Puppet MastersS


Surprised? Has USGS been co-opted in radiation debate?

Has the USGS Been Co-opted?

Known for its objective and scientifically rigorous research, the USGS has been pulled into the battle between environmentalists and the oil and gas industry. One skirmish in the larger battle involves the radioactive gas radon in natural gas, and the potential of radon entering consumers' homes through kitchen stoves. When stove burners are turned on, radon, a gas that does not burn, enters a home or apartment. This potential hazard has appeared in the New York City press (The Villager, "A burning issue about pipeline: Will gas pack radon?", October 11, 2012) and energized battles against the Spectra pipeline from Jersey City into New York under the Hudson River. The pipeline would bring natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania and New York State into New York City.

In response to a scientific article I authored calculating the possible radon concentrations at the wellhead (Marcellus Radon - Ethics) that has been picked up by the anti-fracking movement, the USGS sought to measure the actual radon concentrations at the wellhead. Preliminary data for two wells allegedly down to the Marcellus shale formation and other wells in Pennsylvania were published by the USGS in September 2012 ("Radon-222 Content of Natural Gas Samples from Upper and Middle Devonian Sandstone and Shale Reservoirs in Pennsylvania: Preliminary Data," Rowan, E.L. and Kraemer, T.F., USGS Open-File Report Series 2012-1159.)


Deliberate Security Failure? British firm secured Benghazi consulate contract with little experience

compound in Benghazi
© AFP/Getty Images
A vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi
A small British firm based in south Wales had secured a contract to provide security for American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi despite having only a few months experience in the country.

Sources have told the Daily Telegraph that just five unarmed locally hired Libyans were placed on duty at the compound on eight-hour shifts under a deal that fell outside the State Department's global security contracting system.

Blue Mountain, the Camarthen firm that won a $387,000 (£241,000) one year contract from the US State Department to protect the compound in May, sent just one British employee, recruited from the celebrity bodyguard circuit, to oversee the work.

The compound was overrun by a mob of Islamic extremists on the morning of September 12 in an apparent planned attack that resulted in the death by asphyxiation of the ambassador, Chris Stevens.

Blue Mountain, which is run by a former member of the SAS, received paper work to operate in Libya last year following the collapse of Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime. It worked on short term contacts to guard an expatriate housing compound and a five-star hotel in Tripoli before landing the prestigious US deal.

Other firms in the security industry expressed surprise that Blue Mountain had won a large, high profile contract from the US government. One industry executive said the level of service Blue Mountain provided did not appear adequate to the risks presented by a lawless city.


Russia sends Pussy Riot women to prisons east of Moscow

The women lost their appeal in court earlier this month
Two convicted women from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot are on their way to two prison camps far from home, their lawyers and supporters say.

Conditions are reported to be tough at the camps, in Perm and Mordovia, east of Moscow. Those areas were used for mass prison colonies in the Soviet era.

Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were jailed for two years each in August for singing a crude anti-Kremlin song in a cathedral.

The jail sentence was widely condemned.

They were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" over the obscenity-laced "punk prayer" they performed in Moscow's main cathedral, Christ the Saviour, on 21 February.

Two lawyers and activists in the protest group Voina reported the young women's transfer to the camps, far to the east of Moscow, on Monday. Tolokonnikova's husband Pyotr Verzilov is a member of Voina.

On Twitter the Pussy Riot group said on Monday: "At the weekend Nadya [Tolokonnikova] was sent on a special flight to Mordovia, while Masha [Alyokhina] was sent to Perm region. Those are cruellest camps of any that could have been chosen."


Fatah dominates West Bank election amid low turnout

Ramallah, West Bank - Amid a lackluster voter turnout, Palestinians largely elected the dominant Fatah Party to represent them in local councils throughout the West Bank, election officials said Sunday.

But rather than strengthening Fatah's credibility as its leaders had hoped, the election -- the first municipal poll held since 2005 -- exposed internal party divisions and a deep public apathy.

Only about 55% of eligible voters went to the polls Saturday, down from 70% when municipal elections were last held seven years ago.

Analysts said the low turnout reflected a public frustration over the lack of new leaders and choices.

Fatah's main rival -- the Islamist party Hamas, which controls Gaza Strip -- boycotted the West Bank election, saying its members were being harassed. No voting occurred in Gaza.


Colonel Gaddafi's youngest son 'dies from his wounds after being captured in gun battle'

  • Conflicting reports about whether Khamis Gaddafi was killed in fighting or died later after being arrested
  • His alleged death occurred on Saturday, a year to the day after his father was killed by rebels
  • Khamis's body was reportedly being taken to Misrata like his father's corpse
  • News of the death has sparked scenes of wild celebrations in the city
Khamis Gaddafi
© ABACA/Press Association ImagesConflicting reports: Colonel Gaddafi's youngest son, Khamis (pictured), has allegedly been killed, but accounts of exactly how he is said to have died are confusing. He has been reported dead several times before
The youngest son of Colonel Gaddafi has reportedly been killed during fighting a year to the day after the former Libyan leader's death.

There are conflicting accounts about whether Khamis Gaddafi was killed during conflict or fatally wounded and later died.

Libyan national congress spokesman, Omar Hamdan, said the 28-year-old died 'in battle' but gave no further details.

His body is said to have been found yesterday after fierce fighting between pro-Gaddafi forces and militias allied to the Libyan government in the town of Bani Walid.

The Al Arabiya news agency, however, has been cited on NBC News as saying that sources claim Khamis Gaddafi was found seriously injured, arrested and later died.


Russian forces kill 49 "militants" in North Caucasus

© Desconocido
Russia's top anti-terrorism agency announces deaths days after Vladimir Putin led meeting of country's security council.

Russian security forces have killed 49 militants in an operation across the North Caucasus region, where rebels are fighting to carve out an Islamic state, Russia's top anti-terrorism body has said.

The agency, which serves as a mouthpiece for law enforcement agencies operating in the region, gave no time period for the operation, which was launched days after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, led a meeting of the country's security council.

Putin has pushed the North Caucasus insurgency, rooted in two separatist wars in Chechnya, back to the forefront of national politics.

He has told security forces to ensure that militants do not launch attacks on the 2014 Winter Olympics and other high-profile events planned in Russia.

Take 2

Anti-Muslim filmmaker detained for almost a month...next court date three days after election

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula
© Reuters / Bret HartmanNakoula Basseley Nakoula (C) is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, California September 15, 2012
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the 55-year-old filmmaker responsible for the anti-Muslim video that President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice initially and wrongly blamed for inciting the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, is still being held at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) without bond.

It has been almost one month since Mr. Nakoula was arrested for allegedly violating the terms of his probation for a 2010 bank-fraud conviction. According to reports, under his probation, Mr. Nakoula was prohibited from using computers and the internet without supervision. According to ABC News:
Nakoula had met with federal probation officers on Sept. 14 about whether his involvement in the film violated the terms of his probation, which barred him from accessing the internet without prior approval and from using any name other than his legal name.
Nakoula told authorities he was involved in the film and asked law enforcement for help in regards to death threats he received since the film surfaced online.

"Nakoula was ordered detained -- held without bond -- by a federal judge, who determined he posed a flight risk," said Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

Mr. Nakoula's next court date is on November 9, three days after the presidential election. In the meantime, while the Obama administration passes blame around over who dropped the ball with the attack in Benghazi, Mr. Nakoula remains locked up and muzzled in a Los Angeles detention center until after the ballots for president are counted on November 6.

Book 2

Colombian prostitute Dania Londoño to publish book on Secret Service sex scandal

Dania Londono
© Dania Londono/TwitterDania Londoño alerted Colombian officials about a sex party staged by US Secret Service Agents in a Cartagena hotel this spring.
A Colombian prostitute that gave the U.S. Secret Service a headache this spring, is once again making headlines around the world.

Escort Dania Londoño has announced plans to publish a book, called Room Service, in which she talks about the sex scandal that shook the U.S. Secret Service prior to President Obama's visit to Cartagena, Colombia in April of this year.

In Room Service, Londoño reveals the details of a sex party staged by at least 10 agents of the U.S. Secret Service and 8 members of the U.S. military who picked up girls in Cartagena brothels, and took them to their hotel, just two days before President Obama arrived in town for the Summit of the Americas.

Londoño claims that one of the agents offered her $800 for her sexual services that night. But when this agent -- whose name Londoño can't remember -- refused to pay up, the escort girl formed a ruckus at Cartagena's Hotel Caribe, which led local police to look into all the misbehavior that was going on that night.

Several members of the Secret Service resigned following the incident, which sparked a congressional investigation.

Bad Guys

CIA seeks to expand drone fleet, officials say

© The Associated Press/Heidi VogtCIA Director David H. Petraeus, shown in Afghanistan when he was the top U.S. military commander there, is urging the White House to expand the CIA’s fleet of armed drones.
The CIA is urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones, a move that would extend the spy service's decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, U.S. officials said.

The proposal by CIA Director David H. Petraeus would bolster the agency's ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots, officials said.

If approved, the CIA could add as many as 10 drones, the officials said, to an inventory that has ranged between 30 and 35 over the past few years.

The outcome has broad implications for counterterrorism policy and whether the CIA gradually returns to being an organization focused mainly on gathering intelligence, or remains a central player in the targeted killing of terrorism suspects abroad.

In the past, officials from the Pentagon and other departments have raised concerns about the CIA's expanding arsenal and involvement in lethal operations, but a senior Defense official said that the Pentagon had not opposed the agency's current plan.

Officials from the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon declined to comment on the proposal. Officials who discussed it did so on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive nature of the subject.

One U.S. official said the request reflects a concern that political turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa has created new openings for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Comment: Meanwhile...
Your Tax Dollars at Work: CIA chiefs face arrest over horrific evidence of bloody 'video-game' sorties by drone pilots


Israel swaps missile drills for earthquake rehearsal

© Reuters/Nir EliasIsraeli soldiers from the Home Front Command stand on rubble during an earthquake drill in Holon, near Tel Aviv October 21, 2012.
Israel dropped its annual simulation of a missile attack and held its first major earthquake drill on Sunday instead, but officials insisted the country remained as ready as ever for the possibility of a war with arch-foe Iran.

School children, civil servants and others participating in the "Turning Point 6" exercise were urged to flee outdoors if possible as radio and TV channels broadcast tremor alerts. In previous years, people were told to go to household bomb shelters in order to flee an imaginary missile attack.

"We want people to run into homes during a missile attack, and we want people to run out of homes during an earthquake," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after he and fellow ministers evacuated their weekly cabinet meeting.

The change in format comes at a time when hostile rhetoric over Tehran's disputed nuclear program has waned, with both Israel and the United States about to hold elections and Western powers pursuing ever-stronger sanctions against Iran.

But Israeli officials denied the drill signaled an easing of their stance on Iran.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the exercise readied Israel for more than "something that happens once in 5,000 years", but for what he called "the very real scenarios" of missile strikes.

Other officials emphasized the risk of an earthquake given the abutting Syria-Africa rift along Israel's eastern frontier.

Comment: Also see:
Israel plans 'huge earthquake drill' next week that assumes mass casualties of 7,000 dead, 70,000 wounded