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Longwood Gardens. May, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon

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Longwood Gardens. May, 2013.  Photo by: joanneleon



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So the big speech is on Thursday.  Looks like this might be a preparation for an overhaul of the AUMF, perhaps making it even broader, plus damage control for the scandals.  My guess:  war on Al Qaeda is over, but we have to include the vague "associated forces" clause in a new AUMF, allowing him to wage war wherever he wants with some vague definition of anything that the govt. perceives to be a threat, and this will include a big cybersecurity emphasis and things about the new threats we face, essentially the ePATRIOT Act that (I think it was) Richard Clarke said has been sitting on a shelf.  A justification for drone strikes and it won't tell the truth about the numbers or the signature strikes or the double tap strikes but might announce implementation of the rule book that he and Brennan were working on, but won't mention that Brennan and the CIA are exempted.  Lastly I think he will announce something good about Gitmo, some plans to release detainees that were never charged and were cleared for release long ago, plus he'll announce that he's calling for Congress to pass a shield law for journalists but won't mention that his version has things that might make the situation even worse, and the the AP scandal would not have been covered by such a shield law because it has, of course, exemptions for "national security".   Those are my predictions.  One more thing, they might announce that they have the people who are responsible for the Benghazi attack.  They might have had them for months now.

Obama to discuss al Qaeda, drones, Guantanamo Bay in Thursday speech

ATLANTA - President Barack Obama, under fire for security lapses at a U.S. mission in Libya, will in a speech on Thursday lay out his wide-ranging counter-terrorism policy, from the controversial use of drones to efforts to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
[...]
A White House official said Obama would address these issues in a speech on Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington. He will say that al Qaeda has been significantly degraded but remains a threat, along with its affiliates, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"He will review the state of the threats we face, particularly as al Qaeda's core has weakened but new dangers have emerged," said the official.

Update: More from Marcy on the speech.  She lays out a timeline that is a must read.
Obama’s Headlong Rush to Counterterrorism Transparency

Some of the delay, apparently, comes from the need to address the issues that have been festering during the delay.

Obama was prepared to deliver the speech earlier this month, but it was put off amid mounting concerns over a prisoner hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay and more recently the Justice Department leaks investigation — both of which the revised speech may address.
But otherwise, it appears it has taken 100 days to be able to craft a speech good enough to make his paranoia about secrecy and lip service to human rights in counterterrorism look like something else.

Ah well, at least they’ve sharply curtailed drone strikes while they’ve been writing a speech.

I'm just catching this now.  
Obama DOJ formally accuses journalist in leak case of committing crimes
Yet another serious escalation of the Obama administration's attacks on press freedoms emerges

New revelations emerged yesterday in the Washington Post that are perhaps the most extreme yet when it comes to the DOJ's attacks on press freedoms. It involves the prosecution of State Department adviser Stephen Kim, a naturalized citizen from South Korea who was indicted in 2009 for allegedly telling Fox News' chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen, that US intelligence believed North Korea would respond to additional UN sanctions with more nuclear tests - something Rosen then reported. Kim did not obtain unauthorized access to classified information, nor steal documents, nor sell secrets, nor pass them to an enemy of the US. Instead, the DOJ alleges that he merely communicated this innocuous information to a journalist - something done every day in Washington - and, for that, this arms expert and long-time government employee faces more than a decade in prison for "espionage".

The focus of the Post's report yesterday is that the DOJ's surveillance of Rosen, the reporter, extended far beyond even what they did to AP reporters. The FBI tracked Rosen's movements in and out of the State Department, traced the timing of his calls, and - most amazingly - obtained a search warrant to read two days worth of his emails, as well as all of his emails with Kim. In this case, said the Post, "investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material." It added that "court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist".

Occupy No Longer in Headlines But Activism Continues Nationwide
David Swanson: Activists succeeding in turning public opinion against drone strikes; other forms of actions on the rise

JAY: So the media's filled with this. Occupy fizzled out. Occupy didn't go anywhere. And they're kind of back to just covering two-party politics. But you have a different story to tell.
SWANSON: Well, to some extent that's true, and to some extent it's self-fulfilling, as the media created it as a national movement and then killed it off. But it didn't die. It's still there. And when I travel around the country and I participate in events, people are still organized as Occupy. There's Occupy Dallas and Occupy every city you go to as a way that people are still connected and organizing to do the same sorts of actions and new kinds of actions. And activism, whether it's part of Occupy or not, is very much alive and well in this country, little though it may be noted in the corporate media.

Activists Demand Mexican President Be Held Responsible for Deaths of Protesters

Activists say Mexican president Peña-Nieto must be held accountable for activist's murders and torture during his governorship seven years ago

Austerity is a nasty word that the austeritymongers in Europe are now trying to run away from. Has it occurred to him that one way to shake off the label is to stop being an austeritymonger?  Poor powers that be.  I feel sorry for him, don't you?
Europe’s Economics Chief Tries to Peel Off ‘Mr. Austerity’ Label

OLLI REHN, the European Union’s top economic policy maker and scourge of debt-fueled budget deficits, is fed up with austerity. Or at least with being tarred by a term that “is clearly used to label somebody as an unworthy person who is almost eating children.”

With more than 26 million Europeans out of work and the economies of the 27-nation bloc shrinking over all for six quarters in a row, Mr. Rehn, the commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, has become a lightning rod in recent months for swelling anger across Europe against the harsh belt-tightening policies generally known as austerity.

I'm not familiar with Atkinson, so I don't know if this is a debate or a discussion.  It's available tonight on livestream from City University of New York.  There are some articles on inequality headlined on the NYT front page but I've run out of free articles, so I can't bring them here but you might want to check them.  I note that the words "austerity" and "inequality" are really catching on and a prominent part of not only the national conversation but the international conversation, which is good. There was a period of time when there was a lot of push back at the use of the word "austerity" for Obama's policies (from his valiant supporters) but the word is here to stay. That's a start.  I think that both terms were thrust into the mainstream mostly by alternative news and blogs, and Occupy.
Inequality and Growth, Discussed

Anyway, Tony Atkinson and I will be having a dialogue on inequality and growth tomorrow evening at CUNY, moderated by Chrystia Freeland, from 6:30 to 8; livestream here. Chrystia will be taking questions at #GCinequality.

Scott Budnick serves breakfast – with a side order of respect – to the homeless
Sunday breakfast at a Providence, R.I., church is more than a free meal. Half the volunteers are homeless themselves: 'It's their [own] breakfast that they're putting on.'

The Sunday Morning Friendship Breakfast is free and open to anyone who's hungry. A sluggish economy keeps the crowds coming: The number of homeless Rhode Islanders climbed 10 percent in 2012. Since the friendship breakfast began 14 months ago, weekly turnout has grown from a few dozen people to more than 200.

The breakfast offers heaping plates of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, pancakes, waffles, French toast, sausage, and home fries – plus pastries, oatmeal, juice, and coffee. It costs about a dollar a plate to produce.

"People tell us that this is a meal they look forward to all week long," Budnick says.

The breakfast is not just a free meal: Half the volunteers are homeless themselves.

"Early on we realized that people want to be useful," Budnick says. "Thirty or 40 people from the street help out every week, whether it's cooking home fries or pushing a broom." Budnick pairs up the volunteers, purposely mixing them up: "A lot of times, the person from the street knows our process better than the outside volunteer," he says. "It puts them in the leadership role."

COMMENTARY: Stop the illegal drone attacks

New Jersey Peace Action’s (NJPA’s) annual dinner was held at the Regency House in Pompton Plains on April 28, the last day of “Drone Awareness Month.”

Jeremy Scahill, author of the newly published “Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield” and producer of a soon-to-be-released movie of the same name, addressed a diverse crowd of over 250, including tables of college students and an original Tuskegee Airman.
[...]
How about the constitutional principle of “innocent until proven guilty,’’ and guarantees that the accused know the evidence against them and have a trial to confront that evidence?

Additionally, the Constitution Project’s recently released report concludes that the U.S. engaged in torture post-9/11 and names the nation’s highest officials ultimately responsible.

While fear might tempt us to abandon our constitutional principles, Scahill suggested that it is more important to uphold them during difficult times. Even if we are repulsed by another’s reprehensible words and actions, are they still not entitled to be tried in a court of law?

Jihadists' control of Syrian oilfields signals a decisive moment in conflict
Source of funding is helping al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra to sideline western-backed rebels and reshape the Middle East

The stranglehold that Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies have achieved over Syria's oilfields signals a decisive moment in the conflict that will shape the rapidly and violently evolving map of the new Middle East.

The impact is immediately visible. With a new independent source of funding, the jihadists holding the oilfields between al-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor are much better equipped than their Sunni rivals, reinforcing the advantage originally provided by Qatari backing. They have been able to provide bread and other essentials to the people in the areas under their control, securing an enduring popular base.

This serves to marginalise the western-backed rebels, the National Coalition and the Supreme Military Council (SMC), even further. The blustering claim by the SMC commander, Salim Idriss, that he was going to muster a 30,000 force to retake the oilfields served only to undermine his credibility.

Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt: DOJ's Seizure Of Phone Records Was 'Unconstitutional'

Pruitt told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the government has no business monitoring the AP's newsgathering activities.

"And if they restrict that apparatus ... the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that's not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment," he said.

In a separate interview with the AP, Pruitt said the news cooperative had not decided its next move but had not ruled out legal action against the government. He said the Justice Department's investigation is out of control and President Barack Obama should rein it in.

Tim Poole has some interesting things to say.
How Journalists Can Protect Themselves from Gov Spying

n this video Luke Rudkowski sits down with fellow journalist and tech expert Tim Pool to find out if you can still protect your sources as a journalist. The two go into great detail about encrypting messages and basic security measures journalists can take to protect their data.

This is what I thought might be coming -- break up Syria.  I thought they were going to break it up into two pieces.  But now MoonofAlabama is saying the talk is of breaking it into three: one for Assad, one for jihadists and one for the Kurds. That doesn't sound stable in the long term, and there is the oil.  For the record, MoA says that Israel doesn't have the power to do this and the other interested parties don't have the incentive to do it, and MoA does not think it will happen.  I don't know enough to have an opinion on whether or not it's likely to happen.
Syria: The Turning International Tide

A third sign is the seemingly changing position in Israel where a political mood is turning towards keeping the Syrian president Bashar Assad in power:
[...]
That view will likely later be reflected in Washington where the "Assad must go" crowd has yet to weaken its position.
While the above three indicators point to a change in position the Israeli change adds what can be understood as a new demand:

The situation that Assad survives, maintaining power in Damascus and in the corridors to the large coastal cities, would entail the breaking up of Syria into three separate states.
Pat Lang's take on it, as of Friday.
The Latest Syrian News

The already effective jihadi Islamist domination of the "opposition" in Syria is here reported as shifting in the direction of direct AQII leadership of the movement. [...] their agenda is for the abolition of the state of Syria as an impious western contrivance and its replacement by theocratic rule [...] it is now admitted by pro-"opposition" media and spokesmen that the "opposition" is losing ground in the war.

The BHO/Kerry team has proposed a conference on the war among the parties in order to facilitate the surrender of Assad's government.  The rebel response is to demand that it be armed BEFORE they will agree to attend the conference.  The BHO Administration may well agree to that since it favors the rebels.

Amazing.

Canada's top aide quits over expenses scandal
Nigel Wright, the prime minister's chief of staff, resigns after secretly giving a $87,000 cheque to a Senate member.

he top aide to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has resigned over his role in an mounting expenses scandal which is threatening to undermine the Conservative government.

Nigel Wright, Harper's chief of staff, quit on Sunday after secretly giving a C$90,000 ($87,000) cheque in February to Mike Duffy, a member of the upper Senate chamber, to help him cover living expenses he had improperly claimed. News of the gift leaked on May 14.

Opposition legislators said the cheque broke ethics rules that forbid senators from taking presents and made a mockery of the government's repeated promises to increase accountability in Ottawa. Duffy, a former national television journalist, resigned from the Conservative caucus on Thursday.

Officials told reporters on Friday that the chief of staff - who says he did not tell Harper about the cheque - would be staying.

A longish read that can't be excepted very well, but well researched and written, and an interesting read.  This is a special report by Reuters. I hope it gets a lot of reads to support real, on the ground, investigative reporting.  It looks to me like government subsidized water for Big Oil, justified by provision of better water to residential customers.  The new government subsidized co-op competes with an independent group of farmers and ranchers who had set up side businesses, "water depots", providing water to Big Oil.  And none of them pay anything for the water they pump out of the Missouri river and aquifiers.  A water tax was shot down in the legislature. Now there is a battle over it, but the battle is indicative of other problems.  Also, I can't help but wonder what this place is going to be like when Big Oil picks up and leaves.  Oh, and Halliburton is involved and I wonder if they were instrumental in getting this cheap water co-op set up.  But so is Exxon and some other Bigs, so who knows?
The fight for North Dakota's fracking-water market

WATFORD CITY, North Dakota - In towns across North Dakota, the wellhead of the North American energy boom, the locals have taken to quoting the adage: "Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting."

It's not that they lack water, like Texas and California. They are swimming in it, and it is free for the taking. Yet as the state's Bakken shale fields have grown, so has the fight over who has the right to tap into the multimillion-dollar market to supply water to the energy sector.

North Dakota now accounts for over 10 percent of U.S. energy output, and production could double over the next decade. The state draws water from the Missouri River and aquifers for its hydraulic fracturing, the process also known as fracking and the key that has unlocked America's abundant shale deposits. The process is water-intensive and requires more than 2 million gallons of water per well, equal to baths for some 40,000 people.



Action


Kevin Gosztola soliciting funds to help continue his excellent and tireless reporting on the Manning trial.  Remember, he was virtually the only one reporting on it at times.  I hope he is well funded for the court martial trial.  He deserves a Pulitzer for his journalism on this.  It will be interesting to see if the media does a turnaround on Manning and Assange now that they have had their epiphany and a taste of the whistleblower witch hunt.  But unlike the MSM, Kevin needs the funding from his readers to keep going.  Without Kevin and some others like Alexa O'Brien, the government would have succeeded in keeping most of the Manning situation in the dark.

To Those Who Have Supported My Coverage of Bradley Manning’s Court Martial (So Far)

Every dollar donated to help fund coverage of Bradley Manning has helped transform me into a foremost journalist on one of the biggest cases in military justice history.

Every post of mine shared on Facebook or Twitter has helped amplify critical coverage that is keeping the world informed of how the government is prosecuting Manning as if he is a traitor that aided terrorists.
[...]
I hope you will keep sharing my reporting with family, friends or those in your social network, and, when possible, make donations so I can remain a fixture in the press pool at Meade and keep up my coverage of the Manning case.

With gratitude,

Kevin Gosztola
Firedoglake.com Journalist



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