Earlier this week, the federal government’s National Science Foundation (NSF), an entity created to encourage the study of science—encouragement that it achieves by awarding grants to scholars and universities—announced that it had awarded a grant to study what people say about themselves and others in social media. The NSF dubbed the project Truthy, a reference to comedian Stephen Colbert’s invention and hilarious use of the word “truthiness.”
The reference to Colbert is cute, and he is a very funny guy, but when the feds get into the business of monitoring speech, it is surely no joke; it is a nightmare. It is part of the Obama administration’s persistent efforts to monitor communication and scrutinize the expressions of opinions it hates and fears. (more…)
John Kerry says all those fired at by drones in Pakistan are “confirmed terrorist targets” – but with 1,675 unnamed dead how do we know?
Responding to a question about drone strikes on BBC’s Hard Talk last year, US Secretary of State John Kerry laid out a clear message. “The only people we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level,” he said. “We don’t just fire a drone at somebody and think they’re a terrorist.”
Earlier this month, the US completed its 400th drone strike in Pakistan, a significant milestone in the covert anti-terrorism programme that has been going since 2004 and has claimed 2379 lives, according to available figures.
When faced with concern about who all these missiles are landing on, US officials have sought to emphasise the precision with which they are targeted. Each person fired at has been the subject of a long vetting process, Kerry went on to say. (more…)
US-led air strikes on Syria have killed more than 500 people, mainly Islamist militants, since they began last month, activists said as fighting continued in the border town of Kobani.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said 553 people had been killed since the air strikes began on 23 September, including 32 civilians. The civilians included six children and five women.
The group said it has documented the deaths of 464 Islamic State (Isis) fighters, adding that the real number could be much higher. Another 57 fighters with the al-Nusra Front, which has links to al-Qaida, were killed in air strikes on the northern Syrian province of Aleppo and Idlib, the Observatory said. (more…)
If there was one theme from last night’s Cuomo/De Blasio Ebola press conference it was ‘how everyone has been preparing for months’ for Ebola. We can all be reassured, right? Wrong! As The Daily Mail reports (and these stunning photos show), the police officers involved in securing Dr. Spencer tossed their gloves, masks and the caution tape used to block off access to his apartment in a public trash can.
Not just any trash can, but one on a public street corner…
The national security state is fully mobilized against the threat of Ebola — and here’s why that’s a problem
These days, two “wars” are in the headlines: one against the marauding Islamic State and its new caliphate of terror carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria, the other against a marauding disease and potential pandemic, Ebola, spreading across West Africa, with the first cases already reaching the United States and Europe. Both wars seemed to come out of the blue; both were unpredicted by our vast national security apparatus; both have induced fears bordering on hysteria and, in both cases, those fears have been quickly stirred into the political stew of an American election year.
The pundits and experts are already pontificating about the threat of 9/11-like attacks on the homeland, fretting about how they might be countered, and in the case of Ebola, raising analogies to the anthrax attacks of 2001. As the medical authorities weigh in, the precedent of 9/11 seems not far from their minds. Meanwhile, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has tried to calm the country down while openly welcoming “new ideas” in the struggle against the disease. Given the almost instinctive way references and comparisons to terrorism are arising, it’s hard not to worry that any new ideas will turn out to be eerily similar to those that, in the post-9/11 period, defined the war on terror. (more…)
New York (CNN) — [Breaking news update, posted at 9:53 p.m. ET]
After confirming that tests showed a patient tested positive for Ebola, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We want to state at the outset there is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed.”
A Doctors Without Borders physician who recently returned to New York from West Africa has tested positive for the Ebola virus, becoming the first diagnosed case in the city, a law enforcement official briefed on the matter told CNN.
The doctor, identified as Craig Spencer, 33, came back from treating Ebola patients in Guinea about 10 days ago, and developed a fever, nausea, pain and fatigue Wednesday night.
The physician, employed at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, has been in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan since Thursday morning, the official said.
James Woolsey CIA Denies Operation Mockingbird to WeAreChange
RT, Russia – German journalist and editor Udo Ulfkotte says he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance ran the risk of being fired.
“I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service,” Ulfkotte told Russia Insider. He made similar comments to RT in an exclusive interview at the beginning of October.
“One day the BND (German foreign intelligence agency) came to my office at the Frankfurter Allgemeine in Frankfurt. They wanted me to write an article about Libya and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi…They gave me all this secret information and they just wanted me to sign the article with my name,” Ulfkotte told RT. (more…)
THE VOTERS WHO put Barack Obama in office expected some big changes. From the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, candidate Obama was a defender of civil liberties and privacy, promising a dramatically different approach from his predecessor.
But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America’s nuclear weapons.
Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried. (more…)
At the same time that he was running the United States’ biggest intelligence-gathering organization, former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander owned and sold shares in commodities linked to China and Russia, two countries that the NSA was spying on heavily.
At the time, Alexander was a three-star general whose financial portfolio otherwise consisted almost entirely of run-of-the-mill mutual funds and a handful of technology stocks. Why he was engaged in commodities trades, including trades in one market that experts describe as being run by an opaque “cartel” that can befuddle even experienced professionals, remains unclear. When contacted, Alexander had no comment about his financial transactions, which are documented in recently released financial disclosure forms that he was required to file while in government. The NSA also had no comment.
Alexander’s stock trades were reviewed by a government ethics official who raised no red flags, and there are no indications the former spymaster did anything wrong. There are also no indications that the trades did much for Alexander’s personal wealth. Disclosure documents show that he earned “no reportable income” from the sale of commodity company stocks, meaning either that it was less than a few hundred dollars or that possibly he lost money on the deals. (more…)
This week the helicopters that were sent off to Iraq and Afghanistan to protect us here at home were flying around downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Blackhawk helicopters were here on “urban training exercises” rattling the windows of residents’ condos, homes and apartments right here at home in Minnesota.
Why were they here? When did a city of civilians become the training grounds for the U.S. Army, and why has there not been a louder outcry against the intrusive presence of the military into what we have now come to call “the Homeland”? Perhaps because we believe it makes us “safer,” but citizen preoccupation with security is the spawning ground for national security states.
A day after the Pew Research Center issued its report on the strikingly divergent attitudes of whites and blacks about law enforcement following the death of Michael Brown, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent to Missouri to meet with leaders there. According to the Pew Center, “blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown ‘raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.’ Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown’s death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.” (more…)
The right to protest may be fundamental, but tax protests seem to be treated differently than many others. Despite free speech protections, some arguments about taxes seem almost as incendiary as yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. Even the Canadian government is cracking down on tax protesters. The Canada Revenue Agency just executed nine search warrants as part of an investigation into tax evasion involving suspected tax protesters.
About 80 tax investigators were joined in the operation by officers from the Sûreté du Québec. Canadian Revenuers are always on the lookout for illegal tax schemes and those who promote them and so is the IRS. In the U.S., a tax protester usually means someone denying the authority of the IRS. In 1998, Congress prohibited the IRS from labeling people as “illegal tax protesters.” Congress even ordered the IRS to purge the “protester” code from the computer files of 57,000 Americans. (more…)
1. (SBU) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 4.
2. (SBU) German MFA Deputy Head of Division for Export Control Markus Klinger provided the following non-paper to Econoff, seeking additional assurances related to a proposed export of extremely dangerous pathogens to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases. The Army’s end use certificate provided to Germany is lacking an official seal. Klinger’s deputy, Nancy Reck, noted that Germany had made two follow-up requests to the Army seeking assurances and clarifications related to this proposed export. The GOG seeks assurances from the USG or US Army that the end use certificate and the information contained therein are legitimate and accurate.
3. (SBU) Begin text of informal translation of German MFA non-paper:
A newly disclosed CIA report reveals the stubbornness — and stupidity — of our international policy consensus
Like the patently false “the surge worked!” meme that came before it, the idea that President Obama erred in resisting calls to arm the Syrian rebels is fast-becoming a crucial pillar of D.C. conventional wisdom. And just like the way the pro-surge argument ignores the policy’s stated goals — to pacify Iraq and give its sectarian leaders a chance to forge a lasting political peace — so, too, does the knock on Obama for not arming the rebels ignore the fact that throwing American guns into the abyss of the Syrian civil war would’ve done little to alter its outcome.
According to the New York Times, via this fascinating and potentially historic Wednesday report which cites talks with “current and former American government officials,” there is a CIA report looking at the past 45 years of U.S. attempts to use covert arms to influence foreign fighters. And if you’re someone who’s gung-ho about secretly sending American weapons abroad, the agency’s conclusions are not pretty. “The still-classified review … concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict,” the Times reports. When it was done without the guidance of U.S. forces on the ground, as was and is the case in Syria, the outcome was even worse. (more…)
Gov. Rick Snyder signed a controversial bill Tuesday that will prevent electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors from selling without a dealership network
Governor Rick Snyder today signed bipartisan legislation aimed at discouraging Tesla Motors from selling its electric cars directly through company stores.
House Bill 5606, sponsored by state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, also prohibits auto manufacturers from dictating fees franchised dealers can charge customers. The legislation allows individual auto dealers to make the business decision whether to charge the transaction fee.
Snyder said direct sales of new vehicles is already banned in the state. This law will explicitly require all automakers to sell through a network of franchised dealers. (more…)
Cultivation of the illegal poppy plant in Afghanistan has reached an “all time high” following a $7.6 billion counternarcotics campaign paid for by the United States, according to government oversight investigators.
Despite the spending to combat growth of the poppy plant, which is used to make drugs such as opium and heroin, cultivation has reached an “all time high,” especially in places once declared “poppy free,” according to new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
“After a decade of reconstruction and over $7 billion in counternarcotics efforts, poppy cultivation levels are at an all-time high,” SIGAR concluded in its report released Wednesday. (more…)
Employees at an ObamaCare processing center in Missouri with a contract worth $1.2 billion are reportedly getting paid to do nothing but sit at their computers.
“Their goals are set to process two applications per month and some people are not even able to do that,” awhistleblower told KMOV-TV, referring to employees hired to process paper applications for ObamaCare enrollees.
The facility in Wentzville is operated by Serco, a company owned by a British firm that was awarded $1.2 billion in part to hire 1,500 workers to handle paper applications for coverage under the law, according to The Washington Post. (more…)
Between deciphering college financial aid awards and settling into a shoe-box sized dorm room with a perfect stranger or two, making the move from high school to college can be a shock to the system for even the most put-together teenager.
The transition, many may assume, would be even more jarring for students coming from a home-schooled environment.
“Transitioning from home school to college can be a daunting experience, especially with the lack of socialization that is associated with home schooling,” says Los Angeles-based therapist Karen Hylen, who counsels people she says have not made the transition successfully. (more…)