The Obama Arms Bazaar

Counterpunch, By William D. Hartung, April 3-5

With the end of the Obama presidency just around the corner, discussions of his administration’s foreign policy legacy are already well under way. But one central element of that policy has received little attention: the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration of U.S. weapons exports.

The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.
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Fukushima radiation has reached North American shores

The (Mid-Willamette Valley, Oregon) Statesman-Journal, By Tracy Loew, April 6

Seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has reached North America.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected small amounts of cesium-134 and cesium-137 in a sample of seawater taken in February from a dock on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

It’s the first time radioactivity from the March 2011 triple meltdown has been identified on West Coast shores.
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‘Abolishing the Sabbath’: Wisc. Republican proposes doing away with day of rest for workers

Raw Story, By Arturo Garcia, April 3

Democrats in Wisconsin accused a Republican state lawmaker of putting factory and mercantile workers’ chances for rest at the mercy of their employers, the Madison Capital Times reported.

State Rep. Mark Born’s (R) proposal would allow workers in those fields to “voluntarily choose” to waive the state requirement of at least one “day of rest in seven.” The bill is being co-sponsored in the state Senate by another Republican, Van Wanggaard.

“Why would we not want to allow employees who want to earn that money for their family — especially with the tough economic times we’ve just come through — people are picking up second jobs and things,” Born said regarding the measure. “It seems to me the opponents of this would rather have someone go work a second job than just have the simple opportunity to work those extra days when their employer has work.”
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Iran. Iraq. Somebody Remind Me….

President Obama and his Administration are announcing a breakthrough in dealing with Iran on the matter of nuclear proliferation. The media is reporting the obvious condemnation from the Republicans, the Republican wanna-be presidential candidates, and the incessant one-note whining of Israel’s PM.  In contrast, Secretary of State Kerry and others in the Administration are floating hyperbolic self-congratulations over their own hard work and stellar performance.

Most of what I heard yesterday by 7:00 PM indicated the “details” of any agreement would not be worked out for 6 months or more but the “framework” was pretty good as frameworks go.  Then again, the Kyoto Protocols and the SALT II talks were frameworks of international agreement too and whether they did good or ill remains unresolved in minds of many. I suspect most frameworks are built on compromise and whatever they yield is just about as satisfying.

For the liberal world, you have to start somewhere and if a framework gets you started in the correct direction, it is better than creeping toward greater conflict.  To the conservative world, this agreement is worse than Chamberlain’s “appeasement” of the National Socialist Party and the first step along the slippery slope toward mutually assured bloodshed.

So have we staved off disaster, or have we hastened it?
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Double Standard Test Scores

Cited here is a commentary by Bill Black on the recent conviction of Georgia school teachers and principals for fraud in reporting student test scores. Professor Black makes a very interesting comparison between this situation, the media coverage and reaction to it, versus the unprosecuted crimes of Wall Street bankers and banks.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/04/bill-black-send-teachers-prison-rigging-numbers-not-bankers.html
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Weekend Jukebox: Songs of Liberation and Redemption

Any kind, personal or social, any where, one, the other or both….

Let’s start with two spirituals, as the two different religious stories commemorated this coming week became sung metaphors in the Black American civil rights struggle. Saturday is, as it happens, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder in 1968.

Paul Robeson:” Let My People Go”

The Edwin Hawkins Singers: “Oh Happy Day”

California governor orders first ever water restrictions

The governor of California has implemented the first mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history.

BBC, April 2

The order implements a 25% reduction in water usage for cities and towns across the parched state.

Vast areas of government-owned lawns will be replaced by drought-tolerant landscaping, and towns will be banned from watering ornamental grass.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a state of emergency after years of drought.

The snow in the mountains is at its lowest level since records began, so water supplies from melting snow will be lower than normal in coming months.

“We are standing on dried grass, and we should be standing in five feet of snow,” said Mr Brown, speaking in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

A poem for Tuesday

Faces in the Street

Henry Lawson

They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street —
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet —
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street —
Drifting on, drifting on,
To the scrape of restless feet;
I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

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The Deadly Global War for Sand

Wired, By Vince Beiser, March 26

The killers rolled slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.

Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his own 3-year-old boy.

Gunshots thundered through the house. Preeti Chauhan, Paleram’s daughter-in-law, rushed into Paleram’s room, her husband, Ravindra, right behind her. Through the open door, they saw the killers jump back on their bike and roar away.
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Passphrases That You Can Memorize — But That Even the NSA Can’t Guess

The Intercept, By Micah Lee, March 26

It’s getting easier to secure your digital privacy. iPhones now encrypt a great deal of personal information; hard drives on Mac and Windows 8.1 computers are now automatically locked down; even Facebook, which made a fortune on open sharing, is providing end-to-end encryption in the chat tool WhatsApp. But none of this technology offers as much protection as you may think if you don’t know how to come up with a good passphrase.

A passphrase is like a password, but longer and more secure. In essence, it’s an encryption key that you memorize. Once you start caring more deeply about your privacy and improving your computer security habits, one of the first roadblocks you’ll run into is having to create a passphrase. You can’t secure much without one.

For example, when you encrypt your hard drive, a USB stick, or a document on your computer, the disk encryption is often only as strong as your passphrase. If you use a password database, or the password-saving feature in your web browser, you’ll want to set a strong master passphrase to protect them. If you want to encrypt your email with PGP, you protect your private key with a passphrase. In his first email to Laura Poitras, Edward Snowden wrote, “Please confirm that no one has ever had a copy of your private key and that it uses a strong passphrase. Assume your adversary is capable of one trillion guesses per second.”

In this post, I outline a simple way to come up with easy-to-memorize but very secure passphrases. It’s the latest entry in an ongoing series of stories offering solutions — partial and imperfect but useful solutions — to the many surveillance-related problems we aggressively report about here at The Intercept.

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