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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 10:12 AM
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Domestic Drone Testing Coming to a State Near You


Testing is part of FAA plan to integrate thousands of drone into US airspace

Domestic Drone Testing Coming to a State Near You
- Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Published on Monday, December 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

Public institutions in six states have been selected to test commercial drones as part of a Federal Aviation Administration plan to integrate thousands of commercial drones into U.S. airspace, the agency announced Monday.

These testing sites will be run by publicly funded entities, including the University of Alaska, State of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, and Virginia Tech.

The FAA has already permitted approximately 300 "public organizations" to fly drones, said FAA spokesperson Alison Duquette in an interview with Common Dreams. This includes drones used by law enforcement and Customs and Border Enforcement for the purpose of aerial surveillance.

Duquette said she would not disclose the numbers of drones in U.S. airspace armed with military grade weapons or spying capabilities.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 06:16 AM (0 replies)

(ND) Fireball, Black Smoke Hit Sky as Train Carrying Crude Derails


'You can see the plume of smoke for 25 miles.'

Fireball, Black Smoke Hit Sky as Train Carrying Crude Derails
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Published on Monday, December 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

A giant fireball and huge plumes of black smoke shot into the sky on Monday afternoon when a BNSF train carrying crude oil derailed after colliding with another train near Casselton, North Dakota.

"A grain train derailed and a train carrying crude ran into it," Reuters reports Cecily Fong, public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, as saying. "Possibly up to 12 rail cars involved," Fong stated.

“There was an explosion, where a car let loose and there was a giant fireball, hundreds of feet in the air,” added Assistant Chief Gary Lorenz of the City of Fargo Fire Department, who had communicated with crew at the scene. “It’s burning very strong right now,” he said. “You can see the plume of smoke for 25 miles.”

"The sky is totally black from smoke,” Casselton homeowner Eva Fercho told WDAY News, and said that when a second explosion hit she "could almost feel the house shake."
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 06:13 AM (0 replies)

Obama’s ‘Change’ Was Just Hot Air


Never before in U.S. history have everyday Americans been so totally fleeced by corporations and the politicians the corporations have bought and paid for as in recent years.

Obama’s ‘Change’ Was Just Hot Air
Junge Welt, Germany
By Rainer Rupp
Translated By Ron Argentati
27 December 2013
Edited by Gillian Palmer

The core of the “American dream” had always been the permeability of American society. Anyone — regardless of social status — could eventually become wealthy and successful through hard work. Ten years ago, American film director Michael Moore suggested that Americans tolerated corrupt politicians and corporations because their credo was, “I don't criticize the rich because I might be rich someday, too.”

That's no longer the case. Never before in U.S. history have everyday Americans been so totally fleeced by corporations and the politicians the corporations have bought and paid for as in recent years. And never before has the outlook for so many Americans looked more bleak than today. According to numerous studies, the structures that make up U.S. society are becoming virtually impervious. A good college education isn't a guarantee of higher pay; it can't even guarantee a modestly comfortable existence. On the contrary, in most cases, education requires students from the lower socioeconomic strata to become so heavily indebted that they may spend decades repaying creditors; some may even drag their debt around with them for their entire lives.

Simultaneously, census results released this year show a horrifying imbalance in U.S. earnings and income distribution in the “land of unlimited opportunity.” The bottom 50 percent of Americans — that is, more than 180 million people — control just 1.1 percent of U.S. assets. The next group — 50 to 90 percent of the population — is made up of 144 million middle-class people who are becoming increasingly less wealthy and who currently control just 24.3 percent of the nation's assets. The third group — those in the upper tenth percentile — is comprised of 32 million higher earners who claim 40 percent of all assets and includes the super-rich upper 1 percent, who are sitting on 34.5 percent of the nation's wealth.

Income distribution in the United States today is more unjust than it is in Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen. Small wonder that 64 percent of Americans declared the “American dream” already dead and buried in a survey carried out at the beginning of December. But when two-thirds of Americans have no hope of a better life, does that also mean they will be more likely to rebel against their corrupt politicians and corporations in the future? The emergence of two anti-establishment grassroots movements opposing the current trend and the large banks — one, the so-called tea party movement, on the conservative side and the other, the socially democratic, liberal Occupy Wall Street movement (or the 99 percent against the 1 percent) — seem to indicate that rumblings at the base have already begun.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 05:55 AM (11 replies)

17% of Americans Support Afghanistan War: CNN (Video of the Day)


17% of Americans Support Afghanistan War: CNN (Video of the Day)
By Juan Cole | Dec. 31, 2013

A CNN/ ORC International poll has found that only 17% of Americans support the war in Afghanistan. That is down from 52% in 2008.

82% of Americans are against the war.

Other recent polls found that 57% of Americans think the US was wrong to go into Afghanistan in the first place, and two-thirds said that they didn’t think the war had not been worth fighting.


The war has cost at least half a trillion dollars, and more trillions will be racked up over the next 50 years for medical care for the wounded veterans (as it should be, but everyone should be aware of all the costs).
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 05:50 AM (0 replies)

(Juan Cole) Top Ten Middle East Stories 2013: How the Region has Changed


Iraqis don’t have age-old hatreds. Most of the trouble comes from the sectarian way the US ran the place.

Top Ten Middle East Stories 2013: How the Region has Changed
By Juan Cole | Dec. 31, 2013

10. Tunisia suffered the assassination of two leftist politicians, provoking demonstrations bigger than the ones that brought down the government of dictator Zine El Abidin Ben Ali in 2011. The second of these assassinations, this summer, provoked students, youth activists and the major national labor union to mount concerted demonstrations demanding that the elected government of the center-right Muslim Renaissance Party (al-Nahda) step down. Protracted negotiations among adherents of the religious Right, leftists and secularists finally led only a couple of weeks ago to the installation of technocrat Mehdi Jomaa as caretaker prime minister. He and his neutral cabinet will oversee a referendum on a new constitution, which is just about drafted, and then new elections for a four-year parliament. Just yesterday, the Ansar al-Sharia leader suspected of complicity in the assassinations was apprehended in Libya. Of all the Arab countries, Tunisians have conducted their politics with the greatest maturity and sense of compromise (although it does not look that way to Tunisians caught up in the passions of the moment). The Tunisian economy also looked up this year for the first time since the revolution, with a 2.3% growth rate, which is expected to double next year.

9. Yemen: Yemen has seen a further deterioration of security. There has been hard fighting between radical Zaidi Shiites (Huthis) and hard line Sunni fundamentalists (Salafis). Some areas of the country have seen terrorism by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and AQAP tried to assassinate the president. The Yemeni government behind the scenes continues to allow the US to carry out drone strikes on suspected al-Qaeda operatives. In mid-December one such attack seems to have gone wrong and hit a wedding convoy. There has also been a growth of demonstrations and violence by southern secessionists and federalists who want more autonomy for south Yemen (which was an independent country 1967-1991). The government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour doesn’t seem to have been terribly relevant to most of what has been going on in the country. New elections are scheduled for February but seasoned observers doubt they will take place then. Aside from intractable political divisions and some ominous extremism, Yemen faces problems in having enough water and food. A third of children are food insecure and thousands go to bed hungry.

8. Iraq: The country’s low intensity conflict heated up in 2013, leaving at least 8,000 dead in bombings and shootings. It was the worst death toll since 2008. Iraq’s security declined in part because the Syrian Civil War led to a resurgence of Sunni extremism. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria even established itself in both countries. This is not a civil war but a low-intensity guerrilla war. At the same time, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seemed determined to interpret the peaceful demonstrations against his Shiite government by Sunnis in Ramadi and Falluja as a form of terrorism. In the past few days he had a Sunni parliamentarian arrested in a violent way that left the man’s brother and possibly his sister dead. In reaction, on Monday 44 Sunni members of parliament resigned. Also on Monday, al-Maliki’s troops forcibly cleared out a protest sit-in of Sunnis in Falluja that he maintained had become infested with “al-Qaeda” and blocked traffic to Jordan. Al-Maliki’s unwillingness to run the Iraqi government in an inclusive way and to reach out to the Sunnis is responsible for some of the country’s deep division. On the other hand, Iraq now produces 10,000 MW of electricity (though demand runs to 14,000 MW), and is making arrangements to import another 500 MW from Iran, along with Iranian natural gas. Iraq is now the biggest importer of Iranian goods, taking 70% of them. The economic integration of Iraq into the regional Iranian market helps explain PM al-Maliki’s increasingly warm relations with Tehran and his support for the government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, another issue on which Iraqi Sunnis differ with him. Iraqis don’t have age-old hatreds. Most of the trouble comes from the sectarian way the US ran the place.

7. Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai was prevailed upon by Washington to call a Loya Jirga or congress of elders, who agreed to the proposal that some thousands of US troops would remain in that country after December 2012. The US military needs a Status of Forces Agreement with Afghanistan indemnifying American troops from prosecution in Afghan courts for actions undertaken in battle. The UN authorization for US troops in Afghanistan is lapsing, so a bilateral treaty is necessary. Despite having gained the assent of his hand-picked elders, Karzai quixotically announced that he would not sign a SOFA and would leave that to his successor (who will be elected beginning in April). The US was upset, saying that if they are going to get all 50,000 US troops out of the country by the end of 2014 they need a year lead time. But Karzai has refused to budge. Washington is fearful that if all foreign troops do leave at the end of next year, the Taliban will have Kabul for lunch soon thereafter.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 05:44 AM (0 replies)

Wells Fargo reaches $591 million settlement with Fannie Mae over mortgage securities


Wells Fargo reaches $591 million settlement with Fannie Mae over mortgage securities
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 30, 2013 10:47 EST

US bank Wells Fargo has reached a $591 million settlement to resolve mortgage claims with state-controlled lender Fannie Mae, the two companies announced Monday.

Fannie Mae said Wells Fargo will pay $541 million in the fourth quarter to resolve repurchase requests on certain loans originated prior to 2009, and was credited for prior repurchases.

Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest US bank by assets, said it had accrued the cost of the agreement on September 30.

The settlement resolves Fannie Mae’s claim that Wells Fargo overstated the quality of mortgage securities it sold the quasi-public mortgage finance giant in the run-up to the 2008 financial crash.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Dec 31, 2013, 05:30 AM (0 replies)

U.S. military chops up $1 million vehicles


U.S. military chops up $1 million vehicles
By David Zucchino
© December 30, 2013

BAGRAM, Afghanistan

Faced with an epidemic of deadly roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military officials ordered up a fleet of V-hulled 16-ton armored behemoths in 2007 to help protect American soldiers and Marines. At a cost of $1 million each, the ugly tan beasts known as MRAPS have saved countless lives and absorbed or deflected thousands of insurgent bomb blasts in teeming cities, desert flats and rutted mountain roadways. The lumbering vehicles are so beloved that soldiers have scrawled notes of thanks on their armor.

So why would the U.S. military suddenly start chopping up as many as 2,000 of the vehicles and selling them as scrap? After all, just six years have passed since high-tech MRAPs were developed and 27,000 of them cranked out and shipped in a $50 billion production blitz.

As it turns out, the Pentagon produced a glut of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks. The military brass has now calculated that it’s not worth the cost of shipping home damaged, worn or excess MRAPs to bases already deemed oversupplied with the blast-deflecting vehicles.

As they are “demilitarized,” many of the MRAPs are sold as scrap metal to eager Afghan buyers.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 09:23 AM (2 replies)

A textbook case of students not having enough money


A textbook case of students not having enough money
By Bill Sizemore
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 30, 2013



According to a survey, nearly one in five ODU students are attending classes without the benefit of textbooks. The reason: They can’t afford them.

It’s a sharply rising trend, Todd Johnson, assistant vice president for auxiliary services, told the board.

Along with escalating tuition and fees, accelerating textbook prices are a key reason why a college education is becoming less and less affordable – not just at ODU, but across the nation.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that college textbook prices soared 82 percent over the past decade – almost as much as tuition and nearly three times the overall rate of inflation.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 09:20 AM (3 replies)

U.S. nuclear missiles a force in much distress


U.S. nuclear missiles a force in much distress
Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013 4:30 am
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of nuclear missiles that stood war-ready for decades in underground silos along remote stretches of America, silent and unseen, packed with almost unimaginable destructive power, are a force in distress, if not in decline.

They are still a fearsome superpower symbol, primed to unleash nuclear hell on a moment’s notice at any hour of any day, capable of obliterating people and places halfway around the globe if a president so orders.

But the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles is dwindling, their future defense role is in doubt, and missteps and leadership lapses documented by The Associated Press this year raised questions about how the force is managed.

The AP revealed one missile officer’s lament of “rot” inside the force, and an independent assessment for the Air Force found signs of “burnout” among missile launch crews.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 09:10 AM (0 replies)

AP IMPACT: The world braces for retirement crisis


AP IMPACT: The world braces for retirement crisis
Updated: December 30, 2013 at 7:01 am • Published: December 30, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages.

Spawned years before the Great Recession and the financial meltdown in 2008, the crisis was significantly worsened by those twin traumas. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching.

Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65 — to 70 or even longer. Living standards will fall, and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people's rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can't afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents.

The problems are emerging as the generation born after World War II moves into retirement.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 09:06 AM (4 replies)
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