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COLLATERAL COSTS: INCARCERATION’S EFFECT ON ECONOMIC MOBILITY Currently 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, equaling more than 1 in 100 adults. Up from just 500,000 in 1980, this marks more than a 300 percent increase in the United States’ incarcerated population and represents the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
Over the last four years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has documented the enormous expense of building prisons and housing inmates that is borne by states and the federal government. Indeed, in the face of gaping budget shortfalls, more than half of the states are now seeking alternative sentencing and corrections strategies that cost less than prison, but can protect public safety and hold offenders accountable. A less explored fiscal implication of incarceration is its impact on former inmates’ economic opportunity and mobility.
Economic mobility, the ability of individuals and families to move up the income ladder over their lifetime and across generations, is the epitome of the American Dream. Americans believe that economic success is determined by individual efforts and attributes, like hard work and ambition, and that anyone should be able to improve his or her economic circumstances.
Incarceration affects an inmate’s path to prosperity. Collateral Costs quantifies the size of that effect, not only on offenders but on their families and children. Before being incarcerated more than two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children.7 Incarceration carries significant and enduring economic repercussions for the remainder of the person’s working years. This report finds that former inmates work fewer weeks each year, earn less money and have limited upward mobility. These costs are borne by offenders’ families and communities, and they reverberate across generations.
People who break the law need to be held accountable and pay their debt to society. Prisons can enhance public safety, both by keeping dangerous criminals off the streets and by deterring would be offenders. However, virtually all inmates will be released, and when they do, society has a strong interest in helping them fulfill their responsibilities to their victims, their families and their communities. When returning offenders can find and keep legitimate employment, they are more likely to be able to pay restitution to their victims, support their children and avoid crime. - INCARCERATION IS CONCENTRATED AMONG MEN, THE YOUNG, THE UNEDUCATED AND RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES—ESPECIALLY AFRICAN AMERICANS.
• One in 87 working-aged white men is in prison or jail, compared with 1 in 36 Hispanic men and 1 in 12 African American men.
• More young (20 to 34-year-old) African American men without a high school diploma or GED are currently behind bars (37 percent) than employed (26 percent). (Pew Charitable Trusts)
Counter-Terror Operation Stops Trucks On I-20 A team of federal agents stopped tractor-trailers on Interstate 20 just west of Atlanta, inspecting each truck as it passed through a weigh station, and Channel 2 has learned its part of a counter-terrorism operation.
Channel 2's Linda Stouffer reported a flashing sign on the interstate directed the trucks to pull into a state-owned inspection station near Lee Road in Douglas County at the height of the evening commute. (WSBTV)
Daily Buzz: US Airmen Give Eerie Testimony at UFO Press Conference An interesting development for UFO conspiracy theorists, a group of former US Airmen held a press conference Monday to call the US government to task for saying UFOs don't pose any national security threat.
During the press conference in Washington D.C., seven former air force officers who had been stationed at different nuclear defense bases around the country not only said they witnessed UFOs but that the UFOs were able to disable nuclear weapons.
"Nobody was injured and I don't consider it an attack but it certainly it was a national security incident and something the Air Force said has never happen in their official policy documents," said Robert Salas, a former U.S. Air Force Nuclear Launch Officer. (Woman's Day)
DNI may win expanded shield from FOIA The Office of the Director of National Intelligence appears to be on the verge of prevailing in an attempt to put some information it receives from other intelligence agencies beyond the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Intelligence Authorization Act passed by the Senate Monday night contains a FOIA-related provision ODNI sought on the grounds that it would encourage the CIA and other agencies to be more willing to share data with the National Counterterrorism Center.
Section 208 of the bill provides that the so-called operational files exemption which four agencies have for some records (CIA, NSA, NRO and NGA) will protect information those agencies share with ODNI from being provided under FOIA. However, there is an important caveat: U.S. citizens and green card holders can still request information about themselves.
National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter requested the operational files exemption in a classified letter sent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this month, an official said. Leiter mentioned the issue in passing at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing last week. (Politico)
Napolitano pitches plan for air security to 190 nations The U.S. Homeland Security chief will urge 190 nations today to improve aviation security with body scanners and other innovations to stop terrorists from carrying plastic and powdered explosives onto airplanes.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the push aims to counter terrorists who might use international flights for attacks by smuggling explosives through overseas metal detectors. Such devices can't stop suicide bombers from hiding unconventional weapons under their clothes. A Nigerian man is under federal indictment for trying to blow up an international flight headed for Detroit in December by igniting powdered explosives in his underwear.
"We need to move to the next stage of screening," Napolitano told USA TODAY. Terrorists "have kind of figured out the magnetometer business." (USA Today)
Sooner or later, marijuana will be legal It's as predictable as the sun rising and setting. Even though police made more than 850,000 marijuana arrests last year, a recent government report shows youth marijuana use increased by about 9 percent.
Supporters of the failed war on drugs will no doubt argue this increase means policymakers should spend more taxpayer money next year arresting and incarcerating a greater number of Americans. In other words, their solution to failure is to do more of the same. Fortunately, the "reform nothing" club is getting mighty lonely these days -- 76 percent of Americans recognize the drug war has failed; millions are demanding change. (CNN)
White House IP Chief Talks Tough on Online Piracy The top White House official overseeing intellectual property issues on Tuesday said that the administration is meeting with a broad array of Internet companies in an attempt to craft policies to curtail the flow of online pirated content.
Victoria Espinel, who serves as the nation's first intellectual property enforcement coordinator within the Office of Management and Budget, said the administration is working with a variety of stakeholders, including Internet service providers, search engines and payment processors, in what it is billing as a "voluntary cooperation initiative."
"We are now actively calling on the private sector to do more in this area," Espinel said this morning at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. "In order to have a functioning Internet, there are many different types of entities and functionalities that you need to make that work. So we are calling on all of those to work cooperatively with the rights holders."
For instance, Espinel plans to meet tomorrow with a group of domain name registrars and registries to discuss, among other things, the prospect of denying Web addresses to illegal pharmacies selling knock-off drugs. (Internet.com)
Administration Seeks Easy Access To Americans' Private Online Communications: Executive Branch Spying Powers Already Too Broad, Says ACLU The Obama administration is seeking to expand the government’s ability to conduct invasive surveillance online, according to a report in The New York Times today. According to the report, the administration is expected to submit legislation to Congress early next year that would mandate that all online communications services use technologies that would make it easier for the government to collect private communications and decode encrypted messages that Americans send over texting platforms, BlackBerries, social networking sites and other “peer to peer” communications software.
The administration has argued that it is simply hoping to emulate the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which mandated that telephone companies rework their networks to be wiretap-ready. The administration’s proposal, however, differs from CALEA as it would require reconfiguring of the Internet to provide easier access to online communications. This is particularly problematic because many of the privacy protections that governed the government’s wiretapping powers when CALEA passed in 1994 no longer exist or have been significantly weakened. (American Civil Liberties Union)
C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.
The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan. Some Pakistani troops have also been diverted from counterinsurgency missions to help provide relief to victims of the country’s massive flooding. (New York Times)
Stuxnet worm rampaging through Iran: IT official The Stuxnet worm is mutating and wreaking further havoc on computerised industrial equipment in Iran where about 30,000 IP addresses have already been infected, IRNA news agency reported on Monday.
"The attack is still ongoing and new versions of this virus are spreading," Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's Information Technology Company, was quoted as saying by IRNA, Iran's official news agency.
Stuxnet, which was publicly identified in June, was tailored for Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities. (Agence France-Presse)
The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition State and federal governments in the United States face massive looming fiscal deficits. One policy change that can reduce deficits is ending the drug war. Legalization means reduced expenditure on enforcement and an increase in tax revenue from legalized sales.
This report estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $41.3 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. Of these savings, $25.7 billion would accrue to state and local governments, while $15.6 billion would accrue to the federal government.
Approximately $8.7 billion of the savings would result from legalization of marijuana and $32.6 billion from legalization of other drugs.
The report also estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Approximately $8.7 billion of this revenue would result from legalization of marijuana and $38.0 billion from legalization of other drugs. (CATO Institute)
U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally. (New York Times)
Was San Bruno Explosion a Plane Crash? A number of reports suggest that the "natural gas pipeline explosion" Sept. 9 that killed seven, injured 50 and leveled 40 homes in San Bruno CA may have involved a plane crash or a missile. If so, there is a massive cover-up taking place.
On 09-10-10 at 11:06 A.M. a huge jet, resembling Air force One flew over San Jose. At 11:29 A.M. an F-18 flew over, and at 12:46 P.M. an AC -130 gunship (with the side gun turrets) followed.
The F-18's engines were roaring like a freight train. The F-18 appeared to be carrying large fuel tanks and ordinance. Being shortly before 9-11, I thought, "here comes another false flag incident."
Above is a photo of the F-18 as it flew over. Below is a photo showing the ordinance these jets can carry. It is not unusual to see an F-18 fly overhead here. It is very unusual for them to be heavily laden with weapons. It had its landing gear down, as you can see, and was headed north (towards Moffett Federal air base, Travis Air Force base, and San Francisco). These are all within thirty miles of San Bruno, where the pipeline allegedly exploded. (Henry Makow)
Chertoff Group: Israel Cyber-Attacks Iranian Nuke Plant With Stuxnet Computer Virus Richard Falkenrath, a principal at Chertoff Group and a Bloomberg Television contributing editor, discusses the Stuxnet computer virus. The worm targets Siemens AG software used to control industrial equipment and may be aimed at destroying Iran's controversial nuclear facility, according to Ralph Langner, a German industrial controls safety expert, the Financial Times reported. Falkenrath, speaking from Washington, talks with Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television's "InsideTrack." (Bloomberg)
Security experts: Computer attacks linked to wealthy group or nation A powerful computer code attacking industrial facilities around the world, but mainly in Iran, probably was created by experts working for a country or a well-funded private group, according to an analysis by a leading computer security company.
The malicious code, called Stuxnet, was designed to go after several "high-value targets," said Liam O Murchu, manager of security response operations at Symantec Corp. But both O Murchu and U.S. government experts say there's no proof it was developed to target nuclear plants in Iran, despite recent speculation from some researchers.
- US officials said last month that the Stuxnet was the first malicious computer code specifically created to take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants. A number of governments with sophisticated computer skills would have the ability to create such a code. They include China, Russia, Israel, Britain, Germany and the United States. But O Murchu said no clues have been found within the code to point to a country of origin. - Symantec's analysis of the code, O Murchu said, shows that nearly 60 percent of the computers infected with Stuxnet are in Iran. An additional 18 percent are in Indonesia. Less than 2 percent are in the U.S.
The malware has infected as many as 45,000 computer systems around the world. Siemens AG, the company that designed the system targeted by the worm, said it has infected 15 of the industrial control plants it was apparently intended to infiltrate. It's not clear what sites were infected, but they could include water filtration, oil delivery, electrical and nuclear plants. None of those infections has adversely affected the industrial systems, according to Siemens. (Associated Press)
State-backed cyber attack targets Iran A COMPUTER worm that targets industrial and factory systems is almost certainly the work of a national government agency, say security experts who warn it could be near-impossible to identify the culprit.
There has been speculation that the target of the virus was Iran's controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant and that it was created by Israeli hackers.
The Stuxnet computer worm, which has been described as one of the ''most refined pieces of malware ever discovered'', has been most active in Iran according to security firm Symantec.
Security experts say that Stuxnet is a targeted attack on industrial locations in specific countries, and its sophistication takes it above previous attacks of a similar nature.
Latest Symantec figures from August show 60 per cent of the computers infected by Stuxnet are located in Iran, up from 25 per cent in July. - The worm then takes over the computer running a factory process and ''blocks'' it for up to a tenth of a second. For high-speed systems, such as the centrifuges used for nuclear fuel processing in Iran, this could be disastrous, experts suggested.
Mr Clulely said the worm clearly had been designed with a specific target in mind.
''Combine this with the fact that the worm was identified by a Belarusian security firm working for an Iranian client and the fact that the nuclear power plant was not working properly for months, it is understandable that speculation points towards Iran as the target.''
Mr Clulely said the world was moving into a ''third age'' of cyber crime, where the intention is not to make money but to bring down critical infrastructure.
''There are political, economic and military ways in which the internet can be exploited, and malware can be used to gain advantage by foreign states.'' (The Age)
Technology identifies troubled individuals Imagine using the same technology to locate a lone bomber before he carries out his terrorist act and to identify a troubled veteran or first responder ground down by tragedies and violence.
Some 120 local first responders from law enforcement and other agencies, the military and mental health professionals gathered Friday to hear firsthand about an advanced computer program that can accomplish those two seemingly different tasks.
The presentation was part of the International First Responder-Military Symposium held at Hilbert College in the Town of Hamburg.
A Swiss professor working with a Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist who heads the Mind Machine Project there outlined how this program operates through computerized scanning of phone calls and electronic messages sent through e-mail and social networking mechanisms.
“Suppose you know there’s a threat to the president when he is visiting, say, Texas. Through information obtained by the National Security Agency, we have the tools to go through huge quantities of data obtained from that area,” said professor Mathieu Guidere of the University of Geneva. (The Buffalo News)
Cyber Attacks Test Pentagon, Allies and Foes Cyber espionage has surged against governments and companies around the world in the past year, and cyber attacks have become a staple of conflict among states.
U.S. military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times a day, and the systems of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters are attacked at least 100 times a day, according to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's secretary-general. "It's no exaggeration to say that cyber attacks have become a new form of permanent, low-level warfare," he said.
More than 100 countries are currently trying to break into U.S. networks, defense officials say. China and Russia are home to the greatest concentration of attacks.
The Pentagon's Cyber Command is scheduled to be up and running next month, but much of the rest of the U.S. government is lagging behind, debating the responsibilities of different agencies, cyber-security experts say. The White House is considering whether the Pentagon needs more authority to help fend off cyber attacks within the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)
Iran confirms "cyberterrorism," computers infected by Stuxnet Iran on Saturday confirmed that its industrial computer system
has become a victim of 'cyberterrorism' and that numerous computers were infected by the malicious Stuxnet software.
An IT official of Iran's mines and metals ministry told the Mehr news agency that 30,000 computers belonging to industrial units have already been infected by the virus.
Mahmoud Alyaie told Mehr that the Iranian industrial control systems are made by Siemens and the Stuxnet is designed to attack exactly these systems and transfer classified data abroad. (Monsters & Critics)
Colbert storms Capitol Hill for migrant workers There's nothing funny about the issue of migrant farm labor -- unless Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert is discussing it.
Colbert, accompanied by a media swarm, sarcastically testified on Capitol Hill Friday about the conditions facing America's undocumented farm workers. The popular host of "The Colbert Report" told members of a House Judiciary subcommittee that he hoped to bring attention to the workers' hardships.
"I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-SPAN 1," he joked. (CNN)
FCC order on airwaves is victory for tech giants The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved the use of unlicensed airwaves in what it hopes will be a new market for high-speed Internet connections for smartphones, tablets and computers.
The order, approved unanimously by the five-member commission, is a win for high-tech giants Dell, Microsoft and Google, which have lobbied for the use of the airwaves known as "white spaces." Those are parts of the broadcast spectrum that sit between television channels, and are valued as a potential home for amped-up versions of WiFi networks with longer ranges and stronger connections that can penetrate walls.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski touted the decision as part of his effort to significantly extend broadband connections in the United States. The order was introduced and passed under then-Chairman Kevin J. Martin two years ago but got hung up with a lawsuit brought by broadcasters, church ministers and Nashville's Dolly Parton, who argued that those airwaves could interfere with wireless microphones and nearby television channels. (Washington Post)
Military-Grade Malware Spurs Theories on New Cyberwar Threat Cybersecurity officials have discovered a widely disseminated piece of malicious software called Stuxnet, which they say establishes a new precedent in the sophistication and threat of cyberwarfare. It's unclear exactly what Stuxnet was designed to do, but officials say the software had embedded itself across computer systems at a number of power facilities and factories over the past year. It appeared to have the ability, if activated, to briefly wrest control of industrial components away from human operators. Analysts say it's possible this could destroy the targeted facility by causing explosions and fires. Wired's Kim Zetter explores the technical analysis and processes in-depth. It's unknown who created it, to what end, and what exactly Stuxnet would have done if it had not been discovered. But here's what we know and the implications. (The Atlantic)
Vacant TV wavelengths opened for broadband in US US regulators have paved the way for new high-speed web connection devices by releasing unused television frequencies for use by mobile broadband.
The decision, reached in a unanimous vote by the Federal Communications Commission, was hailed by the regulator as its first major release of unlicensed spectrum in 25 years. It will open the way for Google, Microsoft and start-ups to market devices that communicate using spectrum that had been left vacant as a buffer zone for broadcast TV stations. (Financial Times)
We ignore rise in drug abuse among kids By William J. Bennett, Alexandra Datig and Seth Leibsohn - Last week, the government released its National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It didn't make much of a news splash, but it should have -- and in years past, it would have.
When a serious war is taking place, officials throughout the administration hold press conferences and issue statements while print and televised media across the country report on it. Almost none of this happened, although the reasons for talking and reporting are greater than they have been in a very long time.
Here's the takeaway: Illicit drug abuse is seriously affecting our children, our schools, our workplaces and our society. And it is on the rise. In 2009, nearly 22 million Americans were regularly abusing illicit drugs: a rise of 1.5 million abusers of marijuana from 2008 and a rise of 2.3 million users from 2007, a rise of 205,000 abusers of Ecstasy from 2008, a rise of 188,000 abusers of methamphetamine from 2008 and a rise of 800,000 abusers of prescription drugs from 2008. (CNN)
Al-Qaeda likely to try small-scale attacks on U.S., officials say Al-Qaeda and its allies are likely to attempt small-scale, less sophisticated terrorist attacks in the United States, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, noting that it's extremely difficult to detect such threats in advance.
"Unlike large-scale, coordinated, catastrophic attacks, executing smaller-scale attacks requires less planning and fewer pre-operational steps," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "Accordingly, there are fewer opportunities to detect such an attack before it occurs." (Washington Post)
Americans Vastly Underestimate Wealth Inequality, Support 'More Equal Distribution Of Wealth': Study Americans vastly underestimate the degree of wealth inequality in America, and we believe that the distribution should be far more equitable than it actually is, according to a new study.
Or, as the study's authors put it: "All demographic groups -- even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy -- desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo."
The report (pdf) "Building a Better America -- One Wealth Quintile At A Time" by Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School (hat tip to Paul Kedrosky), shows that across ideological, economic and gender groups, Americans thought the richest 20 percent of our society controlled about 59 percent of the wealth, while the real number is closer to 84 percent. (Huffington Post)
Gay Rights Campaign Contributions Down in Contentious Year So far during the 2010 election cycle, people and political action committees associated with this special interest area have donated $744,040 to federal candidates, with 96 percent of funds going to Democrats. That’s compared to more than $2 million contributed to federal candidates during the 2006 congressional elections and $1.8 million contributed during the 2008 presidential election cycle. (OpenSecretsblog)
Genetically modified salmon can feed the world The debate over genetically engineered salmon should be put in the proper context: As the world's population grows at an accelerating pace, so does the consumption of seafood.
This is true not only because there are more mouths to feed, but also because as people become more aware of the health benefits associated with eating seafood, more are switching from meat to fish. To satisfy this demand, we have become very sophisticated fishers, with ever-growing fleets, factory fishing ships and very effective gear.
We efficiently hunt our own seafood in the wild; it seems natural to all of us, while we do not hunt for wild chicken, beef or pork. But fish is harvested at a rate that exceeds the fisheries' ability to replenish themselves. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, more than 50 percent of the world's main fisheries stocks are fully exploited, while another 28 percent are over-exploited or depleted. - The public should not be scared by the term "genetic engineering." This powerful platform requires making only relatively minor and very targeted modifications to the animal genome, compared, for example, with selective breeding and domestication, where we manipulate many genes over generations without knowing exactly what is altered. We have all been eating selectively bred fish, chicken, beef and other animals for many years without thinking twice about it. - The AquAdvantage salmon is no different from conventional farmed salmon in its composition and health benefits, and the Food and Drug Administration has concluded that it is safe for people to eat. - Indeed, AquAdvantage salmon are sterile fish, and therefore unable to reproduce even if they escape. (CNN)
Military's Cyber Commander Swears: "No Role" in Civilian Networks If your business gets hacked, don’t bother calling the U.S. military’s new Cyber Command. Sure, the unit has some of the government’s top geeks — and is oh-so-conveniently co-located with the network infiltration experts at the National Security Agency. But Cyber Command is too busy trying to shore up the Pentagon’s digital defenses. Plus, they’re not even sure helping your company out would be legal, yet.
“Right now, we do not have a role,” new Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander tells reporters in a rare on-the-record interview. “Within the United States, I do not believe that’s where Cyber Command should or will operate.”
Changing that, Alexander adds, “is a decision the White House needs to make.”
Of course, it’s often hard to define where one national border begins and another ends on-line. The White House and Congress are both working on legal and policy re-writes which could alter where and how Cyber Command’s forces could wage information combat. Besides, Alexander already has forces that are operating domestically. He’s also the head of the NSA, which today works with American companies to secure their networks. (Wired)
This Year, Contractor Deaths Exceed Military Ones in Iraq and Afghanistan More private contractors than soldiers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, the first time in history that corporate casualties have outweighed military losses on America’s battlefields.
More than 250 civilians working under U.S. contracts died in the war zones between January and June 2010, according to a ProPublica analysis of the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Labor, which tracks contractor deaths. In the same period, 235 soldiers died, according to Pentagon figures.
This milestone in the privatization of modern U.S. warfare reflects both the drawdown in military forces in Iraq and the central role of contractors in providing logistics support to local armies and police forces, contracting and military experts said. (ProPublica)
Bob Woodward book details Obama battles with advisers over exit plan for Afghan war President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.
Frustrated with his military commanders for consistently offering only options that required significantly more troops, Obama finally crafted his own strategy, dictating a classified six-page "terms sheet" that sought to limit U.S. involvement, Woodward reports in "Obama's Wars," to be released on Monday. - Woodward's book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger." (Washington Post)
Building a Better America: One Wealth Quintile at a Time by Michael I Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University - Disagreements about the optimal level of wealth inequality underlie policy debates
ranging from taxation to welfare. We attempt to insert the desires of “regular” Americans into these debates, by asking a nationally representative online panel to estimate the current distribution of wealth in the United States and to “build a better America” by constructing distributions with their ideal level of inequality. First, respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. Second, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution. Most important from a policy perspective, we observed a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups – even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy – desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo. - Most scholars agree that wealth inequality in the United States is at historic highs, with some estimates suggesting that the top 1% of Americans hold nearly 50% of the wealth, topping even the levels seen just before the Great Depression in the 1920’s. - These results demonstrate two clear messages. First, respondents vastly underestimated the actual level of wealth inequality in the United States, believing that the wealthiest quintile held about 59% of the wealth when the actual number is closer to 84%. More interesting, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution, reporting a desire for the top quintile to own just 32% of the wealth. These desires for more equal distributions of wealth took the form of moving money from the top quintile to the bottom three quintiles, while leaving the second quintile unchanged, evidencing a greater concern for the less fortunate than the more fortunate. - Overall, these results demonstrate two primary messages. First, a large nationally representative sample of Americans seem to prefer to live in a country more like Sweden than like the United States. Americans also construct ideal distributions that are far more equal than they estimated the United States to be. – estimates which themselves were far more equal than the actual level of inequality. Second, across groups from different sides of the political spectrum, there was much more consensus than disagreement about this desire for a more equal distribution of wealth, suggesting that Americans may possess a commonly held “normative” standard for the distribution of wealth despite the many disagreements about policies that affect that distribution, such as taxation and welfare. We hasten to add, however, that our use of “normative” is in a descriptive sense -- reflecting the fact that Americans agree on the ideal distribution -- but not necessarily in a prescriptive sense. While some evidence suggests that economic inequality is associated with decreased well-being and health, creating a society with the precise level of inequality that our respondents report as ideal may not be optimal from an economic or public policy perspective. (Michael I Norton and Dan Ariely)
Colbert Grills Eric Schmidt On Privacy, 'Don't Be Evil' Motto (VIDEO) Google CEO Eric Schmidt went head-to-head with Stephen Colbert yesterday evening to discuss everything from data-mining to China to Schmidt's "joke" about privacy.
Colbert grilled Schmidt about Google's search algorithm, and what information the company collects about its users.
"It's true that we see your searches, but then we forget them after while," Schmidt explained (he later told Colbert he would "encourage" him to erase his browser history).
"And I'm supposed to trust you on that?" Colbert probed, asking later, "You wouldn't call that data mining?" Not surprisingly, Schmidt answered with firm, "We actually don't do data mining." (Huffington Post)
United States Could 'Absorb' Another Terror Attack, Obama Says in Woodward Book President Obama, after being warned repeatedly by his advisers about the threat of another terror attack on U.S. soil, said in an interview two months ago that the United States could "absorb" another strike.
The comment was included in the new book by journalist Bob Woodward, "Obama's Wars," excerpts of which were reported by The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The book depicts the contentious debate the Obama administration endured to craft a new strategy in Afghanistan. According to the Post, Obama spent the bulk of the exhaustive sessions pressing for an exit strategy and resisting efforts to prolong and escalate the war.
Despite warnings of another attack, he suggested the United States could weather a new strike.
"We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger," Obama reportedly said. (Fox)
EXCLUSIVE-Cyber bill would give U.S. emergency powers * Tech companies skeptical of costs, requirements
* Senate majority leader pushing cybersecurity proposal
* Cybersecurity expert says bill is "pretty vanilla stuff" - Proposed cybersecurity legislation circulating on Capitol Hill would give the president the power to declare an emergency in the case of big online attacks and force some businesses to beef up their cyber defenses and submit to scrutiny.
The draft bill, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, allows the president to declare an emergency if there is an imminent threat to the U.S. electrical grid or other critical infrastructure such as the water supply or financial network because of a cyber attack.
Industries, companies or portions of companies could be temporarily shut down, or be required to take other steps to address threats.
The emergency declaration would last for 30 days, unless the president renews it. It cannot last more than 90 days without action from Congress.
The draft is a combination of two cybersecurity bills which were merged into one at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "It (the draft bill) is something that we hope to be able to pass before the end of the year, if we can," Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle told Reuters. (Reuters)
Flu shot may prevent heart attack: study Getting a seasonal flu shot may not only prevent influenza — it may also stop some people from having a heart attack, new research suggests.
In a study of almost 79,000 patients at 379 family practices in England and Wales, researchers found annual flu vaccinations were associated with a significant drop in the rate of a first heart attack.
"Flu vaccination is obviously given to prevent flu and complications of flu where you may need hospitalization," said lead author Dr. Niroshan Siriwardena, a family practitioner and a researcher at the University of Lincoln. - And although the study points to a link between the flu shot reducing heart attacks, Siriwardena cautioned the findings do not prove cause and effect.
"Our study and others suggest that there might be benefit in people who haven't already got heart disease, but who are just at high risk of heart disease," he said. (The Canadian Press)
Was Stuxnet Built to Attack Iran's Nuclear Program? A highly sophisticated computer worm that has spread through Iran, Indonesia and India was built to destroy operations at one target: possibly Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor.
That's the emerging consensus of security experts who have examined the Stuxnet worm. In recent weeks, they've broken the cryptographic code behind the software and taken a look at how the worm operates in test environments. Researchers studying the worm all agree that Stuxnet was built by a very sophisticated and capable attacker -- possibly a nation state -- and it was designed to destroy something big.
Though it was first developed more than a year ago, Stuxnet was discovered in July 2010, when a Belarus-based security company discovered the worm on computers belonging to an Iranian client. Since then it has been the subject of ongoing study by security researchers who say they've never seen anything like it before. Now, after months of private speculation, some of the researchers who know Stuxnet best say that it may have been built to sabotage Iran's nukes. (PC World)
‘Proven’ deceptive or clueless on activist spying, PA official ‘hides’ Four days after Pittsburgh paper posts 'State's homeland security chief goes in hiding' story, ex-Army colonel still MIA - The head of Pennsylvania's Office of Homeland Security said last week that his office was not involved in the tracking of peaceful political activists and has reportedly "gone into hiding" now that his statement has been contradicted.
Recently publicized documents show that an intelligence company hired by the state's Homeland Security office monitored the Tea Party, Students for a Democratic Society, anti-drilling groups, and other activist groups. (The Raw Story)
Bill Would Give Justice Department Power to Shutter Piracy Sites Worldwide Lawmakers introduced legislation Monday that would let the Justice Department seek U.S. court orders against piracy websites anywhere in the world, and shut them down through the sites’ domain registration.
The bipartisan legislation, dubbed the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, (.pdf) amounts to the Holy Grail of intellectual-property enforcement. The recording industry and movie studios have been clamoring for such a capability since the George W. Bush administration. If passed, the Justice Department could ask a federal court for an injunction that would order a U.S. domain registrar or registry to stop resolving an infringing site’s domain name, so that visitors to PirateBay.org, for example, would get an error message.
“In today’s global economy the internet has become the glue of international commerce –- connecting consumers with a wide array of products and services worldwide,” said Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) in a statement announcing the bill. “But it’s also become a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.” (Wired)
Congress Only Growing Less Popular With Americans Public approval of Congress remains in short supply in September, with 18% of Americans now approving of the job it is doing, similar to the 19% approving in August. Congress' approval rating has not been above 20% since May, and has not surpassed 30% since September 2009. (Gallup)
Global ‘internet treaty’ proposed: Deal would enshrine in law the founding principles of open standards and net neutrality, and protect the web from political interference. The proposal was presented at the Internet Governance Forum in Lithuania last week, and outlined 12 “principles of internet governance”, including a commitment from countries to sustain the technological foundations that underpin the web’s infrastructure.
The draft law has been likened to the Space Treaty, signed in 1967, which stated that space exploration should be carried out for the benefit of all nations, and guaranteed “free access to all areas of celestial bodies”.
Under the proposed terms of the law, there would be cross-border co-operation between countries to identify and address security vulnerability and protect the network from possible cyber attacks or cyber terrorism.
It would also uphold rights to freedom of expression and association, and the principle of net neutrality, in which all internet traffic is treated equally across the network. (London Telegraph)
GMAC Halts All Foreclosures In 23 States On Heels Of Florida Judge Finding JPM Committed Court Fraud In Mortgage Misappropriation As we pointed out last week, a certain judge in Florida set quite a precedent when he found that JPM, as servicer for a Fannie mortgage, had committed court fraud by foreclosing while not in possession of the actual mortgage. We then concluded that "The implications for the REO and foreclosures track for banks could be dire as a result of this ruling, as this could severely impact the ongoing attempt by banks to hide as much excess inventory in their books in the quietest way possible." Not a week has passed since, and we are already proven right. Today, Bloomberg discloses that GMAC Mortgage, a unit of the affectionately renamed Ally Bank, has halted all foreclosures in 23 states, including Florida, Connecticut and New York. (Zero Hedge)
'Stasi spies' on the motorways: Big Brother fears as motorists are urged to inform on each other Police are asking motorists to spy on each other for examples of poor driving in an alarming new extension of the 'Big Brother' state.
Drivers are told to be on the look out for inconsiderate driving or anybody making 'excessive noise' with their car.
Detailed reports - which critics warn could easily be malicious accusations against neighbours - are submitted to the police, who log extensive details on a huge computer database.
The details are also checked against DVLA databases and the Police National Computer. (UK Daily Mail)
FDA rules won't require labeling of genetically modified salmon As the Food and Drug Administration considers whether to approve genetically modified salmon, one thing seems certain: Shoppers staring at fillets in the seafood department will find it tough to pick out the conventional fish from the one created with genes from another species.
Despite a growing public demand for more information about how food is produced, that won't happen with the salmon because of idiosyncracies embedded in federal regulations.
The FDA says it cannot require a label on the genetically modified food once it determines that the altered fish is not "materially" different from other salmon - something agency scientists have said is true. - The agency warned the dairy industry in 1994 that it could not use "Hormone Free" labeling on milk from cows that are not given engineered hormones, because all milk contains some hormones.
It has sent a flurry of enforcement letters to food makers, including B&G Foods, which was told it could not use the phrase "GMO-free" on its Polaner All Fruit strawberry spread label because GMO refers to genetically modified organisms and strawberries are produce, not organisms.
It told the maker of Spectrum Canola Oil that it could not use a label that included a red circle with a line through it and the words "GMO," saying the symbol suggested that there was something wrong with genetically engineered food. - Ever since the FDA approved the first genetically altered material for use in food in 1992, when Monsanto developed a synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production, the agency has held that it cannot require food producers to label products as genetically engineered.
In the intervening years, the use of genetically engineered crops has skyrocketed; 93 percent of this year's soybean crop is genetically engineered, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. (Washington Post)
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