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Dollars

Over 15,000 federal employees made at least $200K in 2013

© AP
More than 15,000 federal employees are made at least $200,000 in 2013, according to a new database compiled by FedSmith.com.

Those 15,000 employees represent just one percent of all federal workers.

National Journal reports:
"The vast majority of the top 1 percent of feds were doctors at the Veterans Affairs Department. The highest earning employee was a Veterans Health Administration doctor in Pittsburgh, who took in just more than $400,000 last year. More than 1,200 employees made more than $300,000.

Other agencies that require a highly specialized workforce paid several employees at least $200,000, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Financial Housing Finance Agency, and the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Bad Guys

Kidnapping, torture, assassination, and perjury are no longer crimes in Washington

© Reuters / Jim Young
How the mighty have fallen. Once known as "Obama's favorite general," James Cartwright will soon don a prison uniform and, thanks to a plea deal, spend 13 months behind bars. Involved in setting up the earliest military cyberforce inside U.S. Strategic Command, which he led from 2004 to 2007, Cartwright also played a role in launching the first cyberwar in history -- the release of the Stuxnet virus against Iran's nuclear program. A Justice Department investigation found that, in 2012, he leaked information on the development of that virus to David Sanger of the New York Times. The result: a front-page piece revealing its existence, and so the American cyber-campaign against Iran, to the American public. It was considered a serious breach of national security. On Thursday, the retired four-star general stood in front of a U.S. district judge who told him that his "criminal act" was "a very serious one" and had been "committed by a national security expert who lost his moral compass." It was a remarkable ending for a man who nearly reached the heights of Pentagon power, was almost appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and had the president's ear.
Horse

The Geneva agreement on Ukraine - Kiev asked to prove that they actually are in control

The talks in Geneva resulted in an agreement that is in favor of all that is good and opposed to all that is bad. That's the basic gist of it; but what does that mean? Let's translate this memorandum from the language of high diplomacy into the language of the Ukrainian crisis.

Kiev's government representative was invited to participate in his role as a potted plant - because there is nothing to discuss with him. On this all the participants were in complete agreement. That is, there is no government in Kiev, in the sense of an entity that exercises sovereign authority over the territory of Ukraine. This is understood equally well in Moscow, in Brussels and even in Washington. Thus, the actual talks were between USA+EU and Russia.

Russia's position is that Kiev doesn't have a government, it has a God-only-knows-what. It makes no difference what they are called or who they are. They have no power and they control nothing. They do not control the economy, or energy, or the army, or the police, or even their supporters who are running around waving machine guns.

The position of USA+EU: "That's not true! There's a perfectly nice government in Kiev, we made it ourselves, and we hold discussions and even sign agreements with them."
Bad Guys

US aligned regimes in the Middle East are preparing for war

U.S. Army soldiers
© Reuters/Andrew Burton
U.S. Army soldiers
Every year the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) releases a study on military spending around the world. This year's report contains many interesting details.

Some things in the report presented by the United Nations Commission on disarmament on April 14 have not changed at all. As has been the case for decades, the United States remains the largest military spender in the world, despite the much heralded "defense cuts." The US, NATO, and "non-NATO US allies" account for over 64 percent of all military spending in the world.

Preparations for war in the Middle East?

The report, however, pointed out that US aligned regimes in the Middle East are rapidly increasing their military spending, and purchasing modern, high-tech weapons. The list of US aligned states in the Middle East is a collection of autocratic, repressive kingdoms and emirates. These countries are not "democratic" by any stretch. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and other states are absolute monarchies. People are flogged, stoned, and beheaded routinely. Torture goes on without apology, and no elections take place. "Free speech" is nearly non-existent, as people are locked up, arbitrarily killed, and otherwise repressed for speaking out.

Those who consume US TV and print media are constantly bombarded with "journalism" demonizing the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Syrian Arab Republic, while the crimes of this lengthy list of US backed Middle Eastern states, which make not even the slightest pretense of being democratic, are ignored. The US props up these autocratic states with billions of dollars in foreign aid, and Wall Street oil corporations make trillions in profits through control of their natural resources. When the population of these states has risen up and demanded democratic and economic rights, these regimes use their stockpiles of US made weapons to gun down protesters, burn entire neighborhoods, and enforce their rule with terror and violence. The violent response to recent uprisings in Bahrain, the jailing of poets in Qatar, and the continued US coddling of their monarchs shows the complete hypocrisy of any "human rights" rhetoric from Washington D.C.

However, in the last year these US puppet regimes in the Middle East have increasingly embraced the business of war. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now the fourth largest military spender in the entire world. It is stockpiling modern missiles, tanks, and other high tech mechanisms of destruction and death. Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are also increasing their military build-up. These regimes are currently funding, training, and arming the insurgent groups in Syria, where over 100,000 people have already died in what was once a peaceful country. The millions of refugees in Syria are desperately fleeing to other parts of the region, as "rebels" burn their homes, kidnap their children, and carry out public beheadings. Money and weapons flowing from US-backed autocratic regimes is keeping the four-year civil war going, with more people dying each day.

The rise in military spending in the Middle East points toward plans for a wider war. The turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 that resulted in the removal of US puppet Hosni Mubarak, and the failure to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic after years of civil war, point toward a real weakness in US influence in the Middle East. When Obama announced he intended to rain cruise missiles on Syria, he was forced to back down. As the US aligned autocratic states in the gulf build up their military power, it looks as if some kind of desperate drive to regain lost influence may be in the works.
Headphones

Putin reveals NATO chief untrustworthy

© NBC
Vladimir Putin says that current NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen secretly recorded and leaked a private conversation with him, when he was the head of the Danish government.

"During his time as Prime Minister he once requested an unscheduled meeting with me, and we met and talked. As it turned out, he had a voice recorder on him, and surreptitiously recorded our conversation, and leaked it to the press," the Russian president recounted during his annual TV hotline.

"I couldn't believe my ears and eyes - what nonsense!"

The Russian president didn't specify when the meeting took place, but Rasmussen was his country's Prime Minister between 2001 and 2009.
Ambulance

East Ukraine 'Easter truce' broken: Five deaths reported in overnight checkpoint raid


Five people have been killed in a gunfight in Slavyansk, a city in eastern Ukraine held by anti-government protesters. The fatalities include three protesters and two attackers, who are believed to be from the Right Sector paramilitary.

The deaths came after a night attack on a protester checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. Four cars drove by the checkpoint and opened fire at the local residents manning it, killing two people and seriously injuring several others.

"They approached with their high beam headlamps on. Our man went to them and asked not to blind us, show IDs and open the trunk for inspection. Then an assault rifle got stuck out of the window and he was gunned down," an eyewitness, Vladimir, told RT.

He added some of the people trying to flee the attackers were shot in their backs. One gunshot victim died later in hospital from a head wound, local medics confirmed. Two others are undergoing treatment.
Dollar

IRS audits less than 1 percent of large partnerships

Tax Analysts, the nonprofit provider of federal, state, and international tax news and analysis, today welcomed a report from the Government Accountability Office confirming that the IRS audits less than 1 percent of large partnerships - a major problem that Tax Analysts first reported in 2012.

On April 7 Tax Analysts released a video and follow-up article examining how some businesses are effectively audit proof. The animated video, which is approximately three minutes long, explains how the IRS audits businesses, who the agency chooses to audit, and why some kinds of large partnerships are essentially audit proof.

The article, written by contributing editor Amy S. Elliott, says that widely held partnerships may comprise thousands of direct partners, many of whom might themselves be partnerships. Because the IRS has a limited capacity to issue the partners bills for additional taxes due, an audit is unlikely. Widely held partnerships, such as many large private equity firms, oil and gas partnerships, and hedge funds, pose an audit challenge for the IRS. While auditing corporations is similar to auditing individuals, auditing partnerships is much more difficult.

"In many cases, before issuing the partner-level notices, the IRS has to manually pull the returns of tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of partners - a process officials have generally decided isn't worth the time or expense to bother with or improve upon," Elliott writes. "Believing their businesses are essentially audit proof, some partners don't worry that the IRS might question the hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of items claimed on their returns."
Megaphone

Pro-Russian separatists demand that the leaders of the Kiev uprising must quit their government offices.

pro-Russian soldier
© Olya Engalycheva | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A pro-Russian soldier stands guard outside an administrative building in Slavyansk, Ukraine, on April 16, 2014.
A day after an international deal in Geneva to defuse the East-West crisis in Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists vowed not to end their occupation of public buildings and Washington threatened further sanctions on Moscow if the stalemate continued.

Leaders of gunmen who have taken over city halls and other sites in and around Donetsk this month in pursuit of demands for a Crimea-style referendum on union with Russia, rejected the agreement struck in Geneva by Ukraine, Russia, the United States and European Union and demanded on Friday that the leaders of the Kiev uprising must first quit their own government offices.

Moscow renewed its insistence that it has no control over the "little green men" who, as before Russia annexed Crimea last month, appeared in combat gear and with automatic weapons to seize public buildings - a denial that Western allies of those who overthrew the pro-Russian president in Kiev do not accept.

The White House renewed President Barack Obama's demands that the Kremlin use what Washington believes is its influence over the separatists to get them to vacate the premises. It warned of heavier economic sanctions than those already imposed over Crimea if Moscow failed to uphold the Geneva deal - or if it moved to send troops massed on the border into Ukraine.
Megaphone

Ukraine rebels call for Russian troops after deadly clash

ukrain_video_link_1
© MAX VETROV / AFP

Pro-Moscow separatists controlling the east Ukrainian town of Slavyansk called for Russian peacekeepers to deploy and announced a curfew after a gun battle nearby killed up to five people.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the rebel leader in the town, said he had appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin "to study the possibility of sending peacekeepers to defend the population against the fascists" -- the term Moscow and the separatists use to describe Ukraine's new government and its supporters.

He also announced a curfew for the town of 130,000 people, during which it would be forbidden to be out in the streets. "The curfew comes into effect today -- from midnight (2100 GMT) to 6:00 am (0300 GMT)," he said. A car with a megaphone drove around Slavyansk's streets repeating the order.

The steps came hours after a deadly gun battle at a road block in the village of Bilbasivka, 18 kilometres (11 miles) west of Slavyansk.

Russian state television reported on Sunday that five people were killed when gunmen attacked the checkpoint; three of the dead were with the pro-Russian separatists who control Slaviansk and the other two were among the attackers.

Russia's foreign ministry said on Sunday it was "outraged" by the attack, which it blamed on the Right Sector, a Kiev-based ultra-nationalist group that was at the vanguard of street protests that forced the February ousting of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Black Magic

21st anniversary of Waco: Who shot first?

© Susan Weems /AP
Flames engulf the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 20, 1993. A 51-day standoff at the compound ended in a fire and the deaths of about 80 sect members, including two dozen children.
Today is the anniversary of the 1993 incineration of the Branch Davidean church at Waco Texas. The siege began when the BATF decided to raid the church, which supported itself financially with a gun repair and reselling business, to garner some favorable publicity in the wake of several BATF disasters involving raids at the wrong address and the killing of innocent Americans. But Waco turned into another disaster as the BATF invited the media along on the operation.

One of the media was a friend of David Koresh and called him to let him know the raid was on the way. When the BATf arrived, Koresh opened the front door intending to invite the BATF to inspect the dismantled weapons in their workshop (all the functioning weapons were out at a gun show that day). But as soon as Koresh opened the door he was shot in the groin by a BATF sniper and the situation deteriorated from there with BATF accidentally shooting each other (and claiming it was the Branch Davideans).
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