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Saudi Shia jailed 15 years and 70 lashes for protest against government

Kerry and king Abdullah
© UnknownJobn Kerry feeling at home with his fellow pathocrat, King Abdullah from a meeting in January 2014

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Shia Muslim to 15 years behind bars and 70 lashes for protesting against the government.

According to Saudi newspapers, a court in the capital Riyadh convicted the man on Friday for demanding Saudi troops to leave Bahrain.

The man, whose name and age were not announced, was also banned from exiting Saudi Arabia for ten years after his release. He has the right to appeal the verdict.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded Bahrain to assist the Bahraini regime in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Comment: Saudi Arabia is the darling of the West and key supporter, financier and instigator of the regime change in Syria. And all of course to promote democracy in Syria!. See anything wrong with that picture?

Don't hold your breath that Obama will mention this when he visits King Abdullah in March, as John Kerry didn't say diddly-squat, when he saw the king 4 weeks ago.


Ukraine opens criminal probe into opposition plan to take state power

McCain in Kiev
© APMcCain encouraging the protesters in Ukraine in December 2013
Ukrainian authorities have opened a criminal probe into an alleged attempt by the opposition to take state power.

Ukraine's security service launched the investigation on Friday after newly-obtained information revealed the country's mass protests were "pre-planned."
"An investigation for an attempted takeover of power has been opened," Maxime Lenko, head of the investigations department of the Ukrainian Security Service, said.
The probe was launched after investigators examined information stored on computers confiscated from an opposition party in December.

The information on confiscated computers of the Batkivschyna party revealed that mass anti-government protests and "the use of force against protesters... to undermine the authority of the president" were "pre-planned," Lenko noted.

Comment: Ukraine being torn apart by Western-backed colour mobs on an 'EU Jihad'
When is the far-right acceptable to the West? When it's in Ukraine
In Ukraine, fascists, oligarchs and western expansion are at the heart of the crisis
Coup in western Ukraine: The Arab Spring unleashed in Europe

Eye 2

Senator Harry Reid sez the billionaire Koch brothers are 'trying to buy America'

Koch brothers
A recent study estimated that in the 2012 election cycle some 17 different Koch-backed groups spent a combined $400m (£240m) trying to influence the outcome of the presidential race and scores of other elections across the US
Two billionaire brothers who have poured their fortune into a network of charitable organisations that are dedicated to supporting Republican causes and candidates have been drawn into an unusual and very public spat with the Majority Leader of the US Senate, Harry Reid.

Senator Reid, a Democrat, provoked a new round of recriminations when, in off-the-cuff remarks on the Senate floor on Thursday, he openly accused David and Charles Koch of "actually trying to buy the country" by funding the organisations. He was speaking in support of a White House-backed plan to place new disclosure rules on the groups and limits on how far they can involve themselves in politics while retaining tax-free status.

"What they're doing is spending their ... dollars on governor's races, and on the state level and, of course, spending huge amounts of money around the country attempting to defeat Democrats both in the House and the Senate," Mr Reid said. "The Koch brothers hide all their campaign efforts. They disguise themselves with rare exception as social welfare organisations, with all these fancy names going after people who are trying to improve the country."

The comments were sufficiently irksome to the Kansas-based Koch Industries, which has enormous holdings in mining, energy and chemicals, that it offered a rare rebuke. Philip Ellender, the president of Koch Companies Public Sector, said Mr Reid's "divisive remarks were not only disrespectful and beneath the office he holds, they were indicative of what lengths he and his Democratic allies will go to eliminate and silence their political opposition".

A recent study by the Washington Post and the Centre for Responsive Politics estimated that in the 2012 election cycle some 17 different Koch-backed groups, all under charitable social welfare status, spent a combined $400m (£240m) trying to influence the outcome of the presidential race and scores of other elections across the US.


U.S. spent $900 million of taxpayers money on behavior detection officers who detected zero terrorists

© APTSA security grope point.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spent approximately $900 million over the last 5 years for behavior detection officers to identify high-risk passengers but, so far, according to the General Accountability Office (GAO), only 0.59% of the passengers flagged were arrested and among those not one was charged with terrorism - zero.

In 2003, the TSA started testing its Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) program, which was then fully deployed in 2007. About 3,000 behavior detection officers (BDO) "had been deployed to 176 of the more than 450 TSA-regulated airports in the United States" by fiscal year 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011 - Sept. 30, 2012), according to the GAO.

Those BDO officers are trained to "identify passenger behaviors indicative of stress, fear, or deception and refer passengers" and their baggage for additional screening, reported the GAO in its Nov. 8, 2013 report, Aviation Security: TSA Should Limit Future Funding for Behavior Detection Activities.

Since 2007, the TSA has spent approximately $900 million on the SPOT program, said the GAO.

During the SPOT screening, the TSA's behavior detection officers are supposed to look for and identify "high-risk passengers based on behavioral indicators that indicate mal-intent," said the GAO. The BDOs can refer the passengers to a law enforcement officer (LEO) for further investigation. From there, if warranted, a passenger (or passengers) can be arrested.


Obama's Tuesday address was the least watched since 2000

© AP Photo/Larry Downing
Falling just shy of the 2013 outing, Nielsen returns put President Obama's Tuesday address as the least watched since 2000.

With final ratings in for the State of the Union address, Nielsen Media puts the grand total just shy of last year's for a 14-year low.

The gross average audience of 13 networks airing PresidentBarack Obama's speech puts viewership at 33,299,172. That's down from the 33.5 million that tuned in for the 2013 speech for its lowest showing since 2000. (President Bill Clinton's final address in office averaged 31,478,000.)

Among the networks carrying the address live were CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, Azteca, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Al Jazeera America, Galavision and Mun2.

In the cable news race, Fox News Channel came out on top as the only network to grow its State of the Union audience year over year.

Nielsen, in its first State of the Union also measuring Twitter, gives 2.1 million tweets and an audience of 8.8 million users to the speech's social footprint.


Russia to Snowden: Stay as long as you like

© Mandel Ngan/AFP/GettyA Russian official said Snowden will be able to extend his one-year asylum there.
Russia just made Edward Snowden's life a lot easier. The fugitive doesn't want to return to the U.S., and now it looks like he won't have to anytime soon, as a senior Russian official opened the door to Snowden staying there indefinitely.

Russia will extend Snowden's one-year asylum and will not send him back to his home country, said Alexy Pushkov, the head of the country's Foreign Affairs Committee in its lower house, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to CNN. The country previously granted Snowden asylum as a "temporary refugee" in August.

Snowden's whereabouts and globe-trotting hunt for safe harbor from U.S. authorities has captivated much of the world since his leaks began last June. He fled from Hong Kong to Russia and had hoped to make it to Cuba before the U.S. froze his passport, leaving him trapped in a Moscow airport in a sort of legal purgatory. Russia provided Snowden with the one-year asylum request, a decision that further strained the country's relations with the U.S.

Russia's announcement comes a day after Snowden responded to questions posted on Twitter and said, among other things, that his return to the U.S. was "not possible" under current espionage law, specifically the Whistleblower Protection Act. Snowden added that he believed he had "no chance" of earning a fair trial.


Attorney General Eric Holder can't explain constitutional basis for Obama's executive orders

Attorney General Eric Holder couldn't explain the constitutional basis for executive orders such as President Obama's delay of the employer mandate because he hasn't read the legal analysis -- or at least, hasn't seen it in a long time.

"I'll be honest with you, I have not seen -- I don't remember looking at or having seen the analysis in some time, so I'm not sure where along the spectrum that would come," Holder replied when Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, asked him to explain the nature of Obama's constitutional power to delay the mandate.

Lee had based his question on a standard legal test, first described by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who said the president's authority to issue executive orders is strongest when he does so with the backing of Congress (category one), more dubious when he issues an order pertaining to a topic on which Congress has not passed a law (category two), and weakest when the executive order is "incompatible with a congressional command" (category three), to use Lee's paraphrase.

Holder assured Lee that Obama's team accounts for Jackson's three-part analysis, but said he couldn't use that test to explain in any detail what kind of authority the president wielded when he delayed the employer mandate.


Ukraine being torn apart by Western-backed colour mobs on an 'EU Jihad'

© Voltaire Net
If you only watch the mainstream media coverage, or read major newspapers, you'd think that what is happening in the Ukraine right now is some kind of organic, grassroots political reform movement. It's nothing of the sort.

At the height of hypocrisy, we can witness US officials and western media pundits all chastising Ukrainian authorities for cracking down on violent protesters. As if the governments of the US or the UK wouldn't do exactly the same if street gangs set fire to government buildings in Washington or London.

Beyond all the freedom and democracy rhetoric pouring out of the western media and neoliberal government orifices, what we are essentially looking at is an attempted coup d'état in the Ukraine, orchestrated by a cadre of western NGO's and multilateral institutions - in concert, trying to unleash a more sophisticated version of the Arab Spring on Europe's doorstep.

The situation on the street is extremely dangerous right now. As Voltaire Net's Andrew Korybko points out, the west have nudged the Ukrainian government into an almost impossible situation. Korybko states:


Top editor at NYT sez Obama's presidency is the "most secretive White House" she's ever seen

© Al Jazeera AmericaJill Abramson, first female executive editor of The New York Times.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden helped The New York Times "keep the public informed on what I consider to be very important matters," says Jill Abramson, the woman who has the final say on what constitutes "all the news that's fit to print." As executive editor of the Times - the first woman to hold what has been one of the most influential positions in American journalism - Abramson sets the agenda. We talk to her about what she calls the "most secretive White House" she has covered as well as the newspaper's "seriously flawed" coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War, which happened during her watch as Washington bureau chief. John Seigenthaler also asks Abramson about the future of print newspapers and about accusations that the Times is too far left.

John Seigenthaler: Let me dive right into the news and a little bit about the NSA and Edward Snowden. Daniel Ellsberg was quoted recently as saying that Edward Snowden was his hero. Do you see Snowden as a hero or a traitor?

Jill Abramson: I see him as a very good source. We have published many of the NSA and GCHQ (British intelligence) documents that came from Snowden. And so I view him, as I did Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, as a very good source of extremely newsworthy information.


Monsanto CEO 'We need to do more' to win GMO debate

© southweb.org
Proposals to require labels for foods containing genetically modified ingredients so far have a spotty record at the ballot box. Another defeat arrived Tuesday in St. Louis, this time at the annual shareholder meeting of Monsanto Co.

Investors in the GMO seed maker overwhelmingly rejected a shareholder proposal that would have pushed Monsanto to get behind labeling efforts itself - after it spent millions lobbying against such measures at the state level. Only about 4% of Monsanto shares were voted in support of the effort.

The shoot-the-moon proposal did, however, bring Monsanto Chief Executive Hugh Grant to personally debate some fierce critics of his company's business practices - something he acknowledged Monsanto hasn't done much of in the past.

Comment: Excellent examples of Monsanto 'doing more' to win the GMO debate:
"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." - Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998
"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994