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ALERTS, Dissector Comments and Analysis, GOP Votes Against Obama Care For 40th Time, Rigging Eco Stats, Whither The Globe?

August 3rd, 2013 - by:

***Coming To The Circle In The Square on Broadway: I Was knocked out last night by the preview of SOUL DOCTOR, a musical based on the passions and talent of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach who fused his religious convictions with Rock N’Roll. Disclosure: My immensely creative cousin, David Schechter, wrote the lyrics.

Be Warned: US Scrambling to Batten Down Hatches, Shut Embassies, And Warn Travelers Over Alleged New Threat From Al Qaeda

Suddenly (and Conveniently?) in the midst of all the surveillance disclosures, The NY Times reports:

WASHINGTON — The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.

The intercepts and a subsequent analysis of them by American intelligence agencies prompted the United States to issue an unusual global travel alert to American citizens on Friday, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates beginning Sunday through the end of August.

•In Zimbabwe: No Surprise, As Predicted and As Preditcable–It’s Mugabe

M&G: Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe looked poised to win a seventh term in office after romping to victory in parliamentary polls.

Your News Dissector In The Media

•NYTimes Examiner: Commenting on Coverage of Snowden and the Manning Trial

•Press TV: Press TV has conducted an interview with Danny Schechter, MediaChannel.org from New York, about a report by The Guardian exposing secret NSA software called X-Keyscore, which spies on US citizens online. This comes after the White House denied using any program to spy on its citizens. The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Is the United States quickly becoming a country, which doesn’t respect its own Constitution?

Schechter: Not only that, but the promises made by internet companies of privacy and respect for the rights of customers is being swept aside here as well.

We are in a country, which pledges loyalty to free enterprise; to the corporate culture. And yet the corporate culture is being subordinated, undermined, undercut by the government culture of surveillance.

And as they reap up more and more information, they violate the privacy of more and more people. There seems to be a game that’s being played.

Yesterday, Bradley Manning was convicted; today, a new revelation a new disclosure of a massive hitherto unknown spying program.

The government has also now acknowledged that it has to reveal two people that are being accused or prosecuted on the grounds of secret information and where that information came from.

So, the whole idea of a secrecy state is being undermined because the people know it exists, for one thing.

Press TV: So then do you believe that all of this worth it – has all this spying been worth it? The Guardian says that 300 terrorists were apparently caught out through this.

Schechter: It shows you one thing – that the government seems to be more afraid of its own people than it is of people in other countries per se. The enemy has now moved from overseas to the United States – and that is bizarre.

The military judge threw out the charge against Bradley Manning because he thought it was over-reaching to say he was aiding the enemy. Clearly the enemy now is the American people for many government agencies. And their paranoia knows no bounds.

Their fear is unlimited and unchecked. And that’s the problem we’re facing here is that the whole idea of democracy is being put at risk.

•New Yorker: In Defense of Leakers

•Ed Pilkington, The Guardian: The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.”

•Chase Madar, The Nation: The Trials of Bradley Manning

In late July, the trial of Bradley Manning finally came to a close in a heavily air-conditioned courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland, where the young private from Crescent, Oklahoma, was prosecuted for the largest security breach in US history.

Manning had already pleaded guilty to ten of the lesser charges against him—for instance, unauthorized possession and improper storage of classified material, which together carry a maximum twenty-year term. But this was not enough for the prosecution: it pressed on with a dozen more serious offenses, including the potential capital crime of aiding the enemy as well as charges stemming from the Espionage Act of 1917, which Richard Nixon retooled as a weapon against domestic leakers in his vendetta against Daniel Ellsberg. (Such a use of the statute has never been decided on the legal merits until this case.) Judge Denise Lind announced a verdict that splits the difference, acquitting the soldier of aiding the enemy but convicting him on the Espionage Act charges. Private Manning could still face a prison term of more than 130 years (the sentence will be determined in a separate proceeding). The consequences for American journalism are grave, as the government now has even greater incentive to prosecute as a spy any confidential source who passes classified information to the press, criminalizing what has long been a vital (and tacitly accepted) conduit of essential public information. Such collateral damage to the Fourth Estate will not be mourned by a government that has become aggressively intolerant of leaks, whistleblowers and, it often seems, a well-informed citizenry.

Fort Meade is the too-perfect setting for Manning’s court-martial: an Army base, it is also home to the National Security Agency, now famous for its powers of digital intrusion after the spectacular revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA is the largest bureaucracy in the bloated US security complex, a farrago of draconian harshness coupled with casual indiscipline, dodgy legality with solemn appeals to the rule of law, and state-of-the-art IT with chronic power outages and a shambolic incapacity to run a search of its own employees’ e-mails.

Private Manning was an Army intelligence analyst deployed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer in Iraq when, in 2010, he amassed 90,000 field logs from the Afghan War and 392,000 from Iraq, files on the Guantánamo prisoners and 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables—a huge trove, but still less than 1 percent of what Washington classified in 2010. Manning passed them all to WikiLeaks, which published most of them through well-established newspapers and magazines.

Many of the leaks are not flattering to Washington’s amour-propre. The most famous is the “Collateral Murder” video: the gunsight view from an Apache helicopter opening fire on a couple of armed men and several civilians in Baghdad in July 2007. But the logs from both wars include reports of night raids gone wrong, Afghan outposts laboriously built and then abandoned, civilian casualty estimates whose existence had been officially denied, and documentation of torture by Iraqi authorities under the noses of occupying US soldiers. The diplomatic cables show Washington lobbying to keep the minimum wage down in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; to impose US-style patent law regimes abroad for the benefit of Big Pharma; and to suppress criminal investigations in Germany into the CIA kidnapping of a terrorist suspect that turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

One might guess that Manning’s exfiltration of so many documents required amazing feats of subterfuge, but it needed no deception beyond scrawling “Lady Gaga” on a CD-ROM, with the files later sent to a WikiLeaks site from a Barnes & Noble in suburban Maryland while the private was on leave. There was no security to speak of at the SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility) at FOB Hammer, where the “infosec” (information security) protocols were casually flouted with the full knowledge of supervisors. This was not an anomaly: 1.4 million Americans have top-secret security clearances—480,000 of them private contractors. Security clearance vetting is cursory, like so much else about the sloshy and erratic US infosec: intact military hard drives can turn up for sale in the bazaars of Kabul, and top-secret documents have been accessed by all sorts of people through the file-sharing technology installed on government laptops by the children and grandchildren of national security officials, as Dana Priest and William Arkin documented in Top Secret America, their book on our ballooning security state…

Film Festival Trailer For March on Washington Film—I was there!

•The Hill: House votes to stop IRS enforcement of ObamaCare –GOP just voted against Obamacare for the 40th time

The House voted Friday to prevent the IRS from enforcing any aspect of ObamaCare, a bill meant to exact revenge against an agency that Republicans say is incapable of neutral enforcement of the law.

Members approved the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act in a 232-185 vote that capped off several days of work in the House on bills aimed at reining in government regulation and overreach. Four Democrats supported the bill.

•Peter Hart of FAIR: NBC Misreports Collateral Murder Video
•ICH Views

•Jonathan Cook: If They Fail, ‘Peace” Talks Will Only Deepen Crisis for Palestinians

Someone will have to be blamed and all past evidence suggests that the someone in question will be the Palestinians.

•Israel Tv: Video Shows Israeli Soldier Beating Palestinian Workers “Without Mercy”

Video broadcast by Israel’s Channel 10 shows an Israeli soldier launching a brutal, unprovoked attack on several Palestinian workers.

•Paul Craig Roberts, America Discredited

The US military is a great killer of women, children, village elders, and aid workers.

•Noam Chomsky: Snowden Will be Granted the Full Protection of American Law

Like Snowden, Manning committed the crime of revealing to Americans – and others – what their government is doing. That is a severe breach of “security”

•Crosscurrents.Org: Another Egypt Threatens In Tunisia: Resign! Tunisia ‘s Largest Trade Union Tells Islamist-Led Government

Tunisia’s largest trade union called on July 30, 2013 for the dissolution of the Islamist-led government and the interior minister offered to resign as a political crisis deepened. Calls for the ouster of the government are continuing. Now , it’s from members of the government and the National Constituent Assembly’s (NCA) ruling coalition. Civil society and political parties joined calls for a new government in separate press conferences.

Media reports from Tunisia said:

The powerful Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), which has about 600,000 members in the public and private sectors, said a technocratic government should replace the one led by Ennahda. The union called for the dissolution of the government and for the appointment of a committee of experts to examine the constitution.

“We consider this government incapable of continuing its work,” Hussein Abbassi, general secretary of the UGTT, said in a statement.

•Economy: Youth Unemployment at 16.1% in July

•Jack Rasmus: ZNET: Postscript to: ‘Economic Recovery by Statistical Manipulation’

My recent article, ‘Economic Recovery by Statistical Manipulation’, written July 29, 2013, forewarned that revisions to US GDP data due on July 31 for the April-June quarter would likely show a larger GDP and growth for the US for the quarter, as well as for earlier years. GDP data published today, July 31, 2013 by the US government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) have confirmed that prediction.

A poll of dozens of economists by the Reuters international news agency prior to the 2nd quarter GDP data release showed professional economists were collectively forecasting no more than 1% GDP growth for the 2nd quarter. As noted in our previous article, some were forecasting GDP as low as 0.5% for the quarter. The BEA’s GDP first estimate for the 2nd quarter indicates a 1.7% GDP growth. What happened to explain such a great divergence from forecasts and the BEA data?

As Reuters notes, in a follow up to the BEA release, “comprehensive revisions to the data cast the economy in a better light than previously.” Not only has the most recent quarter of GDP been boosted, from 1.1% in the first quarter of 2013 to 1.7% now in the second (compared to forecasts of 1%), but GDP for all of calendar 2012 has been revised upward as well, from the prior official 2.1% to 2.8%. That’s a 33% upward revision.

Today’s GDP revisions—which will continue henceforth to boost future GDP numbers—focus largely on boosting the contribution of business investment to GDP. The revisions have resulted in significant increases in the estimates for business investment and will continue to do so in the future. It is not necessary to bother readers with the arcane details; suffice to say that the boosts to investment totals have to do with changes in how depreciation is calculated, pension accounting, and other items. The changes in depreciation in particular have resulted in GDP upward revision.
Since GDP is part of what’s called the ‘National Income Accounts’. Like all accounting, there are two sides to the ledger. GDP measures the value of goods and services produced in the economy; the other side of the accounting ledger is GDI, or gross domestic income, which measures the corresponding income generated from that production. That means that the upward revision based on depreciation-driven business investment translates into an upward revision of business income in GDI.

As economist Dean Baker has noted in his commentary on the revisions today, “The new measure added $250 billion to depreciation in the corporate sector for 2012” and that “the profit share of net corporate output (as percent of GDP) rose to 25.5 percent in 2012, the fourth highest share in the post-war era.”

A closer inspection of the 1.7% US 2nd quarter GDP number shows almost all of the major gains in the economy came from business investment. There are four major ‘areas’ of GDP: government spending, exports in excess of imports, consumer spending, and business investment.

The Reuters commentary on today’s GDP release indicated that consumer spending (70% of the US GDP) slowed in the second quarter significantly from the first. So it doesn’t explain the 1.7% unexpected GDP rise. Similarly, government spending (typically 24% of the economy) contracted for the third straight quarter. So nothing is there to justify the 1.7%. Exports rose, but imports rose faster, which translates to a negative contribution to GDP. It was mostly “a turnaround in investment in nonresidential structures and gains in outlays on equipment and intellectual products”, according to Reuters, which explains the 1.7%.

Not surprisingly, that’s the precise area in which the GDP upward revisions have been focused.
Change the way depreciation is defined, adding to corporate profits in addition to the already record growth for profits, throw in new categories of what constitutes business investment—and now you have a 30% or more higher GDP.
If you can’t generate a sustained real economic recovery for five years with past and current economic policies—then just redefine the definition of recovery itself.

•NYT: New York Times Company Sells Boston Globe At Big Loss

The New York Times Company said on Saturday that it had agreed to sell The Boston Globe and its other New England media properties to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, returning the paper to local ownership after two decades in which it struggled to stem the decline in circulation and revenue.
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Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, confirmed that Mr. Henry would pay $70 million for the paper. That would represent a staggering drop in value for the Globe, which The Times bought in 1993 for $1.1 billion, the highest price paid for an American newspaper.

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