Hoping for some closure’ and posted a  photo of him with  the caption, ‘Forever young, forever beautiful,  forever in our  hearts.’

A friend who said he went to high  school  with Weissman commented, ‘That playful grin is the Erik that will live on in my  memory… Let’s hope [this] represents at least a small  step towards some kind  of “closure” – if that even exits – for his  nearest and dearest.’

Todashev’s estranged wife, Reniya Manukyan,  denied her husband’s alleged involvement in the 2011 triple slayings, but she  noted that he did travel back to Boston in the summer of that year.

He ‘had nothing to hide,’ she told ABC  News. ‘He wasn’t involved.  So  he was not even nervous [to talk with the FBI].’

Manukyan and her husband separated in  November. She said they lived in Atlanta before moving to Orlando in late 2011.

She also said that agents had questioned her  several times and even stopped her at the airport when she returned from a trip  to Chechnya several weeks after the Boston bombings.

Ibragim Todashev is pictured in 2009 with injuries from boxing at the Massachusetts gym where Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev trained 

Ibragim Todashev is pictured in 2009 with injuries from  boxing at the Massachusetts gym where Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev  trained

Abdul-Baki Todashev said his son – the second of 12 children – was at university when he  got an  opportunity to go to the United States to study English about  five or six years  ago. He said he later agreed to his son’s request to  remain in the U.S.  ‘because it seemed like the safest country.’

Chechnya has been ravaged by two wars between  separatist fighters and Russian federal troops since 1994, and  remains troubled  by periodic outbreaks of violence. The family’s  red-brick house on the  outskirts of Grozny, the Chechen capital, still  bears the marks of  shrapnel.

The elder Todashev said his son gave  up  martial arts because of an injury and later held a number of jobs,  including as  a driver at a retirement home, before moving to Florida  within the last year.  His father said his son had planned to come to  Chechnya this week to visit his  extended family, but was asked by the  FBI to delay his trip.

Abdul-Baki Todashev said he had learned  of  his son’s death from a phone call from one of his son’s friends, who  also had  been questioned by the FBI. He said the friend, whom he didn’t  name, told him  that both of them had been pressured to confess to the  murders, but that they  were innocent.

Victim: Tamerlan's best friend, Brendan Mess, had his throat slit in an attack in September 2011 

Victim: Brendan Mess was one of three victims in a  triple slaying that Todashev allegedly confessed to

The FBI gave no details on why it was  interested in Ibragim Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as  part of the Boston  investigation. However, two officials briefed on the  investigation said  he had implicated himself as having been involved in a 2011  triple-slaying in a Boston suburb; investigators now suspect that  Tsarnaev may  have been involved in the unsolved crime.

Law enforcement officials believe, partly  based on Todashev’s alleged confession, that Todashev and Tsarnaev carried out the 2011  killings after a drug deal turned violent. The  suspects didn’t want the three victims to be able to identify them, so they slit their throats, sources told  NBC.

Authorities had gone to Todashev’s home late  Tuesday with evidence suggesting that  Todashev, 26-year-old Tsarnaev, and  Tsarnaev’s younger brother,  Dzhokhar, were involved in the 2011 killings,  according to reports.

No suspects had been arrested in that case,  in which three men were found  in an apartment in Waltham, Mass. on the tenth  anniversary of the Sept.  11, 2001 terror attacks with their throats cut and  marijuana covering  their bodies.

Massachusetts investigators had reported  earlier this month that they were uncovering ‘mounting evidence’ that  Tsarnaev  and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, were involved in the  slaying. One of the  victims, Brendan Mess, was a close friend of  Tamerlan’s.

Authorities said they have no reason to  believe that Todashev had any involvement in the marathon bombings.

The FBI has been  investigating Todashev for  the last month, questioning him several times regarding his ties to Tamerlan  Tsarnaev, who was killed by  police in a shootout following the deadly April 15  marathon bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19,  has been charged in connection with the bombings  and is being held at a prison  medical center outside Boston.

Raphael Teken (left with friend) was one of three people along with Erik Weissman (right) and Brendan Mess who were murdered in a Boston apartment in September 2011Raphael Teken (left with friend) was one of three people along with Erik Weissman (right) and Brendan Mess who were murdered in a Boston apartment in September 2011

Murdered: Raphael Teken (left with a friend) and Erik  Weissman (right) were also killed in the 2011 triple slaying

 

Khusen Taramov, a friend of  Todashev’s,  confirmed that Todashev and Tsarnaev knew each other. He  said they had been in  contact via phone or Skype about a week before the bombings.

In an interview with Orlando television  station WESH,  Taramov said that the two met while Todashev was living in Boston because  they  were both involved in mixed martial arts and boxing.

Todashev ‘wasn’t like real close friends  [with Tsarnaev], but he just happened  to know him,’ Taramov said. ‘But he had  no idea that they were up to  something like that, like bombings and everything,  you know what I  mean?’

Taramov says the FBI has been  following him  and Todashev since the bombings. He said that they were  both being interviewed  by agents late Tuesday before Todashev was killed.

Todashev was arrested in an unrelated  incident on May 4 for aggravated battery  after he left a man unconscious in the  parking lot of a shopping mall.

According to the arrest affidavit, Todashev  had gotten into an altercation with a man and his son over parking space.

Todashev told police that the man  ‘got into  his face’ so he pushed him and then the man’s son ‘got  involved’ and Todashev  began fighting him.

Todashev met Tsarnaev while he was living in Boston because they were both involved in mixed martial arts and boxing 

Todashev met Tsarnaev while he was living in Boston  because they were both involved in mixed martial arts and boxing

Blasts: Explosions have ripped through the spectator area near the finish line at the Boston MarathonBlasts: The April 15 explosions near the finish line of  the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured more than 240

‘Todashev said he was only fighting to  protect his knee because he had surgery in March,’ the affidavit  states.

A mall security officer arrived on scene to  find the son unconscious and lying in a pool of blood on the ground just as  Todashev was pulling away in a white Mercedes.

The officer chased down the Mercedes, ordered  Todashev out at gunpoint and arrested him.

The son was later treated at a hospital with  a split upper lip, several teeth knocked out and head injuries.

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2329629/Ibragim-Todashev-I-sent-death-Father-Chechen-immigrant-shot-dead-FBI-regrets-sending-U-S-fears-blamed-crimes-didnt-commit.html#ixzz2U9E2Xg70 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Commander of Army base in South Carolina suspended after ‘fighting with his mistress’

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 19:39 EST, 21 May  2013 |  UPDATED: 19:41  EST, 21 May 2013

 

The commanding officer of a South Carolina  army base was suspended after he got into a fight with a woman he is thought to  be his mistress.

Brigadier General Bryan T. Roberts was  suspended on Tuesday as he faces allegations of adultery and involvement in a  physical altercation.

The Army would not release any further  information about the alleged incident, but they have taken action to move past  it by already naming a new commanding general.

Brass: Brigadier General Bryan T. Roberts was suspended for getting into a physical altercation with a woman who was not his wife 

Brass: Brigadier General Bryan T. Roberts was suspended  for getting into a physical altercation with a woman who was not his  wife

Local station WLTX  reported that Brigadier General Peggy  Combs has been named as interim commander while the investigation into Brig.  Gen. Roberts continues.

He had been the head of the 60,000-person  base since 2012 and The Associated Press reports that he has 29 years of Army  experience behind him.

 

Among his most prestigious positions included  the commanding posts at Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Knox in Kentucky.

He served three tours of duty in Iraq and,  once back in the United States, he was the director of Iraq training and  advisory teams.

High post: Roberts has been the commanding officer of Fort Jackson in South Carolina since 2012 

High post: Roberts has been the commanding officer of  Fort Jackson in South Carolina since 2012

 

Experienced: Roberts previously served three tours in Iraq and was the commanding officer at Fort Knox and Fort Hood before coming to Fort Jackson

Experienced: Roberts previously served three tours in  Iraq and was the commanding officer at Fort Knox and Fort Hood before coming to  Fort Jackson

The suspension is the latest in a series of  scandals involving senior military officers in recent months.

Just last week Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, a  member of the Army group assigned to help prevent sexual assaults, was the focus  of his own investigation after allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot.

The frequency and widespread nature of such  instances has roiled the Pentagon and been condemned by President Barack Obama  as ‘shameful and disgraceful’.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2328802/Bryan-T-Roberts-Commander-Army-base-suspended-fighting-mistress.html#ixzz2Tzvox5zv Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Obama administration knew IRS was harassing tea party groups since JUNE

Revealed: Obama administration knew about investigation into claims that IRS  was harassing tea party groups since June 2012 as ousted head of the agency  insists it was not illegal

  • Appointee in charge of screening tax-exempt  applications is now in charge of implementing new Obamacare taxes
  • Ousted Steven Miller defends himself,  insists that targeting of conservatives was ‘foolish mistakes,’ not political  gamesmanship
  • May 10 leak that launched the scandal was  ‘prepared,’ Miller acknowledges
  • Former IRS commissioner testified last year  that there was ‘absolutely no targeting’ going on
  • Democrats on the panel blame 2010 ‘Citizens  United’ Supreme Court ruling for creating a flood of tax-exemption applications  during an election year

By  David Martosko In Washington and Associated Press Reporter

PUBLISHED: 07:59 EST, 18 May  2013 |  UPDATED: 08:00  EST, 18 May 2013

 

Obama administration officials were made  aware in June 2012 about an investigation into complaints from conservative tea  party groups that they were being harassed, and they knew the probe was ongoing  at the height of the presidential race, a Treasury inspector general revealed  Friday.

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector  general for tax administration, testified alongside ousted IRS head Steven  Miller, who did little to subdue Republican outrage during hours of intense  congressional questioning.

Both defiant and apologetic, Miller  acknowledged agency mistakes in targeting tea party groups for special scrutiny  when they applied for tax-exempt status, but he insisted that agents broke no  laws and that there was no effort to cover up their actions.

 

Revelations: J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified that Treasury officials were made aware of the probe into allegations of harassment against tea part groups last June  

Revelations: J. Russell George (left), the Treasury  inspector general for tax administration, testified that Treasury officials were  made aware of the probe into allegations of harassment against tea part groups  last June

Miller only stoked the criticism of many  Republicans, who are assailing the administration on a sudden spate of other  controversies, as well, even as some Democrats tried to contain the political  damage.

‘I don’t know that I got any answers from you  today,’ Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., told Miller. ‘I am more concerned today than I  was before.’

At one point in the day’s hearing, Treasury  IG George said he had told the department’s general counsel about his  investigation on June 4, 2012, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin ‘shortly  thereafter.’

But, George cautioned, those discussions were  ‘not to inform them of the results of the audit. It was to inform them of the  fact that we were conducting the audit.’

After the hearing, inspector general  spokeswoman Karen Kraushaar said George ‘informed Department of Treasury  officials that we were looking into the IRS’ handling of applications for  tax-exempt status, partly due to allegations raised by conservative  organizations.’

Steven MillerSteven Miller

Defiant: Ouster head of the IRS Steven Miller insisted  he did not deceive Congress, though he repeatedly failed to reveal the  controversy last year when he was asked about it by lawmakers

Kraushaar said the disclosure was part of a  routine briefing about the office’s activities.

The Treasury Department issued a statement  Friday saying officials first became aware of the actual results of the  investigation in March of this year, when they were provided a draft of George’s  report, a standard practice.

George’s disclosure came before the House  Ways and Means Committee in the first of several congressional hearings on the  matter. He was joined by Miller, who spoke publicly about the controversy for  the first time.

Miller apologized for the actions of agents  who singled out conservative political groups for additional, often burdensome  scrutiny.

‘First and foremost, as acting commissioner,  I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes  that we made and the poor service we provided,’ he told the committee. ‘The  affected organizations and the American public deserve better.’

But members on both sides of the aisle were  furious, and castigated him for the mismanagement and political gamesmanship the  IRS engaged in on his watch.

Texas Republican congressman Kevin Brady had  the harshest criticism for Miller.

‘Is this still America?’ he asked  him.

‘Is this government so drunk on power that it  would turn its full force, its full might, to harass, and intimidate, and  threaten an average American who only wants her voice, their voices  heard?’

‘The American public deserves better,’ Miller  agreed. But both he and George insisted that no IRS employees engaged in  political witch-hunting.

J. Russell George (L) and Steven Miller (R) were called on the carpet 

The House Ways and Means Committee held the first  congressional hearing on the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative  applicants for tax-exempt status with special scrutiny based on their politics.  J. Russell George (L) and Steven Miller (R) were called on the carpet

 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp castigated the former IRS acting commissioner for presiding over a corrupt system that played political favoritesHouse Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp  castigated the former IRS acting commissioner for presiding over a corrupt  system that played political favorites

 

George oversaw the year-long internal probe  that ended in a report released Wednesday. It concluded that the  agency used  ‘inappropriate criteria’ in selecting tax-exemption  applications for closer  scrutiny, but did not find any wrongdoing on the part of senior-level IRS  officials.

Miller concurred with that finding, blaming  the problem instead on ‘foolish  mistakes’ while affirming that partisanship  ‘has no place at the IRS.’ He also insisted he did not deceive Congress, though  he repeatedly failed to reveal the controversy last year when he was asked about  it by lawmakers – even after he had been briefed.

‘I did not mislead Congress or the American  people,’ Miller said.

President Barack Obama announced his removal  on Wednesday, as a scandal unfolded involving the IRS targeting hundreds of  right-wing organizations for intense scrutiny based on keywords like ‘tea party’  or ‘patriots’ in their names.

He told committee members that before the  episode became public, he had no contact with the Treasury Department, the White  House or Obama’s re-election campaign about targeting conservative  groups.

‘Absolutely not,’ Miller said.

He surprised committee members when he said  ‘it is absolutely not illegal’ for IRS agents to single out conservative groups  for additional scrutiny.

‘Please don’t get me wrong,’ he added. ‘It  should not happen.’

George, the inspector general, backed up  Miller’s assertion when he said the yearlong investigation did not uncover  illegal activity.

‘It is not illegal, but it was  inappropriate,’ George said of targeting conservative groups.

George’s report concluded that an IRS office  in Cincinnati, which screened applications for the tax exemptions, improperly  singled out tea party and other conservative groups for tougher treatment. The  report says the practice began in March 2010 and lasted in various forms until  May 2012.

Agents did not flag similar progressive or  liberal labels, though some liberal groups did receive additional scrutiny  because their applications were singled out for other reasons, the report  said.

Miller wrote to IRS employees, however, that  he was leaving at the end of his scheduled term in early June.

Ultimately, he conceded on Friday, he agreed  to step down because responsibility for the IRS’s activities ‘stops at my  desk.’

Michigan Democratic Rep. Sander Levin is the most senior Ways and Means Democrat to side with Republicans against IRS corruption 

Michigan Democratic Rep. Sander Levin is the most senior  Ways and Means Democrat to side with Republicans against IRS  corruption

Committee chair Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, stared down Miller, saying that ‘this systemic abuse cannot be  fixed with just one resignation.’

‘And as much as I expect more people  need to  go, the reality is this is not a personnel problem,’ Camp  maintained. ‘This is  a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too  abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers.’

Sander Levin, the panel’s ranking Democrat,  said the IRS and its employees  ‘have completely failed the American people’ by  ‘singling out  organizations for review based on their name or political views,  rather  than their activity.’

‘All of us are angry about this on behalf of  the nation,’ the left-leaning Michigan congressman said.

Lois Lerner is the civil servant who heads up  the IRS division in charge of evaluating charitable and other nonprofit  organizations. Levin called for her head.

Lois Lerner, director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations section, told a legal conference on May 10 that her agency's Inspector General would soon publish a report about the unfair targeting of tea party groups for special tax scrutiny 

Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations  section, told a legal conference on May 10 that her agency’s Inspector General  would soon publish a report about the unfair targeting of tea party groups for  special tax scrutiny. Her disclosure, which Steven Miller conceded Friday was  ‘prepared,’ launched the scandal

‘Ms. Lerner should be relieved of her  duties.’ he said.

We must seek the truth, not political  gain.’

In what Miller called ‘a prepared Q-and-A’ on  May 10, Lerner told an American Bar Association conference about a pending IRS  Inspector General report examining the targeting of conservative groups inside  the IRS’s Exempt Organizations section.

That admission started the media feeding  frenzy that has spiraled into a full-blown scandal. The acknowledgement that  Lerner went to the event with the intention of publicly disclosing the IG  report’s existence raised eyebrows on the congressional panel.

Illinois Republican Rep. Peter Roskam quizzed  Miller about a phone conversation he said he had with Lerner about the planned  disclosure, which Miller said was intended to coincide with a disclosure to  Congress.

He agreed with Roskam, however, that Congress  wasn’t told at the same time a question was ‘planted’ at the bar association  conference.

‘We called to try to get on the calendar’ of  the Ways and Means Committee,’ Miller said.

‘You called to try to get on the calendar?’  Roskam asked, incredulous. ‘Is that all you’ve got?’

‘It’s the truth,’ Miller  responded.

Under questioning from California Republican  Rep. Devin Nunes, Miller said he would not commit to giving Congress his notes,  phone records, and other evidence of conversations with Lerner.

Nunes reminded him that Congress could, and  might, subpoena them.

'IS THIS STILL AMERICA?' Texas Rep. Kevin Brady slammed former IRS acting commissioner Steve Miller for presiding over the political persecution of a constituent whose tax-exempt application was targeted for abuse 

‘IS THIS STILL AMERICA?’ Texas Rep. Kevin Brady slammed  former IRS acting commissioner Steve Miller for presiding over the political  persecution of a constituent whose tax-exempt application for her tea party  group was subject to nearly 100 lengthy, intrusive questions

Lerner’s superior, Sarah Hall Ingram, was the  most senior political appointee in charge of exempt organizations reviews during  the years when the IRS was targeting right-wing groups. This year the Obama  administration has elevated her to a position of authority over the tax  implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature health care  overhaul.

Miller called her ‘a superb civil servant,’  and said he promoted her to her current position.

In a flurry of press releases, broadcast  statements and tweets, conservatives have lashed out at Ingram, suggesting a  level of corruption on her part that could compromise the fair and impartial  implementation of Obamacare.

Ingram ‘allowed and possibly encouraged the  outrageous and discriminatory tactics toward Tea Party Patriots based on  political ideology, clearly violating her supposedly unbiased office,’ said  Jenny Beth Martin, the group’s national coordinator.

‘We … do not trust anyone who was involved  in targeting tea party groups to administer the Affordable Health Care Act in a  fair and equal manner,’ Martin added.

‘We certainly do not trust Sarah Hall Ingram  to be anywhere near our incredibly sensitive health care decisions.  It  appears the administration has rewarded her for allowing the discriminatory  actions rather than disciplining her. She must be terminated or resign  immediately for her disgraceful actions.’

New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel complained that the Supreme Court's 'Citizens United' ruling created an environment ripe for abuse of political donations, making the IRS's job impossible to do fairly 

New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel complained that  the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ ruling created an environment ripe for  abuse of political donations, making the IRS’s job impossible to do  fairly

In a stunning flashback moment, Louisiana  Republican Rep. Charles Boustany played a video clip showing former IRS  Commissioner Douglas Shulman testifying before the House Ways and Means  Subcommittee on Oversight in March 2012.

‘Can you give us assurances that the IRS is  not targeting particular groups based on political leanings?’ Boustany, the  subcommittee’s chairman, asked Shulman then.

‘There’s absolutely no targeting,’ the  then-commissioner responded in 2012. ‘This is the kind of back-and-forth that  happens when people apply for 501(c)(4) status.’

Asked Friday if this was a lie, Miller said  ‘It was incorrect.’

‘But whether or not it was untruthful –‘ he  continued, without reaching a conclusion.

‘Why did you mislead Congress and the  American people on this?’ Boustany asked.

‘Congressman, I did not mislead Congress or  the American people,’ Miller responded.

Washington Democrat Jim McDermott, a reliable  liberal partisan, acknowledged that ‘the IRS stiff-armed us, basically, at  best,’ in past testimony, but defended the agency”s behavior.

Tax ‘examiners took a shortcut,’ in the face  of a flood of new applications for tax-exempt status, he said, ‘which they  deeply regret’

Still, he conceded that it was wrong to treat  groups differently because of their political positions.

‘As much as I dislike the right,’ he said, ‘I  think it’s wrong to be un-evenhanded in government application’ of laws and  regulations.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan slammed Miller for failing to tell the Ways and Means Committee what he knew during a previous hearing 

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan slammed Miller for  failing to tell the Ways and Means Committee what he knew during a previous  hearing

Paul Ryan, the Republicans’ vice presidential  nominee in 2012, slammed Miller for what he said was less-than-truthful  testimony when he appeared before a subcommittee last  year. Although he had been briefed by then about the problems with tax-exempt  applications from tea party groups, he said nothing.

Miller hid material facts from Congress, Ryan  said.

‘How can we conclude that you did not mislead  this committee?’

Miller fired back. ‘I stand by my answers,’  he said, saying that the word ‘”harassment” implies political motivation’ on the  part of IRS employees.

‘There was no political motivation,’ he  insisted.

The Tea Party Patriots and other right-wing groups provided a powerful rallying force during the 2010 midterm elections, but were targeted the same year by the IRS 

The Tea Party Patriots and other conservative groups  provided a powerful rallying force during the 2010 midterm elections. It was  around the same time that the Obama administration’s IRS began targeting such  groups that applied for tax-exempt nonprofit status

 

Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert  picked up that thread when it was his turn to ask questions.

‘Do you not believe it’s your job to provide  us with the information that you knew?’ he demanded.

‘You’re a law-enforcement agency, for crying  out loud.’

‘I answered all questions truthfully,’ Miller  responded.

‘You’re not going to cooperate,’ said  Reichert, dismissing him and moving on to question George.

The hearing is the first in what will likely  be a series of inquisitions  from Congress about the IRS scandal, just one of  the three hanging over  the Obama administration.

The House Oversight and Government Reform  Committee will hold its own hearing on May 22, taking testimony from  Lois Lerner, former  IRS Commissioner Shulman, and Treasury  Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin.

Barack Obama (R) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan hold a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, but most of the focus was on three unfolding White House scandals 

Barack Obama (R) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep  Erdogan (L) held a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden on  Thursday, but the president was hammered on his domestic scandals. Asked if  anyone in the White House knew about the IRS’s targeting of right-wing groups  before the White House Counsel was notified around April 22, Obama would only  say that he personally had no knowledge of it

New York Democrat Charles Rangel took  issue with the Supreme Court’s 2010 ‘Citizens United v. Federal Election  Commission’ ruling, which he said created en environment that resulted in the  IRS’s malfeasance.

The underlying problem, he said, was a  resulting law ‘almost written for abuse,’ as it prohibits Congress from  interfering with 501(c)(4) groups’ political spending.

The Citizens United Ruling is generally  credited with creating a flood of applications for tax-exempt status with the  IRS, including hundreds from conservative groups hoping to capitalize on their  newfound power to influence national politics with untraceable  dollars.

‘This is not “Democrat or Republican,”‘ Range  said. ‘It relates to the integrity of the government.’

‘We’re on the same side as far as determining  how this happened.’

Rangel told Miller that he wanted the ‘tens  of thousands of IRS employees [to] have the stigma of corruption taken away from  them.’

‘Whether this is criminal activity or a  mistake,’ the New York Democrat said, ‘I don’t know.’

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Obama’s media shield law makes prosecuting journalists even easier

 Published time: May 17, 2013 21:16                                                                             
US President Barack Obama. (AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

US President Barack Obama. (AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

United States President Barack Obama is encouraging Congress to take up a media shield law that was abandoned at the start of his administration, but critics of the bill say it might make it even easier for journalists to be subpoenaed by the government.

After the Associated Press revealed on Monday that they are the target of a US Department of Justice probe, Obama asked lawmakers to consider a would-be media shield law that fell apart in Washington after the start of his first presidency in 2009.

The AP wrote this week that the Justice Department subpoenaed two months of phone records likely in an attempt to try and find out with whom the news agency spoke with before publishing a May 2012 article that exposed a Yemeni terror plot foiled by the Central Intelligence Agency. Attorney General Eric Holder called the disclosure of classified information to the AP one of the biggest leaks ever suffered by the US and said publically that it put the American people at risk. On Thursday, Pres. Obama commented that “leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” but suggested that reviving a media shield law that died in Congress could perhaps strike the balance between the public’s right to know and the safety of the nation.

So the whole goal of this media shield law that was worked on, and largely endorsed by folks like the Washington Post editorial page and prosecutors, was finding a way to strike that balance appropriately,” said the president. “And to the extent this case … has prompted renewed interest about how do we strike that balance properly, I think now is the time for us to go ahead and revisit that legislation. I think that’s a worthy conversation to have and I think that’s important.”

Now as the White House shifts focus from one scandal to another, free speech advocates are concerned that the shield law, as written, wouldn’t do much more than current legislation in terms of thwarting future subpoenas sent to journalists. Trevor Timm, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, wrote in a blog post this week that the media shield law touted by Pres. Obama during his days as a senator in Illinois failed to take shape after he secured his spot in the Oval Office.

As a Senator, Obama was a vocal supporter of a robust shield law; he co-sponsored a bill in 2007 and campaigned on the issue in 2008,” Timm wrote. “But when the Senate moved to pass the bill as soon as Obama came into office, his administration abruptly changed course and opposed the bill, unless the Senate carved out an exception for all national security reporters.”

When Obama entered the White House in early 2009, he walked away from a Senate where a shield law he advocated for had just started to take shape. Before long, though, his own administration asked for Congress to make adjustments before it ended up on the president’s desk. That original law would, in theory, put in place safeguards that would help prevent journalists from being compelled to testify who their sources are. Once in the White House, though, Obama did an about face.

In September 2009, Charlie Savage wrote for the New York Times that those safeguards “would not apply to leaks of a matter deemed to cause ‘significant’ harm to national security.

Moreover, judges would be instructed to be deferential to executive branch assertions about whether a leak caused or was likely to cause such harm, according to officials familiar with the proposal,” Savage wrote.

One of the bill’s authors, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), had sharp words for the president at the time. “The White House’s opposition to the fundamental essence of this bill is an unexpected and significant setback. It will make it hard to pass this legislation,” the senator said. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania), a co-sponsor, called the changes “totally unacceptable.”

If the president wants to veto it, let him veto it,” Sen. Specter told the Times in 2009. “I think it is different for the president to veto a bill than simply to pass the word from his subordinates to my subordinates that he doesn’t like the bill.”

Ultimately, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the shield law after some minor tweaking in December 2009, but as Savage explained in the Times this week, “a furor over leaking arose after WikiLeaks began publishing archives of secret government documents, and the bill never received a vote.”

Speaking to the Washington Post about what the passing of that version would have done in regards to the AP probe, Sen. Schumer said, “at minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case.”

While it is unclear whether the bill would change the outcome in the AP phone records case since a national security exception may have applied, the bill would have set up a legal process for approving the subpoenas that would guarantee consideration of the public’s interest in protecting the freedom of the press,” Schumer weighed in. “Prosecutors would have to convince a judge that the information at issue would “prevent or mitigate an act of terrorism or harm to national security.”

For the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Timm wrote this week that the latest version of the shield law wouldn’t do much more. Under the Sept. 2009 request sent from the White House, the shield law once supported by Pres. Obama would include an exception where journalists could be subpoenaed if it means national security is at risk.

Now, it’s important to remember: virtually the only time the government subpoenas reporters, it involves leak investigations into stories by national security reporters. So it’s hard to see how this bill will significantly help improve press freedom,” wrote Timm. “Worse, there’s a strong argument that passing the bill as it ended in 2010 will weaken rights reporters already have and make it easier for the government to get sources from reporters.”

The difference is that instead of DOJ unilaterally making that determination,” the Justice Department would “have to convince a judge that this was the case,” University of Minnesota Law Professor Jane Kirtley explained to the Post.

On Thursday, Sen. Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) announced they would co-sponsor a media shield bill — but that the national security exemption ordered by Obama in 2009 was once again present.

The government has a legitimate interest in preventing and investigating leaks of classified information,” Graham and Schumer wrote. “At the same time, the public has a legitimate interest in a robust free press.”

This bill strikes a fair and reasonable balance between those interests, and we urge you to join us in advancing it,” they wrote

http://rt.com/usa/obama-shield-bill-law-453/