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Photos by: joanneleon. August 15, 2013.


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The judge will begin deliberating about Manning's sentence today.  Her deliberation about his guilt or innocence took about 48-hours.   The max sentence had been reduced to 90 years (ugh) so the government recommends that he should serve 2/3 of the sentence.  His entire life if you consider average lifespans.  In my view, this is not much different than if they had chosen the death sentence. What's the difference?  Maybe he can get a pardon, I guess.  Otherwise, if he has to serve the full sentence, it's capital punishment, effectively.  When other countries are considering extradition of other whistleblowers, even if said whistleblowers have not been charged with a capital crime, other countries should look at the Manning case as the most recent example of how this country and this administration is likely to treat another whistleblower. They'd pay with their lives, in prison or in the ground.

Prosecutors recommend 60-year sentence for Bradley Manning

FORT MEADE, MD. Prosecutors are asking a military judge to sentence Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 60 years in prison.

Capt. Joe Morrow made the recommendation during closing arguments Monday in the sentencing phase of Manning's court-martial. Morrow says the soldier was convicted of serious crimes and deserves to spend the majority of his life in prison.

Manning faced up to 90 years for his convictions on 20 counts, including six violations of the Espionage Act. Morrow did not say why prosecutors were only seeking 60 years.

Manning's defense attorney will give his closing argument later Monday.  [...] The judge said she will begin deliberating the punishment Tuesday.

DailyKos now has sponsored content, with disabled comments, on the front page.  
The one on the front page right now is for Al Jazeera America. Wow. Well at least the author's name is "Sponsored Content" which is generic, so I guess we should expect to see more sponsored content.  Update: There's a blog post about it by Will Rockafellow.

This is the somewhat new advertising kick on blogs. People pay to post content that looks like blog entries rather than a banner ad or embedded ads, for which I suspect  the "click throughs" are down. The Atlantic got in big trouble for not properly identifying a piece of sponsored content as being a paid piece. Twitter has sponsored content too -- a lot of it. Some of it is identified, but a lot of it isn't.  It's much harder to tell because they are just tweets embedded in your stream/timeline. I've also seen it in my search results now too. Glaring ads must be failing, and fewer people are watching tv where it's forced on you and fewer people have landlines to harass you with telemarketing.  Ads embedded in your online videos are pretty easy to ignore, just mute and skip ASAP. Mobile phone ads are hated because there's just not enough space and they're often done badly and obstruct content or needed navigation buttons, etc. So the powers that be are rushing to the digital content world and they need new ways to try to get us to actually look at their marketing crap.

I'm not against sponsored content entirely. I just get disgusted with the world of marketing in general. But sponsored content is actually one of the more honest ways of trying to sell you something and hopefully it will remain well identified and easy to avoid, if you want to.  I just find it interesting to see it on the front page here, and am intrigued about why no comments are allowed.

And about Al Jazeera America... It's important to know that it is not Al Jazeera English, which was, for years, a real quality news outlet, and still is, to some extent.  They have some excellent programs (none of which were brought forward to Al Jazeera America, as far as I know, which has been staffed with new people, including CNN retreads).  When their exec producer (former Canadian public broadcasting guy) left, things started to change a lot. The U.S. began to exercise some control over the content but only in certain subjects, I think, like Libya and Syria. Some AJE writers have spoken out about it. It's well worth finding and reading some of those articles.  And of course the US (and/or cable companies? through the cable companies?) fought a widespread availability of AJE at the beginning of Arab Spring when so many wanted it. Their American viewership skyrocketed where it was available and via online streaming, YouTube, Roku and probably some other ways of getting it.  You of course remember when Al Jazeera was considered a terrorist news organization in the early 2000's too when Bush bombed one of their locations.

The emir of Qatar owns the station and did not exercise much (or any) editorial control over it. Robert Fisk wrote an article about Al Jazeera a couple of years ago which was very informative. Things have changed since then. Even before the recent palace coup in Qatar (the son forced the father to abdicate) the West had already begun to get some influence over AJ. Their reporting on Syria was, IMHO, propaganda and it became necessary to exercise caution with all of their content.

But still AJE was not widely available via cable channels. Not until they hatched the Al Jazeera America project which launches today. I guess AJA will become widely available on cable channels now, magically. And Al Jazeera English is still out there. But I realized last night when I was looking at their YouTube channel that they've now blocked all AJE content. We can't even look at the numerous news videos that were available to us before, nor can we stream it live from their site like we could until just days ago. In the US, if you want to watch Al Jazeera, you can only have the American version of it, specially created for an American audience. I believe that all of the existing programs on AJE were not brought over to AJA. All new programming tailored for an American audience. You can read a lot about this in various news articles and writings, some by people who are or were involved with Al Jazeera English.

Interesting. I think I'll call it AJAP -- Al Jazeera American Propaganda.  

Sponsored Post: Al Jazeera America: There’s More To It

Introducing A New TV News Channel!  Find out how to get it here:

Interesting contrast. Human Rights Watch.
Iran: Stop Holding Reporters’ Relatives Hostage

(New York) – The Iranian government has been intimidating and detaining relatives and friends of foreign-based Persian-language journalists to obtain information or silence them, Human Rights Watch said today. A family member of a BBC reporter whom Iranian authorities arbitrarily detained and held as a hostage for close to two weeks is one of the latest victims in a new wave of arrests against journalists and bloggers prior to parliamentary elections due on March 2, 2012.
“Detaining a BBC reporter’s relative seems to be part of a wider campaign to harass Iranian journalists by putting pressure on them and their families,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It suggests that authorities detained the relative to silence the reporter and the BBC. It also sends a message that the government’s long arm of repression can extend well beyond borders.”

I don't know what to make of this. As of right now, HuffPo and DailyBeast are the only one reporting this, I think?  If it's true, it will be very big news.  A couple of things have happened during the past day.  Former president Mubarak is going to be released from prison.  Do you think there's any chance that he'd be put back in power?  His health was so bad that he couldn't go to prison when he was first sent there for killing his own citizens.  I guess he did eventually go to prison but there were reports of really grave illnesses, comas, etc. The other thing is that when it was reported that the U.S. might cut off aid, the Saudis stepped up and said they'd make up for it.  And of course there is the obvious fact that the Egyptian military is killing their own citizens and has not turned power over to a civilian government or held elections, and they just instituted a heavy curfew, like the old days.  It's really difficult for Obama to maintain his stance that Assad must be overthrown because he kills Syrian citizens while also supporting and giving money to the Egyptian military in power and denying a coup.  And now that the CIA has officially admitted that they engineered the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran, 50 years ago, and one of their admitted techniques was stirring up protests... well maybe it's really getting hot in here for the administration.  Anyway, I don't see how this is something that could be kept secret for long.  Perhaps they hope that the Egyptian military will do what the U.S. is demanding and they'll be able to just restore the aid. Also, Israel supports the Egyptian military and lobbied hard not to cut off the aid.  The really weird thing is that the amount of $ we give Egypt is small in comparison to what they get from some Gulf states. And as has been reported, the Saudis, our supposed allies, have told Egypt that they'll give them the money that the U.S. withholds, which completely undermines our government, it seems.  Some allies they are.  I've never understood that relationship.  It has to be one of the most bizarre alliances in world history.
Obama Administration Secretly Suspends Military Aid To Egypt, Patrick Leahy Says

The Obama administration has secretly suspended military aid to Egypt, The Daily Beast reported on Monday.

A spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the head of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, told The Daily Beast that the Obama administration has decided to withhold aid from Egypt.
The Obama administration's public comments haven't mentioned an official hold on U.S. aid.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during the State Department's daily press briefing on Monday that about $585 million of $1.23 billion in U.S. Foreign Military Financing to Egypt for the year remains "unobligated."

Egyptian Court Is Said to Order That Mubarak Be Released

CAIRO — A court in Egypt has ordered that former President Hosni Mubarak, who has been detained on a variety of charges since his ouster in 2011, should be set free, according to state media and security officials on Monday, but it remained possible that the authorities would find a way to keep him in detention and his release did not appear imminent.

Egyptian state media reported that Mr. Mubarak would remain in custody for another two weeks under a previous judicial order before the authorities make a decision on his release. The outcome of their deliberations is likely to be read as a pivotal test of the new government installed by General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi and its desire to replicate or repudiate Mr. Mubarak’s rule.
It was unclear how Egyptians — particularly those who have welcomed the military action against Mr. Morsi — would respond to the release of a despised autocrat whose downfall united Mr. Mubarak’s secular and Islamist foes. News of the legal maneuvers came at a time of sustained bloodletting.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: In Modern Egypt's Bloodiest Period, "New Horrors Are Brought Every Day"

Mass violence continues in Egypt amidst the bloodiest period in the country's modern history. Around 900 people have been killed since state forces attacked Muslim Brotherhood protest encampments five days ago. At least 173 people were killed in a "Day of Rage" protest called by the Brotherhood on Friday followed by at least 79 deaths on Saturday. Around 90 police officers and soldiers have died in the violence but Islamist supporters of the Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi account for the bulk of the victims. On Sunday, at least 36 prisoners were killed in Cairo after guards said they tried to escape while being transferred. But the Muslim Brotherhood accused state forces of a "cold-blooded killing" and demanded an international probe. And earlier today at least 24 police officers were reportedly killed in the northern Sinai after coming under attack by militants. "New horrors are brought every day, nightmarish scenes that Egyptians could never have imagined," Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from Cairo. "It's not a Cairo that many people recognize. With both sides vowing to escalate, worse days surely lie ahead."

Ahdaf Soueif: Amidst Egypt's Bloodshed, "We Are Trying Keep the Discourse of the Revolution Alive"

As reports emerge that former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak could be released this week, we speak to the acclaimed Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif. A prominent backer of the 2011 Tahrir Square, Soueif reflects on the state of the revolution and the growing divide in Egypt. "One of most depressing things that we've seen has been how a strand of what what was the revolution, and what was either progressive or liberal, has so completely backed, endorsed, egged-on the military and the police and have completely, unrelentingly demonized the Brotherhood and Islamist currents," Soueif says from Cairo. "And I think that is part of why we've had an escalation of violence. It's as if everyone is playing out a role that is expected of them." We're also joined by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Chris Toensing, executive director of the Middle East Research and Information Project.

Can you believe this? Did the city get the permission of the citizens before allowing this? Do they get paid for it or a cut of the ad revenue?  Is the data being passed on to the government?  They're saying that the spying is for ad purposes. Ugh, this is sickening. Whoever wrote the story for the "Minority Report" movie was just too prescient.  There is a huge business opportunity for cell phone companies and other tech companies who can and will insure privacy.
Bin Brother: Wi-Fi trash cans in London spark digital stalking scandal

I thought this was an odd thing for Greenwald to tweet on Sunday night.

Well as it turns out, it wasn't too far off the mark or perhaps it was a hint that Guardian Editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, was going to spill the beans about what happened in their London office a month ago.  Wow, what kind of precedent will this set?  If you're interested in reading Rusbridger's comments as he interacts with readers of his article, you can find them here.  There are quite a lot of them. I continue to be impressed by the Guardian.  Other big news organizations are trying new things as they focus on digital media, and the Guardian has some new gadgets and good media software, but basically what makes them good is their people and their content.  They prove that the old adage "Content is king" is still valid. You can throw money around to get the coolest stuff but the quality of your content is still the most important thing.  I would predict that the integrity of your media organization and content is just as important and may end up being almost as big a factor in today's world of concentrated media and Big Propaganda, the huge influence of the State over the media.  Do read the whole article here. It's well written and he tucks in a lot of information along the way to telling the story of what happened.

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face
As the events in a Heathrow transit lounge – and the Guardian offices – have shown, the threat to journalism is real and growing

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back." There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

[...] And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.
The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like "when".

Britain forced Guardian to destroy copy of Snowden material

In an article posted on the British newspaper's website on Monday, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said that a month ago, after the newspaper had published several stories based on Snowden's material, a British official advised him: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back."
After further talks with the government, Rusbridger said, two "security experts" from Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the ultra-secretive U.S. National Security Agency, visited the Guardian's London offices.

In the building's basement, Rusbridger wrote, government officials watched as computers which contained material provided by Snowden were physically pulverized. "We can call off the black helicopters," Rusbridger says one of the officials joked.

The Guardian's decision to publicize the government threat - and the newspaper's assertion that it can continue reporting on the Snowden revelations from outside of Britain - appears to be the latest step in an escalating battle between the news media and governments over reporting of secret surveillance programs.

There are some really interesting tweets from people with big jobs in the media out there about the Miranda fiasco.

Executive editor of the Washington Post:

Chief of Correspondents, McClatchy:

Jonathan Watts of the Guardian, in Rio de Janeiro.

David Miranda: 'They said I would be put in jail if I didn't co-operate'
Partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald gives his first interview on nine-hour interrogation at Heathrow airport

In his first interview since returning to his home in Rio de Janeiro early on Monday, Miranda said the authorities in the UK had pandered to the US in trying to intimidate him and force him to reveal the passwords to his computer and mobile phone.

"They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn't co-operate," said Miranda. "They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the UK … It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong."
"It is clear why they took me. It's because I'm Glenn's partner. Because I went to Berlin. Because Laura lives there. So they think I have a big connection," he said. "But I don't have a role. I don't look at documents. I don't even know if it was documents that I was carrying. It could have been for the movie that Laura is working on."
"They even asked me about the protests in Brazil, why people were unhappy and who I knew in the government," said Miranda.

Update: Video interview with Miranda and Greenwald at the airport is now available via the Guardian, so people can hear exactly what they said in Portugese.
Greenwald's partner David Miranda on his detention under terror laws

This is getting more bizarre by the day. Yesterday it was Peggy Noonan. Today it's a conservative Christian who has more sense re: surveillance state than the progressives and liberals still defending it or serving up the apologia, and he's quoting Frank Church.  Who would have predicted this?

The NSA: ‘The Abyss from Which There Is No Return’
“The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”—Senator Frank Church (1975)
We now find ourselves operating in a strange paradigm where the government not only views the citizenry as suspects but treats them as suspects, as well. Thus, the news that the National Security Agency (NSA) is routinely operating outside of the law and overstepping its legal authority by carrying out surveillance on American citizens is not really much of a surprise. This is what happens when you give the government broad powers and allow government agencies to routinely sidestep the Constitution.
Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the National Security Agency in the 1970s, understood only too well the dangers inherent in allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

Noting that the NSA could enable a dictator “to impose total tyranny” upon an utterly defenseless American public, Church declared that he did not “want to see this country ever go across the bridge” of constitutional protection, congressional oversight and popular demand for privacy. He avowed that “we,” implicating both Congress and its constituency in this duty, “must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Barton Gellman: Evidence portrays NSA as 'flawed organization'
Andrea Peterson of the Washington Post helps Greenwald set the record straight on the translation of his exchanges with the media in Brazil.  Apparently Reuters and HuffPo did eventually change their wording but Greenwald says the damage was already done.
No, Glenn Greenwald didn’t ‘vow vengeance.’ He said he was going to do his job.

Greenwald spoke to the media, in Portuguese, at the Brazilian airport where he met Miranda upon his return. Here is the full quote from Reuters’ coverage:

I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I am going to publish things on England too. I have many documents on England’s spy system. I think they will be sorry for what they did. [...] They wanted to intimidate our journalism, to show that they have power and will not remain passive but will attack us more intensely if we continue publishing their secrets.

Greenwald took issue with the framing, saying the Reuters report neglected to include key context, including the questions that prompted his comments. He tweeted out this paraphrase of his conversation with the press [...]

Greenwald’s point seems to have been that he was determined not to be scared off by intimidation. Greenwald and the Guardian have already been publishing documents outlining surveillance programs in Britain, and Greenwald has long declared his intention to continue publishing documents. By doing so, Greenwald isn’t taking “vengeance.” He’s just doing his job.

US Foreign Policy: Moral Hazards and Absolute Evil

In Pt 2 of 4 of Reality Asserts Itself, Paul Jay and Max Blumenthal discuss US foreign policy from Bush to Obama and the concept that in "defense of civilization", every crime is acceptable

TPP deal could monopolize pharmaceuticals and police the Internet

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the proposed trade deal between 12 countries. Since the Bush administration, leaders of these 12 countries have mostly met in secret to discuss and on Thursday another round of talks will take place. If the TPP deal is completed it could have alarming effects on people's access to medicine, online freedoms and financial regulations. Melinda St. Louis with Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch has more.

Released yesterday. 5 million views on YouTube already.
Lady Gaga - Applause (Official)

CNRL Cold Lake Bitumen Seepage Hits 1.2 Million Litres, Reports AER

The ongoing trouble on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in North Eastern Alberta, where oil company Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) has numerous in situ oil recovery sites, has yet to show signs of abatement.

Underground oil spills on CNRL’s Primrose facility have been leaking bitumen emulsion into the muskeg, waterways and forest that surround the site for nearly three months.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) says the total volume of bitumen emulsion recovered from four separate sites where the seepage is ongoing is now 1275.7 cubic metres, the equivalent of 8024 barrels of oil or 1.27 million litres.

The original volume of the spill was reported as 28 cubic metres.

In addition, 397 cubic metres of “oily vegetation” has been removed from one of the sites numbered 09-21, and 5096.66 metric tones of “impacted soils” have been removed from the other three.

“Clean up continues on all four sites,” says the AER in an updated incident report released yesterday.

The People Take on Fracking Corporation in UK-Wide Actions
Balcombe fracking protests spread nationwide as demonstrators shut down corporate headquarters, PR firm and drilling site

In a rapid-fire succession of civil disobedience actions across the United Kingdom, anti-fracking protesters came out in force Monday against drilling company Cuadrilla, shutting down their headquarters, their PR company and their drill site in Balcombe.

In an effort to suspend the "sustained campaign of corporate misinformation" being peddled by Bell Pottinger, beginning at 8 AM local time, six activists using superglue and reinforced arm tubes blocked the entrance company headquarters in London. Bell Pottinger is the PR company behind Cuadrilla's operation in Sussex where fracking already occurs.

Reporting on the action, the group No Dash for Gas writes:

Another activist climbed the building and unfurled a banner reading: ‘BELL POTTINGER – FRACKING LIARS’. The campaigners used a sound system to play an undercover recording in which a Bell Pottinger spin doctor admits the company’s pro-fracking PR offensive ‘sounds like utter fucking bullshit.’


From the Imgur Public Gallery

"My wife just called me at work and said, 'Um, you'd better look at your shoes...'"

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues
NSA: An International Piece of the Puzzle - The Unmentioned Law
Rachel Maddow on David Miranda and the White House
Conservative "reporter" poses as pervert in order to demean transwomen
Uniquely trustworthy

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