625: Touching the Stick

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 12m
June 12th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Adam Curry & John C Dvorak

Cover Artist: Sir Nussbaum


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Presidential Proclamation -- World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 2014
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:27
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 11, 2014
- - - - - - -
Each year, the international community renews its commitment to addressing a human rights issue that too often goes ignored -- elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Elder abuse damages public health and threatens millions of our parents, grandparents, and friends. It is a crisis that knows no borders or socio-economic lines. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we strengthen our resolve to replace neglect with care and exploitation with respect.
America must lead by example, and my Administration remains dedicated to ending elder abuse, supporting victims, and holding abusers accountable. Under the Affordable Care Act, we enacted the Elder Justice Act. Through this law, the Federal Government has invested in identifying, responding to, and preventing elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Because eliminating this pervasive crime requires coordinated action, we are bringing together Federal agencies; non-profit and private sector partners; and State, local, and tribal governments. Together, we can build a more responsive criminal justice system, give seniors the tools to avoid financial scams, and determine the best ways to prevent elder abuse before it starts.
Seniors have provided for their families, risen to the challenges of their times, and built ladders of opportunity for future generations. Many have served our Nation with honor. After decades of hard work, they have earned the right to enjoy their retirement years with a basic sense of security. Today, let us join with partners around the globe in declaring that we will not fail the men and women who raised us, sacrificed for us, and shaped our world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 15, 2014, as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day by learning the signs of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and by raising awareness about this growing public health issue.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eleventh day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
Notice -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Belarus
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:43
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 10, 2014
On June 16, 2006, by Executive Order 13405, the President declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons to undermine Belarus's democratic processes or institutions, manifested in the fundamentally undemocratic March 2006 elections, to commit human rights abuses related to political repression, including detentions and disappearances, and to engage in public corruption, including by diverting or misusing Belarusian public assets or by misusing public authority. The actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on June 16, 2006, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond June 16, 2014. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13405. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
New Hams
James Bertelson - KG7MJN
KG7MJN here -- passed the Tech and General last Sunday, got my call
Friday. Super super stoked. Grabbing a Baofeng HT and a mag mount for the
car and around the house, talking to a neighbor about tossing up a 40m
dipole on his trees that overhang my property, and learning CW on lcwo.net
(7wpm -- any faster and my brain segfaults). Much thanks for sparking the
interest. Really digging a lot of the packet stuff too, I think the future
is in making something like PSK31 routable and then just creating a giant
worldwide mesh network -- a BBS for hams. Who needs packet equality?
We'll make our own packets. With blackjack. And hookers!
73s and thanks for the show. You guys do great work.
Email from Polish Listener
Hi Adam and John,
I am listening to your show almost every day. I wanted to thank you for bringing on some very important issues eg. Ukraine, the EU. I am a polish citizen and I can see how the mass media are putting under the carpet the things your are discussing. I think that a regular polish citizen does not have a clue, what is all about, all this ukrainian crisis, the EU involvment. Moreover, Putin is presented as a new threat, as malicious as Hitler and the same time all the EU and USA policy is like a miracle and cure to every problem.
I have visited some post-soviet countries in my life, right before and right after they joined the EU (or signed some bills/treaties which bound them in some way to the EU )... well it was pretty shocking experience (Bulgaria was the worst case and i guess same will go for Ukraine)
I just wish the similar radio / podcats stations would operate in Poland one day
Keep on streaming and good luck
Sorry for my broken english
Grzegorz (english Gregory)
JCD RainStick email
can you call out John as a douchebag? Or hit him in the head with the rainstick?
I was travelling home from Denmark this night, by train, and I was first told in Kolding that the carriages designated for Miss Micky's Nation were not there because of the storm in Germany on Monday. Instead I had to travel to Frankfurt am Main, get up at 06.00 in the morning and change there! Since I had paid for a sleeper carriage for a reason this is quite unpleasant already, but it gets worse.
In Frankfurt we were supposed to get on an ICE to Amsterdam, but that did not go further than Cologne (Köln), because of storms on Tuesday night having destroyed the track and overhead wires! I wanted to go to Eindhoven via Düsseldorf and Venlo, but Düsseldorf and the segment to Venlo seemed to be completely out as well.
DB then put me in a taxi to Utrecht, and I got home with a delay of about 5 hours!
John is a douchebag for playing with that rainstick on Sunday...
Paul Peerdeman
ps: I know it's a pet peeve, but John is not going to do anything about his own douchebaggery without your insistence
JCD: New twitter feature that he thinks is cool?
School Lunch Scam email from Pedro
In short…
She pitches the idea of a healthy meal to sell it to the public (bait and switch sales pitch).
The contract is awarded to X company.
X Company provides the meals on a waiver because cannot deliver fresh anything so is allowed to deliver a substitute.
Nobody beside them can provide the meals.
The problem that was not signed was simply a contract deal (the wrong company was getting awarded with it “wink-wink-nudge-nudge”).
Longer version…
Either way, was nothing but a money grab scam as always.
In our school (here is one of the offerings), kids get a thaw out Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich that is tasteless and horrible along with a fruit cup.
The school has a fully furbished Kitchen that is not even used.
We tried to provide local healthy snacks and the parents ARE NOT ALLOWED to bring food (except for your own kid).
For example; I buy out of my pocket 500 pizzas from Dominoes and deliver them to the school for lunch IS NOT ALLOWED !
The only “AUTHORIZED SUPPLIER” is the contractor.
The Principle is aware of it but cannot do anything about it.
All he can do is allow it in small quantities “classroom special occasions celebration/party”.
Kids can bring their own sacked lunch if they wish but most parents do not do that simply because is a hassle or low income.
So is “outsourced” to the school to get the freebie.
During my time….
When I was in school they had a cafeteria with a Cook.
They provided for example, Rice and Beans with Fried/Baked Chicken on a day, next day could be Spaghettis, or Lasagna, etc…
The milk/chocolate came on a big carton that was a refill for a dispenser and all you can drink.
They served Breakfast and Lunch.
Each day the Cafeteria lady took a head count to prepare the meals.
How much we paid? Depends, if you qualify is Free (low income people) if not you pay a fee that was cheaper.
You do not want to eat that, a food truck came by during lunch at the street and buy whatever you want.
We never grew up with fast food. We had lots of none-franchised mom and pop shops to buy food.
I was fortunate that I went home for lunch and mom always cooked for me.
BTW, the 1st Lady signing to law was an awesome clip; great find Adam ;o)
Sending money from the USA - TransferWise - Send Money Abroad
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 18:25
TransferWise is a great way to send money from the USA to any of our other supported countries!
TransferWise can receive deposits via Domestic Federal Wire to our Wells Fargo account in Texas, so it's kept nice and local.
To satisfy US regulatory requirements, when sending money from the USA, TransferWise will need to keep a few extra details on file (TransferWise will prompt for this accordingly):
The recipient's addressThe US State that you (the sender) reside inYour Zip CodeSocial Security Number (the authenticity of this SSN will be checked). If you don't have an SSN, we'll need a copy of your photo ID.Right now, TransferWise cannot accept Federal Wire transfers from bank accounts based in Massachusetts or Washington (state).
Transfer timesTransfers via domestic federal wire, can arrive to TransferWise in about an hour. Do bear in mind though, TransferWise may then need a small period of time to process your transfer, before it becomes visible on the Transfer's status page.
PricingTransfers from USD have a slightly different pricing structure, compared to regular TransferWise payments.
For USD transfers to level 1 currencies (e.g. GBP, EUR, INR), the pricing is as follows.
For transfers up to $1500, our fee is a flat $15.For transfers up to $4999.99, our fee is 1% of the amount sent (so up to $50).Over that and our fee is 0.7%.So, for a $6000 transfer, our fee would be 1% for the first $4999.9. Then for the additional $1000.01, the fee would be 0.7%. This means our entire take would be 57USD (50 + 7). Your money would be exchanged at the mid-market rate.
For USD transfers to level 2 currencies (RON/TRY), the fee is 1% for transfers over $1500. The minimum fee is $15.
For USD transfers to SWIFT currencies (e.g. CAD, JPY), there's a slightly larger minimum fee to take into account SWIFT transfer costs. It's as follows:
The minimum fee is $15 + 1000JPY/10CAD in USD at the current mid-market rate when setting up the transfer.
Then it's as before- for transfers up to $4999.99, our fee is 1% of the amount sent (so up to $50). Over that and our fee is 0.7%.
Feature limitationsTransferWise cannot make payments where a specific amount reaches the recipient, when making transfers from USD.The maximum transfer size is 100,000USD. Note: this is only for transfer from USD.Wire transfer is not an option for Email transfers.For paylinks requesting USD, wire transfer is not an option.Certain banks and services require a "microdeposit" to verify the bank account (e.g. Google Wallet). Unfortunately we're unable to work with such services.
Refunding money originally sent via Domestic Federal Wire.When issuing a refund, TransferWise would refund the money back to your account via ACH transfer (direct deposit) not Federal Wire.
One thing to watch out for, ACH transfers often require a different routing number. TransferWise would need the ABA/ACH check routing number for electronic/paper (check) type transfers to the original sending bank account. More about that here.
Sending from a USD account outside of the USA?TransferWise can receive USD transfers sent via SWIFT to our European USD account. More about SWIFT transfers can be found here.
Details for this account are listed under the "SWIFT Payment" tab at the "Upload Money" stage.
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NUDELMAN-Esoteric Meaning of Planets ~ Astrological Planets
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 00:32
The key to the planets, or the chakras :
Here is a planetary key to personal natal chart interpretation that any beginning astrological student can use with confidence. The natural ordering of the planets that can be seen easily with the naked eye can serve as a key to their interpretation. As we know, the planetary order out from the Sun is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These are the naked-eye planets. Beyond Saturn are the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
We will start with Saturn and work our way in towards the Sun. The key thought necessary in order to use these planets in your own horoscope is this: the inner planet is always the key to the outer. In every case, in order to reveal, open, and use the outer, we go within. In other words, each inner planet is the meaning and key to the planet beyond its orbit. For example, we live on Earth. The next planet inside the orbit of the Earth is Venus. Therefore, Venus will be the key to the Earth experience. If we stop and think about it, Venus (or love) has been held up as the key to life on this Earth throughout the ages. If we have obstacles and problems in our life (Saturn), then studying one's Jupiter will give us the key to the planet Saturn in our natal chart... Mars will be the key to Jupiter, and so on. Let's begin.Astrology: The Esoteric Meaning of The PlanetsSaturn, or law:Almost every astrologer wants to know where Saturn is in the chart because here we are sure to gain insight into some of the major obstacles and challenges of life. Saturn, or Satan (as it is sometimes called), is the prince of time and of the material world. We don't break nature's laws, they break us. The laws of Saturn are much feared, for it is here that we are bound to learn. The laws of Saturn are often seen as standing between us and an easy life. But Saturn also provides the walls that make homes possible. Gravity is an example -- the law that holds things in place. We come across the influence of Saturn every time we break nature's law. We are subjected and tested by these laws until such time as we learn to use them. Saturn is so important in the chart because it shows us where we must be disciplined and where we are bound to learn something; therefore, everyone always wants to know how to come to grips with Saturn in the natal chart. The key to the realm of Saturn in our chart can be found by studying our natal Jupiter.
Jupiter, or life path:If Saturn is our life's test, then Jupiter is the key, guide, and light that sees us through the darkness of time (or Saturn). It is the straight and narrow path by which we pass through Saturn's test. Jupiter is the particular way we go or continue in life -- continuity. It is our "luck" or solution to time's test. In astrology, Jupiter is the great benefic as it shows us how to find our way through Saturn and the tests of time -- how to use Saturn. Jupiter is our key to succession through time, to success. It is the way through or on. Jupiter is the key, or antidote, to Saturn; therefore, Jupiter has to do with how we are to be successful in life in our particular battle against the forces of time (Saturn). Jupiter often describes our vocation or the way we must go through life, since that through which we have to pass (Saturn) dictates the way we must go through life (our vocation). We have mastered our Jupiter when we are a physical success.
Once we have learned to master our Saturn, to be successful, our mind is free to explore our situation. The freedom of Jupiter is eternal vigilance toward the law or rules of Saturn. We go from victory to victory over time, or Saturn, which translates into day-to-day success. We make a living.
Now that we are free within time, or Saturn, our mind begins to wonder what it all means. What's the purpose of all this? We begin to penetrate into the next chakra, that of Mars. The key to our success (Jupiter) will be the planet Mars -- how we feel about our life.
Mars, or the marriage:Mars is the energy that moves us, the way we feel -- our emotions. It is what drives us and the way we are driven. And it is the kind of energy or drive that we have which determines our personal atmosphere or aura: the kind of room or space in which we have to live -- our living room. The kind of room we have determines how we feel about our life, comfortable or cramped. After Jupiter fades to an easy repetition, our mind turns to thoughts of unity, oneness -- marriage.
We are driven to marriage, or yoga, of one kind or another. It is the way the two become one. Everyone chooses a form of yoga, union, or marriage... some way to join or yoke the two opposing parts of ourselves together and to perceive them as one life -- ours.
We master each planet or chakra, maintain it, and move on or penetrate into the next, inner one. The Jupiter chakra is a tremendous war between us and them. Dichotomy. When we seek to understand the secret of "us" and "them," we penetrate into the Mars chakra -- what it all means. Meaning drives us across the Earth until we can see the end of all difference, that it is all one.
We are free at last from the bonds of Saturn (Satan). We have learned what we must do to survive or to succeed in life. Yet the world we live in is not a unity. It is us against them. And still this somehow does not feel right.
Our life becomes a process of gathering meanings and hints of a possible unity between the opposing parties. This is the yoga, union, or marriage that each must negotiate. The entire Mars chakra has to do with dealing with all the motion, emotion, and meanings of life. Following them out, understanding them. Mars, therefore, is the sphere of all things meaningful, everything that moves us: music, poetry, drama, movies -- the works. Anything that gets a rise out of us. We are working with our Mars as long as we have not completed our yoga, or marriage, as long as the two have not become one. As long as we are intrigued and drawn hither and yon, we are working on our Mars. This mysterious person beckons, that piece of music or poem captures our attention, moves us.
Mars is our marriage or union. It is the systematic making friends with everything that is foreign (other than us). At some point in this journey, we get the message. We cease to be blown hither and yon by every passing emotion. We discover that life is its own meaning. We have penetrated to the Earth, or heart chakra.
Earth, or the heart:We ourselves are the meaning. "I AM THAT I AM," and for no other reason. We take refuge in life itself with no referrals. This is it!
"I am in it to the end, and that's all, And the 'ever' it's coming to be. And in me is out, the shadow of doubt, And the 'in' that is 'out', Well, that's me!"
Earth/Sun represent the end of meaning, the heart of it all. The two are one. The marriage is consummated, the child is born. The Earth is us as we are in our oneness.
The Sun is the essence of what it all means.
The planets inside the orbit of the Earth, Venus and Mercury, are very misunderstood in modern astrology. Both are beyond any physical depiction.
Venus, or compassion:Inside Earth. Compassion. Infinite response and attention. Cherishing. How we respond to life. How we find ourselves in response to life. Love, in the sense of responding or attending to.
Mercury, or light:Messenger truth. First out from the Sun. The light of knowing or seeing in our eyes. Communication itself. Essence of communication.
Sun, or system:The Sun is not a planet. The description for the Earth given above is the traditional meaning for the Sun. The true Sun is the whole solar system.
(This is the text from the supplement of terms and concepts included with the Astro*Talk Profile , created from the author, Michael Erlewine.)
Hema arrives in Britain: A trip to the shop will soon mean going Dutch
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 14:17
Hema's arrival will pose a challenge to the Scandinavian stalwart Ikea and newcomer Tiger of Denmark because the Dutch store offers customers similar bargains and easy-on-the-eye designs.
The group, which has more than 660 outlets across Europe, will open its first UK store on Thursday in London's Victoria, with two more to follow soon in Bromley and Kingston. A website will launch next month as a precursor to opening more stores across the UK.
The advance of these posh Poundlands, to borrow the nickname bestowed upon Tiger, illustrates just how much shoppers have changed habits during the recession, a phenomenon that has hit established retailers such as Tesco and Marks and Spencer hard.
Analysts believe Hema could replace Woolworths, which disappeared from UK high streets at the start of 2009. Patrick O'Brien, at the Verdict retail consultancy, said the group "marries discount and value retailing with an Ikea design aesthetic... it's the kind of retailer Woolworths could have been if it had been invested in properly".
Hema itself claims that it aims to make people's lives more fun, by selling the likes of pink frying pans, which are designed in-house. It's certainly popular in the Netherlands where one in five women wear one of its bras, and one in three boys pull on a pair of Hema pants.
Straightforward Hema style But before potential shoppers get their knickers in a twist over the thought of yet more disposable bargains, Hema pledges to sell sustainable products and is extending its "Naturally Hema" brand. Goodies on its shelves span customised cakes to children's bicycles.
The company was started in the early 1920s by two Jewish entrepreneurs, Arthur Isaac and Leo Meyer, who wanted to offer struggling shoppers some cheaper alternatives. The first store opened on Amsterdam's Kalverstraat in 1926. Today, the group is private-equity backed: Lion Capital acquired the company, which generated sales of ¤1.2bn in 2012, from Dutch retail group Maxeda in 2007. As well as the Netherlands, it has outlets in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Hema aims to make everything about shopping in one of its stores simple, splitting its departments up into Eat, Study and Beauty rooms. Its prices are all in round figures, so £5 instead of £4.99.
And, with more than 43,000 shops now lying empty in the UK, Hema will have its pick of high- street sites when it rolls out stores beyond London.
Mr O'Brien predicted it would do well in the UK where, he said, "discount general retailing has been very successful"; the likes of Poundland, Home Bargains and the family-owned Wilkinsons are all thriving. But he stressed that the sector is becoming more crowded. "They're going up against all the major grocers as well, but I don't think the grocers will lose too much sleep [over Hema's arrival]."
Fisherman's Friend email
As a former fisherman from Dillingham, AK - Bristol bay I was very surprised to hear that there was a Dame from my old stomping grounds. If she wants I am willing to send her a CD of each episode over the summer while she is slaving away out in the bay. Last time I was up in Bristol bay there was only the one am station KDLG operated by the Dillingham high school.
If you would send her my address and this note, I will discuss with her how to get her CDs of the show over the summer. I need to know what boat she will be fishing on and the cannery they will be selling the catch to.
Hunger Games salute becomes symbol of Thai resistance
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:09
BANGKOK - Agence France-Presse
Opponents of Thailand's military coup are risking arrest by flashing the three-finger salute from the "Hunger Games" movies to defy a junta that has banned all public protests. The gesture has become the unofficial symbol of resistance against a military regime that has suspended democracy and severely curtailed freedom of expression. AFP Photo
Opponents of Thailand's military coup are risking arrest by flashing the three-finger salute from the "Hunger Games" movies to defy a junta that has banned all public protests. The gesture has become the unofficial symbol of resistance against a military regime that has suspended democracy and severely curtailed freedom of expression. "Showing three fingers has become a symbol to call for basic political rights in a country ruled by one person as if with the most sovereign power, who is General Prayut Chan-O-Cha," Sombat Boonngamanong, a prominent activist wanted by the junta, wrote on Facebook. Critics of the May 22 coup, including the youngest daughter of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have posted photographs of themselves flashing three fingers on Facebook and other social media sites. "Dear #HungerGames. We've taken your sign as our own. Our struggle is non-fiction," wrote one Twitter user. In the "Hunger Games" movies, the residents of a dystopian future North America -- who are forced to compete in a televised death match -- initially use the gesture to mean thanks, admiration and good-bye to someone they love. It later becomes a more general symbol of their uprising against a wealthy, totalitarian regime. In Thailand some protesters say the salute is also a nod to the French revolutionary motto "liberty, equality and fraternity". The military -- which has imposed martial law, controls on the media and a night-time curfew -- has warned that people flashing three fingers could face arrest under its ban on public protests. "If they gather as more than five people and show the symbol of three fingers then it's against the law," army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told reporters. But he suggested that people posting photos on the Internet were unlikely to be detained, saying coup makers were "not paying any attention" to the three-finger salute by Thaksin's daughter. The junta mounted a show of military strength over the weekend to deter small but defiant anti-coup flashmob rallies that popped up outside shopping malls and near train stations in the capital Bangkok. Some people have taken to the streets reading George Orwell's dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four". Six people were arrested, included a woman shoved into a taxi by undercover police apparently disguised as journalists. Security forces, many carrying riot shields, were deployed, backed briefly by an armoured humvee with a soldier manning a mounted machine gun. The army has warned protesters that they -- and even their families -- face punishment under strict martial law, which has imposed sweeping curbs on freedoms. The harsh response "reveals a totalitarian mindset that discounts respect for human rights as a hindrance to exercise of power," said Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "The Bangkok street protesters' three-fingered Hunger Games salute is a symbolic act of peaceful defiance by those who recognise -- like those in the rebellious districts in the movie -- that they face overwhelming odds but decide to bravely raise their voices nonetheless." The coup makers said they were forced to seize power after nearly seven months of anti-government protests which saw 28 people killed and hundreds of others wounded. Prayut, the army chief, has said elections are not expected to be held for at least a year to allow a new constitution to be drawn up in an effort to end a political crisis stretching back almost a decade. Critics accuse the junta of using the violence as a pretext for a long-planned power grab by the military-backed royalist establishment which loathes Thaksin, who was himself ousted in a coup in 2006.
The billionaire tycoon-turned-populist politician lives in self-exile in Dubai to avoid jail for a corruption conviction. Thaksin or his allies have won every election in more than a decade, including in 2011 under his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, helped by strong support among voters in the northern half of the country.
Koch Brothers!
Donations and support of Eric Cantor
In a bitter irony for Democrats, two of the people who stand to gain the most from the fracas are none other than Charles and David Koch, the Republican billionaires who have tapped one of the world's largest fortunes to cut down Democrats in elections and fuel conservative reforms. According to a lobbying disclosure form, lobbyists for the Koch empire have pushed for four of the most controversial deregulation provisions in Cantor's latest endeavor.
The Koch Brothers' big bucks | Political Animal | The Washington Monthly
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 20:10
October 11, 2011 11:25 AMThe Koch Brothers' big bucksBy Steve Benen
In case anyone needed a reminder about the kind of forces Democrats will be up against next year, the Koch brothers are putting together their plan to help buy the 2012 elections.
The billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million '-- potentially much more '-- to conservative groups ahead of Election Day, POLITICO has learned. That puts their libertarian-leaning network in the same league as the most active of the groups in the more establishment-oriented network conceived last year by veteran GOP operatives Rove and Ed Gillespie, which plans to raise $240 million.
That's financing for an awful lot of attack ads, nearly all of which will be dishonest, and which a whole lot of voters will believe.
It'll be interesting, though, to see whether Democrats are able to make the Koch money toxic. We learned last week that there's ample evidence that Koch Industries made ''improper payments'' (read: bribes) to ''secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002.'' One of those countries, it turns out, is Iran, which has purchased millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment from the Kochs' company, despite a trade ban and the U.S. labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. The Kochs' business also stand accused of having ''rigged prices with competitors, lied to regulators and repeatedly run afoul of environmental regulations, resulting in five criminal convictions since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada.''
This is the money that's going to buy elections for Republicans?
Over the summer, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared, ''Plain and simple, if you do business with Iran, you cannot do business with America.''
Follow-up question for Cantor, who's accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Koch Industries: those who do business with Iran cannot do business with America, but can they partner with the Republican Party to swing an election cycle?
Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.
Bo Diddley
Exclusive: War Commander Kept in Dark About Last Minute Bergdahl Deal
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:06
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release by the Taliban in the border region of eastern Afghanistan was so rushed that not even the Afghanistan war commander or the top commander in the region knew a deal had been struck until just before or after it had been finalized, according to multiple administration officials.
The fact that Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commander of all American and international forces in Afghanistan, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, knew about the ongoing negotiations about Bergdahl but weren't fully read into the specifics of the actual deal hasn't been previously reported. It is certain to fuel the growing controversy over whether the Obama administration rushed into a potentially ill-advised deal without fully consulting Congress or even some of the most important members of its national security team.
In another previously unreported aspect of the case, officials familiar with the matter said the White House gave its final approval of the deal so quickly that aides to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel didn't have time to fully brief him on the contents of an internal Army investigation into Bergdahl's 2009 disappearance from his base in Afghanistan after the soldier was in U.S. custody. Hagel had been aware of the unusual circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance, but the Army report contained specific details about the case he may not have known.
The Army report, which remains classified, paints a mixed picture of Bergdahl, who was known by his comrades as a dedicated soldier but was also seen as standoffish and intense. The military has investigated the circumstances around Bergdahl's apparent decision to leave his base in the Paktika province of Afghanistan one night in June 2009. And although Army officials haven't reached a definitive conclusion about whether he intended to return, the decision to swap Bergdahl for five high-ranking Taliban members has angered members of Congress and former members of Bergdahl's unit, many of whom accuse him of deserting his post and costing the lives of fellow soldiers who went looking for him.
Members of Congress have been demanding answers to a variety of questions about the deal to trade Bergdahl. The administration's justification for cutting the deal so quickly -- and not fully informing Congress about it -- has also been shifting since Bergdahl's release on May 31, with each iteration further angering lawmakers from both parties. Hagel will appear before a House panel Wednesday morning to try to quell the criticism and further explain why the White House acted when it did.
It will be an uphill climb for the defense secretary, whose relationship with Capitol Hill has been rocky since his confirmation hearings. As more information emerges about the decision to free Bergdahl, it has exposed a rift between military officials and the White House over the circumstances of Bergdahl's release. On the day Bergdahl's captors delivered him to U.S. forces aboard a Black Hawk helicopter, Obama appeared in the White House's Rose Garden, along with Bergdahl's parents, Robert and Jani, to formally announce the soldier's release. The celebratory atmosphere, coupled with subsequent remarks by Obama aides, was at odds with a growing sense among some military and intelligence officials that the administration had made a bad deal and had overlooked the possibility that Bergdahl was a deserter.
When National Security Advisor Susan Rice appeared on ABC's "This Week" on June 1, she described Bergdahl as soldier who had served with "honor and distinction," triggering an uproar since many in the military -- and in Congress -- held a far more nuanced view of the former prisoner. While many troops strongly believe in the "no man left behind" ethos, large numbers saw Rice's comments as, at best, an avoidable gaffe, and at worst, an insensitive remark that underscored a disconnect between the White House and the many people in the military who saw Bergdahl as a deserter who may have effectively abandoned his fellow soldiers during one of the most intense periods of the Afghan war.
"I don't think the White House had the pulse of what the military and the intelligence community were thinking," said one former intelligence officer who has served in Afghanistan.
U.S. intelligence agencies two years ago concluded that five Taliban prisoners who were swapped for Bergdahl would eventually return to hostilities against the United States, according to a former senior official who helped write the assessment. And it was no secret that many in the military regarded Bergdahl's disappearance from his base as a likely case of desertion. The intelligence agencies and the State Department were aware of the controversy, but the deal -- and the subsequent public rollout of it -- didn't seem to reflect the more complex view many have about the merits of swapping the Taliban figures for Bergdahl.
The administration has tried to calm the furor over the decision, but, despite a number of closed-door briefings, many members of Congress have remained unconvinced that the administration couldn't have informed lawmakers about the pending transfer 30 days earlier, as U.S. law requires. The White House has insisted that while efforts have been underway for years to free Bergdahl, a variety of factors, from his declining health to a potential threat to his life at the hands of his Taliban captors, forced a quick decision to act.
"It was a very small, fleeting window of opportunity in order to secure -- safely secure Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. "And it's safe to say that the entire interagency, the entire national security team agreed that we needed to take advantage of this fleeting opportunity, and that operational security was critical to securing it safely and efficiently."
Some high-level officials were privy to the details of the prisoner swap. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and the Vice Chairman, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, were "completely read into the deal," one official said. But the Special Operations forces that flew Bergdahl out of Afghanistan didn't fall under Dunford or Austin's chain of command and therefore operated independently.
Although both Dunford and Austin were aware of the ongoing efforts to secure Bergdahl's release -- as were approximately 100 administration officials -- it was not clear exactly when either commander was informed of Bergdahl's rescue from his Taliban captors. On Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il.), said the Obama administration only finalized the particulars of the exchange a day before it occurred, and that the military only knew the location where Bergdahl was to be picked up an hour earlier.
The controversy over the timing of the deal shows no signs of dying down due to the changing nature of the administration's rationale for securing Bergdahl's release, but also because of the fury many in the military and intelligence communities still feel over Rice's comments.
"She's never understood the military," said a former official who worked with Rice when she served in the State Department during the Clinton administration. The former official, like others, questioned why the administration would so forcefully defend Bergdahl before the full circumstances of his disappearance were known, and when the political backlash from military quarters and the administration's Republican critics was so predictable. "Let's at least say it was bad staff work," the former official said, suggesting that Obama hadn't been fully briefed by his national security team.
Rice later clarified her remarks, saying that by "honor and distinction," she meant that Bergdahl had volunteered to fight for his country, which she called "a very honorable thing." Speaking to a CNN reporter during the 70th anniversary celebration of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, Rice said Bergdahl "is, as always with Americans, innocent until proven guilty."
It's not only soldiers who are questioning the wisdom of swapping Bergdahl for five hardened, anti-American militants. A former senior U.S. intelligence official who maintains close personal ties to Langley said career officers are furious over Bergdahl's release. Intelligence officials believe that at least one of the so-called "Taliban Five" was present when CIA officer Johnny Spann was killed in Afghanistan in November 2001, becoming the first American casualty in the war. Many CIA employees wonder why the administration would release five men whom the CIA's own analysts said would return to the battlefield, two former officials said.
The administration has faced similar skepticism in the past from member of Congress. In 2012, shortly after the CIA, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence completed the assessment that showed all five Taliban prisoners were likely to return to the battlefield or engage in hostilities against the United States, a delegation of deputy-level officials from the CIA, the State Department, and the White House presented the outlines of a prisoner swap to members of Congress, according to two former senior officials who were involved in the process. They billed trading Bergdahl for the Taliban Five as a "confidence building measure" with the Taliban and a chance to start a negotiated settlement to the war in Afghanistan. But lawmakers weren't buying it.
In closed-door meetings, members of Congress accused the administration of "negotiating with terrorists," and said officials were trying to dress up a straightforward prisoner swap in the guise a diplomatic overture to the Taliban, one former official who was in the briefings said. Lawmakers also predicted that the deal would encourage the Taliban and terrorist groups to take Americans hostage and use them as bargaining chips, the former official said. With so much hostility towards the plan, the Obama administration may well have concluded, in 2014, that it was better not to alert lawmakers that a swap was moving forward, even if the law required the president to inform them of the prisoner transfer.
The 2012 plan to trade Bergdahl for the prisoners fell apart when Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded that the United States cease negotiations with the Taliban, the former official said. After that, "the whole thing just collapsed."
But even if Karzai hadn't interceded, it's doubtful the swap would have succeeded. Key to the deal was moving the prisoners to Qatar, where they would remain under watch for some period of time. But that same intelligence assessment that the Taliban fighters would likely return to hostilities raised doubts about the ability of the government of Qatar to effectively monitor the prisoners, the former official said. Intelligence officials wanted the personal commitment from Qatar's ruler that the prisoners wouldn't be allowed to escape or set up a remote base of operations and direct attacks against American forces.
"I always personally thought, and the analysts did, that a commitment from the emir to President Obama would carry an awful lot of weight," the former official said. Separately, a former administration official involved in the negotiations said that moving the prisoners to Qatar without those personal assurances from the country's monarch "was a non-starter."
But that commitment didn't come until late May of 2014, when the new emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, who had ascended to the throne the previous June, called Obama and pledged that the prisoners would be kept under surveillance and prevented from travelling outside the country for at least a year. That gave the administration some measure of comfort that they could move forward with the swap, and reportedly helped to quell the dissent of a number of high-ranking officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who had opposed trading for Bergdahl. But it was also a win for the Qataris.
"This was an opportunity for the emir to demonstrate his willingness to play an important role with the United States, and that's extremely important to him," said an individual close to the Qatari government who is familiar with its foreign negotiations. Qatar has long "wanted to be in the position of being the one party to a negotiation that's always willing to talk to the other side when the U.S. and the Europeans aren't," the individual said. Qatari officials have acted as intermediaries to Hezbollah, Hamas (which the United States had declared a terrorist organization), the al-Nusra front (an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria), and the Taliban, among others. "That's always the card they play" in order to "punch above their weight" on the world stage, the individual said. But it doesn't always play to the United States' interest.
In this case, it did. The emir's assurances to Obama removed arguably the last remaining obstacle to getting senior U.S. intelligence officials onboard with the deal. Less clear is whether the intelligence agencies have changed their view on whether the Qataris can actually make good on their commitments. But once the emir gave Obama his personal assurances, there was little the spies could say to block the swap. The administration now had the final missing puzzle piece. The prisoner exchange took place four days later.
NYTimes on Drone Strike in Waziristan
Speaking from the tribal belt, another Pakistani official reported five deaths — three Uzbeks and two members of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied faction that regularly attacks American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan and that until last month held the American soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahlhostage. Both Pakistani officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence details publicly. A C.I.A. official would not comment on the strike in Pakistan.
Articles: Could Benghazi have been a Bergdahl Gambit that Went South?
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 00:29
That's why founding member of the Taliban Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, who had close ties with Osama bin Laden, and Mohammad Nabi Omari, member of a joint al-Qaeda/Taliban cell and called ''one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained,'' along with deputy chief of Taliban intelligence Abdul Haq Wasiq are now roaming free on the streets of Qatar.Joining that trio are Mohammad Fazi, thought to be the Taliban's ''army chief of staff,'' and senior military commander Mullah Norullah Noori, both of whom were present when CIA paramilitary officer Johnny Micheal Spann was killed during the 2001 Mazar-e Sharif prison riot.
All five are classified as a "high risk" to the United States. That's why, based on those credentials, it's easy to see why Congress had been reluctant to make a deal with the devil that is the Taliban.
But at this juncture none of that matters, because thanks to Barack Obama's majestic magnanimity, five jihadists are now free to wage war again on Americans worldwide.
In the past, Barack Obama has repeatedly proven that he believes he is above the law, which is why he took the Gitmo matter into his own hands and circumvented the rule requiring him to notify Congress 30 days prior for approval before releasing prisoners. By ignoring the National Defense Authorization Act that he himself signed into law, the ''rogue'' president belittled Congress and again showed total disrespect for the authority of the U.S. Constitution.
What's distressing is that in this case the commander-in-chief found a man who may possibly be a traitor to assist in his clandestine endeavor to accomplish what Congressional obstacles had thus far prevented. That assistant was Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was allegedly fed up with being identified as an American and defending America's interests in Afghanistan.
From the looks of things, Bergdahl may have been attracted to the Taliban even before he walked off his base. Yet Barack Obama was willing to portray a deserter and possible traitor as an honorable POW and use that as cover to spring five mass-murdering Taliban operatives from Gitmo.
This Bergdahl ''rescue'' is such a tangle of provable lies it must inspire a certain amount of conjecture, such as: Could the president's desire to free Gitmo prisoners explain what went down 20 months ago in Benghazi?
Sorry to have to say it, but with such a conniving, deceitful administration, if a Taliban sympathizer/Army deserter was used as the bargaining chip to free five high-level Taliban fighters, is it that farfetched to imagine that the kidnapping of an American ambassador presented the president with the perfect opportunity to swap either the Gitmo Five or some other equally dangerous individual(s)?
Moreover, after observing the president's dishonesty in the Bergdahl affair, it's not that much of a stretch to believe that if Obama couldn't get Congress to agree to swap Bergdahl in early 2012, he might have manipulated the volatile Benghazi situation in hopes that a kidnapped American diplomat would eliminate Congressional objections to a high-level prisoner swap.
If the theory is accurate and Obama calculated to delay trying to save Stevens with the goal of a hostage swap, how could things have gone so terribly wrong?
Granted, dealing with terrorists is a risky endeavor to undertake, regardless of the circumstances. However, the president has proven repeatedly that forethought is not one of his strong suits. Thus, it probably never occurred to Obama that when working with jihadists the effort could backfire with catastrophic results.
Guesswork aside, what is certain is that according to former regional security officer Eric Nordstrom, after repeated requests for additional security were denied, he was so frustrated in his efforts to protect the American ambassador he said that dealing with the State Department felt like ''The Taliban [was] on the inside of the building.'' If the hesitation to respond was purposeful when the inevitable finally did happen, it certainly could explain why an American ambassador had been left so poorly defended.
It could also shed light on the initial ''stand down'' order that was given during the attack; the bizarre rationale behind the White House's decision to concoct the lie about the video; and why the president's whereabouts on the night of September 11th, 2012 are still among the Obama administration's best-kept secrets.
A calculated effort to thwart a speedy rescue in order to orchestrate a potential hostage exchange might also explain why Hillary and Obama were still perpetrating the video lie as the flag-covered coffins carrying the remains of Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty were rolled off the cargo plane at Andrews Air Force Base.
Even for a man anxious to empty out Gitmo, four dead Americans would certainly put the kibosh on trying a prisoner swap a second time; so maybe it was shell shock that caused Obama to wait almost two years to give Bergdahl a go without Congressional approval.
Either way, if any of this speculation is even remotely close to true, it certainly would make more understandable all the obfuscation and mystery in the aftermath of that fateful night.
But more importantly, after a frustrating two-year-long probe that has accomplished nothing but Obama administration stonewalling, if the unscrupulous tactics behind the Bergdahl/Gitmo charade are ever fully disclosed, maybe America will get outraged enough to demand to know what really happened in Benghazi.
Jeannie hosts a blog at www.jeannie-ology.com
President Obama has been trying to close Gitmo for years, which means finding a way '' any way '' to free the terrorists from that prison. Regrettably for Obama, try as he might, he has been unable to obtain Congressional approval to release Gitmo detainees back onto the battlefield to recommence the murder, mayhem, and destruction.
Thus far, the United States Congress thinks it is in the best interest of the American people to keep highly dangerous Taliban fighters locked up for as long as possible. Barack ''I won'' Obama thinks otherwise.
That's why founding member of the Taliban Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, who had close ties with Osama bin Laden, and Mohammad Nabi Omari, member of a joint al-Qaeda/Taliban cell and called ''one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained,'' along with deputy chief of Taliban intelligence Abdul Haq Wasiq are now roaming free on the streets of Qatar.
Joining that trio are Mohammad Fazi, thought to be the Taliban's ''army chief of staff,'' and senior military commander Mullah Norullah Noori, both of whom were present when CIA paramilitary officer Johnny Micheal Spann was killed during the 2001 Mazar-e Sharif prison riot.
All five are classified as a "high risk" to the United States. That's why, based on those credentials, it's easy to see why Congress had been reluctant to make a deal with the devil that is the Taliban.
But at this juncture none of that matters, because thanks to Barack Obama's majestic magnanimity, five jihadists are now free to wage war again on Americans worldwide.
In the past, Barack Obama has repeatedly proven that he believes he is above the law, which is why he took the Gitmo matter into his own hands and circumvented the rule requiring him to notify Congress 30 days prior for approval before releasing prisoners. By ignoring the National Defense Authorization Act that he himself signed into law, the ''rogue'' president belittled Congress and again showed total disrespect for the authority of the U.S. Constitution.
What's distressing is that in this case the commander-in-chief found a man who may possibly be a traitor to assist in his clandestine endeavor to accomplish what Congressional obstacles had thus far prevented. That assistant was Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was allegedly fed up with being identified as an American and defending America's interests in Afghanistan.
From the looks of things, Bergdahl may have been attracted to the Taliban even before he walked off his base. Yet Barack Obama was willing to portray a deserter and possible traitor as an honorable POW and use that as cover to spring five mass-murdering Taliban operatives from Gitmo.
This Bergdahl ''rescue'' is such a tangle of provable lies it must inspire a certain amount of conjecture, such as: Could the president's desire to free Gitmo prisoners explain what went down 20 months ago in Benghazi?
Sorry to have to say it, but with such a conniving, deceitful administration, if a Taliban sympathizer/Army deserter was used as the bargaining chip to free five high-level Taliban fighters, is it that farfetched to imagine that the kidnapping of an American ambassador presented the president with the perfect opportunity to swap either the Gitmo Five or some other equally dangerous individual(s)?
Moreover, after observing the president's dishonesty in the Bergdahl affair, it's not that much of a stretch to believe that if Obama couldn't get Congress to agree to swap Bergdahl in early 2012, he might have manipulated the volatile Benghazi situation in hopes that a kidnapped American diplomat would eliminate Congressional objections to a high-level prisoner swap.
If the theory is accurate and Obama calculated to delay trying to save Stevens with the goal of a hostage swap, how could things have gone so terribly wrong?
Granted, dealing with terrorists is a risky endeavor to undertake, regardless of the circumstances. However, the president has proven repeatedly that forethought is not one of his strong suits. Thus, it probably never occurred to Obama that when working with jihadists the effort could backfire with catastrophic results.
Guesswork aside, what is certain is that according to former regional security officer Eric Nordstrom, after repeated requests for additional security were denied, he was so frustrated in his efforts to protect the American ambassador he said that dealing with the State Department felt like ''The Taliban [was] on the inside of the building.'' If the hesitation to respond was purposeful when the inevitable finally did happen, it certainly could explain why an American ambassador had been left so poorly defended.
It could also shed light on the initial ''stand down'' order that was given during the attack; the bizarre rationale behind the White House's decision to concoct the lie about the video; and why the president's whereabouts on the night of September 11th, 2012 are still among the Obama administration's best-kept secrets.
A calculated effort to thwart a speedy rescue in order to orchestrate a potential hostage exchange might also explain why Hillary and Obama were still perpetrating the video lie as the flag-covered coffins carrying the remains of Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty were rolled off the cargo plane at Andrews Air Force Base.
Even for a man anxious to empty out Gitmo, four dead Americans would certainly put the kibosh on trying a prisoner swap a second time; so maybe it was shell shock that caused Obama to wait almost two years to give Bergdahl a go without Congressional approval.
Either way, if any of this speculation is even remotely close to true, it certainly would make more understandable all the obfuscation and mystery in the aftermath of that fateful night.
But more importantly, after a frustrating two-year-long probe that has accomplished nothing but Obama administration stonewalling, if the unscrupulous tactics behind the Bergdahl/Gitmo charade are ever fully disclosed, maybe America will get outraged enough to demand to know what really happened in Benghazi.
Jeannie hosts a blog at www.jeannie-ology.com
War on Water
The Value of Water Coalition: Corporate greed masquerading as activism
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 13:56
By John Marion9 June 2014At the end of May, both houses of the US Congress overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA). The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama this week, authorizes approximately $12 billion in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, and with it for projects to maintain levees, locks, and ports.
Whereas Congress typically renewed such funding every two to four years during the late 1980s and 1990s, WRRDA is the first renewal since 2007. The bill also de-authorizes some $18 billion in funding for projects that were authorized before 2007 but never executed. The result is a savings to the US government of approximately $6 billion.
In light of estimates that more than $1 trillion of infrastructure upgrades for drinking and wastewater are needed across the United States, the measure is pathetically inadequate.
It does, however, include $175 million of federal loan guarantees to cities and states that move toward privatization of public water supplies through ''public-private partnerships.'' To this end, the word ''reform'' has been added to the title of the bill, and the report of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is full of code words about reforming bureaucracy, ''attracting private sector job-creators,'' allowing ''flexibility for non-federal interests,'' etc.
If signed, it will require the Army Corps of Engineers to solicit, through the Federal Register, proposals from private corporations ''regarding water resources development needs.'' Included are municipal drinking and wastewater systems.
Corporations are anxious to jump on this bandwagon. Masking their intent behind a web site that purports to support water conservation and ''grass roots'' pressure on governments to invest in water infrastructure, they have established an organization called the Value of Water Coalition. This coalition advocates for privatization measures and includes as members Veolia Water, Xylem, Inc., and American Water.
Xylem is a recent spinoff of ITT Corporation, infamous for its support of Latin American coups and its business dealings with the Nazis. Veolia Water is a division of the same corporation that has attacked the jobs of school bus drivers in Boston and other US cities.
Veolia Water has already ''piloted'' its model for municipal privatizations. Per its July 2012 newsletter, the company was hired to manage 270 public employees at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority in a drive to privatize the PWSA. Veolia Water executive Jim Good was appointed interim executive director of the Water Authority, and other Veolia Water ''specialists'' were hired to support him. However, the company did not replace the majority of utility workers, in order to ''make it easier for decision-makers to make what can sometimes be the politically difficult decision to hire us.''
''Our agreement is unique in that via a peer-to-peer relationship it leverages Veolia's worldwide knowledge of utility best practices with that of local public sector knowledge of the Pittsburgh system,'' the newsletter states. ''The agreement also includes performance-based incentives that will reward Veolia for achieving exceptional results.'' In other words, it will wring as much profit out of remaining workers as it can, while appeasing the unions.
The same model had already been used in Winnipeg and New York City, which ''expected to save more than $100 million annually'' as a result.
A report titled ''Public Water Works!'' by the Corporate Accountability Project, citing articles in the Charleston Gazette, describes how American Water approached a privatization project in West Virginia. The company tried to impose a 13 percent rate hike, but then abandoned needed infrastructure maintenance when the community refused to approve the increase.
In his book titled Water: Towards a Culture ofResponsibility, Veolia Environnement CEO Antoine Frerot wrote that ''many of the best performing contracts are those where a private operator assumes the operational and commercial risks, but not the major capital expenditures.'' In Frerot's world, ''performance'' means only profit; the Corporate Accountability Project report describes an incident in which a Veolia employee put incorrect chemicals into the Indianapolis wastewater system, and Veolia didn't report the problem until 12 hours later.
While profiting from privatization, such companies will go to great lengths to avoid paying taxes that otherwise might fund infrastructure projects. When Xylem was spun off from ITT in 2013, the latter received special dispensation from the IRS so that it would not have to pay any tax on the associated gain. Xylem's 2013 annual report noted that the IRS decision was based on information provided by the companies, but that the government probably wouldn't question them further. ITT's shareholders are protected as well.
Xylem's effective tax rate in 2013 was 23.5 percent. Its revenues for each of the last three years have been around $3.8 billion, of which 45 percent were from industrial business and 34 percent from the Public Utility ''End Market.'' The Value of Water Coalition bases its cynical appeals for ''reform'' on statistics that do, in fact, demonstrate the decrepit state of US water infrastructure caused by decades of inadequate funding. It cites, for example, a May 22 New York Times article documenting that a water main break occurs every two minutes in the United States, and that ''the City of Milwaukee has experienced 64 water main breaks during the last two weeks alone.'' Water mains from the 1800s are still in use in cities such as Detroit.
In a May 22 open letter to Barack Obama which, without mentioning the WRRDA, is clearly a call for its passage, the Coalition predicts that ''more than $1 trillion will be needed over the next 25 years to repair and expand drinking water infrastructure alone.'' In a separate ''draft white paper,'' it seeks to ''motivate the public to spend the estimated $1.3 trillion needed in improvements for drinking water, storm water and wastewater.'' At the same time, however, it worries about public protest if household water bills continue to go up.
Given that $175 million of federal loan guarantees is a tiny percentage of the $1.3 trillion needed and that private investors will cut corners when funding infrastructure projects, municipalities will inevitably have to turn to predatory bond markets to fund needed improvements. Bankruptcies and cuts to other social services will be the result.
For the businesses behind the Value of Water Coalition, however, the alternative is unthinkable: ''without investment, deteriorating water infrastructure will cause American businesses to lose $734 billion in sales between now and 2020.''
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Remarks by the President at Signing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act and the 65th Infantry Regiment Congressional Gold Medal
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 18:00
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 10, 2014
South Court Auditorium
11:08 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Good morning. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Please, have a seat. Have a seat. Thank you.
Well, today I am proud to sign two bills into law. Love signing bills. (Applause.) One will support jobs strengthening our national infrastructure; the other honors military heroes from our history. Though they accomplish two very different things, these bills do what we want all our laws to do, and that's serve the American people by honoring our past and building a stronger future.
Now, the first bill I'll sign today is the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, also known as WRRDA, which will put Americans to work modernizing our water infrastructure and restoring some of our most vital ecosystems. During my State of the Union address, I asked Congress to pass this bill by the summer, and I congratulate this outstanding crew for getting it done. (Applause.)
You had bipartisan negotiators -- Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Dave Vitter, Congressman Shuster and Congressman Rahall -- they set aside politics, they focused on what was important for the country and what was important for their communities, and as a consequence we have a piece of legislation that's really going to make a good difference.
As more of the world's cargo is transported on these massive ships, we've got to make sure that we've got bridges high enough and ports that are big enough to hold them and accommodate them so that our businesses can keep selling goods made in America to the rest of the world. Meanwhile, many of America's businesses ship their goods across the country by river and by canal, so we've got to make sure that those waterways are in tip-top shape.
And this bill gives a green light to 34 water infrastructure projects across the country, including projects to deepen Boston Harbor and the Port of Savannah, and to restore the Everglades. And with Congress's authorization, these projects can now move forward. So this bill will help towns and cities improve their commerce, but it's also going to help them prepare for the effects of climate change -- storms, floods, droughts, rising sea levels -- creating more adaptability, more resilience in these communities.
Traditionally, investments in our infrastructure have received strong bipartisan support. This hasn't always been true in the last few years. Right now, we should be putting a lot more Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure. We've got $2 trillion worth of deferred maintenance that we could be getting done right now, especially because contractors are coming in under budget and on time. And there are a lot of guys with hard hats sitting at home.
So we could really be doing even more. The fact that this bill received some bipartisan support I think hopefully sets a pattern for additional work that we can do on our transportation infrastructure. We need a transportation bill by the end of this summer in order to make sure that projects all across the country don't get shut down. So we're looking forward to seeing this same team work hard on that. (Applause.)
I just want to be clear: If Congress fails to act, then federal funding for transportation projects runs out by the end of the summer. That means more than 100,000 active projects, nearly 700,000 jobs would be at risk. Fortunately, we've got some leaders here who I think can work with us to make sure that doesn't happen.
And the good news -- last point I want to make about infrastructure -- world-class infrastructure is one of the reasons that America became a global superpower in the first place. And the good thing about infrastructure projects is they can't be outsourced. American workers have to do the job right here in America. And American companies -- it has huge ripple effects. You need steel, you need concrete, you need engineers, you need architects; you've got folks who have PhDs, and you've got folks who've got high school diplomas who can all benefit from the kinds of infrastructure projects that we've put together. So this should be really a high priority.
Now, for the second bill.
Shortly after Puerto Rico became part of the United States in 1898, a regiment of Puerto Rican soldiers was formed, and they served our nation bravely ever since. In World War I, they defended the homeland and patrolled the Panama Canal Zone. In World War II, they fought in Europe. In Korea, they fought in mud and snow. They are the 65th Infantry Regime, U.S. Army. They are also known as the Borinquen -- I've got to get this right -- Borinqueneers.
THE PRESIDENT: Si. (Applause.) I practiced before I came out. (Applause.) They are from the Taino name for Puerto Rico. And segregation that set them apart from their fellow soldiers -- but their courage made them legendary.
They earned thousands of medals for their service in Korea. Today, we are going to add to those accolades by awarding these soldiers one of the country's highest civilian honors: The Congressional Gold Medal.
One of them, I'm sure, would be very proud to see his son, James, end up in the White House someday. James Albino has been serving in my administration since 2009, both here in the White House and at the Department of Homeland Security. I know this is a proud day for his family. (Applause.)
I want to thank Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, as well as Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Bill Posey, they led the efforts to pass this bill. And we are glad that we've got Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who is here with us today as well.
Only a handful of military units have ever received this award, and only one other Hispanic American has received this award, Roberto Clemente. That's pretty good company. So this is a proud day for the Borinqueneers and their families. (Applause.) It's a proud day for all of those whose lives they saved and whose freedom they defended. It's a proud day for all Americans, especially Hispanic Americans, who have made extraordinary contributions to our country, many through their military service.
So on behalf of the American people, we want to thank all the Borinqueneers for their extraordinary service. You've earned a hallowed place in our history.
And to those members of the 65th Infantry Regiment who are here with us today, I'd ask you to please stand and raise your hand so we can recognize you for your service. (Applause.)
So I'm going to sign these bills. We're going to do the WRRDA first, these are the water folks. (Laughter.) Then we're going to get our infantry up here.
END 11:17 A.M. EDT
H.R.3080 - 113th Congress (2013-2014): Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:48
There are 3 summaries for this bill.
Bill summaries are authored by CRS. Shown Here:Passed Senate amended (10/31/2013)Water Resources Development Act of 2013 - Title I: Water Resource Projects - (Sec. 1001) Sets forth the purposes of this title, including to: (1) authorize projects that are the subject of a completed report of the Chief of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) containing a determination that the relevant project is in the federal interest, results in benefits that exceed the costs, is environmentally acceptable, is technically feasible, and has been recommended to Congress for authorization by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works; and (2) authorize the Secretary of the Army (Secretary) to review projects that require increased authorizations and to request an increase of those authorizations after certifying that the increases are necessary and submitting to Congress reports on the proposed increases.
(Sec. 1002) Authorizes the Secretary to carry out projects for water resources development, conservation, and other purposes if: (1) each project is carried out substantially in accordance with the plan for the project and is subject to any conditions described in the project report; and (2) a report of the Chief of Engineers has been completed and after November 8, 2007, but prior to the enactment of this Act, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works has submitted to Congress a recommendation to authorize construction of the project.
(Sec. 1003) Authorizes the Secretary to modify the cost of an authorized project subject to the cost limitation of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 by submitting a certification and additional information specified by this Act and after receiving an appropriation of funds to initiate or continue project construction. Requires the Secretary, for projects under construction, to certify that a temporary stop or delay resulting from a failure to increase the authorized cost of such project will increase costs and exceed the authorized cost of such project.
Authorizes the Secretary to complete construction of an authorized water resources project that would otherwise exceed the cost limitations of the WRDA of 1986 if the project is 70% complete and the cost of completing the project is less than $5 million.
Terminates the authority of the Secretary to modify project costs three years after the enactment of this Act.
(Sec. 1004) Sets forth procedures, effective until December 31, 2018, for expedited consideration of water resources projects by Congress.
Title II: Water Resources Policy Reforms - (Sec. 2001) States that the purposes of this title are to: (1) reform the implementation of water resources projects by the Corps, (2) make other technical changes to the water resources policy of the Corps, and (3) implement reforms.
(Sec. 2002) Exempts safety assurance reviews conducted under the WRDA of 2007 from the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
(Sec. 2003) Amends the River and Harbor Act of 1960 to increase: (1) from $35 to $50 million the limitation on allotments for the construction of small river and harbor improvement projects, and (2) from $7 to $10 million the allotment for a project at any single locality.
Amends the River and Harbor Act of 1968 to increase from $5 to $10 million the cost limit for shore damage prevention or mitigation projects.
Amends the WRDA of 1992 to increase from $5 to $10 million the total federal cost associated with construction of projects for regional sediment management. Increases the authorization of appropriations for such projects.
Amends the Flood Control Act of 1948 to increase from $7 to $10 million the limit on allotments for small flood control projects at any single locality.
Amends the WRDA of 1986 to increase from $5 to $10 million the expenditure limit for water resources projects for the restoration of environmental quality.
Amends the WRDA of 1996 to increase from $5 to $10 million the limit on allotments for an aquatic ecosystem restoration project at any single locality.
Amends the Flood Control Act of 1960 to increase from $15 to $50 million the limit on expenditures for the compilation and dissemination of information relating to floods and flood damage.
(Sec. 2004) Requires the Secretary to publish in the Federal Register and on a publicly available website: (1) the criteria the Secretary uses for prioritizing annual funding for continuing authority program projects, and (2) an annual report on the status of each continuing authority program.
(Sec. 2005) Amends the WRDA of 1986 to: (1) modify mitigation requirements to conform to policy guidance issued by the Corps relating to ecological resources, and (2) require that a determination of whether a proposed project will have negligible adverse impacts on fish and wildlife is to be made without consideration of proposed mitigation.
Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) develop one or more programmatic mitigation plans or use qualified mitigation plans developed by other entities to address the potential impacts on ecological resources, fish, and wildlife associated with existing or future water resources development projects; (2) use funds made available for preconstruction engineering and design prior to project authorization to satisfy mitigation requirements through third party mechanisms or to acquire interests in land necessary for meeting mitigation requirements; and (3) provide technical assistance to states and local governments to establish third-party mitigation instruments to target mitigation payments to high-priority ecosystem restoration actions.
(Sec. 2006) Requires the Secretary, in reporting on water resources projects that require mitigation, to: (1) use a uniform methodology for determining the status of all projects in the report, (2) use a methodology that describes both a qualitative and quantitative status for all projects in the report, and (3) provide specific dates for and participants in consultation meetings required by the WRDA of 1986.
(Sec. 2007) Amends the WRDA of 2007 to revise requirements relating to the independent peer review process.
(Sec. 2008) Amends the WRDA of 1990 to exclude operations and maintenance functions at navigation facilities from contracting restrictions.
(Sec. 2009) Declares that it is the policy of the United States that: (1) the development of non-federal hydroelectric power at Corps civil works projects, including locks and dams, shall be given priority; (2) approval of non-federal hydroelectric power shall be completed by the Corps in a timely and consistent manner; and (3) approval of hydropower at civil works projects shall not diminish other priorities and missions of the Corps.
Requires the Secretary to report to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on activities for the development of hydroelectric power by a non-federal interest (defined generally by the WRDA of 2007 to include a state, local government, federally-recognized Indian tribe, and nonprofit entity).
(Sec. 2010) Allows the sharing of non-federal credits across all projects included under the ecosystem restoration program in the WRDA of 2007. Provides that the costs of land, easements, rights-of-way, relocations, and dredged material disposal areas that are in excess of the non-federal cost share for a project may be applied to another study, program, or project.
(Sec. 2011) Authorizes the Secretary to apply credit for in-kind contributions by a non-federal interest that exceeds the required non-federal cost-share for a water resources study or project toward the required non-federal cost-share for a different water resources study or project. Terminates such authority 10 years after the enactment of this Act.
(Sec. 2012) Allows the Secretary to provide credit for work undertaken by non-federal interests without project-specific legislative authority.
(Sec. 2013) Amends the WRDA of 1996 to authorize the Secretary to provide the non-federal interest of a flood damage reduction project a credit in lieu of reimbursement.
(Sec. 2014) Authorizes the Secretary to carry out activities to: (1) improve the efficiency of the operations and maintenance of dams and related infrastructure operated by the Corps; and (2) maximize authorized project purposes and related project benefits (i.e., environmental protection and restoration, increased water supply storage, increased hydropower generation, reduced flood risk, additional navigation, and improved recreation).
(Sec. 2015) Amends the Water Supply Act of 1958 to express concern about the operation of water resources projects in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River System and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River System and to urge the governors of states in which there are disputes relating to water resources projects to reach agreement on an interstate water compact as soon as possible.
(Sec. 2016) Directs the Comptroller General (GAO) to initiate an assessment of the water storage pricing formulas of the Corps to determine whether such formulas produce equitable water storage costs and benefits and report to Congress on such assessment.
(Sec. 2017) Authorizes the Secretary to carry out measures to improve fish species habitat within the footprint of and downstream of a water resources project constructed by the Secretary that includes a fish hatchery. Specifies cost sharing by non-federal interests for acquisition of required land and for operation and maintenance. Authorizes appropriations.
(Sec. 2018) Directs the Secretary, at the request of a non-federal interest, to include as part of a regional or watershed study any federal land that is located within the geographic scope of that study.
(Sec. 2019) Allows the Corps to work with state and local governments on comprehensive water resources planning activities and to provide technical assistance for such efforts.
(Sec. 2020) Requires the Secretary to carry out a comprehensive review of national guidelines to determine whether current federal policy relating to levee vegetation is appropriate for all regions of the United States. Specifies factors which the Secretary must consider in carrying out such review.
(Sec. 2021) Requires the Secretary, in implementing recommendations of the Flood Protection Structure Accreditation Task Force, to: (1) ensure that at least one program activity carried out by the Corps provides adequate information for reaching a levee accreditation decision, and (2) carry out activities under the inspection of completed works program of the Corps in alignment with the schedule established for the national flood insurance program. Authorizes the Secretary to carry out a levee system evaluation and certification of a federally authorized levee for purposes of the national flood insurance program under specified conditions.
(Sec. 2022) Requires the Secretary to carry out measures necessary to restore components of authorized and constructed flood and hurricane storm damage reduction projects to authorized levels of protection for reasons including settlement, subsidence, sea-level rise, and new datum, subject to a feasibility determination; and (2) report to congressional committees on such measures. Terminates the Secretary's authority to carry out such measures 10 years after the enactment of this Act. Authorizes appropriations.
(Sec. 2023) Authorizes the Secretary to assume operation and maintenance activities for a navigation channel that is deepened by a non-federal interest prior to December 31, 2012, if: (1) the Secretary determines that requirements of the WRDA of 1986 are met, (2) the Secretary determines that the activities carried out by the non-federal interest are economically justified and environmentally acceptable, and (3) the deepening activities have been carried out on a federal navigation channel that exists as of the date of enactment of this Act and have been authorized by Congress.
(Sec. 2024) Directs the Secretary to carry out a study to: (1) compare domestic and international dredging markets, including costs, technologies, and management approaches; (2) analyze past and existing practices, technologies, and management approaches used in dredging in the United States; and (3) develop recommendations relating to dredging.
(Sec. 2025) Requires the Secretary to establish and implement a pilot program to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and project delivery efficiency of allowing non-federal interests to carry out flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage reduction, coastal harbor and channel and inland harbor navigation projects, and aquatic ecosystem restoration projects.
(Sec. 2026) Requires the Secretary to: (1) establish and implement a pilot program to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and project delivery efficiency of allowing non-federal interests to carry out feasibility studies for flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage reduction, aquatic ecosystem restoration, and coastal harbor and channel and inland harbor navigation; (2) notify congressional committees on the initiation of each feasibility study under the pilot program; (3) monitor and audit each feasibility study carried out by a non-federal interest; and (4) report to congressional committees on the results of the pilot programs. Terminates the Secretary's authority to commence a feasibility study five years after the enactment of this Act. Authorizes appropriations for FY2014-FY2018.
(Sec. 2027) Requires the Secretary to issue guidance on the cost-sharing procedures for the Tribal Partnership Program. Extends such Program through FY2023.
(Sec. 2028) Authorizes the Secretary to enter into a cooperative agreement with one or more federally recognized Indian tribes that are located, in whole or in part, within the boundaries of the Columbia River Basin to carry out activities to protect fish, wildlife, water quality, and cultural resources.
(Sec. 2029) Authorizes the Secretary to implement any response action deemed necessary at a site where: (1) the Secretary has carried out a project under his or her civil authority that includes placing sand on a beach, and (2) military munitions originally released by Department of Defense (DOD) activities and deposited on the beach pose a threat to human health or the environment. Requires DOD to pay for such response action.
(Sec. 2030) Amends the WRDA of 1976 to modify the authority of the Secretary to provide periodic beach nourishment for authorized water resources development projects to authorize the Secretary to review the feasibility of extending periodic nourishment beyond the current 50-year limit by a period of not more than 15 years. Requires a non-federal interest to submit a plan to the Secretary for reducing the risk to people and property during the life of beach nourishment project.
(Sec. 2031) Amends the WRDA of 1992 to: (1) expand the authority of the Secretary to transport and place dredged material to carry out projects identified in regional sediment management plans; (2) authorize the Secretary to reduce the non-federal share of the construction costs of a project if the Secretary determines that, through the beneficial use of sediment at another federal project, there will be an associated reduction or avoidance of federal costs; (3) authorize the Secretary to consider benefits related to flood and storm damage reduction when considering the reasonableness of associated costs; and (4) authorize the Secretary to cooperate with states in the preparation of sediment management plans involving multiple states.
(Sec. 2032) Requires that water resources project feasibility studies be completed not later than three years after initiation and that such studies have a maximum federal cost share of $3 million.
(Sec. 2033) Amends the WRDA of 2007 to expand requirements with respect to acceleration of water resource projects and feasibility studies that require an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Defines "environmental review process" to mean the process of preparing an environmental impact statement, environmental assessment, categorical exclusion, or other document under NEPA, and the process of completing any environmental permit, approval, review, or study required by a federal law other than NEPA. Sets forth new requirements relating to federal agency and state and local participation in the environmental review process.
Designates the Corps as the lead federal agency in the environmental review process for a water resource project. Allows a non-federal interest to serve with the Corps as a joint lead agency for purposes of preparing any environmental document under NEPA. Requires the Corps, as lead agency, to: (1) identify any other federal or non-federal agencies that may have an interest in a water resource project and invite those agencies to participate in the environmental review process for the project; (2) establish a plan for coordinating public and agency participation in, and comment on, the environmental review process for a water resource project; and (3) identify and resolve issues that could delay completion of the environmental review process.
Authorizes the Secretary to convene a meeting with relevant agencies to establish a schedule of deadlines to complete decisions regarding a water resource project. Allows a cooperating agency or non-federal interest to request an issue resolution meeting to be conducted by the Secretary. Sets forth procedures for issue resolution for the completion of a water resource project.
Requires the Secretary to: (1) issue guidance on programmatic approaches to the environmental review process, (2) establish a program to measure and report on progress made toward improving and expediting the planning and environmental review process, and (3) survey the use by the Corps of categorical exclusions under NEPA in water resource projects since 2005 and publish a review of such survey.
Expresses the sense of Congress calling for cooperation by the Secretary and other federal agencies in the environmental review process.
Requires the Comptroller General and the Inspector General of the Corps to assess and report on water resource project acceleration reforms.
Terminates the authority for acceleration of water resource projects 10 years after the enactment of this Act.
(Sec. 2034) Amends the WRDA of 1986 to require the Secretary to determine a set of milestones needed for the completion of a feasibility study under such Act, including all major actions, report submissions and responses, reviews, and comment periods. Requires each District Engineer to establish a detailed project schedule that lists all deadlines for milestones relating to feasibility studies and to provide such schedule to each relevant non-federal interest.
(Sec. 2035) Requires the Secretary to: (1) provide to a non-federal interest, upon request, a detailed accounting of federal expenses associated with a water resources project; and (2) contract with the National Academy of Public Administration to carry out a study on the efficiency of the current staff salaries and administrative expense procedures of the Corps.
(Sec. 2036) Requires the Secretary to notify a non-federal interest when construction of a water resources project is completed so that the non-federal interest may commence responsibilities for operating and maintaining the project. Allows the non-federal interest to appeal such a project completion determination in writing with a detailed explanation of the basis for questioning the completeness of the project.
(Sec. 2037) Requires the Secretary to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration to carry out a comprehensive review of the process for preparing, negotiating, and approving Project Partnership Agreements and the Project Partnership Agreement template, which shall include: (1) a review of the process for preparing, negotiating, and approving Project Partnership Agreements; (2) an evaluation of how the concerns of a non-federal interest relating to the Agreement and suggestions for modifications to the agreement are accommodated; (3) recommendations for how such concerns and modifications can be better accommodated; (4) recommendations for how the Agreement template can be made more efficient; and (5) recommendations to make the process for preparing, negotiating, and approving Project Partnership Agreements more efficient. Requires the Secretary to report such findings to Congress.
(Sec. 2038) Amends the WRDA of 1996 to enable the Corps to participate with federal or international organizations and foreign governments to address issues relating to water resources, infrastructure development, and environmental protection.
(Sec. 2039) Requires the Secretary to: (1) establish a five-year pilot program for the acceptance and expenditure of funds by non-federal interests to increase the hours of operation of locks at water resources development projects, and (2) publish notification in the Federal Register of any proposed modification to the operation of a lock. Requires reporting on and review of such pilot program.
(Sec. 2040) Amends requirements relating to the authority of the Corps for post-disaster rehabilitation to permit the Corps to rebuild a damaged project to the design level of protection (currently, restoration is permitted to restore adequate functioning) or implement nonstructural alternatives if requested by the non-federal project sponsor.
(Sec. 2041) Provides that a levee system shall remain eligible for rehabilitation assistance as long as the levee system sponsor continues to make satisfactory progress on an approved system-wide improvement framework or letter of intent.
(Sec. 2042) Amends the WRDA of 2000 to: (1) make permanent the funding for processing permits for water resources projects, (2) require a standard decision document for evaluating all permits, and (3) set forth reporting requirements on the process for issuing permits.
(Sec. 2043) Directs the Secretary to: (1) establish and carry out a five-year pilot program for national riverbank stabilization and erosion prevention along inland and intracoastal waterways; (2) carry out a study of the options and technologies available to prevent the erosion and degradation of such riverbanks; and (3) develop a pilot program for the construction of riverbank stabilization and erosion prevent projects on public land along inland and intracoastal waterways, subject to a feasibility determination by the Secretary. Authorizes appropriations for FY2014-FY2019.
(Sec. 2044) Directs the Secretary to grant priority to projects and studies with a primary purpose of hurricane and storm damage risk reduction that: (1) address an imminent threat to life and property, (2) prevent storm surge from inundating populated areas and loss of coastal wetlands, (3) protect emergency hurricane evacuation routes or shelters, (4) prevent adverse impacts to publicly-owned or funded infrastructure and assets, (5) minimize federal disaster relief costs, and (6) address hurricane and storm damage risk reductions in presidentially-declared major disaster areas. Provides for expedited consideration of previously authorized water resources projects and criteria for prioritizing new studies for hurricane and storm damage reduction.
(Sec. 2045) Directs the Secretary to give funding priority to authorized projects for ecosystem restoration that: (1) address an identified threat to public health, safety, or welfare; (2) preserve or restore ecosystems of national significance; (3) preserve or restore habitats of importance for federally protected species, including migratory birds; and (4) contribute to other ongoing or planned federal, state, or local restoration initiatives.
(Sec. 2046) Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) issue special permits for uses such as group activities, recreation events, motorized recreation vehicles, and other recreation uses deemed appropriate and to collect fees for such permits; and (2) enter into an agreement with a state or local government to provide for cooperative management of a public recreation area.
(Sec. 2047) Charges the Secretary with responsibility for 65% of the costs of the operation, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of any flood gate and any pumping station that was constructed as a feature of an authorized hurricane and storm damage reduction project and that crosses an inland or intracoastal waterway.
(Sec. 2048) Requires the Secretary to develop guidance and procedures for the certification of qualified contractors for the application or removal of protective coatings.
(Sec. 2049) Revises the requirements for providing Congress with a list of, and a report on, authorized water resources projects that have received no funding obligations during the preceding five-fiscal years (project deauthorization). Requires such list to be provided to non-federal interests associated with a project.
Establishes the Infrastructure Deauthorization Commission as an independent commission to review and evaluate suggested deauthorizations of water resources projects. Provides for congressional disapproval of Commission recommendations.
(Sec. 2050) Requires the Secretary to complete and submit to Congress reports required by this Act by their due dates. Imposes a penalty upon the General Expenses Account of the civil works program of the Corps for any report which is not submitted within 180 days of its due date. Allows a waiver of such penalty if the Secretary certifies that a major modification has been made to the report that requires additional analysis, amounts have not been appropriated to carry out the report, or additional information is required from an entity other than the Corps and is not available in time to complete the report by its deadline. Authorizes appropriations.
(Sec. 2051) Amends the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to allow as costs for tribal water projects interest payments, the retirement of principal, and the costs of issuance and insurance for debt financing instruments.
(Sec. 2052) Directs the Secretary to: (1) carry out a review of the federal response to invasive species, including aquatic weeds, aquatic snails, and other aquatic invasive species, that have an impact on water resources; and (2) make recommendations to Congress and state agencies for improving federal and state laws to more effectively respond to threats posed by invasive species.
(Sec. 2053) Directs the Comptroller General to carry out a study to identify all federal programs relating to wetlands conservation and report to Congress on options for maximizing wetlands conservation benefits while reducing redundancy, increasing efficiencies, and reducing costs.
(Sec. 2054) Directs the Comptroller General, in consultation with the Corps, the Southeastern Power Administration, federal hydropower customers, downstream communities, and other stakeholders, to carry out a study to evaluate the structural modifications made at federal dams in the Cumberland River Basin beginning on January 1, 2000, and report to Congress on the study and on design criteria that will provide for the safety of downstream communities.
(Sec. 2055) Requires the Secretary, if requested by a non-federal interest, to construct a locally-preferred plan that provides a higher level of protection than a flood risk management project if the Secretary determines that the plan is technically feasible and environmentally acceptable and that the benefits exceed the costs of the plan.
(Sec. 2056) Requires the Secretary, in consultation with specified federal officials, to improve forecasting on the Mississippi River by: (1) updating forecasting technology deployed on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, (2) constructing additional sedimentation ranges on the River, and (3) deploying additional automatic identification system base stations at river gage sites.
(Sec. 2057) Authorizes the Secretary to carry out activities outside of the authorized federal navigation channel along the Mississippi River that are necessary for safe and reliable navigation in the federal channel. Requires the Secretary to report to Congress on: (1) a description of the activities undertaken and associated costs, and (2) a comprehensive description of how the activities are necessary for maintaining safe and reliable navigation in the federal channel.
(Sec. 2058) Prohibits the Secretary from taking any action to establish a permanent physical barrier to prevent public access to waters downstream of a dam owned by the Corps.
(Sec. 2059) Authorizes the Secretary to complete construction of a water resources development project using funds contributed by states and political subdivisions.
(Sec. 2060) Expresses the sense of Congress that the lock and dam located at mile 357.5 on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway should be known and designated as the Donald G. Waldon Lock and Dam.
(Sec. 2061) Directs the Secretary to carry out activities to enable non-federal interests to anticipate and accurately budget for annual operations, maintenance, and other costs.
(Sec. 2062) Authorizes a non-federal interest for a navigation project to: (1) carry out operation and maintenance activities for such project, subject to all applicable requirements that would apply to the Secretary; and (2) receive credit for the costs incurred in carrying out such activities.
(Sec. 2063) Amends the WRDA of 2007 to require the Secretary to allocate not more than 1.5% of funds from the general expenses account of the civil works program of the Corps to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin to fulfill the equitable funding requirements of the respective interstate compacts on an annual basis.
(Sec. 2064) Prohibits charging a fee for surplus water under a contract for surplus water stored on the Missouri River. Makes an offsetting rescission of funds previously made available, but remaining unobligated, for operations and maintenance of the Corps (excluding funds designated as an emergency requirement).
Title III: Project Modifications - (Sec. 3001) Establishes the purpose of this title as modifying existing water resources project authorizations without affecting their authorized costs.
(Sec. 3002) Amends the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2009 to allow a designee of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to modify the Chatfield Reservoir Project.
(Sec. 3003) Amends the WRDA of 2007 to authorize the Secretary to reimburse members of the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee for travel expenses.
(Sec. 3004) Requires the Secretary to include specific project recommendations in the report on the study of flood and storm damage risk reduction in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
(Sec. 3005) Directs the Secretary to consult with, and consider the activities being implemented by, other federal agencies, conservation districts, the Yellowstone River Conservation District Council, and Montana in carrying out the Lower Yellowstone Project.
(Sec. 3006) Deauthorizes specified water resources projects in: (1) Somerset County, Maryland; (2) Deal Island, Maryland; (3) Georges River, Maine; (4) Warwick Cove, Rhode Island; (5) Clatsop County, Oregon; (6) Port of Hood River, Oregon; (7) Eightmile River, Connecticut; (8) Burnham Canal, Wisconsin; and (9) Walnut Creek, California.
(Sec. 3007) Amends the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 1998 to repeal a provision that prohibited the Secretary from constructing the Oak Way or Sky Top detention structures in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, as part of the flood control project for the Green Brook Sub-Basin of the Raritan River Basin.
(Sec. 3008) Authorizes the Secretary to reassign unused irrigation storage within a reservoir on the Red River Basin to municipal and industrial water supply if the non-federal interest has already contracted for a share of municipal and industrial water supply on the same reservoir.
(Sec. 3009) Modifies the project for Point Judith Harbor of Refuge, Narragansett, Rhode Island, to add shore protection and erosion control as project purposes.
(Sec. 3010) Directs the Secretary to convey 59 acres of land and the improvements thereon, including the Hammond Marina, to Warrenton, Oregon. Excludes that land, after conveyance, from the Hammond Small Boat Basin, Oregon, navigation project.
(Sec. 3011) Establishes a Metro East Flood Risk Management Program, Illinois, that is composed of: (1) the Prairie du Pont Drainage and Levee District and Fish Lake Drainage and Levee District project, (2) the East St. Louis project, and (3) the Wood River Drainage and Levee District project.
(Sec. 3012) Amends the Miscellaneous Appropriations Act, 2001 to require the Secretary to give priority to assisting Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement projects sponsored by Florida, Monroe County, Florida, and Monroe County's incorporated communities.
(Sec. 3013) Revises the boundaries of the Des Moines Recreational River and Greenbelt, Iowa, project.
(Sec. 3014) Authorizes the Secretary to convey to Virginia two parcels of land and the improvements thereon that lie within the Craney Island Eastward Expansion navigation project and are located along the eastern side of the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area in Portsmouth, Virginia.
(Sec. 3015) Modifies the Los Angeles County Drainage Area, California, flood control project to authorize the Secretary to include measures for flood risk reduction, ecosystem restoration, and recreation in the Compton Creek watershed.
(Sec. 3016) Authorizes the Secretary to convey the upland, tideland, and submerged land known as the Oakland Inner Harbor Tidal Canal, California, to a multicounty public entity that is eligible to hold title to real property.
(Sec. 3017) Amends the WRDA of 1992 to redesignate the Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Site as the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Site.
(Sec. 3018) Amends the WRDA of 2007 to direct the Secretary to adopt Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast to protect, preserve, and restore the coastal Louisiana ecosystem until the implementation of the Secretary's comprehensive plan is complete.
Requires the coastal Louisiana ecosystem science and technology program to examine a system-wide approach to coastal sustainability.
Prohibits the Corps from using funds from its General Investigations Account to study, without the approval of the Governors of Louisiana and Mississippi, the construction of a storm surge barrier across the Lake Pontchartrain land bridge that would result in unmitigated induced flooding in Mississippi coastal communities.
(Sec. 3019) Amends the WRDA of 1974 to require the Four Mile Run flood protection project, in the city of Alexandria and Arlington County, Virginia, to provide protection from flood flows of 18,000, rather than 27,000, cubic feet per second.
(Sec. 3020) Deauthorizes that portion of the flood protection project on the East Fork of the Trinity River, Texas, authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1962, that consists of Kaufman county Levees K5E and K5W.
(Sec. 3021) Exempts a parcel of land within the Seward Harbor, Alaska, navigation project from the navigational servitude, but permits the federal government to enter that land to operate and maintain the general navigation features of the project.
Title IV: Water Resources Studies - (Sec. 4002) Sets conditions on the initiation of new studies to determine the feasibility of carrying out water resources development projects or watershed and river basin assessments. Requires the Secretary to certify to Congress that a study: (1) has been requested by an eligible non-federal interest that can provide financial support for the study, (2) is for an area that is likely to include a project with a federal interest, (3) addresses a high-priority water resource issue, and (4) can be completed within three years for a maximum cost of $3 million.
Prohibits any spending on a study until Congress appropriates funds to initiate it.
(Sec. 4003) Requires new authorization from Congress before any project evaluated in a study under this title is constructed.
Title V: Regional and Nonproject Provisions - (Sec. 5002) Directs the Secretary to plan, design, and construct projects for aquatic ecosystem restoration within the coastal waters of the northeastern United States from Virginia to Maine, including associated bays, estuaries, and critical riverine areas.
Set the non-federal share of the cost of carrying out such a project at 35% and the maximum federal allocation for such a project at $10 million.
Authorizes appropriations for FY2014-FY2023 for planning, designing, and constructing such projects.
(Sec. 5003) Amends the WRDA of 1996 to include Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia in the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Program. Requires the establishment of at least one project in each of those jurisdictions.
Requires the Secretary, in cooperation with state and local officials and affected stakeholders, to develop a comprehensive Chesapeake Bay restoration plan to guide the implementation of the restoration projects. Requires that plan to give priority to eligible projects that also improve water quality or quantity or that use natural hydrological features and systems.
Removes wastewater treatment and water supply facilities from the eligible projects list.
Requires projects carried out on federal lands to be carried out at the expense of the federal agency that owns the land. Permits the agency to accept non-federal contributions for the work.
(Sec. 5004) Amends the WRDA of 2007 to authorize appropriations for the Rio Grande environmental management program, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, through FY2024. Authorizes the Secretary to enter into interagency agreements with the Secretary of State to involve the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission in the program.
(Sec. 5005) Amends the WRDA of 2000 to increase the authorization of appropriations for Lower Columbia River and Tillamook Bay ecosystem restoration, Oregon and Washington.
(Sec. 5006) Directs the Secretary to establish a McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System Advisory Committee to provide information and recommendations to the Corps relating to the efficiency, reliability, and availability of the operations of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River navigation system, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Terminates the Advisory Committee when the Secretary submits a report to Congress demonstrating increases in the efficiency, reliability, and availability of that system.
(Sec. 5007) Authorizes the Secretary to establish a program to prevent and manage aquatic invasive species in the Columbia River Basin in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Directs the Secretary to establish watercraft inspection stations in the Basin at locations having the highest likelihood of preventing the spread of such species into reservoirs operated and maintained by the Secretary.
Authorizes the Secretary to conduct monitoring and contingency planning that includes: (1) conducting risk assessments of each major public and private water resources facility in the Basin, (2) establishing an aquatic invasive species monitoring program in the Basin, (3) establishing a Basin watershed-wide plan for expedited response to an infestation of aquatic invasive species, and (4) monitoring water quality at facilities owned or managed by the Secretary in the Basin.
Directs the Secretary to consult and coordinate with states in the Basin, Indian tribes, and federal agencies.
(Sec. 5008) Directs the Secretary, in coordination with certain other federal agencies, to establish a program to: (1) monitor soil moisture and the snowpack in the Upper Missouri River Basin to help reduce flood risk and improve river and water resource management, (2) restore and maintain existing mid- and high-elevation snowpack monitoring sites operated under the SNOTEL program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and (3) operate streamflow gauges and related interpretive studies in such Basin under the cooperative water program and the national streamflow information program of the United States Geological Service (USGS).
(Sec. 5009) Authorizes the Secretary to provide planning, design, and construction assistance to up to three federally-recognized Indian tribes in the Upper Missouri River Basin for measures to address shoreline erosion that is jeopardizing existing infrastructure resulting from operation of a reservoir constructed under the Pick-Sloan Missouri River Basin Program. Requires those measures to be economically justified, technically feasible, and environmentally acceptable. Prohibits the federal share of the costs of those measures from being less than 75%.
(Sec. 5010) Directs the Secretary to establish a program to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, on communities, water users, and fish and wildlife located in and along the headwaters of the Columbia, Missouri, and Yellowstone Rivers (including the tributaries of those rivers) in Idaho and Montana by carrying out river, stream, and floodplain protection and restoration projects. Requires those projects to emphasize the protection and enhancement of natural riverine processes. Prohibits the non-federal share of project costs from exceeding 35%.
(Sec. 5011) Authorizes the Secretary to implement measures recommended in an efficacy study authorized under the WRDA of 2007 or in interim reports, with modifications or any emergency measures that the Secretary determines to be appropriate to prevent aquatic nuisance species from dispersing into the Great Lakes by way of any hydrologic connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin. Directs the Secretary to report to Congress on any such emergency actions taken.
(Sec. 5012) Directs the Secretary to carry out a pilot program to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat in the middle Mississippi River in accordance with the project for navigation, Mississippi River between the Ohio and Missouri Rivers (Regulating Works), Missouri and Illinois. Authorizes the Secretary to make feasible improvements to navigation through the project while carrying out the pilot program. Prohibits the federal share of the costs of the program from exceeding 65%.
(Sec. 5013) Amends the WRDA of 1999 to expand the program providing federal design and construction assistance for water-related environmental infrastructure and resource protection and development projects in rural Nevada and Montana to such projects in Idaho, New Mexico, rural Utah, and Wyoming. Includes, as part of the program, technical assistance to small and rural communities for water planning and issues relating to water resources access. Increases the authorization of appropriations for the program.
(Sec. 5014) Amends the WRDA of 1986 to increase the authorization of appropriations for projects creating alternative or beneficially modified habitats for fish and wildlife.
Allows the non-federal share of project costs to be provided through in-kind services. Includes as in-kind services non-federal land conservation and restoration efforts that: (1) enhance the viability of Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration efforts by improving water quality, and (2) are integral to the project to restore and rehabilitate fish habitat in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in Virginia and Maryland.
(Sec. 5015) Amends the Flood Control Act of 1944 to increase the cap on fiscal year expenditures for measures the Secretary undertakes to alleviate bank erosion and related problems associated with reservoir releases along the Missouri River between Fort Peck Dam, Montana, and Gavins Point Dam, South Dakota and Nebraska.
(Sec. 5016) Authorizes the Secretary, through the Chief of Engineers, to conduct dredging activities on shallow draft ports located on the Inland Mississippi River to the respective authorized widths and depths of those inland ports on the date of this Act's enactment.
(Sec. 5017) Amends the WRDA of 2007 to include harbor development projects in Alaska and those crucial to a region with the remote and subsistence harbor projects that do not need to be justified solely by national economic development benefits. Requires remote and subsistence harbor projects that are recommended by the Secretary to be given the same budget consideration and priority as those recommended solely by national economic development benefits.
Authorizes the Secretary to plan, design, or construct a navigation project in the noncontiguous states and U.S. territories if the Secretary finds that the project is technically feasible, environmentally sound, and economically justified. Allows non-federal interests to participate in financing such projects if such financing is needed for their implementation. Caps the federal share of carrying out such a project.
(Sec. 5018) Requires the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to: (1) lead a multiagency effort to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins and tributaries by providing high-level technical assistance, coordination, best practices, and support to state and local governments; and (2) submit an annual report to Congress describing the coordinated strategies established and progress made toward goals to control and eliminate Asian carp in such basins and tributaries.
(Sec. 5019) Requires the Tennessee Valley Authority to release, without monetary consideration, certain real estate use restrictions established, pursuant to the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, on tracts of land at or near Decatur and Guntersville, Alabama.
(Sec. 5020) Amends the WRDA of 1986 to authorize the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma to design and construct one or more hydroelectric generation facilities at the W.D. Mayo Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and market the electricity generated. Prohibits the Cherokee Nation from proceeding with the construction of such a facility before it obtains any required state or federal building permit and the Secretary reviews and approves its plans and specifications for the design and construction of such facility. Authorizes the Secretary to provide technical and construction management assistance to the Cherokee Nation.
(Sec. 5021) Directs the Secretary to report to Congress on the impact of closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, located on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the economic and environmental well-being of Minnesota. Requires the Secretary, within one year of this Act's enactment, to close that Lock and Dam if the annual average tonnage that moved through it the preceding five years was no more than 1.5 million tons.
(Sec. 5022) Authorizes the Secretary to provide technical assistance to non-federal public entities, including Indian tribes, for the development, construction, operation, and maintenance of channels, harbors, and related infrastructure associated with Arctic deep draft ports. Requires the Secretary to prioritize Arctic deep draft ports identified by the Corps, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and DOD.
(Sec. 5023) Directs the Secretary to carry out a study of the greater Mississippi River Basin to: (1) improve the coordinated and comprehensive management of water resource projects in the Basin relating to severe flooding and drought conditions; (2) evaluate the feasibility of any modifications to those water resource projects, consistent with their authorized purposes; and (3) develop new water resource projects to improve the reliability of navigation and more effectively reduce flood risk. Directs the Secretary to report to Congress on that study within three years of this Act's enactment.
(Sec. 5024) Authorizes the Secretary, in concurrence with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to reopen the Cape Arundel Disposal Site selected by the Department of the Army as an alternative dredged material disposal site under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972.
Permits the Site to remain open until the earlier of: (1) the date on which it has no remaining disposal capacity, (2) the date on which an environmental impact statement designating an alternative dredged material disposal site for southern Maine has been completed, or (3) the date that is five years after this Act's enactment.
Prohibits the Site from being used for the disposal of more than 80,000 cubic yards from any single dredging project.
Title VI: Levee Safety - National Levee Safety Program Act - (Sec. 6004) Directs the Secretary, in consultation with the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to establish a national levee safety program that includes:
a national levee database;an inventory and inspection of federal and non-federal levees;national levee safety guidelines;a hazard potential classification system for federal and non-federal levees;research and development;a national public education and awareness program;the coordination of levee safety, floodplain management, and environmental protection activities;the development of state and tribal levee safety programs; andthe provision to states and Indian tribes of technical assistance and materials that address levee safety and flood risks.Directs the Secretary to provide grants to states and Indian tribes to establish levee safety programs, conduct levee inventories, and carry out the requirements of this title. Requires the levee safety programs to meet certain guidelines issued by the Secretary. Directs the Secretary to implement quantifiable performance measures and metrics to assess the effectiveness of the grant program.
Directs the Secretary to provide grants to states, Indian tribes, and local governments to conduct flood mitigation activities that reduce flood risk. Allows grant funds to be used to rehabilitate levees, but not levees that are federally operated and maintained. Makes routine levee operation and maintenance activities ineligible for funding.
(Sec. 6005) Requires the Secretary to establish a National Levee Safety Advisory Board to: (1) advise the Secretary and Congress regarding consistent approaches to levee safety, (2) monitor levee safety in the United States, (3) assess the effectiveness of the national levee safety program, and (4) ensure that such program is carried out in a manner that is consistent with other federal flood risk management efforts.
(Sec. 6006) Amends the WRDA of 2007 require the Secretary to include in the National Levee Safety Database updated information provided by states, Indian tribes, federal agencies, and other entities.
(Sec. 6007) Directs the Secretary to submit multiple reports to Congress that include: (1) a biennial report describing the state of levees in this country and the effectiveness of the national levee safety program, (2) a report on the advisability and feasibility of establishing a joint national dam and levee safety program, and (3) a report identifying and addressing legal liability associated with levee engineering projects.
Directs the Comptroller General to report to Congress on opportunities for the alignment of federal programs to provide incentives to state, tribal, and local governments, individuals, and entities to: (1) promote shared responsibility for levee safety, (2) better align the national levee safety program and other federal flood risk management programs, and (3) promote levee safety through other federal programs providing assistance to state and local governments.
(Sec. 6009) Authorizes appropriations for the Levee Safety program.
Title VII: Inland Waterways - (Sec. 7003) Directs the Chief of Engineers, for each qualifying project (any authorized construction or major rehabilitation project for navigation infrastructure of the inland and intracoastal waterways that is funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund but not completed on the date of this Act's enactment), to require: (1) project management training and certification, (2) assignment as project manager of only personnel fully certified by the Chief of Engineers, and (3) any applicable cost estimation to be risk-based and to have a confidence level of at least 80%.
Requires the Chief of Engineers to: (1) establish a system to identify and apply on a continuing basis lessons learned from qualifying projects to improve the likelihood of on-time and on-budget completion, and (2) evaluate early contractor involvement acquisition procedures to improve on-time and on-budget project delivery performance.
Authorizes the Chief of Engineers to carry out pilot projects to evaluate processes or procedures for the study, design, or construction of qualifying projects that, at a minimum, evaluate: (1) early contractor involvement in the development of features and components; (2) an appropriate use of continuing contracts for the construction of features and components; and (3) applicable principles, procedures, and processes used for military construction projects.
Revises the duties of the Inland Waterways User Board by requiring the Board to provide advice and recommendations to Congress regarding: (1) any report of the Chief of Engineers relating to commercial navigation features and components of the inland waterways and inland harbors of the United States, (2) an increase in the authorized cost of such features and components, and (3) a long-term capital investment program. Requires the chairperson of the Board to appoint a representative of such Board to serve on the project development team for a qualifying project or the study or design of such a feature or component. Requires the Chief of Engineers to communicate at least once each quarter to such Board on the status of the study, design, or construction of such features or components.
Requires the Chief of Engineers to: (1) develop and submit to Congress within a year a report describing a 20-year program for making capital investments on the inland and intracoastal waterways based on the application of objective, national project selection prioritization criteria; (2) consider, in developing such program, the 20-year capital investment strategy contained in the Inland Marine Transportation System Capital Projects Business Model; (3) ensure that program investments are made in all geographical areas of the inland waterways system; and (4) submit a strategic review of such program within every five years.
(Sec. 7004) Increases (from $8 million to $20 million) the minimum amount of capital outlays required for a major project feature restoration initially funded on or after October 1, 1994, to be considered "rehabilitation" for purposes of laws relating to navigation on U.S. inland and intracoastal waterways.
(Sec. 7005) Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) the existing revenue sources for inland waterways system construction and rehabilitation activities are insufficient to cover the costs of non-federal interests of construction and major rehabilitation projects on the inland waterways system, and (2) such issue should be addressed.
(Sec. 7006) Requires the Comptroller General to report on the efficiency of collecting the fuel tax for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, including regarding: (1) whether current collection methods result in full compliance with legal requirements, (2) whether alternative collection methods would result in increased revenues, and (3) alternative collection options.
(Sec. 7007) Requires the Comptroller General to study and report on why, and to what extent, the project for navigation, Lower Ohio River, Locks and Dams 52 and 53, Illinois and Kentucky (commonly known as the "Olmsted Locks and Dam project") has exceeded the budget for the project and the reasons why the project failed to be completed as scheduled. Amends the WRDA of 1988 to require the remaining costs of such project to be paid from amounts appropriated from the general fund of the Treasury (currently 50% from the general fund and 50% from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund).
Title VIII: Harbor Maintenance - Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act of 2013 - (Sec. 8003) Prohibits the total budget resources made available to the Secretary from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for: (1) each of FY2014-FY2019 from being lower than the lesser of a specified amount or the level of receipts credited to such Fund for such fiscal year, and (2) fiscal years after FY2019 from being less than the level of receipts plus interest credited to such Fund for that fiscal year. Requires such amounts to be used only for harbor maintenance programs.
Provides that such minimum resource requirement shall not apply if it would result in making lower amounts available for the applicable fiscal year to carry out all programs, projects, and activities of the civil works program of the Corps, other than the harbor maintenance programs, than were made available for those purposes in the previous fiscal year, with specified exceptions. Excludes any amounts that are designated for emergency requirements and disaster relief from amounts made available to carry out all programs, projects, and activities of the civil works program of the Corps.
(Sec. 8004) Declares it is the policy of the United States that the primary use of such Fund is for maintaining the constructed widths and depths of the commercial ports and harbors of the United States and those functions should be given first consideration in the budgeting of Fund allocations.
Requires the Chief of Engineers, in allocating amounts that are made available from such Fund for operations and maintenance costs assigned to commercial navigation of all harbors and that are in excess of the amounts made available to carry out such projects in FY2012, to give priority to projects in the following order: (1) those projects that are high-use deep draft and are a priority for navigation in the Great Lakes Navigation System but that are not maintained to their constructed width and depth, (2) moderate-use and low-use port projects that have been maintained at less than their constructed width and depth, and (3) other projects that are not maintained to the minimum width and depth necessary to provide sufficient clearance for fully loaded commercial vessels. Authorizes the Secretary to prioritize other projects to address hazardous navigation conditions or impacts of natural disasters.
Requires the Secretary to submit to Congress a report each year on: (1) the amount of funds used to maintain high-use deep draft projects and projects at moderate-use ports and low-use ports to the constructed depth and width of the project, (2) the respective percentage of total funds provided under this Act used for high use deep draft projects and projects at moderate-use ports and low-use ports, (3) the remaining amount of funds made available to carry out this Act, and (4) any additional amounts needed to maintain the high-use deep draft projects and projects at moderate-use ports and low-use ports to their constructed depth and width.
Revises the non-federal share of the cost of operation and maintenance of a deep-draft harbor to 50% of the excess of the cost of the operation and maintenance of such project over the cost that the Secretary determines would be incurred if such project had a depth of 50 feet (currently, 45 feet).
Defines operation and maintenance activities that are eligible for the federal cost share, including: (1) the dredging of berths in a harbor that is accessible to a federal channel, if such channel has been constructed to its authorized depth; and (2) the dredging and disposal of legacy-contaminated sediments and sediments unsuitable for ocean disposal that are located in or affect the maintenance of federal navigation channels or that are located in berths that are accessible to federal channels. Prioritizes projects that have received the lowest amount of funding from such Fund in the previous three fiscal years. Establishes the maximum amount of funding available each year for operation and maintenance activities.
Authorizes the Secretary to provide funding to eligible donor ports and eligible energy transfer ports: (1) to provide payments to importers entering cargo or shippers transporting cargo through an eligible donor port or eligible energy transfer port, as calculated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection; (2) to dredge berths in a harbor that is accessible to a federal channel; (3) to dredge and dispose of legacy-contaminated sediments and sediments unsuitable for ocean disposal that are located in, or that affect, the maintenance of federal navigation channels or that are located in berths that are accessible to federal channels; or (4) for environmental remediation related to dredging berths and federal navigation channels. Authorizes specified additional appropriations to such Fund for such ports for FY2014-FY2024 if the total amounts made available from the Fund exceed the total amounts made available from the Fund in FY2012.
(Sec. 8005) Requires the Comptroller General to conduct a study that: (1) evaluates the effectiveness of activities funded by such Fund in maximizing economic growth and job creation in the communities surrounding low- and moderate-use ports, and (2) includes recommendations relating to the use of amounts in such Fund to increase the competitiveness of U.S. ports relative to Canadian and Mexican ports.
Title IX: Dam Safety - Dam Safety Act of 2013 - (Sec. 9004) Amends the National Dam Safety Program Act to require the head of a federal agency, on request, to provide a state dam safety agency with information on the condition and provisions for emergency operations of any dam the failure of which would affect the state.
(Sec. 9005) Includes as an objective of the National Dam Safety Program the development and implementation of a comprehensive dam safety hazard education and public awareness program to assist the public in preparing for, mitigating, responding to, and recovering from dam incidents. Directs the FEMA Administrator to carry out such a public awareness and outreach program nationwide. Authorizes the Administrator to invite representatives from nongovernmental organizations to participate in meetings of the National Dam Safety Review Board.
(Sec. 9007) Authorizes appropriations for the National Dam Safety Program for FY2014-FY2018, the national dam inventory, public awareness, research, dam safety training, and staff. Prohibits the amount allocated to a state for implementing a state dam safety program from exceeding the amount committed by the state to implement dam safety activities.
Title X: Innovative Financing Pilot Projects - Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2013 - (Sec. 10004) Authorizes the Secretary and the EPA Administrator to provide financial assistance to carry out pilot projects to develop critical water resources infrastructure, including:
a project for flood control or hurricane and storm damage reduction that the Secretary has determined is technically sound, economically justified, and environmentally acceptable;activities that are eligible for assistance under water pollution control revolving loan funds or drinking water state revolving loan funds;projects for enhanced energy efficiency in the operation of a public water system or a publicly owned treatment works;projects for repair, rehabilitation, or replacement of a treatment works, community water system, or aging water distribution or waste collection facility;brackish or sea water desalination projects, managed aquifer recharge projects, or water recycling projects; andacquisition of property that is integral to such water resources infrastructure projects or pursuant to an existing plan that would mitigate the environmental impacts of water resources infrastructure projects otherwise eligible for assistance under this title.(Sec. 10008) Specifies activities that are eligible for assistance, including:
development-phase activities;construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and replacement activities;the acquisition of property, environmental mitigation, construction contingencies, and acquisition of equipment;capitalized interest necessary to meet market requirements, reasonable required reserve funds, capital issuance expenses, and other carrying costs during construction; andrefinancing interim construction funding, long-term project obligations, or a secured loan or loan guarantee made under this Act.(Sec. 10009) Sets forth project eligibility criteria.
(Sec. 10010) Authorizes the Secretary or Administrator to enter into agreements to make secured loans to finance eligible project costs. Limits the amount of such a loan to the lesser of: (1) 49% of the reasonably anticipated eligible project costs, and (2) the amount of the senior project obligations of the project if the loan does not receive an investment-grade rating. Authorizes the Secretary or Administrator to establish fees to cover the costs of making such loans. Limits the total amount of federal assistance for such projects to 80% of the total project costs. Exempts from such limitation any rural water project that is authorized to be carried out by the Secretary of the Interior and that has an Indian tribe as a beneficiary.
Authorizes the Secretary or Administrator to provide a loan guarantee in lieu of making a secured loan if the Secretary or Administrator determines that the budgetary cost of such guarantee is substantially the same as that of a secured loan.
(Sec. 10011) Requires the Secretary or the Administrator to establish a uniform system to service the federal credit instruments made available under this title. Authorizes the Secretary or the Administrator to collect and spend fees, contingent on authority being provided in appropriations acts, at a level that is sufficient to cover the costs of services of experts in the field of municipal and project finance and the costs of servicing such instruments. Authorizes the Secretary or the Administrator to: (1) appoint a financial entity to assist in servicing such instruments, and (2) retain the services of organizations and entities with expertise in such field for such assistance.
(Sec. 10014) Authorizes appropriations for FY2014-FY2018 to carry out this title.
(Sec. 10015) Requires the Secretary or the Administrator to report every two years on the financial performance of, and public benefit provided by, projects that have received assistance under this title.
(Sec. 10016) Prohibits amounts made available under this Act from being used for the construction, alteration, maintenance, or repair of a project eligible for assistance under this title unless all of the iron, steel, and manufactured goods (goods) used in the project are produced in the United States. Exempts from such prohibition cases in which the Secretary finds that: (1) applying such prohibition would be inconsistent with the public interest, (2) such goods are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities and of a satisfactory quality, or (3) including such goods will increase the cost of the overall project by more than 25%.
Title XI: Extreme Weather - (Sec. 11002) Requires the Secretary to enter into enter into an arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences to carry out a study and make recommendations relating to infrastructure and coastal restoration options for reducing risk to human life and property from extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, coastal storms, and inland flooding.
(Sec. 11003) Requires the Comptroller General to submit to Congress a study of the strategies used by the Corps for the comprehensive management of water resources in response to floods, storms, and droughts, including a historical review of the ability of the Corps to manage and respond to historical drought, storm, and flood events.
(Sec. 11004) Authorizes the Secretary: (1) in an area that the President has declared a major disaster, to carry out a watershed assessment to identify specific flood risk reduction, hurricane and storm damage reduction, or ecosystem restoration or navigation project recommendations that will help to rehabilitate and improve the resiliency of damaged infrastructure and natural resources to reduce risks to human life and property from future natural disasters; and (2) to carry out one or more small projects identified under such assessment that the Secretary would otherwise by authorized to carry out under specified Acts. Requires such an assessment to be initiated within two years after the declaration of a major disaster. Limits the federal share of the cost of carrying out a watershed assessment to $1 million. Authorizes appropriations for FY2014-FY2018.
(Sec. 11005) Authorizes the Secretary to accept and expend amounts provided by non-federal interests for repairing, restoring, or replacing water resources projects that have been damaged or destroyed as a result of a major disaster or other emergency if it would be in the public interest.
Title XII: National Endowment for the Oceans - National Endowment for the Oceans Act - (Sec. 12004) Authorizes the Secretary of Commerce and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to establish the National Endowment for the Oceans as a permanent endowment fund to provide grants to support programs and activities intended to restore, protect, maintain, or understand living marine resources and their habitats and ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.
Subjects any amounts received by the Foundation pursuant to this title to the provisions of the National Fish and Wildlife Establishment Act.
Provides for the allocation and expenditure of funds from the Endowment.
Requires programs and activities that are funded by the Endowment and that are located in the Great Lakes States to seek to attain the goals embodied in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Plan, the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, or other collaborative planning efforts of the Great Lakes Region.
Prohibits endowment funds from being used to fund litigation.
(Sec. 12006) Requires the Foundation to establish: (1) grant application, review, and approval procedures; (2) eligibility criteria; (3) performance accountability and monitoring measures for programs and activities funded; and (4) an advisory panel to review and make recommendations regarding grant applications.
Sets forth a formula for the Foundation to use in determining the amount to award to coastal states. Limits the maximum amount that may be allocated to any single state or to American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands.
Requires coastal states, in order to be eligible to receive a grant, to submit to the Secretary a five-year plan that includes a prioritized list of goals the state intends to achieve during such period.
(Sec. 12007) Requires the Foundation to report annually on the operation of the Endowment.
(Sec. 12008) Provides for a land exchange between the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and the United States.
Title XIII: Miscellaneous - (Sec. 13001) Requires the Administrator of EPA to require certification of compliance with the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure rule from farms with tanks with specified above-ground storage capacities.
Requires the Administrator to: (1) study exemptions from such certification requirements for tanks with not more than 6,000 gallons and not less than 2,500 gallons; and (2) promulgate a rule to adjust the exemption levels in accordance with such study.
(Sec. 13002) Authorizes the Secretary to participate in the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass program in the same manner as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), FWS, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation, including the provision of free annual passes to active duty military personnel and dependents.
Solar flares disrupt communications; CME possibly reaching Earth on Friday
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:34
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Russ the Brain Professor on the NPR piece
ok, couldn't wait. here are my thoughts:
- the EEG signal is *very* low bandwidth, thanks to your skull. so unless they are going to put electrodes directly on your cortex, or drill holes in your skull to let the signal through, it's going to be really difficult to get much more specific than "the person is interested in this particular stimulus". the idea that the information available from scalp EEG is on par with the information available from one's DNA is complete bullshit. you can quote me on that!
- the professor is almost certainly right that it's probably possible to tell someone's sexual orientation by showing them a bunch of pictures and watching their EEG response, though I don't know that this has actually been demonstrated, and I doubt that it would be perfectly accurate. EEG will give you some pretty vague measures of arousal and expectation violation, which could be useful for finding out some things, but are *really* far from decoding of the content of your thoughts, which is generally the nightmare scenario for "mind-reading"
- the signals from muscles on scalp EEG are much bigger than the signals from your brain, so it would be very easy to screw up the EEG signal: just randomly clench your jaw and move your eyes around. the person administering the EEG would probably know that you were engaging in countermeasures, but it would certainly keep them from obtaining any useful information about your brain.
does that help?
European taxi drivers plan big protests against Uber - The Wall Street Journal - MarketWatch
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 00:29
By Lisa Fleisher
LONDON--Taxi drivers planned to turn a handful of European city centers into giant parking lots Wednesday, protesting the mobile car-hailing services of Uber Technologies Inc. and others.
The demonstrations highlight some challenges facing Uber and its peers as they race to increase revenue and woo investors. But the scale of the planned protests across the continent also underscores the extent to which the technology has upended one of the world's most regulated industries.
In London, thousands of cab drivers were expected to converge on Trafalgar Square, triggering a warning to organizers from the city's police force. London's transportation agency posted an advisory online warning customers of the protest and suggesting that they use the subway system. In Madrid, taxi drivers said they would take the day off. French drivers planned to launch what they called ''escargot'' operations: driving at a snail's pace on major streets and thoroughfares '-- for instance, to and from the airport.
London's black cab drivers claim Uber is breaking U.K. lawUber has been subjected to scrutiny elsewhere, including the U.S. and Canada. But the hurdles have been higher in Europe, where taxi drivers tend to be well organized. The industry is also often more heavily regulated, and governments are more willing to actively protect sectors under threat of job losses.
Uber is facing a series of legal challenges across the continent '-- including a potential decision by a London court about whether the company's app constitutes a cab meter. A U.K. regulator has deemed Uber legal, but the service could be hampered if a court rules otherwise. In Brussels and Berlin, Uber is fighting court rulings that have effectively barred the service.
All that is a clear risk for the company, and for investors who have been pouring money into it. The privately held, San Francisco-based company raised $1.2 billion earlier this month from investors, valuing it at $18.2 billion.
Drivers' complaintsUber executives have embraced the protests as a chance to show how useful the service is. ''If anything, it's going to make Uber even more visible, and make a lot of people realize that they now have choices that they didn't have before,'' said Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber's general manager of Western and Northern Europe.
In many markets, Uber acts as a private car service or ride-sharing service, allowing users to book through their smartphones. Traditional taxi drivers complain it and similar services are doing the work of taxis, but don't have to spend on the same regulatory and licensing requirements. Many drivers have complained about unlicensed, private-hire car services, but taxi companies say the fast growth of Uber and others has heightened the threat significantly.
''We're little companies up against $18 billion,'' said Nadine Annet, vice chairman of French taxi-driver federation FNAT, citing Uber's valuation. ''Our profession is in jeopardy across Europe.''
The world's first eye-controlled wheelchairBritish researchers recently unveiled the world's first eye-controlled wheelchair for people suffering from paralysis. Reporter Jenny Marc shows us how technology is turning the ability to see into the ability to move.
In several of the protests, drivers aren't specifically targeting Uber and other service providers, but what they say is outmoded regulation that makes it hard for them to compete. Part of Uber's challenge in Europe is the variety of regulations governing the continent, even among the 28-member European Union, each of which has different unions and different rules.
In London, for example, only the city's ubiquitous ''black cabs'' are allowed to be equipped with a taxi meter, under a 1998 law. The local transportation agency has said it doesn't consider Uber's app '-- which can measure the time and distance of a trip to calculate a fare '-- to be the same as a taxi meter for now, allowing Uber to operate. But the agency has asked a court to weigh in.
In Italy, Uber uses licensed cars and operates under laws allowing them to pick up passengers as long as they return to a base '-- which lessens the competitive threat to licensed taxis. Taxi drivers have filed a complaint against Uber saying its drivers weren't following this law. However Uber has contested the interpretation of the law and the Italian courts are still deciding the matter.
On Wednesday, Madrid cabdrivers will strike for 24 hours starting at 6 a.m. local time. Barcelona taxi drivers plan a protest march in the city's downtown.
In Berlin, taxi drivers plan to meet at several locations at noon local time and drive together to Olympischer Platz, a square in the west of the city, where up to 1,000 taxis are expected to arrive at around 1 p.m. A spokesman for Berlin's police said ''traffic will be affected short-term along the routes'' of the taxi demonstrations.
An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.
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Forget trucks; cars are the real danger on highways
Fed needs to raise rates: top forecaster
Common Core
Pearson, of course, wins huge Common Core testing contract
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 05:10
I noted recently that two years ago the nonprofit group FairTest predicted that despite promises by policymakers that competition and innovation would result from school reform, it would be the same old education firms that would wind up with the big Common Core-related contracts. FairTest got that right.
Pearson, the largest education company in the world, which already has numerous contracts with states for testing and materials, just won a whopper: a contract with one of the two multi-state consortia that are designing new Core-aligned tests with federal funds. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is hiring Pearson, according to a news release, to develop test items and forms, deliver paper and online versions of tests, consult with states to come up with cut scores that determine what is a good score and what isn't, report results to various constituencies, and analyze the scores.
How much is it worth to Pearson? Well, James Mason, a PARCC state leader who helped negotiate the contract, told Education Week that it all depends on a number of factors, including how many states and students end up participating in PARCC, but he said it was one of ''unprecedented scale, in terms of states coming together.''
When making its prediction in 2012, FairTest, or the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which is dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests, noted that some of the ''same old firms'' that would win contracts have troubled track records in terms of designing, administering and scoring exams. There's quite a list of problems Pearson has encountered in various states with testing contracts, which you can see here. Pearson had to pay nearly $15 million in fines to Florida in 2010. This spring, Pearson-designed tests aligned to the Core are being given in New York State, with a number of problems being reported, including badly worded questions and test booklets with empty pages.
Pearson, it turns out, was the only bidder for the PARCC job.
PARCC just releasedthis press release :
WASHINGTON'--The group of states developing the PARCC tests in English language arts/literacy and mathematics announced Friday it has selected a contractor to continue to develop and implement the summative assessment portion of the tests. The estimated cost of the development and implementation of the tests will be under $24 per student for computer-based versions of the test. That's lower than the previously estimated cost of $29.50 and lower than the median cost of the PARCC states' current tests.
''The PARCC team has been working together to develop high-quality assessments that will provide educators, students, and their families with important information about how our students are doing in school,'' said Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, a member of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career governing board. ''With this major contract in place, and with the favorable pricing, we will be ready next year to implement PARCC assessments, which will help teachers guide instruction and will advance student achievement.''
Through a competitive bid process, the PARCC states awarded the contract to Pearson and a group of subcontractors, including ETS, WestEd, Measured Progress and Caveon, leaders in their areas of expertise and experience.
''This group of contractors represents a best-in-class collaboration that will help us bring testing to a whole new level,'' said James Mason, director of assessment at the Mississippi Department of Education and a member of the negotiating team. ''The days of multiple-choice-only tests are over. These are sophisticated assessments that focus on the path to success beyond high school. They include comprehension, concepts, application, writing, problem solving, critical thinking and reasoning. We have a strong team supporting us and we will continue to challenge our contractors to push the envelope on rigor and innovation.''
Representatives from the PARCC states negotiated the contract.
''PARCC states wanted to ensure we got the best assessment at the best price possible,'' said Illinois Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. ''By working together, we were able to get an innovative and high-quality assessment development process and drive down costs for all states.''
The contract includes: development of test items and forms; delivery of the tests in paper-based and computer-based formats; reporting of results to states, districts, schools, educators, parents and students; analysis of scores to ensure they reflect college- and career-readiness; and coordination with the states in the development of cut scores (performance standards) to establish performance levels.
States in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers will begin to administer the tests next school year. States currently are administering practice or ''field'' tests, giving students and teachers the chance to get a feel for the new computer-based assessments aligned to new career-and-college-ready standards and to test the test questions for validity, bias and other factors.
Final costs will be determined by the number of students who take the tests, which will not be known until states order the tests in advance of the spring 2015 testing.
Common Core Is Corporate Welfare for Textbook Giants - Hit & Run : Reason.com
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:30
Opponents of Common Core have plenty of ammunition by now: The standards erode local autonomy, are costly to implement, and some experts dispute their rigor.
But an underexplored aspect of this problematic national education reform is the massive financial incentive that certain textbook and standardized test companies have to keep the U.S. on board with it. TheWashington Post's Valerie Strauss provided a good example of Common Core's crony corporatist side in a recent article.
There are two large, multi-state partnerships tasked with implementing Core-aligned standardized tests, and one of them'--the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)'--recently invited curriculum companies to compete for the contract to design the tests. Textbook giant Pearson won the contract, surprising no one. Pearson, a British company, is the largest publisher of education materials in the world.
A PARCC press release described the selection of Pearson as the result of a "competitive bidding process." But it's hard to tell whether the process was truly competitive, given that Pearson was the only company to even submit a bid.
Now, another corporation is alleging that the process was unfairly biased toward Pearson from the start, according to Education Week:
A protest of the contract was made by the nonprofit corporation American Institutes for Research, which alleged that that the bidding process conducted by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was biased in favor of Pearson and that is why AIR did not submit a bid which it otherwise would have done, Education Week reported. The protest was made to officials in New Mexico who were serving as a representative of PARCC in making the call for proposals from companies to win the contract.
Judge Sarah M. Singleton of the Santa Fe First Judicial District issued a ruling last week putting the Pearson contract on hold while officials reviewed the contract bidding process.
Keep in mind that the contract is worth so much money that officials haven't even attached a formal price tag. Instead, they have used the phrase "unprecedented in scale."
Common Core's most fervent defenders might not see the problem with any of this. They might even say it's a good thing that the biggest testing company on the planet is the one designing the exams for Common Core.
But it certainly undermines the notion that this is a "bottom up" education reform when state and federal lawmakers are colluding with mega corporations to dictate the tests to local school districts. Students in some states are already serving as guinea pigs for the new testing regime.
Keep in mind that many teachers will need to be retrained so that they can prepare their students to pass the Core''aligned tests. Schools across the country will have to purchase new computers before they are even logistically capable ofadministering the tests. Taxpayers are going to feel the pain, and Pearson is going to reap the profits.
REVEALED: Gates Foundation financed PBS education programming which promoted Microsoft's interests | PandoDaily
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:24
By Nathaniel Mott and David SirotaOn June 5, 2014
In September 2011, a newly-launched nonprofit called the Teaching Channel announced that it would be producing a video series dubbed ''Teaching Channel Presents'' for PBS.
The videos would be produced in partnership with WNET, New York City's PBS-affiliated station said to attract some five million viewers each month, and broadcast on PBS stations across the country. The goal of the series, according to Teaching Channel's website, is to provide ''teachers, principals and others with specific guidance and professional development around the Common Core State Standards.'' The series was joined by the ''Let's Chat Core'' web series meant to help teachers ''better understand the Common Core State Standards and how to implement them in their own classrooms'' in October 2012.
While the Teaching Channel proudly promotes the Common Core, it is far less forthcoming about the fact that its primary backer is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation '' aka the philanthrocapitalist enterprise that has spent somewhere between $200 million and $2.3 billion to champion the Common Core State Standards in schools and in the political arena. Indeed, a Pando investigation has found no explicit disclosure about the Gates Foundation's politicalactivism made in episodes about the standards, the press release announcing the series, or the newsletter sent before its debut. The only prominent mention of the foundation comes after ''Teaching Channel Presents'' episode credits, in FAQs on the Teaching Channel's website and at the bottom of press releases for the series second and third seasons. ''Let's Chat Core'' doesn't mention the Gates Foundation's support at all in its videos.
The discovery that the Gates Foundation is funding PBS programming that supports its political agenda comes only a few months after Pando first revealed that Enron mogul John Arnold attempted to use $3.5 million of his fortune to finance an anti-pension ''news'' series on the PBS NewsHour. The two stories are similar, in that they involve the foundations of politically active billionaires using the public broadcasting system to promote their political agenda. In this Gates case, the agenda being promoted also happens to dovetail with Microsoft's commercial interests in the Common Core. This has been allowed to happen despite PBS programming rules aiming to prevent those with specific political and commercial interests from financing public broadcasting content that promotes those interests.
Understanding the significance of this new revelation about Gates and Common Core requires an understanding of the larger controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards, the Gates Foundation's extensive financial support of many groups related to those standards' passing, and the Foundation's ties to Teaching Channel itself.
Common Controversy
The Common Core State Standards, co-sponsored by the Gates-funded National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, will introduce harsher language and math testing in American schools from 2015. The changes were first announced in 2009 and were initially supported by 49 states and territories. But when schools in those states tried to implement the new standards, teachers expressed their concerns, and the standards' bipartisan backing quickly turned into widespread condemnation.
U.S. News and World Report notes that ''The push against Common Core is coming from both sides of the political aisle.'' Conservatives have slammed the standards as a federal government overreach that usurps local control, while progressives and some teachers unions have derided the standards as autocratic and too tied to rigid standardized tests.
In response, one state, Indiana, has opted out of the Common Core, prompting threats of retribution from the Obama administration. More recently, Oklahoma's legislature just voted to repeal the standards. Other states, including Kansas, Wisconsin, and South Carolina, have met the standards with open hostility but have not yet managed to repeal their adoption. (Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia never adopted them at all). Meanwhile, New York initially raced to implement Common Core standards before they were even completed, and then faced such a public backlash that lawmakers in February moved to delay the standards and testing-focused teacher evaluations.
Much of the pushback comes from teachers and education experts who assert that while Common Core's standardized testing may make big money for testing and technology companies, those tests and one-size-fits-all standards aren't a proven way to improve student learning and creative thinking. As the Brookings Institution's Tom Loveless put it, ''On the basis of past experience with standards, the most reasonable prediction is that the common core will have little to no effect on student achievement.''
Summarizing some of the specific criticism, Carol Burris, principal of the South Side High School in New York, wrote this in a 2013 Washington Post article describing her conversion from a Common Core supporter to an opponent:
There are so many stories that I could tell''the story of my guidance counselor's sixth-grade, learning disabled child who feels like a failure due to constant testing, a principal of an elementary school who is furious with having to use to use a book he deems inappropriate for third graders because his district bought the State Education Department approved common core curriculum, and the frustration of math teachers due to the ever-changing rules regarding the use of calculators on the tests. And all of this is mixed with the toxic fear that comes from knowing you will be evaluated by test results and that 'your score' will be known to any of your parents who ask.
Yet, as organizationsrepresentingteachers were working to halt or revise the Common Core standards that the Gates Foundation sculpted in the political arena, the Gates Foundation-backed Teaching Channel began using PBS to proudly promote the new standards when the public started fighting back.
Common Core TV
Teaching Channel launched in September 2011 with a website dedicated to the Common Core State Standards. It has since posted hundreds of videos featuring interviews with educators, instructions on how to implement the standards in classrooms, and guides to preparing students for the new tests. It claims that almost 500,000 teachers have joined its online ''community,'' and in June 2013 announced an online platform for ''schools, districts, and education organizations enabling teachers and teacher leaders to work together.''
But perhaps the most important aspect of Teaching Channel is the ''Teaching Channel Presents'' series it produces for PBS. The series, currently in its third season, offers hour-long guides to everything from lesson planning to exploring ''the many ways Common Core is being integrated into classrooms.'' The series visits real classrooms to demonstrate the challenges '' and eventual solutions '' teachers will face as they keep pace with the changing standards. It's a bit like the ''DIY Channel'' for educators, except that it also includes an ideological message promoting a set of standards that have divided teachers and lawmakers around the country. Indeed, as if aiming for a self-fulfilling prophecy, it presents the standards as the presupposed normal rather than controversial policy still being debated.
On ''Teaching Channel Presents,'' for example, there isn't a problem that can't be described and solved with a 20-minute segment, and all of the students are responding well to the shifting standards they have to meet. Teachers turn to the camera and say things like ''the Common Core has become part of my teacher DNA'' in testimonials that never mention the controversies surrounding the standards. This isn't a place where educators can learn so much as it's a series of videos that make the standards seem like the greatest thing to happen to education since the first teacher thought to use a chalkboard.
And, at the end of every video, there's a reminder that the programming was all made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but there's no mention of the foundation's role as the primary political benefactor behind the Common Core.
Millions of dollars builds a platform promoting Gates' education ideology
The Gates Foundation '' aka the personal foundation of a current Microsoft board member '' is being permitted to promote Common Core on PBS at the very moment Microsoft is building parts of its business around the Common Core.
In February, Microsoft joined up with education publisher and technology firm Pearson on a joint Common Core venture. According to a Pearson press release, the project aims ''to create new applications and advance a digital education model'' '' with the collaboration's first initiative combining ''Pearson's Common Core System of Courses with the groundbreaking capabilities of the Windows 8 touchscreen environment.''
Meanwhile, with Common Core promoting a shift to computer-based testing, Microsoft will likely benefit from school districts now being compelled to rely on those machines, many of which are Windows-based. Additionally, Microsoft stands to make money from school districts that are usingWindows-based devices for Common Core test prep.
This is all part of what Stanford University professor Deborah Stipek called ''a cottage industry now that's sprung up around Common Core.'' The potential for such a for-profit industry was championed by none other than Bill Gates. In a 2009 Common Core-themed speech to the Gates-funded National Conference of State Legislatures, he declared (emphasis added):
The state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. Last month, 46 Governors and Chief State School Officers made a public commitment to embrace these common standards'...
When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well'--and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching.
With Microsoft seeing the commercial potential of Common Core, and with Gates' political interest in Common Core, the Teaching Channel has received more than $18 million from Gates Foundation, according to the foundation's website. As originally noted by education blogger Jonathan Pelto, the grants vary between $250,000 and $7 million and have been given at least once a year since May 2011. But the Gates Foundation's ties to Teaching Channel don't end at the checkbook.
Three of Teaching Channel's five board members have clear ties to the foundation: Steve Arnold was previously the chief executive of Corbis, a Gates-owned digital media company; Ted Mitchell is the chief executive of the NewSchool Venture Fund, to which the Gates Foundation has given over $82 million since 2003. and Vicki Phillips is the Gates Foundation's director of education.
The Gates Foundation has also supportedWNET, the PBS affiliate station responsible for the videos in the ''Teaching Channel Presents'' series, with $300,000 in grants meant to help the station host the International Summit on the Future of the Teacher Profession in March 2011 and March 2012. (WNET, incidentally, was the same public broadcasting station at the center of Pando's ''Wolf of Sesame Street'' investigation).
And the Gates Foundation hasn't just supported Teaching Channel's education-focused videos, either. It has also supported a PBS documentary called ''Generation XY: Teenagers in the New Millennium'' with a $50,000 grant made to the Filmmakers Collaborative in February 1999; the ''production of reports on Washington DC and New Orleans school districts for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer'' with a $308,000 grant to Learning Matters in November 2007; ''reporting on national education issues and the development of video and digital content for broadcast and online distribution'' with a $525,048 grant to Learning Matters in July 2009; the ''completion of a film about the revitalization and recovery of New Orleans, including the public education system, after Hurricane Katrina'' with a $20,000 grant to Learning Matters in November 2012; and further ''reporting on the Common Core State Standards'' with a $25,000 grant to Learning Matters in October 2013.
The Gates Foundation has also supported PBS directly with a $499,997 grant given in October 2010 to ''create Digital Learning Objects (DLOs) that enhance middle school mathematics achievement.'' It has also givenNPR$3.3 million in grants meant to support its education coverage since December 2006.
All of this means that, while the Gates Foundation was spending hundreds of millions '' or billions '' of dollars to promote the Common Core State Standards in the political arena, it was also giving public media companies major resources to report on those very same standards, either directly (in Teaching Channel and Learning Matters' cases) or indirectly (in other grants made to Learning Matters and NPR).
Gates, the Teaching Channel and PBS rules
According to its website, PBS has a strict ''perception test'' for programming that it says ''will be applied most vigorously to current affairs programs and programs that address controversial issues.'' The rules go on to say that ''when there exists a clear and direct connection between the interests or products or services of a proposed funder and the subject matter of the program, the proposed funding will be deemed unacceptable.''
Recent polls and growing opposition to the Common Core State Standards clearly show that the topic of education standards is, indeed, controversial. And it is similarly clear that the Gates Foundation has displayed a deep ''interest'' in promoting the Common Core State Standards. Yet, despite the PBS rules, the Gates Foundation has been permitted to finance programming promoting Common Core on PBS through ''Teaching Channel Presents.''
Similarly, PBS rules say that if programming has ''been created to serve the business or other interests of the funder'' it would be deemed ''unacceptable.''
PBS/Gates respond
Teaching Channel spokesperson Candice Meyers says that the group has never been told by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation what it should produce. ''You'll see hundreds of videos on classroom management, hundreds of videos on differentiation, and hundreds of videos on frustrations that teachers have,'' she says. ''Not once '-- not once '-- has the Gates Foundation told us what to film.'' She adds that Common Core wasn't even law when Teaching Channel was founded, and that the group has focused on Common Core after teachers said that is what they needed help with from a company dedicated to solving problems inside the classroom.
Update: A spokesperson for WNET responded after publication with this statement:
The Teaching Channel project described in your article is not affiliated with PBS in any way. Like all local public television stations, WNET is independently owned and operated and its activities reach into many areas that do not involve PBS.
WNET subsidiary WLIW was commissioned by the Teaching Channel to produce professional development content for educators. The online video segments and the series Teaching Channel Presents included a wide variety of subjects, ''The New Teacher Experience,'' ''Bullying at School,'' Digital Literacy in the Classroom,'' to ''Connecting Arts to the Classroom,'' ''Inquiry-based Teaching'' and many other topics.
Across the three seasons of Teaching Channel Presents, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the initiative's other funders, were clearly identified both on-air and in publicity materials. Neither the Gates Foundation '' nor any of the other funders '' had editorial control regarding this content.
The final episode of Teaching Channel Presents has been produced, and we have no further deliverables to the Teaching Channel.
Pando reached out to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on June 4 at 11am Pacific Time and did not receive a response prior to publication. This story will be updated if and when those groups agree to an interview or offer a statement to Pando.
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]
Time for Congress to Investigate Bill Gates' Coup | Diane Ravitch
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 06:02
The story about Bill Gates' swift and silent takeover of American education is startling. His role and the role of the U.S. Department of Education in drafting and imposing the Common Core standards on almost every state should be investigated by Congress.
The idea that the richest man in America can purchase and -- working closely with the U.S. Department of Education -- impose new and untested academic standards on the nation's public schools is a national scandal. A Congressional investigation is warranted.
The close involvement of Arne Duncan raises questions about whether the law was broken.
Thanks to the story in the Washington Post and to diligent bloggers, we now know that one very rich man bought the enthusiastic support of interest groups on the left and right to campaign for the Common Core.
Who knew that American education was for sale?
Who knew that federalism could so easily be dismissed as a relic of history? Who knew that Gates and Duncan, working as partners, could dismantle and destroy state and local control of education?
The revelation that education policy was shaped by one unelected man, underwriting dozens of groups. and allied with the Secretary of Education, whose staff was laced with Gates' allies, is ample reason for Congressional hearings.
I have written on various occasions (see here and here) that I could not support the Common Core standards because they were developed and imposed without regard to democratic process. The writers of the standards included no early childhood educators, no educators of children with disabilities, no experienced classroom teachers; indeed, the largest contingent of the drafting committee were representatives of the testing industry. No attempt was made to have pilot testing of the standards in real classrooms with real teachers and students. The standards do not permit any means to challenge, correct, or revise them.
In a democratic society, process matters. The high-handed manner in which these standards were written and imposed in record time makes them unacceptable. These standards not only undermine state and local control of education, but the manner in which they were written and adopted was authoritarian. No one knows how they will work, yet dozens of groups have been paid millions of dollars by the Gates Foundation to claim that they are absolutely vital for our economic future, based on no evidence whatever.
Why does state and local control matter? Until now, in education, the American idea has been that no single authority has all the answers. Local boards are best equipped to handle local problems. States set state policy, in keeping with the concept that states are "laboratories of democracy," where new ideas can evolve and prove themselves. In our federal system, the federal government has the power to protect the civil rights of students, to conduct research, and to redistribute resources to the neediest children and schools.
Do we need to compare the academic performance of students in different states? We already have the means to do so with the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It has been supplying state comparisons since 1992.
Will national standards improve test scores? There is no reason to believe so. Brookings scholar Tom Loveless predicted two years ago that the Common Core standards would make little or no difference. The biggest test-score gaps, he wrote, are within the same state, not between states. Some states with excellent standards have low scores, and some with excellent standards have large gaps among different groups of students.
The reality is that the most reliable predictors of test scores are family income and family education. Nearly one-quarter of America's children live in poverty. The Common Core standards divert our attention from the root causes of low academic achievement.
Worse, at a time when many schools have fiscal problems and are laying off teachers, nurses, and counselors, and eliminating arts programs, the nation's schools will be forced to spend billions of dollars on Common Core materials, testing, hardware, and software.
Microsoft, Pearson, and other entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of this new marketplace. Our nation's children will not.
Who decided to monetize the public schools? Who determined that the federal government should promote privatization and neglect public education? Who decided that the federal government should watch in silence as school segregation resumed and grew? Who decided that schools should invest in Common Core instead of smaller classes and school nurses?
These are questions that should be asked at Congressional hearings.
Videos, Common Core Resources And Lesson Plans For Teachers: Teaching Channel
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:24
Now you can admire great teaching on TV in the comfort of your living room.
Invite your friends over, sit back '-- and watch inspiring teachers in action as public television presents Teaching Channel this fall.
Tell your friends and make a date!
Season 3 of Teaching Channel Presents"Teaching Channel Presents" is a groundbreaking series showcasing inspired teaching in America's K-12 classrooms. The weekly one-hour episodes are on public television and cover a wide variety of topics including The Common Core State Standards, Digital Literacy, STEM and The Arts.Teaching Channel Presents is airing on public television stations around the country. Use the zip code lookup to the right to see what channel is broadcasting the series in your area. We post each episode here after it airs on TV, so check back if you miss it or want to watch it again.
Episode 6Experiential LearningGo to four amazing classrooms where the focus is on "learning by doing." Whether students are creating radio shows, fixing computers, or solving engineering problems, they are getting a "college and career-ready experience."Episode 5The New Teacher ExperienceFollow two teachers in Los Angeles, California for an intimate look at what the experience is really like. Many beginning teachers in America are given keys to their classroom and left to sink or swim in isolation. But, with the support of mentors, these teachers persevere through the trials and tribulations of their first year of teaching.Episode 4Digital Citizens & Improving PracticeIn our first half hour, we'll see how students are becoming ''Super Digital Citizens'' as they learn how to use the Internet responsibly'-- then, we'll switch gears and too see new ways teachers are working to improve their practice.Episode 3New Teacher Survival GuideWe'll follow several new teachers and their mentors as they focus on essential first-year skills from lesson planning to classroom management to differentiation. This hour is filled with useful ''do's and don'ts'' for new teachers.Episode 2Common Core: PreK - 12:We'll start with Pre-K math students and finish up with high school English students as we explore the many ways Common Core is being integrated into classrooms'--in both math and ELA the emphasis is teaching students how to think.Episode 1Inside Common Core ClassroomsWe begin the new season of Teaching Channel Presents in classrooms where teachers are already integrating the Common Core. From adding and subtracting to fractions and functions, we follow students as they explore mathematical reasoning across grade levels. See how the standards change as students advance. We also visit three lively English classes where the Common Core emphasis is on speaking and listening skills.
Oklahoma withdraws from Common Core standards - UPI.com
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:04
WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) --Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation repealing the state's participation in the Common Core standards in favor of crafting their own."We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core," Fallin said.
Fallin said Common Core, which had been intended to level the playing field for students nationwide, had been "usurped" by "President Obama and Washington bureaucrats... in an attempt to influence state education standards."
"The results are predictable," she said at the National Governors Association in January. "What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president's plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching standards."
Fallin had been in favor of the adoption of Common Core, but in recent months had been bombarded with calls and letters urging her to sign legislation repealing the standards.
"The words 'Common Core' in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children," she said.
Common Core was developed in 2009 by the NGA and Council of Chief State School Officers and was initially adopted by more than 40 states. But as the Obama administration has moved to provide incentives for adopting Common Core and other improvements, opposition has grown, particularly in red states.
Indiana has since formally withdrawn, and in North Carolina, the state house voted this week to do the same. In Missouri, which nearly repealed Common Core, lawmakers struck a compromise this week to keep it in place for at least two years.
South Carolina Drops Common Core.
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 22:45
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Gene Wilhoit to direct national education reform program at UK
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:24
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 8, 2013) '-- The National Center for Innovation in Education, which will focus on national education reform, is being established at the University of Kentucky College of Education with funding from two of the country's leading foundations '-- the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Gene Wilhoit
The center will be directed by Gene Wilhoit, a former Kentucky Department of Education commissioner who is a highly regarded figure in national education circles.
Wilhoit most recently spent six years as director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in Washington, D.C. During his tenure at CCSSO, Wilhoit spearheaded the development and adoption by 45 states of the Common Core State Standards.
''The Hewlett Foundation has been pleased to support ongoing deeper learning initiatives across the country. We are excited now to partner with the Gates Foundation to help Gene Wilhoit establish this important center at the University of Kentucky,'' said Barbara Chow, director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Education Program. ''States from around the nation will benefit from Gene's wisdom, experience, and vision for ensuring that U.S. education delivers and measures the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students will need to succeed in work, life, and citizenship.''
The National Center for Innovation in Education will contribute to the national education reform agenda with a focus on ensuring more states are adopting and implementing a standard definition of college and career readiness that embodies ''deeper learning'' outcomes,implementing meaningful measures of those outcomes, and holding all levels of the system accountable for results.
''It is a testament to the quality of the educational innovation effort in Kentucky that we could attract a center of this scope and quality to the state,'' said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. ''We want our students to graduate with the ability to succeed in this 21st century global economy and efforts like this provide a real boost in helping us meet those needs. Thanks to the Hewlett and Gates foundations for providing the funding to establish the National Center for Innovation in Education in Kentucky.''
Deeper learning delivers the skills and knowledge students will need to succeed in a world that is changing at an unprecedented pace. Deeper learning prepares students to master core academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and learn how to learn (e.g., self-directed learning).
''The goal we have established for all of our children to be college and career ready is the right one for them and for our nation,'' Wilhoit said. ''However, I am convinced that the 'schooling' experience as it now exists in far too many places is out of alignment with the lofty goal we have set. We will reach our aspirations only when we cast aside historic perceptions and practices about how one acquires knowledge and skills.
As other countries are improving their education systems, too many American students are not being properly prepared in foundational subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. Nor are we paying sufficient attention to cultivating the skills students will need to thrive in a globally connected job market.''
Most states have not yet been able to transform systems to close the equity gap and deliver high quality, deeper learning outcomes to every child, which is manifested through high variability in the quality of education and lower levels of educational attainment among U.S. students overall, and especially among those in poverty and students of color, Wilhoit said. This high degree of quality and variability in results is impacting the well being of individuals and communities and the country's long-term economic success.
''Gene Wilhoit is passionate about supporting states in systemic transformation toward high quality teaching and learning,'' said UK President Eli Capilouto. ''While the impact of his effort will be felt across the nation, Kentucky is now at the epicenter of this transformational work and stands to benefit from the waves of change that will begin to take root from within the commonwealth. The center will serve as a beacon on the UK campus for not only the national reform agenda spearheaded by Wilhoit, but also for the ongoing work we are doing through our Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab to bring innovation to Kentucky schools.''
Under Wilhoit's leadership, the work of the center will focus on:
'... Supporting states as they implement Common Core State Standards.
'... Working at the national and federal levels with key influencers and organizations to promote reforms that lead to deeper student learning.
'... Facilitating relationships in states to place value on deeper learning outcomes within postsecondary education and workforce development programs.
'... Providing assistance to leaders of the Innovation Lab Network so that they are more rapidly and effectively translating local innovations into policy.
'... Facilitating dialogue with state policy makers to set conditions that support the reform efforts.
'... Promoting the role of teachers as solutions designers and producers of new knowledge about how we cause learning.
In 2010, UK committed $1.5 million to launch the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab, an initiative that is partnering UK College of Education faculty and national experts with Kentucky school leaders to create new systems to support 21st century learning.
''Kentucky is fortunate to have Gene Wilhoit and a national center of this caliber located within our state,'' said UK College of Education Dean Mary John O'Hair. ''This center complements the work we are doing in Kentucky to transform education for 21st century learners. As we have worked to build the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab at UK, we have noted that Kentucky has a unique alignment of focus and priorities among the various statewide agencies that are needed to scale and sustain educational innovations. I believe the cohesion and innovative spirit in Kentucky has played a large part in helping us rise from 34th to 10th in Education Week's national rankings of education in the U.S. The creation of the National Center for Innovation in Education will help give states the push they need to work together to develop these radically different learning experiences for students.''
The Center for Innovation in Education will be housed at the UK Coldstream research campus. The center will work in close collaboration with other organizations, but will have its own executive team and funding structure.
Gene Wilhoit, CCSSO Executive Director Announces Retirement
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:22
Wednesday, June 13, 2012CCSSO Board of Directors Launches Nationwide SearchWashington, DC -The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced today that executive director Gene Wilhoit will retire. The CCSSO board of directors has begun a national search for a successor. Wilhoit plans to remain at CCSSO until a new executive director assumes the post.
Under Wilhoit's leadership, states have increasingly worked together to address critical issues including higher standards for students, richer assessments of their learning, better tools for teachers, and more accountability for schools to produce results.
"Gene had provided unprecedented leadership for the Council of Chief State School Officers at one of the most dynamic periods in U.S. education history," said Christopher Koch, State Superintendent, Illinois State Board of Education. "He has consistently been able to bridge differences in policy to reach a student-focused common ground among our nation's education leaders."
Wilhoit has led CCSSO for six years after serving as the education commissioner in both Kentucky and Arkansas.
"Gene Wilhoit is an educational hero," said David Coleman, the incoming president of The College Board. "He understood the need for this country to better prepare all students for life beyond high school and he had the distinctive intelligence, persistence and political skill to bring an amazing set of academic standards to life."
Vicki Phillips, the education director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a former state education commissioner in Pennsylvania, said, "At a time when American politics are so often partisan and dysfunctional, Gene brought the states together in ways no one imagined was possible."
Wilhoit praised the state chiefs for their accomplishments. "They have taken on important and challenging work and are focused on policy that will improve public education for the students in this country," he said.
Wilhoit will return to his home and family in Kentucky, but remains committed to the reform agenda. "I'll be leaving CCSSO but can't walk away from the work I feel so passionately about. I am deeply invested in ensuring that the states have the support they need to advance the transformative work they have begun. Together we will advance work to ensure every student in this country receives the high quality education they deserve."
Six Week Cycle
First US drone strikes this year kill 16 militants in Pakistan - Yahoo News
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 10:58
Miranshah (Pakistan) (AFP) - The first two US drone strikes in Pakistan this year killed at least 16 militants, as Washington resumed the controversial programme after a brazen Taliban attack on Karachi airport earlier this week.
The timing of the strikes is bound to raise suspicions of coordination between the two countries after drone attacks were reportedly suspended in December at Islamabad's request to give Pakistan space to pursue a peace process.
Pressure has been mounting on the government to launch a ground offensive in the Taliban-infested North Waziristan tribal district after a dramatic week that began with the all-night siege Monday of Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, in which 37 people, including the 10 attackers, were killed.
Those concerns were compounded by a follow-up attack Tuesday, also claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in which gunmen fired upon an airport checkpoint but failed to inflict any casualties and later escaped.
Pakistani air force jets took to the skies the same day, pounding suspected militant hideouts and leaving at least 25 dead.
The US drone strikes took place within hours of each other, one late Wednesday and the second at the same site early Thursday, as militants gathered to dig out the bodies and search for the injured.
View gallery
Graphic on the attacks by gunmen on Pakistan's Karachi airport and military air strikes in Khybe '...
The first struck a vehicle and a compound in the village of Dargah Mandi in North Waziristan, where almost 60,000 residents have fled since May fearing a long-rumoured offensive.
An intelligence official in Miranshah, the region's main town some 10 kilometres (six miles) east of the village, said the missiles had struck a pick-up truck carrying about six militants and laden with explosives.
"Four of them were Uzbeks and two were Punjabi Taliban," he said, referring to militants from Pakistan's central Punjab province.
The official said the militants had parked their pick-up truck against the outer wall of the compound -- both of which were destroyed and remained ablaze.
Another senior security official confirmed the strike and said authorities had intercepted a radio message talking about the drone attack.
View gallery
Policemen keep watch outside the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore on June 11, 2014, afte '...
"One of the militants was asking others to reach the site and search for any one injured in the strike and also to dig out the dead bodies," he said.
The second strike came early Thursday.
"Three US drones fired six missiles on militants who had gathered to dig the debris of a compound," a local security official told AFP, referring to the compound destroyed in the earlier drone strike, and adding: "Missiles also hit two vehicles at the site."
Another security official confirmed the second strike, and said drones were still flying in the sky.
The last drone attack on Pakistani soil occurred on December 25, 2013, killing three suspected militants.
View gallery
Rangers take part in a search operation after the firing incident near Karachi airport in Pakistan o '...
The strikes are officially denounced by Pakistani authorities as a violation of the country's sovereignty, but leaked documents have shown intelligence coordination between the countries in the past.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in drone attacks since August 2008, according to an AFP tally, with critics charging that the strikes cause many civilian casualties.
- Uzbek fighters -
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had earlier said that Uzbek militants had been part of the Karachi airport siege. The claim was confirmed by a senior TTP official, who said it was a "joint operation."
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said IMU fighters had migrated to Pakistan's tribal areas after being forced to flee Afghanistan following the US-led invasion in 2001.
"They have been under the protection of the Pakistani Taliban for some time. The Uzbeks are dependent on them for shelter and survival and are used as their foot soldiers in operations," he said.
Foreign militants, mostly Uzbeks and Chechens, are believed to have been involved in other major attacks in recent years, including on a Karachi naval base in 2011 and the military headquarters in 2009.
The TTP rose up against the state in 2007 following the siege of a radical mosque in Islamabad, in an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
Talks between intermediaries of the government and the TTP began earlier this year and led to a ceasefire in March that broke down a month later.
Some analysts have said the period of the talks, during which it was relatively unmolested, allowed the militant group to re-gather its strength.
The United States had offered its assistance in investigating the airport siege, though it is not yet clear whether Pakistan accepted the offer.
Unrest, Conflicts & WarPolitics & GovernmentPakistanKarachi airportTalibandrone attacks
Why do all 'active shooters' end in suicide?
No Mess
COINCIDENCE-1-Justice Department Relaunches Domestic Terror Task Force - WSJ
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 20:11
June 3, 2014 2:40 p.m. ET
Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday he will reconstitute a long-defunct task force on domestic terrorism to try to expand efforts to stop violent attacks inside the U.S.
The task force the Justice Department is reviving was originally launched in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. It was scheduled to meet on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, but given the terror attacks of that day it didn't meet, and the group's work...
COINCIDENCE-2-Las Vegas Cop Killers Linked To Bundy Ranch Militia; Raged "It's Time To Wake Up." | Zero Hedge
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 20:11
Yesterday's shooting in Las Vegas drew media attention for a number of reasons but perhaps of most note was the chilling comments and premeditation involved. As WaPo reports, Jerad and Amanda Miller simultaneously executed two Las Vegas police officers in a pizza restaurant as the officers ate lunch; and then Jerad Miller covered the dead officers with a Gadsden flag and put a manifesto with a swastika on one of the officers' bodies. However, as the hours since the disaster go by, more details of the couple have been exposed including Jared's anti-government video-rant below, "Sounds a little like Nazi Germany to me, or maybe Communist Russia... Really, people? It's time to wake up. It's getting ridiculous." Comments on his Facebook page also indicated he would be a "martyr" and asked for "the death a hero deserves." However, potentially most interesting is Interior Secretary Sally Jewell noting that the two may have joined militiamen from around the country at Cliven Bundy's ranch earlier this year.
As WaPo reports,
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday highlighted news reports that said two apparent white supremacists who shot and killed three people in Las Vegas on Sunday may have joined militiamen from around the country at Cliven Bundy's ranch earlier this year.
Asked by reporters at the Western Governors Association's annual meeting here about the Interior Department's approach to Bundy, Jewell said two police officers in Las Vegas were ''gunned down by people that news reports say were also at the Bundy ranch.''
On Sunday, Jerad and Amanda Miller simultaneously executed two Las Vegas police officers in a pizza restaurant as the officers ate lunch, police officials told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Jerad Miller covered the dead officers with a Gadsden flag and put a manifesto with a swastika on one of the officers' bodies.
The Millers went to Bundy's ranch, about 80 miles outside of Las Vegas, in April, they said on social media sites. But the militiamen shunned the couple because Jerad Miller had prior felony convictions in Washington State. Jerad Miller's last note, posted on a social media site about seven hours before the shooting, read: ''The dawn of a new day. May all our coming sacrifice be worth it.''
And here is Jared Miller's video rant...
Jerad Miller rantby aaron-gell
And from his facebook page...
Of course, what makes us wonder aloud is whether this "provocation" by a Bundy-ite as he is represented, will be sufficient to reignite the drama surrounding the Bundy ranch.
Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 4.1(9 votes)
The Las Vegas Shootings the Alex Jones / Anti-Government Connection - Here Comes Trouble | SCG News
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:23
Even if you hate Alex Jones, if are part of any anti-government subculture, the Las Vegas shootings are going to be used against you. This isn't speculation. It has already started.
Alex Jones is a divisive personality, even within the anti-government/conspiracy subcultures. In fact, I find that his most aggressive detractors are found in these circles. Just mention his name in the wrong forum and you can expect a flurry of accusations. Most of these accusations fall into one of two categories: he's a Zionist agent (because his wife is Jewish), or he's a government shill being used to discredit "the movement" (I put "the movement" in quotations because everyone seems to have a different definition of what "the movement" actually is).
I speak from experience here. Due to my criticisms of the U.S. government, and the work I do exposing their mischief, I have a large number of anti-government and conspiracy oriented individuals in my audience, some of them are Alex Jones fans, some of them absolutely hate his guts. I've never seen the debate between these two contingents end well, so I generally avoid opening that can of worms. The Las Vegas shootings however call for an exception.
Why? Because the Las Vegas shooters Jerad and Amanda Miller were indeed Alex Jones fans, I have verified this personally, and their political opinions match a frequency that I encounter quite often in anti-government circles. Unfortunately, the connection is not tenuous. I've traced Jerad and Amanda's social media interactions back through 2010, and they are consistent with the profiles of anti-government activists.
Alex Jones, of course, immediately called the shooting a false flag. That's no surprise. The attempt by the media to create an association between the killers and anti-government, conspiracy theorists comes as no surprise either. This exchange has played it out so many times you could almost write the headlines in advance, however this time is different.
Why do I say that? Because the links between Alex Jones and Jerad Miller and anti-government ideas are substantial. Jerad was a dedicated fan who regularly posted Infowars links and images on Facebook, and these posts go back two years. He even wrote a long post on the infowars.com forum entitled "The Police (to kill or not to kill?)" Incredibly that post not only didn't get taken down when it was written back in 2012, and it still hasn't been taken down even after the story broke (at the time of this writing the post can still be accessed). Now granted, that post related to the use of force against an officer entering a home illegally, but from an outside perspective it looks very bad, especially in the current context.
Furthermore Jerad was present at the Bundy ranch showdown and he talked to the media.
Of course people could say "how convenient", (the insinuation being that this appearance in Nevada was staged) but Jerad and Amanda moved to Las Vegas back in January of 2014, which was long before the Bundy ranch showdown. So if it was just a setup, it was planned long in advance. The average person isn't going to buy that.
I'm not writing any of this to insinuate that the shootings were somehow caused by Alex Jones. I don't believe anything of the sort. I'm writing this because this info is publicly available, and is already being used to frame anti-government ideologies as a precursor to domestic terrorism. This is especially important considering that Eric Holder just recently announced that he intends to build a task force to deal with "Homegrown terrorism". Ironically on June 3rd, Jerad Miller posted a link to the LA Times article talking about that task force.
Just four days later Jerad (or someone with access to his account) posted this: "The dawn of a new day. May all of our coming sacrifices be worth it." That was his last post. It's also his most shared post.
Looking at their posts gave me chills, not because of any shocking or creepy content (like that last post), but because they were familiar. I've seen almost every single meme on his page shared in activist circles, and his comments are virtually indistinguishable from the kind you can find on any freedom/patriot/anti-government/conspiracy/pro-gun forum or group. Scrolling down through the posts made by Amanda and Jerad over the past two years, the most unsettling thing that I saw were the memes that they posted related to mass shootings. I say unsettling, because Amanda and Jerad were clearly aware of the fact that mass shootings were being used as a pretext to institute gun control, and they were both adamant supporters of the 2nd amendment. So why then would they go on a shooting spree when they knew for a fact that this would be used to push anti-gun legislation? It doesn't make any sense.
I took the following meme images from Amanda and Jerad's facebook profiles:
This extreme contradiction doesn't sit right with me.
When I have questions regarding a particular event, the first thing I do is to look for raw footage, and that's what I did here as well. However so far I've found nothing, not on youtube, not on the mainstream news, no cctv, not even a shaky mobile phone video. No one has uploaded any footage or images of the shootings.
How is that possible? How do two people walk into a restaurant, shoot two cops and then go to a store and kill someone else without anyone getting any video? This is 2014, everyone has a camera, and there are cameras on virtually every street corner. Furthermore every Walmart parking lot and store have cameras covering the entire premises. This Walmart was no exception.
Very strange.
The problem with stories like this, is that when we're told that the suspects committed suicide, no evidence of guilt is really expected or necessary. Why? Because to question their guilt would be to imply that the suspects may have been murdered, and that this was part of some kind of nefarious plot organized by the government itself. That prospect is way too outlandish for the average person to even contemplate, especially if you don't have hardcore evidence to back up your claims.
Speculation definitely isn't going to cut it in this case. The burden of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of those who would claim the official story is a lie (sorry Alex).
At this point the real question now is how far the demonization campaign will be taken, and whether it will get enough traction to justify the creation of new laws or institutions. My guess is that Eric Holder's homegrown terrorism task force is just the beginning. This case provides the perfect mix of what some will refer to internet radicalization and gun violence. That's a recipe for trouble.
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Report: Suspects Covered Officers' Bodies With 'Don't Tread On Me' Flags CBS Las Vegas
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 19:44
Get Breaking News FirstReceive News, Politics, and Entertainment Headlines Each Morning.
Sign UpLAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas/AP) '-- Two police officers were ''simply having lunch'' at a strip mall pizza buffet in Las Vegas when a man and a woman fatally shot them in point-blank ambush, then fled to a nearby Walmart where they killed a third person and then themselves in an apparent suicide pact, authorities said.
The attack at a CiCi's Pizza restaurant Sunday killed Officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, who are both husbands and fathers. One of the shooters yelled, ''This is a revolution,'' but a motive remains under investigation, Las Vegas police spokesman Larry Hadfield told The Associated Press.
''It's a tragic day,'' Sheriff Doug Gillespie said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. ''But we still have a community to police, and we still have a community to protect. We will be out there doing it with our heads held high, but with an emptiness in our hearts.''
For added safety, officers who normally work alone will be paired up with another officer for a time, Gillespie said.
The deadly rampage in the aging shopping center about five miles northeast of the Las Vegas Strip took place in a matter of minutes. Police were called at 11:22 a.m. to the pizzeria, where one of the officers was able to fire back at his assailants. It's unclear whether he hit them, Gillespie said.
Authorities tell KLAS-TV that witnesses heard the suspects yell, ''Tell the police the revolution has begun,'' after leaving the restaurant.
Shots were reported five minutes later at a nearby Wal-Mart, where the shooters gunned down a person just inside the front door and exchanged gunfire with police before killing themselves, police said.
The female suspect shot the male suspect before killing herself, Gillespie said. The victim's identity hasn't been confirmed, and the suspects' names haven't been released.
Authorities say the suspects, Jerad and Amanda Miller, draped ''Don't Tread On Me'' flags on the bodies of the officers. The Gadsden flag has been an adopted symbol for the Tea Party.
Both officers were pronounced dead at University Medical Center. Beck had been with the department since 2001 and leaves behind a wife and three children. Soldo had been with the force since 2006 and is survived by a wife and baby, police said.
He was described as a good father and a ''great guy'' by his sister-in-law, Colleen Soldo of Beatrice, Nebraska. She said he attended high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and previously worked as a corrections officer.
Sheree Burns, 48, told the Las Vegas Sun she was eating at the restaurant, seated just behind the two officers.
A man came up to one of the officers and shot him in the head, Burns said. She said she ducked under her table but peeked up and saw the other officer being shot.
She said the man took an officer's handgun and the two attackers fled.
Pauline Pacheco was shopping at Wal-Mart when she saw the armed man and grabbed her father to escape, KLAS-TV reported.
''We saw when the man was walking, he was shouting, yelling bad words, and suddenly he had a gun,'' she told the station. ''It was terrible, it was terrible. That man was crazy.''
Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill said the male suspect yelled ''everyone get out'' before shooting at Wal-Mart. The suspects then walked to the back of the store.
Jessica Anderson, the suspects' neighbor, told the Review-Journal that they admitted to being kicked off Cliven Bundy's ranch during his standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.
''The man told (neighbor Brandon) Monroe he had been kicked off Cliven Bundy's ranch 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas while people from throughout the U.S. gathered there in protest of a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy's cattle,'' Anderson explained to the Review-Journal.
Carol Bundy, Cliven Bundy's wife, said the shooting and the April standoff were not linked.
''I have not seen or heard anything from the militia and others who have came to our ranch that would, in any way, make me think they had an intent to kill or harm anyone,'' she told the Review-Journal.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement he was devastated by the murders of the two officers and an innocent bystander in an ''act of senseless violence.''
In a statement, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called the killings a ''cruel act'' and praised the officers for dedicating ''their lives to protecting all of us in our community.''
Wal-Mart employees and shoppers were taken to a nearby women's clothing store to be interviewed by police. The restaurant and Wal-Mart remained closed as detectives processed evidence. McMahill said the investigation is ''very complex'' because it involves more than 1,000 witnesses.
Wal-Mart expressed its condolences in a statement and that the company is working with police on the investigation. Cici's Pizza said in a statement the company was deeply saddened by the shooting and would keep the location closed until further notice.
Sunday's killings come less than a year after the Las Vegas police department's most recent on-duty death. Officer David VanBuskirk died while rescuing a stranded hiker by helicopter on July 22, 2013.
The department has lost officers over the past decade in vehicle accidents and in an off-duty shooting, but the most recent on-duty shooting death happened Feb. 1, 2006, when Sgt. Henry Prendes was ambushed during a domestic violence call.
(TM and (C) Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
This Country Proves That National Gun Buybacks Reduce Mass Shootings | TIME
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:53
TIMEOpinionpoliticsSurrendered firearms sit on a table during a gun buyback event on August 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California.Justin Sullivan'--Getty ImagesSometimes a tragedy is so awful that it changes the national debate. The 1996 Dunblane school shooting in Scotland and the 2011 Norwegian gun massacre all prompted an outpouring of anguish and a demand for changes in law. In Australia, that moment was the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which a gunman killed 35 people at a tourist attraction in Tasmania.
As the U.S. reels over yet another mass shooting '' this one involving a man who killed six students at UC Santa Barbara and shot himself '' it's worth taking a look at what happened in my country after that mass shooting '' and at what has happened since.
As a nation that won its independence from Britain by consent rather than revolution, Australia's Constitution does not contain a right to bear arms. But firearms are a part of rural life (used, for example, to cull kangaroos). Our police officers carry a firearm when they're on patrol. Shooting ranges are common.
That's the backdrop for the Port Arthur massacre, which took place a month after a conservative government had been elected. After the shooting, the new Prime Minister, John Howard, immediately came under pressure from elements of his party to leave gun laws unchanged.
But he didn't. Supported by Tim Fisher, leader of the rural-based National Party (with which Howard's party was in coalition), Howard tightened laws around access to firearms, particularly rifles and shotguns. The government also announced a buyback, with owners being compensated for their weapons at market prices. More than 650,000 guns were handed in.
From 2008 to 2010, while working as an economics professor at the Australian National University, I teamed up with Wilfrid Laurier University's Christine Neill to study how the Australian gun buyback affected the firearms homicide and suicide rate. Whichever way you cut the data, it seemed clear that the national gun buyback reduced gun deaths. In the decade prior to the buyback, there was an average of one mass shooting (five or more victims) every year. In the decade after the buyback, there were no mass shootings. Overall, the firearms homicide and firearms suicide rates had been trending steadily downwards through the 1980s and early 1990s, but the fall accelerated after the buyback. Analyzing variations in the amount of guns turned in for buyback between states, we again found the same result: in states where more firearms were bought back, there was a bigger drop in gun deaths.
Although the policy was aimed at reducing gun homicides, we found that its effect was mostly to reduce the gun suicide rate, with most of the 200 lives saved being averted suicides. This makes sense once you realize that the ratio of firearms suicides to homicides is around 4 to 1 in Australia.
In the decade and a half since the Australian gun buyback, the number of firearms per person has stayed constant, and gun deaths have remained thankfully low.
When I studied the effect of the policy, I was a professor. Since then, I have entered federal politics, representing the Australian Labor Party. So one lesson is to recognize courage when you see it in your political opponents. Howard and Fisher could have squibbed the chance to change Australia's gun laws, but they didn't. Both believed that gun laws needed to change, and set about building a political movement for reform. They probably paid a political price at the 1998 election.
Another lesson is the value of a bold package of reforms in changing culture. When U.S. researchers have studied the impact of U.S. gun buybacks on crime, they typically find no effect. Most likely, it's because these buybacks are conducted at the city level, and are not accompanied by a general tightening in ownership laws.
In my parliamentary district, most see firm gun laws as supporting the ability of law-abiding shooters to enjoy their sports. This was the philosophy adopted by America's National Rifle Association in the 1960s, when it backed a crackdown on cheap handguns (''Saturday night specials'') because, as they said at the time, they had ''no sporting purpose.''
Yet since 1977, when Harlan Carter and Wayne LaPierre took over the organization, the NRA has taken progressively more hardline positions: opposing bans on armor-piercing bullets, describing federal agents as ''jack-booted thugs.'' Australia's gun lobbies have never been as well resourced, connected or politically extreme.
Much as we'd like to believe the ''Dirty Harry'' fantasy that guns are used to defend goodies from baddies, the world doesn't work like that. Gun deaths are more likely to occur when a depressed teen finds dad's gun, when an angry spouse turns a rifle on their cheating partner, or when a young boy opens the bedside drawer and starts playing with the a loaded pistol inside. That's why the most careful U.S. studies point to the same conclusion: more guns, more crime.
Andrew Leigh is the assistant treasury spokesperson for the Labor Opposition in Australia and was an economics professor at the Australian National University in Canberra. He serves in the House of Representatives, for the seat of Fraser. His website is www.andrewleigh.com. This piece originally appeared atZocalo Public Square.
Matthew Miller joins Vianovo- Vianovo
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:21
Matthew Miller joins Vianovo- VianovoMatthew Miller joins VianovoVianovo | Sep 25, 2011WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 25, 2011) '' Vianovo, a leading strategy consultancy at the intersection of business, policy, and politics announced today thatMatthew Miller, former Director of the Department of Justice's Office of Public Affairs, has joined the firm as partner in Vianovo's Washington office.
''Matt has earned a reputation as a trusted advisor to senior leaders in the government, campaigns and the private sector, a skilled strategic planner, and an experienced communicator during calm and crisis,'' said Matthew Dowd, a Vianovo partner. ''He brings to Vianovo this extensive experience from across the country that will be invaluable to our company and clients. It is with great enthusiasm we welcome this seasoned hand and friend.''
Miller joined the Department of Justice at the outset of the Obama administration after helping shepherd Attorney General Eric Holder's nomination through the Senate. At DOJ, he helped lead the Obama administration's media response to three major terrorist attacks, as well as coordinate communications for the Department's reaction to the financial crisis, major white collar and criminal investigations, and antitrust and civil matters.
''Vianovo has put together an incredible team of political, business and communications strategists, and I couldn't be more excited to join them,'' Miller said. ''The firm offers an innovative approach to public affairs challenges, and I'm looking forward to expanding that work in Washington and around the country.''
Miller previously served in leadership positions in both the House of Representatives and Senate, as communications director for the House Democratic Caucus and for Senator Charles Schumer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has worked in political campaigns across the country, including Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign, and as a senior strategist for the Austin-based public affairs firm Public Strategies Inc.
''Matt brings a set of talents respected across the political divide,'' said Vianovo partner Tucker Eskew, a Reagan and George W. Bush veteran, ''and he's a great fit for our hands-on strategic approach to high stakes problem-solving.''
Vianovo, with offices in Austin, Dallas, Washington and Mexico City,is a management and communications consultancy that specializes in high stakes positioning. The bipartisan firm advises leaders and organizations on branding, crisis management, public policy, issue advocacy, communications, strategic planning and business development issues. Through Vianovo Ventures, it partners with companies, start-ups, private equity funds, and investors through a variety of entrepreneurial models '' including equity participation and licensing agreements '' to help them achieve their business goals. For more information, visit www.Vianovo.com.
ABOUT VIANOVOVianovo is a boutique management consultancy that counsels companies and causes on high-stakes brand, policy and crisis issues.
AUSTINDALLASWASHINGTON D.C.MEXICO CITYMatthew Miller joins Vianovo- VianovoMatthew Miller joins VianovoVianovo | Sep 25, 2011WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 25, 2011) '' Vianovo, a leading strategy consultancy at the intersection of business, policy, and politics announced today thatMatthew Miller, former Director of the Department of Justice's Office of Public Affairs, has joined the firm as partner in Vianovo's Washington office.
''Matt has earned a reputation as a trusted advisor to senior leaders in the government, campaigns and the private sector, a skilled strategic planner, and an experienced communicator during calm and crisis,'' said Matthew Dowd, a Vianovo partner. ''He brings to Vianovo this extensive experience from across the country that will be invaluable to our company and clients. It is with great enthusiasm we welcome this seasoned hand and friend.''
Miller joined the Department of Justice at the outset of the Obama administration after helping shepherd Attorney General Eric Holder's nomination through the Senate. At DOJ, he helped lead the Obama administration's media response to three major terrorist attacks, as well as coordinate communications for the Department's reaction to the financial crisis, major white collar and criminal investigations, and antitrust and civil matters.
''Vianovo has put together an incredible team of political, business and communications strategists, and I couldn't be more excited to join them,'' Miller said. ''The firm offers an innovative approach to public affairs challenges, and I'm looking forward to expanding that work in Washington and around the country.''
Miller previously served in leadership positions in both the House of Representatives and Senate, as communications director for the House Democratic Caucus and for Senator Charles Schumer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has worked in political campaigns across the country, including Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign, and as a senior strategist for the Austin-based public affairs firm Public Strategies Inc.
''Matt brings a set of talents respected across the political divide,'' said Vianovo partner Tucker Eskew, a Reagan and George W. Bush veteran, ''and he's a great fit for our hands-on strategic approach to high stakes problem-solving.''
Vianovo, with offices in Austin, Dallas, Washington and Mexico City,is a management and communications consultancy that specializes in high stakes positioning. The bipartisan firm advises leaders and organizations on branding, crisis management, public policy, issue advocacy, communications, strategic planning and business development issues. Through Vianovo Ventures, it partners with companies, start-ups, private equity funds, and investors through a variety of entrepreneurial models '' including equity participation and licensing agreements '' to help them achieve their business goals. For more information, visit www.Vianovo.com.
ABOUT VIANOVOVianovo is a boutique management consultancy that counsels companies and causes on high-stakes brand, policy and crisis issues.
WRITTEN BY VIANOVO-The week ahead: Bipartisanship in 2013 hinges on upcoming immigration reform vote - Texas on the Potomac
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:16
Welcome to Texas on the Potomac's ''The Week Ahead,'' a preview of events to come on Capitol Hill and at the White House this week. This week's report was written by William K. Moore of ViaNovo.
' ' '
As the Boston Marathon bombers transfixed the nation last week, the Senate voted down every gun-related proposal before it. Senators failed to muster 60 votes for a bipartisan plan to expand background checks for firearms purchases or even enhanced penalties for weapons trafficking. Majority Leader Harry Reid shelved the bill, hoping to fight another day.
The defeat was a sharp rebuke to President Barack Obama, who campaigned for stricter gun laws following the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. The bill is unlikely to return to the floor unless another catastrophe captures the nation's outrage.
(Facebook Photo)
As one bipartisan effort was rejected, another emerged. A bipartisan group of eight senators introduced an immigration reform plan Thursday to legalize undocumented immigrants, beef up border security, strengthen employment screening and create temporary worker programs.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings on immigration reform while Boston was shuddered and law enforcement pursued the bombers. Democrats supported the plan as Republicans divided. While events in Boston fostered hopes for a more unified nation, the first indications pointed toward discord.
Billy Moore
The immigration and gun bills share vulnerabilities: high profile efforts that make political sense nationally but are fraught with local political perils. Overcoming local difficulties to achieve a national goal will require Democratic and Republican leaders to work in concert for passage. Prospects for immigration legislation may be more hopeful, as Vice President Joe Biden observed, on account of senators claiming to have the political flexibility for only one tough vote '' and that they saved that vote for immigration, dooming the gun initiative.
The immigration timetable looks toward a Senator floor debate in late May or early June. Its success could make the gun vote an outlier, adding momentum for a summer fiscal bargain. Its failure could portend the demise of bipartisanship in 2013, yielding congressional gridlock.
Matthew Miller- Vianovo
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:10
Matthew Miller- VianovoMatthew MillerPartnerMatthew Miller has worked at the highest levels of government, campaigns, and corporations as a trusted advisor, communications strategist and crisis counselor to political and business leaders.
Before joining Vianovo, Matt served as the Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Justice, leading the Department's communications team and serving as Attorney General Eric Holder's spokesman.
Matt has worked in leadership positions in both the U.S. House and Senate, serving as communications director for the House Democratic Caucus and for Senator Charles Schumer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, where he helped Democrats win eight Senate seats in 2008. He has also worked for Senator Robert Menendez, and in 2004 led the Kerry presidential campaign's Florida press operation, directing research, communications, and rapid response.
Matt previously worked for five years as a Senior Strategist at Public Strategies, Inc., where he developed legislative, regulatory, public affairs, and media campaigns for a range of Fortune 500 corporations and trade associations. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.
Contact Matthew Miller
Our Team
AUSTINDALLASWASHINGTON D.C.MEXICO CITYMatthew Miller- VianovoMatthew MillerPartnerMatthew Miller has worked at the highest levels of government, campaigns, and corporations as a trusted advisor, communications strategist and crisis counselor to political and business leaders.
Before joining Vianovo, Matt served as the Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Justice, leading the Department's communications team and serving as Attorney General Eric Holder's spokesman.
Matt has worked in leadership positions in both the U.S. House and Senate, serving as communications director for the House Democratic Caucus and for Senator Charles Schumer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, where he helped Democrats win eight Senate seats in 2008. He has also worked for Senator Robert Menendez, and in 2004 led the Kerry presidential campaign's Florida press operation, directing research, communications, and rapid response.
Matt previously worked for five years as a Senior Strategist at Public Strategies, Inc., where he developed legislative, regulatory, public affairs, and media campaigns for a range of Fortune 500 corporations and trade associations. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.
Contact Matthew Miller
Our Team
About- Vianovo
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:09
Direct EngagementOur senior leaders deliver hands-on service in every client relationship. We don't show up at proposals and then hand off engagements to junior staff.
Deep CollaborationWe don't have all the answers and don't pretend to. Some of our best work has come from helping clients articulate and bring their own ideas to life.
Focus on actionWe like to make things happen, not make reports sit on shelves. This often means speaking hard truths to senior management to break false concerns.
Clear CommunicationWe don't like consulting jargon and try to avoid it. We agree with Winston Churchhill that "...short words are the best, and old words best of all."
Fact-based analysisWe are data-driven people. We value facts and experience, not intuition and theory - this often leads us to challenge long-held beliefs.
Sense of PerspectiveOur clients work hard. We work hard. The work is important, but life's short. A sense of humor and understanding of life beyond work is part of our DNA.
Australian mass murders - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 02:38
Several massacres occurred in Australia leading up to firearms licensing laws in 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre, one of the deadliest lone wolf massacres in history. A 2006 study[1] shows a drop in mass killings after firearms licensing laws were enacted.
Mass deaths[edit]Cullin-La-Ringo massacre - Horatio Wills and his traveling party were killed by Aborigines at Cullin-La-Ringo Station in Queensland in 1860; police, native police and civilians killed 60 to 70 Aborigines in response.George David Silva murdered six members of the Ching family at Alligator Creek near Mackay, Queensland in 1911.Coniston massacre - Over 50 Aboriginal people were killed in the last Aboriginal massacre in 1928. The motive was revenge for the killing of dingo hunter Frederick Brooks.Hope Forest massacre - Clifford Cecil Bartholomew shot dead ten members of his family in Hope Forest near Adelaide, September 1971.[2]22 September 1976 - William Robert Wilson - Killed two people and wounded four on Boundary Street, Spring Hill, Brisbane. Wilson took a .22 calibre rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition to Boundary Street around 12.30 pm and began shooting randomly. He shot and killed Monika Schleus, aged 17, as she crossed Boundary Street. Wilson shot and wounded Donald William Hepburn Galloway, who was also crossing the street. Proceeding to a milk bar, Wilson shot and killed Marianne Kalatzis, aged 18, and wounded Mavis Ethel Sanders and Virginia Hollidge. In the neighbouring shop he shot and wounded Quinto Alberti. Wilson was captured by police around 4:15 pm at a suburban house where Wilson was holding a man and four young women hostage. Wilson served three years in a mental hospital. On being found fit for trial, he was sentenced in 1980 to two life sentences for the murders and 10 years each, concurrently, for the four attempted murders. He pleaded guilty to all charges.[3]Milperra massacre - Two biker gangs, the Comanchero and the Bandidos, engaged in a shoot-out in a hotel car park, killing 7 people in 1984, including a bystander. Only one defendant was acquitted on the murder charges.Joseph Schwab - 1987, Schwab shot dead 5 people in and around the Kimberley region in Western Australia before being shot dead by police.[4]Hoddle Street massacre - Armed with two rifles and a shotgun, Julian Knight shot 7 people dead and wounded another 19 in 1987 before surrendering to authorities.Queen Street massacre - Armed with a sawn-off rifle, Frank Vitkovic roamed the Australia Post building killing 8 and wounding 5, also in 1987. When the weapon was finally wrestled from him, he committed suicide by jumping out of a nearby window.Surry Hills massacre - Paul Anthony Evers killed 5 people with a 12-gauge shotgun at a public housing precinct in Surry Hills in 1990 before surrendering to police.[5]Strathfield massacre - In 1991 Wade Frankum killed 7 people and wounded 6 others with a large knife and an SKS before turning the gun on himself when he realised he could not escape.Central Coast Massacre - Malcolm Baker killed 6 people and injured another with a shotgun in 1992 before being arrested by police.Port Arthur massacre - In 1996, armed with two semi-automatic rifles, Martin Bryant killed 35 people around Port Arthur and wounded 21 before being caught by police the next day following an overnight siege.Childers Palace Fire - In June 2000, drifter and con-artist Robert Long started a fire at the Childers Palace backpackers hostel that killed 15 people.Monash University shooting - In October 2002, Huan Yun Xiang, a student, shot his classmates and teacher, killing two and injuring five.Churchill Fire - 10 confirmed deaths due to a deliberately lit fire. The fire was lit on 7th of February 2009.[6]Quakers Hill Nursing Home Fire - 10 confirmed and as many as 21 people may have died as a result of a deliberately lit fire in a Quakers Hill nursing home. The fire was lit early on 18th of November 2011.[7]Murders over an extended period of time[edit]Main article:List of Australian serial killers
Eric Edgar Cooke murdered 8 people between 1959 and 1963.Backpacker murders - Ivan Milat killed seven international backpackers in the early 1990s, and is widely suspected of killing 30 more young adults.Melbourne gangland killings - 36 underworld figures murdered so far in gang related violence between 1998 and 2010.Snowtown murders - 12 murders committed from 1992 until 1999.John Wayne Glover - murders of six elderly women on Sydney's North Shore over a fourteen month period in 1989-90Truro murders - murders of seven women from 1976 until 1977Miscellaneous[edit]Whiskey Au Go Go fire - Fire lit in club killed 15Douglas Crabbe - Truck driver deliberately crashed his truck into a hotel, killing five and badly wounding 16.Russell Street Bombing - 23 wounded when a car bomb ignites outside a Police Building. One of the wounded, a female police officer, died later of injuries from the explosion.Sydney Hilton bombing - Two garbage men were killed and 12 passers-by were injured by a bomb planted in a garbage bin outside the Sydney Hilton Hotel in 1978. A police officer who was wounded died later.Effects on firearm laws[edit]Port Arthur Massacre - Semi-automatic rifles and pump action/self-loading shotguns were banned from civilians and a genuine reason was required for all other firearms. Both a firearms license and a buyers permit are necessary to legally purchase a firearm. Furthermore, an acceptable reason must be stated on the permit for buying the weapon, and a minimum 28 day "cooling off" period must be enforced before the issuing of the license.See also[edit]References[edit]
Map: There have been at least 74 shootings at schools since Newtown - The Washington Post
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 00:56
By Niraj ChokshiJune 11 at 8:22 AMTuesday's school shooting in Oregon is at least the 74th instance of shots being fired on school grounds or in school buildings since the late-2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., according to a list maintained by the group Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for policies it believes limit gun violence.
There have been at least 37 shootings on school grounds this year, which is just barely half over. All told, there has been nearly one shooting per week in the year and a half since Newtown. Everytown identifies a school shooting as any instance in which a firearm was discharged within a school building or on school grounds, sourced to multiple news reports per incident. Therefore, the data isn't limited to mass shootings like Newtown'--it includes assaults, homicides, suicides and even accidental shootings. Of the shootings, 35 took place at a college or university, while 39 took place in K-12 schools.
Georgia, which passed an expansive pro-gun law this year, has been site of the most incidents on Everytown's list, with 10 shootings reported. Florida was next, with seven. Tennessee claimed five, and North Carolina and California was home to four each. Atlanta was the only city that had three such shootings. Six other cities had two shootings. All told, 31 states are represented on the list of shootings in schools or on school campuses or grounds.
AFebruary analysisby the group of a list of school shootings since Newtown (which was later expanded) found that nearly half resulted in at least one death. Three in four shooters obtained guns at home, at least in instances in which the firearm's source could be determined.
Here's a map of the cities where the 74 shootings on Everytown's list took place.
Note: Blue markers represent incidents in 2014; red markers are for incidents from 2013. You may have to zoom in to view separate incidents in the same city. Cities that were home to multiple shootings are Atlanta; Grambling, La.; Savannah, Ga.; Jackson, Tenn.; Roswell, N.M.; Milwaukee; Augusta, Ga.
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Las Vegas SHooters not suicided
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 00:31
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Las Vegas police said Wednesday that detectives talked on three occasions earlier this year with a married couple who killed two officers in a pizza shop and a good Samaritan in a nearby store, but they didn't express the extreme anti-authority views that apparently led to the rampage.After shooting the patrol officers at the restaurant, the couple went to a nearby Wal-Mart, announced they were starting a revolution and shot a man with a gun who tried to stop them before they died by gunfire. Authorities are still investigating what sparked the carnage."This continues to be a massive ongoing investigation," said Assistant Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill, who corrected earlier reports that the woman, Amanda Miller, shot her husband, Jerad Miller, when they were cornered in the back of the store.In fact, Jerad Miller was fatally wounded by gunfire from at least one of three officers who fired shots as they closed in on the couple, McMahill said.Department officials released a 23-second store security video clip showing the last moments of the Millers' lives, including narration by a store guard saying Amanda Miller appeared to shoot her husband."In real time, the officers are receiving the information that the female shot the male," McMahill said.The clip shows the couple lying on the floor of the Wal-Mart as police corner them in the back of the store. Automotive products are strewn around them.Amanda Miller is on her back while Jerad lies on his stomach, wearing a bulletproof vest and apparently wounded. Both are holding handguns.Slowly, Jerad's head begins to dip. Amanda appears to turn toward her husband and fire in his direction.Then she turns the gun and points it at her forehead. The video ends. The narrator uses a police code, "405," to say she shot herself.The Clark County coroner previously ruled their deaths a homicide and a suicide.McMahill conceded the chain of events was "dramatically different" from previous accounts provided by police.But he said local, state and federal investigators were still sorting through audio, video and witness accounts of the mid-day Sunday shootings and tracing the Millers' activities in Nevada and Indiana, where the couple lived before moving to Las Vegas in January.Investigators are also looking into YouTube rants and social media postings by the Millers calling law enforcement the "oppressor" and government officials "criminals." The couple left a swastika and a "Don't tread on me" flag on the body of one of the slain police officers.McMahill said authorities are also investigating the couple's presence in April at a standoff between armed supporters of southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and federal agents who abandoned efforts to round up Bundy's cattle in a dispute about unauthorized grazing on public land.The Millers were asked to leave by militia members supporting Bundy after Jerad Miller made other protesters uncomfortable."These are the only two at the ranch who went from ideology to action," McMahill told reporters Wednesday. But he added that police couldn't definitely link the two events.Police also disclosed for the first time Wednesday that one officer was wounded in the thigh by shrapnel in the Wal-Mart. The injury wasn't serious and wasn't discovered until the officer returned home that night, McMahill said.McMahill and Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Las Vegas police interviewed Jared Miller in February about threats he made in a telephone call to Indiana motor vehicle officials about his driver's license being confiscated when he was pulled over near Hoover Dam, about 30 miles east of Las Vegas.In a recording provided by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Jerad Miller complains about the insurance issue that led to the confiscation.In the last seconds of the seven-minute call, he tells an operator, "If they come to arrest me for noncompliance or whatever, I'm just going to start shooting people."McMahill said three veteran detectives closed their inquiry after determining the statement didn't constitute a credible threat, and that they had no probable cause for an arrest.The Millers also provided written statements to police in early April and late May as witnesses to crimes involving other people at the Las Vegas apartment complex where they lived."We determined that nothing stood out," McMahill said. "There was no indication provided by the suspects of their anti-police feelings."A funeral is planned Thursday for Officer Igor Soldo, 31, and a memorial is scheduled Saturday for Officer Alyn Beck, 41. Both slain officers were husbands and fathers.Funeral plans haven't been made public for Joseph Wilcox, 31, the Las Vegas man killed in the Wal-Mart.
Tourrettes email
Hi Adam,
I have listened to NA since episode 1 (and yes, I donated several times :-) ).
I have been very interested in hearing you talk about the slight form of Tourette that you have. When you described the symptoms I recognized a lot of that in my 10 year old son.
My simple question to you is:"How was Tourette diagnosed with you and what do you recommend as follow up/through with our son?".
We already contacted the doctor who wants to redirect us to a psychiatrist.
Evernote struck by cyber-attack
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 04:04
11 June 2014Last updated at 03:40 By Leo KelionTechnology desk editorThe popular online notes and web clippings saving service Evernote has suffered disruption after coming under cyberattack.
The firm said it was hit by a distributed denial of service attack that began on Tuesday.
Some members were temporarily unable to synchronise their filings from one device to another while it continued.
The California-based company announced last month that it had more than 100 million users.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are caused by what can be thousands of computers sending huge amounts of data to a target's servers in an effort to overwhelm them.
This sometimes involves hijacked PCs - whose owners may be unaware of their involvement - in what is known as a botnet.
This is not the first time the storage service has been compromised. In 2013 it said hackers had managed to access user names, email addresses and encrypted passwords.
However, it appears that the latest cyber-assault is more limited.
Spokeswoman Ronda Scott told the BBC that the cyber-assault, caused by an unknown perpetrator, began at 14:25 local time [22:25 BST] on Tuesday and had not yet ended.
"We continue to mitigate the effects of the attack, but have successfully returned Evernote to service," she added.
"As is the nature of DDoS attacks, there was no data loss, and no accounts were compromised."
War on Ammo
Definition of Right to bear ARMS
Weapons and ammunition; armaments:they were subjugated by force of arms[AS MODIFIER]: arms exports
Shut Up Slave!
To Ward Off Homeless, London Apartment Owners Turn to Spikes
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:23
The owners of a row of luxury condominium apartments in London are the focus of controversy from human rights campaigners following the decision to install dull, one-inch ''spikes'' meant to deter the homeless from sleeping near their buildings.
The spikes have been around for the past two weeks, according to residents who live in the building. They became the focal point of a global debate on homeless issues after a British man posted a photo of them to Twitter.
The spikes, which are set up alongside an apartment building that shares space with a homeless shelter, have drawn a wave of criticism among residents and amateur pundits on social media alike.
''I feel really uncomfortable having these spikes in front of my home,'' resident Emi Takehara told Sky News. ''It's really treating these homeless people like animals, nothing less.''
''These anti-homeless studs are like the spikes they use to keep pigeons off buildings,'' Twitter user David Wells wrote. ''The destitute (are) now considered vermin.''
Others say the developers are simply responding to an issue that has no easy solution.
''I live in an area where there are drunks/junkies sleeping rough,'' one user wrote on Twitter. ''I feel sorry for them but don't want them in my doorstep.''
Howard Sinclair, the chief executive of a local homeless shelter, doesn't want anyone sleeping in doorways either. But the installation of metal spikes is a harsh deterrent that provides no real solution to the problem.
''Each year our teams, in Southwark and elsewhere, help thousands of people off the streets,'' Sinclair told Sky News. ''Part of their role is to prevent people adopting a street lifestyle which, on occasions, means adapting the physical environment to prevent people sleeping rough in a particular location on a regular basis. These 'studs' appear a rather brutal way of doing just that.''
''It is a scandal that anyone should sleep on the streets in 21st-century Britain,'' said Katharine Sacks-Jones who leads the homelessness charity Crisis. ''They deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes.''
Alex Andreou, who was once homeless himself, said the installation of spikes will make ''recovery less likely'' for any homeless individual who comes upon them.
''It consigns them further out of sight so that the rest may continue to pretend that real poverty doesn't exist,'' Andreou wrote in a think piece for The Guardian. ''It doesn't just deny someone who has absolutely nothing, a place to rest; it is a sign which reads, Not even this bit of earth. Not even for the night.''
Officials say they will investigate any complaints about the installation of the spikes, which have appeared in other locations throughout London. Those officials say they can't order the removal of the spikes if they are found to be in compliance with building codes.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.
War on Ammo
Father shoots dead robber who held gun to his daughter's head
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:00
Published time: June 11, 2014 20:06Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP
A father killed one man and critically injured another after the two men pulled a gun on his teenage daughter and dragged her into her home. The second man is in police custody, charged with murder, burglary, kidnapping and criminal action.
It was around 11 p.m. on Monday in St. Louis when a 17-year-old girl left the home she lives in with her mother and 5-year-old brother. She went out to get something from a car when two masked and armed men approached her, police said.
The men, later identified as Terrell Johnson and Cortez McClinton, forced the girl into the house, using her as a shield. The teen's father, who was visiting at the time, saw the men walking up with his daughter. He ''retrieved his firearm and fired several shots at the suspects, striking both of them as they entered [the] residence,'' the police report said. ''The mother'... also retrieved a firearm and fired one round at the suspects, not striking them.''
The father, who asked not to be identified, told KTVI in an interview that he had no choice but to fire. ''He was holding her hostage. She was a human shield. So I did what I had to do,'' he said.
Johnson collapsed in the home and was pronounced dead at the scene. McClinton was standing behind the other suspect at the time Johnson was hit. The second suspect was hit in the chest and both thighs before he ran away in Johnson's car. His brother brought him to the hospital, where he remains in critical but stable condition, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Neighbors heard the gunshots and called police, according to KTVI. A stray bullet from the incident struck the home of Jessica Swartz across the street.
''I was freaked out. For lack of a better word, yeah, scared,'' she said. ''Just laying in bed watching TV getting ready to go to sleep. Then I hear the gunshots and heard glass break, felt debris, jumped to the other side of my bed and waited for it to stop. Then called 911.''
Another neighbor said that crime has increased in the St. Louis neighborhood in recent years. ''You work hard for everything you have and somebody tries to come in with a gun and take away everything you have away from you. That's not right. That's scary,'' said Joan Bryan, who lives a few houses down. ''This neighborhood used to be so good. You could go to the store and leave the door open. Not anymore.''
Bryan told KSDK, "You have to protect yourself. You just can't let people do that. You have to have some kind of protection."
Both suspects in the case were known to police before the shooting, KTVI reported. Johnson served time in the Missouri prison system for first-degree robbery.
McClinton was charged with first-degree murder for the 2010 killing of Brian Reed, but the charges were later dropped because witnesses refused to cooperate. He was also previously convicted of drug possession and distribution, as well as vehicle tampering, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The surviving suspect has been charged with second-degree (or felony) murder, kidnapping, burglary and armed criminal action in the Monday shooting. McClinton's cash bail was set at $1 million. Police say they are still investigating the incident.
Haiku-Herman and the Parliamentary Vote email
Hallo Adam, Hallo John,
if I didn’t mishear, you confused the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council in regard of the voting chaos in the EU that has broken out. The scandal is that the recent parliament election has been advertised in this way: if the conservatives win, Juncker will be the next president of the European Commission, if the social democrats win, Martin Schulz (the incumbent president of the European Parliament) will be the next resident of the European Commission.
But: although the conservatives won, especially Cameron doesn’t like the long-term apparatchik Juncker to become President of the Commission, and this is in his good right: the voting mechanism of the Parliamentary vote fixing the head of the Commission is written down nowhere at all! It was just considered (mainly by the two guys themselves) a good idea for a bait to get people to go to the vote. The turnout was disastrous nevertheless, but it would have been even more disastrous without the empty promise.
The incumbent President of the European Commission is Barroso, which is in power since 2004. While both the Commission and the Council have something to say in the executive and legislative branches of government, the President of the European Commission (although I cannot name it more specifically than what you could find on Wikipedia) traditionally declares more of the agenda than the president of the European Council. The Commission can in fact bring in laws, which are debated and voted upon by the Parliament, which cannot propose laws by itself.
In the European Council the incumbent administrations (Merkel, Cameron, Hollande, …) and the ministers of the member states get together and enforce more short term political action. The President of the European Council (Rompuy, at the moment) just sits at the side and has no voting rights, which is one of the reasons why he was made fun of by Farage in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBGKoB6TjBM .
The votes in the Council are a farce anyway, because although for example the governments of Germany and the UK have the same weight in the elections as the ones from Romania and Bulgaria (every country has exactly one vote), the latter two will better shut the fuck up unless they don’t want to lose support by the big economies.
Hope this sheds a bit of light into the dark forest which is the EUSSR. Keep up the great work!
The Geisha Licker
No 10 backs wife of Kinnock's son for top EU post: Helle Thorning-Schmidt among preferred candidates for president of the European Commission | Mail Online
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:54
Prime minister of Denmark being touted for the European Commission roleCameron said to view her as more acceptable than Jean-Claude JunkerMs Thorning-Schmidt, 47, is married to Neil Kinnock's son StephenJuncker is the leading candidate to become next EU Commission chiefBut Cameron says European leaders must choose top jobs in BrusselsRow threatens to undermine PM's bid to reform UK's relationship with EUBy Tamara Cohen, In Sweden and Daily Mail Reporter
Published: 20:01 EST, 10 June 2014 | Updated: 20:02 EST, 10 June 2014
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the wife of Neil Kinnock's son Stephen, is among Downing Street's preferred candidates for president of the European Commission
Neil Kinnock's daughter-in-law is among Downing Street's preferred candidates for president of the European Commission '' in what could become the latest coup for the family in snaring lucrative top jobs in Brussels.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the prime minister of Denmark, is being touted for the role, with David Cameron said to view her as a much more acceptable alternative to Jean-Claude Juncker, the arch-federalist former prime minister of Luxembourg.
He would also be happy with Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, a free marketeer who models herself on Margaret Thatcher.
Miss Thorning-Schmidt, 47, is married to former Labour leader Lord Kinnock's son Stephen. She infamously featured in a selfie with Mr Cameron and Barack Obama last year at Nelson Mandela's funeral service.
Even though Miss Thorning-Schmidt is a social democrat, Mr Cameron is believed to favour her because her country is on the Eurosceptic wing of the continent.
Should she get the job '' worth £236,000 a year '' she would be the latest Kinnock to work in Europe. Lord and Lady Kinnock have both held roles in Europe, the former as an EU Commissioner and the latter as an MEP, and their son worked as a research assistant in the European Parliament.
Last night a Government source said Miss Thorning-Schmidt was one of several 'high-quality' candidates who are 'younger, bolder' and more willing to 'take the European Commission on a different course'.
Disagreements over who should take on the crucial role continued yesterday when Angela Merkel publicly slapped down Mr Cameron for issuing 'threats' to leave Europe if he does not get his way over choosing the European Commission president.
Mr Cameron was at a summit in Sweden yesterday trying to drum up support to block front-runner Mr Juncker.
The Prime Minister fears Mr Juncker is not open to reform of the EU, and has suggested appointing him could send Britain drifting towards the exit door in the in-out referendum he has promised for 2017.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel this morning warned David Cameron not to make threats in his bid to overhaul Britain's relationship with Brussels
Mrs Merkel insisted she was still backing Jean-Claude Juncker to be President of the European Commission, but urged other leaders to act in a 'European spirit'
When the Prime Minister was asked if he had threatened to leave the European Union, at a press conference in Harpsund, the Swedish prime minister's country residence, Mrs Merkel cut in.
She said: 'I made myself clear by saying that I am for Jean-Claude Juncker. But when I made that statement in Germany I also made the point that we act in a European spirit.
'We always do that because otherwise you would never reach a compromise...Threats are not part and parcel of that spirit. That is not part of the way in which we usually proceed.'
It was a snub for Mr Cameron who is understood to have hit out at Mr Juncker's suitability for the role at the leaders dinner on Monday night.
The four leaders agreed that whoever the next commissioner is, a commitment to tackle benefit tourism must be top of their agenda.
The commissioner's programme is written in the next few months and they plan to convince the other 24 national leaders that protecting country's social security systems from the freedom of movement rules must be on it.
Tensions were laid bare during the joint press conference between Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt and British Prime Minister David Cameron, at the summer residence, Harpsund, south of Stockholm, Sweden
SUMMIT HAD SMOKED SALMON, BEEF AND ROWS ON THE MENUThe four European leaders posed first on a boat and later at lecterns in the sunshine, keen to present a united front.
But behind the scenes there remain deep divisions about who will run the European Commission.
Last night they dined on smoked salmon tartare, followed by roast filet of beef with bacon and morel ragu and for dessert, elderflower semifredo strawberry compote with meringue and strawberries.
The public spat over Jean-Claude Juncker will leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Mr Cameron attending the mini summit in the Swedish countryside, with Mrs Merkel, the Swedish prime minister Frederik Reinfeldt and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, all EU reformers.
The foursome enjoyed a scenic boat trip on a balmy Monday evening in matching life jackets, then enjoyed an intimate meal at the residence, where Mr Cameron told them allowing Mr Juncker to have the role would be a 'stitch up' by the European Parliament and would set a 'dangerous precedent' for the future.
The leaders nailed down their priorities for reform and who would best fulfil them.
A clampdown on benefit tourism is a top priority, along with jobs and growth, cutting red tape for businesses and completing the single market in energy.
Downing Street sources say there are 'high quality' alternative candidates Mr Cameron would support. They are thought to include the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who featured in a selfie with Mr Cameron and Barack Obama last year in South Africa.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund has ruled herself out, but would be a popular choice for many, and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, a free marketer who models herself on Margaret Thatcher.
Sweden's Mr Reinfeldt boosted Mr Cameron's hopes yesterday this week by saying he agreed that national leaders, not MEPs should pick the Commission president.
Mr Cameron said after the summit that he wanted Britain to stay in a reformed EU, and would leave the decision to a referendum.
But he added: 'Obviously the approach that the EU takes between now and then will be very important. If we can achieve reforms, if we can demonstrate openness, competitiveness, flexibility, less interference, reform - if people are capable of taking the EU forward in that direction that will be helpful. Obviously if the EU doesn't go in that direction that would be very unhelpful.'
Labour leader Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have both backed Mr Cameron's bid to block Mr Juncker, and he is thought to have support from other leaders including Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.
Mr Juncker emerged as the front runner because he was picked earlier this year by MEPs from the European People's Party group - which won the most seats in the EU Parliament, but still only took less than a third.
THE LEADING CANDIDATES TO BECOME THE NEXT COMMISSION PRESIDENT Angela Merkel is pushing for arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker (left) to become the new EC president, but IMF chief Christine Lagarde (second left) has emerged as a compromise candidate favoured by David Cameron. Other politicians in line for Europe's most powerful position include Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Jean-Claude Juncker is the favourite to become the new European Commission President - replacing the outgoing former Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso.
The former Luxembourg prime minister was chosen as the candidate for the top job by the European Parliament's main conservative group, the European People's Party.
The EPP emerged from last week's elections with the most seats - leaving Mr Juncker in poll position for the EU's most powerful job.
But the Commission President is chosen by European leaders including David Cameron - and not by the Parliament. MEPs do however have to confirm the leaders' choice for the job in a vote.
The other candidates for the top EU job include the IMF chief Christine Lagarde.
Miss Lagarde was finance minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy before moving to the IMF at the height of the euro zone's debt crisis in 2011 to replace disgraced French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Her term runs until 2016.
A fluent English-speaker who headed a major US law firm before holding ministerial office in France, she is highly regarded by German leader Angela Merkel.
Center-left Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is also under consideration. The former MEP is the daughter-in-law of Neil Kinnock, the ex Labour leader and European commissioner.
If Mrs Merkel was open to a French candidate for one of the top jobs, Paris might offer Socialist former Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault - a fluent German-speaker who was replaced in March but is well regarded in Berlin.
Another candidate for the EU Commission President is the current Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The Fine Gael leader became Ireland's leader in 2011, so might be open to moving to Brussels.
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Angela Merkel warns David Cameron not to make 'threats' over Jean-Claude Juncker's bid for EC presidency
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:05
The German Chancellor said EU politicians should not resort to ''threats'' as they decided who should become the next President of the European Commission. It followed reports that Mr Cameron had warned Ms Merkel the appointment of Mr Juncker, who believes in greater European integration, could boost the prospects of Britain voting to leave the EU in the 2017 referendum he has promised.
Speaking alongside Mr Cameron after a summit of four centre-right leaders in Sweden, Ms Merkel voiced her irritation at his public campaign against the former Luxembourg Prime Minister's bid for the Brussels post. Ms Merkel, the most powerful national leader in the 28-nation bloc, told a press conference: ''I am for Jean-Claude Juncker. But when I made that statement in Germany I also made the point that we act in a European spirit, otherwise you would never reach a compromise. Thus we cannot just consign to the backburner the question of the European spirit. Threats are not part and parcel of that spirit. That is not part of the way in which we usually proceed.''
Mr Cameron will face questions about his attempt to thwart Mr Juncker when he makes a Commons statement on Wednesday, and later when he addresses Tory MPs, many of whom want to stop the appointment of a man they view as an arch-federalist.
British officials hope Ms Merkel's remarks were for domestic consumption in Germany. She is under pressure to back Mr Juncker because he has the support of the European People's Party, the mainstream centre-right party in the EU. Aides said Mr Cameron would lobby other EU leaders before they meet in Brussels on 26 June.
Jean-Claude Juncker believes in greater European integration (Getty)Today Mr Cameron came close to confirming he had made clear in Brussels last week that Mr Juncker's appointment could boost the anti-EU campaign in Britain. He said: ''The decision about whether to stay in Europe will be for the British people in a referendum by the end of 2017. Obviously the approach the EU takes between now and then will be very important. If we can achieve reforms, if we can demonstrate openness, competitiveness, flexibility, less interference, reform '' if people are capable of taking the EU forward, that will be helpful. Obviously if the EU doesn't go in that direction that would be unhelpful.''
His spokesman denied that Mr Cameron returned empty-handed from the two-day meeting at the summer retreat of Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister, also attended Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister.
UK could back a woman for EU presidency: FM William Hague hails importance of women in Europe's top jobs.
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:05
Foreign secretary says a range of candidates should be considered for European Commission presidentHague continues to voice opposition to candidate Jean-Claude JunckerHelle Thorning-Schmidt and Dalia Grybauskaite are possible candidatesIMF head Christine Lagarde rules herself out of contentionBy John Stevens
Published: 18:24 EST, 8 June 2014 | Updated: 05:31 EST, 9 June 2014
William Hague yesterday hinted that Britain could support a female candidate for European Commission president.
The Foreign Secretary said he believed it was important 'there are women in the top jobs' of Europe as he continued to voice his opposition to leading candidate Jean-Claude Juncker.
'It's very important in our view that a range of candidates are looked at,' he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
View: William Hague (left) said he believed it was important 'there are women in the top jobs' of Europe as he continued to voice his opposition to leading candidate Jean-Claude Juncker (right)
'This is only one of the top jobs being decided in the European Union, there are four or five such jobs and it's very important there is a political balance, a geographical balance, it's important there are women in the top jobs.'
He refused to name his preferred candidates for the presidency. 'There are talented candidates around Europe and what I'm not going to do is set up a candidate, to embarrass a candidate today who will then be attacked by the media or other countries,' he said.
'So we will keep our counsel and keep in close touch with other countries, the Prime Minister will have further discussions about this over the next few days with other heads of government, the important thing for us is the trajectory of the EU and our ability to deliver reform, renegotiation, powers to come back from Brussels.'
Potential: Dalia Grybauskaite, the President of Lithuania, has emerged as possible consensus candidates for the presidency following Britains staunch opposition to Mr Juncker
Leaders: Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark (left) has also been named as a potential candidate, while IMF chief Christine Lagarde (right) has already ruled her self out of contention
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark, and Dalia Grybauskaite, the President of Lithuania, have both emerged as possible consensus candidates for the presidency following Britain's staunch opposition to Mr Juncker.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde has already ruled her self out of contention.
Mr Cameron is strongly opposed to the former prime minister of Luxembourg's belief in closer political union between EU member states. He will today travel to Sweden to push for an alternative candidate in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Miss Thorning-Schmidt is the daughter-in-law of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock. She attracted international attention after she was seen taking a selfie with David Cameron and Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service.
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Celebretties working Scotland's vote
Crikey Jings! Even Harry Potter is against Scottish Independence.
Although the “Yes” camp have James Bond though.
An Obama dissed the “Yes” campaign too:
Clinton dropped some cigar ash on it:
There is a story about Elvis signalling his wish or warning just waiting to be written, give it time just under 100 days to go before the vote.
Mac John
Some things Scotland enjoys that the rest of the UK does not:
Free eye tests and a basic prescription for glasses.
Free School Meals for school kids in low income families.
Free University tuition whereas its up to £9k/year for anyone born outside Scotland and attends a (rather good) Scottish University.
A free pass to throw insults at Noodles-kid type eejits (pronounced just as it looks, got to educate you guys to talk the talk of Scotland :)
eejit: a loon, wahoo, idiot, twat or numpty
Nederlanders onder Duits bevel: 'stap richting Europees leger'
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:35
Door: Natalie Righton '' 12/06/14, 06:19
(C) Volkskrant.
Het is de eerste stap in de vorming van een Europese legermacht: een deel van de Nederlandse Luchtmobiele Brigade komt onder gezag van een Duitse generaal.
Het gaat in essentie om een stap in de richting een Europees leger, al is dat nog heel ver weg
Rob de WijkDe oprichting van een Europees leger komt dichterbij. Het Nederlandse ministerie van Defensie integreert vandaag voor het eerst in de geschiedenis een eigen krijgsmachtsonderdeel met een Duitse legereenheid. Circa tweeduizend Nederlandse militairen van de Luchtmobiele Brigade uit Schaarsbergen en Assen vallen vanaf nu onder een Duitse commandant. Zijn plaatsvervanger is een Nederlandse brigadegeneraal.
'Dit is een grote stap. Het gaat in essentie om een stap in de richting een Europees leger, al is dat nog heel ver weg', stellen defensiedeskundigen als directeur Rob de Wijk van het Haags Centrum voor Strategische Studies. Oud-defensieminister Hans Hillen kwalificeert het net zo: 'Dit proces zou je kunnen interpreteren als een eerste stap naar een Europese strijdmacht, ja.' Minster Hennis van Defensie noemt de oprichting van de ge¯ntegreerde Division Schnelle Kr¤fte 'een unieke gebeurtenis en die een belangrijke mijlpaal is in de Duits-Nederlandse defensiesamenwerking'.
Dit gaat veel verder dan samenwerking zoals we die nu kennen
Rob de WijkHoewel sommige Nederlanders zich misschien ongemakkelijk voelen bij het idee van een Europees leger, is het niet nieuw dat de Nederlandse krijgsmacht steeds meer gaat samenwerken met andere Europese landen. In de Afghaanse provincie Kunduz leefden Duitse en Nederlandse militairen op hetzelfde militaire kamp, schoten zij elkaar te hulp indien nodig en was er een Duitse commandant 'gebiedsverantwoordelijk'. Maar er waren geen gezamenlijk pelotons met daarin twee nationaliteiten. Dat gaat veranderen.
Veel verdere samenwerking'Dit gaat veel verder dan samenwerking zoals we die nu kennen: het gaat hier om het versmelten van twee legereenheden, met een gezamenlijke commandant', zegt De Wijk. Volgens minister Hennis is 'het uiteindelijke doel dat Nederland en Duitsland uiterlijk in 2018 beschikken over een snel inzetbare (gezamenlijke) eenheid die wereldwijd inzetbaar is indien beide landen daartoe besluiten'.
De reden van de versmelting is grotendeels geld. Door jarenlange bezuinigingen zijn de individuele Europese legers uitgekleed. Zo heeft Nederland zijn tanks verkocht. Ter vervanging van de F-16 gevechtsvliegtuigen zijn niet de ooit gewenste 85 Joint Strike Fighters besteld, maar is slechts geld voor 37 exemplaren.
Het is het stokpaardje van Hennis: meer samenwerken met andere landen levert een sterkere krijgsmacht op
Stokpaardje HennisDe Amerikaanse president Obama heeft Europa in maart tijdens zijn bezoek aan Den Haag opgeroepen om meer te investeren in defensie. De VS nemen ongeveer driekwart van de totale defensie-uitgaven voor hun rekening, Europeanen het overige kwart. Mede met het oog op de crisis in Oekra¯ne sturen de VS en ook de NAVO aan op meer Europese militaire slagkracht.
Het is het stokpaardje van Hennis: meer samenwerken met andere landen levert een sterkere krijgsmacht op. In EU-verband noemen voorstanders dit pooling and sharing. Bij de NAVO heet het smart defense.
Vandaag in de Volkskrant: Met name de Britten dragen nog littekens van de Nederlandse terughoudendheid
Italy leaves hundreds of refugees stranded without food -- UN
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:24
Published time: June 11, 2014 14:24Italian police take pictures of migrants as they arrive with a group that includes Syrian and Palestinian refugees at Catania harbour in the island of Sicily.(Reuters / Antonio Parrinello)
The Italian authorities stranded refugees without food or shoes in car parks outside Rome and Milan, says the UN. Italy is struggling to deal with the 50,000 immigrants that have arrived this year and has asked the EU to help mitigate the crisis.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has condemned Italy's treatment of a group of refugees who were found abandoned outside Milan and Rome in what the organization described as an ''unacceptable'' incident.
The refugees ''were found without shoes, disorientated, and without having been given anything to eat or drink,'' said the EU body's spokesperson Carlotta Sami told AFP. The immigrants from Mali, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Syria were transported in two busloads to Milan and Rome where they were abandoned in car parks.
They were originally part of a larger contingent of 1,300 immigrants who were intercepted by the Italian authorities and transported to the city of Taranto on Monday.
"There were two groups of between 160 to 170 people each. One of the groups was abandoned near Rome, the other near Milan," Carlotta Sami said. She went on to say that the immigrants had been told they were being sent to centers for asylum seekers.
Those who had been left close to Rome were eventually relocated to a center for asylum seekers, while the refugees in Milan were reportedly still in the car park late on Tuesday afternoon.
Italy has been hit by an influx of illegal immigrants since the beginning of this year, with over 50,000 illegal immigrants seeking refuge in the Mediterranean country since January. The government has been hard-pressed to deal with the situation and has called on the EU to intervene.
Last month Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano issued the EU with an ultimatum, threatening to allow immigrants passage into other European nations if Brussels does not lend a hand.
''The European Union has two options: either it comes to the Mediterranean to put the EU flag on Mare Nostrum [the Latin name for the sea] or we will let migrants with right of asylum leave for other countries,'' Alfano tweeted.
The Italian Navy is regularly forced to mount rescue missions off the south coast of Italy when boats overloaded with refugees sink on their way across. In the latest incident, Italian coastguards said that three immigrants drowned and six were missing on Tuesday.
The situation is unlikely to improve in the near future, with the Interior Ministry estimating that between 400,000 and 600,000 people are waiting in Libya to make the perilous crossing.
Death toll of migrants seeking to enter Europe via Mediterranean worsens
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 13:58
By Robert Stevens9 June 2014Last October, the world looked on aghast as the coffins of hundreds of men, women and children were laid out in an airport hangar on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Up to 360 people died a horrible death, drowning off the coast of the island after their boat capsized. Most of those who died in the tragedy were from Eritrea and Somalia, attempting to enter Europe by the hazardous Mediterranean Sea crossing. They were fleeing the terrible conditions at home in the hope of a better life in Europe.
In the aftermath of the tragedy there was much handwringing and crocodile tears among the European political and media elite, with promises that such an intolerable situation would be halted. The reality is this feigned outrage merely served to cover the fact that Europe is being made even more inaccessible to ever-growing numbers of desperate migrants and refugees.
According to Jos(C) Angel Oropeza, Director of the International Organisation for Migration, at least 700 migrants drowned trying to make the Mediterranean crossing to Italy in 2013. He stated, ''We will never know the exact number, as many more must have died at sea who will never be accounted for.''
Such deaths are now a ghoulish but routine occurrence. Hundreds more migrants attempting the crossing have already died this year in the most appalling circumstances.
The worst loss of life was on May 6 when a boat carrying 130 people capsized some 30 minutes into the journey, just a few miles from the Libyan coast. At least 44 bodies were recovered with a further 33 still missing. The Libyan border police were only able to save 52 of the immigrants from Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.
Frontex, the European Union (EU) Border Agency, calculated that 42,000 migrants were detected on routes from North Africa to Italy this year, with 25,650 of these crossing from Libya. It calculated that including other less busy routes, the total figure for the first few months of this year is probably 60,000. Frontex estimated that in the first four months of this year, the number of migrants arriving in Italy had increased by 823 percent over the same period in 2013.
A recent Economist article posed the question as to why so many Africans risk their lives in perilous crossings of the Mediterranean to reach Europe. It concluded: ''Desertification and swelling populations outstrip agricultural productivity in much of the arid Sahel. A recent resurgence of the conflict in the Central African Republic, Mali, northern Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan has continued to displace millions, pushing ever more young men north towards Europe'...It is not surprising that the Mediterranean beckons.''
As the result of a three-year civil war in Syria, fomented by the major imperialist powers, around 3 million people are now refugees. It is expected that many hundreds of thousands more will attempt to make the crossing during the upcoming ''boat season'', with many certain to meet a grisly fate.
On Monday, the Guardian cited the comments of the mayor of the Italian town of Catania, Enzo Bianco. Bianco, a former Italian interior minister, said Europe was ''Faced with a looming, colossal humanitarian catastrophe, with almost 800,000 people on the African coast ready to cross the Mediterranean '... Faced with these coffins, Europe must choose [whether to] bury our consciences of civilised men along with them.''
The Guardian claimed that the United Nations refugee body, the UNHCR, was considering establishing ''holding centres'' in North Africa and the Middle East in order to carry out the ''large-scale processing of migrants and refugees outside Europe, in countries such as Egypt, Libya or Sudan.''
It cited the comments of UNHCR's European director, Vincent Cochetel, who said, ''We would not be totally against external processing if certain safeguards were in place: the right to appeal, fair process, and the right to remain while appeals take place.''
But on June 3, the UNHCR denied the Guardian 's claims and said it ''is not considering 'holding centres' as an alternative to address the challenges of refugees and migrants risking their lives at sea.'' It was working with ''relevant stakeholders'' to find ''alternatives to dangerous journeys, such as resettlement, humanitarian admission and family reunification programmes.''
This is so much hot air as the European Union and its constituent government ''stakeholders'' continue to ratchet up anti-immigrant propaganda and devise policies specifically based on denying migrants the right to enter Europe.
The EU spends billions of euros on a vast network designed to prevent its borders being breached by migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. '‚¬1.8 billion was spent on its External Borders Fund between 2007 and 2013. In December, it began to operate the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur).
Eurosur's remit is to monitor the EU's external borders with an array of drones, satellite search systems and other resources. The information gathered is then passed to the Frontex border protection agency, which coordinates measures to intercept migrant boats long before they reach Europe and to force them back.
Greece's deputy prime minister, Evangelos Venizelos said recently, ''The shaping of a comprehensive immigration policy is one of the main priorities of [the Greek presidency], as well as the Italian presidency, which follows ours''. Merchant marine minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis echoed him, stating that processing offices should be established in Syria or Turkey ''to examine who is eligible, or not, before people get on boats, put their lives in danger and trespass our borders.''
Greece's ''immigration policy'' now consists of a ring of steel, as a veritable 7,000-strong coastguard ''navy'' patrols the eastern Aegean to prevent the entry of what it describes as 15,000 undocumented migrants. It has also sealed off its border with Turkey with a 10.5-kilometre barbed-wire fence.
A 30-kilometre fence is currently being built along the Turkish-Bulgarian border. According to the Bulgarian government, nearly 8,000 people fleeing the Syrian conflict have entered Bulgaria from Turkey in search of refuge.
Amnesty International warned in relation to these moves, ''With virtually no safe and legal routes into Europe, people are increasingly pushed into the hands of smugglers and traffickers, and are forced to risk their lives on unseaworthy vessels.''
The Guardian noted, ''Italy has pledged to force the migrant issue to the top of the EU agenda when it takes over the presidency in July. It cited the comments of interior minister Angelino Alfano who said, ''During the European presidency, Europe will not see an Italy banging its fist on the table, but an Italy that overturns the table.''
Whilst plans for ''holding centres'' run by the UN are at this stage being formally denied, such camps and worse are already in existence in a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries. The BBC recently filmed the squalid, inhumane conditions inside one run by the Libyan regime in Misrata. At the local morgue, the bodies of eight migrants a week now fill its rooms'--up from a total of three a year previously.
Migrants who enter Europe face similar levels of state brutality. Last month, three refugee camps holding hundreds of people were raided by riot police in Calais, France on the grounds they represented a threat to public health and safety.
In Britain, Operation Centurion, a series of two weeks of raids on ''illegal'' workers began on June 3. The raids appeared to be based on targeting specific nationalities employed in certain industries.
Details of the planned raids only became public knowledge after the Anti-Raids Network, an activist group, obtained access to government papers. One of their campaigners stated, ''It is a clear attempt to demonise migrant labour and satisfy the right-wing political agenda on immigration and the EU.''
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Billions of NATO-dollars unaccounted for - Nieuws - VK
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 13:05
Door: Robert Giebels, Natalie Righton '' 10/06/14, 08:29
(C) reuters. U.S. paratroopers stand near am armored vehicle after the opening ceremony of NATO military exercise 'Saber Strike' in Adazi, Latvia.
English version Billions of dollars are unaccounted for in the books of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Parliamentarians of 28 NATO countries have no idea how much taxpayers money flows through the military alliance and whether it is spent legitimately, says the Dutch National Court of Auditors. This is due to an administrative backlog of decades and abundantly marking expenditures as 'undisclosed'. Following is an English translation of a story in de Volkskrant.
'NATO might be wasting a lot of money, or maybe they are short of cash. Frankly, we have no idea', says Saskia Stuiveling, president of the Dutch National Court of Auditors. The findings of the official controlling body of the Dutch government are a result of extensive research on NATO expenditures over the past forty years. It will launch a website in English on Tuesday June 10, 2014, to reveal the messy accounts of NATO.
The purpose of the Auditors is to get this issue on the agenda of the next NATO Parliamentary Assembly in November 2014 in The Hague, The Netherlands. The NATO-ambassadors from all member states are aware of the transparency problem, but until now this has not resulted into a solution of the transparency problem, claims the Dutch Auditor.In a reaction, NATO states that 'some reports cannot be made public due to the classified nature of the issue audited.' However, 'NATO allies maintain full control of the level of expenses and how the money is being spent.'
With this comment the NATO spokesperson is referring to the information position of NATO (budget) representatives to the North Atlantic Council of 28 NATO states. The council meets twice a week. These ambassadors 'are fully aware what money is spend on what'. The information shared in the council is by far not always available for external auditors or parliamentarians who are supposed to supervise the legitimate expenditure of tax payers money.
'Good initiative'The Dutch ministry of Defense calls the initiative of the Dutch National Court of Auditors to get more transparency on NATO's expenditures a 'good initiative which is viewed upon positively by the Dutch cabinet' and hopes that 'parliaments and the general public will get more insight into how funds are spent within NATO to ensure our safety.'
At the same time the Defense spokesperson points out that 'all cash flows and expenditures are currently controlled by the IBAN', an independent team of auditors for NATO. However, the military alliance recognizes that only the 'civilian budget is audited continuously'.
Expenditure on military missions (such as those in Afghanistan) or on military special projects are not always included. These expenses probably form the lion's share. As of July NATO will publish some unclassified reports on (civilian) expenses on its website 'on a case-by-case basis'.
(C) ap.
An Afghan policeman stands near a destroyed NATO supply truck in Behsud district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Obama: spend more on defenseThe misty bookkeeping of total NATO expenditures are politically highly sensitive. U.S. President Obama has urged European countries frequently in the past few months to spend more on defense.Together, all 28 NATO-countries yearly spend over 1 trillion dollars on defense - three quarters is spent by the United States, one quarter by the European NATO-members. How much of that amount runs through the books of NATO is largely unknown.
NATO is financed roughly by three funds. The first fund is filled with 3.3 billion dollar contributed by all 28 member states. This 'common fund' is used to pay for NATO-headquarters in Brussels, the staff working there and other common expenditures. How the money in this common fund is spent exactly, is 'undisclosed'.
The other two funds keeping NATO alive, are two big question marks. There is one fund for international missions (such as the NATO's mission in Afghanistan) and one fund for special projects (such as the development of the NH-90 helicopter and the eurofighter). Which NATO member states contribute to these two funds and if yes, how much, is classified information.
After six years of requesting more information, the Dutch National Court of Auditors does not even have a beginning of an idea of the total amount that each NATO country is paying to these last two funds.
378 investments still open in the booksThe Dutch auditor did discover that 378 NATO investment projects - dating back from 1970 to 1994 - are still open in the books. The value of these projects is estimated at 4.5 billion dollars. The Netherlands spent 5 million euro on 4 of these projects (The US 406 million euro on 19 projects / The UK 138 million euro on 37 projects). These projects have never been financially evaluated or accounted for.
The Netherlands spent 7.8 billion dollars on defense in 2013. A part of this tax payers money is spent on the defense organization in The Netherlands (such as maintenance of military posts inside the country) or on non-NATO military missions, such as the UN-mission in Mali. The third part of Dutch defense money is spent on NATO-missions. The ones in the Afghan provinces of Kunduz and Uruzgan cost The Netherlands 2.4 billion euro. Stuiveling: 'To me, the lack of transparency does not contribute to the public support for NATO.'
F-Russia / Ukraine / Syria
Ukraine, Russia fail to reach gas deal -NHK WORLD English-
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:23
Energy ministers from Ukraine and Russia have failed to settle the dispute over the price of natural gas Moscow provides.
Russia raised the price in April and warned that it will turn off the tap unless Ukraine settles the delayed payment.
The energy ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday to seek a compromise. The meeting was brokered by the European Union.
After the talks, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said his country will push back the deadline of the negotiations until Monday. He said he offered a price of 385 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. That's 100 dollars lower than the previous offer.
Ukraine's Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said he rejected the offered price discount, because it is not enough and Moscow could cancel it for political reasons.
European Union Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger was involved in the talks. He called on both sides to compromise further to reach an agreement by the deadline.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed displeasure over Ukraine's rejection during a meeting with Cabinet ministers on Wednesday.
Putin said it's not clear on what basis Ukrainians want more reductions. He added that they appear to be trying to drive the issue into a dead end.
Putin also said Russia's proposals offer more than a partnership aimed to support the Ukrainian economy during its difficult period.
He added that if the proposals are rejected then the 2 countries will move into a completely different stage.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also expressed displeasure with Russia's offer.
Yatsenyuk told Cabinet ministers on Wednesday that the discount is set by Moscow but could be cancelled by it as well. He said he knows these Russian traps.
He said it's clear gas is a political weapon in the hands of the Russian government.
Jun. 11, 2014 - Updated 23:14 UTC
After Ukraine, U.S. trains more special forces in eastern Europe
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 04:04
By Peter Apps
WASHINGTONTue Jun 10, 2014 8:28pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As NATO refocuses on its eastern borders after Russia's annexation of Crimea, the United States is quietly deploying more troops to train special forces in former Soviet bloc states anxious about Moscow's intentions.
Major exercises began last month in Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia involving several hundred personnel from U.S. special forces, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said in a statement to Reuters.
Long-term plans include further training drills that will consistently keep about 100 U.S. elite troops on the ground at any one time in NATO states close to Russia, with teams working in several countries, U.S. official said.
The events in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-speaking insurgents using sophisticated weapons threaten to split the country, have put the whole former Soviet bloc region on alert and eager for NATO reassurance.
EUCOM says its Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) increased the size and scope of its planned exercises after Ukraine flared into violence, reinforcing Washington's message to Moscow that it would stand by its allies.
"Training with our partners in their home countries is something that we have always done," said SOCEUR spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Sternberg. "The difference is that now we will maintain a (permanent) Special Operations Forces presence in theater along the eastern front of NATO on this training mission," Sternberg said.
The exercises have involved practicing house-to-house fighting, mock raids in assault boats and coordinating parachute drops and air strikes, the SOCEUR Facebook page shows.
Highly trained and equipped with advanced communications equipment and weapons, special forces are often used in counterterrorism or reconnaissance operations. They can infiltrate enemy lines to tie down much larger numbers of opposition troops.
U.S. special forces saw their numbers more than double, their budget triple and their deployments quadruple in the decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks.
Particularly under the Obama administration, they have been at the center of the offensives against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. aim is to help eastern Europe's militaries build elite units along the lines of the U.S. Navy SEALS, Delta Force or Britain's Special Air Service (SAS).
"They are still not up to U.S., British or French capabilities but some of the newer NATO special forces are improving very quickly," said Linda Robinson, a expert in special forces at the RAND Corporation think tank.
Joint exercises this spring have included the May 18-30 "Exercise Flaming Sword" in Lithuania, which brought together special forces from the United States and six European countries. Elite U.S. forces were also integrated into the major annual military exercises of Latvia and Estonia.
Special forces have also been involved in the "Exercise Combined Resolve" in Germany, which runs through the end of June and includes about 4,000 troops from 15 allied countries.
Analysts see little imminent prospect of Russia attacking any eastern NATO member, but if it did U.S. and local special forces would likely be at the heart of the response.
Many of the region's special forces have already worked alongside U.S. troops in the field.
Soldiers from Poland's GROM, for example, have deployed with U.S. and other special units in Iraq and in Afghanistan, where forces from smaller NATO states have often been involved in training Afghan special operations units.
President Barack Obama has said Washington will find new ways to bolster Ukraine's beleaguered military. But EUCOM said no U.S. forces were deployed in Ukraine as a matter of policy and Ukrainian troops have not so far been involved in the special forces training in Eastern Europe.
While few expect the United States to risk sending its own units into the conflict area, training, intelligence and advice from Western special forces experts at the headquarters level could still help Ukraine's military.
(Editing by David Storey and Cynthia Osterman)
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Bulgaria halts all work on South Stream gas pipeline after US talks.
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 05:56
8 June 2014Last updated at 17:30 Bulgaria is to halt work on its Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline following criticism from the EU and US.
Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski announced that he had "ordered all work to be stopped".
"We will decide on further developments following consultations with Brussels," he said after meeting with US senators.
The Gazprom-financed pipeline would ship gas to western Europe via the Balkans, thus avoiding Ukraine.
The European Commission had sent Bulgarian authorities a letter at the start of the month, asking them to suspend work on the project.
The EC claimed Bulgaria may have broken EU public procurement laws by choosing local and Russian bidders.
Bulgaria has previously said it is being targeted by Brussels as a means of retaliating against Russia over the situation in Ukraine.
If built, the pipeline would deliver 63 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year, via Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia before entering Italy.
Construction work on the pipeline began in Bulgaria in October 2013.
ITAR-TASS: Economy - Bulgaria suspends works on South Stream project
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 21:20
SOFIA, June 08 /ITAR-TASS/. Bulgaria suspends works on the South Stream project over the European Commission's infringement proceedings, Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharrski said on Sunday after a meeting with American Senators.
''We have received a request from the European Commission, after which I ordered to suspend the works. Further actions will be clear after additional consultations with Brussels,'' he said.
Russia has not yet received any official notifications from Bulgaria about the suspension of the South Stream project, the Russian energy ministry told Itar-Tass on Sunday.
The issue however can be raised at the three-party gas meeting between representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union due to be held on Monday in Brussels, a ministry spokesman said.
The South Stream pipeline was designed to carry Russian gas to the EU bypassing Ukraine.
Gas will be pumped to the Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Varna before extending overland through Serbia, Hungary, and Slovenia to supply gas to the Western Europe via Italy and Austria.
The pipeline's capacity amounts to 63 billion cubic meters.
'South Stream pipeline delay just another power grab by Brussels' - RT video
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 17:57
Ukraine mulls transferring liquid natural gas via Turkish straits to bypass Moscow
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 18:01
Ukrainian companies are in talks with their Turkish counterparts over how to transfer LNG through Turkish straits to bypass Russia, Ukraine's Ambassador to Turkey, Sergiy Korsunsky, has said answering Hurriyet reporter Ä°pek Yezdani's questions following a roundtable discussion organized at Kadir Has University in Istanbul.
Ukrainian companies are in talks with their Turkish counterparts over how to transfer LNG through Turkish straits to bypass Russia, Ukraine's Ambassador to Turkey, Sergiy Korsunsky, has said answering Hurriyet reporter Ä°pek Yezdani's questions following a roundtable discussion organized at Kadir Has University in Istanbul.''One will be responsible for transit and the other will be for storage. That's exactly what the EU demanded from us so that there will be no monopolies,'' he said.
Korsunsky said first of all they have to diversify the sources of gas.
''If you look at the map, the only viable way to do it is through the Black Sea. That's why the idea to build an energy terminal in Odessa was put on the agenda. We understood at the very beginning that it is not easy; it is quite a costly project, and we will need to talk to Turkey about the Bosphorus. But formally, by the Montreux Convention, Turkey cannot stop it,'' he said.
Korsunsky said private businesses in Ukraine were currently talking to private businesses in Turkey about possible routes.
''Is it that dangerous? Is it that problematic to organize this? We understand the concern because we were speaking unofficially to government officials, and we were told about serious concerns about possible accidents. We will try to continue these discussions; we will try to find common ground. Maybe we will try to find a common project to do that. But definitely this is high on the agenda of the [Ukrainian] prime minister,'' he said.
''We expect Turkey will continue to support us, and we expect Turkey will continue to work with us on major projects,'' Korsunsky said.
Korsunsky also claimed that they had confirmation that there were several hundred mercenaries around Donetsk from Russia who were receiving money in return for every soldier and army officer that they kill.
''They are well-paid for that. We have figures like 300-350 dollars per day. If they kill a soldier they receive 500 dollars, if they kill an officer they receive 1,000 dollars and special premium; if they are able to take down a helicopter or a tank they receive more. And they don't hide that they are fighting for money. They are trained in Crimea and then they are shipped by cars to the Ukrainian territory, especially to Donetsk. These are the same kind of mercenaries who fought in Georgia, Chechnya and Afghanistan,'' he said.
Muslims in Crimea
Korsunsky also claimed that since Russia took over Crimea after a March plebiscite, there had been human rights violations in Crimea.
''They closed Ukrainian schools, Crimean Tatars are being beaten because they speak Crimean Tatar. Now the security service of the Russian Federation is questioning Crimean Tatars about their Muslimhood '' they ask them questions like 'For how long have you preached Islam? How often do you go to mosque?' That's the attitude, they're making a file on every Muslim, specifically women who cover their hair,'' he said.
Korsunsky said around 10,000 Tatars had left Crimea and moved to mainland Ukraine since the annexation. ''This is very sad. This is another deportation,'' he added.
The envoy said they were going to take Russia to court for the annexation of Crimea. ''We already have two court cases at the International Court of Human Rights. We believe that we were deprived of $100 billion of properties and land in Crimea, so we are going to put other cases in different courts.''
Australian Senate committee discusses threat of US-China war
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:08
By Mike Head11 June 2014A chilling exchange occurred during an Australian Senate estimates committee hearing last week about the likelihood of Australia being on the front line of a war between the US and China or between Japan and China.
The little-reported discussion took place on June 2, two days after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered a menacing and provocative speech in Singapore accusing China of ''destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.''
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the annual Asian defence forum, Hagel issued what amounted to a threat of war, declaring that the US ''will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.''
Hagel cast off Washington's pretence of neutrality in the maritime territorial disputes involving China in the South and East China Seas. He charged Beijing with ''intimidation and coercion'' in the South China Sea, directed against the Philippines and Vietnam.
In reality, as part of its military and strategic ''pivot'' to Asia, the Obama administration has encouraged Southeast Asian countries, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam, to aggressively press their claims against China. As a result, low-level regional disputes have been transformed into dangerous international flashpoints.
Interviewed by Fairfax Media from the Shangri-La Dialogue, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston stated that he shared Hagel's view. ''The US, Australia and Japan are very concerned that unilateral action is destabilising the region of the South China Sea particularly, and East China Sea,'' he said.
Johnston went further, asserting that China's ''destabilisation'' was ''quite damaging to the future economic prospects'' of Australia and other countries in the Asia-Pacific.
In the Senate committee, having just returned from Singapore, Johnston was asked how serious and significant was the threat of conflict, in the light of his Fairfax Media comments and Hagel's ''strong words.'' He replied: ''Instability in an area where we have a large proportion of our export earnings flowing through to market is very serious. It is very serious indeed.''
Asked by Labor Senator Sam Dastyari if he agreed with that assessment, Defence Department head Dennis Richardson responded: ''Yes, absolutely.''
When asked if there was a threat of actual conflict breaking out, Richardson said: ''No one wants conflict'... However, there is always the risk of an accident or a miscalculation. It is the concern about miscalculation that could lead unexpectedly to something.''
Johnston and Richardson then repeatedly refused to answer further questions about how such a ''miscalculation'' would change Australia's role, potentially involving it in a devastating war. ''We do not go there,'' Richardson insisted.
In particular, Richardson and Johnston would not say whether the ANZUS Treaty between the US, Australia and New Zealand or Australia's Joint Declaration of Security Cooperation with Japan would necessarily involve Australia in a war against China.
Richardson told Dastyari: ''I would suggest that you read the ANZUS Treaty.'' Johnston emphasised, ''This discussion is not in our national interest to telegraph what might happen in a speculative environment.''
Committee Chairman Senator Alan Eggleston promptly shut down the discussion, telling Dastyari: ''I think you should listen to what is being said because you are treading into rather sensitive areas.'' Dastyari quickly complied, explaining that he had only sought information about ''various serious matters.''
Dastyari, recently installed in the Senate after rising through the ranks of the Labor Party machine, was a loyal henchman of Julia Gillard's Labor government, which unequivocally signed up to Obama's aggressive ''pivot'' in mid-2010 following the backroom ousting of Kevin Rudd as prime minister.
The Labor senator's line of questioning pointed to concerns about the lack of preparation of public opinion for a military conflict that could very well trigger the use of nuclear weapons. Dastyari had begun by asking Johnston about the apparent contradiction between his statement backing Hagel and the Australian government's claim, also repeated in Johnston's Fairfax Media interview, to not take sides in the territorial disputes between China and its neighbours.
This elicited a forthright assertion by Richardson, who intervened at that point, that while ''not taking sides,'' Australia had a ''national interest'' in the disputes because ''fifty-two percent of our merchandise export shipping trade passes through the South China Sea.''
Richardson later abandoned the posture of neutrality, accusing China of taking an ''oil drilling platform into disputed areas [with Vietnam] with a flotilla of ships,'' and recalling that the US has publicly stated that its ''alliance obligations'' to Japan would be activated in the event of a conflict with China in the East China Sea.
In the corridors of power, behind the backs of the public, this is the kind of discussion that is taking place about the potential for Australia to become involved in a war for domination over the Asia-Pacific and its strategic waterways. As the committee chairman's intervention indicated, this is a ''rather sensitive'' discussion that must be kept, as far as possible, out of the public view, for fear of popular opposition.
Writing in the Australian Financial Review yesterday, political editor Laura Tingle partially reported the Senate committee exchange. She noted: ''Many Australians would find the comparisons, behind closed doors, between the current regional tensions and the spiraling treaty arrangements that led to World War I rather disconcerting.''
On the eve of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to Washington this week for talks with the Obama administration, which are expected to focus on military and intelligence issues, Tingle indicated that an even greater Australian commitment to US war plans was likely to be demanded.
Tingle observed that the Abbott government's May budget had already pledged a 6 percent increase in real terms in defence spending ''as a bone to throw to Washington that has been increasing pressure on its allies to do more heavy lifting on defence spending.'' She added: ''The big question is whether the US will seek even more from Australia by way of even greater enmeshment of our defence forces, or possibly even forward deployments in the region.''
These preparations are being hidden from the working class and young people. Apart from Tingle's article'--written for a business audience'--not a word about the Senate discussion or the real agenda of Abbott's trip has appeared in the media.
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US defense secretary menaces China at Singapore forum[2 June 2014]
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Agenda 21
FireFighter email on forest fires
Hey John;
I just heard you discussing the forest fires and the main issue being people moving deeper into the forests. Having worked as a forest firefighter, I believe the root cause is the logging policy.
Back in 06/07 there was a bill that was rejected in the Oregon senate that would have increased the logging on state lands to a fraction of a percent higher. Even though the increase was substantially less than the regrowth rate of the forest, it was rejected for political reasons. From my understanding, the policy has been to suppress fires and prevent logging which has resulted in the perfect storm that we're seeing now.
When I was fighting fires in the summer of 07, the forests were choked with dense trees and bushes that easily caused a canopy fires. (I was in southern Oregon.) To resolve our current situation we either need to increase logging (not necessarily clear cutting) or have more controlled burns. Personally, I think the logging makes more sense economically.
Bryan E. - That $2/mo guy.
How El Ni±o will change the world's weather in 2014 | Environment | The Guardian
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:38
The global El Ni±o weather phenomenon, whose impacts cause global famines, floods '' and even wars '' now has a 90% chance of striking this year, according to the latest forecast released to the Guardian.
El Ni±o begins as a giant pool of warm water swelling in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, that sets off a chain reaction of weather events around the world '' some devastating and some beneficial.
India is expected to be the first to suffer, with weaker monsoon rains undermining the nation's fragile food supply, followed by further scorching droughts in Australia and collapsing fisheries off South America. But some regions could benefit, in particular the US, where El Ni±o is seen as the ''great wet hope'' whose rains could break the searing drought in the west.
El Ni±o interactive map What is El Ni±oThe knock-on effects can have impacts even more widely, from cutting global gold prices to making England's World Cup footballers sweat a little more.
The latest El Ni±o prediction comes from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which is considered one the most reliable of the 15 or so prediction centres around the world. ''It is very much odds-on for an event,'' said Tim Stockdale, principal scientist at ECMWF, who said 90% of their scenarios now deliver an El Ni±o. "The amount of warm water in the Pacific is now significant, perhaps the biggest since the 1997-98 event.'' That El Ni±o was the biggest in a century, producing the hottest year on record at the time and major global impacts, including a mass die-off of corals.
''But what is very much unknowable at this stage is whether this year's El Ni±o will be a small event, a moderate event '' that's most likely '' or a really major event,'' said Stockdale, adding the picture will become clearer in the next month or two. ''It is which way the winds blow that determines what happens next and there is always a random element to the winds.''
The movement of hot, rain-bringing water to the eastern Pacific ramps up the risk of downpours in the nations flanking that side of the great ocean, while the normally damp western flank dries out. Governments, commodity traders, insurers and aid groups like the Red Cross and World Food Programme all monitor developments closely and water conservation and food stockpiling is already underway in some countries.
Professor Axel Timmermann, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, argues that a major El Ni±o is more likely than not, because of the specific pattern of winds and warm water being seen in the Pacific. ''In the past, such alignments have always triggered strong El Ni±o events,'' he said.
El Ni±o events occur every five years or so and peak in December, but the first, and potentially greatest, human impacts are felt in India. The reliance of its 1 billion-strong population on the monsoon, which usually sweeps up over the southern tip of the sub-continent around 1 June, has led its monitoring to be dubbed ''the most important weather forecast in the world''. This year, it is has already got off to a delayed start, with the first week's rains 40% below average.
A farmer awaits rain on his drought-hit paddy field in Morigoan, Assam, India. Photograph: Manoj Deka/Corbis''El Ni±o could be quite devastating for agriculture and the water supply in India,'' said Dr Nick Klingaman, an El Ni±o expert at the University of Reading in the UK. Two-thirds of Indian farmland lacks irrigation and is reliant solely on rainfall, meaning even current official prediction of a 5% reduction in monsoon rains would have a major impact: a 10% fall is an official drought. Krishna Kumar, an Indian meteorologist and El Ni±o expert, said that even if the 2014 El Ni±o turns out not to be a very hot one, it can still have a major effect on the monsoon because it is the specific location of the warm Pacific water which is the critical factor. ''The moderate El Ni±os of 2002 and 2009 impacted the monsoon in India much more greatly then the major 1997 event,'' he said, adding that the biggest cut in rainfall is not usually felt until September.
Open contributions: How has El Ni±o weather phenomenon affected you?
Rana Kapoor, president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India, warned: ''We recommend the government to immediately announce steps to control food inflation in view of the impending El Ni±o and the cascading negative affect it will have on crop production.'' The impact on farmers means past monsoon failures have cost the nation $20bn (£12bn) in lost output and, because the Indian market dominates global gold prices, the cost of the precious metal has already fallen.
Global sea surface temperature in May 2013 and May 2014. Photograph: NASANew research in May showed the global impact of El Ni±o events on food supplies, with corn, rice and wheat yield much lower than normal, although soybean harvests tend to rise. While food production has improved in the last year, El Ni±o is set to reverse that trend, according to Leo Abruzzese, global forecasting director for the Economist Intelligence Unit. ''It may reduce agricultural output over the next few years, which could weigh on global food security''. Drought linked to the 2007 El Ni±o led to a surge in food prices in 2008 that sparked riots in countries as far afield as Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti.
After India, El Ni±o's impacts roll eastwards and officials in Cebu, the Philippines' second city, have already urged all households to save water to reduce the impact of the drier weather due to hit by the end June. In Malaysia, the national water authority is preparing for a dry spell of up to 18 months and calling for water rationing, while meteorologists have warned of forest fires.
The hot, dry skies will then track to heat-wracked Australia, where 2013 was already its hottest year on record and El Ni±o is threatening to turn the temperature up even further. Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction services at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said: ''El Ni±o is one of the largest influences on Australia's climate. It's why historically Australia has had one of the most variable climates on the planet.'' Watkins said El Ni±o increases the chances of low rainfall in the country's southern and most populous half and tends to deliver hotter years and higher extreme temperatures.
Low water levels at Lake Hume, on the Victoria-NSW border, Australia, during the dry summer of 2007, when the last El Ni±o occurred. Photograph: Ashley Whitworth/AlamyBrent Finlay, president of Australia's National Farmers' Federation, said he was hoping El Ni±o just does not happen. ''We have farmers and graziers in New South Wales and Queensland who are in drought now, and so to have this prediction of a possible El Ni±o will be of grave concern.'' Severe drought at any time could have ''tragic'' consequences on rural communities where he said some farmers had even taken their own lives, he said: ''That is what drought does.''
However, on the opposite side of the Pacific, in the US, El Ni±o holds out the prospect of relief for the parched western states and nowhere is more desperate for rain than California. The entire state is in severe or extreme drought, after receiving barely a quarter of its annual rainfall, and communities have been under water rations since March, which ordinarily would still be the rainy season. The result is a tinder box, with governor Jerry Brown warning the state faces the worst wildfire season on record.
A strong El Ni±o would bring rain, typically double the annual average in southern California. ''I commonly refer to El Ni±o as the great wet hope,'' said Bill Patzert, a climate scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. ''Everyone in the west has their fingers crossed because we are bone dry. We have had three of the four driest years in the west in recorded history. Dry land farmers and ranchers are definitely on their knees right now. We are running on reserves, we are pumping aquifers, and our reservoirs are at record lows.'' El Ni±os also typically lead to wetter winters in Texas, and other parts of the south-west, which also depend on getting most of their rain in the winter months.
Griffith Observatory stands as clouds gather above the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Patrick T. Fallon/Getty ImagesHowever, big El Ni±os like the 1997-98 event '' what Patzert calls ''godzillas'' '' are rare and forecasters at the US government's climate prediction centre said on 5 June that time was running out for a significant El Ni±o to be set in train. A modest or small El Ni±o would have little impact on the drought, said Patzert, noting that the 2006-07 drought '' the worst on record at the time '' occurred during a weak El Ni±o year. Even a ''godzilla'' would not be enough on its own to bail California out, he said: ''But it would be a fantastic down payment on drought relief.''
Strong El Ni±os also typically bring warmer winters to the northern US states, which would be a relief after last winter's Arctic conditions.
El Ni±os also typically damp down hurricane activity. But Prof Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at MIT, said even in an El Ni±o year a hurricane, given the right conditions, could still cause tremendous destruction. Hurricane Andrew, one of the deadliest and costliest in recent history, roared through Florida in 1992, which was an El Ni±o year. ''It would be tragic if everyone let their guard down,'' Emanuel said.
Elsewhere in the Americas, a careful watch is being kept in Peru, where the huge anchovy fishery has been wiped out by previous El Ni±os '' it was Peruvian sailors who first named the phenomenon ''the Christ child'' because its peak occurs at Christmas. The 1997-98 El Ni±o slashed the catch by 80%, as the fish migrated away from the abnormally warm waters. Luis Icochea, a fisheries expert at the National Agrarian University in Lima, warned that the event this year is developing in a similar way.
Rodney Mart­nez, at Ecuador's International El Ni±o Centre, said El Ni±o would affect the whole of south America, meaning heavy rainfall and floods in Ecuador, Peru, Chile and northern Argentina but potential drought relief in Chile and Bolivia. The early effects of El Ni±o in Brazil are expected to raise temperatures during the football World Cup.
Flooded streets in the town of Tuman, Peru. Photograph: Jaime Razuri/AFP/Getty ImagesBut, despite better El Ni±o warnings nowadays, Martinez said many nations were worse prepared than in 1997: ''In many cases the vulnerability has increased: more exposed population, more land degradation, river sedimentation, collapse of underground water sources, degradation of natural protection in riversides, badly designed infrastructure and lack of coordination and planning to cope with El Ni±o.''
Stockdale said other global impacts could be droughts in the Caribbean and southern Africa at the end of the year, and also in central Asia, although the precise impacts of each El Ni±o vary due to local climatic variations. Europe is the continent least affected by El Ni±o by virtue of being on the opposite side of the world.
However, in the tropics and sub-tropics, another deadly impact of El Ni±o is becoming better understood: its ability to spark civil wars. Solomon Hsiang, at Columbia University, New York, showed in 2011 that 50 of the 250 conflicts between 1950 and 2004 were triggered by the El Ni±o cycle, probably due to the loss of crops, jobs and the psychological effects of hotter weather.
Predicting El Nino blindfolded Predicting El Ni±o blindfolded?Hsiang told the Guardian that, based on historical data, a Pacific warming of 0.8C is associated with a rise in the annual risk of conflict of 15%. The current forecasts indicate that this year's warming will most probably lie between 0.5C and 1.5C. ''Of course, conflicts may not occur just because the risk of conflict is higher, in the same way car accidents don't always occur on rainy days when the risk of accident is higher,'' Hsiang said. ''But it is certainly a developing situation that we should keep track of and it would be excellent to have policy-makers and the public aware of the potential risk.''
Policymakers are likely also to feel the heat of El Ni±o in the negotiations towards a global deal to cut carbon emissions and tackle global warming, which must culminate in Paris in December 2015. Since the scorching year of 1998, the rate of global warming has slowed, with over 90% of the heat trapped by CO2 going into the oceans.
''A lot of energy that should have been in the atmosphere has gone into the Pacific,'' said Kumar. ''If El Ni±o does set in that could trigger the release of that heat and faster warming: that has been a major concern.'' An El-Ni±o-boosted 2015 could well be the hottest year on record, according to Klingaman, just as nations have to agree a climate change deal.
''If 2014 turns out to be an El Ni±o year as currently forecast, increased public awareness of the dangers of human-induced climate change is likely to follow,'' said Prof Michael Raupach, director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. ''However, it is very important that our policy responses do not wax and wane with El Ni±o.''
The link between global warming and El Ni±o, a natural climate phenomenon, is not yet well understood by scientists. But a study published in January predicted a doubling of extreme El Ni±o events, as climate change ramps up.
Either way, adding the impacts of El Ni±o to the extreme weather already being driven by climate change increases the damage caused, said Stockdale: ''El Ni±o can be the thing that pushes you over the edge. It will be in the years when you get a big El Ni±o when you feel the impact of climate change the most.''
The Democratic Process Is Beating Climate Deniers | Co.Exist | World changing ideas and innovation
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 04:54
Any American civics lesson includes the ''balance of powers'' among our three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. When all three branches agree on something, it's hard to argue against it. The latest of those rare alignments was completed when President Obama announced his plan to tackle carbon pollution from dirty power plants--and it's now time for opponents to get onboard and accept the verdict of our democracy.
The first two branches of government to agree on climate change solutions might surprise you. With the passage of the federal Clean Air Act in 1970, Congress set up a program to tackle all forms of air pollution, including greenhouse gases, although those pollutants were not well understood at the time. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled, in Massachusetts v. USEPA, that those pollutants are covered by the Clean Air Act. Equally important, the Court also ruled this year that we're all in this together, in USEPA v. EME Homer City Generation, finding that the USEPA has authority to regulate cross-state air pollution.
It's time for the climate change deniers to stop literally tilting at windmills and just go away.So, when two of the three branches of government have spoken, it's clearly time for the third branch to act. That's what President Obama has done, not just this week with the new pollution control rule that will apply mostly to coal-fired power plants, but also in adopting California vehicle emissions limits in 2009 and with a number of actions taken during his time in office to tackle new sources of carbon pollution when industry adds or upgrades its facilities. In total, his actions can get us over 85% of the way towards the greenhouse gas reductions that will be needed to comply with the laws passed by Congress and the legal interpretations of those laws by the Supreme Court.
Given this overwhelming mandate by our democracy, along with the latest reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment, it's time for the climate change deniers to stop literally tilting at windmills and just go away. It's also time for the fossil-fueled politicians and business leaders to focus their skills and resources on a clean energy future that will benefit all Americans and the world.
And although it has taken four decades to come to mutual agreement and action on climate change by our three branches of government, what supports this rare consensus? As noted, the science is overwhelming and it all points to huge costs for our communities, and equally substantial missed opportunities for economic growth, if we fail to act now. Epic droughts, superstorms, and killer heatwaves have cost taxpayers billions; cleaning up spills from coal ash ponds and oil on our beaches, not to mention health care costs from asthma and lung cancer, have all cost billions more.
By sharp contrast, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports the growth in value and profits from clean energy. There was $214 billion invested in 2013 and public market investments tripled over 2012 levels, leading to a 54% increase in clean energy share prices during 2013. Meanwhile the costs of solar and wind generation have fallen to levels that compete with fossil fuel generation with no subsidies (contrasted with the hidden costs borne by taxpayers for cleaning up fossil fuel pollution and related health care costs). Even more significant is that these sources of energy are not imported and, once the facilities are built by U.S. workers in our own country, the lifetime cost of energy to power them is zero.
Nor can we just point the finger at China or other polluters, because taking these actions eliminates their excuses for failing to do the same thing, while our economy will become stronger and more competitive over time. Instead, we should applaud the Obama administration for completing the trifecta of government action and encourage the President and the USEPA to finish the job. There will be opportunities to participate in the rulemaking process by stakeholders to be sure it's thoughtful and effective, but ''just say no'' is no longer a defensible or winning strategy.
Democracy is often slow and messy, but when it works--as it now has for our climate change obligations--it's a powerful force for change.
North Korea's Kim demands better weather forecasting
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:22
PYONGYANG, North Korea, June 11 (UPI) --North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un was critical of his country's weather forecasting methods during a visit to a meteorological center.He blamed "many incorrect forecasts" on the Hydro-Meteorological Service's lack of "modern or scientific" methods, the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported. The public disapproval was aired on state television.
He added the weather service must "fundamentally improve their work" to "protect the lives and properties of the people from disasters caused by abnormal climatic phenomenon," the newspaper said.
Kim's comments came during a "field guidance visit" -- a meet-and-greet spectacle typically arranged at a North Korean workplace -- but the visits generally involve smiles, praise and indications of Kim's approval, instead of criticism of workers or methods.
The reproach of the meteorological service may have implications involving North Korea's meager agriculture industry. The country's planting and harvesting of crops are often influenced by typhoons, and a drought in February was considered by KCNA, the state news agency, as the driest in more than 50 years.
DNR Warden Spots Icebergs On Lake Superior CBS Minnesota
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 19:39
Get Breaking News FirstReceive News, Politics, and Entertainment Headlines Each Morning.
Sign UpMINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) '-- It may be June, but a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden discovered some icebergs still afloat in Lake Superior near Madeline Island on Friday.
DNR Marine Warden Amie Egstad spotted the floating ice '' which was covered in resting seagulls '' while doing a routine check of commercial nets in the largest of the Great Lakes.
(credit: Wis. DNR)
''There was this big iceberg along with other ice packs and bergs floating around backside of Madeline Island area east towards Saxon Harbor,'' Egstad said.
According to a National Geographic report, the summer temperatures of the Great Lakes are expected to be colder this year because more than 90 percent of the lakes had been covered in ice during this past winter.
Hoping for the crazy
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 22:48
The biggest non-story that should be in the news right now, but isn't, is the collapse of anthropogenic-global-warming ''science'' into rubble. Global average temperature has been flat for between 15 and 17 years, depending on how you interpret the 1997-1998 El Nino event. Recently GAT, perking along its merry level way, has fallen out of the bottom of the range of predictions made by the climate modelers at the IPCC. By the normal 95%-confidence standards of scientific confirmation, the IPCC's disaster scenarios '' the basis for, among other things, carbon taxes and the EPA's coming shutdown-by-impossible-regulation of U.S. coal power '' are now busted.
AGW alarmists have responded by actually hoping in public view that a strong El Ni±o event later this year will shove GAT back up into consistency with the IPCC models, rescuing their narrative.
This'...this is hoping for the crazy. Let me count the ways:
First, the IPCC models, which are all about CO2/H20 greenhousing in the atmosphere, do not include or predict the long-period oceanic oscillations that produce El Ni±o. So if the El Ni±o does push up GAT (as it did in 1997-1998) it won't actually confirm the IPCC models; the alarmists are going to have to lie to claim that it does, and it's a lie easily checked and debunked.
Second, El Ni±o has a sister; it is normally followed by an ''La Ni±a'' event, the flip side of the oscillation, that pulls GAT down as strongly as El Ni±o pulls it up. So if the alarmists run around crowing that El Ni±o has rescued the model fit, they'll be setting themselves up for a bad scientific and political fall when La Ni±a comes around and yanks GAT back out of range.
Third, Santayana's definition of a fanatic is relevant here. If you believe, as alarmists claim to, that more global warming would be a civilization- and biosphere-wrecking catastrophe, why in the holy fuck would you object to the IPCC models that predicted it being busted?
The sane reaction would be ''OK, great, there was no climate-change bullet coming, now we can put energy into fixing real threats like biodiversity loss and the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex''. Mightily wishing that catastrophic AGW is real after all, or that the El Ni±o bump can be misrepresented to make it look real, is insane, even in the environmentalists' own terms.
That is, unless the right-wing paranoids were on the money about the whole AGW thing being a political shuck after all '' or anyway, more on the money than I allowed myself to believe. I hate it when that happens'...
. Bookmark the
Eric S. Raymond - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 22:09
Eric Steven Raymond (born December 4, 1957), often referred to as ESR, is an American computer programmer, author and open source software advocate. After the 1997 publication of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Raymond was for a number of years frequently quoted as an unofficial spokesman for the open source movement.[2] He is also known for his work on the popular Roguelike game Nethack for which he wrote the Guidebook, in addition to being a member of the "Dev-Team". More recently, he is recognized in certain circles for his 1990 edit and later updates of the Jargon File, currently in print as the The New Hacker's Dictionary.[3]
Biography[edit]Born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA 1957, Raymond lived in Venezuela as a child. His family moved to Pennsylvania, USA in 1971.[4] Raymond said in an interview that his cerebral palsy motivated him to go into computing.[5] Raymond has spoken in more than fifteen countries on six continents[citation needed], including a lecture at Microsoft.[6]
He wrote CML2, a source code configuration system; while originally intended for the Linux kernel, it was rejected by kernel developers.[7] Raymond attributed this rejection to "kernel list politics".[8]Linus Torvalds on the other hand said in a 2007 mailing list post that as a matter of policy, the development team preferred more incremental changes.
In 2000''2002 Raymond wrote a number of HOWTOs still included in the Linux Documentation Project. His personal archive also lists a number of non-technical and very early non-Linux FAQs. His books, The Cathedral and the Bazaar and The Art of Unix Programming, discuss Unix and Linux history and culture, and user tools for programming and other tasks. In 1998 he received and published a Microsoft document expressing worry about the quality of rival open-source software.[9] Eric named this and other documents subsequently leaked, "the Halloween Documents". Noting that the Jargon File had not been maintained since about 1983, he adopted it in 1990 and currently has a third edition in print. Paul Dourish maintains an archived original version of the Jargon File, because, he says, Raymond's updates "essentially destroyed what held it together."[10]
Raymond is currently the admin of the project page for gpsd, a daemon that makes GPS data from a receiver available in JSON format.[11] Also, some versions of NetHack include his guide.[12] He has also contributed code and content to The Battle for Wesnoth.[13]
Open source[edit]Raymond says he began his programming career with writing proprietary software, between 1980 and 1985.[1] In a 2008 essay he "defended the right of programmers to issue work under proprietary licenses because I think that if a programmer wants to write a program and sell it, it's neither my business nor anyone else's but his customer's what the terms of sale are".[14] In the same essay he also said that the "logic of the system" puts developers into "dysfunctional roles", with bad code the result.
Raymond also coined an aphorism he dubbed "Linus' Law", inspired by Linus Torvalds: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow", that first appeared in The Cathedral and the Bazaar.[15]
Raymond became a prominent voice in the open source movement and co-founded the Open Source Initiative in 1998, taking on the self-appointed role of ambassador of open source to the press, business and public. The internal white paper by Frank Hecker that led to the release of the Mozilla (then Netscape) source code in 1998 cited The Cathedral and the Bazaar as "independent validation" of ideas proposed by Eric Hahn and Jamie Zawinski.[16] Hahn also described the book as "clearly influential".[17] Raymond has refused to speculate on whether the "bazaar" development model could be applied to works such as books and music, not wanting to "weaken the winning argument for open-sourcing software by tying it to a potential loser".[18]
Raymond has had a number of public disputes with other figures in the free software movement. As head of the Open Source Initiative, he argued that advocates should focus on the potential for better products. The "very seductive" moral and ethical rhetoric of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation fails, he said, "not because his principles are wrong, but because that kind of language ... simply does not persuade anybody".[19] Raymond stepped down as the president of the Open Source Initiative in February 2005.[20]
Political activism[edit]Raymond is a member of the Libertarian Party. He is a gun rights advocate.[21] He has endorsed Defense Distributed and its efforts, calling Defense Distributed "friends of freedom" and writing "I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolize the use of force. As 3D printers become less expensive and more ubiquitous, this could be a major step in the right direction."[22][23]
Bibliography[edit]Hamerly, Jim, Paquin, Tom and Walton, Susan; Freeing the Source: The Story of Mozilla, in Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution, O'Reilly, 1999. 280pp, ISBN 1-56592-582-3Moody, Glyn; Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution, Basic Books 2002, 342pp, ISBN 978-0-7382-0333-1Suarez-Potts, Louis; Interview: Frank Hecker, Community Articles, May 1, 2001, www.openoffice.org, OpenOffice websiteBy Eric Raymond[edit]Books[edit]The New Hacker's Dictionary (editor) (MIT Press ISBN 0-262-68092-0) '-- printed version of the Jargon File with Raymond listed as the editor.The Cathedral and the Bazaar (O'Reilly; hardcover ISBN 1-56592-724-9, October 1999) '-- includes "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", "Homesteading the Noosphere", "The Magic Cauldron" and "Revenge of the Hackers"The Art of Unix Programming (Addison-Wesley, October 2003; ISBN 0-13-142901-9)Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition Cameron, Debra; Elliott, James; Loy, Marc; Raymond, Eric; Rosenblatt, Bill (O'Reilly Media, December 2004; ISBN 978-0-596-00648-8)Writings posted or archived on his website[edit]See also[edit]References[edit]^ abRaymond, Eric S. (January 29, 2003). "Resume of Eric Steven Raymond". Retrieved November 23, 2009. ^"Hackers cut off SCO Web site". August 25, 2003. Retrieved August 22, 2009. ^Eric S. Raymond, The New Hacker's Dictionary, MIT Press, (paperback ISBN 0-262-68092-0, cloth ISBN 0-262-18178-9)^"Man Against the FUD". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved July 7, 2008. ^Leonard, Andrew (April 1998). "Let my software go!". Salon.com (San Francisco: Salon Media Group). Retrieved November 23, 2009. ^Open Source Advocate Invited To Microsoft^"CML2, ESR, & The LKML". KernelTrap. February 17, 2002. ^McMillan, Rob. "Interview: Eric Raymond goes back to basics". IBM developerWorks. ^Harmon, Amy (November 3, 1998). "Internal Memo Shows Microsoft Executives' Concern Over Free Software". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2011. ^"The Original Hacker's Dictionary". dourish.com. Retrieved November 5, 2011. ^"GPSD '' Summary". savannah.nongnu.org. Retrieved October 30, 2011. ^Raymond, Eric S. (December 8, 2003). "A Guide to the Mazes of Menace (Guidebook of Nethack)". NetHack.org. Retrieved December 15, 2008. ^"People at Gna!: Eric S. Raymond Profile". Gna.org. Retrieved November 23, 2009. ^Raymond, Eric S. (October 1, 2008). "Why I Hate Proprietary Software". Retrieved November 5, 2011. ^Raymond, Eric S.; The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, O'Reilly Media 2001, 241pp. ISBN 0-596-00108-8. p30^Suarez-Potts, Louis (2001). "Interview: Frank Hecker". Retrieved November 5, 2011. ^Moody, Glyn; Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution, Basic Books 2002, 344 pages. ISBN 0-7382-0670-9. p. 190^Raymond, Eric S. (2000). "Afterword: Beyond Software?". Retrieved July 24, 2007. ^Raymond, Eric S. (July 28, 1999). 28, 1999-023-10-NW-SM "Shut Up And Show Them The Code". Linux Today. Retrieved November 23, 2009. ^Raymond, Eric S. (January 31, 2005). "Open Source Initiative (OSI) Announces expanded programs, counsel, AND board". Retrieved January 14, 2010. ^Richard Stallman, Free Software, and Copyleft 2011^Raymond, Eric (August 23, 2012). "Defense Distributed". Armed and Dangerous. Retrieved January 14, 2013. ^Kopstein, Joshua (April 12, 2013). "Guns want to be free: what happens when 3D printing and crypto-anarchy collide?". The Verge. External links[edit]PersondataNameRaymond, Eric StevenAlternative namesESR (nickname)Short descriptionAmerican computer programmer, author, and advocate for the open source movementDate of birthDecember 4, 1957Place of birthBoston, Massachusetts, USADate of deathPlace of death
Drones Offer New Horizon, Solutions for Weather Modification - AccuWeather.com
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 03:31
Drones Offer New Horizon, Solutions for Weather ModificationBy Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather.com Staff WriterJune 09, 2014; 8:28 PM
Cloud seeding may be the next frontier for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, with potential global implications.
The state of Nevada was one of six selected test sites by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December 2013. One of the state's focuses is how UAS can make cloud seeding an easier, more economical process.
Cloud seeding is the attempt to modify the amount of precipitation from clouds, done mostly in an attempt to alleviate drought by creating precipitation. Presently it is done by launching silver iodide into the clouds from the ground or by flying over top of the clouds and dropping the chemicals into the cloud formations.
There is still necessary research to be done before cloud seeding can be proven as an effective tool according to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell.
"It's hard to prove if it works or not because we don't know what would happen if we hadn't seeded," he said. Still, he sees how drones could assist the technology once more concrete evidence is gathered.
This April 13, 2013, file photo shows a NASA Global Hawk robotic jet in a hangar at Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies. (AP Photo/John Antczak, File)
Cloud seeding is a more common practice internationally than within the United States. China is known to use the technique frequently. The Nevada government is hoping to break into the global weather modification market by working with this new technology.
Director of Weather Modification Activities at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, Jeff Tilley said that using drones for cloud seeding will offer a more cost-effective alternative to the controversial process.
Ground-based cloud seeding and manned airborne aircraft seeding are the two procedures currently used. While ground-based is the more common approach, it does not provide as much reach as the more expensive airborne. UAS could bridge the gap between the two and offer an alternative that is inexpensive, yet covers more area.
Fuel is one of the factors that drives up the price of airborne seeding and Tilley sees that as the area where the UAS could provide the most difference.
"You can very quickly go through a budget for a year's supply of fuel during one storm if you're not careful," he said. By using smaller, lighter drones, which weigh less than a typical seeding aircraft, the fuel cost difference would be substantial.
"Fuel is expensive, pilots are expensive and often in a storm you have to go up and down multiple trips," he said.
Using drones, especially in areas with mountainous terrain, could be a safer way to reach the clouds that sit close to the terrain itself. Manned aircraft cannot presently reach such clouds due to FAA regulations on the proximity of aircraft and terrain.
"The smaller size of the drones, and the fact they are not manned, provides potential opportunities for drones to fly below cloud base and seed there as well as at cloud top," said Tilley.
The process of the seeding itself will not drastically change, Tilley explained. Some changes will have to be made to the size of the flares due to the compact size of the drone versus a manned aircraft.
In order to measure the effectiveness of cloud seeding, they hope to use multiple aircrafts to gather simultaneous measurements.
RELATED:Can Drones Offer New Ways to Predict Storms, Save Lives?Rage Against the Machine: Quadcopters vs. the FAAWATCH: Need Rain? Cloud Seeding Can Help
Tilley and his team are working closely with the FAA to operate as a test facility for the cloud-seeding operations as well as researching other weather technologies to "increase the observational net," he said.
"The potential market for the technology is substantial bigger than the current cloud-seeding operational community," Tilley said. Entities within the U.S. and other countries would use the technology for whatever precipitation they need who currently cannot afford to use the laborious, aging technology available now.
The Nevada state government recognizes how quickly the UAS industry is developing and has a goal to become the global leader according to Thomas Wilczek, Defense and Aerospace Industry liaison at the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development.
"From the state perspective, there's that potential to capture a percentage of a $90 billion revenue-producing industry," he said.
Wilczek said that support has been strong from local government all the way up to state level and that there is an understanding as to how important this industry can be for Nevada.
"The industry was developed here," Wilczek said. "That subject matter expertise resides here in the state."
Ralph E. Reed, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:17
Ralph ReedRalph Reed speaking in February 2011.
BornRalph Eugene Reed, Jr.(1961-06-24) June 24, 1961 (age 52)Portsmouth, VirginiaAlma materUniversity of Georgia, (A.B., 1985)Emory University, {Ph.D in American History, 1989}Known forFounding the Christian CoalitionPolitical party
RepublicanReligionBorn again ChristianSpouse(s)JoAnne Young (m. 1987)Children4 (Brittany Anne Reed, 1989; Ralph E. Reed III, 1990; Christopher "12 Gauge" Ryan Reed, 1992; Nicole Lynn Reed, 1997.)Ralph Eugene Reed, Jr. (born June 24, 1961) is a conservativeAmericanpolitical activist, best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition during the early 1990s. He sought the Republican nomination for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Georgia but lost the primary election on July 18, 2006, to state Senator Casey Cagle. Reed started the Faith and Freedom Coalition in June 2009. Reed and his wife JoAnne Young were married in 1987 and have four children.
Education[edit]Born in Portsmouth, Virginia, to Navyophthalmologist Ralph Reed and mother Marcy Read, young Ralph moved often as a child, but spent the majority of his childhood in Miami, Florida. He moved with his family to Toccoa, Georgia in 1976, earning Eagle Scout at BSA Troop 77[1] and graduating from Stephens County High School in 1979. He attended the University of Georgia where he earned an A.B. in history in 1985. After failing to properly cite an article in his role as editor of the college newspaper, Reed was discharged from his duties for plagiarism.[2] Reed was a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society, the Jasper Dorsey Intercollegiate Debate Society, and College Republicans. He was also a columnist for The Red & Black student newspaper. He is also an alumnus of the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia,[3][4] an organization that teaches conservative Americans how to influence public policy through activism and leadership.[5] Reed also attended Emory University where he was awarded a Ph.D in American History in 1989.
Early days as political activist[edit]Reed spent much of his college career as a political activist, taking six years to earn his undergraduate degree. He started with the University of GeorgiaCollege Republicans, steadily rising to state and then national leadership. He was later profiled in Gang of Five by Nina Easton, along with Grover Norquist and other young activists who got their start in that 1980s era.[6]
The triumvirate[edit]In 1981, Reed moved to Washington, D.C., to intern at the College Republican National Committee (CRNC). At the CRNC, Jack Abramoff, Norquist and Reed formed what was known as the "Abramoff-Norquist-Reed triumvirate." Abramoff promoted Reed in 1983, appointing him to succeed Norquist as Executive Director of the CRNC. Norquist would later serve as President of Americans for Tax Reform, in Washington, D.C.
Religious experience[edit]Reed has said that, in September 1983, he had a religious experience while at Bullfeathers, an upscale pub in Capitol Hill that was popular with staffers (and, to a lesser extent, members) of the House of Representatives. Regarding the experience, Reed said "the Holy Spirit simply demanded me to come to Jesus". He walked outside the pub to a phone booth, thumbed through the yellow pages under "Churches," and found the Evangelical Assembly of God Church in Camp Springs, Maryland.[7] He visited the next morning and became a born-again Christian.[8]
Students for America[edit]After receiving his A.B. he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to help start and lead Students for America (SFA), a conservative activist group supported by U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. SFA became largely dominated by members of Maranatha Campus Ministries, and this brought Reed into contact with Ed Buckham and Jim Backlin, the current Legislative Director of the Christian Coalition. Reed's links to Tom DeLay were forged through his association with Buckham and Backlin.
SFA established chapters on college campuses up and down the East Coast and held conferences. Among other issues, SFA supported Helms' bid for re-election and organized abortion clinic protests. Reed was temporarily arrested during an abortion protest at the Fleming Center Abortion Clinic in Raleigh but was not charged with any crime. After Reed left SFA for a bigger job at the Christian Coalition, SFA faded out of existence by the early 1990s.
Role in the Christian Coalition[edit]Reed was hired by religious broadcaster-cum-Presidential candidate Pat Robertson as executive director of the Christian Coalition in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Robertson, his son, Gordon P. Robertson, Dick Weinold, a Robertson activist from Texas, and Billy McCormack, a pastor from Shreveport, Louisiana, were the original four directors of the organization. McCormack also held the title of "vice president" and had been his state director of "Americans for Robertson" in 1988.[9]
Reed led the organization from 1989 to 1997. Once Federal prosecutors began investigating charges by the Christian Coalition's chief financial officer, Judy Liebert, Reed resigned from his post, and moved to Georgia. The Coalition's finances were collapsing, and the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission were investigating.
The Coalition organized former Robertson supporters and other religious conservatives to oppose political liberalism. Eschewing confrontational tactics of street protest learned in college, Reed attempted to project a "softer" public face for Christian conservatism, self-described as "guerrilla", putting "enemies" in "body bags" before they even realized he had struck.[10]
In the 1990s, Reed and the coalition protested against the Clinton administration's policies. They were credited with mobilizing Christian conservatives in support of Republican candidates in the 1994 Congressional elections.[citation needed] Reed appeared on the cover of Time on May 15, 1995, under the title "The Right Hand of God: Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition."
In 1996, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) brought an enforcement action in United States District Court,[11] alleging Reed and the coalition "violated federal campaign finance laws during congressional elections in 1990, 1992 and 1994, and the presidential election in 1992." The FEC prevailed in this action.
Employment in Georgia[edit]On resigning as executive director of the Christian Coalition, Reed moved to the Atlanta, Georgia suburb of Duluth to begin a career as a political consultant and lobbyist.
Skandalakis campaign leader[edit]In late 1997, Reed joined the campaign of Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, becoming its General Consultant. In addition to planning campaign strategy, Reed himself appeared in advertisements, identifying himself as the former head of the Christian Coalition and vouching for Skandalakis' conservative credentials and personal integrity.
In the primary, Skandalakis placed first among the five Republican candidates, but did not receive a majority of the vote and was forced into a run-off with second place finisher Day. Reed planned a series of advertisements which included charges that Day had "desecrated Indian graves" on a plot of land owned by a Day family foundation. The Skandalakis campaign held a conference at which tribal leaders, wearing headdress and other ceremonial clothing, attacked Day as a "vandal" and "grave robber."
Reed's strategy initially met with success, as Skandalakis narrowly defeated Day in the Republican primary run-off. However, Skandalakis went on to lose the general election.
Century Strategies founder[edit]While running the Skandalakis campaign in 1997, Reed founded Century Strategies, a political consulting firm which describes itself as "one of the nation's leading public affairs and public relations firms." While initially engaged primarily in campaign consulting for Republican candidates its mission evolved into advocacy and lobbying.
Reed helped Alabama Governor Fob James win renomination in a bitterly contested Republican primary, only to become the first Republican in over a decade to lose the Alabama governor's election. Immediately after the 1998 election, Reed shifted gears to corporate work. In 1999, Abramoff helped Reed get hired[12] as a consultant subcontractor for Preston Gates & Ellis.
Reed is credited with attacks on Senator John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina presidential primary, together with Roberta Combs, then head of the South Carolina Christian Coalition, who later took over the national Christian Coalition. Bush's defeat of McCain in that primary came at a key moment and ended McCain's early momentum from an upset victory in the New Hampshire primary.
Reed's $20,000 per month contract with Microsoft[13] proved a minor embarrassment to the Bush campaign in the summer of 2000 when it was revealed that the software giant, which was being prosecuted for antitrust violations, had hired a number of Bush aides as consultants and lobbyists. Reed apologized for the "appearance of conflict" but continued to accept the money until early 2005, when Microsoft terminated Reed in the midst of the Indian gaming scandal.
Some conservatives have criticized Reed's choice of clients and suggested that he has inappropriately profited from his credentials as a conservative Christian leader. A conservative Alabama group called Obligation, Inc.[dead link] is a fierce critic of Reed's client Channel One News, arguing that the company pumps classrooms full of "commercials for junk food and sleazy movies."
In 1999, Reed's firm "sent out a mailer to Alabama conservative Christians asking them to call then-Rep. Bob Riley (R-Ala.) and tell him to vote against legislation that would have made the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands subject to federal wage and worker safety laws." Abramoff represented the commonwealth as a partner of Greenberg Traurig and received $4.04 million from 1998 to 2002. Greenberg Traurig, in turn, hired Reed's firm to print the mailing.
Georgia Republican Party chairman[edit]In 2001, Reed mounted a campaign for State Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, a volunteer job. His candidacy attracted national media attention, and challenges from three opponents.
Reed's principal opponent was David Shafer, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party recruited to the race by Congressman John Linder. Shafer campaigned on Republican gains made when he served as state executive director in the early 1990s, but was hampered by his subsequent association with the failed campaigns of Mack Mattingly, Guy Millner and Clint Day in the later half of the decade.
The state convention, held at the Cobb Galleria in May 2001, was the most heavily attended and longest running in the history of the party. Reed won on the first ballot, capturing almost 60 percent of the delegate vote against Shafer, who won 40 percent, and a third candidate, lobbyist Maria Rose Strollo, who won one percent.
Reed was endorsed by the "Confederate Republican Caucus," a block of almost 500 "heritage" activists who had participated in the state convention as a protest against the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the State Flag. The organization would later claim that they were "double-crossed" by Reed.[14]
Documents released by federal investigators in June 2005 show that Reed's 2001 campaign for State Chairman was partially financed with contributions from the Choctaws, an Indian gaming tribe represented by Abramoff.
The party experienced success in the 2002 elections under Reed's leadership. Saxby Chambliss was elected as U.S. Senator, and Sonny Perdue was elected as Governor. Reed, however, was asked to relinquish his job as State Chairman by Perdue, whose long-shot candidacy was largely ignored by Reed in favor of Chambliss.
Reed supported the candidacy of Congressman Bob Barr, who had moved into the neighboring district of Congressman John Linder and challenged his renomination. Linder decisively defeated Barr.
Campaign for Lieutenant Governor[edit]Speculation about a Reed candidacy for Lieutenant Governor began building shortly after the 2004 general election. Republican party leaders were unenthusiastic about the candidacy of Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who had been "exploring" a race for Lieutenant Governor for over a year. Aides to Governor Sonny Perdue tried to recruit House Republican Leader Jerry Keen as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, while State Senators Casey Cagle and Bill Stephens jockeyed for support among Senate Republicans.
Reed claimed support of the White House, access to the Bush fundraising apparatus and command of a large grass roots organization. His official declaration of candidacy on February 17, 2005 largely cleared the field of opposition; Keen, Stephens and Oxendine all left the race. Keen, a former state chairman of the Christian Coalition, was the first to drop, followed quickly by Stephens. Although insisting at the time of Reed's entry into the race that he would "never" withdraw, Oxendine ended his candidacy two weeks later. Only Cagle, a relatively unknown lawmaker, remained in the race to challenge Reed.
A poll conducted for Oxendine was the first indication of trouble for Reed.[15] Released shortly before Oxendine's exit from the race, the poll showed Oxendine defeating Reed among likely Republican voters by a large margin. It also showed Reed losing the general election to the only announced Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, former State Senator Greg Hecht. Little attention was paid to the poll because Oxendine folded his own candidacy shortly after it was released. Reed himself dismissed the poll as a face-saving gesture by an embarrassed Oxendine.
Reed's campaign experienced a loss of momentum with revelations about his role in the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal. Email documents released in the investigation revealed details about Reed's financial relationships with Abramoff.[16]
Reed's early lead in fund-raising evaporated by December 31, 2005, when disclosure reports showed Cagle raising almost twice as much money as Reed in the last six months of the year.
Defections and calls for withdrawal[edit]Bob Irvin, a former U.S. House of Representatives Republican leader, was the first prominent Republican to publicly call on Reed to withdraw from the race.[17][dead link][18] 21 state senators signed a letter in February 2006 calling on Reed to withdraw from the race, "declaring that his ties to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff could jeopardize the re-election of Gov. Sonny Perdue and the rest of the GOP ticket.... Reed rejected the petition as a useless stunt, and expressed confidence that his record and ideas would prevail." [19]
Aides to Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, ostensibly neutral in the race, released a poll that showed Reed's mounting negatives could hurt Perdue and the Republican ticket. On March 21, 2006, political consultant Matt Towery of Insider Advantage released a poll showing Reed represented an eight point drag on the Perdue ticket.[20]
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, whose own ambitions had been upended by Reed's candidacy, endorsed Cagle in June 2006, saying that Reed's nomination threatened the success of the Republican ticket.
Two dozen members of the Reed steering committee, including a Reed State Co-Chairman, resigned their affiliation with the Reed campaign and endorsed Cagle, but Reed continued his pursuit of the nomination.
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani traveled to Georgia to campaign for Reed. A Democrat, conservative former United States Senator Zell Miller, also endorsed Reed.
Election results[edit]On July 18, 2006, Reed was decisively defeated in the Republican primary, losing the nomination to State Senator Casey Cagle. Final returns show Reed losing by twelve percentage points, collecting 44 percent of the vote to Cagle's 56 percent. According to Politics1.com, Reed indicated he would not likely seek elective office ever again.[21]
Indian gambling scandals[edit]Reed was named in the scandal arising from lobbying work performed by Jack Abramoff on behalf of Indian gambling tribes. E-mails released by federal investigators in June 2005 revealed that Reed secretly accepted payments from Abramoff to lobby against Indian casino gambling and oppose an Alabama education lottery.[16] Additional e-mails released in November 2005 show that Reed also worked for another Abramoff client seeking to block a congressional ban on Internet gambling. These cases are being investigated by multiple federal and state grand juries and by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Abramoff pleaded guilty to three felony counts in federal court, raising the prospects of Abramoff testifying against others.
Those e-mails and other evidence revealed the participation of the Christian Coalition in the alleged fraud, particularly the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, which received large amounts of donations from the casino money. It is alleged that Abramoff engaged Reed to set up an anti-gambling campaign to include the U.S. Family Network, the Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family in order to frighten the tribes into spending as much as $82 million for Abramoff to lobby on their behalf. To represent him in connection with the scandal, Reed retained defense attorney W. Neil Eggleston, then of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Eggleston served as White House associate counsel during the administration of President Bill Clinton.
In December 2005, three Texas public interest groups filed a complaint with Travis County Attorney David Escamilla on December 1, 2005, alleging that Reed failed to register as a lobbyist in 2001 or 2002 when he was working for Abramoff.[22] Escamilla said on March 27, 2006 "his office had concluded its investigation -- but that a two-year statute of limitations on misdemeanors from 2001 and 2002 had expired."[23]
On June 22, 2006 the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs released its final report [24] on the scandal.
The report states that under the guidance of the MississippiChoctaw tribe's planner, Nell Rogers, the tribe agreed to launder money because "Ralph Reed did not want to be paid directly by a tribe with gaming interests." It also states that Reed used non-profits, like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, as pass-throughs to disguise the origin of the funds, and that "the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed's political concerns."
Reed has written six books; three non-fiction and three fictional political thrillers.
Positions held[edit]Executive Director, College Republican National Committee (CRNC) 1983''1985 (appointed by Jack Abramoff, then Chairman of the CRNC).Executive Director, Christian Coalition, 1989''1997.President, Century Strategies, 1997''Present.Chairman, Georgia Republican Party, 2001''2003.Chairman of the Southeast Region for Bush-Cheney, 2004.Member, Board of Visitors, University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs.Member, Executive Board, Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America.Member, Advisory Council of SafeHouse.Member, Leadership Trust, National Federation of Independent Business.Member, Board of Directors, American Council of Young Political Leaders.References[edit]^"Eagle Scout Alumni from Troop 77". BSA Troop 77, Northeast Georgia Council. Retrieved 31 May 2013. ^Barrett, Laurence I. (September 13, 1993). "Fighting For God and the Right Wing: RALPH REED". Time. ^Horwitz, Jeff (2005-05-25). "My Right-Wing Degree: How I learned to convert liberal campuses into conservative havens at Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute, alma mater of Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Jeff Gannon and two Miss Americas". Salon.com. ^Jerome Armstrong (2006). Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics. Chelsea Green Publishing. ^"The LI Difference". The Leadership Institute. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^Nina J. Easton (2000). Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade. ISBN 0-7432-0320-8. ^"Evangel Assembly of God". LocalSearch.com. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^Laurence I. Barrett (2001-06-24). "Fighting For God and the Right Wing". TIME. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^"We've Come a Long Way, Baby, in Race Relations, March 16, 2008". demo.openlogicsys.com. Retrieved June 6, 2012. ^"Quotes On and From Ralph Reed". Public Campaign Action Fund. CampaignMoney.org. 2005. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^"Federal Election Commission v. The Christian Coalition". Judgment. 1999-08-02. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^[1][dead link]^Charles Pope (2005-04-27). "Microsoft defends ties to Ralph Reed Critics want conservative consultant fired". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^Steve Scroggins (2005-04-27). "Ralph "Roll-them-Dice" Reed gets his just desserts for being a lying hypocrite---and there's more coming...". ^"Haven't we seen that hat before? Now it's in the ring for sure". Atlanta Metro News. Atlanta Journal Constitution. 2005-02-17. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^ ab"Exhibits to the 2005-06-22 Hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs". Archived from the original on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2007-09-02. ^http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/news/050619/run.shtml^Bob Moser (2006-04-04). "Campaign Turns Into Reed's Nightmare". CBS News. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^[2][dead link]^[3][dead link]^"American Politics, Elections, Candidates & Campaigns". Politics1. Retrieved 2010-10-07. ^[4][dead link]^[5][dead link]^Committee on Indian Affairs (2006-06-22). "Final Report before the Committee on Indian Affairs - Oversight and Investigation -Indian Lobbying Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-10-07. External links[edit]ArticlesThomas B. Edsall (2006-01-16). "In Ga., Abramoff Scandal Threatens a Political Ascendancy". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-10-07. Matthew Continetti (2005-06-27). "A Decade of Reed: One Republican's long, lucrative march through the institutions". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 2010-10-07. David D. Kirkpatrick and Philip Shenon (April 18, 2005). "Ralph Reed's Zeal for Lobbying Is Shaking His Political Faithful". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-07. The Washington Times: "Reed said to see Georgia as path to the White House" by Ralph Z. Hallow, January 18, 2005The Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Reed an albatross for GOP" by Bob Irvin, June 15, 2005The Atlanta Journal Constitution: "20% of Reed's funds raised out of state" by James SalzerThe Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Reed e-mails upset anti-gambling allies" by Jim GallowayThe Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Reed lacks a conscience and the truth" by Jay BookmanThe Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Reed's fees all paid by casino" by Jim Galloway and Alan Judd, November 3, 2005.Texas Observer: "Thin Reed: Will Abramoff's Deep Throat Swallow God's Mouthpiece?"[dead link]Cox News Service "Supporters ask, is Reed worth the gamble?" by Jim Galloway, January 13, 2006The National Journal: "Reed in the Rough" by Peter H. Stone, July 7, 2006"The Devil Inside" The Nation, March 30, 2006Creative Loafing Atlanta's The Book of Ralph, a graphic political adventureBookman, Jay. "Commentary - The lies of lobbygate"Rutland Herald, April 4, 2006.Garrison Keillor on the Reed scandalInterview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, June 10, 2008PersondataNameReed, Ralph E. Jr.Alternative namesShort descriptionAmerican political punditDate of birth1961-06-24Place of birthPortsmouth, VirginiaDate of deathPlace of death
Paul Krugman: Climate Denialism Is Ayn Rand's Fault
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 00:12
Apparently, it's all the fault of a certain uncompromising White Russian emigree:
Well, think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn't matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview. And the natural reaction is denial '-- angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you'll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.
In the comments section, lots of New York Times readers are full of admiration for the great man's insight, wisdom and moderation. I'm personally very excited for Professor Krugman too because I think it could mark the beginning of a successful new career as an amateur pop psychologist. Next week, he could maybe tell us why racism is caused by listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd; then, in a subsequent column, which I especially look forward to reading, he could explain why all the firm breasts and heaving buttocks in Game of Thrones are responsible for the worst outbreak of sexism in Western history.
What's certain is that Krugman badly needs a career change. He trained, I believe, as an economist but what's palpably clear when reading his article is that he doesn't really understand his subject at all.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean.
1. "First, the consequences will be terrible if we don't take quick action to limit carbon emissions."
This statement is flat-out wrong. Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is no more than a theory which is being made to look increasingly shaky by real-world evidence. For example, since 1997 man-made carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase while global mean temperatures have flatlined. So where's the correlation, let alone the causation?
2."Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn't be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much."
Love the arrogance of that "required", Paul. You're posing as an economist, yet you're speaking like an activist. A tax on CO2 is a tax on productivity and a tax on economic growth. And why would you want to slow economic growth - even by a small amount - in the absence of any hard evidence that there was any justification for doing so?
3. "Back in the 1980s conservatives claimed that any attempt to limit acid rain would have devastating economic effects; in reality, the cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide was highly successful at minimal cost."
See what you just did there? I did. You started with a false assumption - that acid rain was a serious problem. Which it never was. Then, instead of crediting "conservatives" with being right about this - as they were - you instead pretend that their argument was about "devastating economic effects." No it wasn't. It was about unnecessary expense to deal with a non-existent problem. Which isn't the same thing at all.
4. "The Northeastern states have had a cap-and-trade arrangement for carbon since 2009, and so far have seen emissions drop sharply while their economies grew faster than the rest of the country. "
And? There could be a host of reasons for the rapid economic growth in Northeastern states - shale gas? - which have nothing to do with cap-and-trade. The idea that imposing a tax on the industrial process is a recipe for economic growth defies all the evidence from all economies in the history of the world, ever. Only an economist who had completely lost the plot could argue otherwise.
5. Environmentalism is not the enemy of economic growth.
Yes it is. Absolutely it is. Why do you think the Club of Rome called its environmental bestseller Limits To Growth? Environmentalism is, au fond, a movement against free market capitalism and economic growth. It presupposes that instead of being allocated according to need - by supply and demand - scarce resources should instead be "preserved" by government fiat for "future generations", that markets should be regulated and constrained, that the state should compel the use of "renewable energy", that taxes should be raised.
None of these measures can be described as anything other than the "enemy of economic growth." For a Nobel-prize-winning economist to do so is beyond absurd.
And it's not just me who thinks Krugman has made a fool of himself. So too does the great climate scientist Michael Mann who argues his case in this characteristically thoughtful, considered, well-researched and factually thorough piece in the Huffington Post.
According to Mann, climate change denialism has much more to do with the Koch Brothers, sinister conservative foundations like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity and the Heartland Institute.
Mann is right, of course. I wonder if he knows that when you pull the Koch Brothers' hair hard enough off comes a mask to reveal hideous lizard-faced aliens who are related to the Royal Family and the Rothschilds? Perhaps he can use that in his next column - or even work it into some kind of chart which the IPCC can use in their next Assessment Report.
Mea Vita: Carpe Diem: Facebook Tracking and Privacy Concerns
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:13
Facebook is tracking me and I didn't realize it.I was looking at my Facebook activity log and I clicked on "Include Only Me activity." That displayed my Facebook activity, which only I could see, including places I had been and how long I'd been there each day. The level of detail is surprising. Yesterday, Facebook showed my journey from home to Tech Coffee and then my drive and three hour stay at the Grand Del Mar's Club M.Stop Following MeFacebook provides instructions for turning it off, but, you'd need to realize it's turned on in the first place. It seems this tracking feature is turned on and off via the mobile app, but the Location History map is displayed on the website.Forewarned is forearmed.
Author: Joe Moreno
SNOWDEN NO GLASSES-Ex-KGB-Agent enth¼llt: So wurde Snowden nach Russland gelockt - Politik Ausland - Bild.de
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 21:09
Nicht einmal seine Freunde wissen, wo er wohnt. In Internet-Shops wird er erkannt '' so lebt Edward Snowden (30) in Russland. mehr...
U.S. in Talks with Snowden on Possible Plea Deal | Washington Free Beacon
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 23:48
Edward Snowden / AP
BY:Bill GertzJune 10, 2014 5:00 am
Federal prosecutors recently held discussions with representatives of renegade National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden on a possible deal involving his return to the United States to face charges of stealing more than a million secret NSA documents, according to U.S. officials.
Snowden is currently in Moscow under Russian government protection after fleeing Hawaii, where he worked in NSA's Kunia facility, for Hong Kong in May 2013. U.S. officials have charged him with stealing an estimated 1.7 million documents from NSA Net and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) and providing some materials to news outlets.
Discussions on Snowden's return were held in the past several weeks between prosecutors in the Justice Department's National Security Division and Plato Cacheris, a long-time Washington defense lawyer who in the past represented several U.S. spies, including some who reached plea bargains rather than go to trial.
Cacheris declined to comment when asked about the discussions. ''There's nothing to report,'' he told the Washington Free Beacon.
No details of the discussions could be learned. But the talks focused on a plea deal that would result in Snowden returning to the United States to face lesser charges in exchange for returning the large cache of secret documents, said officials familiar with some aspects of the talks.
A Justice Department spokesman would not comment directly when asked about discussions on a deal for Snowden.
''It remains our position that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the charges filed against him,'' Marc Raimondi told the Free Beacon. ''If he does, he will be accorded full due process and protections.''
Snowden was charged with three espionage-related offenses in a criminal complaint unsealed in June 2013. They include theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.
Intelligence, security, and law enforcement officials are said to be divided on whether to pursue a plea deal with Snowden, or to continue seeking legal or intelligence means to bring him to justice.
The former contractor is viewed by supporters, many of them anti-American leftists and anarchists, as a whistleblower who exposed improper activities by the agency. His critics regard him as a traitor who damaged U.S. national security by disclosing NSA surveillance, encryption, and other sensitive secrets.
NSA Director Michael Rogers said last week he doubted a deal with Snowden for the return of documents could be worked out.
Asked if he favored amnesty for Snowden in exchange for the return of NSA documents, Rogers said: ''That's not my decision. But in the digital age we're living in, the idea of controlling once it's out there I think is very problematic.''
Rogers said the documents may be out of Snowden's control and thus difficult to recover. The document cache ''certainly doesn't have the control I wish it had,'' he said during an interview with Bloomberg News June 3.
Rogers also said he regards Snowden as ''arrogant'' and believes he ''possibly'' could have been a Russian spy, although he added that the former contractor ''probably'' is not a recruited Russian agent.
''I fundamentally disagree with what he did,'' Rogers said. ''I believe it was wrong, I believe it was illegal.''
Rogers said the NSA has a ''fairly good idea'' of how many documents were taken by Snowden, who used a combination of methods to gain access to and remove the NSA documents, many of them classified at the ''top secret'' level and higher.
Snowden told NBC News last month that he does not believe he can receive a fair trial in the United States. ''When people say, 'Why don't you go home and face the music?' I say you have to understand that the music is not an open court and a fair trial,'' he said.
Snowden said he never intended to end up in Russia and had been booked for a flight to Cuba and Latin American but was held up in Moscow after the U.S. government revoked his passport.
Snowden also claimed he destroyed the NSA document cache before arriving in Russia and denied having access to the digital material from a networked computer.
''I have no relationship with the Russian government at all,'' Snowden said. ''I'm not supported by the Russian government. I'm not taking money from the Russian government. I'm not a spy, which is the real question.''
Snowden indicated he is prepared to talk to the U.S. government. Asked when he decided to flee with the documents, Snowden told NBC: ''I think given the ongoing investigation, that's something better not to get into in a news interview, but I'd be happy to discuss these things with the [U.S.] government.''
Michelle Van Cleave, former national counterintelligence executive, a senior counterspy policymaker, said any deal for Snowden's return would likely involve the Russians.
''If the Russians let him go, it will be because they've already gotten all the million-plus secret documents he stole,'' Van Cleave said. ''So what would be in it for us? I am tired of watching Putin play us for fools. If Snowden wants out of Moscow, he should surrender and face justice for the terrible crimes he has committed.''
In a related development, Snowden's Russian lawyer told a state-run Russian news agency last week that his client is preparing to extend his stay in Moscow beyond the current asylum period ending in August.
Anatoly Kucherena, the lawyer, said he and Snowden were working on extending his status, Interfax reported June 4.
Snowden told Brazil's Globo television June 1 that he would like to relocate to Brazil. ''The period of asylum granted to me by Russia ends at the beginning of August. If Brazil offered me asylum I would accept with pleasure,'' Snowden was quoted as saying. ''I would very much like to live in Brazil.''
U.S. intelligence and security officials had indicated earlier they are open to dealing with Snowden.
Rick Leggett, head of a special NSA task force in charge of the Snowden leaks, told CBS' 60 Minutes in December that offering some type of legal deal to Snowden in exchange for the return of classified NSA documents is ''worth having a conversation about.''
Michael Daniel, the White House cybersecurity director, then said in a speech to the U.S. Naval Academy in March that he is open to discussions with Snowden to learn the full extent of the compromised NSA material.
''I think it would be very valuable for us to actually understand in much greater detail everything that was taken,'' Daniel said.
NSA Director Army Gen. Keith Alexander, before he retired as head of the agency, voiced opposition to a deal for Snowden's return.
''This is analogous to a hostage-taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10 and then say, 'If you give me full amnesty, I'll let the other 40 go.' What do you do?'' Alexander said, also on CBS. ''I think people have to be held accountable for their actions.''
Raimondi, the Justice Department spokesman, noted that Attorney General Eric Holder has said Snowden is ''not a whistleblower.''
''He is accused of leaking classified information and there is no question his actions have inflicted serious harms on our national security,'' Raimondi said.
President Obama was asked about Snowden during an NBC interview Friday and said he would not comment on the specifics of the case. But Obama noted that the leaks ''had a very significant impact on our intelligence operations around the world; had a grave impact on a number of our diplomatic relationships; compromised our ability to gain insight into some of the work that our adversaries do.''
''There's no doubt that this is an area of legitimate debate,'' Obama said of NSA activities. ''And I think there are patriots on both sides who recognize, on the one hand, we've got to make sure that our eyes and ears are open for potential threats. What's also true is we got to make sure not only that our privacy is protected, but that the manner in which our intelligence services operate internationally comports with our values and our ideas.''
Daniel, special assistant to the president for cyber security, said in a speech March 28 that the Snowden damage will persist for decades.
''Make no mistake: We are going to be dealing with the fallout from that for all of your careers, and the impact that that has had on our national security will reverberate for decades,'' Daniel told Naval Academy midshipmen.
Snowden disclosures reveal U.S. electronic spying targets along with ''techniques and tools that are no longer available to us,'' Daniel said.
Ed Snowden Helps A Reporter Having A Seizure While Interviewing Him Remotely | Techdirt
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 21:30
Here's a bizarre story. A German reporter, Julia Prosinger, spent a week in the NYC offices of the ACLU with Ben Wizner, one of the key lawyers working with Ed Snowden. There, she reports about the Robot Snowden that is set up in the ACLU offices, allowing Snowden to "hang out" with ACLU folks any time he wants (assuming people are around). You may have seen the robot Snowden on stage at TED, but apparently Snowden is still using a version of that thing that's just kept at the ACLU's offices, allowing him to zoom around and talk to folks. They're even talking about having more Snowdenbots around the globe so he can pop in virtually wherever he wants.But, that's not the craziest part of the story.
It's that during the interview with Prosinger, she happens to have a seizure, and Snowden apparently both talks Wizner through what to do and calms Prosinger as she comes to.
Suddenly, during the attempt to explain German, I faint. I wake up, my head lies bedded on a sand bag, my body is in the recovery position. A calm voice is coming from the screen. ''The first fits are always the worst,'' Snowden says. I am lucky: Snowden is not only a patriot or traitor, he is also an epileptic. He instantly recognised what was happening to me. He tells me that he was only diagnosed when he was 23 years old. When he fled the US a little more than a year ago, he told his employer that he had to go away for a few weeks for treatment for his epilepsy. Then Snowden apologises for making me look at the flickering screen, it had triggered the fit, he says.
Ben Wizner brings a glass of juice. He is moved. He has been travelling for a year, because Snowden is stuck in Russia. He speaks where Snowden doesn't have a voice. For a year now he has literally been Snowden's right-hand man.
He just followed Snowden's advice via Skype and stopped me from falling against the metal filing cabinets in his office. ''That's Ed how I know him. The empathy, the clear voice, the care,'' says Wizner.
Of course, now we wonder how Mike Rogers will spin this into more evidence of Snowden being a Russian spy...
Edward Snowden and his team: "NSA. National Supermarket Association." - In English - Welt
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 21:30
10.06.2014 15:12 UhrIn New York, a team of activists and lawyers is working for Edward Snowden. And on the 19th floor of their office he is always there in the form of a robot with a camera ''eye'' which Snowden controls remotely from Moscow. Our reporter Julia Prosinger visited for a week '' and the whistleblower helped her in an extraordinary situation.
In the offices next to Wizner's open door, young high-flyers with degrees from Harvard and Yale sit at their desks. They have posters on their office walls: ''Disagreement is patriotic'' and ''Being a Muslim and praying is no offence''. A sign shows the way to the gender-neutral toilet on the 18th floor. Since 9/11, Wizner has been fighting against restrictions to civil rights and liberties which arrived with the attack and gave ACLU a lot of new cases. The door of a colleague has a framed plastic bag stuck to it which says: NSA. ''National Supermarket Association''.
Even back then, without Snowden, Wizner and his colleagues tried to appeal against what they conceived to be NSA-breaches of constitution. But they did not stand a chance in court. They only had enough proof with Snowden's revelations. For example his first revelation: that the phone provider Verizon transfers information about domestic and international phonecalls on a daily basis. The trial is ongoing. With Edward Snowden distrust returned to the people, says Wizner. ''We wouldn't have a debate now without Snowden.'' He means the debate about how democratic processes can adapt to the rapid progress in technology
Surveillance is becoming cheaper and easier, data storage increasingly favorable. Team Snowden is worried that people will act differently if they know that they are being surveilled and that the stored data will at some point turn against them. The government argues that they were able to prevent several attacks through the collection of mass data. Among them was the planned attack by the so-called Sauerland-Cell in Germany. ''We are constructing a haystack for an increasingly smaller needle,'' says Wizner. He wants targeted counter-terrorism where a judge has to issue a search warrant. Wizner and Snowden also stand for the new coalition which has grown over the past years. Old leftists collaborate with hackers now, progressive computer experts suddenly agree with the backward Tea Party movement in the US. Snowden's popularity is transfered to the ACLU '' and the ACLU protects him in return. A new world for Snowden, a new world for Wizner.
Every Friday, when the interns have left the building and the most important cases have been fought out in court, Ben Wizner ascends to the nineteenth floor. There, there is a robot, a screen on stilts, with electrical rollers for legs. Wizner has postitioned the rectangle monitor ''head'' to face the water, in the far distance it sees with its webcam ''eye'' the statue of liberty. Directly in front of it is Governors Island. Snowden's grandfather was once stationed there as admiral.
If Snowden has the time, he logs on to this New York robot from his hideout in Moscow. He can move the device backwards and forwards with his keyboard. When it happened for first time, hundreds of ACLU staff got together and waved at him. Sometimes when Wizner has to answer the phone quickly to get rid of another journalist, Snowden moves around the offices of his new friends as a robot and discusses constitutional law with them. ''It would be great if we had more of these robots,'' says Wizner. So that Snowden, for example, could appear at the University of Glasgow, which has made him rector. In March 2014, he talked from such a robot on stage at the Ted-Talks, an internet format which has millions of viewers. After he has answered the usual questions about himself and his future, he campaigns for winning back the internet; he campaigns for encryption and for a debate about targeted as opposed to limitless, indiscriminate surveillance.
Has Snowden always been like this? Is he interested in more than his own salvation? People who have experience of Wizner urealise that this man must have influenced Snowden too. He must have turned him into an activist at last. It was Snowden, however, who wanted it to not be all about himself, it was Snowden who retreated so that his documents could speak, explains Wizner.
The phone rings, it is 83-year-old Daniel Ellsberg, Snowden's predecessor, if you will. The Vietnam veteran passed on thousands of documents to journalists in 1971. Ellsberg is angry because the Secretary of State, John Kerry, called Snowden a coward on television, who should come home and, like Ellsberg back then, surrender to the Espionage Act. That case was completely different, rants Ellsberg. Back then, he published truths about a lost war, but Snowden is publishing about an ongoing war.
The Espionage Act is Wizner's greatest concern. ''I don't belive that there is a president who wouldn't have brought Manning or Snowden before court.'' But a better system would have accommodated these two exceptional cases. For decades, lawyers have been fighting against this law which was created for and during World War I. Wizner explains that Snowden would face solitary confinement upon his return, without any chance of bail, for the rest of his life. He could even be punished for each single document. Wizner demands a reform which allows for the public interest for defence purposes. ''If something is illegal right from the beginning then it surely can't be criminal to reveal it.''
Wizner interrupts the conversation again and looks at the screen. Snowden has just asked him to set up a Skype account so that he can be seen and heard at a talk in a few days time. On the internet, as always. Snowden is two-dimensional, an icon, far away. For security reasons, he sometimes uses Skype, then Google Hangouts, always with different accounts. ''God, this is boring,'' swears Wizner while he clicks through the settings. Then, finally, Snowden's voice speaks in the room: ''Ben, can you hear me ok? What's the quality like of my video?''
Wizner tells Snowden that a German journalist is sitting in the room. They both think that we should get to know each other. I walk up to the screen, in front of me sits Edward Snowden, a yellow faded T-shirt, a black wall, nothing else in the picture.
''I'm Ed,'' he says.
Ed asks me to tell him something about German politics. Are the CDU and the SPD blocking each other during the investigation into the Chancellor's mobile phone? He wants to know much more but he doesn't want me to write about it.
Nor does he say that Germany would be his favourite country for asylum. But everyone suspects it is. His friends from his team live here, his German lawyer Kaleck, the journalist Poitras, the Wikileaks woman Sarah Harrison, the internet activist Jacob Appelbaum.
Suddenly, during the attempt to explain German, I faint. I wake up, my head lies bedded on a sand bag, my body is in the recovery position. A calm voice is coming from the screen. ''The first fits are always the worst,'' Snowden says. I am lucky: Snowden is not only a patriot or traitor, he is also an epileptic. He instantly recognised what was happening to me. He tells me that he was only diagnosed when he was 23 years old. When he fled the US a little more than a year ago, he told his employer that he had to go away for a few weeks for treatment for his epilepsy. Then Snowden apologises for making me look at the flickering screen, it had triggered the fit, he says.
Ben Wizner brings a glass of juice. He is moved. He has been travelling for a year, because Snowden is stuck in Russia. He speaks where Snowden doesn't have a voice. For a year now he has literally been Snowden's right-hand man.
He just followed Snowden's advice via Skype and stopped me from falling against the metal filing cabinets in his office. ''That's Ed how I know him. The empathy, the clear voice, the care,'' says Wizner.For a moment, Edward Snowden became three-dimensional.
Translated by Claudia Eberlein. You can find the German versionhere.
Ministry of Truth
Robert Peston's speech warns of threat to journalism from native ads '' full text | Media | The Guardian
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 13:51
It is a thrill and a privilege for me to be with you tonight, for two reasons.
The first is that no one who works in broadcast news can have been anything but a fan of Charles Wheeler
A journalist of towering reputation, a doyen of foreign correspondents, someone who always commanded attention when speaking
And for me '' and I would guess for Jon Snow too '' what I admire about him is that he remained a working journalist till he died at the age of 85 some six years ago.
Not for Charles Wheeler the siren call of the public relations world, or spurious but well-paid consultancy of various sorts '' which too few of my own peers have been able to resist.
He didn't quite do a Tommy Cooper, by passing away on stage. But he came close. And if I am honest, that is how I would like to go '' pegging out in the middle, perhaps, of a Darby-and-Joan two-way with a 90-year-old Huw Edwards, telling him and the nation how the banks have got us into another fine mess.
As for Jon Snow, how can I not doff my cap to a presenter who told the journalist Charlotte Edwardes in a Standard interview the other day that for him (and I quote) ''sex comes into every evaluation of a woman, there's no doubt about it'' '' and that the possibility of sex only gets ''parked'' once a working relationship has been established?
Hmmm. It is definitely a measure of his unimpeachable journalists' credentials that there has been no apparent damage to perceptions of his judgment: Jon Snow retains his status '' along with [Jeremy] Paxman '' as the most effective news interviewer of his generation.
If there is a Snow issue for Channel 4 News, as there was and is a Paxman issue for Newsnight, it is that the programme is so closely associated with him that it is hard to conceive of it being presented by anyone else.
That said, one of the big facts about any journalist '' and I say this mainly to the students here today '' is that we all think and hope we're irreplaceable, but when we're gone the waters close around us terrifyingly quickly. Which is what should keep us hungry and honest.
Now what I thought I would look at today is a statement made by my brainy and formidable boss, James Harding, the BBC's director of news, in the WT Stead Lecture in January. Harding said he had ''real confidence in the prospects for the news media''.
And he went on to say:
''If you ask me that annoying question, whether I see the glass half-empty or half-full, I'd say it is two-thirds full. In fact, I think this is the most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television''.
Well '... ''The most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television''? Is that right?
Now in one sense I completely understand why James would say that. The pace of change in our industry '' largely driven by technology '' is extraordinary and dizzying. In that sense, the challenges we face are huge '' perhaps unprecedented. And if you like challenge, as I do, then of course it is an incredibly exciting, energizing time.
But James also went on to imply that the employment prospects for journalists of integrity, and the commercial prospects for news operations providing important impartial journalism, are largely positive.
And that is where I would not exactly disagree with him, but where I would say that I am anxious.
For the avoidance of doubt, you are not about to hear the authentic voice of Dr Doom. I know my public reputation is of being gloomy '' of somehow causing the financial crisis with my prognostications of looming financial catastrophe. But, and I would say this of course, that is a terrible canard. Funnily enough, like James, I am someone who is an optimist, someone who '' to use, as he did, that terrible cliche '' tends to see drinking vessels as full rather than lacking.
For example, if anything, right now, I am probably a bit more bullish on the outlook for the British economy than most.
But, and this is the heart of what I want to say today, I do see powerful threats to what I think of as serious journalism, the craft of a Charles Wheeler and a Jon Snow.
Online culture taking overFirst, there is the online culture that is gradually taking over most of the media. This takeover is inevitable. Printed paper newspapers may be with us for many years to come. But they are in decline. All the growth in news readership is on the internet, on mobiles, on tablets. And an important cultural fact about those whose entire careers have been in digital, and have never had inky fingers, is that they don't seem to have a fundamentalist's hatred of news being infected by adverts and commerce.
To be clear, I don't have a rose-tinted view of how it used to be in news. As someone who worked in national newspapers for 20 years, I recall a life of constant battle with marketing and advertising departments '' over the size of adverts, where they could go in relation to relevant stories, and whether we should allow certain companies to sponsor so-called advertorial pieces (dread phrase).
But the rules of engagement, and the battle lines, were clear. As a business editor, I never had any doubt of my right to insist on and enforce a separation between church and state. And I didn't lose one of those disputes.
Today when I talk to my pals on newspapers, they talk of constant pressure '' not to get unique and exciting stories, but to find ways of turning what is now called content, and is regarded by bosses largely as a commodity, into money. It is all about, awful word, monetising news.
Which, of course, in one sense is completely necessary. There will be no jobs for any of us if there is no way to generate profit from news.
But news that is a disguised advert, or has been tainted by commercial interests, is not worth the name.
You might say that it is all very well for me to sit here smugly moaning about this, because I am lucky enough to work for the licence-fee funded colossus that is BBC News. But even we are not immune to a trend I fear is pernicious '' because I saw an interview the other day with an executive of our commercial arm BBC Worldwide who said it was inevitable that we would be running what are known as native ads.
''Native ads'' is a terrible Orwellian Newspeak phrase for ads that look like impartial editorial. They could be articles written by a commercial company, or features written about a commercial company by the journalists of a news organisation but sponsored by that company. Or they may be videos either sponsored by a business or produced by the business. Of course each of these will say something like ''sponsored content'' at the top of the page. But it is very easy to miss this signposting when the article simply pops up in the middle of a run of stories on a website. As a reader, you have to be on your guard to distinguish the native ads from the proper journalism. And many of us may well be in too much of a rush most of the time when online to notice the distinction. Which is, I fear, pernicious.
My concern is that native ads seem to work, in a commercial sense. Take, for example, the new business news online service, Quartz. Much of its editorial is high quality. But what really excites advertising execs and investors is the way that it is able to charge a premium for its native ads, which are '' depending on your point of view '' either very cleverly or very sinisterly seamlessly integrated into its news service. Yes the native ads are always marked. But as a reader you have to enter the website alert to their existence to be swiftly conscious that they are importantly different from the other articles on the site.
Does that matter, if the native ads provide the resources for Quartz also to produce high-quality proper journalism? Well I fear it might, because over time the impression may be created that all editorial is for sale, and none of it to be trusted.
Now I don't want to overstate the dangers, but what I would say is that we saw '' with the phone-hacking scandal '' how prone we are as an industry to cut corners in a hideous way when we face an existential threat, or indeed when there is money to be made. And to reiterate, what I see around the news media scene is the rise of a generation of managers schooled only in the etiquette of the internet, where the idea that editorial staff should be quarantined from marketing and advertising is seen as absurd.
Readers dictating contentWhich brings me to a second related danger, which is that we may be going too far in allowing readers to dictate content '' now that we can see in real time, by page views for certain stories, or comments left on blogs and social media, which tales are massively resonating and exciting the public.
Here I will doubtless be accused of an outdated and patronising paternalism. So let me say immediately that I am not bemoaning the advent of blogs, or Facebook, or Twitter, or of the various forms of user-generated content. Among the biggest and best changes to my working life in three decades have been the launch of my BBC blog in 2006 and my growing use of Twitter over the past few years. And part of what I love about the blog and Twitter is the conversation I have with the readers, viewers and listeners. They spark ideas for stories. They point to fantastically useful sources and research. And they don't hesitate to tell me when I am wrong. They also help me to understand what stories matter to them. All of which has made my journalism '' I think '' better and more relevant.
But routinely I ignore what my readers tell me get their rocks off, and publish and broadcast stuff that probably seems spectacularly dull '' about, for example, the technicalities of global rules for keeping banks safe and strong, which I, in my paternalistic way, feel I need to tell people about, because they are so important to our prosperity, and because they failed so spectacularly.
I obviously hope that I can turn abstruse stories '' that talk about stuff that is beyond most people's direct experience or knowledge of the world '' into riveting resonant broadcasts and articles. And the great thing about the BBC is that it wants and expects me to do journalism that educates at the same time as it informs.
However, in a commercial world where hits mean money, it is legitimate to fear that difficult journalism will increasingly be squeezed out by massively popular stories with headlines like ''Bought my cat a bed in Ikea'' and ''If farts smelt nice, would you ask for the recipe'' (these are real stories by the way). The top story on the BuzzFeed site as I wrote this afternoon was ''Coca Cola has released a range of caps that let you hack the bottle open''. And the second story was a native ad, for VW, headlined ''18 dogs who love the open road''.
By the way, and you would expect me to say this, the ability of the BBC to decide high-handedly which stories matter, is perhaps one of the best justifications for the licence fee. Although there is tension even here. We at the BBC look very closely at which online and broadcast stories are most popular, so that we can't be accused of ignoring what those who fund us want.
But my point, which won't come as a surprise to you '' and makes me shudder as I say it '' is that our job as journalists is periodically to tell our viewers, broadcasters and readers that this difficult story is what they really want and need to know about, even if they are not aware of it.
PR pitfallsMy final worry is that the relentless cycle of cost cutting at the traditional news media, and the very economical staffing of much of the new news media, gives growing and potentially worrying power to the public relations industry.
There are a number of aspects to this. Many news organisations now lack the resources to generate enough of their own high-quality stories to fill their editions. When I worked on the Sunday Telegraph a decade ago, the fax machine was strategically placed above the waste paper basket so that press releases went straight into what we called the round filing cabinet. Now newspapers are filled with reports based on spurious PR generated surveys and polls, simply to save time and money.
More disturbing, perhaps, PRs seems to have become more powerful and effective as gatekeepers and minders of businesses, celebrities and public or semi-public figures. In part, that is because in some news organisations there is a fetishisation of hiring young people, who supposedly understand the digital world and what youth want to read much better than people of my generation. But the problem with many of these younger journos is that they have few proper contacts and inadequate contacts. So if they don't suck up to the PR, they don't get the interview or the story. Which in turn means that unhealthy deals are being done, with the young hacks agreeing not to ask embarrassing questions and to send the copy back to the PR for approval. Also, PRs are routinely feeding questions to inexperienced journalists, and insisting on certain hashtags being used when stories are tweeted. All of this is hideous, and degrading to our trade.
What is more, the socialising between senior PRs and proprietors and senior news-media executives means it is increasingly common for PRs to think it is acceptable to ring their mates at the top of news organisations and ask for stories to be skewed, or '' if already published '' removed from websites. I know of a number of examples were harried executives have conceded.
Now to coin a phrase, some of my best friends are in PR. Which is not a joke by the way. And before anyone accuses me of being a po-faced, sanctimonious git (which well I may be) I have had quite a few great stories from PRs. But the very best came in the 1990s from PRs who were rogues and pirates '' and those stories were usually spectacularly damaging to their clients. In other words, PRs were just sources to be milked like any another source. But today's PR industry has become much more machine-like, controlled '' and in its slightly chilling way '' professional.
The point is that as a journalist I have never been in any doubt that PRs are the enemy. Pretty much my first action when I joined the FT in 1991 as head of financial services was to tell the team that they would be in serious trouble if I heard them talking on the phone to a corporate PR rather than a chief executive or chairman. My view has never changed.
I think the best explanation of why our mission as hacks is always to try to get around the PR, to sideline him or her, was made by Harry Frankfurt in his essay ''On Bullshit'', when he wrote:
''The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides '... is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; '... [The bullshitter] is neither on the side of the true, nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest with getting away with what he says.''
Or to put it another way, many PRs can be seen both as more pernicious than the individual who consciously speaks the truth or the person who consciously lies '' in that the liar knows that he is a liar, but many professional bullshitters have lost the capacity to see the difference between fact and fiction. I should point out that of course PRs aren't the only bullshitters; but if they are not paid to bullshit, to present their clients in the best possible light, what are they being paid to do?
I did recently wonder whether we had reached one kind of high point of PR-driven madness when the Financial Conduct Authority '' which has been bizarrely obsessed for a regulator with its public image '' briefed the Telegraph about its muscular approach to beating up insurance companies, and then had to retract within hours when the article published by the Telegraph caused mayhem on the stock market.
Anyway here perhaps is the best evidence of how news organisations' own ethical lapses in recent years '' and not just phone hacking '' has been devastating to how the public sees us. Which is that PRs who have claimed that they represent the defence of truth and decency against a predatory and defamatory media haven't been seen as utterly ridiculous. God how our own stables have needed cleaning.
So what of the future?But surely it is not all doom and gloom for our trade, since '' according to the Office for National Statistics '' the number of journalists has actually increased since the onset of the recession in 2008, from 67,000 to 70,000. And on the ONS's analysis '' which I can't say I am wholly convinced by '' there are still more journos in the UK than PR execs. All of which seems a bit odd given that we know that thousands have been laid off by local and national newspapers.
So what's going on? Well, the structure of employment has changed pretty fundamentally, such that the number of full-time employees has fallen over those five years, from 39,000 to 37,000. All the growth has come from self employment and part-time employment.
And I assume that much of the growth we've seen has been for trade publications and work that is not a million miles from advertising. That said, the new generation of websites have been hiring. And if they are really investing in high-quality proprietary journalism, that is a good thing. But if most of these journalists are expected, as part of their job descriptions to write commercially sponsored or branded articles, those native ads I mentioned, then these are journalists who are in effect training to be PRs.
My point is not that the days are over of brave, costly serious journalism. It is just that we have yet quite worked out how to make it pay in a way that doesn't taint impartiality or compromise quality.
It is of course possible to generate profits in this brave new world. But the combination of cost cutting and a concentration on popular stories that attract the most page views means that the kind of journalism associated with Charles Wheeler is becoming rarer.
Just as proper staff jobs for foreign correspondents, photographers and cameramen are becoming rarer and freelance rates are being squeezed, so too are these jobs becoming more dangerous, in a turbulent fractious world. News and life are both apparently becoming cheaper
Which is not to say there are not good things going on. James Harding himself has converted a number of BBC foreign stringer jobs into more expensive proper correspondent posts. And he did something similar at the Times.
But that kind of investment is rare in the traditional news media and the new media. Even BBC News is about to embark on some pretty big cost cutting and job shedding, as was confirmed yesterday (4 June).
What I would conclude by saying is that we don't yet have what you might call a stable ecosystem in news. The poll-tax funded BBC is one kind of news-media model. The loss-making Guardian, funded by vast private-equity capital gains, is another. The Daily Mail another still. And Quartz, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed something different again. There is diversity '' which all ecologists would tell you is vital to long-term survival. But there is also pollution, from a dangerous elision between news that pays and news that matters. I am not confident that the Wheelers and Snows of this world aren't an increasingly endangered species.
Feds Collaborate With Wikipedia Editors to Improve 'Wikipedia Entries Related to Government Publications' | The Weekly Standard
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:58
In May, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), part of the National Archives, hosted an "editathon" to "focus on improving Wikipedia entries related to government publications." The event was promoted on the websites of both Wikipedia and the OFR. Two OFR officials attended the meeting (David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, and Charley Barth, director of the Federal Register) along with 10 members of the public who represented various "Wiki" entities such as Wikimedia, Wikisource, and Wikidata. The Washington, D.C. chapter of Wikimedia was a cohost of the event.
The OFR is responsible for several federal publications, such as the Federal Register, U.S. Statutes at Large, and the Public Papers of the Presidents, among others. The agency's collaboration is aimed at helping consumers of information about the business of government better "connect the dots" to "find what they are looking for." Rather than a one-time event, the editathon was intended to be part of an ongoing partnership with weekly Wikipedia staff meetings to include "Wikipedians." The National Archives already has a "Wikipedian in Residence," Dominic McDevitt-Parks.
This inaugural editathon lasted for seven hours, and the National Archives reported several accomplishments:
Some specific accomplishments from the event include a new article for the List of CFR Sections Affected, a new model for future articles about CFR parts..., and updating several more articles related to our work, including Title 35 of the CFR, Administrative Procedure Act, Executive order, and Electoral College.
An "editathon" is actually a Wikipedia concept that is not unique to this OFR collaboration. Wikipedia is crowd-edited by design, so an "editathon" is often held by experienced editors to help provide training to new editors, as well as to accomplish the basic purpose, to "edit and improve a specific topic or type of content."
Although this is a first-of-its-kind event for the National Archives, it is not the first time the Wikipedia community has hooked up with federal employees. In May last year when furloughs were hitting some government workers, the D.C. chapter of Wikimedia held a "Furloughed Feds Workshop", a "training seminar and edit-a-thon for federal employees interested in learning more on how to edit Wikipedia."
NATIVE ADVERTISING-Q&A with The New York Times' Denise Warren | Media - Advertising Age
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 04:09
NYT Opinion is The New York Times' latest subscription product. Is The New York Times suffering from collective amnesia? That was the question bouncing around last week when the Times introduced its latest subscription product, NYT Opinion. For $6 every four weeks, subscribers get unlimited access to an iPhone app, NYT Opinion, with Times opinion articles as well as curated opinion pieces from elsewhere on the web in a section of the app called Op-Talk.
It's a familiar pitch from the Times, which in 2005 rolled out TimesSelect, its first attempt at an online paywall. For $7.95 a month, subscribers got unlimited access to Times' columnists as well as the paper's archives. The subscription package was shuttered just two years later.
The company regrouped and in 2011 introduced a metered paywall that is widely regarded as a success. At the end of the first quarter of this year, the Times had nearly 800,000 digital subscribers, and subscription revenue was outpacing that of ad sales.
The rollout of NYT Opinion is part of the Times' push to grow its digital subscribers by introducing standalone subscription products at a lower cost than a full subscription to the Times. Earlier this year, it introduced NYT Now, an app that collects about 40 top stories from the Times and curates stories from elsewhere. The Times is planning a cooking app for the fall.
Ad Age spoke with Denise Warren, exec VP of the Times' digital products group, about NYT Opinion, including how it differs from TimesSelect, why the Times believes people will pay for opinions and where advertising fits into the app. The conversation has been lightly edited.
Advertising Age: The internet is awash in opinion. Why do you think readers will pay for NYT Opinion?
Denise Warren: Our opinion franchise is one of the most beloved and valued parts of what we do each and every day. We think there's a market that is interested in more of this, and interested in our take on what other opinions outside The New York times are important. We think the Op-Talk stream, for example, is something that's very valuable for folks. They don't have to sift through all the opinions out there; The New York Times is doing the work for you. We think it's a real service.
Ad Age ReportsMaster content strategies that work with this top-selling report. Learn how having a content strategy is essential to your brand's future.
Learn moreAd Age: How is NYT Opinion different from TimesSelect?
Ms. Warren: TimesSelect was really a complete hard wall around our opinion content, so you were unable to access any of our columnists' content anywhere on the internet unless you were willing to pay for it under TimesSelect. And TimesSelect was successful in its own right, but the marketplace changed. Search and social became so much more important. We realized that we could grow our audience in ways that we could only have dreamt of prior to that. It made more sense to exit TimesSelect and work on really growing and engaging the audience. It was a wonderful opportunity and we learned from it.
Ad Age: What did you learn?
Ms. Warren: This time around it really has to be more of a freemium model, which is our core digital strategy: You can sample the Times' core product -- 10 articles a month -- and you can come to us through search and social. So now you'll be able to sample Opinion content, but if you want to drink deeply, if you're loyal and can't get enough of it, you're going to be asked to pay.
Ad Age: So it sounds like there was a hunger for opinion content when you were selling TimesSelect, but the model for packaging it wasn't quite right.
Denise Warren, executive VP of the Times' digital products group.Ms. Warren: Yes, it's a different model for monetizing, but I think a lot of it is also about our mission. We're a mission-based institution; we care about getting our most coveted voices heard and if you didn't pay you couldn't get access to a Tom Friedman or a Paul Krugman. No matter what your political leanings are, these people have very influential voices that should be heard. That didn't make sense to us as a business and mission-driven proposition. The model we have now makes much more sense to us in that way. It's about money but it's also about the mission.
Ad Age: Newspapers opinion sections are in many ways the cradle of native advertising, where companies and organizations would pay to run advertorials espousing their views. Will the NYT Opinion app include Paid Posts, the Times' version of native ads?
Ms. Warren: Yes, NYT Opinion will feature paid posts and Shell is our launch sponsor.
Let me be very clear: We believe that when we build products and services and people are willing to pay for them there is a much better advertising environment. People are voting with their pocket books; that's a pretty strong endorsement of how somebody feels about a publication.
Packet Inequality
US air strike kills five special operations troops in Afghanistan
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:08
By Bill Van Auken11 June 2014In what may be the bloodiest ''friendly fire'' incident involving US troops in 13 years of war and occupation in Afghanistan, five special operations soldiers were killed Monday in an air strike they themselves had called in against Afghan insurgents who ambushed their patrol.
The incident took place in a remote area of southern Zabul province, which borders Kandahar and is a center of armed opposition to the US-backed regime in Kabul.
The deaths came just days before the June 14 second round of Afghan presidential elections and in the wake of US President Barack Obama's announcement of plans for a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, now numbering approximately 33,000 out of a total of nearly 50,000 US, NATO and other foreign forces that occupy the country.
''The casualties occurred during a security operation when the unit came into contact with enemy forces,'' the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement Tuesday. ''Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation.''
Afghan sources, however, left no doubt that the deaths were caused by a US air strike. ''After an operation, the troops were on the way back to their base when they were ambushed by the Taliban,'' an aide to the governor of Zabul province told the Wall Street Journal. ''They called on an air strike, and the strike mistakenly killed them.'' The official reported that, in addition to the five American special operations troops, an Afghan army officer and an Afghan interpreter were also killed.
In a statement published online, a spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Mohammad Yusof Ahmadi, said fighters from the Arghandab District in Zabul Province reported that they had ''conducted an armed attack on invading forces in the Magzak area near Qala village of this district at 2100 [local time] last night.''
The statement continued: ''Following the attack, enemy helicopters arrived in the area and heavily bombarded their own soldiers, who were on foot. Eyewitnesses say that they saw half of the body of one invading soldier, the body of another invading soldier and 17 hands and feet at the scene of the incident. All praises be to God mojahedin [Taliban fighters] were not hurt in the clash.''
An NBC News report, however, quoted US officials as saying the strike was carried out by a B-1 Stealth bomber and ''somehow went terribly awry.''
Similar ''friendly fire'' incidents have taken place throughout the 13 years of the Afghan war, in which US and other foreign forces have relied heavily on air support to defend themselves from Afghan forces opposing the occupation.
Just last March, five Afghan Army soldiers were killed in the eastern province of Logar after a NATO air strike was called in against their position. And in 2002, four Canadian troops died when a US warplane dropped a bomb on them as they were carrying out a live-fire exercise.
US use of air power became a major bone of contention between the US military and the puppet government of President Hamid Karzai, who condemned air strikes carried out against villages and other populated areas for inflicting high numbers of civilian casualties.
He made an end to both air strikes and night raids against Afghan homes a condition for signing a bilateral security agreement with the US providing for the continued deployment of American troops in the country. Karzai has still not signed the agreement, which Washington insists must include guarantees that no American forces will be liable under Afghan or international law for war crimes carried out in the country.
However, both contenders in the June 14 run-off election'--Abdullah Abudllah, a former ''foreign minister'' for the warlords of the Northern Alliance, and Ashraf Ghani, a former senior official at the World Bank and a US citizen'--have both vowed to sign the deal demanded by Washington and made clear they will subordinate themselves to US interests.
While Obama announced last month that the US military presence in Afghanistan would be reduced to 9,800 troops by the beginning of 2015, and US officials have indicated that only some 1,000 US troops would still be in the country after 2016, there is no doubt that the kind of fighting that resulted in the ''friendly fire'' deaths of the five special operations soldiers Monday will continue indefinitely.
Pentagon officials revealed last week that out of the 9,800 US soldiers and Marines who will remain in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2015, at least 1,800, or close to 20 percent, will be special operations forces dedicated to conducting so-called ''anti-terror'' operations alongside elements of the Afghan Army. US officials said that they are counting on the American special ops forces being augmented by their counterparts from Britain and Australia.
While Washington has claimed that these operations will be directed against Al Qaeda, American military and intelligence officials have long acknowledged that the Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan is negligible. The real target of these attacks are the Taliban and other armed groups opposed to the US-led occupation and the Western-backed regime in Kabul.
US military forces remaining behind in Afghanistan will be augmented by thousands of private contractors, whose numbers will significantly exceed those of American uniformed personnel. Last month, the web site Salon reported the details of a leaked document from SAIC, one of the largest US military and intelligence contractors. The document outlines the main areas covered by a five-year, $400 million contract between the Pentagon and the corporation. These include ''Expeditionary Warfare, Irregular Warfare, Special Operations, Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations.'' The deal, which expires in 2015, is being renewed.
The article quoted a spokesman for the Pentagon agency handling the contract as saying these deadly functions could be contracted out to private contractors because they ''do not require either the exercise of discretion in applying government authority or the making of value judgments in making decisions for the government.''
The latest casualties bring the total number of American deaths in ''Operation Enduring Freedom,'' as the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan was dubbed, to 2,330. The total number of US-led foreign occupation troops killed has risen to 3,449, including 453 British soldiers, 158 Canadians and others from 27 different countries.
Afghan casualties certainly number in the many tens of thousands. Last year alone, nearly 3,000 civilians were killed. According to a report issued by the International Crisis Group, the number of casualties in the same year'--both killed and wounded'--rose to an estimated 9,500 for anti-government fighters and 8,200 for Afghan security forces.
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DJ says its like the promise of State pensions
Caps are exactly what makes LTE Broadband work so well
Net neutrality: A web of deceit.
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 17:55
Special-interest groups are calling for public-utility regulations to be placed on the Internet '-- the most innovative and society-shaping deregulatory success story of our time. These people are trying to exert control over the Internet through ''net neutrality'' regulations that will likely benefit only a few huge Internet companies and the top 1 percent of Internet users.
Net neutrality was developed to ensure that Internet users had the freedom to view all the legal content they wanted. Recently, however, there has been a shift in focus: Some of the largest Internet companies are citing ''net neutrality'' as a reason to enshrine specific privileges that largely benefit them.
If these content companies get their way '-- and the Federal Communications Commission is now deliberating this '-- Americans will be forced to shoulder the costs for the high-speed networks and infrastructure upgrades needed to support high-volume Internet traffic generators, such as Netflix.
Whether they use those services or not.
The math is simple. As a network carries more traffic, it has to grow or it will become congested. To expand a network requires significant investment and expense '-- tens of billions of dollars a year in the case of Internet service providers (ISPs).
These costs can be recovered in two ways: Either by charging all consumers equally or by having the large companies that use far more of the network resources pay their fair share.
In the real world it is reasonable and even expected that people pay more for a resource they use more than others. Under the guise of net neutrality, however, the large companies want everyone to pay more so that they and their users '-- the people consuming the bulk of the resources '-- do not have to.
Net neutrality advocates claim they are doing this for the good of the Internet and to protect future startups. But neither claim stands up to even the faintest scrutiny. They are both a cover for a bold-faced attempt to force the many to subsidize the powerful few.
The only way the Internet can thrive is if all parties have incentives to improve '-- and more efficiently use '-- our high-speed networks. If Internet service providers are forced to serve as mere intermediaries, carrying content for other large companies, there will be little motivation for them to invest in their networks and foster innovation. Similarly, there will be no incentive for the heavy-traffic-generating companies to develop new ways to reach their consumers.
As for the small companies and startups that the proponents of Internet regulation are allegedly trying to protect, they are the ones who benefit from the kinds of creative network arrangements now available in the absence of Internet regulations. These arrangements differentiate them from the larger, more established companies who have developed their own ways to provide faster service to their consumers built on existing service provider networks.
No startup or new-market entrant can afford to spend considerable resources on their own global networks. That's why the arguments from the large-content providers are self-serving: They have preferred access to consumers and want to keep it that way.
Contrary to the claims from those who are now most vocal in calling for 1930s ''common carrier'' regulations '-- dating from the age of the telephone-monopoly '-- be placed on the modern Internet, their true aim is to ensure that a small handful of companies do not pay their share.
Though that may be a successful, if questionable, business model for them, they risk subjecting the Internet to stifling regulations that will deter the long-term investments needed to power our Internet economy.
Regulators at the FCC and those on Capitol Hill who support the large content companies should be able to recognize this masquerade '-- and abandon any effort to impose public utility regulations on the Internet.
PHOTO (TOP): Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce, Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
PHOTO (INSERT 1): The Netflix logo is shown on an iPad in Encinitas, California, April 19,2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
PHOTO (INSERT 2): An eBay sign is seen at an office building in San Jose, California, May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
Russian companies prepare to pay for trade in renminbi
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 20:16
Russian companies are preparing to switch contracts to renminbi and other Asian currencies amid fears that western sanctions may freeze them out of the US dollar market, according to two top bankers.
"Over the last few weeks there has been a significant interest in the market from large Russian corporations to start using various products in renminbi and other Asian currencies and to set up accounts in Asian locations," Pavel Teplukhin, head of Deutsche Bank in Russia, told the Financial Times.
Andrei Kostin, chief executive of state bank VTB, said that expanding the use of non-dollar currencies was one of the bank's "main tasks".
Read MoreEU's Barroso warns Russia of more sanctions
"Given the extent of our bilateral trade with China, developing the use of settlements in roubles and yuan [renminbi] is a priority on the agenda, and so we are working on it now," he told Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a briefing. "Since May, we have been carrying out this work."
The move to open accounts to trade in renminbi, Hong Kong dollars or Singapore dollars highlights Russia's attempt to pivot towards Asia as its relations with Europe become strained.
Sanctions are pushing Russian companies to reduce their dependence on western financial markets while U.S. and European banks have dramatically slowed their lending activity in Russia since the annexation of Crimea in March.
Read MoreG-7 meets without Russia in snub over Ukraine
The central bank is working to create a national payment system to reduce the country's dependence on western companies such as Visa and MasterCard.
"There is nothing wrong with Russia trying to reduce its dependency on the dollar, actually it is an entirely reasonable thing to do," said the Russia head of another large European bank. He added that Russia's large exposure to the dollar subjects it to more market volatility in times of crisis. "There is no reason why you have to settle trade you do with Japan in dollars," he said.
Obama Nation
Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown.
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:50
A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term "warfighter-relevant insights" for senior officials and decision makers in "the defense policy community," and to inform policy implemented by "combatant commands."
Launched in 2008 '' the year of the global banking crisis '' the DoD 'Minerva Research Initiative' partners with universities "to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US."
Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model "of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions." The project will determine "the critical mass (tipping point)" of social contagians by studying their "digital traces" in the cases of "the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey."
Twitter posts and conversations will be examined "to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised."
Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington "seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate," along with their "characteristics and consequences." The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on "large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity," and will cover 58 countries in total.
Last year, the DoD's Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine 'Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?' which, however, conflates peaceful activists with "supporters of political violence" who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on "armed militancy" themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists:
"In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence."
The project's 14 case studies each "involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence."
I contacted the project's principal investigator, Prof Maria Rasmussen of the US Naval Postgraduate School, asking why non-violent activists working for NGOs should be equated to supporters of political violence '' and which "parties and NGOs" were being investigated '' but received no response.
Similarly, Minerva programme staff refused to answer a series of similar questions I put to them, including asking how "radical causes" promoted by peaceful NGOs constituted a potential national security threat of interest to the DoD.
Among my questions, I asked:
"Does the US Department of Defense see protest movements and social activism in different parts of the world as a threat to US national security? If so, why? Does the US Department of Defense consider political movements aiming for large scale political and economic change as a national security matter? If so, why? Activism, protest, 'political movements' and of course NGOs are a vital element of a healthy civil society and democracy - why is it that the DoD is funding research to investigate such issues?"
Minerva's programme director Dr Erin Fitzgerald said "I appreciate your concerns and am glad that you reached out to give us the opportunity to clarify" before promising a more detailed response. Instead, I received the following bland statement from the DoD's press office:
"The Department of Defense takes seriously its role in the security of the United States, its citizens, and US allies and partners. While every security challenge does not cause conflict, and every conflict does not involve the US military, Minerva helps fund basic social science research that helps increase the Department of Defense's understanding of what causes instability and insecurity around the world. By better understanding these conflicts and their causes beforehand, the Department of Defense can better prepare for the dynamic future security environment."
In 2013, Minerva funded a University of Maryland project in collaboration with the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to gauge the risk of civil unrest due to climate change. The three-year $1.9 million project is developing models to anticipate what could happen to societies under a range of potential climate change scenarios.
From the outset, the Minerva programme was slated to provide over $75 million over five years for social and behavioural science research. This year alone it has been allocated a total budget of $17.8 million by US Congress.
An internal Minerva staff email communication referenced in a 2012 Masters dissertation reveals that the programme is geared toward producing quick results that are directly applicable to field operations. The dissertation was part of a Minerva-funded project on "counter-radical Muslim discourse" at Arizona State University.
The internal email from Prof Steve Corman, a principal investigator for the project, describes a meeting hosted by the DoD's Human Social Cultural and Behavioural Modeling (HSCB) programme in which senior Pentagon officials said their priority was "to develop capabilities that are deliverable quickly" in the form of "models and tools that can be integrated with operations."
Although Office of Naval Research supervisor Dr Harold Hawkins had assured the university researchers at the outset that the project was merely "a basic research effort, so we shouldn't be concerned about doing applied stuff", the meeting in fact showed that DoD is looking to "feed results" into "applications," Corman said in the email. He advised his researchers to "think about shaping results, reports, etc., so they [DoD] can clearly see their application for tools that can be taken to the field."
Many independent scholars are critical of what they see as the US government's efforts to militarise social science in the service of war. In May 2008, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) wrote to the US government noting that the Pentagon lacks "the kind of infrastructure for evaluating anthropological [and other social science] research" in a way that involves "rigorous, balanced and objective peer review", calling for such research to be managed instead by civilian agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The following month, the DoD signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NSF to cooperate on the management of Minerva. In response, the AAA cautioned that although research proposals would now be evaluated by NSF's merit-review panels. "Pentagon officials will have decision-making power in deciding who sits on the panels":
"'... there remain concerns within the discipline that research will only be funded when it supports the Pentagon's agenda. Other critics of the programme, including the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, have raised concerns that the programme would discourage research in other important areas and undermine the role of the university as a place for independent discussion and critique of the military."
According to Prof David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin's University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, "when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project."
Prof Price has previously exposed how the Pentagon's Human Terrain Systems (HTS) programme - designed to embed social scientists in military field operations - routinely conducted training scenarios set in regions "within the United States."
Citing a summary critique of the programme sent to HTS directors by a former employee, Price reported that the HTS training scenarios "adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq" to domestic situations "in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order."
One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to "identify those who were 'problem-solvers' and those who were 'problem-causers,' and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the 'desired end-state' of the military's strategy."
Such war-games are consistent with a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.
James Petras, Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University in New York, concurs with Price's concerns. Minerva-funded social scientists tied to Pentagon counterinsurgency operations are involved in the "study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements," he said, including how "to counteract grassroots movements."
Minerva is a prime example of the deeply narrow-minded and self-defeating nature of military ideology. Worse still, the unwillingness of DoD officials to answer the most basic questions is symptomatic of a simple fact '' in their unswerving mission to defend an increasingly unpopular global system serving the interests of a tiny minority, security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists.
Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, ZERO POINT. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @nafeezahmed.
Obama signs executive order on student loans
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:07
By Gabriel Black11 June 2014On Monday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that will extend the federal Pay As You Earn (PAYE) student loan program to graduates who borrowed money before 2007 and those who have not borrowed since 2011.
Largely a public relations move in advance of the mid-term congressional elections, the executive order will allow some students to pay their student loans over twenty years, rather than ten, but with a larger sum owed over that period. The measure does nothing to change the crushing joblessness, meager wages, and debt facing an increasing mass of college graduates.
Flanked by handpicked college students and a banner reading ''opportunity for all,'' Obama spoke to a crowd of Washington insiders for 20 minutes. Before signing the order, Obama told the audience, ''Everything I do is aimed towards reversing those trends that put a greater burden on the middle class.''
Far from providing ''opportunity for all,'' PAYE allows certain qualifying students to pay their student loans over a longer period of time with an overall higher interest payment. For many borrowers this results in a higher total payment to the bank, but a smaller monthly payment.
The program, which began in 2010, caps federal student loan payment at 10% of a graduate's total income minus the federal poverty guideline for their family.
Obama's proposal expands this 2010 measure to include graduates who borrowed before 2007 or haven't borrowed since 2011. Additionally, he proposed six measures, one of which will work with banks to strengthen ''incentives'' for graduates to pay their loan bills, and another which seeks to ''educate'' borrowers on how they can best repay their loans.
Under the PAYE program a recent college graduate in Washington, DC making $20 an hour, working full time, every week of the year, would have his or her college loan bill capped at roughly $250 a month. A similarly employed worker making $15 an hour would have it capped at $163 a month.
The tradeoff for having the cap is that the loan is extended to 20 years, increasing the total interest owed. For most, this means that the overall total sum of money they pay to the bank is larger, because of 10 extra years of interest accrued. This leaves banks with a better bottom line, while families face an overall larger debt burden.
If a graduate still has loans after 20 years of payment, and the graduate has consistently paid every single payment on time, then part or all of the remaining loan may be forgiven after the borrower pays taxes on the remaining sum.
A married graduate who has no children and earns an average of $50,000 a year for the 20 years of payment would have to have a total student loan payment of more than $70,000 to still owe money after the 20 years. If that graduate was 25 when finished with school, he or she would be 45 when finished with making monthly payments of $291 a month.
The extension of PAYE will not reduce the crushing level of debt or help graduates find decent-paying jobs in their trained field. The latest measure rearranges the burden in line with the expectation that workers are now increasingly unable to find a good-paying job despite having college degrees. Because workers will not be employed in a decent job in the near future, if ever, the loan extends the time of repayment. In essence, the program accepts and is based on what is the new reality for Americans: endless debt and underemployment.
Student debt has ballooned in recent years, expanding to over $1 trillion in federal loans and $100 billion in private loans'--a sum larger than American credit card debt. Ten percent of recent borrowers default on their loans within the first two years of paying them. This is the highest level of default in nearly 20 years.
Companies like Sallie Mae, which act as middlemen between the US Government and students in the student loan racket, have made a killing off the loans. Such companies use draconian enforcement measures to get their money. If a co-signer, often a parent, dies before a student debt is repaid, the student is often forced to immediately repay the debt. Students also face outrageous prohibition on defaulting on their college loans. Even if they file for bankruptcy, they face indefinite servitude on student loans.
While tuition has skyrocketed, with some public universities in California and Arizona increasing their tuition by over 80 percent over the course of five years, US college executives have cashed in with soaring compensation packages.
In 2013, Obama laid out a program to extend the market-based ''reforms'' of K-12 schools to higher education. This would involve subsidizing schools to encourage them to cut costs. The effects of such a proposal would be to eliminate school programs that are not deemed important to the economy, such as English or History, and cut the budget.
Also in 2013, the federal student loan rate for subsidized loans doubled overnight from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Student loans are also tied to the fluctuation of the financial market through the American bond market. If bond rates go up, so will student loans.
Seventy-one percent of undergraduates are in debt. The average debt is almost $30,000. A 2013 study done by The Opportunity Nation coalition found that 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 are neither working nor in school.
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IRS Gave FBI 1.1 Million Pages of Taxpayer Data to Encourage Prosecution of Conservatives | Power Line
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 06:02
It is just about impossible to keep up with all of the Obama administration scandals, but the corruption of the Internal Revenue Service ranks near the top. Unfortunately, it has gone hand in hand with Barack Obama and Eric Holder's corruption of the Department of Justice. The perversion of law enforcement agencies for political ends is starkly revealed by the fact that in 2010, as part of its effort to stem the Tea Party movement, the IRS gave the FBI disks containing more than 1.1 million pages of documents on Section 501 non-profits, so that the FBI could selectively prosecute conservative groups and donors.
The facts, as we know them so far, were laid out yesterday in a letter from Congressmen Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan to John Koskinen, Commissioner of the IRS. The letter includes a series of emails that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has finally obtained, after more than a year of stonewalling by the Obama administration. The IRS originally told the House committee''falsely''that the disks contained only publicly available filings by the non-profit organizations. But the IRS later admitted that it had illegally transferred confidential taxpayer information to the FBI.
The IRS's purpose was explicitly political. Sarah Ingram, Lois Lerner's predecessor in charge of tax-exempt organizations at the IRS, wrote in a September 21, 2010 email, the subject of which was a favorable front-page story in the New York Times:
Thanks, as always, for the excellent support from Media. I do think it came out pretty well. The ''secret donor'' theme will continue''see Obama salvo today and Diane Reehm (sp).
The reference is to Diane Rehm, an NPR radio host. So the IRS, at its highest levels, was trying to advance the Democratic Party's ''secret donor'' theme on the eve of the 2010 election, and breaking the law to do so. Could someone maybe go to jail one of these days?
When will Obama administration criminals pay the price?
Here is the Issa/Jordan letter in its entirety. You really should read it; hardly anyone will. It tells a sad story of government corruption and stonewalling, the hallmarks of the Obama administration. It also reminds us that there are Republicans in Washington who are doing great work, trying to sustain the rule of law under very difficult conditions. One more thought about that in a moment; first, the letter:
2014 06 09 DEI Jordan to Koskinen IRS DOJ Disks Tax Exempt Applications
A final thought: I have spent my entire adult life in the world of litigation. It is not unusual for parties to lawsuits to stonewall, to obfuscate, sometimes even to lie, as the Obama administration did here, in order to prevent damaging facts from coming to light. Yet litigants rarely succeed in their stonewalling in the way the Obama administration has successfully stonewalled, time after time.
Why is that? The answer is simple: in a lawsuit, the discovery process is supervised by a judge or (in the federal system) a magistrate. A party that refuses to answer questions or produce documents on the basis of flimsy objections, as happened here''the objections quoted in the Issa/Jordan letter are laughable''will be ordered by the court to comply, and may have sanctions assessed against it. The problem that Congressional investigators face is that there is no judge. Legal process can be invoked, of course, as a last resort, as happens on rare occasions. But that takes years; no judge sits ready to rule on frivolous positions like those so often taken by the Obama administration. In the political realm, the only real judge is the electorate. So far, at least, that is not a reassuring thought.
Trains Good, Planes Bad (whoo hoo!)
Russia to extend Trans-Eurasian rail project to Korea
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:44
Published time: June 06, 2014 11:57Edited time: June 06, 2014 14:35A South Korean train passes over a cross-border railway bridge near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Paju, north of Seoul on August 21, 2009. (AFP Photo)
Russia will team up with North and South Korea in a railroad construction project that could restore peace between the two neighbors. The link will extend the world's longest railroad, so goods can be shipped between Europe and Korea 3x faster.
Russia's Minister for Far East Development Aleksander Galushka announced the plan to extend the Trans-Siberian Railroad at a meeting in Vladivostok on Thursday.
The expansion would provide a link between the Korean peninsula and Europe's $17 trillion economy, making Russia a major transit route between Europe and Asia. Shipping by rail is nearly 3 times faster than via the Suez Canal, Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Bakunin has said.
''We have agreed to launch trilateral projects between Russia, DPRK and South Korea with a focus on the railroad project. It's important to extend the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Korean peninsula. It will serve to stabilize and improve the situation on the Korean peninsula as a whole,'' Galushka said at the sixth annual Russian-Korean meeting on trade, economic, educational, and scientific cooperation.
Russian Railways has already started a direct rail service between Hamburg, Germany and Zhengzhou, China, a journey that only takes 15 days via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland.
Up until now, North Korea has been very hesitant in letting in foreign partners to develop its aging and decrepit rail system.
In September, Russia re-opened a 54 kilometer railway link that connects Khasan, the last Russian city before North Korea's border to the North Korean port of Rajin.
The extension of the 9,000 kilometer railway to North and South Korea will be a big undertaking, especially in North Korea where enormous repairs are needed to revamp the dilapidated state of the railway. The poor state of roadbeds only allows trains to travel at speeds of 20 miles per hour, or not at all.
It has already been announced that Mechel, Russia's biggest steelmaking company, will supply materials for the first stage of the project.
Another possible partner in the equation would be South Korea's Hyundai Construction, which has already expressed eagerness to participate in any Trans-Eurasian rail projects.
Connecting the major commercial hubs of Moscow and St. Petersburg with industrial cities in Russia's Far East, the Trans-Siberian Railway tracks already stretch across the Ural Mountains, Siberia, to Russia's northern port cities, and connects to routes to Mongolia and China.
Travel by railway between North and South Korea has been completely closed since 1951, and remains closed today. For a brief stint in 2007-2009, a cross-border rail service operated.
Cooperation between the two Koreas on the railway could lead to compromise on a long-delayed plan to build gas pipelines and connect both Koreas with Russian gas.
Since the West has reacted to Russia's actions in Ukraine with economic sanctions, Russia has begun bolstering ties with eastern neighbors like China and North Korea.
In May, Russia's state-run Gazprom signed a 30-year gas deal with China valued at $400 billion.
Russia and North Korea also announced that trade between the two countries will now be settled in rubles.
The two countries have set a goal of reaching $1 billion in trade by 2020. In 2013, trade between the neighbors rose by 64.2 percent to reach $112.7 million, which Galushka said was ''not enough''.
North Korea is largely ostracized by the rest of the international community in a US-led effort to isolate the nation over its development of a nuclear weapon program.
Russia also proposed to invest into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea that employs more than 50,000 North Korea workers in South Korea companies.
In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law an agreement that will write off much of Pyongyang's Soviet-era loans. Russia will forgive 90 percent of North Korea's debt from the Soviet era, leaving $1 billion to be repaid interest free in the next 20-40 years. Russia also recently cancelled $29 billion of Cuba's Soviet era debt.
Galushka said the forgiveness of the debt has paved the way for stronger ties between the two states.
ISIL abduct Turkish consul staff in Mosul - Turkey threatens retaliation
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:22
Turkey has promised to retaliate if any of its citizens are harmed in Iraq, after 49 members of the Turkish consulate in Mosul were abducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
If our citizens are harmed in any way, they will be the subject of harsh reprisals.
Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign minister,
The Turkish government said on Wednesday that diplomats, staff, security guards and three children were held by ISIL fighters and efforts were being made to ensure their release.
It brings to 80 the number of Turkish citizens being held by ISIL. On Tuesday, the group abducted 31 Turkish lorry drivers as it took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
"ISIL members managed to kidnap the Turkish consul," an unnamed Iraqi police colonel told the AFP news agency, adding that an ISIL fighter had told him those held were "safe" and would be moved to a "safer place".
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, held an emergency meeting with security and military officers to discuss the response to the raid, Turkish media reported.
ISIL is the most powerful armed group in Iraq and Syria, and a major force in the war against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish forces have targeted ISIL in Syria, and warned the group against attacking a shrine in the northern province of Aleppo that is under Turkish jurisdiction.
'Trojan Horse' a UK Muslim school witch-hunt?
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:21
London, UK - The UK government faces accusations of demonising Muslims and playing politics with children's futures over its tough response to reports of an alleged Islamist plot, dubbed "Trojan Horse", to take over schools in the English city of Birmingham.
Representatives of Muslim organisations and communities affected by the controversy, triggered by what is now widely regarded as a discredited leaked document, claim that the government has fuelled Islamophobia following the publication this week of a series of critical reports into the schools under scrutiny.
"We have had a climate of demonising Muslims for some time now, but this has really escalated that by raising the idea of a potential threat existing among children," Arzu Merali, the head of research at the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told Al Jazeera.
"The spectre that is raised is that anywhere there are groups of Muslims in numbers there is something funny going on, even when it is in schools. A lot of people who have tried to involve themselves in public life are being targeted and we have an executive that is almost out of control."
Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, the public body that monitors standards in schools, said on Monday that inspectors had found evidence of "a culture of fear and intimidation" at some schools and "an organised campaign to target certain schools in order to impose a narrow faith-based ideology".
Responding to those allegations, Michael Gove, the minister for education, told parliament the government would introduce measures requiring schools to "actively promote British values".
"Schools which are proven to have failed will be taken over, put under new leadership and taken in a fresh, new direction," he said.
'Operation Trojan Horse'
The inspections at 21 schools in Birmingham followed allegations reported in March of a "jihadist plot" to infiltrate and gain control of school governing bodies in areas with large Muslim populations in order to run them according to strict Islamic principles.
UK schools accused of radicalisationBut an anonymous document leaked to newspapers that purported to detail plans codenamed "Operation Trojan Horse" to take over schools in other cities was subsequently dismissed by local officials as a probable hoax.
The schools included Park View School, considered one of the high achievers of the government's flagship education policy, in which institutions with poor academic track records were rebranded as academies and given greater autonomy in an effort to raise their performances.
Park View serves a predominantly Muslim community in the deprived inner-city Alum Rock neighbourhood, and was rated outstanding in all areas by inspectors in 2012 and praised by David Cameron, the British prime minister, as a model of academic excellence.
But Park View is now among six schools, including two others under the same management body, deemed to require special measures, which give education authorities the power to withdraw funding and take over failing institutions. Twelve others were found to require improvement.
The reports said some teachers had been marginalised or forced out of their jobs, and that governors had used their powers inappropriately to change the character of schools in line with their personal views.
Examples cited included a school which organised trips to Saudi Arabia from which non-Muslims were excluded, and which banned raffles and tombolas at a school fete because they were considered un-Islamic.
Another school was found to have installed loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer, while inspectors also said they had found evidence of gender segregation and discrimination against female students.
'Climate of suspicion'
But the reports were angrily rejected by management staff, teachers and representatives for parents at the schools affected, who said inspectors had failed to uncover credible evidence of an extremist plot.
Dave Hughes, vice chairman of the Park View Education Trust, said the reports had been ordered in a "climate of suspicion" that put Muslim children "at substantial risk of not being accepted as equal, legitimate and valued members of British society". Jahangir Akbar, the acting principal at Oldknow Academy, said the schools were victims of a "political witch-hunt".
Shabina Bano, speaking on behalf of parents at Oldknow, which was also placed under special measures, told Al Jazeera they had been angered by weeks of lurid and unsubstantiated media stories.
"What evidence has been put forward? You've had in the newspapers today that we are telling children about hellfire and prostitutes. When is it going to stop?" said Bano. "How much dirt are you going to throw on us before we do retaliate and say, 'Look, is it because we are Muslims?'"
While the opposition Labour Party has mainly taken advantage of the episode to attack the government over its education policies, Ofsted's reports were welcomed by Khalid Mahmood, a local Labour member of parliament who said they confirmed complaints he had repeatedly heard from constituents over several years.
"This hasn't started now. This has been going on in Birmingham for almost 10 years [and] there are a huge number of complaints that were made," Mahmood told Al Jazeera.
"This particular element of predominantly Salafi people have been grooming children away from Sunni Barelvi and Shia communities that live in Birmingham inner-city areas, and they have tried to push them towards their way. This is a gentle approach. They get about eight years on these children before they leave school, so it is a long time to persuade them of a different mindset."
But Talha Ahmad, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain and a former teacher in Birmingham, said inspectors had failed to acknowledge the achievements of many Muslim governors in turning around under-performing schools and transforming academic opportunities for pupils in deprived areas.
"It is no secret that there were organised efforts to get more Muslims onto governing bodies. That came about because there were many schools which had almost 100 percent Muslim pupil intake which did not have a single Muslim voice on their governing body, so it was only right and proper that there were serious efforts to make sure that local Muslim parents and professionals got involved," Ahmad told Al Jazeera.
"These were failing schools, and within the community the memory of going to school and being let down and leaving without any qualifications is still vivid. We are concerned that Ofsted has not acknowledged the strides forward that these schools have made. It begs the question of whether Ofsted is exercising an independent judgment or whether it is being influenced, if not outright dictated to, by a political agenda."
Muslims are again being viewed through the prism of counterterrorism and security.
- Imran Awan, Birmingham City University
Many schools were also criticised for failing to safeguard children from radicalisation by providing staff with training in the government's controversial Prevent counter-extremism programme, which is viewed by many Muslims as a form of discriminatory state surveillance.
In one case, a nursery school for children aged three to five was criticised because leaders were unaware of government guidelines on preventing extreme and radical behaviour.
Critics argue that current government policy aimed at tackling extremism is driven by a conservative ideology that conflates conservative interpretations of Islam with a heightened risk of violent radicalisation.
"Muslims are again being viewed through the prism of counterterrorism and security. This should be about educational standards but there has clearly been political manoeuvring," Imran Awan, a researcher at Birmingham City University studying the impact of counter-extremism policy on the city's Muslim population, told Al Jazeera.
"Hardline neo-conservative thinkers within the heart of the government like Michael Gove have seen this as an opportunity to push an agenda that marginalises and demonises Muslims, and community cohesion has been seriously undermined as a result."
Ahmad said he feared that the government's stance would drive disaffected Muslims further towards the margins of mainstream society.
"This has reinforced the idea of the Muslim community as a suspect community, a community that poses a security risk, and that is going to provide succour to extremists," he said.
"The irony is this. This has supposedly been done in the name of preventing extremism and saving children from being recruited. But extremists will use this opportunity to say to Muslims, 'Look, no matter what you do, you will never be accepted as one of them'."
Cyberbullying law would let Canada cops 'remotely hack computers, mobile devices, cars
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:18
Published time: June 11, 2014 13:32AFP Photo / Stephanie Lamy
New cyberbullying legislation introduced by the Canadian government is set to let police gain access to computers and remotely track cellphone users' movements and activities, privacy experts fear.
Bill C-13 Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, known as the cyberbullying bill, is currently being studied by a parliamentary committee.
In fact, the term 'cyberbullying' may be a bit misleading: there are no mentions of 'cyber' or 'bully' in the document, despite the fact that the bill originated following several children committing suicide as a result of online bullying.
Despite the bill introducing responsibility for sending nude photos, for instance, what the law mainly does is greatly expand police authority, giving officers powers to remotely hack into computers, mobile devices or cars in order to track location or record metadata, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association Cara Zwibel told Members of Parliament. She added that those changes were ''inappropriate.''
Currently, if police want a suspect's information, they need to either get a warrant for their cellphone or laptop, or they need to go to the users' internet or cellphone provider. If they want to track a suspect, they need to get a warrant and attach a GPS device to the suspect's car or person.
New Canadian privacy watchdog Daniel Therrien said the new bill would lower the threshold for police to get a warrant to obtain data about Canadians' phone calls and internet usage '' and also expand the situations where security forces can obtain users' information without ever going before a judge.
All in all, in the view of Therrien, the bill would give law enforcement officials the power to access sensitive information solely based on "suspicion", and grant investigative powers with "a broad range of authorities" which will be ''poorly understood.'' The officers trying to get the data can be anyone from tax agents to sheriffs, justices of the peace, CSIS agents, and even mayors, experts say.
Currently, police require a warrant for any single activity: to get information from a suspect's cellphone or laptop, or an internet or cellphone provider. If they want to track a suspect, they need a warrant to attach a GPS device to the suspect's car or person.
The bill introduces the definition 'computer program' to do either of those things.
'''Computer program' means computer data representing instructions or statements that, when executed in a computer system, causes the computer system to perform a function,'' the bill states.
This kind of concept allows many schemes to be staged by the authorities, as Christopher Parsons, postdoctoral fellow at the Citizen Lab in the Munk School of Global Affairs told National Post.
''There's a series of different tactics that they could adopt. They could engage in phishing schemes - deliberately serving infected files to computers - or it could involve sending URLs to people's emails and when they click it, it infects their computers,'' he said.
Parsons said that security forces could also start installing malicious apps that function as listening devices onto Canadians' smartphones.
C-13 could get basic data from Canadians' Skype conversations, as well as a vast field of other digital information. ''That's the way that it reads,'' Parsons stated.
Police could even hack into a car's OnStar program to keep tracking of location, and call logs.
Parsons called the whole situation the dawn of ''Govware'', which will risk ''introducing significant, and poorly understood, new powers to the Canadian authorities.''
Canada wouldn't be the first state to use those schemes.
German government has been using the Bundestrojaner - a trojan virus that lets police eavesdrop on Skype conversations.
The US National Security Agency also infected millions of devices with bugs to monitor users' data.
War on Weed
World's first financial system for weed
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:49
DENVER (AP) -- Seeking to move marijuana businesses away from cash-only operations, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation Friday that tries to establish the world's first financial system for the newly legal industry in Colorado.The legislation seeks to form a network of uninsured cooperatives designed to give pot businesses a way to access basic banking services like checking. But approval from the Federal Reserve remains a hurdle.Out of fear of violating federal law, banks don't work with marijuana businesses. That has led to concerns that the burgeoning marijuana industry could be a target for robberies.Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said a member of his organization was robbed a few days ago. The cash-only model has become stressful for businesses and their employees, he said."We don't a need a vault. What we need is checking," he said. "We're looking for a way to take cash out of the businesses."Colorado became the first state to allow recreational pot sales on Jan. 1. Denver Police issued a crime alert Thursday warning of a plot to rob marijuana couriers, those who take dispensary proceeds to pay taxes or bills.The legislation would allow pot businesses to pool money in cooperatives. However, that will only happen with the blessing of the Fed, which has to agree to give the businesses access to payment systems.That has prompted some in Colorado to argue the legislation is merely symbolic.One of the sponsors of the banking bill, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said the legislation is an important step."At minimum, it's a `send a message' bill. Hopefully, it becomes a leverage point to get some attention and get some action on the part of the federal government," he said. "Because they hold the keys on this one. We can't solve this problem at the statehouse in Denver. It's going to require action and participation on the part of federal officials and hopefully this gets us there."He said Friday that he had not heard anything from the federal government.The U.S. Treasury Department said in February that banks could serve the marijuana industry under certain conditions. But a lot of banks have said the guidelines are too onerous.Elliott said that has created a "ridiculous scenario" where pot businesses must pay taxes, but they end up doing so with piles of cash."We would love to pay our taxes with a check," he said.He said he doesn't know yet whether Colorado's banking plan will work. No businesses have yet said they plan to try forming a cooperative."But it's us in Colorado doing everything we can to try to solve this problem," he said.---Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: http://twitter.com/IvanJourno
Jamaican push to legalise cannabis in bid to boost tourism industry.
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 17:56
Politicians believe promoting the controlled sale of the narcotic will bring tens of thousands of extra touristsDrug is widely grown and used throughout Caribbean, especially Jamaica.By Nick Fagge
Published: 20:08 EST, 9 June 2014 | Updated: 02:14 EST, 10 June 2014
As the birth place of reggae music and the Rastafarian religious cult Jamaica has long been associated with cannabis.
Now high ranking officials of the Caribbean state want to legalise the widely used but illegal drug '' in a bid to spark a tourism boom.
They believe promoting the controlled sale of the narcotic will bring tens of thousands of extra tourists to the island which has suffered from a faltering economy and high unemployment.
Jamaica wants to attract people like these two young women to their island to boost tourism
Supporters hope to follow the example of the US state of Colorado which has raked in a fortune after the sale of cannabis was decriminalised '' and taxed '' on January 1 this year.
Angel Brown Burke, the mayor of Kingston, Jamaica's capital, said: 'The time has come to provide an opportunity for Jamaicans to benefit from the marijuana industry.'
The drug '' known locally as 'ganja' - is widely grown and used throughout the Caribbean, especially Jamaica.
Farmers have also mounted a campaign to legalise the drug, under the banner 'Wake Up Jamaica'.
Ganja grower Clinel Robinson, 69, said: 'If they know they can come into a ganja field and police wouldn't come, thousands, they would come.
'Hotels would be full of people. Everybody would benefit.'
Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley popularised the smoking of cannabis and was often photographed and filmed using the drug. Rastafarians consider the herb sacred to their religion.
However cannabis can cause mental health problems, lung damage and lead to the use of harder drugs.
Uruguay became the first country to make it legal to grow, sell and consume cannabis last year
In April dreadlocked Rastafarians and farmers held a rally in Kingston to launch their bid to decriminalise the drug.
Jamaica is a major exporter of cannabis with more than 37,000 acres devoted to growing the narcotic crop every year.
Uruguay became the first country to make it legal to grow, sell and consume cannabis last year. Details of how the scheme will work are to be unveiled shortly.
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Ministry of Truth
International PR firms sign agreement to stop abusing Wikipedia
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:40
Late last year Wikipedia named and shamed a Texas company after discovering that 300 so-called ''sock puppet'' accounts '' created using false identities '' could be traced to the same firm.
The company, Wiki-PR, was issued with a ''cease and desist'' warning by lawyers acting for the Wikimedia Foundation, the charitable organisation behind the giant volunteer-authored site which contains more than 30 million articles in nearly 290 languages.
Eleven leading top PR frims, including Ogilvy & Mather and Edelman, produced a statement yesterday in which they promised to ''abide'' by the ''fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia''.
The companies said that where they became ''aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms'' they would ''investigate the matter and seek corrective action''.
The PR companies also promised to make clear to their clients the guidelines by which Wikipedia operates and to ''take steps to publicise our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly''.
The statement was treated as an admission of a culture within the PR industry whereby agencies edited references to the clients on Wikipedia. Although such activities have previously been justified as corrections of erroneous information, PR companies have also been accused of deleting any negative references to their clients and re-writing pages to present those companies and individuals in a better light.
In its statement last November in relation to Wiki-PR, the Wikimedia Foundation, which has blocked more than 250 sock puppet accounts, said: ''Our goal is to provide neutral, reliable information for our readers, and anything that threatens that is a serious problem.''
The Independent previously investigated the leading British PR firm Bell Pottinger and exposed how it boasted of how it could manipulate Google and Wikipedia to minimise negative issues surrounding clients.
The Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales reacted furiously when Bell Pottinger responded by saying that such behaviour was not illegal. ''I am astonished at the ethical blindness of Bell Pottinger's reaction,'' he said. ''That their strongest true response is they didn't break the law tells a lot about their view of the world, I'm afraid. The company committed the cardinal sin of a PR and lobbying company of having their own bad behaviour bring bad headlines to their clients, [and] did so in a fashion that brought no corresponding benefits.''
Following yesterday's pledge, Bell Pottinger said: ''We wholeheartedly support this initiative and already adhere to Wikipedia policies.''
The other signatories to the pledge were Burson-Marsteller, FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Porter Novelli, Voce Communications, Glover Park Group, Peppercomm, Allison & Partners and Beutler Ink.
American scientists controversially recreate deadly Spanish Flu virus - Science - News - The Independent
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:40
Scientists said the study involved infecting laboratory ferrets with close copies of the 1918 virus '' which was responsible for the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people '' to see how easy it can be transmitted in the best animal model of the human disease.
But other researchers have denounced the research as foolhardy and dangerous. Critics said that any benefits of the attempts to recreate 1918-like flu viruses from existing avian flu strains do not justify the catastrophic risks if such a genetically engineered virus were to escape either deliberately or accidentally from the laboratory and cause a deadly influenza pandemic.
However, Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison dismissed the criticisms of his research saying that it is necessary for the development of influenza vaccines and other countermeasures designed to minimise the risks of a future flu pandemic.
''These critics fail to appreciate the precautions and safeguards built into our work, the regulation, review and oversight these studies receive'....The risks of conducting this research are not ignored, but they can be effectively managed and mitigated,'' Professor Kawaoka said.
''We know studies like ours advance the field and help those responsible for making decisions about surveillance and pandemic preparedness [to] base decisions on scientific fact, rather than conjecture. Therefore our research provides important benefits that cannot be achieved by other means,'' he said in an email to The Independent.
The study, which was carried out in a secure laboratory with the second highest biosafety level, showed that all the necessary ingredients exist in the wild population of bird flu viruses for the emergence of a virus similar to the deadly 1918 flu strain.
''Because avian influenza viruses in nature require only a few changes to adapt to humans and cause a pandemic, it is important to understand the mechanisms involved in adaptation and identify the key mutations so we can be better prepared,'' Professor Kawaoka said.
''The point of the study was to assess the risk of avian viruses currently circulating in nature. We found genes in avian influenza viruses quite closely related to the 1918 virus and, to evaluate the pandemic potential should such a 1918-like virus emerge, identified changes that enabled it to transmit in ferrets,'' he said.
The 1918 virus was recreated from eight genes found in avian flu viruses isolated from populations of wild ducks. Using a technique known as ''reverse genetics'' the scientists rebuilt the entire virus so that it was 97 per cent identical to the 1918 strain, known from viruses recovered from frozen corpses, according to the study published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.
Women from the Department of War took 15-minute walks to breathe in fresh air to ward off the influenza virus during World War I (Getty)Tests on ferrets showed that the virus was still able to cause flu-like symptoms. When it was further mutated at just seven points, the virus spread easily from one animal to another '' indicating that it could cause a pandemic in the human population.
Professor Kawaoka has already come under fire for carrying out previous studies to enhance the transmissibility of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu '' which is highly lethal to humans but does not pass easily from one person to another '' by repeatedly exposing ferrets to the engineered virus.
''Like many of the recent 'gain-of-function' studies, this one created a novel virus that is likely both transmissible and virulent in humans,'' said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard University.
''This is a risky activity, even in the safest labs. Scientists should not take such risks without strong evidence that the work could save lives, which this [study] does not provide,'' Professor Lipsitch said.
Robert Kolter, professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, said: ''The scientists doing this work are so immersed in their own self-aggrandisement, they have become completely blind to the irresponsibility of their acts. Their arguments in favour of such work, i.e. increase ability for surveillance, remain as weak as ever.''
Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said: ''The work doesn't offer us much. The risk of escape is small but non-zero. I do not see such benefits, so on balance we are worse off.''
Hillary 2016
U.S. Presidential Election Odds 2016 | Vegas Odds to be President USA
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:33
Here is what we do know about the 2016 Presidential election'....Barack Obama will not be on the ballot. Whether that makes you happy or sad, it's a fact. Now, it seems like every rumor in the political world is pointing towards New Jersey governor Chris Christie to win the Republican nod in 2016. Hillary Clinton looks to the current favorite for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2016.
ODDS TO WIN 2016 ELECTIONHillary Clinton2/1Chris Christie12/1Marco Rubio12/1Paul Ryan15/1Jeb Bush15/1Joe Biden20/1Elizabeth Warren25/1Ted Cruz25/1Rand Paul30/1Bobby Jindal35/1Rob Portman40/1Scott Walker40/1Andrew Cuomo40/1Tim Pawlenty40/1Mitch Daniels40/1Jon Huntsman50/1Martin OMalley50/1Tim Kaine50/1Evan Bayh50/1Mark Warner50/1Michael Bloomberg50/1John Kerry60/1Susana Martinez65/1Eric Cantor75/1Rick Santorum75/1Julian Castro75/1Rick Perry75/1Mitt Romney75/1Rahm Emanuel100/1Condoleeza Rice100/1Sarah Palin250/1
VIDEO- Edward Snowden John Perry Barlow - YouTube
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:32
VIDEO-PressTV - Four Blackwater mercenaries go on trial for 2007 killings of 14 Iraqi civilians
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:13
Four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards have been put on trial in the United States over the 2007 killings of 14 Iraqi civilians.
On Wednesday, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten appeared before a federal court in Washington for the selection of jury, AFP reported.
The Blackwater mercenaries, who have the support of an army of lawyers, were dressed in suits and ties.
The Blackwater employees had been charged with killing 14 Iraqi civilians and wounding 18 others using gunfire and grenades at a busy Baghdad intersection on September 16, 2007.
Judge Royce Lamberth is overseeing the trial, which is expected to last several months. He has been a US district judge for more than 25 years and he has a military background.
On Wednesday, the judge advised the prospective jurors not to read or watch anything about the nearly seven-year-old case. He particularly mentioned social media networks, such as Twitter. "Just don't do it," he instructed. "Just stick to the evidence" in the courtroom.
A large number of Iraqi witnesses are scheduled to testify in the case in what the Justice Department says is likely to be "the largest group of foreign witnesses ever to travel to the United States for a criminal trial."
Blackwater Worldwide, which is now known as Academi and is based in McLean, Virginia, is the most notorious private security firm that had operated in Iraq.
Many Iraqis believe the US military allowed Blackwater mercenaries to commit numerous war crimes against their compatriots with impunity.
VIDEO-Explosion in Nogales
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:52
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GUN VIOLENCE-Casualty Report | ISAF - International Security Assistance Force
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:40
UPDATED FROM EARLIER: KABUL, Afghanistan (June 10, 2014) '-- We can confirm five International Security Assistance Force service members died in southern Afghanistan yesterday.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (June 10, 2014) '' Five International Security Assistance Force service members died in southern Afghanistan yesterday.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (June 9, 2014) '-- An International Security Assistance Force service member died as a result of non-battle injury in eastern Afghanistan today.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (June 5, 2014) '-- An International Security Assistance Force service member died as a result of an enemy forces attack in eastern Afghanistan today.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (June 2, 2014) '-- An International Security Assistance Force service member died as a result of an enemy forces attack in eastern Afghanistan today.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (May 29, 2014) '-- An International Security Assistance Force service member died as a result of a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan Wednesday.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (May 23, 2014) '-- An International Security Assistance Force contracted-civilian died as a result of a non-battle related injury in eastern Afghanistan today.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (May 12, 2014) '' An International Security Assistance Force contracted-civilian died as a result of a non-battle related injury in southern Afghanistan Saturday.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (April 28, 2014) '-- Two International Security Assistance Force service members died as a result of enemy forces' attacks in eastern Afghanistan today.Read more...
KABUL, Afghanistan (April 26, 2014) '-- Five International Security Assistance Force service members died as a result of a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan today.Read more...
GUN VIOLENCR-2 of 5 US Special Ops Forces killed in Afghanistan identified by family representatives | Fox News
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:39
Among the five American troops killed this week during a possible friendly fire airstrike in Afghanistan were a soldier from northern Illinois who deployed a month after his father died and a soldier from Ohio who was engaged to be married, representatives of their families say.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the five American troops were killed Monday "during a security operation in southern Afghanistan." Officials said an airstrike was called in after the unit was ambushed by the Taliban.
"The casualties occurred during a security operation when their unit came into contact with enemy forces," a statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force read Monday. "Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation. Our thoughts are with the families of those killed during this difficult time."
If confirmed, it would be one of the most serious cases involving coalition on coalition friendly fire during the nearly 14-year Afghan war.
A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News early Tuesday that the troops were killed when they requested air support from a B-1 bomber.
One of those killed was Aaron Toppen, 19, family spokeswoman Jennie Swartz told The Associated Press from the family's Mokena home, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. Swartz said representatives from the U.S. Army came to the door of Toppen's mother, Pam Toppen, in the middle of the night to deliver the news.
"Aaron was predisposed to serve. He was very keen to be in the military," his uncle, Jack Winter, said. "He was quite proud to be there."
Military representatives also went to the home of Justin Helton's parents in Beaver, Ohio, early Tuesday to inform them of their son's death, a relative said.
Mindy Helton said her cousin specialized in dealing with explosives and was based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Justin Helton, 25, had been in Afghanistan about two months and was engaged to be married, she said. He had been in the Army since 2010.
"He was a great boy, so full of life and outgoing," she said. "He loved hunting and the outdoors."
As Toppen's family and friends gathered at the light blue home, Winter described the high school graduate as a caring and funny man who was "something somewhat rare in youth culture today. ... In a word, I would summarize what he had as 'class,'" Winter said. "So rarely now do you see somebody like that who truly does have class who's polite, humble, loyal, who's a kind-hearted soul, generous."
It was the second death of a loved one for the family this year. Toppen was set to leave for Afghanistan in February, but his gravely ill father died that month and he stayed for the funeral. He deployed in March.
Toppen was a graduate of Lincoln-Way East High in Frankfort, Illinois, and loved the outdoors, especially fishing. Family members at the home '-- where friends continued to stop by and bring food Tuesday evening '-- circulated a picture of Toppen as a young child sitting next to his father in a fishing boat.
Military members provided few details of the attack to the family, Winter said.
"A military representative came to my sister's home ... and broke her heart," Winter said. "It just tears your world apart. That's the situation my sister is in."
Toppen was the youngest of three children.
The other three victims have not yet been identified.
The only U.S. troops now involved in combat operations are usually Special Operations Forces that mentor their Afghan counterparts. They often come under fire and are responsible for calling in air support when needed. Because of constraints placed by outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, such airstrikes are usually called "in extremis," or when troops fear they are about to be killed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday's ambush in Zabul.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a battle took place between foreign troops and Taliban fighters in the Arghandab district, and a "huge number" of NATO soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims.
Separately, a NATO statement said a service member died Monday as a result of a non-battle injury in eastern Afghanistan.
The deaths bring to 36 the number of NATO soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan, with eight service members killed in June.
The insurgents have intensified attacks on Afghan and foreign forces ahead of the country's presidential election runoff Saturday. Officials are concerned there could be more violence around the time of the vote, although the first round in April passed relatively peacefully.
Casualties have been falling in the U.S.-led military coalition as its forces pull back to allow the Afghan Army and police to fight the Taliban insurgency. All combat troops are scheduled to be withdrawn from the country by the end of this year.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
VIDEO-G'LEN-FBI raids Concept Schools in Illinois, 2 other states | Early & Often
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:43
The FBI and two other federal agencies conducted raids in Illinois and two other states at charter schools run by Des Plaines-based Concept Schools, FBI officials said Tuesday.
Search warrants were executed at 19 Concept schools in connection with an ''ongoing white-collar crime matter,'' said Vicki Anderson, a special agent in the Cleveland FBI office that's leading the probe.
The U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission also were involved in the June 4 raids, but officials said the warrants remain under seal, and they wouldn't give any details about the investigation.
The raids targeted Concept schools in Illinois '-- where Concept has three schools in Chicago and one in Peoria '-- as well as in Indiana and Ohio.
A Concept spokesman said federal education officials had conducted an audit recently.
But the FBI's Anderson said, ''What we did was not part of any audit.''
RELATED:CPS says no to Concept Schools, but state commission says yes
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Landlords for Concept Schools have ties to Emanuel
Concept was founded by Turkish immigrants and has ties to Turkish-American groups that have hosted Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and other state lawmakers on trips to their homeland in recent years, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in December. In 2012, Madigan visited Concept's Chicago Math and Science Academy at 7212 N. Clark St., and praised the school in a video posted on YouTube.
After its efforts last year to open two new taxpayer-funded charter schools in Chicago were rejected by Chicago Public Schools officials, Concept appealed to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which overrode CPS and allowed Concept to open Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park at 2845 W. Pershing Rd. and Horizon Science Academy Belmont at 5035 W. North Ave.
CPS officials were more receptive to Concept earlier this year, approving what will be the chain's fourth and fifth schools in Chicago, in Chatham and South Chicago.
VIDEO-Miss Louisiana Asked About Morality of Exchanging Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for 5 Taliban Terrorists | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:38
MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them '-- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.
MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.
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VIDEO-Andrea Mitchell: Is Rise In Extremism Due to 'African American President'? | MRCTV
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 04:12
MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them '-- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.
MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.
Copyright (C) 2014, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-Hagel Explodes During Hearing: 'I Don't Like The Implication Of Your Question'
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 03:54
Wednesday at the House Armed Service Committee hearing, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) grilled Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel over why no one has talked to U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. When Hagel said the delay was due to his medical condition which is being treated overseas Miller interrupted asking why the Secretary had not gone to Germany to question Bergdahl.Hagel became visibly annoyed asking "I don't know how much medical training you have had?" which caused Miller to interrupt asking the secretary "Your telling me he can not be questioned because of his medical condition?" Hagel exploded saying "I don't like the implication of your question" before answering yes.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN
VIDEO-"There's NOTHING About The Jews Or Other White Supremacists Views IT'S ALL ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT" - YouTube
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 03:35
VIDEO- "In 2009 Homeland Security Warned We Were Going To See More RIGHT-WING TERRORISTS ATTACKS" - YouTube
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 03:29
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VIDEO-President Obama Student Loans | Video | C-SPAN.org-AMMO
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 02:08
June 10, 2014President Obama answered questions about student loan reforms and his new ''Pay As You Earn'' plan on the social media platform Tumblr.
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VIDEO- Police Release Video Of Las Vegas Cop Killers Final Moments In Walmart - YouTube
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:54
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VIDEO-An Opportunity to Survive: Someone Has Made A Bulletproof Blanket For Your Kids Because This Is What We've Come To | Common Dreams
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:37
An Oklahoma podiatrist has designed the Bodyguard Blanket, a bulletproof pad offering "an extra layer of protection" against "90% of all weapons that have been used in school shootings in the United States." In their soft-focus, schmaltzy-music-festooned video, kids romp on "just an ordinary day" until - dark music for "when seconds count" - they dutifully strap on their blankets and hunch on the floor under some capitalist's wet dream of a money-making scheme because that's all the kids will have thanks to gutless politicians who've failed to do anything else to protect them against our national lunacy, and alas no this is not The Onion.
Update: Hey, look, another school shooting, this time in Oregon. Money to be made.
Update 2: According to Everytown For Gun Safety,today's was the 74th school shooting since Sandy Hook. We can't think of any jokes to make about this.
VIDEO-Ralph Reed Maher-Overtime CLimate Change Warming
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:16
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VIDEO-Anderson Cooper Undergoes 'Very Unpleasant Experiment' of Hearing Voices | Mediaite
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 00:38
Anderson Cooper did quite a powerful segment tonight on mental health and how frustrating it is to function when you hear voices in your head every second of the day, by undergoing an experiment in which he wore headphones as he attempted to carry on his day as normal. And he found that to be a near-impossible task.
Cooper went through a series of simple tests, like completing number puzzles and remembering words, but found he could not do them. Even working on an origami boat was frustrating because he kept hearing voices telling him he was horrible and couldn't do it.
And when it happens on the street, it's even worse. Cooper described it as ''incredibly distracting'' and something that ''makes you feel completely isolated with everyone around you.''
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VIDEO-World Bank: 'Now is the time to prepare for next crisis'
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 17:57
Bad weather in the U.S., the crisis in Ukraine, rebalancing in China and the anticipated rise in interest rates will hit global growth this year, according to the World Bank, which has urged countries to continue urgent reforms.
The Washington-based organization, a United Nations agency which provides loans to developing countries, has downgraded its global growth estimates for this year to 2.8 percent, from a January forecast of 3.2 percent.
"We are not totally out of the woods yet," Kaushik Basu, the bank's senior vice president and chief economist, said in a press release.
Read MoreWorld Bank sees China growth on track, urges reform
"A gradual tightening of fiscal policy and structural reforms are desirable to restore fiscal space depleted by the 2008 financial crisis. In brief, now is the time to prepare for the next crisis."
Developing countries singled out for special attention included Ghana, India, Kenya, Malaysia, and South Africa. The bank urged these countries to tighten fiscal policy and reinvigorate structural reforms. Growth for developing countries is now eyed at 4.8 percent this year, down from its January estimate of 5.3 percent, it said.
China is expected to grow by 7.6 percent this year, it added, but said this would depend on the success of rebalancing efforts by its government and predicted wide "reverberations across Asia" if a feared hard landing occurred.
Read MoreGlobal economy at a turning point: World Bank
"Growth rates in the developing world remain far too modest to create the kind of jobs we need to improve the lives of the poorest 40 percent," President Jim Yong Kim said. "Countries need to move faster and invest more in domestic structural reforms to get broad-based economic growth to levels needed to end extreme poverty in our generation."
VIDEO-President Obama Signs H.R. 3080 and H.R. 1726 | The White House
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:47
June 10, 2014 | Public Domain
President Obama delivers remarks at the signing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act and the 65th Infantry Regiment Congressional Gold Medal.
Download mp4 (413MB) | mp3 (11MB)
VIDEO-Spies can listen to your iPhone microphone even if it is switched OFF, experts reveal - Mirror Online
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:41
CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden claimed America's National Security Agency (NSA) could eavesdrop on the mobile phone's mic without owners ever knowing - and experts agree it's possible
American and British spies can listen in to the microphone of your iPhone - even if the device is switched OFF, experts have revealed.
CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden claimed America's National Security Agency (NSA), which works in tandem with the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), could eavesdrop on the mobile phone's mic without owners ever knowing.
The American fugitive, who exposed a joint secret mass surveillance program, said: ''They can absolutely turn them on with the power turned off to the device''.
The worrying claim left Britain's estimated 10 million iPhone users at risk.
Now a team of security experts have confirmed Snowden's claims saying the Apple phone's inbuilt software can fool users in to ''playing dead'' when it is actually still working.
Expert Eric McDonald, a hardware engineer in Los Angeles, said although the handset may appear to be shutting down when turned off it actually enters a low-power mode that leaves key communication chips still active.
This 'playing dead' state allows the phone to receive commands, including one to activate its microphone, said McDonald.
''The screen would look black and nothing would happen if you pressed buttons but it's conceivable that the baseband (the cellular function) is still on, or turns on periodically," he said.
''And it would be very difficult to know whether the phone has been compromised.''
Claims: U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden Writing on his Errata Security blog, security consultant Robert David Graham says the technique Snowden referred to is called an implant.
''An 'implant' is when the NSA intercepts your phone and installs hardware or software on it," he wrote.''
''Yes, an implant gives the NSA full control over your phone but it's difficult getting the implant on your phone in the first place.
''Once the NSA installs an implant, then of course they can remotely 'power on' your phone, because it's not really powered off - even when you think it is.''
Graham said the implant could be installed through the internet or through the phone's cellular functions.
He also said it could be put on to the phone physically if anyone was to get hold of it.
Agencies such as the CIA, FBI, MI5 and MI6 have had the technology to use mobile phones as an aid for spying for the past 10 years.
In 2006 a technique known as a ''roving bug'' was discovered which allowed agents to remotely activate a phone's microphone and listen to nearby conversations.
They also use the technique to locate users to within a few meters seeing many criminals located through their mobiles.
Fugitve Snowden fled the US 14 months ago after exposing the PRISM program. It gave spies access to data held by nine of the world's top internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Skype and also eavesdropped on millions of conversations and emails.
Much of the information was anaylsed by spooks at Cheltenham-based GCHQ before being handed back to the US.
The scandal caused an international firestorm when it was discovered 35 world leaders including Angela Merkel as well as the Pope had had their phone records tapped into.
Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, has been charged by the US Government with theft and espionage while having his passport revoked.
How to turn off your microphone completely
To ensure the phone is completely inoperable, it must be placed in to what experts call a DFU mode.
To enter DFU mode first plug in your iPhone in any power outlet or USB port. Hold the on/off down and after three seconds hold the home button as well. Keep both pressed for 10 seconds.
Release the power button while continuing to hold the home button for another ten to 15 seconds while the phone enters DFU mode.
VIDEO-BBC News - Sexual violence in war: Jolie opens summit in London
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:38
10 June 2014Last updated at 11:20 ET Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.
Angelina Jolie: "There is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence"
The actress and UN special envoy Angelina Jolie has said a four-day summit on ending sexual violence during war must send a message that there is no disgrace in being a victim.
Ms Jolie was speaking alongside British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is co-hosting the London summit with her.
The event - the largest ever of its kind - is the result of an intense two-year campaign to raise awareness.
Mr Hague said rape was one of the "great mass crimes" of modern times.
He called on the more than 140 nations at the summit to write action against sexual violence into their army training.
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A Rwandan in DR Congo says the "effect of rape is with me on a daily basis"
The summit aims to:
launch a new international protocol for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict, and encourage countries to strengthen domestic laws to enable prosecutions urge countries to train all soldiers and peacekeepers to prevent sexual violence increase funding to support survivors of sexual violence change attitudes towards rape in conflict The organisers want the event to be the moment the world wakes up and declares that sexual violence is not an inevitable part of war, says BBC World Affairs Correspondent Paul Adams.
'Weapon of war"Opening the summit, Mr Hague said: "From the abolition of slavery to the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, we have shown that the international community can tackle vast global problems in a way that was once considered to be impossible.
"There is power in numbers, and if we unite behind this cause, we can create an unstoppable momentum and consign this vile abuse to history."
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Jane in South Sudan says: "Rape is a war revenge thing"
Ms Jolie said: "We need to shatter that culture of impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes."
She said she wanted to dedicate the conference to a rape victim she recently interviewed in Bosnia, who felt so humiliated by what had happened to her that she could not even tell her own son.
"She felt that having had no justice for her particular crime, in her particular situation, and having seen the actual man who raped her on the streets free, she really felt abandoned by the world,'' Ms Jolie said. "This day is for her.''
Angela Atim, one of the speakers at the conference, was kidnapped as a 14-year-old schoolgirl by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in Uganda.
She told the BBC: "These people who are accountable for the sexual violence in armed conflict, they have to be brought to justice."
"It's part of our healing because it's really painful to see that they are still walking around, they are still doing the same thing."
Nations taking part in the summit include Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia - countries where sexual violence has happened "on a vast scale", Mr Hague told the BBC.
Sexual violence was systematically being used as a weapon of war in the 20th and 21st Centuries, he noted.
Mr Hague cited the estimated 50,000 women who were raped in Bosnia two decades ago, virtually none of whom have received justice.
In the two years since Mr Hague and Ms Jolie launched their campaign, a Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict has been endorsed by 141 countries.
But the aim now is to take concrete steps, including providing more help to survivors, Mr Hague said.
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Karen Allen has been finding out about the sexual violence in the refugee camps in South Sudan
He added that the issue had been a "taboo" for too long, and that it was time to get rid of the "stigma and shame attached to it".
On Thursday, Mr Hague will also host a security meeting focused on Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in Nigeria. Ministers from Nigeria and neighbouring countries will attend.
Suspected Boko Haram militants abducted at least 20 women in northern Nigeria last week. More than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the same group on 14 April.
VIDEO- Ricky Muir stumbles through interview on Senate role - video - YouTube
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:25
VIDEO-Family spokesperson IDs Reynolds High School shooting victim - KPTV - FOX 12
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 00:00
TROUTDALE, OR (KPTV) -A gunman carrying a rifle opened fire and killed a student at Reynolds High School on Tuesday, and Troutdale police confirmed the gunman himself is also dead.
Multiple students told FOX 12 they heard at least two gunshots near the main gym around 8 a.m.
Police haven't confirmed the identity of the student who was killed, but a family spokesperson identified him as Emilio Hoffman.
Officials said a teacher, who students and neighbors identified as P.E. teacher Todd Rispler, was grazed by a bullet. He was treated at the scene.
Law enforcement agencies first responded to reports of an active shooter at the school at 8:07 a.m., and when they arrived, they evacuated the school of all students and staff.
The situation was then "stabilized" and police confirmed the shooter had died. Police said two school resource officers and a tactical team "brought this to a conclusion." Despite the all clear, a school lockdown persisted for hours afterward.
There's no word yet on the gunman's motive, and police haven't said whether he is a student at the school, despite deputies tentatively identifying him. A sheriff's office tip line has been set up at 503-250-7943.
"This is a tragic day, one I hoped that would never, ever be part of my experience," said Superintendent Linda Florence.
Wednesday is the last day of the school year at Reynolds High, and graduation is planned for Thursday.
In the wake of the shooting, parents were told to meet students at the Wood Village Fred Meyer located at Northeast 223rd Avenue and Glisan Street. Everyone else is asked to stay away from the area.
Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust said it has been "a very unsettling day for our city."
"I really want to say that I'm very impressed with how the police handled this whole operation," he said. "My heart goes out to all the families."
Students and staff can pick up items from the evacuation Tuesday night at Reynolds Middle School from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Counselors are being made available to students at the following locations:
Wood Village Fred Meyer for students and parentsMt Hood Community College Gymnasium (26000 SE Stark Street) from 1 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday.Multnomah County's Crisis Help Line at (503) 988-4888.As news of the shooting spread, public figures started sending out statements expressing their condolences.
Gov. John Kitzhaber sent out a tweet that read, "My thoughts and prayers are with students, staff and the Reynolds High School community during this difficult time."
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales issued a statement on Facebook, saying, "There are no words to fully express our sorrow over the shootings at Reynolds High School. We want the students, the parents and the educators -- in fact, the whole community -- to know that they are in our hearts and prayers today."
Reynolds High School is located at 1698 SW Cherry Park Road in Troutdale, which is a suburb of Portland.
Troutdale police are asking anyone with photos taken during the shooting or additional information that might assist in the investigation to email crimereports@troutdaleoregon.gov.
TIP LINE: 503-250-7943
WATCH LIVE:FOX 12 coverage at Reynolds High School
PHOTOS:Reynolds HS Shooting
Copyright 2014 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
VIDEO-TUMBLR-The Official White House Tumblr
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 23:00
Today, President Obama answered your questions on education in his first-ever Tumblr Q&A. Watch here.
Notes may be archived. Visit wh.gov/privacy to learn more.
Did you miss it? Watch today's Tumblr Q&A right here to see President Obama answer questions on education, college affordability, and more.
''I'll be on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut, but that probably won't last too long.
President Obama, on life after office.
''People ask me what I'm proudest of and what are my biggest frustrations as President. My biggest frustration is that this society hasn't been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do damage. We're the only developed country where this happens. And it happens weekly. Our levels of gun violence are off the charts.
President Obama sharing the difficulties of trying to change a culture in which school shootings are commonplace.
''If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.
President Obama on legislation to prevent gun violence.
''You wouldn't know by looking at you, but you're like LeBron or Durant.
President Obama, to David Karp
''One of the things we're doing is we're starting to develop a scorecard for colleges and universities.
''Ultimately, you are going to do best at something you care deeply for. But you still have to grind it out. You can get into the mindset where the effort and sweat you put in doesn't feel like a burden. Your career isn't always a straight line. Sometimes you have to take a job to pay the bills. And sometimes you take a big risk, like building something called Tumblr.
President Obama to David Karp at the Tumblr Q&A on education and college affordability.
''We're constantly looking for new ways to reach new audiences'...a lot of Tumblr users are impacted by student debt.
David Karp: Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting Tumblr to your house.
President Obama: Well, it's a rental house.
VIDEO-Canadia trends on Twitter after Tony Abbott gaffe
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 03:34
Video will begin in 5 seconds.
Tony Abbott's 'Canadia' slipIt's his first official visit to Canada, and the Prime Minister has mispronounced the country's name.
PT0M23Shttp://www.theage.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39s7k620349June 9, 2014It's been a tough week on the world stage for the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
After being accused of falling asleep at D-Day commemorations in France, then being too busy to meet with world economic leaders in the US, Mr Abbott was the talk of Twitter yet again on Monday for a minor slip of the tongue during an official visit to Canada. Or is that Canadia?
Tony Abbott, left, is greeted by Pierre Poilievre, a Canadian minister, at Ottawa airport. Photo: Andrew Meares
In a press conference in the capital Ottawa, the Australian PM (or is that Austrian?) slightly stumbled, then immediately corrected himself, when pronouncing the name of the country he was visiting.
Asked about Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent condemnation of Russian policy in Ukraine, Mr Abbott responded: "They're very forthright remarks, and I think that they're perfectly appropriate remarks for the Canadian Prime Minister to make. Canadia, Canada, probably has more involvement in the affairs of Europe than Australia often does, but ..."
Despite Mr Abbott's immediate correction, the damage was already done. The Twittersphere was quick to jump on his gaffe, with "Canadia" soon trending in Australia.
Tony Abbott's four-nation tour got off to a less-than-ideal start before he even lifted off last week, when his RAAF jet was delayed by technical problems in Australia. A replacement jet had to be brought in, before Mr Abbott travelled to Indonesia to hold one-on-one talks with his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. His meeting with Dr Yudhoyono was considered a success, one bright spot in his overseas tour.
But on his next tour stop in France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Mr Abbott was shown on camera closing his eyes at one point during the ceremony, and was accused of nodding off.
Around the same time, he was roasted on HBO satirical news program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which presented a highlight reel of some of his stickiest slip-ups and cringe-worthy comments.
The four-minute segment included clips of Mr Abbott's remarks about women - ''what the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing''; to homosexuals - ''I feel a bit threatened [by homosexuality]''; and to 'that' wink while speaking to a cancer-suffering elderly sex line worker that most recently landed him in hot water.
Labor also has accused Mr Abbott of "embarrassing" Australia on the world stage after he reportedly cancelled meetings with World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. The meetings remain in doubt after Mr Abbott's office cited a busy schedule.
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek leapt on the report, calling Mr Abbott a ''Nigel no friends'' on the world stage.
But Mr Abbott told reporters in Canada that reports he had snubbed economic leaders during his trip had been "highly exaggerated". Mr Abbott said his program was not finalised but he hoped to meet with Ms Lagarde and Dr Kim in the US this week.
Fairfax Media
VIDEO-Ron Conway Flips Out Over Call for SF Mayor Ed Lee to Resign
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 02:47
Star venture capitalist Ron Conway absolutely lost his shit today at the Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit after fellow VC Chamath Palihapitiya suggested Mayor Ed Lee was doing a poor job addressing San Francisco's gentrification crisis.
Conway, who raised $600,000 in angel funding for Lee's first mayoral campaign and has been an outspoken backer of the Mayor, had been stewing in the back of the auditorium for 10 minutes, according to TechCrunch, waving his hands demanding to comment on Palihapitiya's criticisms of Lee. And once Palihapitiya stated that "he'd resign" if he were Mayor Lee, Conway stood up to defend the Mayor, frantically pointing and shouting towards the speaker.
"I live in the city of San Francisco, you live in the city of Palo Alto. [...] Ed Lee, who you ridicule'--how dare you, Palo Alto resident!" Conway sneered as eyes widened behind him.
Palihapitiya, an early employee of Facebook and investor in Yammer, attempted to have a conversation with Conway over housing policy. But Conway continued ranting, slamming Palihapitiya's apparent calls to levy a 1% equity tax on San Francisco startups to help fund affordable housing.
"Ron, if [startups] wanted to be in the city, there are all these people in the city right now that are really frustrated. You see it with the riots. All I'm saying is..."
"They're working to make it a better city, and so is Ed Lee, and it is going to get better'--not worse."
"Ron, effort is fine. All I'm saying is that there are a ton of people that feel like they're getting pushed out of subsidized housing, that feel like..."
"30,000 units. Ed Lee has a mandate in every city department [Ed note: not true] to build 30,000 units. Is that not enough?"
In fact, it isn't enough. According to study by San Francisco's chief economist Ted Egan, it would take at least 100,000 market rate units to make a noticeable dent in housing prices.
"There's also the alternative of increasing market-rate housing construction, which does have an effect in the long run on housing prices," he said, adding that 100,000 new units '-- equal to all the housing built in San Francisco since the 1920s '-- is "the level of housing that you would have to build in order to see a significant increase in affordability at large."
As for the mayor's recent plan to construct 30,000 new housing units, Egan said, "It's certainly fair to say 30,000 new units would be less impactful than 100,000, but it will have an impact."
As much as Conway wants to point to Ed Lee's success in merely calling for 30,000 units to be built by 2020, the "follow through" is completely speculative. Mayor Lee's plan to cut red tape at the building permit office and bump up the priority of developments with high percentages of affordable housing is an ambitious approach towards fast tracking 30,000 units in a politically charged town. And never mind his office's very own inability to get already approved, city-funded affordable housing built in the city, which casts further doubt on his effectiveness.
So it's unsurprising that Conway's blind faith in the Mayor wasn't enough to sway Palihapitiya. "All I'm saying is you can provide economic frameworks to solve these problems. You can say for all these companies that want to be [in San Francisco], you could [create] another kind of tax that says 'this is a subsidized housing tax' and we want a piece of your equity. And a company can chose not to be there. But imagine how many more units they could build? 300,000. A million!"
Hell, 100,000 would be just fine.
VIDEO-Oklahomans develop blanket to protect youngsters in tornadoes or shootings | News OK
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 02:44
A orange bulletproof blanket could come between a child and tornadic debris or a 9 mm bullet, forging a better ''opportunity to survive.''
The Bodyguard Blanket, made by ProTecht, is a bulletproof pad designed to protect students during disasters at school. The 5/16-inch thick rectangle features backpack-like straps that allow users to don it, and then duck and cover.
''We're trying to stop that blunt-force trauma when that rubble is falling down on a child, for instance,'' said Steve Walker, who developed the idea.
Walker is a podiatrist in Edmond. After last year's tornadoes, he decided children without access to tornado shelters needed some kind of protection.
He gave a sketch of the protective blanket to Stan Schone, an inventor and one of his patients, during an appointment.
The two form half of the executive team at ProTecht. The others are Jeff Quinn and Jay Hanan.
Hanan is an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. He introduced the team to Dyneema, a high-density plastic used for ballistic armor that is lighter than Kevlar.
The new material also protects against sharp objects, like nails and shards of metal.
''Instead of bending over and hoping for the best, they're afforded an extra layer of protection,'' Schone said.
Schone and Walker suggest, in terms of tornado safety, the blankets aren't a replacement, but a more economical option. At $1,000 per blanket, they believe buying one one per student would be less expensive than building tornado shelters.
''By no means would we ever say that this is more protective,'' Walker said ''But when you have budget constraints, this might be a viable alternative.''
VIDEO- Climate Change 1958: The Bell Telephone Science Hour - YouTube
Tue, 10 Jun 2014 02:41
VIDEO-'Do I have to go on my knees?': grovelling apology from IMF head for incorrect warnings on UK economy - Telegraph
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 22:15
A year ago Oliver Blanchard, the IMF's chief economist, warned Mr Osborne was ''playing with fire'' with austerity and downgraded Britain's growth forecast to just 0.7 per cent for 2013. Instead, it grew by 1.7 per cent, and is expected to hit 2.7 per cent this year.
''We got it wrong,'' Ms Lagarde told the Andrew Marr Show. ''We acknowledged it. Clearly the confidence building that has resulted from the economic policies adopted by the government has surprised many of us.''
''We said very clearly that we had underestimated growth for the U.K. and that our forecasts had been proven wrong by the reality of economic developments,'' she said.
Pressed on whether she had apologised to Mr Osborne for the incorrect forecasts, she said: ''Do I have to go on my knees?''
Mrs Lagarde rejected calls from the European Commission for higher taxes.
''The mixture between tax and spending cuts is something that we regard as fairly balanced and at the right mix. We don't see a massive increase in tax as recommendable at the moment.''
The two chief risks to the economy are low productivity and rising house prices, but houses are not yet a bubble, she said.
Ms Lagarde dismissed speculation she could be the next president of the European Commission, saying: ''The only position that has not been debated for me has been the Vatican.''
VIDEO-'The Bear is Loose': Obama Strolls to Starbucks in D.C. - NBC News.com
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 20:22
President Barack Obama and chief of staff Denis McDonough took a surprise stroll to a Starbucks coffee shop in Washington Monday, with the commander in chief joking that "the bear is loose" as he exited the White House chased by scrambling members of the press.
Obama has used the same "bear is loose" line before -- last month, when he ditched his motorcade to stroll to the Interior Department, delighting surprised tourists along the way.
Emerging from the coffee shop Monday, Obama carried a beverage that appeared to be venti-size, according to a pool report, while McDonough held a drink in each hand.
MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPAPresident Barack Obama waves to members of the news media as he walks down West Executive Drive on the White House campus after making a surprise visit to a Starbucks store nearby, in Washington, June 9.
The president told reporters he had "just some tea" as he greeted onlookers, including a hot dog vendor and construction workers, on his walk back to the White House.
The unexpected outing occurred just after Obama made remarks at the White House about college affordability.
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First published June 9 2014, 12:00 PM
VIDEO- Andrea Mitchell not buying State Dept.'s spin on Bergdahl Swap - YouTube
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 19:33
VIDEO-Why Obama 'Absolutely' Wants to Go Off on Climate Deniers | EcoWatch
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 18:29
You're not the only one who gets frustrated when John Boehner, Marco Rubio and others in Congress turn a blind eye to devastating, scientific evidence regarding climate change.
In an interview with Thomas L. Friedman scheduled to air tonight as part of the final episode of Years of Living Dangerously, President Barack Obama revealed that he's really no different than many of us when it comes to climate deniers.
Does he ever just want to ''go off'' on those who ignore extreme weather, rainforests getting steadily less green and more, Friedman, an author and New York Times columnist, asked. Does he ever feel like asking, ''What is wrong with you people?''
''Absolutely,'' Obama said with a smile. ''Look, it's frustrating when the science is right in front of us.''
The president went on to challenge the leadership of deniers because they overlook reality.
''If you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history, then you've got to recognize this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces,'' he said.
The full interview will include Obama's views on why we ''won't be able to burn it all'' when it comes to fossil fuels and what we can learn about climate change from incidents in Syria.
Friedman visited with Obama weeks ago, before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out his proposal to decrease carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
Obama and EPA Release Historic Carbon Reduction Plan to Fight Climate Change
'Years of Living Dangerously' Clip Shows Tale of Two Conservatives Regarding Climate Change Debate
Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy Debate Congresswoman Who Claims Climate Change is 'Unproven'
VIDEO-Hillary Clinton: "We Came Out Of The White House Dead Broke" | Video | RealClearPolitics
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 15:08
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DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: It has been reported you've made $5 million making speeches, the president's made more than $100 million.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, if you -- you have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education, you know, it was not easy. Bill has worked really hard and it's been amazing to me. He's worked very hard, first of all, we had to pay off all our debts which was, you know, we had to make double the money because of obviously taxes, and pay you have at debts, and get us houses and take care of family members.
SAWYER: But do you think Americans will understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?
CLINTON: Well, let me put it this way, I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do.
VIDEO-How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution - The Washington Post
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:14
Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is taking heat from education groups, which say the Gates Foundation's philanthropic support comes with strings attached. Here, he responds to his critics in an interview with The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton.
Written byLyndsey Layton
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The pair of education advocates had a big idea, a new approach to transform every public-school classroom in America. By early 2008, many of the nation's top politicians and education leaders had lined up in support.
But that wasn't enough. The duo needed money '-- tens of millions of dollars, at least '-- and they needed a champion who could overcome the politics that had thwarted every previous attempt to institute national standards.
So they turned to the richest man in the world.
On a summer day in 2008, Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, an emerging evangelist for the standards movement, spent hours in Bill Gates's sleek headquarters near Seattle, trying to persuade him and his wife, Melinda, to turn their idea into reality.
Coleman and Wilhoit told the Gateses that academic standards varied so wildly between states that high school diplomas had lost all meaning, that as many as 40 percent of college freshmen needed remedial classes and that U.S. students were falling behind their foreign competitors.
The pair also argued that a fragmented education system stifled innovation because textbook publishers and software developers were catering to a large number of small markets instead of exploring breakthrough products. That seemed to resonate with the man who led the creation of the world's dominant computer operating system.
''Can you do this?'' Wilhoit recalled being asked. ''Is there any proof that states are serious about this, because they haven't been in the past?''
Wilhoit responded that he and Coleman could make no guarantees but that ''we were going to give it the best shot we could.''
After the meeting, weeks passed with no word. Then Wilhoit got a call: Gates was in.
What followed was one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn't just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes.
Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states' rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration.
The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce '-- groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards.
Money flowed to policy groups on the right and left, funding research by scholars of varying political persuasions who promoted the idea of common standards. Liberals at the Center for American Progress and conservatives affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council who routinely disagree on nearly every issue accepted Gates money and found common ground on the Common Core.
One 2009 study, conducted by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute with a $959,116 Gates grant, described the proposed standards as being ''very, very strong'' and ''clearly superior'' to many existing state standards.
Gates money went to state and local groups, as well, to help influence policymakers and civic leaders. And the idea found a major booster in President Obama, whose new administration was populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates. The administration designed a special contest using economic stimulus funds to reward states that accepted the standards.
The result was astounding: Within just two years of the 2008 Seattle meeting, 45 states and the District of Columbia had fully adopted the Common Core State Standards.
The math standards require students to learn multiple ways to solve problems and explain how they got their answers, while the English standards emphasize nonfiction and expect students to use evidence to back up oral and written arguments. The standards are not a curriculum but skills that students should acquire at each grade. How they are taught and materials used are decisions left to states and school districts.
The standards have become so pervasive that they also quickly spread through private Catholic schools. About 100 of 176 Catholic dioceses have adopted the standards because it is increasingly difficult to buy classroom materials and send teachers to professional development programs that are not influenced by the Common Core, Catholic educators said.
And yet, because of the way education policy is generally decided, the Common Core was instituted in many states without a single vote taken by an elected lawmaker. Kentucky even adopted the standards before the final draft had been made public.
States were responding to a ''common belief system supported by widespread investments,'' according to one former Gates employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the foundation.
The movement grew so quickly and with so little public notice that opposition was initially almost nonexistent. That started to change last summer, when local tea party groups began protesting what they viewed as the latest intrusion by an overreaching federal government '-- even though the impetus had come from the states. In some circles, Common Core became known derisively as ''Obamacore.''
Since then, anti-Common Core sentiment has intensified, to the extent that it has become a litmus test in the Republican Party ahead of the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination process. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, whose nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education has received about $5.2 million from the Gates Foundation since 2010, is one of the Common Core's most vocal supporters. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who, like Bush, is a potential Republican presidential candidate, led a repeal of the standards in his state. In the past week, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), a former advocate of the standards, signed a law pulling her state out, days after South Carolina's Republican governor, Nikki Haley, did the same.
Some liberals are angry, too, with a few teacher groups questioning Gates's influence and motives. Critics say Microsoft stands to benefit from the Common Core's embrace of technology and data '-- a charge Gates vehemently rejects.
A group calling itself the ''Badass Teachers Association,'' citing opposition to what it considers market-based education reform, plans a June 26 protest outside the Gates Foundation's headquarters in Seattle.
In an interview, Gates said his role is to fund the research and development of new tools, such as the Common Core, and offer them to decision-makers who are trying to improve education for millions of Americans. It's up to the government to decide which tools to use, but someone has to invest in their creation, he said.
''The country as a whole has a huge problem that low-income kids get less good education than suburban kids get,'' Gates said. ''And that is a huge challenge. .'‰.'‰. Education can get better. Some people may not believe that. Education can change. We can do better.''
''There's a lot of work that's gone into making these [standards] good,'' Gates continued. ''I wish there was a lot of competition, in terms of [other] people who put tens of millions of dollars into how reading and writing could be improved, how math could be improved.''
Referring to opinion polls, he noted that most teachers like the Common Core standards and that those who are most familiar with them are the most positive.
Gates grew irritated in the interview when the political backlash against the standards was mentioned.
''These are not political things,'' he said. ''These are where people are trying to apply expertise to say, 'Is this a way of making education better?' ''
''At the end of the day, I don't think wanting education to be better is a right-wing or left-wing thing,'' Gates said. ''We fund people to look into things. We don't fund people to say, 'Okay, we'll pay you this if you say you like the Common Core.' ''
Whether the Common Core will deliver on its promise is an open question.
Tom Loveless, a former Harvard professor who is an education policy expert at the Brookings Institution, said the Common Core was ''built on a shaky theory.'' He said he has found no correlation between quality standards and higher student achievement.
''Everyone who developed standards in the past has had a theory that standards will raise achievement, and that's not happened,'' Loveless said.
Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, says the Gates Foundation's overall dominance in education policy has subtly muffled dissent.
''Really rich guys can come up with ideas that they think are great, but there is a danger that everyone will tell them they're great, even if they're not,'' Greene said.
Common Core's first win
The first victory for Common Core advocates came on a snowy evening in Kentucky in February 2010, when the state's top education officials voted unanimously to accept the standards.
''There was no dissent,'' said Terry Holliday, Kentucky's education commissioner. ''We had punch and cookies to celebrate.''
It was not by chance that Kentucky went first.
The state enjoyed a direct connection to the Common Core backers '-- Wilhoit, who had made the personal appeal to Bill and Melinda Gates during that pivotal 2008 meeting, is a former Kentucky education commissioner.
Kentucky was also in the market for new standards. Alarmed that as many as 80 percent of community college students were taking remedial classes, lawmakers had recently passed a bill that required Kentucky to write new, better K-12 standards and tests.
''All of our consultants and our college professors had reviewed the Common Core standards, and they really liked them,'' Holliday said. ''And there was no cost. We didn't have any money to do this work, and here we were, able to tap into this national work and get the benefits of the best minds in the country.''
''Without the Gates money,'' Holliday added, ''we wouldn't have been able to do this.''
Over time, at least $15 million in Gates money was directed both to the state '-- to train teachers in Common Core practices and purchase classroom materials '-- and to on-the-ground advocacy and business groups to help build public support.
Armed with $476,553 from Gates, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce's foundation produced a seven-minute video about the value and impact of the Common Core, a tool kit to guide employers in how to talk about its benefits with their employees, a list of key facts that could be stuffed into paycheck envelopes, and other promotional materials written by consultants.
The tool kit provided a sample e-mail that could be sent to workers describing ''some exciting new developments underway in our schools'' that ''hold great promise for creating a more highly skilled workforce and for giving our students, community and state a better foundation on which to build a strong economic future.''
The chamber also recruited a prominent Louisville stockbroker to head a coalition of 75 company executives across the state who lent their names to ads placed in business publications that supported the Common Core.
''The notion that the business community was behind this, those seeds were planted across the state, and that reaped a nice harvest in terms of public opinion,'' said David Adkisson, president and chief executive of the Kentucky chamber.
The foundation run by the National Education Association received $501,580 in 2013 to help put the Common Core in place in Kentucky.
Gates-backed groups built such strong support for the Common Core that critics, few and far between, were overwhelmed.
''They have so much money to throw around, they can impact the Kentucky Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Education, they can impact both the AFT and the NEA,'' said Brent McKim, president of the teachers union in Jefferson County, Ky., whose early complaint that the standards were too numerous to be taught well earned him a rebuke by Holliday.
The foundation's backing was crucial in other states, as well. Starting in 2009, it had begun ramping up its grant-giving to local nonprofit organizations and other Common Core advocates.
The foundation, for instance, gave more than $5 million to the University of North Carolina-affiliated Hunt Institute, led by the state's former four-term Democratic governor, Jim Hunt, to advocate for the Common Core in statehouses around the country.
The grant was the institute's largest source of income in 2009, more than 10 times the size of its next largest donation.
Bill Gates sat down with The Post's Lyndsey Layton in March to defend the Gates Foundation's pervasive presence in education and its support of the Common Core. Here is the full, sometimes tense, interview.
With the Gates money, the Hunt Institute coordinated more than a dozen organizations '-- many of them also Gates grantees '-- including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council of La Raza, the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Governors Association, Achieve and the two national teachers unions.
The Hunt Institute held weekly conference calls between the players that were directed by Stefanie Sanford, who was in charge of policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation. They talked about which states needed shoring up, the best person to respond to questions or criticisms and who needed to travel to which state capital to testify, according to those familiar with the conversations.
The Hunt Institute spent $437,000 to hire GMMB, a strategic communications firm owned by Jim Margolis, a top Democratic strategist and veteran of both of Obama's presidential campaigns. GMMB conducted polling around standards, developed fact sheets, identified language that would be effective in winning support and prepared talking points, among other efforts.
The groups organized by Hunt developed a ''messaging tool kit'' that included sample letters to the editor, op-ed pieces that could be tailored to individuals depending on whether they were teachers, parents, business executives or civil rights leaders.
Later in the process, Gates and other foundations would pay for mock legislative hearings for classroom teachers, training educators on how to respond to questions from lawmakers.
The speed of adoption by the states was staggering by normal standards. A process that typically can take five years was collapsed into a matter of months.
''You had dozens of states adopting before the standards even existed, with little or no discussion, coverage or controversy,'' said Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, which has received $4 million from the Gates Foundation since 2007 to study education policy, including the Common Core. ''People weren't paying attention. We were in the middle of an economic meltdown and the health-care fight, and states saw a chance to have a crack at a couple of million bucks if they made some promises.''
The decision by the Gates Foundation to simultaneously pay for the standards and their promotion is a departure from the way philanthropies typically operate, said Sarah Reckhow, an expert in philanthropy and education policy at Michigan State University.
''Usually, there's a pilot test '-- something is tried on a small scale, outside researchers see if it works, and then it's promoted on a broader scale,'' Reckhow said. ''That didn't happen with the Common Core. Instead, they aligned the research with the advocacy. .'‰.'‰. At the end of the day, it's going to be the states and local districts that pay for this.''
Working hand in hand
While the Gates Foundation created the burst of momentum behind the Common Core, the Obama administration picked up the cause and helped push states to act quickly.
There was so much cross-pollination between the foundation and the administration, it is difficult to determine the degree to which one may have influenced the other.
Several top players in Obama's Education Department who shaped the administration's policies came either straight from the Gates Foundation in 2009 or from organizations that received heavy funding from the foundation.
Before becoming education secretary in 2009, Arne Duncan was chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, which received $20 million from Gates to break up several large high schools and create smaller versions, a move aimed at stemming the dropout rate.
As secretary, Duncan named as his chief of staff Margot Rogers, a top Gates official he got to know through that grant. He also hired James Shelton, a program officer at the foundation, to serve first as his head of innovation and most recently as the deputy secretary, responsible for a wide array of federal policy decisions.
Duncan and his team leveraged stimulus money to reward states that adopted common standards.
They created Race to the Top, a $4.3 billion contest for education grants. Under the contest rules, states that adopted high standards stood the best chance of winning. It was a clever way around federal laws that prohibit Washington from interfering in what takes place in classrooms. It was also a tantalizing incentive for cash-strapped states.
Heading the effort for Duncan was Joanne Weiss, previously the chief operating officer of the Gates-backed NewSchools Venture Fund.
As Race to the Top was being drafted, the administration and the Gates-led effort were in close coordination.
An early version highlighted the Common Core standards by name, saying that states that embraced those specific standards would be better positioned to win federal money. That worried Wilhoit, who feared that some states would consider that unwanted '-- and possibly illegal '-- interference from Washington. He took up the matter with Weiss.
''I told her to take it out, that we didn't want the federal government involvement,'' said Wilhoit, who was executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. ''Those kinds of things cause people to be real suspicious.''
The words ''Common Core'' were deleted.
The administration said states could develop their own ''college and career ready'' standards, as long as their public universities verified that those standards would prepare high school graduates for college-level work.
Still, most states eyeing Race to the Top money opted for the easiest route and signed onto the Common Core.
The Gates Foundation gave $2.7 million to help 24 states write their Race to the Top application, which ran an average of 300 pages, with as much as 500 pages for an appendix that included Gates-funded research.
Applications for the first round of Race to the Top were due in January 2010, even though the final draft of the Common Core wasn't released until six months later. To get around this, the U.S. Department of Education told states they could apply as long as they promised they would officially adopt standards by August.
On the defensive
Now six years into his quest, Gates finds himself in an uncomfortable place '-- countering critics on the left and right who question whether the Common Core will have any impact or negative effects, whether it represents government intrusion, and whether the new policy will benefit technology firms such as Microsoft.
Gates is disdainful of the rhetoric from opponents. He sees himself as a technocrat trying to foster solutions to a profound social problem '-- gaping inequalities in U.S. public education '-- by investing in promising new ideas.
Education lacks research and development, compared with other areas such as medicine and computer science. As a result, there is a paucity of information about methods of instruction that work.
''The guys who search for oil, they spend a lot of money researching new tools,'' Gates said. ''Medicine '-- they spend a lot of money finding new tools. Software is a very R and D-oriented industry. The funding, in general, of what works in education .'‰.'‰. is tiny. It's the lowest in this field than any field of human endeavor. Yet you could argue it should be the highest.''
Gates is devoting some of his fortune to correct that. Since 1999, the Gates Foundation has spent approximately $3.4 billion on an array of measures to try to improve K-12 public education, with mixed results.
It spent about $650 million on a program to replace large urban high schools with smaller schools, on the theory that students at risk of dropping out would be more likely to stay in schools where they forged closer bonds with teachers and other students. That led to a modest increase in graduation rates, an outcome that underwhelmed Gates and prompted the foundation to pull the plug.
Gates has said that one of the benefits of common standards would be to open the classroom to digital learning, making it easier for software developers '-- including Microsoft '-- to develop new products for the country's 15,000 school districts.
In February, Microsoft announced that it was joining Pearson, the world's largest educational publisher, to load Pearson's Common Core classroom materials on Microsoft's tablet, the Surface. That product allows Microsoft to compete for school district spending with Apple, whose iPad is the dominant tablet in classrooms.
Gates dismissed any suggestion that he is motivated by self-interest.
''I believe in the Common Core because of its substance and what it will do to improve education,'' he said. ''And that's the only reason I believe in the Common Core.''
Bill and Melinda Gates, Obama and Arne Duncan are parents of school-age children, although none of those children attend schools that use the Common Core standards. The Gates and Obama children attend private schools, while Duncan's children go to public school in Virginia, one of four states that never adopted the Common Core.
Still, Gates said he wants his children to know a ''superset'' of the Common Core standards '-- everything in the standards and beyond.
''This is about giving money away,'' he said of his support for the standards. ''This is philanthropy. This is trying to make sure students have the kind of opportunity I had .'‰.'‰. and it's almost outrageous to say otherwise, in my view.''
Read more:
Five things you might not know about Bill Gates
The people behind the Common Core standards
Quiz: Can you solve these Common Core math questions?
VIDEO-Malaysia airlines crash families appeal to public for funds | euronews, world news
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 05:58
Three months now the search has been on for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, and for the grieving, anxious families there is still no conclusion, no certainty about their loved ones' fate.
In a bid to fill the vacuum and re-energize the search, five families have decided to launch a crowdfunding drive on Indygogo in a bid to raise a nearly two million-euro reward from the public for critical information.
''We've been cut off so many times at the gate that we're just now having to take things into our own hands, think outside the box and just try and do something to find this plane,'' said Danica Weeks, who lost her husband in the crash.
The families come from France, Australia, India, the US, and New Zealand. Most of the 239 passengers and crew on board were Chinese.
Many of the victims' relatives have complained that the authorities involved have not been informing them of developments, and the five crowdfunding families intend to raise another near-two million euros for a private investigation.


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