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What's the Earth's Carrying Capacity? - HowStuffWorksscience.howstuffworks.com/environmental/.../earth-carrying-capacity1.ht...As of 2008, there were about 6.7 billion people living on this planet [source: Sachs]. A good way to understand the flexibility of Earth's carrying capacity is to look ...Carrying capacitywww.bcca.org/ief/sustapedia/spcapacity.htmThe planet's carrying capacity is the number of people that can live on it without dangerously threatening its future. Given rapid population growth on a planet ...[PDF]One Planet, How Many People? - UNEP/GRID-Sioux Fallshttps://na.unep.net/geas/archive/.../GEAS_Jun_12_Carrying_Capacity.pd...Jun 8, 2012 - deserts, it is hard to conceive of limits to the planet's natural resources. ... Speculation about the ultimate carrying capacity of the planet dates ...Overpopulation Is Not the Problem - NYTimes.comwww.nytimes.com/.../overpopulation-is-not-the-pr...Sep 13, 2013 - The planet's carrying capacity for prehistoric human hunter-gatherers was probably no more than 100 million. But without their Paleolithic ...
California: Smart meters being used to impose fines on water wasters
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:04
The smart grid isn't coming. It's already here.Everywhere people's houses are being fitted if they already haven't with smart electric meters and smart water meters. These meters communicate real-time usage data via radio frequency (which comes with its own set of health problems).
Essentially, consumption of utilities in your home is being big brother tracked and traced at all times on the smart grid.
Sure, it was sold to everyone as a "smart" solution for keeping consumption in check, that it would decrease utility bills because people could use it to check out how much they use and find smart ways to cut down. (How many people are really even doing that, by the way?)
Not only is this going to be used to serve up "peak pricing" models against the population '-- to price electricity and water higher during times of higher consumption by the population '-- it's also going to be used to allow the people to tattle on themselves via their data, a set up that will come with heavy financial consequences.
As we can see happening now in California during its historic drought, smart meters are also being used by authorities to seek people out and impose fines.
CBS Los Angeles is reporting that water authorities are using smart meters against "water wasters":
Water authorities are using a new tool in a major effort to crack down on people and businesses wasting water in light of new water restrictions issued by Gov. Jerry Brown to fight the drought.
The Long Beach Water Department says sprinklers at a McDonald's restaurant on Bellflower Boulevard went on for 45 minutes at a time, twice a night, for an undefined number of nights. Complaints continued to mount as water pooled and wasted. The department, however, could do little about the wasting.
That was before the smart meter.
Since its installation in February, Long Beach Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier says he saw an immediate spike by tens of thousands of gallons, each time McDonald's overwatered their property.
"It collects the data every five minutes, then after midnight, the cellphone that's built in here comes on, makes one call, and calls it in to the database that we and the customer, through a password security system, have online access to their consumption," Wattier said. [emphasis added]
The punchline?Using this data, Wattier knew the precise moment to send his employees to videotape the infractions to use as evidence.
"We are using it specifically for an enforcement tool to go after those customers who we've gotten lots of complaints about," Wattier said.
In this case, it's McDonald's, and while McDonald's may suck for a bevy of reasons that have nothing to do with its water usage, it isn't like this technology is only going to be used against crappy corporations. It's going to be used against everyone, right down to the little old lady that forgot her sprinkler was on last Tuesday.And those fines, depending on the area, can be $500a day.
Or what if you hate that little old lady and, as a neighbor who is out to get someone, you decide to leave her sprinkler on for her? What a payback.
Could that happen? You see, the propaganda surrounding the drought has already turned a lot of Californians against each other.
A social media campaign #droughtshaming started by authorities in some cities seeks to get people to photograph and film "water wasters" and shame them on social media. The "evidence" gathered can then be used by authorities to impose fines on people as well. One of the guys in the article I wrote about was filming people's homes at night and putting the videos up on YouTube. One of the videos he put up had the wrong address.
Meanwhile, 80% of water in California goes to mega agriculture operations, including Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Cities are still selling millions of gallons of water for pennies on the dollar to megacorporations like Nestl(C) to bottle and sell. So the 20% of people left who are tattling on their neighbors for leaving a sprinkler on for an extra half hour that's not really going to change anything just by the way.
Question: while the system is busy turning neighbors into angry snitches and using smart meters to impose heavy fines on everyone, is any of this making more water?
Is all that money making more rain happen? Or is it just making more money for cash-strapped municipalities? Are they going to take all those fines and do something about the situation or just make bank?
In the meantime, the smart grid is doing exactly what it was always designed to: keeping everyone tracked, traced, financially trapped and strapped, and under the thumb of the establishment's ever-watching eye.
If We Dig Out All Our Fossil Fuels, Here's How Hot We Can Expect It to Get - NYTimes.com
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 21:28
World leaders are once again racing to avert disastrous levels of global warming through limits on greenhouse gas emissions. An agreement may be in reach, but because of the vast supplies of inexpensive fossil fuels, protecting the world from climate change requires the even more difficult task of disrupting today's energy markets.
The White House last month released a blueprint to reduce United States emissions by as much as 28 percent by 2025. The plan lays the groundwork for the formal international climate talks this December in Paris, where the goal is a treaty on emissions that will seek to limit the rise in global temperatures to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Beyond 3.6 degrees, scientists say, the most catastrophic climate consequences will occur, possibly including the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.
Forging a treaty in Paris would be no small task, yet would be just the beginning of a solution. The greater challenge will be deciding how much of the world's abundant supply of fossil fuels we simply let lie. (Bill McKibben and more recently The Guardian have taken a maximal position in their Leave It in the Ground campaign.)
To understand the scope of this challenge, I've tallied the projected warming from fossil fuels extracted so far and the projected warming capacity of various fossil fuels that can be extracted with today's technology. This accounting was done by taking the embedded carbon dioxide in each energy source and using a standard model for the relationship between cumulative carbon emissions and long-run temperature changes based on a 2009 Nature article. (More detail on the method is available here.)
For those who don't like suspense, here's the total: an astonishing 16.2 degrees. And here's how that breaks down. Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuels have warmed the planet by about 1.7 degrees. We are already experiencing the consequences of this warming. In recent weeks, we have learned that the world had its warmest winter on record and that Arctic sea ice hit a new low, even as intense storms continue to inflict harm on communities globally.
Next, look at fossil fuel reserves, the deposits we know to be recoverable under today's prices and technology. That is, they are inexpensive to access. If we were to use all of this coal, natural gas and petroleum, the planet would warm by an additional 2.8 degrees. Add the heat from those reserves to the 1.7 degrees from what has already been emitted, and you get a world that is 4.5 degrees warmer since the industrial revolution; this is beyond scientists' recommended 3.6-degree threshold.
The next set of fossil fuels in line is referred to as resources, rather than reserves. The difference is that they are recoverable with today's technology, but not at current prices. There is 3.1 degrees' worth of warming if the oil and natural gas in this category are utilized, which would lead to a total increase in global temperatures of 7.6 degrees.
This warming does not even consider our coal resources. A middle-of-the-road estimate of the coal that qualifies as resources indicates that its use would lead to an additional increase of 8.6 degrees. Thus, the use of all reserves and resources would lead to a total increase of 16.2 degrees. Today's climate and planet would very likely be unrecognizable.
Graphic | Buried Fuel and a Much Warmer World There is enough fossil fuel extracted and within reach to raise temperatures 16.2 degrees.
Without pricing carbon to reflect expected climate damages, all of this coal, oil and natural gas is worth many trillions of dollars, so keeping it in the ground would mean passing up economic opportunities that are waiting to be taken and turning our backs on a long history of going to great lengths to recover these energy sources. A January study in Nature developed estimates of which fuels would have to be abandoned to stay below the 3.6-degree threshold. It found that most Canadian tar sands; all Arctic oil and gas; and a significant share of potential shale gas would need to stay locked up. It also found that major coal producers like the United States would need to keep 90 percent of their reserves in the ground.
There are essentially only three long-run solutions to the climate challenge. The first is to price carbon emissions to reflect the damages from climate change. In practice, this means pricing carbon in as many parts of the world as possible '-- and ideally, globally '-- so that there is a level playing field for all energy sources. There has been important progress in this area, including in the European Union, individual American states and regions (for example, California and the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), and parts of China.
And there are several ways to introduce carbon pricing, as a New York Times Op-Ed by David Hayes and James Stock underscored. But we are a long way from a global price on carbon, and the prices in existing carbon markets are lower than the projected damages from increased carbon emissions.
The second way to disrupt the energy market is to have low-carbon energy sources like nuclear, wind and solar become cheaper than their fossil fuel competition. Although there has been much progress in reducing the costs of wind and solar recently, they generally remain more expensive than fossil fuels. Further, the fracking revolution makes it clear that there will be continued technical advances that reduce the costs of recovering fossil fuels.
Indeed, it is well known that there are ample supplies of coal deeper beneath the Earth's surface that do not yet qualify as resources, and there is increasing evidence that energy from methane hydrates may become relevant commercially. In other words, it seems unlikely that today's low carbon energy sources will play a major role in the solution without significant public investment in research, development and test deployments of new technologies.
The third approach is to continue using those fuels, but capture and store the carbon before it is released or pull it out of the atmosphere after its release. Neither approach has yet been proved to work at scale, and costs remain high. Even if costs come down, it will very likely remain more expensive than using fossil fuels without capture and storage, so a carbon price would be necessary for it to be applied broadly. A related idea is to reflect sunlight away from the earth so temperatures do not rise as much. This approach does not reduce the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and there is agreement that further research is necessary.
If we use all of the fossil fuels in the ground, the planet will warm in a way that is difficult to imagine. Unless the economics of energy markets change, we are poised to use them.
FACT SHEET: Administration Announces Actions To Protect Communities From The Impacts Of Climate Change
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:18
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 07, 2015
President Obama is committed to combating the health impacts of climate change and protecting the health of future generations. We know climate change is not is not a distant threat, we are already seeing impacts in communities across the country. And while most Americans see climate change hitting their communities through extreme weather events '' from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves '' there are other threats climate change poses to the American people. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries.
That is why the President is taking action now. The sooner we act, the more we can do to protect the health of our communities our kids, and those that are the most vulnerable. As part of the Administration's overall effort to combat climate change and protect the American people, this week, the Administration is announcing a series of actions that will allow us to better understand, communicate, and reduce the health impacts of climate change on our communities, including:
Convening Stakeholders: The Administration is bringing together health and medical professionals, academics, and other interested stakeholders through a series of convenings this week'--including a workshop to develop data and tools to empower people and communities with the science-based information and tools they need to protect public health in the face of climate change and another on mental health and wellness impacts of climate change'--all leading up to a White House Climate Change and Health Summit later this spring that will feature the Surgeon General.Identifying Solutions to Minimize Impacts: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is releasing an Adaptation in Action Report highlighting successful actions state and local leaders are taking to reduce the health impacts of climate change in New York City, San Francisco, Maine, Minnesota, Arizona, Michigan, California and New York. The CDC is also releasing a Health Care Facilities Toolkit illustrating best practices for promoting resilient health care infrastructure.Expanding Access to Climate and Health Data: The Administration is expanding its Climate Data Initiative to include more than 150 health-relevant datasets, challenging innovators to use them to better inform scientists and communities about how to identify, minimize and prevent the health impacts of climate change. Today, private-sector leaders across the country are committing to leverage these data sets to generate tools, apps, and insights to help communities and businesses reduce the health impacts of climate change.Preparing the Next Generation of Medical and Health Professionals: The Administration is announcing a coalition of Deans from 30 medical, public health, and nursing schools around the country, who are committing to ensure that the next generation of health professionals is trained to address the health impacts of climate change.Releasing Draft Climate and Health Assessment Report: The interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program is releasing a draft Climate and Health Assessment report synthesizing the best available scientific literature on the observed and projected impacts of climate change on human health in the United States. This report covers weather and climate extremes, air quality, vector borne diseases, water- and food-related issues, mental health and well-being, and risks facing vulnerable segments of the population, such as children, the elderly, and people with existing health conditions. It will be open for public comment and formal peer review.Executive Actions To Reduce The Health Impacts Of Climate Change:
Yesterday, April 6th, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring April 6 -12, 2015, National Public Health Week, reinforcing the importance of our public health system and the need to take action to reduce the health impacts of climate change on our communities. Today, the Administration is announcing a series of executive actions to set us on track to better understand, communicate, and reduce the health impacts of climate change on our communities, including:
Announcing a White House Climate Change and Health Summit: The White House will host a Climate Change and Public Health Summit later this spring, featuring the Surgeon General, to bring together public health medical, and other health professionals, academics, and other interested stakeholders to discuss the public health impacts of climate change and identify opportunities to minimize these impacts.Highlighting Actions by State and Local Leaders to Reduce the Impact of Climate Change: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Public Health Association (APHA) are releasing Adaptation in Action. The report highlights how seven cities and state grantees that are successfully using the CDCs Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to identify climate-related public health threats and develop strategies to adapt to these threats, including New York City, San Francisco, California; Maine, Minnesota, Arizona, Michigan, and the States of New York and California.Releasing a Health Care Facilities Toolkit: Through the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Initiative, HHS is releasing a Health Care Facilities Toolkit consisting of fact sheets and checklists organized in a five-element framework, along with case studies and extensive resource lists. The Health Care Facilities Toolkit is today being integrated into an expanded Climate Resilience Toolkit on toolkit.climate.gov, which includes 10 new case studies about using data and tools to support decision making, and 20 additional Federal tools related to climate and human health, including an app that translates weather conditions into health-risk levels for outdoor workers.Releasing Draft Climate and Health Assessment Report: The interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program is today releasing a draft Climate and Health Assessment report for public comment and concurrent peer review. Synthesizing the best available scientific literature on this topic, the report assesses the observed and projected impacts of climate change on human health in the United States, covering weather and climate extremes, air quality, vector borne diseases, water- and food-related issues, mental health and wellbeing, and risks facing vulnerable segments of the population, such as children, the elderly, and people with existing health conditions. The report is ultimately intended to inform health officials, urban planners, and other stakeholders. To ensure the draft report benefits from robust input and rigorous peer review, in addition to public comment, this draft report is concurrently being submitted for review by the National Academy of Sciences, with release of the final report expected in 2016.Hosting a Community, Culture, and Mental-Health Workshop This week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted an all-day workshop at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building convening community leaders, scientists, engineers, and other stakeholders to discuss the unique characteristics and strengths of communities and cultures that make them resilient to the challenges of climate change. Building on this initial workshop, OSTP will work with representatives of different cultural groups (e.g., tribal, age-based, and place-based groups) to identify key research needs and questions related to the intersection of climate, culture, and mental health and well-being, especially needs and questions that could be answered by leveraging open data.Integrating Climate Considerations into the Department of Interior's Health and Safety Policies: Today the Department of the Interior issued guidance to its bureaus and offices for incorporating climate change considerations into health policies and protocols for employees, volunteers and visitors by the end of the calendar year. About 70,000 employees and more than 300,000 volunteers manage the Department's 530 million acres of lands and its resources. DOI employees often work many hours outdoors and are directly exposed to environmental conditions. Additionally, the Department's lands average over 400 million recreation visits per year with visitors spending much of their time outdoors '' occasionally in remote locations with limited access to basic services or emergency information. The third National Climate Assessment (NCA), released April 2014, describes many of the projected impacts from extreme temperatures, including more frequent or intense storms, increased wildland fire activity, reduced air quality, and increased illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. The Department recognizes the importance of proactive health and safety planning and training. Integration of climate considerations into Department and bureau health and safety policies can help mitigate many climate health and safety risks and reduce the impact of others.Hosting a Climate and Health Data Challenge: HHS's National Institutes for Health are teaming up with Esri and others to launch a national data challenge on climate and health. This will mark the first time that climate change and public heath will be the focus of a large-scale data challenge. The challenge will invite coders, analysts, and researchers to use 150+ open-government datasets released today to generate new insights into difficult, unresolved questions about the health impacts of climate change. This national data challenge will be announced later this year.Providing Climate & Health Data at National Day of Civic Hacking: As part of the annual National Day of Civic Hacking led by NASA and Code for America, Federal agencies will provide datasets, challenges, and expertise in the areas of climate, health; disaster relief; oceans; safety and justice; and economic development to support the development of new climate- and health-related solutions by participating citizens and civic hackers. This public engagement will culminate in a multi-site hackathon on June 6, 2015, in which thousands of participants will leverage open data and contribute their skills and perspectives to improve their communities and the governments that serve them-- including, for the first time, in areas at the nexus of climate and health. Improving Air Quality Data: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with state and local agencies, is announcing that it will release six new ''Village Green'' stations during 2015 in cities across the country to increase local air-monitoring capabilities in communities. The Village Green Project involves park benches that incorporate solar- and wind-powered instruments to measure air quality (ozone and particle pollution) and meteorological data (wind speed and direction, humidity, and temperature). An initial prototype was installed outside a Durham, NC, library in 2013 to measure local air quality, increase citizen awareness of air quality, and deliver on-the-spot information about current conditions. The data collected are useful for research and educational purposes and are posted every minute to a publicly accessible and interactive data website. The six new stations will be located in Washington, DC; Kansas City, KS; Philadelphia, PA; Hartford, CT; Oklahoma City, OK; and Chicago, IL.Unleashing Data: As part of the Administration's Predict the Next Pandemic Initiative, in May 2015, an interagency working group co-chaired by OSTP, the CDC, and the Department of Defense will launch a pilot project to simulate efforts to forecast epidemics of dengue '' a mosquito-transmitted viral disease affecting millions of people every year, including U.S. travelers and residents of the tropical regions of the U.S. such as Puerto Rico. The pilot project will consolidate data sets from across the federal government and academia on the environment, disease incidence, and weather, and challenge the research and modeling community to develop predictive models for dengue and other infectious diseases based on those datasets. In August 2015, OSTP plans to convene a meeting to evaluate resulting models and showcase this effort as a ''proof-of-concept'' for similar forecasting efforts for other infectious diseases.Challenging Innovators: In May 2015, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will announce winners of its CHIKV Challenge, launched last year. The Challenge asked teams to create models that would accurately forecast the spread of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus through the Americas and the Caribbean region from September 2014 - March 2015. The Challenge specifically sought models that, if applied going forward, could help governments and health organizations focus their resources and activities in ways that will best limit the scourge's spread. Awards totaling up to $500,000 will be offered to top Challenge solvers in various categories.Measuring Nutrient Pollution: The Challenging Nutrients Coalition, which includes the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in collaboration with the Alliance for Coastal Technologies and Blue Legacy International, is working to improve our ability to measure and understand nutrient pollution. The coalition launched the Nutrient Sensor challenge that is underway with 29 teams registered to develop affordable and accurate sensors. Today, USGS and EPA are working with Blue Legacy International to launch a ''Visualizing Nutrients'' challenge on the Innocentive challenge platform. The goal of the competition is to utilize open government data sources to create compelling, innovative, and comprehensible visualizations that inform individuals, communities, and resource managers on nutrients in water to support education and decision making related to algal blooms, hypoxia, and other nutrient-related water quality issues that can impact the health of people and ecosystems.Leaders Around The Country Commit To Empowering Healthy People And Communities Through Climate Data And Innovation
Last year, the Obama Administration unveiled the Climate Data Initiative'--a major effort to unleash the Federal Government's vast open data resources to stimulate innovations that empower America's communities and businesses to boost their own resilience against the impacts of climate change. Since March 2014, more than 500 datasets have been made available on climate.data.gov in high-priority topic areas such as food and agriculture, coastal resilience, water resources, and ecosystems. Today, the Administration is unveiling the Initiative's ''Health Resilience'' theme, making more the 150 meta-tagged health-related datasets available on climate.data.gov'--including key datasets from the CDC, NOAA, and several other agencies. The new theme aims to empower America's people, communities, and health sector to more effectively plan, prepare, and strengthen their resilience to the health-impacts of climate change. New commitments to advance the Climate Data Initiative and empower healthy people and communities with science-based information and tools include:
CDP: CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) is committing to release data on the climate risks facing U.S. cities and the adaptation actions cities are taking to improve their resilience. This is the first time CDP will release data from the expanded group 'of more than 40 U.S. cities reporting in 2015. Examples from previous CDP responses include risks in Atlanta of increased urban heat-island effects, risks in Los Angeles of more intense heat waves, and risks in Cleveland of increased frequency of large storms. These datasets will inform policymakers, business leaders and communities on how cities are managing the risks posed by climate change, including the threat to public health.City of San Francisco: The City of San Francisco's Department of Public Health is announcing the release of its first Climate and Health Profile on the City's website. Using datasets from 32 local, state and federal sources, the Profile analyzes publicly available data to show the direct effect of rising temperatures, increased precipitation and reduced air quality on public health in San Francisco communities. Using climate projections from NOAA, Cal-Adapt, and local sources, along with data about socioeconomic factors, environmental exposure, infrastructure conditions, health and hazard risks, the Profile prioritizes health impacts and identifies neighborhoods that may be disproportionately impacted. The effort aims to leverage the City's open-data efforts to help boost San Francisco's climate preparedness and resilience.EMC Corporation: EMC is announcing a partnership with Ben Gurion University to design a cutting-edge surveillance engine for the rapid detection and control of vector-, water-, and food-borne diseases that are affected by climate change. Leveraging open data '' including Federal health and climate data '' along with EMC's Big Data Analytics technology, the surveillance engine will utilize recent advances in Next Generation Sequencing technology to analyze pathogens in samples from water, food, and animals, delivering more accurate and rapid results. Insights emerging from this technology may include, for example, how the geographical distribution of pathogens are affected by environmental changes.Esri: Esri is committing to collaborate with HHS and the National Institutes of Health to sponsor a climate and health app challenge to be formally launched later this year. To support this challenge, Esri will make its developers-platform available and stand up an open data site for developers to easily access and explore free open-data services (including dynamic Landsat services) to fuel the app challenge. In addition, this spring, Esri will convene a whiteboarding session with local government stakeholders to uncover common needs for targeted applications related to climate and health that can be openly shared. To support the app challenge and whiteboarding session, in April, Esri will launch an online collaboration site to showcase current best practices, model applications and share data services to inspire ongoing connections and dialog among developers and users of applications to understand climate change and health impacts. Esri will also collaborate with data.gov to embed a tool that enables immediate viewing of spatial-data services from data.gov directly in Esri platforms, encouraging innovation with open government data.Four Twenty Seven. Four Twenty Seven is committing to provide a climate risk assessment for 100 of the country's health care facilities with large patient populations. Building on the vulnerability assessment framework developed as part of the Obama Administration's Climate Resilience Toolkit, Four Twenty Seven will screen crucial health facilities and deliver an interactive, publicly accessible online dashboard that enables users to identify risk hotspots, key drivers of risk, and the types of impacts faced by specific hospitals. This analysis and dashboard will support decision-making by enabling policy makers to visualize at-risk assets, prioritize resources, and communicate the urgency of boosting climate resilience in health care facilities. Google: Google is committing to donate ten million hours of high-performance computing and to host key daily public climate-related data on its Google Earth Engine geospatial analysis platform. This will enable scientists and practitioners to work to eliminate global infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, and to visualize global fires and oil and gas flares over time. Google will dedicate staff time to technically assist these scientists in the creation of early warning capabilities, and publicly-available, dynamically updating disease-risk maps.Harvard University: The Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) will build an open and freely available master registry of global web-map service layers and other online geospatial data assets related to climate and health, and will provide access to this registry via a public API. Any web or desktop client will be able to search the registry and find and bind to millions of otherwise hard to find dynamic map layers. The CGA will provide a map-centric visualization client to enable users to see where on the planet data layers exist, even when results returned are in the millions. The CGA will also develop a geospatial data platform capable of providing search and visualization of a billion geo-tweets (tweets containing geographic coordinates via GPS). These resources will be made open source and freely available to help with crisis response and to improve understanding of how global environmental changes affect the spread of infectious diseases.Microsoft: In order to improve disease surveillance systems' ability to detect disease emergence prior to an outbreak, Microsoft Research is prototyping an experimental autonomous system to help detect pathogens in the environment before they infect people. This system aims to collect large amounts of mosquitoes at low-cost by automating and updating classical entomological techniques. This effort envisions drone-deployed devices that can collect mosquitoes autonomously and conduct gene-sequencing and pathogen detection computationally. This technique has the potential to serve as an early warning system for vector borne disease outbreaks and may assist health officials in planning for the impacts of climate change on public health. Microsoft is currently prototyping a system in the Southern Caribbean, with consent from nearby communities. Recognizing that safety and security are essential to the project, the autonomous systems are being designed using state-of-the-art secure operating systems, verifiable programming languages, and advanced artificial intelligence.Plotly: Plotly will incorporate into its data-analytics and data-visualization platform key open federal health and climate datasets made available through the President's Climate Data Initiative. Plotly will create tutorials that demonstrate how to use statistical, analytical, and visual tools to explore and explain climate trends and data. Plotly will also challenge its hundreds of thousands of users to find new ways to analyze and visualize these datasets with the goal of gaining new insights about how climate change affects human health.Propeller Health: Propeller Health, a digital respiratory health company, is announcing that it will build a national Asthma Risk Map for the United States, through which citizens can track how climate change may affect the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations. To accomplish this, Propeller Health will expand its current municipal public health asthma programs, such as AIR Louisville, to five cities across the United States in the next two years. These programs use Propeller's sensors, which can fit on top of inhaled medications for asthma and COPD. With patient consent, the sensors collect crowd-sourced data on the time and location of inhaled medication use. Using predictive spatial modeling techniques and open government data resources, Propeller will identify areas in U.S. cities where the impacts of climate change will be felt most acutely by people with chronic respiratory disease over the next 10 to 100 years and beyond. These models will consider modifiable predictors such as air pollution and transportation in addition to climate conditions to help municipalities plan collaboratively for the impacts of climate change on health and to identify the most promising interventions that could be implemented now to reduce this burden.Public Health Institute: The Public Health Institute is today releasing a new report on "Climate Change, Health, and Equity: Opportunities for Action," that explores the intersections of climate, health and equity, and the many ways society can take action in this domain. The report, which is funded by the Kresge Foundation, is based on a review of literature, interviews with more than one-hundred public health experts and community health advocates, and recommendations from several convenings on climate change and health. The report may be used by public health professionals to help identify intersections among current public health practice and opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change, and increase community climate change resilience.Quantified Self Labs: Quantified Self Labs will launch a series of community challenges focused on generating new methods for sensing, visualizing, and understanding personal health in the context of environmental data, with special emphasis at the hyper-local scale of individuals, families, and neighborhoods. Quantified Self will work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and other entities to launch Personal & Community Environmental Data Challenges, calling on researchers and companies making wearables, sensing, data-visualization, and digital health-tools to join a national conversation about the importance of gaining a more detailed view of environmental impacts on health. The community challenge will be formally launched at the 2015 Quantified Self and Public Health Symposium to be held this May in San Diego.Urban Sustainability Directors Network: Building on its Getting Smart About Smart Cities Resource Guide for municipal staff, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network is developing a sustainable technology toolkit and framework to further assist cities in deploying new technologies and using data to help reduce carbon emissions and protect public health. This toolkit will examine key sustainability sectors such as waste, buildings, transportation, infrastructure, energy, and citizen engagement and feature specific technologies or techniques used, exemplary companies, deployment benefits and challenges, key metrics and measurement for success, as well as public and private sector contacts. Working with Nutter Consulting and the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the toolkit aims to spread best practices, raise awareness and offer the tools needed for rapid deployment.Vizonomy: Using models forecasting through the end of the century and open federal data at the climate and health nexus, Vizonomy will identify world regions that may be subject to increased exposure to West Nile virus and tropical diseases - namely malaria and dengue fever. In addition, Vizonomy will address projected impacts to human health associated with increases in particulate matter concentrations due to wildfire risk. As open federal datasets mature, more diseases and areas will be studied and displayed on the Vizomony's ASTERRA climate-risk analytics platform. The resulting additional capabilities will allow cities to better prepare public health policy based on the needs of current and future vulnerable populations. These results will be available publicly and will complement the economic-loss analysis completed through ASTERRA on sea level rise and flood risk, which is based on methodologies used by FEMA.Commitments From Academic Leaders Across The Country To Train The Next Generation Of Health Professionals To Address The Health Impacts Of Climate Change
A coalition of Deans from 30 medical, nursing, and public health schools around the country are committing to ensuring that the next generation of health professionals are trained to effectively address the health impacts of climate change. On April 9th, White House Senior Advisor Brian Deese will host a number of Deans of medical, public health and nursing universities, colleges, and schools that made this commitment for a roundtable discussion around climate change and health. Today's commitment builds on leadership of many educators around the country that have already begun incorporating climate change into their respective programs. The schools making commitments today include:
College of Medicine, Howard UniversitySchool of Medicine, University of California-DavisSchool of Medicine, University of California-San FranciscoCollege of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines UniversityCollege of Medicine, University of NebraskaSchool of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-MadisonVanderbilt School of Medicine, Vanderbilt UniversitySchool of Public Health, University of AlabamaSchool of Public Health, University of California BerkeleyFielding School of Public Health, University of California-Los AngelesMailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityDrexel University School of Public Health, Drexel UniversityMilken Institute of Public Health, George Washington UniversityT.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard UniversityBloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins UniversitySchool of Public Health, University of MarylandCollege of Public Health, University of NebraskaGillings School of Global Public Health, University of North CarolinaSchool of Public Health, University of PittsburghSchool of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane UniversitySchool of Public Health, University of WashingtonSchool of Public Health, Yale UniversitySchool of Nursing, University of California-San FranciscoNell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory UniversitySchool of Nursing, John Hopkins UniversitySchool of Nursing, University of Maryland-BaltimoreSchool of Nursing, University of Michigan-Ann ArborCollege of Nursing, New York UniversitySchool of Nursing, University of PennsylvaniaCollege of Nursing, Washington State UniversityBuilding On Progress:
This week's actions build on a series of steps we are taking across the Administration through the President's Climate Action Plan to reduce the dangerous levels of carbon pollution that are contributing to climate change, prepare our communities for the impacts that cannot be avoided, and lead internationally, including:
Clean Power Plan: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on track to finalize guidelines to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants this summer. The proposed standards, issued in June 2014 would reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 while delivering $55-93 billion in annual net benefits from reducing carbon pollution and other harmful pollutants, and preventing 150,000 asthma attacks and up to 6,600 premature deaths and 180,000 missed school days.Standards for Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles: In February 2014, President Obama directed EPA and the Department of Transportation to issue the next phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by March 2016. These will build on the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (model years 2014 through 2018), proposed and finalized by this Administration.Energy Efficiency Standards: The Department of Energy set a goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through energy conservation standards issued during this Administration. The Department of Energy has already finalized energy conservation standards for 29 categories of appliances and equipment as well as a building code determination for commercial buildings. These measures will also cut consumers' annual electricity bills by billions of dollars. Economy-Wide Measures to Reduce other Greenhouse Gases: EPA and other agencies are taking actions to cut methane emissions from oil and gas systems, landfills, coal mining, and agriculture, through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. At the same time, the State Department is working to slash global emissions of potent industrial greenhouse gases, called HFCs, through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol; EPA is cutting domestic HFC emissions through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program; and, the private sector has stepped up with commitments to cut global HFC emissions equivalent to 700 million metric tons through 2025.
Climate-change deniers are in retreat - The Washington Post
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:52
There is no denying it: Climate-change deniers are in retreat.
What began as a subtle shift away from the claim that man-made global warming is not a threat to the planet has lately turned into a stampede. The latest attempt to deny denial comes from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful group that pushes for states to pass laws that are often drafted by industry. As my Post colleagues Tom Hamburger, Joby Warrick and Chris Mooney report, ALEC is not only insisting that it doesn't deny climate change '-- it's threatening to sue those who suggest otherwise.
Dana Milbank writes about political theater in the nation's capital. He joined the Post as a political reporter in 2000. View ArchiveThe group, which suffered the highly visible defection of Google because of its global-warming stance and an exodus of other top corporate members, sent letters to Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters instructing them to ''remove all false or misleading material'' alleging ALEC questions global-warming theory.
The problem for ALEC is that as recently as 2013, it was still reaffirming ''model legislation'' calling on states to consider ''legitimate and scientifically defensible alternative hypotheses'' to the ''mainstream scientific positions'' on climate. The proposed legislation states that there is ''a great deal of scientific uncertainty'' about the matter and suggests states treat possible beneficial effects of carbon ''in an evenhanded manner.''
The turnabout at ALEC follows an about-face at the Heartland Institute, a libertarian outfit that embraces a description of it as ''the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.''
But on Christmas Eve, Justin Haskins, a blogger and editor at Heartland, penned an article for the conservative journal Human Events declaring: ''The real debate is not whether man is, in some way, contributing to climate change; it's true that the science is settled on that point in favor of the alarmists.''
Haskins called it ''a rather extreme position to say that we ought to allow dangerous pollutants to destroy the only planet we know of that can completely sustain human life,'' and he suggested work on ''technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions without destroying whole economies.''
To be sure, this is a tactical retreat, and you shouldn't expect conservative groups to start lining up in favor of a carbon tax. Rather, they're resorting to more defensible arguments that don't make them sound like flat-earthers. My Post colleagues quoted energy lobbyist Scott Segal saying that ''the science issue just isn't as salient as it once was.'' Instead, Segal talks about the cost and viability of proposed regulations.
It's likely no coincidence that the shift is occurring as the Obama administration approaches a June target to finalize rules on power-plant emissions. Those who oppose regulation are wise to abandon a position that holds little public appeal; a healthy majority of Americans accept that global warming is real, and a New York Times poll earlier this year found that even half of Republicans support government action to address it.
More and more conservative officeholders are embracing the ''I am not a scientist'' agnosticism on climate change rather than skepticism. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and presidential candidates Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio have adopted this response, and Rubio has joined Mitt Romney and Chuck Grassley in embracing the less assailable position that U.S. efforts to restrict carbon are pointless without similar efforts across the globe.
Certainly, figures such as Senate Environment Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (who calls man-made warming a ''hoax'') and presidential candidate Ted Cruz (who fancies himself a modern-day Galileo opposing the ''global-warming alarmists'') are not about to change. But as corporations abandon the untenable position of denial, ideologues will be forced to do the same.
As my Post colleagues noted, Southern Co., an operator of coal-fired power plants, decided to drop funding for a Smithsonian scientist who challenged climate-change theory but failed to disclose that his work was funded by fossil-fuel interests. ALEC's declining skepticism also comes as even oil companies such as Occidental Petroleum and BP quit the group.
At ALEC's December meeting, a climate-change contrarian got applause for declaring in his presentation that ''carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is a benefit. It is the very elixir of life.''
For politicians and climate-denial groups, the elixir of life is money. Now that corporations are becoming reluctant to bankroll crazy theories, the surrender of climate-change deniers will follow.
Read more from Dana Milbank's archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.
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Winter returns to Iceland with a vengeance
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 21:59
(C) Mbl.is/ Maln BrandTake care when driving today, the snow is back and roads are icy.
Reykjavik locals had to sweep snow off their cars this morning as the few spring-like days are seemingly over and winter is back with a vengeance. The weather forecast for the next few days is summed up in two words: cold and windy.The Reykjavik metropolitan police ask people to drive carefully today as the roads are icy. In south and west Iceland today, heavy snowfall is expected causing poor visibility. Today's winds are between 15- 23 m/s and more snow is expected this week. Spring may not be around the corner- yet.
Russia Positions Air Defense Systems In Arctic | EMerging Equity
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 03:24
Russia's SA-22 Greyhound. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Russia has positioned air defense missile and artillery weapon systems Pantsir (SA-22 Greyhound) and is planning to place MiG-31 (Foxhound) interceptor aircraft in the Arctic region, the deputy head of Russian Aerospace Defence Forces said on Saturday, Russia's Sputnik News reports.
''We have already placed there gun systems Pantsir. Deployment of MiG-31 on the Russian Arctic airfield is planned,'' Maj. Gen. Kirill Makarov said, adding that the aerospace defense equipment provided nearly 100 percent protection of Moscow from a possible air strike.
Russia's MiG-31 Foxhound. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Makarov said that the MiG-31 jets would protect Russian warships that could sail along the Northern Sea Route in case of any escalation or armed conflict scenario.
Russia has been bolstering its presence in the Arctic region is part of the country's military strategy through 2020.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in late 2014 that Russia isn't planning to militarize the Arctic, however it is taking the necessary measures to ensure its security in the region.
.The following chart from The Heritage Foundation's 2015 Index of Military Strength shows the massive scope of Russian construction throughout the Arctic.
Russian Arctic Bases. Image courtesy of The Heritage Foundation.
South Front, Ukrainian Crisis News: OSCE catches Kiev moving heavy artillery into demilitarized zone, Toronto Orchestra bans pro-Novorossiya Ukrainian musician
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:13
(C) South Front
8 April 2015OSCE observers report Kiev forces breaking terms of ceasefire (again)
7 April 2015Poroshenko offers Donbass to Putin - Valentina Lisitsa banned by Toronto Symphony Orchestra
6 April 2015Donetsk People's Republic forces meet with Ukrainian Army representatives - French government says Kiev is adding terms to Minsk Agreements - Right Sektor Nazi Dimitri Yarosh is appointed 'advisor' to Kiev military's 'Joint Chiefs of Staff'
5 April 2015Rallies take place in Germany in support of Novorossiya and against NATO aggression and Ukraine's Nazis
Russia readies to end Greece food embargo
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:13
(C) RIA Novosti/Vladimir FedorenkoMinister for Economic Development Alexei Ulyukayev
Russia has drafted a number of proposals that could end the embargo on food products from Greece, Russia's Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev said at a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday."We'll be discussing in detail this issue during the meeting of the Russian Prime Minister and his Greek counterpart tomorrow," Ulyukayev told reporters, as quoted by TASS.
"We've prepared a number of proposals regarding the embargo issue for discussion," the Economy Minister said.
Russia is also considering rescinding food sanctions against Cyprus and Hungary, according to Aleksey Pushkov, head of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee.
Greece has been hit especially hard by the ban, as more than 40 percent of Greek exports are to Russia. In 2013, more than '¬178 million in fruits and conserves were exported to Russia, according to the Greek fruit export association, Incofruit-Hellas.
Up until the ban, Russia had been Greece's biggest single trading partner worth $12.5 billion ('¬9.3 billion) by 2013, more than double the 2009 figure.On March 3, Greece sent a letter to the Russian food watchdog Roselkhoznadzor requesting the temporary restrictions on agricultural products such as strawberries, kiwis, peaches, and seafood is lifted. If Russia were to again accept imports from Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, and the rest of the EU, it would do so in line with WTO rules. On April 6, Roselkhoznadzor started to do quality control tests on livestock in order to accelerate the renewal of deliveries.
Russia's agricultural food ban applies to EU countries and is not due to expire until August 2015, a year after the restrictions were imposed in response to Western sanctions. The ban also applies to the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, and Norway and includes meat, fish, chicken, cheese, milk, fruit, and vegetables.
#Putin & Greek PM #Tsipras meet in Moscow http://t.co/un4mdu2cBdpic.twitter.com/kDdKx3QJg5
'-- RT (@RT_com) April 8, 2015
Alexis Tsipras, the newly elected PM of Greece, is in Moscow for a two-day visit and meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday afternoon. Distancing itself from its other EU members, Athens hopes to strike a chord of cooperation with Moscow."Your visit could not have come at a better time, as we must analyze what we could do together to restore the former rate of growth," Putin said ahead of his meeting with Tsipras.
Tsipras has taken a hard-line stance against EU policies towards Russia, calling the sanctions a "road to nowhere."
Putin to meet with Argentinian president to discuss trade and economic ties
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:12
(C) Sputnik/ Aleksey Nikolskyi
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his Argentine counterpart, Cristina Kirchner, on April 23 in Russia, the Kremlin press service announced Wednesday.The two leaders are planning to discuss the future development of trade and economic ties, as well as the expansion of cooperation in investment.
"The leaders of the countries will also look into their interaction on the topical international agenda, bilaterally as well as within the framework of multilateral organizations '-- the UN, the G20 and through regional integration," the press service said.
In light of Russia's souring relations with the West in 2014 over the crisis in Ukraine, Moscow has significantly increased its economic, trade and other cooperation with the countries of Latin America, the BRICS and the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2014, head of Russian agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor Sergei Dankvert said that Russia expects to increase its bilateral trade with Argentine to $3 billion in 2015 - a significant increase from $1.9 billion trade turnover in 2013.
Cockpit transcript confirms crashed Polish presidential plane's pilots pressured to land in fog
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:11
Published time: April 07, 2015 21:21Edited time: April 08, 2015 02:38ARCHIVE PHOTO: Experts and investigators stand at the site of a Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft crash in Smolensk, April 13, 2010. (Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin)
A leaked transcript of cockpit conversations in the Polish president's plane which crashed in Russia in April 2010 confirm that Lech Kaczynski's entourage pressured the pilots to land despite thick fog.
Poland's RMF FM radio station said that the transcripts it published were from the cockpit voice recorder, which was recovered from the crash site soon after the tragedy.
Polish investigators managed to decipher 30 percent more of the conversations inside the cockpit by applying different equipment, it added.
READ MORE: 'Key witness' in Polish presidential plane crash dies, suicide suspected
According to the transcript, the crew was concerned about the weather conditions at Smolensk Airport and considered turning back or diverting to another airport.
But they were still pressured to land in thick fog so that President Kaczynski would make it in time to his destination without delay.
"We will try [to land] until we make it," the head of diplomatic protocol in the Polish Foreign Ministry, Mariusz Kazana, told the captain around 15 minutes before the crash.
Polish Air Force commander General Andrzej Blasik remained on the flight deck up to the moment the plane hit the ground, killing 96 people, including the Polish president and his wife, the head of the National Bank, top military commanders and other high-ranking officials.
"This is a fact, we must make it to the end," Blasik said, according to the transcript from the voice recorder.
Later, with just over half a minute before the crash and the Tupolev-154M being at an altitude of 300 meters, he encouraged the pilots by saying: ''You'll fit in. Be bolder.''
The transcript revealed that during the last three minutes the plane was in the air unauthorized persons kept entering and leaving the cockpit, while somebody was constantly calling for quiet.
There was also alcohol served on board, with an identified person wondering "What is it?" before receiving a reply, "Beer, and you are not drinking?"
Two minutes later a stewardess asked one of the passengers "Will you drink?" and his answer was ''Yes.''
The Polish presidential plane crashed on April 10, 2010, en route to a ceremony to commemorate the 1940 Katyn Forest Massacre, in which thousands of Polish officers were executed by Stalin's secret police.
A spokesman for the Polish investigation for the crash, Major Marcin Maksjan, said the transcript provided by RMF FM was inaccurate in several places, but provided no further comment.
According to Maksjan, the investigation's findings indicated that neither the pilots nor other people mentioned in the leaked transcript were under the influence of alcohol when the crash happened.
Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee specialists previously ruled that the Smolensk tragedy was a result of human error, specifically the crew's decision to land in bad weather under psychological pressure.
A Polish government panel of inquiry said the crashed was caused by the presidential plane's descent to an unacceptably low altitude at excessive speed in weather conditions that ruled out visual contact with the landing surface and a belated decision to make another landing attempt.
Putin is successfully breaking up EU unity - Cyprus is Exhibit A
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:09
(C) Sasha Mordovets, Getty ImagesPresident Vladimir V. Putin of Russia receiving his Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, in Moscow in February
Editor's note: It is simply extraordinary how biased The Times is in its supposedly straightforward reporting on Russia. It's crafty Putin again "waving cash", buying his way out of the "annexation" of Crimea. Please stop calling it an "annexation". Honest journalism would be to say "what the US says is an annexation and what Russia believes is a 'reunification'." That would be honestly presenting both sides, instead of plugging the view that you sympathize with. Pathetic.
But still a useful article: makes it clear how strong the Russian influence is on Greece and Cyprus. The EU is going to fold, it is only a matter of time, leaving US policy in a massive train-wreck.
This article originally appeared in The New York TimesWhen Cyprus seized hundreds of millions of dollars from bank depositors, many of them Russians, as part of an internationally brokered deal two years ago to rescue its collapsing financial system, the Russian leader, Vladimir V. Putin, denounced the move as "dangerous" and "unfair," warning of a sharp chill in relations.
But Mr. Putin was all smiles recently when he received Cyprus's president, Nicos Anastasiades, in Moscow. He hailed relations with the Mediterranean nation as "always being truly friendly and mutually beneficial" and agreed to extend '-- on greatly improved terms for Cyprus '-- a $2.5 billion Russian loan.
The shift from fury to declarations of eternal friendship displayed Mr. Putin's well-known flair for tactical back flips. But it also showed his unbending determination to break out of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union for Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for armed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
(C) Katia Christodoulou, European Pressphoto AgencyDepositors in the now-defunct Laiki Bank, which closed in Cyprus's 2013 financial crisis, protested outside Parliament in Nicosia in March
Mr. Putin has methodically targeted, through charm, cash, and the fanning of historical and ideological embers, the European Union's weakest links in a campaign to assert influence in some of Europe's most troubled corners. One clear goal is to break fragile Western unity over the conflict in Ukraine.On Wednesday, Greece's new left-wing prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, will be the next to visit Moscow. Ahead of the trip, Mr. Tsipras declared himself opposed to sanctions on Russia, describing them as a "dead-end policy."
On Sunday, Mr. Putin's efforts to peel away supporters from the European Union opened a new rift, after the United States ambassador in Prague criticized a decision by the president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, to attend a military parade in Moscow on May 9. And in February, Mr. Putin visited Hungary, the European Union's autocratic backslider, peddling economic deals.
Russia has so far been unable to turn such hand-holding into something more concrete against sanctions that require the approval of all 28 European Union members. But pressure for a rupture is building.
Speaking in an interview last week here in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, Mr. Anastasiades said Cyprus had grave doubts about Europe's policy toward Russia and was part of a "group of member states who have the same reservations."
He ruled out breaking ranks with what for the moment remains a consensus in favor of keeping up economic pressure on Russia. But he said he expected a unanimous vote in favor of lifting sanctions when they come up for review this summer.
He said he was convinced that Mr. Putin "realizes the consequences of further military involvement" in Ukraine and "means business" in putting in place a cease-fire agreement reached in February.
The cracks opening up in Europe's policy toward Russia have presented a difficult problem for Donald Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland who is now president of the European Council, a body in Brussels that represents the European Union's 28 leaders.
"To keep Europe united is today the biggest challenge," Mr. Tusk said last month, referring to "the very fragile and difficult consensus" reached by European countries after Moscow seized Crimea in March last year.
Moscow's skill at prying open fissures in European unity has been on display in Cyprus, a tiny nation that, because of its tight historical, religious and economic ties with Russia, has taken on an oversize role as a pivotal player in the geopolitical struggle set off by the conflict in Ukraine.
Tugged in different directions by outside powers, Cyprus hosts British military bases and vast eavesdropping facilities, allows the United States Navy to use its ports and has been a member of the European Union since 2004.
Yet it still looks to Russia as a vitally important diplomatic protector, particularly in relation to Turkey's military occupation of the north of the country, and as a crucial source of business for its financial services industry, still a pillar of the economy despite the 2013 meltdown.
(C) Cypriot Press and Information OfficeMr. Anastasiades, center, visiting the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in Limassol, Cyprus, last year
An agreement sealed during Mr. Anastasiades's visit to Moscow allows Russian warships to dock in Limassol, which is Cyprus's commercial hub and heavily dependent on wealthy Russians who want to set up shell companies to shuffle their assets overseas.Mr. Anastasiades insisted that military accords signed in Moscow merely extended a 1996 agreement and were "nothing new." The terms of the agreements, however, are all secret, so it is impossible to know what Russia managed to gain.
Mr. Anatasiades, who traveled to Moscow after recovering from heart surgery in New York, denied tilting away from the West toward Russia. As the leader of a small country, divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974 and situated on a fault line between East and West, Mr. Anastasiades said he sought good relations with all sides and "even with the devil." He added, "I do not have the luxury to choose my friends."
He said Russia might also get a role in the search for and development of gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus, a venture until now monopolized by Western companies.
Russia's ambassador to Cyprus, Stanislav Osadchi, told a Russian-language newspaper, one of several in Limassol serving the town's large Russian-speaking population, that Mr. Anastasiades's meeting with Mr. Putin "demonstrated that, despite attempts to isolate Russia and revive the Cold War, there are countries that do not want this."
The Russian Embassy in Nicosia reacted with fury last year when Makarios Drousiotis, a part-time historian and presidential adviser, published a diplomatic history that detailed Russian duplicity in its relations with Cyprus. The embassy denounced the book as "politically unacceptable" and criticized Mr. Drousiotis, who lost his job as an adviser to Mr. Anatasiades.
The United States, in contrast, has struggled to get a hearing. When Russia won gushing praise on social media for restructuring its loan to Cyprus, the United States ambassador, John M. Koenig, tried to dampen the enthusiasm with messages posted on Twitter that were widely interpreted as implying a link between Mr. Anastasiades's visit to Moscow and the killing a few days later of the Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.
The Twitter posts set off an uproar, prompting the United States ambassador to issue a contrite statement that his comments had been "misunderstood."
"For lots of people on this island, Russia is seen as a savior," said Harry Tzimitras, director of PRIO Cyprus Center, a Norwegian-funded research group in Nicosia. This, he added, provides fertile ground for efforts by Moscow to "infiltrate the European Union" and "show that it can disrupt certain policies" promoted by Washington and Brussels.
Vasilis Zertalis, the head of Prospectacy, a financial service company, described Cyprus as a "small piece on a big chessboard." Europe, he said, tried to advance its own position during the 2013 banking crisis by seeking to end Cyprus's role as a haven for Russian money.
"They wanted to scare the Russians away," he said. "But the money that left was from Britain, from other European countries and from America."
Ordinary Cypriots and politicians, he said, "all gave up on the European Union" because of the harsh bailout terms in 2013 and "know that the United States will never take a stand against Turkey."
"So," he said, "the only allies Cyprus really has are Russia and maybe China."
Correction: April 6, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the year Cyprus became a member of the European Union. It was 2004, not 2008.
Putin: Greece could use profits from joint ventures to pay off loans
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:08
(C) AP Photo/ Thanassis Stavrakis
Greece could use revenues from potential joint projects with Russia to pay off its debt to the international creditors, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday."If we will implement a large project which would bring substantial profits to Greece, it would mean that these revenues could be used to pay off [Greece's] existing debts."
Athens has not asked Moscow for financial assistance, Putin said at a press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. However, the two leaders discussed the possibility of launching large-scale projects in the energy industry, with Russia open to the possibility of providing Greece with loans for those ventures.
Greece owes some $270 billion in debt loans to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, who lent Athens money to stave off bankruptcy. Greece is expected to repay a loan payment of around $494 million on Thursday.
The Greek prime minister's visit to Moscow on Wednesday has been largely tied to Greece's struggle to secure funding, while at the same time easing budget austerity that was imposed on it by the troika of international money lenders.
Speaking after the meeting, Putin said joint projects could become a financial lifeline for the cash-strapped nation. One of such projects is Russia's new Turkish Stream gas pipeline that could turn Greece into a gas hub for the European Union.
Five countries sign declaration seeking to carry out Russian Turkish Stream project in Europe
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:08
(C) Sputnik/ Igor Zarembo
Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey seek ways to diversify routes and channels of natural gas deliveries to Europe through Turkey, according to a declaration foreign ministers of the five countries signed in Budapest on Tuesday.The declaration paves the way for the five countries to participate in the project based on the so-called Turkish Stream gas pipeline, according to theKommersantnewspaper. The Russia daily added that Austria could also join the venture.
The Turkish Stream pipeline is an alternative to the South Stream, which Russia terminated in December 2014, citing Brussels' opposition to the project. The pipeline with an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters will deliver gas to Turkey via a gas hub on the Turkish-Greek border for further distribution to consumers in southern Europe.
The declaration reflects only political intent. The five countries and companies interested in the project will have to convene again on multiple occasions to discuss details of the venture. The next ministerial meeting is expected to take place in July but bilateral talks will start earlier.
The first leg of the Turkish Stream pipeline is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016.
Gas talks could become on the key issues during talks between the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is on a two-day visit to Moscow, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
If the countries decide to take part in the Turkish Stream project, Gazprom will have an opportunity to deliver gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine without drastically altering existing deals with the customers,Kommersantpointed out. But it has other implications too.
Cordial relations with current and aspiring EU members, who try to carry out independent foreign policy, are of high value to Russia against the background of Moscow's current relations with the West.
The European Commission will likely be against any joint ventures, focusing on Russian gas. The EC is developing legal mechanisms, which will allow it to block any intergovernmental agreements and business contracts deemed harmful for the EU energy security.
Putin: Greece has not asked Russia for bailout
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:07
(C) RIA Novosti/Sergey GuneevApril 8, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a meeting in the Kremlin.
Athens has not formally asked Moscow for financial help to pay off its debt, Russian President Putin said after he met with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Moscow on Wednesday."The Greek side did not contact us with any requests for help," the Russian president said, when asked by a journalist whether Russia could help Greece with its debt burden.
Russia will not directly aid Athens to pay off its '¬316 billion debt, but Moscow could help out by buying Greek state assets in privatization sales, or in other investment projects, such as Turkish Stream, Putin said. In 2015 the Greek government plans to privatize '¬1.5 billion worth of assets.
"If we are going to implement some major projects this will generate income in Greece, and revenues can be used to repay these loans," the President said.
Gazprom unsuccessfully tried to buy a controlling stake in Greece's Public Gas Corporation [DEPA] for '¬900 million in 2013, when Antonis Samaras was prime minister.Fielding questions from journalists, Putin said a solution to Greece's debt will be a win for all parties involved, from the EU to Russia.
"If the Greek economy grows thanks to Russia, and can pay off its loans to the EU and creditors, it will help everyone,"he said, adding that politics shouldn't get in the way of economic recovery for Greece.
There was speculation that Tsipras, who traveled to Moscow just days before $500 million was due to the IMF, would ask Russia for financial help.
In early February Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was the first Russian official to say Moscow was ready to provide financial help to Greece if asked. He made the comment just after the new Syriza government won the election on the promise of ending austerity and getting better conditions on its EU debt.
Greek Defense Minister threatens: We cannot keep ISIS out if EU keeps bullying us
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:53
For a second time within a couple of weeks, Greek Defense Minister and leader of coalition government junior partner Independent Greeks, Panos Kammenos warned that if the European Union keeps undermining the coalition government and the country exit or is forced to exit the Euro "waves of migrants: will stream from Turkey to Europe and among them there would be ISIS "radicals."Speaking to The Times, Kammenos said:
"The gross meddling into [Greek] domestic affairs isn't just unheard for European standards, it's unethical and it's dangerous. If Greece goes, then a lot more than financial stability and the euro is at stake.
"If Greece is expelled or forced out of the eurozone, waves of immigrants without papers, including radical elements, will stream from Turkey and head towards the heart of the West,"
German government coalition partners, the European Parliament President Martin Schulz and "European anonymous sources" have repeatedly and even blatantly expressed the wish that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gets rid of nationalist Kammenos and make a coalition with austerity-friendly To Potami and/or even PASOK.Panos Kammenos described these statements and efforts as "bullying" committed by Brussels and Berlin in order to force Greece into "a full and complete economic surrender."
"Europe must realize that maintaining Greece stable, the West front against the Islamic State (ISIS) is safe. But if expelled or forced out of the eurozone, waves of immigrants without papers, including radical elements will stream from Turkey, heading towards the heart of the West. If these waves of immigrants increase, then the threat of incoming extremist elements will grow not for Greece but for the whole of the West. " (The Times via Newsit.gr)
It is not the first time, Kammenos makes similar warnings. Short before another "crucial" Eurogroup meeting, beginning of March, he warned Berlin to "flood Europe with migrants", potentially including Syrian jihadists, if Europe fails to find a solution to the Greek debt crisis."If Europe leaves us in the crisis, we will flood it with migrants, and even worse for Berlin if in that wave of millions of economic migrants there will be some jihadis of the Islamic State too," according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
He went on explaining that: "If they [the Eurogroup] strike us, we will strike them. We will give to migrants from everywhere the documents they need to travel in the Schengen area, so that the human wave could go straight to Berlin." (via Business Insider)
VIDEO-John Oliver Repeatedly Trashes America During Snowden Interview | MRCTV
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:45
Video cross-posted here at NewsBusters. On Sunday night, HBO's John Oliver aired his exclusive interview with Edward Snowden and repeatedly mocked the intelligence of the American public and insisted that when it comes to foreign surveillance, Americans ''don't give any remote sh** about.''
VIDEO-NBC Cheers New Clinton Staffer While Promoting 'Embarrassing Situation' for Jeb Bush | MRCTV
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:43
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
After NBC's Today touted the latest hire for Hillary Clinton's expected presidential campaign, Monday's NBC Nightly News also gushed over the move in addition to blasting possible Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush for creating an ''embarrassing situation'' by identifying as a Hispanic on a voter registration form.
Interim anchor Lester Holt started the segment by noting that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be ''about to make it official'' with speculation being that the presidential announcement could come ''as soon as this week'' alongside ''a flurry of expected announcements from GOP candidates.''
VIDEO-WH Says Terrorism Provision in Iran Bill is Designed to 'Undermine' Nuclear Agreement | MRCTV
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:38
A terrorism-related provision inserted into a bill seeking a congressional review of the Iran nuclear deal is ''intended to undermine the agreement,'' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday, citing that as one reason for the administration's opposition to the legislation.
VIDEO-NORAD Commander: 'High Confidence' That U.S. Missile Defense 'Will Work Against North Korea' | MRCTV
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:32
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NORAD Commander: 'High Confidence' That U.S. Missile Defense Is 'Outpacing the Threat' See More at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/norad-commander-high-confidence-us-missile-defense-outpacing-threat
VIDEO-Nets Feature Obama to Explain How Climate Change 'Impacted' His Daughter | MRCTV
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:27
[See NewsBusters for more.] All three networks on Wednesday featured Barack Obama to attack climate "deniers" and lament how global warming has personally "impacted" his family. NBC, ABC and CBS offered almost no skepticism. Typical was Today medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar. She wondered, "What do you say to the people who deny that climate change is real and that it's impacting our health?" After Obama insisted that the number of "deniers" is going down, Azar simply agreed, "yeah, it's true." On ABC's Good Morning America, Dr. Richard Besser asked in a concerned tone: "Do you worry that the environment, the climate has impacted on your own daughter?" The President implied global warming may have been connected to Malia Obama's asthma.
VIDEO- Plan W: Greece demands 278bn WWII reparations from Germany - YouTube
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:06
VIDEO-Former DIA chief: Highly likely Hillary's e-mails got hacked by friends and foes alike Hot Air
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:04
posted at 12:41 pm on April 7, 2015 by Ed Morrissey
''If you're using one device,'' former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn told Megyn Kelly last night in a discussion of Hillary Clinton's e-mails, ''then nothing's personal.'' Of course, we know now that Hillary used multiple devices despite her claims otherwise after the exposure of her private e-mail system, but that's hardly the worst of it. The former intelligence commander tells Kelly that penetration of Hillary's communications by hostile powers was not just possible but ''likely,'' and the odds are ''very high'' that both friends and foes had a ringside seat to American diplomatic strategies for several years (via Daniel Halper):
FLYNN: As a military officer, if I said I was doing something for convenience's sake to the soldiers that I was leading, and it was solely for my convenience instead of their, you know, their welfare, I should be relieved of duty. I would expect to be fired. You know, it's one of those things where if it doesn't feel good, it probably isn't. And this one doesn't feel good to me.
KELLY: What do you think the odds are that the Chinese, the Russians hacked into that server and her e-mail account?
FLYNN: Very high. Likely.
FLYNN: Yep. Likely. They're very good at it. China, Russia, Iran, potentially the North Koreans. And these '-- and other countries who may be our allies, because they can.
KELLY: But she says the sever was always at the house, and under protection by the Secret Service, at least the physical server. I mean, do you have any questions about who was actually [garbled] that server?
FLYNN: I think we all ought to be asking that question. I mean, if it's government, if the Blackberry's government and she did everything '-- I mean, everything that a person in that level of responsibility touches who's in the government, everything belongs to the government, for the most part. I mean, if you're using a government device to do personal things, I mean I just think that's what you do. You accept that, and if somebody's doing things '-- somebody's sending you stupid things, you tell them to stop. But if you're using one device, and it's personal and professional, you know then nothing's personal.
We should all be asking these questions, and more importantly, Hillary Clinton should be answering them. Where exactly is she these days? She hasn't announced her run for the presidency officially yet, but the day is drawing closer. The winding down of the Ready for Hillary PAC will signal that it's almost here:
When Hillary Clinton announces her presidential campaign, as expected, more than a dozen people in a nondescript office building overlooking the Potomac River will blast out the news by email and social media to millions of her supporters, urging them to sign onto her campaign.
And then the super PAC will begin winding down its operations '-- just as the Democrat opens her White House campaign.
Clinton's new beginning will mark the end of Ready for Hillary, which launched two years ago to lay the groundwork for a Clinton campaign, organized her sprawling network of supporters and promoted the former secretary of state on campuses, at small gatherings and Democratic rallies. It will leave behind a data-rich list of volunteers and financial supporters to be tapped for her campaign.
Speaking of nothing being personal, Kate Anderson Brower got a chance to speak about the Clinton years with White House personnel, and they don't paint a heartwarming picture of the couple. In her new book The Residence, Brower uncovered the second-floor secrets of several administrations '-- but only one is bidding for a comeback:
Allen cannot hide his reservations about the Clintons. Over lunch by the pool at his large home in rural Pennsylvania, he fondly recalled how Mrs. Clinton always asked him to help her by tying bows on her outfits, something she couldn't do herself. But he said the Clintons never fully trusted the residence staff and were particularly suspicious of the Usher's Office. ''They were about the most paranoid people I'd ever seen in my life.''
Allen isn't the only one with bitter memories of the Clinton White House. Usher Chris Emery, who had been close with the Bushes, remembers feeling unduly scrutinized by the Clintons. In the 14 months he served them, he says, he was subjected to three drug tests and a background check that he was not due to have for several years. He says that some of the questions he was asked'--including what church he belonged to'--were unusually personal, so he refused to answer them. ''I think they were just trying to find something to make it easier [to fire me].'' He sighed. And, indeed, when Emery was fired from the White House in 1994, it was in part because of a favor he had done for former first lady Barbara Bush.
The Secret Service can't be terribly enthusiastic about it either:
One day, according to Payne, he was walking through the second-floor private kitchen when an agent walked in behind him waiting to escort Chelsea to Sidwell Friends, the private school she attended in northwest Washington. Chelsea was on the phone.
''Oh, I've got to go,'' she told her friend. ''The pigs are here.''
The agent turned ''crimson,'' Payne recalls. ''Ms. Clinton, I want to tell you something. My job is to stand between you, your family, and a bullet. Do you understand?''
She replied: ''Well, that's what my mother and father call you.''
VIDEO-AP's Matt Lee Buckles Marie Harf Over State Department Criticism - YouTube
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:57
VIDEO-'Hardball' Gives Platform to Rep. Clyburn to Blame Conservative-Leaning ALEC for South Carolina Police Shooting | MRCTV
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 04:07
Read more at NewsBusters | Appearing on the Wednesday edition of Hardball, House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) essentially blamed the conservative-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the apparently unjustified shooting of South Carolina man Walter Scott by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. For his part, host Chris Matthews failed to object to out-of-far-left-field charge and, what's more, praised his guest, saying in closing, "I have a lot of respect for you sir" as he thanked him for coming on the program.
VIDEO- In director and the CIA He plans to the Arab Spring since 2006 - YouTube
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 03:45
VIDEO-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on 60 Minutes - CBS News
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 02:47
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson talks about the evolving role of his department's massive security efforts
The following is a script from "Homeland Security" which aired on April 5, 2015. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Rich Bonin, producer.
The man running the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has a lot on his shoulders, protecting the country from another terrorist attack -- especially now with the rise of homegrown terrorism. Just this past week two women -- both Americans and both allegedly inspired by jihadist propaganda -- were arrested and charged with planning to detonate a bomb in the United States.
60 Minutes: Segment ExtrasInforming public on terror threats -- a balancing actHomeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says it's important to inform the public of a terror threat without striking fear and suspicion.
The Department of Homeland Security is a collection of federal agencies including TSA's airport security, border control and cargo inspection that have long been charged with stopping terrorists from abroad, slipping into the country. Now, Jeh Johnson is scrambling to adapt to the new threat of lone wolves that he admits is more difficult to detect and stop.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
Before coming to Homeland Security, Johnson served as the general counsel of the Defense Department, where he was a legal architect of the Obama administration's use of lethal drone strikes. There, at the Pentagon, he was on offense -- taking the fight to the enemy. Now, at Homeland Security, he is on defense, trying to prevent another terrorist attack from happening here on the streets of America.Lesley Stahl: The FBI says it has a homegrown, extremist investigations going on in every single state. How serious, how serious is this threat? Is it hair on fire? Every state...
Jeh Johnson: I certainly don't believe in the hair on fire phenomenon.
Lesley Stahl: But every state, I mean, that means it's percolating everywhere.
Jeh Johnson: The fact that we have investigations in every state does not surprise me. We are very concerned about young people romanticizing a group like ISIL. And so we've gotta keep tabs on it all.
Lesley Stahl: This kid is sitting in his basement or her basement and reading the web, and being radicalized. How on earth can you keep a tab on that person?
60 Minutes: Segment ExtrasA perfectly safe city would look like a prisonHomeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says he could build a secure city but it would be an unpleasant place to live.
Jeh Johnson: That's the challenge isn't it? And that's one of the things that frankly, keeps me up at night. Because we would have little or no notice if somebody decides to commit an act of violence. So if the family member, the religious leader, the teacher trusts us enough to inform us, we're in a position to make a difference.
The Department of Homeland Security wants you -- the public -- to call in. It's part of a new push to deal with the lone wolf threat with Johnson himself reaching out to build trust with local leaders...
[Jeh Johnson: Jeh Johnson, how are you? Nice to see you.]
And he's shifting the department's resources to cops on the beat, as the war on terrorism has evolved.
[Jeh Johnson: How are you?]
That's why DHS has funded 78 fusion centers around the country - like this one in Phoenix, set up for the Super Bowl -- to get all levels of law enforcement, down to the county sheriff, to work together.
Official: We're connected through that command and control system -- federal, tribal, state, county, local, even political subdivisions. So we have the ability to reach out in real time and coordinate information, public information or intelligence.
Any information about suspicious activity, whether FBI intelligence in Washington or something somebody sees on the streets of Phoenix -- is all shared right in this room.
[Jeh Johnson: That's downtown?
Man: That's downtown Phoenix.]
Johnson's department has never been more central to the war on terror. But it has come under almost constant criticism for, over the years, weak management and low morale...and recently a Senate oversight committee went after the quality of its intelligence.
Lesley Stahl: This report is current. It was a 2015 study of the department. It says that intelligence is stale.
Jeh Johnson: Well, I'd have to disagree with that. Every morning, when I read intelligence it's real time. It's valuable.
Lesley Stahl: It said that the department's primary counterterrorism programs are yielding quote "little value for the nation's counter-terrorism efforts."
Jeh Johnson: It also said that we're moving in the right direction.
To be fair, Johnson has been on the job for only 14 months. He was brought in to fix all the problems that have long hobbled the department.
Lesley Stahl: When you took the job, people said it was the worst job in Washington. You walked right into it.
Jeh Johnson: As they say in the place I used to work, the Pentagon, it's an opportunity to excel.
And so far he's gotten high marks, even from the Republicans in Congress.
When he came on board, nearly half the senior management jobs were vacant; he's filled all but one; he's boosted morale; and improved the coordination and dissemination of threat information throughout the government, which is done here at the national operations center where planes flying over the country and ships sailing off the coasts are monitored 24-7.
Lesley Stahl: Can you quantify how much success you have had?
Jeh Johnson: Almost daily. Certainly weekly somebody's not allowed to get on an airplane or somebody is arrested and charged with material support to terrorism.
Johnson starts his day before the sun comes up, when a Secret Service detail drops him off at his office at 6:15. His first task, reviewing the top-secret daily brief on the latest threats against the United States, including information on people who've answered the call to fight for ISIS.
Lesley Stahl: As I understand it, of the 180 Americans who have gone overseas to fight in Iraq and Syria, 40 have come back. I assume you're keeping close tabs on those 40?
Jeh Johnson: We have in fact kept close tabs on those who we believe have left and those who've come back. A number have been arrested or investigated and we have systems in place to track these individuals. But you can't know everything.
More than 3,000 Europeans have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS. One reason so few young people from the United States have gone, he says is geography.
Jeh Johnson: We are separated from the hot spots by an ocean, which does make it more difficult.
Lesley Stahl: So do you think if it were easier for these kids to get there, there would be more of them going?
Jeh Johnson: Probably. And so border security is not simply preventing people from getting in, but very often preventing somebody from leaving for the wrong reasons.
The homegrown movement - with its Internet recruiting videos -- was largely inspired by this man, an American turned terrorist in Yemen, named Anwar al-Awlaki. He was killed by a drone strike like this one, one of many Johnson green-lighted when he was general counsel at the Pentagon.
Jeh Johnson: If it was a strike off what we call the hot battlefield -- in other words, outside of Iraq and Afghanistan -- by the military then I would have to give the legal sign-off first. And so I did that.
Lesley Stahl: At one point, you had to decide whether it was OK to kill an American, al-Awlaki.
Jeh Johnson: In any use of targeted lethal force, we'd have to conclude that it was consistent with domestic law and international law.
Lesley Stahl: Did you say it was not legal many times?
Jeh Johnson: Occasionally I would have to conclude that the legal authority was not there. And quickly found out that it was actually easier to say yes than it was to say no.
Lesley Stahl: Why was it easier to say yes?
Jeh Johnson: Very often when we're asked to approve the use of targeted lethal force, it can only be in a matter of minutes.
Lesley Stahl: Right--
Jeh Johnson: And so there's a lot of momentum to that. So to say no is like stepping in front of a 90-car freight train.
Lesley Stahl: The first time you said yes, you have said that you were very uncomfortable.
Jeh Johnson: How could somebody be comfortable with authorizing legally the use of lethal force? My view is if you become comfortable with it, then you should get out of the job.
Lesley Stahl: What you actually said was, "If I were Catholic, I would have to go to confession."
Jeh Johnson: Yes.
Lesley Stahl: Did it get easier?
Jeh Johnson: No.
Lesley Stahl: It never got easier?
Jeh Johnson: No.
Lesley Stahl: But there has been so often, collateral, what they call collateral damage, meaning that innocents get killed.
Jeh Johnson: That happens. That happens in war.
Lesley Stahl: That happens. Does it haunt you?
Jeh Johnson: I don't know if I like the word haunt but we have to be sensitive to the notion that the judgments we make today could be condemned on the pages of history years from now.
We went with Johnson on a cold morning to look out at the tip of Manhattan. He was in New York on 9/11 and witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Lesley Stahl
Jeh Johnson: It was a moment for me when I realized that our Homeland Security could be shattered in an instant, unexpectedly. And quite dramatically.Lesley Stahl: Out of this came the Department of Homeland Security.
Jeh Johnson: Out of what happened right here came the Department of Homeland Security.
It's a department that brought under one roof an array of 22 federal agencies, including FEMA, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard.
Jeh Johnson: Then last but not least, you have the lady right here. Citizenship and immigration services.
He oversees a huge bureaucracy with 240,000 employees.
Jeh Johnson: How's everybody doing?
It's a management nightmare because the various agencies have disparate functions, some -- critics say -- with little or nothing to do with terrorism.
FEMA deals with natural disasters and now with widespread claims of fraud against flood insurance companies following Hurricane Sandy.
Immigration dealt with the waves of unaccompanied children from Central America last summer.
Clark Ervin: This department is a disparate amalgam of things that don't fit together very well.
Clark Ervin, the former inspector general of DHS, says Jeh Johnson is essentially managing chaos.
Lesley Stahl: The threat is more complicated and look what we created to deal with it: the most complicated setup you can imagine. That doesn't make any sense.
Clark Ervin: Well, partly the reason why the department is a mishmash of different things is because it's a Washington product, and as a Washington product it's a political product. Making the department work, making it more effective and efficient, economical, is a security issue. To the extent the department isn't optimally performing, that is a security deficiency.
Lesley Stahl: Also in this department is the Secret Service.
Clark Ervin: Yes (laughs)
Lesley Stahl: And they're having terrible problems even just guarding the White House.
Clark Ervin: There are more threats against this president for obvious reasons than any president in history. There's that. Against that backdrop, of course, there is this complicated terrorist threat picture that we've been talking about. There is zero room for error here. And there's been a lot of error.
"Homeland Security means very often something you never hear about. And that's what we do. You don't get a lot of thank yous for that."Johnson's challenge is to fix a dysfunctional agency at the same time he's dealing with a terrorist threat that's becoming ever more complex and hard to detect.
Lesley Stahl: Now you've been here 14 months.
Jeh Johnson: Yes.
Lesley Stahl: And you've answered a lot of my questions with, "Well, it's a work in progress."
Jeh Johnson: Because it is a work in progress. Correct. Are we large? Yes, we are very large. Do we have some inefficiencies that need to be eliminated? Absolutely. And I believe we're moving in the right direction in that regard.
Lesley Stahl: But do you think that under your leadership so far that things have moved fast enough?
Jeh Johnson: Things cannot move fast enough for me.
Johnson realizes he can't fix all that's wrong with the department before he leaves in 2016. But he's confident it is working well enough to do the job. For instance, agencies in his department - TSA and border protection - screen and vet nearly 3 million travelers every day.
Jeh Johnson: The nature of Homeland Security is that no news is good news. And no news sometimes means somebody got interdicted at the border, somebody got interdicted before they could get on an airplane, somebody was arrested providing material support to terrorism. Homeland Security means very often something you never hear about. And that's what we do. You don't get a lot of thank yous for that.
(C) 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-Mysterious UFO sighting leaves southwest Bakersfield neighbors puzzled - 23ABC News
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 02:21
Several neighbors living off Alderpointe Street near Panama and Gosford in southwest Bakersfield say they first witnessed a mysterious blue light in the sky back in February, and again in March. Both times they saw it on the 14th.
"I was taking the recycling out to the trash can, and I saw this blue light in the sky, and I thought, that's kinda bright to be a star, I've never seen a blue star be that bright," said Kelly Castruita.
"Watched it for about 10 minutes, just doing weird stuff, it would turn on and off and it would disappear," added Kelly's husband Jeff.
Neighbors said the blue light was about the size of a dime, and started off just above the skyline, and then migrated northwest.
"It pretty much flew, stopped, then started doing some upward motion and downward motion, so I've never seen anything like it," said neighbor Randy Gabriel.
"We'll see the police helicopters once in a while, or an airplane go by, but nothing like this," said Ricardo Pantoja, who has been living in the neighborhood for 23 years.
23ABC's Lindsey Adams took the videos to Senior Deputy Victor Keesey with the Kern County Sheriff's Department, whose office works closely in conjunction with neighboring Meadows Field Airport.
"I'm not aware of any calls that we've received regarding any blue lights, or strange lights in that area. Very seldom, if ever, have I seen anything like it. However, we are in the age of drones now, obviously we have military drones, but we have civilian drones now and drones for purchase, so that is a possibility," said Senior Deputy Victor Keesey.
"It looked way too high up in the sky to be a drone," mentioned witness Kelly Castruita.
"It wasn't a regular airplane or a drone, it was much bigger than what a drone would be, especially at that distance," added neighbor Ricardo Pantoja.
23ABC got in touch with public affairs at Edwards Air Force Base, and we were told they have not received any calls about the light, but officials mentioned it could be a possible aurora in the sky, or possible testing from Vandenberg.
VIDEO-State Dept Downplays Kissinger/Schultz Op-Ed as 'A Lot of Big Words and Big Thoughts' | Washington Free Beacon
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 02:09
BY:Daniel BassaliApril 8, 2015 3:21 pm
Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz ran an op-ed by in the Wall Street Journal criticizing President Obama's approach to foreign policy, especially with regard to Iran.
New State Department spokesperson Marie Harf called their opinions on the Iran negotiations ''a lot of big words and big thoughts.''
Kissinger and Schultz, who served under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, said the strategy Obama has pursued is futile and dangerous.
''Absent the linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America's traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony,'' the column said.
Harf sparred with AP reporter Matt Lee, interrupting him several times as he tried to get a reaction to the op-ed from the State Department.
''Really, you don't think it's nuanced?'' Harf asked Lee.
''Is there a question or are you just commenting?'' Harf replied. ''I'm not going to go line by line.''
In defense of the deal, Harf employed the typical White House talking points. The Obama administration has repeatedly challenged critics of the deal to offer an alternative. This response has been used to rebut Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Republicans, foreign leaders, and even some from his own party.
''I didn't hear a lot of alternatives. I heard a lot of''sort of a lot of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and certainly there is a place for that. But I didn't hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently,'' Harf said.
The same administration that asked questioners for their own solutions insisted that there are only three options in dealing with Iran: To bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, leading to war, to negotiate a deal with Iran that will cap their enrichment capabilities, or to increase sanctions on Iran in hopes it will force them to accept a better deal.
The administration has said their parameters are the only way to avoid another major war in the Middle East and worsen the chaotic environment in the region. Kissinger and Schultz disagreed.
''Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world's challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there'--on complex new terms,'' the column said.
''History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves.''
VIDEO-How Much Money Does Joe Biden Make? He's Not Shy About It: 'I Make'...' | Video | TheBlaze.com
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 01:54
During a speech in which he said home ownership assets helped pay for his children's college educations, Vice President Joe Biden veered into another topic: his current income.
Image source: mrctv.com
''And I make a lot of money now as vice president,'' Biden told a laughing crowd at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. ''I make a lot of money.''
If there was any doubt, Biden said President Obama poked fun at him during a gathering of Obama faithful following the 2009 inauguration. He said Obama thanked everyone for the sacrifices they made, and ''he looked at me and said, 'Except for Joe '-- he's getting a pay raise.'''
Biden makes $233,700 annually as vice president; his U.S. senator salary before taking office with Obama was $169,300.
This wasn't the first time Biden broached the topic. Last June at a White House summit on working families, Biden joked that even though he'd been listed as ''the poorest man in Congress,'' he makes ''a lot of money as vice president of the United States. And I do, by the way. I do.''
''Sometimes we talk about struggle. My struggle'... my God, compared to where I grew up'...'' he said last year. ''I've been really really fortunate.''
(H/T: Weasel Zippers)
Follow Dave Urbanski (@DaveVUrbanski) on Twitter
VIDEO-Europe is bluffing over Greece-Russia relations | euronews, news +
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:16
Brussels could only look on as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow on Wednesday.
The Greek side is looking for some financial benefits of strengthening relations with Moscow while EU officials warn of the consequences of closer ties.
Could Greece open a window of opportunities outside the EU without being isolated at a critical moment in its own history?
We explore the risks and possible consequences with a political analyst in Athens.
Efi Koutsokosta '' euronews
''Joining us is Konstaninos Filis, a professor of international relations. So what is the Greek side seeking from Tsipras' visit to Moscow?''
Konstaninos Filis, political analyst
''The Europeans are bluffing when they demand that Greece limits its relations with Russia because the EU and indeed very big European states continue to deepen their own relations with Moscow for their national interests.
On the other hand, they say Greece shouldn't strengthen its own links while negotiations with its creditors continue because, for one, it will send the wrong signal to its European partners that Greece's policy is opportunistic and means that if you don't satisfy our demands we can turn elsewhere.
Secondly, Russia can't be considered a serious alternative for Greece only a complementary one, there is always the danger that could send the wrong signal to other countries China.''
Efi Koutsokosta '' euronews
''European Parliament President Martin Schulz has warned Athens not to put at risk the common EU position regarding sanctions towards Russia. However Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras recently veered off message with his comments. Isn't this dangerous?''
Konstaninos Filis, political analyst
''I think that Athens won't choose distance itself too much from the official Brussels position if this might lead to its isolation.
It will try to form a common EU bloc with other member states that share the same position and have similar priorities such as Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Cyprus and Hungary.
But Greece has to be careful not to mimic Hungary's outspoken leadership about Russia and on that basis it's important to maintain a single European position.''
Efi Koutsokosta '' euronews
''Greece's foreign minister signed up (yesterday) a common declaration in Hungary to proceed with the Turkish stream gas pipeline. So at a time when the EU is try to accelerate the concept of energy union and become less dependent on Russian gas, is it wise to take a different position?''
Konstaninos Filis, political analyst
''For Greece to participate in the Turkish Stream project, some specific conditions need to be met.Firstly, countries affected by the cancellation of the South Stream such as Austria and Italy need to give the nod to Turkish Stream.
Secondly, companies should be recruited to distribute the gas throughout Europe once it reaches the Greek-Turkish border, given that Russia is against the involvement of other parties, to avoid legal complications.
The next step is to assure a common European position or at least, a minimum consensus from Brussels to support the project. Because if there is no EU backing, as was the case of the South Stream, then there is a risk that the project could be undermined.''
VIDEO-Postal Service releases Maya Angelou stamp with quote from another author - The Washington Post
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 20:22
The U.S. Postal Service unveiled a limited edition stamp honoring poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. The first lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Attorney General Eric Holder were amongst those in attendance. (Reuters)
The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday released a new Maya Angelou stamp featuring a quote from a different author's book, propagating a popular misconception about the original source of the line.
''A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song,'' the stamp reads.
Angelou, the late African-American author who wrote the famous 1969 autobiography ''I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,'' used the same line in media interviews, and President Obama attributed it to her during the 2013 presentation of the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.
But the sentence never appeared in Angelou's autobiography. The words came from Joan Walsh Anglund's collection of poems, ''A Cup of Sun,'' published two years before the release of Angelou's autobiography. (One difference: The pronoun ''it'' from the stamp quote appears as ''he'' in the poem).
[Book author Joan Walsh Anglund says of Angelou stamp: 'That's my quote']
Nonetheless, the Postal Service moved forward with its release of the stamp at Tuesday's event, which featured dignitaries such as first lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and the poet Sonia Sanchez.
USPS said it didn't know about Anglund's book until Monday, when a Washington Post article pointed out that the quote in question didn't originate with Angelou.
''Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelous's] many other works,'' USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said in an e-mail on Monday. ''The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity.''
''The Postal Service puts a great deal of time and energy into vetting the stamps it releases each year,'' Saunders added in a follow-up email. ''This stamp was similarly vetted. We found that the phrase was widely attributed to Angelou in many mediums and by some dignitaries and we were not aware of Ms. Anglund's 1967 book.''
For what it's worth, even the title of Angelou's autobiography comes from another writer, prominent African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose poem ''Sympathy'' included the line. (Correction: The Federal Eye made a mistake of its own here, incorrectly attributing the hymn ''Lift Every Voice and Sing'' to Dunbar in an earlier version of this article).
The release of the stamp comes less than four years after another fumbled attempt to honor an historic African-American figure. Controversy erupted in 2011 over an abbreviated quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial that critics thought would make the civil-rights leader appear immodest.
One of the inscriptions on the memorial read: ''I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.'' But King actually said, ''Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.''
Angelou, who died last year, said the abridged version made King sound like an ''arrogant twit.'' The Department of the Interior initially considered sandblasting the inscription and replacing it with the full quote, but the agency ultimately decided to remove the line altogether.
* Lonnae O'Neal and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.
Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler's Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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VIDEO-Anonymous launches 'electronic holocaust' on Israel, leaking citizens' data amid criticism that attack is anti-semitic - News - Gadgets and Tech - The Independent
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 17:52
Videos posted in advance of the event claimed that the group would ''erase'' the country from cyberspace. But the attacks seemed to have little effect, briefly taking down smaller websites and resulting in the release of a small batch of what was claimed to be personal data.
While Anonymous members have launched attacks on Islamist militants and child abusers in recent months, they have had mixed results and often failed to make any of the impact that has been promised.
The attack claimed to be carried out in protest against Israeli ''crimes'' in Palestine. But the name of the attack as well as the decision to launch it the week before Holocaust Remembrance Day drew criticism from many.
Twitter accounts and other users associated with anonymous claimed that over 150,000 pieces of personal information related to Israeli citizens had been leaked. They uploaded a Pastebin article about the achievement, and linked to that cache of documents '-- though none of them has yet been verified.
Anonymous videos claimed that ''elite cyber-squadrons, from around the world, will decide to unite in solidarity, with the Palestinian people, against Israel, as one entity to disrupt and erase Israel from cyberspace''. But the country took down no active websites used by the government, or any
Sites that were hit '-- including an old website of the country's economic ministry '-- were replaced with an image claiming the attack had been carried out by ''AnonGhost'', and pictures of Muslim holy sites and Arabic script.
Israeli analysts said that most of the attacks had been coming from North Africa and the Middle East.
''It's important to note that this is being led exclusively by the Middle Eastern contingent of Anonymous, rather than the entirety of the organisation,'' Benjamin T Decker, an intelligence analyst at an Israeli risk consultancy firm, told Newsweek.
VIDEO-The President Speaks on the Impacts of Climate Change on Public Health | The White House
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 17:00
April 07, 2015 | 11:24 | Public Domain
President Obama delivered remarks at Howard University on the impact of climate change on our public health.
Download mp4 (419MB) | mp3 (27MB)
VIDEO-New battery prototype is cheaper, faster, safer and charges in 1 minute -- Science & Technology -- Sott.net
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:37
(C) Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford UniversityStanford scientists have invented a flexible, high-performance aluminum battery that charges in about 1 minute.
A new battery developed at Stanford may well revolutionize personal technology. It charges in a minute, lasts thousands of cycles and is much safer than current commercial models. Right now it lacks capacity, but its creators say it's a work in progress."We have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline batteries, which are bad for the environment, and lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally burst into flames," said Hongjie Dai, a chemistry professor at Stanford.
Dai's team presented their findings in the April 6 online edition of the journal Nature, titled 'An ultrafast rechargeable aluminum-ion battery'. Their prototype consists of an aluminum anode and a graphite cathode, packed inside a flexible polymer-coated pouch with an ionic liquid electrolyte."The electrolyte is basically a salt that's liquid at room temperature, so it's very safe," said Ming Gong, Stanford graduate student and co-lead author of the Nature article.
Safety is a major selling point of the Stanford prototype. A video released by Dai's team shows them drilling through the pouch while the battery continues to function. By contrast, the lithium-ion batteries presently used in most electronic devices can catch fire and explode if damaged."You can drill through the aluminum battery pouch, and it will continue working for a while longer without catching fire," Dai said.
He also reported "unprecedented" charging times for the prototype, as little as one minute. Moreover, the new battery has lasted more than 7,500 cycles without loss of capacity, while a typical lithium-ion may last up to 1000.
"This was the first time an ultra-fast aluminum-ion battery was constructed with stability over thousands of cycles," the authors wrote.
Another feature of the prototype is that it can bend or fold safely, opening up possibilities for wearable electronics and installation in odd-shaped spaces. Aluminum is also much cheaper than lithium, making the battery more eco-friendly.
"Our battery has everything else you'd dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life," says Dai. There is one problem, however: It only produces about half the voltage of its typical lithium counterpart.
Dai is not discouraged. "Improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density," he says. "I see this as a new battery in its early days. It's quite exciting."
VIDEO-UN Climate Official: ''We Should Make Every Effort'' To Decrease World Population (VIDEO) | The Gateway Pundit
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 15:12
Guest post by Patch Adams
Climate One founder Greg Dalton and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Christiana Figueres, held a discussion in 2013 on the role of women in fighting Global Warming.
During the interview Secretary Figueres stated, We should should ''make every effort,'' to reduce the world's population in an effort to fight Climate Change:
DALTON: A related issue is fertility rates in population. A lot of people in energy and environmental circles don't wanna go near that because it's politically charged. It's not their issue. But isn't it true that stopping the rise of the population would be one of the biggest levers and driving the rise of green house gases?
FIGUERES: I mean we all know that we expect nine billion, right, by 2050. So, yes, obviously less people would exert less pressure on the natural resources.
DALTON: So is nine billion a forgone conclusion? That's like baked in, done, no way to change that?
FIGUERES: Well there again, there is pressure in the system to go toward that; we can definitely change those, right? We can definitely change those numbers and really should make every effort to change those numbers because we are already, today, already exceeding the planet's planetary carrying capacity, today. To say nothing of adding more population that is really going to overextend our capacity. So yes we should do everything possible. But we cannot fall into the very simplistic opinion of saying just by curtailing population then we've solved the problem. It is not either/or, it is an and/also.
Video below (4:20-5:45):
This was cross-posted at Progressives Today.
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VIDEO-Michael Slager Charged With Murder of Walter Scott in South Carolina - NBC News.com
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 14:11
A white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, was charged with murder after a cellphone video was released of him fatally shooting a black father of four in the back following a traffic stop.
The release of the footage '-- which shows Officer Michael Slager fired eight times at Walter Scott '-- was praised by the 50-year-old victim's family, who during a news conference said: "All we wanted was the truth."
"It looked like he was trying to kill a deer or something, running through the woods," Scott's father, Walter Scott Sr., told TODAY on Wednesday.
Slager, 33, was arrested earlier by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and faces 30 years to life in prison or the death penalty if convicted, state officials said in a news release. He was being held without bond in the Charleston County Jail.
via FacebookWalter Scott appears in a photo posted by his brother Aaron Scott on Facebook. His family remembered the father of four and Coast Guard veteran as a proud member of the community.
The incident occurred around 9:30 a.m. ET on Saturday after Slager pulled over Scott's car because of a broken taillight.
The video, which was first obtained by The New York Times, picks up after the stop. Slager is seen shooting at Scott eight times as he runs away in a vacant lot. Scott drops to the ground after the last shot and Slager walks over calmly and is shown handcuffing Scott's arms behind his back. Other police officers and later EMS tried to administer CPR but Scott died at the scene, according to an incident report. The video provided to The New York Times does not show those efforts.
The officer said the suspect took his Taser and that he feared for his life.
"Shots fired. Subject is down. He grabbed my Taser," Slager says in a call to dispatchers.
The video doesn't show Scott taking Slager's stun gun. But officials say Scott was hit with the officer's Taser because one of its projectiles was still attached to him.
The Justice Department and the South Carolina Office of the FBI are also reviewing the incident, which comes on the heels of other police-related deaths involving unarmed black males in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Cleveland and New York's Staten Island.
Slager was arrested less than an hour after the video, taken by a bystander, was provided to city and police officials.
Attorney L. Chris Stewart, who is representing the Scott family, said the victim may have tried to run from the officer because he owed child support, which can get someone sent to jail in South Carolina until they pay it back. There were no violent offenses on his record, the attorney added.
In his interview with TODAY, Walter Scott Sr. also suggested that his son ran because he owed child support.
"I believe that he didn't want to go to jail again," he said. "He just ran away."
At a Tuesday news conference, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said the decision to charge the officer came after viewing the footage.
Having to charge an officer is "not something that we like to hear or like to say but it goes to say how we work as a community: When you're wrong, you're wrong and if you make a bad decision, don't care if you're behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision," Summey said.
Slager has been with the department for at least five years, officials said.
North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers called the incident a "tragic day" for many, but said the shooting shouldn't reflect on the department's 343 officers.
"It is not reflective of the entire police department and the city of North Charleston," Driggers said. "One does not totally throw a blanket across the many, and I think that's true in life, so it is a tragic event."
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley added that the shooting, as it appears, is unacceptable. "I assure all South Carolinians that the criminal judicial process will proceed fully," she said in a statement. "This is a sad time for everyone in South Carolina, and I urge everyone to work together to help our community heal."
At a news conference in front of the Scotts' Charleston home, his family remembered the father of four and Coast Guard veteran as a proud member of the community and said he "would never" have fought an officer over a Taser.
"Out of my brothers, he was the most outgoing out of all of us," Anthony Scott said. "He knew everybody. '... He was well-known in the community everywhere. He was just an outgoing type of person, and loving and kind."
Anthony Scott said they were disturbed by initial reports that Slager said his brother grabbed the stun gun.
"I think through the process, we have received the truth. We can't get my brother back, and my family is in deep mourning for that," Anthony Scott added. "But through the process, justice has been served. I don't think all police officers are bad cops, but there are some bad ones out there."
Lawyers for the family said they are looking into filing a civil lawsuit against police. Attorney Stewart said the video will play key evidence.
"For the first time in a long time, an officer is going to be charged," Stewart told reporters. "What happened today doesn't happen all the time," he added. "What if there wasn't no video, what if there was no witness ... then this (murder charge against the officer) wouldn't have happened."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published April 7 2015, 3:40 PM
VIDEO-Climate Change A Catastrophists Perspective Part 1 - YouTube
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:48
VIDEO-Stelara Commercial - YouTube
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VIDEO-Russian Hackers Accessed Sensitive Parts of White House Computer Network, CNN Reports | TheBlaze.com
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:09
Russian hackers were able to access sensitive parts of the White House computer system, including President Barack Obama's real-time schedule with details not available to the public, CNN reported Tuesday, citing sources.
U.S. officials briefed on the investigation told the news outlet that the hackers were able to break into the system using a perch from a previous cyber attack on the State Department.
The White House is seen through a keyhole in the fence, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Deputy national security advisor for strategic communications told CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller that the agency does not confirm cyberintrusions.
He added that the White House computer systems are secure and told CNN authorities do not believe sensitive national-security documents were stolen.
''We do not believe that our classified systems were compromised,'' Rhodes told CNN.
''We're constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system but we're frankly told to act as if we need not put information that's sensitive on that system,'' he added. ''In other words, if you're going to do something classified, you have to do it on one email system, one phone system. Frankly, you have to act as if information could be compromised if it's not on the classified system.''
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VIDEO-Problem at Electrical Station Causes Widespread Power Outages in Washington, D.C. | Video | TheBlaze.com
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:07
WASHINGTON (AP) '-- Problems at a Maryland electrical station caused widespread power outages across the nation's capital Tuesday, affecting the White House, the Capitol, museums, train stations and other sites.
Many of the outages were brief, but some were longer and forced evacuations. Officials said a mechanical failure at a transfer station led to the outages, and terrorism was not suspected. Tens of thousands of customers lost power.
At the White House, the interruption last only a few seconds before backup generators kicked on. The complex quickly went back onto regular power. Electricity in the press briefing room dipped around lunchtime, briefly darkening cubicles and blackening TV screens.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office when the power blip occurred, and they didn't notice anything unusual.
Power also went out at the State Department during the daily press briefing, forcing spokeswoman Marie Harf to finish her comments in the dark.
Power in the U.S. Capitol building twice shut down briefly, and then came back on by way of a generator.
The mechanical failure occurred shortly before 1 p.m. at a transfer station some 35 miles southeast of Washington in Charles County, Maryland, that is controlled by utilities serving Washington and southern Maryland. Homeland security officials in Washington and Maryland said there was an explosion at the station, although the two utilities, Pepco and the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, could not immediately confirm that there was a blast or fire. No one was injured, the utilities said.
Some effects of the outages were still apparent later Tuesday afternoon. Some traffic lights were out, and Metro said 14 of its 91 public transit stations were affected. Power to the trains remained on and trains were moving, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said, but the affected stations were on emergency power, with dimmer lighting and nonworking elevators and escalators.
Some Smithsonian museums also lost power, were evacuated and closed to the public, including the popular National Air and Space Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, a spokeswoman said.
Thousands of tourists spilled from the museums onto the National Mall. It's a busy time of year for tourism as spring brings both better weather and the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which draws thousands to look at the pink-budded trees.
Bill, 62, and Karen, 56, Smith, a retired couple visiting D.C. for a week from Canterbury, Connecticut, were in the National Air and Space Museum when the outage happened.
''We were looking for moon rocks and the lights showing the moon rocks went out,'' Bill Smith said. ''Then the lights flickered and an announcement came over saying everyone needed to evacuate. They didn't say why.''
He said no one panicked or even seemed irritated, though the crowd speculated about what happened.
Jenni Swan, who was visiting from Savannah, Georgia, with her husband and two children, said they were eating in the museum's atrium when security officers said the building was being evacuated.
''Honestly I think my kids are excited because of all the fire trucks and people leaving the building quickly,'' she said.
VIDEO-What will Greek PM walk away with after Kremlin meeting? | euronews, world news
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:02
All eyes are on the Kremlin to see what transpires in a controversial meeting between the Greek and Russian leaders.
The Greek Prime Minister is insisting he has not asked Moscow for any money to help meet its debt repayments, saying he wants to work within the framework of the EU.
Alexis Tsipras laid a wreath on Wednesday at the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier in Moscow, a day before a new deadline for debt repayments.
Eyebrows were raised this week when Russian media hinted that President Putin may offer gas discounts and even new loans to Greece.
A Russian minister has also said Greece could be removed from Moscow's ban on Western food imports.
This led to a warning from the European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, for Greece to stick to the EU position on sanctions against Russia.
VIDEO-Putin calls for improved trade in talks with Greek PM - BBC News
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:01
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for improved trade ties with Greece, during a visit to Moscow by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Mr Putin called the visit by Mr Tsipras "very timely" and hailed the two countries' "common spiritual roots".
Greek officials have previously pointed to Russia as a possible alternative source of financial assistance to alleviate the country's debt crisis.
But analysts say Russia's own economic woes mean any help would be limited.
Greece's new government is embroiled in negotiations with the EU and IMF to unblock a bailout package and could run out of funds within weeks.
Russia was among Greece's leading trade partners before sanctions on its energy industry and Greece's own economic woes dropped trade between the two countries by 40%.
Mr Tsipras received a warm welcome in Moscow, which has seen its ties with the EU strained over Russia's actions in Ukraine.
The Russian president said the two leaders would "analyse what the two of us could do to restore the previous rate of growth" in trade.
Mr Tsipras said he aimed to "restart relations for the good of both our people".
Russia is not in a position to solve Greece's economic issues however, said Constantinos Filis from the Institute of International Relations.
"Russia is not and cannot be a (EU) substitute for Greece. It can only be a supplementary option."
Mr Putin could use the visit to test the EU's collective resolve over sanctions Mr Putin and Mr Tsipras are also expected to discuss ties between the EU and Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.
Before his arrival, Mr Tsipras described the sanctions imposed by the EU and US on Russia in the wake of its annexation of the Crimea as "a road to nowhere".
The European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, said Mr Tsipras should not break with the EU line on sanctions.
"Greece demands and gets a lot of solidarity from the EU. We can therefore also ask for solidarity from Greece and for this solidarity not to be ended unilaterally by pulling out of joint measures," he told a regional German newspaper, the Muenchner Merkur.
Russia imposed a ban on many western food imports in retaliation, but Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov has said the government could consider removing three countries, including Greece, from the embargo, Russian state media reported.
The Greek government may play up cultural ties with Russia based on moments of shared history and a common religion.
But the truth is that Greece's memberships of Nato and the EU are central to its modern identity and crucial to its economic survival.
In theory a deal could be constructed where Greece could threaten to veto those EU sanctions in return for serious and sustained economic help, but in truth neither side is probably in a position to make such a deal even if it wanted to.
Russia has too many economic problems of its own to rescue Greece even if it were minded to. The Greek authorities are not in a position to alienate the rest of the EU by undermining a shared position on Ukraine.
Some sort of improvement in trade ties to bring Greek soft fruits back to the Russian market seems much more likely.
Mr Tsipras came to power pledging to end austerity, but his plans have met resistance from Greece's EU/IMF creditors, who lent the country billions to help it avoid bankruptcy.
Greece has not received bailout funds since August last year, with the EU and IMF dissatisfied with the pace of Greek reforms.
A Greek repayment of '¬448m to the IMF is due this Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Greek government said Germany owed Greece nearly '¬279bn (£204bn; $303bn) in war reparations for the Nazi occupation during World War Two.
It is the first time Greece has calculated what Germany allegedly owes.
But Germany says the matter was resolved legally years ago, and reacting to the claim Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was "dumb" to link Greece's bailout with the question of war reparations.
VIDEO-How Russians hacked the White House - CNN.com
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 22:58
While the White House has said the breach only ever affected an unclassified system, that description belies the seriousness of the intrusion. The hackers had access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president's schedule. While such information is not classified, it is still highly sensitive and prized by foreign intelligence agencies, U.S. officials say.
The White House in October said it noticed suspicious activity in the unclassified network that serves the executive office of the president. The system has been shut down periodically to allow for security upgrades.
The FBI, Secret Service and U.S. intelligence agencies are all involved in investigating the breach, which they consider among the most sophisticated attacks ever launched against U.S. government systems. 'The intrusion was routed through computers around the world, as hackers often do to hide their tracks, but investigators found tell-tale codes and other markers that they believe point to hackers working for the Russian government. A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment. Neither the U.S. State Department or the Russian immediately embassy responded to a request for comment.
Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, said the White House's use of a separate system for classified information protected sensitive national security-related items from being obtained by hackers.
"We do not believe that our classified systems were compromised," Rhodes told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday in an interview on "The Situation Room."
"We're constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system but we're frankly told to act as if we need not put information that's sensitive on that system," he said. "In other words, if you're going to do something classified, you have to do it on one email system, one phone system. Frankly, you have to act as if information could be compromised if it's not on the classified system."
To get to the White House, the hackers first broke into the State Department, investigators believe.
The State Department computer system has been bedeviled by signs that despite efforts to lock them out, the Russian hackers have been able to reenter the system. One official says the Russian hackers have "owned" the State Department system for months and it is not clear the hackers have been fully eradicated from the system.
As in many hacks, investigators believe the White House intrusion began with a phishing email that was launched using a State Department email account that the hackers had taken over, according to the U.S. officials.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a speech at an FBI cyberconference in January, warned government officials and private businesses to teach employees what "spear phishing" looks like.
"So many times, the Chinese and others get access to our systems just by pretending to be someone else and then asking for access, and someone gives it to them," Clapper said.
Related: What is spear fishing?
The ferocity of the Russian intrusions in recent months caught U.S. officials by surprise, leading to a reassessment of the cybersecurity threat as the U.S. and Russia increasingly confront each other over issues ranging from the Russian aggression in Ukraine to the U.S. military operations in Syria.
The attacks on the State and White House systems is one reason why Clapper told a Senate hearing in February that the "Russian cyberthreat is more severe than we have previously assessed."
The revelations about the State Department hacks also come amid controversy over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct government business during her time in office. Critics say her private server likely was even less safe than the State system. The Russian breach is believed to have come after Clinton departed State.
But hackers have long made Clinton and her associates targets.
The website The Smoking Gun first reported in 2013 that a hacker known as Guccifer had broken into the AOL email of Sidney Blumenthal, a friend and advisor to the Clintons, and published emails Blumenthal sent to Hillary Clinton's private account. The emails included sensitive memos on foreign policy issues and were the first public revelation of the existence of Hillary Clinton's private email address' now at the center of controversy: email@example.com. The address is no longer in use. '
Wesley Bruer contributed to this report
VIDEO-Iran and the Obama Doctrine - NYTimes.com
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:38
In September 1996, I visited Iran. One of my most enduring memories of that trip was that in my hotel lobby there was a sign above the door proclaiming ''Down With USA.'' But it wasn't a banner or graffiti. It was tiled and plastered into the wall. I thought to myself: ''Wow '-- that's tiled in there! That won't come out easily.'' Nearly 20 years later, in the wake of a draft deal between the Obama administration and Iran, we have what may be the best chance to begin to pry that sign loose, to ease the U.S.-Iran cold/hot war that has roiled the region for 36 years. But it is a chance fraught with real risks to America, Israel and our Sunni Arab allies: that Iran could eventually become a nuclear-armed state.
President Obama invited me to the Oval Office Saturday afternoon to lay out exactly how he was trying to balance these risks and opportunities in the framework accord reached with Iran last week in Switzerland. What struck me most was what I'd call an ''Obama doctrine'' embedded in the president's remarks. It emerged when I asked if there was a common denominator to his decisions to break free from longstanding United States policies isolating Burma, Cuba and now Iran. Obama said his view was that ''engagement,'' combined with meeting core strategic needs, could serve American interests vis- -vis these three countries far better than endless sanctions and isolation. He added that America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks to open important new possibilities '-- like trying to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran that, while permitting it to keep some of its nuclear infrastructure, forestalls its ability to build a nuclear bomb for at least a decade, if not longer.
''We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that's the thing ... people don't seem to understand,'' the president said. ''You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren't that many risks for us. It's a tiny little country. It's not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there's no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn't lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran's defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. ... You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.''
The notion that Iran is undeterrable '-- ''it's simply not the case,'' he added. ''And so for us to say, 'Let's try' '-- understanding that we're preserving all our options, that we're not na¯ve '-- but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn't, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. ... We're not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn't we test it?''
Obviously, Israel is in a different situation, he added. ''Now, what you might hear from Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, which I respect, is the notion, 'Look, Israel is more vulnerable. We don't have the luxury of testing these propositions the way you do,' and I completely understand that. And further, I completely understand Israel's belief that given the tragic history of the Jewish people, they can't be dependent solely on us for their own security. But what I would say to them is that not only am I absolutely committed to making sure that they maintain their qualitative military edge, and that they can deter any potential future attacks, but what I'm willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them. And that, I think, should be ... sufficient to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.''
He added: ''What I would say to the Israeli people is ... that there is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward '-- and that's demonstrable.''
The president gave voice, though '-- in a more emotional and personal way than I've ever heard '-- to his distress at being depicted in Israel and among American Jews as somehow anti-Israel, when his views on peace are shared by many center-left Israelis and his administration has been acknowledged by Israeli officials to have been as vigorous as any in maintaining Israel's strategic edge.
With huge amounts of conservative campaign money now flowing to candidates espousing pro-Israel views, which party is more supportive of Israel is becoming a wedge issue, an arms race, with Republican candidates competing over who can be the most unreservedly supportive of Israel in any disagreement with the United States, and ordinary, pro-Israel Democrats increasingly feeling sidelined.
''This is an area that I've been concerned about,'' the president said. ''Look, Israel is a robust, rowdy democracy. ... We share so much. We share blood, family. ... And part of what has always made the U.S.-Israeli relationship so special is that it has transcended party, and I think that has to be preserved. There has to be the ability for me to disagree with a policy on settlements, for example, without being viewed as ... opposing Israel. There has to be a way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to disagree with me on policy without being viewed as anti-Democrat, and I think the right way to do it is to recognize that as many commonalities as we have, there are going to be strategic differences. And I think that it is important for each side to respect the debate that takes place in the other country and not try to work just with one side. ... But this has been as hard as anything I do because of the deep affinities that I feel for the Israeli people and for the Jewish people. It's been a hard period.''
You take it personally? I asked.
''It has been personally difficult for me to hear ... expressions that somehow ... this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel's interest '-- and the suggestion that when we have very serious policy differences, that that's not in the context of a deep and abiding friendship and concern and understanding of the threats that the Jewish people have faced historically and continue to face.''
As for protecting our Sunni Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, the president said, they have some very real external threats, but they also have some internal threats '-- ''populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances. And so part of our job is to work with these states and say, 'How can we build your defense capabilities against external threats, but also, how can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they've got something other than [the Islamic State, or ISIS] to choose from. ... I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It's going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. ... That's a tough conversation to have, but it's one that we have to have.''
That said, the Iran deal is far from finished. As the president cautioned: ''We're not done yet. There are a lot of details to be worked out, and you could see backtracking and slippage and real political difficulties, both in Iran and obviously here in the United States Congress.''
On Congress's role, Obama said he insists on preserving the presidential prerogative to enter into binding agreements with foreign powers without congressional approval. However, he added, ''I do think that [Tennessee Republican] Senator Corker, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, is somebody who is sincerely concerned about this issue and is a good and decent man, and my hope is that we can find something that allows Congress to express itself but does not encroach on traditional presidential prerogatives '-- and ensures that, if in fact we get a good deal, that we can go ahead and implement it.''
Since President Obama has had more direct and indirect dealings with Iran's leadership '-- including an exchange of numerous letters with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei '-- than any of his predecessors since Iran's revolution in 1979, I asked what he has learned from the back and forth.
''I think that it's important to recognize that Iran is a complicated country '-- just like we're a complicated country,'' the president said. ''There is no doubt that, given the history between our two countries, that there is deep mistrust that is not going to fade away immediately. The activities that they engage in, the rhetoric, both anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, is deeply disturbing. There are deep trends in the country that are contrary to not only our own national security interests and views but those of our allies and friends in the region, and those divisions are real.''
But, he added, ''what we've also seen is that there is a practical streak to the Iranian regime. I think they are concerned about self-preservation. I think they are responsive, to some degree, to their publics. I think the election of [President Hassan] Rouhani indicated that there was an appetite among the Iranian people for a rejoining with the international community, an emphasis on the economics and the desire to link up with a global economy. And so what we've seen over the last several years, I think, is the opportunity for those forces within Iran that want to break out of the rigid framework that they have been in for a long time to move in a different direction. It's not a radical break, but it's one that I think offers us the chance for a different type of relationship, and this nuclear deal, I think, is a potential expression of that.''
What about Iran's supreme leader, who will be the ultimate decider there on whether or not Iran moves ahead? What have you learned about him?
''He's a pretty tough read,'' the president said. ''I haven't spoken to him directly. In the letters that he sends, there [are] typically a lot of reminders of what he perceives as past grievances against Iran, but what is, I think, telling is that he did give his negotiators in this deal the leeway, the capability to make important concessions, that would allow this framework agreement to come to fruition. So what that tells me is that '-- although he is deeply suspicious of the West [and] very insular in how he thinks about international issues as well as domestic issues, and deeply conservative '-- he does realize that the sanctions regime that we put together was weakening Iran over the long term, and that if in fact he wanted to see Iran re-enter the community of nations, then there were going to have to be changes.''
Since he has acknowledged Israel's concerns, and the fact that they are widely shared there, if the president had a chance to make his case for this framework deal directly to the Israeli people, what would he say?
''Well, what I'd say to them is this,'' the president answered. ''You have every right to be concerned about Iran. This is a regime that at the highest levels has expressed the desire to destroy Israel, that has denied the Holocaust, that has expressed venomous anti-Semitic ideas and is a big country with a big population and has a sophisticated military. So Israel is right to be concerned about Iran, and they should be absolutely concerned that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon.'' But, he insisted, this framework initiative, if it can be implemented, can satisfy that Israeli strategic concern with more effectiveness and at less cost to Israel than any other approach. ''We know that a military strike or a series of military strikes can set back Iran's nuclear program for a period of time '-- but almost certainly will prompt Iran to rush towards a bomb, will provide an excuse for hard-liners inside of Iran to say, 'This is what happens when you don't have a nuclear weapon: America attacks.'
''We know that if we do nothing, other than just maintain sanctions, that they will continue with the building of their nuclear infrastructure and we'll have less insight into what exactly is happening,'' Obama added. ''So this may not be optimal. In a perfect world, Iran would say, 'We won't have any nuclear infrastructure at all,' but what we know is that this has become a matter of pride and nationalism for Iran. Even those who we consider moderates and reformers are supportive of some nuclear program inside of Iran, and given that they will not capitulate completely, given that they can't meet the threshold that Prime Minister Netanyahu sets forth, there are no Iranian leaders who will do that. And given the fact that this is a country that withstood an eight-year war and a million people dead, they've shown themselves willing, I think, to endure hardship when they considered a point of national pride or, in some cases, national survival.''
The president continued: ''For us to examine those options and say to ourselves, 'You know what, if we can have vigorous inspections, unprecedented, and we know at every point along their nuclear chain exactly what they're doing and that lasts for 20 years, and for the first 10 years their program is not just frozen but effectively rolled back to a larger degree, and we know that even if they wanted to cheat we would have at least a year, which is about three times longer than we'd have right now, and we would have insights into their programs that we've never had before,' in that circumstance, the notion that we wouldn't take that deal right now and that that would not be in Israel's interest is simply incorrect.''
Because, Obama argued, ''the one thing that changes the equation is when these countries get a nuclear weapon. ... Witness North Korea, which is a problem state that is rendered a lot more dangerous because of their nuclear program. If we can prevent that from happening anyplace else in the world, that's something where it's worth taking some risks.''
''I have to respect the fears that the Israeli people have,'' he added, ''and I understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu is expressing the deep-rooted concerns that a lot of the Israeli population feel about this, but what I can say to them is: Number one, this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon, and number two, what we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there. And I think the combination of a diplomatic path that puts the nuclear issue to one side '-- while at the same time sending a clear message to the Iranians that you have to change your behavior more broadly and that we are going to protect our allies if you continue to engage in destabilizing aggressive activity '-- I think that's a combination that potentially at least not only assures our friends, but starts bringing down the temperature.''
There is clearly a debate going on inside Iran as to whether the country should go ahead with this framework deal as well, so what would the president say to the Iranian people to persuade them that this deal is in their interest?
If their leaders really are telling the truth that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon, the president said, then ''the notion that they would want to expend so much on a symbolic program as opposed to harnessing the incredible talents and ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the Iranian people, and be part of the world economy and see their nation excel in those terms, that should be a pretty straightforward choice for them. Iran doesn't need nuclear weapons to be a powerhouse in the region. For that matter, what I'd say to the Iranian people is: You don't need to be anti-Semitic or anti-Israel or anti-Sunni to be a powerhouse in the region. I mean, the truth is, Iran has all these potential assets going for it where, if it was a responsible international player, if it did not engage in aggressive rhetoric against its neighbors, if it didn't express anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment, if it maintained a military that was sufficient to protect itself, but was not engaging in a whole bunch of proxy wars around the region, by virtue of its size, its resources and its people it would be an extremely successful regional power. And so my hope is that the Iranian people begin to recognize that.''
Clearly, he added, ''part of the psychology of Iran is rooted in past experiences, the sense that their country was undermined, that the United States or the West meddled in first their democracy and then in supporting the Shah and then in supporting Iraq and Saddam during that extremely brutal war. So part of what I've told my team is we have to distinguish between the ideologically driven, offensive Iran and the defensive Iran that feels vulnerable and sometimes may be reacting because they perceive that as the only way that they can avoid repeats of the past. ... But if we're able to get this done, then what may happen '-- and I'm not counting on it '-- but what may happen is that those forces inside of Iran that say, 'We don't need to view ourselves entirely through the lens of our war machine. Let's excel in science and technology and job creation and developing our people,' that those folks get stronger. ... I say that emphasizing that the nuclear deal that we've put together is not based on the idea that somehow the regime changes.
''It is a good deal even if Iran doesn't change at all,'' Obama argued. ''Even for somebody who believes, as I suspect Prime Minister Netanyahu believes, that there is no difference between Rouhani and the supreme leader and they're all adamantly anti-West and anti-Israel and perennial liars and cheaters '-- even if you believed all that, this still would be the right thing to do. It would still be the best option for us to protect ourselves. In fact, you could argue that if they are implacably opposed to us, all the more reason for us to want to have a deal in which we know what they're doing and that, for a long period of time, we can prevent them from having a nuclear weapon.''
There are several very sensitive points in the framework agreement that are not clear to me, and I asked the president for his interpretation. For instance, if we suspect that Iran is cheating, is harboring a covert nuclear program outside of the declared nuclear facilities covered in this deal '-- say, at a military base in southeastern Iran '-- do we have the right to insist on that facility being examined by international inspectors?
''In the first instance, what we have agreed to is that we will be able to inspect and verify what's happening along the entire nuclear chain from the uranium mines all the way through to the final facilities like Natanz,'' the president said. ''What that means is that we're not just going to have a bunch of folks posted at two or three or five sites. We are going to be able to see what they're doing across the board, and in fact, if they now wanted to initiate a covert program that was designed to produce a nuclear weapon, they'd have to create a whole different supply chain. That's point number one. Point number two, we're actually going to be setting up a procurement committee that examines what they're importing, what they're bringing in that they might claim as dual-use, to determine whether or not what they're using is something that would be appropriate for a peaceful nuclear program versus a weapons program. And number three, what we're going to be doing is setting up a mechanism whereby, yes, I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors can go anyplace.''
Anywhere in Iran? I asked.
''That we suspect,'' the president answered. ''Obviously, a request will have to be made. Iran could object, but what we have done is to try to design a mechanism whereby once those objections are heard, that it is not a final veto that Iran has, but in fact some sort of international mechanism will be in place that makes a fair assessment as to whether there should be an inspection, and if they determine it should be, that's the tiebreaker, not Iran saying, 'No, you can't come here.' So over all, what we're seeing is not just the additional protocols that I.A.E.A. has imposed on countries that are suspected of in the past having had problematic nuclear programs, we're going even beyond that, and Iran will be subject to the kinds of inspections and verification mechanisms that have never been put in place before.''
A lot of people, myself included, will want to see the fine print on that. Another issue that doesn't seem to have been resolved yet is: When exactly do the economic sanctions on Iran get lifted? When the implementation begins? When Iran has been deemed to be complying fully?
''There are still details to be worked out,'' the president said, ''but I think that the basic framework calls for Iran to take the steps that it needs to around [the Fordow enrichment facility], the centrifuges, and so forth. At that point, then, the U.N. sanctions are suspended; although the sanctions related to proliferation, the sanctions related to ballistic missiles, there's a set of sanctions that remain in place. At that point, then, we preserve the ability to snap back those sanctions, if there is a violation. If not, though, Iran, outside of the proliferation and ballistic missile issues that stay in place, they're able to get out from under the sanctions, understanding that this constant monitoring will potentially trigger some sort of action if they're in violation.''
There are still United States sanctions that are related to Iran's behavior in terrorism and human rights abuse, though, the president added: ''There are certain sanctions that we have that would remain in place because they're not related to Iran's nuclear program, and this, I think, gets to a central point that we've made consistently. If in fact we are able to finalize the nuclear deal, and if Iran abides by it, that's a big piece of business that we've gotten done, but it does not end our problems with Iran, and we are still going to be aggressively working with our allies and friends to reduce '-- and hopefully at some point stop '-- the destabilizing activities that Iran has engaged in, the sponsorship of terrorist organizations. And that may take some time. But it's our belief, it's my belief, that we will be in a stronger position to do so if the nuclear issue has been put in a box. And if we can do that, it's possible that Iran, seeing the benefits of sanctions relief, starts focusing more on the economy and its people. And investment starts coming in, and the country starts opening up. If we've done a good job in bolstering the sense of security and defense cooperation between us and the Sunni states, if we have made even more certain that the Israeli people are absolutely protected not just by their own capacities, but also by our commitments, then what's possible is you start seeing an equilibrium in the region, and Sunni and Shia, Saudi and Iran start saying, 'Maybe we should lower tensions and focus on the extremists like [ISIS] that would burn down this entire region if they could.' ''
Regarding America's Sunni Arab allies, Obama reiterated that while he is prepared to help increase their military capabilities they also need to increase their willingness to commit their ground troops to solving regional problems.
''The conversations I want to have with the Gulf countries is, first and foremost, how do they build more effective defense capabilities,'' the president said. ''I think when you look at what happens in Syria, for example, there's been a great desire for the United States to get in there and do something. But the question is: Why is it that we can't have Arabs fighting [against] the terrible human rights abuses that have been perpetrated, or fighting against what Assad has done? I also think that I can send a message to them about the U.S.'s commitments to work with them and ensure that they are not invaded from the outside, and that perhaps will ease some of their concerns and allow them to have a more fruitful conversation with the Iranians. What I can't do, though, is commit to dealing with some of these internal issues that they have without them making some changes that are more responsive to their people.''
One way to think about it, Obama continued, ''is [that] when it comes to external aggression, I think we're going to be there for our [Arab] friends '-- and I want to see how we can formalize that a little bit more than we currently have, and also help build their capacity so that they feel more confident about their ability to protect themselves from external aggression.'' But, he repeated, ''The biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It's going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. Now disentangling that from real terrorist activity inside their country, how we sort that out, how we engage in the counterterrorism cooperation that's been so important to our own security '-- without automatically legitimizing or validating whatever repressive tactics they may employ '-- I think that's a tough conversation to have, but it's one that we have to have.''
It feels lately like some traditional boundaries between the executive and legislative branches, when it comes to the conduct of American foreign policy, have been breached. For instance, there was the letter from 47 Republican senators to Iran's supreme leader cautioning him on striking any deal with Obama not endorsed by them '-- coming in the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu being invited by the speaker of the House, John Boehner, to address a joint session of Congress '-- without consulting the White House. How is Obama taking this?
''I do worry that some traditional boundaries in how we think about foreign policy have been crossed,'' the president said. ''I felt the letter that was sent to the supreme leader was inappropriate. I think that you will recall there were some deep disagreements with President Bush about the Iraq war, but the notion that you would have had a whole bunch of Democrats sending letters to leaders in the region or to European leaders ... trying to undermine the president's policies I think is troubling.
''The bottom line,'' he added, ''is that we're going to have serious debates, serious disagreements, and I welcome those because that's how our democracy is supposed to work, and in today's international environment, whatever arguments we have here, other people are hearing and reading about it. It's not a secret that the Republicans may feel more affinity with Prime Minister Netanyahu's views of the Iran issue than they do with mine. But [we need to be] keeping that within some formal boundaries, so that the executive branch, when it goes overseas, when it's communicating with foreign leaders, is understood to be speaking on behalf of the United States of America, not a divided United States of America, making sure that whether that president is a Democrat or a Republican that once the debates have been had here, that he or she is the spokesperson on behalf of U.S. foreign policy. And that's clear to every leader around the world. That's important because without that, what you start getting is multiple foreign policies, confusion among foreign powers as to who speaks for who, and that ends up being a very dangerous '-- circumstances that could be exploited by our enemies and could deeply disturb our friends.''
As for the Obama doctrine '-- ''we will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities'' '-- the president concluded: ''I've been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch, and I think they should understand that we mean it. But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement '-- and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations '-- and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbors.''
Whatever happened in the past, he said, ''at this point, the U.S.'s core interests in the region are not oil, are not territorial. ... Our core interests are that everybody is living in peace, that it is orderly, that our allies are not being attacked, that children are not having barrel bombs dropped on them, that massive displacements aren't taking place. Our interests in this sense are really just making sure that the region is working. And if it's working well, then we'll do fine. And that's going to be a big project, given what's taken place, but I think this [Iran framework deal] is at least one place to start.''
VIDEO-Statue that cast Edward Snowden as a hero removed and held by New York police | smh.com.au
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 07:39
Josephine Tovey -Apr 7, 2015
New York City Parks workers work to remove a covered large molded bust of Edward Snowden at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. Photo: Reuters
New York: For one morning, a statue of Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor and whistleblower variously regarded as a dissident hero and national traitor, stood high atop a hill in New York City.
Hours later, the unauthorised sculpture was shrouded in plastic, removed by the city's Parks and Recreation Department as the media and locals watched on, before being transported to the local police precinct.
But two of the artists behind the sculpture, who spoke to Fairfax Media on condition of anonymity, hope that its presence, however fleeting, will help spark conversation about Snowden, surveillance and the American ideals they say he was fighting for.
"We were both dismayed that Snowden and the ideals that his actions represent haven't gotten more traction in mainstream media," one of the artists said.
"It's not just Snowden, it's Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning and every other whistleblower whose fighting for the ideals this nation was founded upon. Snowden is an easy representation to use, so we used his visual."
"This is one of the few times he's been cast as a hero and his actions cast as heroic."
Snowden became a divisive international figure in 2013 when he revealed the enormous surveillance capabilities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other surveillance programs, leaking classified information to journalists and sparking global debate about privacy and national security in the digital age. He fled to Russia soon after going public, and has been charged with espionage, slammed as a "coward" and "traitor" by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The sculpture, worth around $30,000 by the artists' estimate, has been around a year in the making, from conception to the early morning installation in the park on Monday. The guerilla installation was carried out by a group of people under cover of darkness, as exclusively captured by the NYC media outlet Animal. It immediately sparked a flurry of attention on social media and in the neighbourhood. By coincidence, satirist John Oliver aired a surprise, funny and revealing interview with Snowden the night before.
The artists placed the bust, made of a plaster-like substance but carefully constructed to look like a typical bronze monument, on a column with a bald eagle at the base, amid a war memorial called the Prison Ship Monument in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, which commemorates the lives of American prisoners who died on British ships during the Revolutionary War.
"The people who fought for the creation of this country during the revolutionary war, they're marching in the same direction in our minds as Snowden, and other people like Snowden who continue to whistleblow or try to alert people to the secretive nature of a government that is treating a people as guilty before innocent," said the artist.
His colleague added they wanted to challenge people's conceptions of Snowden by inserting the official-looking statue in the public space, spurring them to ask questions the portrayal of Snowden as a traitor and seek more information about what he did.
When Fairfax Media arrived at the park on Monday around 1pm, the statue had been tightly wrapped in a blue tarpaulin and string, and was being watched over by a handful of police officers and parks department workers.
In an awkward display, staff from the parks department then drove a truck up alongside the statue, and began the process of removing it, as a small crowd of photographers gathered around them and parents and children watched on, baffled. Staff were careful to keep the tarpaulin in place so the statue's face remained obscured as they slipped it off.
In a statement, the Parks Department said "the erection of any unapproved structure or artwork in a city park is illegal", while the NYPD confirmed to Fairfax Media they had taken possession of the bust and were storing it at a local precinct. Its fate is unknown, with the artists risking charges if they come forward.
The artists point out the now iconic Charging Bull statue on Wall Street was also a guerilla project eventually accepted by authorities, and hope that either New York City or alternatively, a museum or institution would display it. It could be replicated with relative ease - they still have a mould and 3D image of the bust.
Nevertheless, they were disappointed it was removed so quickly, and disturbed that it had to be shrouded from the public in the short interim.
"To cover it up, to step on an eagle's head as you climb it to throw a tarp over it, is so symbolic and ironic that you can't help but kind of shake your head," the artist said.
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VIDEO-Gov Jerry Brown: Californians to Be Heavily Fined for Long Showers - Breitbart
Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:25
Sunday on ABC's ''This Week,'' Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) said Californians will face heavy fines for taking long showers.
Brown said, ''This executive order is done under emergency power. It has the force of law. Very unusual. It's requiring action and changes in behavior from the Oregon border all the way to the Mexican border. It affects lawns. It affects people's '-- how long they stay in the shower. How businesses use water.''
Brown said to enforce his order, ''Each water district that actually delivers waters '-- water to homes and businesses, they carry it out. We have a state water board that overseas the relationships with the districts. Hundreds of them. If they don't comply, people can be fined $500 a day. Districts can go to court to get a cease and desist order. The enforcement mechanism is powerful. In a drought of this magnitude, you have to change that behavior and you have to change it substantially.''
Guest host host Martha Raddatz pointed out, ''More water used for almond production than is used by all residents and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles combined.''
Brown countered by saying, ''Farm workers who are '-- very low end of the economic scale here, are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are suffering. Who are providing food.'' adding, ''They're not watering their lawn or taking long showers. They're providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America. And a significant part of the world.''
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN
VIDEO-Woman Arrested For Posting Selfie With Gun on Facebook | The Free Thought Project
Mon, 06 Apr 2015 14:49
Henrico, VA'' Be careful what you post on Facebook, or you could be charged with a crime over your smiling selfie. This is something 26-year-old Kristin Holmes learned the hard way this week when she was arrested and charged with a crime she referred to as ''Facebook Thugging,'' for posting of a photo of herself with a handgun.
It's not just photos that can get you in trouble though, the Fraternal Order of Police is warning that in Virginia, you can be charged with this crime even for swearing.
Holmes was charged with harassment by computer after a case of mistaken identity escalated into a Facebook comment feud. A woman had reportedly mistaken Holmes for someone else and made some comments Holmes found offensive, so the young woman posted a selfie of herself playfully pointing a weapon at the camera along with the caption, ''I'll post a few actual pics of me so you know the difference when you come find me.''
The woman was reported to her local police and was taken into custody. She is charged with a class 1 misdemeanor that carries up to one year in prison and/or a $2,600 fine.
''It wasn't a threat. I thought it was a funny picture, and then I realized later that it was a little bit intimidating. So I took it down. What happened to freedom of speech?'' Holmes told CNN.
The absurdity doesn't stop there, however. Kevin Carroll with the Fraternal Order of Police told NBC that there is ''no such thing as a petty crime,'' and parroted repeatedly that the law is the law. The police do as they are told without any thought for the moral implications of their enforcement of stupid laws. We may as well have those robot police we recently reported on patrolling our streets, they would probably have more independent thought than we will ever hear from the FOP.
Think this wouldn't happen in your state?
In January, a New York teen was arrested for using ''threatening emojis.''
Police state? What police state?
VIDEO-John Oliver Travels to Russia to Tell Edward Snowden It's All About the 'Dick Pics' | Mediaite
Mon, 06 Apr 2015 09:43
On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver revealed that he traveled to Russia to interview former NSA contractor Edward Snowden '-- yes, that Edward Snowden. Now, such an interview is not an easy ''get.'' In fact, the last high-profile journalist to secure an interview with Snowden was NBC's Brian Williams, so this was a big surprise.
Upon Snowden's entrance into the room (albeit, a bit late), Oliver jokingly called him ''the most famous hero and/or traitor in recent American history.'' In the interview, which aired in full on Sunday's episode, Snowden said he misses his family and his country '-- and yes, even Hot Pockets.
Snowden reiterated his warnings against overarching government surveillance, to which Oliver countered that ''Americans do not give a sh*t about foreign surveillance.'' To prove that point, he played a video of random people who were asked about Snowden, many of whom could not accurately say who he is. Snowden laughed throughout it.
Oliver delved into the tricky technical terms of surveillance, urging Snowden to raise hell about ''d*ck pics'' and ''junk'' in an effort to get average Americans to care about the NSA's surveillance capabilities. According to Oliver, people are ''terrified'' that the government would be able to see naked pictures of random Americans.
''Well, the good news is there's no program named, 'the d*ck pic program,''' Snowden said. ''The bad news is, they are still collecting everybody's information, including your d*ck pics.''
Snowden admitted he never thought about explaining the dangers of government surveillance by putting in ''in the context of your junk.''
Watch the full interview below, via HBO:
[Image via screengrab]
>>Follow Andrew Desiderio (@forza_desiderio) on Twitter
VIDEO-Reza Aslan Slams Bill Maher for Facile Arguments' About Muslim Violence - YouTube
Mon, 06 Apr 2015 09:19