The blueish female is about 25 centimeter; the reddish male is smaller.
By Barry Grey in the USA:
Senate Intelligence head accuses CIA of undermining US “constitutional framework”
12 March 2014
In an extraordinary speech delivered Tuesday on the floor of the US Senate, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of spying on committee staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s program of detention, interrogation and torture under President George W. Bush.
Feinstein directly accused the CIA of violating the US Constitution, specifically its core principle of the separation of powers between the various branches of government. She warned that the agency’s actions “may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.” She added that the CIA likely also breached the Fourth Amendment’s ban on arbitrary searches and seizures, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and an executive order that prohibits the CIA from carrying out domestic searches or surveillance.
“I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate,” she said. “I have received neither.”
There are few, if any, historical precedents for such a direct charge from the floor of the Senate of criminal behavior against the US spy agency. Moreover, such accusations against CIA Director John Brennan, one of President Obama’s closest associates, could have serious legal and political consequences for the White House. Tuesday’s remarks by Feinstein reflect a profound crisis within the American state.
Feinstein, a Democrat from California, spoke for an hour and reviewed in considerable detail the multi-year effort of the CIA to impede the committee’s investigation by withholding and removing access to documents, lying, and illegally penetrating and searching the computers of committee staffers working on the probe.
As Feinstein charged, these actions constitute grave violations of the US Constitution and existing law. She accused the CIA of attempting to intimidate the committee—and, by extension, Congress—and suggested that the US constitutional system of checks and balances was under dire threat, calling the present situation “a defining moment.”
Choosing her words carefully, Feinstein implied that the motive behind the CIA’s actions was a desire to cover up and block from public view the enormity of the crimes carried out during the Bush years in connection with secret CIA “black site” prisons and the abuse and torture of alleged terrorists detained in them. Brennan for a time headed up the CIA detention and interrogation program under Bush and was on record defending so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as water-boarding.
Obama put off naming Brennan as head of the CIA during his first term because of concerns that his role in Bush torture programs would complicate his Senate confirmation. Instead, Obama made Brennan his chief counterterrorism adviser, at which post he oversaw the White House’s “kill lists” and drone assassination program. Obama nominated Brennan to take over the CIA after his reelection, and Brennan was handily confirmed, with lopsided Democratic Party support.
In her remarks Tuesday, Feinstein spoke of Intelligence Committee investigators “wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed,” and “an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation.”
Feinstein’s speech was all the more remarkable since she is one of the most slavish defenders of the intelligence agencies and is herself, along with the congressional leadership of both parties and the Obama White House, complicit in the criminal and anti-democratic practices she claimed to be opposing. Feinstein has unreservedly defended mass spying by the National Security Agency and joined in the official witch-hunt against whistle-blowers such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
The fact that she felt obliged to go to the floor of the Senate and charge CIA leaders with impeachable offenses testifies to the increasingly naked manner in which the US security agencies are dispensing with even the trappings of democracy and asserting dictatorial control.
Feinstein said that she was compelled to go public, after seeking for years to conceal tensions and conflicts between her committee and the CIA, because Brennan was responding to committee protests over spying and obstruction by seeking to bring criminal charges against intelligence committee staffers and possibly committee members for allegedly stealing classified CIA documents.
“Let me say up front,” Feinstein declared, “that I come to the Senate floor reluctantly. Since January 15, 2014, when I was informed of the CIA search of this committee’s network, I’ve been trying to resolve this dispute in a discreet and respectful way.”
According to Feinstein’s account, Brennan personally informed her on January 15 that CIA personnel had conducted a search of committee computers, including the work and communications of staffers involved in reviewing CIA documents and drafting the committee’s oversight report. She said Brennan told her the CIA would continue to investigate the alleged unauthorized acquisition of classified documents by the committee.
But speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations Tuesday, Brennan flatly denied Feinstein’s charges. “As far as the allegation of CIA hacking into Senate computers,” he said, “nothing could be further from the truth. That’s just beyond the scope of reason.”
Then, in what appeared to be a thinly veiled threat, he said, “I would just encourage members of the Senate to take their time to make sure that they don’t overstate what they claim and what they probably believe to be the truth. These are some complicated matters.”
The White House leapt to Brennan’s defense. At a news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama had “great confidence” in the CIA director. He added, “You saw the CIA director say today that if there was any inappropriate activity by CIA or by staff, he would, of course, want to get to the bottom of it and certainly the president would agree with that.”
The conflict between the Senate committee and the CIA centers on a 6,300-page report drafted by the committee on the agency’s detention and interrogation practices during the Bush years. Work on the mammoth report began in 2009 and was completed in December of 2012.
The document evidently contains damning information on the criminal practices of the CIA, and the agency has refused to provide clearance for the committee to release an unclassified version to the public. In June 2013, Brennan submitted a 122-page rebuttal denying many of the charges in the Senate report. Brennan’s rejoinder also remains classified.
In the course of the committee’s investigation, the CIA supplied committee staffers with millions of pages of documents, including parts of an internal review of the Bush-era practices commissioned by Brennan’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, known as the “Panetta review.” According to members of the Senate committee, the Panetta review documents confirm the findings in the committee’s report and expose Brennan’s denials as dishonest and false.
It appears that the CIA search of committee computers in January was aimed at determining how staffers obtained the Panetta documents, which the CIA claims are privileged and Feinstein insists were made available to committee investigators as part of the document “dump” provided by the agency.
In her Senate remarks Tuesday, Feinstein said that in late 2013 she requested in writing that the CIA provide the committee with a final and complete version of the internal Panetta review. In early 2014, the agency formally rejected the committee’s request, and shortly thereafter Brennan informed Feinstein and the Republican vice chairman of the committee, Saxby Chambliss, of the CIA search of committee computers.
Feinstein said that two days after the January 15 meeting with Brennan, she wrote a letter to the director objecting to any further CIA probe of the committee on constitutional grounds. She followed that up on January 23 with a letter asking 12 questions regarding the CIA spying on the committee. She has received no reply to either letter, she told the Senate.
Clearly, the CIA is determined to suppress the Panetta review documents and is using intimidation tactics against the Senate to do so.
In her remarks on the Senate floor, Feinstein charged that the CIA illegally removed documents from committee computers several times in the course of the investigation. In 2010, she reported, the White House counsel intervened and assured the committee that there would be no repetition of CIA obstruction of its investigation, a pledge that was quickly broken. Feinstein’s revelation of White House involvement in the disputes between her committee and the CIA strongly implies that Obama was personally aware of what was taking place.
This would be entirely consistent with the policies of the Obama administration, which has seamlessly continued and expanded the illegal and anti-democratic practices of the Bush administration. In her remarks, Feinstein noted that the CIA general counsel who referred alleged Senate theft of classified CIA documents to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution was the chief lawyer for the CIA detention and interrogation program under Bush. “His name is mentioned 1,600 times in our study,” she said.
The massive buildup of the powers of the US intelligence complex, which has reached the point where agencies such as the CIA and NSA operate with impunity and beyond even the nominal control of Congress, is the result of cover-up and complicity by Congress itself, both political parties, and the Obama White House. In her remarks, Feinstein pointed to the 2005 destruction by CIA officials of torture videotapes to explain why the committee felt it was “so important … to protect” its Panetta review documents (from the grasp of the CIA).
What Feinstein did not mention was the Obama administration’s exoneration in 2012 of CIA officials responsible for destroying the tapes. Nor did she note the suppression in 2004 of Abu Ghraib photos by the Pentagon, with the support of both parties in Congress; Obama’s reneging in 2009 on his pledge to release the suppressed photos; or her own refusal to pursue charges against Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for lying to her committee last March when he was asked if the NSA was collecting private data on millions of Americans.
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CIA caught spying on US Senate
[10 March 2014]
This video is called Exploited and struggling to survive in Qatar.
By John Mann in Britain:
Qatar: The world is watching
Tuesday 11th March 2013
JOHN MANN MP on why we must all stand up for Qatar’s migrant workers
In 2010, when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup, the shock and accusations of corruption were immediately followed by a string of questions, as journalists and football fans quickly googled the oil-rich Arab state.
The questions generally followed two main themes – how would footballers play in temperatures of up to 50?C, and how would fans be treated at the first cup in the Middle East – would they, for example, have ready access to alcohol?
But slowly mainstream media outlets are coming to the realisation that there are more serious issues surrounding Qatar than whether travelling England fans can drown their sorrows or if the tournament should be moved to the winter months.
It is becoming increasingly clear that while the current construction boom in Qatar is financed by oil, a heavy price is being paid by the 1.3 million foreign nationals who work in the country, making up 94 per cent of the total workforce.
These abuses come mainly from the kafala system where workers are “sponsored” by the company that they work for. Nine in 10 migrant workers have their passports taken from them by their employers upon arrival, leaving workers from Nepal, India and Sri Lanka at the mercy of their employers.
The system amounts to serious and endemic exploitation.
Accommodation is cramped and often insanitary – over half of workers surveyed by Amnesty International do not have access to basic healthcare provisions.
Given that workers cannot join or form trade unions, it is perhaps unsurprising that 20 per cent of migrant workers receive a different salary to the one they were promised when they left their home country and 15 per cent are working in an entirely different job to the one they expected.
At the most serious end of the scale of abuse in Qatar, some workers face a multitude of problems all at once.
They may not be paid for six to nine months, cannot leave the country, live in what the BBC has described as “cockroach-infested” accommodation, have a serious injury and limited access to food – not to mention the distress caused by not being able to send money back to family members at home.
The response of the Qatari authorities has been to protest at what they claim is a scheme to rob Qatar of the World Cup and to point out that it is unclear how many of the workers involved were directly involved in tournament projects.
Moreover, they claim that the “Workers’ Welfare Standards” charter released by organisers last month will address most of the issues currently being raised, but that most problems are “local issues.”
But this response does not seem to hold up to closer scrutiny.
The first issue is that the new standards only cover designated “World Cup sites” – a worker fitting seats inside a stadium will be covered, according to the World Cup Supreme Committee, but those building the roads to the grounds or working inside fans’ hotels will not.
The narrow definition means only 79 workers in all of Qatar are currently covered – this number will increase significantly as work progresses, but how much use the charter will be in practice remains questionable.
Claims that current abuses are mainly “local issues” do not reflect reality.
The issues for migrant workers are mostly systematic and the laws that do exist to protect them are rarely enforced.
International Trade Union Confederation general secretary Sharan Burrow has dismissed Qatar‘s claims of improvements as a “sham.”
The question now for those wanting to see drastic improvements for migrant workers in Qatar is how best to go about achieving that.
There are of course substantial risks, particularly for Western politicians and the media – not least as we are open to accusations of paternalist interference in a culture of which we may only have a limited understanding.
I have tabled a House of Commons early day motion calling for stronger action from Fifa and the Qatari government, that already has the support of 25 MPs.
As coverage of the issue increases so will parliamentary support, and with that will come the opportunity to productively engage with Qatar – to praise improvements in workers’ conditions while continually highlighting the considerable changes still required.
Crucially, Fifa can make a serious difference by encouraging Qatar to expand its definition of a “World Cup site” and with it vastly increase the number of workers covered by the welfare standards.
If co-operation from Qatar is not forthcoming, the situation is likely to deteriorate substantially.
It has been estimated that a further million workers will be needed before 2022 to help complete the infrastructure Qatar intends to put in place.
Without significant improvements, it is likely that thousands of migrant workers will die or be seriously injured and hundreds of thousands will suffer human rights abuses.
At some point the World Cup itself may become the only bargaining chip Fifa and Western governments will have in Qatar, and already some groups are calling for the 2022 World Cup to be held elsewhere.
This would of course represent a serious failure, and do nothing to improve the lives of the migrant workers already employed in Qatar on other vast infrastructure projects.
Both Qatar and the West have a choice – engage, understand the realities of our differences but recognise the universality of essential workers’ rights or fail to act and be responsible for a World Cup built by millions of workers living almost as slaves.
John Mann is Labour MP for Bassetlaw.
Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:
Teeven involved in money laundering operation
Update: Tuesday 11 Mar 2014, 19:59
[Dutch government] Secretary [of Justice] Teeven has signed a deal for laundering more than five million guilders of drug criminal Cees H., in 2000, when he was a prosecutor, Nieuwsuur reports.
The money was hidden in Luxembourg. Through a settlement of deprivation H. paid 750,000 guilders to the State. But the rest of the settlement shows that after this actually money was laundered for H.
The Tax Office was not informed about this, that was part of the settlement. What was the benefit for the State to launder more than five million guilders in exchange for 750,000 guilders is not clear.
Fred Teeven is a member of the VVD, the biggest party in the Dutch government coalition.
This video from Britain says about itself:
Bob Crow on BBC Question Time – The Tories Look After The Rich, Not The Poor 07/03/2013.
From the RMT trade union in Britain:
11 March 2014
It is with the deepest regret that RMT has to confirm that our General Secretary Bob Crow sadly passed away in the early hours of this morning.
The union’s offices will be closed for the rest of the day and the union will make further announcements in due course. The media have been asked to respect the privacy of Bob’s friends and family at this difficult and distressing time.
This video says about itself:
Report from RMTs Annual General Meeting 2010 held in Aberdeen
Bob Crow speaks on racism, how to combat it and the expulsion of
BNP members from the union.
This video from the USA is called 17th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count.
From the Great Backyard Bird Count site in the USA:
Top 10 Lists
GBBC By the Numbers
It’s time to put the exclamation point at the end of another exciting, record-breaking Great Backyard Bird Count with a look at how this GBBC stacked up by the numbers. As of March 4, here are the numbers recorded for the count, February 14-17, 2014:
Number of checklists: 144,109
Species observed: 4,296
Countries participating: 135
Estimated number of participants: 142,051
Photos entered in contest: 4,491
Photos posted to gallery: 1,242
As we note some of our Top 10 lists, bear in mind that although global participation is growing, most checklists still came in from North America, explaining why the top 10 birds are from this region.
Top 10 species appearing on the most checklists:
Rank Species # Checklists
Top 10 most numerous birds reported:
Rank Species # Counted
Worldwide, India reported the highest number of bird species at 819. Indian states make up 60% of our Top 10 list of the states/provinces reporting the most species.
Top 10 states/provinces with the most species reported:
Rank Location, Country # Species
California, United States
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Texas, United States
West Bengal, India
Tamil Nadu, India
Top 10 countries by number of checklists:
Rank Country # Checklists
Top 10 states/provinces in the U.S. and Canada by checklist totals (all totals are all-time highs for the GBBC):
Rank State/Province # Checklists
In Canada, the Great Lakes states, and the Northeast down the Atlantic Coast, the big bird story for the past few months has been a massive influx of Snowy Owls. GBBC participants logged more than 1,600 Snowy Owl reports from 34 states and provinces, even as far south and west as Kansas. The province of Ontario had the highest number of reports with 366.
Snowy Owl Reports during the GBBC:
Rank State/Province #Checklists #Snowy Owl Reports
Thank you to everyone who tallied the birds to help make this the most successful Great Backyard Bird count ever.
Please keep counting year-round with eBird and mark your calendars for the next Great Backyard Bird Count, February 13-16, 2015.
This video is called Children Of The Tsunami: The Heartbreaking Stories Of Fukushima‘s Survivors.
By Luke James in Britain:
World marks Fukushima anniversary
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Ministers urged to learn the lessons of Japanese nuclear disaster
Activists issued the demand before the third anniversary today of the incident which has left 160,000 Japanese people refugees in their own country.
More than 15,000 people lost their lives in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami that swept away homes along Japan’s coast.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament leader Kate Hudson warned a meeting in Parliament yesterday that it presents a “stark lesson” for Britain.
“Just because the UK doesn’t experience earthquakes or tsunamis doesn’t mean we’re safe from the kind of catastrophe which occurred in Japan,” she told the Morning Star before the lobby.
“The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered three meltdowns ultimately because power was lost to the cooling systems.
“That can happen anywhere and for a multitude of reasons, from a targeted attack, to technical malfunctions, to natural disasters causing power failures and structural damage – as recent flooding in the UK has made all too clear.”
Ms Hudson pointed out that recent flooding and earthquakes were near the proposed site of the new Hinkley C reactor.
She accused government ministers of making nuclear the “foundation” of their energy policy despite the risks and “exorbitant” cost.
“Nuclear power has shown itself to be a dangerous and expensive form of energy – we should learn the lessons of Fukushima before it’s too late.”
But campaigners will continue a week of action this evening with a candle-lit vigil outside the Japanese embassy in London to show solidarity with families still suffering the effects of the disaster.
He said: “Quite a majority of Japanese people here are against restarting mothballed nuclear power plants.
“But the Abe government is trying to mix the energy source and open them up again.
“All these nuclear power plants in Japan are coming to the end of their life and any similar nuclear accident would be a complete tragedy – the end of Japan.”
The Ghost cities of Fukushima — 60 Minutes: here.
This video from the USA is called Carolina Chickadee Sound.
From All About Birds blog in the USA:
Warming Temperatures Are Pushing Two Chickadee Species—and Their Hybrids—Northward
By victoria on Thursday, March 6th, 2014
The zone of overlap between two popular, closely related backyard birds is moving northward at a rate that matches warming winter temperatures, according to a study by researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Villanova University, and Cornell University. The research was published in Current Biology on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
In a narrow strip that runs across the eastern U.S., Carolina Chickadees from the south meet and interbreed with Black-capped Chickadees from the north. The new study finds that this hybrid zone has moved northward at a rate of 0.7 mile per year over the last decade. That’s fast enough that the researchers had to add an extra study site partway through their project in order to keep up.
“A lot of the time climate change doesn’t really seem tangible,” said lead author Scott Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “But here are these common little backyard birds we all grew up with, and we’re seeing them moving northward on relatively short time scales.”
This video from the USA is about black-capped chickadees.