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Tue, 21 Sep 2021
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US: Panetta admits Iran not developing nukes

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta let slip on Sunday the big open secret that Washington war hawks don't want widely known: Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Panetta admitted that despite all the rhetoric, Iran is not pursuing the ability to split atoms with weapons, saying it is instead pursuing "a nuclear capability."

This video is from CBS News, broadcast Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012, as clipped by ThinkProgress.


That "capability" falls in line with what Iran has said for years: that it is developing nuclear energy facilities, not nuclear weapons.

Bad Guys

US: Homeland Security Monitors Journalists

Homeland Security logo
© Homeland Security
Freedom of speech might allow journalists to get away with a lot in America, but the Department of Homeland Security is on the ready to make sure that the government is keeping dibs on who is saying what.

Under the National Operations Center (NOC)'s Media Monitoring Initiative that came out of DHS headquarters in November, Washington has the written permission to retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms.

Specifically, the DHS announced the NCO and its Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) can collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use "traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed."

According to the Department of Homeland Security's own definition of personal identifiable information, or PII, such data could consist of any intellect "that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual." Previously established guidelines within the administration say that data could only be collected under authorization set forth by written code, but the new provisions in the NOC's write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.

Laptop

US customs can and will seize laptops and cellphones, demand passwords

customs sign
© unknown
The American Civil Liberties Union has brought a suit against the US government over its seizure of the laptop of a computer security consultant - a seizure carried out at a Chicago airport about a year ago without a search warrant or any charges of crimes.

According to a report in Sunday's Boston Globe, the consultant - a former MIT researcher, David House - was returning from rest and relaxation in Mexico when federal agents seized his laptop.

According to the Globe, the government wanted to know more about House's connections to Bradley Manning, the US Army private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.

The seizure comes as no surprise. As Globe writer Katie Johnston notes, United States ports of entry are dubbed "Constitution-free zones" by civil liberties advocates.

Barring invasive techniques such as strip seizures, government agents are free to disregard Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. They don't need reasonable suspicion or probable cause, and they can take what they like, be it laptops or smart phones.

Coffee

2012 - The Year of Living Dangerously

"In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability - problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action." - Strauss & Howe - The Fourth Turning - 1997
2012 storm sea
In December 2010 I wrote an article called Will 2012 Be as Critical as 1860?, that pondered what might happen with the 2012 presidential election and the possible scenarios that might play out based on that election. Well, 2012 has arrived and every blogger and mainstream media pundit is making their predictions for 2012. The benefit of delaying my predictions until the first week of 2012 is that I've been able to read the wise ponderings of Mike Shedlock, Jesse, Karl Denninger, and some other brilliant truth seeking analysts regarding what might happen during 2012. The passage above from Strauss & Howe was written fifteen years ago and captured the essence of what has happened since 2007 and what will drive all the events over the next decade. Predicting specific events is a futile human endeavor. The world is so complex and individual human beings so impulsive and driven by emotion, that the possible number of particular outcomes is almost infinite.

But, as Strauss and Howe point out, the core elements that created this Crisis and the reaction of generational cohorts to the implications of debt, civic decay and global disorder will drive all the events that will occur in 2012 and for as far as the eye can see. Linear thinkers in mega-corporations, mainstream media and Washington D.C. focus on retaining the status quo, their power and their wealth. They believe an economic recovery can be manufactured through monetary manipulation and Keynesian borrowing and spending. They are blind to the fact that history is cyclical, not linear. In order to have an understanding of what could happen in the coming year, it is essential to keep the big picture in focus. As we enter the fifth year of this twenty year Crisis period, there is absolutely no chance that 2012 will see an improvement in our economy, political atmosphere or world situation. Fourth Turnings never de-intensify. They exhaust themselves after years of chaos, conflict and turmoil. I can guarantee you that 2012 will see increased mayhem, riots, violent protests, recessions, bear markets, and a presidential election that will confound the establishment. All the episodes which will occur in 2012 will have at their core one of the three elements described by Strauss & Howe in 1997: Debt, Civic Decay, or Global Disorder.

Bad Guys

US: Newt Gingrich, Marianne and the Arms Dealer: A Buried FBI Investigation

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich and second wife Marianne Gingrich.
On October 5, Sarkis Soghanalian, once the world's largest private arms dealer, died at 82. He had sold weapons to scores of dictators including Saddam Hussein, and he took many secrets with him to his grave. But one secret he did not take involves Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. DCBureau has learned that Gingrich was at the center of a U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation in the late 1990s for a scheme to shake down the arms dealer for a $10 million bribe in exchange for Gingrich using his influence as Speaker to get the Iraq arms embargo lifted so Soghanalian could collect $54 million from Saddam Hussein's regime for weapons he had delivered during the Iran-Iraq War.

Bad Guys

Credit Card Firms: They Don't Just Steal From Cardholders

VISA
© Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Great story out this morning by Bloomberg reporter Thom Weidlich, detailing yet another devious and dirty scheme in the consumer credit industry.

The story outlines the misfortunes of a successful Park City, Utah restaurant called Cisero's that is best known for serving the movie stars and film glitterati attending the nearby Sundance film festival. The restaurant is engaged in a legal battle with its bank, but the larger struggle is between the restaurant and major credit cards like Visa and MasterCard.

It's a complex tale, but the gist of it is that the credit-card companies invoked arcane provisions of operating contracts with the merchant, and unilaterally "fined" the restaurant for enormous sums of money without proving any of the charges. Some of that money was actually debited from the merchants' account before they managed to close it.

When a restaurant opens for business, it signs service contracts with middleman firms that allow them to accept charges from Visa and MasterCards. These middleman firms process the charges on behalf of the issuing cards, and also debit the accounts of merchants for things like debit fees.

The problem is that when merchants like these restaurant owners in Utah sign their service contracts, they also have to agree to a series of draconian security rules, under which they are automatically liable to the card companies if the card companies suspect fraud or lax security procedures.

In the case of the Utah restaurant, Visa and Mastercard both claimed that the restaurant allowed charges from fraudulently used cards, and also violated security rules by keeping the data for too many customer accounts on their company computer.

Bad Guys

US: EPA may truck water to residents near fracking site

glass of water
© Reuters/Tim Shaffer
A Dimock, Pennsylvania resident who did not want to be identified pours a glass of water taken from his well after the start of natural gas drilling in Dimock, Pennsylvania, March 7, 2009.

New York/Washington - Federal regulators are considering trucking fresh water to households in a Pennsylvania town where residents say wells have been polluted by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas.

Only a month after declaring water in Dimock safe to drink, the Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering action after residents supplied the EPA with hundreds of pages of data that link water pollution to fracking.

Two residents of Dimock, a town of some 1,400 in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, told Reuters that the EPA said water would be delivered on Friday, but the agency indicated it was still considering the issue.

"No decision has been made by EPA to provide alternate sources of water," an EPA spokeswoman said in an email on Friday. She added that the agency was trying to understand the situation in Dimock where state regulators recently halted deliveries of fresh water.

If the EPA delivers water to the village, it would be the clearest sign yet regulators are concerned about the effect of drilling on drinking water there.

Newspaper

Who Owns The Media? The 6 Monolithic Corporations That Control Almost Everything We Watch, Hear And Read

tv eats tv graphic
© n/a
Back in 1983, approximately 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the United States. Today, ownership of the news media has been concentrated in the hands of just six incredibly powerful media corporations. These corporate behemoths control most of what we watch, hear and read every single day. They own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and even many of our favorite websites.

Sadly, most Americans don't even stop to think about who is feeding them the endless hours of news and entertainment that they constantly ingest. Most Americans don't really seem to care about who owns the media. But they should. The truth is that each of us is deeply influenced by the messages that are constantly being pounded into our heads by the mainstream media. The average American watches 153 hours of television a month. In fact, most Americans begin to feel physically uncomfortable if they go too long without watching or listening to something. Sadly, most Americans have become absolutely addicted to news and entertainment and the ownership of all that news and entertainment that we crave is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands each year.

The six corporations that collectively control U.S. media today are Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., CBS Corporation and NBC Universal. Together, the "big six" absolutely dominate news and entertainment in the United States. But even those areas of the media that the "big six" do not completely control are becoming increasingly concentrated. For example, Clear Channel now owns over 1000 radio stations across the United States. Companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are increasingly dominating the Internet.

Heart - Black

US: Federal Agency Cancels Water Delivery to Pennsylvania Town

Residents' wells were found to be tainted by a natural gas drilling operation
Image
© Unknown

Allentown, Pennsylvania - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency abruptly changed its mind Saturday about delivering fresh water to residents of a northeastern Pennsylvania village where residential wells were found to be tainted by a natural gas drilling operation.

Only 24 hours after promising them water, EPA officials informed residents of Dimock that a tanker truck wouldn't be coming after all. The about-face left residents furious, confused and let down - and, once again, scrambling for water for bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets.

Agency officials would not explain why they reneged on their promise, or say whether water would be delivered at some point.

"We are actively filling information gaps and determining next steps in Dimock. We have made no decision at this time to provide water," EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said in an email to The Associated Press.

It's not clear how many wells in the rural community of Dimock Township were affected by the drilling. The state has found that at least 18 residential water wells were polluted.

USA

New Bill Known As Enemy Expatriation Act Would Allow Government To Strip Citizenship Without Conviction

Joe Lieberman
© unknown
Joe Lieberman
First, Congress considered the National Defense Authorization Act, sections of which gave the President the authority to use the military to arrest and indefinitely detain Americans without trial or charge. The language was revised because of strong condemnation from the American people. But now a new bill has emerged that poses yet another threat to the American citizenry.

Congress is considering HR 3166 and S. 1698 also known as the Enemy Expatriation Act, sponsored by Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA). This bill would give the US government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship without being convicted of being "hostile" against the United States. In other words, you can be stripped of your nationality for "engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States." Legally, the term "hostilities" means any conflict subject to the laws of war but considering the fact that the War on Terror is a little ambiguous and encompassing, any action could be labeled as supporting terrorism. Since the Occupy movement began, conservatives have been trying to paint the protesters as terrorists.