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Microsoft reports 37,000 government data requests in first half of 2013


Microsoft reports 37,000 government data requests in first half of 2013
By Agence France-Presse
Friday, September 27, 2013 17:15 EDT

Microsoft said Friday it received more than 37,000 government requests for information in the first half of 2013 — excluding any national security requests.

In only its second report on the matter, the US tech giant’s figures appeared to be on pace with 2012, when it got 75,378 requests.

“The report details the number of requests for data we received from law enforcement agencies around the world, and how Microsoft responds to those requests. It covers requests for data relating to all of Microsoft?s online and cloud services, including Skype,” the company said on its website.

“Unfortunately, we are not currently permitted to report detailed information about the type and volume of any national security orders… that we may receive so any national security orders we may receive are not included in this report.”
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Sep 28, 2013, 06:33 AM (0 replies)

TPP a Trojan horse


TPP a Trojan horse
Sep 27, '13
By Sachie Mizohata and the Association of University Faculties

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is a proposed trade pact that Japan is negotiating with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam (as of September 2013). The TPP aims to increase the liberalization of economies in the Pacific region through abolition of tariffs on trade as well as reregulation. [1]

In 2008, the United States joined the talks "and has espoused a hard core complete free trade policy", which has vastly expanded the scope of the negotiations. [2] With both the US and Japan as participants, the pact would cover nearly 40% of the world's economy. [3] Japan officially joined one of final rounds of the negotiations in July 2013 in Malaysia, as the participating countries intend to finalize the TPP negotiations (at least partially) by the end of 2013. [4]

The TPP agreement affects not only trade issues, but also non-trade matters that immensely impact lives of citizens in all participating countries. [5] The areas at stake include, for example:

* Domestic court decisions and international legal standards (eg, overriding domestic laws on both trade and non-trade matters, foreign investors' right to sue governments in international tribunals that would overrule the national sovereignty);
* Environmental regulations (eg, nuclear energy, pollution, sustainability);
* Financial deregulation (eg, more power and privileges to the bankers and financiers);
* Food safety (eg, lowering food self-sufficiency, prohibition of mandatory labeling of genetically modified products, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy - BSE - or mad cow disease);
* Government procurement (eg, no more buy locally produced/grown);
* Internet freedom (eg, monitoring and policing user activity);
* Labor (eg, welfare regulation, workplace safety, relocating domestic jobs abroad);
* Patent protection, copyrights (eg, decrease access to affordable medicine);
* Public access to essential services may be restricted due to investment rules (eg, water, electricity, and gas).
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 09:11 AM (36 replies)

How the US is enabling Syriastan


How the US is enabling Syriastan
Sep 27, '13
By Pepe Escobar

If any extra evidence was needed to shatter the myth of a "revolution" struggling for a future "democratic" Syria, the big news of the week cleared any remaining doubts.

Eleven, 13 or 14 "rebel" brigades (depending on the source) have ditched the "moderate", US-propped Syrian National Council (SNC) and the not-exactly Free Syrian Army (FSA). The leaders of the bunch are the demented jihadis of Jabhat al-Nusra - but it includes other nasties such as the Tawhid brigades and the Tajammu Fastaqim Kama Ummirat in Aleppo, some of them until recently part of the collapsing FSA.

The jihadis practically ordered the myriad "moderates" to submit, "unify in a clear Islamic frame", and pledge allegiance to a future Syria with Sharia law as "the sole source of legislation".

One Ayman al-Zawahiri must be having a ball in his comfortable, drone-proof hideout somewhere in the Waziristans. Not only because his call for a multinational jihad - a la Afghanistan in the 1980s - is working; but also because the US-run SNC has been exposed for the toothless rodent that it really is.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 08:55 AM (1 replies)

Turkey goes for Chinese take-away defense (long range missiles)


Turkey goes for Chinese take-away defense
Sep 27, '13
By Peter Lee

On September 26, 2013, Turkey made the rather eyebrow-raising decision to put its long range missile defense eggs in a Chinese basket, announcing it had awarded a US$3 billion contract to the People's Republic of China for its truck-mounted "shoot and scoot" FD-2000 system.

The Chinese FD-2000 is based on the Hong Qi missile, which has been around since the 1990s. The FD-2000 is an export version of the HQ-9 that appeared in 2009 and is marketed as a next-generation improvement on the Russian S-300 system, but whose fire control radar looks more like the radar matching US-based Raytheon's Patriot missile system (with the implication that the PRC filched the technology, maybe with some help from Israel). [1]

Defense correspondent Wendell Minick relayed the description of the FD-2000 that China provided at a 2010 Asian arms show:

It can target cruise missiles (7-24 km), air-to-ground missiles (7-50 km), aircraft (7-125 km), precision-guided bombs and tactical ballistic missiles (7-25 km). "FD-2000 is mainly provided for air force and air defense force for asset air defense to protect core political, military and economic targets," according to the brochure of China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC), the manufacturer of the system. It can also coordinate with other air defense systems to "form a multi-layer air defense system for regional air defense." [2]

Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 08:52 AM (0 replies)

Dear President Obama: Some American Exceptionalism is nothing to be Proud Of (Engelhardt)


Dear President Obama: Some American Exceptionalism is nothing to be Proud Of (Engelhardt)
Posted on 09/27/2013 by Juan Cole


1. What other country could have invaded Iraq, hardly knowing the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, and still managed to successfully set off a brutal sectarian civil war and ethnic cleansing campaigns between the two sects that would subsequently go regional, whose casualty counts have tipped into the hundreds of thousands, and which is now bouncing back on Iraq? What other great power would have launched its invasion with plans to garrison that country for decades and with the larger goal of subduing neighboring Iran (“Everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran”), only to slink away eight years later leaving behind a Shiite government in Baghdad that was a firm ally of Iran? And in what other country, could leaders, viewing these events, and knowing our part in them, have been so imbued with goodness as to draw further “red lines” and contemplate sending in the missiles and bombers again, this time on Syria and possibly Iran? Who in the world would dare claim that this isn’t an unmatchable record?

2. What other country could magnanimously spend $4-6 trillion on two “good wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq against lightly armed minority insurgencies without winning or accomplishing a thing? And that’s not even counting the funds sunk into the Global War on Terror and sideshows in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, or the staggering sums that, since 9/11, have been poured directly into the national security state. How many countries, possessing “the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” could have engaged in endless armed conflicts and interventions from the 1960s on and, except in unresisting Panama and tiny Grenada, never managed to definitively win anything?

3. And talking about exceptional records, what other military could have brought an estimated 3.1 million pieces of equipment — ranging from tanks and Humvees to porta-potties, coffee makers, and computers — with it into Iraq, and then transported most of them out again (while destroying the rest or turning them over to the Iraqis)? Similarly, in an Afghanistan where the U.S. military is now drawing down its forces and has already destroyed “more than 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and other military equipment,” what other force would have decided ahead of time to shred, dismantle, or simply discard $7 billion worth of equipment (about 20% of what it had brought into the country)? The general in charge proudly calls this “the largest retrograde mission in history.” To put that in context: What other military would be capable of carrying a total consumer society right down to PXs, massage parlors, boardwalks, Internet cafes, and food courts to war? Let’s give credit where it’s due: we’re not just talking retrograde here, we’re talking exceptionally retrograde!

4. What other military could, in a bare few years in Iraq, have built a staggering 505 bases, ranging from combat outposts to ones the size of small American towns with their own electricity generators, water purifiers, fire departments, fast-food restaurants, and even miniature golf courses at a cost of unknown billions of dollars and then, only a few years later, abandoned all of them, dismantling some, turning others over to the Iraqi military or into ghost towns, and leaving yet others to be looted and stripped? And what other military, in the same time period thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, could have built more than 450 bases, sometimes even hauling in the building materials, and now be dismantling them in the same fashion? If those aren’t exceptional feats, what are?

unhappycamper comment: How do we get out of this destructive cycle? Stop throwing bucks at weapons manufacturers.

Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 08:43 AM (2 replies)

With a Solar Minimum and La Nina’s, Why isn’t it Really, Really Cold?


With a Solar Minimum and La Nina’s, Why isn’t it Really, Really Cold?
Posted on 09/27/2013 by Juan Cole


But it isn’t cold. Warming has continued during the past decade and a half. Sophie Lewis writes, “The last decade was the hottest on record globally. Each year from 2000 to 2010, except 2008, was in the 10 warmest recorded globally.”

That conclusion is terrifying. We should be shivering. We’re sweltering. All the solar minimum and the La Ninas and the displacement of warming to the seas have been able to do is slightly slow the rate in the warming of surface temperatures. If we’d had normal sunspot activity and lots of El Ninos and if the oceans hadn’t started taking on some of the extra heat, the thermometers would be bursting the way they do in a Roadrunner cartoon.

The world has already warmed by 1 degree C. in the past century, and we are locking ourselves into a 2-4 degrees C. rise in this century. (Hint: a 4 degrees C. increase might well make the climate unstable and endanger human survival).

The paid-for denialists who will try to tell you that global warming has stopped and we don’t need to get off oil, gas and coal tout de suite are snowing you. And they are drowning your grandchildren as sure as if they were pushing their heads under the waves and holding them there while the little ones thrash and their eyes bulge and their lungs fill with water. All to make another buck off their dirty fuel. If you have a house and you haven’t had it properly insulated and haven’t made an appointment to put solar panels on it, you aren’t helping save humankind.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Sep 27, 2013, 08:29 AM (9 replies)

My Turn: Dangers of an F-35 crash


My Turn: Dangers of an F-35 crash
Written by Rosanne Greco
Sep. 25, 2013 4:02 PM

The purpose of my hour-and-a-half long meeting with the Free Press last week was to make them aware of the unprecedented dangers of an F-35 crash in an urban area.

For the past year and a half, my main focus has been on protecting innocent civilians and saving lives. It is those who are pressing hard for flying F-35s out of Burlington who are being cavalier about the safety of our citizens and pilots. I am the most safety-minded one in this discussion.

One of the very first things that alarmed me in the Air Force environmental impact report was the safety assessment of the F-35. The Air Force clearly stated that the F-35 had no safety record, as it was too new an aircraft. Even worse, the report projected that the F-35s’ safety would be comparable to the F-22 — an aircraft that has a poor safety record, with seven crashes in its first 100,000 flying hours.

As I have stated repeatedly, it is inevitable that the F-35 will crash. It will crash multiple times in the next few years, just as every previous new U.S. fighter has crashed at an elevated rate in its early years. I don’t want it to crash, and I especially don’t want it to have its first crash in our area. I devoted most of my life in service to my country, and I respect and admire those still serving, and would never want any harm to come to them.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Sep 26, 2013, 11:02 AM (0 replies)

SCOTUS Shields Generic Drug Manufacturers From Liability


SCOTUS Shields Generic Drug Manufacturers From Liability
by CraneStation | September 26, 2013 - 8:16am

In July of this year, The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an Orwellian 5-4 opinion that shields generic drug manufacturers from liability for harm caused by generic 'equivalent' drugs. Karen Bartlett, a New Hampshire resident, sued a generic drug manufacturer after the drug caused permanent disability and disfigurement. After Ms. Bartlett emerged from a coma, she endured thirteen surgeries, and remains legally blind. Justice Alito, who authored the majority opinion, called her situation "tragic," but then essentially told her and all others in her life-altering situation to go pound sand.

To put it mildly, this SCOTUS decision is horrendous, because it leaves people like Karen Bartlett and others, who are harmed by generic drugs no recourse whatsoever. As Justice Sotomayor states in her dissent:
If manufacturers of products that require preapproval are given de facto immunity from design-defect liability, then the public will have to rely exclusively on imperfect federal agencies with limited resources and sometimes limited legal authority to recall approved products. And consumers injured by those products will have no recourse.

What Justice Sotomayor is saying in her dissent is that when Congress passed the Food and Drug Act, it meant to protect people; it did not pass a law that says one has no remedy when harmed, by removing any basis for a lawsuit in the state courts.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Sep 26, 2013, 10:49 AM (3 replies)

Beyond Savage Politics and Dystopian Nightmares


"We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy."
—Chris Hedges

Beyond Savage Politics and Dystopian Nightmares
by Henry Giroux | September 26, 2013 - 8:41am

What kind of society emerges when it is governed by the market-driven assumption that the only value that matters is exchange value, when the common good is denigrated to the status of a mall, and social order is composed only of individuals free to pursue their own interests? What happens to democracy when a government inflicts on the American public narrow market-driven values, corporate relations of power and policies that impose gross inequities on society, and condemns young people to a life of precarity in which the future begins to resemble a remake of dystopian films such as Mad Max (1979), Brazil (1985), RoboCop (1987), Minority Report (2002), District Nine (2009), Comopolis (2012) and The Purge (2013). What makes American society distinct in the present historical moment is a culture and social order that has not only lost its moral bearings but produces a level of symbolic and real violence whose visibility and existence set a new standard for cruelty, humiliation and the mechanizations of a mad war machine, all of which serve the interests of the political and corporate walking dead - the new avatars of death and cruelty - that plunder the social order.

Unfortunately, the dark and dire images of America’s disimagination machine made visible endlessly in all the mainstream cultural apparatuses have been exceeded by a society rooted in a savage politics in which extreme forms of violence have become both spectacle and modus operandi of how American society governs and entertains itself. Evidence of the decay of American democracy is not only found in the fact that the government is now controlled by a handful of powerful right-wing and corporate interests, it is also increasingly made manifest in the daily acts of cruelty and violence that shroud that American landscape like a vast and fast-moving dust storm. Unspeakable violence, extending from the murder of young people and children at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University and Sandy Hook Elementary School, to name a few, to the recent mass shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and the Washington Navy Yard give credence to the notion that violence now becomes the most important element of power and mediating force in shaping social relationships. Mass violence has become so routine that it no longer evokes visceral responses from the public. For instance, when such violence engulfs major cities such as Chicago, the public barely blinks. And as the mass shootings increase, they will barely be covered by mainstream media, who have no critical language by which to engage such events except as aberrations with no systemic causes.

The line between the spectacle of violence and the reality of everyday violence has become blurred, making it difficult to respond to and understand the origins of symbolic and institutional violence in the economic, political and social formations that now rule American society. Violence has become so normalized that it no longer has a history. That is, its political and economic structures have become invisible, and the painful memories it evokes disappear quickly among the barrage of spectacles of violence and advertisements addressing us not as moral beings but as customers seeking new commodities, instant pleasure and ever-shocking thrills. At the same time, violence in America is fed by a culture of fear - shaped, in part, by a preoccupation with surveillance, incarceration and the personal security industry. And, as a result, American society has made “a sinister turn towards intense social control,”[ii] and a “political culture of hyper punitiveness.” [iii]

The tentacles of this high-intensity violence, now normalized, reach into every aspect of society - a spectacle that does not unsettle but thrives on more shocks, more bloodshed and more suffering. The political, corporate and intellectual zombies that rule America love death-dealing institutions, which accounts for why they rarely criticize the bloated military budget and the rise of the incarceration and punishing state. They embrace the demands of an empire that kills innocent people with automated drones and sanctions torture and are all too willing to raise their voices to fever pitch to promote war as the only viable tool of diplomacy. Witness the almost-hysterical displays of public anger by Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham over President Barack Obama’s decision to avert bombing Syria in favor of a diplomatic solution. State violence is now the sanctioned norm of rule in a society in which political fanatics, such as Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio define policy according to a friend/enemy distinction and in doing so transform politics into an extension of war. Unrelenting in their role as archetypes of the hyper-dead, the Tea Party fanatics and their gutless allies spectacularize hatred and trade in fear, lies and misinformation while trying to hold the American public and the government hostage to their fanatical market-driven principles. We are witnessing the militarization of all aspects of American politics and life, and one consequence is a growing authoritarianism in which democracy becomes its ultimate victim.

Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Sep 26, 2013, 10:41 AM (1 replies)

Dangerous Addiction to Secrecy


Dangerous Addiction to Secrecy
by Robert Parry | September 25, 2013 - 8:39am

If President Barack Obama is right about the revived hopes for settling several interlocking crises in the Middle East — from Iran’s nuclear program to the Israel-Palestinian conflict – a good starting place would be a decision by the various sides to lift the curtains of unnecessary secrecy surrounding both current events and their historical context.

But the key actors in these geopolitical dramas can’t seem to shake their addiction to secrecy. For instance, on the historical front, Iran and Russia – as well as Israel and the U.S. intelligence community – have evidence about alleged Republican-Iranian interference in President Jimmy Carter’s hostage negotiations with Iran in 1980, but this material is still kept hidden.

Over the years, key Iranians, including former President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, have declared that a secret deal was struck with Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign to delay the release of 52 American hostages in Iran until after the U.S. election to guarantee Carter’s defeat. But the Iranian government has kept officially mum on its role in the so-called October Surprise case.the U.S. government confirmed that the CIA, indeed, had organized a coup d’etat against the elected Iranian government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, installing the autocratic Shah of Iran who governed Iran harshly until 1979.

The Iranians could now show their appreciation for that belated U.S. admission by disclosing whatever evidence they have about Republican double-dealing during the 1980 hostage crisis. Whatever those facts may show, the truth could clear the air – and establish some trust – as the United States and Iran grapple with how to resolve the current dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. (For the latest and most detailed account of the October Surprise evidence, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.)

unhappycamper comment: St. Ronnie stole a page from Tricky Dick and Henry the K's playbook
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Sep 26, 2013, 10:34 AM (0 replies)
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