Puppet MastersS

Snakes in Suits

Tony Blair 'advised Murdoch executives over hacking'

Former British prime minister Tony Blair advised a key executive in Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire days before she was arrested over phone hacking at the News of the World, a court heard on Wednesday.

Blair also offered to be an "unofficial" advisor to Murdoch and his son James at the height of the scandal which led to the closure of the tabloid in July 2011.

An email written by Rebekah Brooks, then chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper group, News International, described an hour-long phone call with Blair in which he allegedly told her to "tough up".

The email was shown to the jury at the end of almost four months of prosecution arguments in the phone-hacking trial, in which Brooks is expected to take the stand later this week.

Bad Guys

Convicted criminals serve as "freedom fighters" in Syria: Saudi, Pakistani and Iraqi prison inmates replenish Al Qaeda ranks

Abu Ghraib prison
© APA file photo of renovated Abu Ghraib prison, now renamed Baghdad Central Prison, Iraq.

Several hundred convicted criminals who escaped from carefully guarded prisons in Iraq have recently joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as the Al Qaeda affiliated rebel force, Jabhat Al Nusra.

According to the NYT: "the prison breaks also reflect the surging demand for experienced fighterswhich led to a concerted effort by militant groups, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, to seek them in the one place where they were held en masse - Iraq's prison cells." (Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt, Escaped Inmates From Iraq Fuel Syrian Insurgency, NYT, February 12, 2014):
"American officials estimate, a few hundred of the escapees have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, several in senior leadership roles."
Acknowledged by the NYT, the prison breakouts are part of the recruitment of jihadists to serve in the Syrian insurgency. What is not mentioned, however, is that the recruitment of mercenaries is coordinated by NATO, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar with the support of the Obama administration. Moreover, known and documented, most Al Qaeda affiliated forces are covertly supported by Western intelligence including the CIA, Mossad and Britain's MI6.

Piggy Bank

Japan monthly trade deficit hits record

Haruhiko Kuroda
© BCCLJapan's trade deficit has surged to a monthly record of 2.79 trillion yen (USD 27.30 billion).
Japan's trade deficit has surged to a monthly record of 2.79 trillion yen (USD 27.30 billion).

The figure for January was up from the trade deficit for the same month last year of 1.63 trillion yen.

The development came as the country's imports jumped 25 percent.

The Finance Ministry reported that exports had risen 9.5 percent from a year earlier to 5.25 trillion yen while imports were 8.04 trillion yen.

A weakening in the Japanese yen over the past year has failed to boost exports as hoped. Imports of oil and gas, food, and other products have also surged.

Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said "...the monthly numbers may well look worse before they get better."


Authoritarian regimes (like the U.S. and Britain) treat reporters like terrorists

Press Censorship
© Arcadio Esquivel Cagle Cartoons/La Prensa,Panama
The U.S. Government Condemns Authoritarian Regimes Which Use Anti-Terror Laws to Stifle Journalism

It is widely known that authoritarian regimes use "anti-terror" laws to crack down on journalism.

But this extreme tactic is becoming more and more common. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported a year ago that terrorism laws are being misused worldwide to crush journalism:
The number of journalists jailed worldwide hit 232 in 2012, 132 of whom were held on anti-terror or other national security charges. Both are records in the 22 years CPJ has documented imprisonments.
The American government has rightly condemned such abuses.

For example, the U.S. State Department noted last April:
Some governments are too weak or unwilling to protect journalists and media outlets. Many others exploit or create criminal libel or defamation or blasphemy laws in their favor. They misuse terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists. They pressure media outlets to shut down by causing crippling financial damage. They buy or nationalize media outlets to suppress different viewpoints. They filter or shut down access to the Internet. They detain and harass - and worse.
The State Department condemned Burundi in 2012 for treating journalists as terrorists.

The 2012 State Department human rights report on Turkey criticized the country for imprisoning "scores of journalists...most charged under antiterror laws or for connections to an illegal organization."

Bad Guys

Major oil companies making double profits from oil spills

© Reuters
An investigation led by a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) engineer and an environmental and civil rights attorney is uncovering evidence that major oil companies are being paid twice for cleaning up toxic oil spills. Multibillion-dollar companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, and BP are being paid for cleanup efforts with state government funds and again, in secret, by insurance companies, Reuters reports.

Thomas Schruben, a Maryland environmental engineer who was involved in drafting government pollution rules while working for the EPA, had long suspected oil companies of double-dipping when dealing with the cleanup of toxic leaks from underground tanks. Schruben has worked as an environmental engineer for over 30 years, specializing in underground storage tanks.

The EPA has noted that leaking underground storage tanks are one of the greatest threats to the nation's groundwater. Underground storage tanks store "enormous quantities" of petroleum and other toxic substances and are found everywhere, "as close as your nearest gas station." Leaks and spills due to corrosion or other tank failures can contaminate soil and groundwater, which is the source of drinking water for nearly 50 percent of Americans.

The vast majority of states in the country have special funds to cover the costs of replacing old tanks and extracting polluted soil and dirty groundwater. Although oil companies have not claimed any wrongdoing, their scheme essentially allows them to be paid double when they are responsible for a spill or leak.


Brand Putin

© Business Insider
All this exposure, even if it means ridicule, is part of Putin's master plan to maintain Russia as a superpower - and himself as its superhero.

Long before there was Obama Girl, there was Putin Girl. Or, rather, Putin Girls.

It's 2002. Two women - part of a Russian pop duo "Singing Together" - come on screen, dancing to a catchy electro-pop beat. "My boyfriend is in trouble again, got in a fight got drunk on something nasty," they sing in Russian. No, they say, instead of their intoxicated deadbeat boyfriend, they want someone...someone like Putin.

One like Putin, full of strength

One like Putin, who won't be a drunk

One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me

One like Putin, who won't run away!

In what winds up being a bizarre cross between a pop anthem and a Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man In The World" commercial, the video for "Takogo Kak Putin" (translated as "A Man Like Putin") features footage of Putin taking out an opponent in judo and standing with the Queen of England, interspersed with a Putin look-alike calling up then-President Bush and presumably engaging in very important diplomatic conversations.

Mr. Potato

Obama ambassador picks cause uproar with bungled answers, lack of ties or knowledge of the countries they're nominated for

What does it take to get nominated to a plum ambassadorship? Well, it doesn't hurt to have played for the President's favorite baseball team. Oh, and money.

A century-old debate over whether presidents should reward political donors and allies by making them ambassadors has flared again after a string of embarrassing gaffes by President Obama's picks.

The nominee for ambassador to Norway, for example, prompted outrage in Oslo by characterizing one of the nation's ruling parties as extremist. A soap- opera producer slated for Hungary appeared to have little knowledge of the country she would be living in. A prominent Obama bundler nominated to be ambassador to Argentina acknowledged that he had never set foot in the country and isn't fluent in Spanish.

Presidents have been using ambassador appointments to reward political allies for a long time.

Even former senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the new U.S. ambassador in Beijing, managed to raise eyebrows during his confirmation hearing by acknowledging, "I'm no real expert on China."

The stumbles have highlighted the perils of rewarding well-heeled donors and well-connected politicos with plum overseas assignments and have provided political fodder for Republicans eager to attack the White House. The cases also underscore how a president who once infuriated donors by denying them perks has now come into line with his predecessors, doling out prominent diplomatic jobs by the dozens to supporters.

"Being a donor to the president's campaign does not guarantee you a job in the administration, but it does not prevent you from getting one," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters this week.

For several decades, presidents have generally followed a "70-30" rule when it comes to such appointments, nominating career foreign service officers for roughly 70 percent of U.S. missions abroad and reserving the rest for political allies.

Arrow Down

Department of Homeland Security terrorizes Americans with another made up terrorist threat

Homeland Security
© Daily Slave
Once again we see the Department of Homeland Security inventing another terrorist threat to scare people while at the same time using it to justify their existence. Just weeks ago they were trying to scare people about the possibility of terrorists using toothpaste tube bombs.

Now they are back to the true and tried formula of claiming that terrorists might try to attack airplanes using explosives in their shoes. This will of course give the Department of Homeland Security the opportunity to subject people to additional pat downs and other useless security measures.

Below is a blurb from a NBC report describing the situation. They claim that "very recent intelligence" indicated a potential shoe bomb plot. If that were really the case it is funny how they fully admit that they can't provide any specifics including who, what, where or when. What sort of so-called intelligence is this any way?

It sounds like this whole thing is made up.


Bomb blast hits Syrian police headquarters

Site of a bomb explosion in Aleppo.
© UnknownThe file photo shows the site of a bomb explosion in Aleppo.
A bomb explosion has targeted a police headquarters in the Syria's northern city of Aleppo, causing several casualties.
Details including the exact number of casualties from the blast on Wednesday have not been released yet.

Damascus holds foreign-backed militants operating in the country responsible for such attacks, accusing them of resorting to such violence due to repeated losses they have suffered at the hands of Syrian forces.

This comes a day after the Syrian army regained full control of the village of Sheikh Najjar and the strategic Ghali Hill on the outskirts of Aleppo. A large number of foreign-backed militants were killed in the offensive.

Comment: See also: The Babbila reconciliation: A light at the end of Syria's dark tunnel


'Whole of Ukraine held hostage by a small group of radicals'

Anti-government rioters in Kiev
© Reuters / Gleb GaranichAnti-government rioters are seen as they leave city hall in Kiev February 16, 2014.
A country of almost 15 million [editor: actually it is 46 million] people is being held hostage by a very small radical group, namely 2 or 3 thousand very aggressive rioters, with some of them toting firearms and Molotov cocktails, Professor Mark Almond of Oxford University told RT.

RT: Extreme violence, 10 dead, and chaos in a major city. Russia and Ukraine accuse the EU and US of interference, but are they really to blame for this?

Mark Almond: Well, only time will tell when the archives open, but there is a great deal of prima facie evidence that Americans and Europeans wanted some kind of chaotic denouement to this crisis. Remember, if we go back to 2004, they pushed through a compromise solution to the crisis and there was a rerun of the elections. Now what is wanted is a clean sweep or a revolution... It means abolishing the constitution, it means outlawing the losing side, and what I think the West really wants to see is the pushing away from any position of power, any chance of coming back to power, of the president's government and its supporters.

RT: Who would replace the president? We see extremists and nationalists taking power over the protesters on the streets...

MA: This is a great problem, I'm afraid. Just as we saw the same process taking place for instance in Syria, where we started out by supporting people who said they wanted constitutional change, they wanted general pre-elections, and then we ended up with radical jihadists planting car bombs and so on. So I'm afraid, on a smaller scale, we will probably see it in a European city. We have seen that the process of chaos is taking over.

And we have to say, after all, Mr. Klitchko and Yatsenyuk went to Berlin, they came back and then they made very radical statements. Quite often, particularly in the European media, we hear the moderate views. They said that today was the decisive day. And I think we have to ask ourselves are we really seeing a forked tongue approach? This is a very dangerous approach because it has a long history. When the Germans occupied Ukraine in 1919, the German commandment said "Let's put these little boys in short trousers, and ministerial seats, and we'll create a government of an independent Ukraine." And it's a horrible pre-echo of Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyat, the US State department people, talking about who should be prime minister, who should hold high office. I think this is the danger that we are seeing today. We see the geopolitical game played out over the bodies of ordinary Ukrainians.