Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative July 2015 news and views
Washington Post, WikiLeaks says U.S. spied on another ally – this time, Japan, Anna Fifield, July 31, 2015. The anti-secrecy group releases cables that it says show U.S. monitoring going back to 2006.
New York Times, In Setback for Obama, Trade Deal Talks Break Down, Jonathan Weisman, July 31, 2015. Trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific nations were headed toward failure Friday, with difficult talks on the largest regional trade agreement ever breaking down over protections for pharmaceutical companies and access to agriculture markets on both sides of the Pacific. Negotiators will return to their home countries to obtain high-level signoffs for a small number of final sticking points on the agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with bilateral talks reconvening soon. But the breakdown is a setback for the Obama administration, which had promoted the talks here as the final round ahead of an accord that would bind 40 percent of the world’s economy under a new set of rules for commerce. President Obama’s trade push had been buoyed by Congress’s narrow passage in June of “fast track” trade negotiating powers, and American negotiators had hoped other countries could come together once Congress had given up the right to amend any final agreement. In the end, a deal filled with 21st-century policies on Internet access, advanced pharmaceuticals and trade in clean energy foundered on issues that have bedeviled international trade for decades: access to dairy markets in Canada, sugar markets in the United States and rice markets in Japan.
Washington Post, Jewish extremists torch Palestinian homes, killing toddler, authorities say, William Booth and Ruth Eglash, July 31, 2015. Arsonists set fire to two Palestinian homes Friday in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, burning a toddler alive and injuring three others in an attack that authorities say was most likely carried out by Jewish extremists. The assailants signed their work with a spray-painted message that read “Revenge!” in Hebrew, next to scrawled image of a Star of David. A Palestinian ambulance driver who helped recover the charred body of Ali Saad Dawabsha, the 18-month-old boy, sat outside the house hours later, still stunned. “I don’t want to close my eyes because I will see the image of that baby again,” Yousef Dariha said. “I have seen all sorts of terrible death and terrible injuries in my job. This one broke my heart.” The sensational killing took place at a time of soaring tensions in the West Bank, driven in part by radical Jewish settlers prepared to defy their own government.
First Look /Intercept, Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an "Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery," Jon Schwarz, July 30, 2015. Former president Jimmy Carter (shown in a portrait) said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.” Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.
American Conservative, Deep State America, Philip Giraldi, July 30, 2015. Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Democracy is often subverted by special interests operating behind the scenes. The concept of “deep state” has recently become fashionable to a certain extent, particularly to explain the persistence of traditional political alignments when confronted by the recent revolutions in parts of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. For those who believe in the existence of the deep state, there are a number of institutional as well as extralegal relationships that might suggest its presence.
If all this sounds familiar to an American reader, it should, and given some local idiosyncrasies, it invites the question whether the United States of America has its own deep state.
First of all, one should note that for the deep state to be effective, it must be intimately associated with the development or pre-existence of a national security state. Those requirements certainly prevail in post 9/11 America, and also feed the other essential component of the deep state: that the intervening should work secretly or at least under the radar. Consider for a moment how Washington operates. There is gridlock in Congress and the legislature opposes nearly everything that the White House supports. Nevertheless, certain things happen seemingly without any discussion: Banks are bailed out and corporate interests are protected by law. Huge multi-year defense contracts are approved. Citizens are assassinated by drones, the public is routinely surveilled, people are imprisoned without be charged, military action against “rogue” regimes is authorized, and whistleblowers are punished with prison. The war crimes committed by U.S. troops and contractors on far-flung battlefields, as well as torture and rendition, are rarely investigated and punishment of any kind is rare. America, the warlike predatory capitalist, might be considered a virtual definition of deep state. America’s deep state is completely corrupt: it exists to sell out the public interest, and includes both major political parties as well as government officials. Politicians like the Clintons who leave the White House “broke” and accumulate $100 million in a few years exemplify how it rewards. A bloated Pentagon churns out hundreds of unneeded flag officers who receive munificent pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives. And no one is punished, ever. Disgraced former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is now a partner at the KKR private equity firm, even though he knows nothing about financial services. More recently, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell has become a Senior Counselor at Beacon Global Strategies. Both are being rewarded for their loyalty to the system and for providing current access to their replacements in government.
OpEdNews, Incongruities in the News, Paul Craig Roberts, July 30, 2015. Jonathan Pollard, a paid spy for Israel described by Michael D. Shear as "one of the country's most notorious spies," has been pardoned from his life sentence. It strikes me as hypocritical for the US government to sentence anyone to prison for spying when the government itself spies on everyone everywhere. All Americans including members of the House and Senate, congressional staff, military officers, foreign governments including the leaders of Washington's closest allies, and foreign businesses are spied upon. No one is exempt from Washington's spying. Washington claims that its worldwide spying does no harm. So how did the very limited spying of one person -- Pollard -- a civilian employee of Naval intelligence do so much harm as to warrant a life sentence? What some of us would like to see is a life sentence for NSA. What disturbs me about the case is that it is Pollard, who spied for a foreign country, who is released.
Wall Street Journal, UBS Deal Shows Clinton’s Complicated Ties, Donations to family foundation increased after secretary of state’s involvement in tax case, James V. Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus, July 30, 2015. A few weeks after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, she was summoned to Geneva by her Swiss counterpart to discuss an urgent matter. The Internal Revenue Service was suing UBS AG to get the identities of Americans with secret accounts. If the case proceeded, Switzerland’s largest bank would face an impossible choice.
Legal Schnauzer, How far did FBI agent Keith Baker's sex-related misconduct go in the Don Siegelman case, and could it lead to review of possibly tainted convictions? Roger Shuler, July 30, 2105. FBI agent Keith Baker sent electronic messages to a female courtroom deputy during the Don Siegelman trial, and Judge Mark Fuller and Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin were aware of it, according to recently unsealed documents in the Alabama bingo case. Did Baker have a sexual relationship with the courtroom deputy in the Siegelman trial, as he did with [a] court reporter...in the bingo case? Did Baker also have an affair with a juror in the Siegelman case? With how many women from the courtroom did Baker carry on affairs during perhaps the two most high-profile federal prosecutions in modern Alabama history?
Salt Lake Tribune, Ex-Qwest CEO: Likely the NSA snatched emails, calls during Salt Lake Olympics, Thomas Burr, July 29, 2015. Eavesdropping: The feds “would have been crazy” not to monitor emails and texts just months after 9/11, he said. The former head of Qwest Communications says it's likely that the National Security Agency and the FBI monitored all email and text communications in the Salt Lake City area during the 2002 Winter Olympics but says he can't confirm whether his company helped intercept the communications. Joseph Nacchio headed Denver-based Qwest from 1997 to 2002 and later served more than four years in prison on insider-trading convictions involving the telecom giant. He said Wednesday that he couldn't say whether the company worked with the NSA or FBI to capture such information during the Olympics, but that the agencies could have worked with other executives to gain access without his knowledge. "I don't remember being contacted about that, but then I may not have had the need to know," Nacchio said after a speech at the National Press Club on the civil-rights threat of government surveillance. "I would be real surprised in 2002 if it didn't happen," Nacchio added, noting later, "They would have been crazy not to do it." Nacchio said Wednesday if he had been presented with a court order, he probably would have provided records to the NSA at the time.
A top-secret NSA inspector general's report from 2009 — leaked to The Guardian newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — detailed an agreement between the spy agency and "Company E," thought to be Qwest Communications, to "provide call detail records ... in support of security for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City." Additionally, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that the NSA and FBI monitored communications in the Salt Lake City area "for a period of less than six months" surrounding the Winter Games. The international sporting event was held less than six months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and prompted a higher security level.
Legal Schnauzer, FBI agent Keith Baker intended to turn over grand-jury information to Governor Bob Riley, attorney says, Roger Shuler, July 28, 2015. The chief federal investigator in the Alabama bingo prosecution intended to take grand-jury information to Governor Bob Riley, according to a defense attorney who had viewed text messages between FBI agent Keith Baker and the court reporter with whom Baker was having an extramarital affair. Both Baker, lead agent on the case, and court reporter Mallory McCutchin (she was Mallory Johnson at the time, but since has taken back her maiden name) knowingly subverted the grand-jury process, attorney Jim Parkman said. Editor's note on background: Montgomery Advertiser, Affair creates disorder in VictoryLand case, Josh Moon, July 26, 2015.
Politico, How a little known agency mishandled several billion dollars of stimulus money trying to expand broadband coverage to rural communities, Tony Romm, July 28, 2015. In September 2011, as the U.S. economy continued to sputter in the shadow of the Great Recession, Jonathan Adelstein offered a bold promise on behalf of a tiny federal agency that had long strived to improve the lives of rural Americans. The administrator of the little-known Rural Utilities Service (RUS) had just finished announcing $3.5 billion in aid to expand high-speed Internet access to the hardest-to-reach areas of the country. The awards, part of the federal stimulus passed by Congress two years earlier, had been crucial to President Barack Obama’s blueprint for a recovery that would ensure farmers and remote businesses could compete in an increasingly global economy. “These investments in broadband will connect nearly 7 million rural Americans,” Adelstein pledged in a report to Congress, “along with more than 360,000 businesses and more than 30,000 critical community institutions like schools, health care facilities and public safety agencies, to new or improved service.”
Judged against the agency’s 80-year track record, those numbers didn’t seem unrealistically ambitious. During the Great Depression, after all, RUS had loaned out millions of dollars to string electric lines to distant farms and small towns in parts of the country that private companies refused to serve — a bold and calculated risk that had transformed America in a single generation. But more recently, the performance of RUS has been much less than stellar. Even the agency’s staunchest defenders in Congress had learned firsthand: When it came to funding broadband projects, RUS never found its footing in the digital age. Sometimes, RUS ignored its rural mission by funding high-speed Internet in well-wired population centers. Sometimes, it chose not to make any loans at all. Sometimes, RUS broadband projects stumbled, or failed for want of proper management; loans went delinquent and some borrowers defaulted. Yet despite years of costly missteps that left millions of Americans stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide, a stable of friendly lawmakers swallowed their doubts about RUS and made sure the politically protected agency wasn’t cut out of the historic stimulus effort.
It should come as little surprise, then, that four years and four directors later, RUS has failed to deliver on Adelstein’s promise. A Politico investigation has found that roughly half of the nearly 300 projects that RUS approved as part of the 2009 Recovery Act have not yet drawn down the full amounts they were awarded. All RUS-funded infrastructure projects were supposed to have completed construction by the end of June, but the agency has declined to say whether these rural networks have been completed. More than 40 of the projects that RUS initially approved never got started at all, raising questions about how RUS screened its applicants and made its decisions in the first place.
Washington Post, Big majority of GOP voters favors mass deportation, poll finds, Greg Sargent, July 27, 2015. This new poll finding, courtesy of CNN, is not all that surprising, but it is very illuminating of the demographic challenges the GOP faces right now: A big majority of Republicans believes that the government’s main focus on immigration should be not just on stopping the flow of illegal immigrants, but also on deporting those already here.
Talking Points Memo, There May Be More Legal Trouble On The Horizon For Dennis Hastert, Catherine Thompson, July 27, 2015. We haven't heard a peep out of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) since June, when he appeared in court to be arraigned on criminal charges stemming from his alleged agreement to pay millions in hush money to an individual he reportedly sexually abused. But that doesn't mean his legal troubles are out of sight and out of mind. A U.S. district judge on Thursday reopened a civil case alleging Hastert misappropriated public funds from his post-speakership transition office for private business. The civil suit was originally filed in 2013 by a former business associate of Hastert's, J. David John, and had been dismissed twice previously by the same district judge, Charles Kocoras.
AP via Huffington Post, NSA Will Stop Looking At Old Phone Records, July 27, 2015. The Obama administration has decided that the National Security Agency will soon stop using millions of American calling records it collected under a controversial program leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden (shown in photo). Congress passed a law earlier this year ending the NSA's bulk collection of American calling records after a six-month transition, but officials weren't sure what they would do about records going back five years that are currently being stored. The Director of National Intelligence said Monday that as of Nov. 29, those records would no longer be examined in terrorism investigations, and would be destroyed as soon as possible. The statement said that pending lawsuits prohibit immediate destruction of the records.
The Hill, Poll: Trump doubles nearest competitor in 2016 GOP race, Elliot Smilowitz, July 26, 2015. Donald Trump has surged to 28 percent support in an Economist/YouGov poll of the 2016 Republican presidential field — double his closest competitor. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush checks in at second place with 14 percent support, followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 13 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson follows with 7 percent, then Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with 5 percent.
USA Today, Trump still tops CNN-poll, leads Bush by three points, Davd Jackson, July 26, 2015. Even after a week of attacks over his criticism of John McCain, Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican Party presidential field, a new CNN/ORC poll says. Trump, at 18% among Republican and GOP-leaning voters, leads Jeb Bush at 15% and Scott Walker with 10%, the survey says. The many other Republican candidates are in single digits. Editor's Note: Establishment media can't figure it out....
Montgomery Advertiser, Affair creates disorder in VictoryLand case, Josh Moon, July 26, 2015. Story Highlights: Total Cost of investigating and prosecuting illegal gambling (since 2009): $9, 031,773.60: Former Gov. Bob Riley’s task force on illegal gambling: $3,948,850.69; Storage Fees for confiscated e-bingo machines since October 2013: $326,875.
In June 2011, as the start of the high-profile federal corruption trial involving VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor (shown in photo) and state lawmakers and lobbyists was dominating the state’s media and interest, behind the scenes — in federal Judge Myron Thompson’s chambers and in hearings closed to the public and media — the whole spectacular show was teetering on the edge of collapse because of one name on a witness list. The name belonged to a 27-year-old female court reporter, who had been tasked with transcribing grand jury testimony in the case. It was an odd entry on a witness list filled with prominent names and obvious witnesses, but when FBI agent Keith Baker learned of the entry a few months before the start of the trial, he knew immediately why it was there. Baker, the federal government’s lead investigator on the case, had been involved in an extramarital affair with the court reporter — a breach of ethics for Baker, a possible conflict of interest for both and only the beginning of the sort of odd and unexpected twists that shaped the “Bingo trial.”
Details of Baker’s affair and an alleged coverup are contained in thousands of pages of previously-sealed motions, orders and transcripts from closed hearings and in-chambers conferences, all of which were recently made public when a federal judge granted the Montgomery Advertiser’s motion to unseal those records. The Advertiser filed that motion last September after learning of the sealed records during its reporting on the history of gambling in Alabama. Those proceedings also brought to light a number of other issues, which morphed into their own series of closed-door hearings. Included in that was the revelation that more than 8,000 text messages sent and received by Baker during a key period of the investigation had gone mysteriously missing from both his phone and the backup computer servers at FBI headquarters in Virginia.
After learning of Baker’s transgressions — and then being told by Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin that Baker also had an inappropriate relationship with a female courtroom deputy during former Gov. Don Siegelman’s trial — Thompson let his displeasure be known. “It is a very serious matter ... and it does compromise the proceedings, at least in appearance, and can compromise it in substance,” Thompson said from the bench during one of the closed hearings. “If a witness was having an affair with my court reporter, I’ll tell you right now, that court reporter would not be working for me tomorrow."
Editor's note: To understand the full significance of the official corruption reported above, read the story via the link in its entirety and our 2012 guest column by Roger Shuler:
Justice Integrity Project, Alabama's Bingo Nightmare Is Over, But We Still Need Accountability, Roger Shuler, March 9, 2012. One of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ended March 7 when a federal jury found that all defendants in the Alabama bingo trial were not guilty. The jury clearly reached the correct verdict -- and after two trials and a months-long, anti-bingo crusade led by former Governor Bob Riley (below right) -- citizens might be tempted to say, "Whew, thank God that's over."
Washington Post, U.S.-Turkey deal aims to create ‘safe zone’ in northwest Syria, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly July 26, 2015. Turkey and the United States have agreed on the outlines of a de facto “safe zone” along the Turkey-Syria border under the terms of a deal that is expected to significantly increase the scope and pace of the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State in northern Syria, according to U.S. and Turkish officials. The agreement includes a plan to drive the Islamic State out of a 68-mile-long area west of the Euphrates River and reaching into the province of Aleppo that would then come under the control of the Syrian opposition. If fully implemented, it would also bring American planes in regular, close proximity to bases, aircraft and air defenses operated by the Syrian government, and directly benefit opposition rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Editor's note: And the authorization for this under international and U.S. constitutional law is....?
WhoWhatWhy, Podcast: Russ Baker on the Bushes – Past, Present and Future, Russ Baker, July 25, 2015. Russ Baker returns to Denver’s KNUS (July 23). Tune in to this wide-ranging interview with Peter Boyles to hear Russ go deep on the Bush family’s true impact, the folly of wars sold under false pretenses, the family’s business practices, the Military-Industrial Complex and Homeland Security Complex, and general dastardliness of our elites and media. Full of surprises.
Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Department of Justice’s Decision Undercuts, Weakens Federal Watchdogs, Staff report, Staff report, July 24, 2015. The Office of Legal Counsel’s memorandum restricting what access Inspectors General will have to certain investigative records makes a mockery of our government’s internal watchdog system. The memorandum clashes with Congress’s unambiguous and long-standing intent for Inspector General offices to have complete and timely access to executive branch records, as enshrined in the Inspector General Act and subsequent laws. IGs cannot be effective watchdogs on behalf of Congress and the American public if they have to negotiate with agency leaders for access to records on a case-by-case basis. Nonetheless, the Office of Legal Counsel has determined that IGs must consult with the very officials they're supposed to oversee in order to remove restrictions on the dissemination of sensitive material. The Office of Legal Counsel’s memorandum restricting what access Inspectors General will have to certain investigative records makes a mockery of our government’s internal watchdog system. The memorandum clashes with Congress’s unambiguous and long-standing intent for Inspector General offices to have complete and timely access to executive branch records, as enshrined in the Inspector General Act and subsequent laws. IGs cannot be effective watchdogs on behalf of Congress and the American public if they have to negotiate with agency leaders for access to records on a case-by-case basis. Nonetheless, the Office of Legal Counsel has determined that IGs must consult with the very officials they're supposed to oversee in order to remove restrictions on the dissemination of sensitive material.
OpEdNews, Hack Of Cheaters Dating Site Demonstrates Problem With NSA Spying, Rob Kall, July 23, 2015. There are at least forty million Americans with secrets. This article will show how violation of the forty million's privacy (monitoring, metadata collection) by NSA, hackers, phone companies, Facebook, Google affects hundreds of millions of Americans directly and ALL Americans, indirectly.
Daily Beast, Trump’s Mobbed Up, McCarthyite Mentor Roy Cohn, Olivia Nuzzi, July 23, 2015. Donald Trump’s brash and bullying style was learned at the heel of Roy Cohn, one of America’s most infamous lawyers.
Guardian, Julian Assange: Ecuador and Sweden in tense standoff over interview, Esther Addley in London and David Crouch in Gothenburg, July 23, 2015. The Australian asked Ecuador for asylum in June 2012 after losing his appeals to the UK courts. Assange argues that going to Sweden would leave him vulnerable to onward extradition to the US, which is known to be investigating WikiLeaks over its publishing activities. Both Assange and Ecuador have repeatedly asked Swedish prosecutors to interview him in London, a request that Ecuador says was rebuffed until it received a formal request from the Swedes in June. The statute of limitation on the three lesser offences for which Assange is sought expires on 20 August.
Washington Post, Turkey agrees to allow U.S. military to use its base to attack Islamic State, Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, July 23, 2015. Turkey has agreed to let the United States use Turkish soil to launch air attacks against the Islamic State, signaling a major shift in policy on the part of the once-reluctant American ally. The decision to allow U.S. warplanes to use the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey is one element in a broad cooperation plan first broached nine months ago. Additional elements — including expanding U.S. airstrikes into the western part of the border area and using Turkish military ground spotters to guide them — are being discussed and finalized. Turkey had resisted being drawn too deeply into the war against the Islamic State because of concerns about the direction of the Obama administration’s Syria policy.
WhoWhatWhy, Newest Remote Car Hacking Raises More Questions About Reporter’s Death, Russ Baker, July 23, 2015. A new test offers still more proof that automobiles can be remotely hacked and cause injury or death. Yet nobody seems to want to ask an obvious question: Was this what happened to investigative journalist Michael Hastings?
Sandra Bland, 28, found dead in Texas jail cell three days after arrest for failure to use turn signal
NBC News, The Death of Sandra Bland: What We Know So Far, Jon Schuppe, July 22, 2015. Here's a look at what's known about the case so far. Sandra Bland, who was found hanging from a Texas jail cell July 13, lived with her family in suburban Chicago, and traveled to Waller County this month seeking a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M, where she graduated in May 2009. She got the job in the school's agricultural department. According to an older sister, Bland was "euphoric" about the opportunity.
Legal Schnauzer, Release of Sandra Bland dash-cam video from Texas brings flashbacks of my own nightmarish experiences with cops and unlawful traffic stops in Alabama, Roger Shuler, July 22, 2015. Yesterday's release of dash-cam video from the Sandra Bland traffic stop in Texas brought flashbacks of my own nightmarish experiences with Alabama deputies during traffic stops. Bland died after three days in a Texas jail, and authorities claim she committed suicide -- a finding her family, understandably, does not buy. The Bland dash-cam video shows that the Texas officer provoked the whole thing. The officer's hyper-sensitivity and stubbornness turned a simple matter into a national story -- and a tragic death. The key sequence in the Bland video begins at the 8:40 mark, as trooper Brian Encina approaches her stopped car after writing up a warning in his vehicle. Encina notes that Bland seems irritated, and she matter-of-factly responds that she is irritated -- because the only reason she changed lanes was because she saw the officer approaching rapidly in her rear-view mirror and thought he needed to get by. (You can view the video at the end of this post.) Encina then asks Bland to put out her cigarette, and she objects -- noting, correctly, that she's in her car and she doesn't have to put out her cigarette. Encina immediately asks her to step out of the car, and when Bland (again, correctly) states that there is no lawful reason for her to step out of the car, Encina opens the door and starts reaching for her, says he's going to drag her out, and even threatens her with a taser. From there, the encounter turns really ugly, with Bland placed in handcuffs, even though it's hard to see evidence of her committing any crime.
New York Times, Social Security Disability Benefits Face Cuts in 2016, Trustees Say, Robert Pear, July 22, 2015. Eleven million people face a deep, abrupt cut in disability insurance benefits in late 2016 if Congress fails to replenish Social Security’s disability trust fund, which is running out of money. Officials expressed concern about the program as they issued their annual report on the financial condition of Medicare and Social Security, which together account for about 40 percent of all federal spending. The trustees of Social Security, including three cabinet secretaries, said the disability trust fund would be depleted in the last quarter of 2016. After that, they said, benefits would automatically be cut by 19 percent because revenues, largely from payroll taxes, would be sufficient to cover only 81 percent of scheduled benefit payments. The report sets up a fight between President Obama and Republicans in Congress. Mr. Obama wants to replenish the disability trust fund by shifting some payroll tax revenues from Social Security’s retirement trust fund. Republicans, however, want more significant changes to improve the program’s finances. These changes could include reductions in disability benefits, restrictions on eligibility, new measures to combat fraud or new strategies to help people return to work. In January, Republicans adopted a new rule in the House that could block a direct reallocation of money at the expense of the trust fund that provides benefits for retirees.
Washington Post, The Post urges U.N. to help free journalist in Iran, Joby Warrick, July 22, 2015. The Washington Post appealed to the United Nations on Wednesday to help secure the release of jailed reporter Jason Rezaian, accusing the Iranian government of flagrant human rights violations in a year of “arbitrary and unlawful” detention of the veteran journalist, company officials said. A petition filed before the U.N. Human Rights Council sought to increase the international pressure on the Iranian government over its treatment of Rezaian, whose 365 days in prison as of Wednesday amount to the longest incarceration by far of any Western journalist held by the Islamic republic.
Truthout, BDS Opponents Launch "Campus Maccabees" to Fight Student Divestment Efforts, Bill Berkowitz, July 22, 2015. David Brog, the executive director of Pastor John Hagee's Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was recently named to head Campus Maccabees, an organization aiming to take on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement on campuses around the United States. The newly launched entity, funded by two billionaires - gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, and Haim Saban, an Israeli and American entertainment mogul - intends to blunt BDS gains. In all likelihood, the Brog-led group will try to use a highly divisive "for us or against us" approach and try to create a narrative that conflates any opposition to Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism.
Consortium News, Obama Should Release MH-17 Intel, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Peace, July 22, 2015. A year ago, the U.S. government issued a sketchy report on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down citing “social media” and other flimsy data implicating eastern Ukrainian rebels and Russia, but then – as hard intelligence became available – went silent. Now, U.S. intelligence veterans are demanding release of that intel. Currently, the only thing the American public and worldwide audiences know for sure is that the plane was shot down. But the shoot-down might have been accidental, carried out by any one of a number of parties. Or it might have been orchestrated by anti-government forces, with Moscow either conniving in some way in that action or not. It is also possible that the downing was deliberately carried out by the Kiev government or one of Ukraine’s powerful oligarchs to implicate the anti-Kiev forces and Russia in this mass murder. And finally, though less likely, it might even be that based on the available intelligence it is impossible to determine who did it.
CNN, Donald Trump: As president, 'I'll change my tone,' MJ Lee, July 22, 2015. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, Trump — who created one of the most memorable moments of the 2016 campaign so far by sharing rival Lindsey Graham's cell phone number on national television — suggested that he would shift his rhetoric as president. Trump defended his recent attacks on his fellow candidates, saying he has been hitting back because he was first provoked. "I didn't start it with Lindsey Graham. I couldn't care less about Lindsey Graham. He's registered at I think zero in the polls," Trump said. "Lindsey Graham called me a jackass. So am I supposed to say, 'Oh, it's OK'? I'm called a jackass. You have to fight back." The former host of "The Apprentice" was referring to comments Graham made in an interview with CNN's Kate Bolduan earlier this week. The South Carolina Republican has harshly criticized Trump for making disparaging comments about Sen. John McCain's service in the Vietnam War. On Wednesday, Trump told Cooper that he had been "unfairly" targeted by Graham — whom Trump said just years ago had solicited him for money and advice. "I was called names by somebody," Trump said. "Somebody that's hitting me saying what a bad guy I am, who was up in my office asking for money, and asking if I can get him on television."
Donald Trump, after being called "jackass" by rival GOP presidential candidate Lindsay Graham, describes Graham begging for donations and reads Graham's cell number at rally, July 21, 2015
BBC,Turkey attack: Border security to increase, says PM, Staff report, July 21, 2015. Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu has promised to boost security along the country's border with Syria after 30 people were killed by a bomb in the town of Suruc. Investigators think the blast was caused by a female suicide bomber from the Islamic State group. Around a hundred people were injured. Monday's bomb hit a group of youth activists planning to cross into Syria to help rebuild the town of Kobane. The blast triggered violent protest in Istanbul. A witness told the Reuters news agency that hundreds of protesters in Istanbul chanted slogans accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (shown in a photo) of collaboration with IS. BBC Middle East correspondent Jim Muir says Turkey, an ally of the United States, has been widely accused of turning a blind eye to IS activities.
First Look / Intercept, The Spirit of Judy Miller is Alive and Well at the NYT, and It Does Great Damage, Glenn Greenwald, July 21 2015. One of the very few Iraq War advocates to pay any price at all was former New York Times reporter Judy Miller, the classic scapegoat. But what was her defining sin? She granted anonymity to government officials and then uncritically laundered their dubious claims in the New York Times. But 12 years after Miller left, you can pick up that same paper on any given day and the chances are high that you will find reporters doing exactly the same thing. In fact, its public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regularly lambasts the paper for doing so. Granting anonymity to government officials and then uncritically printing what these anonymous officials claim, treating it all as Truth, is not an aberration for the New York Times.
Hill, Court tosses Ex-Gov. Blagojevich conviction over Obama's Senate seat, Ben Kamisar, July 21, 2015. Federal judges vacated five of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) convictions in a unanimous ruling that will prompt a retrial. Blagojevich has been in prison since 2012 on a 14-year sentence for a slew of convictions, including corruption charges related to the Senate seat that became vacant when President Obama won the 2008 presidential election. A jury found that Blagojevich tried to trade the seat for either a cabinet appointment from Obama or other concessions, including money. But the decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether his proposal to trade a cabinet appointment in exchange for appointing top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat is actually a crime. The judges said that trading official acts is “a form of logrolling,” which may be ”legally different” from a bribe for. The judges write that exchanging official acts is a “common exercise” and that they could not find any examples of convictions for it in the past. But the judges affirmed the rest of the charges against Blagojevich and while they ordered a retrial on the vacated convictions, it may not lessen the former governor's sentence.
Cook Political Report, Our 2016 TV Ad Spending Projection, Elizabeth Wilner, July 20, 2015. Wilner leaders the Cook Report's Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), which projects likely spending of $4.4 billion on TV candidate ads in 2016. Projecting total political ad spending on television is where Main Street politicking meets Wall Street finance. As noted in this space before, after retransmission fees, broadcast groups count on political advertising as their second biggest source of incremental new revenue. Cable companies eye political advertising as a similarly crucial source of cash. This is why Wall Street analysts have begun tabulating their own projections for 2016 TV ad spending—and asking us for ours. The following two assertions are squarely at odds. First, CMAG’s over-under on total TV ad spending on 2016 races is $4.4 billion. Second, trying to project total 2016 TV ad spend before the end of the Republican presidential primary may just be a fool’s errand.
Washington Post, Poll: Trump surges to big lead in GOP presidential race, Dan Balz and Peyton M. Craighill, July 20, 2015. Businessman Donald Trump surged into the lead for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, with almost twice the support of his closest rival, just as he ignited a new controversy after making disparaging remarks about Sen. John McCain’s Vietnam War service, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Even with the drop in support on the final night of the survey, Trump was the favorite of 24 percent of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. That is the highest percentage and biggest lead recorded by any GOP candidate this year in Post-ABC News polls and marks a sixfold increase in his support since late May, shortly before he formally joined the race. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who announced his candidacy a week ago, is in second place, at 13 percent, followed by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, at 12 percent. Walker’s support is strongest among those who describe themselves as “very conservative.”
Washington Post, John McCain calls on Donald Trump to apologize to military families, Jose A. DelReal, July 20, 2015. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to apologize to military families Monday during his first public comments since the flamboyant real estate mogul mocked his military record in a campaign event Saturday. “I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Monday, stressing that prisoners of war serve honorably.
Truthout, Why Exactly Is the US at War in Yemen? Rachelle Marshall, July 20, 2015. The United States is currently waging war in six Middle East countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. America's participation in these wars may include training the local army, using drones to attack suspected terrorists, providing weapons and logistical support to one side side or the other, or sending in American combat troops - sometimes all of the above. None of the countries in which the US military is involved poses a threat to our national security, least of all Yemen. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has to import most of its food and other essentials, and only about half the population is literate. Today Yemen is a battleground, the site of what aid organizations say is a human catastrophe. Food, water, medicine, and fuel are scarce, and there's virtually no electricity. According to the World Health Organization, roughly a third of the population is in urgent need of medical care, but most of the hospitals have been forced to close.
The continuing carnage is the result of a relentless bombing campaign by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates who since last March have been carrying out bombing attacks on Yemen, making no distinction between civilian and military targets. Bombs are hitting homes, schools, factories, power stations, and even hospitals. A Saudi airstrike in mid-June destroyed a UNESCO World Heritage site in Sanaa that had survived for 2,500 years. To date more than 3,000 Yemenis have been killed and at least 11,000 wounded, most of them civilians.
Two questions come to mind: Why are the Saudis doing this? And why is the US providing them with military support?
As to why the United States helping the Saudis wage a destructive war in a country that in no way threatens it, an American official gave the answer last April. Our aid, he said, "is a message to our partners that we are … willing to give them support. It is a message to the Iranians that we're watching." The Obama administration, in other words, wants to reassure the Saudis and other Gulf monarchs that if the United states signs a nuclear agreement with Iran, they needn't worry. The White House will continue to support them and to treat Iran as an adversary.
An even more urgent reason for supporting a war by some of the world's most oppressive regimes is that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates keep our weapons factories operating full time. The Arab states recently agreed to buy nearly a hundred billion dollars worth of American-made war planes, tanks, guns and bombs. And everything the Arabs buy, Israel gets free, since the United States has made a firm pledge to maintain Israel's "military edge" over its neighbors. This keeps the profits flowing to the arms industry, keeps employment high in several crucial states, and pleases members of Congress who collect large campaign contributions from the arms makers and the Israel lobby.
Roll Call, UN backs Iran deal, infuriating lawmakers from both parties, Julian Hattem, July 20, 2015. White House urges Congress to judge Iran deal 'on its merits.' The Obama administration was forced to play defense on Monday after lawmakers in both parties criticized its decision to let the United Nations — not Congress — have the first say on the Iran nuclear deal. Republicans pounced on the decision following the U.N. Security Council’s 15-0 vote, arguing the White House was giving short shrift to congressional assent in a rush to build international support for the agreement. The White House appeared to hope that the U.N. vote would build pressure on Congress to back the deal, but the strategy risked backfiring, with some Democrats scolding the administration for the decision. See also, earlier report, AP via ABC News, UN Set to Endorse Landmark Iran Nuclear Deal on Monday.
Project on Government Oversight (POGO), From Battlefield to Boardroom: Facilitating the DoD Revolving Door, Staff report, July 20, 2014. (Photo: losangelesdistrict / Flickr) The Project On Government Oversight has learned of a new avenue the private sector is using to facilitate the revolving door between the Department of Defense (DoD) and defense contractors. The National Association for Corporate Directors (NACD) has a “board development program” specifically for high-ranking retired and soon-to-be retired military officers.
As part of that program, NACD invites executives of companies—including many large federal contracting firms—to participate. It’s descriptively titled From Battlefield to Boardroom. Since 2011 NACD’s conference has essentially become a recruiting fair to match exiting military officers with private companies looking to hire new leadership. Though the program claims to provide guidance through a speaker series and small group discussions on how the high-ranking service members can employ their leadership skills in post-military life, there seems to be the underlying priority of strengthening the relationship between the private and public sectors—facilitating the revolving door. One-third of the two-day program is dedicated to networking, including six 15-minute networking breaks, two networking lunches, and one networking cocktail gathering. With the abundance of executives and board members in attendance, these frequent networking opportunities turn the conference into the perfect marketplace for contractors to snatch up the next generation of connections to the Pentagon. If retired or soon-to-be retired officers are unsuccessful at being directly recruited at the conference, the NACD program offers a free year-long membership in the NACD’s Director’s Registry to “precisely” match boards with their “ideal” candidate.
Several graduates of From Battlefield to Boardroom illustrate how the program is used as a tool to further a company’s influence in the federal government: Raytheon, Leidos, and Cubic Corp., like many of the others that appear to hire out of the conference, are influential defense contractors that view hiring ex-military officers as an investment. Washington Technology, in its 2015 Top 100 Defense Revenue list, ranked Raytheon 4th with $4.4 billion in revenue from DoD; Leidos 16th with $1.1 billion in revenue from DoD; and Cubic Corp. was 77th with $204.3 million.
AP Vie Huffington Post, Texas Officials Release Surveillance Footage In Jail Death Of Sandra Bland, Michael Graczyk, July 20, 2015. The prosecutor in a Texas county where authorities say a woman hanged herself in a jail cell said Monday that it is too soon to determine exactly how she died and that the ongoing case is being treated as thoroughly "as it would be in a murder investigation." Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said at a news conference that a Texas Rangers investigation into the death of Sandra Bland, whose family and friends dispute that she killed herself, is being supervised by the FBI. Authorities have said Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from Naperville, Illinois, hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag July 13, three days after her arrest during a confrontational traffic stop. Her death at the Waller County jail, about 60 miles northwest of Houston, comes amid increased national scrutiny of police after a series of high-profile cases in which blacks have been killed by officers.
AP via Wichita Eagle, Wichita State mathematician says Kansas voting machines need audit, July 20, 2015. People vote on machines at the Linwood Recreation Center. A mathematician at Wichita State University who wanted to check the accuracy of some Kansas voting machines after finding odd patterns in election returns said she is finding out how difficult it can be to get government officials to turn over public documents. People vote on machines at the Linwood Recreation Center. A mathematician at Wichita State University who wanted to check the accuracy of some Kansas voting machines after finding odd patterns in election returns said she is finding out how difficult it can be to get government officials to turn over public documents.
Daily Censored, Global One Percent Celebrate at the Bohemian Grove, Peter Phillips, July 19, 2015. Yesterday was the first day of this year’s summer camp for the world’s business and political aristocracy and their invited guests. 2,000 to 3,000 men, mostly from the wealthiest global one percent, gather at Bohemian Grove, 70 miles north of San Francisco in California’s Sonoma County — to sit around the campfire and chew the fat — off-the-record — with ex-presidents, corporate leaders and global financiers. Speakers this year giving “Lakeside Chats” include past Secretary of Defense and the CIA Leon Panetta, Paul Volcker Jr. former Federal Reserve Chairman, retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, producer Norman Lear, the founder of AOL Steve Case, and Christopher Hill, former US Ambassador to Iraq.
Washington Post, Trump’s attack on McCain marks a turning point for him — and the GOP, Dan Balz, July 19, 2015. The Republican presidential hopeful has faced an avalanche of criticism over his characterization of illegal immigrants as “rapists,” drug dealers and other criminals. It was only a matter of time before Donald Trump crossed the kind of line he did on Saturday, when he questioned the heroism of Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War POW. The question now is whether Candidate Trump is immune from the laws of political gravity or soon will be isolated and regarded as an object of scorn or curiosity rather than of presidential seriousness.
Disneyland opened to the public 60 years ago today in Anaheim following an invitation-only gala the previous day with founder Walt Disney, TV talk show host Art Linkletter as master of ceremonies, and other celebrities, including Ronald Reagan. The opening was featured in a 73 minute show broadcast by ABC-TV. which the previous year had launched the broadcast show "Disneyland."
Daily Beast, Draft-Dodging Trump Says POW McCain ‘Not A War Hero’, Oliveria Nuzzi, July 18, 2015. Despite five draft deferments, the very rich political bully thinks he has the right to criticize Sen. John McCain’s war record. During a discussion at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa Saturday afternoon, Trump said, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.”
OpEdNews, The Real Reasons For the Iran Agreement, Paul Craig Roberts, July 18, 2015. Reprinted from Paul Craig Roberts website. Obama is being praised as a man of peace for the nuclear agreement with Iran. Some are asking if Obama will take the next step and repair US-Russian relations and bring the Ukrainian imbroglio to an end? If so he hasn't told Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland or his nominee as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Paul Selva, or his nominee as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, or his Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James.
WhoWhatWhy, Only “Lone Wolves” Commit Terror? Russ Baker, July 18, 2015. The Chattanooga shootings in which nine Marines were gunned down by a 24-year-old shooter is one of a long string of such unnerving events. Early word from law enforcement suggests the attack, like so many others in recent years, is being blamed on a “lone wolf” — someone with no connection to known terrorists or with any organizations. The authorities almost always assure us that such incidents are isolated, carried out by individuals who are either mentally ill or irrationally hostile to “our way of life.” Back in 2012, WhoWhatWhy Editor-in-Chief Russ Baker questioned this analysis. Examining the larger historical role such violence has played, Baker shows how certain incidents—including “false flag” attacks instigated by governments but blamed on dissidents — have radically transformed societies. His article is as relevant today as ever.
Washington Post, Jewish groups gird for ‘epic’ battle over Iran deal, Steven Mufson, July 17, 2015. Jewish American organizations are lining up on opposing sides of the Iran nuclear deal, arming themselves for multimillion-dollar campaigns targeting lawmakers still undecided about the agreement. The opponents’ campaigns will be bolstered by visits to the United States by prominent Israeli politicians, including Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Zionist Union opposition, who has said he would work with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown in photo) to stop the “dangerous” agreement. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is funding a new 501(c)4 group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, that is expected to spend $20 million to $40 million on advertising and campaigns in 30 to 40 states to mobilize opponents of the deal to write or call their members of Congress, say people familiar with the plan who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.
Huffington Post, Bill Clinton Is Sorry For A Lot Of Things: Here are some of the mistakes he keeps apologizing for. Marina Fang and Amber Ferguson, July 17, 2015. As president, Bill Clinton was wrong about Wall Street deregulation and various elements of his foreign policy, pushed trade policies that painfully drove up drug prices around the world, sowed chaos in Mexico through his prosecution of the drug war and exacerbated the problem of mass incarceration through an overly punitive approach to sentencing. It may be a harsh judgment, but it's one that carries weight considering the source: former President Bill Clinton.
Unlike a lot of politicians, Clinton has shown a willingness to own up to his mistakes. Earlier this week, he offered a mea culpa around sentencing at the NAACP convention. Clinton’s 1994 omnibus crime bill included mandatory minimum sentences, even for minor offenses such as drug crimes. It also contained a federal "three strikes" provision, which imposed life sentences for anyone convicted of a violent felony after two or more previous convictions. “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” he said. “And I want to admit it.”
Huffington Post, A Note About Our Coverage Of Donald Trump's 'Campaign,' Ryan Grim and Danny Shea, Huffington Post DC Bureau Chief and Editorial Director, respectively, July 17, 2015. After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won't report on Trump's campaign as part of The Huffington Post's political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump's campaign is a sideshow. We won't take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you'll find it next to our stories on the The Kardashians and The Bachelorette.
The GOP candidate Trump is shown in our JIP photo greeting a luncheon guest at a reception before Trump's National Press Club lecture this year.
Democracy Now, Video Shows California Police Shooting Unarmed Man with Hands Up, Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman, July 17, 2015. After a two-year legal battle between the California city of Gardena and news outlets, a federal judge has ordered the release of police dashcam footage that shows local police officers shooting an unarmed man. In the video unsealed Tuesday, police order Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino and two other men to raise their hands in the air. The men comply. Diaz-Zeferino then lowers and raises his hands several times and removes his cap. Three officers then open fire, killing him with eight bullets. They also wound one of the other men. The city of Gardena paid $4.7 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit with the victims’ families, but blocked release of the dashcam videos. In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Stephen Wilson said there was a public interest in seeing the material.
DailyMail, Buckingham Palace fury as pictures emerge from 80 years ago of seven-year-old Queen Elizabeth ll and the Queen Mother being taught a Nazi salute by uncle Edward VIII in private film at Balmoral, Imogen Calderwood, Elaine O'Flynn, Emily Davies and Harriet Sime, July 17, 2015. Buckingham Palace has reacted with fury after footage of the Queen performing a Nazi salute as a young girl was released by The Sun last night. The shocking film from 1933 shows Edward VIII teaching the seven year old future Queen and her three-year-old sister Princess Margaret how to do the salute in the gardens at Balmoral. The publication of the 17-second film has outraged many across the nation who believe that the Queen cannot be held responsible for her actions as a girl playing with her family.
Washington Post, Gary Mack, who helped create JFK-assassination museum, dies at 68, Wire and staff reports, July 17, 2018.
Medical Journal, The John F. Kennedy Autopsy X-Rays: The Saga Of The Largest “Metallic Fragment,” David Wayne Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., and author of JFK's Head Wounds, July 17, 2015. Purpose of this peer-reviewed forensic study: To solve the mystery of the 6.5 mm "metallic" object on President John F. Kennedy’s anterior-posterior (AP) skull X-ray. This image was not seen or reported during the official autopsy on November 22, 1963, but first appeared in the historical record in 1968 with the release of the Clark Panel Report. Methods—On nine separate days, once with Dr. Cyril Wecht (former president of the American Academy of Forensic Science), I examined the John F. Kennedy (JFK) artifacts at the National Archives. Hundreds of optical density measurements were made from the (supposed) original skull X-rays, with a specific focus on the 6.5 mm object that lies within JFK’s right orbit on the AP skull X-ray. Results—This essay explains (and demonstrates) how X-ray alteration was feasible in 1963, and identifies a candidate for this darkroom work. Hundreds of optical density data points (presented in graphical form here) expose the paradoxes of this 6.5 mm image. In addition, the phantom image (of an authentic bullet fragment), seen inside the 6.5 object, is consistent with a double exposure in the X-ray darkroom. Discussion/Conclusion — This mysterious 6.5 mm image was (secretly) added to the original X-ray via a second exposure. The alteration of the AP X-ray was likely completed shortly after the autopsy. Its proximate purpose was to implicate Lee Harvey Oswald and his supposed 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano carbine, to the exclusion of any other suspect, and thereby to rule out a possible conspiracy. The ultimate purpose for such a forgery is left to the historians.
Washington Post, Scott Walker clears big legal hurdle in Wisconsin, Jose A. DelReal and Jenna Johnson, July 16, 2015. The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday closed a controversial criminal investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 campaign illegally coordinated with outside conservative groups, clearing a potentially prickly legal hurdle for Walker that has cast a shadow on his presidential campaign. The decision, which is the culmination of years of legal maneuvering and speculation, comes three days after Walker formally announced his White House bid. The newly-minted presidential candidate is here in New Hampshire Thursday, part of a multi-day swing through the early voting states to launch his campaign. The case dates back to the tumultuous 2012 recall election that began after the Wisconsin governor escalated his efforts to stymie public collective bargaining in the state. Walker, shown in a file photo, was ultimately able to survive that turbulent recall fight, which spanned parts of 2011 and 2012 -- but in the time since, his campaign has been accused of illegally coordinating with conservative outside groups such as the Wisconsin Club for Growth on spending and fundraising.
Washington Post, Scott Walker wants to drug test food stamp recipients. Paul Waldman, July 16, 2015.
Daily Beast, How the CIA Really Won Hearts and Minds, J.P. O’Malley, July 16, 2015. In Patriotic Betrayal (Yale University Press, 2015), author Karen M. Paget meticulously documents the agency’s long infiltration of student groups around the world. But she avoids the most important question: Why?
What were the links between the CIA and the power structures within the military-industrial complex? Were the counteroffensive strategies the CIA used against Soviet regimes effective, and if so, who exactly did they benefit? And who was the real enemy at home? Paget’s bulky tome gives these questions a brief mention in passing. She provides more than the necessary research required here to help explain how the CIA went about its operations within the NSA. However, her final argument lacks a firm conclusion, or the intellectual curiosity to properly sink her teeth into a very pertinent question: Why did the clandestine operations she writes about here — for over 400 pages — actually take place?
Daily Mail, Volunteers begin shadowing 'Jade Helm' war exercise in Texas, Associated Press and Oliver O'Connell, July 16, 2015. The U.S. military began its secretive three-month, seven-state military exercise on Wednesday in Texas, as conservative volunteers prepared for the worst, fearing the imminent imposition of martial law. The U.S. military began its secretive two-month, seven-state military exercise on Wednesday in Texas, as conspiracy theorists prepared for the worst. The massive scale of the operation raised suspicions among right wing groups, many of whom fear the imminent imposition of martial law. 'Jade Helm 15', as the war simulation is known, is acknowledged by the Army as unique given its size and scope, but they insist there is nothing to fear. Parts of Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, were selected for the operation as their topography is ideal to replicate diverse foreign combat zones.
OpEdNews, Arne Duncan's Children Will Enroll in Chicago Lab School -- Untouched by The Policies He's Subjected America To, Diane Ravitch (shown in photo), July 16, 2015. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's children will attend the private University of Chicago Lab School, where his wife works. What's interesting about Duncan choosing this school is that it does not practice any of the policies that Duncan has promulgated. It is a progressive school, founded by John Dewey. No Common Core. No evaluation of teachers by test scores. No performance pay. Duncan (shown during a talk at the Center for American Progress) attended the prestigious University of Chicago Lab School. The teachers are unionized. President Obama sent his daughters there. Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his children there.
DavidSwanson.org, NBC Dares Mention Climate in Spread of Lyme Disease, But Not Who Created Lyme Disease, David Swanson, July 16, 2015. Climate change is apparently encouraging the spread of Lyme disease, and a report by NBC News dares to say so. This may seem like a fresh breath of honest sanity in a media context in which even the weather reports usually avoid the topic of human global destruction. However, another topic is clearly still off limits: the topic of who created Lyme disease. Who created it is not in any real doubt. The facts have been well reported and never refuted. In 2005, Michael Christopher Carroll published a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory. He appeared on several television shows to discuss the book, including on MSNBC and on NBC's Today Show. Lab 257 hit the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list soon after its publication.
Independent, Yemen crisis: With the Iran nuclear deal done, John Kerry must now sort out the Saudis, Staff report, July 16, 2015. Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s “Operation Decisive Storm” doesn’t look very decisive today. Three months after the Saudi defence minister unleashed his American-made bombers against Iran’s Shia friends in Yemen, the best his own allies in the country can do is tramp on to the apron of Aden’s wrecked airport and proclaim a little victory. With well over 3,000 dead, half of them civilians, Prince Mohamed’s warriors of the air seem to be having as little effect on his Houthi enemies as America’s are having on Isis in Iraq and Syria.
Editor's Note: News reports about the Yemen bombing campaign seldom mention that as an unprovoked war of aggression by the Saudi-led coalition and its Western arms suppliers the bombing campaign targeting segments of the Yemen population would likely have been considered a war crime under the principles the United States and allied forces articulated at the Nuremberg war crimes trials to punish ter World War II war crimes perpetrators and foster norms.
Defense News, RAF Bombs Diverted to Saudis for Yemen Strikes, Andrew Chuter, July 16, 2015. Britain is transferring Paveway IV precision guided bombs originally earmarked for the Royal Air Force to Saudi Arabia to enable the Gulf state to build stocks of the weapon being used against targets in Yemen and Syria. The Ministry of Defence has swapped delivery positions on the production line at Raytheon UK to ensure the Saudi Royal Air Force has weapon stocks to continue strike missions with the highly accurate 500-pound bomb. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have been bombing the Houthis since the end of March as part of an effort to reinstate Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour who has been ousted by the rebel group. Raytheon's UK and US operations developed Paveway IV for the British with the weapon going into service in 2008.
News 24 (South Africa), Assange limitations deadline looms, AFP and staff, July 16, 2015. Swedish prosecutors said on Thursday that they were still waiting for Ecuador's permission to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, as the statute of limitations nears for some of his alleged crimes. The Australian vehemently denies the 2010 allegations by two Swedish women -- one who claims rape and another who alleges sexual assault - and has been ensconced in Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition. "We are still waiting for permission from Ecuador to carry out the hearing at the embassy in London," the office of prosecutor Marianne Ny told AFP.
Dallas Observer, Dutch Film Portrays Our Own Robert Groden as Obsessed, Not Crazy, Jim Schutze, July 16, 2015. The title of Dutch documentary filmmaker Kasper Verkaik’s 60-minute film, Plaza Man, is a reference to Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorist Robert Groden, the guy who sells books and DVDs every fine weekend at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. But the Kennedy assassination, the conspiracy theories, even Groden’s long-running battle with “The Sixth Floor,” the city’s gingerly named assassination museum at Dealey Plaza, those are not what the movie is about. Those things appear in the film but only as bit players. The film really is an exploration of obsession.
Global negotiators confer on Iranian nuclear deal
New York Times, Obama Urges Congress to Support Iranian Nuclear Deal, Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 15, 2015. President Obama said that a failure to put the deal into effect would increase the likelihood of war in the Middle East and accelerate a nuclear arms race.
President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Colin Kahl, National Security Advisor to the Vice President, and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice outside the West Wing of the White House, July 15, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)
Huffington Post, Cutting the Gordian Knot, Scott Ritter, July 15, 2015. Scott Ritter is a former Marine intelligence officer who served on the staff of General Norman Schwartzkopf during the Gulf War and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. The just-announced nuclear agreement is, in many ways, but a sideshow to the larger issue of regional politics in the Middle East. Despite being heralded as a new start, this agreement, with some exceptions, simply returns Iran to the status it enjoyed in 2005, prior to the dissolution of an earlier agreement intended to bring Iran's nuclear program under international monitoring, completing what amounts to a decade-long diplomatic journey to nowhere. Reality has sunk in, and with it the need to engage with Iran so that the U.S. can responsibly extricate itself from more than a decade of conflict in that region. By resolving the issue of Iran's nuclear program, both real and imagined, the Obama administration is able to free this administration to engage in meaningful diplomacy with, and about, Iran.
OpEdNews, Filmmaker Laura Poitras Sues US Over "Kafkaesque" Harassment, Common Dreams staff, July 15, 2015. Award-winning journalist and filmmaker Laura Poitras on Monday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. intelligence agencies for subjecting her to what she called "Kafkaesque" harassment at airports throughout the U.S. and the world on dozens of occasions. Poitras, who won an Academy Award last year for Citizenfour, the documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, said she has been detained, searched without warrant, interrogated for hours, and had vital belongings confiscated more than 50 times over the course of six years -- without ever being charged with a crime. The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit names the DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and demands the release of all records from those agencies on Poitras, who is shown in a file photo available via DMCA. In a statement, the filmmaker, who is being represented by the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said her suit went beyond her own experiences. "I'm filing this lawsuit because the government uses the U.S. border to bypass the rule of law," Poitras said. "This simply should not be tolerated in a democracy. I am also filing this suit in support of the countless other less high-profile people who have also been subjected to years of Kafkaesque harassment at the borders. We have a right to know how this system works and why we are targeted."
BBC, Greece debt crisis: Eurozone deal laws backed by MPs, Staff report, July 15, 2015. Greek MPs have approved tough economic measures required to enable an €86bn eurozone bailout deal to go ahead. The legislation includes tax rises and an increase in the retirement age. Two hundred and twenty nine lawmakers voted Yes, 64 voted No and six abstained. Half of the No votes came from the governing Syriza party. Ahead of the vote, protesters threw petrol bombs at police during an anti-austerity protest close to parliament, and police responded with tear gas. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had said he did not believe in the deal, but nonetheless urged MPs to approve the measures.
OpEdNews, Greece: Sound and Fury Signifying Much, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in a file photo), July 15, 2015. All of Europe, and insouciant Americans and Canadians as well, are put on notice by Syriza's surrender to the agents of the One Percent. The message from the collapse of Syriza is that the social welfare system throughout the West will be dismantled. The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has agreed to the One Percent's looting of the Greek people of the advances in social welfare that the Greeks achieved in the post-World War II 20th century. Pensions and health care for the elderly are on the way out. The protected Greek islands, ports, water companies, airports, the entire panoply of national patrimony, is to be sold to the One Percent. At bargain prices, of course, but the subsequent water bills will not be bargains. Greek democracy has proven itself to be impotent. The looting is going forward despite the vote one week ago by the Greek people rejecting it. Without an ideology to sustain it, the European left is dead, just as is the Democratic Party in the U.S. With the death of these political parties, the people no longer have any voice.
Dallas Morning News, Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and nationally known authority on JFK assassination, has died, Michael Granberry, July 15, 2015. Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and a nationally known authority on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy who once influenced a congressional inquiry on the subject, died Wednesday. Mack joined the museum in 1994 after a career in radio and television. He had long professed a belief, or at least a suspicion, that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in killing the president.
NBC News, WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange's Asylum Plea Rejected by France, Matthew Grimson, July 14, 2015. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made an apparent appeal for asylum in France on Friday — the day of his 44th birthday — only to be immediately rejected by the French government. In an open letter published by French daily Le Monde, the Australian said that he was "threatened with death" by the United States. "My life today is in danger, Mr. President."
The Atlantic, Clarence Thomas's Unusual Evolution, Garrett Epps, July 14, 2015. The “silent justice” has always marched to his own drum, and in the past year that drumbeat has become more distinct and strange. Thomas on the bench simply does not conform to expected judicial norms. He does not take part in the arguments before the Court. His decisions rest on unusual grounds, often not even mentioned in the briefs; he will not even air his idiosyncratic ideas at a time when others might engage them. He does not tend to limit himself to the issue presented or the factual context within which it is embedded. He is, in other words, not a judge at all. He seems instead to operate as a kind of would-be Platonic guardian, eager to govern the nation according to his own personal opinions—opinions to which law, and fact, and indeed reasoned argument, are all but irrelevant.A non-judge who wanders onto the bench may leave a legacy; but no matter how long he silently sits on the bench, it will most likely be a strange and evanescent one.
Reuters, Iran, big powers clinch historic nuclear deal, Parisa Hafezi, Louis Charbonneau, John Irish and Arshad Mohammed, July 14, 2015. Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal on Tuesday, capping more than a decade of negotiations with an agreement that could transform the Middle East, and which Israel called an "historic surrender." Under the deal, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations would be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear program that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.
Reaching a deal is a major policy victory for both U.S. President Barack Obama and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist elected two years ago on a vow to reduce the diplomatic isolation of a country of 77 million people. While the main negotiations were between the United States and Iran, the four other U.N. Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France and Russia are also parties to the deal, as is Germany. "All the hard work has paid off and we sealed a deal. God bless our people," an Iranian diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal "a bad mistake of historic proportions."
Obama and Kerry, center, are shown with National Security Advisor Susan Rice in a recent White House photo.
Congress has 60 days to review the deal, and if it votes to disapprove of it, Obama can veto the rejection. It would require two thirds of lawmakers to override such a veto, which means some of Obama's fellow Democrats would have to rebel against one of the signature achievements of their president in order to kill the deal.
Slate, Why Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Neocons Hate the Iran Deal, Hint: It has nothing to do with the deal, Fred Kaplan, July 14, 2015. What worries these critics most is not that Iran might enrich its uranium into an A-bomb. (If that were the case, why would they so virulently oppose a deal that put off this prospect by more than a decade?) No, what worries them much more deeply is that Iran might rejoin the community of nations, possibly even as a diplomatic (and eventually trading) partner of the United States and Europe. The most diehard opponents—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi King Salman, and a boatload of neocons led by the perennial naysayer John Bolton—issued their fusillades against the accord (“an historic mistake,” “diplomatic Waterloo,” to say nothing of the standard charges of “appeasement” from those with no understanding of history) long before they could possibly have browsed its 159 pages of legalese and technical annexes.
WhoWhatWhy, Tsarnaev Faces More Charges: in case he gets off? James Henry, July 14, 2015. Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan wants Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to stand trial for the murder of MIT cop Sean Collier and the shootout in Watertown, Massachusetts. According to experts, individuals charged with federal capital crimes are almost never subsequently charged with local crimes. Does DA Ryan think the federal charges might not stick upon appeal?
New York Times, The Laziness Dogma, Paul Krugman, July 13, 2015. Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country; we are known, among those who study such things, as the “no-vacation nation.” But Jeb Bush — who is still attempting to justify his ludicrous claim that he can double our rate of economic growth — says that Americans “need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”
Consortium News, The Mess that Nuland Made, Robert Parry, July 13, 2015. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland engineered Ukraine’s “regime change” in early 2014 without weighing the likely chaos and consequences. Now, as neo-Nazis turn their guns on the government, it’s hard to see how anyone can clean up the mess that Nuland made.
Greek and other leaders meet in a negotiating session
Washington Post, What everybody needs to know about the deal to save Greece — and what happens next, Matt O'Brien, July 13, 2015. There's a deal, and it seems Greece won't be leaving the euro zone, at least any time soon. In the end, Europe's wealthy powers decided to grant Greece a new lifeline in exchange for new budget-cutting and tax-hiking measures, and Greece is slated to avoid a sudden banking collapse that would probably have forced it out of the 15-year-old currency pact. The agreement in Brussels on Monday probably avoids not only an economy-crushing event but also a major reversal for 60 years of increasing European unity. But the story is far from over, with Greece in line for years of economic adjustment (read: pain), and many new doubts about the long-term potential of the euro zone and its capacity to turn the continent into the United States of Europe.
Politico, Europe’s bad cops, Why are Merkel and Schäuble so harsh with Athens? Look at German domestic politics, Matthew Karnitschnig, July 13, 2015. Germany’s hardline stance in weekend negotiations over a new Greek bailout surprised even veterans of European politics. With Athens on the ropes, having capitulated to most of its creditors’ demands, many expected Angela Merkel (shown in a photo) to slip into the role of the devoted European, invoking the importance of solidarity.
Financial Times, Greece’s brutal creditors have demolished the eurozone project, Wolfgang Munchau, July 13, 2015. Stripped of ambitions for a political and economic union, the bloc changes into a utilitarian project. By forcing Alexis Tsipras into a humiliating defeat, Greece’s creditors have done a lot more than bring about regime change in Greece or endanger its relations with the eurozone. They have destroyed the eurozone as we know it and demolished the idea of a monetary union as a step towards a democratic political union. In doing so they reverted to the nationalist European power struggles of the 19th and early 20th century. They demoted the eurozone into a toxic fixed exchange-rate system, with a shared single currency, run in the interests of Germany, held together by the threat of absolute destitution for those who challenge the prevailing order. The best thing that can be said of the weekend is the brutal honesty of those perpetrating this regime change. But it was not just the brutality that stood out, nor even the total capitulation of Greece. The material shift is that Germany has formally proposed an exit mechanism. On Saturday, Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister shown in a file photo, insisted on a time-limited exit — a “timeout” as he called it. I have heard quite a few crazy proposals in my time, and this one is right up there. A member state pushed for the expulsion of another. This was the real coup over the weekend: regime change in the eurozone.
Reuters via MSN, Obama commutes sentences of 46 federal prisoners, Staff report, July 13, 2015. President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 federal prisoners on Monday, a move he said is part of his commitment to reforming the U.S. criminal justice system. Obama has now commuted the sentences of 89 prisoners, the vast majority of whom were nonviolent drug offenders who applied for clemency under an initiative the White House began in April 2014. The majority of those whose sentences were commuted on Monday were sentenced for crack cocaine offenses, crimes that once carried a prison term equivalent to someone caught with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine.
Yahoo! Politics, Poised to commute dozens of sentences, Obama remains the ‘Scrooge’ of pardons, Michael Isikoff, July 13, 2015. What does it take to get a pardon from President Obama? The White House is planning to announce this week that Obama has commuted the sentences of more than 40 nonviolent offenders, a move that officials say illustrates his commitment to criminal justice reform. But this week’s announcement, sources tell Yahoo News, is unlikely to include any actual pardons of petitioners whose applications for presidential mercy are stacked up at the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney. That would extend a record of parsimony on pardons that critics say is one of the paradoxes of Obama’s presidency: Obama, who has spoken with eloquence about grace and redemption, has granted fewer pardons (64) than any president since James Garfield (who died from an assassin’s bullet in 1881 barely six months after he had been sworn in).
WhoWhatWhy, Bush Makes Money off Injured Vets: Media Finally Notices, Staff report, July 13, 2015. When ABC News ran a story on July 8 about former President George W. Bush pocketing $100,000 for a speech to a group that assists wounded veterans, we at WhoWhatWhy thought, “Hmm, that sounds familiar.” And guess what, it was!
Washington Post, Anger erupts over Greek rescue plan, Anthony Faiola and Ylan Q. Mui, July 12, 2015. European leaders clashed Sunday over a deal to rescue Greece, with a punishing plan shaping up that could force this Mediterranean nation to pass lightning-fast reforms and strap itself into a fiscal straitjacket to save its banks and stay in the euro zone. The demands under debate at a summit in Brussels were being portrayed by hard-line nations, including Germany and Finland, as essential to restore Europe’s trust in the unpredictable leftist government in Athens. But if a take-it-or-leave-it deal is reached, it may also amount to a financial gun to the head: A Greek rejection or failure to fully comply could cause the country’s banking system to collapse within days.
New York Times, Killing the European Project, Paul Krugman, July 12, 2015. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose, even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks out of the euro. Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup list of demands is madness. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for. Can anything pull Europe back from the brink? Word is that Mario Draghi is trying to reintroduce some sanity, that Hollande is finally showing a bit of the pushback against German morality-play economics that he so signally failed to supply in the past. But much of the damage has already been done. Who will ever trust Germany’s good intentions after this?
Washington Post, Inquiry: Psychologists group colluded with Pentagon, CIA on interrogations, Greg Miller, July 10, 2015. Leaders of the American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with officials at the Pentagon and CIA to weaken the association’s ethical guidelines and allow psychologists to take part in coercive interrogation programs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a report released Friday. The report contains the findings of an investigation led by a former federal prosecutor and appears to represent the most detailed examination to date of the complicity of psychologists in interrogation programs that at times relied on torture. The probe concluded that the association’s ethics director and others had “colluded with important [Department of Defense] officials to have APA issue loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain” the Pentagon in its interrogation of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The association’s “principal motive in doing so was to align APA and curry favor with DOD.”The 542-page report was commissioned by the psychological association’s board of directors last year based on an investigation led by David H. Hoffman, who served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago from 1998 to 2005.
National Memo, 21 Questions For Donald Trump, David Cay Johnston, July 10, 2015. I have covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years — including breaking the story that in 1990, when he claimed to be worth $3 billion but could not pay interest on loans coming due, his bankers put his net worth at minus $295 million. And so I have closely watched what Trump does and what government documents reveal about his conduct. Reporters, competing Republican candidates, and voters would learn a lot about Trump if they asked for complete answers to these 21 questions. So, Mr. Trump…
1. You call yourself an “ardent philanthropist,” but have not donated a dollar to The Donald J. Trump Foundation since 2006. You’re not even the biggest donor to the foundation, having given about $3.7 million in the previous two decades while businesses associated with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment gave the Trump Foundation $5 million. All the money since 2006 has come from those doing business with you.
Washington Post, Appeals court affirms Bob McDonnell’s convictions, Matt Zapotosky, June 10, 2015. A federal appeals panel court on Thursday unanimously affirmed the public corruption convictions against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, writing in an 89-page opinion that the onetime Republican rising star "received a fair trial and was duly convicted by a jury of his fellow Virginians." The decision, authored by judge Stephanie D. Thacker and joined by judges Robert B. King and Diana Gribbon Motz, brings to a close another important chapter in the saga that has gripped Richmond and the nation. McDonnell is shown with his wife Maureen in a file photo. The court opinion did not address her convictions, which she appealed separately.
Washington Post, 22.1 million compromised by OPM breaches, Ellen Nakashima, July 9, 2015. Two 2014 hacks of Office of Personnel Management systems exposed details — from fingerprints to financial and health records — about federal employees, contractors and their friends and families. What information was stolen?
US Vote Foundation, The Future of Voting: End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting, Specification and Feasibility Study, Staff report under President and CEO Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, July 9, 2015. Findings include: SECRET: No existing commercial Internet voting system is open to public review. Independent parties cannot verify that these systems function and count correctly, nor can they audit and verify election results. INSECURE: Elections for public office are a matter of national security. Researchers have shown that every publicly audited, commercial Internet voting system to date is fundamentally insecure. NO GUARANTEES: No existing system guarantees voter privacy or the correct election outcomes. Election vendors are rarely held liable for security failures or election disasters. The five key recommendations of this report are:
- Any public elections conducted over the Internet must be end-to-end verifiable (E2E-VIV).
- No Internet voting system of any kind should be used for public elections before E2E-VIV in-person voting systems have been widely deployed and experience has been gained from their use.
- E2E-VIV systems must be designed, constructed, verified, certified, operated, and supported according to the most rigorous engineering requirements of mission- and safety-critical systems.
- E2E-VIV systems must be usable and accessible.
- Many challenges remain in building a usable, reliable, and secure E2E-VIV system. They must be overcome before using Internet voting for public elections.
WhoWhatWhy, Marathon Bomber Appeals Conviction: Do His Lawyers Know Something We Don’t? James Henry, July 9, 2015. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers continue the legal formalities necessary to build a case for appeal, despite an unequivocal admission by the defendant of his own guilt. Is there anything to be gleaned from an appeals trial about the backstory of the Boston Marathon bombing? Something that may help the public understand the shadowy relationship between the national security apparatus and “domestic terrorists”?
ABA Journal, Ted Cruz's SCOTUS retention election idea makes him unfit for presidency, federal judge writes, July 8, 2015, Debra Cassens Weiss, Sen. Ted Cruz is unfit for the presidency because of his proposal to make Supreme Court justices subject to retention elections, a federal judge asserts on his blog. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf says the Texas Republican’s proposal to amend the Constitution is “extreme” and “wacko.” The Wall Street Journal Law Blog notes Kopf’s column and a law professor who questions whether it is an ethics violation. Kopf says the framers already debated the power of the judiciary and established lifetime tenure that acts as a check on the political branches of government. Cruz, shown in a file photo, is a Harvard law graduate and a former clerk to then Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Cruz outlined his proposed constitutional amendment in a National Review article.
WhoWhatWhy, FBI’s Amazing Trick to Avoid Accountability, Matt Connolly, July 8, 2015. Matt Connolly is a former Deputy District Attorney of Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Only the astonishingly unaccountable FBI could get away with consistently not recording its investigative interviews not only of suspects but of witnesses—then having its agents write up reports based on “memory.” A former Deputy District Attorney tells the story of one judge who felt uncomfortable letting the Bureau wing it when he himself was in the hot seat.
CNN, U.N. urges new look at 1961 plane crash that killed secretary-general, Richard Roth, July 8, 2015. Was acclaimed former U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold murdered, instead of being a victim of a plane crash accident in 1961? The case is back in the spotlight after Ban Ki-Moon, the current secretary-general, called for further investigation this week. The Swedish diplomat Hammarskjold, shown at his desk, died along with 15 other passengers on September 18, 1961, when their plane went down in a forest. The Swedish diplomat was en route to broker a truce between rebels and the government, and to unite the Congo in southern Africa. Hammarskjold, the body's second secretary-general, received the Nobel Peace Prize following his death. He is remembered as perhaps the United Nations' most effective and boldest executive during a time of Cold War tensions. Former U.S. President Harry Truman stoked fears when he told reporters just two days after the crash, "Dag Hammarskjold was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice I said, 'When they killed him.'" Now, Ban says there's enough new information to question what has so far been determined or assumed about the crash, which occurred in what is now Zambia.
Washington Post, Federal judge orders cancellation of Redskins’ trademark registrations, Ian Shapira July 8, 2015. The Washington Redskins lost their biggest legal and public relations battle yet in the war over their name after a federal judge on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of the NFL team’s federal trademark registrations, opposed for decades by Native American activists who call the moniker disparaging.
New York Times, Islamic Battalions, Stocked With Chechens, Aid Ukraine in War With Rebels, Andrew Kramer, July 7, 2015. Even for Ukrainians hardened by more than a year of war here against Russian-backed separatists, the appearance of Islamic combatants, mostly Chechens, in towns near the front lines comes as something of a surprise — and for many of the Ukrainians, a welcome one. “We like to fight the Russians,” said the Chechen, who refused to give his real name. “We always fight the Russians.” He commands one of three volunteer Islamic battalions out of about 30 volunteer units in total fighting now in eastern Ukraine. Fighting is intensifying around Mariupol, a strategic seaport and industrial hub that the separatists have long coveted. Recently, the Ukrainian authorities released photos — which they said were taken by a drone flying north of the city — that showed a massing of heavy weapons, including tanks and howitzers on the rebel side. Ukrainian commanders worry that separatist groups plan to capture access roads to Mariupol and lay siege to the city, which had a prewar population of about half a million. To counter that, the city has come to rely on an assortment of right-wing and Islamic militias for its defense. (File photo of war scene in Eastern Ukraine.)
WhoWhatWhy, Youth Jailed at Age 16 for Years with No Trial, Kills Self — Who’s Responsible? Ralph Lopez, July 7, 2015. Sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder spent three years in jail without a trial before the charges were dropped—including more than two years in solitary. His experience left him a broken young man. Before he killed himself, he attempted to expose how authorities employed extraordinary pressure to compel confessions of guilt.
Left: Bronx D.A. Robert T. Johnson. Right: Kalief Browder. Photo credits: Bronx District Attorney’s Office / The View (screen capture) / YouTube.
WGBH News, History's Claims' Tsarnaev, The Rosenberg's, And Felix Frankfurter," Harvey Silverglate, July 6, 2015. While the case of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now entering the appeals phase, many have speculated on why Tsarnaev finally spoke at his sentencing after being silent throughout the trial and hearings when presumably his testimony might have had some impact with the jury. Tsarnaev’s choice to at long last break his silence after the verdict was handed down made me recall another federal death penalty trial, that of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and Justice Felix Frankfurter’s post-mortem dissent in that case explaining why he decided to speak after it seemingly no longer mattered.
Legal Schnauzer, What was the real reason that our house went into foreclosure immediately after my release from jail? Roger Shuler, July 7, 2015. We have pointed to evidence that suggests the real reason Rob Riley and Liberty Duke included my wife as a defendant in their defamation lawsuit was so they could have her unlawfully arrested, along with me. With both of us kidnapped and locked away in jail, that meant our house would be unoccupied and someone could rifle through it in search of damaging information about certain conservative interests--material I was planning to use for the Legal Schnauzer blog.
OpEdNews, Greece And The EU Situation, Paul Craig Roberts, July 7, 2015. The first response of most EU politicians to the Greek referendum outcome was to bluster about Greece exiting Europe. Washington is not prepared for this to happen and has told its vassals to give the Greeks a deal that they can accept that will keep them within the EU. Washington's higher interest is the protection of the unity of the EU and, thereby, NATO, Washington's mechanism for bringing conflict to Russia.If the inflexible Germans were to have Greece booted from the EU, Greece's turn to Russia and financial rescue would put the same idea in the heads of Italy and Spain and perhaps ultimately France. NATO would unravel as Southern Europe became members of Russia's Eurasian trade bloc, and American power would unravel with NATO. If reports are correct, Victoria Nuland (shown in a file photo) has already paid a visit to the Greek prime minister and explained to him that he is neither to leave the EU or cozy up to the Russians or there will be consequences, polite language for overthrow or assassination. This means that Italy, Spain, and Portugal can also expect more lenient treatment. The losers are the looters who intended to use austerity measures to force these countries to transfer national assets into private hands. I am not implying that they are completely deterred, only that the extent of the plunder has been reduced.
Photo by Gregory Hauenstein of Hillary Clinton at campaign event in Des Moines, IA on June 14, 2015 and posted to Flickr
Global Research, Hillary Clinton Pledges to Defend Israeli Apartheid and Fight BDS Movement in Letter to Mega-Donor, Kevin Gosztola, July 7, 2015. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban, a mega-donor, assuring him that she would make countering the global Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel a priority. She invoked a recent terrorist attack against Jews in Paris to condemn BDS and specifically sought Saban’s advice on how to fight back. “I am writing to express my alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or ‘BDS,’ a global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges,” Clinton wrote. Saban has teamed up with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to raise millions to fight BDS. The two mega-donors hosted a closed-doors summit in June that could be used to challenge campus campaigns. Only those “willing to pledge at least $1 million over the next two years” were allowed to participate.
Daily Mail, Now Djokovic loses his cool: World number one yells at ballgirl during tense clash -- the day after Australian Nick Kyrgios got embroiled in racism row over court outburstow Djokovic loses his cool: World number one yells at ballgirl during tense clash - the day after Australian Nick Kyrgios got embroiled in racism row over court outburst, Staff report, July 7, 2015. The defending champion lost his temper when asking for a towel from a baby-faced ball girl on Tuesday afternoon. Footage shows the player aggressively repeating 'towel' before wiping his face and discarding it in her direction. The teenage girl was left shaken and appeared on the verge of tears during the match against Kevin Anderson.
Former U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, shown in a photo early this year by Noel St. John at the National Press Club, projected a benign presence after presiding over some of America’s most controversial decision-making of the Obama administration.
Intercept, Eric Holder Returns as Hero to Law Firm That Lobbies for Big Banks, Lee Fang, July 6, 2014. After failing to criminally prosecute any of the financial firms responsible for the market collapse in 2008, former Attorney General Eric Holder is returning to Covington & Burling, a corporate law firm known for serving Wall Street clients. The move completes one of the more troubling trips through the revolving door for a cabinet secretary.
Holder worked at Covington from 2001 right up to being sworn in as attorney general in Feburary 2009. And Covington literally kept an office empty for him, awaiting his return. The Covington & Burling client list has included four of the largest banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Lobbying records show that Wells Fargo is still a client of Covington. Covington recently represented Citigroup over a civil lawsuit relating to the bank’s role in Libor manipulation. Covington was also deeply involved with a company known as MERS, which was later responsible for falsifying mortgage documents on an industrial scale. “Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and several other large banks,” according to an investigation by Reuters.
Washingtonian, John Kiriakou, CIA Officer Turned Whistleblower, Shares His Story, Now out of prison, Natalia Megas, July 6, 2015. Kiriakou is trying to return to a normal life. From a window in his rental home in Arlington, John Kiriakou can glimpse his old life: the peaked roof of the dream house he and his wife, Heather, built a decade ago in happier times. Not that Kiriakou shows signs of unhappiness now. His toddler son leads me past a wall hung with welcome home signs to another window overlooking a tree-lined back yard where Kiriakou has spent hours recently watching his kids play on a trampoline.
What the decorated CIA officer turned convicted felon doesn’t add is that for months his yard was as far he could go without permission from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In our previous meeting at Loretto, the Pennsylvania facility where Kiriakou served 23 months for confirming the name of a CIA operative to a reporter, and in the neat, error-free letters written from his cell, Kiriakou maintained a steady calm — a contrast from the chatty but tough veteran he projects in his 2009 memoir, The Reluctant Spy. Even when he speaks passionately or with sometimes shocking candor— “Everyone with authority [in prison] is lying,” he once told me within earshot of the prison’s public-information officer — his baby face turns tense, but his polite reserve stays intact.
Washington Post, Greece’s flamboyant finance minister goes out in his typical combative way, Daniela Deane, July 6, 2015. Combative Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis left his government post Monday in his trademark way — by sparing no words hitting back at the euro zone governments he accuses of trying to break the back of his economically-embattled country. In a blog post more akin to a war cry, Varoufakis, a 54-year-old Greek-Australian economist, said Sunday’s referendum will go down in history as the time when a “small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.”
OpEdNews, Greece to EU -- Drop Dead! Michael Collins, July 6, 2015. Sixty percent of Greek voters rejected the financial bailout proposal offered by the European Union (EU) in Sunday's referendum. The EU-IMF proposal relied heavily on austerity, which would have taken current financial hardships to nightmarish proportions for the vast majority of Greeks. Austerity is best understood as Robin Hood in reverse. The big banks and their stooges in government make bad deals all over the world to finance national (sovereign) debt, the deals fall apart, and then the banks insist that citizens of the debtor nation pay back the loans by sacrificing social services, public works, retirement programs, etc.
ComputerWorld, Supreme Court justices hold stock in tech vendors, other firms, Grant Gross, July 6, 2015. Two U.S. Supreme Court justices owned stock in tech vendors or other companies that filed briefs in cases under review by the high court in the past year, a watchdog group said last week. The justices' ownership of stock in three companies that filed amicus, or friend of the court, briefs in Supreme Court cases during the past year represent a "minefield of potential conflicts of interest and ethical problems" that could damage the court's reputation, said Fix the Court, a group advocating for more transparency at the court. Chief Justice John Roberts owned up to US $750,000 in shares of Time Warner and its subsidiaries at the time the media giant filed a brief in ABC v. Aereo, which broadcasters won 6-3 last June, with Roberts in the majority. Aereo was a start-up offering TV service to subscribers through specialized antenna farms. Justice Stephen Breyer owned up to $100,000 in IT services firm EMC and Roberts held up to $50,000 in Hewlett-Packard last year when both businesses filed briefs in favor of Teva Pharmaceuticals, which won its patent case against generic drug maker Sandoz, 7-2, with Breyer and Roberts in the majority.
The Supreme Court released justices' annual financial disclosure reports Friday. The financial reports are available as paper documents; the court does not post them online. Fix the Court called on the justices to place their securities into blind trusts, as is done by presidents, presidential candidates and many members of Congress. "It's impossible to say whether justices' stock ownership played a factor in their decisions, but we shouldn't have to ask that question," Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, said in a statement. Fix the Court also called on justices to post their financial disclosure forms online, as is done in Congress and the executive branch of government. To obtain the financial reports, Fix the Court downloaded and filled out a form from the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AO) website and faxed it in. The group received a notice the reports were ready seven weeks later and was charged $.20 a page for the reports.
Rutherford Foundation, Jade Helm, Terrorist Attacks, Surveillance and Other Fairy Tales for a Gullible Nation, John W. Whitehead, July 6, 2015. While there is certainly no shortage of foul-smelling government activities taking place right now, the one giving off the greatest stench is "Jade Helm 15." This covert, multi-agency, multi-state, eight-week military training exercise is set to take place from July 15 through Sept. 15 in states across the American Southwest. “Jade Helm: Mastering the Human Domain” is a planned military exercise that will test and practice unconventional warfare including, but not limited to, guerrilla warfare, subversion, sabotage, intelligence activities, and unconventional assisted recovery. The training exercise will take place in California, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Nevada. U.S. Army Special Operations Command will primarily lead this interagency training program but the Navy Seals, Air Force Special Operations, Marine Special Operations Command, Marine Expeditionary Units, 82nd Airborne Division, and other interagency partners will also be involved. Approximately 1,200 troops are expected to participate. The exercises are going to be carried out on both public and private land. The military map listing the locations that will host the exercise shows Texas, Utah, and the southern part of California as “hostile territory.”
President Barack Obama meets with senior Defense Department, national security advisors and military leadership regarding the campaign against ISIL, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., July 6, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Huffington Post, Greece Appears To Vote 'No' In Referendum On Bailout Deal, Eline Gordts and Nick Robins, In a national referendum Sunday, Greeks appeared to have resoundingly rejected a bailout deal proposed by the country's international creditors which demanded new austerity measures in return for emergency funds. "The Greek people said 'no more' to five years of austerity," Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Sunday. Greece's Interior Ministry announced Sunday night that it projects more than 61 percent of voters decided against the deal. A win of the "no" camp would constitute a major victory for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras, who had campaigned heavily against the deal put forward by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. But it will also raise uncertainty about the country's financial future and its place in the eurozone.
Washington Post, The Americans are coming! Some Texans suspect a plot against them, Kevin Sullivan, July 4, 2015. Bastrop residents fear that a military training exercise will be used spy on them, confiscate their guns and establish martial law. County GOP Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had handwritten page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.” So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free conservative states. They are not “nuts and wackos. They are concerned citizens, and they are patriots,” Ellison said of his suspicious neighbors. “Obama has really painted a portrait in the minds of many conservatives that he is capable of this sort of thing.” Across town at the Bastrop County Courthouse, such talk elicits a weary sigh from County Judge Paul Pape, the chief official in this county of 78,000 people. Pape said he has tried to explain to folks that the exercise, known as "Jade Helm 15," is a routine training mission that poses no threat to anyone.
AP via Huffington Post, Scott Walker And Wisconsin GOP Retreat On Open Records Limits, Staff report, July 4, 2015. In a sudden reversal amid a stinging backlash, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders said they agreed Saturday to completely remove a part of the proposed state budget that would severely roll back open records laws. Walker announced the decision in a joint statement Saturday with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and the co-chairs of the joint budget committee. They said that they're committed to open and accountable government.
Republic Report, Obama Admin’s TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks, Lee Fang, July 3, 2015. Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show. Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. (He is shown at top in his official photo.) The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year. Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman (shown below in his official photo) told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman’s] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.”
Washington Post, Greek court clears way for referendum that could shape country’s future, Griff Witte July 3, 2015. Greece’s highest administrative court ruled Friday that a referendum planned for Sunday is constitutional, clearing the last serious hurdle before Greeks go to the polls for a vote that could set the country’s direction for decades. From the moment Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum last Friday, the vote has been marked by doubts over its purpose and validity.
New York Times, Charleston Suspect Was in Contact With Supremacists, Officials Say, Michael S. Schmidt, July 3, 2015. Federal and local authorities have found that the man charged in the shooting deaths of nine black people in a South Carolina church last month had been in contact with white supremacists online, although it does not appear they encouraged him to carry out the massacre, according to law enforcement officials. Investigators uncovered that information as they have pieced together where the gunman, Dylann Roof, 21, received his inspiration, and whether anyone else should face charges in connection with the murders.
Insurge Intelligence via OpEdNews, The bin Laden death mythology, Nafeez Ahmed, July 3, 2015. The White House's story of how U.S. special forces hunted down and assassinated arch terrorist Osama bin Laden in his secret lair in Pakistan is unraveling. The official narrative of the bin Laden raid is that for over a decade, U.S. intelligence hunted for the terror chief until a surveillance/torture-enabled breakthrough tracked him to a secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1, 2011. The role of a former ISI officer in blowing the whistle on the ISI's protection of bin Laden in August 2010 brought his concealment out into the open and triggered high-level White House discussions on how to resolve the situation: to kill or not to kill? Declassified documents, official government reports and intelligence officials confirm that since before 9/11, and continuing for the decade after, the US intelligence community was systematically stymied from apprehending Osama bin Laden due to longstanding relationships with Saudi and Pakistani military intelligence. Despite specific intelligence available to elements of the US intelligence community on bin Laden's location in Pakistan, under the protection of US allies, no action was taken to apprehend bin Laden for years. That failure to act coincided with the launch of an anti-Iran US covert operations programme around 2005, pursued in partnership with Saudi Arabia, to finance Islamist Sunni militants including al-Qaeda affiliated groups.
New York Times, Obama Plans Broader Use of Clemency to Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders, Peter Baker, July 3, 2015. Even though President Obama is expected to commute dozens of sentences, he will barely make a dent in clemency applications. Sometime in the next few weeks, aides expect President Obama to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, he will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century. The expansive use of his clemency power is part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to correct what he sees as the excesses of the past, when politicians eager to be tough on crime threw away the key even for minor criminals. With many Republicans and Democrats now agreeing that the nation went too far, Mr. Obama holds the power to unlock that prison door, especially for young African-American and Hispanic men disproportionately affected. In the next weeks, the total number of commutations for Mr. Obama’s presidency may surpass 80, but more than 30,000 federal inmates have come forward in response to his administration’s call for clemency applications. A cumbersome review process has advanced only a small fraction of them. And just a small fraction of those have reached the president’s desk for a signature.
OpEdNews, Greece and Other Musings On July 4th, Paul Craig Roberts, July 3, 2015. If you become stuck in a boring July 4 hot-air speech, distract yourself with this question: Are the values that Western civilization allegedly represents still extant? You don't need to get heavy into philosophy. See if you can find any of the professed values reflected in current events.
Washington Post, How the CIA ran a ‘billion dollar spy’ in Moscow, David E. Hoffman, July 3, 2015. He was the most successful and valued agent the United States had run inside the Soviet Union in two decades. His documents and drawings had unlocked the secrets of Soviet radars and weapons research years into the future. He had smuggled circuit boards and blueprints out of his military laboratory. His espionage put the United States in position to dominate the skies in aerial combat and confirmed the vulnerability of Soviet air defenses — showing that American cruise missiles and strategic bombers could fly under the radar. Sample declassified document.
Los Angeles Times, Real-life 'Billion Dollar Spy' reads like a Cold War fiction thriller, Bob Drogin, July 2, 2015. One wintry night in early 1977, in the depths of the Cold War, a furtive man approached a CIA officer at a gas station reserved for foreign diplomats in Moscow and slipped him a note offering to spy for America. CIA supervisors in Washington were so fearful of a KGB trap that they said no — repeatedly. Adolf G. Tolkachev had to approach the CIA seven times over the next year or so, once even banging on the car of the Moscow station chief to get his attention, before they finally accepted his offer to betray his country. Tolkachev proved a stunning source. As a senior engineer in a top-secret Soviet aerospace laboratory, he secretly photographed thousands of pages of highly classified blueprints, diagrams and reports on the latest airborne radars, avionics, guidance systems and fighter designs. In a city teeming with KGB agents, he met 21 times with CIA officers over the next six years without being detected.
The CIA soon considered him the crown jewel of their spying networks. The book's title comes from a simple question: What's a spy really worth? In 1979, a year after Tolkachev had begun looting Soviet military vaults, the Air Force estimated he already had saved the Pentagon about $2 billion in research and development costs. But he arguably saved the CIA as well. And then he was fatally betrayed. Bungled spy cases, internal dysfunction and congressional investigations had paralyzed the CIA in the early 1970s. As the CIA's first real agent in Moscow, Tolkachev helped the clandestine service regain its footing and justify its growing budget.
President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Feb. 2, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Washington Post, U.S. scales back deportations in policy shift, Jerry Markon, July 2, 2015. The Obama administration has begun a profound shift in its enforcement of immigration laws in an effort to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society, according to documents and federal officials. In recent months, the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure that the majority of America’s 11.3 million undocumented immigrants can stay in this country, with agents narrowing enforcement efforts to three groups of illegal migrants: convicted criminals, terrorism threats or those who recently crossed the border. The legal battle centers on the constitutionality of a program that would officially shield up to 5 million eligible illegal immigrants from deportation, mainly parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. A federal judge put the program, known by the acronym DAPA, on hold in February after 26 states sued.
Politico, Hillary's shadow, After years as the former secretary of state’s loyal assistant, Huma Abedin is emerging as a campaign power center of her own, Annie Karni, July 2, 2015. Huma Abedin, 39, Hillary Clinton’s longest-serving aide, started working for Clinton as a 19-year-old intern in the First Lady’s office. Some political observers have expressed surprise that after all these years, Abedin is still at it. In 2013, Abedin briefly took a hiatus from Clinton world to try on a different role: supportive campaign spouse, speaking and appearing with her husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, in a video kicking off his New York City mayoral run and campaigning for him in the city. But after Weiner’s bid self-combusted amid sexting revelations, Abedin seemed to pick up right where she left off: gearing up for another tour with Clinton. The road is typically a younger staffer’s gig. Yet Abedin’s early appearances on the trail and book tour fail to capture the larger and growing role she now occupies. “For all intents and purposes, she’s No. 3 on the campaign, after [campaign chairman John] Podesta and [campaign manager Robby] Mook,” explained a Clinton campaign aide. She is shown in a October 2010 State Department photo via flickr.
The Intercept, Behind the Curtain: A Look at the Inner Workings of NSA’s XKEYSCORE, Micah Lee, Glenn Greenwald (shown in file photo), and Morgan Marquis-Boire, July 2, 2015. Based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept is shedding light on the inner workings of XKEYSCORE, one of the most extensive programs of mass surveillance in human history. Around the world, when a person gets online to do anything — write an email, post to a social network, browse the web or play a video game — there’s a decent chance that the Internet traffic her device sends and receives is getting collected and processed. Analysts working for the National Security Agency, as well as partner spy agencies, have written thousands of snippets of code to detect different types of traffic and extract useful information from each type, according to documents dating up to 2013.
The Intercept, Amnesty International Responds to U.K. Government Surveillance, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, July 2, 2015. A British tribunal admitted on Wednesday that the U.K. government had spied on Amnesty International and illegally retained some of its communications. Sherif Elsayed-Ali, deputy director of global issues for Amnesty International in London, responds.
New York Times, Glenn Ford, Spared Death Row, Dies at 65, Bruce Weber, July 2, 2015. Glenn Ford, who spent nearly 30 years on death row in Louisiana for a murder he almost certainly did not commit, died on Monday in New Orleans, less than 16 months after his conviction and death sentence were vacated and he was released. Mr. Ford walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, one of the nation’s toughest prisons, after spending 29 years behind bars, nearly half his life, most of that time in solitary confinement for all but an hour a day.
FireDogLake, Legal Organization Representing WikiLeaks Submits Report for UN Official’s Review of Whistleblower Protections, Kevin GosztolaJuly 2, 2015. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a legal organization based in New York which represents WikiLeaks and its editor-in chief Julian Assange (shown in a file photo), has submitted a report to help United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye complete his review on the global issue of whistleblowers and the protection of sources. The review addresses how human rights law should protect journalists from having to disclose their sources and how whistleblowers are or are not protected, especially after exposing human rights violations, corruption or other abuses.
TPM, Obama Just Made Israeli Settlement Boycotts Kosher, Mitchell Plitnick, July 2, 2015. When President Barack Obama signed the Trade Promotion Authority bill last week, he set a precedent. The bill included a provision that “requires the U.S. Trade Representative to discourage European Union countries from boycotting ‘Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories’ during free-trade negotiations between the U.S. and the EU.” In effect, this amendment treated Israeli settlements, for the first time in American history, as being part of Israel and therefore deserving the same protections. It was a small step; there is no enforcement mechanism in the bill. Despite this provision, Obama signed on the dotted line, not wanting to endanger a bill he fought long and hard to see pass. But now that it is law, Obama (through the State Department) has taken a stand. In fact, what once seemed to be a leap toward legitimizing the settlements now stands to be turned on its head, with the State Department making it clear that boycotts of settlement products do not merit American opposition. “The United States government has … strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting the State of Israel, and will continue to do so,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. “However, by conflating Israel and 'Israeli-controlled territories,' a provision of the Trade Promotion Authority legislation runs counter to longstanding U.S. policy towards the occupied territories, including with regard to settlement activity.”
OpEdNews, James Risen On Obama, Holder First Amendment Legacies, Rob Kall, July 2, 2015. Earlier this year I did an hour long interview with James Risen (shown in a file photo). We discussed his case with the Department of Justice, where he was being threatened with incarceration for refusing to reveal his source who gave him insights about NSA activities. This was before Obama and Eric Holder decided to drop the prosecution against him. I saw him give the keynote speech at the luncheon for the Investigative Reporters and Editors 2015 conference and after his talk, in which he lambasted former Attorney General Eric Holder, I asked him to do a brief interview, based on his comments on Obama, Eric Holder and their legacies.
Rob Kall: I was really hoping you would recap what you said to about 1500 journalists about your experience with the DOJ and Eric Holder and where journalism is today.
James Risen: I think the main point I was trying to make is the legacy of the Obama administration on press freedom issues is a bad one. They had, in my case, sought to eliminate what's called the reporter's privilege, which is the ability of reporters to protect their confidential sources in criminal trials and not be forced to testify and identify sources. In my case the judge sided with me and quashed the subpoena from the Justice Department against me. But the Obama administration appealed that to the appeals court and they overturned that decision by the lower court and in their appeal to the appeals court, they said, there is no such thing as a reporters' privilege in a federal case. And the court sided with them and that had the effect of eliminating the ability, legally, of reporters to protect their sources in federal criminal cases.
MondoWeiss, In rebuke to Israel, State Dep’t says it has no objection to BDS aimed at occupation, Philip Weiss, July 1, 2015. In yet another sign that the American government is reassessing the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and that BDS is gaining traction, the State Department yesterday said that it did not oppose BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions actions, aimed at the occupied Palestinian territories, because Israeli settlements “make it harder to negotiate a sustainable and equitable peace deal in good faith.” The statement was a special clarification of White House policy on the new fast-track trade bill, which contained a provision that Congress had included at the urging of Israel lobby groups: to punish European companies and governments that support BDS of Israel– including Israeli activities in the occupied territories. The legislation purposely sought to protect settlements; and yesterday the Obama administration said it isn’t buying.
Washington Post, How Jeb Bush’s ﬁrm made him rich — and created a nest egg for his family, Matea Gold, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O'Harrow Jr., July 2, 2015. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s former firm, Jeb Bush & Associates, earned $33 million in proceeds from 2007 to 2013. Shortly after Jeb Bush left the Florida governor’s office in 2007, he established his own firm, Jeb Bush & Associates, designed to maximize his earning potential as one of the country’s more prominent politicians. Tax returns disclosed this week by the Republican’s presidential campaign revealed that the business not only made him rich but also provided a steady income for his wife and one of his sons. The family salaries were among the new information to emerge from this week’s disclosures, which provided the most detailed picture yet of the structure and finances of the firm that formed the core of Bush’s private-sector work during the past eight years. The returns show that the company set up a generous and well-funded pension plan now rare in corporate America, allowing Bush to take large tax deductions while he and his wife built up their retirement portfolio. They also illustrate how Bush — who has touted his business experience on the campaign trail — relied on his public persona and political connections to rapidly increase his net worth.
National Press Club, Mr. Perry Comes to Washington, Wesley G. Pippert, July 2, 2015. With a few mild zingers Rick Perry told a National Press Club luncheon Thursday that what distinguishes him from the other Republican presidential candidates is that he is the only one with line military as well as executive experience. The former Texas governor and Air Force captain (shown in a file photo) for the most part did not single out by name others of the multiple cast of candidates but he disassociated himself from Donald Trump's remarks about Mexican immigrants. Without naming them, he singed fellow candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and fellow Texan Ted Cruz by saying first-term U.S. senators couldn't match his qualifications. Perry's speech was billed as one dealing with economic policy and many of his remarks dealt with how his administration would help African-Americans far more than has he felt had occurred in the Obama administration. Editor's Note: The Justice Integrity Project covered the event, including the VIP reception. Photo courtesy of Noel St. John.
Huffington Post, This Is What The End Of European Democracy Looks Like, Daniel Marans and Ryan Grim, July 2, 2015. Underlying the question of whether European leaders and the Greek state will be able to come to terms amid the financial crisis is one even more fundamental: Is there room in Europe for democracy? In January, Greek voters elected a government on a platform of anti-austerity, one that argued further cuts would not just be cruel to a people already experiencing 25 percent unemployment, but economically backward as well. European leaders have spent the five months since then doing everything they can to drive that Greek government from power. Europe's modern experiment with democracy began with many fits and starts, but in recent years it seemed to cement itself. That appears to have been a mirage. If the troika of economic policy-setters succeeds in ousting the Greek government, it will send a clear message to other European Union countries: You are free to hold elections, but the government you elect can only do what we say. Europe’s desire for a change of government in Greece has become especially apparent in recent days.
Vox.com, Greek crisis: NSA phone tap of Angela Merkel reveals she knew Greece's debt was unsustainable, Matthew Yglesias, July 2, 2015. Back in 2011, before the most recent reorganization of Greek debt, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her personal assistant that Greece's debts would still be unsustainable under the terms of the new arrangement unless it received more generous assistance from Germany and other wealthier European countries. That's according to this National Security Agency intercept of her communications, revealed to the world by Wikileaks. This is one of these things that's going to be treated as a bombshell by some, and as "everyone already knew this" by others. Understanding why some will scream and others roll their eyes helps explain some important aspects of the situation. Greece's debts really are unsustainable. Greece's creditors know that they aren't going to be paid back. But they want the debt to stay on the books anyway. Why? The debt, in other words, isn't about money. It's about political control.
President Barack Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Reader Supported News, Greece: When Will NATO Call In the Troops? Steve Weissman, July 2, 2015. Whatever the Greek people decide in Sunday’s off-again, on-again referendum, the story won’t end there. The IMF, most Eurocrats, and the mass media here will continue to vilify Prime Minister Alexis Tsipris for fighting against austerity, while many on the left will accuse him of selling out far too much on his anti-austerity, pro-growth promises. But if he and his Syriza-led government manage to retain the confidence of Greek voters and become a viable model for others in Europe, how long will Washington and its NATO allies let them be? History offers a nasty warning – and a glimmer of hope.
Unz, Hillary’s Secret War, Andrew Napolitano, July 2, 2015. In the course of my work at Fox News, I am often asked by colleagues to review and explain documents and statutes. What I saw has persuaded me beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that Clinton provided material assistance to terrorists and lied to Congress in a venue where the law required her to be truthful. Here is the back story. She obtained permission from President Obama and consent from congressional leaders in both houses of Congress and in both parties to arm rebels in Syria and Libya in an effort to overthrow the governments of those countries. Many of the rebels Clinton armed were terrorist groups who are our sworn enemies. There was no congressional declaration of war, no congressional vote, no congressional knowledge beyond fewer than a dozen members, and no federal statute that authorized this. When Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., asked Clinton at a public hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 23, 2013, whether she knew about American arms shipped to the Middle East, to Turkey or to any other country, she denied any knowledge. It is unclear whether she was under oath at the time, but that is legally irrelevant. The obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to Congress pertains to all witnesses who testify before congressional committees, whether an oath has been administered or not. (Just ask Roger Clemens, who was twice prosecuted for misleading Congress about the contents of his urine while not under oath. He was acquitted.)
Washington Post, The Supreme Court's liberal wing prevailed in 8 of 10 most important cases this term, but it may not last, Robert Barnes, July 1, 2015. The cases the justices hear next term could cause great division. The Supreme Court was no less polarized this term, nor were its opinions any less divided. But its landmark decisions saving the Affordable Care Act and declaring that the Constitution provides a right for same-sex couples to marry create nationwide norms for an increasingly divided country. On July 1, JIP Editor Andrew Kreig discussed the Supreme Court's decision-making on The Phil Mikan Show (Connecticut's WMRD-AM and WLIS-AM) for an hour, providing an overview of the term's results and decision-making process.
Washington Post, Since 1976, the FBI hasn’t counted more than 460 fatal police shootings in a year. We’ve counted 462 already in 2015, Wesley Lowery, Steven Rich, July 1, 2015.
The Post finds more fatal police shootings in 6 months than the FBI says happens in entire years.
Vicksburg Post, Bail denied in murder case, Josh Edwards, July 1, 2015. Gruesome details of Sharen Wilson’s death emerged during her accused killer’s initial court appearance Wednesday, leading a judge to deny bail for one of two suspects in her death. Warren County Judge Johnny Price denied bail for Rafael McCloud, 33, after he was charged with capital murder and seven other crimes related to the death of 69-year-old Sharen Wilson. Police say Wilson was stalked, tied up, raped, abducted and taken to an abandoned hospital where she was shot in the head with a stolen gun. Many people in the standing-room-only crowd packed inside the county courtroom gasped and burst into tears as the acts were described. Editor's Note: It's worth recalling some of the day-to-day criminal horror stories like this are part of the context of police shootings and other misconduct.
Daily Mail, Email bombshells from Hillary's secret account show she didn't know when cabinet meetings were held, was dumbfounded by a fax machine and emailed aides to fetch her iced tea, David Martosko, July 1, 2015. State Department published a massive tranche of Hillary Clinton's emails Tuesday night from her days as secretary of state; Judge ordered the release in response to a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit; Tuesday's revelation covers barely 3,000 of the 55,000 pages that must go online by the end of the year; 9:00 p.m. release suggested State Department tried to bury it. Hillary Clinton's emails have been a subject of partisan finger-pointing and hand-wringing since the revelation in April that she had used a private home-brew server to store her messages during the four years she was secretary of state. On Tuesday the State Department released the first in a series of document-dumps comprising about 3,000 of the 55,000 pages Clinton turned over to State late last year. They describe the ordinary and the shocking.
Huffington Post, Bernie Sanders Blasts Greece's Creditors, Daniel Marans, July 1, 2015. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attacked the International Monetary Fund and European authorities on Wednesday for imposing what he called excessive austerity measures on Greece in negotiations over the country’s debt payments. “It is unacceptable that the International Monetary Fund and European policymakers have refused to work with the Greek government on a sensible plan to improve its economy and pay back its debt,” Sanders said in an exclusive statement to the Huffington Post. “At a time of grotesque wealth inequality, the pensions of the people in Greece should not be cut even further to pay back some of the largest banks and wealthiest financiers in the world.”
KOAT (ABC News/ Albuquerque), Former CNN correspondent, anchor survive motel gunfight, Laura Thoren, July 1, 2015. A former CNN correspondent was shot three times late Tuesday night during an attempted robbery at an Albuquerque motel. Former CNN anchor Lynne Russell told Action 7 News she and her husband Chuck de Caro were robbed at gunpoint around 11:30 p.m. at a Motel 6. De Caro worked as a correspondent for CNN.
OpEdNews, Turkish Military Says No to False Flag, Michael Collins (shown in a photo), July 1, 2015. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu used the National Security Board to order an invasion of Syrian territory. Erdogan fears that Syrian Kurds are creating an autonomous Kurdish state in the section of northeastern Syria under their control. The president claims that Kurdish fighters are forcing Arabs and Turkmens to leave the region in a form of ethnic cleansing.Turkish sources report that the military received "written orders" from Turkey's prime minister to begin operations on Turkey's southern border. This would put the military in direct conflict with Kurdish forces and expose the military to a major conflict with the Syrian Arab Army. The military balked. President Erdogan (shown in a photo) fears that he and his cronies will be indicted for corruption and jailed for their acts. After 13 years of increasingly absolute rule, President Erdogan stumbled badly in the June national elections. He needed AKP to maintain its strong majority in parliament to push through changes to the constitution that would turn the politically weak president into a true chief executive. With that power, Erdogan could continue to do what he did as prime minister: stop any serious investigations into corruption.