Gag orders lifted – reveals FBI forced Twitter to share user info illegally

Twitter announced Friday it received two national security requests, one each in 2015 and 2016, asking for users’ account data without informing the affected users. The company could not reveal this earlier since it was bound by gag orders until now that restricted it from openly speaking about the matter.

The requests were received in the form of national security letters…

Each letter requests a special kind of data called electronic communication transaction records, including email header data and browsing history.

FBI requests go far beyond the limitations set by a 2008 Justice Department legal memo, which said such orders could only be restricted to phone billing records

NSLs are government orders used for obtaining communication data available to service providers. They are usually accompanied by a gag order restricting the provider from informing the user whose data is obtained. The legal tool has been available since the 1970s, but has been put into regular usage for varied purposes since the passing of the U.S.A. Patriot Act…

The use of NSLs to obtain data is being opposed by major tech companies including Twitter which is fighting its own lawsuit against the government…

Yup. Last two years of the Obama Administration.

Nothing new about Liberal Democrats supporting the same crap Big Brother ideology as scumbags in the Republican Party. You ain’t about to see Donald Trump start supporting constitutional freedoms, privacy rights or net neutrality.

We’re posting this because while some Democrats are working sincerely to bring the supposedly liberal half of the TweedleDeeDum 2-Party system in line with the real needs of working folks – they will need concerned individuals to twist their arms, remind them to walk away from Cold Warrior lies and rationales. Stop snooping on ordinary citizens.

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Huge study refutes the federal government’s crap marijuana laws

❝ In the federal drug classification scheme, marijuana is classed at the very top. It is considered to be a Schedule I substance — a category reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

For years, however, scientists have done study after study showing that this classification is misguided. On Thursday, the National Academy of Sciences put one more nail in the coffin with one of the most thorough reviews of the research to date: a massive, 396-page report on 10,000 research studies on marijuana, assessing therapeutic benefits and risk factors.

❝ The review, conducted by a panel of experts led by Harvard public health researcher Marie McCormack, is broken out into 100 different conclusions — many of which are just assessments of the current state of the research…

It is particularly significant, however, that the review states quite clearly that there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” that marijuana is effective for the treatment of chronic pain, as a tonic for nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and in treating spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients…

❝ Marijuana has also been floated as a potential treatment for a whole host of other disorders — such as easing insomnia relating to painful syndromes, increasing appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, decreasing severe anxiety, and combating the effects of PTSD. Although there’s moderate to limited evidence supporting marijuana’s effectiveness, the report found, the research here isn’t yet conclusive.

The review also looked at the health risks associated with marijuana use, dispelling some popular arguments against it. For example, according to the review of the research, smoking marijuana is not associated with the same cancer risks as tobacco — there was no evidence that marijuana use was associated with lung, head, and neck cancers. Tobacco, unlike marijuana, is recreationally legal nationwide.

❝ That doesn’t mean, however, that marijuana is completely absolved of health risks…“It just reinforces what our policy makers should already know,” said Taylor West. “This is a product with significantly lower risk factors than other things that we regulate and consume, like alcohol.”

Congress has the power to change these absurd and outdated laws. The White House could help progress along. Obama didn’t do much about that. I expect even less from Trump.

The big “but” lies with the grassroots organizing every Democrat from here to the Halls of Congress is talking about. If push is going to come to shove, if science is to return to stable, reasoned responsibility in the development of political platforms, then Democrats and Independents seeking my vote – and many, many others – had better get up-to-date on results from legal, recreational sales of marijuana, taxed for the general benefit of the voting public.

This ain’t the biggest deal in real reform needed in this ethically-backwards nation; but, it counts as one with liberty, justice and fiscal responsibility as recommendations.

Seriously?

Just got to viewing this song, this lovely set, this morning. Good friends have been suggesting it to me since it was released. Just got to it.

It’s the time of the year allowed by Congressional bureaucrats for geezers like me – and younger, even early, retirees like my wife – to sort out healthcare coverage. Since our system is still wholly in the hands of the greediest capitalists on American soil [outside of their cousins in Big Pharma], the Barons of Insurance, we have only a choice of how much we are screwed.

It takes a lot of time to sort.

But, this video is lovely. It says everything most educated/self-educated people feel – in a more polite fashion than I am capable of. I’m old enough that I just don’t care much anymore about being polite to folks who are only trying to choose between ignorance and stupidity.

Clean energy costs continue to fall

The Department of Energy just released Revolution Now, an annual update on its progress in accelerating clean energy. Specifically, it focuses on advances in five technologies: wind power, utility-scale solar power, distributed solar power, electric vehicles, and LEDs…

revnow2016-total

Since Obama entered office, these key technologies have dropped in cost between 41 and 94 percent.

Innovation in clean technology has come as a result of a concerted and diverse policy effort, from advanced research to tax credits, loans, pollution regulations, prizes and awards, and performance standards.

The bulk of the policy effort has come in blue states and at the federal executive level. After 2010, the GOP Congress refused Obama any legislative help, on anything…

Reasonable people would like to see these cost savings continue to improve. Depending on how folks vote – and that means all the way down-ticket to Congress-critters – good sense may prevail. Or not.

Army has reached $1 billion in energy-saving projects


Click to enlargeUS Army Corps of Engineers

In less than five years, the Army has engaged in 127 energy-saving projects with the private sector that now exceed $1 billion in investments, announced Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning…

The president challenged all federal agencies in December 2011 to partner with companies to save energy. It was called the Energy Savings and Performance-Based Contracting Investments Initiative and the president wanted all of government to execute $4 billion in projects by the end of 2016.

The Army’s projects alone represent 33 percent of all the federal government’s current contributions to meeting the president’s goal…

On our installations, and wherever we maintain and train our force, the Army is focused on finding the sweet spot between energy efficiency and energy security,” he said. The 127 projects have been undertaken at 52 installations.

“This is a case where public policy has worked well,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

These contracts are important to the Army, she said. Federal agencies like the Army can leverage their utility budgets and take the steps essential to enhancing resiliency, achieving cost savings, and improving operations and maintenance, with no upfront costs to the government, she explained.

The costs of the projects are paid back over time as the Army realizes savings from the improvements…

RTFA for beaucoup details. Especially pleasant – and surprising – to see a chunk of the Pentagon come through with savings of any kind projected over time.

Obama said he’d let science – not ideology – dictate policy — [except for the so-called War on Drugs]

On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Agency formally refused to reconsider its classification of marijuana, which is officially regulated as a dangerous substance with no medical value, alongside drugs like heroin and LSD. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence and changes in public opinion, the federal government has refused to budge on a 46-year-old stance borne out of the War on Drugs.

According to the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 61 percent of Americans support legalization. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws reports that eight out of ten Americans support medical marijuana legalization…

As public opinion moves in favor of legalizing pot, the DEA is clinging to the past — with little scientific evidence to back up their position.

Research has shown that pot has a multitude of medical benefits. And by reaffirming its position, the government has set back patients who relied on it for treatment for years.

Thursday’s announcement means pot will remain a Schedule I drug, defined as having “no medical value and a high potential for abuse.” That means the federal government believes marijuana is just as harmful as heroin and less harmful than cocaine. It also bars scientists from receiving federal funding and forces them to jump through hoops to conduct their research. Insurance companies are banned from covering marijuana treatment, so patients have to rely on the black market for treatment.

As of 2013, 78 percent of physicians in the world support the use of medical marijuana. In May, Ohio became the 25th U.S. state to legalize it. Even Congressional Republicans who have long opposed pot legalization recently vocalized support for more medical marijuana research.

And Republicans are more afraid of science than they are of democracy, non-white voters and women. More or less.

If Obama persists in saying he prefers science over ideology, how about opting for backbone over election year-opportunism.

White House staff plays key role in deadly drone strikes — and faces no Congressional oversight


Click to enlargeNorthrop Grumman

The White House staff for national security, exempt from review by Congress, plays a substantial role in the process for killing suspected terrorists, according to a newly released document on drone strikes.

The 2013 document, known informally as the “playbook” for Barack Obama’s signature counterterrorism operations, was released on Saturday by the justice department as the result of court requests by the American Civil Liberties Union. The playbook provides the closest look to date at the bureaucratic machinery of global killing that Obama will pass on to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

The document designates the National Security Council staff as a body of review over “all operational plans” for either killing or capturing terrorist subjects. Once representatives of various cabinet agencies and departments meet to discuss a specific plan, NSC attorneys provide legal input.

…While the NSC staff plays a role in nominating people for inclusion on the so-called “kill list”, it neither makes the nomination nor involves itself in carrying out a strike or raid.

Such plans include the length of time permissible for killing or capturing people in a designated place, the “strike and surveillance” assets to be used, the specific counter-terrorism objectives to be achieved, and a “near certainty” that civilians will neither be killed nor, for non-lethal action, injured while capturing a target. The NSC staff convenes meetings across agencies for nominating any named “high-value target” to the “kill list”, and passes on those considered validly marked for death to a meeting of cabinet deputies. It also receives written assessments of the results of each strike…

The US justice department released a public version of the three-year-old document…after the ACLU persuaded a federal judge in February to decide against the Obama administration’s argument for total secrecy…

Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU attorney who spearheaded the lawsuit for the playbook’s disclosure, noted the power of the NSC…“The Obama administration notably has taken the position that the NSC is not an agency and is therefore beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.”

The NSC now has about 400 employees. None are approved by the Senate. They do not testify before Congress. Their records are automagically presumed to be privileged.

Privacy and civil liberty watchdog confronts right-wing limits in Congress

A leading Democrat in Congress is pushing back against an effort to impose new constraints on a civil liberties watchdog agency that investigates the nation’s security programs.

The agency, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, is a bipartisan five-member panel that Congress created after a recommendation by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its members and staff have security clearances and a mandate to investigate government practices that affect individual rights…

Since the independent board began fully operating three years ago, it has produced a high-profile report about the once-secret National Security Agency program that collected bulk records of Americans’ phone calls. It called the program ineffective and illegal and said it should be shut down. Congress later did so by enacting the U.S.A. Freedom Act.

The oversight board also issued a report that brought to light new details about how the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the FISA Amendments Act worked. It is currently scrutinizing programs that operate under Executive Order 12333, which sets rules for espionage activities that Congress has left unregulated by statute.

In the letter, obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, described the provisions as “completely unacceptable” and “misguided.” He deplored what he portrayed as an emerging pattern of efforts by the intelligence panels to undermine the oversight board’s independence and authority. He also said any proposed changes to the board should go through the Judiciary Committee.

That proposal comes at a time when the Obama administration has highlighted the privacy board’s role in negotiations over a recently completed trans-Atlantic agreement for handling private data amid concern in Europe about using internet and technology companies based in America. Those concerns came after leaks by the former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance programs.

As usual, Senator Leahy is more polite to his most reactionary colleagues than truth presumes necessary. The usual cabal of right-wing creeps who care less about individual liberty than a controlling power of the free speech and thought, privacy and progress of American citizens. Regardless of the number of lies and contradictions they author.

RTFA for any details you might want. It ain’t news. It does require as much vigilance as ever.