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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Actor Corey Feldman to reveal names of two Hollywood pedophiles that abused him...

Corey Feldman Will Reveal the Name of Two Hollywood Pedophiles That Abused Him
By VC | January 9th, 2012

Corey Feldman caused quite a stir a few months ago when he revealed that pedophilia was rampant in Hollywood (see the article Actor Corey Feldman Says Pedophilia No. 1 Problem for Child Stars). He now plans to reveal the names of two Hollywood men who abused him while he was a minor in an upcoming tell-all book. Some critics said: “Why doesn’t he go to the police instead of attempting to make money off a book?”. Two answers immediately come to mind: First, I am not convinced that the LAPD will be too cooperative in investigating and arresting highly powerful, highly connected Hollywood handlers. Secondly, I am pretty sure that the statue of limitations has expired, making prosecution invalid today. Finally, these people (and this industry as a whole) need to be exposed to the public. Here’s an article and a video about Feldman.

I will reveal the names of TWO Hollywood paedophiles that abused me,’ says Corey Feldman

As a teenage star Corey Feldman starred in some classic movies and became an eighties Hollywood icon.

But on film sets such as The Goonies, Stand By me and The Lost Boys he claims to have been sexually abused by paedophiles.

The Dancing On Ice star admits he was preyed on by many men and he plans to reveal the names of two Hollywood perverts in a tell all book.

The 40-year-old actor explained how at age 14 he was being leached upon and used by men like vultures.

He told The Sun: ‘It was basically me laying there pretending I was asleep and them going about their business.’
Corey, who has been clean of drugs for 20 years, will write a book to chronicle all the abuse that he and other actors endured as children.

He decided it was time to open up about the seedy side of the industry after his Lost Boys co-star Corey Haim, 38, died and an agent was charged with child abuse.

Feldman said that Haim, who died from heart failure and pneumonia, was also sexually abused and the people who did it believe that they are above the law.

He feels Hollywood have used the pair as scapegoats and labelled them drug addicts and has-beens.

Corey said: ‘Even today people say about me, “Eighties heartthrob; hasn’t done anything since.” The truth is I haven’t stopped. Last year I did four films.’Corey and I were pegged as the scapegoats… People need to know the reason Corey and I were swept under the carpet like the beaten dogs that were sent to the pound so no one had to deal with us anymore.’

Feldman first spoke out about his troubled past last year and he believes that is the reason why an anonymous former child actor claimed he had been abused by talent agent Martin Weiss.

He said: ‘I stood up and said there is a bigger problem, that I’d lost Corey and that I didn’t want to see any more kids lost to these sick perverts.’Although Weiss, 47, did not abuse Corey, he is still helping the detective in charge of the case with investigations.

The actor is aware of the danger he is putting himself and his family in by naming those who molested him but after losing his good friend Haim he wants to protect his own son.

"Pig Man #2," a pipeline industry insider, had a good reason to be afraid.He was about to blow the whistle on a fraud, information that could blow away the XL Keystone Pipeline project.His information: The software for the crucial piece of pipeline safety equipment, the "Smart PIG," has a flaw known to the industry but concealed from regulators.The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected - and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements.But there's a catch.Pipes with cracks and leaks can explode - and kill"...

The Pig in the XL Pipeline
Insider reveals concealed "error" in pipeline safety equipment that could blow away the GOP's XL pipe dream
For Firedoglake
by Greg Palast

"They threatened me. Last night I got a call and they threatened me. If I talked."

"Pig Man #2," a pipeline industry insider, had a good reason to be afraid. He was about to blow the whistle on a fraud, information that could blow away the XL Keystone Pipeline project.

His information: The software for the crucial piece of pipeline safety equipment, the "Smart PIG," has a flaw known to the industry but concealed from regulators.

The flaw allows cracks, leaks and corrosion to go undetected - and that saves the industry billions of dollars in pipe replacements. But there's a catch. Pipes with cracks and leaks can explode - and kill.

Federal law requires the oil and gas industry to run a PIG, a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, through big oil and gas pipelines. The robot porker, tethered to a GPS, beeps and boops as it rolls through, electronically squealing when it finds dangers.

But whistleblowers told us at Channel 4 Dispatches (the "60 Minutes" of Britain) that the software is deliberately calibrated to ignore or minimize deadly problems. They know because they themselves worked on the software design team.

This week, President Obama refused to issue a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but invited its owner, Trans-Canada, to re-apply. The GOP has gone wild over Obama's hesitation, screeching that slowing the Canada-to-Houston pipe for a full safety review is a jobs killer.

But it's the Pipeline that's the killer. Here's what Pig Man #2 told me, on camera, his face in shadow:

When his team found the life-threatening flaw in the program, they immediately created a software patch to fix it. But then their supervisor ordered them to bury the fix and conceal the problem.

With the PIG calibrated to the danger sensitivity required by law, oil and gas companies would have to dig up, inspect and replace pipe at a cost of millions per mile. That's not what the oil companies wanted from their contractor that designed the PIG program.

The programmers' bosses took no chances. "We had to sign nondisclosure agreements." They were required to conceal "any problems of this sort or the nature of the software we worked." It could not "be made public at all. Under threat of lawsuit." Nice.

With the error left in place, he said, "People die."

Pig Man #2 was shaking a bit when he said it. On September 9, 2010, a gas pipeline exploded, incinerating 13-year-old Janessa Greig, her mom and six others.

A PIG - an honest PIG - would have caught the bad welds in the old pipe.

Trans-Canada says that Keystone XL won't contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the Plains states' crucial water source. Keystone's permit application boasts that we can rely on XL's "full pigging capability."

Sure. Last summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst and poisoned parts of the Yellowstone River - only months after it had been "pigged."

The danger of a muzzled PIG goes beyond Keystone XL. New gas fields opened by hydraulic fracking will require over 100,000 miles of new transmission pipe.

This week, Newt Gingrich called Obama's temporary block on the XL Pipeline, "stunningly stupid"; and Mitt Romney said Obama's decision threatened America's "energy independence." (Mitt, the oil is from, uh, Canada.)

But the real question is, can we trust these pigs? And not just the ones in the pipeline.

Iraq angered by US drones patrolling it's skies...

U.S. Drones Patrolling Its Skies Provoke Outrage in Iraq
Published: January 29, 2012

BAGHDAD — A month after the last American troops left Iraq, the State Department is operating a small fleet of surveillance drones here to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel. Some senior Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the program, saying the unarmed aircraft are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.

The program was described by the department’s diplomatic security branch in a little-noticed section of its most recent annual report and outlined in broad terms in a two-page online prospectus for companies that might bid on a contract to manage the program. It foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.

American contractors say they have been told that the State Department is considering to field unarmed surveillance drones in the future in a handful of other potentially “high-threat” countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan after the bulk of American troops leave in the next two years. State Department officials say that no decisions have been made beyond the drone operations in Iraq.

The drones are the latest example of the State Department’s efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy’s 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.

When embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors armed with machine guns are tethered to the outside of the helicopters. The State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis, and stepped up their use after the last American troops left Iraq in December, taking the military drones with them.

The United States, which will soon begin taking bids to manage drone operations in Iraq over the next five years, needs formal approval from the Iraqi government to use such aircraft here, Iraqi officials said. Such approval may be untenable given the political tensions between the two countries. Now that the troops are gone, Iraqi politicians often denounce the United States in an effort to rally support from their followers.

A senior American official said that negotiations were under way to obtain authorization for the current drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh; and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all said in interviews that they had not been consulted by the Americans.

Mr. Asadi said that he opposed the drone program: “Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky.”

The Pentagon and C.I.A. have been stepping up their use of armed Predator and Reaper drones to conduct strikes against militants in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. More recently, the United States has expanded drone bases in Ethiopia, the Seychelles and a secret location in the Arabian Peninsula.

The State Department drones, by contrast, carry no weapons and are meant to provide data and images of possible hazards, like public protests or roadblocks, to security personnel on the ground, American officials said. They are much smaller than armed drones, with wingspans as short as 18 inches, compared with 55 feet for the Predators.

The State Department has about two dozen drones in Iraq, but many are used only for spare parts, the officials said.

The United States Embassy in Baghdad referred all questions about the drones to the State Department in Washington.

The State Department confirmed the existence of the program, calling the devices unmanned aerial vehicles, but it declined to provide details. “The department does have a U.A.V. program,” it said in a statement without referring specifically to Iraq. “The U.A.V.’s being utilized by the State Department are not armed, nor are they capable of being armed.”

When the American military was still in Iraq, white blimps equipped with sensors hovered over many cities, providing the Americans with surveillance abilities beyond the dozens of armed and unarmed drones used by the military. But the blimps came down at the end of last year as the military completed its withdrawal. Anticipating this, the State Department began developing its own drone operations.

According to the most recent annual report of the department’s diplomatic security branch, issued last June, the branch worked with the Pentagon and other agencies in 2010 to research the use of low-altitude, long-endurance unmanned drones “in high-threat locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The document said that the program was tested in Iraq in December 2010. “The program will watch over State Department facilities and personnel and assist regional security officers with high-threat mission planning and execution,” the document said.

In the online prospectus, called a “presolicitation notice,” the State Department last September outlined a broad requirement to provide “worldwide Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (U.A.V.) support services.” American officials said this was to formalize the initial program.

The program’s goal is “to provide real-time surveillance of fixed installations, proposed movement routes and movement operations,” referring to American convoy movements. In addition, the program’s mission is “improving security in high-threat or potentially high-threat environments.”

The document does not identify specific countries, but contracting specialists familiar with the program say that it focuses initially on operations in Iraq. That is “where the need is greatest,” said one contracting official who spoke on condition of anonymity, because the contract is still in its early phase.

In the next few weeks, the department is expected to issue a more detailed proposal, requesting bids from private contractors to operate the drones. That document, the department said Friday, will describe the scope of the program, including the overall cost and other specifics.

While the preliminary proposal has drawn interest from more than a dozen companies, some independent specialists who are familiar with drone operations expressed skepticism about the State Department’s ability to manage such a complicated and potentially risky enterprise.

“The State Department needs to get through its head that it is not an agency adept at running military-style operations,” said Peter W. Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Wired for War,” a book about military robotics.

The American plans to use drones in the air over Iraq have also created yet another tricky issue for the two countries, as Iraq continues to assert its sovereignty after the nearly nine-year occupation. Many Iraqis remain deeply skeptical of the United States, feelings that were reinforced last week when the Marine who was the so-called ringleader of the 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqis in the village of Haditha avoided prison time and was sentenced to a reduction in rank.

“If they are afraid about their diplomats being attacked in Iraq, then they can take them out of the country,” said Mohammed Ghaleb Nasser, 57, an engineer from the northern city of Mosul.

Hisham Mohammed Salah, 37, an Internet cafe owner in Mosul, said he did not differentiate between surveillance drones and the ones that fire missiles. “We hear from time to time that drone aircraft have killed half a village in Pakistan and Afghanistan under the pretext of pursuing terrorists,” Mr. Salah said. “Our fear is that will happen in Iraq under a different pretext.”

Still, Ghanem Owaid Nizar Qaisi, 45, a teacher from Diyala, said that he doubted that the Iraqi government would stop the United States from using the drones. “I believe that Iraqi politicians will accept it, because they are weak,” he said.

"(Malaysian) Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's support for Israel's security efforts is a signal to the Zionist regime and the United States that he is their man."Anwar understands that for the US, as far as Arab-Israel conflict is concerned, defending Israel matters most. And he knows that US lobbyists judge other countries' leaders based on their stand on the conflict"...

'Anwar serves Zionist interests'
31 January 2012 | Last updated at 01:02AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's support for Israel's security efforts is a signal to the Zionist regime and the United States that he is their man.

With Malaysia's general election nearing, Anwar is trying to gain the backing of powerful countries in order to come to power, although he has to go against his party's struggle for human rights.

Former Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Dr Chandra Muzaffar said Anwar's statement to The Wall Street Journal sent a clear message that he was in favour of US lobbyists and Zionist interests.

"Anwar understands that for the US, as far as Arab-Israel conflict is concerned, defending Israel matters most. And he knows that US lobbyists judge other countries' leaders based on their stand on the conflict.

"By coming out with such a statement, furthermore in an interview with the The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Zionist media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Anwar is telling them that he is a man whom they can depend on," Chandra told the New Straits Times yesterday.

He said Anwar's statement showed that in order to gain support, he was willing to sacrifice PKR's idealism.

"His statement is a total contradiction to justice. Why is he supporting the security of the oppressor (Israel) instead of supporting the real victims (Palestinians)? Israel is perhaps the fourth strongest military power in the world with hundreds of nuclear warheads and the regime's security should not have been Anwar's concern."

Chandra said Pas was willing to set aside its struggle for the sake of taking over Putrajaya.

"After Anwar issued his remarks, there was no official statement from Pas top leaders over their stand.

"They might be embarrassed with Anwar's statement, but are not willing to go against him in order to keep the opposition pact intact. In order to come to power, they are willing to place their party's original struggle second and keep mum."

Universiti Utara Malaysia political analyst Dr Mohd Azizuddin Sani said Pas leaders' "silence" was aimed at remaining in Anwar's good books.

"Anwar has a very strong influence over Pas and DAP. This influence, which we call Anwarisme, is so strong that he is even able to change people's stand. Pas has been seeing shifts in their struggles. They are also willing to sacrifice their stand for the sake of getting support from PKR and DAP."

Defense Secretary says decision to kill Americans suspected of terrorism is Obama's...

Panetta: Decision to Kill Americans Suspected of Terrorism Is Obama's
By Adam Serwer
Mon Jan. 30, 2012 12:13 PM PST

In an interview with CBS 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta revealed more about the secret process the Obama administration uses to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism without trial. According to Panetta, the president himself approves the decision based on recommendations from top national security officials.

"[The] President of the United States obviously reviews these cases, reviews the legal justification, and in the end says, go or no go," Panetta said.

"So it's the requirement of the administration under the current legal understanding that the president has to make that declaration, not you?" Pelley asked. Panetta replied, "That is correct."

The process by which national security officials determine whether or not American citizens suspected of terrorism can be killed remains opaque. The administration has leaked information about certain targets, but it has never released the legal justification for doing so, nor has it explained the system by which members of the National Security Council reportedly decide to put an American citizen on a so-called "kill list." In October, Reuters' Mark Hosenball wrote that the president doesn't necessarily explicitly approve strikes—instead, the attacks go forward unless the president objects.

Panetta's explanation of why he believes killing an American citizen without due process is legal wasn't exactly comforting. Here's the exchange:

PANETTA: Without getting into the specifics of the operation, if someone is a citizen of the United States, and is a terrorist who wants to attack our people and kill Americans, in my book that person is a terrorist. And the reality is that under our laws, that person is a terrorist. And we're required under a process of law, to be able to justify, that despite the fact that person may be a citizen, he is first and foremost a terrorist who threatens our people, and for that reason, we can establish a legal basis on which we oughta go after that individual, just as we go after bin Laden, just as we go after other terrorists. Why? Because their goal is to kill our people, and for that reason we have to defend ourselves.

PELLEY: They're not entitled to due process of law under the Constitution of the United States? They lose their citizenship if this administration decides they're a terrorist?

PANETTA: If this person wanted to suddenly raise questions about whether or not they're a terrorist, and they were to return to the United States, of course they would be entitled to due process. That's something we provide any US citizen. And for that matter frankly any terrorist who is arrested; we provide due process to that individual as well. But if a terrorist is out there on the battlefield, and the terrorist is threatening this country, that person is an enemy combatant, and when an enemy combatant holds a gun at your head, you fire back

Panetta's explanation isn't much more complex than "when we say someone is a terrorist, then we can kill them, because they're a terrorist." The entire point of due process, however, is to determine whether or not someone is actually guilty. The defense secretary's metaphor—that you can fire back when someone "holds a gun to your head"—might justify killing an American citizen who is fighting on an actual battlefield, like Afghanistan. But it suggests violence as an appropriate response to an imminent threat, rather than the actual circumstances under which say, radical cleric and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki appears to have been killed.

President Obama just signed a bill that, if not for its many administrative loopholes, would "mandate" military detention for non-citizen terror suspects apprehended on American soil, so it's not accurate for Panetta to state that "any" suspected terrorist apprehended by the US receives due process. The vast majority of the nearly two hundred detainees at Gitmo have never been charged with anything, let alone tried and convicted. Osama bin Laden was the admitted leader of a group engaged in an armed conflict against US troops in Afghanistan; concrete evidence that al-Awlaki was more than a front for extremist propaganda has never been aired.

There's also an Orwellian element to Panetta's argument that anyone on the US kill list should simply turn themselves in and get a fair trial. As Glenn Greenwald reminds us, we only know that al-Awlaki was on the kill list because his name was leaked to the press. Any other Americans who might be on the list have no way of knowing they've been targeted absent leaks from administration officials or the sound they hear right before they're annihilated by a Hellfire missile. (Even calling friends, family, or a lawyer to turn yourself in could be the act that gets you killed.) If such an individual did know he was on the list, how exactly is he supposed to believe he'd have due process after giving himself up, given that he's already been sentenced to death by the administration? Is a fair trial even possible under those circumstances?

"The criminal tendencies of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were on full display today when it was revealed the agency installed spy software and illegally hacked into the private Gmail accounts of at least half a dozen of its own top scientists.Those scientists, it turns out, were the very same whistleblowers who warned Congress about the FDA's approval of dangerous medical devices that threatened the lives of patients"...

FDA hacked into private Gmail accounts of its own whistleblower scientist using covert spy technology
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger

(NaturalNews) The criminal tendencies of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were on full display today when it was revealed the agency installed spy software and illegally hacked into the private Gmail accounts of at least half a dozen of its own top scientists. Those scientists, it turns out, were the very same whistleblowers who warned Congress about the FDA's approval of dangerous medical devices that threatened the lives of patients. In response to them taking action to protect the lives of the innocent -- something the FDA is supposed to do but has long since abandoned -- they were instead subjected to illegal hacking and having their employment contracts with the FDA terminated.

Those six scientists and doctors have now filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court which claims that they were subjected to FDA internal harassment and unjustified job termination. The lawsuit also describes how the FDA hacked into the private email accounts of these scientists, then intercepted their "whistleblower complaints" intended to be seen only by members of Congress.

"The complaint details how the FDA targeted its employees with a covert spying campaign that lasted for two years," reports Whistleblowers.org (http://www.whistleblowers.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&...). "The [FDA] installed (or activated) spyware on their workplace computers and used other technology that to monitor their password-protected Gmail-to-Gmail communications. Managers used the collected information to learn the identities of confidential whistleblowers and to obtain the details of the public health and safety concerns the whistleblowers intended to disclose to the Office of Special Counsel, Congress and the Agency's own Inspector General."

More importantly, documents reveal that the FDA's own lawyers engaged in a criminal cover-up of evidence in order to obstruct justice and retaliate against the FDA scientists:

"The managers who spearheaded the surveillance efforts were the same managers involved with the wrongdoing and corruption that the whistleblowers were seeking to report. Lawyers at the FDA and HHS Offices of General Counsel, who should have understood that the program breached the employees' confidentiality, helped FDA managers with their obstruction and retaliation."

Taxpayer-funded Freddie Mac caught betting billions against struggling American homeowners (Video)


Monday, January 30, 2012

U.S. Defense Department can't account for billions for Iraq, audit finds...

U.S. Defense Department can't account for billions for Iraq, audit finds
By Josh Levs, CNN
updated 10:14 AM EST, Mon January 30, 2012

(CNN) -- The U.S. Defense Department cannot account for about $2 billion it was given to cover Iraq-related expenses and is not providing Iraq with a complete list of U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, according to two new government audits.

The reports come from the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The Iraqi government in 2004 gave the Department of Defense access to about $3 billion to pay bills for certain contracts, and the department can only show what happened to about a third of that, the inspector general says in an audit published Friday.

Although the Department of Defense (DoD) had "internal processes and controls" to track payments, the "bulk of the records are missing," the report says, adding that the department is searching for them.

Other documents are missing as well, including monthly reports documenting expenses, the audit says.

"From July 2004 through December 2007, DoD should have provided 42 monthly reports. However, it can locate only the first four reports."

A letter accompanying the report is signed by Stuart Bowen, the inspector general. The audit was overseen by Glenn Furbish, assistant inspector general for audits.

In a response letter also contained in the report, Defense Under Secretary Mark Easton acknowledges "a records management issue."

The audit says it believes records management is to blame, and "has been an ongoing problem for DoD in Iraq. By all accounts, DoD established good internal processes and controls to account for and report on" the funds it was given after the Coalition Provisional Authority dissolved.

Where the records did exist, they matched other records and contained "good financial documentation supporting individual payments." Also, there is "sufficient evidence" that required monthly reports were sent to the government of Iraq, even though they can't be found, the audit said.

The audit deals with a time when Iraq's government was undergoing a transition. The Coalition Provisional Authority ran the country for 14 months from 2003 to 2004. During that time, the authority awarded numerous contracts. When it dissolved in 2004, the Iraqi government gave the U.S. Defense Department access to the $3 billion to pay bills for contracts the provisional authority had awarded.

The Defense Department letter from Easton -- the department's deputy chief financial officer -- thanks the inspector general's office for "the collaborative effort and professional courtesy" in a series of audits.

Separately, the inspector general's office sent a letter Sunday to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq complaining that the U.S. government is not providing Iraq with a complete list of reconstruction projects.

The U.S. criteria for selecting which projects to report to Iraq -- which include only those valued at $250,000 or more -- is a central part of the problem, the letter says.

The U.S. Embassy says the system is designed to help Iraq "focus its limited resources on sustainment of infrastructure and other large capital projects done through U.S. reconstruction efforts," the report notes.

The inspector general's office argues that the limited list -- which is also "hampered by unreliable data and other data entry problems" -- does not allow Iraq to decide where to focus its resources, and notes that the country might consider some smaller projects more important than those that are reported.

"Without more comprehensive knowledge about reconstruction projects the (Iraqi government) will not be in a position to maximize the use of its resources," the report says.

Billions of dollars in spending are not reported to Iraq under the current system, the report says.

In a response letter, Peter Bodde, assistant chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, says that while the current system is incomplete, "it does capture the vast majority of reconstruction projects and there is no other alternative that captures more."

He also notes that the Iraq reconstruction effort "is now in its very last stages, and all remaining capital projects will be reported through the asset transfer process."

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was created in 2004 to continue oversight of Iraq reconstruction programs.

Shipwreck hunters find mysterious object at bottom of Baltic Sea...

'It's either the Millennium Falcon or a gateway to hell': Shipwreck hunters find mysterious object at bottom of Baltic Sea
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 3:32 AM on 29th January 2012

Shipwreck surveyors found a remarkable object in the depths of the Baltic Sea, but before they start celebrating, they need to figure out what it is.

A Swedish company named Ocean Explorer have discovered an unidentified object using their sonar technology in a secret location in the Baltic Sea.
Because of a lack of funding and bad timing, they have not been able to pull a team together to see for themselves.

Their sonar pictures show that the object is a massive cylinder with a 60 metre diameter and a 400 metre-long tail.

A similar disk-shaped object was also found about 200 metres away.

At this point, the story behind the object is anyone's guess.

'We've heard lots of different kinds of explanations, from George Lucas's spaceship -- the Millennium Falcon -- to 'it's some kind of plug to the inner world,' like it should be hell down there or something,' said Peter Lindberg, a diver on the team.

While the Ocean Explorer team is understandably excited about their potentially earth-shattering find, others are slightly more sceptical and are questioning the accuracy of the sonar technology.

In the past, such technology has confused foreign objects with unusual- but natural- rock formations.

For now, Ocean Explorers have to wait to find out until chaotic water conditions calm down in order to allow a manned expedition to happen.

Additionally, they are looking for financial backers to help aid the cost of the discovery process, and are calling for interested investors on their website.

Part of the trouble they face, however, is that they have no way of telling what is inside the supposed cylinder- whether it is filled with gold and riches or simply aged sediment particles.

They're hoping for the former, and history seems to be in their favour.
The Baltic Sea is a treasure trove for shipwreck hunters, as an estimated 100,000 objects are thought to line the cold sea's floor.

The company have created a submarine that they hope will appeal to tourists and wannabe shipwreck hunters who will pay to take a trip down to the bottom of the Baltic Sea to see for themselves.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pakistan doctor who led US to bin Laden was CIA agent...

Doctor who led us to bin Laden was CIA agent, says US
Imprisoned Pakistani ran fake health scheme to get DNA evidence that al-Qa'ida leader was in house
David Randall Sunday 29 January 2012

The United States has confirmed publicly for the first time that a Pakistani doctor long suspected of collecting vital evidence before the assassination of Osama bin Laden was indeed working for them.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told 60 Minutes on CBS, in a profile to be broadcast today, that Shakil Afridi helped provide proof that the compound in Abbottabad to which they had tracked a Bin Laden courier, was indeed sheltering the al-Qa'ida leader. Armed with this information, President Barack Obama swiftly authorised last May's assault by a US Navy Seals team. Bin Laden was killed, and a much-embarrassed Pakistan arrested Dr Afridi for acting for a foreign intelligence service. He has been in jail since, on suspicion of treason. Mr Panetta said he is "very concerned" for the doctor.

Mr Panetta gave no further details, but previous off-the-record briefings, both in the US and Pakistan, have provided details of just how US officials verified that the tall bearded figure seen walking in the compound was indeed Bin Laden. They could not confirm identification from long-range photographs, but strongly suspected they had found their man.

Dr Afridi, the medic in charge of health in the Khyber, was recruited by the CIA to collect DNA evidence from the children inside the compound to confirm that they were Bin Laden's – he rarely went anywhere without them for long. The plan was to mount a local hepatitis vaccination programme; ostensibly a public health initiative, its real purpose was to establish the genetics of the people inside the compound.

A nurse was duly allowed in. Either through collecting blood samples, through DNA traces on syringe needles or via an electronic device she reportedly carried in her handbag, the necessary proof was obtained. Operation Geronimo was launched, and President Obama was soon able to announce that the world's most wanted man was dead.

Pakistan was embarrassed on several levels. First, that the US was able to mount such an operation on its soil. Second, that it did not inform Pakistan until it was over. Third, by the implication that Pakistan's participation in the hunt for the al-Qa'ida leader was less than whole-hearted. Mr Panetta told CBS: "Don't forget, this compound had 18ft walls ... It was the largest compound in the area. So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question: 'What the hell's going on there?'"

He said he remains convinced that someone in the Pakistani government "must have had some sense" that a person of interest was in the compound, but added that he has no proof that Pakistan knew it was Bin Laden.

Of the accusation of treason against Dr Afridi, he said: "He was not in any way treasonous ... Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism ... and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I think is a real mistake."

Associated Press reported yesterday that Pakistan had hoped to resolve the matter quietly, perhaps releasing Dr Afridi to US custody, according to two Pakistani officials. They requested anonymity because the investigation into charges that the doctor behaved treasonously was ongoing.

"While the Obama administration was shying away from SOPA, it has been aggressively pursuing ACTA.Critics say it is much more far-reaching than SOPA, bypassing “the sovereign laws of participating nations” and “forcing ISP’s across the globe to act as internet police"...

ACTA is worse than SOPA, here’s what you need to know
J. D. Heyes
Natural News
January 29, 2012

As a warrior for Internet freedom, you helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA by supporting Web black outs by sites like Wikipedia and by contacting your lawmaker to voice your displeasure. So loud was your voice that even the president of the United States sided with you in opposing it.

But don’t take a deep sigh of relief because, after all, we’re talking about a merger of Washington, D.C., and Hollywood here, as well as global interests. After the motion picture industry, its subsidiaries and all “interested parties” have spent nearly $150 million lobbying for some sort of Internet-centric “anti-piracy” bill, you should have known the powers that be would return.

And they have, only this time they are pushing something far more onerous: ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

“Although the proposed treaty’s title might suggest that the agreement deals only with counterfeit physical goods (such as medicines) what little information has been made available publicly by negotiating governments about the content of the treaty makes it clear that it will have a far broader scope and in particular will deal with new tools targeting ‘Internet distribution and information technology’”, says an assessment of ACTA by the watchdogs at the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

“ACTA has several features that raise significant potential concerns for consumers’ privacy and civil liberties for innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet [regarding] legitimate commerce and for developing countries’ ability to choose policy options that best suit their domestic priorities and level of economic development,” says EFF’s assessment.

As is usually the case with dubious, rights-stripping legislation, ACTA – which Forbes.com reports was signed by the U.S. in 2011 and has already been sanctioned as well by Japan, Switzerland and many European Union nations – has largely been negotiated in the shadows and, thus, has largely been devoid of scrutiny… until now.

While the Obama administration was shying away from SOPA, it has been aggressively pursuing ACTA (full disclosure: the process was started under the Bush administration). Critics say it is much more far-reaching than SOPA, bypassing “the sovereign laws of participating nations” and “forcing ISP’s across the globe to act as internet police,” Forbes said.

But ACTA isn’t limited just to the Internet. In fact, the agreement would crack down things like generic drugs and would make food patents more difficult to obtain “by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world,” Forbes says.

The good thing is, there is not universal acceptance of ACTA and its onerous, liberty-stealing provisions. Emerging nations like Brazil and India are adamantly opposed to it for rightfully fearing its provisions would harm their economies.

But Internet freedom is also under attack from other quarters as well. The EFF also notes thatthe Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which is a separate measure, would “rewrite the global rules on IP enforcement”.

“All signatory countries will be required to conform their domestic laws and policies to the provisions of the Agreement,” said the EFF assessment. “In the U.S. this is likely to further entrench controversial aspects of U.S. copyright law. The recently leaked U.S. IP chapter also includes provisions that appear to go beyond current U.S. law. This raises significant concerns for citizens’ due process, privacy and freedom of expression rights.”

SOPA may be history but that doesn’t mean Internet freedom does not remain under assault. Tyrants never stop trying to enforce tyranny.

Censoring of tweets sets off outrage...

Censoring of Tweets Sets Off #Outrage
Saturday 28 January 2012
by: Somini Sengupta, The New York Times News Service | Report

San Francisco - It started five years ago after a young engineer in San Francisco sketched out a quirky little Web tool for telling your friends what you were up to. It became a bullhorn for millions of people worldwide, especially vital in nations that tend to muzzle their own people.

But this week, in a sort of coming-of-age moment, Twitter announced that upon request, it would block certain messages in countries where they were deemed illegal. The move immediately prompted outcry, argument and even calls for a boycott from some users.

Twitter in turn sought to explain that this was the best way to comply with the laws of different countries. And the whole episode, swiftly amplified worldwide through Twitter itself, offered a telling glimpse into what happens when a scrappy Internet start-up tries to become a multinational business.

“Thank you for the #censorship, #twitter, with love from the governments of #Syria, #Bahrain, #Iran, #Turkey, #China, #Saudi and friends,” wrote Björn Nilsson, a user in Sweden.

Bianca Jagger asked, almost existentially, “How are we going to boycott #TWITTER?”

Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, took the other side. “I’m defending Twitter’s policy because it is the one I hope others adopt: transparent, minimally compliant w/ law, user-empowering,” she wrote.

Twitter, like other Internet companies, has always had to remove content that is illegal in one country or another, whether it is a copyright violation, child pornography or something else. What is different about Twitter’s announcement is that it plans to redact messages only in those countries where they are illegal, and only if the authorities there make a valid request.

So if someone posts a message that insults the monarchy of Thailand, which is punishable by a jail term, it will be blocked and unavailable to Twitter users in that country, but still visible elsewhere. What is more, Twitter users in Thailand will be put on notice that something was removed: A gray box will show up in its place, with a clear note: “Tweet withheld,” it will read. “This tweet from @username has been withheld in: Thailand.”

Think of it as the digital equivalent of a newspaper responding to old-fashioned government censorship with a blank front page.

“We have always had the obligation to remove illegal content. This is a way to keep it up in places where we can,” said Alex Macgillivray, general counsel at Twitter. “We have been working on this awhile. We needed to figure out how to deal with this as a company.”

The majority of Twitter’s 100 million users are overseas and it has several offices abroad working to expand its business and drum up local advertising. Twitter’s president, Jack Dorsey, said this week that it would open an office in Germany, which prohibits Nazi material online and offline.

The announcement signals the choice that a service like Twitter has to make about its own existence: Should it be more of a free-speech tool that can be used in defiance of governments, as happened during the Arab Spring protests, or a commercial venture that necessarily must obey the laws of the lands where it seeks to attract customers and eventually make money?

Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School and author of “The Master Switch,” said the changes could undermine the usefulness of Twitter in authoritarian countries.

“I don’t fault them for wanting to run a normal business,” he said. “It does suggest someone or something else needs to take Twitter’s place as a political tool.”

Professor Wu urged the company to use discretion: “Twitter needs to be careful not to be in a position where it’s no longer helpful to a rebellion against oppressive governments. It needs to remain its old self in some circumstances.”

Twitter’s policy of allowing its users to adopt pseudonyms made it particularly useful to many protest organizers in the Arab world, and its chief executive went so far as to call it “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.”

But Professor Wu wondered aloud if the new policy would have allowed Egyptians to organize protests using the service.

Twitter insists its new system is a way to promote greater transparency, not less. The company says it will not filter content before it is posted. It will not remove material that may be offensive, only that which it thinks is illegal. And it said it would also try to notify users whose posts had been withheld by sending them an e-mail with an explanation.

The company identifies the locations of its users by looking at the Internet Protocol addresses of their computers or phones. But it also allows users to manually set their location or choose “worldwide.” Essentially that is a way to circumvent the blocking system entirely. A user in Syria can simply change her location setting to “worldwide” and see everything.

Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, successfully tried this herself after Twitter announced its new approach. “Unfortunately it is a necessary evil when offering a service in certain countries,” Ms. York said of the new system.

Critics on Twitter surmised that the company had been pressed to adopt country-specific censorship after a major investment by a Saudi prince, a theory that Mr. Macgillivray quickly dismissed..

Facebook also handles requests to remove content that is illegal in certain countries, though it does not explain what it removes and for what reason. In its search results, Google signals what it is required to redact under a certain country’s law — and in the case of YouTube, a Google product, it can block content country by country.

Twitter has followed in Google’s footsteps in another respect. It has opted to post some of the removal requests it receives on Chilling Effects, a site jointly run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several American universities. Mr. Macgillivray was previously on the legal team at Google and, as a student at Harvard, he worked on Chilling Effects.

“We have always tried to let people talk and tweet. That has not been good for despots,” Mr. Macgillivray said in response to the criticism. “There is no change in policy. What this does is it strengthens, when we are legally required to, our ability to withhold something and to let people know it has been withheld.”

Still, not long after the announcement, there were calls for a silent protest on Saturday — and naturally, a hashtag to go with it.

“I’m joining the #TwitterBlackout & won’t tweet tomorrow,” wrote a user identified as Omar Johani. “Time to go back to getting news 12 hours after it happened.”

LAPD conducts joint exercises with the military...

LA Police Department Conducts Joint Exercises with the Military
Saturday 28 January 2012
by: Dan Bacher, AlterNet | Report

The LA Police Department, known for its brutality and corruption over the years, and the U.S. military conducted joint “tactical exercises” in downtown LA this week.

One Black Hawk, a helicopter that has served in combat in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East, and four OH-6 choppers – “Little Birds” – flew over the city during the exercise.

At one point they flew just above the US Bank building downtown and later flew over the Staples Center as the Los Angeles Lakers played against the Los Angeles Clippers inside.

According to a Department news release on January 23, “Multi-agency tactical exercises are to be conducted during evening hours around the downtown area January 22-26, 2012.”

“The Los Angeles Police Department will be providing support for a joint military training exercise in and around the great Los Angeles area,” the release stated. “This will be routine training conducted by military personnel, designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments, prepare forces for upcoming overseas deployments, and meet mandatory training certification requirements.”

“This training has been coordinated with local authorities and owners of the training sites. The training sites have been carefully selected to ensure the event does not negatively impact the citizens of Los Angeles and their daily routines,” the Department claimed.

“Lastly, safety precautions have been taken to prevent risk to the general public and the military personnel involved. As such, this training is not open to the public,” the Department concluded.

Members of the Occupy movement were outraged by the joint exercises by the LA police and military, in light of the unprecedented campaign by the US government and local police agencies against the First Amendment, Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

“Open to the public?” the Occupy LA Morning Report blog responded. “You mean the deployment of military assets in an urban area is supposed to be inconspicuous? The video of these ‘exercises’ would be something to behold, probably much like what we saw in Iron-Curtain Eastern Europe and Tiananmen Square. But since the NDAA 2012 was passed nothing seems surprising any more.”

“It appears America is preparing for war against its own citizens. I don’t know how else to put it. If someone can make a suggestion for another way of interpreting this, please do,” the blog stated.

Joint military exercises have also been conducted over Boston, Massachusetts and Little Rock, Arkansas over the past six months.

These joint military training exercises become very ominous in the wake of the repression of the Occupy movement by police departments throughout the nation.The crackdown on the First Amendment by the cities of Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland San Francisco and others across the country is apparently part of a nationally coordinated campaign by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal law enforcement agencies in collaboration with local police departments, as exposed by author Naomi Wolf in her November 25 article in the UK Guardian.

“So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence,” wrote Wolf. “It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent.”

The exercises become even more ominous when you consider that President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on New Year’s Eve, allowing indefinite detention to be codified into law.

Obama had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use it and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a statement.

“The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield,” the ACLU said.

President Barack Obama brought us “Change,” all right, “Change” for the worse!

U.S falls to 47th in press freedom rankings after Occupy crackdown...

U.S falls to 47th in press freedom rankings after Occupy crackdown
By Ellen Connolly
Last updated at 7:06 AM on 26th January 2012

Sweeping protests around the world made it an extremely difficult year for the media, and tested journalists as never before, the annual report into press freedom reveals.

The annual report by Reporters Without Borders has been released, showing the United States fell 27 points on the list due to the many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests.

The slide in the United States places it just behind Comoros and Taiwan in a group with Argentina and Romania.

Reporters Without Borders said the heightened unrest around the world resulted in a significant shake-up of the group's annual Press Freedom Index, which assesses governments' commitment to protecting media freedoms.

The Paris-based non-governmental Reporters Without Borders has named “crackdown” the word of 2011 in an assessment of global media freedom during a year in which journalists covering sweeping protests were tested as never before.

The non-governmental organisation seeks to defend journalists’ freedom to work and combat censorship internationally.

Despite the big changes, some constants remained. The country with the freest media in the world was Finland, followed by Norway, Estonia, the Netherlands and Austria. Eritrea was last, with North Korea just above.

The United States was not alone in the falling grades: Bahrain fell 29 points because of the crackdown in that country.

Egypt and Syria also fell a few points to languish near the bottom of the pack (166) and (176) respectively.

The group judged that Syria, along with Iran and China, 'seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror.'

Pakistan was the world’s deadliest country for journalists, and Eritrea came in last in the list of overall press freedom.Syria, where an uprising against the government has been met with a brutal crackdown that has left more than 5,000 people dead, received its worst rating ever at 176.

In Afghanistan (150th) and Pakistan (151st), reporters remained under constant threat from the Taliban, religious extremists, separatist movements and political groups. With 10 deaths last year, Pakistan was the world’s most dangerous country for journalists for the second year in a row.

'Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous.

The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them,' it said.

Elsewhere within the European Union, countries such as Bulgaria (80th), Greece (70th) and Italy (61st) failed to address the issue of media freedom violations, largely because of a lack of political will.

Libya came in 154th in the list, while Yemen was in 171th place.'
'The future of both of these countries remains uncertain, and the place they will allow the media is undecided.

The same goes for Egypt, which fell 39 places to 166th place.'

Syria was 176th, because journalists were unable to work because of total censorship, widespread surveillance, indiscriminate violence and government manipulation.

The report also highlights how pro-democracy movements that tried to emulate the example of the Arab revolutions were brutally suppressed. Vietnam (172nd) saw many arrests, while China (174th) stepped up its system of controlling news and information in response to public dissatisfaction with corruption and other injustices.

The biggest falls in the index were in Africa – Djibouti fell 49 places to 159th, Malawi (146th) fell 67 places and Uganda fell 43 places to 139th.

The Paris-based press freedom watchdog said Wednesday that the wave of uprisings in the Middle East, the Occupy movement in the West and continued protests in China gave journalists an unprecedented role in advancing democracy. But they also were often targeted by governments trying to quash dissent.

'Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much,' the group said in a statement accompanying its report.

But the important role journalists played put them in the cross hairs of repressive regimes, the report said, adding: 'Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous.'

Oakland police fire tear gas, flash grenades on Occupy protesters...

Oakland police fire tear gas, flash grenades on Occupy protesters
January 28, 2012 by legitgov

Oakland police used tear gas and "flash" grenades Saturday to break up an estimated 2,000 Occupy protesters after some demonstrators started throwing objects at officers and tearing down fencing. There were at least 19 arrests, but no reports of serious injuries. Police declared an unlawful assembly after marchers tore down perimeter fences at the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"The story of al-Qaeda's Chicago brokerage account is one of the more peculiar and tantalizing threads of the 9/11 story, showing that al-Qaeda had a robust financial network in the United States years after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.According to government filings, the account was opened in 2003 by a person identified only as "individual A," presumably an informant. The account, opened under the name Bridge Investments, purportedly a corporation based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, eventually was turned over to a Saudi, Qasim al-Ghamdi"...

U.S. fights to keep $6.6 million in al-Qaeda assets from 9/11 victims
January 22, 2012
By Chris Mondics, Inquirer Staff Writer
Philadelphia Inquirer

In a ferocious legal battle pitting government lawyers against victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Justice Department is fighting to block thousands of individuals and businesses from taking $6.6 million in frozen al-Qaeda assets seized from an alleged terrorism financier.

Frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2007, the money is sought by the attorneys for 6,000 individual victims and insurers who suffered billions in losses from the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The money, in a Chicago brokerage account controlled by senior al-Qaeda operative Abu al-Tayyeb until his arrest in Saudi Arabia in 2006, drew little public notice until lawyers for 9/11 victims moved in June to collect on a 2007 default judgment.

A short time later, the Justice Department initiated legal proceedings to claim the money for itself - and keep it out of the hands of the 9/11 victims and insurers.

That triggered a fierce response from the victims' lawyers, among them the Center City law firm Cozen O'Connor, who accuse the Justice Department of duplicity in seeking to prevent them from getting access to the money.

"The facts are that the U.S. government, under the professed guise of good intentions toward victims of al-Qaeda, is pulling out every trick in the book to prevent individual victims of Sept. 11, 2001 . . . from pursuing and attaching [al-Qaeda funds]," the victims' lawyers said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Randall Sanborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, declined to comment. He instead cited government filings arguing that the victims had missed the legal deadline for filing their claims and that the Justice Department was better positioned to distribute the money.

Those assertions have infuriated some survivors of the 9/11 attacks.

"It's disgusting," Sharon Premoli, who was working in the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks and barely escaped with her life, said of the government's position. "It's not a huge sum of money. Why would they stand in the way?"

The case is a little-known, if critical, legal skirmish in a long-running battle between lawyers for victims and commercial interests seeking compensation for the 9/11 attacks. The litigation has been headed by Cozen O'Connor, which represents dozens of insurance-industry clients; Motley Rice, a prominent plaintiffs firm in South Carolina that rose to prominence and considerable wealth during the bitterly fought tobacco litigation of the 1990s; and other law firms.

Cozen has battled since 2003 to win financial damages against the government of Saudi Arabia, alleging that the Saudis funded Islamist charities that, in turn, financed al-Qaeda's rise from a ragtag regional terrorist group to a global menace.

In 2009, the Supreme Court dealt Cozen and other plaintiffs' lawyers a severe blow when it refused to hear an appeal of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan barring terrorism lawsuits against the Saudi kingdom.

The court said U.S. citizens could sue a foreign government for terrorism only if the State Department had designated it a supporter of terrorism. And in the case of Saudi Arabia, there had been no such finding.

But there have been signs in the last few months that the legal tide has shifted slightly in favor of the plaintiffs. In a November ruling in a lawsuit against the government of Afghanistan for acts of terror committed under the Taliban regime, the Second Circuit court effectively reversed itself, saying the suit could proceed even though there had been no State Department finding that Afghanistan had engaged in terrorism. The ruling potentially gave plaintiffs' lawyers a new avenue for pursuing Saudi Arabia.

Then in December, Cozen and other plaintiffs' lawyers won a final award of $9 billion in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks. They are trying to seize the Chicago brokerage account on that basis. They say that they will use the money to finance their litigation against foreign governments and terrorism financiers, and that they will claim no fees from the award.

In its filings, the Justice Department said it was better able than the courts to distribute the money. But it made no commitment that the money would end up in victims' hands. The department said the money might also be used to finance its own antiterrorism efforts.

The story of al-Qaeda's Chicago brokerage account is one of the more peculiar and tantalizing threads of the 9/11 story, showing that al-Qaeda had a robust financial network in the United States years after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

According to government filings, the account was opened in 2003 by a person identified only as "individual A," presumably an informant. The account, opened under the name Bridge Investments, purportedly a corporation based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, eventually was turned over to a Saudi, Qasim al-Ghamdi.

Between June and September 2005, al-Tayyeb transmitted $23.4 million to al-Ghamdi to deposit in the Chicago account for investing. Because of poor trades, the money dwindled to about $6.5 million, according to the government.

In 2007, after al-Ghamdi and al-Tayyeb were arrested in Saudi Arabia, the Treasury Department moved to freeze the account.

The Justice Department depicts al-Tayyeb as a senior figure who met with Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Muhammed, planner of the 9/11 attacks.

He raised money in Saudi Arabia and was in the Afghan city of Kandahar as U.S. forces were closing in. There, he and Sheik Mohammed planned al-Qaeda's withdrawal to northern Pakistan.

Subsequently, government lawyers say, al-Tayyeb planned a series of terror attacks against Saudi government officials, U.S. military personnel, and U.S. citizens living in Saudi Arabia that evidently were never carried out.

BP exempted from US ban on Iran oil...

BP exempted from US ban on Iran oil
Mon Jan 23, 2012 4:24PM GMT

BP Plc, UK, and EU have reportedly convinced US lawmakers to exempt a BP-led project from the newly- proposed Washington sanctions on Iran.

This is a clear indication that the West is pushing for stricter embargoes on Tehran without harming its own economy.

US senators have discussed provisions that could bar companies like BP from working with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Reuters quoted one congressional aide as saying on Monday.

The project, known as Shah Deniz, is a USD20 billion enterprise in the Caspian Sea off Azerbaijan, in which the Iranian state-owned oil company Naftiran Intertrade Co., an NIOC subsidiary, holds a 10% stake.

On New Year's Eve, US President Barack Obama signed into law fresh unilateral economic sanctions against Iran's Central Bank in an apparent bid to punish foreign companies and banks that do business with the Iranian financial institution. The bill ultimately takes aim at Iran's oil revenue.

The United States, Israel and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to impose four rounds of sanctions and a series of unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has refuted the allegations, arguing that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran has a right to use nuclear technology for peaceful use.

Joe Rogan and Rosie O'Donnell discuss World Trade Center 7 (Video)


Governments worldwide raise acceptable radiation levels based upon politics, not science...

Governments Worldwide Raise Acceptable Radiation Levels Based Upon Politics … Not Science
Posted on January 24, 2012 by WashingtonsBlog

American and Canadian authorities have virtually stopped monitoring airborne radiation.

Neither American nor Canadian authorities are testing fish for radioactivity.

Does that mean that we don’t have to worry about radiation from Fukushima?

It is a little hard to know, given that what is deemed a “safe level” of radiation is determined by politics … rather than science. For example, current safety standards are based on the ridiculous assumption that everyone exposed is a healthy man in his 20s – and that radioactive particles ingested into the body cause no more damage than radiation hitting the outside of the body.

And one of the main advisors to the Japanese government on Fukushima announced:

If you smile, the radiation will not affect you.

(Here’s the video.)

In the real world, however, even low doses of radiation can cause cancer. Moreover, small particles of radiation – called “internal emitters” – which get inside the body are much more dangerous than general exposures to radiation. See this and this. And radiation affects small children much more than full-grown adults.

Indeed, instead of doing much to try to protect their citizens from Fukushima, Japan, the U.S. and the EU all just raised the radiation levels they deem “safe”.

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says that high-level friends in the State Department told him that Hillary Clinton signed a pact with her counterpart in Japan agreeing that the U.S. will continue buying seafood from Japan, despite that food not being tested for radioactive materials.

And the Department of Energy is trying to replace the scientifically accepted model of the dangers of low dose radiation based on voodoo science. Specifically, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley Labs used a mutant line of human cells in a petri dish which was able to repair damage from low doses of radiation, and extrapolated to the unsupported conclusion that everyone is immune to low doses of radiation:

In reality, not only is there overwhelming evidence that low doses of radiation can cause cancer, but there is some evidence that low doses can – in certain circumstances cause more damage than higher doses.

As I pointed out in April:

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported that one of the best-known scientists of the 20th century – Dr. John Gofman – also believed that chronic low level radiation is more dangerous than acute exposure to high doses. Gofman was a doctor of nuclear and physical chemistry and a medical doctor who worked on the Manhattan Project, co-discovered uranium-232 and -233 and other radioactive isotopes and proved their fissionability, helped discover how to extract plutonium, led the team that discovered and characterized lipoproteins in the causation of heart disease, served as a Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California Berkeley, served as Associate Director of the Livermore National Laboratory, was asked by the Atomic Energy Commission to undertake a series of long range studies on potential dangers that might arise from the “peaceful uses of the atom”, and wrote four scholarly books on radiation health effects.

And see this, this and this.

Obama has private meeting with Bush,Sr. and his son Jeb...

Obama hosts George H.W. and Jeb Bush at White House

Unbeknownst to the press, President Obama met this evening with former president George H.W. Bush and his son, former Florida governor Jeb Bush in the Oval Office.

White House officials did not list the meeting on the president's schedule but released a photo through Flickr and Twitter.

According to the date and time stamp on the photo, it was taken shortly after 5 p.m. That's about the time Obama returned to the White House from a fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

White House officials did not immediately respond to questions about the subject of the meeting and its exclusion from Obama's public schedule.

Friday, January 27, 2012

CIA-backed Cleversafe announces 10-exabyte storage system...

CIA-backed Cleversafe announces 10-exabyte storage system
Massive repositories can be used for big data analytics
By Lucas Mearian
January 25, 2012 08:01 AM ET

Computerworld - Object-based storage vendor Cleversafe today announced the availability of a storage system that can house up to 10 exabytes (that's 1 billion gigabytes) of data in a single pool of capacity.

To put a storage system of that size in perspective, 1,000 gigabytes is a terabyte, and a terabyte of storage can hold about 300 hours of video. Cleversafe's new storage system could hold 1 million times as much data as that.

It would require 4.5 million 3.5TB hard drives to build the 10-exabyte storage system, Cleversafe said. Today's 3TB hard drives can cost as little as $150, but a storage system the size of Cleversafe's would still cost $705 million for the spinning disks alone.

Russ Kennedy, vice president of Cleversafe's product strategy, said the entire system -- with racks, networking equipment and Cleversafe software -- would run in the "single-digits" billions of dollars.

Cleversafe said it created the design for a 10-exabyte data storage system to address customers' need to capitalize on the intelligence gained through big data analytics, which require larger and larger data stores for unstructured data.

Although the company hasn't yet built out the full storage system, it has created a reference configuration that is tens of petabytes in size and dispersed in data centers in eight states, including New Jersey, California, Florida, Texas and Illinois.

"This configuration was built to prove it would work," Kennedy said. "We'll build it when [customers] want it. We have some very interested ones to date."

With worldwide Internet traffic volume increasing at a rate of 32% each year, companies looking to mine that data would "effectively analyze 80 exabytes of data per month by 2015," he said.

Cleversafe, a privately-held company founded in 2004, is well funded; it has received more than $31 million in venture money, including money from In-Q-Tel, a branch of the CIA that invests in startups.

"To any company, data is a priceless component. However, it's only valuable if a company can effectively look across that data over time for trends or to analyze behavior and to do it cost-effectively," said Kennedy. "In its true sense, Cleversafe's limitless data storage solution is a critical foundational enabler to Big Data analytics."

Big data tools are being used to analyze everything from IP traffic patterns for fraudulent activity to purchasing patterns for online retailers.

Cleversafe's new massive data storage buildout uses the same technology the company has been selling since its inception. Cleversafe's technology, which it calls Dispersed Storage, works by using a mathematical formula called the Cauchy Reed-Solomon Information Dispersal Algorithm to divide data before storing it.

The divided or "sliced" data, as Cleversafe calls it, is spread across multiple storage nodes (server appliances) using TCP/IP, typically across three or four data centers. Like RAID, the algorithm uses parity information to ensure that if any slices of data are lost or become corrupted, they can be rebuilt from the other slices.

"We're just using public Internet bandwidth. We use a number of network providers, both big and small telcos," Kennedy said.

Cleversafe uses three devices in its product offering: An Accesser node, which slices up and then retrieves data; a system called the Slicestor, which is the storage array that holds the data; and the Manager, a client that manages the storage network and offers various capacity reporting tools.

All data is stored under a single domain name space, so storage capacity appears as a single pool to a client server. Because each slice of data cannot be reassembled without the use of metadata held in a central database -- it's unrecognizable otherwise -- it is inherently secure, the company has said.

The 10-exabyte architecture has been expanded to allow for an independent scaling of storage capacity and performance through a system called Portable Datacenter (PD), a collection of storage and network racks that can be easily deployed or moved.

Each PD contains 21 racks with 189 storage nodes; each node has 45 3TB drives. The geographically distributed PD model allows for rapid scaling and mobility and is further optimized for site failure tolerance and high availability, Cleversafe said. The company's current configuration includes 16 sites across the U.S., with 35 PDs per site and hundreds of simultaneous readers/writers to deliver instantaneous access to billions of objects.

"In order for companies to continue to protect their data assets and to glean insight from the vast amounts of new data being collected, they must consider technology alternatives beyond RAID in order to scale without limits," David Reinsel, an analyst at research firm IDC, said in a statement.

While Cleversafe has yet to receive any customer orders for a 10-exabyte system, Kennedy did say there's a lot of interest from "Fortune 50" type corporations.'

"The concept of dispersal and the ability to store large unstructured objects without having to copy or replicate is really the impetus behind this kind of system," he said. "Most state-of-the-art object-based storage systems rely on a second and third copy in order to preserve the data. We're obviously able to do that with one copy."

Israel's by-pass foreign policy...

Israel’s By-Pass Foreign Policy
Wayne MADSEN | 25.01.2012 |

The right-wing government of Israel has embarked on a novel foreign policy, one that seeks to develop close relations with sub-national state and provincial governments, thus by-passing national governments and avoiding the increasing hostility of national foreign ministries and local grass roots movements to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

The establishment of state-to-state relations between Israel and such sub-national governments as American states, Canadian provinces, and even Native American tribal nations has increased under the ultra-nationalist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The new aggressive policy by Israel to seek allies at sub-national levels results in internal pressure on national governments to take a less critical approach to Israeli policies on the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel has developed a number of “formal partnership agreements” with American states. These agreements cover a number of areas, including economic and business relations, cultural ties, exchange trips by American state and Israeli government officials, technology exchange and research, and education. With some local jurisdictions and university and college campuses advancing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) initiatives against Israel, the Israeli government is confident that any attempts to take such proposals to the state level will be stopped dead in their tracks.

Virginia is one example of a state that has established a number of formal agreements with Israel. A number of joint operations have been created, including the Virginia Israel Advisory Board (VIAB), the Virginia Israel Partnership – created by Governor George Allen in 1995, and the Virginia Israel Technology Alliance. In September 2008, Virginia and Israel established a formal government-to-government partnership agreement when Governor Tim Kaine and Israeli ambassador Sallai Meridor signed a formal research and development agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Israel. The agreement, like many between Israel and the states, includes military and security technology exchange. The important factor is that the agreement was signed between Richmond and Jerusalem, by-passing the U.S. Department of State, the federal department that has overall authority over the foreign relations of the United States and other nations.

Defense links between the United States and foreign nations are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Defense. In 2003, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich and the Israeli government signed the Maryland-Israel Partnership in Homeland Security, the first of its kind among America’s states.

Formal agreements have been established between Israel and Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (Governor Rick Perry received the “Defender of Jerusalem” and “Friend of Zion” awards from Israel), Virginia, and Wisconsin. Most of the state agreements with Israel have been concluded over the past five years.

Some state legislatures have passed joint Senate-House/General Assembly resolutions supporting a continued strong relationship between the United States and Israel, which also by-pass the State Department’s responsibilities to sign agreements with foreign nations. On March 18, 2011, one such resolution, which called for “continued support” by the Colorado legislature for a strong relationship between the United States and Israel, was enacted by the Colorado Senate and General Assembly.

Even more peculiar is Israel’s government-to-government agreements with Native American tribes, which enjoy varying degrees of sovereignty from the U.S. federal government. Israel has established close links to the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. The Coushatta Tribe was the first U.S. tribe to recognize the State of Israel and officially welcome an Israeli delegation to the reservation. Israeli companies have staked a claim in the 700-acre Coushatta reservation in Louisiana. In 2008, the Coushatta Tribe issued an “Affirmation of Friendship” with Israel, recognizing May 14, the Israeli date of independence, as a Coushatta national holiday. The Israeli Consulate General in Houston maintains contact with the tribe and it has sought to expand trade and agricultural links between the Coushattas and Israel.

In 2001, the Coushatta Tribe retained the lobbying services of Republican Party lobbyist and noted Israel supporter Jack Abramoff. Abramoff squeezed money out of the tribe for himself and the Republicans by double-crossing the Coushattas into believing they would be spared from competing with native gambling casinos nearby in Texas if they donated money to anti-gambling GOP Christian conservatives.

One of the factors, in addition to casino interests, that are behind Israel’s interest in establishing state-to-state relations with U.S. tribes may be the application of pressure on the United States dissuading Washington’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Israel may believe that if the United States moves to formally recognize Palestine as independent, it can take similar steps toward the Native Tribal Nations of the United States.

By establishing relations with state governments, Israel is also free to involve itself in state-level politics. On January 13, the publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, wrote a column in which he postulated that Israel’s Mossad might have to consider assassinating the President of the United States if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon and the U.S. president failed to take military action against Iran. Adler wrote that it may be necessary for Israel to “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”

“Lone nut!” and “crazed lunatic!” proclaimed America’s Jewish political pressure groups about Adler’s column. However, Adler’s newspaper has close ties with Israel’s Consulate General in Atlanta and Jewish Republican Party officials in the state of Georgia. On December 30, 2011, the Atlanta Jewish Times featured a photograph of one of Adler’s chief columnists, Chuck Berk, who is also co-chair of Atlanta’s Republican Jewish Coalition, with Israeli Consul General in Atlanta Opher Aviran, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, and a few Georgia state senators. Shortly after his meeting with Deal and the Atlanta Jewish paper’s columnist, Aviran traveled from Atlanta to Jackson, Mississippi to be one of the very few foreign officials to attend the inauguration of Mississippi’s new Republican governor, Phil Bryant.

The threat by the Atlanta Jewish publisher coincided with a decision by a Georgia state administrative court judge in Atlanta named Michael M. Malihi to dismiss a motion brought by lawyers representing Obama to toss out a complaint to keep Obama’s name off the Georgia presidential ballot on the grounds that Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate is invalid and fails to establish his natural born U.S. citizenship status. One of the plaintiff attorneys in the case is Orly Taitz, a Moldavian SSR-born Israeli-American, who has sought to disprove Obama’s eligibility to serve as president and who has supported the goals of Israel’s right-wing government. Indeed, Atlanta has become every much a nexus for threats to President Obama as Dallas and New Orleans were for the safety of President John F. Kennedy. However, in Atlanta, there is a heavy Israeli and Jewish angle to radical anti-Obama activism.

Israel’s aggressive involvement in sub-national politics is also evident in Canada, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and other nations. Quebec’s long drive for separation from Canada has been plagued by Israeli and Jewish Quebecker attempts to paint the Quebec independence movement as “anti-Semitic,” with Parti Quebecois (PQ) and Bloc Quebecois parliamentarians coming under attack for supporting Palestinians and Lebanese in attacks by Israel on their homelands. In 2000, PQ politician Yves Michaud cited Israeli involvement in Quebec’s push for independence by declaring B’nai Brith Canada the “enemy of Quebec nationalists and a phalanx of the Israeli government.”

As with American states, Israel has established direct ties with such Canadian provinces as Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta.

Similar interference by pro-Israeli interests is being seen in Scotland’s current attempt to break free of the United Kingdom. Israel has joint ventures with Spain’s Basque Land (Euskadi) and Catalonia, Germany’s Bavaria, and Australia’s New South Wales and Queensland. In all the aforementioned states, the number one priority has been to derail BDS movements and ensure that local political leaders toe the pro-Israel line.

"IT’S time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become. Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras’s democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department’s making...Much of the press in the United States has attributed this violence solely to drug trafficking and gangs. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression"

In Honduras, a Mess Made in the U.S.
Published: January 26, 2012

IT’S time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become. Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras’s democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department’s making.

The headlines have been full of horror stories about Honduras. According to the United Nations, it now has the world’s highest murder rate, and San Pedro Sula, its second city, is more dangerous than Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a center for drug cartel violence.

Much of the press in the United States has attributed this violence solely to drug trafficking and gangs. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression.

The current government of President Lobo won power in a November 2009 election managed by the same figures who had initiated the coup. Most opposition candidates withdrew in protest, and all major international observers boycotted the election, except for the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are financed by the United States.

President Obama quickly recognized Mr. Lobo’s victory, even when most of Latin America would not. Mr. Lobo’s government is, in fact, a child of the coup. It retains most of the military figures who perpetrated the coup, and no one has gone to jail for starting it.

This chain of events — a coup that the United States didn’t stop, a fraudulent election that it accepted — has now allowed corruption to mushroom. The judicial system hardly functions. Impunity reigns. At least 34 members of the opposition have disappeared or been killed, and more than 300 people have been killed by state security forces since the coup, according to the leading human rights organization Cofadeh. At least 13 journalists have been killed since Mr. Lobo took office, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The police in Tegucigalpa, the capital, are believed to have killed the son of Julieta Castellanos, the rector of the country’s biggest university, along with a friend of his, on Oct. 22, 2011. Top police officials quickly admitted their suspects were police officers, but failed to immediately detain them. When prominent figures came forward to charge that the police are riddled with death squads and drug traffickers, the most famous accuser was a former police commissioner, Alfredo Landaverde. He was assassinated on Dec. 7. Only now has the government begun to make significant arrests of police officers.

State-sponsored repression continues. According to Cofadeh, at least 43 campesino activists participating in land struggles in the Aguán Valley have been killed in the past two and a half years at the hands of the police, the military and the private security army of Miguel Facussé. Mr. Facussé is mentioned in United States Embassy cables made public by WikiLeaks as the richest man in the country, a big supporter of the post-coup regime and owner of land used to transfer cocaine.

And yet, in early October, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Lobo at the White House for leadership in a “restoration of democratic practices.” Since the coup the United States has maintained and in some areas increased military and police financing for Honduras and has been enlarging its military bases there, according to an analysis by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Congress, though, has finally begun to push back. Last May, 87 members signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling for a suspension of military and police aid to Honduras. Representative Howard L. Berman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to her on Nov. 28, asking whether the United States was arming a dangerous regime. And in December, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others obtained conditions on a small portion of the 2012 police and military aid appropriated for Honduras.

Why has the State Department thrown itself behind the Lobo administration despite brutal evidence of the regime’s corruption? In part because it has caved in to the Cuban-American constituency of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and her allies. They have been ferocious about Honduras as a first domino with which to push back against the line of center-left and leftist governments that have won elections in Latin America in the past 15 years. With its American air base, Honduras is also crucial to the United States’ military strategy in Latin America.

As Honduras plunges into a tragic abyss, it’s time to finally cut off all police and military aid. “Stop feeding the beast” is the way Ms. Castellanos, the academician whose son was killed, puts it. She, like other human rights advocates, insists that the Lobo government cannot reform itself.

The State Department is beginning to help address the situation behind the scenes. But Honduran human-rights activists, along with many of us in the United States who care about Honduras, do not believe that this administration can, or should, manage a cleanup of the very cesspool it helped to create by supporting a government that owes its power to a coup.

Instead, we need to respect proposals for alternative approaches that Honduran human-rights advocates and the opposition are beginning to formulate. These come from people who are still fighting against the coup and who continue to risk paying the price of being shot dead by state security forces.

They, not the State Department, have the right to lead their country forward.

"The Navy’s new drone being tested near Chesapeake Bay stretches the boundaries of technology: It’s designed to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, one of aviation’s most difficult maneuvers.What’s even more remarkable is that it will do that not only without a pilot in the cockpit, but without a pilot at all.The X-47B marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. With the drone’s ability to be flown autonomously by onboard computers, it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently"...

New drone has no pilot anywhere, so who’s accountable?
January 26, 2012

The Navy’s new drone being tested near Chesapeake Bay stretches the boundaries of technology: It’s designed to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, one of aviation’s most difficult maneuvers.

What’s even more remarkable is that it will do that not only without a pilot in the cockpit, but without a pilot at all.

The X-47B marks a paradigm shift in warfare, one that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. With the drone’s ability to be flown autonomously by onboard computers, it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently.

Although humans would program an autonomous drone’s flight plan and could override its decisions, the prospect of heavily armed aircraft screaming through the skies without direct human control is unnerving to many.

“Lethal actions should have a clear chain of accountability,” said Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist and robotics expert. “This is difficult with a robot weapon. The robot cannot be held accountable. So is it the commander who used it? The politician who authorized it? The military’s acquisition process? The manufacturer, for faulty equipment?”

Sharkey and others believe that autonomous armed robots should force the kind of dialogue that followed the introduction of mustard gas in World War I and the development of atomic weapons inWorld War II. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the group tasked by the Geneva Conventions to protect victims in armed conflict, is already examining the issue.

“The deployment of such systems would reflect … a major qualitative change in the conduct of hostilities,” committee President Jakob Kellenberger said at a recent conference. “The capacity to discriminate, as required by [international humanitarian law], will depend entirely on the quality and variety of sensors and programming employed within the system.”

Weapons specialists in the military and Congress acknowledge that policymakers must deal with these ethical questions long before these lethal autonomous drones go into active service, which may be a decade or more away.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said policy probably will first be discussed with the bipartisan drone caucus that he co-chairs with Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). Officially known as the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, the panel was formed in 2009 to inform members of Congress on the far-reaching applications of drone technology.

“It’s a different world from just a few years ago — we’ve entered the realm of science fiction in a lot of ways,” Cuellar said. “New rules have to be developed as new technology comes about, and this is a big step forward.”

Aerial drones now piloted remotely have become a central weapon for the CIA and U.S. military in their campaign against terrorists in the Middle East. The Pentagon has gone from an inventory of a handful of drones before Sept. 11, 2001, to about 7,500 drones, about one-third of all military aircraft.

Despite looming military spending cuts, expenditures on drones are expected to take less of a hit, if any, because they are cheaper to build and operate than piloted aircraft.

All military services are moving toward greater automation with their robotic systems. Robotic armed submarines could one day stalk enemy waters, and automated tanks could engage soldiers on the battlefield.

“More aggressive robotry development could lead to deploying far fewer U.S. military personnel to other countries, achieving greater national security at a much lower cost and most importantly, greatly reduced casualties,” aerospace pioneer Simon Ramo, who helped develop the intercontinental ballistic missile, wrote in his new book, “Let Robots Do the Dying.”

The Air Force wrote in an 82-page report that outlines the future usage of drones, titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047,” that autonomous drone aircraft are key “to increasing effects while potentially reducing cost, forward footprint and risk.” Much like a chess master can outperform proficient chess players, future drones will be able to react faster than human pilots ever could, the report said.

And with that potential comes new concerns about how much control of the battlefield the U.S. is willing to turn over to computers.

There is no plan by the U.S. military — at least in the near term — to turn over the killing of enemy combatants to the X-47B or any other autonomous flying machine. But the Air Force said in the “Flight Plan” that it’s only a matter of time before drones have the capability to make life-or-death decisions as they circle the battlefield. Even so, the report notes that officials will still monitor how these drones are being used.

“Increasingly humans will no longer be ‘in the loop’ but rather ‘on the loop’ — monitoring the execution of certain decisions,” the report said. “Authorizing a machine to make lethal combat decisions is contingent upon political and military leaders resolving legal and ethical questions.”

Peter W. Singer, author of “Wired for War,” a book about robotic warfare, said automated military targeting systems are under development. But before autonomous aerial drones are sent on seek-and-destroy missions, he said, the military must first prove that it can pull off simpler tasks, such as refueling and reconnaissance missions.

That’s where the X-47B comes in.

“Like it or not, autonomy is the future,” Singer said. “The X-47 is one of many programs that aim to perfect the technology.”

The X-47B is an experimental jet — that’s what the X stands for — and is designed to demonstrate new technology, such as automated takeoffs, landings and refueling. The drone also has a fully capable weapons bay with a payload capacity of 4,500 pounds, but the Navy said it has no plans to arm it.

The Navy is now testing two of the aircraft, which were built behind razor-wire fences at Northrop Grumman Corp.‘s expansive complex in Palmdale, where the company manufactured the B-2 stealth bomber.

Funded under a $635.8-million contract awarded by the Navy in 2007, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program has grown in cost to an estimated $813 million.

Last February, the first X-47B had its maiden flight from Edwards Air Force Base, where it continued testing until last month when it was carried from the Mojave Desert to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in southern Maryland. It is there that the next stage of the demonstration program begins.

The drone is slated to first land on a carrier by 2013, relying on pinpoint GPS coordinates and advanced avionics. The carrier’s computers digitally transmit the carrier’s speed, cross-winds and other data to the drone as it approaches from miles away.

The X-47B will not only land itself, but will also know what kind of weapons it is carrying, when and where it needs to refuel with an aerial tanker, and whether there’s a nearby threat, said Carl Johnson, Northrop’s X-47B program manager. “It will do its own math and decide what it should do next.”


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