Category Archives: USA

The U.S. Army Lost Track of $6.5 Trillion

Matthew Gault reports for War Is Boring:

By congressional mandate, the Pentagon needs to be ready for an audit of its finances by Sept. 30, 2017. If what’s going on at the U.S. Army is any indication — and it is — then next fall’s audit will be a shit-show of broken promises, cooked books and bizarre accounting.

The Army made headlines in mid-August 2016 when a Defense Department Inspector General report landed with a heavy thud. The 75-page reportdetailed all the ways the Army screwed up its accounting of the Army General Fund in 2015.

According to the report, Army bookkeepers screwed up the budget to the tune of … $6.5 trillion dollars.

Yes, trillion.

That’s $6.5 trillion in accounting mistakes for the year 2015 alone. That’s such a huge number that it doesn’t even make a lot of sense. The annual budget for the entire U.S. military in the past few years has been around half-a-trillion bucks.

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Journalist Andrew Cockburn on the U.S. Role in Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen

Amy Goodman speaks to Andrew Cockburn, the Washington editor for Harper’s magazine, about America’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. His latest piece for Harper’s is headlined Acceptable Losses: Aiding and Abetting the Saudi Slaughter in Yemen. He is author of a number of books, his latest is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. (Democracy Now!)

Paul Wolfowitz: ‘I might have to vote for Hillary Clinton’

Louis Nelson reports for Politico:

140617_paul_wolfowitz_ap_328.jpgThe former George W. Bush administration official who is often referred to as the “architect” of the Iraq War says he will likely end up voting for Hillary Clinton for president this fall.

Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense under President Bush from 2001-2005, told the English-language version of the German newspaper Der Spiegel that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump represents a security risk for the U.S. and that his praise for strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is “pretty disturbing.”

“The only way you can be comfortable about Trump’s foreign policy is to think he doesn’t really mean anything he says. That’s a pretty uncomfortable place to be in,” Wolfowitz said. “Our security depends on having good relationships with our allies. Trump mainly shows contempt for them.”

Because he is so uncomfortable with Trump, Wolfowitz said he would likely vote for Clinton, albeit grudgingly.

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A Guided Tour of the ‘Alt-Right’ by the Trump Campaign Chief’s Website

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):

“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Donald Trump’s new campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, told Mother Jones‘ David Corn (8/22/16)—”we” meaning Breitbart News, the online news outlet that Bannon headed until he was picked to run the turbulent Trump campaign.

And the “alt-right”? Well, Breitbart (3/29/16) tried to explain what that is in a 5,000-word piece last spring, written by Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos—perhaps best-known for being banned from Twitter for harassing actress Leslie Jones—and Allum Bokhari, who describes himself as the “resident kebab at Breitbart Tech” and “Milo’s deputy.”

Not that Bokhari and Yiannopoulos find it easy to explain the “alternative right.” When it comes time to sum it up in a nutshell, this is the best they can offer:

Young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies, they have become public enemy No. 1 to Beltway conservatives…. The alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.

They can tell you what it’s not, though—racist! Despite the fact that everyone seems to think it is:

Some — mostly Establishment types — insist it’s little more than a vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: antisemites, white supremacists and other members of the Stormfront set. They’re wrong…. Lefties dismiss it as racist, while the conservative press, always desperate to avoid charges of bigotry from the Left, has thrown these young readers and voters to the wolves as well.

Rather than giving one definition of the alt-right, the Breitbart article chooses to describe it piece by piece. Let’s put the pieces together and see what kind of picture it makes.

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Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.

That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.

The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by“the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.

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The NSA Is Putting Us All at Risk to be Hacked

Bruce Schneier, author of Data and Goliath, writes for Vox:

The National Security Agency is lying to us. We know that because of data stolen from an NSA server was dumped on the internet. The agency is hoarding information about security vulnerabilities in the products you use, because it wants to use it to hack others’ computers. Those vulnerabilities aren’t being reported, and aren’t getting fixed, making your computers and networks unsafe.

On August 13, a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers released 300 megabytes of NSA cyberweapon code on the internet. Near as we experts can tell, the NSA network itself wasn’t hacked; what probably happened was that a “staging server” for NSA cyberweapons — that is, a server the NSA was making use of to mask its surveillance activities — was hacked in 2013.

The NSA inadvertently resecured itself in what was coincidentally the early weeks of the Snowden document release. The people behind the link used casual hacker lingo, and made a weird, implausible proposal involving holding a bitcoin auction for the rest of the data: “!!! Attention government sponsors of cyber warfare and those who profit from it !!!! How much you pay for enemies cyber weapons?”

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CIA Psychologists Sue CIA for Docs to Prove Torture Program Wasn’t Their Idea

Jessica Schulberg reports for The Huffington Post:

The two CIA-contracted psychologists accused of crafting the spy agency’s so-called “enhanced interrogation program” want the U.S. government to turn over documents they hope will show the torture program wasn’t their fault.

The motion to compel the documents, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday, alleged that the CIA and Justice Department had been uncooperative in supplying James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen with “documents critical to their defense.”

Their request is related to a separate ongoing lawsuit in Spokane, Washington, where the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of three former CIA detainees, is suing Jessen and Mitchell for their alleged role in creating and implementing an interrogation program that used techniques now considered to be torture.

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Soviets Worried About Detente After Nixon Quit, Documents Show

AP reports:

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 1973 file photo, then-vice presidential nominee Gerald R. Ford, right, listens as President Richard Nixon, accompanied by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Overseas reaction to Nixon’s resignation in 1974 was mixed: The Soviets expressed worry about the future of detente. North Korea reacted brashly, calling Nixon’s exit the “falling out” of the “wicked boss” of American imperialists. South Vietnam put its forces on high alert because it feared the North Vietnamese would take advantage of the vulnerable U.S. political situation.  (AP Photo/Harvey W. Georges, File)Overseas reaction to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974 was mixed: The Soviets expressed worry about the future of detente. North Korea reacted brashly, calling Nixon’s exit the “falling out” of the “wicked boss” of American imperialists. South Vietnam put its forces on high alert because it feared the North Vietnamese would take advantage of the vulnerable U.S. political situation.

The international response to the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s fall is noted in 2,500 newly declassified intelligence documents the CIA released on Wednesday at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. The 28,000 pages — many still with lengthy redactions — represent eight years of the top-secret President’s Daily Brief prepared for Nixon and his successor, President Gerald Ford.

At the start of Nixon’s tenure, the CIA delivered morning and afternoon intelligence briefs at the request of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who wanted timely intelligence on world events. By the end of 1969, the PDB was about 10 pages long. Ford sought even more analysis and his PDBs were sometimes close to 20 pages long with annexes.

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Baltimore Police Defend Secret Surveillance Program

Officials would not say why a private company using a plane to track city residents was hired and funded outside public purview. (The Real News)

Weapons, Pipelines and Wall Street: Did Clinton Foundation Donations Impact Hillary’s State Department Decisions?

Amy Goodman speaks to David Sirota of the International Business Times, and Paul Glastris, editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly and former chief speechwriter for President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001, about new questions that have arisen this week surrounding Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. (Democracy Now!)

Hillary Clinton’s Alt-Right Dilemma

Jeet Heer writes for New Republic:

Hillary Clinton has a troll problem. Her opponent is no ordinary politician but a troll king, who has energized an online army of covert mischief-makers. Clinton’s dilemma is how to respond.

There are no bigger trolls in American public life than the alt-right. It’s an amorphous movement, but is composed of break-away factions of the conservative movement that are most inclined to support Trump: protectionists, nativists, isolationists, with more than a dash of white nationalism. While the more public manifestations of the alt-right can be seen in publications like Breitbart, Taki, and VDare, most of the foot soldiers are trolls in the the most common sense of the word: anonymous internet pests, given to spreading Nazi-themed memes while hiding behind anime avatars.

Trump has gone out of his way to give winking approval to the alt-right by retweeting their memes and hiring Breitbart chief Steve Bannon, who once said his publication is “the platform of the alt-right.”

There’s a sensible adage online: “Do not feed the trolls.” Trolls live off attention, so if you respond to them, they get more energized. The problem is, if you leave trolls alone you run the risk of letting them poison public discourse unabated.

Clinton has decided to take the issue head on.

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How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists

Sarah Posner reports for Mother Jones:

Last week, when Donald Trump tapped the chairman of Breitbart Media to lead his campaign, he wasn’t simply turning to a trusted ally and veteran propagandist. By bringing on Stephen Bannon, Trump was signaling a wholehearted embrace of the “alt-right,” a once-motley assemblage of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, ethno-nationalistic provocateurs who have coalesced behind Trump and curried the GOP nominee’s favor on social media. In short, Trump has embraced the core readership of Breitbart News.

“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July. Though disavowed by every other major conservative news outlet, the alt-right has been Bannon’s target audience ever since he took over Breitbart News from its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, four years ago. Under Bannon’s leadership, the site has plunged into the fever swamps of conservatism, cheering white nationalist groups as an “eclectic mix of renegades,” accusing President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims,” and waging an incessant war against the purveyors of “political correctness.”

“Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it,” former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro wrote last week on the Daily Wire, a conservative website. “With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. NowBreitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [technology editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism  as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

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Amy Goodman speaks to Mother Jones investigative journalist Sarah Posner (author of the above article) and Heather McGhee of Demos, about Donald Trump’s new campaign chief Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of ‘alt-right’ media organisation Breitbart News. (Democracy Now!) 

Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

Monte Reel reports for Bloomberg Businessweek:

Bloomberg Businessweek Surveillance Cover[…] The verdict trickled out of the courthouse in text messages: not guilty, all counts. Ralph Pritchett Sr., who’s spent each of his 52 years in Baltimore, stood on the sidewalk among the protesters. He chewed on a toothpick and shook his head slowly. In a city with more than 700 street-level police cameras, he wondered, shouldn’t the authorities have had video of Freddie Gray’s ride?

“This whole city is under a siege of cameras,” said Pritchett, a house painter who helps run a youth center in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood called Johnston Square. “In fact, they observed Freddie Gray himself the morning of his arrest on those cameras, before they picked him up. They could have watched that van, too, but no—they missed that one. I thought the cameras were supposed to protect us. But I’m thinking they’re there to just contradict anything that might be used against the City of Baltimore. Do they use them for justice? Evidently not.”

Pritchett had no idea that as he spoke, a small Cessna airplane equipped with a sophisticated array of cameras was circling Baltimore at roughly the same altitude as the massing clouds. The plane’s wide-angle cameras captured an area of roughly 30 square miles and continuously transmitted real-time images to analysts on the ground. The footage from the plane was instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives, allowing analysts to review it weeks later if necessary.

Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department had been using the plane to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings. The Cessna sometimes flew above the city for as many as 10 hours a day, and the public had no idea it was there.

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Drones: U.S. Law Enforcement’s Secret Eye In The Sky

Sam Richards reports for Think Progress:

[…] The county’s drone policy states that all drone operations will be consistent with federal law and the Constitution — but current federal law allows visual aerial surveillance to be conducted without a warrant due to a little known and arguably outdated Supreme Court ruling.

Lack of warrants for visual aerial surveillance is a hallmark of federal aerial surveillance operations, and a ruling on the police helicopter exemption is used to enforce this on a state level as well. Florida v. Riley (1989) is now used to justify warrantless aerial surveillance across the United States, but it originally considered such surveillance as encompassing only the naked eye of an officer inside a low flying helicopter. The law has not matured with advances in technology, like thermal imaging (which can peer through walls), wide area surveillance (capable of spying on an entire metropolitan area), or any of the other commonly utilized technologies of today. This means the use of drones, without first obtaining a warrant, is actually legal due to the lack of other precedent.

Ben Feist, the legislative director for ACLU of Minnesota, told ThinkProgress that in “exceptional circumstance operations” requiring police agencies to apply for a search warrant even after a drone flight is “too onerous.” For routine patrols, the ACLU tried to meet their counterparts halfway by suggesting law requiring something less than a warrant, such as a court order. That proposal was also rejected by police lobbyists.

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The Federal Reserve’s Trickle-Down Problem

Jeff Spross reports for The Week:

[…] It all comes back to the simple goal of fiddling with interest rates.

That matters because interest rates, simply put, are the price of money. If you’re trying to start a small business, but don’t have the upfront capital to get it off the ground, the interest rate is what it costs you to get the money from someone else. Like all other economic trades, it’s about supply and demand: When lots of people want money for potential new economic ventures, but there’s not much money available, interest rates are high. When the supply of money exceeds the demand for it, interest rates are low.

But this causality can also flow in the opposite direction: If the Fed drives down interest rates, it lowers the hurdle to getting capital. That can open up new demand for money, from people who want to do something but couldn’t afford the previous rates. That’s really the whole idea behind Fed policy: When we have a recession, the Fed lowers the hurdle, new job creation takes off, and the economy snaps back. When it looks like the economy is overheating and inflation might take off, the Fed raises the hurdle and slows things down.

But that raises the question: What happens if the Fed lowers the hurdle all the way to the ground and… nothing happens? What if interest rates hit zero and stay at zero, and the demand for capital and new job creation doesn’t sprint ahead?

That’s basically the situation we’re in now.

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U.S. Army Pulls Training Slide Listing Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus as Examples of Insider Threats

Kevin Lilley reports for the Army Times:

A PowerPoint training slide listing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and retired Gen. David Petraeus among “insiders” who threatened national security was in use for 18 months at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, before Army officials pulled it out of circulation.

The image includes photos of Clinton and Petraeus along with Maj. Nidal Hasan (who shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009), Aaron Alexis (who shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013), Chelsea Manning (convicted in 2013 for leaking documents while an active-duty soldier) and Edward Snowden (who leaked classified National Security Agency surveillance information in 2013). It was posted Sunday on the U.S Army W.T.F! moments Facebook page.

The slide came to the attention of Army Training and Doctrine Command on Monday, TRADOC spokesman Maj. Thomas Campbell said, and it was pulled from the presentation, which is part of a quarterly training requirement, “promptly.”

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Evidence Points to Another Snowden at the NSA

James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, writes for Reuters:

In the summer of 1972, state-of-the-art campaign spying consisted of amateur burglars, armed with duct tape and microphones, penetrating the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Today, amateur burglars have been replaced by cyberspies, who penetrated the DNC armed with computers and sophisticated hacking tools.

Where the Watergate burglars came away empty-handed and in handcuffs, the modern- day cyber thieves walked away with tens of thousands of sensitive political documents and are still unidentified.

Now, in the latest twist, hacking tools themselves, likely stolen from the National Security Agency, are on the digital auction block. Once again, the usual suspects start with Russia – though there seems little evidence backing up the accusation.

In addition, if Russia had stolen the hacking tools, it would be senseless to publicize the theft, let alone put them up for sale. It would be like a safecracker stealing the combination to a bank vault and putting it on Facebook. Once revealed, companies and governments would patch their firewalls, just as the bank would change its combination.

A more logical explanation could also be insider theft. If that’s the case, it’s one more reason to question the usefulness of an agency that secretly collects private information on millions of Americans but can’t keep its most valuable data from being stolen, or as it appears in this case, being used against us.

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Airport Surveillance Video Appears to Show the Day Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch Met on Tarmac

Erin Dooley reports for ABC News:

Airport surveillance video obtained by ABC News appears to show the day of the controversial tarmac encounter between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton in June.

The private meeting, described by both parties as a chance encounter, came as the Justice Department was wrapping up its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account during her tenure at the State Department.

The pair merely exchanged social pleasantries and didn’t discuss the email probe, according to both Lynch and Bill Clinton. The conversation, which lasted around 20 minutes, was “primarily social,” Lynch said.

But critics, including Donald Trump, cried foul.

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The Drone Presidency

David Cole reviews four new books on Obama’s drone wars for The New York Review of Books:

Anti-drone graffiti in Sanaa, Yemen, November 2013On March 5, the United States used unmanned drones and manned aircraft to drop bombs on a group of what it described as al-Shabab militants at a camp about 120 miles north of Mogadishu, Somalia, killing approximately 150 of them. The administration claimed that the militants presented an imminent threat to African Union troops in the region with whom US advisers have been working, although it produced no evidence to support the claim. The news that the United States had killed 150 unnamed individuals in a country halfway around the world with which it is not at war generated barely a ripple of attention, much less any protest, here at home. Remote killing outside of war zones, it seems, has become business as usual.

This is a remarkable development, all the more noteworthy in that it has emerged under Barack Obama, who came to office as an antiwar president, so much so that he may be the only person to win the Nobel Peace Prize based on wishful thinking. Our Peace Prize president has now been at war longer than any other American president, and has overseen the use of military force in seven countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In the latter four countries, virtually all the force has come in the form of unmanned drones executing suspected terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaeda or its “associated forces.”

That an antiwar president has found the drone so tempting ought to be a warning sign. As Hugh Gusterson writes in Drone: Remote Control Warfare:

If targeted killing outside the law has been so attractive to a president who was a constitutional law professor, who opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning, who ended the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture program, and who announced his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on assuming office, it is unlikely that any successor to his office will easily renounce the seductions of the drone.

And it is not only President Trump or Clinton we need to worry about. Other countries are unlikely to be reticent about resort to unmanned aerial warfare to “solve” problems beyond their borders. Already, Israel, the United Kingdom, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan have joined the US in deploying armed drones. China is selling them at a list price of only $1 million. In short order, most of the developed world will have them. And when other nations look for precedents, Obama’s record will be Exhibit A.

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The Forgotten U.S. Government Plan to Round Up Muslims

Ben Wofford reports for Politico Magazine:

TFC-8-19-lede.jpeg[…] The 40-page memo described a government contingency plan for rounding up thousands of legal alien residents of eight specified nationalities: Libya, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco. Emergency legal measures would be deployed—rescinding the right to bond, claiming the privilege of confidential evidence, excluding the public from deportation hearings, among others. In its final pages, buried in a glaze of bureaucratese, the memo struck its darkest note: A procedure to detain and intern thousands of aliens while they awaited what would presumably become a mass deportation. Van Der Hout read the final pages carefully. The details conjured a vivid image of a massive detainment facility: 100 outdoor acres in the backwoods of Louisiana, replete with specifications for tents and fencing materials, cot measurements and plumbing requirements.

Four decades had passed since the U.S. closed its World War II-era internment camps, a disgraceful chapter when, without cause, the federal government forcibly relocated 120,000 Japanese Americans, imprisoning them across an archipelago of camps pocking the American South and West. Now, a working group in the Reagan administration was grasping for a similar-sounding measure. In 1987, the targets would not be Japanese Americans, but Middle Eastern aliens, lawful U.S. residents without the protection of green cards.

This wasn’t the far-fetched fever dream of an INS hothead; it was the product of careful deliberation, a process that had begun months earlier in the White House. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan, jarred by images of Americans killed on foreign soil at the hands of terrorists, sought a more aggressive tack to an emerging threat. It was the beginning of a shift from the twilight calm of the Cold War to a hotter, all-encompassing federal fixation on terrorism.

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The Summer of the Media Shill

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Years ago, when I was an exchange student in the Soviet Union, a Russian friend explained how he got his news.

“For news about Russia, Radio Liberty,” he said. “For news about America, Soviet newspapers.” He smiled. “Countries lie about themselves, tell truth about others.”

American media consumers are fast approaching the same absurd binary reality. We now have one set of news outlets that gives us the bad news about Democrats, and another set of news outlets bravely dedicated to reporting the whole truth about Republicans.

Like the old adage about quarterbacks – if you think you have two good ones, you probably have none – this basically means we have no credible news media left. Apart from a few brave islands of resistance, virtually all the major news organizations are now fully in the tank for one side or the other.

The last month or so of Trump-Hillary coverage may have been the worst stretch of pure journo-shilling we’ve seen since the run-up to the Iraq war. In terms of political media, there’s basically nothing left on the air except Trump-bashing or Hillary-bashing.

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How Trump’s (Former) Campaign Chief Helped Get a Strongman Elected President of Ukraine

Luke Harding reports for The Guardian:

The scene was Ostroh, western Ukraine, on the eve of parliamentary elections.

A tall figure bounded on to a stage to cheers from a crowd of elderly flag-waving supporters. They chanted: “Yan-u-kov-ych, Yan-u-kov-ych.”

The man addressing them was Viktor Yanukovych, who at this point – autumn 2007 – was Ukraine’s pro-Russian prime minister. Three years earlier he had tried to cheat his way to victory in the country’s presidential election, triggering the pro-democracy uprising known as the Orange Revolution, which swept Yanukovych’s rival Viktor Yushchenko into power.

Now, barely three years later, Yanukovych was back, and his Party of Regions was ahead in the polls.

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Does Henry Kissinger Have a Conscience?

Jon Lee Anderson writes for The New Yorker:

[…] We have repeatedly reviewed evidence of Kissinger’s callousness. Some of it is as inexplicable as it is shocking. There is a macho swagger in some of Kissinger’s remarks. It could, perhaps, be explained away if he had never wielded power, like—thus far—the gratuitously offensive Presidential candidate Donald Trump. And one has an awareness that Kissinger, the longest-lasting and most iconic pariah figure in modern American history, is but one of a line of men held in fear and contempt for the immorality of their services rendered and yet protected by the political establishment in recognition of those same services. William Tecumseh Sherman, Curtis LeMay, Robert McNamara, and, more recently, Donald Rumsfeld all come to mind.

In Errol Morris’s remarkable 2003 documentary “The Fog of War,” we saw that McNamara, who was an octogenarian at the time, was a tormented man who was attempting to come to terms, unsuccessfully, with the immense moral burden of his actions as the U.S. defense secretary during Vietnam. McNamara had recently written a memoir in which he attempted to grapple with his legacy. Around that time, a journalist named Stephen Talbot interviewed McNamara, and then also secured an interview with Kissinger. As he later wrote about his initial meeting with Kissinger, “I told him I had just interviewed Robert McNamara in Washington. That got his attention. He stopped badgering me, and then he did an extraordinary thing. He began to cry. But no, not real tears. Before my eyes, Henry Kissinger was acting. ‘Boohoo, boohoo,’ Kissinger said, pretending to cry and rub his eyes. ‘He’s still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty.’ He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis.”

McNamara died in 2009, at the same age Kissinger is today—ninety-three—but his belated public struggle with his conscience helped leaven his clouded reputation. Now that he is nearing the end of his life, Kissinger must wonder what his own legacy is to be. He can rest assured that, at the very least, his steadfast support for the American superpower project, no matter what the cost in lives, will be a major part of that legacy. Unlike McNamara, however, whose attempt to find a moral reckoning Kissinger held in such scorn, Kissinger has shown little in the way of a conscience. And because of that, it seems highly likely, history will not easily absolve him.

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The NSA Leak Is Real, Snowden Documents Confirm

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

On Monday, a hacking group calling itself the “ShadowBrokers” announced an auction for what it claimed were “cyber weapons” made by the NSA. Based on never-before-published documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept can confirm that the arsenal contains authentic NSA software, part of a powerful constellation of tools used to covertly infect computers worldwide.

The provenance of the code has been a matter of heated debate this week among cybersecurity experts, and while it remains unclear how the software leaked, one thing is now beyond speculation: The malware is covered with the NSA’s virtual fingerprints and clearly originates from the agency.

The evidence that ties the ShadowBrokers dump to the NSA comes in an agency manual for implanting malware, classified top secret, provided by Snowden, and not previously available to the public. The draft manual instructs NSA operators to track their use of one malware program using a specific 16-character string, “ace02468bdf13579.” That exact same string appears throughout the ShadowBrokers leak in code associated with the same program, SECONDDATE.

SECONDDATE plays a specialized role inside a complex global system built by the U.S. government to infect and monitor what one document estimated to be millions of computers around the world. Its release by ShadowBrokers, alongside dozens of other malicious tools, marks the first time any full copies of the NSA’s offensive software have been available to the public, providing a glimpse at how an elaborate system outlined in the Snowden documents looks when deployed in the real world, as well as concrete evidence that NSA hackers don’t always have the last word when it comes to computer exploitation.

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Trump’s ‘Extreme Vetting’ Test for Immigrants, His Position on NATO and Russia and his Campaign Head’s $13m Scandal in Ukraine

Amy Goodman speaks to Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine, Phyllis Bennis, author of Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror and Linda Sarsour, director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change. They join Amy Goodman to talk about a  number of issues including Donald Trump’s vow to institute “extreme vetting” of visa applicants, his position on NATO and Russia, and his campaign head’s $13 million scandal in Ukraine. (Democracy Now!)

The U.S. Is Promoting War Crimes In Yemen

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

Saudi Arabia resumed its appalling war in Yemen last week and has already killed dozens more civilians, destroyed a school full of children and leveled a hospital full of sick and injured people. The campaign of indiscriminate killing – though let’s call it what it is: a war crime – has now been going on for almost a year and a half. And the United States bears a large part of the responsibility.

This US-backed war is not just a case of the Obama administration sitting idly by while its close ally goes on a destructive spree of historic proportions. The government is actively selling the Saudis billions of dollars of weaponry. They’re re-supplying planes engaged in the bombing runs and providing “intelligence” for the targets that Saudi Arabia is hitting.

Put simply, the US is quite literally funding a humanitarian catastrophe that, by some measures, is larger than the crisis in Syria. As the New York Times editorial board wrote this week: “Experts say the coalition would be grounded if Washington withheld its support.” Yet all we’ve heard is crickets.

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U.S. Government Says It Will End the Use of Private Federal Prisons

Hanna Kozlowska reports for Quartz:

The Department of Justice will be moving to end the use of private federal prisons in the United States, according to a memo by deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the story.

The 13 prisons won’t be shut down immediately. Yates told prison officials to either “substantially reduce” the scope of contracts when they expire, or decline to renew them altogether—and this will happen over the next five years.

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Obama Admin Paid $1 Billion to Private Prisons to Detain Asylum Seekers

Jaisal Noor speaks to Mark Fleming of the National Immigrant Justice Center about the push to warehouse asylum-seeking women and children in a private facility as a deterrent in violation of U.S. obligations to international law. (The Real News)

Why Did Hillary Clinton Tap a Pro-TPP, Pro-KXL, Pro-Fracking Politician to Head Her Transition Team?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to David Sirota, senior editor for investigations at the International Business Times, about Hillary Clinton announcing former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as the head of her transition team. (Democracy Now!)

Hillary Clinton’s Syria War Plans

Kelley B. Vlahos writes for The American Conservative:

Morning Calm Weekly Newspaper / FlickrIn a seemingly full-throated promise to voters in Scranton, Pa. on Monday, Hillary Clinton said adding “American ground troops” in the war against ISIS in Syria “is off the table.”

But every message coming from her surrogates in the media and in the Washington defense establishment has been that she will “lean in” harder in Syria, and whether you want to call it “added ground troops” or something else, everyone in her orbit is calling for expanded U.S. intervention—including personnel and firepower—in the region, even at the risk of confrontation with Russia.

For weeks, a parade of high-stepping national-security officials—some barely out of government service—have been rattling their sabers passionately for a Hillary Clinton presidency. From Michael Vickers, a former intelligence official most celebrated for his promotion of hunt-to-kill operations in the War on Terror, to (Ret.) Gen. John Allen and ex-CIA Chief Mike Morrell, there is a growing backbench of Washington establishment macho men—and women—who testify to Clinton’s “run it up the gut” security chops, and more than one has noted her well-publicized break with President Obama on Syria. She, of course, having been more hawkish than the other from the start.

Her advisors say Syria will take top priority in her first days in office, and, in addition to ISIS, President Bashar Assad must go. So it is important to examine what a real Clinton Syria policy might look like despite her rhetoric on the campaign trail.

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