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Presidential Proclamation -- America Recycles Day, 2013

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Archived Version

Source: White House.gov Press Office Feed

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 14:24

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 14, 2013

AMERICA RECYCLES DAY, 2013

- - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

During the First and Second World Wars, Americans showed their patriotism by participating in scrap drives and salvage collections. A committed citizenry gave up their personal typewriters, joined in volunteer efforts to harvest oil-producing peanuts, and donated old tires in a nationwide push to conserve and repurpose resources vital to our common welfare. Today, we face new threats -- to our environment, our health, and our climate -- that require all of us to do our part. On America Recycles Day, we carry forward a great national tradition and enlist a new generation of environmental stewards.

A typical American produces more than four pounds of waste each day, and some of this waste, including old computers and cell phones, could damage our health and harm our environment if not recycled properly. Recycling not only reduces pollution, but also saves energy, preserves valuable raw materials, and reduces emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. In addition, it spurs economic growth, generating billions of dollars each year and supporting local manufacturers who depend on recycled materials to make their products.

America Recycles Day offers an opportunity for each of us to reflect on the ways our habits shape the world around us. In our homes, offices, and schools, let us strive to make recycling a part of our daily lives. We should reuse or donate when possible, and recycle or compost as much as we are able. Students can get involved by championing waste-free lunches, recycling programs, and collection drives to repurpose resources like used shoes, water bottles, and digital cameras.

Our environmental legacy will not reflect any single policy or initiative; it will be the sum of millions of small actions, the decisions we make each day. Today, let us join with family, friends, and neighbors to make that legacy a strong one.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 15, 2013, as America Recycles Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs and activities, and I encourage all Americans to continue their reducing, reusing, and recycling efforts throughout the year.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

LOCAL/EUROLand

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Intocht Amsterdam verloopt rustig, (C)(C)n actievoerder verwijderd

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Archived Version

Source: VK: Home

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 15:08

Bewerkt door: redactie '' 17/11/13, 14:24 '' bron: ANP

(C) anp. Betogers staan met dichtgeplakte mond met hun rug naar de stoet op de Dam tijdens de intocht van Sinterklaas.

Onder luid gejuich van duizenden kinderen en hun ouders, zijn Sinterklaas en zijn Pieten zondagochtend feestelijk onthaald in Amsterdam. Het uiterlijk van de Pieten is dit jaar aangepast om de tegenstanders van het kinderfeest tegemoet te komen. Slechts (C)(C)n anti-zwarte pietdemonstrant werd door de politie verwijderd.

Weinig pietopponenten, weinig politie en veel witte pietjes', vertelt verslaggever Sander van Walsum die aanwezig is bij de intocht in Amsterdam. Hij sprak daar een moeder van drie kleine Zwart Pietjes. 'Ze bekende zich daar een beetje ongemakkelijk over te voelen. Haar jongste verheugt zich er al maanden op om als Zwarte Piet de straat op te gaan, maar de moeder heeft het ongemakkelijke gevoel dat dit verstoon als statement wordt opgevat. Het is vanzelfsprekende is er voor haar wel af. Haar kinderen verkleed als Zwarte Pietjes werden ook opmerkelijk vaak gefotografeerd: ze vormen al de uitzondering op de regel.'

E(C)n actievoerder verwijderdTijdens de intocht van Sinterklaas in Amsterdam is (C)(C)n actievoerder verwijderd. Een agent plukte de anti-zwarte pietdemonstrant uit de menigte en duwde hem een steegje in. Vlak voor de stoet met de sint de Dam bereikte, ontstond een opstootje. Een anti-zwarte pietdemonstrant ging op de afgesloten rijbaan staan, maar werd met wat duw- en trekwerk snel verwijderd door agenten. Of hij degene is die is opgepakt, is niet duidelijk. Ook is niet bekend wat de demonstrant die werd verwijderd, had gedaan.

Tientallen demonstranten, van wie een enkeling met een 'Zwarte Piet is Racisme'-shirt, keerden de stoet uit protest met gebalde vuist in de lucht de rug toe. Volgens verslaggever Van Walsum ging het om zo'n 20 demonstranten in een rij op de Dam. 'Ze stonden zwijgend met de rug naar Sinterklaas en zijn gevolg toegewend, omgeven door politieagenten.' Ook hadden mensen hun mond met tape afgeplakt. De politie hield de groep nauwlettend in de gaten, maar greep zoals beloofd niet in.

De Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter die het protest organiseerde, vindt het hulpje van de goedheiligman racistisch. Tegenstanders van Zwarte Piet probeerden de Amsterdamse sintintocht nog bij de rechter te voorkomen, maar dat was tevergeefs. De organisatie van het kinderfeest heeft wel wat aanpassingen beloofd om de tegenstanders tegemoet te komen.

De Pieten mogen dit jaar geen goudkleurige oorringen dragen en mogen een andere kleur lippenstift kiezen. Ook mogen ze variren in haardracht.

AankomstOm tien uur kwam de stoomboot Amsterdam binnen. Vlak voordat de stoomboot van de goedheiligman aanmeerde bij het Scheepvaartmuseum, vuurde het voc-schip naast het museum twee schoten af bij wijze van welkom. Op de kade werd de sint ontvangen door burgemeester Eberhard van der Laan. 'We zijn zo blij dat u er bent. We konden niet ophouden er over te praten de afgelopen weken.'

Sinterklaas dankte de burgervader voor de sfeervolle ontvangst. 'U bent zo druk geweest met mijn komst. We hebben zwaar weer gehad, maar ik en de pieten zijn heel blij hier te zijn.'

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Griepvaccins bij apothekers zijn bijna op - De Standaard

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Archived Version

Thu, 14 Nov 2013 21:49

De apothekers in ons land zitten bijna door hun voorraad aan griepvaccins. Toch is er geen reden tot ongerustheid omdat de meeste mensen die een hoog risico lopen intussen hun griepprik al gekregen hebben. Dat meldt de Algemene Pharmaceutische Bond.

Op heel wat plaatsen in Belgi kunnen apothekers hun voorraad griepvaccins niet meer aanvullen, er zijn zelfs apothekers die helemaal geen vaccins meer hebben. 'Dat de voorraad aan griepvaccins uitgeput raakt, is elk jaar het geval', zegt Jan Depoorter van de Algemene Pharmaceutische Bond.

Vroeger

'Alleen valt dat moment dit jaar wel vroeger dan anders en dat heeft alles te maken met productieproblemen van het vaccin. Daardoor is het aanbod zo'n 10 procent lager dan andere jaren', aldus Depoorter.

Toch zal dat geen groter aantal griepgevallen met zich meebrengen, volgens Depoorter hebben risicopatinten immers al een griepprik gekregen. Mensen die nu nog een griepvaccin aanschaffen zijn over het algemeen geen risicopatinten.

Ook griepspecialist Marc Van Ranst ziet geen enkele reden tot ongerustheid. 'In Europa is op dit moment nog geen sprake van een grieppiek, dus ook zeker niet in Belgi.' Of en wanneer die komt, is moeilijk te voorspellen. 'Als we afgaan op de meeste andere jaren, dan zou de grieppiek pas na nieuwjaar komen', aldus Van Ranst.

Onderzoek naar herkomst kunst bij Oranjes | nu.nl/algemeen | Het laatste nieuws het eerst op nu.nl

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Archived Version

Thu, 14 Nov 2013 21:32

Dat heeft de Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst donderdag laten weten.

Als er voorwerpen worden aangetroffen waarvan de herkomst ''niet rechtmatig'' is, kunnen deze worden geclaimd door de erfgenamen van de oorspronkelijke eigenaar.

Het onderzoek omvat alle collecties die gezamenlijk de Koninklijke Verzamelingen vormen en de museale voorwerpen uit de nalatenschap van koningin Juliana en prins Bernhard die nog in het bezit zijn van de koninklijke familie.

Een onafhankelijke deskundige zal het onderzoek uitvoeren. Voor de begeleiding van de deskundige is een 3-koppige commissie ingesteld, bestaande uit onder andere kunsthistoricus Rudi Ekkart. Hij is bij het grote publiek bekend door zijn onderzoek naar de herkomst van in de Tweede Wereldoorlog geroofde kunstwerken.

139 stukkenEind oktober werd bekend dat Nederlandse musea 139 kunstvoorwerpen in hun collecties hebben die tussen 1933 en 1945 tijdens het naziregime (vermoedelijk) zijn geroofd, geconfisqueerd of gedwongen verkocht.

Sommige deskundigen meenden dat het Koninklijk Huis ook moet meewerken aan een onderzoek naar roofkunst, omdat de koninklijke collectie ook kunst zou kunnen bevatten die in de oorlog is gestolen van Joodse eigenaren.

Historische VerzamelingenDe museale collecties van de Stichting Historische Verzamelingen worden beheerd door de directeur en de staf van het Koninklijk Huisarchief.

Hieronder vallen de familieportretten, portretminiaturen en talloze andere (kunst-)historische objecten. Delen van de collectie zijn langdurig in bruikleen bij onder meer Paleis Het Loo Nationaal Museum in Apeldoorn en het Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Het bestuur van de stichting bestaat onder anderen uit koning Willem-Alexander.

------------------------------------------------

French truck blockade

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Archived Version

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 14:52

PARIS (AP) -- Between 2,000 and 4,000 freight trucks closed off major French highways and slowed traffic to a crawl on nine roadways to protest a proposed environmental tax on heavy loads.France's Socialist government in late October suspended the tax, which initially was the focus of sometimes violent demonstrations in the region of Brittany, where opponents donned red caps and torched the still-unused payment kiosks.France's Interior Ministry estimated 2,100 trucks took part in Saturday's "snail operation"; the protest's organizer, OTRE, which represents truckers, counted 4,000. The group pledged not to attack the kiosks but said it wants the tax canceled entirely. The protest ended with no reports of violence.At a Friday night demonstration in Arles, hundreds of famers tried to reach a kiosk but were blocked by police.

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Three foreign investors to bid for Greek national rail carrier.

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Archived Version

Source: WT news feed

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 15:06

Might acquire 100 percent of TrainOSE

The Greek Fund for Management of State Property (FMSP) has approved the participation of three foreign investment companies in the second stage of the tender for the sale of the country's national railway carrier TrainOSE.

According to an official press-release of the fund, its board approved three potential investors, that have the right to participate in the second stage of the tender process for the acquisition of 100 percent of the shares TrainOSE.

Among the selected companies are Russian RZD in consortium with the Greek Gek Terna, the French railway company SNCF, as well as Romanian railway company Grup Feroviar Roman (GFR).

Tags are like keywords and makes it easy to find similar content. Click and you will see.

------------------------------------------------

SnowJob

Former top CIA official Michael J. Morell working on book, scheduled for 2015 release - The Washington Post

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Archived Version

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:37

By Associated Press, Published: NOVEMBER 13, 9:07 AM ET Aa NEW YORK '-- A former top CIA official whose 33 years of service included the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the death of Osama bin Laden has a book deal.

The publisher Twelve has acquired Michael J. Morell's ''The Great War of Our Time: An Insider's Account of the CIA's Fight Against al-Qaida.'' Twelve, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, announced Wednesday that the book was scheduled for release in spring 2015.

Morell, who retired last summer, had been the deputy director. He briefed President George W. Bush on the day of the 2001 attacks and was with President Barack Obama in 2011 when bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. Morell was also involved in the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Mass Surveillance and No NSA. It Happens!

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Archived Version

Source: The Rancid Honeytrap

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 16:46

As my readers must know, one of my many problems with The Snowden Leak Keepers is the extent to which they largely reduce a gigantic surveillance problem involving 16 government agencies, hundreds of contract companies, a gang of corporate co-conspirators, hundreds of local police forces etc, down to one bad agency. The Leak Keepers even seem hard-pressed to implicate Google's rubbery arm in the twisting the NSA 's been giving it for years, for reasons that surely must owe to something vastly more 11 dimensional chessy than the increasingly friendly reception various Leak Keepers are getting from multiple corporate sectors and beneficentoligarchs. Therefore, I suppose I am duty-bound to occasionally depart from critiquing the painstakingly dumbed-down Leak Keeper narrative and instead demonstrate by example how misplaced its narrow focus on the NSA is.

Here's a timely example, posted yesterday evening on Ars Technica:

At last month's International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in Philadelphia, LexisNexis showed off a new tool it will bundle with its research service for law enforcement agencies'--one that will help them ''stake out'' social media as part of their criminal investigations.

Called Social Media Monitor, the cloud-based service will watch social networks for comments and activities that might offer clues to crimes in the physical world. With direct connections into a variety of social media services' feeds, it will help police plow through Twitter and Facebook in search of evidence that could lead to arrests.

Social Media Monitor is provided by an Atlanta firm called Digital Stakeout [which] pulls data and metadata directly from Twitter's ''firehose,'' as well historical data from Twitter. The system taps into Facebook posts and comments, Google+ and YouTube, Instagram, and other social media ''big data'' feeds. It performs a variety of rules-based processing on the data live from the source'--including some proprietary natural language analytics [and] . . .includes sentiment analysis features to monitor the general mood of postings and pick up potential threats of violence.

Social Media Monitor, the article goes on, will complement Lexis Nexis' Accurint for Law Enforcement which is -

a sort of LinkedIn for law enforcement agents that provides a way to network and identify people with expertise at other levels of law enforcement. It also allows for access to public records about individuals and businesses that law enforcement can use to verify identities, locate suspects and their assets, and discover links between people that may not show up on their Facebook page.

Nothing surprising here, right? But don't ho-hum me if you're waiting breathlessly for the next Snowden scoop in which we'll learn '-- lemme guess '-- that the NSA scoops up web and phone data somewhere and doesn't spare foreign elites. This Ars Technica story tells us quite a lot more, don't you think? Here's what's notable:

1. Look Ma, no NSA!!!

Look who's driving here, it's the corporate sector. There's no evidence any government agency asked Lexis Nexis to produce this service. They saw that cops were using social networks anyway and decided to help. The end users are not a scary federal agency but scary local militarized police who can be dispatched to an evil tweet-doer's home in minutes. Assuming this product gets traction, its users will collectively comprise a massive surveillance network, and via Accurint '-- which is used by ''over 4,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies'' (source) '' they'll be one big national team working together. We can expect to see more and more of this so long as the Dept. of Fear money keeps flowing.

2. No national security interest gunking up the story.

Those inclined to think 'ordinary Americans' are uniquely important in the Snowden case should note that ordinary Americans are, so far, this product's only targets. There is no national security alibi, though the service does promise upticks in NatSec-minded Muslim-harassing. It will also likely boost anti-drug enforcement efforts as well, and be quite handy in managing various rabble rousers in times of social unrest. Among other things, identifying marks for concocted plots and drug stings is likely to get easier. That 'sentiment analysis' stuff has all kinds of potential.

3. The use of open source intelligence.

As far as I can tell, no warrants or subpoenas are needed for any of this. Digital Stakeout and Lexis Nexis are pulling from data that people willfully make public via social networking and from Accurint's 37 billion public records.

This is what they call Open Source Intelligence in the biz and all sorts of shady characters are showing a big interest in it. No wonder: since it mines publicly available information, open source intelligence occupies a kind of Fourth Amendment gray zone, where secrets are disclosed through automated analysis. If you have an unlimited storage capacity for data, and the processing power to analyze it, you theoretically can finger people for arrest or intimidation long before they resort to communication methods requiring warrants. If indeed this is the future of signals intelligence, things like PRISM are likely to seem horribly hamfisted and antiquated in a few years, as will any policy changes they inspire if open source intelligence is not factored in.

4. Corporate complicity

The level of access Digital Stakeout has to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Instagram should raise both eyebrows and questions. Perhaps Digital Stakeout is simply using public APIs, feeds and scrapes, with no involvement from these companies at all. Twitter has been heralded by privacy enthusiasts for opting out of PRISM and for being more protective of user data, so it's interesting that the company has provided both Data Stakeout and a competitor, BrightPlanet, with access to its hard-to-get and highly prized 'firehose'. I get that the info is public anyway, but it matters if these companies are making it easier for the surveillance apparatus to hoover it up and analyze it.

It certainly seems to me there's a lot more to wring one's hands over here than one finds in Angela Merkel's cell phone. This is just one of tens of articles along these lines that get published every month '-- authored by uncelebrated scribes like AT's Sean Gallagher '-- disclosing surveillance activity that equals or exceeds anything the NSA is doing. In most of these stories, all the damning details come straight from the spies' own mouths, no heavily redacted leaks required! Our story began this time with Lexis Nexis bragging about its enhancements to the panopticon at a cop convention. Curious readers can find more on the Digital Stakeout blog and from Lexis Nexis's Accurint sales pitch. Or they can continue to watch some rich, connected guy wave a smelly red herring and some trophies around, on his way to saving journalism.

h/t @thomas_lord

Related

Fuck These Google Guys

Oligarchs Approve the NSA Debate. I Guess We're Winning

A Harbinger of Journalism Saved

Take Your Drip and Stick It

Dr. Rosen and The Snowden Effect

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C.I.A. Collects Global Data on Transfers of Money - NYTimes.com

Link to Article

Archived Version

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 17:08

WASHINGTON '-- The Central Intelligence Agency is secretly collecting bulk records of international money transfers handled by companies like Western Union '-- including transactions into and out of the United States '-- under the same law that the National Security Agency uses for its huge database of Americans' phone records, according to current and former government officials.

The C.I.A. financial records program, which the officials said was authorized by provisions in the Patriot Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, offers evidence that the extent of government data collection programs is not fully known and that the national debate over privacy and security may be incomplete.

Some details of the C.I.A. program were not clear. But it was confirmed by several current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is classified.

The data does not include purely domestic transfers or bank-to-bank transactions, several officials said. Another, while not acknowledging the program, suggested that the surveillance court had imposed rules withholding the identities of any Americans from the data the C.I.A. sees, requiring a tie to a terrorist organization before a search may be run, and mandating that the data be discarded after a certain number of years. The court has imposed several similar rules on the N.S.A. call logs program.

Several officials also said more than one other bulk collection program has yet to come to light.

''The intelligence community collects bulk data in a number of different ways under multiple authorities,'' one intelligence official said.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the C.I.A., declined to confirm whether such a program exists, but said that the agency conducts lawful intelligence collection aimed at foreign '-- not domestic '-- activities and that it is subject to extensive oversight.

''The C.I.A. protects the nation and upholds the privacy rights of Americans by ensuring that its intelligence collection activities are focused on acquiring foreign intelligence and counterintelligence in accordance with U.S. laws,'' he said.

Juan Zarate, a White House and Treasury official under President George W. Bush, said that unlike telecommunications information, there has generally been less sensitivity about the collection of financial data, in part because the government already collects information on large transactions under the Bank Secrecy Act.

''There is a longstanding legal baseline for the U.S. government to collect financial information,'' said Mr. Zarate, who is also the author of ''Treasury's War,'' about the crackdown on terrorist financing. He did not acknowledge the C.I.A. program.

Orders for business records from the surveillance court generally prohibit recipients from talking about them. A spokeswoman for one large company that handles money transfers abroad, Western Union, did not directly address a question about whether it had been ordered to turn over records in bulk, but said that the company complies with legal requirements to provide information.

''We collect consumer information to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws,'' said the spokeswoman, Luella Chavez D'Angelo. ''In doing so, we also protect our consumers' privacy.''

In recent months, there have been hints in congressional testimony, declassified documents and litigation that the N.S.A. program '-- which was disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor '-- is not unique in collecting records involving Americans.

For example, the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for documents related to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision that allows the government to compel companies to turn over business records for counterterrorism purposes. After the government declassified the N.S.A. phone records program, it has released many documents about it in response to the suit.

But the government has notified the A.C.L.U. that it is withholding two Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rulings invoking Section 215 '-- one dated Aug. 20, 2008, and the other Nov. 23, 2010 '-- because they discuss matters that remain classified, according to Alexander Abdo, an A.C.L.U. lawyer. ''It suggests very strongly that there are other programs of surveillance that the public has a right to know about,'' Mr. Abdo said.

In addition, a Justice Department ''white paper'' on the N.S.A.'s call records program, released in August, said that communications logs are ''a context'' in which the ''collection of a large volume of data'' is necessary for investigators to be able to analyze links between terrorism suspects and their associates. It did not say that call records are the only context that meets the criteria for bulk gathering.

In hearings on Capitol Hill, government officials have repeatedly avoided saying that phone logs '-- which include date, duration and numbers of phone calls, but not their content '-- are the only type of data that would qualify for bulk collection under the Patriot Act provision. In a little-noticed exchange late in an Oct. 3 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the N.S.A. director, appeared to go further.

At the hearing, Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, asked General Alexander and James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, a sweeping question: ''So what are all of the programs run by the N.S.A. or other federal agencies'' that used either Section 215 of the Patriot Act or another surveillance law that allows warrantless wiretapping of phone and emails?

General Alexander responded by describing, once again, the N.S.A.'s call records program, adding, ''None of that is hid from you.'' Mr. Clapper said nothing.

Then, moments later, General Alexander interjected that he was talking only about what the N.S.A. is doing under the Patriot Act provision and appearing to let slip that other agencies are operating their own programs.

''You know, that's of course a global thing that others use as well, but for ours, it's just that way,'' General Alexander said.

In September, the Obama administration declassified and released a lengthy opinion by Judge Claire Eagan of the surveillance court, written a month earlier and explaining why the panel had given legal blessing to the call log program. A largely overlooked passage of her ruling suggested that the court has also issued orders for at least two other types of bulk data collection.

Specifically, Judge Eagan noted that the court had previously examined the issue of what records are relevant to an investigation for the purpose of ''bulk collections,'' plural. There followed more than six lines that were censored in the publicly released version of her opinion.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have been trying to gain more information about other bulk collection programs.

In September, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin and an author of the original Patriot Act, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asking if the administration was collecting bulk records aside from the phone data. An aide said he had yet to get a response. Even lawmakers on the Intelligence Committees have indicated that they are not sure they understand the entire landscape of what the government is doing in terms of bulk collection.

Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently sent a classified letter to Mr. Clapper asking for a full accounting of every other national security program that involves bulk collection of data at home or abroad, according to government officials.

Social Media & Big Data Intelligence for Law Enforcement & Public Safety

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Archived Version

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 16:47

DigitalStakeout customers quickly unlock the value of social media to assess risk, respond to threats, and discover actionable intelligence. Our location aware technology and patent pending social analytics can pinpoint criminal activity, detect breaking events, and locate persons of interest.

Our customers use DigitalStakeout to analyze millions of posts, tweets, updates, and other content in real-time to mitigate and respond to critical incidents and link discoveries to people, places and things.

We're a leading provider of social media intelligence for law enforcement & public safety agencies because our solution makes our customers efficient, effective, and DigtialStakeout yields accurate discoveries.

Oligarchs Approve The NSA Debate. I Guess We're #Winning | The Rancid Honeytrap

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Archived Version

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 16:50

Careful readers who saw something in all my Fuck The Guardian posts beyond envy-fueled animus against He Who Must Never Be Criticized In The Same Way He Criticizes, surely could guess that I wasn't even slightly surprised when I saw this, from second string Leak Keeper Barton Gellman of the Washington Post:

Applause for #Snowden tonight at Knickerbocker Club, old money Upper East Side, when Jim Goodale & I said he enabled vital public debate.'--Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) September 25, 2013

For those who don't know, Manhattan's Upper East Side has among the highest concentrations of wealth in the world and the men-only Knickerbocker is among New York's most exclusive clubs. So what Gellman described is nothing less than a representative sample of the people on whose behalf the government, the mainstream media, and the security apparatus are mostly supposed to work '-- applauding both Mr. Snowden and The Debate' he kicked off.

Feel free to congratulate the gatecrashing Leak Keepers for so deftly infiltrating platforms that even serious third party candidates and advocates of single payer health care can barely touch, and marvel at how quickly they have brought certain elites around on how yes, we really must talk about this NSA business. Alternatively, you might join me in thinking a little harder on stuff I wrote that's gotten lost in a lot of talk about drips and dumps and proper pleb-to-celeb protocol:

It's rather naive, and maybe even grandiose for people on the left to think that on the rare occasions when their concerns land on successive front pages of The New York Times and on CNN, this is due to the supernatural savvy of a Greenwald, rather than that people in high places are very ok with certain information getting out and certain debates taking place'....maybe we're having this debate because people in high places want us to. (original post)

'...In [NYU Journalism Professor Jay] Rosen's view, the cascade of events he attributes to the Snowden Effect followed inevitably from Snowden's disclosures. In mine, Snowden, like every other news event protagonist, is just the raw material with which people with genuine control of the news cycle tell us the the things they think we should hear in the ways they think we should hear them. (original post)

Someone accused me of wearing a 'tin foil hat' for insisting that there are no gatecrashers on television news. The proof is in the television news, but there is no conspiracy. It's powerful decision-makers owning a few carriers, stacking the deck with largely non-unionized, like-minded people and doling out rewards and punishments in accordance with compliance. This is why the 'national conversation' is such a toxic waste dump. To recognize this is to take nothing away from the talent and courage of the people who do the best they can within the constraints of this system. But their talent and courage do not oblige an analytical person to mythologize what is actually going on, including the steps people take and the qualities they have (or don't), that keep them inside the margins.

Now, to observe that elites are aiding and abetting The Snowden Effect is not to say all of them are. But many of them clearly are, so the question is why. Well, it depends on which elites we're talking about.

On the same day obscenely wealthy men on Manhattan's Upper East Side applauded Snowden's name, a few blocks south, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff gave a speech at the UN excoriating the United States for NSA surveillance in her country, as disclosed by Snowden-based stories in the Brazilian press. Rousseff expressed her concern for human rights and made clear which humans she meant:

Corporate information '' often of high economic and even strategic value '' was at the centre of espionage activity.

Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the UN and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted.

The day before, also in Manhattan, the increasingly comedic Leak Keeper Editor/computer smasher, Alan Rusbridger, gave a speech about the leaks in which he disclosed that Obama and David Cameron are 'nice', made banal allusions to Orwell, then risibly paraphrased the message of Edward Snowden as 'Look, wake up. You are building something that is potentially quite alarming.' He then worried aloud over one alarmed billionaire, an emphasis his paper reproduced in the write-up of his speech:

If you are Mark Zuckerberg and you are trying to build an international business, this is dismaying to you,'' Rusbridger said.

Zuckerberg recently criticized the Obama administration's surveillance apparatus. ''Frankly I think the government blew it,'' he told TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

The Facebook founder was particularly damning of government claims that they were only spying on ''foreigners''.

''Oh, wonderful: that's really helpful to companies trying to serve people around the world, and that's really going to inspire confidence in American internet companies,'' said Zuckerberg

So, to summarize, we know that certain wealthy, important people around the world are concerned about the NSA because:

Their own emails and phone calls are being monitored by the NSAThe NSA is engaging in corporate espionageNSA spying interferes with profitable internet business by impeding customer trustCertainly there is some grandstanding for the rubes going on here with Rousseff and Zuckerberg, but those Upper East Side bluebloods applauding Snowden amongst themselves must surely reflect some genuine anxiety in all of these people, and no wonder. Undoubtedly the one percenters like surveillance like they like their justice system and everything else: two-tiered. The NSA system is two-tiered, certainly, but the tiers don't split neatly along the usual line of wealth and melanin. They divide along the lines of who's in and who's out with the NSA, which, with its network of private contractors and thousands of analysts empowered to extract troves of data with a single email address, poses a kind of risk elites can't buy their way out of.

If you don't think that alone is reason enough to allow The Debate, consider also the interests of elites within the security establishment, like within The CIA and its own network of private contractors. This crowd must surely be on the easiest of terms with any debate about the security state so steeply skewed toward the Bad Apple-ing of only one agency rather than thorough-going scrutiny of the Intelligence Community as a whole.

With this in mind I went poking around to see what the CIA's been up to besides incinerating rights-free humans, and found this fascinating presentation given in March at a Big Data conference by The Agency's CTO, Gus Hunt. Hunt is surprisingly frank in describing the opportunities presented by all the data people expose to 'sentiment analysis' via social media and simply as bodies moving through a 'sensor-connected world.' A world in which 'someone can know where you are at all times' and 'you can be 100% identified by your gait.' 'We are at high noon in the information age' he says. 'it is 'nearly in our grasp to compute on all human generated information.' Of course to do all that computing, you need all the information:

The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time. Since you can't connect dots you don't have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.

There is a whole lot that's interesting (and chilling) about this presentation but two things stick out for me. One is that Hunt is presaging the next phase of signals intelligence, where machines connecting the dots of all the data that is just out there will make PRISM look primitive. The other is that the CIA seems to be making a play for dominance in signals intelligence '-- which has traditionally been the NSA's speciality '-- as its 'investment focus shifts from missiles to big data. (source).' This means that the CIA could win big if the NSA loses credibility and funding without tainting the CIA in the process. As Snowden's leak of the black budget revealed, the Agency is certainly in empire-building mode, having surged past the NSA as the most lavishly funded agency in the Intelligence Community, largely by growing covert operations (its third 'business line' in Hunt's words) into a paramilitary force.

The message here really is that people attempting to 'reform' the NSA are, whether they acknowledge it or not, in a tactical alliance with a lot of shady people who are in the fight for very different reasons and who have considerable means to make it go a certain way. This is why the Leak Keepers have been given a berth that surprises even them. That doesn't mean the debate is a fraud or a total loss, though by virtue of its tight circumscription, I find it increasingly banal and pointless. Those who remain transfixed should at least be far more analytical than various starry-eyed reformists, self-mythologizers and sycophants are encouraging you to be. If nothing else, people who call for Clapper's head because 'he lied to Congress ' '-- who are, unsurprisingly, the same people that insisted Obama would change everything in 2008 '-- will be increasingly good for laughs as the narcotic of increased access makes them progressively more giddy. But as the beginning and the end of The Debate, The NSA is a red herring.

UPDATE 5

Oops. Not #Winning???

So the asshole who has worked tirelessly to confine the leaks safely to a 'Debate' about public policy '-- and gotten vastly wealthier and more influential in the process '' is now lamenting the entirely predictable result.

If Feinstein's bill passes, it'd be the 2nd time in 5 years Congress exploits an NSA scandal to *increase NSA powers theguardian.com/commentisfree/'...'--Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 11, 2013

UPDATE 4

Now Glenn's pal, Andy Sullivan, is coming around. Someone took issue with Glenn's approving tweet (below) and a little kerfuffle ensued. TBH the worst thing about that little dust-up is the way ostensible anti-authoritarians tiptoe around His (barely) Liberal Highness after yet another sneer at 'radicals'. Where would we be without Glenn's trusty, self-effacing radical elves? Under surveillance, that's where!

Early Snowden critic Andrew Sullivan: "As more & more details emerge, Snowden leaks look more and more justifiable" dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/10/29/spy'...'--Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 30, 2013

UPDATE 3

Every little charade helps. I feel less surveilled already

Remarkable reversal from Feinstein on NSA '' thehill.com/blogs/defcon-h'... '' see NSA's reaction in the headline: thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/10/'...'--Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 29, 2013

UPDATE 2

Richard Cohen does a complete about-face on Edward Snowden: washingtonpost.com/opinions/richa'...'--Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 22, 2013

Once you understand what an acute case of heat vampirism afflicts Greenwald and his moronic cult, the laughs never stop. I recommend it. My buddy Arthur Silber has some thoughts.

UPDATE 1

Quoting myself from above: 'increasingly good for laughs as the narcotic of increased access makes them progressively more giddy.'

'Fascinating'...Revealing' LOL

Fascinating '' and revealing '' that even Michael Hayden now saying that intelligence agencies need more transparency theguardian.com/world/2013/sep'...'--Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 01, 2013

Related

Another Snowden News Story, Another Lesson in Proper Whistleblowing

Greenwald Tries To Settle A Score, Fails

Cliffs Notes for a Pile-On

Dr. Rosen and The Snowden Effect

My reply to Glenn Greenwald's Comments on Take Your Drip and Stick It

Fuck The Guardian: Take Your Drip and Stick It

Fuck The Guardian Part 2

Fuck The Guardian Part 1

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Report: Government Spying Causing Self-Censorship, Privacy Fears Among US Writers CBS DC

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 07:29

In the wake of revelations about intrusive government surveillance, many American authors are worrying about the freedom of the press and some simply are avoiding controversial topics. (credit: Patrick Lux/Getty Images)

Filed underNews, Politics, TechRelated tagschilling effect, Edward Snowden, FDR Group, freedom of the press, government intrusion, government spying, National Security Agency, NSA, NSA surveillance, PEN Center USA, privacy fears, privacy rights, self-censor, self-censorship, writer surveyLatest NewsPhotos WASHINGTON (CBS DC) '' In the wake of revelations about intrusive government surveillance, many American authors are worrying about the freedom of the press and some simply are avoiding controversial topics.

A new report from the PEN Center and the FDR Group entitled ''Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor'' finds that 85 percent of surveyed writers are worried about government surveillance of Americans, and nearly three-quarters (73 percent) ''have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today.''

Sixteen percent of writers have avoided writing or speaking about certain topics due to threatening privacy concerns, and an additional 11 percent have seriously considered such avoidance.

Writer comments included statements such as, ''I assume everything I do electronically is subject to monitoring.''

Another responded, ''I feel that increased government surveillance has had a chilling effect on my research, most of which I do on the Internet. This includes research on issues such as the drug wars and mass incarceration, which people don't think about as much as they think about foreign terrorism, but is just as pertinent.''

Many expressed concerns that if the U.S. is conducting far-reaching surveillance then it would become a new ''norm'' for governments across the world to use stronger police and military surveillance tactics. Others reflected that today's privacy threats are much greater than former President Richard Nixon and Cold War-era intrusion, especially because of advanced technology.

According to their website, PEN Center looks to both protect the rights and freedoms of writers around the world, while also promote literary culture and interest in the written word. Their survey of over 520 American writers asked for long-form responses to the information being revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and other government whistleblowers.

The survey looked at the harms caused by widespread surveillance, and the possibly ''chilling effect'' that could affect the amount and type of information written and reported.

Nearly a quarter of the writers surveyed (24 percent) reported deliberately avoiding certain topics in phone or email conversations, and an additional 9 percent have seriously considered such action. A small portion of respondents said they had even declined opportunities to meet with people deemed ''security threats by the government'' because of privacy fears.

The report notes several revelations from Snowden's leaked documents which have shown ''ever-greater infringements on privacy by the NSA.''

The report cites that the NSA ''has broken into the main telecommunication companies, has built a system that can reach deep into U.S. Internet backbone and cover 75 percent of traffic in the country, including not only metadata but the content of online communications.''

'' By Benjamin Fearnow

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ALERT - Mass ransomware spamming event targeting UK computer users

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Archived Version

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 19:45

15 November 2013

The NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit are aware of a mass email spamming event that is ongoing, where people are receiving emails that appear to be from banks and other financial institutions.

The emails may be sent out to tens of millions of UK customers, but appear to be targeting small and medium businesses in particular. This spamming event is assessed as a significant risk.

The emails carry an attachment that appears to be correspondence linked to the email message (for example, a voicemail, fax, details of a suspicious transaction or invoices for payment). This file is in fact a malware that can install Cryptolocker '' which is a piece of ransomware

Cryptolocker works by encrypting the user's files on the infected machine and the local network it is attached to.

Once encrypted, the computer will display a splash screen with a count down timer and a demand for the payment of 2 Bitcoins in ransom (Approx £536 as at 15/11/2013) for the decryption key.

The NCA would never endorse the payment of a ransom to criminals and there is no guarantee that they would honour the payments in any event.

Lee Miles, Deputy Head of the NCCU says "The NCA are actively pursuing organised crime groups committing this type of crime. We are working in cooperation with industry and international partners to identify and bring to justice those responsible and reduce the risk to the public."

An NCCU investigation is ongoing to identify the source of the email addresses used. Anyone who is infected with this malware should report it via Action Fraud

Sound advice can be found at GetSafeOnline

Advice: This is a case where prevention is better than cure.

The public should be aware not to click on any such attachment.Antivirus software should be updated, as should operating systems.User created files should be backed up routinely and preserved off the network.Where a computer becomes infected it should be disconnected from the network, and professional assistance should be sought to clean the computer.Various antivirus companies offer remedial software solutions (though they will not restore encrypted files).

Exclusive: FBI warns of U.S. government breaches by Anonymous hackers | Reuters

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 13:43

By Jim Finkle and Joseph Menn

BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCOFri Nov 15, 2013 6:04pm EST

The word 'password' is pictured on a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin May 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Activist hackers linked to the collective known as Anonymous have secretly accessed U.S. government computers in multiple agencies and stolen sensitive information in a campaign that began almost a year ago, the FBI warned this week.

The hackers exploited a flaw in Adobe Systems Inc's software to launch a rash of electronic break-ins that began last December, then left "back doors" to return to many of the machines as recently as last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a memo seen by Reuters.

The memo, distributed on Thursday, described the attacks as "a widespread problem that should be addressed." It said the breach affected the U.S. Army, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, and perhaps many more agencies.

Investigators are still gathering information on the scope of the cyber campaign, which the authorities believe is continuing. The FBI document tells system administrators what to look for to determine if their systems are compromised.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

According to an internal email from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz' chief of staff, Kevin Knobloch, the stolen data included personal information on at least 104,000 employees, contractors, family members and others associated with the Department of Energy, along with information on almost 2,0000 bank accounts.

The email, dated October 11, said officials were "very concerned" that loss of the banking information could lead to thieving attempts.

Officials said the hacking was linked to the case of Lauri Love, a British resident indicted on October 28 for allegedly hacking into computers at the Department of Energy, Army, Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and elsewhere.

Investigators believe the attacks began when Love and others took advantage of a security flaw in Adobe's ColdFusion software, which is used to build websites.

Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell said she was not familiar with the FBI report. She added that the company has found that the majority of attacks involving its software have exploited programs that were not updated with the latest security patches.

The Anonymous group is an amorphous collective that conducts multiple hacking campaigns at any time, some with a few participants and some with hundreds. In the past, its members have disrupted eBay's Inc PayPal after it stopped processing donations to the anti-secrecy site Wikileaks. Anonymous has also launched technically more sophisticated attacks against Sony Corp and security firm HBGary Federal.

Some of the breaches and pilfered data in the latest campaign had previously been publicized by people who identify with Anonymous, as part of what the group dubbed "Operation Last Resort."

Among other things, the campaigners said the operation was in retaliation for overzealous prosecution of hackers, including the lengthy penalties sought for Aaron Swartz, a well-known computer programmer and Internet activist who killed himself before a trial over charges that he illegally downloaded academic journal articles from a digital library known as JSTOR.

Despite the earlier disclosures, "the majority of the intrusions have not yet been made publicly known," the FBI wrote. "It is unknown exactly how many systems have been compromised, but it is a widespread problem that should be addressed."

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco and Jim Finkle in Boston; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Tim Dobbyn)

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NSA Asked Linus Torvalds To Install Backdoors Into GNU/Linux - Falkvinge on Infopolicy

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 15:01

5

Infopolicy '' Christian Engstr¶m

Infopolicy '' Christian Engstr¶m

The NSA has asked Linus Torvalds to inject covert backdoors into the free and open operating system GNU/Linux. This was revealed in this week's hearing on mass surveillance in the European Parliament. Chalk another one up of the United States NSA trying to make information technology less secure for everyone.

The father of Linus Torvalds, Nils Torvalds, is a Member of the European Parliament for Finland. This week, Nils Torvalds took part in the European Parliament's hearing on the ongoing mass surveillance, and brought a revelation:

The United States security service NSA has contacted Linus Torvalds with a request to add backdoors into the free and open operating system GNU/Linux.

The entire inquiry is available here on YouTube (uploaded by Hax).

Nils Torvalds' revelation was presented in an episode which started (at 3:06:58) by me pointing out to the Microsoft representative in the panel, that in a system like GNU/Linux, built on open source, you can examine the source code to see that there aren't any back doors. In Microsoft's systems, this possibility is absent, since the source code is secret to outsiders.

My question to the Microsoft representative was whether she'd be allowed to disclose if there are deliberate back doors in their systems, in the event that there are. She never responded to that question, but obviously, she didn't have to. From other sources, we know that the NSA always prohibits the private companies they force into cooperation from disclosing any of it.

Nils Torvalds spoke after me, and starting at 3:09:06, he said,

When my oldest son [Linus Torvalds] was asked the same question: ''Has he been approached by the NSA about backdoors?'' he said ''No'', but at the same time he nodded. Then he was sort of in the legal free. He had given the right answer, [but] everybody understood that the NSA had approached him.

The story does not tell us how Linus Torvalds responded to the NSA, but I'm guessing he told them he wouldn't be able to inject backdoors even if he wanted to, since the source code is open, and all changes to it are reviewed by many independent people. After all, that's the whole point of open source code, and the reason that open source is the only kind you can trust when it comes to security.

Still, it's very interesting to hear confirmation that the NSA has tried to attack Linux at its lead developer, too.

You've read the whole article. Why not subscribe to the RSS flow using your favorite reader, or even have articles delivered by mail?About The Author: Christian Engstr¶mChristian Engstr¶m is a Member of European Parliament (MEP) for the Swedish Pirate Party. He has previously been an activist in FFII in the fight against software patents, and has a background as an entrepreneur and a coder.

This article is also available in other languages: French, Swedish.

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Interview: Telecom Security Expert Philippe Langlois on GCHQ Spying - SPIEGEL ONLINE

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 20:01

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The British intelligence agency GCHQ is hacking into the networks of mobile phone companies operating so-called GRX routers. What are these networks and why are they an attractive target?

Philippe Langlois: These are the "roaming tubes" of the worldwide mobile system. You can basically track every user in the world who is roaming with their smartphone. When roaming, all the Internet surfing and accesses to corporate networks go through these exchanges, and can be eavesdropped on by passively "sniffing" all data, all web pages and all emails.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it possible to defend against that kind of snooping?

Langlois: Basic security such as encrypted web pages (https), encrypted email (PGP) or encrypted chat (Jabber OTR) will prevent such interception. In that sense, the GRX is not different from a traditional Internet Service Provider. If you're using safe Internet best practice there, you can protect your communication secrecy, but you cannot protect your location.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can one track a user this way only while he's roaming with his handset? Or does the GRX hacking allow tracking even when the targets are in their home country?

Langlois: By listening passively to a GRX network, one can know where any user is roaming with a coarse location granularity: i.e. their city or region. But GRX also enables making requests that can basically target any subscriber, not only those that are roaming. Though this is an advanced security attack.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could this kind of access also be used to implant spying software directly on someone's phone?

Langlois: If you control what goes into these "roaming tubes," if you can see what people surf, you can probably also change that. And if you can change the content, you can possibly suggest some application to the user through a trusted content provider. By doing that, you may compromise his handset, and implant hidden software features such as GPS location acquisition, covertly taking pictures or even video, listening to calls and even ambient conversation when the phone is in "sleep mode." Some companies such as Gamma have provided this kind of software to many different governments and regimes.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does access to a GRX network also allow access to other, local mobile networks from there?

Langlois: A GRX network is called a "walled garden." The theory is that only "nice people" are on the network, that is, only clean telecom mobile operators. That was the theory, so the mobile operators didn't really protect themselves against other operators on the GRX network. The user traffic, which is potentially harmful to operators, is neatly encapsulated into the "roaming tubes," preventing users from reaching the infrastructure of the GRX network itself. But operators themselves can do that. And therefore, anyone having compromised one operator or the GRX network can attack other mobile operators with a much better chance to compromise them than by attacking through, say, Internet access. The unknown, dark, insider-only networks are always less secure than the ones which are heavily exposed and attacked, and thus more protected.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: According to material from whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, GCHQ is also attacking the networks of billing clearinghouses like MACH. How could a secret service benefit from accessing the networks of such companies?

Langlois: The billing clearinghouses get a very particular kind of data: the call detail records (CDRs). These add up to make bills for all users. This way, mobile operators know who owes them what. But this data can also be used by intelligence agencies to know who calls whom, when, and for how long. CDRs don't have the content of the call, just caller number, called number, duration, sometimes even caller location, etc. In intelligence jargon, that's called "traffic analysis," and it's way faster than listening to conversations from a user. That's the main tool that police forces use to gain insight into the extent of criminal rings, for example. But it's also very useful to perform counter-insurgency work by tracking who calls whom to a rally, or to know who calls the political leader of one party or another.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could access to billing house networks be used to gain access to actual mobile networks from there?

Langlois: Billing clearinghouses have the same "walled garden" pattern. You don't expect to be hacked by your accountant. Here, it is similar: You may fear the Russian mafia on the Internet, but not the service that generates the biggest part of your revenues. Therefore, mobile operators are not protected enough on these networks, and can be compromised this way.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: One GCHQ document says that the intelligence service would like to be able to implant software on any device based "just on the MSISDN," or the phone number. Do you think that's feasible, given what we know about the current capabilities of the GCHQ andNSA?

Langlois: Yes, since intelligence agencies are routinely buying previously unknown vulnerabilities from the gray market (it's called zero day exploit trading), they probably have some of them which enable compromise of some or most of the target operating systems or standard applications of these phones.

(C) SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013All Rights ReservedReproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

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The second operating system hiding in every mobile phone

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 13:09

I've always known this, and I'm sure most of you do too, but we never really talk about it. Every smartphone or other device with mobile communications capability (e.g. 3G or LTE) actually runs not one, but two operating systems. Aside from the operating system that we as end-users see (Android, iOS, PalmOS), it also runs a small operating system that manages everything related to radio. Since this functionality is highly timing-dependent, a real-time operating system is required.

This operating system is stored in firmware, and runs on the baseband processor. As far as I know, this baseband RTOS is always entirely proprietary. For instance, the RTOS inside Qualcomm baseband processors (in this specific case, the MSM6280) is called AMSS, built upon their own proprietary REX kernel, and is made up of 69 concurrent tasks, handling everything from USB to GPS. It runs on an ARMv5 processor.

The problem here is clear: these baseband processors and the proprietary, closed software they run are poorly understood, as there's no proper peer review. This is actually kind of weird, considering just how important these little bits of software are to the functioning of a modern communication device. You may think these baseband RTOS' are safe and secure, but that's not exactly the case. You may have the most secure mobile operating system in the world, but you're still running a second operating system that is poorly understood, poorly documented, proprietary, and all you have to go on are Qualcomm's Infineon's, and others' blue eyes.

The insecurity of baseband software is not by error; it's by design. The standards that govern how these baseband processors and radios work were designed in the '80s, ending up with a complicated codebase written in the '90s - complete with a '90s attitude towards security. For instance, there is barely any exploit mitigation, so exploits are free to run amok. What makes it even worse, is that every baseband processor inherently trusts whatever data it receives from a base station (e.g. in a cell tower). Nothing is checked, everything is automatically trusted. Lastly, the baseband processor is usually the master processor, whereas the application processor (which runs the mobile operating system) is the slave.

So, we have a complete operating system, running on an ARM processor, without any exploit mitigation (or only very little of it), which automatically trusts every instruction, piece of code, or data it receives from the base station you're connected to. What could possibly go wrong?

With this in mind, security researcher Ralf-Philipp Weinmann of the University of Luxembourg set out to reverse engineer the baseband processor software of both Qualcomm and Infineon, and he easily spotted loads and loads of bugs, scattered all over the place, each and every one of which could lead to exploits - crashing the device, and even allowing the attacker to remotely execute code. Remember: all over the air. One of the exploits he found required nothing more but a 73 byte message to get remote code execution. Over the air.

You can do some crazy things with these exploits. For instance, you can turn on auto-answer, using the Hayes command set. This is a command language for modems designed in 1981, and it still works on modern baseband processors found in smartphones today (!). The auto-answer can be made silent and invisible, too.

While we can sort-of assume that the base stations in cell towers operated by large carriers are "safe", the fact of the matter is that base stations are becoming a lot cheaper, and are being sold on eBay - and there are even open source base station software packages. Such base stations can be used to target phones. Put a compromised base station in a crowded area - or even a financial district or some other sensitive area - and you can remotely turn on microphones, cameras, place rootkits, place calls/send SMS messages to expensive numbers, and so on. Yes, you can even brick phones permanently.

This is a pretty serious issue, but one that you rarely hear about. This is such low-level, complex software that I would guess very few people in the world actually understand everything that's going on here.

That complexity is exactly one of the reasons why it's not easy to write your own baseband implementation. The list of standards that describe just GSM is unimaginably long - and that's only GSM. Now you need to add UMTS, HSDPA, and so on, and so forth. And, of course, everything is covered by a ridiculously complex set of patents. To top it all off, communication authorities require baseband software to be certified.

Add all this up, and it's easy to see why every cellphone manufacturer just opts for an off-the-shelf baseband processor and associated software. This does mean that each and every feature and smartphone has a piece of software that always runs (when the device is on), but that is essentially a black box. Whenever someone does dive into baseband software, many bugs and issues are found, which raises the question just how long this rather dubious situation can continue.

It's kind of a sobering thought that mobile communications, the cornerstone of the modern world in both developed and developing regions, pivots around software that is of dubious quality, poorly understood, entirely proprietary, and wholly insecure by design.

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4 New Ways to Smuggle Messages Across the Internet - IEEE Spectrum

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 17:19

Illustrations by Carl De Torres

Their neighbors thought they were just ordinary U.S. residents, but secretly they were spies, sent by Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service to gather information on U.S. policies and programs. For years they thwarted detection partly by hiding secret correspondence in seemingly innocent pictures posted on public websites. They encoded and decoded the dispatches using custom-made software.

But the scheme wasn't as covert as the spies had assumed. Eventually investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice tracked down the altered images, which helped build a case against the Russians. In June 2010, federal agents arrested 10 of them, who admitted to being secret agents a few weeks later.

The act of concealing data in plain sight is known as steganography. Since antiquity, clandestine couriers have used hundreds of steganographic techniques, including invisible ink, shrunken text, and strategically placed tattoos. Picture steganography'--one of the Russian spies' primary tactics'--dates back to about the early 1990s. That they used such an old-school strategy is odd, particularly because doctored images can be detected and used as evidence.

A more modern approach, known as network steganography, leaves almost no trail [see ''Vice Over IP,''IEEE Spectrum, February 2010]. Rather than embed confidential information in data files, such as JPEGs or MP3s, network steganography programs hide communication in seemingly innocent Internet traffic. And because these programs use short-lived delivery channels'--a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connection, for example'--the hidden exchanges are much harder to detect.

Network security experts have invented all of the dozens of publicly documented network steganography techniques. But this doesn't mean that criminals, hackers, and spies'--as well as persecuted citizens wanting to evade government censorship or journalists wanting to conceal sources'--aren't using these or similar tactics. They probably are, but nobody has tools that are effective enough to detect these techniques. In fact, had the Russian spies used newer steganography methods, they might not have been exposed so handily.

As members of the Network Security Group at Warsaw University of Technology, in Poland, we study new ways to disguise data in order to help security experts design better detection software for those cases when steganography is used for nefarious purposes. As communication technologies evolve, we and other steganographers must develop ever more advanced steganography techniques.

About a decade ago, state-of-the-art programs manipulated the Internet Protocol primarily. Today, however, the most sophisticated methods target specific Internet services, such as search tools, social networks, and file-transfer systems. To illustrate the range of things that are possible, we present four steganographic techniques we've recently developed, each of which exploits a common use of the Internet.

Skype

Silences in a telephone conversation can carry a great deal of meaning'--and hidden messages.

Skype, Microsoft's proprietary VoIP service, is particularly easy to exploit because of the way the software packages audio data. While a user'--let's call her Alice'--is talking, Skype stuffs the data into transmission packets. But unlike many other VoIP apps, Skype continues to generate audio packets when Alice is silent. This improves the quality of the call and helps the data clear security firewalls, among other advantages.

But the outgoing silence packets also present an opportunity to smuggle secret information. These packets are easy to recognize because they're much smaller'--about half the number of bits'--than the packets containing Alice's voice.

We've developed a steganography program that allows Alice to identify the small-size packets and replace their contents with encrypted secret data. We call this program SkyDe, shorthand for Skype Hide. For a covert transaction to take place, the recipient of Alice's call'--let's name him Bob'--also needs to have SkyDe installed on his computer. The software intercepts Alice's transmission, grabs some of the small packets while letting all of the big ones pass through, and then reassembles the secret message.

Meanwhile, Alice and Bob chat away as if nothing unusual were transpiring. Bob's Skype application assumes the filched packets have simply been lost. Skype then fills the gap left by each lost packet most likely by reconstructing its contents based on the contents of its neighbors' packets. (Because Skype is proprietary, we don't know for sure.) As a result, the missing silence packets sound just like all the other silence packets surrounding them.

Our experiments show that up to 30 percent of Alice's silence packets can transport clandestine cargo without causing a noticeable change in call quality. This means that Alice could send Bob up to about 2 kilobits per second of secret data'--roughly 100 pages of text in 4 minutes'--without arousing the suspicion of anyone monitoring their call.

BitTorrent

What better place to hide secrets than in one of the world's most popular file-sharing systems? The peer-to-peer transfer protocol BitTorrent conveys hundreds of trillions of bits worldwide every second. Anyone sniffing for criminal correspondence on its networks would have better luck finding that proverbial needle in a haystack.

Our group developed StegTorrent for encoding classified information in BitTorrent transactions. This method takes advantage of the fact that a BitTorrent user often shares a data file (or pieces of the file) with many recipients at once.

So let's say Alice wants to send a hidden message to Bob. First, Bob needs to have previously established control over a group of distributed computers that all run a BitTorrent application. These are most likely computers that Bob owns or, if he's an especially savvy hacker, computers he has co-opted to do his bidding. Both he and Alice need to know how many computers are in this group and what their IP addresses are.

For simplicity's sake, let's say Bob controls a group of just two computers. To initiate a transaction, he commands the computers to each request a file from Alice. In a typical BitTorrent transfer, Alice's program would transmit the data packets in random order, and Bob's computers would stitch them back together based on the instructions they contain. Using StegTorrent, however, Alice can reorder the packets to encode a specific bit sequence.

For example, if she sends a packet to computer 1 and then to computer 2, that sequence might designate the binary number 1. But if she sends a packet to computer 2 first, Bob's StegTorrent program would read the signal as binary number 0. To prevent scrambling due to packet losses or delays, StegTorrent modifies the time stamp on each packet so that Bob can decipher the exact order in which Alice sent them. Our experiments showed that using six IP addresses, Alice can relay up to 270 secret bits per second'--enough bandwidth for a simple text conversation'--without distorting the transfers or attracting suspicion.

Google Suggest

Alice can also conceal her messages to Bob'--and the fact the two conspirators are communicating at all'--simply by having him perform a series of innocent-looking Google searches. Our StegSuggeststeganography program targets the feature Google Suggest, which lists the 10 most popular search phrases given a string of letters a user has entered in Google's search box.

Here's how it works: For Alice to send Bob a hidden note, she must first infect his computer with StegSuggest malware so that she can monitor the traffic exchanged between Google's servers and Bob's browser. This can be done using basic hacker tools. Then, when Bob types in a random search term, say, ''Robots will'...,'' Alice intercepts the data traveling from Google to Bob. Using StegSuggest, she adds a unique word to the end of each of the 10 phrases Google suggests. The software chooses these additions from a list of 4096 common English words, so the new phrases aren't likely to be too bizarre. For example, if Google suggests the phrase ''Robots will take our jobs,'' Alice might add ''Robots will take our jobs tree.'' Odd, yes, but probably not worthy of alarm.

Bob's StegSuggest program then extracts each added word and converts it into a 10-bit sequence using a previously shared lookup table. (Each of the 1024 possible bit sequences corresponds to four different words, making the code more difficult to crack.) Alice can thus transmit 100 secret bits each time Bob types a new term into his Google search box.

To send data faster, Alice could hijack the searches of several innocent googlers in a crowded hot spot, such as an Internet caf(C) or a college dormitory. In this scenario, both she and Bob would intercept the googlers' traffic. Alice would insert the coded words into Google's suggested phrases, and Bob would extract and decode them. He would pass on only the original phrases to the googlers'--who would never suspect they had just facilitated a secret exchange.

Wi-Fi Networks

Now let's say Alice wants to secretly send video in addition to documents or text messages. In this case, she might opt to smuggle the stream in a very average-looking wireless transmission.

But not just any wireless network will do. Alice must use a network that relies on the data-encoding technique known as orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM). Wireless standards that employ this scheme are some of the most popular, including certain versions of IEEE 802.11, used in Wi-Fi networks.

To understand how to hide data in OFDM signals, you must first know something about how OFDM works. This transmission scheme divvies up a digital payload among several small-bandwidth carriers of different frequencies. These narrowband carriers are more resilient to atmospheric degradation than a single wideband wave, allowing data to pass to receivers with higher fidelity. OFDM carefully selects carriers and divides the bits up into groups of set length, known as symbols, to minimize interference.

In reality, though, a digital payload rarely divides perfectly into a collection of symbols; there will usually be some symbols left with too few bits. So OFDM transmitters add extra throwaway bits to these symbols until they conform to the standard size.

Because this ''bit padding'' is meaningless, Alice can replace it with secret data without compromising the original data transmission. We call this steganographic method Wireless Padding, or WiPad. Because bit padding is abundant in OFDM transmissions, Alice can send hidden data to Bob at a pretty good clip. A single connection on a typical Wi-Fi network in a school or coffee shop, for instance, could support up to 2 megabits per second'--fast enough for Alice to secretly stream standard-definition video to Bob.

This article originally appeared online 23 September 2013. A version appeared in print in the November 2013 issue.

Wojciech Mazurczyk, Krzysztof Szczypiorski, and J"zef Lubacz wrote ''Vice Over IP'' in the February 2010 issue of IEEE Spectrum. In 2002, as members of the Network Security Group at Warsaw University of Technology, in Poland, they founded the Stegano.net project to investigate new ways to smuggle data through networks and how to thwart such attempts. After many years spent anticipating evildoers and their machinations, Szczypiorski says his favorite saying comes from Indiana Jones: ''Nothing shocks me. I'm a scientist.''

Train Your Kids!

------------------------------------------------

Slave Training

Common Core

Common Core textbooks arrive late, filled with errors | The Daily Caller

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Thu, 14 Nov 2013 14:54

New York City teachers recently received their new Common Core-approved textbooks '-- a month late '-- and they don't like them one bit.

''They are loaded with errors,'' said Rebecca Murphy a third-grade teacher in Queens, in a statement to the New York Daily News.

The mistakes are numerous. A third-grade workbook contains a set of questions accompanying a mismatched reading selection; one of the pages in another workbook is printed upside down; and some teacher's manuals don't line up with student versions.

Teachers also complained that textbook lessons are lengthy and poorly conceived.

On top of everything else, the textbooks arrived late: a month after school had already begun.

The textbooks were manufactured by Pearson, a company heavily involved in the production and implementation of instructional materials and standardized tests under the national Common Core education guidelines.

Pearson's products have been heavily criticized for incomprehensibility. A first-grade math test was recently scrutinized for asking kids conceptually odd questions that would stump calculus students. (RELATED: Would your first grader pass this weird Common Core math test?)

And a lesson on possessive nouns contained Orwellian statements about the relationship between the individual and government, such as ''The commands of government officials must be obeyed by all,'' and ''An individual's wants are less important than the nation's well-being.''

Joy Pullman, managing editor of School Reform News and a leading critic of Common Core, told The Daily Caller that error-ridden textbooks are the result of heavy government involvement in the education sector.

''Textbook production has actually always been this slipshod, because the government education cartel essentially dictates the market, and has for decades,'' she wrote in an email to The DC. ''Because states and districts have controlled what books children will read, publishers have had an incentive to influence the political process as well as create a poor product, generally, because rushing the first book to market means more sales.''

The problem is likely to get worse under Common Core's national curriculum standards, which weaken state and district autonomy in education matters.

''The really odd thing is that Common Core has been available for three years, now, and Pearson hasn't managed to get an error-free book together yet,'' wrote Pullman. ''It makes one wonder about their other products, which are in millions of schools across the country.''

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Arne Duncan: 'White suburban moms' upset that Common Core shows their kids aren't 'brilliant'

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 13:58

Education Secretary Arne Duncan (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

(Update: Adding more on opposition to Core, where Duncan spoke)

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it ''fascinating'' that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from ''white suburban moms who '-- all of a sudden '-- their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were.''

Yes, he really said that. But he has said similar things before. What, exactly, is he talking about?

In his cheerleading for the controversial Common Core State Standards '-- which were approved by 45 states and the District of Columbia and are now being implemented across the country (though some states are reconsidering) '-- Duncan has repeatedly noted that the standards and the standardized testing that goes along with them are more difficult than students in most states have confronted.

The Core was designed to elevate teaching and learning. Supporters say it does that; critics say it doesn't and that some of the standards, especially for young children, are not developmentally appropriate. Whichever side you fall on regarding the Core's academic value, there is no question that their implementation in many areas has been miserable '-- so miserable that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a Core supporter, recently compared it to another particularly troubled rollout:

You think the Obamacare implementation is bad? The implementation of the Common Core is far worse.

New York was the first large state to implement the standards and give students new standardized tests supposedly aligned with the Core. Test scores plummeted earlier this year. State officials had predicted the scores would drop 30 percent '-- and that's exactly what happened. (How they could predict that with such accuracy was addressed in a previous Answer Sheet post.) Opposition to the standards, both their content and their implementation, has been growing in New York (and other states) among teachers, principals, superintendents and parents, some of whom have refused to allow their children to take the exams.

On Friday, Duncan spoke in Richmond, Va., about the growing opposition to the Common Core State Standards and their implementation in states around the country before a meeting of the Council of Chief State Schools Officers Organization. Education Department communications chief Massie Ritsch said in an e-mail that he does not believe that there is a full transcript of Duncan's remarks, but he referred to the following write-up from Politico's Libby Nelson, who was at the event:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told an audience of state superintendents this afternoon that the Education Department and other Common Core supporters didn't fully anticipate the effect the standards would have once implemented.

''It's fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who '-- all of a sudden '-- their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were, and that's pretty scary,'' Duncan said. ''You've bet your house and where you live and everything on, 'My child's going to be prepared.' That can be a punch in the gut.''

Overcoming that will require communicating to parents that competition is now global, not local, he said.

Ritsch said in an e-mail that Duncan was observing that the higher standards that states have adopted to better prepare their students for college and careers are revealing that some ''good'' schools aren't as strong as parents in those areas have long assumed.

When confronted with the truth through lower test scores and other indicators, the unhelpful response, in Arne's view, is to say, ''Let's lower standards and go back to lying to ourselves and our children, so that our community can feel better.'' The more productive response for a community or a state is to ask, ''What can we do to get better, so our students can graduate from high school, succeed in college and be competitive for good jobs?'' Because other communities and states are asking themselves that question and making smart improvements to their schools and education systems.

Duncan has slammed Core opponents before. At a Sept. 30 appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, he said that opposition to the Core standards had been fueled by ''political silliness.'' In June, he told a convention of newspaper editors that Core critics were misinformed at best and laboring under paranoid delusions at worst. Duncan said:

The Common Core has become a rallying cry for fringe groups that claim it is a scheme for the federal government to usurp state and local control of what students learn. An op-ed in the New York Times called the Common Core ''a radical curriculum.'' It is neither radical nor a curriculum. '... When the critics can't persuade you that the Common Core is a curriculum, they make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data. For the record, it doesn't, we're not allowed to, and we won't. And let's not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.

There are people on the political fringe, right and left, who oppose the Core initiative for different reasons, but that's not where most of the substantive opposition is coming from. Educators and researchers questioned the way the standards were written (whether, for example, there was any or enough input from K-12 classroom teachers) and some criticized the content of the standards (while others praised it). Some critics don't believe in standards-based education, and others felt it usurped local authority. More recently, tea party members have accused the administration of a federal takeover of public education, extreme right-wing rhetoric that clouds a real discussion about the Core. This year some states led by Republican governors began to pull away from the standards.

Protests by educators, parents, students and others began to grow as it became clear that the Core implementation was being rushed, and some students were being given tests said to be Core-aligned even though teachers hadn't had enough time to create material around the standards. That's why Duncan announced in June that he was giving the 37 states plus the District of Columbia, which had won federal waivers from the most egregious mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, an extra year to implement teacher evaluations linked to new assessments that are supposed to be aligned to the new Common Core State Standards.

Duncan has repeatedly said the new Core-aligned standardized tests '-- being designed by two multistate consortia with some $350 million in federal money '-- would be light years ahead of the current tests. As it turns out, neither the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium nor the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers have had enough time or money to develop truly ''game-changing'' exams in terms of how they can really measure the broad range of student abilities, according to a report by Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education, a panel of educational leaders, which said:

The progress made by the PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortia in assessment development, while significant, will be far from what is ultimately needed for either accountability or classroom instructional improvement purposes.

Here is the way that Politico reporters tweeted out Duncan's remarks to the state superintendents meeting on Friday. Nelson, who covers higher education for Politico, was there, and she tweeted, along with Stephanie Simon, a K-12 reporter. Here are the relevant tweets:

Correction: An earlier version mistakenly swapped the first and last name of Massie Ritsch.

TSA's got 94 signs to ID terrorists, but they're unproven by science | Ars Technica

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:38

Feeling nervous, citizen?

TSA

Science! Forget subjective screening, which too often slides into racial and ethnic profiling; instead, evaluate travelers entering an airport using a rigorous set of objective measurements that could spot deception. This was the admirable principle behind the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) program known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT), which has been operating at airports around the country since 2007 at a total cost of $900 million'--or about $200 million a year.

Unfortunately, according to the US government's internal watchdog agency, little real science stands behind the program. In a new report (PDF) released today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that "the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance." And it dryly noted that programs like SPOT should be "demonstrated to work reliably in their intended environment prior to program deployment."

SPOT relies on a network of 3,000 behavior detection officers (BDOs) deployed at 176 airports around the country. BDOs observe passengers waiting to cross security checkpoints into the "sterile" section of an airport. They are trained to observe 94 different signs of stress, fear, and deception, with the goal of calculating a "point total" for an observed individual in less than 30 seconds. The 94 signs remain a secret, but we do know that anyone displaying enough of them is referred for a patdown and secondary screening, during which officers will engage in "casual conversation" to determine whether the traveler poses a potential threat. (The secondary screenings take an average of 13 minutes.) If so, law enforcement officers such as police or FBI agents are brought in to deal with the situation and potentially make an arrest.

In 2008, the official TSA blog explained the program:

The program was designed by Paul Ekman (PhD), a psychology professor at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco. He's been studying behavioral analysis for the past 40 years and has taught the TSA, Customs and Border Protection, CIA, FBI and other federal agencies to watch for suspicious facial expressions of tension, fear or deception. He has even taught animators at Disney-Pixar to create convincing faces for film characters. After passing along his skills to US Customs, their "hit rate" for finding drugs during passenger searches rose to 22.5 percent from 4.2 percent in 1998.

Behavior analysis is based on the fear of being discovered. People who are trying to get away with something display signs of stress through involuntary physical and physiological behaviors. Whether someone's trying to sneak through that excellent stone ground mustard they bought on vacation, a knife, or a bomb, behavior detection officers like me are trained to spot certain suspicious behaviors out of the crowd. Once we make our determination, we refer these passengers for additional screening or directly to law enforcement.

It sounds pretty science-y, but it turns out that, in practice, BDOs across the country are referring passengers for secondary screenings at very different rates. For a program based on "objective" biometric measurements of deception, this is not the result one would hope to see. (Even the TSA admitted to GAO auditors that some of the observations were "subjective"; it is trying to rein these in.) And Ekman, who helped set up the program, told GAO three years ago that no one knew "how many BDOs are required to observe a given number of passengers moving at a given rate per day in an airport environment, or the length of time that such observation can be conducted before observation fatigue affects the effectiveness of the personnel."

For the report, GAO auditors looked at the outside scientific literature, speaking to behavioral researchers and examining meta-analyses of 400 separate academic studies on unmasking liars. That literature suggests that "the ability of human observers to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral cues or indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance (54 percent)." That result holds whether or not the observer is a member of law enforcement.

It turns out that all of those signs you instinctively "know" to indicate deception usually don't. Lack of eye contact for instance simply does not correlate with deception when examined in empirical studies. Nor do increases in body movements such as tapping fingers or toes; the literature shows that people's movements actually decrease when lying. A 2008 study for the Department of Defense found that "no compelling evidence exists to support remote observation of physiological signals that may indicate fear or nervousness in an operational scenario by human observers."

GAO

Despite the academic literature, the TSA actually began testing the SPOT program in 2003'--not with an eye toward finding out if it worked, but with an eye toward seeing if it was practical to run in a major airport. In 2007, the program went live and travelers underwent screening. Once the program was set up in 2007, the TSA did hire an outside consultant to evaluate the system's effectiveness. The resulting study, published in 2011, found some effectiveness in using the SPOT criteria. Due to various weaknesses in the study design and implementation, however, GAO doesn't dub it a reliable guide to evaluating SPOT.

But even if it works, in practice SPOT isn't stopping terrorists'--it has largely led to arrests for drug crime, immigration violations, and outstanding warrants. Because the signs of deception and stress tell you nothing about the underlying activity meant to be concealed, an effective SPOT program would simply become a general dragnet focused on air travelers. In 2008, the TSA argued that this wasn't a problem:

Some will say that it shouldn't be TSA's job to look for drugs, or money - our job is airport security. But when we spot someone behaving suspiciously, we don't know what they have; all we know is they're behaving in a way that says they might pose a threat. In many cases, we find things that might have otherwise gotten through security (money, drugs) and that's a good sign because it could just as easily been plastic or liquid explosives. The behaviors these drug and currency smugglers exhibit are the same behaviors we expect a terrorist to exhibit.

But of course, according to the GAO, SPOT may not even work'--we simply don't know.

The GAO's conclusion from all this is damning. "Ten years after the development of the SPOT program, TSA cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of its behavior detection activities," it wrote. "Until TSA can provide scientifically validated evidence demonstrating that behavioral indicators can be used to identify passengers who may pose threat to aviation security, the agency risks funding activities that have not been determined to be effective." The title of the report sums up the GAO recommendation: "TSA Should Limit Future Funding for Behavior Detection Activities."

For its part, the TSA insists the program works, and it is currently running more studies to evaluate effectiveness.

DoD/TSA Partner to Provide Military TSA Pre'''' at 100 Airports

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Source: The TSA Blog

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:40

Yesterday, TSA and the DoD announced a partnership to expand TSA Pre'''' expedited screening benefits to more than 2.6 million U.S. Armed Forces service members in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy, as well as the Reserves and National Guard. Currently, members of the U.S. Armed Forces can use TSA Pre'''' lanes at 10 domestic airports by presenting their Common Access Card (CAC). Starting December 20th, these individuals will be able to enjoy the benefits of the program at the 100 participating airports across the country, allowing them to keep their footwear on as well as light outerwear, laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry on in select screening lanes. Under this partnership, all active duty, U.S. Coast Guard, Reserve and National Guard service members are recommended to:Check the back of your CAC for your DoD ID number.Enter the DoD ID number in the Known Traveler ID field when booking your flight.Check your boarding pass. It should have a TSA Pre'''' logo if you're traveling after December 20. If you try to print your boarding pass prior to December 20, you may not see the TSA Pre'''' indicator.When arriving at the airport, service members will then be permitted access to TSA Pre'''' lanes for official or leisure travel on participating airlines. Service members do not need to be in uniform to benefit from TSA Pre''''. If you are traveling with children 12 and under they may accompany service members through the TSA Pre'''' lanes. However, spouses will need to be enrolled in a trusted traveler program to participate. TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport. No individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.TSA has long recognized our men and women in uniform as nearly a quarter of TSA's workforce is a veteran or currently serves as an active duty service member in the U.S. Armed Forces. Click here for more information about TSA Pre''''. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us byclicking here.

Vaccine$

Griepvaccins bij apothekers zijn bijna op - De Standaard

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Thu, 14 Nov 2013 21:49

De apothekers in ons land zitten bijna door hun voorraad aan griepvaccins. Toch is er geen reden tot ongerustheid omdat de meeste mensen die een hoog risico lopen intussen hun griepprik al gekregen hebben. Dat meldt de Algemene Pharmaceutische Bond.

Op heel wat plaatsen in Belgi kunnen apothekers hun voorraad griepvaccins niet meer aanvullen, er zijn zelfs apothekers die helemaal geen vaccins meer hebben. 'Dat de voorraad aan griepvaccins uitgeput raakt, is elk jaar het geval', zegt Jan Depoorter van de Algemene Pharmaceutische Bond.

Vroeger

'Alleen valt dat moment dit jaar wel vroeger dan anders en dat heeft alles te maken met productieproblemen van het vaccin. Daardoor is het aanbod zo'n 10 procent lager dan andere jaren', aldus Depoorter.

Toch zal dat geen groter aantal griepgevallen met zich meebrengen, volgens Depoorter hebben risicopatinten immers al een griepprik gekregen. Mensen die nu nog een griepvaccin aanschaffen zijn over het algemeen geen risicopatinten.

Ook griepspecialist Marc Van Ranst ziet geen enkele reden tot ongerustheid. 'In Europa is op dit moment nog geen sprake van een grieppiek, dus ook zeker niet in Belgi.' Of en wanneer die komt, is moeilijk te voorspellen. 'Als we afgaan op de meeste andere jaren, dan zou de grieppiek pas na nieuwjaar komen', aldus Van Ranst.

Infants develop rare bleeding disorder after parents refuse vitamin K shots, CDC reports | The Verge

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Thu, 14 Nov 2013 21:52

Four infants in Tennessee developed an exceedingly rare bleeding disorder, after their parents turned down the administration of standard vitamin K injections. The cluster of illness, reported this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), highlights the ongoing risks of parents either refusing or delaying preventive injections '-- like vitamin K or MMR vaccinations '-- among infants and children.

Since around 1961, doctors in the US have used vitamin K injections to prevent Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) in newborns. Infants are born with low levels of vitamin K, which is vital in helping blood coagulate, and they don't obtain sufficient levels of the vitamin during breastfeeding. That puts them at an increased risk of hemorrhage, which is precisely why the American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended injections of the vitamin at birth: infants who don't receive it are 81 times more likely to experience VKDB.

"Fears that the injection increases the risk of leukemia."

All of the infants in this illness cluster survived, though longterm neurodevelopmental repercussions (three of them suffered intracranial hemorrhage) remain a possibility. The CDC's research also revealed that a whopping 28 percent of infants born at birthing centers in Nashville didn't receive a vitamin K injection in 2013, compared to 3.4 percent of infants born at one Nashville hospital.

Some parents of the babies in question said that they declined a vitamin K injection because of fears '-- which have no scientific backing '-- that the injection increases the risk of leukemia. Others cited a concern over exposing their child to excessive toxins. The CDC is now working to determine whether cases of VKDB, at least in Tennessee, have been occurring at an increased rate in recent years, or are being underreported.

Statement by the President on H.R. 2094

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Source: White House.gov Press Office Feed

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:39

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 13, 2013

I just want to thank all of the outstanding legislators who are here and advocates. This is something that will save children's lives. Some people may know that Malia actually has a peanut allergy. She doesn't have asthma, but obviously making sure that EpiPens are available in case of emergency in schools is something that every parent can understand. And, thanks to the bipartisan work of the folks behind us and the advocacy communities that have been pushing this so hard, we're going to be giving states a lot more incentives to make sure that that happens. So I want to congratulate all of you.

Twitter / blackcIoud: @adamcurry Make an informed ... TWO Flu Shots

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Swine flu risk was inflated by experts with links to drugs industry - Health News - Health & Families - The Independent

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Tue, 12 Nov 2013 14:53

Academics with links to pharmaceutical firms were more likely to inflate the risks of the 2009 swine flu pandemic and inadvertently promote the drugs developed by the industry, a study has found.

Tamiflu was stockpiled by the government in 2009 when it was feared the new swine flu mutation would sweep the world. The study found that between April and July of that year, 35 of the 74 ''risk assessments'' made by academics in the media came from experts with links to the industry.

Those promoting the use of antiviral drugs were eight times more likely to have pharmaceutical industry links than those not commenting on their use. The paper, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, said the findings were ''disturbing''.

38 sue swine flu drug firm over complaints of rare sleep disorder | The Top Information Post

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Wed, 13 Nov 2013 21:12

Britain's biggest pharmaceutical firm is being sued by 38 people '' including 19 children '' who developed the rare sleep disorder narcolepsy after taking the swine flu vaccine.

Scientists from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) found evidence of a link between GlaxoSmithKline's Pandemrix jab and narcolepsy cases in children earlier this year.

The vaccine was given to around 6m people in the UK in 2009-11. The HPA estimated that the vaccine could have caused narcolepsy in around one in every 55,000 cases in a study of four to 18-year-olds.

Law firm Hodge Jones & Allen said that compensation could be up to or possibly exceeding £1m for each case.

The firm said that GlaxoSmithKline have now invoked a Government indemnity agreed with the Department of Health in 2007, requiring compensation claims to be paid by the Government.

GlaxoSmithKline said that governments had agreed to share costs during vaccination programmes against the H1N1 pandemic flu which were ''unprecedented in their scale and speed''

''Throughout development of our H1N1 flu vaccines there was no data suggesting a potential for an increased risk of narcolepsy among those vaccinated. We take the safety of patients who entrust their health in our medicines very seriously,'' a spokesperson for the company said.

Hodge Jones & Allen said that around 800 children and young adults across Europe are thought to be affected by narcolepsy following vaccination.

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LAX shooting: TSA officer Hernandez bled for 33 minutes at scene - report - U.S. News

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 16:30

Hernandez family via AP

Slain TSA worker Gerardo Hernandez, seen in this June 2013 photo released by him family.

By Tami Abdollah, The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - An airport security officer lay helplessly bleeding after a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport as paramedics waited 150 yards away because police had not declared the terminal safe to enter, according to two law enforcement officials.

It would be 33 minutes before Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez, who was about 20 feet from an exit, would be wheeled out by police to an ambulance, said the officials, who were briefed on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was still ongoing into the Nov. 1 shooting.

For all but five of those minutes, there was no threat from the suspected gunman '-- he had been shot and was in custody, they said.

While it's not known when Hernandez died or if immediate medical attention could have saved his life, officials are examining what conversations took place between police and fire commanders to determine when it was safe enough to enter and whether paramedics could have gone into the terminal earlier, one of the officials said.

Formal conclusions may take months to reach, but what's known raises the possibility that a lack of coordination between police and fire officials prevented speedy treatment for Hernandez and other victims.

TSA workers at LAX have been wondering the same thing, said Victor Payes, who works at the airport and is president of the local union.

"I basically think there's a lack of coordination between entities at this airport. That lack of coordination may have led to something that shouldn't have happened," Payes said. "We may be talking about Officer Hernandez as a survivor."

Representatives for the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Airport Police said they couldn't comment on the ongoing investigation until extensive reports are finished.

Authorities say that Paul Ciancia entered Terminal 3 with a duffel bag, pulled out an assault rifle and started shooting. They said he had a note in his bag that said he wanted to "kill TSA" and that he wanted to stir fear in them, criticizing their searches as unconstitutional.

He was shot by airport police officers four times, in the mouth and leg, before being taken into custody. He remains in fair condition at a hospital and his doctors will determine when he's fit to appear in court.

In the chaotic moments after the gunfire began, as travelers dove to the ground or scrambled for cover in restaurants and stores, officials worried there could be bombs in the terminal and tried to determine Whether the gunman had any accomplices. In the first 30 minutes, there was also an unfounded report of two suspicious people on an adjacent parking garage roof, one of the officials said.

Officers from multiple agencies bent down to check on Hernandez before moving on, officials said.

Police broadcast over their radios that Ciancia was in custody at 9:25 a.m., five minutes after Hernandez was shot in the chest. That's when a nearly 26-year veteran Los Angeles police officer checked on Hernandez several times, repeatedly telling officers who came by from various agencies "he's dead," according to one of the law enforcement officials.

It's unclear whether the officer was qualified to determine Hernandez was dead. No officers rendered first aid on scene, according to surveillance video reviewed by the officials. Finally, airport police put Hernandez in a wheelchair and ran him to an ambulance.

Trauma surgeon David Plurad said Hernandez had no signs of life when he arrived at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Doctors worked for about an hour to revive him despite significant blood loss.

"When somebody is shot and they're bleeding to death, lifesaving skills need to be implemented immediately, in a couple minutes, and they're very simple, pressure dressings, tourniquets, adequate bandages to stop the bleeding," said Dr. Lawrence E. Heiskell, an emergency physician for 27 years and a reserve police officer for 24 years who founded the state and federally approved International School of Tactical Medicine.

Reed Saxon / AP, file

Police stand outside Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, Nov. 1 after shots were fired.

Responding to a situation with a shooter on the loose has changed since the 1999 Columbine school massacre, when officials huddled outside to formulate a plan while shooters continued firing inside and a teacher bled to death without timely treatment. Now police immediately charge in to stop the shooting as quickly as possible; officers are trained to step over the wounded and stop the gunman first, then tend to victims.

During active shooter training last month with the LAX police and LAPD, Los Angeles city firefighters wearing ballistic vests and helmets dragged survivors to areas where they could provide treatment.

Because police are often the first at the scene where there are injuries, California law requires officers receive first aid and CPR training in the academy and regular refreshers afterward.

A recent audit by Los Angeles Police Commission Inspector General Alex Bustamante found that the LAPD had a zero percent compliance rate. Only 250-sworn officers in the Metropolitan Division out of the department's more than 9,900 sworn officers received the refresher training, it states. Airport police have the training.

On day-to-day crime scenes, firefighters wait down the street until police clear the scene, usually in minutes, and allow them in, Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Larry Collins, who's a member of a Los Angeles interagency working group creating best practices for mass casualty incidents.

"When we have an active shooter, we can't hold back a block away, we've got to go in" because clearing the scene could take hours.

Related:

(C) 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Benghazi

Report: Benghazi Attackers Had Inside Information, Knew Location of Safe Room

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Archived Version

Fri, 15 Nov 2013 20:49

by AWR Hawkins15 Nov 2013, 8:29 AM PDTpost a commentAccording to Fox News, notes from Young's visit with Ubben show the consulate attack was "very well orchestrated, well organized, almost a military operation, using military weapons and using military signals."

Young's notes emphasized that the attackers "had knowledge of almost everything in the compound." For example, "they knew where the gasoline was, they knew where the generators were, they knew where the safe room was, they knew more than they should have [known] about that compound."

Young said Ubben believed the attackers had inside information: "It was pretty well figured out, where everything was located, where the doors were," he reported.

Ubben told Young that the security force hired to protect the compound capitulated once the attack began: "When the attack started, the Libyan security folks who were supposed to secure the compound...ran. So, [Stevens and the other Americans] were at the mercy of their own capabilities."

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins.

Race Baiting Science!

Study: Racist Attitudes Linked To Gun Ownership CBS DC

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 07:43

A study finds a connection between increased racist attitudes and US residents who keep guns in their households. credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Latest NewsPhotos WASHINGTON (CBS DC) '' A study finds a connection between increased racist attitudes and US residents who keep guns in their households.

The study published in the Oc.t 31 research journal PLOS ONE found that ''symbolic racism'' '' described as ''racial resentment'' '' was directly related to US respondents who kept guns in their home. For each point increase in ''symbolic racism,'' there was a 50 percent greater chance of people having a gun in their home.

There was also a 28 percent increase in the odds of supporting permits to carry concealed handguns.

''This anti-black affect is not necessarily conscious or deliberate but may be felt as fear, anger, unease and hostility towards blacks,'' according to the researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom. ''The symbolic component reflects the abstract view of blacks as a collective rather than as individuals, as well as its basis in abstract white moralistic reasoning and traditions.''

The study also found that the rate of gun ownership in the U.S. is twice as high among whites as opposed to blacks. And white Americans opposed gun control policies far more than black Americans. However, white gun owners were found to be statistically more likely to kill themselves than to be killed by others.

The survey respondents were recruited through the American National Election Studies, a joint effort between Stanford University and the University of Michigan. Respondents were paid $10 each month to respond to survey questions from 2008 to 2009.

PLOS ONE : accelerating the publication of peer-reviewed science

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PLOS ONE (eISSN-1932-6203) is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication. PLOS ONE welcomes reports on primary research from any scientific discipline. It provides:

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Super Typhoon!

U.S. Navy Bets $42 Billion on Carriers in China's Sights - Bloomberg

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 08:36

By Roxana TironJune 19, 2012 12:00 AM EDTThe final keel section of the future USS Gerald R. Ford is lowered into place at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia, on May 24, 2012. Photographer: Ricky Thompson/U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy is betting $42 billion on a new class of aircraft carriers, the world's biggest and costliest warships ever, even as the Pentagon budget shrinks and China and Iran arm themselves with weapons to disable or destroy the behemoths.

The Navy says the new carriers -- rising 20 stories above the water, 1,092 feet (333 meters) long, moving at 30 knots (35 miles per hour) with almost 5,000 Americans on board -- can project U.S. power around the globe.

''A carrier is 4 1/2 acres of sovereign U.S. territory,'' Captain Bruce Hay, a Navy pilot who helps set requirements for the new carrier, said in an interview. ''An aircraft carrier is a piece of America, and we're going to do what it takes to keep them relevant because a carrier is presence and American resolve all at one time.''

The ships' rising costs are drawing scrutiny from lawmakers at a time when the military faces cuts in personnel and funding for new weapons. Critics see the new Gerald R. Ford-class carriers as big targets for rival militaries expanding their arsenals of ballistic and cruise missiles, undersea mines, submarines, drones and cyber weapons.

''Our future adversaries are developing a set of capabilities specifically for the purpose of attacking our aircraft carriers,'' Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in an interview.

Increasing 18%Although it's still about five years from entering the fleet, the price tag for the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first carrier in the class being built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (HII), based in Newport News, Virginia, already has climbed about 18 percent in four years to $12.3 billion, according to Defense Department data.

The Navy is trying to assure lawmakers that it was worth the money to start from scratch designing a new carrier.

With an electromagnetic system to launch aircraft similar to those used to propel roller coasters at Walt Disney World, the Ford-class carriers are designed to send swarms of fighter jets over vast expanses of water to deter potential enemies.

The Pentagon's revised global strategy, released in January, emphasizes a shift to the waters of the Asia-Pacific region at the same time the Pentagon is moving to cut $487 billion from previously planned spending over the next decade. More than $500 billion in additional defense cuts will be required unless the president and Congress agree on plans to avert the automatic reductions known as sequester that are set to begin in January.

'National Disgrace'The Navy's oversight of construction on the Gerald R. Ford, or CVN-78, has drawn criticism as cost overruns of at least $800 million have been disclosed this year. Critics led by Senator John McCain, a former Navy pilot, say the technologies that set it apart from the Navy's 10 existing carriers may not work as planned when the carrier is launched and begins testing as early as 2013.

''It's outrageous, it's a national disgrace,'' McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. ''They try all these experiments and all these different ideas that they have in the new class of carrier and obviously disregard the cost.''

The Navy should have kept buying the proven Nimitz-class carriers, McCain said. The last carrier in the Nimitz class, the USS George H.W. Bush, was commissioned in 2009.

The number of aircraft regularly launched from the new carriers, or the sortie rate, will increase to 160 a day from 120 a day now on the Nimitz class, according to the Navy. The number of sorties can surge to 270 from 192 on the older carriers.

Sub-Launched TomahawksDispatching more jets from a carrier doesn't provide a tactical advantage in an age of precision-guided weapons and Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from submarines, according to Norman Polmar, a naval analyst and author who has been a consultant to secretaries of the Navy.

''Do we need a new class?'' Polmar said in an interview. ''The answer is absolutely not. You want to kill someone's airfield, you launch 20, 30 Tomahawks, which go farther and are more accurate than planes, and you do not risk pilots.''

While a missile-armed submarine can move alone beneath the sea, a carrier must travel with a strike group that typically includes a guided-missile cruiser, two guided-missile destroyers, an attack sub and a combined ammunition, oiler and supply ship, according to a Navy fact sheet.

The Navy estimates that each Ford-class carrier will cost $27 billion to build and then operate and maintain for 50 years, $5 billion less than its Nimitz-class predecessors, even after the rising costs.

Fewer SailorsHalf the savings will come from design and technology changes that will reduce the number of sailors needed, Rear Admiral Thomas Moore, who runs the Navy's carrier programs, said in an interview at the Washington Navy Yard. The Ford carriers will accommodate 4,660 personnel, down from 5,922, according to a presentation by Moore.

The Nimitz class was designed in the 1960s ''when labor was cheap, and so we used manpower to accomplish all the functions,'' Hay, the Navy pilot, said in an interview at the Pentagon. ''One guy grabbing a case of soda and going up and down a ladder, well, that is a pretty expensive way to transport material inside this kind of ship.''

Some critics of the Ford class's rising cost, including McCain, say carriers remain the invaluable, and virtually unsinkable, centerpiece of U.S. naval strategy.

China's MissilesOthers say carriers, like wooden men-of-war and steel battleships before them, aren't as useful as they once were. With the proliferation of drones and satellite imagery, carriers become easier to locate and thus potentially more vulnerable, according to Polmar.

While the Ford carriers are going to be ''very formidable,'' the ships ''may not be able to get close enough to a future enemy that has precision-guided anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles,'' Gunzinger said.

China is fielding DF-21 anti-ship missiles that may force U.S. carriers to operate 1,000 nautical miles or farther from an enemy's coastline early in a conflict, according to Gunzinger. Carrier-based jets with a heavy load of weapons are designed to strike at about 300 nautical miles without refueling, Polmar said.

China also is developing weapons to attack satellites and computer networks, disrupting long-distance U.S. military sensors and communications networks, Gunzinger wrote in a report last year for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Iran's ArsenalIran's arsenal includes ballistic missiles that can reach targets across the Persian Gulf region, Gunzinger wrote. Iranian officials have threatened to use anti-ship cruise missiles, smart mines that can sense their targets and swarms of small, fast-attack craft to exert their control over the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf shipping lanes, he wrote. The strait is about 21 miles (34 kilometers) across at its narrowest point, with the shipping lane in either direction only two miles wide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Gunzinger said carriers should be equipped with stealth drones that can be launched undetected from greater distances to find and attack their targets.

The combined cost of three Ford-class carriers would be $42.5 billion, according to the Pentagon's Selected Acquisition Report published in December.

Electromagnetic LaunchesThe $12.3 billion for the first carrier includes about $3.7 billion in design and development.

''You are making a $3.7 billion design investment for a class of ship that is going to be around for 94 years,'' Moore said. ''This is not like building a Honda. It is probably the most complex piece of machinery that is built in the world.''

Among new or updated equipment on the carrier will be its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, arresting gear and a dual-band radar, according to Moore.

The launch system by General Atomics Corp. will use a moving electromagnetic field to propel aircraft from the deck instead of the steam-driven catapults on earlier carriers. The carrier will have three aircraft elevators, each weighing 120 tons and able to lift two fighter jets at a time, according to Huntington Ingalls.

Cutting CostsThe Navy is trying to reduce labor hours from 53 million on the first ship to 40 million or less for the third, according to Moore. That would make its cost comparable to the Nimitz class when adjusted for inflation, he said.

''I am absolutely incentivized to drive that cost down as low as possible,'' Mike Petters, Huntington's chief executive officer, said in an interview at his office overlooking the Newport News yard where the Ford is being built. The company stands to lose as much as $194.3 million, more than 40 percent of a potential fee, based on the overruns projected by the Navy.

Huntington Ingalls, spun off last year by defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC), is working to preserve support for the increasingly costly ships in Washington. The company has a web of suppliers across the country that make the case to Congress each year to protect carrier funding.

From 2005 to 2011, the shipbuilder and its predecessor placed orders of about $3 billion in more than 330 of the 435 U.S. congressional districts, according to the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition, a group that says it represents about 400 companies.

''When you have 45 states that provide stuff for the ship, it's a fairly large job-creator,'' said the Navy's Admiral Moore.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at rtiron@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

Poppie$tan

Defying Medical Board, FDA Approves Painkiller That Could Be the Next Oxycontin | Mother Jones

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 09:19

The government agency charged with regulating medicine says it's cracking down on painkiller abuse. Maybe not.

By Dana Liebelson on Wed. November 13, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Late last month, the US Food and Drug Administration made it significantly harder for doctors to prescribe Vicodin, Lortab, and other highly addictive painkillers that have killed tens of thousands of Americans over the past decade. Lawmakers praised the agency's move, but the next day, over the objections of its medical advisory board, the FDA approved Zohydro, a new drug that has 5 to 10 times more of the heroin-like opioid hydrocodone than Vicodin.

"If you approve this pill, you surely will be signing a death sentence for thousands of people, especially young kids," Avi Israel, a father whose 20-year-old son committed suicide after becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed hydrocodone, told FDA officials at the December hearing.

The FDA's advisory board, an appointed group of medical experts who evaluate drugs used in anesthesiology and surgery, voted against Zohydro 11-2 last December. As several board members noted, most opioid painkillers on the market also include acetaminophen, the main ingredient found in Tylenol, a combination that is less likely to lead to addiction. But like OxyContin, the "Hillbilly Heroin" the Drug Enforcement Agency has blamed for hundreds of deaths in a single year, Zohydro includes a high dose of its main opioid ingredient undiluted by acetaminophen. That could lead to higher rates of abuse, the FDA's medical advisers warned.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released data showing that painkillers are essentially the worst drug epidemic in US history, killing 16,000 people in 2010 alone. Painkillers that include hydrocodone and its cousin, oxycodone, are widely abused by users who crush, snort, or inject the drugs, seeking a high. Zohydro is made from high-dose hydrocodone undiluted with acetaminophen; OxyContin uses undiluted, high-dose oxycodone. "Oxycodone and hydrocodone are very similar drugs and Zohydro (extended release hydrocodone) is similar to OxyContin (extended release oxycodone)," Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at the Phoenix House Foundation'‹, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, tells Mother Jones. "This drug will almost certainly cause dependence in the people that are intended to take it," Judith Kramer, a professor at Duke University Medical Center who voted against the drug, testified in December.

Among the advisory board's other objections: Zohydro's manufacturer, Zogenix, disregarded FDA recommendations that opioid painkillers include a gel-like plastic preventing them from being crushed and snorted; the drug is meant to be used by cancer patients, but was never widely tested on those patients; and during the study's trial run, 2 of 575 test subjects are believed to have committed suicide, one by hoarding the drug and overdosing after the study was over.

The FDA says that making painkillers less likely to be abused is a "public health priority." One such abuse deterrent, now standard in OxyContin, involves injecting the pills with a gel so that they can't be crushed and snorted. But Zohydro doesn't come with that measure. On November 4, Zogenix entered into a $750,000 agreement with a Montreal-based company, Altus Formulation Inc, to help it come up with an abuse-deterrent formula'--but it's not clear how long that will take, or whether it will be ready before Zohydro hits pharmacy shelves in four months.'‹'‹ Zogenix did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

"This is a colossal mistake on the FDA's part," David '‹Jurrlink, a scientist with the Sunnybrook Research Institute at the University of Toronto, tells Mother Jones. "Because this isn't tamper-resistant like OxyContin, there is a real concern that it will be preferentially sought by people who want to abuse it. It boggles the mind." Liscinsky, a spokesperson for the FDA, confirmed to Mother Jones that Zohydro "is not abuse-deterrent," but noted that "FDA does not believe it is feasible at this time to require that all new solid oral-dosage form opioids have abuse-deterrent properties."

Before approving Zohydro, the FDA examined one study of the drug's effectiveness. In that, study, researchers gave Zohydro to about 1,500 patients. One phase of the study, which weighed the drug against a sugar pill, showed that subjects taking Zohydro for chronic lower back pain reported less pain than those who received the placebo over a 12-week period. The study definitively showed that Zohydro "was superior in controlling pain," Stephen Farr, the cofounder, president, and chief operating officer of Zogenix'‹, told the FDA. But the results were not dramatic enough for some members of the FDA's advisory panel.

"I am concerned that there's a very modest change in the pain scores. With a lot of methodologic reworking, it is convincing as a study, but not that convincing," Jeanmarie Perrone, the director of the division of medical toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania, said during the December hearing. "I have my doubts." She went on to vote against the drug's approval.

In another part of the study, researchers gave Zohydro to with a variety of chronic pain conditions to test for possible side effects over a period of six months to a year. The main side effects reported by the test subjects were non-life-threatening symptoms like nausea, fatigue, headache, and dizziness. But a few subjects reported '‹more serious side effects, including "mental impairment." According to Liscinsky, the FDA spokesperson, of 575 subjects in the chronic pain population who were given Zohydro, 5 died. The first four deaths'--one of which was a completed suicide, by carbon monoxide poisoning, and another which was caused by drug toxicity from other painkillers'--"were unlikely [to be] related to study medication'‹." The fifth death was "an apparent suicide" by a patient who "hoarded study medication" during the study and died from an overdose of the drug about a year after the study was over, Licinsky says.

"If we had this issue arise of diversion and potential abuse in a closely monitored situation with multiple professionals, then how do we control this substance in the larger marketplace where we don't have the same controls underway?" Rodney Mullins, the national director for Community Health Advocates and the consumer advocate on the FDA advisory committee, asked at the December hearing. He, too, went on to vote against the drug.

Panel members also raised concerns about Zogenix's marketing strategy. Cancer patients will be eligible to take the drug, but only five cancer patients took it during testing. "You're asking us for an approval that will be used much more broadly," said Kramer, who also noted that Zogenix sales representatives will be compensated, up to a certain point, based on the number of Zohydro prescriptions they can convince doctors to write during the drug's first year on the market.

"In Texas, I have six pain clinics that in a 15-month period wrote between almost 24,000 and 43,000 scripts'...Those guys are still in operation. So we need to be very aware that these people who are into making the money, just because you call [Drug Enforcement Agency] doesn't mean things are going to happen quickly," Jane Maxwell, a senior research scientist at the Addiction Research Institute who voted against the drug, said at the hearing.

Farr, Zogenix's president, testified at the hearing that the company believes it can control abuse of the drug by limiting its availability and focusing on the patients who need it. The FDA is not allowing any prescription refills with Zohydro, and notes that there will be stringent recordkeeping, reporting, and physical security requirements for the drug. But James Breitmeyer, the chief medical officer at Zogenix, acknowledged, "There's an unfortunate linkage between opioid abuse and suicide. And that will be an important part of the training that we do.'‹"

The two panel members who voted for the drug argued that Zogenix has met the FDA's safety standards and posed no greater risk than current painkillers on the market. The FDA agrees. "FDA has concluded that the benefits of Zohydro ER outweigh its risks when used as provided in the approved labeling," Licinsky, the FDA spokesman, tells Mother Jones.

But at the December vote, some doctors weren't willing to take that risk. "I happen to live in the real world," said Alan Kaye, a doctor who chairs the anesthesia department at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, explaining why he was voting against the drug. "I certainly feel there would be quite a bit of morbidity and mortality that would result."

$hadow Puppet Theatre

Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner Is Moving Into Private Equity - Business Insider

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 12:20

Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is taking on a key role at a New York-based private equity firm after leaving the Obama administration earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.Geithner, 52, who was an architect of the 2009 bank bailout during the financial crisis, plans to join Warburg Pincus, LLC as its president and managing director and will be "expected to work on mapping the firm's strategy and management, investor relations and on matters related to the firm's investments," according to The Journal.

The 40-year-old firm has invested more than $45 billion in 675 companies worldwide, according to its website.

The Journal has more:

Mr. Geithner has long considered a career in investing once his days in Washington ended. He has been reluctant to take a job with any banks, which he once regulated, and views private-equity firms and other investment managers as different from the institutions he oversaw as New York Fed chief.

Mr. Geithner had been weighing job options while writing an account of the financial crisis, due out next year.

Since leaving public service, Geithner had been traveling on the speaking circuit and speaking at corporate events.

Monsantooo

MONSANTO-In a Bean, a Boon to Biotech - NYTimes.com

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Archived Version

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 12:56

A new federal push to purge artery-clogging trans fats from foods could be just what the doctor ordered '-- not only for public health but for the unpopular biotechnology industry, specifically, two developers of genetically modified crops.

The developers, Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, have manipulated the genes of the soybean to radically alter the composition of its oil to make it longer-lasting, potentially healthier and free of trans fats.

''In essence we've rebuilt the profile,'' said Russ Sanders, director of food and industry markets at DuPont Pioneer. ''It almost mirrors olive oil in terms of the composition of fatty acids.''

It's too soon to tell if food companies and restaurants will embrace the oils, which are now available only in limited quantities. But the policy proposed last week by the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate trans fats could make the marketing job easier.

Russ Sanders of DuPont Pioneer holding a genetically modified soybean. His company's version, he says, produces oil that ''almost mirrors olive oil in terms of the composition of fatty acids.''

Brian C. Frank for The New York Times

The new beans could help the image of the biotechnology industry because they are among the first genetically engineered crops with a trait that benefits consumers, as opposed to farmers. Despite industry promises to create better-tasting or more nutritional foods, virtually all the biotech crops introduced since 1996 have been aimed at helping farmers control weeds and insects. That has made it easier for various consumer interest groups to oppose the crops.

''We have been told if we have a product that is beneficial to consumers it will be much more acceptable,'' said John Becherer, chief executive of the United Soybean Board, which funds research using money collected from farmers.

The board is putting $60 million into the development and marketing of the altered beans in an effort to stem losses that soybean oil has suffered to palm oil and canola oil as concerns about trans fats have mounted. Its market share could decline even further if the F.D.A. proposal takes effect.

Soybean oil turns rancid relatively quickly, limiting the shelf life of foods containing it and requiring restaurants to change their frying oil frequently. To make it last longer, and also to solidify it for use in baked goods, the oil can be treated with hydrogen gas. But that process, partial hydrogenation, also creates trans fats.

A field of DuPont Pioneer's Plenish soybeans in Ohio.

DuPont Pioneer

In 2003, the F.D.A. announced that food products containing artificial trans fats would have to be labeled starting in 2006. And some cities, starting with New York in 2005, have told restaurants to avoid trans fats.

The use of edible soybean oil fell to 12.3 billion pounds last year, from an estimated 15.5 billion pounds in 2005, of which half was partly hydrogenated, according to Richard Galloway, a consultant to the United Soybean Board.

Mr. Galloway estimated that about two billion pounds of partly hydrogenated soy oil were still in use, mainly in baked goods, where a more solid consistency is needed and the amounts used can be small enough to avoid the labeling requirement.

But the F.D.A.'s proposal would require food companies to prove that partly hydrogenated oils were safe. That should pretty much eliminate their use.

Both Monsanto's Vistive Gold soybeans and DuPont Pioneer's Plenish soybeans are engineered to silence the gene for an enzyme that converts oleic fatty acid into linoleic acid.

The resulting oil has very low levels of linoleic and linolenic acids, which are polyunsaturated and responsible for soybean oil's short shelf life. By contrast, about 75 percent is oleic acid, three times the level in a conventional soybean. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid that is the main component of olive oil.

Monsanto's beans have a second genetic modification that lowers the level of saturated fats, which are also bad for health.

There are no plans yet to sell the new oils in supermarkets, since conventional vegetable oil is fine for consumer use and would be cheaper.

''You don't sit there and fry with oil day in and day out,'' said Robb Meeuwsen, director of edible oils at Zeeland Farm Services, which is marketing Vistive Gold oil.

A question now is whether the oils are coming to market too late, since many restaurants and packaged food companies have already eliminated trans fats.

Because the new oils are liquids, they could not easily replace the partly hydrogenated oils used in baked goods, unless they are blended with other fats. So the best hope for Monsanto and DuPont might be to try to win back share that has been lost to palm, canola or other oils.

They and their distributors argue that the soy oil flavor is more familiar to Americans and lower in saturated fats than palm oil. Soybeans are grown on far more land than canola, providing more security of supply and potentially larger economies of scale.

People involved in the new soybean oil say that many food companies and restaurant chains, including the giants, are now testing the new oils.

''We're sold out in 2013 and 2014,'' said John Jansen, vice president for regulatory, quality and innovation at Bunge, an oil manufacturer working with DuPont and Monsanto.

But there are grounds for skepticism. It has been more than three years since the Agriculture Department approved DuPont's Plenish soybeans for commercial planting and nearly two years since it approved Vistive Gold soybeans. Yet the crops are grown on only limited acreage, though that is partly by design until Europe grants permission to import the beans. And neither the seed companies nor the oil processors, citing confidentiality agreements, would name a single customer who is either using or testing the oils.

A representative for one of the country's largest food companies said that the company had already removed trans fats from some 90 percent of its products in part by using high-oleic canola oil. ''These products work well and are easy to get, so I'm not sure why we would need to switch to these other products,'' this person said, insisting on anonymity for competitive reasons.

Moreover, Monsanto's and DuPont's previous attempts to market soybeans that would produce no trans fats, some of them developed with conventional breeding, faltered.

''I don't think high-oleic soybean is a slam dunk,'' said Walter Fehr, a soybean breeder at Iowa State University.

Monsanto and Dow could also face competition from a high-oleic soybean developed through conventional breeding, not genetic engineering, by researchers at the University of Missouri and the Agriculture Department.

Critics of biotech crops question whether the new biotech crops will benefit consumers, since most food companies have already eliminated trans fats.

Bill Freese, a researcher at the Center for Food Safety, said the crops should have undergone more extensive safety testing because the genetic engineering changed the levels of many components, not just the targeted fatty acids. Both Plenish and Vistive Gold soybeans underwent a voluntary safety review by the F.D.A.

By contrast, Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has campaigned against trans fats but is not against genetic engineering, said the biotech oils could be an ''excellent substitute'' for partly hydrogenated oils.

Monsanto, DuPont and oil processors say that the fact that the new beans are genetically engineered has not deterred potential customers. That could be because almost all soybeans and canola are already genetically engineered, to provide herbicide tolerance.

DuPont expects only 100,000 to 300,000 acres of Plenish soybeans to be planted next year, mainly in Indiana and Ohio, a tiny fraction of the nation's roughly 75 million acres of soybeans.

Mr. Becherer of the United Soybean Board said the goal was to have 18 million acres of high-oleic soybeans growing by 2023.

Monsanto is also working to introduce a different genetically engineered soybean, one with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, similar to those found in fish oil and generally considered good for heart health.

If the high-oleic soybeans do not catch on with food companies, all might not be lost. The same properties that make them last in the fryer could also make them desirable for industrial uses, perhaps as lubricants.

Stephanie Strom contributed reporting.

Clooney

Onderzoek naar herkomst kunst bij Oranjes | nu.nl/algemeen | Het laatste nieuws het eerst op nu.nl

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Thu, 14 Nov 2013 21:32

Dat heeft de Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst donderdag laten weten.

Als er voorwerpen worden aangetroffen waarvan de herkomst ''niet rechtmatig'' is, kunnen deze worden geclaimd door de erfgenamen van de oorspronkelijke eigenaar.

Het onderzoek omvat alle collecties die gezamenlijk de Koninklijke Verzamelingen vormen en de museale voorwerpen uit de nalatenschap van koningin Juliana en prins Bernhard die nog in het bezit zijn van de koninklijke familie.

Een onafhankelijke deskundige zal het onderzoek uitvoeren. Voor de begeleiding van de deskundige is een 3-koppige commissie ingesteld, bestaande uit onder andere kunsthistoricus Rudi Ekkart. Hij is bij het grote publiek bekend door zijn onderzoek naar de herkomst van in de Tweede Wereldoorlog geroofde kunstwerken.

139 stukkenEind oktober werd bekend dat Nederlandse musea 139 kunstvoorwerpen in hun collecties hebben die tussen 1933 en 1945 tijdens het naziregime (vermoedelijk) zijn geroofd, geconfisqueerd of gedwongen verkocht.

Sommige deskundigen meenden dat het Koninklijk Huis ook moet meewerken aan een onderzoek naar roofkunst, omdat de koninklijke collectie ook kunst zou kunnen bevatten die in de oorlog is gestolen van Joodse eigenaren.

Historische VerzamelingenDe museale collecties van de Stichting Historische Verzamelingen worden beheerd door de directeur en de staf van het Koninklijk Huisarchief.

Hieronder vallen de familieportretten, portretminiaturen en talloze andere (kunst-)historische objecten. Delen van de collectie zijn langdurig in bruikleen bij onder meer Paleis Het Loo Nationaal Museum in Apeldoorn en het Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Het bestuur van de stichting bestaat onder anderen uit koning Willem-Alexander.

InterWebBroadcasting

Rockefeller to Introduce Bill to Bolster Online Video Competition | Variety

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Tue, 12 Nov 2013 20:54

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is introducing legislation to bolster the online video market, what he says is an effort to prevent cable and satellite companies from using their power to limit the growth of services like Netflix and Amazon.

The Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, which Rockefeller intends to introduce on Tuesday afternoon, would bar cable, satellite and large media companies from engaging in ''anti-competitive'' practices against online video distributors. It would do so in part by putting ''reasonable limits'' on contractual provisions in carriage contracts that limit online providers' access to programming.

An aide to Rockefeller said that the legislation would allow online video providers to choose to be considered like cable and satellite providers, giving them a ''pathway to negotiate for content'' the way that cable and satellite providers do. The 1992 Cable Act included regulations designed to prevent companies from limiting access to channels as a way to stifle competition. If an online service chooses to be treated like a cable or satellite provider, it also would face certain retransmission consent and must carry regulations over the carriage of broadcast signals.

The legislation also would limit the ability of a cable or satellite company that also provides Internet service to ''degrade'' competitive online video services. Specifics of the legislation have yet to be released.

A big concern among consumer groups has been that cable and satellite companies will try to stifle competition by implementing more restrictive pricing for their Internet customers based on their usage. Although the legislation would not prevent cable and satellite companies from offering usage-based pricing for their Internet service, the legislation is intended to make billing clearer and more understandable. It also would direct the FCC to ''monitor broadband billing practices to make sure they are not used anticompetitively.''

Rockefeller's proposed legislation also does not directly address the legality of Aereo, the online provider of broadcast signals that broadcasters are challenging in court. If courts deem that the service is legal, ''then this would clarify then that they would not be subject to retransmission consent payments,'' an aide to Rockefeller said.

In May, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) introduced legislation designed to end some of the cable and satellite bundling of channels, a primary complaint of consumers facing hefty bills, but his legislation has yet to advance. Rockefeller has the advantage of sitting on a powerful Senate committee, even if his proposals are likely to stir up contentious debate with the cable and satellite industry.

''We have all heard the familiar complaint that we have five hundred channels, but there is nothing to watch,'' Rockefeller said in a statement. ''My legislation aims to enable the ultimate ala carte '-- to give consumers the ability to watch the programming they want to watch, when they want to watch it, how they want to watch it, and pay for only what they actually watch.''

NAB News Release: NAB Statement on Introduction of Video Programming Legislation by Sen. Rockefeller

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Tue, 12 Nov 2013 21:09

Home >> Newsroom >> NAB Statement on Introduction of Video Programming Legislation by Sen. RockefellerFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASENovember 12, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC -- In response to the introduction of the "Consumer Choice in Online Video Act" by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) today, the following statement can be attributed to NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith:

"NAB supports efforts to encourage the legal distribution of our highly-valued broadcast programming to on-line platforms, and we look forward to working with Chairman Rockefeller. We remain concerned about proposals that may legitimize theft of copyrighted programming. Copyright theft poses a very real threat to the revenue stream that supports local television and the U.S. network-affiliate TV relationship that is the envy of the world."

About NABThe National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.

HCDG

President Obama's messy breakup with insurers - David Nather - POLITICO.com

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:32

Obama has had a love-hate relationship with insurers since the debate started. | AP Photo

ClosePresident Barack Obama is breaking up with the health insurance industry again.

He's had a love-hate relationship with the insurers ever since the early days of the health care reform debate. He yelled at them in public for giving people skimpy coverage, then slipped them a gift-wrapped box of chocolates '-- the individual mandate they wanted to gain millions of new customers.

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Even during the implementation of Obamacare, he has stuck with the industry, staying in the rocky relationship despite all the petty bickering. He has to use them as a foil to advertise the law's benefits, like all the rebates from greedy insurance companies. But he also needs them to make the law work '-- which is why he has been careful not to raise his voice at them even as they sent cancellation notices to individual insurance customers throughout the country.

Now, Obama is putting them on the spot. The message of his proposed one-year fix to the cancelled policies is this: I'm giving you a chance to clean up the mess. If you don't clean it up, don't blame it on me.

''The bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled into 2014,'' Obama said at his Thursday press conference.

(PHOTOS: Obamacare online glitches: 25 great quotes)

Industry CEOs have been summoned to a White House meeting Friday that's sure to be full of those awkward conversations about who did what to whom, and who's being unreasonable this time.

It's enough to stress a relationship to the breaking point. And breaking up, as the song goes, can indeed be hard to do - and in the case may have implications for innocent bystanders, such as health care customers.

''The president was clear as a bell: 'We've done our part. If rates go up or anything, that's not our fault.' And that's not the case,'' said Bill Pierce, a former Department of Health and Human Services official who has also worked in the health insurance industry.

Democrats badly needed a fix to point to on Friday, when they'll have to vote on a Republican bill to let all Americans keep their health plans. But the need to give Democrats political cover can't justify a change that could backfire in other ways, Pierce said.

(IN 90 SECONDS: Obamacare puts Democrats' credibility on the line)

''It is a political solution to a policy problem '... You cannot solve a policy problem with a political solution,'' said Pierce, now a senior director at APCO Worldwide.

Sure, there was a bit of ''it's not you, it's me'' in Obama's press conference Thursday. ''That's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law,'' Obama said.

But really, insurers, it's you.

''What we want to do is to be able to say to these folks, you know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan,'' Obama said.

There's just one problem: Health insurers say the fix won't work. And state insurance commissioners and leading actuaries aren't sure, either.

(WATCH: 6 major players in HealthCare.gov debacle)

For one thing, health insurance plans already set their prices for the Obamacare plans assuming that they'd get a certain number of customers, and the right mix of healthy and sick people. If they don't get those people, they're warning that the mix will be thrown off, and prices will have to go up '-- creating a new nightmare for the administration.

''Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,'' Karen Ignagni of America's Health Insurance Plans, the leading health insurance trade group, said in a statement.

Health insurance actuaries echoed the alarm.

''Changing the [Affordable Care Act] provisions could alter the dynamics of the insurance market, creating two parallel markets operating under different rules, thereby threatening the viability of insurance markets operating under the new rules,'' said Cori Uccello, the senior health fellow at the American Academy of Actuaries.

FACT SHEET: New Administration Proposal To Help Consumers Facing Cancellations

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Source: White House.gov Press Office Feed

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 14:24

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 14, 2013

''I've assigned my team to see what can we do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law, because my intention is to lift up and make sure the insurance that people buy is effective, that it's actually going to deliver what they think they're purchasing. Because what we know is, before the law was passed, a lot of these plans people thought they had insurance coverage and then they'd find out that they had huge out-of-pocket expenses or women were being charged more than men. If you had preexisting conditions, you just couldn't get it at all.

''And we are proud of the consumer protections we've put into place. On the other hand, we also want to make sure that nobody is put in a position where their plans have been canceled, they can't afford a better plan even though they'd like to have a better plan. And so we're going to have to work hard to make sure that those folks are taken care of.'' '' President Barack Obama, November 7, 2013

Today, the majority of Americans have employer-based health insurance that is already providing them quality health care coverage. The Affordable Care Act strengthens employer coverage while creating new protections for people in the individual market '' preventing them from being charged more because of a pre-existing condition or getting fewer benefits like mental health services or prescription drugs.

The new Health Insurance Marketplace will help millions of hard-working Americans find affordable health insurance. Premiums are, on average, 16 percent below what was originally projected. Nearly one in four insurers offering health plans through the Marketplace are selling to individuals for the first time. And a recent study found that an estimated 17 million Americans can get discounts on their premiums through the Marketplace, through tax credits.

The law aimed to make Marketplace coverage optional for the less than 5 percent of Americans who have individual market coverage that they want to keep. Health plans that consumers had when the law was passed in 2010 are ''grandfathered'' in and do not have to adopt most of the new consumer protections. But, in order to provide consumers with better protections and coverage, health insurers in the individual and small group markets have to adopt consumer protections for any new plans purchased after 2010. In some instances, they are adopting those protections by canceling current policies and replacing them with new and sometimes more costly plans.

Many consumers receiving these cancellation letters will be able to find a better deal with financial assistance or better coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, but we know a small slice of these consumers may not be eligible for a plan at a more affordable price. Last week President Obama directed his team to explore administrative actions that could be taken to help these consumers who are receiving cancellation letters.

To meet that commitment, today, HHS is using its administrative authority to:

Allow insurers to renew their current policies for current enrollees without adopting the 2014 market rule changes. This will give consumers in the individual and small group markets the choice of staying in their plan or joining a new Marketplace plan next year. HHS will consider the impact of this transitional policy in assessing whether to extend it beyond 2014.

Require insurers offering such renewals to ensure consumers are informed about their options. Specifically, insurers offering these renewals must inform all consumers who either already have or will receive cancellation letters about the protections their renewed plan will not include and how they can learn about the new options available to them through the Marketplaces which will offer better protections and possible financial assistance.

To protect against the potential impacts this change will have on premiums, HHS will adjust the temporary risk corridor program which is designed to stabilize premiums as changes are implemented. Whether an individual can keep their current plan will also depend on their insurance company and State insurance commissioner '' but today's action means that it will no longer be implementation of the law that is forcing them to buy a new plan. Turnover is high in the individual market, with 50 to 67 percent of enrollees staying for a year or less. This means that the number of people in these bare-bones policies will decrease over time. As such, this action provides a smoother transition in a market that's generally used as a bridge by most consumers. And, this action will not allow these older plans to be sold to new customers in 2014, which would undermine the Marketplace and drive up premiums for millions of hard-working Americans. In short, this administration solution will give consumers more information and choices, including keeping their old plans. As he has said since he signed the bill into law, the President is willing to work with members of Congress in either party on good-faith, constructive solutions that strengthen the law by pursuing the same goals as this Administrative action and do not seek to undermine or repeal the law as a whole.

Health Law Rollout's Stumbles Draw Parallels to Bush's Hurricane Response - NYTimes.com

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:34

WASHINGTON '-- Barack Obama won the presidency by exploiting a political environment that devoured George W. Bush in a second term plagued by sinking credibility, failed legislative battles, fractured world relations and revolts inside his own party.

President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.

But unlike Mr. Bush, who faced confrontational but occasionally cooperative Democrats, Mr. Obama is battling a Republican opposition that has refused to open the door to any legislative fixes to the health care law and has blocked him at virtually every turn. A contrite-sounding Mr. Obama repeatedly blamed himself on Thursday for the failed health care rollout, which he acknowledged had thrust difficult burdens on his political allies and hurt Americans' trust in him.

''It's legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general,'' Mr. Obama said. The president did not admit to misleading people about whether they could keep their insurance, but again expressed regret that his assurances turned out to be wrong.

Video | Selections From Obama on Health Care President Obama announced a fix to his signature health care law that will allow existing customers to keep their insurance plans.

''To those Americans, I hear you loud and clear,'' Mr. Obama said as he announced changes intended to allow some people to keep their insurance.

But earning back the confidence of Americans, as he pledged to do, will require Mr. Obama to right more than just the health care law. At home, his immigration overhaul is headed for indefinite delay, and new budget and debt fights loom. Overseas, revelations of spying by the National Security Agency have infuriated American allies, and negotiations over Iran's nuclear arsenal have set off bipartisan criticism.

For the first time in Mr. Obama's presidency, surveys suggest that his reserve of good will among the public is running dry. Two polls in recent weeks have reported that a majority of Americans no longer trust the president or believe that he is being honest with them.

''When you start losing the trust and confidence, not only of Congress, but the American people, that makes it even more difficult,'' said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. ''You can work yourself out. But you have to be sincere, and you have to be honest.''

The difficulties have put Mr. Obama on the defensive at exactly the moment he might have seized political advantage in a dysfunctional Washington. If not for the health care disaster, the two-week shutdown of the government last month would have been an opportunity for Mr. Obama to sharpen the contrast with Republicans. Democratic lawmakers expressed growing frustration on Thursday with the opportunities the party had missed to hammer home the ideological differences between the two parties. The lawmakers say there is intensifying anxiety within the Democratic caucus that the poor execution of the health care law could bleed into their 2014 re-election campaigns.

Republicans readily made the Hurricane Katrina comparison. ''The echoes to the fall of 2005 are really eerie,'' said Peter D. Feaver, a top national security official in Mr. Bush's second term. ''Katrina, which is shorthand for bungled administration policy, matches to the rollout of the website.'' Looking back, he said, ''we can see that some of the things that we hoped were temporary or just blips turned out to be more systemic from a political sense. It's a fair question of whether that's happening to President Obama.''

The president's top aides vehemently reject the comparison of Mr. Obama's fifth year in office to the latter half of Mr. Bush's second term. They say Americans lost confidence in Mr. Bush because of his administration's ineptitude on Hurricane Katrina and its execution of the war in Iraq, while Mr. Obama is struggling to extend health care to millions of people who do not have it. Those are very different issues, they said.

''I'm always very leery of these apocalyptic predictions,'' said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama.

Senior White House officials are nonetheless in crisis mode over the failure so far of what was supposed to be the president's most significant legislative achievement. ''We get that it is a big deal for him, for the law, for the Democrats who voted for him,'' said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director. ''We are taking it deathly seriously.''

Some Democrats are warning their colleagues against a rush to count Mr. Obama out prematurely. Steve Elmendorf, who was an influential Democratic aide on Capitol Hill in President Bill Clinton's second term, insisted that Mr. Obama would recover and thrive, much as Mr. Clinton did.

That message was echoed in a memo that Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York, distributed to his colleagues during a caucus meeting on Wednesday. In the memo, Mr. Israel, who is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said coming clashes with Republicans over the budget and the debt would once again play to the strengths of Democratic candidates.

In an interview, Mr. Israel said that he was confident that the administration would be able to put Mr. Obama's current troubles behind it. ''The website will get fixed,'' Mr. Israel said. ''The issue with insurance policies has been addressed.''

Still, the president's own words on Thursday betrayed a realization inside the White House that for all his travails over the last five years, this situation could be different.

Never before has Mr. Obama been as hard on himself and his staff in describing failures of both policy and politics. He repeatedly apologized and said that the criticism of the health care rollout was more justified than criticism of him in the past.

''There were times I thought we got slapped around unjustly,'' the president said. ''This one is deserved. It's on us.''

But speaking to steelworkers later in the day in Cleveland, Mr. Obama was combative. ''We are not going to gut this law,'' he said, adding that to ''those who say they are opposed to it and can't offer a solution, we'll push back.''

Christopher Johnston contributed reporting from Cleveland.

Correction: November 15, 2013

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misstated when President Obama spoke to steelworkers in Cleveland. It was Thursday, not Wednesday.

California Shuts Down Sites Mimicking State Insurance Marketplace - NYTimes.com

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 16:29

LOS ANGELES'--The California attorney general's office has shut down 10 websites that mimicked state's official health insurance marketplace, the attorney general, Kamala Harris, announced Wednesday.

''These websites fraudulently imitated Covered California in order to lure consumers away from plans that provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,'' Ms. Harris said in a prepared statement. ''My office will continue to investigate and shut down these kinds of sites.''

While not without its own hiccups, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been smoother in California than in many other parts of the country. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, enrolled more people in private healthcare plans during the first month of open enrollment than any other state health exchange or the beleaguered federal marketplace, which serves 36 states.

Ms. Harris's announcement on Wednesday was the latest example of state officials in California, where Democrats hold all statewide offices, enthusiastically pushing Californians to buy healthcare plans on the state's exchange.

''I urge Californians to avoid healthcare scams by visiting coveredca.com,'' Ms. Harris said.

The attorney general's office began investigating websites that imitated Covered California in September.

The sites all used domain names similar to coveredca.com, including coveredcalifornia.com and californiabenefitexchange.com, and they used phrases like ''Get Covered'' and ''Covered California'' to attract consumers, according to the attorney general's office. However, the sites were operated by private health insurance brokers not affiliated with the state's official exchange.

The California Affordable Care Act prohibits entities from claiming to provide services on behalf of Covered California without a valid agreement with the state exchange. Multiple website operators were sent cease and desist orders, demanding they either shut the sites down, or redirect traffic to the official Covered California website, and ten operators have now been shut down, according to the attorney general's office.

In urging residents to visit the state exchange, Ms. Harris warned that health insurance plans sold outside the official exchange before Jan. 1, 2014, would not qualify for federal subsidies, and would not have the consumer protections guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act.

A Closer Look at the Reinsurance Fee - NYTimes.com

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 17:25

Though a tax on medical devices has been a point of contention in the negotiations over the fiscal standoff, the Senate proposal that would end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit is likely to include instead a one-year delay of another tax associated with the Affordable Care Act '-- the so-called reinsurance tax, which employers pay.

The reinsurance tax is one of several measures intended to stabilize premiums in the individual insurance market as major provisions of the health care law take effect in January. The fees, to be charged from 2014 to 2016, will provide money to insurers that incur high claims for consumers in the individual insurance market, both inside and outside the new exchanges, or marketplaces. Insurers are apprehensive that some of their new customers, having been uninsured for years, will have costly existing conditions.

The fees are to be paid by insurers in the individual, small group and large group markets, as well as by employers that serve as their own insurers.

A delay in the implementation of the tax is popular with both employers and labor unions, many of which provide health coverage to members, because it would put off significant new costs.

The government set the fee for 2014 at $63 per covered life, or $5.25 a month. Insurers and some self-insured employers may have to pay not only for subscribers and employees, but also for spouses and children who are covered.

The total amount of fees to be collected over three years is $25 billion. Of that amount, $20 billion will go to the reinsurance program and $5 billion to the Treasury.

''The primary purpose of the reinsurance program is to stabilize premiums in the individual market from 2014 through 2016,'' the Obama administration said when it proposed the rules in December 2012. ''The reinsurance program is designed to protect against issuers' potential perceived need to raise premiums due to the implementation of the 2014 market reform rules, specifically guaranteed availability.''

The tax, the administration said, should alleviate the concerns of insurance companies about the risk of ''high-cost claims from newly insured individuals.''

LiveLeak.com - Obamacare: New rule may remove reinsurance fee for unions. Radioviceonline.com

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Fri, 15 Nov 2013 17:31

Obamacare: New rule may remove reinsurance fee for unions. Radioviceonline.com

A provision in Obamacare would collect a fee from health insurance companies and third-party administrators (TPAs) of administrative services only (ASO a.k.a. self-insured) group health plans, to fund a reinsurance program to help ''stabilize'' premiums available through the exchanges. A significant number of unions are self-insured. Unions were pissed they had to pay this fee of between $60 and $80 per insured (now said to start at $63 and reduce in following years), and as recently as last week were demanding President Obama change the law. Obama caved.

I thought we had to suck it up and the law was the law? It's ''settled'' is it not? From the NY Post, with a hat tip to John Nolte at Big Government.

The Obama administration sneaked in a rule that would let some labor unions off the hook for an ObamaCare tax.

After publicly rejecting the unions' request for an exemption, the Department of Health and Human Services last week quietly gave the unions a pass on what would have been a massive tax hit.

The tax, known as the reinsurance fee, requires self-insured organizations, such as unions and some large companies, to pay $63 for each covered member and an additional $63 for each additional family member on a health plan.

The fee was expected to raise $25 billion over three years, with the funds going to insurance companies to offset the cost of covering pre-existing conditions and other mandatory benefits.

Another friggin' back-door waiver deal. The first year (2014) they were to pay $63, then pay $42 in 2015 and $26 in 2016. After that, they said the reinsurance fee '' designed as a start-up tax to help get things going '' would go away after three payments. It is certainly true this waiver may not be exclusive to unions. More from Kaiser Health News.

Weeks after denying labor's request to give union members access to health-law subsidies, the Obama administration is signaling it intends to exempt some union plans from one of the law's substantial taxes.

Buried in rules issued last week is the disclosure that the administration will propose exempting ''certain self-insured, self-administered plans'' from the law's temporary reinsurance fee in 2015 and 2016.

That's a description that applies to many Taft-Hartley union plans acting as their own insurance company and claims processor, said Edward Fensholt, a senior vice president at Lockton Cos., a large insurance broker.

You'll only see the section of the Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 210 released on Oct. 30 referenced right here at RVO. My emphasis added.

C. Part 153'--Standards Related to Reinsurance, Risk Corridors, and Risk Adjustment Under the Affordable Care Act

In the proposed rule, we proposed certain provisions related to program integrity for State-operated risk adjustment and reinsurance programs, including provisions governing reporting requirements and restricting the use of reinsurance funds for administrative expenses. In addition, we proposed record retention standards for States operating risk adjustment, for contributing entities, and for reinsurance-eligible plans when HHS operates reinsurance on behalf of a State. We intend to propose additional standards related to the oversight of the premium stabilization programs in future regulations and guidance.

We also note that, to alleviate the upfront burden of the reinsurance contributions, we intend to propose in future rulemaking to collect reinsurance contributions in two installments'--the reinsurance contributions for reinsurance payments and administrative expenses would be collected at the beginning of the calendar year following the applicable benefit year, and the contributions for payments to the U.S. Treasury would be collected at the end of the calendar year following the applicable benefit year. We also intend to propose in future rulemaking to exempt certain self-insured, self-administered plans from the requirement to make reinsurance contributions for the 2015 and 2016 benefit years.

What do they mean by certain self-insured, self-administered plans? Will some get the deal and others not? Even though the law was passed forty-three months ago, we still don't know what's in it.

War on Ammo

EPA Closure of Last Lead Smelting Plant to Impact Ammunition Production

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 08:14

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not content to infringe on property rights; recent actions taken against the country's last lead smelting facility will affect the right to keep and bear arms, as well, by substantially impacting the production of ammunition. As of December 31, 2013, the lead refining plant will close for good.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

About 145 employees of the Doe Run lead smelter [in Herculaneum, Missouri] learned they will lose their jobs at the end of December because of the plant's closure, the Doe Run Co. said Wednesday. An additional 73 contractor jobs also will be eliminated.

The job cuts were expected. The plant, which has operated for more than a century and is the lone remaining lead smelter in the United States, announced in 2010 that it will cease operations at the end of this year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the company ''made a business decision'' to shut down the smelter instead of installing pollution control technologies needed to reduce sulfur dioxide and lead emissions as required by the Clean Air Act.

That all sounds so very sterile, but the truth of the matter is that in shuttering this plant, the Obama administration has taken yet another unconstitutional step, one that will severely impinge on the nation's ammunition manufacturing capability. Why would the Doe Run Company, the owners of the Missouri lead smelting facility, agree to being run out of business by the EPA? One word: extortion.

In a document published on its website, the EPA explains that in order for Doe Run to continue its operations, the company would have to agree to pay ''$65 million to correct violations of several environmental laws at 10 of its lead mining, milling and smelting facilities in southeast Missouri. The settlement also requires the company to pay a $7 million civil penalty.''

In a statement to the press, Doe Run said the fine and the required upgrades to its facilities were ''too financially risky.''

The effect on the right to keep and bear arms is obvious. As explained by the National Rifle Association (NRA):

The Herculaneum smelter is currently the only smelter in the United States which can produce lead bullion from raw lead ore that is mined nearby in Missouri's extensive lead deposits, giving the smelter its ''primary'' designation. The lead bullion produced in Herculaneum is then sold to lead product producers, including ammunition manufacturers for use in conventional ammunition components such as projectiles, projectile cores, and primers. Several ''secondary'' smelters, where lead is recycled from products such as lead acid batteries or spent ammunition components, still operate in the United States.

Without ammunition, a gun is just a club. The government knows this, and in light of the ongoing project of arming federal agencies to the teeth with millions of rounds of ammunition and military-grade weapons and vehicles, the EPA's closing of the Doe Run plant, although not a direct assault on the right to keep and bear arms, can be seen as another step toward civilian disarmament.

While a few other media outlets have reported on the closure, none has connected this dot to a couple of others in the overall plan to leave Americans without weapons and ammunition.

First, the EPA's closing of the country's last lead smelting facility follows close on the heels (within a little over a month) of Secretary of State John Kerry's signing of the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) ''on behalf of President Barack Obama and the people of the United States.''

Article 3 of that agreement outlaws the buying, selling, trading, or transferring by civilians of all ''ammunition/munitions fired, launched or delivered by the conventional arms.''

By making it impossible to manufacture ammunition, it becomes impossible for civilians to own it. Mind you, such prohibitions do not apply to government. In fact, under the Arms Trade Treaty, the national governments of member countries are given monopoly control of the entire ammunition stockpile of that country.

Another dot not being identified by other outlets reporting on the Doe Run story is the relationship of the closure to another multinational agreement: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

What does the United States' membership in the TPP have to do with the EPA's forced closure of a lead smelting plant '-- a plant, while not critical to the manufacture of ammunition, certainly important to that crucial function?

Two of the countries from which the United States will now be importing lead are Peru and Australia '-- two members of the 13-nation bloc participating in the TPP.

The third exporter that the United States will soon rely on for the lead necessary to make ammunition? China. Although China isn't currently negotiating with the other Pacific Rim countries in establishing the TPP, on November 1, the Chinese state-run media reported:

China and the United States strongly intend to engage each other in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a "high-standard" trade agreement involving the US and other countries including Japan and Australia, according to insiders close to both governments.

China's leaders see entering into regional trade and agreements as an opportunity for the nation to pursue market-oriented reform and transform its economic development pattern.

Those goals will be high on the agenda next week when the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China convenes in Beijing.

"I was informed by high-level US officials recently that the US side hasn't meant to exclude China from the TPP trade arrangement," said Long Yongtu, who was China's chief negotiator for its entry into the World Trade Organization.

Long commented on Friday at the start of a two-day international forum on emerging economies, which was organized by the China Institute for Reform and Development.

"The Chinese side is also taking an active interest in the TPP. When it's ready, we are going to launch negotiations with the US," Long added.

In Novermber 2011, President Obama tipped his hand in this high-stakes game of trade talks when he told Chinese media, ''Now, if China says, we want to consult with you about being part of this [the TPP] as well, we welcome that.''

Connect those dots and the picture gets clearer: The Obama administration will stop at nothing to absolutely abolish the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The means to this end are mounting: first, the flurry of executive orders unconstitutionally infringing on that right; second, the signing of a UN treaty explicitly calling for the disarmament of civilians, including the restriction on the purchase of ammunition; third, although the shutdown of domestic lead smelting capacity does not signal the end of domestic production of ammunition, it does indirectly force Americans to turn to fellow members of the unconstitutional sovereignty-stealing Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as to communist China for a key component of ammunition manufacturing.

There is still a way for Americans determined to preserve the right to keep and bear arms to fight back against the federal assault.

Congress must be called upon to immediately defund the EPA and repeal the act that created it, as well as to refuse to ratify any treaty '-- the Arms Trade Treaty and the Trans-Pacific Partnership '-- that infringes on the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Once these basic rights are surrendered to unelected, unaccountable international bodies, those rights will be regarded as fungible and revocable at the will of global bureaucrats bent on finally eliminating the Constitution.

Joe A. Wolverton, II, J.D. is a correspondent for The New American and travels frequently nationwide speaking on topics of nullification, the NDAA, and the surveillance state. He is the host of The New American Review radio show that is simulcast on YouTube every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @TNAJoeWolverton and he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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EPA Shutting Down Last-standing U.S. Primary Lead Smelter

Drone Nation

2 injured when drone malfunctions, crashes into Navy ship - CNN.com

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 13:15

From Joe Sutton, CNN

updated 4:51 AM EST, Sun November 17, 2013

The USS Chancellorsville was testing combat weapons system off the coast of Southern California when the accident occurred.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

The drone was being used to test the ship's radar trackingThe soldiers were treated for minor burns(CNN) -- Two sailors were hurt when a drone malfunctioned and crashed into a guided missile cruiser off the coast of Southern California.

The sailors were treated for minor burns in the Saturday afternoon incident, said Lt. Lenaya Rotklein of the U.S. Third Fleet.

The ship, the USS Chancellorsville, was testing combat weapons system off the coast of Point Mugu.

The drone was being used to test the ship's radar tracking when it malfunctioned, veered out of control and struck the cruiser, she said.

The ship suffered some damage and will return to San Diego for assessment.

The Navy is investigating the cause of the malfunction.

Hillary 2016

Secret Service agents accused of sexual misconduct in 17 countries

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Sun, 17 Nov 2013 15:06

Published time: November 15, 2013 21:12AFP Photo / Tim Sloan

U.S. Secret Service agents and supervisors have allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct in 17 different countries over the past few years, according to the Washington Post.

Senator Ronald H. Johnson (R-Wis.), member of the Homeland Security subcommittee, told the newspaper that whistleblowers with knowledge of this behavior have come forward and notified lawmakers about the conduct. Johnson added that the information directly contradicts the agency's claim that it does not tolerate sexual misconduct.

The senator did not detail any of the allegations by whistleblowers, but ''two people briefed on the accounts'' told the Post they include both agents and managers hiring prostitutes and visiting brothels while overseas. One of the sources also claimed that the Secret Service's senior management knew about the behavior and did not stop it.

Specifically, one whistleblower detailed an incident in which an agency supervisor had to stay behind in Thailand in order to look for an agent that was eventually found, intoxicated, at a local brothel. He was transferred back to the United States at additional expense, but was not disciplined.

The allegations come just one day after reports revealed two Secret Service agents '' Ignacio Zamora, Jr. and Timothy Barraclough '' were removed from President Obama's personal security detail, the agency's top post, for sending sexually suggestive emails to a female subordinate. These emails were discovered through an internal investigation, triggered by Zamora's attempts to re-enter the hotel room of a woman after he claimed he had accidentally left a bullet with her.

What's more, Zamora himself was in charge of conducting the internal investigation of a prostitution scandal that rocked the agency last year as it prepared for Obama's trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Twelve agents were implicated in the incident, nine of which have either been removed from their post, resigned, or retired.

An inspector general report on that event is scheduled to be released in the coming weeks, but these new allegations of misconduct have led Johnson and Republican House Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), the chairman of the national security subcommittee of the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform, to pen a letter asking why the it hasn't been made available sooner. They both stated that the report should've been complete ''within weeks'' of the scandal occurring.

In a separate statement, Johnson also questioned whether or not the report will be comprehensive enough, saying the Department for Homeland Security has been too easygoing with the Secret Service in the past.

Agenda 21

Unintended consequences: US ethanol revolution causes 'ecological disaster'

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Source: WT news feed

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 15:06

Published time: November 12, 2013 19:15Edited time: November 13, 2013 08:35John Moore / Getty Images / AFP

A new investigation has revealed that the United States' ethanol mandate is severely harming the environment without producing enough tangible benefits.

Since the Obama administration began implementing the ethanol mandate '' requiring a certain level of the biofuel to be added to the gasoline supply '' the Associated Press found that the damage done by the program has dwarfed any suspected benefits, many of which failed to materialize in the first place.

Since President Obama took office, roughly five million acres of land set aside for conservation have been lost in the drive to harvest more corn for ethanol, the investigation found. Farmers have plowed into land previously unused for farming, releasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the air that would take native plants decades to reduce naturally.

Billons of pounds of fertilizer were also used on land, some of which has leaked into drinking water, rivers, and has expanded the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone, which can no longer support life.

"This is an ecological disaster," said Craig Cox with the Environmental Working Group to the AP. Cox's group, once a White House ally, now opposes the administration's ethanol policies.

The effectiveness of ethanol as a reducer of carbon dioxide emissions has also been greatly exaggerated, according to the investigation, making it unknown whether or not ethanol could ever be improved enough to help combat the effects of global warming. On top of this, the price of corn has more than doubled since 2010.

As a result, the ethanol industry has come under fire from a surprising coalition of oil companies who oppose the mandate and green groups who consider corn-based ethanol to be a net harm to the environment.

The ethanol industry was quick to hit back at the AP investigation, however. "There's probably more truth in this week's National Enquirer than there is in the AP story," said the Renewable Fuels Association's Geoff Cooper on a press call, according to the National Journal.

The industry denies that the ethanol mandate is the root cause of conservation land loss, and said the data showing more corn going into fuel than food in 2010 is misleading.

For now, at least, the Obama administration is standing behind the policy, partly to avoid a legislative battle with the agriculture lobby, and partly because it believes that endorsing corn-based ethanol will promote the development of biofuels that are ultimately much cleaner and more efficient.

"That is what you give up if you don't recognize that renewable fuels have some place here," Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy said to the AP. "All renewable fuels are not corn ethanol."

Regardless, the tangible benefits of ethanol have become low enough that the EPA is set to lower the amount of ethanol required in the gas supply. Critics of the mandate are now suggesting the government scrap it entirely, while the Washington Post also published a story today, headlined ''Time to kill the corn ethanol mandate.''

Though the ethanol mandate was signed into law by President George W. Bush before his second term ended, implementation fell to the incoming Obama administration. The EPA was skeptical from the outset, due to concern that planting and harvesting so much corn would release enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to make the benefits of ethanol uncertain at best.

"I don't remember anybody having great passion for this," Bob Sussman, who worked on Obama's transition team and recently retired as EPA's senior policy counsel, said to the AP. "I don't have a lot of personal enthusiasm for the program."

With support from the Department of Agriculture and some of Obama's senior advisers, however, the program went ahead. As a result of inefficient regulations and poor predictions regarding the biofuel's viability as green energy, Obama officials have realized that the ethanol mandate is inadequate policy. Obama himself did not even refer to ethanol in his last major speech on the environment, though whether any action is taken outside of lowering the ethanol requirement for gas remains to be seen.

2TTH

Sen. Inhofe's son killed in plane crash, Pentagon says - U.S. - Stripes

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Tue, 12 Nov 2013 14:45

OKLAHOMA CITY '-- The U.S. Secretary of Defense on Monday confirmed the death of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's son, 52-year-old Dr. Perry Inhofe, who was killed in a weekend plane crash in northeast Oklahoma.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "was informed of Sen. Inhofe's son's death."

Perry Inhofe, an orthopedic surgeon, died when the small plane he was piloting crashed Sunday crash near Owasso, a Tulsa suburb.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Jim and Kay and their family as they mourn this terrible loss," Hagel said in a statement Monday. He added that the entire Department of Defense supports the Inhofe family and has "enduring appreciation for all they do on behalf of our military."

Perry Inhofe, who worked at Central States Orthopedics in Tulsa, was one of four children of Oklahoma's senior U.S. senator. He earned his undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1984 and graduated from medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, according to the clinic's website. Telephone messages left Monday at Inhofe's clinic weren't immediately returned.

The married father lived in Tulsa.

The multiengine plane was headed to Tulsa International Airport when it crashed shortly before 4 p.m. on Sunday about 5 miles north of the airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane had taken off from Salina, Kan.

Jake Bray told the Tulsa World newspaper that he saw the crash from about 400 yards away, saying one propeller appeared to be out before "it started spiraling out of control and it hit the ground."

Jim Inhofe, 79, has been a pilot for more than 50 years and owns several planes. The Republican is known for flying to campaign stops across the state.

In an interview earlier this year with General Aviation News, the senator said he taught his son Perry to fly in the family's 1954 Grumman Tiger and that the tradition was passed on to Perry Inhofe's 16-year-old son, Cole, who made his first landing in September at an air show in Wisconsin.

A tail number provided by the National Transportation and Safety Board shows that the plane Perry Inhofe was flying Sunday was a 1974 Mitsubishi MU-2B-25, a fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft. The same model has come under increased scrutiny in recent years from the FAA after statistics showed a rising rate of accidents involving the plane. As a result, the agency developed a new comprehensive standardized pilot training program for the aircraft in 2008.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a statement Monday night that he extends "sincere condolences" to Sen. Inhofe, his wife and the rest of the family.

"There is no greater heartbreak for a parent than the loss of a child," he said.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

Sen. Jim Inhofe's son, Perry Inhofe, killed in plane crash, according to sources - Owasso - TulsaWorld

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Tue, 12 Nov 2013 16:57

2 imagesAn airplane crash near 8800 block of East 98th Street North in Owasso Nov. 10, 2013. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

By JARREL WADE, KENDRICK MARSHALL and DYLAN GOFORTH World Staff Writers|Updated 20 hours ago

OWASSO '-- Dr. Perry Inhofe, the son of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, died in a fiery plane crash near Owasso on Sunday, according to multiple sources who asked not to be identified.

Neither law enforcement sources nor the Senator's office would confirm or deny Perry Inhofe's death on Monday.

Other sources, however, including family friends and government officials, said Perry Inhofe died in the crash.

Perry Dyson Inhofe would have celebrated his 52nd birthday on Monday.

The plane that crashed Sunday is a Mitsubishi MU-2B-25 twin turboprop that was built in 1974, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

A National Transportation Safety Board briefing Monday evening confirmed that one person was on board and died in the wreck.

Officials said the post-crash fire has slowed the state Medical Examiner's Office's attempts to positively identify the pilot.

The Medical Examiner's Office is working with the ''presumed'' pilot's family ''to assist in expediting that process,'' said Aaron Sauer, an NTSB aviation investigator.

The fire consumed a majority of the aircraft, he said. Despite the blaze, investigators are confident that they can retrieve the necessary information to determine the cause of the crash, Sauer said.

''It's certainly too soon to speculate on any type of cause,'' he said Monday.

Investigators will determine the cause by looking at three things, Sauer said: man, machine and environment.

Questions about the pilot that will be considered include ''What is his training? What is his experience? What is his background?'' Sauer said.

Perry Inhofe, an orthopedic surgeon, was a licensed pilot and flight instructor, according to FAA records.

Federal Aviation Administration records show transaction receipts that indicate that his company, Anasazi Winds LLC, recently bought the aircraft from a company in Utah.

On Monday morning, the World attempted to call the Utah company's owner, Joseph L. Timmons. A woman who answered confirmed that Timmons had sold the plane in September.

Records indicate that the plane was one of at least two registered to Perry Inhofe's company.

Several people witnessed the crash, and the plane was seen burning on the ground after it went down about 3:40 p.m. Sunday in a heavily wooded area near the 8800 block of East 98th Street North. Smoke from the crash was visible from miles away.

According to FlightAware, a flight tracking website, the plane took off from Salina, Kan., and was en route to Tulsa International Airport on a 43-minute flight.

The plane had been traveling at speeds in excess of 300 mph before decelerating at 3:43 p.m. According to FlightAware, the plane's speed dropped to 98 mph at 3:44 p.m. In the final recorded data, the plane was flying south at 110 mph at 3:50 p.m. at an altitude of 1,100 feet.

The flight first deviated from its south and southeast direction at 3:44 p.m., according to FlightAware.

The plane headed northeast and then west at 3:45, increasing its speed to 117 mph.

The final five entries FlightAware reports are between 3:45 and 3:50 p.m. and indicate that the plane remained traveling at a speed of 110 mph at an altitude of 1,100 feet.

The aircraft's most recent flights before Sunday were Sept. 15, Sept. 12 (two flights), Aug. 21 and Aug. 19, according to FlightAware.

The Sept. 15 flight was from Salt Lake City, where the previous owners lived, to Tulsa International Airport. It is unclear from the records how the plane got from Tulsa to Salina before Sunday's crash.

Justin Allison of Tulsa was flying a plane minutes behind the one that crashed and said he heard air traffic controllers report that a plane in front of him had experienced engine failure.

Allison said he, his wife and their 10½-week-old child were 90 seconds from landing when officials directed them to elevate from 2,500 feet to 5,000 feet and remain in a holding pattern.

''I couldn't hear the pilot, but I heard the tower declare an emergency for him, which is a red-flag raiser, because usually the pilot will declare the emergency,'' Allison said. ''It makes you wonder what was going on in that cabin.''

General Aviation News, a Wisconsin-based publication, reported in September that three generations of Inhofes '-- Jim Inhofe, Perry Inhofe, and Cole Inhofe '-- were pilots.

FAA records show that Perry Coleman ''Cole'' Inhofe, the son of Perry Inhofe, received his student pilot license in June.

Perry Inhofe graduated from Duke University in 1984 and attended medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, according to the Oklahoma Surgical Hospital's website. He is a hand surgeon with Central States Orthopedics in Tulsa, according to the organization's website.

On the website, a video shows Perry Inhofe explaining how he grew interested in his profession.

''At the time, I wasn't interested in medicine. I was an engineer. I liked electrical engineering,'' Inhofe said about his undergraduate work in the video. ''While I enjoyed most subjects that I studied (in medical school), my interests remained with engineering and with the mechanical applications to the structure of the body.''

Jim Inhofe serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement Monday, saying: ''I was deeply saddened to learn that Senator Jim Inhofe's son Perry was killed in a plane crash this weekend. My thoughts and prayers are with Jim and (his wife) Kay and their family as they mourn this terrible loss.''

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett also sent a statement of condolences to the Inhofe family Monday afternoon.

''It is with deep sorrow that we give our condolences to Tulsa's former Mayor Jim Inhofe and his family,'' Bartlett said in a statement. ''Dr. Perry Inhofe was a man of great integrity, skilled as a surgeon, and an example for all of us.''

VIDEOS

VIDEO-TYPHOON HAIYAN | The White House

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Archived Version

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 08:32

On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan'--known as Yolanda in the Philippines'--made landfall in the central Philippines, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that have resulted in flooding, landslides, and widespread damage.

According to USAID, the storm affected an estimated 9.7 million people, and damaged or destroyed approximately 23,200 houses, as well as public infrastructure and agricultural land. Those numbers are expected to increase in the coming days as more information becomes available.

The best way to help those affected by disasters is to make a cash donation to reputable relief and charitable organizations working in the disaster zone.

Contact the Center for International Disaster Information to learn where to donateOn the web: www.cidi.org

By phone: 202-821-1999

Visit the following sites for lists of organizations responding to Typhoon Haiyan.

DISASTER RESPONSE UPDATES

As President Obama said in a statement this weekend, the U.S. government is providing $20 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to benefit typhoon-affected populations, including the provision of emergency shelter, food assistance, relief commodities, and water, sanitation, and hygiene support. USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team and a corresponding Washington, D.C.- based Response Management Team, and other humanitarian groups including the International Red Cross and the United Nations have also deployed response teams.

HighlightsFact Sheet: Typhoon Haiyan by the numbersGet information on the storm's impact as well as response and recovery efforts.

See a map of affected areasLearn more about which parts of the Philippines were affected by Typhoon Haiyan

VIDEO- TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data - YouTube

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VIDEO- EP LIBE #EPinquiry 11 November 2013 - YouTube

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