U.S. Army’s Billion Dollar Surveillance Blimp to Launch over Maryland

Dan Froomkin reports for The Intercept:

Screen-Shot-2014-12-16-at-9.12.06-PM‘In just a few days, the Army will launch the first of two massive blimps over Maryland, the last gasp of an 18-year-long $2.8-billion Army project intended to use giant airships to defend against cruise missiles.

And while the blimps may never stave off a barrage of enemy missiles, their ability to spot and track cars, trucks and boats hundreds of miles away is raising serious privacy concerns.

The project is called JLENS – or “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.” And you couldn’t come up with a better metaphor for wildly inflated defense contracts, a ponderous Pentagon bureaucracy, and the U.S. surveillance leviathan all in one.’

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Google Shuts Down Its Spanish Language News Service Over New Intellectual Property Law

Congressional Hawks Vow to Block Normalization of Cuba Ties

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘President Obama’s announcement of his intentions to end 53 years of acrimony toward Cuba, and move toward normalization of relations, including reopening the Embassy in Havana, came as a shock to many.

Polls show that the American public has been supportive of the idea for awhile now, however, and that anti-Cuba sentiment is something a lot of people got over literally decades ago.

Being the obvious thing to do, and a popular thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s going to get done, however, and Congressional hawks are promising to stop normalization, as well as to block any nomination of an ambassador to Cuba.’

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U.S. Supreme Court Says Ignorance Of The Law Is An Excuse — If You’re A Cop

Nicole Flatow reports for Think Progress:

police lights‘There is one simple concept that law students learn in their very first weeks of criminal law class: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This principle means that when an individual violates the law, it doesn’t matter whether or not they knew what the law said. If it’s a crime, and they are found to have committed the elements of that crime, they are guilty.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the same standard doesn’t necessarily apply to police. In a splintered 8-1 ruling, the court found that cops who pulled over Nicholas Heien for a broken taillight were justified in a subsequent search of Heien’s car, even though North Carolina law says that having just one broken taillight is not a violation of the law.

The ruling means that police did not violate Heien’s rights when they later searched his car and found cocaine, and that the cocaine evidence can’t be suppressed at a later trial. But it also means that the U.S. Supreme Court declined the opportunity to draw a line limiting the scope of police stops, at a time when they are as rampant and racially disproportionate as ever. Instead, police may have considerably more leeway to stop passengers on the road, even in a number of jurisdictions that had previously said cops are not justified in mistakes of law.’

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Is the Bilderberg Group Picking Our Politicians?

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes:

clinton-thatcher‘When it comes to the secretive meetings of the world’s financial, corporate, political and technocratic elites at the annual Bilderberg conferences, a common criticism from conspiracy theorists and others is that the group pre-selects major politicians – choosing presidents and prime ministers in private before populations have a chance to vote themselves.

Bilderberg participants contest this framing, suggesting that Bilderberg participants simply invite up-and-coming politicians who appear to have a bright future ahead of them.

The truth is that it’s a bit of both. Bilderberg invites politicians who appear to have an influential future in their respective nations, but their attendance at the meetings (depending on their ability to impress Bilderberg members and participants) can itself have a very significant influence on their political futures. This is because the industrialists, bankers and media moguls in attendance hold significant individual and collective power over the political processes across much of the Western world.’

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U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Diplomatic Relations

Peter Baker reports for The New York Times:

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.’

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“When they say effective, they’re talking about the killing of civilians” – Interview with John Hilary on Drones

‘John Hillary, director of War on Want, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about drones. The UK is working with Israel, who are now the largest exporter of drones around the world, to develop drones.’ (Going Underground)

New Study Raising Alarms About ‘Superbugs’

Big Money Behind Dinosaur Bones

Loggers Assassinating Peru’s Land Defenders: Interview with Kate Horner

Abby Martin interviews Kate Horner, Forest Campaigns Director, about the massacre of four indigenous activists in Peru for standing up for their land, and the trade of illegal logging worldwide.’ (Breaking the Set)

Earth faces sixth ‘great extinction’ with 41% of amphibians set to go the way of the dodo

Robin McKie reports for The Guardian:

‘A stark depiction of the threat hanging over the world’s mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other life forms has been published by the prestigious scientific journal, Nature. A special analysis carried out by the journal indicates that a staggering 41% of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction while 26% of mammal species and 13% of birds are similarly threatened.

Many species are already critically endangered and close to extinction, including the Sumatran elephant, Amur leopard and mountain gorilla. But also in danger of vanishing from the wild, it now appears, are animals that are currently rated as merely being endangered: bonobos, bluefin tuna and loggerhead turtles, for example.

In each case, the finger of blame points directly at human activities. The continuing spread of agriculture is destroying millions of hectares of wild habitats every year, leaving animals without homes, while the introduction of invasive species, often helped by humans, is also devastating native populations. At the same time, pollution and overfishing are destroying marine ecosystems.’

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Why The Guardian Censored One of Its Top Journalists: Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

Editor’s Note: Nafeez Ahmed recently launched a crowdfunding drive in order to support his great journalism and with the hopeful aim of creating his own investigative journalism collective. Please support him in any way you can. You can find links to more of his work here.

Abby Martin interviews investigative journalist, Nafeez Ahmed, about what was not discussed in the torture report and his claims of censorship at the Guardian newspaper, where he used to work.’ (Breaking the Set)

China is world’s worst jailer of the press; global tally second worst on record

Shazdeh Omari reports for the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Map of Imprisoned Journalists as of December 1, 2014‘The Committee to Protect Journalists identified 220 journalists in jail around the world in 2014, an increase of nine from 2013. The tally marks the second-highest number of journalists in jail since CPJ began taking an annual census of imprisoned journalists in 1990, and highlights a resurgence of authoritarian governments in countries such as China, Ethiopia, Burma, and Egypt.

China’s use of anti-state charges and Iran’s revolving door policy in imprisoning reporters, bloggers, editors, and photographers earned the two countries the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst and second worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Together, China and Iran are holding a third of journalists jailed globally—despite speculation that new leaders who took the reins in each country in 2013 might implement liberal reforms.’

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Inside an internet addiction treatment centre in China

Chris Baraniuk writes for New Scientist:

‘In China, if you are a kid who spends a long time online, you had better watch out. Your parents may send you off for “treatment”.

At the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in Beijing, children must take part in military-style activities, including exercise drills and the singing of patriotic songs. They are denied access to the internet. One of the first experiences internees undergo is brain monitoring through electroencephalography (EEG). The programme is run by psychologist Tao Ran, who claims the brains of internet and heroin addicts display similarities.’

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Stateless: One in 500 people living with no nationality, report says

Emma Batha reports for Reuters:

[…] The number of stateless people worldwide likely exceeds 15 million, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion said in a report, which lifts the veil on some of the most invisible people on the planet.

[…] The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) estimate of 10 million stateless people left out 1.5 million stateless refugees and 3.5 million stateless Palestinians.

Without a nationality, stateless people are denied basic rights and benefits that most people take for granted, including access to healthcare, education and work. They often cannot own property, open a bank account or even get married.

Sometimes called “legal ghosts”, stateless people are vulnerable to rights abuses, detention and exploitation.’

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Outsourced and unaccountable: This is the future of local government in Britain

Aditya Chakrabortty writes for The Guardian:

'Whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband get in will make little odds for town halls.'‘[…] Between January 2012 and October 2013, Barnet farmed out its care for people with disabilities, legal services, cemeteries and crematoriums, IT, finance, HR, planning and regeneration, trading standards and licensing, management of council housing, environmental health, procurement, parking, and the highways department.

This evening [Monday 15th], a full council meeting will vote on whether to consider cuts and “alternative delivery models” for another tranche of services, including libraries, rubbish collection, street gritters and children’s speech therapy, among others. Should they go the way of the rest and be outsourced, the local Unison branch calculates that Barnet council will shrink from having 3,200 staff in September 2012 to just 332.

That is one hell of a municipal disappearing act. Residents now find it easier to list what their council doesn’t directly provide than what it does. Which means that if you want to see what the next five years of cuts hold for your local services – whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband get in will make little odds for town halls – you’d best pay close attention to what Barnet is doing.’

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G4S guards found not guilty of manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga

Matthew Taylor and Robert Booth report for The Guardian:

Jimmy Mubenga‘Three private security guards who restrained the Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga have been cleared of manslaughter by a jury at the Old Bailey.

The 46-year-old died after being restrained by the G4S guards on a British Airways flight on 12 October 2010. Terrence Hughes, 53, Colin Kaler, 52 and Stuart Tribelnig, 39, were accused of manslaughter by forcing Mubenga’s head down and restricting his breathing as the flight prepared to take off at Heathrow airport. The jury cleared them of the charges on Tuesday after a six-week trial.

The court had heard how fellow passengers said they heard Mubenga cry out: “I can’t breathe” as he was pinned down in his seat, despite already being handcuffed from behind with his seatbelt on.’

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“Oh God, it’s Mom”: Mother calls C-SPAN to rebuke her arguing pundit sons

Twenty-five years after Nicolae Ceausescu was executed, Romanians seek a ‘revolution reborn’

Emma Graham-Harrison writes for The Guardian:

Ceaucescu and his wife face television cameras during their trial. Some Romanians think life was better under the dictator.‘[…] On 22 December, 25 years after the “revolution”, Romania will swear in a new president. Supporters believe he can finally deliver the profound changes promised a quarter of a century ago. Klaus Iohannis is a political outsider who stunned the country by winning an election many voters assumed was all but delivered to his rival, prime minister Victor Ponta.

A former teacher and provincial mayor from an ethnic minority group, his second-round victory was due in part to Romanians abroad, who queued for hours at embassies but were still blocked from voting by arcane and apparently obstructive rules. Some of the enraged diaspora flew home to vote but, more importantly, their plight fired up thousands at home to take to the streets.

“Down with Ponta! Down with communism!” read banners at protests, even though Ponta, at 42, is too young to have held office in the communist government. But protesters see him as part of a regime that protected and promoted the old ruling class.’

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Raids Stun Turkish Media

Republican Congressman Peter King: Sydney calls for “heavy surveillance”

Ben Kamisar reports for The Hill:

‘Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) says the deadly hostage situation in Sydney underscores the need for increased government surveillance, applauding former programs that spied on Muslim communities.

“It shows to me the need for increased surveillance, heavy surveillance, and to get as many sources as we can into these communities where these type of lunatics may come from,” King said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

“And not just lunatics — people who are on the edge and who have these Islamist leanings,” the lawmaker added.

King went on to bash the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times for what he referred to as “attacking the police.”’

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‘DIY Jihad': U.S. Officials Fear Lone Wolf Attacks

SEE ALSO: If the war on terror fuels terrorism, how does terrorism actually end? and US government agents ‘directly involved’ in most high-profile US terror plots

Deadly Australian Hostage Siege Was Act Of “Desperate Man”

Sydney Gunman Made Hostages Use Social Media

9/11 Commission Based on Torture

Editor’s Note: The below interview was conducted by Democracy Now in February 2008. Philip Zelikow served as executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Robert Windrem is an investigative journalism who co-authored an analysis on the 9/11 Commission Report, and Michael Ratner is the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. You can view the full uninterrupted interview here.

Uruguayan football club rejects Azerbaijan sponsorship over racist terms

Editor’s Note: Advertising for autocrats. Glad to see some football clubs standing up and not allowing themselves to become part of a public relations campaign for a totalitarian ruler and his unpleasant family. Learn more about Azerbaijan and the Aliyev family here.

News.am reports:

‘[…] One of the conditions that the Azeri officials imposed on San Lorenzo was that “there couldn’t be ethnic Armenians” in future executive committees of the club in exchange for a lucrative contract with the club. The issue gained importance in Peñarol since some of the candidates are members of the Armenian community.

The current president of Peñarol seeking for a re-election Juan Pedro Damianisaid that in the event of a similar proposal “we will act the same way as San Lorenzo” and stated that “it strikes me that Atletico Madrid could accept this sponsor.”’

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They Said ‘No’ to Torture: The Real Heroes of the Bush Years

Jon Wiener writes for The Nation:

‘Hidden in the Senate torture report are stories of some heroes—people inside the CIA who from the beginning said torture was wrong, who tried to stop it, who refused to participate. There were also some outside the CIA, in the military and the FBI, who risked careers and reputations by resisting—and who sometimes paid a heavy price. They should be thanked and honored.

But President Obama hasn’t mentioned them. Instead, he praised the CIA officials who presided over the torture regime as “patriots.”

We should “celebrate the ones who stood up for what was right,” says David Luban of the Georgetown University law school, author of Torture, Power and Law. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, author of the definitive book on Bush administration torture, The Dark Side, calls them “the real torture patriots.”

The opposition to torture within the CIA was so strong, Mayer reports, that the CIA Inspector General, John Helgerson, “conducted a serious and influential internal investigation.” That led the Justice Department to “ask the CIA to suspend the torture program”—at least “until it could be reconciled with the law.”’

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Australia commandos end Sydney cafe siege

BBC News reports:

Map‘Australian commandos have stormed a cafe in Sydney, ending a 16-hour siege by a gunman identified as an Iranian refugee who took dozens of hostages.

Paramedics carrying stretchers raced towards the cafe moments after the commandos entered the building. Several people were injured.

Unconfirmed local reports said two people, including the gunman, died.

The centre of the city has been in lockdown since the gunman seized the hostages early on Monday morning.

Early in the siege, hostages were forced to hold up a black Islamic banner at the window.

The cafe is located in Martin Place, a busy shopping area in Sydney’s financial district.’

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Denver Cops Arrest Man Who Exposed Them Beating Man On Video While Promoting Cop Who Did The Beating

Carlos Miller reports for Photography Is Not A Crime:

‘A man who video recorded Denver police repeatedly punching a man in the face, causing his head to bounce off the pavement, before tripping his pregnant wife and causing her to fall on her face – sparking an FBI investigation into the department – was arrested Thursday in what appears to be a case of retaliation.

After all, Denver police not only arrested him on what they called a “newly activated traffic warrant” from a nearby county after he had just left the FBI office with whom he is cooperating on the federal investigation, they refused to allow him to bond out of jail, even though the warrant was regarding a measly missed court date over failure to provide proof of insurance and registration during a traffic stop a few months ago.

Denver police are obviously upset that upset Levi Frasier managed to recover the footage from his Samsung tablet after they had deleted it, which led to them being investigated by the feds.

Not that it stopped them from promoting the cop, Charles “Chris” Jones IV, seen on video punching the suspect to sergeant earlier this month.’

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Dodd-Frank Budget Fight Proves Democrats Are a Bunch of Stuffed Suits

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

‘[…] Conservatives for welfare, and liberals for big business. It doesn’t make sense unless we’re not really dealing with any divided collection of conservatives or liberals, and are instead talking about one nebulous mass of influence, money and interests. I think of it as a single furiously-money-collecting/favor-churning oligarchical Beltway party, a thing that former Senate staffer and author Jeff Connaughton calls “The Blob.”

What’s happening here is that The Blob, which includes supposed enemies like Reid and Graham, wants to give donation-factory banks like Citi and Chase a handout. But a coalition of heretics, including the liberal Warren, the genuinely conservative Vitter and (surprisingly to me) the usually party-orthodox Nancy Pelosi is saying no to the naked giveaway.

Is killing the Citigroup provision really worth the trouble? Is it a “Hill to die on”? Maybe not in itself. But the key here is that a victory on the swaps issue will provide the Beltway hacks with a playbook for killing the rest of the few meaningful things in Dodd-Frank, probably beginning with the similar Volcker Rule, designed to prevent other types of gambling by federally-insured banks. Once they cave on the swaps issue, it won’t be long before the whole bill vanishes, and we can go all the way back to our pre-2008 regulatory Nirvana.’

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