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The Informants ~ The FBI has built a massive network of spies to prevent another domestic attack. But are they busting terrorist plots--or leading them? JAMES CROMITIE WAS A MAN of bluster and bigotry. He made up wild stories about his supposed exploits, like the one about firing gas bombs into police precincts using a flare gun, and he ranted about Jews. "The worst brother in the whole Islamic world is better than 10 billion Yahudi," he once said.
A 45-year-old Walmart stocker who'd adopted the name Abdul Rahman after converting to Islam during a prison stint for selling cocaine, Cromitie had lots of worries—convincing his wife he wasn't sleeping around, keeping up with the rent, finding a decent job despite his felony record. But he dreamed of making his mark. He confided as much in a middle-aged Pakistani he knew as Maqsood.
"I'm gonna run into something real big," he'd say. "I just feel it, I'm telling you. I feel it."
Maqsood and Cromitie had met at a mosque in Newburgh, a struggling former Air Force town about an hour north of New York City. They struck up a friendship, talking for hours about the world's problems and how the Jews were to blame.
It was all talk until November 2008, when Maqsood pressed his new friend.
"Do you think you are a better recruiter or a better action man?" Maqsood asked.
"I'm both," Cromitie bragged.
"My people would be very happy to know that, brother. Honestly."
"Who's your people?" Cromitie asked.
Maqsood said he was an agent for the Pakistani terror group, tasked with assembling a team to wage jihad in the United States. He asked Cromitie what he would attack if he had the means. A bridge, Cromitie said. (Mother Jones)
Quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies This text has been prepared by the Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp (Madrid). It is based on different texts and summaries which reached consensus in the internal Assemblies of this Commission (and which will be made available on the official webs of the 15th May Movement) and from the experiences gained in the General Assemblies held in this Protest Camp up until 31st May 2011.
pdf-it, pdf-fr, pdf-es, pdf-en
The purpose of this Quick Guide is to facilitate and encourage the development of the different Popular Assemblies which have been created since the beginning of the 15th May Movement. This Quick Guide will be periodically revised and updated. On no account is it to be considered a closed model which cannot be adapted through consensus by any given Assembly. From the Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp we invite our friends and comrades to attend and take part in the meetings, work plans and internal Assemblies of this Commission, which are open to anyone who wants to come to them and actively participate in maintaining, perfecting and developing them. (Take The Square)
Why Voters Tune Out Democrats BARACK OBAMA can’t catch a break from the American public on the economy, even though he prevented a depression and saved global capitalism.
Perhaps the president finds solace in knowing he’s not alone. During this period of economic crisis and uncertainty, voters are generally turning to conservative and right-wing political parties, most notably in Europe and in Canada.
It’s perplexing. When unemployment is high, and the rich are getting richer, you would think that voters of average means would flock to progressives, who are supposed to have their interests in mind — and who historically have delivered for them.
During the last half-century or so, when a Democratic president has led the country, people have tended to experience lower unemployment, less inequality and rising income compared with periods of Republican governance. There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives.
My vantage point on voter behavior comes through my company, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and its work for center-left parties globally, starting with Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. For the last decade, I have worked in partnership with James Carville conducting monthly polls digging into America’s mood and studying how progressives can develop successful electoral strategies. (I am also married to a Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut, Rosa L. DeLauro.) (New York Times)
The Fed Audit The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law passed one year ago this week directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. "As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."
Among the investigation's key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. "No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president," Sanders said. (Bernie Sanders)
What Kind of "Doctor" is Marcus Bachmann? Over the weekend, Truth Wins Out and The Nation exposed the truth about Michele Bachmann's husband's Christian counseling service: It tries to "cure" gay people with harmful, quack-science "ex-gay" therapy.
On the web site of Bachmann and Associates, readers are invited to "meet Dr. Marcus Bachmann" who's been "a clinical therapist in the Twin Cities for more than 20 years." But what kind of "doctor" is Marcus Bachmann and where did he get his degree? In his bio Bachmann lists a masters degree from Pat Robertson's Regent University in Virginia. The bio also lists a "PhD – Clinical Psychology, Union Graduate School, OH." As blogger JARS points out in a well-researched post, the punctuation he uses is "PhD," which should be Ph.D." Okay, that could be just a style choice, as a commenter points out, and people do use both. But it's important because he may or may not have a doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology. And the Union Graduate School no longer exists. Bachmann got a doctoral degree in something from a shady university that came under scrutiny from the Ohio Board of Regents and whose graduate school was dissolved... (The Gist)
Ten Years After Decriminalization, Drug Abuse Down by Half in Portugal Drug warriors often contend that drug use would skyrocket if we were to legalize or decriminalize drugs in the United States. Fortunately, we have a real-world example of the actual effects of ending the violent, expensive War on Drugs and replacing it with a system of treatment for problem users and addicts.
Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.
“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law. (Forbes)
FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Policies and Processes for Managing Emergency Assistance (GAO Report to Congressional Addressees) Why GAO Did This Study -
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed GAO to conduct a one-time audit of the emergency loan programs and other assistance authorized by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve Board) during the recent financial crisis. This report examines the emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve Board from December 1, 2007, through July 21, 2010. For each of these actions, where relevant, GAO’s objectives included a review of (1) the basis and purpose for its authorization, as well as accounting and financial reporting internal controls; (2) the use, selection, and payment of vendors; (3) management of conflicts of interest; (4) policies in place to secure loan repayment; and (5) the treatment of program participants. To meet these objectives, GAO reviewed program documentation, analyzed program data, and interviewed officials from the Federal Reserve Board and Reserve Banks (Federal Reserve System).
- What GAO Recommends -
GAO makes seven recommendations to the Federal Reserve Board to strengthen policies for managing noncompetitive vendor selections, conflicts of interest, risks related to emergency lending, and documentation of emergency program decisions. The Federal Reserve Board agreed that GAO’s recommendations would benefit its response to future crises and agreed to strongly consider how best to respond to them.
- What GAO Found -
On numerous occasions in 2008 and 2009, the Federal Reserve Board invoked emergency authority under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to authorize new broad-based programs and financial assistance to individual institutions to stabilize financial markets. Loans outstanding for the emergency programs peaked at more than $1 trillion in late 2008. The Federal Reserve Board directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) to implement most of these emergency actions. In a few cases, the Federal Reserve Board authorized a Reserve Bank to lend to a limited liability corporation (LLC) to finance the purchase of assets from a single institution. In 2009 and 2010, FRBNY also executed large-scale purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities to support the housing market. The table below provides an overview of all emergency actions covered by this report. The Reserve Banks’ and LLCs’ financial statements, which include the emergency programs’ accounts and activities, and their related financial reporting internal controls, are audited annually by an independent auditing firm. These independent financial statement audits, as well as other audits and reviews conducted by the Federal Reserve Board, its Inspector General, and the Reserve Banks’ internal audit function, did not report any significant accounting or financial reporting internal control issues concerning the emergency programs.
The Reserve Banks, primarily FRBNY, awarded 103 contracts worth $659.4 million from 2008 through 2010 to help carry out their emergency activities. A few contracts accounted for most of the spending on vendor services. For a significant portion of the fees, program recipients reimbursed the Reserve Banks or the fees were paid from program income. The Reserve Banks relied more extensively on vendors for programs that assisted a single institution than for broad-based programs. Most of the contracts, including 8 of the 10 highest-value contracts, were awarded noncompetitively, primarily due to exigent circumstances. These contract awards were consistent with FRBNY’s acquisition policies, but the policies could be improved by providing additional guidance on the use of competition exceptions, such as seeking as much competition as practicable and limiting the duration of noncompetitive contracts to the exigency period. To better ensure that Reserve Banks do not miss opportunities to obtain competition and receive the most favorable terms for services acquired, GAO recommends that they revise their acquisition policies to provide such guidance.
FRBNY took steps to manage conflicts of interest for its employees, directors, and program vendors, but opportunities exist to strengthen its conflict policies. In particular, FRBNY expanded its guidance and monitoring for employee conflicts, but new roles assumed by FRBNY and its employees during the crisis gave rise to potential conflicts that were not specifically addressed in the Code of Conduct or other FRBNY policies. For example, FRBNY’s existing restrictions on its employees’ financial interests did not specifically prohibit investments in certain nonbank institutions that received emergency assistance. To manage potential conflicts related to employees’ holdings of such investments, FRBNY relied on provisions in its code that incorporate requirements of a federal criminal conflict of interest statute and its regulations. Given the magnitude of the assistance (US Government Accountability Office)
Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil Want more rage? We've got eleven charts that show how the superrich spoil it for the rest of us.
In the past 20 years, the US economy has grown nearly 60 percent. This huge increase in productivity is partly due to automation, the internet, and other improvements in efficiency. But it's also the result of Americans working harder—often without a big boost to their bottom lines. Oh, and meanwhile, corporate profits are up 20 percent. (Also read our essay on the great speedup and harrowing first-person tales of overwork.)
You have nothing to lose but your gains
Productivity has surged, but income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000. (Mother Jones)
Amazon protests California Web-sales tax plan Amazon: tax effort is "unconstitutional" -- U.S. states may be eyeing budget deficits - Amazon.com Inc warned its 10,000-plus California sales affiliates on Wednesday that it may be forced to sever ties with them should the state begin taxing their online sales.
The wealthiest U.S. state became the latest -- on the heels of Illinois and Connecticut -- to be dropped by Amazon from its nationwide sales-affiliate program, which relies on in-state websites to drive its own online business.
Its affiliates, paid a fee when they funnel traffic to Amazon that results in a sale, have found themselves in the middle of a battle between Amazon and several states that argue the online retailer has a duty to collect sales taxes when those affiliates operate within their state.
US Department of Justice, James M. Cole Memo: Guidance Regarding the Ogden Memo in Jurisdictions Seeking to Authorize Marijuana for Medical Use Over the last several months some of you have requested the Department's assistance in responding to inquiries from State and local governments seeking guidance about the Department's position on enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in jurisdictions that have under consideration, or have implemented, legislation that would sanction and regulate the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana purportedly for medical use. Some of these jurisdictions have considered approving the cultivation of large quantities of marijuana, or broadening the regulation and taxation of the substance. You may have seen letters responding to these inquiries by several United States Attorneys. Those letters are entirely consistent with the October 2009 memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana (the "Ogden Memo").
The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale o f marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source o f revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Ogden Memorandum provides guidance to you in deploying your resources to enforce the CSA as part of the exercise of the broad discretion you are given to address federal criminal matters within your districts. - There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants. - Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. (US Department of Justice)
Nuclear Plant’s Vital Equipment Dry, Officials Say When safety regulators arrive for a tour of a nuclear plant, the operators usually give the visitors a helmet, safety glasses and earplugs. When Gregory B. Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, got to the Fort Calhoun plant on Monday morning, the Omaha Public Power District offered him a life jacket.
Technically, what the plant is undergoing is not a flood but a “water event,” as the regulatory commission classifies it. But Fort Calhoun has clearly been outflanked by the Missouri River, first at its front door and now at its back door as well. The only access route to the plant is over a sinuous path of catwalks built over the submerged parking lot and walkways in recent weeks.
Vital equipment like generators, pumps and controls are dry, according to the power company and to Mr. Jaczko, who spent a couple of hours clambering over walls of sandbags and inspecting waterproof barriers, some of which were added in recent months at the commission’s insistence. - “We’ve had water at nuclear plants before, but this is the only time we can recall it to this extent or duration,” said Jeffrey Clark, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff member from the regional office in Arlington, Tex., who arrived here on June 9 for a quick look around but then stayed on.
The river is not expected to get substantially higher, but it may not get lower anytime soon, either. On Monday morning, Mr. Jaczko met with the Army Corps of Engineers but did not get a great deal of encouragement. (New York Times)
Fort Calhoun Nuclear Flood Emergency: Hours from core damage The makeshift flood berm "holding floodwaters from" Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Plant collapsed at 1:30 this morning and the plant is now operating on emergency generators as workers try to restore electricity after water surrounded the plant's main electrical transformers.
The auxiliary building at Ft. Calhoun, listed among the nation's 14 most dangerous nuclear plants, was surrounded by water after the berm failure according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission letter. (See Special Report: Nuclear flood threat: 1100 troops, 25,000 homes flooded, NRC chief onsite (vid)," Dupré, D. June 25, 2011)
The NRC letter stated that if water enters the auxiliary building, there could have been a station blackout with core damage in hours.
A berm holding the flooded Missouri River back from Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, 20 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, collapsed early Sunday, but federal regulators said they were monitoring the situation and there was no danger according to AP. (Examiner)
Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 On June 23, 2011, U.S. Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Conyers (D-MICH.), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 2306, a bill to end the federal prohibition on the possession, cultivation, distribution, importation and exportation of marijuana.
This is a remarkable bill for several reasons. First, the bill would truly and completely decriminalize marijuana under federal law. Unlike state laws that reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a summary offense or violation like a traffic offense, there would be no federal violation for possessing or growing marijuana. For example, it is not a federal offense to drive too fast on a federally-funded highway -- it is only a violation of state law. Under this bill, it becomes solely a matter of state law whether one can possess or grow or sell marijuana.
Second, by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, one of the major impediments to state medical marijuana laws would be removed! If enacted, there could no longer be any argument that the state medical marijuana law is in "conflict" with federal law. The bill does not address any issues of regulation of marijuana as a "drug" under the Federal Food, Drug, Cosmetic and Device Act. (Sterling on Justice & Drugs)
Odd Letter From Corps Upsets Property Owners: Some Say Corps Flooded Land To Drive Down Prices Some river bottom property owners say they received a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers' Kansas City district office asking them if they want to sell their land.
KMBC's Micheal Mahoney reported that the letter is angering some of the people who received it because some of them are fighting for their land from a flood they believe the Corps caused.
The letter reads: "The Corps is currently seeking willing sellers." It is part of a 15-year-old corps plan to buy up river property or obtain easements.
The Corps wants the property to enhance wildlife areas for species like the pallid sturgeon -- an endangered fish the corps considers when managing the river.
But to some critics of the corps, it proves their suspicions. (KMBC)
Radioactive dust from Fukushima plant hit N. America soon after meltdown: researchers Radioactive materials spewed out from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant reached North America soon after the meltdown and were carried all the way to Europe, according to a simulation by university researchers.
The computer simulation by researchers at Kyushu University and the University of Tokyo, among other institutions, calculated dispersal of radioactive dust from the Fukushima plant beginning at 9 p.m. on March 14, when radiation levels around the plant spiked. (Mainichi Daily News)
Free to Search and Seize THIS spring was a rough season for the Fourth Amendment. The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission. The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime.
In addition, Congress renewed Patriot Act provisions on enhanced surveillance powers until 2015, and the F.B.I. expanded agents’ authority to comb databases, follow people and rummage through their trash even if they are not suspected of a crime.
None of these are landmark decisions. But together they further erode the privilege of privacy that was championed by Congress and the courts in the mid-to-late-20th century, when the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement was applied to the states, unconstitutionally seized evidence was ruled inadmissible in state trials, and privacy laws were enacted following revelations in the 1970s of domestic spying on antiwar and civil rights groups.
For over a decade now, the government has tried to make us more secure by chipping away at the one provision of the Bill of Rights that pivots on the word “secure” — the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” (New York Times)
How An Athlete's Death Led To Shoddy Drug Laws In 1986, University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias died suddenly after a cocaine overdose. He had just been drafted by the Boston Celtics and was celebrating at a party in a university dorm room.
In a June 19 interview with Salon, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation President Eric Sterling explains how Bias' death prompted a poorly drafted mandatory-sentencing drug crime law that's still in place today. Sterling tells NPR's Neal Conan that the law has shaped the makeup of American prisons for years, penalizing crack cocaine users more harshly than those who use powder. And he would know — he helped write it. (National Public Radio)
Marijuana dispensary raided in south Sacramento A marijuana dispensary in south Sacramento was raided yesterday by Elk Grove police and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. The two operators of the dispensary, a son and his father were placed under arrest. The two police departments claimed that they were operating as a for-profit establishment while the law only allows for non-profit dispensaries. However, this is clearly a front used by the local police to try and scare others out of the pot industry that is developing.
An Oakland based group, Americans for Safer Access, contends that police departments frequently justify raids by claiming a dispensary is not operating as a non-profit establishment. But what they are really doing is trying to maintain control over a market that is starting to become more mainstream. Sacramento police should not be wasting their time busting up marijuana dispensaries. By doing so they are merely interfering in patients suffering from severe illnesses from gaining access to the medicine they need. They are imprisoning people over laws with little public support. They are wasting taxpayer money on an offense which is non-violent, and doesn't harm the surrounding environment. (Examiner)
Bohemian Grove: Where the rich and powerful go to misbehave Every July, some of the richest and most powerful men in the world gather at a 2,700 acre campground in Monte Rio, Calif., for two weeks of heavy drinking, super-secret talks, druid worship (the group insists they are simply “revering the Redwoods”), and other rituals.
Their purpose: to escape the “frontier culture,” or uncivilized interests, of common men.
The people that gather at Bohemian Grove — who have included prominent business leaders, former U.S. presidents, musicians, and oil barons — are told that “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here,” meaning business deals are to be left outside. One exception was in 1942, when a planning for the Manhattan Project took place at the grove, leading to the creation of the atom bomb.
A spokesperson for Bohemian Grove say the people that gather there “share a passion for the outdoors, music, and theater.”
The club is so hush-hush that little can be definitively said about it, but much of what we know today is from those who have infiltrated the camp, including Texas-based filmmaker Alex Jones. In 2000, Jones and his cameraman entered the camp with a hidden camera and were able to film a Bohemian Grove ceremony, Cremation of the Care. During the ceremony, members wear costumes and cremate a coffin effigy called “Care” before a 40-foot-owl, in deference to the surrounding Redwood trees. (Washington Post)
Drug Legalization: A Step Closer, But Still a Long Shot A recent report on drug policy, backed by high-profile political figures, argues for a move away from the “zero tolerance” approach. However, it fails to offer any clear solutions on halting violence and organized crime, and has been rejected by a number of Latin American governments.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy's report (get it English and Spanish here) -- issued June 2 in New York City and signed by an unprecedented 19 high level world leaders, including former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Switzerland, the incumbent Prime Minister of Greece, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, the former European Union High Commissioner Javier Solana, and the British billionaire Richard Branson, among others -- may be the most important call ever for reform to the 1988 United Nations Convention on Drugs (pdf version here).
That convention, adopted worldwide and enforced largely by the United States, set the international ground rules for the so-called “war on drugs.”
The Global Commission is trying to rewrite those rules. And this recent proposal is nothing short of a paradigm shift. (In Sight)
A Real Debate About Drug Policy: George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker on why the 'war on drugs' has failed--and what to do next "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."
That is the opening sentence of a report issued last week by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Both of us have signed on to this report. Why?
We believe that drug addiction is harmful to individuals, impairs health and has adverse societal effects. So we want an effective program to deal with this problem.
The question is: What is the best way to go about it? For 40 years now, our nation's approach has been to criminalize the entire process of producing, transporting, selling and using drugs, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Our judgment, shared by other members of the commission, is that this approach has not worked, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high. But drug use in the U.S. is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem. (Wall Street Journal)
Jesse Ventura attacked by Nano-Thermite crowd over microwave possibility?
Should Jesse Ventura be challenged for suggesting that Nano-thermite (alone) did not bring down the towers?
If you haven’t heard his claims it’s worth getting some feedback and intelligent discussion going.
Jesse Ventura 6/7/11 -- “I was attacked by the 9/11 truthers, unbelievably because of a few things I’ve mentioned and asked questions about on 9/11. I was accused by them of selling out and I got upset over it…” - Ventura continues, “It’s a question that came to [me] on some of the reading I did on these toasted cars. It’s remarkable. Alex, there are over 1,000 of them and they were as far away as the FDR; which is probably six, eight blocks from the Trade Center and there were cars flipped over on their hoods; and in the photos you see the cars flipped on its back, but the leaves are still on the trees…how could this happen? What is the explanation for toasted cars all over Manhattan that day?”
“Well you’re not supposed to ask that,” says Alex with sarcasm. (We Are Change)
Gillibrand Announces New Steps in Ongoing Effort to Make Government More Open and Transparent at The Personal Democracy Forum 2011 Co-Sponsors Legislation Requiring Senators to File FEC Reports Online, Will Comply Before Law Passes Calls for All Public Government Documents To Be Posted Online - Speaking at the Personal Democracy Forum 2011 at New York University, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today announced she is supporting two new efforts in an ongoing effort to make government more transparent and accountable. Senator Gillibrand said she will co-sponsor a proposal in the U.S. Senate which would for the first time require all Senators to file electronic Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports, a practice she will voluntarily comply with beginning the next reporting period. Gillibrand is also co-sponsoring legislation requiring all public government documents be made available online or machine readable. Gillibrand has lead by example in making government more open and transparent, she was the first member of Congress to post her official daily schedule, all earmark requests and personal financial disclosure form on her official website.
Senator Gillibrand said, “It is time to bring Congress into the 21st Century. I haven’t been in Washington long, but it doesn’t take long to know that it’s broken. Everyday people are not being heard because too much business is happening behind closed doors. My agenda puts the interests of families before all else by making government more transparent, accountable, and efficient. Citizens have a right to see who is in the pocket of special interests and who is running a real grassroots campaign without delay and access any public government information on their computers or mobile devices. My agenda makes that process fully open by ensuring that transparency keeps up with technology.” (Kirsten Gillibrand)
Overlooking Oversight In late May, Congress extended three enhanced surveillance powers that were granted to the government after the 9/11 attacks — two in the Patriot Act and one from a related intelligence law. In doing so, lawmakers neatly managed to avoid any lapse in those powers. They failed miserably in their duty to carefully re-examine the provisions, trim back excesses, and add safeguards to protect civil liberties. In other words, they ignored the whole point of requiring that the provisions be periodically reviewed.
One of the renewed provisions permits a roving wiretap on terrorism suspects who switch phone numbers or providers. While this is a useful tool, the lax rules for specifying who is the subject of the wiretap could invite abuse. Another provision permits the government to examine library, bookstore and business records without having to show that the material is related to a terrorism investigation. (New York Times)
GOP fears Dennis Kucinich resolution Seeking to avoid a showdown over Libya, House GOP leaders pulled back from a floor vote on a resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) that would bar U.S. involvement in the NATO-led campaign to topple Muammar Qadhafi.
GOP leaders were scrambling Wednesday morning to come up with an alternative plan for considering the measure. This could include having the Armed Services or Foreign Affairs committees draft backup proposals.
Citing “lots of unrest on both sides of the aisle,” a senior House GOP aide said Republican leaders are still working through their options.
Another senior Republican staffer said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “is concerned that if this were to come to the floor now, it would pass” and could adversely affect the NATO mission in Libya. NATO leaders on Tuesday authorized the continuation of the military campaign against Qadhafi until September. (Politico)
Will gays be 'sacrificial lambs' in Arab Spring? The uprisings bringing political change and demonstrations across much of the Arab world have given millions of people hope of greater freedom. But some gay people in the Middle East fear exactly the opposite.
Homosexuality is illegal -- enforced to varying degrees -- in most Arab countries.
A 2011 report by the International Lesbian and Gay Association reported that homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries worldwide and punishable by death in five, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Despite the risks, there are those willing to speak out and campaign for gay rights across the Middle East. - A 35-year-old gay activist in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, who also spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, said: "Being gay in U.A.E. is keeping yourself discreet and hiding your inner self. One has to be very careful when in public to not draw any attention towards himself in order not to be harassed.
"The political changes occurring in the Middle East are on a political level only and have not resulted in any society changes. All the gay websites are blocked in U.A.E." (CNN)
Justices, 5-4, Tell California to Cut Prisoner Population Conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that broke along ideological lines, described a prison system that failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems and produced “needless suffering and death.”
Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. filed vigorous dissents. Justice Scalia called the order affirmed by the majority “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.” Justice Alito said “the majority is gambling with the safety of the people of California.”
The majority opinion included photographs of inmates crowded into open gymnasium-style rooms and what Justice Kennedy described as “telephone-booth-sized cages without toilets” used to house suicidal inmates. Suicide rates in the state’s prisons, Justice Kennedy wrote, have been 80 percent higher than the average for inmates nationwide. A lower court in the case said it was “an uncontested fact” that “an inmate in one of California’s prisons needlessly dies every six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies.”
Monday’s ruling in the case, Brown v. Plata, No. 09-1233, affirmed an order by a special three-judge federal court requiring state officials to reduce the prison population to 110,000, which is 137.5 percent of the system’s capacity. There have been more than 160,000 inmates in the system in recent years, and there are now more than 140,000.
Prison release orders are rare and hard to obtain, and even advocates for prisoners’ rights said Monday’s decision was unlikely to have a significant impact around the nation.
“California is an extreme case by any measure,” said David C. Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, which submitted a brief urging the justices to uphold the lower court’s order. “This case involves ongoing, undisputed and lethal constitutional violations. We’re not going to see a lot of copycat litigation.”
State officials in California will have two years to comply with the order, and they may ask for more time. Justice Kennedy emphasized that the reduction in population need not be achieved solely by releasing prisoners early. Among the other possibilities, he said, are new construction, transfers out of state and using county facilities. (New York Times)
Police Mace JPMorgan Chase Protesters Police maced several elderly protesters Tuesday at JPMorgan Chase's annual shareholder meeting in Columbus, Ohio, according to activists present at the event.
Hundreds of people from dozens of community organizing groups swarmed the Tuesday meeting to demand the company overhaul its widely criticized foreclosure policies. JPMorgan Chase has improperly broken into the homes of its borrowers in order to pursue foreclosures and has been accused of robo-signing thousands of key foreclosure documents. Federal regulators slapped the company with a consent order over foreclosure problems earlier this year, and the federal government is currently contemplating filing charges that the company defrauded taxpayers with its foreclosure policies on government-backed loans.
In telephone interviews with HuffPost, multiple protesters complained of an overly aggressive police presence.
George Goehl, Executive Director of National People's Action, which helped organize the protest, said he and several elderly protesters were maced as police attempted to move protesters back from the building. (Huffington Post)
Smell Pot? SCOTUS Kills 4th Amendment The Supreme Court says police can enter your home without a warrant, if they smell marijuana, and if when knocking on the door, they hear what sounds like the destruction of evidence. But apparently, by making sounds like destruction of evidence like flushing a toilet, police can come in. Students for Sensible Drug Policy's Aaron Houston discusses. (Russia Today)
The Supreme Court's Stinky Ruling on Marijuana Odor: What Does it Really Mean? This week's Supreme Court decision in Kentucky v. King has civil-libertarians and marijuana policy reformers in an uproar, and rightly so, but it's not exactly the death of the 4th Amendment. Here's a look at how this case could impact police practices and constitutional rights.
It all started when police chased a drug suspect into a building and lost him. They smelled marijuana smoke coming from an apartment and decided to check it out, so they announced themselves and knocked loudly on the door. They heard movement inside, which the officers feared could indicate destruction of evidence, so they kicked in the door and entered the apartment. Hollis King was arrested for drugs and challenged the police entry as a violation of his 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches.
In an 8-1 decision written by Justice Alito, the Court determined that an emergency search was justified to prevent destruction of evidence, even though police created the risk of such destruction by yelling "Police!" and banging on the door. The determining factor, in the Court's view, was that police had not violated the 4th Amendment simply by knocking on the door. Since the subsequent need to prevent destruction of evidence was the result of legal conduct by the officers, the events that followed do not constitute a violation of the suspect's constitutional rights.
Naturally, any fan of the 4th Amendment can look at this scenario and wonder what's to stop police from "smelling" marijuana and "hearing" evidence being destroyed any time they have an urge to enter a particular dwelling. What does destruction of evidence sound like anyway, and what doesn't it sound like? Doesn't someone jumping up to destroy evidence sound the same as someone jumping up to answer the door before police kick it down? It's hard to argue with anyone who sees this result as a blueprint for facilitating not only widespread police actions that circumvent the warrant requirement, but also more innocent people being killed in their own homes in misunderstandings that could have been prevented by just a little patience from police. (Flex Your Rights)
Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.
A Brief History of Zombies
We’ve all seen at least one movie about flesh-eating zombies taking over (my personal favorite is Resident EvilExternal Web Site Icon.), but where do zombies come from and why do they love eating brains so much? The word zombie comes from Haitian and New Orleans voodoo origins. Although its meaning has changed slightly over the years, it refers to a human corpse mysteriously reanimated to serve the undead. Through ancient voodoo and folk-lore traditions, shows like the Walking Dead were born. (Centers For Disease Control)
Tucson SWAT Team Kills Armed Homeowner in Drug Raid In a mid-morning drug raid May 5, a Pima County SWAT team executing a search warrant shot and killed a 26-year-old Afghan and Iraq war veteran after he confronted the intruders with a weapon in his hand. Jose Guerena become the 27th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. (Actually, he was the 25th, but the Pima County Sheriff's office has been so dilatory in releasing information that we logged two more drug war deaths before we were able add this one to the list.)
According to the initial police account, when SWAT officers broke down the door of Guerena's home, which he shared with his wife and young child, he confronted them and opened fire. "The adult male had a long rifle, opened fire on the SWAT team. The SWAT team returned fire and the male is pronounced deceased. The woman and the child are unharmed," said Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Ogan. (Drug War Chronicle)
Al Qaeda Could Try to Replicate Fukushima-type Meltdowns A May 5 "intelligence brief" prepared by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official at the Pacific Regional Information Clearinghouse (PacClear) in Hawaii, warned Al Qaeda might try to cause the meltdown of certain vulnerable nuclear power plants in the US and Europe by replicating the failure of the electric supply that pumped cooling water to the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The plant's primary and backup power supplies were knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March, resulting in partial meltdowns of the plant's reactors.
Only a week after the intelligence brief was circulated, federal officials dispatched a security alert notifying US power plant operators to raise the level of their security awareness.
According to the analysis in the “for official use only” intelligence brief, which was obtained by Homeland Security Today, “the earthquake and tsunami in Japan were ‘acts of nature,’ but a catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdown could potentially be engineered by Al Qaeda” by replicating the cascading loss of electric power that knocked out the Fukushima nuclear power plant’s ability to cool its reactors’ fuel rods, which led to the partial meltdowns of the reactors, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. (Homeland Security Today)
New life for an old rumor: Was bin Laden 'Marfanoid'? Amid all the news about Osama bin Laden’s private life -- the home videos, the dyed beard, the reports of a medicine chest stocked with Avena syrup either to soothe a sour stomach or rev a flagging libido – comes a renewed rumor about the terror leader’s health.
Within days of the raid by Navy SEALS at a Pakistani compound, skeptics were resurfacing claims that it wasn’t actually a gunshot to the head last week that killed bin Laden at all. It was Marfan syndrome, a rare connective tissue disease that can cause disfigurement and sudden death.
That was the theory from Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, a former state department official and apparent conspiracy theorist, who alleged years ago that bin Laden actually died in 2001 from the genetic disorder some claim affected Abraham Lincoln. His comments were broadcast last week on The Alex Jones syndicated radio show. (MSNBC)
Osama bin Laden's Son May Have Escaped: Widows' claim adds to confusion over raid One of Osama bin Laden's sons may have escaped the raid by Navy SEALs, according to ABC News and British papers the Telegraph and Daily Mail. It seems more guesswork than anything at this point, though. Bin Laden's three widows have reportedly told Pakistani authorities that one son has not been seen since the raid. The best guess is that they're referring to bin Laden's youngest son, Hamza, thought to be around 19 or 20 and a close confidante of his father. His mother is one of the detained widows. (Newser)
10 Facts That Prove The Bin Laden Fable Is a Contrived Hoax Every indication clearly points to last Sunday’s raid being a manufactured ploy to return Americans to a state of post-9/11 intellectual castration - Merely a week after President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden, there is literally a deluge of evidence that clearly indicates the whole episode has been manufactured for political gain and to return Americans to a state of post-9/11 intellectual castration so that they can be easily manipulated in the run up to the 2012 election. Here are ten facts that prove the Bin Laden fable is a contrived hoax….
1) Before last Sunday’s raid, every intelligence analyst, geopolitical commentator or head of state worth their salt was on record as stating that Osama Bin Laden was already dead, and that he probably died many years ago, from veteran CIA officer Robert Baer, to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to former FBI head of counterterrorism Dale Watson. In addition, back in 2002 Alex Jones was told directly by two separate high level sources that Bin Laden was already dead and that his death would be announced at the most politically opportune moment. Top US government insider Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, a man who held numerous different influential positions under five different Presidents, serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under the Nixon, Ford and Carter, told the Alex Jones Show last week that Bin Laden died of marfan syndrome shortly after he was visited by CIA physicians at the American Hospital in Dubai in July 2001.
2) The official narrative of how the raid unfolded completely collapsed within days of its announcement. First there had been a 40 minute shootout, then there was no shootout and just one man was armed, first Bin Laden was armed then he was not, first Bin Laden used his wife as a human shield and then he did not. First the compound was described as a “$1 million dollar mansion” then it turned out to be a rubbish-strewn dilapidated compound that was worth less than a quarter of that. Almost every single aspect of the official narrative has changed since Obama first described the raid last Sunday as the White House struggles to keep its story straight. (Prison Planet)
About Anwar al-Awlaki, Mr President … In his CBS interview with Obama, Steve Kroft failed to ask about the US's next assassination target – a stunning omission - I wasn't expecting much in the way of tough questioning last night when I sat down to watch President Obama's interview with "60 Minutes". The idea was to revel in the killing of Osama bin Laden. Steve Kroft's questions — all of which were a variation on "Mr President, why are you so wonderful?" — were no surprise.
Even so, I was startled when, towards the end of the interview, Kroft asked Obama, "Is this the first time that you've ever ordered someone killed?" The president blandly answered that every time he orders a military action, he does so with the understand that someone will be killed.
But what was missing from Kroft's question and Obama's answer was the name of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric whom the president ordered killed last year. Al-Awlaki survived a US drone attack on his headquarters in Yemen on Saturday, after the "60 Minutes" interview was recorded. But the targeting of al-Awlaki was hardly a secret – it was even the subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit brought by his father. If Kroft didn't know that, then he had no business sitting down with the president. If he did, well, why didn't he say something? (London Guardian)
Life and the Cosmos, Word by Painstaking Word Like Einstein, he is as famous for his story as for his science.
At the age of 21, the British physicist Stephen Hawking was found to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease. While A.L.S. is usually fatal within five years, Dr. Hawking lived on and flourished, producing some of the most important cosmological research of his time.
In the 1960s, with Sir Roger Penrose, he used mathematics to explicate the properties of black holes. In 1973, he applied Einstein’s general theory of relativity to the principles of quantum mechanics. And he showed that black holes were not completely black but could leak radiation and eventually explode and disappear, a finding that is still reverberating through physics and cosmology. - Q. Speaking of space: Earlier this week, your daughter, Lucy, and Paul Davies, the Arizona State University physicist, sent a message into space from an Arizona schoolchild to potential extraterrestrials out there in the universe. Now, you’ve said elsewhere that you think it’s a bad idea for humans to make contact with other forms of life. Given this, did you suggest to Lucy that she not do it? Hypothetically, let’s say as a fantasy, if you were to send such a message into space, how would it read?
A. Previously I have said it would be a bad idea to contact aliens because they might be so greatly advanced compared to us, that our civilization might not survive the experience. The “Dear Aliens” competition is based on a different premise.
It assumes that an intelligent extraterrestrial life form has already made contact with us and we need to formulate a reply. The competition asks school-age students to think creatively and scientifically in order to find a way to explain human life on this planet to some inquisitive aliens. I have no doubt that if we are ever contacted by such beings, we would want to respond.
I also think it is an interesting question to pose to young people as it requires them to think about the human race and our planet as a whole. It asks students to define who we are and what we have done. (New York Times)
Pakistanis disclose name of CIA operative The public outing of the CIA station chief here threatened on Monday to deepen the rift between the United States and Pakistan, with U.S. officials saying they believed the disclosure had been made deliberately by Pakistan’s main spy agency.
If true, the leak would be a sign that Pakistan’s powerful security establishment, far from feeling chastened by the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison city last week, is seeking to demonstrate its leverage over Washington and retaliate for the unilateral U.S. operation.
Less than six months ago, the identity of the previous CIA station chief in Islamabad was also disclosed in an act that U.S. officials blamed on their counterparts in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.
The new station chief, who runs one of the largest U.S. intelligence-gathering operations in the world, played an instrumental role in overseeing efforts to confirm bin Laden’s location before last week’s raid. (Washington Post)
Nuclear Agency Is Criticized as Too Close to Its Industry In the fall of 2007, workers at the Byron nuclear power plant in Illinois were using a wire brush to clean a badly corroded steel pipe — one in a series that circulate cooling water to essential emergency equipment — when something unexpected happened: the brush poked through.
The resulting leak caused a 12-day shutdown of the two reactors for repairs.
The plant’s owner, the Exelon Corporation, had long known that corrosion was thinning most of these pipes. But rather than fix them, it repeatedly lowered the minimum thickness it deemed safe. By the time the pipe broke, Exelon had declared that pipe walls just three-hundredths of an inch thick — less than one-tenth the original minimum thickness — would be good enough.
Though no radioactive material was released, safety experts say that if enough pipes had ruptured during a reactor accident, the result could easily have been a nuclear catastrophe at a plant just 100 miles west of Chicago.
Exelon’s risky decisions occurred under the noses of on-site inspectors from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. No documented inspection of the pipes was made by anyone from the N.R.C. for at least the eight years preceding the leak, and the agency also failed to notice that Exelon kept lowering the acceptable standard, according to a subsequent investigation by the commission’s inspector general. (New York Times)
Osama bin Laden dead: Blackout during raid on bin Laden compound The head of the CIA admitted yesterday that there was no live video footage of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound as further doubts emerged about the US version of events. - Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.
A photograph released by the White House appeared to show President Barack Obama and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.
In an interview with PBS, Mr Panetta said: "Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn't know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.
"We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound." (London Telegraph)
Expert: Security Checkpoints Near Soft Targets May Soon Become The Norm -- A Day May Come When You'll Be Patted Down Going Into Stores Counter terrorism experts say a retaliation attack for Osama bin Laden’s death is inevitable. Terrorists are expected to aim for more vulnerable soft targets like shopping malls or museums.
They are places jam-packed with people — pedestrian malls, shopping centers and stadiums.
“Yeah, I feel safe. But of course in the back of my head I know that things can happen,” one person told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Counter terrorism expert Juval Aviv said terrorists seeking revenge for Osama bin Laden’s death will turn to attacks less dramatic than the destruction on Sept. 11 — focusing instead on soft targets like hotels, places of worship and mass transit hubs. (CBS)
Osama Bin Laden Pronounced Dead…For the Ninth Time When Obama pronounced Osama Bin Laden dead in a televised announcement heard round the world last night, he was at least the ninth major head of state or high-ranking government official to have done so.
Given Bin Laden’s documented kidney problems and consequent need for dialysis, government officials, heads of state and counterterrorism experts have repeatedly opined that Osama Bin Laden has in fact been dead for some time. These assertions are based on Bin Laden’s failing health in late 2001 and visible signs of his deteriorating condition, as well as actual reports of his death from the same time frame.
In July of 2001, Osama Bin Laden was flown to the American Hospital in Dubai for kidney treatment. According to French intelligence sources, he was there met by the local CIA attache. When the agent bragged about his encounter to friends later, he was promptly recalled to Washington.
On the eve of September 11, Osama Bin Laden was staying in a Pakistani military hospital under the watchful eye of Pakistan’s ISI, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA with deep ties to the American intelligence community. (Corbett Report)
Convicted RFK assassin says girl manipulated him Convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan was manipulated by a seductive girl in a mind control plot to shoot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his bullets did not kill the presidential candidate, lawyers for Sirhan said in new legal papers.
The documents filed this week in federal court detail extensive interviews with Sirhan during the past three years, some done while he was under hypnosis.
The papers point to a mysterious girl in a polka-dot dress as the controller who led Sirhan to fire a gun in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. But the documents suggest a second person shot and killed Kennedy while using Sirhan as a diversion.
For the first time, Sirhan said under hypnosis that on a cue from the girl he went into "range mode" believing he was at a firing range and seeing circles with targets in front of his eyes.
"I thought that I was at the range more than I was actually shooting at any person, let alone Bobby Kennedy," Sirhan was quoted as saying during interviews with Daniel Brown, a Harvard University professor and expert in trauma memory and hypnosis. He interviewed Sirhan for 60 hours with and without hypnosis, according to the legal brief. (Associated Press)
Largest Earthquake Drill In America History As Great Central U.S. ShakeOut Begins Along New Madrid Seismic Zone In what has been labeled the largest earthquake drill in American history, the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut began today across 11 states.
3 million people will participate in a series of earthquake drills aimed at preparing for a large scale earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
This comes as many in the alternative media believe that a major earthquake along this zone is imminent and will possibly bring about a martial law type scenario in America.
“This week, nearly 3 million people across 11 states are gearing up for the Great Central U.S. Shakeout, a massive earthquake drill to commemorate the 200th anniversary later this year of a series of powerful earthquakes that downed trees and sent waves on the Mississippi River roaring over its banks,” reported MSNBC. (The Intel Hub)
Alleged Illegal Searches By NYPD Rarely Challenged in Marijuana Cases Illegal searches are more common than people realize, but few end up getting challenged in court, law enforcement officials and defense attorneys say.
Checks and balances within the criminal justice system are intended to ferret out improper arrests, but many defendants and their lawyers say they face insurmountable obstacles when fighting marijuana charges – and the alleged illegal searches that sometimes led to them.
More than 50,000 people were arrested in the city for misdemeanor marijuana possession last year – the highest in a decade. And a substantial number of these arrests take place in the police precincts where the most stop-and-frisks occur, which are predominately black and Latino neighborhoods.
More than a dozen men who were arrested in these precincts for misdemeanor marijuana possession told WNYC the police recovered marijuana on them through illegal searches. None of them challenged these allegedly illegal searches in court. (WNYC)
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