Puppet MastersS

Arrow Up

Obamacare becomes nightmare of higher premiums and deductibles

© Drugchannels.net
From a distance of three and a half years, the events of March 23, 2010, the day President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, seem like something from another world.

On that day, the Democrats who gathered in the East Room of the White House for the signing ceremony could barely contain their joy. They cheered, they laughed, they shouted, they pumped their fists, they wouldn't sit down. They chanted "Fired up -- ready to go!" as they had at Obama campaign rallies. When the president recognized Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the House, the chant turned to "Nancy! Nancy! Nancy!"

Pelosi, of course, would be swept out of the speakership in the Republican landslide a few months later -- a result that was based, in part, on the voters' unhappiness with Obamacare. And today, some of the other Democrats in the East Room are now afraid for their jobs -- because of the voters' unhappiness with Obamacare.

Black Cat

Sebelius asks for investigation of flawed website

President Barack Obama's top health official is asking for an investigation into the administration's botched rollout of HealthCare.gov.

The website was supposed to have been the online portal to insurance coverage under the new health care law, but technical problems turned it into a frustrating bottleneck for millions of consumers. It's working better now after two months of repairs.

Comment: And while we are on the subject, why does Kathleen Sebelius still have a job?


Former EPA senior offical who claimed to be CIA illegally collected pay and bonuses in 2010

© iStock/Skyhobo
The Environmental Protection Agency was warned as early as July 2010 that a senior executive who claimed to be a CIA agent was collecting pay and bonuses not allowed by law but took no action for years, according to a new report from the agency's inspector general.

Auditors warned EPA administrators that continuing "retention bonuses" for John C. Beale, which were not authorized, had pushed his salary above the legal maximum, according to the report, obtained Tuesday by The Washington Post.


The story behind "that Obama selfie"

© AFP/Roberto SchmidtU.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt next to US First Lady Michelle Obama during the memorial service for South African former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.
So here's the photo, my photo, which quickly lit up the world's social networks and news websites. The "selfie" of three world leaders who, during South Africa's farewell to Nelson Mandela, were messing about like kids instead of behaving with the mournful gravitas one might expect.

In general on this blog, photojournalists tell the story behind a picture they've taken. I've done this for images from Pakistan, and India, where I am based. And here I am again, but this time the picture comes from a stadium in Soweto, and shows people taking a photo of themselves. I guess it's a sign of our times that somehow this image seemed to get more attention than the event itself. Go figure.

Anyway, I arrived in South Africa with several other AFP journalists to cover the farewell and funeral ceremonies for Nelson Mandela. We were in the Soccer City stadium in Soweto, under a driving rain. I'd been there since the crack of dawn and when I took this picture, the memorial ceremony had already been going on for more than two hours.

Light Sabers

NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking

© Washington PostA slide from an internal NSA presentation indicating that the agency uses at least one Google cookie as a way to identify targets for exploitation.
The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using "cookies" and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.

The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.

For years, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of commercial tracking tools to identify and target consumers with advertisements. The online ad industry has said its practices are innocuous and benefit consumers by serving them ads that are more likely to be of interest to them.

The revelation that the NSA is piggybacking on these commercial technologies could shift that debate, handing privacy advocates a new argument for reining in commercial surveillance.


Selfie-gate: Why do Cameron and Obama feel the need to behave like idiots?

© AFP/Getty
David Cameron is a well brought up son of the English shires. He knows, I suspect, not to talk too loudly in church, not to help himself to the claret when invited to a dinner party and not to be rude to waiters or waitresses. He can be a bit presumptuous and thoughtless with his own MPs, which may one day have consequences. But that aside, he knows how to behave.

So why did a grinning Prime Minister today lean in to be in a "selfie" with President Obama and the leader of Denmark? She's Neil Kinnock's daughter-in-law, by the way. A dignified Michelle Obama looked straight ahead and refused to indulge in such ridiculous teenage antics at what, after all, was a memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

For those unaware of the concept of a "selfie", it is a picture taken of yourself on a mobile telephonic device. A picture of the Cameron/Obama selfie being taken has emerged on the internet.

It is only yesterday that Cameron was caught during the tributes to Mandela in the Commons tweeting a picture of "little Ant'n'Dec" (small television characters who resemble the real Ant and Dec, the well-established Geordie entertainers). It seems one of his staff tweeted it, thus undermining his efforts at creating the impression of authenticity.

What on earth is going on? Why do world leaders now behave like this? And at a memorial service?

Eye 1

World's leading authors: state surveillance of personal data is theft

author composite
Clockwise from top left, eight of the people who have signed the petition: Hanif Kureishi, Björk, Arundhati Roy, Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Tom Stoppard, Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis
- 500 signatories include five Nobel prize winners
- Writers demand 'digital bill of rights' to curb abuses

More than 500 of the world's leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people's digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.

They have urged the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would enshrine the protection of civil rights in the internet age.

Their call comes a day after the heads of the world's leading technology companies demanded sweeping changes to surveillance laws to help preserve the public's trust in the internet - reflecting the growing global momentum for a proper review of mass snooping capabilities in countries such as the US and UK, which have been the pioneers in the field.

Comment: The concerns over federal intelligence agency intrusion into individual privacy and government surveillance are valid and should be directly addressed. At the same time, shouldn't we also be asking ourselves questions about why the government wants to keep the public so afraid, so on edge all the time? Shouldn't we also entertain the idea that, perhaps, there is little, if anything, that is 'leaked' that our government, or at least a faction within the government, does not want to be leaked? Inquiring minds want to know.

Bad Guys

TSA seizes sock monkey's toy gun

sock monkey
TSA agents in St. Louis, Missouri, disarmed Rooster Monkburn, a cowboy sock monkey, of his two-inch toy gun after a woman brought the stuffed monkey through security. Agents said that it posed a threat because it could be confused for a real gun, according to local reports.

"[The agent] said 'this is a gun,'" said Phyllis May, recounting the experience to fly back to her home in Washington state. "I said no, it's not a gun it's a prop for my monkey."

May, who has a small business selling sock monkeys, was also questioned for bringing the sewing supplies she uses to make the stuffed animals in her carry-on bag. TSA agents told her they would have to confiscate the miniature firearm and call the police, although Washington's KING-TV reports that the TSA never did call the authorities. May's sewing supplies were ultimately returned to her.

Comment: TSA: smokin' out every last terrorist sock monkey - because, they're out there.

Mr. Potato

Obama creates international incident with 'selfie' at Mandela service

Obama and friend
© Fox NewsDavid Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Barack Obama
Call it the selfie seen 'round the world.

Among the enduring images from Nelson Mandela's massive memorial service in Johannesburg Tuesday will be one of a jovial President Obama taking a cell phone pic with his seat-mates, Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Britain's David Cameron.

As the three of them smile for the camera, a stern-looking Michelle Obama can be seen staring straight ahead, hands clasped. As if to remind anyone who sees this photo years from now that it was, after all, a memorial service for one of the great human rights leaders.

The tsk-tsk-ing could be heard across continents.

"What on earth is going on? Why do world leaders now behave like this?" The Daily Telegraph's Iain Martin wrote. "Perhaps it is just that the current generation -- my generation -- is so appallingly spoiled that basic notions of decorum have been shot to pieces."

Comment: Why you ask? Our trusted twisted leaders are likely psychopaths.


US media blacks out Seymour Hersh exposé of Washington's lies on sarin attack in Syria

Seymour Hersh
The American media has blacked out an account by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh demonstrating that President Barack Obama and the US government lied when they claimed to have proof that the Syrian government carried out a sarin gas attack last August on areas near Damascus held by US-backed "rebels."

Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and other top officials declared categorically that the August 21 attack on Eastern Ghouta, which reportedly killed hundreds of people, had been carried out by the Syrian military. They, along with the leaders of Britain and France, sought to use the gas attack to stampede public opinion behind their plans to attack Syria, cripple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and install a puppet government.

In the end, internal differences over the launching of direct military action combined with broad popular opposition to another unprovoked war in the Middle East led the administration to pull back and accept a Russian plan for the dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons. This was followed by the opening of talks with Iran, Syria's main ally in the region.

Hersh's article, entitled "Whose sarin?," was published Sunday by the London Review of Books. Based on information provided by current and former US intelligence and military officials, Hersh showed in great detail that Washington manipulated intelligence to create the impression that it had tracked the Syrian military preparing to launch a poison gas attack in the days leading up to the sarin strike on Eastern Ghouta. In fact, US intelligence had no advance warning of the attack.