This October marks 15 years since American troops entered Afghanistan. It was a precursor to the occupation of Iraq and is the longest military conflict in US history. Yet the trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended in these wars have rated barely a mention in the presidential campaign.
Yet the cost seems invisible to politicians and the public alike. The reason is that almost all of the spending has been financed through borrowing — selling US Treasury Bonds around the world — leaving our children to pick up the tab. Consequently, the wars have had little impact on our pocketbooks.
Telecommunications giant AT&T is selling access to customer data to local law enforcement in secret, new documents released on Monday reveal.
The program, called Hemisphere, was previously known only as a “partnership” between the company and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the purposes of counter-narcotics operations.
It accesses the trove of telephone metadata available to AT&T, who control a large proportion of America’s landline and cellphone infrastructure. Unlike other providers, who delete their stored metadata after a certain time, AT&T keeps information like call time, duration, and even location data on file for years, with records dating back to 2008.
But according to internal company documents revealed Monday by the Daily Beast, Hemisphere is being sold to local police departments and used to investigate everything from murder to Medicaid fraud, costing US taxpayers millions of dollars every year even while riding roughshod over privacy concerns.
n recent weeks, US-Russian relations have reached a perhaps fateful and exceedingly dangerous turning point, provoked by growing tensions on multiple overlapping fronts. The CIA is reportedly readying a “cyber covert action” in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee, with Vice President Joe Biden declaring that the administration will be “sending a message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin “at the time of our choosing.” The Clinton campaign has denounced Putin for “trying to put his thumb on the scale through cyber-attacks aimed at influencing the election.” I
Such a series of overt threats against Russia is almost without precedent. Ominously, many in the Russian political elite see this as a prelude to war. As Moscow’s UN ambassador observed, relations are “probably the worst since 1973.” (At the height of that year’s Arab-Israeli conflict, US military forces were placed at DEFCON 3, the second-highest level of alert.) Russia just staged a civil-defense drill involving up to 200,000 personnel and has deployed nuclear-capable missiles to its European enclave in Kaliningrad. Putin has also withdrawn from a long- standing nuclear-security pact with the United States; in defense of the suspension, his administration pointed to a “radical change in circumstances, the emergence of a threat to strategic stability as a result of hostile actions of the United States of America.”
With some Obama Administration officials openly advocating starting a war with Russia over Syria, it is noteworthy that a lot of top Pentagon officials are treating the conflict as all but inevitable. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley hyped Russian modernization efforts, but declared that they “will lose to the American Army.”
Russian officials have been cognizant of the possibility, insisting that Russia “can now fight a conventional war in Europe,” comments which Gen. Milley dismissed as “bluster, hubris, bravado.” and insisting that war with other nation-states “is almost guaranteed.”
Documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis released on 16th October 2016 exclusively on BBC iPlayer. (BBC)
A new film, “Hate Rising,” reported by Fusion and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, shows the astonishing and very concerning rise of hate in America. From the Ku Klux Klan to the so called alt-right movement, white supremacist groups are growing in numbers and influence. Their ideas, usually confined to private and secretive gatherings, are becoming mainstream thanks in part to the rhetoric on the campaign trail this election cycle.
There is a small, radical segment of the white non-hispanic population that feels threatened by the demographic changes in the country and is resisting the possibility of becoming a minority. The Southern Poverty Law Center has dubbed it “the Trump Effect.”
Throughout the documentary, Ramos explores the mainstreaming of these ideas on TV and social media, and in our communities and classrooms. Over four months, he traveled to small towns across the nation speaking with neo-Nazis, members of the KKK, and the alt-right. He also heard stories of Muslims and Latinos who have been the victims of hate crimes.
We keep being told that the Donald Trump phenomenon means we have entered the era of post-fact politics. Yet, I would argue, post-fact politics has been tarnishing democracy for some time. Twenty-two years ago a successful businessman sent a VHS tape to Italy’s news channels. It showed him sitting in a (fake) office. He read a pre-prepared statement via an autocue.
The man’s name was Silvio Berlusconi, and he was announcing that he was, in his words, “taking the field”. The first reaction was derision. Opposition politicians saw his political project (the formation of a “movement” called Forza Italia – Go for it, Italy – just months ahead of a crucial general election) as a joke. Some claimed a stocking had been put over the camera to soften the impact of Berlusconi’s face.
But Forza Italia soon became the biggest “party”. In the working-class Communist citadel of Mirafiori Sud in Turin, an unknown psychiatrist standing for Berlusconi’s movement beat a long-standing trade unionist. Berlusconi had not just won, he had also stolen the left’s clothes and some of its supporters. That first government was short lived, but Berlusconi would dominate Italian politics for the next 20 years – winning elections in 2001 and 2008 and losing by a handful of seats in 2006. In terms of days in office, Berlusconi ranks as Italy’s third longest-serving prime minister, behind Mussolini and the great liberal of 19th-century Italy, Giovanni Giolitti.
Soon, foreign visitors to the United States will be expected to tell U.S. authorities about their social media accounts.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to start collecting “information associated with your online presence” from travelers from countries eligible for a visa waiver, including much of Europe and a handful of other countries. Earlier this summer, the agency proposed including a field on certain customs forms for “provider/platform” and “social media identifier,” making headlines in the international press. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the change could take effect as soon as December.
Privacy groups in recent weeks have pushed back against the idea, saying it could chill online expression and gives DHS and CBP overbroad authority to determine what kind of online activity constitutes a “risk to the United States” or “nefarious activity.”
The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression wrote last month that the scope of information being collected was “vague and open-ended,” and that he was “concerned” that with the change, “government officials might have largely unfettered authority to collect, analyze, share and retain personal and sensitive information about travelers and their online associations.”
AT&T and Time Warner have agreed to an $85 billion deal — one of the biggest media tie-ups ever.
The move, announced Saturday evening, will help AT&T expand beyond wireless and Internet service into programming. Time Warner is the parent of CNN, TNT, HBO, the Warner Bros. studio, and other channels and websites.
AT&T, which dates back to the invention of the telephone in 1876, is one of the country’s largest providers of wireless phone and Internet service. It also recently acquired the DirecTV satellite TV business.
The deal will be subject to a review by government regulators that could take more than a year to complete.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday he was not severing ties with his country’s long-time ally the United States, but merely pursuing a more independent foreign policy by strengthening relations with China.
A day after he provoked fresh diplomatic alarm by announcing his “separation” from Washington, Duterte struck a more conciliatory tone as he arrived back in the Philippines after a four-day visit to Beijing.
“It is not severance of ties. When you say severance of ties, you cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that,” the Philippine leader told reporters at a midnight news conference in his southern home city of Davao.
“It’s in the best interest of my countrymen to maintain that relationship.”
South Africa on Friday reversed its early support for the International Criminal Court and said it will withdraw from it, raising concerns of a possible African exodus that would undermine a human rights tribunal accused by some leaders of unfairly targeting the continent.
The announcement followed a similar decision by Burundi this week and was criticized by human rights groups that see the ICC as the best means of pursuing perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities. The treaty creating the court entered into force in 2002 after years of efforts by South Africa’s post-apartheid government and others.
No country has ever withdrawn from the ICC. Now, the debate over a mass African withdrawal is expected to be a “hot issue” at an African Union summit in January 2017, said Oryem Okello, deputy foreign minister of Uganda, a critic of the court.
“We think the matter is best decided as a bloc,” Okello said.
The U.S. intelligence community and American scholars of international affairs have a remarkable and impressive record. Though scholars in countries that follow the “English School” of international relations (such as the UK, Canada, Australia) can be every bit as impressive, the best Americans stand out as world leaders and have inspired many around the world.
Long exposure to the analysts and product of the CIA, both its intelligence achievements and failures, teaches the astute student three analytical principles: empathy, curiosity and humility. These lessons have been reinforced over many decades by leading American scholars, like Raymond Garthoff, Doak Barnett, Jack Snyder, Barry Posen, John Steinbrunner, Jonathan Pollack, Michael Swaine, Richard Solomon, David Lampton, Ezra Vogel, Sam Huntington and Richard Betts, to name a few, regardless of their seemingly disparate political dispositions.
These qualities seem all too absent among the raucous commentariat that has come to dominate public discourse on China in the United States, including in some parts of the U.S. government, armed forces, the Congress and many non-specialist writings on China. Donald Trump’s charge from 2012 that climate change is a conspiracy dreamt up by China to bring down the United States is symptomatic of the gulf between some new political movements in the United States and the much wiser, better informed intelligence officials and scholars. It is also symptomatic of the lack of self-awareness of the loudest promoters of unscientific and highly propagandistic international relations analysis of China. Many less critical analysts have found undeserved prominence because of new opportunities created by the information age.
Sharmini Peries speaks to Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report who recounts what was left out of a recent New York Times story on the U.S. role in Somalia, namely the more than two decades of American involvement there. (The Real News)
Hyperpartisan political Facebook pages and websites are consistently feeding their millions of followers false or misleading information, according to an analysis by BuzzFeed News. The review of more than 1,000 posts from six large hyperpartisan Facebook pages selected from the right and from the left also found that the least accurate pages generated some of the highest numbers of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook — far more than the three large mainstream political news pages analyzed for comparison.
Our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of posts from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false. The right-wing pages are among the forces — perhaps as potent as the cable news shows that have gotten far more attention — that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump.
These pages, with names such as Eagle Rising on the right and Occupy Democrats on the left, represent a new and powerful force in American politics and society. Many have quickly grown to be as large as — and often much larger than — mainstream political news pages. A recent feature in the New York Times Magazine reported on the growth and influence of these pages, saying they “have begun to create and refine a new approach to political news: cherry-picking and reconstituting the most effective tactics and tropes from activism, advocacy and journalism into a potent new mixture.”
This week the Financial Times reported details of what many suspected already: Anticipating an electoral loss, Donald Trump and his crew may try to launch some kind of media network. And why not?
Trump himself is a creature of television and the campaign proved he could generate ratings like few other septuagenarians. He is now working closely with Steve Bannon, an executive of the right-wing Breitbart news site. And even if Trump TV doesn’t work as a home for a conspiratorial populist news network, it could be passed down to Ivanka Trump and her media scion husband and be transformed into an aspirational lifestyle property. There are lots of possibilities.
Of course there are the unique business challenges of launching a cable network, and these are complicated further by Trump’s determination to put in as little of his own capital up front as possible and to be the first one taking money out of the ventures that bear his name. But TrumpTV seems like a decent bet to me.
Only half of Republicans would accept Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, as their president, according to a new poll. And if she wins, nearly 70% said it would be because of illegal voting or vote rigging, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey released on Friday.
Conversely, seven out of 10 Democrats said they would accept a Donald Trump victory and less than 50% would attribute it to illegal voting or vote rigging, the poll showed.
The findings come after repeated statements by Trump that the media and the political establishment have rigged the election against him. He has also made a number of statements encouraging his supporters to fan out on election day to stop ineligible voters from casting ballots.
Al Gore, not George Bush, should be sitting in the White House today as the newly elected president of the United States, two new independent probes of the disputed Florida election contest have confirmed.
The first survey, conducted on behalf of the Washington Post, shows that Mr Gore had a nearly three-to-one majority among 56,000 Florida voters whose November 7 ballot papers were discounted because they contained more than one punched hole.
The second and separate survey, conducted on behalf of the Palm Beach Post, shows that Mr Gore had a majority of 682 votes among the discounted “dimpled” ballots in Palm Beach county.
In each case, if the newly examined votes had been allowed to count in the November election, Mr Gore would have won Florida’s 21 electoral college votes by a narrow majority and he, not Mr Bush, would be the president. Instead, Mr Bush officially carried Florida by 537 votes after recounts were stopped.
In spite of the findings, no legal challenge to the Florida result is possible in the light of the US supreme court’s 5-4 ruling in December to hand the state to Mr Bush. But the revelations will continue to cast a cloud, to put it mildly, over the democratic legitimacy of Mr Bush’s election.
[…] It’s an existential crisis for former masters of the universe who once prided themselves on their trading prowess. Now they’re questioning their wisdom and their ability to generate profits that made them among the richest in finance.
The $2.9 trillion industry has posted average annual returns of 2 percent over the past three years, well below those of most index funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That meager performance and complaints about high fees from pension plans and other investors led to $51.5 billion being withdrawn from hedge funds in the first nine months of the year, the most since the financial crisis, data compiled by Hedge Fund Research Inc. show. About 530 funds were liquidated in the first half, on pace for the most shutdowns since 2008.
Managers blame a wall of index-fund money and algorithmic trading for warping markets. They bemoan central bank near-zero-rate policies, political and economic decisions made overseas and government regulation for undermining their craft. Add to that global economic uncertainty and an onslaught of technology that’s changing the investing process. It’s enough to have the so-called best and brightest second-guessing themselves.
Last week, Bayer, a transnational drug and pesticide company, secured funding for its $66 billion offer to acquire Monsanto, the world’s largest producer of agricultural seeds. This follows the announced $130 billion merger of chemical giants Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina’s proposed $43 billion purchase of the seed and pesticide firm Syngenta.
Bayer, DuPont, Dow, Monsanto, and Syngenta are five of the world’s six biggest pesticide and seed corporations. There are claims, which I find credible, that the “Big 6” and their products bear major responsibility for pesticide-resistant weeds and insects, and are implicated in impoverishment of small farmers, collapse of honeybee colonies, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity and soil fertility—all serious attacks on the common good. And similar consolidation continues in most every sector of the economy.
As individual corporations grow in size, global reach, and political power, we see a corresponding shift in the primary function of national governments—from serving the interests of their citizens to assuring the security of corporate property and profits. They apply police and military powers to this end, subsidize corporate operations, and facilitate corporate tax evasion. They let corporations off the hook with slap-on-the-wrist fines for criminal actions. Rarely, if ever, do they punish top executives.
We the People never voted to yield our sovereignty to transnational corporations. Nor was the corporate takeover a response to public need.
You just wanted to shop for a birthday cake in peace—instead, you got ads that follow you around the internet, and coupons in your email that remember exactly which products you clicked on. So you shut down your computer, stick your hands into your pockets, and walk to the store. Here, among the throngs of shoppers, you may feel more anonymous than you do behind a screen unburdened by cookies and tracking pixels, and you can browse in peace.
Except not really. If you brought your smartphone, its GPS probably tattled on you before you even walked through the doors. Take your phone out and it might start picking up inaudible sounds broadcast throughout the store to pinpoint your location and send you targeted ads. Surveillance cameras hidden in light fixtures track your movement through the aisles, and could even be using facial-recognition software to understand your preferences and habits and attach them to your personal profile.
For the past five years or so, brick-and-mortar retail stores have been trying to catch up with their online counterparts in tracking and personalization. Joseph Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying the marketing and advertising industries for decades. He chronicled the most recent developments in retail surveillance for his forthcoming book, “The Aisles Have Eyes,” which will be released by Yale University Press in January.
Paul Jay speaks to Max Blumenthal and Medea Benjamin after the conclusion of the third presidential debate where host Chris Wallace challenged Clinton by saying a no-fly zone would lead to confrontation with Russia in Syria. (The Real News)
In an election cycle that has pushed American politics to new heights of partisan acrimony, the Washington foreign-policy elite has represented a singular bastion of bipartisan comity. A large segment of the GOP’s neoconservative wing broke with Donald Trump in the early days of his general-election campaign. A significant number took shelter in Hillary Clinton’s coalition, where they’ve gotten along amiably with liberal interventionists who share their belief that Obama has betrayed America’s obligation to lead.
That point of agreement has now been ratified in a flurry of new reports — from an array of think tanks that span partisan divide — all calling for an escalation in U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war.
[…] The foreign-policy elite’s frustration with President Obama’s reluctance to engage in a large-scale military intervention in Syria is nothing new. And the desire to do something to ameliorate the suffering of the Syrian people is, of course, understandable.
But there are a few problems with the narrative advanced by the papers and foreign-policy thinkers quoted in the Washington Post
Sharmini Peries speaks to Deborah James, Director of International Programs at CEPR, who discusses TiSA. (The Real News)
Is the Disclosure of John Podesta’s Emails a Step Too Far? Glenn Greenwald In Conversation With Naomi Klein
Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept recently spoke to author and activity Naomi Klein about the latest email hacks revolving around the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. (The Intercept)
The fact that political candidates are closely coordinating with friendly Super PACs — making a mockery of a central tenet of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision — is one of the biggest open secrets in Washington.
Super PACs are only allowed to accept unlimited contributions on the condition that the money is spent independently of specific campaigns. The Federal Election Commission hasn’t reacted for a variety of reasons, including a lack of hard evidence, vague rules, and a partisan divide among the commissioners so bitter they can’t even agree to investigate obvious crimes.
But newly disclosed hacked campaign documents published by WikiLeaks and a hacker who calls himself Guccifer 2.0 reveal in stark terms how Hillary Clinton’s staffers made Super PACs an integral part of her presidential campaign.
Donald Trump suddenly lashed out at the influence of foreign lobbyists on Monday, calling to ban them from donating to U.S. candidates and accusing his rival of being corrupted by foreign interests. “The reasonHillary Clinton pushes for NAFTA, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and for completely open borders, is because her international donors control her every move,” Trump said, announcing what he called his ethics reform plan.
But newly filed campaign reports show several donations from foreign lobbyists to his own campaign. They are among a tide of other lobbyists, mainstream special-interest groups and consumer-facing companies that have begun to heavily fund Trump’s political campaign, which was previously fueled by small donors.
The U.S. Air Force’s top officer said he expects the high pace of war-related operations to continue for decades to come.
“We’ve been deploying now for 15 years,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said. “We’ve probably got 15, 20 years to go.”
While fewer airmen are deploying, the time they spend away is increasing — driven in part by missions related to the air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a resurgent Russia and China’s increased military activity in the Pacific.
What’s the CIA’s brilliant plan for stopping Russian cyber-attacks on the US and their alleged interference with the US election? Apparently, some in the agency want to escalate tensions between the two superpowers even more and possibly do the same thing right back to them.
NBC News reported late last week that the CIA is working up blueprints for an “unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia”, and it sounds a lot like they’re planning on leaking documents on Vladimir Putin, just as the Russians are accused of doing to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
NBC reported that former intelligence officials said “the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin” and another former official said the US “should … expose the financial dealings of Putin and his associates”.
In the past 12 months, Jessica Campbell has had her car’s fuel line cut and its wheel nuts loosened. Late last year, she had a GPS tracker surreptitiously attached to her vehicle. She is now accustomed to being tailed by unfamiliar vehicles on Interstate 5 near her home in Cottage Grove, just outside Eugene,Oregon. Strangers have regularly come uninvited onto her property; someone even stripped the barbed wire on her fence “just to send a message”. Online, she has repeatedly been threatened with rape and death.
And last week, when she showed up at the Canyon City community hall in Grant County, she told me that someone shot at her and her entourage. They misread their GPS, took a wrong turn and stopped to get their bearings when a crack rang out with what Campbell thought was a .22 bullet whizzing by their vehicle.
Such threats are part of the pushback her work has sparked in rural Oregon.
Campbell co-directs the Rural Organizing Project, a not-for-profit group that sets out to confront the rightwing insurgency that has been bubbling away in parts of rural Oregon and throughout the west. A political organizer since high school, she now coordinates groups attempting to respond to divisive tactics from rightwing activists on immigration, race and public land ownership.