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Fri, 07 May 2021
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Surprise! TSA Is Searching Your Car, Subway, Ferry, Bus, AND Plane

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© Scott Ableman / Flicker
Think you could avoid the TSA's body scanners and pat-downs by taking Amtrak? Think again. Even your daily commute isn't safe from TSA screenings. And because the TSA is working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol, you may have your immigration status examined along with your "junk".

As part of the TSA's request for FY 2012 funding, TSA Administrator John Pistole told Congress last week that the TSA conducts 8,000 unannounced security screenings every year. These screenings, conducted with local law enforcement agencies as well as immigration, can be as simple as checking out cargo at a busy seaport. But more and more, they seem to involve giving airport-style pat-downs and screenings of unsuspecting passengers at bus terminals, ferries, and even subways.

These surprise visits are part of the TSA's VIPR program: Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response. The VIPR program first started doing searches in 2007, and has grown since then. Currently, the TSA only has 25 VIPR teams doing these impromptu searches: in 2012, it wants to get 12 more.

USA

US: Recall Elections Surge in Local and State Governments

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© Dinesh Remde, Associated Press
Voters are organizing recall elections against state officials at a record pace. That's especially true in Wisconsin, where turmoil continues over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's law undercutting unions.
Angry voters, helped by social media and 'tea party'-like fervor, are organizing recall votes at a record pace against politicians they don't like.

The new president of Arizona's state Senate, Russell Pearce, had only 21 days to enjoy that position before opponents began circulating petitions in January to recall the freshly reelected conservative.

That's more time than Jim Suttle had. The night the Democrat was elected mayor of Omaha in 2009, backers of his rivals began to talk online about trying to remove him from office. Suttle barely survived a recall election in January.

Once a political rarity, recall elections are surging in local and state governments.

Stormtrooper

Agents Provocateurs: Once discovered, Spanish undercover police are escorted away by their colleagues

As we've seen happen so often, peaceful Spanish protestors recently wised up to a group of 'protestors' who consistently broke ranks by trying to provoke their colleagues into attacking the crowd.


Propaganda

9/11 and The Orwellian Redefinition of "Conspiracy Theory"

conspiracy theory
© Global Research
While we were not watching, conspiracy theory has undergone Orwellian redefinition.

A "conspiracy theory" no longer means an event explained by a conspiracy. Instead, it now means any explanation, or even a fact, that is out of step with the government's explanation and that of its media pimps.

For example, online news broadcasts of RT have been equated with conspiracy theories by the New York Times simply because RT reports news and opinions that the New York Times does not report and the US government does not endorse.

In other words, as truth becomes uncomfortable for government and its Ministry of Propaganda, truth is redefined as conspiracy theory, by which is meant an absurd and laughable explanation that we should ignore.

Bad Guys

Delivering democracy from 40,000 feet: Another 15 innocent Libyans killed in NATO airstrike

In Libya, another deadly NATO bombing has reportedly killed at least 15 civilians in the capital Tripoli. NATO insists it hit a command center, but Libyan officials say three children are among the dead.


­It comes just a day after the alliance admitted killing up to nine civilians in another airstrike, which it blamed on a technical failure.

A large private compound to the west of the capital has been reduced to rubble in the latest apparent airstrike. Rescuers have discovered the remains of 15 people, accordion to Libyan officials.

The house destroyed belonged to General Khoweildi al-Hamidi, one of the people closest to Colonel Gaddafi. He was among those who took part in the military coup to bring the Libyan leader to power 41 years ago. The general escaped injury, but most of his family died in the attack.

MIB

"Ofergate", a Hush-Hush Scandal: Ofer Brothers Ships Transported Mossad Agents to Iran, 'High Ranking Security Official' Shut Down Israeli Knesset Probe

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© Haaretz
Sammy and Yuli Ofer, Israel's richest men, violated Iran embargo
I haven't covered or even followed in any great detail the Ofer Brothers scandal involving illegal trade between Israel and Iran. But developments today really perked up my ears. First a bit of background: Ofer Brothers are Israel's wealthiest family, owning shipping and other interests. They were recently named to a Treasury Department blacklist for engaging in illegal trade with Iran, which included their ships docking at Iranian ports numerous times and sale of one of their tankers to an Iranian shipping company.

This news has erupted into a medium-sized scandal in Israel with the company claiming it had the government's approval to engage in such trade. This of course would mean that the government colluded with commercial interests against international sanctions. Those of you with an interest in intelligence activities and cloak and dagger mystery can imagine why this might be the case. The government, of course, denies the claims. The company also claims the government is attempting to get it removed from the blacklist with the foreign ministry denying it is doing so. All very strange.

Phoenix

Arizona Wild Fires: John McCain Blames Illegal Immigrants

John McCain
© unknown
John McCain
Sen. John McCain and other Republican politicians have claimed that there was "substantial evidence" that illegal immigrants were partly responsible for wildfires blazing across the state.

Fire officials said three major blazes in Arizona were started by humans, but they don't know any more details.

Activists swiftly jumped on Mr McCain's statement as "scapegoating," saying that state leaders were merely deflecting attention away from wildfire response.

The debated raged as people returned to homes that had been evacuated near the US-Mexico border. One day earlier the so-called Monument fire swept off a mountain into the outskirts of Sierra Vista, forcing about 3,000 residents of 1,700 homes to flee.

The evacuations brought the total to about 10,000 people from 4,300 homes forced out by the blaze. The fire has burned more than 40 square miles since it started about a week ago and had destroyed 44 homes.

Meanwhile, in the central part of the state along the New Mexico border, the largest blaze in state history has charred an area five times that size.

Vader

Obama to Announce Afghan Plans Wednesday

Obama
© Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama
President Obama is in the final phase of determining how many U.S. troops he will withdraw from Afghanistan next month and plans to announce his decision Wednesday, administration officials said.

The announcement is also expected to lay out a glide-path for further withdrawals between now and the end of 2012, including the 33,000 so-called "surge" troops he sent there early last year as part of a broad counterinsurgency strategy that the administration has said succeeded in clearing Taliban fighters from key areas in southern Afghanistan.

The number and pace of the withdrawals, from a current total of about 100,000 troops, has been a contentious issue within the White House and between the administration and the U.S. military, which has warned against a significant withdrawal before gains of the last year are solidified.

The administration had hoped to couple Obama's announcement on troop withdrawals with news of progress on political reconciliation with Taliban leaders. But discussions have stalled following several rounds of talks this spring between U.S. officials and Taliban interlocutors, first in Qatar and later in Germany.

Bad Guys

Time for Plan B: How the Euro Became Europe's Greatest Threat

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© European Commission 2011

The euro is becoming an ever greater threat to Europe's common future. The currency union chains together economies that are simply incompatible. Politicians approve one bailout package after the other and, in doing so, have set down a dangerous path that could burden Europeans for generations to come and set the EU back by decades.

In the past 14 months, politicians in the euro-zone nations have adopted one bailout package after the next, convening for hectic summit meetings, wrangling over lazy compromises and building up risks of gigantic dimensions.

For just as long, they have been avoiding an important conclusion, namely that things cannot continue this way. The old euro no longer exists in its intended form, and the European Monetary Union isn't working. We need a Plan B.

Bizarro Earth

The Psychopath's Science: War Evolves With Drones, Some Tiny as Bugs

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© Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
A microdrone during a demo flight at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Two miles from the cow pasture where the Wright Brothers learned to fly the first airplanes, military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, to the size of insects and birds.

The base's indoor flight lab is called the "microaviary," and for good reason. The drones in development here are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. "We're looking at how you hide in plain sight," said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill.

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© Raven Industries
A giant blimplike spy balloon, called an aerostat, keeps an eye on insurgent activity in Afghanistan. The helium-filled aerostats are the largest in the drone arsenal. They are tethered to the ground by cables and float 15,000 feet in the air. An attached camera pans 360 degrees for constant, real-time surveillance as far as 30 miles away. There are now more than 60 aerostats in Afghanistan, with double that number expected in the next year.
Half a world away in Afghanistan, Marines marvel at one of the new blimplike spy balloons that float from a tether 15,000 feet above one of the bloodiest outposts of the war, Sangin in Helmand Province. The balloon, called an aerostat, can transmit live video - from as far as 20 miles away - of insurgents planting homemade bombs. "It's been a game-changer for me," Capt. Nickoli Johnson said in Sangin this spring. "I want a bunch more put in."

From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones, the Cessna-sized workhorses that have dominated unmanned flight since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less widely known are the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it.