Puppet MastersS


United States the target of a massive cyber-espionage effort: report

© Shutterstock
The US intelligence community has concluded that America is the target of a massive cyber-espionage campaign that is threatening its competitiveness, The Washington Post reported.

Citing unnamed officials, the newspaper said the conclusion is contained in the National Intelligence Estimate, a classified report that represents the consensus view of the US intelligence community.

The report identifies China as the country most aggressively seeking to penetrate the computer systems of US businesses and institutions to gain access to data that could be used for economic gain, the paper said.

Comment: Maybe if the United States wasn't breaking international law by invading and occupying multiple sovereign countries there wouldn't be countries that engage in these alleged cyber-espionage crimes. There's also the possibility that this report will be used as an excuse to further tighten controls in the U.S. when in reality there is very little espionage actually occurring.

Snakes in Suits

Drone strikes against our own citizens: Should Americans care?

On UP with Chris Hayes on Sunday night, the panel discussed the recent white paper on drone strikes obtained by NBC News and how concerned we should be regarding distinctions between citizens and non-citizens.

Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU's National Security Project, said that with regard to U.S. citizens, there are supposed limits of "imminence," as defined by a recent memo released by NBC News. However, the administration's definition of imminence seemed at odds with how most people define the term.

"Those terms are redefined in such a way that they are vague, elastic, and robbed of their plain meaning," Shamsi said.

Heart - Black

Los Angeles Archdiocese used cemetery funds to pay for abuse settlements

© Shutterstock
In order to help pay for a $660 million settlement for the victims of molestation by Catholic priests, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles moved $115 million from the fund for cemetery maintenance, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The money in the cemetery fund comes from the families of those buried by the church or kept in church mausoleums - families who "have contributed to a dedicated account for the perpetual care of graves, crypts and grounds since the 1890s," reported the LAT.

Those families were not notified that 88 percent of the fund was being used for the settlements, and the church did not mention the funding source in public statements.


Why we should all worry about being tracked online

© Dominic Lipinski/PA'By extracting location details from Facebook, check-ins and photos it builds it builds a picture of where someone’s been, who they’ve been there with, and where they might go next.
'Riot' software developed to monitor people on social networks is as sinister as it sounds. We need legal safeguards, and fast

Separating paranoia from healthy caution in the 21st century is only getting harder, as it gets easier and easier for governments and corporations to track our online behaviour. The latest development, revealed by the Guardian, is that defence giant Raytheon has created software capable of tracking people based on information posted to social networks.

Its capabilities are impressively creepy: by extracting location information from Facebook, check-ins, and even latitude and longitude details from photographs in which targets are tagged (did you know cameras stored that?), it builds a picture of where someone's been, who they've been there with, and where they might go next.

This software, named Riot, is the latest in a long line of products offered to track people online, whether through spyware on their machines or by generating fake online personas who befriend dissidents. In the past, tracking individuals was difficult and costly, and so kept well targeted. Today, it's so easy that mass-surveillance is feasible - and so-called "big data" makes it seem tempting and innocuous.

Snakes in Suits

DOJ kill list memo forces many Dems out of the closet as overtly unprincipled hacks

© Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/ReutersFormer Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm speaks at the 2012 Democratic convention. About the DOJ white paper, she admitted this week: "if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms" because "we trust the president".
Last week's controversy over Obama's assassination program forced into light many ignored truths that were long obvious

This past week has been a strangely clarifying political moment. It was caused by two related events: the leak of the Justice Department's "white paper" justifying Obama's claimed power to execute Americans without charges, followed by John Brennan's alarming confirmation hearing (as Charles Pierce wrote: "the man whom the administration has put up to head the CIA would not say whether or not the president of the United States has the power to order the extrajudicial killing of a United States citizen within the borders of the United States"). I describe last week's process as "strange" because, for some reason, those events caused large numbers of people for the first time to recognize, accept and begin to confront truths that have long been readily apparent.

Illustrating this odd phenomenon was a much-discussed New York Times article on Sunday by Peter Baker which explained that these events "underscored the degree to which Mr. Obama has embraced some of Mr. Bush's approach to counterterrorism, right down to a secret legal memo authorizing presidential action unfettered by outside forces." It began this way:
"If President Obama tuned in to the past week's bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself.

"Four years into his tenure, the onetime critic of President George W. Bush finds himself cast as a present-day Mr. Bush, justifying the muscular application of force in the defense of the nation while detractors complain that he has sacrificed the country's core values in the name of security."


Weariness, not serious health problems, causing Pope Benedict to step down: Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI
© Gregorio Borgia/Associated PressPope Benedict XVI celebrates the Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on April 1, 2012.
When he became pope at age 78, Benedict XVI was already the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years. He's now 85, and in recent years he has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences.

The pope now travels to the altar in St. Peter's Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the 100-metre walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane. Late last year, people who were spending time with the pontiff emerged saying they found him weak and too tired to engage with what they were saying.

The Vatican stressed on Monday that no specific medical condition prompted the Pope's decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. Still, the Pope said his advanced age means he no longer has the necessary mental and physical strength to lead the world's more than one billion Roman Catholics.

That the Pope is tired would be a perfectly normal diagnosis for an 85-year-old pope, even someone with no known serious health problems and a still-agile mind.


Pope Benedict XVI resigns due to age and declining health

© APPope Benedict XVI: the pontiff admitted: 'I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited' to the role.'
Pontiff, 85, who has arthritis, says he will step down on 28 February after nearly eight years as head of Catholic church

Pope Benedict XVI is to step down as head of the Catholic church at the end of this month, the Vatican has announced.

The move, which came without warning, will take place on 28 February and leave the papacy vacant until a successor is chosen.

The pope announced his decision in Latin on Monday morning during a meeting of cardinals. He informed them of "a decision of great importance for the life of the church".

Comment: A pope has not resigned since the Middle Ages, so this announcement looks to be about more than just declining health.

Mr. Potato

Ahmadinejad: 'I'm ready for direct talks with U.S. if pressure stops'

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
© Agence France-Presse/Behrouz MehriIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square (Freedom Square) to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 10, 2013
Iran's president has said he is ready for directs talks with the US if the West stops pressuring his country. His comments directly contradict the words of the Supreme leader of Iran who rejected the US proposal of direct negotiations.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his statement at a rally to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"You pull away the gun from the face of the Iranian nation, I myself will enter the talks with you," he said.

His statement is in stark contrast to the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran, who has the final say on all key decisions, who said earlier this week that talking to the US would not solve any problems.

"Some naïve people like the idea of negotiating with America, however, negotiations will not solve the problems," said Khamenei, who then accused the US of "holding a gun against Iran and saying you want to talk".


Feds kill thousands of fish removing abandoned oil and gas rigs

Mobile, Alabama - A federal mandate to remove old, abandoned oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico is blowing up a lot more than just the rigs.

Undercover video obtained by Local 15 shows thousands of pounds of dead fish, mostly red snapper, floating to the surface after one of the controversial demolitions in the Gulf.

"Good Lord," marine scientist Dr. Bob Shipp said, when Local 15 showed him the video. "As a scientist, I think it's abominable."

Shipp said the demolitions are frequent, sometimes three a week in the Gulf, but are seldom video-taped. Shipp also sits on the Gulf Fisheries Management Council, and has been a strong opponent of the demolitions.

"It's a double whammy," Shipp said, "Not only are we killing a lot of snapper, but we're also destroying their habitat."

The old rigs are an eye-sore, but under the surface, they've developed into artificial reefs with rich coral habitats. On some of the older rigs, those habitats have grown over the course of 30 to 40 years.


Los Angeles authorities to offer $1m reward after failure of Christopher Dorner manhunt

© Photograph: Jae C. Hong/APSan Bernardino County Sheriff's officers search a home for former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner in Big Bear Lake, California
Rogue ex-police officer still at large in southern California after bungling LAPD shoot at innocent members of the public

Authorities in Los Angeles are expected to offer a $1m reward for information about the rogue ex-police officer who is suspected of killing three people, after a massive manhunt failed to catch him.

City officials, law enforcement groups and private donors were due to announce the reward on Sunday as the trail for Christopher Dorner in the mountains of Big Bear went cold, leaving police across southern California tense and fearful.

Dorner, 33, a former navy reservist and trained marksman, has declared war on law enforcement officers and their families, in revenge for his firing from the force. His rampage and the LAPD's blundering response - shooting and wounding people mistaken for the fugitive - has transfixed the US and turned Dorner, in some quarters, into a rebel folk hero.

In a surprise announcement on Saturday, police chief Charlie Beck ordered a review of the disciplinary case that led to Dorner's dismissal and promised to hear him out if he surrendered.