Ebola: ‘Isn’t that over yet?’

Tulip Mazumdar reports for BBC News:

When I told people earlier this month that I was off to West Africa again to cover the Ebola outbreak, the resounding response was, “Isn’t that over yet?”

The short answer is no, but there is a lot more to it than that.

The outbreak has been “nearly over” for months. So while “Ebola fatigue” is understandable, it’s also potentially extremely dangerous.

There are still around 20-30 new cases a week in the three worst-affected countries.

Before this outbreak, those numbers would have constituted a major epidemic, but we live in very changed times.

At the height of the outbreak, West Africa was seeing hundreds of new infections a week.

But it only takes one new infection to spark a massive epidemic.’

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UN: Expect 11.2 billion population by the end of the century

Cara Anna reports for the Associated Press:

Move over: The world’s population is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, a new United Nations report says. And there should be 11.2 billion people on Earth by the end of this century.

Meanwhile, India’s population is set to pass China’s in size around 2022, according to the report released Wednesday.

The population estimates play a huge role as the international community tries to figure out how to slow the danger of global warming, while pursuing the ambitious goals of eliminating both poverty and hunger.

The current world population is 7.3 billion. China and India each have more than one billion people.’

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U.S. Secret Service seeks sarcasm-spotting software

Gemma Karstens-Smith reports for the Toronto Star:

Of course Secret Service agents need a hand separating wisecracks from security threats.

Instead of searching for their sense of humour, however, the U.S. agency is looking for software to help them understand sarcastic remarks on social media.

It’s no secret that governments keep track of what’s happening on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but Canadian experts are wary about whether or not sarcasm-detecting software will help security agencies keep citizens safe.

“I’m skeptical,” said Tamir Israel, a lawyer for Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa. “There’s a limit to what an algorithm can do, I think, is really what it comes down to.”

A tender document posted Monday shows the Secret Service wants to buy software that has the ability to “detect sarcasm.”’

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Clinton and the Coup: Amid Protests in Honduras, Ex-President on Hillary’s Role in His 2009 Ouster

‘In Honduras, as many as 25,000 people marched Friday demanding the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. The protests come six years after a coup ousted Honduras’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. In an exclusive interview, Zelaya talks about the new protest movement, the fallout from the 2009 coup, and Hillary Clinton’s role in his ouster. “On the one hand, the Obama administration condemned the coup, but on the other hand, they were negotiating with the leaders of the coup,” Zelaya said. “And Secretary Clinton lent herself to that, maintaining that ambiguity of U.S. policy to Honduras, which has resulted in a process of distrust and instability of Latin American governments in relation to U.S. foreign policies.” While the United States publicly supported Zelaya’s return to power, newly released emails show Clinton was attempting to set up a back channel of communication with Roberto Micheletti, who was installed as Honduran president after the coup. In one email, Clinton referenced lobbyist and former President Clinton adviser Lanny Davis. She wrote, “Can he help me talk w Micheletti?” At the time, Davis was working for the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, which supported the coup. In another email, Thomas Shannon, the State Department’s lead negotiator for the Honduras talks, refers to Manuel Zelaya as a “failed” leader.’ (Democracy Now!)

Obama In Africa: Interview with Horace Campbell

Democracy Now! recently spoke with Horace Campbell, professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He has written extensively on African politics. His new piece for CounterPunch is called “Obama in Kenya.” He is also the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. (Democracy Now!)

Obama in Kenya: Why the Horn of Africa Matters to Geopolitics

Juan Cole writes for Informed Comment:

EastAfricaMapPresident Obama’s visit to Kenya is of course personal, though he has been there before both as a civilian and as a senator. But it does also have a geopolitical and economic dimension.

Kenya is a country of roughly 46 million people, about the same as Spain. But its nominal gross domestic product is only $70 billion a year (Spain’s is 1.4 trillion). But its economy has been growing impressively, with 6% growth expected this year despite a downturn in coastal tourism because of terrorist incidents and a drought that has hurt agriculture.

[…] Kenya’s strategic position derives in part from its abutting the Horn of Africa to the north, off the coast of which is one of the world’s most important trade routes, linking the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and thence the Mediterranean and Europe through the Suez Canal.

[…] Africa is also increasingly an arena of competition between the United States and China. China invested $5 billion in infrastructure projects in Kenya, and has twice the volume of trade with Africa as the United States does.

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In Ethiopia, Obama and the United States stand in China’s long shadow

Omar Mohammed and Lily Kuo report for Quartz:

China’s_investment_flow_to_Africa_Investment_Value_%_of_it's_global_share_chartbuilderWhen US president Barack Obama speaks in front of the African Union in Ethiopia today (July 28), he will address the delegation at the organization’s new, shiny headquarters—built by the Chinese.

The symbolism aptly demonstrates the challenge that America faces in Africa. While the president is beloved on the continent, he and the US are increasingly competing with China for influence. Delegates listening to Obama may be reminded of another speech given at the African Union last year. Then, Chinese premier Li Keqiang told leaders that he expects his country’s trade with the continent to double by 2020, with investment quadrupling t0 $100 billion.

China has paid special attention to Ethiopia, the fastest growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa, which has expected GDP growth of over 10% this year alone. Much of this growth is being driven by China, whose total investment in the country has reached almost $17 billion, according to data from the Heritage Foundation.’

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Foreign Office to face inquiry into role played by UK in Libya’s collapse

Matthew Weaver reports for The Guardian:

‘The Foreign Office is to face questions over Libya’s descent into a failed state, following the launch of an inquiry by an influential committee of MPs into Britain’s role in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and the troubled aftermath.

Launching the inquiry, the Tory chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Crispin Blunt, told the Guardian that the intervention and subsequent breakdown of the state had proved disastrous for Libya and posed a global security threat.

He said: “It has turned out to be a catastrophe for the people of Libya. And now it is a growing problem for us, with our undoubted enemy Isis beginning to establish control of areas of Libya. Plus the migration crisis – any area where state authority collapses obviously poses problems for us all over the world.”

Blunt, a former government minister, said the inquiry will investigate Britain’s capacity to conduct the necessary post-intervention planning.’

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Documents Published by WikiLeaks Reveal the NSA’s Corporate Priorities

Bill Blunden reports for Truthout:

Cyber espionage“We are under pressure from the Treasury to justify our budget, and commercial espionage is one way of making a direct contribution to the nation’s balance of payments.” – Sir Colin McColl, MI6 Chief

For years public figures have condemned cyber espionage committed against the United States by intruders launching their attacks out of China. These same officials then turn around and justify the United States’ far-reaching surveillance apparatus in terms of preventing terrorist attacks. Yet classified documents published by WikiLeaks reveal just how empty these talking points are. Specifically, top-secret intercepts prove that economic spying by the United States is pervasive, that not even allies are safe and that it’s wielded to benefit powerful corporate interests.

At a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton accused China of “trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America.” Clinton’s hyperbole is redolent of similar claims from the US deep state. For example, who could forget the statement made by former NSA director Keith Alexander that Chinese cyber espionage represents the greatest transfer of wealth in history? Alexander has obviously never heard of quantitative easing (QE) or the self-perpetuating “global war on terror,” which has likewise eaten through trillions of dollars. Losses due to cyber espionage are a rounding error compared to the tidal wave of money channeled through QE and the war on terror.’

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Dodd-Frank’s 5th Anniversary Passes, But Should We Celebrate? Interview with Gerald Epstein

Five Years Later, the Unfulfilled Promise of Dodd-Frank

Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams:

With several key promises of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act still unfulfilled, “Americans cannot be comforted that Wall Street will not wreak havoc again,” according to a new report from the watchdog group Public Citizen.

“Five years after President Barack Obama signed this legislation, Dodd-Frank remains largely incomplete,” said Bartlett Naylor, Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate and author of the report, Dodd-Frank is Five: And Still Not Allowed Out of the House (pdf), published Tuesday.

“Major portions of the law have yet to be codified into specific rules,” Naylor explained. “Many enforcement dates are set well into the future, and certain rules are not yet being implemented and enforced to the fullest extent of the law.”

Dodd-Frank, signed into law five years ago Tuesday, “promised that America would never again be held hostage by banks that are too big to fail, but that promise remains unfulfilled,” Public Citizen said in a statement. “Instead, industry-captured regulators and members of Congress hungry for campaign contributions from Wall Street continue to delay and dilute the law.”‘

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UK Police Confirm Ongoing Criminal Probe of Snowden Leak Journalists

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

A secretive British police investigation focusing on journalists working with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents remains ongoing two years after it was quietly launched, The Intercept can reveal.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service has admitted it is still carrying out the probe, which is being led by its counterterrorism department, after previously refusing to confirm or deny its existence on the grounds that doing so could be “detrimental to national security.”

The disclosure was made by police in a letter sent to this reporter Tuesday, concluding a seven-month freedom of information battle that saw the London force repeatedly attempt to withhold basic details about the status of the case. It reversed its position this week only after an intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws.

Following Snowden’s disclosures from the National Security Agency in 2013, the Metropolitan Police and a lawyer for the British government separately stated that a criminal investigation had been opened into the leaks. One of the London force’s most senior officers acknowledged during a parliamentary hearing that the investigation was looking at whether reporters at The Guardian had committed criminal offenses for their role in revealing secret surveillance operations exposed in the Snowden documents.’

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British army reluctant to post troops on UK streets after terror attacks

Ewen MacAskill reports for The Guardian:

Concerns: Tanks at Heathrow in 2003 amid reports of a terror plot against a passenger jetThe British army is resistant to the idea of deploying thousands of troops on to UK streets in the event of a terrorist attack on home soil, despite the perceived increase in threat from groups such as Islamic State.

Although the army has drawn up detailed contingency plans, it is understood to be reluctant to follow the example of the French military, which sent 10,000 troops on to the streets of Paris and elsewhere around the country after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Plans for up to 5,100 troops to “augment armed police officers engaged in protective security duties” were revealed in documents accidentally uploaded to the National Police Chief Council’s (NPCC) website, according to a Mail on Sunday report.

The plan was contained in the minutes of a closed session of the NPCC held on 22 April in a hotel in Leicester. The minutes were then inadvertently uploaded to the council’s website.’

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Labour Leadership Race: The Blairite Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn

Thomas G. Clark writes at Another Angry Voice:

The rising popularity and public profile of the left-wing Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn is sending the right-wing elements of the Labour Party into panic mode. In the wake of the almost unbelievably inept decision by the three Blairite leadership candidates to abstain from voting against the latest Tory attack on children, vulnerable people and the working poor, leaving Jeremy Corbyn as the only leadership candidate to actually oppose the Tories, right-wingers like John McTernan, Tony Blair and Chuka Umunna waded into the leadership debate to attack him.

The first thing to note before I get to the specific comments from McTernan, Blair and Umunna is that their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn is built upon the foundation of a fantasy narrative about what the UK electorate want. Not only is it highly presumptuous to tell the electorate what they do and don’t want, the idea that people don’t want a left-wing government is also contradicted by a number of indisputable facts, including the fact that a party running on a centre-left anti-austerity platform just annihilated the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in Scotland (more on that later …) and the fact that an overwhelming majority of the UK public support the unmistakably left-wing policies of running the NHS, the nation’s energy infrastructure, the Royal Mail and the rail network as not-for-profit public sector services (source).

The claim that a Labour Party that offers a genuine alternative to the Tory ideological austerity con would render itself completely unelectable is at best a display of bogus futurology, and at worst a complete denial of indisputable facts.’

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Iran deal is about staving off the coming oil shock

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle Easy Eye:

[…] George Friedman, founder and CEO of private US intelligence firm Stratfor – which operates closely with the Pentagon and State Department – forecasted the US-Iran détente four years ago.

His prescient assessment of its strategic rationale is worth noting. Friedman explained that by reaching “a temporary understanding with Iran,” the US would give itself room to withdraw while playing off Iran against the Sunni regimes, limiting Iran’s “direct controls” in the region, “while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage”.

“This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it,” wrote Friedman.

Ultimately, though, the US is betting on the rise of Turkey – hence the latter’s pivotal role in the new anti-IS rebel training strategy, despite Turkey’s military and financial sponsorship of IS.

For the US, “the longer-term solution to the balance of power in the region will be the rise of Turkey,” which would “counterbalance Iran and Israel, while stabilising the Arabian Peninsula.” This will eventually generate “a new regional balance of power”.

Crucially, this regional balance of power would operate under the overarching sway of US military pre-eminence.

As Stephen Kinzer has pointed out, a US-Turkey-Iran axis would enhance the US ability to police Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Pakistan from a distance, while safeguarding oil and gas transportation routes to Europe.

But both Friedman and Kinzer missed another critical factor in these geopolitical considerations: the prospect of a global oil shock.’

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Gareth Porter on the Iran Deal: ‘Media Have Been Applying a False Narrative to the Entire Issue’

Gareth Porter was interviewed recently about the Iran deal on FAIR’s CounterSpin:

Gareth Porter: Well, of course there is a great deal that the media are missing about the background of this, because of the fact that the media have been basically applying a false narrative to the entire issue of the Iran nuclear program for so long, and that means that they are missing essentially the entire true history of the program.

In my focus on one particular issue, I don’t mean to suggest that this is by any means the only problem with the news media interpretation or take on the Iran nuclear deal. But what I thought was particularly appropriate at this point is to look back and see, how did the US come to the point where it was ready to negotiate a deal on the nuclear program with Iran? And the answer to that is certainly not something that you will learn from reading the news media accounts.

I’ve been following this for some years now, and what struck me about the relevant history here is that, in fact, if you go back to the 1990s, the people within Iran who are part of this very strong, the most powerful political faction in the country, really, the Rafsanjani faction–named after the former President Rafsanjani, who wanted to integrate Iran into the global capitalist economy, and realized that their only hope for doing that was to reach some kind of an agreement with the United States–really began in the late 1980s and early 1990s to engage the United States diplomatically and politically. And what happened was that the United States was simply not interested, either under the George H.W. Bush administration or the Clinton administration, and certainly not the George W. Bush administration.

Why did the United States not take any interest in diplomatic engagement with Iran? Because, at that point, Iran was simply too weak, and the disparity in power with the United States was simply too great. The United States government did not see any compelling strategic reason to have a negotiating process with Iran.

In my book, I point out quite precisely in the very early 1990s, when the Bush administration at that time basically shifted a policy that had been planned to be carried out by the White House to reciprocate a gesture by Rafsanjani in helping to release US hostages in Lebanon, by essentially making some public concession or gesture to Iran, and instead of doing that, in the wake of the victory over Iraq, the administration decided that they didn’t really need Iran at all in their plans for the Middle East, and simply embarked on a new period of hostility toward Iran. So that was the beginning of this 25-year period, essentially, of the US being much less interested in reaching agreement with Iran than Iran was.

That’s been misunderstood, because Iran has not simply said, United States, we’ll do whatever you want to have an agreement with you. They wanted the United States to lift the sanctions. And that was the primary issue for many years, and the United States wasn’t willing to do that. So it was not really until the second Obama administration that the United States really deigned to enter into a fundamental negotiating process with Iran. Up until that time, the posture of the United States was: We will put pressure on Iran to force it to give up  its nuclear program. Or, we’re really not interested in doing that; we will just carry out regime change, as was the case with the Bush administration.

What I’m really talking about here is the impact of the vast disparity in power between the United States and Iran, and how that has shaped the history of the whole question of the diplomatic engagement between the two countries.’

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW…

The Spirit of Judy Miller is Alive and Well at the New York Times, and It Does Great Damage

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

One of the very few Iraq War advocates to pay any price at all was former New York Times reporter Judy Miller, the classic scapegoat. But what was her defining sin? She granted anonymity to government officials and then uncritically laundered their dubious claims in the New York Times. As the paper’s own editors put it in their 2004 mea culpa about the role they played in selling the war: “We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.” As a result, its own handbook adopted in the wake of that historic journalistic debacle states that “anonymity is a last resort.”

But 12 years after Miller left, you can pick up that same paper on any given day and the chances are high that you will find reporters doing exactly the same thing. In fact, its public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regularly lambasts the paper for doing so. Granting anonymity to government officials and thenuncritically printing what these anonymous officials claim, treating it all as Truth, is not an aberration for the New York Times. With some exceptions among good NYT reporters, it’s an institutional staple for how the paper functions, even a decade after its editors scapegoated Judy Miller for its Iraq War propaganda and excoriated itself for these precise methods.

That the New York Times mindlessly disseminates claims from anonymous officials with great regularity is, at this point, too well-documented to require much discussion. But it is worth observing how damaging it continues to be, because, shockingly, all sorts of self-identified “journalists” — both within the paper and outside of it — continue to equate un-verified assertions from government officials as Proven Truth, even when these officials are too cowardly to attach their names to these claims, as long as papers such as the NYT launder them.’

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Anti-Iran Deal AIPAC Spin-off Relies on Iranian Ex-Terrorist Group

Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib writes for LobeLog:

CFNFI NCRI c2 640When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared war on the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers signed last week in Vienna, it put its money where its mouth is. AIPAC, Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobby reportedly plans on spending $20 million over the next two months urging Congress to vote against the deal. But its efforts at a full frontal attack on the accord, inked by the P5+1 (the US, China, France, Russia, the UK, and Germany) and Iran is leading to some politically awkward alliances.

As part of its efforts to kill the deal with a congressional vote, AIPAC launched a 501c4 advocacy group called Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran. The group, according to The New York Times, was “formed with the sole mission of educating the public ‘about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal,’” said spokesman Patrick Dorton. The Times reported that the $20 million budget would go to ad buys in as many as 40 states as well as other advocacy.

Now that the campaign is taking shape, the AIPAC spin-off appears to be relying on a typical, if troubling, ally of American groups and individuals opposed to diplomacy with Iran. Namely, two items on the website of Citizens for a Nuclear Iran, one of which was later removed, featured an exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

The MEK makes a cameo appearance in the television ad crafted by Citizens For a Nuclear Free Iran, the well-financed AIPAC spin-off, as well as on a now-removed news items on the group’s “Press Room” webpage—indicating that Nuclear Free Iran recognized a PR misstep by promoting the group.’

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Iran Deal: Obama Acts for America’s Interests

Eric Margolis, author of American Raj, writes:

shutterstock_274494032Barack Obama is the first American president to stand up to the Israel lobby since Dwight Eisenhower ordered Israel to withdraw from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in 1956-57.

Freed of re-election concerns and the need for vast amounts of cash, President Obama finally made the decision to put America’s strategic interests ahead of those of Israel by making peace with Iran. This was a huge accomplishment: the United States has waged economic and political warfare against the Islamic Republic since its creation in 1979.

Iran now looks likely to join Cuba in getting paroled from prison. Both refused to bow to Washington and paid a very heavy price that left them semi-crippled economically and isolated.

Unless the Israel lobby and its yes-men in Congress manage to block the nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers, Tehran will be re-integrated into the world economic system and reassert its regional power. Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of oil and a principal supplier to China and Japan.

Iran’s gradual return to unrestrained oil exporting may well spook markets that are already facing a severe glut of inventory that has driven down energy prices everywhere. So much for fears of “peak oil.”

It’s now time to begin dispelling the miasma of lies about Iran promoted by neoconservatives and their house media.’

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Is the ‘military option’ on Iran off the table?

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, writes for the Baltimore Sun:

[…] Looking for changes in official public statements was my bread and butter during a long tenure as a Kremlinologist. So on Wednesday, as I watched Mr. Obama defend the deal with Iran, I leaned way forward at each juncture — and there were several — where the timeworn warning about all options being “on the table” would have been de rigueur. He avoided saying it.

“All options on the table?” The open-ended nature of this Bush/Cheney-esque bully-type warning is at odds with Western international understandings spanning more than three and half centuries — from the treaties of Westphalia (1648), to the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) to the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal to the UN Charter (1945). Try raising that with Establishment Washington, though, and be prepared to be dismissed as “picky-picky,” or as quaint and as obsolete as the Geneva Conventions. Undergirding all this is the chauvinism reflected in President Obama’s repeated reminders that the U.S. “is the sole indispensable country in the world.”

But in the wake of last week’s accord with Iran in Vienna, it is possible now to hope that the “military option” is finally off the table — in reality, if not in occasional rhetorical palliatives for Israel.

Most Americans have no idea of how close we came to making war on Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration. Nor do they know of the essential role played by courageous managers of intelligence who, for the first time on the Iran nuclear issue, supervised a strictly evidence-based, from-the-bottom-up National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that concluded in November 2007 that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed that work.’

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Missed Calls: Is the NSA lying about its failure to prevent 9/11?

James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, writes for Foreign Policy:

On March 20, 2000, as part of a trip to South Asia, U.S. President Bill Clinton was scheduled to land his helicopter in the desperately poor village of Joypura, Bangladesh, and speak to locals under a 150-year-old banyan tree. At the last minute, though, the visit was canceled; U.S. intelligence agencies had discovered an assassination plot. In a lengthy email, London-based members of the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, a terrorist group established by Osama bin Laden, urged al Qaeda supporters to “Send Clinton Back in a Coffin” by firing a shoulder-launched missile at the president’s chopper.

The same day that Clinton was supposed to visit Joypura, the phone rang at bin Laden’s operations center in Sanaa, Yemen. To counterterrorism specialists at the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland, the Yemeni number—967-1-200-578—was at the pinnacle of their target list. They monitored the line 24/7. But at the time, the agency now claims, it had no technical way of knowing who was placing the call. The culprit, it would later be revealed, was Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the men bin Laden had picked months earlier to lead the forthcoming 9/11 attacks. He was calling from his apartment in San Diego, California.

The NSA knew about Mihdhar’s connection to bin Laden and had earlier linked his name with the operations center. Had they known he was now reaching out to bin Laden’s switchboard from a U.S. number, on the day an al Qaeda-linked assassination plot was planned, the agency could have legally obtained an order to tap the San Diego phone line. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in fact, approves eavesdropping on suspected terrorists and spies in the United States. By monitoring Mihdhar’s domestic calls, the agency certainly would have discovered links to the 9/11 hijackers living on the East Coast, including Mohamed Atta.

It’s likely, in other words, that 9/11 would have been stopped in its tracks.’

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“Africa’s Pinochet”: Former US-Backed Chadian Dictator Hissène Habré Faces War Crimes Trial

‘In news from Africa, the trial of Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad, began in Senegal on Monday but took an unexpected turn today when it was postponed 45 days after Habré’s attorneys did not show for the trial. Hissène Habré is a former U.S. ally who has been described as “Africa’s Pinochet.” He is accused of killing as many as 40,000 people during his eight years in power in the 1980s. Habré is being tried in a special court established after a two-decade-long campaign led by his victims. In a statement today about the postponed trial, attorney Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch said, “The victims are of course very disappointed, but they have been fighting to bring this case to court for 25 years, and 45 days will not change anything in the long march towards justice.” Democracy Now! recently spoke to Reed Brody here in New York before he left for Senegal for the trail. He has worked with victims of Hissène Habré’s regime since 1999.’ (Democracy Now!)

The Next Gaza War

Max Blumenthal writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘“A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, just as a third Lebanon war is inevitable,” declared Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in February. His ominous comments came just days after an anti-tank missile fired by the Lebanon-based guerrilla group Hezbollah killed two soldiers in an Israeli army convoy. It, in turn, was a response to an Israeli air strike that resulted in the assassination of several high-ranking Hezbollah figures.

Lieberman offered his prediction only four months after his government concluded Operation Protective Edge, the third war between Israel and the armed factions of the Gaza Strip, which had managed to reduce about 20% of besieged Gaza to an apocalyptic moonscape. Even before the assault was launched, Gaza was a warehouse for surplus humanity — a 360-square-kilometer ghetto of Palestinian refugees expelled by and excluded from the self-proclaimed Jewish state. For this population, whose members are mostly under the age of 18, the violence has become a life ritual that repeats every year or two. As the first anniversary of Protective Edge passes, Lieberman’s unsettling prophecy appears increasingly likely to come true. Indeed, odds are that the months of relative “quiet” that followed his statement will prove nothing more than an interregnum between Israel’s ever more devastating military escalations.

Three years ago, the United Nations issued a report predicting that the Gaza Strip would be uninhabitable by 2020. Thanks to Israel’s recent attack, this warning appears to have arrived sooner than expected. Fewof the 18,000 homes the Israeli military destroyed in Gaza have been rebuilt. Few of the more than 400 businesses and shops damaged or leveled during that war have been repaired. Thousands of government employees have not received a salary for more than a year and are working for free. Electricity remains desperately limited, sometimes to only four hours a day. The coastal enclave’s borders are consistently closed. Its population is trapped, traumatized, and descending ever deeper into despair, with suicide rates skyrocketing.’

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New Probe Exposes Horrific Abuse of Palestinian Children by Israeli Forces

Sarah Lazare reports for Common Dreams:

Israeli border police arresting Ahmad Abu Sbitan, 11, in front of his school in East Jerusalem. (Photo: Majd Gaith/HRW)Israeli forces are choking, beating, and abusing Palestinian children as young as 11, arresting and coercing them into confessions without granting them access to lawyers or even informing their parents of their whereabouts, a new investigation from Human Rights Watch reveals.

The findings are contained in a report—Israel: Security Forces Abuse Palestinian Children—based on interviews with six children between the ages of 11 and 15, and corroborated by witness testimony and video evidence. All of the children were accused of throwing rocks between March and December 2014—a common charge that can lead to decades in prison.

“Israel has been on notice for years that its security forces are abusing Palestinian children’s rights in occupied territory, but the problems continue,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director for HRW. “These are not difficult abuses to end if the Israeli government were serious about doing so.”‘

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Anonymous Weighs in on TPP

Margaret Thatcher demanded Britain find ways to ‘destabilise’ Ethiopian regime in power during 1984 famine

Cahal Milmo reports for The Independent:

pg-14-ethiopia-4-getty.jpgMargaret Thatcher demanded that Britain find ways to “destabilise” the regime which presided over Ethiopia’s disastrous 1984 famine after concluding that British aid was wrongly supporting its “particularly cruel” government, according to previously unpublished records.

A top secret Downing Street memo reveals how the former Prime Minister wanted to support rebels fighting the authoritarian regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and suspend some types of relief to the Ethiopians after a year of aid operations to alleviate the famine which killed a million people and inspired Band Aid and the Live Aid concerts.

Documents released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show Mrs Thatcher decided it was wrong to “jog along” with the Mengistu government, whose human rights abuses greatly exacerbated the death toll from the famine, and lambasted the Foreign Office for failing to come up with robust measures to tackle the regime.’

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Poverty’s most insidious damage is to a child’s brain

Science Daily reports:

An alarming 22 percent of U.S. children live in poverty, which can have long-lasting negative consequences on brain development, emotional health and academic achievement. A new study, published July 20 in JAMA Pediatrics, provides even more compelling evidence that growing up in poverty has detrimental effects on the brain.

In an accompanying editorial, child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, writes that “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children must now become our top public health priority for the good of all.”

In her own research in young children living in poverty, Luby and her colleagues have identified changes in the brain’s architecture that can lead to lifelong problems with depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress.’

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Mass Shootings on the Rise in the US: Interview with Mark Follman

‘On Thursday, a gunman opened fire on two separate military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The rampage left four marines and the gunman dead and at least three people injured. The Tennessee shooting came as a jury in Colorado announced its verdict in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Almost exactly three years ago, on July 20, 2012, James Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. On Thursday, the jury found him guilty of 165 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Holmes now faces a lengthy sentencing process which could result in the death penalty.’ (Democracy Now!)

Freedom of Information Act review “may curb access to government papers”

Rajeev Syal reports for The Guardian:

This front page makes an important point about freedom of speechMinisters have launched a cross-party review of the Freedom of Information Act that is likely to be viewed as an attempt to curb public access to government documents. The move comes just hours after papers released on Friday under FOI disclosed that British pilots have been involved in bombing in Syria.

Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, laid a statement before parliament outlining details about the five-person commission that will be asked to decide whether the act is too expensive and overly intrusive. Members will include Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, who is already on the record calling for the act to be rewritten. Straw is still the subject of FOI requests over the rendition of a terror suspect during his time in office.

Lord Carlile of Berriew will also sit on the commission. He accused the Guardian of “a criminal act” when it published stories using National Security Agency material leaked by Edward Snowden. The committee’s other members will be Michael Howard and Dame Patricia Hodgson, and it will be chaired by Lord Burns.’

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A Wizard at Prying Government Secrets From the Government

Ravi Somaiya writes for The New York Times:

When the reporter Jason Leopold gets ready to take on the United States government, he psychs himself up by listening to the heavy metal bands Slayer and Pantera.

Mr. Leopold describes himself as “a pretty rageful guy.” He argued recently with staff members at his son’s preschool because he objected to their references to “Indians” and they objected to his wearing family-unfriendly punk rock T-shirts to school meetings.

Mr. Leopold, 45, who works for Vice News, reserves most of his aggression for dealing with the government. He has revealed about 20,000 pages of government documents, some of them the basis for explosive news stories. Despite his appearance — on a recent day his T-shirt featured the band name “Sick of It All” — his secret weapon is the opposite of anarchic: an encyclopedic knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act, the labyrinthine administration machine that serves it and the kind of legal judo often required to pry information from it.

His small office, just off the kitchen in his home here, is littered with envelopes from various branches of the government and computer disks filled with secrets. His persistence has led to numerous revelations — some in documents that have been released exclusively to him, and others in documents that have been released to multiple reporters after pressure has been brought by Mr. Leopold.

They have included a series of disclosures from Guantánamo Bay; racist emails from the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department released after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer and the subsequent racial unrest in the city; and some details of unreleased Central Intelligence Agency memos on torture (another report was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December).’

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