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Wild mountain laurel beginning to bloom. May, 2012. Photo credit: joanneleon
Censorship always defeats it own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.

Henry Steele Commager

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Smartest guy in the room?

Hollande faces NATO wrath over Afghan troop pullout
French President François Hollande could incur the anger of NATO leaders when they meet for a summit in Chicago on Sunday. Hollande has vowed to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, two years before NATO's planned pullout.

With the Taliban still highly active and continuing to launch deadly attacks, the future of the military mission in Afghanistan is a growing concern among NATO leaders. Reports that two NATO soldiers were killed in the south of the country as the leaders gathered in Chicago underlined the volatile security situation.

[ ... ]

Less than a week into his new job, Hollande remained steadfast, standing by his pledge when he met US President Barack Obama at the White House for the first time on Friday.

“The decision is a sovereign act,” Hollande said, tactfully adding that any withdrawal would be “coordinated with our allies”.

Kevin Gosztola:
Occupy Journalists Stopped, Searched, Handcuffed & Interrogated at Gunpoint

Under cover of the night around twelve police cars stopped five journalists when they were heading back to where they are staying in Chicago during the NATO summit. All five have been covering protests against the NATO summit for the past few days.

The five journalists included Luke Rudkowksi, who streams as @Lukewearechange, Tim Pool, who streams as @Timcast, Jeoff Shively (@Jiraffa), Dustin & Jess. They are known for their work livestreaming and tweeting out regular coverage of Occupy protests.

Rudkowski of We Are Change managed to record the Chicago police approaching the journalists in the car. The police have their guns drawn. They shout, “Hands! Hands! Get your hands up!” And then, “Fuckin’ hands!” Then Pool’s voice can be heard saying, “We’re being raided. For folks who are watching, we are being raided by the CPD right now as we speak.”

Guardian Liveblog.  I posted just a few of their many liveblog updates.  I took great pleasure in the tweet by a liberal Pakistani columnist.  Hell, I didn't even know that Pakistan had liberal columnists!  The Guardian has one reporter in New York and three in Chicago.
Nato summit: Obama meets Karzai on Afghanistan; huge protests – live
• Obama calls on Karzai to broker Taliban deal as summit starts
• Thousands of protesters march in downtown Chicago
• Massive police presence separates march and summit

10.09am: Pakistan has announced that it has blocked Twitter because of a promotion on Twitter of a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammad.

Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication's Authority, told the AP that the action was taken after Twitter did not comply with a takedown request. Facebook had cooperated with a similar request, Yaseen said.

AP reports that Pakistanis are finding ways to use Twitter anyway [ ... ]

"Another cheap moral stunt by Pakistan," tweeted liberal Pakistani columnist Nadeem Paracha.
[ Emphasis added. ]

[ ... ]

12.34pm: Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has 28 member countries, but only one writes the big checks.

The AP is out with a chart of military expenditures by Nato countries in billions of 2009 dollars. On top is the US with $669 bn in planned 2012 defense spending.
Nato expenditure graphic

May 21: Occupy Chicago Celebrates People Power at Boeing!

Occupy Chicago and members of the international Occupy Movement will hold a joyful, celebratory march and day-long rally at the Boeing company on May 21st in Chicago. We are hosting a victory party, complete with food, clowns, dancing and music after calls to protest the Boeing company on May 21st resulted in the company directing employees to stay home this Monday, effectively shutting themselves down.

We will march from Union Park at 10am, and plan to celebrate the power of non-violent direct action at Boeing all day. Our call to action shut down the Boeing war machine, and we'll be in front of the company celebrating our victory. It's a party, and Chicago is invited. Join celebration!

Afghanistan toll as NATO leaders gather: 13 dead in suicide bombing Saturday; 2 U.S. troops killed Frida

KABUL, Afghanistan — _ As NATO leaders prepared for a two-day summit in Chicago to plot their armed forces’ exit from Afghanistan in less than two years, a suicide bomber on Saturday detonated his explosive vest at a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province, killing 10 civilians, including two children, and three Afghan policemen.

[ ... ]

In eastern Kunar province, two U.S. soldiers were reportedly killed on Friday when insurgents fired rockets at their base. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the formal name of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, confirmed two ISAF members had been killed, but released no further details. In a statement, the Taliban claimed that its members had launched a major assault on a base belonging to “invading soldiers,” killing nine “foreign soldiers” and severely wounding eight others. The Taliban frequently exaggerate the number of casualties they inflict on ISAF and Afghan government forces.

Two women and a child were also killed at Kunar on Friday when a mortar round fired by insurgents hit a civilian house.

Chicago: My kind of (NATO) town

Hong Kong, China - Lock down. A ring-of-steel. An ocean of Chicago cops. The Secret Service. The National Guard. Security perimeters. Steel fencing. Concrete barriers. Upgraded riot gear. Mayor Rahm Emanuel - former White House Chief of Staff and President Obama confidante - targeting "strategic areas". "Extraction teams" ultra-ready to snatch and grab pinpointed protesters in a "low intensity conflict" environment.

Last but not least, the LRAD (long-range acoustic device) - a sound cannon more lethal than Metallica on a bad night, bound to "ensure a consistent message is delivered to large crowds", according to the Chicago Police Department.

What's that? Baghdad under the surge? A remake of The Blues Brothers, starring the ghost of John Belushi and Obama as Aretha Franklin (or James Brown)?

No: it's NATO taking over Chicago for its 25th summit. Make no mistake; "We're on a mission from God".

NATO summit discusses Afghanistan withdrawal
Thousands of anti-war demonstrators march in Chicago as Obama says there are "hard days ahead" for Afghanistan.
More than 50 leaders are attending the meeting, including heads of state and government from the 28 NATO countries, as well as Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Asif Ali Zardari, his Pakistani counterpart.

Meanwhile, scuffles between police and protesters broke out after thousands of anti-war demonstrators marched some blocks away from the summit.

The protest was largely peaceful until the end, when a small group of demonstrators clashed with a line of police who tried to keep them from the lakeside convention centre where the meeting got under way.

The march, estimated by police to number 2,500 to 3,000 people, was led by a group of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who symbolically gave back their military medals.

Time for NATO to face new realities
The United States and Europe are experiencing massive economic crises, and the US has been fundamentally weakened by its poor economic performance and lack of internal investment over decades. As dynamic economic rivals have emerged, it is clear that the US cannot maintain its status as the single global superpower in an increasingly multi-polar world, nor is it desirable that it should do so. The fact is that while the US has declined in many respects, it has increasingly used NATO to support and advance its global power projection. But one big question is whether NATO states will continue to foot the bill.
Appeals Panel Weighs Question on Press Rights

Nearly an hour of oral arguments here before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded with no definitive answer as to how the court will rule about whether the journalist, James Risen, can be forced to testify in a high-profile leak case that has raised a significant test of the First Amendment.

[ ... ]

One judge, Roger Gregory, sharply criticized prosecutors’ contention that the Constitution offers no special protection to a reporter who is a witness to a particular type of crime: the unauthorized disclosure of government secrets to that very reporter by an official.

“The king always wants to suppress what they are doing — that is what is troubling,” said Judge Gregory, who stressed what he portrayed as the “public interest” in knowing about government misconduct that led the framers of the Constitution to write the First Amendment.

A fatal lack of accountability
Proven lies show why official spokespeople should be named by journalists

Official spokespeople, by the very definition of their role, have absolutely no reason to be anonymous. Yet one of the more dubious practices of the British press is the way reporters collude with officials by granting them anonymity.

Sources should be granted anonymity only in very limited circumstances where naming may cause specific harm (such as a whistleblower who could lose his job). There is no reason a Home Office spokesman, for example, should be granted anonymity, yet I’ve had many arguments with these people who insist on it as their ‘right’. Meanwhile, they demand to know all about me—my name, my publication, what my ‘angle’ is, etc. I usually do get their names from email correspondence and print them in the newspaper. So far the sky has not fallen and I’ve not been locked up for giving a name to the usually nameless mouthpieces.

Kings of Denial
Calculated Risk points us to remarks from Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, in which he declares that Europe should stay the course because in aggregate it’s doing fine. [ ... ]
More Krugman.
Dimon’s Déjà Vu Debacle

And what was going on as these positions were being accumulated? According to a fascinating report in Sunday’s Times, the reality behind JPMorgan’s facade of competence was a scene all too reminiscent of the behavior that brought down firms like A.I.G. in 2008: arrogant executives shouting down anyone who tried to question their activities, top management that didn’t ask questions as long as the money kept rolling in. It really is déjà vu all over again.

The point, again, is that an institution like JPMorgan — a too-big-to-fail bank, not to mention a bank whose deposits are already guaranteed by U.S. taxpayers — shouldn’t be engaged in this kind of speculative investment at all. And that’s why we need a return to much stronger financial regulation, stronger even than the Dodd-Frank regulations passed back in 2010.

Will we get that kind of regulation? Not if Mr. Romney wins, obviously; he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and in general has made it clear that he would do everything in his power to set us up for another financial crisis. Even if President Obama is re-elected, getting the kind of regulation we need will be an uphill struggle. But as Mr. Dimon’s debacle has just demonstrated, that struggle remains as necessary as ever.

The Roundup for May 20, 2012
❖Banks are switching from foreclosures to short sales, since foreclosure scrutiny was–coughcough–”a nightmare for the banks.” Sen. Mark Lee (R-Utah) has now felt the sting of short sales. The home he purchased for $1.1 million in 2008 was sold recently for $720,000 due to a short sale in his neighborhood which depressed home prices, contributing to the short sale of Lee’s home a bit later. Lee lost a “‘significant’ down payment” in the process.

[ ... ]

❖Those Blockupy protestors in Frankfurt are still at it, with “at least” 20,000 in the city’s center rallying against “the dominance of banks” and “untamed capitalism”.

68% of the Spanish people support the “Indignants” and 78% said they are right.

Eurozone crisis: high-stakes gamble as David Cameron warns Greek voters
PM says Greeks have choice in June election between voting to stay in euro and 'effectively voting to leave'

Cameron indicated that he wanted to make the threat of ejection from the euro credible by showing the Greeks that preparations are being made for their departure, a change of tactics after weeks of mixed messages from the European commission on whether such plans are being laid.

It is a piece of high-stakes diplomacy since his threat may either anger Greek voters, driving them into the arms of the radical parties, or act as a sobering warning that the end game is truly imminent and renegotiation of the EU-imposed austerity package is not an option.

The nightly protests in Quebec continue.
Montreal police pepper-spray bar patrons amid protest

Surveillance footage shows several people on the St-Bock Brasserie terrace being sprayed at close range by police in riot gear.

As other customers at the St-Denis Street bar scurry inside, an officer barrels through a tangle of tables and chairs.

[ ... ]

"About one foot from the faces of my clients, police also threw this," said bar owner Martin Guimond, holding up an empty muzzle blast.

"They created panic, they destroyed the terrace and people scrambled inside, throwing themselves over each other. Everyone left without paying."

A waitress told him to call 911, then said, "But wait, it's the police that are doing this," Guimond recounted.

Students defy new laws and take to streets again
MONTREAL - Quebec's emergency law and Montreal's mask-ban law have done little to quell the civil unrest across the province or dampen people's desire to protest.

Sixty-nine people were arrested Saturday during the 26th straight night of protests in downtown Montreal. About 5,000 people, many of them defiantly wearing masks, marched through the city streets.

[ ... ]

Protesters were also given support Saturday from hundreds of kilometres away, as the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and Montreal's Arcade Fire sang together on the season finale of Saturday Night Live wearing the symbols of the student movement.

Commentary: China's secret? It owes Americans nearly $1 trillion

The story begins nearly 100 years ago, in 1913, when the government of China began issuing bonds to foreign investors and governments for infrastructure work to modernize the country. As the country fell into civil war in 1927, paying these debts became increasingly difficult and the government fell into default. Even so, in April 1938, the Nationalist government of China began to issue U.S.-dollar denominated bonds to finance the war against Japan's brutal invasion.

Arctic melt releasing ancient methane
Scientists have identified thousands of sites in the Arctic where methane that has been stored for many millennia is bubbling into the atmosphere.

The region stores vast quantities of the gas in different places - in and under permafrost on land, on and under the sea bed, and - as evidenced by the latest research - in geological reservoirs.

"The Arctic is the fastest warming region on the planet, and has many methane sources that will increase as the temperature rises," commented Prof Euan Nisbet from Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also involved in Arctic methane research.

"This is yet another serious concern: the warming will feed the warming."

Eclipse 'ring of fire' wows Asian, US sky-gazers

"That was totally awesome," said Geoff Reid, 28, from Santa Cruz, at a huge "viewing party" on a terrace overlooking Los Angeles, after a New Year's Eve-style countdown climaxed with huge cheers at the eclipse's peak.

[ ... ]

Electronics giant Panasonic sent an expedition to the top of Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain at 3,776 metres (12,388 feet), to film the phenomenon using solar-powered equipment.

[ ... ]

One of the best spots in North America to see the full ring of fire effect was the tiny town of Kanarraville, Utah, where the local population of 350 was invaded by thousands of eclipse-watchers.

From Twitter and Flickr:
NASA Goddard ‏@NASAGoddard
Who's ready for the 'ring of fire' this weekend? If you plan on viewing the annular eclipse, share your pix with us! Link to pictures on Flickr

[Some more very cools pictures from people on Twitter:]

Blog Posts of Interest

War on the First Amendment on DailyKos by Jesselyn Radack.

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Mon May 21, 2012 at 05:33 AM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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