Category: Politics

NSA documents confirm close working relationship with US companies

Newly disclosed National Security Agency documents suggest a closer relationship between American companies and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed.

The documents, published last week by The Intercept, describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as the fact that the NSA has “under cover” spies working at or with some U.S. companies.

While not conclusive, the material includes some clear suggestions that at least some American companies are quite willing to help the agency conduct its massive surveillance programs.

The precise role of U.S. companies in the NSA’s global surveillance operations remains unclear. Documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by various news organizations show that companies have turned over their customers’ email, phone calling records and other data under court orders. But the level of cooperation beyond those court orders has been an open question, with several leading companies, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, asserting that they only turn over customer information that is “targeted and specific” in response to legal demands.

Apple’s public acknowledgement of device encryption making it impossible to cooperate with federal snoops has truly pissed off our lazyass spy bureaucrats.

The documents do not identify any specific companies as collaborating with the NSA. The references are part of an inventory of operations, of which the very “fact that” they exist is classified information. These include the:

Contractual Relationships (pg 7)

Backdoors in US Encryption Systems (pg 9)

Whipgenie collecting US communications (pg 7)

NSA going under cover in US companies (pg 7)

Predictably, our elected flunkies who head up Congressional Intelligence committees didn’t have any comment. They’re too busy being obedient, unquestioning.

Thanks, Mike

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The biggest voting fraud is a Republican lie and costs taxpayers million$

voter-fraud1

Voter ID laws are back in the news once again, with two new opinions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court late last week dealing with the state’s ID requirement, which would allow people to vote only if they provide certain forms of government-issued ID. The Court made some minor changes to the law but otherwise upheld it. However, the ID requirement is still on hold pending a federal lawsuit.

Part of this litigation — and any rational debate about the issue generally — hinges on two things: costs and benefits. The costs of these sorts of laws vary, because the laws themselves differ from state to state (some are far more burdensome than others). The ostensible benefits, though, are all the same. And in addressing these purported benefits, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blew it. Twice.

First, the court cited the idea that ID laws could enhance public confidence–that is, in theory, the laws might make us feel better about elections in that they might provide some security theater. It turns out, though, that this effect is hard to spot. People in states with more restrictive ID laws don’t generally feel better about their elections than people in more permissive states. People who think elections are being stolen, and people who think they’re not, each hold on to that opinion no matter what the governing ID rules in their area…

Second, the court said that ID laws can help stop fraud. It then cited an example of recent fraud … that ID laws aren’t designed to stop. Specifically, it mentioned a case in which a supporter of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was charged with 13 counts of election fraud, including “registering to vote in more than one place, voting where he didn’t live, voting more than once in the same election, and providing false information to election officials,” according to an account by Talking Points Memo. Wisconsin’s ID law would not likely have prevented any of the alleged violations…

I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up…

So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents…just click through to the original article.

What does this cost us?

Here in New Mexico with a small population, our Republican secretary-of-state set forth on her white horse to dispose of the thousands of cases of voter fraud she was confident she’d find. She had the blessings of our Republican governor – the state legislature hadn’t the guts to sort out her waste. So, she spent over $200,000 and came up with less than a dozen folks who registered to vote when they weren’t qualified. Of those, a couple tried to vote and were rebuffed. The rest had already discovered they weren’t qualified and didn’t even try to vote.

Add in the cost of new voter IDs where Republicans and Blue Dog Dems passed laws trying to block minorities and seniors from voting. Add in the cost of defending patently unconstitutional laws state-by-state up to the Supreme Court.

Multiply that by big states with big searches paid for by taxpayer dollars and we confront hundreds of millions of wasted dollars. And as Professor Levitt noted, he found 31 bona fide allegations of voter fraud in the whole of these United States since 2000.

Republicans waste more time and taxpayer money on lies than any other crooks in the country. And they don’t even have to throw in a copper bracelet.

The Disappearance of the Forty-Three


PHOTOGRAPH BY OMAR TORRES/AFP/GETTY

Every morning, the newspapers in Mexico City announce how many days it has been since forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School disappeared while in Iguala, Guerrero. On Friday, the number—twenty-eight days—was accompanied by an announcement that the governor of Guerrero state, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, had finally resigned after weeks of outrage over the violence and lawlessness that marked his tenure.

The disappearance of the forty-three has aroused horror, indignation, and protest throughout Mexico and all over the world. An air of sadness, disgust, fear and foreboding hangs over Mexico City, where I live, like the unseasonably cold, gray, drizzly weather we’ve been having. This is usually a festive time of year, with the Day of the Dead holidays approaching, but it’s impossible to feel lighthearted. As one friend put it, the government’s cardboard theatre has fallen away, exposing Mexico’s horrifying truths.

The journalists John Gibler (the author of the book “To Die in Mexico”) and Marcela Turati (who has been reporting on the disappearance in the weekly magazine Proceso and elsewhere) have provided the most complete reports of what happened in Iguala on the night of September 26th. “Scores of uniformed municipal police and a handful of masked men dressed in black shot and killed six people, wounded more than twenty, and rounded up and detained forty-three students in a series of attacks carried out at multiple points and lasting more than three hours,” Gibler wrote to me in an e-mail. “At no point did state police, federal police, or the army intercede. The forty-three students taken into police custody are now ‘disappeared.’ ” On September 27th*, the body of another student turned up. His eyes were torn out and the facial skin was ripped away from his skull: the signature of a Mexican organized-crime assassination.

The Ayotzinapa Normal School trains people to become teachers in the state’s poorest rural schools. The students, who are in their late teens and early twenties, tend to come from poor, indigenous campesino families. They are often the brightest kids from their communities. According to Gibler, six hundred people applied to the class that included the students who disappeared, and only a hundred and forty were accepted. To become a teacher is seen as a step up from the life of a peasant farmer, but also as a way for those chosen to be socially useful in their impoverished communities. When Gibler and Turati went to visit the Ayotzinapa School in early October, only twenty-two students were left. In addition to the forty-three missing classmates, many others had been taken home by frightened parents.

RTFA. Please.

Well written, detailed, the sort of work rarely matched by TV talking heads. And, of course, both the conservative and not-quite-so-conservative American Press is tame as ever on the topic. Even where it’s fashionable to recall we are a nation of immigrants, the specter of Fox News seems to haunt our nation’s editors.

Thanks, Mike

Republican Governor has Black woman photoshopped into his website

In an effort to sway black voters his way, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has tried to make his re-election campaign more minority-friendly by including a photo of himself standing next to a smiling African American woman on his website.

The only problem is – this heartwarming scene never actually happened. Corbett’s campaign got the black woman from a stock photo and Photoshopped her in!

Before this Photoshop scandal was exposed and went viral, the faux feel-good image was the footer of Corbett’s website and appeared on every single page. It has since been switched out for a different photo, but here’s what was originally there:

Creep.

Thanks, SmartAlix

Banned dietary supplements back on the shelves – still adulterated

Many dietary supplements recalled by the FDA for containing banned ingredients find their way back on the shelves, still adulterated, researchers found.

In an analysis of products recalled between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2012, about two-thirds still contained banned ingredients when analyzed an average of nearly 3 years later, Pieter Cohen…and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Action by the FDA has not been completely effective in eliminating all potentially dangerous adulterated supplements from the U.S. marketplace,” they wrote. “More aggressive enforcement of the law, changes to the law to increase the FDA’s enforcement powers, or both will be required if sales of these products are to be prevented in the future…”

A total of 274 supplements had been recalled during the 4-year study period, and 27 of these met inclusion criteria and were analyzed. They had been purchased a mean of 34 months after FDA recalls.

Overall, they found that 67% of the recalled supplements still had pharmaceutical adulterants in them. In most cases (63%), it was the same adulterant identified by the FDA, but in some cases (22%) they contained different banned substances…Sometimes the products contained both the banned ingredient identified by FDA and additional adulterants, though the researchers did not give a specific percentage.

Cohen and colleagues also looked at supplements by type, finding that 85% of sports enhancement remained adulterated, along with 67% of weight-loss supplements, and 20% of sexual enhancement supplements…The majority…were made by U.S. manufacturers…

Golly. Think the manufacturers have anything to worry about? Will Congress spend as much time on this dangerous crap as they do on fancier – and useless – policies like examining planes landing from West Africa for Ebola? Since there are no planes landing in the United States directly from West Africa!

The Party of NO, Congressional Republicans care less about the health of Americans than almost anything else. Watching an assembly of hypocrites join and mingle in a dance of meaningless slogans is about as productive as guarding a landfill from scavengers. A healthy society has no need for garbage-pickers.

Meanwhile, the FDA has toothless authority to stop crap from being sold over-the-counter as diet supplements.

Blackwater thugs finally convicted of killing Iraqi civilians

Blackwater and Bush

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence…

Federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings. They were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men.”

“It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” said Asuncion in his closing argument, as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors.

“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene,” claimed the prosecutor. “None of these people were armed.”

Sounds like the qualities sought after by your local police department – guaranteeing these gangsters a job when they return to the States. That’s not just a smartass remark. It’s already part of the process of turning our local PD’s into military police.

RTFA for all the details. Personally, I think the GUARDIAN is too kind referring to “a series of legal mistakes by US officials”. Because never in over a half-century of civil rights activism have I ever seen any American officials make “legal mistakes” on behalf of someone poor, Black, working class.

The 14 victims killed by the Blackwater guards on trial were listed as Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, Osama Fadhil Abbas, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, Ibrahim Abid Ayash, Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, Uday Ismail Ibrahiem, Mahdi Sahib Nasir and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein.

Someone in the United States ought to remember their names.

Here’s one Democrat I vote for

First, the video. Someone caught Allen Weh in his “47% moment” – thinking he’s only talking to his peers, his buddies in the millionaires club, he lets out how he really feels about low-income working folks.

Yes, he’s a miserable low-life prick Republican. Former head of the New Mexico Republican Party, BTW – just so you know who that party represents.

Second, I’m not especially a fan of the Democrat Party either. Nationally or here in New Mexico. They’re running a generational candidate for governor from one of the old NM Democrat families. He ain’t worth crap. But, the Dems have a minimal tradition of fighting to maintain what has been won in the past for working class families in New Mexico. I can count on that much. And that’s way more than anyone can expect from our royal Republicans.

Tom Udall is different. He maintains his family tradition of fighting for the environment, all classes of working folks – from young to old geezers like me. I particularly like his stand – introducing a call every session of Congress – to rid Congress of the crap procedures they maintain like filibusters, etc. which are as anti-democratic as possible. He voted against Bush’s War. He opposed the VietNam War.

Good enough for me.

As for whoever caught this schmuck, Allen Weh, telling the truth for once in his life about his elitist politics? Thank you, whoever you are.