Thursday, February 26, 2015

Some News Headlines and Tweets

Army to send headquarters group to Kandahar in first sign of revision to Afghan withdrawal plan McClatchy

I've been writing about Venezuela recently, but it's not the only place protests are happening

more than 2.2 million people in jail as of 2013 and more than 6.8 million under some form of “adult correctional systems” such as parole or probation

many people were happy to see SodaStream stock go down after 4th quarter profits fell below predictions, but I looked at the whole year

February 21st was the 50th anniversary of the assassination and martyrdom of Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (الحاجّ مالك الشباز)

A dream of mine....

It turns out ISIS started way before 2003 US invasion, but out of 30 years of war in Iraq
Do we think it that implausible that generations, raised in a society that rewarded brutality, and was brutalized by countries near and far, wouldn’t themselves be so traumatized that some of them would turn to brutality, too?

Another sniper is on trial as alleged hit-man in attempted murder of DEA agents

A former Army sergeant with the nickname Rambo pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiring to murder a federal drug agent and another man, in what the government has said was his post-military role as a contract killer.
The former sergeant, Joseph M. Hunter, 49, who had been a sniper instructor, was arrested in 2013 after he and two other men were ensnared in a sting operation in which they agreed to kill an agent of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and one of the agency’s confidential informers for $800,000.

no outrage over depiction of Prophet Muhammad here

Iran nuclear talks

Killer cop Ralph Friedman 
“My partner fires one round, and the guy grabs his shoulder. He goes down. I run up and am standing right over him, and he starts to lift his hand up, and I shoot him right in the head. That did it. He dropped the gun. His brains fell out onto the street. And when they get him downtown, would you believe I’d hit him like nine times — in a good grouping right around the belly?”
“I was never traumatized,” he said. “I never felt bad. I felt I saved my life or someone else’s life.”

Venezuela Crisis Growing as US Media Deflects

I noticed last week news that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed to have thwarted a coup that had planning help from the US.  I wondered how much news coverage it would get.  It has gotten some news coverage, especially since the arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma on February 19th and the killing of a 14 year old protester on Tuesday the 24th.  So there is news about Venezuela.  What kind of coverage is another story entirely.  One aspect of the failed coup attempt, besides any credibility lent to the claims by American media, is that one of the targets was supposed to be the headquarters of TeleSUR, something that you think media would imagine to be an important story, the targeting of another news media outlet.

CounterPunch reports (emphasis mine)
The bombing of the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, Telesur TV network, the Defense Ministry and other Caracas sites was to take place February 12, the one-year anniversary of violent anti-government attacks known as “guarimbas,” which caused 43 deaths. A Tucano EMB 312 bomber would have been flown by renegade Air Force First Lieutenant José Antich Zapata to destroy the targeted sites.
Why was Telesur one of the targets to be bombed?
In 2002, when a fascist coup by a sector of the military and corporate opposition overthrew President Hugo Chavez from April 11 to 13, Venezuela’s revolution was new and a people’s media had not yet developed.
In the critical hours of the massive and spontaneous popular mobilization to demand Chavez’s release and return as president, the monopoly corporate media completely blocked out the news. It was clear that the Bolivarian process needed a revolutionary media to transmit vital information to the population.
Since then, dozens of community and television stations have been established; corporate violators of the new Communications Law have had their licenses revoked.
The Telesur network – promoting the integration of Latin America – was proposed 10 years ago by Chavez. It has become a vital conveyor of national and international information with a solid anti-imperialist prospective.
It provided uncensored live coverage and exposed the terror bombing by NATO/U.S. bombing of Libya.
Like the brutal bombing of Serbia’s national TV station, killing scores of journalists who courageously covered the criminal NATO/U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the planned bombing of Telesur was part of the plan to destroy the Revolution and install a fascist coup.
Guardian article on NATO bombing Serbian TV in 1999
Nato leaders yesterday scrambled to justify the bombing of Serbia's state television station in an attack which killed a number of civilian workers and marked a further widening in the scope of targets now considered legitimate.
The attack on the building in the centre of Belgrade - which contradicted an apparent assurance by Nato this month that only transmitters would be hit - was condemned by international journalists' organisations, representing both employers and unions.
The state-run news agency Tanjug said about 150 people were inside the building at the time of the attack. The minister without portfolio, Goran Matic, said that in addition to 10 dead and 18 wounded, at least 20 people were feared buried in the rubble.
Last June in my introduction to this blog, I wrote that I chose the name "Biased Reporter" in order to show that everyone is biased, and that includes Democracy Now!, a truly invaluable independent daily news broadcast, which focuses on stories that few television and radio shows will consider important.

On February 23rd Democracy Now! had this headline, when the story goes back to the 12th.

U.S. Mulls New "Tools" to Pressure Venezuela after Arrest of Opposition Mayor

The United States says it is mulling new punitive actions against Venezuela following the arrest of an opposition mayor. The mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, was detained last week and indicted for what the government called a U.S.-backed coup plot. Rejecting Venezuela’s claims, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the United States is not interfering in Venezuela, but then said it is considering new actions to steer its government in a different direction.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: "The fact is the Venezuelan government should stop trying to blame the United States and other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. The Venezuelan government actually needs to deal with the grave situation that it faces. The United States is not promoting unrest in Venezuela, nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government. Well, I can tell you that the Treasury Department and the State Department are obviously closely monitoring this situation and are considering tools that may be available that could better steer the Venezuelan government in the direction that they believe they should be headed."
In response, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said the United States has no right to change Venezuelan policies, and appealed for global solidarity.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro: "I call on all the brother governments of Latin America and the Caribbean. I am calling on all our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is the moment for solidarity with the Venezuelan people, who are being attacked by the government of the United States. No one should stay quiet in the face of this aggression. What are the 'tools' that are being considered by the (U.S.) Treasury Department? More economic war. What are the 'tools' that are being considered to move us in any direction they should please? Who said that the government of the United States has any authority to move Venezuela in any way in this world?"
But the part where Josh Earnest discusses tools that may be available that could better steer the Venezuelan governmentis in response to a question on sanctions against Venezuela which was cut out of Democracy Now's headline.

Here is the full quote 
The U.S. government has already taken some actions against Venezuelan individuals with some sanctions.  Are you considering any other action?  Are you seeking -- maybe seeking help from other countries in the hemisphere, like Brazil, that could put pressure on the government of Nicolás Maduro?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I can tell you that the Treasury Department and the State Department are obviously closely monitoring this situation and are considering tools that may be available that could better steer the Venezuelan government in the direction that they believe they should be headed.  That obviously means that we’re continuing to engage other countries in the region in talking about operating in coordinated fashion as we deal with the situation there.
But ultimately, it’s going to be the responsibility of the government of Venezuela to stop blaming other countries, including the United States, for their problems, and start tackling them head-on.
I also think that claims of a US backed coup deserve an interview with experts on the ground, and earlier that 11 days later, but I still hope that Democracy Now will cover the story as well as they have other important topics, including extensive coverage of the US-backed coup in Honduras ousting President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

When I wrote my blog post I found news coverage of how US sanctions included language that steered money to influence opposition groups against Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro

Fox News Latino said

Bipartisan Senate Legislation Seeks Funding For Anti-Government Protesters In Venezuela (emphasis mine)
Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio introduced a bill aimed at supporting anti-government groups in Venezuela.
The bill by Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Rubio, a Florida Republican, authorizes $15 million for help “to defend human rights, support democratic civil society organizations, [and] assist independent media,” according to a statement by Rubio’s office.
Al Jazeera America published an article (a guest opinion piece but full of facts) that explained Obama's hypocrisy on sanctioning Venezuela instead of Honduras and arguing for Obama's new diplomatic relations with Cuba to be extended to Venezuela instead of punishing sanctions when the government was not responsible for the violence cited in the sanctions.

The Congressional Budget Office wrote that the bill
would authorize the appropriation of $15 million in 2015 to promote civil society in Venezuela. In recent years, the Administration has spent roughly $5 million each year for similar activities in Venezuela. Other provisions of S. 2142 would increase administrative costs of the Departments of State and the Treasury. Based on information from the Administration, CBO estimates the departments would require additional appropriations of $1 million a year in 2015 and 2016, growing to $2 million a year thereafter.
Human Rights Watch, reporting about attacks since February 12th by protesters and against protesters in it's report writes elsewhere in the article about the United States' sanctions against Venezuela
In December, the United States imposed targeted sanctions on Venezuelan military and civilian officials allegedly responsible for human rights violations during the protests. The sanctions include refusing or cancelling visas for certain officials and freezing their personal assets in the US.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) rejected the sanctions, contending that they violate the “principle of non-intervention” in Venezuela. Similarly, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) criticized the sanctions and urged the international community to refrain from “intervening, directly or indirectly, in internal affairs” of other states.
FAIR, another news outlet that does a great job explaining what's wrong with American news coverage, has yet to discuss Venezuela on their weekly show CounterSpin, but they did have an article about a New York Times op-ed that lied about Venezuela's media.
Krauze begins by claiming that the Venezuelan government, first under President Hugo Chávez and then his successor Nicolás Maduro, has taken control over the media.
FAIR normally does a great job and they have even in the past focused on skewed coverage of Mexico's economic "reforms" that American media loves.

The New York Times has clearly not listened to FAIR, now writing about Conspiracy "claims" in Venezuela that President Maduro
ramble for hours about an international right-wing conspiracy to oust him, it’s clear that he would use any fabricated pretext to jail opposition leaders and crack down on dissent.
With so many of the strongest opposition leaders facing charges, this obviously will not be an easy feat. But if the international community continues to champion their cause, and insist that a fair election is held, it might be possible.
The international community is not coming to the defense of right wring opposition to a democratically elected Left wing leader in Venezuela.  To the contrary there was a call from politicians in Britain for the international community to condemn the US-backed coup
Sections of Venezuela’s rightwing opposition have previously used violent and anti-democratic means to destabilise and seek to overthrow the country’s elected government, most notably the temporarily successful coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002, and many rightwing opposition groups in Venezuela committed to overthrowing the elected, constitutional government continue to receive funding from the US. We call on all governments internationally to respect Venezuela’s elected, constitutional government and condemn this latest coup attempt.
Looking for actual news about what is happening in Venezuela I found this in my many RSS feeds

Venezuela's role in warming Cuba - US relations

A lot of people have been getting credit for the US-Cuba breakthrough today, from Raul Castro and Barack Obama to Pope Francis and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But there's someone else who deserves credit for taking Cuban-US diplomatic relations to the brink of normalization, though he probably doesn't want it: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
While the article says little beyond that, the subtitle explains their argument saying that since the fall of the Soviet Union
Cuba had relied on Venezuela to prop up its economy. But with that support uncertain, the Castro brothers appear to have decided to come in from the cold.
From what I have seen CounterPunch has the best news on Venezuela

CounterPunch links to an article that reports to have the framework for the new coup government if it had succeeded (translated from the Spanish by Google Translate)
On February 12, 2015, President Nicolas Maduro unveiled a coup in process had been dismantled and several Air Force officers had been arrested after planning to attack numerous civilian and military targets in Caracas and trigger events that would lead a "transitional government". He alleged that a document entitled " Called to the Venezuelans to a national agreement for the Transition ", which was to be published in the newspaper El Nacional and also found on the websites of Vente Venezuela , Popular Will , Antonio Ledezma , Citizen Congress and other right-wing parties would serve as a "signal" to start these events. The document is signed by Maria Corina Machado, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo López, and describes a number of shares of neoliberal character, which would trigger a supposed "transition" which is not reflected in the Constitution has started.
Then there is the chart of what the document says and what they say it means

Here is what CounterPunch writes about Obama coup plotting
In present-day Venezuela, it is unlikely that the U.S. government could directly orchestrate a plot that calls itself “Bolivarian” and comes from the Venezuelan Air Force. Nevertheless, the White House might well be working to delicately promote such a thing and later take advantage of it. One possible scenario would involve an initial military coup by dissident Bolivarian officers, followed by a call for elections in which the legal and recognized opposition – involving such figures as Henrique Capriles, Antonio Ledezma, María Corina Machado and Julio Borges – would emerge to take charge.
The possibility of a military coup followed by hurried elections – a two-stage overthrow – could be what is behind the U.S. driven media campaign against Venezuela that has unfolded in recent weeks and involves extravagant claims about government figures running an international drug trafficking ring.
I am going to keep watching this story. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Taliban Deny Rumors of Peace Talks

I first saw the rumors of peace talks starting in the next few weeks between the Taliban and Afghan government on February 18th.
When I told Carol Grayson, she let me know that Taliban officials denied the rumors and that she wondered where these stories were coming from.

We heard from the New York Times that
Pakistan’s top military and intelligence officials have begun pressing the Taliban to sit down for face-to-face discussions with the Afghan government
Reuters clarified the source of the rumors
Last week, a Pakistani army delegation brought word to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Taliban leaders had signaled they are willing to open talks, according to senior Pakistani and Afghan officials. The demands of the insurgents are not yet clear.
On February 20th the Taliban released this statement denying the rumors of negotiations, as Carol Grayson told me
Zabihullah Mujahid writes
Some media outlets irresponsibly reported that the Islamic Emirate will initiate peace talks with America in Qatar today and has sent envoys to Qatar.
We strongly reject this claim. There is no plan of any such talks with any party at our office in Qatar and these rumors have no bases.
There are no new changes in the policy of the Islamic Emirate regarding negotiations and neither has the Islamic Emirate yet taken a serious stance on this issue. Afghanistan is still under occupation, there are thousands of foreign troops currently present and operating inside Afghanistan, the Kabul administration has a security pact with America, is embroiled in corruption, is encouraging anti-Islamic activities and stresses on the continued presence of foreign invaders. (emphasis mine)
And now comes a second statement from the Taliban denying rumors of negotiations
the central goals of the Islamic Emirate are ending the occupation, attaining independence, establishing an all Afghan-inclusive Islamic government and peace for our countrymen.
For attaining this purpose the Islamic Emirate, with the help of its believing Mujahid nation, has utilized both military and political mechanisms and will continue to do so in the future. Establishing contacts with world countries, visits, meetings, participation of Islamic Emirate in international conferences and opening a political office in Qatar, which was opposed by anti-peace parties, are clear examples of this.
There have been many rumors swirling around in the media lately about the latest developments in Afghanistan and negotiations with the Kabul administration, these are nothing more than the views and assumptions of these outlets. We have repeatedly declared that every report which is not published or confirmed by the official channels of Islamic Emirate are false and hold no value.
Meanwhile ToloNews cites a former Taliban leader claiming that the 5 detainees released from Guantánamo were possibly joining the negotiators.

Khaama Press appears to get the story right.  They also have an article quoting former President (by coup, now on trial for treason) Musharraf saying that Kabul must share power with the Taliban to bring peace, and saying that the war in Afghanistan is a proxy war between India and Pakistan.
Defending his country’s role in supporting the Afghan anti-government armed militant groups Musharraf said his and Islamabad’s role in supporting the Afghan insurgency was a legitimate counterweight against its rival India there.
This is the second time Musharraf is admitting Islamabad’s role in proxy war in Afgahnistan. Earlier, Musharraf said the government of Pakistan sought to undermine the government of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, accusing him of helping India stab pakistan in the back.
The remarks by Musharraf comes as the Afghan officials have long been accusing the Pakistani security institutions specifically the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) for supporting the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan.
While I would love to see that happen, I couldn't help start to laugh out loud as I began to understand what was happening. I will believe rumors of peace talks when I see them begin. Meanwhile our new War Secretary who was elected to wage more war in Iraq against ISIS and also showed concerns about leaving Afghanistan is now advocating that we stay longer in Afghanistan, actually saying out loud that We will never be gone from Afghanistan.  One day I hope we will leave Afghanistan, but like Iraq I am already wondering when we will need to re-invade to clean up the mess we created when we destroyed Afghanistan the first time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oil Train Safety Report

It is now being reported that a Department of Transportation report from last July predicted that 10 trains carrying fuel would derail each year over the next 20 years.
The federal government predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.
The projection comes from a previously unreported analysis by the Department of Transportation that reviewed the risks of moving vast quantities of both fuels across the nation and through major cities. The study completed last July took on new relevance this week after a train loaded with crude derailed in West Virginia, sparked a spectacular fire and forced the evacuation of hundreds of families.
A spokesman for the Association of American Railroads said the group was aware of the Department of Transportation analysis but had no comment on its derailment projections.
"Our focus is to continue looking at ways to enhance the safe movement of rail transportation," AAR spokesman Ed Greenberg said.
Most of the proposed rules that regulators are expected to release this spring are designed to prevent a spill, rupture or other failure during a derailment. But they will not affect the likelihood of a crash, said Allan Zarembski, who leads the railroad engineering and safety program at the University of Delaware.
Derailments can happen in many ways. A rail can break underneath a train. An axle can fail. A vehicle can block a crossing. Having a better tank car will not change that, but it should reduce the odds of a tank car leaking or rupturing, he said.
This focus on safety is good for the short term, but the wrong solution for the future.  We must start to seriously end our dependence on oil, not only because of our disastrous wars in the Middle East, but because of the immediate danger that oil spills, whether shipped by train or ship or truck or pipeline cause in damage to people, property and the environment in the short term, polluting ground water used in farming and lakes and rivers that are water sources for communities, but long term global warming.

The news is troubling for 2 reasons. First is the immediate dangers these trains cause when they derail, explode and leak oil.  The second troubling thought is that we would still be relying on oil 20 years from now.  Remember that we need to get carbon emissions under control by 2030 to prevent the worst of global warming.

Global warming is not a problem for the future.  It is happening right now.  On Friday I heard about a town in Alaska that will disappear in 10 years underwater.
In 2008, the Inupiat village of Kivalina, Alaska sued 24 fossil fuel companies for the destruction of its homeland, a seven-mile barrier island on Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. The cause of the destruction, the village contended, was climate change. Without thick winter sea ice to buffer Kivalina from storms, surges have ripped through the island’s seawalls and taken out as much as 70 feet of coastline at a time. The village lost its federal court case in 2013, and this week announced it would not re-file in state court. Meanwhile, scientists estimate the island will be underwater by 2025.
Republican Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan asked Ashton Carter at his confirmation hearing about national security and oil, and I wrote about how our national security is actually being threatened now by global warming and increased oil exploration.

Last week there were 2 oil train derailments in 2 days, and the same day I found a report from the AP about how the oil boom in North Dakota is "transforming lives." Notice the child with the cough--see health issues of oil drilling
Increasingly, landowners and residents of oil and gas field communities are reporting health impacts that they believe are linked to environmental toxics associated with the oil and gas development activities in their area. These reports include incidents of: asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, autoimmune diseases, liver failure, cancer and other ailments such as headaches, nausea, and sleeplessness.
The Center for Biological Diversity also released a report showing the safety risks posed by increased use of trains to carry fuel and the lagging safety standards
  • An estimated 25 million Americans live within the one-mile evacuation zone recommended by the U.S. Department of Transportation;
  • Oil trains routinely pass within a quarter-mile of 3,600 miles of streams and more than 73,000 square miles of lakes, wetlands and reservoirs, including the Hudson, Mississippi and Columbia rivers, the Puget Sound, Lake Champlain and Lake Michigan

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Policy Deflection on Drones

On Monday it was widely reported that on Sunday the FAA had proposed new rules on the use of commercial drones which would ground Amazon's delivery plans if the "line of sight" rule goes into effect.

NPR reported on what some of the rules are and could have been.
commercial operators would have to go through a three-step certification process. First, the aircraft must be registered with the FAA. Second, the operator has to be cleared by the Transportation Security Administration, and then they have to pass a written FAA test. Andrew Amato is editor of
ANDREW AMATO: My biggest concern is, between getting a registration number and getting vetted by TSA - you know, how long is that going to take? How long is this process of becoming a certified pilot going to take?
BURNETT: Amato is relieved the FAA did not propose treating unmanned aerial vehicles like airplanes. So operators will not have to get a private pilot's license, and the aircraft won't have to obtain an FAA airworthiness certificate. Amato says he's also relieved the FAA rules don't restrict their burgeoning industry. Drones are being used to inspect towers, bridges and levees - to look at farmers' fields and to photograph real estate from the air.
But then on Tuesday I saw this report from the Telegraph

I started to freak out on Twitter

From the Telegraph article
Armed drones are a cornerstone of Washington's battle against extremists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, although they remain hugely controversial and opponents say they frequently kill or maim civilians.
The statement did not say which countries would be customers, but several allies are eager to get their hands on the hardware, with The Washington Post citing Italy, Turkey and the Persian Gulf.
So far, the United States has sold its armed drones only to close ally Britain, the newspaper said.
Unarmed military drones, used primarily for intelligence, have been sold to a larger number of countries, including Nato allies, the Post said.
after the article embeds this propaganda video

we learn this
The loosening of restrictions on armed drones was announced days after the Federal Aviation Authority said it would place strict rules on the commercial use of drones.
The "drone porn" video is of an General Atomics Aeronautical Systems armed drone blowing up clearly marked military targets. The first target is a tank (1:22) the second target is clearly military hardware at 3:15, incoming missiles (3:57) and the missile launcher at 4:12.

Later I found they are the contractor in a proposed sale of 4 reaper drones (plus lots of other weapons and military equipment totaling $339 million) to Holland.

Remember that the depiction in the video of drones striking clearly military targets like tanks and easily defined military buildings, this is almost never the case in real drone strikes.

How are people really targeted for drone strikes? The Intercept reported last year that 
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.
ProPublica adds (citing Emptywheel) more about signature drone strikes back when current CIA Director John Brennan was being nominated for the job in 2013.
Consider: while four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period.
The focus on American citizens overshadows a far more common, and less understood, type of strike: those that do not target American citizens, Al Qaeda leaders, or, in fact, any other specific individual.
One unnamed former military official claimed last year that the CIA “killed most of their ‘list people’ when they didn’t know they were there.”
Conversely, strikes in which little information emerges on who was killed could be failed attempts to hit specific individuals. (According to the New Yorker, it took as many as 16 strikes to kill Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in 2009.)
The outcomes of strikes are often disputed. In one apparent signature strike two years ago, unnamed U.S. officials told the Associated Press that they had targeted a group that “was heavily armed, some of its members were connected to Al Qaeda, and all ‘acted in a manner consistent with AQ (Al Qaeda)-linked militants.’” The U.S. said about 20 militants were killed. But Pakistani officials said it had been a meeting of tribesmen and villagers provided evidence to the AP that 38 civilians were killed.
Josh Greenman of the NY Daily News asked a scary question (but most have already established the answer to civilians owning military equipment is no)

Others noted the legal problems with America's drone program, as we export it to others.

Others wondered who wouldn't get drones (interesting to note that America got it's drone program from Israel)

America may not give Egypt drones, but it has given Egypt plenty of other weapons, and America is not the only source where Egypt can get drones
China has its own ambitious drone programme and has exported drones to at least nine countries, including Pakistan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while it is also in talks with Saudi Arabia and Algeria for sales, according to Chinese state media.

As everyone reported that the new FAA proposed commercial drone rules would ground Amazon delivery, State Department announced it's selling armed drones to other countries.

My first thought was remembering stories about when other countries started deciding it's necessary to start droning Americans as national security threats to their countries like we do in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc

And the war against ISIS is good for business (and Reuters article)
“For us it’s a bit of a call to arms,” Chief Executive Officer Ian King said on a media call after London-based BAE posted 2014 earnings.
what were BAE's 2014 profits?
Europe’s No. 1 defense company revealed a 12 percent annual drop in earnings before interest, tax and amortization to 1.7 billion pounds ($2.6 billion), before items.
draw-down in Afghanistan hurting revenue
Sales slumped 8.5 percent to 16.64 billion pounds as a result of a 600 million-pound hit from exchange-rate changes and lower volumes in the Land & Armaments unit, where demand has dropped with the exit from Afghanistan. Prior-year figures were padded out by an agreement to escalate pricing on the Saudi Typhoons under the so-called Salam contract.
and don't forget that we have to pay "stressed" drone pilots more

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Some headlines and important stories

February 16, 2015

Texas judge temporarily blocks Obama plan to protect undocumented immigrants

FAA announced proposed rules for commercial use of drones.  The current proposal would affect Amazon and other drone delivery programs due to the "line of sight" language.  Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register the public will have 60 days to comment.

New York Times article       NPR story

Press Release
The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found at Separate from this proposal, the FAA intends to hold public meetings to discuss innovation and opportunities at the test sites and Center of Excellence. These meetings will be announced in a future Federal Register notice.
Check here or here for Federal Register notice.

Oil Trains derail in West Virginia and Ontario
Train Derails in Fayette County, Leaks Crude Oil Into Kanawha River

NPR reports that 14 cars caught on fire and 2 water treatment plants were shut down 
because of the derailment and explosion and oil leak.

Looking for the story from AP I found this (awful timing!)

Ontario Oil Train Derailment

Seattle PI
Over the weekend, a Canadian National train carrying crude oil derailed near midnight Saturday in a remote wooded area of Ontario, sparking a fire that was still burning more than 24 hours after the accident.
The accident saw 29 cars of a 100-car CN train leave the tracks. Seven caught on fire. A CN spokesman confirmed that the fire was still burning on Monday.

Fracking is suspected as cause of sharp increase of earthquakes in Oklahoma

There used to be 1 or 2 a year and now there are at least 1 a day.

Eric Holder
Attorney General Eric Holder will not seek death penalty against man accused of helping suicide bomb attack in 2009
Federal prosecutors disclosed the decision Friday in a one-sentence letter to Judge Roslynn Mauskopf, who is presiding over the indictment of Canadian national Faruq Khalil Muhammad 'Isa. The 36-year-old is charged with helping plan an attack that killed five serviceman in Iraq.

Egypt bombed militants claiming allegiance to ISIS

Here are the names of the 21 Egyptian Copts who were killed in Libya

as Italy calls for NATO to intervene again in Libya I learned that right before 2011 war that started this all that in 2010 Libya was high on UN Human Development index

Libyan migrants are increasingly fleeing to Italy (this happens all year round all around the world for many years now)

Italy closes Libyan Embassy urges UN mission

Monday, February 16, 2015

Guest Post: Interview with Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al Maqdisi

I also write this blog over at WordPress and they have a feature called "reblogging" which is like retweeting for blogs, where you can host other people's work on your blog.

I found an English translation of an interview with Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al Maqdisia Jordanian cleric who was jailed during Stanley Cohen's attempt to rescue Peter Kassig (interview part 1 part 2)

Here is the English translation of the interview with Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al Maqdisi

More Pentagon Hypocrisy on Climate Change

In my first post on the nomination of Ashton Carter I wrote about a back and forth between Senator Dan Sullivan on oil drilling and national security.

I forgot to add what Marcy Wheeler wrote about the hypocrisy regarding the Pentagon's Global Warming Road map report and the current bombing campaign against ISIS which is contributing to Global Warming.

Medea Benjamin of CodePink said on Democracy Now! in September that anti-war is also environmentally friendly
Now is the time to say, if you’re an environmentalist, you better understand that war is the greatest environmental disaster and the U.S. military is the greatest polluter on the planet. If you care about having money for youth groups or for infrastructure or for green energy, you better understand that sucking money into the military—we’re now paying $7.5 million for just the bombing in Iraq
And I just saw this in Rolling Stone

The Pentagon & Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk 
The leaders of our armed forces know what's coming next – but deniers in Congress are ignoring the warnings
At NASA Wallops Flight Facility, NASA armored the shoreline with 3 million cubic yards of sand to protect its launchpads from sea surges. "Military readiness is already being impacted by sea-level rise," says Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who mentions that with all the flooding, it's becoming difficult to sell a house in some parts of Norfolk. If the melting of Greenland and West Antarctica continues to accelerate at current rates, scientists say Norfolk could see more than seven feet of sea-level rise by 2100. In 25 years, operations at most of these bases are likely to be severely compromised. Within 50 years, most of them could be goners. If the region gets slammed by a big hurricane, the reckoning could come even sooner. "You could move some of the ships to other bases or build new, smaller bases in more protected places," says retired Navy Capt. Joe Bouchard, a former commander of Naval Station Norfolk. "But the costs would be enormous. We're talking hundreds of billions of dollars."

Rear Adm. Jonathan White, the Navy's chief oceanographer and head of its climate-change task force, is one of the most knowledgeable people in the military about what's actually happening on our rapidly heating planet. Whenever another officer or a congressperson corners White and presses him about why he spends so much time thinking about climate change, he doesn't even try to explain thermal expansion of the oceans or ice dynamics in the Arctic. "I just take them down to Norfolk," White says. "When you see what's going on down there, it gives you a sense of what climate change means to the Navy — and to America. And you can see why we're concerned."
The article goes on to explain how it's Congressional Republicans who are skeptical whenever global warming is brought up.

The real problem is that Democrats aren't doing enough to fight global warming either.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

US-backed Coup in Venezuela Thwarted

Let's see how much media attention this story gets. CounterPunch has a great round up of what US news has been saying about Venezuela recently.  It is an excellent read.
Headlines scream danger, crisis and imminent demise, while the usual suspects declare covert war on a people whose only crime is being gatekeeper to the largest pot of black gold in the world.
Here is some of what the AP wrote
Venezuelan officials Friday cheered the thwarting of what they said was a planned coup that involved a plot to blow up the presidential palace.
Opposition coalition spokesman Jesus Torrealba rejected the accusations Friday.
"The government makes up these stories about coups to avoid talking about how the country is breaking down," he told a group of journalists.
Venezuela's government has frequently alleged coup plots, often without providing much evidence or follow up.
A study by the Caracas-based newspaper Ultimas Noticias counted 63 alleged assassination plots between when late President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999 and his death in 2013. President Nicolas Maduro's government has denounced more than a dozen purported plots since coming to power 15 months ago.
Top officials delivered an hours-long presentation in which they accused a handful of opposition leaders of working with the U.S. ambassador in neighboring Colombia to "annihilate" Maduro.
Those who believe the government are a quick to recall Washington's endorsement of a coup that toppled Chavez for two days in 2002.
Reuters on February 2nd wrote about Visa restrictions against Venezuelan officials and Maduro's claims of Washington interference in Venezuela 
Venezuela's socialist government has long accused Washington of seeking to destabilize its rule to gain control of the OPEC country's oil. Relations worsened after the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush applauded a botched coup in 2002 against the late President Hugo Chavez.
Despite diplomatic tensions, Venezuela has remained one of the top suppliers of oil to the United States.
Maduro recently accused U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of plotting to overthrow his administration. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday described the accusation as "baseless and false."
On Monday, Maduro accused Biden of telling leaders of Caribbean nations that the Venezuelan government's days were numbered and that they should ready themselves for the end of Petrocaribe.
Petrocaribe, created by Chavez, allows countries in the Caribbean and Central America to finance oil and fuel purchases at advantageous rates. Maduro insists the program will be maintained, though volumes dropped in 2013 to their lowest level in five years.
Meanwhile other international news outlets like the Venezuela based South American news network teleSUR, along with other news channels such as RT and Iran's PressTv have coverage of the coup and has been reporting the claims of America's role in the now foiled plot.

Telesur has a whole page dedicated to the "War on Venezuela's Democracy" with the subtitle "Making the Economy Scream" which is an echo of the Nixon/Kissinger coup plan against Chile in the 1970's leading up to the coup of 1973.

Here is a timeline of how the coup would have taken place had it succeeded.

RT has a description of what the attack was supposed to be
The coup plan involved an attack on the presidential palace or another top target, Maduro said.
“This was an attempt to use a group of military aviation officers to provoke a violent event,”and one of the detained plotters was “an [Air Force] general called Hernandez, alias el Oso [the bear].”
“On these dates, February 12 and 13, during the commemoration events, [the plot was to] fly a 'Tucano' airplane, arm the Tucano and attack the Miraflores [Presidential] Palace, or whichever location I would have been when participating in any one of these events. And then later attack other targets which they had outlined before," Maduro said, as quoted by AP.
The alleged plot was uncovered by the Venezuelan intelligence agency, and one of the participating officers was connected to the right-wing forces allegedly planning to provoke a wave of violence.
According to Maduro, the military man was given financial aid, as well as a US visa, which permitted him to leave on February 3.
The president provided no concrete evidence of the alleged coup.
It is not the first time that Maduro has said there has been an attempted coup against his government. At the beginning of February, the president accused US Vice President Joe Biden of orchestrating a plot against Venezuela.
Last December, Maduro announced“recordings” disclosing the US plan to bribe and corrupt Venezuelan authorities.
PressTV writes about the history of the diplomatic relations
Caracas and Washington remain at odds since late Hugo Chavez became president in 1999. Both sides have refused to exchange ambassadors since 2010. The countries have chargé d’affaires running their respective embassies.
The German Embassy in Caracas made an alarming statement about an impending crisis
In the statement, German diplomat Polster informs readers that the embassy is extremely “worried” about the current situation in the country and advises German residents to take a number of “precautions in the face of the crisis”.
These precautions include having “lots of provisions” such as enough food and drinking water to last “in our opinion, for 2 weeks”, as well as cash, medicine, batteries, candles, and copies of important documents.
“We shouldn’t take it for granted that we will have access to electricity or internet services. The validity of passports and identity documents should be verified regularly,” continues the text.
Venezuelan National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello revealed the details Thursday night of what the government says was a “thwarted coup.”
Illegal in Venezuela AR-15 rifles were confiscated
Cabello said that authorities had confiscated grenades, military and Sebin (intelligence) uniforms, an eight-minute video with a declaration by the plotters, and a collection of AR-15 rifles. Widely available in the United States, the AR-15 was first developed for the U.S. military, but is today one of the most popular rifles commercially available in the United States. It is not legally available to the public in Venezuela.
The AR-15 has been used in a number of mass shootings in the United States, including the 2012 Aurora shooting, which left 12 people dead in Colorado.
He also showed a photo (below) and alleged that a U.S. official recently visited Venezuela to observe the trial of Leopoldo Lopez, who is accused of having incited last year’s opposition violence, which led to 43 deaths.
“What right does a U.S. official have to attend (the trial)?” asked Rodriguez.
Role of US Sanctions against Venezuela in coup attempt 
The section on US interference in South America referenced a law that Obama signed in 2014 sanctions against Venezuela
2. Sanctions
Obama signed a law in 2014 allowing him to sanction Venezuelan officials for alleged involvement in putting down violent right wing student protests.
The trade sanctions law practice Baker & McKenzie wrote on their sanctions blog in December that
As a related matter, as previously discussed in our earlier blog post (available here), in November 2014 the US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security amended the Export Administration Regulations by issuing a final rule to impose license requirements on the export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) of certain items to or within Venezuela when intended for a military end use or end user. This final rule was also in response to the Venezuelan government's violent repression of the Venezuelan people during the February-to-May antigovernment protests in Venezuela.
The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 was one of 61 laws Obama signed into law back in December. (I wrote about another law signed that day here and am working on some more pieces)

The Hill reports that Republican Senator from Tenessee Bob Corker had a hold on the legislation this summer but doesn't explain why he held up the bill. I haven't seen any other reporting on that.

This is how Obama described the law as he signed it
S. 2142, the "Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014," which imposes sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights in Venezuela;
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this about the bill in December
Thanks, Josh. Now that the House has passed a bill calling for sanctions against some members of the government of Venezuela for human rights violations, what are the President’s intentions? Is he going to sign it? And does he intend to enforce those sanctions?
MR. EARNEST: Thanks for the question. The administration shares Congress’s concerns and those of other regional and international actors about the situation in Venezuela. We have not and will not remain silent in the face of Venezuelan government actions that violate human rights and fundamental freedoms, and deviate from well-established democratic norms.
We continue to work closely with Congress and others in the region on this issue to support greater political space in Venezuela, and ensure the government lives up to its shared commitment to the collective defense of democracy as articulated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The President plans to sign the bill into law, and we’ll coordinate with the relevant agencies and members to implement the law.
There was a much more interesting State Department briefing today (the video is here staring at 44 minutes)

QUESTION: President Maduro last night went on the air and said that they had arrested multiple people who were allegedly behind a coup that was backed by the United States. What is your response?
MS. PSAKI: These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous. As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We have seen many times that the Venezuelan Government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan Government to deal with the grave situation it faces.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen --
QUESTION: Sorry. The U.S. has – whoa, whoa, whoa. The U.S. has a longstanding practice of not promoting – what did you say? How longstanding is that? I would – in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a longstanding practice.
MS. PSAKI: Well, my point here, Matt, without getting into history --
QUESTION: Not in this case.
MS. PSAKI: -- is that we do not support, we have no involvement with, and these are ludicrous accusations.
QUESTION: In this specific case.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: But if you go back not that long ago during your lifetime, even – (laughter) – this is not that long since --
MS. PSAKI: The last 21 years. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well done. Touche. But I mean, does “longstanding” mean 10 years in this case? I mean, what is --
MS. PSAKI: Matt, my intention was to speak to the specific reports.
QUESTION: I understand, but you said it’s a longstanding U.S. practice, and I’m not so sure – it depends on what your definition of “longstanding” is.
MS. PSAKI: We will – okay.
Fox News Latino (the better half of the network) went straight to the point of the bill when it was first introduced in March 2014
Bipartisan Senate Legislation Seeks Funding For Anti-Government Protesters In Venezuela
 Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio introduced a bill aimed at supporting anti-government groups in Venezuela.
The bill by Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Rubio, a Florida Republican, authorizes $15 million for help “to defend human rights, support democratic civil society organizations, [and] assist independent media,” according to a statement by Rubio’s office.
Senator Rubio made a statement on the Senate floor on Obama's AUMF against ISIS and on the situation in Venezuela

The Congressional Budget Office said
implementing S. 2142 would cost $23 million over the 2015-2019 period, assuming appropriation of the specified and necessary amounts. Pay-as-you-go procedures apply to this legislation because it would affect direct spending and revenues; however, CBO estimates that those effects would not be significant.
The full statement has some more details and adds that
The bill would authorize the appropriation of $15 million in 2015 to promote civil society in Venezuela. In recent years, the Administration has spent roughly $5 million each year for similar activities in Venezuela. Other provisions of S. 2142 would increase administrative costs of the Departments of State and the Treasury. Based on information from the Administration, CBO estimates the departments would require additional appropriations of $1 million a year in 2015 and 2016, growing to $2 million a year thereafter.
In other news Venezuela won a stay in court regarding 
enforcement of a $1.6 billion arbitration award to ExxonMobil subsidiaries imposed after it nationalized its oil industry, a federal judge ruled.
When Mobil Cerro Negro and other subsidiaries sued to collect the award in federal court here, Venezuela raised a jurisdictional argument that U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmeyer called a case of "first impression" for the court
Venezuela had better luck persuading Engelmeyer to hold off on the enforcement until the ICSID rules on its application to revise the award.
I wonder when we will get some proof that the US really was involved.  Remember that this is hardly the first coup.  I would call Ukraine a coup, not by Putin, but by the West as Stephen Cohen has explained many times about how it was stubbornness by the EU that forced Yanukovych to sign the economic deal with Russia instead of with both Russia and the EU.

Then there was the leaked tape of  Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland speaking with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt which was explained as planning a coup on Democracy Now.
While President Obama has vowed to "continue to engage all sides," a recently leaked audio recording between two top U.S. officials reveal the Obama administration has been secretly plotting with the opposition.
And that is just a recent ongoing example in a long list of US led regime changes.

There are even several articles that list US coups in Latin America alone, there are that many.

It took 60 years for the open secret that the US was behind the Iran coup that overthrew Mossadegh and installed Reza Shah Pahlavi who was overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

I have written about some coups in the past (more than I realized as I looked into it!)

Clinton admits role in Honduras coup

2009 Honduras coup and role in child migrants this past year

The children were fleeing violence as a result of coup in Honduras

Bomb explodes in Chile leading up to anniversary of 1973 coup

Yemen coup

Chilean mine collapse and economic effects of 1973 coup

As always please follow me on Twitter for more updates.