The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.
Even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.”
The Guy Running One of the World’s Largest Mercenary Armies Thinks He’s a Sexy Badass Patriot
It’s the late 1990s’ Clinton boom-boom years. You are a young millionaire US patriot with a Navy SEAL background. What are you gonna do? You invest in a badass private army start-up and you go fight “terra, terra, terra” across Dar al Islam. A single owner; no pesky stockholders; no board of directors; no government bureaucracy. You can be “nimble and aggressive”. You become—literally—the Prince of War. What’s not to like?
This is Erik Prince’s My Way, told with some measure of “contract humor” and the obligatory pious references to a “life’s mission” to “serve God, family and the United States”; this is the inside story of how Blackwater turned into “something resembling its own branch of the military” and “the ultimate tool in the war on terror”. In the manner of Audi extolling the merits of Vorsprung Durch Technik, Prince hails it as a “proud tale of performance excellence and driven entrepreneurialism”.
Morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency’s surveillance activities, according to former officials who say they are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support.
A White House spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, noted that top White House officials have been to the agency to “express the president’s support and appreciation for all that NSA does to keep us safe.”
It is not clear whether or when Obama might travel the 23 miles up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to visit Fort Meade, the NSA’s headquarters in Maryland, but agency employees are privately voicing frustration at what they perceive as White House ambivalence amid the pounding the agency has taken from critics.
If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generallydisastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where “the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements. There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war. (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct. It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter.
As elected officials in Washington continue to mull the possibilities of setting stricter standards for fracking, the natural gas industry has decided to pull out all the stops to defeat these standards before they can even see the light of day. A new report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington  (CREW) shows that the industry’s campaign contributions are now at record levels as they battle politicians wishing to tighten the reins on fracking.
According to the report , natural gas campaign donations to politicians in states where fracking is taking off have risen by 231% in the last 8 years. But the industry is also hedging its bets in non-fracking states, as donations to politicians in those areas saw an increase in donations of 131%.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, isn’t surprised by the increase. Of the report, Sloan said , “Like many industries under increasing scrutiny, the fracking industry has responded by ratcheting up campaign donations to help make new friends in Congress…As CREW’s report shows, the fracking boom isn’t just good for the industry, but also for congressional candidates in fracking districts.”
In the first part of this exposé, I examined the origins and recent history of the Group of Thirty as a highly influential institution in the arena of global financial governance, bringing together top central bankers, financiers, policymakers and academics in the world of economic and monetary affairs.
More than three decades since it was founded in 1978, the Group of Thirty has maintained its reputation as a prominent institution in the financial world, continuing to produce influential reports and advocate for policies which are largely accepted and implemented across the globe.
The G30, as it is often referred to, describes itself as “a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia” which “aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”
The Group of Thirty (or G-30) describes itself as “a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia,” which “aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”
Its membership consists of roughly thirty major figures in the global financial world, from central banks, academia, international institutions and major private financial institutions. These figures hold regular meetings, conduct research and produce highly-influential reports through various “working groups,” providing a forum for top policy makers and private sector market “actors” to meet and hold discussions, while helping shape consensus and give recommendations to policy makers on issues of finance and governance.
This institution, though not widely discussed, is enormously influential. And here’s why.
The White House said Friday it would agree to a budget deal with the Republicans that excludes an extension of federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the month.
By the administration’s own figures, allowing the federally-funded extended benefit program to expire will end cash assistance for 1.3 million people immediately after the holidays and impact an additional 3.6 million people in the first half of 2014.
With this cruel and callous act, Obama and the Democratic Party are prepared to join with the Republicans in condemning nearly 5 million people and their families to destitution. In prior recessions, emergency unemployment benefits, beyond the standard aid offered by the states, have never been terminated when unemployment remained at such high levels as those prevailing today.
America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.
There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.
The Affordable Care Act continues to plow ahead, despite Republican attempts to fight it at every turn. What is unfolding in front of us is nothing short of spectacular. The problems with healthcare.gov are slowly being resolved which is helping more and more people sign up for affordable healthcare, many for the first time in their life. The law provides so much more than that, including standards for even the lowest level plans, protections for young adults 26 and younger, and the elimination of pre-existing plans. Of course, you will not hear the success stories on the news, because those stories are not nearly as sexy as the “Obama Lied” slogan they are so fond of.
The biggest downside of the ACA is the reliance on the private insurance industry. It does not have to be this way, however. There is yet another provision in the Affordable Care Act that can open the door for states to institute their own single-payer healthcare system. Other states have a public option, especially for those below a certain income level, but no state had instituted a true single-payer system. All of this has changed thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.