February 2015 News Reports


Editor's Choice: Scroll below for February 2015 news in our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and views


Feb. 28

Washington Post, U.S. clemency effort, slow to start, will rely on an army of pro bono lawyers, Sari Horwitz, Feb. 28, 2015. More than 35,000 inmates have applied for earlier release, but only a handful Justice Scaleshad sentences commuted.

New Scientist, Google wants to rank websites based on facts not links, Hal Hodson, Feb. 28, 2015. The trustworthiness of a web page might help it rise up Google's rankings if the search giant starts to measure quality by facts, not just links. The internet is stuffed with garbage. Anti-vaccination websites make the front page of Google, and fact-free "news" stories spread like wildfire. Google has devised a fix: to rank websites according to their truthfulness. Google's search engine currently uses the number of incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality, determining where it appears in search results. So pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. This system has brought us the search engine as we know it today, but the downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings if enough people link to them. A Google research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its reputation across the web. Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. "A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy," says the team. The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score. The software works by tapping into the Knowledge Vault, the vast store of facts that Google has pulled off the internet. Facts the web unanimously agrees on are considered a reasonable proxy for truth. Web pages that contain contradictory information are bumped down the rankings.

CNN, U.S. suspects accused of sending military supplies to terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Faith Karimi, Feb. 28, 2015. Six suspects linked to terrorist activity referred to Syria and Iraq as "the beach," and used other coded language to avoid detection in the United States, authorities say. The Bosnian immigrants, including a husband and a wife, were arrested this month in Illinois and St. Louis, according to court records released Friday. Three of the suspects are naturalized American citizens. A federal indictment alleges they communicated via social media and conspired to send money and military equipment to terrorists in Syria and Iraq. They allegedly shipped firearms accessories, military uniforms and combat boots through intermediaries in Turkey.

Saker, Good news out of Russia – even the “non-system” opposition refuses to blame the Kremlin, The Saker, Feb. 28, 2015. The leaders of opposition have so far made moderate and reasonable statements. All those which I Sakerhave heard have apparently dismissed the notion that the Kremlin was behind the murder. Many have even said that this murder was a “provocation” (which in this context means “false flag”!) to destabilize Russia and create a crisis.

Saker, Nemtsov murder: Putin warned about exactly this type of “false flag” two years ago, The Saker, Feb. 28, 2015. Already in February 2012, Putin was warning Russians about exactly the kind of false flag which we just saw happening with the murder of Nemtsov.

Feb. 27

Al.com/Birmingham News, Stunning e-mails paint Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard as desperate for money, favors, John Archibald, Feb. 27, 2015. A filing today by special prosecutors cites evidence and emails that portray Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard as a man who, despite wearing the fine cloth of one of the state's most powerful men, teetered on the brink of financial collapse and desperately pleaded with friends, lobbyists and principals for money and jobs in a way that put him on the wrong side of the law. Hubbard was indicted last year on 23 felony counts of using his office for personal gain. The revelations today come in response to a motion by Hubbard's defense team to more specifically describe the charges against the Speaker. The filing and the cited evidence indicate Hubbard was facing tremendous financial pressure. After being elected Speaker in 2010, he was laid off by his primary employer, Auburn's IMG Sports Network. His own company, Craftmaster, failed to pay employee withholding taxes to the federal government in 2011, which led to the company defaulting on a $600,000 loan from Regions Bank personally guaranteed by Hubbard. Hubbard went to Will Brooke, a financial advisor at Harbert Management Corporation and a board member at the Business Council of Alabama (and a former candidate for the U.S. House in the 6th District) to develop a plan.

Washington Post, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the basketball icon, reinvented as culture vulture, Geoff Edgers, Feb. 27, 2015. “You are the man, Mr. Jabbar,” somebody shouts down what is normally a quiet, long hallway in the Department of Justice. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is, in fact, the man, having scored more points than anyone in National Basketball Association history, even Michael, Kobe and LeBron, nods but doesn’t break his stride. He’s on a tight schedule. First, the retired star will interview Attorney General Eric Holder for a documentary he’s making on race. After years of grumbling that he couldn’t get a head coaching gig, Abdul-Jabbar has emerged as much more than an ex-jock diagramming an inbounds pass on a clipboard. He has become a vital, dynamic and unorthodox cultural voice. “Kareem has something to say, has found a way to say it, and it’s not what you would expect him to say,” says Mike Nizza, the former editor of Esquire Digital who worked with Abdul-Jabbar before he moved his regular columns to Time. “He’s a new kind of public intellectual.”

AP Eric Holdervia Washington Post, Obama bids farewell again to Attorney General Eric Holder, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2015.  Eyes glistening, President Barack Obama bid an affectionate farewell Friday to Attorney General Eric Holder. It was a sequel to an emotional going-away at the White House last year, but this tribute came with a soulful surprise. After the president and the attorney general had concluded their remarks, Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” made an unannounced appearance in the Justice Department hall. Holder, stunned, genuflected. And Franklin stepped behind the lectern to sing “America the Beautiful” with an homage to Holder.

Feb. 26

OpEd News, Pentagon Inspector General Ignored & Rejected NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake's Claims of Retaliation, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 26, 2015. NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake has learned that the Pentagon Inspector General's Office has rejected his whistleblower retaliation complaint, which he filed after the Justice Department's prosecution against him collapsed. As part of the Pentagon IG office's audit, Drake (shown in a file photo) provided details about waste and civil liberties abuses related to a program called TRAILBLAZER. He alleged in his complaint that he was spied upon by NSA management as he participated in this audit as a material witness. When he grew upset with the failure of the NSA to address problems, he decided to contact a Baltimore Sun reporter and reveal details related to the corruption. The complaint he submitted to the IG's office comprehensively detailed nearly ten years of retaliation by the agency for his whistleblowing. But, for no legal or statutory reason, the investigation into whistleblower retaliation only focused on five months and ignored a vast amount of other allegations made against the agency. McClatchy Newspapers reporter Marisa Taylor, who reported on the rejection of Drake's complaint, also reported that officials in the Pentagon IG's office have been "forced to blow the whistle on their own office." See Rejection of NSA whistleblower’s retaliation claim draws criticism.

Reuters, Insight: West's offer to rebuild Ukraine faces reality check, Robin Emmott and Anna Yukhananov, Feb. 26, 2015. Western powers are preparing what they say may be their most potent weapon against Moscow's interference in Ukraine - a multi billion dollar aid package to rebuild a near-bankrupt state and realize the European dream cherished by many Ukrainians. There is just one problem: foreign governments and international financing institutions are not willing to pour money into a dysfunctional state. Only this week the businessman brought in by the new authorities to clean up the tax service was himself suspended pending a corruption inquiry.

Moscow Times, Putin's Approval Rating Creeps Up to 86%, Poll Shows, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2015. Although President Vladimir Putin has maintained the approval of the vast majority of Russians, one-third of their countrymen Vladimir Putinbelieve Russia is headed in the wrong direction, independent Moscow-based pollster the Levada Center revealed Thursday. Eighty-six percent of respondents to a poll conducted between Feb. 20 and 23 said they approved of Putin's actions as president. Two years ago, that figure stood at a comparatively meager 65 percent. The poll also revealed strong support for the path Russia is currently on. While 29 percent of respondents said Russia was generally headed down the wrong path, 54 percent said Russia is moving in the right direction. Putin's approval rating has grown slightly in recent weeks despite economic troubles brought on by Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, rising inflation, and continued criticism of the Kremlin by the international community. Between November 2014 and January 2015 the approval rating stood at 85 percent, by the Levada Center's count. The poll was conducted among 1,600 adults in 134 cities across Russia, and had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Foreign Policy Middle East Daily, 'Jihadi John' Suspect Captured, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2015. The Islamic State militant referred to as “Jihadi John” has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British citizen from London believed to be about 27 years old. He has appeared in several Islamic State videos of the beheadings of foreign hostages including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. In January, he seemingly appeared in a video with the Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto before they were killed. Emwazi has been a “person of interest” to British security services, though they did not release his name due to “operational reasons.”

Zero Hedge, The Stage Is Set For The Syrian Invasion, Tyler Durden, Feb. 26, 2015. One week ago, when reporting on the latest bizarre plan presented by the Pentagon, namely providing Syrian rebels (but only the moderate ones, not the jihadists like al Nusra, or, well, ISIS) with B-1B Bomber air support in their attacks on ISIS, when we wrote that this "means in the coming weeks and months look forward to a surge in false flag "attacks" blamed on the Assad regime, aiming to give Obama validation to expand the "War against ISIS" to include Syria's regime as well." We didn't have long to wait: in an entirely un-sourced Time article written today by Aryn Baker, the Middle East Bureau Chief, the stage for the second attempt at invading Assad regime is finally set. The article, titled "Why Bashar Assad Won’t Fight ISIS" is essentially an essay that, as the title suggests "proves" that the Syrian leader is, in fact, quite close with ISIS and derives strategis benefits from his relationship, which is why he won't attack them, and thus by implication is just as bad as ISIS and worthy of America's wrath. Actually, the "Americans" see ISIS as the perfect false flag placeholder to build up yet another case about invading Damascus, after the humiliation of the bumbled attempt to use a doctored YouTube clip showing paid actors following what the CIA guaranteed was an Assad "chemical weapon" attack as a pretext to launch an invasion on Syria in the first attempt to topple Assad. It took an escalation that involved numerous Russian ships side by side with US cruisers in the Mediterranean before John Kerry realized that building Qatar's natural gas pipeline to Europe is not worth rising World War III over, and promptly backed off. This time, ISIS is the bait.

Feb. 25

New York Times, For Bill O'Reilly and Fox News, A Symbiotic Relationship, Jonathan Mahler and Emily Steel, Feb. 25, 2015. When the magazine Mother Jones reported that Bill O’Reilly had engaged in self-aggrandizing rhetoric Bill O'Reilly Reality Check Fox News Channelabout his coverage of the Falklands war, he called one of the authors of the article “an irresponsible guttersnipe” and used his nightly show to fight back against his accusers. His bosses at Fox News, including the chief executive, Roger Ailes, rallied to his defense. Fox’s handling of the controversy says a lot about the network. It also says a lot about its most visible star, a man who perhaps more than any other has defined the parameters and tenor of Fox News, in the process ushering in a new era of no-holds-barred, intentionally divisive news coverage. Since dethroning CNN’s Larry King as the king of cable news almost 14 years ago, Mr. O’Reilly has helped transform a start-up news channel into a financial juggernaut, with estimated annual profits of more than $1 billion. He and Fox News have risen not on the back of big interviews or high-impact investigations but on the pugnacious brand of conservatism personified by Mr. O’Reilly. Reports have since emerged questioning some of O’Reilly’s other assertions. Most notably, Media Matters has challenged Mr. O’Reilly’s claims that he was outside the Palm Beach, Fla., home of an acquaintance of Lee Harvey Oswald when he killed himself with a shotgun in 1977.

Deadline.com, Jon Stewart Defends Bill O’Reilly: “No One’s Watching Him For The Actual Truth,” Lisa de Moraes, Feb. 25, 2015.  Jon Stewart rose to the defense of his friend Bill O’Reilly last night, telling The Daily Show viewers that no one should expect the truth from the Fox News Channel host. “Really? We’re going after O’Reilly for exaggerating being in a war zone?” Stewart marveled at the top of last night’s The Daily Show, in re the Mother Jones article that called into question some of O’Reilly’s reporting over the years – particularly his work in Buenos Aires at the end of the Falklands War in ’82. In the wake of Brian Williams’ suspension by NBC News over claims he made about his work, the media has glommed on to the Mother Jones investigation. 

Guardian via Raw Story, Another shoe drops: Bill O’Reilly’s ex-colleagues call his L.A. riot stories ‘completely ficticious,’ Jon Swaine, Feb. 25, 2015. Former colleagues of Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host whose tales of past reporting exploits are facing renewed scrutiny, have disputed his account of surviving a bombardment of bricks and rocks while covering the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Six people who covered the riots with O’Reilly in California for Inside Edition told the Guardian they did not recall an incident in which, as O’Reilly has claimed, “concrete was raining down on us” and “we were attacked by protesters.”

Media Matters, Another Fabrication: O'Reilly Never Witnessed The Murder Of Nuns In El Salvador, Olivia Marshall, Feb. 25, 2015. O'Reilly's Claim To Have Seen Nuns "Shot In The Back Of The Head" Contradicted By His Own Timeline. In a statement to Mediaite, Bill O'Reilly says that when he said on Fox News "I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head," he was referring to seeing "horrendous images" of nuns murdered while reporting from El Salvador, not witnessing those murders firsthand. His statement, however, does not address his radio show claim, "I've seen guys gun down nuns in El Salvador."

Fox News, Senior State Dept. official arrested for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor, James Rosen, Feb. 25, 2015. A senior State Department official in charge of federal counterterrorism programs will face trial in Virginia after he was arrested Tuesday afternoon for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor. Fairfax County Police officials say Daniel Rosen was arrested by a county detective about noon Tuesday at his Washington, D.C. home after he allegedly sought to arrange sex with a minor. The detective, a female officer working in the county's Child Exploitation Unit, had been posing as the minor in online exchanges with Rosen, police said. Rosen, who is the director of counterterrorism programs and policy at the State Department, appeared in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday and waived extradition to Virginia. A judge ordered him held without bond, and authorities said he would be transferred to a Fairfax County jail sometime in the next ten days.

New York Times, 3 Brooklyn Men Are Charged With Supporting ISIS, Marc Santora and Stephanie Clifford, Feb. 25, 2015. Three Brooklyn men were charged on Wednesday with aiding the Islamic State, the terrorist organization that controls large parts of Iraq and Syria and has been actively recruiting young people from around the world to its fight. One of the men was arrested at Kennedy International Airport, where he was trying to board a flight to Istanbul and then planned to travel to Syria to join the battle, according to the government. At least two of the men had threatened to carry out attacks on targets in the United States if they failed in their attempt to travel overseas, according to the government.

Feb. 24

Media Matters, O'Reilly Lied About Suicide of JFK Assassination Figure, Former Colleagues Say, Ben Dimiero, Feb. 24, 2015. Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally "heard" a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the Bill O'Reilly Killing Kennedy Coverinvestigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O'Reilly's claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy's death further undermine O'Reilly's story. George de Mohrenschildt was a Russian emigre who befriended Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and testified before the Warren Commission investigating the Kennedy assassination. On March 29, 1977, the same day he was contacted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he committed suicide at his daughter's home in Florida. At the time, O'Reilly was a reporter for Dallas' WFAA-TV who regularly reported on stories related to the Kennedy assassination.

O'Reilly has bizarrely inserted himself into de Mohrenschildt's story, claiming in books and on Fox News that he was outside the house seeking to interview de Mohrenschiltd at the time of his death. O'Reilly is under heavy criticism and scrutiny for his false claims about his 1982 Falklands War reporting. O'Reilly's implausible tale was first flagged by Jefferson Morley in a 2013 post for his website JFKFacts.org. Morley has worked as an editor for the Washington Post, Salon.com, and Arms Control Today, and is a visiting professor at the University of California, Washington Center. New interviews with former O'Reilly colleagues who say he wasn't in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's suicide and documents obtained by Media Matters bolster Morley's reporting. In his 2012 best-selling non-fiction book Killing Kennedy, O'Reilly writes on page 300 that as a "reporter knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt's daughter's home, he heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide of the Russian ... that reporter's name is Bill O'Reilly."

JFK Facts, Investigator’s tape exposes Bill O’Reilly’s JFK fib, Jefferson Morley (shown in a file photo), Feb. 24, 2015. (First published in JFK Facts, January 30, 2013) In his best-selling book Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly tells a brief tale of an intrepid reporter Jefferson Morley— himself — chasing the historical truth of JFK’s assassination in south Florida. But the story itself is a fiction, as O’Reilly reveals here in his own voice. In the annals of the JFK assassination story, rife with CIA and FBI malfeasance, O’Reilly’s fanciful anecdote might seem trivial. It is not the saddest feature of his book, which manages to ignore all of the high-quality JFK assassination scholarship of the last two decades. But as O’Reilly’s yarn is presented as fact in USA Today and the Fort-Worth Telegram; as his book dominates the best-seller charts; and as a credulous National Geographic embarks on making a documentary of Killing Kennedy, O’Reilly’s credibility matters. In O’Reilly’s account, the dramatic incident happened on March 29, 1977. The Fox News talk show host was then a 28-year-old television reporter in Dallas seeking to make a name for himself by investigating a popular subject that other reporters disdained: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Working in Dallas at a time when Congress re-opened the JFK investigation in the mid-1970s, O’Reilly scored some real scoops, especially about a man named George de Mohrenschildt. A Russian emigre who moved in both European high society and the American underworld, de Mohrenschildt would have made a splendid character in a Graham Greene novel, except he was a real living CIA asset involved in the events that would culminate in JFK’s murder on Dallas on November 22,1963. De Mohrenschildt was good copy. He was probably the only person on the planet on friendly terms with both the family of First Lady Jackie Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of killing her husband. De Mohrenschildt was not a paid CIA employee, but as JFK investigators closed in on him, he expected CIA assistance.

Keith OlbermannCBS News, ESPN's Keith Olbermann suspended for Penn State tweets, Staff report, Feb. 24, 2015. ESPN has benched anchor Keith Olbermann, shown in a file photo, from hosting his show for the rest of the week following comments he made on Twitter regarding Penn State University. "We are aware of the exchange Keith Olbermann had on Twitter last night regarding Penn State," ESPN said in a statement on Tuesday. "It was completely inappropriate and does not reflect the views of ESPN."

BBC, Ukraine army to be trained by UK troops - Cameron, Staff report, Feb. 24, 2105. British military personnel are to be sent to Ukraine in the next few weeks to provide advice and training, says Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron said he would push for more sanctions on Russia if the separatists failed to observe the truce. The prime minister told a House of Commons committee that up to 75 British soldiers divided into four teams would go to an area well away from the conflict zone to provide medical, logistics, intelligence and infantry skills. BBC Analysis: Over the past year small numbers of British troops have already taken part in NATO exercises in Ukraine, but this is the first explicit training mission there. The US is to start its own training mission in a few weeks time and where the US and Britain are leading, other NATO countries are likely to follow. The point of all this is to send a clear signal to Moscow of the West's determination to stand by the Kiev government. While much of the British training will be in non-combat or combat-support areas like medical skills; logistics and intelligence, there will also be an infantry element to the program which the Ministry of Defense says will include things like the planning and execution of urban operations.

Guardian,The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site,' Spencer Ackerman, Feb. 24, 2015. ‘They disappeared us’: protester details 17-hour shackling without basic rights   Accounts describe police brutality, missing 15-year-old and one man’s death.  While US military and intelligence interrogation impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles and even a cage – focuses on American citizens, most often poor, black and brown. ‘When you go in,’ Brian Jacob Church told the Guardian, ‘nobody knows what happened to you.’  (See also 3:44 min. video. Phil Batta for the Guardian with editing by Mae Ryan).

OpEdNews, Washington Has Resurrected The Threat Of Nuclear War, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in file photo), Feb. 24, 2015. Foreign Affairs is the publication of the elitist Council on Foreign Relations, a collection of former and current Paul Craig Robertsgovernment officials, academics, and corporate and financial executives who regard themselves as the custodian and formulator of U.S. foreign policy. One doesn’t expect to find humor in it, but I found myself roaring with laughter while reading an article in the February 5 online issue by Alexander J. Motyl, “Goodbye, Putin: Why the President’s Days Are Numbered.” Absurd statement followed absurd statement. I couldn’t stop laughing. To my dismay, I discovered that the absolute gibberish wasn’t a parody of Washington’s propaganda. Motyl, an ardent Ukrainian nationalist, is a professor at Rutgers University and was not joking. What we see here with Motyl is the purest expression of blatant propagandistic lies. Former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1987-91) Jack Matlock cautioned against the crazed propagandistic attack against Russia in his speech at the National Press Club on Feb. 11. Read Matlock. Don’t bother with the utter fool Motyl.

Associated Press via ABC News, US Troops Heading to Ukraine to Give Medical Training, Lolita C.  Baldor, Feb. 24, 2015. A U.S. military official said Tuesday the Pentagon will be deploying a small number of troops to Ukraine to provide combat medical training to forces there who have been battling Russian-backed separatists. Between five and 10 troops will go to western Ukraine next week for what will be a second round of coaching and mentoring members of the Ukraine military who will then go on to become trainers. The U.S. forces will deploy out of Europe. Last year, the U.S. trained about 300 Ukrainian troops on battlefield medicine. U.S. officials are continuing to review the range of instruction and other aid that can be provided to Ukraine. In London, meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Tuesday that up to 75 British military personnel will deploy to Ukraine next month to provide advice and training to government forces. The U.K. servicemen will be based well away from the areas of conflict, and will offer medical, intelligence, logistics and infantry training.

Telegraph, British forces head for Ukraine as David Cameron issues warning to Vladimir Putin, Peter Dominiczak, Feb. 24, 2015. Prime Minister announces British infantry training mission to Ukraine as he warns of 'deeply damaging' consequences if EU fails to stand up to Vladimir Putin on Ukraine. British troops will be deployed in Ukraine to train soldiers fighting Russian separatists, David Cameron has said, as he delivered an extraordinary warning to Vladimir Putin over his continued aggression in eastern Europe. The Prime Minister said that there would be "deeply damaging" consequences for all of Europe if the EU fails to stand up to Putin in Ukraine, predicting that the Russian president could turn against the Baltic states or Moldova if he is not reined in now. Downing Street said that around 75 UK troops will travel to Ukraine to help with medical, intelligence, logistics and infantry skills.

Vineyard of the Saker, The withdrawal of heavy weapons and Minsk Agreement 2A (M2A), The Saker, Feb. 24, 2015. The situation on the line of contact is generally calm. The Novorussian forces are withdrawing their heavy weapons according to schedule while the junta forces are, by most reports, not or, not much. The problem is that Poroshenko has very little control over the various armed forces. Apparently, the regular armed forces do more or less obey him. The various death-squads (volunteer battalions, internal forces, etc.) will probably resist as much as possible, but since they don't have much heavy firepower, that is probably not a major obstacle right now.

Center for Public Integrity, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and a porno spoof; 'Net neutrality' PR campaign highlights curious paths for peddling influence, Dave Levinthal, Feb. 24, 2015. Not long ago, former Republican presidential Mitt Romneycandidate Mitt Romney promised his administration would battle online smut by strictly enforcing obscenity laws and compelling businesses to install pornography filters on every new computer sold in the United States. That's what makes it jarring that Romney's all-but-defunct 2012 presidential committee — with an assist from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul — is associating itself with a stealthy front group that decries "government censorship" and is best known for producing a cheeky porno spoof that lambastes Internet regulation. The motive? Cash. Romney's committee continues to make money by renting the personal information of supporters to big data companies, which in turn peddle the information to most any special interest willing to pay for it, regardless of its views. Romney's campaign has treated its "community" as a commodity ripe for exploitation: Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission indicate Romney's campaign has been renting its supporters' data since not long after Barack Obama defeated him in November 2012. During 2014 alone, Romney's committee, which continues a long tradition of high-profile politicos such as Obama and Hillary Clinton renting out their supporters' information, earned nearly $2 million off its supporters' information, FEC records indicate.

Feb. 23

McClatchy, Rejection of NSA whistleblower’s retaliation claim draws criticism, Marisa Taylor, Feb. 23, 2015. Thomas Drake became a symbol of the dangers whistleblowers face when they help journalists and Congress investigate wrongdoing at intelligence agencies. He claims he was subjected to a decade of retaliation by the National Security Agency that culminated in his being charged with espionage. But when the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office opened an inquiry into the former senior NSA official’s allegations of retaliation in 2012, it looked at only two of the 10 years detailed in his account, according to a recently released Pentagon summary of the probe, before finding no evidence of retaliation. That finding ended Drake’s four-year effort to return to government service. Whistleblower advocates say Drake’s experience, spelled out in a document McClatchy obtained this month through the Freedom of Information Act, underscores the problem that intelligence and defense workers face in bringing malfeasance to the surface. The agencies that are supposed to crack down on retaliation are not up to the task, especially when the alleged wrongdoing involves classified information, they charge. “This report epitomizes the utter lack of protection for national security whistleblowers,” said Jesselyn Radack, Drake’s attorney. “This is a pathetic, anemic excuse for an investigation.” Although investigators appear to have rejected Drake’s claims almost a year ago, the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office did not publicly disclose its findings and hadn’t shared them even with Drake’s attorneys. McClatchy gave the attorneys a copy of the report. The news of the rejection comes as McClatchy has learned that the same officials who are supposed to be helping whistleblowers such as Drake claim that they themselves have been forced to blow the whistle on their own office.

Talking Points Memo (TPM), Another Reporter Quits eBay Founder's News Startup: 'What A Pathetic Joke,' Brendan James, Feb. 23, 2015. A reporter for the news website that launched by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar announced in a fiery series of Facebook posts in recent days that he had quit his job, marking the latest high-profile departure from First Look Media. Ken Silverstein, a former Harper's editor who went to work for First Look's investigative arm The Intercept last year, unloaded on the enterprise after his resignation. "Wow, it is amazing how good it feels not to work for The Intercept," Silverstein wrote on his private Facebook account on Saturday.  He focused much his ire on First Look management and the collapse of Racket, the organization's political-satirical website that fell apart before publishing anything. Silverstein originally joined the organization to work for Racket, but moved to the Intercept after the collapse.

Feb. 22

Intercept, The Intercept's Laura Poitras Wins Academy Award for Citizenfour, Peter Maass, Feb. 22, 2015. Laura Poitras, a founding editor of the Intercept, won an Academy Award tonight for her documentary “Citizenfour,” an Laura Poitrasinside look at Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower. “The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” Poitras (shown in a file photo) said in her acceptance speech. “Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and for the many other whistleblowers.” Snowden, in a statement released after the award was announced, said, “My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

Feb. 21

Lyndon Johnson Gulf of Tonkin talk LBJ Library

Consortium News, Failing Tonkin Gulf Test on Ukraine, Robert Parry, Feb. 21, 2014. President Lyndon Johnson announces 'retaliatory' strike against North Vietnam in response to the supposed attacks on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964 (Photo credit: LBJ Library). As the Ukraine crisis worsens, Official Washington fumes only about “Russian aggression,” much as a half century ago the talk before the congressional Tonkin Gulf resolution was all about “North Vietnamese aggression.” But then and now, there were other sides to the story – and questions that Congress needed to ask.

Huffington Post, Bill O'Reilly's CBS Colleague Says Buenos Aires Was Not A 'Combat Situation' After Falklands War, Gabriel Arana, Feb. 21, 2015. Buenos Aires was neither a “war zone” nor a “combat situation” after Argentina surrendered to Britain in the Falklands War, says one of Bill O’Reilly’s former colleagues at CBS who was with him in the capital at the time. “It was an ‘expense account zone,’” writes Eric Jon Engberg, a retired CBS correspondent, in a Facebook post. “We -- meaning the American networks -- were all in the same, modern hotel and we never saw any troops, casualties or weapons.” On Thursday, Mother Jones accused the Fox News host of lying about having "reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands" and "survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War.”

Jonathan Simon Code Red coverOpEd News, Book review: Jonathan Simon, Code Red: Computerized Election Theft, Marta Steele, Feb. 21, 2015. Jonathan Simon has sounded an alert: a handbook for the uninitiated as well as for Election Integrity stalwarts in need of a reference tome.

Truthout, The Terror Bombing, the Prosecutor, the Spy, and Mossad, Gareth Porter, Feb. 21, 2015. The apparent murder of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman last month has given rise to two opposing theories. One is that the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was responsible for Nisman's death, to prevent him from indicting the president and foreign minister for an alleged conspiracy to lift the accusation against Iran for the 1994 terror bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured 300. The other theory, from Kirchner government officials, is that it was the most powerful figure in the country's intelligence service, Horacio Antonio Stiuso, better known as "Jaime Stiuso," who had the motive to kill Nisman. The argument holds that having "manipulated" Nisman to bring the indictment against Kirchner and foreign minister Hector Timerman -- and then having been fired from his position as chief of operations of the intelligence agency -- Stiuso hoped to get revenge against Kirchner by provoking suspicion that her administration was responsible for the murder.

OpEd News, The Battle Behind the Fog of Propaganda: The "Exceptional" U.S. Suffers Crushing Defeat in Debaltsevo, Mike Whitney, Feb. 21, 2015. "There's no city left. It's destroyed." -- Anonymous Ukrainian soldier following the battle of Debaltsevo. In less than a year, the United States has toppled the democratically-elected government of Ukraine, installed a Washington-backed stooge in Kiev, launched a bloody and costly war of annihilation on Russian-speaking people in the East, thrust the economy into a downward death spiral, and reduced the nation to an anarchic, failed state destined to endure a vicious fratricidal civil war for as far as the eye can see. Last week, Washington suffered its greatest military defeat in more than a decade when Ukraine's US-backed army was soundly routed in the major railway hub of Debaltsevo. Roughly, 8,000 Ukrainian regulars along with untold numbers of tanks and armored units were surrounded in what-came-to-be-known-as "the cauldron." The army of the Donetsk Peoples Republic led by DPR commander Alexander Zakharchenko, encircled the invading army and gradually tightened the cordon, eventually killing or capturing most  of the troops within the pocket [Editor's note: The numbers are disputed].

Vineyard of the Saker, The Maidan -- one year later, The Saker, Feb. 21, 2015. Today is the first anniversary of the deal made between Yanukovich and the "opposition" and guaranteed by foreign ministers Radosław Sikorski of Poland, Laurent Fabius of France, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany. The deal resulted in a withdrawal of the security forces from the Kiev city center immediately followed by an armed insurrection, which overthrew the government. It makes sense to compare what I had predicted might happen with what actually happened simply to see if a person with no access to any classified data and who is using only "open sources" for his analysis could have predicted what happened. My predictions in a chronological order: 

  •    Ukraine Crisis Debaltseve Yanukovich will be overthrown. Check
  •     The Donbass will rise up. Check
  •     The Ukraine will be partitioned. Check
  •     A civil war will break out. Check
  •     The US will try to pull Russia in. Check
  •     Russia will protect Crimea. Check
  •     Russia will stay out of the Donbass. Check
  •     Russia will have to deal with refugees. Check
  •     The US/NATO will not intervene like in Bosnia. Check
  •     The Ukrainian economy will collapse. Check

Feb. 20

Washington Post, Longtime USAID contractor embroiled in scandal fires top managers, others,  Scott Higham, Feb. 20, 2015. International Relief and Development Inc., once among the largest nonprofit contractors working for USAID, has dismissed its board of directors and laid off 21 employees.

Washington Post, Ex-Va. first lady gets prison term of 1 year, 1 day, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman and Rachel Weiner, Feb. 20, 2015. In delivering the sentence, the judge said he struggled to understand the true nature of Maureen McDonnell, who told him, “I blame no one but myself.” Maureen McDonnell was sentenced Friday to a year and a day in federal prison after an emotional, hours-long hearing in which the former first lady of Virginia apologized publicly for the first time since she and her husband were first accused of public corruption. Reading from a prepared statement — her voice breaking — McDonnell acknowledged that she “started a chain of events that would bring embarrassment and pain on us all.” She said she had waited for the day when she could break her silence and asked U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer for mercy. “Your honor, the cry of my heart is that I am sorry,” she said. “I blame no one but myself.”

Daily Howler, The one misstatement a scribe can’t make! (Part 4), Bob Somerby, Feb. 20, 2015. Even Brian can’t lie about war: Was Pope John Paul II lucky enough to bless the young Brian Williams? In last Sunday’s front-page Brian Williamsreport, the Washington Post included a rundown of Williams’ shifting stories about the Pope’s 1979 visit to Catholic University, where Williams was a student. A handshake appeared, then became a papal blessing. Eventually, Williams marveled at the “emotional intelligence” he himself puts on display in creating such magical moments. Is Brian Williams “a little bit nutty?” The weirdness of his many stories suggests that possibility. Apparently, though, these peculiar stories were A-OK at NBC News. That said, there was one type of lie even Williams wasn’t permitted tell. He just couldn’t lie about war, David Carr seemed to say [at the New York Times]. Williams and major NBC colleagues dissembled, embellished and misstated at will all through the years. But once they got us into that war, their guild’s one ethical rule obtained — a journalist isn’t allowed to lie in a way which steals the glory of war. When Brian Williams was seen to do that, his house of cards came down. On this basis, these hideous people proceed along with our “national discourse.” That discourse is almost wholly faux.

Feb. 19

Legal Schnauzer, Stupidity and dishonesty of Alabama cops is on full display for all the world to see, Roger Shuler, Feb. 19, 2015. Editor's Note: A visitor from India to Alabama was partially paralyzed when police threw him to the ground Feb. 6 while he was walking near his son's home in a suburban neighborhood. One of the policemen was arrested, India's embassy is upset, the Justice Department's civil rights division is investigating, and the family has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. The stupidity and dishonesty of Alabama police officers is on glaring display in the video that captures the body slamming of Sureshbhai Patel, a grandfather from India who was in the state to help his son and daughter-in-law take care of their newborn son. Let's consider the Patel video first, and two mind-blowing elements of it:

(1) Almost from the moment the officers confront Patel on a sidewalk in Madison, Alabama, it's clear the older gentleman does not speak English. The 10-minute video, from the first police cruiser, shows this. In the first 1:30 of the encounter, an officer says, "I can't understand you, sir," and Patel mentions India and appears to point toward his son's house, a seemingly clear sign that he is not from this country and does not speak English, but has legitimate reasons to be here.


(2) At about 2:10 on the longer video below, Officer Eric Parker tells Patel: "Do not jerk away from me again, or I will put you on the ground. Do you understand?" About four seconds later, Patel does not appear to be moving and certainly is not jerking. But Parker grabs him by the back of the neck, trips him, and thrusts him forward to violently land on his head.


(3) After all of this, the cops still don't seem to get it. "He don't speak a lick of English," one cop says. "I don't know what the problem is," another says. (See 3:26 video at the top of this post.) After the officers have almost broken Patel's neck by jamming his head into the ground, they seem amazed that he can't walk. "Stand up, stand up," one of them says.

Washington Post, Christie losing some major allies as they shift to Bush, Matea Gold and Robert Costa, Feb. 19, 2015. The New Jersey governor is rapidly losing support. Editor's note: This is exactly as predicted here a year ago. The major surprise will be who wins the Clinton-Bush dynasty rematch in 2016. Both sides have many powers and secrets.

Huffington Post, White House Agrees With Rudy Giuliani: He Said A 'Horrible Thing,' Igor Bobic, Feb. 19, 2015. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), shown in an official photo, sparked a firestorm on Wednesday, when he proclaimed that President Rudy Giuliani officialBarack Obama "doesn't love" America. The backlash keeps rolling in. "I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America," Giuliani reportedly said at a private New York fundraiser for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). "He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." Asked about the matter during a flight aboard Air Force One to Chicago, a White House spokesman partially agreed with Giuliani's assessment -- of his own remarks. "It was a horrible thing to say," deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said. Walker, who was in the room while Giuliani was speaking, responded Thursday morning. "The mayor can speak for himself. I'm not going to comment on what the president thinks or not," Walker said. "I'm in New York. I'm used to people saying things that are aggressive."

NBC, Boston Bombing: Tsarnaev's Lawyers Argue to Relocate Trial, Andy Thibault (shown in photo), Feb. 19, 2015. Alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense lawyers argued Thursday that the trial's jury pool has been Andy Thibaultirrevocably tainted with a presumption of prejudice and therefore the proceedings should be moved out of town. "The attack was viewed as an attack on the marathon and on the city itself," one of the lawyers, Judith Mizner, told a three-judge panel of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. Jury selection continued late this morning in the same U.S. District Court building. Mizner disclosed during arguments that Judge George O'Toole had provisionally qualified 61 jurors as of Wednesday. The court plans to qualify 70 jurors before the start of peremptory challenges, which will whittle the number down to 12 jurors and six alternates. O'Toole denied the defense's petition for a venue change three times before the appeals court agreed to consider the latest request.

New York Times, Ukraine Announces a Growing List of Casualties From Debaltseve Retreat, David M. Herszenhorn and Andrew E. Kramer, Feb. 19, 2015. The Ukrainian military on Thursday said that the casualties in Debaltseve were substantially worse than initially announced, with at least 13 soldiers killed, 157 wounded, more than 90 captured and at least 82 missing. Witnesses said the number of dead would likely grow considerably higher. Late Wednesday, the office of President Petro O. Poroshenko had said that at least six soldiers had been killed and 100 wounded.

Vineyard of the Saker, The strategic implications of the battle for Debaltseve, The Saker, Feb. 19, 2015. Editor's note: The Saker is the pen name for a U.S.-based pro-separatist analyst whose commentaries provide starkly different facts and analysis than mainstream U.S. news reports on the Ukraine, such as that from the New York Times above that minimized losses by NATO-backed Kiev government forces. The Novorussians [separatists] are in control of most of Debaltsevo (officially 100% as of midnight GMT). More relevantly, there is no more organized resistance. Clearly, we are dealing with a catastrophic collapse of combat capability of the junta forces. Those who surrender are treated for their wounds, washed, clothed, fed and they will be sent home as soon as possible. During his recent press conference in Hungary, Vladimir Putin has confirmed that the Ukrainian forces in Debaltsevo has [sic] been defeated. He also confirmed that the U.S. has been sending weapons to the junta and he added that he was absolutely sure that while this could kill more people, it would make no difference at all because the Ukrainian soldiers have no desire to fight whereas the morale of the Novorussians was extremely strong.


Kazzura and Newsfront via Vineyard of the Saker, Two Kazzura videos about Ukrainian POWs: 1) Journalists visited UA POWs to see the conditions they're being held in (3:20 min., above); and "Azov' regiment trooper press conference Donestsk (18:12 min.), Staff reports, Feb. 19, 2015.


Vanity Fair, How a Snowdenista Kept the NSA Leaker Hidden in a Moscow Airport, Sara Corbett, Feb. 19, 2015. Since spiriting NSA leaker Edward Snowden to safety in Russia two years ago, activist and WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison has lived quietly in Berlin. Sara Corbett meets the woman some regard as a political heroine—others as an accomplice to treason.

Feb. 18

Newsmax, NYT's James Risen: Holder's Legacy Is a 'Wrecked First Amendment,' Joel Himelfarb, Feb. 18, 2015. New York Times reporter James Risen responded with fury to remarks Tuesday by Attorney General Eric Holder defending the Obama administration's record on press freedom, repeating his previously stated view that "the Obama administration is the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation." Holder, speaking at the National Press Club, said the administration was not hostile to journalists and that it could have prosecuted many more leakers than it has. Citing the example of the World War II Manhattan Project, Holder said the media needed to ask itself whether the disclosure of certain information would have "a negative impact on the security of a nation." Risen erupted in response to Holder's comments, tweeting that "Eric Holder has done the bidding of the intelligence community and the White House to damage press freedom in the United States."

New York Times, Unlikely Cause Unites the Left and the Right: Justice Reform, Carl Hulse, Feb. 18, 2015. Usually bitter adversaries, Koch Industries and the Center for American Progress have found at least one thing they can agree on: The nation’s criminal justice system is broken. Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the conservative Koch brothers, and the center, a Washington-based liberal issues group, are coming together to back a new organization called the Coalition for Public Safety. The coalition plans a multimillion-dollar campaign on behalf of emerging proposals to reduce prison populations, overhaul sentencing, reduce recidivism and take on similar initiatives. Other groups from both the left and right — the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Tea Party-oriented FreedomWorks — are also part of the coalition, reflecting its unusually bipartisan approach. The coalition will have initial backing of more than $5 million, with groups also spending independently on their own criminal justice initiatives. Organizers of the advocacy campaign, which is to be announced on Thursday, consider it to be the largest national effort focused on the strained prison and justice system. They also view the coalition as a way to show lawmakers in gridlocked Washington that factions with widely divergent views can find ways to work together and arrive at consensus policy solutions.

Reuters, Ukrainian forces quit besieged town after rebel assault, Gleb Garanich and Anton Zverev, Feb. 18, 2015. Government forces were pulling out of an encircled town in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday after a fierce assault by Russian-backed separatists which Kiev and Europe said violated a crumbling ceasefire. President Petro Poroshenko said more than 80 percent of his troops had left the rail hub following a heavy bombardment and street-by-street battles. The rebels say the ceasefire, negotiated by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France at a summit in Belarus last week, does not apply to Debaltseve, which links the two rebel-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Barack Obama and Petro Poroshenko June 4,2014For Poroshenko (shown with President Obama in a White House photo last year), the retreat may have saved the lives of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers who were all but trapped in the town against a better-equipped army. But another military defeat, coming as Ukraine approaches the first anniversary of the overthrow of the Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich, may be difficult to stomach for a population weary of a long conflict and could further damage Poroshenko's standing. [Editor's note: In a story seldom mentioned by Western media, Wikileaks exposed U.S. Department of State cables identifying Poroshenko as a loyal ally whose allegedly corrupt financial dealings were known to U.S. officials.]

Reuters, Texas judge's immigration rebuke may be hard to challenge, David Ingram and Mica Rosenberg, Feb. 18, 2015. President Obama's administration faces a difficult and possibly lengthy legal battle to overturn a Texas court ruling that blocked his landmark immigration overhaul, since the judge based his decision on an obscure and unsettled area of administrative law, lawyers said. In his ruling on Monday that upended plans to shield millions of people from deportation, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen avoided diving into sweeping constitutional questions or tackling presidential powers head-on. Instead, he faulted Obama for not giving public notice of his plans. Hanen's ruling left in disarray U.S. policy toward the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally. Obama said on Tuesday he disagreed with the ruling and expected his administration to prevail in the courts. Hanen's ruling turned on the Administrative Procedure Act's requirement that a proposed rule or regulation appear in the Federal Register so people have a chance to comment.  The requirement, though, does not apply to "interpretative rules" or general statements of policy, an exception that Justice Department lawyers said applied to Obama's announcement in November.

Daily Howler, Lessons Unlearned: NBC News being NBC News! Bob Somerby, Feb. 18, 2015. Did Brian Williams really go broke, at age 22, during his year in Kansas? In Sunday’s Washington Post, the paper was sticking to that familiar old story, despite a shaky source. “Brian’s not a liar,” said an “NBC Nightly News” journalist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because network management has strongly discouraged staffers from speaking publicly about Williams. “He’s a guy who gets caught up in the story.” We can point you to tall tales Williams told on the air back in 1999 — and these tall tales did matter. In these tall tales, Brian Williams was misreporting a crucial White House campaign. Forget about “Brian being Brian.” That was also “NBC News being NBC News” at that point in time.

Feb. 17

Ashton CarterStars and Stripes, Ashton Carter sworn in as new secretary of defense, Jon Harper, Feb. 17, 2015. Ashton Carter was sworn in Tuesday as President Barack Obama’s fourth defense secretary, assuming the post at a time when the administration’s policy against Islamic extremists is being widely criticized and the military brass are raising the alarm over the effects of budget cuts on America’s ability to cope with national security threats. Carter, shown in an official photo, previously served as deputy secretary of defense and the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Carter cleared the final hurdle to becoming the next secretary of defense Thursday, when the Senate approved his nomination by President Barack Obama by a vote of 93-5.

Eric Holder NPC Noel St. John 3 Feb. 17, 2015Attorney General Eric Holder speaks (Photos courtesy of Noel St. John).

Washington Post, Holder backs national moratorium on lethal injections until high court rules, Sari Horwitz, Feb. 17, 2001. The attorney general said a Justice Department review on the death penalty is not finished.

Eric Holder NPC Noel St. John 2 Feb. 17, 2015National Press Club, Attorney General Holder says federal prosecutors file fewer drug charges, pursue more serious offenders, Lawrence Feinberg, Feb. 17, 2015. Attorney General Eric Holder touted the reduction in charges for non-violent drug offenses that have allowed federal prosectors to focus on more serious offenders, during a Feb. 17 National Press Club luncheon speech. The number of persons charged with federal drug trafficking offenses dropped last year by 6 percent as part of a Justice Department effort to focus on serious offenders and reduce "unnecessary incarceration,” Holder said. Meanwhile, the federal prison population declined by about 4,800, while the overall national crime rate continued to fall. Holder said fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, was the first time “in more than 40 years...[with] side-by-side reductions in both crime and incarceration.” Drug convictions account for about 45 percent of the 215,000 federal prisoners.

Politico, Risen: Obama administration is greatest enemy of press freedom, Hadas Gold, Feb. 17, 2015. New York Times reporter James Risen slammed Attorney General Eric Holder in a series of tweets Tuesday evening, calling the Obama administration “The greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”  “Eric Holder has been the nation's top censorship officer, not the top law enforcement officer,” Risen tweeted. “Eric Holder has done the bidding of the intelligence community and the White House to damage press freedom in the United States.” Risen was tweeting in response to a speech Holder gave earlier on Tuesday at the National Press Club, where he defended the administration’s record on prosecuting leakers, saying they could have prosecuted far more than they actually did. “We have tried to be appropriately sensitive in bringing those cases that warranted prosecution,” Holder said. “We have turned away, I mean, turned away substantially greater number of cases that were presented to us where prosecution was sought.” For seven years, Risen mounted a legal battle against government demands that he identify his confidential sources for parts of a 2006 book in which he detailed a CIA plan to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. The Supreme Court declined his request to take up the case, which left Risen with virtually no protection against being forced to identify his sources, although he vowed he would never do so. As a result, Risen became the latest face of First Amendment rights and reporter’s privilege in the United States. A New York Times spokesperson emails a comment on behalf of the paper, voicing support for Risen: "The Times is not neutral on the issue of press freedom. We have vigorously opposed actions that inhibit legitimate reporting or that raise the specter of jail for reporters who are doing their jobs." 

Reuters via Huffington Post, DOJ May Go After Individual Bankers For Role In Financial Crisis, Julia Edwards, Feb. 17, 2015. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that he has given U.S. Attorneys a 90-day deadline to evaluate whether they can bring cases against any individuals for their role in the 2008 financial crisis. Federal prosecutors who previously brought charges against institutions for inappropriately marketing residential mortgage-backed securities will investigate individual employees for potential criminal or civil charges, Holder said in a public appearance at the National Press Club on Tuesday. Holder said he asked the prosecutors to report back to him in 90 days "over whether they think they are going to successfully bring criminal or civil cases against those individuals." Because Holder is expected to leave office soon, he said that the decision to prosecute would ultimately be up to Loretta Lynch, the administration's nominee to replace him if and when she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

OpEd News, Elimination of 'public option' threw consumers to the insurance wolves, Wendell Potter, Feb. 17, 2015. When members of Congress caved to demands from the insurance industry and ditched their plan to establish a "public option" health plan, the lawmakers also ditched one of their favorite talking points, that a government-run plan was necessary to "keep insurers honest." Getting rid of a government-run insurance option was the industry's top objective during the health care reform debate. Private insurers set out to persuade President Obama and Congressional leaders that they were trustworthy. Lawmakers were led to believe, for one thing, that insurers could be trusted to offer policies that would continue to give Americans' access to the doctors they had developed relationships with and wanted to keep. And they were persuaded that insurers wouldn't think of engaging in bait-and-switch tactics that would leave folks with less coverage than they thought they were buying. When he was running for president, Obama regularly talked about the need for a public option. That was one reason why many health care reform advocates supported him instead of Hillary Clinton. He kept insisting on a public option for months after he was elected. Soon after that, though, he began to waffle. It became clear to me as well as public option supporters in Congress that industry lobbyists had gotten to him.

Washington Post, U.S. to allow sales of armed drones to allies, Missy Ryan, Feb. 17, 2015. President Obama wants to provide allies with weapons that have become a cornerstone of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy but whose remotely controlled power to kill is intensely controversial.

Washington Post, Federal judge halts Obama’s plans on immigration, David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin, Feb. 17, 2015. A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the president’s plan to offer millions of illegal immigrants a reprieve from deportation. The political feud over immigration reform between President Obama and his Republican critics took a dramatic turn late Monday when a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked recent executive actions by the president, delivering a legal setback to his bid to stop the deportations of millions of illegal immigrants. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, responding to a suit filed by 26 states, did not rule on the legality of the immigration orders Obama announced in November. But he said there was sufficient merit to warrant a suspension of the new program while the case goes forward.

Daily Caller via Stone Zone, The Strange Case of Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Clinton, Roger Stone (shown in a file photo), Feb. 17, 2015. Editor's Note: Despite the column's title little of it involves Bill Clinton, who was a frequent traveling companion of Roger StoneJeffrey Epstein. From 2006 to roughly 2008, hedge fund billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was the subject of extensive criminal investigations by both state and federal authorities for child sex crimes. When all was said and done, the authorities had compiled copious witness evidence establishing that Epstein had been serially molesting dozens of underage girls for years, literally as a lifestyle. For over a year, the Palm Beach Police scrupulously built a multi-layered case against Epstein centered on his repeated sexual abuse of five minor children, with a lead victim just 14 years old. Epstein’s varyingly famous and infamous defense attorney, Alan Dershowitz, along with a platoon of high-dollar lawyers including Kenneth Starr of Clintonian special prosecutor fame, cut a mystifying deal with federal prosecutors by which everyone in Epstein’s camp, including Dershowitz, was granted immunity from any further prosecution. Enter Michael Wolff, an Epstein confidant and supposed journalist (Wolff now writes a regular column for British GQ), who recently penned a withering, faux-flummoxed attack in USA Today pooh-poohing the “new age” media and the American legal system, along with Epstein’s persistent “Jane Doe” accusers and their pertinacious Florida attorneys. Wolff’s editorial conveniently skips right over the part about his child-molesting pal Jeffrey Epstein’s buying himself and his confederates a free-pass from any criminal punishment commensurate with the scope and extent of their heinous child sex crimes. In his op-ed published on January 11, Wolff leaps right to the offensive against those forces, he believes unduly besmirched Epstein’s elite sex cronies Alan Dershowitz and Britain’s “Prince” Andrew.

Washington Post, Cease-fire in peril as rebels trap 5,000 Ukrainian troops, Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 17, 2015. Pro-Russian separatists claimed control of the strategic railway hub at Debaltseve, where fighting continued despite the three-day-old truce. See earlier story, Clashes over Ukraine rail hub test pledges for cease-fire, Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 17, 2015. Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels waged street-by-street battles in a strategic rail hub Tuesday, ignoring a cease-fire provision to begin withdrawing heavy weapons and exposing potential holes in the peace deal. Separatists appeared to make gains amid the chaos, claiming they took control of the prized railway station in Debaltseve.

Fox News, Experts say probe of disgraced Oregon governor focusing on possible financial crimes, Feb. 17, 2015. Legal experts say a subpoena used in a federal grand jury investigation into Oregon's fallen John Kitzhabergovernor and his fiancée indicates that authorities are investigating possible violations of public corruption laws and financial crimes including wire or mail fraud, bribery and tax evasion. The subpoena was sent to the state's administrative agency on the same day Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his resignation. "Typically you don't see this extensive of a subpoena unless it's a top-priority investigation," said Laurie Levenson, a former assistant U.S. attorney who teaches at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "It's a pretty extensive investigation."

Kitzhaber, newly elected to an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon's governor, announced on Friday that his last day in office will be Wednesday, at which point Secretary of State Kate Brown will take over and assign her replacement. Kitzhaber's resignation came amid a deepening scandal over allegations that fiancée Cylvia Hayes used the power of his office to land contracts for her green-energy consulting firm. Hayes' biographical information for the National Governors Association describes her as "a policy adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber on the issues of clean energy and economic development." The question is, Levenson said, "did he use his influence to help get her these deals? They're inextricably linked. That's what the subpoena suggests."

Feb. 16

Guardian, Dominique Strauss-Kahn trial: five of six plaintiffs drop accusations, Catherine Bennett, Feb. 16, 2015. Five of six plaintiffs in a high-profile French prostitution trial have dropped their accusations against Dominique Dominique Strauss Kahn 2008 IMFStrauss-Kahn, arguing that there isn’t enough proof that the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief violated the law. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, once a contender for the French presidency shown in an IMF photo, argues that he was unaware that women involved in orgies with him were paid sex workers. Court officials said lawyers for four prostitutes and an association that had filed suit are abandoning their pursuit of Strauss-Kahn. One association maintained its accusations against Strauss-Kahn.

Advance Indiana, House Ways & Means Committee Says Yes To Shadowy Turkish Immigrant's Soccer Stadium Heist, Gary R. Welch, Feb. 16, 2015. Gary R. Welsh has been in the private practice of law since 1993 after working in the Illinois Cengeral Assembly as a staffer for six years. In Indiana, he is an elected precinct committeeman for the Marion County Republican Party in Center Township. Welsh authors a popular political blog, Advance Indiana, as a favorite pastime. It was a repeat of last year's charade when Ersal Ozdemir sent in to represent Gary R. Welshhim a room full of high-paid influential lobbyists to ask members of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee to once again give the green light to making Indiana taxpayers fork over nearly $90 million to build a new soccer arena for his Indy Eleven minor league professional soccer team. The shadowy Turkish immigrant businessman and his bodyguards were nowhere to be seen. Ozdemir's disinformation agents announced the construction of a new downtown hotel by the Indy Eleven owner would be a part of an expanded Professional Sports Development Area ("PSDA"), a TIF-like state taxing district that allows Marion County to syphon off tens of millions of state income and sales tax dollars, hotel taxes and local income taxes annually to pay for the Capital Improvement Board's sports palaces and convention center. The paid lobbyists for this shadowy character claim state taxpayers won't be on the hook for a dime of the costs of building the arena; rather, it will be up to the team's owner and the CIB to figure out what happens when the revenues generated from the stadium prove insufficient to pay for it.

Gizmodo, Prisoner Got 37 Years in Solitary for Facebook Posts, Kate Knibbs, Feb. 16, 2015. In South Carolina's prisons, an inmate who secretly writes Facebook posts about missing his family can be punished the same way as one who rapes a cellmate. Hundreds of inmates are being handed down indefensibly harsh punishments for using social media, including one man, Tyheem Henry, who was sentenced to over 37 years in solitary confinement for writing 38 Facebook posts. In addition to almost four decades of solitary confinement, Henry lost 74 years of canteen, phone, and visiting privileges. His case is extreme, but he's not the only one: The Electronic Frontier Foundation discovered over 400 cases over the past three years where inmates were disciplined for social networking as Level 1 violations, the same as rioting, homicide, hostage-taking, and a host of much more violent and serious transgressions. More than 40 prisoners got over two years in the hole.

Executive Intelligence Review, Der Spiegel: ‘In the Crisis, Nuland Herself has Become the Problem,’ Staff report, Feb. 16, 2015. Germany’s Der Spiegel on Feb. 15 attacked Victoria Nuland, President Obama’s representative for Europe, as a threat to America’s allies. Der Spiegel described a closed-door meeting, apparently reported on anonymously both to it and to the Bild newspaper, held by Nuland at the Munich Security Conference one week ago, with "perhaps two dozen U.S. diplomats and Senators." There Nuland gave instructions to "fight against the Europeans" on the issue of arming Ukraine to fight Russia. She was described as "bitterly" referring to the German Chancellor Merkel’s and French President Hollande’s meeting with Russian President Putin as "Merkel’s Moscow junk," and "Moscow bullshit," and she welcomed a Senator’s calling German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen the "Defeatism Minister." These reports give the lie to Nuland’s claim on the morning of Feb. 11, when the Minsk Agreement was announced, that "we [the United States] enthusiastically support it." Der Spiegel says that Nuland does not stop short of calling for "heavy weapons" to be given by NATO to Ukraine. Wishfully, it says that her policy is quite different than Obama’s, and that he must deal with that.

Feb. 10

President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice

President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office prior to a phone call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Feb. 10, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Washington Post, Judicial chaos in Alabama over gay marriages, Sandhya Somashekhar, Feb. 10, 2015. Only a few of the state’s counties complied with a federal ruling allowing gay marriages, and many couples seeking a license at a courthouse were met by a locked door. On the day that same-sex unions became legal in Alabama, local officials in dozens of counties on Monday defied a federal judge’s decision and refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, casting the state into judicial chaos. Gay couples were able to get licenses in about a dozen places, including Birmingham, Huntsville and a few other counties where probate judges complied with the judge’s decision. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled early Monday that it would deny Alabama’s request to put the marriages on hold.

BBC, Syria conflict: BBC exclusive interview with President Bashar al-Assad, Feb. 10, 2015. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has defended his government's actions in the region since the uprising against his rule, which erupted in 2011. In an exclusive interview with the BBC's Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen, Mr Assad denied that his forces had dropped barrel bombs indiscriminately on rebel-held areas, killing thousands of civilians, and dismissed as propaganda a statement by the UN that his government often blocks access to besieged areas for relief organizations. The Syrian leader also denied that there was a direct dialogue with the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State but confirmed that "general messages" were sometimes passed via third parties.

Feb. 9

bo_angela_merkel_2_9_2015_ukraine_whPresident Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany talk in the Roosevelt Room of the White House prior to a working lunch, Feb. 9, 2015. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Consortium News, Wretched US Journalism on Ukraine, Robert Parry, Feb. 9, 2015. Robert Parry, shown in a file photo, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. Robert ParryThe U.S. news media has failed the American people often in recent years by not challenging U.S. government falsehoods, as with Iraq’s WMD. But the most dangerous violation of journalistic principles has occurred in the Ukraine crisis, which has the potential of a nuclear war. A basic rule of journalism is that there are almost always two sides to a story and that journalists should try to reflect that reality, a principle that is especially important when lives are at stake amid war fevers. With very few exceptions, the mainstream U.S. media has simply regurgitated the propaganda from the U.S. State Department and other entities favoring western Ukrainians. There has been little effort to view the worsening crisis through the eyes of ethnic Russian Ukrainians living in the east or the Russians witnessing a political and humanitarian crisis on their border. Frankly, I cannot recall any previous situation in which the U.S. media has been more biased -- across the board -- than on Ukraine. Not even the "group think" around Iraq's non-existent WMDs was as single-minded as this.

Vineyard of the Saker, "Social warning" from Russia: we are ready for war. Are you? The Saker, Feb. 9, 2015. Saker is the pen name for a pro-separatist Eastern European native living in Delaware. One of the most striking Sakerdifferences between the Russian and Western media is the fact that the topic of a possible war is constantly discussed in the former and almost never in the latter. In Russia, the main news shows discuss the risks of war, as do a lot of well-known personalities. The second big difference is the rage and determination which are expressed by Russians of all walks of life. Russians find it amazing and absolutely crazy that the western "leaders" have apparently convinced themselves that the Russians will "blink" and let Obama scare them into not standing up for the Donbass. Russia will not attack first. That is utter nonsense. The mood is "if you really want a fight, then we will give you one." It gives me no pleasure to say that (actually it scares me), but I think that this warning must be circulated as widely as possible: Russia will not "blink" and Russia will not surrender.

FireDogLake, Supreme Court Rules in Favor of TSA Whistleblower Robert MacLean, Peter Van Buren, Feb. 9, 2015. Robert MacLean, TSA whistleblower, appearing on “Democracy Now!”  The Obama administration, in its war on Robert MacLean Democracy Now! screen showwhistleblowers, just lost a major battle. Major in its venue — the Supreme Court — and major in its implications for future Peter Van Burenwhistleblower cases. The Court’s decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Robert MacLean curtails the government’s manipulation of pseudo-classified information to punish whistleblowers, and strengthens the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The Facts: In July 2003, TSA alerted all marshals of a possible hijacking plot. Soon after, TSA sent an unclassified, open-air text message to marshals’ cell phones canceling several months of missions to save on hotel costs. Fearing such cancellations in the midst of a hijacking alert created a danger to the flying public, veteran Air Marshal Robert MacLean tried to get TSA to change its decision. MacLean discovered that months after firing him, TSA had retroactively classified as “security sensitive information” (SSI) the unclassified text message he had leaked. SSI is a designation created by TSA via administrative memo, and had no basis in law. TSA decided nonetheless that leaking a retroactively SSI-classified document was cause enough to fire a federal worker. MacLean fought back.

Daily Howler, Increasingly, NBC’s Brian Williams seems like a bit of a nut, Bob Somerby, Feb. 9, 2015. In interviews — largely not on news programs — Brian Williams has made an array of peculiar statements down through the years. They seem designed to heighten our sense of Williams’ heroism and moral greatness in the face of suffering and personal danger. Does any of this self-serving foolishness actually matter? Not necessarily, no! If a journalist does outstanding work but sometimes enters Walter Mitty mode, the caliber of his actual work would still stand on his own. That said, Williams doesn’t do outstanding work; on the whole, neither does his team at NBC News. And his silly reinventions-of-self have been going on for a very long time now. The liberal world has tolerated this self-serving conduct from Williams, and from other big stars, every step of the way. We’ve even tolerated the selling-of-self from brand names in upper-end liberal journalism, not excluding the increasingly peculiar Nicholas Kristof [of the New York Times}. We’ve warned you for years about wealth and fame, about what “journalists” will do to obtain them. In our view, Williams has played a dishonest, sometimes destructive game as he has seemed to grab for the golden rail.  But then again, so have quite a few of our leading “liberal” journalists.

FireDogLake, CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Prosecute CIA Case Officers Who Flouted the Law & Tortured Detainees, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 9, 2015. CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was released from a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, last week, after serving about 23 months in jail, called for CIA case officers to be prosecuted for “flouting” the law when they tortured detainees. In an interview for “Democracy Now!”, Kiriakou addressed the shocking details in the executive summary of the Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s torture program. “What about the CIA officers who directly violated the law, who carried out interrogations that resulted in death? What about the torturers of Hassan Ghul?” Kiriakou asked. Ghul died while he was being brutally interrogated in Afghanistan.

Feb. 8

John KerryAP via Washington Post, Kerry denies U.S., Europe divide over Ukraine, Staff report (video), Feb. 8, 2015.  Secretary of State John Kerry denied that the U.S. and Europe are divided over how to respond to the crisis in Ukraine and how to deal with Russia's role in it.

Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin, Moscow, Feb. 6, 2015Editor's note: A contrary view is argued by the pro-separatist blog Vineyard of the Saker in a posting Feb. 6 arguing that Germany wanted to keep confidential from allies details of a summit meeting with Russia Feb. 6. That day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, met in Moscow for Ukraine peace talks.  

Vineyard of the Saker, Talks in Moscow, Alexander Mercouris, Feb. 6, 2015. One of the most interesting things about the Moscow talks is that they mainly happened without the presence of aides and officials. Putin, Hollande and Merkel were by themselves save for interpreters and stenographers. There has been an extraordinary degree of secrecy about this whole episode and it rather looks as if Merkel and Hollande were anxious to stop leaks. From whom, one wonders, do Merkel and Hollande want to keep details of the meeting secret? From the media? From other members of their own governments? From the Americans? The frustration and worry on the part of all these groups must be intense. 

Feb. 7

RT, NATO top commander in Europe says 'military option' possible in Ukraine, Staff report, Feb. 7, 2015. NATO’s commander in chief says the West should not rule out arming Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove, shown in his official photo, said no troops would be sent to the region, but providing Kiev with weapons and equipment was in the cards. Speaking to reporters at a security conference in Munich on Saturday, his strong comments come as the U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove Official Photois considering sending weapons to help Kiev in its fight against anti-government militias. The chief commander of NATO, an Air Force general, said the proposal made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine was “completely unacceptable.” The head of the Russian Duma committee on CIS affairs and Eurasian integration, Leonid Slutsky, slammed Breedlove’s comments as “absolutely cynical.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is also due to give a speech. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already said the organization’s Response Force in Europe may increase to 30,000 troops — more than double the current 13,000 — with the majority to be posted near Russia’s borders. However, there are reports that NATO and the U.S. have been arming the Kiev forces. Russia’s ambassador to the organization, Aleksandr Grushko, says “there is a bulk of evidence that Western-made arms are being used in Ukraine,” mentioning lethal munitions such as NATO standard artillery shells. He has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to investigate the claims.

Reuters, Merkel defends Ukraine arms stance in face of U.S. criticism, Stephen Brown and Noah Barkin, Feb 7, 2015. Germany's Angela Merkel said on Saturday that sending arms to help Ukraine fight Lindsay Grahampro-Russian separatists would not solve the crisis there, drawing sharp rebukes from U.S. politicians who accused Berlin of turning its back on an ally in distress. The heated exchanges at a security conference in Munich pointed to cracks in the transatlantic consensus on how to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over a deepening conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 5,000. U.S. senators Lyndsey Graham, shown in an official photo, and John McCain, both Republican hawks, were withering in their criticism of the German stance, which is supported by other big European countries like France. "At the end of the day, to our European friends, this is not working," Graham said of Merkel's diplomatic efforts. McCain added: "The Ukrainians are being slaughtered and we're sending them blankets and meals. Blankets don't do well against Russian tanks."

Bloomberg, U.S-Germany Rift on Ukraine Aids Putin, Josh Rogin, Feb. 7, 2015. Some European leaders are pushing back hard on Washington’s potential plan to send weaponry and other military goods directly to the Ukrainian military. This rift — over an initiative President Barack Obama has not even committed to — only benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin and the pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine. The debate is playing out urgently here at the Munich Security Conference, where almost all the officials attending (not counting the Russians) can at least agree that the situation is deteriorating rapidly and that the West must act. But that’s where the agreement ends. The emerging split between the U.S. and Europe over Ukraine is exactly what Putin has been working toward. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes to Washington in two days, she and Obama will try to paper over that divide, but it is real and growing. Obama may ultimately decide that arming the Ukrainian military is too risky. Only after he says that openly could the U.S. and Europe start working on a real alternative strategy.

Consortium News, When Silencing Dissent Isn’t News, Robert Parry, Feb. 7, 2015. Ray McGovern, 75, an internationally known Army veteran, longtime CIA official, and news commentator, was recently denied entry to a public speech by another Iraq War icon, Gen. David Petraeus, and – despite having paid for a ticket – was brutally arrested by the police and jailed. Wouldn’t that be a story?

Feb. 6

 Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin, Moscow, Feb. 6, 2015

On Feb. 6, 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, met in Moscow for so-far inconclusive peace discussions regarding the rapidly escalating civil war in the Ukraine. 

Telegraph (London), I've looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes — and he won't back down; The Russian leader doesn’t want war, and he won't take on NATO, but neither will he give in to Merkel and Hollande if he thinks it's against his country's interests, Tony Brenton, former British Ambassador to Russia, Feb. 7, 2015. The Ukraine crisis is a year old. The same sub-plots come round and around: the rising death count, the accusations of atrocities from both sides, the sanctions, the regular – and regularly broken – ceasefires. That phase may now be ending. The Russians have rearmed the East Ukrainian rebels – who are on something of a military roll. This has inclined Washington to supply Ukraine’s government in Kiev with lethal weaponry. The prospect this brings of a much more direct clash between Russia and the West has alarmed Angela Merkel and François Hollande enough to send them hurrying off to Moscow. A huge amount now turns on who Vladimir Putin is, and what he is after. I met him regularly when I was British Ambassador in Moscow between 2004 and 2008, and came away with some quite clear impressions of the challenge they face.

London Review of Books, We came, we saw, he died, Jackson Lears, Feb. 5, 2015.

  • Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton, Simon and Schuster, 635 pp, £20.00, June 2014
  • HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Hutchinson, 440 pp, £20.00, February 2014

The intellectual bankruptcy of the Democratic Party is nowhere more evident than in the looming presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Assumptions of the inevitability of her candidacy tend to ignore policy matters, focusing instead on her gender and her twenty years as a Washington insider. Many usually thoughtful people can find nothing more substantial to say in her favour than ‘it’s her turn.’ This points to the problem with identity politics: it suggests that this woman deserves the presidency because she has paid her dues, first by enduring public humiliation at the hands of her philandering husband, then by losing the 2008 primaries to the messianic Obama. However empty his promises proved to be, Americans can congratulate themselves on having elected a black man; now, in the feel-good world of identity politics, it’s time to elect a woman. Who else but Hillary Clinton?

Vineyard of the Saker, About U.S. weapons deliveries and Novorussian mobilization plans, The Saker, Feb. 6, 2015. The Saker is the pen name for a pro-separatist analyst with a different view of the Ukraine than Western media reports based on statements by military and political agencies. U.S. political culture and propaganda have deeply ingrained in the minds of those exposed to the corporate media the notion that weapons or technologies win wars. Yes, when the difference in technologies is very big AND very wide this can help. But not one weapon system alone, and not when the difference in quality is marginal. Furthermore, a simpler, more "primitive" weapon which totally outclassed on the testing range can suddenly become much better suited to real combat then some techno-marvel. Even in the 21st century, what wins wars is not money or fancy gear, but courage, determination, moral strength, will power and the rage which seizes you when faced with brute, ugly evil. The junta forces have none of that. Their death squads (Aidar, Azov) can't fight a real ugly battle, and the regular military is demoralized. The real reason why U.S. weapon deliveries to the junta would be a big deal is not military, but political — it would be a visible sign of direct U.S. aggression against Novorussia and, through it, Russia herself.

Montgomery Advertiser, Congress plans budget for Fuller impeachment, Mary Troyan, Feb. 6, 2015. The House committee responsible for judicial impeachments has asked for a budget increase in case it needs to initiate Federal Judge Mark E. Fullerproceedings against U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, who has been charged with battery. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said this week that the committee may need the extra money to establish an impeachment task force, hire lawyers and conduct an investigation. Although impeaching Fuller is only a possibility — his colleagues on the federal bench could decide not to recommend that option, or Fuller could resign — the budget request signals Congress is taking steps to prepare for what historically has been a rare but lengthy process. “We are closely monitoring the recent arrest and ongoing prosecution” of Fuller, Goodlatte told the House Administration Committee on Wednesday. Joining Goodlatte in presenting the budget request was the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. Fuller, a federal judge in Montgomery since 2002, was charged with misdemeanor battery after an August incident involving his then-wife in an Atlanta hotel room. If he successfully completes a pretrial diversion program of domestic violence counseling and drug and alcohol screenings, his criminal record will be wiped clean.

AP via Yahoo News, Oregon governor faces ethics allegations, calls to resign, Associated Press, Jonathan J. Cooper, Feb. 6, 2014. Oregon's governor is struggling to deal with allegations that his fiancee used his position to land clients for her environmental consulting business, claims that have drawn an ethics investigation and the scrutiny of the state's attorney general. Although his role in arranging the deals isn't clear, the scandal has posed a threat to the decades-long political career of four-term Democrat John Kitzhaber, Oregon's longest-serving governor. The editorial board at the state's largest newspaper, The Oregonian, called for him to resign this week, saying the controversy has become such a distraction that he can't effectively lead. Two advisers to the Republican he defeated last year took early steps Friday to begin a recall effort.

WND, AG nominee eyed in massive Obama cover-up; Loretta Lynch tied to world's biggest banking scandal, Jerome R. Corsi, Feb. 6, 2015. Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch could be facing new confirmation problems in the U.S. Senate after being tied to the world’s biggest banking scandal, involving HSBC, which used its power to temporarily shut down WND.com as the news site was breaking a series of stories on the mega-bank’s money-Loretta Lynchlaundering practices – practices that resulted in more than $1.2 billion in fines. According to court papers filed Wednesday, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice appears to be stonewalling the release of documents that could implicate Lynch in a massive cover-up of Obama administration involvement in international money-laundering of Mexican cartel drug money. In 2012, Lynch, as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, oversaw the investigation of drug-related international money laundering allegations against London-based HSBC Holdings LLC. WND published a series articles documenting charges HSBC laundered billions of dollars that traced back to the Mexican drug cartels, culminating with a $1.256 billion fine paid to the U.S. government to end the investigation and avoid the filing of criminal charges. The federal government’s unwillingness to prosecute HSBC was exposed by a former HSBC vice president and relationship manager in New York, John Cruz, who called the bank a “criminal enterprise.” Cruz was ignored by law enforcement authorities until he brought to WND 1,000 pages of customer account records that document his claims. Cruz called the $1.92 billion fine the U.S. government imposed on HSBC “a joke” and filed a $10 million lawsuit for “retaliation and wrongful termination.” Whistleblowers in India and London joined Cruz in charging the HSBC settlement amounted to a massive cover-up. In response to WND’s reporting of Cruz’s evidence, HSBC lodged a complaint that blocked Internet access to one of the WND stories, and senior reporter Jerome Corsi was fired by the New York City investment firm he had worked with for two years as a senior managing director, Gilford Securities.

Feb. 5

FireDogLake, FCC To Propose Real Net Neutrality Rules, DS Wright, Feb. 5, 2015. In a stunning reversal of his previous position, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he changed his views regarding net neutrality and now says he does believe Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be regulated as common carriers. This model, where ISPs are treated like utilities, opens the way for regulation to prevent tiered services that would splinter the internet between those that can pay for preferred faster lanes of content and those who cannot. Wheeler’s announcement came before an expected unveiling to be made today to officially endorse a regulatory framework that ensures all internet traffic will be treated equally. The shift within the FCC to embrace net neutrality appears to be at the behest of the White House as Chairman Wheeler’s initial position was to allow tiered services and not regulate ISP as utilities.

USA Today, Ukraine peace plan proposed amid pressure for lethal aid, Jane Onyanga-Omara and Oren Dorell, USA Today, Feb. 5, 2015. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging Russia to commit to a diplomatic solution to the John Kerryconflict in eastern Ukraine by halting its military aid for the separatists and backing a negotiated peace. He made the comments during a visit to Kiev. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed a new peace initiative in Ukraine as pressure mounts for Western countries to provide the war-ravaged nation with the capacity to block further offensives from Russian-backed separatists. In Kiev, Kerry met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Kerry urged Russia to cease its military support for separatists and commit to a diplomatic solution to the hostilities, but stopped short of promising military aid to Ukraine.

Trends Journal, The Grand Manipulation, Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 6, 2015. The government’s economic reporting has no credibility. In the face of depressed Christmas sales and the closure of retail chains such as Radio Shack, do you think retailers rushed out in January to hire 45,900 new retail employees? In the face of declining restaurant traffic, do you think 34,600 new waitresses and bartenders were hired in January? Read my sometime coauthor Dave Kranzler’s take on today’s payroll jobs report. If the government will not even tell us the truth about jobs and inflation, how can we believe the government when it tells us, without supplying any evidence, that Russian tank columns have entered Ukraine? Americans need to come to terms with the fact that they live in The Matrix, a world composed of fake information designed to control thought and behavior.

Feb. 4

New York Times, Claims Against Saudis Cast New Light on Secret Pages of 9/11 Report, Carl Hulse, Feb. 4, 2014. A still-classified section of the investigation by congressional intelligence committees into the Sept. 11, 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui_attacks has taken on an almost mythic quality over the past 13 years — 28 pages that examine crucial support given the hijackers and that by all accounts implicate prominent Saudis in financing terrorism. Now new claims by Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted former member of Al Qaeda, that he had high-level contact with officials of the Saudi Arabian government in the prelude to Sept. 11 have brought renewed attention to the inquiry’s withheld findings, which lawmakers and relatives of those killed in the attacks have tried unsuccessfully to declassify. “I think it is the right thing to do,” said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts and an author of a bipartisan resolution encouraging President Obama to declassify the section. “Let’s put it out there.”

CNN, Billionaire Saudi prince unloads most of his stake in News Corp., Tom Kludt, Feb. 4, 2015. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is losing a major shareholder in Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said Wednesday that his company will shed most of its stake in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., taking its 6.6% ownership down to 1%. But while Alwaleed's Kingdom Holding Company will reduce its stake in News Corp. (NWSA), it will maintain its 6.6% holding of Murdoch's entertainment company, 21st Century Fox (FOXA).

Murdoch's media empire was formally split into two companies in 2013, after a phone hacking scandal forced him to shutter his British tabloid, The News of the World. News Corp. is Murdoch's publishing operation, made up of the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal as well as the book publisher HarperCollins. The more valuable 21st Century Fox is home to a host of television and film properties such as Fox Searchlight, the Fox broadcasting network and Fox News.  Even as he acknowledged in 2012 that the scandal was "not helping the name of the company," Alwaleed gave a vote of confidence to the embattled Murdoch. "We have a strategic alliance with Rupert Murdoch for sure and I have been with him for the last 15 or 20 years," Alwaleed said. "My backing of Rupert Murdoch is definitely unwavering."

Brian WilliamsStars and Stripes, NBC’s Brian Williams recants Iraq story after soldiers protest, Travis J. Tritten, Feb. 4, 2015. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted Wednesday he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years. Williams repeated the claim Friday during NBC’s coverage of a public tribute at a New York Rangers hockey game for a retired soldier that had provided ground security for the grounded helicopters, a game to which Williams accompanied him. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he said he had misremembered the events and was sorry. "I spent much of the weekend thinking I'd gone crazy. I feel terrible about making this mistake."

Philadelphia Daily News/Philly.com, TSA jails innocent traveler when he asks to file a complaint, Ronnie Polaneczky, Feb. 4, 2015. Apparently, working as a supervisor for the Transportation Security Administration at Philadelphia International Airport comes with a perk: You get to throw people in jail for no good reason and still keep your job. If that's not the case, why is Charles Kieser still employed by the TSA? Roger Vanderklok had the misfortune of going through Kieser's security-screening area at 8 a.m. Jan. 26, 2013, in Terminal B. Vanderklok, 57, is a Philly architect who runs half-marathons. Twice a month, he flies around the country for weekend races.

Global Research, Editor of Major German Newspaper Says He Planted Stories for the CIA, Ralph Lopez, Feb. 4, 2015. Becoming the first credentialed, well-known media insider to step forward and state publicly that he was secretly a “propagandist,” an editor of a major German daily has said that he personally planted stories for the CIA. Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live, and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name. Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war. Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short. Dr. Ulfkotte is the author of a book currently available only in German, Bought Journalists (Kopp 2014). Aged 55, he was also once an advisor to the government of German Chancellor Helmet Kohl. The book has become a bestseller in Germany but, in a bizarre twist which Ulfkotte says characterizes the disconnect caused by CIA control of the western media, the book cannot be reported on [in Germany].

Atlantic, Caught in the Crossfire in Eastern Ukraine, Alan Taylor, Feb. 4, 2015 (Photo essay).  Battles in eastern Ukraine have surged anew, with the civilian population suffering dozens of deaths from ongoing rocket attacks. A collapse of peace talks in Belarus in mid-January preceded intensified fighting in Donetsk, with pro-Russian separatists making strides in capturing territory from the government in Kiev. Their main offensive is now directed at Debaltseve—a government-held railway junction once populated by 25,000 people that lies between the rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Almost 2,000 residents have fled in the last few days alone. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has accused Russia of sending thousands of troops to back the rebels, while the United States and European Union threaten tougher measures should Moscow fail to rein in the separatists. Warning: Several of these photographs are graphic in nature.

Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Drone strikes in Yemen, Jack Serle, Jan. 30, 2015. Analysis: What next for Yemen as death toll from confirmed US drone strikes hits 424, including 8 children? A confirmed US drone strike that hit Yemen in the midst of one of the country’s worst ever crises this week means at least 424 people, including eight children, have now been killed in such missions since the start of operations in 2002, Bureau research shows. Monday’s attack south of Yemen’s capital Sanaa was ordered by the CIA and killed three people, one of whom was reported to be a child aged between 12 and 15. This perilous situation comes a little more than four months after President Obama lauded the success of his strategy in Yemen of coordinating with a strong local government while using drones for targeted killing.

New Republic, Wall Street Pays Bankers to Work in Government and It Doesn't Want Anyone to Know, David Dayen, Feb. 4, 2015. Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service. In letters delivered to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the last month, Citi, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seek exemption from a shareholder proposal, filed by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, which would force them to identify all executives eligible for these financial rewards, and the specific dollar amounts at stake. Critics argue these “golden parachutes” ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street.

“As shareholders of these banks, we want to know how much money we have promised to give away to senior executives if they take government jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “It’s a simple question, but the banks don’t want to answer it. What are they trying to hide?”

The handouts recently received attention when Antonio Weiss, the former investment banker at Lazard now serving as counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, acknowledged in financial disclosures that he would be paid $21 million in unvested income and deferred compensation upon exiting the company for a job in government. Weiss withdrew from consideration to become the undersecretary for domestic finance under pressure from financial reformers, but the counselor position — which does not require congressional confirmation — probably still entitles him to the $21 million. The terms of the award are part of a Lazard employee agreement that nobody has seen.

These payments are routine at major banks, several of which have explicit policies, found in filings with the SEC, outlining automatic awards for executives who rotate into government. Goldman Sachs offers “a lump sum cash payment” for government service, for example.

Other banks’ policies are subtler. Banks often defer certain types of compensation in order to retain talent. When an executive terminates employment, unvested stock options and other forms of deferred compensation are usually forfeited. But several companies let executives’ equity options continue to vest if they leave for a government position, or allow them to keep retention bonuses that would otherwise be returned to the firm. A 2004 tax law banned accelerated payments but made an exemption for employees who leave for government service. Critics wonder whether the gifts are intended to fill the government with friendly faces who will act in their former employer’s interests.

Feb. 3

Gwendolyn Beck Congress.jpg


Former Virginia congressional candidate Gwendolyn Beck, shown above, received 28 percent of her campaign donations from disgraced billionaire investor Jeffrey Epstein, according to The Smoking Gun. Epstein is shown Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University in a Harvard University photo in conjunction with his $6.5 million gift to the university.

The Smoking Gun (TSG), Inside Wealthy Pervert's Massage "Black Book," Senator's galpal listed in Jeffrey Epstein's rub roster, Feb. 3, 2015. One of the women listed in wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s “black book” as a massage provider at his Palm Beach mansion last year ran unsuccessfully for Congress and once accompanied a prominent U.S. senator to a White House state dinner, records show. But Gwendolyn Beck told TSG she has no idea why her name and phone numbers appear in a list that includes contact information for masseuses and some of Epstein’s underage female victims, who performed naked massages for the convicted sex offender whose acquaintances have included business titans, elected officials, Nobel laureates, and royalty like Britain's Prince Andrew. Beck’s name appears in a section of Epstein’s “black book” that is headlined “Massage – Florida” and contains phone numbers for dozens of women, almost all of whom resided in the Palm Beach area. Some entries include brief descriptions like “red head,” “brunette,” “gymnast,” and “gypsy’s girl.” The book was included as an exhibit to a court filing in a civil suit brought against Epstein, 62, by two of his minor victims, who, like most girls, were paid about $200 to disrobe and massage him while he simultaneously masturbated himself and molested them. In a TSG interview, Beck said that she met Epstein years ago through “mutual friends” at Credit Suisse, where she worked on the firm’s New York bond trading floor until the mid-1990s. Beck said that she subsequently moved to Morgan Stanley, where she managed about $65 million of Epstein’s money from her office in West Palm Beach, a few miles from the financier’s waterfront home. Asked about Epstein, Beck recently said that he “got involved in very bad behaviors which he’s sought therapy for and paid his time in jail.” Although “flawed,” Epstein “can be a great asset to our nation because he understands finance on a level most people can’t comprehend,” she added.

Politico, How Rand Paul bombed at Koch brothers gathering, Kenneth P. Vogel and Tarini Parti, Feb. 3, 2015. Some of the most influential players in big-money conservative politics gathered late last month to discuss government’s role in society, but their focus kept shifting to a less weighty topic: Rand Paul’s outfit. The Kentucky senator and prospective GOP presidential candidate — whose libertarian politics mesh with those of the billionaire megadonor brothers Charles and David Koch — appeared at the annual winter meeting of the Koch donor network wearing a boxy blue blazer, faded jeans and cowboy boots. The sartorial criticisms hint at a potentially more serious challenge for Paul — securing the backing of enough big-money donors to be competitive in a crowded Republican primary that could include prolific fundraisers such as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

Guardian, Zacarias Moussaoui says al-Qaida was backed by Saudi Arabia. But can he be believed? Jason Burke, Feb. 3, 3015. Zacarias Moussaoui, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 9/11 attacks, has claimed Zacarias Moussaoui_that al-Qaida received donations from some of the most senior members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family even after Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war against the US in 1998. In a court deposition this week, the French Algerian extremist also said that he met with a Saudi diplomat posted in Washington to discuss a plan to assassinate the US president using a surface-to-air missile and plotted to bomb the US embassy in London. The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington has rejected the charges, telling the New York Times that Moussaoui was a “deranged criminal” with no credibility. Moussaoui, now 46, appears to have been a controversial last-minute candidate picked by al-Qaida as a substitute if other prospective hijackers could not join the 9/11 plot or pulled out. He was detained as he tried to learn to fly big jets in August 2001 and may have been in the US to undertake other attacks. He came very close to jeopardizing the whole 9/11 conspiracy – indeed, many have argued that he would have done if US agencies had been more effective.

Feb. 3

Author and peace activist David Swanson is shown with his son at a demonstration.

War Is a Crime, It's the Blind Partisanship, David Swanson, Feb. 3, 2015. Why did the peace movement grow large around 2003-2006 and shrink around 2008-2010? Military spending, troop levels abroad, and number of wars engaged in can explain the growth but not the shrinkage. Those factors hardly changed between the high point and the low point of peace activism. A new book called Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11 by Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas used careful surveys of large numbers of activists. "The 2006 elections and their immediate aftermath were the high point for party-movement synergy," write Heaney and Rojas. "At exactly the time when antiwar voices were most well poised to exert pressure on Congress, movement leaders stopped sponsoring lobby days. The size of antiwar protests declined. From 2007 to 2009, the largest antiwar rallies shrank from hundreds of thousands of people to thousands, and then to only hundreds." What explains this?  "The rising power of the Democratic Party may have convinced many antiwar activists that the war issue would be dealt with satisfactorily." I'm not convinced. I have no doubt that public sentiment, and in particular political partisanship, was hugely important. But organizations that have been corrupted by closeness to power don't advertise their shifts in position.

Fidel Castro (2015 Cuban government photo)Yahoo News, Cuban state media released the first photographs of former president Fidel Castro in nearly six months, Feb. 3, 2015.

Trends Journal via Paul Craig Roberts.org, America: Murder, Inc., Guest column by Gerald Celente, Feb. 3, 2015. The votes are in and the decision is overwhelmingly clear. Chris Kyle—the Navy SEAL portrayed in the blockbuster movie purported killer of some 200 Iraqis during four tours of duty—is the people’s choice. From record ticket sales to major media accolades, from the halls of Congress to the White House, the nation has spoken: “American Sniper” is all-American. Chris Kyle—the most lethal killer in U.S. military history, a true hero, a brave warrior—has been anointed as a role model for all that America has come to stand for. And as Michelle Obama contends, “… for all those folks in America who don’t have these kinds of opportunities [to meet veterans and military families personally] films and TV are often the best way to share those stories.” Speaking at a film industry event, Ms. Obama said the movie stressed, “The complicated moral decisions they [troops] are tasked with … the balancing of love of family with love of country.” For Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the essence of his “love of country” lay in obeying his commander in chief and living up to Washington’s “moral decisions.”

From left, Natalie Kwawam, David Petraeus, Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley, Holly Petraeus in 2010In this Jan. 30, 2010 photo, Natalie Khawam, left, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott and Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus watch the Gasparilla parade from the comfort of a tent on the Kelley's front lawn in Tampa, Fla. (AP)

Washington Post, Jill Kelley e-mails depict a striving Tampa socialite and a smitten military brass, Craig Whitlock, Feb. 3, 2015. Judging from her e-mails, Jill Kelley was star-struck by the big-name military commanders rotating between the war zones in the Middle East and her home town of Tampa. And they were equally smitten with her. “Everyone thinks you’re a RockStar!” Kelley gushed in a 2012 e-mail to Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, then commander of all U.S. military forces in the Middle East. “We agreed how amazing it must be that you’re single-handedly re-writing history,” she added, recalling how she had sung the general’s praises to several foreign ambassadors at the Republican National Convention that August in Tampa. Now, a glimpse into Kelley’s relationship with military commanders has emerged from a previously undisclosed batch of e-mails: her correspondence with Mattis, a legendary Marine. The Washington Post requested the e-mails in November 2012 under the Freedom of Information Act. More than two years later, after numerous unexplained delays, the Pentagon released 238 pages Mirror, Westminster child abuse scandal: KGB and CIA kept secret dossiers on Britain's VIP pedophiles, Don Hale, Jan. 31, 2015.   Both Russian and US intelligence knew about a group of powerful paedophiles operating in Britain and the KGB hoped to blackmail them in exchange for information

Ray McGovernConsortium News, A Pointed Letter to Gen. Petraeus, Ray McGovern (shown in a file photo), Feb. 3, 2015. As retired Gen. and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus was about to speak in New York City last Oct. 30, someone decided to spare the “great man” from impertinent questions, so ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern was barred, arrested and brought to trial, prompting McGovern to ask some questions now in an open letter.

Dear Gen. David Petraeus,

As I prepare to appear in New York City Criminal Court on Wednesday facing charges of “criminal trespass” and “resisting arrest,” it struck me that we have something in common besides being former Army officers – and the fact that the charges against me resulted from my trying to attend a speech that you were giving, from which I was barred. As I understand it, you, too, may have to defend yourself in Court someday in the future.

Feb. 2

Reuters, Justice Department drops News Corp probe related to phone hacking, Staff report, Feb. 2, 2015. The United States Department of Justice has decided not to prosecute News Corp (NWSA.O) or its sister company Rupert MurdochTwenty-First Century Fox after completing an investigation of scandals in Great Britain involving phone hacking and alleged bribery of public officials. The end of the probe, disclosed by News Corp in a regulatory filing on Monday, comes after the U.S. government spent years combing through thousands of e-mails from News Corp's servers. A U.S. law enforcement official confirmed to Reuters that the case, which included an investigation of possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, had been closed by the Justice Department. News Corp was notified about the decision on Jan. 28. The investigation was related to the 2011 phone hacking and bribery charges involving News Corp's British newspaper, the now-defunct News of the World. Journalists from News Corp's daily tabloid The Sun have also faced prosecution by British authorities. Rupert Murdoch controls both News Corp and Fox, which split into separate businesses in 2013.

Associated Press Via Huffington Post, Obama Reconsidering Lethal Assistance To Ukraine, Julie Pace, President Obama is reconsidering his opposition to giving Ukraine defensive weapons and other lethal aid to help its struggling military repel Russian-backed rebels, a possible escalation that has had strong support from many in his national security team. The shift suggests the White House is growing increasingly concerned that its reliance on punishing Russia with economic sanctions isn't doing enough to change President Vladimir Putin's thinking about backing fighters in ethnic-Russian eastern Ukraine. The president's worries about sending higher-powered equipment to Ukraine are threefold, according to the official. He sees risk in starting a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, which the West accuses of supplying rebels in eastern Ukraine. He is worried that the Ukrainian military may not be well-trained enough to effectively use U.S. equipment and believes no amount of arms would put Ukraine on par with the Russian military.

FireDogLake, Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Reacts to How Loretto Handled a Prison Guard’s Suicide, Kevin Gosztola, Feb. 2, 2015. CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who has been serving a prison sentence at the John Kiriakou Lettersfederal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, has written a letter reporting that a correctional officer committed suicide in January. How the prison officials handled the death stood in stark contrast to the treatment prisoners experience when an inmate dies or an inmate needs to go to a funeral for an immediate family member. For much of Kiriakou’s prison sentence, Firedoglake has published his “Letters from Loretto.” He was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under President George W. Bush’s administration. In October 2012, he pled guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) when he confirmed the name of an officer involved in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program to a reporter. He was sentenced in January 2013 and reported to prison on February 28, 2013. He is scheduled for release to a halfway house Feb. 3. “I’ve lost count of the number of prisoners I’ve encountered in tears because they’d lost their wives, their parents or their children. The prison administration’s response is typical: Tough luck. Get over it. There are not grief counselors for us.”

Guardian, Litvinenko had long-standing bitter feud with Putin, inquiry told, Luke Harding and Esther Addley, Feb. 2, 2015. Alexander Litvinenko had a deeply personal and long-standing feud with Vladimir Putin, and months before his murder wrote that Russia’s president was a pedophile, the public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death has heard. Giving evidence for the first time, Marina Litvinenko said her husband waged a vociferous political campaign against Putin after they fled Moscow in 2000 and moved to London. In one of the last articles he wrote, before his poisoning in November 2006, Litvinenko alleged that Putin was a pedophile. The blogpost described how in July 2006 Putin bumped into a group of tourists in one of the Kremlin’s squares. He stopped to chat to them. Putin then lifted the T-shirt of a small boy and “kissed him on the tummy”, Robin Tam QC, the counsel to the inquiry, told the high court on Monday. A photo of the encounter accompanying Litvinenko’s piece was shown to the inquiry. Its provocative headline read: “The Kremlin Pedophile.” Litvinenko also wrote that after graduating from Leningrad’s KGB academy Putin – who spoke fluent German – might have expected a glamorous foreign posting. Instead he was given a relatively “junior position” because his bosses were aware of his tendencies, Tam said, quoting Litvinenko. Litvinenko offered no sources for the claim, Tam added. “If you were going to make friends with Mr Putin this was not the way to go about it?” Tam asked Marina Litvinenko. “Not at all,” she agreed.

Don Adam, former FBI agent and authorJFK Facts, Don Adams RIP: An FBI agent who didn’t buy the official theory, Jefferson Morley, Feb. 1, 2015. Don Adams, whose career as an FBI agent spanned 22 years, never really bought the official line of his own employer: that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Adams, who died on June 14 at age 83 in Akron, Ohio, eventually wrote From an Office Building with a High-Powered Rifle (TrineDay, 2012), in which he argued that “the FBI’s investigation was compromised from the top down, beginning with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.”

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Shown in a file photo, Adams wrote of his investigation before and after JFK's murder of Georgia racist James Milteer, whom a government information taped on Nov. 9 predicting JFK's death with the words used in the Adams book title and predicting also that a patsy would be immediately arrested and charged with the crime to protect the real killers. The Adams memoir describes his astonishment to learn in the 1990s that his colleagues and superiors received an alert on the taped prediction before Kennedy's death, apparently did nothing to prevent it, and falsified FBI records before and after the assassination to provide an alibi for Milteer and confuse the record.