Category: USA

United States of America

A Militia Has Taken Over A Federal Building In Oregon

AP, January 2

Burns, OR — A peaceful protest Saturday in support of an eastern Oregon ranching family facing jail time for arson was followed shortly afterward by an occupation of a building at a national wildlife refuge.

Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a standoff with the government over grazing rights, told The Oregonian he and two of his brothers were among a group of dozens of people occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Bundy posted a video on his Facebook page asking for people to come help him. Below the video is this statement: “**ALL PATRIOTS ITS TIME TO STAND UP NOT STAND DOWN!!! WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! COME PREPARED.”

Ammon Bundy said the group planned to stay at the refuge indefinitely.

“We’re planning on staying here for years, absolutely,” Ammon Bundy said. “This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”

Related, Charlie Pierce: How Cliven Bundy Changed Our National Politics, Esquire, December 10, 2015

Wikipedia: Malheur Incident.

Twitter: Ammon Bundy – Leave our land alone.

U.S. Foreign Arms Deals Increased Nearly $10 Billion in 2014

New York Times, By Nicholas Fandos, December 25

Washington – Foreign arms sales by the United States jumped by almost $10 billion in 2014, about 35 percent, even as the global weapons market remained flat and competition among suppliers increased, a new congressional study has found.

American weapons receipts rose to $36.2 billion in 2014 from $26.7 billion the year before, bolstered by multibillion-dollar agreements with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Those deals and others ensured that the United States remained the single largest provider of arms around the world last year, controlling just over 50 percent of the market.

Russia followed the United States as the top weapons supplier, completing $10.2 billion in sales, compared with $10.3 billion in 2013. Sweden was third, with roughly $5.5 billion in sales, followed by France with $4.4 billion and China with $2.2 billion.

With US help, Saudi Arabia is obliterating Yemen

Global Post, By Sharif Abdel Kouddous, November 30

Sanaban, Yemen — Ayman al-Sanabani beamed as he entered his family’s home on his wedding day. He was greeting his new bride, Gamila, who was in a bedroom surrounded by friends. Ayman sat beside her for several minutes, receiving warm words of congratulations.

It would be the young couple’s first and only encounter as husband and wife.

The terrifying power of a bomb is how it can alter life so dramatically, so completely, so instantaneously. How it can crush concrete, rip apart flesh, and snuff out life. The moments before the pilot pulls the trigger and sends the missile screeching down choreograph the final dance with fate: another step forward into a room, a turn around a corner, a walk outside to get some air — trivial actions that determine everything afterward.

This power is a fact of life in Yemen now. It is brought forth by a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the United States. The airstrikes have been relentless since March, a period now of eight months. They are supposed to be targeting a local rebel group, but appear largely indiscriminate, regularly hitting civilian targets. Thousands of people have been killed. Human rights groups say some of these strikes amount to war crimes.
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Is Anyone Really Surprised By This?

PaulRyanBeardOutside the Beltway, the right is livid with new Speaker Paul Ryan’s trillion-dollar spending deal with Democrats.

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter says Ryan, just seven weeks on the job, is ripe for a primary challenge. “Paul Ryan Betrays America,” blared a headline on the conservative site Breibart.com. And Twitter is littered with references to the Wisconsin Republican’s new “Muslim beard.”

Source: Fury of the right falls on Ryan | TheHill

Did anyone think that Paul Ryan had a chance of herding the Republican cats in the House? If so, I’d say you should go back to huffing exhaust fumes.

But in a nod to the critics, Ryan has also emphasized that he “inherited” the flawed omnibus from his predecessor, ousted Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and that the cake was “already baked” by the time he was handed the reins in late October.

Those arguments have done little to sway some of Ryan’s critics, particularly on conservative talk radio.

Laura Ingraham denounced the spending package as an “omni-bust” and said Ryan should be “regarded as a declared enemy of the Base.” Mark Levin said Ryan is “already a disaster” and criticized the funding package for increasing the number of visas for foreign workers.

Criticism has also come from Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who declared that the GOP sold the country “down the river.”

There is no chance in hell that the Republicans in the House are going to be able to work together and accomplish anything remotely resembling sane government. The remnants of the Tea Bagger……. err, I mean Tea Party brigade are as yet uncowed, and still of sufficient numbers to stonewall any attempts at serious compromise; especially when egged on by the hard right conservative pundits. That Ryan didn’t dismantle the bi-partisan coalition allowing for the passage of the budget at least shows he wants to be productive. But he doesn’t have the numbers, any more than John Boehner did, to be strictly partisan in running the House of Representatives.

In the end it all comes down to whether the hard-line conservatives want to have total, uncompromising power, or whether they want to be leaders. They can’t have it both ways.

Schlafly Endorses Trump

A blow for Establishment argument that Trump is not ‘conservative’

LifeZette, By Aaron Stanley, Sometime within the last 6 days

The Republican Establishment insists that presidential front-runner Donald Trump is not a true conservative. Apparently, Phyllis Schlafly didn’t get the email.

Schlafly, a pillar of the 20th-century conservative movement whose name is virtually synonymous with conservative philosophy, has endorsed Trump over all of the Establishment’s “conservative” candidates.

“It sounds like Donald Trump is the only one who has any fight in him. He will fight for the issues that we really care about and are very hot at the present time, such as the immigration issue. I don’t see anyone else who’s eager to fight,” she told WorldNetDaily.

She went so far as to call Trump the “last hope for America.”

WND: Phyllis Schlafly: Trump is ‘last hope for America’

Two months in, Porter Ranch gas leak compared to BP Gulf oil spill

Los Angeles Daily News, By Susan Abram, December 19

The smell came from the canyons and drifted over their neighborhoods in late October, but most residents who live in the gated communities of Porter Ranch thought the northerly gusts of wind common to their area would sweep the stench of rotten eggs away.

Instead, the odor persisted.

It became a phantom that haunted them during their twilight jogs and on their morning walks on dusty horse trails. It was there in their dens where they watched TV and in bedrooms where their children slept. It was even there on the playgrounds of nearby elementary schools.

“It was smelling really bad,” said Susan Gorman-Chang, who along with her husband, George, has lived in Porter Ranch for more than 20 years. Now, the couple has chosen to leave the area. “Our neighbor called the fire department. It was that bad.”

The Southern California Gas Co. knew what was happening a day before the fire department was called. They knew methane was leaking from a 40-year-old well in Aliso Canyon above the Santa Susana Mountains, that it was spewing tons of gas into the air. Several days later, they informed residents through letters that the agency would plug the leak as fast as possible.
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U.S. plans raids to deport families who surged across border

Washington Post, By Jerry Markon & David Nakamura, December 23

The Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.

The nationwide campaign, to be carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as soon as early January, would be the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America, those familiar with the plan said. More than 100,000 families with both adults and children have made the journey across the southwest border since last year, though this migration has largely been overshadowed by a related surge of unaccompanied minors.

The ICE operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge, according to officials familiar with the undertaking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because planning is ongoing and the operation has not been given final approval by DHS. The adults and children would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported. The number targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater.

The proposed deportations have been controversial inside the Obama administration, which has been discussing them for several months. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has been pushing for the moves, according to those with knowledge of the debate, in part because of a new spike in the number of illegal immigrants in recent months. Experts say that the violence that was a key factor in driving people to flee Central America last year has surged again, with the homicide rate in El Salvador reaching its highest level in a generation. A drought in the region has also prompted departures.

Also: A political bomb is about to blow up in the Democrats’ faces

First on CNN: Graham ends his campaign for the White House

CNN, By Kate Bolduan, December 21

Senator Lindsey Graham is ending his presidential campaign, he told CNN during an exclusive interview airing Monday.

“I’m going to suspend my campaign. I’m not going to suspend my desire to help the country,” the South Carolina senator said in a wide-ranging and candid discussion in which he acknowledged: “I’ve hit a wall here.”

He made the official announcement in an email to supporters and Youtube video posted Monday morning.

Update, Think Progress: It’s Official: None Of The Remaining Major GOP Candidates Accept Climate Science

Last-Minute Budget Bill Allows New Privacy-Invading Surveillance in the Name of Cybersecurity

The Intercept, By Jenna McLaughlin, December 18

In the wake of a series of humiliating cyberattacks, the imperative in Congress and the White House to do something — anything — in the name of improving cybersecurity was powerful.

But only the most cynical observers thought the results would be this bad.

The legislation the House passed on Friday morning is a thinly disguised surveillance bill that would give companies pathways they don’t need to share user data related to cyberthreats with the government — while allowing the government to use that information for any purpose, with almost no privacy protections.

Because Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slipped the provision into the massive government omnibus spending bill that had to pass — or else the entire government would have shut down — it was doomed to become law. (This post has been updated to reflect the vote, which was 316 to 113.)
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Donald Trump’s Campaign Has ‘Reenergized’ the White-Supremacist Internet

New York Magazine, By Jay Hathaway, December 10

Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is so popular that the best-known white-supremacist site on the web, Stormfront, says it’s installing new servers to handle all the traffic the Republican presidential front-runner has generated.

Talking to Politico, Stormfront founder Don Black said Trump’s campaign had reenergized the white-nationalist movement, and Stormfront has the traffic to prove it. He said Stormfront now sees a million unique visitors a month, and traffic spikes 30 to 40 percent whenever Trump makes a controversial statement about minorities.

“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” Black said.

Even David Duke, infamous racist politician and former Ku Klux Klan figurehead, agrees Trump has been great for racist movements.

“He’s made it ok to talk about these incredible concerns of European Americans today,” Duke told Politico.

Torture by Iraqi militias: the report Washington did not want you to see

Two unpublished investigations show that the United States has consistently overlooked killings and torture by Iraqi government-sponsored Shi’ite militias.

Reuters, By Ned Parker, December 14

Erbil, Iraq – It was one of the most shocking events in one of the most brutal periods in Iraq’s history. In late 2005, two years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, U.S. soldiers raided a police building in Baghdad and found 168 prisoners in horrific conditions.

Many were malnourished. Some had been beaten.

The discovery of the secret prison exposed a world of kidnappings and assassinations. Behind these operations was an unofficial Interior Ministry organisation called the Special Investigations Directorate, according to U.S. and Iraqi security officials at the time.

The body was run by militia commanders from the Badr Organisation, a pro-Iran, Shi’ite political movement that today plays a major role in Baghdad’s war against Islamic State, the Sunni militant group.

One Year After the Senate Torture Report, No One’s Read It and It Might Be Destroyed

The Intercept, By Murtaza Hussain, December 9

One year ago today, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a highly redacted executive summary of its investigation into the CIA’s torture and rendition program. The 525-page summary was shocking in many of its details, revealing the torture and rape of detainees held in CIA custody and encompassing treatment far in excess of even the torture techniques formally authorized by the Bush administration.

Despite the passage of 12 months, the actual report, comprising 6,700 pages, still has not been made publicly available. In fact, reading it appears to be prohibited among officials in the executive branch. Nearly a month and a half after the report’s initial release, it had not even been taken out of the package in which it was delivered to the Department of Justice and Department of State, according to government lawyers. Even the organization that was the subject of the report, the CIA, tightly controlled internal access and made “very limited use” of it, as had the Department of Defense, the lawyers said in a court filing.

That shunning of the torture report appears to be ongoing and very much by design: It turns out the Department of Justice has “refuse[d] to allow executive branch officials to review the full and final study,” Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy wrote in a letter last month to the attorney general and FBI director, urging that they or their “appropriately cleared” underlings read the full report.

“The legacy of this historic report cannot be buried in the back of a handful of executive branch safes, never to be reviewed by those who most need to learn from it,” they added.

Obama reinforces ISIL strategy

President Obama’s address tonight contained little news, but his Oval Office backdrop lent a new gravity to his request for Muslim countries and organizations to help de-radicalize Iraq and Syria. For the first time, he unequivocally acknowledged San Bernadino, Fort Hood and even Chatanooga as terrorist attacks, and warned of the effectiveness of ISIL’s recruitment campaigns over the Internet.

Syria is already the most complicated battleground since World War 2, and keeping up with all the shifting goals and allegiances of a growing list of players may prove impossible. Political relations with nearby Muslim countries are just as complex. ISIL may lose ground in an international military push, but halting its spread elsewhere requires a global effort.

Carter: Cancer is gone

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , By Jill Vejnoska, December 6

Former President Jimmy Carter said Sunday his cancer is gone.

Carter said in a statement that his most recent MRI brain scan did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots or any new ones and that he’ll continue his treatment.

Carter, 91, initially made the announcement near the beginning of the Sunday School class he was teaching at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, a close friend and fellow church member said.

“He said he got a scan this week and the cancer was gone,” Jill Stuckey said by phone from Maranatha, where Carter was still in the midst of teaching to about 350 people, many of them visitors. “The church, everybody here, just erupted in applause.”

Advocates: Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Dollar General ‘Will Be an Attack on Tribal Sovereignty’

RH Reality Check, By Kanya D’Almeida, December 4

The Supreme Court on December 7 will hear oral arguments in a case involving a multi-billion dollar company and a Native American minor, who claims he was sexually assaulted by a store manager on Mississippi tribal lands in the summer of 2003.

While the case is ostensibly a challenge to tribes’ ability to adjudicate civil claims involving non-Natives—in this particular instance, a corporation whose store manager is accused of repeated sexual assaults of a then 13-year-old boy—legal experts say it goes to the very heart of tribal sovereignty, established via decades of settled law.

Women’s rights organizations are particularly concerned that a favorable ruling for the company could peel away the last remaining layer of legal protection that enables Native women to seek justice for sexual violence perpetrated by non-members in tribal courts.