Category Archives: Uncategorized

Austerity and Neglect: Survivors of Grenfell Tower Block Fire Demand Accountability for the Victims

Protests are continuing in London over last week’s devastating apartment fire that killed 79 people. On Wednesday, around 200 protesters, including survivors of the fire, marched from West London to Parliament to protest the government’s handling of the fire. Last week’s fire occurred at a 24-story apartment building called Grenfell Tower located in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of West London. Many of the residents of the building are low-income workers and recent immigrants. The company that recently renovated the building admitted over the weekend it used highly flammable—and less expensive—cladding during construction. The cladding is banned from use in the U.S. and European Union, but allowed in Britain. The building’s residents say the renovation was largely aimed at making aesthetic improvements to the exterior of the building in order to make it blend in with the new luxury high-rises in the area. (The Real  News/Democracy Now!)

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The Generals Guarding American Democracy

Patrick Granfield reports for Politico:

GettyImages-635627260.jpgDonald Trump promised as a candidate to deliver fundamental change to how Washington works, and in one critical way, he is already delivering. A little more than a month into his presidency, a fundamental shift in civil-military relations is taking hold. Rather than civilian leaders checking military power, it is now military leaders, who represent one of the strongest checks against the overreach of a civilian executive.

Take President Trump’s comments on Thursday, in which he said the deportations of undocumented immigrations would be a “military operation.” Several hours later, the retired Marine general who serves as his secretary of homeland Security, John Kelly, spoke to the press. There would be, “No, I repeat no, use of military forces in immigration operations,” Secretary Kelly said. The White House later said, rather unconvincingly, that the president was merely using the word “military” as an “adjective.”

The incident was just one of several revealing discrepancies between the president and military leaders, active duty and retired, who now serve him and on his Cabinet. It also demonstrated some of the inherent risks in how President Trump understands the role of the military and his relationship to it.

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After Michael Flynn’s Resignation, Surveillance Defenders Suddenly Care About Wiretap Abuse

Alex Emmons reports for The Intercept:

Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a leading defender of government surveillance programs, reacted with outrage when he found out the FBI had listened in on conversations between the Russian ambassador and a top Trump official.

“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” the California Republican told the Washington Post. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”

Telephone conversations between Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak led to Flynn’s resignation.

The fact that communications from the Russian delegation in Washington are closely monitored should surprise no one. The FBI routinely uses the NSA’s eavesdropping techniques to monitor the delegation — for obvious intelligence and counterintelligence reasons — and as a former top intelligence official in the Obama administration, Flynn must have known that his conversation would be intercepted.

Yet after the news of Flynn’s resignation, several traditional surveillance defenders rushed to the defense of his privacy rights as an “American citizen.”

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Apocalypse Now: Survivalists Dig in for November 9

Julia Ioffe reports for Politico:

161107_ioffe_preppers_getty.jpg[…] While the rest of the country expects—or at least hopes—the election will put a merciful end to the chaos of campaign season, the Camerons are among the many Americans who think it will only get worse. The end of the campaign, many in this community believe, is only the beginning: The really bad stuff will begin the day after the election. “I’ll be honest with ya, I think some things are going to go down,” Lucas told me.

“Nobody takes Obama seriously,” he said, “but the two people who are running for office—a lot of people are scared that he’ll hit the nuclear button without even taking a breath, and that she’s so wicked that I won’t be surprised if she opens the floodgates of ISIS to come in and kill all Americans.” Though most of his clients, like him, support Trump, he says, “Most all of them expect there will be riots in either case.”

“It doesn’t matter who wins. We’re in trouble,” says David Kobler, a military veteran who runs the popular SouthernPrepper1 YouTube channel out of South Carolina. “I have talked to a few guys who have to travel for business around Election Day, and they will be driving instead of flying, so they can take their bug-out bags with them.” (A bug-out bag is a bag packed for emergencies: food, water, first aid, weapons.) “That way, if they’re stuck in their hotel room, they will have some food and water,” Kobler explained. “And they have concealed weapons permits so they can legally carry in their cars,” but not on planes. Which is another reason not to fly around Election Day: you could end up unarmed and vulnerable in the middle of post-election violence.

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Why The FBI Director Puts Tape Over His Webcam

Martin Kaste reports for NPR:

[…] FBI Director James Comey’s comment Wednesday was in response to a question about growing public awareness of the ways technology can spy on people, and he acknowledged sharing in the surveillance anxiety.

“I saw something in the news, so I copied it. I put a piece of tape — I have obviously a laptop, personal laptop — I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera.”

It’s certainly not unreasonable to worry about webcams, especially for someone as high-profile as Comey. The FBI itself has used malware to hack into cameras to spy on targets.

For privacy activists, the real problem is what they see as Comey’s hypocrisy. He says tech companies shouldn’t make devices that are “unhackable” to law enforcement (the fight over the San Bernardino iPhone 5C being the major case in point), but the activists say that’s exactly what he’s done with his personal webcam.

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The Pretend War: Why Bombing ISIS Won’t Solve the Problem

Retired U.S. colonel and historian Andrew J. Bacevich writes for The Spectator:

coverimageNot so long ago, David Cameron declared that he was not some ‘naive neocon who thinks you can drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000 feet’. Just a few weeks after making that speech, Cameron authorised UK forces to join in the bombing of Libya — where the outcome reaffirmed this essential lesson.

Soon Cameron will ask parliament to share his ‘firm conviction’ that bombing Raqqa, the Syrian headquarters of the Islamic State, has become ‘imperative’. At first glance, the case for doing so appears compelling. The atrocities in Paris certainly warrant a response. With François Hollande having declared his intention to ‘lead a war which will be pitiless’, other western nations can hardly sit on their hands; as with 9/11 and 7/7, the moment calls for solidarity. And since the RAF is already targeting Isis in Iraq, why not extend the operation to the other side of the elided border? What could be easier?

But it’s harder to establish what expanding the existing bombing campaign further will actually accomplish. Is Britain engaged in what deserves to be called a war, a term that implies politically purposeful military action? Or is the Cameron government — and the Hollande government as well — merely venting its anger, and thereby concealing the absence of clear-eyed political purpose?

Britain and France each once claimed a place among the world’s great military powers. Whether either nation today retains the will (or the capacity) to undertake a ‘pitiless’ war — presumably suggesting a decisive outcome at the far end — is doubtful. The greater risk is that, by confusing war with punishment, they exacerbate the regional disorder to which previous western military interventions have contributed.

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Kissinger, the Bombardier: How Diplomacy by Air Power Became an All-American Tradition

Greg Grandin writes for TomDisptach:

In April 2014, ESPN published a photograph of an unlikely duo: Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and former national security adviser and secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the Yankees-Red Sox season opener. In fleece jackets on a crisp spring day, they were visibly enjoying each other’s company, looking for all the world like a twenty-first-century geopolitical version of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. The subtext of their banter, however, wasn’t about sex, but death.

As a journalist, Power had made her name as a defender of human rights, winning a Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.Having served on the National Security Council before moving on to the U.N., she was considered an influential “liberal hawk” of the Obama era. She was also a leading light among a set of policymakers and intellectuals who believe that American diplomacy should be driven not just by national security and economic concerns but by humanitarian ideals, especially the advancement of democracy and the defense of human rights.

The United States, Power long held, has a responsibility to protect the world’s most vulnerable people. In 2011 she played a crucial role in convincing President Obama to send in American air power to prevent troops loyal to Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi from massacring civilians.  That campaign led to his death, the violent overthrow of his regime, and in the end, a failed state and growing stronghold for ISIS and other terror groups. In contrast, Kissinger is identified with a school of “political realism,” which holds that American power should service American interests, even if that means sacrificing the human rights of others.

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Pentagon Paid Sports Teams Millions For ‘Paid Patriotism’ Events

Eyder Peralta reports for NPR:

In the past few years, the Pentagon spent $6.8 million to pay for patriotic displays during the games of professional sports teams.

That’s according to a joint oversight report released by Arizona Republican Sens. John Flake and John McCain on Wednesday.

The senators found that since 2012, the Pentagon has signed 72 contracts with teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer that amounted to “paid patriotism.”

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