Sunday, March 29, 2015

backchannel private security and intelligence-gathering sounds a lot like crime to me


gawker |  Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer, according to hacked emails from Blumenthal's account.

The emails, which were posted on the internet in 2013, also show that Blumenthal and another close Clinton associate discussed contracting with a retired Army special operations commander to put operatives on the ground near the Libya-Tunisia border while Libya's civil war raged in 2011.

Blumenthal's emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations. They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal's account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.

The contents of that account are now being sought by a congressional inquiry into the Benghazi attacks. Clinton has handed over more than 30,000 pages of her emails to the State Department, after unilaterally deciding which ones involved government business; the State Department has so far handed almost 900 pages of those over to the committee. A Clinton spokesman told Gawker and ProPublica (which are collaborating on this story) that she has turned over all the emails Blumenthal sent to Hillary.

The dispatches from Blumenthal to Clinton's private email address were posted online after Blumenthal's account was hacked in 2013 by Romanian hacker Marcel-Lehel Lazar, who went by the name Guccifer. Lazar also broke into accounts belonging to George W. Bush's sister, Colin Powell, and others. He's now serving a seven-year sentence in his home country and was charged in a U.S. indictment last year.

The contents of the memos, which have recently become the subject of speculation in the right-wing media, raise new questions about how Clinton used her private email account and whether she tapped into an undisclosed back channel for information on Libya's crisis and other foreign policy matters.

indicative of the way lawyers in power act wrt the rule of law?


firstlook |  One of the earliest and most intense grievances of civil libertarians during the Bush presidency was its radical abuse of the “state secrets privilege.” That doctrine began as a narrowly crafted evidentiary rule whereby parties to litigation would be barred from using specific documents that could reveal sensitive national security secrets. But it morphed into the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb whereby the U.S. government could literally demand not that specific documents be excluded but that U.S. courts dismiss entire lawsuits before they began — even when those lawsuits alleged criminal behavior by top U.S. officials — on the ground that the subject matter of the lawsuit was too sensitive to be safely adjudicated.

The Bush Justice Department used this weapon to prevent its torture, detention, rendition and surveillance victims — even those everyone acknowledged were completely innocent — from having a day in court. They would simply say that the treatment of the plaintiffs was classified, and that disclosure would risk harm to national security, and subservient U.S. federal judges (an almost redundant term) would dutifully dismiss the lawsuits before they even began. It literally removed high U.S. government officials from the rule of law: if you commit crimes or brutally abuse people, you will be immunized from legal accountability if you did it in a classified setting.

When Obama was in the Senate and then running for President in 2007, he was highly critical of the Bush use of the “state secrets privilege” to get rid of troublesome lawsuits. His official campaign website cited Bush’s abuse of the privilege as a hallmark of excessive secrecy.

But like so many of his purported views, this concern about the use of the “state secrets privilege” was abandoned almost immediately upon his inauguration. His DOJ invoked the privilege to demand victims of Bush programs of torture, rendition, detention, and surveillance be denied any opportunity to be heard in court even when the U.S. government itself acknowledged they were innocent. Obama lawyers even invoked secrecy to argue that a lawsuit challenging the legality of their own targeted assassination program against a U.S. citizen could not be heard in court. As an early headline in the Obama-supporting TPM site recognized: “Expert Consensus: Obama Mimics Bush On State Secrets. And it worked in virtually every case.

indicative of the way a lot of people in power behave?


nypost |  In 2012, Forbes magazine ranked Brunei the fifth-richest nation in the world. Yet there is little fun to be had: Alcohol is banned and there is virtually no nightlife or culture.

“I’m trying to think of a place that’s duller,” Australian writer Charles James told Fortune in 1999. “Maybe a British village in midwinter.”

In one way, the brothers adhere to Islamic law: As prescribed, each has several wives and families. But everything else they do is in defiance of the Koran and the law they’ve just imposed.

“It’s a radical double standard,” says Jillian Lauren, who wrote about her life as a member of Jefri’s harem in her memoir, “Some Girls.” “They have more money than anyone else. I know that they both have been married and divorced multiple times. It’s really hypocritical.”

“With their money, they could have cured diseases,” an adviser to Jefri told Fortune. “But they have little interest in the rest of humanity.”

Another described Jefri and his brother as incredibly dim. “They don’t have a lot of thoughts,” he said. “If you were a fly on the wall and heard their conversations, they’d take you to Bellevue.”

A third brother, Mohamed, was reported to loathe his brothers’ wantonness and profligacy. But when the Sultan tasked him with rebuilding the economy that he and Jefri had so badly damaged, he took more than $2 billion for himself and was promptly fired.

cut and run

radiolab |  At the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico City, Kipchoge Keino overcame a gall bladder infection to win gold in the 1500 meter race. Since then, one particular group of Kenyans - the Kalenjin - has produced an astonishing number of great long-distance runners. Gregory Warner - NPR's East Africa correspondent - takes Jad and Robert down a rabbit hole of theories about what exactly is going on in Kalenjin country.  

David Epstein and John Manners help Greg untangle a web of potential factors - from something in the cornmeal to simple economics. And, after talking to a young Kalenjin runner named Elly Kipgogei, Greg discovers a somewhat disturbing explanation for Kalenjin running prowess that actually makes him want to get on the treadmill and push himself just a little harder.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

peak casinos


newyorker |  In the summer of 2010, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie travelled by helicopter to Atlantic City for what the local media described as a historic press conference. The news out of the city had been growing steadily worse, and by the time of Christie’s appearance it was clear that, nearly four decades after it had legalized gambling in an attempt to avoid economic ruin, Atlantic City was back where it had started. Standing in front of Boardwalk Hall, next to the mayor and members of the city council, Christie declared, “Atlantic City is dying.” The city, once known as the World’s Playground, had become unclean and unsafe. The number of visitors had fallen, and casino revenues were plummeting. Christie then announced a plan to return Atlantic City to its rightful place as the East Coast’s premier entertainment destination. There would be a sparkling new tourist district, with more conventions, restaurants, retail outlets, and non-gambling attractions. Also in development were bold new marketing plans and nonstop air routes to deliver fresh gamblers. Atlantic City, the Governor promised, would become “Las Vegas East.”

Four years later, Christie’s plan has failed. Four of Atlantic City’s twelve casinos have gone out of business this year, including Revel, an estimated $2.3-billion jewel that opened just two years ago; another, the Trump Taj Mahal, has announced that it could close within weeks. An estimated eight thousand jobs have already been lost, and thousands more seem likely to follow. Since Christie’s 2010 press conference, the assessed value of all the property in the city has declined by nearly half.

While it would be easy to conclude that Atlantic City’s demise is the predictable result of decades of well-documented greed, corruption, and incompetent leadership, the city is in fact one of the first casualties of a nationwide casino arms race. Eager for new jobs and new revenues that don’t require raising taxes, states from coast to coast have turned to gambling: in 1978, only Nevada and New Jersey had commercial casinos; today, twenty-four states do. Atlantic City once had the densely populated Northeast all to itself, but now nearly every state in the region is home to casinos. And with both New York and Massachusetts poised to open massive new gambling resorts, the competition for the fixed number of gamblers there will only get tougher. “It’s a war,” Father Richard McGowan, a professor of management at Boston College who studies the gambling industry, said. “It’s remarkable to me how the states are fighting each other for gambling revenue.”

these humans....,


Friday, March 27, 2015

American gladiator...


sfist | At a news conference today, Public Defender Jeff Adachi alleged that San Francisco sheriff's deputies have been forcing county jail inmates to fight one another while the duties gamble on the outcomes of the gladiatorial-style matches.

The Chronicle reports that revelations of the illegal behavior were going to wait until the informing inmates were out of jail, but according to Adachi, another fight was planned for next week and they chose to act now.
According to the Examiner, four deputies at one SoMa jail have been threatening violence to inmates if they refuse to fight each other. Three inmates represented by the public defender’s office spoke up, saying that they were scared for their lives and threatened with handcuffs, pepper spray, and beatings for non-participation.
One deputy reportedly selected an overweight inmate to be his "prize fighter," forcing him to work out in front of his fellows who would be punished if he didn't complete tasks.
According to Adachi, the ringleader was Deputy Scott Neu, accused in 2006 of forcing inmates to engage in sexual acts with him in a case settled out of court. The Public Defender’s Office hired a private investigator to corroborate the claims.

I, for one, welcome our cytobot overlords...


Nature Scientific Reports | The nanoarchitecture and micromachinery of a cell can be leveraged to fabricate sophisticated cell-driven devices. This requires a coherent strategy to derive cell's mechanistic abilities, microconstruct, and chemical-texture towards such microtechnologies. For example, a microorganism's hydrophobic membrane encapsulating hygroscopic constituents allows it to sustainably withhold a high aquatic pressure. Further, it provides a rich surface chemistry available for nano-interfacing and a strong mechanical response to humidity. Here we demonstrate a route to incorporate a complex cellular structure into microelectromechanics by interfacing compatible graphene quantum dots (GQDs) with a highly responsive single spore microstructure. A sensitive and reproducible electron-tunneling width modulation of 1.63 nm within a network of GQDs chemically-secured on a spore was achieved via sporal hydraulics with a driving force of 299.75 Torrs (21.7% water at GQD junctions). The electron-transport activation energy and the Coulomb blockade threshold for the GQD network were 35 meV and 31 meV, respectively; while the inter-GQD capacitance increased by 1.12 folds at maximum hydraulic force. This is the first example of nano/bio interfacing with spores and will lead to the evolution of next-generation bio-derived microarchitectures, probes for cellular/biochemical processes, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and membranes for micromechanical actuation.

dominance/prestige: our nature our future...,


cluborlov |  Once upon a time—and a fairly long time it was—most of the thickly settled parts of the world had something called feudalism. It was a way of organizing society hierarchically. Typically, at the very top there was a sovereign (king, prince, emperor, pharaoh, along with some high priests). Below the sovereign were several ranks of noblemen, with hereditary titles. Below the noblemen were commoners, who likewise inherited their stations in life, be it by being bound to a piece of land upon which they toiled, or by being granted the right to engage in a certain type of production or trade, in case of craftsmen and merchants. Everybody was locked into position through permanent relationships of allegiance, tribute and customary duties: tribute and customary duties flowed up through the ranks, while favors, privileges and protection flowed down.

It was a remarkably resilient, self-perpetuating system, based largely on the use of land and other renewable resources, all ultimately powered by sunlight. Wealth was primarily derived from land and the various uses of land. Here is a simplified org chart showing the pecking order of a medieval society.

Feudalism was essentially a steady-state system. Population pressures were relieved primarily through emigration, war, pestilence and, failing all of the above, periodic famine. Wars of conquest sometimes opened up temporary new venues for economic growth, but since land and sunlight are finite, this amounted to a zero-sum game.

But all of that changed when feudalism was replaced with capitalism. What made the change possible was the exploitation of nonrenewable resources, the most important of which was energy from burning fossilized hydrocarbons: first peat and coal, then oil and natural gas. Suddenly, productive capacity was decoupled from the availability of land and sunlight, and could be ramped up almost, but not quite, ad infinitum, simply by burning more hydrocarbons. Energy use, industry and population all started going up exponentially. A new system of economic relations was brought into being, based on money that could be generated at will, in the form of debt, which could be repaid with interest using the products of ever-increasing future production. Compared with the previous, steady-state system, the change amounted to a new assumption: that the future will always be bigger and richer—rich enough to afford to pay back both principal and interest.
 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

let that co-pilot have been named ahmed and this would already be called terrorism


nbcnews |  The co-pilot of the crashed Germanwings plane appears to have "intentionally" brought the plane down while his captain was locked out of the cockpit and banging to be let back in, prosecutors said Thursday. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the revelations added a "new, simply incomprehensible dimension" to the tragedy, adding that "something like this goes beyond anything we can imagine."
First Officer Andreas Lubitz, 27, was alone at the controls of the Airbus A320 as it began its rapid descent, Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin told a news conference. 

Passengers' cries were heard on the plane's cockpit voice recorder in the moments just before the plane slammed into the French Alps, Brice said. 

"Banging" sounds also were audible, he said, suggesting the captain was trying to force his way back into the cockpit. However, the reinforced cockpit door was locked from the inside and could not be overridden, even with a coded entry panel. 

"If he had been able to open this door, the captain would have done it," Brice said. 

Lubitz, a German national from the town of Montabaur, "didn't say a word" during the descent, according to Brice, who said no distress signal or radio call was made. 

"There was no reason to put the plane into a descent, nor to not respond to… air traffic controllers," he said. "Was it suicide? I'm not using the word, I don't know. Given the information I have at this time … I can tell you that he deliberately made possible the loss of altitude of the aircraft."

it's harder to change a man's diet than to change his religion...,


commondreams |  The bold headline of a recent Los Angeles Times editorial by the hydrologist Jay Famiglietti starkly warned: “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” The write-up quickly made the social media rounds, prompting both panic and the usual blame game: It’s because of the meat eaters or the vegan almond-milk drinkers or the bottled-water guzzlers or the Southern California lawn soakers.

California’s water loss has been terrifying. But people everywhere should be scared, not just Californians, because this story goes far beyond state lines. It is a story of global climate change and industrial agriculture. It is also a saga that began many decades ago—with the early water wars of the 1930s immortalized in the 1974 Roman Polanski film “Chinatown.”

When my family first moved to the Los Angeles area, we spent years adjusting our lifestyle to be more in line with our values. Ten years ago, we stopped watering our lawn and eventually replaced the lawn with plants that were drought-tolerant or native to California. Three years ago, we installed solar panels on our roofs. Last year, we diverted our laundry runoff to our vegetable garden and fruit trees through a graywater system. We have replaced all our toilets with dual-flush systems to take advantage of local rebates, and we practice responsible flushing. We almost never wash our cars, and we shower less often in the winter. We are investigating rainwater barrels in our latest effort to be responsible stewards of our water. Yet none of our efforts to be an example to others have done anything other than make us feel morally self-righteous enough to wag our fingers at water wasters.

California’s water resources are being mismanaged, according to Janet Redman, director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank. “The management of water from California’s historic aquifer and snow and rivers and lakes doesn’t match the use right now,” Redman told me in an interview on my show, “Uprising.” It’s a big understatement.

Even though Gov. Jerry Brown just imposed a series of mandatory water-conservation measures in response to the emergency, most of those measures are aimed at individual users and restaurants. While it is crucial for residents to stop wasting water on the utterly useless tasks of car washing and lawn watering, “residential use in California is about 4 percent,” Redman told me. “Eighty percent is for agriculture.”

The truth is that California’s Central Valley, which is where the vast majority of the state’s farming businesses are located, is a desert. That desert is irrigated with enough precious water to artificially sustain the growing of one-third of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, a $40 billion industry.

FAIL: you know when you read "thought leaders" isht bout to be FUBAR'd....,


LATimes |  Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis.

Several steps need be taken right now. First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state's water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve. There is no need for the rest of the state to hesitate. The public is ready. A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third support mandatory rationing.

Second, the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 should be accelerated. The law requires the formation of numerous, regional groundwater sustainability agencies by 2017. Then each agency must adopt a plan by 2022 and “achieve sustainability” 20 years after that. At that pace, it will be nearly 30 years before we even know what is working. By then, there may be no groundwater left to sustain.

Third, the state needs a task force of thought leaders that starts, right now, brainstorming to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies. Although several state task forces have been formed in response to the drought, none is focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California.

Our state's water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future. It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon. Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin.

Finally, the public must take ownership of this issue. This crisis belongs to all of us — not just to a handful of decision-makers. Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions.

california farmers skip planting and sell their fresh water to thirsty cities instead...,


shtf |  The water crisis in California is reaching epic proportions.

And it’s going to cost everyone, big time.

After a sustained drought, NASA has reported that the state has less than one year of water reserves remaining, with no back up plan if things go wrong.

Now, there is so much demand for water in Southern Californian cities, that many farmers are opting to sell their water rights to urban dwellers – not just at a premium, but at an unbelievable and unprecedented rate.

CBS News profiled some rice farmers with historic rights to the Yuba River who are being offered so much for water, they have decided to forego planting their crops altogether and sell the new “cash crop” – liquid gold.  Fist tap Big Don.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A trip on tripping


RawStory | Magic mushrooms (psilocbye cubensis) can provoke hallucinations, spiritual insights, and serious hilarity, but just what do they do to your brain?
They’re illegal under federal law–a Schedule I controlled substance, like heroin, LSD, and marijuana–but scientists say they can have thereapeutic uses for people suffering from disorders such as PTSD and depression. And a widely-cited 2010 British study  found magic mushrooms to be the least dangerous of any of the 20 drugs evaluated, both for users and for society at large.
Those science sleuths at ASAPScience have a nifty little three-minute animated video that explains just what psilocybin, the active ingredient in ‘shrooms, does in and to your brain as your mind melts. The science is firm and the viewpoint is balanced–they don’t shy away from the possibility of unhappy experiences–but in the end they come out for loosening up the laws in light of what we know now.

storm clouds approaching...


Oilprice.com | Oil companies continue to get burned by low oil prices, but the pain is bleeding over into the financial industry. Major banks are suffering huge losses from both directly backing some struggling oil companies, but also from buying high-yield debt that is now going sour.
The Wall Street Journal reported that tens of millions of dollars have gone up in smoke on loans made to the energy industry by Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and UBS. Loans issued to oil and gas companies have looked increasingly unappetizing, making it difficult for the banks to sell them on the market.
To make matters worse, much of the credit issued by the big banks have been tied to oil field services firms, rather than drillers themselves – companies that provide equipment, housing, well completions, trucks, and much more. These companies sprung up during the boom, but they are the first to feel the pain when drilling activity cuts back. With those firms running out of cash to pay back lenders, Wall Street is having a lot of trouble getting rid of its pile of bad loans.
Robert Cohen, a loan-portfolio manager at DoubleLine Capital, told the Wall Street Journal that he declined to purchase energy loans from Citibank. “We’ve been pretty shy about dipping back into the energy names,” he said. “We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude.”
But some big investors jumped back into the high-yield debt markets in February as it appeared that oil prices stabilized and were even rebounding. However, since March 4 when oil prices began to fall again, an estimated $7 billion in high-yield debt from distressed energy companies was wiped out, according to Bloomberg.
The high-yield debt market is being overrun by the energy industry. High-yield energy debt has swelled from just $65.6 billion in 2007 up to $201 billion today. That is a result of shaky drillers turning to debt markets more and more to stay afloat, as well as once-stable companies getting downgraded into junk territory. Yields on junk energy debt have hit 7.44 percent over government bonds, more than double the rate from June 2014.

nuttinyahoo gone learn that segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever talk has consequences...,


NYTimes |  The president’s harsh words have been deemed by some to be patronizing and disrespectful not only to Mr. Netanyahu but also to the voters who rewarded his uncompromising stances with a resounding mandate for a fourth term.

Several Israeli analysts said the administration’s criticism of Mr. Netanyahu seemed like a pretext for a longstanding plan to change the United States’ policy of protecting Israel in international forums, which the administration has said it will reassess. Others suspect a ploy to undermine Israel’s lobbying efforts against the American negotiations for a nuclear accord with Iran.

The rift widened further on Tuesday with a Wall Street Journal report in which administration officials accused Israeli officials of spying on the closed-door negotiations with Iran and sharing secret details about them with Congress and journalists. Three top Israeli ministers vehemently denied the report. Several congressional Republicans said they had received no such information, and those in Mr. Netanyahu’s close circle said it seemed like more poisoning of dirty waters.

“Sometimes you have these unfortunate patterns that occur when you have tensions in the relationship,” said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. “Stories based on anonymous sources pop up, and their purpose seems to be to undermine the alliance between the two countries.”

In contrast with the White House, leading Israeli voices seem to have accepted Mr. Netanyahu’s post-election clarification that current circumstances make it impossible to imagine meeting his longstanding conditions for supporting a Palestinian state. While Israel’s Arab politicians rejected Mr. Netanyahu’s apology on Monday for an election-day video in which he warned about Arab citizens’ descending in “droves” to the polls, several of his most virulent Jewish critics praised it.

u.s. heightens military presence in the gulf unrelated to iran nuclear deal...,


sputniknews |  Eagle Resolve will involve tactical exercises from the US Army, Marines, and various other military branches to test readiness in air defense, border security, counterterrorism, as well as "consequence management." These include amphibious landing exercises and ship-based search and seizure operations.

Officials insist that the exercise has been in the planning stages for the last 14 months, and has nothing to do with the Iranian nuclear negotiations.

"The exercise is not intended as a signal to Iran," a CENTCOM official said, according to the Free Beacon. "If there’s any message at all, it’s that all participants have a common interest in regional security."

"It’s important to point out that this is a recurring exercise, with planning for this year’s exercise beginning over a year ago," the official added. "The focus of the exercise is on bolstering capabilities useful in a wide range of scenarios to help preserve and bolster regional security, with simulated portions of the exercise based on a fictional adversary."

Still, it’s hard to ignore which nation that “fictional adversary” may be in reference to. On Saturday, former CIA Director General David Petraeus called Iran the greatest long-term threat to stability in the region.

"I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by – and some guided by – Iran," he told the Washington Post.

It’s a view echoed by many US lawmakers and military officials. Given that the deadline for a framework deal on the controversial nuclear negotiations is fast approaching, it’s hard to ignore the potential message of a large-scale military exercise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

dangerous scary-as-phuk thought-crime-space daily since 2007....,


NYTimes |  The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being “bombarded” by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning, a notice put on top of a syllabus or an assigned reading to alert students to the presence of potentially disturbing material.

Some people trace safe spaces back to the feminist consciousness-raising groups of the 1960s and 1970s, others to the gay and lesbian movement of the early 1990s. In most cases, safe spaces are innocuous gatherings of like-minded people who agree to refrain from ridicule, criticism or what they term microaggressions — subtle displays of racial or sexual bias — so that everyone can relax enough to explore the nuances of, say, a fluid gender identity. As long as all parties consent to such restrictions, these little islands of self-restraint seem like a perfectly fine idea.

 But the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer.
This logic clearly informed a campaign undertaken this fall by a Columbia University student group called Everyone Allied Against Homophobia that consisted of slipping a flier under the door of every dorm room on campus. The headline of the flier stated, “I want this space to be a safer space.” The text below instructed students to tape the fliers to their windows. The group’s vice president then had the flier published in the Columbia Daily Spectator, the student newspaper, along with an editorial asserting that “making spaces safer is about learning how to be kind to each other.”

A junior named Adam Shapiro decided he didn’t want his room to be a safer space. He printed up his own flier calling it a dangerous space and had that, too, published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. “Kindness alone won’t allow us to gain more insight into truth,” he wrote. In an interview, Mr. Shapiro said, “If the point of a safe space is therapy for people who feel victimized by traumatization, that sounds like a great mission.” But a safe-space mentality has begun infiltrating classrooms, he said, making both professors and students loath to say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. “I don’t see how you can have a therapeutic space that’s also an intellectual space,” he said.

when their back is to the wall, don't forget they have NUKES....,


zerohedge |  With allies migrating en masse to China's new infrastructure bank (and even the US having to admit it will 'cooperate'), it appears America has fallen back on what has worked for it in the past to ensure the world's largest creditor remains the world's reserve currency ad inifinitum - rattle its nuclear missile sabre... As the following clip shows, The US Air Force just test-fired a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from California, providing a "visual to the world."

necropolitics: a family business of perpetual war


consortiumnews |  But don’t think that this unlocking of the U.S. taxpayers’ wallets is just about this one couple. There will be plenty of money to be made by other neocon think-tankers all around Washington, including Frederick Kagan, who works for the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Kimberly, who runs her own think tank, the Institute for the Study of War [ISW].

According to ISW’s annual reports, its original supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, but it was later backed by a host of national security contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp International, which provided training for Afghan police, and Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA’s venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplied software to U.S. military intelligence in Afghanistan.

Since its founding in 2007, ISW has focused mostly on wars in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, including closely cooperating with Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded U.S. forces in those countries. However, more recently, ISW has begun reporting extensively on the civil war in Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons Guided Petraeus on Afghan War.”]

In other words, the Family Kagan has almost a self-perpetuating, circular business model – working the inside-corridors of government power to stimulate wars while simultaneously influencing the public debate through think-tank reports and op-ed columns in favor of more military spending – and then collecting grants and other funding from thankful military contractors.

To be fair, the Nuland-Kagan mom-and-pop shop is really only a microcosm of how the Military-Industrial Complex has worked for decades: think-tank analysts generate the reasons for military spending, the government bureaucrats implement the necessary war policies, and the military contractors make lots of money before kicking back some to the think tanks — so the bloody but profitable cycle can spin again.

The only thing that makes the Nuland-Kagan operation special perhaps is that the whole process is all in the family.

Monday, March 23, 2015

with a special friend like this one, who needs enemies?


fp |  The nuclear mess in Parks could hold clues to yet another mystery in this Pennsylvania community, one that has bedeviled nuclear analysts for decades. Beginning in the early 1960s, investigators from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the agency that regulated U.S. nuclear facilities at the time, began to question how large amounts of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium had gone missing from NUMEC. Any nuclear site had a certain amount of loss, from seepage into walls and floors, for instance. In fact, between 1952 and 1968, lax standards at 20 of the country’s commercial nuclear sites resulted in an apparent loss of 995 kilograms (2,194 pounds) of uranium-235. But investigators found that at NUMEC, hundreds of pounds went missing, more than at any other plant.

NUMEC’s founder, Zalman Shapiro, an accomplished American chemist, addressed the concern in 1978, telling Arizona Congressman Morris Udall that the uranium simply escaped through the facility’s air ducts, cement, and wastewater. Others, such as the late Glenn Seaborg, the AEC’s chairman in the 1960s—who had previously helped discover plutonium and made key contributions to the Manhattan Project—have suggested that the sloppy accounting and government regulations of the mid-20th century meant that keeping track of losses in America’s newborn nuclear industry was well near impossible. Today, some people in Apollo think that at least a portion of the uranium might be buried in Parks, contaminating the earth and, ultimately, human beings.

But a number of nuclear experts and intelligence officials propose another theory straight out of an espionage thriller: that the uranium was diverted—stolen by spies working for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. In the 1960s, to secure nuclear technology and materials, Israel mounted covert operations around the world, including at least one alleged open-ocean transfer of hundreds of pounds of uranium. Some experts have also raised questions about Shapiro himself. He had contacts deep within Israel’s defense and intelligence establishments when he ran NUMEC; several of them even turned up at his facility over time and concealed their professional identities while there.

Fifty years after investigations began—they have involved, at various times, the AEC and its successors, Congress, the FBI, the CIA, and other government agencies—NUMEC remains one of the most confounding puzzles of the nuclear era. “It is one of the most interesting and important Cold War mysteries out there,” said Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “Mainly as a story of clandestine nuclear proliferation, intelligence, security bungling, and the limits of intelligence.” The questions about Shapiro, meanwhile, linger: Is he a great American innovator, a traitor, or both? (Shapiro, now 94, has never been charged with a crime or convicted of one, and he has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence.)

Answers could emerge, once and for all, during the upcoming cleanup in Parks. Residents of this corner of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, could finally be told that the missing uranium has been beneath and around them all along—that large amounts of dangerous and volatile radioactive waste have been festering in the soil for more than half a century. Or they could learn that the material was indeed at the center of international intrigue. Either way, the small town of Apollo may long for boring anonymity.

what becomes of israeli prestige when not backed by american dominance?


theatlantic |  Here's something else Obama said in that interview last year: "I have not yet heard ... a persuasive vision of how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution. Nobody has presented me a credible scenario."

He went on, "The only thing that I’ve heard is, 'We’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing, and deal with problems as they arise. And we'll build settlements where we can. And where there are problems in the West Bank, we will deal with them forcefully. We’ll cooperate or co-opt the Palestinian Authority.' And yet, at no point do you ever see an actual resolution to the problem. ... And my assessment, which is shared by a number of Israeli observers, I think, is there comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices."

Over the past couple of days I've had several conversations with American Jewish leaders—those who are located in the broad middle, between the J Street/Sheldon Adelson ends of the spectrum—and they are uniformly, and deeply, anxious. The message was the same: Netanyahu's next, even-more-right-wing-than-usual government, they fear, will only take steps to further Israel's isolation, from America and from the world, and the Obama administration, which feels such deep, emotional anger toward Israel, will only make the situation worse, by misunderstanding, and downplaying, Israel's anxieties. (Sad but true: Some Israelis voted for Netanyahu because they're frightened of Obama.)