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Eye 1

NSA and CIA have been tapping all communication in Berlin's government district for at least 10 years: Der Spiegel

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Obama pretending he isn't already familiar with the content of Merkel's speech.
Move comes as Der Spiegel reports that Angela Merkel's phone might have been monitored for more than 10 years

New claims emerged last night over the extent that US intelligence agencies have been monitoring the mobile phone of Angela Merkel. The allegations were made after German secret service officials were already preparing to travel to Washington to seek explanations into the alleged surveillance of its chancellor.

A report in Der Spiegel said Merkel's mobile number had been listed by the NSA's Special Collection Service (SCS) since 2002 and may have been monitored for more than 10 years. It was still on the list - marked as "GE Chancellor Merkel" - weeks before President Barack Obama visited Berlin in June.

In an SCS document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a "not legally registered spying branch" in the US embassy in Berlin, the exposure of which would lead to "grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government".

Cell Phone

NSA whistleblower Russell Tice says anyone and everyone's communications were being monitored, even Obama's in 2004

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Courtesy of the Boiling Frog podcast, we have this clip of NSA whistleblower Russell Tice discussing the extent of the NSA recording all forms of electronic communications. Tice was the source for the New York Times's 2005 story on the Bush administration's illegal wiretaps.

Here, he describes who is begin targeted, and the results are frightening. Judges, Congresspersons (especially those involved in national security), journalists, and even prospective candidates like 2004 US senatorial candidate from Illinois, Barack Obama.


See the full interview and more here

Stormtrooper

Brutal cop who drenched University of California Occupy protesters with pepper-spray awarded $40k compensation 'for anxiety and stress'

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Assaulting peaceful protesters with pepper spray can be awfully stressful, and John Pike certainly knows it better than most. Now a judge has awarded $38,000 to the former University of California cop filmed discharging his weapon on Occupy demonstrators.


Dollar

The other energy scandal - power giants use loophole to cut their own tax bills

© The Independent, UK

As Britons buckle under the pressure of soaring energy bills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal the energy companies that are saving millions by exploiting a legal tax loophole.

Scotia Gas, 50 per cent of which is owned by SSE, the energy giant which is about to put its prices up by more than 8 per cent, has avoided an estimated £72.5m in tax. UK Power Networks and Electricity North West, responsible for running large sections of Britain's electricity network, have both saved more than £30m.

More than 30 UK companies have cut taxable profits by racking up interest on debt from their owners. In doing so, this minimises - in some cases wipes out - their UK corporation tax bill. As most of the owners are based abroad, 20 per cent of the interest payments would usually have to be sent straight to HMRC, minimising the overall saving. But as the money is lent via offshore stock exchanges that qualify for a regulatory loophole called the "quoted Eurobond exemption", no tax is withheld.

The revealing extent of the avoidance prompted Labour leader Ed Miliband to say yesterday: "Since David Cameron has been Prime Minister, energy bills have gone up by an average of £300 because he has refused to stand up to big energy companies. On top of failing to address the broken energy market, David Cameron is failing to stamp out tax avoidance. We have a prime minister unwilling to take the side of hard-working people. Unwilling to act against the energy companies, unwilling to clamp down on tax avoidance and close down tax loopholes."

The revelations are part of a joint investigation with Corporate Watch, a not-for-profit research group.

USA

Michelle Obama's Princeton classmate is executive at company that built Obamacare website

© The Daily Caller
First Lady Michelle Obama's Princeton classmate is a top executive at the company that earned the contract to build the failed Obamacare website.

Toni Townes-Whitley, Princeton class of '85, is senior vice president at CGI Federal, which earned the no-bid contract to build the $678 million Obamacare enrollment website at Healthcare.gov. CGI Federal is the U.S. arm of a Canadian company.

Townes-Whitley and her Princeton classmate Michelle Obama are both members of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni.

Toni Townes '85 is a onetime policy analyst with the General Accounting Office and previously served in the Peace Corps in Gabon, West Africa. Her decision to return to work, as an African-American woman, after six years of raising kids was applauded by a Princeton alumni publication in 1998

Footprints

Who killed Michael Hastings?

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Early in the morning on June 18, a brand new Mercedes C250 coupe was driving through the Melrose intersection on Highland Avenue in Hollywood when suddenly, out of nowhere, it sped up. According to an eye-witness, the car accelerated rapidly, bounced several times then fishtailed out of control before it slammed into a palm tree and burst into flames, ejecting its engine some 200 feet away.

A witness, Jose Rubalcalva, whose house stood adjacent to the crash, told Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks news network that no one could approach the burning car because it kept exploding. In a simulated full-frontal crash of a 2013 C250 coupe, the car doesn't explode on impact nor does it launch its engine 200 feet.

In fact, said Nael Issa, a Mercedes Benz dealer in Long Beach, "The car has a crumble zone, so when it crashes it goes in like an accordion. And in some cases the engine drops down, so it doesn't go into you."

The driver in the fatal crash was Michael Hastings, a 33-year-old crack investigative reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, whose June 2010 article, "The Runaway General," exposed the behind-the-scenes failure of top U.S. General Stanley McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan - and, even more damagingly, revealed McChrystal's mocking attitude toward the Obama administration, which ultimately led to the general's resignation.

Four months after Hastings's so-called accident, and despite scant coverage in the mainstream media, new facts and evidence continue to emerge raising serious unanswered questions about whether the journalist was assassinated, the breadth of unconventional cyber-techniques that may have been used, and who might have been responsible.

Eye 1

Big Brother is watching: Partnership between Facebook and police could make planning protests impossible

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Reuters / Kyle Carter
A partnership between police departments and social media sites discussed at a convention in Philadelphia this week could allow law enforcement to keep anything deemed criminal off the Internet - and even stop people from organizing protests.

A high-ranking official from the Chicago Police Department told attendees at a law enforcement conference on Monday that his agency has been working with a security chief at Facebook to block certain users from the site "if it is determined they have posted what is deemed criminal content," reports Kenneth Lipp, an independent journalist who attended the lecture.

Lipp reported throughout the week from the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, and now says that a speaker during one of the presentations suggested that a relationship exists between law enforcement and social media that that could be considered a form of censorship.

According to Lipp, the unnamed CPD officer said specifically that his agency was working with Facebook to block users' by their individual account, IP address or device, such as a cell phone or computer.


Megaphone

Congressional oversight of the NSA is a joke. I should know, I'm in Congress

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© JASON REED/REUTERS
US National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander (L), Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Attorney General James Cole (R) are sworn in to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, 26 September 2013.
I've learned far more about government spying on citizens from the media than I have from official intelligence briefings

In the 1970s, Congressman Otis Pike of New York chaired a special congressional committee to investigate abuses by the American so-called "intelligence community" - the spies. After the investigation, Pike commented:
It took this investigation to convince me that I had always been told lies, to make me realize that I was tired of being told lies.
I'm tired of the spies telling lies, too.

Pike's investigation initiated one of the first congressional oversight debates for the vast and hidden collective of espionage agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA). Before the Pike Commission, Congress was kept in the dark about them - a tactic designed to thwart congressional deterrence of the sometimes illegal and often shocking activities carried out by the "intelligence community". Today, we are seeing a repeat of this professional voyeurism by our nation's spies, on an unprecedented and pervasive scale.

Recently, the US House of Representatives voted on an amendment - offered by Representatives Justin Amash and John Conyers - that would have curbed the NSA's omnipresent and inescapable tactics. Despite furious lobbying by the intelligence industrial complex and its allies, and four hours of frantic and overwrought briefings by the NSA's General Keith Alexander, 205 of 422 Representatives voted for the amendment.

Wall Street

An ad man mentions damage to America's brand and corporate media wakes up

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Cover of the German Magazine, Der Spiegel, November 5, 2012
When Martin Sorrell speaks about America's brand, important people listen. Sorrell is CEO of the monster advertising and marketing company, WPP, a brand unremarkable to the average worker around the world. Sorrell took recognized advertising brands like J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, and Grey, bundled them with mega public relations firms like Hill & Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller to sit atop the image makers of the new world order.

WPP - the parent brand - stands for Wire and Plastics Products Plc, a name which likely 9 out of 10 people around the world could not identify. But don't question the brand masters of the universe.

Earlier this month, Sorrell was quoted in the U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper on the potential for a shutdown of the U.S. government. Sorrell said, "If you were running a company like this, and stopped paying your workers, you'd get fired." Sorrell said shutdown "is almost like going into Chapter 11 or bankruptcy. The Americans I talk to are frustrated and embarrassed," adding that the "impact on Brand America is not good at all."

Red Flag

Obama left increasingly isolated as anger builds among key U.S. allies

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© Rex Features
Obama met Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday to reassure him over anxieties around US drone attacks.
Merkel the latest to rebuke Washington over NSA spying while US relationships in the Middle East are also unravelling

International anger over US government surveillance has combined with a backlash against its current Middle East policy to leave President Obama increasingly isolated from many of his key foreign allies, according to diplomats in Washington.

The furious call that German chancellor Angela Merkel made to the White House on Wednesday to ask if her phone had been tapped was the latest in a string of diplomatic rebukes by allies including France, Brazil and Mexico, all of which have distanced themselves from the US following revelations of spying by the National Security Agency.

But the collapse in trust of the US among its European and South American partners has been matched by an equally rapid deterioration in its relationships with key allies in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia this week joined Israel, Jordan and United Arab Emirates in signalling a shift in its relations with the US over its unhappiness at a perceived policy of rapprochement toward Iran and Syria.

Though the issues are largely unrelated, they have led to a flurry of diplomatic activity from Washington, which is anxious to avoid a more permanent rift in the network of alliances that has been central to its foreign policy since the second world war.