mistersandman: How would you feel if you had to put on a really stupid hat? (RAGE)
[personal profile] mistersandman
The U.S. Congress yesterday approved, and President Barack Obama signed into law, a four-year extension of provisions in the USA Patriot Act that allow law enforcement to track suspected terrorists with roving wiretaps.

The legislation was first passed by the Senate, 72-23, followed by the House, 250-153. Because Obama was in France for meetings of the Group of Eight nations, he directed that an autopen machine, which holds a pen and replicates his signature, be used to sign the bill, the White House said.

The bill was signed yesterday before a previous extension, approved by Congress in February, expired at midnight, the White House said. The new law continues the surveillance powers until June 1, 2015.

The measure "will safeguard us from future attacks," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said before his chamber's vote. "By extending this invaluable terror- fighting tool, we're staying ahead" of terrorists who want to attack the U.S., he said.

The bill's roving-wiretap section allows federal agents to obtain a single warrant to monitor telephone calls of suspects using a series of mobile phones.

Other provisions allow authorities to obtain business and library records, and to target so-called "lone wolf" suspects who aren't affiliated with any terrorist group.

Senator Rand Paul, a bill opponent, tried to delay the Senate vote, pressing for the bill to be amended. The Kentucky Republican said the legislation goes too far in violating privacy rights to keep the U.S. secure.

"Do we want a government that looks at our Visa bill?" he said in a May 24 floor speech. "Do we want a government that looks at all of our records and is finding out what our reading habits are?"

The Patriot Act was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and many of its provisions are permanent law. Some of its surveillance powers have been opposed by some lawmakers and outside groups, including civil liberties activists.



I tried writing a letter to Obama describing my feelings on his decision but it came off as too venomous so I decided to post here instead. What the fuck, Obama? What was the point of all that talk about change and hope if you keep or strengthen the worst of your predecessor's policies?

The President doesn't want to appear weak on terror for the sake of the same howling ninnies who insist that he's a Nazi terrorist Islamic Christian socialist. There's no satisfying those people. It seems like Obama spends more time courting the people who hate him than satisfying the people who put him into office.

I took an environmental history class once and the professor (the spitting image of Clint Eastwood) growled, "I don't like Obama. He's too conservative for me." He got a few good laughs with that one, but I'm not laughing anymore.  The worst part is, there's no viable alternative.  I could vote for Jon Huntsman in 2012 to punish Obama, but as much as I like Huntsman, there's no way he'd ever repeal the Patriot Act.  I thought the recent hit on bin Laden would make America feel safer and more confident, but it seems like it's only convinced Congress that the War on Terror is a really great idea that must be pursued vigorously.
treesahquiche: (Default)
[personal profile] treesahquiche
By Raymond Hernandez

WASHINGTON -- After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill on Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

The $4.3 billion bill cleared its biggest hurdle early in the afternoon when the Senate unexpectedly approved it just 12 days after Republican senators had blocked a more expensive House version from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

In recent days, Republican senators had been under fire for their opposition to the legislation.

Click for the full story. )



WELL, IT'S ABOUT TIME. This is an awesome follow-up to a previous post on this community regarding the matter. Anthony Weiner, I hope you're not angry anymore. :)
mistersandman: (watchmen)
[personal profile] mistersandman

BRUSSELS - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Pakistan on Thursday to ensure wealthy Pakistanis contribute to helping the country overcome the devastation caused by this summer's floods.

Some have estimated that flood recovery will cost tens of billions — a mammoth sum for a country that has relied on international loans. Aid groups have struggled to raise funds for the country because the disaster unfolded relatively slowly and the number killed remained low compared to other major disasters such as the Haiti earthquake.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while taxpayers in Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in," Clinton said after meeting with Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign and security affairs chief.

Saying "the international community can only do so much," she urged the government in Islamabad to "take immediate and substantial action to mobilize its own resources" for the immense task of reconstructing schools, health clinics, bridges, thousands of kilometres of roads and repair new irrigation systems.

Her plea for more action from Islamabad came a day before an international conference is to hear from Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, about his government's long-term economic and other reforms.

The "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" meeting in Brussels brings together 26 nations and international institutions. Established in late 2008, it enables Pakistan to regularly brief the international community on its security and economic challenges, which are acute and directly linked to the instability of neighbouring Afghanistan and its own struggles with Islamic insurgents.

Earlier Thursday, Qureshi told the European Parliament in Brussels that economic aid is key "if you want to help us fight extremism."

"When we are stable we will be able to address the issues of poverty. When we are economically stable we will be able to invest in the sectors that have been ignored in the past, like health and education," he said.

To date, the EU and its 27 member states have contributed nearly $450 million toward flood relief and recovery efforts. The EU has also extended trade benefits to Pakistan. The US has provided $388 million in aid so far and another $75 million in logistical and other support.

Donor nations have warned Pakistan that they cannot foot the entire recovery and reconstruction bill, which some have estimated could surpass $40 billion. U.S. officials have urged Pakistan to improve its tax collection to aid its long-term rebuilding.

After meeting with Ashton, Clinton insisted much remains to be done.

"The progress (the EU and the US) have made together toward fostering stability and prosperity in Pakistan is threatened by the catastrophic damage caused by the floods," she said.

Both she and Ashton stressed their commitment to help Pakistan rebuild itself, adding that a stable Pakistan is essential to the fight against terrorism and the security of Americans and Europeans. The U.S. government warned Americans earlier this month of new terror risks in Europe and focus fell on Pakistan, where U.S. drones have struck suspected al-Qaida targets and where Pakistani officials said eight German militants were killed.

The floods began in late July during unusually heavy monsoon rains, eventually covering one-fifth of the country and affecting some 20 million of its 175 million people. Nearly 2,000 people died, while millions were left homeless, according to the United Nations.

Dozens of bridges were washed away, while more than 1.9 million homes were damaged or destroyed. Around 5.9 million acres of farmland were damaged, a severe blow to agriculture, the most important pillar of Pakistan's economy.



This isn't even a question of tax rates.  Many industrialists and landowners use their government positions to avoid paying taxes entirely in Pakistan. 

It's one thing to offer a helping hand after an enormous tragedy.  It's another thing to build a country from the ground up.  Pakistan borders Afghanistan, you would think they'd know better than to trust the United States with something like this.

mistersandman: How would you feel if you had to put on a really stupid hat? (comical hat)
[personal profile] mistersandman

WASHINGTON — Broad new regulations being drafted by the Obama administration would make it easier for law enforcement and national security officials to eavesdrop on Internet and e-mail communications like social networking Web sites and BlackBerries, The New York Times reported Monday.

The newspaper said the White House plans to submit a bill next year that would require all online services that enable communications to be technically equipped to comply with a wiretap order. That would include providers of encrypted e-mail, such as BlackBerry, networking sites like Facebook and direct communication services like Skype.

Federal law enforcement and national security officials say new the regulations are needed because terrorists and criminals are increasingly giving up their phones to communicate online.

"We're talking about lawfully authorized intercepts," said FBI lawyer Valerie E. Caproni. "We're not talking about expanding authority. We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."

The White House plans to submit the proposed legislation to Congress next year.

The new regulations would raise new questions about protecting people's privacy while balancing national security concerns.

James Dempsey, the vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the new regulations would have "huge implications."

"They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function," he told the Times.

The Times said the Obama proposal would likely include several requires:

-Any service that provides encrypted messages must be capable of unscrambling them.

-Any foreign communications providers that do business in the U.S. would have to have an office in the United States that's capable of providing intercepts.

-Software developers of peer-to-peer communications services would be required to redesign their products to allow interception.

The Times said that some privacy and technology advocates say the regulations would create weaknesses in the technology that hackers could more easily exploit.


Resisting the urge to use any Orwellian rhetoric, I find this highly problematic.

mistersandman: (SHAME)
[personal profile] mistersandman
A small US church says it will defy international condemnation and go ahead with plans to burn copies of the Koran on the 9/11 anniversary.

The top US commander in Afghanistan warned troops' lives would be in danger if the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida went ahead.

Muslim countries and NATO have also hit out at the move.

And the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, called the idea "idiotic and dangerous," but organiser, Pastor Terry Jones said: "We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam."

The controversy comes at a time when the US relationship with Islam is very much under scrutiny.

There is heated debate in the country over a proposal to build a mosque and Islamic cultural centre streets from Ground Zero, site of the 9/11 attacks, in New York.

Speaking at a State Department dinner marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Hillary Clinton condemned Pastor Jones.

"I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths," she said.

Despite having a congregation of just 50, the plans of Pastor Jones' church in Gainesville have gained worldwide notoriety, sparking demonstrations in Afghanistan and Indonesia.
Click for full article )


Everyone--and I mean everyone--has told these people that this is a bad idea.  Well too bad for them, AMERICA doesn't bow to kings and neither does Jesus.  (and by kings they mean NATO, assorted representatives of the United States government, the American military, the Vatican, and their local ordinances about open bonfires, did I miss any, aside from common decency?)
treesahquiche: (Default)
[personal profile] treesahquiche
By Scott Atran and Robert Axelrod

NOT all groups that the United States government classifies as terrorist organizations are equally bad or dangerous, and not all information conveyed to them that is based on political, academic or scientific expertise risks harming our national security. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, which last week upheld a law banning the provision of "material support" to foreign terrorist groups, doesn't seem to consider those facts relevant.

Many groups that were once widely considered terrorist organizations, including some that were on the State Department's official list, have become our partners in pursuing peace and furthering democracy.

Click for the full story. )

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at France's National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College, is the author of the forthcoming "Talking to the Enemy." Robert Axelrod is a professor of political science and public policy at the University of Michigan, and the author of "The Evolution of Cooperation."


I'm all for communication, but this "We must be involved" attitude is discomfiting. Yes, sometimes American interference may be the most expedient solution, but American interference caused many of those problems, and may cause yet more.


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