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Fri, 03 Feb 2023
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"Big Brother" is big business?

The odds are you are not just a face in the crowd any longer. Even if your picture isn't plastered all over social networking and photo-sharing sites, facial recognition technology in public places is making it harder if not impossible to remain anonymous. Lesley Stahl reports on the new ways this technology is being used that even has one of its inventors calling it too intrusive. Her 60 Minutes report will be broadcast Sunday, May 19 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Professor Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie Mellon, who researches how technology impacts privacy, stunned Stahl with an experiment. He photographed random students on the campus and in short order, not only identified several of them, but in a number of cases found their personal information, including social security numbers, just using a facial recognition program he downloaded for free. Acquisti says smart-phones will make "facial searches" as common as Google searches in the future. And nearly everybody can be subject to such prying, even those who are careful about their Internet use.


Washington gets explicit: 'war on terror' is permanent

Senior Obama officials tell the US Senate: the 'war', in limitless form, will continue for 'at least' another decade - or two

Michael Sheehan
© AP/Carolyn Kaster
Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Sheehan, right, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee's May 16, 2013, hearing on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.
Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post their newly minted "disposition matrix", a complex computer system that will be used to determine how a terrorist suspect will be "disposed of": indefinite detention, prosecution in a real court, assassination-by-CIA-drones, etc. Their rationale for why this was needed now, a full 12 years after the 9/11 attack:
Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."
On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this "war" - the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) - should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired's Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US's national security editor) described the most significant exchange:
"Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, 'At least 10 to 20 years.' . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today - atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America's Thirty Years War."
That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the "war on terror" will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week's big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of "endless war". Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war - justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism - that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

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One terrorist, a million psychopaths, eight million sociopaths

TSA Poster
© Wikipedia
TSA explanation poster MMW.
This morning, I found a little green caterpillar crawling on my arm, in bed, as I was waking up. I took it outside so it could become a butterfly or moth. If it had been a mosquito or tick, I would have killed it so it wouldn't hurt me or my family later.

One shoe bomber terrorist inspired the US to invest billions in airport security, required hundreds of millions of shoes to be removed.

That's because there was a risk that was known.

But there are a million psychopaths and over eight million sociopaths who we know are out there, predators, doing damage, hurting people, killing people, bullying, stalking, stealing, corrupting.

A small percentage get caught. Most of the ones who get caught are the low functioning, stupid ones, the violent ones, the ones who have co-morbid problems like drug addiction or alcoholism. The smart ones, the higher functioning ones get jobs at big corporations, in city, state and federal government. They even become judges and certainly become lawyers too.

Some speculate that it takes a sociopath to become a CEO of a major fortune 1000 company.

One commenter on a previous article in the series suggested
... The best defense is not to engage with them. You can't win. If you are forced to work with a psychopath then you either kill him or leave."
Given the current situation, there's no protection from sociopaths who navigate the system avoiding arrest. They break rules but then intimidate or bully or charm people to cut them slack. They turn on their interpersonal intelligence to gain sympathy from those who say we should show them compassion. The best current defense may indeed be to leave. That's not acceptable to me, and of course, killing is not acceptable.

That's why I'm engaging in writing this series. Good people should not have to leave to be safe from sociopaths.


American Gulag: Guantanamo hunger strike enters 100th day

Activists protest outside White House calling for immediate closure of controversial jail.

Activists demanding the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison have marked the 100th day of a hunger strike there by submitting a petition to the White House containing some 370,000 signatures.

A group of activists wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods like those used on detainees at Guantanamo Bay gathered outside the White House on Friday to call for the immediate closure of the controversial jail.

"Immoral, illegal, ineffective," a banner read.

Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said that "years of detention without charge or trial have created a sense of desperation and hopelessness among the men at Guantanamo, which has led over 100 of them to join a hunger strike".


Russia outs alleged Moscow CIA station chief

© Photo Russian Federal Security Service
Alleged spy Ryan Christopher Fogle's diplomatic ID
A Russian intelligence agency Friday publicly identified an individual it claims was the Moscow station chief of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as of late 2011 - a move widely seen as a breach of protocol in the intelligence community.

A man identified as an official with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) named the alleged CIA station chief in an interview with state-run television Friday in which he gave new details about the agency's highly publicized detention of purported US spy Ryan Fogle earlier this week.

In the interview, the FSB official reiterated earlier claims that his agency had explicitly called on the CIA to stop trying to recruit Russian security and intelligence officers.

In late 2011, he added, the FSB formally warned the CIA station chief in Moscow, whom he identified by name, that "in the event that provocative efforts to recruit employees of the Russian special services continue, the FSB ... would take reciprocal measures against American intelligence officers."


Well, hmm...CIA chief makes unannounced Israel visit

An Israeli defense official says the head of the American CIA spy agency has made an unannounced visit to Israel.

The official says CIA chief John Brennan met Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. He did not disclose other details.

The official spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the visit with reporters.

Brennan's trip comes amid Israeli concerns about weapons transfers from Syria to the Lebanon's militant Hezbollah.

Israel has carried out airstrikes aimed at halting arms shipments to Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Russia this week to persuade Moscow not to sell an advanced air defense system to Syria that could complicate any possible aerial campaign.

Israel is also in close contact with the U.S. over Iran's suspect nuclear program.

Comment: Just for fun: CIA considers Israel one of its biggest spy threats, but the US continues to fund their military adventures

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Catfight - and it's U.S. vs EU

EU & US Flags
© Mtholyoke.edu
Paris - Lovers of turbo-neoliberalism, rejoice - and take your bottles of Moet to a prime ringside seat; there won't be a nastier catfight this summer than the opening rounds opposing two Western giants. Forget about the Pentagon "pivoting" to Asia without ever abandoning the Middle East; nothing compares with this voyage in the entrails of turbo-capitalism, worthy of a neo-Balzac.

We're talking about a new Holy Grail - a free-market deal between the United States and the European Union; the advent of a giant, internal transatlantic market (25% of global exports, 31% of global imports, 57% of foreign investment), where goods and services (but not people) will "freely" circulate, something that in theory will lead Europe out of its current funk.

The problem is that to reach this Brave New World presided by the Market Goddess, Europe will have to renounce some of its quite complex juridical, environmental, cultural and health norms.

In that Kafkaesque/Orwellian bureaucratic paradise also known as Brussels, hordes of faceless equivalents of the bowler hat men in a Magritte painting openly complain about this "adventure"; there's a growing consensus Europe has everything to lose and little to gain out of it, in contrast with the much-derided enemies of the European integration, as in the fanatics of an "pro-American" and "ultra-liberal" Europe.


Syria not a bargaining chip in relations with West - Lavrov

© RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Moscow will make no "backstage" agreements on Syria in exchange for Western concessions on missile defense or any other disputed issues, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

"This is not serious. I think that those who try suggest that indulge in wishful thinking," Lavrov said in an interview with Lebanon's Al Mayadeen TV channel.

"Everyone knows well that Russia's stance on a whole range of crucial issues is not opportunistic," the Russian top diplomat emphasized.

At the same time, he pointed out, this does not mean that Moscow's position on such issues is definitive.

"We defend only the things that are in the basis of modern world order - the US Charter principles and other international legal documents, and we insist on their fulfillment," Lavrov said. "We do not want and we will not put up with attempts to distort reached agreements, particularly the legally binding ones," he underlined.

However, within the framework of these principles and agreements, Moscow is ready to look for compromises, acceptable primarily for the sides of the conflict.

Lavrov reiterated that Russia does not support President Bashar Assad in the Syrian conflict. He explained that Moscow acts not "for the sake of the regime or any person inside of at the top of this regime" but for the sake of the Syrians. The minister noted it was Russia's aim to stop suffering and uphold the basic principles of international law - such as national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.


Mystery sponsor of weapons and money to Syrian mercenary "rebels" revealed

Previously, when looking at the real underlying national interests responsible for the deteriorating situation in Syria, which eventually may and/or will devolve into all out war with hundreds of thousands killed, we made it very clear that it was always and only about the gas, or gas pipelines to be exact, and specifically those involving the tiny but uber-wealthy state of Qatar. Needless to say, the official spin on events has no mention of this ulterior motive, and the popular, propaganda machine, especially from those powers supporting the Syrian "rebels" which include Israel, the US and the Arabian states tries to generate public and democratic support by portraying Assad as a brutal, chemical weapons-using dictator, in line with the tried and true script used once already in Iraq.
On the other hand, there is Russia (and to a lesser extent China: for China's strategic interests in mid-east pipelines, read here), which has been portrayed as the main supporter of the "evil" Assad regime, and thus eager to preserve the status quo without a military intervention. Such attempts may be for naught especially with the earlier noted arrival of US marines in Israel, and the imminent arrival of the Russian Pacific fleet in Cyprus (which is a stone throw away from Syria) which may catalyze a military outcome sooner than we had expected.
However, one question that has so far remained unanswered, and a very sensitive one now that the US is on the verge of voting to arm the Syrian rebels, is who was arming said group of Al-Qaeda supported militants up until now. Now, finally, courtesy of the FT we have the (less than surprising) answer, which goes back to our original thesis, and proves that, as so often happens in the middle east, it is once again all about the natural resources.


Syria: WMD Redux

syria iraq wmds
© unknown
Iraq has WMDs, Assad has WMDS, Trump has Russian connections!
"There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, 'Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. But fool me... can't get fooled again!'."

~ Dubya interpretation of 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me', Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
The anti-Assad propaganda is in full swing with contradictory and unsubstantiated claims that the Syrian government has "used chemical weapons against its own people." Against this backdrop of faulty, evocative rhetoric, Israel recently launched deadly air strikes on Syrian territory. Like textbook plagiarism or a record on repeat, we're seeing a re-run of the 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' (WMD) lies that led to the illegal invasion of Iraq ten years ago.

UN investigator Carla del Ponte reported that if any sarin gas was used in Syria, it was actually fired by the US-backed opposition rebel forces, not the state forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

The damning additional fact is that the Syrian 'rebels' the West are arming are, in reality, terrorist 'Al-Qaeda' factions, as has been admitted in the French daily Le Monde and supported by an admission in the New York Times. Just as many Azawadi rebels in northern Mali last year defected from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad to Al-Qaeda-in-the-Islamic-Maghreb and other CIA fronts ahead of full-scale military intervention by Western powers in January 2013, Free Syrian Army 'rebels' are consolidating their allegiances to (and pooling their resources with) Jabhat al-Nusra, "an Al Qaida associate operating in Syria" that is responsible for cross-border attacks in Turkey and Lebanon.