Category Archives: Merchants of Death

Newly declassified documents show how US agreed to Israel’s nuclear program

World Bulletin reports:

Files show how US agreed to Israel's nuclear program‘Declassified documents from 45 years ago have revealed how cabinet secretaries and senior advisers to the then US president Richard Nixon withdrew from a plan to block Israeli nuclearization ahead of a meeting with then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir at the White House in September 1969.

The files, that were made public by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), not only shows how American delegates agreed to Israel’s refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but also how they came to terms with allowing Israel to refuse an American inspection of the Dimona nuclear facility and a deal which would have seen the delivery of strategic ground-to-ground Jericho missiles to Israel in exchange for their signing of the treaty.

Although the details of Nixon’s meeting with Meir remain classified, the declassified files state that officials had on the eve of the talks advised Nixon to show restraint with regard to the Israeli nuclear program, and to abandon efforts to get Israel to cease acquiring 500-kilometer-range missiles with one-ton warheads developed in the Marcel Dassault factory in France, if it could reach an agreement with Israel on these points, the daily Haaretz reported.’

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U.S. army sees ‘megacities’ as the future battlefield

Paul McLeary reports for The Army Times:

‘When the Army looks to the future, it sees cities. Dense, sprawling, congested cities where criminal and extremist groups flourish almost undetected by authorities, but who can influence the lives of the population while undermining the authority of the state.

And the service is convinced that these “megacities” of 20 million or more people will be the battleground of the future.

The problem from a military strategists’ point of view, however, is that no army has ever fought it out in a city of this size. So in thinking through the issue of what to do about the coming age of the megacity, the Army’s Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) got together with US Army Special Operations Command, the chief of staff’s Strategic Studies Group and the UK’s Ministry of Defence in February to explore these types of urban operations.’

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As Blackwater Trial Closes, Focus Turns to Moments Before Chaos

Matt Apuzzo & Emmarie Huetteman writes for The New York Times:

‘When jurors begin deliberating next week in the murder and manslaughter trial of four former Blackwater Worldwide contractors, so much will depend not on the frenzied minutes of heavy gunfire in Baghdad’s busy al-Nisoor Square, but on the moments of relative calm just before the chaos.

Traffic had come to a halt on Sept. 16, 2007, as four U.S. armored trucks blocked the entrance to the square. Traffic police waved their arms, and the cars piled up. Then, two vehicles back, on the main artery running north into the traffic circle, a white Kia lurched forward.

The machine-gun fire was about to begin. Seventeen Iraqis would soon be dead.

Twelve U.S. jurors will have to decide whether it was a massacre, a firefight or a horrible accident of war. The verdict will close seven years of investigation into a shooting that inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment and was a nadir in the Iraq war.’

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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.’

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How the Gates Foundation’s Investments Are Undermining Its Own Good Works

Charles Piller writes for The Nation:

‘[...] For all its generosity and thoughtfulness, the Gates Foundation’s management of its $40 billion endowment has been a puzzling ethical blind spot. In 2007, with colleagues at the Los Angeles Times, I examined whether those investments tended generally to support the foundation’s philanthropic goals. Instead, we found that it reaped vast profits by placing billions of dollars in firms whose activities and products subverted the foundation’s good works.

For example, Gates donated $218 million to prevent polio and measles in places like the Niger Delta, yet invested $423 million in the oil companies whose delta pollution literally kills the children the foundation tries to help. It had vast holdings in Big Pharma firms that priced AIDS drugs out of reach for desperate victims the foundation wanted to save. It benefited greatly from predatory lenders whose practices sparked the Great Recession and chocolate makers said by the US government to have supported child slavery in Ivory Coast.

After our investigations were published, the foundation briefly considered changing its policy of blind-eye investing, but ultimately pulled funds only from firms that provided the financial basis for genocide in Darfur. Even in that case, when the glare of adverse publicity faded, the foundation hopped back into such companies, including the Chinese construction giant NORINCO International.’

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How companies are profiting from police crackdowns

Alex Kane writes for AlterNet:

Ferguson is big business: How companies are profiting from police crackdowns‘The tear-gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs fired in Ferguson, Missouri have fed outrage over police militarization in the U.S. In response to the shocking images, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “We need to de-militarize this situation.” Journalists reporting live on the demonstrations sparked by the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown expressed befuddlement as to why the police needed high-caliber weapons better suited for war zones than protests in an American city.

But one group of people is decidedly happy about the militarized response in Ferguson: those who work in the weapons industry. The array of police forces–the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis county and city police and local Ferguson officers–that descended on the largely black Missouri city have used the products these corporations are selling in abundance. Tear gas, rubber bullets, smoke bombs, stun grenades, armored personnel carriers, sound cannons and high-caliber rifles have all been deployed to quell the unrest, though they have contributed to anger over police tactics.

The police response is the perfect showcase for the companies that manufacture military equipment for law enforcement use. They can point to the police tactics to sell their products to other law enforcement agencies preparing for demonstrations. And in Missouri, the police’s massive use of armaments like tear gas mean that their stock is becoming depleted and they will need to re-up their purchases. These companies will profit from the tension in Ferguson, and could fuel even greater militarization of the police, a trend that began with the war on drugs and has accelerated in recent years with the advent of the war on terror.’

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When the U.S. goes to war, TV networks call the warheads

Kate Sanders writes for the Tampa Bay Times:

‘When President Barack Obama decided to drop bombs in Iraq this month, television news turned to a group of familiar faces to decipher the plan for viewers.

CNN told its audience that retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona’s experience advising Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the Persian Gulf War shows “he knows what he’s talking about.” Fox News turned to retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane. “Very well versed on all of these challenges.”

On MSNBC it was retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, commander of “the 24th Infantry Division during the first Gulf War.”

Francona, Keane and McCaffrey are three of TV’s “warheads,” a prestigious group of military analysts who are handsomely paid to offer authoritative straight-talk on the chaos unfolding in Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza.

But who are they, really? And how were they chosen to analyze military situations on the other side of the world?’

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The five biggest threats to human existence

Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute writes for The Conversation:

A nuclear bomb blast‘In the daily hubbub of current “crises” facing humanity, we forget about the many generations we hope are yet to come. Not those who will live 200 years from now, but 1,000 or 10,000 years from now. I use the word “hope” because we face risks, called existential risks, that threaten to wipe out humanity. These risks are not just for big disasters, but for the disasters that could end history.

These risks remain understudied. There is a sense of powerlessness and fatalism about them. People have been talking apocalypses for millennia, but few have tried to prevent them. Humans are also bad at doing anything about problems that have not occurred yet (partially because of the availability heuristic – the tendency to overestimate the probability of events we know examples of, and underestimate events we cannot readily recall).

If humanity becomes extinct, at the very least the loss is equivalent to the loss of all living individuals and the frustration of their goals. But the loss would probably be far greater than that. Human extinction means the loss of meaning generated by past generations, the lives of all future generations (and there could be an astronomical number of future lives) and all the value they might have been able to create. If consciousness or intelligence are lost, it might mean that value itself becomes absent from the universe. This is a huge moral reason to work hard to prevent existential threats from becoming reality. And we must not fail even once in this pursuit.

With that in mind, I have selected what I consider the five biggest threats to humanity’s existence. But there are caveats that must be kept in mind, for this list is not final.’

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After the Flood: Mines and Mass Graves in Bosnia

‘An estimated 120,000 landmines still litter the Bosnian countryside since the end of the war there in 1995, making daily life a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people. In May, the worst floods in over a century dislodged countless mines and deposited them in new locations, from farm fields to the back yards of local residents. The flooding also unearthed previously undiscovered mass graves, making some citizens hopeful that they may finally be reunited with the remains of their lost loved ones. VICE News traveled to northern Bosnia to tag along with the team in charge of de-mining the countryside, and met residents still reeling from the horrors of war.’ (VICE News)

Pentagon: U.S. ship finishes neutralizing Syria’s worst chemical arms

David Alexander reports for Reuters:

‘A specially equipped U.S. ship has finished neutralizing all 600 metric tons of the most dangerous of Syria’s chemical weapons components surrendered to the international community this year to avert threatened air strikes, the Pentagon said on Monday. It said the Cape Ray, equipped with the U.S.-developed Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, neutralized 581.5 metric tons of DF, a sarin precursor chemical, and 19.8 metric tons of HD, an ingredient of sulfur mustard, while afloat in the Mediterranean.

The vessel will travel to Finland and Germany in the next two weeks to unload the resulting effluent, which will undergo treatment as industrial waste to render it safer, a Pentagon spokeswoman said. It was the first time chemical weapons components had been neutralized at sea, the Pentagon said. Damascus agreed last September to a Russian proposal to give up its chemical weapons to avert threatened military strikes by the United States and France, which accused Syria of using the arms against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.’

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Hundreds of bioterror lab mishaps cloaked in secrecy

Alison Young reports for USA Today:

CDC scientist at work‘More than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012, government reports obtained by USA TODAY show. More than half these incidents were serious enough that lab workers received medical evaluations or treatment, according to the reports. In five incidents, investigations confirmed that laboratory workers had been infected or sickened; all recovered.

In two other incidents, animals were inadvertently infected with contagious diseases that would have posed significant threats to livestock industries if they had spread. One case involved the infection of two animals with hog cholera, a dangerous virus eradicated from the USA in 1978. In another incident, a cow in a disease-free herd next to a research facility studying the bacteria that cause brucellosis, became infected due to practices that violated federal regulations, resulting in regulators suspending the research and ordering a $425,000 fine, records show.

But the names of the labs that had mishaps or made mistakes, as well as most information about all of the incidents, must be kept secret because of federal bioterrorism laws, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates the labs and co-authored the annual lab incident reports with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.’

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IEP Study: Only 11 out of 162 countries are free from conflict

Adam Withnall reports for The Independent:

‘With the crisis in Gaza, the rise of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria and the international stand-off ongoing in Ukraine, it can sometimes feel like the whole world is at war. But experts believe this is actually almost universally the case, according to a think-tank which produces one of the world’s leading measures of “global peacefulness” – and things are only going to get worse.

It may make for bleak reading, but of the 162 countries covered by the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s) latest study, just 11 were not involved in conflict of one kind or another. Worse still, the world as a whole has been getting incrementally less peaceful every year since 2007 – sharply bucking a trend that had seen a global move away from conflict since the end of the Second World War.’

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US likely to arm Iraq’s new government with weapons to fight ISIS

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

‘Iraq’s post-Nouri al-Maliki government is likely to receive accelerated shipments of missiles, guns and ammunition, according to US officials. Internal deliberations are said to continue within the Obama administration over the details and scope of a defense aid package to a yet-unformed successor government led by Haider al-Abadi, who will inherit a country under assault from the army of the Islamic State (Isis).

A State Department official said the administration has been “looking to see what we can accelerate”, adding that much depends on the composition of a new Iraqi government. Obama administration deliberations are said to draw short, for now, of expanding US air strikes against Isis beyond the outskirts of Irbil and Mt Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis remain stranded. It is also unlikely that planned shipments of F-16 fighter jets will greet Abadi at the end of a 30-period mandated for the formation of a government.’

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The Pentagon is adding to its arsenal of weapons in Norway’s caves

Dan Lamothe reports for The Washington Post:

‘In the heart of Norway’s countryside, the U.S. military is bolstering its arsenal of weapons with tanks, gun trucks and other armored vehicles along with hundreds of containers of equipment. The Marine Corps is overseeing the effort, which expands the existing Marine Corps Prepositioning Program. It stashes weapons, vehicle and armor in several locations across the world, including Norway, which first signed an agreement with the United States to do so in 1981, Marine officials said.

The equipment is kept in climate-controlled caves in central Norway, giving the Marines equipment that is closer than the East Coast to use in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Much of what stored in the caves was pulled out and sent to the Middle East ahead of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. It also bolsters the amount of military equipment in Norway as tensions with nearby Russia remain high.

[...] The planned U.S. military expansion in Norway has been under discussion since 2013, Marine officials said.[...] The U.S. military has  more than 700,000 square feet of facilities in Norway, including six climate-controlled caves and two airfields. The Norwegians have maintained the equipment there with the understanding that if they were invaded, U.S. troops will defend them using it.’

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Clearing WWII’s explosive legacy in the Pacific

Neil Sands reports for AFP:

‘The rusting hulks of tanks and field artillery are a common sight in the jungles of Peleliu, but the fighting that scarred the Pacific island in WWII also left a more dangerous legacy — unexploded bombs. A Japanese airfield made the 10-kilometre (six-mile) long island a prized asset during the conflict, with the Americans determined to seize it at any cost.

The island — about an hour’s boat ride from the Palau capital Koror — underwent months of aerial and naval bombardment before US marines launched an amphibious invasion in September 1944 that was expected to take just three days. Instead, the assault dragged on for almost three months and became one of the bloodiest encounters in the Allied “island hopping” campaign, claiming about 13,000 Japanese and 3,000 American lives.’

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US silently continues Apache helicopter shipments to Egypt

Ken Klippenstein and Paul Gottinger report for Middle East Eye:

‘[...] Congress approved the release of $572 million in aid to the Egyptian government in June, but the remainder of the $1.5 billion in aid remains withheld pending John Kerry’s certification that Egypt was on the road to a democratic transition.

Apache helicopters had been part of the original arms freeze to Egypt announced by the State Department in October of 2013, which still includes M1-A1 tank parts, F16 jets, and Harpoon missiles.

Egypt has been seeking the release of the Apaches for months in order to assist their crackdown on the Sinai Peninsula. According to reports, Egypt has 34 Apache helicopters in its possession; however, 12 are not currently operating due to maintenance issues.’

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If Hiroshima was unnecessary, how to justify Nagasaki?

John LaForge writes for CounterPunch:

If shame is the natural response to Hiroshima, how is one to respond to Nagasaki, especially in view of all the declassified government papers on the subject? According to Dr. Joseph Gerson’s With Hiroshima Eyes, some 74,000 were killed instantly at Nagasaki, another 75,000 were injured and 120,000 were poisoned.

If Hiroshima was unnecessary, how to justify Nagasaki?

The saving of thousands of US lives is held up as the official justification for the two atomic bombings. Leaving aside the ethical and legal question of slaughtering civilians to protect soldiers, what can be made of the Nagasaki bomb if Hiroshima’s incineration was not necessary?’

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“War Makes Everyone Crazy”: Hiroshima Survivor Reflects on 69th Anniversary of U.S. Atomic Bombing

‘Sixty-nine years ago at 8:15 a.m., the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Destruction from the bomb was massive — shock waves, radiation and heat rays took the lives of some 140,000 people — nearly half of the town’s population. Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese Nagasaki killing another 74,000. At Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, we hear from blast survivor Koji Hosokawa, who was 17 years old at the time. His 13-year-old sister, Yoko, died in the bombing. Hosokawa spoke to us next to the A-bomb Dome, one of the few structures in the city that survived the blast.’ (Democracy Now!)

Photos: Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Anniversary

An atomic cloud mushrooms over Hiroshima, in this photo taken from the Enola Gay flying over Matsuyama, Shikoku

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100 years since WWI, experts say shells still explosive

US set to woo India with classified info, intel swap

Shishir Gupta reports for The Hindustan Times:

‘As part of a deepening cooperation on defense, the United States has offered to create institutionalized links between its military intelligence and India’s and is willing to share classified information on the region, including Afghanistan-Pakistan and China. While the full scope of the offer will be made by US defense secretary Charles ‘Chuck’ Hagel during his three-day visit to India next week, secretary of state John Kerry hinted about the proposal to defence minister Arun Jaitley in their meeting last Thursday.

Hagel arrives Tuesday and leaves Saturday after meeting Jaitley, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, national security advisor Ajit Doval and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, who is the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. US diplomatic sources said Hagel will aim to take defense cooperation beyond military hardware sales and transfer of technology under the so-called Defense Technology Initiative (DTI) to joint manufacturing of weapon systems in India under the 49% FDI route announced by Jaitley in the budget.’

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Cluster bombs still in use, report says

Rick Gladstone reports for The New York Times:

Cluster bombs, internationally banned weapons that can maim and destroy indiscriminately, not only have been frequently used for the past two years by government forces in the Syrian civil war but also appear to have been deployed this year by antagonists in the South Sudan and eastern Ukraine conflicts, the director of a leading disarmament advocacy group said Wednesday.

Despite progress in eradicating cluster bombs and persuading more nations to join the treaty that prohibits them, the director of the group, Sarah Blakemore of the Cluster Munition Coalition, said the widened use of the weapons this year was troubling.’

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Cluster Bombs: The Savage Legacy Of Israel’s 2006 Lebanon Bombardment

Marshall Islands Nuclear Lawsuit Reopens Old Wounds

Lucy Westcott reports for Newsweek:

RTR3MON6‘The Republic of the Marshall Islands, the tiny collection of Pacific Ocean atolls and a former nuclear testing ground for the United States, is taking on the U.S. and eight other nuclear-armed nations with a set of lawsuits, claiming that the countries have failed to move towards disarmament and a world without nuclear weapons.

But they aren’t seeking monetary compensation — millions of dollars, along with a series of medical programs and cleanup operations, have been provided by the U.S. since they detonated dozens of nuclear and atomic bombs over the islands. How helpful the money has been remains a controversial topic.

Instead, the David and Goliath lawsuit claims the U.S. and its nuclear counterparts has failed to comply with the 44-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, which seeks to eliminate the international cadre of nuclear weapons, and promote the peaceful use of nuclear power. Filed on April 24, 2014, it seeks peace and adopts the line: If not us, who? If not now, when?’

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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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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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US accuses Russia of violating 1987 nuclear treaty based on tests in 2008

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘In a move that seems timed more or less entirely to add to tensions with Russia, the Obama Administration has announced that it sent a letter to Russia accusing them of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

The issue is a fairly old one, centering on tests Russia did of cruise missiles back in 2008. In January of this year, the US finally informed NATO that they were “conducting a review” of the tests, and it was only today that they finally decided the six-year-old tests were a “violation.”’

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Will robots fight Israel’s future wars?

Inbal Orpaz reports for Haaretz:

‘Just as advanced technology is changing the household, it’s also changing the battlefield. Some envision a day when robots will take over from all-too-vulnerable flesh and blood soldiers. While that day hasn’t arrived, and the army is silent about what it’s using now, the robots are out there: Israel, outmanned on the ground, is becoming a global expert on unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air.

…The Israeli army has long used robots in routine security missions. They can stay in the field. They don’t need lunch breaks. In short, the army’s goal is to replace grunts with gears as much as possible. Not only will soldiers’ lives be spared, points out robotics expert Isabelle Okashi, of the Israel Aerospace Industries robotics division: Machines don’t get bored and don’t cavil at messy missions. She believes that within five years, robots will be a routine part of the ground forces. She does not, however, buy “Terminator”-esque apocalyptic visions of wars being relegated to machine versus machine.’

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Japan still clearing World War II bombs from Okinawa

Matthew M. Burke and Chiyomi Sumida report for Stars & Stripes:

280714OKINAWA_BOMBphoto04‘World War II ended 69 years ago, but shells are still exploding off the coast of Okinawa. Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians detonated two dozen U.S.-made munitions Wednesday morning about 800 yards from shore in Kadena town’s Mizugama district, an area known as the “sea wall,” close to Kadena Air Base.

Nineteen of the 24 rounds were 5-inch shells found near the mouth of Hija River in Kadena town along with an 81 mm mortar shell, according to Kadena Town official Nobukazu Kobashigawa. They were accompanied by four 5-inch shells found on the Yomitan Village side. “It is not surprising to find those shells because the beach is where the allied forces first landed during the Battle of Okinawa,” Kobashigawa said. “I am sure there are lots more.”’

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How the Pentagon has been breaking the law for 24 years

Matt Purple writes for Rare:

‘In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act. Its text noted the obvious: that “billions of dollars are lost each year through fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement,” and that “more effective general and financial management practices” were needed within the federal government. The law required a slew of government agencies to undergo a yearly audit. One of those agencies was the Pentagon.

Since then, the Pentagon hasn’t been audited a single time. Thanks to dodges by the Defense Department and a lack of enforcement by Congress, the 1990 requirement has been completely disregarded for 24 years. Now a group of fiscally conservative Republicans and anti-war Democrats are demanding compliance. Last week Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2014. The legislation is backed by a curious left-right coalition rarely seen in Washington.’

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