The CIA Illegally Let the Wrong People Do Intelligence Work, Declassified Report Finds

VICE News, By Jason Leopold, April 27

The CIA violated federal laws and its own internal regulations by hiring independent contractors for a wide variety of intelligence and national security-related work that was supposed to be performed by government employees, according to a CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit report obtained by VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The report said the CIA “relies heavily on independent contractors to accomplish important facets of its mission,” particularly at the National Clandestine Service, the covert arm of the agency responsible for clandestine operations around the world. The report, dated June 22, 2012 but only declassified last month, raised numerous red flags about the CIA’s use of independent contractors throughout all divisions within the agency, and for work performed work in areas that included covert operations and protective security services overseas.

By law, that work must be done by CIA employees.

Turkey’s parliament speaker seeks religious constitution

AFP, April 25

Istanbul – Turkey should have a religious constitution, parliament speaker Ismail Kahraman said Monday, in comments that will likely add to concerns of creeping Islamisation under the ruling AKP party.

“As a Muslim country, why should we be in a situation where we are in retreat from religion?” state-run news agency Anatolia quoted him as saying.

“We are a Muslim country. As a consequence, we must have a religious constitution,” the AKP lawmaker told a conference in Istanbul.

Scientists Asked to Boycott Major Conference After AGU Votes to Retain ExxonMobil Ties

DeSmogBlog, By Graham Readfearn, April 18

Scientists are being asked to boycott the next major meeting of the world’s biggest earth sciences organisation after it voted to retain relationships with ExxonMobil.

The American Geophysical Union last week rejected calls from members to break ties with ExxonMobil over the oil giant’s history of funding and supporting climate science misinformation.

AGU members have been voicing their dismay at the decision, which ignored the concerns of more than 200 scientists, many of them AGU members, calling for the relationship to end.

AGU’s board said it would accept sponsorship from ExxonMobil for a breakfast event at its Fall Meeting in December – an event the oil company had previously sponsored.

But Professor Charles Greene, of Cornell University, told DeSmog: “This is far from over. There can be little doubt that this will lead to the biggest shake up in AGU’s history. There is a lot more at stake here than $35,000 for a graduate student breakfast.”

Ukraine’s Prime Minister to Resign Amid Fractures in Post-Revolution Alliance

NYT – KIEV— Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the prime minister of Ukraine, announced his resignation on Sunday in a surprise move that opened a new period of political uncertainty here.

Mr. Yatsenyuk, an economist and politician backed by Ukraine’s Western allies, including the United States, came to power two years ago behind the wave of popular anger that culminated with the Maidan street protests, which led to the downfall of President Viktor F. Yanukovych. Mr. Yatsenyuk and Petro O. Poroshenko, who became president, emerged as the nation’s most prominent figures.

But the revolution’s leaders soon turned on each other. Although authority is supposed to be balanced evenly between the president and the prime minister, Ukraine’s Western allies eventually sided with Mr. Poroshenko and pushed Mr. Yatsenyuk to step aside.

The announcement came with a caveat that, in Ukraine’s Parliament, there are many procedural tricks that could keep Mr. Yatsenyuk in power.

Putin creates new National Guard in Russia ‘to fight terrorism’

BBC – The force will be formed of interior ministry troops and led by Mr Putin’s former bodyguard, Viktor Zolotov, who will report directly to the president.

Mr Putin’s spokesman said the force could be used to maintain public order.

Mr Putin made the announcement during a meeting with key security officials at the Kremlin. “The decisions have been taken, we are creating a new federal body of executive power,” he said. He also announced that Russia’s drug control agency and federal migration service would become part of the interior ministry’s remit.

The creation of a National Guard has been talked about for years. Mr Peskov said he “could not explain” the timing but denied it had anything to do with upcoming elections or any mistrust of other law-enforcement agencies.

But there are suggestions that President Putin is concerned about possible unrest in the run-up to parliamentary elections in September.

Bernie Backwards on Panama

Image via Wiki Commons

Bernie Sanders and crew are making the outrageous claim that Hillary Clinton is to blame for the corporate abuses being uncovered via the Panama Papers.

In reality, the 2010 agreement she supported as Secretary of State and he railed against in the Senate actually added transparency and reporting requirements. Its passage is the primary reason such a small fraction of the leak data implicates American companies. The country became hostile to clandestine US finance.

But Sanders wants to blame Clinton for accounts established in Panama decades ago. Had Sanders gotten his way, the list of US individuals under new investigation this week would be much longer.

International trade has lifted a billion people out of poverty in the past two decades. Protest votes against trade bills as a matter of principle are no better than protest votes against military action for the same reason.

This follows his insistent mis-characterization of her stance on Iraq and his recent statement that Hillary is “unqualified.” This is in sharp contrast to the views of the current sitting President:

“I’ve gotten to know Hillary Clinton really well, and she is a good, smart, tough person who cares deeply about this country,” Obama said. The President also described Clinton as “really idealistic and progressive,” evidently addressing the perception among some Democrats that she is too moderate, and noted that Clinton’s experience and her mastery of policy issues would be a big help to her in the Oval Office. “It means that she can govern, and she can start here, day one, more experienced than any non-vice-president has ever been who aspires to this office.”

Iceland PM offers to step down after Panama Papers scandal

CNBC – Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s prime minister, has become the first casualty of the so-called Panama Papers scandal after he offered to resign Tuesday, his press office told CNBC. His move follows leaked files that showed his wife owned an offshore firm with big claims on the country’s collapsed banks. Earlier, Gunnlaugsson had asked the country’s president to dissolve parliament in the face of a looming no-confidence vote and protests.

On Monday, the opposition filed a motion of no-confidence and thousands of Icelanders gathered in front of parliament, hurling eggs and bananas and demanding the departure of the leader of the centre-right coalition government, in power since 2013.

A government spokesman has said the claims against Iceland’s collapsed banks held by the firm owned by the prime minister’s wife – in which he also temporarily held a stake – totalled more than 500 million Icelandic crowns ($4.1 million).

Iceland’s main commercial banks collapsed as the global financial crisis hit in 2008 and many Icelanders have blamed the North Atlantic island nation’s politicians for not reining in the banks’ debt-fuelled binge and averting a deep recession.

China announces sanctions against North Korea

Coal, iron, gold and titanium are among the resources that will be banned.

The Indenpendent, By Serina Sandhu, April 5

China has announced a series of sanctions against North Korea.

The country has restricted imports of North Korean coal and sales of jet fuel under UN sanctions.

The Security Council passed a resolution in March, which expanded UN sanctions aimed at withholding funds for the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. It came after Pyongyang conducted four tests in recent months.

Among the North Korean materials to be banned, some of which are fundamental to the country’s revenue, is coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium and rare earths.
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California and New York Governors Sign $15 Minimum Wage Laws

Sacramento Bee – Gov. Jerry Brown, casting a living wage as a moral imperative while questioning its economic rationale, signed legislation Monday raising California’s mandatory minimum to $15 an hour by 2022, acting within hours of a similar bill signing in New York.

Brown, a fiscal moderate, had previously expressed reservations about a wage increase. But amid growing concern about income inequality in California and the national thrust of the labor-backed “Fight for 15” campaign, his hand was forced. Public opinion polls showed strong support for increasing the state’s mandatory minimum beyond its current $10.

“Morally and socially and politically, minimum wages make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way,” Brown said.

In a concession to the state’s influential labor unions, the bill will also provide in-home health aides three annual sick days. Republicans and business groups said rising wages will force employers to increase prices or to cut costs by laying off workers or reducing their hours.

The Panama Papers: how the world’s rich and famous hide their money offshore

Guardian analysis of leaked papers will show how influential people including heads of government have exploited tax havens.

The Guardian, By Juliette Garside, Holly Watt and David Pegg, April 3

The hidden wealth of some of the world’s most prominent leaders, politicians and celebrities has been revealed by an unprecedented leak of millions of documents that show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.

The Guardian, working with global partners, will set out details from the first tranche of what are being called “the Panama Papers”. Journalists from more than 80 countries have been reviewing 11.5m files leaked from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm.
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