Category Archives: USA

U.S. gun debate after 9-year-old girl kills instructor

Hurricane Katrina 9 Years On: Interview with Greg Palast

Shutoff: Detroit’s Water War

‘Earlier this year, Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department began turning off water utilities for overdue or delinquent accounts. Since April, the department has cut off the water for nearly 3,000 households per week — meaning roughly 100,000 Motor City residents are without water. Entrenched at the bottom of Detroit’s current economic crisis, many of those without water are the city’s poorest resident. The city’s shut-off campaign has garnered international press attention, and has been called “an affront to human rights” by representatives of the United Nations. VICE News traveled to Detroit to see first-hand how residents are dealing with the water shut-offs, speak with local government representatives about the issue, and discuss possible resolutions with activist groups.’ (VICE News)

Despite Calls for Humanity, Detroit Resumes Water Shutoffs

Lauren McCauley reports for Common Dreams:

‘Despite widespread public outcry and international condemnation, the city of Detroit on Tuesday resumed shutting off the water supply to thousands of city residents. Ending the month long moratorium on shutoffs, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) public affairs specialist Gregory Eno confirmed to Common Dreams that the city turned off the water to roughly 400 households that are delinquent on their water bills and have not yet set up a payment plan. More shutoffs are expected.

According to the citizens group Detroit Water Brigade, the only thing that changed since shutoffs began in March is that the city has lowered the required down payment water bills from 30% to 10%. “The water is still too expensive for Detroit,” they said. Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the United States with over 38% of the population living below the poverty line, according to Census Bureau statistics.

Members of the Detroit Water Brigade are calling on the city to halt the shutoffs altogether and consider alternatives for helping people pay their bills, arguing that restricting access to water for the city’s poorest residents is “doing nothing more than hurting people,” DWB volunteer DeMeeko Williams told a local CBS affiliate.’

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How DoD flawed algorithms are the basis for drone ‘Kill List': Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

‘Abby Martin features an interview with author and journalist Nafeez Ahmed, discussing his four-part investigation into the Pentagon’s mass social science project called The Minerva Research Initiative, as well as his latest book ‘Zero Point’.’ (Breaking the Set)

How Cops and Hackers Could Abuse California’s New Phone Kill-Switch Law

Kim Zetter writes for Wired:

kill-switch‘Beginning next year, if you buy a cell phone in California that gets lost or stolen, you’ll have a built-in ability to remotely deactivate the phone under a new “kill switch” feature being mandated by California law—but the feature will make it easier for police and others to disable the phone as well, raising concerns among civil liberties groups about possible abuse.

The law, which takes effect next July, requires all phones sold in California to come pre-equipped with a software “kill switch” that allows owners to essentially render them useless if they’re lost or stolen. Although the law, SB 962, applies only to California, it undoubtedly will affect other states, which often follow the Golden State’s lead. It also seems unlikely phone manufacturers would exclude the feature from phones sold elsewhere. And although the legislation allows users to opt out of the feature after they buy the phone, few likely will do so.’

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Pentagon Sale: Everything Must Go!

How Hillary Clinton’s ‘smart power’ turned Libya into a dumpster fire

Michael Brendan Dougherty writes for The Week:

Beware politicians waving peace signs.‘Nearly three years ago, then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waved a peace sign to cameras in Tripoli as she celebrated the U.S.-aided overthrow of the kleptocratic government of Moammar Gadhafi. Clinton claimed victory for her philosophy of “smart power,” the self-regarding name for bombing people on behalf of rebel groups in a war that would be cheap and easily forgotten.

That wasn’t long ago.

Today, Libya has two nominal governments that pretend to preside over an anarchic, stateless region that is being pillaged and harassed by terror gangs. One parliament, dominated by non-Islamists, meets in Tobruk, an eastern city 1,000 miles away from Tripoli. An Islamist-dominated parliament, previously elected, does meet in Tripoli, but is hardly in control there; Operation Dawn, an Islamist rebel group, seized control of Tripoli’s airport this week, setting the place ablaze. And Operation Dawn isn’t even the biggest “winner” on the ground; that honor would probably go to Ansar al-Shariah, another Islamic extremist group. Meanwhile, the country is also reportedly being bombarded by Egyptian and Emirati airstrikes, according to The New York Times, as the conflict goes regional.’

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The Powers Behind The Islamic State: Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

‘Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed gives specific examples of how Saudi, Qatari, and American interests have supported the group formerly known as ISIS, and what the global community can do now to reign them in.’ (The Real News)

BT alleged to have supplied high-speed fibre-optic cable to aid US drone strikes

Juliette Garside reports for The Guardian:

domestic high speed fibre optic network in close up‘The government has been asked to investigate whether BT is aiding drone strikes with a specially built military internet cable connecting US air force facilities in Northamptonshire to a base for unmanned craft in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.

Evidence is mounting that the $23m (£13m) fibre-optic circuit built by BT in 2012 was installed to facilitate air strikes in Yemen and Somalia by US air force drones, according to a complaint filed by the human rights group Reprieve.

The circuit runs from RAF Croughton, a base where US air force personnel staff a command, control, communications and computer support hub for global operations organised by the US military.’

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Interview with Professor Stephen Cohen on the situation in Ukraine

Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.

NATO Considers Missle Defense Shield Directed Against Russia

Spiegel reports:

‘NATO officials are considering deploying a long-planned missile defense system — aimed at protecting Europe from attacks from the Middle East — against Russia as well, SPIEGEL has learned.

Calls for such an expansion to the system’s remit, which is backed by the United States, are growing in Poland as well as in NATO member states Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In the run-up to next week’s NATO summit, the four countries called for the remaining members to agree on language at the summit that would pave the way for the plan. They feel threatened by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

But the majority of NATO members, especially Germany, are opposed to the proposal, warning that it could result in an unnecessary provocation of Moscow. Representatives of these countries have warned that NATO has for years pledged to Russia that the missile defense system would not be directed at the country. Further debate on the issue has since been delayed until after the summit.’

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

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

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

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

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Hollywood and the Obama Myth

Chris Ernesto writes for Antiwar:

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

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

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

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

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

Cat Zakrzewski reports for TechCrunch:

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

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

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

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

Craig Timberg reports for The Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Cushing writes for Techdirt:

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

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

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

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

John Seward reports for Benzinga:

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

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

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

Charles Davis writes for VICE:

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

Yeah, it didn’t work.

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

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

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Military Training Exercise Over Twin Cities Has Some Residents Asking Questions

Kim Johnson reports for CBS Minnesota:

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

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

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

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

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

Lee Moran reports for The New York Daily News:

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

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

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Foley murder video ‘may have been staged’

Bill Gardner reports for The Telegraph:

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

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

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China’s reaction to aircraft incident off Hainan Island: America is a “disgusting thief spying over his neighbors fence”

Simon Black writes for Sovereign Man:

‘Only hours ago the US government announced that a Chinese fighter jet had intercepted an American military patrol plane over international waters east of China’s Hainan Island. A Pentagon spokesman called China’s actions “unsafe and unprofessional”, and blasted such unprovoked aggression.

There was no mention as to why a US surveillance plane was just off the Chinese coast to begin with. They’re just playing the victim… and rather loudly at that. Needless to say, the Chinese government has a slightly different story. I asked one of our Sovereign Man team members in mainland China to translate the following article from Sina News.

The first part of the article praises the pilot’s skill and boldness, as well as the efficiency and superiority of Chinese aviation technology. The Jian-11B fighter, in fact, is 100% Chinese. There is no foreign engine or major component. As for the rest of the article– I present it below with only one comment– it should be obvious to anyone paying attention that the US is no longer the world’s dominant superpower. It’s certainly obvious to the Chinese.’

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Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in U.S. Taxes

David Sirota reports for The International Business Times:

‘Microsoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years, and the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.

The company says it has “not provided deferred U.S. income taxes” because it says the earnings were generated from its “non-U.S. subsidiaries” and then “reinvested outside the U.S.” Tax experts, however, say that details of the filing suggest the company is using tax shelters to dodge the taxes it owes as a company domiciled in the United States.

In response to a request for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson referred International Business Times to 2012 U.S. Senate testimony from William J. Sample, the company’s corporate vp for worldwide tax… The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries and so-called “inversions” to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers — although often legal — threaten to signficantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.’

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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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FBI informant led cyberattacks on Turkey’s government

Dell Cameron reports for The Kernal:

‘After Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided Hector Xavier Monsegur’s Manhattan apartment in June 2011, the FBI gave him a choice: Help take down the international hacktivist collective Anonymous, or go to prison for the rest of your life. He promptly flipped. What followed was a high-profile hacking spree that included attacks on Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the FBI’s own Virtual Academy, among others. Monsegur, better known by his alias Sabu, helped ensnare eight of the world’s top hackers in the process.

Monsegur’s exact role, however, and the FBI’s implicit involvement in the attacks have come under serious scrutiny in recent months. The Daily Dot previously revealed that, contrary to official reports, Monsegur, 30, orchestrated the devastating attack on Stratfor in December 2011. The breach caused an estimated $3.78 million in damages and left thousands of customers vulnerable to fraud. For the first time, The Kernel can now confirm Monsegur also led cyberattacks on Turkey’s government. The revelation further calls into question the role of federal investigators and their apparent willingness to exploit both hackers and major security flaws.’

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Chelsea Manning ‘denied gender dysphoria treatment’

BBC News reports:

In this undated file photo provided by the US Army, Pte Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick‘The US military has yet to offer Pte First Class Chelsea Manning sex change treatment despite medical recommendations, her lawyer has said. Defence secretary Chuck Hagel approved treatment for a condition known as gender dysphoria in July. But lawyer David Coombs says her requests for hormone therapy and other accommodations have been “ignored”. The soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking secret files to Wikileaks.

“This time last year I publicly asked that I be provided with a treatment plan, to bring my body more in line with my gender identity,” Pte Manning said in a statement to NBC News. “Unfortunately, despite silence, and then lip service, the military has not yet provided me with any such treatment.” She adds that despite legally changing her name in April, she is not referred to as Chelsea at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she is currently held.’

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