Daily Archive: 07/02/2013

Jul 02 2013

Anti NSA Action

Reddit, Mozilla to stage Fourth of July protest against NSA spying

By Jennifer Martinez, The Hill

07/02/13 01:53 PM ET

Reddit, Mozilla and a host of other websites are planning to launch an online protest this Fourth of July against the National Security Agency’s (NSA) sweeping surveillance of telephone records and Internet traffic.

The participating sites, including 4chan and WordPress, will display anti-NSA spying messages on their home pages. They will also direct people to the site CallForFreedom.org, where supporters can donate money to help fund TV ads against the intelligence programs and press for action from lawmakers.



“The NSA programs that have been exposed are blatantly unconstitutional, and have a detrimental effect on free speech and freedom of press worldwide. This is going to be our biggest protest since SOPA, and it should be no surprise,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, a spokeswoman for the Internet Defense League, in a statement.



Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox Web browser, and advocacy groups Free Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ColorofChange.org and Restore the Fourth also announced Tuesday that rallies will be held in major cities across the United States, including Washington and San Francisco, on July 4th to protest the surveillance programs and call for more government accountability.



Lending his star power to the cause, actor John Cusack also participated on the call. Cusack, who serves as a Freedom of Press Foundation board member, lambasted the media and government for focusing too much attention on Snowden and his whereabouts rather than looking at the information in the documents he leaked.

“We’ve shifted the conversation to almost anything but the revelations that are there,” Cusack said.

Jul 02 2013

The Fall Out from NSA Spying Here and Abroad

As the United States scrambles to cover up the contradictory web if lies it has woven over the NSA spying, the Europeans have expressed their displeasure and threatened to scuttle talks on the trade agreement with the US. This left President Barack Obama, who has been touring Africa, trying to mend fences:

After the Guardian’s disclosure that US agencies were secretly bugging the French embassy in Washington and France’s office at the UN in New York, (French president, François) Hollande called for an immediate halt to the alleged spying.

“We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies,” he said. “We ask that this stop immediately … There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union … We know well that there are systems that have to be checked, especially to fight terrorism, but I don’t think that it is in our embassies or in the European Union that this threat exists.”

(German chancellor, Angela) Merkel delivered her severest warning yet on the NSA debacle. “We are no longer in the cold war,” her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said. “If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable.”

Seibert said Berlin was keen on the trade talks with Washington, but qualified that support: “Mutual trust is necessary in order to come to an agreement.” [..]

Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, likened the NSA to the Soviet-era KGB and indirectly suggested a delay in the talks. Greens in the European parliament, as well as in France and Germany, called for the conference to be postponed pending an investigation of the allegations. They also called for the freezing of other data-sharing deals between the EU and the US, on air transport passengers and banking transactions, for example, and called for the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, to be granted political asylum in Europe. French Greens asked Hollande to grant Snowden asylum in France.

Back in the US, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is still in hot water despite for his halfhearted letter of apology to Congress for “erroneous” responses to questions he was given days before.

But Clapper did not say in the letter why he had taken him until June to correct the mistake. Senator Wyden’s spokesman made it clear on Monday that the senator had made attempts to get Clapper to correct the record before the revelations in the Guardian, but was rebuffed. “Senator Wyden had a staff member contact the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on a secure phone line soon after the March hearing to address the inaccurate statement regarding bulk collection on Americans.

“The ODNI acknowledged that the statement was inaccurate but refused to correct the public record when given the opportunity. Senator Wyden’s staff informed the ODNI that this was a serious concern.

“Senator Wyden continued to raise concerns about the government’s reliance on secret law in the weeks following the hearing, prior to the Guardian publishing its first story several weeks later.”

A bipartisan group of senators expressed their displeasure  and accused Clapper of intentionally misleading congress to prevent a public discussion of secret interpretations of the Patriot Act thus undermining public trust in government.

A week ago, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) wrote Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, that documents on its web site intended to clarify the two surveillance programs, Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of FISA, were ” misleading and inaccurate.” The “fact sheet” were scrubbed from the web site shortly after the senators complaint.

Following a complaint from two senators, the National Security Agency has removed from its website two fact sheets designed to shed light on and defend a pair of surveillance programs. Users now trying to access the documents detailing surveillance under legal authorities known as Section 215 and Section 702 receive an error message when they try to load the fact sheets. [..]

The documents, still available here, were published in the wake of revelations about the extent of the NSA’s surveillance programs. They sought to highlight the safeguards the NSA uses to make sure American communications aren’t caught up in its surveillance – or if they are, what the NSA does to remove identifying information about U.S. citizens. Wyden and Udall, both of whom sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have long called for more transparency on how the NSA protects Americans’ privacy — but said the NSA’s fact sheets gave the wrong impression.

Meanwhile in Russia Edward Snowden remains at the Moscow airport without a valid passport. With his asylum options shrinking, he has withdarwn his request for  asylum with Russia after President Vladimir Putin required he stop leaking information about the US spy programs.

Icelandic investigative journalist and spokesperson for WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson appeared with Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate on today’s Democracy Now blasting the United States for leaving Snowden “stateless.”



Transcript can be read here

Jul 02 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The New York Times Editorial Board: The Contraception Battle

Last week saw two major developments in the legal and political battle over the Obama administration’s sound decision to require most employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives for women under the new health care law – one of them positive and the other a blow to the mandate and to religious liberty. [..]

Unfortunately, that vital principle of individual religious liberty was lost on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver. In a ruling issued on Thursday, it bought the argument that requiring the health plan of a private for-profit employer to cover birth control without a co-pay violated the employer’s freedom.

Gary Younge: The US supreme court thinks racism is dead. It isn’t

Judges gutted an act to protect black voters, saying it was out of date – but there are salient illustrations of their folly

Non-racial democracy is a relatively new idea to the west; racism is not. The notion that the people should govern may have been around since ancient Greece, but throughout that time the issue of who counts as people has been continually contested and episodically reassessed.

Last week the US supreme court reassessed the nation’s history of voter exclusion and decided the contest was over. The court gutted a key element of the 1965 voting rights act, which demanded that areas with a history of racial discrimination at the polls get prior authorisation before changing their election or voting laws. “There is an old disease, and that disease is cured,” argued Bert Rein, when opposing the act before the court earlier this year. “That problem is solved.” Justice Roberts agreed, arguing that the provisions were based on “40-year-old” facts.

It’s difficult to imagine a less propitious week for that argument. No sooner had the court pronounced racism dead than its skeleton emerged from cupboards galore and started doing the can-can on primetime.

Barett Browne: The cyber-intelligence complex and its useful idiots

Those who tell us to trust the US’s secret, privatised surveillance schemes should recall the criminality of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI

It’s a fine thing to see mainstream American media outlets finally sparing some of their attention toward the cyber-industrial complex – that unprecedented conglomeration of state, military and corporate interests that together exercise growing power over the flow of information. It would be even more heartening if so many of the nation’s most influential voices, from senator to pundits, were not clearly intent on killing off even this belated scrutiny into the invisible empire that so thoroughly scrutinizes us – at our own expense and to unknown ends.

Summing up the position of those who worry less over secret government powers than they do over the whistleblowers who reveal such things, we have New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who argues that we can trust small cadres of unaccountable spies with broad powers over our communications. We must all wish Friedman luck with this prediction. Other proclamations of his – including that Vladimir Putin would bring transparency and liberal democracy to Russia, and that the Chinese regime would not seek to limit its citizens’ free access to the internet – have not aged especially well.

Jim Hightower: A Raw Deal From TransCanada and the Texas Railroad Commission

Texans like Julia Trigg Crawford are rebelling against a toxic combo of ignorance and arrogance.

Arrogance is an unpleasant trait. When overlaid with ignorance, it really gets ugly.

Meet Arrogance: TransCanada Corporation. The Calgary-based $1.3 billion pipeline giant  is now demanding a U.S. permit to run its Keystone XL pipeline right down our country’s center to move toxic tar sands sludge some 1,700 miles from northern Canada to export facilities on the Texas Gulf Coast. [..]

Now, meet Ignorance: The Texas Railroad Commission. This state agency is already infamous for a tail-wagging acceptance of any scam put forth by the corporations it’s supposed to regulate. Texas law meekly hands the public’s power of eminent domain to certain pipeline companies, allowing them to grab people’s land, usually at a low-ball price.

To get this extraordinary power, however, the grabsters must be “common carriers,” meaning their pipelines are essentially public, available to all users. TransCanada’s line, however, exists solely for its own private gain. Clearly, it’s not qualified to use eminent domain.

Juan Cole: How Egypt’s Michele Bachmann Became President and Plunged the Country Into Chaos

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may or may not survive Sunday’s massive protests, organized by the youth Rebellion (Tamarrud) Movement. They are, nevertheless, a milestone in modern Egyptian history and a warning to him about his arrogant and highhanded style of governing from his fundamentalist base. Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, represents the equivalent of the American tea party in Egyptian politics-captive to the religious right, invested in austerity and smaller government, and contemptuous of workers and the political left. In his first year in office, the nation’s first freely elected head of state has squandered Egyptians’ willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has acted like the president of the somewhat cultish Muslim Brotherhood, rather than like the president of the whole country. Here are the major errors he has made, which have polarized Egypt and created a severe crisis that some observers worry could turn into a civil war.

Cora Currier: Child’s Death in Drone Strike Tests Obama’s Transparency Pledge

On June 9, a U.S. drone fired on a vehicle in a remote province of Yemen and killed several militants, according to media reports.

It soon emerged that among those who died was a boy – 10-year-old Abdulaziz, whose elder brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, was believed to be the target of the strike. A McClatchy reporter recently confirmed the child’s death with locals. [..]

It’s the first prominent allegation of a civilian death since President Obama pledged in a major speech in May “to facilitate transparency and debate” about the U.S. war on al Qaida-linked militants beyond Afghanistan. He also said “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured” in a strike.

So what does the administration have to say in response to evidence that a child was killed?

Nothing.

Harry J. Enten: [Same-sex marriage and the south]

Without a further supreme court ruling or federal intervention, Republican state legislatures will block gay marriage for decades

America loves to talk about its democracy – except for when we don’t like its outcomes. The overturning of California’s Proposition 8 is a perfect example.  [..]

The fact that state legislatures will be required to act changes the entire equation for the south. All the southern legislatures with a constitutional ban against gay marriage also feature Republican control of at least one house of the state legislature. In most cases, Republicans control both houses with plenty of room to spare and no sign that control is going to switch anytime soon. All of the states that require going to the legislature demand super-majorities (60%+) and/or at least two consecutively elected legislatures to approve an amendment for it to reach the popular ballot.

What this basically means is the same-sex marriage debate is not even about what the majority of the people thinks in most of these states. Republican legislators control the action. That’s the whole game.

Jul 02 2013

On This Day In History July 2

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 2 is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 182 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the midpoint of a common year. This is because there are 182 days before and 182 days after (median of the year) in common years, and 183 before and 182 after in leap years. The exact time in the middle of the year is at noon, or 12:00. In the UK and other countries that use “Summer Time” the actual exact time of the mid point in a common year is at (1.00 pm) 13:00 this is when 182 days and 12 hours have elapsed and there are 182 days and 12 hours remaining. This is due to Summer Time having advanced the time by one hour. It falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in common years.

On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the historic Civil Rights Act in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House.

In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The 10 years that followed saw great strides for the African-American civil rights movement, as non-violent demonstrations won thousands of supporters to the cause. Memorable landmarks in the struggle included the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955–sparked by the refusal of Alabama resident Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a city bus to a white woman–and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech at a rally of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

Jul 02 2013

Egypt Ignites In Revolution Once More

A year after electing its first democratically elected president, Egypt has once again erupted in revolt with millions of Egyptians taking to the streets to protest the government of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The disputes began in November of last year over the creation of the Islamist-slanted constitution that was being fast-tracked through the parliament over secular objections accusing Morsi of acting like a dictator. Other complaints focused on favoritism towards Morsi’s allies for key government appointments, the repression of journalists and activists and the failure of to investigate abuses by the police after the deaths of 40 protesters during the unrest in Port Said in January. Since the protests began over the weekend 16 people have been killed including an American and the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhoos has been ransacked and bburned.

Early Monday, the Egyptian military issued an ultimatum to Morsi and the opposition to resolve their differences in 48 hours or face intervention.

The military’s ultimatum seemed to leave Mr. Morsi few choices: cut short his term as president with a resignation or early elections; share significant power with a political opponent in a role such as prime minister; or attempt to rally his Islamist supporters to fight back for power in the streets. [..]

Citing “the historic circumstance,” the military council said in its statement that “if the demands of the people have not been met” within 48 hours then the armed forces would be forced by patriotic duty “to announce a road map of measures enforced under the military’s supervision” for the political factions to settle the crisis. [..]

It remained possible, though, that many might accept a less drastic power-sharing measure until the election of a new Parliament expected later this year, especially under military oversight.

But the military council also emphasized its reluctance to resume political power. It has made the same disclaimer at its seizure of power in 2011, but reiterated more vigorously on Monday.

In an interview with Amy Goodman and Nareem Shaihk on Monday’s Democracy Now, their correspondent in Cairo, Sharif Abdel Kouddous reported on the protests in Tahrir Square and the presidential palace.



Transcript can be read here

Egyptians to Morsi: ‘We Don’t Want You’

by Sharif Abdel Kouddous, The Nation

One year ago, many Egyptians had hoped the inauguration of the country’s first-ever democratically elected president would mark a turning point following decades of autocratic rule and a turbulent transition. Yet since Morsi took office, the political quagmire has only deepened, the economy has been in decline and daily life has become harder for most Egyptians.

The country is plagued by frequent fuel and diesel shortages that create long lines outside gas stations and cause incapacitating traffic jams. Electricity blackouts have become a daily routine during the hot summer months. Prices for food, medicine and other staple goods have sharply risen as the Egyptian pound has lost 10 percent of its value leaving already impoverished families less to live on. Unemployment is growing, tourism and investment are down sharply, the stock market hit an eleven-month low last week, while insecurity, crime and vigilante violence are on the rise. [..]

The frustration is palpable. During Morsi’s first year in office, Egypt witnessed over 9,400 demonstrations, according to a report published by the Cairo-based International Development Centre, more than anywhere in the world. The anti-government sentiment will culminate in mass protests on June 30, anticipation for which has built exponentially through a grassroots initiative that has collected millions of signatures on a petition whose slogan is a call for revolt: Tamarod, Arabic for “rebel.”