Puppet MastersS

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Why progressives should oppose Hagel

Following weeks of trial-balloon conjecture, President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel, the former Senator from Nebraska and oft-described "moderate Republican," to succeed Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense.

Conservative critics had raised objections as soon as Hagel's name surfaced as a probable nominee in mid-November. The usual pack of neocon watchdogs charged him with being inadequately hawkish on Iran and out of lockstep on Israel.

Towing its increasingly neocon editorial line, the Washington Post on November 18th editorialized that Hagel was "not the right choice for defense secretary." Citing the ex-Senator-cum-Washington insider's public record, the Post asserted: "Mr. Hagel's stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term." (Hagel once had the temerity to suggest that Pentagon spending should be "pared down." Imagine!)


New York Governor Cuomo proposes gun, ammo magazine limits

© Photo: Mike Groll / APNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his third State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for tougher state bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines of ammunition as part of a progressive agenda in a sometimes fiery State of the State speech Wednesday.

"No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer," Cuomo said. "End the madness now!

"The tragic events of just the last few weeks in Newtown, Conn., and West Webster, N.Y., have indelibly taught us guns can cut down small children, firefighters and policemen in a moment," Cuomo said.

The state already has among the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation, and the governor noted that New York passed the nation's first handgun permit law, in 1911.

Eye 2

Four Polish soldiers re-tried in Afghan war crimes case

Four Polish soldiers, accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan, on Wednesday faced the first day of a re-trial after Poland's Supreme Court last year overturned their acquittal, a military court spokesman said.

The case marks the first instance in which Polish troops have faced a court martial for war crimes while fighting abroad.

The men are suspected in connection with the August 2007 deaths of six civilians in the Afghan village of Nangar Khel, in the mountainous southeastern province of Paktika.

The victims included a man, two women and three children who were killed by machinegun fire and shrapnel.

Pumpkin 2

Monsanto richer than ever before as food prices climb sky-high

Monsanto: What economic crisis?
With global food prices near all-time highs, Monsanto, global seed and agricultural product powerhouse, delivered blockbuster fiscal first quarter earnings before the bell on Tuesday. The stock continued its upward trajectory, hitting fresh 52-week highs early in the trading session.

Monsanto saw net income surge 169% to $339 million, which translates into an EPS from operations of 62 cents, well above the 37 cent consensus estimate.

On the back of solid demand for corn products from the likes of Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, Monsanto managed to churn out net revenue of $2.94 billion, up 20.5% and managing to beat the $2.66 billion estimate. The corn seed and traits unit was the company's best performer, with sales up 25.3% to $1.14 billion. Soybean seeds and traits results were slightly disappointing, sliding 4.5% to $231 million.


6 Reasons GMO labeling will pass in Washington state

© naturallysavvy.com
Initial polling shows that Washington voters will likely pass a ballot initiative, no matter how much money the biotech industry and large food corporations put into an anti-labeling campaign.

On Jan. 4, activists in Washington State will deliver approximately 300,000 signatures to the state legislature to guarantee that a mandatory GMO labeling Initiative, I-522, will be on the ballot in November. Initial polling shows that Washington state voters will likely pass this ballot initiative, no matter how much money the biotech industry and large food corporations put into an anti-labeling campaign.

Giant biotech and junk food corporations, joined by major food processors and supermarket chains, poured more than $46 million dollars into a vicious dirty tricks campaign to defeat California's Prop 37, a citizens ballot initiative that would have required mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food ingredients. Their tactics included a relentless barrage of TV and radio ads falsely claiming GE food labels would raise grocery prices, hurt family farmers, and enrich trial lawyers. They unleashed "scientific" testimonials manufactured by phony front groups, and they mailed counterfeit voter guides.

Arrow Down

Disney will gather private information on theme park visitors with new "Magic" bracelets

Magic Bracelets
© Kent Phillips, Disney
Visitors to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, will be revealing virtually everything they do at the park to company officials, if they participate in its new magic bracelet program.

This spring, Disney plans to offer MyMagic+, a special rubber bracelet encoded with customers' credit card information. By using the bracelets, visitors will be able to enter the park and purchase food or souvenirs without pulling out their wallets.

But this also means that visitors' actions, behavior and whereabouts will be carefully tracked within the park. Disney will collect this information, from what rides people go on and all purchases they make, to which costumed characters they choose to interact with. It will all be stored in a Disney data base, conceivably for marketing purposes.

Indeed, Disney's decision to move forward with the wrist band technology was contingent on determining that it would increase its corporate profits, according to its Parks and Resorts chairman, Thomas O. Staggs.

"If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us," he told The New York Times.

Gold Seal

Jon Stewart brings some sense to gun control issue

On his show Tuesday night, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart expressed his bafflement over conservatives who refused to even consider any new restrictions on gun ownership in the wake of multiple mass shootings.

He noted that conservatives had blamed gun violence on movies, video games, mental health, and even sin.

"Is this about me masturbating?" Stewart joked. "Look, I didn't know that that was considered a national issue."

The late-night comedian mocked politicians and others who claimed that numerous gun laws already existed, saying that McDonald's hot coffee was more regulated than firearms.

Part One:

Cowboy Hat

Biden: Obama could make executive order on gun control

© Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
The Vice President met with gun control advocates and victims groups today.

Joe Biden said today that the President is prepared to take unilateral action in order to implement stricter gun control measures. "The president is going go act," he said. "There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet, but we're compiling it all."

"The president and I are determined to take action. This is not an exercise in photo opportunities," Biden added.

Biden's comments came shortly before a meeting with victims groups and gun control advocates at the White House today, as part of the gun violence task force set up by Obama in the wake of the Newtown school shootings.

Brick Wall

German politicians threaten to block Cyprus bailout

© Photograph: Gon Alo Silva/Gonalo Silva/Demotix/CorbisAngela Merkel said Cyrpus must agree to wideranging economic reforms and privatisations before she would support a bailout.
German politicians including Angela Merkel take hard line on Cyprus, which needs estimated €17bn to recapitalise its banks.

Cyprus's hopes of agreeing a eurozone bailout were thrown into fresh confusion on Wednesday as German politicians from across the spectrum warned that the aid package could be vetoed by the Bundestag.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is taking a hard line on Cyprus, saying the country must agree to wideranging economic reforms and privatisations before she would support a bailout.

Negotiations between the Cyprus government and international lenders have stalled, with the Communist president, Dimitris Christofias, refusing to accept asset sales. Speaking in Berlin, Merkel also refused to concede ground over the issue.

"We agree it is important that the troika should talk with Cyprus and that there can be no special conditions for Cyprus because we have common rules in Europe," Merkel said. "We are far from the end of the talks."


Flying towards war? Drone race signals escalation in Sino-Japanese tensions

The development and acquisition of drones has become crucial to the ever-expanding arms race between China and Japan, as tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea could soon reach boiling point.

Weaknesses in Japan's surveillance capability and the ongoing territorial dispute over the Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyu in China, have spurred Tokyo to purchase an advanced drone model from the US.

Japan's vulnerability was highlighted late last year when Japanese radar failed to detect a low-flying Chinese aircraft passing over the group of disputed islands.

The drones will seemingly be deployed "to counter China's growing assertiveness at sea, especially when it comes to the Senkaku islands," the Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed defense ministry official as saying.

Japanese concerns that the islands will be used by China as a prelude to testing regional power balances, prompted Japan's Defense Ministry to request $2.4 billion dollars from hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose conservative government swept to power on December 26.