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Friday, February 28, 2014

Tanks May Not Be In The Streets Of Ukraine But Russian Troops Are!

Unidentified gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms guard the entrance to the military airport at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Russian troops took control of the two main airports in the strategic peninsula of Crimea, Ukraine's interior minister charged Friday, as the country asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the escalating conflict. Russian state media said Russian forces in Crimea denied involvement. No violence was reported at the civilian airport in Crimea's capital of Simferopol or at the military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, also part of Crimea. At the Simferopol airport, a man claiming to speak for the camouflage-clad forces patrolling the airport described them as Crimean militiamen. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Ukraine says Russian forces patrol Crimea airports

Friday, February 28th 2014, 8:08 am
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops took control of the two main airports in the strategic peninsula of Crimea, Ukraine's interior minister charged Friday, as the country asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the escalating conflict. Russian state media said Russian forces in Crimea denied involvement.
No violence was reported at the civilian airport in Crimea's capital of Simferopol or at the military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, also part of Crimea. At the Simferopol airport, a man claiming to speak for the camouflage-clad forces patrolling the airport described them as Crimean militiamen.
Ukraine's State Border Guard Service said about 30 Russian paratroopers from the 810th brigade of Russia's Black Sea Fleet had taken up position outside the Ukrainian Coast Guard base in the Sevastopol area. It said the paratroopers said they were there to prevent any weapons at the base from being seized by extremists.
Russia's defense ministry had no comment.
Any Russian military incursion in Crimea would dramatically raise the stakes in Ukraine's conflict, which saw the pro-Russian president flee last weekend after three months of anti-government protests. Moscow has vowed to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Crimea, where it has a major naval base, and Ukraine and the West have warned Russia to stay away.
"I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation," Ukraine's new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, wrote in a Facebook post Friday.
Avakov said the airports were controlled by Russian navy troops. Associated Press journalists approaching the Sevastopol airport found the road leading up to it blocked by two military trucks and a handful of gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying assault rifles.
A car with Russian military plates was stopped at the road block. A man wearing a military uniform with a Russian flag on his sleeve got out of the car and was allowed to enter on foot after a brief discussion with the gunmen.
At the airport serving Simferopol, commercial flights were landing and taking off despite the armed men.
In Kiev, Ukraine's parliament adopted a resolution demanding that Russia halt steps it says are aimed against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the crisis.
The Russian foreign and defense ministries had no comment. Russia's state RIA Novosti and Interfax cited an unnamed official from the Russian Black Sea Fleet denying involvement, saying Russian servicemen stationed in Crimea have not moved into the airports and denying that the Russian military was in control there.
The Kremlin, in a statement published late Thursday, said President Vladimir Putin had instructed the government to "maintain contacts with the counterparts in Kiev in what concerns trade and economic ties between Russia and Ukraine."
Putin also asked the government to "hold consultations with foreign partners including the (International Monetary Fund) and the G8 nations to provide financial aid to Ukraine."
At the airport in Simferopol, dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings were patrolling with assault rifles Friday morning. They didn't stop or search people leaving or entering the airport, and refused to talk to journalists.
One man who identified himself only as Vladimir said they were part of the Crimean People's Brigade, which he described as a self-defense unit ensuring that no "radicals and fascists" arrive from other parts of Ukraine.
The airport seizures came a day after masked gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles seized the parliament and government offices in Simferopol and raised the Russian flag. Ukrainian police cordoned off the area but didn't confront the gunmen.
The events in Crimea have heightened tensions with neighboring Russia. Moscow scrambled fighter jets on Thursday and put most of its troops in western and southern Russia on combat readiness exercises that it said were unrelated to the Ukraine conflict. The moves were reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.
Moscow has been sending mixed signals about Ukraine but pledged to respect its territorial integrity. Putin has long dreamed of pulling Ukraine, a country of 46 million people considered the cradle of Russian civilization, closer into Moscow's orbit.
Russia also granted shelter to Ukraine's fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, state media reported. They said he would give a news conference Friday in southern Russia, near the Ukrainian border.
Yanukovych has not been seen publicly since Saturday when he was still in Ukraine, and he declared Thursday in a statement that he remains Ukraine's legitimate president.
The prosecutor-general's office in Kiev said it would seek Yanukovych's extradition to Ukraine, where he is wanted on suspicion of mass murder in last week's violent clashes between protesters and police, in which over 80 people were killed.
Meanwhile, Swiss prosecutors announced they had launched a criminal investigation against Yanukovych and his son Aleksander over "aggravated money laundering." They said police and Geneva's chief prosecutor conducted a search and seized documents Thursday at the premises of a company owned by Aleksander Yanukovych.
Switzerland's governing Federal Council announced that it decided to block all assets Yanukovych and his entourage might have in Switzerland.
Ukraine's parliament on Thursday elected a new government led by a pro-Western technocrat who promptly pledged to prevent any national break-up.
Ukraine's population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union while eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support.
Crimea, a southeastern peninsula of Ukraine, was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, and was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires.
It became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia, a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet collapse meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.
In a bid to shore up Ukraine's fledgling administration, the International Monetary Fund has said it is "ready to respond" to Ukraine's bid for financial assistance. The European Union is also considering emergency loans for a country that is the chief conduit of Russian natural gas to western Europe.
Ukraine's finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default.
AP reporters Dalton Bennett in Sevastopol, Maria Danilova and Karl Ritter in Kiev and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tea Party Accomplishments Are Many And When The New York Times Writes Your Obit, You Know You Are Making Points.

Five Years On, The Tea Party Isn’t Dead

February 27, 2014 by  
 11 7
 1 47

The Tea Party certainly isn’t dead, as The New York Times recently suggested.
That was the message Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) delivered Thursday to a crowd of Tea Party activists assembled in Washington to celebrate five years of the conservative government movement.
The Senator was joined by Republican lawmakers, including Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert, in remembering the many accomplishments of the movement in the years since Rick Santelli’s rant on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 2009.
“If you listen to the media, if you listen to Democrats — although I repeat myself — they will say the fight to stop Obamacare did not succeed,” said Cruz
“Really?” Cruz said. “Well, I’m a big believer the proof is in the pudding. Last fall, millions of Americans rose up and said, ‘Stop the disaster that is Obamacare.’ … We elevated the national debate of the incredible harms Obamacare is visiting on millions of Americans.”
Cruz went on to emphasize the populist support, which was largely a surprise to the political establishment, of Paul’s epic 13 hour rant against President Barack Obama’s murderous drone policy.
When Paul had his turn at the mic, he emphasized the broad appeal of the Tea Party’s fiscal conservatism and small government ideals and encouraged the establishment GOP to embrace unconventional Republicans.
“When we present our message, and we want a bigger crowd and we want to win politically, the message has to be a happy message,” he said. “One of optimism, one of inclusiveness, one of growth, a message that actually brings up the people who are poor among us, brings up those who are long-term unemployed and find them some jobs.”
“Our message is that, but we have to figure out a way to make sure that everybody knows that that’s what we’re here for,” Paul said.

Amnesty International Leads The Way Against Israel

The lack of balance in the report on "Israel War Crimes" shows where Amnesty International is coming from. It is NOT an honest broker and anything that comes from the organization should be disregarded.

The report deals only with Israeli "war crimes" yet ignores the cause of many of the actions and the activities taken by Palestinians, Hamas and Hezbollah. Rock throwing is completely ignored as well as the rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.

Additionally, the publishing of the report during "Israel Apartheid week" is meant to increase the pressure on the Jewish state to cave into the demands of Obama/Kerry and the European Union. 

Lastly, the report itself shows that Amnesty International is part of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanction (BDS) movement when it says:

 "The report urges the suspension of “all transfers and munitions, weapons and other equipment to Israel.”

The game plan from this movement is to not change Israel, but to eliminate it from the face of the earth. It wants the state to disappear and to have Palestinians govern the area that used to be the Jewish state. They have the mistaken notion that all wars will end and the world will be peaceful if only Israel ceased to exist.

Obama/Kerry is following the same mantra as Amnesty International.  We have reported several times on this site that in an effort to get a peace settlement, the Americans will demand that Israel accept their plan or face BDS type actions relating not only to military equipment, but also foreign aid and the UN bringing sanctions against Israel.

Israel will be left to fend for itself against the world, that is what is coming. Be prepared.

Conservative Tom  

Amnesty International Accuses Israel of War Crimes

“A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.” (Proverbs 14:5)
Amnesty International Accuses Israel of War Crimes
Weekly demonstrations held at regular sites in the West Bank such as Bil’in and Ni’lin. (Photo: IDF)
According to a new report published by Amnesty International, “Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity.”
The report, called “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank,” accuses the IDF of “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians.” Amnesty International said it documented the deaths of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank caused by IDF forces with at least 14 of those deaths in the context of protests. According to the U.N., between the years 2011-2013, 45 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank.
Amnesty International accused Israel of “war crimes”, arguing that “Israeli forces have repeatedly violated their obligation under international human rights law by using excessive force to stifle dissent and freedom of expression, resulting in a pattern of unlawful killings and injuries to civilians.”
The London based group has called on the international community, specifically the United States and European Union, to pressure Israel to change. The report urges the suspension of “all transfers and munitions, weapons and other equipment to Israel.”
“Without pressure from the International community, the situation is unlikely to change soon,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International failed to warn Israel about the release of the report. It comes as no surprise that the group would release the blasphemous report during Israeli Apartheid Week.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the AFP that the report was released “without even bothering to ask for response and comment.” He said the report “smacks of bias, discrimination and racism.”
“Their trick is to disable our capacity to respond,” Palmor explained. “And that’s what this move is about: not to get responses, but to deprive Israel of its capacity to even take part in the conversation.”
The IDF responded to the report by saying that Amnesty International has failed, once again, to include other important evidence, such as Palestinian violence and aggression towards Israel.
Amnesty International has failed to take into account the radical increase of Palestinian violence against Israel over the last year, including the 132 injured Israelis by Palestinians in 2013, a doubling from 2012. The report also failed to mention the uptick of terror attacks in Israel the last year. The IDF noted that there was “no surprise, considering that over 5,000 incidents of rock-hurling took place, half of which were toward main roads.”
The IDF also pointed out that the report did not mention that “there were 66 further terror attacks, which included shootings, the planting of improvised explosive devices, blunt weapon attacks and the abduction and murder of a soldier.”
The IDF says it will not apologize for its self defense methods. The report showed “a complete lack of understanding as to operational challenges the IDF is posed with in the West Bank.”
“Where feasible, the IDF contains this life-threatening violence using riot dispersal means, including loud sirens, water cannons, sound grenades and teargas. Only once those tools have been exhausted, and human life and safety remains under threat, is the use of precision munition authorized,” the IDF said.

1 in 8 Americans Say Cheating On Taxes Is Fine

IRS Survey: Cheating on Taxes More Acceptable in 2013

Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 02:24 PM
By Michelle Smith
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Most Americans believe in being completely honest about taxes, but a growing number were bold enough to tell the IRS that cheating is acceptable.

In the IRS' annual Taxpayer Attitude Survey, 12 percent of participants declared it acceptable to cheat “a little here and there” or “as much as possible.”

The tolerance for dishonesty last year increased only slightly compared to 2012 when 11 percent of participants condoned cheating.

And while 86 percent noted that they were against dishonesty, only 64 percent completely agreed that all tax cheats should be held accountable, down from 69 percent in 2012.

The survey revealed that 33 percent of participants believe the IRS devotes too much of its resources to enforcement, the highest rate since 2006. Only about a third of the respondents credited the tax agency with maintaining a proper balance between enforcement and customer service, falling to the lowest level over the same time period.

Bad financial situations are one reason why people are likely to cheat on their taxes, Valrie Chambers, a professor of accounting at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi tells CNN Money. She says some people just cannot afford to be hit with a tax bill.

“They justify not paying because they are paying all they can for something more important,” Chambers said. “These are sad cases to see, and are probably more prevalent since the recession of 2008.”

However, some people are trying to “even the score” because they feel the government cheats them, and others cheat because they don't agree with government spending, Chambers added.

According to research from DBB World Communications, for many cheaters, dishonesty may just be in their nature.

The Fiscal Times says 15 percent of the respondents in the survey admitted to cheating on their taxes. Nearly three-fourths of those cheaters also worked a job under the table, were more likely to keep the wrong change from a cashier and lie about their income to qualify for welfare and 28 percent even confessed to stealing from their own child’s piggy bank.

Whatever their reasons, tax cheats do put a real dent in government revenues. According to the Fiscal Times, the Treasury Department says it loses $250 billion or more per year due to under-reporting.

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Your Private Webcam Pix Are Now Part Of Government Databases! Congratulations.

Yahoo webcam images from millions of users intercepted by GCHQ

• Optic Nerve program collected Yahoo webcam images in bulk
• 1.8m users targeted by UK agency in six-month period alone
• Yahoo: 'A whole new level of violation of our users' privacy'
• Material included large quantity of sexually explicit images
Yahoo webcam image.
The GCHQ program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images ofYahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users'privacy".
GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans' images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.
The documents also chronicle GCHQ's sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place.
NSA ragout 4
Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year.
The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ's existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.
Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers. The documents describe these users as "unselected" – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.
One document even likened the program's "bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events" to a massive digital police mugbook of previously arrested individuals.
"Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for 'mugshots' or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face," it reads. "The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright."
The agency did make efforts to limit analysts' ability to see webcam images, restricting bulk searches to metadata only.
However, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets, potentially dragging in large numbers of innocent people. One document tells agency staff they were allowed to display "webcam images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers to your known target".
Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ's huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. Webcam information was fed into NSA'sXKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo's webcam traffic.
Bulk surveillance on Yahoo users was begun, the documents said, because "Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets".
NSA ragout 3
Programs like Optic Nerve, which collect information in bulk from largely anonymous user IDs, are unable to filter out information from UK or US citizens. Unlike the NSAGCHQ is not required by UK law to "minimize", or remove, domestic citizens' information from its databases. However, additional legal authorisations are required before analysts can search for the data of individuals likely to be in the British Isles at the time of the search.
There are no such legal safeguards for searches on people believed to be in the US or the other allied "Five Eyes" nations – Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
GCHQ insists all of its activities are necessary, proportionate, and in accordance with UK law.
The documents also show that GCHQ trialled automatic searches based on facial recognition technology, for people resembling existing GCHQ targets: "[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target's ID".
The undated document, from GCHQ's internal wiki information site, noted this capability was "now closed … but shortly to return!"
The privacy risks of mass collection from video sources have long been known to the NSA and GCHQ, as a research document from the mid-2000s noted: "One of the greatest hindrances to exploiting video data is the fact that the vast majority of videos received have no intelligence value whatsoever, such as pornography, commercials, movie clips and family home movies."
Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem forGCHQ, as one document delicately put it: "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography."
The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains "undesirable nudity". Discussing efforts to make the interface "safer to use", it noted that current "na├»ve" pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people's faces as pornography.
NSA ragout 1
GCHQ did not make any specific attempts to prevent the collection or storage of explicit images, the documents suggest, but did eventually compromise by excluding images in which software had not detected any faces from search results – a bid to prevent many of the lewd shots being seen by analysts.
The system was not perfect at stopping those images reaching the eyes of GCHQ staff, though. An internal guide cautioned prospective Optic Nerve users that "there is no perfect ability to censor material which may be offensive. Users who may feel uncomfortable about such material are advised not to open them".
It further notes that "under GCHQ's offensive material policy, the dissemination of offensive material is a disciplinary offence".
NSA ragout 2
Once collected, the metadata associated with the videos can be as valuable to the intelligence agencies as the images themselves.
It is not fully clear from the documents how much access the NSA has to the Yahoo webcam trove itself, though all of the policy documents were available to NSA analysts through their routine information-sharing. A previously revealed NSA metadata repository, codenamed Marina, has what the documents describe as a protocol class for webcam information.
In its statement to the Guardian, Yahoo strongly condemned the Optic Nerve program, and said it had no awareness of or involvement with theGCHQ collection.
"We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity," said a spokeswoman. "This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.
"We are committed to preserving our users' trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services."
Yahoo has been one of the most outspoken technology companies objecting to the NSA's bulk surveillance. It filed a transparency lawsuit with the secret US surveillance court to disclose a 2007 case in which it was compelled to provide customer data to the surveillance agency, and it railed against the NSA's reported interception of information in transit between its data centers.
The documents do not refer to any specific court orders permitting collection of Yahoo's webcam imagery, but GCHQ mass collection is governed by the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and requires certification by the foreign secretary, currently William Hague.
The Optic Nerve documentation shows legalities were being considered as new capabilities were being developed. Discussing adding automated facial matching, for example, analysts agreed to test a system before firming up its legal status for everyday use.
"It was agreed that the legalities of such a capability would be considered once it had been developed, but that the general principle applied would be that if the accuracy of the algorithm was such that it was useful to the analyst (ie, the number of spurious results was low, then it was likely to be proportionate)," the 2008 document reads.
The document continues: "This is allowed for research purposes but at the point where the results are shown to analysts for operational use, the proportionality and legality questions must be more carefully considered."
Optic Nerve was just one of a series of GCHQ efforts at biometric detection, whether for target recognition or general security.
While the documents do not detail efforts as widescale as those against Yahoo users, one presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360's Kinect camera, saying it generated "fairly normal webcam traffic" and was being evaluated as part of a wider program.
Documents previously revealed in the Guardian showed the NSA were exploring the video capabilities of game consoles for surveillance purposes.
Microsoft, the maker of Xbox, faced a privacy backlash last year when details emerged that the camera bundled with its new console, the Xbox One, would be always-on by default.
Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – "think Tom Cruise in Minority Report", one presentation noted.
The same presentation talks about the strange means the agencies used to try and test such systems, including whether they could be tricked. One way of testing this was to use contact lenses on detailed mannequins.
To this end, GCHQ has a dummy nicknamed "the Head", one document noted.
In a statement, a GCHQ spokesman said: "It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.
"Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.
"All our operational processes rigorously support this position."
The NSA declined to respond to specific queries about its access to the Optic Nerve system, the presence of US citizens' data in such systems, or whether the NSA has similar bulk-collection programs.
However, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency did not ask foreign partners such as GCHQ to collect intelligence the agency could not legally collect itself.
"As we've said before, the National Security Agency does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself," she said.
"The NSA works with a number of partners in meeting its foreign intelligence mission goals, and those operations comply with US law and with the applicable laws under which those partners operate.
"A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights. Those procedures govern the acquisition, use, and retention of information about US persons."