Microsoft and Google sue US government over NSA gag order

Microsoft and Google may sue US government to allow them to publish user data request from the government after talks with the Justice Department stalled.

The tech giants filed suits in a US federal court in June, arguing a right to make public more information about user data requests made under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The technology giants agreed six times to extend the deadline for the government to respond to the lawsuits, the Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, wrote in a blog post.

“With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely,” he posted on the blog.

“To followers of technology issues, there are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart,” Smith said. “But today our two companies stand together… We believe we have a clear right under the US Constitution to share more information with the public.”

“…we believe it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email,” Smith said.

He argued that, along with providing numbers of requests, disclosures should provide context regarding what is being sought.

“We believe it’s possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk,” Smith said.

A government that says it needs to keep secret the activities supposedly protecting us is a government that fears democracy, fears an informed public, fears the spirit of the United States Constitution.

Our government has a gag order on banks, on corporations, on service providers – our government has threatened to jail librarians for refusing to cooperate with spying on library patrons. The stink is spreading. Every attempt by the Obama administration to justify their “legalizing” of criminal practices started by Bush and Cheney deserves nothing less than contempt.

The fightback must continue.

30 years of US military attacks on other nations

A look at major U.S. military strikes as ordered by the last five U.S. presidents and the degree of international support behind the actions.

There are pages of our peace-loving nation, politicians and pundits rubber-stamping more imperial wars per year than Caesar ever dreamt of. I’ll limit this post to the list. Click through at the link for more detail.

RONALD REAGAN

—Beirut (1982-83): U.S. troops deployed to Lebanon as part of a three-nation peacekeeping force. Reagan ordered limited airstrikes, with France…

—Grenada (1983): Invasion by an estimated 7,000 U.S. troops and 300 OAS troops…

—Libya (1986): Airstrikes to punish leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime for a Berlin disco explosion…

GEORGE H.W. BUSH

—Panama (1989): Invasion by more than 26,000 troops…

—Iraq (1991): Invasion of Iraq with troops from 33 other countries…

—Somalia (1992): Deployed troops for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid…

BILL CLINTON

—Iraq (1993): Launched cruise missiles into Baghdad…

—Somalia (1993): Increased troop deployment…

—Haiti (1994) Deployed troops for peacekeeping and nation-building…

—Bosnia (1994-96): Launched airstrikes with NATO allies over 18 months…

—Iraq (1996): Launched cruise missiles at targets in southern Iraq…

—Sudan, Afghanistan (1998): Launched cruise missiles at terrorist training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan…

—Iraq (1998): Launched cruise missiles and airstrikes on a number of Baghdad targets…

—Kosovo: (1999): Launched airstrikes and cruise missiles over more than three months…

GEORGE W. BUSH

—Afghanistan (2001): Invaded as part of NATO mission…

—Iraq (2003): Invaded with ‘‘coalition of the willing’’…

BARACK OBAMA

—Libya (2011): Launched cruise missiles and commanded initial international military operation…

—Osama bin Laden (2011): While not an attack on a foreign nation, the raid that killed the al-Qaida leader is considered one of the Obama administration’s top military and intelligence successes…

ALSO NOTED:

Hundreds of deadly drone strikes have been carried out on al-Qaida targets during the Obama and the George W. Bush presidencies. The vast majority of them have been in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen…

Imagine how many people we might kill if we weren’t a peace-loving nation.

Another Grand Canyon discovered beneath Greenland ice sheet

A previously unknown canyon has been discovered in Greenland, hidden beneath the ice. It is at least 750 kilometres long. To put that in perspective, imagine a ten kilometre wide gorge, up to 800 metres deep, running from the Southern coast of England and into Scotland. This is on the same scale as parts of the Grand Canyon.

Jonathan Bamber, who led the research, was originally mapping Greenland’s bedrock, which was previously thought to be relatively flat and smooth. “Unexpectedly, we found an enormous apparent formation,” he said. “We looked at it in more detail, and realised it was a canyon.”

The canyon, which is thought to predate glaciation, has remained hidden beneath two kilometres of ice for more than four million years. It has the characteristics of a meandering river channel, an ancient river system that Bamber thinks hasn’t been significantly modified by ice cover.

It is almost twice the length of the Grand Canyon, half as deep but almost as wide, and certainly the only feature in Greenland this long…

“This really is quite remarkable,” Bamber said. “In an age when you have Google street view covering the entirety of the inhabited world, when virtually every house is mapped. In this context, to discover a geological feature of such scale is astonishing…”

“We think the canyon is an efficient conduit for ice-melt from the glacier. If you want to model glacial movement – something that is ever more crucial due to global warming – then knowing about such topography is very important.”

The discovery shouldn’t affect our forecasts for future sea level in itself, but it does highlights that we still don’t know everything about the surface of our own planet.

Unexpected discoveries always lurk in the back of the mind of any researcher. It surely is a gas when something like this pops into focus and changes from anomalous shadow to a discrete discovery.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg to officiate same-sex wedding

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday when she officiates at the Washington wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.

The gala wedding of Kaiser and economist John Roberts at the performing arts center brings together the nation’s highest court and the capital’s high society and will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.

Such marriages were virtually unheard of a little more than a decade ago but now are legal in the nation’s capital, 13 states and in all or part of 17 other countries. After victories at the Supreme Court earlier this summer, a wave of litigation is challenging bans on same-sex marriages in states where they remain prohibited.

During a recent interview, Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony and said it was only a logical next step.

“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg said…

Earlier this summer, Ginsburg was in the majority in a pair of major gay rights victories at the Supreme Court. The court said the federal government may not refuse to recognize legally married gay couples and reinstated a lower-court ruling that found California’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional…

It is not uncommon for Supreme Court justices to officiate at weddings, most often for former law clerks or close friends or relatives. Ginsburg tied the knot for her son, for instance. Justice Clarence Thomas performed a ceremony for radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Bravo. The triumph of love continues to march across these sometimes United States.

Lawrence Wilkerson – “It seems like the same thing again”

Lawrence Wilkerson, the man who reviewed the intelligence in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous 2003 pre-Iraq War United Nations presentation said Thursday the Obama administration’s buildup for a strike on Syria “seems like the same thing again.”

“So far all I’ve thought is I’m living through the five days at Langley again, with people telling me Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction with absolutely certainty,” Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as Powell’s chief of staff, said in a phone interview, referring to the Obama administration’s public case for action against Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack…

Powell’s team spent five days at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. in 2003, reviewing the evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Then he went ahead with a crucial speech at the U.N. in New York, claiming that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. That assertion was false, and Wilkerson later rued his participation in preparing the speech as “probably the biggest mistake of my life.”

It seems like the same thing again,” Wilkerson said. “People have pointed out to me that this is a Democratic president, and I point out to them that Lyndon Johnson was a Democratic president…”

If you’re too young to recall, LBJ used a phony incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify a wider war against VietNam.

Anonymous administration officials have admitted to reporters, however, that they have no conclusive evidence whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered the attack. One intercepted communication raised the possibility that a lower-ranking officer overstepped his bounds in ordering the attack.

Wilkerson said that he, too, has reviewed seemingly conclusive CIA and National Security Agency intelligence intercepts…in 2003, and pointed blame at Hussein.

“Intercepts themselves, unless they’re just incredibly specific and backed up … by some other form of intelligence that independently corroborates them, can be very misleading,” Wilkerson said.

I see no need to waste time psychologizing over Obama’s potential decisions. Whatever the reason or rationale, the United States has a history of acting more like Caesar than the dictator of Imperial Roman ever did. We find it easier to obliterate whole communities in the name of collateral damage than Hitler’s Condors in the Spanish Civil War. Guilt or innocence has nothing to do with how our government wields military power.

It is power for its own sake. It is one nation assuming the right to be judge and jury – and capital punishment is the only choice.

How long, how long…?

How long until we see the United States Congress stand up to a call for war? For whatever reason, for whichever of the two phony political parties we are allowed?

How long until we see our government walk away from the role of cop of the world?

How long before we turn away from the narrow sophistry that only offers us decisions concluded by two groups of self-seeking political hacks – meeting in a marble boardroom wallpapered with our dollars, answering only to corporate lobbyists?

How long?

I hold no brief that believes the Brits have the market cornered on honesty. But, their elected representatives are more easily replaced, more varied in ideology and principle than the pimps populating Congress have been in decades.

Singing financial adviser defrauds clients of more than $5 million

Dearman is the one who doesn’t get up and dance

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused a former Oklahoma investment adviser and wedding singer of raising at least $4.7 million through various illegal schemes with the help of a Bartlesville businesswoman. The pair then used investors’ money on gambling and other personal expenses, as well as to pay off earlier investors, according to a court filing.

The SEC filed a civil suit against Larry J. Dearman Sr., 40, of Tulsa, and his friend and business associate Marya Gray, 50, of Bartlesville. The Bartlesville-based wireless service provider Bartnet Wireless and northwest Oklahoma convenience store chain Quench Bud’s also were named as defendants in the lawsuit, as well as shell company The Property Shoppe Inc….

The lawsuit claims Dearman fraudulently obtained millions of dollars from more than 30 clients. Dearman promised his clients he would invest their money into various businesses owned or controlled by Gray, the lawsuit says. Instead, Dearman and Gray used investors’ money to gamble and for personal expenses as well as to pay off other investors in a Ponzi-type scheme, the SEC claims.

Dearman stole an additional $700,000 from some of his clients “through various ruses,” the SEC said in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tulsa.

“Dearman and Gray were able to lure these clients in part because many of them had known him and his family since childhood, thought of him as an active member of their church and knew him as a popular local wedding singer,” the SEC claims…

Gray gambled away more than $1.1 million over the course of the scheme, which lasted from 2008 to 2012, the SEC claims in its lawsuit.

Kind of gives you a clearer picture of the gullible voters in Oklahoma who keep on re-electing sleazy conservatives like Tom Coburn and James Inhofe. Quote the King James bible enough, blather about bringing free money to Oklahoma – blame everything bad on furriners and the federal government – you got it made.

Never turn back…


Click to enlarge“Sadly not enough has changed and in some regards things are much worse”

Edith Lee-Payne of Detroit holds a famous photo of her attending the March on Washington in 1963 – the day of her birthday. She attended this year’s 50th Anniversary.

Antarctic moss and microbes reveal unprecedented change

exeter researchers
Click to enlarge

“Whilst moss and amoebae may not be the first organisms that come to mind when considering Antarctica, they are dominant components of the year-round terrestrial ecosystem in the small ice-free zones during an austral summer,” says Jessica Royles of the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Cambridge. “We know from meteorological measurements and from the interpretation of signals preserved within ice and sediment cores that the climate of the Antarctic Peninsula has undergone substantial and rapid change. Our evidence, from the southernmost known moss bank, exploits an unusual biological archive and shows that the flora and fauna of the Antarctic Peninsula are very sensitive and have in the past responded, and continue to respond, to these changes in climate.”

The researchers looked to the Antarctic Peninsula because it is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth; annual temperatures there have increased by up to 0.56°C per decade since the 1950s. There they found a moss bank that has been slowly growing at the top surface and accumulating peat material since it first established in about 1860. By analyzing core samples of that moss bank, Royles, Matthew Amesbury of the University of Exeter, and their colleagues were able to characterize the growth and activity of the moss and microbes over time.

The researchers show that growth rates and microbial productivity have risen rapidly since the 1960s — in a manner that is unprecedented in the last 150 years — consistent with climate change, although recently it may have stalled. They add that future changes in terrestrial biota are likely to track projected temperature increases closely, and to fundamentally change the ecology and appearance of the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The synchronicity of the changes between the various independent measurements made us confident that we were observing a real, important effect, consistent with projections made for polar regions,” Amesbury says. “The rapid increase in the amoebal growth rate showed that higher temperatures, and perhaps altered precipitation, have had an impact on an entire microbial community.”

Bravo!

This ain’t the easiest research in the world. That never stopped scientists from pursuing a course of investigation anymore than the ideological blather of ignorant and superstitious idjits.