Category - News

H Clinton and Government Servers

The Republicans are drilling into the issue of whether H Clinton’s government email should have been kept on a personal computer server.

I think this is a valid concern. I didn’t think anyone in government service anywhere was permitted to do this, so the whole idea never crossed my mind before. CBS News said tonight that President Obama signed an order recently (but after Clinton had departed her post at State) requiring the use of official networks and so forth.

I am not sure if there is any connection between that action and H Clinton’s disclosures, but it would not surprise me. Peter Van Buren at Firedoglake points out how unusual it is to have an ex-government official totally in charge of releasing government documents to the government. The nearest example I could think of would be Presidential Libraries withholding papers, but I believe the Library of Congress /National Archives has some hand in vetting them. At it isn’t like Sandy Berger or anybody else stealing from government’s classified documents either. Clinton’s position seems to be different. Very different.

We are in the early stages of this story, so I cannot predict where the evidence will take us; however, the whole situation has a bad smell.

And as to her Presidential aspirations, I think she just ruined them.

U.S. optimistic global trade deal will come into force this year

Reuters, By Krista Hughes, March 4

Washington – The United States expects a global deal to cut customs red tape and streamline import procedures to come into force this year, a senior trade official said on Wednesday.

Mark Linscott, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for World Trade Organization and Multilateral Affairs, said Washington was “pretty confident” the deal agreed in Bali in 2013 would be up and running by year-end.

“It’s quite realistic to expect that the trade facilitation agreement [wikipedia: The “Bali Package”, WTO: Trade Facilitation] can come into force by the end of the year,” he told a Washington International Trade Association event.

[…]

Virginia Brown, director of trade and regulatory reforms at USAID, said the aid agency was ready to work with countries on implementation steps, which in many cases require lawmakers’ approval. “Our bread and butter is drafting that legislation and getting it through the legislative process,” she said.

New York City to add Muslim holidays to school calendar

France24, March 4

New York City public schools will start observing two of Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing an announcement to be delivered by the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio.

According to the newspaper, the changes to the school calendar are in line with de Blasio’s election pledge to better integrate and represent the city’s increasing Muslim population, which is estimated at between 600,000 and 1 million. New York City public schools already recognise several Jewish and Christian holidays.

In a post on Twitter prior to the announcement, de Blasio said the new policy will represent “a change that respects the diversity of our city.”

A 2008 study carried out by Columbia University showed that around 10 percent of New York City public-school children were Muslim, and that about 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public schools.

Many heads will, no doubt, explode.

Archaeologists unearth lost fortress of Genghis Khan in western Mongolia

Asahi Shimbun, By Kunijiko Imai, Febrary 26

Japanese and Mongolian archaeologists said Feb. 26 that they have discovered the remains of a 13th-century military outpost established for Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) in southwestern Mongolia.

The joint research team said the discovery could be useful in learning about the Mongol Empire’s strategy on western expansion and trade routes.

“We hope the discovery will be useful in ascertaining the history of the Mongolian Plateau between the 13th and 14th centuries,” said team leader Koichi Matsuda, professor emeritus of Mongol Empire history at Osaka International University.

Jawbone’s Discovery Fills Barren Evolutionary Period

New York Times, By John Noble Wilford, March 4

On the morning of Jan. 29, 2013, Chalachew Seyoum was climbing a remote hill in the Afar region of his native Ethiopia, his head bent, eyes focused on the loose sediment. The site, known as Ledi-Geraru, was rich in fossils. Soon enough, he spotted a telltale shape on the surface — a premolar, as it turned out. It was attached to a piece of a mandible, or lower jawbone. He collected other pieces of a left mandible, and five teeth in all.

Mr. Seyoum, a graduate student in paleoanthropology at Arizona State University, had made a discovery that vaulted evolutionary science over a barren stretch of fossil record between two million and three million years ago. This was a time when the human genus, Homo, was getting underway. The 2.8-million-year-old jawbone of a Homo habilis predates by at least 400,000 years any previously known Homo fossils.

More significant, scientists say, is that this H. habilis lived only 200,000 years after the last known evidence of its more apelike predecessors, Australopithecus afarensis, the species made famous by “Lucy,” whose skeleton was found in the 1970s at the nearby Ethiopian site of Hadar.

William H. Kimbel, director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State, said the Ledi-Geraru jaw “helps narrow the evolutionary gap between Australopithecus and early Homo,” adding that it was an excellent “transitional fossil in a critical time period in human evolution.”

House Republicans want to legally forbid EPA from looking at science it doesn’t like

Salon.com, Joanna Rothkopf, March 3

Two bills are up for a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, both of which could significantly impact the way the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to use science to come up with regulations. The Secret Science Reform Act and the Science Advisory Board Reform Act both require the EPA to consider only publicly available, easily reproducible data when making policy recommendations. Scientific organizations and environmental groups, as well as a number of Democrats, disapprove of the bills, arguing that they favor industry over real science.

Over 50 scientific organizations spoke out in opposition to the Secret Science bill, noting that large-scale public health studies would be ineligible for consideration because large sample sizes could not be easily reproduced.
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Ferguson Police Routinely Violate Rights of Blacks, Justice Dept. Finds

New York Times, By Matt Apuzzo, March 3

Washington – Ferguson, Mo., is a third white, but the crime statistics compiled in the city over the past two years seemed to suggest that only black people were breaking the law. They accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of all arrests.

The racial disparity in those statistics was so stark that the Justice Department has concluded in a report scheduled for release on Wednesday that there was only one explanation: The Ferguson Police Department was routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents.

The report, based on a six-month investigation, provides a glimpse into the roots of the racial tensions that boiled over in Ferguson last summer after a black teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer, making it a worldwide flash point in the debate over race and policing in America. It describes a city where the police used force almost exclusively on blacks and regularly stopped people without probable cause. Racial bias is so ingrained, the report said, that Ferguson officials circulated racist jokes on their government email accounts.

US to Deploy Six National Guard Companies to Ukraine This Week

US 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Michael Foster said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC said the US would deploy personnel by the end of this week to train the Ukrainian national guard.

Sputnik News, March 3

Washington – The United States will deploy personnel by the end of this week to train the Ukrainian national guard, US 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Colonel Michael Foster said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC on Monday.

“Before this week is up, we’ll be deploying a battalion minus… to the Ukraine to train Ukrainian forces for the fight that’s taking place,” Foster stated. “What we’ve got laid out is six United States companies that will be training six Ukrainian companies throughout the summer.”

The training will take place at the level of US and Ukrainian national guard companies, Foster explained, adding that “we have nothing above battalion staff level” engaged in the military training.

The current plan is for US forces to stay six months, he said, and noted there have been discussions about how to increase the duration and the scope of the training mission.
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Republican Outrage at Democratic Personal Attacks

Republicans in Congress are united at denouncing the latest democratic attack on Republicans.

A statement from Speaker Buhner’s Office reads:

Democrats are using Onomatopoeia, alliteration, and bathos to attack prosaic yet grammarless Republicans. We believe this new attack slanders Republicans and especially mocks the Republican Tea Party base. This use of satire and humor is beyond all tenets of civilized debate, and we believe this foul behavior could even lead to a severe and continued attack of sarcasm.

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Drinking coffee may lower risk of multiple sclerosis: researchers

Sydney Morning Herald, February 27

People who drink four to six cups of coffee a day may be less likely to get multiple sclerosis, US and Swedish researchers say.

While caffeine intake has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, the findings of the research released on Thursday show the same could apply to MS, an incurable disease of the central nervous system that affects 2.3 million people worldwide.

“Our study shows coffee intake may also protect against MS, supporting the idea the drug may have protective effects for the brain,” said lead author Ellen Mowry of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

[…]

More research is needed to determine if caffeine has any impact on relapse or long-term disability due to MS.

Be a Coffee Achiever!

Italy anti-immigration rally draws thousands in Rome

BBC, February 28

Thousands of supporters of Italy’s Northern League have poured into one of Rome’s biggest squares for a rally against immigration, the EU and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government.

League leader Matteo Salvini accused Mr Renzi of substituting the country’s interests to those of the EU.

He also criticised the government’s record in dealing with Romanian truck drivers, tax, banks and big business.

A large counter-demonstration against Mr Salvini was also held in Rome.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Salvini is rapidly gaining in popularity.

Saudis Said to Aid Israeli Plan to Bomb Iran

Exclusive: As the Obama administration is rushing to complete a nuclear agreement with Iran and reduce regional tensions, the Israeli media is reporting on a deal with Saudi Arabia to let Israeli warplanes transit Saudi airspace en route to bombing Iran, reports Robert Parry.

Consortium News, By Robert Parry, February 25

According to an Israeli media report, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli warplanes fly over Saudi territory to save fuel while attacking Iranian nuclear sites, the latest indication of how the two former enemies have developed a behind-the-scenes alliance that is reshaping geopolitics in the Middle East.

“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” a European official in Brussels told Israel’s Channel 2 in a report broadcast on Tuesday and described in other Israeli media outlets.

Riyadh’s only condition was that Israel make some progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, a stipulation that may be mostly cosmetic so the Saudis can save face with other Arab states without really interfering with an Israeli flyover to strike Iran.

Disclosure of this Israeli-Saudi military cooperation comes as the United States and five other world powers rush to finish an agreement with Iran to curtail but not eliminate its nuclear program, which Iran says is only for civilian purposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to appear before the U.S. Congress on March 3 to undercut President Barack Obama’s negotiations.

The reported Saudi permission for Israeli warplanes to take a shorter route to bomb Iran also suggests that Netanyahu may be laying the groundwork for his own plans to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international negotiations are successful. Netanyahu has denounced a possible deal as an “existential threat” to Israel.

CIA looks to expand its cyber espionage capabilities

Washington Post, By Greg Miller, February 23

CIA Director John Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber-espionage capabilities as part of a broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work, current and former U.S. officials said.

The proposed shift reflects a determination that the CIA’s approach to conventional espionage is increasingly outmoded amid the exploding use of smartphones, social media and other technologies.

U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such as the Islamic State.

Several officials said Brennan’s team has even considered creating a new cyber-directorate — a step that would put the agency’s technology experts on equal footing with the operations and analysis branches, which have been pillars of the CIA’s organizational structure for decades.

Via emptywheel: After Failing at the White House, Then Illegally Hacking SSCI, Brennan Wants Cyber

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Bill

The Canadian Press, By Alexander Panetta, February 24

Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on a threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing the two sides in the long-running controversy to a rare point of agreement: their battle is far from over.

”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

”We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built — not even close.”

[…]

Even the White House concurred that the issue is far from settled. It pointed out that Tuesday’s announcement was a step in a long, winding process — not a final destination.

The president cast the veto as a matter of procedural principle. In his letter to Congress, Obama said the bill he was scrapping had improperly tried to usurp presidential authority.
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