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Fri, 27 Jan 2023
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As Bradley Manning trial begins, press predictably misses the point

Bradley Manning
© Alex Wong/Getty Images
Bradley Manning

Well, the Bradley Manning trial has begun, and for the most part, the government couldn't have scripted the headlines any better.

In the now-defunct Starz series Boss, there's a reporter character named "Sam Miller" played by actor Troy Garity who complains about lazy reporters who just blindly eat whatever storylines are fed to them by people in power.

He called those sorts of stories Chumpbait. If the story is too easy, if you're doing a piece on a sensitive topic and factoids are not only reaching you freely, but publishing them is somehow not meeting much opposition from people up on high, then you're probably eating Chumpbait.

There's an obvious Chumpbait angle in the Bradley Manning story, and most of the mainstream press reports went with it. You can usually tell if you're running a Chumpbait piece if you find yourself writing the same article as 10,000 other hacks.

The CNN headline read as follows: "Hero or Traitor? Bradley Manning's Trial to Start Monday." NBC went with "Contrasting Portraits of Bradley Manning as Court-Martial Opens."

Time
magazine's Denver Nicks took this original approach in their "think" piece on Manning, "Bradley Manning and our Real Secrecy Problem":
Is he a traitor or a hero? This is the question surrounding Bradley Manning, the army private currently being court-martialed at Fort Meade for aiding the enemy by wrongfully causing defense information to published on the Internet.
The Nicks thesis turned out to be one chosen by a lot of editorialists at the Manning trial, who have decided that the "real story" in the Manning case is what this incident showed about our lax security procedures, our lax of good due diligence vetting the folks we put in charge of our vital information.

Binoculars

Government surveillance of American citizens goes far beyond what you are being told

Surveillance
© The End of the American Dream

Every single day, the U.S. government gathers and stores more than a billion phone calls, emails, text messages, photographs and Internet searches. Just about every form of electronic communication that you can possibly imagine is being harvested. In fact, it has been reported that NSA personnel gather 2.1 million gigabytes of data every hour.

This is being done even though it is a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution. Sadly, most Americans do not even know what the Fourth Amendment actually says. For those that do not know, the Fourth Amendment says the following: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Unfortunately, our leaders have totally abandoned the Constitution.

They seem to believe that they have the right to look through our electronic communications any time they want and that we should not complain about it. As you will see below, workers at the NSA have even eavesdropped on very intimate conversations between soldiers serving in Iraq and their female loved ones back home. What kind of sick person would do such a thing?

Sadly, the truth is that we have allowed ourselves to become a "Big Brother society", and we are an utter disgrace to the millions of brave men and women who have died to defend our freedoms.

Eye 1

NSA taps in to internet giants' systems to mine user data, secret files reveal

prism program
© Unknown
A slide depicting the top-secret PRISM program
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows them to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation - classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies - which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims "collection directly from the servers" of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: "Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data."

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of PRISM or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a programme. "If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

Bizarro Earth

Philadelphia is closing 23 schools while building a $400 million prison

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© William Thomas Cain / Getty Images / AFP
The Philadelphia School District's (PSD) state-run School Reform Commission voted in March to close 23 public schools, nearly 10 percent of the city's total, in a move they say is necessary to plug a $304 million budget deficit.

Last month that same Commission followed up with a "doomsday" education budget (more like austerity on steroids) that if left unchanged will result in 3,000 layoffs and the elimination of clubs, counselors, librarians, assistant principals, secretaries, athletics, art, music and more. The Philadelphia Inquirer added that "Class sizes would be larger, and schools would have no aides to help manage them or support staff to monitor lunchrooms and playgrounds." Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. called the cuts catastrophic and is requesting money from the state, but local media speculates that the GOP-controlled state legislature is unlikely to pitch in.

Considering that the House just passed a corporate tax break that if approved by the Senate will cost the state an estimated $600 million to $800 million a year, the local media is probably right.

No Money for Schools, But Plenty for Prisons!

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and his Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel are spending $400 million to build a brand new prison in Philadelphia, which the Associated Press referred to as "the second-most-expensive facility ever built by the commonwealth, exceeded only by the Pennsylvania Convention Center." It's actually two prisons called State Correctional Institutions Phoenix I and II.

Corbett and Wetzel say the new prison will replace the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, which was originally built to house Philadelphia prisoners, who currently make up 25 percent of Pennsylvania prisoners despite accounting for just one-with of the state's population.

Eye 1

NSA is collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily under top secret order issued in April and it lasts into July

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Double bind: Part of the order mandated that Verizon not tell its' customer's about the record transfer nor could they admit that the order existed
The National Security Agency is collecting telephone records for millions of Americans without informing the individuals involved, it was revealed late on Wednesday night.

A copy of a secret order to obtain phone records for all Verizon customers was obtained, showing that the NSA was monitoring all incoming and outgoing calls made on that network.

The backlash will not stop with the millions of Americans who are Verizon customers, as there is no way of knowing if other phone companies have had the same clandestine order placed upon them as well.

The Guardian obtained a copy of the order that forces the phone company to hand over records of phone calls starting in late April for all of its customers on a 'ongoing, daily basis' without giving specific parameters.

Because of the lack of distinction, it means that the phone records are not just being collected for suspected terrorists, but the company's entire consumer base.

The only restriction set forth in the order seems to be the duration of the exchange. It was approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and it denoted that it would only hold water until July 19, so just shy of three months.

Verizon is believed to have nearly 150million customers across the U.S., all of whom could potentially be affected by the controversial court order.

Stormtrooper

The Untouchables: New York Senate passes bill making 'annoying' police a crime

NYPD
© AFP Photo / Monika Graff
Members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) scuffle with protestors as they guard the entrance to a Citibank as Occupy Wall Street demonstrators march along 42nd Street to protest various businesses during May Day on May 1, 2012 in New York.
The New York State Senate passed a controversial bill on Wednesday that aims to classify 'aggravated harassment of a police officer' as a crime, but will it give the authorities the green light for strong-arm tactics if passed?
"
Sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo, Bill S.2402 would make it a felony to "harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty."

"Our system of laws is established to protect the foundations of our society," Senator Griffo said. "Police officers who risk their lives every day in our cities and on our highways deserve every possible protection, and those who treat them with disrespect, harass them and create situations that can lead to injuries deserve to pay a price for their actions."

Griffo said that New York police require extra safeguards because "too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer.... We need to make it very clear that when a police officer is performing his duty, every citizen needs to comply and that refusal to comply carries a penalty."

The bill, which will now move to the State Assembly, would make it a crime for a person to make any type of physical action aimed at intimidating a police officer. Harassment of a police officer would be recognized as a Class E Felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

Not surprisingly, the bill has won accolades from police.

Stormtrooper

Out of Control: Deaf woman calls 911 as she's beaten black and blue by Washington police officers 'because she didn't hear their orders'

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Battered: Megan Graham, 36, suffered black and blue bruises to her face and sustained a concussion following an altercation with a police officer
A Washington woman suffering from mental and hearing disabilities was left with severe bruises on her face after she claims an officer punched over and over her because she could not understand his orders. Megan Graham, 36, of Federal Way, dialed 911 while being arrested last Monday to complain about police brutality after being pulled over by an officer and hit in the face.

Things quickly spiraled out of control during Graham's run-in with police officers, whom the 36-year-old disabled woman had accused of hitting her several times in the face while attempting to restrain her.

The Federal Way Police Department, however, insists that it was Graham who was violent and disorderly. The 36-year-old woman now faces a felony assault on an officer charge. She is set to be arraigned June 10. It all started at around 7.15pm last Monday when Graham pulled into the parking lot of Forest Cove Apartments, where her friend lives. Moments after the woman stopped the car, a police cruiser drove up behind her with its lights flashing.

Graham was under the impression that the officer spotted her using her cell phone while driving. Police records indicate that Officer Justin Antholt approached Graham and asked for her license and registration. Graham showed the officer her license, along with an expired insurance card.

Whistle

Ink Blot Tests and 'actors' at the Boston bombings

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Advocates of 'actors' at the Boston bombings tend to use a highly subjective approach to analysis of the evidence, similar to the way Rorschach inkblot tests are used to analyze a person's personality and emotional functioning.
I recently wrote an article explaining the reasons why I think there were no 'actors' used in place of victims at the Boston Marathon bombings. In that article I made reference to other websites and researchers who had taken up the 'actors' meme and run with it. In this article I'll be looking more closely at the 'evidence' that has been presented in support of the 'actors' theory. Before I begin though, I should explain how and why my approach differs from the approach that the 'actors' advocates have taken.

When trying to decide whether a particular conspiracy theory, or particular angle on a conspiracy theory, is likely to be true or false, my approach is to first look at the plausibility of the theory in question. In terms of the Boston bombings, the idea that 'actors' took the place of real victims is the theory. When I first was forced to consider this theory, it took me about 3 minutes of rumination before it began to make no logical sense whatsoever. I more or less spelled out the lack of logic in my previous article, but it can be summed up as: why would a US intel agency choose to use actor victims at a bombing that is designed to terrify the US population into believing that evil terrorists are out to kill them when they could very easily just plant a bomb and let the bomb do what bombs do best, kill and maim people?

Why would a US intel agency choose to do this when, if you think about it, it massively complicates the planning of such an operation and greatly increases the chances of the official story falling apart? To date, no one has offered a sensible answer to this question.

Some bloggers have claimed that the use of 'crisis actors' at the Boston bombings is an attempt to further blur the lines between what is real and what is false, between fantasy and reality, and usher us all into a 'reality TV' world.

That's a reasonable enough idea, but hasn't that fantasy world already been achieved, to a great extent, with the long list of US/Israeli/British false flag "Muslim terror attacks" over the past 15 years? Isn't the yawning chasm between what most people believe about "Muslim terror attacks", and the likely truth behind them, wide enough that it constitutes an already massive break with reality?

What do the PTB have to gain, vis a vis the public, by adding the 'actor victims' element into the mix. If the average person in the street is none the wiser about the presence of 'actors', isn't that functionally the same, from a psy-ops point of view, as if victims were real people and not actors? If people believe the 'actors' to be real victims, what's the point in having actors rather than real victims? Maybe the answer is that US intel agencies have suddenly grown a conscience and an aversion to killing people, hence their use of 'actors'? But the last time I checked, those high-level intel and government types were still a bunch of conscienceless, blood-thirsty, murderous bastards who delight in the suffering of others.

So basically, that's where I was coming from when I began to look at the 'actors' theory. I could find no logical reason for the inclusion of 'actors' and many reasons why they should not be used. In addition, I found the alleged evidence for 'actors' at Boston sorely lacking in that it relied on conjecture, supposition and a good measure of imagination, all to make the evidence fit what appears to be a pre-established theory. Basically, all of the 'actors' theorists seem to have used an "ink blot test" approach to their analysis of the photographic evidence from the Boston bombings.

Note, it wasn't that I was averse to the idea of the Boston bombings being staged by some element of US intel agencies - far from it. I was more or less fully convinced (based on the hard evidence and historical context) that the Boston bombings were a dyed-in-the-wool, false flag "homegrown terrorism attack", designed, like all others, to justify US imperial warmongering and to terrorize the American people into trusting their authorities and looking to them for protection.

USA

Pentagon has no idea what 108,000 private contractors are doing or spending in Afghanistan

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© AP Photo/Gervasio Sanchez
The number of contractors working in Afghanistan now vastly outnumbers American troops stationed there, according to a Congressional Research Service report. CRS, along with the Government Accountability Office, also determined that the Pentagon is unable to properly document the work these contractors are doing. And the information DOD is receiving is often unreliable and inaccurate.

According to CRS, there are now 108,000 private workers in Afghanistan, a workforce that dwarfs the 65,700 American troops still stationed there. That means there are 1.6 contractors for every American soldier in Afghanistan. This is an increase from last month, when The Fiscal Times reported that there were 1.4 contractors per American soldier.

Given the size of the private forces, it's not surprising that CRS found that in recent years, the Defense Department spent more than any other agency to support contractor work.

"Over the last six fiscal years, DOD obligations for contracts performed in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation were approximately $160 billion and exceeded total contract obligations of any other U.S. federal agency," CRS found.

V

Spanish civil war monument must be pulled down, Spain's right-wing court rules

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Spain's government wants to remove this memorial in order to appease the far-right
Judges say memorial to 35,000 international volunteers who fought Franco breaks planning laws after rightwing outrage

Less than two years after a monument was raised in Madrid to the 35,000 volunteers who joined the International Brigades to fight the fascist-backed forces of General Francisco Franco during the Spanish civil war, a court has ordered that it be pulled down.

The monument to the volunteers from 53 countries, paid for by public subscription and placed in the gardens of the Complutense University, where many died defending Madrid and Spanish democracy against Franco's rebels, has enraged some rightwingers.

A case brought by the lawyer Miguel García has now succeeded where political protest failed. Judges have decided the university broke planning laws and must remove the monument.

Topped by the brigades' three-pointed star, the monument bears the words of Dolores Ibárruri, the communist firebrand better known as La Pasionaria: "You are history; you are legend; you are an heroic example of solidarity and of the universality of democracy."

David Lomon, then the last surviving British-based veteran, travelled to Madrid for the inauguration in October 2011 and asked those present to remember the up to 10,000 volunteers who died.

Comment: Cause that's exactly what an extremely unpopular government needs to be doing with protesters amassing on Parliament's doorstep and 50% youth unemployment. The sheer stupidity of psychopaths in power!