TSA Checklist Exposed: “Suspicious Signs” Include Throat Clearing, Whistling and “Exaggerated Yawning”

‘Next time you are at an airport, you may not want to gaze down at your feet. But also be careful not to stare at anyone with your eyes wide open. Both of these behaviors are listed on a “suspicious signs” checklist used by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The Intercept obtained the confidential document from a source concerned about the quality of the program. The document shows how the TSA identifies potential terrorists based on behaviors that it thinks indicate stress or deception, including “fidgeting,” “whistling” and “throat clearing.” The checklist is part of the TSA’s controversial program known as the “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques.” It employs specially trained officers, known as behavior detection officers, to watch and interact with passengers going through screening. The TSA has trained and deployed thousands of these officers, spending more than $900 million on this program since its inception in 2007. However, the Government Accountability Office has found there is no evidence to back up the claim that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” We are joined by Cora Currier, staff reporter for The Intercept, whose new article co-written with Jana Winter, is “TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist To Spot Terrorists.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

Saudi Ambassador To U.S. Won’t Rule Out Building Nukes

‘The Saudi Ambassador to the United States would not rule out the possibility of the Saudis creating their own nuclear bomb to counterbalance a nuclear-armed Iran in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. “This is not something we would discuss publicly,” Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir said on “The Situation Room.” Later, when pressed, he said, “This is not something that I can comment on, nor would I comment on.” “But the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect its security,” he added. “There are two things over which we do not negotiate: Our faith and our security.”‘ (CNN)

Pakistan’s Long History of Fighting Saudi Arabia’s Wars

Ishaan Tharoor writes for The Washington Post:

Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, which began with waves of airstrikes overnight on Thursday, has laid down a new marker in the dangerously unstable Middle East.

As WorldViews discussed earlier, the Saudis coordinated their action with a coalition of Sunni majority countries, sharpening the perception that the offensive was part of a wider regional conflict with Iran, a Shiite power that has backed the Houthis and is locked in a larger game of geopolitical chess with the Saudis in various corners of the Middle East.

One conspicuous nation among the list of countries official Saudi media claimed had “declared their willingness to participate” in the anti-Houthi action is Pakistan. A non-Arab state with a sizeable Shiite minority, Pakistan also has an overstretched military, which is wrestling with its own extremist insurgency in the rugged borderlands near Afghanistan.’

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Saudi Coalition Rejects Diplomacy, Readies Long War in Yemen

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The United Nations has loaded the last of its staff in Yemen quietly onto airplanes, sending them to safety in Ethiopia, and capping their failed effort to start peace talks in the war-torn country.

There is no room for peace talks now, it seems, with Saudi Arabia and its allies so decidedly in favor of a full-scale war against the Shi’ite Houthis, and leaving no room open for a settlement.

For the Saudis, there is no middle ground, and democratic reform is not the goal. The only goal for the war is to reinstall General Hadi, Yemen’s dictator from early 2012 until his resignation in January, back into power.’

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White House Isn’t Ruling Out U.S. Involvement In Yemen

‘Yemen has become a major front in the battle between the main factions of Islam. Saudi Arabia has evacuated dozens of foreign and Saudi diplomats from the port city of Aden in Southern Yemen, and the UN has evacuated staff from Sanaa, the capital. President Obama spoke on the phone with the King of Sunni Saudi Arabia, which is conducting air attacks on Shiite rebels in Yemen. Julianna Goldman reports on the chaos.’ (CBS This Morning)

Saudi-Led Yemen Intervention Threatens Protracted, Sectarian War

Adam Baron writes for Al Jazeera America:

Yemen has lately become a hot topic of rampant strategic pontification, pundits rushing to make bold sweeping statements that seek to explain the turbulence in this conflict-wracked nation as simply another front in a region-wide strategic context. But reality — as most who follow Yemen would attest — is far more complicated.

Last September, the Houthis — a Zaidi Shia rebel group — took effective control of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, riding on a wave of popular discontent over the transitional government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. That government had been installed under a U.N.-backed deal mediated by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to end the Arab Spring-inspired uprising against the country’s longtime leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis quickly inked a deal with Hadi and other political factions, but tensions soon emerged. By the start of March, the government had resigned, while Hadi — after escaping house arrest by the Houthis in Sanaa — fled to Aden and declared it Yemen’s temporary capital. U.N.-mediated talks continued in search of a political settlement, while the Houthis moved to consolidate power. The power vacuum resulting from the steady collapse of Yemen’s political order had already proven a boon to extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and deepened an economic and humanitarian crisis that had already left half of the country’s population food-insecure.

Any hope of an early resolution to the crisis among Yemen’s rival factions has been quashed by the Saudi-led anti-Houthi military offensive — euphemistically named “Resolute Storm.” Five nights into the air barrage, a return to calm seems as far away as ever, while the outcome of the Saudi-led intervention remains uncertain.’

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Saudi Arabia’s Airstrikes in Yemen Are Fuelling the Gulf’s Fire

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of the Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

‘Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen in Yemen, rather than what will actually occur.

In practice, a decisive outcome is the least likely prospect for Yemen, just as it has long been in Iraq and Afghanistan. A political feature common to all three countries is that power is divided between so many players it is impossible to defeat or placate them all for very long. Saudi Arabia is backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but the humiliating speed of his defeat shows his lack of organised support.

The threat of further intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council may be intended to redress the balance of power in Yemen and prevent the Houthis winning a total victory. But Saudi actions and those of the Sunni coalition will be self-fulfilling if the Houthis – never previously full proxies of Iran – find themselves fighting a war in which they are dependent on Iranian financial, political and military backing.

Likewise, the Houthis, as members of the Zaidi sect, were not always seen by Shia in other countries as part of their religious community. But by leading a Sunni coalition Saudi Arabia will internationalise the Yemen conflict and emphasise its sectarian Sunni-Shia dimension.’

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Arab League to Create Joint Military Force to Fight Iran

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Capping off weekend negotiations at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Arab League has agreed in principle to create a combined military strike force, which officials saying is aimed squarely at Iran.

The force will be combined from Sunni Arab nations, and the current aim, admittedly preliminary, is for a force of 40,000 troops backed by warplanes to be created within the next four months.’

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US war on terror has claimed over 80,000 lives in Pakistan, says Body Count report

Khaleej Times reports:

The report titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror” was released by the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival, The Express Tribune reported today.

The report, dealing with the conflict from 2004 until the end of 2013, shows that a total of 81,325 to 81,860 persons — including 48,504 civilians, 45 journalists, 416-951 civilians killed by drones, 5,498 security personnel and 26,862 militants — lost their lives in the US-led war on terror.

It also said that around 1.3 million people were directly and indirectly killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of US-led wars in the regions during the the same period.’

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Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any other year since 1967, says UN report

Mairav Zonszein reports for The Guardian:

Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began in 1967, a UN report has said.

Israel’s activities in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem resulted in the deaths of 2,314 Palestinians and 17,125 injuries, compared with 39 deaths and 3,964 injuries in 2013, according to the annual report (pdf) by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The conflict in Gaza in July and August was largely responsible for the dramatic increase in fatalities. It claimed the lives of 2,220 Gazans, of whom 1,492 were civilians, 605 militants and 123 unverified.’

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#AlbumoftheWeek ~ To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (2015)

The third album from west coast rapper Kendrick Lamar, who originally released material under the name K.Dot. He was signed up by Dr. Dre (who serves as executive producer here) in 2012 after his first official album in 2011, Section.80. His next and previous album good kid, m.A.A.d city was a huge critical and commercial success in 2012, largely because it had plenty of pop appeal. One of the best things about Kendrick Lamar is that he knows how to write catchy hip hop tunes but with socially aware lyrics. It’s actually quite rare, but very refreshing, for rappers achieve critical and commercial success while earning respect for their social commentary and awareness. To Pimp a Butterfly has less pop appeal but is even better than its predecessor. It’s a bold, complex, complete album that requires your full attention and maybe two or three listens before you fully begin to appreciate just how good it is. Each song has its own distinct identity but weaves into one complete and rewarding whole. His previous album took a look at his adolescence growing up in Compton, but this takes a look at his adult self and you can hear the maturity throughout. Lamar has described the album as “honest, fearful and unapologetic.” The topics covered include institutional racism, justice, consumerism and capitalism, hip-hop culture, and his own choices as a African-American adult male. The album manages to sound old school but also very modern. You can hear a heavy influence of funk and jazz throughout, and I also can’t help but feeling that Flying Lotus has had an influence on the sound and structure of the album a little more than his single production contribution on the opening track. The start of the album in particular (but not exclusively) has that experimental and abstract jazz sound, but also the sort of cohesive untidiness heard on Flying Lotus albums. Kendrick actually appeared on the last Flying Lotus album You’re Dead! on the excellent track “Never Catch Me” so it’s very possible that he picked up some ideas during their time working together. If you wanted to liken the album to previous hip hop releases, it can be said that Outkast’s Aquemini, for its for its approach, shape and depth, bears some similarity. But also albums like De La Soul’s De La Soul Is Dead and Blowout Comb by Digable Planets for its seeming rejection of the mainstream appeal gained by their prior releases. While those points can be argued, you certainly won’t find a hip hop album as good this from the last decade. It’s easily the best since 2004’s Madvillainy by DOOM and Madlib.

~ Stand Out Tracks: King Kunta; These Walls; How Much A Dollar CostThe Blacker The Berry

The Rapid Decline of Christianity In America

Amanda Marcotte writes for AlterNet:

There’s been a lot of media attention recently to the changing demographics of the United States, where, at current rates, people who identify as “white” are expected to become a minority by the year 2050. But in many ways, the shift in national demographics has been accelerated beyond even that. New data from the American Values Atlas shows that while white people continue to be the majority in all but 4 states in the country, white Christians are the minority in a whopping 19 states. And, nationwide, Americans who identify as Protestant are now in the minority for the first time ever, clocking in at a mere 47 percent of Americans and falling.’

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U.S. military wants to spend billions on new Air Force One

‘The Air Force is in the market for a few very special planes. The current planes are getting old, and the Pentagon wants to buy new ones. The Air Force gave CBS News extraordinary, behind-the-scenes access to learn how that may come about.’ (CBS This Morning)

ISIS “Aggressively” Recruiting From Minnesota, USA

‘ISIS and Al-Shabaab successfully recruited dozens of teens and young adults from Minnesota. Poppy Harlow finds out why and what’s being done to stop it.’ (CNN)

In Mexico, Firing of Journalist Highlights Rising Pressures on News Media

Elisabeth Malkin reports for The New York Times:

When Carmen Aristegui, Mexico’s most famous radio personality, was abruptly fired this month, nobody expected her to go quietly. But anger over her dismissal has been rising steadily, and it has turned up the heat in this country’s charged political atmosphere.

Conspiracy theories have abounded since a dispute between Ms. Aristegui and her employer, MVS Communications, ended in her departure. She has become an emblem of press freedom under siege, and social media has lighted up with demands for her return to the airwaves.

Even her critics, who point to a lack of reportorial rigor in many of her stories, argue that her dismissal removed one of the few broadcast journalists in Mexico who openly challenge authority. Many journalists contend that Ms. Aristegui’s case is part of a broader attempt by the government to check aggressive news coverage.’

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DoJ Watchdog Report: DEA agents had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels

Sari Horwitz and Carol D. Leonnig report for The Washington Post:

Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas over a period of several years, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s watchdog.

The report did not specify the country where the parties occurred, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter identified it as Colombia.

Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at an agent’s “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. The agents, some of whom had top-secret security clearances, received suspensions of two to 10 days.’

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We’ll probably kill journalists who don’t report the truth, says Thai leader

Reuters reports:

Prayuth Chan-ochaThailand’s junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has said he will “probably just execute” any journalist who does not “report the truth”.

Last month Gen Prayuth said he had the power to shut down news outlets, and on Wednesday he took an even harsher line. “We’ll probably just execute them,” said Prayuth, without a trace of a smile, when asked by reporters how the government would deal with those who do not adhere to the official line.

“You don’t have to support the government, but you should report the truth,” the former army chief said, telling reporters to write in a way that bolsters national reconciliation in the kingdom.’

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Flat CO2 Emissions Not Enough to Curb Climate Change, Experts Say

Shannon Hall reports for Live Science:

‘Global emissions of carbon dioxide — one of the leading causes of global warming — stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years that there was no climb in CO2 emissions during a time of economic growth. The results suggest that efforts to reduce emissions may be on the upswing, but experts say the situation is not so simple.

In fact, some scientists say that the findings, announced last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA), represents only one data point and that the overall trend in carbon dioxide emissions is continuing upward.’

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Was 1610 the beginning of a new human epoch?

Hannah Devlin reports for The Guardian:

King James was on the throne, Shakespeare’s Cymbeline was playing in the theatre and Galileo discovered four moons of Jupiter. In future, though, 1610 could be chiefly remembered as the geological time-point at which humans came to dominate Earth.

Scientists have argued that it is time to draw a line under the current geological epoch and usher in the start of a new one, defined by mankind’s impact on the planet.

The year 1610 is a contender for marking the transition, they claim, because this is when the irreversible transfer of crops and species between the new and old worlds was starting to be acutely felt.’

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Work less, play more

Lucy Purdy writes for Positive News:

Time is perhaps the most precious commodity of all. While we can buy more possessions and work new jobs, we can never make more time or recapture what has already been spent. But considering how much work dominates our lives, we question concepts around working and time relatively little.

While paid employment can provide security, for many, jobs are a means of putting “food on the table” within a work culture that feels more enslaving than natural or joyful. But now there is growing recognition that traditional working patterns no longer serve us. More and more people are searching for freedom from bosses, wages, commuting and consuming, seeking instead the lives we truly want to lead.’

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Cassetteboy: Emperor’s New Clothes Rap

Your next family member may be… a robot

Cadie Thompson reports for CNBC:

Jibo robotRobots are about to get a lot more personal.

Whether in the home or the workplace, social robots are going to become a lot more commonplace in the next few years. Or at least that is what the companies bringing these personalized machines to market are hoping.’

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The Yemen Crisis: Could Domestic Conflict Grow into Protracted Regional War?

‘As Saudi Arabia and Egypt threaten to send ground troops into Yemen, we look at the roots of the crisis. While many analysts have described the fighting as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, journalist Iona Craig says the fighting stems from a domestic conflict. “People try to frame this as an Iran versus Saudi kind of battle, which it has sort of become. But it is very much because of domestic politics,” explains Iona Craig, who recently spent four years reporting from Sana’a. We also speak to Brian Whitaker, former Middle East editor at The Guardian, about the decades-old history of Saudi intervention in Yemen.’ (Democracy Now!)

“Nazi hideout” in the jungle: Why the discovery is more fiction than fact

Uki Goñi, author of The Real Odessa, writes for The Guardian:

Nazi coin discovered in Argentina jungle‘[…] In an interview with the Guardian, Schavelzon admitted that evidence linking the Teyú Cuaré ruins to a supposed Nazi safe haven plan is slim.

“There is no documentation, but we found German coins from the war period in the foundations,” he said.

But does a handful of old German coins provide sufficient proof of a secret Nazi hideaway plan in northern Argentina?

“That was just speculation on my part,” Schavelzon said. “The press picked it up and magnified it.”’

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U.S. Army Special Operations Command pushes back against martial law claims regarding upcoming Jade Helm 15 exercise

Jon Harper reports for Stars & Stripes:

Jade Helm 15 area of operations. Image Source: Department of DefenseU.S. Army Special Operations Command is pushing back against alarmist claims that an upcoming U.S. military exercise is a preparation for imposing martial law or subduing right-leaning groups and individuals.

Conspiracy theories about the exercise, known as JADE HELM 15, appeared online this week. Some commentators railing against the event referred to an online slide show allegedly created by USASOC, which outlined a special operations exercise slated to take place across multiple states, outside the confines of U.S. military bases. In the slide show, a map of the southwest region of the United States labels Texas and other territory as “hostile” or “insurgent pocket.” The document also refers to coordination with law enforcement agencies.

[…] Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, a USASOC spokesman, confirmed that there is an upcoming exercise called Jade Helm 15 which is scheduled to take place this summer at locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, California and Nevada. But he denied the event is preparation for some sort of military takeover.’

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Colombian Report on US Military’s Child Rapes Not Newsworthy to US News Outlets

Adam Johnson reports for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Telesur: US Military Sexually Abused at Least 54 Colombian Children‘An 800-page independent report commissioned by the US-friendly Colombian government and the radical left rebel group FARC found that US military soldiers and contractors had sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007 and, in all cases, the rapists were never punished–either in Colombia or stateside–due to American military personnel being immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity agreements between the two countries.

The report was part of a broader historical analysis meant to establish the “causes and violence aggravators” of the 50-year-long conflict between the government and rebels that’s presently being negotiated to an end.

[…] Thus far, however, these explosive claims seem to have received zero coverage in the general US press, despite having been reported on Venezuela’s Telesur (3/23/15), the British tabloid Daily Mail (3/24/15) and Russian RT (3/25/15).’

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The Neoconservative Cursus Honorum

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi writes for The American Conservative:

Having experienced several more weeks of mainstream media jingoism about the “Iranian threat,” culminating in the outrageous Joshua Muravchik op-ed advocating war with Iran as the “best option” for dealing with that country, one has to ask why it is that a gaggle of self-proclaimed “experts” has been able to capture the foreign-policy narrative so completely, in spite of the fact that they have been wrong about nearly everything?

Neoconservatives have two core beliefs. First is their insistence that the United States has the right or even the responsibility to use its military and economic power to reshape the world in terms of its own interests and values. Constant war thus becomes the new normal. As Professor Eliot Cohen, a former State Department adviser under George W. Bush, put it, “For the great mass of the American public … and for their leaders and elites who shape public opinion ‘war weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation… .”’

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Pentagon Keeps Losing ‘Sensitive’ Explosives Gear, Then Finding It For Sale On Ebay

Tim Cushing reports for Techdirt:

‘The Pentagon may not know where some very sensitive equipment has disappeared to, but a variety of private resellers seem to have some idea where it might be found. A leaked US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) document obtained by The Intercept details the agency’s inability to keep track of its explosives-detecting equipment, bequeathed to it by the Defense Department’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

While it did manage to track down some of its missing equipment at various equipment resellers (the document lists a variety of URLs, including ebay.com and craigslist.org), it still has no idea how much of it is still in the military’s possession.’

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In Washington, the Real Power Lies With the Spooks, Eavesdroppers and Assassins

Matthew Harwood reviews Michael Glennon’s “National Security and Double Government” for Medium:

[…] If you’ve noticed that the national security policies of Pres. Barack Obama’s administration are almost indistinguishable from those of the previous Republican administration and wondered why, Glennon has a “disquieting explanation” for you.

There are two governments — a double government — operating today in the realm of national security. There’s the one the voting public thinks they control when they go to the polls — what Glennon refers to as the “Madisonian institutions.” Congress, the courts and the presidency.

And there’s the “Trumanite network,” the labyrinthine national security apparatus that encompasses the military, intelligence and law enforcement communities that Pres. Harry Truman created when he signed the National Security Act of 1947.’

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Endless War: As U.S. Strikes Tikrit and Delays Afghan Pullout, “War on Terror” Toll Tops 1.3 Million

‘As the United States begins bombing the Iraqi city of Tikrit and again delays a withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new report has found that the Iraq War has killed about one million people. The Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The investigators found “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around one million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. … And this is only a conservative estimate.” The true tally, they add, could be more than two million. We are joined by two guests who worked on the report: Hans von Sponeck, former U.N. assistant secretary-general and U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, who in 2000 resigned his post in protest of the U.S.-led sanctions regime; and Dr. Robert Gould, president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.’ (Democracy Now!)