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Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.  

Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here.  This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.  

Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features jazz and blues pianist Lloyd Glenn.  Enjoy!

Lloyd Glenn - Old Time Shuffle Blues

"Necessity never made a good bargain."

  -- Benjamin Franklin

News and Opinion

The Third Way/Pete Peterson jackasses are at it again...

Hoyer: Congress should lay 'groundwork' for grand bargain budget deal

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer called on Congress Monday to lay the “groundwork” for a budget “grand bargain,” warning that a failure to do so risks upending the United State’s status as the world’s premier economic power. ...

“Short of reaching a big deal, we can still leverage opportunities before us to make progress toward the goal that proponents of a such a deal have long sought,” Hoyer said Monday during a budget forum in Washington sponsored by Third Way, a centrist think tank. “If we’re going to show the world that America is serious about tackling our problems head-on, Congress will have several opportunities this year to work in a bipartisan way to fix structural problems in our budget.”

Even by lowering the bar, Hoyer faces daunting odds. Not only is Congress shifting rapidly from legislative to campaign mode ahead of November's midterm election, but President Obama — another “grand bargain” champion — has seen his clout with Congress diminish with falling approval ratings. ...

Hoyer said a package of expiring tax benefits, known collectively as the “tax extenders,” offers Congress one such opportunity for fiscal reform, while a must-pass transportation bill provides the chance for new infrastructure investments.

Goldman Sachs' Outrageous Scheme to Profit Off Jailed Young Offenders

In 2012, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that New York City would be the site of a new experiment very dear to his billionaire’s heart. He declared that Wall Street megabank Goldman Sachs would provide a loan of nearly $10 million to pay for a program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release (currently almost half reoffended within a year). The city government was short of money, so Goldman Sachs would step in to do what anemic public investment could not accomplish on its own: keep young men out of jail.

If the program succeeded, the giant bank would profit. The more recidivism dropped, the more taxpayers would have to pay Goldman Sachs. On the other hand, if recidivism didn’t drop significantly, Goldman would lose its investment. ...

Social impact bonds, a.k.a. pay-for-success bonds, are billed as an “innovative” way of linking private investors, nonprofits and government to deliver social services with demonstrable outcomes. Private financiers or foundations pay for the costs of a new program, and the government later repays the investors, often with a bonus, if program accomplishes its goals. ...

Mark Rosenman, professor emeritus at the Union Institute & University, has argued that while the programs themselves may be helpful in some cases, the problem is that companies like Goldman Sachs are profiting from them at the expense of taxpayers. He cites the example of Head Start, which 57,000 children have lost as a result of tax cuts and the sequester.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has leapt into the breach, launching a social impact investment to provide private money as an alternative to public investments in early childhood education. As Rosenman explains, Head Start saves the government at least $7 for every dollar spent, but if Goldman Sachs has its way, we will be paying them and their clients part of that savings for having replaced taxpayer funding for such programs. “Let’s call it what it is,” writes Rosenman, “private profit crowding out a public good.”

This is precisely the sort of thing conservatives who worship the market and hate the government want: An excuse to reduce taxes for the wealthy while cutting services for everybody else. It’s really just a return to the 19th-century model of charitable contributions for the poor instead of government intervention and public investment. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has repeatedly argued that programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid must be cut “because we can’t afford them.” But evidently, we can afford to pay Goldman for doing things that look exactly like what he says “we” can’t afford. ...

It really must be pointed out that Goldman Sachs, one of the country's most profitable companies, has also been named one of the top tax deadbeats in the U.S. A recent study by Citizens for Tax Justice shows that one of the biggest tax breaks claimed by corporations is stock options for top executives, which are deductible from corporate income taxes but don't reduce earnings reported to stockholders. Between 2008 and 2012, Goldman Sachs claimed just over $1.5 billion in deductions from stock options. All this tax-dodging, of course, is a key reason for the lack of public funds for social programs!

Tax Wall Street to Save The Economy

Energy Department approves natural gas export site on Oregon coast

The Obama administration on Monday approved a terminal on the Oregon coast to export U.S. natural gas abroad, as pressure mounts on the president to use the nation’s energy bounty as a foreign policy weapon.

Some members of Congress claim natural gas exports would weaken Russia. The argument has holes, but the Ukrainian crisis is nevertheless increasing the political momentum for exports.

The Jordan Cove facility in Coos Bay, Ore., is the seventh terminal so far to receive conditional approval from the Department of Energy to export liquefied natural gas. ...
“A quick and efficient approval process to responsibly export natural gas from our shores will also reduce the stronghold that countries, like Russia, currently exercise over their neighbors,” said Landrieu, the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. ...

Natural gas prices are far higher in Asia than Europe, so companies are more interested in exporting to the hungry Asian market. The European countries most dependent on Russian energy don’t even have terminals for receiving U.S. liquefied natural gas and receive their energy by pipeline.

Oregon’s Jordan Cove facility is geared toward the Asian market. Politicians nevertheless characterized Monday’s conditional approval of the facility as a boost to European security. The Department of Energy announced the move as Obama visits Europe to urge stronger economic sanctions against Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine.

Markey: New Natural Gas Export Approval Crosses Cost Threshold for American Consumers, Businesses

The Department of Energy approved exports from a sixth natural gas export terminal, putting the total approved exports of America’s natural gas past a level that the energy agency’s own analysis said could raise prices by upwards of 50 percent. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today said that this new level of exports would put the future of America’s natural gas dependent industries and consumers in uncharted waters, and urged DOE to conduct additional robust studies about what impact these high levels of exports would have on the American economy.

The thumbs up today given to the Jordan Cove facility in Oregon means the total exports approved have reached 4.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas per year. In 2012, the Department of Energy’s own study found that under a “high export scenario” of 4.4 Tcf of natural gas exports per year, domestic prices could spike by more than 50 percent. Based on the domestic price increases DOE has reported could come with this level of natural gas exports, U.S. energy consumers could be facing as much as $62 billion per year in higher energy costs as a direct result of exporting.

“There can be no doubt that we have crossed a line into an era when we could be massively exporting America’s natural gas, sending the jobs and consumer benefits abroad along with the fuel. The level of exports approved is now more than every single American home consumes, and it could impose up to a $62 billion de facto tax on American households and businesses,” said Senator Markey.

West, Russia signal line drawn in Ukraine crisis

Russia and the West sought to draw a provisional line under the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday after major industrialised nations warned Moscow of tougher economic sanctions if it goes beyond the seizure of Crimea. ...

British Prime Minister David Cameron signalled meanwhile that while the West did not accept Putin's annexation of Crimea, it would take more severe measures against sectors of the Russian economy only if he went further. ...

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia for the first time on the sidelines of a nuclear safety summit in The Hague, even though Russia does not recognise the Kiev government.

Moscow also allowed the first monitors from the pan-European security watchdog OSCE to begin work in Ukraine after prolonged wrangling over their mandate, which Russia says excludes Crimea.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Deshchytsia protested at the annexation of Crimea and Kiev regarded the territory as its own. Lavrov said Russia did not intend to use force in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, and "the two sides agreed not to fuel further escalation in the Crimea problem that could cause casualties", it said. ...

Kiev also backed away from a threat to cut off water and electricity supplies to the Black Sea peninsula, which Russia annexed last week despite Ukrainian and Western protests.

Ukraine aid bill clears Senate hurdle after Republicans drop resistance to IMF loans

A stalled US aid package for Ukraine finally began to emerge from Congress on Monday night after the Senate temporarily put partisan bickering aside to vote overwhelmingly in favour of $1bn worth of economic assistance measures.

A majority of Republicans dropped their previous resistance to the bill, which includes controversial reforms to the International Monetary Fund added at the request of the White House, and it cleared a key procedural hurdle by 78 votes to 17.

Despite passing out of the Senate Foreign Relations committee more than a week ago, the aid package had been delayed during recent tensions in Crimea due to an unrelated squabble over whether the IMF clauses would be expensive or weaken US influence.

But the wider Ukraine package, which also includes further sanctions against Russia, still faces an uphill struggle in the House of Representatives where its version of the bill does not contain the IMF reforms demanded by Democrats.

Republican senator John McCain warned that further delays would fuel a Russian perception that the US was not serious about helping Ukraine resist further territorial aggression.

G7 countries snub Putin and refuse to attend planned G8 summit in Russia

Western countries and Japan have suspended their 16-year collaboration with Russia in the G8 group in response to the annexation of Crimea and have threatened sweeping sanctions in the event of any Russian military moves in the region. ... Leaders from the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan met in The Hague as the G7 for the first time since Russian was brought into the group in 1998 to seal east-west co-operation and lay the cold war to rest.

The G7 leaders issued a joint statement, under the title of the Hague Declaration,saying they would not attend a planned G8 summit in Sochi in June but would instead convene without Russia in Brussels. The group's foreign ministers would also boycott a planned G8 meeting in Moscow in April. ...

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, shrugged off the loss of G8 membership as being inconsequential. "The G8 is an informal club, with no formal membership, so no one can be expelled from it. If our western partners believe that such format is no longer needed, so be it," ... said Lavrov after his first meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andrii Deshchytsia, at the margins of the global Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Ukrainian embassy in The Hague said in its account of the meeting: "Lavrov stressed that Russia has no intention of using military force in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. The two sides agreed to hold emergency consultations at the level of the ministries of foreign affairs and the ministries of defence of both countries in the case of exacerbation of the situation." ...

Obama also sought to deepen Russian isolation in a meeting in The Hague with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in which he asked that Beijing at least maintain its stance of neutrality in the stand-off and continue to reaffirm its commitment to the rule of international law and non-interference in the affairs of sovereign states.

US officials acknowledged that Xi had given little by way of formal response to the request.

Ukraine parliament dismisses defense minister over Crimea crisis

Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday dismissed acting defence minister Igor Tenyukh over his handling of the Crimea crisis following Russia’s annexation of the restive Black Sea peninsula.

Some 228 deputies in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada parliament supported the measure in a vote taken shortly after Tenyukh tendered his resignation.

Deputies then quickly voted to appoint Lieutenant General Mykhailo Koval as the new acting defence minister after his name was submitted for parliamentary approval by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.

Koval had made news earlier this month when he was briefly abducted by pro-Kremlin militias near his military base in the Crimean port of Yalta.

Crimea’s effective loss — though recognised by no major Western power — has dealt a heavy psychological blow to many Ukrainians who have already spent the past years mired in economic malaise.

Ukrainian far-right activist shot dead by police

A prominent Ukrainian far-right activist, part of a hardline nationalist movement that played a leading role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, has been shot dead by police.

The interior ministry said officers from the Sokol special unit had killed Oleksander Muzychko, also known as Sashko Bily, as he tried to escape from a cafe in the western Ukrainian region of Rivne on Monday night.

"At the moment of arrest, at shouts of 'Stop! Police!', Muzychko fled, jumping through a window and opened fire," the first deputy interior minister, Volodymyr Yevdokimov, told a news conference in Kiev. The officers returned fire, killing Muzychko, he said.

Muzychko was a member of the hardline Right Sector and the group's co-ordinator for western Ukraine, the country's nationalist heartland bordering the EU. Police said he was wanted for hooliganism and an attack on a local prosecutor.

Russia, which cited the likes of Right Sector as justification for its move to annex Crimea and protect the peninsula's ethnic Russian majority from Ukrainian "fascists", said this month that Muzychko was under investigation for fighting alongside rebels in Chechnya in the 1990s.

Contradicting the police account, the independent MP Oleksander Doniy said on his Facebook page that Muzychko had been executed. Muzychko had previously said he feared the police would kill him.

Apparently the Japanese social media have come up with an unusual angle on the kerfuffle in the Ukraine.  The new Crimean attorney general is a girl!
Internet swoons over 'battle-ready heroine' Crimean attorney general Natalia Poklonskaya

The Crimean crisis may well be the "biggest threat to European security" since the Cold War, sparking outrage, panic and prompting feverish talk of global war. ...

Observers of the conflict, primarily in Japan, have become preoccupied, not with the potential implications of Russia's annexing of Crimea and massing of troops on the Ukrainian border, but rather with the region's newly-appointed attorney general Natalia Poklonskaya. ...

Ms Poklonskaya, who previously served as a prosecutor for the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's office, was appointed to the job of attorney general on 11 March.

Directly after her appointment she gave the no-nonsense press conference in which she described the EuroMaidan revolt as an "anti-constitutional coup" and said she did not "propagate Nazism, unlike certain regime functionaries in Kiev".

Before being appointed as attorney general Poklonskaya had worked as a senior lawyer in the prosecutor general's office.

She voiced criticism of the opposition and uprising and in February announced her resignation saying she was ashamed to live in the country where "bandits were allowed to walk the street freely". ...

The video footage of her first press conference has since gone viral around the world making her an internet sensation and drawing widespread media coverage.

Yulia Tymoshenko meets with former U.S. Governor Howard Dean

Yulia Tymoshenko, Batkivshchyna Party leader and former Ukrainian prime minister, met today with a delegation headed by Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and member of the Board of Directors of the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

"The fate of the whole world, not just Ukraine and Crimea, now depends on the assistance we get from the U.S. and our democratic partners. For us your visit during this difficult time is a symbol of support and hope," Yulia Tymoshenko said.

The sides discussed bilateral cooperation in the context of the situation in Ukraine and the escalating conflict in Crimea.

I wonder if Tymoshenko mentioned to Dean her desire to nuke Russia back to the stone age...
Time to grab guns and kill damn Russians: Tymoshenko tape leak

Ukrainians must take up arms against Russians so that not even scorched earth will be left where Russia stands; an example of former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko’s vitriol in phone call leaked online.

Tymoshenko confirmed the authenticity of the conversation on Twitter, while pointing out that a section where she is heard to call for the nuclear slaughter of the eight million Russians who remain on Ukrainian territory was edited.

She tweeted “The conversation took place, but the '8 million Russians in Ukraine' piece is an edit. In fact, I said Russians in Ukraine – are Ukrainians. Hello FSB :) Sorry for the obscene language.”

[Some quotes from the tape:]

“This is really beyond all boundaries. It’s about time we grab our guns and kill go kill those damn Russians together with their leader.”

“I hope I will be able to get all my connections involved. And I will use all of my means to make the entire world raise up, so that there wouldn’t be even a scorched field left in Russia."

Despite being incapacitated by spinal disc hernia the ex-PM stressed she’s ready to “grab a machine gun and shoot that m*****er in the head.”

Obama wrong to isolate Venezuela

The Obama administration seems surrealistically unaware that this is a different hemisphere than it was 15 years ago. Governments representing the majority of Latin America are now from the left, including Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela in South America and El Salvador and Nicaragua in Central America. These governments emphatically reject Washington’s depiction of the recent events in Venezuela as a government trying to “repress peaceful protesters.” Instead, they share Maduro’s view that the protests are an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government, which has been the stated goal of the protest movement’s leadership from the beginning. Even President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who is reluctant to criticize Washington, used the word “destabilization” to describe the protests. These governments see that Washington is using its muscle to support this effort. ...

Ecuador and Bolivia also faced violent protests when right-wing forces similar to those leading the opposition in Venezuela tried to topple their governments in 2008 and 2010, respectively. South America, led by Brazil, rallied to their cause in these cases. They did the same for Venezuela last April when people were killed (in that case almost all Chavistas) in demonstrations against Maduro’s election victory. There, too, they saw Washington on the wrong side, pouring fuel on the flames by refusing to recognize the results of a democratic election that were completely certain. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her still well-loved predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, denounced US “interference.” ...

The rest of the hemisphere will oppose any attempt by the United States to put a relatively small number of protesters led by right-wing politicians on an equal footing with a democratically elected government — which is similar to what Washington did when it arranged “mediation” between the Honduran dictatorship and the democratically elected government it overthrew in 2009. The region sees Washington as trying to delegitimize the government of Venezuela, thereby encouraging violence and destabilization.

If the Obama administration wants to improve its relations with the region, it could start by joining the rest of the hemisphere in accepting the results of democratic elections.

Why Did FBI Monitor Occupy Houston, and Then Hide Sniper Plot Against Protest Leaders?

William Greider put together a great piece that cannot be done justice by excerpting; this is worth a full read.
Spy Agencies, Not Politicians, Hold the Cards in Washington

In recent weeks, a lurid real-life melodrama has been playing out in the nation's capital that has the flavor of old-fashioned conspiracy theories. The two clandestine agencies are the true puppet masters.

It is elected politicians, even the president, who are puppets dancing on a string. ... The NSA and the CIA, though sometimes rivals for power, can be thought of as the "evil twins" of government bureaucracy—licensed to trample on the Bill of Rights in the name of protecting the nation from alien forces. The two agencies are joined at the hip by this new storm of staggering revelations. Both are trying awkwardly to maintain their Cold War mystique but the storm threatens to blow away their "house of cards." Puppet-like politicians are exposed as utterly incompetent watchdogs. The puppet masters don't look so smart either.

What's promising is they are turning on each other. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and long-loyal apologist for the spy agencies, accused the CIA of spying on her committee's belated investigation into the torture scandal. CIA Director John Brennan turned around and put the blame on her, actually accusing her committee staff of snooping on the agency. He even filed a complaint with the Justice Department and asked for a criminal investigation of the congressional oversight committee.

Feinstein in turn asked Justice to investigate Brennan. This is truly weird. ...

Where is the president in all this? Mostly limp and unpersuasive so far in very restrained responses. He didn't fire the CIA director nor the NSA director though both have lied to Congress and the public, and are obvious candidates for blame. The president did not launch a seriously independent inquiry nor does he seem to understand that, whether or not it's fair, the blame falls at his feet. Why didn't  he get angry?

Because he knows the secrets, he is therefore vulnerable to reprisal. ... The CIA or NSA know what he heard and know what he said when he learned the secrets. If the president decides to condemn their dirty work, the spooks and spies can leak to the press how in the privacy of the Oval Office the commander-in-chief gave the green light.

Democrats have votes to release CIA report

The Senate Intelligence Committee is poised to send a long-awaited report on the CIA’s interrogation practices to President Barack Obama’s desk for his approval — or redaction.

Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she has the votes on the narrowly divided panel to publicly reveal the executive summary and key conclusions of a 6,300-page report on Bush-era interrogation tactics, a move sure to fuel the Senate’s intense dispute with the CIA over how the panel pieced together the study. That vote is likely to happen sometime this week. ...

A vote to release the report is not the end of the committee’s work, according to sources familiar with the process and committee rules. The full Senate doesn’t have to approve the report before it hits Obama’s desk for him to review the conclusions. But it’s Obama who will ultimately decide whether the document needs to be further redacted, as the CIA will likely recommend.

Obama says he is “absolutely committed” to releasing the Senate report and has urged the committee to proceed — and Senate Democrats aren’t letting up until details of the CIA’s use of secret prisons and interrogation techniques are in the hands of the public.

The House's NSA bill could allow more spying than ever. You call this reform?

Congress' serial fabricator has the audacity to call his new law the 'End Bulk Collection Act'. Obama's proposal isn't much better

The House proposal, to be unveiled this morning by Reps Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, is the more worrying of the two. ... Under the Rogers and Ruppersberger proposal, slyly named the “End Bulk Collection Act”, the telephone companies would hold on to phone data. But the government could search data from those companies based on "reasonable articulable suspicion" that someone is an agent of a foreign power, associated with an agent of a foreign power, or "in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power". The NSA’s current phone records program is restricted to a reasonable articulable suspicion of terrorism.

A judge would reportedly not have to approve the collection beforehand, and the language suggests the government could obtain the phone records on citizens at least two “hops” away from the suspect, meaning if you talked to someone who talked to a suspect, your records could be searched by the NSA. [Also see this article by Marcy Wheeler for further information about the failures of hop analysis. - js] Coupled with the expanded “foreign power” language, this kind of law coming out of Congress could, arguably, allow the NSA to analyze more data of innocent Americans than it could before. ...

The administration’s plan would supposedly end the collection of phone records by the NSA, without requiring a dangerous new data retention mandate for the phone companies, while restricting analysis to the current rules around terrorism and, importantly, still requiring a judge to sign off on each phone-record search made to the phone companies – under what the New York Times described as "a new kind of court order". ... [T]here’s no indication that the president's plan would stop other types of bulk collection – such as internet or financial records – and there’s still a big question about what the NSA could do with the data they receive on innocent people two "hops" away from a suspect.

Critically, neither proposal touches the NSA’s under-reported and incredibly dangerous “corporate store”, at least that we know of. For years, the NSA has been allowed to search phone numbers up to three “hops” away from suspect, so long as it had “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the suspect was involved in terrorism. This was recently ratcheted down to two hops, but the hop-scotching method inevitably pulled millions of innocent people into the NSA’s dragnet.

Obama to Call for End to N.S.A.’s Bulk Data Collection

The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.

Under the proposal, they said, N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order. ...

The new surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said.

They would also allow the government to seek related records for callers up to two calls, or “hops,” removed from the number that has come under suspicion, even if those callers are customers of other companies. ...

Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “We have many questions about the details, but we agree with the administration that the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of call records should end.” He added, “As we’ve argued since the program was disclosed, the government can track suspected terrorists without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance.”

Obama's Broken Promises on Transparency

Does New Look at Documents Reveal Nixon's Hand in My Lai Cover-Up?

President Richard Nixon may have been personally behind an attempt to cover up the brutal killing of over 500 Vietnamese civilians by American soldiers in the South Vietnam village of My Lai in 1968, according to historians who spoke with CBS journalist Evie Salomon.

Handwritten notes by Nixon's chief of staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman taken during a December 1, 1969 meeting with the president read: "Task force - My Lai," adding beneath "dirty tricks [...] not too high a level" and "discredit one witness," in order to "keep working on the problem."

The note "reads like a threatening to-do list," writes Salomon.

Ken Hughes, a researcher with the University of Virginia's Miller Center Presidential Recording Program, told Salomon that "Haldeman's note is an important piece of evidence that Nixon interfered with a war-crime prosecution."

Marking the 46th anniversary of the March 16 My Lai massacre, Salomon spoke with a number of historians who conclude that these documents are evidence that Nixon attempted to sabotage the court-martial trials by burying the testimony of American helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson—who witnessed the massacre and attempted to report on the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed men, women and children.

Exclusive: NSA, FBI, DIA Sued over Refusal to Disclose U.S. Role in Imprisonment of Nelson Mandela

Twitter ban sparks 'arms race' with tech savvy Turks

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan rails against Twitter as part of a plot to blacken him and portray his Turkey as corrupt; but Turks in growing numbers are exploring ever more innovative ways to beat his ban in what has become a cyber-battle of wits.

Last week, few Turks were conversant with technical terms such as VPN or DNS, but that has all changed now, in the pursuit of the forbidden. In a nod to old-style political protest, "workarounds" are even daubed on walls in Turkey's major cities. ...

The microblogging site has been a vehicle for a stream of anonymously posted audio tapes purporting to expose corrupt dealings by family members and businessmen. Erdogan, facing important local elections next Sunday, accuses U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally turned chief political opponent, of hacking secret state communications, then manipulating recordings to smear him.

Erdogan's declaration last week that he would root out Twitter, and the subsequent attempt to block it in Turkey, triggered denunciations from European officials and the U.S. government, which spoke of "21st century book burning". ...

All the while, huge crowds from Erdogan's largely conservative base have continued to flock to hear him speak ahead of Sunday's local polls, an important test of whether his popularity has held despite the corruption scandals.

Many of his supporters, often more prosperous since he came to power 11 years ago, back his argument that the Twitter ban is a national security measure to ward off Gulen's sedition.

It's expensive to host the empire...
Barack Obama's first visit to Brussels to cost Belgium more than €10m

As Belgium's capital and host to the EU and Nato, Brussels is used to deploying heavy security when big names pop by. But US President Barack Obama's visit on Tuesday will strain the city like never before with €10m (£8.4m) of Belgian money being spent to cover his 24 hours in the country.

The president will arrive on Tuesday night with a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three cargo planes. Advance security teams orchestrating every last detail have combed Brussels already, checking the sewers and the major hospitals, while American military helicopters were last week given the green light for overflights. The city hosts at least four EU summits a year, with each of these gatherings costing €500,000 in extra police, military and transport expenses. "But this time round, you can multiply that figure by 20," said Brussels mayor, Yvan Mayeur. ...

Belgium itself is mobilising 350 police and military on motorbikes to secure the president's routes to EU and Nato summits on Wednesday, while a convoy of nine US helicopters will take Obama to an American first world war cemetery.

After landing at Wevelgem aerodrome, a phalanx of 30 armoured cars will take Obama to the cemetery where – accompanied by Belgium's King Philippe and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo – he will tour the battlefield and lay a wreath.

First Amendment Train Wreck in the Making: U.S. Senate Tries to Define Who Is a Journalist

After the revelation that the Department of Justice had taken phone records from Associated Press journalists as part of a leak investigation, members of Congress reintroduced the Free Flow of Information Act, also known as the federal media shield law. The basic purpose behind the law is to protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources to the government.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), claims it has wide support in his chamber, and has identified five Republicans who would vote to support it. It is expected to come up for a vote in April.

But the devil here is in the details. While the law does extend certain protections to some journalists, it is very particular about who exactly it covers. The Associated Press’s Donna Cossata explains:

"The bill's protections would apply to a 'covered journalist,' defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.

"It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a 'covered journalist' who would be granted the privileges of the law.

"The bill also says that information is only privileged if it is disseminated by a news medium, described as 'newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or otherwise); news program, magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic or other format; or thorough television or radio broadcast ... or motion picture for public showing.'"

Not protected by the proposed law? Bloggers and people who post on social media. In other words, the law almost naturally privileges journalists whose organizations have most money—like print media—rather than the most accessible forms of media that anyone can use to disseminate information quickly.
Why Did the FBI Label Ryan Shapiro’s Dissertation on Animal Rights a Threat to National Security?

The Evening Greens

Air pollution 'kills 7 million people a year'

Air pollution kills about 7 million people worldwide every year, with more than half of the fatalities due to fumes from indoor stoves, according to a report from the World Health Organisation published on Tuesday.

The agency said air pollution caused about one in eight deaths and had now become the single biggest environmental health risk. ...

WHO estimated that there were about 4.3 million deaths in 2012 caused by indoor air pollution, mostly people cooking inside using wood and coal stoves in Asia. WHO said there were about 3.7 million deaths from outdoor air pollution in 2012, of which nearly 90% were in developing countries.

But WHO noted that many people were exposed to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Due to this overlap, mortality attributed to the two sources cannot simply be added together; hence WHO said it lowered the total estimate from around 8 million to 7 million deaths in 2012.

The new estimates are more than double previous figures. The increase is partly due to better information about the health effects of pollution and improved detection methods. Last year, WHO's cancer agency classified air pollution as a carcinogen, linking dirty air to lung and bladder cancer. ...

[Director of the environmental research group at King's College London, Frank] Kelly said it was mostly up to governments to curb pollution levels, through legislation, measures such as moving power stations away from big cities and providing cheap alternatives to indoor wood and coal stoves.

He said people could also reduce their individual exposure by avoiding travelling at rush hour or by taking smaller roads. Despite the increasing use of face masks in heavily polluted cities such as Beijing and Tokyo, Kelly said there was little evidence that they worked.

Most Extreme Weather 'Virtually Impossible' Without Man-Made Warming

noaa climate eventsExtreme weather systems wreaking havoc across the world would have been "virtually impossible" without man-made climate change, says a report released Monday by the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2013, which is released annually by the WMO, also reports this year that the world has unequivocally warmed dramatically over the last one hundred years and continues to heat up.

According to the report, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record all occurred in the 21st century. 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, in a tie with 2007. Over the last 30 years, each decade has been warmer than the last, "culminating with 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record," said the WMO.

While natural disasters would occur regardless of climate change and have been historically exacerbated my natural changes in weather patterns, this human-induced warming is quickly magnifying those events and making them far worse than they would have been without anthropogenic causes, explained Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO.

Record Cold Winter Wallops Already Struggling Bees

The record cold that gripped much of the Midwest this winter added insult to injury to already struggling bee populations.

While they expect to lose a small proportion of their hives each year, Iowa beekeepers say this year their losses are far beyond normal ranges. ...

Iowa Department of Agriculture bee researcher Andrew Joseph says the losses could be as high as 70 percent, compared to an average winter loss of up to 20 percent.

The high losses, he explains, were the result of not just the frigid temperatures on their own but of the multiple threats bees were already facing that left them more vulnerable.

Blog Posts of Interest

Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.
What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus

NSA Bids to Expand Spying in Guise of “Fixing” Phone Dragnet

David Byrne: The NSA is burning down the web, but what if we rebuilt a spy-proof internet?

America’s Last Throwback to Plutocracy 1.0

The Other Problem with the Obama Proposal: Who Does the Pizza Joint Review?

Greenwald: Obama’s New NSA Proposal and Democratic Partisan Hackery

Transgender Ground Zero: This week in Saskatoon

Jaffer, Greenwald Remind Us of Blurred Lines Between Political Partisanship, Pragmatism and Hackery

A Little Night Music

Lloyd Glenn + Clarence Gatemouth Brown - Slow Train #1

Lloyd Glenn/Jesse Thomas - I'm So Blue

Lloyd Glenn's Combo - Chica Boo

Lowell Fulson & Lloyd Glenn - Reconsider Baby

Lloyd Glenn - Southbound Special

Lloyd Glenn - Nite Flite

Lloyd Glenn - The Vamp

Lloyd Glenn - Sleigh Ride

Lloyd Glenn - Blue Ivories

Lloyd Glenn & His Band - Wild Fire

Lloyd Glenn - Rompin' Rhumba

Lloyd Glenn - Twistville

Lloyd Glenn - Tipsy

Lloyd Glenn - Honky Tonk Train

It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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