Susie Sampson asks people what they think about the current state of America.
This story caught my attention because this week, I spent several days recovering from heat exhaustion, which is something I've never had (or even seen) in my life. I'd been out in 96-degree weather while my son loaded up my car for his move. And even though I was careful to drink lots of liquids, stayed in the shade or went into the air-conditioned coffee house (or my car), I became quite woozy and disoriented -- almost as if I were drunk. It lasted for two more days. It never even occurred to me I could get sick from the heat. If this kind of weather is the new normal for this summer, we should be prepared for it:
Think last summer was bad? You better get used to it, federal health officials warned Thursday. Climate change means hotter summers and more intense storms that could knock power out for days -- and kill people.
New data on heat-related deaths suggest that public health officials have been underestimating them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
It’s an especially important message as summers get longer and hotter due to climate change, and as storms that can cause widespread blackouts become more common and more intense.
More than 7,200 people died from excess heat from 1999 to 2009, Ethel Taylor and colleagues at the CDC found. The latest numbers, part of the CDC’s weekly report in death and illness, list non-residents for the first time, a group that includes illegal immigrants, tourists, migrant workers and others. These groups suffer especially when it gets hot, Taylor says.
“About 15 percent of the heat-related deaths we have seen over 10 years are occurring in non-US residents,” Taylor told NBC News. This adds up to about 1,000 people.
The CDC is now trying to find out just who these people are and why they’re being killed disproportionately by heat. Forty percent of the deaths over the 10 years were in just three states – California, Arizona and Texas. They are all border states in the south with plenty of desert and agriculture, so the victims could be illegal immigrants who died trying to cross the border, farm workers, or rural poor. Taylor says it’s important to get more information about them.
After 237 years, we’re becoming a colony again. Our nation’s losing the right to self-determination it fought so hard to win, and it’s happening on a scale unseen since the days of George III.
As is so often the case these days, this wholesale loss of our rights is being underwritten by corporate interests.
And, as usual, it’s being called “bipartisan” – by corporations who “buy” both Republican and Democratic “partisans.”
Terms of Surrender
Republicans cheered George W. Bush for saying, “I will never place U.S. troops under U.N. command.” Democrats cheered Barack Obama for saying, “I want us to control our own energy destiny.”
But both leaders pushed trade agreements that surrender our sovereign rights to faceless bureaucrats in international bodies – bodies that are dominated by multinational corporations.
Where are those cheering crowds now? Republicans backed a president who supported a agreements which put Americans’ rights – and their environment – “under the command” of foreign bodies. And unless something changes Democratic voters will soon see their president give up even more control of our economic destiny.
It's a long piece, and I suggest you read it all, but here's the heart of Matt Taibbi's latest Rolling Stone piece on the Bradley Manning trial:
This whole thing, this trial, it all comes down to one simple equation. If you can be punished for making public a crime, then the government doing the punishing is itself criminal.
Manning, by whatever means, stumbled into a massive archive of evidence of state-sponsored murder and torture, and for whatever reason, he released it. The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names.
Slate was one of the few outlets to approach the Manning trial in a way that made sense. Their story took the opportunity of the court-martial to remind all of us of the list of horrors Manning discovered, including (just to name a very few):
- During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to thousands of field reports…
The real problem continues to be that secret programs leave the American public out of the conversation, and many of us would gladly trade a little less security for a little less intrusion. But how would we know? In a speech today, Obama defended the latest surveillance news:
SAN JOSE, Calif. – President Obama strongly defended the government’s secret surveillance of people’s phone records and Internet activities, saying there are “a whole bunch of safeguards involved” and that Congress has repeatedly authorized the programs.
“You could complain about big brother and how this is a potential program run amok,” Obama said, “but when you actually look at the details, I think we strike the right balance.”
He thinks we trust contribution-addicted members of Congress? Really?
Commenting on the surveillance for the first time since news organizations revealed the sweeping National Security Agency programs this week, Obama highlighted limits to the programs to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and said the surveillance has helped the government anticipate and prevent terrorist attacks.
“They make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity,” Obama said. He added that the programs are “under very strict supervision by all three branches of government and they do not involve listening to people’s phone calls, do not involve reading the e-mails of U.S. citizens and U.S. residents.”
Lawmakers call NSA phone records a 'critical tool.'
The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, in a post called "America Through The N.S.A.'s Prism", looks at the peculiar kind of thinking that goes into justifying such broad surveillance of ordinary citizens:
“They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” an unnamed intelligence officer toldBarton Gellman and Laura Poitras of the Washington Post. “They” are the National Security Agency, and the Post report reveals that an N.S.A. program called PRISM has, for the past six years, been “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.
”These were not occasional, extraordinary incursions: the Post, in addition to talking to the intelligence officer—who decided to speak out of a concern for civil liberties that seems to have been distinctly lacking at higher levels—obtained PowerPoint slides from an internal N.S.A. briefing and other documents. The Guardian also got the briefing materials. One of the slides explains that “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” for close to one in seven of its intelligence reports, and the program, which began in 2007, is said to be growing rapidly. The history of PRISM, Gellman and Poitras write, “shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques.”“They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” an unnamed intelligence officer told Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras of the Washington Post.
This is the second story in the past twenty-four hours with deeply troubling constitutional and privacy implications—the first was the news, reported in the Guardian, of a secret court ordercompelling a Verizon subsidiary to turn over call records to the N.S.A. (It is increasingly clear that such orders went to companies well beyond Verizon.) We have gone through the day with Administration spokesmen and friendly senators telling us that we shouldn’t worry so much about the Verizon case because of the supposedly abstract quality of metadata. That was always a hollow defense—metadata reveals a great deal that is properly private, as Jane Mayer explains—but it is especially meaningless now, in the face of what appears to be a sprawling effort to look over the shoulders of Internet users.
Like most wingnuts, Lucianne's son is as happy as a pig in filth because the New York Times sharply criticized the Obama administration over its phone data collection.
But unlike the propaganda outfits on the right like Fox News and The National Review during the Bush years, the Times editorial board is frequently critical of the president (see here, here, here and here).
For people who pay attention to these things, this is absolutely nothing new. What is very new, on the other hand, is Bush followers like Jonah Goldberg suddenly giving a flip about civil liberties.
Do you remember that scathing piece Jonah wrote about Bush and the Patriot Act, FISA or torture?
I don't either.
So the government is listening to your phone calls and monitoring your Internet use – and pretty much has the authority to track your every move. Just remember that everything the state did in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was legal too. It's just Ingsoc by a different name now, the shining city upon a hill become dystopian national security state. Call it Amfasc.
Prairie Weather: The IRS loves conservative groups.
Infidel753: Balancing principle and compromise.
The Smithian: Motherhood, single women, and poverty.
Simply Left Behind: Take me out to the PED-juiced ballgame.
Pruning Shears: Anti-fracking activism in Ohio.
Round-up by Michael J.W. Stickings of The Reaction (Twitter: @mjwstickings). I'll be here through Sunday.
Send tips to email@example.com.
Open Thread below...
This somewhat long but informative report from Rachel Maddow last week went nearly unnoticed at the time, but it got my attention because I somehow doubt those who utilized Liberty Reserve's unique money laundering capabilities were limited to drug dealers and international criminals. Though all the details have not yet been released, the scandal already reaches up to Barclays' Bank, one of the UK's most respected institutions.
Liberty Reserve also had 17 bank accounts in Cyprus, papers filed by the US Department of Justice show.
The BBC understands that the bank is not accused of any wrongdoing by the authorities.US authorities have accused Liberty Reserve of laundering more than $6bn (£4bn) in criminal cash."Barclays can confirm it is co-operating with the investigation, following the notification it received from the authorities," a spokesman for the bank said on Sunday.
The Barclays account was in the name of Liberty Reserve founder Arthur Budovsky, the court documents said. Mr Budovsky opened the Spanish personal account in 2009, the BBC has learned.The DOJ has called Liberty Reserve the "largest international money-laundering prosecution in history", alleging that seven people involved in running the operation set up the digital cash service as a "criminal business venture" designed specifically to "help criminals conduct illegal transactions and launder the proceeds of their crimes".
Here is a bit of background on Arthur Budovsky, founder of Liberty Reserve:
Seven people, including founder Arthur Budovsky, were charged by the U.S. regulatory body. Budovsky is no stranger to illegal money laundering activities. In 2006, he was convicted of breaching money transmission guidelines associated with E-Gold. In 2011, he surrendered his U.S. citizenship and built a new financial network in Costa Rica.
But Budovsky ran out of luck in that country, as well -- when his company was charged for violating money laundering rules in 2011. However, Costa Rican regulators were duped by a false computer portal which provided fake data. Meanwhile, Liberty continued to run its operations through subsidiary companies in Malaysia, Russia, Nigeria, Cyprus, Hong Kong and Australia.
Liberty Reserves clients included:
“They included, for example: traffickers of stolen credit card data and personal identity information; peddlers of various types of online Ponzi and get-rich-quick schemes; computer hackers for hire; unregulated gambling enterprises; and underground drug-dealing Web sites,” according to the indictment.
In many ways, the basic infrastructure wasn't all that different from PayPal or other online payment providers, with one important exception: To open a Liberty Reserve account, all one needed was an email address and little more. Here's how it worked:
Liberty Reserve functioned like a bank that only took deposits in its own currency (also called the Liberty Reserve). If you wanted to launder money, you would open an account with Liberty Reserve, providing them with a name, which could be fake, and an e-mail address. The key to the scheme was that you couldn’t then deposit money directly into the account. Instead, you had to work through middlemen, who were called “exchangers.” These were typically unlicensed moneymen in countries like Malaysia, Nigeria, and Vietnam, who bought Liberty Reserves in bulk from Liberty Reserve. You would pay them dollars (or whatever currency) for a certain sum of Liberty Reserves, which they would then deposit into your account. And when you wanted to withdraw money, the process worked in reverse, perhaps with an exchanger in a different country. (Liberty Reserve itself took a one-per-cent fee on transactions, while the exchangers typically charged five per cent or more.) The point of doing it this way was that the Liberty Reserve bank would have no identifying data for you (no record of how or from where you sent the money), since the deposits and withdrawals were all done through the exchangers.
As that article notes, Liberty Reserve did have people using it for legitimate reasons, but a look at their criminal activity shines a bright light on concerns connected with virtual currency like Bitcoin and others, and it certainly piques my imagination with respect to what havoc could be wreaked by billionaires committed to absolute...liberty.