When Rulers Can’t Understand the Ruled

Johns Hopkins study finds significant gap in demographics, experience and partisanship between Washingtonians and the Americans they govern
Johns Hopkins University political scientists wanted to know if America’s unelected officials have enough in common with the people they govern to understand them.

The answer: Not really.

Government12

Surveying 850 people who either work in government or directly with it, researchers found that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has very little in common with America at large. Washington insiders are more likely to be white. They are more educated. Their salaries are higher, they vote more and have more faith in the fairness of elections. They are probably Democrat and liberal. They more diligently follow the news. And they think the mechanizations of government couldn’t be easier to comprehend. Continue reading “When Rulers Can’t Understand the Ruled”

China can weigh reconnaissance on US

(Global Times) 08:16, August 28, 2014

China and the US started a two-day meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday to negotiate a code of conduct on the high seas, in the wake of a Chinese fighter jet intercepting a US spy plane near the Hainan Island. Although the meeting was set up before this incident, it is believed the near-miss will make a difference during the negotiations.
Given the fact that Washington’s determination to continue its short-range surveillance of China is as strong as China’s commitment to drive US planes away, whether the 2001 mid-air collision could recur has become a Sword of Damocles above their heads.
The new strategic trajectory of Asia-Pacific, namely China is growing stronger and a containment circle drawn by the US and its allies is taking shape, is changing the mindsets of both sides to define specific conflicts. If the 2001 incident happened again, the possibility of an all-out crisis between both sides will increase.

Continue reading “China can weigh reconnaissance on US”

Which countries don’t like America and which do

Which countries don’t like America and which do | Pew Research Center// // //

July 15, 2014

By Bruce Stokes

.
Sacré bleu! France makes the list of top 10 fans of the U.S. and Germany makes the list of the top 10 critics.

A decade ago anti-Americanism was on the rise around the world, in large part thanks to public opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Today, despite recent revelations of U.S. National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders and global opposition to U.S. drone strikes, there is little evidence of profound anti-Americanism except in a handful of countries, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 44 nations. Foreigners’ love affair with the United States remains strong in Africa and most of Asia, Europe and Latin America. But who likes Uncle Sam, who doesn’t and whose affections are evolving paints a pretty accurate road map of the overseas challenges facing Washington in the years ahead.

10 Biggest Critics and Fans of the U.S.Anti-Americanism is particularly strong today in the Middle East. In Egypt only 10% of the public favor the United States, which long backed the regime of Hosni Mubarak and failed to oppose the military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government that succeeded him. Support is not much higher in Jordan (12%) and Turkey (19%), both countries that are notionally Washington’s allies. Those not-so-warm feelings for America have fallen 17 percentage points in Egypt and 13 points in Jordan since 2009, the first year of the Obama administration, when there appeared to be some hope in those nations that Uncle Sam would pursue policies more to their liking. Continue reading “Which countries don’t like America and which do”

Revealed: How a taxpayer bail out that could run into BILLIONS was built in to Obamacare to protect insurance companies if they lost out in reform

 

  • The Affordable Care Act included a way for insurance companies to recoup their losses from covering everyone regardless of their health
  • If insurers lose money, the government’s funds – taxpayer dollars – cover between 50 and 80 percent of the losses for three years
  • Premiums for 2015 are expected to skyrocket before the November elections, and Democrats hope the payments will keep prices down
  • When the Obamacare law passed in 2010, it omitted the authority for the government to make these ‘risk corridors’ payments
  • But in a bit fo regulatory sleight-of-hand last week, the Health and Human Services Department quietly issued a regulation authorizing them

By David Martosko, U.S. Political Editor

Published: 12:17 EST, 21 May 2014 | Updated: 12:53 EST, 21 May 2014

Health insurance companies are poised to have access to billions of taxpayer dollars in what Republicans are calling an Obamacare ‘bailout.’

In a little-noticed regulation issued late last week, the Department of Health and Human Services authorized massive payments to insurers that lose money because of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they cover even the oldest and sickest Americans. Continue reading “Revealed: How a taxpayer bail out that could run into BILLIONS was built in to Obamacare to protect insurance companies if they lost out in reform”

Treat porn ‘epidemic’ in U.S. as public health crisis, activists urge

EEV: ???

AFP-JIJI

May 16, 2014 Online: May 16, 2014

WASHINGTON – Pornography now is so widespread in the U.S. that it deserves to be addressed seriously as a major public health crisis, a panel of activists said Thursday, recommending it be tackled in the same way as teenage smoking or drunk driving.

 

“There’s an untreated pandemic of harm from pornography,” Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Morality in Media, which has campaigned against pornography since 1962, told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. “There’s a lot of science now proving that pornography is harmful. We know now that almost every family in America has been touched by the harm of pornography.”

 

English: The Pornography Barnstar may be award...

 

 

 

Continue reading “Treat porn ‘epidemic’ in U.S. as public health crisis, activists urge”

China tells U.S. to mind it’s own business

US must ‘get used to China’s rise’

(China Daily)    07:38, May 22, 2014

Washington’s engagement in territorial issues ‘complicates problems’

Chinese and Western observers seemed to reach a consensus on Wednesday over President Xi Jinping’s proposal to establish a new framework for security cooperation in Asia, and he also sent a veiled warning to Washington.

“To beef up a military alliance targeting a third party is not conducive to regional common security,” Xi said without mentioning the United States when delivering a keynote speech at a regional security forum in Shanghai on Wednesday.

The Chinese navy conducts drills in the South ...

Continue reading “China tells U.S. to mind it’s own business”

Russia to oust USA from International Space Station

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Russia is to deny the US use of the International Space Station beyond 2020 and will also bar its rocket engines from launching US military satellites as it hits back at American sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis.

The twin moves against the space and satellite programmes represent one high-tech niche in which Moscow believes it has leverage over the US.

English: The International Space Station is fe...

Continue reading “Russia to oust USA from International Space Station”

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”

Citizens United Echoed as Another Campaign-Finance Limit Crumbles

 

Then President-elect Barack Obama and Vice Pre...

 

By BARBARA LEONARD

WASHINGTON (CN) – Four years after Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday invalidated aggregate limits on campaign contributions that kept wealthy political supporters from infusing millions of dollars into a particular political party.

 

The four-justice dissent notes that, coupled with the court’s landmark 2010 ruling, “today’s decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.” Continue reading “Citizens United Echoed as Another Campaign-Finance Limit Crumbles”

This is the Racist Editorial on Ambassador Locke / Goodbye, Luo Shi Fei!

EEV: Bing Translator  / Original Below

February 27, 2014, at 20:37 source: China News Network

Locke is a United States-born third-generation Chinese-American, his “yellow skin and white heart” banana person property into President Obama’s diplomatic advantage. United States Pacific revealed a new strategy, selecting during his tenure. Because, a person to be letting you down, always left to the people, “I’m doing this for your sake” impression. Dang United States in the Asia-Pacific and constantly stirring up the eddies, creating contradictions when a traveler on the surface of living abroad for a long time, with black hair and yellow skin, vessel for the United States applauded. Really played a good soft-shoe routine.

Official portrait of United States Secretary o...
Official portrait of United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Banana, however long, “yellow skin” is always to be rotting, not only “white heart” out, becomes sick of “black”. Luo Shi may think yellow-skinned appearance alone is not enough. Experienced United States political campaigns-show Luo Shi understands use of the media. As a result, a variety of “light truck line tours, backpack, coach Jane” drama took turns to take the stage. At first, indeed made plain good Chinese eyes. But then I think, puts the business class, splendor, and “accidentally” in front of the camera to sit in economy class, eat fast food, and rich people and the occasional farmhouse and photo upload “for show” what’s the difference? Luo Shi for show, I can’t say, at least American media said long Jing Junjun, running for Governor of the State of the State of Washington during his term for territorial corporate bribery has always been “we have”. Continue reading “This is the Racist Editorial on Ambassador Locke / Goodbye, Luo Shi Fei!”

China seeks to calm US fears over missile

EEV – Great example of the Chinese Government , getting its point across. Through building the illusion of the capabilities of its potential adversary. The Chinese military is far more capable than they will ever reveal publicly. This deserves a read from our defense personnel, that understand the semantics involved.

– dismissing media reports that China’s recent ultrahigh-speed missile test flight was aimed at delivering warheads through the missile defenses of the United States

– The advantages of hypersonic craft include precise targeting, very rapid delivery of weapons, and greater survivability against missile and space defenses.

Washington is afraid that China’s growing power will reduce its influence in the region

By ZHOU WA (China Daily)    07:14, January 16, 2014

 

The Ministry of National Defense issued a statement on Wednesday dismissing media reports that China’s recent ultrahigh-speed missile test flight was aimed at delivering warheads through the missile defenses of the United States. Continue reading “China seeks to calm US fears over missile”

Is World War Three about to start… by accident? Max Hastings asks whether rising tensions between China and Japan could boil over

  • Chinese diplomat argued that Japan risks ‘serious threat to global peace’
  • He even compared Japan today to Lord Voldemort, from Harry Potter
  • It comes just weeks after China declared its own Air Defence Zone
  • Japan’s prime minister has threatened to shoot down any Chinese drones

By Max Hastings

UPDATED:          03:16 EST, 3 January 2014

Perhaps it is possible — and how nice it would be to believe this — that war between the greatest nations on earth has been abolished.

The cost and the threat of nuclear escalation is so horrendous that reason argues that nothing remotely resembling the 20th century’s vast global clashes can ever happen again.

Assuredly, there can be no more Dunkirks or D-Days, because no Western nation — even the United States — can deploy a mass army.

FTC Shelves New Caller ID Spoofing Rules

 

– By calling through the Internet, telemarketers can use software to mask and change the name and number seen on caller ID. Telemarketers also can now program the autodialers to falsify caller ID.

By JON CHOWN

 

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Federal Trade Commission, after seeking suggestions on how to stop telemarketers from falsifying caller ID, has decided against making any changes to the rules for now, acknowledging that better technology is needed for enforcement. Continue reading “FTC Shelves New Caller ID Spoofing Rules”

China rejects shipment of GMO ‘contaminated’ corn from US

China rejects shipment of GMO 'contaminated' corn from US

China rejected a cargo of U.S. corn because it contained a genetically modified variety that is not approved for import. The GMO product is labeled as Syngenta AG’s AgrisureViptera corn, which is also known as MIR 162.

This follows a rejection by China of a load of alfalfa that was also GMO contaminated in Sept. 2013. Farmers in the state of Washington requested that the USDA require compensation for the Monsanto Roundup Ready cross-contamination that resulted in the rejection by China. The USDA ruled that this was a marketing issue, and not something to be addressed by the USDA.

Traders in China said the cargo of between 55,000 and 60,000 tonnes has already been unloaded at the port of Shekou in the southern province of Guangdong. The buyer was a state-owned trading house and the shipment may have to be re-loaded for transport to Japan or South Korea, they said.

Continue reading “China rejects shipment of GMO ‘contaminated’ corn from US”

Our Walmart says National Labor Relations Board will demand action against Walmart for illegally firing and disciplining workers

Walmart to be prosecuted for firing striking workers, union group says

  • Workers' rights groups demonstrate in the street in front of Walmart offices, Washington, USA
Workers’ rights groups demonstrate in the street in Washington. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that oversees workers’ rights, is to announce decision to prosecute Walmart for firing, discipling and threatening workers who went on strike or attempted to unionise, according to the group organising the strikes.

Our Walmart, a union-backed group, said the NLRB will prosecute the company for illegally firing and disciplining 117 workers, including some who went on strike in June. The board’s decision will also include threats by managers and spokespeople aimed at discouraging them from striking, Our Walmart said.

Continue reading “Our Walmart says National Labor Relations Board will demand action against Walmart for illegally firing and disciplining workers”

Washington Insurance Official Is Ousted a day after he publicly questioned a decision by President Obama

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By  and

The insurance commissioner for the District of Columbia was dismissed from his job just a day after he publicly questioned a decision by President Obama to reverse a provision of the Affordable Care Act, a person with knowledge of the events said on Sunday.

This person said that the commissioner, William P. White, had requested but never received permission from the office of Mayor Vincent C. Gray to publish a critique of Mr. Obama’s surprise announcement on Thursday that he would allow thousands of Americans to renew policies that might not provide the minimum coverage required by the health law.

Continue reading “Washington Insurance Official Is Ousted a day after he publicly questioned a decision by President Obama”

Only 100,000 ‘select’ Obamacare plans in October and fewer than 27,000 have made it through

13  Nov    2013
Washington (AFP)

Only 100,000 people have enrolled in the new US Obamacare health plan so far, and fewer than 27,000 have made it through a faulty federal sign-up website, the government said Wednesday.

The figure of 106,185 registrations represents only 1.5 percent of the estimated total sign-up for the plan by the end of the enrollment period in March, the Health and Human Services Department said.

Record 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty: New census says the number of poor people in the U.S. is 3 million higher than the official count

  • Last government census recorded the  number of poor people across the country as 46.5 million
  • New figures say the real number is a  record-breaking 49.7 million
  • Results come as Congress continues to  negotiate further cuts of up to $4 billion annually for the food stamp  program
  • California, District of Columbia, Nevada  and Florida earmarked as having the highest shares of poor people per  state
  • Official list, however, says more rural  states have higher poverty levels, lead by Mississippi, Louisiana and New  Mexico

By  Ap Reporter

PUBLISHED: 22:57 EST, 6  November 2013 |  UPDATED: 22:58 EST, 6 November 2013

The number of poor people in America is 3  million higher than the official count, encompassing 1 in 6 residents due to  out-of-pocket medical costs and work-related expenses, according to a revised  census measure released Wednesday.

The new measure is aimed at providing a  fuller picture of poverty, but does not replace the official government numbers.

Put in place two years ago by the Obama  administration, it generally is considered more reliable by social scientists  because it factors in living expenses as well as the effects of government aid,  such as food stamps and tax credits.

Administration officials have declined to say  whether the new measure eventually could replace the official poverty formula,  which is used to allocate federal dollars to states and localities and to  determine eligibility for safety-net programs, such as Medicaid.

Congress would have to agree to adopt the new  measure, which generally would result in a higher poverty rate from year to year  and thus higher government payouts for aid programs.

Based on the revised formula, the number of  poor people in 2012 was 49.7 million, or 16 percent.

That exceeds the record 46.5 million, or 15  percent, that was officially reported in September.

1 in 6 Americans poor 

One of 49.7 million: A homeless woman sits on a street  in Chicago. New Census survey says the official rate of poverty in America is  astronomically higher than what is officially recorded

 

1 in 6 Americans poor 

Statistics: The new Census report details the factors  stopping people from getting out of poverty as well as the ones causing them to  fall into it

 

The latest numbers come as more working-age  adults picked up low-wage jobs in the slowly improving economy but still  struggled to pay living expenses.

Americans 65 and older had the largest  increases in poverty under the revised formula, from 9.1 percent to 14.8  percent, because of medical expenses such as Medicare premiums, deductibles and  other costs not accounted for in the official rate.

There also were increases for Hispanics and  Asian-Americans, partly due to lower participation among immigrants and  non-English speakers in government aid programs such as housing aid and food  stamps.

African-Americans and children, helped by  government benefits, had declines in poverty compared with the official rate.

‘This is a real incongruity, when 1 in 6  people face economic insecurity here in the richest country in the world,’ said  Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University economist and former chairman of the  White House Council of Economic Advisers, who has argued for more government  action to alleviate income inequality.

‘When so many citizens are worse off year  after year, with food insecurity and health care insecurity, there’s no way you  can say that’s a successful economy.’

Last week, more than 47 million Americans who  receive food stamps saw their benefits go down, while Congress began  negotiations on further cuts of up to $4 billion annually to the program.

1 in 6 Americans poor 

Elijah Brooks, 6, (left) and sister Elisha Brooks, 4,  (right) help their parents on an assembly line of food for the needy at the  Orange County Food Bank in Garden Grove, California. New figures say the state  has the highest level of poor people

 

Among states, California had the highest  share of poor people, hurt in part by high housing costs and large numbers of  immigrants, followed by the District of Columbia, Nevada and Florida.

Under the official poverty rate, more rural  states were more likely to be at the top of list, led by Mississippi, Louisiana  and New Mexico.

Some other findings were:

– Food stamps helped lift about 5 million  people above the poverty line. Without such aid, the overall poverty rate would  increase from 16 percent to 17.6 percent.

– Working-age adults ages 18-64 saw an  increase in poverty from 13.7 percent based on the official calculation to 15.5  percent, due mostly to commuting and child care costs.

– Child poverty declined from 22.3 percent to  18 percent under the new measure. Under both measures, children still remained  the age group most likely to be living in poverty.

– By race, Hispanics and Asians saw higher  rates of poverty, 27.8 percent and 16.7 percent respectively, compared with  rates of 25.8 percent and 11.8 percent under the official formula. In contrast,  African-Americans saw a modest decrease, from 27.3 percent to 25.8 percent based  on the revised numbers. Among non-Hispanic whites, poverty rose from 9.8 percent  to 10.7 percent.

‘The primary reason that poverty remains so  high is that the benefits of a growing economy are no longer being shared by all  workers as they were in the quarter-century following the end of World War II,’  said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan economist.

1 in 6 Americans poor 

Making it work: A street dweller uses the power outlet  of a vending machine to use his laptop outside a supermarket. A new study says  that 1 in 6 Americans are poor

 

‘Given current economic conditions, poverty  will not be substantially reduced unless government does more to help the  working poor and those who are willing to work but cannot find jobs. We must  also expand the reach of our safety-net programs.’

Economists long have criticized the official  poverty rate as inadequate. Based on a half-century-old government formula, the  official rate continues to assume the average family spends one-third of its  income on food.

Those costs have declined to a much smaller  share, more like one-seventh.

In reaction to some of the criticism, the  Obama administration in 2010 asked the Census Bureau to develop a new poverty  measure, based partly on recommendations made by the National Academy of  Sciences.

The goal is to help lawmakers better gauge  the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.

For instance, the new measure finds that if  it weren’t for Social Security payments, the poverty rate would rise to 54.7  percent for people 65 and older and 24.5 percent for all age groups.

Refundable tax credits such as the earned  income tax credit helped lift 9 million people above the poverty line. Without  the credits, child poverty would rise from 18 percent to 24.7  percent.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2489892/Record-1-6-Americans-living-poverty-New-census-says-number-poor-people-U-S-3-million-higher-official-count.html#ixzz2jwXs3Dsm Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Junk Food Lobby Forced to Disclose Secret Donors in Campaign to Stop GMO Labeling

By Michele Simon 

Just a few weeks ago, attorneys for the No on 522 campaign were feeling rather smug when a lawsuit filed against them by a group called “Moms for Labeling” was dismissed. As I wrote last week [3], consumer class action attorney Knoll Lowney sued the No on 522 and the Washington DC-based Grocery Manufactures Association (lobbyists for major food corporations) for not disclosing the donors behind GMA’s $7 million-plus donation to stop I-522, which would require genetically-engineered foods to be labeled. The judge threw out that case on a technicality.

But then, Big Food’s arrogance got the best of them.

Last Wednesday, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson picked up where the Moms for Labeling lawyer left off by filing his own complaint [4], which adds stunning detail to the allegations in the original suit. In case you’re not familiar with what the attorney general does, he or she is the state’s top law enforcer, but often has limited resources to act. So when the AG’s office decides to come after you, it’s a very big deal, far bigger than a private attorney doing so.

The new lawsuit also accuses GMA of violating the state’s campaign disclosure laws, and alleges that the trade group secretly gathered more than $7 million from its members. Not content to just collect food industry money illegally, or even discreetly, GMA had the chutzpah to a designate a special account dubbed the “Defense of Brand Strategic Account,” for a strategic, “multi-pronged approach” to fight labeling laws, including Washington’s I-522.

And this scheme didn’t just pop up recently either; rather the shady deal-making was in the works for months, soon after the narrow loss of Proposition 37 in California. The plan was hatched at a GMA board meeting this past January to fund future anti-labeling efforts with “a preference for GMA to be the funder of such efforts, rather than individual companies.” That’s because brand names like PepsiCo and General Mills took a lot of heat from upset consumers. So, as GMA CEO Pamela G. Bailey explained in a February memorandum, a plan to “better shield individual companies from attack” was quickly approved; GMA sent its first round of invoices to members by March and the second round went out in August.

The dollar figures are staggering: GMA earmarked ten million dollars to oppose I-522, meaning that when the trade group made its first contribution to No on 522 in May—a paltry $472,500—it knew it was only getting started, something the public would learn by August when it donated another $1,750,000. In September, GMA dropped $5 million in one load, which now makes sense considering how long they had been taking collections. But if the two lawsuits hadn’t stopped GMA, chances are it would have spent even more. As of October 7, GMA collected almost $13.5 million dollars but had only spent $7.2 million, meaning it still has more than $6 million left in its arsenal. That can buy a lot of TV ads.

In fact, Attorney General Ferguson said [5] this case represents “the largest amount of money ever concealed in an election.” Way to go team.

Barely 48 hours after the attorney general filed suit, GMA waved a white flag [6], disclosing the list of donors [7] it had so adamantly refused to give Moms for Labeling. Topping the list were old favorites like PepsiCo ($1.6+ million), Nestlé ($1+ million), Coca-Cola ($1+ million), and General Mills (almost $600K). But all the major food groups are also represented. Not only soda companies, but also Sunny Delight and the juice bottler Clement Pappas & Company are named. For canned foods, GMA hit up Del Monte and Hormel Foods, maker of Spam. And who knew that the Clorox Company owns Soy Vay marinades [8], which explains its $12K donation to the Defense of Brand Strategic Account.

Before releasing its list of donors, though, GMA put out a statement [9] saying it was “surprised to learn that the Washington State authorities viewed the association’s actions as improper.” Maybe GMA’s lawyers (aren’t they all lawyers?) were too busy making a paper trail of its wrongdoing to read up on the state campaign finance laws they were so sloppily trying to circumvent.

Then, when GMA released the donor data (on Friday at 3pm, wonder why?), the lobbyists had the nerve to claim [10] to be doing so “in the spirit of continuing cooperation and in an effort to provide Washington voters with full transparency.” That’s the spirit. But even more impressive was GMA’s decision to “voluntarily establish a Washington State political committee and to file reports disclosing the source of all funds used in connection with Washington State elections.” Let’s unpack that: GMA is volunteering to follow the law after the state’s top law enforcer sued them to stop violating it.

Meanwhile, Lowney and Moms for Labeling aren’t done yet. Yesterday, Lowney filed another suit [11], incorporating the attorney general’s allegations, and asking the judge to “sequester” the same amount No on 522 illegally concealed – more than $7 million – to pay future penalties.

In the new complaint [12], No on 522 is not only accused of concealing the source of its donations, but also intentionally misleading Washington voters by falsely reporting the source of the $7.2 million. Not satisfied with the disclosures made last week, this suit wants the court to order No on 522 to: 1) stop running advertisements that don’t reflect the accurate top five contributors; 2) admit that earlier disclosures were false and disseminate corrected information; 3) file corrected campaign finance reports; 4) discontinue receipt of contributions from GMA; and (my personal favorite) 5) pay a penalty in the amount of the contributions it concealed – more than $7.2 million.

GMA hasn’t responded to that suit yet, but in the meantime, Ferguson’s office isn’t backing down [13] after the initial disclosures either. Janelle Guthrie, communications director for the Washington State attorney general’s office told me that the state’s “lawsuit continues with regard to setting penalties.”

The Moms for Labeling lawsuit highlights the important role that private litigation has in getting state officials to force Big Food’s compliance with the law and big kudos to the attorney general for doing so. Let’s hope we see more of it.

And if you’re keeping score, that makes three lawsuits filed so far against an industry that will stop at nothing to keep consumers in the dark. Washington State voters should really be asking, when they see the next ad opposing 522: if this campaign is willing to break the law, how can we trust anything they say?

Meanwhile, it’s not too late to help the Yes on 522 campaign [14].


Food giants pour millions into defeating Washington GMO label measure

Source: Reuters – Tue, 29 Oct 2013 10:16 PM

Author: Reuters

By Eric M. Johnson and Carey Gillam

SEATTLE/KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct 29 (Reuters) – Major U.S. food and chemical companies are pouring millions of dollars into efforts to block approval of a ballot initiative in Washington state that would make it the first in the United States to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified crops.

Despite early strong support for the measure, a recent poll suggests sentiment against the measure, known as I-522, is growing amid an onslaught of corporate-financed advertising ahead of the Nov. 5 referendum. Voters will decide whether many common grocery items containing ingredients from genetically altered crops should be labeled as such.

Supporters say labeling foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMO) would provide information for consumers to make informed shopping choices. Food and chemical companies say the wording would suggest something is wrong with gene modified ingredients that the companies believe are safe.

Many foods are made with crops that have been genetically altered. Corn and soy, two top biotech crops, are key ingredients in processed foods from cereal to chips to cookies.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents more than 300 food and beverage companies, has put roughly $11 million into fighting the measure, or roughly half of the nearly $22 million raised by opponents of labeling, according to Washington Public Disclosure Commission figures as of Tuesday.

That far outstrips the roughly $6.8 million raised by supporters of the labeling initiative, according to the Commission.

“They are making this the most expensive race and are desperately adding last-minute money to try and buy this election,” said Liz Larter, spokeswoman for “Yes on 522” campaign, a reference to the ballot measure’s number.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, said in a lawsuit filed Oct. 16 that the grocery group illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors.

But the GMA and other opponents say they have corrected any finance filing irregularities and they are trying to turn back a measure that would confuse consumers and have numerous consequences.

“It would require tens of thousands of common food and beverage products to be relabeled exclusively for Washington state unless they are remade with higher-priced, specially developed ingredients,” said Brian Kennedy, GMA spokesman. “The measure will increase grocery costs for a typical Washington family by hundreds of dollars per year.”

The outcome of the Washington vote will be closely watched  around the country as more than two dozen U.S. states and the federal government wrestle with whether to require labeling.

A similar labeling measure narrowly failed in the 2012 election in California by a vote of 51.4 percent against to 48.6 percent in favor.

HEAVY SPENDING

A consortium that includes General Mills, Nestle USA , PepsiCo, Monsanto,, DuPont and other corporate giants, are the key contributors to the nearly $22 million raised to campaign against the bill.

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and top developer of biotech crops, has put in nearly $5.4 million to fight the labeling measure, including $540,000 added on Monday.

In September, one poll showed support for labeling led opposition by 45 percentage points. But a survey released on Oct. 21 by The Elway Poll, a regional non-partisan public opinion research group, showed support leading by only four points.

Forty-six percent of a sample of 413 registered voters in Washington reported that they were inclined to vote for the labeling law, while 42 percent said they were inclined to vote against it. The margin of error was 5 percent.

The companies say gene modified crops help farmers be more productive, and they say hundreds of studies show the foods from these crops are safe.

But critics say there are hundreds of studies showing that GMO crops are not safe for people and the animals who consume them. They also say the crops create environmental problems by encouraging more use of certain agrochemicals, and consumers should have the right to know what they are buying.

David Bronner, president of Escondido, Calif.-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and a supporter of labeling, said the ballot initiative may lose in Washington state, but he sees eventual victory in some state or on a federal level.

The soap company is the chief financial backer for the pro-labeling campaign, contributing more than $1.7 million. It makes an array of cleanser and lotion products it markets as organic.

“We’re in this for a long haul,” Bronner said. “Even if we lose here we’re still feeding the national debate and conversation. We’ll get it eventually.”

 

http://www.trust.org/item/20131029220520-1dbnz/?source=hpbreaking

Europe should be grateful for spying, say U.S. lawmakers

World Oct. 28, 2013 – 07:00AM JST

WASHINGTON —

Europeans should be grateful for U.S. spying operations because they keep them safe, U.S. lawmakers said Sunday, urging allies to improve their own intelligence and oversight efforts.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers called “disingenuous” foreign governments’ outrage over the National Security Agency’s large dragnet over communications of several dozen world leaders and ordinary citizens.

And he blamed the news media for getting the story wrong.

“I think the bigger news story here would be… if the United States intelligence services weren’t trying to collect information that would protect US interests both (at) home and abroad,” the Republican told CNN.

The NSA denied German press reports that President Barack Obama was personally informed since 2002 that U.S. spies were tapping on top ally Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

And National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said U.S. intelligence gathering was simply “of the type gathered by all nations.”

Dick Cheney, the former U.S. vice president who wielded vast influence on intelligence matters during the George W Bush administration’s “war on terror,” said U.S. spying on allies was nothing new.

“It’s something that we have been involved in a long time,” he told ABC television.

The spying row prompted European leaders late last week to demand a new deal with Washington on intelligence gathering that would maintain an essential alliance while keeping the fight against terrorism on track.

But Representative Peter King, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said Obama should “stop apologizing” about the NSA’s phone-tapping scandal, claiming the programs had saved “thousands” of lives.

“The president should stop apologizing and stop being defensive,” he told NBC. “The reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives, not just in the United States but in France, Germany and throughout Europe.”

King also suggested the French had conducted similar operations themselves and should therefore tamp down their criticism.

“The French is someone to talk. They carried out operations against the United States, the government and industry,” he said.

Rogers said that French citizens would celebrate U.S. phone intercepts in their country if they realized how the practice keeps them safe.

“If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It’s a good thing. it keeps the French safe. It keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe,” he added.

“This whole notion that we’re going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interest, I think is disingenuous.”

The congressman called for improved intelligence oversight in European capitals, contrasting allies’ approaches to the United States, where he stressed the government must first obtain approval from a special court to monitor communications.

“They need to have a better oversight structure in Europe,” Rogers said. “I think they would be enlightened to find out what their intelligence services may or may not be doing.”

The Republican lawmaker said the news media was “100% wrong” in suggesting that the NSA monitored up to 70 million French telephone records in a single month.

“They’re seeing three or four pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle and wanted to come to a conclusion,” he added, insisting the records collection was a counterterrorism program that did not target French citizens.

Rogers also suggested that U.S. leaders failed to foresee the rise of fascism and communism in early 20th century Europe because American spies were not spying extensively on European allies’ communications.

“In the 1930s, we had this debate before. We decided we were going to turn off our ability to even listen to friends,” he said.

“Look what happened in the ‘30s, the rise of fascism and communism. We didn’t see any of it. It resulted in the death of really tens of millions of people.”

But the Republican lawmaker stressed that any intelligence activities between allies should remain “respectful” and “accurate,” as well as be subjected to proper oversight.

Meanwhile, German media reports said Sunday that tapping of Merkel’s phone may have begun as early as 2002.

Bild am Sonntag newspaper quoted U.S. intelligence sources as saying that America’s National Security Agency chief General Keith Alexander had briefed Obama on the operation against Merkel in 2010.

“Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,” the newspaper quoted a high-ranking NSA official as saying.

News weekly Der Spiegel reported that leaked NSA documents showed Merkel’s phone had appeared on a list of spying targets for over a decade, and was still under surveillance weeks before Obama visited Berlin in June.

But NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines, in Washington, flatly denied the claims.

Alexander “did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel,” Vines said.

“News reports claiming otherwise are not true,” she added.

The allegations, derived from documents acquired from US fugitive defense contractor Edward Snowden, have stoked global outrage that American spy agencies were responsible for broad snooping into the communications of several dozen world leaders and likely millions of ordinary people.

A poll for Der Spiegel found that 60% of Germans believe the scandal has damaged bilateral ties.

European leaders have since called for a new deal with Washington on intelligence gathering that would maintain an essential alliance while keeping the fight against terrorism on track.

Germany is to send its own spy chiefs to Washington to demand answers.

Swiss President Ueli Maurer warned the revelations risked “undermining confidence between states.”

“We don’t know if we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg or if other governments are acting in the same ruthless manner,” he told the Schweiz am Sonntag weekly.

With anger simmering in Berlin, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich sharpened his tone.

“Surveillance is a crime and those responsible must be brought to justice,” he told Bild, while Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle decried the “highly damaging” spying among friends.

Merkel confronted Obama with the snooping allegations in a phone call Wednesday saying that such spying would be a “breach of trust.”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said Obama had told Merkel during their call that he had been unaware of any spying against her, while Spiegel said he assured her that he would have stopped the operation at once.

Merkel’s office declined to comment on what Obama told her.

The White House has said it is not monitoring Merkel’s phone calls and will not do so in future, but it has refused to say whether it did previously.

Bild said Obama wanted to be informed in detail about Merkel, who has played a decisive role in the eurozone debt crisis and is widely seen as Europe’s most powerful leader.

As a result, the NSA stepped up its surveillance of her communications, targeting not only the mobile phone she uses to conduct business for her conservative Christian Democratic Union party but also her encrypted official device.

Merkel only acquired the latter handset over the summer.

Bild said U.S. specialists were then able to monitor the content of her conversations as well as text messages, which Merkel sends by the dozen each day to key associates.

Only the specially secured land line in her office was out of the reach of the NSA, which sent the intelligence gathered straight to the White House bypassing the agency’s headquarters, according to the report.

Bild and Spiegel described a hive of spy activity on the fourth floor of the U.S. embassy in central Berlin, a stone’s throw from the government quarter, from which the United States kept tabs on Merkel and other German officials.

Spiegel cited a classified 2010 document indicating that US intelligence had 80 high-tech surveillance offices worldwide in cities including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.

© 2013 AFP

 

http://www.japantoday.com/category/world/view/europe-should-be-grateful-for-spying-say-u-s-lawmakers

Russian representative denies US media claims of his involvement in espionage – Rossotrudnichestvo exchange program

Russian representative denies US media claims of his involvement in espionage

Photo EPA/CJ GUNTHER

WASHINGTON, October 24 (Itar-Tass) – Representative of   Russia’s Federal Agency for Cooperation with   Fellow-Countrymen Abroad /Rossotrudnichestvo/ in   Washington, Yury Zaytsev, has expressed astonishment over   publications in the U.S. media saying that the FBI suspects   him of working for the Russian intelligence services.

Reports on Zaytsev’s alleged illegal activities were   put up by several US media at a time, including the   Internet version of The Washington Post, which mentioned   unnamed law enforcement officials as the sources of   information.

According to the newspaper, FBI agents have been   interviewing Americans who participated in the   Rossotrudnichestvo exchange program run by Zaytsev, who   also heads the Russian Center for Science and Culture in   Washington.

“Law enforcement officials said the FBI is   investigating whether Zaytsev and Rossotrudnichestvo have   used trips to Russia /sponsored by the Center – Itar-Tass/   to recruit Americans,” the article said.

It went on to say that Rossotrudnichestvo had paid for   all their expenses, including meals, travel, visa fees and   lodging. Most of the trips involved about 25 participants,   who sometimes allegedly stayed in luxury hotels and met   with Russian government officials.

Yury Zaytsev strongly denied any such allegations.   “It’s highly regrettable that echoes of the Cold War   regularly surface in Russian-American relations at   present,” he told Itar-Tass.

“It looks like some milieus have an itch to separate   our two countries by an iron curtain again,” Zaytsev said.

As for the FBI, it acted in line with its longtime   tradition of refraining from comments on reports of that   kind. Amy Thoreson, the agency’s official spokeswoman   refused to make any definite comment on suspicions   regarding Zaytsev or clarify what actions were being taken   in this connection.

“A significant responsibility of our Center is that of   strengthening the positions of Russian culture, while   familiarizing overseas citizens with the richest Russian   cultural heritage and modern Russian art,” Zaytsev wrote on   the Web site of the center.

“The Russian Cultural Centres possess a system of   operations for supporting the Russian language abroad,   promoting Russian educational services, increasing   cooperation between educational institutions in partner   countries, as well as working with graduates of Russian   (and Soviet) universities,” his message said.

Yevgeny Khorishko, a spokesman for Russia’s Embassy in   Washington refuted the assertions that the cultural center   might have been involved in the recruitment of agents for   the Russian intelligence services

“All such ‘scaring information’ very much resembles   Cold War era,” he said in an e-mail, adding that the   revelations of this type were being leveled only to   “distort and to blacken activities of the Russian Cultural   Center.”

China openly tries to destablize U.S. bond market : Xinhua ” US Treasury bonds may no longer be safe investment.”

China welcomes US debt agreement, but Xinhua pours scorn on politicians

But Xinhua commentary says the deal will only prolong the fuse of the ‘debt bomb’ and delay ‘bankruptcy’ of global confidence in America

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 10:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 12:45am

Agencies in Beijing and Washington

  • obama_debt.jpg
Barack Obama staved off assault on health care law. Photo: MCT

China yesterday  welcomed the resolution of the US debt ceiling deadlock, saying it will contribute to global economic stability, but Xinhua poured scorn on Washington’s politicians.

“The US is the largest economy in the world and the proper resolution of this issue serves not only its own interest but also world economic stability and development,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying  said  during a regular press briefing.

Her comments came as Xinhua said in a bylined commentary that despite the deal, “such move of passing a transient bill was no more than prolonging the fuse of the US debt bomb one inch longer”.

The last-gasp plan by Congress staves off the most pressing crisis by extending the US Treasury’s borrowing authority until February 7. Lawmakers also reached agreement on funding the government until January 15.

At the end of a weeks-long stalemate, President Barack Obama managed to ward off a direct assault on his health care law by House Republicans and forced them to allow an increase in the US debt ceiling without conditions.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks,” Obama said. He hoped that lessons of the stalemate “will be internalised” by lawmakers.

Speaking later in the State Dining Room of the White House, Obama said America could recover if Republicans and Democrats worked together and finished by the end of the year work on a “responsible” budget, passed a new immigration law and approved a farm bill.

But Xinhua said the deal had “done nothing substantial, but postponing once again the final bankruptcy of global confidence in the US financial system and the intactness of dollar investment”.

The commentary was written by Liu Chang, who raised eyebrows a few days earlier with another commentary calling for “a de-Americanised world”.

In a separate bylined commentary  released barely an hour after  Obama signed the deal,  another Xinhua writer charged that US politicians had held the rest of the world hostage in the crisis.

“The founding fathers of the United States of America created Congress for the sake of balance of power,” it said. “They would turn in their graves if they saw their design being kidnapped for political brinkmanship.”

It added: “The saga in Washington is teaching America’s creditors a lesson: US politicians are ready to fight each other at the expense of debt-holders’ interests. US Treasury bonds may no longer be safe investment.”

The Chinese ratings agency Dagong Global Credit Rating cut its credit rating for US sovereign debt by one notch to A-minus, saying Congress had failed to solve the cause of its debt problem.

The agreement does not eliminate the core conflict in Congress over fiscal policy. Republicans say that in the next round of budget talks they will still refuse to raise taxes, while Democrats say they will not cut entitlements.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde welcomed the deal, but said the shaky American economy needed more stable long-term finances.

“It will be essential to reduce uncertainty surrounding the conduct of fiscal policy by raising the debt limit in a more durable manner,” Lagarde said.

The markets reacted positively, with Asian stock markets gaining modestly. But the US dollar and European shares fell as market relief gave way to worries over the economic impact of the 16-day government shutdown. US stocks were lower in early trading

 

http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1333923/china-welcomes-us-debt-agreement-xinhua-pours-scorn-politicians

Chinese state media: Xinhua says ‘new world order should be put in place’ where all nations can have interests respected on equal footing

Chinese state media calls for ‘de-Americanised’ world after US shutdown

 

Xinhua says ‘new world order should be put in place’ where all nations can have interests respected on equal footing

Sunday, 13 October, 2013, 1:59pm
 

Agence France-Presse in Beijing

 
 
 

democrats.jpg

US House Democrats line up to march onto the House floor to address the government shutdown, at the US Capitol in Washington. Photo: Reuters
 

While US politicians grapple with how to reopen their shuttered government and avoid a potentially disastrous default on their debt, the world should consider ‘de-Americanising’, a commentary on China’s official news agency said on Sunday.

“As US politicians of both political parties (fail to find a) viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world,” the commentary on state news agency Xinhua said.

In a lengthy polemic against American hegemony since the second world war, it added: “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.

“A new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing.”

A self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas
Xinhua state news agency

Negotiations over how to end the budgetary impasse have shifted to the US Senate after House Representatives failed to strike a deal with President Obama on extending borrowing authority ahead of an October 17 deadline.

Beijing has in recent days issued warnings as well as appeals for a deal, all the while emphasising the inseparable economic ties that bind the world’s two biggest economies.

“The cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations’ tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonised,” said the commentary.

China is the biggest foreign holder of US Treasury bonds, worth a total of $1.28 trillion according to US government data.

“Instead of honouring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas,” but equally stoked “regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies” the commentary said, referring to Iraq.

It added that emerging economies should have a greater say in major international financial institutions the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and proposed a “new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant US dollar”.

China has only slightly more weight than Italy at the IMF, which has been headed by a European since its creation in 1944.

A governance reform has been in the works for three years but its implementation has been blocked by the effective veto of the United States.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1330873/chinese-state-media-calls-de-americanised-world-after-us-shutdown

Body Armor Details May Be Kept Close to the Chest

 

By RYAN ABBOTT

 

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge won’t force the Pentagon to release autopsy information of U.S. soldiers killed in action to a former Marine doing research on the effectiveness of body armor.

Roger Charles has been involved in a legal battle with the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and the U.S. Department of Defense over such records for more than four years, spanning the courtrooms of multiple federal judges.

According to U.S. District Judge Ketanji Jackson, Charles is a journalist and former Marine Corps officer researching the effectiveness of the body armor that the Pentagon issues to military personnel in combat zones.

He’s been trying to get the government to release autopsy and medical records for soldiers killed in combat, but the agencies have successfully withheld documents under FOIA exemptions.

“Consequently, by 2013, only one narrow issue remained in the case: whether defendants, who had invoked FOIA Exemption 5 to withhold redacted ‘preliminary’ autopsy reports in their entirety, have adequately established that the factual information that such records contain is not reasonably segregable from the exempted material,” Jackson writes.

The judge ruled that “defendants have sufficiently demonstrated that the factual material contained in the preliminary autopsy reports is not reasonably segregable,” granting the government’s motion for summary judgment.

According to the ruling, Charles specifically wants documents that “analyze fatal wounds from bullets that were inflicted on military service members wearing body armor in Iraq and Afghanistan between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2007, and analyze the relationship between personal body armor and lethal torso injuries sustained by such service members.”

But federal judges, for the most part, refuse to order the release of the requested information, ruling that autopsy reports are protected by inter-agency and intra-agency memorandum and medical records exemptions to federal law.

Earlier this year, the judge ruled that the Pentagon failed to properly invoke Exemption 6 – protecting the government from releasing medical records – when refusing to release 42 preliminary autopsy reports responsive to Charles’ modified request, but the matter is under appeal.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/10/07/61832.htm

 

Obama admin. knew about WWII veterans’ request and rejected it

Posted By Charles C. Johnson On 5:20 PM  10/01/2013 In US |

The White House and the Department of the Interior rejected a request from Rep. Steven Palazzo’s office to have World War II veterans visit the World War II memorial in Washington, the Mississippi Republican told The Daily Caller Tuesday.

Palazzo helped the veterans commit an act of civil disobedience against the Park Service Tuesday, when the heroes stormed through barricades around the closed memorial. (Related: WWII vets storm closed memorial as GOP congressman reportedly distracts cops)

The veterans were visiting the memorial as part of Honor Flight, a non-profit that provides veterans free transport to the nation’s capital to visit the memorials to the wars they fought in.

“We got the heads up that they will be barricaded and specifically asked for an exception for these heroes,” Palazzo told TheDC. “We were denied and told, ‘It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?’ when we contacted the liaison for the White House.”

Palazzo’s office was in touch with the heads of the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and the Capitol Police. He says all these officials rejected his request to allow the veterans, many of whom are octogenarians and some of whom are in poor health, to attend.

Palazzo, a Gulf War Marine veteran who has participated in all five of the Honor Flights, blames the White House for making it harder on veterans and playing politics. “At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight,” Palazzo told The Daily Caller, “but having talked with the officials I can’t help but think this was politically motivated. Honor Flights, which bring WWII veterans to the nation’s memorials, are planned a year in advance and cost anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000. How low can you get with playing politics over our nation’s veterans?”

In a statement, Palazzo noted that he is introducing legislation to ensure that all Honor Flights are granted access this week. “This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24/7 access to under normal circumstances — even when Park Service personnel aren’t present,” Palazzo said in the statement. “It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their Memorial than it would to simply let them through. My office has been in touch with NPS officials and the Administration to try to resolve this issue.”

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

URL to article: http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/01/obama-admin-knew-about-wwii-veterans-request-and-rejected-it/

Exclusive: Washington state testing alfalfa for GMO contamination

Carey Gillam

Reuters

3:17 PM CDT, September 11, 2013

(Reuters) – Agriculture officials in Washington state are testing samples of alfalfa after a farmer reported his hay was rejected for export because it tested positive for a genetically modified trait that was not supposed to be in his crop.

If it is confirmed that the alfalfa in question was genetically modified, it could have broad ramifications, said Hector Castro, spokesman at the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a sensitive issue,” Castro said.

Biotech alfalfa is approved for commercial production in the United States. But many foreign and domestic buyers require that supplies not be genetically modified, and the possible presence of GMO modified alfalfa in export supplies could result in lost sales for U.S. farmers.

Just this summer, Japan and South Korea temporarily stopped buying some U.S. wheat because an experimental biotech variety was found growing in a field of conventional wheat in Oregon.

Alfalfa is the fourth-most widely grown U.S. field crop, behind corn, wheat and soybeans, and is used as food for dairy cattle and other livestock. The crop, worth roughly $8 billion, was grown on more than 17 million U.S. acres in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Exports of hay, including alfalfa, have been rising, hitting a record $1.25 billion in 2012, according to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Washington state is one of the largest producers of alfalfa for export.

The Washington farmer, who could not be reached for comment by Reuters, reported the problem to state agriculture officials in late August, according to Castro. The department began testing his alfalfa samples on September 3 and should be finished by Friday, Castro said.

He said it is not clear if the farmer bought seed that was genetically modified and mislabeled or if his field was contaminated by some other means. And testing could reveal no contamination at all, he noted.

Monsanto Co developed the herbicide-tolerant genetic trait that gives alfalfa and other crops the ability to withstand treatments of its Roundup weedkiller, and has maintained that its biotech alfalfa presents no danger to conventional or organic growers.

Many U.S. farmers have embraced Roundup Ready crop varieties as aids to improve crop production.

Genetically modified “Roundup Ready” alfalfa was approved by USDA in 2011 to be planted without restrictions after several years of litigation and complaints by critics.

GMO opponents have warned for more than a decade that, because alfalfa is a perennial crop largely pollinated by honeybees, it would be almost impossible to keep the genetically modified version from mixing with conventional alfalfa. Cross-fertilization could devastate conventional and organic growers’ businesses, they said.

But even though U.S. regulators have deemed biotech alfalfa to be as safe as non-GMO varieties, many foreign buyers will not accept the genetically modified type because of concerns about the health and environmental safety of such crops.

ACX Pacific – a major exporter of alfalfa and other grass hay off the Pacific Northwest to countries that include Japan, Korea, China and parts of the Middle East – will not accept any GMO because so many foreign buyers are so opposed to it.

And domestic organic dairy farmers have said that any contamination of the hay they feed their animals could hurt their sales.

“This is terribly serious,” said Washington state senator Maralyn Chase, a Democrat who fears alfalfa exports could be lost if it is proven that GMO alfalfa has mixed in with conventional supplies.

The possibility of alfalfa contamination comes as Washington state voters weigh a ballot initiative that would require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. A similar measure failed to pass in California last year.

The issue also arises as USDA continues to investigate the contamination of the wheat grown in Oregon.

Monsanto discontinued work on the experimental wheat variety in 2005 because of widespread industry opposition and boycott threats by international buyers. The April discovery of the GMO wheat in Oregon triggered lawsuits and led to some lost export sales of the grain.

(Reporting By Carey Gillam; editing by Jim Marshall)

Copyright © 2013, Reuters

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-usa-alfalfa-gmo-20130911,0,5157883.story

chicagotribune.com

Snowden tricked NSA – and they don’t know how he did it

 Published time: August 24, 2013 17:48                                                                            

View of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the Washington suburb of Fort Meade, Maryland (AFP Photo)View of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the Washington suburb of Fort Meade, Maryland (AFP Photo)

While collecting data Edward Snowden was able to evade all safeguards at the NSA, leaving the agency puzzled at how he did it, according to new report. Officials worry that the ease with which he covered his tracks means another breach could happen.

Information logs exist to tell the government who tried to view  or copy classified information without the proper clearance, but  Snowden appears to have bypassed or deleted them, while working  as a system administrator with contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in  Hawaii. The revelations come from government officials speaking  to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, as they were  prevented from publicly disclosing new information about the  Snowden case.

This is a worrying development for the Obama administration,  which has been at pains to prove to the American public that the  NSA’s computer system cannot be taken advantage of so easily.  Therefore, if Snowden could single-handedly circumvent its cyber  defenses, the question stands as to whom else can gain instant  access to the vast stream of data the clandestine organization  intercepts every day.

NSA Director Keith Alexander could not tell the press in July  what exactly Snowden might have had access to, downloaded or  taken with him, citing an ongoing investigation. This was nearly  two months after the leaks took place.

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander (Reuters / Doug Kapustin)National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander (Reuters / Doug Kapustin)

 

When Snowden had the job of system administrator, he possessed  enough security privileges to access data remotely, browse it  freely, as well as take it off its home servers and copy it onto  portable drives. According to Alexander, this is how the  information was leaked.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines then told the AP that Alexander   “had a sense of what documents and information had been  taken,” but “he did not say the comprehensive  investigation had been completed.” She did not say if Snowden  was capable of viewing or downloading the documents without the  organization’s knowledge.

A key reason behind Snowden’s success may have been that the data  was not very clearly compartmentalized, meaning that specialists  in one area could easily browse information they would never  plausibly need, provided they had the right security clearance.

It is not even clear whether Snowden had to use any ‘hacking’  skills to collect that data, or if he simply misapplied the  powers legally allocated to him.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole defended the government’s  spying activities in Congress in July, saying that employees who  have access to NSA’s programs are effectively monitored by the  government.

“Everything that is done under [the program] is documented and  reviewed before the decision is made and reviewed again after  these decisions are made to make sure that nobody has done the  things that you’re concerned about happening.”

 

Reuters / Pawel KopczynskiReuters / Pawel Kopczynski

 

One of his most crucial leaks was the truth about the US  government’s use of a program that hoarded metadata of  communications between American citizens and intercepted all  incoming and outgoing internet traffic in the country, before  redirecting it straight to the NSA servers.
Officials say that despite leaking information for months without  getting caught, it may be possible that Snowden did not know how  exactly the surveillance programs themselves functioned.

Snowden has since traversed the globe in pursuit of political  asylum, and succeeded with Russia. Washington has been highly  critical of Moscow’s actions and as a gesture of disapproval,  even gone as far as cancel an unrelated meeting between President  Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The NSA is now reportedly “overwhelmed” with trying to  figure out what data and how much of it Snowden managed to steal,  said NBC News on Thursday.

This news, together with the case of Bradley Manning, who between  2009 and 2010 leaked hundreds of thousands of highly classified  documents, has forced the US government to consider the issue of  internal threats to its national security. The 2013 Intelligence  Authorization Act now includes a proposal by Congress to create  an automated computer program for the detection of such insider  threats.

http://rt.com/news/snowden-nsa-safeguards-logs-943/

 

US Giants Skimp on Research, Development / Defense Industry As Profits Rose, Investment Lagged

As Profits Rose, Investment Lagged Behind

Aug. 19, 2013 – 09:26AM   |
By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS and MARCUS WEISGERBER   |   C

 

WASHINGTON — The defense industry enjoyed nearly a decade of explosive growth following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but while revenue and profit went through the roof, investment in company-funded research and development stagnated.

A Defense News analysis of R&D spending by top defense contractors shows independent R&D spending declined by nearly a third in percentage terms from 1999 to 2012.

Capital Alpha Partners, a Washington-based financial analysis group, released a report earlier this month containing R&D figures for five of the largest US defense firms covering that 14-year window. Any analysis of R&D investment is difficult because reporting is not standard. For example, some companies include the cost of bidding on contracts; others do not.

But while an imperfect picture, the numbers do show a clear trend away from company-funded or independent R&D (IRAD).

In 1999, Boeing’s defense unit, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon spent a combined $2.4 billion on IRAD representing 3.3 percent of sales. By 2012, that combined figure had reached $3.3 billion, almost perfectly matching inflation, which was 40 percent during that period.

But while the R&D dollars matched inflation, they came nowhere near matching the ballooning defense revenues. In 1999, the five firms reported sales of $70.8 billion, but by 2012 that figure was $142.6 billion, more than doubling.

As a percentage of sales, R&D began to drop right as the industry expanded in 2002. Actual spending didn’t fall, but as more money poured in very little was directed toward IRAD.

But the block of five companies employed different  tactics. Lockheed spent $822 million in 1999, only to see that number fall to $616 million in 2012. To match inflation, 2012’s spending would have had to rise to $1.15 billion.

Boeing, on the other hand, increased its IRAD spending by 57 percent over that time.

“We are determined to sustain our R&D investment, and selectively grow it, even in the current budget environment,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing Defense president and CEO, said in written statement provided by the company. “We are significantly cutting other costs more deeply to drive affordability for our customers and protect R&D.”

Boeing has invested in several defense projects, including a liquid-hydrogen-powered UAV that can fly several days.

But while Boeing is an exception, the overall trend in IRAD follows larger concerns about defense spending, and uncertainty as to where that money will be invested.

“Any company with any sense is going to invest in things that have a market,” said Jacques Gansler, a former Pentagon acquisition chief during the Clinton administration. “If there’s not a market for it, and you’re trying to cut your costs, it’s a reason why companies are cutting back.”

Gansler said one of the biggest shifts has been in the amount of research being done in the commercial sector.

“Today, there’s a spin on effect coming from commercial to defense, there’s a huge amount of investment being made in the commercial world, which we can take advantage of in the defense world,” he said.

The effects of changes to R&D spending take years to manifest, and the impact of IRAD spending decisions on US defense technology likely won’t be known for another decade. But one area where there is already an effect has been in recruiting engineers, said Byron Callan, the analyst with Capital Alpha Partners who conducted the R&D spending research. The defense industry has become increasingly vocal about how fewer students are focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and how that may eventually harm innovation in the industry.

“Industry yaps about the STEM issues and what’s happening to engineering, but are they really putting their money where their mouth is and providing an environment for engineers where people are going to be excited going to work every day?” he said.

But while executives may want to increase R&D spending, convincing shareholders would likely be difficult, Callan said.

“These are public companies that respond to shareholders who have a keen interest in how operating margins are trending in 2013,” he said. “You wonder how easy that would be for [Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson] or [Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush] to get on a conference call and say that margins aren’t going to be what people anticipated.”

Because of those pressures, private companies that do not have to report earnings figures may have an advantage, experts said. With less scrutiny on the bottom line, those firms can focus on developing the sorts of products that might produce future profit.

Defense Department officials are becoming more vocal in their focus on making sure companies spend money on R&D, with Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall telling Defense News earlier this month that more focus needs to be given to IRAD.

Gansler, however, said industry has responded with skepticism. “When DoD says to the companies, ‘Why don’t you spend more of your money,’ the companies say,  ‘Well, why don’t you spend more of yours?’ ” he said. “It’s a fair reaction.”

There was one cause for optimism in the R&D spending figures: After hitting a low point in 2011, of the five companies previously mentioned, Northrop Grumman was the only one which did not increase IRAD spending for 2012. It would still require massive increases for any of those companies to bring R&D spending back to a percentage of sales seen in the late 90s.

Industry executives have voiced concern that the Pentagon’s focus on purchasing low-cost products is encouraging companies to keep R&D spending low, especially the introduction of concepts like Lowest Price Technically Acceptable bid analysis that promotes cost ahead of overall value.

Others — like Boeing’s Muilenburg — view the larger industry reluctance to spend as an opportunity.

“I believe our R&D strategy sets us apart from our competitors,” he said.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130819/DEFREG02/308190005/US-Giants-Skimp-Research-Development

For Congress, ‘it’s classified’ is new equivalent of ‘none of your business’

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Posted on Tue, Jul. 30, 2013

By Ali Watkins | McClatchy Washington Bureau

last updated: July 30, 2013 05:12:33 PM

WASHINGTON — ]

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reportedly gave its approval last week to an Obama administration plan to provide weapons to moderate rebels in Syria, but how individual members of the committee stood on the subject remains unknown.

There was no public debate and no public vote when one of the most contentious topics in American foreign policy was decided – outside of the view of constituents, who oppose the president’s plan to aid the rebels by 54 percent to 37 percent, according to a Gallup Poll last month.

In fact, ask individual members of the committee, who represent 117 million people in 14 states, how they stood on the plan to use the CIA to funnel weapons to the rebels and they are likely to respond with the current equivalent of “none of your business:” It’s classified.

Those were, in fact, the words Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the committee, used when asked a few days before the approval was granted to clarify her position for her constituents. She declined. It’s a difficult situation, she said. And, “It’s classified.”

She was not alone. In a string of interviews over days, members of both the Senate intelligence committee or its equivalent in the House were difficult to pin down on their view of providing arms to the rebels. The senators and representatives said they couldn’t give an opinion, or at least a detailed one, because the matter was classified.

It’s an increasingly common stance that advocates of open government say undermines the very principle of a representative democracy.

“It’s like a pandemic in Washington, D.C., this idea that ‘I don’t have to say anything, I don’t have to justify anything, because I can say it’s secret,’” said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank.

“Classified” has become less a safeguard for information and more a shield from accountability on tough subjects, said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

“Classification can be a convenient pretext for avoiding difficult questions,” he said. “There’s a lot that can be said about Syria without touching on classified, including a statement of general principles, a delineation of possible military and diplomatic options, and a preference for one or the other of them. So to jump to ‘national security secrecy’ right off the bat looks like an evasion.”

Syria is not the only topic where public debate has been the exception because a matter was classified. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., spoke last week about the frustration he felt because he could not tell his constituents that he believed secret rulings from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had expanded the collection of telephone and Internet data far beyond what many in Congress thought they had authorized.

“Months and years went in to trying to find ways to raise public awareness about secret surveillance authorities within the confines of classification rules,” Wyden said at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank. Had it not been for a leak of a secret court order on the collection of cellphone metadata by former National Security Agency contract worker Edward Snowden, the program might still be beyond discussion, Wyden noted.

But the classification barrier may not be as watertight as committee members make it out to be. Senate Resolution 400, which established the intelligence committee in 1976, has a section specifically devoted to committee oversight of the classification system, which is directed by the executive branch. If a member of the committee feels that classified information is of valid public interest, he or she can ask that it be declassified.

“The Select Committee may, subject to provisions of this section, disclose publicly any information in the possession of such committee after a determination by such committee that the public interest would be served by such a disclosure,” the resolution reads.

When Wyden was asked if he ever used that provision to attempt to get information declassified during his time on the committee, he said “I don’t know which specific provision you’re talking about.”

Certainly, trying to determine how individual committee members feel about Syria policy can be frustrating. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mark Warner, D-Va., refused to state a clear opinion, citing classification.

Others expressed general opinions, though they would say nothing about just what the Obama administration had proposed. Sometimes it was difficult to know from their comments if they were in favor or opposed. “I’m worried we’re behind the curve,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., “(We should get involved) only if we’re ahead of the curve.”

A rare exception was Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine. He spoke candidly about his personal views on American involvement. “We need to be involved to some extent in helping out the opposition,” he said. He called training an imperative, said anti-tank weapons need to be included in any arms shipments, and he hinted that the U.S. should consider strikes against some Syrian government resources, if that became necessary.

The answer didn’t reveal any details of the administration’s plans, but it did offer a clear picture of where he stood. Later, King explained what he thought were the rules about discussion of Syria.

“I think the specifics of the administration’s plan, and the specifics of the actions of the committee, are classified, and should remain confidential,” he said. As for members’ opinions, however, that’s not classified.

But, he said, “That’s their call” on whether to talk about it or not.

Harper, of the Cato Institute, said the tendency for lawmakers to cite classification also sheds light on a pattern of legislative deference to the executive branch, which determines what is and isn’t classified, that undercuts the concept of checks and balances.

“The government works because of a chain of oversight,” Harper said. “Secrecy gets in there and it breaks those chains. So the public can’t oversee Congress. Congress can’t oversee the executive branch. Within executive branch agencies, oversight breaks down. It’s utterly corrosive of democratic processes that we otherwise take for granted.”

Refusing to state an opinion on a classified matter robs people of the chance to objectively assess whether an elected official is representing their interests.

“Nobody’s opinion is classified,” said Aftergood. “There may be specific facts or details of either military operations or intelligence sources that are properly classified, but one’s opinion about current events or about preferred outcomes is absolutely not classified.

“And to say that it is is disingenuous or dishonest.”

Email: awatkins@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @alimariewatkins

 

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/07/30/198097/for-congress-its-classified-is.html#.UfnaKMHn_bi

Pressure mounts on Obama as he REFUSES to pay his interns (while campaigning to raise the minimum wage)

By  Hayley Peterson

PUBLISHED: 21:17 EST, 22  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 21:48 EST, 22 July 2013

As President Obama campaigns to increase the  minimum wage, his own interns aren’t getting paid a cent to work a minimum of 45  hours a week.

White House interns are expected to show up  to work ‘at least’ Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the  administration’s website. Housing and commuting assistance aren’t provided  either, so the White House encourages applicants to petition nonprofits for help  funding their living expenses.

Just this summer alone, the White House  ‘hired’ 147 interns, saving the administration roughly half a million dollars if  it had otherwise paid each intern minimum wage for 45 hours of work per week.  The internship program, which lasts 11 weeks in the summer, runs  year-round.

President Obama's administration has 147 unpaid interns. In this July 18, 2013, file photo Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act in the East Room at the White House in Washington 

President Obama’s administration has 147 unpaid interns.  In this July 18, 2013, file photo Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act in  the East Room at the White House in Washington

 

Unpaid internships are widespread in  Washington. It’s estimated that the federal government uses as many as 30,000  uncompensated interns every summer.

But with Obama calling for an increase to the  minimum wage – which is set at $7.25 an hour – activist Mikey Franklin says it’s  particularly disdainful for the White House to be relying on free labor.

He’s planning to launch a campaign this fall  to ramp up pressure on the White House – and on Washington – to start paying its  interns, reports Buzzfeed journalist Evan  McMorris-Santoro.

 

Franklin and other critics of Washington’s  free-labor culture argue that unpaid internships make it impossible for people  from low-income backgrounds to attain the same opportunities as students whose  parents can afford to subsidize their children’s’ living expenses while they  work for free.

More importantly, the prevalence of unpaid  internships in Washington has made it nearly impossible for anyone to obtain a  paid job on the Hill without first working their way up through a series of  uncompensated gigs, critics argue.

Supporters of the free internship culture  say, however, that the jobs provide educational opportunities that would  otherwise not exist. If Washington was forced to pay its interns, in other  words, then the internships would dissolve.

Franklin is calling his effort the ‘Fair Pay  Campaign’ and he’s planning to formally launch it around Labor Day,  McMorris-Santoro reports.

The campaign will hire activists to get out  the word on college campuses and encourage students to only apply to paid gigs.  It also plans to vilify organizations that take on unpaid interns, while  rewarding those that compensate the young workers.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2374471/President-Obama-refuses-pay-interns-campaigns-raise-minimum-wage.html#ixzz2ZqE1JwBH Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

IRS lawyer says scandal was overseen by D.C., names names

Posted By Patrick Howley On 9:32 PM  07/17/2013 In Politics

Top IRS officials in Washington, D.C. planned and oversaw the agency’s improper targeting of conservative groups, according to the 72-year old retiring IRS lawyer who will testify Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.

Retiring IRS lawyer Carter C. Hull implicated the IRS Chief Counsel’s office, headed by Obama appointee William J. Wilkins, and Lois Lerner, the embattled head of the IRS’ exempt organizations office, in the IRS targeting scandal and made clear that the targeting started in Washington, according to leaked interviews that Hull granted to the Oversight Committee in advance of Thursday’s hearing.

Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George will return to Republican chairman Darrell Issa’s committee Thursday along with two central characters in the IRS saga: Hull and Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre, who previously gave Hull’s name to congressional investigators, fingering him as her Washington-based supervisor.

Hull is naming names.

“In April 2010, Mr. Hull was instructed to scrutinize certain Tea Party applications by one of his superiors in Washington. According to Mr. Hull, these applications were used as ‘test’ cases and assigned to him because of his expertise and because IRS leadership in Washington was ‘trying to find out how [the IRS] should approach these organizations, and how [the IRS] should handle them,’” according to Oversight Committee documents.

“According to Hull’s testimony, Ms. Lerner…gave an atypical instruction that the Tea Party applications undergo special scrutiny that included an uncommon multi-layer review that involved a top advisor to Lerner as well as the Chief Counsel’s office,” according to Oversight Committee documents.

In August 2012, the “Chief Counsel’s office held a meeting with Mr. Hull, Ms. Lerner’s senior advisor, and other Washington officials to discuss these test applications.”

Lerner eventually told Hull that tea party applications would have to go through a round of review at the IRS Chief Counsel’s office, which “created a bottleneck and caused the delay of other Tea Party applications in Cincinnati,” according to Oversight Committee documents.

Former IRS official Michael Seto also told investigators about an email Lerner sent laying out her new review process, in which tea party applications would have to go through her staff, according to Oversight documents.

As The Daily Caller reported, Hull instructed Hofacre’s Cincinnati office, which oversaw audits of tax-exempt nonprofit groups, to target tea party groups and provided her a copy of a letter he wrote to a conservative group requesting additional information in an audit. Hull signed a May 12, 2010 letter to the Albuquerque Tea Party, grilling the group on the recent content of its newsletters and its website.

“I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” Hofacre told congressional investigators.

Hull is retiring from the IRS this summer, and he recently took down his Facebook page after he was publicly exposed.

Hull’s interviews indicate that he is unlikely to plead the Fifth, as some lawyers involved in the scandal were expecting.

“The big question here is: will Carter Hull plead the Fifth?” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents tea party plaintiffs in a class-action suit against the IRS, told the Daily Caller prior to the leaking of his interview transcripts. “We have letter after letter from him proving that he targeted tea party groups. Will he acknowledge the existence of these letters? Or will he do what Lois Lerner did and plead the Fifth?”

“In her case, unsuccessfully,” Sekulow added.

Lerner, the Washington-based IRS official who originally apologized on behalf of the agency in May, attempted to plead the Fifth Amendment in an Oversight hearing, but committee members, led by Republican chairman Darrell Issa, ruled that she had already waived her Fifth Amendment rights by making a statement in a hearing attesting to her innocence.

It is unclear at this time whether Hull and Hofacre ever met in person prior to Thursday’s hearing.

Follow Patrick on Twitter


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

URL to article: http://dailycaller.com/2013/07/17/irs-lawyer-says-scandal-was-overseen-by-d-c-names-names/

US diplomats cry foul as Obama donors take over top embassy jobs / $1.8m per post

Former ambassador likens practice to ‘selling of public office’ as figures show average amount of cash raised is $1.8m per post

 

US embassy in London

US officials are increasingly concerned about the size of donations raised by political supporters who go on to take up top foreign postings. Photograph: Alamy

Barack Obama has rewarded some of his most active campaign donors with plum jobs in foreign embassies, with the average amount raised by recent or imminent appointees soaring to $1.8m per post, according to a Guardian analysis.

The practice is hardly a new feature of US politics, but career diplomats in Washington are increasingly alarmed at how it has grown. One former ambassador described it as the selling of public office.

On Tuesday, Obama’s chief money-raiser Matthew Barzun became the latest major donor to be nominated as an ambassador, when the White House put him forward as the next representative to the Court of St James’s, a sought-after posting whose plush residence comes with a garden second only in size to that of Buckingham Palace.

As campaign finance chairman, Barzun helped raise $700m to fund President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. More than $2.3m of this was raised personally by Barzun, pictured, according to party records leaked to the New York Times, even though he had only just finished a posting as ambassador to Sweden after contributing to Obama’s first campaign.

Matthew Barzun, new US ambassador to LondonState Department veterans are increasingly concerned about the size of donations raised by political supporters who go on to take up top foreign postings. Thomas Pickering, who recently led the investigation into lethal attacks on the US embassy in Libya and represented the US at the United Nations, claimed the practice had become nothing more than “simony” – the selling of public office.

“All these people want to go to places where the lifestyle issues [are pleasant], and to some extent that produces this notion that life in these western European embassies is like Perle Mesta,” he told the Guardian, referring to the “hostess with the mostest” who was ambassador to Luxembourg between 1949 and 1953 and who was known for her lavish parties.

“It has the effect of diminishing perhaps the sense that the US is treating these countries with the respect they deserve,” Pickering said.

Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), which represents career US diplomats, added: “The giving of ambassadorships to people who have raised a lot of money for the campaign has increased and that’s a concern to us in particular.

“There was some thought that with Obama being such a ‘change agent’ that he might really do things differently – but it has just been a bigger let down.”

Clutch of foreign appointments

Obama has made a clutch of foreign appointments recently. The 16th century Villa Taverna in Rome has just gone to John Phillips, a Washington lawyer who raised at least $500,000. John Emerson, a Los Angeles fund manger, will get to meet future contacts as ambassador to Germany after he raised $1.5m. Jane Stetson, heiress to the IBM fortune, is tipped as frontrunner for Paris after she raised $2.4m for Obama.

In total, nine sought-after postings in Europe, the Caribbean or Asia have been given to major donors in recent weeks, with a further three in France, Switzerland and Hungary earmarked to come soon. Of these 12, the precise bundling data is available for 10. According to a Guardian analysis, using the figures leaked to the New York Times, the average amount raised by each donor is $1.79m.

Official campaign finance records give only minimum figures for how much each donor raised among friends and family (a process known as bundling). Even using the published ‘minimum’ donations declared for these bundlers, the amount raised by donors rewarded with foreign postings has soared. The appointees to those same 10 embassies raised at least $5m in 2013, compared to a minimum of $3.3m in 2009, at least $1.3m under George W Bush in 2005 and at least $800,000 for Bush donors in 2001.

Many of the capitals have grown resigned to the process. “All that really matters is that the ambassador is close to the White House – and his top fundraiser usually is,” said one British diplomat, speaking anonymously about Barzun’s appointment.

But to State Department veterans, the notion that only fundraisers can get messages through the West Wing is even more alarming. “To some extent, this question of having the ear of the president, and who has it, shows the seriousness of the issue,” said Ambassador Pickering.

Johnson, the AFSA president, said many donors have less political influence than their host countries like to imagine. “Some foreign countries like the idea that they are getting a friend of the president, but our experience has been that genuine friends are pretty small; most of these people are friends of friends; and they don’t get to call the president right away,” she said.

“In a few exceptional cases they are not detracting from credibility of diplomatic service, but at the scale it’s being done it is undermining the concept of a career diplomatic service and weakening the strength and capacity of the diplomatic service.”

Johnson estimates the percentage of ambassador posts given to political appointees rather than career diplomats has remained roughly steady under Obama at around 30%, but most of these are in parts of the world unattractive to wealthy donors. The share taken by political appointees in western Europe and wealthier Asian capitals has reached between 70% and 85%, the AFSA estimates.

One factor cited by defenders of the practice is that private means are needed to fund the lifestyle led by ambassadors, but the importance of this is disputed by State Department veterans.

“In the embassies I’ve been in, normally you have a representation budget,” said Johnson. “Whether we skimp on it in places like London and Paris and these people add to it so they can serve the best champagne and canapes I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s necessary to be wildly wealthy any more.”

She also said many are disappointed by the reality of embassy life. “If the dog ruins the furniture, you have to pay for it. It’s like being a guest in someone’s house.”

Dysfunctional leadership

This can cause problems of its own. A report by the State Department inspector general into a crisis at the embassy in the Bahamas found that Obama campaign finance chair Nicole Avant presided over “an extended period of dysfunctional leadership and mismanagement, which has caused problems throughout the embassy”. Prior to her appointment as ambassador, Avant was vice president of Interior Music Publishing and was absent from the embassy 276 days between September 2009 and November 2011, according to the report. In response to the report Avant said she “had inherited a dysfunctional embassy”.

Another official report into the Obama campaign donor appointed to Luxembourg, Cynthia Stroum, found she had been “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating” and left her embassy in a “state of dysfunction”. Stroum resigned after the report.

State Department veterans say motivations vary among political donors. “Some go to pleasant islands where the climate and residence are delightful, others just want the title, like British people lust after peerages,” said AFSA’s Johnson. “People think: gee, I really want to call myself ambassador, so I can go buy myself one. Others are perceived to want to just meet people, broaden their contacts of future business contacts people who can help them in their day job.”

The White House insists all its ambassadors are well qualified, regardless of their campaign history. “I am proud that such experienced and committed individuals have agreed to serve the American people in these important roles,” said Obama in a statement issued with Barzun’s appointment.

The Foreign Service Act of 1980, states that “contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor in the appointment of an individual as a chief of mission.”

At at time when the US is reaching the limits of its “hard power”, career foreign service staff argue it is time for professional diplomacy to mount a comeback.

“We tried a lot of military stuff and have we come to the realisation that not every problem out there can be solved by troops, no-fly zones and drones,” concludes Johnson.

“Diplomacy and managing the inter-relationships between countries is actually important, and we ought to be taking it more seriously, preparing people for it and seeing it as a long-term career – not as just something you do for a few years while you are preparing to do something else.”

Good news for the NSA: There are 42% fewer new secrets for future Edward Snowdens to leak

By Josh Meyer @JoshMeyerDC July 3, 2013

Oops, didn’t mean to declassify that. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

One of the reasons former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was able to get away with stealing top-secret documents about government surveillance programs is because Washington’s system of classifying national security information is badly broken. So many entire categories of data are classified—from how surveillance programs like PRISM work to the altitude at which US warplanes fly—that an astounding 4.9 million people are required to have “Top Secret” clearances just to do their jobs as government officials or, like Snowden, as private-sector contractors working on defense and intelligence matters. The system of vetting these people for clearances is dysfunctional, and national-security experts like former House intelligence committee chairwoman Jane Harman have said recently that the Snowden case is a good example of that.

But the problems extend far beyond who gets security clearances. So says the latest annual report (pdf), published June 20, by the Information Security Oversight Office, whose job is to get agencies to classify fewer documents and to declassify many more of them while making sure that real secrets stay secret.

The ISOO estimates that the government and its contractors spent $11 billion last year on “security classification activities”—plus an estimated 20% more for the CIA, NSA and other agencies whose activities are too secret to even mention in the report. The good news is that this is 13%, or $1.7 billion, less than the year before.

But there’s a more important statistic. The report attributes the lower cost, in part, to a project launched by the Obama administration called the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR), which pressures officials to set a higher bar for making things secret. Last year, the report said, US agencies reported 73,477 “original classification decisions” (i.e., the decision to classify something, and at what level)—a drop of 42% from the previous year.

Here’s the breakdown:

qz - classify chart 1

And if that seems like a lot, look at how much it has come down, especially since Barack Obama took office:

qz - classify chart 2

The report isn’t all good news. Overall, it says the government continues to generate classified information at historically high levels, especially through derivative classification, which means putting already classified information in a new document.

Here’s a breakdown of that:

qz - classify chart 4

And a historical breakdown, showing the huge jump when electronic documents were included:

qz - classify chart 6

Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, told Quartz that there’s a direct correlation between all of the over-classification cited in the report and the government’s inability to stop people like Snowden from stealing information. “The more secrets we have, the worse job we do in preserving them,” he says. But he says the 42% drop in the creation of “new secrets” is a glimmer of hope because it appears to be the result of a concerted effort that includes several Obama administration initiatives. “People are saying, ‘Wait a minute, do we need to classify this?’ in a way they had not been before,” Aftergood says. “It is a modest but hopeful sign, potentially a turning point in overall secrecy reduction.”

One thing the new report doesn’t do, though: Describe what kinds of information—the 42%—are no longer considered secret.

 

http://qz.com/100100/good-news-for-the-nsa-there-are-42-fewer-new-secrets-for-future-edward-snowdens-to-leak/

Key US-EU trade pact under threat after more NSA spying allegations

Reports in Der Spiegel that US agencies bugged European council building ‘reminiscent of cold war’, says German minister

in Brussels, in Berlin and

guardian.co.uk,  Sunday 30 June 2013 08.39 EDT

The Justus Lipsius building in Brussels

The Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home of the  EU council – and subject to a US survellance programme, according to documents seen by Der Spiegel. Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian

The prospects for a new trade pact between the US and the European Union worth hundreds of billions have suffered a severe setback following allegations that Washington bugged key EU offices and intercepted phonecalls and emails from top officials.

The latest reports of NSA snooping on Europe – and on Germany in particular – went well beyond previous revelations of electronic spying said to be focused on identifying suspected terrorists, extremists and organised criminals.

The German publication Der Spiegel reported that it had seen documents and slides from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden indicating that US agencies bugged the offices of the EU in Washington and at the United Nations in New York. They are also accused of directing an operation from Nato headquarters in Brussels to infiltrate the telephone and email networks at the EU’s Justus Lipsius building in the Belgian capital, the venue for EU summits and home of the European council.

Without citing sources, the magazine reported that more than five years ago security officers at the EU had noticed several missed calls apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the building that were traced to NSA offices within the Nato compound in Brussels.

The impact of the Der Spiegel allegations may be felt more keenly in Germany than in Brussels. The magazine said Germany was the foremost target for the US surveillance programmes, categorising Washington’s key European ally alongside China, Iraq or Saudi Arabia in the intensity of the electronic snooping.

Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, called for an explanation from the US authorities. “If the media reports are true, it is reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the cold war,” she was quoted as saying in the German newspaper Bild. “It is beyond imagination that our friends in the US view Europeans as the enemy.”

France later also asked the US authorities for an explanation. France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said: “These acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable.

“We expect the American authorities to answer the legitimate concerns raised by these press revelations as quickly as possible.”.

Washington and Brussels are scheduled to open ambitious free trade talks next week following years of arduous preparation. Senior officials in Brussels are worried that the talks would be overshadowed by the latest disclosures of US spying on its closest allies.

“Obviously we will need to see what is the impact on the trade talks,” said a senior official in Brussels. A second senior official said the allegations would cause a furore in the European parliament and could then hamper relations with the US.

Robert Madelin, one of Britain’s most senior officials in the European commission, tweeted that EU trade negotiators always operated on the assumption that their communications were listened to.

A spokesman for the European commission said: “We have immediately been in contact with the US authorities in Washington and in Brussels and have confronted them with the press reports. They have told us they are checking on the accuracy of the information released yesterday and will come back to us.”

There were calls from MEPs for Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European council – who has his office in the building allegedly targeted by the US – and José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission, to urgently appear before the chamber to explain what steps they were taking in response to the growing body of evidence of US and British electronic surveillance of Europe through the Prism and Tempora operations.

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and leader of the liberals in the European parliament, said: “This is absolutely unacceptable and must be stopped immediately. The American data collection mania has achieved another quality by spying on EU officials and their meetings. Our trust is at stake.”

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, told Der Spiegel: “If these reports are true, it’s disgusting.” Asselborn called for guarantees from the very highest level of the US government that the snooping and spying is immediately halted.

Martin Schulz, the head of the European parliament, said: “I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of US authorities spying on EU offices. If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations.

“On behalf of the European parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations.”

There were also calls for John Kerry, the US secretary of state, to make a detour to Brussels on his way from his current trip to the Middle East, to explain US activities.

“We need to get clarifications and transparency at the highest level,” said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch liberal MEP. “Kerry should come to Brussels on his way back from the Middle East. This is essential for the transatlantic alliance. The US can only lead by example, and should uphold the freedoms it claims to protect against attacks from the outside. Instead we see erosion of freedoms, checks and balances, from within.”

Within senior circles in Brussels, however, it has long been assumed that the Americans were listening to or seeking to monitor EU electronic traffic.

“There’s a certain schadenfreude here that we’re important enough to be spied on,” said one of the officials. “This was bound to come out one day. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of our member states were not doing the same to the Americans.”

The documents suggesting the clandestine bugging operations were from September 2010, Der Spiegel said.

A former senior official in Brussels maintained that EU phone and computer systems were almost totally secure but that no system could be immune to persistent high-quality penetration operations.

“I have always assumed that anyone with a decent agency was listening, hacking if they could be bothered,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me much. Sometimes it’s a form of communication.”

Der Spiegel quoted the Snowden documents as revealing that the US taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany a month. “We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners, and we do it too,” Der Spiegel quoted a passage in the NSA document as saying.

On an average day, the NSA monitored about 20m German phone connections and 10m internet datasets, rising to 60m phone connections on busy days, the report said.

Officials in Brussels said this reflected Germany’s weight in the EU and probably also entailed elements of industrial and trade espionage. “The Americans are more interested in what governments think than the European commission. And they make take the view that Germany determines European policy,” said one of the senior officials.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green party MEP and a specialist in data protection, told the Guardian the revelations were outrageous. “It’s not about political answers now, but rule of law, fundamental constitutional principles and rights of European citizens,” he said.

“We now need a debate on surveillance measures as a whole looking at underlying technical agreements. I think what we can do as European politicians now is to protect the rights of citizens and their rights to control their own personal data.”

Talking about the NSA’s classification of Germany as a “third-class” partner, Albrecht said it was not helping to build the trust of Germans or other Europeans. “It is destroying trust and to rebuild that, [the US] will need to take real action on legislation,” he said.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that at least six European member states have shared personal communications data with the NSA, according to declassified US intelligence reports and EU parliamentary documents.

The documents, seen by the Observer, show that – in addition to the UK – Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy have all had formal agreements to provide communications data to the US. They state that the EU countries have had “second and third party status” under decades-old signal intelligence (Sigint) agreements that compel them to hand over data which, in later years, experts believe, has come to include mobile phone and internet data.

Under the international intelligence agreements, nations are categorised by the US according to their trust level. The US is defined as ‘first party’ while the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand enjoy ‘second party’ trusted relationships. Countries such as Germany and France have ‘third party’, or less trusted, relationships.

The data-sharing was set out under a 1955 UK-USA agreement that provided a legal framework for intelligence-sharing that has continued.

It stipulates: “In accordance with these arrangements, each party will continue to make available to the other, continuously, and without request, all raw traffic, COMINT (communications intelligence) end-product and technical material acquired or produced, and all pertinent information concerning its activities, priorities and facilities.”

The agreement goes on to explain how it can be extended to incorporate similar agreements with third party countries, providing both the UK and the US agree.

Under the third party data-sharing agreements each country was given a codename. Denmark was known as Dynamo while Germany was referred to as Richter. The agreements were of strategic importance to the NSA during the cold war.

However, Simon Davies, an intelligence expert and project director at the London School of Economics who writes the Privacy Surgeon blog, suggested the NSA’s role had been given a sharper focus following amendments to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa).

In an interview published in full last night on Davies’ blog, former NSA director General Michael Hayden said: “The changes made to Fisa in 2008 were far more dramatic – far more far-reaching than anything President Bush authorised me to do.”

Davies told the Observer that confirmation of the secret agreements showed there was a need for the EU to investigate.

“It’s clear that the European parliament must intervene at this point through a public inquiry,” Davies said. “MEPs should put the interests of their citizens above party politics and create meaningful reforms.”

The covert data-sharing relationship between leading European countries and the US was first outlined in a 2001 report by the European parliament.

The report stated: “Germany and the United Kingdom are called upon to make the authorisation of further communications interception operations by US intelligence services on their territory conditional on their compliance with the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights).”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/30/nsa-spying-europe-claims-us-eu-trade

Europe Furious over NSA Spying on EU Facilities : ” The US, he added, once the land of the free, “is suffering from a security syndrome,”

‘Out of Control’

By Claus Hecking and Stefan Schultz

Senior European Union officials are outraged by revelations that the US spied on EU representations in Washington and New York. Some have called for a suspension of talks on the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement.

Europeans are furious. Revelations that the US intelligence service National Security Agency (NSA) targeted the European Union and several European countries with its far-reaching spying activities have led to angry reactions from several senior EU and German politicians.

“We need more precise information,” said European Parliament President Martin Schulz. “But if it is true, it is a huge scandal. That would mean a huge burden for relations between the EU and the US. We now demand comprehensive information.”

Schulz was reacting to a report in SPIEGEL that the NSA had bugged the EU’s diplomatic representation in Washington and monitored its computer network (full story available on Monday). The EU’s representation to the United Nations in New York was targeted in a similar manner. US intelligence thus had access to EU email traffic and internal documents. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden, some of which SPIEGEL has seen.

The documents also indicate the US intelligence service was responsible for an electronic eavesdropping operation in Brussels. SPIEGEL also reported that Germany has been a significant target of the NSA’s global surveillance program, with some 500 million communication connections being monitored every month. The documents show that the NSA is more active in Germany than in any other country in the European Union.

‘It Is Abhorrent’

EU and German politicians on Sunday, however, were reacting primarily to the revelations that the US had specifically targeted the 27-member bloc with its surveillance activities. “If these reports are true, then it is abhorrent,” said Luxembourgian Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. “It would seem that the secret services have gotten out of control. The US should monitor their own secret services rather than their allies.”

Asselborn characterized the operation as a breach of trust. “The US justifies everything as being part of the fight against terrorism. But the EU and its diplomats are not terrorists. We need a guarantee from the very highest level that it stops immediately.”

A spokesperson for the European Commission in Brussels said officials had been in contact with US authorities in Washington, DC, and in Brussels and “have confronted them with the press reports. They have told us they are checking on the accuracy of the information released yesterday and will come back to us. We will make no further comments at this stage.”

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who has been sharply critical of the US since the beginning of the Prism scandal, was furious on Sunday. “If media reports are correct, then it is reminiscent of methods used by enemies during the Cold War,” she said in a statement emailed to the media. “It defies belief that our friends in the US see the Europeans as their enemies. There has to finally be an immediate and comprehensive explanation from the US as to whether media reports about completely unacceptable surveillance measures of the US in the EU are true or not. Comprehensive spying on Europeans by Americans cannot be allowed.”

Elmar Brok, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in European Parliament added his opprobrium. “The spying has reached dimensions that I didn’t think were possible for a democratic country. Such behavior among allies is intolerable.” The US, he added, once the land of the free, “is suffering from a security syndrome,” added Brok, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. “They have completely lost all balance. George Orwell is nothing by comparison.”

“It is unacceptable when European diplomats and politicians are spied on in their day-to-day activities,” said Manfred Weber, deputy head and security expert for the European People’s Party, an amalgam of European center-right parties in European Parliament. “Our confidence has been shaken.” Weber is a member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s CDU.

‘Our Trust Is at Stake’

A further Merkel ally in European Parliament, Markus Ferber, accused the US on Sunday of using methods akin to the feared East German secret police, the Stasi. Like Weber, Ferber is a member of the CSU. “A democratic constitutional state that uses Stasi methods sacrifices all credibility as a moral authority,” Ferber told the German daily Die Welt on Sunday. “It has destroyed trust.”

Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister and currently head of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, added: “This is absolutely unacceptable and must be stopped immediately. The American data collection mania, shown publicly with SWIFT and hidden with Prism, has achieved another quality by spying on EU officials and their meetings. Our trust is at stake.”

Green Party officials in Brussels are demanding far-reaching consequences. “This is meltdown of the constitutional state,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a Green Party representative in European Parliament. The NSA engaged in nothing less than “espionage against democratic countries and their institutions,” he added. Albrecht was deeply involved in negotiating the EU’s own policies on data privacy. He said that no one is safe from surveillance anymore and demanded that the EU open proceedings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Green Party floor leader in European Parliament Daniel Cohn-Bendit went even further. “A simple note of protest is not enough anymore. The EU must immediately suspend negotiations with the US over a free trade agreement,” he said. “First, we need a deal on data protection so that something like this never happens again. Only then can we resume (free-trade) negotiations.”

Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Brok isn’t willing to go quite that far, though he does allow that the free trade deal is endangered. “How are you supposed to negotiate when you have to worry that your negotiating positions were intercepted,” he asked.

His views were echoed during a citizens’ dialogue in Luxembourg on Sunday by European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding who also suggested the revelations could adversely impact trade talks. “Partners do not spy on each other,” she said in response to a question from the audience. “We cannot negotiate over a big trans-Atlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators. The American authorities should eliminate such doubt swiftly.”

No Comment

The spying revelations also look as though they could become an issue in the German election campaign. Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic challenger to Merkel, demanded that the chancellor investigate. “The government must clear up the facts as quickly as possible,” Steinbrück told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “If the accusations are confirmed, it would go far beyond legitimate security concerns. That would mean that friends and partners were spied on. That would be completely unacceptable.”

The targeting of EU representations marks a further expansion of the data surveillance scandal that has surrounded the NSA in recent weeks. New details about Prism and additional surveillance programs have continually come to light thanks to whistleblower Snowden. The British secret service agency GCHQ has a similar spying program called Tempora, according to Snowden, which monitors Internet and telephone connections across the globe.

The US has thus far declined to respond to the revelations printed in SPIEGEL. “I can’t comment,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told journalists on Saturday in Pretoria, according to the German news agency DPA.

With reporting by Veit Medick

Related SPIEGEL ONLINE links:

 

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013 All Rights Reserved Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

Attacks from America: NSA Spied on European Union Offices

SPIEGEL ONLINE

SPIEGEL ONLINE


06/29/2013 11:21 PM

By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Fidelius Schmid and Holger Stark

America’s NSA intelligence service allegedly targeted the European Union with its spying activities. According to SPIEGEL information, the US placed bugs in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated its computer network. Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington.

Information obtained by SPIEGEL shows that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL has in part seen. A “top secret” 2010 document describes how the secret service attacked the EU’s diplomatic representation in Washington.

The document suggests that in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the EU representation’s computer network was also infiltrated. In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers.

The attacks on EU institutions show yet another level in the broad scope of the NSA’s spying activities. For weeks now, new details about Prism and other surveillance programs have been emerging that had been compiled by whistleblower Snowden. Details have also emerged that the British intelligence service GCHQ operates a similar program under the name Tempora with which global telephone and Internet connections are monitored.

The documents SPIEGEL has seen indicate that the EU representation to the United Nations was attacked in a manner similar to the way surveillance was conducted against its offices in Washington. An NSU document dated September 2010 explicitly names the Europeans as a “location target”

The documents also indicate the US intelligence service was responsible for an electronic eavesdropping operation in Brussels. A little over five years ago, EU security experts noticed several telephone calls that were apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the Justus Lipsius Building where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council is located. The calls were made to numbers that were very close to the one used for the remote administration of the building’s telephone system.

Security officials managed to track the calls to NATO headquarters in the Brussels suburb of Evere. A precise analysis showed that the attacks on the telecommunications system had originated from a building complex separated from the rest of the NATO headquarters that is used by NSA experts.

A review of the remote maintenance system showed that it had been called and reached several times from precisely that NATO complex. Every EU member state has rooms in the Justus Lipsius Building that can be used by EU ministers. They also have telephone and Internet connections at their disposal.

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013 All Rights Reserved Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

EU officials ‘targeted’ in US spying programme

30  Jun   2013
BERLIN (AFP)

The European Union was one of the “targets” of Washington’s huge Internet spy programme, with bugs hidden in EU offices in Brussels and the United States, German weekly Der Spiegel said in an edition to be published Sunday.

The magazine said the claims were based on confidential documents it was partly able to consult through US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who this month revealed the existence of the so-called PRISM programme operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

A document dated September 2010 and classed as “strictly confidential” describes how the secretive NSA kept tabs on the European Union’s diplomatic mission in Washington, the magazine said.

Microphones were installed in the building and the computer network had been infiltrated, giving the agency access to emails and internal documents.

The EU representation at the United Nations was subject to similar surveillance, Der Spiegel said, adding that the leaked documents explicitly referred to the Europeans as “targets”.

The spying extended to the 27-member bloc’s Brussels headquarters, Der Spiegel said, referring to an incident “more than five years ago” when EU security experts discovered telephone and online bugging devices at the Justus Lipsius building.

 

In its Sunday edition, Germany’s weekly Der Spiegel says the EU was one of the “targets” of Washington’s huge Internet spy programme, with bugs hidden in EU offices in Brussels and the United States.

In 2003, the EU announced it had discovered phone taps in the building targeting the offices of several countries, including Germany, Britain and France.

But it was not immediately clear if Der Spiegel was referring to this case.

In reactions published on the magazine’s website, European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said more information was needed but if the spying allegations proved correct, “it’s a huge scandal”.

“It would be a big strain on the relations between the EU and the US,” he added.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said US spying was “out of control”.

“The US would do better to monitor its intelligence services instead of its allies.”

 

Luxemburg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn answers journalists’ questions before a Foreign Affairs Council meeting on June 24, 2013, in Luxembourg. In response to claims that the EU was one of the “targets” of Washington’s Internet surveillance program PRISM, Asselborn said US spying was “out of control”.

 

The top-secret PRISM programme collects and analyses information from Internet and phone users around the world, with access to data from Google, Yahoo! and other Internet firms.

US officials say the information gathered is vital in the fight against global terrorism.

The European bloc earlier demanded swift answers from Washington about the programme, warning of “grave adverse consequences” for the rights of EU citizens.

On Saturday Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said the United States has asked his country to reject Snowden’s asylum request.

Correa said he told US Vice President Joe Biden that Quito would consult with Washington before making a decision but that, ultimately, it was up to Ecuador whether to take in the fugitive who made bombshell revelations about covert US surveillance of phone records and Web traffic.

Quito held the United States in high regard and “did not seek out” being in this situation, Correa said he told Biden during Friday’s call between the two men.

“Do not get the idea that we are anti-American, as some ill-spirited media outlets are doing,” he said he told the vice president.

In his weekly address to the nation, Correa said he also told Biden that Ecuador could not process Snowden’s asylum request because he was not physically in the country.

“When he comes to Ecuadoran soil, if in fact he ever does, and we have to process the request, the first people whose opinion we will seek is that of the United States,” Correa said.

Snowden, currently holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport after fleeing Hong Kong in the wake of his first disclosures to select media, asked for asylum last weekend.

Ecuador has already granted refuge to Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website. Wanted for questioning in Sweden, the Australian has been hold up at Quito’s embassy in London for the past year.

 

 

Americans widely back NSA phone tracking: poll

11   Jun 2013
WASHINGTON (AFP)

A solid majority of Americans support the US government’s programs tracking telephone records to try to uncover terror, a Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll found Monday.

Despite US intelligence concerns raised by contractor Edward Snowden’s leak of the government’s monitoring of private users’ Web traffic and US citizens’ phone records, Americans may be surprisingly comfortable with their loss of privacy in the interest of national security.

Overall, 56 percent of Americans told pollsters it was “acceptable” for the National Security Agency to access the telephone records of millions of Americans through secret court orders, compared to 41 percent who said it was not.

And 45 percent said the government should be able to prod further and monitor everyone’s online activity if the surveillance would prevent another terror attack like 9/11 in 2001.

However, a slim majority of 52 percent said they were against such sweeping measures.

Snowden, 29, is holed up in Hong Kong, which has an extradition treaty with the United States, and he is cooperating with the British-based Guardian newspaper, which revealed his identity at his own request.

Officials have refused to be drawn on whether Washington plans to demand Snowden’s extradition.

But President Barack Obama’s spy chief, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, has described the leak as gravely damaging to US intelligence gathering, and referred the matter to the Justice Department, which has launched an investigation

The Obama administration Warns Britain if it tries to exit the E.U.

EU exit would put US trade deal at risk, Britain warned

Obama officials say that the UK would probably be excluded from a trade agreement worth billions a year if it leaves the EU

President Barack Obama meets Prime Minister David Cameron in Washingto

David Cameron’s visit to Washington this month was intended to promote the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Photograph: Rex Features

The Obama administration has warned British officials that if the UK leaves Europe it will exclude itself from a US-EU trade and investment partnership potentially worth hundreds of billions of pounds a year, and that it was very unlikely that Washington would make a separate deal with Britain.

The warning comes in the wake of David Cameron’s visit to Washington, which was primarily intended as a joint promotion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Barack Obama, which the prime minister said could bring £10bn a year to the UK alone, but which was overshadowed by a cabinet rebellion back in London.

The threat by Cameron’s ministers to back a UK exit in a referendum on the EU raised doubts in Washington on whether Britain would still be part of the deal once it had been negotiated. More immediately, Obama administration officials were concerned that the uncertainty over Britain’s future would further complicate what is already a hard sell in Congress, threatening a central pledge in the president’s State of the Union address in February.

With formal negotiations expected to start within weeks, the state department already has hundreds of staff working on the partnership. Sources at US-UK meetings in London last week said American officials made it clear that it would take a monumental effort to get TTIP through a suspicious Congress and that “there would very little appetite” in Washington to do it all again with the UK if Britain walked out of Europe.

“Having Britain in the EU  … is going to strengthen the possibility that we succeed in a very difficult negotiation, as it involves so many different interests and having Britain as a key player and pushing for this will be important,” a senior US official said. “We have expressed our views of Britain’s role in the EU and they haven’t changed. TTIP negotiations underscore why we think it’s important that it continues.”

US officials say that the White House is particularly perplexed because Britain played a key role in persuading Obama to stake significant political capital on the ambitious transatlantic partnership. If it is successful it could be the biggest trade and investment deal in history, encompassing half the world’s GDP and a third of its trade.

On both sides of the Atlantic there is hope that the boost provided by removing remaining barriers to US-EU trade and investment — worth about $1bn (£660m) and $4bn respectively – would help lift the west, and then the global economy, out of the doldrums. Writing in the US press this year, the British ambassador to Washington, Sir Peter Westmacott, said “a bold and comprehensive deal could be worth 1%-2% in additional GDP on both sides of the Atlantic. Even a 1% bump would translate, at current GDP levels, into an extra $325bn.” He added that the UK shared the Obama administration’s optimism that it could be completed in less than two years.

Addressing the Senate last week, the US under-secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, Robert Hormats, said the TTIP “is, in many respects, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape our relationship with the European Union“. Hormats added it “will enhance our ability to build stronger relationships with emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere around the world”.

Both European and American officials involved in preparatory talks on the partnership said that it was also intended as a bulwark against the economic challenge of China, aimed at forming a bloc powerful enough to lay down the rules of international trade and investment.

They pointed to the fact that Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Washington this month specifically to try to persuade Obama to include his country in negotiations. Officials said this was a reflection of the gravitational pull the partnership could exert on the rest of the world.

Gary Hufbauer, a former US Treasury official now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that the administration’s hopes to complete a far-reaching partnership in Obama’s term may be over-optimistic and would be torpedoed altogether by a British exit from the EU.

“If the UK separates from the EU, I think will go a long way to derail the TTIP project entirely,” Hufbauer said. “There would be a lot of questions raised. The administration has many battles ahead of it. It will add another layer of confusion on an already confused picture, and there will be lots of commercial concerns in the US [from those who] have had their eye on the UK markets.”

The TTIP will aim to remove the relatively low tariffs of about 3% to 5% between the US and Europe, but its greatest impact will be felt in promoting investment in both directions largely by the convergence of regulations on either side of the Atlantic. One of the greatest potential advantages for the EU would be the opening up of tenders at the US state level to European suppliers. But in return, Europe would have to give up existing protections on its agriculture, film industry and public services.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/may/27/eu-exit-risks-us-trade-deal?guni=Network front:network-front main-3 Main trailblock:Network front – main trailblock:Position5

 

Ricin letters case: US drops charges against Mississippi man : “believed her client had been framed”

Prosecutors say ‘ongoing investigation has revealed new information’, without providing additional detail

Reuters in Tupelo

guardian.co.uk,        Tuesday 23 April 2013

Paul Kevin Curtis

Charges against Paul Kevin Curtis – who was accused of sending ricin-laced letters to Barack Obama – have been dropped by US prosecutors. Photograph: AP

US prosecutors have dropped charges against a Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to Barack Obama and a US senator, according to a court order signed by a judge on Tuesday.

The move came hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from a Mississippi jail on bond. In a court order calling for the charges to be dismissed, prosecutors said the “ongoing investigation has revealed new information” without providing any additional detail. An FBI agent had testified in court that no evidence of ricin was found at Curtis’s home.

Meanwhile, authorities searched the home of another Mississippi man on Tuesday in connection with the case.

Curtis said afterwards that he respected Obama and would never harm a public servant. “I love this country,” he said. The release of Curtis, 45, on bond came shortly after a judge indefinitely postponed a court hearing on his detention.

Christi McCoy, Curtis’s attorney, told CNN she believed her client had been framed. A spokesperson for the US attorney’s office in Oxford, Mississippi did not return calls for comment.

“I do believe someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him,” McCoy told CNN. “It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this.”

Curtis was arrested last Wednesday at his home in Corinth, Mississippi. He was charged with mailing letters to Obama, US senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge containing a substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a highly lethal poison made from castor beans.

The letters were intercepted by authorities before they reached their destinations but the poison scare put Washington on edge during the same week the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/23/ricin-letters-drops-charges-mississippi

Letter tainted with ricin or poison sent to Republican senator Roger Wicker

Envelope intercepted before reaching Capitol Hill tests positive three times as politician given extra security protection

  • Dan Roberts in Washington
  • guardian.co.uk,  Tuesday 16 April 2013 19.28 EDT
Republican senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi

Republican senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who has been sent a letter which has tested positive for ricin or a similar poison. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

The febrile security mood in Washington rose another notch on Tuesday as it emerged that an envelope sent to Senate offices had tested positive for a poison thought to be ricin.

 

The envelope was addressed to the offices of Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, but is understood to have been intercepted before reaching Capitol Hill.

 

Since anthrax attacks in the post caused Congress to shut down in 2001, all mail has been diverted to an off-site facility for testing before delivery.

 

CNN reported that the envelope had tested positive in a first routine test, before being retested two more times, each time coming up positive. The package was then sent to a Maryland lab for further testing, according to the law enforcement source. CNN said Wicker was now being given extra security protection.

 

Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said: “This time the system worked … it tested positive but the letter did not reach Senator Wicker’s office.”

 

He said there was no evidence that the ricin incident was linked to the attack in Boston.

 

“Ricin is very targeted, almost assassin-like, it does not cause mass casualties so would be inconsistent with the terrorist philosophy,” McCaul told CNN. “A lot of members of Congress have threats and this is one to be taken seriously. Roger is a very nice guy and I don’t know why anyone would want to do this to him.”

 

The website Politico reported that lawmakers had been told that the letter sent to Wicker’s office came from an individual who frequently writes to politicians and have been told what to look for if there are more letters containing the toxic substance.

 

Neither US Capitol police nor Wicker’s office could be reached for comment.

 

Senate speaker Harry Reid also confirmed the incident separately and Senator Mary Landrieu said lawmakers were informed of the fact at a closed-door briefing about the Boston Marathon bombings.

 

The incident will rekindle painful memories in Washington of when two Democrat senators were targeted with envelopes containing anthrax spores in a wave of attacks across the US shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In total, five people were killed by the anthrax attacks and Congress was shut for weeks to allow offices to be decontaminated.

 

This time, the envelope testing positive for ricin follows another terrorist attack and comes as much of Washington is in a heightened state of alert following the Boston bombings. Tourists are still prevented from approaching the White House and there is a heavy security presence across the city.

 

Nevertheless, previous suspected ricin tests have turned out to be false alarms as a similar test response can be caused by paper byproducts, not the deadly poison. Non-toxic byproducts of the castor bean plant – the raw material for ricin – are sometimes used in making paper.

 

A report for prepared for Congress in 2010 warned of the potential use of ricin for terrorist attacks.

 

“Persons exposed to ricin exhibit different symptoms depending on the route of exposure,” it said. “Ingestion of ricin causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, gastric haemorrhaging and shock. With a sufficient dose, death occurs within three to five days. Injection of ricin produces severe internal bleeding and tissue death, which can result in the collapse of major organ systems. Death often follows such a collapse.”

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/17/ricin-poison-letter-roger-wicker

Allied forces on high alert amid NK missile threats ( Moved to Watchcon LVL 2 )

Song Sang-ho

The Korea Herald

Publication Date : 11-04-2013

Seoul officials say Pyongyang is ready for multiple missile launches; Washington calls threat ‘unhelpful

South Korea and the US stepped up their intelligence and surveillance activities on Wednesday amid growing signs of North Korea’s imminent multiple missile launches.

The allied forces raised the Watch Condition, or Watchcon, by one notch to level 2, and bolstered their intelligence personnel. Intelligences indicated Pyongyang has finalized preparations to launch its Musudan intermediate-range missiles from its east coast. Seoul officials said.

“North Korea can fire missiles at any time now, if it has the political determination to do so,” a military source said, declining to be named.

Seoul officials believe Pyongyang could launch multiple missiles such as its Musudan, Scud and Rodong missiles on the same day.

“In addition to the two Musudan missiles spotted in the Wonsan area of (the North’s) Gangwon Province, we identified four to five transporter-erector-launchers (mobile launchers) around the Donghan bay spanning South Hamgyeong Province and Gangwon Province,” a senior government official told reporters.

The mobile launchers are known to be used to carry the North’s Scud or Rodong missiles.

Scud missiles with ranges of 300-500 km put South Korea within striking range while Rodong missiles with ranges of some 1,300 km and Musudan missiles with ranges beyond 3,000 km can strike Japan and Guam, respectively.

All three missiles have been deployed before while Taepodong-2 missiles with ranges of longer than 6,700 km are still under development. The intercontinental missiles are capable of striking the US mainland.

In the past, Pyongyang launched multiple missiles in the same day. On July 5, 2006, it launched a Taepodong-2 missile, four Scud missiles and two Rodong missiles while on July 4, 2009, it fired five Scud missiles and two Rodong missiles.

Mobilising their core intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance assets including South Korea’s Aegis-equipped destroyers, the South Korean and US militaries here kept closer tabs on North Korean movements.

The South Korean military ran a taskforce, consisting of some 10 senior officers, to prepare for the possible missile launch.

To better handle ballistic missile threats, Seoul seeks to establish the “Air and Missile Defence-Cell” by July. The AMD-Cell tasked with analyzing missile information gleaned from early warning satellites and radars, is a key part of the low-tier missile shield Seoul plans to build.

During a parliamentary session, Seoul’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se confirmed the possibility of North Korea launching missiles was “considerably high”.

“Based on our and US intelligence, the missile could be the Musudan missile. Its range is around 3,500 km, but how far it will travel hinges on North Korea’s intentions,” he said.

Experts said the range of the missile can be adjusted according to the amount of the fuel, the angle at which it flies, and other factors.

Stressing its nuclear and missile capabilities had reached a “considerable level,” Yun warned another missile launch would constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban any missile tests by the provocative state.

“Upon any additional launch, the UNSC would immediately convene. As we all need to thoroughly analyse the nature of the missile launch, it is yet difficult to predict what kinds of measures the UNSC would adopt for another launch,” he said.

The minister also underscored that Washington would not hold talks with Pyongyang should it continue to set off provocations and refuse to show sincerity in the multilateral efforts to denuclearise it.

“The US stresses that inter-Korean talks should precede any talks between Washington and Pyongyang, (though be held) in close coordination with Washington,” he said.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee session, Adm. Samuel Locklear, the commander of US Pacific Command, said the US military has the ability to intercept a North Korean ballistic missile. But he added that a decision on whether a missile should be intercepted would be based on where it is aimed and expected to land.

“I believe we have the ability to defend the homeland, Guam, Hawaii and defend our allies,” said Locklear, pointing out that the reclusive state’s nuclear weapons and missiles posed a “clear threat” to the US and its regional allies.

The Pentagon plans to deploy a land-based “terminal high-altitude area defence system” to Guam in the coming weeks as a precautionary move to counter a possible missile attack.

It has also unveiled its plan to strengthen missile defence against the North by installing 14 additional ground-based interceptors at its bases in Alaska and California by September 2017.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney characterised North Korea’s nuclear war threat as “unhelpful, concerning and provocative”, noting it was a pattern of combative statements and behaviour that the leadership in Pyongyang has shown for years.

Another US official said North Korea’s test missile launches could occur without Pyongyang issuing a standard warning to commercial aviation and maritime authorities.

“We hope they issue a notification, but at this point we don’t expect it. We are working on the assumption they won’t,” the anonymous official was quoted by CNN as saying.

http://www.asianewsnet.net/Allied-forces-on-high-alert-amid-NK-missile-threat-45269.html

 

S Korean government source: N Korea allegedly preparing fourth underground nuclear test

Северная Корея ядерные испытания Северная Корея кндр ядерные испытания ядерные испытания

Photo: EPA

North Korea could perform a fourth underground nuclear weapons test at Punggye-ri, the site of its previous test. Pyongyang appeared to be making preparations for the test, according to a South Korean government source speaking to the country’s Joong Ang Daily newpaper.

 This comes on the heels of the South’s defense ministry reports that Pyongyang could perform a mid-range missile test-launch by Wednesday – also the deadline it has given to foreign diplomats to evacuate, as their safety would reportedly no longer be guaranteed by the government.
“We have detected increased activity of labor forces and vehicles at the southern tunnel of the test site in Punggye-ri, where the regime has worked on maintenance for facilities since its third nuclear test in February,” one of South’s top government officials said. He added that “the activities appear to be similar to those before the third test, so we are closely monitoring the site.”

 The official went on to say that the South Korean government “were also tipped off that Pyongyang would soon carry out an additional nuclear test… but we are analyzing if it is indeed preparation for an additional test or if it is just to pressure Seoul and Washington.”

 Voice of Russia, RT

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_04_08/S-Korean-government-source-N-Korea-allegedly-preparing-fourth-nuclear-test-915/

 

N.Korea says to enter “state of war” against South Korea – KCNA

Sat, 30 Mar 2013 00:21 GMT

Reuters

 

SEOUL, March 30 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea in a continuing escalation of tough rhetoric against Seoul and Washington after coming under international sanctions for its nuclear test.

“From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly,” a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

KCNA said the statement was issued jointly by the North’s government, ruling party and other organizations.

North Korea has been threatening to attack the South and U.S. military bases almost on a daily basis since the beginning of March, when U.S. and South Korean militaries started routine drills, and has ordered its armed forces on the highest alert.

But the impoverished state has kept a joint industrial zone that is the source of hard currency where hundreds of South Korean workers and vehicles cross enter daily after crossing the rival Koreas’ heavily armed border.

Few believe North Korea will risk starting a full-out war.

The two Koreas have been in a technical state of war because their 1950-53 conflict ended under an armistice and not a peace treaty, although Pyongyang earlier in March declared the truce no longer valid.  (Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Jack Kim)

U.S. Army Learns Hard Lessons in N. Korea-like War Game

Mar. 26, 2013 – 12:44PM   |
By PAUL McLEARY   |

WASHINGTON — It took 56 days for the U.S. to flow two divisions’ worth of soldiers into the failed nuclear-armed state of “North Brownland” and as many as 90,000 troops to deal with the country’s nuclear stockpiles, a major U.S. Army war game concluded this winter.

The Unified Quest war game conducted this year by Army planners posited the collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society and inconveniently lost control over its nukes as it fell. Army leaders stayed mum about the model for the game, but all indications — and maps seen during the game at the Army War College — point to North Korea.

While American forces who staged in a neighboring friendly country to the south eventually made it over the border into North Brownland, they encountered several problems for which they struggled to find solutions. One of the first was that a large number of nuclear sites were in populated areas, so they had to try to perform humanitarian assistance operations while conducting combined arms maneuver and operations.

One way of doing this was to “use humanitarian assistance as a form of maneuver,” Maj. Gen. Bill Hix, director of the Army’s Concept Development and Learning Directorate, told reporters. The Army dropped humanitarian supplies a short distance from populated areas, drawing the population away from the objective sites, he explained.

Many of the problems encountered were hashed out with Army leaders at a Senior Leader Seminar on March 19 at Fort McNair in Washington. The event—which included the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, and the vice chief, Gen. John Campbell, along with a collection of three- and four-star generals — was off the record, but under terms of the agreement that allowed a handful of reporters to cover the event, unattributed quotes can be reported.

One of the major complications was that “technical ISR was not capable of closing the gap” caused by not having human intelligence assets in the country for years before the fight, one participant said. Also, “our ability to get north was hindered by our operational inflexibility,” particularly when it comes to dropping troops into austere, contested areas.

To move soldiers quickly, Marine Corps V-22 Ospreys quickly inserted Army units deep behind enemy lines, but leaders found that inserting troops far in front of the main force so quickly often caused them to be surrounded, after which they had to be withdrawn.

Overall, the friendly force ultimately “failed to achieve the operational agility” it needed to succeed, another participant complained, “largely due to the rigidity” of current deployment models. What’s more, the joint force was “able to get the force there quickly, but it was the technical force” that proved more difficult to deploy.

Another participant agreed, adding “the key challenge was timely access to joint enablers” such as ISR and counter-weapons of mass destruction units, which were desperately needed by the general-purpose ground units.

While not all lessons learned from the exercise were fully hashed out in this unclassified setting, some officers involved expressed their views of how the past decade of war has influenced how the Army prepares to fight.

“We’ve had the luxury in the last several wars of a place called Kuwait” from which to launch troops and stage equipment, one officer said. “I think our skills have atrophied in the call you get in the middle of the night,” and in forcible-entry operations from the air and sea. Skills haven’t been kept fresh in doing things such as loading trains full of equipment, and in setting up new command posts, he said.

Another leader agreed. “We have been spoiled by a command-and-control network that has been established for a decade” in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, adding that the Army has to get back to training to operate in an austere environment.

One lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan, reinforced by the Unified Quest game, was that “we’re not going to fight a pure military war again,” one four-star general opined. Instead, being successful in conflict will require a variety of solutions requiring cultural knowledge, political acumen and other intelligence activities. The problem is, according to another officer, that the service needs to better understand the cultures in which it will fight, since “we tend to focus on the clash, when we need to focus on the will” of the local population.

Gen. Robert Cone, director of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said the difficulties the Army faces in moving troops and materiel around the battlefield again reinforced that “we have significant inter-service dependencies on our ability to move” and that any future fight will be a joint fight.

When asked about the potential for conflict in North Korea specifically, Cone said that while he thinks the forces the U.S. has today in South Korea “are adequate … the question is what forces are adequate for the problem of loose nukes?”

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130326/DEFREG02/303260020/U-S-Army-Learns-Hard-Lessons-N-Korea-like-War-Game?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

Obama couldn’t eat at Hill meeting without food ‘taster’

March 14, 2013

WASHINGTON — Following President Obama’s lunch meeting with Senate  Republicans on Capitol Hill, Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins described  the food served and said the president was not able to eat since his “taster”  was not present.

“University of Maine recipe for healthy lobster salad — I pointed that out to  the president in keeping with the first lady’s initiatives and Fox Family Potato  Chips made in Aroostook County where I’m from and wild blueberry pie full of  anti-oxidants, see this was a healthy lunch as well. We did have a little ice  cream on the  pie too, also made in Maine, Gifford’s Ice Cream. So in all seriousness this was  well received,” Collins told reporters on Thursday after the meeting at the  Capitol.

“Unfortunately, you know, the president can’t,” said Collins when asked if  Obama ate at the lunch meeting.

“He looked longingly at it,” Collins continued. “He honestly did look  longingly at it, but apparently he has to have essentially a taster, and I  pointed out to him that we were all tasters for him, that if the food had been  poisoned all of us would have keeled over so, but he did look longingly at it  and he remarked that we have far better food than the Democrats do, and I said  that was because I was hosting.”

According to a 2009 AFP report, the U.S. Secret Service has “always  refused to confirm that US presidents travel with a food ‘taster’, in line with  their policy of discretion on all security related issues.”

Read more:  http://dailycaller.com/2013/03/14/obama-couldnt-eat-at-hill-meeting-without-taster-audio/#ixzz2NfKUB3Na

N. Korea threatens ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear strike against US

 Published time: March 07, 2013 09:32
Edited time: March 07, 2013 10:19                                                                            
AFP Photo / Pedro Ugarte

AFP Photo / Pedro Ugarte

A spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry says his country may deliver a pre-emptive nuclear strike against its enemies in case an attack on Pyongyang is launched.

“Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to a preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest,” said the statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The reclusive state has ramped up its military rhetoric after conducting its third nuclear test last month, threatening to use every means, including the nuclear arsenal, against any aggression.

Lately Pyongyang accused Washington and Seoul of preparing an attack on North Korea under the guise of a joint military exercise.

As the annual two-month drill goes on, North Korea has imposed no-fly and no-sail zones off both its coasts, a move indicating that it plans to hold its own war games, South Korea’s governmental sources said.

Military experts say North Korea is years away from developing a long-range missile and a nuclear warhead to attack mainland US.

The war of words continues as the UN Security Council mulls over a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang, which are meant to be a response to the February nuclear test.

All permanent members of the UNSC condemned the test, including North Korea’s reluctant ally China, which indicates the sanction-imposing resolution is likely to be adopted.

The new measures are expected to include mandatory inspections of cargoes going in or out of North Korea, additional restraints on luxury trade and freeze of assets of two organizations related to the nuclear test.

 

 

http://rt.com/news/north-korea-nuclear-strike-935/

At least six tanks leaking at US nuclear waste site

23      Feb     2013
LOS ANGELES (AFP)

At least six underground tanks containing nuclear waste in the northwestern US state of Washington are leaking, but there is no imminent threat to public health, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The US Energy Department told the state last week that one tank was leaking at the Hanford nuclear site, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu informed its governor Jay Inslee on Friday that more leaks had been discovered.

“Secretary Chu let him know today that there are actually more tanks they’ve discovered leaking, at least six, possibly more,” Inslee’s spokeswoman Jaime Smith told AFP, after the meeting between Inslee and Chu in Washington DC.

“At this point we don’t believe that there’s any imminent threat to public health. Of course we’re concerned, because we don’t have any information yet about the extent of the leak or how long they’ve been going on.”

Asked for details of the leaking material, she said: “It’s nuclear waste. Different tanks have slightly different kinds of waste that they’re holding. We’re not clear yet on exactly what has been leaking for how long.”

The Hanford nuclear site in the southwest of the US state was used to produce plutonium for the bomb that brought an end to World War II.

Output grew after 1945 to meet the challenges of the Cold War, but the last reactor closed down in 1987. Its website says: “Weapons production processes left solid and liquid wastes that posed a risk to the local environment.”

The ecological threat extends to the Columbia River, it added, noting that in 1989 US federal and Washington state authorities agreed a deal to clean up the Hanford Site.

The Washington governor’s spokeswoman said they hoped for more information about the leaking tanks soon.

“The Department of Energy has committed to try and get us more information pretty quickly, hopefully within the next week or so. So we should have more information soon,” she said.

http://www.afp.com/en/news/topstories/least-six-tanks-leaking-us-nuclear-waste-site

 

FBI agents caught sexting and dating drug dealers

Dating drug dealers, harassing ex-boyfriends with naked pictures, and pointing guns at pet dogs: these were just a few of the offences committed recently by serving FBI agents, according to internal documents.

The US provided officers from the Egyptian secret police with training at the FBI, despite allegations that they routinely tortured detainees and suppressed political opposition.

Egyptian state security thanked the US for ‘training opportunities’ at the FBI academy in Quantico Photo: ALAMY
Raf Sanchez

By , Washington

4:06AM GMT 22 Feb 2013

Disciplinary files from the Bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility record an extraordinary range of transgressions that reveal the chaotic personal lives of some of America’s top law enforcers.

One male agent was sacked after police were called to his mistress’s house following reports of domestic incident. When officers arrived they found the agent “drunk and uncooperative” and eventually had to physically subdue him and wrestle away his loaded gun.

A woman e-mailed a “nude photograph of herself to her ex-boyfriend’s wife” and then continued to harass the couple despite two warnings from senior officials. The Bureau concluded she was suffering from depression related to the break-up and allowed her to return to work after 10 days.

But the sexually picture was only one of what FBI assistant director Candice Will described to CNN as a “rash of sexting cases”. The network was the first to obtain the logs.

 

Two other employees, whose genders were not specified, sent sexually explicit messages to fellow members of the Bureau, one a work Blackberry during office hours.

 

The second employee included a nude photograph which “created office gossip and negatively impacted office operations”.

 

“When you are given an FBI BlackBerry, it’s for official use,” Ms Will said. “It’s not to text the woman in another office who you found attractive or to send a picture of yourself in a state of undress.”

 

During another incident, an employee snapped during an argument with their spouse and went on to snap an e-reader in half. As the situation deteriorated they pointed an “unloaded gun at dog’s head while dog was sitting in spouse’s lap”. The agent was suspended for 45 days.

 

The logs, which contain incidents from July 2012 to January, also describe how a woman “engaged in a romantic relationship with former boyfriend (now husband) knowing he was a drug user/dealer”. She was sacked after lying about the relationship.

 

Other firing offences included shoplifting, possession of child pornography and hiding a recording device in a supervisor’s office during an employment dispute.

 

The incidents, and many others, were included in quarterly emails sent to all FBI employees to help them in “steering clear of ethical pitfalls and other violations”.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9887270/FBI-agents-caught-sexting-and-dating-drug-dealers.html