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unhappycamper's Journal
unhappycamper's Journal
December 31, 2013

Army seeks greater Pacific role, creating a turf battle


Army seeks greater Pacific role, creating a turf battle
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
The Washington Post
© December 31, 2013


Approaching from the Hawaii coast, the mosquito-shaped helicopter buzzed around this guided missile cruiser twice before swooping toward the landing pad. The Navy crew on the deck crouched, the helmeted faces betraying more than routine concern as the aircraft, flown by a pilot who had never before alighted upon a ship, hovered a foot off the tarmac and then set down with a thud.

The sailors' trepidation was prompted by three words painted in black block letters on the drab olive fuselage: United States Army.

The Army, which fights on terra firma, does not usually land its helicopters on ships — the domain of the Navy and the Marine Corps — but these are not usual times in the U.S. military. As the Obama administration winds down the Army-centric war in Afghanistan, Pentagon leaders are seeking to place the Air Force, Navy and Marines in dominant roles to counter threats in the Asia-Pacific region, which they have deemed to be the nation's next big national security challenge.

Fearful that the new strategy will cut its share of the defense budget, the Army is launching an ambitious campaign to transform itself and assert its relevance in the Pacific. And that, in turn, is drawing the Army into a fight.
December 31, 2013

Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end


FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2013 file photo, House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty _ once again _ for millions of individuals and businesses. The annual practice of letting these tax breaks expire is a symptom a divided, dysfunctional Congress that struggles to pass routine legislation, said Lewis, a senior Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. “It’s not fair, it’s very hard, it’s very difficult for a business person, a company, to plan, not just for the short term but to do long-term planning,” Lewis said. “It’s shameful.”

Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end
Associated Press
December 30, 2013 Updated 38 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty — once again — for millions of individuals and businesses.

Lawmakers let these tax breaks lapse almost every year, even though they save businesses and individuals billions of dollars. And almost every year, Congress eventually renews them, retroactively, so taxpayers can claim them by the time they file their tax returns.

No harm, no foul, right? After all, taxpayers filing returns in the spring won't be hurt because the tax breaks were in effect for 2013. Taxpayers won't be hit until 2015, when they file tax returns for next year.

Not so far. Trade groups and tax experts complain that Congress is making it impossible for businesses and individuals to plan for the future. What if lawmakers don't renew the tax break you depend on? Or what if they change it and you're no longer eligible?
December 31, 2013

Billion-Dollar-a-Year Program to Deceive Public About Global Warming Is Exposed


Billion-Dollar-a-Year Program to Deceive Public About Global Warming Is Exposed
General News 12/30/2013 at 06:14:23
By Eric Zuesse

A December 2013 academic article has documented how billionaires have made suckers of millions of people, to cause them to believe that global warming is a mere hoax, and to think that the oil companies' line on this matter is honest.

This research, by Robert J. Brulle, was published in a leading climatological journal, Climate Change, and it reports that a small number of aristocrats have collectively spent, on average, a billion dollars a year, in order to fool the American public into thinking that climate change isn't happening, and that, even if it is, it's not caused by burning fossil fuels. These aristocrats control fossil fuels corporations, such as Koch Industries, and ExxonMobil, but their money for this mass-deception campaign is laundered through far-right-wing foundations they control, to think-tanks they control, which, in turn, buy professors to provide "authority" for these distortions and outright lies. That is why the reality (a graphical presentation of which can be seen at places such as this ), though acknowledged by virtually all climatologists, is rejected, just disbelieved, by much of the public.

Listed in order, with the largest listed first, the nine foundations that account for half of this total billion-dollar-a-year expenditure, are: Donors Trust, Scaife, Bradley, Koch, Howard, Pope, Searle, Dunn's, and Richardson. Their money is then further laundered, through the following eleven think-tanks, listed here also largest-first, which collectively account for a full two-thirds of this total billion-dollar-a-year propaganda campaign: American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, Manhattan Institute, Cato Institute, Hudson Institute, Atlas Economic Research, Americans for Prosperity, John Locke Foundation, Heartland Institute, and Reason Foundation.

They, in turn, pay professors and journalists to write, both for the "news media," and for professional journals, to debunk or (in the scholarly publications) to raise questions about, global warming or its cause -- questions that are no longer even questions among actual climate scientists.


And the report cited in this article:

Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations
December 31, 2013

Special Report: Japan's homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up


Special Report: Japan's homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up
By Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski
SENDAI, Japan Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:22am EST

(Reuters) - Seiji Sasa hits the train station in this northern Japanese city before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men.

He isn't a social worker. He's a recruiter. The men in Sendai Station are potential laborers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan's nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head.

"This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day," Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.

It's also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.
December 31, 2013

Holiday in Austerity Land: 1.3 Million Americans Lose Jobless Benefits


Holiday in Austerity Land: 1.3 Million Americans Lose Jobless Benefits
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/29/2013 at 22:41:52
By John Nichols
Source: The Nation

When it was initially discussed as a rude repercussion of a bungled budget deal, the prospect that 1.3 million Americans would lose long-term unemployment benefits just days after Christmas was bad enough.

Now that the day has come, however, it stands as a stark reminder of the extent to which the United States has regressed from the days when Franklin Delano Roosevelt greeted the holiday season with a celebration of the fact that "today neighborliness no longer can be confined to one's little neighborhood. Life has become too complex for that. In our country neighborliness has gradually spread its boundaries -- from town, to county, to State and now at last to the whole Nation."

Imagine a country that during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day abandons those hit hardest by economic turbulence, and you have a sense of what the United States has become under the cruel hand not just of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan -- who refused to agree to any budget deal that included an extension of benefits -- and those members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, who compromised with the failed Republican vice presidential candidate's austerity agenda.

Because Congress accepted Ryan's crude calculus, 1.3 million jobless Americans were abandoned on December 28 by a government that could, and should, have assisted them. And if Ryan continues to get his way, unemployment benefits will end in coming months for an additional 1.9 million Americans.

December 31, 2013

Interview With Pussy Riot Member: 'I Want Justice'


Pussy Riot activist Nadezhda Tolokonnikova talks about her plans following her release from prison, what she has in common with former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and her five-year-old daughter's drawings.

Interview With Pussy Riot Member: 'I Want Justice'
Interview Conducted By Matthias Schepp
December 30, 2013 – 03:21 PM

SPIEGEL: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, how do you feel after your return from prison in Siberia?

Tolokonnikova: It isn't easy to return to reality after being disconnected from it for two years. And to be honest, I feel a burden of responsibility to those who are still in prison, as well as those who have supported Pussy Riot and me in this difficult situation. Since I was released from prison on Monday of last week, I've only been able to sleep two or three hours a night. Now is the time to given something back to those who believed in me. Perhaps I'll make mistakes in the process. I think I'll need help along this path from people who think in political terms and aren't indifferent to everything.

SPIEGEL: What was everyday life like when you were in prison?

Tolokonnikova: I spent most of the time at a penal colony in Mordovia. This is what my day was like there: Wake up at 5:45 a.m., 12 minutes of early-morning exercise, followed by breakfast and forced labor as a seamstress. Being allowed to go to the bathroom or smoke a cigarette depended on the guards' mood. Lunch was greasy and of poor quality. The workday ended at 7 p.m., when there was roll call in the prison yard. After that, we were sometimes required to shovel snow or do other cleanup work. Then we waited in line to wash up a little, and finally we went to bed.
December 31, 2013

NSA's Secret Toolbox: Unit Offers Spy Gadgets for Every Need


The NSA has a secret unit that produces special equipment ranging from spyware for computers and cell phones to listening posts and USB sticks that work as bugging devices. Here are some excerpts from the intelligence agency's own catalog.

NSA's Secret Toolbox: Unit Offers Spy Gadgets for Every Need
December 30, 2013 – 03:51 PM

When agents with the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division want to infiltrate a network or a computer, they turn to their technical experts. This particular unit of the United States intelligence service is known internally as ANT. The acronym presumably stands for Advanced Network Technology, because that's what the division produces -- tools for penetrating network equipment and monitoring mobile phones and computers. ANT's products help TAO agents infiltrate networks and divert or even modify data wherever the NSA's usual methods won't suffice. You can read more about the TAO division, its strengths and tricks in a SPIEGEL feature that was published in English on Sunday.

SPIEGEL has obtained an internal NSA catalog describing ANT's various products, along with their prices. A rigged monitor cable, for example, which allows "TAO personnel to see what is displayed on the targeted monitor," goes for $30 (€22). An "active GSM base station" that makes it possible to mimic the cell phone tower of a target network and thus monitor mobile phones, is available for $40,000. Computer bugging devices disguised as normal USB plugs, capable of sending and receiving data undetected via radio link, are available in packs of 50, for over $1 million.

Intelligence agencies, incidentally, are not the only ones using these types of devices. The same kind of modified USB plug played a role, for example, in a recent high-tech drug-smuggling case uncovered at the port of Antwerp, Belgium.

Spying on Allies

It has become clear that the ANT arsenal isn't used exclusively to track suspected terrorists. GSM base stations, for example, make it possible to monitor mobile phones, such as that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Radar systems such as the one known as "DROPMIRE" have also been used to spy on allies, for example EU representatives in Washington. And the hardware "implants" found in the ANT catalog evidently have been used, for example, to tap encrypted faxes.
December 31, 2013

(Ted Rall) Cartoon for December 30, 2013: Studied the Constitution. Didnít Like It.


Cartoon for December 30, 2013: Studied the Constitution. Didn’t Like It.
by Ted Rall | December 30, 2013 - 8:50am

While Americans were distracted over Christmas, Congress and Obama quietly passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which beefs up the President’s right to put anyone, including US citizens, on a Kill List or hold them indefinitely without trial or representation by a lawyer. There’s even a new unit to funnel NSA spy data to the Pentagon so it can target US citizens.

December 31, 2013

Afghan Street Children Beg for Change


The author with Safar, an Afghan “street child.”

Afghan Street Children Beg for Change
by Kathy Kelly
Published on Monday, December 30, 2013 by Common Dreams


And so this morning seven street children filed into the APV home. None of them wore socks and all were shivering. Their eyes were gleaming as they nodded their heads, assuring us that they want to join APV’s street kids program.

Here in Kabul, a city relatively better off than most places in Afghanistan, we have electricity every other day. When the pipes freeze and there’s no electricity, we have no water. Imagine the hardships endured by people living with far less. Even in the United States, thousands of children’s basic needs aren’t met. The New York Times recently reported that there are 22,000 homeless children living in New York City.

Thinking of how the U.S. has used its resources here in Afghanistan, where more than a trillion has been spent on maintaining war and occupation, I feel deep shame. In 2014, the U.S. will spend 2.1 million dollars for every U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Convoys travel constantly between US military bases, transporting large amounts of fuel, food and clean water—luxury items to people living in refugee camps along their routes—often paying transportation tolls to corrupt officials, some of whom are known to head up criminal gangs.

While the U.S. lacks funds to guarantee basic human rights for hundreds of thousands of U.S. children, and while U.S. wars displace and destroy families in Afghanistan, the U.S. consistently meets the needs of weapon makers and war profiteers.
December 31, 2013

The Volgograd Bombs Are a Warning over Olympic Excess


The blast site of the trolleybus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, where at least 14 people were killed and dozens injured.

The Volgograd Bombs Are a Warning over Olympic Excess
by Simon Jenkins
Published on Monday, December 30, 2013 by The Guardian

The bomb blasts in the southern Russian city of Volgograd remind us that modern Olympiads are nationalist stunts first, and sports events second. Each one is more expensive and more politicised than the last, therefore becoming a magnet for enemies of the relevant state.

Vladimir Putin's February winter games in Sochi have already matched Beijing 2008 in the enormity of their cost. The transformation of the site on the Black Sea has run to a reported $50bn (£30bn), which makes London's £9bn extravaganza seem a bargain. One contract for $7.4bn went to a personal associate of the president. The cost of these essentially trivial events would shame the Emperor Nero.

The Sochi games are a shameless promotion of Putin's Russia. He himself received the sacred flame in Moscow's Red Square as if Ivan the Terrible were receiving a relic of the holy cross. It has been dispatched to the north pole and to outer space. A giant stadium is being constructed for just the few hours of opening and closing ceremonies.

Athletic elitism, the glorification of the human body, has succeeded religion as Marx's opium of the people. Yet they are increasingly congregations of governments and their agents. And the more chauvinist their staging, the more inevitably they attract dark forces of protest and terror. Rio de Janeiro, home to both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, has led ordinary Brazilians to revolt at the appalling cost. Sochi, close to Russia's enemies in the Caucasus, is a sitting target for those eager to rain on Putin's parade.

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