Over $1 TRILLION spent on “defense” by NATO members apparently not enough

Sam Jones reports for The Financial Times:

Nato member states spend more than $1tn on their collective defence annually. But, the alliance says, it is not enough.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the crisis in eastern Ukraine will dominate headlines at next week’s Nato summit – perhaps the most important gathering of alliance leaders since the end of the cold war – but defence spending will be the most important, if least honestly addressed, issue.’

READ MORE…

Cardiff turned into high security ‘prison’ with 10 mile ‘ring of steel’ ahead of NATO conference

From The Daily Mail:

‘Cardiff city centre has been turned into a high security ‘prison’ with 10 miles of fencing – which is being dubbed the ‘ring of steel’ – ahead of the Nato conference next week. Police have erected the nine feet high security fencing around Celtic Manor resort in Newport where Barack Obama, David Cameron and other world leaders will meet in Wales on September 4 and 5, as well as the city centre. It comes as former foreign office minister, Kim Howells, issued fears that home grown Islamic State terrorists could be planning to attack the 2014 summit.’

Cardiff city centre resembles a high security ¿prison¿ with its 10 miles of fencing - dubbed the ¿ring of steel¿ - put up ahead of the Nato conference in Wales next week

SEE MORE PHOTOS…

IMF head Christine Lagarde to be investigated for alleged role in political fraud case

Anne Penketh reports for The Guardian:

File:Lagarde.jpg‘The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has been charged with “simple negligence” over her handling of a controversial €400m payout to French business tycoon Bernard Tapie when she was finance minister. Lagarde announced that she had been placed under investigation by a magistrate on Tuesday – the French equivalent of being charged in the UK – after being questioned for 15 hours at the court of justice in Paris, which deals with cases of alleged ministerial wrongdoing.

But she told a reporter that she would not resign from her position: “I’m going back to work in Washington this afternoon,” she said. The IMF chief insisted that she had not broken the law and would appeal. The case is an embarrassment for Lagarde, the IMF and France. Judicial sources told the Guardian that negligence by a government official carried a possible one-year prison term and/or a €15,000 (£11,900) fine.’

READ MORE…

The Decline of the Fifth Republic: A Legacy of Imperialism

Alexander Reid Ross writes for CounterPunch:

‘After just two years in power, French Socialist François Hollande has become one of the least popular leaders in Europe. He has taken much of the blame for chipping away at France’s social wage and for the rise of the radical right wing. Rather than listening to his economy minister Arnaud Montebourg’s recap of Paul Krugman’s critique of “absurd” fiscal cuts, Hollande has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Emanuel Valls, dissolved his entire government, and ordered Valls to form a new cabinet. The question is not only whether Hollande can still call himself a socialist, but whether the French Fifth Republic can hold on.

The immediate response is that this is just a shakeup, typical of the rebellious style of French political life. But what if there is something much deeper at play? When the Fourth Republic fell in 1958, it was due to the coming dissolution of France’s colonial empire, beginning with Algeria. The French army swept through the backdoors of the French Republic, and in a rapid coup d’etat, overthrew the republican system, reinstating Charles de Gaulle as leader.

Although de Gaulle allowed the government to return to a quasi-democratic process, Gaullism has remained a hard kernel in French politics, emerging powerfully in the 1970s and again for 17 years through the Party for a Popular Movement’s big hitters, Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sarkozy, after a window of Socialist governance by François Mitterand in the 1980s. The chief reason for the recent shakeup in the French government is not only Montebourg’s claims that financial matters have been mishandled, but his insistence on comparing Hollande unfavorable to Margaret Thatcher and to de Gaulle, himself!’

READ MORE…

Hollande Government: New team named after ministers rebel

Editor’s Note: France’s new economy minister, investment banker Emmanuel  Macron, attended this year’s Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Manuel Valls, the man who selected him, has also attended the elite meetings in 2008 as a Member of the French Parliament. It’s all about connections when it comes to highest levels of business and politics. Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the ECB and a Bilderberg regular, seems quite happy that Macron is the right man for the job. That job being sticking to the austerity policies that the big bankers who regularly attend Bilderberg want imposed on Europe

BBC News reports:

‘French President Francois Hollande has named a new cabinet under PM Manual Valls, dropping ministers who rebelled against austerity cuts. The first government of Mr Valls, who was appointed less than five months ago, fell on Monday after a row with Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Mr Montebourg resigned along with two other ministers from the left. He will be replaced by Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild banker and ex-presidential economic adviser.

President Hollande is seeking a coherent line on economic policy after recent criticism from the left wing of his Socialist Party. Many see it as his last chance to make a successful presidency, after his recent poll ratings sunk to 17%.’

READ MORE…

Biden Pushes Federalism in Iraq, But US Remains Pro-Centralization in Ukraine

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Obama Admniistration has for months been railing against Russian “interference” because the Russian Federation has been advocating a federal system in Ukraine as a way of increasing regional autonomy in the face of secessionist rebellions.

Never let it be said they won’t be openly hypocritical. Vice President Joe Biden penned an entire op-ed today in which he pushed for a federal system to be declared in Iraq, and that the US would “help” Iraq in implementing it. The US efforts is the mirror of the Russian effort, trying to satisfy its allied factions in the nation while tamping down a civil war that those factions are likely to lose.’

SOURCE…

Hollywood and the Obama Myth

Chris Ernesto writes for Antiwar:

obama-unicorn“And believe it or not, entertainment is part of our American diplomacy. It’s part of what makes us exceptional, part of what makes us such a world power.” – US President Barack Obama at the DreamWorks Animation facility, November 2013.

As sensational as that pronouncement was, at least it shed light on how the people of the United States have been sucked into accepting another war in Iraq, and possibly one in Syria, too.

And in a larger context, American’s infatuation with Hollywood-like fantasy helps explain how so many people still believe that Obama and the Democratic Party are less egregious than the Republican Party on issues of foreign policy, civil liberties, the environment and much more.

Hollywood is notorious for telling the same story over and over – just packaged with different titles, villains and celebrity heroes. Washington does the same.’

READ MORE…

ISIS and the echoes of the West’s religious terror

Michael Brendan Dougherty writes for The Week:

William III (1659-1702), Prince of Orange. Stadtholder, since 1689 also king of England. Willem Wissing. Wikimedia Commons‘Convert, leave, or die. That’s the trio of awful options ISS is giving to Christians in Iraq.

Sadly, there’s an all-too-familiar ring to this ultimatum. These were the exact options given to all Catholic clergy in Ireland when England instituted the penal laws against Catholics several hundred years ago.

When William of Orange defeated his father-in-law, the deposed King James II, along with his Irish Catholic allies at the Boyne in 1690, Parliament was determined that an Irish Catholic uprising never threaten their rule again, and so they passed penal laws, or “papist codes.” As author Thomas Keneally put it, these codes were “aimed at keeping the native Irish powerless, poor, and stupid.”

The details of these laws should still shock us.’

READ MORE…

Boko Haram leader declares Islamic caliphate in Nigeria

Jessica Chasmar reports for The Washington Times:

‘A northeast Nigerian town seized earlier this month by Boko Haram militants has been placed under an Islamic caliphate, the group’s leader said. “Thanks be to Allah, who gave victory to our brethren in (the town of) Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” Abubakar Shekau says in a 52-minute video obtained by the Agence France-Presse. “By the grace of Allah, we will not leave the town. We have come to stay.”

In the video, Mr. Shekau lauds the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in late June declared himself “the caliph” and “leader of Muslims everywhere,” AFP reported. It was not clear, however, if Mr. Shekau was declaring himself to be a part of Mr. Baghdadi’s caliphate or if he was referring to a separate caliphate in Nigeria.’

READ MORE…

Egypt and UAE strike Islamist militias in Libya

Anne Gearan reports for The Washington Post:

‘The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have carried out a series of airstrikes in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, U.S. officials said Monday, marking an escalation in the chaotic war among Libya’s rival militias that has driven American and other diplomats from the country.

The Obama administration did not know ahead of time about the highly unusual military intervention, although the United States was aware that action by Arab states might come as the crisis in Libya worsened, said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The airstrikes appear tied to fear over the growing muscle of Islamist militias. The region’s monarchies and secular dictatorships are increasingly alarmed about Islamist gains from Libya to Syria and Iraq. And the airstrikes may signal a new willingness by some Arab states to take on a more direct military role in the region’s conflicts.

Various groups in Libya have been battling for control of the main Tripoli airport, and the strikes may have been a failed attempt to keep the strategic facility from falling to extremists.’

READ MORE…

Thai king endorses junta leader as prime minister

Reuters reports:

‘Thai military leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha was endorsed as prime minister by Thailand’s king on Monday, four days after he was elected by his own hand-picked parliament, although critics called his appointment a political farce.

Prayuth was appointed prime minister on Thursday, three months after leading a coup, by 191 out of 197 members of the military-dominated national assembly. He was the sole candidate.

Approval from King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a formality. His endorsement paves the way for the establishment of an interim government in coming weeks, although power will remain firmly in the hands of the junta formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).’

READ MORE…

Tens Of Thousands Of UK Residents Being Needlessly Jailed

British Home Secretary introduces new restrictions on stop and search powers

The Telegraph reports:

‘Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has unveiled a series of measures which will scale back the way police can stop and search suspects. Tougher thresholds will mean officers in England and Wales are able to use the most controversial form of stop and search powers much less frequently.

Another new measure will make it compulsory for police to record whether or not a stop and search led to anyone being arrested. More than 20 police forces have agreed to implement the restrictions immediately after Mrs May failed to persuade Downing Street of the need for compulsory reforms.’

READ MORE…

Women need protection from undercover officers

Owen Jones writes for The Guardian:

A general view of New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police‘Imagine the scenario. You meet someone and, from the outset, the attraction is mutual: silently shared smiles, lingering glances. You bond over shared interests and worldviews, and exchange telephone numbers. You start sleeping together and – as your pulse quickens every time the phone rings – you realise you are falling for each other. Days are spent together, walking in parks, trips to the cinema, romantic meals; time apart becomes difficult. Eventually, your partner moves in, and for years you share everything. Maybe you even have a child together. Then – suddenly – they appear depressed and become distant. One day, they are gone, leaving only an apologetic note on the kitchen table. You then discover everything you knew about them was false. They have invented a fake identity; their backstory, opinions, entire life, all a lie. They are undercover police officers, and were sent to spy on you and your friends.

It sounds like a dystopian fantasy belonging in the Stasi archives of former East Germany. But this is the experience of several British women who are pursuing a civil case against the Metropolitan police. Last week, the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that four undercover police officers who spied on activists would not face sexual offence charges, including rape, sexual assault, sexual intercourse by false pretences, as well as misconduct in public office. These women consented to sleeping with men they believed were fellow activists, not police officers spying on them – and yet the CPS believes there is “insufficient evidence” for a prosecution.’

READ MORE…

NSA Created Search Engine Tool To Share Communication Records With Government Agencies

Cat Zakrzewski reports for TechCrunch:

‘A set of classified documents published by The Intercept on Monday shows how the National Security Agency (NSA) makes more than 850 billion records about various forms of communications available to other U.S. governmental agencies through a portal similar in look and feel to a traditional web search engine.

The search tool, called ICREACH, provides access to all communications records collected under a Reagan-era executive order, known as executive order 12333, that targets foreign communication networks. The purview of 12333 has recently attracted negative attention due to the lack of oversight of its surveillance, and the lack of public information regarding its use and breadth.

In the wake of the revelations sourced from documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, much public discourse has focused on how the government uses, and shares data that it collects — which agencies have access to specific information, and how privacy is treated have been key topics of discussion. The Intercept’s most recent report throws light onto one way NSA-collected metadata is shared inside of the larger U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities — simply, widely, and often, it appears.’

READ MORE…

For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

Craig Timberg reports for The Washington Post:

‘Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.’

READ MORE…

Ferguson Police Profiling of Blacks a Major Funding Source for City Budget

Putting Body Cameras On Cops Won’t Fix Misconduct, But It’s A Good Start

Tim Cushing writes for Techdirt:

‘Prompted by the fatal shooting of Ferguson resident Mike Brown, a We the People petition asking the federal government to require body cameras for all law enforcement officers has roared past the 100,000 signature threshold required for a White House response. (Theoretically.)

The petition asks for the creation of the “Mike Brown Law,” which would mandate the use of body cameras and ensure agencies are supplied with funding needed to comply. The usual caveat about bad laws being named after deceased persons aside, the use of body cameras by police officers is nearing inevitability, what with police misconduct now being a mainstream media topic.

It’s not a complete solution, but it is a very valuable addition. Dash cams, which have been in use for years, only capture a small percentage of interactions with civilians. While the use of body cameras will prompt new privacy concerns, the presence of the unblinking eye has been shown to make both police and the public behave better.’

READ MORE…

Ferguson: Taser International and Digital Ally Continue To See Huge Market Gains

John Seward reports for Benzinga:

‘Taser International and Digital Ally continued their stock market run-up Monday driven by civil unrest that began August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. Both companies manufacture small cameras worn by police officers, and unrest in Ferguson was touched off by the police shooting of civilian Michael Brown in an incident that police did not record. Taser, up three percent Monday, has gained 44 percent since August 1. Digital is up 228 percent in the same period, picking up more than 57 percent Monday.

Taser is touting a two-year study by the Rialto, California police department in collaboration with a researcher from Cambridge University which found that police wearing the cameras were 60 percent less likely to use force. Digital Ally put out a press release last week saying that orders for its cameras have surged since unrest in Ferguson began. Taser entered the law enforcement video business in 2012 and the segment’s revenue doubled in the second quarter to $3.6 million of Taser’s total revenue of $32 million. Digital launched a police body camera in December and the product now accounts for 36 percent of recent second-quarter revenue of $3.4 million.’

The LAPD Thinks It’s at War and Now It Has Drones

Charles Davis writes for VICE:

‘Police hate the word “drone” because they know the idea of flying robots patrolling the skies is, to many people, a bit too reminiscent of a cyber-punk dystopian hellscape. So when the Seattle Police Department announced that its two drones had gone off to Southern California “to try to make it in Hollywood,” it never used that word, calling them “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” and “mini-helicopters,” hoping that might help its friends at the Los Angeles Police Department avoid a public relations disaster like the one that had forced their department to give away its high-tech surveillance toys.

Yeah, it didn’t work.

Soon after news of the gift-wrapped drones spread, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was forced to declare that his department wouldn’t actually be using them—not just yet, anyway. “I will not sacrifice public support for a piece of police equipment,” he proclaimed, saying he would seek input from the public before ever allowing a drone to fly over the city. As of now, the city’s drones are stashed away in a warehouse owned by the Department of Homeland Security.

Still, the LAPD insists the fear over drones is much ado about nothing, with a spokesperson telling the Los Angeles Times that if the department ever does decide to deploy them, it will only be for “narrow and prescribed uses.” But on Thursday, outside City Hall, a coalition of community groups and civil liberties advocates offered some feedback: hell no.’

READ MORE…

Military Training Exercise Over Twin Cities Has Some Residents Asking Questions

Kim Johnson reports for CBS Minnesota:

‘A military training exercise has some in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul looking to the skies and asking questions. It’s a scene that looks straight out of an action movie. This week, a handful of low-flying black helicopters are buzzing just over rooftops and in between buildings.

They’re called Night Stalkers, or more formally, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment out of Fort Campbell Kentucky. But what they’re training for here in Minnesota is as stealth as their choppers appear.

The Department of Defense is in charge of the operation while Minneapolis and St. Paul police are playing a supportive role. But none of the departments will comment on the mysterious mission, only apologizing for “any alarm or inconvenience the training may cause,” according to statement by Minneapolis police.’

READ MORE…

County officials refuse to pay medical bills for toddler burned by SWAT grenade

California college campus put on lockdown after man’s umbrella gets mistaken for rifle

Lee Moran reports for The New York Daily News:

Reporter Matt Rascon holds up an umbrella of the type that caused a campus lockdown at Cal State University San Marcos in California.‘A California college campus was put on lockdown after a man carrying an umbrella was mistaken for waving around a rifle. Cops received reports that a bald suspected gunman was roaming Cal State’s San Marcos campus shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Officers swept the area and searched room by room — as people were ordered to shelter and barricade themselves into secure places. Traffic en route to the university, north of San Diego, was also diverted, reports KPBS. But the campus was given the all-clear at 9:38 a.m. after the alleged weapon-wielder was discovered to be only carrying an umbrella.’

READ MORE…

Pulitzer-winning scientist warns wildlife face a ‘biological holocaust’

Tom Bawden reports for The Independent:

‘Half the planet should be set aside solely for the protection of wildlife to prevent the “mass extinction” of species, according to one of the world’s leading biologists. The radical conservation strategy proposed by Dr E.O. Wilson, the hugely-influential 85-year old Harvard University scientist, would see humans essentially withdraw from half of the Earth.

Dr Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, warned that we are facing a “biological holocaust” as devastating as the extinction of the dinosaurs unless humans agree to share land more equally with the planet’s 10 million other species. Outlining his audacious “Half Earth” theory, he said: “It’s been in my mind for years that people haven’t been thinking big enough – even conservationists.’

READ MORE…

The Internet Has Grown Too Big for Its Aging Infrastructure

Robert McMillan reports for Wired:

Yesterday's Internet Hiccup cause a bit more trouble than usual. ‘Think of it as the internet’s latest growing pain. It’s a problem that networking geeks have seen coming for awhile now, but yesterday [August 12th] it finally struck. And it’s likely to cause more problems in the next few weeks. The bug doesn’t seem to have affected core internet providers—companies like AT&T and Verizon, which haul vast quantities of data over the internet’s backbone, “but certainly there are a number of people that were caught by this,” says Craig Labovitz, founder of network analysis company Deepfield Networks.

The issue affects older, but widely used, routers such as the Cisco 7,600. These machines store routing tables in their memory—directions describing the best way for packets of data to move to their ultimate destination—but some routers max out when their list of routes hits 512,000. Different routers have different total routes in memory, but most of them have been closing in on the 500,000 level for a few months now. Yesterday [August 12th] Verizon published an extra 15,000, kicking many routers over the 512,000 crash-point.’

READ MORE…

What Wannabe Jihadists Order on Amazon Before Leaving for Syria

Mehdi Hasan writes for the New Statesman:

The cast of Chris Morris’s black comedy Four Lions. Photo: Magnolia Pictures‘Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama Bin Laden? Guess again. Wait, The Anarchist Cookbook, right? Wrong.

Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies. You could not ask for better evidence to bolster the argument that the 1,400-year-old Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement. The swivel-eyed young men who take sadistic pleasure in bombings and beheadings may try to justify their violence with recourse to religious rhetoric think the killers of Lee Rigby screaming “Allahu Akbar” at their trial; think of Islamic State beheading the photojournalist James Foley as part of its “holy war”but religious fervour isn’t what motivates most of them.’

READ MORE…

Suspect Identified in James Foley Beheading Is Failed Rapper

Rachel Browne reports for the Sydney Morning Herald:

‘British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 have identified the man suspected of the horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley, according to British media reports. The hooded man with an English accent is believed to be 23-year-old Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, known to fellow Islamic State militants as Jihadi John.

The former rapper left his family home in an affluent west London suburb last year to fight in the civil war in Syria. In early August he tweeted a photo of himself wearing military camouflage and a black hood, while holding a severed head in his left hand. British SAS forces are hunting Foley’s killer, using a range of high-tech equipment to track him down and potentially free other hostages.’

READ MORE…

Foley murder video ‘may have been staged’

Bill Gardner reports for The Telegraph:

Still from video which shows the beheading of American journalist James Foley‘The video of James Foley’s execution may have been staged, with the actual murder taking place off-camera, it has emerged. Forensic analysis of the footage of the journalist’s death has suggested that the British jihadist in the film may have been the frontman rather than the killer.

The clip, which apparently depicts Mr Foley’s brutal beheading, has been widely seen as a propaganda coup for Islamic State miltant group. But a study of the four-minute 40-second clip, carried out by an international forensic science company which has worked for police forces across Britain, suggested camera trickery and slick post-production techniques appear to have been used.’

READ MORE…

A War on Gaza’s Future? Israeli Assault Leaves 500 Kids Dead, 3,000 Injured, 373,000 Traumatized

‘As the Israeli offensive in Gaza resumes, we look at the impact the military campaign has had on the children of Gaza. More than 467 Palestinian children have died since July. That is more than the combined number of child fatalities in the two previous conflicts in Gaza. According to the World Health Organization, more than 3,000 children have been injured, of which an estimated 1,000 will suffer from a life-long disability. The United Nations estimates at least 373,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support. And, based on the total number of adults killed, there may be up to 1,500 children orphaned. Gazan children’s right to an education has also been severely compromised with at least 25 schools reportedly damaged so severely that they can no longer be used. We speak to Pernille Ironside, chief of UNICEF’s Gaza field office. “There isn’t a single family in Gaza who hasn’t experienced personally death, injury, the loss of their home, extensive damage, displacement,” Ironside says. “The psychological toll that has on a people, it just cannot be overestimated, and especially on children.”’ (Democracy Now!)

Gaza counts cost of war as more than 360 factories destroyed or damaged

Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian:

Gaza‘s economy will take years to recover from the devastating impact of the war, in which more than 360 factories have been destroyed or badly damaged and thousands of acres of farmland ruined by tanks, shelling and air strikes, according to analysts. Israeli air strikes on Gaza have resumed since a temporary ceasefire brokedown on Tuesday after rockets were fired from Gaza. The Israeli Defence Force said it launched air stikes on 20 sites on Friday morning and Gaza health officials said two Palestinians were killed in an attack on a farm.

Almost 10% of Gaza’s factories have been put out of action, said the Palestinian Federation of Industries. Most other industrial plants have halted production during the conflict, causing losses estimated at more than $70m (£42m), said the union of Palestinian industries. The UN’s food and agriculture organisation (FAO) said about 42,000 acres of croplands had sustained substantial direct damage and half of Gaza’s poultry stock has been lost due to direct hits or lack of care as access to farmlands along the border with Israel became impossible. More than 9% of the annual fishing catch was lost between 9 July and 10 August, it added.’

READ MORE…