FBI using drones for spy missions over the United States

Uh, that’s California below — not North Waziristan

The US uses drones for surveillance in some limited law-enforcement situations, the head of FBI has said, prompting additional debate about the Obama administration’s use of domestic surveillance.

Robert Mueller’s acknowledgement came in response to questions on Wednesday from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who said they wanted to know more about the federal government’s increasing use of unmanned aircraft.

“Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on US soil?” Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“Yes,” Mueller said, adding that the use was in “a very, very minimal way and very seldom”.

Mueller did not go into detail, but the FBI later released a statement that said unmanned aircraft were used only to watch stationary subjects and to avoid serious risks to law-enforcement agents…

The Federal Aviation Administration approves each use, the statement said.

Golly, what a surprise. Did they ever consider refusing?

At the hearing, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said she was concerned about the privacy implications of drone surveillance.

“The greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone and the use of the drone, and the very few regulations that are on it today,” she said…

This is the same hack who said, “I think it’s an act of treason” – speaking of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing on NSA snooping.

The Justice Department had disclosed that two domestic law-enforcement agencies use unmanned aircraft systems, according to a department statement sent to the Judiciary Committee and released on Wednesday by Grassley’s office.

The two are the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives…

Mueller, who is due to retire when his term expires in September, agreed that there should be public discourse over the future of the unmanned vehicles, saying “it’s worthy of debate and perhaps legislation down the road”.

Mueller did not say…whether warrants were being obtained for the use of the drones.

Requiring warrants fits into the same category as FAA approval. Rubber stamps don’t ask questions or consider constitutionality.

The fact remains that the same sort of Big Brother methods denied as an unthinkable violation of sacred trust have been happening all along. Flying spy missions over these United States ain’t the same as reinforcing the Border Patrol or US Customs. Though that will be a significant portion of the rationale. No doubt.

Release of hearing transcript shows Tea Party congressional hack is a fraud and a liar

“When I finish this rewrite, it will hardly be worth taking to the bathroom”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, released more than 200 pages of interview transcripts Tuesday afternoon after the committee’s Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), refused to do so

Cummings released transcripts with an IRS screening group manager described as a “conservative Republican,” who said that the targeting of the Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status started with low-level workers in Cincinnati. The witness also said that there was no communication on the targeting with any senior IRS officials or with anyone in Washington or the Obama administration.

Democrats have posted the key portion of the transcript here, in which the manager says he initially was made aware of a case involving a Tea Party group when an agent “asked for guidance.” He agreed with the agent that there “wasn’t enough information” to determine whether the group should have a tax-exempt status, and said he elevated the issue to his “area manager…”

“I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development,” the manager said.

He also told the Oversight Committee that he believed no one from the White House was involved in the IRS’ screening of Tea Party groups.

Cummings called on Issa to release the entire transcripts, which Issa said would harm the investigation. Cummings asked him for specific reasons, and demanded he respond by Monday. When Issa didn’t respond, Cummings released the entirety of the transcripts.

Issa’s office also did not respond to requests from multiple media outlets — including this one — that asked whether he would eventually release full transcripts.

Like any rightwing punk, Issa is pissed that the actual transcript of the hearing is available for ordinary citizens to read and review. The Republican habit of clipping snippets of information to give an opposite view of reality is notorious; but, this example of a hypocrite and liar like Issa trying to get away with doing the same – with information that’s part of the congressional record – is despicable.

Of course he’s pissed off. Like most populist four-flushers he can’t stand to have reality interfere with ideology. The humorous bit is that just about the only time the IRS was ever proven to be complicit in political attacks was at the hands of a Republican president. A scumbag named Nixon.

The Spider that dies from Sex

For the male dark fishing spider, the price of love is death. New research shows that the male Dolomedes tenebrosus (right) expires just after the height of passion, despite no visible assault by his partner.

Scientists collected the common U.S. arachnids (see image) in Nebraska parks and did a little matchmaking. In 25 observed matings, after the male stuffed his sperm into the female’s body using his antennalike pedipalp, he immediately went limp and his legs curled underneath him

By counting the pulse rate in the spiders’ abdomens, researchers measured the heartbeat of motionless males and confirmed that they do indeed die. As if death weren’t sacrifice enough, the scientists found that lovemaking also disfigures the male. In most spiders, part of the male’s pedipalp swells to deliver sperm before shrinking to normal size. In D. tenebrosus, the pedipalp remains enormously enlarged and presumably useless even after the deed is done.

Evolutionary theory predicts male monogamy—such as that shown by the dark fishing spider—when females are larger than males. Smaller animals are more likely to survive to mating age than big ones, the thinking goes, making larger females scarcer than smaller males. And that means males must settle for just one inamorata. True to theory, the female dark fishing spider, whose outstretched legs span a human’s palm, outweighs her man 14-to-1.

Helluva way to go!

Angry Birds battle in the Middle East

Yas Waterworld, just next to Ferrari World, in Abu Dhabi

Those countries in the Middle East that have been spared political upheaval find themselves enmeshed in a different sort of battle of late. As Qatar, the UAE and Jordan split what’s left of the region’s tourists, each is fighting to pull in the lion’s share. Their weapon of choice? Theme parks.

Currently, Abu Dhabi and its scrappier sibling, Al Ain, are duking it out with Doha for the rights to build the region’s first Angry Birds theme park.

Not surprisingly, the Middle Eastern version of Angry Bird Land (there are already outlets in Finland, Singapore and the UK) would also be the world’s largest.

“[The competition] is getting quiet fierce,” says Nigel Cann, director of operations and development at Gebal Group, the local agents for Lappset, who first developed the brand’s entertainment complex.

“They all want to find a space for it, and to do it as soon as they can. They all want to be first.”

As one of the most downloaded apps of all times (the game has amassed 1.7 billion downloads since launching in 2010), Angry Birds’ name recognition is almost unbeatable.

Though it is a global phenomenon, it’s proved particularly popular in the region. Over a fifth of all downloads come from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Rovio Entertainment, the developers of the game, are even toying with the idea of creating a localized version of the game…

Just a reminder that often portions of the world with too much money, little or no democracy, even less good taste, will spend enormous sums of money to impress the neighbors and visitors. Sound like someplace in your neck of the prairie?