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Attention

FEMA planning 'Zombie UFO Crash' disaster exercise

UFO Crash Exercise
© Opposing Views
David Lory VanDerBeek, who is running for Governor in Nevada in 2014, recently posted a screenshot (above) from the FEMA website of a supposed Zombie UFO Crash Disaster full-scale exercise drill planned for April 27th, 2013, from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

According to his website, the exercise was planned in Moscow, Idaho involving 100 participants. However, after VanDerBeek posted his article about the bizarre exercise, he claims that FEMA pulled the page down and replaced it with a statement that the information is now "only available to coalition members."
Wine n Glass

Drunk diplomats ruin UN budget negotiations

un
© AFP Photo / Alexander Klein
A US ambassador to the UN has scolded his colleagues for excessive drinking during budget negotiations. With stocks of booze in the negotiation room, the talks have been slow to progress, prompting one diplomat to call them a "circus".

Frustrated with his drunk and unproductive colleagues, US ambassador for management and reform Joseph Torsella on Monday addressed the issue.

"There has always been a good and responsible tradition of a bit of alcohol improving a negotiation, but we're not talking about a delegate having a nip at the bar," Torsella told his UN colleagues, describing a recent occasion when one diplomat got sick from alcohol poisoning during the negotiations.

"While my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by some recent past practices, let's save the champagne for toasting the successful end of the session, and do some credit to the Fifth Committee's reputation in the process," he added.

The Fifth Committee, which is the assembly's budget body, each year holds the record for the longest negotiations on spending. Lasting for many days and nights on end, the committee often tries to finish up its annual spending negotiations before the annual winter holidays in December. The current budget negotiations are likewise expected to take many long days and nights as delegates impatiently try to finish up before the Easter holidays.

While some pass the time getting drunk, others are required to pick up the slack of their inebriated counterparts.
Dollars

Banks uncover additional wrongful foreclosures on military members

The Service
Military Men
© frankieleon
members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is intended, in part, to help protect active-duty members of the armed forces from having their homes taken away by foreclosure, but as we've seen, this hasn't stopped banks from ignoring the law and taking those houses anyway. Now comes a report that banks have recently uncovered hundreds of additional wrongful foreclosures on the homes of servicemembers.

According to DealBook, the government ordered the nation's largest mortgage servicers to review their records to determine the extent to which these institutions were disregarding SCRA regulations.

These investigations turned up a total of around 700 wrongful foreclosures between 2009 and 2010. DealBook's sources say that JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo each found around 200 bad foreclosures in their records, while Citi uncovered around 100.

These are all in addition to those already discovered and alleged in lawsuits against Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citi.
Smoking

Will smoking keep you from getting hired?

Cigarettes
© Stock.XCHNG
Starting April 1, 2013, health care provider Orlando Health will implement a tobacco-free hiring rule that requires testing of all job applicants for nicotine use. And no, it is not an April Fool's prank.

The company will rescind job offers to applicants who test positive for cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, though the workers can reapply in 180 days. Orlando Health will study applicants' levels of cotinine to determine if they are smokers or if they have simply been exposed to secondhand smoke.

Orlando Health says the policy will not apply to volunteers, students or contractors offered a job before April 1 or existing employees being grandfathered in under a tobacco-free policy. The health care provider operates Orlando Regional Medical Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, the Howard Phillips Centers, Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, South Seminole Hospital and Health Central Hospital.

The policy will also ban workers from using tobacco products during their shifts, even if they leave the office, and will prevent tobacco use in company vehicles and on company grounds. Additionally, the move will encourage current tobacco users at the company to quit, providing tools and incentives such as access to classes, programs and monetary support for quitting.
Vader

Obama renews offer to cut social safety net in big budget deal

President Barack Obama
© Getty Images
President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama raised anew the issue of cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, a White House official said on Sunday, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.

Signaling he might be ready to explore a compromise to end automatic spending cuts that began late Friday, Obama mentioned reforming these entitlement programs in calls with lawmakers from both parties on Saturday afternoon.

"He's reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform and Republicans who realize that if we had that type of entitlement reform, they'd be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit," White House senior economic official Gene Sperling said on Sunday on the CNN program "State of the Union."

Republicans have long argued that the only way to tame budget deficits over the long haul is by slowing the cost of sprawling social safety net programs.

These include the Social Security retirement program and Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly, disabled and poor that are becoming more expensive as a large segment of the U.S. population hits retirement age.

While Obama also has proposed some savings on these programs, he has insisted that significant new tax revenues be part of the deficit-reduction formula, an idea Republicans so far reject.
Vader

Holder: Yep, Obama could kill Americans on U.S. soil

drone
© Christopher Francescani/ Reuters
A Draganflyer X6, six-rotor remote controlled helicopter
President Barack Obama has the legal authority to unleash deadly force - such as drone strikes - against Americans on U.S. soil without first putting them on trial, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter released Tuesday.

But Holder, writing to Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, underlined that Obama "has no intention" of targeting his fellow citizens with unmanned aerial vehicles and would do so only if facing "an extraordinary circumstance."

Paul had asked the Obama administration on Feb. 20 whether the president "has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and without trial." On Tuesday, he denounced Holder's response as "frightening" and "an affront to the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans."

"The U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so," Holder assured Paul in the March 4, 2013 letter. The attorney general also underlined that "we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat."

Holder added: "The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront."

But "it is possible, I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States," Holder said. "For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack" like Pearl Harbor or 9/11.
Bad Guys

Fallout from 'Untouchables' documentary: Another Wall Street whistleblower gets reamed

michael winston
© FRONTLINE | The Untouchables
Michael Winston
A great many people around the county were rightfully shocked and horrified by the recent excellent and hard-hitting PBS documentary, The Untouchables, which looked at the problem of high-ranking Wall Street crooks going unpunished in the wake of the financial crisis. The PBS piece certainly rattled some cages, particularly in Washington, in a way that few media efforts succeed in doing. (Scroll to the end of this post to watch the full documentary.)

Now, two very interesting and upsetting footnotes to that groundbreaking documentary have emerged in the last weeks.

The first involves one of the people interviewed for the story, a former high-ranking executive from Countrywide financial who turned whistleblower named Michael Winston. You can see Michael's segment of The Untouchables at around the 4:20 mark of the piece. The story Winston told during the documentary is essentially an eyewitness account of the beginning of the financial crisis.
Extinguisher

Israel's Palestinian-only buses 'torched'

© Reuters
Two buses torched a day after Israel began running separate bus lines for Palestinian workers and Jewish settlers.

Unknown assailants have set fire to two buses which Israel began operating as Palestinians-only lines to be used by Palestinian labourers travelling between the West Bank and Israel.

"Two buses were apparently set on fire but we are looking into all possibilities," police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP news agency on Tuesday, saying the incident took place in the Arab-Israeli town of Kfar Qassem which lies very close to the Green Line.

Police sources quoted by army radio said the buses had been torched as a protest against the new transportation system which came into effect on Monday.

The incident took place just hours after Israel began running separate bus lines for Palestinian workers and Jewish settlers, in a move which was bluntly denounced by an Israeli rights group as "segregation" and "simple racism."

But Israel's transport ministry denied the charge, saying Palestinians with a permit to work in Israel were allowed to travel "on all public transport lines."
Radar

FAA investigating report of drone spotted near New York City

© Todd Plitt, for USA TODAY
The air traffic control tower at New York's JFK International Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a commercial pilot's report that he spotted a small unmanned aircraft at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Alitalia pilot told air traffic controllers that he saw the unmanned aircraft as he approached the runway at Kennedy at about 1:15 p.m. Monday. The pilot said the aircraft was about 4 to 5 miles southeast of the airport and was flying at an altitude of about 1,500 feet.
Document

Britain and U.S. asked to release secret torture reports

© Sarah Lee for the Guardian
Ben Emmerson: failure to release intelligence reports shows seeming unwillingness by UK and US to face up to international crimes.
Allies accused by human rights lawyer of covering up the truth on kidnapping and torture of terrorist suspects

A UN human rights advocate has called on Britain and the US to release confidential reports into the countries' involvement in the kidnapping and torture of terrorism suspects, accusing them of "years of official denials, sophistry and prevarication" to cover up the truth.

In a speech to the UN human rights council in Geneva introducing a report on the issue, Ben Emmerson, a British barrister who is the UN's special rapporteur on protecting human rights within efforts to combat terrorism, demanded that Britain publish the interim findings of a report by a retired judge, Sir Peter Gibson, into the involvement of MI5 and MI6 in the removal and mistreatment of terrorist suspects.

In a response delivered at the council, British officials said the government was "looking carefully at the contents of the report by the Gibson inquiry on its preparatory work, with a view to publishing as much of it as possible". There was no word on when this might happen.

Emmerson also asked the US to release a similar report by the Senate's select committee on intelligence into the CIA's secret detention and interrogation programme.
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