Another corrupt politician goes up the river

Former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), the Staten Islander best known for threatening on-camera to “break” a reporter “in half—like a boy,” has been sentenced by a federal judge to eight months in prison for tax evasion.

The sentencing, by US District Judge Pamela Chen, comes seven months after Grimm pleaded guilty to his role in filing a false tax return. Grimm had been indicted in April 2014 on 20 counts related to accounting practices at Healthalicious, a Manhattan restaurant he owned before his time in Congress. The restaurant’s co-owner, Bennett Orfaly, has previously been accused of having ties to a convicted Gambino family mobster.

Despite his indictment, last year, Grimm ran for reelection to his third term in Congress—and won. It was not until December 30—seven days after entering his guilty plea—that he announced his intentions to resign his seat.

Before Grimm was the target of an investigation by the FBI, he served for two decades as one of its agents. It was during this time that Grimm reportedly pulled a gun in a Queens nightclub, and, after a bouncer ejected him, stormed the nightclub with another FBI agent and members of the NYPD. “I’m a fucking F.B.I. agent,” Grimm reportedly said. “Ain’t nobody gonna threaten me.”

Sad commentary on the more criminal side of today’s Republican constituency. Just as the loony, creationist side of Christianity slanders well-meaning religious folk – just as Confederate flag-toting racists with teabags dangling from their AR-15s slander anyone who used to join the NRA to support their classes in hunting safety – conservatism as a political class is now deeply defined as the last bastion of fear and hatred. Better Dead Than Red is back and voting for more of the same.

First victims of the A-Bomb were American — UPDATED

The explosion was seen nearly 200 miles away, the shock waves felt practically 100 miles away, and 70 years later, America’s first atomic bomb test – code-named Trinity – still reverberates in the tiny towns and secluded hamlets that ring the edges of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico…

New Mexicans and their families who lived downwind of the Trinity fallout zone say the U.S. government should be held accountable for poor health, high rates of cancer, and early death like downwinders at other nuclear sites in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. However, with little to no medical proof definitively linking their illnesses and the blast, a rapidly aging and dying population, and little support from Congress, the hope for compensation, or even an apology, may take another generation to materialize.

Their story began…70 years ago. On the early morning of July 16, 1945, there was a bright flash and massive explosion at the Alamagordo Air Base at White Sands. The first test of an atomic weapon had occurred. However, officials were quick to cover up what had happened. The Associated Press reported that “a remotely located ammunition magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosives and pyrotechnics exploded.”

The AP also reported that “weather conditions affecting the content of the gas shells exploded by the blast may make it desirable for the Army to temporarily evacuate a few civilians from their homes.”

According to a Centers for Disease Control report, those civilians were never warned nor evacuated. Many locals reported “a white substance like flour” that fell for days. The night after the test, it rained; the water was collected in cisterns by locals and consumed later on.

“There have been plenty of people who’ve said: ‘why didn’t you move away?’” said Tina Cordova, a cofounder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. “We didn’t know, first of all, we were at risk of anything. And by the time we knew were all so overexposed.”

Cordova is recovering from thyroid cancer and says her father passed away nearly two years ago after a long cancer battle that ended with heavy facial surgery…

Cordova has been conducting surveys and compiling the medical histories of every downwinder she can find. The file is huge…

Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990, uranium mill workers, miners, transporters, and on-site workers in states across the West are all eligible for compensation. In Nevada, Utah and Arizona, downwinders and on-site workers at nuclear test sites — including those working at White Sands Missile Range — are also eligible. However, New Mexican downwinders are not covered. They hope New Mexico Senator Tom Udall will make it right.

New Mexicans have been left out for a long time,” Udall said. “We hope there will be a situation where justice comes to this case and people be compensated and they will get that apology from the United States of America.”

Sometimes I have to wonder why our government, especially military types, beancounters in Congress, take pride in being such miserable, low-life human beings. We are the wealthiest nation on Earth. Our government will drop billions on some of the most useless, backwards hardware, politics, agencies and other foolishness. But, when it comes it compensating ordinary folks who “probably” had their lives ruined by criminal behavior by official decisions – perish the thought we give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Contemptible behavior. Disgusting. Another example to the rest of the world how little this powerful nation actually cares about our own citizens – much less the population of workers and farmers, citizens of this planet outside our borders.

Most folks in New Mexico who study history beyond batting averages for the Albuquerque Isotopes know this story. RTFA for tales of just a few of the individuals and families destroyed by the side effects of that test.

UPDATE: NM Senator Tom Udall is battling with Senate blivets and backwards chickenhawks to aid Tularosa downwinders.

Brand new, double-layered pipeline ruptured causing giant spill


Click to enlargeTerry Reith/ICI Radio-Canada

A pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, spilled about 32,000 barrels of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand and water, Wednesday afternoon — marking one of the largest spills in Alberta history.

According to reports, the spill covered as much as 16,000 square meters – almost 4 acres…

Ron Bailey, Nexen vice president of Canadian operations, said the company “sincerely apologized for the impact this has caused.” He confirmed the double-layered pipeline is a part of Nexen’s new system and that the line’s emergency detection system failed to alert officials to the breach, which was discovered during a visual inspection.

At this time, the company claims to have the leak under control…

The spill comes at a particularly bad time for Canada’s premiers, who are poised to sign an agreement three years in the making to fast-track the approval process for new oil sands pipelines while weakening commitments to fight climate change, according to Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace…

Canada’s premiers aren’t alone in seeking to remove barriers to new pipeline construction in order to get more tar sands flowing out of Alberta. It recently came to light that Wisconsin officials worked with an attorney and lobbyist for Canadian pipeline company Enbridge to draft a controversial provision placed into the 2015 Wisconsin Budget that would fast-track expansion of the company’s Line 61 pipeline, what’s been called a “Keystone XL clone.”

Nexen and Alberta regulators say it’s too soon to determine what caused the pipeline failure Wednesday, or how long it was leaking before it was shut off. The emulsion has so far not reached any bodies of water, according to reports, but did flow into muskeg or bog.

Welcome to what passes for safety and quality control in oilfields. Pretty much all oilfield production. All that really counts in the minds of fossil fuel producers is getting the stuff out of the ground and into energy production.

Burn it up. Put the money in the bank!

Thanks, SmartAlix

Security breach exposes spy software used around the world


One of Hacking Team’s happy spy customers

A dramatic breach at an Italian surveillance company has laid bare the details of government cyberattacks worldwide, putting intelligence chiefs in the hot seat from Cyprus to South Korea. The massive leak has already led to one spymaster’s resignation and pulled back the curtain on espionage in the iPhone age.

More than 1 million emails released online in the wake of the July 5 breach show that the Milan-based company Hacking Team sold its spy software to the FBI and to Russian intelligence. It also worked with authoritarian governments in the Middle East and pitched to police departments in the American suburbs. It even tried to sell to the Vatican — all while devising a malicious Bible app to infect religiously minded targets

Hacking Team’s spyware was used by a total of 97 intelligence or investigative agencies in 35 countries, according to South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byoung Ho, who briefed lawmakers Tuesday after it became clear his organization used the technology…

Bills from Hacking Team to Sudan’s intelligence service and a Russian arms conglomerate have critics — including a European parliamentarian — asking whether the company flouted international sanctions. A client list that includes Uzbekistan, Egypt and Azerbaijan has reinforced worries from groups such as Privacy International that the spyware is being used to silence dissidents. And ‘we-love-your-stuff’ emails from sheriffs, police and prosecutors across the United States suggest local law enforcement is eager to give the program a test drive.

Hacking Team’s spyware is called Remote Control System and is delivered to targets through a mix of malicious links, poisoned documents and pornography, the emails show. Booby-trapped programs could be tailored to targets of any persuasion. Some messages appear to show Hacking Team working on apps named “Quran” and “DailyBible.”

Once secretly installed, the spyware acts as a track-anything surveillance tool…

Mexico is a particularly aggressive user of the technology, according to a leaked client list. In Ecuador, evidence that Hacking Team’s spyware was used by the country’s SENAIN spy agency has caused an uproar.

Senior police and intelligence figures have been quizzed about Hacking Team by lawmakers in Italy and the Czech Republic. Revelations that the Cyprus Intelligence Service has been secretly using the spyware prompted the resignation of the agency’s boss, Andreas Pentaras, over the weekend.

What you will see and hear from our “fair and balanced” TV talking heads is more of the fear and trembling about foreign powers hacking our government, corporate barons and maybe your grocery list. You will not be reminded of everyone from our federal government – down through governors and state police – to your friendly neighborhood sheriff snooping through your email and cellphone calls.

That would be way too courageous.