Antiwar reports almost 5,700 killed across Iraq in July

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

‘Antiwar.com has determined that at least 5,698 people were killed and 2,018 more were wounded during the month of July. Our analysis of the figures is below. Also, the Kurdish government is asking the U.S. government for weaponry, and the Mosul Brigades appears to be quickly gathering strength. If both groups gain reinforcements, it could mean higher figures for August.’

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July the bloodiest month of drone strikes in two years in Pakistan

Victoria Parsons, Jack Serle and Alice K Ross reports for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

‘At least 32 people died in three CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, making this the bloodiest month since July 2012. The strikes all reportedly occurred in and around Datta Khel in North Waziristan.

The high death toll from just three attacks dramatically increased the casualty rate – the average number of people killed in each strike on average. This month the casualty rate was 10.7 people per strike. That is more than double the rate for June (4.6) and the highest since April 2011, when 24 people died in two attacks.’

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The Times of Israel Removes “When Genocide is Permissible” Blog Post

Editor’s Note: This article was quickly removed from the Times of Israel website but if you click on the screen shot you can read a copy of it posted at Vox

Genocide post

#TrackoftheDay ~ Everyday With Rachael by Hanssen (2014)

DARPA spent over $1 billion trying to build Skynet in the 1980s

Matt Novak reports for Paleofuture:

DARPA Tried to Build Skynet in the 1980s

‘From 1983 to 1993 DARPA spent over $1 billion on a program called the Strategic Computing Initiative. The agency’s goal was to push the boundaries of computers, artificial intelligence, and robotics to build something that, in hindsight, looks strikingly similar to the dystopian future of the Terminator movies. They wanted to build Skynet.

Much like Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars program, the idea behind Strategic Computing proved too futuristic for its time. But with the stunning advancements we’re witnessing today in military AI and autonomous robots, it’s worth revisiting this nearly forgotten program, and asking ourselves if we’re ready for a world of hyperconnected killing machines. And perhaps a more futile question: Even if we wanted to stop it, is it too late?’

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Kid Makes App That Exposes Sellout Politicians

Hannah Ewens reports for Vice:

‘With US politics swimming in so much corporate money that it’s pretty much an oligarchy, it can be hard to keep track of which particular set of lobbyists is trying to milk more cash out of health care, fossil fuels, and other very important issues from one week to the next.

But thanks to 16-year-old Nick Rubin, keeping track of just how much politicians have sold out has become a lot easier. He created Greenhouse, a new browser plug-in that operates under the motto “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” The plugin aims “to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress.”‘

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How the ‘War on Terror’ Became a War on the Constitution

Peter Van Buren writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘America has entered its third great era: the post-constitutional one. In the first, in the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech, due process or privacy when it came to protecting his power.

In the second, the principles of the Enlightenment and an armed rebellion were used to push back the king’s abuses. The result was a new country and a new constitution with a Bill of Rights expressly meant to check the government’s power. Now we are wading into the shallow waters of a third era, a time when that government is abandoning the basic ideas that saw our nation through centuries of challenges far more daunting than terrorism. Those ideas—enshrined in the Bill of Rights—are disarmingly concise. Think of them as the haiku of a genuine people’s government.

Deeper, darker waters lie ahead and we seem drawn down into them. For here there be monsters.’

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It’s Not About Fighting Terror, It’s About Having Power

Lucy Steigerwald writes for Antiwar:

‘As we’ve been told since 9/11, the government needs certain special powers in order to keep us safe from terrorism. The PATRIOT Act, FISA Courts, telecom immunity, the NSA looking at your naked pictures – all of this is made or enhanced in the name of fighting the type of monsters who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. Certainly the Fourth Amendment can be weakened in the name of that most noble of goals.

And man, has it! But as I have previously mentioned in this space, the convenient thing for the security state fanatics is that so much of the anti-terrorism work has been done for them already in the name of another cause all together. Frequently, that would be the war on drugs.’

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America Is Ripe For Authoritarianism

CJ Werleman writes for AlterNet:

‘America is on the precipice of a fascist uprising. While liberals have consistently leveled the f-word against opponents on the right, much the same way conservatives have appropriated socialist or Marxist against those on the political left, there is now data showing that proto-fascist movements are on the rise. The kindling for the fire of fascism has already been lit. While the Republican Party holds at least one branch of the federal government, America will never be able to deal intelligently and earnestly with the economic policies that have destroyed the working class and all but decimated the middle class. A GOP congress guarantees that Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage, reform the tax code and repair our crumbling infrastructure will be thwarted, all in the name of protecting the rich from paying their fair share.

Long-term unemployment promises to be the norm, as well stagnant and poverty-level wages, foreclosures, crippling personal debt and bankruptcies, the evaporation of savings and retirement funds, the outsourcing of jobs, the continued dilapidation of our schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and airports, and the regulations that safeguard our food, water, and clean air. All this comes courtesy of obscene profits, bonuses, taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks and compensation being doled out to our corporate overlords. “It [USA] is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” says Noam Chomsky. “The parallels are striking, and the United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen.”’

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The U.S. Army Got Its First Drones 55 Years Ago

Joe Trevithick writes for Medium:

‘The U.S. Army bought its first spy drone in 1959. After more than five decades of technological advancement, today’s unmanned aircraft do much more … with much less human support. Radioplane’s AN/USD-1 system—also known as Surveillance Drone 1 or SD-1—originally was a target for training anti-aircraft gunners. These early drones were similar in size and shape to the current RQ-7 Shadow.

An SD-1 weighed 430 pounds and had a wingspan of 11.5 feet. The current RQ-7B checks in at 375 pounds, with a wing spanning 14 feet. The SD-1 quickly evolved. The Army expected it to fly over the battlefield searching for enemy troops and spotting targets for artillery. The Shadow performs the same basic functions, as well as teaming up with attack helos,relaying radio messages and, in the near future, maybe even attacking the enemy on its own. But this is where the similarities end.’

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Jeremy Scahill: Leaked U.S. Terrorist Watchlist Rulebook Reveals “Global Stop and Frisk Program”

‘The Obama administration has expanded the national terrorist watchlist system by approving broad guidelines over who can be targeted. A leaked copy of the secret government guidebook reveals that to be a deemed a “terrorist” target, “irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary.” Both “known” and “suspected” suspects are tracked, and terrorism is so broadly defined that it includes people accused of damaging property belonging to the government or financial institutions. Other factors that can justify inclusion on the watchlist include postings on social media or having a relative already deemed a terrorist. We are joined by investigative reporters Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept. Last week they published the secret U.S. document along with their new article, “The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist.”’ (Democracy Now!)

Bill Clinton on Sept. 10, 2001: ‘I could have killed’ bin Laden

Alex Seitz-Wald reports for MSNBC:

‘Ten hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, Bill Clinton allegedly told a group of businessmen in Australia that he had a chance to kill Osama bin Laden, but passed because it would have meant killing hundreds of innocent civilians. That’s according to never-before-released audio of remarks made public by Australian media on Wednesday.

On September 10, 2001, Clinton was speaking to a group of about 30 businessmen in Melbourne, including Michael Kroger, the former head of the Liberal Party in the Australian state of Victoria. The event was recorded with the former president’s permission, according to Kroger, but the audio never released — until Wednesday night, when Kroger appeared on Sky News with host Paul Murray to unveil it. Kroger said he had forgotten about the recording until last week. ‘

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Lawyer: UK Officials ‘Dodging’ Accountability On Rendition, Torture

Nadia Prupis reports for Mint Press News:

‘As Abdel Hakim Belhaj appeals the ruling that barred him from suing MI6 for its role in his rendition and torture in 2004, his lawyer told a British court that UK government officials are trying to evade responsibility and prevent the case from continuing.

Richard Hermer QC, who represents Belhaj, told the judges of UK’s high court on Monday that government officials want “immunity from accountability… irrespective of the illegality of the act.”

Belhaj is suing MI6, MI5, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and other UK intelligence agencies and officials for their collusion in his and his wife’s abduction and rendition to Libya, where they were tortured by security forces of Muammar Gaddafi. Belhaj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, was pregnant at the time. Belhaj, a prominent Libyan dissident, was a leader of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Libyan al-Watan party.’

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The CIA’s Declassified Torture Handbook: How to Create a “World of Fear, Terror, Anxiety, Dread”

Lauren Harper writes for Unredacted:

The 1963 KUBARK Manual. ‘[...] The fear of Communist expansion into the Western Hemisphere after Fidel Castro’s 1959 victory in the Cuban Revolution was the geo-political background for the 1963 KUBARK manual. Castro’s victory not only encouraged the 1964 U.S.-supported overthrow of democratically elected Brazilian President Joao Goulart; it also encouraged the CIA to spread KUBARK across the continent to help prop up pro-U.S. governments. After the Brazilian coup, right-wing military leaders across Latin America began seizing control from democratically elected governments with US encouragement, School of the Americas degrees, and a copy of the KUBARK manual.

The Secret, 127-page KUBARK manual, first declassified (with redactions) in 1997 thanks to a Baltimore Sun FOIA request, is a comprehensive guide for training interrogators in obtaining intelligence from “resistant sources.” According to the National Security Archive’s 2004 posting, Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past, KUBARK –a CIA cryptonym for itself– “describes the qualifications of a successful interrogator, and reviews the theory of non-coercive and coercive techniques for breaking a prisoner.”’

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CIA Apologizes For Spying On Senate Computers

Amazon tribe makes first contact with outside world

From AFP:

Amazon tribespeople photographed by Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Funai) after they apparently made contact for the first time with the outside world.‘Isolated native people likely to be fleeing attacks in Peru have turned up in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest where they made contact with the outside world, according to a video released by the country’s indigenous authority.

Brazilian experts have said the tribespeople probably crossed the border as they had come under pressure from illegal logging and drug trafficking at home. The tribe, part of the Pano linguistic group, made contact with the Ashaninka native people of northern Brazil in late June.’

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#TrackoftheDay ~ Horns Of A Rabbit by Do Make Say Think (2003)

Kosovo Leaders Have Been Accused of Killing and Harvesting Organs

John Dyer reports for Vice News:

KLA fighters in Pristina, 1999‘On Tuesday, Clint Williamson — an American diplomat appointed EU prosecutor in 2011 to investigate crimes against humanity in Kosovo — released a scathing statement that accused the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of murdering a handful of people and then trafficking their kidneys, livers, and other body parts. KLA leaders now run the tiny Balkan country’s government…. The KLA also murdered, kidnapped, and detained people illegally, and in general oversaw a reign of terror against its non-Albanian and Albanian opponents after the group won Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 1999.

The important thing for Americans to recall here is that the KLA achieved victory with the help of United States and NATO bombers attacking Serbian forces. At the time, President Bill Clinton portrayed the KLA as freedom fighters challenging Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic — a genocidal monster who died in a Hague prison cell in 2006. A few years ago, grateful Kosovars erected a bronze statue of Clinton in downtown Pristina, their capital. But now, it turns out, members of the KLA were probably monsters, too.’

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Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain ‘As Others See Us’

Chris Greeen reports for The Independent:

‘The UK is full of heavy drinkers with bad eating habits who are ignorant, intolerant and too nationalistic – so it’s just as well that we are also very polite.

It might sound like a stereotypical list of national traits, but these are the views of more than 5,000 young adults from five different countries who were asked to give their opinion on modern Britain by the British Council.

Its report As Others See Us, published today, shows that the UK is struggling to overcome certain long-held negative perceptions about its poor weather and cuisine, which are viewed as its least attractive features. Culture and history are seen as its best qualities, with its best-known cultural icons cited as Shakespeare, the Queen, and David Beckham.’

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Why Is Washington Risking War With Russia?

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F. Cohen write for The Nation:

‘As The Nation has warned repeatedly, the unthinkable may now be rapidly unfolding in Ukraine: not just the new Cold War already under way but an actual war between US-led NATO and Russia. The epicenter is Ukraine’s eastern territory, known as the Donbass, a large industrial region heavily populated by Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens and closely tied to its giant neighbor by decades of economic, political, cultural and family relations.

The shoot-down of Malaysian jetliner MH17 on July 17 should have compelled the US-backed government in Kiev to declare a prolonged cease-fire in its land and air attacks on nearby cities in order to honor the 298 victims, give international investigators safe access to the crash site, and begin peace talks. Instead, Kiev, with Washington’s backing, immediately intensified its attacks on those residential areas, vowing to “liberate” them from pro-Russian “terrorists,” as it brands resisters in eastern Ukraine, killing more innocent people. In response, Moscow is reportedly preparing to send heavy weapons to the “self-defenders” of the Donbass.

Now, according to a story in The New York Times of July 27, the White House may give Kiev sensitive intelligence information enabling it to pinpoint and destroy such Russian equipment, thereby, the Times article also suggests, risking “escalation with Russia.” To promote this major escalation, the Obama administration is alleging, without firm evidence, that Russia is already “firing artillery from its territory into Ukraine.” Virtually unreported, however, is repeated Ukrainian shelling of Russia’s own territory, which killed a resident on July 13.

In fact, Kiev has been Washington’s military proxy against Russia and its “compatriots” in eastern Ukraine for months. Since the political crisis began, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan and Vice President Joseph Biden (twice) have been in Kiev, followed by “senior US defense officials,” American military equipment and financial aid. Still more, a top US Defense Department official informed a Senate committee that the department’s “advisers” are now “embedded” in the Ukrainian defense ministry.’

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Portugal’s Top Oligarch Ricardo Salgado Goes Down in Flames

Tom Gill writes for CounterPunch:

‘Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado is known in Portugal as “Dono disto tudo,” or “Owner of everything.’ The oligarch’s family has been calling the shots in Portugal for over a century. It’s the largest shareholder of the country’s biggest stock market listed bank, and controls a string of other financial companies, agricultural, energy, health care and property companies in Portugal and across the globe. But now it looks like the final chapters in the long history of the most renowned members of the country’s elite are about to be written. And perhaps with it a new chapter in Portugal’s and Europe’s financial and economic crisis.

Last week Ricardo Salgado, now aged 70, was arrested. He was detained – later released on bail for €3m – in connection with a long-running investigation into money laundering and tax evasion. Ricardo Salgado’s arrest didn’t come about of nowhere. The Espírito Santo family has been under “intense scrutiny” since earlier this year when an audit ordered by the central bank discovered accounting irregularities at the Luxembourg-registered holding company ESI. With ESI and its 100%-owned Rioforte now preparing for bankruptcy, the country’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva has admitted that the failure could be systemic: “We cannot ignore that there will be some impact on the real economy,” he said, providing a rather darker forecast that most of the experts quoted in the press with soothing words such as “contained” and “priced-in.”’

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Stiglitz on Argentina’s default: “This is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system”

Peter Eavis and Alexandra Stevenson write for The New York Times:

‘[...] The campaign against Argentina shows how driven and deep-pocketed hedge funds can sometimes wield influence outside of the markets they bet in. George Soros’s successful wager against the pound in 1992 affected Britain’s relationship with Europe for years.

While Mr. Singer’s firm has yet to collect any money from Argentina, some debt market experts say that the battle may already have shifted the balance of power toward creditors in the enormous debt markets that countries regularly tap to fund their deficits. Countries in crisis may now find it harder to gain relief from creditors after defaulting on their debt, they assert.

“We’ve had a lot of bombs being thrown around the world, and this is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the economist and professor at Columbia University. “We don’t know how big the explosion will be — and it’s not just about Argentina.”’

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Latin America’s military is making a comeback

Simeon Tegel reports for The Global Post:

‘It was a momentous day for Latin America: On March 11, 1990, Augusto Pinochet, the region’s last military dictator, finally handed power to an elected civilian president. Since then, democracy has put down roots in the Americas to such an extent that few expect a repeat of the bloody coups that frequently punctuated the region’s history.

But now, across Latin America, the military is flexing its muscles once again and taking on more central roles in society, including in ways that experts warn are posing subtler risks to constitutional rule.

The most obvious way is the armed forces’ increasingly upfront participation in crime fighting, with the public, media and politicians demanding a “mano dura,” or firm hand, against rampant street violence and ruthless drug cartels.’

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Seumas Milne: We must end this collusion with terror in Colombia

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

kenyon‘[...] This is the reality of Colombia today. But it’s not, of course, the story sold by the Colombian government and its US and British backers. As far as they’re concerned, the peace talks with the Farc are heading for success after Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected president last month on a peace ticket.

Colombian officials talk peace and human rights with an evangelical zeal and a dizzying array of flipcharts. But, as one independent report after another confirms, there is a chasm between the spin and life on the ground. Laws are not implemented or abusers prosecuted. Thousands of political prisoners languish in Colombia’s jails. Political, trade union and social movement activists are still routinely jailed or assassinated.

A quarter of a million have died in Colombia’s war, the large majority of them at the hands of the army, police and government-linked paramilitaries. Five million have been forced from their homes. Although the violence is down from its peak, the killing of human rights and union activists has actually increased in the past year.’

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Burundi: Fears mount amid escalating political violence and government crackdown

Amnesty International reports:

‘Burundi’s ruling party is perpetrating a relentless campaign of intimidation against government critics and its youth wing is carrying out crimes with impunity ahead of next year’s election, warns Amnesty International in a report published today.

‘Locked down: A shrinking of political space’ explores a crackdown on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and a sharp increase in politicized violence in Burundi linked to the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party.

“The government’s clampdown on free expression and peaceful assembly has serious implications for human rights ahead of next year’s elections,” said Tom Gibson, Amnesty International’s Burundi researcher.

Political tensions in Burundi have run high as President Nkurunziza looks to be pushing for a third presidential term, perceived by many as in violation of Burundi’s Constitution.’

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#direnkahkaha: Turkish women defy deputy PM with laughter

Constanze Letsch reports for The Guardian:

Turkish Women laugh on twitter‘Twitter in Turkey broke into a collective grin on Wednesday as hundreds of women posted pictures of themselves laughing. They weren’t just happy. They were smiling in defiance of the deputy prime minister, Bülent Arinç, who in a speech to mark Eid al-Fitr on Monday said women should not laugh in public.

…On Wednesday thousands of women posted pictures of themselves laughing out loud, with the hashtags #direnkahkaha (resist laughter) and #direnkadin (resist woman) trending on Twitter. Turkish men also took to social media to express their solidarity. “The men of a country in which women are not allowed to laugh are cowards”, tweeted one user.’

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Israel-Palestine: Geraldo Rivera derails Sean Hannity’s attempt to ‘educate’ Russell Brand

Spinwatch director talks to VICE about British PR companies “reputation laundering” for dictatorships

Jack Gilbert of Vice recently spoke to Tamasin Cave, director of Spinwatch:

‘The UK PR industry generates roughly £7.5 billion per year. If you work in media, it might feel like a good chunk of that comes via companies blasting your inbox with products that literally no one could ever want. But let’s be rational about this: there’s a lot more to be made by working for heavy hitters than trying to flog iridescent bean bags to a music reviews website.

Helped by a lack of interference from the government, and with no regulation standing in their way, British PR firms are doing their bit to suppress the evils of foreign dictatorships, and making a decent sum in the process. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course – regimes have been employing spin doctors for decades whenever they need a dodgy human rights violation smoothed over. But thanks to the internet, there are increasingly more ways in which they can soften whatever blow it is that needs softening.’

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Using TV, videos or a computer game as a stress reducer after a tough day can lead to feelings of guilt and failure

From Science Daily:

‘It seems common practice: After a long day at work, most people sometimes just want to turn on the TV or play a video or computer game to calm down and relax. However, in a study recently published in the Journal of Communication researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany and VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands found that people who were highly stressed after work did not feel relaxed or recovered when they watched TV or played computer or video games. Instead, they tended to show increased levels of guilt and feelings of failure.’

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#TrackoftheDay ~ Kennel District by Pavement (1995)