Puppet MastersS

Evil Rays

Liar, liar! The biggest Pinocchios of 2013

pinocchio image lies
It's time for our annual round-up of the biggest Pinocchios of the year. This was not a presidential election year, so in some ways the subjects that needed to be fact checked were more substantive. In reviewing The Fact Checker's more than 200 columns in the past year, we found an interesting evolution from statistics about gun violence to claims about President Obama's health-care law. Our general rule of thumb held: the more complex a subject is, the more tempted politicians are to make misleading claims.

President Obama ended up with three of the most misleading claims of the year. But, despite the urging of some readers, his statement that "I didn't set a red line" on Syria is not among them. We had looked closely at that claim and had determined that, in context, it was a bungled talking point, so that statement actually earned no rating.

As always, that and other rulings were met with vehement objections from some readers. The Fact Checker thanks the readers who have offered thoughtful rebuttals to our conclusions. In some cases, in light of new information, we adjusted Pinocchio ratings.

In compiling this list, we primarily focused on claims that had earned four Pinocchios during the year. We also tried to focus on issues of broad interest, such as gun control, health care and the size of government. To keep it simple, we have shortened the quotes in the headlines. To read the full column, click on the link embedded in the quote.

"If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it."

Obama healthcare
© Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
This memorable promise by President Obama backfired on him when the Affordable Care Act went into effect and millions of Americans started receiving cancellation notices. As we explained, part of the reason for so many cancellations is because of an unusually early (March 23, 2010) cut-off date for grandfathering plans - and because of tight regulations written by the administration. This was our most popular fact check of the year - and Obama's pledge also was also named PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year."

Snakes in Suits

Rep. Jack Kingston: Have poor students sweep floors to pay for lunch

jack kingston
Jack Kingston wants 'no such thing as a free lunch' for schoolkids.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) wants kids to learn early in life that there's no such thing as a free lunch. To make sure they absorb that lesson, he's proposing that low-income children do some manual labor in exchange for their subsidized meals.

On Saturday, Kingston, who is vying to be his party's nominee in Georgia's Senate race next year, spoke at a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party about the federal school lunch program.

Under that program, children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty line are eligible for free meals. Students from families with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level can receive lunches at reduced prices.

But on Saturday, Kingston came out against free lunches, saying that children should have to pay at least a nominal amount or do some work like sweeping cafeteria floors.

Comment: Maybe Kingston himself should go sweep some floors, rather than spew verbal diarrhea all over them.

Bad Guys

Obama would veto new Iran sanctions bill

President Barack Obama
The White House has announced that US President Barack Obama would veto a new Iran sanctions bill introduced in the Senate.

"Passing new sanctions legislation now will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday.

"We don't believe this proposal is necessary, as I think we've made clear and we have been discussing with members of Congress for quite some time. We don't believe it will be enacted. We certainly know it's not necessary. If it were to pass, the president would veto it," he added.

Earlier on Thursday, a group of Democrat and Republican senators introduced new legislation to impose further sanctions against Iran if the country breaches the terms of the nuclear deal reached last month in Geneva. The Senate bill also calls for "diplomatic, military and economic support" to Israel in case Tel Aviv decides to launch an attack against Iran's nuclear energy program.

Comment: "The Senate bill also calls for "diplomatic, military and economic support" to Israel in case Tel Aviv decides to launch an attack against Iran's nuclear energy program."

So, this new sanctions bill - should it inexplicably ever get passed, would provide even more financial and military support than is already currently extended to Israel, free of charge - along with the blessings of the U.S. government. In a common sense world, this would be ludicrous on its face.
Iran is being held with its back to the wall to stick to the terms of the agreement, 'or else', but Israel can defy it - and expects even MORE freebies - courtesy of the American taxpayer - in the process?

Have you wondered at all lately just which country your governmental representatives actually serve?


Saudi diplomat chides West over Iran, Syria

© Reuters/Jamal SaidiSaudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Britain Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al Saud
Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Britain Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al Saud has criticized the West for its policies vis-à-vis Syria and Iran.

In a commentary in the New York Times on Tuesday, Prince Nawaf, who is a member of Saudi Arabia's ruling family, said the West's approaches towards Iran and Syria "risk the stability and security of the Middle East."

"We believe that many of the West's policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East," the Saudi diplomat said.

Nawaf stressed that Saudi Arabia is prepared to act on its own to safeguard security in the region.

"This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by," he wrote.

The criticism is the latest in a series of public statements by senior Saudi officials expressing displeasure with U.S. and Western diplomatic initiatives toward Syria and Iran.


Former top NSA official: "We are now in a Police State"

32-year NSA Veteran Who Created Mass Surveillance System Says Government Use of Data Gathered Through Spying "Is a Totalitarian Process"

Bill Binney is the high-level NSA executive who created the agency's mass surveillance program for digital information. A 32-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a "legend" within the agency, Binney was the senior technical director within the agency and managed thousands of NSA employees.

Binney has been interviewed by virtually all of the mainstream media, including CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Fox News, PBS and many others.

Last year, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:
We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.
But today, Binney told Washington's Blog that the U.S. has already become a police state.


NATO members alarmed by Russian nuclear missile deployment

© AFP/Alexander NemenovIskander mobile theater missile system
Western officials have reacted with alarm at Russia's deployment of tactical missiles on areas bordering NATO members states, describing it as a potentially destabilizing move.

Russian officials have confirmed that missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads have been moved to the Western Military District - a territory that abuts all three Baltic States and Poland - in a measure that marks an escalation in Moscow's campaign to dissuade a U.S.-backed missile shield program in Central Europe.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at a briefing on Monday that Washington "urged Moscow to take no steps to destabilize the region."

Russian's Defense Ministry has defended the deployment, saying that it violated no international agreements. Russia has not revealed the number and exact location of the missiles, and it remains unclear how long they have been in the region.


'Troubling': Federal judge orders Obama admin. to disclose document it's been trying to keep hidden

© AP/ Carolyn FasterIn this Dec. 4, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the new health care law during a White House Youth Summit, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Americans who already have health insurance are blaming President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul for their rising premiums and deductibles, and overall 3 in 4 say the roll-out of coverage for the uninsured has gone poorly.
"Acting on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Center for Effective Government, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle concluded that the presidential order is not properly within the bounds of the so-called 'presidential communications privilege,'" Politico's Josh Gerstein reports.

In her opinion, Huvelle wrote there is "no evidence that the [directive] was intended to be, or has been treated as, a confidential presidential communication."

The Obama administration has maintained that the document was only intended for those who "need to know," but the judge argued the order was "distributed far beyond the president's close advisers and its substance was widely discussed by the president in the media."

Arrow Down

Meet the American hedge fund billionaire who could start a 'Holy War' in the Middle East

Henry Swieca
© ForbesHenry Swieca.

Henry Swieca is a money man. The New York-based billionaire made his fortune by co-founding Highbridge Capital Corp., a hedge fund that boasted clients like the American International Group.

In 2009, the banking giant JP Morgan Chase, another client of Highbridge, fully took over the flagship hedge fund. Swieca went on to play a role at two more hedge funds: Talpion Fund Management, which he launched, and Clearline Capital, which Swieca joined as a startup investor in February 2013.

Swieca, whose net worth is $1.2 billion as of September 2013, is well-known as a financial guru. His every move is covered by the financial press. But he's less known for what his foundation pours money into: right-wing, pro-Israel causes. Along with a host of charitable groups and domestic Jewish centers, the Swieca Family Foundation, which he runs with his Israeli-American wife Estee, has poured tons of cash into pro-Israel groups--including to religious extremist groups that operate in the most sensitive of holy places. Swieca did not return requests for comment on his donations.

According to tax records reviewed by AlterNet, Swieca, an Orthodox Jew, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American Israel Education Foundation, the non-profit offshoot of the powerful lobbying group called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He's also handed over cash to groups like the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; the right-wing, anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center; and the Hebron Fund, a Brooklyn-based organization that funnels American money into illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron, a big city in the West Bank that has the most intense regime of settler violence and enforced segregation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But perhaps most alarmingly is Swieca's funding of the Temple Institute, an organization that promotes the building of the Third Temple on the third most holy site for Muslims. In early December, the Washington Post disclosed that Swieca and his wife funded the Jerusalem-based Temple Institute's move to "to a large, renovated space in the Old City's Jewish Quarter, overlooking the Western Wall." The move put the institute just a short walk away from the place where they hope the Third Temple arises.

Top Secret

Snowden: NSA surveillance Is about power, not "safety"

© Guardian
An open letter to the people of Brazil

The following letter was published today in the Brazilian newspaper A Folha in Portuguese and this original text was provided via the Facebook page of Glenn Greenwald's husband David Miranda:

Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government's National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist's camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the system in which they live.

Bad Guys

Netanyahu vows to keep building illegal settlements: Who will stop him?

'We are building continuously. We will continue building and developing everywhere, including the settlements'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Wednesday his government's commitment to continue building and developing Israeli settlement projects, without any interruptions. Netanyahu said: "We are building continuously. We will continue building and developing everywhere, including the settlements."
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu's uncompromising stance comes in response to several weeks of intense pressure from the Americans urging Israel to stop announcing new plans for settlement expansion.

In his speech to the Likud convention, Netanyahu also reiterated that he will put any agreement reached with the Palestinians before the Knesset and to a referendum. He stressed that settlements are not the reason for why the peace negotiations have stalled, and instead blamed the Palestinians' refusal to recognise Israel a national home for Jews.

Concerning the Iranian issue, Netanyahu vowed that Israel would not allow Iran to become a nuclear power. He said: "I choose my words precisely. Israel will not allow Iran to own nuclear weapons or to even reach the stage where it could become a nuclear power."

Comment: Illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian lands are one issue impacting why peace talks have failed.
The other significant issues revolve around Israel's continuing illegal military occupation and blockade, its apartheid policies and practices,and the daily torturous, inhumane existence Palestinians are forced to endure because of Israeli government policies and practices.

Perhaps peace talks might have a real chance of success if Israel's psychopathic leaders would lift the blockade, cease and desist with their international-law-violating, UN-condemned military occupation; if they would stop stealing from , profiting off of, and murdering the Palestinian people and if they would quit trying to fulfill a genocidal idea that has been in play for decades.
There can be no peace where there are no human rights. It's pretty simple to figure out, actually.