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0 National Security Agency opens new $286 million Fort Gordon facility

The National Security Agency officially opened for business Monday in its new building on Fort Gordon.

In a rare public ceremony for an agency typically cloaked in secrecy, NSA’s director and other dignitaries symbolically cut the ribbon inside a 200-seat rotunda that will serve as an operations center. When full occupancy is completed in late summer, about 4,000 civilian and military workers trained in linguistics and cryptology will report to what’s known as NSA Georgia.
Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the commander of the Fort Meade, Md.,-based NSA, acknowledged the irony of inviting the public to a department jokingly referred to as “No Such Agency.”
He heaped praise, however, on the work done in Augusta to support national defense and military missions abroad.
When national and tactical leaders receive vital information, “they know it’s NSA Georgia pulling the load,” Alexander said.
More than 100 people – a mix of career officers in uniforms and civilians wearing jeans – went to the rotunda for Monday’s ceremony. The rotunda, featuring a panoramic video screen that spans half a wall, holds 200 seats in an open environment designed to encourage collaboration. That’s a fraction of the 604,000 square feet spread out over three levels holding more than 2,500 workstations, 47 conference rooms, a 2,800-square-foot fitness center and a 300-seat auditorium.
The building cost $286 million and was dedicated at the completion of construction in 2010 to John Whitelaw, who was the deputy director of operations when the NSA first came to Fort Gordon in 1994; at that time, there were 50 employees.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, said in a news conference before the ribbon-cutting that the community’s support for Fort Gordon and the quality of life in Augusta played an integral part in the decision to build the facility here. Groundbreaking for the building was in 2007.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am ... of the men and women who are part of the team that is protecting Americans and protecting America,” Chambliss said.


0 Bigger Brother: Total surveillance comes to UK

0 Drone manufacturer Vanguard takes legal steps against

On March 4, 2012, the “” released a story written by Stephen Dean claiming that a ShadowHawk UAS operated by Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office recently crashed during a SWAT operation.

Despite granting an interview to Mr. Dean on March 2nd and providing substantial details on the actual event which took place in September 2011, Michael Buscher, CEO of Vanguard Defense Industries was grossly misquoted while large portions pertaining to the event were blatantly fabricated by Dean.  This event was in no way part of a SWAT operation nor did the operator experience a loss of communication to the aircraft.  Three Deputies of the Montgomery County  Sheriffs Office and accompanying Lenco BearCat were present due to a photo shoot of another ShadowHawk UAS which was conducted earlier in the day.  “This is a tremendous disappointment for us (Vanguard) given our excellent relationship with the media in general”, stated Vanguard’s CEO Michael Buscher.   “We have always taken the time with reporters to discuss our products and educate about the industry and it’s unfortunate when an individual  stoops to such an unprofessional level” said Buscher.
Vanguard management has discussed this article with Mr. Dean’s fulltime employer NBC’s Houston affiliate KPRC, and was advised that Mr.Dean was not permitted to run the story through the news station due to lack of sources and the dated nature of the event.  Furthermore, Vanguard’s legal counsel has been in contact with NBC’s New York office as well as the “” to discuss the legal implications of the defamatory statements made by Dean.

UPDATE: 3/8/2012  Today, Vanguard Defense Industries has taken legal action against Stephen L. Dean as well as the for their respective roles in the malicious and defamatory article cited above.

0 Moody's declares Greece to be in default

Moody's Investors Service considers Greece to have defaulted per its default definitions

. The announcement comes despite Athens reaching a deal with private creditors for a bond exchange that will shave €107 billion from its €350 billion debt.
The agency pointed out that even though 85.8 per cent of the holders of Greek-law bonds had signed to the deal, the exercise of collective action clauses that Athens is applying to its bonds will force the remaining bondholders to participate.
Eventually, the overall cost to bondholders, based on the present net value of the debt, will be at least 70 per cent of the investment, Moody's explained.
"According to Moody's definitions, this exchange represents a 'distressed exchange,' and therefore a debt default," the US rating firm said. "This is because (i) the exchange amounts to a diminished financial obligation relative to the original obligation, and (ii) the exchange has the effect of allowing Greece to avoid payment default in the future."
Ahead of the debt deal, Moody's had already slashed Greece's credit grade to its lowest level, "C," and so there was no impact on the rating.
Moody's pointed out it had already downgraded Greece's sovereign rating to C from Ca on March 2, further to the announcement of the debt exchange proposals. It also said it will re-evaluate the rating to see how the debt write-down and the second bailout package would affect the country’s financial sector.
On Friday, Athens announced that it had carved out a crucial bond swap deal with private investors designed to write off more than €100 million of Greek debt. The bondholders agreed to take huge losses, giving up some 74 per cent of the value of their investment.
The agreement with private investors was a crucial part of a new bailout from the EU and the IMF aimed at averting a catastrophic default which could plunge the entire eurozone into a deep crisis potentially harming the global economy.
Greece is experiencing its worst economic crisis since World War II and has been on the brink of a default with debt equal to 160 per cent of its GDP.


0 Coke and Pepsi change recipe to dodge "unfounded" cancer warning label

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are changing their recipes in the United States, to avoid having to put a cancer warning label on the drinks to comply with California law.
Coca Cola changes recipe to avoid cancer warning labelAlthough the exact formula for the drinks is a closely guarded secret, the caramel colouring in the drinks contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a chemical that is listed as a carcinogen in California.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have already altered the recipes of drinks sold in California, to reduce the levels of 4-MEI and avoid the cancer warning labels.
The companies say the changes will be rolled out across the US to make manufacturing the drinks more efficient.
Diana Garza-Giarlante, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola in the US, told the Associated Press: "While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning."
High levels of 4-MEI have been linked to the development of tumours in mice and rats, one study found.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently in the process of reviewing a petition from a US consumer group, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which wants to ban the use of caramel in food and drink products.
However, FDA spokesman Doug Kras, said: "It is important to understand that a consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents."
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola in the UK added: "The European Food Safety authority specifically reaffirmed the safety of caramel colouring as recently as March 2011, following a comprehensive review of the literature, and stated that the presence of 4-MEI in caramel colouring is not a health concern.
"The science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe.
"The caramel colour in all of our products has been, is and always will be safe. That is a fact."
And added: "In Europe, the caramel manufacturing process by our suppliers remain unchanged and continues to comply with European legislation and safety rules."

0 Dangerous Levels Of Methyl Mercury Found In 74 Californian Lakes

State officials say they are worried about high levels of mercury found in fish caught at Shasta, Whiskeytown and 72 other California lakes and the thousands of anglers who eat their catch from those reservoirs and lakes.
California Water Quality Control Board officials held a public meeting in Redding on Thursday to take comment on setting new regulations to control mercury in lakes such as Shasta and Whiskeytown.
They also plan to set regulations recommending the amount of fish that can be safely eaten from lakes with high levels of mercury.
The six water board staff members at Thursday's hearing outnumbered the audience of four people.
Brian Rasmussen, a hydrologist and geologist at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area who attended the hearing said he was concerned that fish at Whiskeytown had high levels of mercury, but water board officials had not offered to help them advise the public.
"It's a black eye to be on this list," Rasmussen said, referring to a list of 74 reservoirs statewide considered "impaired" because of the high levels of mercury in fish swimming in the lakes.
Lake Britton in eastern Shasta County is on the list, along with Lake Shastina in Siskiyou County, Black Butte Lake in Tehama County and Trinity Lake in Trinity County.
Mercury got into lakes such as Shasta and Whiskeytown from gold mining. Miners used mercury more than a century ago during California's gold rush. Mercury particles also are carried through the air and deposited into lakes by wind and rain, said Carrie Austin, a state water board engineer.
Mercury also is naturally found in springs and soil, Austin said.
The mercury in lakes isn't dangerous to humans until it gets to the bottom of deep lakes, where it turns into methyl mercury and binds to algae eaten by microscopic organisms. Those organisms are eaten by small fish, which are eaten by larger fish such as bass and trout.
As the methyl mercury makes its way up the food chain it accumulates at rates two to five times their previous levels at each stage, Austin said. By the time the methyl mercury reaches game fish such as bass it is sometimes found in concentrations dangerous to humans, she said.
Water board officials say mercury at high levels can cause brain damage, as well as kidney and lung problems in humans and wildlife.
Infants, young children and pregnant women are most at risk from mercury poisoning, according to state officials.
Austin said the board hopes to develop safe consumption levels statewide for fish from the 74 reservoirs and to come up with plans to keep mercury out of reservoirs.
At some lakes, mercury is washed into reservoirs from active and abandoned mines.
Grading or other work could be done to keep mercury from leaching into reservoirs, Austin said.
The state also could encourage stocking lakes with fish that don't tend to accumulate mercury and discourage stocking fish that are good at accumulating mercury, Austin said.
Bass tend to accumulate more mercury than trout, said Rik Rasmussen, who is supervising the process of creating proposed regulations.
"It's really fish-species-specific, to a certain extent," Rasmussen said.
State officials already recommend limiting the amount of fish caught from certain water bodies, such as the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. Rasmussen said in those cases, people are encouraged to limit the amount of fish they eat to 17.5 grams per day, or about 8 ounces of fish every other week, he said.

0 Ayatollah Khamenei Highest Authority In Iran Praises President Obama

1 Feds seek to stifle defense arguments in Lubbock terror case

Federal prosecutors are trying to limit what the defense team for Khalid Aldawsari can say when the case goes to trial in late April.  Aldawsari was arrested more than one year ago on a charge of Attempted Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
 Khalid Aldawsari
He is accused of collecting the materials to make a bomb, with proposed targets nationwide.  Aldawsari, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was in Lubbock as a college student.  According to court records, his writings at the time included a desire for jihad.  
Prosecutors this week have filed three documents called "motion in limine."  The first one seeks to stifle a defense that has been mentioned by Aldawsari's attorneys in previous court records.  Prosecutors write, "The Government believes that Aldawsari might argue that it was impossible for him to complete the crime of use of weapon of mass destruction because he did not yet have the third, and final, ingredient needed."
Prosecutors say that the charge is "attempted" therefore Aldawsari should not be able to tell a jury that he lacked the ingredients for a bomb.
The second motion in limine is asking permission for prosecutors to introduce evidence of two test explosions conducted by the FBI.  It says in part, "Aldawsari had two of the three precursor chemicals necessary to manufacture the WMD [weapon of mass destruction]."
The court records say the FBI detonated a 7-pound bomb inside a passenger car, and a 15-pound bomb inside a second passenger car to replicate what Aldawsari might have been able to do. 
"... The government intends to use as evidence twelve still photographs and two short videos, each of less than one minute duration."
The second motion also says, "The demonstration replicates the explosions which would have resulted from Aldawsari following the instructions he possessed both in written and video format."
"The explosive force propelled large portions of the vehicles 165 feet and 168 feet, respectively, from the explosion sites."
Prosecutors say the explosion video is not being introduced to cause an emotional reaction by a jury, but rather to "paint a picture" of what Aldawsari intended. 
The third motion in limine seeks to prevent the defense from asking witnesses any questions about a hidden camera FBI agents secretly placed into Aldawsari's Central Lubbock apartment.
Prosecutors say that they have an informer's privilege that "protects the identity of government informants and allows the government to withhold from disclosure the identity of persons who furnish information."  Therefore, they argue, the defense is not entitled to ask any witness about the legality of the hidden camera, the technical specifications of the hidden camera, or the method of installation into Aldawsari's apartment.
The third motion also seems to indicate there was a hidden recording device in the hallway outside Aldawsari's apartment.  If prosecutors' requests are granted the defense will not be allowed to ask about that either.
While prosecutors assert an informer's privilege, the new court documents point out the two original informants in the case more clearly than ever.  Court documents are very clear that Con-Way Freight in Lubbock and Carolina Biological Supply in North Carolina contacted authorities at roughly the same time when they discovered what they thought was a suspicious shipment of chemicals to Aldawsari.
Prosecutors say they are also trying to "... prevent disclosure of law enforcement techniques and procedures."
The defense has not yet responded, nor has the judge made a ruling.

0 Greece could default within hours

Sharemarket will open under a cloud of uncertainty today.
If bondholders reject the debt deal entirely, there will be a big problem. Photo: AFP
So this is it. After three years of high drama, the European Union is staring at its first ever sovereign default and, ironically, unlike every other deadline so far, this one looks set to be adhered to.
At 8pm GMT tonight (7am, AEDT, Friday morning), the authorities will know - or have a very good idea - how many of Greece’s international creditors have accepted its 206 billion euro ($256 billion) bond-swap offer.
The results will probably take a few days to come out - Athens has to put its decisions through Brussels’ sluggish decision making processes - but this time it isn’t up to the politicians so the possible outcomes are clearer.

1. A miracle:
 95 per cent of Greek bondholders accept the deal, allowing a purely ‘‘voluntary’’ restructuring to go ahead. Athens is desperate to secure a ‘‘voluntary’’ agreement from bondholders - crucial to protecting its word and reputation in international markets, as well as avoiding a dreaded ‘‘disorderly’’ default.
Both the hurdle and the deal - creditors are being asked to swap their bonds for new ones worth around a third of the value - are tough. The International Institute of Finance, the body that has negotiated with the Greek government on behalf of bondholders, said its members ‘‘intend to participate’’ in the deal.
The group released several tallies yesterday, in the latest of which they said they spoke for bonds ‘‘amounting in aggregate to 84 billion euros, or 40.8 per cent of the 206 billion euro total PSI eligible debt.’’
A raft of international banks have announced their intention to accept the deal, too, but we already know some are voting against.

2. A forced deal: 
between 66 per cent and 90 per cent of bondholders accept; Athens steps in and imposes the deal on the others. In Athens, the voluntary deal seemed unobtainable weeks ago. So last month politicians approved of Collective Action Clauses (CACs) being inserted retrospectively if necessary.
These CACs allow the government to foist the deal on all bondholders if 66 per cent of those who vote approve the deal. So the deal will get done but this time the coercive element can’t be ignored: rating agencies have said they will declare Greece to be in default.
The International Swaps & Derivatives Association is also likely to reconvene to decide if the credit default insurance ought to be triggered.

3. Armageddon:
 less than 66 per cent approval, pointing to a disorderly default. If bondholders reject the deal entirely, there will be a big problem.
In a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday, Greece said it ‘‘does not contemplate the availability of funds’’ to bondholders who refuse to accept the deal. Berlin has said it will not release the 130 billion euro bail-out funds without a deal. Greece needs the cash to repay a 14.5 billion euro bond due on March 20.

What happens then is unknown: it hasn’t happened before.

Read more:

0 Terrorism in Xinjiang has an International origin, Zhang Chunxian NPC

Violent terrorist acts carried out in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will be shown no mercy and the government will not allow terrorists to wave knives against women, children and innocent people, the Party chief of the region said Wednesday.

Many incidents of terrorism-related violence that happened in the region in the last year actually had an international origin, Zhang Chunxian, a deputy to the National People’s Congress and the Party secretary of Xinjiang, said on the sidelines of the annual NPC session.

The infiltration of three overseas forces of separatists, extremists and terrorists, the social situation in nearby countries and international anti-terrorism activities may have directly or indirectly prompted such incidents,” Zhang said. 

Three violent attacks were carried out in southern Xinjiang’s Kashgar and Hotan last year and another happened last month. 
On Feb 28, nine terrorists armed with knives suddenly attacked a crowd on a pedestrian street on Xingfu road, in Kashgar prefecture’s Yecheng county, and killed 13 people. Seven terrorists were shot dead at the scene and two were arrested. The incident was a terrorist attack targeting civilians, the regional information office said.
The Yecheng incident has been properly dealt with and social order has been restored, Zhang said.
Zhang said violent terrorists don’t have the mindset of normal people and the government will not tolerate terrorists as their violent activities target civilians.
“Their acts are against the human race. They wave knives at old people, women and children with extremely brutal means. It’s not a religious problem, nor is it an ethnic problem.”
Xinjiang has witnessed a leapfrog in its economic development in recent years, but development doesn’t necessarily bring stability, said Nur Bekri, a deputy to the NPC and chairman of Xinjiang said on Wednesday.
Xinjiang’s GDP rose by 12.3 percent year-on-year and reached 660 billion yuan ($105 billion) last year. Average per capita income of urban residents in the region increased to 15,514 yuan in 2011, a 13.7-percent hike year-on-year, and the average per capita income of rural residents increased by 17.2 percent to reach 5,442 yuan.
“Meanwhile, without a stable social environment, the region could not be further developed,” he added. “Maintaining the region’s stability is still a grim and overwhelming task.”
He said that terrorist organizations, such as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement campaigning for Xinjiang’s independence in neighboring Pakistan, have countless links with terrorists within the region, which covers one-sixth of China’s landmass and borders eight countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
“Violent activities by individual terrorists will not affect the close friendship between China and Pakistan,” Nur said. “Anti-terrorism is a global task, as terrorism is threatening the lives of all people in the world.”
China and Pakistan are all-weather friends, and Xinjiang and neighboring countries share the interests and objectives in fighting terrorism. International cooperation is needed to combat terrorism in addition to domestic prevention and crackdown, he said.

0 Targeting citizen terrorists justified

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday set down conditions that justify the killing of an American citizen living abroad who is plotting an attack against the United States.

The administration has come under fire for killing American-born al-Qaida operative Anwar al-Awlaki in a targeted military drone attack in Yemen five months ago.

Critics demanded the White House release a Justice Department memo providing the legal basis for killing al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen using his safe haven in Yemen to plot terrorist attacks against Americans. Civil rights advocates argue the president has no authority to kill an American citizen without following due process under the Constitution.
Without mentioning al-Awlaki, Mr. Holder’s remarks to students at Northwestern University law school provided a legal framework for taking lethal action without court approval or other outside oversight.
The attacks, he said, are justified when a U.S. citizen living in another country presents an imminent threat of attack against the United States, their capture is not feasible and the killing would be consistent with the laws of war.
The criteria apply to the attack on al-Awlaki, whom President Obama called a leader of al-Qaida operations on the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Awlaki has been associated with several attempted terrorist attacks. He was allegedly involved in the plot by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The administration’s legal argument recognizes the changed nature of warfare with terrorists capable of coordinating attacks against the United States and American citizens far removed from a traditional battlefield.
They are, as Mr. Holder said, a “stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country.” They are engaging in acts of war, not committing misdemeanors and felonies that can be prosecuted in the courts.
“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack,” 
Mr. Holder said. “In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.” In such instances, citizenship should not protect them from defending Americans against attack.


For some reason I started thinking "Central Bank" after reading his closing comment.

0 Obama: G8 move from Chicago to Camp David was not due to expected protests.

G8 Move To Camp David Was "In The Works For Weeks"

The move to hold the G8 summit at Camp David instead of Chicago in May might have come as a surprise to many, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and members of the host committee in Chicago, but it was a move that has been in the works for weeks.
President Barack Obama insisted Tuesday that the move was designed to give the G8 summit a more intimate setting, rather than keeping the summit out of Chicago.
“This was an idea that was brought to me after the initial organizing of the NATO Summit. Somebody pointed out that I hadn’t had any of my counterparts whom I’ve worked with now for three years up to Camp David, I think,” Obama said. “G8 tends to be a more informal setting in which we talk about a wide range of issues in a pretty informal way. And the thinking was that people would enjoy being in a more casual backdrop.”

The only reason the president talked Tuesday about the surprise decision to move the G8 summit to Camp David was because of a question from Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet.

In announcing the switch on Monday, White House officials said, “To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues.”
But the decision to move the G8 summit out of Chicago left open questions whether expected protests, which could have drawn tens of thousands of protesters from across the country, prompted the move over security concerns. Sweet sought to find out if security issues played a role in Obama’s decision.
“I wanted to know if, indeed, the thought of all the protesters flooding into the city played a role in his decision,” Sweet said.
Obama said he was confident Chicago could handle security for the summit, but said he wanted a more informal setting at Camp David, and the idea to host the summit there didn’t occur to anyone until plans were already in place for Chicago.
“I always have confidence in Chicago being able to handle security issues,” Obama said. “You know, whether it’s Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza — or Bulls’ championships, we know how to deal with a crowd. It’s a — and I’m sure that your new mayor will be quite attentive to detail — in making sure that everything goes off well.”
Sweet said White House officials have said the move has been in the works for a few weeks. But she also said the re-election of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the possible election of a new president in France might also have played a role.
“From the president’s perspective, then, he wanted to have a calmer setting in Camp David, which is a retreat in the Maryland mountains, to at least deal with the leaders before they moved on to NATO,” Sweet said.
Although protesters who were planning a number of rallies and marches during the G8 and NATO summits have said the G8 switch won’t change their plans, Sweet said it’s probably too soon to tell how the move will affect protests.
“These big international meetings always draw protests. In Washington, we’re pretty used to them, what with having the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund here,” Sweet said. “The protesters have been saying since the news came out yesterday that they’re coming out anyway. Maybe this will reduce what is … the plans of some people who are a little more oriented towards the G8 and not on NATO.”