After banning YouTube, military launches TroopTube

SEATTLE – The U.S. military, with help from Seattle startup Delve Networks, has launched a video-sharing Web site for troops, their families and supporters, a year and a half after restricting access to YouTube and other video sites.

TroopTube, as the new site is called, lets people register as members of one of the branches of the armed forces, family, civilian Defense Department employees or supporters. Members can upload personal videos from anywhere with an Internet connection, but a Pentagon employee screens each for taste, copyright violations and national security issues.

Read moreAfter banning YouTube, military launches TroopTube

Belarus President Seeks to Deploy Russia Missiles

[Belarus]
President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, left, who met Oct. 26 near Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, says that Belarus would like to deploy missiles even if it doesn’t reach an agreement with Moscow.

MINSK, Belarus — President Alexander Lukashenko is in talks with Moscow about placing in Belarus advanced Iskander missiles that could hit targets deep inside Europe.

The talks raise the ante in the debate over a U.S. plan to deploy missile defense in Europe. They also complicate Western hopes for warmer ties with Belarus, which some in the U.S. and Europe hope could help to counterbalance an increasingly hostile Kremlin.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Lukashenko said that he would like to see closer relations with the West but that he sympathizes with Russia on two flashpoints that have rocked relations — the conflict in Georgia and U.S. plans to place antimissile systems in Europe to counter a potential threat from Iran.

Mr. Lukashenko said he “absolutely supports” Russia’s plans to place Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad that would target the U.S. missile system. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave in Europe that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, and missiles there could reach the proposed U.S. missile sites in Poland.

Mr. Lukashenko said Russia also had proposed putting Iskander missiles in Belarus, which is situated between Russia and Poland. And if a deal on the issue isn’t reached, Belarus itself would like to deploy the missiles, he said.

“Even if Russia does not offer these promising missiles, we will purchase them ourselves,” said Mr. Lukashenko, who said the technology for the Iskander optics and fire-control systems comes from Belarus. “Right now we do not have the funds, but it is part of our plans — I am giving away a secret here — to have such weapons.”

Read moreBelarus President Seeks to Deploy Russia Missiles

Osama bin Laden is Dead

By Bob Moriarty:

I’m pleased to see Barack Obama hit the ground running after his election on the 4th. The US needs change.

I’d like to see him announce the death of Osama bin Laden as one of his first official duties. Bin Laden often better known as bin Forgotten died in December of 2001. There is nothing I am saying that is news to anyone who has actually spent any time thinking.

Osama bin Laden had serous kidney disease that required him to have dialysis treatment twice a week. There aren’t any dialysis machines floating around in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. A few months back a reporter finally asked the question that should have been asked years ago at a White House press conference.

How is it that a guy who was seriously ill seven years ago is getting treatment for end-stage renal disease in some cave in Afghanistan? The woman conducting the press conference panicked at the thought of answering that most basic question and immediately canceled the rest of the briefing.

The United States does not need a boogieman living in a cave in Asia. Osama bin Laden is dead. Barack Obama should be honest enough with the American people to declare him dead.

Here are the facts.

  1. The last intelligence intercept of Osama bin Laden was on December 14 of 2001. He has not been heard from since.
  2. President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld hinted in late December of 2001 that they knew Osama bin Laden was dead.
  3. President Musharraf of Pakistan announced in January of 2002 that Osama bin Laden was probably dead of kidney disease.
  4. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was quoted in October of 2002 as saying, “The more we don’t hear of him, and the more time passes, there is the likelihood that he probably is either dead or seriously wounded somewhere.”
  5. But the actions of the US Military are the most telling. There isn’t a single soldier, sailor or Marine tasked with chasing down Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Because we know exactly where he is. He’s dead. So the US military is either totally or absolutely incompetent or Osama bin Laden died years ago and we’ve been fighting the boogieman.
  6. As early as July of 2002, even the FBI’s counterterrorism chief was quoted as saying; Osama bin Laden is “probably” dead.

The US does not need a boogieman; we have real challenges ahead of us. We need a President who will not lie to us on a constant basis.

While you are at it Mr President Elect, you may want to mention that Iran never threatened to wipe Israel off the map and 16 US Intelligence agencies all agree [pdf] Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. But you knew that, didn’t you? Iran is neither the enemy of the United States nor Israel.

Read moreOsama bin Laden is Dead

Kenneth Clarke warns Britain is on the brink of meltdown

Kenneth Clarke, the former Conservative Chancellor, has warned the economy is on the brink of “meltdown” and unemployment could reach three million.

Mr Clarke, 68, said the British economy is headed for a “catastrophic crisis” that will be “far worse than anything that has occurred in my lifetime”.

“There will be a very serious recession next year,” he said in an interview with Telegraph TV. “I think the big problem in 2009 will be the catastrophic fall in consumer spending demand, spending in shops will get worse.”

Mr Clarke, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1993 and 1997 led Britain’s recovery from Black Wednesday, called for a temporary cut in VAT to boost spending.

Speaking as the Office of National Statistics revealed unemployment has reached an 11-year high of 1.82m, Mr Clarke said the number of jobless could soon reach three million.

Read moreKenneth Clarke warns Britain is on the brink of meltdown

Change, change, change … Obama’s Bailout Bunch Brings Us More of the Same Bullshit

Change you cannot possibly believe in.

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) — It’s hard to believe Barack Obama would even think of calling this change.

Take a good look at some of the 17 people our nation’s president-elect chose last week for his Transition Economic Advisory Board. And then try saying with a straight face that these are the leaders who should be advising him on how to navigate through the worst financial crisis in modern history.

First, there’s former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Not only was he chairman of Citigroup Inc.’s executive committee when the bank pushed bogus analyst research, helped Enron Corp. cook its books, and got caught baking its own. He was a director from 2000 to 2006 at Ford Motor Co., which also committed accounting fouls and now is begging Uncle Sam for Citigroup- style bailout cash.

Two other Citigroup directors received spots on the Obama board: Xerox Corp. Chief Executive Officer Anne Mulcahy and Time Warner Inc. Chairman Richard Parsons. Xerox and Time Warner got pinched years ago by the Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting frauds that occurred while Mulcahy and Parsons held lesser executive posts at their respective companies.

Mulcahy and Parsons also once were directors at Fannie Mae when that company was breaking accounting rules. So was another member of Obama’s new economic board, former Commerce Secretary William Daley. He’s now a member of the executive committee at JPMorgan Chase & Co., which, like Citigroup, is among the nine large banks that just got $125 billion of Treasury’s bailout budget.

There’s More

Read moreChange, change, change … Obama’s Bailout Bunch Brings Us More of the Same Bullshit

UN suspends food distribution in Gaza


Labourers work at a UN Relief and Works Agency food distribution center in the Gaza City Shati refugee camp

GAZA CITY (AFP) – The United Nations announced it was suspending food distribution to half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people on Thursday after Israel failed to allow emergency supplies into the Palestinian territory.

Israel had said it would allow 30 trucks to deliver supplies to Gaza on Thursday after it sealed off the Gaza Strip on November 5, but later said rocket and mortar fire by Gaza militants made it impossible to do so.

“They have told us the crossings are closed today. At the end of today we will suspend our food distribution,” said UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness.

“Our warehouses are effectively empty,” he told AFP.

Read moreUN suspends food distribution in Gaza

New York Gov. seeks $2 bln spending cuts, led by aid to schools and health care for the poor

NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Reuters) – New York Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday proposed $2 billion of spending cuts, led by aid to schools and health care for the poor, to clip a widening budget deficit as fallout from the financial crisis crimps revenues.

Paterson said the legislature agreed not to increase personal income taxes at a special session set for next week to reduce the state’s $121 billion budget.

Paterson, a Democrat who says the state must reform its long history of over-spending, said he hoped to avoid an income tax hike next year — though he did not rule one out.

Read moreNew York Gov. seeks $2 bln spending cuts, led by aid to schools and health care for the poor

Lawmakers, Investors Ask Fed for Lending Disclosure of Almost $2 Trillion in Emergency Loans

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) — Members of Congress, taxpayers and investors urged the Federal Reserve to provide details of almost $2 trillion in emergency loans and the collateral it has accepted to protect against losses.

At least five Republican members of Congress yesterday called for the Fed to disclose which financial institutions are borrowing taxpayer money and what troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral. More than 300 more investors and taxpayers also pressed for more disclosure in e-mails and interviews with Bloomberg News.

“There cannot be accountability in government and in our financial institutions without transparency,” Texas Senator John Cornyn said in a statement. “Many of the financial problems we are facing today are the direct result of too much secrecy and too little accountability.”

House Republican Leader John Boehner and Republican Representatives Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Walter Jones of North Carolina also are pressing Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to elaborate on the Fed’s emergency lending. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in the separate $700 billion bailout of the banking system that was approved by Congress last month.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet today urged greater disclosure to help strengthen the global financial system.

Read moreLawmakers, Investors Ask Fed for Lending Disclosure of Almost $2 Trillion in Emergency Loans

Swiss Banker Charged With Conspiring in Massive Tax Fraud

The Justice Department today announced that a senior Swiss banker has been indicted on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by helping about 20,000 U.S. clients hide $20 billion in assets from the Internal Revenue Service.

The indictment of Raoul Weil alleged that he conspired with a host of others at his bank, overseeing a business that employed encrypted laptops, numbered accounts and counter-surveillance techniques to help American clients conceal their identities and evade taxes.

Weil oversaw the bank’s cross-border business that catered to U.S. clients, generating about $200 million a year in revenue for the bank, the Justice Department said in a news release.

The announcement did not name the bank, describing it only as a large Swiss bank with offices worldwide.

A report on UBS’s Web site says an executive name Raoul Weil was head of UBS’s wealth management international business between 2002 and 2007. The indictment says the Raoul Weil charged in the case was head of the unnamed Swiss bank’s wealth management business from 2002 through 2007.

Weil was named chairman and chief executive of UBS’s global wealth management and business banking operations in 2007, the UBS site said.

Other bank executives “at the highest levels of management” are unindicted co-conspirators, according to the indictment.

The action announced today is part of a larger clash between the U.S. government and the tradition of secrecy that has been central to Switzerland’s lucrative banking industry.

Read moreSwiss Banker Charged With Conspiring in Massive Tax Fraud

Family homelessness rising in the United States


A man sweeps the area outside his tent with a broken broom at “tent city”, a terminus for the homeless in Ontario, a suburb outside Los Angeles, California December 19, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to help middle-class U.S. homeowners facing foreclosure, but he has said little about how he will help low-income families made homeless by a worsening economy.

Obama has spoken broadly about boosting affordable housing and restoring public housing subsidies. But with economists forecasting a deep recession in 2009, he may find it hard to find the money to fulfill those promises soon.

At the same time, advocacy groups and the country’s czar for combating homelessness say immediate action is needed to halt the foreclosures of tens of thousands of homes and rehouse thousands of families amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“President-elect Obama understands the economy will only get back on track if we end the foreclosure crisis. And he realizes that part of ending the crisis is both preventing and ending homelessness for families losing their homes,” said Jeremy Rosen of the National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness.

Read moreFamily homelessness rising in the United States