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News & Opinion
Inside the ‘PayPal 14’ TrialThis has caused a pretty big stir, mostly because of the (original) inaccurate Guardian headline. Harrison never said 'You can't take Omidyar and Greenwald seriously'. It's in single quotes, so apparently a paraphrase, but they later changed it so it's not even an accurate paraphrase. An very interesting conversation followed between @pierre and @wikileaks, presumably Assange using that account. Assange has been speaking out about Omidyar's refusal to denounce or do anything about the blockade. Omidyar started looking into it further and from what I can tell, seemed to think the Wikileaks Paypal account is not blocked at this time. I haven't looked to see new tweets today but it's worth going to take a look at the convo.
A long and secretive legal battle against a group of activists accused of attacking the e-commerce site in the name of WikiLeaks has finally neared its end.
A group of men and women with the collective Anonymous have pled guilty to charges of conspiring to disrupt access to the payment website PayPa in response to what they termed extra-legal censorship of WikiLeaks, most likely avoiding felonies.
The deal for the group, known as the PayPal 14, brings to a public conclusion a year of gagged settlement conferences. The July 2011 indictment of the 13 men and women (one case was handled separately) by the U.S. Department of Justice under the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for a four day online “sit-in” in December 2010 has been cited by activist and lawyers as a litmus test for civil rights in the digital age. The case has also been cited by the Obama administration to justify increasing appropriations to the FBI for cyber-security prosecutions.
The protest by Anonymous, dubbed “Operation Payback,” was in response to PayPal’s suspension of service to WikiLeaks, an online publisher of censored and suppressed material, which had then begun publishing diplomatic cables disclosed by a young Army intelligence analyst named Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. Manning was recently convicted to 35 years in prison for 20 offenses, including one conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse for disclosing 116 diplomatic cables.
WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison: 'How can you take Pierre Omidyar seriously?A new Greenwald interview.
WikiLeaks staffer who accompanied Edward Snowden to Russia, attacks the eBay founder for not helping the 'PayPal 14'
The WikiLeaks staffer and Snowden collaborator Sarah Harrison has criticised Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder who is setting up a new journalism venture with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, for his involvement in the 2010 financial blockade against WikiLeaks.
In her first interview since leaving Moscow for Berlin last month, Harrison told German news weekly Stern: "How can you take something seriously when the person behind this platform went along with the financial boycott against WikiLeaks?"
Harrison was referring to the decision in December 2010 by PayPal, which is owned by eBay, to suspend WikiLeaks' donation account and freeze its assets after pressure from the US government. The company's boycott, combined with similar action taken by Visa and Mastercard, left WikiLeaks facing a funding crisis.
Saving the Net from the surveillance state: Glenn Greenwald speaks up (Q&A)Note that Sensenbrenner, et al, want the NSA reform bill to be brought to the floor and have talked about doing amendments to must pass defense legislation if Boehner does not do it.
The man to whom Edward Snowden entrusted his NSA documents isn't content just to save the Bill of Rights and reinvent journalism. He also wants to stop the Internet from becoming history's most dangerous spy tool.
Greenwald spoke with CNET's Edward Moyer by phone from Brazil, where he's living with his husband, David Miranda (and probably will be for the foreseeable future, since the attorney general of the US has been unclear about whether Greenwald would be arrested if he returned to the States). The articulate and passionate Greenwald talked about press freedom; tech firms and privacy; totalitarianism and the banality of evil; and the struggle over the fate of the Internet.
Here's a lightly edited transcript: [...]
Dems, GOP craft backup for stalled defense billA bizarre story, and the judge thinks so too.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Facing a standoff in the Senate, the top Democrats and Republicans on Congress' military panels are working on a backup plan to ensure that they complete a far-reaching defense policy bill before year's end.
Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, expressed optimism on Thursday that they could agree with their Senate counterparts on a pared-back bill that would cover a pay raise for troops, buy new ships and aircraft and address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.
The Senate and the House have only one legislative week to work out their differences before the House adjourns for the year on Dec. 13. A version of the bill remains stalled in the Senate, caught up in a dispute over amendments.
"We have to have this done," Smith told reporters. "A whole lot of bad stuff happens if we don't pass this by the end of the year, in terms of military pay, in terms of death benefit compensation, in terms of military construction projects and on and on and on."
Feds Insist It Must Be Kept Secret Whether Or Not Plaintiff In No Fly List Trial Is Actually On The No Fly LisBecause I'm still floored by this.
In the latest update in the ongoing trial concerning the legality of the US's "no fly list" brought by Stanford grad school student Rahinah Ibrahim after what appears to be a series of monumentally stupid actions by the US government, the feds continue to try to play games that Judge William Alsup isn't interested in playing. Edward Hasbrouck at the Identity Project continues his fine reporting with detailed coverage of Thursday's events. Apparently, the DOJ lawyers tried to insist that the mere fact of whether or not Ibrahim is on the "no fly list" has to be kept secret, including from Ibrahim herself. Judge Alsup pointed out that the mere status of someone -- on the list or off -- wasn't listed anywhere in the list the government provided him of "sensitive security information" (SSI):Why can’t we tell the party [to the lawsuit] what her status is?
This depends on our saying that national security depends on us having this information, but not her having it. I question whether that is true….
Something’s going on in this case that’s strange, and I mean on the part of the government.
I don’t understand why you’re fighting so hard to avoid having this poor plaintiff know what her status [on the no-fly list] is.
It’s easy for anyone to buy a ticket and try to get on an airplane. If they’re allowed to fly, they know they’re not on the no-fly list. If they’re stopped and handcuffed and sent to jail in the back of a police car, they know they’re on the list.
It’s so easy to find out what your status is by trying to get on an airplane — at least for the no-fly list. That’s a lot easier than months of litigation.
U.S. Spy Rocket Launching Today Has Octopus-Themed 'Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach' Logo. Seriously.
The Office of National Intelligence is very excited about sending a rocket into space today with a bunch of new satellites and is live tweeting its launch. This would usually be a cute display of social media, along the lines of NASA getting the world excited about its Mars Curiosity Rover, except these are spy satellites that will likely be used to gather communications flotsam and who knows what else from people around the world. That’s a touchy subject these days what with the Snowden leaks and constant new revelations about cell phones being turned into location trackers, the listening in on foreign leaders’ phone calls and the vacuuming up of any information sent digitally that’s not encrypted.
Patriot Act author: Obama’s intel czar should be prosecuted
Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the original author of the Patriot Act, says Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be prosecuted for lying to Congress.
"Lying to Congress is a federal offense, and Clapper ought to be fired and prosecuted for it," the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview with The Hill.
He said the Justice Department should prosecute Clapper for giving false testimony during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March.
During that hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper whether the National Security Agency (NSA) collects data on millions of Americans. Clapper insisted that the NSA does not — or at least does "not wittingly" — collect information on Americans in bulk.
After documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA collects records on virtually all U.S. phone calls, Clapper apologized for the misleading comment.
The intelligence director said he tried to give the "least untruthful" answer he could without revealing classified information.
Sensenbrenner said that explanation doesn’t hold water and argued the courts and Congress depend on accurate testimony to do their jobs.
More misinformation on the NSA
Back in October, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at a public hearing that the National Security Agency was collecting information on the location of American cell phones – a statement that the intelligence committee staff director later denied vehemently in phone conversations and emails with McClatchy. Feinstein, he said, had misspoken. ...
The story had barely been posted when David Grannis, staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, contacted McClatchy and insisted that Feinstein had been speaking “extemporaneously” and had “mistakenly” said the NSA collected location data.
“The NSA does not collect locational information on Americans or non-Americans inside the United States without a court order. No other agency in the Intelligence Community does so either," Grannis said in an email.
The specificity of the response, however, left some wiggle room, so McClatchy contacted Grannis for clarification: Did he mean that the NSA wasn't collecting location data under any program, including those authorized outside of USA Patriot Act's Section 215, the law under which NSA had been authorized to collect the records from cell phone companies?
Grannis said that was the correct way to read his statement.
The incident is just the latest example of instances in which intelligence officials and their chief overseers have misled the press and the public on the extent of the agency’s operations.
Humanitarian Intervention, Or Militarized Quest for Resources?
As a "humanitarian crisis that has been largely ignored by the rest of the world" continues to grip the Central African Republic (CAR) on Thursday, new military forces are on their way to intervene, causing some to question the motives when a country with military might sends troops into its resource-rich, former colony.
The UN Security Council on Thursday authorized the deployment of African-led and French-backed forces there, the same day clashes in the capital of Bangui left over 100 dead. ...
While most reporting on the violence that has rocked the central African nation since a coup in March portrays the root of the problem as sectarian, international studies lecturer Rob Prince says that France's role should not be overlooked, writing that "France has been much more a part of the problem the C.A.R. faces than a part of any solution."Of course omitted from France’s concern about the human rights tragedy unfolding in the Central African Republic is Paris’ history – uninterrupted over the past 125 years – of exploiting the country’s rich national resources and manipulating the country’s political system through the employment of France’s Africa holy quartet: intelligence, bribery, special forces intervention, control and manipulation of mercenary forces to undermine any political leader or movement that challenges French corporate interests. Indeed, France’s involvement in the C.A.R. is yet another fine example of how ”liberty, equality and fraternity” translates into “repression, glaring inequality and ethnic hatred” in France’s former African colonies.
Beneath the surface of France’s concern is a new, more militarized posture – under the New Age pretext of humanitarian intervention – to re-militarize its role in Africa that has included its military role in recent times in Libya, Mali, Niger (where its military force has been reinforced) and the C.A.R. The common unspoken denominator in all these cases? Uranium (Mali, Niger, C.A.R.) and oil (Libya). Concerned about the Chinese-U.S. African energy/mineral offensive of the past decade, France is nervous about shoring up its influence on the continent that is one of the key sources of French prosperity: the ongoing, never-ending resource rape of Africa. Few comments could be more disingenuous than French President Francois Hollande explaining the recent French military role in Mali: “We have no vested interests here; this is a humanitarian venture.” Is it only a French audience would be fool enough to believe that? It has about the same credibility as George W. Bush (or was it Rumsfeld?) arguing that invading Iraq was “not about oil.”
If military intervention is temporarily possible to freeze the violence, France is equally concerned about protecting its vast economic interests in uranium, diamonds, gold rare timber and tobacco which makes the C.A.R. one of France’s most valuable African assets, all of which France has extracted – if not downright looted – from the time the region came under French colonial control in the 1890s. Since the country’s 1960 independence, France has been much more a part of the problem the C.A.R. faces than a part of any solution. In fact, while nominally independent, the country has remained both economically and politically very much of an informal French Colony and an integral part of a system put in place by Charles De Gaulle at the end of the 1950s which is referred to as “Francafrique.“
Scenes from Ukraine you aren’t seeing on American TV
Los Angeles film producer Ben Moses was visiting Kiev recently when all hell broke loose.
He was in Europe for a showing of his new documentary, A Whisper to a Roar, which portrays democracy movements in Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. But then, well, let’s let Ben explain what happened in an e-mail he sent to friends…
“I came over from Warsaw, where our film is headlining a film festival, to visit my friend Andriy Shevchenko — the member of Parliament we featured in the film. I arrived in this capital city to find a full-fledged (so far peaceful) revolution taking place within three blocks of my hotel.” ...
Moses captured scenes from the protest, and then put together a very brief film to give his friends a sense of what things are like over there.
Conservative think tank SPN coordinating right-wing assault on education, healthcare and the environment in 34 states
Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
The policy goals are contained in a set of funding proposals obtained by the Guardian. The proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level.
The documents contain 40 funding proposals from 34 states, providing a blueprint for the conservative agenda in 2014. In partnership with the Texas Observer and the Portland Press Herald in Maine, the Guardian is publishing SPN’s summary of all the proposals to give readers and news outlets full and fair access to state-by-state conservative plans that could have significant impact throughout the US, and to allow the public to reach its own conclusions about whether these activities comply with the spirit of non-profit tax-exempt charities.
Why Is a Senate Democrat Debbie Stabenow Agreeing to Another $8 Billion in Food Stamp Cuts?
On the same day that President Obama eloquently described his vision of an economy defined by economic mobility and opportunity for all, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman was busy cutting a deal with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to slice another $8 to $9 billion from food stamps (SNAP), according to a source close to the negotiations.
“One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives,” said President Obama. “Think about that. This is not an isolated situation.… That’s why we have nutrition assistance or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who’s working, but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids.”
Indeed it does, but the chairwoman consistently fails to get the memo.
“That was the first time in history that a Democratic-controlled Senate had even proposed cutting the SNAP program,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “The willingness of some Senate Democrats to double new cuts to the program…is unthinkable.”
A Peek Beneath the Cooked Unemployment Numbers Reveals No Change
More accurate, long-term measure of employment reveals that no action that the Obama administration has pursued to fix unemployment has been meaningfully successful.
McDonald’s advises workers protesting low wages how to tip ‘golf pro’ and ‘dock attendant’
While many McDonald’s employees are protesting their low-wages and demanding $15-an-hour pay, the fast-food company is advising them how to spend their disposable income this holiday season.
According to NBC News, McDonald’s reprinted Emily Post’s End of Summer Tipping Guide” on its employee outreach website. The guide offered suggestions as to how much McDonald’s minimum-wage employees should tip their “regular caddy,” “tennis or golf pro” and “pool cleaner.”
It also suggested that McDonald’s employees tip their “dock attendant” between $20 and $50 for his or her services.
Pittsburgh protesters temporarily shut down restaurants
Hundreds of protesters calling for an increase in the minimum wage flooded into McDonald's at the corner of Stanwix Street and Liberty Avenue this morning shutting down the restaurant for a period of time.
The protesters had started by shutting down the Dunkin Donuts in Market Square, at 6 a.m. chanting "What do we want? 15 dollars. When do we want it? Now." and "If we don't get it, shut it down."
Both fast food restaurants were unable to serve customers for a period of time, with Dunkin Donuts completely closed for nearly an hour before customers started to line back up for donuts and coffee.
Radioactive Fukushima Water Headed for US West Coast
As nuclear industry and allies in government play down risk, scientists warn there is no such thing as safe radiation
Radioactive water contaminated by Japan's ravaged Fukushima nuclear plant will soon reach the west coast of the United States, according to Chairwoman of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Allison Macfarlane, Bloomberg reports.
As the nuclear industry and its allies in government attempt to play down the danger of the contaminated ocean waters, scientists warn there is no such thing as safe radiation.
“The highest amount of radiation that will reach the U.S. is two orders of magnitude — 100 times — less than the drinking water standard," Macfarlane told Bloomberg. "So, if you could drink the salt water, which you won’t be able to do, it’s still fairly low.” ...
Yet, scientists warn that claims that radiation is not harmful are deceptive.
Over 800 people across the world will get cancer from consuming fish that were contaminated with Fukushima radiation in Japanese waters by mid-July, 2013, according to newspaper Georgia Straight calculations based on a cancer risk formula developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and radiation levels in fish tested by the Japanese Fisheries Agency.
This is likely only the tip of the iceberg, explained Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear-policy lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, in an interview with Georgia Straight. The number 800 does not account for future fish consumption, unmonitored damaged isotopes released by the Fukushima disaster and a host of other factors that could drastically increase cancer rates, he explained.
Worst-Case Scenario for Oil Sands Industry Has Come to Life, Leaked Document Shows
Industry consultants said anti-tar sands push could become 'the most significant environmental campaign of the decade' if activists were left unopposed.
As environmentalists began ratcheting up pressure against Canada's tar sands three years ago, one of the world's biggest strategic consulting firms was tapped to help the North American oil industry figure out how to handle the mounting activism. The resulting document, published online by WikiLeaks, offers another window into how oil and gas companies have been scrambling to deal with unrelenting opposition to their growth plans. ...
The December 2010 presentation by Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, a global intelligence firm based in Texas, mostly advised oil sands companies to ignore or limit reaction to the then-burgeoning tar sands opposition movement because "activists lack influence in politics." But there was a buried warning for industry under one scenario: Letting the movement grow unopposed may bring about "the most significant environmental campaign of the decade."
"This worst-case scenario is exactly what has happened," partly because opposition to tar sands development has expanded beyond nonprofit groups to include individual activists concerned about climate change, said Mark Floegel, a senior investigator for Greenpeace. "The more people in America see Superstorm Sandys or tornadoes in Chicago, the more they are waking up and joining the fight."
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Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest
Palestinian man confronts occupying Israeli soldier with picture of Nelson Mandela. pic.twitter.com/IRMYHpK9xt— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) December 7, 2013
Irony: Paying $12 to see a rich actor play guy down on his luck, later avoiding eye contact w/real people down on their luck begging for $1.— Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) December 7, 2013
Feds Insist It Must Be Kept Secret Whether Or Not Plaintiff In No Fly List Trial Is Actually… http://t.co/...— techdirt (@techdirt) December 6, 2013
The Eiffel Tower has been lit up in the colors of the South African flag in memory of Nelson Mandela. pic.twitter.com/dmUBmSBXuG— Fascinating Pictures (@Fascinatingpics) December 6, 2013
If you want to smear political adversaries, just fabricate comments, attribute it to them & condemn. Then apply to be an MSNBC producer.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 6, 2013
Grateful Dead - Friend of the Devil