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MSP airport security: Whole-body scanners are likely, but not everyone's on board Congressional hearings continued Wednesday into a dramatic overhaul of the nation's airport security system, which could see the metal detectors at airports across the country replaced by far more costly whole-body imaging scanners designed to see below clothing and which many say would have stopped the attempted Christmas Day underwear bomber before he stepped onto a plane (Minn Post)
A "Balanced Approach" to Drug Control? Despite trumpeting a "balanced and comprehensive drug strategy," President Obama's White House Drug Czar's office announced this week that it is continuing the nearly two-to-one budget disparity that heavily favors spending on law enforcement and punishment over public health strategies like treatment and prevention. (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)
Intel chief: Al-Qaida likely to attempt attack National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said with changes made since the Dec. 25 attack, U.S. intelligence would he able to identify and stop someone like the Detroit bomber before he got on the plane. But he warned a more careful and skilled would-be terrorist might not be detected. (Comcast)
Obama grows the drug war, with enforcement a clear priority The budget places America's drug war spending at $15.5 billion for fiscal year 2011; an increase of 3.5 percent over FY 2010. That figure reflects a 5.2 percent increase in overall enforcement funding, growing from $9.7 billion in FY 2010 to $9.9 billion in FY 2011. Addiction treatment and preventative measures, however, are budgeted at $5.6 billion for FY 2011, an increase from $5.2 billion in FY 2010. (The Raw Story)
Geithner: 'I had no role' in an AIG cover up Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers Wednesday that he had no involvement in an apparent attempt by government regulators to withhold crucial information about AIG's bailout from the public.
"I had no role in making decisions regarding what to disclose," Geithner testified at a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee Wednesday.
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AIG payouts: Who got what
Counterparties that got more than $1 billion from the government and AIG.
AIG counterparty Total payment
Societe Generale $16.5 billion
Goldman Sachs $14 billion
Deutsche Bank $8.5 billion
Merrill Lynch $6.2 billion
Calyon $4.3 billion
UBS $3.8 billion
Deutsche Zentral Genossenschaftsbank $1.8 billion
Barclays $1.5 billion
Bank of Montreal $1.4 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland $1.1 billion
Wachovia $1 billion
Source:Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
New York Fed officials instructed AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) not to disclose more than a dozen controversial transactions to the Securities and Exchange Commission in November 2008. At the time, Geithner was the president of the New York Fed, but he said he had recused himself from the day-to-day operations at that time because of his nomination to be Treasury secretary.
At least two lawmakers weren't buying Geithner's denial. - "Why shouldn't we ask for your resignation?" Mica asked Geithner. "We're not getting the whole story, we're getting the blame story. You're either incompetent on the job or you knew what was taking place and you tried to conceal it, and I think that's grounds for your review."
Geithner angrily responded to Mica, "You don't know me very well."
He then more calmly said, "That is your right to have that opinion. I have served my country as carefully and ably as I can."
AIG's bailout has incited furor among lawmakers and the public, as the troubled insurer has come to symbolize the corporate greed, risky behavior and lack of regulation that many believe caused the Great Recession.
The issue at hand on Wednesday was one of the bailout's most contentious: a decision by the New York Fed to pay counterparties 100 cents on the dollar for the underlying assets that AIG has insured through so-called credit default swap agreements.
As a result, $62.1 billion of taxpayer and AIG funds were essentially funneled to 16 banks that were counterparties to AIG insurance contracts. - Due to many New York Fed employees' ties to Wall Street investment banks -- including Geithner -- many lawmakers and members of the public have implied that the regulator's decisions may have been made for personal gain.
"I think your commitment to Goldman Sachs trumped your commitment to the American people," said Rep. Steven Lynch, D-Mass. (CNN)
Cancer Risks Debated for Type of X-Ray Scan Edward Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the additional deaths would be indistinguishable from cancers resulting from other causes. But he said, “Just because they can’t be attributed in an epidemiology study to the additional radiation, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.” (New York Times)
Mind-reading systems could change air security in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt over Detroit, President Barack Obama called on Homeland Security and the Energy Department to develop better screening technology, warning: "In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary." (Associated Press)
Agenda: Technology: The Obama-Biden Plan Barack Obama and Joe Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America's competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation's most pressing problems -- including improving clean energy, healthcare costs, and public safety. (White House)
Stop the Internet Blacklist! (Petition) Just the other day, President Obama urged other countries to stop censoring the Internet. But now the United States Congress is trying to censor the Internet here at home. A new bill being debated this week would have the Attorney General create an Internet blacklist of sites that US Internet providers would be required to block. (The first vote is scheduled Thursday, November 18!)
This is the kind of heavy-handed censorship you'd expect from a dictatorship, where one man can decide what web sites you're not allowed to visit. But the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to pass the bill quickly -- and Senators say they haven't heard much in the way of objections! That's why we need you to sign our urgent petition to Congress demanding they oppose the Internet blacklist. (Demand Progress)
Two Million Strong for Net Neutrality (Petition)
This is a crucial time in the fight for Net Neutrality. The FCC is pursuing new Net Neutrality rules; Congress is weighing legislation; and President Obama wants Net Neutrality to become the law of the land.
More than 1.9 million people have already urged Congress and the FCC to stand with the public and pass strong Net Neutrality protections. If we can reach 2 million people, we will send a resounding message that Washington can't ignore.
Urge Congress and the FCC to support Net Neutrality. (SaveTheInternet.com)
Obama could expedite full body scans in U.S. Investors bid up the stocks of imaging companies like American Science and Engineering, OSI Systems, and ICx Technologies Inc between 10 percent and 26 percent on Monday and Tuesday, the first two trading days after the incident. (National Post)
Sick Nigerian Prompts Security Alert in Detroit “A passenger on today’s Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit spent an unusually long time in the aircraft lavatory,” she said in the statement. “Due to this unusual behavior, the airline notified T.S.A. and the agency directed the flight to taxi to a remote area upon landing to be met by law enforcement and D.H.S. “The passenger in question, a Nigerian national, was removed from the flight and interviewed by the F.B.I.; indications at this time are that the individual’s behavior is due to legitimate illness, and no other suspicious behavior or materials have been found." (New York Times)
Specter looks to revive 9/11 suits against Saudis In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case after the Obama administration argued that permitting such lawsuits without a State Department sign-off could interfere with U.S. foreign policy. The degree to which the executive branch should influence litigation against foreign governments has been at the heart of debates over the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. (The Philadelphi Inquirer)
Uranium Is So Last Century -- Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke The thick hardbound volume was sitting on a shelf in a colleague’s office when Kirk Sorensen spotted it. A rookie NASA engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Sorensen was researching nuclear-powered propulsion, and the book’s title — Fluid Fuel Reactors — jumped out at him. He picked it up and thumbed through it. Hours later, he was still reading, enchanted by the ideas but struggling with the arcane writing. “I took it home that night, but I didn’t understand all the nuclear terminology,” Sorensen says. He pored over it in the coming months, ultimately deciding that he held in his hands the key to the world’s energy future.
Published in 1958 under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission as part of its Atoms for Peace program, Fluid Fuel Reactors is a book only an engineer could love: a dense, 978-page account of research conducted at Oak Ridge National Lab, most of it under former director Alvin Weinberg. What caught Sorensen’s eye was the description of Weinberg’s experiments producing nuclear power with an element called thorium.
At the time, in 2000, Sorensen was just 25, engaged to be married and thrilled to be employed at his first serious job as a real aerospace engineer. A devout Mormon with a linebacker’s build and a marine’s crew cut, Sorensen made an unlikely iconoclast. But the book inspired him to pursue an intense study of nuclear energy over the next few years, during which he became convinced that thorium could solve the nuclear power industry’s most intractable problems. After it has been used as fuel for power plants, the element leaves behind minuscule amounts of waste. And that waste needs to be stored for only a few hundred years, not a few hundred thousand like other nuclear byproducts. Because it’s so plentiful in nature, it’s virtually inexhaustible. It’s also one of only a few substances that acts as a thermal breeder, in theory creating enough new fuel as it breaks down to sustain a high-temperature chain reaction indefinitely. And it would be virtually impossible for the byproducts of a thorium reactor to be used by terrorists or anyone else to make nuclear weapons. (Wired)
CNN FINALLY Reports ClimateGate -- To Downplay It Of Course
It only took CNN six days to notice the growing international scandal known as Climategate, and when it finally reported on the matter, it predictably did so by downplaying the significance.
Maybe even more embarrassing for the supposedly "Most Trusted Name In News," Russia Today did a far better job of detailing what happened at Britain's Climate Research Unit and how the global warming debate is impacted by it. Throughout her report on Wednesday's "The Situation Room," CNN correspondent Brooke Baldwin regularly referred to the "global warming consensus."
Even worse, she complained about there being "very little context" in the e-mail messages hacked from a "climate research institute," but never actually read ONE complete message or named ONE of the scientists involved.
Baldwin also withheld from viewers the connection these scientists have to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as their ties to the White House and Congressional Democrats (videos embedded below the fold with CNN transcript)... (News Busters)
FBI blew off killer e-mail to al Qaeda Officials admit shrugging off gunman's e-mails to Qaeda - That's when he sent 10 to 20 e-mails to several terror-related Islamic figures, including Anwar Aulaqi, a radical imam from Virginia who has been openly propagandizing for al Qaeda in Yemen and who had ties to several of the 9/11 hijackers, sources told the LA Times. (New York Post)
The IMF and Our Increased Dependence on Faux-Experts I was in Korea last week with a collection of suit-wearing hotshots. On a panel sat Takatoshi Kato, IMF Deputy Managing Director. Before the discussion he gave us a powerpoint lecture showing the IMF projections for 2010, 2011, ..., 2014. I could not control myself and got into a state of rage. I told the audience that the next time someone from the IMF shows you projections for some dates in the future, to show us what they PROJECTED for 2008 and 2009 in 2004, 2005, ..., and 2007. They would then verify that Mr. Takatoshi and his colleagues provide a prime illustration to the "expert problem": they serve as experts while offering the scientific reliability of astrologers. Anyone relying on them is a turkey. (Huffington Post)
Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A. Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials. (New York Times)
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