Money from Pentagon trucking contracts funded Taliban

A U.S. military task force has discovered that part of a $2.16 billion transportation contract was diverted through a murky network of subcontractors and into the hands of a group of Afghan power-brokers, criminals and Taliban insurgents…Roughly $600 million of the contract had been spent before authorities were alerted to the scandal…

Only part of that money, however, is believed to have been diverted to “nefarious elements,” the source added…Well, that makes me feel better.

The official said it appears some of the payments were given for truckers to be assured of safe passage through insurgent areas of Afghanistan. As has happened in other instances, trucking contractors paid off local drivers who then turned around and paid local security forces, who in turn paid insurgents in their areas…

Actually, when I worked in traffic management, we did the same thing to get our shipments through Mafia checkpoints in Newark.

The contract program, called Host Nation Trucking — which expires in September — has since been replaced by a more stringent system that requires up to 40 different contractors — an effort to reduce overall reliance on a single firm.

The new program is also meant to tighten accounting measures of second and third party vendors, an area various groups had previously been able to exploit, the source said…

Government officials are currently pursuing corrective actions against the trucking firms, including suspensions and limits on work, though all eight companies still remain on the U.S. payroll.

If you’re functioning here at home within a Republican-devised system like “mark to market” accounting, why expect the Pentagon to deploy legitimate accounting and oversight in a war zone created by the same phonies?

Microsoft proposes using Data Furnaces to heat the home

The U.S. EPA estimated that servers and data centers were responsible for up to 1.5 percent of the total U.S. electricity consumption, or roughly 0.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, in 2007. With companies such as Apple and Google strongly pushing the move to cloud computing, that figure is likely to increase significantly in the coming decade. Since a lot of energy is consumed keeping the computer systems cool, colder climates are seen as more favorable sites for data centers. But a new paper from Microsoft Research proposes a different approach that would see servers, dubbed Data Furnaces, distributed to office buildings and homes where they would act as a primary heat source.

The Microsoft Research paper says that at around 40-50°C the temperature of the exhaust air from a computer server is too low to regenerate electricity efficiently. However, this temperature is perfect for heating purposes, such as home/building space heating, clothes dryers and water heaters. So the researchers argue that placing servers used for cloud computing operations directly into homes and/or office buildings would turn heat generation from a problem into an advantage.

The Data Furnaces (DFs) would be micro-datacenters on the order of 40 to 400 CPUs that would be connected to the Internet and integrated into the house/office building’s heating system in the same way as a conventional electrical furnace. By leveraging the home’s existing infrastructure and doing away with the need for dedicated real estate and construction of new facilities, DFs would significantly reduce the cost per server when compared to conventional data centers.

Additionally, such a setup would also provide lower network latency as the storage and computation systems can be located closer to areas of high population density and therefore those using them.

The DFs would be managed remotely and the researchers suggest that cloud computing service operators could provide free heat to host families in return for occasionally replacing air filters or, in extreme circumstances, turning servers off and on…

RTFA. Farfetched? Maybe not. We could certainly benefit from a proposal like this – we have the space in a detached building that still would allow heated air to be ducted into the house in cold weather. The data center owners would have the benefit of one or two resident geeks.

Cripes – I’ll be among the first to volunteer.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny denouncing the Vatican on child abuse

YouTube audio recording of Kenny’s speech – The article link has the video
The Vatican has recalled its ambassador to Ireland following the release of an Irish government report that the Vatican had discouraged efforts by bishops to report cases of sex abuse to the police.”

The report, released on July 13, found that clergy leaders in the rural Irish diocese of Cloyne did not act on complaints against 19 priests from 1996 to 2009. It also concluded that the Vatican had encouraged bishops to ignore child-protection guidelines that included the “mandatory reporting” of abuse to civil authorities. [Complete text of the report here]

A brief Vatican statement explaining the decision to recall its ambassador noted, “in particular, the reactions that have followed” the release of the report.

Perhaps the most striking of those reactions was an impassioned denunciation of the Vatican by Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, who spoke for 12 minutes on the floor of Ireland’s parliament last Wednesday.

As readers can hear in the video of the complete speech, or read in a transcript of the remarks published by The Irish Times, Mr. Kenny began, with barely suppressed anger:

The revelations of the Cloyne report have brought the government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture. It’s fair to say that after the Ryan and Murphy Reports, Ireland is, perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children.

But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order.

Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic … as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism — the narcissism — that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.

The rape and torture of children were downplayed or “managed” to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and “reputation.”

Listen or watch. Add your personal judgement to history.

How the super-rich take their kiddies to camp

Ana Sosa, 13 – arrives in Maine by private jet for camp

Gov. Paul LePage of Maine happened to be waiting for his flight at Augusta State Airport on a recent Saturday when the weekend crush began.

A turboprop Pilatus PC-12 carrying Melissa Thomas, her daughter, her daughter’s friend and a pile of lacrosse equipment took off for their home in Connecticut, following the girls’ three-week stay at Camp All-Star in nearby Kents Hill, Me. Shortly after, a Cessna Citation Excel arrived, and a mother, a father and their 13-year-old daughter emerged carrying a pink sleeping bag and two large duffel bags, all headed to Camp Vega in Fayette.

“Love it, love it, love it,” Mr. LePage said of the private-plane traffic generated by summer camps. “I wish they’d stay a week while they’re here. This is a big business.”

They’re his kind of people.

For decades, parents in the Northeast who sent their children to summer camp faced the same arduous logistics of traveling long distances to remote towns in Maine, New Hampshire and upstate New York to pick up their children or to attend parents’ visiting day.

Now, even as the economy limps along, more of the nation’s wealthier families are cutting out the car ride and chartering planes to fly to summer camps. One private jet broker, Todd Rome of Blue Star Jets, said his summer-camp business had jumped 30 percent over the last year…

Officials at the airport in Augusta said 51 private planes arrived between Thursday and Saturday; on a normal day, they would expect just a few. The airport was so busy that one of its two public runways was closed so all the incoming planes would have someplace to park, said Dale Kilmer, operations manager for Maine Instrument Flight, which operates the airport…

At Robert Lafleur Airport in Waterville, which is close to many of the private camps in the Belgrade Lake region of Maine, the assistant manager, Randy Marshall, brought on two extra people to help handle the traffic last weekend.

In Augusta, Mr. Kilmer usually creates a temporary lounge on parents’ weekend for the pilots and flight attendants who must wait for their clients to return from their children’s camps, so that they can depart later that afternoon. He has already received catering orders for return flights, which include fruit and sandwich trays for adults and sandwich boxes for younger siblings. One flier has already requested a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a fruit cup with a single strawberry, a juice box, a banana and a cookie or brownie…

Mr. Rome, the Blue Star Jets president, said families could rent a seven-person turboprop plane starting at $3,800 for a round trip in one day, making the price competitive with some commercial flights.

“You don’t have to be a millionaire to do it,” Mr. Rome said.

But it helps, right? No doubt Congress will find some way to ease the burden on these parents.

Cisco blasted for arranging arrest of whistleblower – as a fugitive

Networking giant Cisco was blasted by a Canadian judge for arranging for the criminal arrest of a whistleblower who was suing the company.

Peter Adekeye launched an anti-trust case against his former employer in the US District Court for Northern California and was giving his deposition where he lived in Vancouver when four coppers entered the room and interrupted the hearing.

According to Ars Technica. Adekeye was jailed while the legal mess was sorted out. Part of the problem was that the highly expensive legal team for Cisco had done its best to convince the Canadian authorities that Adekeye was a “sinister” Nigerian on the run from 97 charges of illegal computer hacking…

US prosecutors invoked “emergency provisions” of the Extradition Act to obtain the arrest warrant…

When the extradition documentation actually arrived, the judge would discover that it was a pack of “innuendo, half truths, and complete falsehoods.”

Throughout all of this, the judges and the Canadian legal system was apparently unaware that all the made-up crimes were part of the bigger anti-trust battle Adekeye was waging against Cisco…

Justice McKinnon was shocked that a trivial $14,000 civil case had been transformed into a criminal proceeding and engaged the full might and resources of two governments, with the aim of misleading one of Canada’s senior trial courts.

Cisco allegedly engineered it so that the arrest took place in the presence of a US High Court Judge, Special Master, George Fisher, with Cisco’s lawyers insisting on filming the entire arrest on the record. It was clearly an attempt to humiliate Adekeye and weaken his case.

McKinnon said that it all spoke “volumes for Cisco’s duplicity”.

What should be most alarming is that Cisco could use extradition laws and their buddies in the US government to have those who challenged their dominion locked up under American laws – in Canada.

First same-sex couples marry in New York State

Jonathan Mintz, Mayor Bloomberg presiding, marries John Feinblatt
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples, from retirees in Woodstock to college students in Manhattan, rushed to tiny town halls and big city clerks’ offices across New York to wed in the first hours of legal same-sex marriage on Sunday, turning a slumbering summer day into an emotional celebration.

They arrived by subway cars and stretch limousines, with children and with grandparents, in matching sequined ties and pinstriped suits, to utter words that once seemed unimaginable: I do.

Even those who had been together for decades, watching same-sex marriage become legal in surrounding states but suffer rejection in New York, said there was something unexpectedly moving and affirming about having their unions recognized by the state in which they live.

“We feel a little more human today,” Ray Durand, 68, said moments after marrying his partner, Dale Shield, 79, whom he met 42 years ago by a jukebox in a West Village bar.

The start of same-sex marriage in New York instantly doubled the number of Americans who live in states where gay and lesbian couples can wed. Gay-rights advocates, energized by their victory in New York — the sixth and largest state where it is legal — are turning their attention next to Maryland, but they face long odds in much of the country, where there are tougher legal and political obstacles…

Despite demonstrations, long lines and bureaucratic glitches, a spirit of patience and good humor pervaded. In Lower Manhattan, brides and grooms defiantly opened dozens of rainbow-colored umbrellas to block the protesters from view.

There were scenes, too, of striking public embrace. Outside marriage bureaus, police officers offered unsolicited congratulations, passers-by honked their horns and strangers tossed hand-made confetti at the newlyweds.

After a bruising multiyear legislative battle that ended when the State Senate approved same-sex marriage last month by a narrow margin, some of the state’s top elected officials seemed determined on Sunday to demonstrate public support for the new law.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hosted a party for same-sex marriage advocates in Manhattan, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presided at a wedding in the backyard of Gracie Mansion, and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, visited the marriage bureaus in all five boroughs.

The bulk of the day’s marriages took place in New York City…Most were New York residents, but 107 of those who married in the city had arrived from states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

But even far from Manhattan, city and town offices opened their doors, sometimes just for a handful of weddings, on a day when they would ordinarily have been closed.

In Shandaken, a town of 3,100 in the Catskills, the town clerk issued just one marriage license, to a New Jersey couple: Katie Morgan, 37, a freelance television producer, and Brooke Barnett, 30, a wine consultant, who have a weekend home in Shandaken.

Three communities — Niagara Falls, Albany and Hudson — were so eager to marry gays and lesbians that they opened their doors shortly before midnight.

Ain’t nothing as American as civil rights proclaiming the all citizens may be married. Too bad the nation ain’t there, yet. But, then, that’s why Black Folks in Texas get to celebrate Juneteenth. Reactionaries and bigots will always try to keep the good news from spreading, change from happening.