By PAUL KRUGMAN: The New York Times: Phony Fear Factor!

We live in a golden age of economic debunkery, fallacious doctrines have been dropping like flies. No, monetary expansion needn't cause hyperinflation. No, budget deficits in a depressed economy don't cause soaring interest rates. No, slashing spending doesn't create jobs. No, economic growth doesn't collapse when debt exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P. And now the latest myth bites the dust: No, "economic policy uncertainty" created, it goes without saying, by That Man in the White House, isn't holding back the recovery. I'll get to the doctrine and its refutation in a minute. First, however, I want to recommend a very old essay that explains a great deal about the times we live in. The Polish economist Michal Kalecki published "Political Aspects of Full Employment" 70 years ago. Keynesian ideas were riding high, a "solid majority"of economists believed that full employment could be secured by government spending. Yet Kalecki predicted that such spending would, nonetheless, face fierce opposition from business and the wealthy, even in times of depression. Why? The answer, he suggested, was the role of "confidence" as a tool of intimidation. If the government can't boost employment directly, it must promote private spending instead, and anything that might hurt the privileged, such as higher tax rates or financial regulation, can be denounced as job-killing because it undermines confidence, and hence investment. But if the government can create jobs, confidence becomes less important, and vested interests lose their veto power. Kalecki argued that "captains of industry" understand this point, and that they oppose job-creating policies precisely because such policies would undermine their political influence. "Hence budget deficits necessary to carry out government intervention must be regarded as perilous." When I first read this essay, I thought it was over the top. Kalecky was, after all, a declared Marxist, although I don't see much of Marx in his writings. But, if you haven't been radicalized by recent events, you haven't been paying attention, and policy discourse since 2008 has run exactly along the lines Kalecki predicted. First came the "pivot" the sudden switch to the view that budget deficits, not mass unemployment, were the crucial policy issue. Then came the Great Whine, the declaration by one leading business figure after another that President Obama was undermining confidence by saying mean things about business people and doing outrageous things like helping the uninsured. Finally, just as happened with the claims that slashing spending is actually expansionary and terrible things happen if government debt rises, the usual suspects found an academic research paper to adopt as mascot: in this case, a paper by economist at Stanford and Chicago purportedly showing that rising levels of "economic policy uncertainty" were holding the economy back.


Theodore Meyer: New Study Finds High Levels of Arsenic in Groundwater Near Fracking Sites.

Brian Fontenot and Kevin Shug, two of the authors of a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater near natural gas fracking sites in Texas' Barnett Shale. While the findings are far from conclusive, the study provides further evidence tying fracking to arsenic contamination. An internal Environment Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times warned that wells near Dimock, Pa., showed elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater. The EPA also found arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Pavillion, Wyo., in 2009, a study the agency later abandoned. ProPublica talked with Brian Fontenot, the paper's lead author, about how his team carried out the study and why it matters. Fontenot, and another author, about how his team carried out the study and why it matters. Fontenot and another author, Laura Hunt, work for the EPA in Dallas, but they conducted the study on their own time in collaboration with several UT Arlington researchers. Here's an edited version of our interview: What led you guys to do the study? We were sort of talking around lunch one day, and came up with the idea of actually going out and testing water in the Barnett Shale. We'd heard all the things that you see in the media, all the sort of really left-wing stuff and right wing stuff, but there weren't a whole lot of answers out there in terms of an actual scientific study of water in the Barnett Shale. Our main intent was to bring an unbiased viewpoint here, to just look at the water, see if we could find anything, and report what we found. What kind of previous studies had been done in this vein? The closest analog that I could find to our type of study are the things that have been done in the Marcellus Shale, with Rob Jackson's group out at Duke University. Ours is set up very similarly to theirs in that we went out at Duke University. Ours is set up very similarly to theirs in that we went out to private landowners' wells and sampled their water wells and essayed them for various things. We decided to go with a list of chemicals thought to be included in hydraulic fracturing that was actually released in a congressional report. Our plan was to sample everyone's water that we could, and then go through that list of these potential chemical compounds within the congressional list. How did you do it? We were able to get a press release put out from UT Arlington that went into the local newspapers that essentially called for volunteers to be participants in the study. For being a participant, you would get free water testing, and we would tell them our results. We were upfront with everyone about, you know, we don't have a bias, we're not anti-industry, we're not pro-industry. We're just to finally get some scientific data on this subject. And we had a pretty overwhelming response.


Mark Rumold: What It Means to Be An NSA "Target":

New Information Shows Why We Need Immediate FISA Amendment Act Reform: An important New York Times investigation from today reporting that the NSA "is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans' e-mail and text communications into and out of the country," coupled with leaked documents published by the Guardian, seriously calls into question the accuracy of crucial statements made by government officials about NSA surveillance. The government has previously tried to reassure the public about its use of FISA Amendments Section 702 surveillance practices, emphasizing that, under Section 702, the government may not "intentionally target any U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States." Indeed, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Feinstein, in a letter to constituents who wrote to her expressing concern about the NSA's spying program, said this: "The government cannot listen to an American's telephone calls or read their emails without a court warrant issued upon showing of probable cause." We've written before about the word games the government plays in describing its surveillance practices: "acquire," "collect," and "content" are all old government favorites. The New York Times report proves Feinstein statement is false, and it's clear it's time to add "target" to the list of word games as well. When "Target" Means Searching a Specific Person's Communications. First, at least this much is clear: a "target" under the FAA must be a non-US person and (b) not physically located within the United States. A "person," for purposes of the FAA, includes individuals as well as "any group, entity, association, corporation, or foreign power." Under the FAA, the government can thus "target" a single individual e.g., Vladimir Putin, a small group of people e.g., Pussy Riot, or a formal corporation or entity e.g., Gazprom. So, when the NSA decides to "target" someone or something, it turns its specific surveillance vacuum at them. The NSA then believes it can intercept and analyze all electronic communications of the target, telephone conversations, email conversations, chat, web browsing, etc so long as the "target" is overseas and remains overseas. As others have noted, this includes conversations the "target" has with Americans, which would then be "incidentally" collected. Keep in mind this does not require a warrant or even the approval of a court, which is only one way Senator Feinstein's reassurance was demonstrably false. But there's still more. When "Target" Means Searching Everyone's Communications. Once a target is established, the NSA believes it can expand the sweep of its interception far more broadly than the communications of the particular, identified target. Notably, the NSA's procedures state: In those cases where the NSA believes it can expand the sweep of its interception far more broadly than the communications of the particular, identified target.   



AlterNet: By Gloria Flora: Fracking the Commons: Why Your Public Lands Are Under Assault -

by Oil and Gas Drilling: As a Forest Supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service in the late 1990s, I put a 15-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front. I made this controversial decision because the ecosystems on the Front are irreplaceably rich and diverse and diverse, because I'd witnessed first-hand the cultural connections in spirit, mind, and body that countless connections in spirit, mind, and body, that countless people both near and far had to this extraordinary place. The towering limestone cliffs, the wealth of wildlife, and the sheer wildness resonate deeply with the human psyche, and have done so for countless generations for over ten thousand years. I thought I'd seen the worst of the oil and gas industry during that battle: its death-grip on public agencies, its demand for ever more leases, and its running roughshod over drilling regulations with impunity. But some years later I learned about an insidious new threat from the fossil fuel industry, hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." In fracking, fluid is injected into underground shale formations to break them apart and release trapped natural gas and increasingly, oil. Unfortunately, fracking fluid contaminates our water, fracked gas escapes into the atmosphere, and the breakneck pace of drilling for these low-quality wells wreak havoc on wildlife habitat and human communities alike. In the early 2000s, fracking was mostly confined to the Southwest and seemed little more tan a crazy, expensive, last-ditch effort to squeeze the last bits of gas out of old fields. But as the easy-to-get fossil fuels have been depleted, and as government subsidies for fossil fuels have increased, such last-ditch efforts have become the industry standard. Today, the battle I fought over the Rocky Mountain Front seems small in comparison to what the fossil fuel industry aims  to do across the entire country with fracking, including on public lands. Public lands, private profit. In recent years, fracking has spread from the rugged and remote public lands in the American West to the well-populated, bucolic landscapes of Pennsylvania. After decades of the oil and gas industry quietly cracking apart the crust of the earth, well, "quietly" if you aren't in the vicinity people are finally sitting up and taking notice. Communities across the US are attempting to ban fracking to protect their citizens, and so far over 250 have succeeded. Vermont has a ban, and Maryland and New York have moratoriums in place. The fight is far from over: Pennsylvania, for example, has passed a draconian piece of legislation that strips communities of the ability to regulate, where, when and how fracking should occur. But local and state-level lawmaking, while important, addressed only part of the picture. A significant amount of fracked wells are currently drilled on federal lands, that is, public, and our national commons.    

The Washington Post. By Anne Gearan and Philip Rucker. Obama cancels summit meeting with Putin over Snowden case.

President Obama canceled an upcoming summit with Russian President Putin on Wednesday, a rare, deliberate snub that reflects the fresh damage done by the Edward Snowden case to an important relationship already in decline. Obama had planned to visit Moscow for a symbolic one-on one meeting at the Kremlin with Putin ahead of next month's Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. In unusually blunt terms, the White House announced Wednesday that Obama will skip the Moscow stop because there is too little hope of a productive meeting. "Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S. Russia summit in early September." White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. With that announcement, Obama effectively wrote off more than a year of effort to build cooperation with Putin, a shrewd but famously irascible politician with deep suspicion of U.S. motives. Gone, too, are most of the administration's first term hopes of a remade U.S. Russian partnership, so-called reset, that emphasized common approaches to global problems despite acknowledged policy differences. On Tuesday, Obama told Jay Leno of "The Tonight Show" that he is frustrated by Russia's protection of Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who is wanted on espionage charges after leaking to the media highly classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs. Snowden last week was granted temporary asylum in Russia for up to a year. "There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality," Obama said. "What I continually say to them, and to President Putin: That's the past." Carney cited "lack of progress" with Russia on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, and human rights issues. "We have informed the Russian government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda," he said. Although Putin clearly wanted the prestige of an at-home summit with his U.S. counterpart, he apparently was unwilling to offer much in exchange for it. Russia holds a veto at the U.N. Security Council, where differences with the United States over international problems are often on display. Russia is also a member of every major international diplomatic, political or economic forum, wielding outside influence compared with its true military or economic heft in the post-Cold War era. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry will still hold a planned meeting Friday with Russia's defense and foreign ministers. The deepening civil war in Syria, where Russia and the United States are backing opposing sides, will be a central topic. A proposed peace conference sponsored jointly by Russia and the Unit States has been shelved indefinitely, and Russia has long opposed stronger punishment for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the United Nations.

Veterans Today By Rebecca Ruiz: Is the Army Improperly Discharging Wounded, Ill Soldiers For Misconduct?

In May, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an exhaustive account of how wounded and mentally ill soldiers are being kicked out of the Army for minor offenses and misconduct related to their wartime injuries. Since then, the revelations have prompted new legislation that would assess whether or not the Department of Defense is improperly discharging soldiers, a charge that the government denies. "There is not a deliberate effort to remove soldiers from the Army without proper medical evaluation and consideration of their war-related conditions," an Army spokesman at the Pentagon told me. "All soldiers are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, this includes soldiers in the medical review board process. Our leaders appreciate the honorable service of our soldiers. However, it is the soldier's responsibility to ensure they adhere to the Army Values while going through their individual separation processes." For a soldier on the opposite end of this experience, however, trying to mount a defense against accusations of misconduct, especially those linked to wartime injuries, can be a byzantine process that ultimately ends in heartbreak. The Gazette series, reported by Dave Philipps, looked at three separate incidents, each involving a combat veteran in which units at Fort Carson in Colorado appeared to willfully ignore mental and physical health conditions that played a role in misconduct, such as traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. Kash Alvaro, for example, was diagnosed with PTSD and TBI after enduring multiple bomb blasts in Afghanistan in 2009. When he returned to Fort Carson, he was cited and punished for violating code by missing appointments, missing work, arriving late to formation and getting in an argument. As Philipps points out, these behaviors, while disruptive, can be symptoms of both TBI and PTSD. Alvaro, 24, should have been given additional consideration or dispensation due to his injuries, or admitted to a warrior transition unit where convalescing would be a priority. Instead, Alvaro said that his unit harassed him, and the situation escalated to the point where he went AWOL temporarily. He expected a harsh punishment when he returned to Fort Carson two weeks later to apologize, but was thrown in county jail without his anti-seizure medication. Alvaro was then asked to sign paperwork for an other-than honorable discharge known as a Chapter 10, which allows a soldier facing a court-martial to resign instead. The designation can bar a veteran from getting long-term medical and disability benefits. "They said if I signed this paperwork everything would be alright and I would get out," Alvarado told the Gazette.   


By Robert Sheer: A Statement of Peace, or an Epitaph?

August 6 marks 68 years since the United States committed what is arguable the single gravest act of terrorism that the world has ever known. Terrorism means the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, and targeted they were, with the cutely named "Little Boy" atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at a location and time of day when, as the Strategic Bombing Survey commissioned by President Harry Truman conceded, "nearly all the school children were at work in the open," a perfect opportunity for mass incineration. "That fateful summer, 8:15," the mayor of Hiroshima recalled at a memorial service in 2007, "the roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast, silence - hell on earth. The eyes of young girls watching the parachute were melted. Their faces became giant charred blisters. The skin of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. Others died when their eyeballs and internal organs burst from their bodies. Hirochima was a hell where those who somehow survived envied the dead. Within the year, 1400,000 had died." It was followed three days later by the "Fat Man" bomb leveling Nagasaki, with a comparable disastrous impact on a largely civilian population that had no effective control over the decisions of the emperor who initiated the war. Nagasaki was a last-minute substitute for Kyoto, which Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered spared because he had fond memories of his honeymoon in that city a couple of decades earlier. The devastation of those two cities was so gruesome that our government banned the showing of film footage depicting the carnage we has caused. We have never been very good at challenging our nation's own reprehensible behavior, but if we don't take proper measures of the immense extermination wrought by two small and primitive nuclear weapons as compared with today's arsenals, we lose the point as to why they must be banned. We are the country that designed and exploded these weapons that are inherently implements of terrorism in that, as the nuking of Japan amply demonstrated, they cannot distinguish between civilian and combatant. For those who believe that honorable ends absolve a nation of evil means, there is the argument that the bombings shortened the war, although the preponderance of more recent evidence would hold that the Soviet entrance into the war against Japan two days after Hiroshima was a more decisive factor. But the basic assumption of universal opposition to terrorism is a rejection of the notion that even noble ends justify ignoble means, and a consistent opposition to the proliferation, let alone use of nuclear weapons, must insist that they are inherently anti-civilian and therefore immoral.     

By Margaret Hartmann: Obama Tells Leno: 'We Don't Have a Domestic Spying Program'.

If anyone thought President Obama's weird penchant for discussing ultra-serious topics, ranging from rape to Benghazi, on late-night comedy shows was just an election thing, Tuesday's Tonight show appearance proved that isn't the case. After a few minutes of bland banter about the president's recent birthday, Jay Leno jumped into the terror threat that shut down dozens of embassies and sparked a global travel warning. Obama said Americans should exercise "some common sense and some caution," but continue living their lives, lest the terrorists win. "It's a reminder that for all the progress we've made, getting bin Laden, putting Al Qaeda in between Afghanistan and Pakistan back on its heels, that this radical, you know, violent extremism is still out there, and we've got to stay ob top of it," Obama added, as those tuning in to hear some pre-bedtime comedy realized we've got to stay on top of it,"Obama added, as those turning in to hear some pre-bedtime comedy realized they'd be spending some significant time staring at the ceiling tonight. Obama moved on to another heavy topic, the NSA surveillance scandal, but he actually had some good news on that front: "We don't have a domestic spying program." Of course, the president has admitted that the NSA collects phone and Internet data, but according to his definition, "What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an e-mail address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat." Obama wouldn't call Edward Snowden a traitor, but said "there are ways if you think that the government is abusing a program of coming forward," citing an executive order he issued in October that created new protections for whistle-blowers in the intelligence community. "You don't have to break the law, you don't have to divulge information that could compromise American security," said Obama. "If in fact the allegations are true then he didn't do that." Obama added that he was "disappointed" with Russia's decision to grant the leaker temporary asylum, and said to the nation, "there have been times when they slip back into Cold War thinking." However, he confirmed that he'll
still attend the G20 summit in St. Petersburg next month. There was one big difference from Obama's late-night appearances during the election: He didn't put as much effort into this comedy routine. His best quips were about Hillary Clinton's "post administration glow" and what Leno called his new "bromance" with John McCain. "That's how a classic romantic comedy goes, right? Initially you're not getting along, and then you keep bumping into each other," Obama said of his 2008 rival. He couldn't resist turning his praise for McCain into a dig at Republicans, saying, "He's an example of a number of Republicans in the Senate, in the House, who want to be for something, not just be against everything."  

Veterans Today: By Jon Snow: Nuclear Strike on Syria The Genie is Out of the Bottle!

The fight against Assad's brutal regime has taken an unexpected turn late Thursday afternoon when a large weapons cache belonging to the so-called national protection force in Homs city, an arm of Assad's Shabeeha, was destroyed. The explosion was reminiscent of the attack on Qasyoon mountain, a sronghold for the Syrian army and a location said to house missiles targeting Israel. It was first reported that the missile fueling station had blown up, which seemed like a reasonable proposition especially since an ammunition depot was targeted. But the two explosions in Homs and Qasyoon share the same property. They are both above ground air bursts according to Greg Thielmann, an expert on arms control policy whom I spoke with on Saturday at great lenght. I was first alerted to the connection by slow twitter chatter right after the bombing in Homs. Needless to say I was shocked at what he told me next: "The fact of the matter is, what we are seeing in both these cases is probably by cruise missiles launched from aircrafts near the borders of Syria or right off the coast in the Mediterranean." But sure, Greg, wouldn't this mean a nuclear holocaust? Not so he says. "Tactical nuclear weapons lower the threshold on use of a nuclear bomb as their modern incarceration can be tuned in yield in order to target military sites using stand off weapons without escalating by destroy surrounding civilian infrastructure." He went on: "Keep in mind a nuclear bomb sounds like a huge device, but it can have a yield as small as the equivalent conventional payload by a formation of 5 F-15s. Sites in Syria are inaccessible to these jets due to the Russian support available in the field of air defense. So these strikes are an option for the west to implement its policy." The likely assailant in both cases is Israel he claims: "Israel is the only nation that can deploy these sort of weapons with impunity without fear of a counter-attack. Syria has shown no appetite to get into a shooting fight even over the deployment of such weapons". This all presented a remarkably delicious possibility of removing the tyrant Assad using all tools available. "The army can be gradually destroyed with these sort of strikes, or destroyed all in one go in a devastating nuclear attack. Should Assad attempt to counter-attack, the cities can be destroyed by larger nuclear bombs with ease, since the insurgents have done the job of deteriorating Assad's command on the ground", an anonymous military strategist
added. What about the coast, I asked him? "The coast does present a problem for suppression of air defense missions by NATO due to Russian missiles stationed there, but as I speak hordes of Muslims are throwing themselves on coastal cities in the hopes of destroying these weapons to allow Israel and NATO to intervene."


By Eric Margolis: Are We Becoming What We Once Hated?

In the late 1980's, an old friend of mine based in Moscow was calling her husband in the USA late one night. She said it was a "typical dumb husband-wife call," mostly about a broken garage door. Around midnight, a gruff voice broke into the call. "This is your KGB listener. This is the most boring, stupid call I've ever listened to. Shut up and go to bed!"Ah, those innocent Cold War days. Today, Big Brother listens to your calls, reads your email, and follows your internet searches on silent
cat's feet. China's Taoists warned, "you become what you hate." They are right: the September 2001 attacks on the US, as John Le Carre' wrote, producing a period of temporary psychosis. America was knocked back to the ugly days of Senator McCarthy's Red Scare of the 1950's. The big difference was that today the bogeymen of "terrorists" have replaced menacing Marxists. And today, "terrorists" have replaced menacing Marxists. and today, terrorists were everywhere. When I enlisted in the US Army during the Vietnam War, we were taught that it was our duty as American soldiers to report all war crimes and violations of the Geneva Convention, and to refuse to obey unlawful orders from superiors as established at post WWII Nuremburg trials. At the time I was proud to serve in America's armed forces. Today, the military trial of document leaker PFC Bradley Manning has echoes of the Soviet era: a show trial in which a lonely individual is slowly crushed by the wheels od so-called military justice, an oxymoron. The dramatic revelations of fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden brings back sharp memories of Soviet-era dissidence, jailed, banished, locked in foul prsychiatric hospitals for daring to speak the truth. In my day, those seeking justice and freedom used to defect from the East Bloc to the United States and Britain. Now, ironically, we see a major defector, Ed Snowden, fleeing to Russia. While the corporate-owned US news networks sugarcoat or obscure the NSA and Afghanistan War scandals, it's left to Russian TV (RT) to tell Americans the facts. Who would have thought? We journalists used to mock Pravda and Trud as party mouthpieces. Today, it's the party line all the time from big US networks, online news, and newspapers. The Republican far right calls Snowden and Manning traitors, some demand the death penalty. Snowden's lawyers warn he faces torture and possible execution if he returns home, Manning has already had a long term in solitary confinement, which is itself a form of psychological torture. We recall the horrific case of a Chicago gang member Jose Padillo during 9/11 hysteria. In an order signed by President George W. Bush, Padillo was accused on the flimsiest grounds of being an enemy combatant and stripped of all legal rights.

By Patrick J. Buchanan: Pat Buchanan was twice a candidate

for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. He is also a founder and editor of the American Conservative. Buchanan served in the House, was a founding panelist of three national TV shows, and is the author of nine books of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? Apparently, the threat is both serious and specific. The United States ordered 22 diplomatic missions closed and issued a worldwide travel alert for U.S. citizens. "After Benghazi,"said Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., "these al-Qaida types are really on steroids thinking we're weaker and they're stronger. "They want to drive the West out of the Mideast and take over these Muslim countries and create an al-Qaida-type religious entity, and if we ever take the bait and try to come home and create fortress America, there will be another 9/11." By the time this column appears, America may have been hit. Yet is it not time to put al-Qaida in perspective and consider whether our Mideast policy is creating more terrorists than we are killing? In 2010 America lost 15 citizens to terrorism. Thirteen of them died in Afghanistan. The worst attack was the killing of six Americans at a Christian medical mission
in Badakhshan Province. Yet in 2010, not one death here in America resulted from terrorism. That year, however, 780,000, Americas died of heart disease, 575,000 of cancer, 138,000 from respiratory diseases, 120,000 in accidents, 35,000 in auto accidents, 69,000 from diabetes, 40,000 in drug induced deaths, 38,000 by suicide, 32,000 by liver disease, 25,000 in alcohol-induced deaths, 16,000 by homicide and 8,000 from HIV/AIDS. Is terrorism the killer we should fear most and invest the lion's share of our resources fighting? Since 9/11, al-Qaida has not proven a terribly effective enemy. Some plots, the shoe-bomber on the airliner over Detroit, the Times Square bomber, failed from sheer
incompetence. Other attacks have been thwarted by excellent U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism work. Our home front has been well protected. But by having fought a "war on terror" overseas in Graham's way, invading, occupying, nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq, we lost 6,000 soldiers and brought back 40,000 wounded Americans. Were the wars in which we suffered such casualties, and that cost us $2 trillion and counting, really worth it? Did they make us more secure? The Taliban are making a comeback. Iraq is sinking into civil, sectarian and tribal war. Our influence in the Islamic world is at a nadir. And Graham concedes the enemy that we went over there to destroy, al-Qaida, is not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Mali, and is now "on steroids." Ten years ago, anti-interventionists warned that a plunge into the Islamic world would produce what it was designed to prevent. We could create more terrorists than we would kill. 

The Guardian: How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs.

On 10 April 2006,, a DC-jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else, more important and far reaching, was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficing cartel. During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers has bought the plane with money that they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo. The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller's cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war. Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year's "deferred prosecution" has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine. More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4 billion, a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico's gross national product, into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDSs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business. "Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operation," said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank's $12.3 billion profit for 2009. On March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86, up 1% on the week of the court settlement. The conclusion to the case was only the tip of the iceberg, demonstrating the role of the "legal" banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars, the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world, around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.


AlterNet: By Amy Goodman. Glenn Greenwald: Is the U.S. Exaggerating the Terror Threat

to Embassies to Silence Critics of NSA Domestic Surveillance? The Obama administration has announced it will keep 19 diplomatic posts in North Africa and the Middle East closed for up to a week, due to fears of a possible militant threat. On Sunday, Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close the embassies was based on information collected by the National Security Agency. "If we did not have these programs, we simply would not be able to listen in on the bad guys," Chambliss said, in a direct reference to increasing debate over widespread spying of all Americans revealed by Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian. "Nobody has ever questioned or disputed that the U.S. government, like all governments around the world, ought to be eavesdropping and monitoring the conversations of people who pose an actual threat to the United States in terms of plotting terrorist attacks, Greenwald says. Pointing to the recent revelations by leaker Edward Snowden that he has reported on, Greenwald explains, "Here we are in the midst of one of the most intense debates and sustained debates that we've had in a very long time in this country over the dangers of excess surveillance, and suddenly, an administration that has spent two years claiming that it has decimated al-Qaeda decides that there is this massive threat that involves the closing of embassies and consulates around the world. The controversy is over the fact that they are sweeping up billions and billions of emails and telephone calls every single day from people around the world and in the United States who have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism." Greenwald also discusses the NSA's XKeyscore Internet tracking program, Reuters' whistle-blower
Bradley Manning. This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracy now.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. I want to go back to Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, to get Glenn Greenwald's response. During an appearance on MSNBC's Meet the Press, he said the NSA surveillance programs had uncovered information about the threats that prompted the U.S. to close 19 embassies in North Africa and the Middle East. Senator SAXBY CHAMBLISS: These programs are controversial. We understand that. They're very sensitive. But they're also very important, because they are what lead us to have the-or allow us to have the ability to gather this chatter that I referred to. If we did not have these programs, then we simply wouldn't be able to listen in on the bad guys. And I will say that it's the 702 program that has allowed us to pick up on this chatter. That's the program that allows us to listen overseas, not on domestic soil, but overseas.  

AlterNet, By Andrew Breiner: Drilling Company Bans Young Children

from talking about Fracking, Forever. When drilling company Range Resources offered the Hallowich family a $750, 000 settlement to relocate from their fracking-polluted home in Washington County, Pennsylvania, it came with a common restriction. Chris and Stephanie Hallowish would be forbidden from ever speaking about fracking or the Marcellus Shale. But one element of the gag order was all new. The Hallowichs' two young children, ages 7 and 10, would be subject to the same restrictions, banned from speaking about their family's experience for the rest of their lives. The Hallowich family's gag order is only the most extreme example of a tactic that critics say effectively silences anyone hurt by fracking. It's a choice between receiving compensation for damage done to one's health and property, or publicizing the abuses that caused the harm. Virtually no one can forgo compensation, so their stories go untold. Bruce Baizel, Energy Program Director at Earthworks, an environmental group focusing on mineral and energy development, said in a phone interview that the companies' motives are clear. "The refrain in the industry is, this is a safe process. There's no record of contamination. That whole claim would be undermined if these things were public." There have been attempts to measure the number of settlements with non-disclosure agreements, Baizel said,but yo no avail. "They don't have to be registered, they don't have to be filed. It's kind of a black hole." The Hallowich case shows how drilling companies can use victims' silence to rewrite their story. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that before their settlement, the Hallowichs complained that drilling
caused "burning eyes, sore throats, headaches and contaminated their water supply." But after the family was gagged, gas exploration company Range Resources' spokesman Matt Pitzarella insisted "they never produced evidence of any health impacts," and that the family wanted to move because"they had unusual amount of activity around around them." Public records show, once again, that fracking did not cause health problems. It's not the only time gas exploration companies have gone to great lengths to keep the health problems caused by fracking under wraps. A 2012 Pennsylvania law requires companies to tell doctors the chemical contents of fracking fluids , so long as doctors don't reveal that information, even to patients they are treating for fracking-related illness. Sharon Wilson, an organizer with Earthworks, said that was the point. "These gag orders are the reason drillers can give testimony to Congress and say there are no documented cases of contamination. And then elected officials can repeat that." She makes it clear she doesn't blame the families who take the settlements. "They do what they have to do to protect themselves and their children."

AlterNet: By Katherine Paul, Zack Kaldveer: 93% of the Public Wants GMO Labeling.

Monsanto and the Big Agribusiness Giants Plan to Spend Millions in Propaganda to change our minds. Monsanto and Big Food are taking the battle for consumer's hearts and minds to the next level. And it's no coincidence that they're pulling out the big guns just as the Washington State I-522 campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products is gaining steam. Can industry front groups and slick public relations firms convince us that the products they're peddling are not only safe, bit good for us? Will the millions they spend on websites and advertorials pay off? We're guessing not, given the latest New York Times poss stating that 93 percent of Americans want labels on foods containing GMOs. Still, it can't hurt to know who's behind the latest salvo of lies and misinformation. In this case, it's a new website and forum, introduced by biotech trade groups no doubt with the help of a new PR firm. And a new front group. The freshly launched GMO Answers
.com is funded by the biotech industry, which claims it just "wants yo talk." And the recently formed Alliance to Feed the Future, representing more than 50 multinational food, agribusiness and biotech companies, wants to give us the "real" scoop on our food system. Monsanto Has All the Answers! Last month the Holmes Report revealed that Monsanto was interviewing public relations firms to spruce up its image. A tall order given Monsanto's status as "most evil corporation in the world." A google search of "Monsanto most hated corporation" returns over 823,000 results. This week, the New York Times reported on the launch of GMOAnswers.com, a new website intended to "answer virtually any questions posed by consumers about genetically engineered crops." Except, of course, where they're hidden in our food. You've got to hand it to the PR firm -new, old, Monsanto's or otherwise, that landed that article. Who gets a mention in the Times these days just for launching a website? Organizations that are funded by Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta  and BASF, apparently. The Times quoted, extensively, Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information and also vice president for food and agriculture at another trade group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Enright told the Times that: "We have been accused of purposely hiding information. We haven't done that but now we will open the doors and provide information." Say what? Enright couldn't emphasize enough how this was all a result of the biotech industry being misunderstood by the public, and how Monsanto and the rest of the industry just wants
to be open. Whoever registered the website domain name for GMOAnswers.com doesn't share Enright's new touchy-feely enthusiasm for openness and transparency.    


AlterNet: By Ana Marie Cox: Why Are Liberals Like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren

So quiet about Snowden's Astounding NSA Revelations? Why hasn't the left been able to rally support around opposition to domestic spying? Tea Party candidates on the right have been able to generate excitement among GOP base voters with their calls to end the National Security Agency's domestic spying program. Senator Rand Paul appears to have staked his entire potential presidential campaign on a on a brash defense of personal privacy, except when it comes to abortion. Libertarian leaning Republicans in the House have been unapologetic in their criticism of the program, their own energy magnified by near-unanimous support from conservative talk radio and bloggers. Those advocates of civil liberties, some of them quite new to the cause, have a convenient explanation for why Democrats have been less vocal and slower to criticize the collection of metadata from everyday American citizens: slavish devotion to President Obama, whatever policies he might champion. This is an easy argument to make, and it goes both ways. Polling among Democratic and Republican voters shows a mirror-image of approval for Obama's use of the tactic to Bush's use of it. Since 2002, the number of Democrats who approved monitoring online activities has increased 12 points, among Republicans it has decreased 13 points. Since 2006, the number of Democrats who approved monitoring online activities has increased 12 points, among Republicans who say the government should prioritize privacy over hunting terrorists has risen 22 points. Democrats who say the government should prioritize preventing terrorism over privacy has gone up 18 points. The neatness of these changes in position is almost disturbing. It suggests that advocacy for civil liberties is a zero-sum game: there's a ceiling on Americans' ability to believe that the right to privacy is paramount. Indeed, as you might suspect from the numbers above, polling among all Americans on the balance of national security to privacy has neatly flipped as well. The percentage of voters that worry that the US will go "too far" in violating privacy rights in pursuit of terrorists versus "not going far enough" is now 56% percent versus 36%. In 2001, after the 9/11attacks, it was 31% versus 55%. It's these numbers, rather than the occupant of the White House, that explains Democrats' reluctance to move very aggressively in championing personal privacy, or, at least, it explains the difficulty in creating a lasting coalition around it. If at best, you, and what's more, different phrasing of the question or current events shows inherent wobbliness on the issue, what politician will stick out his or her neck over it? Already, the roster of 2016 presidential candidates illustrates the ambivalence of those who would retain "electable"and "moderate" as part of their bio. While the skirmish between Chris Christie and Paul over terrorism and its prevention via surveillance got a lot of media attention this week, it's more helpful to look at the general trend among potential candidates.

Alternet. Posted by Chauncey DeVega: The New White Poor are Not Honey Boo Boo,

They sleep in their Cars and Shop at Trader Joe's. NBC's recent story on how 80 percent of Americans will be living at or near the poverty level in their lifetimes was accompanied by this photo of a "poor white family". Images that feature human beings "work" in communicating political and social meaning because of how the viewer "reads" them. as such, there are stated and unstated assumptions which the person who is "seeing" applies to the "object" of their gaze. For example, the White Gaze views a photo of a young black man wearing a hoodie and whose pants are sagging and sees a person who exists in a state of criminality, and is a social predator. A photo of a ehite man wearing a suit and walking down Wall Street in New York will be seen by the White Gaze as representing a "respectable" person and a "hard worker" living the "American Dream." In reality, the former may be on the way to his 3rd job, has never been in prison or arrested, and takes care of his aged parents and siblings. The latter could be a child-molesting murderer and rapist, who is also embezzling millions of dollars from his clients. White and male, and Whiteness more generally, views itself as benign and harmless. Black and male, and Blackness more generally, is viewed by White American Society as dangerous and pathological. The power of images is how they harness and channel assumptions about how various types of person-hood find representation in, and are configured by, a broader system of dominance, subordination, privilege, inclusion, exclusion, and hierarchy. NBC.com's photo is an example of those processes at work. There we "see" two overweight white women with a young child, and thus make social and political assumptions about gender and class. We see a small home and generalize from that visual how "poor people" live, and more important, "what type of people" they are. Images also give the viewer permission to empathize or to condemn the subject.Are these "good" people or "bad people?" What is my sense of obligation to them? Does my sense of community extend to people like them? Stereotypes serve as cognitive short cuts which the viewer, and we as a society, use to categorize and evaluate the relative worth of whole groups of people. The way that images of white, poor", female, "overweight", "unattractive", bodies are processed by the viewer is a reflection of how we as a society think about race,, class,and gender. These concepts exist individually while also having a meaning in relation to one another. Moreover, in America, because of the Calvinist-Horatio Alger Myth of Individualism and Upward Mobility, claims on poverty necessarily involve moral judgments. The black single mother is a "welfare queen" who is "lazy" and has "bad morals", The poor white person is a "redneck" or a "hillbilly" with all of the stereotypes and assumptions implicit in such language.  

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, The Manning Trial Began on 9/11.

Close your eyes for a moment, think about recent events, and you could easily believe yourself in a Seinfeldian Bizarro World. Now, open them and, for a second, everything looks almost familiar, and then you notice that a dissident is fleeing a harsh and draconian power, known for its global surveillance practices, use of torture, assassination campaigns, and secret prisons, and has found a haven in a heartless world in, hmmm Russia. That dissident, of course, is Edward Snowden, just granted a year's temporary asylum in Russia, a.k.a. the defender of human rights and freedom 2013, just granted a year's temporary asylum in Russia, a.k.a. the defender of human rights and freedom 2013, and so has been released from a Washington-imposed imprisonment in Moscow's international air terminal and the threat of far worse. Now, close your eyes, open them again, and just for a moment, doesn't the world look a little more orderly? After all, a draconian imperial power has taken one of its own dissidents, who wanted to reveal the truth about its cruel war practices and global diplomatic maneuverings, thrown him in prison without charges, abused and mistreated him, brought him before a drumhead military court and, on essentially trumped up charges of "espionage," convicted him of just what its leaders wanted to convict him of. That power, of course,must be Russia and all's right with the world, oops, I mean, that's U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning and the "evil empire" that mistreated him is, gulp, the United States. Think about it for a moment: if Vladimir Putin's Russia is a place of asylum for American dissidents and the U.S. is doing a reasonable job of imitating aspects of the old USSR, we are on Bizarro Earth, aren't we? Today, former State Department whistle-blower Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, considers how America's distant wars have come home and how, under that pressure, this country is morphing into something unrecognizable. Worse yet, it's quite possible that we're only at the beginning of that transformation. To give but a small example of what the future might hold, psychiatrist and author Jonathan Shay, famous for his work with traumatized Vietnam veterans, suggested in Daedalus in 2011 that no one knows what it means for similarly traumatized employees of our Warrior corporations, the rent-a-gun
"veterans" of our recent war zones to come home to no health care and no support system. And he offered an eerie, if provocative, comparison to the footloose German veterans of World War I who, in the 1920s joined the Freikorps and played their part in the radicalization and then Nazification of that country.        


Felicity Arbuthnot: Tony Blair: Libya, Lockerbie, Arms and Betrayals.

This will surely have you falling down with surprise. According to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained by the UK Sunday Telegraph, the August 2009 release from Scotlands Barlinnie jail of Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrari, accused of the bombing of Pan AM flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, hinged on an oil and arms deal, allegedly brokered by roving war monger, sorry, roving Peace Ambassador Tony Blair. At this point it should be said that anyone who has read John \Ashton and Ian Fergusons meticulous Cover up of Convenience on the Lockerbie tragedy could only regard Mr al-Meghrahis conviction as between very unsafe and very questionable. The British Labour Party, which Blair headed for ten years, until 27th June 2007, have always insisted that the release had no connection with commercial deals. After leaving Downing Street, Blair visited Libya some six times. On 8th June 2008, the then British Ambassador to Libya, Sir Vincent Fean, sent Tony Blairs private office a thirteen hundred word briefing on the UKs eagerness to do business with Libya, according to the Telegraph. Blair flew to Tripoli to meet Colonel Quaddafi, just two days later, June 10th. Quaddafi paid: Blair, always lavish with others money had requested, and was granted, the Colonels private jet for the journey. Sir Vincents key objective was for: Libya to invest its L80 billion sovereign wealth through the City of London, according to the Telegraph, which also cites the Ambassador writing of the UK being: privately critical of then President George Bush for shooting the US in the foot by continuing to put a block on Libyan assets in America, in the process scuppering business deals. Britain however, was voraciously scrambling to fill the fiscal gap. Unlike the US and UK who abandon or drone to death their own citizens who are in trouble, or even accused of it, Libya's Administration had stood by their man and seemed to be prepared to do even unpalatable deals to free him and had long been pressuring
the UK to release al-Megrahi. In May 2007, a month before he left Downing Street, Blair had made his second visit to Libya, meeting Colonel Quaddafi and his Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali a-Mahmoudi in then beautiful and now near ruined city of Sirte. Surely coincidental, on this trip, a deal was seemingly thrashed out, including prisoner transfer, just before British Petroleum (BP) announced their approximately L454 million investment to prospect for L13 billion worth of oil in Libya. Also, states the Telegraph report: At that meeting, according to Sir Vincents email, Mr Blair and Mr Al Baghdadi agreed that Libya would buy a missile defence system from MBDA, a weapons manufacturer part-owned by Britainss BAE Systems.  

By Ira Chernus: Why Do We Have an Espionage Act?

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. In a civilian court, anyone accused of a crime has the right to trial by a jury of their peers. In the military, a soldier accused of a very serious crime can be tried without any jury at all. In a civilian court, the judge explains the decision as soon as it's handed down. In the military, the judge just announces the decision and passes sentence. In Bradley Manning's case, Judge Denise Lind did say "she would issue findings later that would findings later that would explain her ruling on each of the charges." We don't know how long "later" may be. All we know now is that Judge Lind does not think Manning was aiding the enemy. Which raises an interesting question: If you haven't done any harm to the United States. So why is it a crime? Why does it count as "spying" at all? I always thought "spying" meant one side stealing secrets from the other side. Manning said he did it on behalf of a nation, his own. He did it on behalf of all of us. I haven't heard of any reason to doubt him. Yet he's getting applause only at the left end of the political spectrum. Across the rest of the spectrum the responses range from uncertainty to outright condemnation. So the public verdict on Manning, like the judge's verdict, is decidedly mixed: "Hero to some, traitor to others, " an AP story called him. You might think he'd get plenty of applause from the mass news media. After all, he provided them with headline material for weeks. But the mass media are hardly showing much appreciation. Some like that AP headline are studiously neutral. Others, including high-profile liberal outlets, avoid the substance of the issue by making Manning's personality the issue. "Bradley Manning had long been plagued by mental health issues," NPR headlined.  The New York Times called him a "loner"and "misfit," "a teenager bullied for his conflicted sexuality." That's one easy way to convict him in the court of public opinion. Which raises another interesting question: Why is there so little public approval for a man who took immense risks simply to let us all know what our government is doing, with our money, in our name? To dig into both of the questions I've raised, let's look at the origins of the Espionage Act under which Manning was convicted. It began with Woodrow Wilson. In his authoritative biography of Wilson, John Milton Cooper reminds us that U.S. entry into World War I aroused a lot of public opposition and protest. "The need to whip up popular fervor behind the war made dissent look dangerous." The Espionage Act aimed mainly to quell that dissent. Perhaps Wilson, who initiated a massive PR campaign to swing public opinion to support the war, recognized that it also works the other way around: Making dissent look dangerous is one powerful way to whip up a popular fervor. Anything that makes the public feel endangered helps generate support for the government's efforts to "defend us against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

AlterNet By Noam Chomsky: Chomsky: America 's Imperial Power Is Showing Real Signs of Decline!

On July 9, the Organization of American states held a special session to discuss the shocking behavior of the European states that had refused to allow the government plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales to enter their airspace. Morales was flying home from a Moscow summit on July 3. In an interview there he had said he was open to offering political asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the former U.S. spy-agency contractor wanted by Washington on espionage charges, who was in the Moscow airport. The OAS expressed its solidarity with Morales, condemned "actions that violate the basic rules and principles of international law such as the inviolability of Heads of State," and "firmly" called on the European governments, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, to explain their actions and issue apologies. An emergency meeting of UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, denounced "the flagrant violation of international treaties" by European powers. Latin American heads of state weighed in, too. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil expressed the country's "indignation and condemnation of the situation imposed on President Evo Morales by some European countries" and warned that this "serious lack of respect for the law compromises dialogue between the two continents and possible negotiations between them." Commentators were less reserved. Argentine political scientist Atilio Boron dismissed Europe as "the whore of Babylon," cringing before power. With virtually identical reservations, two states refused to sign the OAS resolution: the United States and Canada. Their growing isolation in the hemisphere as Latin America frees itself from the imperial yoke after 500 years is of historic significance. Morales' plane, reporting technical problems, was permitted to land in Austria. Bolivia charges that the plane, reporting technical problems, was permitted to land in Austria. Bolivia charges that the plane was searched to discover whether Snowden was on board. Austria responds that "there was no formal inspection." Whatever happened followed warnings delivered from Washington. Beyond that the story is murky. Washington has made clear that any country that refuses to extradite Snowden will face harsh punishment. The United States will "chase him to the ends of the earth," Sen. Lindsey Graham warned. But U.S. government spokespersons assured the world that Snowden will be granted the full protection of American law, referring to those same laws that have kept U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning who released a vast archive of U.S. military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks in prison for three years, much of it in solitary confinement under humiliating conditions. Long gone is the archaic notion of a speedy trial before a jury of peers. On July 30 a military judge found Manning guilty of charges that could lead to a maximum sentence of 136 years. Like Snowden, Manning committed the crime of revealing to Americans and others, what their government is doing.