Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.
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This evening's music features the Boston band The Love Dogs. Enjoy!
The Love Dogs - She Won't Say Yes
"Power never takes a back step - only in the face of more power."
-- Malcolm X
News and Opinion
N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images
The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.
The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.
The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show. ...
It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation’s surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Given the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence mission, much of the imagery would involve people overseas whose data was scooped up through cable taps, Internet hubs and satellite transmissions. ...
[Vanee M. Vines, the agency spokeswoman said] the N.S.A. did not have access to photographs in state databases of driver’s licenses or to passport photos of Americans, while declining to say whether the agency had access to the State Department database of photos of foreign visa applicants. She also declined to say whether the N.S.A. collected facial imagery of Americans from Facebook and other social media through means other than communications intercepts. ...
The agency’s use of facial recognition technology goes far beyond one program previously reported by The Guardian, which disclosed that the N.S.A. and its British counterpart, General Communications Headquarters, have jointly intercepted webcam images, including sexually explicit material, from Yahoo users.
Reddit, Imgur and Boing Boing launch anti-NSA-surveillance campaign
The Reset the Net campaign aims to encourage direct action, urging visitors to install privacy and encryption tools
Some of the world's largest websites are planning a coordinated day of action on Thursday to oppose mass surveillance online.
The sites, which include Reddit, Imgur and BoingBoing, will be taking part in the campaign, called "Reset the Net", in a number of ways.
Some will showing a splash screen to all users, reminiscent of the one used in the successful protests against SOPA, the US copyright bill which many feared would damage the backbone of the internet. But rather than telling users to write to their electoral representatives, this protest will push more direct action, encouraging visitors to install privacy and encryption tools. ...
The campaign is being co-ordinated by Fight for the Future, whose co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng said "Now that we know how mass surveillance works, we know how to stop it. That’s why people all over the world are going to work together to use encryption everywhere and make it too hard for any government to conduct mass surveillance.
Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Reporter Over Identity of Source
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal from James Risen, a New York Times reporter facing jail for refusing to identify a confidential source.
The court’s one-line order gave no reasons but effectively sided with the government in a confrontation between what prosecutors said is an imperative to secure evidence in a national security prosecution and what journalists said is an intolerable infringement of press freedom.
The case arose from a subpoena to Mr. Risen seeking information about his source for a chapter of his 2006 book “State of War.” Prosecutors say they need Mr. Risen’s testimony to prove that the source was Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency official.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ordered Mr. Risen to comply with the subpoena. Mr. Risen has said he will refuse.
The Obama administration has sent mixed signals in the case and on the subject of press freedom in general. In its Supreme Court brief in the case, Risen v. United States, No. 13-1009, it told the justices that “reporters have no privilege to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources.”
Make No Mistake, This Case Is a Direct Attack on the Press
The Supreme Court today rejected New York Times reporter James Risen's appeal of a 4th Circuit decision that ruled the government can compel him to reveal his source under oath. The case, one of the most important for reporter's privilege in decades, means that Risen has exhausted his appeals and must now either testify in the leak trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, or face jail time for being in contempt of court. Risen has admirably vowed to go to prison rather than comply.
This is the latest victory of the Obama administration in their crackdown on sources, and in turn, investigative journalism. As the New York Times again reminded us today, they have "pursued leaks aggressively, bringing criminal charges in eight cases, compared with three under all previous administrations combined."
Make no mistake, this case is a direct attack on the press. The Justice Department has recently tightened its "guidelines" for subpoenaing reporters (which have no enforcement mechanism) and the Obama administration claims it supports a tepid journalist shield law, but this was the case where they could have shown they meant what they said about protecting journalists' rights. Instead, they argued to the court that reporter's privilege does not exist all.
By going after Risen, the Obama administration has done more damage to reporter's privilege than any other case in forty years, including the Valerie Plame leak investigation that ensnared Judy Miller during the Bush administration.
Russian pullback from Ukraine border may have eased tensions, but not security concerns
Russia’s withdrawal of troops from its border with Ukraine has eased fears in Ukraine and the West that President Vladimir Putin will launch a full-scale invasion.
But the risk of war has not receded, only shifted in a different direction. Daily clashes, one involving 300 armed separatists attacking a border post, signal that the low intensity conflict that began in March has moved into a higher gear.
Ukrainian officials charge that Russia is training, arming and dispatching irregular forces, many of them Russians, including a surprising number of Chechens, to the troubled eastern region to keep Ukraine permanently destabilized. ...
Russia is not the only source of discord. Ukrainian government officials said they believe that the country’s richest oligarch, industrialist Rinat Ahmetov, who had been credited with stanching separatist sentiment just two weeks ago, may have switched sides again and now is working with one of the anti-government armed factions.
Ahmetov had been widely credited with easing tensions by urging his 300,000 employees to join him in opposing the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” which he said was “in a fight against our region.” But after leaders of the DPR threatened to nationalize his holdings and sent a mob to attack his residence in Donetsk on Tuesday, he shifted his position once again.
Barack Obama to urge European leaders to keep up pressure on Russia
President Barack Obama will press European leaders this week to keep up pressure on Russia over its threatening moves in Ukraine, while seeking to assuage fears from Poland and other Nato allies that the west could slip back into a business-as-usual relationship with Moscow.
Obama's four-day trip to Poland, Belgium and France comes against the backdrop of successful national elections in Ukraine and signs that Russia is moving most of its troops off its shared border with the former Soviet republic. Yet violence continues to rage in eastern Ukrainian cities and there remains deep uncertainty about whether Ukraine's new president-elect can stabilise his country. ...
But at least some parts of Obama's visit will challenge the notion that the west has isolated Moscow. Russia's President Vladmir Putin is scheduled to join US and European leaders in France Friday for a day of events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Putin will also hold one-on-one talks with the French president, Francois Hollande, his first meeting with a western leader since the Ukraine crisis began.
David Cameron to meet Vladimir Putin for Ukraine talks
David Cameron is to meet the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, for face-to-face talks over the Ukraine crisis when the two men attend commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy on Friday.
The meeting will come the day after Putin a summit of the G7 world leaders in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday from which Putin has been excluded. ...
Discussing the meeting with Putin, the PM's official spokesman said: "It is an important opportunity to set out the importance of a dialogue between the Russian government and the new Ukrainian government following the presidential elections that have happened over the last week or so in Ukraine."
The meeting also comes amid heightened tensions between London and Moscow over comments by the Prince of Wales comparing Putin's actions in Ukraine to those of Adolf Hitler. Putin said Prince Charles remarks were unacceptable.
The prime minister's spokesman dismissed suggestions that the talks were an attempt to "make peace" with Putin.
Russia grants gas respite but seeks U.N. vote on Ukraine
Russia accused Ukrainian authorities on Monday of escalating violence against civilians in the rebel-held east of the country, even as it offered Kiev a brief respite in a dispute over billions of dollars' worth of unpaid gas bills.
In the latest fighting, Ukrainian border guards said a pro-Russian militia had attacked one of their posts with automatic weapons and grenade launchers in the early hours, triggering a battle that was still raging many hours later.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fuelling the pro-Russian uprising that threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 45 million people. Russia denies orchestrating the unrest, and says Ukraine's attempts to end it by military force are making the situation worse.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would submit a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council later on Monday, calling for an immediate end to the violence and the creation of humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape the fighting.
In pointed comments aimed at newly elected Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Lavrov said that Western nations had assured Russia the situation in Ukraine would improve after the May 25 election that brought him to power. Instead of that, he said, "everything is happening in exactly the opposite way".
"People are dying every day. Peaceful civilians are suffering more and more - the army, military aviation and heavy weapons continue to be used against them," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
Are human rights activists today’s warmongers?
The modern human rights movement began as a band of outsiders, fighting governments on behalf of the faceless and voiceless. President Jimmy Carter brought it into the American foreign policy establishment by naming an outspoken assistant secretary of state for human rights. ... Now, several decades after the human rights movement traded its outsider status for influence in Washington, it is clear that this has produced negative as well as positive results. ...
The most appalling result of this process in the United States is that some human rights activists now regularly call for using force to resolve the world’s problems. At one time, “human rights” implied opposition to war. Now some of the most outspoken warmongers in Washington are self-proclaimed human rights advocates.
They were among the loudest promoters of war to depose the Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy. That war cast Libya into chaos and set off a chain of events that has brought radical jihadist rule to large parts of Mali.
In recent months, President Obama’s “human rights” team has pushed for escalated intervention in Syria and the dispatch of more troops to Afghanistan. ... This is a radical development in the history of the human rights movement. Once it was generals, defense contractors, and chest-thumping politicians who saw war as the best solution to global problems. Now human rights activists play that role. Some seem to have given up on diplomacy and statecraft. Instead they promote the steady militarization of American foreign policy.
At least 20 killed, dozens wounded in clashes in Libya's Benghazi: medics
At least 20 people were killed and almost 70 wounded when the Libyan army and forces of a renegade general fought Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, medical sources said.
Combat helicopters belonging to forces loyal to former army general Khalifa Haftar - who wants to purge the North African state of Islamist militants he says a weak government has failed to control - supported the army in the worst fighting in months.
At least 20 people were killed and 67 wounded in Benghazi alone, hospital doctors said. Some 18 wounded were reported in al-Marj, a town east of Benghazi, where fighting also broke out, medical sources said.
Libya is in protracted turmoil three years after the NATO-backed war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with Islamist, anti-Islamist, regional and political factions locked in conflict.
The Ansar al-Sharia militant group attacked a camp on Monday belonging to army special forces, residents there said. Haftar's forces joined the battle taking place in residential areas with frightened families staying indoors. Schools and universities were closed.
Warplane targets Islamist base, hits university in Libya's Benghazi
A Libyan warplane under the command of a renegade former general targeted an Islamist militia base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Sunday but instead hit a university building, witnesses said.
The attack was part of a campaign by irregular forces loyal to former army general Khalifa Haftar to purge the North African state of Islamist militants whom he says the weak central government has failed to control. ...
One jet attacked a historic building which houses a base belonging to the militant group Ansar al-Sharia, said Mohamed al-Hejazi, a spokesman for Haftar.
"Our forces attacked the crown prince's former building where Ansar al-Sharia is based," he said.
But a Reuters reporter at the scene said there was no damage at the building that had been home to the crown prince when Libya was a kingdom before Gaddafi's 1969 coup.
Instead the warplane fired three rockets at a neighboring university engineering faculty, said its dean, Nasser al-Aqouri.
Two people were wounded, Aqouri said. "Thank God, lectures had already finished but there is huge material damage."
French Protesters Take Stand Against Hate, Far-Right National FrontIsn't it interesting how popular it's getting for dictators and other usurpers to label citizens who dissent against authoritarian actions, "terrorists?" I wonder where they got that idea from.
Thousands of protesters poured into the streets of France on Thursday against the far-right National Front party.
The demonstrations followed Sunday's landmark electoral win by the party, which the country's Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls described as being "more than another warning; it's a shock, an earthquake." ...
"We respect the result of the European elections, of democracy, but we do not accept the values of the National Front," Silvio Philippe, one of the organizers of the Lyon rally, told Agence France-Presse. "French democracy is in danger," he said.
Protesters Face Riot Police, Water Cannons On Anniversary of Turkey's Uprisings
Protesters who took to the streets of Istanbul and Ankara on Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of this country's Gezi Park uprisings were met with riot police, tear gas, and water cannons.
According to numerous media reports, 25,000 policemen and 50 water cannons were deployed in Istanbul alone in a bid to block protests at the iconic Taksim Square, which has become of a focal point of mass protests over the past year.
Journalists in Istanbul are reportedly being blocked from covering Saturday's protests. ...
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously vowed to shut down any attempt to stage an anniversary protest in Taksim square and called the demonstrators "terrorists."
USS Cole case prosecutors, judge huddle
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — USS Cole case prosecutors met privately with the war court judge Friday - a practice permitted in military commissions but rarely used - in a bid to persuade him to abandon his sweeping CIA discovery order.
Separately, a staff member at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence clarified Friday that no one at the war court had requested a copy of its classified "Torture Report" describing the CIA's treatment of secret prisoners in spy agency custody before they were dropped off at Guantanamo in September 2006.
Lawyers for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 49, who was held for four years by the CIA, asked the judge this week to get them a copy of the report as they prepare for the Feb. 9 start of his death-penalty tribunal.
The Washington Post reported that the Senate document describes, among other things, al-Nashiri's waterboarding and abusive interrogations, as well as analysis that officials hyped the Saudi's role as mastermind of the suicide bombing of the warship that killed 17 U.S. sailors off Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000. ...
Defense attorneys in open court Wednesday urged Pohl not to reverse himself. But prosecutors argue he went too far in the order and are invoking a national security exception. Left unclear in the public argument is what would be at risk by giving the information to lawyers with top secret clearances and bound to keep the same secrets as the prosecution.
Joseph E. Stiglitz Calls for Fair Taxes for All
A new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.
Creating the state of California took a revolt that led to the short-lived Bear Republic, a war with Mexico, and various international treaties. Now, some northern natives hope to take it apart, starting with a couple of ballot initiatives.
Tuesday, voters in Del Norte and Tehama Counties will consider a measure calling for separation from California and the formation of a new state. Supporters are hoping to generate momentum for pulling together portions of northern California and southern Oregon into an entity to be called Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson once imagined that part of western North America might develop into a freestanding republic.
Local vexations with state government were cited by Aaron Funk, an aptly named organizer of the movement: “lack of representation, lack of infrastructure, inability to use a lot of our resources.”
Heavy winter rains often wash out U.S. 101, a major artery in the region. That really rankles him. So do restrictions on timber harvesting. Most of all, Funk loathes the region's paltry representation in California's senate, with its population-based allocation. Just 28,000 people call Del Norte County home, compared to 38 million for the state overall. ...
Opponents of the measure say it sounds an economic death knell for the area, given its poverty and high unemployment.
“We will continue to face the same challenges,” wrote Del Norte County officials in their formal argument against the measure. “Except we will no longer be subsidized by the State.”
Officer's death could cause problems for Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio
When sheriff's deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz hanged himself, he left behind a house full of questions.
Among the items at his house were a stash of drugs, evidence bags from old cases, hundreds of fake IDs and thousands of his video-recorded traffic stops that were withheld in a racial-profiling case against his boss, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Now, the quest for answers has raised the possibility that a yet-to-be-determined number of his cases could be thrown out and has refocused attention on Arpaio and his department, already under close watch by a federal monitor in the profiling case.
The judge overseeing the case has raised the prospect that Armendariz may have been shaking down people living in the US illegally during traffic stops, and the top prosecutor in Phoenix described the situation as a "mess" as his staff begins to sort it out. ...
Armendariz moved to Arizona from Texas in 2004 to be closer to two terminally ill relatives. First a jail officer, he became a deputy and eventually joined the smuggling squad that was once the flagship of Arpaio's immigration crackdowns.
As a member of the unit for about four years, the Spanish-speaking deputy was among dozens of officers who received special training to enforce federal immigration laws. He also took part in Arpaio's most controversial patrols.
In historic vote, House backs medical marijuana
WASHINGTON — For the first time, the House of Representatives voted early Friday to block the federal government from enforcing its marijuana laws in states that have approved use of the drug for medical purposes.
Marijuana advocates called the vote historic.
The plan passed 219-189, with 49 Republicans teaming up with 170 Democrats to approve the measure shortly after midnight.
Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California attached the language as an amendment to a bill that would fund the U.S. Justice Department.
While Congress’ official position is that marijuana is a drug with no medical value, 22 states now allow medical marijuana, with Minnesota the latest to approve it this week when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill into law.
Thousands of secret investigation files on Pete Seeger will be published on National Archives website
Thousands of investigative files that the FBI maintained for more than half a century on folk singer Pete Seeger are set to be released to the public online, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has told Al Jazeera.
When Seeger died in January at the age of 94, dozens of journalists, researchers and curious members of the public sought his files from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI has been informing requesters that it turned over all of Seeger’s files to the NARA before his death. ...
The NARA initially decided to release the files only to researchers on request, for a hefty administrative fee of at least $2,000. But Kleinman said public interest in the files prompted a switch in policy. ...
The government’s files on Seeger will, for the first time, lay bare the extent of federal law enforcement’s and intelligence agencies’ investigations and surveillance of the beloved protest singer.
The Evening Greens
US set to unveil rules to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30%
The Obama administration will propose sweeping new environmental rules on Monday, cutting carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30% over 2005 levels by 2030, according to people briefed on the plan.
The new power plant rules – which will be formally announced by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday morning – represent the most ambitious effort by Barack Obama or any other president to deal with climate change.
The regulations could lead to a sweeping transformation of America's energy economy, if they survive an onslaught from business and conservative groups, and Republicans in Congress.
The 30% target, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, represents the first attempt by any president to regulate carbon pollution from power plants.
Obama had initially sought to deal with climate change through Congress. But after that effort collapse, and with Republicans in Congress uniformly opposed to cutting carbon emissions – or even denying climate change was occuring – Obama decided last year to use his executive authority to cut carbon pollution.
The White House and the EPA would not comment on the report.
Obama’s proposed power plant rules fall slightly short of environmentalists’ hopes
Monday morning is when the EPA’s proposed rules for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants will be officially unveiled by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. But federal agencies leak like a sieve, and so we learned Sunday what the outlines of the rules will be: CO2 emissions from existing power plants will have to be cut by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Environmental activists are not overwhelmed with joy at the news, although they remain hopeful that the final rules will be significant. The target is a little weaker than they want, and they say the battle to strengthen the rules during the coming public comment period will be immense.
“It’s a good first step, and only the proposed rule,” says Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program. “We’ll submit comments pushing for a stronger standard.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council agrees. “The key will be how they solicit comments on more ambitious targets,” says David Hawkins, NRDC’s director of climate programs. “We need an open mind on their part to consider evidence we can do better.”
Environmental experts generally agree that more ambitious targets are possible, especially if the EPA is going to make the rules extend all the way to 2030. Since technologies to produce energy more cleanly keep getting better and cheaper, the targets should grow significantly more ambitious over the course of the next decade.
Obama to Take Big Step on Climate Change—Will It Be Big Enough?
By historical standards, the regulations that EPA proposes on Monday would represent a significant step towards slowing climate change. But the Administration has said its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enough to meet targets that President Obama set in 2009, just before international negotiations in Copenhagen. If the U.S. can accomplish that, the thinking goes, Obama will have the credibility and leverage he needs to push for another, more significant international agreement on greenhouse gases—the kind of agreement that is necessary, most scientists believe, in order to avert the most catastrophic effects of global warming.
Unless I’m missing something—which is entirely possible—the targets that the media outlets are reporting would fall short of that goal. Although experts and environmental groups have stated publicily they believe the U.S. needs to reduce power plant emissions by 25 percent to hit the Copenhagen targets, that was 25 percent from current levels—not 2005, as the regulation apparently envisions. Remember, emissions today are lower than they were in 2005—thanks mostly to the recession, the sudden supply of cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas, and the impact of existing regulations. ...
It's also possible that, come next June, the final rule could turn out to be stronger than whatever the Administration announces on Monday—although, of course, it could turn out to be weaker, too.
Feds Leave Radioactive Waste Stranded In Wildfire Danger Zone
The Department of Energy admitted Friday it will not meet a deadline to remove dangerous radioactive waste, currently stranded above-ground in unsafe conditions at a New Mexico nuclear weapons laboratory, before wildfire season hits.
At least 3,706 cubic meters of radioactive waste are being stored at the Los Alamos National Laboratory complex after the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, an underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico, was shut down indefinitely in February due to an airborne radiation leak.
Officials in New Mexico have warned that the waste at Los Alamos could be within the reach of wildfires and must be transferred elsewhere by the end of June. According to the Associated Press, "The agreement for removal of the waste by June 30 was reached after a massive wildfire lapped at the edge of lab property three years ago, raising concerns about the thousands of barrels of waste that were being stored outside." ...
Meanwhile, it is still not clear when WIPP will reopen. The facility, which was never supposed to leak, is the bedrock of the U.S. government's current approach to dispose of military-generated plutonium-contaminated transuranic waste from decades of nuclear bomb production and testing.
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
The Love Dogs - I'm Yo Dog
The Love Dogs - Cold, cold, cold
The Love Dogs - Knocked Out
The Love Dogs - Safronia B.
The Love Dogs - Tossin' & Turnin'
The Love Dogs - Drink up
The Love Dogs - I'm Gonna Keep On Lyin'
The Love Dogs - I Got Loaded
The Love Dogs - Big and Hot
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!