Friday, December 31, 2010

The Real Question For America In 2011 Is Just This Simple!

The Real Question For America In 2011 Is Just This Simple!

Happy News Year; Lying Spying, Treachery And Betrayal.

Happy News Year; Lying  Spying, Treachery And Betrayal.

WikiLeaks has brought to light a series of disturbing insinuations and startling truths in the last year, some earth-shattering, others simply confirmations of our darkest suspicions about the way the world works. Thanks to founder Julian Assange's legal situation in Sweden (and potentially the United States) as well as his media grandstanding, it is easy to forget how important and interesting some of WikiLeaks' revelations have been.

WikiLeaks revelations from 2010 have included simple gossip about world leaders: Russia's PM Vladimir Putin is playing Batman to President Dmitri Medvedev's Robin; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is crazy and was once slapped by a Revolutionary Guard chief for being so; Libya's Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has a hankering for his voluptuous blond Ukrainian nurse; and France's President Nicholas Sarkozy simply can't take criticism. 
CBS News Special Report: WikiLeaks

However, WikiLeaks' revelations also have many  major implications for world relations. The following is a list of the more impactful WikiLeaks revelations from 2010, grouped by region.

The United States

- The U.S. Army considered WikiLeaks a national security threat as early as 2008, according to documents obtained and posted by WikiLeaks in March, 2010.

- Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commanders repeatedly, knowingly lied to the American public about rising sectarian violence in Iraq beginning in 2006, according to the cross-referencing of WikiLeaks' leaked Iraq war documents and former Washington Post Baghdad Bureau Chief Ellen Knickmeyer's recollections.

- The Secretary of State's office encouraged U.S. diplomats at the United Nations to spy on their counterparts, including collecting data about the U.N. secretary general, his team and foreign diplomats, including credit card account numbers, according to documents from WikiLeaks U.S. diplomatic cable release. Later cables reveal the CIA draws up an annual "wish-list" for the State Department, which one year included the instructions to spy on the U.N.

- The Obama administration worked with Republicans during his first few months in office to protect Bush administration officials facing a criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that some considered torture. A "confidential" April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid obtained by WikiLeaks details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

- WikiLeaks released a secret State Department cable that provided a list of sites around the world vital to U.S. national security, from mines in Africa to labs in Europe.


- A U.S. Army helicopter allegedly gunned down two journalists in Baghdad in 2007. WikiLeaks posted a 40-minute video on its website in April, showing the attack in gruesome detail, along with an audio recording of the pilots during the attack.

- Iran's military intervened aggressively in support of Shiite combatants in Iraq, offering weapons, training and sanctuary, according to an October, 2010, WikiLeaks release of thousands of secret documents related to the Iraq war.

- According to one tabulation, there have been 100,000 causalities, mostly civilian, in Iraq - greater than the numbers previously made public, many of them killed by American troops but most of them were killed by other Iraqis, according to the WikiLeaks Iraq documents dump. 

- U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished, according to the WikiLeaks Iraq documents dump.


- U.S. special-operations forces have targeted militants without trial in secret assassination missions, and many more Afghan civilians have been killed by accident than previously reported, according to the WikiLeaks Afghanistan war document dump.

- Afghan President Hamid Karzai freed suspected drug dealers because of their political connections, according to a secret diplomatic cable. The cable, which supports the multiple allegations of corruption within the Karzai government, said that despite repeated rebukes from U.S. officials in Kabul, the president and his attorney general authorized the release of detainees. Previous cables accused Karzai's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, of being a corrupt narcotics trafficker.


- Pakistan's government has allowed members of its spy network to hold strategy sessions on combating American troops with members of the Taliban, while Pakistan has received more than $1 billion a year in aid from Washington to help combat militants, according to a July, 2010, WikiLeaks release of thousands of files on the Afghanistan war.

- A stash of highly enriched uranium capable of providing enough material for multiple "dirty bombs" has been waiting in Pakistan for removal by an American team for more than three years but has been held up by the country's government, according to leaked classified State Department documents.

- Despite sustained denials by US officials spanning more than a year, U.S.military Special Operations Forces have been conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan, helping direct U.S. drone strikes and conducting joint operations with Pakistani forces against Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in north and south Waziristan and elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to secret cables released as part of the Wikileaks document dump.

- China was behind the online attack of Google, according to leaked diplomatic cables. The electronic intrusion was "part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government."

- Secret State Department cables show a South Korean official quoted as saying that North Korea's collapse is likely to happen "two to three years" after the death of the current dictator, Kim Jong Il. The U.S. is already planning for the day North Korea implodes from its own economic woes. China has "no will" to use its economic leverage to force North Korea to change its policies and the Chinese official who is the lead negotiator with North Korea is "the most incompetent official in China."

- North Korea is secretly helping the military dictatorship in Myanmar build nuclear and missile sites in its jungles, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. Although witnesses told the embassy that construction is at an early stage, officials worry Myanmar could one day possess a nuclear bomb.
- Five years ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross told U.S. diplomats in New Delhi that the Indian government "condones torture" and systematically abused detainees in the disputed region of Kashmir. The Red Cross told the officials that hundreds of detainees were subjected to beatings, electrocutions and acts of sexual humiliation, the Guardian newspaper of London reported Thursday evening.

- The British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a "government death squad", leaked US embassy cables have revealed. Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement".

- Secret U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that BP suffered a blowout after a gas leak in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan in September 2008, a year and a half before another BP blowout killed 11 workers and started a leak that gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Middle East

- Saudi Arabia's rulers have deep distrust for some fellow Muslim countries, especially Pakistan and Iran, despite public appearances, according to documents from the late November, 2010, WikiLeaks U.S. diplomatic cable dump. King Abdullah called Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari "the greatest obstacle" to the country's progress and he also repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

- Iranian Red Crescent ambulances were used to smuggle weapons to Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group during its 2006 war with Israel, according to the leaked U.S. diplomatic memos.

- In a leaked diplomatic memo, dated two weeks after elections that landed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in office, a senior American diplomat said that during a meeting a few days before "Netanyahu expressed support for the concept of land swaps, and emphasized that he did not want to govern the West Bank and Gaza but rather to stop attacks from being launched from there."

- The United States was secretly given permission from Yemen's president to attack the al Qaeda group in his country that later attempted to blow up planes in American air space. President Ali Abdullah Saleh told John Brennan, President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, in a leaked diplomatic cable from September 2009 that the U.S. had an "open door" on terrorism in Yemen.

- Contrary to public statements, the Obama administration actually helped fuel conflict in Yemen. The U.S. was shipping arms to Saudi Arabia for use in northern Yemen even as it denied any role in the conflict.

- Saudi Arabia is one of the largest origin points for funds supporting international terrorism, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged U.S. diplomats to do more to stop the flow of money to Islamist militant groups from donors in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government, Clinton wrote, was reluctant to cut off money being sent to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan.

- The U.S. is failing to stop the flow of arms to Middle Eastern militant groups. Hamas and Hezbollah are still receiving weapons from Iran, North Korea, and Syria, secret diplomatic cables allege.

- A storage facility housing Yemen's radioactive material was unsecured for up to a week after its lone guard was removed and its surveillance camera was broken, a secret U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks revealed Monday. "Very little now stands between the bad guys and Yemen's nuclear material," a Yemeni official said on January 9 in the cable.

- Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, constructed with apparent help from North Korea, fearing it was built to make a bomb. In a leaked diplomatic cable obtained by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, then-US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice wrote the Israelis targeted and destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor just weeks before it was to be operational.

- Diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks indicate authorities in the United Arab Emirates debated whether to keep quiet about the high-profile killing of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January. The documents also show the UAE sought U.S. help in tracking down details of credit cards Dubai police believe were used by a foreign hit squad involved in the killing. The spy novel-like slaying, complete with faked passports and assassins in disguise, is widely believed to be the work of Israeli secret agents.

- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Al Jazeera network that some of the unpublished cables show "Top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency. These officials are spies for the U.S. in their countries."


- Of the 500 or so tactical nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, it is known that about 200 are deployed throughout Europe. Leaked diplomatic cables reveal that dozens of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons are in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

- NATO had secret plans to defend the Baltic states and Poland from an attack by Russia, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. NATO officials had feared "an unnecessary increase in NATO-Russia tensions," and wanted no public discussions of their contingency plans to defend Baltic states from Russian attack.

- The Libyan government promised "enormous repercussions" for the U.K. if the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, was not handled properly, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. The Libyan government threatened "harsh, immediate" consequences if the man jailed for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 died in prison in Scotland. 

- Pope Benedict impeded an investigation into alleged child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. Not only did Pope Benedict refuse to allow Vatican officials to testify in an investigation by an Irish commission into alleged child sex abuse by priests, he was also reportedly furious when Vatican officials were called upon in Rome.

- Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness carried out negotiations for the Good Friday agreement with Irish then-prime minister Bertie Ahern while the two had explicit knowledge of a bank robbery that the Irish Republican Army was planning to carry out, according to a WikiLeaks cable. Ahern figured Adams and McGuinness knew about the 26.5 million pound Northern Bank robbery of 2004 because they were members of the "IRA military command."


- Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC has infiltrated the highest levels of government in Nigeria. A high-ranking executive for the international Shell oil company once bragged to U.S. diplomats, as reported in a leaked diplomatic cable, that the company's employees had so well infiltrated the Nigerian government that officials had "forgotten" the level of the company's access.

- Mozambique is fast on its way to becoming a narco-state because of close ties between drug smugglers and the southeastern African nation's government, according to U.S. Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks. The cables say cocaine, heroin and other drugs come in from South America and Asia, and are then flown to Europe or sent overland to neighboring South Africa for sale.

- Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating Mugabe's chief opposition leader on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of a WikiLeaks' leaked cable. The cable claimed Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai encouraged Western sanctions against his own country to induce Mugabe into giving up some political power.


- Mexican President Felipe Calderon told a U.S. official last year that Latin America "needs a visible U.S. presence" to counter Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's growing influence in the region, according to a U.S. State Department cable leaked to WikiLeaks.

- A newly released confidential U.S. diplomatic cable predicts Cuba's economic situation could become "fatal" within two to three years, and details concerns voiced by diplomats from other countries, including China, that the communist-run country has been slow to adopt reforms.

- The Honduran military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired in 2009 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. However, the constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by the President and resolving conflicts between the branches of government.

- Venezuela's deteriorating oil industry and its growing economic problems are taking a toll on President Hugo Chavez's popularity. In one confidential leaked diplomatic cable dated Oct. 15, 2009, the U.S. Embassy said "equipment conditions have deteriorated drastically" since the government expropriated some 80 oil service companies earlier that year. It said safety and maintenance at the now state-owned oil facilities were in a "terrible state."

- China has been reselling Venezuela's cheap oil at a profit, according to a classified U.S. document released by WikiLeaks. President Hugo Chavez was upset that China apparently profited by selling fuel to other countries, fuel that it had sold China at a discount in order to gain favor. The cable also describes falling crude output in Venezuela caused by a host of problems within the national oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA.

- Jamaica's counter-drug efforts have been so sluggish that exasperated Cuban officials privately griped about their frustrations to a U.S. drug enforcement official, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable. The communique released by WikiLeaks said Cuban officials painted their Caribbean neighbor to the south as chronically uncooperative in stopping drug smugglers who use Cuban waters and airspace to transport narcotics destined for the U.S.

- A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable published Saturday depicts the leader of Mexico's army "lamenting" its lengthy role in the anti-drug offensive, but expecting it to last between seven and 10 more years. The cable says Mexican Defense Secretary Gen. Guillermo Galvan Galvan mistrusts other Mexican law enforcement agencies and prefers to work separately, because corrupt officials had leaked information in the past.

- McDonald's tried to delay the US government's implementation of a free-trade agreement in order to put pressure on El Salvador to appoint neutral judges in a $24m lawsuit it was fighting in the country. The revelation of the McDonald's strategy to ensure a fair hearing for a long-running legal battle against a former franchisee comes from a leaked US embassy cable dated 15 February 2006.

In 2010, WikiLeaks released only about 2,000 of the approximate 250,000 cables it claims to posses, and the pace of those releases dropped dramatically as the holidays approached. If Assange's promises are to be believed, 2011 will be another important year for learning about the hidden forces that drive our world.

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 30, 2010; 12:35 AM

When Republicans take over the House next week, they will do something that apparently has never been done before in the chamber's 221-year history:
This Story

They will read the Constitution aloud.

And then they will require that every new bill contain a statement by the lawmaker who wrote it citing the constitutional authority to enact the proposed legislation.

Call it the tea party-ization of Congress.

"It appears that the Republicans have been listening," said Jeff Luecke, a sales supervisor and tea party organizer in Dubuque, Iowa. "We're so far away from our founding principles that, absolutely, this is the very, very tip of the iceberg. We need to talk about and learn about the Constitution daily."
These are two standout changes on a long list of new rules Republicans will institute in the House when they assume the majority on Jan. 5. After handing out pocket-size Constitutions at rallies, after studying the document article by article and after demanding that Washington return to its founding principles, tea party activists have something new to applaud. A pillar of their grass-roots movement will become a staple in the bureaucracy that governs Congress.

"On November 2nd, voters called for an end to reckless spending and a renewed commitment to the Constitution," said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a tea party favorite. "These new rules show that Republicans are serious about respecting the Constitution."

But the question being debated in legal and political circles off Capitol Hill is whether the constitutional rules are simply symbolic flourishes to satisfy an emboldened and watchful tea party base.

"I think it's entirely cosmetic," said Kevin Gutzman, a history professor at Western Connecticut State University who said he is a conservative libertarian and sympathizes with the tea party.

"This is the way the establishment handles grass-roots movements," he added. "They humor people who are not expert or not fully cognizant. And then once they've humored them and those people go away, it's right back to business as usual. It looks like this will be business as usual - except for the half-hour or however long it takes to read the Constitution out loud."
House Republican leaders announced dozens of new rules, including several measures designed to increase transparency in the legislative process. Committees will broadcast their hearings and mark-up sessions online, lawmaker attendance will be recorded for each committee hearing and the debt limit will no longer be automatically increased with each new budget resolution.

The reading of the Constitution will occur on Jan. 6, one day after the swearing in of Speaker-designate John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). The 4,543-word document, including all 27 amendments, could be read aloud in just 30 minutes. But the exercise probably will last longer.

The moment seems designed for maximum effect. Many lawmakers will participate, with one representative reading a portion of the document before yielding the floor to another representative to continue reading and so forth. Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Democratic lawmakers are welcome to participate.

"We always hear members of Congress talking about swearing an oath to represent their constituents, when in reality the only oath we take is to the Constitution," Boehner said in a speech this fall. "We pledge 'to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.' No more, no less."
The House historian's office found no record of the Constitution ever having been read aloud on the chamber's floor, although twice lawmakers have submitted the text into the Congressional Record. Roswell Flower (D-N.Y.) did so in 1882 and Thomas Reilly (D-Conn.) in 1915, according to House Historian Matthew Wasniewski.

The historic nature of next week's reading came as a surprise to some tea party leaders.

"That's pretty extraordinary," said Mark Meckler, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. "It shows the extraordinary times now. Regular people all across the country are focused on the Constitution, and the message was sent to Congress we want them to do the same."

Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional scholar at Yale Law School, said he supports the reading. "I like the Constitution," said Amar, author of "America's Constitution: A Biography." "Heck, I'll do them one better. Why only once in January? Why not once every week?"

But he added: "My disagreement is when we actually read the Constitution as a whole, it doesn't say what the tea party folks think it says."

Amar argues that the Constitution charters a "very broad federal power" and is not the narrow states' rights document that tea party activists present it as.
The constitutional authority rule will restart this debate with each new bill. 

Every measure will require a statement from its sponsor outlining where in the Constitution Congress is empowered to enact such legislation.

This is such a big change to the daily routine on Capitol Hill that Republican leaders distributed a five-page memo to lawmakers outlining how to determine a bill's constitutional authority. They also held training sessions for legislative aides.

The rule has been a top tea party priority; it was the No. 1 recommendation in the movement's "Contract From America."

"It's a big deal," said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns at FreedomWorks. "That's a very basic starting point for all legislation - not only should we do it, can we afford to pay for it, but can we do it?"

The ongoing debate over the nation's recent health-care overhaul is rooted in questions of constitutionality. The Constitution does not explicitly allow an individual mandate for health care, but supporters of the law make several arguments, including that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" to provide for the "general Welfare."

Opponents, however, argue that the courts have never interpreted the Constitution as guaranteeing a right to health care, and they consider the health-care law an overreach that the nation's Founding Fathers would condemn.

This debate about constitutionality has split largely along partisan lines, leading some legal scholars to say the new House rule might be more about playing politics than anything else.

"I see this as a statement of the Republican Party, heavily influenced by the tea party, that we are the defenders of the Constitution and we will exercise our constitutional responsibilities seriously in ways the Democrats did not," said Neil Siegel, a law professor at Duke University.

Interpretations of the Constitution can vary widely. Where a Democratic lawmaker could see constitutional grounds for a bill, say by citing an oft-referenced clause in Article 1 that gives Congress the power to regulate commerce, a Republican lawmaker could argue the opposite. 

For tea party activists, this will be the true test of whether GOP leaders are taking the Constitution seriously.

"You can do the talk, but you have to do the walk," said Clifford Atkin, a leader of the New Boston Tea Party in Woodbury, Conn., who likened the increased focus on the Constitution to a religious conversion.

Beth Mizell, who leads a loose affiliate of tea party activists in tiny Franklinton, La., has attended weekend classes on the Constitution that she compared to a church Bible study. She said she is heartened that Congress is taking these steps.

"It may be an olive branch," Mizell said. "People are excited to see that our leaders know there's a relevance to the Constitution in the process. But I don't think it will make people any less vigilant in looking at the laws that are being introduced."

By Perry Bacon Jr. And Karen Deyoung

President Obama appointed Wednesday the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005, using a recess appointment to bypass opposition from Senate Republicans.

Because he was appointed while the Senate is in recess, Robert Ford, a career diplomat, will not need Senate confirmation. But he can serve only until the end of the next session of Congress, which will likely be in December 2011.
Ford's nomination was held up by a group of GOP senators who complained that the administration had failed to articulate a viable policy toward the Syrian government, which has been charged with supporting Hezbollah militants and other anti-Israel groups.

The Bush administration withdrew its ambassador from Syria in February 2005 to protest the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Syrian intelligence officials are suspected of being behind the killing, a claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has long rejected.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who will chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the next Congress, said she was "deeply disappointed that the president decided to make such a major concession to the Syrian regime." She added, "Making undeserved concessions to Syria tells the regime in Damascus that it can continue to pursue its dangerous agenda and not face any consequences from the U.S."

Ford was one of six long-stalled nominees Obama appointed Wednesday, including ambassadors to Turkey, the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan. The president also appointed James M. Cole as deputy attorney general.
Cole's nomination had stalled in the Senate because of Republican concerns about his comments about terrorism and his work  as an independent contractor for the insurance giant AIG.

Outgoing Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) had placed a hold on Frank Ricciardone's confirmation as ambassador to Turkey because he and former officials in the George W. Bush administration found him insufficiently zealous in pursuing democratic reforms as Bush's ambassador to Egypt. A career diplomat who served three previous tours in Turkey, Ricciardone was most recently assigned as deputy ambassador in Afghanistan.

NATO member Turkey, where the U.S. ambassador's post has been empty since summer, is a key U.S. ally in the region and due to host international talks on Iran's nuclear program next month. It also plays a crucial role in Obama's Mideast peace efforts and efforts to promote stability in neighboring Iraq, where U.S. troops are scheduled to complete their withdrawal in 2011.
Norman L. Eisen, a Washington lawyer who served as ethics czar in the Obama White House, will go to the Czech Republic. He was opposed by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), who charged that Eisen had misled lawmakers over the circumstances and his role in the June 2009 firing of Gerald Walpin as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps and other similar programs.

Career diplomat Matthew Bryza, who will become ambassador to Azerbaijan, fell victim to domestic disputes between pro-Armenian and pro-Turkish forces and was opposed by the Armenian American lobbying group ANCA and Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.), both representing states with large Armenian populations.

ANCA's executive director, Aram Hamparian, called Bryza "a deeply flawed diplomat" and said Obama's appointment "represents a disservice to American diplomacy that will, sadly, undermine our nation's ability to advance our interests and values in the Caucasus region."

Cole had waited nearly five months for a Senate vote on his nomination to the Justice Department post, by far the longest delay to fill that position in the past 30 years.

Republicans have focused in part on a 2002 column Cole wrote for Legal Times that criticized the Bush administration's battle against terrorism. "The attorney general is not a member of the military fighting a war -- he is a prosecutor fighting crime," Cole wrote. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has said that embodied a failed law enforcement approach to battling terrorists.
Cole also wrote that the attorney general should be an "aggressive advocate" in fighting terror and said at his confirmation hearing in June that the Justice Department must aggressively fight the "scourge" of terrorism.
Staff writer Mary Beth Sheridan contributed to this report

The Fix's 11 Big Questions For 2011

By Aaron Blake

The calendar is about to turn on a very active 2010 election cycle, but another one waits just around the corner, with the 2012 election expected to begin shortly after the calendar reads "January."

To help you keep track of what's ahead, we came up with 11 key questions that are likely to be answered in 2011, and what they mean for the road ahead.

Click through, and once you've had a look at our ideas, let us know what you're watching for. The comments section awaits.

Can the tea party and the GOP coexist peacefully?

Despite the GOP's success this past year, the verdict is still very much out on whether the tea party is a boon or a liability. And if the environment isn't as friendly to Republicans in the future as it was in 2010, internal divisions can be exacerbated. Look to whether the tea party makes good in its threats to challenge incumbent senators like Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). 

If those challenges materialize, it could be another arduous primary season for Republicans, who continue to complain privately that tea party candidates hurt them in many races this year.

Does the Obama money machine roll on?

President Obama reached new heights with his online and small-donor fundraising operations four years ago. But that's a lot easier when you're the new guy whom half the country is pretty darn excited about. When you've been president for two-plus years, the luster tends to dull, and those small donors may not feel the same urge to contribute money. We've seen independents sour on Obama, and more recently some liberals have begun to do the same. Fundraising for his reelection campaign begins in 2011; we'll see if he can pull a repeat performance.

What does Sen. John Ensign do?

Right now, the Nevada Republican is seen as a liability for the GOP. He was informed recently that the Justice Department is no longer investigating his affair with a staffer (and an alleged cover-up that followed), but the Senate Ethics Committee is still looking into the matter, and influential Republicans are sending plenty of signals that they prefer he step aside and not run for reelection. Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) would be a welcome replacement and could save the GOP a big headache during a cycle in which they have a great shot at retaking the majority.

What do Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin do?

There is more intrigue about whether these two candidates will run than anyone else. For Palin, it's because ... well ... she's Sarah Palin. And for Huckabee, it's because it looks as if he and Palin might hurt each other if they get into the same race. Both are sending signals that they are inching toward running for president, but it doesn't appear to be a done deal for either of them yet. Both would be formidable in their own right, but do they kneecap each other?

Who leads the Republican National Committee?

The only race more wide open than the GOP presidential primaries might be the race to see who leads the party during the ensuing presidential campaign. Current Chairman Michael Steele is running for reelection but looks to be a long shot. Keep an eye on Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis and former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner. This race is among the hardest to handicap (our attempt is here), though, so expect the unexpected next month when the 168-member RNC picks its new leader.

What path does John Boehner take?

The soon-to-be-House Speaker comes into the job with a reputation both for being a deal maker and for his stubborn opposition to Obama's agenda. The opposition tack got him where he is currently, but the expectations are different now that he's in the majority. At the same time, we saw him bristle in a recent "60 Minutes" interview when it was suggested that he might compromise. Working with Obama risks legitimizing the president with independent voters, but continuing to stand resolutely against everything Obama desires could risk turning voters off to the GOP. It's a balancing act that will depend largely on Obama's popularity.

Does Rep. Michele Bachmann step forward?

The Minnesota Republican's aborted attempt at running for the House GOP leadership showed Bachmann is indeed upwardly mobile, and even though she didn't gain much traction, she has a base of support that should not be underestimated. So where does she go from here? She could be a key voice leading the House Tea Party caucus, or she could turn her attention and fundraising prowess to a Senate run. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is up for reelection in 2012, and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is up in 2014. Many have pegged Bachmann as the next Palin, but at some point she needs to be more than just a back-bencher in the House.

Does an immigration overhaul get done?

Obama continues to say that he will take up immigration reform, but it's a tough issue to massage -- especially when you are worried about an impending reelection fight. To understand how difficult it is, just look at the Democrats' inability to pass the DREAM Act in the lame duck session or the GOP's attempt at comprehensive reform in 2006. Republicans are basically salivating at the prospect of Obama and the Democrats taking their shot. Think the health care fight, except with the prospect of turning off a growing Hispanic constituency in the Democratic Party.

What happens with the health care lawsuits?

For all their talk about repealing the health care law, it is highly unlikely Republicans will be able to accomplish that any time in the near future. Their best bet right now is to hope for a win in the courts, where people like Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) are making some headway toward getting the "individual mandate" portion of the bill -- the requirement that people get health insurance -- struck down. If such a major Democratic bill is found to be unconstitutional, that hurts Obama and his party.

How does Mitt Romney deal with the health care issue?

The former Massachusetts governor is looking like a potential frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. But there's one big question mark looming over him: how does he explain his efforts as governor to institute what many see as a health care bill similar to the one Congress passed? Romney hasn't dealt with this in-depth because he hasn't had to, but he will -- especially if he starts out-raising and out-polling the other presidential contenders. Romney did a lot of explaining during his 2008 presidential bid (think abortion); let's see if he can put this issue behind him early.

How aggressive does the GOP get in redistricting?

Republicans have lots of power when it comes to the decennial drawing of new congressional districts (a.k.a. redistricting), but as we've discussed before, they are also pretty maxed out in a lot of states and could have a hard time creating new districts that are winnable. Do Republicans focus on just shoring up their current members, or do they draw more aggressive districts? The latter risks lawsuits and raises the possibility that many current GOPers could eventually lose.

2010 Elections

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Iran Blocks Access To "El País" After News Of Ahmadinejad To Slap


Iran has blocked today, Thursday, access to the website of El Pais, which
published a diplomatic telegram released by Wikileaks site whereby the
head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard gave a slap to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian authorities also blocked access to other web pages that replicate the news, reported himself "El País".

The Spanish daily plays today, Thursday, a telegram from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, dated 11 February 2010 and published by Wikileaks, which the diplomat Rob Garverick reports on contacts with an Iranian source, whose identity is protected.

The telegram states that the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, slapped Ahmadinejad after a heated argument in the Supreme National Security Council in January 2010 on how to deal with the protests that followed the controversial elections June 2009.

During the meeting, reported by the Iranian source, Ahmadinejad surprised the other members of the Council to take "a surprisingly liberal position," stating that "people feel constrained" and claiming that the solution to reduce tension could pass by grant more freedoms, "including greater press freedom."

The same source indicated that Ahmadinejad's words angered Jafari, who said the president was wrong and that it was "the cause of this mess," then to give him a slap.

The situation caused a stir in the room and the meeting was adjourned without ever got to be resumed. Also according to the source of U.S. diplomat, the interruption of the meeting was reported in some Iranian blogs, but not the slap that was in its origin.

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My Parents Were Executed Under the Unconstitutional Espionage Act -- Here's Why We Must Fight to Protect Julian Assange

Robert Meeropol / Rosenberg Fund for Children

by Paul Craig Roberts, December 30, 2010

Anyone who doesn’t believe that the US is an incipient fascist state needs only to consult the latest assault on civil liberty by Fox News (sic). Instead of informing citizens, Fox News (sic) informs on citizens. Jason Ditz reports ( Dec. 28) that Fox News (sic) "no longer content to simply shill for a growing police state," turned in a grandmother to the Department of Homeland Security for making "anti-American comments."

The media have segued into the police attitude, which regards insistence on civil liberties and references to the Constitution as signs of extremism, especially when the Constitution is invoked in defense of dissent or privacy or placarded on a bumper sticker. President George W. Bush set the scene when he declared:  "you are with us or against us." Bush’s words demonstrate a frightening decline in our government’s respect for dissent since the presidency of John F. Kennedy.  In a speech to the Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961, President Kennedy said: 
  "No president should fear public scrutiny of his program, for from that scrutiny comes     understanding, and from that understanding comes support or opposition; and both     are necessary.  . . .  Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no     country can succeed, and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law     makers once decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is     why our press was protected by the First Amendment." 
The press is not protected, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers, in order that it can amuse and entertain, emphasize the trivial, or simply tell the public what it wants to hear. The press is protected so that it can find and report facts and, thus, inform, arouse "and sometimes even anger public opinion." 
In a statement unlikely to be repeated by an American president, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers: "I’m not asking your newspapers to support an administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people, for I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed." 
The America of Kennedy’s day and the America of today are two different worlds. In America today the media are expected to lie for the government in order to prevent the people from finding out what the government is up to.  If polls can be believed, Americans brainwashed and programmed by O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh want Bradley Manning and Julian Assange torn limb from limb for informing Americans of the criminal acts of their government. Politicians and journalists are screeching for their execution. 
President Kennedy told the Newspaper Publishers Association that "it is to the printing press, the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: Free and Independent."  Who can imagine a Bill Clinton, a George W. Bush, or a Barack Obama saying such a thing today? 
Today the press is a propaganda ministry for the government. Any member who departs from his duty to lie and spin the news is expelled from the fraternity.  A public increasingly unemployed, broke and homeless is told that they have vast enemies plotting to destroy them in the absence of annual trillion dollar expenditures for the military/security complex, wars lasting decades, no-fly lists, unlimited spying and collecting of dossiers on citizens supplemented by neighbors reporting on neighbors, full body scanners at airports, shopping centers, metro and train stations, traffic checks, and the equivalence of treason with the uttering of a truth. 
Two years ago when he came into office President Obama admitted that no one knew what the military mission was in Afghanistan, including the president himself, but that he would find a mission and define it. On his recent trip to Afghanistan, Obama came up with the mission: to make the families of the troops safe in America, his version of Bush’s "we have to kill them over there before they kill us over here." 
No one snorted with derision or even mildly giggled. Neither the New York Times nor Fox News (sic) dared to wonder if perhaps, maybe, murdering and displacing large numbers of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen and US support for Israel’s similar treatment of Lebanese and Palestinians might be creating a hostile environment that could breed terrorists. If there still is such a thing as the Newspaper Publishers Association, its members are incapable of such an unpatriotic thought.

Today no one believes that our country’s success depends on an informed public and a free press. America’s success depends on its financial and military hegemony over the world. Any information inconsistent with the indispensable people’s god-given right to dominate the world must be suppressed and the messenger discredited and destroyed. 
Now that the press has voluntarily shed its First Amendment rights, the government is working to redefine free speech as a privilege limited to the media, not a right of citizens. Thus, the insistence that WikiLeaks is not a media organization and Fox News (sic) turning in a citizen for exercising free speech. Washington’s assault on Assange and WikiLeaks is an assault on what remains of the US Constitution. When we cheer for WikiLeaks’ demise, we are cheering for our own. 

Read more by Paul Craig Roberts

2011 – December 27th, 2010

Who Remembers ‘Guns and Butter’? – February 18th, 2009

America Will Pay a Mighty Price If It Keeps Pretending It's the Superpower It Used to Be

Lawrence Davidson /

Consortium News

The Nation joins the campaign against Julian Assange

By David Walsh 
30 December 2010

The Nation magazine in the US, with its publication of “The Case of Julian Assange” by columnist Katha Pollitt (posted December 22, 2010), has joined the right-wing campaign against WikiLeaks co-founder Assange, a campaign directed by the highest levels of the American state.

The sexual assault charges against Assange in Sweden are part of an orchestrated effort to divert public attention from the content of the WikiLeaks exposures—the duplicity, hypocrisy and criminality of American and world imperialism—and bury the important revelations in a pile of scandalous garbage. Pollitt has eagerly lent a hand to that effort.

Such a development was predictable, given the history of the journalist and the publication, but that does not make it any less reprehensible… or educational. The arguments employed by Pollitt shed further light on the politically rotten character of contemporary feminism and identity politics generally.

Pollitt has written for the Nation, one of the principal voices of American left liberalism, since 1980 and has had a column in the publication since 1995.

In her recent piece on Assange, Pollitt’s modus operandi is to remove the sex charges from their political context—the determined effort to destroy WikiLeaks and its founder—and assert that defenders of Assange are insensitive to rape and sexual violence against women. This is hardly a new, or persuasive, ploy.

What she has learned from the furor over the allegations against Assange, Pollitt begins by writing, is that “when it comes to rape, the left still doesn't get it.” The self-appointed enlightened one then attempts to set “the left” straight.

She dismisses the concerns of “WikiLeaks supporters,” among whom she obviously does not number herself, about “the zeal with which Swedish authorities are pursuing Assange,” arguing that “it could also be that Sweden is following up because prosecutors get mad when world-class celebrities flee the country and then thumb their noses at them—cf. Roman Polanski.”

This is an obvious and malicious distortion of the Polanski case, but more importantly, it suggests that Assange belongs in the category of “world-class celebrities” trying to get off scot-free for their crimes, i.e., privileged, well-connected miscreants.

The picture painted here turns reality on its head. Assange is being relentlessly pursued and persecuted by the most powerful governments and agencies on earth, with almost unlimited resources at their disposal. Elements within the US media and right-wing political figures have openly called for his assassination. This is a man whose very life is in danger. Why? Because he has helped expose a portion of the Holy of Holies—the secrets of imperialist foreign policy and diplomacy.

WikiLeaks has revealed, for the benefit of the world’s population, how the US government and its allies lie to their populations, conspire against democratic rights, repress opponents, plot “regime change” and prepare aggressive wars.

Assange is not a spoiled, arrogant “world-class celebrity,” except in the imagination of the human rubbish on the Murdoch payroll and such. What is Pollitt talking about?

This is not the first time we have noted the alliance of the extreme right and feminism. [ ] The latter has assumed deeply reactionary characteristics, misappropriating the movement for women’s rights that at one time was an element of the struggle against oppression.

Pollitt goes on to lambaste Assange’s supporters who have denounced the trumped-up and politically motivated character of the “rape” charges, including Truthout’s Dave Lindorff, filmmaker Michael Moore, MSNBC talk show host Keith Olbermann and feminists Naomi Wolf and Katrin Axelsson. “What's disturbing,” she writes, “is the way some WikiLeaks admirers have misrepresented the allegations, attacked the women and made light of date rape.”

Date rape has nothing to do with it, by the women’s own statements. The case involves consensual relations. Each of the women actively sought a sexual involvement with Assange.

It has been widely reported that one of the “victims” hosted a party for Assange after the alleged crime and publicly boasted about the fact. The same individual once published a guide on the Internet on the means of revenging oneself on a cheating lover. Assange may be guilty of naïveté in associating with these women, but not of anything criminal.

The sexual assault case was taken up, after Swedish authorities first dropped it in embarrassment, and promoted by a prominent lawyer with connections to the upper-echelons of the Swedish ruling elite. The precise role played by the various parties is unclear, along with their respective political or psychological motivations, but the frame-up character of the case against Assange is unmistakable. The stamp that reads “Made in the USA” is all that is missing.

Pollitt, however, has a different view of things. In response to the revelation that one of Assange’s accusers had connections to an anti-Castro group supported by terrorist and former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, she exclaims, “You would think the left would be more sensitive to charges of guilt by association—since when did marching in a demonstration mean you sign on to everything its supporters support?”

One has to rub one’s eyes. The Assange affair is preeminently a political affair. It involves the concerted attempt to silence a critic of the US government and military-intelligence apparatus, which includes—centrally—the CIA. Does the dubious political background of one of the alleged victims, which Pollitt does not refute, have no bearing on the case? This is simply part of the Nation journalist’s dishonest effort to hack away at the socio-political sinews of the affair and present it purely as a matter of sexual misconduct.

Pollitt’s argumentation, couched in the subjective, self-satisfied tone peculiar to Nation columnists, is similar to that of the New York Times’ Katrin Bennhold (“The Female Factor”), whose article, “Is It Rape? It Depends on Who Is Asking,” begins: “Is it rape when you have sex with someone who didn’t tell you it was OK, but told you it was OK earlier that night?” Bennhold presents this scenario as the generally accepted reality of the Assange case.

Pollitt concludes her December 22 piece, blandly: “WikiLeaks is revealing information citizens need to know—it's a good thing. Assange may or may not have committed sex crimes according to Swedish law. Why is it so hard to hold those two ideas at once?”

As though those two facts were equivalent! Here you have the outlook of the petty-bourgeois philistine summed up. WikiLeaks has exposed, among many other things, thousands of unreported civilian deaths in Iraq—a world-historical war crime committed by American imperialism. That weighs no more with Pollitt than the complaints of Assange’s jilted or disappointed—or worse—lovers.

Pollitt is the representative of a social milieu. From a Stalinist family background, she belongs to the comfortable “left” circles around the Nationand such publications. In what, however, does this “leftism” consist?
In her autobiographical Learning to Drive: and Other Life Stories, Pollitt writes: “Toward the end of the 1990s… I joined a Marxist study group. This was something I had avoided throughout my twenties and thirties, when Marxism still had some life to it.” The trend in question was the “anti-Bolshevik tendency of council communism.” The passages in her book dealing with this venture are revealing.

Pollitt makes cheap jokes about her short-lived little group, but this dilettantish and impotent activity appears to be the sum-total of her connection to “Marxism” or socialism. She belongs to the generation of middle-class lefts whose earlier association with protest, often identified with Stalinism or Maoism, has long since receded into the past. Upward mobility has brought them affluence, and their endless fixation on gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity is a means of promoting their own immediate economic and social interests.

There is nothing remotely progressive about such politics. Pollitt doesn’t oppose the attacks on the working class or imperialist interventions, much less champion those persecuted by the state, as her role in the Assange case makes eminently clear. Her conceptions and values flow into and merge with those of the privileged layers attached to the Democratic Party and the media establishment. It is not for nothing that one of the pillars of that establishment, the Washington Post, has called her column “the best place to go for original thinking on the left.”

Feminist opinion—as the Assange case and the Polanski affair before it have demonstrated—has become one of the means of legitimizing the suppression of nonconformists and political dissidents, and of changing the subject from the great social issues, above all, class oppression and social inequality, to stale and self-pitying concerns.

Those supervising the attack against Assange are no doubt congratulating themselves on its clever design. Mounting it in the guise of a campaign against the sexual molestation of women… how else could such a filthy operation, with its threat of a sweeping assault on democratic rights, be mounted and even legitimized today?

The powers that be know the Pollitts of this world, and the Nation. The magazine’s editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, is, after all, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading ruling class think tank whose membership has included numerous CIA directors, along with dozens of US generals and admirals.

Identity politics in America is increasingly exposed for what it is—a method of duping people, of covering over the enormous social divide, and, not accidentally, enriching a layer of African-Americans, gays and professional feminists. Political charlatans like Pollitt should be objects of derision and contempt.

Wikileaks Reveals State Department Discord Over U.S. Support For ... –  WikiLeaks reveals State Department discord over U.S. support for Canadian tar sands oil pipeline  climateprogress:

The Julian Assange Investigation -- Let's Clear the Air of Misinformation : Nick Davies : Senior Correspondent, The Guardian

Bianca Jagger last week launched a fierce attack on the Guardian for carrying my story about the evidence collected by Swedish police who have been investigating the claims of sexual assault by the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.

At the heart of her attack is a repeated claim that we failed to publish exculpatory evidence contained in the police file. Those who have read her piece will have noticed that she does not cite one single example of this missing information. There are two reasons for this. First, she does not know what is in that police file, because she has not read it. Second, if she had, she would know that her claim is simply not true.

The Guardian went out of their way to include exculpatory material, not just from the police file but also from previous comments made by Assange and his lawyers. They also sent Assange's lawyer a list of all the key points and delayed publication for days so that he had a chance to respond. Our story contains literally hundreds of words whose sole purpose is to reflect Assange's position.

Jagger also insists that she has a right to know who leaked the file to the Guardian and says that the leak was part of "an obvious effort to conduct a smear campaign" against Assange. Setting aside for a moment the head-splitting hypocrisy that a supporter of WikiLeaks wants to hunt down the source of a leak, there are two similar problems with this claim. First, Jagger has no idea who leaked that file (and made no attempt to find out). Second, if she did know, she would discover that the source had no intention of smearing Assange in any way.

I am not going to serve up that source's identity to satisfy Jagger's temper. A police file like that gets widely distributed. It happened to make its way quite legitimately into the hands of somebody I have come across in the past. This person has absolutely no connection with the Swedish prosecutor or the Swedish police or any other individual or organization with any kind of antipathy to Assange. The source passed it on, and I got it translated.
Assange's UK lawyer tried very hard to persuade us to suppress the file. He argued that since Assange had been a source for our stories, we should 'protect' him. I reckon that that is an invitation to journalistic corruption, to hide information in order to curry favor with a source. We were right to publish.

Jagger calls this 'trial by media'. I call it an attempt to inject some evidence into a global debate which has been fueled by speculation and misinformation. On August 21, when this story first broke, Assange used Twitter to spread the idea that the two women who had gone to the police were engaged in 'dirty tricks'. His lawyer subsequently claimed that a 'honeytrap' had been sprung. Assange's celebrity supporters have announced to the mass media that the allegations are 'without foundation', that 'there is no prima facie evidence'. These statements have gone around the world. 

Millions of well-meaning people have been persuaded to believe them. The two women, who have been identified on the Internet, have had their reputations ruined by the claim that they cruelly colluded to destroy an innocent man. The Swedish police and prosecutors have been held up to ridicule as corrupt and/or incompetent partners in the plot.

Our story showed: first, that the Swedish police have found no evidence of any such dirty tricks (which would not surprise the conspiracy theorists); second, that in his interview with Swedish police on August 30, Assange himself never began to suggest that the allegations were any kind of dirty trick; third, that Assange's supporters in Stockholm had tried to find evidence and come up empty, concluding, as the Swedish WikiLeaks coordinator put it to us: "This is a normal police investigation. Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt."

And by publishing our story, we achieved something: Julian Assange was forced to admit, in interviews with the London Times and with the BBC, that there is no evidence of a honeytrap. That matters very much. The news media don't want to report that -- there's a much better story in the dirty tricks. Some of the most active tweeters and the bloggers have not picked up on it -- they are much too happy with their conspiracy theories. The celebrity disciples like Bianca Jagger don't mention it. 

They simply move on to insist that there must be another conspiracy at work in the legal process. But the honeytrap story is dead: our story killed it. Whether or not Assange is guilty of a crime is a separate matter: the facts are not yet finally established, the law is not yet finally interpreted. At some point in this coming year, a court will decide that.

There is one final point lurking in the background. Assange has been suggesting -- for example, in his interview with David Frost on Al Jazeera -- that all this is something to do with the fact that he and I fell out. It is true that at the beginning of August, I cut off contact with him in order to protest at several things he had done -- the first time I have cut off a source in 34 years as a reporter. This was nothing to do with the sex allegations in Sweden.

His supporters tried to brief newspapers that it was an act of vengeance on my part to go out and find this police file. That fell at the first fence, because the file came to me: I never spent a single second looking for it. As an alternative decoy, Assange suggested in his interview with David Frost, that some malign force, possibly an intelligence agency, chose me as an outlet for the file, knowing that I could be relied on to write a negative story. That also falls at the first fence. The reality is that I didn't write the story which the Guardian published. The copy which I filed was completely re-written in the Guardian office, a commonplace event in a newsroom.

Finally, I should mention what Jagger does not -- that I was the journalist who took it on himself back in June to track down Julian Assange and to persuade him not to post his latest collection of secrets on the WikiLeaks website but to hand them over to the Guardian and other news organizations. The publication of the Afghan and Iraqi war logs and then the diplomatic cables all flowed from that initiative. I did that because I think journalists should tell the truth about important things without being frightened, for example, by the government of the most powerful state on the planet.

In exactly the same way, I think it was right to publish our story about the Swedish police file without being frightened by Julian Assange's lawyer or indeed by the clear prospect of being attacked online by people like Bianca Jagger. There are millions of them out there. They have come to a conclusion about Assange and the sex claims in Sweden and they are not interested in evidence. They tweet and blog in the most eye-wateringly aggressive tone and often, like Bianca Jagger, they do so without even the slightest connection to the truth.

It has been a depressing experience to see some of those who were most furious at the global propaganda run by Bush and Rumsfeld now leading the cheers for a new campaign of misinformation, happy to be manipulated, content to recycle falsehood and distortion no matter what damage they may do.

by Maayana Miskin

Documents revealed by Wikileaks show that Egypt continues to see Israel as its primary military threat despite a decades-old peace treaty. Egypt and Israel fought against each other in four wars before signing the treaty in 1979.
 United States diplomats have been frustrated as Egyptian leaders focus on being prepared for war with Israel while ignoring threats such as terrorism and weapons smuggling.

“The United States has sought to interest the Egyptian military into expanding their mission in ways that reflect new regional and transnational security threats, such as piracy, border security, and counterterrorism," said one leaked file.

"But the aging leadership, however, has resisted our efforts and remained satisfied with continuing to do what they have done for years: train for force-on-force warfare with a premium on grounds forces and armor."

A leaked memo addressed to U.S. General David Petraeus ahead of a 2008 visit to Egypt warns that Egyptian Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi in particular is the “chief impediment” to U.S. efforts to involve the Egyptian military in fighting modern threats. “During his tenure, the tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed forces has decayed,” the memo stated.

While America pressures Egypt to update its tactics, Egypt requests a boost in military funding, apparently in hopes of buying advanced weapons and achieving military parity with Israel. Other leaked files reported that Egyptian officials are pushing for more than the $1.3 billion in annual military aid that Egypt currently receives from the U.S.

« Bank Of America, Wikileaks And Eric Holder - What The U.S. Attorney General Doesn't Want You To Know »

It is hard to imagine a more convoluted clusterf*** of corruption.  Consider it the latest chapter in the story of upside-down, post-bailout, Bizarro-World America.  The US attorney general, Eric Holder, has been going hammer and tongs at the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in order to silence a news organization, Wikileaks, which is about to publish bombshell evidence of corruption -- and possible criminal activity -- at one of America’s largest banks.  

Meanwhile, Bank of America, the likely target of Wikileaks’ next big story, refuses to process payments for Wikileaks, presses on with its dirty foreclosure and and debt collection practices, and continues to lie about the value of assets on its books.  At the same time, Holder has gone almost two years without mustering the courage to investigate or indict a single executive at even one of America’s largest banks.  

And although Wikileaks promises to lay in his lap several gigabytes of evidence that might lead to such an indictment, Holder has instead initiated “an active, ongoing criminal investigation” of Wikileaks!
But here's the question no one seems to be asking:

  • Why hasn't Eric Holder asked to see the evidence, which Wikileaks claims to have, that executives at one of our largest banks may have committed serious crimes?

Let's be honest, Holder doesn't really give a rip about financial crimes, but the media should at least be asking him why he doesn't want to see the evidence.  We know he'd love to get his hands on Julian Assange's hard drive -- why doesn't he want to see Brian Moynihan's (or Ken Lewis's)? 

For some reason, Holder and the rest of the Obama administration would rather endanger our Constitutional rights to due process and a free press by persecuting journalists on specious charges, than to actually do their job and enforce the law.

Once again, the banks and bankers are protected at all costs, while the little people (and our Constitutional rights!) must pay the price.  Why is Holder going after Wikileaks and why isn’t he already investigating or indicting people at Bank of America?  Who does Holder think he works for – us or the big banks? 

It’s hard not to conclude that the answer to these questions was revealed recently in the unfortunately chosen words of Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL):  “Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”  But this only confirms something Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said a couple of years ago.

We would love to be able to find some heroes among the political class working to thwart all this villany, but there aren’t any.  Ironically, Republicans and their apparatchiks (as well as Joe Lieberman) have been criticizing Holder and Obama for not doing more to side-step the Constitution and indict, or indeed assassinate, Julian Assange and anyone else associated with Wikileaks.  This is so typical of Washington. 

Basic issues of freedom and the rule of law are twisted and distorted so as to result in another skirmish in the culture war, which can then be used as fodder for political fundraising and campaign attack ads.  The Democrats trample on the Constitution like it’s the grapes of wrath and the Republicans still find a way to charge them with being “soft on terror." 

The upshot, as usual, is that bankers are thereby able to ride off into the sunset with their taxpayer subsidies and million-dollar bonuses.  As usual, everyone gets what they want except the American people.  Happy Holidays, America.

International Regulators Struggle to Prevent Future Meltdowns

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision published new rules designed to prevent the next banking crisis by limiting risk-taking. Part of the plan requires bankers to receive payment based on long-term performance rather than year-end bonuses which can be grossly inflated via the injection of massive short-term risk-taking.

The question worth asking is if virtually everyone missed the housing bubble collapse and the federal government even pushed the market ever-higher via a myriad of regulations designed to get virtually everyone into a home, how can anyone claim to know what sort of behavior in the future will be risky?

Case in point, municipal bond insurers were pushed by regulators into guaranteeing/insuring financial products based on mortgages – in the name of diversification. This move bankrupted Ambac, one of the players in the market and almost wiped out its competitors as well.
Hopefully regulators are brighter than I give them credit for and have somehow mastered clairvoyance they have been lacking in the past.

Washington’s “Humanitarian” War And The KLA’s Crimes

31 December 2010

Revelations of fascistic crimes carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) prior to, during and after NATO’s war against the former Yugoslavia should provide a salutary lesson whenever Washington again cites humanitarian concerns to justify its predatory war aims.

A report by the Council of Europe describes Kosovo today as a country subject to “mafia-like structures of organised crime”. It accuses KLA commander and current prime minister, Hachim Thaci, of heading a criminal network involved in murder, prostitution and drug trafficking.

This may come as no surprise to those who have witnessed his rise from terrorist thug to head of the newly “independent” state. But what will be a shock to many is the grotesque way in the KLA helped finance its operations—by removing and selling body organs from kidnapped Serb and Kosovan Albanian civilian prisoners. The practice recalls the barbaric human experiments carried out by the Nazi “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The KLA’s crimes only came to light at all because of the unravelling of an ongoing cover-up by the US, the United Nations and other major powers. Information about KLA detention facilities in Kosovo and across the border in Albania first reached the International Centre for the Red Cross in 2000, after KLA fighters reported that Serb civilians were taken there in 1999 and their organs removed and sold abroad for transplant operations. 

The allegations surfaced once again in a BBC investigation in April last year and in the publication of the memoirs of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, revealing that a 2008 investigation into the “organ harvesting” had been dropped because it was supposedly “impossible to conduct.”

Any prosecution of the KLA was made “impossible” by Washington, which has been its main sponsor since at least 1998. Following the Bosnian war of 1995, the KLA, seeking to capitalise on popular resentment among Kosovan Albanians against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, pursued a strategy of destabilising Kosovo by acts of terrorism in the hope of provoking Western intervention.

NATO was forced to admit that the KLA was “the main initiator of the violence” and its actions a “deliberate campaign of provocation”. But Washington was shifting its policy from proscribing the KLA as a terrorist organisation to one of covert support. During the 1999 Rambouillet negotiations, then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright promoted Thaci as the legitimate representative of the Kosovar people and seated him at the head of the Kosovo delegation. 

State Department spokesman James Rubin brushed aside concerns about the criminal nature of Washington’s new partner, claiming, “We simply don’t have information to substantiate allegations that there was a KLA leadership-directed program of assassinations or executions”, and that the State Department had no “credible evidence” the KLA was involved in drug trafficking.

The adoption of the KLA as an ally was vital to Washington's strategy of breaking up the Yugoslav republic into its constituent parts, ensuring its own hegemony within the Balkan region and threatening the broader geo-strategic interests of Russia. Germany, Britain and other NATO allies all colluded in glorifying the KLA as a liberation movement fighting to free Kosovo from Serbian oppression. To this end, US Senator Joseph Lieberman declared that “Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values,” while British Prime Minister Tony Blair famously proclaimed, “This is a just war, based not on any territorial ambitions but on values.”

The US has continued to protect Thaci and his criminal gang as it pursued its goals of ethnic separatism. In 2007, the UN’s special envoy in Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, started to promote Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. Just 11 months later, on February 17, 2008, Kosovo’s Assembly declared independence. It exists now as a US fiefdom, heavily dependent on international aid and with all major decisions pertaining to the economy, public spending, social programmes, security and trade controlled by the US, which has established its largest base in the Balkans at Camp Bondsteel.

Only two trials of KLA personnel have ever been held at the ICTY, compared to the scores involving Serbs. In the second trial the then prime minister Ramush Haradinaj was acquitted of war crimes charges with the trial judge complaining about the “significant difficulties” securing witness testimony. This prompted Del Ponte to complain about the protection Haradinaj was receiving from Western governments and officials. It was as a result of the Haradinaj trial, when the first reports of the body organ trade first emerged, that the Council of Europe was asked by Del Ponte to carry out an investigation.

Equally culpable in concealing the KLA’s criminal activities are the various ex-liberal and “left” individuals and groups that threw their support behind the NATO bombing campaign--with claims that this was a humanitarian intervention in support of the KLA’s struggle for “self-determination”.

At that time, the arch-Conservative opponent of the war and former Defence Minister, Alan Clark MP, was moved to ask in the Observer, “What amazes me about the Yugoslav crisis is the credulity of the Left, and of progressive thinkers, who seem to get a vicarious thrill from seeing B52s taking off from Fairford. I address them: How have you swallowed whole the CIA-funded propaganda that demonises the Serbs? Are you not familiar with the duplicity and intimidation of United States foreign policy? That Ambassador Walker, in charge of monitoring forces in Bosnia, was financing the Contras? Have you no recall of that 'Free World' crap that embraced Batista, Noriega, Syngman Rhee, Bao Dai, Lee Van Thieu and Sukarno?”

In an accompanying editorial, “There is no alternative to this war”, the Observerresponded to critics of its “allegedly inconsistent standards” with the rejoinder, “We say so what? ... We have to live in the world as it is, not some Utopia.”

The indifference to the realities of imperialist policy aims, and the embrace of the KLA and ethnic separatism, was of a piece with the evolution of this social layer ever since the first Balkan war in 1991—during which the selective citation of “humanitarian” considerations was first employed to justify making peace with imperialism. And nothing will change as a result of the latest revelations. The liberal media has been largely silent on the charges against Thaci and wholly silent as regards any editorial mea culpa—denoting their own agreement with the propaganda mouthpiece of US imperialism, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which insisted, “Regardless of the truth behind the charges against Thaci and members of the KLA, one should not abandon the broader perspective, as some otherwise reliable commentators have done.”

Paul Mitchell and Chris Marsden

The Arab League is working diligently to get legislation passed by the European Union that would classify any Jew who builds a home in Judea or Samaria as a war criminal—subject to punishment by the International Court. ...
Jerusalem World News » Jerusalem... -

“Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the surrounding cobwebs of ignorance, it shines clear.”   --   Mohandas K. Gandhi

This website provides a concise, reliable introduction to vital information of which few are aware. We specialize in providing fact-filled news articles and concise summaries of major cover-ups which impact our lives and world. All information is taken from the most reliable sources available and can be verified using the links provided. Sources are always noted, with links direct to the information source provided when possible. The team presents this information as an opportunity for you to educate yourself and others, and to inspire us to strengthen democracy and to work together for the good of all.

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Did you know that:
  • Twenty leading journalists, including winners of several Emmys and a Pulitzer, have described being prevented by corporate media ownership from reporting riveting stories on major cover-ups.

  • BBC News has exposed plans of the U.S. military to "provide maximum control" of the Internet, as detailed in a declassified secret Pentagon document signed by a former U.S. Secretary of Defense.
  • A CBS News report quotes former U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, "According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." That's $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America.

  • Government documents released through the Freedom of Information Act show that the top Pentagon generals once approved plans to foment terrorism in major U.S. cities and even kill innocent civilians.

  • Multiple, reliable sources show that you may be eating genetically modified food daily which scientific experiments have repeatedly demonstrated can cause sickness and even death in lab animals.

  • Detroit's leading newspaper reported that the 1908 Ford Model T boasted a fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon. Yet over 100 years later, the EPA average mileage for all cars is under 21 mpg.

  • A highly decorated US General wrote a book titled War is a Racket, which clearly depicts how he was manipulated and how most wars are waged largely to keep the coffers of certain big corporations filled.

  • The former chief of a prestigious medical journal has revealed that the total profits of the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 were more than the profits of the other 490 businesses combined.

  • Declassified CIA documents open to the public leave no doubt that through hypnosis, drugs, and electric shock, secret mind control projects created super spies, terrorists, assassins, and more.

  • More than 50 senior government officials and 100 professors have publicly expressed significant criticism of the 9/11 Commission Report. Many even allege government complicity in the 9/11 attacks.

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"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
  --  Martin Luther King, Jr.

FBI Raids Isps Looking For Servers Used In Anonymous Ddos Attacks
The hacker group ran a massive DDoS attack against a number of websites that stopped working with WikiLeaks after the site came under significant fire for ...
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Wired Accused of Protecting WikiLeaks Chief

Two Wired magazine journalists have found themselves at the center of a fresh WikiLeaks controversy after refusing to release the chatlogs between former hacker Adrian Lamo and Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker of the 250,000 'Cablegate' documents. Wired claimed the WikiLeaks scoop last June, when senior editor Kevin Poulsen—a  "long-term associate" of Lamo's—acquired transcripts of chats between Manning and Lamo in which Manning reportedly brags about having given data to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Since then, Wired has decided to only publish a quarter of the chats, angering critics who accuse them of withholding information crucial to Assange's arrest.

Wired maintains that there is nothing "newsworthy" in the chats, but critics—namely Salon's Glenn Greenwald, who has launched a vitriolic campaign against them—snark that the magazine's unwillingness to share is what prompted the need for WikiLeaks in the first place. "The chats Wired has but is withholding – and about which they are refusing to comment – are newsworthy in the extreme," Greenwald wrote. Over the past month, Lamo has suggested that Assange helped facilitate the leaks, which, if true, could affect how he's prosecuted. Still, Wired says that it has no intention of changing its position. "We have discussions in the newsroom, at every major turn in the Manning case, about whether it is now appropriate to publish the complete logs," Poulsen said. "And so far we have concluded it isn't." The latest in releases about “Wikileaks” or “Openleaks

Posted by nicki on December 31, 2010

The current release by Wikileaks has been brought to the fore by the newspaper report in Israel. This says that a cable from Condoleezza Rice who was the Secretary for State at the time, confirms that Israel destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor that was in the construction stage. Although not yet officially released on the Wikileaks site this has been confirmed by an Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot.  According to Syria, it was not a reactor but a military installation. The report clearly shows that the USA was involved in the mission abet on the intelligence side.

This incident took place during the Bush era. According to the cable it was sent to all the U.S. State Department representatives’ world wide according to what Rice wrote in the cable Syria went to some lengths both to clean up the site and destroy any evidence that would show what was being erected.  This is quite frankly a scary thought that so much is going on behind the scenes and we don’t know about it.

 I am still asking how so many cables, Sms and other documents can be collected by one person or people from so many countries around the world and feel that there must be an insider organization who is feeding this information as it is coming from too many countries for one man or organization such as Wikileaks to assemble on their own.

Georgia Republican Wants Citizens To Pay In Gold And Silver
Lez Get Real
Undoubtably, this ally of the Christian Right Wing in Georgia is also against homosexuality in any form what so ever. Right now, Franklin is trying to force ...See all stories on this topic »

The "Family" - Who Really Is Behind This Secret Organization?

What if someone were to tell you that your Congressman routinely bandies around phrases such as "Jesus plus nothing,"  used to mean the complete rule of Jesus, and compares the desired reach to that of Hitler or Ho Chi Minh? If this makes you at all apprehensive, then Jeff Sharlet's "C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy"  is a must-read.

"Jesus plus nothing" is the mantra of the Fellowship, also known as the Family, a secret, fundamentalist Christian organization peopled primarily by devout policy makers and high-ranking individuals. Though the nonbeliever's view of religion can often be dismissive when faced with such catchphrases, in "C Street," a nonfiction account of the extended reach of the Family, these phrases fuel moral crusades with real, and terrifying, impact.

Sharlet first introduced the world to the unseen hand of the Fellowship in "The Family" in 2008, in which he reported on the organization's beginnings in the 18th century, uncovered the role of the Family in America's legislative system and uncovered the role of religious fundamentalism in our supposedly secular nation.

In his latest book, Sharlet traces the powerful orthodoxy's chilling influence on governments both inside and outside of the United States as well as the devastating effects of fundamentalism within the military. He uses the Fellowship's Capitol Hill boarding house, C Street, as a passageway to a broader discussion of the Family's influences, which range from mediating the marital disputes of Congressmen to increased military aid for countries whose prominent politicians have connections (spiritual or otherwise) with the Family.

"C Street" is thoroughly researched; in addition to his travels and interviews, Sharlet says he spent weeks photocopying documents from archives all over the country. In particular, he went through nearly 600 boxes of documents at the Billy Graham archives in Wheaton, Illinois, where he stayed in a rented room furnished only with an air mattress and a card table.

Sharlet begins his story at the C Street Center Inc., a nonprofit offshoot of the Family in a red brick house on Capitol Hill to "assist [congressmen] in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs."
Members of C Street, "the underground network of Christ's men in Washington," include Sens. Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), John Ensign (R-Nevada), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida), as well as Reps. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Frank Wolf (R-Virginia.), Joseph Pitts (R Pennsylvania), Zach Wamp (R-Tennessee) and Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), and believe they have been appointed by God.

Their actions in the name of the Lord include prayer meetings at the Department of Defense and the Pentagon, and helping Governor Sanford, Representative Pickering and Senator Ensign (whom Sharlet describes as having "the most impressive tan in the Technicolor portrait gallery of golf-happy, twenty-first-century political America") cover up extramarital affairs and continue their political careers. In one case, the Family even pays off Ensign's former aide - with whom he was having an affair while he was living at C Street.

This is a mild version of the Family's philosophy - "the best way to help the weak is to help the strong." Yet, it is their naïve, but powerful, influence on religious rhetoric used in conflicts and legislature abroad that leads one from simply raised eyebrows to widened eyes.

According to Sharlet, the Family had "cells in the governments of seventy nations by the late 1960s, more than double that of just a few years earlier." These cells operated, as many of the Family's projects do, through God - "the Catholic generals and colonels who rotated coup by coup through the leadership of Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador ... consented to the Protestant ministrations of the Fellowship in return for access to American congressman."

More recently, after meetings between members of Sri Lanka's own prayer breakfast and Congressional representatives of the Family, the small, Southeast Asian country received more than $50 million in military aid between 2004-2007. In the previous three years, from 2000 to 2003, it only received a fifth of that amount, and in 2008, Sri Lanka was accused of "intentionally and repeatedly" wantonly shelling civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations with weapons that, it is likely, came from American military aid.

Most vivid is Sharlet's focus on the Fellowship's activities in Uganda, where, in 2009, a bill was introduced into the Ugandan Parliament that would condemn to death individuals convicted of "aggravated homosexuality," which includes "simply sex, more than once," and three years in prison "for failure to report a homosexual within twenty-four hours of learning of his or her crime."

Sharlet draws links between the Family and evangelical church leaders and politicians championing the bill in Uganda (including David Bahati, who introduced the legislation into Parliament); the Family has donated millions of dollars to Uganda for "leadership development" - more, writes Sharlet, than it has invested in any other foreign country.

Though he draws the line at saying that the virulently anti-gay bill in Uganda means that the Family supports the death penalty for gay people, he notes that that "the real question is instead one of ideological transmission, the transfer of ideas.... the Family didn't pull the trigger; they provided the gun."

Sharlet travels to the East African country to meet politicians, who blithely call the closet "a strong African tradition," and speak confidently of their "American friends," various American evangelicals, including some from the family, but also speaks to a young, gay man on the run, illustrating with affecting anecdotes the human lives ruined by such a tide of "morality."

Near the end of the book, Sharlet brings the story back home again: to the role of the Family in the military. He tells the story of a US unit in Iraq which heads into combat with "Jesus Killed Muhammed" painted in both English and Arabic on one of their tanks, as well as Muslim and Jewish soldiers who crack under the constant religious taunting.

The book itself reads like a hyper-real nightmare; the detailed glimpses of emotionally stifled Congressional love affairs come with the added intimacy of love letter excerpts, and Sharlet's conversations with evangelical politicians in Uganda are especially well-fleshed. For example, during one conversation with an evangelical politician, Sharlet became keenly aware that he could also be prosecuted under Uganda's homophobic legislation - for promoting homosexuality by not turning in any gay people he may know.

The extent of the connections between the Family and chastised senators, the Sri Lankan government's decision to drop bombs on civilians, a virulently homophobic bill in Uganda or extreme religious pressure applied to soldiers in combat zones are at times somewhat murky, but this is itself a symptom of how the Fellowship functions - "the more invisible you can make your organization," Doug Coe, associate director of the Fellowship, says in "C Street," "the more influence it will have."

The Family divides its finances "between several smaller offshoots, some off-the-books accounting ... and the Fellowship Foundation." In addition, Sharlet notes, it shifts around its properties and supporting organizations - for example, the Downing Foundation in Englewood, Colorado, describes its mission as supporting the Family's Fellowship Foundation - "to which it sends an average of $88,000 a year."

Sharlet highlights numerous front organizations, though there are other sources of funding for the Family's expenses that are even less kosher - for example, Sen. Tom Coburn charged American taxpayers $11,000 for a trip to Lebanon to, Coburn says, build prayer groups - in one of the most religiously contested areas in the world.

Though a review in The Washington Post calls Sharlet's thesis of an America without contraception or public schools "almost unhinged," the recent rise of the Tea Party since "C Street's" publication and legislation such as unemployment benefits held hostage to tax cuts for the wealthiest American cast doubt on whether we can dismiss the threat posed by the actions of the Family to positions such as gay rights, religious freedom or the separation between church and state.

This brings us to one of Sharlet's central points in the book: how do we hold lawmakers accountable who believe they have a divine right to rule?
Mikey Weinstein, a former Air Force commander and founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who deals with calls daily from soldiers with testimony of religious harassment, says the only way to combat the influence of the "multi-dimensional, theocratic, dominating, democracy-destroying monster" that is the Family is to court-martial them all.
Sharlet, however, is more circumspect. "I'm doing it the best way I know how ... it's also the only honest way. You compete with them in terms of free speech," he said. "You keep the pressure on, you keep people asking questions and you make it in the Family's best interest to become transparent."

Full disclosure: Mikey Weinstein is a member of Truthout's board of advisers.