630: Double Twister

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 31m
June 29th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Sir Jonnoramma, Sir David Foley Grand Duke of The USA

Associate Executive Producers: Sir Michael Schoemaker, Sir Christopher Heffley, Sir Sizwell, Eric van Marter, Sir Mark Milliman

Cover Artist: Patrick Buijs

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CSI Windbreaker!
Hey Adam,
I was just listening to episode 630 and I swear John just farted... Start listening at 22:04, the fart happens at 22:11 just as you are finishing a sentence "...spent a lot of time on it." Just thought I'd let ya know, found it very hilarious, even if I misheard.
Anyway, I'm long time boner who is a jobless US citizen that arrived in Australia a month ago. Will be here for a while. Loved hearing John talk about Australian holidays.
Will donate SOON! Keep at it, love you guys!
Morgan
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About | twister
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 06:44
twister idea came to me circa June/2013. In July I started coding the prototype by forking from the Bitcoin repository. Some weeks later I finished my research of free software candidates for DHT and Bittorrent by choosing libtorrent-rasterbar. Both projects are excellent in terms of software design quality, although not the easiest learning curve around. With the core implemented and working from command line in October, Lucas Leal was hired to create the HTML+CSS user interface design while I wrote the JS part. This is pretty much twister's short history, the rest is in the docs.Ok, but'... Who are you?
I'm a research engineer at PUC-Rio University. I have Master in Telecommunications and Doctorship in Applied Electromagnetism. Previously (until 2007) I was one of the lead developers of xine, the multimedia playing engine for Linux. I live in one of the best cities of the free world: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I have a full time job so you might want to know that twister is a hobby. I climb. I hack.
Miguel Freitas@mfreitas @twisterPGP key
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Letter from the President -- War Powers Resolution Letter regarding Iraq
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:48
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
June 26, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
As I reported on June 16, 2014, U.S. Armed Forces personnel have deployed to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
I have since ordered further measures in response to the situation in Iraq. Specifically, as I announced publicly on June 19, I have ordered increased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that is focused on the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). I also ordered up to approximately 300 additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel in Iraq to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces and to establish joint operations centers with Iraqi security forces to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the threat posed by ISIL. Some of these personnel were already in Iraq as part of the U.S. Embassy's Office of Security Cooperation, and others began deploying into Iraq on June 24. These forces will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed.
This action is being undertaken in coordination with the Government of Iraq and has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in these actions.
Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA
Fact Sheet: The Administration's Fiscal Year 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Request
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:50
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
Today, the Administration submitted its updated $65.8 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request to Congress for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State and Other International Programs (State/OIP).
The $58.6 billion request for DOD OCO funding is $20.9 billion less than the $79.4 billion placeholder included in the FY 2015 Budget. The OCO request also includes $1.4 billion for State/OIP beyond the $5.9 billion included in the Budget, bringing the State OCO total to $7.3 billion. As in years past, the request primarily funds temporary and extraordinary expenses associated with military operations in Afghanistan, as well as activities that support Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), related follow-on activities, and other critical missions, including counterterrorism, in the region. In addition to funding for the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan and DOD's supporting presence in the broader region, the OCO submission seeks congressional support for the new $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) and $1 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).
The Administration continues to support a cumulative $450-billion cap on Government-wide OCO funding from FY 2013 to FY 2021, and we encourage Congress to act with similar fiscal discipline in OCO appropriations.
Today's request is consistent with the plan the President laid out at West Point , which made the case for bringing the U.S. war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, while ensuring our Armed Forces have the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve.
Operation Enduring Freedom and Related Missions
In support of OEF and related follow-on activities, Department of Defense OCO funding would support several key efforts, including:
operations and force protection in Afghanistan, including ending our combat mission and transitioning to an advisory mission by the end of December 2014;continued support for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and coalition partners;continued counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan;return of thousands of pieces of equipment from Afghanistan to home stations;repair or replacement of combat-damaged equipment, as well as replenishment of expended munitions;intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and other support to missions;costs borne in the greater Middle East region that support and enable our forces in Afghanistan as well as other critical missions.Although the FY 2015 OCO request reflects a transition as the United States concludes combat operations in Afghanistan, most costs will not decline precipitously. For example, DOD will still incur significant costs to transport personnel, supplies, and equipment back to their home stations. Funding to sustain the ANSF will continue to be needed to ensure that Afghan forces can provide sufficient security. OCO funding will help our military reset from over a decade of fighting by providing the funds needed for DOD to repair and replace equipment and munitions. OCO funding will also continue to support a significant portion of DOD's forward presence in the broader Middle East region, enabling DOD to support OEF and other important missions.
Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund
In his West Point speech, the President announced that he would ask Congress to fund a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund to provide the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats evolve from South Asia to the Sahel. The proposed CTPF builds on our existing tools and authorities to respond to a range of terrorist threats and crisis response scenarios. The OCO submission seeks congressional support for the new $5 billion CTPF, including funding to support a new Syria-Regional Stabilization Initiative (RSI).
The Administration is requesting $4 billion for the Department of Defense and $1 billion for the Department of State, with three broad purposes:
To support counterterrorism capacity-building efforts for partner nations;To provide support to the moderate Syrian opposition and Syria's neighbors through a Regional Stabilization Initiative; andTo help the Department of Defense respond to unexpected crises. Enabling and Supporting Partners ($3 billion)
We seek to build and maintain a network of partners on the front lines of critical terrorist threats through near-term training, equipping, and advising and longer-term capacity-building efforts undertaken by the Departments of Defense and State.
The Administration is requesting $2.5 billion for engagement to train, equip, and enable international partners to counter terrorist threats that pose the greatest challenge to U.S. and allied interests and to enhance DOD counterterrorism capabilities. Targeted training and assistance efforts can support partners as they conduct counterterrorism operations within their own borders, prevent the spillover of terrorist activities from neighboring states, and participate in multinational operations to degrade terrorist threats.
For example, funding through the CTPF would cover increased costs of Special Operations Forces or conventional units deploying in greater numbers to train and engage partner nation forces. Among other things, equipment provided through CTPF would address mobility and transportation issues to more effectively prosecute offensive CT operations. And, it would invest in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities of U.S. forces to provide essential support to partner force operations.
The Administration is requesting $500 million for the State Department and partner agencies to support counterterrorism, counter violent extremism, and meet stability needs in partner countries. This funding would support economic, development, and security assistance programs to improve stability in countries confronting terrorist threats and contending with populations at risk for radicalization.
Department of State funding through the CTPF would strengthen partners' police capabilities and penal and justice systems; promote tolerance within local communities, civil society, and across broader faith communities; identify and disrupt terrorist financing and travel; train and equip their counterterrorism forces; and support tailored education, democratic governance, and economic development activities. This programming would support efforts to deny terrorists the recruiting ground of poor governance and hopelessness in areas most at risk of violent extremism and to counter the messages of violent extremism.
Regional Stabilization Initiative ($1.5 billion)
The Administration is requesting $1.5 billion to advance U.S. interests in partnership with Syria's neighbors '' Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq '' to promote internal stability and to provide support to communities hosting refugees. One billion dollars would be allocated for Department of State and Department of Defense programs to allow the United States to make investments in Syria's neighbors to enable them to strengthen internal and border security capabilities and enhance their capacity to manage the pressures created by ongoing conflicts and the stresses on communities hosting refugees.
For example, the CTPF would provide the training and equipment required to improve border security and the capacity of police and counterterrorism units to ensure internal stability. The CTPF would also address growing costs in communities hosting refugees to strengthen the delivery of essential services such as education, health, food, sanitation, and water.
We also intend to ramp up U.S. support to the moderate Syrian opposition. We are therefore requesting $500 million for a proposed authority to train and equip vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition to help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement.
The Administration will develop the details of this envisioned program in consultation with the Congress and our international partners.
Crisis Response ($500 million)
The CTPF request includes $500 million to address unforeseen contingencies related to counterterrorism or regional instability. The current situation in Iraq is one example that underscores the importance of reserving funds that can be allocated quickly based on unforeseen needs. The CTPF would facilitate flexibility and speed in responding to urgent contingencies in the face of an uncertain and rapidly changing security environment.
European Reassurance Initiative
The European Reassurance Initiative that the President announced in Poland on June 3rd would provide temporary support to bolster the security and capacity of our NATO allies and partner states in Europe. The Administration is requesting $925 million for DOD and $75 million for State for the following purposes:
expand military presence in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe;increase bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with allies and partners;improve infrastructure to allow for greater responsiveness;enhance prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe; andintensify efforts to build partner capacity for newer NATO members and other partnersPeacekeeping Response
The updated OCO request also includes an additional $278 million in State/OIP's Peacekeeping Response Mechanism account to fully fund the additional estimated costs resulting from the April 2014 decision by United Nations Security Council to authorize a new UN peacekeeping mission to deploy in the Central African Republic. This decision was made after the Administration submitted its FY 2015 Budget.
Letter from the President -- FY 2015 Budget Amendments
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:50
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
June 26, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I ask the Congress to consider the enclosed Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget amendments for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State and Other International Programs (State/OIP) to fund Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). These amendments would provide $58.6 billion for DOD OCO activities, which is $20.9 billion less than the $79.4 billion placeholder for DOD OCO in the FY 2015 Budget. It would also provide $1.4 billion for State/OIP OCO activities, which is in addition to the $5.9 billion for State/OIP included in the FY 2015 Budget. Overall, these amendments would decrease the total OCO funding requested for FY 2015 by $19.5 billion.
Final decisions about the number and activities of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after December 2014 had not yet been made at the time the FY 2015 Budget was submitted. As a result, the Budget included a placeholder for DOD FY 2015 OCO funding equivalent to the amount requested in the FY 2014 Budget. The Administration noted in the FY 2015 Budget that after determining required force levels in Afghanistan, a Budget amendment updating the OCO request would be submitted to the Congress. The enclosed amendments include the necessary updates to the OCO request in order to fund military operations in Afghanistan, a significant portion of the U.S. military presence around the Middle East, the Administration's proposed Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund and European Reassurance Initiative, and State/OIP peacekeeping costs in the Central African Republic.
The details of these amendments are set forth in the enclosed letter from the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:50
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
The Administration's Fiscal Year 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations budget request to Congress builds on the President's West Point Speech to seek the resources necessary to build, facilitate and strengthen the capacity of our partners to counter terrorist organizations, particularly across the Middle East and North Africa. These resources will be an important step forward in our efforts to defend U.S. interests and strengthen the capacity of our friends and partners.
As a part of our Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund, we are seeking $1.5 billion for a Regional Stabilization Initiative to partner with Syria's neighbors '' Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq '' as well as the moderate Syrian opposition. In particular, we are seeking $500 million for a proposed authority to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition. These funds would help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement. This funding request would build on the Administration's longstanding efforts to empower the moderate Syrian opposition, both civilian and armed, and will enable the Department of Defense to increase our support to vetted elements of the armed opposition.
While we continue to believe that there is no military solution to this crisis and that the United States should not put American troops into combat in Syria, this request marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks, push back against the growing number of extremists like ISIL who find safe-haven in the chaos, and take their future into their own hands by enhancing security and stability at local levels.
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Presidential Proclamation -- AGOA
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:33
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
TO TAKE CERTAIN ACTIONS UNDER THE AFRICAN GROWTH AND
OPPORTUNITY ACT AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
1. In Proclamation 8468 of December 23, 2009, I determined that the Republic of Madagascar (Madagascar) was not making continual progress in meeting the requirements described in section 506A(a)(1) of the Trade Act of 1974 (the "1974 Act") (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)), as added by section 111(a) of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (title I of Public Law 106-200) (AGOA). Thus, pursuant to section 506A(a)(3) of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)(3)), I terminated the designation of Madagascar as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A of the 1974 Act.
2. Section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act authorizes the President to designate a country listed in section 107 of the AGOA (19 U.S.C. 3706) as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country if the President determines that the country meets the eligibility requirements set forth in section 104 of the AGOA (19 U.S.C. 3703), as well as the eligibility criteria set forth in section 502 of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2462).
3. Pursuant to section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act, based on actions that the Government of Madagascar has taken, I have determined that Madagascar meets the eligibility requirements set forth in section 104 of the AGOA and section 502 of the 1974 Act, and I have decided to designate Madagascar as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country.
4. Section 506A(a)(3) of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)(3)) authorizes the President to terminate the designation of a country as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A if he determines that the country is not making continual progress in meeting the requirements described in section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act.
5. Pursuant to section 506A(a)(3) of the 1974 Act, I have determined that the Kingdom of Swaziland is not making continual progress in meeting the requirements described in section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act. Accordingly, I have decided to terminate the designation of the Kingdom of Swaziland as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A of the 1974 Act, effective on January 1, 2015.
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 of America, including but not limited to title V and section 604 of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2461-67, 2483), and section 104 of the AGOA (19 U.S.C. 3703), do proclaim that:
(1) Madagascar is designated as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country.
(2) In order to reflect this designation in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS), general note 16(a) to the HTS is modified by inserting in alphabetical sequence in the list of beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries "Republic of Madagascar (Madagascar)." Further, note 2(d) to subchapter XIX of chapter 98 is modified by inserting in alphabetical sequence in the list of lesser developed beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries "Republic of Madagascar."
(3) The designation of the Kingdom of Swaziland as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A of the 1974 Act is terminated, effective on January 1, 2015.
(4) In order to reflect in the HTS that beginning on January 1, 2015, the Kingdom of Swaziland shall no longer be designated as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country, general note 16(a) to the HTS is modified by deleting "Kingdom of Swaziland" from the list of beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries. Note 7(a) to subchapter II and note 1 to subchapter XIX of chapter 98 of the HTS are modified to delete "Swaziland," from the list of beneficiary countries. Further, note 2(d) to subchapter XIX of chapter 98 of the HTS is modified by deleting "Swaziland" from the list of lesser developed beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries.
(5) Any provisions of previous proclamations and Executive Orders that are inconsistent with the actions taken in this proclamation are superseded to the extent of such inconsistency.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth 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.
BARACK OBAMA
Madagascar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:40
Republic of MadagascarRepoblikan'i MadagasikaraR(C)publique de MadagascarMotto: "Fitiavana, Tanindrazana, Fandrosoana" (Malagasy)"Amour, patrie, progr¨s" (French)"Love, Fatherland, Progress"[1]Anthem: Ry Tanindrazanay malala ´!Oh, Beloved Land of our Ancestors!Capitaland largest cityAntananarivo18°55'²S47°31'²E>> / >>18.917°S 47.517°E>> / -18.917; 47.517Official languagesEthnic groups (2004[2])DemonymMalagasy[3]GovernmentUnitarysemi-presidentialrepublic - PresidentHery Rajaonarimampianina - Prime MinisterRoger KoloLegislatureParliament - Upper houseSenate - Lower houseNational AssemblyIndependence - from France26 June 1960 Area - Total587,041 km2 (47th)226,597 sq mi - Water (%)0.009%Population - 2012[4] estimate22,005,222 (53rd) - 1993 census12,238,914 - Density35.2/km2 (174th)91.1/sq miGDP (PPP)2011 estimate - Total$20.400 billion[5] - Per capita$933[5]GDP (nominal)2011 estimate - Total$10.025 billion[5] - Per capita$458[5]Gini (2010)44.1[6]mediumHDI (2010) 0.435low ·135thCurrencyMalagasy ariary (MGA)Time zoneEAT(UTC+3) - Summer (DST)not observed[7] (UTC+3)Drives on therightCalling code+261[7]ISO 3166 codeMGInternet TLD.mgMadagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara[republiËkʲan madaÉasËkʲarÉÌ¥]; French: R(C)publique de Madagascar) and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southeast Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world), as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinentGondwana, Madagascar split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90 percent of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population as well as the recently spotted Cane Toad relative which, according to researchers, "could wreak havoc on the unique biodiversity in Madagascar."[8]
Initial human settlement of Madagascar occurred between 350 BC and AD 550 by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo. These were joined around AD 1000 by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into eighteen or more sub-groups of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.
Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented assortment of shifting socio-political alliances. Beginning in the early 19th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of Merina nobles. The monarchy collapsed in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the island gained independence in 1960. The autonomous state of Madagascar has since undergone four major constitutional periods, termed Republics. Since 1992 the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo. However, in a popular uprising in 2009 the last elected president Marc Ravalomanana was made to resign and presidential power was transferred in March 2009 to Andry Rajoelina in a move widely viewed by the international community as a coup d'(C)tat.
In 2012, the population of Madagascar was estimated at just over 22 million, 90 percent of whom live on less than two dollars per day. Malagasy and French are both official languages of the state. The majority of the population adheres to traditional beliefs, Christianity, or an amalgamation of both. Ecotourism and agriculture, paired with greater investments in education, health and private enterprise, are key elements of Madagascar's development strategy. Under Ravalomanana these investments produced substantial economic growth but the benefits were not evenly spread throughout the population, producing tensions over the increasing cost of living and declining living standards among the poor and some segments of the middle class.
Etymology[edit]In the Malagasy language, the island of Madagascar is called Madagasikara[madaÉasʲËkʲarÉÌ¥] and its people are referred to as Malagasy.[3] The island's appellation "Madagascar" is not of local origin but is a transliterated form popularized in the Middle Ages by Europeans.[9] The name Madageiscar was first recorded in the memoirs of 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo as a transliterated form in Italian of the name Mogadishu, the Somali port with which Polo had confused the island. On St. Laurence's Day in 1500, Portuguese explorer Diogo Dias landed on the island and christened it S£o Louren§o, but Polo's name was preferred and popularized on Renaissance maps. No single Malagasy-language name predating Madagasikara appears to have been used by the local population to refer to the island, although some communities had their own name for part or all of the land they inhabited.[10]
Geography[edit]The terraced paddy fields of the central highlands of Madagascar (left) give way to tropical rainforest along the eastern coast (center) bordered by the shores of the Indian Ocean (right).At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi),[11] Madagascar is the world's 47th largest country[4] and the fourth-largest island.[11] The country lies mostly between latitudes 12°S and 26°S, and longitudes 43°E and 51°E.[12] Neighboring islands include the French territory of R(C)union and the country of Mauritius to the east, as well as the state of Comoros and the French territory of Mayotte to the north west. The nearest mainland state is Mozambique, located to the west.
The prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India about 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in relative isolation.[13] Along the length of the eastern coast runs a narrow and steep escarpment containing much of the island's remaining tropical lowland forest.
To the west of this ridge lies a plateau in the center of the island ranging in altitude from 750 to 1,500 m (2,460 to 4,920 ft) above sea level. These central highlands, traditionally the homeland of the Merina people and the location of their historic capital at Antananarivo, are the most densely populated part of the island and are characterized by terraced, rice-growing valleys lying between grassy hills and patches of the subhumid forests that formerly covered the highland region. To the west of the highlands, the increasingly arid terrain gradually slopes down to the Mozambique Channel and mangrove swamps along the coast.[14]
The grassy plains that dominate the western landscape are dotted with stony massifs (left), patches of deciduous forest, and baobab trees (center), while the south is characterized by desert and spiny forests (right).Madagascar's highest peaks rise from three prominent highland massifs: Maromokotro 2,876 m (9,436 ft) in the Tsaratanana Massif is the island's highest point, followed by Boby Peak 2,658 m (8,720 ft) in the Andringitra Massif, and Tsiafajavona 2,643 m (8,671 ft) in the Ankaratra Massif. To the east, the Canal des Pangalanes is a chain of man-made and natural lakes connected by canals built by the French just inland from the east coast and running parallel to it for some 600 km (370 mi). The western and southern sides, which lie in the rain shadow of the central highlands, are home to dry deciduous forests, spiny forests, and deserts and xeric shrublands. Due to their lower population densities, Madagascar's dry deciduous forests have been better preserved than the eastern rain forests or the original woodlands of the central plateau. The western coast features many protected harbors, but silting is a major problem caused by sediment from the high levels of inland erosion carried by rivers crossing the broad western plains.[15]
Climate[edit]The combination of southeastern trade winds and northwestern monsoons produces a hot rainy season (November''April) with frequently destructive cyclones, and a relatively cooler dry season (May''October). Rain clouds originating over the Indian Ocean discharge much of their moisture over the island's eastern coast; the heavy precipitation supports the area's rain forest ecosystem. The central highlands are both drier and cooler while the west is drier still, and a semi-arid climate prevails in the southwest and southern interior of the island.[14]Tropical cyclones annually cause damage to infrastructure and local economies as well as loss of life.[16] In 2004 Cyclone Gafilo became the strongest cyclone ever recorded to hit Madagascar. The storm killed 172 people, left 214,260 homeless[17] and caused more than US$250 million in damage.[18]
Ecology[edit]As a result of the island's long isolation from neighboring continents, Madagascar is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth.[19][20] Approximately 90 percent of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic,[21] including the lemurs (a type of prosimian primate), the carnivorous fossa and many birds. This distinctive ecology has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the "eighth continent",[22] and the island has been classified by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot.[19]
More than 80 percent of Madagascar's 14,883 plant species are found nowhere else in the world, including five plant families.[23] The family Didiereaceae, composed of four genera and 11 species, is limited to the spiny forests of southwestern Madagascar.[14] Four-fifths of the world's Pachypodium species are endemic to the island.[24] Three-fourths[25] of Madagascar's 860[23]orchid species are found here alone, as are six of the world's eight baobab species.[26] The island is home to around 170 palm species, three times as many as on all of mainland Africa; 165 of them are endemic.[25] Many native plant species are used as herbal remedies for a variety of afflictions. The drugs vinblastine and vincristine, used to treat Hodgkin's disease, leukemia and other cancers, were derived from the Madagascar periwinkle.[27] The traveler's palm, known locally as ravinala[28] and endemic to the eastern rain forests,[29] is highly iconic of Madagascar and is featured in the national emblem as well as the Air Madagascar logo.[30]
Like its flora, Madagascar's fauna is diverse and exhibits a high rate of endemism. Lemurs have been characterized as "Madagascar's flagship mammal species" by Conservation International.[19] In the absence of monkeys and other competitors, these primates have adapted to a wide range of habitats and diversified into numerous species. As of 2012, there were officially 103 species and subspecies of lemur,[32] 39 of which were described by zoologists between 2000 and 2008.[33] They are almost all classified as rare, vulnerable, or endangered. At least 17 species of lemur have become extinct since man arrived on Madagascar, all of which were larger than the surviving lemur species.[34] A number of other mammals, including the cat-like fossa, are endemic to Madagascar. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded on the island, of which over 60 percent (including four families and 42 genera) are endemic.[19] The few families and genera of reptile that have reached Madagascar have diversified into more than 260 species, with over 90 percent of these being endemic[35] (including one endemic family).[19] The island is home to two-thirds of the world's chameleon species,[35] including the smallest known,[36] and researchers have proposed that Madagascar may be the origin of all chameleons. Endemic fish of Madagascar include two families, 14 genera and over 100 species, primarily inhabiting the island's freshwater lakes and rivers. Although invertebrates remain poorly studied on Madagascar, researchers have found high rates of endemism among the known species. All 651 species of terrestrial snail are endemic, as are a majority of the island's butterflies, scarab beetles, lacewings, spiders and dragonflies.[19]
Environmental challenges[edit]Madagascar's varied fauna and flora are endangered by human activity.[37] Since the arrival of humans around 2,350 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90 percent of its original forest.[38] This forest loss is largely fueled by tavy ("fat"), a traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practice imported to Madagascar by the earliest settlers.[39] Malagasy farmers embrace and perpetuate the practice not only for its practical benefits as an agricultural technique, but for its cultural associations with prosperity, health and venerated ancestral custom (fomba malagasy).[40] As human population density rose on the island, deforestation accelerated beginning around 1400 years ago.[41] By the 16th century, the central highlands had been largely cleared of their original forests.[39] More recent contributors to the loss of forest cover include the growth in cattle herd size since their introduction around 1000 years ago, a continued reliance on charcoal as a fuel for cooking, and the increased prominence of coffee as a cash crop over the past century.[42] According to a conservative estimate, about 40 percent of the island's original forest cover was lost from the 1950s to 2000, with a thinning of remaining forest areas by 80 percent.[43] In addition to traditional agricultural practice, wildlife conservation is challenged by the illicit harvesting of protected forests, as well as the state-sanctioned harvesting of precious woods within national parks. Although banned by then-President Marc Ravalomanana from 2000 to 2009, the collection of small quantities of precious timber from national parks was re-authorized in January 2009 and has dramatically intensified under the administration of current head of state Andry Rajoelina as a key source of state revenues to offset cuts in donor support following Ravalomanana's ouster.[44] It is anticipated that all the island's rainforests, excluding those in protected areas and the steepest eastern mountain slopes, will have been deforested by 2025.[45]
Tavy (slash-and-burn) destruction of native forest habitat is widespread (left), causing massive erosion (center) and silting of rivers (right).Habitat destruction and hunting have threatened many of Madagascar's endemic species or driven them to extinction. The island's elephant birds, a family of endemic giant ratites, went extinct in 17th century or earlier, most probably due to human hunting of adult birds and poaching of their large eggs for food.[46] Numerous giant lemur species vanished with the arrival of human settlers to the island, while others became extinct over the course of the centuries as a growing human population put greater pressures on lemur habitats and, among some populations, increased the rate of lemur hunting for food.[47] A July 2012 assessment found that the exploitation of natural resources since the 2009 coup has had dire consequences for the island's wildlife: 90 percent of lemur species were found to be threatened with extinction, the highest proportion of any mammalian group. Of these, 23 species were classified as critically endangered. By contrast, a previous study in 2008 had found only 38 percent of lemur species were at risk of extinction.[32]
In 2003 Ravalomanana announced the Durban Vision, an initiative to more than triple the island's protected natural areas to over 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi) or 10 percent of Madagascar's land surface. As of 2011, areas protected by the state included five Strict Nature Reserves (R(C)serves Naturelles Int(C)grales), 21 Wildlife Reserves (R(C)serves Sp(C)ciales) and 21 National Parks (Parcs Nationaux).[48] In 2007 six of the national parks were declared a joint World Heritage Site under the name Rainforests of the Atsinanana. These parks are Marojejy, Masoala, Ranomafana, Zahamena, Andohahela and Andringitra.[49] Local timber merchants are harvesting scarce species of rosewood trees from protected rainforests within Marojejy National Park and exporting the wood to China for the production of luxury furniture and musical instruments.[50] To raise public awareness of Madagascar's environmental challenges, the Wildlife Conservation Society opened an exhibit entitled "Madagascar!" in June 2008 at the Bronx Zoo in New York.[51]
History[edit]Early period[edit]Some archaeologists estimate that the earliest settlers arrived in successive waves throughout the period between 350 BC and 550 AD, while others are cautious about dates earlier than AD420 (AD250-590, 2 standard deviations), which is the date for the unambiguously earliest human presence, at Andavakoera.[52] In either case, these dates make Madagascar one of the last major landmasses on Earth to be settled by humans.[53] Early settlers arrived in outrigger canoes from southern Borneo, and their founding population size is genetically estimated to have been around 60 to 200 individuals. Today Malagasy DNA shows over time there were extensive unions with sub-Saharan Africans (around half of all Malagasy male and female lineages), the timing of which remains to be elucidated.[54] Upon arrival, early settlers practiced slash-and-burn agriculture to clear the coastal rainforests for cultivation. The first settlers encountered Madagascar's abundance of megafauna, including giant lemurs, elephant birds, giant fossa and the Malagasy hippopotamus, which have since become extinct due to hunting and habitat destruction.[55] By 600 CE groups of these early settlers had begun clearing the forests of the central highlands.[56]
Arab traders first reached the island between the seventh and ninth centuries.[57] A wave of Bantu-speaking migrants from southeastern Africa arrived around 1000 CE. They introduced the zebu, a type of long-horned humped cattle, which they kept in large herds.[39]
By 1600, irrigated paddy fields were developed in the central highland Betsileo Kingdom, and were extended with terraced paddies throughout the neighboring Kingdom of Imerina a century later.[56] The rising intensity of land cultivation and the ever-increasing demand for zebu pasturage had largely transformed the central highlands from a forest ecosystem to grassland by the 17th century.[39] The oral histories of the Merina people, who may have arrived in the central highlands between 600 and 1000 years ago, describe encountering an established population they called the Vazimba. Probably the descendants of an earlier and less technologically advanced Austronesian settlement wave, the Vazimba were assimilated or expelled from the highlands by the Merina kings Andriamanelo, Ralambo and Andrianjaka in the 16th and early 17th centuries.[58] Today, the spirits of the Vazimba are revered as tompontany (ancestral masters of the land) by many traditional Malagasy communities.[59]
Madagascar was an important transoceanic trading hub connecting ports of the Indian Ocean in the early centuries following human settlement. The Borobudur Ship Expedition in 2003''2004 affirmed scholars' ideas that ships from ancient Indonesia could have reached Madagascar and the west African coast for trade from the 8th century and after. A traditional Borobudur ship with outriggers was reconstructed and sailed in this expedition from Jakarta to Madagascar and Ghana.[60]
The written history of Madagascar began with the Arabs, who established trading posts along the northwest coast by at least the 10th century and introduced Islam, the Arabic script (used to transcribe the Malagasy language in a form of writing known as sorabe), Arab astrology and other cultural elements.[16] European contact began in 1500, when the Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias sighted the island.[11] The French established trading posts along the east coast in the late 17th century.[16]
From about 1774 to 1824, Madagascar gained prominence among pirates and European traders, particularly those involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The small island of Nosy Boroha off the northeastern coast of Madagascar has been proposed by some historians as the site of the legendary pirate utopia of Libertalia.[61] Many European sailors were shipwrecked on the coasts of the island, among them Robert Drury, whose journal is one of the few written depictions of life in southern Madagascar during the 18th century.[62] The wealth generated by maritime trade spurred the rise of organized kingdoms on the island, some of which had grown quite powerful by the 17th century.[63] Among these were the Betsimisaraka alliance of the eastern coast and the Sakalava chiefdoms of Menabe and Boina on the west coast. The Kingdom of Imerina, located in the central highlands with its capital at the royal palace of Antananarivo, emerged at around the same time under the leadership of King Andriamanelo.[64]
Kingdom of Madagascar[edit]Main article: Merina KingdomUpon its emergence in the early 17th century, the highland kingdom of Imerina was initially a minor power relative to the larger coastal kingdoms[64] and grew even weaker in the early 18th century when King Andriamasinavalona divided it among his four sons. Following a century of warring and famine, Imerina was reunited in 1793 by King Andrianampoinimerina (1787''1810).[65] From his initial capital Ambohimanga,[66] and later from the Rova of Antananarivo, this Merina king rapidly expanded his rule over neighboring principalities. His ambition to bring the entire island under his control was largely achieved by his son and successor, King Radama I (1810''28), who was recognized by the British government as King of Madagascar. Radama concluded a treaty in 1817 with the British governor of Mauritius to abolish the lucrative slave trade in return for British military and financial assistance. Artisan missionary envoys from the London Missionary Society began arriving in 1818 and included such key figures as James Cameron, David Jones and David Griffiths, who established schools, transcribed the Malagasy language using the Roman alphabet, translated the Bible, and introduced a variety of new technologies to the island.[67]
Radama's successor, Queen Ranavalona I (1828''61), responded to increasing political and cultural encroachment on the part of Britain and France by issuing a royal edict prohibiting the practice of Christianity in Madagascar and pressuring most foreigners to leave the territory. Among those who continued to reside in Imerina were Jean Laborde, an entrepreneur who developed munitions and other industries on behalf of the monarchy, and Joseph-Fran§ois Lambert, a French adventurer and slave trader, with whom then-Prince Radama II signed a controversial trade agreement termed the Lambert Charter. Succeeding his mother, Radama II (1861''63) attempted to relax the queen's stringent policies, but was overthrown two years later by Prime Minister Rainivoninahitriniony (1852''1865) and an alliance of Andriana (noble) and Hova (commoner) courtiers, who sought to end the absolute power of the monarch.[16] Following the coup, the courtiers offered Radama's queen Rasoherina (1863''68) the opportunity to rule, if she would accept a power sharing arrangement with the Prime Minister'--a new social contract that would be sealed by a political marriage between them.[68] Queen Rasoherina accepted, first wedding Rainivoninahitriniony, then later deposing him and wedding his brother, Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony (1864''95), who would go on to marry Queen Ranavalona II (1868''83) and Queen Ranavalona III (1883''97) in succession.[69]
Over the course of Rainilaiarivony's 31-year tenure as prime minister, numerous policies were adopted to modernize and consolidate the power of the central government.[70] Schools were constructed throughout the island and attendance was made mandatory. Army organization was improved, and British consultants were employed to train and professionalize soldiers.[71]Polygamy was outlawed and Christianity, declared the official religion of the court in 1869, was adopted alongside traditional beliefs among a growing portion of the populace.[70] Legal codes were reformed on the basis of British common law and three European-style courts were established in the capital city.[71] In his joint role as Commander-in-Chief, Rainilaiarivony also successfully ensured the defense of Madagascar against several French colonial incursions.[71]
French colonization[edit]Primarily on the basis that the Lambert Charter had not been respected, France invaded Madagascar in 1883 in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War.[72] At the end of the war, Madagascar ceded the northern port town of Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) to France and paid 560,000 francs to Lambert's heirs.[73] In 1890, the British accepted the full formal imposition of a French protectorate on the island, but French authority was not acknowledged by the government of Madagascar. To force capitulation, the French bombarded and occupied the harbor of Toamasina on the east coast, and Mahajanga on the west coast, in December 1894 and January 1895 respectively.[74] A French military flying column then marched toward Antananarivo, losing many men to malaria and other diseases. Reinforcements came from Algeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. Upon reaching the city in September 1895, the column bombarded the royal palace with heavy artillery, causing heavy casualties and leading Queen Ranavalona III to surrender.[75] France annexed Madagascar in 1896 and declared the island a colony the following year, dissolving the Merina monarchy and sending the royal family into exile on R(C)union Island and to Algeria. A two-year resistance movement organized in response to the French capture of the royal palace was effectively put down at the end of 1897.[76]
Under colonial rule, plantations were established for the production of a variety of export crops.[77] Slavery was abolished in 1896, but many of the 500,000 liberated slaves remained in their former masters' homes as servants.[78] Wide paved boulevards and gathering places were constructed in the capital city of Antananarivo[79] and the Rova palace compound was turned into a museum.[80] Additional schools were built, particularly in rural and coastal areas where the schools of the Merina had not reached. Education became mandatory between the ages of 6 to 13 and focused primarily on French language and practical skills.[81] The Merina royal tradition of taxes paid in the form of labor was continued under the French and used to construct a railway and roads linking key coastal cities to Antananarivo.[82] Malagasy troops fought for France in World War I.[11] In the 1930s, Nazi political thinkers developed the Madagascar plan on the basis of earlier proposals from Poland and elsewhere in Europe that had identified the island as a potential site for the deportation of Europe's Jews.[83] During the Second World War, the island was the site of the Battle of Madagascar between the Vichy government and the British.[84] The occupation of France during the Second World War tarnished the prestige of the colonial administration in Madagascar and galvanized the growing independence movement, leading to the Malagasy Uprising of 1947.[85] This movement led the French to establish reformed institutions in 1956 under the Loi Cadre (Overseas Reform Act), and Madagascar moved peacefully towards independence.[86] The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed on 14 October 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence on 26 June 1960.[87]
Independent state[edit]Since regaining independence, Madagascar has transitioned through four republics with corresponding revisions to its constitution. The First Republic (1960''72), under the leadership of French-appointed President Philibert Tsiranana, was characterized by a continuation of strong economic and political ties to France. Many high-level technical positions were filled by French expatriates, and French teachers, textbooks and curricula continued to be used in schools around the country. Popular resentment over Tsiranana's tolerance for this "neo-colonial" arrangement inspired a series of farmer and student protests that overturned his administration in 1972.[16]
Gabriel Ramanantsoa, a Major General in the army, was appointed interim President and Prime Minister that same year, but low public approval forced him to step down in 1975. Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava, appointed to succeed him, was assassinated six days into his tenure. General Gilles Andriamahazo ruled after Ratsimandrava for four months before being replaced by another military appointee: Vice Admiral Didier Ratsiraka, who ushered in the socialist-Marxist Second Republic that ran under his tenure from 1975 to 1993. This period saw a political alignment with the Eastern Bloc countries and a shift toward economic insularity. These policies, coupled with economic pressures stemming from the 1973 oil crisis, resulted in the rapid collapse of Madagascar's economy and a sharp decline in living standards,[16] and the country had become completely bankrupt by 1979. The Ratsiraka administration accepted the conditions of transparency, anti-corruption measures and free market policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and various bilateral donors in exchange for their bailout of the nation's broken economy.[88]
Ratsiraka's dwindling popularity in the late 1980s reached a critical point in 1991 when presidential guards opened fire on unarmed protesters during a rally. Within two months, a transitional government had been established under the leadership of Albert Zafy (1993''96), who went on to win the 1992 presidential elections and inaugurate the Third Republic (1992''2010).[89] The new Madagascar constitution established a multi-party democracy and a separation of powers that placed significant control in the hands of the National Assembly. The new constitution also emphasized human rights, social and political freedoms, and free trade.[16] Zafy's term, however, was marred by economic decline, allegations of corruption, and his introduction of legislation to give himself greater powers. He was consequently impeached in 1996, and an interim president, Norbert Ratsirahonana, was appointed for the three months prior to the next presidential election. Ratsiraka was then voted back into power on a platform of decentralization and economic reforms for a second term which lasted from 1996 to 2001.[88]
The contested 2001 presidential elections in which then-mayor of Antananarivo, Marc Ravalomanana, eventually emerged victorious, caused a seven-month standoff in 2002 between supporters of Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka. The negative economic impact of the political crisis was gradually overcome by Ravalomanana's progressive economic and political policies, which encouraged investments in education and ecotourism, facilitated foreign direct investment, and cultivated trading partnerships both regionally and internationally. National GDP grew at an average rate of 7 percent per year under his administration. In the later half of his second term, Ravalomanana was criticised by domestic and international observers who accused him of increasing authoritarianism and corruption.[88]
Opposition leader and then-mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, led a movement in early 2009 in which Ravalomanana was pushed from power in an unconstitutional process widely condemned as a coup d'(C)tat. In March 2009, Rajoelina was declared by the Supreme Court as the President of the High Transitional Authority, an interim governing body responsible for moving the country toward presidential elections. In 2010, a new constitution was adopted by referendum, establishing a Fourth Republic, which sustained the democratic, multi-party structure established in the previous constitution.[89] The first round of the 2013 presidential election was held on 25 October 2013 with parliamentary elections and a second presidential round scheduled on 20 December 2013.[90]
Government[edit]Structure[edit]Madagascar is a semi-presidentialrepresentative democraticmulti-party republic, wherein the popularly elected president is the head of state and selects a prime minister, who recommends candidates to the president to form his cabinet of ministers. According to the constitution, executive power is exercised by the government while legislative power is vested in the ministerial cabinet, the Senate and the National Assembly, although in reality these two latter bodies have very little power or legislative role. The constitution establishes independent executive, legislative and judicial branches and mandates a popularly elected president limited to three five-year terms.[11]
The last presidential election was held on 3 December 2006 and resulted in the re-election of Marc Ravalomanana, from whom executive power was unconstitutionally transferred to Andry Rajoelina in March 2009. There is currently no legitimately elected head of state in Madagascar. The public also elects the 127 members of the National Assembly to five-year terms. The last National Assembly election was held on 23 September 2007. All 33 members of the Senate serve six-year terms, with 22 senators elected by local officials and 11 appointed by the president. After taking power, Rajoelina dissolved both the National Assembly and the Senate, leaving the nation without a constitutional legislative body.[11] At the local level, the island's 22 provinces are administered by a governor and provincial council. Provinces are further sub-divided into regions and communes. The judiciary is modeled on the French system, with a High Constitutional Court, High Court of Justice, Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, criminal tribunals, and tribunals of first instance.[91] The courts, which adhere to civil law, lack the capacity to quickly and transparently try the cases in the judicial system, often forcing defendants to pass lengthy pretrial detentions in unsanitary and overcrowded prisons.[92]
Antananarivo is the administrative capital and largest city of Madagascar.[11] It is located in the highlands region, near the geographic center of the island. King Andrianjaka founded Antananarivo as the capital of his Imerina Kingdom around 1610 or 1625 upon the site of a captured Vazimba capital on the hilltop of Analamanga.[58] As Merina dominance expanded over neighboring Malagasy peoples in the early 19th century to establish the Kingdom of Madagascar, Antananarivo became the center of administration for virtually the entire island. In 1896 the French colonizers of Madagascar adopted the Merina capital as their center of colonial administration. The city remained the capital of Madagascar after regaining independence in 1960. In 2011, the capital's population was estimated at 1,300,000 inhabitants. The next largest cities are Antsirabe (500,000), Toamasina (450,000) and Mahajanga (400,000).[11]
Administrative divisions[edit]As part of an effort to decentralize administration, Madagascar's six administrative provinces (faritany mizakatena), established under the French colonial authority in 1946,[93] were subdivided into 22 regions (faritra) in 2004. The regions became the highest subdivision level when the provinces were dissolved in accordance with the results of the 2007 referendum.[11] The regions are further subdivided into 119 districts, 1,579 communes, and 17,485 fokontany.[94]
Regions and former provinces[95]New regionsFormer provincesPopulation 2004 estimateDiana (1), Sava (2)Antsiranana1,291,100Itasy (3), Analamanga (4), Vakinankaratra (5), Bongolava (6)Antananarivo5,370,900Sofia (7), Boeny (8), Betsiboka (9), Melaky (10)Mahajanga1,896,000Alaotra Mangoro (11), Atsinanana (12), Analanjirofo (13)Toamasina2,855,600Amoron'i Mania (14), Haute-Matsiatra (15), Vatovavy-Fitovinany (16), Atsimo-Atsinanana (17), Ihorombe (18)Fianarantsoa3,730,200Menabe (19), Atsimo-Andrefana (20), Androy (21), Anosy (22)Toliara2,430,100Politics[edit]Since Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, the island's political transitions have been marked by numerous popular protests, several disputed elections, an impeachment, two military coups and one assassination. The island's recurrent political crises are often prolonged, with detrimental effects on the local economy, international relations and Malagasy living standards. The eight-month standoff between incumbent Ratsiraka and challenger Marc Ravalomanana, following the 2001 presidential elections, cost Madagascar millions of dollars in lost tourism and trade revenue as well as damage to infrastructure, such as bombed bridges and buildings damaged by arson.[96]A series of protests led by Andry Rajoelina against Ravalomanana in early 2009 became violent, with more than 170 people killed.[97] The installation of Rajoelina's transitional regime has, since March 2009, caused many bilateral donors and intergovernmental organizations to freeze aid and suspend regular diplomatic relations with Madagascar, causing economic development to stagnate and reversing many of the gains achieved under the previous administration. In addition, modern politics in Madagascar are colored by the history of Merina subjugation of coastal communities under their rule in the 19th century. The consequent tension between the highland and coastal populations has periodically flared up into isolated events of violence.[98]
Madagascar has historically been perceived as being on the margin of mainstream African affairs despite being a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, which was established in 1963 and dissolved in 2002 to be replaced by the African Union. Madagascar was not permitted to attend the first African Union summit because of a dispute over the results of the 2001 presidential election, but rejoined the African Union in July 2003 after a 14-month hiatus. However, Madagascar was again suspended by the African Union in March 2009 following the unconstitutional transfer of executive power to Rajoelina.[99] Madagascar is a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the United States military.[11]Eleven countries have established embassies in Madagascar, including France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and India.[100]
Human rights in Madagascar are protected under the constitution and the state is a signatory to numerous international agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[101] Religious, ethnic and sexual minorities are protected under the law. Freedom of association and assembly are also guaranteed under the law, although in practice the denial of permits for public assembly has occasionally been used to impede political demonstrations.[44][101] Torture by security forces is rare and state repression is low relative to other countries with comparably few legal safeguards, although arbitrary arrests and the corruption of military and police officers remain problems. Ravalomanana's 2004 creation of BIANCO, an anti-corruption bureau, resulted in reduced corruption among Antananarivo's lower-level bureaucrats in particular, although high-level officials have not been prosecuted by the bureau.[44]
Security[edit]The rise of centralized kingdoms among the Sakalava, Merina and other ethnic groups produced the island's first standing armies by the 16th century, initially equipped with spears but later with muskets, cannon and other firearms.[102] By the early 19th century, the Merina sovereigns of the Kingdom of Madagascar had brought much of the island under their control by mobilizing an army of trained and armed soldiers numbering as high as 30,000.[103] French attacks on coastal towns in the later part of the century prompted then-Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony to solicit British assistance to provide training to the Merina monarchy's army. Despite the training and leadership provided by British military advisers, the Malagasy army was unable to withstand French weaponry and was forced to surrender following an attack on the royal palace at Antananarivo. Madagascar was declared a colony of France in 1897.[104]
The political independence and sovereignty of the Malagasy armed forces, which comprises an army, navy and air force, was restored with independence from France in 1960.[105] Since this time the Malagasy military has never engaged in armed conflict with another state or within its own borders, but has occasionally intervened to restore order during periods of political unrest. Under the socialist Second Republic, Admiral Didier Ratsiraka instated mandatory national armed or civil service for all young citizens regardless of gender, a policy that remained in effect from 1976 to 1991.[106][107] The armed forces are under the direction of the Minister of the Interior[91] and have remained largely neutral during times of political crisis, as during the protracted standoff between incumbent Ratsiraka and challenger Marc Ravalomanana in the disputed 2001 presidential elections, when the military refused to intervene in favor of either candidate. This tradition was broken in 2009, when a segment of the army defected to the side of Andry Rajoelina, then-mayor of Antananarivo, in support of his attempt to force President Ravalomanana from power.[44]
The Minister of the Interior is responsible for the national police force, paramilitary force (gendarmerie) and the secret police.[91] The police and gendarmerie are stationed and administered at the local level. However, in 2009 fewer than a third of all communes had access to the services of these security forces, with most lacking local-level headquarters for either corps.[94] Traditional community tribunals, called dina, are presided over by elders and other respected figures and remain a key means by which justice is served in rural areas where state presence is weak. Historically, security has been relatively high across the island.[44] Violent crime rates are low, and criminal activities are predominantly crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing and petty theft, although child prostitution, human trafficking and the production and sale of marijuana and other illegal drugs are increasing.[91] Budget cuts since 2009 have severely impacted the national police force, producing a steep increase in criminal activity in recent years.[44]
Economy[edit]During Madagascar's First Republic, France heavily influenced Madagascar's economic planning and policy and served as its key trading partner. Key products were cultivated and distributed nationally through producers' and consumers' cooperatives. Government initiatives such as a rural development program and state farms were established to boost production of commodities such as rice, coffee, cattle, silk and palm oil. Popular dissatisfaction over these policies was a key factor in launching the socialist-Marxist Second Republic, in which the formerly private bank and insurance industries were nationalized; state monopolies were established for such industries as textiles, cotton and power; and import''export trade and shipping were brought under state control. Madagascar's economy quickly deteriorated as exports fell, industrial production dropped by 75 percent, inflation spiked and government debt increased; the rural population was soon reduced to living at subsistence levels. Over 50 percent of the nation's export revenue was spent on debt servicing.[15]
The IMF forced Madagascar's government to accept structural adjustment policies and liberalization of the economy when the state became bankrupt in 1982 and state-controlled industries were gradually privatized over the course of the 1980s. The political crisis of 1991 led to the suspension of IMF and World Bank assistance. Conditions for the resumption of aid were not met under Zafy, who tried unsuccessfully to attract other forms of revenue for the State before aid was once again resumed under the interim government established upon Zafy's impeachment. The IMF agreed to write off half Madagascar's debt in 2004 under the Ravalomanana administration. Having met a set of stringent economic, governance and human rights criteria, Madagascar became the first country to benefit from the Millennium Challenge Account in 2005.[11]
Madagascar's GDP in 2009 was estimated at 8.6 billion USD, with a per capita GDP of $438.[11] Approximately 69 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line threshold of one dollar per day.[108] The agriculture sector constituted 29 percent of Malagasy GDP in 2011, while manufacturing formed 15 percent of GDP. Madagascar's sources of growth are tourism, agriculture and the extractive industries.[109] Tourism focuses on the niche eco-tourism market, capitalizing on Madagascar's unique biodiversity, unspoiled natural habitats, national parks and lemur species.[110] An estimated 365,000 tourists visited Madagascar in 2008, but the sector has declined as a result of the political crisis with 180,000 tourists visiting in 2010.[109]
Natural resources and trade[edit]Madagascar's natural resources include a variety of unprocessed agricultural and mineral resources. Agriculture, including raffia, fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy. Madagascar is among the world's principal suppliers of vanilla, cloves[112] and ylang-ylang.[17] Other key agricultural resources include coffee, lychees and shrimp. Key mineral resources include various types of precious and semi-precious stones, and Madagascar currently provides half of the world's supply of sapphires, which were discovered near Ilakaka in the late 1990s.[113] The island also holds one of the world's largest reserves of ilmenite (titanium ore), as well as important reserves of chromite, coal, iron, cobalt, copper and nickel.[15] Several major projects are underway in the mining, oil and gas sectors that are anticipated to give a significant boost to the Malagasy economy. These include such projects as ilmenite and zircon mining from heavy mineral sands near T´lanaro by Rio Tinto,[114] extraction of nickel near Moramanga and its processing near Toamasina by Sherritt International,[115] and the development of the giant onshore heavy oil deposits at Tsimiroro and Bemolanga by Madagascar Oil.[116]
Exports formed 28 percent of GDP in 2009.[11] Most of the country's export revenue is derived from the textiles industry, fish and shellfish, vanilla, cloves and other foodstuffs.[109] France is Madagascar's main trading partner, although the United States, Japan and Germany also have strong economic ties to the country.[15] The Madagascar-U.S. Business Council was formed in May 2003, as a collaboration between USAID and Malagasy artisan producers to support the export of local handicrafts to foreign markets.[117] Imports of such items as foodstuffs, fuel, capital goods, vehicles, consumer goods and electronics consume an estimated 52 percent of GDP. The main sources of Madagascar's imports include France, China, Iran, Mauritius, Japan and Hong Kong.[11]
Infrastructure and media[edit]In 2010, Madagascar had approximately 7,617 km (4,730 mi) of paved roads, 854 km (530 mi) of railways and 432 km (270 mi) of navigable waterways.[7] The majority of roads in Madagascar are unpaved, with many becoming impassable in the rainy season. Largely paved national routes connect the six largest regional towns to Antananarivo, with minor paved and unpaved routes providing access to other population centers in each district. There are several rail lines on the island. Antananarivo is connected to Toamasina, Ambatondrazaka and Antsirabe by rail, and another rail line connects Fianarantsoa to Manakara. The most important seaport in Madagascar is located on the east coast at Toamasina. Ports at Mahajanga and Antsiranana are significantly less used due to their remoteness.[16] The island's newest port at Ehoala, constructed in 2008 and privately managed by Rio Tinto, will come under state control upon completion of the company's mining project near T´lanaro around 2038.[114] Air Madagascar services the island's many small regional airports, which offer the only practical means of access to many of the more remote regions during rainy season road washouts.[16]
Running water and electricity are supplied at the national level by a government service provider, Jirama, which is unable to service the entire population. As of 2009, only 6.8 percent of Madagascar's fokontany had access to water provided by Jirama, while 9.5 percent had access to its electricity services.[94] 56% of Madagascar's power is provided by hydroelectric power plants with the remaining 44% provided by diesel engine generators.[118] Mobile telephone and internet access are widespread in urban areas but remain limited in rural parts of the island. Approximately 30 percent of the districts are able to access the nations' several private telecommunications networks via mobile telephones or land lines.[94]
Radio broadcasts remain the principal means by which the Malagasy population access international, national and local news. Only state radio broadcasts are transmitted across the entire island. Hundreds of public and private stations with local or regional range provide alternatives to state broadcasting.[92] In addition to the state television channel, a variety of privately owned television stations broadcast local and international programming throughout Madagascar. Several media outlets are owned by political partisans or politicians themselves, including the media groups MBS (owned by Ravalomanana) and Viva (owned by Rajoelina),[44] contributing to political polarization in reporting. The media has historically come under varying degrees of pressure over time to censor their criticism of the government. Reporters are occasionally threatened or harassed and media outlets are periodically forced to close.[92] Accusations of media censorship have increased since 2009 due to the alleged intensification of restrictions on political criticism.[101] Access to the internet has grown dramatically over the past decade, with an estimated 352,000 residents of Madagascar accessing the internet from home or in one of the nation's many internet cafes in December 2011.[92]
Medical centers, dispensaries and hospitals are found throughout the island, although they are concentrated in urban areas and particularly in Antananarivo. Access to medical care remains beyond the reach of many Malagasy. In addition to the high expense of medical care relative to the average Malagasy income, the prevalence of trained medical professionals remains extremely low. In 2010 Madagascar had an average of three hospital beds per 10,000 people and a total of 3,150 doctors, 5,661 nurses, 385 community health workers, 175 pharmacists and 57 dentists for a population of 22 million. 14.6 percent of government spending in 2008 was directed toward the health sector. Approximately 70 percent of spending on health was contributed by the government, while 30 percent originated with international donors and other private sources.[119] The government provides at least one basic health center per commune. Private health centers are concentrated within urban areas and particularly those of the central highlands.[94]
Despite these barriers to access, health services have shown a trend toward improvement over the past twenty years. Child immunizations against such diseases as hepatitis B, diphtheria and measles increased an average of 60 percent in this period, indicating low but increasing availability of basic medical services and treatments. The Malagasy fertility rate in 2009 was 4.6 children per woman, declining from 6.3 in 1990. Teen pregnancy rates of 14.8 percent in 2011, much higher than the African average, are a contributing factor to rapid population growth.[119] In 2010 the maternal mortality rate was 440 per 100,000 births, compared to 373.1 in 2008 and 484.4 in 1990, indicating a decline in perinatal care following the 2009 coup. The infant mortality rate in 2011 was 41 per 1,000 births,[11] with an under-five mortality rate at 61 per 1,000 births.[120]Schistosomiasis, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases are common in Madagascar, although infection rates of AIDS remain low relative to many countries in mainland Africa, at only 0.2 percent of the adult population. The malaria mortality rate is also among the lowest in Africa at 8.5 deaths per 100,000 people, in part due to the highest frequency use of insecticide treated nets in Africa.[119] Adult life expectancy in 2009 was 63 years for men and 67 years for women.[119]
Education[edit]Prior to the 19th century, all education in Madagascar was informal and typically served to teach practical skills as well as social and cultural values, including respect for ancestors and elders.[16] The first formal European-style school was established in 1818 at Toamasina by members of the London Missionary Society (LMS). The LMS was invited by King Radama I (1810''28) to expand its schools throughout Imerina to teach basic literacy and numeracy to aristocratic children. The schools were closed by Ranavalona I in 1835[121] but reopened and expanded in the decades after her death. By the end of the 19th century Madagascar had the most developed and modern school system in pre-colonial Sub-Saharan Africa. Access to schooling was expanded in coastal areas during the colonial period, with French language and basic work skills becoming the focus of the curriculum. During the post-colonial First Republic, a continued reliance on French nationals as teachers, and French as the language of instruction, displeased those desiring a complete separation from the former colonial power.[16] Consequently, under the socialist Second Republic, French instructors and other nationals were expelled, Malagasy was declared the language of instruction and a large cadre of young Malagasy were rapidly trained to teach at remote rural schools under the mandatory two-year national service policy.[122] This policy, known as malgachization, coincided with a severe economic downturn and a dramatic decline in the quality of education. Those schooled during this period generally failed to master the French language or many other subjects and struggled to find employment, forcing many to take low-paying jobs in the informal or black market that mired them in deepening poverty. Excepting the brief presidency of Albert Zafy, from 1992 to 1996, Ratsiraka remained in power from 1975 to 2001 and failed to achieve significant improvements in education throughout his tenure.[123]
Education was prioritized under the Ravalomanana administration (2002''09), and is currently free and compulsory from ages 6 to 13.[124] The primary schooling cycle is five years, followed by four years at the lower secondary level and three years at the upper secondary level.[16] During Ravalomanana's first term, thousands of new primary schools and additional classrooms were constructed, older buildings were renovated, and tens of thousands of new primary teachers were recruited and trained. Primary school fees were eliminated and kits containing basic school supplies were distributed to primary students.[124] Government school construction initiatives have ensured at least one primary school per fokontany and one lower secondary school within each commune. At least one upper secondary school is located in each of the larger urban centers.[94] The three branches of the national public university are located at Antananarivo (founded in 1961), Mahajanga (1977) and Fianarantsoa (1988). These are complemented by public teacher-training colleges and several private universities and technical colleges.[16]
As a result of increased educational access, enrollment rates more than doubled between 1996 and 2006. However, education quality is weak, producing high rates of grade repetition and dropout.[124] Education policy in Ravalomanana's second term focused on quality issues, including an increase in minimum education standards for the recruitment of primary teachers from a middle school leaving certificate (BEPC) to a high school leaving certificate (BAC), and a reformed teacher training program to support the transition from traditional didactic instruction to student-centered teaching methods to boost student learning and participation in the classroom.[125] Public expenditure on education was 13.4 percent of total government expenditure and 2.9 percent of GDP in 2008. Primary classrooms are crowded, with average pupil to teacher ratios of 47:1 in 2008.[126]
Demographics[edit]Ethnic diversity[edit]In 2012, the population of Madagascar was estimated at 22 million.[4] The Malagasy ethnic group forms over 90 percent of Madagascar's population and is typically divided into eighteen ethnic sub-groups.[11] Recent DNA research revealed that the genetic makeup of the average Malagasy person constitutes an approximately equal blend of Austronesian and Bantu genes,[127][128] although the genetics of some communities show a predominance of Austronesian or Bantu origins or some Arab, Indian or European ancestry.[129] Austronesian origins are most predominant among the Merina of the central highlands,[98] who form the largest Malagasy ethnic sub-group at approximately 26 percent of the population, while certain communities among the coastal peoples (collectively called c´tiers) have relatively stronger Bantu origins. The largest coastal ethnic sub-groups are the Betsimisaraka (14.9 percent) and the Tsimihety and Sakalava (6 percent each).[16]
Malagasy ethnic sub-groupsRegional concentrationAntankarana, Sakalava, TsimihetyFormer Antsiranana ProvinceSakalava, VezoFormer Mahajanga ProvinceBetsimisaraka, Sihanaka, BezanozanoFormer Toamasina ProvinceMerinaFormer Antananarivo ProvinceBetsileo, Antaifasy, Antambahoaka, Antaimoro, Antaisaka, TanalaFormer Fianarantsoa ProvinceMahafaly, Antandroy, Antanosy people, Bara, VezoFormer Toliara ProvinceChinese, Indian and Comorian minorities are present in Madagascar, as well as a small European (primarily French) populace. Emigration in the late 20th century has reduced these minority populations, occasionally in abrupt waves, such as the exodus of Comorans in 1976, following anti-Comoran riots in Mahajanga.[16] By comparison, there has been no significant emigration of Malagasy peoples.[15] The number of Europeans has declined since independence, reduced from 68,430 in 1958[86] to 17,000 three decades later. There were an estimated 25,000 Comorans, 18,000 Indians, and 9,000 Chinese living in Madagascar in the mid-1980s.[16]
The annual population growth rate in Madagascar was approximately 2.7 percent in 2009.[11] The population grew from 2.2 million in 1900[16] to an estimated 22 million in 2012.[4] Approximately 42.5 percent of the population is younger than 15 years of age, while 54.5 percent are between the ages of 15 and 64. Those aged 65 and older form three percent of the total population.[109] Only two general censuses, in 1975 and 1993, have been carried out after independence. The most densely populated regions of the island are the eastern highlands and the eastern coast, contrasting most dramatically with the sparsely populated western plains.[16]
Language[edit]The Malagasy language is of Malayo-Polynesian origin and is generally spoken throughout the island. The numerous dialects of Malagasy, which are generally mutually intelligible,[130] can be clustered under one of two sub-groups: eastern Malagasy, spoken along the eastern forests and highlands including the Merina dialect of Antananarivo; and western Malagasy, spoken across the western coastal plains. French became the official language during the colonial period, when Madagascar came under the authority of France. In the first national Constitution of 1958, Malagasy and French were named the official languages of the Malagasy Republic. Madagascar is a francophone country, and French is spoken among the educated population.[16]
No official languages were recorded in the Constitution of 1992, although Malagasy was identified as the national language. Nonetheless, many sources still claimed that Malagasy and French were official languages, eventually leading a citizen to initiate a legal case against the state in April 2000, on the grounds that the publication of official documents only in the French language was unconstitutional. The High Constitutional Court observed in its decision that, in the absence of a language law, French still had the character of an official language.[131] In the Constitution of 2007, Malagasy remained the national language while official languages were reintroduced: Malagasy, French, and English.[132] English was removed as an official language from the constitution approved by voters in the November referendum 2010.[1] The outcome of the referendum, and its consequences for official and national language policy, are not recognized by the political opposition or by the international community, who cite lack of transparency and inclusiveness in the organization of the election by the High Transitional Authority.[89]
Religion[edit]Approximately half of the country's population practice traditional religion,[11] which tends to emphasize links between the living and the razana (ancestors). The veneration of ancestors has led to the widespread tradition of tomb building, as well as the highlands practice of the famadihana, whereby a deceased family member's remains may be exhumed to be periodically re-wrapped in fresh silk shrouds before being replaced in the tomb. The famadihana is an occasion to celebrate the beloved ancestor's memory, reunite with family and community, and enjoy a festive atmosphere. Residents of surrounding villages are often invited to attend the party, where food and rum are typically served and a hiragasy troupe or other musical entertainment is commonly present.[133] Consideration for ancestors is also demonstrated through adherence to fady, taboos that are respected during and after the lifetime of the person who establishes them. It is widely believed that by showing respect for ancestors in these ways, they may intervene on behalf of the living. Conversely, misfortunes are often attributed to ancestors whose memory or wishes have been neglected. The sacrifice of zebu is a traditional method used to appease or honor the ancestors. In addition, the Malagasy traditionally believe in a creator god, called Zanahary or Andriamanitra.[134]
Almost half the Malagasy are Christian, with practitioners of Protestantism slightly outnumbering adherents to Roman Catholicism.[11] In 1818 the London Missionary Society sent the first Christian missionaries to the island, where they built churches, translated the Bible into the Malagasy language and began to gain converts. Beginning in 1835 Queen Ranavalona I persecuted these converts as part of an attempt to halt European cultural and political influence on the island. In 1869 a successor, Queen Ranavalona II, converted the court to Christianity and encouraged Christian missionary activity, burning the sampy (royal idols) in a symbolic break with traditional beliefs.[135]
Today, many Christians integrate their religious beliefs with traditional ones related to honoring the ancestors. For instance, they may bless their dead at church before proceeding with traditional burial rites or invite a Christian minister to consecrate a famadihana reburial.[133] The Malagasy Council of Churches comprises the four oldest and most prominent Christian denominations (Roman Catholic, Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, Lutheran, and Anglican) and has been an influential force in Malagasy politics.[136]
Islam is also practiced on the island. Islam was first brought to the island in the Middle Ages by Arab and SomaliMuslim traders, who established several Islamic schools along the eastern coast. While the use of Arabic script and loan words and the adoption of Islamic astrology would spread across the island, the Islamic religion failed to take hold in all but a handful of southeastern coastal communities. Today, Muslims constitute 7 percent of the population of Madagascar and are largely concentrated in the northwestern provinces of Mahajanga and Antsiranana. The vast majority of Muslims are Sunni. Muslims are divided between those of Malagasy ethnicity, Indians, Pakistanis and Comorians. More recently, Hinduism was introduced to Madagascar through Gujarati people immigrating from the Saurashtra region of India in the late 19th century. Most Hindus in Madagascar speak Gujarati or Hindi at home.[137]
Culture[edit]Each of the many ethnic sub-groups in Madagascar adhere to their own set of beliefs, practices and ways of life that have historically contributed to their unique identities. However, there are a number of core cultural features that are common throughout the island, creating a strongly unified Malagasy cultural identity. In addition to a common language and shared traditional religious beliefs around a creator god and veneration of the ancestors, the traditional Malagasy worldview is shaped by values that emphasize fihavanana (solidarity), vintana (destiny), tody (karma), and hasina, a sacred life force that traditional communities believe imbues and thereby legitimates authority figures within the community or family. Other cultural elements commonly found throughout the island include the practice of male circumcision; strong kinship ties; a widespread belief in the power of magic, diviners, astrology and witch doctors; and a traditional division of social classes into nobles, commoners, and slaves.[16][134] Although social castes are no longer legally recognized, ancestral caste affiliation often continues to affect social status, economic opportunity and roles within the community.[138] Malagasy people traditionally consult Mpanandro ("Makers of the Days") to identify the most auspicious days for important events such as weddings or famadihana, according to a traditional astrological system introduced by Arabs. Similarly, the nobles of many Malagasy communities in the pre-colonial period would commonly employ advisers known as the ombiasy (from olona-be-hasina, "man of much virtue") of the southeastern Antemoro ethnic group, who trace their ancestry back to early Arab settlers.[139]
The diverse origins of Malagasy culture are evident in its tangible expressions. The most emblematic instrument of Madagascar, the valiha, is a bamboo tube zither carried to Madagascar by early settlers from southern Borneo, and is very similar in form to those found in Indonesia and the Philippines today.[140] Traditional houses in Madagascar are likewise similar to those of southern Borneo in terms of symbolism and construction, featuring a rectangular layout with a peaked roof and central support pillar.[141] Reflecting a widespread veneration of the ancestors, tombs are culturally significant in many regions and tend to be built of more durable material, typically stone, and display more elaborate decoration than the houses of the living.[142] The production and weaving of silk can be traced back to the island's earliest settlers, and Madagascar's national dress, the woven lamba, has evolved into a varied and refined art.[143] The Southeast Asian cultural influence is also evident in Malagasy cuisine, in which rice is consumed at every meal, typically accompanied by one of a variety of flavorful vegetable or meat dishes.[144] African influence is reflected in the sacred importance of zebu cattle and their embodiment of their owner's wealth, traditions originating on the African mainland. Cattle rustling, originally a rite of passage for young men in the plains areas of Madagascar where the largest herds of cattle are kept, has become a dangerous and sometimes deadly criminal enterprise as herdsmen in the southwest attempt to defend their cattle with traditional spears against increasingly armed professional rustlers.[56]
Arts[edit]A wide range of aural artistic traditions have developed in Madagascar. One of the island's foremost artistic traditions is its oratory, as expressed in the forms of hainteny (poetry), kabary (public discourse) and ohabolana (proverbs).[145][146] An epic poem exemplifying these traditions, the Ibonia, has been handed down over the centuries in several different forms across the island, and offers insight into the diverse mythologies and beliefs of traditional Malagasy communities.[147] This tradition was continued in the 20th century by such artists as Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, who is considered Africa's first modern poet,[148] and Elie Rajaonarison, an exemplar of the new wave of Malagasy poetry.[149] Madagascar has also developed a rich musical heritage, embodied in dozens of regional musical genres such as the coastal salegy or highland hiragasy that enliven village gatherings, local dance floors and national airwaves.[150]
The plastic arts are also widespread throughout the island. In addition to the tradition of silk weaving and lamba production, the weaving of raffia and other local plant materials has been used to create a wide array of practical items such as floor mats, baskets, purses and hats.[117] Wood carving is a highly developed art form, with distinct regional styles evident in the decoration of balcony railings and other architectural elements. Sculptors create a variety of furniture and household goods, aloalo funerary posts, and wooden sculptures, many of which are produced for the tourist market.[151] The decorative and functional woodworking traditions of the Zafimaniry people of the central highlands was inscribed on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.[152]
Among the Antaimoro people, the production of paper embedded with flowers and other decorative natural materials is a long-established tradition that the community has begun to market to eco-tourists.[151]Embroidery and drawn thread work are done by hand to produce clothing, as well as tablecloths and other home textiles for sale in local crafts markets.[117] A small but growing number of fine art galleries in Antananarivo, and several other urban areas, offer paintings by local artists, and annual art events, such as the Hosotra open-air exhibition in the capital, contribute to the continuing development of fine arts in Madagascar.[153]
Sport and recreation[edit]A number of traditional pastimes have emerged in Madagascar. Moraingy, a type of hand-to-hand combat, is a popular spectator sport in coastal regions. It is traditionally practiced by men, but women have recently begun to participate.[154] The wrestling of zebu cattle (tolon-omby) is also practiced in many regions.[155] In addition to sports, a wide variety of games are played. Among the most emblematic is fanorona, a board game widespread throughout the Highland regions. According to folk legend, the succession of King Andrianjaka after his father Ralambo was partially due to the obsession that Andrianjaka's older brother may have had with playing fanorona to the detriment of his other responsibilities.[156]
Western recreational activities were introduced to Madagascar over the past two centuries. Rugby is considered the national sport of Madagascar.[157]Football is also popular. Madagascar has produced a world champion in p(C)tanque, a French game similar to lawn bowling, which is widely played in urban areas and throughout the Highlands.[158] School athletics programs typically include soccer, track and field, judo, boxing, women's basketball and women's tennis. Madagascar sent its first competitors to the Olympic Games in 1964 and has also competed in the African Games.[15]Scouting is represented in Madagascar by its own local federation of three scouting clubs. Membership in 2011 was estimated at 14,905.[159]
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The cutmarking looks plausible, but there is a potential problem of old carbon from the limestone landscape compromising the date, and there are no associated artefacts or archaeological sites in the vicinity. Nearly contemporaneous potential evidence comes from Cannabis/Humulus pollen which occurs in a pollen column from the central highlands at an interpolated date of c. 2200BP (Burney 1987). There is some suspicion that cannabis may have reached Africa 3000 years ago. There is no archaeological evidence for human occupation in the highlands until c. AD1200. Finally, a cutmarked pygmy hippo bone from Ambolisatra has been dated and calibrated to between 60BC and AD130 (2 SDs), but it is from a coastal swamp without indications of settlement, in a heavily karstic region. Moreover, a similar bone from the same collection from a nearby site gave two widely divergent dates of 2020BP and 3495BP (MacPhee & Burney 1991). 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In its Oil and Gas Eye Index report, EY elaborates key AIM risers and fallers:
RisersAccording to EY, in Q1 34% of companies in the AIM oil and gas universe recorded share price gains, with strategic agreements, farm-out deals and positive operation updates the main drivers.
SacOil Holdings' share price rose 188%. In March, the company announced that, with The Public Investment Corporation, it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an entity managing investment portfolios and shares on behalf of the government of Mozambique to investigate opportunities relating to the future distribution of gas in Southern Africa.In February, Egdon resources and its partners announced that they had completed a farm out agreement with Total in respect of UK onshore exploration and development licenses PEDL139 and PEDL140 in Lincolnshire. The agreement marked the entry of the first oil major into UK shale gas exploration. In January, Egdon Resources and its partner also entered into an opt-in agreement with Total for license PEDL209, also in Lincolnshire. Egdon's share price ended up 104%.In March, Madagascar Oil released an update on the ongoing Steam Flood Pilot at the Tsimoro oil field in Madagascar. It said that recent results from the pilot point to the positive response of the reservoir to thermal recovery techniques. Its share price rose 46% over Q1.Empyrean Energy said it has 119 wells on its Sugarloaf project in the Eagle Ford Shale. Marathon Oil aims to drill 100 '' 110 wells in 2014. The companies share price ended Q1 up 43%.In January, Europa Oil & Gas announced that phase 1 of the PEDL 181 license onshore UK has been extended by a year. This will enable it to drill the Kiln Lane-1 prospect in the second half of 2014. Its share price rose 35% over Q1.Four companies entered the Oil and Gas Eye Index at the end of Q1: Hurricane Energy, Tower Resources, President Energy and Circle Oil.
Fallers66% of companies in the AIM oil and gas universe registered a share price fall, according to EY. This reflects disappointing drilling results, media speculations round key projects and the failure of proposed strategic deals.
Max Petroleum's share price fell 61%. In January, it said the SAGW-11 appraisal well in Kazakhstan had not found sufficient hydrocarbons to be commercial.In March, Clontarf Energy, which holds 60% interest in the Ghana Tano 2A Block, commented on media reports regarding ratification of the petroleum agreement of the block, saying that the reports suggested ratification of a rival application may overlap a portion of the Block. In early April, Clontarf said the High Court of Ghana had granted its application for an interlocutory injunction and an interim order protecting its property rights. Nevertheless, the company's share price ended Q1 down 50%.Lansdowne Oil & gas' share price fell 37% over Q1. In January, it pointed to an announcement made by Providence Resources regarding press speculation that farm-out discussions regarding Ireland's Barryroe oilfield may not be progressing to plan. Providence said there had been no material change to the Barryroe farm-out's outlook since the update provided in December 2013. Providence's share price dropped 17% in Q1.InfraStrata announced that BP Gas Marketing Limited has decided to relinquish its option to acquire 50.495% of the shares of the Islandmagee gas storage project in Northern Island. Its share price ended Q1 down 35%.Tangiers Petroleum's share price fell 26% in Q1. In March, it confirmed that the minimum acceptance conditions for its recommended off-market takeover bid for Jacka Resources were not met by the end of the offer period, and that offers had now lapsed.Four companies exited the Oil and Gas Eye Index at the end of Q1: Providence Resources, Coastal Energy, GeoPark Holdings and Gulf Keystone Petroleum.
Adapted from a report by Emma McAleavey.
RIGZONE - Tellus to Acquire 25% Interest in Southern Madagascar's Block 3114
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:35
Australia-based oil & gas and mineral exploration firm Tellus Resources Limited (TLU or the Company) announced that it has agreed to acquire a 25 percent interest (with the right to acquire up to an 80 percent interest) in a drill-ready and large scale onshore oil exploration asset in Block 3114 in Morondava Basin off the south-east coast of Africa on the Island of Madagascar.
The vendor of the asset is ASX listed company Caravel Energy Ltd (CRJ). The terms of the transaction are summarized in the attached Appendix.
Formal shareholder support will be required with respect to one aspect of the transaction and the Company will put the relevant resolution at an Extraordinary General Meeting to be called shortly.
The consideration for the asset is the issuance of 85 million TLU shares.
The Asset, which comprises approximately 3,861 square miles (10,000 square kilometers) of onshore acreage, has recently been the subject of a seismic campaign which has identified large scale oil targets together with at least one drill-ready prospect. As such, a drilling campaign is planned to commence in the latter part of this year.
Contemporaneous with this transaction, TLU has entered into Agreements which provide it with debt facilities to borrow up to $517,880 (AUD 550,000). The Company is expecting an R&D rebate from the ATO later this year which will more than cover any amounts drawn down from these facilities.
Commenting on the deal, the Company's Managing Director, Carl Dorsch, said ''this on-shore oil prospective asset in Madagascar will add significantly to the Company's suite of high impact oil exploration assets. I have considerable experience in working in franchophone Africa and am looking forward to the opportunities in neighboring Madagascar which is located off the south east coast in one of the most prospective exploration areas remaining in the world."
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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.Related Companies
Swaziland implicated in QATAR 2022 SCANDAL
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:45
MBABANE '' The 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar scandal has taken a new twist as Swaziland has been listed among 30 African countries implicated in the matter.
The scandal which has rocked the entire world football fraternity, has gained momentum following recent revelations by British newspaper Sunday Times over the past weekend. Former FIFA Vice President Mohamed Bin Hammam is alleged to have helped secure votes for the oil rich country from the 24 FIFA executive committee which voted during the bid in December 2010. Federation of Zambian Football (FAZ) President Kalusha Bwalya has also been hugely implicated in the scandal alongside Swaziland, Namibia and Mozambique football associations.
While National Football Association of Swaziland (NFAS) President Adam 'Bomber' Mthethwa came out to distance his office from the allegations, the British publication claimed to have obtained a number of secret documents proving that Bin Hammam made dozens of payments of up to $200,000 (E2 144 360.94) to top football officials to secure votes for Qatar.
Bin Hammam also allegedly deposited the money through slush funds into accounts of the 30 African football associations. He also reportedly hosted lavish events for African officials where he also handed out almost US$400,000 (over E4 million) in cash. ''Other football bodies in Southern African implicated in the scandal are Swaziland and Zambia, with the Zambia Football Association president Kalusha Bwalya said to have received US$30 000 from Hammam in 2009,'' reads the report in part. Mthethwa, in an interview yesterday, said his association was not aware of the matter, and that there was no way they could feature as the voting was done by the FIFA executive committee members.
''I have been following the issue, and like everyone else, we were all looking at the FIFA executive committee who were the body that voted. I am not aware that we were implicated, and as the person who leads the delegates to the FIFA congress I should know if there was anything of that nature,'' he said.
The matter is now splashed across various newspapers sites across the globe and Swaziland is among three Southern Africa countries caught up in the allegations. Bin Hammam resigned from his post in 2012 after being caught up in a corruption scandal surrounding his failed campaign for FIFA presidency in 2011. The decision to award football's biggest tournament to the tiny desert state of Qatar initially provoked widespread condemnation. Many have voiced concern that the Gulf Kingdom's stifling summer heat would be unhealthy for the players.***
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Roll Your Own Mailserver
Thanks for the inspiration to set up my own mail server.
Its much more liberating than I ever thought it would be! I went with Zarafa which is an open source version that practically is Exchange. Outlook connects to it and thinks its Exchange. Webmail interface is fantastic too, I highly recommend it.
I have $15 virtual server plan that handles all my domains email and web traffic which isnt terribly significant, I dont even come close to the 1000GB/mo cap.
Please keep mentioning that people should set up their own servers, its cheap and easy. Some of us even listen.
BUH-BYE Gmail!
TYFYC,
Sir DH Slammer
PS - I set my Gmail vacation responder to this message:
Please take a moment to update your address book with my preferred email address:
ryan@dhslammer.com
(and remove dhslammer@gmail.com)
I will continue to periodically monitor Gmail for some time but I've chosen to opt out of as many Google products as possible for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are very close ties with CIA, NSA and Google's own tracking of individuals for profit. I encourage everyone who values privacy to do the same and OPT OUT. Thanks to Adam Curry for the inspiration to finally get this done.
Instead of using "free" email I bought a domain name (dhslammer.com) and set up my own mail server in a high speed datacenter (with some help - thanks Sven!). It is cheap, easy, reliable and robust. If you would like info on how to do this for yourself please let me know. There are a variety of ways from extremely simple to moderately complex but I guarantee you can do it if you want and I can help you get there. Its even more liberating than I thought it would be.
Thank you for your courage!
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Book Club
Middle East recommendation from Knight
Adam,
After listening to the past few shows, your desire to learn more about middle east history really hit home with me.
In 2006 or 2007 I came across "United States and the Middle East: 1914 to 9/11 by Professor Salim Yaqub." Its about 12 hours of lectures dealing with the US/Middle East relations over the past 100 years (stopping at 2003).
I'd like to recommend this "book" for the NA Book Club. I hope you and other producers find this a valuable tool to understanding current US/Middle East relations.
Professor Salim Yaqub is an Associate Professor at UC Santa Barbra.
http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/Courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=8593
Also on Audible.
Sir Andrew Greene (of Florida, not UK)
Founding Producer (since March 2009)
ITM LGY TYFYC
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John's Mic Addiction http://microphone-parts.com/
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IRS
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Gohmert and Flores Propose $1M Bounty for Lerner E-mails
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:11
Representatives Bill Flores and Louie Gohmert, both Texas Republicans, have proposed a million dollar bounty for the recovery of former IRS official Lois Lerner's e-mails.
They've filed the Identify and Recover Sent Emails Act, which, if passed, would award $500,000 to anyone with ''pertinent information sufficient for prosecution'' of anyone involved in the destruction of Lerner's e-mails or a cool $1 million to anyone who can recover the e-mails outright.
How is the sizeable bounty to be funded? From the IRS budget.
In addition, the bill would mandate that all IRS employees receive not more than 80 percent of their 2014 salaries until the e-mails are recovered.
The bill comes just days after Representative Steve Stockman, another Texas Republican, filed the ''Dog Ate My Tax Receipts'' Act, which would require the Internal Revenue Service to ''allow taxpayers the same lame excuses for missing documentation that the IRS itself is currently proffering.'' Per his resolution, acceptable excuses include:
1. The dog ate my tax receipts2. Convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction3. Traded documents for five terrorists4. Burned for warmth while lost in the Yukon5. Left on table in Hillary's Book Room6. Received water damage in the trunk of Ted Kennedy's car7. Forgot in gun case sold to Mexican drug lords8. Forced to recycle by municipal Green Czar9. Was short on toilet paper while camping10. At this point, what difference does it make?
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Emails from Dudes Named Ben
NA IT-Knight on SonaVault
ITM Adam,
I'm the NA Knight that turned you on to the employee spying software, Spectre 360 a while back. I just happened to be experienced with SonaSoft's SonaVault email archiving software that the IRS is blaming for their lost messages. Total Bullshit on their part, but what else is new?
The SonaVault is deployed to archive EVERY email that traverses a network JUST IN CASE the email server or employee's hard drive crashes. All email that enters an organization is intercepted, logged, indexed, and archived BEFORE it is sent on to the users' email boxes. This is so an employee can't delete (securely or otherwise) any emails received internally or externally before being recorded and archived. Any emails SENT by a user are relayed to the SonaVault BEFORE it is forwarded by the SMTP server to archive those as well.
SonaVault is an INDEPENDENT SYSTEM from the email server on purpose. It is an on-site appliance (not in the cloud) to make sure ALL emails are saved in case of server or HD crashes. It is used for incredibly fast searches of ALL email and the searches can be narrowed down to date ranges, email boxes, keywords, etc. and return searches through terabytes of messages in a few minutes. SonaVault was my THIRD level of backup besides email clusters and nightly offsite disk-to-disk backups. Any IT guy worth his salt knows backups AND restore techniques.
So, did the IRS lose these backups? No fucking way! They would have to have hard drive crashes on their primary email server, backup email servers (it is Exchange and highly recommended by MS), backup software archive servers, local .pst files (they are using MS Exchange), AND the SonaVault archiver and it's backups.
No, I am not a shill for SonaSoft. I quit my lucrative job as exec VP of IT at a credit union because I was being micromanaged and pressured to spy on all of our employees for the HR department. People were getting written up for searching for golf scores for christ's sake. I wonder how many people got fired for looking up World Cup scores.
Sorry for the long diatribe, but I know you appreciate these insights. No need to read this on the show unless you want to. Keep hittin' in them in the mouth!
Sir Mike (with today's donation, Baronette)!
Formally of Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Now of Kelseyville, CA
(Wishes to be Baronette of Lake County)
Debunking Sonasoft's statement
Hi Adam -
ITM. I am a new manager for a large public accounting firm and have worked in the IT Risk and Security Industry for several years. This includes implementing, evaluating, and auditing companies' IT security environment and best practices including SOX, HIPPA, and others. Each of which have strict data retention and archiving policies.
Today I was reading Sonasoft's blog post denying that they have the IRS's email archives and I noticed a few nuances that I wanted to point out.
Their main point that is repeated several times is as follows:
"Sonasoft does NOT have IRS email. Sonasoft NEVER had access to IRS email."
This is interesting because the stress that the do not currently have IRS email (which is true) and that they never had ACCESS to IRS email. They do not say that they "never had" IRS email or that the email wasn't archived - only that they did not have access. Presumably because the IRS was using a Sonasoft product (SonaVault) and not the Sonasoft arching service. I believe that this is just another instance of performative language that is "legally accurate", but purposely deceiving. They never deny that data was deleted or archived on their servers.
The "access" language is interesting to me because I believe Sonasoft is attempting to tell everyone what likely happened.
Sonasoft has safeguards and special algorithms to protect the SonaVault Email Archive from mischievous IT administrators who might be tempted to delete or tamper with the archived email. Any attempt to delete or modify the SonaVault email archive will capture the altered text, date stamp the attempt, and send out various alerts to IT personnel and management that an attempted breach occurred; the original email will not be changed in any way. The only way that email can be deleted from the archive is through SonaVault’s expiration policies. The Administrator can set retention policies to purge the archive of emails that have reached an expiration date, which is often set to be a seven-year period.
Basically, as I read it, Sonasoft is saying that they did not have access (i.e., did not have admin access to change the policy settings), but it is probable that an IRS admin did. Which is what I think happened. Someone inside the IRS was probably told to change the configurations to dump email archives.
If you happen to discuss any of this on air please don't use my name.
Thanks for all of the hard work you guys do!
Oil Co Policy
So I previously worked at a large Oil and Gas company that has two x's in its name, and during my tenure they moved to a rather annoying email policy. The inbox was limited to 250mb, and after 12 months, emails were moved to an "to be deleted" folder and after another 30 or 60 days they were deleted. The purpose of this was to force us to flush out our inbox in case litigation were to pop up, to limit the amount of discovery that could be done. Their solution was to save the individual files (we used Outlook) as .msg files to the shared server (I should add, they had this policy for files on your HDD as well, it would mark for deletion and ultimately delete the oldest 50 if they were over 12 months old, but we had good workarounds on that). The part that was at least moderately inconvenient was that unlike the people in finance or treasury, when you work in a refinery and do engineering support, your records and historic references on unit ops, performance, etc are what can save your a$$ when you are in a spot. And it doesn't always make sense to save that stuff to a central LAN, some emails are really more for personal reference.
We used to joke that it was good to get put on "litigation hold" because all of those restrictions disappeared. The older guys hoped they would just perpetually be on such hold (cases take years to work themselves out), in the off chance that discovery is needed to save them from the hassle of watching their years of records get wiped away. The issue has nothing to do with storage (like the IRS and/or EPA was claiming), but it is purely to do with getting rid of these pesky records so that should this stuff come to trial, there is less there, less to be discovered, and less potential "evidence". It is a total "cover your ass" move, and it really highlights the issues with the justice system more than anything.
Defense Contracter policy 6 months
Adam,
Indirectly IRS related. I'm working at a defense contractor that had a
whistle blower "problem". Soon afterwards, a new email policy came
out. Mail older than 6 months is deleted from the server, and you're
prohibited from saving email on your local drive. If you're in a
position where you would receive email that needs to be saved longer
(for compliance reasons), then you had to take a class, and install
software that would tag the software for archive. The official reason
given was the cost of backups (delete it so that it doesn't have to be
backed up).
Policies to prevent employees from access to data are everywhere.
Navy IT
John and Adam,
I'm listening to your conversation about email in the government and I thought I'd chime in.
I am a supply officer I the U. S. Navy currently serving in Italy. It is Navy policy that we get only 200 MB of storage space on the exchange server, so everyday before I go home I have to go through my emails and move older emails to a .pst file on my desktop. We are not allowed to have the .pst files on network storage so if a hard drive goes you lose everything as the Navy is far too cheap to pay for hard drive recovery, and the technicians are overworked and underpaid so they don't give two shits.
Navy IT is supposed to back up the emails going through the server to tape for investigation purposes, but I wouldn't be surprised if that didn't the happen or I've seen on multiple occasions the tapes fail or weren't written correctly ad the backup is useless.
IT in the government is a joke. It was just a few months ago that we upgraded from Windows XP and office 2003 to Windows 7 and office 2010. While I do think the IRS is using these hard drive failures as an excuse to cover up wrongdoing, I wouldn't be surprised if their IT department failed too.
Best regards,
Sonasoft Clarifies Its Position Regarding IRS and Sonasoft's Email Archiving Products Sonasoft, Email Archiving Done Right
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 03:50
Posted by admin on June 24, 2014SUMMARYSonasoft Corp. clarifies its position regarding Sonasoft's email archiving products and the IRS. Sonasoft does NOT have IRS email. Sonasoft NEVER had access to IRS email.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2014 '' San Jose, California, Sonasoft Corp., a leader in enterprise-class email archiving and eDiscovery tools, clarifies its role with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Sonasoft's email archiving services. Sonasoft does NOT have IRS email. Sonasoft NEVER had access to IRS email.
''We have a strong presence with the public sector as part of our customer base, which at one time included as a customer the IRS Counsel Division. Sonasoft has earned a strong clientele with, among others, school districts, counties and city governments, which appreciate our affordable email archiving solutions that outperform their expectations,'' said Andy Khanna, President and CEO of Sonasoft.
''Sonasoft's email archiving software, SonaVault, captures all sent and received emails and places a copy of these archived emails into a separate archive server. Even if end-users delete or modify their own personal emails from their inboxes or experience a hard-drive crash, all original emails and all associated email threads and attachments of those emails are safely guarded by Sonasoft's SonaVault Email Archiving Software. Sonasoft has safeguards and special algorithms to protect the SonaVault Email Archive from mischievous IT administrators who might be tempted to delete or tamper with the archived email. Any attempt to delete or modify the SonaVault email archive will capture the altered text, date stamp the attempt, and send out various alerts to IT personnel and management that an attempted breach occurred; the original email will not be changed in any way. The only way that email can be deleted from the archive is through SonaVault's expiration policies. The Administrator can set retention policies to purge the archive of emails that have reached an expiration date, which is often set to be a seven-year period. There are many options to safeguard expired email, and purging the email requires several steps so that email cannot be 'accidentally' deleted. In addition, all purge policies are recorded and become part of the permanent log that cannot be tampered with,'' said Mr. Khanna.
''Sonasoft's popularity with the public sector relies on its email archiving software's ability to meet a wide variety of archiving regulatory email compliance requirements,'' said Andy Khanna. ''These include requirements imposed by Sarbanes Oxley (SOX), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Information Security Act (FISMA), the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), Basel II, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), and many more U.S. Government regulations. Our SonaVault Email Archiving Solution is solid, dependable, and legally sound.''
''In regards to the IRS as one of Sonasoft's customers, it is true that one Division within the IRS was Sonasoft's customer from 2005 to 2011,'' clarified Andy Khanna. ''This Division was the IRS Counsel. The main branch of the IRS did not use Sonasoft's software for its operations; only the IRS Counsel used our SonaExchange software, which is a Microsoft Exchange Server replication solution. This particular software allowed the IRS Counsel to replicate the email data by copying it to a remote server for disaster recovery and business continuity as a failover copy to take over if the main system failed. In the event that a client's Microsoft Exchange Server went down, then end users could access the replicated data on the Microsoft Exchange Server quickly and efficiently. The IRS Counsel Division stopped using Sonasoft's replication software in 2011.''
''To further clarify, no Division within IRS ever used Sonasoft's email archiving software. Only a Division within the IRS used any Sonasoft product and that was our email replication software, not our archiving or backup software. '', said Andy Khanna.
''Sonasoft respects the privacy of its customers' data and email'', stated Andy Khanna. ''We are not in the business of managing or retaining our customers' information, whether that data resides on a hard drive, i.e. disk drive, server or cloud. That control is fully with our customers, and we cannot reproduce their data, for we never have access to it. Sonasoft just provides the tools necessary for our clients to do their work. Specifically, the IRS Counsel Division was like Fort Knox. We were not allowed to access the data remotely, much less copy it; we physically had to drive to the IRS Counsel Division in San Francisco for tech support calls and meet its data security requirements before we had access to our own software that the IRS Legal Counsel had purchased.''
About Sonasoft:Sonasoft Corporation is a public company with SEC Reg. A clearance and is listed on the over-the-counter markets at www.OTCmarkets.com with the trading symbol SSFT. Sonasoft's core business model includes enterprise-class email archiving, eDiscovery, and business continuity software solutions for Microsoft Business Applications on Microsoft Windows platforms. Sonasoft's signature products for eDiscovery tools, which include SonaVault Email Archiving Software and SonaVault Email Archiving Appliances, deliver affordable enterprise-level functionality that exceeds compliance and ease-of-use requirements of small and medium-sized businesses, governments, school districts, organizations and enterprises. Sonasoft recently expanded its product offering to include Cloud-based email archiving. Sonasoft email archiving and eDiscovery solutions have hundreds of deployments with an exceptional degree of high customer satisfaction. Founded in 2003, the company is headquartered in San Jose, California.
Sonasoft CorporationDirect '' (408) 708-4000 x7104Mobile '' (408) 893-8210Source: http://www.sonasoft.com
Sarbanes-Oxley Basics
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 03:14
Sarbanes-Oxley Essential InformationWant to hear Ms. Sarbox's version of Sarbanes-Oxley history? Click here at your own risk...On the other hand, if you want our editors' summary of the the impacts of the Act (especially Sections 302 and 404), click here instead.
What the term 'Sarbanes-Oxley' stands forSenator Paul Sarbanes and Representative Michael Oxley, who drafted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. If you want to read more about the authors of this act, start with our Sarbanes and Oxley page.
The intent of the the Sarbanes-Oxley ActTo protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures made pursuant to the securities laws, and for other purposes.
What the Act is aboutThe Sarbanes-Oxley Act created new standards for corporate accountability as well as new penalties for acts of wrongdoing. It changes how corporate boards and executives must interact with each other and with corporate auditors. It removes the defense of "I wasn't aware of financial issues" from CEOs and CFOs, holding them accountable for the accuracy of financial statements. The Act specifies new financial reporting responsibilities, including adherance to new internal controls and procedures designed to ensure the validity of their financial records.
Sarbanes-Oxley AuditsThe Act requires all financial reports to include an internal control report. This is designed to show that not only are the company's financial data accurate, but the company has confidence in them because adequate controls are in place to safeguard financial data. Year-end financial reports must contain an assessment of the effectiveness of the internal controls. The issuer's auditing firm is required to attest to that assessment. The auditing firm does this after reviewing controls, policies, and procedures during a Section 4040 audit, conducted along with a traditional financial audit.
The Act itselfWe have essential information about the act on our Act page, along with a list of key sections of the act, key dates,and links to more detail.
Why Congress thought the Act was neededThe US Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in the wake of a myriad of corporate scandals. What these scandals had in common was skewed reporting of selected financial transactions. For instance, companies such as Enron, WorldCom and Tyco covered up or misrepresented a variety of questionable transactions, resulting in huge losses to stakeholders and a crisis in investor confidence. How did Congress think the Act would address the problem? Sarbanes-Oxley aims to enhance corporate governance and strengthen corporate accountability. It does that by:
formalizing and strengthening internal checks and balances within corporationsinstituting various new levels of control and sign-off designed toensure that financial reporting exercises full disclosurecorporate governance is transacted with full transparency.If a company isn½t in compliance...What happens depends on which section of the act they½re out of compliance with. Non compliance penalties range from the loss of exchange listing, loss of D&O insurance to multimillion dollar fines and imprisonment. It can result in a lack of investor confidence. A CEO or CFO who submits a wrong certification is subject to a fine up to $1 million and imprisonment for up to ten years. If the wrong certification was submitted "willfully", the fine can be increased up to $5 million and the prison term can be increased up to twenty years.Who the Act applies toSOX applies to all public companies in the U.S. and international companies that have registered equity or debt securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the accounting firms that provide auditing services to them.
Is the Act of concern to US companies only?Here½s a great answer from ISACA: ½No, there are potential international implications as well. In fact, among the many factors that must be considered in complying with Sarbanes-Oxley, some will uniquely impact international organizations. Specifically, global organizations, or non-US-based companies that are required to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, need to examine their IT operations and determine if they are significant to the organization as a whole. Significant business units can include financial business units or IT business units. The assessment of whether an IT business unit is significant can be impacted by the materiality of transactions processed by the IT business unit, the potential impact on financial reporting if an IT business unit fails and other qualitative risk factors. The issue is that there are financial materiality and significant risk considerations, quantitative and qualitative, and both aspects provide focus.½
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IRS-HISTROICAL CONTEXT OF LOST EMAILS-LOTUS NOTES-Politicos squabble over 'missing' White House e-mails - CNET
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 02:52
Democrats suggest administration must do more to restore messages to satisfy record-keeping requirements. Republicans say some e-mails were simply filed in "wrong digital drawer."
Democrats and Republicans were warring Tuesday over reports that the White House has "lost"--or simply failed to keep--archives of e-mails belonging to the president and his advisers.
Since last spring, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that an estimated 5 million messages from 473 days between 2003 and 2005 allegedly vanished from e-mail servers housed within the president's office.
A hearing convened by the committee gave Democratic leaders a new chance to press White House officials publicly on how and when they expect to recover the files.
"We still know virtually nothing about the status of the alleged missing White House e-mails," said Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States, said the National Archives and Records Administration had similarly gotten no response from the White House to its queries about what's going on. "I'm concerned about maintaining the fullest possible presidential records," he told the committee.
Republican leaders said they were also concerned about the prospect of missing nuggets of presidential history, but they accused the Democrats of failing to acknowledge the White House's ongoing efforts to retrieve the messages. Republican Ranking Member Tom Davis (R-Va.) said the White House has said it has since reduced the number of days' worth of missing e-mails from 473 to 202 after discovering that those messages had been filed "in the wrong digital drawer" as part of a switch from the Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange e-mail system in 2002.
White House Chief Information Officer Theresa Payton assured the committee that her office is working actively on a multi-step restoration process. Their early results have identified an unspecified number of the previously "missing" messages, though those results still have to be validated.
When pressed by Davis, Payton also said she felt "very comfortable" that they would be able to reconstruct any remaining lost documents from "disaster recovery backup tapes," although she said that process would be time-consuming and could cost at least $15 million.
Did advisers use Republican National Committee accounts?A separate issue under scrutiny revolves around charges that Karl Rove and some 50 other presidential advisers were using Republican National Committee accounts to conduct official business and thus subvert federal record-keeping laws. The RNC has said it had virtually no records of e-mails sent on its servers by Rove and others before November 2003, which Democrats argue is troubling because those messages may contain important official information about the president's decision to go to war in Iraq.
Waxman said he heard from RNC officials as recently as Monday that the White House had made no effort to request backup tapes from the committee that may contain those files. He scolded White House officials for their inaction. Both Payton and her boss, White House Office of Administration director Alan Swendiman, said they wouldn't be responsible for making such requests but would look into who is.
Republicans accused the Democrats of pursuing the investigation simply to dig up dirt on Rove and waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of money that the RNC could be using to shore up its candidates' campaigns.
"Are we simply going on a fishing expedition at $40,000 to $50,000 a month?" Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked National Archives and White House officials at the hearing. "Do any of you know of a single document, because this committee doesn't, that should've been in the archives but in fact was done at the RNC?"
"I think the issue is always, were there official government public records on that system?" responded Gary Stern, general counsel to the National Archives.
The loss of documents in either case is potentially significant because federal laws, including the Presidential Records Act, requires the White House to preserve all documents related to the president and vice president's official business and turn them over to the National Archives. Personal records, including political campaign-related materials, are expected to be filed separately and not subject to the same restrictions. The matter has already sparked a lawsuit from an advocacy group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Clinton administration's archiving problemsThe Bush administration isn't the first to encounter problems with missing e-mails. During the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration at one point relied on a flawed e-mail archiving system that failed, among other things, to preserve e-mails sent by people whose names began with the letter D. The situation resulted in congressional hearings and some $11 million spent on reconstructing the some 200,000 missing e-mails, Waxman said.
The problems for the Bush administration apparently started soon after the White House decided to shift its e-mail system from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange in 2002. It also replaced the automated records storage system devised by the Clinton administration with a system that one of its own experts described as "primitive," according to Waxman.
According to the committee, the archive system is an "ad hoc" process called "journaling," in which a White House staffer or contractor manually copies e-mails and saves them on various White House servers. Democrats cast more than a little suspicion on that practice. They cited testimony outside the hearing from a former White House technology worker who said, at least during some points in 2005, those files and directories were available to all 3,000 employees under the umbrella of the executive office of the president.
White House CIO Payton, who began her job in May 2006, said she was unaware of anything of the sort. She also said she had no knowledge of anyone intentionally deleting or tampering with files and later said the copying of messages is automatic, not manual.
"We want to make sure we get all the e-mails over to the (National Archives) at transition" to the next president, she told the committee.
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The Fix Is In
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NYTimes: Why You Should Root for Nigeria (or Brazil, Mexico or Ghana)
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The Simpsons Archive: Episode Guide
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 04:30
An opening credits segment by Guillermo del Toro that pays tribute to famous characters from horror films"Oh, the Places You'll D'oh" - Homer is "The Fat in the Hat""Dead and Shoulders" - when Mr. Burns gets into an accident, his head needs to be attached to another body - Homer'sno, wait, that was Treehouse of Horror IIwhen Fry gets into an accident, his head needs to be attached to another body - Amy'sno, wait, that was a Futurama episodewhen Bart gets into an accident, his head needs to be attached to another body - Lisa's"Freaks no Geeks" - in a story set in the 1930s, Mr. Burns runs a circus where Moe the circus freak has eyes on Marge the trapeze artist, much to the dismay of Homer the strongman
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Argentina's vice president charged with bribery
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:12
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Argentina's Vice President Amado Boudou has been charged with bribery and conducting business incompatible with public office, adding to the woes of President Cristina Fernandez.Boudou is accused of using shell companies and secret middlemen to gain control of a company that was given contracts to print the Argentine peso, as well as material for Fernandez's election campaign.Federal judge Ariel Lijo's decision was published Friday night on the justice department's website. The judge also ordered an embargo on 200,000 pesos ($25,000) of Boudou's property. He will remain free while he waits trial in the case along with five other defendants.Boudou is the first sitting Argentine vice president to face such charges. He could be sentenced to between one and six years in prison, and be banned for life from elective office.Boudou, who was on an official trip to Cuba when the ruling was announced, says he's innocent of the accusations despite evidence linking him to other defendants that was made public through investigative reports by Argentina's newspapers.His defense attorney, Diego Pirota, called the judge's order "a fairy tale" and said he would appeal.The charges against the vice president come at a moment when Fernandez is fighting other challenges. Economic problems recently forced a devaluation and court rulings in the United States threaten to force the country into default on its debts.Still, Fernandez has remained loyal to her No. 2 even as the allegations have made him Argentina's least popular politician. His falling fortunes have left the government without a clear presidential successor ahead of the 2015 elections. Fernandez has yet to speak publicly about the case.Potential opposition presidential candidate Julio Cobos said Saturday that the charges against Boudou reflect on Fernandez, and said he would seek to impeach the vice president.According to the judge's investigation, Boudou - as economy minister and then vice president - acted to smooth the Ciccone Calcografica printing company's exit from bankruptcy and engineer its purchase by a shell company so he and other secret partners could benefit from unusual tax exemptions and lucrative government contracts.The shell company, The Old Fund, was led by businessman Alejandro Vandenbroele, who is accused of secretly representing Boudou in business deals. The scandal broke open after Vandenbroele's former wife exposed the alleged arrangement, saying she had to give media interviews because her life was being threatened for what she knew.Others who were charged Friday include longtime Boudou friend and business partner Jose Maria Nunez Carmona; Vandenbroele; former tax agency official Rafael Resnick Brenner; printing company co-founder Nicolas Ciccone, and his son-in-law Guillermo Reinwick.The Ciccones have said Boudou was personally involved in the negotiations that persuaded them to sell 70 percent of the family company to The Old Fund.Boudou has not denied signing a decree as economy minister that effectively erased the printer's debts by enabling the new owners to pay back taxes over many years at below-market interest rates.
Argentina a step closer to defaulting on debt
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:13
Argentina has moved a step closer to defaulting on its debt after a US federal judge refused to freeze an order for it to pay off hedge funds holding $US1.3 billion in bonds.
The country said it deposited $US832 million into US banks to pay principal and interest due on Monday to creditors holding the country's restructured debt.
But New York judge Thomas Griesa denied a stay requested by Buenos Aires on his order to pay, at the same time, hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Management, which refused to take part in the country's 2005 and 2010 debt restructuring.
That left Argentina under order to pay both at the same time, by the June 30 deadline, and banks processing the payments forbidden to pay one without the other.
Argentina though continued to negotiate with the hedge funds to avoid being forced into default, pledging to make good on its debts
Late on Thursday, the Manhattan district court announced a hearing in the case would take place on Friday morning, but there was no sign of whether or not that meant a breakthrough in the talks.
"We do not contemplate not paying, if we have the resources; our intention is to pay the bondholders," Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said early Thursday (local time).
Kicillof was speaking before Griesa refused the stay, and the money transferred clearly was not enough to pay both creditor groups on Monday.
That left the country poised to default on its debt for the second time in 13 years, if a payments deal cannot be achieved with the hedge funds by Monday.
On June 16, Argentina lost its final appeal to the US Supreme Court against paying what it calls "vulture funds," bond speculators which in the 2000s refused to participate in a restructuring of the country's bonds after it defaulted on nearly $US100b in debt.
Around 92 percent of the debt was covered in the restructuring, with those creditors forced to take steep 70 percent write offs of the value of their bonds to help the country restructure its finances.
Argentina has argued it is unfair to the restructured bond holders to pay the holdouts 100 percent of the value of their bonds, noting also that no sovereign debt restructuring could go through if holdouts had such rights.
The country also says the full size of the outstanding holdout bonds, held by the hedge funds and others, was over $US16b, more than half its foreign reserves.
Being forced to pay all that in one sum would overwhelm its weak finances, Buenos Aires says.
But Griesa's 2012 decision, accepted by the Supreme Court last week, was that the bond contracts under US law allow the hedge fund holdouts to claim full payment
NML and Aurelius hold bonds valued at $US1.33b, and said in a letter to Griesa this week that, with other costs, the maximum the country would have to pay them is $US1.65b.
Griesa this week agreed to oversee negotiations between Argentina, with the country reportedly seeking to find a way to avoid having to pay the whole amount up front.
On Wednesday, he appointed a New York lawyer, Daniel Pollack, to preside over the talks.
AFP
BBC News - Argentina debt repayment must be returned, says US judge
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:11
27 June 2014Last updated at 13:58 ET A US judge has ordered that a debt repayment made by Argentina to US bondholders be returned, calling the payment "an explosive action".
Argentina owes money to two sets of bondholders - those who have agreed a deal to restructure the debt, and those who have not.
The judge previously ruled the country must pay both, but Friday's payment was just to those who had agreed a deal.
He urged Argentina to negotiate a deal with the remaining bondholders.
"Any attempt to make payment to the exchange bondholders without complying with [my order to pay the remaining bondholders at the same time] is illegal," said US District Court Judge Thomas Griesa.
"The money should be returned to the republic. Simple as that."
The money was paid to Bank of New York Mellon, whose job it is to distribute the money to the individual bondholders.
DefaultEarlier this month, the US Supreme Court ruled that Argentina must pay the hedge funds that had refused to participate in the debt restructuring deal the full $1.3bn (£766m) value of the debt.
The Argentine government has been in a 12-year legal battle in the US courts, arguing that this is unreasonable and that the hedge funds are engaging in blatant profiteering.
The South American country defaulted in 2001 following an economic crisis, and has been in a legal battle with bondholders led by hedge funds NML and Aurelius Capital Management.
Under a deal, 92% of bondholders agreed in 2005 and 2010 to write off two-thirds of the bonds' pre-crisis value, providing Argentina with time to rebuild its economy.
Restructuring deals are voluntary between the borrower, in this case Argentina, and lenders. Bondholders are not obliged to agree to a devaluing of their debt, but risk a full default and loss of all their funds if they don't. Some investors may buy debt ahead of a restructure and bet that they can demand a better deal.
The hedge fund investors bought Argentine government bonds at a big discount after the 2001 default.
'Serial defaulter'Dr Jerome Booth, an economist at New Sparta, told 5 live: "What's going to have to happen is they will have to sit down and do a deal with the hold-outs."
Argentina is a "serial defaulter" he said. Part of the country's complaint appears to be investors are trying to make money from the situation.
"It's a bit rich to turn round and say 'people made money from it' as that's why investors buy the bonds in the first place," he said.
Now, Argentina wants to pay the investors who took part in the debt restructures.
Financial systemArgentina's Economy Minister, Axel Kicillof, said on Thursday that Argentina had taken steps to pay $832m owed by Monday to creditors who participated in debt swaps in 2005 and 2010.
"Not paying while having the resources and forcing a voluntary default is something that is not contemplated in Argentine law," Mr Kicillof said. "It would be a clear violation of the debt prospects."
The US judge has ruled Argentina must pay all of its creditors rather than being selective.
If Argentina does not also pay the US bondholders who refused to join the debt swaps, the court ruling bars it from using the US financial system to pay other bondholders.
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Police State
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Atomic Insights: Dirty Bomb Advice from an Expert – Larry Grimm
With the recent frantic coverage of the GAO's ''sting'' of Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing procedures, the phrase ''dirty bomb'' is again being thrown about in the popular press. I thought it was time to make the following piece readily available in another location. You might be able to find a similar document somewhere else on the web; I have lost track of where I first found it. I thought it was so important that I sent it on to my mother and asked her to share it with her friends, especially those who tend to be worriers.
(Update 7-15-2007 at 0726: I did a bit of Googling and found another posting of the original piece on a web site called Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. Here is the link '' http://www.ddponline.org/dirtybomb.htm)
FORMER SAILOR SHARES INSIGHT ON PROTECTION AGAINST DIRTY BOMBS
Timmi Toler, Community Editor, The Liberty
With recent reports that radiation detectors are being tested in our community, many residents are wondering how to be prepared or what to do in the event that a radiological dispersion device (or ''dirty bomb'') is detonated. The Liberty turned to Larry Grimm for some answers. Grimm, a former Navy Reservist who served as a corpsman with the 1st Marines, Recon Battalion, Alpha Company, is now the senior health physicist for the Radiation Safety Division at UCLA. He has 27 years experience working with a wide variety of radioactive materials and their uses. He offered his personal insights to the following questions to help equip citizens with what he considers the most effective tool available in the fight against terrorism: knowledge.
Q: What is a radiological dispersion device?
A: It is a weapon designed to spread radioactive material over an area. Radioactive materials can be spread via a conventional (''dirty'') bomb, an aerosol device or through waterways.
Q: What is the biggest concern from a radiological dispersion device?
A: Two things: the irrational fear it can induce and the expense of cleanup. The possibility of the radiation actually hurting anyone is quite small. We fear what we do not understand, sometimes irrationally. The concepts of radiation are poorly taught in high school, and the only other radiation information we get has been sensationalized by Hollywood, politicians, and those looking to make a buck off of our lack of education. You can beat the fear by learning how radiation works and how to manage it safely (protection techniques). Fear and panic kill people, as any good Marine knows. Radioactive materials are chemicals. Sometimes it is easy to clean them up, sometimes hard. For example, cleaning oil off concrete is hard, but picking up chunks of metal is easy. Fortunately, it only takes a radiation detector to find the radioactive material, so it is easier to find and clean up than a non-radioactive chemical. Likely, the biggest problem will be economic disruption while cleanup takes place. Radiation dispersion devices are really disruption, not destruction, weapons.
Q: How will I know if something is a radioactive device/bomb?
A: You won't know, until someone checks and announces it. Most police and fire vehicles carry radiation detectors these days and the announcement is likely to be made quickly. If a bomb went off, I would presume the worst and start practicing the protection techniques listed below. The techniques are also applicable, to a certain extent, if there is a chemical or biological agent, however, there are a few important differences. For example: if you suspect a chemical agent, do not seek shelter in a low space (like a basement). Most chemicals are heavier than air and will settle in low spaces.
Q: What steps should I take if a radiological dirty bomb goes off in the area?
A: There are four simple protection techniques: Contamination control, distance, shielding and time. Contamination control and distance are the most useful techniques in a bomb situation.
Remember to help others first. Radioactive materials are rarely immediately life threatening. The worst-case terrorism scenarios indicate that there would not be enough radioactive material to cause immediate harm. Did you ever feel anything or see an effect from getting an X-ray? In 99.999% of radiation exposures, no effect is felt or seen. If I went towards the blast area to help someone, I would not fear the radiation. However, I would be cautious and respectful of the radiation. Therefore, I would use the following techniques no matter if I was escaping the area, trapped in the area, or going in to help.
Contamination control: Keep the radioactive chemical off and out of your body. Button up clothing and wear a mask (or anything to cover nose and mouth.) A radioactive material is always a chemical, which behaves like the chemical wants to behave. The distance technique is the best protector in a dirty bomb scenario. However, if I need to be near the source, or if I am downwind of the blast, I will first practice contamination control. If I suspect that I swallowed or inhaled the chemical, but do not feel ill, I would later seek professional help. Radiation effects take a long time to show up, and I wouldn't want to add to the congestion at the hospital. However, there could be a nasty chemical associated with a radioactive bomb, so if I felt even slightly ill, I would seek medical help in a hurry.
Distance: In even the worst bomb scenario, you would be safe from the radiation if you get just a couple blocks away and get upwind of potential airborne material. Think of it as standing next to a campfire '' get too close to the heat radiation, and it could burn you, but if far enough away, you do not get any heat. Exactly like a campfire, you do not want to be in the smoke, so get upwind. The most likely radioactive material in a dirty bomb would be Cobalt or Cesium. If the terrorist could somehow manage to get 10,000 Curies in the bomb, you only need to be about 300 yards (three football fields) away to be safe from the radiation. If you are not downwind or near the dispersion area, you are safe. Do not ''head for the hills''. Leave the roadways open so emergency responders can get through.
Shielding: Anything acts as a shield '' a building, a car, a hill, et cetera. Your major concern is gamma radiation. Imagine the gamma as a radio wave. When don't you get a radio signal? When you are in the middle of a building, in a basement, behind a hill, et cetera. Whatever shielding decreases a radio signal will decrease gamma rays. I handled 12 million curies of Cesium (a 1000 times more than a possible bomb) with a mere 20 feet of water for shielding, and I got no dose!
Time: The less you are around the radiation, the less dose you will get. As most people would use distance, and get away in a hurry, they already used the time technique by not hanging around the radiation. Emergency responders may need to use this technique, and all across the US, they are receiving training on how to use it.
Q: If you suspect the chemical is on your clothes or body, what should you do?
A: First, simply remove the clothing. Take off the clothing, put it somewhere distant, and you will get no exposure from what is on the clothes. A common myth is that if radiation hits someone, they become radioactive. The reality is: it is the radioactive chemical that makes you radioactive, not the radiation, so you want to keep the chemical off yourself.
Second, wash or shower. Most radioactive materials are easily washed off. Another common myth is that you need to scrub hard to get radioactive material off you. In actuality, you should wash lightly and frequently. Scrubbing hard can abrade the skin and push the chemical into the body. When I practiced Nuclear Medicine, almost every day I got radioactive material on my index finger. With a light washing, it went away every time. Twenty-five years later, my finger is just fine, and still willing to point a Marine towards the vaccination line (a corpsman's pay back for being called ''squidly'')!
Q: If I am trapped in my house with my children and downwind of the dispersion device, what do I do?
A: How do you keep dust and cold air out of your house? Simple '' make sure things are shut tight. It's the same with radioactive materials. Stay put, and hunker down. The downwind concern is that the radioactive chemical is airborne. Keep the chemical out of your house and you will be quite safe. Keep doors and windows closed. You might move to the middle of the house or basement, which uses the distance and shielding protection techniques, in case there are levels of radiation nearby. If you must go out, use the time technique and do your task quickly. If the radioactive chemical is heavy, or it is raining, the chemical will not travel far by air, so if you are more than a mile away, there would likely be no problem. In the likely scenarios which use Cobalt or Cesium, they are heavy and do not travel too far in the air. Listen to your radio, as emergency information services should soon tell you if it is safe to go out. Boredom will be your biggest problem.
Q: If I am outside and downwind of the blast and cannot move quickly, what do I do?
A: Get into the nearest building and do what you would do in your house '' keep things shut and move to middle room or basement areas. Another option is to get in or stay in your car with windows up and fresh air vents closed. You will keep the chemical out, and the car provides some shielding. If it is hot in the car, recirculating air conditioning is okay to use. If you can move the car, drive a few blocks away.
Q: Will my food become radioactive?
A: Not if it is sealed or covered. Again, another myth about radiation is that it causes other things to become radioactive. The truth is this only happens if the chemical gets on it. I would keep bottled water and a few canned goods for emergencies, but the way food is packaged these days, the foods in your cupboards and refrigerator will be just fine. For extra measure, you can rinse things off before you open/use them, but most likely this is not necessary if you have kept the house closed up.
Q: What should I get to prepare for a dirty bomb?
A: Not much. Keep some bottled water on hand and a portable radio. Do not buy a radiation meter. Do not buy special contamination suits. Do not buy gas masks. Only trained professionals should have these things. Untrained people have been hurt by these things. Can you imagine the horror and grief of a child suffocating in a gas mask, especially if the radiation was three miles away? The simple protection techniques are all you need. They work. I know. I use them every day in my work. Use your common sense when applying the techniques and you, and your children, will be very safe.
Q: What are the odds of a radiological dispersion device going off in my area?
A: Pretty slim. A radiological dispersion device is unlikely to kill anyone, unless it is a bomb and the person is in the blast area. Therefore, it is a poor ''mass destruction'' weapon. On the other hand, it can disrupt things badly, particularly if we respond with fear and panic. Although its not hard to build a radiological dispersion device, it is difficult to carry around the large quantity of radioactive material necessary.
Q: What if the radioactive material is put in our water supply?
A: Being a chemical, the radioactive material will dilute in the water. Without going into technical reasons, suffice it to say that by the time it got to your house, there wouldn't be enough to pose a real risk. Smoking one cigarette probably poses more risk than the amount of radioactive material that you could ingest in this scenario. We ingest naturally occurring radioactive materials every day of our lives. Likely by the time it got to you, the terrorists' material would be a pittance of what you normally, naturally take in. Another common misconception is that man-made radioactive materials are different and more dangerous than natural materials. However, there really is no difference. Man-made and natural radioactive material effects are the same. Our bodies are adapted to handling the effects of low levels of radiation, which we receive every moment of our lives. If it is suspected to be in the water supply, and you are concerned, use bottled water. I would likely have no fear of showering with the tap water.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Please teach these simple things to others. As more people learn how easy it is to protect themselves from a radiological dispersion device, our collective fear levels decrease. Learn about radiation, and the fear of it will melt away. As a youngster, I feared electricity, but I learned it can be handled safely. I now respect it, but do not fear it. The same is true of radiation: respect it, but do not fear it. Terrorists feed on fear. Fear is bondage, knowledge is freedom.
''LEARN ABOUT RADIATION, AND THE FEAR OF IT WILL MELT AWAY '...TERRORISTS FEED ON FEAR.FEAR IS BONDAGE, KNOWLEDGE IS FREEDOM.''
LARRY GRIMMSenior Health Physicist for Radiation Safety Division, UCLA
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Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness | Homeland Security
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 05:45
March 30, 2011
PRESIDENTIAL POLICY DIRECTIVE/PPD-8
SUBJECT: National Preparedness
This directive is aimed at strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters. Our national preparedness is the shared responsibility of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individual citizens. Everyone can contribute to safeguarding the Nation from harm. As such, while this directive is intended to galvanize action by the Federal Government, it is also aimed at facilitating an integrated, all-of-Nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness.
Therefore, I hereby direct the development of a national preparedness goal that identifies the core capabilities necessary for preparedness and a national preparedness system to guide activities that will enable the Nation to achieve the goal. The system will allow the Nation to track the progress of our ability to build and improve the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation.
The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism shall coordinate the interagency development of an implementation plan for completing the national preparedness goal and national preparedness system. The implementation plan shall be submitted to me within 60 days from the date of this directive, and shall assign departmental responsibilities and delivery timelines for the development of the national planning frameworks and associated interagency operational plans described below.
National Preparedness GoalWithin 180 days from the date of this directive, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall develop and submit the national preparedness goal to me, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. The Secretary shall coordinate this effort with other executive departments and agencies, and consult with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public.
The national preparedness goal shall be informed by the risk of specific threats and vulnerabilities '' taking into account regional variations - and include concrete, measurable, and prioritized objectives to mitigate that risk. The national preparedness goal shall define the core capabilities necessary to prepare for the specific types of incidents that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, and shall emphasize actions aimed at achieving an integrated, layered, and all-of-Nation preparedness approach that optimizes the use of available resources. The national preparedness goal shall reflect the policy direction outlined in the National Security Strategy (May 2010), applicable Presidential Policy Directives, Homeland Security Presidential Directives, National Security Presidential Directives, and national strategies, as well as guidance from the Interagency Policy Committee process. The goal shall be reviewed regularly to evaluate consistency with these policies, evolving conditions, and the National Incident Management System.
National Preparedness SystemThe national preparedness system shall be an integrated set of guidance, programs, and processes that will enable the Nation to meet the national preparedness goal. Within 240 days from the date of this directive, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall develop and submit a description of the national preparedness system to me, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. The Secretary shall coordinate this effort with other executive departments and agencies, and consult with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public.
The national preparedness system shall be designed to help guide the domestic efforts of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public to build and sustain the capabilities outlined in the national preparedness goal. The national preparedness system shall include guidance for planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises to build and maintain domestic capabilities. It shall provide an all-of-Nation approach for building and sustaining a cycle of preparedness activities over time.
The national preparedness system shall include a series of integrated national planning frameworks, covering prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. The frameworks shall be built upon scalable, flexible, and adaptable coordinating structures to align key roles and responsibilities to deliver the necessary capabilities. The frameworks shall be coordinated under a unified system with a common terminology and approach, built around basic plans that support the all-hazards approach to preparedness and functional or incident annexes to describe any unique requirements for particular threats or scenarios, as needed. Each framework shall describe how actions taken in the framework are coordinated with relevant actions described in the other frameworks across the preparedness spectrum.
The national preparedness system shall include an interagency operational plan to support each national planning framework. Each interagency operational plan shall include a more detailed concept of operations; description of critical tasks and responsibilities; detailed resource, personnel, and sourcing requirements; and specific provisions for the rapid integration of resources and personnel.
All executive departments and agencies with roles in the national planning frameworks shall develop department-level operational plans to support the interagency operational plans, as needed. Each national planning framework shall include guidance to support corresponding planning for State, local, tribal, and territorial governments.
The national preparedness system shall include resource guidance, such as arrangements enabling the ability to share personnel. It shall provide equipment guidance aimed at nationwide interoperability; and shall provide guidance for national training and exercise programs, to facilitate our ability to build and sustain the capabilities defined in the national preparedness goal and evaluate progress toward meeting the goal.
The national preparedness system shall include recommendations and guidance to support preparedness planning for businesses, communities, families, and individuals.
The national preparedness system shall include a comprehensive approach to assess national preparedness that uses consistent methodology to measure the operational readiness of national capabilities at the time of assessment, with clear, objective and quantifiable performance measures, against the target capability levels identified in the national preparedness goal.
Building and Sustaining PreparednessThe Secretary of Homeland Security shall coordinate a comprehensive campaign to build and sustain national preparedness, including public outreach and community-based and private-sector programs to enhance national resilience, the provision of Federal financial assistance, preparedness efforts by the Federal Government, and national research and development efforts.
National Preparedness ReportWithin 1 year from the date of this directive, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit the first national preparedness report based on the national preparedness goal to me, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. The Secretary shall coordinate this effort with other executive departments and agencies and consult with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public. The Secretary shall submit the report annually in sufficient time to allow it to inform the preparation of my Administration's budget.
Roles and ResponsibilitiesThe Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism shall periodically review progress toward achieving the national preparedness goal.
The Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for coordinating the domestic all-hazards preparedness efforts of all executive departments and agencies, in consultation with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, nongovernmental organizations, private-sector partners, and the general public; and for developing the national preparedness goal.
The heads of all executive departments and agencies with roles in prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery are responsible for national preparedness efforts, including department-specific operational plans, as needed, consistent with their statutory roles and responsibilities.
Nothing in this directive is intended to alter or impede the ability to carry out the authorities of executive departments and agencies to perform their responsibilities under law and consistent with applicable legal authorities and other Presidential guidance. This directive shall be implemented consistent with relevant authorities, including the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 and its assignment of responsibilities with respect to the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Nothing in this directive is intended to interfere with the authority of the Attorney General or Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with regard to the direction, conduct, control, planning, organization, equipment, training, exercises, or other activities concerning domestic counterterrorism, intelligence, and law enforcement activities.
Nothing in this directive shall limit the authority of the Secretary of Defense with regard to the command and control, planning, organization, equipment, training, exercises, employment, or other activities of Department of Defense forces, or the allocation of Department of Defense resources.
If resolution on a particular matter called for in this directive cannot be reached between or among executive departments and agencies, the matter shall be referred to me through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
This directive replaces Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-8 (National Preparedness), issued December 17, 2003, and HSPD-8 Annex I (National Planning), issued December 4, 2007, which are hereby rescinded, except for paragraph 44 of HSPD-8 Annex I. Individual plans developed under HSPD-8 and Annex I remain in effect until rescinded or otherwise replaced.
DefinitionsFor the purposes of this directive:
(a) The term "national preparedness" refers to the actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation.
(b) The term "security" refers to the protection of the Nation and its people, vital interests, and way of life.
(c) The term "resilience" refers to the ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.
(d) The term "prevention" refers to those capabilities necessary to avoid, prevent, or stop a threatened or actual act of terrorism. Prevention capabilities include, but are not limited to, information sharing and warning; domestic counterterrorism; and preventing the acquisition or use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For purposes of the prevention framework called for in this directive, the term "prevention" refers to preventing imminent threats.
(e) The term "protection" refers to those capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade or natural disasters. Protection capabilities include, but are not limited to, defense against WMD threats; defense of agriculture and food; critical infrastructure protection; protection of key leadership and events; border security; maritime security; transportation security; immigration security; and cybersecurity.
(f) The term "mitigation" refers to those capabilities necessary to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. Mitigation capabilities include, but are not limited to, community-wide risk reduction projects; efforts to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure and key resource lifelines; risk reduction for specific vulnerabilities from natural hazards or acts of terrorism; and initiatives to reduce future risks after a disaster has occurred.
(g) The term "response" refers to those capabilities necessary to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs after an incident has occurred.
(h) The term "recovery" refers to those capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively, including, but not limited to, rebuilding infrastructure systems; providing adequate interim and long-term housing for survivors; restoring health, social, and community services; promoting economic development; and restoring natural and cultural resources.
BARACK OBAMA
PPD-8 Definitions
Definitions
For the purposes of this directive:
(a) The term "national preparedness" refers to the actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation.
(b) The term "security" refers to the protection of the Nation and its people, vital interests, and way of life.
(c) The term "resilience" refers to the ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.
(d) The term "prevention" refers to those capabilities necessary to avoid, prevent, or stop a threatened or actual act of terrorism. Prevention capabilities include, but are not limited to, information sharing and warning; domestic counterterrorism; and preventing the acquisition or use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For purposes of the prevention framework called for in this directive, the term "prevention" refers to preventing imminent threats.
(e) The term "protection" refers to those capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade or natural disasters. Protection capabilities include, but are not limited to, defense against WMD threats; defense of agriculture and food; critical infrastructure protection; protection of key leadership and events; border security; maritime security; transportation security; immigration security; and cybersecurity.
(f) The term "mitigation" refers to those capabilities necessary to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. Mitigation capabilities include, but are not limited to, community-wide risk reduction projects; efforts to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure and key resource lifelines; risk reduction for specific vulnerabilities from natural hazards or acts of terrorism; and initiatives to reduce future risks after a disaster has occurred.
(g) The term "response" refers to those capabilities necessary to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs after an incident has occurred.
(h) The term "recovery" refers to those capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively, including, but not limited to, rebuilding infrastructure systems; providing adequate interim and long-term housing for survivors; restoring health, social, and community services; promoting economic development; and restoring natural and cultural resources.
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New ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States - The Washington Post
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:23
The American Civil Liberties Union has released the results of its year-long study of police militarization. The study looked at 800 deployments of SWAT teams among 20 local, state and federal police agencies in 2011-2012. Among the notable findings:
62 percent of the SWAT raids surveyed were to conduct searches for drugs.Just under 80 percent were to serve a search warrant, meaning eight in 10 SWAT raids were not initiated to apprehend a school shooter, hostage taker, or escaped felon (the common justification for these tactics), but to investigate someone still only suspected of committing a crime.In fact, just 7 percent of SWAT raids were ''for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.''In at least 36 percent of the SWAT raids studies, no contraband of any kind was found. The report notes that due to incomplete police reports on these raids this figure could be as high as 65 percent.SWAT tactics are disproportionately used on people of color.65 percent of SWAT deployments resulted in some sort of forced entry into a private home, by way of a battering ram, boot, or some sort of explosive device. In over half those raids, the police failed to find any sort of weapon, the presence of which was cited as the reason for the violent tactics.Ironically (or perhaps not), searches to serve warrants on people suspected of drug crimes were more likely to result in forced entry than raids conducted for other purposes.Though often justified for rare incidents like school shootings or terrorist situations, the armored personnel vehicles police departments are getting from the Pentagon and through grants from the Department of Homeland Security are commonly used on drug raids.In other words, where violent, volatile SWAT tactics were once used only in limited situations where someone was in the process of or about to commit a violent crime '-- where the police were using violence only to defuse an already violent situation '-- SWAT teams today are overwhelmingly used to investigate people who are still only suspected of committing nonviolent consensual crimes. And because these raids often involve forced entry into homes, often at night, they're actually creating violence and confrontation where there was none before.
(Read more: Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they are private corporations)
When SWAT teams are used in a way that's consistent with their original purpose, they're used carefully and cautiously. The ACLU report finds that, ''In nearly every deployment involving a barricade, hostage, or active shooter, the SWAT report provided specific facts that gave the SWAT team reason to believe there was an armed and often dangerous suspect.'' By contrast . . .
. . . incident reports for search warrant executions, especially in drug investigations, often contained no information about why the SWAT team was being sent in, other than to note that the warrant was ''high risk,'' or else provided otherwise unsubstantiated information such as ''suspect is believed to be armed.'' In case after case that the ACLU examined, when a SWAT team was deployed to search a person's home for drugs, officers determined that a person was ''likely to be armed'' on the basis of suspected but unfounded gang affiliations, past weapons convictions, or some other factor that did not truly indicate a basis for believing that the person in question was likely to be armed at the moment of the SWAT deployment. Of course, a reasonable belief that weapons are present should not by itself justify a SWAT deployment. Given that almost half of American households have guns, use of a SWAT team could almost always be justified if this were the sole factor.
But we've already seen cases in which the mere factor that the resident of a home was a legal gun owner '-- in some cases by virtue of the fact that the owner had obtained some sort of state license '-- was used as an excuse to execute a full-on SWAT raid to serve a warrant for an otherwise nonviolent crime. Of the SWAT raids the ACLU studied in which police cited the possibility of finding a weapon in the home, they actually found a weapon just 35 percent of the time.
A 2004 classified memo all but confirms the blurring of the lines between the drug war and the U.S. military by calling the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) The ''Other'' Warfighter and stating that the War on Drugs ''has all the risks, excitement, and dangers of conventional warfare.''
'-- From the ACLU report on police militarization
The report also finds almost no outside oversight on the use of SWAT tactics. This is consistent with my own research and reporting. The decision to send the SWAT team is often made by the SWAT commander or by fairly low-ranking officials within a police agency. Consequently, factors such as using the minimum amount of force necessary or the civil rights of the people who may be affected by the raid often aren't taken into consideration. The ACLU, for example, found that although some police agencies in the survey were required to write after-action reports or present annual reports on the SWAT team, ''internal reviews mostly pertain to proper weapons use and training and not to evaluating important civil rights implications of SWAT use.''
The report also makes important contributions on other aspects of militarization that will be familiar to people who follow this issue, including the effect that militarization can have on the mindset of police officers, and the role that federal anti-drug grants have played in boosting this trend.
(Read more: Police handcuff man over Nickelback '-- but not because he's a fan)
Finally, the ACLU concedes that its report is necessarily incomplete, because ''[d]ata collecting and reporting in the context of SWAT was at best sporadic and at worst virtually nonexistent.''
The ACLU filed public records requests with more than 255 law enforcement agencies during the course of this investigation. One hundred and fourteen of the agencies denied the ACLU's request, either in full or in part. Even if the ACLU had received and examined responsive documents from all 255 law enforcement agencies that received public records requests, this would represent only a sliver of the more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies that exist throughout the United States, and thus would shine only a dim light on the extent of police militarization throughout the country.
This, too, is consistent with my own experience. Among the excuses police agencies gave the ACLU for not turning over records were that the requested information ''contained trade secrets,'' that turning over such information could affect the effectiveness of SWAT teams and that the information requested was too broad, would cost too much to produce or wasn't subject to open-records law. In short, we have police departments that are increasingly using violent, confrontational tactics to break into private homes for increasingly low-level crimes, and they seem to believe that the public has no right to know the specifics of when, how and why those tactics are being used.
This report is a valuable contribution to the public debate over police militarization. In some ways, it merely confirms what Eastern Kentucky University criminologist Peter Kraska already documented in the late 1990s (and what I documented in my book last year). But Kraska's last survey was in 2005, so this is an important new set of data conclusively demonstrating that the trends Kraska first documented nearly 20 years ago have only continued and have in some ways intensified. The most revealing part of the report, however, may be what isn't in it. That is, that police agencies are using these tactics with increasing frequency but are doing so with sloppy and incomplete record-keeping, little heed for the safety and civil rights of the people on the receiving end of these raids and are troublingly reluctant to share any information about the tactics.
I'm sure that the report will generate lots of media coverage, just as Kraska's studies did. The mass media seem to find renewed interest in this issue every five or six years. The problem, as the ACLU documents well, is that none of that coverage has generated any meaningful reform. And so the militarization continues. I'll have more on the ACLU's recommendations in a subsequent post. In the meantime, the ACLU has also released a series of videos with snippets of raid footage it obtained in its investigation. Here's one of them:
Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they're private corporations, immune from open records laws - The Washington Post
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:21
As part of the American Civil Liberties Union's recent report on police militarization, the Massachusetts chapter of the organization sent open records requests to SWAT teams across that state. It received an interesting response.
As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments. In 2012, for example, the Tewksbury Police Department paid about $4,600 in annual membership dues to the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC. (See page 36 of linked PDF.) That LEC has about 50 member agencies. In addition to operating a regional SWAT team, the LECs also facilitate technology and information sharing and oversee other specialized units, such as crime scene investigators and computer crime specialists.
Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it's here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they're private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they're immune from open records requests. Let's be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they've incorporated, they're immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state's residents aren't permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they're used for, what sort of training they get or who they're primarily used against.
(Read more: New ACLU report confirms the stunning rise in police militarization)
From the ACLU of Massachusetts's report on police militarization in that state:
Approximately 240 of the 351 police departments in Massachusetts belong to an LEC. While set up as ''corporations,'' LECs are funded by local and federal taxpayer money, are composed exclusively of public police officers and sheriffs, and carry out traditional law enforcement functions through specialized units such as SWAT teams . . .
Due to the weakness of Massachusetts public records law and the culture of secrecy that has infected local police departments and Law Enforcement Councils, procuring empirical records from police departments and regional SWAT teams in Massachusetts about police militarization was universally difficult and, in most instances, impossible . . .
Police departments and regional SWAT teams are public institutions, working with public money, meant to protect and serve the public's interest. If these institutions do not maintain and make public comprehensive and comprehensible documents pertaining to their operations and tactics, the people cannot judge whether officials are acting appropriately or make needed policy changes when problems arise . . .
Hiding behind the argument that they are private corporations not subject to the public records laws, the LECs have refused to provide documents regarding their SWAT team policies and procedures. They have also failed to disclose anything about their operations, including how many raids they have executed or for what purpose . . .
METROLEC, one of the largest of the law enforcement councils covering the metropolitan Boston area, operates a range of specialized resources, including a Canine Unit, Computer Crimes Unit, Crisis Negotiation Team, Mobile Operations Motorcycle Unit, and Regional Response Team, in addition to its SWAT force. The organization maintains its own BearCat armored vehicle, as well as a $700,000 state of the art command and control post. In 2012, METROLEC reportedly used its BearCat 26 times, mostly for drug busts, and applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain a drone license.
The North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) similarly operates a SWAT team, as well as a Computer Crime Unit, Motorcycle Unit, School Threat Assessment & Response System, and Regional Communications and Incident Management Assistance Team. Its SWAT team members are trained and equipped to ''deal with active shooters, armed barricaded subjects, hostage takers and terrorists,'' and they dress in military-style gear with the words ''NEMLEC SWAT'' emblazoned on their uniforms. Given this training, it is not surprising that the NEMLEC SWAT team has over the past decade led numerous operations that involved armored vehicles, flash-bang devices, and automatic weapons.
(Note: In addition to the LEC SWAT teams, the ACLU notes that at least 25 other Massachusetts cities and towns have their own SWAT-like units, along with the state police and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.)
Massachusetts also has a long history of accountability and excessive force problems with SWAT teams. A few examples:
In 1988, Boston Det. Sherman Griffiths was killed in a botched drug raid later revealed to have been conducted based on information from an informant a subsequent investigation revealed that the police had simply made up.Six years later, the Rev. Accelyne Williams died of a heart attack during a mistaken drug raid on his home. The Boston Globe found that three of the officers involved in that raid had been accused in a 1989 civil rights suit of using fictional informants to obtain warrants for drug raids. In testimony for that suit, one witness testified that after realizing they'd just raided the wrong home, a Boston police officer shrugged, apologized and said, ''This happens all the time.'' The city settled with the plaintiffs.In 1996, the Fitchburg SWAT team was already facing a lawsuit for harassing a group of loiterers when it burned down an apartment complex during a botched drug raid. The SWAT team subsequently faced a number of other allegations of recklessness and misconduct.In January 2011, a SWAT team raided the Framingham, Mass., home of 68-year-old Eurie Stamps at around midnight on a drug warrant. Oddly, it had already arrested the subject of the warrant '-- Stamps's 20-year-old stepson '-- outside the house. But because he lived in Stamps's home, the team went ahead with the raid anyway. When the team encountered Stamps, it instructed him to lie on the floor. He complied. According to the police account, as one officer then moved toward Stamps to check for weapons, he lost his balance and fell. As he fell, his weapon discharged, sending a bullet directly into Stamps's chest, killing him.''You can't have it both ways,'' Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney for the Massachusetts ACLU, told me in a phone interview. ''The same government authority that allows them to carry weapons, make arrests, and break down the doors of Massachusetts residents during dangerous raids also makes them a government agency that is subject to the open records law.''
(Read more: Police handcuff man over Nickelback '-- but not because he's a fan)
In some states, police agencies can claim exemptions from open records legislation for certain types of requests, such as for internal personnel files, or investigation documents that could reveal the identities of witnesses or informants. In some parts of the country, like the Virginia suburbs of Washington, police agencies have broadly interpreted open records laws to allow them to turn down just about every request. But this claim in Massachusetts is on a whole different scale.
''They didn't even attempt to claim an exception,'' Rossman says. ''They're simply asserting that they're private corporations.''
The ACLU is now suing NEMLEC. It's worth noting that in addition to receiving taxpayer funding from its 51 member police agencies, NEMLEC has also received significant federal funding over the years, particularly from the Byrne Grant program. In fact, just last April, NEMLEC made a series of drug busts across the state in an investigation funded at least in part with Byrne Grants. (NEMLEC seems to be involved in a lot of drug raids.) In 2010, NEMLEC received an $800,000 Byrne Grant earmarked by then-Sen. John F. Kerry.
Interestingly, in 2009, NEMLEC had to pay out $200,000 ''to settle allegations that it made false claims related to the use of Justice Department grant funds'' '-- specifically, funds obtained through the Byrne Grant program. That sounds like an agency that could use a little oversight.
The argument that the LECs in Massachusetts are private corporations and therefore immune to the state open records law was made by Jack Collins, the general counsel for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. I have contacted his office to request an interview but haven't yet heard back.
Buy Radley Balko's book, ''Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces''
Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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NYTimes: Obama Requests Money to Train ‘Appropriately Vetted’ Syrian Rebels
The training program would be a significant step for a president who has consistently resisted providing military aid to the rebels in the conflict in Syria, and has warned of the dangers of American intervention. But military and State Department officials indicated that there were not yet any specific programs to arm and train the rebels that the money would fund, nor could administration officials specify which moderate Syrian opposition members they intended to train and support, or where they would be trained.
Kerry: Syrian Moderate Rebels Could Help in Iraq | Military.com
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:29
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia '-- Secretary of State John Kerry signaled on Friday that the U.S. hopes to enlist moderate Syrian opposition fighters that the Obama administration has reluctantly decided to arm and train in the battle against militant extremists in neighboring Iraq.
Obama sent Congress a $500 million request Thursday for a Pentagon-run program that would significantly expand previous covert efforts to arm rebels fighting both the Sunni extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. The move that comes amid increased U.S. concern that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are becoming an intertwined fight against the same Sunni extremist group.
If approved by lawmakers, the program would in effect open a second front in the fight against militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, that is spilling over Syria's border and threatening to overwhelm Iraq.
"Obviously, in light of what has happened in Iraq, we have even more to talk about in terms of the moderate opposition in Syria, which has the ability to be a very important player in pushing back against ISIL's presence and to have them not just in Syria, but also in Iraq," Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba.
Al-Jarba thanked the Obama administration for requesting the $500 million, but said his rebels want even more foreign aid to fight two fronts: a bloody insurgency and their so-far unsuccessful effort to oust Assad.
"We still need greater assistance," al-Jarba said, speaking through a translator. "We hope for greater cooperation with the U.S." He said General Abdullah al-Bashir, the head of the military wing of the Syrian opposition, "is ready to cooperate with the U.S. side."
Al-Jarba called the crisis that has gripped Iraq in the last month "very grave" and blamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for policies that he said have divided the country. Iraq is 60 percent Shiite, and the rest nearly evenly split between minority Sunnis and Kurds. Iraqi Sunnis, who enjoyed far greater privileges during Saddam Hussein's regime, have decried al-Maliki's leadership and accused him of sidelining minority groups from power.
"The borders between Iraq and Syria are practically open," al-Jarba told Kerry. ISIL seized a key border crossing between Iraq and Syria in the last week.
Kerry traveled through the Mideast over the last week to try to broker a political agreement with Iraqi leaders to give more authority to Sunnis in hopes of easing sectarian tensions and, in turn, help quell the dominantly Sunni insurgency.
Kerry also met with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, where it was expected he would seek the monarch's help in supporting Sunni efforts to combat the Sunni insurgency. More than 90 percent of Saudi Arabians are Sunni Muslims.
Obama has long been reluctant to arm the Syrian opposition, in part because of concerns that weapons may fall into extremist hands, a risk that appears to have only heightened now that ISIL has strengthened. But Obama's request to Congress appeared to indicate that tackling the crumbling security situation in Syria and Iraq trumped those concerns.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the military assistance "marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks, push back against the growing number of extremists like ISIL who find safe haven in the chaos, and take their future into their own hands by enhancing security and stability at local levels."
The Syria program is part of a broader, $65.8 billion overseas operations request that the administration sent to Capitol Hill on Thursday. The package includes $1 billion to help stabilize nations bordering Syria that are struggling with the effects of the civil war. It also formalizes a request for a previously announced $1 billion to strengthen the U.S. military presence in Central and Eastern Europe amid Russia's threatening moves in Ukraine.
With ISIL gaining strength, U.S. officials say Assad's forces launched airstrikes on extremist targets inside Iraq on Monday. The U.S. is also weighing targeted strikes against ISIL in Iraq, creating an odd alignment with one of Washington's biggest foes.
Obama has ruled out sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq. But he has dispatched nearly 600 U.S. forces in and around Iraq to train local forces and secure the American Embassy in Baghdad and other U.S. interests.
The White House has been hinting for weeks that Obama was preparing to step up assistance to the Syrian rebels. In a commencement speech at West Point on May 28, he said that by helping those fighting for a free Syria, "we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos."
Officials said the administration would coordinate with Congress and regional players on the specific types of training and assistance the U.S. would provide the opposition. One potential option would be to base U.S. personnel in Jordan and conduct the training there.
The Senate Armed Services Committee already has approved a version of the sweeping defense policy bill authorizing the Defense Department to provide "equipment, supplies, training and defense services" to elements of the Syrian opposition that have been screened. The Senate could act on the bill before its August recess.
In addition to the covert train-and-equip mission, the U.S. also has provided nearly $287 million in nonlethal assistance to the moderate opposition.
The military program would be supplemented by $1 billion in assistance to Syria's neighbors '-- Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq '-- to help them deal with an influx of refugees and the threat of extremists spilling over their borders.
Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Matthew Lee and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.
(C) Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Syrian 'moderates' aren't so moderate in Iraq - New Articles - The Independent
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:14
Confusing? You bet. So first steps first. Who are the ''moderate'' rebels whom Obama wants to train and arm? He doesn't name them '' and he can't, because the original ''moderates'' whom America swore to arm (with the help of the CIA, the Brits, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey) were the so-called ''Free Syrian Army'', mostly composed of deserters from Assad's government forces. But the FSA '' briefly beloved of John McCain until he discovered a pro-al-Qa'ida fighter sharing a photo-op with him in northern Syria '' has decomposed.
Its men have gone home, switched to the bearded Islamists of the Nusrah or Isis '' or Isil if we heed the latest acronym '' or re-deserted to the government army and taken up arms for Assad again. Some freedom fighters! They weren't given enough weapons, we are told. Now they'll get more. And no doubt sell them '' as they did the last lot. For it is a sad fact of war that whenever a gun crosses a border, it represents not loyalty but cash.
Give an FSA man '' if you can find one '' an anti-aircraft missile and it will be sold to the highest bidder. In all the civil wars I've covered, I've never seen a weapon in the hands of a militia which hasn't bought it from someone else. In a humiliating interview on Channel 4, our own Defence Secretary admitted that weapons given to Syrian rebels had fallen into the hands of the bad guys. How do you monitor all the guys whom you give a gun to? Send them off with a personal drone to make sure they don't sell it?
Besides, how do you actually find a ''moderate'' these days in Syria's war? The Islamist rebels fight to the death. No ''moderates'' they. And '' accursed facts now intervene '' these are the very same Islamist rebels now threatening the Iraqi state. And just to make things even more confusing, Maliki has just been thanking Assad's boys for air-raiding his own rebel enemies on the Iraqi-Syrian border on the grounds that Syria and Iraq are ''friends''.
So now to our own real friend, the Department of Home Truths. What's left of the FSA has been fighting the Islamist Isis-Isil forces. So have the Kurdish militias in northern Syria. So have a few village militias. And the Syrians have a suspicion that this is Obama's half-baked plan: to arm the anti-Islamist Syrian rebels to fight the pro-al-Qa'ida rebels and thus '' indirectly '' keep both the Assad and Maliki regimes in power.
The problem is that Obama must do this without revealing that the Syrian-Iraqi battle against Sunni Wahabis is one and the same war, that Assad's Syrian army '' using Russian jets '' is struggling against exactly the same enemy as Maliki's Iraqi army, also soon to be augmented (if we are to believe Maliki's blather to the BBC Arabic Service) with Russian jets. In other words, Assad not only has the public support of Moscow; he has the private support of Washington (and therefore, of course, of Israel).
Why else would the White House say that the money for Syrian ''moderates'' would help ''counter terrorist threats'' '' ''terrorist'' being Assad's description of his enemies. But of course, Obama must keep calling Assad a ''brutal dictator''. Difficult to explain all this on Fox News, of course. So just keep repeating the word ''moderate''. Over and over again.
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Letter from the President -- War Powers Resolution Letter regarding Iraq
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:48
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
June 26, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
As I reported on June 16, 2014, U.S. Armed Forces personnel have deployed to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
I have since ordered further measures in response to the situation in Iraq. Specifically, as I announced publicly on June 19, I have ordered increased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that is focused on the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). I also ordered up to approximately 300 additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel in Iraq to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces and to establish joint operations centers with Iraqi security forces to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the threat posed by ISIL. Some of these personnel were already in Iraq as part of the U.S. Embassy's Office of Security Cooperation, and others began deploying into Iraq on June 24. These forces will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed.
This action is being undertaken in coordination with the Government of Iraq and has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in these actions.
Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA
Letter from the President -- FY 2015 Budget Amendments
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:50
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
June 26, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I ask the Congress to consider the enclosed Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget amendments for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State and Other International Programs (State/OIP) to fund Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). These amendments would provide $58.6 billion for DOD OCO activities, which is $20.9 billion less than the $79.4 billion placeholder for DOD OCO in the FY 2015 Budget. It would also provide $1.4 billion for State/OIP OCO activities, which is in addition to the $5.9 billion for State/OIP included in the FY 2015 Budget. Overall, these amendments would decrease the total OCO funding requested for FY 2015 by $19.5 billion.
Final decisions about the number and activities of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after December 2014 had not yet been made at the time the FY 2015 Budget was submitted. As a result, the Budget included a placeholder for DOD FY 2015 OCO funding equivalent to the amount requested in the FY 2014 Budget. The Administration noted in the FY 2015 Budget that after determining required force levels in Afghanistan, a Budget amendment updating the OCO request would be submitted to the Congress. The enclosed amendments include the necessary updates to the OCO request in order to fund military operations in Afghanistan, a significant portion of the U.S. military presence around the Middle East, the Administration's proposed Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund and European Reassurance Initiative, and State/OIP peacekeeping costs in the Central African Republic.
The details of these amendments are set forth in the enclosed letter from the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA
Fact Sheet: The Administration's Fiscal Year 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Request
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:50
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
Today, the Administration submitted its updated $65.8 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request to Congress for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State and Other International Programs (State/OIP).
The $58.6 billion request for DOD OCO funding is $20.9 billion less than the $79.4 billion placeholder included in the FY 2015 Budget. The OCO request also includes $1.4 billion for State/OIP beyond the $5.9 billion included in the Budget, bringing the State OCO total to $7.3 billion. As in years past, the request primarily funds temporary and extraordinary expenses associated with military operations in Afghanistan, as well as activities that support Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), related follow-on activities, and other critical missions, including counterterrorism, in the region. In addition to funding for the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan and DOD's supporting presence in the broader region, the OCO submission seeks congressional support for the new $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) and $1 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).
The Administration continues to support a cumulative $450-billion cap on Government-wide OCO funding from FY 2013 to FY 2021, and we encourage Congress to act with similar fiscal discipline in OCO appropriations.
Today's request is consistent with the plan the President laid out at West Point , which made the case for bringing the U.S. war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, while ensuring our Armed Forces have the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve.
Operation Enduring Freedom and Related Missions
In support of OEF and related follow-on activities, Department of Defense OCO funding would support several key efforts, including:
operations and force protection in Afghanistan, including ending our combat mission and transitioning to an advisory mission by the end of December 2014;continued support for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and coalition partners;continued counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan;return of thousands of pieces of equipment from Afghanistan to home stations;repair or replacement of combat-damaged equipment, as well as replenishment of expended munitions;intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and other support to missions;costs borne in the greater Middle East region that support and enable our forces in Afghanistan as well as other critical missions.Although the FY 2015 OCO request reflects a transition as the United States concludes combat operations in Afghanistan, most costs will not decline precipitously. For example, DOD will still incur significant costs to transport personnel, supplies, and equipment back to their home stations. Funding to sustain the ANSF will continue to be needed to ensure that Afghan forces can provide sufficient security. OCO funding will help our military reset from over a decade of fighting by providing the funds needed for DOD to repair and replace equipment and munitions. OCO funding will also continue to support a significant portion of DOD's forward presence in the broader Middle East region, enabling DOD to support OEF and other important missions.
Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund
In his West Point speech, the President announced that he would ask Congress to fund a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund to provide the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats evolve from South Asia to the Sahel. The proposed CTPF builds on our existing tools and authorities to respond to a range of terrorist threats and crisis response scenarios. The OCO submission seeks congressional support for the new $5 billion CTPF, including funding to support a new Syria-Regional Stabilization Initiative (RSI).
The Administration is requesting $4 billion for the Department of Defense and $1 billion for the Department of State, with three broad purposes:
To support counterterrorism capacity-building efforts for partner nations;To provide support to the moderate Syrian opposition and Syria's neighbors through a Regional Stabilization Initiative; andTo help the Department of Defense respond to unexpected crises. Enabling and Supporting Partners ($3 billion)
We seek to build and maintain a network of partners on the front lines of critical terrorist threats through near-term training, equipping, and advising and longer-term capacity-building efforts undertaken by the Departments of Defense and State.
The Administration is requesting $2.5 billion for engagement to train, equip, and enable international partners to counter terrorist threats that pose the greatest challenge to U.S. and allied interests and to enhance DOD counterterrorism capabilities. Targeted training and assistance efforts can support partners as they conduct counterterrorism operations within their own borders, prevent the spillover of terrorist activities from neighboring states, and participate in multinational operations to degrade terrorist threats.
For example, funding through the CTPF would cover increased costs of Special Operations Forces or conventional units deploying in greater numbers to train and engage partner nation forces. Among other things, equipment provided through CTPF would address mobility and transportation issues to more effectively prosecute offensive CT operations. And, it would invest in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities of U.S. forces to provide essential support to partner force operations.
The Administration is requesting $500 million for the State Department and partner agencies to support counterterrorism, counter violent extremism, and meet stability needs in partner countries. This funding would support economic, development, and security assistance programs to improve stability in countries confronting terrorist threats and contending with populations at risk for radicalization.
Department of State funding through the CTPF would strengthen partners' police capabilities and penal and justice systems; promote tolerance within local communities, civil society, and across broader faith communities; identify and disrupt terrorist financing and travel; train and equip their counterterrorism forces; and support tailored education, democratic governance, and economic development activities. This programming would support efforts to deny terrorists the recruiting ground of poor governance and hopelessness in areas most at risk of violent extremism and to counter the messages of violent extremism.
Regional Stabilization Initiative ($1.5 billion)
The Administration is requesting $1.5 billion to advance U.S. interests in partnership with Syria's neighbors '' Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq '' to promote internal stability and to provide support to communities hosting refugees. One billion dollars would be allocated for Department of State and Department of Defense programs to allow the United States to make investments in Syria's neighbors to enable them to strengthen internal and border security capabilities and enhance their capacity to manage the pressures created by ongoing conflicts and the stresses on communities hosting refugees.
For example, the CTPF would provide the training and equipment required to improve border security and the capacity of police and counterterrorism units to ensure internal stability. The CTPF would also address growing costs in communities hosting refugees to strengthen the delivery of essential services such as education, health, food, sanitation, and water.
We also intend to ramp up U.S. support to the moderate Syrian opposition. We are therefore requesting $500 million for a proposed authority to train and equip vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition to help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement.
The Administration will develop the details of this envisioned program in consultation with the Congress and our international partners.
Crisis Response ($500 million)
The CTPF request includes $500 million to address unforeseen contingencies related to counterterrorism or regional instability. The current situation in Iraq is one example that underscores the importance of reserving funds that can be allocated quickly based on unforeseen needs. The CTPF would facilitate flexibility and speed in responding to urgent contingencies in the face of an uncertain and rapidly changing security environment.
European Reassurance Initiative
The European Reassurance Initiative that the President announced in Poland on June 3rd would provide temporary support to bolster the security and capacity of our NATO allies and partner states in Europe. The Administration is requesting $925 million for DOD and $75 million for State for the following purposes:
expand military presence in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe;increase bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with allies and partners;improve infrastructure to allow for greater responsiveness;enhance prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe; andintensify efforts to build partner capacity for newer NATO members and other partnersPeacekeeping Response
The updated OCO request also includes an additional $278 million in State/OIP's Peacekeeping Response Mechanism account to fully fund the additional estimated costs resulting from the April 2014 decision by United Nations Security Council to authorize a new UN peacekeeping mission to deploy in the Central African Republic. This decision was made after the Administration submitted its FY 2015 Budget.
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:50
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2014
The Administration's Fiscal Year 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations budget request to Congress builds on the President's West Point Speech to seek the resources necessary to build, facilitate and strengthen the capacity of our partners to counter terrorist organizations, particularly across the Middle East and North Africa. These resources will be an important step forward in our efforts to defend U.S. interests and strengthen the capacity of our friends and partners.
As a part of our Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund, we are seeking $1.5 billion for a Regional Stabilization Initiative to partner with Syria's neighbors '' Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq '' as well as the moderate Syrian opposition. In particular, we are seeking $500 million for a proposed authority to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition. These funds would help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement. This funding request would build on the Administration's longstanding efforts to empower the moderate Syrian opposition, both civilian and armed, and will enable the Department of Defense to increase our support to vetted elements of the armed opposition.
While we continue to believe that there is no military solution to this crisis and that the United States should not put American troops into combat in Syria, this request marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks, push back against the growing number of extremists like ISIL who find safe-haven in the chaos, and take their future into their own hands by enhancing security and stability at local levels.
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WSJ: John Kerry Meets With Saudi King Abdullah, Syrian Opposition Leader Jarba
Mr. Kerry met with Sunni Arab leaders from the Middle East on Thursday and Friday to coordinate a response to ISIS, whose aggressive offensive in Iraq has brought it within a few dozen miles of Baghdad and a couple of hours' drive from the Saudi border. The top U.S. diplomat talked Friday in the Red Sea city of Jeddah with Saudi King Abdullah and Ahmed Jarba, head of what the U.S. and Saudi Arabia describe as the moderate armed opposition in Syria.
The Obama administration said earlier this week it plans to spend an extra $500 million in training and arming Mr. Jarba's Syrian-based rebel force. U.S. and Arab authorities so far haven't publicly elaborated on how they see the Syrian rebel bloc helping combat the now greatly escalated threat from ISIS fighters.
Mr. Jarba's opposition group "has the ability to be a very important player in pushing back against ISIL's presence," Mr. Kerry told reporters at the Jeddah airport. Mr. Kerry was using an alternate version, ISIL, of the translated acronym for the ISIS extremist group.
Hague meets Kurdish leaders in Iraq
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:16
Foreign Secretary William Hague is meeting Kurdish leaders in Iraq27 June 2014
Foreign Secretary William Hague has issued a renewed appeal to Iraq's political leaders to set aside their differences and unite to combat the threat from Isis extremists.Following talks with Kurdish leaders in Irbil in northern Iraq, Mr Hague re-iterated his call for the formation of a broad-based government drawing together politicians from across the sectarian divide.
"My message is the need for unity in facing this danger, and the need to form an inclusive new Government as soon as possible," he said.
"We hope everyone, Shia, Sunni and Kurd will do what they can to make that happen. We believe as friends of this country that this is urgent and vital work."
He paid tribute to the efforts of Kurdish forces in resisting the advance of Isis (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) following the sweeping gains made by the extremists.
"Kurdish security forces are playing an important role in holding Isis back, and have already made many sacrifices in this vital struggle. We stand with you in rejecting the vile crimes of terrorists," he said.
Mr Hague yesterday held talks in Baghdad with prime minister Nouri al-Maliki where he warned that Iraq was facing an "existential threat".
Mr Maliki - who is criticised for favouring the interests of the Shia population - is resisting calls to form an emergency administration, saying it would amount to a "coup against the constitution" after he won elections in April.
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Israel says disintegration in Iraq may lead to independent Kurdish state '-- RT News
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:03
Published time: June 27, 2014 02:10Edited time: June 27, 2014 05:04Members of the Kurdish Peshmerga celebrate in the city of Kirkuk June 24, 2014. (Reuters / Ako Rasheed)
While the Iraqi army struggles to contain the ISIS advance in the country's northwest, the Kurds have been successful at heading off the Sunni insurgents. Israel has now openly stated that an independent Kurdish state is a ''foregone conclusion.''
"Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry as the two discussed the Iraqi crisis in Paris on Thursday.
Israeli President Shimon Peres had a similar message for US President Barack Obama. "The Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic. One of the signs of a democracy is the granting of equality to women," Peres said on Wednesday.
While forces from the Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) were advancing towards the capital Baghdad, the Iraqi army abandoned the city of Kirkuk. The Kurds have seized on the chaos to expand their autonomous northern territory to include the strategic city.
Besides being considered by Kurds as their historical capital, Kirkuk sits on vast oil deposits '' a stable financial base for any possible statehood.
"Kirkuk will finally produce oil for the Kurds," Muhama Khalil, the Kurdish head of the economic committee in Iraq's national parliament, told the Guardian.
"For 70 years oil has been used to buy weapons to kill us. Finally we have our own oil and it will only be for the Kurds," he said.
The Kurds now control the oil hub, and there were numerous reports that they sold a tanker full of oil to Israel '' a country that their Arab neighbors maintain a boycott of crude sales to.
Israel keeps quiet about its ties with the Kurds, allegedly at the request of the latter. Israel's Foreign Ministry said there were currently no formal diplomatic relations with the Kurds, but Eliezer Tsafrir '' a former Mossad station chief in Kurdish northern Iraq '' told Reuters that "we'd love it to be out in the open, to have an embassy there, to have normal relations. But we keep it clandestine because that's what they want.''
The Israelis may see the Kurds as a natural ally in the Arab-dominated region where both feel they are threatened minorities.
In an interview to CNN, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani also commented on the possibility of an independent state, saying that "The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold."
In a reverse to decades of mistrust, the Kurds might find another country supporting their independence '' Turkey. It now has a 50-year deal to send Kurdish oil by pipeline to Ceyhan and has been investing in Iraq's increasingly autonomous Kurdish region in recent years.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for the Kurds' right to self-determination. ''The Kurds of Iraq can decide for themselves the name and type of entity they are living in,'' Erdogan said last week.
Meanwhile, the US urges Kurdish leaders to support Baghdad in its fight against ISIS. Washington also assured the Kurds they would participate in the next Iraqi government.
For thousands of years, the majority of Kurds '' who are an Iranian people '' have lived in the Kurdistan region, an area along the border of four Middle Eastern countries. Now the Kurdish population is scattered between northern Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and western Iran. They total up to 40 million people '' making the Kurds one of the world's largest ethnic groups without its own state.
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ISIS Battle Plan for Baghdad | Institute for the Study of War
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:57
There are indications that ISIS is about to launch into a new offensive in Iraq. ISIS published photos of a military parade through the streets of Mosul on June 24, 2014 showcasing US military equipment, including armored vehicles and towed artillery systems. ISIS reportedly executed another parade in Hawijah on June 26, 2014. These parades may be a demonstration force to reinforce their control of these urban centers. They may also be a prelude to ISIS troop movements, and it is important to anticipate where ISIS may deploy these forces forward. Meanwhile, ISIS also renewed the use of suicide bombers in the vicinity of Baghdad. An ISIS bomber with a suicide vest (SVEST) attacked the Kadhimiya shrine in northern Baghdad on June 26, 2014, one of the four holy sites in Iraq that Iran and Shi'a militias are most concerned to protect. ISIS also incorporated an SVEST into a complex attack in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, on June 25, 2014 in a zone primarily controlled by the ISF and Shi'a militias on the road from Baghdad to Karbala. These attacks are demonstrations that ISIS has uncommitted forces in the Baghdad Belts that may be brought to bear in new offensives. ISIS's offensive has not culminated, and the ISIS campaign for Iraq is not over. Rather, as Ramadan approaches, their main offensive is likely imminent.
ISIS is formidable, but it is also predictable. ISIS has exposed many of the core elements of its strategy, and it is possible to anticipate their next steps. ISW assesses with confidence that ISIS's urban offensive begun in Mosul has not culminated, and its campaign for Iraq is not over. ISIS's next urban objective will likely be to clear the Haditha-Ramadi corridor along the Euphrates River in Anbar. ISIS's ultimate military objective in Iraq is likely to destroy the government in Baghdad. This backgrounder will assess ISIS's next steps in Iraq in light of its broader strategic goals. To do so, the backgrounder will examine where ISIS had military strength prior to the fall of Mosul and inventory its uncommitted forces. Based upon observable elements of the ISIS style of warfare, this backgrounder will observe where ISIS may have headquarters and how ISIS has likely divided the fight in Iraq and Syria into sectors. It will evaluate ISIS's interim military objectives in each sector based on observed actions, because ISIS's strategy continues to be careful and deliberate.
ISIS STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
ISIS seeks to create an Islamic Emirate extending across Iraq and Syria. This vision is expansionist, and it is prosecuted through military conquest. ISIS's grand strategy depends upon military superiority to wrest control of terrain from modern states by overcoming state security. The ISIS style of warfare hybridizes terrorism, guerilla warfare, and conventional warfare. The presence of the last indicates that the ISIS likely possesses a cadre of former Saddam-era military officers who know the military terrain in Iraq as their own. The military campaign design exhibited by ISIS over the last two years bears the signature of multiple commanders, though successive campaigns in Iraq have consistently demonstrated scope, distribution, deception, and timing as overarching strategic characteristics. The logic of ISIS's recent urban campaign in Iraq exposes their likely next steps.
Saudi Arabia expecting ISIS incursion goes on highest alert
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:41
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 27 (UPI) --Saudi Arabia has gone on high alert due to the deteriorating security situation in neighboring Iraq.The state-run SPA news agency reported Thursday that concern of violent spillover had prompted the alert.
"Anticipating (that) the terrorist organizations or others might carry out actions that might disturb the security of the homeland, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has ordered taking all necessary measures to protect the gains of the homeland and its territories in addition to the security and stability of the Saudi people."
A Saudi official confirmed to CNN the spillover threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
"Saudi Arabia shares a long border with Iraq and the government is aware that ISIS is very close to Iraq's border with Jordan, and is also aware ISIS has been very public about its intention to attempt to attack Saudi Arabia."
Saudi security forces, the official said, "are at the ready and very strong ..."
But Iraq, he noted, is not the only country of concern; "the threat emanating from Yemen is still very real." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) tried in the last week to surreptitiously enter Saudi Arabia from Yemen.
ISIS Emirate Map isismap.noagendanotes.com
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Why China stays quiet on Iraq, despite being no. 1 oil investor (+video) - CSMonitor.com
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:38
Beijing '-- When Li Changrong arrived in Iraq last February to work on a Chinese-built power plant he expected a well paid job, not to find himself trapped by the threat of civil war.
Now, sheltering from fighting between jihadist rebels and Iraqi troops near the plant outside Samarra, he says he can hear shooting ''night and day."
''My colleagues and I are very worried about our safety,'' he added in a telephone conversation.
Mr. Li is one of an estimated 10,000 Chinese workers who have traveled to Iraq in recent years, mostly on contract to Chinese oil companies that have taken a hefty stake in the country's oilfields to become the industry's largest foreign investor.
Most of the Chinese expatriates work in the south of Iraq, in predominantly Shiite areas far from the current fighting and where the Sunni rebels are unlikely to venture. But Li, along with about 1,200 other Chinese employees, has been caught by the rebels' rapid advance at the power plant 75 miles north of the capital, Baghdad.
Li said the Chinese embassy had sent a helicopter twice to the plant site Wednesday; it evacuated about 35 workers to Baghdad airport. Buses had collected more than 200 of their Chinese colleagues from the plant several times, Li's wife Guo Jing said he had told her by SMS text messages, but they had been turned back on the road to Baghdad by unidentified gunmen at checkpoints.
''I am still waiting to be evacuated,'' Li said in the interview Thursday. ''I hope I can leave here as soon as possible and go back to China. ''It is dangerous here.''
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week that Beijing would ''closely watch the situation in Iraq and take necessary measures to protect the Chinese firms, institutions and citizens.'' So far, however, China has not organized a large scale evacuation. On Friday, state media reported the start of an evacuation by air and road.
Lack of traditional leverageNor, despite the scale of Chinese multi-billion dollar investments in Iraq, is there much Beijing can do about the current crisis, says Yin Gang, a Middle East expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
''China cannot protect our interests in Iraq,'' he says, since it has little political influence over the government and no intention of sending any troops to support the Iraqi authorities.
''Though China has important interests in Iraq'...it is not a traditional Mid-East player'...and has few historical roots in Iraq,'' adds Ma Xiaolin, a Beijing-based Middle East commentator. ''It has the least influence in Iraq of any permanent UN Security Council country and it does not have the strength to solve the problems.''
That makes Beijing immune to calls for China to play a less passive role in the Iraq crisis, and to act more in keeping with its status as a would-be world power.
''China is just a business partner,'' says He Wenping, an Iraq analyst at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies. ''We don't have much involvement in Iraqi politics or its military affairs and none of the chaos there has anything to do with us.''
Beijing has ''expressed Chinese wishes'' to the Shiite-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ''for more political talks'' with Sunni leaders ''to try to find a political solution,'' says Prof. Yin. Those wishes match US hopes, but China has little leverage to make them reality.
Oil stake in southern IraqNor is Beijing necessarily under any great pressure to get involved. The state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) '' whose 5.6 billion dollar investment in the Rumaila field and stakes in three other fields makes it the largest investor in the Iraqi oil industry '' operates in the south of the country. The current fighting in the north has disrupted neither its production nor exports of oil; even if, in a ''worst case'' scenario, Iraq were to break up along ethnic and religious lines CNPC's fields are all in solidly Shiite areas that would be most unlikely to fall into the hands of the radical Sunni rebels of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) group.
Though another Chinese state-owned oil giant, Sinopec, owns a part share of an oilfield in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the north, Kurdish militias defending the autonomous region would be expected to fight off any ISIS attack.
CNPC lifted 299 million barrels of oil from Iraq last year, one third of its total overseas production, and China intends to buy nearly 25 percent of Iraq's oil exports this year, but Iraqi oil is by no means critical to the Chinese economy.
As the fifth largest supplier of oil to China, Iraq accounts for ten percent of Chinese oil imports, but that represents only one percent of its total energy consumption, which is heavily based on domestic coal.
Though China does not appear to be vulnerable to direct effects from the current crisis, the rise in the world oil price that would be expected to result from prolonged fighting in Iraq would hurt Chinese economic prospects.
Gazprom may up pace of domestic gas price rises to finance pipeline to China
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 04:14
Moscow (Platts)--26Jun2014/940 am EDT/1340 GMT
Russia's Gazprom may partly finance construction of the Power of Siberia project -- planned new pipelines to export gas to China -- by raising domestic gas prices faster than previously agreed with the government, company officials said Thursday.
Gazprom, which under a governmental ruling last year is to limit price hikes to the rate of inflation until 2017, has now asked to be allowed to raise domestic gas prices 2-4% above inflation from 2015-17, the officials said at a media briefing on the company's financial and economic strategy.
"Defreezing of the domestic prices could become one of the ways for the state to support construction of the Power of Siberia," Andrei Kruglov, head of Gazprom's finance and economics unit, said.
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Last September, the government approved a decision to freeze industrial tariffs for state-owned monopolies -- including Gazprom -- this year at the 2013 level in a bid to support a stagnating economy. In 2015 and 2016, tariffs are to increase at the rate of inflation.
Gazprom's own funds, new tax breaks, and project financing will also be used to fund the project, Kruglov said. He would not comment on a $25 billion pre-payment China is to make to Gazprom for deliveries via Power of Siberia.
Construction on Power of Siberia, which will connect East Siberian gas fields to Russia's Pacific coast and Chinese infrastructure, is set to start in August.
Kruglov reiterated Gazprom had no plan to ask the government for additional capitalization, a move which had been seen as a way to finance the costly project. "As our chairman Alexei Miller said earlier, we believe there is no need [for additional capitalization]," he said.
Gazprom has estimated the total investment in developing gas production and transportation infrastructure necessary to fulfill the pipeline gas supply contract with China at $55 billion.
Under the $400 billion contract Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp. signed in May, Russia is to send up to 38 billion cubic meters/year to China for 30 years.
First gas supplies to China are scheduled between 2018 and 2020, depending on how quickly the Chinese side builds its own connectors, Gazprom Export CEO Alexander Medvedev said last week.
PRICE HIKES ABOVE INFLATION
Gazprom's proposal envisions raising the 2015 gas tariff by 2% above the inflation rate for 2014, Elena Karpel, Gazprom's head of pricing and economic expertise, said at the briefing.
In 2016 and in 2017, the prices under would 3% and 4%, respectively, above the inflation levels registered in the previous years, she said.
Gazprom's current domestic gas tariffs are "at a critically low level", Kruglov said.
"The gas prices do not fully cover investments in maintenance of the gas infrastructure and keeping the production at the current levels, not to speak about investments in production growth," Karpel said.
On Wednesday, deputy economic development minister Sergei Belyakov said the authority did not support Gazprom's earlier proposal to increase the 2015 domestic gas tariffs 3-4% above inflation.
"We continue to insist that tariffs grow at a level of the last year's inflation rates. The decision cannot be overruled, first of all because we do not want to create an impression that the government is being inconsistent and secondly because the burden on economy should not increase," Belyakov said in an interview on state-owned TV channel Russia 24.
--Dina Khrennikova, dina.khrennikova@platts.com--Edited by Dan Lalor, daniel.lalor@platts.com
Gazprom plans new Asian listings; to use yuan, rouble in China gas deal
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:13
Moscow (Platts)--27Jun2014/751 am EDT/1151 GMT
Russian gas giant Gazprom is interested in attracting Asian investments through listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and a listing upgrade at the Singapore exchange, and plans a "symbolic" bond issue in offshore yuan, Andrei Kruglov, head of Gazprom's finance and economics unit, said Thursday.
The company is also ready to consider using the Russian rouble and the yuan in its recently signed major pipeline supply deal with China National Petroleum Corp., Kruglov said at the company's media briefing.
"We have made an important step by getting listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange; our next step under consideration is the listing upgrade," Kruglov said.
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"We are also in talks over getting listed at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange -- this will give us access to a wide pool of investors from [mainland] China and Hong Kong," he said, adding that the company views the prospects of getting listed in Hong Kong as very attractive considering the plans to create mutual stock market access between mainland China and Hong Kong.
In April, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Securities and Futures Commission approved the development of the so-called Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, which will enable investors to trade eligible shares listed on the other's market through local securities firms or brokers.
Gazprom does not expect to get listed in Hong Kong before the autumn, Kruglov said, as the Russian financial regulator, the central bank, first needs to sign a memorandum with the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).
The memorandum is the key pre-requisite for Russian companies' listings in Hong Kong.
Russia's central bank expects to sign the agreement in October, according to Russian media reports.
ASIA PACIFIC FOCUS OF GROWTH
Gazprom is also looking into issuing a "symbolic" bond denominated in offshore yuan and Singapore dollars, Kruglov said.
Additionally, Gazprom is looking to receive a rating from one or more Chinese rating agencies, Kruglov said.
"Receiving a rating [from Chinese rating agencies] is necessary for Chinese funds to make investments [in Gazprom,]" Kruglov said on the sidelines of the media briefing.
Last week, Gazprom's global depositary receipts were listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.
The Asia Pacific region has been the focus of Gazprom's growth and diversification strategy for a number of years and the listing clearly demonstrates the importance of Singapore and the wider region, a spokeswoman for the company said at the time.
The listing in Singapore is Gazprom's first in an Asian market. Its shares and American Depositary Receipts are currently traded in Moscow, St Petersburg, London, Berlin, Frankfurt as well as the US.
OPERATIONS IN ROUBLE, YUAN
When asked if Gazprom is considering using the Chinese yuan and the Russian rouble in payments within its major pipeline gas supply contract with China, Kruglov said it could be an option.
"We are ready for yuan and rouble transactions [within the framework of the contract], and see no additional risks, except minor transactional costs," he said.
Kruglov's statement comes barely a month after Gazprom signed a 30-year deal to supply China with 38 billion cubic meters/year of natural gas starting 2018-2020, depending on the pace of infrastructure construction.
Although the parties do not comment on the contract price, Gazprom said the total value of the deal is around $400 billion.
The supplies will reach China through the 61 Bcm/year Power of Siberia line stretching from East Siberia to Russia's Pacific coast.
Gazprom is also eyeing more LNG exports to Asia with the proposed Vladivostok LNG project and a planned expansion at the Sakhalin 2 LNG project.
--Dina Khrennikova, dina.khrennikova@platts.com--Edited by Jonathan Fox, jonathan.fox@platts.com
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Texas Man Pleads Guilty To Attempt To Join ISIS - Personal Liberty : Personal Liberty
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 04:06
(MCT) '-- A 23-year-old Texas man admitted Friday that he had been practicing military maneuvers and planned to travel to Syria to join the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has claimed thousands of lives in a violent march through Iraq in recent weeks.
Michael Wolfe, aka Faruq, of Austin, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, according to a statement issued by the U.S. attorney's office in San Antonio.
He was arrested 10 days ago when he tried to board a flight out of Houston. Another man, 23-year-old Rahatul Ashikim Khan, was arrested the same day at his house in Round Rock, Texas, and was charged with trying to recruit men to join terrorist organizations, Federal authorities said.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office would not say if Khan attempted to recruit Wolfe specifically.
During his court appearance Friday, Wolfe admitted he launched the plot to join ISIS in August 2013. In the last year, Wolfe said he did physical fitness training, practiced military maneuvers and tried to cover up communications about his plans to engage in a ''violent jihad,'' the release said.
Wolfe traveled to Houston on June 17 and planned to take several flights, eventually hoping to land in Syria, where he would join ISIS's armed conflict. But the man he purchased the plane tickets from was an undercover FBI agent.
Wolfe will stay in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled.
Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, told the Los Angeles Times that Khan has not entered a plea and has yet to appear in court. A detention hearing has been scheduled for June 30 and he remains in Federal custody, Fields said.
ISIS, an al-Qaida splinter group, has captured several cities in Iraq this month during a bloody march toward Baghdad. The uprising, in part, has been driven by accusations that the sitting Iraqi government has been overly partial to the country's Shiite population.
''James QueallyLos Angeles Times
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Brits who are cashing in on Kurdish oil: Isis in Iraq
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:16
Brits who are cashing in on Kurdish oil TWO British companies are likely to do very well from the chaos caused by Isis fighters rampaging through Iraq.In December last year, British firm Genel Energy, led by ex-BP boss Tony Hayward, completed the KRI (Kurdish Region of Iraq) pipeline from the Kurdish area of northern Iraq to Turkey, where oil and gas can be sold to international markets via a deep sea port. For his part in the thirsty work of completing the pipeline, Hayward, who left BP after a string of gaffes during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, trousered £1.78m in pay and bonus, together with his shareholding of £16.3m.
Serious moneyGenel has also found oil in the Kurdish north and this year hopes to make serious money by beginning to export it through its new pipeline. Alas, the fly in the ointment is Iraq's 2007 oil law, which created production sharing agreements between the major oil companies and Baghdad and obliges exporters to obtain consent from central government, as well as to pay taxes.
When Baghdad refused consent for Genel's planned exports, the firm went ahead anyway, pumping two loads of Kurdish oil through the new pipeline to a waiting ship in Turkey - before Baghdad's oil ministry stepped in with an arbitration suit to stop it being sold on world markets, effectively placing the shipments in limbo and thwarting Genel's plans.
Genel's efforts to operate out of the separatist and better organised Kurdish north may be helped by crumbling central authority in Baghdad. If matters degenerate to the point where Iraq breaks up, it opens the way for a Kurdish state to allow oil to be pumped through the pipeline and sold on international markets with sizeable profits for Genel and without the inconvenience of dealing with Baghdad.
Humungous profitsA second British company in the area, meanwhile, is Gulf Keystone, marshalled by Lord Guthrie, former SAS colonel and once Tony Blair's favourite cutthroat. Guthrie served as chief of defence staff from 1997-2001; a year before leaving office he was already on the books of Gulf Keystone. The firm has invested in oil wells since 2000 solely in Kurdish north Iraq and now owns four sites which recently became productive. All Gulf Keystone needs is access to Hayward's pipeline and sufficient security to get the oil out. Humungous profits may await.
Both these British companies have benefited hugely from improved stability in the northern Kurdish region following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But when profits flow in for the pair, very little will end up with the exchequer. Gulf Keystone is traded on the London Stock Exchange but registered in Bermuda; Genel Energy is based in Jersey and paid less than 1 percent tax on company profits to the exchequer in the last financial year.
Quite apart from the human cost, a recent book by the Royal United Service Institute conservatively estimated the financial cost of the Iraq war to UK taxpayers at £9.56bn. It will be interesting to see if the Chilcot inquiry into the war focuses on energy interests in the region in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, or solely on Blair's simpering relationship with his American counterpart, George W Bush.
Obama Administration Widens Export Potential for U.S. Oil
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:18
Photographer: Derick E. Hingle/Bloomberg
The U.S. Commerce Department opened the door to more U.S. oil exports as long as the crude is lightly processed, tempering the impact of a law that's banned most overseas petroleum shipments for the past four decades.
The department widened its definition of what's traditionally been considered a refined product eligible for shipping to customers abroad. That means more of the oil being pumped from U.S. shale formations may be eligible for export after being run through small-scale processing units.
The Commerce Department issued its ruling after Pioneer Natural Resources Co. petitioned for approval to export a type of ultra-light oil that had been stripped of lighter gases to make it less volatile for transport -- a minimal level of processing known as stabilization. The ultra-light oil, known as condensate, has been abundant in shale formations during the drilling boom, leading to oversupplies on the Gulf Coast.
''It's a crack in the door which has otherwise been shut for 40 years,'' Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA in London, said by phone. ''If approvals for condensate exports are extended to more companies, it'll benefit U.S. producers and processors in Asia, particularly in Singapore and South Korea.''
Distillation ExceptionAny oil that has been processed through a distillation tower -- a preliminary form of refining -- is no longer defined as crude oil, and therefore is eligible for export, said Jim Hock, a department spokesman, in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Pioneer uses a distillation unit to stabilize oil it produces in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas, most of which is condensate.
The Commerce Department ''recently confirmed our interpretation that the distillation process by which our Eagle Ford Shale condensate is stabilized is sufficient to qualify the resulting hydrocarbon stream as a processed petroleum product eligible for export without a license,'' Pioneer said in an e-mailed statement.
''It's not exactly going to be a game changer but it's certainly the next step in providing the market with some relief,'' said Robert Campbell, head of oil products research at Energy Aspects Ltd., a London-based research firm.
West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery climbed as much as $1.47, or 1.4 percent, to $107.50 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, before trimming gains to trade 0.4 percent higher at $106.43 at 12:26 p.m. in London. Brent oil futures slid 0.7 percent to $113.66.
Economic Forces''There are certainly a lot of inexorable economic forces that suggest the U.S. is going to relax the export ban in the long term,'' Ric Spooner, a chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone.
Further applications for exports from the U.S. may follow this approval, Morgan Stanley analysts led by Adam Longson wrote in a report today. If more overseas sales are allowed, U.S. condensate could find its way to Asia, from which companies can produce naphtha used in the petrochemical industry, BNP's Tchilinguirian said.
''A lot of condensate splitting capacity is in Asia and more will be added this year,'' he said. ''Some of the Asian processors would have been wondering where the condensate is going to come from.''
Restricted ExportsThe U.S. has restricted most crude exports since 1975, in response to the Arab oil embargo. Shipments to Canada are an exception, and those averaged 246,000 barrels a day in March, the highest level since April 1999.
''It is certainly the first step towards the lifting of the ban on U.S. crude exports and will be welcomed by the oil world,'' Ehsan Ul-Haq, senior market consultant at KBC Energy Economics in Walton-on-Thames, England, said by phone today. ''It comes at a time when geopolitical skirmishes have added more than $10 a barrel of risk premium to oil prices.''
U.S. oil producers such as Continental Resources Inc. (CLR) and ConocoPhillips (COP) have been clamoring for an end to the restrictions as shale production has brought a surge in North American petroleum supplies. U.S. crude production has jumped 45 percent since the start of 2012, driven by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in places including North Dakota and Texas.
Supplies on the Gulf Coast rose to more than 215 million barrels in May, the highest level on record since 1990, according to Energy Information Administration data. Much of that supply has been in the form of lighter crude, and arrived after Gulf Coast refiners made expensive upgrades to their plants to process heavier crudes from places such as Canada and Mexico.
'First Step'The Commerce Department's willingness to qualify more lightly processed crude for overseas shipments should lead to even wider approval of crude exports, said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska. The decision ''is a reasonable first step that reflects the new reality of our energy landscape,'' she said.
It could also make plans for more complex processing plants, known as splitters, less economic. Several companies are building and planning condensate splitters that are designed to process lighter crudes from shale formations into products like naphtha, kerosene and gasoil, which are eligible for export.
The plants, built for one-tenth the cost of a complex, full-scale refinery, were also aimed at using minimum processing to qualify oil as a refined product for export.
The first of the units, a 50,000-barrel-a-day processing plant built by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP for use by BP Plc (BP/), is scheduled to come online in November. BP has signed a 10-year contract to use the facility, which will be expanded to 100,000 barrels a day in 2015. Several additional plants have been proposed by other pipeline or trading companies, and refiners including Valero Energy Corp. and Phillips 66 said they plan to add similar oil processing equipment.
Refined ProductThe distillation towers that the Commerce Department says are needed to process oil into an export-eligible refined product aren't defined by size, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates LLC, a consulting firm in Houston. The towers could include equipment such as stabilizers that are used in oil fields to separate the lightest gases such as propane and butane from some condensate to prepare it for shipping, he said.
An eventual removal of the export ban would promote U.S. oil production, said Zak Cikanek, a spokesman for the oil industry trade group American Petroleum Institute, which said it hasn't yet reviewed the Commerce Department ruling.
''Allowing the export of processed condensate would be a very small step toward a much more important goal, which is free trade,'' Cikanek said.
Largest RefinerWhile Phillips 66, the largest U.S. refiner by market value, has been supportive of lifting the crude export ban, refiners will probably reap lower profits if they are forced to pay higher prices to compete with international buyers for U.S. crude.
''We don't think the current system needs to be changed,'' saidBill Day, a spokesman for Valero Energy Corp. ''The United States is still importing quite a bit of crude oil to satisfy our needs.''
Net U.S. crude imports were 7.16 million barrels per day as of June 13, down 24 percent over the last five years, according to data from the EIA.
The decision to allow a wider category of lightly processed oil provides a stronger base to argue for broader approval of crude exports, said Lipow, the Houston oil consultant.
''There's cracks in the crude oil export dam,'' he said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Zain Shauk in Houston at zshauk@bloomberg.net; Dan Murtaugh in Houston at dmurtaugh@bloomberg.net; Rakteem Katakey in New Delhi at rkatakey@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net; David Marino at dmarino4@bloomberg.net; Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net James Herron, Bruce Stanley
Walter Russell Mead: A Conversation with Robert Kagan | Foreign Policy Initiative
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 04:37
By Robert Kagan | June 25, 2014 | The American Interest
Getty Images
During the recent conference on democracy promotion put together by The American Interest and Freedom House, Walter Russell Mead sat down with Robert Kagan to discuss grand strategy in the age of Obama. Below is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation.
Walter Russell Mead: One of the central questions today's conference raised was whether America has a grand strategy. Your response was ''Uh, no.'' President Obama does not, in your mind, have a grand strategy?
Robert Kagan: There's something like a glimmer of a grand strategy in the White House, it seems to me. The thinking is that we have all these allies, and we're indispensable in some way, but they haven't fully articulated a strategy in the way that George H.W. Bush did in his much-maligned World Order speech, or that Bill Clinton did at various moments. Obama came close, I think, in his Nobel Peace Prize speech and in his earlier West Point speech.
WRM: I had this feeling, at least as late as fall 2012, that the White House really thought it had a strategy, and that the strategy was working. Europe was quiet and was going to stay that way; we were going to make friends with Islam; we were going to reach out to the AK Party and the Muslim Brotherhood; isolate the terrorists, defeat al-Qaeda, and open the path to democratic Islam that would reconcile us to the masses there. And then, as we saved resources in NATO and in the Middle East, we could pivot to Asia while reducing the defense budgets and reinvigorating alliances in Asia. I thought that was a strategy. It didn't work, but I thought it was a strategy.
RK: I think what you just described is a strategy. But the strategy is in pursuit of a grand strategy.
WRM: Well, I think if you asked President Obama, ''Do you think the United States should try to preserve the liberal world order?'', he'd say yes, and that was what you called a grand strategy in your talk.
RK: But it does need to be articulated as such, and I don't feel that it has been'--neither by Obama nor by any current leading political figure.
WRM: Right. In that sense we go back to the Truman era. I liked the way your New Republicarticle and your talk this morning discussed that as kind of a pivotal moment. Truman, Dean Acheson, and all the people around them knew that Britain had collapsed, the liberal world order that it used to provide had to endure, and the United States had to make sure it did. But the Republicans made it clear that the only way they'd get support was to say America was fighting communism. And so, even after all of these learning experiences that you talk about, from the 1920s through World War II, they still felt that they couldn't tell the American people that the grand strategy was the maintenance of a liberal world order.
RK: My essay didn't say that Obama isn't getting it right, but rather that it's really hard to get it right. It's exactly what Roosevelt feared. The American people could never sustain this without a motivating factor, and then'... communism became the motivation. What's interesting, however, is that we were able to conduct this kind of grand strategy and these kinds of policies for 25 years after the end of the fall of communism, after the end of the Soviet Union. Perhaps American leaders had found a new model and a way to sell this, but I think it's more likely we were just operating on fumes.
WRM: My own sense of it is that both liberal and conservative figures have said over the past 25 years that the United States will maintain the liberal world order'--and that it will be very easy and cheap, with no heavy lifting. Bush said even the Iraq War would be short and cheap. Nobody has ever told the American people that we need the liberal world order, badly, but it may not be that easy to protect. ''Blood, toil, tears, and sweat'' is the last thing any President would say.
RK: Exactly. And that is why this is such a hard situation. We're not right at the edge of the precipice, and therefore the need for martialing our greatest selves is not obvious. But if you believe, as I do, that things happen much more quickly than you think they do'--that things can fall apart much faster, and that the fact that we don't see the precipice doesn't mean it isn't there'... If all that comes to pass, all of our subsequent efforts may wind up being too little, too late.
WRM: Could you draw that out a little bit? Do you envision a scenario in which we go from sitting pretty to serious trouble very quickly?
RK: It's not the 1930s, but that doesn't mean that the 1930s experience is irrelevant. The 1930s brought Manchuria and the election of Hitler, Ethiopia, and the Spanish Civil War. By themselves, they may have seemed insignificant.
WRM: And basically, the world went from no worries in 1933 to big worries in 1938.
RK: Total catastrophe. Of course, it's not a perfect parallel'--there is no Hitler on the scene right now.
Look, I believe we are at the beginning of very difficult period for U.S.-China relations'--not anywhere near the end. And I think it's only a matter of time given all the potential military confrontations in the offing that something snaps. I'm not saying that we can't manage it; I'm not saying the Chinese are eager for war'--they aren't. But I would say we are at the very beginning of difficulties with China.
Furthermore, we now can see clearly that Russia really means to pursue its historical goal of reacquiring the Russian empire in some form or other, which is going to lead eventually to some kind of tension, at the very least, with NATO, the United States, and Europe.
If we are in a period where we don't feel like taking responsibility for all these things, does the conjunction of all these problems add up to a de facto undoing of the world order? I think it could'--and not, by the way, because any particular power wants to undo the world order, but just because the collection of events can produce it.
WRM: Strategy is about what you don't do as well as what you do. And I think your critics would say, ''Kagan always wants to do everything. There's no brake in the Kagan automobile.'' From your prospective, what shouldn't we be concentrating on, or do we just need to do more everywhere?
RK: Obviously, not everywhere. At this point, I would be content if we were focusing our attention on three traditional areas: Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, the Persian Gulf. Right now we clearly have inadequate capacity to deal with crises in all those places at once.
WRM: So, we don't care about Venezuela, for example?
RK: We care about Venezuela, and we can care about a lot of things without necessarily having to use military force to deal with them. I really don't recommend using military force in every situation that we have before us. The fact that I do think we can, should have, and should still use force in Syria'--which is in a region of significant interest to the world order'--does not means that one wants to do it everywhere.
WRM: What about Ukraine?
RK: I think we've pursued a policy that has for the moment held Putin in check. President Obama also believes that part of the answer is a military answer. He is redeploying forces. I personally wish that they were redeploying more forces, as a long-term deterrent to Putin, but there is a case to be made that Obama also agrees that military force is part of the answer.
WRM: What would you say to this argument: Putin's goal at this point, whatever it may have been at various points along the way, is to keep Ukraine wounded and bleeding so the West keeps pumping money into the country; that money goes to pay its Gazprom bill, and Ukraine becomes a method for Putin extracting money from the West.
RK: I think he has a long-term plan for Russia. But I think he has been very opportunistic in responding to events and carrying it out. So, I don't think Putin thought he was going to invade Crimea if you had asked him a year ago. But when he lost Yanukovych, he felt he had to do something. Whatever is happening today is not the end of the story.
The analogy I like to use is appropriate, I think: Everybody knew in 1905 what Japan's long-term ambitions were. But it wasn't going to happen right away. It took thirty years for Japan to realize its plans. I think we're much more in that kind of situation, with a country that seizes opportunities when they present themselves.
Yes, Putin wants to keep Ukraine in a state of instability until he can take it. But clearly, his larger objective is to reincorporate it into the traditional Russia.
WRM: But what's his current objective?
RK: For all we know, he has just made the best of a situation that didn't turn out the way he had expected. For all we know, he thought Eastern Ukraine was going to totally tumble into his arms.
WRM: Although, I have to say that Washington and Brussels were less ready for what's happening in Ukraine than Moscow was. They've been more surprised.
RK: They're appropriately surprised that he was willing to use force to take Crimea.
WRM: I have to say, I've been disappointed in the NSA over this. If we've been listening to Angela Merkel's phone calls and we don't know that Putin is about to invade Ukraine, it seems like we're missing something.
RK: Well, the American intelligence services have their virtues. Somehow, when foreign countries mass troops on the border of another country, they have an amazing proclivity to say they're not going in. When Saddam massed troops on the border of Kuwait, the intelligence assessment was, ''He's not going in.'' Not being an intelligence analyst, when I see troops massed on a border'...
WRM: Ah, you're an amateur, clearly!
OK, here's another hypothetical, the kind of thing that keeps me up at night: Let's say in Thailand, you've got the situation where the military has imposed a coup. And the United States says, ''We don't like this coup, and you should do democracy'', while China says, ''We have absolutely no problems with this coup.'' And so your geopolitical and your democratic instincts are very much at war. From your perspective, how should the United States deal with that kind of issue?
RK: If China's going to be on the side of the military coup, and we're going to be on the side of undoing the military coup, that's a pretty straightforward situation.
WRM: Well, except it's complicated. I mean, do we choose to back the democrats in such a way that the military is very attracted to Chinese support and basically begins to align the country with China?
RK: I'm not an expert on this region, but my understanding has always been that Thailand has always been among those ASEAN states that has traditionally been more on the fence in terms of deciding between China and the United States. It's a big player, but when we think we're being clever by deciding that in order to win that competition we should cozy up with the military, the next thing would almost certainly be some kind of revolution overthrowing the military.
WRM: If you think about it, the people who are today the redshirts come from the regions in Thailand where, during the Vietnam era, there was more sympathy for the communist insurgencies.
RK: That's why, in these situations, I'm generally in favor of not being too clever. We think the military coup was a bad thing, we want to see democracy restored to Thailand. That should be our position.
WRM: What if the people who genuinely want democracy don't have the capacity to build the institutions, or to manage the economic affairs, or do any of the things that would actually make the creation of a stable democracy possible? What do we do then? Or, do such cases not really exist?
RK: No, obviously such cases exist. And I'm less interested in helping people than I am in supporting processes. If you can get a country to hold repeated, relatively fair elections, other things will follow. I don't believe, for instance, that you can build liberal institutions in a country that's an autocracy, in the hope that eventually it will evolve. I don't believe that's possible, because the autocrat never allows them to take root. In the case of Egypt, just because the people we liked decided against democracy, they weren't necessarily right. I think they took an expedient course. They didn't appreciate losing to Morsi. I think that they were worried about the Morsi government for legitimate reasons, and they were willing to ride the military back into power'--except that now they're not going to be back in power.
WRM: My take is a little bit different. I think that Egypt has basically been a military state since the 1950s. It was a little bit like the old PRI state in Mexico, with the difference being that the President was not term-limited, but life-limited. Mubarak then broke the deal and tried to convert it into a dynastic state. The army basically stepped back when Mubarak came under attack, let him get swept away, and then went back to its core competency, which is crushing the Muslim Brotherhood. It's really the one thing the Egyptian army has been consistently excellent at doing for 70 years. And in all of that it looked to me as if the ''transition to democracy'' stuff was more noise than anything that reflected where power was going in Egypt.
RK: I mean, the story is so complicated in so many ways. But you cannot leave out the fact that they held a free and fair election'--that the people who were elected were willing to participate in a democratic government. And what we usually said about Islamists'--''one man, one vote, one time'''--turned out to be the Egyptian military's policy, not the Muslim Brotherhood's policy. I think, following Reuel Gerecht and others, that Islam now has to go through this phase of governing democratically.
Now, of course the military would gladly return to the system you described if we gave them the opportunity to return to it.
WRM: Well we didn't. The Saudis did.
RK: This is a complicated story which we have to break down to make sense of it. There was a time when Morsi and Sisi were getting along fine. Morsi cut his deal with the military. He wasn't going after their money. He wasn't going after their holdings. In part, Sisi and the army stepped in when the liberals and secularists decided that this was a good time for them to do it.
WRM: Again, I would say that the Egyptian military's core competence is figuring out how to keep the Islamists and the liberals both thinking that the military is the lesser evil among them.
RK: I would say its core competence is receiving military aid from the United States.
WRM: That's one of the side-benefits of its core competence.
RK: After all, don't forget, the Mubarak regime deliberately kept the Muslim Brotherhood alive. And the military has now moved to a new phase in suggesting that it wants to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood.
WRM: In all of this I don't think there was a moment when Morsi was going to actually be able to govern. We sort of think Egypt's democrats in the current context can be what the democratic socialists were in the 1950s and 60s. But the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and, say, the SPD is a hundred years of participation in politics, experience, institutions'... And it seems to me that the Muslim Brotherhood'--though ideologically it might have been at the point that you're talking about, ready to try ruling democratically'--didn't have what it took as an organization to actually carry out that historical mission.
RK: I mean, you could have said the same thing about the ANC, for that matter.
WRM: Well sometimes things go better than you expect.
RK: The ANC did what it did because they had Mandela. And the Brotherhood had Morsi, and Morsi was not Mandela.
WRM: It's even more than that. The ANC had Marxism, and Marxism at least gives you a capacity to organize.
RK: So what you're really saying is: Islamists can't do it.
WRM: I haven't generalized about other countries. I said that in Egypt'--
RK: Marxists can do it, socialists can do it'...
WRM: I'm saying the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt, was not ready to take power.
RK: That may or may not be true. The way the Muslim Brotherhood behaved in power was certainly, in many respects, nondemocratic. But it was not nondemocratic in a specifically Islamic way. It was majoritarian-style democracy: ''We won. You shut up.''
I don't think it was impossible for us to force Morsi to behave differently. We did not play our role in putting pressure on Morsi to not do the things that he did, because we wanted to make sure that we had an address in Cairo where we could send the mail.
WRM: American policy can be criticized like that just about everywhere, under any administration at any time.
But compare the competence of the Muslim Brotherhood with, say, the competence of the AK Party, where Erdogan has many of the worst flaws that one could attribute to Morsi. Yet the AKP knows how to run a city hall.
RK: Well I can't wait to see what the competence of Sisi is like. We may find that he's not competent either.
WRM: As I say, the Egyptian military doesn't really know how to build an effective economy. It doesn't know how to defeat military enemies'--
RK: '--or to rule even an autocracy.
WRM: Well, what it can do is crush opposition.
RK: But it won't be able to crush them. What I fear now is that we are about to be dragged into this downward spiral of increasing radicalism and terrorism and increasing repression, funded by us.
WRM: Well, that wouldn't be a bad description of the last forty years of Egyptian history.
RK: No, Egypt was relatively stable until Mubarak blew it at the end. He blew it in two ways. One was by naming Gamal as his successor. The other was by not making the token reforms for the parliamentary elections that would have let some of the air out of the protest movement. And we put no pressure on him to undertake those reforms.
Look, I am under no illusions about the wonderful efficacy of American policy. But, it's not as if we've never been in a situation where we had to intervene during a transitional period in another country.
WRM: So, looking around the world now, where do you think we could play a really serious role in advancing democracy?
RK: Well, I'm not prepared to give up on Egypt, though it calls for a radical shift from the policy path that we are currently on. Sisi's government is not going to be stable, and there will be economic difficulties I don't think it can handle. My concern there is that because of what's happened, the Brotherhood is highly unlikely to take part in a political campaign any time soon.
And I'm not going to say that we could bring democracy to Syria tomorrow. But we certainly could shift the balance against Assad tomorrow. And our unwillingness to do that has, I think, cost us a great deal, not only in Syria, not only in the region, but around the world.
I do think that there's a lot that we are going to be doing in Ukraine, and I think it's important that we can support Ukrainian democracy.
WRM: Should we be pushing Hungary harder?
RK: Absolutely. I think it's very incumbent on both the European Union and the United States to say, ''Look, we're not going to tell you what to do. But, you're not part of our team if this is the direction you're going in.'' I think it's very important that we do that in Hungary, and I think it's very important that we do that in any other place where we see this trend emerging. And by ''trend'' I don't mean just the election of right-wing political parties in the European parliament; I mean the behavior of governments. And, by the way, a lot of democracy promotion is being catcher in the rye, and preventing democracies from steering off the cliff. It's not just, and in many cases it's not even primarily, going in and promoting.
WRM: Again, where do you think the United States can cut back? Is there any place? Any issue, any region in the world? Or, do we just need to do more?
RK: The question is beside the point. The bottom line is that we are back to having three regions in the world, all requiring a security commitment from the United States, as they traditionally have. We didn't think Europe was going to be one of them, and it now is. And we can't get out of the Middle East, no matter how much some of our policymakers would like us to. If anything, we're probably going to get deeper into the Middle East, not more out of it. And the President was absolutely right, as most strategists would say, that in Asia we must increase our capabilities and our presence across the board, not just militarily. If you want to say that therefore we'll do less in Argentina, fine. Make yourself feel better. Do you want to say we're going to do less in sub-Saharan Africa, fine.
WRM: Well, actually, it looks like we're going to have to do more there, too.
RK: So all I can say is that it's no longer this kind of 1990s problem'--of choosing the next place to intervene. We're not talking about Somalia and Haiti. Now we're talking about mainstream, core regions of the world, all of which require increased American capability and involvement. And instead, all our capabilities are decreasing.
My question to the other side would be, which of those three regions do you want to pull back from?
WRM: As you look at the political scene and political actors, is there anyone out there'--whether a candidate for president, or a senator or governor'--who you think has the vision and the ability to communicate to be the kind of leader you think America may need in the next few years?
RK: There's no one obvious at the moment. If we had a race, just hypothetically, in 2016, between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, I would sleep easier. I think I could live with either one of them.
WRM: Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul?
RK: In that case I would be sleeping less easily. No, I think that Hillary Clinton believes in the American role in the world, and my assumption is that Jeb Bush believes that America has this critical role in the world to play. Either of them, however, would still face a tremendously uphill battle in convincing the American people, in increasing the defense budget, in restoring what I think has become America's fading reputation for reliability. And it's not going to be easy.
WRM: Underlying this is a perceived lack of confidence among the American people in the foreign policy, internationalist elite.
RK: Was there a time when they had that confidence, or have we read that back into history? Do we remember the attacks on Dean Acheson?
WRM: I'm not quite old enough to remember, but I am well aware of them. During the Cold War, when an American President wanted to do something that wasn't all that popular, he could basically go to the opposition in Congress, and even to the American people, and say, ''look, if we don't do this, the communists are going to do X, and we can't have that.'' And after a lot of grumbling, something like what the president proposed would happen. These days there's a lot more public resistance. This is what you're saying.
RK: For me, the key difference is that there is no communism anymore. You're right, you could have been any goof, the American people could have no confidence in you at all, but if you said ''commies'' that was enough. That's a simplification, but I think there's a lot of truth in it. I find it hard to think back on, say, 1973 through 1979 and say ''wow, look at all the confidence the American people had in the foreign policy elite.'' The foreign policy elite blew up, you know?
I mean, in 1950, with the Korean War, I would say there was a tremendous loss of faith in the foreign policy elite, which Eisenhower then came in to try to reestablish in some way.
WRM: And fairly successfully.
RK: Yes, but only because he kicked all the problems down in the direction of Jack Kennedy and everything he did was quiet. So, when he wanted to deal with somebody, he rattled nuclear weapons at them or he overthrew them. Every time somebody says ''I love Eisenhower'', I want to say, ''If you love Eisenhower, you have to say you love threatening nuclear war, and overthrowing people you disagree with.'' Because that was his foreign policy.
WRM: That's true. It is actually interesting how often people talk about, say, Mossadegh and that terrible incident and they don't mention that it was Eisenhower!
Well, maybe we can end by saying that if Obama's staffers start comparing the President to Eisenhower's the Iranians should get nervous.
RK: In that case, they should get very nervous! They would be about to get nuked or overthrown imminently!
WRM: Thanks very much for speaking with us.
RK: My pleasure.
Iraqi Kurds link Kirkuk to own oil pipeline, plan more exports
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:31
Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:12pm EDT
(Releads on pipeline link, adds background, quotes)
By Julia Payne and Lin Noueihed
LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) - Iraqi Kurdistan has built a link connecting Kirkuk to its newly-built pipeline to Turkey, its minister of natural resources said, potentially cementing Kurdish control over the northern oil hub and reducing its reliance on Baghdad.
The link could allow the Kurds to start exports of Kirkuk crude oil through their own network, giving them a major source of independent revenue and boosting any ambitions of sovereign statehood as Iraq falls into increasing disarray.
The new link connects Kirkuk's Avana dome to the Khurmala dome out of which the Kurdish pipeline runs.
"That blue line was finished," Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) minister for natural resources, told a conference in London, pointing to a map of the pipelines.
Baghdad's military retreat from the north under a lightning assault led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) last week allowed the KRG's Peshmerga forces to seize control of long-disputed Kirkuk and its oil reserves - the potential economic lynchpin of a sovereign Kurdish entity.
But the main 600,000 bpd Kirkuk pipeline, which accounted for the bulk of Iraq's northern crude oil exports, has been offline since March following insurgent attacks.
Attempts to repair it have been thwarted by Islamic militants in the region, who have targeted engineers trying to fix sections of the line that pass through territory outside KRG control.
Adnan al-Janabi, a senior Sunni politician and head of Iraq's oil and gas committee, said that Kirkuk's production would likely be out for the time being along with some fields in the Salahuddin area but that oil production inside KRG areas would continue uninterrupted.
Janabi, a critic of the Baghdad government, told the conference that the Kurds had effectively realised their "dream of a greater Kurdistan" and the Iraqi army lacked the capability to take the oil city back easily.
"Kurdistan of Iraq is already on its national desired border and I don't think it will be easy to push back," he said.
"It includes parts of Kirkuk, Diala, Salahuddin... They are already there, already running the place and I don't think anyone will challenge them."
PUSH AHEAD WITH EXPORTS
With Baghdad busy fighting ISIL, the Kurds are pushing ahead with oil exports that could help bolster their autonomy.
Hawrami said the Kurds expected to load two more tankers of crude from their newly built pipeline this week at the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
The KRG began independent exports in May from its pipeline to Turkey, which by-passes Baghdad's system. So far, two tankers have loaded that oil.
For years, the KRG and Baghdad have been locked in a struggle over how to divide the country's oil revenue and budget. Baghdad opposes independent Kurdish oil exports and says all marketing must go through the state entity SOMO.
The divisions have significantly eroded trust and Hawrami said that the central government had withheld budget payments to the region so far this year and before that was giving only around 10 percent instead of an agreed 17 percent.
Oil exports will increase to 200,000-250,000 barrels per day in July, and then to 400,000 bpd by the year-end, Hawrami said, allowing the KRG to catch up with the entitlement that Baghdad never paid.
Speaking at the same conference, Thamir Ghadban, an oil official and advisor to the Iraqi prime minister, declined to get into the numbers but said the Kurds could not pick and choose from the country's constitution and should work through the central government.
Baghdad's warnings have not deterred the Kurds so far.
"They pushed us to do this," Hawrami said.
"We're going to create facts on the ground... Don't ask me to surrender my rights into your hands." (Writing by Lin Noueihed, editing by David Evans)
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"America Deluded Us" Slams Angry Iraq PM, Will Buy Russian Jets Instead In War Against ISIS | Zero Hedge
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:55
It was a week ago when we learned that in yet another diplomatic masterstroke, Russia's Vladimir Putin took advantage of the vacuum in relations between the US (which now wants its heretofore puppet prime minister in Iraq removed) and the Iraqi PM (who has been increasingly vocal against US allies in the region, namely Saudi Arabia, and US demands for a coalition government) and offered his "complete support" to the Iraqi leader. Yesterday the Iraqi leader has decided to take Putin up on his offer (especially since as we reported previously the Iraqi air force is currently made up of all of two "equipped" Cessna jets) and has announced he has bought used Russian jets which he will use instead of US fighter planes in his war against ISIS.
As BBC reports, citing Maliki, "Jets from Russia and Belarus will hopefully make a key difference in the fight against ISIS in Iraq." He expressed regrets over Iraq's contract with the US, saying their "jets are taking too long to arrive."
"God willing within one week this force will be effective and will destroy the terrorists' dens," he told BBC Arabic.
Mr Maliki says Iraq has ordered Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia, possibly similar to the one pictured.
In the meantime, the prime minister took another chance to poke the US in the eye, which despite sending "weaponized consultants" or whatever Obama calls troops and special CIA agents these days, has so far failed to deliver on its promised fighter jets to the civil war-torn country. Maliki criticized the process of purchasing US jets as ''long-winded,'' adding that the radicals could have been repelled if Iraq had proper air defense.
"I'll be frank and say that we were deluded when we signed the contract [with the US]," Maliki said. "We should have sought to buy other jet fighters like British, French and Russian to secure the air cover for our forces; if we had air cover we would have averted what had happened," he went on.
Maliki said Iraq bought second-hand jet fighters from Russia and Belarus "that should arrive in Iraq in two or three days." He was speaking to the BBC's Arabic service in his first interview for an international broadcaster since Isis - the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant - began its major offensive.
The prime minister also confirmed that Syrian forces had carried out air strikes against Islamist militants at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. He said Iraq had not requested the strikes but that it "welcomed" them. "They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours and the final winners are our two countries," he said.
Ironically, this also means that, at least optically, the US is now alligned with Russia as well as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia in the "all against one" fight against ISIS which continued to consolidate its territory in Iraq and Syria.
What it really means is that Obama has asked, and is about to get $500 milllion more to arm ISIS and its al-Qaeda peers in Syria, which in turn the Iraq air force will now use Russian jets to bomb.
What is the definition of a proxy war again?
Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 4.9(35 votes)
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F-Russia / Ukraine / Syria
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Bulgaria makes more arrests over bank runs
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:25
Sun Jun 29, 2014 7:01am EDT
* Five people now detained over bank runs
* Bulgaria warns of organised plot to destabilise banks
* Bulgarian banking sector seen as stable despite runs
* President expected to approve Oct 5 snap election date
By Gareth Jones
SOFIA, June 29 (Reuters) - Bulgarian authorities said on Sunday they had detained three more people on suspicion of plotting to destabilise the country's banking system by spreading false information about the health of its commercial banks.
The arrests, which follow the detention of two men on Saturday on the same grounds, are part of a criminal investigation launched after depositors on Friday rushed to withdraw savings from a second bank in the space of a week.
The run on First Investment Bank, Bulgaria's third largest lender - which bankers and economists say is well-capitalised - prompted the central bank to warn of a deliberate and systematic attack on the banking sector.
Last weekend, the central bank took over Bulgaria's fourth largest lender, Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank), after customers, who were rattled by online and media reports of suspect deals involving the bank, rushed to withdraw their savings. The bank has denied any wrongdoing.
The run on Corpbank has shone a light on weak economic governance in Bulgaria which joined the European Union in 2007 but remains its poorest member state and one of its most corrupt.
On Friday, leaders of the main political parties set Oct. 5 as the date for a snap parliamentary election, putting an end to weeks of political uncertainty that has coincided with the bank runs.
Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's Socialist-led minority government is expected to resign shortly. In power for barely a year, it has been plagued from the start by mass street protests and allegations of graft and has been unable to enact reforms urgently needed to revive a sluggish economy.
BANKING SYSTEM "STABLE"
Party leaders were due to begin consultations with President Rosen Plevneliev at 2 pm (1100 GMT) on Sunday on how to maintain political and economic stability until the election.
The president, a largely ceremonial figure who nevertheless has an important role to play at times of political instability, is expected to approve the election date. He may also appoint a caretaker administration once the Oresharski cabinet resigns.
Plevneliev, Oresharski and the central bank have all urged Bulgarian citizens to stay calm and to have faith in the integrity of the country's banking system.
Despite its political and economic problems, Bulgarian and international economists say the Balkan country of 7.5 million people is not in danger of an economic meltdown.
Bulgaria has one of the lowest levels of debt in the EU, its central bank is widely viewed as effective and well-run and the lev currency is tied to the euro via a currency board, which means it is shielded from turmoil in financial markets.
One of the men detained on Saturday over the bank runs, a resident of the Danube city of Ruse, had called for the scrapping of the currency board, the national security agency said.
However, there is a broad national consensus in Bulgaria on the role of the board as a bulwark of stability. It was introduced in the mid-1990s after a financial crisis triggered hyper-inflation and wiped out many of the country's banks.
"The banking system is stable and there is no need of a new loan from the International Monetary Fund at the moment," Petar Ganev of the Sofia-based Institute for Market Economics said.
"The credit rating of the country remains high despite the current panic ... Bulgarian banks maintain liquidity, which is higher even than European banks. It is below 10 percent in Europe while some banks in Bulgaria have 20 percent liquidity, which is why the First Investment Bank was able to cope in this critical situation and to pay out 800 million levs in one day."
"The most important thing at the moment is for people to defy deliberately engineered mass panic and to avoid aggravating the situation," said Ganev.
(Additional reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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Second Bulgarian bank under threat-SOUTH STREAM- - FT.com
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:40
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FUCK BULGARIA-CYBER THE BANKS-After complying with EU legislation South Stream project to continue: Bulgaria PM
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:39
Sofia. On Sunday, June 8, Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said Bulgaria was suspending the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline until it was brought in line with EU legislation.The issue has lead to almost incessant commentaries in Bulgaria and abroad.Former Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov (2002 '' 2012) gave an exclusive interview for ITAR-TASS and spoke about it.Problems which the construction project of a gas pipeline South Stream faced are merely political, he believes.South Stream ''is economically profitable, gives guarantees of security to Bulgarian energy industry, has a positive effect on the social sphere and gives additional guarantees for Bulgaria and other EU member states,'' Parvanov said further.Therefore, he ''hoped that Bulgarian government will show the strength of its character as several other countries did.'' ''But instead of this Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's statement came absolutely unexpected, as the latter instructed to halt South Stream,'' Parvanov added. ''Obviously Bulgaria becomes a hostage of geostrategic games,'' he believes.The former president said he was puzzled with the position which the EU leadership had taken, ''stating that there will be no South Stream unless Russia and Ukraine settle their disagreements.'' ''Why does no one raise a question about Nord Stream in this situation?'' Parvanov asked the rhetoric question, noting that ''As there is a northern gas pipeline, so, there should be a southern one as well.''The Bulgarian politician is convinced that his country needs a strong energy industry which will not be able to develop comprehensively without gas pipeline construction projects among which ''South Stream is the most promising.''South Stream is a global infrastructure project of Russian energy giant Gazprom building a gas pipeline at a capacity of 63 billion cubic metres through the Black Sea to Southern and Central European countries to diversify gas export routes and eliminate transit risks.The European Commission is concerned that this project will increase considerably Russia's influence in Europe and will not allow implementing a competing European gas pipeline project of ''a southern corridor'' which should connect Europe and Central Asia bypassing Russia. In the autumn of the previous year the European Commission has launched an anti-monopoly probe against South Stream which, according to its estimates, contradicts the EU third energy package rules. However, the European Commission neglected the fact that intergovernmental agreements on South Stream had been concluded back in 2008, so, a year before the third energy package, which is retrospective despite world legal practice, took effect.
The Peninsula Qatar - Bulgaria banks under attack: Central bank
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:36
SOFIA: Bulgaria's central bank said yesterday there was a systematic attempt to destabilise the country through attacks on the banking system and vowed to protect citizens' savings.
Depositors queued in the capital Sofia to withdraw funds from one of the country's biggest banks and its shares slumped, worsening a crisis that has shone a light on weak economic governance in the poorest European Union state.
Last week, the central bank took control of Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank) after a run on deposits sparked by media reports of suspect deals involving the bank and its top shareholder.
The central bank said Corpbank's problems were isolated. Economists and Fitch Ratings agency also played down the risk of contagion, while foreign banks with subsidiaries in Bulgaria insisted their operations were safe.
But the crisis spread on Friday as the country's third-biggest lender, First Investment Bank, said it was under an ''unprecedented criminal attack''.
Reuters witnesses saw queues of between 15 and 30 customers build gradually after some bank branches opened on Friday in Sofia. By early afternoon, there were around 70 people queuing outside one central branch of First Investment Bank.
The bank said depositors withdrew about 800m levs ($555.88m) and announced it would close all branches at 1200 GMT until Monday for ''logistical reasons''. It said it had enough funds to meet clients' demands.
A spokesman said Internet banking services and cash machine withdrawals would continue to function over the weekend.
''I was told to come here and take my money out,'' said a 32-year old woman in one bank queue who did not want to be named. ''I hope they do not close the doors in front of our noses.''
Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev said the government was investigating attempts to destabilise the banking system. He said there had been a concerted phone and Internet campaign to spread rumours about other banks.
Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said there was no cause for concern. On Friday, leaders of the main political parties set October 5 as the date for a snap parliamentary election, putting an end to weeks of political uncertainty that has coincided with the bank runs.
''The risk of a widespread run on banks increases in a situation like this, and it's pretty important that the authorities are on top of things,'' said Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets analyst at Danske Bank.
The crisis has knocked an already weak economy and revived concerns about persistent corruption in the country, which joined the EU in 2007. Many Bulgarians who lost money in a banking sector meltdown in the late 1990s are wary of official assurances that their savings are safe.
Both Corpbank and its biggest investor, Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vassilev, have denied any wrongdoing.
Comments on Thursday by a deputy from the ruling Socialist Party that another bank may suffer a similar fate to Corpbank accelerated the steep declines in Bulgarian bank stocks.
The lawmaker, Anton Kutev, told Nova TV he thought there had been a deliberate attempt to ''break'' Corpbank and that ''someone is trying to pull down another bank, as far as I feel''. He did not say who might be trying to take such action.
''In recent days there has been an attempt to destabilise the state through an organised attack against Bulgarian banks without any reason,'' the central bank said in a statement. It said First Investment Bank had been a major target.
The central bank urged all state institutions to work together to protect financial stability and take legal action against those spreading ''untrue and ill-intentioned rumours'' about the health of Bulgaria's banks.
Reuters
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A new Turkish aggression against Syria: Ankara suspends pumping Euphrates' water | Joel's Trumpet
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:28
I actually wasn't aware that Turkey had control of the Euphrates via a dam.
The Turkish government recently cut off the flow of the Euphrates River, threatening primarily Syria but also Iraq with a major water crisis. Al-Akhbar found out that the water level in Lake Assad has dropped by about six meters, leaving millions of Syrians without drinking water.
Two weeks ago, the Turkish government once again intervened in the Syrian crisis. This time was different from anything it had attempted before and the repercussions of which may bring unprecedented catastrophes onto both Iraq and Syria.
Violating international norms, the Turkish government recently cut off the water supply of the Euphrates River completely. In fact, Ankara began to gradually reduce pumping Euphrates water about a month and half ago, then cut if off completely two weeks ago, according to information received by Al-Akhbar.
Beyond the very real humanitarian catastrophe that this is likely already beginning to affect, it certainly also make one ponder the future connections to the following verse:
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. Revelation 16:12
Alahkbar English has the full story here.
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Turkey Dries Up the Euphrates - theTrumpet.com
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:28
The Syrian civil war has once more taken a dire turn for the worse. Turkey has altered its strategy against its opponents, the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Instead of simply aiding the Syrian rebels, Turkey is now also killing them with dehydration. The problem is, this brutal act threatens the lives of millions of Syrian and Iraqi citizens.
The crisis revolves around the Euphrates River, which quickly became the Euphrates Creek when Turkey completely cut off the water flow upstream of Syria, reported Al Akhbar on May 30. The Euphrates originates in Turkey and passes through the Atat¼rk Dam before flowing into Syria and Iraq. By cutting off the flow and directing it into the reservoir, Turkey has lowered water levels downstream.
2 Weeks Ago, Turkey Stopped Flow of Euphrates River Into Syria and Iraq''6 Meter Drop In Lake Assad | ThereAreNoSunglasses
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:27
Turkish government finally cut the Euphrates River finally, what major catastrophic affect Syria in first class, second class in Iraq.Al News>> The water level in Lake Assad>> has fallen about six meters, what keeps millions of Syrians without drinking water
New Turkish intervention in the Syrian crisis began two weeks ago, but this time is different from all its predecessors, and its complications portend disaster of unprecedented threats to Syria and Iraq together.In step violates all international norms, the Turkish government finally cut imports water Euphrates dam altogether.According to information obtained by the News>>, Ankara began nearly a month and a half to reduce water pumping Euphrates gradually, leading to completely cut off two weeks ago.
The source, who asked not to be named, that the high water level in Lake Assad>> (which store water Euphrates Dam) has finally dropped from its level six meters of natural (which means the loss of millions of cubic meters of water).The source said that decline attributed meters further means that the dam is out of service>>.According to the source, the action to be taken in such a case is closed or reduction of water from the dam, pending address the fundamental problem of the water contained in stopping him>>.This is not done organizing Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant>>, which the dam is located in the areas of control, and Staff in the General Corporation to fill the Euphrates>> run under the control of the organization baseband, without that possess the power to make decisions articulated, such as the reduction of the water, as that this procedure, in itself, is nothing more than an ambulatory, loses its effectiveness is no longer contained water to the decision of the Turkish dam.
Catastrophic complication of the Turkish assault began to emerge, where the water level dropped in hand Alkhvsh in Aleppo countryside east (where the station is located suction water from Lake Assad and pumped through the channels of traction to Aleppo and its countryside).According to information News>> that the water in the reservoirs in Alkhvsh backup is on the verge of running out.(Expected to run out completely by this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest).What means the survival of about seven million Syrians without water.As well as the stop dam October for receiving any drop of water, and thus stopped turbines generated electricity, which means reducing the amount of electricity delivered to Aleppo and its countryside, and has entered into a new phase of the electrical imbalance (originally zero).In Raqqa, has become the northern side of the Lake Assad>> completely out of service, from a small Swedish village, east and west until Jernah, threatening thirsty about two million Syrian them.Sources confirm News>> that the loss of the dam for the reservoir water, which means dry silt in the lake, the pressure on the infrastructure construction of the dam, and offer it for cracks and collapse inevitably>>, and therefore it must close the dam to prevent drying>>.The closure of the dam (in the case before Daash) lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, and environmental (animal and agricultural) in Syria, as in Iraq.Al News>> that the initiative of the people>> (who already have initiatives of several to find compromise solutions for a number of issues in Aleppo) have begun a race against time to put solutions ambulatory of the problem, first and foremost try to re-station thermal Ambassador to the work, which may contribute to the approval Daash>> to dispense the Euphrates dam turbines, and thus keep the water level of the lake in its present borders.This falls under the solution (if successful) in the context of saving what can be saved, and reduce the aggravation of the disaster, which occurred already, and became a water break is inevitable, no solution has radically unless Ankara government decision to re-inject water of the Euphrates.Taking into account the fact that the return of the lake water to natural water level need to be about a month, after the return of pumping.
Historical conflict
The dispute over the actions of Turkey regarding the water of the Euphrates historically, and continuing between Turkey on the one hand, and all of Syria, and Iraq on the other.Ankara insists on the grounds of the Euphrates River river transboundary>>, not NHRA internationally>>, is therefore is not concerned with international laws>>, Turkey is also one of the three countries (with China, and Burundi) objected to the International Convention for the use of waterways for the purposes of non-international navigation >>, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1997.In 1987 was the signing of the Syrian-Turkish agreement, a temporary agreement to share the waters of the Euphrates River between the two countries during the period of basin fill the Ataturk Dam.And provided for the Turkish side has pledged to provide an annual rate of more than 500 cubic meters per second at the Turkish-Syrian border temporarily until a final agreement on the distribution of the waters of the Euphrates River between the three countries located on its banks.The registration of Syria in 1994 to the United Nations Convention, to ensure the minimum of the right of Syria and Iraq in the waters of the Euphrates River.
US-NATO ''Water War'' against Syria: Turkey Suspends Pumping Euphrates' Water | Global Research
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:27
The Turkish government recently cut off the flow of the Euphrates River, threatening primarily Syria but also Iraq with a major water crisis. Al-Akhbar found out that the water level in Lake Assad has dropped by about six meters, leaving millions of Syrians without drinking water.
Two weeks ago, the Turkish government once again intervened in the Syrian crisis. This time was different from anything it had attempted before and the repercussions of which may bring unprecedented catastrophes onto both Iraq and Syria.
Violating international norms, the Turkish government recently cut off the water supply of the Euphrates River completely. In fact, Ankara began to gradually reduce pumping Euphrates water about a month and half ago, then cut if off completely two weeks ago, according to information received by Al-Akhbar.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity revealed that water levels in the Lake Assad (a man-made water reservoir on the Euphrates) recently dropped by six meters from its normal levels (which means losing millions of cubic meters of water). The source warned that ''a further drop of one additional meter would put the dam out of service.''
''We should cut off or reduce the water output of the dam, until the original problem regarding the blockage of the water supply is fixed,'' the source explained.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controlling the region the dam is located in did not suspend the water output. Employees of the General Institution of the Euphrates Dam are running the lake under the supervision of al-Qaeda linked ISIS, but they don't have the authority to take serious decisions, such as reducing the water output. In addition, such a step is a mere attempt to ease the situation, and it will lose its efficacy if the water supply isn't restored to the dam by Turkey.
The tragic repercussions of the new Turkish assault began to reveal themselves when water levels dropped in al-Khafsa in Aleppo's eastern countryside (where a water pumping station from Lake Assad is located to pump water through water channels to Aleppo and its countryside).
The reservoirs are expected to run out of water completely by tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest.
Meanwhile, water supplies in auxiliary reservoirs in al-Khafsa are close to being depleted and the reservoirs are expected to run out of water completely by tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest. This threatens to leave seven million Syrians without access to water.
Also, Tishrin Dam stopped receiving any water which blocked its electricity generating turbines, decreasing the power supply in Aleppo and its countryside, further intensifying the already severe imbalance in the power supply.In Raqqa, the northern side of Lake Assad is today completely out of service. Two million Syrians living in the region covering the villages of Little Swaydiya to the east until al-Jarniya to the west could lose their drinking water supply. ''Losing water supplies in the dam means that the silt in the lake will dry off which would pressure its structure, subjecting it to fissures and eventually total collapse,'' Al-Akhbar sources warned, adding ''it is crucial to shut down the dam to stop its collapse.''
However, shutting down the dam (if ISIS agrees) will only lead to a human and ecological (zoological and agricultural) catastrophe in Syria and in Iraq.
According to information obtained by Al-Akhbar, Aleppo locals (who had already launched many initiatives to reach solutions for a number of local issues) began a race against time to recommend solutions for the problem, including putting the thermal plant at al-Safira back to work, which may convince ISIS to spare the Euphrates Dam turbines, and in turn preserve current water levels in the lake.
In case it succeeds, such a step would only rescue whatever water and structures are left, and would ward off further repercussions of the crisis that has already started. A halt to the water supply is now inevitable and can't be resolved unless the Turkish government takes the decision to resume pumping Euphrates water.
In any case, it is worth mentioning that the water in the lake would take about a month, after resuming pumping, to return to its normal levels.
''The decrease in water levels'' Bottom: ''Euphrates Dam'' (Photo: Al-Akhbar)
A historical conflict
The Euphrates River has historically been at the center of a conflict between Turkey on the one hand and both Syria and Iraq on the other. Ankara insists on considering the Euphrates a ''trans-boundary river'' and not an ''international river,'' hence it is ''not subject to international laws.'' Also, Turkey is one of the only three countries in the world (along with China and Burundi) that opposed the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1997.
In 1987, a temporary agreement between Syria and Turkey was signed to share the water supplies of the Euphrates during the period when the basin of the Ataturk Dam was being filled. In virtue of the agreement, Turkey pledged to provide an annual level of over 500 cubic meters of water a second on the Turkish-Syrian borders, until reaching a final agreement about sharing the water supplies of the river between the three countries. In 1994, Syria registered the agreement at the United Nations to guarantee the minimum amount of Iraq and Syria's right to the water from the Euphrates River.
Copyright Al Akhbar, 2014
www.globalresearch.ca/us-nato-water-war-against-syria-turkey-suspends-pumping-euphrates-water/5386059" data-title="US-NATO ''Water War'' against Syria: Turkey Suspends Pumping Euphrates' Water">
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Russia warns Europe over re-selling gas to Ukraine
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:33
Russian state-run natural giant Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller attends an annual shareholders' meeting in the Gazprom headquarters in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 27, 2014. Miller said Friday that the company is closely monitoring the situation and may curb shipments to those European nations, which would re-sell Russian gas to Ukraine in the so-called reverse supplies, which he has described as a "half-fraudulent scheme." He wouldn't name any specific countries. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
MOSCOW (AP) '-- Russia's state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, warned its European customers Friday that it could limit supplies to countries that intend to re-sell the natural gas on to Ukraine.
Along with a military conflict in the east, Ukraine is struggling with a $4.5 billion gas debt to Russia. Gazprom last week cut gas shipments to Ukraine after the talks to settle the debt and negotiate a lower price failed. Supplies to Europe via Ukraine and other pipelines have not been affected, however.
Ukraine has sought to counter the Russian move by trying to negotiate gas supplies from other European countries that buy Russian gas. European Union officials said they were working to set up so-called "reverse flow" shipments back to Ukraine via Slovakia.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said Friday that the company is closely monitoring the situation and may curb supplies "in the foreseeable future" to those nations that would pump the Russian gas to Ukraine through reverse flow, which he described as a "half-fraudulent scheme." He wouldn't name any specific countries.
"Ukraine has no right to use the gas in its pipeline," Miller told reporters.
Asked whether Moscow was willing to resume talks with Ukraine, Miller reiterated the company's stance, saying that the country needs to pay down at least some amount of the debt before the talks could resume.
Ukrainian officials have admitted that the country cannot cuts its dependence on the Russian gas right now but have unveiled plans on how to diversify energy supplies and rationalize their use.
Miller said Gazprom is beginning to store extra amounts of gas in its underground storages in Europe in order to guarantee winter time supplies. He said, however, that this "does not eliminate the risks of transit" through Ukraine.
(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Gas supply at stake: Trans-Caspian pipeline threatens to bury TAPI project
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:32
Expert­s sugges­t Pakist­an must seek supply guaran­tees from Turkme­nistan.
Growing Chinese interest in gas purchase from Turkmenistan and construction of the trans-Caspian pipeline may block gas flow to the TAPI pipeline. PHOTO: FILE
ISLAMABAD: With fears of supply constraints lurking in the mind, Pakistan should consider seeking guarantees from Turkmenistan for ensuring promised gas flow under the TAPI pipeline project before Ashgabat makes any commitment to Europe for a trans-Caspian gas pipeline, officials say.
Growing Chinese interest in gas purchase from Turkmenistan and construction of the trans-Caspian pipeline may block gas flow to the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) pipeline because Ashgabat will not be able to meet demand of both sides, background discussions with officials reveal.
Experts increasingly voice fears that the European project will bury the TAPI scheme, considered a last hope for Pakistan to buy cheap gas and ease its energy crisis after the apparent shelving of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline in the face of US pressure.
Earlier this year, Turkmenistan once again got engaged in contact with the US and the European Union as well as multinational companies to push ahead with the trans-Caspian pipeline with an aim to export gas to the lucrative EU market through the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Total volume of gas supplied to Europe is estimated at around 250 billion cubic metres and under the Caspian pipeline the region will get 15 billion cubic metres.
In the case of China, Turkmenistan began delivering gas in late 2009 and in November 2011, it agreed to provide an additional 25 billion cubic metres, bringing the total volume to 65 billion cubic metres per annum.
Gaffney, Cline & Associates and McKinney & Company have conducted independent studies on Turkmenistan's gas deposits, which show that the reserves, especially the ones already explored, are not very huge.
Over the past few years, Pakistan has been facing its worst energy crisis that has stunted growth of commercial and industrial business as well as the overall economy. The country's gas production is expected to drop from the present 4 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) to 2.53 bcfd in 2019-20, threatening collapse of the economy if additional supplies are not arranged.
Talking to The Express Tribune, energy expert Dr AH Nayyar said Pakistan had consumed 40% of its tapped natural gas deposits and the remaining would hardly last 15 to 20 years. ''We should secure gas supply from Iran and Turkmenistan to meet future needs,'' he said.
The US seemed to be more interested in building the trans-Caspian pipeline in an attempt to take Turkmen gas to Europe from its traditional routes, officials pointed out and said Washington was least interested in gas delivery to Pakistan through TAPI and once again Islamabad may be a victim of the US policy.
Former petroleum secretary GA Sabri suggested that secured gas supplies from Turkmenistan would depend on an agreement between the two sides. ''If Pakistan has a good agreement in place, it should not be concerned about anything,'' he said.
According to officials, Washington is more interested in the award of contracts to US firms. Turkmenistan has no funds to develop gas fields and is banking on US companies.
Ashgabat has offered them offshore gas exploration contracts but the companies want a stake in onshore fields. Now in this area, the two sides are negotiating deals.
In TAPI pipeline, the progress has come to a halt as US energy giants Chevron and ExxonMobil could not finalise gas extraction contracts against financing for the project.
According to former petroleum secretary Dr Gulfraz, who had been part of negotiations on gas pipelines in 1997, consortium leader Unicol pulled out of the TAPI project following directives of the US State Department, leaving Pakistan in a lurch and depriving it of cheaper gas.
Now after the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, he believed, Washington would again be opposing the TAPI pipeline following a shift in its policies.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2014.
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'‹Waging war against Russia, one pipeline at a time '-- RT Op-Edge
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 06:29
Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City and the founder of StopImperialism.com.
While the human politics of the crisis in Ukraine garner all the headlines, it is the gas politics that in many ways lies at the heart of the conflict.
Indeed, the energy issue has not only framed much of the economic dimensions of the crisis, it has revealed the deep divides that exist among the political and business elite of Europe who, despite their bluff and bluster about Russia's actions in Ukraine and the expansion of sanctions, understand quite clearly that Russia is an integral part of Europe's economic future.
However, that hasn't stopped the West and its proxies and clients in Eastern Europe from attempting to undermine Russia's strategic economic position through a variety of means. From derailing negotiations over pipeline construction to using puppet governments as a wedge between Moscow and Europe, the US and its allies have attempted to undermine Russia's economic and strategic position vis- -vis gas delivery infrastructure, while simultaneously strengthening their own.
Ukraine and the threat to Russia and EuropeLost amid the horror stories of Kiev's military assault on the people of Donbas, the vicious attacks by Right Sector Nazis, and the general state of chaos in Ukraine's political institutions, is the fact that one of the central aspects of the Ukraine-Russia conflict is gas. Specifically, it centers on the Russian energy delivery infrastructure (pipelines, refineries, etc.) in Ukraine and its vital importance to Russia's continued energy exports to Europe.
Also, Kiev and the Russian energy giant Gazprom have been busy trying to negotiate terms of payment for the massive bill (at least $4 billion, though likely more) Ukraine owes, which undoubtedly raises the stakes for both sides as billions of dollars are on the line. Were the conflict only financial, then undoubtedly a resolution could be reached. However, in recent weeks there have been dangerous developments and accusations, which have cast the issue in a new light; it is no longer merely about profits, it's about security.
In mid-June, a major gas pipeline carrying Russian gas through Ukraine was blown up in the Poltava region of the country. Though Ukrainian authorities have claimed that the gas supply to Europe was not interrupted, the incident signals a dangerous development in the ongoing crisis, specifically the targeting of key pipelines by terrorists bent on attacking Russian economic interests. Many experts, including the eminent historian and scholar Dr. Stephen Cohen, have accused right wing ultranationalist extremist groups of carrying out this terrorist action, as well as others including the shameful and violent ''protest'' outside the Russian embassy in Kiev.
In fact, this week saw yet another attack by Right Sector terrorists on critical gas infrastructure. A large contingent of militants from the fascist group seized the Dolynsky Oil refinery in Kirovograd in Central Ukraine. The attack on the facility, owned by a friend and business associate of the deposed former President Yanukovich, is yet another assault on key elements in the Russian energy supply network. While the Right Sector militants justify their actions as being part of a campaign against ''terrorists in Donetsk,'' it is hard to view these developments as anything other than a direct attack upon Russian economic interests.
Naturally, Kiev has not been exactly diligent in its attempts to investigate these and other incidents implicating Right Sector and other fascist groups, which have been legally sanctioned, including with the moniker ''National Guard,'' by authorities in Kiev. Lack of a thorough investigation notwithstanding, the attack on the pipeline represents a significant escalation of the conflict, as it now threatens not only Russian revenues, but the European energy supply.
As many commentators have noted, Russia provides upwards of one third of Europe's gas imports, with 60-80 percent of that supply traveling through pipelines on the territory of Ukraine. An escalation of attacks on this critical infrastructure threatens the stability of the European economy, and has led many business leaders in Europe and the US to question not just Washington's and Brussels' policies toward the Ukraine issue, but the general hostility toward Russia that has come to dominate ruling class circles in the West. It would seem then that the political will to further exacerbate the conflict is at odds with good business sense '' precisely what many in Russia and around the world have been saying since the chaos in Ukraine began.
Pipelines and economic proxy warBeyond Ukraine, there have been a number of attempts by the US and its partners to derail Russian pipeline development, and, as a corollary, to continue to promote projects that undermine Russia's position in the energy market of Europe.
One of the more well-known projects that Moscow has embarked on in recent years is the highly ambitious South Stream pipeline, a project that would bring Russian gas under the Black Sea and into Central Europe via Bulgaria and Serbia. Seen by most experts as Russia's attempt to diversify its delivery infrastructure away from Ukraine, the project has been a major sore point with the US, which has attempted to decrease European reliance on Russian energy. And so, negotiations among the relevant transit countries have taken on added significance with the advent of the crisis in Ukraine. It is against this backdrop that the latest news from Bulgaria is worrying for the Kremlin.
Earlier this month, the government of Bulgaria yielded to pressure from the EU and halted construction of the South Stream. A number of analysts both in Bulgaria and around the world have noted that this development is a direct consequence of threats and arm-twisting from the West which is desperately trying to prevent Russia from further solidifying its position in the European energy market.
As one prominent Bulgarian political analyst, who asked not to be named, told the German news agency Deutsche Welle, ''The EU has no money to support Ukraine in the gas dispute with Russia... So in order to blackmail Moscow and compel it to continue transporting gas via Ukraine, Brussels wants to put a halt to the South Stream project. Bulgarians are the ultimate victims. And the project might still be completed, potentially via Turkey, which does not bow to the [sic] pressure from the EU.''
Indeed, it seems that Europe, and by extension the US, is attempting to leverage their political clout in Eastern Europe to block Russian development and, simultaneously, keep those countries subservient to the West. As many have noted, the pipeline will bring tremendous benefits to Bulgaria, and all countries through which it transits, as those countries will then be recipients of generous gas discounts, not to mention jobs and other major benefits for the economically struggling countries of the former Soviet space.
And this is precisely the issue, namely the question of whether countries like Bulgaria are allowed to pursue their own, independent economic development, or whether they must be subjected to European and American bullying. As renowned Bulgarian political and energy analyst, and professor of International Relations, Dr. Nina Dyulgerova explained in a recent interview:
''Judging by the fact that we [Bulgaria] are the first country in the EU route of South Stream, we can conclude that has to do with politics. Europe is subjected to a growing Russian-American confrontation in the field of energy. The Ukraine crisis, for instance, was a geostrategical object of impact from the US side which led...to an increased US participation in the most important element of Washington's interest in the field of energy, namely - the gas transportation system of Ukraine. Coincidentally [Hunter Biden], the son of US Vice President Joe Biden, is a member of the board of directors at the Ukrainian gas company [Burisma]. The fact that a process of buying up parts of Ukraine's energy system by American firms, and European ones close to them, also increases the pressure on the construction of South Stream, because it would mitigate or put an end to this complicated game.''
As Dr. Dyulgerova correctly notes, part of the US strategy in Ukraine is to strip the assets of the Ukrainian state, mostly but not exclusively in the energy sector, and sell them off to Western interests. Naturally, Russia's counter-measure is to accelerate the development of South Stream, to which the West has responded with the most recent round of intimidation and meddling. In fact, this goes far beyond simply making crony capitalist deals with Western companies.
Just before Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski made the announcement that his country would be freezing construction of South Stream, he had extensive consultations with prominent US Senators, including John McCain (R-AZ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), both of whom have extensive ties to the oil and gas industry. Immediately following these meetings, the announcement was made, with the connection of course not being mere coincidence. Obviously, the political establishment, in the service of its corporate patrons, has committed its energies and resources into being the tip of the spear against Russian economic development and its attempts to solidify its relations with European countries.
While countries like Bulgaria have been cowed by US and European pressure, others have not. In the wake of the announcement by Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic reiterated his country's desire to participate in the project and maintain its traditionally close ties to Russia. Additionally, leaders in Slovenia and Austria, have continued to express their support for South Stream, rejecting calls from Washington and Brussels to turn away from the project. In fact, Russian President Putin and Austrian President Fischer came together this week to mark the signing of the cooperation deal between Austria's OMV and Russia's Gazprom. In a characteristically undiplomatic and unfriendly subtle threat directed at Austria, the US embassy released a statement saying that Austrians ''should consider carefully whether today's events contribute to the effort [to maintain trans-Atlantic unity and discourage further Russian aggression].''
Essentially then, South Stream has become one of the primary battlegrounds in the economic war that the West is waging against Russia. The sanctions are merely the window-dressing to the much more sinister attempt to stifle the independent economic development of all countries seeking to do business with Russia and increase their own prosperity.
Moreover, the attacks on South Stream signal a US-EU policy in Ukraine, and in the region, which is in many ways at odds with powerful business interests. In this way, some of the divides within the establishment have become clearer. In addition, with the recent signing of the Sino-Russian gas deal, which itself will lead to the completion of two more critical pipelines, Moscow seems to have developed a comprehensive counter-strategy. While the US and its partners have attempted to restart projects like the Trans-Caspian Pipeline '' a Western-sponsored alternative to the South Stream, which is still in the early stages and has encountered a number of major hurdles in recent years '' Russia continues to steadily build up and refurbish its pipeline infrastructure.
The 19th Century saw the advent of the ''Great Game'' '' competition between the Russian and British empires for control over the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the Black Sea, Central Asia, and elsewhere '' which persisted throughout that century, leading to at least two major Russian wars. The 20th Century was characterized by world wars and the Cold War which saw the Anglo-American empire, even when allied with the Soviet Union during the wars, in constant competition with Russia. In the 21st Century, an era when such animosities were supposed to have been buried with previous generations, we are seeing a renewal of the Great Game and Cold War, with the US and Europe playing foil to Russia's rising economic power.
The new Great Game is one for energy, pipelines, and access to markets. But, ultimately, it is about power, and the US has yet to recognize that the power it once wielded, the power to influence outcomes to its own benefit whenever it suits, has rapidly declined. Washington has yet to recognize that the entire world is no longer its imperial backyard. Hopefully, for the sake of peace and progress, they will recognize this reality, sooner rather than later.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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Polish BJ's
Visa Waiver issue
Poland is the only Schengen country not incuded in the ESTA waiver program
An insult at best
Brazil said FU to USA and makes it tough for USA to get Visa to Brazil
Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Rep., Hungary ARE in the ESTA
Official reason: over the PELOSI introduced limit of 10% rejection rate
Supposed because so many people can't answer no the the arrested question
The REAL reason?
Polish conspiracy theory why Poland is so long excluded from Visa Waiver: Jews rule USA and they don't want Poland to join Visa Waiver.
See Wikipedia entry of : maus graphic novel - and search there for "pig" or "Pole" - Poles are pigs to Jews - i.e. the most despised animal in their religion. It's stupid as Poland was tolerant to Jews - 3.3 (yes, that magic number again) million Jews lived in Poland before World War 2 - 1-2 million more than any other country and it was Germans who performed Holocaust. But Jews have some stupid idea that Poles were helping what is lie except for some small exceptions: see wikipedia entry "Rescue of Jews by Poles during the Holocaust" and note Poland was the only German occupied country where helping Jews was punished by death. See wikipedia entry "List of Righteous Among the Nations by country" - Poland beats Netherlands - biggest number of non-Jews helping Jews.
as long as Poland is excluded from visa waiver program NOTHING that USA says or promises to Poland is believed. This friendship is over and Pulaski and Kosciusko - 2 Poles who were fighting for US independence and contributed hugely are turning in their graves out of disgust.
A deeper look into Poland's U.S. visa problems
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 15:24
A deeper look into Poland's U.S. visa problemsSkip to comments.
A deeper look into Poland's U.S. visa problemsThe Winona Daily News ^ | October 20, 2007 | Roy Nasstrom
Posted on 10/20/2007 3:02:59 PM PDT by lizol
A deeper look into Poland's visa problems
By Roy Nasstrom | Guest view
Stewart Shaw's mention of the visa requirement for ordinary Polish visitors to the United States deserves attention. Although the visa issue has not received much attention in most of the American media, Congress and the White House have taken it very seriously.
It does seem unfair to exclude Poland from the visa waiver program. This program allows citizens to enter the United States for a visit with only a passport and without subjection to sometimes humiliating questions that must be answered when applying for a visa. All the nations of western Europe benefit from the program. Nevertheless, with the exception of Slovenia, no former Communist nation of central and eastern Europe is in the program.
Nominally, inclusion requires ''governmental stability'' and competent treatment of immigration and emigration policies. Rejection from the program is automatic if more than a limited number of visa applicants in the past have been rejected for various reasons, including arrests, serious illness or activities to be judged by consular officials potentially harmful to the United States.
The Bush administration has been trying to get the rule modified to allow nations such as Poland to secure waivers, but Congress has not agreed. A couple of months ago, legislation reduced restrictions somewhat. But the legislation included a clause presented by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein that rejected a country's entry to the program if more than 10 percent of its visa applicants had been rejected. Poland's 25 to 35 percent rejection rate prevents it from getting into the program, although several other countries could be accepted under the rule.
Why should Poland have such a high rate of rejection?
In the early 2000s, the latest period for which I have data, Estonia, Hungary and the Czech Republic had higher crime rates (low by western European standards) than Poland's. But their visa rejection rate is low enough to make their prospects for entry into the Visa Waiver Program far better than Poland's. Definitions of crime and statistical techniques vary considerably among countries, making precise comparisons difficult, but the figures do arouse curiosity.
Some observers have suggested that, unlike other countries, Poland simply has not actively discouraged visa applications from people likely to be refused. There is no doubt, however, that Poland does have a fairly high unemployment rate by International Labor Organization data 19 percent three years ago, significant even for Eastern Europe.
But how relevant to American well-being is the restriction to Poland and a few other countries in central and eastern Europe? Feinstein has said that our immigration policy was ''the soft underbelly of national security,'' and many in Congress agree with her.
Some want to end waivers for all countries. Moreover, an economic issue is important to many legislators. They fear that once in, some visa-holding immigrants would get jobs and stay illegally. Immigrants are a panic-button issue in many places.
Those opposed to restrictions have argued simply that it is not fair to exclude some countries of the European Union, but not others. They point also to the number of Americans with Polish relatives. They have noted that most of eastern Europe is no more likely in the case of Poland, less likely to be a conduit for Islamic terrorists than western European countries, especially those whose immigrants from former colonies cannot be limited.
In terms of illegal employment, supporters of visa exclusion have noted that Poland has become far better off economically than old statistics data indicate, thus lessening workers' wishes to search for jobs in the United States.
Perhaps most important, supporters of Poland's inclusion view the country as a vital component of U.S. relations with Europe, especially since the acceptance of former Communist countries into the European Union. They argue that Poland's influence in eastern and central Europe, always large, is growing, and that its support of the United States is vital to American interests.
Although the issue of waivers is highly political, so far it is not a partisan issue.
Geographic location, concepts of terrorism and composition of constituencies and financial supporters play a more important role in determining legislators' attitudes than political affiliation. Democrats and Republicans stand on both sides of the issue. Illinois Reps. John Shimkus, a Republican, and Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, have jointly authored legislation to end the restriction in the current law.
TOPICS:Foreign Affairs; News/Current EventsKEYWORDS:poland; visas
1 posted on 10/20/2007 3:03:02 PM PDT by lizolTo: lizol
Sure, a lot of Poles have left their country to find jobs. Does that make them undesirable?
Dianne Feinstein supports Mexican illegals coming here for cheap jobs, but evidently opposes Poles emmigrating to America, although the crime rate in Poland is surely much lower than in Mexico, and the education is far better.
Who would we rather have, a hard-working, well educated Pole who wants to come to America and find a future, or a Mexican criminal who has 3 DUI offenses on his record, collects welfare, and illegally votes for the Democrats?
Don't ask.
2 posted on 10/20/2007 3:13:14 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)To: lizol
The reason why the congress is blocking this is not because the eastern block counties high crime rate, the Poles are conservatives. They are hard workers, they come here not with thier hand out but with thier work clothes on ready to go to work! Dems need people who are dependent upon them. Illegals in this country which the dems are falling over each other to coddle and encourage have raped, and murdererd American citizens, and do we here anything form them on this? NO! Pathetic, spineless, hypocrites! Get your voting shoes on America lets clean house! Lets rid ourselves of this cancer called liberalism and all its tumors!
3 posted on 10/20/2007 3:23:23 PM PDT by ronnie raygun (Id rather be hunting with dick than driving with ted)To: lizol
This program allows citizens to enter the United States for a visit with only a passport and without subjection to sometimes humiliating questions that must be answered when applying for a visa.Does anyone know what these "humiliating questions" might be?
Not that I'm opposed to Polish visitors and/or immigrants. I just can't think of any humiliating questions, just humiliating answers, and that's not our fault.
4 posted on 10/20/2007 3:27:30 PM PDT by magslinger (I will not submit.)To: lizol
Poland is a very strong and valuable ally to the US and,as such,we must demonstrate gratitude to her people and her government.Among the many ways we could do that is to minimize the barriers that Poles must overcome to enter the US for short visits.However,Poland must realize that illegal immigration is a serious problem in the US.As I think I told you recently,lizol,I spent a few days in Ireland last June and was surprised by how many workers from Poland and other new EU member states I saw at the hotels we stayed at.And as I told you they were all very polite,friendly,efficient and spoke English very well.
My understanding is that Poles are allowed to live and work,with few if any restrictions,in the UK as well as Ireland. I would think that that fact would minimize the chances that a Pole might come to the US and overstay his or her visa.If my assumptions and conclusions are correct I see no reason why Poland shouldn't be included in a system which places minimum restrictions on short visits for her citizens.
5 posted on 10/20/2007 3:32:51 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (If martyrdom is so cool,why does Osama Obama go to such great lengths to avoid it?)To: Cicero; lizol
Who would we rather have, a hard-working, well educated Pole who wants to come to America and find a future, or a Mexican criminal who has 3 DUI offenses on his record, collects welfare...I'd take the Polish person every time.
6 posted on 10/20/2007 3:35:13 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (If martyrdom is so cool,why does Osama Obama go to such great lengths to avoid it?)To: magslinger
You know - for example when someone, who is a judge, or a prosecutor in Poland, and wants to visit USA, he must answer questions like: ''have you ever been involved in criminal activity?'', or ''have you ever smuggled drugs?'' etc., etc.I find this pretty humiliating.
The French, or Brits, or Germans don't have to do that. Even if their name is - let's say - Muhammad Atta.
7 posted on 10/20/2007 3:46:12 PM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)To: Gay State Conservative
I'd say nothing more. Exactly my point of view.You know - it's a kind of a vicious circle. The Poles can't be included into the visa waiver program, because of the high number, of visa applications being rejected - because the U.S. consulate clerks think, that many applicants want to stay in USA illegally.Which is actually pointless, as they could go to Ireland or UK, or Sweden, or somewhere else within the EU - to work legally, for equally decent money, closer to Poland and without being afraid of deportation etc.
8 posted on 10/20/2007 3:52:40 PM PDT by lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)To: lizol
During my previous career, someone asked to to find out why Poles were being given a hard time as to VISA's etc.Seems some friends of both Boxer and Feinstein were ripped off by Polish Gypsies.And frankly, these particular Gypsies are a crime wave in themselves.Of course our government won't/can't hammer just them, so everyone pays for it.
9 posted on 10/20/2007 3:56:44 PM PDT by investigateworld ( Abortion stops a beating heart.)To: lizol
Good grief! Poland is our ally.
Look at all the H1b visas, a good number go to Pakistan, they'd be more likely ''the soft underbelly of national security,'' not Poland. This is a shame.
It makes no sense and we need to start hollering about it!
10 posted on 10/20/2007 4:05:53 PM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul. WWPD (what would Patton do))To: Cicero
The Poles are more capable and more willing to assimilate. The amigos just want to subject us to their third world cesspool culture while they rip off all they can.
11 posted on 10/20/2007 4:16:19 PM PDT by isrul (Lamentations 5:2)To: lizol
You know - for example when someone, who is a judge, or a prosecutor in Poland, and wants to visit USA, he must answer questions like: ''have you ever been involved in criminal activity?'', or ''have you ever smuggled drugs?'' etc., etc.I can think of at least one American prosecutor and several American politicians who might be embarrassed by some of those questions. Can't name any judges off the top of my head but there are some.I'm sure that they can figure out that the only purpose of those questions is to give a legal crowbar to remove them from the country if it turns out they lied.
I find this pretty humiliating.
I'd be proud to answer no to those questions.
The French, or Brits, or Germans don't have to do that. Even if their name is - let's say - Muhammad Atta.
I thought I made it clear that it was the characterizing the questions as humiliating that I objected to, not dropping the requirement for the Polish.
12 posted on 10/20/2007 4:33:48 PM PDT by magslinger (I will not submit.)To: lizol
I only recently became aware of this issue. My cousins in the Czech Republic are pretty upset that they are subject to lengthy bureaucratic procedures if they want to visit the US, while other Western European countries' citizens are not. They point out that the Czech Republic has been a strong ally of the US, sent soldiers to Iraq, and is now being asked to station a missile defense radar base on its territory. They are offended that they are treated as second class visitors to our nation. I tend to agree.As to Poland, my experiences with Polish workers and Polish people in general has been exceedingly positive. In the great scheme of things, we could do worse than to end up with a few of them over-staying their visas.
To: lizol
Why are dims oppposed to freeing up visas for Poles that would likely result in many more Poles becoming illegal immigrants in the U.S., while they do all they can to encourage Mexicans to come?
Mexicans will vote Dim, Poles probably won't.
14 posted on 10/20/2007 5:43:31 PM PDT by SampleMan (Islamic tolerance is practiced by killing you last.)To: lizol
This is something where the EU could help.Why not pushing the European immigration policy away from the member nations to Brussels? If a European visa i.e. would be necessary for Americans who want to enter Europe, the US administration should think about giving all EU members access to the visa-waiver program in return for maintaining their visa-free access to Europe.
It is easy to ignore some countries in eastern Europe, but it would be a disaster for any US administration if their compatriots have to pay -let's say- a 100$ fee and get a 25% chance to be rejected if they want to enter Europe in general.
I hope that I am not zotted because of this orgy of anti-Americanism. ;)
To: lizol
Poland is not the only country that has this problem with the US. Check out this link: http://www.ameryka.org/I agree with the poster who said that the folks who are having the problem with visa (from Poland but could be those from the countries listed at the link above) are hardworking. Congress doesn't like that idea; they only want sheep who want congress to give them benefits paid for by US taxpayers. No thinking, hard workers allowed.
USA sold out Eastern Europe once before. Still the same old story.
16 posted on 05/09/2011 6:04:17 AM PDT by dizzyfingers (Eastern European hard workers not wanted by US congress)Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson
A deeper look into Poland's U.S. visa problemsSkip to comments.
A deeper look into Poland's U.S. visa problemsThe Winona Daily News ^ | October 20, 2007 | Roy Nasstrom
Posted on 10/20/2007 3:02:59 PM PDT by lizol
A deeper look into Poland's visa problems
By Roy Nasstrom | Guest view
Stewart Shaw's mention of the visa requirement for ordinary Polish visitors to the United States deserves attention. Although the visa issue has not received much attention in most of the American media, Congress and the White House have taken it very seriously.
It does seem unfair to exclude Poland from the visa waiver program. This program allows citizens to enter the United States for a visit with only a passport and without subjection to sometimes humiliating questions that must be answered when applying for a visa. All the nations of western Europe benefit from the program. Nevertheless, with the exception of Slovenia, no former Communist nation of central and eastern Europe is in the program.
Nominally, inclusion requires ''governmental stability'' and competent treatment of immigration and emigration policies. Rejection from the program is automatic if more than a limited number of visa applicants in the past have been rejected for various reasons, including arrests, serious illness or activities to be judged by consular officials potentially harmful to the United States.
The Bush administration has been trying to get the rule modified to allow nations such as Poland to secure waivers, but Congress has not agreed. A couple of months ago, legislation reduced restrictions somewhat. But the legislation included a clause presented by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein that rejected a country's entry to the program if more than 10 percent of its visa applicants had been rejected. Poland's 25 to 35 percent rejection rate prevents it from getting into the program, although several other countries could be accepted under the rule.
Why should Poland have such a high rate of rejection?
In the early 2000s, the latest period for which I have data, Estonia, Hungary and the Czech Republic had higher crime rates (low by western European standards) than Poland's. But their visa rejection rate is low enough to make their prospects for entry into the Visa Waiver Program far better than Poland's. Definitions of crime and statistical techniques vary considerably among countries, making precise comparisons difficult, but the figures do arouse curiosity.
Some observers have suggested that, unlike other countries, Poland simply has not actively discouraged visa applications from people likely to be refused. There is no doubt, however, that Poland does have a fairly high unemployment rate by International Labor Organization data 19 percent three years ago, significant even for Eastern Europe.
But how relevant to American well-being is the restriction to Poland and a few other countries in central and eastern Europe? Feinstein has said that our immigration policy was ''the soft underbelly of national security,'' and many in Congress agree with her.
Some want to end waivers for all countries. Moreover, an economic issue is important to many legislators. They fear that once in, some visa-holding immigrants would get jobs and stay illegally. Immigrants are a panic-button issue in many places.
Those opposed to restrictions have argued simply that it is not fair to exclude some countries of the European Union, but not others. They point also to the number of Americans with Polish relatives. They have noted that most of eastern Europe is no more likely in the case of Poland, less likely to be a conduit for Islamic terrorists than western European countries, especially those whose immigrants from former colonies cannot be limited.
In terms of illegal employment, supporters of visa exclusion have noted that Poland has become far better off economically than old statistics data indicate, thus lessening workers' wishes to search for jobs in the United States.
Perhaps most important, supporters of Poland's inclusion view the country as a vital component of U.S. relations with Europe, especially since the acceptance of former Communist countries into the European Union. They argue that Poland's influence in eastern and central Europe, always large, is growing, and that its support of the United States is vital to American interests.
Although the issue of waivers is highly political, so far it is not a partisan issue.
Geographic location, concepts of terrorism and composition of constituencies and financial supporters play a more important role in determining legislators' attitudes than political affiliation. Democrats and Republicans stand on both sides of the issue. Illinois Reps. John Shimkus, a Republican, and Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, have jointly authored legislation to end the restriction in the current law.
TOPICS:Foreign Affairs; News/Current EventsKEYWORDS:poland; visas
1 posted on
10/20/2007 3:03:02 PM PDT by
lizolTo: lizol
Sure, a lot of Poles have left their country to find jobs. Does that make them undesirable?
Dianne Feinstein supports Mexican illegals coming here for cheap jobs, but evidently opposes Poles emmigrating to America, although the crime rate in Poland is surely much lower than in Mexico, and the education is far better.
Who would we rather have, a hard-working, well educated Pole who wants to come to America and find a future, or a Mexican criminal who has 3 DUI offenses on his record, collects welfare, and illegally votes for the Democrats?
Don't ask.
2 posted on
10/20/2007 3:13:14 PM PDT by
Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
To: lizol
The reason why the congress is blocking this is not because the eastern block counties high crime rate, the Poles are conservatives. They are hard workers, they come here not with thier hand out but with thier work clothes on ready to go to work! Dems need people who are dependent upon them. Illegals in this country which the dems are falling over each other to coddle and encourage have raped, and murdererd American citizens, and do we here anything form them on this? NO! Pathetic, spineless, hypocrites! Get your voting shoes on America lets clean house! Lets rid ourselves of this cancer called liberalism and all its tumors!
3 posted on
10/20/2007 3:23:23 PM PDT by
ronnie raygun (Id rather be hunting with dick than driving with ted)
To: lizol
This program allows citizens to enter the United States for a visit with only a passport and without subjection to sometimes humiliating questions that must be answered when applying for a visa.Does anyone know what these "humiliating questions" might be?
Not that I'm opposed to Polish visitors and/or immigrants. I just can't think of any humiliating questions, just humiliating answers, and that's not our fault.
4 posted on
10/20/2007 3:27:30 PM PDT by
magslinger (I will not submit.)
To: lizol
Poland is a very strong and valuable ally to the US and,as such,we must demonstrate gratitude to her people and her government.Among the many ways we could do that is to minimize the barriers that Poles must overcome to enter the US for short visits.
However,Poland must realize that illegal immigration is a serious problem in the US.As I think I told you recently,lizol,I spent a few days in Ireland last June and was surprised by how many workers from Poland and other new EU member states I saw at the hotels we stayed at.And as I told you they were all very polite,friendly,efficient and spoke English very well.
My understanding is that Poles are allowed to live and work,with few if any restrictions,in the UK as well as Ireland. I would think that that fact would minimize the chances that a Pole might come to the US and overstay his or her visa.If my assumptions and conclusions are correct I see no reason why Poland shouldn't be included in a system which places minimum restrictions on short visits for her citizens.
5 posted on
10/20/2007 3:32:51 PM PDT by
Gay State Conservative (If martyrdom is so cool,why does Osama Obama go to such great lengths to avoid it?)
To: Cicero; lizol
Who would we rather have, a hard-working, well educated Pole who wants to come to America and find a future, or a Mexican criminal who has 3 DUI offenses on his record, collects welfare...I'd take the Polish person every time.
6 posted on
10/20/2007 3:35:13 PM PDT by
Gay State Conservative (If martyrdom is so cool,why does Osama Obama go to such great lengths to avoid it?)
To: magslinger
You know - for example when someone, who is a judge, or a prosecutor in Poland, and wants to visit USA, he must answer questions like: ''have you ever been involved in criminal activity?'', or ''have you ever smuggled drugs?'' etc., etc.
I find this pretty humiliating.
The French, or Brits, or Germans don't have to do that. Even if their name is - let's say - Muhammad Atta.
7 posted on
10/20/2007 3:46:12 PM PDT by
lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
To: Gay State Conservative
I'd say nothing more. Exactly my point of view.
You know - it's a kind of a vicious circle. The Poles can't be included into the visa waiver program, because of the high number, of visa applications being rejected - because the U.S. consulate clerks think, that many applicants want to stay in USA illegally.Which is actually pointless, as they could go to Ireland or UK, or Sweden, or somewhere else within the EU - to work legally, for equally decent money, closer to Poland and without being afraid of deportation etc.
8 posted on
10/20/2007 3:52:40 PM PDT by
lizol (Liberal - a man with his mind open ... at both ends)
To: lizol
During my previous career, someone asked to to find out why Poles were being given a hard time as to VISA's etc.
Seems some friends of both Boxer and Feinstein were ripped off by Polish Gypsies.And frankly, these particular Gypsies are a crime wave in themselves.Of course our government won't/can't hammer just them, so everyone pays for it.
9 posted on
10/20/2007 3:56:44 PM PDT by
investigateworld ( Abortion stops a beating heart.)
To: lizol
Good grief! Poland is our ally.
Look at all the H1b visas, a good number go to Pakistan, they'd be more likely ''the soft underbelly of national security,'' not Poland. This is a shame.
It makes no sense and we need to start hollering about it!
10 posted on
10/20/2007 4:05:53 PM PDT by
snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul. WWPD (what would Patton do))
To: Cicero
The Poles are more capable and more willing to assimilate. The amigos just want to subject us to their third world cesspool culture while they rip off all they can.
11 posted on
10/20/2007 4:16:19 PM PDT by
isrul (Lamentations 5:2)
To: lizol
You know - for example when someone, who is a judge, or a prosecutor in Poland, and wants to visit USA, he must answer questions like: ''have you ever been involved in criminal activity?'', or ''have you ever smuggled drugs?'' etc., etc.I can think of at least one American prosecutor and several American politicians who might be embarrassed by some of those questions. Can't name any judges off the top of my head but there are some.I'm sure that they can figure out that the only purpose of those questions is to give a legal crowbar to remove them from the country if it turns out they lied.
I find this pretty humiliating.
I'd be proud to answer no to those questions.
The French, or Brits, or Germans don't have to do that. Even if their name is - let's say - Muhammad Atta.
I thought I made it clear that it was the characterizing the questions as humiliating that I objected to, not dropping the requirement for the Polish.
12 posted on
10/20/2007 4:33:48 PM PDT by
magslinger (I will not submit.)
To: lizol
I only recently became aware of this issue. My cousins in the Czech Republic are pretty upset that they are subject to lengthy bureaucratic procedures if they want to visit the US, while other Western European countries' citizens are not. They point out that the Czech Republic has been a strong ally of the US, sent soldiers to Iraq, and is now being asked to station a missile defense radar base on its territory. They are offended that they are treated as second class visitors to our nation. I tend to agree.
As to Poland, my experiences with Polish workers and Polish people in general has been exceedingly positive. In the great scheme of things, we could do worse than to end up with a few of them over-staying their visas.
To: lizol
Why are dims oppposed to freeing up visas for Poles that would likely result in many more Poles becoming illegal immigrants in the U.S., while they do all they can to encourage Mexicans to come?
Mexicans will vote Dim, Poles probably won't.
14 posted on
10/20/2007 5:43:31 PM PDT by
SampleMan (Islamic tolerance is practiced by killing you last.)
To: lizol
This is something where the EU could help.
Why not pushing the European immigration policy away from the member nations to Brussels? If a European visa i.e. would be necessary for Americans who want to enter Europe, the US administration should think about giving all EU members access to the visa-waiver program in return for maintaining their visa-free access to Europe.
It is easy to ignore some countries in eastern Europe, but it would be a disaster for any US administration if their compatriots have to pay -let's say- a 100$ fee and get a 25% chance to be rejected if they want to enter Europe in general.
I hope that I am not zotted because of this orgy of anti-Americanism. ;)
To: lizol
Poland is not the only country that has this problem with the US. Check out this link:
http://www.ameryka.org/I agree with the poster who said that the folks who are having the problem with visa (from Poland but could be those from the countries listed at the link above) are hardworking. Congress doesn't like that idea; they only want sheep who want congress to give them benefits paid for by US taxpayers. No thinking, hard workers allowed.
USA sold out Eastern Europe once before. Still the same old story.
16 posted on
05/09/2011 6:04:17 AM PDT by
dizzyfingers (Eastern European hard workers not wanted by US congress)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson
Chile Gets the Visa Waiver Program, but What About Poland?
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 15:19
On February 28, the Obama Administration announced the designation of Chile as the 38th country to be admitted into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). That's great as far as it goes.
The VWP allows foreign nationals to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa for tourism or business. The program boosts trade and tourism with the U.S. and, importantly, also improves U.S. security efforts.
In order to become a member of the VWP program, a nation must:
Have a specific non-immigrant visa refusal rate (the percentage of visa applications from that particular nation that are denied by the State Department);Issue all residents secure machine-readable biometric passports;Meet a determination that membership presents no threat to U.S. law enforcement or security interests;Share security information with the U.S; andImprove airport and travel security efforts.To gain access to VWP benefits, citizens of member countries must first apply for approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which pre-screens potential travelers to ensure that they are not a security threat to the U.S. By pre-screening individuals, U.S. security and intelligence agencies can then focus their limited resources on other travelers, improving the effectiveness of security efforts.
While it is good to see the addition of Chile to the list of nations in the VWP, other close friends, such as Poland, remain out of the program due to the flawed mandate for low visa refusals rates. VWP membership should depend not on visa refusal rates but on visa overstay rates, which is a much better indicator of how well a nation's citizens respect U.S. laws.
But as Heritage vice president for foreign policy Jim Carafano wrote recently, in general the Obama Administration has maintained a go-slow approach to ''fast-tracking visa waivers, expanding visas for high-skilled workers, establishing a new temporary worker program or bolstering border security.'' The reason appears to be that, although the immigration bill that passed the Senate made some reforms to the VWP, Congress is not moving a stand-alone VWP bill, because the Administration and many in Congress will accept only a comprehensive, all-or-nothing immigration bill that includes amnesty. Thus they are effectively holding other valuable, bipartisan reforms hostage to the passage of such a bill.
Rather than hold up economic and security enhancing programs like VWP, President Obama and Congress should work to improve and expand VWP on its own merits. Carafano notes that ''free and secure travel among free nations is an engine of economic growth and a glue that binds democracies together.'' The VWP for Chile and many other countries can and should be expanded much more quickly to cover more people.
Deutschland Blitzkrieg
DEUTSCHLAND BLITZKRIEG-Young German Neo-Nazis Are Appropriating Brooklyn Hipsterdom | Styleite
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 23:16
This just in: millennial Neo-Nazis in Germany are ganking Brooklyn steeze in an effort to make their extreme right-wing ''nationalist'' views more palatable to young people. In a lengthy Rolling Stone profile on the new, softer, more bearded face of Neo-Nazi culture, German twenty-somethings admit to using viral media tactics like vlogging, Instagram, Tumblr, ''Harlem Shake'' videos, surreptitious messaging on otherwise unassuming hoodies and tees, and even vegan cooking web series to draw in younger potential Nazi sympathizers who are steeped in American pop culture.
''The left-wing doesn't have a prior claim to veganism,'' say the vegan web series creators. ''Industrial meat production is incompatible with our nationalist and socialist world views.''
'...Great. Basically, hipsterdom is helping Neo-Nazis blend in with their, uh, more accepting, less horrifically racist generation by dismantling the big, bad skinhead image of yore. In other words, they're mainstreaming. ''More youthful'' and ''looser'' were both words used to describe The Neo-Nazi Tumblr gen.
''We don't want to cut ourselves off,'' [says head of the youth wing of the National Democratic Party of Germany]. ''I see rap and hip-hop, for example, as a way of transporting our message.'' In recent years, a number of extreme-right hip-hop acts have emerged in Germany '-- with names like Makss Damage and Dee Ex. Despite the awkward politics of using hip-hop to preach the virtues of German identity, they've amassed a small, but significant presence within the scene.
Social media is also helping younger Neo-Nazis to espouse different political views in different spaces:
[Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an associate professor at American University in Washington, D.C., conducting research with young people in Berlin schools who are on the periphery of the extreme-right]'...suggests that for a generation raised on Facebook and Twitter, it may no longer feel ridiculous to, say, love Rihanna in real life but disparage black people on Facebook. ''The social media space allows young people to have different expressions of their identities in different places,'' she says. ''This generation of youth likes the idea of having more control over their own identity. They've realized your style doesn't have to be connected to your ideology. You can dress however you want to and still be a neo-Nazi.''
Fantastic. So really comfy flannels and pour-over coffee are ruined for the rest of us. And in case you, American skinhead reader, are wondering what you're doing wrong, take some criticism from your native German brethren on your ''primitive'' expressions of pro-Nazi sentiments: ''It's like they're always dressing up for a costume party.''
[Rolling Stone]
BLITZKRIEG-DEUTSCHLAND-Nipsters: The German Neo-Nazis Trying to Put a Hipper Face on Hate | Culture News | Rolling Stone
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 23:17
Patrick Schroeder
www.photosofkaos.com
June 23, 2014 10:00 AM ET
It's a rainy Sunday evening in May, in the town of Weiden, in northeastern Bavaria, and Patrick Schroeder, whom the German press has dubbed the "Nazi-hipster," is preparing for his big webcam entrance. As the opening sequence for his weekly Internet TV show, FSN.tv, plays silently in the background, he ties a bandana stitched with the slogan "H8" around his mouth and fiddles with his mouse. A map of Germany in 1937 hangs on the wall above him.
It's hard to get the timing for the intro "just right," he explains, and once the graphics stop playing, he strides into frame and raises his arm, curling his hand into a fist and wishing his viewers, a few hundred members of Germany's extreme right, a lovely evening. He calls this gesture his "professional wrestling entrance move," which he claims was inspired by WWE-style theatrics, though it also, not inconveniently, looks a bit like a heil Hitler Nazi salute.
Schroeder is 30 years old, about six feet tall, with the boxy musculature of an MMA fighter, his blond hair shaved except for a jaunty strip along the top of his head. He's dressed all in black, wearing armbands slightly reminiscent of those favored by vintage Avril Lavigne and speaks quickly and loudly, with a strong Bavarian lilt. When he laughs, his upper right lip rises up, making him look both threatening and insecure. "If the Third Reich was so bad, it would have been toppled," he argues, before the filming begins. "Every half-intelligent person knows there is no system where everything was bad."
Berghain: The Secretive, Sex-Fueled World of Berlin's Coolest Club
He won't elaborate, for legal reasons, but he'll happily share his topline thoughts about everything from Obama (whom he grossly describes as America's "neger president") to why black people don't belong in Germany ("It's against nature '-- there's a reason we're not walking around in the sun, in Ghana, with our skin color"), to why American neo-Nazis are "primitive" ("It's like they're always dressing up for a costume party") and '-- because, just like many other Germans, he loves American TV '-- his strong feelings about the series finale of How I Met Your Mother ("The mother dying was a good reminder that the world isn't a great place").
Inane rhetoric notwithstanding, Schroeder comes across first and foremost as a dedicated self-promoter, and he clearly enjoys putting on a show: For the next two hours, he sits at the computer and chats with his remote co-host about the latest Nazi news '-- recently banned groups, European elections '-- and riffs on pop culture. He peppers his statements with self-deprecating asides and eye-rolls, and he occasionally interrupts the chatter to play Rechstrock, neo-Nazi rock songs.
Neo-Nazi Hipsters in Magdeburg, Germany.
Jesko Wrede
FSN.tv is Germany's only neo-Nazi Internet TV show, and in the two years since it has existed it has turned Schroeder into a well-known, if highly controversial, figure in the German extreme right, largely because he has been open about his desire to give the German neo-Nazi movement a friendlier, hipper face. Schroeder sometimes conducts seminars showing neo-Nazis how they can dress less threateningly and argues that anybody from hip-hop fans to hipsters in skinny jeans should be able to join the scene without changing the way they look, an idea that, for many older members, is an affront to their anti-mainstream values.
Over the past year, partly because of leaders like Schroeder and partly because of the unstoppable globalization of youth culture, the hipsterification of the German neo-Nazi scene has begun to gain steam. This winter, the German media came up with a new term, "nipster," to describe the trend of people dressing like Brooklyn hipsters at Nazi events. Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There's even a vegan Nazi cooking show. "If the definition of the nipster is someone who can live in the mainstream," Schroeder explains, "then I see it as the future of the movement."
Patrick Schroeder and his co-host Vendetta on his weekly Internet TV show, FSN.tv.
These are strange times to be a neo-Nazi in Germany. The Federal Constitutional Court is gearing up for a hearing on the latest attempt to ban the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), the country's oldest and biggest extreme-right political party. Regardless of the verdict, the party is close to running out of money and Nazi opponents have become successful at shutting down its public appearances (in April, a high-profile Berlin NPD march was successfully blockaded by several thousand protesters). The murder trial of the lone surviving core member of the National Socialist Underground, a far-right terror cell that is accused of killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007, is also ongoing in Munich, and focusing the nation's attention on extreme-right crimes, and a recent study found that the number of people with extreme-right sympathies has sunken from 9.7 to 5.6 percent in the last 12 years.
At the same time, Germany and German culture have become more porous and international than ever: A federal survey found that nearly 20 percent of Germans have an immigrant background, and another new study found that immigrants and Germans are becoming increasingly similar. German TV broadcasts The Real Housewives, the Top 20 pop charts include songs by Calvin Harris, Coldplay and Pitbull and thanks to the Internet, teenagers can pirate the latest episode of Girls a few hours after it airs in America. And now another American export has arrived: In 2012, the daily Welt heralded the "hipster" as Germany's "new object of hate" and just this February, the country's biggest tabloid, Bild, offered a guide to "hipster types" for its readers. (Example: "The fixed-gear fanatic never goes anywhere without his bike.")
For people like Andy Knape, the rise of the German hipster presents both an opportunity and a dilemma. For the past two years, the 28-year-old Knape has been the head of the Junge Nationaldemokraten (JN), the youth wing of the NPD. His office is located in the state parliament of Saxony, in the eastern part of Germany, and overlooks the city's majestic opera house, which largely burnt down after the city's firebombing and was rebuilt after the war. A poster of an elderly woman with a shotgun and the words "drastic security measures" hangs on the wall, next to a photo of several steely-eyed white people smiling.
The Hidden War Against Gay Teens
As head of the JN, Knape's job is to make the NPD, and its extreme-right politics, appealing to young people (one of his biggest goals, he explains, is to "preserve German culture") and he's a good salesman '-- 5'8", fit and dressed in a grey T-shirt and Converse-style sneakers, he wouldn't look out of place on an American college campus. He first entered the scene when he was 13, in Magdeburg, because his brother was also "right-wing oriented" and he "started to ask himself lots of questions." Eventually, he says, he began going to NPD demonstrations, and got more involved. Although his eyes betray a palpable aggressiveness and many of his talking points seem clearly rehearsed, for a man in charge of an organization being monitored by the Bundesverfassungsschutz '-- Germany's domestic security agency '-- he is surprisingly soft-spoken. When he speaks he tends to curl up in his chair.
Like Schroeder, whom he sees as an acolyte, Knape wants to give "nationalism" a friendlier, cooler face (in the NPD, and many other extreme-right organizations, "nationalist" often functions as a politically acceptable euphemism for "Nazi"). For Knape, who grew up with American pop culture, the idea of policing what young members of the scene watch or listen to is silly '-- he'd much rather hijack it, and use it to bring young people into the fold. Michael Schaefer, the JN's excitable 31-year-old press person, chimes in: "We've taken over the nipster," he says, giddily, before catching himself. "I mean nationalist hipster, not Nazi hipster."
The term hipster has, of course, always been notoriously slippery. Back in his 2010 book What Was the Hipster?, Mark Greif described the term as meaning a "consumer" who "aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two." But in Germany, as elsewhere, the newly discovered hipster is often reduced to its more superficial component parts: "skinny jeans, a bushy beard, bright sunglasses" (Welt), "strange, nerdy and somehow different," (Sueddeutsche Zeitung), "self-important culture snobs" (Tagesspiegel). Here, the hipster is simultaneously a uniform, a cooler-than-thou weltanschauung and signpost of globalized American youth culture and consumerism.
"We don't want to cut ourselves off," Knape says, about hipster culture. "I see rap and hip-hop, for example, as a way of transporting our message." In recent years, a number of extreme-right hip-hop acts have emerged in Germany '-- with names like Makss Damage and Dee Ex. Despite the awkward politics of using hip-hop to preach the virtues of German identity, they've amassed a small, but significant presence within the scene. Dee Ex, for example, has over 7,000 likes on Facebook and posts photos of herself in a revealing outfit on her blog. There is now neo-Nazi techno (biggest act: DJ Adolf) and neo-Nazi reggae.
Knape, on his end, has also gotten increasingly invested in online culture: "The Internet allows us to reach people we can't reach on the street." Now young people can get in touch with him over Facebook or e-mail without their parents, or anybody else, finding out. "They don't need to out themselves immediately," he says. Knape is especially proud of his viral-video outreach: last year, his group filmed a "Harlem Shake" video. In the JN video, people in masks bounce around junked cars while one of them holds up a sign saying "Have more sex with Nazis, unprotected." It has over 17,000 hits on YouTube. ("New, modern, but not decadent," Knape says about the video, which you can watch below.)
But, perhaps partly because of this internationalization of German culture, Knape struggles to define the "German traditions" he's trying to preserve. It's understandable: Germany, even by European standards, is a supremely contrived state composed of 300 formerly distinct political entities. Founded in 1871, it is also younger even than Canada '-- there's a reason Hitler had to reach back to centuries-old, mythical folklore when trying to sell people on the idea of Germanic superiority. Knape says he wants more people to mark the "Sonnenwende" or solstice '-- a celebration the Nazis tried to revive in the Hitler era '-- for example, and to preserve the German language. He is concerned that "these days, we see a lot of people mixing German and English" '-- though he acknowledges that when it comes to technology, it's "not easy to avoid." He notes, with some resignation, that there is no German word for "hashtag."
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German shops 'to sell Mein Kampf': Country may be forced to allow Hitler's manifesto to be sold for first time since 1945 when copyright held by state of Bavaria expires
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:14
Copyright of autobiography Mein Kampf passed to Bavaria after Hitler diedMinisters deciding whether to allowing 'academic' edition to be printed when rights expire next yearBavaria says it will still be illegal to publish under banning of Nazi ideologyBy Allan Hall In Berlin
Published: 20:02 EST, 25 June 2014 | Updated: 04:54 EST, 26 June 2014
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Bavaria blocked publication of Mein Kampf in Germany after Hitler's death but the state's copyright expires next year
Germany may be forced to allow Hitler's autobiography to be sold there for the first time since 1945.
Copyright of Mein Kampf, which means My Struggle, passed to the state of Bavaria after Hitler's death.
It has blocked publication in Germany '' although it is available online '' but the rights expire next year, allowing anyone to print it.
Bavaria insists that would be illegal under German law banning the spreading of Nazi ideology.
Ministers are deciding whether to try to ban it or to allow it to go on sale, possibly in annotated 'academic' editions.
The turgid autobiography was filled with hatred againts Jews and his plans for eastern conquests and authorities are fearful of a spike in neo-Nazism if it goes on sale.
Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, is strongly opposed to it going on sale.
He told a news website: 'The very thought of a new publication of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' is more than disgusting and goes against all my beliefs to fight neo-fascism and right-wing extremism.
'This book was and will remain a pure anti-Semitic work of irrational hatred that should be forbidden for evermore. It is an abhorrent pamphlet full of incitement of the Jewish people and it brutally hurts the feelings of the Shoa-survivors.'
Bavaria insists publishing the book would be illegal under German law banning the spreading of Nazi ideology - but ministers are deciding whether to allow it to be printed as 'academic' editions
Archive: Copy of Mein Kampf signed by Hitler for sale in LA
The state's justice minister Winfried Bausback said: 'We owe it to the victims of the holocaust and their relatives to do everything we can to prevent the duplication and distribution of this ideological, inflammatory text.
'I would prefer this book to be forbidden forever. Regrettably and obviously we cannot prevent a new publication, since the copyright is about to expire by the end of the year 2015.
'So if a publication cannot be avoided, it should be at least guaranteed that there is a scholarly edition which provides a scientific and critical analysis in order to demystify this horrible text.'
An e-book version of the work, topped Amazon's bestseller charts earlier this year.
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Social media: Why do Germans shun Twitter? | The Economist
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:06
WHEN the official Twitter feed announced the microblog's IPO in November, around 8,000 followers retweeted the news the following week. Barely 50 of them were German. According to Semiocast, an analyst, Germany ranks 31st worldwide in terms of public tweets, with 59m per year. Germany's 82m people have just 4m Twitter accounts. That puts it 22nd in the world, behind not only European neighbours like Britain (population 63m, 45m accounts) or Spain (population 47m, 16m accounts) but also Turkey (population 75m, 11m accounts) and the Philippines (population 98m, 8.6m accounts).
Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, does not hold an official Twitter account. Peer Steinbr¼ck, Mrs Merkel's vanquished opponent in September's general election, has only 60,000 followers. Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, has over 265,000. A debate between Mrs Merkel and Mr Steinbr¼ck ahead of the general election in August generated 200,000 tweets. Last year's final French election debate yielded half a million. German companies use Twitter to disseminate information but rarely interact with customers. Twitter trails heavyweights like Facebook, YouTube and Google+, but also local brands such as Wer-kennt-wen and VZ-Netzwerke (clones of Myspace and Facebook, respectively).
So why aren't Germans tweeting? It's not for the want of tech-savvy citizens: more than 97% of Germans surf the web for at least 30 minutes each day. A quarter spend four hours a day or more online. Berlin has a thriving tech hub dubbed "Silicon Allee", where Twitter opened an office earlier this year and which around 500 digital startups have made their home.
All this suggests that the reasons for Twitter's German angst are cultural rather than technological. Some have suggested the German language makes tweeting tricky. Germans like to make a point clear, experts say, though this seems often to call for protracted, convoluted sentences with multiple subordinate clauses that are inimical to microblogging. "It's certainly harder to fit a thought in German into 140 characters," says Marcel Weiss of Neunetz.com, a technology-news website, "but it is not impossible." A book, "Das Leben in 140 Zeichen" ("Life in 140 Characters"), is a popular compendium of witty German tweets. Germans have also embraced texting, which involves similar linguistic constraints to microblogging, with gusto.
A more likely reason is Germans' preoccupation with privacy. Many recall the Stasi, communist East Germany's prying secret police which had at one point recruited or coerced 173,000 people to be its informants. This explains Germans''--and the Merkel government's'--outcry over allegations of America's widespread electronic snooping.
"A German tourist in Amsterdam will marvel at the huge, transparent windows of Dutch houses," says Johannes Passmann, a social-media expert at the University of Siegen. This, he thinks, helps explain why the Dutch have as many Twitter accounts as Germans, who are five times more numerous: "The Dutch open concept of privacy makes it way easier to use Twitter meaningfully." Philip Stapelfeldt, a 22-year-old web designer from Monheim-am-Rheine, near D¼sseldorf, is exactly the sort of young, connected professional you would expect to revel in social media. He has never been tempted by Twitter. "I don't want people to know what I do in my spare time," he says.
At first blush all this looks hard to square with the country's 25m Facebook accounts (even Mr Stapelfeld has a Facebook profile, albeit under a pseudonym). But unlike Twitter, designed to broadcast information to anyone willing to listen, Facebook originally served (and can still be configured) to whisper thoughts to a select group of kith and kin. Clearly, such intimate exchanges, even if technologically mediated, offend Teutonic sensibilities less than spouting witticisms.
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Germans reject their joyless image to become Europe's optimists.
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:07
Positively cheerful: a survey by the German Economic Institute shows the majority of Germans are very happy with their lives. Photograph: Matthias Schrader/AP
Germany: the country of weltschmerz and angst, a nation constantly terrified of pending nuclear doom and haunted by memories of hyper-inflation, a joyless people prone to "egotism, inferiority complex, sentimentality", as a memo resulting from a meeting between Margaret Thatcher and a group of experts on Germany once put it.
That Germany, if a survey published this week is to be believed, belongs to the history books. According to the report by the German Economic Institute in Cologne, more than half of all German citizens are extremely satisfied with their lives, and only 2% describe their level of contentment as low.
Researchers said that comparably high levels in Germany were recorded only twice previously: at the time of reunification in 1989-90 and during the new-economy boom at the turn of the century.
In one respect, however, the survey confirms an old stereotype: work continues to play a key role in determining the nation's wellbeing. "Individual health and low unemployment rates play a crucial part," said Dominik Enste and Mara Ewers, the authors of the report. "When employment is up, so are satisfaction levels, and vice versa. It's not money that makes people happy, but money earned through their own work."
The data, drawn from a 2012 poll of around 20,000 people, shows that even people out of work had in recent years become more optimistic about finding future employment. Those who did voluntary work once a week were considerably more satisfied with their lives than those who never volunteered.
The happiest Germans live in the north: Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein registered satisfaction rates of 55% and 53% in the survey, while only 35% of those living in Brandenburg in the old east said they were content with their lives.
Students of theology and sports science had a considerably more optimistic outlook on life than those studying languages, literature and mathematics.
Germany's new identity as Europe's optimists was put to the test tonight when the country faced the USA in the World Cup '' they won 1-0. The manager of the American side, J¼rgen Klinsmann, a former Germany player and coach is a self-professed advocate of positive thinking, whom the tabloid Bild once nicknamed Grinsi-Klinsi (Grinning Klinsi).
Shut Up Slave!
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Army's Apache under assault: PC police call helicopter's name racist
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:26
Enlarge Photo
An air weapons team of two AH-64D Apaches from the 1st Battalion, ... more >Related StoriesVeterans aren't happy with a recent op-ed by the Washington Post, which charged that the Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa military vehicles were a ''greater symbolic injustice'' than the NFL's Washington Redskins' name.
''Even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians '-- an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government,'' Simon Waxman of the Boston Review wrote for the Post on Thursday.
SEE ALSO: D.C. rapper blasts Reid on Redskins talk, reminds 3.65M followers of 'negro dialect' remark
He added that the helicopter names were ''propaganda'' that needed to end, because Native American life expectancy statistics indicate the ''violence is ongoing, even if the guns are silent.''
Readers at the popular military news gathering website Doctrine Man reacted Friday.
''I suspect that the author is less unhappy that our choppers have Indian names, and more unhappy that there is a U.S. military,'' wrote Alex Kuhns.
Kevin Schooler wrote: ''What floors me is that for the most part, it isn't American Indians who are offended. It is guilt-ridden white liberals being offended on their behalf. How's that for paternalism?''
Even the website's moderator weighed in, saying that the names the military chooses for weapons platforms ''are anything but derogatory, they convey strength, honor, and courage. @SimonWaxman is grossly uninformed.''
(C) Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money Is a 'Trade Secret' - ProPublica
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:14
840TwitterFacebookEmailThe charity is fighting our public records request for information on how it raised and spent money after the superstorm.
GooglePlusLinkedInRedditThe charity is fighting our public records request for information on how it raised and spent money after the superstorm.
by Justin ElliottProPublica, June 26, 2014, 11:38 a.m.
Print PrintConnect with Facebook to share articles you read on ProPublica. Learn more >>Enable Social Reading
Twitter TwitterFacebook Facebookvolumelow PodcastRSS RSS (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy?
The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a "trade secret."
The Red Cross' "trade secret" argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it's not clear yet how much since the documents haven't yet been released.
As we've reported, the Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent.
The Red Cross did give some information about Sandy spending to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been investigating the charity. But the Red Cross declined our request to disclose the details.
So we filed a public records request for the information the Red Cross provided to the attorney general's office.
That's where the law firm Gibson Dunn comes in.
An attorney from the firm's New York office appealed to the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law's trade secret exemption.
The documents include "internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information," wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general's office.
If those details were disclosed, "the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross's business model for an increased competitive advantage," Levin wrote.
The letter doesn't specify who the Red Cross' "competitors" are.
The Red Cross is a public charity and occupies a unique place responding to disasters alongside the federal government.
Among the sections of the documents the Red Cross wanted redacted was "a two-line title" at the top of a page, one line of which was "American Red Cross."
The attorney general's office denied that redaction, writing that it "can not find disclosure of this two line title will cause the Red Cross any economic injury."
Asked about the effort to have Sandy materials kept secret, Red Cross spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego told ProPublica: "We sought to keep confidential a small part of the letter [sent to the AG] that provided proprietary information important to maintaining our ability to raise funds and fulfill our mission."
Doug White, a nonprofit expert who directs the fundraising management program at Columbia University, said that it's possible for nonprofits to have trade interests '-- the logo of a university, for example '-- but it's not clear what a "trade secret" would be in the case of the Red Cross. He called the lawyer's letter an apparent "delaying tactic."
Ben Smilowitz of the Disaster Accountability Project, a watchdog group, said,
"Invoking a 'trade secret' exemption is not something you would expect from an organization that purports to be 'transparent and accountable.'"
In agreeing to withhold some details, the attorney general's office found that portions of the documents the charity wanted to redact "describe business strategies, internal operational procedures and decisions, and the internal deliberations and decision-making processes that affect fundraising and the allocation of donations."
The attorney general's office also found "that this information is proprietary and constitutes trade secrets, and that its disclosure would cause the Red Cross economic injury and put the Red Cross at an economic disadvantage."
Another section the Red Cross wanted redacted was a paragraph that noted the charity's "willingness to meet with the [Office of the Attorney General.]" The attorney general's office denied that part of the request
Borrego, the Red Cross spokeswoman, declined to say how much the charity is paying Gibson Dunn but said, "we do not use funds restricted to Superstorm Sandy to cover those expenses."
We'll let you know when we get the documents we asked for '-- at least the parts that aren't trade secrets.
If you have experience with or information about the American Red Cross, including its operations after Sandy, email justin@propublica.org
Related articles: Read our other coverage about how the Red Cross' post-storm spending on Sandy is a black box.
Like this story? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get more of our best work. Justin Elliott is a ProPublica reporter covering politics and government accountability. Previously, he was a reporter at Salon.com and TPMmuckraker and news editor at Talking Points Memo.
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Gloves can now come off in California kitchens
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:16
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The gloves are coming off in California kitchens.Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday that he signed AB 2130, which repeals a state regulation requiring restaurant employees to use gloves or utensils to handle food going straight to diners' plates.The no-hands bill was passed last year and would have taken effect July 1. It was intended to prevent disease transmission and covered everything from sushi rice to the mint in a mojito.Forty-one other states have similar prohibitions, and the California law drew no opposition from chain restaurants.But some independent chefs and bartenders complained that it would restrict their hands-on craft, disrupt hand-washing routines and generate unnecessary waste of disposable gloves.Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, authored the original law and also sponsored the repeal measure.Pan, who is chairman of the health committee and a pediatrician, said he wanted to revisit the no-hands prohibition but make it more flexible to meet the concerns of restaurateurs."It's not about whether you wear gloves or not," Pan said in an interview earlier in the week with The Associated Press. "It's about how clean the surfaces (touching food) are. We need to have the conversation go back to, `This is about food safety.'"Elsewhere in the U.S., Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina and Wyoming encourage minimal contact but do not ban bare-hand contact outright. Tennessee is implementing its ban next year.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that workers touching food provided the most common transmission pathway for food-originated norovirus outbreaks between 2001 and 2008, the most recent comprehensive review of data available.
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Golden Gate Bridge to Become Suicide-Proof With $76 Million Steel Net
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 06:48
In a unanimous vote on Friday, it was decided by members of the Golden Gate Bridge's district in San Francisco that a massive steel net would be implemented on the bridge to prevent suicides. The project is to cost $76 million.
According to a report by the Associated Press, officials say that since it opened in 1937, over 1,400 people have jumped to their deaths from the iconic bridge, with a record number of suicides last year totaling 46. Seconds after the vote passed, a room full of supporters and family members of those who had jumped from the bridge, were reportedly in tears.
Bridge board member Janet Reilly told the room:
"The tragedy of today is that we can't go back in time, we can't save ... the people who jumped off the bridge. But the good thing, with this vote today, we can vote in their memory. . . . We will save many lives who have followed in their footsteps - and that's what so extraordinary about today."
The net idea had been talked about for decades before Friday's historic approval, but funding had been hard to come by. Barack Obama signed a bill into law recently that made federal funds available for the building of safety nets and protective barriers for bridges, which made the project easier on the state, who is providing $7 million in funds. Federal contribution to the project will reach $49 million and $20 million will come from the bridge, mostly in toll revenue.
Officials say that the net will not obstruct or mar the appearance of the bridge and it will stretch about 20 feet wide on either side. The construction of the net is supposed to start next year and is expected to be finished in 2018.
[Image via AP]
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Cutting off water to Detroit's poor 'an affront to human rights,' says UN
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:58
Published time: June 27, 2014 22:55Edited time: June 27, 2014 23:57Detroit, Michigan (AFP Photo / Jeff Haynes)
Residents of Detroit, Michigan who are $150 or two months past-due on their water bills are having their water shut off by the bankrupt city. Now, even the United Nations has stepped in, saying Detroit is in violation of the human right to water.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is facing $5 billion in bad debt, and is scrambling to recoup its losses. The city, which filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in history last year, argues that the financial burden of paying water bills has been put on the back burner by many families who didn't believe services would be shut off. Those bills have gone up 120 percent in the past decade, well beyond the national average.
''We sent out a little over 46,000 shutoff notices in May. Of those 46,000 shutoff notices, about 4,500 were actually shut off,'' Greg Eno, a DWSD public affairs specialist, told RT.
Within 24 hours, 60 percent of the affected customers paid their accounts in full and had their service immediately restored. Forty percent of the remaining customers had their service restored within 48 hours, DWSD said in a statement.
''Many of the properties that we shut off are actually vacant structures, not occupied homes,'' DWSD Director Sue McCormick said.
The public utility has threatened to cut off water to 150,000 Detroit residents so far, and the shutoffs could affect up to 300,000 of the city's poor African-American community, according to the Root. Since March, water service for up to 3,000 customers per week has been cut off.
Carla Walker-Miller, president and founder of the Water Access Volunteer Effort (WAVE) Fund, disputes that people in arrears are choosing not to pay their bills. ''The assumption is made by a lot of people that those are 60 to 70 percent of people who just had the money lying around and decided not to pay,'' she told RT.
''I'm more likely to assume that those are people who decided once their water was shut off, not to buy their medicine, not to eat that evening, not to do something that's really important because, again, we're talking about a low income population here in the City of Detroit.''
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) represents the city where poverty hovers at 40 percent and the unemployment rate is 14.5 percent (the national average is 6.3 percent). He called the DSWD's move ''an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting.''
''Regardless of the rationale for these cutoffs, the human consequences are unacceptable and unsustainable. The failure to reinstate water service means unsanitary conditions, malnutrition and disease for babies, the sick, and the elderly,'' Conyers said in a statement.
Now the United Nations has waded into the battle. Several groups appealed to the UN Human Rights Office last week asking for for the organization to attempt a forced restoration of service.
On Wednesday, three UN experts on the human rights to water and sanitation, adequate housing, and extreme poverty and human rights condemned the DWSD's widespread water disconnections. ''Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,'' the experts said in a statement.
''Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying. In other words, when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections,'' said Catarina de Albuquerque, the expert on the human right to water and sanitation.
Groups like the WAVE Fund and the Detroit Water Brigade are working with residents to get them the water they need in the short-term and funding to sustain themselves in the long-term. "We have donations of water that people have sent. We have 30 cases of water," Demeeko Williams, an organizer with the Detroit Water Brigade told RT.
Detroit residents whose annual income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level can apply for WAVE assistance. Funds received are earmarked specifically for payment of water and sewer bills for eligible Detroit residents.
But even with help, the UN is concerned about discrimination. ''If these water disconnections disproportionately affect African Americans they may be discriminatory, in violation of treaties the US has ratified,'' Leilani Farha, the expert on the right to adequate housing said in the statement.
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SnowJob
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Lawmaker Slams Ex-NSA Chief: 'Nothing to Offer' but State Secrets - Hit & Run : Reason.com
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:10
wikicommonsKeith Alexander, since stepping down from his position as National Security Administration (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command chief following last year's mass surveillance revelations, has gotten himself in the business of cybersecurity consulting.
And not everyone's comfortable with that. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fl.) yesterday published letters he sent to the "Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Clearing House'--all of which Alexander reportedly has approached about his services," according to Wired. The congressman, who sits on both the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, gave a roundabout warning to former spy chief:
Disclosing or misusing classified information for profit is, as Mr. Alexander well knows, a felony. I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods. Without the classified information he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you.
He concluded by turning up the heat and asks the organizations to be transparent:
Please send me all information related to your negotiations with Mr. Alexander, so that Congress can verify whether or not he is selling military and cybersecurity secrets to the financial industry for personal gain.
House Committee on Education and the Workforce
Grayson isn't the only skeptic. In his letter, he cites top computer security expert Bruce Schneier, who has similar concerns. Regarding Alexander's eye-popping rates, $600,000 to $1 million a month, earlier this week Schneier asked his readers to "think of how much actual security they could buy with that $600K a month. Unless he's giving them classified information."
There's a pinch of irony that Alexander, who does a lot of handwringing over Edward Snowden for exposing government secrets, is now on the receiving end suspicion for similar actions.
Zenon Evans is a staff writer and editor.
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Experts say law enforcement's use of cellphone records can be inaccurateundefined
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:08
The use of cellphone records to place suspects at or near crime scenes is coming under attack in courts nationwide, challenging an established practice by federal and local law enforcement that has helped lead to thousands of convictions.
Cellphone records are often used as evidence, relied upon to trace which cell tower was used to make or receive a call and then determine a caller's whereabouts. But experts say that using a single tower to precisely locate where someone was at the time of a crime has severe limitations. And while defense lawyers are gradually recognizing the problems with such evidence, the FBI continues to rely heavily on the data in its investigations. The agency wants to expand its full-time team of 32 agents dedicated to the analysis of cell-site data, and it has trained more than 5,000 state and local police investigators in the basic methodology.
The conflict between the growing awareness of cell records' limitations and the FBI's desire to expand their use is increasingly forcing the nation's judges to parse the technical evidence and determine if it's being used fairly. In recent federal cases in Portland, Ore., and Chicago, judges have ruled that the analysis of cellphone records was not scientifically valid or reliable in locating people, in part because investigators have overstated its accuracy. In the hundreds of trials where judges have allowed the evidence, some defense lawyers have persuaded juries to acquit defendants of kidnapping and murder.
Telecommunications and forensic experts point to the case of Lisa Marie Roberts, wrongly imprisoned for nearly 12 years after both Portland prosecutors and defense lawyers misunderstood cellphone evidence, as an example of how the methodology can be misused.
''They're using this stuff to put people in jail,'' said Michael Cherry, a former Bell Labs and NASA consultant whose Falls Church, Va., company is pushing law enforcement and the defense bar to understand cellphone technology. ''Lisa Roberts went through a nightmare,'' said Cherry, who assisted the defense in both the Roberts and Chicago cases. ''Complicated telephone technology is frequently oversold and under-defended in the courtroom.''
''As well-intentioned and completely honest as some of the prosecution experts are, I don't think they have that deep understanding of how the [phone] network systems operate,'' said Edward J. Imwinkelried , a University of California at Davis law professor and widely acknowledged expert in the use of scientific evidence.
When both prosecution and defense have an equal understanding of cellphone technology '-- issues which are now much disputed in the courts '-- then ''the end result will be a much better understanding of cell- ­tower technology and better use of cellphone evidence,'' Imwinkelried said.
In 2012, federal and local law enforcement agencies made more than 1.1 million requests for the personal cellphone data of Americans for a variety of investigative reasons, according to an annual privacy-related survey by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). But that may become more difficult. This month, a federal appeals court ruled for the first time that law enforcement agencies must obtain a search warrant for cellphone location data.
Experts said it's hard to know exactly how often these records are used to convict defendants because the information is not always used, and sometimes other evidence is involved.
''In every major case in Los Angeles, they use cell-tower information,'' said Jennifer Friedman, chief of forensics for the Los Angeles County public defender's office. ''It's like fingerprints, it's that common.''
How trustworthy is data?
At the heart of the controversy over cellphone data is a debate about how cellphone calls are routed and the range of the cell towers with which the phones connect. The FBI and local police officials maintain that they can place a suspect in a particular area because a cellphone, when making or receiving a call, usually selects the closest tower with the strongest signal and that most towers have a range of no more than two miles.
Bureau officials are confident that their methodology for interpreting single-tower records is sound. ''All we are representing is what the analysis shows,'' said Special Agent Robert Bornstein, supervisor of the FBI's Cellular Analysis and Survey Team. ''We are not biased for the prosecution or against the prosecution. We've used this investigative technique to recover victims of crime, missing children, deceased individuals. It's overwhelming that the analysis conducted by the team assists law enforcement throughout the country.''
The FBI says their experts can trace the whereabouts of a suspect by returning to the crime scenes and testing the strength and range of individual towers as they put together their cases. FBI Special Agent William Shute said agents drive around the area near a cell tower, ''using the same equipment cellular providers use themselves,'' to determine a tower's range.
''Judges constantly rule it's admissible,'' he said, ''but tell jurors it goes to the weight of the evidence. That's when we explain that it is reliable. Because we do it every day.''
But numerous experts and telecommunications workers say the FBI analysis techniques are wrong: Cellphone signals do not always use the closest tower when in use but instead are routed by a computerized switching center to the tower that best serves the phone network based on a variety of factors. In addition, the range of cell towers varies greatly, and tower ranges overlap significantly, and the size and shape of a tower's range shifts constantly, experts say.
''It's not really junk science, it's misinterpreted science,'' said forensic expert Larry Daniel of Raleigh, N.C., who has consulted and testified for the prosecution and the defense in numerous cases, including a capital murder case in Fayetteville, N.C., where police claimed the cell-tower data showed a man was at the crime scene. ''It is useful and can be used. But in the hands of a novice, this is dangerous science.''
Verizon, AT&T and Sprint all declined to answer questions about how their systems work or discuss what they share with law enforcement. Experts said the algorithms for routing calls are a trade secret that the wireless carriers are inclined to keep secret.
But telecommunication experts are increasingly testifying in court about how the systems actually work. For instance, in a 2012 murder case in California, AT&T radio frequency engineer Trin Lopez testified that cellphones first connect with the mobile switching center before they are routed to a cell site and that towers in the Los Angeles area have ranges of zero to 20 miles, depending on the wattage of the tower and aim of the antennas.
''It is not possible,'' Daniel said, ''for anyone to reliably determine the particular coverage area of a cell-tower antenna after the fact based solely on historical cell-tower location data or call-detail records.'' He said weather, time of day, types of equipment and technology, and call traffic all affect an antenna's range.
Jeff Fischbach, a forensic expert from Los Angeles who assisted the defense in the Roberts case, said, ''There are so many different factors [involved] that two cellular devices stationed next to each other making phone calls at the same moment could still get different towers. .'‰.'‰. I've seen proof that two individuals, subscribed to the same cellular provider, standing next to each other '-- on surveillance '-- can still get different towers.''
''We have never seen courtroom evidence,'' Cherry said, ''that authenticates an antenna's range.''
The use of historical cell-site locator data is different than real-time triangulation of three cell towers to locate a phone, or GPS technology using satellites. The accuracy of those technologies is not in dispute, but phone companies do not save GPS or triangulation data for an individual phone '-- so that information is not used as evidence.
Consequences every day
In the summer of 2002, Lisa Roberts was thrown in jail in Portland and charged with murder. Her girlfriend had been found strangled and dumped in a park. Roberts strongly maintained she was innocent and demanded a trial. On the eve of her trial, though, Multnomah County prosecutors revealed they had new evidence: Roberts's cellphone records, showing she used her phone near the park where the body was found.
Without examining the evidence, Roberts's attorney advised her to plead guilty, saying the records could ''pinpoint'' her near the crime scene. Reluctantly, Roberts took a plea bargain for manslaughter and a 15-year sentence.
But years later, new lawyers and phone experts who examined the case saw that the prosecution's cellphone evidence was thoroughly flawed '-- claiming that a tower with a 360-degree antenna and a range of more than 300 square miles placed Roberts at the scene.
In April, U.S. District Judge Malcolm F. Marsh threw out Roberts's guilty plea, virtually unheard of in federal appeals, ruling that if Roberts's original attorneys had presented expert testimony on ''the reliability of cell-tower evidence to pinpoint a caller's location, [it] likely would have changed the outcome of the trial.'' Last month, Portland prosecutors decided not to retry her, and Roberts was released from prison after nearly 12 years behind bars.
Roberts clearly remembers the day in 2004 when the county prosecutor told her about the cell-tower evidence, and her attorney telling her, ''You need to take the plea bargain.'' Roberts said, ''I just bawled. I didn't do it.''
The lack of full understanding of cellphone technology has consequences every day, experts say, even in the private sector.
For instance, in a 2012 case in Massachusetts, a company that provided cellphones to a three-man crew wrongly believed, due to cell-tower data, that the crew had not been in its assigned area. The company fired them, said Nicole Decter, the attorney for the men. Nine months later, after the company was shown that it had erroneously interpreted the cell-tower data, the men were rehired, Cherry said.
Insurance companies use cell-tower data when investigating claims and are able to obtain private phone records because of a clause in most policies mandating that customers cooperate with their investigations. In a case in Washington state, an insurer was able to properly use cell-tower data to show that a client was not 200 miles away from an arson fire, as he claimed, said Tim Gosselin, attorney for the client.
But it's in the criminal defense world where the misuse of the technology has concerned experts the most. In Chicago in 2012, U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow ruled that an FBI agent could not testify to the specific whereabouts of an alleged kidnapper based on his cell records because the ''theory has not been subject to scientific testing or formal peer review and has not been generally accepted in the scientific community .'‰.'‰. [the] chosen methodology has received no scrutiny outside the law enforcement community,'' Lefkow wrote. The ruling was the first by any court in the country to find that the cell-data analysis did not meet the Supreme Court's legal test of scientific validity.
A jury then found the defendant, Antonio Evans, not guilty.
In cases where judges have allowed the evidence, some juries have figured it out on their own. In Connecticut, prosecutors claimed that they could place an alleged kidnapper at the scene of the crime by his cellphone records, as well as testimony from his six co-defendants or informants. ''Due to the junk science that the state introduced,'' defense attorney Aaron Romano said, ''it called into question the other witnesses against him.'' His client was acquitted.
In a 2009 murder case in Ocala, Fla., prosecutors tried to use cellphone records to show the defendant was near the crime scene. ''We were just able to take on the science behind it,'' public defender Nicole Hardin said. ''You could be standing on one street and be picked up by a tower not in that radius or footprint. If there's too much interference or it's overloaded, it's relatively unreliable.''
The jury found her client not guilty.
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Pierre Omidyar | First Look Media | L&L Holding
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 02:00
Pierre Omidyar's Big Brother-battling enterprise sets up in Silicon AlleyActivist news group's site, The Intercept, publishes NSA documents stolen by Edward Snowden
June 26, 2014 11:09AMBy Adam Pincus
From left: Glenn Greenwald, Pierre Omidyar and 114 Fifth Avenue
First Look Media, a technology-driven, independent journalism site launched by eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar last year, inked a lease for three floors, taking 58,206 square feet at 114 Fifth Avenue, off Union Square, sources told The Real Deal.
Omidyar's fledgling news operation, which he kick-started with initial funding of $50 million, publishes the Intercept. That site is dedicated to releasing National Security Agency documents stolen by Edward Snowden. The Intercept launched in February and was co-founded by former Guardian US and Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, who is also a contributor to the site. The Intercept is led by former Gawker editor-in-chief John Cook.
Currently located at 162 Fifth Avenue, the company signed a 10-year lease in late May for three floors at 114 Fifth Avenue, where the asking rent on the upper floors is $88 per foot, sources said. That's far above the average asking rent in Midtown South, which Colliers International reported was $55.89 per square foot in May. First Look is taking two top floors '--18 and 19 '-- of the rehabilitated L&L Holding building located at the corner of 17th Street, as well as the ninth floor. The building is about 70 percent leased even before the building is set to reopen in several months, a source said.
The Commercial Observer first reported in March the tech firm was eying the building, but at that time sources said the company was looking to lease just one floor.
L&L, led by CEO David Levinson, acquired the 388,557-square foot building in December 2012 for $165 million in a joint venture with private equity firm Lubert-Adler, and began the ongoing modernization of the building.
Other high-profile tenants that have leased space in the property include Mastercard for floors 10 through 12, and Mashable, for floors 14 and 15.
The leasing agent at the building, David Berkey, an executive vice president at L&L, declined to comment. First Look did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Billionaire Omidyar announced the formation of First Look Media in 2013, and The Intercept is the first publication to launch. First Look has been poaching a slew of national reporters and bloggers in recent months to staff up. Another publication, to be led by former Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi, is expected later this year.
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War on Ca$h
Citizen Space - Going cashless on TfL bus services
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 03:48
Overview
Transport for London (TfL) is proposing to go cashless on its bus services in 2014. If, after consultation, the proposal is approved the option to pay by cash will be removed on all TfL bus services.
Since the introduction of the Oyster card in 2003 and the launch of contactless payment cards (CPC) on London buses last year, more and more passengers are now appreciating the convenience and value for money these options offer. This year cash fares are expected to fall to less than 1% of total bus journeys, down from 20% ten years ago. With such low levels of cash use and the cost to TfL of providing for cash payment, alongside the cheaper alternative payment options Oyster and CPC, TfL has decided that now is the time to ask for peoples views on going cashless.
Why are we consulting?If we go cashless we will remove the delays with cash that will benefit everyone.
Cash payers would benefit from a cheaper fare, saving around £1 a trip as they switch to pay as you go (PAYG) Oyster or CPC.
The cost of collecting such low levels of cash is high. TfL would save £24m a year by 2020 that would be reinvested into the transport network for the benefit of everyone.
By removing cash, people with an Oyster card or CPC will need to remember their card and have enough credit on it.
Paying with Oyster or CPC guarantees the cheapest fare. But if people don't have enough credit on their Oyster card TfL is considering introducing a new Oyster feature that will allow passengers to make one more bus journey, helping them get home or to the nearest station or Oyster Ticket Stop. This negative balance on their card would be removed on the next successful pay-as-you-go top-up.
What are we proposing?We are proposing to remove the option to pay by cash on TfL bus services in 2014.
More informationClick here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
Have your sayThis consultation ran from 19 August until 11 October 2013.
ResultsOver 37,000 responses were received. Around a third of respondents agreed with the proposal to remove cash fares. Around three quarters of responses to the consultation came from people who indicated that they do not themselves pay cash fares on the bus.
We have made a decision to go ahead with a cashless fare system on London's buses from summer this year.
We have taken into account all of the views expressed in consultation responses and have used these to shape a range of measures that will ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements.
These measures include:
a new 'one more journey' feature on Oyster that will allow passengers with less than the single bus fare but who have a positive balance on their card to make one more bus journeya review of the Oyster Ticket Stop network to see if additional locations can be identified, particularly in outer Londonrefreshed guidance for all 24,500 London bus drivers to ensure a consistent approach is taken when dealing with vulnerable passengersa public information campaign to increase awareness of the benefits of contactless payment cards and Oyster pay as you go
99 per cent of bus passengers already pay for their journeys using Oyster, prepaid tickets, contactless payment cards or concessionary tickets. The latter group represents a third of passengers and includes children and young people, older and disabled people and the unemployed. Paying with Oyster or a contactless payment card is not only the cheapest option but also speeds up boarding times at bus stops and reduces delays for all bus users. Our research shows this change is also unlikely to affect tourists as the vast majority use a prepaid ticket, such as Oyster, to get around the capital.
Read a summary of the consultation and our response to the issues raised
Files:
NA-Tech
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Facebook Experiment Manipulates Emotions Of 600,000 Users - ANIMAL
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:13
Psychologists have known for a long time that emotions are contagious. If you hang out with someone who's feeling shitty, you might end up feeling shitty too. Pretty basic. But now researchers have found that the emotions you see people express online can be just as contagious. New Scientistreports:
A team of researchers, led by Adam Kramer at Facebook in Menlo Park, California, was curious to see if this phenomenon would occur online. To find out, they manipulated which posts showed up on the news feeds of more than 600,000 Facebook users. For one week, some users saw fewer posts with negative emotional words than usual, while others saw fewer posts with positive ones.
Apparently what many of us feared is already a reality: Facebook is using us as lab rats, and not just to figure out which ads we'll respond to but to actually change our emotions. According to the authors of this study, it was all perfectly legal. Using an algorithm that can recognize negative or positive words, the researchers were able to comb through NewsFeeds without actually viewing any text that may have been protected under users' privacy settings. ''As such, it was consistent with Facebook's Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research,'' the study's authors wrote. That's right: You consented to be randomly selected for this kind of research when you signed up for Facebook. Might want to check out that User Policy again.
With that out of the way, the results of their tests predictably proved that people are emotionally suggestible online, though not as much as offline.
People were more likely to use positive words in Facebook posts if they had been exposed to fewer negative posts throughout the week, and vice versa. The effect was significant, though modest.
If this study is taken seriously, it could have an affect on how people see online harassment, which is still seen as less damaging than abuse in ''real life.'' This research also provides further motivation to avoid getting caught up in online arguments that get you down '-- those angry feelings aren't going to disappear when you shut off your computer.
Facebook emotionsbstudy-PNAS | Mobile
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:13
Adam D. I. Kramera,1,Jamie E. Guilloryb, andJeffrey T. Hancockc,daCore Data Science Team, Facebook, Inc., Menlo Park, CA 94025;bCenter for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143; andDepartments of cCommunication anddInformation Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853Edited by Susan T. Fiske, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and approved March 25, 2014 (received for review October 23, 2013)
SignificanceWe show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues.
AbstractEmotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. Emotional contagion is well established in laboratory experiments, with people transferring positive and negative emotions to others. Data from a large real-world social network, collected over a 20-y period suggests that longer-lasting moods (e.g., depression, happiness) can be transferred through networks [Fowler JH, Christakis NA (2008) BMJ 337:a2338], although the results are controversial. In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks. This work also suggests that, in contrast to prevailing assumptions, in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion, and that the observation of others' positive experiences constitutes a positive experience for people.
Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading them to experience the same emotions as those around them. Emotional contagion is well established in laboratory experiments (1), in which people transfer positive and negative moods and emotions to others. Similarly, data from a large, real-world social network collected over a 20-y period suggests that longer-lasting moods (e.g., depression, happiness) can be transferred through networks as well (2, 3).
The interpretation of this network effect as contagion of mood has come under scrutiny due to the study's correlational nature, including concerns over misspecification of contextual variables or failure to account for shared experiences (4, 5), raising important questions regarding contagion processes in networks. An experimental approach can address this scrutiny directly; however, methods used in controlled experiments have been criticized for examining emotions after social interactions. Interacting with a happy person is pleasant (and an unhappy person, unpleasant). As such, contagion may result from experiencing an interaction rather than exposure to a partner's emotion. Prior studies have also failed to address whether nonverbal cues are necessary for contagion to occur, or if verbal cues alone suffice. Evidence that positive and negative moods are correlated in networks (2, 3) suggests that this is possible, but the causal question of whether contagion processes occur for emotions in massive social networks remains elusive in the absence of experimental evidence. Further, others have suggested that in online social networks, exposure to the happiness of others may actually be depressing to us, producing an ''alone together'' social comparison effect (6).
Three studies have laid the groundwork for testing these processes via Facebook, the largest online social network. This research demonstrated that (i) emotional contagion occurs via text-based computer-mediated communication (7); (ii) contagion of psychological and physiological qualities has been suggested based on correlational data for social networks generally (7, 8); and (iii) people's emotional expressions on Facebook predict friends' emotional expressions, even days later (7) (although some shared experiences may in fact last several days). To date, however, there is no experimental evidence that emotions or moods are contagious in the absence of direct interaction between experiencer and target.
On Facebook, people frequently express emotions, which are later seen by their friends via Facebook's ''News Feed'' product (8). Because people's friends frequently produce much more content than one person can view, the News Feed filters posts, stories, and activities undertaken by friends. News Feed is the primary manner by which people see content that friends share. Which content is shown or omitted in the News Feed is determined via a ranking algorithm that Facebook continually develops and tests in the interest of showing viewers the content they will find most relevant and engaging. One such test is reported in this study: A test of whether posts with emotional content are more engaging.
The experiment manipulated the extent to which people (N = 689,003) were exposed to emotional expressions in their News Feed. This tested whether exposure to emotions led people to change their own posting behaviors, in particular whether exposure to emotional content led people to post content that was consistent with the exposure'--thereby testing whether exposure to verbal affective expressions leads to similar verbal expressions, a form of emotional contagion. People who viewed Facebook in English were qualified for selection into the experiment. Two parallel experiments were conducted for positive and negative emotion: One in which exposure to friends' positive emotional content in their News Feed was reduced, and one in which exposure to negative emotional content in their News Feed was reduced. In these conditions, when a person loaded their News Feed, posts that contained emotional content of the relevant emotional valence, each emotional post had between a 10% and 90% chance (based on their User ID) of being omitted from their News Feed for that specific viewing. It is important to note that this content was always available by viewing a friend's content directly by going to that friend's ''wall'' or ''timeline,'' rather than via the News Feed. Further, the omitted content may have appeared on prior or subsequent views of the News Feed. Finally, the experiment did not affect any direct messages sent from one user to another.
Posts were determined to be positive or negative if they contained at least one positive or negative word, as defined by Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software (LIWC2007) (9) word counting system, which correlates with self-reported and physiological measures of well-being, and has been used in prior research on emotional expression (7, 8, 10). LIWC was adapted to run on the Hadoop Map/Reduce system (11) and in the News Feed filtering system, such that no text was seen by the researchers. As such, it was consistent with Facebook's Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research. Both experiments had a control condition, in which a similar proportion of posts in their News Feed were omitted entirely at random (i.e., without respect to emotional content). Separate control conditions were necessary as 22.4% of posts contained negative words, whereas 46.8% of posts contained positive words. So for a person for whom 10% of posts containing positive content were omitted, an appropriate control would withhold 10% of 46.8% (i.e., 4.68%) of posts at random, compared with omitting only 2.24% of the News Feed in the negativity-reduced control.
The experiments took place for 1 wk (January 11''18, 2012). Participants were randomly selected based on their User ID, resulting in a total of '¼155,000 participants per condition who posted at least one status update during the experimental period.
For each experiment, two dependent variables were examined pertaining to emotionality expressed in people's own status updates: the percentage of all words produced by a given person that was either positive or negative during the experimental period (as in ref. 7). In total, over 3 million posts were analyzed, containing over 122 million words, 4 million of which were positive (3.6%) and 1.8 million negative (1.6%).
If affective states are contagious via verbal expressions on Facebook (our operationalization of emotional contagion), people in the positivity-reduced condition should be less positive compared with their control, and people in the negativity-reduced condition should be less negative. As a secondary measure, we tested for cross-emotional contagion in which the opposite emotion should be inversely affected: People in the positivity-reduced condition should express increased negativity, whereas people in the negativity-reduced condition should express increased positivity. Emotional expression was modeled, on a per-person basis, as the percentage of words produced by that person during the experimental period that were either positive or negative. Positivity and negativity were evaluated separately given evidence that they are not simply opposite ends of the same spectrum (8, 10). Indeed, negative and positive word use scarcely correlated [r = ''0.04, t(620,587) = ''38.01, P < >We examined these data by comparing each emotion condition to its control. After establishing that our experimental groups did not differ in emotional expression during the week before the experiment (all t < > 0.13), we examined overall posting rate via a Poisson regression, using the percent of posts omitted as a regression weight. Omitting emotional content reduced the amount of words the person subsequently produced, both when positivity was reduced (z = ''4.78, P < >As such, direct examination of the frequency of positive and negative words would be inappropriate: It would be confounded with the change in overall words produced. To test our hypothesis regarding emotional contagion, we conducted weighted linear regressions, predicting the percentage of words that were positive or negative from a dummy code for condition (experimental versus control), weighted by the likelihood of that person having an emotional post omitted from their News Feed on a given viewing, such that people who had more content omitted were given higher weight in the regression. When positive posts were reduced in the News Feed, the percentage of positive words in people's status updates decreased by B = ''0.1% compared with control [t(310,044) = ''5.63, P < >The results show emotional contagion. As Fig. 1 illustrates, for people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people's status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks (3, 7, 8), and providing support for previously contested claims that emotions spread via contagion through a network.
Fig. 1.Mean number of positive (Upper) and negative (Lower) emotion words (percent) generated people, by condition. Bars represent standard errors.
These results highlight several features of emotional contagion. First, because News Feed content is not ''directed'' toward anyone, contagion could not be just the result of some specific interaction with a happy or sad partner. Although prior research examined whether an emotion can be contracted via a direct interaction (1, 7), we show that simply failing to ''overhear'' a friend's emotional expression via Facebook is enough to buffer one from its effects. Second, although nonverbal behavior is well established as one medium for contagion, these data suggest that contagion does not require nonverbal behavior (7, 8): Textual content alone appears to be a sufficient channel. This is not a simple case of mimicry, either; the cross-emotional encouragement effect (e.g., reducing negative posts led to an increase in positive posts) cannot be explained by mimicry alone, although mimicry may well have been part of the emotion-consistent effect. Further, we note the similarity of effect sizes when positivity and negativity were reduced. This absence of negativity bias suggests that our results cannot be attributed solely to the content of the post: If a person is sharing good news or bad news (thus explaining his/her emotional state), friends' response to the news (independent of the sharer's emotional state) should be stronger when bad news is shown rather than good (or as commonly noted, ''if it bleeds, it leads;'' ref. 12) if the results were being driven by reactions to news. In contrast, a response to a friend's emotion expression (rather than news) should be proportional to exposure. A post hoc test comparing effect sizes (comparing correlation coefficients using Fisher's method) showed no difference despite our large sample size (z = ''0.36, P = 0.72).
We also observed a withdrawal effect: People who were exposed to fewer emotional posts (of either valence) in their News Feed were less expressive overall on the following days, addressing the question about how emotional expression affects social engagement online. This observation, and the fact that people were more emotionally positive in response to positive emotion updates from their friends, stands in contrast to theories that suggest viewing positive posts by friends on Facebook may somehow affect us negatively, for example, via social comparison (6, 13). In fact, this is the result when people are exposed to less positive content, rather than more. This effect also showed no negativity bias in post hoc tests (z = ''0.09, P = 0.93).
Although these data provide, to our knowledge, some of the first experimental evidence to support the controversial claims that emotions can spread throughout a network, the effect sizes from the manipulations are small (as small as d = 0.001). These effects nonetheless matter given that the manipulation of the independent variable (presence of emotion in the News Feed) was minimal whereas the dependent variable (people's emotional expressions) is difficult to influence given the range of daily experiences that influence mood (10). More importantly, given the massive scale of social networks such as Facebook, even small effects can have large aggregated consequences (14, 15): For example, the well-documented connection between emotions and physical well-being suggests the importance of these findings for public health. Online messages influence our experience of emotions, which may affect a variety of offline behaviors. And after all, an effect size of d = 0.001 at Facebook's scale is not negligible: In early 2013, this would have corresponded to hundreds of thousands of emotion expressions in status updates per day.
AcknowledgmentsWe thank the Facebook News Feed team, especially Daniel Schafer, for encouragement and support; the Facebook Core Data Science team, especially Cameron Marlow, Moira Burke, and Eytan Bakshy; plus Michael Macy and Mathew Aldridge for their feedback. Data processing systems, per-user aggregates, and anonymized results available upon request.
FootnotesAuthor contributions: A.D.I.K., J.E.G., and J.T.H. designed research; A.D.I.K. performed research; A.D.I.K. analyzed data; and A.D.I.K., J.E.G., and J.T.H. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.
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About | twister
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 06:44
twister idea came to me circa June/2013. In July I started coding the prototype by forking from the Bitcoin repository. Some weeks later I finished my research of free software candidates for DHT and Bittorrent by choosing libtorrent-rasterbar. Both projects are excellent in terms of software design quality, although not the easiest learning curve around. With the core implemented and working from command line in October, Lucas Leal was hired to create the HTML+CSS user interface design while I wrote the JS part. This is pretty much twister's short history, the rest is in the docs.Ok, but'... Who are you?
I'm a research engineer at PUC-Rio University. I have Master in Telecommunications and Doctorship in Applied Electromagnetism. Previously (until 2007) I was one of the lead developers of xine, the multimedia playing engine for Linux. I live in one of the best cities of the free world: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I have a full time job so you might want to know that twister is a hobby. I climb. I hack.
Miguel Freitas@mfreitas @twisterPGP key
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Android's App Permissions Were Just Simplified '-- Now They're Much Less Secure
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 02:02
Google just made a huge change to the way app permissions work on Android. Apps already on your device can now gain dangerous permissions with automatic updates. Future apps can gain dangerous permissions without asking you, too.
This is all thanks to the latest Play Store update and its simplified app permission interface. The core idea here '-- making Android app permissions comprehensible to normal users '-- is good. The implementation is the big problem.
Apps Can Now Add Permissions Without Asking YouGoogle Play now groups app permissions into groups of related permissions. For example, an app that wants to read your incoming SMS messages will require the ''Read SMS messages'' permission. When you install it via the Play Store, you'll see it asking for the ''SMS'' permission group.
Install the app and you're giving it access to all SMS-related permissions. The app can now automatically update and gain the ability to send SMS messages without asking you.
Do you have apps on your device that you trust to read SMS messages, but not send them? Those apps can now gain the ability to send SMS messages without prompting you '-- all the developer has to do is update the app.
The only way to prevent this from happening is to disable automatic updates and verify app permissions manually every time an app wants to update '-- as if that's a reasonable solution! If you do this, you'll also end up using outdated versions of apps, which is another security problem.
Permission Groups Contain Both Safe and Dangerous PermissionsThe big problem is that groups can contain both normal, basic permissions as well as more dangerous permissions. For example:
Location: An app that asks for your approximate, network-based location can now gain permission to track your exact location with your device's GPS.SMS: An app that only needs to receive text messages can now gain the permission to send SMS messages in the background, potentially costing you money.Phone: An app that asks to read your call log can now gain permission to reroute outgoing calls and make phone calls without asking you.Photos/Media/Files: An app that needs to read the contents of your USB storage or SD card can now format your entire external storage device.Camera/Microphone: An app that has permission to take pictures and videos (for example, a camera app) can now gain the permission to record audio. The app could listen to you when you use other apps or when your device's screen is off.You'll be asked to confirm when an app requires a new group of permissions. If you've already granted access to a single permission from a group, all bets are off and the app can get all permissions in that group.
Huge amounts of Android apps already ask for more permissions than they need, and now those apps have been granted even more permissions they don't need!
Every App Gets Internet AccessGoogle has also given each app Internet access, effectively removing the Internet access permission. Oh, sure, Android developers still have to declare they want Internet access when putting together the app. But users can no longer see the Internet access permission when installing an app and current apps that don't have Internet access can now gain Internet access with an automatic update without prompting you.
Sure, most apps need Internet access these days, but not all of them. You may want to use a live wallpaper, flashlight, or keyboard app without giving it Internet access. In fact, one of the security features for third-party keyboards in Apple's iOS 8 is that those keyboards can't access the Internet unless you specifically allow them to. All keyboards on Android can now access the Internet.
Android App Permissions Were Broken, AnywayAndroid's app permission system was already broken. It's less of a permission system and more of a demand system. An app demands that it requires certain features, and you can take it or leave it. You can't choose whether you want to give an app some permissions but not others. Android actually had a built-in permission manager that was being worked on, but Google removed it. Now only people who root their devices and use the Xposed Framework to regain the App Ops feature or install custom ROMs like CyanogenMod can manage app permissions. Typical Android users are left powerless.
Much of Android's app permission system has just been made meaningless. Why even bother having a fine-grained permission system where developers have to request access to the Internet and to individual permissions like ''read SMS messages''? Google just might as well redo Android app permissions entirely and make apps request access to groups of permissions instead. At least they wouldn't be giving us a false sense of security!
And all the while, Apple's iOS has a functional permission system that gives users control.
No, this isn't an assault on Android from an Apple fanboy. I love Android and use a Nexus 4 as a smartphone, but I believe in giving users power. Android users should be able to choose which apps can send SMS messages or whether camera apps can record audio. Now, not only can we not control permissions without rooting or installing a custom ROM, the new permission system gives us even less power.
Thanks to iamtubeman on Reddit for exploring this important issue and testing it. Google's explanation of Android's new simplified app permissions can be found here.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
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podcast app opens then closes | Apple Support Communities
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 03:22
Happening to me too. iPhone5s. It was working this morning, but now I opened it and it crashes immediately. I tried deleting the app, restarting my phone, downloading it again and it still crashes.
If I put the phone in airplane mode it doesn't crash. It appears to be having a problem getting/parsing the data.
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Anti-Amazon Amendment Passed By French Senate | Ubergizmo
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:12
It seems that France's Senate has recently approved of an amendment to the ''Lang Law'', which so happens to be a 1981 statute that will fix the price of books, in order to prevent online booksellers from coming up with steep discounts for the consumers, or to offer free shipping of books. Both La Cinqui¨me R(C)publique and Amazon have been duking out over this particular issue for the past eight years, where a Lang Law amendment made last year stopped online discounts that go over the 5% mark as well as free shipping.
In a nutshell, with the France Senate passing this bill, it all boils down to one man '' French President Fran§ois Hollande to sign the bill in order to make it law. According to Minister for Culture and Communication Aur(C)lie Filippetti, she feels that this amendment is vital in an effort to prevent small booksellers from falling prey and victim to unfair competition because of the huge discounts that online retailers are able to offer. Not only that, she felt that small booksellers do offer ''access to culture'', and I will grant her that. Price regulation would also be appropriate to help authors out.
Do you agree that certain seemingly protectionist laws need to be passed, or should we let the free market decide instead?
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Senator Marco Rubio makes a play for 5 GHz ham frequencies to give to unlicensed wifi
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:12
Yeah, it does explain why NYC doesn't have amazing speeds.
NYC is one of the highest density cities in the entire United States of America. In these cases, having single or double strand fiber means nothing when you have to deal with dozens to hundreds of consumers per leg.
Let me ask you, do you know what the cost differential is between 1GbE vs 10GbE? Now double that or triple it. When you have high density areas, that cost gets amazingly high. Who do you suggest pays that fee? The Government or the land lord? [serious question here buddy]
NYC is the perfect example of the "outlier." Very few cities compare to it. Internet Access scales upward versus laterally. That means you pay to bring fiber into a building, you pay to terminate the access, then you pay to scale the fiber upwards through conduits to each level. Cost much? Yeah, it does, buddy.
Not sure what crack you have been smoking, but Internet access is expensive. Especially in NYC, buddy.
Senators aim to introduce bill to expand Wi-Fi spectrum : PERSONAL TECH : Tech Times
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:19
A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would open new spectrums of WiFi usage. Its bipartisan sponsors hope it will help bring WiFi to low-income areas.(Photo : Jos(C) Maria Silveira Neto)
A pair of lawmakers are aiming to broaden U.S. residents' Wi-Fi horizons. Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Marco Rubio of Florida have launched a bipartisan campaign to give the general public access to more of the Wi-Fi spectrum.
In a new piece of legislation jointly introduced by Booker and Rubio, they propose allowing citizens to use a part of the Wi-Fi band currently used exclusively for intelligent transportation systems, satellite services, and amateur radio. They argue the upper 5-GHz band should be shared with unlicensed Wi-Fi usage.
The senators' Wi-Fi Innovation Act, spearheaded by Rubio, a Republican, would force the Federal Communications Commission to test this sharing idea to see if it's feasible. Rather than ignore the needs of the band's current users, which focus on things like vehicle safety and traffic information, the bill suggests that sharing the 5850-5925 MHz band with low-income communities could be a reasonable solution to the growing needs of Wi-Fi users. It's one of three bills Rubio is introducing to address Wi-Fi issues.
"There is a clear and growing demand for increased availability of spectrum," said Booker, a Democrat. "We want to see this valuable resource made available for further use by the public. Not only does access to wireless broadband open the door for innovation and transformative new technologies, it helps bridge the digital divide that leaves too many low-income communities removed from the evolving technology landscape and the growing economic opportunities."
In addition to testing the possibility of this kind of use, the bill would also study the obstacles standing in the way of Wi-Fi deployment to low-income areas. Incentives for increasing said Wi-Fi deployment would also be considered.
The bill already has the support of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. It also has its share of detractors, including automakers who fear that sharing bandwidth will be detrimental to increasingly popular services like car-to-car communications and crash-avoidance systems.
Rubio's two additional bills are the Wireless Innovation Act and an unannounced bill that promotes wireless infrastructure. The Wireless Innovation Act introduces legislation that would free up government parts of the Wi-Fi spectrum.
"In a century defined by drastic and colossal technological advancement, it is hard going even a day without using our cell phones, tablets and other wireless devices," said Rubio. "Access to mobile broadband enhances our daily lives, facilitating quality work and timely communication. But our wireless devices rely on spectrum, a valuable and limited resource. To meet the demands of our time, action must be taken to ensure spectrum is utilized effectively and efficiently."
(C) 2014 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
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Hillary 2016
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Elizabeth Warren: The Obama of 2016 | National Review Online
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 18:24
Paging Elizabeth Warren: This is your moment.
In 2007, Democrats were delirious with rage about the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton, the ''inevitable'' presidential front-runner, had voted for the war and refused to apologize for it. Other leading candidates, including Joe Biden, John Edwards, and Chris Dodd, voted for it too. This left a huge opening for a credible antiwar candidate. Barack Obama, inexperienced and underqualified, nonetheless jumped into the vacuum. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the issue that obsesses the base of the Democratic party is income inequality. I think that's foolish. The underlying causes of inequality '-- miserable economic growth, stagnating wages, poverty, etc. '-- are vastly more worthy challenges. Though, in fairness, many people actually have those problems in mind when they talk about inequality.There's another component to the inequality obsession: populism. People increasingly feel that economic and political elites are enriching themselves, not by making great products or selling valuable services, but by cutting backroom deals and selling influence. This rage is remarkably bipartisan. It is the one theme that loosely unites tea partiers and Wall Street occupiers alike.
Obscure economics professor David Brat toppled House majority leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary largely by tapping into that populism, particularly on such issues as immigration and Wall Street bailouts.
Senator Warren owes her left-wing hero status to the Democratic version of this kind of populism. She's been talking for years about how the well-connected ''rig the system'' for their own benefit. Now, I find many of Warren's proposed solutions '-- more regulation, more taxes, more government, etc. '-- abhorrent. But, believe it or not, I am not a Democratic-primary voter. Those who are love what Warren is selling.
Which is why Warren is perfectly poised to be the Obama of 2016. And the role of Hillary Clinton will be played by Hillary Clinton.
Warren would be able to defuse Clinton's greatest asset (her gender) and exploit Clinton's greatest liability (her wealth and how she came by it) while in the process generating huge excitement from the status quo''weary grassroots.
Start with gender. The Clinton team is reviving the ludicrous claim that opposition to her candidacy is sexist. (They tried that line on Team Obama in 2008, but Team Obama came back with insinuations of racism.) What fun it would be to watch the Clintons try to spin support for Warren as sexist.
Then there's Clinton's wealth. Ever since claiming she was ''dead broke'' when she and her husband left the White House, Clinton has been desperately trying to remove her feet from her mouth.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, Clinton claimed that she's on the right side of the inequality argument because of the way she earned her money. The American people ''don't see me as part of the problem,'' she explained, ''because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work.''
Many think this was a shot at Mitt Romney, and if it was, it's pretty pathetic. But even if Democrats think it's a serious argument, Romney will not be running in the Democratic primary '-- unlike Clinton (presumably).
Clinton made her money by giving $200,000 speeches to corporate fat cats and trading on her connections. She may think that making millions for boring books and flying around in rented private jets to give really boring speeches is a fair wage for fair work. Heck, maybe it is! But she simply lacks the political talent to sell that interpretation.
Seen through today's populist prism, Clinton's record is a target-rich environment. For instance, in 1978, as a young associate at the Rose Law Firm and as wife of the attorney general and soon-to-be governor of Arkansas, Clinton sought the help of Tyson Food executive James Blair. Blair and Clinton's shady commodities broker, Robert ''Red'' Bone (a former Tyson executive), managed to help Clinton turn a $1,000 investment into a $100,000 profit in an extremely dubious series of cattle-futures transactions. A paper for the Journal of Economics and Finance found that the odds she earned that return in a straightforward manner were 31 trillion to 1. No one has proven anything criminal, but most journalists and experts agreed that she had to have gotten ''special treatment'' (USA Today's words).
Clinton's ''inevitability'' is itself a kind of unearned special treatment during a time when special treatment for rich insiders ticks off everyone. Warren should say so.
'-- Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. You can write to him by e-mail at[email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO. (C) 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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WashPost Columnist Grows Distraught With Hillary: 'Stop Answering Money Questions' And Making It Worse!
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:44
Former Washington Post reporter Ruth Marcus grew distraught over how Hillary Clinton is blowing it a Sunday column titled "More money, more problems." She began: "Dear Secretary Clinton, Please consider this in the nature of a friendly intervention. You have a money problem. It's time to deal with it before it gets worse." She repeats that twice with greater and greater emphasis.
"The issue isn't that you're rich, or even that you and your husband became rich after leaving office," it's that Hillary is both greedy and whiny:
They have a problem with wealthy candidates who are whiny and/or defensive about their wealth; who are greedy and/or ostentatious in their acquisition and display thereof; or whose wealth makes them, or makes them appear to be, out of touch with the concerns of everyday people. Your difficulties, at the moment anyway, appear to be chiefly in the first two categories: defensiveness and greed.
These categories parallel my suggestion of twin money problems '-- talk and action. You must stop answering money questions in a way that makes matters worse!
The emphasis is all hers. Marcus wrote Hillary "stepped in it again" when The Guardian asked how she could be a credible voice against income inequality.
Story Continues Below Ad '†'
The question might have been unfair in its stated assumption that voters see you as part of the problem, butyour answer was a doozy. ''But they don't see me as part of the problem,'' you replied, ''because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well-off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work.''
Okay, perhaps I should repeat myself, a little louder. YOU MUST STOP ANSWERING MONEY QUESTIONS IN A WAY THAT MAKES MATTERS WORSE!
Yes, it's galling when certain people '-- perhaps you were referring to someone named Mitt Romney? '-- benefit from paying taxes at far lower rates than their secretaries. But the problem of income inequality is not merely a problem of differential tax rates.
And for goodness' sake '-- truly well-off? hard work? You are truly well-off by anyone's definition of the term. And hard work is the guys tearing up my roof right now. It's not flying by private jet to pick up a check for $200,000 to stand at a podium for an hour.
Touche. Marcus also demanded that Hillary stop raking in the six-figure speech fees if she's going to run for the White House: "Which gets me to the second set of issues: how you're continuing to -vacuum up the money, and the aura of greediness it exudes. Madam Secretary, enough already. This behavior borders on compulsion, like refugees who once were starved and now hoard food. You're rich beyond your wildest imaginings! You don't need any more! Just. Stop. Speaking. For. Pay."
She concluded: "Fix this now, or decide not to run. Then you can rake in the fees to your heart's content."
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Bill politicized death hoping to get Hillary millions of votes: book
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:25
Edward Klein's book about the animosity between the Clintons and Obamas, ''Blood Feud'' (Regnery Publishing), rocketed up the best-seller charts since it was featured in The Post last Sunday. Here, in another exclusive excerpt, Klein ­describes how Bill's health is a preoccupation of the Clintons.
A pair of black, armor-plated SUVs swung into a suburban cul-de-sac and crunched to a stop in the driveway of the Clintons' home in Chappaqua, New York.
A wall of burly Secret Service agents jumped out and surrounded the man who emerged from the lead vehicle.
It was mid-summer 2013, and Bill Clinton looked shrunken and weary. He was returning from a routine visit with his doctors at New York''Presbyterian Hospital, where he had received some grave news.
His cardiologist, Dr. Allan Schwartz, had given the former president a thorough checkup. The tests showed that there had been a further deterioration in the function of Bill's heart, Schwartz said. The doctor made the former president promise to cut back on his schedule and get more rest.
Once home, Bill went upstairs to his bedroom and lay down on a daybed. He was exhausted. He used to be a man of many hobbies: He collected old cars and 1950s rock memorabilia, and he loved to watch sports, especially college basketball.
These were his lifelong distractions; they helped him unwind during his downtime.
But now he was uninterested in anything but the 2016 presidential election. It was all he cared about. He was obsessed with it. That and his health.
Later that day, Bill, Hillary, and two of her friends gathered in the converted red barn that served as Bill's home office. The women drank Chardonnay; Bill favored a Pinot Noir.
It wasn't long before Bill brought the conversation around to politics.
''We started too damn late last time,'' he said, referring to the 2008 campaign. ''That's why I've been working on this thing for the past five years, since that one ended. We're on course to raise the money, well over a billion dollars, and we're getting our people in place everywhere.''
He said that he was writing what he called ''playbooks'' '-- thick notebooks outlining positions for Hillary to take on the major issues of the day '-- everything from immigration reform to gun control and education.
He felt strongly that Hillary was going to have to distance herself from Barack Obama and his amateurish handling of domestic and foreign policy.
''You've got to hit hard at the Obama record,'' he continued, getting up from his chair and circling the barn while he spoke. ''Your administration would be a third Clinton term, not a third Obama term. We have to be very harsh, because the voters are turning on him like a bad dog, and we have to do the same.''
The conversation continued in that vein for some time, and then, quite unexpectedly, Bill changed the subject and began talking about his health.
''I'm worried how my health will affect your campaign,'' he said. ''I have to do all I can to prepare the campaign playbooks, but I also have to accept the fact that if I fall by the wayside, you have to continue without me and make a positive thing out of it.''
''A positive thing?'' Hillary said. ''What the hell are you talking about?''
''Obviously, you have to have a big state funeral for me, with as much pomp and circumstance as possible,'' he said. ''I'm thinking maybe I should be buried at Arlington [National Cemetery] rather than at my library in Little Rock. After all, I was commander in chief for eight years and have every right to be buried at Arlington.''
''Bill!'' Hillary said, trying to interrupt his train of thought.
''I'm going to plan this thing out in detail,'' he said.
''I don't want to hear this!'' Hillary said.
''Wear your widow's weeds, so people will feel sympathy for you. Wear black for a decent mourning period and make my death an asset. The images on television of the ­funeral and the grieving widow in black will be priceless.
''When I'm gone, people will think only of my good points and forgive, if not forget, the bad. I'll be remembered in a positive light more in death than I was in life. That always happens. Everybody knows that. So you'll have to take maximum advantage of my death.''
''Bill'...,'' Hillary said.
''It should be worth a couple of million votes,'' he said.
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Haiti
Unreported virus and misery
My father has a 501(c)(3) charity. No salaries paid. Real charity.
Anyways, one of the founders has been working in Haiti since before the Hurricane. Probably spends about 4 months a year there. Real perspective. Thought you might be interested in the update.
Nothing new really. Shit sucks. But it is a first hand account so...
Peace,
Jesse
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From:
Date: Jun 26, 2014 6:50 PM
Subject: Haiti and its miseries
Today I did one of the most difficult clinics I have done. I have not witnesses such misery sense just after the earthquake. The Chikuganga virus has spread through the area of Carrefoure Haiti in an epidemic. What surprised me most today is what happens to these poor people after the virus fever has gone. It leaves a person open for so much more pain and suffering. Terrible bone and joint pain, other infections, It is unbelievable, today we had old people come in all hunched over in such pain I wanted to cry with them. The children who have taken ill and have high fever; the pregnant women whose bodies are already stressed enough in so much pain. Knee pain hip pain ankle pain swelling, headaches, the list doesn`t stop. Some so sick from another problem they had when they caught, what the locals call ‘the fever`. Are close to death; I lost count of how many people we saw today. We handed out thousands of pills for fever and pain. Hundreds of antibiotics and vitamins, and sent several to hospitals for further care that I just cannot provide. Bottom line here is these people are so miserable because they have nothing! No money for one Tylenol, BTW the price of has jumped in Haiti, no money to get a ride to a hospital, sometimes so sick and hurting no way to get out of their shack or whatever they call home. I began todays clinic with a talk on what the virus is and how it is transmitted, how to take steps to prevent it and what they, as a community can do, to help kill and limit the mosquito`s that carry it. We handed out a sheet with fact about the virus in their language and ask them all to spread the word. There were so many people waiting we used a bull horn to be heard. This is a fight we need to be in, we must show these poor people that us rich Christians really care. That they are not alone and that God is sending His people to His less fortunate people. The Haiti health ministry reports 70,000 cases. None of the people I saw today are included in that report. NONE! They don`t matter. They are poor, they have no voice, and they don`t count. But I am sure the count! I believe they should come first and someday will!
Please help.
Larry
EUROLand
Juncker the Drunker dribbles in meetings, says former Foreign Office man amid claims he downed a Campari, 3 glasses of wine and 3 Sambucas in an hour.
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:20
Newspapers in Juncker's native Luxembourg had details of drinking bingeJuncker would be so drunk by midday he was incapable of work, according to British ex-Minister of EuropeMr Juncker, 59, has been dogged by rumours of a drink problem for yearsBy Simon Walters, Mail on Sunday Political Editor
Published: 19:00 EST, 28 June 2014 | Updated: 03:26 EST, 29 June 2014
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New EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker faced shock new claims about his drinking last night.
A former Tory Foreign Office Minister who has worked with him closely said he drinks so heavily he 'dribbles' during meetings and is often 'incapable of working after lunchtime'.
And a newspaper in Mr Juncker's native Luxembourg carried lurid details of a drinking binge he allegedly embarked upon.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and Jean Claude Juncker (right), the new president of the European Commission raise a glass in celebration
The prominent British politician, who served as Minister for Europe, told The Mail on Sunday: 'All the stories about Juncker's drinking are true. I know because I had to work with him. He is a complete drunk.
'I regarded it as pointless talking to him after 12 o'clock because at times he seemed incapable of working, so drunk you couldn't get any sense out of him. It is every bit as bad as people say. I have seen him so p****d that he was dribbling.
Mr Juncker is said to have drunk one Campari, three glasses of wine and three Sambucas in an hour
'Everyone in Brussels knows that Juncker drinks far too much. I would call him an alcoholic. Talk to European politicians in private and they will all tell you about his drink problem.'
The politician, who spoke to The Mail on Sunday on condition of anonymity, said Mr Juncker's drinking was not the only reason he was unfit to be EC President.
'He is totally wrong for the job and isn't any good. I was talking to a senior French politician only the other day and he agreed with me that Juncker is useless.'
Mr Juncker, 59, has been dogged by rumours of a drink problem for years.
Summit tables were said to have been awash with alcohol during his 20-year tenure as Prime Minister of Luxembourg. He resigned as a result of a spy scandal last year.
The newspaper Letzebuerg Privat (Luxembourg Private), has referred to him as the country's 'drunken stupor premier'.
Last year it ran a front-page report, accompanied by a photo of him guzzling drinks, in which it was alleged that he quaffed 'a Campari, three glasses of wine and three Sambucas in only two hours'.
German journal Der Spiegel said: 'Juncker no longer cares what others think about him.
'When he has to take a leak during a summit meeting, he says with a smirk he goes to the ladies' room, because the men's room is too dirty for him. His image fluctuates between two extremes, Mr Euro and Mr Idiot.'
Despite being a member of the EU's Centre-Right political grouping, Juncker has been called 'the most socialist Christian Democrat there is'.
'This is a bad day for Europe' Cameron on Juncker nomination
He has also been accused of arrogance and admits being deceitful when it suits his political purposes. 'When it becomes serious you have to lie,' he said while handling the Eurozone crisis.
Another German publication, Junge Welt, called him 'a ruthless opportunist' who had done more for the EU's bankers than for its people. 'Juncker is not a Democrat in the strict sense. He is a master of the back stairs,' it said.
Juncker's own comments would appear to lend credibility to the claims. In 2011 he said: 'Monetary policy is a serious issue.
'We should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup. I am for secret, dark debates.'
He is a multi-millionaire through several bank and political jobs, has a £2m townhouse in Luxembourg city and a property in the country. He is married but does not have children.
He is not the first EU President from his country to have a reputation for drinking. Jacques Santerre, the Luxembourg-born Commission President from 1995-1999, was known as 'Jacques Sancerre' due to his supposed fondness for fine French wines.
Mr Juncker's office refused to comment.
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Scots 'bribed with knighthoods and CBEs to vote no in referendum'.
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:52
Number of top honours handed to Scots has soared 40% in 18 monthsHistorically Scotland was under-represented - now it is over-representedOne MP, Paul Flynn, said it was being used to 'curry favour' north of borderBy Daniel Martin, Whitehall Correspondent
Published: 18:46 EST, 27 June 2014 | Updated: 06:32 EST, 28 June 2014
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'Currying favour': Paul Flynn MP accused the establishment of bribing the Scots
The British establishment was accused of 'cynical bribery' last night after it emerged Scots have been showered with honours in advance of the independence referendum.
The number of knighthoods, CBEs, OBEs and MBEs handed to Scottish people has soared by 40 per cent over the past 18 months as the vote approaches.
Historically, Scotland has been under-represented in the bi-annual awards, receiving fewer medals than would be expected for its population. But the dramatic increase has meant that in the last three sets of honours, Scotland has been strikingly over-represented.
Paul Flynn, an MP on the Commons public administration select committee, said the revelations further discredited the honours system by showing it was being used to 'curry favour' with the Scots.
Any indication that the system is being skewed towards the Scots to sway the referendum result will cause deep unease in Buckingham Palace.
The honours are handed out in the name of the Queen, who remains above the political fray. But the lists are drawn up by committees which include politicians and civil servants.
Scotland accounts for 8.6 per cent of the UK population. If awards were distributed according to population size, the same percentage of honours would go north of the border.
But an analysis by the Mail has found that in the Queen's Birthday Honours earlier this month, 10.1 per cent of awards went to Scots '' much higher than would be expected, and a dramatic increase from the 7.2 per cent going to Scots 18 months before in the 2013 New Year Honours.
The Queen has been careful to remain neutral ahead of the independence vote on September 18, and has reportedly refused requests by the 'Better Together' campaign to speak in favour of the Union, as she famously did in 1977.
Last night Mr Flynn said: 'The honours system is being used as it has always been used '' to curry favours.
'It could well be that, consciously or unconsciously, attempts have been made to curry favour with Scots, but I am sure Scots are capable of having their own honours system if they want it. The whole system is degraded '' it is at best arbitrary and at worst corrupt.'
The number of honours north of the border has soared, including MBEs (pictured)
Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for the Western Isles, said: 'This 40 per cent increase in honours will be seen by many fair-minded people as a cynical bribe by Westminster politicians.'
Among the Scots to receive awards in this month's Birthday Honours were Kath Maitland, chief executive of the Edinburgh Fringe, and entrepreneur Fraser Doherty who set up a jam business aged 14. Scottish historian Tom Devine received a knighthood, as did Ewan Brown, of trade body Scottish Financial Enterprise.
Around 1,200 honours are handed out twice a year '' at New Year and on the Queen's birthday.
Angus MacNeil: 'This 40 per cent increase will be seen by many people as a cynical bribe'
Until 2013, Scotland was always under-represented '' a fact acknowledged by the Government in November 2012. It said: 'Wales and Northern Ireland have done better than their population size would suggest in recent lists, while Scotland has been under-represented.'
At the 2013 New Year Honours, Scotland received 88 awards out of 1,223 '' just 7.2 per cent. Yet by the Birthday Honours in June 2013, Scotland received 114 awards out of 1,180. Its rate had jumped to 9.6 per cent '' well above what would be justified by its population share.
By the 2014 New Year Honours, Scotland was taking home 10.2 per cent of the awards '' 121 out of 1,192. This fell marginally to 10.1 per cent in this month's Birthday Honours '' 116 out of 1,149.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: 'All nominations for honours are looked at individually and entirely on merit by independent committees.'
If Scotland does vote for independence on September 18, the Scottish National Party has promised that the honours system will be retained.
Alex Salmond's party is keen to give the impression to voters that as little as possible will change if the country decides to secede.
Elizabeth II will remain as Queen of Scots '' and continue to award honours. But details about how this might operate are sketchy to say the least.
At the moment, the devolved government in Scotland can put people forward for awards. These are then considered by officials in London.
After independence, London would be taken out of the picture and honours would be an entirely Edinburgh-based decision.
So it is likely that, rather than announcing a UK-wide list of honours as at the moment, Buckingham Palace would announce two sets '' one for Scotland, and one for the rest of the UK.
However, the SNP is still yet to work out exactly what would happen to honours for Scottish people if the country opts for independence.
The Scottish government's official website of referendum questions and answers says that it will 'agree with the Royal Household any amendments to the Honours system to reflect Scotland's independence'.
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EU-Ukraine Association Agreement '' Part 3 | European Public Affairs
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:10
Together with the appointment of the new leadership in the EU, high on the political agenda of the two-day EU summit (26-27th June) is Ukraine. A buzzword that stands in the international media environment for many things currently: sanctions on Russia, European security architecture, unprecedented civil society uprisings, EU energy diversification projects, Russia-sponsored terrorism and many other matters.
When back in November 2013 a ''mere'' pile of papers under the name Association Agreement had not been signed nobody could have predicted such a sequence of events. Now Maidan, Crimea, Donbas, AA are concepts known not only within insider circles, but provide food for thought for the broader audience worldwide. Back then, this failure to find common grounds and sign this document was labeled by many experts as the beginning of the end of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) project which did not make much sense without Ukraine. Since then Ukrainians have conducted probably the largest Eurointegration step; paradoxically despite, rather than due to the EU's efforts.
Nevertheless, the 27th of June marks the final signing of the Association Agreement including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Ukraine, following the signature of the political part earlier. Together with the signing of the political and trade agreements the same day with Moldova and Georgia, this provides positive dynamics for the EaP. Half of the project (these three countries out of the six EaP states) is seemingly on the right track now.
From the standpoint of a broader strategic analysis (not going into detail of the specific economic and political clauses) the signing, and most importantly the implementation of the provisions foreseen in the agreements mean a geopolitical irreversibility of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. It's the beginning of the standards approximation process that will eventually build a new system of governance with European rules and regulations '' a break-up with Soviet style management. Whether this extremely ambitious plan will succeed and bring results is definitely an open question depending, first and foremost, on these countries' political will, decisiveness and implementation capabilities. An imitation of tangible progress on behalf of the EaP countries, coupled with a lack of EU's real control, supervision and assistance will most probably lead to Europrofanation instead of the desired Eurointegration.
However, clear as daylight is Russia's resistance to this fundamental geopolitical shift. Statements about conflicting civilizational dimensions with the West were already voiced on the highest political level, signaling a willingness to fall back on Cold-war rhetoric. The problem here though is the EU and the US desire to find excuses for not reacting to this threat. Never fading political statements, consultations and conferences, new ''red lines'' and conditions '' this is what the EU has proven to be good at. Whether actions in support of the EaP countries can be efficient at all, if they are not backed by effective counter-measures against a counterpart that is playing a classical zero-sum game, is again subject to debate.
Though much less painful for trade, and less complex in terms of decision-making than for the EU, the US is not that willing to impose stricter measures either. They are not in the same position as in the 90-ies with a weak and morally destroyed Russia, and a strong believe into the Fukuyama-End-of-History-concept, bringing the victory of liberal capitalism to the fore.
What remains for the EaP countries on their bumpy road to better life is to diligently implement the reforms and complete internal restructuring, relying exclusively on their own resources and strength. Behind the everlasting tug-of-war-policy of great powers on international arena, there are ordinary people who simply want to lead a normal life. The bigger part of Europe's East opted for the desired model. Now choices shall be followed by actions. And this is where big hopes are being pinned on the Association Agreement as a roadmap for the dreamers; naive Europhiles believing in European values '' a category existing now apparently only in the East.
Olesia OgryzkoYou may call it a man-made disaster, or the best creation of humanity. You might want to destroy it, or award it with the Nobel Peace Prize. Tastes on the EU differ, but what does not is the strong interest for it. At least in this blog. What is mine?I, myself, am a ''Euro-traveler''. I took up this profession and full-time job when I was 6 months old. Back then, this Ukrainian baby was already a convinced ardent Europhile wanting to discover the European family of nations '' the civilization my country naturally belongs to.
Hence, having spent half of my life in various EU countries, and the other half in a non-EU state, I try to highlight topics on this blog from a combined perspective. Along with International Relations and European Public Affairs, which I have as my educational background, my interests also encompass energy, geopolitics and democracy promotion.
Feel free to criticize, compliment or simply contact me in Ukrainian, German, English, Russian, Spanish or Dutch at lesia@europeanpublicaffairs.eu.
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'Invincible mutant super-rats' spreading across the UK
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:13
Researchers from the University of Huddersfield tested rats in 17 counties and found rodents resistant to over-the-counter poisons such as Bromadiolone and Difenacoum in every single one. In more than 50 towns across the UK - from Reading to Sheffield to Dumfries and Galloway '' they found rats who were 100 per cent resistant to common poisons.
Dr Dougie Clarke, who carried out the research, told ITV's Tonight ''people should be concerned''. ''The fact we've tested 17 counties and every single one of them has got resistant rats was an amazing find to us. We didn't expect to have every single country having resistant rats.''
Rats carry diseases such as the bubonic plague and can damage homes and public property '' and they have developed the immunity to pest control poisons over generations. As ecology Professor Steven Belmain explains: ''We're using the same group of chemicals over and over again, resistance will build up, so the UK, but also many other parts of the world, are suffering from this phenomenon''.
Although stronger, professional quality poisons are available to kill the rats they could also be damaging to other forms of wildlife or even domestic pets and they cannot be used outdoors without a license.Dr Clarke warned that as well as implications for public health, super-rats will also increase the cost of pest control will escalate, saying: ''Unless there's new legislation for the more toxic poisons and maybe for the more lax use of them, then it will have to be the more physical forms of killing the rats. The costs are going to escalate because of the monitoring and the picking off of the rats, and the dead bodies.''
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CYBER!!!
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Terrorists Blackout Yemen - A Warning? - Op-Eds - Arutz Sheva
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 03:14
For the first time in history, a terrorist attack on the electric power grid has blacked-out an entire nation. Media attention has been so focused on the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), on their brutal conquest of northern Iraq and advance toward Baghdad, that the perhaps even more significant terrorist threat in Yemen has been ignored. On June 9, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), used rocket propelled grenade launchers and mortars to destroy transmission towers, plunging the whole of Yemen into blackout. The AQAP blackout of Yemen's electric grid has gone largely unreported. Yemen, a nation of 24 million, is an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism and has been the scene of some of the most significant episodes of that war. AQAP, based in Yemen, is notorious for its aggressive and ingenious terror operations against the United States. For example, on October 12, 2000, AQAP used plastic explosives to convert a motorized dinghy into a torpedo that blasted the USS Cole, killing and injuring 56 sailors, and nearly sinking the sophisticated guided missile destroyer, worth almost one billion dollars. The 9/11 Commission attributed U.S. failure to retaliate for Cole as the proximate cause for Al Qaeda's launch of the September 11, 2001 holocaust that killed 3,000 Americans. AQAP has disguised bombs to look like soft drinks, underclothing, and printing cartridges in its persistent efforts to smuggle explosives aboard airliners bound for the United States. Last year, the Obama Administration evacuated U.S. embassies across the Middle East in response to a plot led by AQAP, involving coordinated activity by terror groups throughout the region. On August 2, 2013, Administration and intelligence community officials disclosed that just days earlier, the U.S. intercepted communications among senior leaders of Al Qaeda indicating a major and imminent threat to U.S. interests somewhere in the region of the Middle East and North Africa. Consequently, the State Department announced it was executing an "orderly downsizing", in effect an evacuation, of some two dozen embassies and diplomatic missions. The unprecedented evacuation included facilities in Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Yemen. According to the Obama Administration, last year's terrorist teleconference was attended by more than 20 leaders of Al Qaeda and affiliates participating from the Middle East and North Africa. Al Qaeda members in the conference included Nigeria's Boko Haram, Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda in Uzbekistan and others. One intelligence officer reportedly described the gathering as "a legion of doom". During the terror conference, Al Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri promoted AQAP's leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi to "Ma'sul al-Amm"--roughly equivalent to "General Manager" of Al Qaeda. The full objectives of last year's terror plot are unknown, but one goal included the takeover of Yemen. Teams of terrorists allegedly were already in position, many of them disguised as Yemeni military personnel, ready to attack and seize military bases throughout Yemen. Why Yemen? Possibly because North Korea has provided to Yemen at least 15 Scud-B mobile missiles, capable of delivering nuclear, chemical, biological or high-explosive warheads weighing one ton to a range of 300 kilometers. Iran has demonstrated that Scud missiles can be ship-launched from a freighter. The Obama Administration credited itself with thwarting last year's big terror plot by evacuating embassies and publicly warning allies, because nothing much happened. Some analysts, including myself, criticized the Administration for disclosing sources and methods, making it more likely that the U.S. and allies would be surprised the next time. Is it possible that the big terror offensive now rolling across the Middle East is the unfolding of the plot planned last year? Media reporting acts as if the ISIS conquest of northern Iraq, Taliban attacks on nuclear-armed Pakistan, and the terror blackout in Yemen are unrelated. But all of these actors were plotting something together last year. Worry most about the Yemen nationwide blackout--which tomorrow could be the United States. A study by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that attacks on just nine key transformer substations could blackout the entire nation for weeks or months. The Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission warned that a nuclear Scud missile launched from a freighter could blackout the U.S. for a year or more, killing up to 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse. Yemen is yet another warning to protect the U.S. electric grid. Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a Congressional Advisory Board, served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, the CIA and is author of the books Apocalypse Unknown and Electric Armageddon both available from CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com
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CYBER??!!-Widespread blackouts hit Venezuela | World news | theguardian.com
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:12
A power plant failure has knocked out electricity across a large part of Venezuela, interrupting a nationally televised presidential ceremony and forcing a suspension of subway and train services around the country.
The outage affected at least 14 of the country's 23 states and caused several hours of traffic jams, as well as darkening homes and offices, in the capital, Caracas, on Friday.
The plant, supplying electricity to Venezuela's central and western regions, failed in the early afternoon, said the electricity minister, Jesse Chacon. Power was mostly restored in Caracas by nightfall but remained out in other parts of the country, where power failures are more common.
The outage disrupted a televised celebration of journalists that President Nicolas Maduro was holding in the governmental palace in Caracas. The city's sidewalks filled up with pedestrians who overflowed into the traffic lanes.
People protesting about the blackout walk between cars in Caracas. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPASome middle-class neighbourhoods were without power for the afternoon and evening but Caracas's centre experienced only intermittent outages.
Officials prioritized Caracas as they restored power. The last time the capital lost power in March, electricity was not fully restored for 12 hours.
The country suffered major blackouts in 2012 and 2013. The administration blamed those power outages on sabotage, while opponents said they were the result of government incompetence.
The government has also occasionally pointed to wildlife, including gnawing iguanas and possums, as the culprits. On Friday inconvenienced Venezuelans posted iguanas on their social media profiles in frustration at the blackout.
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Follow the Pipes
Peak Oil 3: Has Production Peaked?
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:22
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Trains Good, Planes Bad (whoo hoo!)
Buffett's Railway Gets U.S. Deadline for Grain Cargo Plan.
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 01:27
Warren Buffett's BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) face a June 27 deadline to say how they will clear a backlog of grain shipments that has some farmers fuming over rotting wheat and late deliveries.
The U.S. Surface Transportation Board ordered the railroads to outline by then how they will deal with service disruptions, including a timeline for doing so, and to subsequently provide weekly updates about their progress.
''The board remains very concerned about the limited time period until the next harvest, the large quantities of grain yet to be moved, and the railroads' paths toward meeting their respective commitments,'' the STB said in a decision released June 20.
Setting the schedule escalates the scrutiny from the agency after the two carriers were summoned to an April hearing to discuss service. An unseasonably harsh winter forced U.S. and Canadian railroads to shorten trains and added to congestion on a system already coping with an increase in crude oil shipments from the Bakken region and a record grain harvest.
BNSF, based in Fort Worth, Texas, and Canadian Pacific (CP) were joined at the hearing by farmers and representatives of agriculture producers who outlined fallout from the backlog. The railroads' critics cited elevators running out of storage capacity, penalties incurred for tardy shipments and the risk of stored grain spoiling.
''We are disappointed that we have not met our customers' expectations, but we have made significant progress toward substantially satisfying outstanding orders and we will be prepared for this fall's harvest,'' Michael Trevino, a BNSF spokesman, said today by e-mail. ''We will continue working with the STB and will continue frequent communications with all of our agriculture customers.''
The STB said BNSF has outlined plans since the hearing to add employees and locomotives and make additional capital investments, with a ''significant portion'' allocated to its Northern corridor where the railroad moves a significant amount of grain traffic.
BNSF is the main carrier hauling crude from the Bakken shale formation centered in North Dakota. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), of which Buffett is chairman and chief executive officer, acquired the railroad in 2010.
The STB said Canadian Pacific's public submissions have not ''to date clearly articulated its plans'' for resolving the problem.
Canadian Pacific ''continues to look closely'' at the STB's order and ''will be responding directly to the agency,'' Ed Greenberg, a spokesman, said by e-mail.
Canada experienced similar logjams after also producing the largest crop yield in that nation's history. In March the government imposed minimum shipping requirements, with financial penalties, to help ease as much as $18 billion of crops stuck on the prairies at the time.
To contact the reporter on this story: Caelainn Barr in New York at cbarr15@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at mschuetz9@bloomberg.net Molly Schuetz
MH370
MH370 search: Pilot Zaharie Shah named as 'chief suspect' by Malaysian investigators after plans for Indian Ocean flight found on simulator
Tue, 24 Jun 2014 17:10
While the official results of the inquiry are yet to be published, details have been passed on to foreign governments and crash investigators, according to the Sunday Times.
They revealed that after detectives carried out 170 interviews and profiled all of the 239 people on board the Boeing 777 when it vanished on 8 March, Captain Zaharie Shah was left as the most likely perpetrator if deliberate human action is to blame.
Satellite data provided by the British firm Inmarsat have shown that the jet took a sharp left turn after leaving Malaysian airspace en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It then followed a long arc deep into the southern Indian Ocean, where it presumably ran out of fuel and crashed.
Investigators have previously refused to ''clear'' the captain's flight simulator of suspicious activity, and it now appears they found evidence of routes programmed to take a plane far out into the Indian Ocean and practising landing using a short runway on an island.
The data from the simulated flights had been deleted, the Times reported, but computer experts were able to retrieve them.
The police probe has also revealed that the 53-year-old captain was unique among those on board the flight for having no recorded commitments, either socially or for work, to take place after the date of the MH370 journey.
This was not in keeping with Zaharie's usually outgoing and open nature, police said, and in contrast to the activities of his co-pilot, Fariq Hamid, and the rest of the crew.
The reported findings of the criminal investigation rely only on circumstantial evidence, and make mention of rumours of trouble in the pilot's marriage and home life that have been denied by his family.
He was a veteran pilot who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981, and had more than 18,000 hours of flying experience.
Read more:The 13 theories that could explain what happened to MH370Captain Zaharie Shah 'was not suicidal', claims brother-in-lawThe inquiry also does not rule of the possibility that the jet crashed due to some form of mechanical failure or an act of terrorism.
A spokesperson for the Malaysian police told the Times: ''The police investigation is still ongoing. To date no conclusions can be made as to the contributor to the incident and it would be sub judice to say so. Nevertheless, the police are still looking into all possible angles.''
Zaharie's family has said that the truth about what happened will only be revealed when MH370's ''black box'' flight recorders are found.
And the recovery effort to locate the plane's wreckage, the most extensive in aviation history, could be months or even years from making any real progress.
It emerged at the end of last week that the next phase of the search will focus on an area of the Indian Ocean hundreds of miles south of the first suspected crash site.
A Dutch ship has now joined the Chinese vessel tasked with surveying the ocean floor within a vast search zone, after which contractors will have 300 days to scan the designated area.
Maybe just prospectiung the ocean floor?
Bank$ters
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Up To $80 Billion Gold-Backed Loans Are Falsified, Chinese Auditor Warns | Zero Hedge
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 03:42
As the probe into alleged fraud at Qingdao continues to escalate (with liquidity needs growing more and more evident as Chinese money-market rates surge), Bloomberg reports that China's chief auditor discovered 94.4 billion yuan ($15.2 billion) of loans backed by falsified gold transactions, in "the first official confirmation of what many people have suspected for a long time - that gold is widely used in Chinese commodity financing deals." As much as 1,000 tons of gold may have been used in lending and leasing deals in China and Goldman reports that up to $80 billion false-loans may involve gold. As one analyst noted, this was unlikely to have a significant impact on the underlying demand for gold in China and as we have pointed out before, any unwind of the Gold CFDs would lead to buying back of 'paper' gold hedges and implicitly a rise in prices.
As Bloomberg reports,
China's chief auditor discovered 94.4 billion yuan ($15.2 billion) of loans backed by falsified gold transactions, adding to signs of possible fraud in commodities financing deals.
As much as 1,000 tons of gold may have been used in lending and leasing deals in China, where commodities including metals and agricultural products are used to get credit amid lending restrictions, according to World Gold Council estimates.
Of the as much as $160 billion in transactions projected by Goldman, $80 billion may involve gold, $46 billion copper, $13.8 billion iron ore and $10.3 billion soybeans, according to a March 18 report.
Steps by the Chinese government to rein in credit by raising borrowing costs in recent years created a surge in commodities financing deals that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates to be worth as much as $160 billion.
The Chinese agency that stockpiles strategic commodities is checking to ensure its copper purchases are free of collateral risks while the customs authorities issued new rules to help prevent goods being pledged multiple times as collateral, people with direct knowledge of these matters said previously.
How the deals worked...
In some commodities financing transactions, owners of raw materials sitting in ports use receipts from warehousing companies to get credit from banks, which they put to work in high-yielding investments before repaying the debt.
Other deals involve a Chinese buyer placing orders for commodities with overseas companies and then applying for a letter of credit from a lender, which they use to import the materials. The buyer can then sell the consignment in the domestic market and use the money onshore at a higher interest rate before repaying the original loan.
But the flow is expected to continue...
''This is the first official confirmation of what many people have suspected for a long time -- that gold is widely used in Chinese commodity financing deals,'' said Liu Xu, a senior analyst at Capital Futures Co. in Beijing.
...
Mark To, head of research at Wing Fung Financial Group in Hong Kong, said the audit office's report was unlikely to have a significant impact on the underlying demand for gold in China.
...
The global flow of bullion from west to east that's helped to make China the world's largest user will probably last for as long as two decades as rising incomes spur demand, according to the China Gold Association.
* * *
As we commented previously:
When we previously contemplated what the end of funding deals (which the PBOC and the China Politburo seems rather set on) may mean for the price of other commodities, we agreed with Goldman that it would be certainly negative. And yet in the case of gold, it just may be that even if China were to dump its physical to some willing 3rd party buyer, its inevitable cover of futures "hedges", i.e. buying gold in the paper market, may not only offset the physical selling, but send the price of gold back to levels seen at the end of 2012 when gold CCFDs really took off in earnest.
In other words, from a purely mechanistical standpoint, the unwind of China's shadow banking system, while negative for all non-precious metals-based commodities, may be just the gift that all those patient gold (and silver) investors have been waiting for. This of course, excludes the impact of what the bursting of the Chinese credit bubble would do to faith in the globalized, debt-driven status quo. Add that into the picture, and into the future demand for gold, and suddenly things get really exciting.
Here's our previous epxlanation of gold's move... if we are right that somehow China managed to push gold lower via gold CFDs, then the unwind pushes gold higher:
Here's how that might work:
In the gold markets, the paper or synthetic 'demand/supply' dominates pricing as opposed to the non-precious metals which have at least a grain of fundamental sense to them still
Throughout 2012/2013 - as the gold CFDs were booming, Chinese demand for physical gold was soaring as the price plunged (due to the forward hedging required in the CFD transactions which pressured gold swaps/futures lower and thus dominated pricing)
As CFD unwinds hit en masse, these flows must unwind (cover hedges and ensure the underlying physical is there... and if not buy it)
This will pressure gold futures prices higher and because unlike in non-precious commodities where spot markets wag the tail of the futures markets - spot gold will likely be dragged higher also (as we know the demand for the physical has been high).
So unlike in the industrial commodities - where the CCFD unwind drives prices down as the image above shows, thanks to synthetic manipulation and domination of the paper gold (and silver) market, the opposite occurs in PMs.
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"Cluster Of Central Banks" Have Secretly Invested $29 Trillion In The Market
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:29
Another conspiracy "theory" becomes conspiracy "fact" as The FT reports "a cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets." The report, to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), confirms $29.1tn in market investments, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries, which "could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices." China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become ''the world's largest public sector holder of equities'', according to officials, and we suspect the Fed is close behind (courtesy of more levered positions at Citadel), as the world's banks try to diversify themselves and "counters the monopoly power of the dollar." Which leaves us wondering where are the central bank 13Fs?
While most have assumed that this is likely, the recent exuberance in stocks has largely been laid at the foot of another irrational un-economic actor - the corporate buyback machine. However, as The FT reports, what we have speculated as fact for many years now (given the death cross of irrationality, plunging volumes, lack of engagement, and of course dwindling credibility of central planners)... is now fact...
Central banks around the world, including China's, have shifted decisively into investing in equities as low interest rates have hit their revenues, according to a global study of 400 public sector institutions.
''A cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets,'' says a report to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (Omfif), a central bank research and advisory group. The trend ''could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices'', it warns.
...
The report, seen by the Financial Times, identifies $29.1tn in market investments, including gold, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries.
...
China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become ''the world's largest public sector holder of equities'', as the report argues is ''partly strategic'' because it ''counters the monopoly power of the dollar'' and reflects Beijing's global financial ambitions.
...
In Europe, the Swiss and Danish central banks are among those investing in equities. The Swiss National Bank has an equity quota of about 15 per cent. Omfif quotes Thomas Jordan, SNB's chairman, as saying: ''We are now invested in large, mid- and small-cap stocks in developed markets worldwide.'' The Danish central bank's equity portfolio was worth about $500m at the end of last year.
Read more here
So there it is... conspiracy fact - Central Banks around the world are buying stocks in increasing size.
To summarize, the global equity market is now one massive Ponzi scheme in which the dumb money are central banks themselves, the same banks who inject the liquidity to begin with.
That would explain this.
That said, good luck with "exiting" the unconventional monetary policy. You'll need it.
Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 4.9(73 votes)
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German Gold Stays in New York in Rebuff to Euro Doubters
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 01:29
Germany has decided its gold is safe in American hands.
Surging mistrust of the euro during Europe's debt crisis fed a campaign to bring Germany's entire $141 billion gold reserve home from New York and London. Now, after politics shifted in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, the government has concluded that stashing half its bullion abroad is prudent after all.
''The Americans are taking good care of our gold,'' Norbert Barthle, the budget spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democratic bloc in parliament, said in an interview. ''Objectively, there's absolutely no reason for mistrust.''
Ending talk of repatriating the world's second-biggest gold reserves removes a potential irritant in U.S.-German relations. It's also a rebuff to critics including the anti-euro Alternative for Germany party, which says all the gold should return to Frankfurt so it can't be impounded to blackmail Germany into keeping the currency union together.
The Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, sent a delegation to the New York Fed's vault in 2012 for spot checks on the hoard. As the gold's guardian, the Frankfurt-based Bundesbank is obliged to ensure its safety. It says it's sensible to store part of the reserves outside the country so they can be swapped more easily for foreign currency in an emergency.
Germany's election in September hastened the shift when the Free Democratic Party, which flirted with bringing the gold home, dropped out of Merkel's coalition and was replaced by the Social Democrats. Other supporters included Philipp Missfelder, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union who quit as her government's envoy for relations with the U.S. in April. Juergen Hardt, his successor, signaled a change of position.
Postwar History''It's my view that the gold reserves should be stored wherever they might be needed in an emergency,'' Hardt, also from the CDU, told reporters in May. There's no evidence that German gold at the New York Fed has been tampered with, he said.
German gold reserves, the second-biggest in the world after those of the U.S., totaled 3,386.4 tons on March 31, according to World Gold Council data. Due to German postwar history, the biggest part is stored at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; the rest is in London, Paris and Frankfurt.
After World War II and the export revival of West Germany's ''economic miracle'' in the 1950s, the central bank accumulated dollars it swapped for gold at the Federal Reserve. With Germany split between capitalist west and the communist East German state until 1990, storing most of the gold abroad was a way to keep it out of Soviet reach during the Cold War.
Gold InventoryThat the hoard had never been counted and isn't fully on German soil for easy access was fodder for critics.
Lawmakers including Klaus-Peter Willsch, a CDU member who opposed bailouts during the debt crisis, asked federal auditors for an opinion. Their report in October 2012 increased pressure on the Bundesbank, urging it to do an inventory and ''physically ascertain'' German gold holdings abroad.
The central bank met the critics halfway. Last year, it began moving the Paris gold to Frankfurt, pointing out that Germany and France now have the same currency, the euro. Enough of the gold in New York and London will be brought home so half the reserves will be in Germany by 2020.
German gold abroad is stored ''only at central banks of the highest international reputation'' in countries with ''stable democratic structures'' and high security standards, the Bundesbank said in a presentation in 2013 in response to bring-our-gold-home campaigners.
Storage Sites''The Bundesbank never doubted the integrity of the foreign gold-storage sites,'' Carl-Ludwig Thiele, the bank's council member for payments and settlements, said in an interview on May 23. ''We were able to see everything we wanted to see in New York. As far as we're concerned, there are no more open issues.''
The Social Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition ally, have signaled agreement with the Bundesbank position. Campaigners at ''Repatriate Our Gold'' also doesn't see the Bundesbank going further anytime soon.
''Right now, our campaign is on hold,'' Peter Boehringer, a Munich-based euro critics who co-founded an initiative to bring home all of Germany's gold in 2012, said in an interview.
To contact the reporter on this story: Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net Tony Czuczka
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Space War$
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Outernet Product Test Location
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 17:00
Please tell us where you think Outernet should be switched on first. Remember, Outernet plans to eventually make service available everywhere and always for free.
In addition to thinking about what might be a preference for your own local Outernet service, also consider the need to make Outernet as effective as possible from the outset. Think about the greatest impact Outernet could have in radical change as well as how many hypotheses about Outernet could be tested and what aspects of information freedom can be altered.
The product test will take place over Ku band and come online in late summer 2014.
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Retired Marine claims he served 17 years at secret base on Mars | Rare
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 21:34
Captain Kaye says he recently retired after a 20 year stint in the Earth Defense Force.
The Captain says the EDF is a top-secret ''space fleet'' with a mission to defend humans stationed there from Martians.
The Captain told ExoNews TV the US, China, and Russia provide the personnel used to fly space fighters and bombers around the Red Planet.
He reports a secret base on the Moon, called the Lunar Operations Command and another on Titan, one of Saturn's moons, are used to train the Martian fighters.
Captain Kaye elaborated on his own retirement ceremony, saying former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld was among those in attendance.
Read more at KRMG
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Secret Alien Base on Mars: US Marine 'spent 17 years on Red Planet protecting human colonies from Martians' - Mirror Online
Tue, 24 Jun 2014 16:08
A former US Marine has claimed he spent 17 years of his career on MARS.
The ex-naval infantryman, who uses the pseudonym Captain Kaye, says he was posted to the Red Planet to protect five human colonies from indigenous Martian life forms.
He claims he then spent nearly three years serving in a secret 'space fleet' run by a multinational organisation called the Earth Defense Force, which recruits military personnel from countries including the US, Russia and China.
In testimony released to ExoNews TV, Captain Kaye said he was trained to fly three different types of space fighters and three bombers.
He added that training took place on a secret moon base called Lunar Operations Command, Saturn's moon Titan, and in deep space.
Captain Kaye says he retired after a 20 year tour of duty, describing a retirement ceremony on the moon that he claims was presided over by VIPs including ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
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Time to mine the moon, says European Space Agency - Channel 4 News
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 01:38
A key figure at the European Space Agency says we must look at how we exploit the moon's resources before it is too late, as missions begin to map its surface and Nasa calls for bids to mine in space.
Does the picture above look futuristic to you? Think again, says Bernard Foing, senior exploration officer at the European Space Agency (ESA).
There are already companies working on how 3D printing could help build infrastructure on the moon, as well as missions which are beginning to map its surface ahead of bids to drill for its resources.
"We do not have decades to come up with answers to these important questions about exploring the moon," he said. "A fleet of international missions has already started to prospect and map the distribution of mineral resources, and water-ice."
This would prepare a smart path towards humans living off the land in international lunar bases.Bernard Foing, ESA scientist
Speaking at the EuroScience Open Forum meeting in Copenhagen, the biggest gathering of scientists in Europe, he said how the moon's future will look should be planned now.
"Precursor landers can be operated in a coordinated robotic village, with in-situ use of resources, done with respect. This would prepare a sustainable and smart path towards humans living off the land in international lunar bases," he said.
"The moon is like the 8th continent of earth - it is only reasonable we want to mine it," he added, pointing out that this refers not only to minerals but mining for knowledge about earth's past as well as inspiring scientific leaps forward.
Moon mining - and moolahThe possibility of mining the moon for resources, whether to use them on the moon itself or bring them back to earth, is not new. Scientists believe the rock could hold oxygen, hydrogen, iron and rare metals, as well as possibly helium 3, a resource which is rare on earth but which could be more common on the moon.
They believe it could be used to energise nuclear fusion reactions and provide vast amounts of energy in a process which avoids the radioactive waste of nuclear fission, the process used in nuclear power on earth currently.
Many suggest the hunt for this mineral was behind China's first moon landing last year, and in 2012 director James Cameron - yes, he of Avatar and Aliens, both sci-fi films in which space mining feature - joined a group of other celebrities and entrepreneurs to set up a company called Planetary Resources Inc to attempt to turn science fiction into fact.
Watch: science fiction or science fact? Mining in outer spacePlanetary Resources is also backed by Google founder Larry Page, as is another space project which Google has sponsored with $30m of prize money. It is a competition to get a robot to the moon by 2015, which can then explore the surface and transmit video and images back to earth.
The Google Lunar XPrize organisers say they will have no rights to the technology and they certainly do not want to go to space themselves - but they will have some rights to the so-called "mooncasts".
Who owns the moon?It is not just Google who are getting in on the act either. In February, Nasa called for bids from companies who want to mine on the moon. The agency has not yet decided who has won.
It is the latest collaboration between the space agency and big business at a time when its budget has dwindled. Space exploration is fantastically expensive, and private companies have the money where governments do not. Partnerships of this type help service the International Space Station (ISS).
As well as mining the moon, scientists say it could provide a base for wider space exploration as it is much easier - and cheaper - to launch missions from the moon rather than earth because it has only one-sixth of earth's gravity, and no atmosphere.
But the spread of big bucks capitalism to outer space is, some say, concerning: is it right that the moon could effectively fall into the hands of the highest bidder? That is in part what the ESA wants the world to consider, before it is too late.
Dr Foing said: "The Outer Space Treaty [from 1967] specifies that no country or citizen owns the moon. With international cooperation towards a world strategy for the exploration and utilization of the moon, we can exploit reasonably scarce lunar resources and still preserve sites of historic and scientific interest."
This same treaty, incidentally, also says that there can be no weapons in space. Perhaps if the world wants to avoid turning the moon into the 21st century version of the wild west, this is a regulation which should not be ignored. It is time to tread carefully in our moon boots.
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ARRL: International Space Station Crew May Be On the Air for Field Day
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 02:02
A new "Ask An Elmer Thread is up! Click HereReddit's Amateur Radio ClubTopics from HF to SHF, D*STAR, FCC policy, electronic hacks, amateur radio news, antenna design - it's all welcome in our community. Geek out!
PLEASE REFER TO OUR WIKI PAGE BEFORE ASKING QUESTIONS
redditnet / reddit sked
Want to make contact with others from this sub? Look for an active net thread and join us on IRC for net and/or sked coordination
IRC: irc.geekshed.net #redditnet
CLICK HERE FOR IRC FLASH CLIENT
Are you interested in Amateur Radio or want to learn more?
Please check out our Wiki page
Also check out the free flash cards and practice tests at hamstudy.org and hamexam.org
/r/morse - Learn morse code!
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With regards to flair:You are free to come up with your own flair! Please keep it polite and preferably short. You are encouraged to put your call sign or QTH, but are certainly not required.
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NATO says not to blame for planes vanishing from radar - Yahoo News
Mon, 16 Jun 2014 22:47
LONDON (Reuters) - NATO said on Sunday it was not to blame for recent incidents in which dozens of aircraft briefly vanished from air traffic control radar screens in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Slovak state Air Traffic Services company said on Friday that the brief disappearance of planes from radar screens on June 5 and 10 was connected to a military exercise whose goal was "the interruption of radio communication frequencies."
It did not identify the military force organising the exercise, but Austrian media said it was NATO.
The military alliance, in response to a request for comment, said it did carry out some training that involved "localised and low-power jamming" in the skies over Hungary during the June 2-6 period and that it was currently conducting similar training in southern Italy from June 9-20.
However, it said no jamming was conducted on June 5.
"Our assessment is that NATO did not cause any interference with civilian air traffic control frequencies. When NATO conducts such exercises, we coordinate our activities with relevant civilian authorities and only use frequencies provided to us by the host nation," a NATO military officer said.
NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft that have been flying regular missions over Europe to monitor Russian activities near Ukraine could not have caused the interference because they did not have a jamming capability, the officer said.
The European air navigation safety organisation EUROCONTROL and the European Air Safety Agency are investigating the incidents.
"We will cooperate with these authorities in order to be absolutely sure that there is no connection between our exercises and the frequency interference issues that have been reported," the NATO officer said.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
Politics & GovernmentMilitary & DefenseNATO
Note from EURO Control insider on radar 'glitch'
Rumor mill has it that the outbound SSR frequency appears to have been subject to 'interference' (jamming?), i.e. the 1030 MHz SSR antenna that is supposed to elicit a response from the transponders onboard the aircraft… Who, what, why, how, and if, still many questions, nothing 'official' of course… Not even a peep on our briefing sheets, which is curious, given the obvious safety implications…
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VIDEO-CLIPS-DOCS
VIDEO- Dept Of Homeland Security Priorities "Countering Terrorists Using An Improvised Nuclear Device" - YouTube
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 06:00
VIDEO- Os Simpsons - Os Simpsons na Copa do Mundo no Brasil (25ª Temporada - Epis"dio 16) - YouTube
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 04:22
VIDEO-State Dep't Official: Don't Take Kerry's 'Literally' Comment on Russia/Ukraine Literally | MRCTV
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 03:46
patrick.goodenoughPatrick covered government and politics in South Africa and the Middle East before joining CNSNews.com in 1999. Since then he has launched foreign bureaus for CNSNews.com in Jerusalem, London and the Pacific Rim. From October 2006 to July 2007, Patrick served as Managing Editor at the organization's world headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Now back in the Pacific Rim, as International Editor he reports on politics, international relations, security, terrorism, ethics and religion, and oversees reporting by CNSNews.com's roster of international stringers.
show more
VIDEO-"Police Using New Set Of Tools To Identify Those Near The Breaking Point" - YouTube
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 02:56
VIDEO-UN agency worried about surge in Afghan opium production | Business | DW.DE | 26.06.2014
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:57
The latest report by the United Nations' drug-fighting agency has indicated there's been a considerable rise in opium production in Afghanistan again. It said the drastic increase represented a serious setback.
Afghanistan increased its area under opium-poppy cultivation by 36 percent last year to 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres), up from 154,000 hectares a year earlier, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a global drug use report Thursday.
It noted that with a crop yield of some 5,500 tons (6,100 US tons), Afghanistan accounted for some 80 percent of global opium production.
The UNODC also highlighted Myanmar, where the area under opium poppy cultivation covered 57,800 hectares in 2013, continuing a rapid surge that started back in 2006.
Taking a huge toll
The Vienna-based agency estimated that up to 324 million people used an illicit drug at least once in 2012, marking only a small change from the previous year.
It also stated that the number of drug-related deaths around the world was estimated between 95,500 and 225,900 people, depending on independent sources available to the body. The report maintained the total number of casualties was most likely lower than in previous years due to marked decreases in some Asian countries.
Launching the report in Vienna on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, UNOCD Executive Director Yury Fedotov appealed for a stronger focus on the health and human rights of drug users.
"There remain serious gaps in service provision, with only one in six drug users globally having access to or receiving drug dependence treatment," Fedotov said.
hg/sgb (AP, UNOCD)
VIDEO-MH370: Passengers were already dead from suffocation by the time plane hit the ocean, report finds - Australasia - World - The Independent
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:16
Officials investigating its disappearance in Australia have released a new report concluded that the cabin ran out of oxygen, causing fatal hypoxia in everyone on board.
No new evidence from within the Boeing 777 has emerged, leaving the Australian Transport Safety Board to compare the flight with previous disasters to draw their conclusion.
''Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370's flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction,'' the report said.
Investigators say what little evidence they have suggests the plane was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.
Read more: 13 of the biggest MH370 conspiracy theoriesIt has been more than 100 days since MH370 disappeared on 8 March, shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a scheduled flight to Beijing.
It sparked the most expensive air and sea search in aviation history, drawing in satellites, planes and ships from multiple countries but no confirmed wreckage has yet been found.
The report narrowed down the crash site from thousands of possible routes, while noting the absence of communication, the steady flight path and a number of other key abnormalities in the course of the ill-fated flight.
It suggests that the plane crashed further south into the Indian Ocean than previously thought and that it was probably coasting on autopilot at the time.
The findings have prompted a shift to a new priority search area around 2,000km west of Perth, a stretch of isolated ocean frequently lashed by storm-force winds and huge swells.
Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, said the search is still focused on the ''seventh arc£, where the aircraft last communicated with satellites.
The area was determined by a review of satellite data, early radar information and aircraft performance limits after the plane diverted across the Malaysian peninsula and headed south, he said.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss shows the new search area in the Indian Ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 Mr Truss added: ''It is highly, highly likely that the aircraft was on autopilot otherwise it could not have followed the orderly path that has been identified through the satellite sightings.''
Hopes of finding the black boxes that hold crucial evidence about what happened on board the plane are fading after ''pings'' thought to pinpoint their location led nowhere.
The batteries on the recorders' locator beacons are thought to have run out months ago.
The next phase of the search is expected to start in August and take a year, covering some 60,000 sq km at a cost of at least 60 million Australian dollars (£33 million).
Additional reporting by Reuters
Read more: New MH370 search area announcedPilot's wife breaks silence to confirm he spoke final wordsFamilies launch appear for whistleblower to expose 'cover-up'
VIDEO-Ebola virus outbreak: 'Drastic action is needed' - CNN.com
Sun, 29 Jun 2014 00:43
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
At least 600 cases have been reported since MarchWHO is going to send teams to help locals fight the epidemicEbola virus outbreaks are usually confined to remote areas, but this one is different(CNN) -- The World Health Organization says "drastic action is needed" to stop the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. It has sent teams of experts to help locals deal with the epidemic and WHO plans to meet next week to discuss how to contain it.
Relief workers on the ground said the epidemic has hit unprecedented proportions.
"The epidemic is out of control," said Dr. Bart Janssens, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders.
There have been at least 600 cases and 390 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to a WHO statement released Thursday. That's since the epidemic began in March, according to the latest World Health Organization figures.
Complicating matters, these countries have major medical infrastructure challenges and there is a real sense of mistrust from communities there of the help that has been sent. In Sierra Leone and Guinea, WHO has said that community members have thrown stones at health care workers trying to investigate the outbreak.
In April, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta traveled to Conakry, Guinea, to report on what was being done to treat patients and contain the outbreak.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta works in the World Health Organization's mobile lab in Conakry, Guinea.
"It took only moments to feel the impact of what was happening here," Gupta wrote after landing in Conakry. "There is a lot we know about Ebola, and it scares us almost as much as what we don't know."
Ebola outbreaks usually are confined to remote areas, making the disease easier to contain. But this outbreak is different; patients have been identified in 60 locations in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Officials believe the wide footprint of this outbreak is partly because of the proximity between the jungle where the virus was first identified and cities such as Conakry. The capital in Guinea has a population of 2 million and an international airport.
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Ebola outbreak in West Africa
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People are traveling without realizing they're carrying the deadly virus. It can take between two and 21 days after exposure for someone to feel sick.
Ebola is a violent killer. The symptoms, at first, mimic the flu: headache, fever, fatigue. What comes next sounds like something out of a horror movie: significant diarrhea and vomiting, while the virus shuts off the blood's ability to clot.
As a result, patients often suffer internal and external hemorrhaging. Many die in an average of 10 days.
Doctors Without Borders, also known as M(C)decins Sans Fronti¨res, has been working to fight the epidemic since March. The group has sent more than 300 staff members and 40 tons of equipment and supplies to the region to help fight the epidemic.
Still, the group warns, it's not enough.
"Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites."
The good news is that Ebola isn't as easily spread as one may think. A patient isn't contagious -- meaning they can't spread the virus to other people -- until they are already showing symptoms.
Serious protective measures
Inside the isolation treatment areas in Conakry, doctors focus on keeping the patients hydrated with IV drips and other liquid nutrients. Health officials have urged residents to seek treatment at the first sign of flu-like symptoms.
There is no cure or vaccine to treat Ebola, but MSF has shown it doesn't have to be a death sentence if it's treated early. Ebola typically kills 90% of patients. This outbreak, the death rate has dropped to roughly 60%.
The outbreak will be considered contained after 42 days -- twice the incubation period -- with no new Ebola cases.
READ: Get the fast facts on Ebola
READ: We're aliens in Ebola's world
READ: What is Ebola and why does it kill?
VIDEO-Miss Delaware Stripped of Crown, Scholarships Over Age Controversy | NBC Chicago
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:26
Amanda Longacre, a long-time Delaware resident, has been stripped of her title as Miss Delaware 2014 because she's too old.
At least that's what pageant officials are saying less than two weeks after she was crowned.
The 24-year-old Bear resident says she signed her contract, with her age and birthday clearly stated, and a member of the board signed off on that contract on a local, state and national level.
Carolyn Nelson, media relations coordinator for the Miss Delaware organization, confirms that that Longacre did nothing wrong and had accurately reported her birth date on applications.
Still, on Tuesday, she was notified by pageant officials that her age was an issue. She was told she will not able to compete in the Miss America Pageant next September and that she was being stripped of her title, all prizes associated with that title, as well as $11,000 in scholarship money. Scholarship money that was going to help her pursue her master's degree in Social Work.
''They deleted me off of everything, they're ignoring me,'' Longacre said. ''They deleted me off the [Facebook] group and put up a press release announcing a new Miss Delaware.''
Longacre competed twice without any issues regarding age or eligibility -- once was on the local level and again on the state level. Her birth certificate, license and social security card were provided and verified by the organization.
Longacre says she was told from the beginning that her age was not an issue, that as long as she was 24 while on the Miss America stage, she was good to go.
Pageant officials, however, say she has exceeded the age requirement in order to be eligible to compete in Miss America, even though she won't turn 25 until after the pageant on October 22.
''I was told I could compete by people who have been doing this for 30 years,'' Longacre said. ''I did everything right and it was all in front of them.''
Longacre was in a program for her master's at the University of Pennsylvania and had an internship at the Department of Justice. When she signed her Miss Delaware contract, she notified both groups that she wouldn't be able to participate for a year while she fulfilled her duties as pageant winner. Now that she has been stripped of her title, she is unsure if they will take her back.
''I can fulfill this job,'' she said. ''I did nothing morally or ethically wrong. Now I am getting all the repercussions.''
Longacre has yet to receive any information from Miss America and there is no announcement on the Miss America Organization Facebook page.
First runner-up Brittany Lewis of Wilmington will be awarded the crown at a news conference at Dover Downs 7:30 p.m. Thursday night.
VIDEO-Americans Are Slaves To Sports And Porn, Says Republican Who Doesn't Seem To Get Slavery
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:14
Americans are slaves to sports and pornography, a Michigan congressman recently said, equating elective entertainment with the horrific American institution that allowed millions of men, women and children to be considered the property of others.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R) made the comments at a conference of pastors last month. In his speech, he referenced Bible passage Nehemiah 9:36, quoting, "Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which you gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, behold we are slaves in it.'' He continued:
Powerful, tragic, real words. Does that bring to mind any other great nation in your frame of reference?
...Just to jog your thoughts about that possible other nation that this could be a reference to: Slaves to materialism. Slaves to violence. Slaves to pornography. Slaves to debt. Slaves to sexual perversion. Slaves to gluttony. Slaves to drugs and drunkenness. Slaves to pleasure. Slaves to recreation. Slaves to sports. Slaves to selfishness. Slaves to laziness. Slaves to humanism. Slaves to government.
Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which you gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, behold we, Americans, are slaves in it.
Walberg spoke at conservative group Family Research Council's "Watchmen on the Wall" conference in May, and a video of his speech was posted by RightWingWatch.org, a watchdog site of the liberal People For the American Way group.
Slavery continues worldwide, and was only ended in the United States after a war in which more than 700,000 people lost their lives. Other things Republicans have compared to slavery, but which aren't exactly the same thing: union dues, Obamacare, food stamps and Social Security.
Walberg is up for re-election this year in Michigan's seventh district. Former state Rep. Pam Byrnes, a Democrat, is running against him.
H/T: Eclectablog.
VIDEO- Signing of Association Agreements with Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine - YouTube
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:09
VIDEO-NEEDED-Michelle Obama criticised for allegedly using racial slur - People - News - The Independent
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:08
The First Lady of the USA was being questioned about her experience as a working mother by ABC news reporter Robin Roberts at the White House Summit on Working Families on Monday when she apparently used the term ''gypped''.
Speaking about living on a part-time wage, she said: ''The first thing I tried to do, which was a mistake, was that I tried the part-time thing'... I realised I was getting gypped on that front.
''What happened was that I got a part-time salary but worked full-time.''
Derived from the word ''gypsy'' in reference to the Romani people, ''gypped'' is often thought of as derogatory term because it means to cheat someone out of something.
A number of media outlets and political blogs, including the Daily Caller, have criticised the First Lady's seemingly light use of the word.
''The slur refers to the act of defrauding or robbing through practices such as swindling or cheating,'' political blogger Ariel Cohen wrote. ''The correct usage of the term is most certainly not synonymous to 'slighted' or 'cut short'.
''Defenders of Romani point out that the abbreviation, 'gyp,' is nothing more than a callous slur used by the culturally insensitive. Similar slurs to 'gypped' include 'Jewed down' or calling someone an 'Indian giver'.
ABC reporter Robin Roberts and Michelle Obama in conversation during the White House summit on Working Families ''All offensive. Definitely not something that the first lady of the United States of America should be saying in interviews.''
President Barack Obama has also previously used the word ''gypped'' in public.
Obama used the term during a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania in 2009. He told the audience present that he intended to regulate companies providing health insurance to make sure their customers were not ''gypped''.
A spokesperson for the First Lady Michelle Obama is yet to respond to a request for comment.
Read More: Obama's Daughters To Work Minimum Wage JobsParents Petition Against Michelle Obama Graduation SpeechMichelle Obama Backs 'Bring Back Our Girls' Campaign
VIDEO-Savile 'committed sex acts on dead'
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 03:15
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VIDEO-Issa Blamed IBM Software For Loss Of 22 Million Bush Emails | Crooks and Liars
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 02:54
The revelation that the Internal Revenue Service lost two years of Lois Lerner's emails has Republicans and their right-wing echo chamber dredging up Watergate comparisons. Peggy Noonan, James Poulos and Paul Mirengoff are just some of the conservatives "paging Rosemary Woods" and gleefully making comparisons to Richard Nixon's 18 minutes of erased tape.
But the GOP's flying monkeys hoping to put the former IRS official at the center of a massive Obama administration plot to target right-wing "social welfare" organizations need not go back in time to 1973 to decry the lost data. After all, in 2008 current House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa explained how the Bush White House conveniently lost 22 million emails during the Plamegate investigation that led to the conviction of Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby.
As you'll recall, millions of Bush White House emails conveniently went missing between 2003 and 2005, including those in the critical days during which the administration formulated its response to Ambassador Joe Wilson and his covert CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame. In July 2007, Darrell Issa accused Plame of perjury. Then, in February 2008, Issa turned IT expert and brushed off the email imbroglio as merely a software problem. As Mother Jones reported that March:
During a House Oversight Committee hearing last month on the preservation of White House records, an indignant Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of Chairman Henry Waxman's investigations, did his best to play down the extent of the Bush administration's now well-documented email archiving problems. Defending the White House's decision to switch from the Lotus Notes-based archiving system used by the Clinton administration, Issa compared the software to "using wooden wagon wheels" and Sony Betamax tapes. To observers of the missing emails controversy, Issa's comments seemed little more than an attempt to deflect blame from the White House for replacing a working system for archiving presidential records with an ad hoc substitute. But to IT professionals who use Lotus at their companies, Issa's remarks seemed controversial, if not downright slanderous. Now, according to an executive at IBM, the software's manufacturer, the California congressman has apologized for his characterization of Lotus and offered to correct the congressional record.
Complicating matters, some 50 Bush White House staffers had used email accounts provided by the Republican National Committee to sidestep federal laws regarding the preservation of digital records. But as CNET reported at the time, Congressman Issa wasn't concerned about potential crimes, but only the cost of investigating them:
"Are we simply going on a fishing expedition at $40,000 to $50,000 a month?" Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked National Archives and White House officials at the hearing. "Do any of you know of a single document, because this committee doesn't, that should've been in the archives but in fact was done at the RNC?"
Thanks to a now-settled lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW], Americans learned in 2009 that "the Bush White House, which initially denied that any e-mails had gone missing, announced in January it had located more than 22 million messages that had been mislabeled after a search by computer technicians, according to court records filed by the government on the day after Bush left office."
Alas, that was then and this is now. And now a Democrat is sitting in the Oval Office. And with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testimony before two House committees regarding what even Democrats like Sandy Levin (D-MI) agree constitute "gross mismanagement" by IRS information technology personnel, Chairman Issa is singing a different tune. With his probe having already cost the IRS a quarter of a million man hours and some $10 million, Issa has done a 180 degree turn from his days pretending to be the Bush administration's IT expert. As he wrote to Koskinen this week:
"I will not tolerate your continued obstruction and game-playing."
'†' Story continues below '†'
VIDEO-Teen who planned massacre: 'I'm really mentally ill' - CNN.com
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 02:40
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
John LaDue says he didn't care for Adam Lanza because he shot small childrenBut he said he was going to kill his family first, just to have a higher death tollLaDue told police that he is mentally ill and asked to see a psychiatrist(CNN) -- John David LaDue readily admits he came from a good home and says he was never bullied.
But something in him drove the 17-year-old Minnesotan toward an obsessively detailed plot -- one in which, he said, he wanted to kill his family, set off bombs at a school and then shoot students.
"I think I'm really mentally ill," he told police. "And no one has noticed. I've been trying to hide it."
Transcripts of LaDue's police interviews were released Tuesday. They fill more than 140 pages.
And they offer, in his own words, a chilling glimpse of a teenage boy and his homicidal mindset -- and how far he had wanted to go to act on it.
LaDue was arrested in April before he could carry out his attack. He sits in jail facing numerous charges, including attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
CNN does not usually publish the names of minors charged with crimes but is naming LaDue in this case because his name has been widely reported in his community.
Despising Lanza
LaDue's mother told police she had no idea he was allegedly plotting to kill his family.
Yet, he said, he plotted right under her nose. He made no effort to hide anything. He told police they'd find three live bombs in a box on the floor next to his bed.
LaDue said his main target was Waseca Junior/Senior High School. But first, he said, he was going to kill his father, mother and sister.
"They did nothing wrong; I just wanted as many victims as possible," he told officers who questioned him.
He said he wanted his attack to be more effective than Adam Lanza's shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary.
He had a low opinion of Lanza, he said, because he shot small children.
"I didn't want to be known as a guy who would go to a place with a bunch of kindergartner(s)," he told police. He thought it more honorable to kill students his own age.
LaDue had studied mass killers in the United States dating back to the 1920s and rated them on the intensity of their crimes, he said.
He had a pecking order of killers he admired. One of his favorites used explosives to kill people at a school.
Another Columbine
After slaying his family, the teen, who idealized the Columbine school shooters in particular, allegedly wanted to set a fire.
The arson, however, would only be a diversion to tie up emergency responders while he carried out the main plot at the school, police said.
He'd planned to set off "numerous bombs" during the lunch hour at Waseca Junior/Senior High School, then kill the school resource officer.
Then he'd shoot at students until police officers arrived. He wanted to die but thought it cowardly to turn the gun on himself the way Lanza did.
"I wanted to get taken down by the SWAT," he told officers, according to the newly released documents. "I really wanted to get out of this place."
Plan foiled
Luckily, a witness thwarted his plan when she saw the 17-year-old tending to a storage locker, where he kept his stash of bomb-making materials.
She dialed 911.
Officers arrived to find LaDue in the locker surrounded by an assortment of gunpowder, pyrotechnic chemicals, ball bearings and a pressure cooker, police said.
Mental torment
LaDue asked his interviewers to let him see a psychiatrist over his state of mind.
In the eighth grade, he was a model student, whose report card was filled with top grades, he said.
A year later, his thoughts began to turn dark.
"I started having homicidal ... thoughts about some people in my school," he told officers.
Homemade bombs
He loved his chemistry class in particular and developed a fascination for explosives. Recipes to concoct the volatile chemicals were right at his fingertips.
"I spent hours, maybe hours a day reading websites of how to synthesize things like mercury fulminate and nitrocellulose, HMX, HNB and various other things," he said.
His mother described how she'd go to bed and see him still in front of his computer screen, but she had no idea what he was up to.
LaDue built bombs, starting off with small charges. Police found videos he made of himself setting off his homemade devices.
He tested them then tinkered with their designs to improve them, he said.
A close call
The teen's cache in the storage locker contained just pieces of the puzzle.
Police got a search warrant in April and went to LaDue's home, where he lived with his family.
Behind that door lay finished bombs, "numerous guns" and ammunition, police say. And they found LaDue's neatly laid plan in a journal dozens of pages thick.
A bomb squad removed all recovered explosives and destroyed them by controlled detonation at a local airport.
They did so just in time. Everything was prepared and ready to go; LaDue was just waiting for the right moment to launch the scheme.
A lucky calendar this year may have prevented him from hatching his plan earlier -- before it could be thwarted.
He had wanted to carry it out on April 19, a day before the 15th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. The date fell on a day when school was out.
"But then I had to skip it," he said. "I wanted it to be in April, because it's my favorite month ... because that's the month that all the really bad tragedies happened."
Robbins: The real gun problem is mental health, not the NRA
What you need to know about U.S. School Violence
CNN's Ric Ward, Cristy Lenz and Emma Lacy-Bordeaux contributed to this report.
VIDEO- America Is A Liberal Bastion Of Hell - YouTube
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 02:27
CNBC outs Tim Cook
Sat, 28 Jun 2014 02:10
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VIDEO-BULLYING-Things Get Tense on 'The View' When Whoopi Goldberg Locks Horns With Blaze TV Host: 'That Is Spoken Like a True White Guy' | Video | TheBlaze.com
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 23:31
Whoopi Goldberg reminded TheBlaze's Will Cain that he is a ''white guy'' during a passionate debate Thursday on ''The View'' over the power of ''offensive'' words and whether censorship of such words is necessary.
The topic was broached when the Russell Brand's controversial comments about a Fox News host possibly being more dangerous than the deadly radical terror group ISIS.
''I think it's part of this whole trend we have now. We elevate words to the most harmful thing in society,'' Cain said. ''How dare you say something that could offend somebody? How dare you say something that hurts my feelings? Why have we gone to this place where words are the worst thing?''
''Let me tell you why,'' Goldberg responded. ''America has'... a history of utilizing words to harm people and hurt people, and the people who have been on the other side of it I think are at the point where they're saying, this is not OK anymore.''
ABC
Cain pointed out that there was a time where ''sticks and stones could break my bones but words cannot hurt me.''
The ''Real News'' host found himself outnumbered as other panelists joined Goldberg in their opposition to the old saying.
''You've got to be bigger than words, that's the whole point,'' Cain shot back.
But Goldberg didn't relent, saying it's perfectly acceptable for people to say ''don't use that Redskin thing anymore, I'm not comfortable with it'' or ''don't say this word because I don't like it.''
''We'll all be out of business, we'll all stop talking. Everybody's offended all the time, from the Fighting Irish to the Redskins. Everyone's offended,'' Cain added.
He actually got some applause to that line.
Goldberg came back with, ''That is spoken like a true white guy.''
''Maybe '-- that's what I am,'' Cain said.
Goldberg then clarified she didn't mean what she said ''in a bad way.''
Watch the segment via ABC:
(H/T: Mediaite)
VIDEO-See How IRS Chief Responds When Pressed by Wolf Blitzer on Reports Indicating He Is a Major Democratic Donor | Video | TheBlaze.com
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 23:22
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday that some of the developments in the IRS scandal appear ''suspicious,'' but he has found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Accordingly, he argued, bringing in a special prosecutor to investigate would be a ''significant waste of taxpayer dollars.''
In the moderately tough interview on ''The Situation Room,'' Blitzer also grilled the IRS chief on reports suggesting he is a major Democratic donor.
Earlier in the segment, Koskinen claimed he has ''no idea'' why ex-IRS official Lois Lerner pleaded the Fifth Amendment.
On the topic of the actual IRS targeting scandal, Koskinen said ''everybody needs to be confident that the IRS is going to treat them fairly, Republicans, Democrats, whatever organization they belong to.'' He also called the scandal a ''serious matter.''
While Blitzer was able to get the IRS commissioner to admit Lerner's hard drive ''crash'' looks suspicious, Koskinen claimed no one was intentionally trying to ''wipe out'' evidence. It should be noted that, in addition to saying he has ''no idea'' why Lerner pleaded the Fifth, he also claims he never met Lerner.
When Blitzer later noted that Koskinen is a major Democratic donor who donated money to President Barack Obama's campaign, Koskinen said he has ''never been a partisan operative.''
''My goal is help restore people's faith in the critical institution of the IRS,'' he said.
Watch that entire exchange here via CNN:
''You don't want the IRS to be getting involved in political witch hunts for political reasons,'' Blitzer concluded. ''And if in fact that occurred, that's outrageous.''
''I couldn't agree more,'' Koskinen replied.
The Washington Free Beacon has more information on Koskinen's political donations to Democrats:
'... It is important to remember that Koskinen has shelled out nearly $100,000 to Democratic candidates and groups.
Koskinen has been contributing to Democrats for four decades, starting with a $1000 contribution to Democratic candidate for Colorado Senate candidate Gary Hart in 1979.
Koskinen has been a reliable donor over the years, contributing a total of $19,000 to the Democratic National Committee from 1988 to 2008. He has made a contribution to the Democratic candidate for president in each election since 1980, including $2,300 to Obama in 2008, and $5000 to Obama in 2012.
Before ending the segment, Blitzer again suggested that perhaps a special prosecutor would be appropriate to ''reassure the American people that it's doing the right thing'' and provide true closure to the IRS scandal.
And again, Koskinen was resistant to the idea, saying there are enough investigations currently underway.
VIDEO-Where Have All The UK Column Videos Gone? (UPDATED) | UK Column
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 23:12
Yesterday all "video on demand" content for which the UK Column had "editorial" reponsibility was removed from Youtube and this website.
Update 26th June: Brian Gerrish and Mike Robinson discuss the attempted ATVOD regulation/censorship of the UK Column in a non-television-like way.
The video is available for download here. Please feel free to distribute as far and wide as you can, including your own Youtube channels.
We have written a press release. If possible, please download it and distribute.
VIDEO-Addicted to tanning? Sunshine really can act like a drug, study finds - CBS News
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 22:50
Despite the well-publicized risks of skin damage and cancer from too much sun, people continue to soak up ultraviolet radiation outdoors and in tanning salons. Now a new animal study adds to evidence that for some, tanning is truly an addiction.
In experiments with mice, scientists found that exposing the animals to a daily dose of UV light boosted their blood levels of beta-endorphins within a week. Beta-endorphins are "feel-good" hormones that act on the same brain pathways as so-called opioid drugs like heroin and morphine.
And in the mice, those UV-generated endorphins showed effects: The animals became less sensitive to touch and temperature, and when their endorphin rush was blocked, they showed classic symptoms of withdrawal -- including shaking, trembling and teeth chattering.
Experts said the findings, reported in the June 19 issue of the journal Cell, add to evidence that "tanning addiction" is real.
"This supports the idea that UV exposure is rewarding to the brain, and could have the potential for addiction," said Dr. Bryon Adinoff, a psychiatrist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the VA North Texas Health Care System in Dallas.
Adinoff, who was not involved in the research, led a 2011 study that looked at brain activity in people who habitually used tanning beds. It found that UV exposure activated "reward" centers in the brain -- in a manner similar to drugs, alcohol or food.
According to Adinoff, the new mouse findings suggest a pathway for how that could happen: UV radiation hits the skin, where beta-endorphins are released, and those chemicals then tap into the brain's reward regions.
The mouse study did not actually delve into brain effects. But, combined with human research, Adinoff said, "this makes a strong case for a skin-brain connection. What this gives you is a biological mechanism that may explain why people feel this way" about UV exposure.
Dr. David Fisher, the lead researcher on the new study, agreed. "This suggests that (tanning) is not purely a cosmetic decision," said Fisher, who heads the dermatology service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Since UV light triggers the skin to synthesize vitamin D, Fisher speculated that humans might have evolved to find UV radiation rewarding. That might be fine, if not for the fact that too much sun -- or indoor tanning -- can lead to skin cancer.
38Photos
Is it skin cancer?Deadly skin cancer takes on many forms - If anything here looks familiar, get help
"The skin is more affected by cancer than any other organ in the human body," Fisher said. Particularly concerning, he added, is the rising incidence of melanoma -- the least common, but most serious form of skin cancer.
According to U.S. government data, the national rate of melanoma has tripled since 1975 -- to about 24 cases per 100,000 people in 2010.
Adinoff said the knowledge that tanning could be addictive might make people think twice before hitting the tanning salon or basking under the sun. But it's probably too soon for hardcore sun worshippers to seek addiction treatment.
Adinoff and Fisher both said they were not aware of any "tanning addiction" treatment being done in the real world. But both said that's a possibility that should be studied for tanners who seemingly cannot stop -- those, for instance, who do it despite a history of skin cancer.
As for maintaining adequate vitamin D levels, Fisher recommended fortified foods or a multivitamin. "Vitamin D is vital. No question," he said. "But it's not an excuse to go tanning."
Copyright (C) 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
VIDEO-Myo Armband - Business Insider
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 22:36
After years of tweaking, the technology that will make you think you're a Jedi '-- or maybe Tom Cruise in ''Minority Report'' '-- is gearing up for its launch later this year.
Canadian company Thalmic Labs attracted millions of potential customers last February when it introduced a video for the Myo armband, which lets you control electronic devices with simple hand and arm gestures. The original video, which Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak called ''very cool and impressive,'' is embedded below. Thalmic is venture backed and launched last February.
Thalmic Labs shipped its initial batch of Myo armbands for developers last December (those were the ''alpha'' designs), but the company said it delayed Myo's public launch because the team wanted to make significant improvements to the industrial design.
''We started last fall, around October, redesigning the industrial design,'' Stephen Lake, co-founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs, told Business Insider. ''We wanted to make it more durable, thinner, and reduce the complexity that made it something more manufacturable. One of the big challenges is making a one-size-fits-all that will also be slim. We didn't want to make multiple sizes, but to meet that constraint the original product had a complex mechanism that made it bulky. We decided that wasn't the quality we wanted to release.''Earlier this month, Thalmic showed off the "final design" for its Myo armband, which features a thinner, stretchier design: It looks like a series of small black rectangles connected by flexible rubber cables on the top and bottom that can stretch out or contract like an accordion, depending on your arm size. The latest version of Myo is also roughly half the weight of the alpha design.
The technology that makes Myo possible '-- electromyography (EMG), which doctors and scientists use to record electrical activity from muscles '-- is something Lake and his Thalmic Labs co-founder Matt Bailey have been experimenting with since their undergrad years at University of Waterloo, where the two tinkerers worked on a wearable device that could help blind people navigate using sensors. Lake said he felt there was a ''major gap'' in enabling wearable technology because there wasn't an interface that was good enough.
''It was clear that our hands and fingers were the key, as voice commands, eye tracking, etc. don't work well in broad applications, so we wanted a way to plug our hands into the digital world,'' Lake told Business Insider. ''Cameras don't work well to accomplish this in mobile scenarios (which is the most common approach to gesture recognition). Eventually we ended up with a hypothesis that we may be able to use EMG to accomplish this. A few months later we had an early prototype that proved our hypothesis.''
Thalmic's latest Myo performs like the older model: The arm band measures the electrical signals in your arm muscles and detects the gesture you're going to make before your hand even has a chance to act.
In the months leading up to the public release, Lake said Thalmic is going to keep working on its software and applications. ''Much of the work is planned in that area,'' he says.
''We're putting a lot of work into making our SDK and the software development with Myo very easy and straightforward while also allowing more advanced developers to do what they want to do,'' Thalmic Labs co-founder Aaron Grant said in a recent Google Hangout.
Thanks to developers, Lake says he is seeing ''new applications emerge all the time'' for his smart armband.
''We're doing a number of things for developers to make it really easy to use the Myo to control all your different technologies,'' Grant said. ''We're doing all the heavy lifting in terms of integrating Myo with all the various platforms and different kinds of devices and software you might want to use and providing a really easy way for developers to take that and be really creative with it.''
Thalmic Labs
One developer was able to combine the Myo armband, an iPhone and the Oculus Rift headset to play virtual reality games with just one hand.
It's not yet clear how practical Myo will be for controlling complex electronics like computers, but thanks to the massive amount of developer interest '-- Thalmic Labs initially received over 10,000 applications to join the Myo developer program '-- Lake doesn't seem concerned about the future of his fledgling wearable device.''Home automation is a pretty interesting niche within the developer community,'' Lake said. ''Internally, we think about applications in categories for consumers, so we're thinking about gaming and these sort of small and interactive devices around us. But we're always trying to think about connecting to these devices and letting us control them in real-time.''
The consumer version of the Myo armband, as well as the developer kit, are both currently available to pre-order. Thalmic Labs says the developer kit will start shipping in July, while the consumer version will release around September. Both models cost $149.
VIDEO-The double tornado that slammed Nebraska last night was a rare and horrifying sight - The Washington Post
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 22:27
Twin tornadoes ripped through Nebraska Monday causing widespread damage. The twister pair was separated by a mile at one point. Watch them merging in this social video. ( / The Washington Post)
Tornadoes are always menacing. But a pair of them, side-by-side, is as horrifying as it is unusual. Double the terror, double the noise '-- and, sometimes, double the destruction.
Officials didn't know for sure how much destruction there was Monday night after the twin twisters, separated by a mile at one point, ripped through Nebraska.
They weren't certain which twister finally went where '-- or which one all but destroyed the town of Pilger, 60 miles southwest of Sioux City, Iowa.
It wrecked much of the town, claiming at least one life '-- that of a 5-year-old '-- and injuring at least 19 others, according to the Associated Press.
''More than half of the town is gone '-- absolutely gone,'' Stanton County Commissioner Jerry Weatherholt told the AP. ''The co-op is gone, the grain bins are gone, and it looks like almost every house in town has some damage. It's a complete mess.''
Those who saw it said it was chilling.
''It was terribly wide,'' Marianne Pesotta told KETV. ''I had to get out of there. I drove east. I could see how bad it was.''
The National Weather Service says at least two tornadoes have touched down in northeast Nebraska, causing widespread damage in the town of Pilger.
Those who survived it said it was terrifying.
''Our ears started popping '... and we heard a swishing sound,'' Ryan Kruger told the Omaha World-Herald. He and five of his co-workers hunkered down in a vault at the Farmer's Cooperative. ''About the time we figured it was over, the roof caved in.''
Darin Schneider told the newspaper he took shelter near a bridge at the lake, wrapping his body around a steel beam.
''It picked up my lower torso when it came through. But I gripped my legs back to the beam and got my bearings,'' he said. ''I was scared as hell. But if I wasn't near the bridge, and I tried to make a mad dash for safety, I wouldn't have made it.''
Emergency management operations officer Earl Imler told CNN late Monday that Nebraska is still in response mode, collecting damage reports from local officials. But they won't know the intensity of the storms until late Tuesday at the earliest, after crews have examined the area, Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the AP.
Mayes said the twin tornadoes were unusual because both appeared to have similar strength. In most cases, she said, one tends to be larger and more powerful than the other.
''It's less common for two tornadoes to track together for so long, especially with that same intensity,'' she said. ''By no means is it unprecedented. But we don't see it often.''
Tornadoes form from a supercell thunderstorm, which contains a large column of rotating air. It's not uncommon for one twister to dissipate before another forms out of the same supercell.
But it's much less common for the primary twister to keep going when the new one forms, producing the two simultaneously, said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center.
''Nothing says there needs to be a gap'' between two tornado touchdowns, he told The Washington Post. ''There usually is. [Monday] there wasn't.''
Carbin said smaller tornadoes also can form on the perimeter of a larger vortex '-- the spinning air. In fact, some of the most violent tornadoes often have more than one vortex. These twisters are called satellite tornadoes because they orbit the larger one.
These peripheral vortices may also be part of a larger multiple-vortex tornado '' one that contains multiple vortices rotating around, inside and as part of the main vortex. Carbin said one of the more memorable double tornado days in the recent past was on May 3, 1999 '-- the day a total of 74 tornadoes touched down across Oklahoma and Kansas in less than a day.
Karen Kosiba, a meteorologist at the Center for Severe Weather Research, said that when both tornadoes are on the ground at the same time, they commonly create quasi-parallel paths of destruction '-- with one track running to the side of the other. But, she said, twin twisters don't last long, since one of the tornadoes is in a decaying parent rotation '-- or dying faster.
Carbin added that, obviously, the more ground covered by the tornado, the greater the chance of substantial damage '-- though experts couldn't confirm Monday night the character of Nebraska's duo.
Still, Kosiba said, people are definitely intrigued by it.
''It's not uncommon to see one or two or three, but this is two substantial-looking vortices,'' she told The Post. ''It looked like two substantial tornadoes were on the ground at the same time.''
Lindsey Bever covers national news for Morning Mix, The Post's overnight news blog.
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VIDEO-Into the Storm '' Official Movie Site
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 22:25
#WonderCon attendees, don't miss our Warner Bros. Pictures presentation featuring #IntotheStorm this Saturday, 4/19, at 11am in the Arena!
Director Steven Quale and cast members Richard Armitage, Arlen Escarpeta, Jeremy Sumpter and Max Deacon will be in attendance.
For more details, visit http://sched.co/1fMRWbg.
VIDEO- Into the Storm - Theatrical Trailer #2 - YouTube
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 22:23
VIDEO-State Dep't Official: Don't Take Kerry's 'Literally' Comment on Russia/Ukraine Literally | CNS News
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:52
Ukraine featured on the agenda when Secretary of State John Kerry attended a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
(CNSNews.com) '' With the clock running down on a ceasefire between Ukraine's government and pro-Russian separatists in the country's east, Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called on Russia to show, ''in the next hours, literally,'' that it was working on disarming the militias.
Hours later, however, a senior State Department official said the comment ''shouldn't be taken literally,'' as Kerry simply intended to underline the urgency of the situation.
A ceasefire announced by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on June 20 expires on Friday. Also on Friday, European Union leaders meet in Brussels, where the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Moscow over its intervention in Ukraine will be discussed.
Kerry's comments after meeting in Paris with his French counterpart came against the backdrop of both of those looming events.
''[On] Ukraine, we are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours '' literally '' that they are moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and begin to become part of a legitimate political process,'' Kerry said alongside Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
But a senior State Department official, briefing reporters on background and off-camera several hours later, rowed back the remark.
''I think he was making a point that, as quickly as possible, the armed separatists should put down their arms and the Russians should play a role in that,'' the official said.
''I think he was making a point about urgency. It wasn't '' it shouldn't be taken literally, but making a point about urgency, as he referenced yesterday, right, about steps that they could take to show the Europeans, to show the United States that they're serious about the peace process.''
At a daily press briefing in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was asked what Kerry meant in the comment: ''What exactly happens if they [the Russians] don't meet this 'hours, literally' deadline?''
''The weeklong ceasefire expires tomorrow, so that's partly what was driving the secretary when he was talking about timing,'' she replied. ''Also, the European Council is meeting tomorrow to discuss among other things possible additional sanctions against Russia.''
''The secretary wasn't outlining specific timing for additional sanctions but underscoring the need that this needs to happen quickly,'' Harf added.
Asked whether Kerry with his ''hours, literally'' comment was alluding to the possible imposition of new sanctions, Harf said, ''He was not.''
''No,'' she continued. ''I mean, in general, we've said we could do it very quickly. But no, he was not talking about anything specifically.''
Neither the E.U. nor the Obama administration is particularly keen to impose new sanctions on Russia. Kerry said alongside Fabius that further measures against Moscow ''need to be ready'' '' before adding, ''but our preference is not to have to be into a sanctions mode.''
''We've been very clear that we remain prepared to impose additional sanctions, including sectoral, should circumstances warrant,'' Harf said.
More than three months have passed since President Obama signed an executive order providing authority for so-called sectoral sanctions '' measures targeting sectors of the Russian economy '' but despite repeated threats to impose them the administration has chosen thus far not to go ahead.
Under a statue of Vladimir Lenin and surrounded by pro-Russian fighters, self-proclaimed governor Pavel Gubarev speaks before taking the oath of allegiance to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Breach
Last March, amid a crisis that saw the Moscow-backed former president ousted following street protests, inhabitants of Ukraine's Crimea in a referendum voted to join Russia. The international community at large did not recognize the referendum, but President Vladimir Putin moved quickly to annex the strategic region.
Then pro-Russian separatists controlling key towns and facilities in two other regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, organized similar votes, after which they declared themselves independent ''people's republics'' last month.
The government of the newly-elected Poroshenko sought to rein them in, but last Friday ordered the week-long ceasefire.
After backing the truce, separatists in a serious breach used a man-portable air-defense system to down a Ukrainian military helicopter on Tuesday, killing all nine personnel onboard.
The Kremlin has been pushing for the ceasefire to be extended beyond Friday's deadline. Harf said the U.S. supported an extension, ''as long as the parties that have signed up to it abide by it.''
VIDEO-GOP Candidate Charges Opponent Is Dead, Represented By A Body Double
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:09
WASHINGTON -- Political opponents accuse each other of lying all the time, but one Oklahoma congressional candidate took his accusation to a new level this week when he claimed his opponent was actually dead and being represented by a body double.
KFOR in Oklahoma reports that Timothy Ray Murray believes Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), his opponent in the congressional Republican primary, was executed three years ago and is being represented by a look-alike. Because he believes Lucas is really dead, Murray said he will challenge the results of Tuesday's Republican primary, in which Murray received 5.2 percent of the vote. Lucas won the primary with 82.8 percent of the vote.
"It is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike. Rep. Lucas' look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011," Murray said in a statement posted on his campaign website. The statement claimed Lucas and ''a few other'' members of Congress from Oklahoma and other states were shown on television being hanged by ''The World Court.''
"I am contesting that this matter has happen [sic] since his election was blocked, because of the U.S. Defense Department's use of Mr. Murray's DNA. To my knowledge, the U.S. Defense Department has not released to the public that information, as it is their confidential information about many people," Murray's statement said.
Bryan Dean, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board, told The Huffington Post that Murray had sent the board a copy of the statement posted on his website but had not formally filed a petition asking for a recount or alleging election irregularities. He has until 5 p.m. Friday to do so.
In the statement, Murray, who did not respond to an interview request, also reassured voters that he is not a body-double.
"I, Timothy Ray Murray, am a human, born in Oklahoma, and obtained and continue to fully meet the requirements to serve as U.S. Representative when honored to so. I will never use a look alike to replace my (The Office's) message to you or to anyone else, as both the other Republican Challengers have," he said.
Lucas, who has served in Congress for the last 20 years, released a statement in March about the crisis in Ukraine. He told KFOR, however, that he has never been to the country where he's being accused of having been executed.
''Many things have been said about me, said to me in the course of all my campaigns. This is the first time I've ever been accused of being a body double or a robot,'' Lucas said. Lucas also added that Murray ran against him as a Democrat in 2012.
Murray's claim is the latest incident in an election cycle that has featured plenty of strange candidates, including a Santa Claus impersonator and a supernatural role-player.
A representative from Lucas' office told The Huffington Post that Lucas would not comment further on the allegations, but said, "I can assure you that the congressman is alive."

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Agenda 21

Into the storm trailer.mp3
Nebraska double tornado.mp3

Armageddon

Doomsday Prepper-F-religion.mp3

Bullying

The View bullying-woopi will WHITE MAN cain.mp3

EUROLand

Haiku Herman and the EU association agreements.mp3

F-Russia / Ukraine / Syria

Kerry-Matt-Marie-LITERALLY-2.mp3
Kerry-Matt-Marie-LITERALLY.mp3

Iraq

Morning Joe Mika merges AQ and ISIS.mp3

IRS

Issa blaming lotus notes for lost bush emails.mp3
Koskinen Mr Cool and Brolf.mp3

JCD Clips

adeena karasick intro.mp3
adeena part two her intro.mp3
adeena slide one.mp3
adeena summarizes - part 3.mp3
aoo year anniversay or ww1.mp3
germany fires verizon.mp3
joe biden and the vast majority of parents.mp3
last ship one.mp3
last ship two.mp3
marie harf and the sweatshirt.mp3
norm pattiz on podcasting.mp3
obama clinton 2.mp3
obama clinton deal fails.mp3
obama on vacation.mp3
overlooked meme is worldwide.mp3
respirdol commercia.mp3
soccer update high scores.mp3
ukraine in the EU.mp3

Jingles

Dude Named Ben-SHORT.mp3
Dude Named Ben.mp3
Grand Duke David Foley-II.mp3
Grand Duke David Foley.mp3
HillDaBeatz.mp3
JCD-Fart-629-ENHANCED.mp3
JCD-Fart-629.mp3

LGBBTQQIAAP

CNBC outs Tim Cook.mp3

PedoBear

Saville corpse fucker.mp3

Police State

Alan Cohn at QHSR-improvised nuclear device BS.mp3

Shut Up Slave

Bingo Boom Shakalaka.mp3
Manning-SCOTUS cellphone serach- Bing bang shakalaka.mp3
UK Column Press Release ATVOD 260614.pdf

The Fix Is In

Homer Simpson world cup-1-setup.mp3
Homer Simpson world cup-2-the bribe.mp3
Homer Simpson world cup-3-germany wins 2-nil.mp3

The War on Cash

cashless-bus-consultation-report.pdf

War on Crazy

Police new tools to detect crazies.mp3
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