Monday, November 30, 2015

Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Is Found Guilty on All Counts

Sheldon Silver, an assemblyman who rose from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to become one of New York State’s most powerful politicians, was found guilty on Monday of federal corruption charges, ending a trial that was the capstone of the government’s efforts to expose the seamy culture of influence-peddling in Albany.

After a five-week trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the end came rather quickly and unceremoniously for Mr. Silver, 71, a Democrat who served more than two decades as Assembly speaker before he was forced to resign from the post after his arrest in January.

Mr. Silver, who must automatically forfeit the legislative seat to which he was first elected nearly 40 years ago, was convicted on all seven counts of honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering filed against him.

Scope of Secretive FBI National Security Letters Revealed by First Lifted Gag Order

Fourteen years after the FBI began using national security letters to unilaterally and quietly demand records from Internet service providers, telephone companies and financial institutions, one recipient — former ISP founder Nicholas Merrill — is finally free to talk about what it’s like to get one.

The FBI issues the letters, known as NSLs, without any judicial review whatsoever. And they come with a gag order.

But a federal District Court judge in New York ruled in September that the continuous ban on Merrill’s speech about the order was not justified, considering that the FBI’s investigation was long over and most details about the order were already openly available.

After waiting for 90 days to let the government appeal the decision — which it didn’t — the judge lifted the gag on Monday.

Merrill immediately released the FBI’s attachment to the national security letter it sent him 11 years ago, listing the kinds of information it wanted about a particular customer without getting a warrant.

Incontrovertible - New 9/11 Documentary by Tony Rooke

INCONTROVERTIBLE is the first and only feature length documentary we have which portrays the frank and candid views of Police Officers, Firefighters and Soldiers as they express their grave concerns about the official explanation for the events of 9/11. The film is intended to act as a practical aid in combating the mainstream media's propaganda and outright lies concerning the attacks on September 11th 2001.

China’s Renminbi Is Approved by I.M.F. as a Main World Currency

The International Monetary Fund on Monday designated the Chinese renminbi as one of the world’s elite currencies, a major milestone that underscores the country’s rising financial and economic heft.

The decision will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power. Just four other currencies — the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen — have the I.M.F. designation.

But joining this group also introduces new uncertainty into China’s economy and financial system, at a time when the country’s growth is already slowing. To meet the I.M.F. requirement, China was forced to give up some of its tight control over the currency, which could inject fresh volatility into the economy.

The I.M.F. designation, an accounting unit known as the special drawing rights, bestows global importance.

France Puts 24 Environmental Activists Under House Arrest Because They Might Protest at Climate Summit

The two-week COP21 open its doors only Monday but French law enforcement has already placed twenty-four environmental activists under house arrest in line with the country’s emergency laws which were extended for three more months after the Paris atrocities.

After Hollande claimed a state of emergency in France, police don’t need a judicial decision to put suspects under arrest, search homes and conduct raids at night.

But unsuspecting climate activists, who actively demonstrate every time France hosts environmental summits, were surprised to find themselves suspect after police officers came to arrest them. On Thursday, police handed Amelie and five her flat mates an order that restricts their liberty of movement in western city of Rennes until 12 of December, the same day the Paris summit will close its doors.

'Global Warming' is a Crock of Sh*t

Why Do Former Goldman Sachs Bankers Keep Landing Top Slots at the Federal Reserve?

It’s hardly a secret that the halls of government are filled with graduates of Goldman Sachs, the controversial Wall Street investment bank. But the revolving door between Washington and Goldman has been spinning a little faster of late, depositing three of the bank’s alumni into top slots at the Federal Reserve in recent months. This should concern anyone with a commitment to democracy, transparency, and a government free of corporate influence—and it should prompt swift action from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who has the power to stop dubious appointments and can exercise her authority to reform how Fed leaders are selected.

During the last year, three vacancies have opened up to head regional Federal Reserve banks around the country. One by one, all three of the spots have gone to former insiders from Goldman Sachs. First, Goldman Sachs trustee Patrick Harker essentially picked himself to lead the Philadelphia Fed, stepping down as chair of the Philadelphia Fed Board of Directors to allow for his own selection. In August, former Goldman Sachs Vice Chair Robert Kaplan was chosen to head the Dallas Fed despite sitting on the board of directors for the headhunting firm tasked with finding a new Dallas Fed president.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

How a secretive elite created the EU to build a world government

Voters in Britain's referendum need to understand that the European Union was about building a federal superstate from day one

As the debate over the forthcoming EU referendum gears up, it would be wise perhaps to remember how Britain was led into membership in the first place. It seems to me that most people have little idea why one of the victors of the Second World War should have become almost desperate to join this "club". That's a shame, because answering that question is key to understanding why the EU has gone so wrong.

Most students seem to think that Britain was in dire economic straits, and that the European Economic Community – as it was then called – provided an economic engine which could revitalise our economy. Others seem to believe that after the Second World War Britain needed to recast her geopolitical position away from empire, and towards a more realistic one at the heart of Europe. Neither of these arguments, however, makes any sense at all.

“Snowden Effect” in Action: NSA Authority to Collect Bulk Phone Metadata Expires

The National Security Agency no longer has legal authority to collect phone metadata in bulk as of midnight, Saturday, November 28. The executive branch previously claimed the government possessed such authority under Section 215 of 2001’s USA PATRIOT Act, which gave the FBI power to demand “any tangible things” needed “for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information.” The FBI was thus able to obtain the phone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies and turn them over to the NSA.

Friday, November 27, 2015

World Trade Center Building 7 Evaluation

WTC 7 Evaluation is a study at the University of Alaska Fairbanks using finite element modeling to evaluate the possible causes of World Trade Center Building 7's collapse.


Air Force hires civilian drone pilots for combat patrols; critics question legality

The Air Force has hired civilian defense contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets in global hot spots, a previously undisclosed expansion in the privatization of once-exclusively military functions.

For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.

Contractors control two Reaper patrols a day, but the Air Force plans to expand that to 10 a day by 2019. Each patrol involves up to four drones.

Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.

"There are limitations on it," he said. The contractors "are not combatants."

Nonetheless, the contracts have generated controversy within the military.

Critics, including some military lawyers, contend that civilians are now part of what the Air Force calls the "kill chain," a process that starts with surveillance and ends with a missile launch. That could violate laws barring civilians from taking part in armed conflict.

The use of contractors reflects in part the Pentagon's growing problem in recruiting, training and retaining military drone pilots for the intensifying air war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. It is several hundred short of its goal of 1,281 pilots.

The contractors are Aviation Unmanned, a small, 3-year-old company based in Addison, Texas, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., a far-larger firm based in Poway, outside San Diego, that is the only supplier of armed drones to the Pentagon.

America's Most Useless Surveillance Program Is Finally (Almost) Over

It was great at snooping but terrible at stopping terrorists.

On Sunday, the National Security Agency will have to shut down one of its controversial mass surveillance programs: the unlimited collection of the phone records of millions of Americans, known as bulk metadata collection.

That program allowed the NSA to collect information about citizens' phone calls, including whom they were calling, when and where they made calls, and how long those calls lasted. While metadata collection doesn't include what was said during those calls, the information can allow intelligence analysts to build up extensive profiles of an individual's pattern of life. The New York Times first reported on the bulk metadata program, which was created under the Patriot Act, in late 2005, but it didn't attract truly widespread outrage—or reform—until details of the program appeared in the documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013. A federal judge in Washington, DC, ordered the program to stop in a ruling issued later that year, but that didn't happen until Congress passed a law this May that outlawed the bulk metadata program as of November 29. Under the new law, phone companies must now keep such records themselves, and intelligence agencies must seek permission from a federal judge to access specific data.