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Welcome! "What's Happenin'?" is a casual community diary (a daily series, 8:30 AM Eastern on weekdays, 10 AM on weekends and holidays) where we hang out and talk about the goings on here and everywhere.  

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Longwood Gardens, February, 2012, Photo credit: joanneleon
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

    -- Benjamin Franklin


The Keystone XL Flim-Flam
by Jim Hightower
Well, aside from inevitable environmental damage from pipeline leaks, and the fact that this foreign-owned corporation would use the autocratic power of eminent domain to take land from unwilling sellers along the 2,000 mile route, here's something not to like: The gasoline and diesel that would be made from this Canadian crude would not go to American gas pumps, but to foreign markets.

The dirty little secret that those pushing so urgently for building Keystone XL don't want you to know is that the tar sands oil producers are in cahoots with Texas refineries to move the product onto the lucrative global export market, selling it to buyers in Europe, Latin America and China — not to you and me.

The pipeline and the toxic crude it'll carry across six states would do absolutely nothing to shave even a penny off of the price we pay at the pump.

Paul Gilding: The Earth is full

Q&A: Google to dig deeper into users' lives
SAN FRANCISCO – If you're amazed — and maybe even a little alarmed — about how much Google seems to know about you, brace yourself. Beginning Thursday, Google will operate under a streamlined privacy policy that enables the Internet's most powerful company to dig even deeper into the lives of its more than 1 billion users.

Google says the changes will make it easier for consumers to understand how it collects personal information, and allow the company to create more helpful and compelling services. Critics, including most of the country's state attorneys general and a top regulator in Europe, argue that Google is trampling on people's privacy rights in its relentless drive to sell more ads.

Here's a look at some of the key issues to consider as Google tries to learn about you.

OP-ED: Virginia Says No to Lawless Imprisonment
Good things do come out of the Virginia state legislature.  That normally reprehensible body has just stood up to the federal outrage that has come to be known as the NDAA.  
Torture Memo Author Testifies Against Legislation Banning Indefinite Detention of Americans
The hearing was on legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would clarify that no authority permits the indefinite detention of US citizens.

[ ... ]

An author of one of the Bush torture memos, Bradbury was Sen. Chuck Grassley’s choice for a witness. He adamantly opposed the legislation proposed by Feinstein.

[ ... ]

He stated that he opposed the proposed legislation because there could be “extraordinary circumstances during an armed conflict when the President may determine it necessary to detain a US citizen as an enemy combatant consistent with the laws of war.” He said during the hearing he believed it would create “unnecessary conflict” between the Legislative and Executive Branches of US government. The proposed legislation would make it so the ability to collect intelligence would be impeded by requiring criminal charges to be brought against US citizens.

Occupy Portland rally on F29 day (Photo Essay)
Occupy Wall Street Demonstrators Arrested During New York City Protests
As rain clouds gathered overhead, several dozen police officers on motorcycles escorted a group of about 50 protestors that marched from a park outside the New York Public Library to the world headquarters of Pfizer Inc and back. They denounced Pfizer as a corporation that lobbies for legislation to create tax breaks and other benefits for large businesses.

"Shame on Pfizer! You're a bunch of liars!" chanted the protestors as they milled around barricades in front of Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker.

Afterward, Pfizer acknowledged involvement with legislative organizations but said in a statement that its aim was strictly to "advance the health of all Americans."

Occupy Wall Street Gets Fat Ben & Jerry's Cash Infusion
Occupy Wall Street begins two days of major demonstrations today as a group of wealthy backers announces their plan to pump $1.8 million into the movement. The Movement Resource Group, comprised of the two founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Nirvana's former manager Danny Goldberg, among others, is a not-for-profit 501c3 that has raised $300,000 and aims to distribute it to the protesters in a series of grants. "Many of us have been working for progressive social change," Ben Cohen told the Wall Street Journal. "There's been a critical ingredient missing."

Representatives from the group met with Occupy Wall Street members on Sunday, and announced the plan to approve national grants of up to $25,000 with the approval of MRG and five OWS members. $150,000 will pay for a national office in New York, another $100,000 will pay for individual, targeted projects, and a smaller, undisclosed sum will be set aside for stipends for "core activists."

On Olympia Snowe’s Retirement, Americans Elect and Bipartisan Fetishism
So outside of being a selfish politician (and you can never go wrong with that analysis), why did Snowe subject the state to such turmoil? Jon Chait has a hunch that Snowe will join up with Americans Elect, the odd collection of centrists pushing a third-party candidate for President. He cites her statement that “It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate.” Building support does not equal running as a Presidential candidate, but since Americans Elect seems to be the place where wankers go to retire (see David Boren), I grant that this could be in Snowe’s future.
Springsteen's New Album, 'Wrecking Ball,' Captures Rage of Americans Still Rocked by Economic Crisis
"A big promise has been broken. You can't have a United States if you are telling some folks that they can't get on the train. There is a cracking point where a society collapses. You can't have a civilization where something is factionalized like this,” he told the Guardian.

[ ... ]

"The temper [of America] has changed. And people on the streets did it. Occupy Wall Street changed the national conversation – the Tea Party had set it for a while,” Springsteen told the Guardian.

Ayn Rand Worshippers Should Face Facts: Blue States Are the Providers, Red States Are the Parasites
Last week, the New York Times published a widely discussed article updating an argument that progressive bloggers noticed a very long time ago. It's now well-understood that blue states generally export money to the federal government; and red states generally import it.

[ ... ]

So we've got every right to get good and angry about the fact that, by and large, the people who are getting our money are so damned ungrateful -- not to mention so ridiculously eager to spend it on stuff we don't approve of. We didn't ship them our hard-earned tax dollars to see them squandered on worse-than-useless abstinence-only education, textbooks that teach creationism, crisis-pregnancy misinformation centers, subsidies for GMO crops and oil companies, and so on. And we sure as hell didn't expect to be rewarded for our productivity and generosity with a rising tide of spittle-flecked insanity about how we’re just a bunch of immoral, godless, drug-soaked, sex-crazed, evil America-hating traitors who can’t wait to hand the country over to the Islamists and the Communists.

Police break up Occupy London camp

Police in London say they arrested 20 people in an operation to dismantle an 'Occupy' protest camp outside the city's St Paul's Cathedral.

Police and bailiffs carried out the evictions in the early hours on Tuesday after the protesters were last week refused permission to appeal against a High Court decision to allow their eviction to proceed.

The Court of Appeal's decision meant the City of London Corporation was free to clear the site.

[ ... ]

The protesters had been camped outside the 300-year-old church since October, but some said they anticipated that the demonstration would soon resume.

Gen. McCaffrey privately briefs NBC execs on war with Iran
Despite Barstow’s Pulitzer, neither Brian Williams nor anyone else at NBC News ever mentioned any of these groundbreaking stories to their viewers (even as Williams reported on other Pulitzer awards that year); the controversy over the Pentagon propaganda program was simply suppressed. And NBC continued to feature those same ex-Generals as “analysts” — including McCaffrey — as though the whole thing never happened.

Apparently, not only does NBC continue to present McCaffrey to its viewers as some sort of objective analyst, but NBC News executives use him as some kind of private consultant and briefer on the news. On January 12, 2012, McCaffrey presented a seminar to roughly 20 NBC executives and producers — including NBC News President Steve Capus — entitled “Iran, Nukes & Oil: The Gulf Confrontation.” We’ve obtained the Power Point document McCaffrey prepared and distributed for his presentation, and in it, he all but predicts war with Iran within the next 90 days: one that is likely to be started by them. The first page of the breathlessly hawkish document is entitled “Iran & the Gulf: Creeping Toward War,” [ ... ]

People Who Fly Drones Shouldn’t Throw Stones
When the US military killed eight boys in Afghanistan in February, their killers didn’t have to run from the boys’ enraged families.  They just went home after their shifts were over, unless maybe they went out to dinner or something.  No one around them even knew they’d killed anybody – and it’s not clear how many would have cared if they did.  Does the general mean to say that he considers people who kill in that fashion cowards for not being around to face the music?  Or are American standards of cowardice only applied to non-Americans?

Actually it appears we needn’t worry so much about our drone operators taking this sort of consideration personally.  A 2011 Air Force report found almost half of them experiencing high job-related stress levels, but it wasn’t particularly caused by watching the videos of people killed as a result of their actions – that didn’t actually bother them nearly so much as some feared it might.  Turns out it’s mostly the long hours and irregular shifts that get them down.)

The Ghost and the Machine: Drone Warfare and Accountability
Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan’s Waziristan province.  Exasperated at the increasingly common experience which they had survived and which too many others have not, they began firing questions at us.

 “Who has given the license to kill and in what court?  Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”

“How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”  

 “What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?”

Family's worry over British journalists held in Libya

Cameraman Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, 36, from Carmarthen, and reporter Nicholas Davies, 37, were captured by Misrata Brigade members last Tuesday.

[ ... ]

The two men were working for the Iranian-owned English language television station, Press TV, and were apparently filming in the Libyan capital when they were detained by militia on 21 February, alongside two Libyan colleagues.

[ ... ]

"Apparently when the Libyan authorities formally asked for their release into their custody, the brigade refused saying they did not trust the central government, which is worrying," he added.

China's Unipec in 100,000 bpd Libya oil deal for 2012 - traders

(Reuters) - China's Unipec has agreed to lift about 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Libya under a term contract for 2012, set to raise China's crude purchases from the North African exporter after supply disruptions last year.

The volume agreed between Unipec, the trading arm of top Asian refiner China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) and Libya's National Oil Company (NOC), covered January-December supplies this year, traders with knowledge of the deal told Reuters.

[ ... ]

Together, they will help cover the cuts Unipec made in term Iranian crude imports [ ... ] OPEC member Libya last December awarded oil supply contracts for 2012 to four major trading houses -- Glencore, Gunvor, Trafigura and Vitol.

Clinton defends US mission in Afghanistan but says it’s ‘not an endless commitment’
“What do I tell his family today? Was it worth it? Because they’re angry. People in Maryland are angry,” Mikulski told Clinton at a Senate hearing.

“We went there with the best of intentions and out of need, after we were attacked. You were the New York senator. We remember the harsh reality of that brutal 9/11. ... And now because of an inadvertent act, the relationship is so fragile, there’s this tumultuous thing,” she added.

[ ... ]

“This is not an endless commitment that will take lives far into the future,” Clinton told the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations. “But we have both made progress on the principle reason we were there — security. Because of our platform and our presence in Afghanistan, we’ve been able to target terrorists, particularly top al-Qaida operatives including (Osama) bin Laden in their safe havens. And we have made progress in helping the Afghan people.”

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