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Photos by: joanneleon. August, 2013.


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News & Opinion


Obama, Congress and Syria

The president is celebrated for seeking a vote on his latest war even as his aides make clear it has no binding effect

It's a potent sign of how low the American political bar is set that gratitude is expressed because a US president says he will ask Congress to vote before he starts bombing another country that is not attacking or threatening the US. That the US will not become involved in foreign wars of choice without the consent of the American people through their representatives Congress is a central mandate of the US Constitution, not some enlightened, progressive innovation of the 21st century. ...

But what makes the celebratory reaction to yesterday's announcement particularly odd is that the Congressional vote which Obama said he would seek appears, in his mind, to have no binding force at all. There is no reason to believe that a Congressional rejection of the war's authorization would constrain Obama in any way, other than perhaps politically. To the contrary, there is substantial evidence for the proposition that the White House sees the vote as purely advisory, i.e., meaningless.

Recall how - in one of most overlooked bad acts of the Obama administration - the House of Representatives actually voted, overwhelmingly, against authorizing the US war in Libya, and yet Obama simply ignored the vote and proceeded to prosecute the war anyway (just as Clinton did when the House rejected the authorization he wanted to bomb Kosovo, though, at least there, Congress later voted to allocate funds for the bombing campaign). Why would the White House view the President's power to wage war in Libya as unconstrainable by Congress, yet view his power to wage war in Syria as dependent upon Congressional authorization?

Obama asked Congress to vote, but will get his war on even if Congress fails to agree

Secretary of State John Kerry continued to push for military force against Syria on Sunday, appearing on a series of talk shows to make the case that sarin gas was used by the Assad regime, and that he is sure Congress will support the use of strikes sought by President Obama.

Speaking on "This Week," Kerry predicted that Congress would support a military strike, saying, “We are not going to lose this vote.”  Asked what would happen if it didn't receive congressional support, Kerry said he "doesn't contemplate" that.

“I think the interests that we have with respect to potential future confrontation – hopefully not – but the challenge of Iran, the challenges of the region, the challenge of standing up for and standing beside our ally Israel, helping to shore up Jordan,” he said, “I believe Congress will pass it.”

However, Kerry noted, the president has the authority to act on his own and order military strikes anyway.

Obama's military solution is desperate Hail Mary pass

The AUMF Crescent

Given my continuing obsession with the still extant Iraq War AUMF, let’s consider the geography of this proposed AUMF together with the other active AUMFs, the Iraq and Afghanistan ones.

[proposed Syria AUMF:

The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to -

       1.  prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapon of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

       2.  protect the United States or its allies and partners against the threats posed by such weapons.]

Put all three of them together, and the government would have authorization to use military force in Syria, Lebanon, Shia-governed and increasingly violent Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan (plus Yemen, with its Houthi insurgency on Saudi Arabia’s southern border). The President would have authorization to use military force in an unbroken band of land from Israel’s border east to nuclear-armed Pakistan, with both the counter-Saudi Shia block and Sunni al Qaeda related terrorists included within the AUMFs. This, to fight a war that Israel and the Gulf states have allied (if you can call it that) to fight.

President Obama claims he only wants to engage in limited strikes. He has promised there would be no boots (aside from JSOC and CIA ones, presumably) on the ground.

But he has proposed something that could be potentially far broader.

French lawmakers ‘to see proof Syria regime behind attack’

France will hand over evidence to lawmakers on Monday proving President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was behind last month’s chemical weapons attack in Syria, a government source told AFP.

“It will be a set of evidence of different kinds that will allow the regime to be clearly identified as responsible for the August 21 chemical attack,” the source said. ...

Another government source said the evidence would include “declassified secret documents” and that “some of them could be made public”. ...

US President Barack Obama has said the attacks claimed more than 1,400 lives. Damascus denies involvement and blames the attacks on rebel fighters.

Snowden wins whistleblower award, as leaks fuel German election race

NSA 'spied on communications' of Brazil and Mexico presidents

The National Security Agency spied on the communications of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, a Brazilian news program reported, a revelation that could strain US relations with the two biggest countries in Latin America.

The report late Sunday by Globo's news program Fantastico, was based on documents that journalist Glenn Greenwald obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, was listed as a co-contributor to the report.

Fantastico showed what it said was an NSA document dated June 2012 displaying passages of written messages sent by Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, who was still a candidate at that time. In the messages, Pena Nieto discussed who he was considering naming as his ministers once elected.

A separate document displayed communication patterns between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her top advisers, Fantastico said, although no specific written passages were included in the report. ...

Justice minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo told the O Globo newspaper that the contents of the documents, if confirmed, "should be considered very serious and constitute a clear violation of Brazilian sovereignty."


Radiation Readings Soar at Leaking Fukushima Nuclear Plant - New leak patched with plastic tape

Radiated water leaking from tanks at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is 18 times more dangerous than had been previously reported. ...

Now, the company admits, the testing equipment used in the previously announced August 22nd testing could only read measurements of up to a maximum of 100 millisieverts.

Saturday's test, using a more accurate device, showed a level of 1,800 millisieverts an hour, a level that Reuters says is "enough to kill an exposed person in four hours."

In addition, TEPCO announced Sunday that it has discovered a leak on another pipe emitting radiation levels of 230 millisieverts an hour. TEPCO said it halted the leak from a pipe connecting two water storage tanks by patching it with plastic tape just hours after stumbling upon the potentially lethal radioactive hot spot.

Update:

FishoutofWater pointed out a site that claims Reuters is wrong about the type of radiation emitted by the leaking waste products.  The article claims that the radiation is the much less dangerous beta radiation rather than the gamma radiation that Reuters claims:

what we know so far is:

1800 mSv/hr is not gamma radiation but beta radiation, expressed in 70 micrometer dose equivalent to show the effect on skin and eye lens, with effective dose 1/100 of that amount.

It is not "sudden increase" in radiation. This waste water has that order of beta radiation all along, as evidenced by the measurement in the leak in February 2012.

The water leaking is very high in all-beta including strontium but almost devoid of gamma nuclides including radioactive cesium, incapable of giving off gamma radiation to the tune of 1,800 mSv/hr.

Tilting Windmills: Public outcry over Germany alternative energy obsession grows



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From the Imgur Public Gallery


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Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues

Secret Service Will Post All Aaron Swartz Files On Website, First Batch Up Now





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The Beach Boys - Be True To Your School

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