Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wages fall at Record Pace -

Wages Fall At Record Pace

....From 2007 to 2011 the average pretax income of the bottom 90 percent fell from $35,173 to $30,437. That is a drop of more than $4,500. It is also a decline of nearly 13 percent.

The 2012 data are likely to show that drop has worsened, with the vast majority’s average income likely to be down $5,000, or roughly $100 per week. We’ll see how well that gets reported in the fall when new data becomes available.

By the way, if you make a good living, or your household enjoys two above-average incomes, don’t think that you are exempt from this trend toward less.

During the same period, the threshold to enter the top 10 percent fell by 6.5 percent, a drop of $7,665 to $110,651, analysis of the latest IRS data by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty shows.....

-bth: an article worth reading in full.

Middle-class rage sparks protest movements in Turkey, Brazil, Bulgaria and beyond -WaPo

Middle-class rage sparks protest movements in Turkey, Brazil, Bulgaria and beyond - The Washington Post

...“We are all linked together, Bulgaria, Turkey, Brazil. We are tweeting in English so we can understand each other, and supporting each other on other social media,” said Iveta Cherneva, a 29-year-old author in Sofia, who was one of the many people protesting for the first time. “We are fighting for different reasons, but we all want our governments to finally work for us. We are inspiring each other.”

Around the globe, this is the summer of middle-class discontent, particularly in the developing world. From Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, from Bulgaria to Bosnia, the pent-up frustrations of an engaged citizenry are being triggered by a series of seemingly disparate events....

-bth: pundits will rant about twitter and so on making this possible.  But it must be said that people are no longer relying on main stream media for news as it is no longer trusted.  And of note, these protestors are middle class people which is usually the beating heart of a country.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The real concern: why are so many US government documents classified? - Guardian

The real concern: why are so many US government documents classified? | Ronan Farrow | Comment is free |

Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden are upset about something, they just can't say what. In a letter sent to the National Security Agency this week about a fact sheet on its surveillance programs, the senators complained about what they refer to only as "the inaccuracy". The inaccuracy is "significant". The inaccuracy could "decrease public confidence in the NSA's openness and its commitment to protecting Americans' constitutional rights". But, because the information underlying it is classified, the inaccuracy can't be described.

This is either a frustrating illustration of the absurdities of America's secrecy regime, or the start of a pretty solid vaudeville act.

The frenzied public debate over the NSA leaks has focused on the correctness of the government surveillance programs themselves. But America cannot properly debate these and future surveillance efforts until it decides what can be debated....

-bth: hard to understand how a democracy can function like this. It is like double secret probation.

Defense Department Blocks Access to Guardian News Website to Prevent Viewing of NSA Leaks

Defense Department Blocks Access to Guardian News Website to Prevent Viewing of NSA Leaks | The Dissenter

A memo sent out to Defense Department security contractors by Undersecretary of Defense security director Timothy A. Davis shows that access to The Guardian news website has been blocked to protect against disclosures from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden containing classified information on secret surveillance programs.

The decision to block was motivated by the need to protect the “integrity of unclassified government information systems.”

The memo sent out on June 7, 2013, reads:

Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate US government authority. It is the responsibility of every DoD employee and contractor to protect classified information and to follow established procedures for accessing classified information only through authorized means. Leadership must establish a vigilant command climate that underscores the critical importance of safeguarding classified material against compromise.

Accordingly, we request all DoD components send prompt notification to your employees and contractors reminding them of these obligations. Procedures for responding to classified information found in the public domain are attached…

An advisory containing the procedures indicates that “DoD employees and contractors” are not to “access or download documents that are known or suspected to contain classified information.”

It instructs “DoD employees or contractors who inadvertently discover potentially classified information in the public domain” to “report its existence immediately to their Security Manager.”

“The offending material,” is to be, “deleted by holding down the SHIFT key while pressing the DELETE key for Windows-based systems and clearing of all the internet browser cache.”

Those who “seek out classified information in the public domain, acknowledge its accuracy or existence or proliferate the information in any way will be subject to sanctions,” the advisory states. The procedures are also only to be used when classified information is “inadvertently” identified.

The “acknowledging” accuracy part of this document would actually make it possible to punish any employees or contractors who talk with a reporter and confirm that the information published is, in fact, from any of these programs being revealed in documents provided to The Guardian. ...

- really hard to understand the logic

Iran, Russia and China prop up Assad economy - FT

Iran, Russia and China prop up Assad economy -

Iran, Russia and China are propping up Syria’s war-ravaged economy, with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime doing all its business in rials, roubles and renminbi as it seeks to beat western sanctions, according to the country’s senior economics minister.

Syria’s three main allies are supporting international financial transactions, delivering $500m a month in oil and extending credit lines, Kadri Jamil, deputy prime minister for the economy, said in an interview with the Financial Times. He added that its allies would also soon help with a “counter-offensive” against what he called a foreign plot to sink the Syrian pound....

-bth: one wonders on what grounds the Syrian economy would ever recover at this point.

The big question: Why didn't NSA spying stop the Boston bombing? - Digitial journal

The big question: Why didn't NSA spying stop the Boston bombing?

The Obama administration and the NSA have gone into full spin mode trumpeting its victories in the plots that didn't happen while conveniently ignoring the one that did.
See: "NSA Spying Data 'Stopped Plots In 20 Countries" Not only did the "don't worry if you've done nothing wrong" Big Brother government not stop the Boston Marathon suspects, it knew who they were. It knew where they lived (190 Norfolk Street, Cambridge.) If they didn't know, they could have asked me, and I'd have looked it up for them in public court records from Tamerlan's 2009 domestic violence charge.
Oh yes, they were on the welfare records too. They weren't exactly leading a desperado life underground....
-bth: worth reading in full.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama - Guardian

NSA collected Americans' email records in bulk for two years under Obama | World news | The Guardian

he Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata "every 90 days". A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011.

The collection of these records began under the Bush administration's wide-ranging warrantless surveillance program, collectively known by the NSA codename Stellar Wind.

According to a top-secret draft report by the NSA's inspector general – published for the first time today by the Guardian – the agency began "collection of bulk internet metadata" involving "communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States".

Eventually, the NSA gained authority to "analyze communications metadata associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States", according to a 2007 Justice Department memo, which is marked secret....

-bth: so basically Obama contined to allow monitoring and collection of all email

Braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think

Promise me you’ll always remember that you’re bravier than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. - Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

Moments and memories

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. - Dr. Seuss

Average VA Processing Time

Harvard Team’s Amazing Micro-Battery Breakthrough Using 3D Printing

Harvard Team’s Amazing Micro-Battery Breakthrough Using 3D Printing by Mike O'Brien

A team of university researchers have scored a major breakthrough in the development of tiny batteries through the use of 3D printing.

The batteries could power miniscule medical equipment, insect-sized robots and hundreds of other devices.

The group, from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, printed interlocking stacks of hair-thin “inks” with the chemical and electrical properties needed for a battery.

The end result was a lithium ion battery the size of a grain of sand. Previous research and development of micro-batteries has involved thin films of solid materials that lacked the juice to power most devices....

Americans' Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record

Americans' Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record

Between 2009 and 2012, a period that saw Congress come under split control, these partisan differences gradually diminished, and this year, Democrats are a mere two percentage points more likely than Republicans to report having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.

Trend: Confidence in Congress, 2000-2013, by Party ID

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Syria Syria's oilfields create surreal battle lines amid chaos and tribal loyalties

Syria's oilfields create surreal battle lines amid chaos and tribal loyalties | World news |

....His father had chosen him out his 40 brothers to look after the plant because he was seen as a man of vision. The war had given him a chance to realise his dream: to build an oil-fuelled emirate.

The hard edges of Syria's frontlines – dogmatic, revolutionary, Islamist or pure murderously sectarian – almost melt away outside the oilfields. New lines emerge pitting tribesmen against battalions, Islamists against everyone else, and creating sometimes surreal lines of engagement, where rebels help maintain government oil supplies in return for their villages being spared from bombardment and being allowed to siphon oil for themselves.

"There is chaos now," Abu Zayed said. "The Free Syrian Army is chasing loot, and they don't care about civilians. The military councils are stealing the aid and then selling it. There are dozens of battalions here, we don't even know who is manning a checkpoint at the end of the street. Some people are saying the days of Bashar [al-Assad] were better, that the opposition has betrayed the people.

"But we can organise this situation," he said. "Look at this gas plant, it's under our control. Things are organised here and we can do the same for other oil and gas fields.

"Most of the people who control the oilfields around here are making about 5m Syrian pounds [£32,000] a day. They exploit a field for a few weeks, but because of the chaos, another powerful cousin or battalion soon arrives to fight for it and take control of it.

"I tell these people to lease me the field for S£10m a month. I collect all the fields under my control, bring in companies to exploit them properly and organise truck convoys to sell the gas to Turkey. Then we'll buy Patriot [missile] batteries and drones to protect the fields against the regime."

His ambition did not stop there. "Once you have economic power you can convene a council for the tribes here inside the country, and organise all the military units in one military council," he said....

-bth; this article on Syria is worh reading in full.  Ironically this could have described oil fields in the Caucus during the Russian revolution.  Always the men with the guns, go after the cash flow items, which invariably includes oil. .... Exit strongman stage left, enter new strongman stage right.

New Cybersecurity Threats Target Medical Devices - Bus. Insider Aus.

New Cybersecurity Threats Target Medical Devices | Business Insider Australia

A new threat has got the attention of cybersecurity monitors after US security experts say the hacking of devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps is possible.

Sky News has reported the US Food and Drug Administration is warning manufacturers to step up their vigilance, saying ‘cybersecurity vulnerabilities and incidents could directly impact medical devices or hospital network operations’.

No deliberate hacking of medical devices has yet to be reported according to officials.

Kevin Fu, professor at the University of Michigan, co-wrote a 2008 research paper which focused on the risks of implantable devices and how they could be re-programmed by hackers.

“It takes just a blink of the eye for malware to get in” says Fu.

-bth: this is highly relevant to the DARPA HACMS program which is concocting defensive strategies.

Regulators have also suggested hospital equipment such as monitoring systems, scanners and radiation equipment are connected to networks which could potentially experience similar security breaches, reported Sky.

“The vast majority of medical devices in hospitals I’ve been to use Windows XP or Windows 95. These are extremely vulnerable to computer malware,” Fu said.

In light of the new findings US Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Emergency Response Team for industrial systems has said security should be stepped up for surgical devices, ventilators, drug infusion pumps and other equipment.

While the issue is now on the cybersecurity lookout experts say despite the risks, people still are better off with these devices than without.

Sky News has more.

UAV for anti-naxal operations in Chhattisgarh to fly out of Bhilai soon - TOI

UAV for anti-naxal operations in Chhattisgarh to fly out of Bhilai soon - The Times of India

RAIPUR: Decks seem to have been finally cleared to set up the base for the Indian Air Force's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) use in anti-Naxal surveillance programme at the Steel Authority of India's airstrip at Bhilai.

Though the move to shift the base of the UAVs from Hyderabad to Bhilai had been going on for quite some time, the recent massacre of Congress leaders on May 25 in Bastar hastened the process, with the centre acting as a mediator between SAIL and IAF.

If insider's are to be believed an understanding has reportedly been reached between the SAIL and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which will operate the UAV. According to sources, the process for setting up the base is in final stages and it's only a matter of "short time" that UAV would start doing daily sorties for monitoring movement of Naxalites.

Vijay Mairal, DGM Public Relations of Bhilai Steel Plant, confirmed that a high level team of the NTRO visited the plant yesterday. He however refused to give any further details on the plea that discussions were still going on. He also refused to comment on whether a formal MOU had been signed between SAIL and NTRO for using SAIL's Nandni airstrip.....

Intelligence Linked To Being Able To Block Out Background Distractions

Intelligence Linked To Being Able To Block Out Background Distractions

A new study has found that people with high IQs are better able to block out background distractions because their brains naturally filter out information that is not considered to be important or relevant.

Researchers at The University of Rochester developed a brief visual test that measures the brain's ability to "filter out visual movement".

It is the first test developed that provides a non-verbal and culturally unbiased tool for evaluating intelligence.....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kerry assures India and its neighbors that U.S. will not abandon Afghanistan - WaPo

Kerry assures India and its neighbors that U.S. will not abandon Afghanistan - The Washington Post

....During Kerry’s two-day trip here, he and Khurshid praised cooperation and growing economic ties between the United States and India. They said they made progress in resolving outstanding trade and investment matters. On one prickly issue, Khurshid said they “reaffirmed their commitment to full and timely implementation of the civil nuclear deal,” including the proposed sale of Westinghouse power reactors to India. He said he expected the Westinghouse agreement, which has been held up over an Indian liability law, to be completed by September.

The two men said they also had discussed Iran, with which India has close diplomatic and commercial ties. “We completely understand the relationship that India has,” Kerry said. “We are appreciative that India has worked hard to reduce its dependency on Iranian oil, and that has been an important step, and India has been very cooperative in communicating to Iran and in standing up publicly and holding them accountable for nonproliferation requirements.”

India, Kerry said, could “help urge the new Iranian leadership, as well as the old leadership and the supreme leader, to take advantage of this moment” and “urge the Iranians . . . not to miscalculate about American and international commitment” to preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons....

-bth: it has been amazing how slow the politicians of India and the US have been to embrace so many common interests shared by these two large democracies.

Pakistani security forces intercept large explosives cache - LWJ

Pakistani security forces intercept large explosives cache - Threat Matrix

Pakistani security forces intercepted a large explosives cache yesterday morning, marking the third time this month that security forces have prevented the movement of explosives destined for Pakistani's unstable tribal areas.

More details from Monday's seizure were reported by Pakistan's International News:

The police claimed to have seized a huge quantity of explosive materials and arrested two accused here on Monday. DSP Akhtar Ali said that acting on a tip-off, the police intercepted a truck (4084-K/Peshawar) during a blockade of the Nowshera-Mardan road near Dal Pattak and recovered a huge quantity of explosives from its secret cavities.


He said that 26,000 sacks of explosives filled with 3,000 dynamite sticks while 15,000-metre- long cable used in explosive devices were recovered from the truck. "Two accused identified as Irshad and Shah Jehan were arrested during the operation," the DSP added. He claimed the same cache of explosive materials had already been smuggled to the tribal areas through the same route. The SHO Risalpur Police Station was also present on the occasion.

The DSP said that the bomb disposal squad stated that the seized explosive materials were of high quality and used to carry out blasting in mountains.The police officials claimed that materials were being smuggled to Afghanistan through the tribal areas of Pakistan.

One of the accused, Shah Jehan, the driver of the truck, said that Yaqoob, an owner of the private good transport company, hired him for Rs35,000 ($353) for bringing the materials to Peshawar from Attock. He confessed that he had smuggled the same quantity of explosive materials to the tribal areas....

-bth: worth reading in full.  One wonders why Pakistan doesn't clamp down on ammonium nitrate.

Egypt Rebellion 30 06 2013 Rebellion Campaign Tamarod تمرد

Army to cut brigades at 10 U.S. bases - CBS

Army to cut brigades at 10 U.S. bases - CBS News

WASHINGTON In a massive restructuring, the U.S. Army is slashing the number of active duty combat brigades from 45 to 33, and shifting thousands of soldiers out of bases around the country as it moves forward with a longtime plan to cut the size of the service by 80,000.

Officials say the sweeping changes would eliminate brigades at 10 Army bases in the U.S. by 2017, including in Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, New York, Kansas and Washington. The Army will also cut thousands of other jobs across the service, including soldiers in units that support the brigades, and two brigades in Germany have already been scheduled for elimination.

Officials provided details on the plans on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. An announcement is expected Tuesday afternoon. The Army is being reduced in size from a high of about 570,000 during the peak of the Iraq war to 490,000 as part of efforts to cut the budget and reflect the country's military needs as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end. Additional reductions could be required if Congress allows automatic budget cuts to continue into next year....

-bth: I do not see how this is a good idea.  This is becoming a very small army.  It's leadership has become disconnected from the general public.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Syria and Egypt can't be fixed - Asia Times

Asia Times Online :: Syria and Egypt can't be fixed

Syria and Egypt are dying. They were dying before the Syrian civil war broke out and before the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Cairo. Syria has an insoluble civil war and Egypt has an insoluble crisis because they are dying. They are dying because they chose not to do what China did: move the better part of a billion people from rural backwardness to a modern urban economy within a generation. Mexico would have died as well, without the option to send its rural poor - fully one-fifth of its population - to the United States.

It was obvious to anyone who troubled to examine the data that Egypt could not maintain a bottomless pit in its balance of payments, created by a 50% dependency on imported food, not to mention an energy bill fed by subsidies that consumed a quarter of the national budget. It was obvious to Israeli analysts that the Syrian regime's belated attempt to modernize its agricultural sector would create a crisis as hundreds of thousands of displaced farmers gathered in slums on the outskirts of its cities. These facts were in evidence early in 2011 when Hosni Mubarak fell and the Syrian rebellion broke out. Paul Rivlin of Israel's Moshe Dayan Center published a devastating profile of Syria's economic failure in April 2011. [1]...
-bth: worth reading in full.

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