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U.S. says it will buy Russian helicopters for Afghan military

U.S. says it will buy Russian helicopters for Afghan military 17 Jun 2013 The Pentagon said on Monday it will spend $572 million to buy 30 Russian-built military helicopters that will be used by Afghan security forces. The Mi-17 helicopters will be used by Afghanistan's National Security Forces Special Mission Wing, which supports counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and special operations missions. The contract with Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms company, covers spare parts, test equipment and engineering support. The Pentagon said the work would be performed in Russia. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2014. [Obviously, this is a payoff for Russia's compliance with the US arming of 'rebels' after the US sent the chemical weapons to be used there. --MDR]

Bank of America former employees: 'We were told to lie'

Bank of America former employees: 'We were told to lie' 17 Jun 2013 Bank of America routinely denied qualified borrowers a chance to modify their loans to more affordable terms and paid cash bonuses to bank staffers for pushing homeowners into foreclosure, according to affidavits filed last week in a Massachusetts lawsuit. "We were told to lie to customers," said Simone Gordon, who worked in the bank's loss mitigation department until February 2012. "Site leaders regularly told us that the more we delayed the HAMP [loan] modification process, the more fees Bank of America would collect." In sworn testimony, six former employees describe what they saw behind the scenes of an often opaque process that has frustrated homeowners, their attorneys and housing counselors.

US government identifies men on Guantanamo 'indefinite detainee' list

US government identifies men on Guantánamo 'indefinite detainee' list 17 Jun 2013 The US government has finally released the names of 46 men being held in Guantánamo under the classification of "indefinite detainees" – terror suspects deemed too dangerous to release or move yet impossible to try in a civilian or even military court for reasons of inadequate or tainted [aka illegally obtained via torture] evidence. The list of the 46 detainees prisoners was released to the Miami Herald and New York Times following a freedom of information requests from the papers as part of the list of the 166 current captives in Guantánamo that has been released for the first time. The list contains, according to the Miami Herald, 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, three Saudis, two Kuwaitis and Libyans, a Kenyan, Moroccan and a Somali. There were two "indefinite detainees", both Afghans, who have died in the camp, one [allegedly] by suicide, one [allegedly] of a heart attack.

Feds won't budge on public access to drone legal memos

Feds won't budge on public access to drone legal memos [Just hack them - problem solved.] 17 Jun 2013 The public has no right to examine classified Justice Department legal opinions on the so-called "targeted killing" of Americans and foreigners, even though President Barack Obama recently acknowledged that the U.S. used drones to kill alleged 'Al Qaeda' operative Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Obama Administration argued in a legal brief filed Friday. The brief argues that the official declassification, which also included the acknowledgement that three other American citizens have died in such operations outside active combat zones, "should not affect (or be relevant to)" the appeals court's review of a district court judge's ruling that legal memoranda sought by the New York Times and the ACLU were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Ted Cruz amendment would allow voter ID

Ted Cruz amendment would allow voter ID 17 Jun 2013 Ted Cruz didn't wait long to mount a legislative response to the Supreme Court's ruling against Arizona's voter registration rule. An amendment submitted by the Texas senator (R) on Monday afternoon to the Senate’s immigration bill would "permit states to require proof of citizenship for registration to vote in elections for federal office." Cruz's measure would amend the National Voter Registration Act.

Snowden says he cannot get a fair trial on NSA leaks in U.S.

Snowden says he cannot get a fair trial on NSA leaks in U.S. 17 Jun 2013 The former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the government's top-secret phone and Internet surveillance programs said in an online forum on Monday that he did not expect to get a fair trial in the United States. In a question-and-answer session with readers on the website of Britain's Guardian newspaper, Snowden said his disappointment with President Barack Obama helped spur his decision to reveal the monitoring of Americans' phone and Internet data kept by big companies such as Google Inc and Facebook Inc.

Supreme Court says states may not add citizenship proof for voting

Supreme Court says states may not add citizenship proof for voting 17 Jun 2013 States may not require additional proof of citizenship on federal forms designed to streamline voter-registration procedures, [aka suppress voter turnout] the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The court rejected a requirement passed by Arizona voters in 2004 that potential voters supply proof of eligibility beyond an applicant's oath on the federal form that he or she is a citizen. The court ruled 7 to 2 that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 trumps Arizona's Proposition 200. The federal law "precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voter ID Law

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voter ID Law 17 Jun 2013 Would-be voters in Arizona will not need to provide proof of citizenship before they register to vote, the Supreme Court said today. The state must, the justices said in a 7-2 split on Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, accept and use a federal form to register voters for federal elections. That form does not require citizens to prove citizenship. It simply requires that a person swear, under penalty of perjury, that he is a citizen.

Mansion spending records indicate improper billing by Virginia governor and his family

Mansion spending records indicate improper billing by Virginia governor and his family 06 Jun 2013 Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, have used taxpayer money for a range of small personal items they should have paid for themselves under state policy, according to spending records. The McDonnells have billed the state for body wash, sunscreen, dog vitamins and a digestive system "detox cleanse," the records show. They also have used state employees to run personal errands for their adult children.

Novant Health makes flu vaccine mandatory for employees

Flu fascism: Novant Health makes flu vaccine mandatory for employees 14 Jun 2013 Novant Health Inc. has made the [mercury-laden, squalene-filled] flu vaccine mandatory for its 25,000 employees this year, joining Triad health systems such as Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Cone Health in making the move. This is the first time the Winston-Salem-based health-care system has taken that step. The mandate also applies to those who volunteer, do contract work, students or others who provide services at any Novant facility.

Boris Johnson: Don't arm the Syria maniacs

Boris Johnson: Don't arm the Syria maniacs 16 Jun 2013 Boris Johnson warns that arming the Syrian rebels would be disastrous, adding to tough warnings from Vladimir Putin, the Archbishop of York and an ex-Army leader. Arming the Syrian rebels would be disastrous because Britain would be "pressing weapons into the hands of maniacs", says Boris Johnson. The Mayor of London warns David Cameron that the UK must not use Syria as an "arena for muscle-flexing" and says that any weapons sent to the country's opposition could end up in the hands of al-Qaeda [al-CIAduh]. His comments come after several leading figures opposed any move by Mr Cameron to join President Barack Obama in providing greater assistance to the forces fighting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader. President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whose nation provides arms to the Assad government, criticised the Prime Minister for considering arming rebels who "eat the organs" of their enemies.

State photo-ID databases become troves for police

State photo-ID databases become troves for police --The most widely used systems were honed on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq as soldiers sought to identify insurgents. 16 Jun 2013 The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver's-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations. The facial databases have grown rapidly in recent years and generally operate with few legal safeguards beyond the requirement that searches are conducted for "law enforcement purposes." Amid rising concern about the National Security Agency's high-tech surveillance aimed at foreigners, it is these state-level facial-recognition programs that more typically involve American citizens.

GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits

GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits 16 Jun 2013 Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic. The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday -- for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings which were the object of the systematic spying. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.

Colorado sheriff: Wildfire damage like 'nuclear blast'

Colorado sheriff: Wildfire damage like 'nuclear blast' 15 Jun 2013 Firefighters on the front lines of the most destructive fire in Colorado history continued to hold the massive blaze in check Saturday, as thousands of anxious residents waited to be allowed back to their homes. Firefighting officials said about 45% of the fire just outside Colorado Springs had been contained by Saturday, up from 30% Friday. Additional evacuation orders weren't immediately lifted by 2 p.m. Saturday, and law enforcement officials continued manning checkpoints around the blaze, which has destroyed nearly 500 homes.

U.S. 'backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad'

U.S. 'backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad' --Leaked emails from defense contractor refers to chemical weapons saying 'the idea is approved by Washington' 29 Jan 2013 Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad's government and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country. A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme 'approved by Washington' is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.

Plane carrying George W. Bush diverted after smell of smoke

Plane carrying George W. Bush diverted after smell of smoke 16 Jun 2013 A plane carrying former President [sic] George W. Bush was diverted to Louisville on Saturday night after the pilot reported the smell of smoke. The Gulfstream IV aircraft was traveling from Philadelphia International to Dallas Love Field airports when the pilot reported the smell of smoke in the cockpit, said Holly Baker, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Israel Official: Iran Sanctions Must Be Tightened

Israel Official: Iran Sanctions Must Be Tightened 16 Jun 2013 A senior Israeli official says international sanctions are still needed to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program, despite the election of a reformist-backed president. Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, said Sunday that there won't be any change on Iran's nuclear policy since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still runs the country. Steinitz is responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear program. [How about sanctions over Israel's nuclear program?]

Iran will send 4,000 troops to aid Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria

Iran will send 4,000 troops to aid Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria 16 Jun 2013 The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran - even before last week's presidential election - to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces against the largely Sunni [CIA-backed] rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years.  Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad's government, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic's security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.

Russia slams US talks of imposing no-fly zone on Syria

Russia slams US talks of imposing no-fly zone on Syria 16 Jun 2013 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned against any effort by the United States and its allies to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, saying the move would be a 'violation of international law.' "You don't have to be a great expert to understand that this will still violate international law, and we really hope that our American colleagues will align their actions in accordance with the approach of the Russian-American initiative in preparation for the conference (on Syria)," Lavrov said on Saturday. The Russian foreign minister was referring to Western media reports that US F-16 warplanes and Patriot anti-aircraft missiles in Jordan might be used in creating a no-fly zone over Syria to suppress the Syrian government forces fighting the foreign-backed Takfiri militants in the country.

Rohani becomes Iran's new president

Rohani becomes Iran's new president 15 Jun 2013 Hassan Rohani has won Iran's 11th presidential election following a vote that saw a massive popular turnout on June 14. Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced on Saturday that of a total of 36,704,156 valid ballots counted, Rohani won 50.70 percent of the ballots with 18,613,329 votes. Principlist candidate Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf came in behind Rohani by a wide margin, winning 6,077,292 votes.

U.S. to keep F-16s and Patriot missiles in Jordan, fuels Russian fear of Syria no-fly zone

U.S. to keep F-16s and Patriot missiles in Jordan, fuels Russian fear of Syria no-fly zone 15 Jun 2013 The United States said on Saturday it would keep F-16 fighters and Patriot missiles in Jordan at Amman's request, and Russia bristled at the possibility they could be used to enforce a no-fly zone inside Syria. Washington, which has long called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, pledged military support to Syrian rebels this week, citing what it said was the Syrian military's use of chemical weapons - an allegation Damascus has denied. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved a Jordanian request for American F-16s and Patriot missiles to remain in the Western-backed kingdom after a joint military exercise there next week, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Secret Court Ruling Put Tech Companies in Data Bind

Secret Court Ruling Put Tech Companies in Data Bind 14 Jun 2013 In a secret court in Washington, Yahoo's top lawyers made their case. The government had sought help in spying on certain foreign users, without a warrant, and Yahoo had refused, saying the broad requests were unconstitutional. The judges disagreed. That left Yahoo two choices: Hand over the data or break the law. So Yahoo became part of the National Security Agency's secret Internet surveillance program, Prism, according to leaked N.S.A. documents, as did seven other Internet companies.

No-Confidence in NYU President - Faculty Vote

No-Confidence in NYU President - Faculty Vote 03 Jun 2013 At 6 PM on Friday, March 15, the online poll for the NYU Faculty of Arts and Science vote of no-confidence against President John Sexton closed. At 6:09 PM, the results were announced: of the 682 eligible full-time tenured and tenure-track professors, 569 had voted; 298 in favor of a declaration of no-confidence and 224 in favor of Sexton, with 47 abstaining. It was the highest-profile vote against a university president since Larry Summers was forced out of Harvard in 2006, and that was not its only significance: it was also one of the first major acts of faculty opposition to the top-down, corporate model of university governance that has been gaining prominence for the last four decades.

US House defence bill blocks Obama's plan to close Guantanamo Bay prison

US House defence bill blocks Obama's plan to close Guantánamo Bay prison --Republican-controlled chamber also limits president's attempt to reduce nuclear weapons in version at odds with Senate bill 14 Jun 2013 The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a sweeping, $638bn defence bill that would block President Barack Obama from closing the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, and limit his efforts to reduce nuclear weapons. Ignoring a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House voted 315-108 for the legislation -- which also authorises money for aircraft, weapons, ships, personnel and the war in Afghanistan. The House voted down an amendment to close the naval detention centre by 31 December 2014 by 249 votes to 174. It also backed an amendment - by 236 to 188 - to stop the president from transferring any detainees to Yemen.

Chemical weapons experts still skeptical about U.S. claim that Syria used sarin

Chemical weapons experts still skeptical about U.S. claim that Syria used sarin 14 Jun 2013 Chemical weapons experts voiced skepticism Friday about U.S. claims that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad had used the nerve agent sarin against rebels on at least four occasions this spring, saying that while the use of such a weapon is always possible, they've yet to see the telltale signs of a sarin gas attack, despite months of scrutiny. "It's not unlike Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn't bark," said Jean Pascal Zanders, a leading expert on chemical weapons who until recently was a senior research fellow at the European Union's Institute for Security Studies. "It's not just that we can't prove a sarin attack, it's that we're not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack." Foremost among those missing items, Zanders said, are cellphone photos and videos of the attacks or the immediate aftermath.

CIA to use secret bases to arm 'rebels'

CIA to use secret bases to arm 'rebels' 14 Jun 2013 The CIA is preparing to deliver arms to rebel terrorist groups in Syria through clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year in an effort to establish reliable supply routes into the country for nonlethal material, U.S. officials said. The bases are expected to begin conveying limited shipments of weapons and ammunition within weeks, officials said, serving as critical nodes for an escalation of U.S. involvement in a civil war that has lately seen a shift in momentum toward the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Within the past year, the CIA also created a new office at its headquarters in Langley to oversee its expanding operational role in Syria.

Decision to arm Syrian 'rebels' was reached weeks ago, U.S. officials say

Decision to arm Syrian 'rebels' was reached weeks ago, U.S. officials say 14 Jun 2013 President Obama's decision to begin arming the Syrian 'rebels' followed more than a year of internal debate over whether it was worth the dual risks of involving the United States in another war and seeing U.S. weapons fall into the hands of extremist groups among the rebels. The White House said the final push came this week after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded with "high certainty" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had used chemical weapons against the rebels.

Facebook reveals details of US requests for user data

Facebook reveals details of US requests for user data 15 Jun 2013 Facebook revealed Friday it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests for user data from US authorities in the second half of last year, as it seeks to shield itself from a growing scandal. The requests covered issues from child disappearances to petty crimes and terror threats and targeted between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts, the social networking site said, without revealing how often it complied with the requests.

G8 Summit: Major Police Operation Under Way

GHate Police State: G8 Summit: Major Police Operation Under Way --Parts of the country will be put under effective lockdown for the summit. 14 Jun 2013 Police in Northern Ireland are mounting an unprecedented security operation ahead of next week's G8 summit. Parts of the country will be placed under effective lockdown when President Obama and the other world leaders arrive. Access routes are being secured, steel fencing erected and a stretch of water closed. US Secret Service agents have been on the ground for a week. The Police Service of Northern Ireland will also have military back-up.

US claims of Assad's chemical weapons are lies - Pushkov

US claims of Assad's chemical weapons are lies - Pushkov 14 Jun 2013 A senior Russian MP holds that the recent White House statement of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government is as false as the notorious reports about Iraqi WMDs. "The data about Assad's use of chemical weapons is fabricated by the same facility that made up the lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Obama is walking George W. Bush's path," the head of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee Aleksey Pushkov tweeted. The Russian MP was referring to the 2003 invasion in Iraq prompted by the US and UK claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that threatened neighboring nations.

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