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This evening's music features blues, r&b and rock n roll artist "Little Richard" Penniman. Enjoy!
Little Richard - Tutti Frutti
“The United States is not only the strongest, but also the most terrified country.”
-- Leon Trotsky
News and Opinion
Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras Returning To U.S. For First Time Since Snowden Revelations
Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two American journalists who have been at the forefront of reporting on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, will return to the United States on Friday for the first time since revelations of worldwide surveillance broke.
Greenwald and Poitras, currently in Berlin, will attend Friday’s Polk Awards ceremony in New York City. The two journalists are sharing the prestigious journalism award with The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill and with Barton Gellman, who has led The Washington Post’s reporting on the NSA documents. Greenwald and Poitras interviewed Snowden last June in Hong Kong as he first revealed himself.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Greenwald said he’s motivated to return because “certain factions in the U.S. government have deliberately intensified the threatening climate for journalists.” ...
Greenwald said the government has not informed his legal counsel whether or not he could face any potential charges, or if he's been named in any grand jury investigation tied to the NSA disclosures.
America's Coup Machine: Destroying Democracy Since 1953
Ukraine's former security chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, has reported that the coup-plotters who overthrew the elected government in Ukraine, "basically lived in the (U.S.) Embassy. They were there every day." We also know from a leaked Russian intercept that they were in close contact with Ambassador Pyatt and the senior U.S. official in charge of the coup, former Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland, officially the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. And we can assume that many of their days in the Embassy were spent in strategy and training sessions with their individual CIA case officers.
To place the coup in Ukraine in historical context, this is at least the 80th time the United States has organized a coup or a failed coup in a foreign country since 1953. That was when President Eisenhower discovered in Iran that the CIA could overthrow elected governments who refused to sacrifice the future of their people to Western commercial and geopolitical interests. Most U.S. coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, corruption, extreme poverty and inequality, and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of people in the countries affected. The plutocratic and ultra-conservative nature of the forces the U.S. has brought to power in Ukraine make it unlikely to be an exception. ...
The basic framework of U.S. coups has hardly evolved since 1953. The main variables between coups in different places and times have been the scale and openness of the U.S. role and the level of violence used. There is a strong correlation between the extent of U.S. involvement and the level of violence. At one extreme, the U.S. war on Iraq was a form of regime change that involved hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and killed hundreds of thousands of people. On the other hand, the U.S. role in General Suharto's coup in Indonesia in 1965 remained covert even as he killed almost as many people. Only long after the fact did U.S. officials take credit for their role in Suharto's campaign of mass murder, and it will be some time before they brag publicly about their roles in Ukraine.
Russia can’t support Ukrainian economy forever- Putin
Russia can’t continue to prop up Ukraine’s faltering economy, and this responsibility should fall on the US and EU, which have recognized the authorities in Kiev but not yet given one dollar to support the economy, President Putin has said.
“The situation is - to put it kindly, strange. It’s known our partners in Europe have recognized the legitimacy of the government in Kiev, yet have done nothing to support Ukraine – not even one dollar or one euro,” Putin said at a meeting with government officials at his residence outside of Moscow.
“The Russian Federation doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the authorities in Kiev, but it keeps providing economic support and subsidizing the economy of Ukraine with hundreds of millions and billions of dollars. This situation can’t last indefinitely,” Putin said. ...
In the meantime, the West hasn’t yet effectively provided any money to Ukraine. The International Monetary Fund has agreed to provide Ukraine a bailout package of up to $18 billion, but the details are still being worked out. The US has also promised $1 billion in loan guarantees to help the collapsing Ukraine economy.
US threatens to “re-examine force posture” over Ukraine
The United States secretary of state, John Kerry, yesterday accused Russia of being behind separatist protests in east Ukraine and said Moscow must “publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs” if it is not to “incur further costs.”
Testifying before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry said, “Quite simply, what we see from Russia is an illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilise a sovereign state and create a contrived crisis with paid operatives across an international boundary.”
The aim, he said, was to create a pretext for further Russian incursions into Ukrainian territory.
If Kerry’s hypocritical diatribe was not in furtherance of such a dangerous objective, it would be laughable—given that Ukraine is now led by a regime installed by Washington at the admitted cost of at least US$5 billion. But Kerry is seeking to create a pretext for US aggression against Russia.
Kerry has phoned Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to moot talks involving senior representatives from Russia, the US, Ukraine and the European Union (EU) supposedly aimed at defusing tensions. But in reality, Washington is continuing its military moves both in and around Ukraine.
No, Putin Isn't Following 'Reagan Playbook' in Ukraine–Thank God
David Ignatius is a Washington Post columnist who is notable for his coziness with his sources in the CIA. So when he writes a column headlined "Putin Steals the CIA's Playbook on Anti-Soviet Covert Operations," it's hard to know how to take that: Is it supposed to be a criticism or a compliment?
More specifically, Ignatius writes that Putinmay in fact be taking a page out of the United States' playbook during the Ronald Reagan presidency, when the Soviet empire began to unravel thanks to a relentless US covert-action campaign. Rather than confront Moscow head-on, Reagan nibbled at the edges, by supporting movements that destabilized Russian power in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola and, finally, Poland and Eastern Europe.... Though this history has largely gone down the memory hole, as demonstrated by the whitewashing of Reagan's record at the time of his death, the CIA-backed Contras were not just "hit-and-run guerrillas in Nicaragua," as Ignatius describes them. They were an organized terrorist force that targeted schools, health clinics and other civilian facilities.
Their standard tactics, in the words of human rights advocate Reed Brody, were "the killing of unarmed men, women, children and the elderly" and "premeditated acts of brutality including rape, beatings, mutilation and torture." The war left an estimated 30,000 dead.
Russia and US take their petty war of words over Ukraine on to Twitter
There was a time when working out what countries really thought required parsing texts and reading between the lines to get to the point, hidden behind a myriad of diplomatic niceties.
No longer – at least when it comes to Ukraine. With Russia-US relations in a thorny patch over events in the country, and a keen use of social media by both sides, such detective work is no longer required. Now, the official communications from each side read more like two teenagers trying to bait each other in the school playground.
The latest incident came when the Twitter feed of the US embassy in Moscow tweeted a news story on Tuesday evening claiming that pro-Russian protesters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv had broken into the local opera house, mistakenly believing it to be the town hall.
"Real Kharkiv residents know the difference," tweeted the US embassy in Russian, essentially repeating the accusation voiced on Tuesday by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, that the protesters in east Ukraine are sent from Russia and organised by Russian security services. The embassy added the hashtag #isolatedRussia, but misspelled the name of the country in Russian.
On the Russian foreign ministry's official Facebook page, the response was quick and stinging. "Dear colleagues, before spreading your spam, it might be a good idea to learn how to spell the name of the country in which you are working," said the message. "We will be happy to consult you if in future when preparing your agitational material you have any questions or doubts."
Vladimir Putin professes high hopes for Ukraine summit
Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he hoped talks between Russia, Ukraine, the EU and US due next week would have a "positive" outcome, but warned that Ukraine's interim government should not do anything that could not "be fixed later".
The four-way talks, the first since the crisis, were announced on Tuesday night.
"I hope that the initiative of Russian foreign ministry on adjusting the situation and changing it for the better will have consequences, and that the outcome will be positive," the Russian president told a televised government meeting. "At the very least, I hope that the acting [leaders] will not do anything that cannot be fixed later."
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, discussed the meeting on the phone on Wednesday, according to the Russian foreign ministry. It said the two men had urged all sides to refrain from violence in eastern and southern Ukraine.
But diplomats said it was unlikely the talks would produce any major breakthroughs, given Russia and the west viewed the situation in Ukraine so differently, with both sides accusing the other of stoking tension.
"We don't have high expectations for these talks, but we do believe it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open," said Victoria Nuland, the US assistant secretary of state.
Pro-Russian occupiers of Ukrainian security service building voice defiance
As negotiations continued on Wednesday with government representatives, the apparently well-organised group of pro-Russian protesters who call themselves the Army of the Southeast struck a defiant stance after seizing the security service building on Sunday.
Members of the building's defence who identified themselves as former Berkut (special police) officers from other regions said they would not to fire first but that if attacked they would fight back until Russian forces arrived.
The Kremlin has said it is prepared to intervene as in Crimea to protect ethnic Russians in other parts of Ukraine, and western generals have reported a Russian troop buildup along the border.
The masked commander said the security service building's defence included him and 42 other former members of the elite Alpha division of the now-disbanded Berkut, who were known as former president Viktor Yanukovich's shock troops during the Euromaidan protests in Kiev. He said the former president, who fled to Russia in February, had betrayed them.
Russia says NATO is using Ukraine crisis to boost appeal
Russia's Foreign Ministry accused NATO on Thursday of using the crisis in Ukraine to boost its appeal to members and justify its existence by rallying them against an imaginary threat.
Russia and the West are locked in a Cold War-style stand-off over Ukraine and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Moscow to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border or face consequences if they intervene.
The ministry said Rasmussen's remarks were confrontational and that in recent months he had not offered "any constructive agenda" for Ukraine, adding that it was adding to instability in the region.
"The constant accusations against us by the secretary general convince us that the alliance is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary external threat to NATO members and to strengthen demand for the alliance ... in the 21st century," it said.
NATO chief: U.S. troops may be sent to Eastern Europe
NATO's top military commander in Europe, drafting countermoves to the Russian military threat against Ukraine, said Wednesday they could include deployment of American troops to alliance member states in Eastern Europe now feeling at risk.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove told The Associated Press he wouldn't "write off involvement by any nation, to include the United States."
Foreign ministers of the 28-nation alliance have given Breedlove until Tuesday to propose steps to reassure NATO members nearest Russia that other alliance countries have their back.
"Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies," Breedlove told the AP. "I'm tasked to deliver this by next week. I fully intend to deliver it early."
Asked again if American soldiers might be sent to NATO's front-line states closest to Russia, the four-star U.S. general said, "I would not write off contributions from any nation."
State Department Not Totally Sure Where it Spent Six Billion Dollars
The State Department has no paperwork to account for about six billion dollars that it gave out in contracts over the last six years.
State Department Inspector General Steve Linick released the report, citing "significant financial risk and... a lack of internal control," last month, but was only made public this week.
Linick began by asking the State Department for samples of files from contracts made by different bureaus. The results were dismal.
Of 155 contract files requested from State Department operations in Iraq, officials could only provide 34 complete files. Forty-eight files contained legally insufficient information, and the remaining 33 contract files—worth $2.1 billion alone—were deemed missing.
Turkey seeks wider spy agency powers amid Erdogan power struggle
Turkey's government sought parliamentary approval to boost the powers of the secret service on Thursday, a move seen by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's critics as a bid to tighten his grip on the apparatus of state as he wages a bitter power struggle.
Control of the NATO member's security apparatus goes to the heart of a feud between Erdogan and Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally based in the United States whose network of followers wields influence in the police and judiciary.
Erdogan accuses Gulen's Hizmet ("Service") network of orchestrating a plot to unseat him, tapping thousands of phones, including his own, over years and using leaked recordings to unleash corruption allegations against his inner circle in the run-up to a series of elections. Gulen denies involvement.
According to an initial draft, seen by Reuters, proposals before parliament include giving the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) more scope for eavesdropping and foreign operations, as well as greater immunity from prosecution for top agents. ...
Senior officials have said Turkey will launch a criminal investigation into the alleged "parallel state" backed by Gulen, a crackdown likely to be led by the MIT. Nine police officers were detained in the southern city of Adana on Wednesday in connection with an inquiry into wiretapping, local media said.
"If the (Gulen) movement is very well represented in the police and the judiciary, you have to have someone to go after them, and it seems it will be the MIT, that seems to be the logic behind this," said Svante Cornell, Turkey expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
German Minister: 'US Operating Without any Kind of Boundaries'
SPIEGEL: Minister de Maizière, nine weeks ago at the Munich Security Conference you demanded that the United States provide detailed information about its spying activities in Germany. Have you received anything from them yet?
De Maizière: The information we have received thus far is insufficient. That remains my opinion. The US' surveillance measures are largely a result of its security needs, but they are being implemented in an excessive, boundless fashion.
SPIEGEL: How did you come to this conclusion?
De Maizière: If even two-thirds of what Edward Snowden has presented or what has been presented with his name cited as the source is true, then I would conclude that the USA is operating without any kind of boundaries. ...
SPIEGEL: In internal documents, Britain's GCHQ intelligence service spoke of "mastering the Internet". Does that worry you?
De Maizière: Yes, it worries all of us. The Internet, and this is one of its true strengths, depends on freedom. But the explosive propagation of communication has led to problems of order and choice -- a situation that has been exacerbated by the market power of corporations. Because if a net provider and a content provider join forces, then they can steer the Internet and determine its content. So I don't even need to be talking about state censorship here.
SPIEGEL: You believe that private companies represent a greater threat than state institutions?
De Maizière: Yes. I find a country's unrestrained collection of information, even for the sake of exaggerated security need, to be less objectionable than the capture of all movement profiles, thoughts and emotions by people for the sake of business interests.
“Every person remembers some moment in their life where they witnessed some injustice, big or small, and looked away, because the consequences of intervening seemed too intimidating,” former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden tells Vanity Fair about his motivation for leaking tens of thousands of secret documents. “But there’s a limit to the amount of incivility and inequality and inhumanity that each individual can tolerate. I crossed that line. And I’m no longer alone.” ...
Snowden writes to Vanity Fair about the N.S.A.’s allegations that he never filed a formal complaint (and directly challenges it to deny he contacted internal oversight); about why he’s not a spy; about what he calls the “post-terror generation”’s views on defending the Constitution; about the crucial ways in which he differs from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; about his amusement at being labeled a right-winger; and more. ...
On what he calls the “post-terror generation’s” views on defending the Constitution: “What we’re seeing today in America is a new political movement that crosses party lines. This post-terror generation rejects the idea that we have to burn down our village in order to save it—that the only way to defend the Constitution is to tear it up.”
On allegations that he has “a doomsday cache” in his possession: In response to whispers in the intelligence community that Snowden has “a doomsday cache” in his possession, Snowden retorts, “Who would set up a system that incentivizes others to kill them?”
On the crucial ways he differs from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: “We don’t share identical politics. I am not anti-secrecy. I’m pro-accountability. I’ve made many statements indicating both the importance of secrecy and spying, and my support for the working-level people at the N.S.A. and other agencies. It’s the senior officials you have to watch out for.”
White House 'awarded' for press freedom
The White House -- which has been pilloried by the press corps for limiting access to President Barack Obama -- is getting a dubious award for those efforts: a Jefferson Muzzle.
Handed out by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, the Muzzles -- now in their 23rd year -- are bestowed by the center on individuals and institutions it says are “responsible for some of the more egregious or ridiculous affronts to First Amendment principles.”
This past year was remarkable for freedom of the press issues, said Josh Wheeler, director of the center.
“From the White House to the state house, from universities to high schools, members of the press have had to defend against a variety of challenges, some never seen before,” he said. The awards include a number of less well-known acts of censorship, Wheeler said, “because such an indictment challenges the assumption held by many that, because of the First Amendment, attempts at censorship are few in the United States.”
Obama to pay homage to - and dodge comparisons with - LBJ’s legacy
Obama will deliver the keynote address at Johnson’s presidential library in Austin, Texas, marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act, which helped pave the way for the first African-American president.
While paying homage, Obama also inevitably will invite comparison to the man who defined the art of the political deal while muscling through a remarkable array of legislation, including Medicare, the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, in addition to the Civil Rights Act.
Johnson’s success at wheeling and dealing with members of Congress one by one to get what he wanted contrasts with Obama’s frustrations with Congress. It invites potentially unfavorable comparisons between the former Senate majority leader’s hands-on tactics and Obama’s more cerebral approach to governing.
“Johnson was very comfortable manipulating, cajoling and pressuring members of Congress to do things in a way that Obama doesn’t have the skill set nor the experience, nor the inclination for,” said Jeremi Suri, a history professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
The Supreme Court knows what it is doing, and we are the worse off
[Justice Anthony] Kennedy wrote that "independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption. ... In fact, there is only scant evidence that independent expenditures even ingratiate. ... Ingratiation and access, in any event, are not corruption."
Some experts consider that as proof the conservative justices don't really know what they are talking about in campaign finance decisions. But wait. Chief Justice Roberts just wrote two paragraphs in his McCutcheon case opinion that show he knows exactly what he is doing.
First Roberts said "disclosure of contributions minimizes the potential for abuse of the campaign finance system ... (and could) deter actual corruption and avoid the appearance of corruption by exposing large contributions and expenditures to the light of publicity. With modern technology, disclosure now offers a particularly effective means of arming the voting public with information."
But in the next paragraph, Roberts quietly reversed himself, explaining we may now see less helpful disclosure, not more of it.
"The existing aggregate limits may in fact encourage the movement of money away from entities subject to disclosure. Because individuals' direct contributions are limited, would-be donors may turn to other avenues for political speech. Individuals can, for example, contribute unlimited amounts to 501(c) organizations, which are not required to publicly disclose their donors." ...
In his defense, the chief justice clearly knows what his modest political gift for billionaires will do for them - and the rest of us. He probably even knows he's just caused our Founding Fathers, who merely wanted to assure we could all voice our views openly in a public park, to spend a new aerobic eternity, whirling in their places of rest.
Wall Street’s Land Grab: Firms Amass Rental Empire, Ousting Tenants & Threatening New Housing Crisis
The Evening Greens
Industry-Friendly Regulators Ask to be Stripped of Regulatory Power
In an 'unprecedented' move, North Carolina officials—whose responsibility it is to enforce environmental protections—are causing outrage in the state for arguing that a court ruling against the coal industry is too harsh.
State-appointed members of the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) announced Monday that they are appealing a ruling that ordered Duke Energy take "immediate action" to clean up its 33 coal ash ponds. The ruling—handed down following a major coal ash spill on February 4—gave state regulators greater ability to force Duke to proactively reduce the risk of polluting other rivers.
However, the EMC says it does not want this authority. Instead of acting as a watchdog to clamp down on Duke, in fact, the members actively argued that Duke should be given more time to make improvements. ...
Following a previous coal ash spill, the state agency charged with carrying out environmental regulations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), negotiated a settlement that many called a "sweetheart deal" with the utility. Under scrutiny after the Dan River spill, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh recently initiated a federal probe into ties between Duke and the DENR.
Wildlife in Gulf of Mexico still suffering four years after BP oil spill
The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused dangerous after-effects to more than a dozen different animals from dolphins to oysters, a report from an environmental campaign group said on Tuesday.
Four years after the oil disaster, some 14 species showed symptoms of oil exposure, the report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said.
"The oil is not gone. There is oil on the bottom of the gulf, oil washing up on the beach and there is oil in the marshes," Doug Inkley, senior scientist for NWF, told a conference call.
At the top of the food chain, more than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010, when the BP well exploded. Last year, dolphins were still stranding at more than three times the average annual rates before the spill, the report said. ...
Sea turtles have also been stranding at a higher rate since the spill, the report said. "Roughly 500 stranded sea turtles have been found in the area affected by the spill every year from 2011 to 2013."
Last month, NOAA researchers linked the oil from BP's well to irregular heart beats in embryonic and newborn tuna. "We can now say with certainty that oil causes cardiotoxicity in fish," Stanford University fish biologist Barbara Block told a press conference at the time.
Communities not prepared for risks of crude oil train derailments, Congress told
Emergency response officials told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that big cities and small towns alike are unprepared for a disaster on the scale of an oil train derailment and fire last year in Quebec that destroyed part of a town and killed 47 people.
The hearing was only the second on Capitol Hill in recent weeks that sought the perspective of local officials. The federal government has regulatory authority over rail shipments, but the burden of emergency response ultimately falls on local agencies.
The specter of a large scale crude oil fire and spill has hung over communities across the country since July’s crash in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where firefighters were simply outmatched by the scale and ferocity of the blaze.
“We can handle everyday emergencies,” said Timothy Pellerin, the fire chief of Rangeley, Maine, whose department assisted in the Quebec derailment. “We’re not prepared for a major disaster like this.”
Urban fire departments may have more resources and personnel, but the scale of the threat is a challenge for them, too. Barb Graff, director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, said that three loaded crude oil trains a week pass through the city now, but the frequency could increase to three per day when refineries are able to receive them.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Little Richard - Long Tall Sally
Little Richard - I'm Just a Lonely Guy
Little Richard - Keep a Knockin
Little Richard - Lucille
Little Richard w/Johnny Otis - Little Richard's Boogie
Little Richard - Rip It Up
Little Richard - Hound Dog
Little Richard - Can't Believe You Wanna Leave
Little Richard - Get Rich Quick
Upsetters (Little Richard) - Every night about this time
Little Richard - The Girl Can't Help It
Little Richard - Ooh! My Soul
Little Richard - True Fine Mama
Little Richard - Poor Dog
Little Richard - Jenny Jenny
Little Richard - Good Golly Miss Molly
Jimi Hendrix & Little Richard - Goodnight Irene
It's National Pie Day!
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