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MESSAGE MACHINE Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand

By DAVID BARSTOW
Published: April 20, 2008

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/us/20generals.html

In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

A PENTAGON CAMPAIGN Retired officers have been used to shape terrorism coverage from inside the TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

 

Read more: MESSAGE MACHINE Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand

Canadas 86 wealthiest have same as 11.4 million poorest(bottom 1/3), report finds

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadas-86-wealthiest-have-as-much-as-the-114-million-poorest-report-finds/article17786676/

While politicians in Ottawa still can’t decide who is in the middle class, a new analysis suggests wealth is increasingly gravitating to the very top.

The report by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that the country’s 86 richest individuals and families – or 0.002 per cent of the total population – are getting richer and have now accumulated as much wealth as the country’s poorest 11.4 million.

That’s more than in 1999, when the richest 86 had as much money as the poorest 10.1 million, according to the report, to be released Thursday.

The point of the exercise, says economist and author David Macdonald, who used Statistics Canada data and research from Canadian Business magazine, is to show that if income inequality is a policy and social justice concern – wealth inequality is worse.

In fact, the super-rich list of Canadian residents has little to do with income in the traditional sense, he said. None of the 86 are company CEOs – often the poster children of excess for their unseemly salaries and bonuses. Instead, the ones on the list are there by virtue of being company founders or related to company founders.

The super-rich have gotten there by creating and trading assets, whether companies, real estate or securities.

“We often focus on income inequality but that’s a socialist paradise compared to wealth inequality,” said Macdonald.

“The top 20 per cent only get half of all the income, but in terms of wealth inequality, the top 20 per cent have 70 per cent of all wealth. It’s much more extreme and the concern is as you accumulate all this wealth, this wealth starts to buy you political power.”

 

Read more: Canadas 86 wealthiest have same as 11.4 million poorest(bottom 1/3), report finds

The utter collapse of human civilization will be 'difficult to avoid,' NASA funded s

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/03/18/the-utter-collapse-of-human-civilization-will-be-difficult-to-avoid-nasa-funded-study-says/

After running the numbers on a set of four equations representing human society, a team of NASA-funded mathematicians has come to the grim conclusion that the utter collapse of human civilization will be “difficult to avoid.”

The exact scenario may vary, but in the coming decades humanity is essentially doomed to some variant of “Elites” consuming too much, “resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society.”

That is, unless civilization is ready for one of two “major policy changes”: inequality must be “greatly reduced” or population growth must be “strictly controlled.”

The apocalyptic pronouncements, set to be published in an upcoming edition ofEcological Economics, come courtesy of a U.S. team led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei and funded in part by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The otherwise obscure report was first made public in a recent column in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper in which environment writer Nafeez Ahmed warned that it constituted a “highly credible wake-up call” and declared that its menu of suggested policy changes were “required immediately.”

In the days since, environmentalists, socialists, hard-line U.S. Republicans and even survivalists have taken up the banner of the 32-page study.

Derrick O’Keefe, the Vancouver-based former editor of Rabble.ca, wrote in a Tuesday Twitter post that “this NASA-funded study makes case that future is socialism or extinction.” At about the same time, an anonymous commenter on M4Carbine.net declared “this is why I keep buying ammo.”

The study starts by reducing human civilization into four easy-to-toggle factors: Elites, Commoners, nature and wealth. The paper explains that this was done because “ecological strain” and “economic stratification” are the only two things that consistently plague collapsing societies.

Read more: The utter collapse of human civilization will be 'difficult to avoid,' NASA funded s

Cowichan Valley Cares - Sunridge Place in Duncan

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cowichan-Valley-Cares/659431597453008

 

Hi Folks,

 

Please take the time to “like” this page and send out to friends, coworkers etc… As well watch for and sign on to the petition being actively started this weekend. Future campaign plans will also be added as they are confirmed.

 

In solidarity

 

Bob Wilson

HEU

http://www.fpinfomart.ca/img/aixpubs/cvct.gif

Union wants VIHA to get involved in Sunridge layoffs

Cowichan Valley Citizen
Fri Mar 14 2014
Page: A5
Section: News
Byline: Lexi Bainas
Source: The Citizen


The Hospital Employees' Union is calling for a meeting with Island Health about coming layoffs at Duncan's Sunridge Place seniors facility.

Last month, 264 employees,...

Read more: Cowichan Valley Cares - Sunridge Place in Duncan

Snipers continue massacre while opposition refuses to hold talks with the government. Venezuela Student Protests

Venezuela students clash with riot police

Three killed in confrontation between police and anti-government protesters, raising toll from weeks of rallies to 24.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2014/03/venezuela-students-clash-with-riot-police-201431361238806774.html

Three more people were killed in Venezuela in clashes between police and anti-government protesters, raising the death toll from weeks of demonstrations to 24.

Police on Wednesday fired tear gas and water cannon at scores of rock-hurling students in the capital, Caracas, where about 3,000 students marched to mark a month since the first deaths in weeks of demonstrations.

There were similar opposition protests in the cities of San Cristobal, Merida and Valencia.

The demonstrations have been fuelled by public fury over deteriorating living conditions in the oil-rich South American country. Violent crime, shortages of essential goods like toilet paper, and inflation have combined to create the most serious challenge yet for leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

A student and a civilian were killed during protests in Venezuela's third city Valencia, while a member of the Bolivarian National Guard died in clashes in the nearby city of Naguanagua.

The governor of Carabobo state, home to both cities, blamed anti-government "snipers" for the student's death in a friendly fire incident. But local media said Jesus Acosta, 20, died from a shot to the head near his home, adding that he was not participating in protests at the time.

Guillermo Sanchez, 42, died of a bullet wound and was shot outside his home, Valencia's opposition Mayor Miguel Cocchiola said on Twitter.

Ameliach said Captain Ramso Ernesto Bracho Bravo died from a gunshot.

Sniper accusations

Since the protests began, opposition leaders and students, as well as government authorities, have accused each other of backing radical groups that attack demonstrations with firearms.

Maduro met with cabinet members late on Wednesday and agreed to deploy security forces in hot spots and arrest people financing and supplying "these violent groups" of the opposition, Communications Minister Delcy Rodriquez said on Twitter.

The Caracas march had not been approved by authorities, with Maduro saying the demonstrators were simply looking for trouble. The president announced this week he was banning any protests in the centre of the capital as long as the opposition refuses to hold talks with the government.

But the students turned out anyway, chanting slogans and demanding the release of protesters detained in earlier demonstrations.

Hilda Ruiz, a student leader from Central University, told AFP news agency the marchers also wanted authorities to respond to allegations of police torture and to punish those responsible for the deaths of demonstrators.

The anti-government protests first erupted on February 4 in the western city of San Cristobal, reaching Caracas on February 12 when three people were killed after an opposition protest ended in clashes with security forces.

South American foreign ministers met in Santiago, Chile on the Venezuelan crisis and agreed to form a commission to support talks between the government and the opposition.

The goal of the commission of foreign ministers of the regional bloc UNASUR is to "accompany, support and advise on a broad and constructive political dialogue".

Read more: Snipers continue massacre while opposition refuses to hold talks with the government. Venezuela...

Now we’re getting ready to hold local rallies to take this campaign to the next level, and you’ll hear from us soon.

Sources:

[1] Trio of parliamentary watchdogs on the Ethics witness list. (CBC News)
http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/politics/inside-politics-blog/2014/02/trio-of-parliamentary-watchdogs-on-the-ethics-witness-list.html

[2] Petition against changes to election laws delivered on Parliament Hill. (Global TV)
http://globalnews.ca/news/1171031/watch-live-petition-against-changes-to-election-laws-delivered-on-parliament-hill/

[3] 53,700 signatures contre la réforme électorale. (Le Devoir) 
http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/canada/401148/ottawa-53-700-signatures-contre-la-reforme-electorale

[4] The fair elections act doesn’t address the real problems with voting (Globe and Mail) 
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/the-fair-elections-act-doesnt-address-the-real-problems-with-voting/article17134019/

Dear Friend,

Your campaign to Stop Voter Suppression is making waves!

Last week, we travelled to Ottawa and delivered your 53,000+ strong petition to Parliament. 
Now we’re getting ready to hold local rallies, and turn up the pressure even more.

Thank you so much to all our monthly donors for making this possible. Will you join them and help carry this work forward?

Donate Monthly

Donate One-Time

Last week, I travelled to Ottawa and delivered your 53,000+ Stop Voter Suppression signatures to Parliament. I was joined on the stage at the Ottawa Press Gallery by Craig Scott, David Christopherson and Alexandrine Latendresse from the NDP, Stephane Dion, Scott Simms, and Frank Valeriote from the Liberal Party of Canada, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Read more: Now we’re getting ready to hold local rallies to take this campaign to the next level, and you’ll...

Small World, Big Idea

By MICHAEL TORTORELLOFEB. 19, 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/garden/small-world-big-idea.html?_r=2


OLYMPIA, Wash. — On Christmas Eve, Kevin Johnson received the following gifts: a bed and mattress, a blanket and sheets, a desk and chair, a toilet and sink, towels and washcloths, toothpaste and floss, and a brand-new house.

Mr. Johnson, a 48-year-old day laborer, did not find that last item beneath the Christmas tree, although it nearly would have fit. At 144 square feet — 8 by 18 feet, or roughly the dimensions of a Chevrolet Suburban — the rental house was small. Tiny would be a better descriptor. It was just half the size of the “micro” apartments that former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed for New York City.

This scale bothered Mr. Johnson not at all, and a few weeks after moving in, he listed a few favorite design features. “A roof,” he said. “Heat.” A flush toilet! The tents where he had lived for most of the last seven years hadn’t provided any of those things.

In what seemed like an Oprah stunt of old, Mr. Johnson’s friends (21 men and seven women) also moved into tiny houses on Dec. 24. They had all been members of a homeless community called Camp Quixote, a floating tent city that moved more than 20 times after its founding in 2007.

Launch media viewer Camp Quixote, a floating tent city, became Quixote Village. 

Beyond its recent good fortune, the settlement was — and is — exceptional.Quixote Village, as it is now called, practices self-governance, with elected leadership and membership rules. While a nonprofit board called Panza funds and guides the project, needing help is not the same thing as being helpless. As Mr. Johnson likes to say, “I’m homeless, not stupid.”

A planning committee, including Mr. Johnson, collaborated with Garner Miller, an architect, to create the new village’s site layout and living model. Later, the plans were presented to an all-camp assembly. “Those were some of the best-run and most efficient meetings I’ve ever been involved in,” said Mr. Miller, a partner at MSGS Architects. “I would do those over a school board any day.”

The residents lobbied for a horseshoe layout rather than clusters of cottages, in order to minimize cliques. And they traded interior area for sitting porches. The social space lies outside the cottage. Or as Mr. Johnson put it, “If I don’t want to see anybody, I don’t have to.”

It is rare that folks who live on the street have the chance to collaborate on a 2.1-acre, $3.05 million real estate development. Nearly as surprising is that Quixote Village may become a template for homeless housing projects across the country. The community has already hosted delegations from Santa Cruz, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle; and fielded inquiries from homeless advocates in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Salt Lake City; and Prince George’s County, Md.

In a few other cities, “micro-housing” is close to sheltering populations of the chronically homeless. OM Build, a subsidiary of the economic-justice movement Occupy Madison, runs a workshop to construct 99-square-foot wood cabins on wheels in Wisconsin’s capital. After appealing to the City Council for the right to park these structures on lots like church property, Occupy Madison began a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign to build 10 more dwellings. A prototype finished last fall cost $5,000, said Bruce Wallbaum, a workshop organizer. “We could probably do it cheaper, but we’re trying to do a home,” he said, “not a shed or an RV.”

Read more: Small World, Big Idea

Alleged CSIS, RCMP spying on Northern Gateway pipeline protesters prompts complaint

RCMP, CSIS accused of violating Charter rights of anti-pipeline activists

CBC News Posted: Feb 06, 2014 5:08 PM PT Last Updated: Feb 06, 2014 6:05 PM PT

Protesters against Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are shown gathering outside the Joint Review Panel's final argument hearings in Terrace, B.C., in June 2013. A B.C. civil liberties group says documents show that police and CSIS conducted unconstitutional and possibly illegal actions by gathering information on peaceful activists who opposed the pipeline.

Protesters against Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are shown gathering outside the Joint Review Panel's final argument hearings in Terrace, B.C., in June 2013. A B.C. civil liberties group says documents show that police and CSIS conducted unconstitutional and possibly illegal actions by gathering information on peaceful activists who opposed the pipeline. (Robin Rowland/CP)


Privacy advocates in B.C. are demanding an investigation into the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service for allegedly spying on opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Documents released last year through Access to Information requests show the RCMP and CSIS took direction from the National Energy Board to monitor and report on "threats" to the project's federal review panel by pipeline opponents — including advocacy groups Idle No More and ForestEthics.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has lodged two complaints with the organizations responsible for overseeing the RCMP and CSIS, claiming the surveillance was unconstitutional and possibly illegal.

"The RCMP and CSIS have absolutely no business gathering information on people who are engaged in peaceful democratic activity," said BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson.

A senior RCMP official involved in the operation found "no direct or specific criminal threat," but the spying continued anyway. The documents indicate the RCMP relied on sources inside some of the groups.

Read more: Alleged CSIS, RCMP spying on Northern Gateway pipeline protesters prompts complaint

7 environmental charities face Canada Revenue Agency audits

Charities fear they may lose charitable status

By Evan Solomon, Kristen Everson, CBC News Posted: Feb 06, 2014 8:55 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 06, 2014 11:14 PM ET

The Canada Revenue Agency is currently conducting extensive audits on some of Canada's most prominent environmental groups to determine if they comply with guidelines that restrict political advocacy, CBC News has learned.

If the CRA rules that the groups exceeded those limits, their charitable status could be revoked, which would effectively shut them down.

Many of the groups are among the Conservative government's fiercest critics. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty signalled clearly in his budget of 2012 that political activity of these groups would be closely monitored and he allocated $8 million to the effort. The environmental organizations believe they have been targeted with the goal of silencing their criticism.

“We’re concerned about what appears to be an increase in audits around political activity and in particular around environmental organizations,” said Marcel Lauzière, president of Imagine Canada, an umbrella organization for charities.

“There’s a big chill out there with what charities can and cannot do.”

The list of groups CBC has now confirmed are undergoing audits reads like a who’s who in the environmental charity world. They include:

  • The David Suzuki Foundation
  • Tides Canada
  • West Coast Environmental Law 
  • The Pembina Foundation
  • Environmental Defence
  • Equiterre
  • Ecology Action Centre

“This is a war against the sector,” says John Bennett, of Sierra Club Canada. His group is not yet being audited, but he said he is prepared.

"In the 40-year history of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, it's been audited twice in 40 years," so there are more audits than usual, Bennett said.

Read more: 7 environmental charities face Canada Revenue Agency audits

George Lakoff: 'Conservatives don't follow the polls, they want to change them ... Liberals do everything wrong'


The Guardian, Saturday 1 February 2014 How the progressives have got it wrong and if they don't start to get it right, the conservatives will maintain the upperhand George Lakoff Frustrated by the left … George Lakoff.

"The progressive mindset is screwing up the world. The progressive mindset is guaranteeing no progress on global warming. The progressive mindset is saying, 'Yes, fracking is fine.' The progressive mindset is saying, 'Yes, genetically modified organisms are OK', when, in fact, they're horrible, and the progressive mindset doesn't know how to describe how horrible they are. There's a difference between progressive morality, which is great, and the progressive mindset, which is half OK and half awful."

  1. Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
  2. by George Lakoff
  1. Tell us what you think:Star-rate and review this book

George Lakoff, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley, has been working on moral frames for 50 years. In Communicating Our American Values and Vision, he gives this precis: "Framing is not primarily about politics or political messaging or communication. It is far more fundamental than that: frames are the mental structures that allow human beings to understand reality – and sometimes to create what we take to be reality. But frames do have an enormous bearing on politics … they structure our ideas and concepts, they shape the way we reason … For the most part, our use of frames is unconscious and automatic."

Read more: George Lakoff: 'Conservatives don't follow the polls, they want to change them ... Liberals do...

Richest 85 People Own As Much Wealth As Poorest 3.5 Billion: Oxfam

The world’s 85 wealthiest people hold as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion, or half the world population, according to a new report from global anti-poverty group Oxfam.

That’s roughly $1.7 trillion for both the 85 richest people, and the poorest half of the planet.

The global economy has become so skewed in favour of the rich that economic growth in many countries today “amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest,” Oxfam said in a statement.

The report, titled Working for the Few, warns that democratic institutions are being undermined as an increasing amount of wealth is concentrated in the hands of the richest, making it ever easier for them to influence policy to enrich themselves further. The report calls this process “political capture.”

The report comes ahead...

Read more: Richest 85 People Own As Much Wealth As Poorest 3.5 Billion: Oxfam

French court upholds Muslim veil ban

A French court convicted a woman of defying the country's ban on Muslim veils. Photo:Denis Charlet/AFP

Published: 08 Jan 2014 14:02 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Jan 2014 14:02 GMT+01:00

France's law banning Muslim head and face veils stood strong on Wednesday against another challenge. A young woman arrested for wearing a veil had sought its dismissal.

A French court on Wednesday convicted a young woman for wearing a full-face Islamic veil in public and threw out her bid to have the country's controversial burqa ban declared unconstitutional.

Cassandra Belin, 20, was also convicted of insulting and threatening three police officers at the time of her arrest, which sparked two days of rioting in the town of Trappes, near Paris, in July, 2013. She was given a one-month suspended prison sentence for the clash with the police and a 150-euro ($200) fine for wearing the veil.

Her lawyers, who argued that the burqa ban impinges on religious freedom and unfairly target Muslims, had asked for an emergency ruling on the constitutionality of the ban before sentencing. But that request was rejected on the grounds that the Constitutional Council had previously upheld the 2011 law. 

Belin's lawyer, Philippe Bataille, said he would consider an appeal and pledged to continue fighting to overturn the ban. "I'm not throwing in the towel," he said.

Thibault de Montbrial, the lawyer for the three police officers, welcomed the court's ruling. "We cannot tolerate exceptions to the law of the land," he said.

The European Court of Human Rights is expected to rule later this year in a case brought by a French Muslim who argues the burqa ban violates her right to freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and breaches a prohibition against discrimination.

France argues the ban is necessary for security reasons and to uphold the country's secular traditions.But critics say if security is a consideration, then motorcycle helmets should also be outlawed. 

In theory the ban covers all face coverings, but in practice the only arrests have been of women wearing Muslim veils.

Read more: French court upholds Muslim veil ban

B.C. ordered to pay logging company $1.75M over aboriginal blockade.

VANCOUVER – The British Columbia government didn’t properly consult with a northern First Nation community about forestry activity and then failed to warn a logging contractor about an imminent blockade, according to a court judgement that orders the province pay the company $1.75 million.

One lawyer involved in the case says the judgment, which follows several years of legal proceedings that included a trip to the Supreme Court of Canada, should serve as a yet another warning to the provincial government about the need to meaningfully consult with First Nations over resource development.

Moulton Contracting Ltd. sued the government, as well as the Fort Nelson First Nation and several band members, over a non-violent blockade that began in October 2006 and stretched on until the new year.

George Behn and members of his family launched the blockade after Moulton Contracting obtained timber sales licences from the provincial government. The licences covered an area used by the family for trapping under their treaty rights.

Read more: B.C. ordered to pay logging company $1.75M over aboriginal blockade.

Conservative-appointee Strahl caught lobbying for pipeline company

The activities of Canadian Security Intelligence Services Review Committee (SIRC) Chair Chuck Strahl are raising concerns following media reports he is a registered lobbyist for Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

“Chuck Strahl is a former senior Conservative Minister handpicked by Stephen Harper to replace disgraced previous SIRC chair Arthur Porter,” said New Democrat House Leader Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley). “It should be common sense that someone on the federal payroll, like Mr. Strahl, shouldn’t lobby for a pipeline seeking federal government approval.”

Strahl registered in British Columbia on December 6, 2013 to lobby on behalf of Enbridge. As a former Minister he is prohibited from federal lobbying, but vague guidelines could mean he can use loopholes in the Act to skirt the rules and lobby the province, even on a federal pipeline issue.

This latest controversy comes on the heels of earlier reports of CSIS caught spying on behalf of natural resource companies – spying on Canadians opposed to the pipeline that Mr. Strahl is now paid to lobby for.

“Canadians were already concerned about the federal government using CSIS and the Canada Revenue Agency to target environmental groups and charities – now we learn the Chair of CSIS’ civilian oversight Committee is a paid pipeline lobbyist,” concluded Cullen. “This just further undermines people’s confidence in the fairness of the pipeline approval process.”

Read more: Conservative-appointee Strahl caught lobbying for pipeline company

Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer

BY JOSEPH MENN

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:07pm EST

REUTERS

A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, December 16, 2013. Jim Urquhart/REUTERS

A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, December 16, 2013. Jim Urquhart/

CREDIT: REUTERS


(Reuters) - As a key part of a campaign to embed encryptionsoftware that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned.

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show.

The earlier disclosures of RSA's entanglement with the NSA already had shocked some in the close-knit world of computer security experts. The company had a long history of championing privacy and security, and it played a leading role in blocking a 1990s effort by the NSA to require a special chip to enable spying on a wide range of computer and communications products.

RSA, now a subsidiary of computer storage giant EMC Corp, urged customers to stop using the NSA formula after the Snowden disclosures revealed its weakness.

RSA and EMC declined to answer questions for this story, but RSA said in a statement: "RSA always acts in the best interest of its customers and under no circumstances does RSA design or enable any back doors in our products. Decisions about the features and functionality of RSA products are our own."

The NSA declined to comment.

Read more: Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer

75 Alberta environment regulators now paid by oil industry

  BY SHEILA PRATT, EDMONTON JOURNAL DECEMBER 23, 2013
75 Alberta environment regulators now paid by oil industry  

The setting sun reflects off a tailings pond behind Syncrude’s oilsands upgrading facility north of Fort McMurray on June 18. The plant converts bitumen extracted from oilsands into synthetic crude oil, which is then piped to southern refineries. Alberta’s oilsands are the third largest proven oil reserve in the world.

Photograph by: Ryan Jackson , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - More than 75 environment officers who watched over oil industry activities left the provincial environment department this fall, to take higher paying jobs with the new industry-funded Alberta Energy Regulator. Another 75-plus are expected to leave in the spring.

In mid-November, the department also began handing over to the regulator thousands of files on oil industry activity pertaining to the Public Lands Act, according to documents obtained by the Journal.

This shift in staffing and the moving of years of files out of a government department to the new arm’s length regulator are key steps in the government’s plan, announced last spring, to create a more streamlined approval process for oil companies that wanted “one window” to get permits for new projects.

Previously, companies had to apply to the environment department for some permits and to the old regulator, the now defunct Energy Resources Conservation Board.

To achieve the “one window,” the provincial government handed over to the privately funded regulator responsibility for administering the Water Act, Public Lands Act, and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (dealing with spills) as they pertain to energy companies.

Former Energy Minister Ken Hughes said last spring that the new regulator will have checks and transparency built in to make sure it enforces environment laws as strongly as occurred under the environment department. The new regulator is funded solely by industry, whereas previously, the regulator was funded jointly by industry and government.

But New Democrat Rachel Notley worries the dismantling of large parts of the environment department will result in weaker protection because the Alberta Energy Regulator’s mandate is to advance oil industry activity.

“This is just another step going down this road — we now have a regulator whose prime mandate in legislation is to promote economic development and it is now also the prime environmental enforcer in the oilpatch,” said Notley.

Read more: 75 Alberta environment regulators now paid by oil industry

Good Poor, Bad Poor

By 
Published: December 19, 2013 :: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/20/opinion/egan-good-poor-bad-poor.html

On Sundays, this time of year, my parents would pack a gaggle of us kids into the station wagon for a tour of two Christmas worlds. First, we’d go to the wealthy neighborhoods on a hill — grand Tudor houses glowing with the seasonal incandescence of good fortune. Faces pressed against the car windows, we wondered why their Santa was a better toy-maker than ours.

Timothy Egan

Go to Author Page: Timothy Egan»

For Op-Ed, follow@nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow@andyrNYT

Then, down to the valley, where sketchy-looking people lived in vans by the river, in plywood shacks with rusted appliances on the front lawn, their laundry frozen stiff on wire lines. The rich, my mother explained, were lucky. The poor were unfortunate.

Dissenting voices rose from the back seat. But didn’t the poor deserve their fate? Didn’t they make bad decisions? Weren’t some of them just moochers? And lazy? Well, yes, in many cases, my mother said, lighting one of her L&M cigarettes, which she bought by the carton at the Indian reservation. But neither rich nor poor had the moral high ground.

As the year ends, this argument is playing out in two of the most meanspirited actions left on the table by the least-productive Congress in modern history. The House, refuge of the shrunken-heart caucus, has passed a measure to eliminate food aid for four million Americans, starting next year. Many who would remain on the old food stamp program may have to pass a drug test to get their groceries. At the same time, Congress has let unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million people, beginning just a few days after Christmas.

These actions have nothing to do with bringing federal spending into line, and everything to do with a view that poor people are morally inferior. Here’s a sample of this line of thought:

“The explosion of food stamps in this country is not just a fiscal issue for me,” said Representative Steve Southerland, Republican from Florida, chief crusader for cutting assistance to the poor. “This is a defining moral issue of our time.”

It would be a “disservice” to further extend unemployment assistance to those who’ve been out of work for some time, said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. It encourages them to sit at home and do nothing.

“People who are perfectly capable of working are buying things like beer,” said Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, on those getting food assistance in his state.

Read more: Good Poor, Bad Poor

Justin Trudeau is definitely no Jack Layton

BY BRAD LAVIGNE  | DECEMBER 9, 2013

photo: wikimedia commons
So apparently Justin Trudeau fancies himself the next Jack Layton. How adorable.

On the evening of Monday November 25 he told a crowd of supporters "make no mistake, the NDP is no longer the hopeful, optimistic party of Jack Layton… it is the Liberal party tonight that proved hope is stronger than fear, that positive politics can and should win out over negative."

Oh Justin.

"Hope" and "optimism" aren’t empty catchphrases trotted out after the Liberal Party is caught on video tearing down their opponent’s campaign signs in an effort to hold on to a seat it has held for 91 of the last 100 years.

When Jack spoke of "hope" and "optimism," he was envisioning a leadership rooted in substance. He was sharing a vision to set the country on a new course, different from that of the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Jack was hopeful that policies could be embraced based on principle, not on what the latest poll told you to believe. He was optimistic we could achieve real democratic reform, beyond just replacing unaccountable and corrupt Conservative senators with more Liberal ones.

Optimism for the future meant building an inclusive progressive Canada that took care of its people at home and shared its values around the globe.

Jack never shied away from pointing out flaws in his opponent’s ideas or highlighting the hypocrisy of their positions. He did so respectfully and forcefully. The Liberal Leader is confusing substantive debate with the old style of politicking his party is so used to. Jack knew how to take a punch, and when appropriate, throw a few.

It’s true Jack had a sunny and optimistic outlook on both life and federal politics. It’s also true that people from all walks of life liked and respected that about him.

But it’s an insult to Canadians to suggest that that’s all it took to convince them to vote for him.

They voted for Jack because he was a relentless fighter for the little guy who believed, to his core, of the inherent value of all Canadians, regardless of their background or family pedigree.

They voted for him because they appreciated his decades of advocacy and experience in governing, and knew he could handle the top job.

They voted for him because they knew they could trust him to fight for what he believed in, and to stand up to powerful interests.

They voted for him because he offered the chance to turn the page on the decades of bickering and stale debates in Quebec. Debates that Justin Trudeau seems all too willing to resurrect.

Jack believed strongly in a united Canada in which Quebeckers playing an active role in government. He convinced 1.3 million Quebeckers to join him in that vision. He united Quebeckers around this positive vision along with his Quebec lieutenant and close friend Thomas Mulcair.

Mr. Trudeau’s swing-and-a-miss on byelection night is yet another example of how little he has learned on the job so far and embarrasses himself with a shallow attempt to co-opt a great leader’s words and turn them into meaningless jargon.

If Justin Trudeau wants to run the next election on who will best carry on Mr. Layton’s legacy, my guess is that New Democrats will more than welcome that. Is Thomas Mulcair a different person than Jack Layton? Unquestionably. Does he share Mr. Layton’s passion for a fairer, more prosperous Canada where no one is left behind? Like no other federal leader does.

So while progressives set their sights on replacing Stephen Harper in 2015 with the strong, experienced leadership of Thomas Mulcair, a word of caution to Justin Trudeau:

I knew Jack Layton. Jack Layton was a friend of mine. And you sir, are no Jack Layton.

Read more: Justin Trudeau is definitely no Jack Layton

The Pentagon's doctored ledgers conceal epic waste and has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors

(Reuters) - Linda Woodford spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense's accounts.

Every month until she retired in 2011, she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon's main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy's books with the U.S. Treasury's - a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.

And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came...

Read more: The Pentagon's doctored ledgers conceal epic waste and has amassed a backlog of more than half a...

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