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Tue, 07 Feb 2023
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Bad Guys

Wisconsin GOP wants to spy on bank accounts of the unemployed

Republicans in Wisconsin are pushing legislation that would allow the government to view the bank accounts of anyone seeking unemployment and freeze those accounts if it believes the person has been overpaid on benefits.

"This is to protect the workers and lessen the burden on employers who are paying all the bills," said co-author of the bill, Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown.

The bill was introduced in the assembly and senate on Friday. It is scheduled for committee hearings on Wednesday in both houses.

Bad Guys

Court-martial for Pfc. Bradley Manning shrouded in secrecy, security

Bradley Manning
© Associated Press
Fort Meade, Maryland - The court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the central figure in a massive leak of government documents, is focused on secrecy and government security. Yet his trial has become a secretive drama that allows the public little insight into what's going on in the military courtroom.

One of the pretrial hearings was closed to the public. Many court documents have been withheld or heavily redacted. Photographers were blocked from getting a good shot of the soldier and even some of Manning's supporters had to turn their T-shirts inside out.

Military law experts say some of it is common for a court-martial, while other restrictions appear tailored to the extraordinary nature of the case. Manning has garnered an outpouring of support from whistleblowers, activists and others around the world.

"I think the judge is very concerned about not turning this trial into a theater, into a spectacle," said David J.R. Frakt, a military law expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer. "I cannot remember a situation where there was such a high degree of civilian interest, people not affiliated with the military, having intense and passionate interest in the outcome of the case."

Manning is charged under federal espionage and computer fraud laws, but the most serious offense the military has accused him of is aiding the enemy, which carries a life sentence. His supporters call him a hero; opponents say he is a traitor for leaking the material the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The trial for the soldier from Crescent, Okla., began Monday under a barrage of heavy restrictions.

Eye 1

Lawlessness, blackouts roil Egypt as U.S. warns against pyramids tourism

Lawlessness has become so endemic in Egypt that the U.S. Embassy this week warned Americans away from visiting the country's famed pyramids. A academic teaching at the American University in Cairo received an email from the embassy warning of "aggressiveness [that] in some cases is closer to criminal conduct... with angry groups of individuals surrounding and pounding on [vehicles]... and in some cases attempting to open the vehicle's doors." The warning lined up with the professor's observations:
So, it's not like I'm easily scared by anything that happens at the Pyramids, that repository for all of Egypt's most villainous swindlers (every nation has some). But in recent months it has become almost unbearable. It feels almost like an openly criminal environment now. The problem is not only "lack of visible security," but in some cases the security are either working with the vendors on their scams, or are sexually harassing female foreigners quite openly, even those who are obviously accompanied by their husbands. In short, if you visit Egypt in the near future, don't even think of going to the Pyramids unless you're on a large organized bus tour. Anything else is a big risk, for now.
The warning, emailed out over the embassy's mailing list, was published the same day as a report documenting hundreds of attacks on journalists in Egypt. Most of the attacks, according to human rights adovactes, are being conducted by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.


IRS fails to meet Senate Finance's deadline for documents on targeting

The IRS will not deliver documents requested by top Senate Finance Committee members on the agency's targeting of conservative groups by Friday, committee aides said.

Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel's ranking member, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), had asked the IRS for a wide range of information in a May 20 letter - 41 questions in all.

The senators' requests included details of any communication between the IRS and White House officials about the singling out of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. In the letter, Baucus and Hatch asked for the agency to answer by Friday.
"It's disappointing that the IRS failed to produce any of the documents requested by the committee," the press offices for Baucus and Hatch said in a joint statement. "This is an agency that revolves around making the American taxpayer meet hard deadlines each and every year when they file their taxes, oftentimes penalizing those that are late."

"The IRS needs to do much better," the statement added.


Former IRS chief's wife works for leftist-leaning Public Campaign group


It was learned late last week that former IRS chief Doug Shulman's wife, Susan L. Anderson works with a leftist-leaning lobbying group, Public Campaign, where she is the senior program advisor.
For some, this comes as little surprise. The stated aim of Public Campaign is to target political groups like the conservative non-profits at issue in the IRS scandal. The Campaign says it "is laying the foundation for reform by working with a broad range of organizations, including local community groups, around the country that are fighting for change and national organizations whose members are not fairly represented under the current campaign finance system."

In light of the reported undue harassment of conservative and Tea Party groups, who were asked inappropriate questions when they applied for tax exemption status, a statement made from CEO of Public Campaign Nick Nyhart carries weight. "There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups that are hiding behind a 501(c)4 status. It's unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias."


IRS may have targeted conservatives more broadly

© Liz Martin/MCT
Susan Martinek, right, and Mary Cherion pray as they walk the block around the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Planned Parenthood, on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Martinek is the president and Cherion serves on the board of Coalition for Life of Iowa, which faced scrutiny from the IRS before being granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in 2009.
A group of anti-abortion activists in Iowa had to promise the Internal Revenue Service it wouldn't picket in front of Planned Parenthood.

Catherine Engelbrecht's family and business in Texas were audited by the government after her voting-rights group sought tax-exempt status from the IRS.

Retired military veteran Mark Drabik of Nebraska became active in and donated to conservative causes, then found the IRS challenging his church donations.

While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as "tea party" or "patriot" in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.

The emerging stories from real people raise questions about whether the IRS scrutiny extended beyond applicants for tax-exempt status and whether individuals who donated to these tax-exempt organizations or to conservative causes also were targeted.

Star of David

U.S. builds $25 million military base for Israel's anti missile system

Israeli missile base
© Jane
Jane’s article reveals Sdot Micha as new Arrow 3 base
Last December, Walter Pincus reported in the Washington Post that the U.S. government was building a new base for the IDF. A highly-placed Israeli source informed me that the location of the secret base was Sdot Micha (also known as Tal Shahar), which already houses Israel's Jericho 3 nuclear missiles. It is located near Beit Shemesh, 15 miles from Jerusalem. The source also informed me that the new facility was to be hardened and underground to withstand a nuclear attack. This means that Israel expects the site to be attacked by Iranian missiles once that country has nuclear capability.

Now, the defense publication Jane's Defense Weekly says that the new base will house Israeli's most advanced anti-missile system, the Arrow 3, which has a 1,500 mile range. It is an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) which is designed to intercept any Iranian missiles that might attack Israel. The article notes there will be four new launchers each containing six "interceptors." Meaning Israel could launch up to 24 Arrow 3′s and use its Arrow 2 arsenal to hit any targets that were missed.


Syrian "Opposition" Armed to block Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline construction

gas pipeline
© n/a
What has one of the most democratic countries of the Middle East, Syria, done to tick off some of its neighbors in the West, the fierce fighters for democracy? The irrationality and unscrupulousness of the approaches Western countries have taken to the Syrian crisis, when the same people who in Europe are considered terrorists are declared «freedom fighters» when it comes to Syria, becomes clearer in light of the economic dimension of the Syrian tragedy. There is every reason to think that by helping destroy its own cultural and historical roots in Syria, Europe is first and foremost fighting for energy resources. And a special role is played by natural gas, which is emerging as the main fuel of the 21st century. The geopolitical problems connected with its production, transportation and use are perhaps more than any other topic on the radar of Western strategists.

Che Guevara

Revolt in Turkey: Erdogan losing his grip on power

Tayyip Erdogan
© AP/dpa
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media in Istanbul on June 3.
For a decade, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a tight grip on power. But it suddenly looks to be weakening. Thousands have taken to the streets across the country and the threats to Erdogan's rule are many. His reaction has revealed him to be hopelessly disconnected.

The rooftops of Istanbul can be seen in the background and next to them is a gigantic image of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey's powerful prime minister is watching over the city -- and is also monitoring the work of the political party he controls. At least that seems to be the message of the image, which can be found in a conference room at the headquarters of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP).

These days, though, Istanbul is producing images that carry a distinctly different meaning -- images of violent protests against the vagaries of Erdogan's rule. And it is beginning to look as though the prime minister, the most powerful leader Turkey has seen since the days of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, might be losing control.

Comment: Erdogan is supportive of Western intervention in Syria. Any regime change has the potential to disrupt US, NATO and Israeli geopolitical ambitions in the region.

Bad Guys

Disgraced soldiers who admitted abusing Afghan civilians in warzone granted anonymity over fears of Lee Rigby murder

  • Two soldiers admitted offences during tour of Afghanistan
  • Given anonymity after judge ruled naming them would risk their life
  • Solider X was fined £1,000 after admitting pulling a child's hand to his crotch while saying 'Touch my special place'
  • Soldier cleared of disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind and of forcing an Afghan girl to touch him on a separate occasion
  • Soldier Y, a serving NCO, has been reduced to the ranks
  • Admitted photographing man holding a racist sign that read 'Silly P*ki'
anonymous soldiers
© AFP/Getty
The soldiers admitted the offences at court and their names have not been released (file picture)
Two disgraced soldiers who abused Afghan civilians will be allowed to stay anonymous because of fears they could become victims of a 'lone wolf' attack like soldier Lee Rigby.

A 22-year-old ex-private was fined £1,000 after admitting pulling a young boy's hand towards his genitals and saying 'Touch my special place'.

His 23-year-old comrade, a serving non-commissioned officer, was demoted in rank after pleading guilty to racially insulting a local man by photographing him holding a sign reading 'Silly Paki'.

But controversially the judge at the court martial today ruled the shamed troops' names should be shrouded in secrecy following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

Two Islamic extremists have been charged with allegedly hacking Drummer Rigby, 25, to death with cleavers and knives outside Woolwich barracks in south east London two weeks ago.