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 »

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‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

Business Insider Mar. 2, 2012 By Michael Kelley Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted More »

Monthly Archives: August 2011

Some U.S. firms paid more to CEOs than taxes: study

Reuters
Aug. 31, 2011
By Nanette Byrnes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twenty-five of the 100 highest paid U.S. CEOs earned more last year than their companies paid in federal income tax, a pay study said on Wednesday.
It also found many of the companies spent more on lobbying than they did on taxes.
At a time when lawmakers are facing tough choices in a quest to slash the national debt, the report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a left-leaning Washington think tank, quickly hit a nerve.

After reading it, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called for hearings on executive compensation.

In a letter to that committee’s chairman, Republican Darrell Issa, Cummings asked “to examine the extent to which the problems in CEO compensation that led to the economic crisis continue to exist today.”
He also asked “why CEO pay and corporate profits are skyrocketing while worker pay stagnates and unemployment remains unacceptably high,” and “the extent to which our tax code may be encouraging these growing disparities.”

In putting together its study, IPS chose to compare CEO pay to current U.S. taxes paid, excluding foreign and state and local taxes that may have been paid, as well as deferred taxes which can often be far larger than current taxes paid.

The group’s rationale was that deferred taxes may or may not be paid, and that current U.S. taxes paid are the closest approximation in public documents to what companies may have actually written a check for last year.

$16.7 MILLION AVERAGE

Compensation for the 25 CEOs with pay surpassing corporate taxes averaged $16.7 million, according to the study, compared to a $10.8 million average for S&P 500 CEOs. Among the companies topping the IPS list:

Bush-Era Warrantless Wiretapping Program on Trial Tomorrow in Seattle

Seattle Weekly
Aug. 30, 2011
By Keegan Hamilton

Big Brother really is watching you. And reading your e-mails. And tracking which websites you visit. According to the court testimony of a former AT&T technician, there is a secret room–the “SG-3 Room”–in the company’s San Francisco offices that is occupied by the National Security Agency. All Internet traffic AT&T receives is filtered through high-powered NSA computers there, and the machines sort through the communications of “millions of ordinary Americans” searching for . . . something. Perhaps a terror plot, perhaps which library books you’re checking out. No one is quite sure what they’re after, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU are fighting an ongoing legal battle with the government and AT&T in attempt to establish some sort of accountability for the domestic spy program.

Two key appeals cases will be heard in Seattle federal court tomorrow. The first, Jewel v. NSA, was filed by the EFF in 2006, “on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records.” The case also targets former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales–the officials who authorized the NSA wiretapping.


The second case, Hepting v. AT&T, covers much the same ground. Also filed in 2006, the EFF is again suing on behalf of AT&T customers, alleging that the telecommunications company violated privacy laws “by collaborating with the NSA in the massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.”

Both cases have previously been dismissed by judges in lower courts. In the Jewel case, the Bush administration argued that the litigation would force the government to disclose “state secrets.” The Obama administration used the same argument again in 2009, and a District Court judge eventually dismissed the case on the grounds that, because millions of Americans had been spied upon, no single American had standing to sue.

A federal judge nixed the Hepting case in June 2009, ruling that AT&T and other Internet service providers were not liable for being in cahoots with the NSA because of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act. This law, signed by Bush in 2008, allows the Attorney General to dismiss lawsuits against telecom companies for wiretapping if the program did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. (None of those steps are required to be disclosed to the public.) The AT&T/NSA program received this certification in September 2008.

Both cases rely on evidence gathered by Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who documented the existence of the “SG-3″ room in San Francisco, a setup he claims exists in at least 15-20 other AT&T sites around the country. Klein’s testimony was supported by J. Scott Marcus, a former Senior Advisor for Internet Technology at the FCC.

Full Article Here – http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/08/bush-era_warrantless_wiretappi.php 

Former Powell Chief of Staff: Cheney “Fears Being Tried as a War Criminal”

ABC News
Aug. 30, 2011
By

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir,” is out Tuesday, and it’s full of criticism and attacks on his Bush administration colleagues — from describing Condoleezza Rice as “tearfully admitting” he was right on the war in Iraq to revealing private conversations with George W. Bush on the eve of the Iraq war.

He reserves much of his ire for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now Powell and his longtime aide and chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are attempting to set the record straight. In no uncertain terms.

Cheney, Wilkerson told ABC News, “was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration” and “fears being tried as a war criminal.”

In his memoir, Cheney claims Powell undermined President Bush. “It was as though he thought the proper way to express his views was by criticizing administration policy to people outside the government,” Cheney writes, adding that he encouraged Powell’s removal from the administration after the 2004 election, writing Powell’s resignation “was for the best.”


Powell himself called Cheney’s criticism “cheap shots” during an interview this past Sunday on CBS News’ Face the Nation.

Full Article Here – http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/powell-chief-staff-col-larry-wilkerson-cheney-fears/story?id=14414226

Tibetan monks get stiff prison terms in burning death

LA Times
Aug. 30, 2011

By Barbara Demick
 

Reporting from Beijing – China has sentenced three Tibetan monks as accessories to murder for having helped another monk burn himself to death in a political protest.

In the closely watched case in Sichuan province, Drongdru, the uncle of the monk who committed suicide, was ordered imprisoned for 11 years for “intentional homicide” in hiding the young monk, Phuntsog, and preventing him from getting medical treatment.

Two other monks were sentenced to 10 and 13 years in prison after a separate trial Tuesday in which they were accused of “plotting, instigating and assisting” in the self-immolation of the 16-year-old monk, according to Tibetan exile groups.


“This is a whole new turn in the way the Chinese state deals with protest. We haven’t seen this serpentine use of the law before,” said Robert Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University. He predicted that the stiff prison sentences for the three monks at Sichuan’s restive Kirti monastery will only exacerbate tensions. “This is going to be seen by Tibetans as a manipulation of the law to intimidate people further.”

The prison sentences were condemned Tuesday by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, run by Tibetan exiles in India, as well as by international human rights groups.

Phuntsog set himself on fire in mid-March and was hidden inside the monastery by fellow monks to prevent him from being taken by the police. He died the next day.

The death triggered six weeks of the most intense clashes between Chinese and Tibetans since riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in March 2008. At the end, more than 300 monks were seized from the monastery and Tibetan exiles alleged that two villagers were killed trying to prevent police from taking the monks.

Full Article Here – http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-china-monks-20110831,0,5947771.story 

WikiLeaks site comes under cyberattack

Associated Press
Aug. 30, 2011

The WikiLeaks website crashed on Tuesday in an apparent cyberattack after the accelerated publication of tens of thousands of State Department cables by the anti-secrecy organisation raised new concerns about the exposure of confidential US embassy sources.

“WikiLeaks.org is presently under attack,” the group said on Twitter late Tuesday. One hour later, the site and the cables posted there were inaccessible.

WikiLeaks updated its Twitter account to say that it was “still under a cyberattack” and directed followers to search for cables on a mirror site or a separate search system, cablegatesearch.net.


The apparent cyberattack comes after current and former American officials said the recently released cables – and concerns over the protection of sources – are creating a fresh source of diplomatic setbacks and embarrassment for the Obama administration. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

Officials said the disclosure in the past week of more than 125,000 sensitive documents by WikiLeaks, far more than it had earlier published, further endangered informants and jeopardised US foreign policy goals.

The officials would not comment on the authenticity of the leaked documents but said the rate and method of the new releases, including about 50,000 in one day alone, presented new complications.

“The United States strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of classified information,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. “In addition to damaging our diplomatic efforts, it puts individuals’ security at risk, threatens our national security and undermines our effort to work with countries to solve shared problems. We remain concerned about these illegal disclosures and about concerns and risks to individuals.

“We continue to carefully monitor what becomes public and to take steps to mitigate the damage to national security and to assist those who may be harmed by these illegal disclosures to the extent that we can,” she told reporters.

WikiLeaks fired back at the criticism even as its website came under cyberattack.

“Dear governments, if you don’t want your filth exposed, then stop acting like pigs. Simple,” the group posted on Twitter.

Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/31/wikileaks-site-cyberattack-cable-release 

Appeals Court: Arresting Guy For Filming Cops Was A Clear Violation Of Both 1st & 4th Amendments

Tech Dirt
Aug. 30, 2011

We’ve had a lot of stories this year about police arresting people for filming them. It’s become quite a trend. Even worse, a couple weeks ago, we wrote about a police officer in Massachusetts, Michael Sedergren, who is trying to get criminal wiretapping charges brought against a woman who filmed some police officers beating a guy. This officer claims that the woman violated Massachusetts anti-wiretapping law, a common claim from police in such situations.

Segederin may have been better off if he’d waited a couple weeks for an appeals court ruling that came out Friday, because that ruling found that arresting someone for filming the police is a clear violation of both the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. How the case got to this point is a bit complex, but basically, a guy named Simon Glik saw some police arresting someone in Boston, and thought they were using excessive force. He took out his camera phone and began recording. The police saw that and told him to stop taking pictures. He told them he was recording them, and that he’d seen them punch the guy they were arresting. One officer asked him if the phone recorded audio as well and Glik told him it did. At that point, they arrested him, saying that recording audio was a violation of Massachusetts wiretap laws.

Even more ridiculous, they then had him charged not just with that, but also with disturbing the peace and “aiding in the escape of a prisoner.” After realizing that last one didn’t even pass the guffaw test, Massachusetts officials dropped that charge. A Boston court then dumped the other charges and Glik was free. However, he wanted to take things further, as he thought his treatment was against the law. He first filed a complaint with Boston Police Internal Affairs who promptly set about totally ignoring it. After they refused to investigate, Glik sued the officers who arrested him and the City of Boston in federal court for violating both his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The police officers filed for qualified immunity, which is designed to protect them from frivolous charges from people they arrest.

The district court rejected the officers’ rights to qualified immunity, saying that their actions violated the First & Fourth Amendments. Before the rest of the case could go on, the officers appealed, and that brings us to Friday’s ruling, which, once again, unequivocally states that recording police in public is protected under the First Amendment, and that the use of Massachusetts wiretapping laws to arrest Glik was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights as well. The ruling (pdf) is a fantastic and quick read and makes the point pretty clearly. Best of all, it not only says that it was a clear violation, but that the officers were basically full of it in suggesting that this was even in question. The court more or less slams the officers for pretending they had a valid excuse to harass a guy who filmed them arresting someone.

The 4th Amendment bit may not be as widely applicable, since it mainly focuses on the Massachusetts wiretapping law. Here, the court notes that the law only covers audio recording in secret. But there is no indication that Glik did any of his filming in secret. It found the officers’ arguments that he could have been doing lots of things on his mobile phone completely uncompelling, stating that the “argument suffers from factual as well as legal flaws.”

Full Article Here – http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110827/23285615713/appeals-court-arresting-guy-filming-cops-was-clear-violation-both-1st-4th-amendments.shtml 

Newborn death rates decrease worldwide: WHO

AFP
Aug. 30, 2011

GENEVA — Global death rates among newborns under one month old are dropping, a study by the World Health Organization showed Tuesday.

“Newborn deaths decreased from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

However, developing nations are still reporting a disproportionately high level of child deaths, according to the study by the WHO, Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and
published in the journal PLoS Medicine.

The research found that 99 percent of all newborn deaths occur in developing countries, with India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for half of them.


“India alone has more than 900,000 newborn deaths per year, nearly 28 percent of the global total,” the WHO said.

Full Article Here – http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ig-c73DtRFiBvKdzwtiHPtqOv9pw?docId=CNG.9e34c99182f5659a398b65217766ca17.991

This month America’s deadliest in long Afghan war

Associated Press
Aug. 30, 2011
By DEB RIECHMANN 

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — August has become the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, increasing pressure on the Obama administration to bring troops home sooner rather than later.

The 66 U.S. service members killed this month eclipses the previous record of 65 killed in July 2010, according to an Associated Press tally. Nearly half the August deaths occurred when insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter Aug. 6, killing 30 American troops, mostly elite Navy SEALs.

Violence is being reported across Afghanistan despite the U.S.-led coalition’s drive to rout insurgents from their strongholds in the south.


Though American military officials predicted high casualties this summer as the Taliban try to come back after recent offensives, the grim milestone increases pressure on the Obama administration to withdraw U.S. forces quickly.

The military has begun to implement President Barack Obama’s order to withdraw the 33,000 extra troops he dispatched to the war. He ordered 10,000 out this year and another 23,000 withdrawn by the summer of 2012, leaving about 68,000 U.S. troops on the ground. Although major combat units are not expected to start leaving until late fall, two National Guard regiments comprising about 1,000 soldiers started going home last month.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has set the end of 2014 as the target date for Afghan police and soldiers to take the lead in protecting and defending the country, leaving international combat forces to go home or take on more support roles.

Full Article Here – http://my.news.yahoo.com/month-americas-deadliest-long-afghan-war-175913907.html 

Daryl Hannah arrested in White House oil protest

Associated Press
Aug. 30, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Actress Daryl Hannah has been arrested in front of the White House along with other environmental protesters who oppose a planned oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The sit-in Tuesday involved dozens protesting TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline. It would go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.
Before she was arrested, Hannah told The Associated Press the protesters want to be free from dependence on fossil fuels. The group calls for clean energy investments instead. Hannah says they hope President Barack Obama will not bow to oil lobbyists.

Nearly 62,000 Colombians disappeared: Ombudsman

Colombia Reports
Aug. 30, 2011
By Travis Mannon 

Nearly 62,000 people have been disappeared in Colombia, announced the country’s ombudsman on Tuesday, the International Day of the Disappeared.

The Commission for the Search for Disappeared Persons, a division of the Ombudsman Office, reported that the number of disappeared people has risen to 61,604, an almost 30% increase from the 47,757 people reported in June 2010. According to the findings, that number consists of more than 47,000 men and nearly 14,500 women.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called attention to the tragic situation in Colombia in a press communique on the eve of the International Day of the Disappeared. According to the ICRC, “people on all sides of a conflict are affected. Civilians, military personnel, or members of armed groups may be killed in fighting or made to disappear as part of an effort to spread fear in a community.”


Guilhem Ravier, the ICRC’s expert on missing and disappeared persons in Colombia, believes that the will exists to help people bring closure to families, but the exhausting paperwork and sheer multitude of disappeared people exacerbates the problem.

“The identification process is long and complex and it’s like a maze for families. They need to receive information that they can understand. They need support, and they need to be treated with respect,” explained Ravier.

Full Article Here – http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/18654-nearly-62000-colombians-missing-ombudsman.html