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Scripted Fat Talk

Executive Producers: James Doebbler, Sir Gene Baron de Marriott Sherrif of Texas, Sir Hank, Sir Dr. Sharkey

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WHITE HOUSE VIDEO MESSAGE: Congress must act to extend unemployment insurance

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Source: White Press Office Feed

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 02:22


Office of the Press Secretary


EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:00 AM ET, SATURDAY, December 21, 2013

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO MESSAGE: Congress must act to extend unemployment insurance

Washington, DC '-- In this week's message, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez discussed the importance of extending unemployment insurance for a million Americans, including many Latinos, who may lose a vital source of income only a few days after Christmas.

The audio of the address and video of the message is available online HERE.

Remarks bySecretary of Labor Tom Perez

Spanish Weekly Address

The White House

December 21, 2013

Hi, everybody.

This week, Congress finished up some important work before heading home for the holidays.

For the first time in years, both parties came together and passed a Budget. It clears the path for critical investments in the things that grow our economy and strengthen our middle class. And it will keep reducing our deficits.

There are signs of hope that we put an end to the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making and actually work together to get things done.

And that's important. Because there's plenty of work to do.

Right now, because Congress failed to act before leaving on vacation, more than one million Americans, including many Latinos, may lose a vital source of income only a few days after Christmas.

Instead of punishing these families when they need it the least, Congress should first restore that lifeline immediately, then put their entire focus on creating more good jobs that pay good wages. It is critical not to take unemployment insurance away from hard-working Latinos.

That's what the President and the Administration will be focused on next year. Growing the economy. Expanding opportunity. Building an America that offers everyone who works hard the chance to get ahead, and every child a fair shot at success. And for the passage of immigration reform.

Thank you. Have a great weekend and a very Merry Christmas.



Glenn Greenwald to deliver keynote at 30C3 hacker conference | ZDNet

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 12:51

Summary: The world's longest-running hacker conference Chaos Communication Congress opens its 30th year with a keynote from Glenn Greenwald this week in Hamburg, Germany. 30C3 has this, and so much more in store.

The world's oldest and largest global hacker organization The Chaos Computer Club (CCC) has announced it will open next week's conference, the 30th Chaos Communication Congress (30c3), with a December 27 opening keynote by Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn Greenwald's keynote tops our list of must-see talks at the legendary event. 30C3's schedule shows that the compelling keynote won't be the only explosive presentation at 30C3.

Mr. Greenwald's keynote will be webcast live on this page. If you miss it, all of 30C3's talks will be archived on the offical CCC media website. CCC's archives go online astonishingly fast.

30C3 is the 30th Chaos Communication Congress, brought to us by the Chaos Computer Club. The conference and all of its hands-on events run from December 27th to 30th, 2013 at the CCH Congress Center in Hamburg, Germany.

The conference program boasts over 130 talks from a diverse range of the world's top hackers in five tracks: Hardware and Making, Art and Beauty, Science and Engineering, Security, Safety and Politics, and Ethics and Society.

CCC explains, "The lecture programme will be augmented by numerous workshops and offerings for young hackers."

Competition to speak at this year's Congress was serious. In its blog post announcing the keynote, CCC explained that the talk lineup was whittled down from more than 360 submissions by teams of experts specific to each subject.

If you're interested, follow CCC on Twitter or the Twitter list of 30c3 speakers. Here's the index for the entire 30C3 talk shedule.

Day 1, select highlights

On the evening of December 27th, the 30C3 keynote will be delivered by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist whose work this year with the Snowden documents has changed the world's understanding of surveillance, security and the actions of the United States in spying and surveillance matters worldwide.

More interesting December 27 talks: Dispatches from Fort Meade (reporting on the secret trial of Chelsea Manning), Electronic Bank Robberies (stealing money from ATMs with malware), Hardening hardware and choosing a #goodBIOS (rejecting persistence of malicious software and tripping up the evil maid).

Day 2, select highlights

December 28: SCADA StrangeLove 2, [Google] Glass Hacks,, Hardware Attacks, Advanced ARM Exploitation, and Android Hacking, Hillbilly Tracking of Low Earth Orbit (repurposing an Inmarsat Dish with Travis Goodspeed), Extracting keys from FPGAs, OTP Tokens and Door Locks (side-channel and other attacks in practice), Disclosure DOs and DONT's from the EFF, and Jahresr¼ckblick des CCC (the annual review of the CCC).

Day 3, select highlights

December 29: CounterStrike (implementation of lawful interception), RFID Treehouse of Horror (hacking city-wide access control systems), Even More Tamagotchis Were Harmed in the Making of this Presentation, Europe, the USA and Identity Ecosystems, ID Cards in China: Your Worst Nightmare, The Exploration and Exploitation of an SD Memory Card ("This talk demonstrates a method for reverse engineering and loading code into the microcontroller within a SD memory card"), Persistent, Stealthy, Remote-controlled Dedicated Hardware Malware.

Day 4, select highlights

December 30: To Protect And Infect (targeted and untargeted surveillance research by Claudio Guarnieri and Morgan Marquis-Boire), Thwarting Evil Maid Attacks (physically unclonable functions for hardware tamper detection), Attacking HomeMatic (live hacking), Through a PRISM, Darkly (everything we know about NSA spying with the EFF), and the CCC Closing Event.


Lightning Talks, December 28-30 - short lectures any congress participant can present (though the slots are filling up fast).

Self-organized hands-on workshops, meetups and more, all four days. Includes everything! Soldering for Kids, the 30c3 queer meetup, SCADA pentesting workshops, Hammer and Tongs, copyright debates, digital cooking, cocktails, geeks and BDSM meetup, a workshop on Amending the European Parliament draft report on mass surveillance, board game geek meetup, NymRights, meetup, knitting, tea, whistleblowing, Chaoswelle Ham Radio Operators, Arduino hacking all day every day, Chaos VPN, Debugging Your Depression, and much more.


30C3 is a noncommercial event with a low entrance fee, and is made possible thanks to an army of CCC volunteers (even ones that hack Apple's Touch ID). According to CCC, 30C3's internet connectivity will be a record-breaking 100GB link made possible by donations from ISPs and network equipment vendors.

We can't wait. ZDNet will be attending talks and reporting events live from Hamburg as they happen.


Edward Snowden Says His Mission Is Accomplished

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 06:12

Six months after exposing the NSA's secret surveillance program, Edward Snowden sat down with a Washington Post reporter, and over meals of burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastries, explained that his personal mission has already been accomplished, reports Gawker.''I already won," he told the Post's Barton Gellman, one of the reporters he initially approached with the leak. "As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.''It also appears that Snowden is not anti-NSA, just bulk data collections. From Gawker:Snowden says this blind bulk data collecting is his biggest problem '-- he believes that individual targeting based on probable cause would be more appropriate.''I don't care whether you're the pope or Osama bin Laden... As long as there's an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that's fine. I don't think it's imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. Because, you have to understand, when you have access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees.''

Allowing individuate targeting is, in my book, just as bad. That will be stretched and stretched---as all government operations are.

Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission's accomplished - The Washington Post

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:20

By Barton Gellman, Published: MONDAY, DECEMBER 23, 11:02 PM ETE-mail the writer Aa MOSCOW '-- The familiar voice on the hotel room phone did not waste words.

''What time does your clock say, exactly?'' he asked.

He checked the reply against his watch and described a place to meet.

''I'll see you there,'' he said.

Edward Joseph Snowden emerged at the appointed hour, alone, blending into a light crowd of locals and tourists. He cocked his arm for a handshake, then turned his shoulder to indicate a path. Before long he had guided his visitor to a secure space out of public view.

During more than 14 hours of interviews, the first he has conducted in person since arriving here in June, Snowden did not part the curtains or step outside. Russia granted him temporary asylum on Aug. 1, but Snowden remains a target of surpassing interest to the intelligence services whose secrets he spilled on an epic scale.

Late this spring, Snowden supplied three journalists, including this one, with caches of top-secret documents from the National Security Agency, where he worked as a contractor. Dozens of revelations followed, and then hundreds, as news organizations around the world picked up the story. Congress pressed for explanations, new evidence revived old lawsuits and the Obama administration was obliged to declassify thousands of pages it had fought for years to conceal.

Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations. One of the leaked presentation slides described the agency's ''collection philosophy'' as ''Order one of everything off the menu.''

Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.

Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as ''an indoor cat'' in Russia. But he consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed.

''For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished,'' he said. ''I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.''

''All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,'' he said. ''That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.''

'Going in blind'

Snowden is an orderly thinker, with an engineer's approach to problem-solving. He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a ''graveyard of judgment,'' he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.

Toppling those walls would be a spectacular act of transgression against the norms that prevailed inside them. Someone would have to bypass security, extract the secrets, make undetected contact with journalists and provide them with enough proof to tell the stories.

The NSA's business is ''information dominance,'' the use of other people's secrets to shape events. At 29, Snowden upended the agency on its own turf.

''You recognize that you're going in blind, that there's no model,'' Snowden said, acknowledging that he had no way to know whether the public would share his views.

''But when you weigh that against the alternative, which is not to act,'' he said, ''you realize that some analysis is better than no analysis. Because even if your analysis proves to be wrong, the marketplace of ideas will bear that out. If you look at it from an engineering perspective, an iterative perspective, it's clear that you have to try something rather than do nothing.''

By his own terms, Snowden succeeded beyond plausible ambition. The NSA, accustomed to watching without being watched, faces scrutiny it has not endured since the 1970s, or perhaps ever.

The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals. The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government.

For months, Obama administration officials attacked Snowden's motives and said the work of the NSA was distorted by selective leaks and misinterpretations.

On Dec. 16, in a lawsuit that could not have gone forward without the disclosures made possible by Snowden, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA's capabilities as ''almost Orwellian'' and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.

The next day, in the Roosevelt Room, an unusual delegation of executives from old telephone companies and young Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA's intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program.

''This week is a turning point,'' said the Government Accountability Project's Jesselyn Radack, who is one of Snowden's legal advisers. ''It has been just a cascade.''

'They elected me'

On June 22, the Justice Department unsealed a criminal complaint charging Snowden with espionage and felony theft of government property. It was a dry enumeration of statutes, without a trace of the anger pulsing through Snowden's former precincts.

In the intelligence and national security establishments, Snowden is widely viewed as a reckless saboteur, and journalists abetting him little less so.

At the Aspen Security Forum in July, a four-star military officer known for his even keel seethed through one meeting alongside a reporter he knew to be in contact with Snowden. Before walking away, he turned and pointed a finger.

''We didn't have another 9/11,'' he said angrily, because intelligence enabled warfighters to find the enemy first. ''Until you've got to pull the trigger, until you've had to bury your people, you don't have a clue.''

It is commonly said of Snowden that he broke an oath of secrecy, a turn of phrase that captures a sense of betrayal. NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., among many others, have used that formula.

In his interview with The Post, Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the ­classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.

''The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,'' he said. ''That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.''

People who accuse him of disloyalty, he said, mistake his purpose.

''I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,'' he said. ''I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don't realize it.''

What entitled Snowden, now 30, to take on that responsibility?

''That whole question '-- who elected you? '-- inverts the model,'' he said. ''They elected me. The overseers.''

He named the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.

''Dianne Feinstein elected me when she asked softball questions'' in committee hearings, he said. ''Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. .'‰.'‰. The FISA court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what that court was ever intended to do. The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.''

''It wasn't that they put it on me as an individual '-- that I'm uniquely qualified, an angel descending from the heavens '-- as that they put it on someone, somewhere,'' he said. ''You have the capability, and you realize every other [person] sitting around the table has the same capability but they don't do it. So somebody has to be the first.''

'Front-page test'

Snowden grants that NSA employees by and large believe in their mission and trust the agency to handle the secrets it takes from ordinary people '-- deliberately, in the case of bulk records collection, and ''incidentally,'' when the content of American phone calls and e-mails are swept into NSA systems along with foreign targets.

But Snowden also said acceptance of the agency's operations was not universal. He began to test that proposition more than a year ago, he said, in periodic conversations with co-workers and superiors that foreshadowed his emerging plan.

Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA's Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center's regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded ''heat maps'' to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.

His colleagues were often ''astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,'' he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.

''I asked these people, 'What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?''Š'' he said. He noted that critics have accused him of bypassing internal channels of dissent. ''How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?'' he said.

By last December, Snowden was contacting reporters, although he had not yet passed along any classified information. He continued to give his colleagues the ''front-page test,'' he said, until April.

Asked about those conversations, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines sent a prepared statement to The Post: ''After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden's contention that he brought these matters to anyone's attention.''

Snowden recounted another set of conversations that he said took place three years earlier, when he was sent by the NSA's Technology Directorate to support operations at a listening post in Japan. As a system administrator, he had full access to security and auditing controls. He said he saw serious flaws with information security.

''I actually recommended they move to two-man control for administrative access back in 2009,'' he said, first to his supervisor in Japan and then to the directorate's chief of operations in the Pacific. ''Sure, a whistleblower could use these things, but so could a spy.''

That precaution, which requires a second set of credentials to perform risky operations such as copying files onto a removable drive, has been among the principal security responses to the Snowden affair.

Vines, the NSA spokeswoman, said there was no record of those conversations, either.

U.S. 'would cease to exist'

Just before releasing the documents this spring, Snowden made a final review of the risks. He had overcome what he described at the time as a ''selfish fear'' of the consequences for himself.

''I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy '-- that people won't care, that they won't want change,'' he recalled this month.

The documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had.

Internal briefing documents reveled in the ''Golden Age of Electronic Surveillance.'' Brawny cover names such as MUSCULAR, TUMULT and TURMOIL boasted of the agency's prowess.

With assistance from private communications firms, the NSA had learned to capture enormous flows of data at the speed of light from fiber-optic cables that carried Internet and telephone traffic over continents and under seas. According to one document in Snowden's cache, the agency's Special Source Operations group, which as early as 2006 was said to be ingesting ''one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds,'' had an official seal that might have been parody: an eagle with all the world's cables in its grasp.

Each year, NSA systems collected hundreds of millions of e-mail address books, hundreds of billions of cellphone location records and trillions of domestic call logs.

Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing. But vast new storage capacity and processing tools enabled the NSA to use the information to map human relationships on a planetary scale. Only this way, its leadership believed, could the NSA reach beyond its universe of known intelligence targets.

In the view of the NSA, signals intelligence, or electronic eavesdropping, was a matter of life and death, ''without which America would cease to exist as we know it,'' according to an internal presentation in the first week of October 2001 as the agency ramped up its response to the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

With stakes such as those, there was no capability the NSA believed it should leave on the table. The agency followed orders from President George W. Bush to begin domestic collection without authority from Congress and the courts. When the NSA won those authorities later, some of them under secret interpretations of laws passed by Congress between 2007 and 2012, the Obama administration went further still.

Using PRISM, the cover name for collection of user data from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and five other U.S.-based companies, the NSA could obtain all communications to or from any specified target. The companies had no choice but to comply with the government's request for data.

But the NSA could not use PRISM, which was overseen once a year by the surveillance court, for the collection of virtually all data handled by those companies. To widen its access, it teamed up with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, to break into the private fiber-optic links that connected Google and Yahoo data centers around the world.

That operation, which used the cover name MUSCULAR, tapped into U.S. company data from outside U.S. territory. The NSA, therefore, believed it did not need permission from Congress or judicial oversight. Data from hundreds of millions of U.S. accounts flowed over those Google and Yahoo links, but classified rules allowed the NSA to presume that data ingested overseas belonged to foreigners.

'Persistent threat'

Disclosure of the MUSCULAR project enraged and galvanized U.S. technology executives. They believed the NSA had lawful access to their front doors '-- and had broken down the back doors anyway.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith took to his company's blog and called the NSA an ''advanced persistent threat'' '-- the worst of all fighting words in U.S. cybersecurity circles, generally reserved for Chinese state-sponsored hackers and sophisticated criminal enterprises.

''For the industry as a whole, it caused everyone to ask whether we knew as much as we thought,'' Smith recalled in an interview. ''It underscored the fact that while people were confident that the U.S. government was complying with U.S. laws for activity within U.S. territory, perhaps there were things going on outside the United States .'‰.'‰. that made this bigger and more complicated and more disconcerting than we knew.''

They wondered, he said, whether the NSA was ''collecting proprietary information from the companies themselves.''

Led by Google and then Yahoo, one company after another announced expensive plans to encrypt its data traffic over tens of thousands of miles of cable. It was a direct '-- in some cases, explicit '-- blow to NSA collection of user data in bulk. If the NSA wanted the information, it would have to request it or circumvent the encryption one target at a time.

As these projects are completed, the Internet will become a less friendly place for the NSA to work. The agency can still collect data from virtually anyone, but collecting from everyone will be harder.

The industry's response, Smith acknowledged, was driven by a business threat. U.S. companies could not afford to be seen as candy stores for U.S. intelligence. But the principle of the thing, Smith said, ''is fundamentally about ensuring that customer data is turned over to governments pursuant to valid legal orders and in accordance with constitutional principles.''

'Warheads on foreheads'

Snowden has focused on much the same point from the beginning: Individual targeting would cure most of what he believes is wrong with the NSA.

Six months ago, a reporter asked him by encrypted e-mail why Americans would want the NSA to give up bulk data collection if that would limit a useful intelligence tool.

''I believe the cost of frank public debate about the powers of our government is less than the danger posed by allowing these powers to continue growing in secret,'' he replied, calling them ''a direct threat to democratic governance.''

In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, ''What the government wants is something they never had before,'' adding: ''They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?''

Snowden likened the NSA's powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when ''general warrants'' allowed for anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, ''is authorizing general warrants for the entire country's metadata.''

''The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,'' he said.

Technology, of course, has enabled a great deal of consumer surveillance by private companies, as well. The difference with the NSA's possession of the data, Snowden said, is that government has the power to take away life or freedom.

At the NSA, he said, ''there are people in the office who joke about, 'We put warheads on foreheads.' Twitter doesn't put warheads on foreheads.''

Privacy, as Snowden sees it, is a universal right, applicable to American and foreign surveillance alike.

''I don't care whether you're the pope or Osama bin Laden,'' he said. ''As long as there's an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that's fine. I don't think it's imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. Because, you have to understand, when you have access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees.''

'Everybody knows'

On June 29, Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union's counter­terrorism coordinator, awoke to a report in Der Spiegel that U.S. intelligence had broken into E.U. offices, including his, to implant surveillance devices.

The 56-year-old Belgian, whose work is often classified, did not consider himself naive. But he took the news personally, and more so when he heard unofficial explanations from Washington.

'''Š'Everybody knows. Everybody does' '-- Keith Alexander said that,'' de Kerchove said in an interview. ''I don't like the idea that the NSA will put bugs in my office. No. I don't like it. No. Between allies? No. I'm surprised that people find that noble.''

Comparable reactions, expressed less politely in private, accompanied revelations that the NSA had tapped the cellphones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The blowback roiled relations with both allies, among others. Rousseff canceled a state dinner with Obama in September.

When it comes to spying on allies, by Snowden's lights, the news is not always about the target.

''It's the deception of the government that's revealed,'' Snowden said, noting that the Obama administration offered false public assurances after the initial reports about NSA surveillance in Germany ''The U.S. government said: 'We follow German laws in Germany. We never target German citizens.' And then the story comes out and it's: 'What are you talking about? You're spying on the chancellor.' You just lied to the entire country, in front of Congress.''

In private, U.S. intelligence officials still maintain that spying among friends is routine for all concerned, but they are giving greater weight to the risk of getting caught.

''There are many things we do in intelligence that, if revealed, would have the potential for all kinds of blowback,'' Clapper told a House panel in October.

'They will make mistakes'

U.S. officials say it is obvious that Snowden's disclosures will do grave harm to intelligence gathering, exposing methods that adversaries will learn to avoid.

''We're seeing al-Qaeda and related groups start to look for ways to adjust how they communicate,'' said Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a former general counsel at the NSA.

Other officials, who declined to speak on the record about particulars, said they had watched some of their surveillance targets, in effect, changing channels. That evidence can be read another way, they acknowledged, given that the NSA managed to monitor the shift.

Clapper has said repeatedly in public that the leaks did great damage, but in private he has taken a more nuanced stance. A review of early damage assessments in previous espionage cases, he said in one closed-door briefing this fall, found that dire forecasts of harm were seldom borne out.

''People must communicate,'' he said, according to one participant who described the confidential meeting on the condition of anonymity. ''They will make mistakes, and we will exploit them.''

According to senior intelligence officials, two uncertainties feed their greatest concerns. One is whether Russia or China managed to take the Snowden archive from his computer, a worst-case assumption for which three officials acknowledged there is no evidence.

In a previous assignment, Snowden taught U.S. intelligence personnel how to operate securely in a ''high-threat digital environment,'' using a training scenario in which China was the designated threat. He declined to discuss the whereabouts of the files, but he said that he is confident he did not expose them to Chinese intelligence in Hong Kong. And he said he did not bring them to Russia.

''There's nothing on it,'' he said, turning his laptop screen toward his visitor. ''My hard drive is completely blank.''

The other big question is how many documents Snowden took. The NSA's incoming deputy director, Rick Ledgett, said on CBS's ''60 Minutes'' recently that the number may approach 1.7 million, a huge and unexplained spike over previous estimates. Ledgett said he would favor trying to negotiate an amnesty with Snowden in exchange for ''assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured.''

Obama's national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, later dismissed the possibility.

''The government knows where to find us if they want to have a productive conversation about resolutions that don't involve Edward Snowden behind bars,'' said the American Civil Liberties Union's Ben Wizner, the central figure on Snowden's legal team.

Some news accounts have quoted U.S. government officials as saying Snowden has arranged for the automated release of sensitive documents if he is arrested or harmed. There are strong reasons to doubt that, beginning with Snowden's insistence, to this reporter and others, that he does not want the documents published in bulk.

If Snowden were fool enough to rig a ''dead man's switch,'' confidants said, he would be inviting anyone who wants the documents to kill him.

Asked about such a mechanism in the Moscow interview, Snowden made a face and declined to reply. Later, he sent an encrypted message. ''That sounds more like a suicide switch,'' he wrote. ''It wouldn't make sense.''

'It's not about me'

By temperament and circumstance, Snowden is a reticent man, reluctant to discuss details about his personal life.

Over two days his guard never dropped, but he allowed a few fragments to emerge. He is an ''ascetic,'' he said. He lives off ramen noodles and chips. He has visitors, and many of them bring books. The books pile up, unread. The Internet is an endless library and a window on the progress of his cause.

''It has always been really difficult to get me to leave the house,'' he said. ''I just don't have a lot of needs. .'‰.'‰. Occasionally there's things to go do, things to go see, people to meet, tasks to accomplish. But it's really got to be goal-oriented, you know. Otherwise, as long as I can sit down and think and write and talk to somebody, that's more meaningful to me than going out and looking at landmarks.''

In hope of keeping focus on the NSA, Snowden has ignored attacks on himself.

''Let them say what they want,'' he said. ''It's not about me.''

Former NSA and CIA director Michael V. Hayden predicted that Snowden will waste away in Moscow as an alcoholic, like other ''defectors.'' To this, Snowden shrugged. He does not drink at all. Never has.

But Snowden knows his presence here is easy ammunition for critics. He did not choose refuge in Moscow as a final destination. He said that once the U.S. government voided his passport as he tried to change planes en route to Latin America, he had no other choice.

It would be odd if Russian authorities did not keep an eye on him, but no retinue accompanied Snowden and his visitor saw no one else nearby. Snowden neither tried to communicate furtively nor asked that his visitor do so. He has had continuous Internet access and has talked to his attorneys and to journalists daily, from his first day in the transit lounge at Sheremetyevo airport.

''There is no evidence at all for the claim that I have loyalties to Russia or China or any country other than the United States,'' he said. ''I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them.''

''If I defected at all,'' Snowden said, ''I defected from the government to the public.''

Julie Tate contributed to this report.


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Books and movies about Edward Snowden: Coming soon '-- RT USA

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 12:35

Published time: December 17, 2013 21:59Edward Snowden (AFP Photo / Wikileaks)

Dust off your eyeglasses, actors, and get ready to show talent scouts your best stoic, anti-surveillance state stare: at least three books about National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden are currently in the works, and a movie could come soon after.

Seven months ago, intelligence contractor Edward Snowden was barely known outside of the walls of his Hawaii office. Half a year later, however, his decision to leak top-secret NSA documents to the international media has transformed him into one of the biggest names in the world: Just this month he's been both the subject of a 60 Minutes report and announced as a runner-up for the 2013 TIME Person of the Year award.

But while Snowden has lived a life largely in secret since identifying himself in June as the source of those NSA leaks, his story is expected to soon be told nevertheless.

No fewer than three writers are currently working on books about Snowden and his NSA revelations, Reuters reported on Monday, and just as many major studios have said they're considering on-screen projects as well.

All three of the books reported to be on the way will come courtesy of writers who've worked with the cache of leaked documents during the last several months, including one from the legal blogger-turned-Guardian columnist who met with Snowden in Hong Kong earlier this year and was among the first to write about the top-secret NSA files.

Former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald announced previously that he is planning a book working with Snowden on one of the biggest scoops in modern journalism, and Reuters now says that two other reporters '-- Barton Gellman and Luke Harding '-- have similar projects on the way too.

Greenwald told Reuters in an email this week that his book is "about my time with Snowden in Hong Kong and reporting the story, but mostly about the surveillance state based on the documents I have (that The Guardian doesn't) and my reasons why the surveillance state is menacing.'' He announced in October that he was walking away from his job at the Guardian to take on what he called an ''once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline'' that has since been revealed to be a project spearheaded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar that will also employ journalists Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.

But unlike Greenwald, Harding does still have an active role with the Guardian, and according to Reuters he is working on a separate project that could be published at the same time as his former colleague's endeavor.

''A person familiar with the Guardian project, who asked to remain anonymous, said that at the time Greenwald left the newspaper, the two parties tentatively agreed that to ensure neither party would have a marketing advantage the books would be published simultaneously,'' Mark Hosenball wrote for the newswire.

Gellman, 53, has worked closely with several of the Snowden documents while at the Washington Post, but has walked away from his job at that outlet in the months since the first leaked NSA file was published in early June. Even before the world knew who Edward Snowden was, however, Gellman was working on a book aimed more broadly at the NSA and will reportedly parlay his newfound experiences into that effort.

"I had already started work on a book about the surveillance industrial society when Edward Snowden came my way. He has certainly enriched my reporting, but I am not racing anyone to do a quick hit on current events. My narrative will cover a broader landscape and a wider cast of characters," Gellman told Reuters.

The New York Times reported in October with news of Greenwald's project that 20th Century Fox , Sony Pictures Entertainment and cable TV network HBO had all expressed interest in taking a Snowden project from script to on-screen. As of this week, however, Greenwald says he has yet to strike a deal.


$20B-Chicago boyz-SpyCloud: Intel Agencies Look to Keep Secrets in the Ether | Danger Room |

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 21:44

Dropbox for files, Google for mail, iCloud for well, everything. Average citizens have all kinds of options for storing their information in the cloud. Now, spies want in. Soon, our nation's secrets may take on a slightly more nebulous form.

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and U.S. intelligence community, recently sunk money into a cloud-based storage company called Cleversafe. It says the platform is ''ideal for storing mission critical data by addressing the core principles of data confidentiality, integrity and availability.'' (Incidentally, those principles also spell out CIA).

This is only one of a series of new government initiatives to move into the cloud. Since last year, the administration has embraced a ''cloud first'' policy, which encourages cloud-based solutions ''whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists.'' The Pentagon is already planning its migration, and the 2011 Cloud Computing Act, expected out in a few weeks, may put in place even more incentives for investing in cloud computing options.

But the move upwards brings all sorts of security concerns, particularly for the CIA '-- which is still smarting from the recent hack of its public website. While there has been much debate over the safety of the cloud versus more traditional forms of storage, Cleversafe is confident that data will be secure with them. Which is good, because the government would love to prevent another Bradley Manning from spouting off all their secrets to WikiLeaks.

Cleversafe CEO Chris Gladwin, a Chicago software designer with a knack for cryptography, says the secure method behind his technology has been known for a long time. Originally put forward in the 1979 paper How to Share a Secret, the idea is simple: Take some data, run it through a few mathematical algorithms, and end up with a bunch of pieces, several of which can re-create the original data but are meaningless on their own.

Similarly, using a technology called ''information dispersal,'' Cleversafe takes massive amounts of data, slices it up into pieces and then sends those slices off to various locations, or ''storage nodes.'' Although the data might be in four different data centers across the country, it can be accessed in real time from a ''private cloud.'' And unlike traditional storage methods, there's no need to make several complete duplicates of the original data, which saves space and money.

There are a few other advantages to this type of storage, according to Gladwin. It's confidential, because individual slices of data can't be deciphered on their own '-- an unauthorized person would have to obtain several different data slices at once to make sense of anything at all. It's also more reliable. Even if the disks that hold those slices are corrupted, go offline or get lost, there is enough redundancy to reconstruct the whole file from just pieces. It's pretty unlikely that ten servers or disks would all fail at the same time.

In-Q-Tel is confident that Cleversafe ''will give our customers in the U.S. Intelligence Community a robust distributed-storage solution that provides the levels of unmatched reliability they require.'' Since the government's proposed IT budget allots as much as $20 billion for cloud technology, we'll likely to see others follow suit in the search for a cloud of their very own.

Photo: mnsc/Flickr; modified by Lena Groeger

Cleversafe Board of Directors | Seasoned Team of Directors

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 18:35

List of DirectorsCleversafe has a seasoned team of directors:

Christopher Galvin, Chairman, CleversafeJohn Morris, President & CEO, CleversafeChris Gladwin, Vice Chairman, CleversafePeter Barris, New Enterprise AssociatesHenry J. Feinberg, Maxim Revenue Management SolutionsMike O'Dell, New Enterprise AssociatesDennis Roberson, Illinois Institute of TechnologyChristopher Galvin, Chairman, CleversafeChristopher Galvin is Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Harrison Street Capital, LLC; Co-Founder and Chairman of Harrison Street Real Estate Capital LLC; Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of UniqueSoft Inc. a real-time software authoring services company; along with being Chairman of Cleversafe Inc.

Mr. Galvin is member of the board of MCR-Aerodyne Inc., a Harrison Street Capital LLC financed roll-up in US Department of Defense services; a member the Executive Committee of Northwestern University's Board of Trustees; the American Enterprise Institute Board, the Legion D'honneur, Tsinghua University School of Management and Economics (Beijing); Business Council (U.S.), the American Society of Corporate Executives; the Board of the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and Chair of the Rhodes Scholars selection committee for Illinois-Michigan.

Mr. Galvin's former relationships include: Chairman of NAVTEQ, the leading supplier of global digital mapping databases; Chairman and CEO of Motorola Inc.; member of the Bechtel Corporation's Board of Counselors; chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council; director of the Rand Corporation; member of the U.S. Department of Defense Board; member of the U.S. Department of Defense Science Board; advisor to the City of Tianjin, China; advisor to the CEO of Hong Kong; and advisor to the Searle Family Trusts.

Mr. Galvin co-founded The Galvin Projects in 2004, a virtual global think tank that published three books (2008-09); Harrison Street Real Estate Capital, LLC in 2005, a private equity company that today hosts $2.0B in assets under management in medical office buildings, storage, student housing, and senior housing represented in 170 properties across 31 states in U.S.; and Gore Creek Asset Management LLC in 2005, a large capital investment company utilizing 90-100 global investment managers diversified across most major asset classes.

In 2010 Mr. Galvin was featured in the Andrea Redmond book ''Comebacks: Powerful Lessons from Leaders Who Endured Setbacks and Recaptured Success on Their Terms'' which details his unplanned departure from Motorola, and how he responded.

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John Morris, President & CEO, CleversafeJohn Morris joined Cleversafe in 2013 after a thirty-year career spent growing enterprise technology businesses. Most recently serving in several roles as a member of the executive committee of Juniper Networks, as EVP of Worldwide Field Operations, he added more than a billion dollars to Juniper's top line. He also led Pay By Touch, a payments industry startup, to implement its biometric solution in thousands of retail stores and millions of consumers as its President and COO.

John started his career at IBM where, over a 23-year career, he held numerous executive general management roles including several with multi-billion dollar revenue responsibilities and various executive roles while spending four years living in the Asia-Pacific region.

John served as Chairman of the Field Council for Juniper, and as a member of the Global Marketing Council and Senior Leadership Group for IBM.

John serves on the Dean's Advisory Council for the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

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Chris Gladwin, Vice Chairman, CleversafeChris Gladwin founded Cleversafe in 2004, bringing to the company the same innovative and entrepreneurial approach that has signified his executive leadership throughout his career. Chris, who was previously the creator of the first workgroup storage server at Zenith Data Systems and was a Manager of Corporate Storage Standards at Lockheed Martin, also created and managed a number of successful new technology start-ups, including MusicNow, which was acquired by Circuit City. Chris has been the creative force behind the development of the first Dispersed Storage system to solve the growing global problem of Big Data storage.

Years ahead of the market, Chris understood the growing issues surrounding unstructured data and the inability of traditional technology solutions to accommodate the explosive growth of digital assets such as audio, video and imaging. Using advances in dispersed information technology, he applied that to storage to create a reliable, cost effective, secure solution with a limitless ability to scale.

Chris Gladwin has created over 300 issued and pending patents related to Dispersed Storage technology. Cleversafe, inspired by Chris, continues to be one of the most patenting U.S. companies per employee.

Chris Gladwin holds a degree in Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Peter Barris, New Enterprise AssociatesPeter joined New Enterprise Associates (NEA) in 1992 and was named Managing General Partner in 1999. Since that time NEA's assets under management have grown from $1B to over $13B and the firm has expanded its operations to India and China. Under Peter's leadership, NEA has invested in industry-transforming technology companies like CareerBuilder, Data Domain,, Groupon, Juniper Networks, Macromedia,, TiVo, and Workday. Peter has been named several times to the Forbes Midas List of top technology investors, having personally led investments in over two dozen technology companies that have successfully completed public offerings or mergers. He serves on the board of public company Groupon (GRPN) and is currently a director of several private companies including BenchPrep, Goji Food Solutions, MediaOcean, SnagFilms, and Sprout Social.

Prior to joining NEA, Peter was President and Chief Operating Officer of Legent Corporation (LGNT) and Senior Vice President of the Systems Software Division of UCCEL Corporation (UCE). Both companies were ultimately acquired at valuations that were record breaking for their time. Earlier, Peter spent almost a decade at General Electric Company in a variety of management positions, including Vice President and General Manager at GE Information Services. Outside interests include serving on the Northwestern Board of Trustees and the Board of the Tuck School Private Equity and Entrepreneur Center. Peter previously served on the Executive Committee of the Board of the National Venture Capital Association and was also a founding member of Venture Philanthropy Partners, a philanthropic organization in the Washington D.C. area. He has a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern and an MBA from Dartmouth.

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Henry J. Feinberg, Maxim Revenue Management SolutionsHenry J. Feinberg is the Executive Chairman of Maxim Revenue Management Solutions (MaximRMS), the largest independent Revenue Management company serving multiple verticals.

Previously, Feinberg was a Partner at Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), the world's largest technology oriented Venture Capital firm with over $10B under management.TCV led investments in Expedia, Netflix, Zillow, thinkorswim, and Mattersight among others.

Prior to TCV, Feinberg was Chairman and CEO of Rand McNally, the largest global provider of geographic information in print and digital media. Under Feinberg's leadership Rand McNally transformed from a traditional print publisher to a branded, fully digital, distribution driven multimedia information company.

Prior to Rand McNally, Feinberg held Senior Management positions with Galileo International, United Airlines and Lear Siegler as well as serving as a long tenured Board member at Verisk, the largest IPO in the United States in 2009.

Feinberg brings 25 years of Fortune 500 operating and transaction experience and has held multiple assignments as Chairman of Audit and Compensation Committees in both private and public companies.

Feinberg graduated cum laude from Rutgers University with a BS in Environmental Chemistry.

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Mike O'Dell, New Enterprise AssociationsMike joined NEA in 2002 as a Venture Partner. His primary interest is the structure and behavioral dynamics of large, complex systems. He works with NEA's technology team to identify early stage information technology, communications, and energy opportunities. He currently advises NEA portfolio companies Glacier Bay, Neutral Tandem, and Vonage.

Mike came to NEA from UUNET Technologies where he was Chief Scientist, responsible for network and product architecture during the emergence of the Commercial Internet. Prior to UUNET, Mike held positions at Bellcore (now Telcordia), a GaAs SPARC supercomputer startup, and a US Government contractor. His first startup created a revolutionary full-text search engine which was 20 years ahead of its time. In the halcyon days of the ARPAnet, he was "Liaison" for IMP-34 at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and spearheaded the transition from NCP to TCP/IP at Department of Energy National Laboratories.

Mike served for four years as Area Director for Operations and Management in the IETF, authored several IDs and RFCs, and helped birth RADIUS and SNMPv3. He was Founding Editor of Computing Systems, an international refereed scholarly journal. Mike received his BS and MS in Computer Science from the University of Oklahoma.

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Dennis Roberson, Illinois Institute of TechnologyDennis A. Roberson is Vice Provost, and Research Professor in Computer Science at Illinois Institute of Technology. In this capacity, he has responsibility for IIT's relationships with its various corporate partners. He also assists with IIT's technology transfer efforts, the development of new research centers, and technology-based business ventures.

Professor Roberson is an active researcher in the wireless networking arena and is a co-founder of IIT's Wireless Network and Communications Research Center (WiNCom). His specific research focus areas include dynamic spectrum access networks, spectrum occupancy and spectrum management, and wireless interference and its mitigation. He currently serves on the governing or advisory boards of several technology-based companies, including four in the telecommunications industry.

Prior to IIT, he was EVP and CTO at Motorola. Professor Roberson has an extensive corporate career including major business and technology responsibilities at IBM, DEC (now part of HP), AT&T, and NCR. He is and has been involved with a wide variety of Technology, Cultural, Educational and Youth organizations currently including the National Advisory Board for the Boy Scouts of America, the International Advisory Panel for the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and the Boards of HCJB Global and FIRST Robotics. He also serves as a consultant for a variety of technology based enterprises through his consulting company Roberson and Associates, LLC. He is a frequent speaker at universities, technical workshops, and conferences around the globe.

Professor Roberson has BS degrees in Electrical Engineering and in Physics from Washington State University and a MSEE degree from Stanford.

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Additional Resources

IN-Q-Tel-Cleversafe-Blueprints Of NSA's Ridiculously Expensive Data Center In Utah Suggest It Holds Less Info Than Thought - Forbes

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Log in with your social account:Or, you can log in or sign up using Forbes.New Posts+17 posts this hourMost PopularYear's Hottest StartupsListsThe Business Of HockeyVideoTop Charity Exec PaySell Cracker Barrel ... and 6 More Stocks in 2014Help|Connect

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2010 Press Releases

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 19:31

Offers Highest Level of Data Integrity and Increased Storage Capacity to Cost Effectively Manage Storage in Public or Private Cloud DeploymentsCHICAGO, February 25, 2010 --Cleversafe Inc., the leader in resilient storage solutions ideally suited for storage clouds and massive digital archives, announced the latest versions of its award-winning technology designed to address the ever-growing digital content storage challenge. Cleversafe introduced the dsNet' Cabinet 2200 - its largest scale dispersed storage system to date '' as well as new versions of its Accesser® appliance and Slicestor® Storage Servers. Cleversafe dispersed storage solutions are ideal for customers looking to store a variety of content, from digital, to media, to large data objects, to sensitive information '' in public or private cloud deployments, given its data security, integrity, and protection capabilities and the ability to store and distribute limitless amounts of data.


Our Customers | :: Datatility

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 21:48

Case StudiesDiscover how Datatility has help companies improve the scalability, security and reliability of their systems.

Try Hydra Out with No ObligationSee how our groundbreaking data storage solution can improve your business for 30 days at no obligation.

Customer & Analyst Quotes - Panzura

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 21:49

Wikibon''As far as differentiation goes, take a look at Panzura. The Panzura Controllers are very fast, offering line speeds that match those of public cloud storage networks, and are feature heavy'--with built-in support for CIFS, NFS, File Locking, Versioning, Snapshots, Compression, Dedupe, Cache'--and the product supposedly works. It's not a lab experiment that's not ready for prime time and it's not a low-end, scalability-challenged box with little more than a cool name going for it.''

Cleversafe Press Releases on Data Storage & Cloud Storage

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 21:47

Cleversafe and Brevity Solve Today's Video Requirements for the Media and Entertainment Industry with Combined Video Transport, Transcoding and Object-Storage TechnologiesCompanies Will Demonstrate Dynamic Asset Management and Storage Workflow at 2013 NAB ShowCHICAGO, March 28, 2013''Today's increasing requirements for timely video asset availability are challenging studios and broadcasters' video production, post-production, and distribution. Traditionally the process of transporting and transcoding video have been done in sequential steps. Maintaining video assets in active archives has become costly, as both the size and volume of video have increased. Cleversafe, Inc., the solution for limitless data storage, and Brevity Ventures, Inc., the next-generation enterprise solution for the transporting and transcoding of video, have solved the challenges of transporting, transcoding, storing, and distributing video by creating a much more efficient workflow, decreasing file size and transport time and ensuring a more reliable repository.



Snowden will help Germany investigate NSA spying if granted asylum '' report '-- RT News

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 20:29

Published time: December 23, 2013 00:23Edited time: December 23, 2013 03:07Campact activists wear masks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and the social democratic SPD party's leader Sigmar Gabriel and hold up a portrait of US whistleblower Edward Snowden in front of the Reichstag building housing the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin on November 18, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Edward Snowden is offering Germany his help with investigating NSA spying activities on its soil, if Berlin grants him political asylum, Stern reports, citing correspondence with the whistleblower.

''I have a great respect for Germany,'' Snowden wrote to the German Stern publication. The former NSA contractor also wrote that he would be willing to help German officials investigate alleged NSA spying in Germany, if he is granted asylum.

Not fearing possible prosecution and extradition to the US, the whistleblower noted that no one in the German government seriously believes that the US will ''implement sanctions against Germany in response to criticism of illegal surveillance'' because it will cause ''greater harm to the US rather than Germany.''

Snowden doubts the ability of US Congress to implement any reforms, following a report by an expert panel tasked with reviewing NSA global surveillance activities released by the White House earlier this week. The Secret Service Committee, Snowden wrote, is praising the intelligence services rather than keeping them in check.

Last week Snowden sent a similar open letter to Brazil, offering his help with ''investigations into suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens'' but noting that the US government will continue to limit his ''ability to speak out until a country grants me permanent political asylum.''

Snowden again reiterated the message on Sunday in an email exchange with the Brazilian Globo TV channel, saying that he would like to move to Brazil if he was permitted by its government. The Brazilian foreign ministry said that it can only consider such a request for asylum once it receives an official application.

He accused the US presidential panel tasked with reviewing US's surveillance practices of recommending ''cosmetic changes.''''Their job wasn't to protect privacy or deter abuses, it was to 'restore public confidence' in these spying activities. Many of the recommendations they made are cosmetic changes,'' Snowden said, as quoted by Wall Street Journal.

Snowden also managed to thank Russia for the asylum opportunity and for the ability to freely speak his mind.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to live in freedom and participate in major global debates through the year asylum granted by Russia," Snowden said in an interview.''I have a lot of time for reading, I have been closely following the developments in the world," said Snowden, responding to a question about how he passes his time in Russia.

Back in November Snowden handed over another letter addressed ''to whom it may concern'' in German political circles, indicating that he was willing to go to Germany and testify over the US wiretapping of Angela Merkel's phone on condition of granting him political asylum.

In that one-page typed letter, the whistleblower also expressed hope that ''with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behaviour [of treating dissent as defection].''

Without commenting directly on the open petition, the US State Department responded by saying, that Snowden remains a wanted man who ''is accused of leaking classified information, faces felony charges here in the United States and '... should be returned as soon as possible.''

Following Snowden's November appeal, more than 50 German public figures asked Berlin to grant Snowden asylum, according to Der Spiegel. For instance, the former general secretary of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, Heiner Geissler, wrote that Snowden has done the western world a ''great service.''

The German government however refused to consider the request, with Steffen Seibert, official spokesman of the cabinet, saying that the issue is tied to Germany's security and mutual interests with the US. ''For us Germans, the transatlantic alliance remains of paramount importance,'' he said.

In the meantime, Snowden continues to look for a safe harbor, following the offer for a temporary asylum in Russia in August. Before accepting a temporary asylum in Russia on conditions that he would not engage in whistleblowing activities on Russian soil, the whistleblower sought permanent political asylum in over 20 countries, including Germany and Brazil.

The two states embarked on a UN quest to curb the NSA's worldwide spying activity, and introduced a UN resolution against supernormal surveillance of communications, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly unanimously.

During this week's press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again reiterated that Russian intelligence has never sought to extract any intelligence from Snowden, who in his turn is abiding by the terms of not engaging ''in anti-American propaganda.''

''Operationally, we are not working with him and never have done, and are not asking him any questions about how his agency worked on Russia,'' said Putin. ''I won't hide it, this person is not without interest for me. I think that thanks to Snowden, a lot changed in the minds of millions of people, including in the minds of major political leaders.''


Susan RIce husband

Ian Cameron to Leave ABC's 'This Week' - TVNewser

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 22:27

First on TVNewser:Ian Cameron, the executive producer of ABC's ''This Week with Christiane Amanpour,'' is leaving the program at the end of the year, people familiar with the decision tell TVNewser.

Cameron was named executive producer of ''This Week'' in 2008, and before that served as senior Washington producer for ''ABC World News with Charles Gibson.'' He had been with ABC News since 1998.

''Nightline'' executive producer James Goldston, who added oversight of ''This Week'' in August, will take over day-to-day operations when Cameron departs.

Based on a memo sent to employees by ABC News president David Westin, it appears that there may be some consolidation among the ''Nightline'' and ''This Week'' staff once the transition is complete:

Update: It's official, the letters from Westin and Cameron are after the jump.

From: Westin, David L.Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 10:43 AMTo: #ABCTV News ALLSubject: This Week

As Ian Cameron has written below to his staff, he has decided to step down as executive producer of This Week at the end of the year. Ian has done an outstanding job at the helm of our Sunday program, first with George Stephanopoulos, and more recently with Christiane Amanpour. But it's come at the expense of his time with his family on weekends, something he's made clear for some time could not go on indefinitely. Last spring, he agreed to stay on to help with the introduction of the new version of This Week we began with Christiane. He accomplished what he set out to do, and we are in his debt.

We are grateful to Ian as well for his 13 years of excellent work in our Washington Bureau and on World News.

James Goldston has been working with Ian and me for several months on This Week, and at the end of the year he will take over day-to-day responsibilities for producing the program, relying on the capable This Week staff in Washington as well as integrating operations where it makes sense with the Nightline team.

Please join me in wishing Ian the very best as he moves to the next chapter of his fine career.

From: Cameron, Ian O.

To the This Week Staff:

Having successfully launched This Week with Christiane Amanpour and with the busy mid-term election behind us, I believe the end of this year is the right time for me to move on from ABC News. As many of you know working weekends for the past two years has been difficult for my family. They have been both supportive and enormously patient, but now it's time for me to return to a more regular schedule.

When Christiane Amanpour joined ABC news last spring, she enthusiastically asked me to continue as This Week's Executive Producer. I was excited by the opportunity to work with such an accomplished and passionate journalist. Together, with all of you on the This Week team, we set out to broaden the mission of the program by capitalizing on Christiane's lifetime experience as a reporter in the field and her passion for international affairs. Since we began on August 1st, I am proud that This Week with Christiane Amanpour has established itself as a distinct voice on Sunday mornings, going beyond the beltway to explore how policy affects the lives of Americans and beyond our border to explore how the fast-changing global environment shapes America and how US policy impact the world.

It's with a mixture of pride and sadness that I leave ABC News after 13 years. As Washington Senior Producer for World News Tonight for seven years, I am grateful to Peter Jennings and Charles Gibson for giving me the opportunity to work with the most dedicated and talented team of reporters and producers here in the Washington bureau and across the news division.

I also want to thank George Stephanopoulos for inviting me to join This Week. It has been a privilege to contribute to the national political conversation and to work with ABC's talented team of anchors and correspondents who hosted This Week during the interim period: Jake Tapper, Barbara Walters, Jon Karl, Terry Moran and Elizabeth Vargas.

Finally, I am deeply grateful to all of you '' my colleagues and friends at This Week. Our editorial and production team, roundtable contributors and crew at the Newseum have consistently delivered the best program on Sunday mornings. Together, with Christiane in the anchor chair, I am certain that This Week with Christiane Amanpour will continue to break new ground and distinguish itself.

Meanwhile, we have some more broadcasts to do!


Lesley Stahl - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 22:39

Lesley Rene Stahl[1] (born December 16, 1941) is an American television journalist. Since 1991, she has reported for CBS on 60 Minutes.

Personal life[edit]Stahl was born in Lynn, Massachusetts and raised in Swampscott, Massachusetts. She is of Jewish heritage, the daughter of Dorothy J. (n(C)e Tishler), and Louis E. Stahl, a food company executive.[1][2][3] In 1977, Stahl married author Aaron Latham. They have one child, Taylor Stahl Latham. The couple currently lives in New York.

An honors graduate of Wheaton College who majored in History,[4] Stahl began her television broadcasting career at Boston's original Channel 5, WHDH-TV as a producer and on-air reporter.[5] She joined CBS News in 1972, and became a correspondent in 1974. "I was born on my 30th birthday," Stahl would later write about the experience. "Everything up till then was prenatal."[6] Stahl credits her CBS News hire to the Federal Communication Commission's 1972 inclusion of women in its affirmation action mandate: "the television networks were scouring the country for women and blacks with any news experience at all. A friend in New York had called to tell me about a memo floating around CBS News mandating that 'the next reporter we hire will be a woman.'"[7] According to Stahl, Connie Chung and Bernard Shaw were "the two other 'affirmative action babies' in what became known as the Class of '72."[8]

Stahl's prominence grew after she covered the Watergate affair.[9] She went on to become White House correspondent during the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. At the Republican Convention of 1980, she broke the news on CBS that Reagan's negotiations with ex-President Ford had broken down and the answer to the question of who would be vice-presidential nominee was: "It's Bush! Yes, it's Bush!" George H. W. Bush had been standing perhaps not far away, largely off by himself, looking discouraged because he was sure he wasn't going to be chosen.

Stahl was the moderator of Face the Nation between September 1983 and May 1991. In addition, from 2002''2004, she hosted 48 Hours Investigates. In 2002, Stahl made headlines when Al Gore appeared on 60 Minutes and revealed for the first time that he would not run for president again in 2004. When Katie Couric was hired, CBS News asked Stahl to reduce her salary by $500,000 to accommodate Couric's salary, bringing her salary down to $1.8 million.[10][11] In October 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, stood up and walked away from an interview with Stahl, because she asked him about his relationship with his soon-to-be estranged spouse.[12]

In 1998, she appeared in an episode of Frasier, playing herself in the episode "Desperately Seeking Closure".

Stahl has written one book, Reporting Live, which was published in 1999:

I had decided by August 1989, in my 48th year, that I had already had the best day of my life. [. . .] Then we went to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas, Dian Fossey's gorillas in the mist. [. . .] After two and a half hours [. . .] there they were: two baby gorillas frolicking like any four-year-olds. We snapped and stared. We were right there, in their lives, in the middle of their open-air house. And then the silverback, the patriarch, seemed to welcome us, as three females kept grooming him. [. . .] We spent one hour in their world, watching them tumble and wrestle, nurse their babies, swing in the trees, forage for food'--vines, leaves, berries'-- [. . .] so close that a female reached out to touch me. When I went to reciprocate, the guide hit my arm with a stick. "Non, madame. C'est inderdit." [. . .] What I decided that day with the gorillas in Rwanda was that the best day of your life may not have happened yet. No matter what you think.[13]

She received a Doctorate of Humane Letters honoris causa from Colgate University in 2008[14] and a Doctorate of Humane Letters honoris causa from Loyola College in Maryland in 2008.

Lesley Stahl is one of the founding members, along with Liz Smith, Mary Wells Lawrence, and Joni Evans, of, a website for women to talk about culture, politics, and gossip.

She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[15]

Stahl is on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service.[16]

Career timeline[edit]Bibliography[edit]References[edit]^ ab"Lesley Stahl Biography (1941-)". Retrieved 2009-05-01. ^Smilgis, Martha (1977-10-31). "CBS Anchor Lesley Stahl and Writer Aaron Latham Have a Mixed-Media Marriage". Retrieved 2009-05-01. ^"Louis E. Stahl, Executive and Philanthropist, 80 - The". New York Times. 1994-09-01. Retrieved 2009-05-01. ^Donna Lee, "Facts Come First for Lady Reporter," Boston Herald American, November 26, 1976, p. 14^Anthony LaCamera, "Of People and Programs." Boston Herald, September 30, 1974, p. 10.^"I was born on my 30th birthday. Everything up till then was prenatal. By 30 I knew two things for sure. One was that I wanted to be a journalist, which would mean, in the environment of the early 1970s, surmounting my femaleness and my blondness." Stahl, Lesley. Reporting Live, Simon & Schuster, 1999, opening paragraph; citation from the unabridged Large Print edition, G. K. Hall & Co., Thorndike, Maine, 1999, p. 9. ISBN 0-684-82930-4^Stahl, Lesley. Reporting Live, Simon & Schuster, 1999; citation from the unabridged Large Print edition, G. K. Hall & Co., Thorndike, Maine, 1999, p. 10. ISBN 0-684-82930-4^Stahl, Lesley. Reporting Live, Simon & Schuster, 1999; citation from the unabridged Large Print edition, G. K. Hall & Co., Thorndike, Maine, 1999, p. 13. ISBN 0-684-82930-4^"I found an apartment in the Watergate complex, moved all my stuff from Boston, and didn't miss a day of work. [. . .] June 1972. Most of the reporters in our bureau were on the road, covering the presidential campaign. Thus, I was sent out to cover the arrest of some men who had broken into one of the buildings in the Watergate complex. That CBS let me, the newest hire, hold on to Watergate as an assignment was a measure of how unimportant the story seemed: [. . .] I was the only television reporter covering the early court appearances. When the five Watergate burglars asked for a bail reduction, I got my first scoop. Unlike my competitors, I was able to identify them. The next time the cameraman listened when I said, 'Roll! That's them!' And so CBS was the only network to get pictures of the burglars. I was a hero at the bureau." Stahl, Lesley. Reporting Live, Simon & Schuster, 1999; citation from the unabridged Large Print edition, G. K. Hall & Co., Thorndike, Maine, 1999, pp. 18-19. ISBN 0-684-82930-4^"Katie Couric Learns What Happens When Great Expectations Go Unmet - New York Magazine". 2007-07-16. Retrieved 2009-05-01. ^"TV Guide Reports on TV Star Salary Ranges - Today's News: Our Take". 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2009-05-01. ^Sarkozy L'Americain (Sarkozy The American), 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.28.2007^"When we got to the base of the mountain, we were put in a group of eight. 'How old are these children?' asked the head of the Mountain Gorilla Project, pointing to 12-year-old Taylor [Stahl's daughter] and ten-year-old Matthew [Stahl's nephew]. 'Fifteen,' we lied. Anyone younger was barred from contact with the gorillas to protect them from human childhood diseases. Taylor passed, but even though we had put glasses on Matthew and draped our most expensive camera around his neck, they pulled him out of the group. Jeff [Stahl's brother] stayed behind with him." Stahl, Lesley. Reporting Live, Simon & Schuster, 1999; citation from the unabridged Large Print edition, G. K. Hall & Co., Thorndike, Maine, 1999, pp. 619-622. ISBN 0-684-82930-4^"Lesley Stahl of CBS to deliver commencement address". 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2008-05-18. ^2009 Annual Report of the Council on Foreign Relations^^ abc"Lesley Stahl | September 29, 2005 14:30:28". CBS News. 1998-07-09. Retrieved 2009-05-01. ^Lesley Stahl at the Internet Movie DatabaseExternal links[edit]

$hadow Puppet Theatre

John Miller to ditch CBS for NYPD -

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 12:24

Via Mike Allen: "John Miller, a CBS News senior correspondent, is expected to make a deal this week to get out of his contract and take a top job with his former boss, incoming NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. Miller, who held top jobs under Bratton at the NYPD and LAPD, has also worked for the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence and ABC News. A network source said CBS would welcome [Miller] back after his service: 'He loves what he's doing here, but he loves being a cop. He knows everybody, which is part of why he's so good at his job.'"

You read that right: That's John Miller, the correspondent from Sunday's widely criticized package on the National Security Agency. Miller had been under consideration for the post ever since incoming New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tapped Bratton for commissioner, but the rumors became a near-certainty late last week. Miller formerly worked in the office of the Director of National Intelligence and as a chief spokesperson for the FBI.

Which is the real problem with "60 Minutes" decision to let Miller lead its NSA exclusive: It's not that he's a former insider, it's that he's a future insider, and that those considerations may have factored into how he handled Sunday's interviews.

Ray Kelly, commissioner for the New York Police Department, is joining the Council on Foreign Relations as a distinguished visiting fellow - statement -

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 18:17

Ray Kelly, commissioner for the New York Police Department, is joining the Council on Foreign Relations as a distinguished visiting fellow - statement - breakingnews.compolitics13:25 Dec 23, 2013, 01:25 PM GMTRay Kelly, commissioner for the New York Police Department, is joining the Council on Foreign Relations as a distinguished visiting fellow - statementend of bulletin



There Can Only Be One: Who is Behind the Targeting of Target? | American Everyman

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 15:15

by Scott Creighton

UPDATE:The Huffington Post jumps on the RFID bandwagon along with Fox News.


Ask yourself this question: who benefits?

Target's recent epic data breach saga is starting to sound mighty suspicious to me as the Obama ''Justice'' Department is being brought it to ''investigate'' and tons of folks are lining up filing lawsuits hoping to get millions in settlements when they haven't lost a dime as of yet.

''It's also the first time in more than six years that negative perception of Target has outweighed positive feelings about the brand.'' LA Times Dec. 23

Target is the nation's #2 discount retailer. Wal-Mart is #1 of course since they jumped in bed with the Clintons all those years ago and road the NAFTA train to full spectrum domination of the market. Hillary was on union-busting Wal-Mart's board of directors from '86 to '92 '... they made a seat just for her while her husband was governor of the state they are based in (from '83 to '92).

Of course we all know how close the Obama administration is to the Clinton family, don't we? Not only does Bill give press conferences in the White House, but his wife was Secretary of State for 4 years under Obama.

And it's Obama's ''Justice'' department that is going to investigate what happened? Rumors of the DoJ's involvement centering on investigating whether or not Target was guilty of criminal negligence have already begun'...

''I can't see another reason that they would be involved at this point,'' Pascual said. ''It's too early to say it's criminal negligence on the part of the company.'' Star Tribune Dec. 24th

''By Monday evening, more than a dozen Target customers had filed federal lawsuits around the country, with some accusing Target of negligence in failing to protect customer data.'' NPR Dec. 23rd

''In a Sunday letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the agency should look into Target's responsibility in the massive hack'.... ''If Target failed to adequately and appropriately protect its customers' data, then the breach we saw '... was not just a breach of security, it was a breach of trust,'' Blumenthal wrote.'' LA Times Dec. 23

yeah'... actually, if the Obama administration is beholding to Wal-Mart like the Clinton administration was before it, then obviously it's NOT too early to assume their justice department is looking at criminal negligence charges to be leveled at Wal-Mart's only major competitor.

Anyone remember how Wal-Mart and the Department of Homeland Security have ''teamed up''?

It's hard to find solid data on the security breach itself. How did they do it?

Supposedly a mal-ware of some kind was used to collect ''metadata'' on some 40 million transactions at the height of the holiday gift buying season. Once Target became aware of the problem, they rightly informed their customers and offered free credit tracking services to make sure their customers weren't being ripped off.

Very few reports have come in of someone claiming that data was used to rip them off though. You see, not only did the data breach not involve the PINs of the customers, but they also didn't steal the 3 digit CVV codes on the back of the cards which are needed to use the card information online or over the phone along with the PIN.

''The theft involved the CVV security codes embedded in the magnetic stripes on the cards and not the three-digit CVV codes on the back of the cards, as the company initially reported. Target has repeatedly said the security breach did not compromise debit card personal identification numbers (PINs). Still, some banks have decided proactively to issue new debit cards and PINs to affected customers.'' Star Tribune Dec. 24th

Many argue that the information obtained could be used to generate identity theft in the future, but the data doesn't include crucial information such as Social Security numbers which would be needed to do that.

Target is suffering from this publicity as you might expect. Their ''brand index'' has taken quite a hit while Wal-Mart sits back and laughs.

The RFID debate will be raised again as influence peddlers for that Orwellian device are already trying to claim this breach would never have happened were it not for those pesky magnetic strips on the backs of our cards.

JPMorgan Chase piled on as quickly as they could to add fuel to the ''crisis'' by restricting their own customer's accounts as per how much cash they could remove from the bank.

Thousands of shoppers across North Texas have been stopped at the checkout counter unable to pay for their purchases with no warning at all '-- even though they have plenty of money in their accounts.

It is new fallout from that Target security breach.

And it wasn't just people buying holiday presents who found their cards would not be honored. Any kind of shopping '-- including groceries and gas '-- was halted.

Some banks put new, very low limits on debit cards during this final weekend before Christmas.

Most customers we talked to were angry they hadn't been told about the crackdown, being blamed on the problems with Target.'' KVUE Dec. 23

JP Morgan certainly knows there isn't enough data in those files that were lifted for someone to use fake debit cards to rob their customers. That's not why they shut down their customer's access to their own money.

For every customer separated from his funds, you have a new Wal-Mart shopper since Chase and the press are blaming Target for it and not the banks.

Lawsuits, bad press, potential criminal charges and banks keeping folks from buying their groceries in the days leading up to Christmas'... seems like a lot of effort is being put into crushing Target once and for all leaving only one major discount retailer in the country.

So how did they get that info? Who was behind it? All this talk about how bad Target is and very little info about who actually took the data and how. I wonder why that is.

I'll just leave this here for your consideration:

''According to unnamed sources in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, the NSA has been obtaining purchase information from credit card companies. The Journal didn't specify what type of credit card providers were providing information to the NSA; it could be networks like Visa and MasterCard, third-party processors, or issuing banks like Bank of America and Chase.

It's believed that the NSA can't tell exactly what you're buying: paint thinner, Justin Timberlake CDs, baked beans. But they can see a disturbing amount of information. What's more, the tracking almost certainly involves a continuous stream of data; it's not a one-off incident.

'... Networks are most likely giving the government ''metadata.'' That is, the credit card issuers could provide the NSA details such as an account or card number, where and when a purchase was made, and for how much. Even though the exact items purchased aren't revealed, Brian Krebs, who blogs at, says ''merchant category codes'' in such data give clues about what was bought.If the NSA is collecting data at the processor level, ''at that point the transaction gets cleared and posts to an account, so, yes, you can track it down to a person,'' Aufsesser says'...

'... Following the leaked Verizon court order, the Obama Administration has defended its actions by pointing to two instances when terrorists were intercepted after their correspondence raised a red flag. Experts say a similar mentality is at work here.

''Based on what we've seen so far based on PRISM, that makes me think they're going to be looking at weapons-making capability,'' Pascual says. As the Boston Marathon bombings illustrate, a tactic today's terrorists use to stay under the radar is using common purchases (pressure cooker, nails, ball bearings) to create weapons. A red flag may be raised with the NSA if agents detect several of these everyday items being purchased at the same time and/or in unusually large quantities.'' TIME June 13 2013

Oh. The Obama administration's NSA has REAL TIME access to this point of sale data? The same Obama administration which is so closely tied to Wal-Mart and the Clinton Royal Family? The same Obama administration that is already looking to bring charges against Target forging the final nail for their coffin?

Ask yourself who benefits from all of this. Will this mark the end of Target and a major economic gain for Wal-Mart? Do the Clinton's still own stock in Wal-Mart like they used to?

In the interests of full disclosure, I don't own any stock in Target but I do shop there occasionally, preferring it over Wal-Mart or K-Mart in every conceivable way.

If the Obama ''Justice'' department and the SEC go after Target with criminal charges, you can expect the activist federal judges to issue ruling after ruling against Target until they are forced to file Chapter 11 putting tens of thousands of our neighbors out of work and leaving us one less choice when it comes to discount retail shopping.

I don't care what anyone says, this is an obvious example of a fascist state serving the interests of their crony businesses at the expense of the people of this country. It is the exact opposite of what it claims to be, a ''free market'' system.

Some dufus ''hacker'' will be rounded up and used as the patsy for this crisis. We have that to look forward to. Someone will claim we need tighter controls on the internet in order to protect America from events like these. You can expect this to be used in any number of ways.

But in the end, this is consolidation'... there can be only one. And that is the one with the most access to corrupt actors imbedded in the system at the highest levels.

I hope the people of this country can see through this before it's too late but chances are they won't. They'll just regurgitate whatever Fox or CNN spoon feeds them 24/7 while Wal-Mart and the Obama administration laugh all the way to the bank.

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Target: Justice Dept. Investigates Its Data Breach : NPR

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 15:18

hide captionA customer prepares to sign a credit card slip Thursday at a Target store in Miami. The giant retailer says 40 million payment cards nationwide may have been compromised by data theft.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesA customer prepares to sign a credit card slip Thursday at a Target store in Miami. The giant retailer says 40 million payment cards nationwide may have been compromised by data theft.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesTarget Corp. said Monday that the Department of Justice is investigating the credit and debit card security breach at the retailer.

The investigation comes after Target revealed last week that data connected to about 40 million credit and debit card accounts were stolen between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Security experts say it's the second-largest theft of card accounts in U.S. history, surpassed only by a scam that began in 2005 involving retailer TJX Cos. That affected at least 45.7 million card users.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on whether it's investigating the breach at Target, the nation's second-largest discounter. But Target said that it's cooperating with the DOJ's probe.

The news came as Target also said that it is working with the U.S. Secret Service in the retailer's own investigation and that its general counsel held a conference call on Monday with state attorneys general to bring them up to date on the breach.

"Target remains committed to sharing information about the recent data breach with all who are impacted," Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Target has been trying to deal with fallout from the breach during what is typically the busiest shopping season of the year. By Monday evening, more than a dozen Target customers had filed federal lawsuits around the country, with some accusing Target of negligence in failing to protect customer data.

Target has said that it told authorities and financial institutions once it became aware of the breach on Dec. 15. The company issued an apology to customers and doubled the number of workers taking calls from customers around the clock. It also offered 10 percent off to customers who wanted to shop in its stores on Saturday and Sunday and free credit-monitoring services to those who are affected by the issue.

But there are early signs that some shoppers are scared off by the breach. Scotty Haywood, who lives in Smiths Station, Ala., said he plans to stop shopping at the store. He said his debit card number had been stolen after he used it at Target the day after Thanksgiving.

He said the card was denied when his wife tried to use it Thursday at a grocery store. He said the couple knew something was wrong because they had $2,200 in the account.

"The possible savings of a few dollars (by going to Target) are nothing compared to the money that has been stolen from us," he said.

Overall, Customer Growth Partners LLC, a retail consultancy, estimates that the number of transactions at Target fell 3 percent to 4 percent on Saturday, compared with a year ago. The Saturday before Christmas is usually one of the top busiest days of the season.

"Before this incident, Target had a chance of at least a decent Christmas. Now, it will be mediocre at best," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy.

Meanwhile, consumer perception about the Target brand has dropped steeply since the news broke Wednesday night, according to YouGov BrandIndex, which surveys 4,300 people daily. The index ranges from 100 to negative 100 and is compiled by subtracting negative customer feedback from positive customer feedback.

Before the breach, Target's index was 26, higher than the rating of 12 of its peer group of retailers that include Wal-Mart. Now, it's negative 19.

Eric Hausman, a Target spokesman, declined to comment specifically on sales or the impact of its 10 percent offer, but said that stores "were busy."

Target is based in Minneapolis and has nearly 1,800 stores in the U.S. and 124 in Canada.

Target refuses to stock Beyonce's new album after digital release | Mail Online

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Archived Version

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 17:16

By Colette Fahy

PUBLISHED: 14:07 EST, 17 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:32 EST, 17 December 2013




Beyonce Knowles' new album has become the fastest-ever seller on iTunes with more than 800,000 downloads in its first three days but Target is refusing to stock it.

The self-titled album, the US superstar's fifth, was released out of the blue on Friday and the retail giant claims its online release will hamper physical CD sales so has taken the decision not to sell it.

Target spokesperson Erica Julkowski told Billboard, 'At Target we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs, and when a new album is available digitally before it is available physically, it impacts demand and sales projections.

Can't please everyone! US retailer Target is refusing to sell Beyonce Knowles' fifth album after she released it online in a surprise move last Friday

'While there are many aspects that contribute to our approach and we have appreciated partnering with Beyonce in the past, we are primarily focused on offering CDs that will be available in a physical format at the same time as all other formats. At this time, Target will not be carrying Beyonce's new self-titled album 'Beyonce.'

However, this doesn't appear to be impacting Beyonce with an Apple spokeswoman revealing the iTunes Store sold 828,773 albums in just three days.

On the day of its release, iTunes - which is Apple's music download division - said the release was 'an unprecedented strategic move by the artist to deliver music and visual content directly to her fans when she wants to and how she wants to, with no filter.'

Who needs Target! This doesn't appear to be impacting Beyonce with an Apple spokeswoman revealing the iTunes Store sold 828,773 albums in just three days

With no 'middle man', fans are being encouraged to form their own opinions after listening to and watching the tracks.

Beyonce added: 'I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it. I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans.

Surprise! The self-titled album, the US superstar's fifth, was released out of the blue on Friday

'I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it's ready and from me to my fans.'

The singer's fifth solo album opted out of the standard three month marathon of promotional stints, reviews, and dropping individual singles.

Boycott: US retailer Target is refusing to sell physical copies of Beyonce's new album because she released it online first

Instead, the trend setter released the entire album in one fell swoop without any fanfare.

The album includes 14 songs, 17 videos, and collaborations with husband Jay Z, Drake and Frank Ocean.

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LA Times - Fallout from Target customer data breach shows in sentiment survey

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Beyonce vs. Amazon and Target.

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 15:30

Beyonc(C) gave 750 Wal-Mart shoppers a pleasant surprise on Friday.YouTube

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

In news that will be sure to make Apple executives jump with joy, Amazon and Target are refusing to stock the CD version of Beyonc(C)'s new album to protest the fact that she released it first on iTunes. So Beyonc(C) went shopping at a Wal-Mart in Tewksbury, Mass., on Friday night. After walking through the store pushing a cart like everyone else, she gave 750 shoppers a $50 gift card'--a giveaway totaling $37,500.

Hijinks aside, there is a lot of money at stake here. Beyonce gave iTunes a one-week exclusive to sell the album, "Beyonc(C)," and it shifted 600,000 units during the period at $15.99 each. That's $9.5 million in total sales.

So far, it appears that Amazon and Target may be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Despite Apple's head start, Billboard reports that Sony and Columbia still managed to ship more than 500,000 units of the CD before the general release date. (Amazon is selling the MP3 version of the album; Target is selling neither the digital nor CD edition.)

Why would Amazon and Target want to make enemies of Beyonc(C), whose antics in Wal-Mart have made them look petty? They probably have their eye on the long game. This is only $10 million or so in lost sales between the two companies, after all'--not even a rounding error in either company's revenues. And most artists are not Beyonc(C)'--they need Amazon and Target more than Target and Amazon need them.

So even though they know they will lose their fight against Queen Bey'--she's giving away money in Wal-Mart, haters!'--they're sending a powerful message to the 99 percent of other record companies and musicians: Do not screw with us by giving preferential treatment to Apple and iTunes, or we will severely curtail your album sales in our stores.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.


Presidential Proclamation -- African Growth and Opportunity Act

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Archived Version

Source: White Press Office Feed

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 02:21

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

December 23, 2013



- - - - - - -



1. In Proclamation 8921 of December 20, 2012, I determined that the Republic of Mali (Mali) was not making continual progress in meeting the requirements described in section 506A(a)(1) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (the "1974 Act"), as added by section 111(a) of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (title I of Public Law 106-200) (AGOA). Thus, pursuant to section 506A(a)(3) of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)(3)), I terminated the designation of Mali as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A of the 1974 Act.

2. Section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act authorizes the President to designate a country listed in section 107 of the AGOA (19 U.S.C. 3706) as a "beneficiary sub-Saharan African country" if the President determines that the country meets the eligibility requirements set forth in section 104 of the AGOA (19 U.S.C. 3703), as well as the eligibility criteria set forth in section 502 of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2462).

3. Based on actions that the Government of Mali has taken over the past year, pursuant to section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act, I have determined that Mali meets the eligibility requirements set forth in section 104 of the AGOA and section 502 of the 1974 Act, and I have decided to designate Mali as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country.

4. On April 22, 1985, the United States and Israel entered into the Agreement on the Establishment of a Free Trade Area between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Israel (USIFTA), which the Congress approved in the United States-Israel Free Trade Area Implementation Act of 1985 (the "USIFTA Act") (19 U.S.C. 2112 note).

5. Section 4(b) of the USIFTA Act provides that, whenever the President determines that it is necessary to maintain the general level of reciprocal and mutually advantageous concessions with respect to Israel provided for by the USIFTA, the President may proclaim such withdrawal, suspension, modification, or continuance of any duty, or such continuance of existing duty-free or excise treatment, or such additional duties, as the President determines to be required or appropriate to carry out the USIFTA.

6. In order to maintain the general level of reciprocal and mutually advantageous concessions with respect to agricultural trade with Israel, on July 27, 2004, the United States entered into an agreement with Israel concerning certain aspects of trade in agricultural products during the period January 1, 2004, through December 31, 2008 (the "2004 Agreement").

7. In Proclamation 7826 of October 4, 2004, consistent with the 2004 Agreement, the President determined, pursuant to section 4(b) of the USIFTA Act, that it was necessary in order to maintain the general level of reciprocal and mutually advantageous concessions with respect to Israel provided for by the USIFTA, to provide duty-free access into the United States through December 31, 2008, for specified quantities of certain agricultural products of Israel.

8. Each year from 2008 through 2012, the United States and Israel entered into agreements to extend the period that the 2004 Agreement was in force for 1-year periods to allow additional time for the two governments to conclude an agreement to replace the 2004 Agreement.

9. To carry out the extension agreements, the President in Proclamation 8334 of December 31, 2008; Proclamation 8467 of December 23, 2009; Proclamation 8618 of December 21, 2010; Proclamation 8770 of December 29, 2011; and Proclamation 8921 of December 20, 2012, modified the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) to provide duty-free access into the United States for specified quantities of certain agricultural products of Israel, each time for an additional 1-year period.

10. On November 26, 2013, the United States entered into an agreement with Israel to extend the period that the 2004 Agreement is in force through December 31, 2014, to allow for further negotiations on an agreement to replace the 2004 Agreement.

11. Pursuant to section 4(b) of the USIFTA Act, I have determined that it is necessary, in order to maintain the general level of reciprocal and mutually advantageous concessions with respect to Israel provided for by the USIFTA, to provide duty-free access into the United States through the close of December 31, 2014, for specified quantities of certain agricultural products of Israel.

12. Presidential Proclamation 8783 of March 6, 2012, implemented the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (USKFTA) with respect to the United States and, pursuant to the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (the "Implementation Act") (Public Law 112-41, 125 Stat. 428), incorporated into the HTS the schedule of duty reductions and rules of origin necessary or appropriate to carry out the USKFTA.

13. In Presidential Proclamation 8771 of December 29, 2011, pursuant to the authority provided in section 1206(a) of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (19 U.S.C. 3006(a)), I modified the HTS to reflect amendments to the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (the "Convention").

14. Section 202 of the Implementation Act provides rules for determining whether goods imported into the United States originate in the territory of a Party to the USKFTA and thus are eligible for the tariff and other treatment contemplated under the Agreement. Section 202(o) of the Implementation Act authorizes the President to proclaim, as part of the HTS, the rules of origin set out in the USKFTA and to proclaim any modifications to such previously proclaimed rules of origin, subject to the exceptions stated in section 202(o)(2)(A) of the Implementation Act.

15. Because the USKFTA was negotiated under the 2002 HTS nomenclature, the United States and Korea agreed to modify certain specific rules of origin in the USKFTA to ensure that the tariff and certain other treatment accorded under the Agreement to originating goods will continue to be provided under the tariff categories that were modified in Proclamation 8783.

16. In order to implement the agreed modifications to the rules of origin in the USKFTA and ensure the continuation of such staged reductions in rates of duty for originating goods under tariff categories that have been modified to reflect the amendments to the Convention, I have determined that additional modifications to the HTS are necessary or appropriate to ensure that the duty reductions previously proclaimed are applied.

17. Section 212 of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) (19 U.S.C. 2702), as amended by the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) (Public Law 106-200), authorizes the President to designate certain countries, territories, or successor political entities as beneficiary countries for the purposes of the CBERA and CBTPA.

18. Section 211 of the CBTPA provides that certain preferential tariff treatment may be provided to eligible articles that are the product of any country that the President designates as a "CBTPA beneficiary country" pursuant to section 213(b)(5)(B) of the CBERA (19 U.S.C. 2703(b)(5)(B)), provided that the President determines that the country has satisfied the requirements of section 213(b)(4)(A)(ii) (19 U.S.C. 2703(b)(4)(A)(ii)) relating to the implementation of procedures and requirements similar to those in chapter 5 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

19. In Proclamation 7351 of October 2, 2000, the President authorized the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to perform the functions specified in section 213(b)(4)(A)(ii) of the CBERA and certain functions under section 604 of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2483) for each beneficiary country designated in that proclamation pursuant to section 213(b)(5)(B) of the CBERA.

20. Cura§ao is a successor political entity to The Netherlands Antilles and has expressed its desire to be designated as a beneficiary country under the CBERA and CBTPA. As a successor political entity, Cura§ao was not included in Proclamation 7351.

21. Pursuant to section 212(b) and (c) and 213(b)(5)(B) of the CBERA (19 U.S.C. 2702(b) and (c) and 19 U.S.C. 2703(b)(5)(B)), I have determined that Cura§ao meets the eligibility requirements set forth in those sections. Accordingly, pursuant to section 212(b) and 213(b) of the CBERA, and after taking into account the factors enumerated in section 212(b) and (c) of the CBERA (19 U.S.C. 2702(b) and (c)), I have decided to designate Cura§ao as a beneficiary country for purposes of the CBERA and CBTPA. In addition, pursuant to section 212(a)(1)(A) of the CBERA, I am notifying the Congress of my intention to designate Cura§ao as a beneficiary country under the CBERA and CBTPA, and communicating the considerations entering into my decision.

22. The preferential treatment extended pursuant to the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) (19 U.S.C. 3201-3206, as amended) expired on July 31, 2013. As a result, I have determined that certain modifications to the HTS are required to reflect this status.

23. Presidential Proclamation 7746 of December 30, 2003, implemented the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (USCFTA) with respect to the United States and, pursuant to the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 3805 note), incorporated in the HTS the schedule of duty reductions and rules of origin necessary or appropriate to carry out the USCFTA. Those modifications to the HTS were set out in Publication 3652 of the U.S. International Trade Commission, which was incorporated by reference into Proclamation 7746.

24. Annex II of Publication 3652 contained a typographical error that needs to be corrected. I have determined that a modification to the HTS is necessary to correct this typographical error and to provide the intended tariff treatment.

25. Section 604 of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2483), authorizes the President to embody in the HTS the substance of the relevant provisions of that Act, and of other acts affecting import treatment, and actions taken thereunder, including the removal, modification, continuance, or imposition of any rate of duty or other import restriction.

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 of America, including but not limited to section 301 of title 3, United States Code, title V and section 604 of the 1974 Act, section 104 of the AGOA, section 4 of the USIFTA Act, section 202 of the Implementation Act, and sections 212 and 213 of the CBERA, do proclaim that:

(1) Mali is designated as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country.

(2) In order to reflect this designation in the HTS, general note 16(a) to the HTS is modified by inserting in alphabetical sequence in the list of beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries "Republic of Mali (Mali)."

(3) In order to implement U.S. tariff commitments under the 2004 Agreement through December 31, 2014, the HTS is modified as provided in Annex I to this proclamation.

(4)(a) The modifications to the HTS set forth in Annex I to this proclamation shall be effective with respect to eligible agricultural products of Israel that are entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after January 1, 2014.

(b) The provisions of subchapter VIII of chapter 99 of the HTS, as modified by Annex I to this proclamation, shall continue in effect through December 31, 2014.

(5) In order to reflect in the HTS the modifications to the rules of origin under the USKFTA, general note 33 to the HTS is modified as set forth in Annex II to this proclamation.

(6) The modifications to the HTS set forth in Annex II to this proclamation shall be effective with respect to goods that are entered or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after January 1, 2014.

(7) Cura§ao is designated as an eligible beneficiary country for the purposes of the CBERA and CBTPA.

(8) In order to reflect Cura§ao's designation as a beneficiary country for the purposes of the CBERA, general note 7(a) to the HTS is modified by inserting in alphabetical sequence "Cura§ao."

(9) In order to implement Cura§ao's designation as a CBTPA beneficiary country, the USTR is authorized to determine whether Cura§ao has satisfied the requirements of section 213(b)(4)(A)(ii) of the CBERA relating to the implementation of procedures and requirements similar in all material respects to those in chapter 5 of the NAFTA. To implement such determination, the USTR is authorized to exercise the authority provided to the President under section 604 of the 1974 Act to embody modifications and technical and conforming changes in the HTS. The determination of the USTR under this paragraph shall be set forth in a notice that the USTR shall cause to be published in the Federal Register. Such notice shall modify general note 17 of the HTS by including Cura§ao in the list of CBTPA beneficiary countries.

(10) In order to reflect the expiration of the ATPA, the HTS is modified as set forth in Annex III to this proclamation.

(11) The modifications to the HTS set forth in Annex III to this proclamation shall be effective with respect to goods that are entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after July 31, 2013.

(12) In order to provide the intended tariff treatment to goods of Chile under the terms of general note 26, the HTS is modified as set forth in Annex IV to this proclamation.

(13) The modifications to the HTS set forth in Annex IV to this proclamation shall be effective with respect to goods that are entered or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after January 1, 2004.

(14) Any provisions of previous proclamations and Executive Orders that are inconsistent with the actions taken in this proclamation are superseded to the extent of such inconsistency.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-third day of December, 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.




Text Of A Letter From The President To The Speaker Of The House Of Representatives And The President Pro Tempore Of The Senate

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Source: White Press Office Feed

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:40

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)In my report to the Congress of December 19, 2013, I provided information on the deployment of U.S. forces to support the security of U.S. personnel and our Embassy in South Sudan. I am providing this additional report, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148), to help ensure that the Congress is kept fully informed on U.S. military activities in South Sudan.

On December 21, 2013, approximately 46 additional U.S. military personnel deployed by military aircraft to the area of Bor, South Sudan, to conduct an operation to evacuate U.S. citizens and personnel. After the aircraft came under fire as they approached Bor, the operation was curtailed due to security considerations, and the aircraft and all military personnel onboard departed South Sudan without completing the evacuation.The purpose of this operation was to protect U.S. citizens, personnel, and property. As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan.

This action has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.I appreciate the support of the Congress in these actions.


US Sends Marines to Djibouti, Preparing South Sudan Intervention

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 05:19

The Obama Administration has deployed some 150 Marines to a military base in Djibouti, with an eye toward intervention in South Sudan's growing civil war.

The Marines were a ''crisis-response team,'' according to officials, and had previously been located in Spain, but were ordered to Djibouti after the wounding of four US troops in weekend evacuations of Americans from South Sudan.

South Sudan blamed the rebels for firing on a US warplane involved in the evacuations, and as rebels take control of oil-rich regions of the fledgling nation, the administration is likely to see growing pressure to intervene on behalf of the government to ''protect'' foreign investment in those regions.

The conflict follows a failed military coup by troops loyal tol former Vice President Riek Machar, and a split along ethnic lines between the Nuer and the Dinka.

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South Sudan: injured civilians and non-essential staff evacuated from deadly clashes

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:29

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has evacuated injured civilians and non-essential staff from Bor to the nation's capital, Juba, which is mostly peaceful.

UNMISS says there are about 15,000 people in Bor sheltering from deadly violence between groups loyal to the president, Salva Kiir, and groups loyal to the vice-president, Riek Machar, who was sacked in July following a power struggle.

Toby Lanzer, Deputy Special Representative to the Secretary-General (UNMISS) explained more about the situation: ''The thing that we need most is that we need the people who are causing all of this to get everybody under control. There was a lot of looting, a lot of gunshots, a lot of dead bodies and very, very out of control youth. Heavily armed and that needs to be brought under control,'' he said.

Bor, the capital of Jonglei, is said to be the scene of some of the fiercest clashes between factions.

Hundreds have been killed in the fighting. World leaders are concerned about all-out civil war in South Sudan, which has a history of ethnic violence and divided military loyalties.

South Sudan Crisis Explained (Like You're an Idiot) - ABC News

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 05:21

Helicopters evacuated more than a dozen U.S. citizens from South Sudan Sunday, but thousands of other foreigners will likely spend Christmas in the world's youngest country as an ethnic conflict there spirals toward civil war.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 1,000 people have been killed, and 45,000 displaced, in clashes between the Dinka and Nuer tribes since violence began Dec. 15 amid rumors of a power grab and a failed coup attempt.

READ: Trapped U.S. Relief Workers Flown Out of Violence-Torn South Sudan

In a deeply impoverished nation that sits on millions of barrels of untapped oil, the conflict is years in the making. It's complicated, but we promise to talk really, really slowly.

South Sudan? Never heard of it. The only Sudan I care about is the one with George Clooney in it.

South Sudan is the world's newest country. After a referendum in 2011, 98 percent of the East African country's population voted to declare independence from Sudan. The people of South Sudan are largely black and Christian. For years, they fought a bloody war for independence from Sudan, a nation ruled by Arab Muslims.

(The Sudanese government in Karthoum had cracked down on non-Muslim populations for years, including a bloody conflict in the western region of Darfur. That's where George Clooney focused attention in the early 2000s.)

South Sudan is rich in oil reserves. "Since independence, South Sudan has struggled with good governance and nation building and has attempted to control rebel militia groups operating in its territory. Economic conditions have deteriorated since January 2012 when the government decided to shut down oil production following bilateral disagreements with Sudan," according to the CIA.

Who is in charge over there? It sounds like the Wild West.

Funny you should mention the Wild West. South Sudan's president is Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, who has worn the black cowboy hat given to him as a gift by President George W. Bush every day since receiving it in 2006.

Kiir blames the fighting, which began Dec. 15 and has resulted in the deaths of 1,000 people, on a failed coup by former Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. Other officials say the fighting began as a turf war between Dinka and Nuer members of the presidential guard, which spread throughout the country.

When members of a Nuer ethnic militia began fighting in Bor, a large city populated mainly by Dinkas, the death toll rapidly rose and foreign governments sought to airlift their citizens.

Good thing we're getting the Americans out of there. Seal Team Six, heck yeah!

The United States has evacuated slightly more than 300 known U.S. citizens from Bor in the past week. Civilian helicopters and those operated by the U.N. airlifted about 15 Americans Sunday, but the operation was far from flawless.

Three Navy-operated Osprey aircraft, the ones that fly like planes but land like helicopters, were shot at Saturday while landing in Bor to pick up U.S. citizens. They were special forces operators but not from Seal Team Six. Four service members were injured in the attack before the mission was called off.

Thousands of other foreigners, including Britons, Australians, Canadians and South Africans, are expected to remain in the country for at least several more days before their countries can evacuate them.

That doesn't sound like a happy Christmas.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Donald Booth, the U.S. envoy for South Sudan, have pressured President Kiir to call for a Christmas ceasefire. Most observers, however, believe that fighting will continue.

Thounsands of internally displaced people have sought protection at U.N .bases in Bor and the country's capital, Juba.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Security Council to send additional troops, police and logistical assets to South Sudan and move U.N. peacekeepers from elsewhere in Africa.

"Those responsible at the senior level will be held personally accountable and face the consequences, even if they claim they had no knowledge of the attacks," Ban said in a statement.

South Sudan: Ban Ki-Moon Asks UN for 5,500 More Troops

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 06:17

The UN Secretary General has called on the Security Council to bolster the number of peacekeeping troops in South Sudan. The urgent request comes as Africa's youngest country appears ready to enter into a civil war.

In a letter to the 15-member states of the UN Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged them to authorize a stark increase in the number of troops already deployed in South Sudan.

"[The situation] is of mounting urgency," Ban wrote in his request, which included the addition of 5,500 UN peacekeepers and some 400 police officers to "ensure the protection of civilians and the protection of United Nations personnel and assets."

According to his draft plan, troops would be transferred from UN missions in Congo, Sudanese Darfur, Abyei, Ivory Coast and Liberia. Ban also requested three attack helicopters, three utility helicopters and a C130 military transport plane.

The Security Council plans to vote on the measure on Tuesday, according to France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud - as cited by the Associated Press news agency - and British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.

"The situation is obviously urgent and the Security Council will respond urgently. If it's necessary to take decisions, then we will take decisions by tomorrow," British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the news agency Reuters.

Tensions have escalated in South Sudan - Africa's youngest country - since December 15 when South Sudan's former vice president, Riek Machar, was alleged to have attempted a coup.

Machar has denied responsibility, but has still called on current President Salva Kiir resign. The duo are long-time adversaries, belonging to rival tribes and having previously fought on opposing sides.

While the capital of Juba, where fighting initially began, has returned to a semblance of calm thanks to the presence of peacekeepers, the fighting has spread.

Hundreds of died in subsequent fighting since the alleged coup and up to 100,000 people displaced. Over 40,000 people have sought refuge in United Nations compounds.

Kiir plans offensive


US says Kiir ready for talks but 11 still detained

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 05:10

South Sudan President Salva Kiir is ready to begin talks with his opponents, but 11 dissidents remain in detention, a special US envoy said following talks on Monday with the South Sudan head of state.

Opposition leader Riek Machar has also said he is willing to hold talks, but has set release of the 11 detained opposition figures as a precondition.

US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth told reporters in a conference call from Juba that the detainees had informed him of their ''desire and readiness to play a constructive role in ending the crisis.''

The United States welcomes the efforts of Igad member-countries to broker an end to the violence in South Sudan, Ambassador Booth added.

No decision has been made on whether to reduce US assistance to South Sudan in response to the fighting there, a senior Obama administration official said on Monday.

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UN Retracts South Sudan Mass Grave Claim | News From

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 13:57

The UN continues to backtrack from claims earlier this week of a ''mass grave'' found in South Sudan. Initially reported to contain 75 bodies, it was downgraded to 34 bodies yesterday and has now been retracted outright.

The UN Mission now says the claims were related to a ''skirmish'' where 15 people were believed to be killed. The 75 initially reported to be in the non-existent grave are now reported as ''feared missing.''

Despite retracting the claim, the UN continues to insist it is ''deeply concerned'' about claims of mass extra-judicial executions and is ''investigating'' those allegations.

So far unmentioned is if the UN's claim of a death toll dramatically higher than reported is intact. Claims of 500 killed in a week of fighting were declared to be ''thousands'' in a recent comment, a claim made as the Security Council was debating a massive increase in UN troops in the country.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

UN in South Sudan denies report of mass grave - Yahoo News

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 13:56

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Preventing South Sudan's Inferno - CLOONEY

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 05:22

World NewsAfter suffering so long for independence, South Sudan faces a new civil war. What the country's leaders and the international community can do to contain the crisis.

The world's youngest country, a mere two and a half years old, now stands on the precipice of a new civil war which threatens to hurl South Sudan back into the violence from which it just emerged. For the South Sudanese who fought and suffered so dearly for their independence, and for those around the world who supported the new state, this development is tragic and disappointing, but it is hardly surprising or without vast precedent.

Most African countries that emerged from colonial rule or long periods of dictatorship have experienced rocky transitions marked by violence and coups. Sudan itself, from which South Sudan split in 2011, was born into a civil war and has been rocked by three major coups since independence in 1956. Similar stories have plagued the neighboring states of Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad, and Congo. South Sudan's own fledgling state has been rendered vulnerable by a major rift in the country's political leadership, where past unresolved grievances were left to fester.

When politicians use ethnic mobilization to promote their agendas, violence can metastasize quickly. The potential for explosion in South Sudan is even worse because of the billions of petro-dollars that have poured into the country, much of which were used to purchase sophisticated weaponry.

That there were going to be problems and even eruptions in the early years of this new republic was widely predicted. What is much more unpredictable, however, is how South Sudan's leaders react to this, the biggest crisis their new country has yet faced. How they respond will dictate South Sudan's fate for years to come, and decide whether it has a future more like prosperous Botswana or bloody Somalia.

What is much more unpredictable, however, is how South Sudan's leaders react to this, the biggest crisis their new country has yet faced.

The worst-case scenario is rapidly unfolding: political and personal disputes are escalating into an all-out civil war in which certain ethnic groups are increasingly targeted by the others' forces and the rebels take over the oilfields. This will inevitably bring opportunistic leaders from neighboring Sudan into the fray, as Khartoum's government has long exploited divisions within South Sudan and provided support to various armed groups to sow further division and destruction. Certainly the Sudan regime might see the instability in the oilfields as an opportunity to aggressively move into bordering regions, take possession of some of the southern oil areas, and keep the oil flowing northward.

There is a real opportunity here for South Sudanese leaders and the broader international community to respond in ways that could prevent the country from plunging into chaos and protracted conflict.

President Salva Kiir has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership by following up on his offer of dialogue with his opponents, releasing political prisoners, appealing for calm through television and radio, and pressing those troops that remain loyal to not commit human rights abuses. Should the president indicate a willingness to openly discuss the deep political grievances that are driving the violence, and do so inclusively, that would send a strong signal that peace is possible. The leading rebel, former Vice President Riek Machar, must stop inflaming the situation by calling for the ouster of the current government and indicate his willingness to negotiate with President Kiir and work within the rule of law for the restoration of an inclusive government and elections in 2015.

The United Nations could play the most critical role in containing the crisis in South Sudan. There is much international hand-wringing and regret that not much can be done when violence is so quickly escalating. But recent examples in Congo and Ivory Coast demonstrate that when a UN force on the ground is buttressed with a more robust mandate and greater international support, very positive outcomes are possible. And the recent international mobilization to respond to the conflict in the Central African Republic shows that when political will is generated, military assets can be deployed quickly in defense of civilians.

Given those models, the UN Security Council can save countless lives by sharpening the civilian protection mandate of the UN force already on the ground, giving it additional resources to do the job, and instructing it to create safe havens in which vulnerable populations can take shelter. The UN mission could also be supported by New York headquarters to be more proactive in ensuring humanitarian aid reaches the neediest, thus preventing the health and nutritional crises that in the past made South Sudan one of the deadliest conflict zones globally since World War II. The Security Council could also authorize a group of experts to begin collecting evidence of war crimes for possible future referral to the International Criminal Court.

Finally, the United States should immediately deploy its Special Envoy for the Sudans, Donald Booth, and a team of diplomats who can deliver strong messages to key leaders and to the broader South Sudanese public, as well as support mediation efforts led by neighboring African states as well as South Sudanese church leaders.

Two and a half million South Sudanese died for the creation of this new state. With robust international action and statesmanship by South Sudan's leaders, millions more deaths can be prevented.

George Clooney, a co-founder of Not On Our Watch, and John Prendergast, a co-founder of the Enough Project (, together founded and run the Satellite Sentinel Project (, an initiative focused on preventing mass atrocities.

George Clooney's 'The Monuments Men' Unveils New Campaign To Find Lost Art

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 13:59

George Clooney produced, co-wrote, directed, and stars in Sony's "The Monuments Men," but there's one part of the film's journey to theaters that he can't do alone: find all the missing artwork stolen or taken during World War II. That's where the audience comes in: As part of the release of "The Monuments Men," Sony is partnering with author Robert Edsel for the campaign.

"This is hugely important to our efforts to complete the mission of the Monuments Men. Between 1945 and 1951 the Monuments Men and Women found and returned almost five million works of art and cultural items, so many of which had been stolen by the Nazis," Edsel, the author of the book on which "The Monuments Men" is based, wrote in an email to HuffPost Entertainment. "But hundreds of thousands of objects remain missing to this day including works of art and objects taken by soldiers as souvenirs. Our campaign, which George, Grant Heslov [co-writer] and Sony have so enthusiastically supported, marks the first time in history that anyone has sought the public's help in locating these items."

Clooney first announced plans to turn Edsel's book, "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History," into a film in early 2012. "I'm not opposed to doing a commercial film, I'm just opposed to doing a commercial film that doesn't feel organic to me," Clooney said to TheWrap on Jan. 8, 2012. "So if we're going to do a commercial film we thought, 'Let's do something that seems fun and actually have something to say.'" In addition to Clooney, "The Monuments Men" stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban.

"Working with George and Grant was a wonderfully collaborative process," Edsel wrote in an email to HuffPost Entertainment. "They were eager to hear to my comments and recommendations throughout the creative process and during filming. We didn't always agree, but they always heard me out. They welcomed me on set numerous times and afforded me the chance to bring my team of researchers, who have worked tirelessly gathering the history of these men and women. For that I remain extremely grateful. Both George and Grant have worked passionately and diligently to understand this untold part of history, and then find a way to tell this epic story in their own voice on screen. Making this film was an enormous undertaking and, now that it is finished, a great achievement."

Robert Edsel on the set of "The Monuments Men."

In addition to audiences enjoying the film, Edsel wrote that he hopes "The Monuments Men" allows viewers to understand the lengths these men and women went to preserve history and protect "civilization's most important and beautiful treasures from the destruction of war and theft by the Nazis."

"I imagine audiences everywhere will wonder, as I did some 17 years ago, how these heroes and their epic story were largely lost in the fog of history. Their assignment presented the Monuments Men with a dilemma: 'Is art worth a life?' Seventy years later, audiences will have their own opportunity to consider this provocative question," Edsel wrote. "The looting of the National Museum of Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 proved a painful example of what can happen when such a great legacy is forgotten. I hope that moviegoers will be vocal in expressing their belief that Monuments officers should always be an important part of our modern day military forces and that our nation shows the respect for the cultural property of others that the Monuments Men and women did during World War II."

As Sony noted in its press release, will also allow interested parties to sign a "virtual petition supporting the Monuments Men's efforts to preserve and protect great cultural works of art by encouraging members of Congress to honor the Monuments Men with the Congressional Gold Medal."

"The Monuments Men have earned the right to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, but for that to happen we need the public to encourage their members of Congress to quickly indicate their support for these recently introduced bills," Edsel wrote. "There will always be conflicts; I hope that our president will state, as did President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower, that the United States will always respect the cultural property of other nations, even in times of conflict. That was good foreign policy then; it will serve us well today and in the future."

More information on the initiative can be found in the press release provided by Sony below. "The Monuments Men" is out in theaters on Feb. 7, 2014.

George Clooney and Matt Damon in "The Monuments Men."


CULVER CITY, Calif., Dec. 20, 2013 '' In anticipation of the nationwide release of The Monuments Men, the new film from director George Clooney based on the true story of the race to save 1000 years of culture, moviegoers can visit, where they will find resources and information about the ways we all can continue the search for landmark works that were stolen or taken as souvenirs during World War II and are still missing today. The film, which is written by George Clooney & Grant Heslov, will be released on February 7, 2014.

Robert M. Edsel, who founded and heads the Monuments Men Foundation, added, ''The Monuments Men and women saved almost five million cultural objects, but so much is still missing. They could be anywhere, in your grandfather's attic, or hiding in plain sight. I'm thrilled that with the release of the movie, there will be a way for the public to help complete these heroes' mission. Call 1-866-WWII-ART and find out how you can help.''

At, moviegoers can sign a virtual petition supporting the Monuments Men's efforts to preserve and protect great cultural works of art by encouraging members of Congress to honor the Monuments Men with the Congressional Gold Medal.

In addition, visitors will find a phone number '' 1-866-WWII-ART '' which will connect callers directly to the Monuments Men Foundation, where they can speak with a Monuments Men Foundation representative regarding the search for lost art.

Also as a part of the Support the Monuments Men site, visitors will find an interactive map. On the map, moviegoers can find out local museums that will be featuring their institutions' connection to the Monuments Men '' such as personnel who participated in the campaign or rescued works of art that hang on the museums' walls.

On the ''Journey of the Monuments Men'' feature, visitors can read about the history '' from information about the real Monuments Men to the efforts they and others took to save landmark works during the war.

Finally, the studio has developed an educational program to engage high school and college students, families and art buffs about the story of the Monuments Men. The educational site, at, features downloadable lesson plans that meet common core state standards, an interactive map, and videos to spark discussion and aid educators in building a curriculum. Students are also invited to get involved by uploading photos of local works of art that best represent their communities. The photos can be uploaded by visiting the Tumblr page at

Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on seven over-the-hill, out-of-shape museum directors, artists, architects, curators, and art historians who went to the front lines of WWII to rescue the world's artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners. With the art hidden behind enemy lines, how could these guys hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements. From director George Clooney, the film stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett. The screenplay is by George Clooney & Grant Heslov, based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. Produced by Grant Heslov and George Clooney.

Also on HuffPost:



Peacekeepers open fire on Central African Republic protesters

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 20:56

Peacekeepers open fire on C.Africa protesters (via AFP)African peacekeepers fired into a crowd of protesters in the capital of the Central African Republic on Monday, killing one person and injuring around 40 more, in a shooting set to escalate tensions in the strife-torn country. The Chadian soldiers,'...

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John Prendergast (activist) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 06:10

John Prendergast (born March 21, 1963) is an American human rights activist, author, and former Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. He is the co-founder of the Enough Project, a nonprofit human rights organization affiliated with the Center for American Progress. Prendergast is a board member and serves as Strategic Advisor to Not On Our Watch Project.[6] He is also a member of the faculty and Advisory Board of the International Peace and Security Institute (IPSI).[7]

In the latter half of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, Prendergast worked for a variety of organizations in the U.S. and Africa,[8][9][10] focusing primarily on peace and human rights. At the end of 1996, he joined the National Security Council as Director for African Affairs[11] and thereafter served as a special adviser to Susan Rice at the United States Department of State.[12] As a special adviser, Prendergast was part of the facilitation team behind the successful two-and-a-half-year U.S. effort to broker an end to the Eritrean''Ethiopian War.[13] Prendergast left government in 2001 to become Special Adviser to the President of the International Crisis Group on Africa issues,[14] and in 2007, with Gayle Smith, he co-founded the Enough Project, housed at the Center for American Progress.

Under the Enough Project umbrella, Prendergast has helped create a number of initiatives and campaigns. With George Clooney, he helped launch the Satellite Sentinel Project, which aims to prevent conflict and human rights abuses through satellite imagery. With Tracy McGrady and other NBA players, Prendergast co-founded the Darfur Dream Team: Sister Schools Initiative to fund schools in Darfurian refugee camps and create partnerships with schools in the United States. He helped launch two campaigns under Enough: the Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, highlighting the issue of conflict minerals, and Sudan Now,[15] focused on bringing peace to that embattled country.

Prendergast has written extensively on Africa and is the author or co-author of ten books. His previous two books were co-authored with Don Cheadle: Not On Our Watch, a New York Times bestseller and NAACP non-fiction book of the year,[16] and The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes. His most recent book, Unlikely Brothers,[17] is a dual memoir co-authored with his first little brother in the Big Brothers program.

Prendergast has appeared in four episodes of 60 Minutes,[18][19][20][21] and helped create African characters and stories for two episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, one focusing on the recruitment of child soldiers[22] and the other on rape as a war strategy.[23] He has also traveled to Africa with Dateline NBC,[24]ABC's Nightline,[25] The PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer[26] and CNN's Inside Africa.

Prendergast has appeared in several documentaries including: Sand and Sorrow, Darfur Now, 3 Points,[27] and War Child.[28] He co-produced Journey Into Sunset,[29] and is Executive Producer of Staging Hope: Acts of Peace in Northern Uganda,[30] both about Northern Uganda, and partnered with Downtown Records and Mercer Street Records to create the compilation album Raise Hope for Congo,[31] combating sexual violence against women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Prendergast has been a visiting professor at many universities and colleges, including Yale Law School, Stanford University, and Columbia University. He has been awarded six honorary doctorates.[32]


Unlikely Brothers by John Prendergast and Michael Mattocks, published by Random House, May 17, 2011 ISBN 978-0-307-46484-2The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes by John Prendergast with Don Cheadle, published by Random House, 2010 ISBN 978-0-307-46482-8Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, by Don Cheadle, John Prendergast, published by Hyperion, 2007 ISBN 978-1-4013-0335-8Crafting Peace: Strategies to Deal with Warlords in Collapsing States, by Sasha Lezhnev, John Prendergast, published by Lexington Books, 2006 ISBN 978-0-7391-1765-1Blood and Soil: Land, Politics and Conflict Prevention in Zimbabwe and South Africa, by John Prendergast, published by International Crisis Group, 2004 ISBN 978-0-9760853-0-0God, Oil & Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan, principal author, John Prendergast, published by International Crisis Group, (Africa Report, 39), January 28, 2002 ASIN: B000FPCBPCrisis Response: Humanitarian Band-aids in Sudan and Somalia, principal author, John Prendergast, Inc NetLibrary, NetLibrary, Inc., published by Center of Concern, 1997 ISBN 978-0-585-38030-8Frontline Diplomacy: Humanitarian Aid and Conflict in Africa, by John Prendergast, Center of Concern (Washington, D.C.), published by L. Rienner, 1996 ISBN 978-1-55587-696-8Civilian Devastation: Abuses by All Parties in the War in Southern Sudan, by Jemera Rone, John Prendergast, Karen Sorensen, Human Rights Watch/Africa, Human Rights Watch (Organization), published by Human Rights Watch, 1994 ISBN 978-1-56432-129-9Without Troops & Tanks: The Emergency Relief Desk and the Cross Border Operation into Eritrea and Tigray, by Mark R. Duffield, John Prendergast, published by The Red Sea Press, 1994 ISBN 978-1-56902-003-6Peace, Development, and People of the Horn of Africa, by John Prendergast, Bread for the World (Organization). Institute on Hunger & Development, Center of Concern (Washington, D.C.), published by Center of Concern, 1992 ISBN 978-0-9628058-2-0References[edit]^"Huffington Post 2011 Game Changers". ^"United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of the World Award". ^"Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award". ^"Princeton University Crystal Tiger Award". ^"The Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution Peace Award". ^"Not On Our Watch Project". March 17, 2011. ^"IPSI". International Peace and Security Institute. October 3, 2012. ^"USIP". ^"UNICEF". ^"Human Rights Watch". ^"Official Delegation Accompanying the President to Africa" (Press release). March 20, 1998. ^"Crisis in Darfur". Mother Jones. December 20, 2000. ^"U.S. Leadership in Resolving African Conflict: The Case of Ethiopia-Eritrea". Not On Our Watch. September 2001. ^"Sudan: Now or Never in Darfur". International Crisis Group. May 23, 2004. ^"Sudan Now.". ^"39th NAACP Image Award Winners". NAACP. ^"Redemption through Brotherhood". Washington Post. May 15, 2011. ^"Witnessing Genocide in Sudan". CBS News. August 28, 2005. ^"Searching for Jacob". CBS News. October 22, 2006. ^"Searching for Jacob,". CBS News. July 16, 2008. ^"Congo's Gold". CBS News. November 29, 2009. ^"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, "Hell"". NBC. March 31, 2009. ^"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, "Witness"". NBC. March 17, 2010. ^"Dateline, Winds of War". NBC News. December 3, 2010. ^"A View from the Ground on the Killing in Northeast Africa". February 9, 2005. ^"Crisis in Sudan.". The PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. October 20, 2004. ^"3 Points". ^"War Child". ^"Journey Into Sunset". ^"Staging Hope: Acts of Peace in Northern Uganda". ^"Raise Hope for Congo". ^Enough Project biographyExternal links[edit]PersondataNamePrendergast, JohnAlternative namesShort descriptionAmerican human rights activistDate of birthMarch 21, 1963Place of birthIndianapolis, Indiana, United StatesDate of deathPlace of death

Nonprofit Report for NOT ON OUR WATCH INC

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Basic Organization InformationNOT ON OUR WATCH INC

Physical Address:Encino, CA 91436 EIN:20-8827879Web URL:www.notonourwatchpro... NTEE Category:Q nternational, Foreign Affairs, and National Security Q70 (International Human Rights) Ruling Year:2007 Sign in or create an account to see this organization's full address, contact information, and more!


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1333 h street ne 10th floor washington dc - Google Search

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ENOUGH PROJECT FUNDED-Press Room | Satellite Sentinel Project

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Who We Are and What We DoThe Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, a partnership between the Enough Project and DigitalGlobe, conducts monitoring of the border between Sudan and South Sudan to assess the human security situation, identify potential threats to civilians, and detect, deter and document war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Enough Project provides field research, policy context, and communications strategy. DigitalGlobe provides imagery from its constellation of satellites and geospatial analysis from the DigitalGlobe Analysis Center. SSP is funded primarily by Not On Our Watch.


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Not On Our Watch continues to press for an end to mass atrocities and gross violations of human rights around the world. For press coverage of our advocacy and aid projects, please click on the links below.

April 20th 2010Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to US Fund for UNICEF/Maternal Mortality in Southern SudanJanuary 15th 2010Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to Partners In Health/Emergency Medical Efforts for Haiti EarthquakeJune 2nd 2009Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to UNICEF/Child Refugee Protection ProgramsMay 15th 2009Advocacy: Artists, Politicians Call for Aung San Suu Kyi ReleaseFebruary 19th 2009Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to UN World Food Programme/Food AssistanceDecember 11th 2008Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to CARE/Peace-Building and LivelihoodAid: Not On Our Watch Grant to Oxfam/Food Security and Water SanitationAid: Not On Our Watch Grant to IRC/Health ServicesNovember 21st 2008Advocacy: Not On Our Watch Board Op Ed on Darfur in Wall Street JournalJune 2nd 2008Advocacy: Burma's Broken Promises '-- Statement by Nobel Laureates and Former SE Asian LeadersMay 13th 2008Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to Save the Children/Emergency Cyclone Nargis ReliefMarch 13th 2008Aid: Not On Our Watch 2nd Grant to UN World Food Programme/Humanitarian Air ServiceJune 27th 2007Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to Save the Children/Assistance for Women & ChildrenAid: Not On Our Watch Grant to UN World Food Programme/Humanitarian Air ServiceJune 26th 2007Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to UN World Food Programme/Humanitarian Air ServiceJune 7th 2007Aid: Not On Our Watch Grant to IRC/Emergency & Lifesaving Programs in DarfurAid: Not On Our Watch Grant to Oxfam/LIfesaving & Humanitarian Aid

CAF-Enough Project

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On sale now! Human rights activist John Prendergast and Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle bring us an empowering and hopeful new book, as they reveal the steps being taken by engaged citizens'--"Upstanders"'--famous and unknown, here and abroad, to combat genocide, rape, and child soldierdom in Africa.


Probe into Nazis and Jewish art exposes 'dealer to the Fuhrer'

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 14:42

Hildebrand Gurlitt amassed 1,500 pieces worth $1 billion today that he insisted were legally bought from Jews fleeing Holocaust; sold art to finance Hitler's war effort. His son and heir has collection seized by German authorities Ynet News

A German art collector who came to possess 1,500 masterpieces previously owned by Jews had close ties to the Nazi party and was even known as the "dealer to the Fuhrer", German newspaper Der Speigel reported this week.

According to the report, Hildebrand Gurlitt, who died in a car accident in 1956, had connections in high-level Nazi circles and was involved in the systematic looting of Jewish property during the Third Reich. Much of the art had been transferred to an Austrian museum in the city of Linz, where Hitler had hoped to amass the largest, most expensive collection in the world.

Related stories:

A recent raid by the German authorities at the Munich apartment of Gurlitt's son and heir, art collector Cornelius Gurlitt, uncovered the collection, today valued at nearly $1 billion.

Cornelius has tried to re-claim the artwork, which was seized by the German authorities. He claims the pieces were purchased legally during the 1930s at low prices from Jews who were seeking to cash in on their property before fleeing Germany.

Limited information on Hildebrand Cornelius' activities was known in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust. In 1945, a special unit of the US army in charge of returning to the rightful owners property pillaged by the Nazis arrested Hildebrand and discovered a portion of the enormous collection he assembled.

According to documents from the American unit cited in the Der Spiegel report, Gurlitt was described as "an art collector from Hamburg with connections within high-level Nazi circles. He acted on behalf of other Nazi officials and made many trips to France, from where he brought home art collections."

Gurlitt had been instructed, by Hitler's command, to sell modern pieces which the Nazis had deemed "degenerate art" to raise funds for the German war effort. The Jews who attempted to escape Germany during this period sold their prized possessions for pennies on the dollar, simply to finance their way out of the country.

It was previously reported by German newspaper Bild that more than 200 pieces from the collection had been sold to Hildebrand for a symbolic price by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister.

Spiegel revealed that at the height of the war, Hildebrand developed a relationship with Cornelius M¼ller Hofstede, head of the Silesian Museum in Breslau, who confiscated works of art from Jews and sent them to Hildebrand to sell. Hofstede worked closely with the Gestapo and used his access to walk into Jewish homes and pick out selections for his museum.

During his three-day interrogation by the Americans in 1945, Gurlitt tried to change his image, telling the Americans he acted out of fear because he had a Jewish grandmother. He said he was scared of being sent to the work camps and thought it better to cooperate with the Nazi authorities.

Gurlitt was subsequently released by the Americans, and went on to become the director of a Dusseldorf museum, and in 1950 the 140 pieces seized by the US were returned to him, the report said.

Like his son, Hildebrand Gurlitt also claimed that some of the artwork they discovered in his residence had been bought by his father long before the Nazis' rise to power. But one of the paintings in question was purchased in 1935 from a Jewish journalist for just 600 Reichsmark.

The Americans eventually returned the painting to Hildebrand, and it was sold in 1972 for almost $40,000 ($223,463 today). According to Spiegel, the journalist who sold Gurlitt the artwork, Julius Ferdinand Wolf, committed suicide along with his wife and brother rather than go to a concentration camp.

Another seller to Gurlitt, a Jewish doctor from Hamburg, tried to reclaim his property after his release from Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the report said. But Gurlitt refused to pass on any information on the buyer of the art, the paper said.

Roei Eisenberg contributed to this report


Paul Walker-Radley Studios

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Main menuChopper Wins Promax Silver

Discovery Channel and Radley won Silver at this year's Promax awards for overall promo campaign for the launch of The Build-Off American Chopper Live. We want to thank Discovery Channel for an amazing...

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We are proud to introduce! Radley Design is our team that creates design-driven content for commercials, main titles, branded content and entertainment marketing. This site is all abou...

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Radley produced this season's launch campaign for Discovery's hit series "Gold Rush." The Hoffman crew was in search of adventure, independence and the fortune they were convinced was beneath their fe...

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ROWW: About Us

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 19:38

Reach Out WorldWide (ROWW) - consisting of skilled volunteers - is a non-profit registered 501(c)3 organization. While part of a relief team responding to the massive earthquakes that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010; Actor/Producer Paul Walker saw a gap between the availability of skilled resources and the requirement for such personnel in post-disaster situations. Following the trip he contacted a group of his friends to assist him in forming ROWW with the purpose of filling this unmet need.

ROWW is a network of committed professionals with first responder skill-set (including project management, logistics, heavy equipment operation, EMT, paramedic, firefighting, and healthcare, etc). The volunteers provide their expertise when disasters strike and augment local resources with the goal of accelerating relief efforts on a worldwide basis. ROWW has developed Standard Operating Procedures that facilitate arriving quickly, clearing access, providing basic necessities and medical assistance to ease the survivors' pain and bringing hope in the bleakest of circumstances.

ROWW operates on the philosophy that by making a difference in just one person's life, the world has been changed for the better.

(C) 2013 Reach Out Worldwide



FBI raid another scandal for charter school company | WBRZ News 2 Louisiana : Baton Rouge, LA |

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Posted: Dec 11, 2013 11:20 PM by Trey SchmaltzUpdated: Dec 12, 2013 6:20 AMSource: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE- Wednesday evening's FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School.

Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The organization lost its school in New Orleans amid allegations of sexual misconduct among students that prompted a state investigation on campuses in the Crescent City and in Baton Rouge. It has also faced lawsuits and allegations from teachers about bad learning environments.

"It was an atmosphere where there was a double standard," one former teacher told WBRZ News 2 in an investigation into the school in EBR. Former teachers were not happy with how things were handled when they spoke with a station reporter two years ago.

No one was ever charged in the sex allegations a school spokesperson pointed out Wednesday as federal investigators moved through the campus collecting items, putting them in boxes and then loading them into a van.

"We will continue to cooperate" with the FBI, Mike Lambert, the spokesman said. But, he would not comment further.

"We're simply not in a position to say anything else right now," he added.

The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. In 2012, the Pelican group was accused of improperly handling money by the Legislative Auditor. A report found about $8600 was improperly used to buy gifts for students who scored high on LEAP tests.

But, Lambert believes the school is doing its job. He said student performance has increased to a C and that more than half of the students at Kenilworth are at or above grade level. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Pelican and Kenilworth to continue to operate for about six more years.

About the same time as allegations and lawsuits began dealing with Pelican charter schools, a BESE member took an improper trip on behalf of another Turkish organization. Linda Johnson, who is no longer on BESE, was fined for breaking the law by the ethics board. She got an all expenses paid trip to Turkey.

Kenilworth Science and Technology School will be open Thursday.**********Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

FBI Raids Gulen School in New Orleans | Asbarez Armenian News

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 14:47

Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge

Kenilworth charter school, subject of apparent FBI inquiry, has ties to Turkish educationBY DIANA SAMUELSFrom | The Times-Picayune

NEW ORLEANS'--FBI and Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School officials aren't saying why the FBI converged on the Baton Rouge school's campus Wednesday evening, carting off boxes.

But the school has ties to a controversial education movement inspired by a Turkish Muslim scholar, Fethullah Gulen. And other schools connected with that movement have reportedly been investigated by the FBI.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2011 that the FBI was investigating whether employees of charter schools affiliated with the Gulen movement were kicking back part of their salaries, funded by taxpayers, to the Turkish Muslim movement of ''Hizmet.'' The Inquirer reported the investigation was ''nationwide,'' but coordinated by prosecutors in Pennsylvania, where Gulen lives.

Kenilworth's ties to the Gulen movement aren't direct or publicly advertised. Kenilworth Superintendent Tevfik Eski has previously denied to | The Times-Picayune any connection between Gulen and the school.

But in 2011, | The Times-Picayune reported that Pelican Educational Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs Kenilworth, does have various connections to the movement.

For example, Karen Fontenot, vice president of Pelican's board, spoke in 2010 at a conference on the Gulen movement and said, ''I'm on the advisory board of the schools ''the Gulen schools in Louisiana.''

The Pelican Educational Foundation also oversaw Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans, which was abruptly shut down by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2011. Among other issues at Abramson, the state was investigating a reported bribery attempt where the state's academic advisor for charter schools was on Abramson's campus, and was approached by an executive of a construction company, Atlas Texas Construction and Trading. The Atlas executive offered the state official $25,000 to ''help fix this problem,'' potentially referring to complaints made about the school by a group of teachers.

Pelican disavowed any association with Atlas. But Atlas had done building work at an Oklahoma charter school that was led by Mustafa Guvercin, who later went on to be principal at Abramson.

Atlas is described as affiliated with Gulen in a classified State Department cable that was published by Wikileaks.

There is no indication that Gulen schools have been pushing a religious doctrine in the classroom. Gulen also emphasizes the need for peace, distancing himself from any hard-line Muslim sect and terrorism.

Pelican has run Kenilworth under a charter with the Recovery School District since 2009, and its contract was just renewed for another five years.

FBI officials would only say Wednesday that the issue is not a matter of public safety.

FBI Raids US Charter School Linked to Turkish Islamic Gulen Movement

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 14:45

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Fethullah Gulen (

The FBI has raided a charter school in Louisiana which allegedly has ties to the controversial movement of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US.

During the visit at the Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter school in Baton Rouge, federal agents seized several boxes from the campus but they refused to reveal the reasons behind the raid.

It is not the first time that the FBI has put the spotlight on the charter schools, which are funded by American taxpayers. In 2011, the agency was investigating whether employees of charter schools linked to the movement were kicking back part of the salary to Hizmet, a Muslim movement funded by Gulen in Turkey.

Links between the Kenilworth charter school and the Gulen movement are not directly publicised. The local Times-Picayune reported that a nonprofit group that runs the school, called Pelican Educations Foundation, has various connections to the movement.

The vice-president of Pelican allegedly admitted to be on the advisory board of the charter schools in Louisiana.

Pelican was also linked to another charter school which was shut down in 2011 over a reported bribery attempt.

Who is Fethullah Gulen?

Gulen is a charismatic and reclusive man who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The official reason for his exile is given as "medical", but Gulen was actually fleeing charges of plotting to overthrow the government in Turkey.

Over the years, he has built an impressive network of more than 1,000 schools in 140 countries, from South Africa to the United States.

The Hizmet movement initiated by Gulen proposes a moderate interpretation of Islam and has provided indispensable support for the ruling AKP party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

In Turkey the movement has the strongest support and affiliations, including in the country's largest daily newspaper, Zaman, and its English equivalent, Today's Zaman.

Earlier this year, a US woman anonymously told Wired she was targeted in a cyber-attack because of her outspoken criticism of the Gulen movement.


Taking a closer look at badBIOS | The Vafaburg Periodical

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:33

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this analysis are meant as a critical review of data currently available on badBIOS, and are not intended to disparage in any way, the author of the badBIOS claims.

Stuxnet was a game-changer. In the words of one researcher, it marked ''a clear turning point in the history of cyber security and in military history as well.'' Even though some of the propagation methods employed by Stuxnet, taken in isolation, may have been known to be theoretically possible at the time, it was the first public record of an attack of such complexity against a target of substantial value. The version of Stuxnet that gained public exposure ''represents the first of many milestones in malicious code history '' it is the first to exploit four 0-day vulnerabilities, compromise two digital certificates, and inject code into industrial control systems and hide the code from the operator''

The scope of the Stuxnet development and execution effort also had another, perhaps unintended, consequence: it lowered the bar on what would be considered a plausible cyber attack. If the Stuxnet authors were able to physically break into two companies and steal signing certificates in order to sign the malicious binaries, the reasoning went, or exploit four zero-day vulnerabilities, then what else could they do? Did anything lie outside their reach? After Stuxnet, no idea was too outlandish. Could malware jump over an air gap? Stuxnet did. Can systems infected with a specific strain of malware communicate through a means other than traditional wired or wireless networks? Flame did. What then, is expected behavior? What is the baseline? As Dan Geer recently pointed out, ''everywhere you look, cyber security practitioners are trying to get a handle on ''What is normal?'' so that that which is abnormal can be identified early in the game.'' It is against this backdrop of behavioral uncertainty, that the claims made about the badBIOS malware should be weighed: any unexplained operation or response observed on an isolated or networked group of computers, can be taken to be the workings of malware. Because as Stuxnet, and its cousins Flame and Duqu showed, malware authors are several years ahead of what is commonly believed to be possible.


In mid-October of this year, Dragos Ruiu, a security enthusiast well known within the infosec community, used social media channels to make a startling announcement: his home-office systems were infected with an advanced type of malware which appeared to infect the systems at the BIOS level, have the ability to jump air-gaps by communicating over the 35kHz audio range, and infect different operating systems (OSs). Ruiu called the malware badBIOS, and started sharing snippets of information relating to its operation on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Due to its advanced nature, Ruiu explained, it was not immediately possible to obtain samples. For the month following the disclosure, the infosec community was abuzz with discussions about badBIOS: was it real, or was it a hoax? Was this the next Stuxnet? As we will see, once the scientific method is applied to Ruiu's assertions, the answer is self-evident.


Dragos Ruiu is a familiar name within the infosec community. He is best known for being an organizer of the Pwn2Own security challenge, and the CanSecWest and PacSec security conferences. His resume states that he worked as a C programmer, and later as a VAX administrator, and an Embedded Systems programmer. It also states that he was an original member of the Honeynet Project, and also a founder member of SourceFire, a company best known for its network security software and hardware. He is also listed as one of the Major Contributors to Snort, an open source Network Intrusion Detection system (NIDS). In addition to this, Ruiu authored two books (Testing Digital Video in 1997, and Testing Digital Video-Discover the Latest Techniques and Products for Real-World Video Testing, also in 1997) and also co-authored two books (Broadband Testing Technologies, B-ISDN Primer in 1993, and Deploying Snort 2. 0: Maximizing and Extending Intrusion Detection in 2003). In spite of this, there appears to be no reference to any specific security research conducted by Ruiu, presentation made by him at a security conference, or forensic or malware analysis undertaken by him.

When releasing information about badBIOS, Ruiu shared his observations progressively and without much technical detail. A sizable portion of the information available on badBIOS was released by Ruiu on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. What this means is that there is no authoritative analysis of the technical details of badBIOS that may be comparable to Symantec's W32.Stuxnet Dossier. Graham and Jaenke are the ones that come closest to providing a technical analysis. Analyzing the primary information made available by Ruiu therefore, involves a process of reviewing a large number of sources, each with a small amount of information, and each with little accompanying context.

Compiling the data released on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and on one podcast interview pertaining to badBIOS, it is nevertheless possible to put together a list of forty (40) distinct claims that are made by Ruiu regarding badBIOS. These are listed in their entirety, in Annex B, including reference quotes and links. For the sake of brevity, Table 1 below only includes a subset of ten (10) claims. The same process used to test the validity of these ten claims, can be applied to the remaining thirty. The numbers in Table 1 correspond to the row number in the complete list in Annex B.


The method of analysis that accompanies the assertions made by Ruiu are characteristic of instinctive thinking: the claims are unsubstantiated, assumptions and conjecture are combined with facts, and unexplained behavior is taken to be the work of advanced malware. Even though Ruiu notes that settling on the idea that an advanced form of malware was behind the unexplained behavior was ''about the second last theory we tried,'' the primary sources on badBIOS lack alternative hypotheses, and contain several examples of cognitive distortions. Ten assertions are analyzed below. The numbering corresponds to the row in the list of forty assertions presented in Annex B.

A common theme that is present throughout the first-hand reports of badBIOS operation, is the assumption that the malware exists. That the unexplained behavior is attributed to an advanced form of malware, is presented to the public as a fact. Ruiu mentions having looked at other alternative explanations early in the discovery of this malware, but does not share those hypotheses or discuss them with his readers. The assertions are presented in rapid succession, and without supporting evidence. This reduces the assertions to a series of anecdotes and eyewitness accounts. Further, Ruiu doesn't explain why these assertion are taken to be true. These assertions should only be looked at as a list of questions that should characterize the start, not the end, of an investigation.

Assertion 1:OpenBSD systems infected with badBIOS can unexpectedly enter single user mode.

Reference: ''we saw all kinds of weird effects, and things like OpenBSD boxes in single user mode, changing files while they're not supposed to be on the network, so there's all kinds of strange things.''

Evidence: Ruiu does not provide corroborative evidence to back this claim. No evidence is provided to explain how many OpenBSD systems entered single-user mode, or whether this was a repeatable or one-time occurrence. By making this assertion, Ruiu is making an inference based on very little data.


Confirmation bias: In making this assertion, Ruiu has concluded that badBIOS is real, and that the OpenBSD systems are infected with it. Unexplained behavior like the system entering single-user mode provides a confirmation to, and in a way proves this conclusion.Observation bias:Although the claim is that the OpenBSD system entered single-user mode on its own accord, there is no contextual information to indicate what other factors may have contributed to it entering single-user mode. Were there any error messages in the system logs? Did any applications enter an error condition? Did any other OpenBSD systems on the network enter single-user mode? What are the differences between the systems that did enter single-user mode and those that didn't? The available information shows that the observer saw one or more systems in single-user mode, and took that as proof of the existence of badBIOS.Certainty bias: In this case, making the assumption that this behavior is attributable to the badBIOS malware is an indication of the need for a simple explanation to what could be a complex problem. A system rebooting and entering single-user mode can be the result of the malfunction of several components. The analysis of system and application logs is often a starting point, to determine the underlying cause of the anomaly was. Notes: Unix operating systems like OpenBSD have five stages, or 'runlevels' that comprise the bootstrap process. Different tasks or operations are undertaken at each runlevel, and a process or subsystem may start at one runlevel and be shut-down at another. Run-level 1 is referred to as 'Single user mode' referring to the fact that this runlevel does not support a multi-user environment. Only the superuser (or administrator) account, referred to as the 'root' account in Unix can log on to the system when the machine is in this runlevel. Single- user mode is also a stage where other services or processes have not yet started; it is a stage reserved for troubleshooting and administrative tasks, and since networking services are not active at this runlevel 1, it requires operator interaction at the system console.


A Unix system entering single-user mode is not unusual. A Google search for ''OpenBSD stuck in single-user mode'' provides a view of the variety of reasons an OpenBSD system can enter single-user mode. The same holds for other flavors of Unix and Linux.The reference does not indicate whether the systemrebootedand entered single-user mode, or whether it entered single-user mode without rebooting. Both are possible, and the root causes of each differ. The reference also notes that Ruiu observed files changing on the infected machine when it was not connected on the network. From comments made by Ruiu elsewhere, it is likely that this is a reference to files Ruiu and his team observed being written to and read from, by looking at the SysInternals process monitor (procmon) output. This too is not unusual. As a commenter noted on a subsequent Twitter update from Ruiu, ''Asking ''Why does it do X'' is probably an inefficient way to proceed. Uninfected computers do a lot of weird things.''Assertion 6: Deleting registry keys that badBIOS is using, results in the malware entering an error condition.

Reference: ''at one point we saw a whole bunch of registry keys as they're accessing them, so we deleted them '... And you could see that their stuff sputtered and then I guess that was the point at which it required operator intervention. And we start seeing more intelligent responses from these things.''

Evidence: Ruiu does not provide evidence to back this claim. What is also absent is detail regarding the exact steps that were followed to generate this outcome. Detailed steps would make it possible for others to try to reproduce the same behavior. In this case, Ruiu is reaching a conclusion based on very little data.


Self-serving bias: This is an example of seeking supporting evidence for the claim of the existence of badBIOS, as doing so also confirms related assertions.Jumping to conclusions bias: Once the bar for confirmatory evidence has been set low, we can be persuaded to reach a conclusion based on any evidence, irrespective of the strength of its argument. Belief in the evidence and in the conclusion make it difficult to accept that the method in which this assertion was accepted, is wrong. Framing bias: This can also be an explanation of reaching incorrect conclusions because the problem (or assertion) is not framed correctly or presented accurately. In this case, the assertion is that one or more processes tied to the badBIOS malware ''sputtered'' once a number of registry keys were deleted. Framing this in a technical context '-- stating for example that the process iexplore.exe outputs error messages and terminates once registry keys X, Y, and Z are deleted, would make it easier to disprove. In its current form, the assertion is framed as a general observation.Notes: The Windows registry, according to Russinovich, Solomon, & Ionescu (Windows Internals Part 1) is ''the systemwide database that contains the information required to boot and configure the system, systemwide software settings that control the operation of WIndows, the security database, and per-user configuration settings.'' Attempting to edit Windows registry keys carries with it the caveat that ''you must exercise extreme caution; any changes might adversely affect system performance or, worse, cause the system to boot successfully.'' It appears that Ruiu' intention was to elicit some kind of response by deleting ''a whole bunch'' of registry keys from a running Windows system. This strategy may work in a well controlled setting, where the values being deleted are known, and documented, and where there is a list of likely outcomes. Deleting the registry keys in that scenario could be a method of testing likely outcomes. Indiscriminately deleting registry keys however, and reporting on the outcome does not help strengthen the assertion.

Observations: This behavior, as described, should be repeatable. The assertion that deleting registry keys causes the badBIOS malware to 'sputter', implies that the operation being observed '-- the write operations to files on disk, and read and write operations to specific registry keys '-- is being undertaken by the malware. Since there is insufficient evidence to prove the presence of malware, it is unclear what is entering an error condition '-- what is sputtering? What registry keys were being written to? Which were erased?

Assertion 12: An audio recording of badBIOS communication shows a pulse pattern in the 35kHz range; approximating 128 bits per second.

Reference: ''So we made some recordings, and a colleague of mine has been looking at it, and he's found lots of odd spectral artifacts at around 35kHz, and when you zoom it out, it looks like it's a repeated bit pulse pattern at that rate, something like 128 bits per second, which coincidentally enough seems to match the bit rate of the packets that we're seeing on the procmon traces, we're seeing 8-byte payloads, and changing the packets once every one to two seconds, about the same bit-rate.''

Evidence: Ruiu provided an audio recording which shows a signal in the 35kHz range, and noise around the 40kHz range.


Confirmation bias: In this case, the signal at 35kHz is taken as confirmation of the existence of badBIOS malware, instead of triggering a need for an alternate explanation. This new information is also interpreted in a way that confirms Ruiu's formerly stated conclusions.Illusory Correlation bias: This is an example of believing in one's ability to find causal explanations based on visual clues, and in identifying patterns that support stated beliefs. Notes: The range of human hearing is 20Hz '' 20,000Hz. The image depicted on the cover page of this report is that of the signal alluded to be Ruiu, which can be observed at the 35,000Hz mark. The signal was further analyzed and ''slowed down 20x'' to produce the image below. The pulse pattern Ruiu refers to, is the pulse that can be observed in this image.

Observations: A signal can indeed be observed at the 35kHz mark, however there is no evidence to suggest what could be generating it, and one cannot rely on a visual analysis of the waveform to conclude what it could represent. A Twitter user following the discussion for example, suggested that the signal can be generated by an electronic component present in Ruiu's system, similar to a NCP1729, a Switched Capacitor Voltage Inverter that operates at 35kHz. In a related tweet, Ruiu expressed a sentiment that becomes characteristic of the claims made of badBIOS, he notes ''slowed down it sounds like a modem. As I said I'm not doing analysis, looking at results. But it's looking pretty viable.''

Assertion 16: The badBIOS audio link is encrypted.

Reference 12: ''We haven't captured the downloads, or gotten any of these modules, it's all-encrypted'' and ''nope it probably wasn't ipv6 over audio, it was seemingly 12byte packets, 8bytes encrypted payload.''

Evidence: Ruiu provides no evidence for this assertion.


Assertion bias: This is a prime example of making an assertion to imply analysis. Ruiu asserts that the link is encrypted, and that assertion is taken as fact.Self-serving bias: In this case, an explanation is provided in support of (and in line with) other badBIOS claims, in the clear absence of evidence. Not only is there no evidence of the audio link being encrypted, there is also no evidence of the existence of the audio link. Making this assertion simply helps strengthen the case for the existence of badBIOS.Evidence bias: This is also an example of accepting confirmatory evidence with little assessment '-- critical or otherwise. Notes: Ruiu takes the signal at 35kHz to denote data communications between systems infected with badBIOS, and then asserts that the signal is encrypted '-- and offers detail of the packet format: it contains a 4-byte header and an 8-byte encrypted payload.

Observations: As noted by the reference, Ruiu explains that the his team has not captured data showing what badBIOS is downloading onto the system, nor obtained the modules that badBIOS has pulled as part of its exploit kit; and in the same sentence makes the claim the communication is encrypted.

Assertion 21:A USB disk that has been inserted into a machine infected with badBIOS, can cause a clean system to reboot.

Reference: ''So we left it in there for a little bit, and looked at the files, and pulled it out, and reinserted it into one of the forensic systems. The message came up in the console, and then in about a minute or so the system just rebooted itself spontaneously, after plugging this thing in.''

Evidence: Ruiu provides no evidence for this assertion.


Confirmation bias: In this case, the observed behavior is taken as proof or confirmation of the presence of badBIOS, instead of looking for clues that would invalidate this assumption and ensure it stands up to scrutiny. Closure bias: This is an example of the case whereanyexplanation is preferable tonoexplanation. It is more comfortable to reach closure by attributing an explanation to this observed behavior, instead of dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing the root cause '-- or having to spend time and resources finding it out.Notes: What Ruiu is depicting is a correlation between two events: plugging-in the USB disk into an uninfected system, and that system rebooting. However correlation does not imply causation: that the uninfected system rebooted a minute after the USB stick was plugged into it, does not mean that one event caused the other.

Observations: Although at first glance this assertion may appear alarming, it is provided without any context, making an accurate analysis difficult. An indication that the behavior was reproducible would help in this event. Since Ruiu refers to more than one forensic system (implying that there are at least two), the next question to ask would be: was the USB disk plugged into any of the other forensic systems, and did any of them reboot as a result?

Assertion 25: badBIOS is able to block access to internet sites, notably sites that contain technical information that pertain to badBIOS method of operation, infection. or propagation.

Reference: ''and there was some blocking going on. One of the sites that we were trying to get to, and I don't know if this was conscious on their part, but this is what triggered the thought chain from me, was a site called'' Coincidentally Russian flash controller reflashing software sites are blocked on infected systems, and laptop bios downloads 404 #badBIOS''

Evidence: Ruiu does not provide any evidence to support this assertion.


Observation bias: This is an example of reaching a conclusion based on a mis-interpreted observation '-- instead of subjecting the observation to critical analysis.Freezing bias: In this case, Ruiu has reached a conclusion that provides an explanation which is in line with his assertion of the existence of badBIOS. No further explanation is sought. If badBIOS was blocking access to specific internet sites, or proxying their internet-bound traffic, there would be a noticeable change in speed, as traffic would have to be inspected by or filtered through an additional hop. A next question to ask would be: has there been a noticeable and measurable decrease in their internet browsing speed? Notes: As per RFC 2616, error code 404 (Not Found) should be used by the server when it is unable to fulfill a request by the client, but does not wish to make known the reason for the refusal.

Observations: Little context is provided with this assertion, and troubleshooting steps are absent. Connecting a switch to the network and capturing the client-server communication would determine whether the traffic is being sent out to the internet, or proxied by an infected machine. Trying to access the site from another device '-- such as a mobile phone'-- would indicate whether the problem is local to the network on which badBIOS systems reside, or whether the problem lies with the site. Attempting the connection over an extended period could determine whether the site was undergoing maintenance, experienced an outage, or if a site administrator inadvertently broke the link Ruiu was attempting to access.

Assertion 26: badBIOS operators removed the malware from some infected boxes once there was public conversation regarding its method of operation, infection, and propagation.

Reference: ''when we start talking about the USB and the ultrasound thing, it's the first time we've ever seen them back off, so they actually pulled out of a bunch of boxes as soon as we started sniffing down that road, and so that's been a really positive thing.''

Evidence: Ruiu does not provide any evidence to support this assertion. One could also ask the question: What evidence could Ruiu provide to back this claim? Since no evidence of the existence of badBIOS has been provided, it is difficult to prove the absence of that evidence.


Confirmation bias: In this case, Ruiu has observed unexplained behavior in some of his systems, and then stopped observing the unexplained behavior after going public with the assertions of the existence of badBIOS. Instead of seeking to find explanations for the unexpected behavior, he is identifying a causal relationship while confirming by implication, his belief in the existence of badBIOS. Evidence bias: This is an example of having a low threshold for what constitutes evidence. It is an unfounded assertion that results in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assertion bias: This is an example of how something is taken to be a fact, simply because it has been asserted: analysis by assertion. Notes: Proving this assertion, would be akin to trying to prove a double negative while implicitly assuming the positive: first trying to prove the absence of badBIOS from previously-infected systems '-- on which the presence of badBIOS has not yet been confirmed, and then trying to prove a causal relationship for its absence.

Observations: At this point, not enough information has been provided to prove the presence of badBIOS. Trying to prove its absence, or establish a causal relationship, would require proof its presence as a prerequisite.

Assertion 34: badBIOS uses TTF font files on Windows as part of its attack kit. In infected Windows systems, additional .ttf and .fon files can be observed '' three of them (meiryo, meiryob, and malgunnb) have a size that is bigger than expected.

Reference: ''Now suspect font files as a part of the infection vector. Found 246 extra ttf files, 150 fon files in addition to unusual DLLs #badBIOS''

Evidence: Ruiu made available an archive containing what appear to be the file contents of a Windows system. Included in this archive are the font files that he refers to in his assertion. In addition to this, Ruiu shared a link to the output of a utility that dumps the contents of TTF files (True Type Font File Dumper), with the caption ''is this an TTF attack vector? table 63 of meiro.ttc.''


Observation bias: In this case, Ruiu has observed a file size for one font that is inconsistent with the file size of other font files on the system. A subsequent observation is that the a number of font files are not digitally signed. These observations are taken to be corroborative evidence of the existence of badBIOS. Notes: ran the sigcheck utility that is part of the SysInternals suite and found that 22 files out of 255 were not signed. Manually uploading a selection of these files to online antivirus resource, did not find known malware in any of them. The output referred to by Ruiu does show that the font meiro.ttc has a length several times that of all other fonts listed.

Observations: This finding can be characterized as inconclusive. It would however be grounds for a further review of the font files that failed the signature check, and specific analysis of the meiro.ttc file.

Assertion 36: badBIOS can disable the Windows registry editor.

Reference: ''We had an air-gapped computer that just had its [firmware] BIOS reflashed, a fresh disk drive installed, and zero data on it, installed from a Windows system CD, '... At one point, we were editing some of the components and our registry editor got disabled.''

Evidence: Ruiu provides no evidence for this assertion.


Confirmation bias: This is an example of discarding information that dismisses, invalidates, or contradicts the belief in the advanced capabilities of badBIOS. Instead of the well-known and well-documented warning and caveats that accompany editing the Windows registry, Ruiu is taking an error condition in the registry editor to confirm evidence of badBIOS. Closure bias: In this example the simple explanation that unexpected behavior is attributable to badBIOS brings closure to the problem. There is no need to spend more time on it: the answer is known, and it is in line with other assertions.Notes: This assertion comes with very little accompanying detail. The behavior described however, is not necessarily anomalous. The registry hive is a database file, which can be left in an inconsistent state by an ungraceful shutdown, or corrupted by faulty hardware.

Observations: The assertion does not make clear what registry keys were being edited, what other changes were being made to the registry, or what characterized the registry editor's disabled status. Did the registry editor enter an error condition and halt? Was it still functional but disallowed changes to keys? Was it functional but disallowed changes to the keys that Ruiu and his team had been writing to? A number of troubleshooting steps could help provide clarity with respect to this claim. Since the registry keys are stored in a hive, which is a file that resides on disk (some hives reside in memory), a first step to determine the validity of this assertion, would be to check the permissions on the corresponding hive when the ''registry editor got disabled.'' Did the permissions change? Other troubleshooting steps could involve trying alternate registry editing tools to determine whether they exhibit the same behavior, or trying to edit the same keys via the Windows command line utility reg (reg add KeyName Value).

Assertion 38: badBIOS reflashes the system BIOS and is able to persist after the machine has been re-flashed with legitimate firmware.

Reference: ''We've already found some persistent BIOS malware that survives re-flashing with it.''

Evidence: Ruiu does not provide evidence for this assertion.


Wishful thinking bias: This can be an example of interpreting a behavior in a certain way, because one has been primed to want it to be true '-- and the more one wants it to be true, the more confidence one has in the correctness of the assertion. Notes: In his detailed rebuttal of Ruiu's claims, Jaenke refutes the idea of a portable hardware- independent BIOS, and explains that BIOS firmware is very hardware-specifc. He explains for example, that the same BIOS could not be burned (or 'flashed') on two motherboards from the same vendor, that do not share the same model number. He also goes on to state that modern BIOSes have very limited space (in the order of 6KB) of available space for a malicious payload.

Observations: Jaenke makes a strong case against this assertion, focusing on the difficulty associated with creating a 'portable' BIOS, as well as the justification provided by Ruiu for not having an infected BIOS dump to share. He writes, ''If you are MISSING a block, you will fail checksum and fail a basic differential. If you have AN EXTRA block, you will fail checksum and fail basic differential. There is no 'maybe' no 'if' no 'but.' If it's in the BIOS, it's in a dump. If it's in a dump, it's detectable and extractable'' (Jaenke, comment on Nov 1st, 2013 at 9:18 pm).


In order to analyze the claims presented by Ruiu, we can formulate alternative hypotheses, and test them against each of the claims made regarding behavior attributable to badBIOS. The process to follow is depicted in Figure 2.

The hypotheses against which each of the assertions can be tested, are:

H0: It is possible to rationally explain the behavior observed by Ruiu.H1: The behavior observed by Ruiu is benign, the result of chance phenomena.H2: The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, the result of chance phenomena.H3: The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, the result of ordinary malware.H4: The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, the product of advanced state-sponsored malware.In the interest of brevity, only two hypotheses (H0 and H4) will be tested against the first five assertions.

Assertion 1: OpenBSD systems infected with badBIOS can unexpectedly enter single user mode.

Alternative Hypotheses H0:It is possible to rationally explain the behavior observed by Ruiu. In this case, the rational explanation is that a hardware or software component in the system entered an error condition due to faulty hardware or faulty software.

Likely Outcomes:

If this is hypothesis is correct, there will be evidence in the system logs and application error logs indicating the reason why the system entered single-user mode.If this hypothesis is correct, the behavior should be reproducible on the same system, once the initial circumstances leading to the error condition are reproduced.If this hypothesis is correct, the behavior should be reproducible on other OpenBSD systems configured with the same hardware and software. Test:

Review system logs and application error logs, and look for entries occurring before and during the time that the system entered single-user mode.Take careful stock of external factors that preceded the event, and reproduce them. For example, in Assertion 21, Ruiu indicates that connecting a USB disk into one of their forensic systems triggers a reboot. Was a disk also inserted intothissystem before it entered single-user mode? Was a software package being installed or updated on this system immediately prior to it entering single-user mode? Conduct a system audit and record the modification, access, and change times (collectively referred to as MAC times) for all files on the affected system, and review files with MAC times immediately preceding the run-level change into single-user mode.Alternative Hypotheses H4:The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, caused by advanced malware. An example of the behavior expected by advanced malware is the stealth near-undetectable operation characterized by Stuxnet.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then badBIOS operation should be covert. It should limit overt action or noticeable behavior, in order to remain undetected.If this hypothesis is correct, then there should be a benefit that badBIOS operators can derive from entering single-user mode; for example being able to carry out an operation that cannot be undertaken at run-levels 2-5. If this hypothesis is correct, then entering single-user mode should aid badBIOS operators in accessing the target machine remotely, not impede them from doing so.Test:

A system that has entered single-user mode is noticeable: once in single-user mode, the system remains there until operator input at the system console changes the runlevel. This fails the stealth/covert operation test. If the system entered single-user mode as a result of malware malfunction, this should be evident by the log analysis covered by H0.Single-user mode is a runlevel at which certain core system services are disabled. If one requires to run commands at a runlevel where those services have been disabled, the requirement can be met by modifying run command scripts (rc scripts) that have been scheduled to run at the desired runlevel; it is not necessary to enter single-user mode. Networking services are disabled in single-user mode, meaning that a remote attacker would lose access to the target machine, failing the remote access test. If the networking services have been enabled (therefore leaving the machine in a state no longertechnicallyrunlevel 1), then this would be identified by looking at the running services on the systems, which would fail the stealth/covert operation test. Assertion 6: Deleting registry keys that badBIOS is using, results in the malware entering an error condition.

Alternative Hypotheses H0:It is possible to rationally explain the behavior observed by Ruiu. In this case, the rational explanation can derive from an understanding of what the Windows registry represents, and caveats that accompany modifying its contents. As mentioned in the Notes section of the Instictive Analysis of Assertion 6 above, Russinovich, Solomon, and Ionescu (2012) characterize the Windows registry as a ''the systemwide database that contains the information required to boot and configure the system, systemwide software settings that control the operation of Windows, the security database, and per-user configuration settings'' and urge ''extreme caution'' when making changes to it.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then deleting a collection of registry keys corresponding to a Windows program, should result in the program entering an error condition on the target system.If this hypothesis is correct, then deleting a collection of registry keys corresponding to a Windows program, should result in the program entering an error condition onothersimilarly-configured Windows systems.Test:Although the name of the specific keys that Ruiu and team deleted is not made available, this outcome can be tested by:

Running procmon and observing the registry keys being written to or accessed by any one programFinding the those keys under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG, or HKEY_CURRENT_USER Deleting the keys.Alternative Hypotheses H4:The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, the product of advanced state-sponsored malware.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then deleting registry keys corresponding to the malware should not result in malware malfunction, because the malware would have several watchdog processes that would re- insert the deleted registry keys or files, and ensure continued operation of the malware.If this hypothesis is correct, then disabling one component of the malware by deleting registry keys in use by it, should not result in an error condition for the malware, but rather only for the specific module using those registry keys. Advanced malware should be able to recover and bring the disabled component back to operation. Test:

This hypothesis can be tested by trying to identify the watchdog process that re-inserts registry keys when they are deleted. The watchdog process can be short-lived, but it can be captured by a program that generates a process history, like procmon. This behavior was not reported by Ruiu.This hypothesis can also be tested by obtaining a memory dump of the infected system, and looking for the presence of short-lived processes that would not be present on a clean/uninfected system, using a tool like volatility. Short-lived processes that would fulfill this function, were not reported by Ruiu.Assertion 12: An audio recording of badBIOS communication shows a pulse pattern in the 35kHz range; approximating 128 bits per second.

Alternative Hypotheses H0:It is possible to rationally explain the behavior observed by Ruiu. The rational explanation is the presence of electronic components that operate at the 35kHz range.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then one component present within the range of the measuring instrument (like the NCP1729 Switched Capacitor Voltage Inverter that operates at 35kHz) would be able to produce the same pulse pattern at the same frequency.If this hypothesis is correct, then the signal should attenuate if there are obstacles in the signal path.Test:

This can be tested by conducting the measurement in an isolated environment, and accounting for the operating range of every electronic component within the range of the measuring instrument.This can be tested by moving the infected systems away from each other, placing physical obstacles (drywall) between them, and determining whether a signal attenuation is observed.Alternative Hypotheses H4:The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, the product of advanced state-sponsored malware.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then a radio frequency (RF) engineer should be able to positively identify the pattern as a communications link.If this hypothesis is correct, then the an RF engineer should be able to identify the emitter's radiation pattern and match it to what would be expected for that emitter.Test:Both (1) and (2) can be tested by designing a double-blind test, where two independent RF engineers are asked to separately measure and analyze the 35kHz signal, without being told what it is suspected of being. If both conclude that the 35kHz signal is consistent with that of a communications pattern, that would prove this hypothesis.

Assertion 16: The badBIOS audio link is encrypted.

Alternative Hypotheses H0:It is possible to rationally explain the behavior observed by Ruiu. The rational explanation is that (a) the observed signal is not an audio link, and that it is therefore (b) not encrypted. The signal at 35kHz does not represent an 'audio link' between two devices, but rather an audio signal generated by an electronic component operating at that frequency.

Likely Outcomes:

If this is hypothesis is correct, then analysis of the waveform should show no difference at the start of the signal, as throughout its lifetime.Since there is no audio input at the BIOS level (Jaenke), if this hypothesis is correct, then there should not be a delay between the time that the system starts up (thus powering the electronic component that transmits at 35kHz), and the time that the signal is observed. That is: the 35kHz signal should be observed immediately at system power-up. If there is a delay, other than what is specified by the electronic component's technical specifications, then this hypothesis would fail. Test:

Use a spectrum analyzer, power the infected system up, capture the audio signal for 5 minutes, then power the system down.Use a spectrum analyzer as in (a), and record the time that the signal appears. Contrast it with the time that the infected system was powered up, and entered the different phases of the boot-up process. Alternative Hypotheses H4: The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, the product of advanced state-sponsored malware.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then the following stages should be observable by analyzing the signal produced by the infected machines from startup:i. No link present.ii. Link negotiation underway.iii. Link established.iv. Link teardown underwayIf this hypothesis is correct, then powering up other infected systems should introduce a variation in the audio signal, as the badBIOS audio protocol handles link negotiation with a new device while maintaining an existing audio link. This new-link negotiation should be observable in the audio signal every time a new infected device is introduced. Test:

Use a spectrum analyzer, power the infected system up, capture the audio signal for 5 minutes, then power the system down. Periods of transmission and pause, would indicate link negotiation.Use a spectrum analyzer as in (a), and capture the audio signal for a minute, introduce a second infected device (take a note of the time), continue capturing the signal for another minute, then introduce a third infected system (and take a note of the time). Then power-down one system (take a note of the time), wait 30 seconds and power-down a second system (and make a note of the time). Analysis of the audio signal should show consistent changes every time that a new infected system was introduced (to account for a new link negotiation) and every time an infected device was removed (to account for link tear-down or retransmission to a dead peer, and eventual timeout). The presence of these changes would prove this hypothesis.Assertion 21: A USB disk that has been inserted into a machine infected with badBIOS, can cause a clean system to reboot.

Alternative Hypotheses H0:It is possible to rationally explain the behavior observed by Ruiu. The rational explanation is that the system rebooted due to a system failure, related to either hardware or software.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then the system and application logs should contain a record of the error condition encountered by the system, which led to the reboot.If this hypothesis is correct, then the experiment should be repeatable: inserting the infected badBIOS USB disk into a similar system as the one that rebooted, should produce comparable results.Test:

In order to test this hypothesis, review the system logs, error logs, and application logs, and identify the operations that took place between the time that the USB stick was inserted into the machine, and the time that the reboot was observed. The presence of error logs identifying the cause of the reboot would prove this hypothesis.In order to test this hypothesis, insert the infected USB stick into two other clean systems, and note the outcome. In order to be better prepared, make use of dtrace on Linux or OpenBSD systems, and procmon on Windows systems, filtering forwriteevents.i. If the neither the second or third system reboots, then the first reboot can be attributed to chance.ii. If only one of the two systems (the second or the third) reboot, then identify commonalities between the systems that rebooted (for example: same motherboards, same OS, etc).iii. If both systems (the second and the third) reboot, then identify commonalities between them: if the only commonality is the infected USB stick '-- and it is seen to consistently reboot dissimilar hardware and software platforms, that would cause this hypothesis to fail. Alternative Hypotheses H4:The behavior observed by Ruiu is anomalous, the product of advanced state-sponsored malware.

Likely Outcomes:

If this hypothesis is correct, then the infected USB stick should cause other systems to reboot.If this hypothesis is correct, then connecting the USB stick to the target system through a USB protocol analyzer, should show traffic that is not observed when a clean/benign USB stick is connected.Test:

In order to test this hypothesis, plug the USB stick into to two dissimilar systems. If it successfully reboots these systems, or causes them to enter into an error state, then that would prove this hypothesis.In order to test this hypothesis, connect the USB stick to the target systems, via a USB protocol analyzer, and analyze the instructions that are passed on the USB bus. The presence of messages that are a clear violation of the USB spec, or are corner-case implementations not found on on clean/ uninfected USB disk firmware, would prove this hypothesis. DISCUSSION

The claims presented by Dragos Ruiu were picked up by several online security news,,,, and even antivirus vendor Sophos published an article which in response to the question 'What we can predict' noted ''So the short answer to the question of what we have to say about BadBIOS is, ''We can't yet say.'' An analysis however, of the forty claims put forth by Ruiu, shows that the answer to this question is self-evident: there in no substantive proof to back the claims that Ruiu has made '-- except for the notable exception of Assertion 34: the TTF font files missing a digital signature. What seems to have contributed to this story receiving attention that it did, is that the claims that Ruiu makes, are independently plausible, and have been so, in some cases, for years. Malware can jump airgaps using audio (Hanspach, Goetz, & Fraunhofer, 2013). It can hide in hardware (Stewin & Bystrov, 2013), even in BIOS. Malware infection via USB sticks is the norm more than the exception. Perhaps more importantly however, Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame, have raised our expectations of what new infection and propagation methods well-funded malware writers will employ. A side-effect of this increased expectation, appears to have been our acceptance of claims without critical review. Grimes sums up what is wrong with the badBIOS story in 4 points:

There is no 'smoking gun'Ruiu makes errors in causation (he doesn't exhibit scientific skepticism)The scenarios although plausible, are highly unlikely No other antivirus vendor anywhere in the world has found samples of this malware in the wild. He goes on to draw an insightful parallel to Stuxnet, worth quoting in full:

''When Stuxnet was discovered, multiple antimalware companies around the world were finding copies. It started with one, then quickly spread to the others '-- not so with BadBIOS. Somehow the most sophisticated superbug on the planet was released three years ago '-- and only Ruiu has found it. What would be the spreader's motivation for infecting Ruiu? With Stuxnet, the motivation was to stop World War III. Does Ruiu or his lab have something on the same order that needs to be found out or stopped?''

It is a fair point to ask, and one that remains unanswered: Why has nobody else observed samples of this malware?

It may be the case, that Ruiu's intention was to engage the infosec community in the process of understanding the odd behavior he observed on his home-office systems, rather than to assert that it was conclusively the work of a new breed of state-sponsored malware, but that Twitter, Google+, and Facebook did not provide an adequate means of doing so. As it stands however, the assertions made by Ruiu provide a good starting point: an interesting set of observations to guide data gathering and investigation.


This study has covered the weakness present in the badBIOS analysis as done by Ruiu, and provided suggestions for how it can be improved. The main failing was that it was not undertaken in a critical manner. Not enough questions were asked, there was a seeming abundance of confirmation bias, there were no alternate hypotheses, and yet there was no effort to disprove any of the assertions. Most troublesome for the researchers who wanted to help in this analysis however, was the fact that there was a lack of evidence. Ruiu's social media posts are replete with offers to help in the analysis. As it stands now, a critical analysis of the data provided by Ruiu, and of the method of examination he employed, indicates that badBIOS is not real. Whereas it is possible that a couple of Ruiu's systems were infected with some form of malware '-- which would account for some of the behavior he observed: such as the failure to boot from CD, or the font files with no signature; none of the assertions he provided indicate that the malware is of the technical complexity attributed to badBIOS.

It is not all doom and gloom however. The strength of Ruiu's approach was to think outside the boundary of what was considered plausible. As a colleague of mine put it, referring to badBIOS, ''if it didn't exist before, it does now.''

This analysis is available as a PDF or an ePUB.


Lesbian Author Accuses Gay Groups of Bullying Tactics Over Phil Robertson Controversy

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Archived Version


Tue, 24 Dec 2013 06:14

December 23rd, 2013

Backlash against PC authoritarianism continues

(PaulWatson) - Lesbian author Tammy Bruce has accused gay rights groups of resorting to the same kind of intimidation and bullying tactics they usually oppose in the effort to punish Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after his controversial comments.

''What's especially troubling for minority communities in this country, the civil rights movements, especially the gay civil rights movement, was about asking for people and demanding the right for us to be able to live our lives as we see fit without being punished for being different. It's ironic also that one of the big campaigns by the gay community is about ending bullying. If this is not a sign of the ultimate of bullying I don't know what is,'' said Bruce.

As we reported on Saturday, not content with their lobbying efforts which helped influence A&E in the decision to suspend the Duck Dynasty star, gay rights group GLAAD are now pushing for Robertson to be re-educated by demanding he meet with gay families in Louisiana, despite the fact that Robertson has refused to back down and has re-affirmed his biblical position on homosexuality.

The controversy began when Robertson told GQ Magazine, ''It seems like, to me, a vagina '-- as a man '-- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical'...Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.''

Bruce's remarks echo those made by Camille Paglia '' a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and a self-described ''openly gay dissident feminist.''

Paglia described the actions of some in reaction to Robertson's comments as ''utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist,'' adding that gay groups were displaying intolerance, immaturity and juvenility.

''In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality '' as I one hundred percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again, they have a right of religious freedom there,'' Paglia told radio host Laura Ingraham.

As we have highlighted, given that some leftists are calling for the kind of comments made by Robertson to be banned from the public domain, if that definition of hate speech is applied, both the Bible and the Qu'ran must also be removed from tens of millions of churches worldwide since they both contain far greater condemnation of homosexuality.

In a related development, the Sheriff's department in the Georgia county where Duck Dynasty is filmed has announced that it will no longer offer its assistance to A&E after the network's ''unreasonable'' punishment of Robertson.

Source: Infowars

Tags: bullying tactics, duck dynasty, gay groups, gay rights, lesbian author, phil robertson, tammy bruceThis entry was posted on Monday, December 23rd, 2013 at 9:55 pm and is filed under Dictatorship, Education/Mind Control, Fascism, NWO. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Internet Freedom

The Great Big Porn Block is coming

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Archived Version

Source: Hacker News

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:34

In January (or this week if you're on BT) the widely derided "porn block" that the government are shilling will come into force. If you don't know, it's basically a opt-out system of blocking of pornography at an ISP level enacted by the government that the main ISPs have all signed up for.What this means is that you're going to get it no matter if you want it or not. And if you want to be able to access porn you'll have to sign up for it - opt out of the block. And, at a principle level this is fair enough right? Block access to material not suitable for under 18s at the source, makes sense - I mean we do it for movies, TV, games and print pornography, right?

Well... absolutely not. There are many things wrong with this, and we'll start at the top.

1) This is CensorshipOf course, certain censorship is fine. I don't mind certain art, like films or computer games being censored, and think that it is key to keeping a powerful art community when protecting those from harmful images or powerful material. For example, I am sure no one is against the idea of keeping something like Last Tango in Paris a film that minors can't see.

However, what this block does is stop consenting adults above the age of consent from watching what they want. Pornography is not illegal (certain types are, of course) and watching porn isn't either, but blocking it wholesale and having to opt in to have it unblocked is a strange way of dealing with it. I am old enough to direct, film, write and even star in a pornographic film, but then I go home and I have to tell a company I want to watch it? That's pretty odd.

2) It Removes the Responsibility from the ResponsibleThis is something I've actually moaned at length about before, but it's something that this is at the core of - children shouldn't be seeing porn online. However, blocking it for everyone is not the solution. The key here is that the parents of those who are under age should not be allowing their children to see those things, and those responsible need to step up.

There are hundreds of tools allowing you to block sites even without antivirus software. If I wanted to I could easily go into my router and block access to sites for anything using my router. I know how to because in the future I will have to. I see kids playing 18+ games at the age of 12 and wonder what is going on - my parents used to pre-screen London's Burning for me when I was aged 8 for goodness sake, and all that was was fire!

By taking the responsibility away from parents you are excusing them from getting educated, and then you're also removing it from those you're are protecting. It's similar to banning sex instead of educating about safe sex, and we all know abstinence doesn't work.

3) Why Porn?Ok, say you don't mind the idea of the government blocking porn, why stop there? Or why just porn? Why not other things that actually do harm to the country, like smoking? Or Drinking? Or... driving? People die when they drive badly.

This is the weakest point, but it's one to consider - why porn? Well, because it carries a stigma - an easy target. And I have watched porn many times in my life and I don't care who knows it. It's a normal thing to do as an adult (see Nuts, Zoo, or Playboy's sales figures). It's just a tiny bit taboo amongst a certain group of people that the government are pandering to.

4) Do You Want to Be On That List?I am going to opt out of the system because... well, for these reasons. And for number 5 below too. But that surely means that I am suddenly on a list somewhere. I mean, Virgin Media (an amusingly apt name) will have to track everyone who says to opt out, and then my name is on a list of people who "want to watch porn".

As we know, lists don't stay hidden. I would imagine people don't want to be on a list that is possibly accessible by anyone (Virgin Media or not) that says they're into porn, right? I can imagine politicians, media personalities, church goers etc don't want to be on the list, and thusly are blocked because of fear. That's an insane jump for our government.

I already know that Virgin have a list of where I go. That's fine, I have reconciled with that. As long as I don't do anything illegal... why should I have to ask again?

5) It's Using Bad TechImagine it could work, that you could block porn. That'd be great! Then it might work perfectly. But here's the thing.

It won't. Why do I know this? Well my phone has a block on "18+" sites when on 3G that I've never bothered to unlock (see number 7) and it blocks nonsense. Stuff that isn't even 18+ by their own definition. This is because automatic filters don't work. No technology will be perfect. In fact, by the definition of the system that the government are rolling out sites about sexuality and sex education will be blocked - blocking information for the most vulnerable of our children and teenagers (and adults, why not), who need access to this information, is borderline insane.

So yeah, the tech won't work. It can't. Because...

6) What is Porn Anyway?What is porn? Tits? A flash of cock? An ejaculation? Well, if I can't decide (and society can't) then how is an automatic filter supposed to? I see sites like Wikipedia with their informative descriptions and pictures being blocked because of language and photos of naked bodies. Nudity is not porn. In fact, that'd mean many publications that the Conservatives endorse would be in deep shit, like The Sun. So here's the big problem - porn isn't a thing.

It's not a thing you can block because it doesn't exist as a steady thing - you could block the word "five" easily enough, because any time it comes up you can block it. Porn is a spectrum, and especially in the form that the filter will take, from nude art to illegal rape-porn.

Where is the line drawn then? Well, that's the thing - if I am in charge of my internet when I have kids I'd block it to a point. I'd block what I want to block. But it'd be me, working at it. I can't just block everything that might be porn, so why should the government?

7) I Can't Be Bothered to Change ItSee number 5 - I've had a porn block on my phone since I got it in 2007. It works over 3G only, of course, but it requires a credit card to authorise, me spending £1 and them crediting it back to my account. I have never done this because it's an arse ache! Loads more won't bother to do it for their service either.

8) Who Cares Anyway?And finally, who cares in the end, right? It's just porn! But that's the problem - here you are blocking a type of expression. No, come back, let me explain! Porn in certain circumstances (some would argue in all circumstances) is a form of art - admittedly, low art (in my opinion), but some films have money and time spent on them. And... are not real. Fictional events. So there's an odd leap for the government - suddenly you're blocking fiction. That's a very hair-raising idea, the concept of blocking something that doesn't even exist and isn't true.

The fact that there is a filter at all should alarm some people - imagine it was suddenly blocking certain websites for political reasons? The Internet is the great democratic enabler and has the power to change everything in the world for the better or worse. But if you don't allow the bad stuff, the good stuff won't be able to grow either, because what is "good" and "evil" when nothing you're blocking is necessarily illegal?

The whole thing is a farce. It's petty, bullshit, disgusting and pandering. It's a government playing directly to those who don't understand, don't grasp the enormity, and don't appreciate the implications. The same folk who complain about "nanny-state" and "political correctness" as things (which they are both not) are being played by the government as idiots and they are lapping it up. It enrages me that trans or gay children might not get to read about their options because some old twat without any understanding of how information frees people has decided that you can't see some tits on the internet.

And the worst part? I have no representation in government against it. All the parties support it. This is why politics in the UK is so terribly terribly rubbish.

A petition, if you think that'll do anything, is found here.

O2 pulls blocked URL checker as wave of new customers activate their phones

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Archived Version

Source: Open Rights Group

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:33

December 24, 2013 | Jim Killock

Following complaints, media attention and misunderstandings surrounding O2's URL checker and categories, O2 have switched it off, with no timescale for reinstatement.

While O2 are the only company providing any transparency with their checker, this is a bad move. People need to see how the filters work, and the checker helps them do this. Christmas is a time when huge numbers of people set new phones up.

Of course people will suspect that the checker has been ''closed for maintenance'' because it is producing complaints. People are concerned that websites from Childline, the NSPCC, the Police and many others are deemed unsuitable for under 12s. (Childline should now be available following complaints.)

Pink News reports that: ''O2 has labeled Stonewall, BBC News, the Conservative Party and the Number 10 Downing Street website as unsuitable or uninteresting to under 12s.'' O2 provided them with a list of types of sites likely to be allowed, but still refuse to provide a list of actual sites allowed.

What this emphasises is that transparency needs to be of right, and not something that can be withdrawn for commercial or public relations purposes. Websites need to identify that they are blocked, or not. Complaints should not only be dealt with because of Twitter campaigns.

If you want to help, we have a project to make filtering and blocking transparent. This isn't to "improve" inherently flawed filters, but simply to make it clear what is happening. Transparency should help people limit their reliance on filters. It helps us document the harm and argue that filters are not a 'good' in themselves but have significant downsides.

Our first aim is to make sure that any website can check their status on any UK network. Can you help? Donations, joins and practical help are much appreciated!

Trains Good, Planes Bad (Whoo Hoo!)

Next Big Future: Warren Buffet owns railroad and tank car company and is a big Obama supporter. Obama blocks pipeline which boosts oil shipped by rail

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Archived Version

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 04:30

The Keystone pipeline expansion is still being stalled. Canadian Ambassador Doer observes that Obama's "choice is to have it come down by a pipeline that he approves, or without his approval, it comes down on trains.Increased rail capacity is moving more oil from Canada's oilsands

More oil is moving by rail from North Dakota as well

Warren Buffett has formally endorsed and made campaign contributions to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. On July 2, 2008, Buffett attended a $28,500 per plate fundraiser for Obama's campaign in Chicago hosted by Obama's National Finance Chair, Penny Pritzker and her husband, as well as Obama advisor Valerie Jarret.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A) owns Union Tank Car, just one piece of his big bet on rail, which also includes the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

This is all probably just convenient luck for Warren Buffet. The environmental lobby and their money is mainly what is considered to be the reason Obama made the decisions he has on the Keystone pipeline.

The Burlington northern railroad is worth about $34 billion now. In 2009, Warren Buffett bought BNSF railroad for $26 billion.

In 2008, Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought 60 percent of Marmon Holdings, a private firm owned by trusts associated with Chicago's Pritzker family, for $4.5 billion.

They make train cars specifically to move oil and gasTank cars, those torpedo-shaped rail cars built to carry liquids, anything from milk to industrial chemicals, are increasingly being used to carry shale oil. ''The traffic has grown significantly, from probably 50,000 carloads a year in 2010 to over 700,000 this year,'' says Toby Kolstad, president of the consulting firm Rail Theory Forecasts. ''It probably will rise above a million carloads a year in the next year or two.''

There are multi-billion dollar backorders for tank cars.

Obama's very richest friend benefits from his policies. How are the other 99.99% doing ?

If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

Trans Eurasian Cooperations

Russia, Kazakhstan Sign Deal on Oil Transit to China

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Archived Version

Source: RIA Novosti

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:25

MOSCOW, December 24 (RIA Novosti) '' Russia and Kazakhstan signed an intergovernmental agreement on Tuesday to guaranteeing transit of Russian oil to China.

The agreement was signed in the wake of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia's state-run oil company Rosneft, said last week that the company plans to deliver 7 million metric tons of oil to China via Kazakhstan annually starting from 2014.

The deal would bring an additional $2.3-2.5 billion to the Russian budget annually.

A provisional agreement and oil transit guarantees with Kazakhstan were signed in November.

Ukraine Blacklists Georgia's Ex-President Saakashvili '' MP

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Archived Version

Source: RIA Novosti

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:25

MOSCOW, December 24 (RIA Novosti) '' Georgia's former president Mikheil Saakashvili has been declared persona non grata in Ukraine, a member of the Ukrainian parliament told Kommersant Ukraine newspaper Tuesday.

Oleh Tsaryov, a lawmaker with the ruling Party of Regions, said that he had asked the Foreign Ministry and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to impose a travel ban on 36 people, including citizens of Georgia, Russia and the United States, on December 8. Saakashvili, who stood down as President of Georgia in October, was included on the list.

''I have not yet received an official response from the SBU, but, according to my information, all of them have been declared persona non grata,'' Tsaryov said.

The SBU has made no official comment so far on Tsaryov's request, copies of which have appeared on social networking sites. It alleges that the civil unrest in Ukraine was ''orchestrated'' and that foreign spin doctors and politicians have flocked to the country with the aim of escalating tensions.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said later on Tuesday that it was not authorized to impose travel restrictions and only SBU, Interior Ministry, border guards and migration officials are entitled to bar foreigners from crossing the state border.

''We will consider the request when we see it, but the Foreign Ministry is not entitled to impose these measures,'' Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara told reporters.

Saakashvili became Georgia's president after leading the peaceful 2003 Rose Revolution against allegedly rigged parliamentary elections. He visited Ukraine in early December to address a huge crowd of protestors in Kiev's Independence Square who were demanding the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and the government for their refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union,

''Saakashvili doesn't belong here, he should go to Georgia and meet with Georgian people there,'' Tsaryov told Kommersant Ukraine. ''He arrived together with his team that organized the Rose Revolution. All of them settled in Ukraine and streamlined the attempted revolution here.''

The deputy head of Georgia's embassy in Ukraine, Giorgi Zakarashvili, said three Georgians named on Tsaryov's list have already been denied entry to Ukraine. He said that Georgia would take ''constructive'' measures to resolve the issue.

Agenda 21

And now it's global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year | Mail Online

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Archived Version

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 12:14

533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than in 2012BBC reported in 2007 global warming would leave Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013Publication of UN climate change report suggesting global warming caused by humans pushed back to later this monthBy David Rose

PUBLISHED: 18:37 EST, 7 September 2013 | UPDATED: 13:45 EST, 28 September 2013

A chilly Arctic summer has left 533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year '' an increase of 29 per cent.

The rebound from 2012's record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013.

Instead, days before the annual autumn re-freeze is due to begin, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia's northern shores.

HOW NSIDC GOT ITS FIGURES WRONG AND THEN KEPT QUIET Since publication of the original version of this article, the US source of the figures '' the NASA-funded National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) - was discovered to have made a huge error and then quietly corrected the figure without mentioning it.

On September 4, NSIDC, based at the University of Colorado, stated on its website that in August 2013 the Arctic ice cover recovered by a record 2.38'‰million sq km '' 919,000 sq miles '' from its 2012 low.

News of this figure was widely reported '' including by Mailonline - on September 8. But on September 10, the NSIDC quietly changed it to 1.38'‰million sq km (533,000 sq miles) '' and replaced the original document so the old figure no longer shows up on a main Google search. It can now only be found on an old 'cached' page.

The figures in this article have now been corrected.

Prompted by an inquiry from 'green' blogger Bob Ward, the NSIDC's spokeswoman Natasha Vizcarra said the mistake was a 'typographical error', telling him: 'There are no plans to make a statement on the change because it was not an error in the data.'

The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year. More than 20 yachts that had planned to sail it have been left ice-bound and a cruise ship attempting the route was forced to turn back.

Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century '' a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.

The disclosure comes 11 months after The Mail on Sunday triggered intense political and scientific debate by revealing that global warming has 'paused' since the beginning of 1997 '' an event that the computer models used by climate experts failed to predict.

In March, this newspaper further revealed that temperatures are about to drop below the level that the models forecast with '90 per cent certainty'.

The pause '' which has now been accepted as real by every major climate research centre '' is important, because the models' predictions of ever-increasing global temperatures have made many of the world's economies divert billions of pounds into 'green' measures to counter climate change.

Those predictions now appear gravely flawed.

The continuing furore caused by The Mail on Sunday's revelations '' which will now be amplified by the return of the Arctic ice sheet '' has forced the UN's climate change body to reconsider its position.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was due in October to start publishing its Fifth Assessment Report '' a huge three-volume study issued every six or seven years. It will hold a pre-summit in Stockholm later this month.

THERE WON'T BE ANY ICE AT ALL! HOW THE BBC PREDICTED CHAOS IN 2007Only six years ago, the BBC reported that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by 2013, citing a scientist in the US who claimed this was a 'conservative' forecast. Perhaps it was their confidence that led more than 20 yachts to try to sail the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific this summer. As of last week, all these vessels were stuck in the ice, some at the eastern end of the passage in Prince Regent Inlet, others further west at Cape Bathurst.

Shipping experts said the only way these vessels were likely to be freed was by the icebreakers of the Canadian coastguard. According to the official Canadian government website, the Northwest Passage has remained ice-bound and impassable all summer.

The BBC's 2007 report quoted scientist Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, who based his views on super-computer models and the fact that 'we use a high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice'.

He was confident his results were 'much more realistic' than other projections, which 'underestimate the amount of heat delivered to the sea ice'. Also quoted was Cambridge University expert

Professor Peter Wadhams. He backed Professor Maslowski, saying his model was 'more efficient' than others because it 'takes account of processes that happen internally in the ice'.

He added: 'This is not a cycle; not just a fluctuation. In the end, it will all just melt away quite suddenly.'

Leaked documents show that governments which support and finance the IPCC are demanding more than 1,500 changes to the report's 'summary for policymakers'. They say its current draft does not properly explain the pause.

At the heart of the row lie two questions: the extent to which temperatures will rise with carbon dioxide levels, as well as how much of the warming over the past 150 years '' so far, just 0.8C '' is down to human greenhouse gas emissions and how much is due to natural variability.

In its draft report, the IPCC says it is '95 per cent confident' that global warming has been caused by humans '' up from 90 per cent in 2007.

This claim is already hotly disputed. US climate expert Professor Judith Curry said last night: 'In fact, the uncertainty is getting bigger. It's now clear the models are way too sensitive to carbon dioxide. I cannot see any basis for the IPCC increasing its confidence level.'

She pointed to long-term cycles in ocean temperature, which have a huge influence on climate and suggest the world may be approaching a period similar to that from 1965 to 1975, when there was a clear cooling trend. This led some scientists at the time to forecast an imminent ice age.

Professor Anastasios Tsonis, of the University of Wisconsin, was one of the first to investigate the ocean cycles. He said: 'We are already in a cooling trend, which I think will continue for the next 15 years at least. There is no doubt the warming of the 1980s and 1990s has stopped.

Then... NASA satellite images showing the spread of Arctic sea ice 27th August 2012

...And now, much bigger: The same Nasa image taken in 2013

'The IPCC claims its models show a pause of 15 years can be expected. But that means that after only a very few years more, they will have to admit they are wrong.'

Others are more cautious. Dr Ed Hawkins, of Reading University, drew the graph published by The Mail on Sunday in March showing how far world temperatures have diverged from computer predictions. He admitted the cycles may have caused some of the recorded warming, but insisted that natural variability alone could not explain all of the temperature rise over the past 150 years.

Nonetheless, the belief that summer Arctic ice is about to disappear remains an IPCC tenet, frequently flung in the face of critics who point to the pause.

Yet there is mounting evidence that Arctic ice levels are cyclical. Data uncovered by climate historians show that there was a massive melt in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by intense re-freezes that ended only in 1979 '' the year the IPCC says that shrinking began.

Professor Curry said the ice's behaviour over the next five years would be crucial, both for understanding the climate and for future policy. 'Arctic sea ice is the indicator to watch,' she said.

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Ireland leaves the EU/IMF programme

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Archived Version

Source: OECD Observer

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 20:51

(C)REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development, and Director, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford*

President Mandela stands in the pantheon of political leaders. He was blessed with an extraordinary ability, intelligence and memory, but it was his character that sets him head and shoulders above other leaders.

(584 words)

Ireland leaves the EU/IMF programmeEamon Gilmore, Tnaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland

Ireland leaves the three-year EU/IMF programme of assistance this December. Our economy is growing, our finances have stabilised and unemployment is coming down. Our strategy is working in Ireland, and our people are getting back to work.

We are the first country in the euro area to exit such a programme and it is a significant moment, not just for Ireland, but for Europe. This crisis has been a test of national governments, of European solidarity and of the European project itself. Our achievement today shows that while Europe needs to find answers to its critics, the critics must in turn recognise the real and substantial signs of progress, hard-won by our people.


Click to enlarge

Case studies of specific products, particularly in the electronics industry, show that value creation along a global value chain tends to be unevenly distributed among activities. The highest value creation is found in upstream activities, such as the development of a new concept, research and development (R&D) and the manufacturing of key components. But it is also found in downstream activities, such as marketing, branding and customer service.

(257 words)

Headline economic dataData for OECD area. Latest update: 20 Dec 2013

Databank - Latest quarterly data by country

For details on these and other numbers, click titles or visit

GDP, output, inflation, current account, unemployment, interest rates for 40 countries plus euro area, as published in OECD Observer. Just print it out and pin it up.

(75 words)

(C) Herv(C) Cortinat/OECD

Interview with Vincent Peillon, Minister of Education, France

The results of the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, which assesses competence of 15-years-old students in maths, reading and science in 65 countries, delivered a rather unsatisfactory report card for France. PISA lands at a time when the debate on the future of the French educational system has heated up, with key reforms in the pipeline. Will the 2012 PISA survey help? We asked Education Minister Vincent Peillon to highlight the main lessons.

(740 words)

(C) Aly Song/Reuters

Andreas Schleicher, Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General and Deputy Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

In a global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer improvement by national standards alone, but the best performing school systems internationally. Latest results from the PISA assessment, the world's metric for evaluating learning outcomes at school, issued 3 December, show striking changes in the world's talent.

(613 words)

OECD Observer Crossword No.4 2013Click to enlarge

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In 1994, a simple disagreement in a marketplace in Ghana over the price of a guinea fowl turned ugly. The quarrel led to the violent death of one person, which provoked subsequent killings and then escalated into a cycle of revenge attacks. The dispute quickly grew to become what is today known as the Guinea Fowl War. By the time the Ghanaian military restored order, more than 400 villages had been burned and over 15 000 people are thought to have been killed.

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Major events, like the Great East Japan earthquake or indeed the euro crisis, can have important ripple effects that spread well beyond the areas immediately concerned. More recently, the budget crisis that resulted in the shutdown of large parts of the US government and public services has raised the spectre of a default, the first in the country's history.

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Climate change is, to a large extent, water change. Water is the predominant channel through which the impact of climate change will be felt. More torrential rains, floods and droughts can be expected in many parts of the world. Not only that''climate change is reshaping the future for freshwater on the planet.

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The shortfalls of GDP that were already apparent before the crisis but made starker during it have led to a panoply of new initiatives to find metrics that can measure wellbeing rather than just economic growth. But while GDP has stood accused of overlooking the environment and human well-being, it has one advantage which policymakers and analysts appreciate: the methods are objective and clear. Whether measuring output or expenditure in an economy, GDP produces a single number that is easy to adjust and compare.

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VIDEO-Transcript: Chief Negotiators, Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero Hold a Press Conference Following the Third Round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Talks | Office of the United States Trade Representative

Link to Article

Archived Version

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 05:03

December 20, 2013Department of StateWashington, D.C.

*As Delivered*

MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here. Sorry to be a few moments late. We'd like to start this press conference right now. This is the closing press briefing for the third round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations. I'd like to introduce Ignacio Garcia Bercero and Dan Mullaney. They will both make opening statements, and then we'd like to open up to your questions.

We do ask that you limit your questions to one per outlet so everyone gets a chance to answer '' ask a question. And we also ask that you limit your follow-up questions. I will open the floor to Dan Mullaney now.

MR. MULLANEY: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Anne. And good morning, everybody, and thank you very much for joining us as we report on the third round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, or TTIP as we call it.

As I said, we're now approaching the end of our third and final round for 2013 in these negotiations, so it's a good time for us to review where we are. To recall, we began our negotiations this year in July with a week-long set of negotiations within a few weeks of the Administration's having completed its consultations with Congress, and within a few weeks of the commission having received its mandate from the Council. We had a week-long set of negotiations, we had 24 different negotiating groups discussing the wide range of areas that we would anticipate would be part of a comprehensive trade and investment agreement.

Each of the groups compared their approaches to each of the different areas, looked for areas of convergence, identified areas of divergence, and made plans for follow-on work into the second round. The second round happened in Brussels and in video conferences during the week of November 11th. And at that stage, the negotiating groups continued discussing their ideas and began to talk about specific negotiating proposals.

So during the third round this week, the negotiating groups have been meeting on, again, virtually all of the areas that we would anticipate would be covered in the TTIP. And just to recall, these areas include market access for industrial and agricultural products, and of course, the rules of origin for those products; we had the regulatory and standards group which focused on technical regulations; the sanitary and phytosanitary regulations primarily in the area of food safety, regulatory coherence, and particular sectors.

We also discussed investment and services including in the areas of telecommunications, electronic commerce, cross-border services and financial services, and we covered government procurement, intellectual property, labor, environment, state-owned enterprises '' one of the issues of global concern '' small- and medium-size enterprises, localization barriers to trade, competition, raw materials and energy, and legal and institutional issues such as dispute settlement.

So in each of these areas, the negotiating groups were fleshing out the earlier proposals and discussing new text and other proposals. In several of the groups, the teams were also continuing their discussions on what we call the architecture of the agreement, that is, how issues we are addressing in each of these negotiating groups would be reflected in the text of an agreement, how they would work together, how these different areas would relate to each other. In the regulatory area in particular, we are continuing our discussions of the various ways to facilitate the development of regulations on both sides of the Atlantic that both achieve the regulatory objectives '' for instance, our chosen levels of environmental protection, consumer protection, and health '' but also minimize or eliminate the costs and barriers to trade and investment that are caused by unnecessary divergences in these regulations.

So we are continuing to undertake work, this regulatory work, across several intertwined areas, including horizontal or cross-cutting approaches to a wide range of regulatory and standards-based activities such as mechanisms or procedures that promote transparency, that promote participation, that promote accountability, as well as more specific discussions of the range of tools available to reduce unnecessary cost differences in particular sectors.

A major source of growth of jobs that this agreement introduces will be the elimination of tariff barriers to trade. Now that the Administration has received its advice from the International Trade Commission on the impact of tariff elimination, we are moving in this third round to discuss tariff elimination. We do anticipate, however, that this work will need to take place '' to continue to take place in the fourth round after our exchange of tariff offers early next year. So during this round, we also pursued and we will continue pursuing other important areas of market access, including government procurement and services.

Finally, in this third round, as in the previous two rounds, we continue to be guided by the important input that we received from a wide range of stakeholders. As you know, the United States and European Union summarized their joint objectives in a joint report of the High-Level Working Group for Jobs and Growth in February. The Administration further described its objectives in a letter that it sent to the U.S. Congress in March. That letter is, by the way, available on our website. And then since then, we've held in innumerable meetings with a wide range of stakeholders to receive input on those objectives and to exchange views.

Most recently, this past Wednesday during the course of the round, the U.S. and the EU negotiators took time to share information and hear viewpoints from more than 350 different stakeholders, from environmental groups, consumer, other nongovernmental organizations, labor, business, and academia. This included a three-hour session that consisted of 50 '' more than 50 policy presentations that covered a range of issues, including consumer and food safety, innovation, and agriculture. These sessions offered the stakeholders an opportunity to provide negotiators valuable feedback on the negotiating objectives for TTIP as we proceed with these talks.

Following that session, Ignacio and I then conducted a briefing of a large group of stakeholders for about an hour and a half, and briefed on the status of the talks and answered questions. I think I can speak for negotiators on both sides when I say that we found this exchange with stakeholders, through our ability to receive views and to exchange views with the stakeholders, to be extremely important as we determine the specifics of our way forward in these negotiations. Because we believe that this agreement has to be one that increases growth, increases jobs, increases our international competitiveness, and that has a solid stakeholder support.

As I said, this is our last round of 2013. In early 2014, we anticipate taking stock at a political level of what we've accomplished so far this year and planning on what we need to do to move this negotiation forward in the year 2014. The exact timing of this assessment will depend on further discussions in January based on the work this week, which, as I mentioned, is still ongoing until the end of the day today. So '' and we're also working on a schedule for several negotiating rounds in 2014.

So thank you very much for your attention. I'll turn the floor over to Ignacio now, and then we'd be happy to answer any questions. Thank you.

MR. BERCERO: Thank you, Dan, and good morning to everyone. As Dan has said, we can be satisfied about this round of negotiations. We remain on track to deliver an ambitious trade and investment agreement that should boost our economies, deliver growth, and more importantly jobs, both for Europeans and for Americans. And I cannot emphasize how important this is at this point in time.

We have had the opportunity (inaudible) which each side would like to see covered in this comprehensive trade agreement. This has been possible because of a very strong mobilization of our teams, including a very active participation of regulators from both sides. As we move forward towards the next negotiating rounds, I would like to emphasize a few considerations.

On market access, I think it is critical that we maintain, both sides, a high level of ambition on all the three components of the market access agenda; that is to say on tariffs, on procurement, and on services and investment.

On regulatory issues, progress should be achieved across the board, both on the so-called horizontal issues and on the specific sectors.

On rules for the next round, we should be able to intensify our work and our discussions on a range of important issues such as competition policy, trade-related aspects of energy and raw materials, sustainable development including labor and environment, and of course, there are others '' trade facilitation, et cetera. And I would like to highlight that it will be critical that the TTIP achieve real and include benefits for the small and medium enterprises, and that this is reflected throughout the agreement, but also in a specific chapter within SME related issues.

We anticipate a political (inaudible) early next year that will help in U.S. guidance on the way forward. It is very clear for us that this is not a routine trade negotiation. This agreement needs not just strong support from all stakeholders. It needs '' and in fact, it cannot be done without the direct involvement from stakeholders. This is because of the nature of what we have set out to do with an ambitious behind-the-border regulatory agenda. The regulatory component of this negotiation in particular requires us to develop a much more substantial process of a stakeholder consultation.

We have engaged again this week '' and Dan has referred to this '' with a very broad range of stakeholders. We dedicated the full day of Wednesday to absorbing input from the stakeholder presentations and engaging in a question-and-answer session by them. And I can relate to you that also apart from these meetings, I had the opportunity while I was in Washington to have meetings with a broad range of stakeholders representing different interests '' business, environmental groups, consumer organizations, trade unions. And I found this engagement very productive and very interesting.

And I would like to also take this opportunity to mention that the 14th of January, the European Commission will be organizing a civil society dialogue which will be open to interested stakeholders. We would continue to innovate in the area of transparency (inaudible), and we are determined to get these right.

On regulatory issues more generally, I would like to reiterate '' and I think I kind of speak for both sides '' that we are committed for ensuring that these negotiations will not be about lowering or compromising the highest standards of consumer, environment, privacy, health, or other legitimate protections, and that each side will obviously maintain its regulatory autonomy. The TTIP is not and will not be about the deregulation agenda.

Last but not least, as European Union chief negotiators, I'm very pleased to announce that we will be organizing the next negotiating round which will take place in Brussels at a date that we hope to be able to communicate to you very soon. Thank you.

MR. MULLANEY: So we're happy to answer any of your questions.

QUESTION: I'm Brian Beary from Europolitics. Just a question on the transparency issue: I know that on the first and the third rounds here in Washington, the USTR had this stakeholders thing where the negotiators were hearing presentations from the stakeholders and there were press, negotiators and they were all mingling together. But in the second round in Brussels, the commission chose not to do that. And I'm wondering why the commission is not allowing that model, and if there's a plan for a change in the fourth round. And will the commission be doing something similar with the stakeholders?

MR. BERCERO: Well, as I said, we are always ready to innovate and to improve the practice. It is true in the second round, which, as you know, was organized in somewhat special circumstances, but the focus is to have as much time for interactive discussion with the two chief negotiators. And by the way, I'm very pleased that in this round the U.S. has also organized a sufficient time for interactive discussion, because we believe that that is very important. We are still reflecting about the new modalities for the discussion with the stakeholders, and we will see about what is the best way to organize that in the next negotiating round.

I can assure you in any case that there's a continuous process of dialogue with the stakeholders, that we are receiving input from them on all the aspects of the negotiations. And for us, it's important not just that we listen, that we hear what they have to say, but that we also have the opportunity to engage in a discussion. So we will further reflect about the best way to organize this not only during the negotiating round, but also throughout the negotiating process.

MR. MULLANEY: I should point out that Ignacio and I did have an exchange with approximately 400 stakeholders over the course of two and a half hours or a little after, and I think we pretty much exhausted the number of questions that there were in the room. So it was a high level of interaction with a large number of stakeholders.

QUESTION: Hi. Ben Hancock from Inside U.S. Trade. I wanted to touch a little bit on the sectors. First, for Ignacio, you mentioned the last round and which sectors you all discussed. Which sectors are part of not horizontal, but in the sectoral annex are you focusing on now, is the EU focusing on now?

And Dan, if I could ask you: What sectors is the U.S. prepared to begin negotiating on in the context of a sectoral annex, either now at the end of this round or in the next coming round?

MR. BERCERO: Well, I mean, I think that throughout this negotiating round, but also in the previous round, we have been discussing the number of sectors where both the United States and the European Union have indicated an interest in exploring the possibility of having specific sectoral commitments. We have had discussions on sectors like automobiles, like pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics, textiles, chemicals, ICT. I hope I'm not forgetting any of the sectors, but if I'm forgetting any, I'm sure that Dan would be '' will be able to correct me.

And I wish to emphasize that these are sectors that both sides have indicated an interest in moving forward, interest of exploring specific sectoral commitments. And they are all sectors in which to a large extent, there have been joint submissions by both European and United States stakeholders. So I would really think that this is an issue of common interest both for United States and the European Union.

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah, thanks, Ben. When we went out for Federal Register comments, we got about 300 different '' 370 different comments from a lot of different industries and other interested parties suggesting what we should do. And as Ignacio said, we started to identify some sectors that are '' we think are useful to have discussions on to look for ways that we can reduce costs associated with unnecessary regulatory divergences. We're not finished identifying the issues associated with sectors. We're still working through those and their interrelationship with some of the horizontal issues.

You mentioned sectoral annexes, and it's worthwhile emphasizing that some of the discussions that we'll be having will be, as I mentioned, over the architecture of the agreement and how we actually reflect the work that we do in the sectoral component of '' physically in an ultimate agreement, it's still to be determined, annex or other. But where we're continuing to work forward, there's not a '' there's certainly not at this point a closed list of sectors or sectoral issues.

MR. BERCERO: Let me emphasize that also from a point of view, in no way we are talking about a closed list. We are still looking to the possibility of looking into some other sectors where there might also be opportunities to do sectoral work. So I think as the negotiations progress, we may well decide to look into other areas.

QUESTION: Len Bracken, Bloomberg BNA. Aside from the sectors, is the overall architecture decided? In other words, would it be accurate to report that you have decided on the scope of the agreement aside from the sectors? And to what extent does that still reflect the High-Level Working Group report?

MR. MULLANEY: I would say that the overall scope and the overall set of objectives remains the same. As I mentioned this week, we did have virtually all of the negotiating groups meeting on their range of issues. So I think the scope of what we hope to achieve is reflected in the High-Level Working Group report and in our letter to Congress. I think we're still '' remains valid. Yeah.

MR. BERCERO: Let me confirm that obviously, everything which is in the High-Level Working Group report is very much a part of our discussions. Of course, as the discussions progress is when we need to take some decisions about the architecture, where certain issues should be a chapter. That main issue which is still '' remained open, and I think that is something that as we progress in the negotiation, we will be progressively determining these issues.

QUESTION: Hi. Kristi Ellis with Women's Wear Daily. On textiles, I have a two-part question. What were sort of the nature of the discussions? At what stage are you in terms of perhaps a rule of origin? Have you exchanged offers, or is this still early in the process?

And then secondly, at the stakeholder meeting, a trade group, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, raised an ongoing issue. The EU imposed a 28 percent tariff on U.S. denim exports, and that stems from the Byrd Amendment WTO case. Are there efforts to address this issue? And how close to '' are you to resolving it? Thank you.

MR. BERCERO: Well, first, the discussions that have taken place on textiles have been mostly focusing to '' on regulatory issues in the textiles sector. We haven't yet got to the stage in which we have exchanged offers. That's one of the things that we will be aiming to do '' happen next year on all sectors, of course, not only on textiles. On rules of origin, the discussion so far is much more on the horizontal aspects of rules of origin. We haven't really started to discuss the specific rules of origin which apply in different sectors.

As to the specific measure that you referred to, we have not discussed that issue in this context. This is not the forum to discuss specific trade concerns. We have been focusing on what we aim to do in the TTIP. So no, it's not an issue that we have discussed in this context. Thank you.

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah. I think it is fair to say that on textiles, market access, rules of origin, we did have conversations this week. I think those conversations are '' will be then continuing into 2014 as we move forward to the exchange of offers.

QUESTION: Krista Hughes from Reuters. Just a follow-up question to your comments earlier about the specific sectors that you're focusing on: Which are the sectors at the moment which are furthest from being included on that short list of sectors where you're seeking regulatory compatibility?

And then what is the current thinking on including energy, specifically U.S. gas exports, in the scope of this negotiation?

MR. BERCERO: Well, I think it's important that you bear in mind that on the issue of those sectors, a significant range of issues have been raised where it has been suggested that by fully maintaining the level of protection in the European Union and in the United States, it is possible to achieve significant regulatory cost savings. And of course, this depends very much on each sector. In some cases, there's a question about the possibility of mutual recognition of technical regulations. That's an issue that's being discussed in the (inaudible) sector.

In other areas, it is a question of mutual recognition of inspections of manufacturing facilities. This is being discussed in the pharmaceutical, medical devices, and cosmetic sector. In other sectors, it's a question of better coordinating to reach assessments, for instance, in the chemical sector. So there are different type of tools which depend very much on the specificities of each sector. But you need to have the regulators looking into these issues thoroughly, looking into all the opportunities, and moving forward on the issues as we progress in this negotiation to next year.

So I think that at this point in time, what we are doing is, on each of these sectors, analyzing the issues, reviewing the evidence, and engaging in intensive process of discussion amongst regulators together with us, the trade negotiators, to see how we can achieve these goals without in any way compromising the levels of protection.

On energy and raw materials, we certainly have an interest and we hope that there will be a clear guarantee of security of access to U.S. resources. This is something of great importance. But of course, we are looking into the issue of raw materials not only from this point of view, but also from the broader systemic perspective, because we believe that both the European Union and the United States have a common interest in promoting open, transparent regimes for trade and investment involve materials and energy. We are still discussing what is the best way in which the TTIP can continue to advance that objective.

MR. MULLANEY: And on the question of sectors, it's true that each of the different sectors that we're looking at present their own issues, their own challenges. And in a way, they reflect the broad range of tools that we have at our disposal to reduce costs. In certain areas, it may well be if the two sides have the same level of protection but different regulatory ways of achieving that, that there may well be opportunities for equivalence or mutual recognition. In other areas, the focus may be more on whether you can have a recognition of conformity assessment results and arrive at a point where a product can be tested just once and not twice before it comes into the markets.

In other areas it might be a question of sharing information and analyses of products. So each sector '' sort of the nature of the sector '' each sector can present its own issues that are above and beyond the horizontal issues I identified. So it's difficult to say which sector is further along, which sector is further behind. They're all '' I think they're all moving forward, and all the parties are engaged and trying to find solutions to reduce costs due to divergences.

On the gas export issue, in the United States we have a regime where exports of natural gas are deemed in the public interest. If we're '' trading partner with whom we have a free trade agreement that provides for national treatment in national gas area. Other partners, there's a presumption that exports are in the national interest. So I think the '' this negotiation can offer opportunities for increased trade, but of course ultimately whether trade actually takes place is going to depend on the customers and the pricing and the private sector actors.

QUESTION: I'm Pat Reber from the German Press Agency. At the stakeholders meeting on Wednesday, there were issues raised by some of the data, digital democracy groups about whether or not data privacy was going to be part of the TTIP. Many of the groups opposed any inclusion of data privacy in the final agreement because they felt there were processes on both sides of the Atlantic now to address the issue of data privacy in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal. Thank you.

MR. BERCERO: Well, I think that you know our point of view on this because we have made it clear in many occasions. Data privacy is not part of the TTIP negotiations. There are other forum where issues and concerns related to data privacy are being discussed between the United States and the European Union. But the TTIP is not the right forum for overseeing those issues.

This doesn't mean, of course, that we are not ready to talk in the TTIP on issues like electronic commerce, on issues like data flows. It's a very important component of the modern economy. But for us, any such discussion is based on a very clear premise that whenever it comes to personal data of European citizens, that data can only be transferred abroad in compliance with European Union directives on that matter. And this a fundamental issue. You know that for us, it's an issue of fundamental rights and which, I think, our position is very clear and very well known.

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah, and I mean, companies on both sides of the Atlantic have built up one of the most robust data transfer networks in the world, and it's the network that really forms the backbone of our mutual international competitiveness and helps support the $4 trillion in foreign direct investment that we have in each other's economies and the $3 billion a day in trade in goods and services that occur every day. So TTIP should offer opportunities to facilitate and support those flows. We're confident, as we work through this process, that we can accomplish that result and do that in a manner that remains respectful of the privacy regimes that exist on both sides of the Atlantic.

QUESTION: This is Cole Stangler from In These Times magazine. You mentioned a lot '' you were talking about the stakeholder meetings on Wednesday, and I spoke to some of the stakeholders there '' mostly from environmentalists, labor groups, consumer advocacy groups '' who mentioned that really the stakeholder meetings are really no substitute for full transparency, which in their eyes is releasing the draft text after each round. So why not just do that after each round? Why not release the full text to the public so that stakeholders know, so that the press knows, so that the public can know what's being negotiated?

MR. BERCERO: You want to take it first?

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah. I mean, we've been working a lot through these stakeholder engagement sessions and meetings to '' and through our written letter to the Congress and joint reports to maximize the level of transparency, to describe precisely what we're doing to engage one-on-one in many instances, or one '' with a group of stakeholders in other instances to try to make as clear as possible what it is we're doing to get their viewpoints. In our view, the '' so the value of transparency is paramount in our mind.

We do need, however, to give the negotiators space to have frank conversations, to negotiate in '' in the case of our negotiators, in the U.S. national interest. And so what we've '' I think are achieving is a balance between giving those negotiators the space that they need to be frank, have frank conversations and negotiate, but also communicate as full as we are able the objectives and what we are doing and to receive input from the stakeholders. Yeah.

MR. BERCERO: Let me just add that this is an issue where it is very important to strike the balance right. As Dan has indicated, it is critical in a trade negotiation where each party comes forward with its own textual proposals that you have the space to see how you can accommodate the views of the other party and progressively come into a common text. This is a complex process; it's an interactive process that takes place throughout the negotiation until such time as you can say there is a text which represents a common European and American view.

If you were going to be releasing those texts throughout a process, inevitably the possibility for both sides to work together to compromises would become much more difficult. And I don't think that anyone would want that to happen. At the same time, it's very important for each of us to communicate as clearly as possible to our citizens, say what is the position that each one is taking in the negotiation, and that's the reason why the European Union will have made an effort to make as many position papers public, where we indicate in each of the different negotiating areas which are the objectives that we are pursuing in the negotiation and our doors are always open to discuss with any interested stakeholder any issues which are a matter of concern. And you certainly can see it on certain issue (inaudible) to a lot of discussion even though we have made a particular effort to engage in a discussion to explain the positions and to better understand the views of stakeholders.

So I think this is a balance which needs to be maintained. We will continue to reflect as far as the negotiation's progress is about how to ensure that this element of maintaining these policies respected in a manner which ensures efficiency of the negotiating process, but also the maximum of public accountability. And of course, once a text has become stable and consolidated, everyone will be able to see the result and there will be time before the final consideration is taken by our legislators to ratify a text, to know what is the content of each of the chapters of this agreement.

MR. MULLANEY: I'll just say we are making a huge effort to implement deep transparency in this negotiation, but of course, we can always improve. We can always do better. So we appreciate the views that we hear from stakeholders about what we can do to improve this process.

QUESTION: Hi, I'm '' sorry. I'm Jeremy Togman (ph) with AFP Newswire. There's a growing concern that disputes of a mechanism could give the companies the power to directly challenge regulation in Europe. Do you think that those fears are legitimate?

MR. BERCERO: All views are always legitimate, and I think that all views needs to be respected and need to be discussed. I'll refer to just previously that on certain issues where concerns have been expressed by different groups in the European Union, but also in the United States. We are certainly making a big effort to discuss those concerns and to see what is the best way to move forward.

Now, on the substance of what you are saying, I think it's important to be clear investor state dispute settlement is not something new which is being invented in these negotiations. There are at this point in time 1,400 bilateral investment treaties which have been concluded by the member states of the European Union, all of which include an investor state dispute settlement mechanism. And nine of our member states already have those treaties with United States. Now, that is the current reality. What we are discussing in the context of this negotiation is whether it is possible to include a regime precisely to ensure that non-discriminatory regulatory measures cannot be successfully challenged under an investor state dispute settlement system. You need to strike the right balance between the protection of the investor and the need to ensure that there is no threat to the non-discriminatory regulatory measures that both United States and the European Union value.

And by the way, I should note that although the consent is many times expressed because of some cases which have been launched, despite the fact that we have (inaudible) treaties between member states of the European Union and the United States for more than 20 years, there has not been a single case in which the regulatory measure of one of those member states, or indeed of the European Union, has been successfully challenged. There was only one case that was lost, but it didn't really relate to something which could be described as a legitimate regulatory measure.

In any case, for us we take these concerns seriously. That's why we are explaining that what we have been trying to do at the European level, for instance in our negotiations with Canada, is to ensure that the investment protection standards of those agreements are defined in as precise manner as possible, because the greater that there is precision, the less that there is a risk of our arbitrary interpretations by any arbitrators. So we are looking to more precise definition of investment protection standards, and we are also looking into how to reinforce '' to enforce the procedure guarantees of the process, for instance, to transparency of the arbitration procedure, rules to avoid and deter frivolous claims, also a number of elements which ensure that the procedure respects all the due process guarantees which are fundamental and necessary.

Again, in our negotiations with Canada, we have made a number of important innovations in this area, which go, by the way, way beyond what is provided in the current investment treaties of our member states. And we very much hope and expect that in our discussions with United States, we will be able to look into these and perhaps even to do better.

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah, I don't have a lot to add other than to say we do understand the concern and, we do appreciate those concerns having been communicated to us so clearly. But for us, it is a key goal of our negotiation in this TTIP will be, of course, to protect the right of the governments to regulate in the public interest, a right that we would simply never negotiate away.

At the same time, we do want in this negotiation to pursue strong investor protections so that, from our perspective, American companies investing abroad have the same access to fair and equitable treatment as they receive in the United States. I mean, that system for us does include a variety of mechanisms, including state-to-state dispute mechanisms and investor-state dispute mechanisms to ensure fair and equal treatment. And this is an approach that we have taken in all of our FTAs, and it's an approach that we have evolved in the course of over a decade of studying our investment provisions, receiving input on those provisions, and striking the right balance to ensure that governments can continue to have the ability to regulate in the public interest.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, I'm Hillary (ph) with ARD German Television. I have a question on the timetable, more for the U.S. side in this case. What is our '' or the hope for pushing things through in 2014? We have midterm elections upon us and we need a TPA to be issued to the President. What are our hopes and concerns there?

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah, focusing on your last question, we '' it's very important to us to be able to bring home international agreements that we have, trade promotion authority, or TPA. And we are working with Congress to get that done, that authority. It helps define our objectives with Congress. It lays out the processes and procedures that we need to follow to put one of these agreements in place, so it is very important. So we're very hopeful that we will be getting that authority in the near term.

In terms of the overall timetable, as I suggested in my initial comments, within a couple of weeks of being able to, we began the negotiation. Pretty much as quickly as one could, we had a second round, and we worked very closely intercessionally between the rounds to make progress, both between the first and second round and the between the second and third round. So we're committed to moving very quickly on this.

But the main important thing for us is to get it right. So we're working hard, we're working quickly, but we don't want to sacrifice the ultimate quality of the agreement, because at the end of the day, we have to be able to point to an agreement that actually does increase growth, jobs, and international competitiveness. So we don't have a timetable, except we have to '' we're going to move quickly, and we want to get it right.

MR. BERCERO: I agree with Dan on what he has said on the timing.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily. If I can turn this around a little bit and ask you something negative, has there been any discussion between you two or even your bosses on what may not be possible in this agreement, so when you get to the final hurdle it's not as high as it looks now? Have you discussed it, or is there an agreement of what's a bridge too far?

MR. BERCERO: There continues discussions about the different elements of the agreement. I don't think that at this stage we are discussing what the final result will be.

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah. As I noted, we're proceeding in this round, as in previous rounds, with the wide range of topics that we would hope to be included in the comprehensive trade and investment agreement.

QUESTION: Hi. (Inaudible) from (inaudible). First up, just a quick comment before my question, which is: I was a little bit confused on Wednesday about why your briefing of stakeholders that followed their briefing of you was closed to the press, if you were trying to increase transparency.

But my real question is more about the timetable for deciding what you're going to decide. That is, when would you expect to decide on the sectors to reach an agreement on what sectors you're going to do deal with? And when would you '' from that point, how much longer would you expect to go to reach it? Are you hoping to reach an agreement this year? Is it something that's going to be taking place next year? Can you give us just sort of the outside and what your timetable is for various elements of this agreement?

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah. On the latter question, I don't think '' we don't have a timetable for making decisions on specific things. We're trying to move forward and make progress in all of the areas as much as we can. There will come a time, I suspect, we'll be figuring out how we're going to wrap up the issues, but that time is not yet.

On your first question, we had the three hour session with all of the stakeholders and the negotiators and lots of members of the press. So for the '' for that three hour session where there was a direct negotiator-stakeholder interaction, the negotiators were there with members of the press and the stakeholders. Our feeling was that the briefing that we gave to the stakeholders on Wednesday afternoon was their opportunity to pose questions to us and have an exchange, and that the opportunity for the press, for us to have a briefing and have questions and answers, would come at the end of the round when we had completed the round during this hour.

MR. BERCERO: Can I just say a word on the sectors to clarify? The sectors which I mentioned in answer to a previous question are those sectors where both sides areexploring the possibility of having a specific regulatory commitment. We, of course, in these negotiations we are discussing very broadly (inaudible) disciplines which are relevant for all sectors. We are looking into many other issues, but (inaudible) sectors is sectors where we are looking concretely, where it's possible to achieve specific regulatory commitments that go beyond and complement, what is being done until it's on that level. It is not a closed list. It is just a list, and we have started to work cooperatively with the involvement of the regulators on both sides. And within each of the sectors, there's a list of issues that we are looking into. As we progress in the discussion, we will see how far it is possible to go under each of the issues, under each of those sectors. I think that's important to bear in mind.

QUESTION: Yeah, this is Adam Behsudi from Politico. I had a question for Mr. Bercero. The commission this week released a draft regulation on restricting products from cloned animals, and I'm just '' can you tell us what '' to what extent that issue will find its way into the trade agreement, into the trade negotiations? And can you elaborate more on some of the food safety issues that you discussed this week?

MR. BERCERO: Well, on the specific proposal that the commission has presented, no, that's not an issue which we are discussing in these negotiations. Of course, we are always ready to listen to questions, comments about our initiatives, but it's not an issue that as such we are discussing in these negotiations. I mean, on food safety, I think there were good discussions between the two teams. We are looking to what could be the elements of an ambitious SPS-plus chapter. We still are looking at these more at the conceptual level, each side explaining to the other what are the objectives that they would wish to achieve within this SPS-plus chapter. And there are also conversations about how to try to facilitate and to solve specific issues, all in full respect of each side's legislation* and regulatory framework.

So I think there were good discussions on these topics, but as I said, the specific issue that you referred to is not an issue that has been discussed.

MODERATOR: Last question.

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah, I would say kind of '' maybe I'll just elaborate a bit. We did undertake, in the high-level working group, to address these sanitary and phytosanitary or SPS measures. It's mostly related to food safety. And what we said we would do would be to explore ways in which we could explore SPS-plus aspects for disciplines that go beyond and elaborate on the current WTO requirement that food safety measures be based on science, be based on risk assessment. So what we are discussing in this during these rounds is the various ways that we can focus on some of these requirements, focus on some consultative mechanisms that we can put in place to have our regulators work together to achieve, say, SPS-plus disciplines on these food safety measures.

The United States and Europe have two of the best food safety regimes in the world, and by cooperating together and agreeing on cooperative measures where we can both achieve our appropriate level of protection using appropriate science, using appropriate risk assessment, I think we can both gain on the food safety area.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more.

QUESTION: Panka (ph) from China's Xinhua News Agency. I just wanted to follow up with the investor-state dispute settlement issue. Why is this dispute settlement so important for the TTIP trade agreement? And (inaudible) '' both the United States and the European Union negotiating with '' negotiating bilateral investment treaty with China. I'm wondering, do you guys have plans or (inaudible) this investor-state dispute statement '' settlement in the BIT talks with China?

MR. BERCERO: Well, I mean, certainly I think that the negotiation that we would do with China on investment, one of the issues that would be certainly discussed there is also investor-state dispute settlement, as in it's a very early stage of that discussion. But we certainly will be discussing also this issue with our Chinese colleagues.

MR. MULLANEY: Yeah. I mean, and for us, as I said, I mean, we do '' we '' it's extremely important to maintain the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, but at the same time, it's a strong objective to make sure that we have in the international system strong investor protections that do include these variety of fora, including, as I mentioned, state-to-state dispute settlement as well as the investor-state dispute settlement.

MODERATOR: That's it. Thank you, everyone.

MR. MULLANEY: Thank you.

MR. BERCERO: Thank you.


Pilot 'Deliberately' Crashed Plane, Killing 33

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Source: 33 World News

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 20:53

A Mozambican Airlines plane that went down in Namibia last month, killing all 33 aboard, was no accident according to preliminary investigations. With the co-pilot in the bathroom, pilot Hermino dos Santos Fernandes locked the cockpit door, reports the AP, then "made a deliberate series of maneuvers" that systematically lowered the plane's altitude three times‹bringing it from 38,000 feet all the way to 592 feet. Dos Santos Fernandes had a "clear intention" to crash the plane, Civil Aviation Institute chief Joao Abreu said yesterday, per the BBC.

"During these actions you can hear low and high-intensity alarm signals and repeated beating against the door with demands to come into the cockpit," Abreu said. "The reasons which may have given rise to this behavior are unknown."


Almost Every Passenger On A Flight From Dubai To India Was Found Carrying 1 Kilo Of Gold

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Source: Zero Hedge

Tue, 24 Dec 2013 05:02

Submitted by Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Watching Indian bureaucrats attempt to halt more than one billion human beings' desire for gold has been one of the more entertaining and pathetic stories of all of 2013. It is one that I have covered on many occasions, the latest being my post from earlier this month: Gold Smuggling Increases 7x in India and Surpasses Illegal Drug Trade.

Well it appears the trend continues, potentially at an accelerated rate, as we just learned that, incredibly, ''almost every passenger on a flight from Dubai to Calicut was found carrying 1kg of gold.'' As I have said many times in the past, if an Indian wants their gold, they will have their gold.

CHENNAI: Faced with curbs on gold imports and crash in international prices leaving it cheaper in other countries, gold houses and smugglers are turning to NRIs to bring in the yellow metal legally after paying duty. Any NRI, who has stayed abroad for more than six months, is allowed to bring in 1kg gold.

It was evident last week when almost every passenger on a flight from Dubai to Calicut was found carrying 1kg of gold, totalling up to 80kg (worth about Rs 24 crore). At Chennai airport, 13 passengers brought the legally permitted quantity of gold in the past one week.

''It's not illegal. But the 80kg gold that landed in Calicut surprised us. We soon got information that two smugglers in Dubai and their links in Calicut were behind this operation, offering free tickets to several passengers,'' said an official. The passengers were mostly Indian labourers in Dubai, used as carriers by people who were otherwise looking at illegal means, he said. ''We have started tracing the origin and route of gold after intelligence pointed to the role of smugglers,'' he said.

Reports from Kerala said passengers from Dubai have brought more than 1,000kg of gold in the last three weeks. People who pay a duty of Rs 2.7 lakh per kg in Dubai still stand to gain at least Rs 75,000 per kg, owing to the price difference in the two countries. Gold dealers in Kerala say most of this gold goes to jewellery makers in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

These government measures to control the current account deficit did not reduce the demand for gold in the market. ''RBI tried to discourage gold purchases because it doesn't have the utility of other commodities like oil or copper. It mostly sits there in lockers. But when the gold imports through proper channels have come down, merchants have started depending on illegal channels to meet the demand from consumers,'' he said.

As expected, a gigantic fail, but at least it served to enrich smugglers from across the region.

Full article here.

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Reuters Investigates - UNACCOUNTABLE: The Pentagon's bad bookkeeping

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:54

SUCCESS, SORT OF: Workers confer in temporary offices set up in Alexandria, Virginia, for the rollout last year of the Army's General Fund Enterprise Business System, which, though touted as a success, can't perform many of the functions is was meant to handle. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstPart 3: Time and again, programs to modernize Defense Department record-keeping have fallen prey to bureaucratic rivalry, resistance to change and a lack of consequences for failure.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - The U.S. Air Force had great expectations for the Expeditionary Combat Support System when it launched the project in 2005. This accountants' silver bullet, the Air Force predicted a year later, ''will fundamentally revolutionize the way the Air Force provides logistics support.''

The new computer-based logistics technology would replace 420 obsolete, inefficient and largely incompatible ''legacy'' systems with a single, unified means of tracking the hardware of warfare. And it would be done for a mere $1.5 billion, combining three off-the-shelf products from Oracle Corp and modifying them only enough so that they could work together.

Seven years and $1.03 billion taxpayer dollars later, the Air Force announced in November 2012 that it was killing the project. ECSS had yielded ''negligible'' value and was ''no longer a viable option,'' the Air Force said. It would have taken an estimated $1.1 billion more to turn it into a system that could perform about one-quarter of its originally planned tasks, and couldn't be fielded until 2020.

An August 28, 2013, report on the project, commissioned by an undersecretary of defense, filled in more of the blanks. The original promise of ECSS ''was an exaggeration not founded on any true analysis,'' it said. The plan was ''ambiguous''; the Air Force failed to determine what ECSS would replace and what it would need to succeed.

That seven-year exercise in waste was not an anomaly. It was the norm for the U.S. Defense Department's effort in recent years to upgrade the way it keeps track of money, supplies and people. Burdened with thousands of old, error-filled record-keeping systems - estimates range from 2,100 to more than 5,000 of them - the Pentagon is unable to account for itself, and thus for roughly half of all congressionally approved annual federal spending.

To fix that, the Defense Department has launched 20 or more projects to build modern business-management systems since the late 1990s. At least five were subsequently killed as complete failures after billions of dollars were spent on them. Nine projects now under way or already implemented carry an estimated total cost of $13.9 billion to build and operate, according to the Defense Department comptroller's office. All of those in use can't do everything they were supposed to do and are hooked to legacy systems they were supposed to replace.

The Defense Department inspector general said in a 2012 report that just six of these so-called Enterprise Resource Planning projects under way had racked up cost overruns of $8 billion and delays ranging from 1.5 to 12.5 years. With each failure, a pattern emerges: An off-the-shelf product with a proven track record in the private sector is chosen and then modified to the point where it doesn't work properly.

''On every single one of the ERPs, they go out and customize the shit out of it to make it do what the legacy system did the same way the legacy system did it,'' said Mike Young, a former Air Force logistics official and now a consultant on defense logistics and accounting.

KEEPING TRACK: The Defense Logistics Agency, which manages supplies for the military at giant warehouses like this one outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has built a $2 billion-plus accounting system that can't produce standard financial statements, according to the Pentagon's inspector general. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

Reuters has found that success is likely to remain elusive unless the Pentagon can change the way it goes about fixing its accounting problems. Interviews with scores of current and former defense officials, contractors and Pentagon watchers, as well as a review of dozens of reports by oversight agencies, show that the Pentagon is continually thwarted by a lack of accountability for failures, rivalry among and within various branches of the department, resistance to change, and an incentive to spend.

With its efforts to build reliable accounting systems in disarray, the Pentagon isn't likely to meet a congressionally mandated 2017 deadline to be audit-ready. All other federal agencies are audited annually, in accordance with a 1990 law, and with rare exceptions, they pass every year. The Pentagon alone has never been audited, leaving roughly $8.5 trillion in taxpayer dollars unaccounted for since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited.

In previous installments of this series, Reuters has exposed the staggering costs and harmful effects of the Defense Department's chronic accounting dysfunction. Persistent pay errors hound soldiers, sapping troop morale, while an impenetrable tangle of logistics and personnel systems can hinder commanders' ability to know who and what are available for deployment. And the lack of reliable accounts - Pentagon staff routinely insert billions of dollars a year of false accounting entries to cover missing information - conceals huge sums lost to waste, fraud and mismanagement.

In response to questions about the Pentagon's modernization efforts and the findings of this Reuters investigation, the office of Undersecretary of Defense Robert Hale, the Pentagon's comptroller, emailed a written statement that said: ''I note with disappointment that these articles misrepresent the efforts of a group of hard-working government workers who, despite furloughs and sequester and turmoil, have successfully provided financial services during two wars.''


The Pentagon has for years kept lousy books with impunity.

The 2009 law requiring the Defense Department to be audit-ready by 2017 provides for no penalties if it misses the deadline. Senators Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, and Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, introduced legislation earlier this year that would, among other things, limit new weapons programs, if the Pentagon misses the target. The bill has attracted co-sponsors, but otherwise has gone nowhere in the Senate.

From 1995 through 2002, Senator Charles Grassley pushed through an amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill requiring the Pentagon to account for its expenditures by following one seemingly simple procedure: match each payment to the expense it covered. The order was ignored, and Grassley gave up. ''The goal was for the practice to become self-sustaining,'' Grassley said in an email to Reuters. ''It was wishful thinking.''

Rivalry and turf issues among and within each of the military services also thwart comprehensive fixes to the bookkeeping mess. Each branch has insisted on building from scratch its own systems for basic accounting, logistics and personnel, roughly tripling costs. The Army, Navy and Air Force also routinely disregard department-wide standards and rules imposed by the secretary of defense's office in order to preserve their own ways of doing things.

That's what happened to the Defense Integrated Human Resource System, which was intended to replace the scores of payroll and personnel systems that cause so many pay errors. Competing demands from military services ultimately rendered the system useless, and it was killed in 2010 after sucking up $1 billion.

ON THE LINE: Army personnel provide telephone support for new users of the Army's General Fund Enterprise Business System. Army staff called their training sessions for the new system ''the valley of despair.'' REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

High turnover takes a toll, too, as Pentagon personnel are shuffled into new jobs every few years, reinforcing what people involved in many projects said is a lack of personal investment in successful outcomes.

In 2009 - when the Air Force was four years into it ill-fated ECSS project - Jamie Morin became Air Force comptroller, succeeding John H. Gibson II, who now is vice president of the defense-support division of aircraft maker Beechcraft Corp. As the service's top financial official, Morin would have been a primary user of ECSS. Less than a year after the project's collapse, the Obama administration nominated Morin to head the Pentagon's Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation.

At Morin's October 2013 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, none of the members asked him about ECSS or another troubled Air Force modernization project under his watch, the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System. In a written response to questions from Reuters, Morin said: ''In testimony and reports, we have indicated that the Air Force is on a well-designed, albeit aggressive path toward meeting '... audit readiness goals.''

The Air Force replaced a brigadier general and a civilian executive after the ECSS project was killed, an Air Force spokeswoman said, without providing further details. But at the time, it blamed the failure mainly on primary contractor Computer Sciences Corp, saying the Falls Church, Virginia, company lacked the necessary capabilities.

David Scott Norton, an accounting systems specialist who worked for Computer Sciences Corp on the project, disputed that, saying the problem was high turnover. Contractor personnel ''who talked to the client [the Air Force] in the beginning didn't implement the system,'' he said. Air Force personnel, too, were ''always moving in and out. That just doesn't work. You needed a dedicated team.''


The Pentagon's inefficient method of pursuing efficiency has been on full display in the Army, which, among other efforts, has been building three separate new systems to handle accounting.

It launched the Logistics Modernization Program, or LMP, in 1998 with Computer Sciences Corp as the primary contractor. The Global Combat Support System - Army, or GCSS-A, began in 1997 and used Northrop Grumman as contractor. And the General Fund Enterprise Business System, meant to be the Army's new central accounting system, began in 2005, using Accenture as contractor.

The three projects, each overseen by different agencies within the Army, with three different primary contractors, at different times bought licenses to use the same off-the-shelf software package, SAP's Enterprise Resource Planning package. Each team then modified the software to create its own version to fit specific needs without making sure they worked together, people involved in the projects said.

In 2008, as work on all three projects was under way, the Army office that oversees acquisition of information systems issued a report, obtained by Reuters, faulting the Army for building a ''fragmented portfolio of ERP systems that have developed along independent paths. ... The Army cannot trace its business processes from factory to foxhole'' without incurring additional ''huge integration and operational costs.''

The report recommended that the Army halt work and consolidate the three systems. Doing so, it said, would save between 25% and 50% of the estimated $4.7 billion construction and operating costs of the three separate systems.

Backers of each project objected, according to people involved, and the report's recommendations were ignored.

TOP GUNS: Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale (right), here testifying with then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee in 2011, is the Pentagon's chief financial officer, responsible for efforts to modernize the department's dysfunctional accounting systems. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Kristyn Jones, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for financial information management, said that if the Army were to start over, ''we probably would have chosen a different path.'' She said one of the biggest challenges was getting workers to adapt to it. She and others involved in building GFEBS said many of the thousands of Army workers who would use the new system referred to their required training sessions as entering ''the valley of despair.''

Gary Winkler, the Army program executive who oversaw acquisition of computer systems for the Army from 2007 through 2011, said developing the three projects separately, without coordination, hurt all of them. They ''all go through these stovepipe approval processes without considering what is going on to the left or the right or behind,'' he said.

As a result, the systems had to be linked through a costly network of pipelines - 282 such pipelines among the new and legacy systems, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. ''If you draw all of the connections, it looks like a bowl of spaghetti,'' Winkler said. The systems must be continually tweaked because when one element requires a software update, for example, all the pipelines and other linked systems have to be updated, too.

When the Logistics Modernization Program, intended to streamline supply lines and better manage inventory, was eventually fielded in 2010, it was deficient in so many ways that the Army had to add an ''Increment 2,'' which won't be ready until September 2016. This has increased the projected cost of building and operating the LMP to $4 billion from $2.6 billion, according to Army figures.

''The current system does not support certain critical requirements, including enabling the Army to generate auditable financial statements by fiscal year 2017,'' the GAO said in a November 2013 report.

The second Army project, GCSS-A, had an original completion date of late 2015; late 2017 is now the target, for an estimated total building and operating cost of $4.2 billion, compared with the originally projected $3.9 billion.

Lastly, GFEBS, after an investment of more than $760 million, was fully fielded around the world in 2012, one year behind schedule. The Army touts it as a success, saying on its website: ''The system is transforming the way the Army does business by enhancing the information available for leaders and managers across the Army.''

But this success is limited. GFEBS can't track basic transactions - for example, payment of an electricity bill for an Army installation. To do that, it relies on legacy systems it was meant to replace. And because some legacy systems are unable to communicate with GFEBS, operators of those systems have had to revert to manually preparing spreadsheets to pass on data from thousands of Army posts.


Bookkeeping has never been a priority for the military. ''They don't train contracting officers or disbursement officials at West Point,'' said a former senior Pentagon official who was involved in modernization efforts.

For years, winning the Cold War was the primary directive, with little consideration for cost. More recently, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan overshadowed concerns about rising defense spending, bad bookkeeping and attendant waste.

John Hamre became Defense Department comptroller in 1993, three years after Congress passed the law requiring that the Pentagon be audit-ready by 1996. He didn't think upgrading accounting systems was vital to the Pentagon's ability to fulfill its mission. ''Would I like a better accounting system? Absolutely,'' said Hamre, who left his post in 1997 and now is chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and chief executive of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. But, he said, ''we're getting military missions done every day. We just don't use accounting for that.''

Many of the people interviewed for this series involved at all levels of the Pentagon's accounting modernization program said that until recently, lack of interest or attention from the very top - from secretaries of defense and the civilian secretaries of the individual military services - has meant that no one steps in to impose order and consistency.

''You cannot just throw money at an ERP system and expect it to work unless somebody at the top says 'You're going to work together, and you're going to get it done,' '' said Norton, the former Computer Sciences Corp employee.

WORDS AND ACTIONS: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has publicly stressed the importance of making the Pentagon audit-ready, even though the Pentagon isn't likely to meet its 2017 deadline. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

President Barack Obama's three defense secretaries to date - Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and, now, Chuck Hagel - have spoken out strongly both publicly and inside the Defense Department about the importance of meeting audit-readiness deadlines. Panetta in 2011 set an even tighter deadline, ordering that a major portion of the department's books be audit-ready by 2014. Officials have since acknowledged that the deadline won't be met, and that the department plans to conduct an audit more limited in scope than what Panetta ordered.

The secretary of defense is empowered by law to order the military services to clean up their bookkeeping, adhere to Defense Department accounting rules and hew to common standards for building new accounting systems. But he doesn't control the purse-strings - Congress does - so he ''can't say to the military services, 'You can't have the money' '' if you don't make this work, said Richard Loeb, a former Office of Management and Budget official and now an adjunct professor of government contracting and fiscal law at the University of Baltimore law school.

Congress has enabled the Pentagon's institutional bias against change. ''I think we do, all of us, bear some share of responsibility - myself included,'' said Representative Robert E. Andrews, a Democrat from New Jersey on the House Armed Services Committee. ''If I were to go home and start explaining that I was proposing a bill related to getting the Defense Department accounting systems to work right and the importance of accounting, they'd be asleep about half way through the first sentence.''


The Defense Logistics Agency, which buys, stores and distributes supplies for the U.S. military, has built a $2 billion-plus accounting system to make itself audit-ready.

It's a failure.

In a March 2013 report, the Defense Department inspector general said the so-called Enterprise Business System was so compromised by fundamental errors in its construction that its data couldn't be used to produce the standard financial statements required for an audit. Fixing the system to meet the Pentagon's basic accounting requirements ''would be cost prohibitive,'' the report said. The DLA is using it anyway.

Fixing logistics is important - both to save money and to ensure that supplies are on hand when needed. The private sector realized that a long time ago. In recent decades, companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Best Buy Co have raised supply-chain management to a precision science that saves huge sums.

By contrast, the Pentagon's fragmented logistics systems ''have contributed to longer lead times, excess inventory and stockpiling, duplicative activities and systems, inadequate performance measurements, and increased costs,'' according to a 2011 report by the Defense Business Board, a group of business leaders that advises the secretary of defense's office.

The board found that the department uses more than 1,000 separate logistics systems, and that in 2010, logistics cost $210 billion, or about 30% of that year's defense budget.

Department-wide, duties are shared between the DLA, handling ordering and storage of supplies, and the U.S. Transportation Command, or Transcom, which handles delivery. Each has its own administration and computer systems, and each of the military services operates its own depot maintenance, supply, delivery and logistics accounting systems.

The Defense Business Board recommended combining all of the various logistics systems to ''achieve significant budget savings, allowing the Department to preserve funds for force structure and the modernization of military capabilities.''

No action was taken on the board's recommendations. ''I have nothing for you on this,'' William Urban, a spokesman for the secretary of defense's office, said in an email response to questions about why the recommendations were not adopted.


Defense Secretary Hagel and other top Defense Department officials have argued that the impact of the budget sequester - automatic across-the-board spending cuts written into the 2011 congressional budget agreement - would be disastrous for the nation's defense capabilities if allowed to continue. Congress heard: The latest budget deal would restore a big chunk of the cuts that would have occurred in 2014 and 2015.

But lack of reliable numbers on how the Pentagon spends the money it receives undercuts arguments for protecting higher spending levels. ''You have the (military) service chiefs pissing and moaning on the Hill because they have to take the sequester,'' said Franklin Spinney, a former senior analyst in the Pentagon who has written extensively on Pentagon weapons acquisition and spending priorities. But ''they don't have a clue what that's going to cost.''

BLACK BOX: Former Pentagon analyst Franklin Spinney says the Defense Department's inability to determine how it spends its money undercuts its arguments against budget cuts. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

There is no doubt that bad bookkeeping conceals movements of money that in some instances are illegal. The Antideficiency Act of 1884 forbids anyone to commit U.S. funds to purposes not explicitly approved by Congress - a way to prevent federal officials from writing government checks for anything they want. The law includes civil penalties - officials responsible for violations can be demoted or dismissed - and also provides for criminal prosecution.

But because the Pentagon has never been audited, it is impossible to determine the frequency or extent of violations. In its annual Antideficiency Act Report for 2012, the GAO reported that the U.S. Special Operations Command illegally diverted more than $136 million over six years to pay for a helicopter development project. The Special Operations Command concluded that there had been ''no willful or knowing intent on the part of the responsible parties'' to break the law, though it issued a ''letter of admonishment'' to a senior civilian employee.


The Pentagon isn't incapable of fixing its broken business operations. For decades, the Mechanization of Contract Administration Services, or MOCAS (pronounced ''moh-KAZZ''), which handles payment of nearly all of the Defense Department's most complicated contracts, caused some of the department's biggest headaches.

It made erroneous payments and spewed out inaccurate data. Much of this was because contract data, long strings of alphanumeric code, had to be entered by hand. Typos were rife. As much as 30 percent of the transactions it processed had to be redone, often by hand. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which operates MOCAS, said the system currently handles $3.4 trillion in active contracts.

In 1994, the Pentagon launched the Standard Procurement System to rationalize procurement by replacing MOCAS and at least 10 other contract payment systems. By 2002, the new system was years behind schedule, and the estimated cost of building and operating it had risen to $3.7 billion from $3 billion. When tested, it crashed. The Pentagon killed it.

Faced with having to rely on MOCAS indefinitely, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service decided to tweak it. Funding for an upgrade was limited, so DFAS relied heavily on its own workers, who knew MOCAS inside and out. It also hired as consultants retirees who had spent much of their careers working with the system.

MOCAS runs on COBOL, one of the earliest computer languages, and it lacks many of the options and preferences that make modern applications like Microsoft Word so easy to use. The MOCAS update team built an add-on to make MOCAS more user-friendly. It acquired another add-on that allowed electronic invoices and other data from contractors to flow directly into MOCAS. By eliminating paper invoices, they reduced the error rate to a tiny percentage.

The fixes worked so well that in 2008, the Defense Contract Management Agency, one of MOCAS's main users, posted a ''Happy 50th Birthday'' wish to it on the agency's website.

According to users, the 55-year-old system now handles tasks with lightning speed and an extremely low error rate.

But that success is hollow. The Pentagon remains saddled with other contract-payment systems. And MOCAS is not an accounting system; it must transmit data back to scores of accounting systems across the department for each transaction to be entered in ledgers. Many of the accounting systems are old and require manual data entry, so entry of transactions may lag behind MOCAS by a month.

Piecemeal fixes that don't address overarching dysfunction reduce even further the chances the Pentagon will be audit-ready by 2017. Worse, said Charlie Murphy, a longtime member of Senator Grassley's staff, the Defense Department will have added billions of dollars in new technology that failed to deliver. ''Supposedly,'' Murphy said, ''there's a maestro that's going to make them all play like a symphony.''

(Edited by John Blanton)


The British soil that built part of the FDR Drive | Ephemeral New York

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:55

Next time you're stuck in traffic between 23rd Street and 34th Street on the FDR Drive, take a moment to consider where the land beneath you came from.

It wasn't fill from digging the subways or skyscrapers'--it was actually transported here all the way from England in the 1940s.

''During World War II, the Luftwaffe savagely bombed the city of Bristol, England, a major port for American supply ships,'' wrote Michael Pollack in his FYI column in The New York Times in June 2009.

''After the supplies were unloaded, the American ships had no British goods to replace them on the return trip, and needed ballast for stability. So they loaded up rubble from Bristol's bombed-out buildings.''

''Back in New York, the ships dumped the ballast from 23rd to 34th Street as landfill for what would become the East River Drive, now Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.''

Though you won't find it on any city road maps, the slight curve of the East River between these blocks is known as Bristol Basin (above).

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Tags: Bristol Basin, building the FDR Drive, East River Drive, East River history, FDR Drive, Little England NYC, New York City maps, New York during World War II

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NA Tech


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Wed, 25 Dec 2013 17:34

Jay Frank 12/24/13

In the great streaming royalty debate, the focus has been on tiny royalty rates per stream. Artists are up in arms, many are opting out of streaming services, and the noise and debate has been growing louder. Lost in that noise is a voice that is seldom heard: that of the record companies. There's good reason for that: they're making more money from streaming and the future looks extremely bright for them.

Buried in the Christmas Eve edition of the Wall Street Journal (which is itself a day to bury news) is a short column by esteemed writer Ethan Smith. And buried in HIS column (not the lead paragraph, but 8th paragraph) is the vital important nugget that shapes the future music business:

Data reviewed by The Wall Street Journal showed that one major record company makes more per year, on average, from paying customers of streaming services like Spotify or Rdio than it does from the average customer who buys downloads, CDs or both.

OK'...let's quickly digest this. On a per-consumer basis, a major record label makes more money from streaming services than any other format. This might be a figure to look at skeptically if these services barely reached a million people, but worldwide streaming services generated $1.25 billion dollars this year and Spotify alone has over 24 million active users (which jumped massively in the last week with app installs up 4x over the previous week). But how much more is being earned?

The average ''premium'' subscription customer in the U.S. was worth about $16 a year to this company, while the average buyer of digital downloads or physical music was worth about $14.

Let's take a look at that. Year over year, the premium subscriber was worth nearly 15% more than the person who bought music either digitally or physically. So, if there's more money to be made in the streaming hills, why are so many artists unhappy? Because the artist has to rethink the business on multiple levels.

IT TAKES LONGER TO MAKE MORE MONEYAs Ethan points out, it took an ''indie pop/rock group'' 34 months to make more money from streaming than they did from sales. Some artists will do it in less time, and others in more time. Either way, the artist has to take the long view. It's certainly easier and much better to run a music business with the money coming in quickly with an up-front sale. However, if you believe in your music and have patience, the long run pays off. In this way, the recorded music business will quickly resemble its partners in publishing. In another way, with many artists being financially irresponsible, is it so bad for them to get their money slowly over a prolonged period?

THE MONEY GOES TO MORE ARTISTS THAN EVER BEFOREA person buying $14 worth of CDs a year has the money going to 3 artists at the most (3 CDs x under $5). A person buying $14 worth of downloads a year has the money going to maybe 18 artists at the most (18 downloads x $.79). However, $16 worth of streaming revenue conceivably goes to as many as 3,200 tracks (3,200 streams x $.005). Even if you take an assumption that a person does 100 listens of one artist in a year, that's still spread out over 32 artists in a year, or nearly double the max average for download sales. As I've reiterated before, the real issue facing artists with streaming is that the very access that allows them to make money means the pie gets sliced thinner. There's more money, but it just goes to more artists.

THE SONG HAS TO LAST A LONG TIMEDisposability of a song only works if you work it extra hard while it's hot. If an artist/song takes 34 months to make more money, then the song needs to be relevant for those 34 months. No longer can you stiff a consumer who buys something and only listens to it a couple of times. Now, those listens need to reoccur and do so over a prolonged period. This also means continually marketing content to ensure it stays relevant.

Longtime readers of my book Futurehit.DNA have already been making music that plays into these trends. I've been predicting for years that music revenues will be based more on repeatability, and that is now taking firm root. Those who embrace these new realities are more likely than others to rise above the mass volume of music released and are poised to thrive in this new age of the music business.

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2013 was a lost year for tech '' Quartz

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 14:35

Google's ''20% time,'' which allows employees to take one day a week to work on side projects, effectively no longer exists. That's according to former Google employees, one who spoke to Quartz on the condition of anonymity and others who have said it publicly.

What happened to the company's most famous and most imitated perk? For many employees, it has become too difficult to take time off from their day jobs to work on independent projects.

This is a strategic shift for Google that has implications for how the company stays competitive, yet there has never been an official acknowledgement by Google management that the policy is moribund. Google didn't respond to a request for comment from Quartz.

Update: Google engineers respond.

Update: Google's official response

Once a pillar of innovation at Google, now verbotenWhen Google went public in 2004, the founders' letter from co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin cited 20% time as instrumental to the company's ability to innovate, leading to ''many of our most significant advances,'' including AdSense, which now accounts for about 25% of the company's $50+ billion in annual revenue. Google engineers also used 20% time to incubate Gmail, Google Transit, Google Talk, and Google News, among other projects.

Here's how Google has effectively shut down 20% time without actually ending the program, says our source: First, as has been reported previously, Google began to require that engineers get approval from management to take 20% time in order to work on independent projects, a marked departure from the company's previous policy of making 20% time a right of all Googlers.

Recently, however, Google's upper management has clamped down even further, by strongly discouraging managers from approving any 20% projects at all. Managers are judged on the productivity of their teams'--Google has a highly developed internal analytics team that constantly measures all employees' productivity'--and the level of productivity that teams are expected to deliver assumes that employees are working on their primary responsibilities 100% of the time.

Google is still experimenting, but in less democratic fashionThe end of 20% time at Google fits with other moves made by CEO Larry Page since he took over in January 2011. Six months after he took the reins, Page announced that Google would adopt a ''more wood behind fewer arrows'' strategy that would put more of Google's resources and employees behind a smaller number of projects. This meant killing off Google Labs, which had previously been Google's showcase for its experimental projects'--many of them products of employees' 20% time.

It makes sense that once Page began to eliminate projects that weren't core to Google's mission, he would also want to restrict the source of those new projects'--20% time. Google is still innovating, of course, but in a more concerted fashion. The secretive Google X lab is where engineers go to work on new ideas now, everything from self-driving cars to Google Glass.

A more focused strategy may be good for Google's bottom line, and is arguably a necessary step as the company has grown larger and harder to manage. But it's worth asking: Has the company lost something by making innovation the province of an elite few, rather than a part of every engineer's weekly routine? And what's more, if 20% time has been abandoned at Google, are other companies, which reportedly include Apple, LinkedIn, and a host of others, wise to continue trying to copy it?

More on Google:Google engineers insist 20% time is not dead'--it's just turned into 120% timeGoogle is preparing for screenless computersGoogle is taking a profoundly new direction, says one of its top execsAs if seven screens weren't enough: Now Wall St traders will be wearing Google Glass

Drone Nation

US drone strike kills three in North Waziristan - The News International

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 15:14

December 26, 2013 - Updated 042 PKTFrom Web Edition

MIRANSHAH: A US drone strike targeting a militant compound killed at least three suspected insurgents in a restive Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border late Wednesday, officials said.

The attack took place around midnight in Qutab Khel village, five kilometres (three miles) south of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal region.

"A US drone fired two missiles on a militant compound, killing at least three suspected insurgents," a senior security official told AFP.

A security official in Peshawar confirmed the attack and casualties. Another official in Miranshah put the death toll at four and said a fifth militant was seriously injured.

The identities of those killed in the strike were not immediately known but officials suspect that they were of Afghan origin.

North Waziristan is one of Pakistan´s seven semi-autonomous tribal regions which Washington considers to be a major hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.

Pakistani government criticises drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty and counterproductive to anti-terror efforts.

But ties with Washington have nevertheless improved this year after lurching from crisis to crisis in 2011 and 2012.

Last month a US drone attack on a seminary linked to the feared Haqqani militant network in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest killed at least six people.

The attack, which militant sources said killed the Haqqanis´ spiritual leader along with five others, was extremely unusual as it was mounted outside Pakistan´s lawless tribal areas on the Afghan border.

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 19:58

Let's shhhhut down fat talkFrom ''joking'' about cankles to destructive self-deprecation, fat talk has become part of ordinary conversation, spoken without a second thought.

We believe that fat talk is a barrier to managing our weight and, when so many women are doing it, we're all further from reaching our goals.

We've proven a positive approach is the key to weight management success. So let's join together to silence negativity and shout for positivity.

VIDEO-Twitter / CBSNews: "A whistleblower doesn't run," ...

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VIDEO-Why Does CBS Keep Asking Its Ridiculous Amnesty Question About Snowden? - The Wire

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 22:08

During an interview with National Security Adviser Susan Rice that aired Sunday, CBS' Lesley Stahl asked Rice if the government was considering offering amnesty to Edward Snowden. Stop asking this, CBS. You're getting a lot of things wrong '-- and it will never, ever happen.

The conversation between Stahl and Rice aired a week after 60 Minutes' now-infamous whitewash of the National Security Agency by reporter John Miller, during which the same question was asked. Rice gave a more forceful answer to the question than did Rick Ledgett, head of the NSA's internal security review. Ledgett said the idea of amnesty was worth considering. Rice did not.

Stahl: You know, Snowden is believed to have a million-and-a-half more documents that have never been released. Would you '-- would the president consider granting him amnesty in exchange for him never releasing any more documents?

Rice: Well Leslie, we don't think Snowden deserves amnesty. We believe he should come back '-- he should be sent back, and he should have his day in court. ... The position of the United States is that he ought to come back and face justice.

The president said as much this week, as CBS itself reported. So why ask again?

But moreover: Of course the government won't do that! Why would it? This is an administration that has prosecuted more leakers than any administration in a century '-- combined. At The New Yorker, Amy Davidson explained why amnesty might make sense after CBS asked the question last week. That doesn't mean that the administration '-- which has been adamant in its defense of the NSA and its surveillance '-- would consider actually doing so. It would be a huge de facto admission of error on Obama's part, an admission that his revelations were important.

Davidson also points out some reasons why amnesty wouldn't be helpful to the government. For example, because Snowden probably doesn't have any documents at all at this point '-- and members of the media do. It's baffling that this point is still lost on CBS, even after it was pointed out repeatedly over the past week. Reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras apparently have the entire document set, as, it seems, does Greenwald's former employer, The Guardian. The Washington Post's Barton Gellman has some number of them. A number of other outlets have been investigating and reporting on documents: ProPublica, The Times, and foreign papers covering per-country leaks.

But Snowden '-- according to Snowden '-- has none. In October, he described his efforts to keep the documents out of Chinese and Russian hands, including stashing them on portable hard drives until he could hand them over to Greenwald. How's Snowden supposed to cut a deal to turn over documents if he doesn't have them and there are reporters '-- eager for scoops '-- that do? What sense does that make?

Stahl's 1.5-million document figure doesn't even match the 1.7 million that Miller asked about last week. How many documents are out there isn't clear to anyone who isn't in possession of them, including the government. Earlier this month, The Timesreported that the NSA didn't know the scale of the leak, but CBS still went with 1.5 million or more in back-to-back weeks. When Ledgett was presented with the 1.7 million figure, he said simply, "I wouldn't dispute that." Of course he wouldn't! The more documents that Snowden is rumored to take, the more his actions seem reckless and inappropriate. What's a "document," anyway? A file? A page in a file? It's so vague a term as to be useless.

And then there was the predication for the question of amnesty itself. Miller asked Ledgett, "He's already said, 'If I got amnesty, I would come back.' Given the potential damage to national security, what would your thought on making a deal be?" Um, where'd he say that? The government hasn't heard it: When Stahl asked Rice on Sunday if Snowden had "proposed such an arrangement" affording him amnesty, Rice replied, "Not that I'm aware of." Did Miller even ask the administration before making that claim? Did he ask Snowden's lawyers? In a statement to BuzzFeed today, the leaker's lawyer, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, was clear: "Edward Snowden would never offer information in exchange for asylum and he has never suggested otherwise. Reports to the contrary are false."

The idea that the NSA might grant amnesty doesn't do the agency any harm, of course, at a time when its public relations efforts are faring poorly. There is also at least one good reason amnesty seems like it could be possible. When asked about Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's flat denial of NSA data collection before a Senate committee earlier this year, Rice waved the incident off as an example of someone "inadvertently [making] a false representation." In other words: misdeeds don't always result in people having to "face justice." So you never know.

VIDEO-Figures. Obama Tried to Sign Up for Obamacare But ''System Couldn't Verify His Identity'' (Video) | The Gateway Pundit

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Tue, 24 Dec 2013 21:27

According to the White House, President Obama tried to symbolically sign up for Obamacare but the system didn't recognize him.Ed Henry at FOX News reported:

''We learned today from the White House. Initially, they said he signed up for what they called a bronze plan, paying about four hundred dollars a month in premiums. But, then they came back to us and said '' Wait, he didn't actually enroll. They said his staff did it and that's because of his unique circumstance as Commander in Chief. That his personal information is not in particular government data bases. So could not actually verify his identity, oddly enough'... So his staff did it.''

VIDEO-Susan Rice on contending with crisis - CBS News

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 22:13

President Obama's national security advisor answers questions about the NSA leaks, Iran, Syria and the attack in Benghazi

The following script is from "Susan Rice" which aired on Dec. 22, 2013. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Rich Bonin, producer.

From her first day on the job as President Obama's national security advisor, Susan Rice has had to contend with one crisis on top of the other: the Edward Snowden leaks, the chemical weapons attack in Syria, Egypt, Iran, China, Russia' name it.

During her four years as the U.S. ambassador to the UN, she had a reputation, as one magazine put it, for being "whip-smart, energetic, abrasive, charming, funny, combative, and frequently undiplomatic."

And yet the president wanted to name her to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. But then she walked into the Benghazi buzzsaw. She got swept up in the dispute over who attacked the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. There was no chance she would be confirmed by the Senate. So last July, she became one of the president's closest advisors -- both personally, and in terms of proximity.

Lesley Stahl: The Oval Office is right there?Susan Rice: Down, actually, in the corner.

Lesley Stahl: Down there?

As the president's national security advisor, Susan Rice works in what some consider the second best office in the White House.

Lesley Stahl: This is the office, huh?

Susan Rice: This is Henry's office, as we call it.

Lesley Stahl: Henry's office, Henry Kissinger's office.

As Kissinger was, Rice is the quarterback of American foreign policy. She's the one who wakes up the president when there's a 3 a.m. international crisis.

Susan Rice: My job is to bring the good news and the bad news and often in this business it can be more bad than good.

And there's so much of it that's bad. Her plate has been full from the day she got the job.

Lesley Stahl: I wanna give you a quote that a foreign policy expert gave us. "Syria has been a fiasco. Egypt is a fiasco. Relations with our closest allies in the Middle East are deteriorating. And at this moment in time, the Chinese choose to provoke Japan... And we are leaning back.''

Susan Rice: I couldn't disagree with that more. But you wouldn't be surprised to hear me say that'--

Lesley Stahl: No.

Susan Rice: We are very actively engaged in trying to broker a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after months, if not years, of stalemate. In Syria chemical weapons are leaving the country for the first time. The situation in the Middle East is complicated. But to paint this with a broad brush and say it's a disaster, I think, is missing a lot of important data points.

Lesley Stahl: But it's in as much turmoil, I think, you tell me, as it's ever been.

Susan Rice: How about Suez? I mean, let's study a little history.

Lesley Stahl: But that was one place, you know?

Susan Rice: Yeah, but that was almost a global conflict in the Middle East. I think hyperbole is something to be utilized carefully.

Lesley Stahl: On both sides?

Susan Rice: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: Edward Snowden. You know, Snowden is believed to have a million and a half more documents that have never been released. Given that, would you, would the president, consider granting him amnesty in exchange for him never releasing any more documents?

Susan Rice: Well, Lesley, we don't think that Snowden deserves amnesty. We believe he should come back, he should be sent back, and he should have his day in court.

Lesley Stahl: But if what he's released so far has been so damaging and he has a million and a half more documents, how important is it that he not release those? And what would we offer him, nothing?

Susan Rice: Lesley, you know I'm not going to get into a negotiation with you on camera about something that sensitive--

Lesley Stahl: You just seemed to suggest no'--

Susan Rice: -- but the position of the United States is that he ought to come back and face justice.

Lesley Stahl: Has he either directly, indirectly, in any way proposed such an arrangement?

Susan Rice: Not that I'm aware of.

This past week, a federal judge ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of American phone records, revealed in Snowden's leaks, ''almost certainly'' violates the Constitution, while a panel of intelligence and legal experts urged the president to impose new restrictions on the NSA.

Lesley Stahl: According to an article in the New Yorker, every time there's been a question about putting restraints on the NSA up to now, the president has sided with the intelligence community.

Susan Rice: What the NSA and our intelligence community does as a whole is designed to protect Americans and our allies. And they do a heck of a good job at it.

Lesley Stahl: Officials in the intelligence community have actually been untruthful both to the American public in hearings in Congress and to the FISA Court.

Susan Rice: There have been cases where they have inadvertently made false representations. And they themselves have discovered it and corrected it.

Lesley Stahl: But when you have so many phone records being held, emails, heads of state's phone conversations being listened in to, has it been worth our allies being upset? Has it been worth all the tech companies being upset? Has it been worth Americans feeling that their privacy has been invaded?

Susan Rice: Lesley, it's been worth what we've done to protect the United States. And the fact that we have not had a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11 should not be diminished. But that does not mean that everything we're doing as of the present ought to be done the same way in the future.

Susan Rice works 14 to 16-hour days. She's not the first woman to be national security advisor, or the first African American. But she is the first mother. She has two kids: Jake, 16 and Maris, 11.

"Lesley, it's been worth what we've done to protect the United States. And the fact that we have not had a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11 should not be diminished. But that does not mean that everything we're doing as of the present ought to be done the same way in the future."Lesley Stahl: See anyone you recognize?

A rare afternoon off is Sunday...when she goes to Maris' soccer game.

Susan Rice: Maris is.. she's got blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail.

Lesley Stahl: Oh yeah.

Her husband, Ian Cameron, used to be an executive producer at ABC News.

Ian Cameron: Hey, how are you? Nice to see you. Thanks for coming out.

As the match proceeded, we got a sense of how fiercely competitive Susan Rice is when Maris scored a goal.

Susan Rice: Scream! You guys have to come every week 'cause you're good luck.

In the middle of everything, her BlackBerry went off and so did she, to confer with Secretary of State Kerry calling from Abu Dhabi.

Lesley Stahl: How often when you do carve out time for your family, does work impinge? Intrude?

Susan Rice: You're never not working. I mean, you always have your BlackBerry and you have to be accessible. Even if the phone doesn't ring, you better be checking your email from time to time.Lesley Stahl: Ian, you actually have stopped working.

Ian Cameron: Yeah.

Lesley Stahl: To take care of the kids?

Ian Cameron: Yeah. Well we were in a situation, you know, financially that one of us could step out of the working world.

"You're never not working. I mean, you always have your BlackBerry and you have to be accessible. Even if the phone doesn't ring, you better be checking your email from time to time."Lesley Stahl: What about the racial difference, was that ever an issue, a problem?

Ian Cameron: It's interesting how much the country has changed, even in Washington, D.C., I think there were times, you know, 30 years ago where we were self-conscious about holding hands in Washington, D.C., where we worked.

Susan Rice: Now, absolutely never occurs to us. We never hear or even sense anything.

Rice, 49, grew up in the national's capital, on Embassy Row.

Lesley Stahl: D.C. girl through and through?

Susan Rice: Born and raised.

Her father was a governor of the Federal Reserve Board; her mother, a leading figure in education policy. And Rice herself had a distinguished academic career. Stanford and Rhodes Scholar.

Susan Rice: There were those who wanted to suggest as I was growing up, that any success I might have had was because of affirmative action. And that didn't sit well with me. And so from--

Lesley Stahl: That must've hurt.

Susan Rice: Well, I resented it. I don't know if it hurt because I didn't think it was true.

She describes herself not as an idealist, which is her reputation, but as a pragmatist like Henry Kissinger. Most days she's at her desk dealing with one crisis and hotspot after the next, like overseeing the six-month deal with Iran that freezes their nuclear program in exchange for some modest sanctions relief.

Lesley Stahl: Say you get the comprehensive agreement and they get the sanctions lifted. If they cheat, then it's going to be pretty impossible to get the sanctions back, given Russia, China. And a lot of people think that's their strategy: Make a deal, get rid of the sanctions, build a bomb.

Susan Rice: But Lesley, we will not construct a deal or accept a deal in which we cannot verify exactly what they are doing. And if they're caught we will insure that the pressure is re-imposed on them because'-- take it from me, I worked on-- I worked on this at the United Nations. I know a little bit somethin' about Security Council resolutions and how to impose sanctions and how to lift sanctions. And there are ways to do that that impose automatic triggers, if possible, on-- for failure to comply. Now, we haven't designed that resolution yet. But this is something that's quite doable.

Lesley Stahl: You say we're not willing to allow them to have a nuclear bomb. But what about what they call-- leaving them to be a nuclear threshold power, which means that they can be a power that has the capacity to develop a bomb in several months.

Susan Rice: We do not want Iran to be not only to have a bomb, but be in a position to race towards a bomb undetected.

Lesley Stahl: Watching their behavior over many, many years, you know, it defies imagination almost that they are going to give this up.

Susan Rice: I mean, let's be clear. There's no trust. There's no naivety. The question is if a policy designed to put maximum economic pressure on them actually has come to the point where they are choking. Their currency is down 50 percent. Their oil revenues are down 50 percent. Their inflation is up. They're hurting. And the question is are they hurting enough so that they are going to be willing to make some very difficult decisions that they've resisted making thus far and give up in a verifiable way this nuclear program? The answer is we don't know. But the other half of the answer is we have every interest in testing that proposition.

Over the summer, Rice led a review of U.S. policy in the Middle East resulting in a new direction away from the use of force and a scaling back in the region that has upset our allies there like Saudi Arabia.

But it seems there's no escaping the Middle East. Take the civil war in Syria where President Assad's forces have gained ground, and among the opposition '' Islamic extremists are gaining over the moderates that are backed by the U.S.

Lesley Stahl: So was it a mistake not to train and arm those moderates early on?

Susan Rice: Well, Lesley, I think we'll have to review that in the context of history. And I can't judge that at this point.

But what about the humanitarian crisis in Syria? More than 100,000 killed; eight million driven from their homes. After the genocide in Rwanda, when Rice worked on President Clinton's national security council, she vowed if there ever was another atrocity, she would support dramatic action. So why no dramatic action in Syria?

Susan Rice: It's not that simple. The international community isn't unified, there's no agreement to intervene, there's no basis in international law to intervene. And yet nobody who works on that problem is at all satisfied with how it's unfolded.

Susan Rice became national security advisor as a consolation prize. She lost her chance to be Secretary of State when she '' then the UN ambassador '' was asked to pinch hit for Hillary Clinton and answer questions about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi where our ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and 3 others were killed.

[Susan Rice on "Face the Nation": What our assessment is as of the present, is in fact what, it began spontaneously in Benghazi'...]

That particular assessment from talking points prepared by the CIA was wrong, and Rice was accused of being deliberately misleading. But a former senior intelligence official told us that the talking point that called the Benghazi attack spontaneous was precisely what classified intelligence reports said at the time.

Susan Rice: I don't have time to think about a false controversy. In the midst of all of the swirl about things like talking points, the administration's been working very, very hard across the globe to review our security of our embassies and our facilities. That's what we ought to be focused on.

Lesley Stahl: But the questions keep coming. When someone heard that I was going to be talking to you they said, "You have to ask her why Hillary Clinton didn't do the interview that morning." Did she, did she smell trouble?

Susan Rice: She had just gone through an incredibly painful and stressful week. Secretary Clinton, as our chief diplomat, had to reach out to the families, had to greet the bodies upon their arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. If I were her, the last thing I would have wanted to do is five Sunday morning talk shows. So I think it's perfectly understandable--

Lesley Stahl: So when they asked you ''

Susan Rice: So when the White House asked me, I agreed to do it.

Lesley Stahl: Do you ever think, "Gee, I wish I hadn't done that." You know, if you hadn't done that, I'd be calling you Madam Secretary of State maybe.

Susan Rice: Well, you can call me Susan.

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VIDEO-Former CIA Deputy Director: NSA "is not spying on Americans" - CBS News

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 22:50

A former deputy director of the CIA said definitively that the National Security Agency (NSA) ''is not spying on Americans.''

''I think that is a perception that's somehow out there. It is not focused on any single American. It is not reading the content of your phone calls or my phone calls or anybody else's phone calls. It is focused on this metadata for one purpose only and that is to make sure that foreign terrorists aren't in contact with anybody in the United States,'' said Michael Morell on CBS' ''Face the Nation.''

Morell served on the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies commissioned by President Obama to recommend reforms to surveillance programs after documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA's surveillance.

Last week, the review group issued a report outlining dozens of potential changes, including a recommendation that the NSA cede control of the phone-records database to a third party or the telephone companies that originally provided the data.

''The current storage by the government of bulk meta-data creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty,'' the report said.

Morell expanded on that recommendation on Sunday.

''We believe that the government should not hold this data any longer. We will leave it an open question who should. But we say the government shouldn't hold this data, somebody else should,'' Morell said. ''The second thing we say is that NSA should have to get a court order for every individual time they want to query this data, not operate under a blanket court order. We think that better protects privacy and civil liberties, while at the same time allowing the government to do what it needs to protect the country.''

Turning over the phone data to another party '' his preference would be a private consortia, he said '' would only add two to four days to the process of the NSA being able to obtain the data, and would have an emergency exception for data that was needed very quickly.

Morell largely defended the NSA, saying it was merely doing what it was told to by the U.S. government and that it had extensive oversight from congressional committees.

''There was no abuse here,'' he said. ''They were doing exactly what they were told to do. I think that's important context for people to know.''

Regarding the possibility that Snowden might receive amnesty if he returned to the U.S., Morell said he felt strongly that the alleged whistleblower should not.

''He violated the trust put in him by the United States government. He has committed a crime in my view. You know, a whistleblower doesn't run. A whistleblower does not disclose information that has nothing to do with what he says his cause is, which is the privacy and civil liberties of Americans,'' he said. ''If you really believe that Americans should be the judge of this program, then you should also believe that the Americans should be the judge of your behavior in this regard. So if you are the patriot that you say you are, you should come home and be judged."

VIDEO- "You've Warned Al Qaeda On The Rise Again! And We Know They Have Targeted The Christmas Season... - YouTube

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 06:09

VIDEO- "Big Data Mining Program Did NOT In FACT Stop ANY Terrorist Attacks The Report Makes That Clear" - YouTube

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 05:46

VIDEO- Obama Tells Congress He May Take Further Action Under The War Powers Act While They're At Xmas! - YouTube

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VIDEO-Drug Bust Finds 1200 Packets Of Heroin Labeled "OBAMA CARE" - YouTube

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Thu, 26 Dec 2013 05:25

VIDEO- Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokno Just Released From Russian Prison Calls For Boycott Of Sochi Olympics - YouTube

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VIDEO- U.S. Ambassador To U.N. Samantha Powers Press Conference On South Sudan - YouTube

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VIDEO- Barton Gellman Describes Interviewing Edward Snowden - YouTube

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VIDEO- "I Don't Know How To Feel About It" Giving Up 100% Of YOUR Children's Privacy To A Police State Govt - YouTube

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VIDEO-Alternative Christmas Message - 4oD - Channel 4

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Parental ControlMy4oD: As viewing video on 4oD requires javascript, related functions such as viewing history, playlist and favourites cannot be used with javascript disabled4.15PMWed25 December 2013Channel 4

Whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the mass surveillance programmes organised by the US and other governments, gives this year's The Alternative Christmas Message.

Six months ago, Snowden, a computer analyst turned whistleblower, brought to global attention top-secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents leading to revelations about widespread United States surveillance on phone and internet communications.

Snowden lays out his vision for why privacy matters and why he believes mass indiscriminate surveillance by governments of their people is wrong.

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VIDEO-Rep. Mike Rogers: I'd Pay For Edward Snowden's Ticket Back to U.S. to Face Charges - ABC News

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Mon, 23 Dec 2013 22:56

Dec 22, 2013 1:11pm

As the NSA faces new scrutiny over its surveillance activities, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said he would ''personally pay'' for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's plane ticket back to the U.S. to face charges for stealing agency secrets, adding that Snowden's writing of an open letter to Brazil asking for asylum in exchange for information amounts to the actions of a traitor.

''I do think he should come home '' I'd personally pay for his plane ticket '' and be held accountable for his actions,'' Rogers told George Stephanopoulos on ''This Week'' Sunday, amid new calls for amnesty for Snowden.

''Here's where I think he's crossed the line now, George, he has contacted a foreign country and said, 'I will sell you classified information for something of value.' That's what we call a traitor in this country,'' Rogers said of Snowden's letter to Brazil last week requesting asylum in exchange for helping the country investigate NSA spying on its soil.

Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., interviewed on ''This Week'' following Rogers, agreed that Snowden should return to the U.S., saying, ''he broke his oath. He broke the law.''

''He ought to stand on his own two feet. He ought to make his case,'' said Udall, who has been a longtime critic of the NSA's surveillance activities. ''Come home, make the case that somehow there was a higher purpose here, but Edward Snowden ought to come back to the United States.''

The NSA's surveillance programs are facing new criticism after a federal judge ruled last week that the agency's phone data collection program was unconstitutional, while an expert panel commissioned by President Obama released a report Thursday making 46 recommendations to reform the NSA's surveillance activities, including curbing its collection of telephone metadata.

Rogers said he disagreed with those who believe the report was ''devastating'' to the NSA, noting that it found no abuses, and only recommended changing how phone call data was collected and stored.

''They found no violations, no unlawful activity, no scandal, none of that was found in this report, but what they said maybe it shouldn't be with the government, maybe it should be mandated by the government that it's held by the private companies. And I think that's a very different debate and a debate that we should have.''

''So I think this is not the 'Holy Grail' of reports, but I do think it crossed a very important milestone in saying, hey, no scandal, no law-breaking, now let's just have an honest debate about where we think we ought to go in trying to stop terrorists from blowing up American citizens here in the United States,'' Rogers added.

But Rogers questioned whether having private phone companies or a third party hold phone data instead of the NSA and requiring a court order for access would provide greater privacy for Americans.

''I'm reluctant, because I think it opens it up to more privacy violations when the companies hold it,'' Rogers said. ''They don't have somebody directly controlling that information.''

Udall expressed more support for the recommendations by the White House panel, including for ending the NSA's collection of phone data of Americans.

''The arguments for the status quo, George, fell apart this week in Washington,'' Udall said in response to the panel's report. ''The NSA has overreached.''

''I think we need to look at all 46 [recommendations] '' I'm still studying the report myself. But there are many, many important reforms,'' Udall added. ''It's time on to have real reform, not a veneer of reform. You know why? Because we have got to rebuild the American people's trust in our intelligence committee so we can be safe, so we can meet the threats that are all over the world. But we don't do that by bulk data collection that violates the privacy of Americans, that's unconstitutional, and has shown to not be effective.''

When asked if the country would be engaged in a debate over the NSA's surveillance without Snowden's revelations, Udall called it a ''conundrum.''

''That's a conundrum. That's an important question,'' Udall said. ''We have a lot of wilderness here in Colorado. I feel like Senator [Ron] Wyden and I have been shouting from the wilderness for a number of years about the violations of Americans' privacy conducted by the NSA. Finally, our point of view has been affirmed, and it's now time to really fundamentally reform the way in which the NSA operates. The president's panel made that very, very clear.''

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