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Profits Soar As Pentagon Leans on Private Corporations for Special Ops

New research shows how US Special Operations Command is outsourcing many of its most sensitive information activities, including interrogation, drone and psychological operations
by Jon Queally

Private military contractors are reaping billions of dollars in profitable rewards from the U.S. government's global network of clandestine counter-terrorism and other overseas operations, according to a new report that examines the high-levels of integration between for-profit corporations and the Pentagon's global military and surveillance apparatus.

The new report—titled US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record—written by researcher Crofton Black and commissioned by the U.K.-based Remote Control Project, shows that "corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive aspects" of operations conducted by the U.S. Special Operations Command (or USSOCOM). Those activities, according to the report include: flying drones and overseeing target acquisition, facilitating communications between forward operating locations and central command hubs, interrogating prisoners, translating captured material, and managing the flow of information between regional populations and the US military.

" is outsourcing many of its most sensitive information activities, including interrogation, drone and psychological operations," explained Black in a statement. "Remote warfare is increasingly being shaped by the private sector.”

And Caroline Donnellan, manager of the Remote Control project, said, “This report is distinctive in that it mines data from the generally classified world of US special operations. It reveals the extent to which remote control activity is expanding in all its facets, with corporations becoming more and more integrated into very sensitive elements of warfare. The report’s findings are of concern given the challenges remote warfare poses for effective investigation, transparency, accountability and oversight. This highlights the difficulties in assessing the impact and consequences of remote control activity.”



'Ozzie and Harriet' house lists at $4.995 million

“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” Nelson house in Hollywood Hills West is on the market at $4.995 million.

The East Coast-inspired traditional-style home doubled as a set for the family television show in the 1950s and '60s and as the Nelson’s home. Now the 1916 two-story house, set on a half-acre, has been remodeled with Kishani Perera-designed finishes.

Gone is Ozzie Nelson’s model train, which ran on a track near the ceiling in the pub room and had been passed down from homeowner to homeowner. But the light and bright updated interiors retain the Old Hollywood charm of the house, which includes a center hall, formal living and dining rooms, a media room, a den, five bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

The property sold last year for $3.025 million, public records show.


Shots From an Incredible New Trove of Depression and World War II Photos

Between 1935 and 1944, the Farm Security Agency-Office of War Information dispatched photographers to all ends of the United States to document life during hard times and wartime. Many of their photos, taken by now-legendary photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, have become iconic representations of America during the Depression and World War II. But most of the hundreds of thousands of negatives, collected in what became known as "The File," were never seen by the public.

No longer. Yale University's Photogrammar has just made more than 170,000 of the FSA-OWI photos easily accessible online. You can browse and search by photographer, location, date, or subject. Even a quick visit to the site turns up surprising, searing photos that feel like they should be in history books, on the cover of old LIFE magazines, or hanging in art galleries. Here are 10 that caught my eye as I looked through the massive collection—including one taken less than a block from the Mother Jones office in downtown San Francisco.

Riveter at a military aircraft factory. Fort Worth, Texas, 1942 Howard R. Hollem/FSA-OWI Collection

"Wife of Negro sharecropper." Lee County, Mississippi, 1935 Arthur Rothstein/FSA-OWI Collection

"Monday morning, December 8, 1941, after Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." San Francisco, California, 1941 John Collier/FSA-OWI Collection




Tuesday Toon Roundup 4: The Rest






Air Travel


Tuesday Toon Roundup 3: The big E's




Tuesday Toon Roundup 2: GOP/CONgress

Tuesday Toon Roundup 1: The Beater

Charles P Pierce- Tactical Redeployment

The president's retreat on immigration reform, as tactical a retreat as it may be, and I'm not entirely sure that saving Mark Pryor's seat for the Democratic party is worth draining some of the fervor out of the Hispanic base that proved so valuable two years ago and that Democratic strategists have been looking at as a demographic gold mine for the foreseeable future, is a good indicator of bad times ahead. (And anyone who explains this retreat to Hispanic voters and, especially to the people most directly affected by it, as a move of eleventy-level chess, needs to be made to lie down until that feeling passes.) If the Democrats lose their Senate majority, and the president acts, the Republicans are going to scream until their ears turn blue. If the Democrats maintain that majority, and the president acts, the Republicans are going to scream until their ears turn blue. If the president had announced his executive orders on immigration to my man Chuck Todd yesterday, the Republicans would have screamed until their ears turned blue. Instead, the president put his decision on hold, for reasons so transparently political that I decline even for a second to take his announced motivation seriously. The Republicans have responded by screaming until their ears turn blue.

We have reached the point now where the Republican plan to cripple yet another Democratic presidency has achieved its goal. Nothing much is going to get accomplished in the next two years -- except, perhaps, another war in the Middle East - because, as a minority or as a majority, the Republican party in Congress has determined that no Democratic president will be able to govern as a Democratic president, no matter how many votes he gets, how many times he gets elected, or how dire the state of the country is. Bob Dole announced on the day after Bill Clinton was elected that Dole's job was to represent the people who didn't vote for Clinton. This time around, there was the famous Inauguration night dinner in 2009 when Republican satraps got together for the purpose of sabotaging the new president, and the hopes of the people who had elected him.

I fault the president for only one thing in this regard - his painful delay in realizing the true nature of what he was up against. It should have been his issue from the first day in office. Americans understand the concept of poor losers. They understand the concept of lushly funded vandalism. They just have to be reminded, constantly, of the source of that vandalism, or else the (occasionally laudable) distrust of government curdles into cynicism that enables the kind of both-siderism that seems now to be the resting pulse of our politics. The system has been sabotaged. Both sides are not equally guilty. Both sides have not done the same things. The Democratic opposition to George W. Bush didn't truly begin until after he'd been re-elected, and his war had gone sour, and he made a clumsy attempt to privatize Social Security. Before that, Democrats had helped him get his lunatic tax-cut passed - Hi there, John Breaux! - and, later, they helped him get his lunatic war started. Hell, they even treated the dubious way that C-Plus Augustus had come into office as more legitimate than the Republicans have treated either of the elections of Barack Obama. Al Gore even presided over the certification of his own questionable demise. It is unimaginable that Dick Cheney, or Mitch McConnell, or any of the wild children of the House majority, would have done the same thing in the same circumstances.

(It is also important to note that, having paralyzed the national government because they don't like who's running it, the Republicans have been able to get most of what they want done out in the states. The best the Democratic politicians can hope for in those states where the Republican governors and Republican legislatures have been running amok is the occasional triumph in the courts that overturn egregious laws. This, of course, brings howls from the Republicans about how Democrats are trying to win at the bar what they couldn't win at the polls. This, of course, coming from the party of Bush v. Gore and of the permanent filibuster, is pretty damned hilarious.)



Bizarre, Prehistoric Ratfish Chomped Prey with Buzzsaw Jaws

A restoration of Helicoprion by artist Gary Staab, showing off the prominent tooth whorl.

Helicoprion had saws for jaws. That’s really all there was to the 270 million year old ratfish’s dental cutlery. No upper teeth or anything else to slice against – just an ever-growing whorl of spiky teeth anchored to the lower jaw.

This new, definitive image of Helicoprion debuted last year thanks to the efforts of artist Ray Troll and a team of researchers led by Idaho State University paleontologist Leif Tapanila. A very special fossil – IMNH 37899 – preserved both the upper and lower jaws in a closed position, finally solving the mystery of what the ratfish’s head actually looked like. But determining the exact placement of that vexing spiral was just an initial step.

Paleontologists and artists had often supposed that Helicoprion had upper teeth to pierce slippery cephalopods and squirming fish, but the fossils Tapanila and colleagues examined showed that Helicoprion only had a buzzsaw embedded in the lower jaw. How did this long-lived and prolific genus of Permian fish eat with a saw for a jaw?

Part of the original Helicoprion project involved creating a virtual model of the fish’s skull from CT scans of IMNH 37899. Now, in a Journal of Morphology paper, University of Rhode Island biologist Jason Ramsay and the rest of the team from last year’s Helicoprion study have gone back to those models to outline how the freaky ratfish fed.



China: Shang or Zhou dynasty sword found in Jiangsu

A Chinese boy has made the discovery of lifetime by stumbling across a 3,000-year-old bronze sword in a river in Jiangsu Province.

Eleven-year-old Yang Junxi says he touched the rusty weapon's tip while washing his hands in the Laozhoulin River, in Gaoyou County, the state news agency Xinhua reports. After pulling it out he took it home, where it quickly became a sensation for curious locals, before the family decided to send it to officials for examination. "Some people even offered high prices to buy the sword," Junxi's father Jinhai says. "But I felt it would be illegal to sell the relic."

Archaeologists have dated the 26cm (10in) weapon to either the Shang or Zhou dynasties - the dawn of Chinese civilisation - based on its material, size and shape. Lyu Zhiwei of the Gaoyou Cultural Relics Bureau says that while the sword appears to be of both decorative and practical use, it's form suggests it was the status symbol of a civil official rather than a sword for fighting.

The authorities are now planning a major archaeological dig in the river, once part of a system of ancient waterways that developed into today's Grand Canal. Junxi and his father have been given a reward for handing in the relic.

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