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unhappycamper's Journal
unhappycamper's Journal
December 26, 2013

Santa's sleigh delayed after snags at UPS, FedEx


Santa's sleigh delayed after snags at UPS, FedEx
AP Business Writer
December 25, 2013 Updated 1 hour ago

NEW YORK — Santa's sleigh didn't make it in time for Christmas for some this year due to shipping problems at UPS and FedEx.

The delays were blamed on poor weather earlier this week in parts of the country as well as overloaded systems. The holiday shopping period this year was shorter than usual, more buying was done online and Americans' tendency to wait until the last possible second to shop probably didn't help either.

Neither company said how many packages were delayed but noted it was a small share of overall holiday shipments. While the bulk of consumers' holiday spending remains at physical stores, shopping online is increasingly popular and outstripping spending growth in stores at the mall.

The problems appear to have affected many parts of the country. The Associated Press spoke to people in Alabama, California, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia who didn't receive presents in time for Christmas.

unhappycamper comment: "The holiday shopping period this year was shorter than usual. . ." Really? The Christmas shopping season started before Thanksgiving in Boston.
December 26, 2013

What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters the Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About


A look back at some of the fossil fuel disasters that made headlines in 2013, along with several others that went largely unnoticed.

What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters the Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About
By Emily Atkin
December 18, 2013

While coal, oil, and gas are an integral part of everyday life around the world, 2013 brought a stark reminder of the inherent risk that comes with a fossil-fuel dependent world, with numerous pipeline spills, explosions, derailments, landslides, and the death of 20 coal miners in the U.S. alone.

Despite all this, our addiction to fossil fuels will be a tough habit to break. The federal Energy Information Administration in July projected that fossil fuel use will soar across the world in the come decades. Coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon emissions — is projected to increase by 2.3 percent in coming years. And in December, the EIA said that global demand for oil would be even higher than it had projected, for both this year and next.

Here is a look back at some of the fossil fuel disasters that made headlines in 2013, along with several others that went largely unnoticed.

March 29: An ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian Wabasca heavy crude from the Athabasca oil sands ruptures and spills thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower, Arkansas. The ruptured pipeline gushed 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude into a residential street and forced the evacuation of 22 homes. Exxon was hit with a paltry $2.6 million fine by federal pipeline safety regulators for the incident in November — just 1/3000th of its third quarter profits.
December 26, 2013

Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns


Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns
Fri, 2013-12-20 09:45
Steve Horn

What's the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen's Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called "The Sound of Silence" in their famous song.

DeSmogBlog contacted more than three dozen members of the U.S. Congress representing both political parties to get their take on Public Citizen's alarming findings in its November investigation (including dents, metal that had to be patched up and pipeline segments labeled "junk&quot , but got little in the way of substantive responses.

Set to open for business on January 22, approved via an Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012 and rebranded the "Gulf Coast Pipeline Project" by TransCanada, the southern half of the pipeline has garnered far less media coverage than its U.S.-Canada border-crossing brother to the north, Keystone XL's northern half.

Over two dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter to President Obama on December 12 expressing concern over the conflicts-of-interest in the U.S. State Department's environmental review process for the northern half of the line.
December 26, 2013

US Court: Military's Prisoners in Afghanistan Have No Rights


In Christmas Eve ruling, judges say U.S. Constitution does not apply to notorious Bagram prison

US Court: Military's Prisoners in Afghanistan Have No Rights
- Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Published on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

In a Christmas Eve ruling that passed with little fanfare, three U.S. Appeals Court Judges gave their legal stamp of approval to indefinite detentions without trial for prisoners of the U.S. military in occupied Afghanistan.

In a 44-page decision, penned by George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Karen Henderson, the habeas corpus petitions filed by five captives at Afghanistan's infamous Bagram military prison—known to some as the "Other Guantanamo"—were rejected.

The petitions were invoking the men's rights to challenge unlawful detention—rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court for Guantanamo Bay inmates (though not fully implemented in practice).

The ruling claimed there are "significant differences between Bagram and Guantanamo" because "our forces at Bagram... are actively engaged in a war with a determined enemy."
December 26, 2013

Provocations at Sea: US Must Bear Cost of Any Mishap


Just think for a moment on how the U.S. would react if Chinese warships tailed and monitored a U.S. carrier group in the Gulf of Mexico. Would they simply ignore it?

Provocations at Sea: US Must Bear Cost of Any Mishap
Wen Wei Po, Hong Kong
Translated By Nathan Hsu
17 December 2013
Edited by Phillip Shannon

Early this month, U.S. and Chinese warships nearly collided during a confrontation in the South China Sea. The encroachment of a U.S. naval vessel into the “inner defense layer” of a Chinese carrier group, as well as its interference in normal exercises conducted by [the Chinese] military, are provocations of an extremely inimical nature. China's power grows daily, and if a collision similar to the Hainan Island incident of over a decade ago occurs once more, the U.S. will have to bear the entire cost. Both the U.S. and China wish to build a new type of relationship between great powers, and both nations must accordingly deepen strategic cooperation, increase strategic trust and do their best to avoid friction.

The Chinese carrier group was en route to conduct military exercises in the South China Sea, and the international community had long since been informed of the area delineated for the operation. Under normal circumstances and with consideration for their own navigational safety, other nations' ships would not knowingly enter those waters. Even if they did enter, they would be required to steer clear of the course set by China's capital ship, as stipulated by international charters. Furthermore, despite the exercises being located on China's doorstep, the U.S. ship ignored Chinese warnings and brashly cut through and shadowed the Chinese column, on multiple occasions obstructing and harassing [the Chinese] ships. This was a blatant provocation that constituted a threat to the carrier group, and China's adoption of a measured response was well within the bounds of legality and reason. Just think for a moment on how the U.S. would react if Chinese warships tailed and monitored a U.S. carrier group in the Gulf of Mexico. Would they simply ignore it?

The fact is that U.S. warships and planes frequently hound Chinese military movements. This conduct is extremely disrespectful to China, infringes upon its rights and may trigger conflict in the future. The most apt example is the 2001 Hainan Island incident, in which two planes collided. Over a decade has passed since then. China's strength as a nation has grown immensely, and its military is striving to take the lead. In recent years, the U.S. has slumped into economic atrophy, and the sum of its power has waned while China's has risen. China now has even more strength to safeguard its dignity and interests.

The East and South China Seas are both sensitive regions that have a significant bearing on China's territorial sovereignty. Chinese naval activity in these regions is a statement and a powerful signal that China will defend its core interests. China has no desire to see other nations parading around on its doorstep. If the U.S. misreads the situation and persists in engaging in provocative behavior, the gravity of any mishap will far exceed that of the Hainan Island incident and come as a severe blow to U.S.-China relations. This can have no positive effect on amity between the two or, on a wider scope, global peace and stability. The U.S. will be the one that will bear the responsibility and the consequences.
December 26, 2013

Japanese PM Abe paves the way for relocated U.S. base on Okinawa


Japanese PM Abe paves the way for relocated U.S. base on Okinawa
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, December 25, 2013 16:31 EST

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks set to win approval from Okinawa this week for the long-stalled relocation of a US military base after a meeting Wednesday with the island’s pugnacious governor.

A deal with Okinawa would end a long-running dispute that has been a source of friction with Washington and also mark a significant achievement for Abe, who has sought closer US ties amid a simmering territorial row with China.

Abe pledged an unheralded cash bonanza for the archipelago, in the form of stimulus spending that commentators say could help persuade governor Hirokazu Nakaima to drop his longstanding opposition to construction of a new airbase.

“You presented surprisingly impressive proposals. I express my heartfelt appreciation as the representative of Okinawa’s 1.4 million people,” the governor told Abe.

December 26, 2013

Snowden’s Christmas Message on Privacy: Does NSA threaten 9th, 14th Amendments, ‘Inviolate Personal


Snowden’s Christmas Message on Privacy: Does NSA threaten 9th, 14th Amendments, ‘Inviolate Personality’?
By Juan Cole | Dec. 26, 2013

Edward Snowden’s Christmas address, carried by the British Channel 4, concentrated on the disappearance of privacy. He said that a child born today might “never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought.” People walk around with a tracking device in their pockets, he noted, and as we now know, the NSA is collecting the metadata of those phones, which includes location information. He said that this disappearance of privacy is important because privacy “is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”

In focusing on privacy, Snowden is widening the issue merely from the 4th Amendment prohibition on unreasonable government searches of private papers and effects. This amendment was the basis for a recent Supreme Court ruling and a lower court ruling forbidding law enforcement from using GPS tracking without a warrant. The courts construed following someone around 24/7 as a “search” because such intensive monitoring of a person’s movements goes beyond just glimpsing the individual in public. NSA collection of metadata from cell phones inevitably involves tracking individuals just as a GPS device would.

But there are other places in the constitution and in the history of court rulings that prescribe privacy for individuals from government intrusion. In fact, although “privacy” is not mentioned in the US constitution, the Supreme Court found in Connecticut v. Griswold that American citizens had a constitutional right to use birth control and that the state could not arbitrarily come into the bedroom and prohibit it. Some of the justices referred to the 9th Amendment, which says “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” That is, the government can’t just wake up in the morning and decide to constrain people’s private behavior. Not only are they protected from specific violations of their rights (attempts to curb speech, the press, religious belief or peaceable assembly) but they are protected in general as a free people from government intrusions.

Snowden is not a legal scholar but he has obviously thought deeply about privacy, and it seems to me he is warning that National Security Administration surveillance of millions of innocent Americans is violating their right to privacy and therefore violating the ninth amendment.
December 25, 2013

U.S. nuclear missiles are a force in much distress


U.S. nuclear missiles are a force in much distress
By Robert Burns
The Associated Press
© December 24, 2013


The hundreds of nuclear missiles that have 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, or ICBMs, is dwindling, their future defense role is in doubt, and missteps and leadership lapses documented by The Associated Press this year have 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.
December 25, 2013

Congress skeptical of new Pentagon spy agency


Congress skeptical of new Pentagon spy agency
Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 4:30 am
By Ken Dilanian | Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Congress is giving only halfhearted support to a Pentagon effort to broaden military espionage operations beyond war zones.

The Pentagon created the Defense Clandestine Service in April 2012 to recruit sources and steal secrets around the globe, just as the CIA does. The new service relies on several hundred operatives from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s main source of human intelligence and analysis.

But senior defense officials failed to convince key members of Congress, especially those on committees that oversee Pentagon and intelligence operations, that the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the 15 other U.S. intelligence agencies aren’t meeting military needs.

“The concern is about duplication of human intelligence collection,” said a senior congressional aide who asked for anonymity to discuss an intelligence program. “Why does (the Pentagon) feel that it has to set up its own mini CIA?”
December 25, 2013

3 Turkish Cabinet ministers resign over probe


In this photo taken late Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, Turkey's Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, right, Urban Planning and Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, second right, Interior Minister Muammer Guler, second left. and EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis salute supporers at the Esenboga Airport, Ankara, Turkey. Guler and Caglayan resigned from their posts on Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, days after their sons were arrested in a massive corruption and bribery scandal that has targeted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s allies and has become the worst crisis in his decade in power. Caglayan and Guler both stepped down on Wednesday, despite denying any wrongdoing.

3 Turkish Cabinet ministers resign over probe
Associated Press
December 24, 2013 Updated 10 minutes ago

ANKARA, Turkey — Three Cabinet ministers resigned in Turkey on Wednesday, days after their sons were taken into custody in a sweeping corruption and bribery scandal that has targeted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's allies in one of the worst political crises of his more than 10 years in power.

Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler announced their resignations in statements carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar announced his resignation from both the Cabinet and Parliament in a live interview with the private NTV television during which he also urged the prime minister to step down.

All three ministers denied any wrongdoing.

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