Published: Saturday 29 December 2012
Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
How a Community Organizer and Constitutional Law Professor Became a Robot President

President Barack Obama 

The White House 

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama,

Nothing you don’t know, but let me just say it: the world’s a weird place. In my younger years, I might have said “crazy,” but that was back when I thought being crazy was a cool thing and only regretted I wasn’t.

I mean, do you ever think about how you ended up where you are? And I'm not actually talking about the Oval Office, though that’s undoubtedly a weird enough story in its own right.

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Published: Monday 3 December 2012
Now that the voting is past, a group of independent advisers to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly urged her to consider pursuing an informal accord with Russia aimed at lowering the number of nuclear weapons the two countries might deploy under existing treaties

 

The Pentagon’s budget is almost assuredly going down in coming years, under heavy pressure from those who wish to trim the federal deficit and see the agency – whose budget increased by two-thirds over the last decade – as a ripe target. But it also looks like a specific weapon system,  the nation’s stockpile of nuclear warheads, is also headed down, with Barack Obama’s reelection.

This is not a great surprise. Obama promised in a 2009 speech in Prague, after all, that the U.S.-Russian arms control treaty he was then negotiating “will set the stage for further cuts.” But the administration’s planning was not detailed publicly before the election to avoid creating controversy.

Now that the voting is past, a group of independent advisers to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly urged her to consider pursuing an informal accord with Russia aimed at lowering the number of nuclear weapons the two countries might deploy under existing treaties. Its report, issued Nov. 27, has also acknowledged official support for deeper cuts inside the administration.

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Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
“If Rice eventually becomes Secretary of State, she could recuse herself from any decision on Keystone XL.”

Most of the attacks against Susan Rice, Obama’s supposed top pick for Secretary of State, have come from Republicans. But now the left — mainly groups opposed to developing Canadian tar sands — may have some reasons to question Rice.

According to a report from OnEarth Magazine, Rice has millions of dollars tied up in top Canadian energy companies — including TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline would pipe carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Because the pipeline crosses international borders, its approval falls under the jurisdiction of the State Department. That means Rice — or any other candidate tapped to head the State Department — would be responsible for approving or rejecting the project.

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Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
“Unless we wish to salute our very own Imperator, we need to regain a healthy dose of skepticism, shared famously by our Founders, when it comes to evaluating our generals and our wars.”

Generals Who Run Amuck, Politicians Who Could Care Less, an “Embedded” Media... And Us

Few things have characterized the post-9/11 American world more than our worshipful embrace of our generals. They’ve become our heroes, our sports stars, and our celebrities all rolled into one. We can’t stop gushing about them. Even after his recent fall from grace, General David Petraeus was still being celebrated by CNN as the best American general since Dwight D. Eisenhower (and let’s not forget that Ike commanded the largest amphibious invasion in history and held a fractious coalition together in a total war against Nazi Germany). Before his fall from grace, Afghan War Commander General Stanley McChrystal was similarly lauded as one tough ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
The corporate state, faced with rebellion from within and without, does not know how to define or control this rising power, from the Arab Spring to the street protests in Greece and Spain to the Occupy movement.

 

The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become. 

“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now. …”

Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to ...

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
We want to show Pakistanis that there are Americans calling for an end to the CIA’s killer drone strikes, and insisting that our government apologize and compensate the families of innocent victims.

 

“You’re not really going to Pakistan, are you?” “You’ve seen the State Department travel warning?” “Don’t they hate us over there?”

There are questions our friends and relatives are asking as we embark on a delegation to Pakistan to protest the drone attacks that have killed so many innocent Pakistanis over the past 8 years.

But the Pakistanis have been asking us very different questions. “Why do the American people support these barbaric and cowardly drone attacks?” “How would you like it if foreigners flew death machines into your airspace, murdering innocent men, women and children?” “Don’t you know that these attacks are counterproductive, driving locals into the hands of extremist groups out of a desire for revenge?”

When it comes to drones, Americans and Pakistanis see the world through different lenses. Americans are looking through the eyes of remote-control pilots safely ensconced in bases in the United States, while Pakistanis are at the receiving end of the bull’s eye. Polls show to the two peoples as polar opposites: 83% of Americans support the use of drones against “terrorist suspects overseas”; in Pakistan, among those who say they know something about drones, virtually all—97%—oppose them.

Many Pakistanis who raged against the “Innocence of Muslims” film were venting long-held resentments towards the United States stemming from drone attacks (along with other policies such as the US mishandling of the war in Afghanistan, the disastrous US invasion of Iraq, and the US pro-Israel ...

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace.”

First came the hullaballoo over the “Mosque at Ground Zero.”  Then there was Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, grabbing headlines as he promoted“International Burn-a-Koran Day.”  Most recently, we have an American posting a slanderous anti-Muslim video on the Internet with all the ensuing turmoil.

Throughout, the official U.S. position has remained fixed: the United States government condemns Islamophobia.  Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace.  Incidents suggesting otherwise are the work of a tiny minority -- whackos, hatemongers, and publicity-seekers.  Among Muslims from Benghazi to Islamabad, the argument has proven to be a tough sell.

And not without reason: although it might be comforting to dismiss anti-Islamic outbursts in the U.S. as the work of a few fanatics, the picture is actually far more complicated.  Those complications in turn help explain why religion, once considered a foreign policy asset, has in recent years become a net liability.

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson.  From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, when Communism provided the overarching ideological rationale for American globalism, religion figured prominently as a theme of U.S. foreign policy.  Communist antipathy toward religion helped invest the Cold War foreign policy consensus with its remarkable durability.  That Communists were godless sufficed to place them beyond the pale.  For many Americans, the Cold War derived its moral clarity from the conviction that here was a contest pitting the God-fearing ...

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“Fox hosts accuse Obama Administration of ‘widespread cover-up’ to protect terrorists and ‘murderers.’”

Fox News hosts accused President Obama and his administration of perpetuating a "cover-up" of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. But the Obama administration is conducting an investigation into the attack, the State Department is setting up an independent panel to investigate it, and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center has testified about the attacks to a congressional committee.

Fox Hosts Accuse Obama Admin. Of "Widespread Cover-Up" To Protect Terrorists And "Murderers"

Hannity: "We Are Witnessing A Widespread Cover-Up Based On Flat-Out Lies." Hannity began his September 20 Fox News show by airing a montage of White House officials speaking about the attacks on the U.S. embassy and consulate. He then said:

HANNITY: All right now, how this event can evolve from an impromptu riot about a YouTube video to a premeditated terrorist attack in the span of a week -- well, that can be explained one of three ways. Number one, this administration is stupid, simple as that. Number two, this administration is on the receiving end of some of the worst intelligence in American history. Or number three, we are witnessing a widespread cover-up based on flat-out lies, all aimed to protect a president who happens to be running for re-election. I'm going with number three, and in a moment, I'm going to show you the evidence to back it up. [Fox News,Hannity, 9/20/12]

Hannity Accuses Obama Admin. Of Lying To Protect "The Perpetrators Of Terror, The Murderers Of Americans," And Possibly Al Qaeda. Later during his show, while discussing the attacks with Fox ...

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
President Barack Obama publically mourned the death of the US Ambassador, the first to die in over two decades, and denounced the violent protesters.

The US ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staffers, were killed on Tuesday evening when an enraged mob assailed the American Consulate in Benghazi in response to a short American film that mocked the founding prophet of Islam.

The film in question portrayed the Prophet Mohammed as a prurient buffoon and a charlatan. In a short clip posted on YouTube, the venerable prophet is shown preforming a lewd sex with an unidentified woman. The film, released in 2011, was recently translated to Arabic and promoted by Terry Jones, the American pastor made notorious for publically burning a Quran.

Egyptian media publicized the film, entitled the “Innocence of Islam,” and news of it quickly spread throughout the region. Within hours, a mob of protesters in Libya had mobilized and, armed with automatic rifles and rocket launchers, attacked the American Consulate and set it afire.

A group of Libyans not associated with the protesters discovered Stevens body within the burned down building, and carried him to a nearby hospital. He was pronounced dead by doctors an hour and half after arriving. The doctor tasked with treating him said that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

In addition, three other security guards were killed. Among them was Sean Smith, an information management officer who had been in the Foreign Service for 10 years. The State Department pledged not identify the other two until their relatives are notified.

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Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“His opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, tried to turn this hesitation to use hard power into a sign of a man too inexperienced to be entrusted with the presidency.”

 

Barack Obama is a smart guy. So why has he spent the last four years executing such a dumb foreign policy? True, his reliance on “smart power” -- a euphemism for giving the Pentagon a stake in all things global -- has been a smart move politically at home.  It has largely prevented the Republicans from playing the national security card in this election year. But “smart power” has been a disaster for the world at large and, ultimately, for the United States itself.

Power was not always Obama’s strong suit. When he ran for president in 2008, he appeared to friend and foe alike as Mr. Softy. He wanted out of the war in Iraq. He was no fan of nuclear weapons. He favored carrots over sticks when approaching America’s adversaries.

His opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, tried to turn this hesitation to use hard power into a sign of a man too inexperienced to be entrusted with the presidency. In 2007, when Obama offered to meet without preconditions with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea, and Iran, Clinton fired back that such a policy was “irresponsible and frankly naïve.” In February 2008, she went further with a TV ad that asked voters who should answer the White House phone at 3 a.m. Obama, she implied, lacked the requisite body parts -- muscle, backbone, cojones-- to make the hard presidential decisions in a crisis.

Obama didn’t take the bait. “When that call gets answered, shouldn’t the president be the one -- the only one -- who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start,” his response ad intoned. “Who understood the real threat to America was al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Who led the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons ...

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
Total Tops Iraq at That War’s Height

Afghanistan may turn out to be one of the great misbegotten “stimulus packages” of the modern era, a construction boom in the middle of nowhere with materials largely shipped in at enormous expense to no lasting purpose whatsoever.  With the U.S. military officially drawing down its troops there, the Pentagon is now evidently reversing the process and embarking on a major deconstruction program.  It’stearing up tarmacs, shutting down outposts, and packing up some of its smaller facilities.  Next year, the number of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition bases in the southwest of the country alone is scheduled to plummet from 214 to 70, according to the New York Times.

But anyone who wanted to know just what the Pentagon built in Afghanistan and what it is now tearing down won’t have an easy time of it.

At the height of the American occupation of Iraq, the United States had 505 bases there, ranging from small outposts to mega-sized air bases.  Press estimates at the time, however, always put the number at about 300. ...

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“First, in spite of all the name-calling about President Obama being a Kenyan socialist, he has pushed an agenda that most Republicans would have been comfortable with 20 years ago.”

In principle the country faces a choice this fall between a moderate conservative, President Obama, and Governor Romney, an extreme conservative who wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare and eliminate most of the services that the public expects from the federal government. The reason why this choice only exists in principle is that the media have worked hard to conceal Representative Ryan’s extreme positions from the public. Now that Governor Romney has implicitly embraced these positions by selecting Representative Ryan as his vice-presidential nominee, it remains to be seen whether the media will does it job.

First, in spite of all the name-calling about President Obama being a Kenyan socialist, he has pushed an agenda that most Republicans would have been comfortable with 20 years ago. His health care plan was put forward by the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1992, before Governor Romney put it in place in Massachusetts. His Wall Street reform leaves the too-big-to-fail banks bigger than ever, even after they helped to inflate a housing bubble, the collapse of which brought the economy to its knees.

And, running large deficits in a downturn was a practice that Obama could tie to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and both Bushes. It would be difficult to find a policy pushed by our Kenyan socialist president that would make a Nixon Republican unhappy.  

By contrast, Representative Ryan has an extreme right-wing agenda that predates both Great Society and the New Deal. He has put forward plans that ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.

 

 

A News21 analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 shows that while fraud has occurred, the rate is infinitesimal, and in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent.

In an exhaustive public records search, News21 reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of fraudulent activity including registration fraud, absentee ballot fraud, vote buying, false election counts, campaign fraud, casting an ineligible vote, voting twice, voter impersonation fraud and intimidation.

Analysis of the resulting comprehensive News21 election fraud database turned up 10 cases of voter impersonation. With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.

“Voter fraud at the polls is an insignificant aspect of American elections,” said elections expert David Schultz, professor of public policy at Hamline University School of Business in St. Paul, Minn.

“There is absolutely no evidence that (voter impersonation fraud) has affected the outcome of any election in the United States, at least any recent election in the United States,” Schultz said.

The News21 analysis of its election fraud database shows:

  • In-person voter-impersonation fraud is rare. The database shows 207 cases of other types of fraud for every case of voter impersonation.

“The fraud that matters is the fraud that is organized. That's why voter impersonation is practically non-existent because it is difficult to do and it is difficult to pull people into conspiracies to do it,” said Lorraine Minnite, professor of public ...

Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
Published: Friday 3 August 2012
“If Julian Assange is granted asylum in Ecuador, he will become a resident of Latin America.”

If Julian Assange is granted asylum in Ecuador, he will become a resident of Latin America, where the trove of classified U.S. State Department cables he strategically disseminated through WikiLeaks has generated hundreds of headlines, from Mexico to Chile. A year after thousands of cables on Latin America were first released, the revelations have had different results -- in two countries it led to the forced departure of the U.S. ambassador; in another it helped change the course of a presidential election. We're joined by Peter Kornbluh, guest editor of "WikiLeaks: Latin America," a recent edition of The Nation magazine devoted to exploring the impact of WikiLeaks across the region. Kornbluh is a senior analyst on Latin America at the National Security Archive.

Published: Friday 13 July 2012
The Treasury Department said it was blacklisting 11 companies and several individuals associated with Iran’s defense ministry, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as Iran’s national shipping line.

 

In the latest ratcheting up of pressure on Iran, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday imposed new financial sanctions against Iranian and other companies whose operations allegedly support the country’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

The Treasury Department said it was blacklisting 11 companies and several individuals associated with Iran’s defense ministry, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as Iran’s national shipping line.

It also blacklisted several companies in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Malaysia, as well as the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), which the treasury alleged have been used by the national oil company to evade existing sanctions against Iranian oil experts.

“Iran today is under intense, multilateral sanctions pressure, and we will continue to ratchet up the pressure so long as Iran refuses to address the international community’s well-founded questions about its nuclear program,” said treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen.

“Today’s actions are the next step on that path, taking direct aim at disrupting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as its deceptive efforts to use front companies to sell and move its oil,” he added.

While the new sanctions were described by the State Department as part of the administration’s “dual-track approach” to both increase pressure on Tehran and engage it diplomatically, a number of observers said the latest escalation carried risks.

“The question is how much escalation can be tolerated before the whole diplomatic process falls apart, and, if it falls apart, what comes next,” noted Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the author of two ...

Published: Friday 13 July 2012
Our largest (and, lest we forget, taxpayer-rescued) banks have already paid tens of billions of dollars to settle civil and criminal charges - and now there’s LIBOR.

If only. If only Brian Moynihan designed fashionable shoes, Jamie Dimon pitched a mean slider, and Lloyd Blankfein had written the song "Boyfriend" for Justin Bieber. Then they'd prosecute bank fraud.

The Justice Department used as many people to investigate one baseball player as it's doing to pursuing Wall Street housing fraud. It has coordinated fifteen Federal agencies to seize counterfeit goods worth $178 million, yet all but ignored a bankers' crime wave which cost the global economy trillions.

Our largest (and, lest we forget, taxpayer-rescued) banks have already paid tens of billions of dollars to settle civil and criminal charges - and now there's LIBOR. Yet there have been no arrests for a well-documented litany of charges which includes bribery, perjury, forgery, investor fraud, consumer fraud, and money-laundering for Mexican drug cartels.

Let's do the numbers. Number of seizures to recover counterfeit goods worth $178 million: 24,792. Number of arrests for crimes worth tens of billions in settlements and trillions in losses: Zero.

Low and Inside

Earlier today I took part in a press call with the Campaign for a Fair Settlement in which its Campaign Director, Brian Kettenring, noted that the Department of Justice assigned 93 agents to investigate ballplayer Roger Clemens and "about 100 to investigate misconduct responsible for millions of underwater homeowners and $800 bllion in underwater equity."

They weren't investigating Clemens for his pitching technique (although I think there's more to be learned about his split-finger fastball), but for something even less consequential: his alleged steroid use. Kettenring's right to contrast the government's Clemens probe with its response to the well-documented Wall Street crimes which triggered a worldwide financial crisis.

Published: Monday 9 July 2012
Today, nuclear destruction finds itself at the end of a long queue of anxieties about our planet and its fate.

There was a time when nuclear weapons were a significant part of our national conversation.  Addressing the issue of potential atomic annihilation was once described by nuclear theorist Herman Kahn as “thinking about the unthinkable,” but that didn’t keep us from thinking, talking, fantasizing, worrying about it, or putting images of possible nuclear nightmares (often transmuted to invading aliens or outer space) endlessly on screen.

Now, on a planet still overstocked with city-busting, world-ending weaponry, in which almost 67 years have passed since a nuclear weapon was last used, the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue.

Today, nuclear destruction finds itself at the end of a long queue of anxieties about our planet and its fate.  For some reason, we trust ourselves, our allies, and even our former enemies with nuclear arms -- evidently so deeply that we don’t seem to think the staggering arsenals filled with weaponry that could put the devastation of Hiroshima to shame are worth covering or dealing with.  Even the disaster at Fukushima last year didn’t revive an interest in the weaponry that goes with the “peaceful” atom in our world.

Attending to the Bomb in a MAD World

Our views of the nuclear issue haven’t always been so shortsighted. In the 1950s, editor and essayist Norman Cousins was typical in ...

Published: Friday 6 July 2012
“This case is a clear example of how the illegal export of sensitive technology reduces the advantages our military currently possesses.”

 

The Canadian arm of the aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney closed a six-year U.S. government probe last week by admitting that the lure of up to $2 billion in helicopter sales to China had caused it to export computer software illegally that helped China create its first modern attack helicopter.

“This case is a clear example of how the illegal export of sensitive technology reduces the advantages our military currently possesses,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a statement released on June 28. That’s when the government disclosed that Pratt & Whitney and two related companies agreed to pay a total of $75 million in fines for multiple violations of export rules policed by the State Department.

The software probe and the heavy financial sanction appear to have had no punishing impact on Pratt & Whitney’s extensive and continuing contract work for the Defense Department, however. That’s the same department that in an ironic twist announced this spring that it was reorienting its forces to deal with what its officials regard as a rising Chinese military threat against U.S. allies in the region.

The events are once again raising questions about the circumstances under which major defense contractors might be barred from government work. Independent watchdogs have long complained that few such firms have been barred or suspended, even for egregious lawbreaking, such as supplying armaments or related equipment to a potential adversary. Nothing in the settlement agreement directly threatens Pratt's existing or future government contracting.

Since July 2006, when United Technologies — the parent company of Pratt and another firm, Hamilton Sundstrand, which also admitted wrongdoing — filed statements about the software exports with the government that it now ...

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
The Lessons Washington Can’t Draw From the Failure of the Military Option.

 

Americans may feel more distant from war than at any time since World War II began.  Certainly, a smaller percentage of us -- less than 1% -- serves in the military in this all-volunteer era of ours and, on the face of it, Washington’s constant warring in distant lands seems barely to touch the lives of most Americans. 

And yet the militarization of the United States and the strengthening of the National Security Complex continues to accelerate.  The Pentagon is, by now, a world unto itself, with a staggering budget at a moment when no other power or combination of powers comes near to challenging this country’s might. 

In the post-9/11 era, the military-industrial  READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
“Parents whose children travel on IR-4 visas, which in recent years constitute almost half of all inter-country adoptions, finalize procedures by re-adopting their children in their states of residence at which time citizenship attaches.”

 

Excited about turning 18 during a presidential election year, Jenna Johnson registered to vote with her high school classmates and cast her first ballot. She canvassed her local Minnesota neighborhood as a volunteer signing up voters. Then four years later, while sharing stories with other Korean adoptees who remembered their naturalization ceremonies, Jenna couldn’t recall ever experiencing her own. A few days later, she phoned what was then the Immigration and Naturalization Service to check on her status and was shocked to learn that she was not a U.S. citizen. Her green card, which she kept as a memento from her adoption as a 2-year old, had expired.

As a permanent resident, she had unknowingly committed voter fraud, a crime punishable by deportation.

The story of Jenna Johnson (name changed at source’s request) might sound unusual. But she’s actually one of thousands of adult adoptees who were not grandfathered into the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), which as of February 27, 2001 grants automatic citizenship to children who arrive in the United States on IR-3 visas. Parents whose children travel on IR-4 visas, which in recent years constitute almost half of all inter-country adoptions, finalize procedures by re-adopting their children in their states of residence at which time ...

Published: Saturday 30 June 2012
“This behavior on the part of our elected officials and appointed diplomats is a function of corruption.”

The State Department is that branch of government that has responsibility for foreign policy. Every U.S. embassy and consulate is an extension of the State Department. U.S. citizens traveling abroad, be it on a short vacation to Canada or Mexico or an extended venture for business or study to anywhere on the globe where the U.S. has diplomatic relations, can rely on assistance in an emergency from the State Department. Well, almost anywhere.
 


How about Israel? In theory there is no difference between the behavior of State Department personnel in Israel and anywhere else. If you go to the State Department’s website and look under Israel, Entry and Exit Difficulties it will tell you how to contact the embassy or consulates, in case of need, depending on where in the country you are. Thus, if you are stuck at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport you should contact the consular section of the U.S. Embassy (972) (3) 519-7575. If you are stuck at the Allenby Bridge border crossing you have to ring up the consulate in Jerusalem (972) (2) 630-4000. But, again, that’s theory.


 
In practice, however, the behavior of the State Department’s diplomatic personnel in Israel is quite different than that of diplomats in other countries. In fact, like everything else touching on Israel, U.S. diplomatic practice has been corrupted by the power and influence of the Zionist lobby in Washington.


 
Take the recent case of Sandra Tamari. Ms Tamari is a Quaker, the mother of two children, an American citizen of Palestinian dissent, and also a member of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee. She traveled to Israel at ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
We’re joined by environmentalist, educator, and author Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org as he discusses climate and the environment.

With extreme weather fueling wildfires in Colorado and record rainfall in Florida, the Obama administration has moved closer to approving construction of the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline. We’re joined by environmentalist, educator and author Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. "Today is one of those days when you understand what the early parts of the global warming era are going to look like," McKibben says. "For the first time in history, we managed to get the fourth tropical storm of the year before July. ... These are the most destructive fires in Colorado history, and they come after the warmest weather ever recorded there. ... This is what it looks like as the planet begins — and I underline 'begins' — to warm. Nothing that happened [at the United Nations Rio+20 summit] will even begin to slow down that trajectory."

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: And we end today’s show looking at corporate money in the environment, as Florida is lashed by drenching rains and the worst wildfires in Colorado’s history continue to rage. We’re joined by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
“Although debates at the UN and among civil society have moved toward the recognition of water as a basic human right, the United States still lags behind.”

Growing conflicts over who owns water and how to manage it are emerging all over the world. Although debates at the UN and among civil society have moved toward the recognition of water as a basic human right, the United States still lags behind. Washington has instead largely supported private-sector approaches that will likely exacerbate conflicts over water resources. What is perhaps new is that the U.S. intelligence community is also looking at water as a potential national security concern.

A report led by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Global Water Security attempts to answer the question, “How will water problems (shortages, poor water quality, or floods) impact U.S. national security interests over the next 30 years.” The report focuses on trans-boundary water issues in seven river basins associated with countries that are identified as strategically important for U.S. security: Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Jordan, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Indus, and Amu Darya. Except for the Nile, these rivers are all in Asia, and together these basins are home to over 1.5 billion people. The national intelligence community judged “that these examples are sufficient to illustrate the intersections between water challenges and US national security.”

READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
The State Department’s Military Assistance Report on June 8 stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year, including some that struggled with human rights problems.

 

Every May and June, different branches of the State Department paint contrasting portraits of how Washington views dozens of strategically significant countries around the world, in seemingly rivalrous reports by its Human Rights and Political-Military Affairs bureaus.

The former routinely criticizes other nations for a lack of fealty to democratic principles, citing abuses of the right to expression, assembly, speech and political choice. The latter tallies the government’s latest successes in the export of American weaponry, often to the same countries criticized by the former.

This year was no different. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report on June 8 stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year, including some that struggled with human rights problems. These nations include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Israel, Djibouti, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Three nations with records of suppressing democratic dissent in the last year — Algeria, Egypt, and Peru — are listed in the report as recently receiving U.S. firearms, armored vehicles, and items from a category that includes chemical and riot control agents like tear gas. The State Department confirmed that U.S. tear gas was delivered to Egypt up to the end of November, but has declined to confirm it was also sent to Algeria and Peru.

The export of American arms to countries around the world — what the State Department calls a tangible expression of American “partnership” — is in fact booming. The commercial arms sales reviewed by the State Department reached $44.28 billion in fiscal year 2011, a $10 billion sales increase since 2010. Next year should see another increase of 70 percent, the department says.

Those sales — plus the ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“Instead, three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, his successor continues to insist that Iran surrender to Washington’s diktats or face attack.”


Since talks with Iran over its nuclear development started up again in April, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that Tehran will not be allowed to “play for time” in the negotiations.  In fact, it is the Obama administration that is playing for time.

Some suggest that President Obama is trying to use diplomacy to manage the nuclear issue and forestall an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets through the U.S. presidential election.  In reality, his administration is “buying time” for a more pernicious agenda: time for covert action to sabotage Tehran’s nuclear program; time for sanctions to set the stage for regime change in Iran; and time for the United States, its European and Sunni Arab partners, and Turkey to weaken the Islamic Republic by overthrowing the Assad government in Syria.

Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, Antony J. Blinken, hinted at this in February, explaining that the administration’s Iran policy is aimed at “buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that -- strange things can happen in the interim.”  Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy -- now out of government and advising Obama’s reelection campaign -- told an Israeli audience this month that, in the administration’s view, it is also important to go through the diplomatic motions before attacking Iran so as not to “

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
“What looks today like a formula for easy power projection that will further U.S. imperial interests on the cheap could soon prove to be an unmitigated disaster -- one that likely won’t be apparent until it’s too late.”

It looked like a scene out of a Hollywood movie.  In the inky darkness, men in full combat gear, armed with automatic weapons and wearing night-vision goggles, grabbed hold of a thick, woven cable hanging from a MH-47 Chinook helicopter.  Then, in a flash, each “fast-roped” down onto a ship below.  Afterward, “Mike,” a Navy SEAL who would not give his last name, bragged to an Army public affairs sergeant that, when they were on their game, the SEALs could put 15 men on a ship this way in 30 seconds or less.

 

Once on the aft deck, the special ops troops broke into squads and methodically searched the ship as it bobbed in Jinhae Harbor, South Korea.  Below deck and on the bridge, the commandos located several men and trained their weapons on them, but nobody fired a shot.  It was, after all, a training exercise.

All of those ship-searchers were SEALs, but not all of them were American.  Some were from Naval Special Warfare Group 1 out of Coronado, California; others hailed from South Korea’s Naval Special Brigade.  The drill was part of Foal Eagle 2012, a multinational, joint-service exercise.  It was also a model for -- and one small part of -- a much publicized U.S. military “pivot” from the Greater Middle East to Asia, a move that includes sending an initial contingent of 250 Marines to Darwin, Australia, basing littoral combat ships in Singapore, strengthening military ties with Vietnam and India, ...

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
“This year’s GPI suggests that an entirely peaceful world would have had a positive net impact of some nine trillion dollars.”

Countering a two-year trend, the world overall became slightly more peaceful over the past year, according to an annual report released here on Tuesday.

The United States, however, moved down seven places to 88 out of 158, a “fairly low rank (that) largely reflects much higher levels of militarisation and involvement in external conflicts”, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2012.

The report notes that although U.S. military expenditure “declined sharply” between 1991 and 2000, it “has now returned to Cold War levels”. Worryingly, the GPI finds that higher military expenditure (as a percentage of overall gross domestic product) correlates with lower levels of peace.

The U.S. also continues to score among the highest in the world on the proportion of its population in jail. (A U.S.-specific Peace Index was ...

Published: Saturday 9 June 2012
Published: Friday 8 June 2012
“Manning’s attorneys are seeking the dismissal of 10 of the counts against Manning as well as the release of hundreds of thousands of documents relating to the alleged leak.”

For just the third time since he was arrested over two years ago, alleged Army whistleblower Bradley Manning was seen by the public this week at a pre-trial hearing in a military court at Fort Meade, Maryland. The 24-year-old Private is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks including secret files on the Iraq and Afghan wars. Manning's attorneys are seeking the dismissal of 10 of the counts against Manning as well as the release of hundreds of thousands of documents relating to the alleged leak. We speak with Kevin Gosztola, a civil liberties blogger at Firedoglake.com who has been attending Manning's pre-trial hearing.

Transcript

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For just the third time since he was arrested over two years ago, alleged Army whistleblower Bradley Manning was seen by the public this week. His three-day pretrial hearing wraps up today before a military court at Fort Meade in Maryland. Manning faces 22 charges, including the capital offense of aiding the enemy, as well as violating the Espionage Act, computer fraud and theft of records. The 24-year-old private is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, including secret files on the Iraq and Afghan wars.

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Published: Friday 8 June 2012
While the northern Alberta-to-Cushing segment has been punted until after election season by President Barack Obama’s U.S. State Department, the Cushing-Port Arthur segment has been rammed through in a secrective manner by various Obama regulatory agencies.

 

TransCanada was once in the limelight and targeted for its Keystone XL pipeline project. Now, with few eyes watching, it is pushing along two key pipeline projects that would bring two respective forms of what energy geopolitics scholar Michael Klare calls “extreme energy” to lucrative export markets.

Pipeline one: The southern segment of the originally proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, popularly referred to as the Cushing Extension, but officially referred to as either the Gulf Coast Project or the Cushing. This pipeline will carry tar sands crude, or “dilbit,” extracted from Alberta, Canada’s Athabasca oil sands project southward first to Cushing, Okla., and then to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will be shipped.

While the northern Alberta-to-Cushing segment has been punted until after election season by President Barack Obama’s U.S. State Department, the Cushing-Port Arthur segment has been rammed through in a 

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
“My infamous speech at the U.N. in 2003 about Iraqi WMD programs was not based on facts, though I thought it was.” - Colin Powell

 

One could be forgiven for thinking there's anything honorable or honest about Colin Powell. For more than two decades now the Washington media has portrayed the former Secretary of State as something of a real life action hero, a reluctant warrior whose greatest fault – should they deign to mention any – was just being too darn loyal to a guy named George and his buddy Dick. What you might have missed is that Powell is a war criminal in his own right, one who in more than four decades of “public service” helped kill people from Vietnam to Panama to Iraq who never posed a threat to America. But don't just take some anti-war activists' word for it: Powell will proudly tell you as much, so long as he can make a buck from doing it in a book.

 

Powell's latest $27.99 account of his legendary life is billed as a “powerful portrait of a leader who is reflective, self-effacing, and grateful for the contributions of everyone he works with.” But the title, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, could very well refer to Powell's own careerist ambitions: saying and doing whatever served the interests of power – as a young officer in Vietnam, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the illegal invasion of Panama, as Secretary of State under George W. Bush  – has worked out tremendously well for the man, if not so much for those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of his public service.

 

Though billed as a self-effacing, humble leader prepared to admit mistakes, the real Colin Powell is not the one advertised by the P.R. department at HarperCollins. His book makes that clear enough when he discusses his now infamous 

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“Even the New York Times article acknowledges that Pakistan and Yemen are less stable and more hostile to the United States since Mr. Obama became president, that drones have become a provocative symbol of American power running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents.”

On May 29, The New York Times published an extraordinarily in-depth look at the intimate role President Obama has played in authorizing US drone attacks overseas, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is chilling to read the cold, macabre ease with which the President and his staff decide who will live or die. The fate of people living thousands of miles away is decided by a group of Americans, elected and unelected, who don’t speak their language, don’t know their culture, don’t understand their motives or values. While purporting to represent the world’s greatest democracy, US leaders are putting people on a hit list who are as young as 17, people who are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law.

Who is furnishing the President and his aides with this list of terrorist suspects to choose from, like baseball cards? The kind of intelligence used to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst,” only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

Why should the public believe what the Obama administration says about the people being assassinated by drones? Especially since, as we learn in the New York Times, the administration came up with a semantic solution to keep the civilian death toll to a minimum: simply count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants. The rationale, reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s justification for shooting Trayvon Martin, is that “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.” Talk about profiling! At least when George Bush threw suspected militants into Guantanamo their ...

Published: Sunday 20 May 2012
“The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has confirmed its agents were on board a U.S.-owned helicopter with Honduran police officers when four people were shot and killed on a boat earlier this week.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has confirmed its agents were on board a U.S.-owned helicopter with Honduran police officers when four people were shot and killed on a boat earlier this week. Two of the victims were said to be pregnant women. The deadly incident has highlighted the centrality of Honduras in the U.S.-backed drug war. Honduras is the hub for the U.S. military operations in Latin America, hosting at least three U.S. bases. We speak to Dana Frank, a Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

 

Transcript

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to Honduras. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has confirmed they were on board a U.S.-owned helicopter with Honduran police officers when four people were shot and killed on a boat earlier this week. Two of the victims were said to be pregnant women. Officials from both countries say Honduran officials carried out the shooting after the helicopter was shot at first. This is a State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland at a press briefing.

VICTORIA NULAND: on this ...

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
“In announcing what it called the ‘renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain’, the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom’s ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island.”

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is sending the wrong signal to the government of Bahrain in proceeding with a partial sale of new arms to Manama, according to human rights activists and some lawmakers here.

 

Their reaction followed Friday's announcement by the State Department that it had cleared a number of items for transfer out of a 53- million-dollar arms package that the administration originally announced last September but subsequently held up due to opposition from key members of Congress. 

 

In announcing what it called the "renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain", the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom's ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island, especially among its majority Shi'a community. 
 

Demonstrations have been taking place on an almost nightly basis in Shi'a villages in recent weeks and have increased in violence, with some youths throwing Molotov cocktails at police, and with police firing tear gas and birdshot to disperse the protests, with sometimes fatal results. 
 

"Given the continued deterioration in the human rights situation there, we think it's a bad call to be releasing arms - any sort of arms - to Bahrain at this time," Joe Stork, a veteran Middle East specialist at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS. 
 

"We're very concerned with the signal that this sends both to the Bahraini government and the Bahraini people," said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). 
 

"And we're very disappointed that this announcement was not accompanied by an announcement of any real progress on reform issues, including the numerous recommendations made by the Bassiouni Commission that have yet to be ...

Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
“Ryan proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy.”

In Washington all serious people routinely write columns in which they set themselves above the political fray and pronounce the Republicans and Democrats equally to blame for political gridlock and all that they see wrong with the world. Today, it is my turn.

Of course beating up on the Republicans is pretty easy these days; you mostly just have to repeat what they say. Their standard bearer, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, has proposed a budget that eliminates the national park system, the Justice Department and federal courts, the Food and Drug Administration and most other areas of the federal budget over the next four decades.

According to the analysis done by the Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan budget, which was endorsed by the Republican House and Governor Romney, shrinks non-Social Security and non-health care spending to 4.75 percent of GDP by 2040 and to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050. With the military budget taking up 3-4 percent of GDP, everything else goes to zero somewhere in this period.

Ryan also proposes massive tax increases on the middle class to finance tax cuts to the wealthy. He wants to reduce the top tax rate on high-income earners by more than one-third compared with its baseline level. He proposes to maintain revenue neutrality be eliminating tax deductions that benefit the middle class, like the mortgage interest tax deduction and the deduction for employer-provided health insurance.

How many people will feel good about a budget that eliminates most of the governmental functions that we take for granted – drug safety, courts, a State Department and passport office? How will people feel about paying higher taxes so that Mitt Romney can pay less? These are the questions raised by the Republican budget. Hopefully they will be presented clearly in the campaign so that the public can make an informed ...

Published: Friday 27 April 2012
“Obama argues U.S. drone strikes are focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists and have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”

Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who represents families of civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes, was finally granted a visa to enter the U.S. this week after a long effort by the State Department to block his visit. He has just arrived in Washington, D.C., to attend the “Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control,” organized by human rights groups to call attention to the lethal rise in the number of drone strikes under the Obama administration. Obama argues U.S. drone strikes are focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists and have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. “Either President Obama is lying to the nation or he is too naive, to believe on the reports which the CIA is presenting to [him],” responds Akbar. The summit comes as the United States pursues a radical expansion of how it carries out drone strikes inside Yemen. The so-called "signature" strike policy went into effect earlier this month allowing the U.S. to strike without knowing identity of the targets.

We’re also joined by Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of CODE PINK and an organizer of this weekend’s summit. “So many people who spoke against George [W.] Bush’s extraordinary rendition and Guantánamo and indefinite detention have been very quiet when it comes to the Obama administration, who is not putting people in those same kind of conditions, instead is just taking them out and killing them,” Benjamin says. “So we need to make people speak up and say that when Obama says this [program] is on a tight leash, this is not true. This is a lie.”

Published: Thursday 26 April 2012
While citizens concerned about the impacts from fracking and reckless gas industry practices are being labeled “eco-terrorists” and “an insurgengy,” those responsible, directly or indirectly for having them labeled as such, are shilling on behalf of a State Department-designated terrorist organization.

A new chapter has been added to the shale gas industry's eco-terrorism, counterinsurgency and psychological operations saga.

In March, NBC News investigative reporter Michael Isikoff revealed that many prominent U.S. public officials are on the payroll of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a group labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. These U.S. officials are lobbying hard to remove the MEK from the list.

Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, after the recent Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project decision — a controversial decision itself — it is a federal crime to provide "material ...

Published: Saturday 21 April 2012
“Evidence now implicates top BP executives as well as its partners Chevron and Exxon and the Bush Administration in the deadly cover-up—which included falsifying a report to the Securities Exchange Commission.”

Yesterday, Ecowatch.org revealed that, in September 2008, nearly two years before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP rig had blown out in the Caspian Sea— which BP concealed from U.S. regulators and Congress.

Had BP, Chevron, Exxon or the Bush State Department revealed the facts of the earlier blow-out, it is likely that the Deepwater Horizon disaster would have been prevented.

Days after the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, a message came in to our offices in New York from an industry insider floating on a ship in the Caspian Sea. He stated there had been a blow-out, just like the one in the Gulf, and BP had covered it up.

To confirm this shocking accusation, I flew with my team to the Islamic republic of Azerbaijan. Outside the capital, Baku, near the giant BP terminal, we found workers, though too frightened to give their names, who did confirm that they were evacuated from the BP offshore platform as it filled with explosive methane gas.

Before we could get them on camera, my crew and I were arrested and the witnesses disappeared.

Expelled from Azerbaijan, we still obtained the ultimate corroboration: a secret cable from the U.S. Embassy to the State Department in Washington laying out the whole story of the 2008 Caspian blow-out.

The source of the cable, classified “SECRET,” was a disaffected U.S. soldier, Private Bradley Manning who, through WikiLeaks.org, provided hot smoking guns to The Guardian.

The information found in the U.S. embassy cables is a block-buster. 

The cables confirmed what BP will not admit to this day: there was a serious blow-out and its cause was the same as in the Gulf disaster two years later—the cement (“mud”) used to cap the well had failed.

Bill Schrader, ...

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group and that the Obama administration knew about the training.

Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. TheMEK has been listed as a foreign terrorist groups since 1997 and is linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens in the 1970s to the recent wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists. Hersh also discusses the role of Israeli intelligence and notes the Obama administration knew about the training, "because they have access to what was going on in the previous administration in this area, in terms of the  READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 9 April 2012
“I was on the spot to see it all happen, leading two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in rural Iraq while taking part up close and personal in what the U.S. government was doing to, not for, Iraqis.”

People ask the question in various ways, sometimes hesitantly, often via a long digression, but my answer is always the same: no regrets.

In some 24 years of government service, I experienced my share of dissonance when it came to what was said in public and what the government did behind the public’s back. In most cases, the gap was filled with scared little men and women, and what was left unsaid just hid the mistakes and flaws of those anonymous functionaries.

What I saw while serving the State Department at a forward operating base in Iraq was, however, different. There, the space between what we were doing (the eye-watering waste and mismanagement), and what we were saying (the endless of success and progress), was filled with numb soldiers and devastated Iraqis, not scaredy-cat bureaucrats.

That was too much for even a well-seasoned cubicle warrior like me to ignore and so I wrote a book about it, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. I was on the spot to see it all happen, leading two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in rural Iraq while taking part up close and personal in what the U.S. government was doing to, not for, Iraqis. Originally, I imagined that my book’s subtitle would be “Lessons for Afghanistan,” since I was hoping the same mistakes would not be endlessly repeated there. Sometimes being right doesn’t solve a damn thing.

By the time I arrived in Iraq in 2009, I hardly expected to be welcomed as a liberator or greeted -- as the officials who launched the invasion of that country expected back in 2003 -- with a parade and flowers. But I never imagined Iraq for quite the American disaster it was either. Nor did I expect to be welcomed back by my employer, the State Department, as a hero in return for my book of loony stories and poignant ...

Published: Sunday 25 March 2012
“Syria belongs to its 23 million citizens, not to one man or his family.”

Addressing those minorities, she continued: “We do hear your fears, and we do honor your aspirations. Do not let the current regime exploit them to extend this crisis.” She told Syria’s business, military, and other leaders that they must recognize that their futures lie with the state, not with the regime. “Syria belongs to its 23 million citizens, not to one man or his family.”

Speaking directly to citizens – seeing a country’s people, as well as its government – is not just a rhetorical device. While many foreign-policy pundits have focused on the US “pivot to Asia,” Clinton has also executed a less-publicized, but no less important, pivot to the people. She has introduced policies, programs, and institutional reforms designed to support government-to-society and society-to-society diplomacy, alongside traditional government-to-government relations. These initiatives do not get headlines, but they will gradually transform much of American foreign policy.

In January, the State Department unveiled a new “super-office” of Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, under the leadership of Under-Secretary Maria Otero. The office brings together agencies that focus on international law enforcement, ...

Published: Sunday 18 March 2012
“The U.S. State Department has taken steps to fire Peter Van Buren who publicly criticized the Pentagon’s so-called ‘reconstruction efforts’ in Iraq.”

The U.S. State Department has taken steps to fire Peter Van Buren, a longtime employee who publicly criticized the Pentagon’s so-called "reconstruction efforts" in Iraq. In 2009 and 2010, he headed two Provincial Reconstruction Teams in rural Iraq. After returning from Iraq, he wrote a book, "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People." Van Buren has also exposed State Department waste and mismanagement on his blog, WeMeantWell.com. For at least six months, he has been under investigation for possible wrongdoings. After his 23-year career with the State Department, he now faces being fired after filing a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel.

Transcript: 

JUAN GONZALEZ: We end today’s show with an update on a story we first covered in November. The State Department has taken steps to fire a longtime employee who publicly criticized ...

Published: Sunday 18 March 2012
“How can we be helped by the kind of information that’s readily available throughout the cybersphere?”

In an ongoing effort to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in these unstable times, a top State Department official has proposed using social media as a way to keep track of the world's most destructive devices.



Rose Gottemoeller, acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, sees the concept as just another way to keep atomic bombs out of the hands of terrorists and under the control of responsible governments and regimes.



As such, Gottmoeller says she wants ordinary citizens to become more involved.  As an avid, she says using such crowdsourcing tools is a good way to help the U.S. and other governments "understand what's going on with a nuclear facility in a certain country, for example, or what's going on with the production of chemicals at a chemical plant."



Citizens on patrol



"As we look to the future of nuclear arms reductions, for example, we're concerned about going after smaller objects like warheads and monitoring warheads," Gottmoeller - the chief American negotiator on the New START arms reduction treaty with Russia - said.  "How can we be helped by the kind of information that's readily available throughout the cyber sphere?"



That treaty, now a year into its implementation, has her thinking about the next items on the country's arms control agenda.



As such Gottmoeller, during a recent speech in Seattle, called on programmers and engineers to develop new crowdsourcing tools that could be employed by citizens and groups such as non-governmental organizations to help nations monitor proliferation, a practice she says should actually increase trust between citizens and their governments.



Already firms are at work on a cell phone app that is able to detect radiation and allow users to immediately post levels ...

Published: Thursday 1 March 2012
‘”There’s been real blowback from the burning of the Quran, but there has also been real blowback from the killings from continued drone strikes,’ says Ann Wright, a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel who stood trial this week for protesting US drone attacks.”

“Three major investigations were under way on Wednesday into the Koran burning at Bagram Air Base by the American military last week, the event that plunged Afghanistan into days of deadly protests…” So begins a New York Times report.     To read the New York Times you’d think the only American offense that truly riles people up after ten years of war is book burning. It’s certainly the only offense that’s so far merited “three major investigations.”     "There's been real blowback from the burning of the Quran, but there has also been real blowback from the killings from continued drone strikes,” says Ann Wright, a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel who stood trial this week for protesting US drone attacks.     Wright’s riled up. So is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan. Just last week, Hasan warned Britain to stop the American “Drone Wars” that, he said, are slaughtering hundreds of its innocent civilians, or else the nuclear power “has the means” to retaliate. The British Sun quoted Hasan as saying that his country’s relations with America are at their lowest ebb.     A nuclear power threatening retaliation unless US robo-killings cease? “Three major investigations” into drone attacks might not be too much.     The CIA ...

Published: Thursday 1 March 2012
Among the emails was a short one-liner that suggested the U.S. government has produced, through a secret grand jury, a sealed indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks, the whistle-blower website, has again published a massive trove of documents, this time from a private intelligence firm known as Stratfor. The source of the leak was the hacker group “Anonymous,” which took credit for obtaining more than 5 million emails from Stratfor’s servers. Anonymous obtained the material on Dec. 24, 2011, and provided it to WikiLeaks, which in turn partnered with 25 media organizations globally to analyze the emails and publish them.

Among the emails was a short one-liner that suggested the U.S. government has produced, through a secret grand jury, a sealed indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In addition to painting a picture of Stratfor as a runaway, rogue private intelligence firm with close ties to government-intelligence agencies serving both corporate and U.S. military clients, the emails support the growing awareness that the Obama administration, far from diverging from the secrecy of the Bush/Cheney era, is obsessed with secrecy, and is aggressively opposed to transparency.

I traveled to London last Independence Day weekend to interview Assange. When I asked him about the grand-jury investigation, he responded: “There is no judge, there is no defense counsel, and there are four prosecutors. So, that is why people that are familiar with grand-jury inquiries in the United States say that a grand jury would not only indict a ham sandwich, it would indict the ham and the sandwich.”

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Published: Tuesday 28 February 2012
“Obama’s decision last month to reject the full 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s tar sands has become a focal point of Republican efforts to portray him as responsible for the recent spike in gasoline prices.”

With President Barack Obama facing fire from Republicans over the rising cost of gasoline, the White House moved quickly Monday to trumpet a Canadian company's decision to build a section of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Houston after Obama blocked a longer path last month.

Press Secretary Jay Carney hailed TransCanada's announcement and used it to counter Republican criticism that the administration has stifled oil and gas production. He said that the Oklahoma to Texas section of the pipeline would "help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight-year high."

The company's decision, Carney said, "highlights a little-known fact — certainly, you wouldn't hear it from some of our critics — that we approve, pipelines are approved and built in this country all the time."

Obama's decision last month to reject the full 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada's tar sands has become a focal point of Republican efforts to portray him as responsible for the recent spike in gasoline prices, and they fault him for blocking a project they say would create jobs and reduce America's dependence on oil imports from unstable foreign sources.

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Published: Wednesday 15 February 2012
Despite the proposed increase in contributions to the Global Fund, AIDS activists expressed deep disappointment over a proposed 10 percent cut in the nine-year-old bilateral President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Despite strong pressure to reduce the yawning federal deficit, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is asking Congress for a slight increase in funding for the State Department and foreign aid next year.

The administration is requesting a total of some 56 billion dollars in "international affairs" spending for fiscal year (FY) 2013, which begins Oct. 1, according to the budget proposal presented by the administration Monday.

That total is two percent more - or about 1.3 billion dollars - than Congress approved in a 2012 omnibus appropriations bill, but still four percent less than the FY 2010 international affairs budget, the last year in which Democrats held a majority in both houses of Congress.

More than half the increase from last year will be provided by a 770- million-dollar "Middle East Funding Initiative", which is designed to give the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) flexibility in responding to new developments in the so-called "Arab Awakening".

"The notion is we're in a new world," Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides told reporters Monday. "…(T)he idea is to have some flexibility to support everything from Tunisia, to support areas like potentially in Egypt and in areas where things are changing every day, in Syria… the world is evolving as we see it, and we felt it was important to have a pool of money."

On the other hand, U.S. aid to Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union will decline under Obama's proposal. Military and police assistance to Latin American countries - particularly its two biggest beneficiaries, Colombia and Mexico - will also be reduced by roughly 10 percent.

The budget also calls for modest cuts in global health, food aid, and disaster and humanitarian programs, proposals which drew concern from a number of aid groups.

"We understand this is ...

Published: Saturday 11 February 2012
“The soundness of the State Department review is likely to come back into play in the future—President Obama has delayed, but not cancelled, a final decision on the project.”

Yesterday, Politico’s website ran a story titled: “Keystone XL handled well by State Department, inspector general says.” The story asserted that “there is no evidence of conflict of interest or bias in the State Department’s review of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.”

Well, not quite. The IG found that there wasn’t any technical conflict of interest when the State Department selected the firm Cardno Entrix to perform an environmental impact review of the project, but the report did highlight plenty of flaws in the review process—and also recommended the State Department change its contracting processes going forward.

Cardno Entrix had previously identified TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, as a “major client,” which would seem to be a clear conflict of interest. Among the report’s findings:

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012
“The NYPD is coming under criticism not only for shooting Graham, but also for its broader stop-and-frisk policy, which critics say disproportionately targets people of color.”

The New York City Police Department is under mounting criticism after police shot dead an unarmed teenager inside his own home. Eighteen-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot at close range in his parents’ apartment in the Bronx after being chased into the house by narcotics detectives. Police said they found marijuana in the home and think Graham may have been trying to flush some down the toilet. The NYPD is coming under criticism not only for shooting Graham, but also for its broader stop-and-frisk policy, which critics say disproportionately targets people of color. On Monday, about 500 protesters rallied in the Bronx to condemn the police treatment of black youth. We speak to Jamel Mims, an organizer with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, which is working to end the practice of "stop and frisk," and Nicholas Peart, who is serving as a witness in a federal class action lawsuit challenging "stop and frisk" as racist and unconstitutional.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce ...

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012
“The campaign against whistleblowers in Washington.”

 

On January 23rd, the Obama administration charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information to journalists about the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspects. His is just the latest prosecution in an unprecedented assault on government whistleblowers and leakers of every sort.

Kiriakou’s plight will clearly be but one more battle in a broader war to ensure that government actions and sunshine policies don’t go together. By now, there can be little doubt that government retaliation against whistleblowers is not an isolated event, nor even an agency-by-agency practice. The number of cases in play suggests an organized strategy to deprive Americans of knowledge of the more disreputable things that their government does. How it plays out in court and elsewhere will significantly affect our democracy.

 

Punish the Whistleblowers

The Obama administration has already charged more people -- six -- under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidencies ...

Published: Tuesday 31 January 2012
“The disaster of the Gulf was only a matter of time. Now, we are being told to trust government officials once again, when they knowingly allow nonscientific personnel to make scientific decisions.”

This is a recycled piece that is still pertinent.  IN light of the situation described below there is no time to write a new piece. 

In a provocative demonstration against the tar sands, clean energy advocates poured “oil” onto a female model draped with the Canadian flag on Parliament Hill. Those pouring the oil were dressed as executives of TransCanada, the company proposing to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will run from the Alberta tar sands to the US Gulf Coast.

 

TransCanada, the Keystone XL Pipeline and Koch Industries

As the race to develop domestically produced fuels hits a fevered pitch, especially as a reaction to the tensions in the Middle East, politicians from the president on down are seeking a “magic pill” that will solve our energy problems. President Obama promised a “green revolution,” with hints at promising wind and solar energy sources during the campaign, but has now done one of his famous backtracks as he pushes the idea of “clean coal.” One of the alleged “clean coal” sources his administration has placed under serious consideration is “bituminous coal” (aka “unconventional petroleum deposit’), or simply put … “tar sands.” Tar sands are plentiful in the US and Canada, but environmentally treacherous to mine and transport – yet, this is the “green energy” the Obama administration has leaned toward – with heavy prodding from its most threatening political enemy, Koch Industries – disputed founders of the Tea Party movement.

 

TransCanada and Koch Industries 

Project developer TransCanada seeks approval from US government agencies to ...

Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“Predictably, both candidates’ main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.”

The two leading candidates in the Republican primary, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, came to Miami on Wednesday to win the support of tens of thousands of Cuban Republican voters by blasting the Castro brothers and outlining their plans for improving U.S-Latin American relations.

Predictably, both candidates' main focus was a hard-line stance toward Cuba and a hope for regime change.

First up was Gingrich, who spoke before about 250 people at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center. A much more aggressive policy toward Cuba is needed to bring about a "Cuban spring" and usher in democracy, he said during a morning speech.

Romney chose a much more symbolic setting for his afternoon address on Latin American: The Freedom Tower where thousands of Cuban exiles were processed when they first entered the United States.

Romney and Gingrich agreed that they disagree with President Barack Obama on Cuba policy.

"This president does not understand that by helping Castro; he is not helping the people of Cuba; he is hurting them," Romney said to cheers inside the ornate downtown Miami building . "I want to be the American ...

Published: Friday 20 January 2012
“Grassroots strategies paid off for the climate movement in a big way.”

 

This Wednesday afternoon, the Obama administration rejected the permit for Keystone XL, a 1,700 mile oil pipeline that would have run from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The announcement is a huge victory for the grassroots climate movement. As writer and Keystone XL protest leader Bill McKibben wrote this afternoon,

"This isn't just the right call, it's the brave call. The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he's too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact 'huge political consequences,' he's stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers, and who demanded that science get the hearing usually reserved for big money."

 

While the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline is over for now, the political battle over the consequences of Obama's decision is just beginning. Big Oil front groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are already spending millions of dollars on TV ads to bash the President over Keystone XL. Republicans in Congress have pledged to continue to use ...

Published: Friday 20 January 2012
“Anti-piracy bills pose a challenge for diplomats who’ve promoted the uncensored web to foreign governments.”

 

Two Internet anti-piracy bills working their way through Congress that are heavily backed by the movie industry could have significant impacts on technology companies, a threat highlighted Wednesday by WikipediaRedditBoingBoing and other sites that went offline for the day in protest. As a result, some reporters have characterized the standoff over the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act – SOPA and PIPA for short – as a fight between Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

But at an event put on by The New RepublicWednesday, Alec Ross, the State Department’s senior advisor for innovation, pointed out that that this issue is bigger than California. If done wrong, anti-piracy legislation could restrict the rights of Internet users across the country – and put U.S. diplomats in a very awkward position.

“Any attempt to combat online piracy cannot have the unintended consequence of censoring legal online content,” Ross said, referring to SOPA. He suggested that some measures in ...

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
“While there is always a chance for miscalculation in the crowded waters of the Gulf, a clash of words is more useful to Tehran than actual hostilities.”

 The recent escalation in Iranian threats to blockade oil shipments and attack U.S. Navy vessels are meant to push up the price of oil and divert domestic opinion from an economic crisis but are not likely to lead to a war in the Persian Gulf, in the view of Iran experts.
 

Should Iran retaliate for impending new sanctions against its oil exports, it is more apt to target oil production in its neighbor, Iraq, than foreign tankers in the Gulf. 
 

"We've seen this movie before," Cliff Kupchan, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, told IPS on Wednesday, referring to Iran's defiant rhetoric and firm U.S. response. "Neither side wants a war. A lot of this rhetoric is overstated." 
 

While there is always a chance for miscalculation in the crowded waters of the Gulf, a clash of words is more useful to Tehran than actual hostilities. 
 

On Tuesday, after Iranian armed forces commander Gen. Ataollah Salehi warned that a U.S. aircraft carrier that left the Gulf last week should not return, the price of oil jumped four percent. 
 

The United States has also benefited from the tensions, recently concluding deals to sell Saudi Arabia 30 billion dollars in advanced weaponry and 3.5 billion dollars in arms to the United Arab Emirates. 
 

Despite threats last week to close the Strait of Hormuz, the choke point between Iran and Oman for much of the world's tanker-borne oil, Iran is not in a position to keep the waterway closed. 
 

During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Iran used mines and small boats to attack 190 ships from 31 nations, killing at least 63 sailors, according to David Crist, who wrote a history of naval encounters in the Gulf for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2009. However, the U.S. and allied navies kept the Gulf open for tanker traffic and Iran suffered significant ...

Published: Sunday 25 December 2011
Tar sands oil is even more toxic to the climate than conventional oil.

Attached to the payroll tax deal was a provision forcing President Obama to decide within 60 days whether or not to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, before its route is even finalized. The deadline runs out on February 21, 2012. The State Department has made it clear it can’t do a proper review of the pipeline, especially considering that TransCanada has agreed to change the pipeline’s pathway in Nebraska but hasn’t even finalized the new route.

With this new and arbitrary deadline, the punditocracy is relitigating the question of whether it should be built. The DC political elite assumed that the pipeline was an inevitability, dismissive or ignorant of the popular opposition to a risky, foreign tar sands pipeline cutting across the center of the nation. Most were blindsided when the State Department announced it needed to review its obviously flawed assessment of the project, and when the state of Nebraska held an emergency legislative session against the pipeline.

With the new rush to approve TransCanada’s tar sands pipeline, let’s review some key facts that should underlie any analysis of the proposed 1700-mile project from Alberta to Texas:

The approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline was tainted by corruption. The federal approval process was run by a contractor for the pipeline company itself. Cardno Entrix was chosen and paid by TransCanada to draft the State Department’s environmental and historical impact statement, manage public hearings, and receive public comment. Big oil’s lobbying group American Petroleum Institute was also involved in drafting the environmental ...

Published: Monday 19 December 2011
At the rally, protesters from around the country waved signs and chanted slogans proclaiming Manning a hero who was being prosecuted not for endangering America, but for exposing the dark underbelly of the American empire.

Hundreds of people gathered today outside a U.S. military base where evidence against Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking classified information to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, is being presented before a military judge for the first time since Manning's arrest.

An U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Manning was arrested in May 2010 by U.S. military police in Iraq when a government informant reported him to law enforcement after he allegedly confessed to leaking to the public scores of classified information containing evidence of corruption and war crimes.

He has been charged with aiding "the enemy" through the disclosures, a charge that carries the possibility of death, though prosecutors says they are seeking a life sentence.

"Bradley shouldn't be doing time for the Pentagon's war crimes," chanted approximately 300 supporters outside the gates of Maryland's Fort Meade, home of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), as dozens of police and a helicopter circling above looked on.

The rally, one of 50 taking place across the world, coincided with Manning's 24th birthday and the second day of court hearings aimed at determining whether evidence against him is sufficient to proceed to trial. According to Manning's counsel, David E. Coombs, the hearings are expected to conclude before Christmas.

Manning is accused of leaking video evidence of a 2007 massacre outside Baghdad in which at least 18 people, including two Reuters journalists, were killed by U.S. troops in what many consider a war crime.

He also reportedly leaked hundreds of thousands of State Department cables exposing ...

Published: Tuesday 13 December 2011
“Several Caribbean countries, including the United States and Cuba, met last week in the Bahamas to talk about response plans. U.S. officials got an opportunity to see the Cuban disaster-response plans.”

As Cuba prepares to embark on a new round of exploratory offshore drilling, U.S. officials are slightly more enlightened about the island nation's plans in the event of a catastrophic oil spill on the scale of last year's Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Several Caribbean countries — including the United States and Cuba — met last week in the Bahamas to talk about response plans. U.S. officials got an opportunity to see the Cuban disaster-response plans; Cuba already has participated in a mock response drill in Trinidad with the Spanish oil company that's doing the first round of drilling. That company, Repsol, also agreed to allow U.S. inspectors from the Interior Department to look at the rig that will be doing the drilling.

Sarah Stephens, the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, said she was encouraged that Cuban and American officials had met, along with other nations that have an interest in regional oil production.

"There should be a lot more direct conversation and collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba and others about the rig, because it's inevitable," she said.

U.S. officials say their priority is mitigating any potential threat to the United States and its territorial waters from oil drilling in Cuban waters. They say they've done nothing to facilitate oil drilling in Cuban waters, and that their main goal is to be prepared for the possibility of a spill and how they'd respond to it.

"The United States will continue to engage multilaterally to advance regional collaboration and to ensure responsible stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea," the State Department said in a statement issued before the meeting in the Bahamas.

Although U.S. officials say they're not actively working to keep Cubans from drilling in their own waters, the Cuba embargo that's been in place since the 1960s may have slowed things ...

Published: Friday 9 December 2011
Cornell University Global Labor Institute: “The industry-generated jobs data are highly questionable and ultimately misleading.”

Fox anchor Martha MacCallum is clinging to the discredited claim that the Keystone XL pipeline would create at least 20,000 jobs. In fact, even the pipeline owner acknowledges that the total jobs created by the pipeline would be far fewer, and an independent report has found that the project could actually destroy more jobs than it creates through higher fuel costs and environmental damage.

EMBED

Fox Anchor Pushes Claim That Keystone XL Pipeline Would Create 20,000 Jobs

Fox Anchor Martha MacCallum: 20,000 Jobs Is "The Low-End Estimate." On America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said:

MACCALLUM: The keystone pipeline would be privately-funded. That means no taxpayer cash. It would carry oil from Canada all the way down to the Gulf Coast giving us a massive new resource of energy in this country. 20,000 jobs would be created, that's the low-end estimate. Now Republicans are asking why the president would not support that plan and the jobs that it promises? 

[ ...]

MACCALLUM: So obviously, you know, it would create jobs. It would also add energy resources to this country. So why is he sticking his neck out on this, you know, and going against it? [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 12/8/11]

To see Fox's previous efforts to inflate the number of jobs that might be created by the ...

Published: Friday 25 November 2011
“Russia classified homosexuality as a mental illness until 1999 and decriminalized homosexual behavior in 1993, but homophobic attitudes remain.”

The State Department briefly addressed an anti-gay propaganda law now being considered in St. Petersburg, Russia during a press briefing on Tuesday. The measure — which passed first reading earlier this month and is now being slightly altered before a second reading on November 30th — would fine groups and individuals for “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.” Human rights advocates from around the world allege that the discriminatory proposal is in violation of the European ...

Published: Thursday 17 November 2011
Is Global Warming an Election Issue After All?

Conventional wisdom has it that the next election will be fought exclusively on the topic of jobs. But President Obama’s announcement last week that he would postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election, which may effectively kill the project, makes it clear that other issues will weigh in -- and that, oddly enough, one of them might even be climate change.

The pipeline decision was a true upset.  Everyone -- and I mean everyone who "knew" how these things work -- seemed certain that the president would approve it. The National Journal runs a weekly poll of “energy insiders” -- that is, all the key players in Washington. A month to the day before the Keystone XL postponement, this large cast of characters was “virtually unanimous” in guaranteeing that it would be approved by year’s end.

Transcanada Pipeline, the company that was going to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from the tar-sands fields of Alberta, ...

Published: Thursday 17 November 2011
President Barack Obama intended to use the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting last weekend in Hawai’i to signal a shift in U.S. foreign policy away from the Middle East and toward the Asia-Pacific region.

This was not simply a geographic shift. With a presidential election approaching in 2012, the president is emphasizing jobs, not war. When it comes to economic opportunity, Asia is where the action is. 

"No region will do more to shape our long-term economic future than the Asia Pacific region," the president announced at his press conference on Monday. APEC links the United States with 20 other countries, including Japan, Russia, South Korea, Mexico, and Canada, and accounts for nearly half of the world's trade. 

But the president did not have an easy time in Hawai'i steering U.S. foreign policy in a different direction. The Middle East overshadowed the APEC discussions, with the first question for the president at his press conference focusing on Iran and U.S. sanctions.

In fact, aside from the hot-button issue of economic competition with China, none of the journalists seemed very much interested in Asian matters. The chief focus of news coverage of the event was the president's decision to break with the APEC tradition of forcing heads of state to wear native garb for a photo op. 

The Obama administration has long wanted to reorient, literally, U.S. foreign policy. During their years of political exile under the George W. Bush administration, key foreign policy figures like Kurt Campbell complained of how Washington was ignoring Pacific affairs at its peril.

Although Campbell is now in charge of Asian affairs at the State Department and his current boss Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has worked hard to achieve this reorientation by visiting the region and attending regional confabs, the Obama administration has largely continued the Bush-era focus on fighting in Afghanistan and conducting counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan and around the Horn of Africa. 

Even though Obama has largely fulfilled his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, the Arab Spring has presented ...

Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011
“Fox failed to report on health and environmental concerns raised by the Keystone project”

Fox News figures have been claiming that the Obama administration's decision to delay the Keystone XL pipeline project puts "politics ahead of jobs for the American people." But Fox failed to report on health and environmental concerns raised by the Keystone project; Fox also failed to report that it was unpopular with officials of both parties and residents of the Nebraskan communities where it would have been located.

Obama Admin. Announces Delay Of Keystone XL Pipeline Decision

NYT: "The Obama Administration ... Announced Thursday That It Would Review The Route Of The Disputed Keystone XL Oil Pipeline." From a November 10 New York Times article:

The State Department said in a statement that it was ordering a review of alternate routes to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which would have been put at risk by a rupture of the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. [The New York Times11/10/11]

Fox Claims Keystone Decision Was "Political"

Gallagher: Keystone Decision Sacrifices Jobs "In The Name Of Political Expediency." On the November 11 edition of Fox News' America ...

Published: Saturday 12 November 2011
“The Obama administration has indicated that it intends to provide taxpayer-funded military assistance to Uzbekistan once the legislation passes both houses of Congress.”

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, in a move initiated by the Obama administration, has voted to waive Bush-era human rights restrictions on military aid to the Islam Karimov dictatorship in Uzbekistan, one of the most brutal and repressive regimes on the planet. The lifting of the restrictions, now part of the Foreign Operations bill, is before the full Senate and appears to have bipartisan support. The Obama administration has indicated that it intends to provide taxpayer-funded military assistance to Uzbekistan once the legislation passes both houses of Congress.

Torture is endemic in Karimov's Uzbekistan, where his regime has banned all opposition political parties, severely ...

Published: Friday 11 November 2011
How thousands of determined protesters dragged a little-known pipeline into the national spotlight—and convinced the Obama administration to delay its approval.

The Keystone XL pipeline started out as a fairly obscure infrastructure project that most observers expected to win quick and easy approval.

But through months of determined protest, opponents of the pipeline (which would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries in the Gulf Coast) stirred up a national debate about the wisdom of building it. And today, they’re celebrating a victory: The State Department (which must approve the pipeline since it crosses an international border) announced that it will delay approval of the project by at least a year until it can study alternative routes.

The pipeline isn’t dead, but the delay is very bad news for the developer, TransCanada—whose CEO was quoted warning that any delays might kill the project—and very good news for the thousands who have worked to keep the project from being rubber-stamped.

READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 11 November 2011
A former Soviet specialist who served in top Middle East positions under former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ross was initially brought into the Obama administration as the State Department's special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia, a post he held from February to June 2009.

Dennis Ross, President Barack Obama’s top Middle East aide who has attracted criticism for his allegedly strong pro-Israel sympathies, will leave his post at the end of this month, the White House announced here Thursday.

He will rejoin the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an Israel-centered think tank that was spun off in 1985 from the powerful lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ross served as WINEP’s counselor and a fellow during the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2009.

“An institution that believes sound policy lies at the intersection of scholarship with statesmanship is especially proud that Dennis is returning to his intellectual home,” said WINEP’s executive director Dr. Robert Satloff.

Despite the generally hawkish views of WINEP’s fellows and their frequent criticism of Obama’s approach to the Middle East, Ross said in a statement that his departure from the White House was due to family reasons. It offered no hint of major policy differences between him and Obama or his colleagues on the National Security Council.

“Obviously, there is still work to do but I promised my wife I would return to government for only two years and we both agreed it is time to act on my promise,” added Ross.

“I am grateful to President Obama for having given me the opportunity once again to work on a wide array of Middle Eastern issues and challenges and to support his efforts to promote peace in the region,” he said.

But coming as it does as Republicans in the 2012 presidential primary race and in Congress have been hammering away at what they have characterized as Obama’s “hostility” toward Israel and its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ross’s departure could give them more ammunition.

Because of Ross’s unusually close ties to leaders in the Jewish community and the ...

Published: Saturday 5 November 2011
“The defendants were protesting the MQ-9 Reaper drones, which the 174th Fighter Wing of the Guard has remotely flown over Afghanistan from Syracuse since late 2009.”

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the CIA has made a series of secret concessions in its drone campaign after military and diplomatic officials complained large strikes were damaging the fragile U.S. relationship with Pakistan. Meanwhile, a trial is underway in Syracuse, New York, of 38 protesters arrested in April at the New York Air National Guard base at Hancock Field. The defendants were protesting the MQ-9 Reaper drones, which the 174th Fighter Wing of the Guard has remotely flown over Afghanistan from Syracuse since late 2009. "Citizens have a responsibility to take action when they see crimes being committed," said retired Col. Ann Wright, one of the 38 on trial. "And this goes back to World War II, when German government officials knew what other parts of the German government were doing in executing six million Jews in Germany and other places, and that they took no action. And yet—and they were held responsible later, through the Nuremberg trials. And that is the theory on which we are acting, that we see that our government is committing crimes by the use of these drones, and that we, as citizens, have the responsibility to act."

Transcript: 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road. It’s Syracuse, New York. I was speaking last night at Syracuse University. Well, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the Central Intelligence Agency has made a series of secret concessions in its drone campaign after military and diplomatic officials complained large strikes were damaging the fragile U.S. ...

Published: Friday 4 November 2011
“Not only will they be coming back to the White House, but this time they’ll be encircling it.”

A lot has happened since 65 people (including myself) were arrested in front of the White House on August 20th to protest a planned 1,400-mile pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. For starters, over a thousand more people from across the country were arrested in the subsequent two weeks, including big names like NASA climate scientist James Hansen, author Naomi Klein and actress Daryl Hannah. Support from high places soon followed, from the New York Times editorial page to nine Nobel Peace Laureates.

Momentum kept rolling throughout September with protests popping up at Obama campaign events and an impressive day of civil disobedience where over 

Published: Friday 4 November 2011
“Right now, Senator Fulbright, I’m lying low, down here at the bottom of the rabbit hole, trying to make sense of things.”

Where did I go wrong? Was it playing percussion with an Occupy Wall Street band in Times Square when I was in New York recently? Or was it when I returned to my peaceful new home in Oslo and deleted an email invitation to hear Newt Gingrich lecture Norwegians on the American election? (Yes, even here.)

I don’t know how it happened. Or even, really, what happened. Or what it means.  So I’ve got no point -- only a lot of anxiety. I usually write about the problems of the world, but now I’ve got one of my own. They evidently think I’m a terrorist.

That is, someone in the U.S. government who specializes in finding terrorists seems to have found me and laid a heavy hand on my bank account. I think this is wrong, of course, but try to tell that to a faceless, acronymic government agency.

It all started with a series of messages from my bank: Citibank. Yeah, I know, I should have moved my money long ago, but in the distant past before Citibank became Citigroup, it was my friendly little neighborhood bank, and I guess I’m in a rut. Besides, I learned when I made plans to move to Norway that if your money is in a small bank, it has to be sent to a big bank like Citibank or Chase to wire it to you when you need it, which meant I was trapped anyway.

READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 22 October 2011
“After more than ten years of conflict, and around $1 trillion spent, President Obama announces troops will leave Iraq.”

Out go all the U.S. troops by year’s end, President Obama said Friday about Iraq. And in go the contractors, along with some familiar contracting problems, say other government officials and independent experts.

As the United States pulls out its remaining 50,000 or so troops after a decade of conflict costing around $1 trillion, many of the soldiers’ non-fighting functions will be pursued by a force of State Department-funded government contractors expected to near 15,000.

That preliminary estimate, now being circulated by the administration among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, would represent an overwhelming share of the official remaining U.S. presence in the unsettled country. But even after wide publicity about past contracting abuses and waste, new scandals may trail behind this persistent deployment, according to a commission created by Congress to study the missteps so far.

“After a decade of war, the government remains unable to ensure that taxpayers and warfighters are getting good value for contract dollars spent,” Dov S. Zakheim, a former Pentagon comptroller and a member of the congressionally-created Commission on Wartime Contracting, told the Senate Armed Services committee a day before Obama’s announcement.

In an August report, prepared after a three-year study of contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the commission estimated that between $30 billion and $60 billion has been lost to waste and fraud so far in those conflicts, representing 15 to 30 percent of all that Washington has spent on contractor-provided security, civil reconstruction, training, and other nation-building work.

The commission ...

Published: Saturday 22 October 2011
“Hundreds of the sham college’s former students have received notices from immigration officials which amount to the first step in deportation proceedings.”

As four former Tri Valley University (TVU) officials pleaded not guilty Oct. 11, to committing visa fraud, hundreds of the sham college’s former students have received notices from immigration officials which amount to the first step in deportation proceedings.

At a press conference here Oct. 16, at the offices of immigration attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla, several students said they had received a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) their applications for reinstatement of international student status.

“The American dream has become an American nightmare for us, and we still don’t know what is going on,” said MBA student Prem from Hyderabad. “This has suspended my whole life --I’ve been living half-packed for several months not knowing when I will have to leave the U.S.”

Many students said they had spent upwards of $20,000 to study in the U.S., mortgaging their families’ homes and possessions to attend TVU, which charged $7,300 per semester of study. Returning home now, before completing their degrees, would be disastrous for family finances, said the students, who largely remained anonymous for fear of their relatives learning of their dilemma.

Students at the press conference predicted that at least 500 TVU alumni had received a NOID within the past two weeks. In an earlier story, Virginia Kice, spokeswomen for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told India-West that 300 TVU students had already been administratively arrested and placed in immigration proceedings.

The TVU alumni – who are predominantly from South India - lost their student status when the sham college, based in Pleasanton, Calif., was raided Jan. 19 by U.s. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and subsequently shut down. Many of the university’s 1500 students enrolled in new universities and then filed an I-539 application to have their student status reinstated, but nevertheless received the ...

Published: Sunday 16 October 2011
The debate over the pipeline is both complicated and fierce, and it crosses party lines, with much sparring over the potential environmental and economic impacts of the project.

By the end of this year, the State Department will decide whether to give a Canadian company permission to construct a 1,700-mile, $7 billion pipeline that would transport crude oil from Canada to refineries in Texas.

The project has sparked major environmental concerns, particularly in Nebraska, where the pipeline would pass over an aquifer that provides drinking water and irrigation to much of the Midwest. It has also drawn scrutiny because of the company's political connections and conflicts of interest. A key lobbyist for TransCanada, which would build the pipeline, also worked for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her presidential campaign. And the company that conducted the project's environmental impact report had financial ties to TransCanada.

The debate over the pipeline is both complicated and fierce, and it crosses party lines, with much sparring over the potential environmental and economic impacts of the project. More than 1,000 arrests were made during protests of the pipeline last summer in Washington, D.C.

Here's our breakdown of the controversy, including the benefits and risks of the project, and the concerns about the State Department's role.

Potential benefits — energy security and jobs for Americans — and how they're disputed

Proponents of the project point to two main benefits for Americans. First, it would improve America's energy security, because it would bring in more oil from friendly ...

Published: Tuesday 11 October 2011
Four years ago at this time, the early adopters among us were just starting to get used to the regular flow of email from the Obama campaign.

For connoisseurs, Barack Obama’s fundraising emails for the 2012 election campaign seem just a tad forlorn -- slightly limp reminders of the last time ‘round.

Four years ago at this time, the early adopters among us were just starting to get used to the regular flow of email from the Obama campaign. The missives were actually exciting to get, because they seemed less like appeals for money than a chance to join a movement.

Sometimes they came with inspirational videos from Camp Obama, especially the volunteer training sessions staged by organizing guru Marshall Ganz. Here’s a favorite of mine, where a woman invokes Bobby Kennedy and Cesar Chavez and says that, as the weekend went on, she “felt her heart softening,” her cynicism “melting,” her determination building. I remember that feeling, and I remember clicking time and again to send another $50 off to fund that people-powered mission. (And I recall knocking on a lot of New Hampshire doors, too, with my 14-year-old daughter.)

It’s no wonder, then, that I’m still on the email list. But I haven’t been clicking through this time. Not even when Barack Obama himself asked me to “donate $75 or more today to be automatically entered for a chance to join me for dinner.” Not even when campaign manager Jim Messina pointed out that, though “the president has very little time to spend on anything related to the campaign… this is how he chooses to spend it -- having real, substantive conversations with people like you” over the dinner you might just win. (And if you do win, you’ll be put on a plane to “Washington, or Chicago, or wherever he might be that day.”)

Not even when deputy campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon offered to let me “take ...

Published: Tuesday 11 October 2011
An intrepid group of high school students took the “No KXL!” message directly to the State Department.

Tar Sands Students, a newly formed group of high school students who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, partook in its first action last Thursday: a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones.

No environmental group has yet obtained a meeting with a State Department official who is higher than Jones, so it was notable that a high school group was given that level of access. Further indication that we were taken seriously is that Jones spent the full 50 minutes meeting with us, and also brought approximately eight other State Department employees to the meeting, among them her Principal Deputy, her Special Assistant, the Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement Project Manager and National Environmental Protection Act Coordinator, and several policy analysts, assistants, and aides.

Going into the meeting, my hope was to completely convince Jones of the pipeline’s true perniciousness. Although we many not have done that, we did successfully convey our concern to Jones; she seemed receptive, cordial and interested. Our group combined broad emotional appeals with specific analytical points. For example, at one part of the meeting, a participant told Jones that approving the pipeline would mean prioritizing short-term jobs and energy over long-term population and planetary stability, while later, I put Jones on the spot by asking her, “if your claim, that oil companies will be able to exploit the same amount of oil with or without ...

Published: Sunday 9 October 2011
“The Canadian tar sands company TransCanada is awaiting approval by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.”

The State Department has admitted their environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was conducted by a contractor paid for by the pipeline company itself, a potentially illegal conflict of interest first reported by ThinkProgress Green. The Canadian tar sands company TransCanada has applied to construct a major pipeline through the United States to pump tar sands crude to Texas refineries for the international oil market, and is awaiting approval by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. The State Department’s approval hinges upon a positive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), required by the National Environmental Policy Act to assess whether the pipeline is in the national interest.

READ FULL POST 12 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 8 October 2011
“Speaking at The Citadel military academy in South Carolina, Romney promised to increase defense spending - and the size of the U.S. Navy.”

In his first major foreign policy address of the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney Friday presented a largely neo-conservative platform similar to that pursued by George W. Bush, although he never mentioned the former president by name.
 

Speaking at The Citadel military academy in South Carolina, Romney promised to increase defense spending - and the size of the U.S. Navy - as part of a strategy designed to ensure that the United States remain the world's dominant military power and that the 21st century be "an American century". 
 

"The United States should always retain military supremacy to deter would-be aggressors and to defend our allies and ourselves," he told the Citadel cadets. "And know this: If America is the undisputed leader of the world, it reduces our need to police a more chaotic world." 
 

"…If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president," he said. "You have that president today," he said of Barack Obama whose policies of the last three years he characterized as "feckless". 
 

"Know this," Romney went on in an implicit assertion of the kind of unilateralism which Bush extolled but which alienated even some of Washington's closest allies. "While America should work with other nations, we always reserve the right to act alone to prevent our vital national interests." 
 

Critical to those interests, he made clear, was the greater Middle East. He suggested that Washington should align itself even more closely to Israel – whose existence as a "Jewish state" he characterized as a "vital national interest" – and pursue a more confrontational policy toward Iran, including the regular deployment in the region of two aircraft carrier task forces as a ...

Published: Saturday 8 October 2011
In the last of nine public hearings, people got three minutes each to tell two State Department officials their views about whether the pipeline from the oil sands to Texas refineries is in the nation’s best interest.

With the formal debate over on Friday, a decision on an oil pipeline that will cross America's heartland and open up a greater market for Canada's oil sands now rests with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In the last of nine public hearings, people got three minutes each to tell two State Department officials their views about whether the pipeline from the oil sands to Texas refineries is in the nation's best interest.

They spoke of the nation's dependence on oil, the need for a secure source, the risks of pipeline spills, the benefits of pipeline construction jobs, the health risks at both ends of the pipeline and the effects of a relatively high-pollution form of oil on climate change.

For President Barack Obama, the debate also has political weight for the 2012 election. Environmentalists have accused him of going back on promises of cleaner energy and political transparency. They also say that emails and other examples of how Washington works show bias at the State Department in favor of the oil industry.

One speaker on Friday who summed up the pro-pipeline side was Kim Rickard, an official from Montana with the Laborers' International Union of North America. The union wants the $7 billion pipeline because its workers will get jobs building it.

"The reality is, we need the oil, we need it from a friendly nation we can trust, and we need jobs," she said to the cheers of dozens of her union's workers in orange T-shirts.

Alaura Luebbe, 16, urged the two State Department officials to think about jobs from her point of view. A pipeline spill on her family's ranch near Stuart, Neb., "will take away all that we work for," she said.

Others spoke of water pollution threats to people who live downstream from the oil sands, air pollution problems in Texas near the refineries, the mining residues left in large ponds in the oil sands and the destruction of the forest from ...

Published: Friday 7 October 2011
“The fall of America’s ally, the Shah of Iran, in 1979 only magnified the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia.”

Pose a threat to the stability of Saudi READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 6 October 2011
“I’m publicly offering to buy the man a beer, at the time and place of his choosing, with no strings attached and if he’s willing, I’ll do something else too: I’ll take him to an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.”

By now everybody knows that Hank Williams, Jr. was suspended from ESPN and Monday Night Football for that strange and now infamous interview where he seemed to compare the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler. I say: Bring Hank back. Bring him back with no conditions, limitations, fines, fees, or rules.

What's more, I'm publicly offering to buy the man a beer, at the time and place of his choosing, with no strings attached.

And if he's willing, I'll do something else too: I'll take him to an Occupy Wall Street demonstration. That'd get him off that weak, corporate-brewed Tea Party tea and onto the hard stuff (caffeine, that is). We all need some of that, because it's time to wake up and smell the coffee: The big banks and corporations are ripping us off, and we’re being distracted by big media, big banks, and big money.

 

You said what?!?



READ FULL POST 16 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 1 October 2011
“In Nebraska, the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline is no longer about left versus right.”

It’s been a surprise story for the national media. During hearings held by the State Department this week, some of the loudest opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which will move tar-sands oil from Alberta to Texas refineries, is coming from Nebraska, a deep-red state whose citizens are often isolated from and a bit suspicious of federal politics.

We’ve become used to a political narrative that says conservatives aren’t interested in environmental issues—and certainly aren’t likely to join hands with greenies or raise Cain to fight the oil industry. But sometimes there’s a realpolitik in Nebraska that transcends conventional political ideologies—it’s about land and the practicalities of living on it.

Like most of the Plains, Nebraska has a lot of farmland and pasture—more than 90 percent of its land base is agricultural. State law banned corporations from owning farms from 1982 to 2006, when a federal court struck down the ban. But the vast majority of Nebraska’s farmland is still family-owned, and the pipeline crosses land that has belonged to some ranch families for several generations. The planned pipeline route also transects the Sandhills, an iconic 12-million-acre landscape of fragile sandy soil, rolling dunes, prairie grasses, yucca, and migrating waterbirds. “The Sandhills are Nebraska’s wild land. It’s this place where ...

Published: Tuesday 27 September 2011
“I was interrogated for the first time in my 23-year State Department career by State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security(DS) and told I was under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information.”

On the same day that more than 250,000 unredacted State Department cables hemorrhaged out onto the Internet, I was interrogated for the first time in my 23-year State Department career by State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and told I was under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information. The evidence of my crime? A posting on my blog from the previous month that included a link to a WikiLeaks document already available elsewhere on the Web.

As we sat in a small, gray, windowless room, resplendent with a two-way mirror, multiple ceiling-mounted cameras, and iron rungs on the table to which handcuffs could be attached, the two DS agents stated that the inclusion of that link amounted to disclosing classified material. In other words, a link to a document posted by who-knows-who on a public website available at this moment to anyone in the world was the legal equivalent of me stealing a Top Secret report, hiding it under my coat, and passing it to a Chinese spy in a dark alley.

READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Sunday 25 September 2011
Diplomatic cable shows the participants in a high-level military-diplomatic meeting between the two countries discussing the “upcoming delivery” of the bombs and vowing to keep a lid on the transaction.

On Friday, journalist Eli Lake published a story about the Obama administration’s sale of so-called bunker-busting bombs to Israel. According to Lake’s reporting, the Bush administration had put off the sale in order to avoid the perception that delivery of the 55 GBU-28 bombs represented a “green light” for an Israeli strike on Iran:

James Cartwright, the Marine Corps general who served until August as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Newsweek the military chiefs had no objections to the sale. Rather, Cartwright said, 

Published: Monday 19 September 2011
According to recent research by the Natural Resources Defense Council, only 12 of the 57 conditions set by federal regulators at the Department of Transportation differ in any way at all from the minimum standards the DOT routinely requires for pipeline safety.

Keystone XL Pipeline Safety Standards Not as Rigorous as They Seem

TransCanada and the U.S. State Department have repeatedly touted safety standards for the proposed Keystone XL heavy crude pipeline as robust and unparalleled. As proof, they point to 57 “special conditions” that the Alberta-based pipeline operator has agreed to follow.

READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Thursday 8 September 2011
The oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico would provide oil and create jobs, but environmentalists want President Obama to say no to project

The Keystone XL pipeline project would ship oil from Alberta’s controversial tar sands to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico via the Midwest. The past two weeks has seen a remarkable parade of people -- from celebrities and religious activists to government workers and scientists -- protesting the project.

Since the Keystone pipeline falls under the jurisdiction of the State Department, President Obama, rather than Congress, will have the final approval on the project. And McKibben says Obama's decision will be remembered next year.

"Leaders of all the major environmental groups in this country, from the corporate friendly Environmental Defense Fund to the radical Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network, joined together in a letter this week saying this is the environmental challenge between now and the election," McKibbon said. "And we expect nothing less than you will block this pipeline."

But Shawn Howard, a spokesman for Trans Canada, which is building the Keystone project, says the protesters are misguided if they think that stopping the pipeline will stop the flow of oil from what he calls the "oil sands."

Howard says the oil will flow whether or not the US buys it. In fact, some of it is already being piped to British Columbia. But he says what would be lost is about 20,000 badly-needed construction and manufacturing jobs, most in the US.

"We will begin almost immediately to put those 20,000 workers to work," Howard says. "Not only that, this is private sector money that is funding one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America, and there won't be any government money that goes toward this."

Transcanada already has agreements with six American unions to supply labor, and several have come out in support of the project.

Meanwhile Canada's ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, says his country is working to make what supporters ...

Published: Friday 2 September 2011
In its statement, WikiLeaks took credit for helping to spark the Arab Spring with its publication, in partnership with the French newspaper Le Monde, of scathing cables from the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia about the now deposed Tunsian President Zine el Abidin Ben Ali and his family

The whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks made public its entire cache of pirated State Department cables Thursday night in a torrent of once secret information that is sure to renew debate over the impact of one of the largest security breaches in U.S. history.

After nearly nine months in which the 251,287 cables had been trickling out at a pace that guaranteed there would be WikiLeaks documents still unreleased 10 years from now, the website announced on Twitter that all of the cables had been made public.

"Shining a light on 45 years of U.S. 'diplomacy,' it is time to open the archives forever," WikiLeaks said. The "tweet" included a link to the WikiLeaks website, showing all the cables had been made public.

In a statement emailed to reporters Thursday morning, WikiLeaks had anticipated the release, saying that in recent days it had become well known on the web that a book about WikiLeaks published last February by the British newspaper The Guardian contained the password that would allow anyone to open an encrypted file containing all the information that had been widely circulated on the Internet last year.

"Knowledge of the Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months but reached critical mass last week," the statement said. WikiLeaks said it would release the remaining files to protect their impact on news events.

"Revolutions and reforms are in danger of being lost as the unpublished cables spread to intelligence contractors and governments before the public," the statement said.

That claim is likely to be challenged in coming days by many who believe WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have exaggerated their impact on recent events, though the organization will also have its defenders.

In its statement, WikiLeaks took credit for helping to spark the Arab Spring with its publication, in partnership with the French newspaper Le Monde, of ...

Published: Wednesday 31 August 2011
“U.S. policymakers now grappling with the question of America’s role in the world ought to look to the past as well as the future.”

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt named an obscure history professor, William E. Dodd, as ambassador to Germany. Dodd was a principled but prosaic man, whose gift to popular history was not his academic writings but the scandalous behavior of his attractive daughter. In Berlin, she slept with the enemy — neither for God nor country but for the sheer fun of it.

It took the older Dodd just a brief time and Martha Dodd, his 25-year-old daughter, much longer to figure out that they were dealing not with the sort of country club anti-Semites they knew back in the States but with killers intent on wiping out a whole people. “We sort of don’t like the Jews anyway,” Martha told a friend. Lucky for her she was in the right country.

The story of the Dodd family’s time in Germany is grippingly told by Erik Larson in his “In the Garden of the Beasts.” His is a novelistic approach to a rigorously nonfiction account of what the unfolding Nazi regime looked like to a dowdy historian and his family. The Dodds were plopped into one of history’s great maelstroms, with Hitler consolidating power swiftly and events moving fast but incrementally so. No one announced the Holocaust. It began the random day a Nazi goon knocked a Jew off the sidewalk.

Dodd’s tenure in Berlin was marked by repeated entreaties to his bosses back at the State Department to allow him to make one sort of protest or another. Invariably, this was denied. The State Department back then was a redoubt of snooty anti-Semites who thought, within reason of course, that Hitler had a point about the Jews. State also recognized that Washington had little leverage and, anyway, what Hitler was doing to his Jews and others was his own damned business. America had no vital national interest at stake.

I emphasize those words because they have great currency at the moment. I heard them used last week by Jon Huntsman, who explained to journalists ...

Published: Saturday 27 August 2011
“Auditors question uses and oversight of special fund meant for crises, evacuations from Egypt and Libya, and other ‘extraordinary’ needs”

Money from a State Department fund meant for urgent needs – such as evacuating diplomats from posts in Egypt or Libya – has been spent on a kitchen renovation, holiday and retirement parties, and on white suits for President Obama’s inauguration.

An audit by the department’s inspector general raises questions about whether State Department officials have gone beyond the purpose of a  law allowing U.S. diplomatic officials to tap into a so-called “K Fund.” The money is set aside for “unforeseen emergencies arising in the diplomatic and consular service,” such as moving personnel out of suddenly unstable regimes, rewarding tipsters for information about terrorist activities, and defraying the unexpected costs of visiting officials.

The State Department’s fiscal 2010 budget request for $10 million for the K Fund stresses its importance: “Recent events including the evacuation of Lebanon, tsunami in Southeast Asia, war in Iraq, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the SARS epidemic and the potential outbreak of Avian influenza, and the U.S. missions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Islamabad, Pakistan, underscore the continuing need for a funding source from which extraordinary expenditures can be made on a timely basis to further and protect United States interests abroad.”

But an unclassified version of an audit of the K Fund released Thursday noted ...

Published: Saturday 27 August 2011
The report concludes, as did two prior versions, that there would be “no significant impact” on natural resources near the pipeline route, while also downplaying the potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The State Department released its final environmental impact assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline Friday, and it’s just as bad as some feared—perhaps worse. The report concludes, as did two prior versions, that there would be “no significant impact” on natural resources near the pipeline route, while also downplaying the potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions.

In a conference call with reporters, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones stressed that “this is not the rubberstamp for this project. The permit that is required for this process has not been approved or rejected at all.”

But the environmental concerns are clearly the main objection to Keystone XL, and the report is widely seen as removing one of the final roadblocks to the project. Environmental groups were quick to blast the results. “The U.S. State Department’s final report on the Keystone XL today is an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the interests of the American people,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.

On the issue of pipeline spills, the State Department report assesses that “there could be from 1.18 to 1.83 spills greater than 2,100 gallons per year” for the entire project. It helpfully adds that “crude oil spills are not likely to have toxic effects on the general public.”

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