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2010 October 19 | Activist News
Disobey

The Road to World War 3

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Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »

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U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

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Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »

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The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

Daily Archives: October 19, 2010

Officials Push to Bolster Law on Wiretapping

New York Times
October 18, 2010
By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, citing lapses in compliance with surveillance orders, are pushing to overhaul a federal law that requires phone and broadband carriers to ensure that their networks can be wiretapped, federal officials say.

The officials say tougher legislation is needed because some telecommunications companies in recent years have begun new services and made system upgrades that caused technical problems for surveillance. They want to increase legal incentives and penalties aimed at pushing carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast to ensure that any network changes will not disrupt their ability to conduct wiretaps.

An Obama administration task force that includes officials from the Justice and Commerce Departments, the F.B.I. and other agencies recently began working on draft legislation to strengthen and expand the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law that says telephone and broadband companies must design their services so that they can begin conducting surveillance of a target immediately after being presented with a court order.

There is not yet agreement over the details, according to officials familiar with the deliberations, but they said the administration intends to submit a package to Congress next year.

Albert Gidari Jr., a lawyer who represents telecommunications firms, said corporations were likely to object to increased government intervention in the design or launch of services. Such a change, he said, could have major repercussions for industry innovation, costs and competitiveness.

“The government’s answer is ‘don’t deploy the new services — wait until the government catches up,’ ” Mr. Gidari said. “But that’s not how it works. Too many services develop too quickly, and there are just too many players in this now.”

To bolster their case that telecom companies should face greater pressure to stay compliant, security agencies are citing two previously undisclosed episodes in which investigators were stymied from carrying out court-approved surveillance for weeks or even months because of technical problems with two major carriers.

The disclosure that the administration is seeking ways to increase the government’s leverage over carriers already subject to the 1994 law comes less than a month after The New York Times reported on a related part of the effort: a plan to bring Internet companies that enable communications — like Gmail, Facebook, Blackberry and Skype — under the law’s mandates for the first time, a demand that would require major changes to some services’ technical designs and business models.

The push to expand and the 1994 law is the latest example of a dilemma over how to balance Internet freedom with security needs in an era of rapidly evolving — and globalized — technology. The issue has added importance because the surveillance technologies developed by the United States to hunt for terrorists and drug traffickers can be also used by repressive regimes to hunt for political dissidents.

Full Article Here – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/us/19wiretap.html?_r=3&ref=todayspaper

Bank of America starts thaw in foreclosure freeze

Associated Press
October 18, 2010
By ALAN ZIBEL

WASHINGTON – The pace of U.S. home foreclosures may not slow much after all.

Bank of America said Monday that it plans to resume seizing more than 100,000 homes in 23 states next week. It said it has a legal right to foreclose despite accusations that documents used in the process were flawed.

Ally Financial Inc’s GMAC Mortgage unit is also resuming foreclosures once documents are fixed. Gina Proia, a spokeswoman for Ally, said that “as we review the affected files and take any remediation needed, the foreclosure process then resumes.”

Analysts expect other lenders to correct problems with the way they handled documents and proceed with a wave of foreclosures that have depressed the housing market. They are likely to follow because foreclosure practices were similar from bank to bank, said banking analyst Nancy Bush of NAB Research.

“We’ll be back to square one by the end of the year,” she said.

The bank’s move could mean that the costs of the foreclosure-document mess will wind up being less than some investors had feared just days ago. Bank shares sank last week after JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it set aside $1.3 billion in the third quarter to cover legal expenses that include the foreclosure document problems.
Shares of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America had been flat earlier Monday but jumped on the news. They rose 36 cents, or 3 percent, to close at $12.34.

Bank of America Corp. said it’s confident of its foreclosure decisions. The bank is still delaying foreclosures in the 27 states that don’t require a judge’s approval. It said it’s still reviewing its cases in those states.

The bank’s move comes two weeks after it began halting foreclosures nationwide amid allegations that bank employees signed but didn’t read documents that may have contained errors. These employees have earned the nickname “robo-signers.”

The company said it plans to resubmit documents with new signatures in the 23 states that require judicial authorization to restart the foreclosure process. It will delay fewer than 30,000 foreclosures.

“The basis for our foreclosure decisions is accurate,” Dan Frahm, a Bank of America spokesman, said in announcing the bank’s new approach.

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_bank_of_america_foreclosures

Combat Stress Driving Up Army Crime, Drug Abuse, Suicides

Politics Daily
October 18, 2010
By David Wood

The U.S. Army, under the accumulating stress of nine years at war, is suffering an alarming spurt of drug abuse, crime and suicide that is going unchecked, according to an internal study that depicts an Army in crisis.

A small but growing number of soldiers who perform credibly in combat turn to high-risk behavior, including drug abuse, drunken driving, motorcycle street-racing, petty crime and domestic violence, once they return home.

As a result, more soldiers are dying by drug overdose, accident, murder and suicide than in combat. Suicide is now the third-leading cause of death for soldiers.

“Simply stated, we are often more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy,” concludes the extraordinary internal Army investigation commissioned by Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff.
The study also found that across the Army, leaders have lost visibility and accountability over their soldiers, in many cases unaware that soldiers under their command had abused drugs, committed crimes or even previously tried to commit suicide. Drug testing is done only sporadically, the study found, and there are no central repositories for criminal data.

Those same themes are reflected dramatically in the case of five soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade of Fort Lewis, Washington, who are charged with the wanton murder of Afghan civilians in Kandahar last spring. Questions have been raised about how their commanders could have missed such warning signs as drug abuse — some of the soldiers were allegedly smoking hashish in their rooms — that might have led them to look deeper.

No one suggests that such aberrant and ugly crimes can be traced just to the effects of stress. But as Chiarelli acknowledged, the indications of problems within the Army are “troubling.”

And the pressure is unrelenting. Over the next 12 months the Army plans to pull about 66,000 soldiers away from their homes and families and send them into combat in Afghanistan, many for the second or third time. There, these soldiers will replace troops just finishing their 12-month tours.

In all, about 200,000 soldiers will deploy in the coming year in routine rotations to maintain Army forces in South Korea, Kosovo, the Sinai, Iraq and elsewhere. The 45,000 soldiers currently assigned to duty in Iraq are due to be withdrawn by December 2011, unless a revised U.S.-Iraqi agreement enables American trainers and advisers to stay longer, as is likely.

And in Afghanistan, unless President Barack Obama authorizes a major troop reduction next summer, which seems unlikely, planned troop rotations will continue to maintain the 69,000 soldiers in that country. (Roughly 31,000 Marines, Navy and Air Force personnel also serve in Afghanistan.)

Even though some troops have been withdrawn from Iraq, the Army is still straining to fill its overseas commitments.

“The reality is that in the active-duty force, we have very few units in the ‘available’ pool who aren’t heading somewhere,” said Brig. Gen. Peter C. Bayer, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Army operations staff. “It should come as no secret,” he added, “that when you run at the pace we’re on, it comes at a cost.”

Those are mostly hidden behind the Army’s “can-do” ethos and the stoic heroism of its soldiers and families. Desertion and AWOL rates, for instance, are no higher now than during the peacetime years of the1990s, and retention numbers, which measure re-enlistments, are surpassing the Army’s goals.

But behind those simple measures is a darker reality.

Today, more than 100,000 soldiers are on prescribed anti-anxiety medication, and 40,000 are thought by the Army to be using drugs illicitly. Misdemeanor offenses are rising by 5,000 cases a year.

Full Article Here – http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/10/17/combat-stress-driving-up-army-crime-drug-abuse-suicides/?icid=main

Docs on Pharma Payroll Have Blemished Records, Limited Credentials

ProPublica
October 18, 2010
By Charles Ornstein , Tracy Weber and Dan Nguyen

The Ohio medical board concluded <1> that pain physician William D. Leak had performed “unnecessary” nerve tests on 20 patients and subjected some to “an excessive number of invasive procedures,” including injections of agents that destroy nerve tissue.

Yet the finding, posted on the board’s public website, didn’t prevent Eli Lilly and Co. from using him as a promotional speaker and adviser. The company has paid him $85,450 since 2009.

In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered <2> Pennsylvania doctor James I. McMillen to stop “false or misleading” promotions of the painkiller Celebrex, saying he minimized risks and touted it for unapproved uses.
Still, three other leading drug makers paid the rheumatologist $224,163 over 18 months to deliver talks to other physicians about their drugs.

And in Georgia, a state appeals court in 2004 upheld [3] a hospital’s decision to kick Dr. Donald Ray Taylor off its staff. The anesthesiologist had admitted giving young female patients rectal and vaginal exams without documenting why. He’d also been accused of exposing women’s breasts during medical procedures. When confronted by a hospital official, Taylor said, “Maybe I am a pervert, I honestly don’t know,” according to the appellate court ruling.

Last year, Taylor was Cephalon’s third-highest-paid speaker out of more than 900. He received $142,050 in 2009 and another $52,400 through June.

Leak, McMillen and Taylor are part of the pharmaceutical industry’s white-coat sales force, doctors paid to promote brand-name drugs to their peers — and if they’re convincing enough, get more physicians to prescribe them.

Drug companies say they hire the most-respected doctors in their fields for the critical task of teaching about the benefits and risks of their drugs.

But an investigation by ProPublica uncovered hundreds of doctors on company payrolls who had been accused of professional misconduct, were disciplined by state boards or lacked credentials as researchers or specialists.

Full Article Here – http://www.propublica.org/article/dollars-to-doctors-physician-disciplinary-records

Pentagon braces for huge WikiLeaks dump on Iraq war

Reuters
October 18, 2010
By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Sunday it had a 120-member team prepared to review a massive leak of as many as 500,000 Iraq war documents, which are expected to be released by the WikiLeaks website sometime this month.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told Reuters the timing of the leak remained unclear but the Defense Department was ready for a document dump as early as Monday or Tuesday, a possibility raised in previous WikiLeaks statements.

Still, people familiar with the upcoming leak told Reuters they do not expect WikiLeaks to release the classified files for at least another week.

If confirmed, the leak would be much larger than the record-breaking release of more than 70,000 Afghan war documents in July, which stoked debate about the 9-year-old conflict but did not contain major revelations.

It was the largest security breach of its kind in U.S. military history.

“It’s the same team we put together after the publication of the (Afghan war documents),” Lapan said, adding it was unclear how many of the 120 personnel would be needed to contribute to the Iraq leak analysis.

Although the Iraq conflict has faded from public debate in the United States in recent years, the document dump threatens to revive memories of some of the most trying times in the war, including the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

It could also renew debate about foreign and domestic actors influencing Iraq, which has been wrestling with a political vacuum since an inconclusive election in March.

One source familiar with the Iraq documents said they are likely to contain revelations about civilian casualties, but expected them to cause less of a stir than the Afghan leak.

Full Article Here – http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/101018/us/politics_us_usa_iraq_leaks

The Business Of Burying Internet Search Results

NPR
October 18, 2010
By Peter O’Dowd

The Internet can be a hostile place, with powerful companies paying handsome sums to hide negative content in Google search results or any quest for information that might hurt their bottom line. Unseen battles are waged every day to protect and destroy brands and reputations.

Earlier this year, Fionn Downhill, the CEO of the digital marketing agency Elixir Interactive, had an image problem. An angry customer launched an attack campaign on the Internet by posting a blog that accused Downhill of stealing the client’s money.

If you typed Elixir Interactive into Google, the blog was on top of the search results. And the blog made its point in capital letters — it said do not do business with Downhill’s company.

“The person who did this knows exactly what they’re doing because they knew exactly how to make this present in a very damaging way,” Downhill says.

The Business Of Search Optimization

That’s why Downhill believes the attack came from a competitor. Elixir Interactive specializes in search optimization, which means people are willing to pay the company up to a half a million dollars to boost their profile on search engines such as Google or Bing. The business also specializes in suppressing negative content.

In her case, Downhill created a barrage of new websites promoting positive content about her business. That pushed the offending blog to the third page of a Google search.

“If it wasn’t for who we are, our reputation would have been destroyed,” Downhill says.

According to the digital media research firm eMarketer, search optimization — and suppression — is a $2 billion industry. Prominent public companies including BP and Toyota spend fortunes in an effort to keep negative press about oil spills or faulty brakes far away from the first page of a Google search.

“It is an absolute game changer, and a fundamental piece of marketing for any company out there,” says Jon Kaufman, a senior vice president at the search optimizer Zog Media. He says this industry is about who controls the message.

Impact On Political Campaigns

Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, is a Republican candidate running for Congress in Arizona. Type Ben Quayle’s name into Google and it’s impossible to miss negative postings about the candidate’s racy contributions to an adult website called Dirty Scottsdale.

Kaufman says voters will notice this. “Individuals who haven’t made up their minds, they’re going to be seriously swayed by what they see here,” he says.

A few weeks ago, the dirt on Quayle was actually higher in the search results than his campaign website. And that is a case of brand management failure, according to search experts.

Quayle’s communications director, Jay Heiler, says the way his campaign has contained the controversy is to be truthful about it. “The story is out there,” Heiler says. “People who are attentive about it are going to see that it doesn’t amount to much no matter how much it pops up.”

But Kaufman says Quayle’s team could do more, including create new Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and other cheerful digital assets. Then, all the dirty stuff would be long gone, buried in the virtual basement of the Internet.

“One out of every million people is searching in the fifth page of search results,” Kaufman says. “No one is going to see the bad stuff about this candidate.”

Full Article Here – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130646918

Blackwater contractor will not be indicted for killing Iraqi guard in 2006

Associated Press
October 18, 2010

A former security contractor for Blackwater USA will not be indicted in the killing of an Iraqi guard in 2006, federal prosecutors said Monday.
According to a congressional report, Seattle resident Andrew Moonen was wandering drunk around Baghdad’s Green Zone after a Christmas Eve party in 2006 when he encountered and fatally shot Raheem Saadoun, a 32-year-old guard for Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi.

But U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkansaid Monday that prosecutors decided there wasn’t enough evidence to sustain a criminal conviction for the killing.

“We do not do this lightly,” Durkan wrote in a letter to Moonen’s attorney, Stewart Riley. “There is no question that the shooting death of Mr. Saadoun by your client was a tragic event.”

Riley said he was elated for his client. He added it’s “impossible to describe” what it’s been like for Moonen to spend the past four years facing the possibility of being indicted.

“He acted in self-defense,” Riley said. “He returned fire, ran for his life to a nearby checkpoint and reported the incident immediately.”

U.S. ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey has informed Iraqi government officials of Durkan’s decision, and provided a letter to be delivered Saadoun’s family, the federal prosecutor’s office in Seattle said.

Durkan said Moonen admitted he shot Saadoun the day after the slaying, claiming self-defense.

Riley said the past four years have been stressful for Moonen, adding the Army veteran has lost out on job opportunities and has not been able to serve in Iraq or Afghanistanas an Army reservist. Riley said Moonen served a seven-month tour in Iraq before working for Blackwater.

“He will now attempt to put this very difficult time in his life behind him and hopefully move on,” Riley said in a statement. “Unlike some in Congress and some in the news media, the United States Attorney’s Office did not rush to judgment and appears to have been decidedly immune from outside pressure.”

In 2008, federal prosecutors, FBI agents and other officials traveled to Iraq to investigate whether they could charge Moonen, interviewing witnesses and reviewing available records.

Full Article Here – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/blackwater-contractor-indicted-killing-iraqi-guard-2006/