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Member since: Fri Nov 12, 2004, 07:39 AM
Number of posts: 44,181

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Members of Congress Denied Access to Basic Information About NSA

Source: Guardian

Members of Congress denied access to basic information about NSA

Documents provided by two House members demonstrate how they are blocked from exercising any oversight over domestic surveillance

Glenn Greenwald

theguardian.com, Sunday 4 August 2013 08.26 EDT

Members of Congress have been repeatedly thwarted when attempting to learn basic information about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the secret FISA court which authorizes its activities, documents provided by two House members demonstrate.

- snip -

But members of Congress, including those in Obama's party, have flatly denied knowing about them. On MSNBC on Wednesday night, Sen. Mark Blumenthal (D-Ct) was asked by host Chris Hayes: "How much are you learning about what the government that you are charged with overseeing and holding accountable is doing from the newspaper and how much of this do you know?" The Senator's reply:

- snip -

But it is not merely that members of Congress are unaware of the very existence of these programs, let alone their capabilities. Beyond that, members who seek out basic information - including about NSA programs they are required to vote on and FISA court (FISC) rulings on the legality of those programs - find that they are unable to obtain it.

Two House members, GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, have provided the Guardian with numerous letters and emails documenting their persistent, and unsuccessful, efforts to learn about NSA programs and relevant FISA court rulings.

"If I can't get basic information about these programs, then I'm not able to do my job", Rep. Griffith told me. A practicing lawyer before being elected to Congress, he said that his job includes "making decisions about whether these programs should be funded, but also an oath to safeguard the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which includes the Fourth Amendment."

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/04/congress-nsa-denied-access

Clooney Slams Hedge Funders: ‘They Get Bailed Out’ But ‘Nobody Gets Fired’


Clooney slams hedge funders: ‘They get bailed out’ but ‘nobody gets fired’

By David Ferguson
Saturday, August 3, 2013 21:57 EDT

In an interview published Friday with Mike Fleming Jr. of Yahoo! Movies, actor George Clooney took a swipe at hedge funds, saying that the multi-billion dollar investment groups often ruin businesses with their obsession with the bottom line. Then they get bailed out by the government and are never held accountable.

The interview mainly centered around Clooney’s beef with hedge fund manager and so-called “activist investor” Daniel Loeb. Loeb is aggressively buying stock at Sony, but after the less than stellar summer Sony Entertainment has had — major films “After Earth” and “White House Down” did poorly at the box office — Loeb has started agitating for Sony to spin off its entertainment division.

- snip -

The film industry, Clooney said, “is run by people who understand that the movie business ebbs and flows and the good news is they are ignoring his calls to spin off the entertainment assets. How any hedge fund guy can call for responsibility is beyond me, because if you look at those guys, there is no conscience at work.”

- snip -

“To have this guy portraying it that Sony management is the bad stepchild and doesn’t know what it is doing and he’s going to fix it?” he said. “That is like Walmart saying, let me fix your town, putting in their store, strangling all the small shops and getting everyone who worked in them to work for minimum wage with no health insurance."

“Hedge fund guys do not create jobs, and we do,” said the actor, director and producer. “On the movie we just made, we put 300 people to work every day. I’m talking about nice, regular people, and when we shot in a town, we’d put another 300 people to work. This is an industry that thrives; there are thousands of workers who make films. You want to see what happens if outside forces start to scare the industry and studios just make tent poles out of fear? You will see a lot of crap coming out.”

Hottest Temperatures in 140 Years Hurting Production in (Shanghai) China

Source: Bloomberg

@BloombergNews: Hottest temperatures in 140 years hurting production in China | http://t.co/C7ZvHSNhM9

Shanghai Heat Wave Affects Production at Baosteel to Ford

By Bloomberg News
August 02, 2013 2:11 AM EDT

A record heat wave in Shanghai is hurting traffic at some auto dealerships, cutting client visits at brokerages and forcing utilities to delay increases in water prices as the government takes steps to help residents endure the hottest temperatures in 140 years.

At least 11 people have died from heatstroke since the mercury started to soar last month, the Shanghai Daily reported yesterday, citing local authorities. On July 26, the thermometer reading jumped to 40.6 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit), the highest since record-keeping began in 1873, the city’s weather bureau said.

“The hot weather has affected the number of customers visiting our dealership,” said Chen Yan’er, general manager of a Ford dealership. “It’s worse during the weekdays, with a noticeable 15-20 percent drop in people coming in.”

A slump in consumption would come at a bad time for Shanghai, which has become increasingly reliant on services for growth. The city’s economy expanded 7.7 percent in the first half of the year as growth in its service industries enabled China’s commercial hub to outpace the national average.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-02/shanghai-s-heat-wave-affects-baosteel-to-ford-as-locals-wither.html

U.S. Says Will Give Equal Treatment to Visas From Gay Spouses

Source: Reuters

@Reuters: RT @ReutersUS: U.S. will treat visa applications from same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples' applications: Secretary of State K.

U.S. says will give equal treatment to visas from gay spouses

Fri Aug 2, 2013 9:52am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States will immediately begin considering visa applications of gay and lesbian spouses in the same manner as heterosexual couples, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday.

Kerry made the announcement at the U.S. Embassy in London.

"When same-sex couples apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it considers the application of opposite sex spouses," Kerry said shortly after his arrival in London.

"If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are in a country that doesn't recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world," he added.

The move comes after the Obama administration urged all U.S. agencies to review their polices after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a key part of the federal law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE9710NT20130802

Iraq Body Count Issues Statement on Manning Trial


When victimless crimes matter and victims don't: the trial of Bradley Manning

by Josh Dougherty
2 August 2013

On October 22, 2010, the group WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs, a series of nearly 400,000 classified military records, also known as "SIGACTs". These documents have remained publicly available on the internet in various forms since the original release, and IBC has been working since then to carefully integrate them into our database. As of today, more than 4,000 civilian deaths have been added to the IBC database derived exclusively from these records, and roughly 10,000 more are likely to be added as the work continues.1

- snip -

On July 30, 2013, Manning was found guilty of 20 charges by a military court for his release of the documents, including those pertaining to the Iraq war. The court acquitted him of the most extreme allegation of "aiding the enemy", but he now faces a possible maximum sentence of 136 years, essentially a life behind bars for exposing important truths, including war crimes and human rights violations, to the public.

By contrast, former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who started a war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 that has led to the deaths of over 125,000 civilians, 4,486 US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi and other fighters on all sides, face living the rest of their lives in freedom as multi-millionaires.

Likewise, all upper-level US government officials who presided over the bloodbath that was the US occupation of Iraq, including the years of 2004-2009 covered in the documents exposed by Manning, will face no punishment of any kind.

Some lower-level US troops have faced punishment for some specific actions, but this has been quite rare and the punishments have typically been relatively light even where they were sought.

For example, the US Marines involved in one of the most notorious massacres of civilians in Iraq by US forces, in Haditha in November 2005,3 faced virtually no legal consequences. One Marine was convicted of a minor offense for which he served no jail time, and the rest have all been acquitted or had all charges dropped and will live the rest of their lives in freedom.4

The helicopter pilots who gunned down at least ten civilians, including two Reuters journalists and a father of two children who stopped to try to help the wounded, as documented in the "Collateral Murder" video exposed by Bradley Manning, face no punishment of any kind.

- snip -

It would seem apparent that the US government has a rather lenient approach to prosecution of its own soldiers, who are rarely charged, even more rarely convicted and typically receive relatively light sentences for even very serious offenses. And lenient is too strong a word for the treatment of upper-level military or civilian government officials, who essentially enjoy total immunity from prosecution for anything related to the Iraq war.

Now contrast this to the prosecution faced by Bradley Manning. No soldier or official involved in the Iraq war has faced the level of vindictive punishment that US prosecutors have sought to impose on Bradley Manning. Indeed, it appears that, as far as the US government is concerned, torture, murder, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes are much lesser transgressions than is exposing them to the public without the government's permission.

- snip -

These and thousands of others like them are known to the world today only because Bradley Manning could no longer in good conscience collude with an official policy of the Bush and Obama administrations to abuse secrecy and "national security" to erase them from history. If Manning deserves any punishment at all for this, certainly his three years already served, and the disgraceful abuse he was made to suffer during it, is more than enough.


Bureau of Investigative Journalism: Fresh Evidence of CIA Drone Strikes on Rescuers ('Double-Tap')


Bureau investigation finds fresh evidence of CIA drone strikes on rescuers

August 1st, 2013 | by Chris Woods | Published in All Stories, Covert Drone War, Drone strikes in Pakistan

A field investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Pakistan’s tribal areas appears to confirm that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) last year briefly revived the controversial tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers at the scene of a previous drone strike. The tactic has previously been labelled a possible war crime by two UN investigators.

- snip -

The Bureau’s field researcher found five double-tap strikes took place in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque
Congressional aides have previously been reported as describing to the Los Angeles Times reviewing a CIA video showing Yahya al-Libi alone being killed. But the Bureau’s field research appears to confirm what others reported at the time – that al-Libi’s death was part of a sequence of strikes on the same location that killed up to 16 people.

If correct, that would indicate that Congressional aides were not shown crucial additional video material.

- snip -

The Bureau first broke the story of the CIA’s deliberate targeting of rescuers in a February 2012 investigation for the Sunday Times. It found evidence of 11 attacks on rescuers - so-called ‘double-tap’ strikes – in Pakistan’s tribal areas between 2009 and 2011, along with a drone strike deliberately targeting a funeral, causing mass casualties.

Reports of these controversial tactics ended by July 2011. But credible news reports emerged a year later indicating that double-tap strikes had been revived.


Exclusive: NSA Pays £100m in Secret Funding for GCHQ ('wants to "exploit any phone, anywhere..."')

Source: Guardian

Thursday 1 August 2013 11.04 EDT

Exclusive: NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ

• Secret payments revealed in leaks by Edward Snowden
• GCHQ expected to 'pull its weight' for Americans
• Weaker regulation of British spies 'a selling point' for NSA

The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain's intelligence gathering programmes.

- snip -

Snowden warned about the relationship between the NSA and GCHQ, saying the organisations have been jointly responsible for developing techniques that allow the mass harvesting and analysis of internet traffic. "It's not just a US problem," he said. "They are worse than the US."

As well as the payments, the documents seen by the Guardian reveal:

• GCHQ is pouring money into efforts to gather personal information from mobile phones and apps, and has said it wants to be able to "exploit any phone, anywhere, any time".

• Some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive programme expressed concern about "the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved".

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/01/nsa-paid-gchq-spying-edward-snowden

Standard & Poor's 500 Index Surpasses 1,700 Points for First Time

Source: Associated Press

@AP: BREAKING: Standard & Poor's 500 index surpasses 1,700 points for the first time. -MM


Read more: Link to source

Breaking: Jobless Claims in U.S. Decline to Lowest Level in Five Years

Source: Bloomberg

Jobless Claims in U.S. Decline to Lowest Level in Five Years
By Lorraine Woellert
August 01, 2013 8:30 AM EDT

Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped to the lowest level in more than five years, extending swings typical for the month of July.

Applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 19,000 to 326,000 in the week ended July 27, the fewest since January 2008, from a revised 345,000 the prior week, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 345,000. A government analyst said no states were estimated, and the data were still being influenced by the auto plant shutdowns that play havoc with the figures at this time of year.

Businesses have been operating with tight workforces as they wait for signs of a sustained pickup in consumer demand. A slowdown in firings might signal that employers are becoming more confident in the recovery and preparing to grow payrolls, which would encourage household spending, the biggest part of the economy.

“The labor market is still improving,” Aneta Markowska, chief U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, said before the report. ”It underscores the resiliency of this economy and the underlying momentum in the private sector.”
Claims estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 333,000 to 365,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure to 345,000 from an initially reported 343,000.

Read more: http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-01/jobless-claims-in-u-s-decline-to-lowest-level-in-five-years.html

Henry Blodget: "This One Tweet Reveals What's Wrong With American Business Culture And The Economy"


This One Tweet Reveals What's Wrong With American Business Culture And The Economy

HENRY BLODGET JUL. 31, 2013, 12:18 PM 25,681 181

- snip -

A sharp drop in government spending this year is, in fact, temporarily hurting economic growth, but that's not the real problem.

The real problem is that American corporations, which are richer and more profitable than they have ever been in history, have become so obsessed with "maximizing short-term profits" that they are no longer investing in their future, their people, and the country.

This short-term corporate greed can be seen in many aspects of corporate behavior, from scrimping on investment to obsessing about quarterly earnings to fretting about daily fluctuations in stock prices. But it is most visible in the general cultural attitude toward average employees.

Employees are human beings. They are people who devote their days to creating value for two other groups of people: customers and shareholders. And, in return, at least in theory, they are people who share in the rewards of the value created by their team.

In theory.

In practice, American business culture has become so obsessed with maximizing short-term profits that employees aren't regarded as people who are members of a team.

- snip -

This view of employees was expressed succinctly yesterday by a Twitter user named Daryl Tremblay, who was appalled by the suggestion that McDonald's should increase the wages of its restaurant workers and pay for this by making a bit less money. (I was arguing that McDonald's employees should not be treated as "costs," but instead as valuable members of a successful team who shouldn't have to work that hard and still live in poverty.)

Here was Daryl's response:

They are costs. Full Stop. They don't have a stake, they hold nothing. They trade their labor for money.

— Daryl Tremblay (@DarylT) July 30, 2013

Now, Daryl is hardly alone in this view. Most senior managers and owners of big American corporations think this way these days. They regard the human beings they work with — the human beings who create the value that pays their salaries — as "costs" to be reduced to create "maximized earnings." Because "maximized earnings," it is now frequently said, is the only thing that any business owner or manager should care about.

Whenever you suggest to folks like Daryl that it doesn't have to be this way, that some companies can and do balance the interests of shareholders with the interests of customers and employees — and, in so doing, create a symbiotic relationship that supports all of these constituencies — folks like Daryl call you a "socialist."

- snip -

It doesn't have to be this way.

There is no capitalist law that says companies have to view employees as "costs" and pay them as little as possible.

- snip -

If American corporations were struggling to earn money these days, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But they aren't.


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