Shell Alaska said Monday it has abandoned its efforts to drill into hydrocarbon deposits in the offshore Arctic after the latest in a series of glitches on the company’s troubled oil containment barge resulted in damage to the high-tech dome designed to contain oil in the event of an underwater spill.
Company officials said they will continue to drill “top holes” off the Alaskan coast through the end of this season’s drilling window, but will not attempt to reach any oil deposits this year — a serious but not fatal setback for the company, which has spent six years attempting to explore its outer continental shelf leases off the coast of Alaska.
“This critical program … could be an important national resource for the next several decades, and we are committed to doing it safely and responsibly,” Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re not going to rush things for the sake of a few days this season.”
The latest setback involves the oil containment barge, the Arctic Challenger, which has been delayed in Bellingham, Wash., undergoing a trouble-plagued retrofit overseen by Superior Marine Technical Services, a Shell contractor.
The vessel has been unable for weeks to win U.S. Coast Guard certification, following problems with some onboard safety systems, along with trouble fixing good stowage for the ship’s anchor chocks and the boom designed to flare gas in the event of a spill. Coast Guard officials documented four minor illegal fluid discharges from the vessel while it was moored in Bellingham.
Federal authorities have not allowed Shell to plumb into hydrocarbon deposits until the barge is on site in the Arctic, but the multimillion-dollar upgrade has been delayed with one problem after another while attempting to win certification from the Coast Guard.
Posts tagged Obama.
A lone appeals judge bowed down to the Obama administration late Monday and reauthorized the White House’s ability to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or due process.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that an temporary injunction on section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 must be made permanent, essentially barring the White House from ever enforcing a clause in the NDAA that can let them put any US citizen behind bars indefinitely over mere allegations of terrorist associations. On Monday, the US Justice Department asked for an emergency stay on that order, and hours later US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier agreed to intervene and place a hold on the injunction.
The stay will remain in effect until at least September 28, when a three-judge appeals court panel is expected to begin addressing the issue.
On December 31, 2011, US President Barack Obama signed the NDAA into law, even though he insisted on accompanying that authorization with a statement explaining his hesitance to essentially eliminate habeas corpus for the American people.
“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” President Obama wrote. “In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
A lawsuit against the administration was filed shortly thereafter on behalf of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and others, and Judge Forrest agreed with them in district court last week after months of debate. With the stay issued on Monday night, however, that justice’s decision has been destroyed.
With only Judge Lohier’s single ruling on Monday, the federal government has been once again granted the go ahead to imprison any person “who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners” until a poorly defined deadline described as merely “the end of the hostilities.” The ruling comes despite Judge Forrest’s earlier decision that the NDAA fails to “pass constitutional muster” and that the legislation contained elements that had a “chilling impact on First Amendment rights”
Because alleged terrorists are so broadly defined as to include anyone with simple associations with enemy forces, some members of the press have feared that simply speaking with adversaries of the state can land them behind bars.
“First Amendment rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and cannot be legislated away,” Judge Forrest wrote last week. “This Court rejects the Government’s suggestion that American citizens can be placed in military detention indefinitely, for acts they could not predict might subject them to detention.”
Bruce Afran, a co-counsel representing the plaintiffs in the case Hedges v Obama, said Monday that he suspects the White House has been relentless in this case because they are already employing the NDAA to imprison Americans, or plan to shortly.
“A Department of Homeland Security bulletin was issued Friday claiming that the riots [in the Middle East] are likely to come to the US and saying that DHS is looking for the Islamic leaders of these likely riots,” Afran told Hedges for a blogpost published this week. “It is my view that this is why the government wants to reopen the NDAA — so it has a tool to round up would-be Islamic protesters before they can launch any protest, violent or otherwise. Right now there are no legal tools to arrest would-be protesters. The NDAA would give the government such power. Since the request to vacate the injunction only comes about on the day of the riots, and following the DHS bulletin, it seems to me that the two are connected. The government wants to reopen the NDAA injunction so that they can use it to block protests.”
Josh Gerstein, a reporter with Politico, reported on the stay late Monday and acknowledged that both Forrest and Lohier were appointed to the court by President Obama.
Photo Caption: Whistleblower Mark Klein provided this photo of a secret room in a San Francisco AT&T switching center, which housed data-mining equipment that enables the government to spy on electronic communications.
The House on Wednesday reauthorized for five years broad electronic eavesdropping powers that legalized and expanded the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
The FISA Amendments Act, (.pdf) which is expiring at year’s end, allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
The government has also interpreted the law to mean that as long as the real target is al-Qaida, the government can wiretap purely domestic e-mails and phone calls without getting a warrant from a judge. That’s according to David Kris, a former top anti-terrorism attorney at the Justice Department.
The measure is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and the Obama administration has called its passage a top intelligence priority. (.pdf) The bill generally requires the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court to rubber-stamp terror-related electronic surveillance requests that ensnare Americans’ communications.
The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application. The court’s rulings are not public.
The vote was 301-118 in favor of passage, with 111 Democrats and seven Republicans voting no.
Smith, while imploring the House to pass the measure, said the FISA Amendments Act “is one of the most important votes we cast in this Congress.” Terrorists, he added, “are committed to the destruction of our country.”
The House version extends the spy powers until Dec. 31, 2017. The similar bill in the Senate, which in May passed the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, extends the powers for three years.
Shell starts drilling for oil in the Arctic, thanks to recent approval by the Obama administration. Above, “Shell’s Noble Discoverer drilling rig sits above an oil field in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea on Saturday, Sept. 8.”
Full story at NBC
NSA whistleblower William Binney was interviewed by internet journalist Geoff Shively at the HOPE Number 9 hackers conference in New York on Friday.
Binney, who resigned from the NSA in 2001 over its domestic surveillance program, had just delivered a keynote speech in which he revealed what Shively called “evidence which we have not seen until this point.”
“They’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country … and assembling that information,” Binney explained. “So government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process.” He estimated that something like 1.6 billion logs have been processed since 2001.
Shively and livestreamer Tim Pool, who was filming the interview, concluded by noting that videos of Binney’s keynote address will be available shortly.
Fitzgerald’s use of the Espionage Act is in keeping with the Department of Justice’s crackdown on leaks to reporters. And the Obama administration has now used the Espionage Act six times to prosecute disclosures to journalists — more than all previous presidential administrations combined.
The nation’s major mobile carriers have amassed a treasure trove of sensitive data on their customers that they share with police and advertisers — but keep hidden from the consumers themselves.
The major carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, store who you texted, the content of texts and locational tracking information such as cell-site data, which identifies the cell tower to which a customer was connected at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call. Different companies hold your data for different times. Sprint hoards information the longest, according to a Justice Department survey, keeping your call records for an average of 18-24 months.
But, according to a survey by Pro Publica, the major carriers won’t disclose the data to their customers, for a host of reasons — nonsensical ones at best. But they will gladly hand it over to the authorities, even without warrants.
The survey comes as the government is increasingly looking to use cell-site data to bolster prosecutions in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling that said the government must obtain a warrant to affix a GPS device to track a vehicle’s every move.
The justices said a warrant was necessary to affix the device to the vehicle. So, in response, the authorities claim they may obtain the data from a target’s mobile phone, without a warrant, because Americans have no expectation of privacy in their public movements. Courts have been going along, even before the high court’s January decision.
When defeating California legislation this year that would force the mobile carriers to publicly report the number of times they turn over cell phone location information to police and federal agents, they successfully argued that such a plan would be too burdensome, and would take time away from the important work of sharing customer data with cops “day and night.”
T-Mobile declined comment on the Pro Publica survey. But AT&T said giving customers their data “is not a service we provide.”
Sprint said it doesn’t do it “for privacy reasons.”
That answer sounds familiar to a claim made last week by the Obama administration, which said it would violate Americans’ privacy if it informed the public on how many times it spied, without warrants, on Americans’ electronic communications under the FISA Amendments Act.
Verizon said it would provide your data to the cops “but not directly to you.”
All of the carriers’ terms of service note that your data is being used to serve targeted ads “from their own services or from outside companies,” Pro Publica reported.
At least five people have been killed and at least three have been injured in a U.S. drone strike in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan late Tuesday night. A drone attack also claimed the lives of 29 in eastern Somalia & destroyed at least three al-Shabab bases.
Unnamed officials say the victims were militants, but the Obama administration’s criteria are so expansive they could include any adult male in a war zone — unless proven otherwise after death.
The United Nations & Amnesty International have both condemned U.S. drones as unlawful & said they raise serious questions about human rights violations in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan & Iraq.
The fact of the matter is that you can’t really blame people for opposing this law. Born of craven compromise, the law offers far too little help to those who really need it, but just enough to piss off conservatives and the wealthy. Maybe Obama thought he was pleasing everyone by, on the one hand, including language about “pre-existing conditions” so as to please those who want universal health care, and on the other hand, mandating the purchase of private health insurance by all Americans so as to please the profiteering insurance industry.
In the end, you have a grotesque Frankenstein law that nobody really feels they can get behind. Better to have offered a no-compromise, single-payer universal health care bill that at the very least would have drawn passionate support from the bulk of working-class Americans in the face of the inevitable attacks by the insurance executives and “1-percenters.”
In contrast to the way this article frames the situation — as merely ‘a bad selling-job’ on the part of Democrats — the fact is that Americans are actually justified in opposing a law that will force them to buy substandard care from greedy private insurers, even as it includes government subsidies and prohibitions on denial of coverage for “pre-existing conditions.”
The lesson of all this is not that Americans are simply irrationally opposed to ‘socialized medicine’ (though it is to be expected that the insurance corporations would oppose such a system as counter to their material interests), but rather that when you try to compromise between the rich and the corporations, on one side, and the working-class and poor, on the other, you merely end up with enemies on all sides.
As I said, better to just pick one side (the working-class majority), and offer them full, unqualified health coverage by waging an unconditional war on the power of the insurance industry profiteers and their plutocratic hangers-on. In the midst of a class war, the person who tries to stand in the middle merely gets shot at from all directions …
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — Erika Losse is precisely the kind of person President Obama’s signature health care law is intended to help. She has no health insurance. She relies on her mother to buy her a yearly checkup as a Christmas gift, and she pays out of her own pocket for the rest of her medical care, including $1,250 for a recent ultrasound.
But Ms. Losse, 33, a part-time worker at a bagel shop, is no fan of the law, which will require millions of uninsured Americans like herself to get health coverage by 2014. Never mind that Ms. Losse, who makes less than $35,000 a year, would probably qualify for subsidized insurance under the law.
“I’m positive I can’t afford it,” she said.
A Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the health care law is expected any day now, but even if the Obama administration wins in the nation’s highest court, most evidence suggests it has lost miserably in the court of public opinion. National polls have consistently found the health care law has far more enemies than friends, including a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that found more than two-thirds of Americans hope the court will overturn some or all of it.
… Back in Langhorne, Cindy McMahon and Debbie Zimmerman, sisters who were selling produce at a farmers’ market, said they disliked the individual mandate even though they thought everyone should have access to health care. Both women are uninsured, but since they are struggling to make ends meet, they fear being required to buy coverage.
“I don’t think it’s right,” said Ms. Zimmerman, 49. “If you don’t want it or can’t afford it, then what? You’re stuck.”
The sisters would probably qualify for subsidized insurance under the law, but since the subsidies would come in the form of tax credits, Ms. Zimmerman said they would be cold comfort. “Even if they gave you tax credits,” she said, “you couldn’t get that until April. What are you going to do the rest of the year?”
From RELIEF FOR DREAMERS, a law blog that discusses immigration policy:
So, should I come forward and apply?
Not yet!!! First, we are just figuring this out and a decision about whether to bring yourself to the attention of DHS requires a very careful analysis that should be done in consultation with counsel. Second, remember that deferred action is an act of administrative grace that could be taken away by future administrations. As Romney has not yet stated what he would do (we are not optimistic), this program can be stillborn by November. Third, there is no procedure yet in place, so the government would not know what to do with applications and requests. The memo instructs ICE and CIS to establish procedures and begin adjudicating within 60 days.
View the full article here for excellent advice and information on the new Obama policy change.
Followers, PLEASE REBLOG AND SIGNAL BOOST. It is CRITICAL we get the right legal info out!!
Russia’s MI-17 helicopters excel at two things lately. One is killing Syrian civilians. The other is helping the Afghan Air Force. The Obama administration says it’s not fine with the first while it pays for the second, and is hoping you don’t notice the glaring contradiction.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called out Russia on Tuesday for selling Bashar Assad the attack helicopters. The arrival of the latest helo shipment, courtesy of the state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, will “escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” she said. It’s the loudest the U.S. has criticized Russia over Syria.
Just one problem. Russia also sells MI-17s to the United States. The U.S. buys the helicopters for the Afghan Air Force, which is familiar with the airframe. The price tag could reach $1 billion. To stop doing business with Rosoboronexport in protest of its complicity in the Syrian slaughter could jeopardize the Obama team’s plans to hand the Afghanistan war to the Afghans in 2014. To continue to do business with Rosoboronexport is to risk effectively subsidizing Assad’s massacres.
Judging by the Pentagon’s reaction to Clinton, Vladimir Putin can expect the checks to keep arriving on time. “I don’t like to make deals with any devil here,” insisted Pentagon spokesman George Little. His colleague, Capt. John Kirby, asserted that the “type of airframe” the Syrians use to kill their civilians “is immaterial.”
Clinton’s public criticism skewers the Pentagon on the horns of a self-inflicted dilemma. It’s done business with Rosoboronexport in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, even as the arms firm delivered its goods years late. It can’t very well act surprised that Rosoboronexport does business with thugs, as the firm used to be under sanctions for precisely that under a law called the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act. Now the Pentagon is dug in deep to both Rosoboronexport and the questionable Afghan Air Force, unwilling to acknowledge its incoherence. And the Syrian people pay for that choice with their lives.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law a ban on insider trading by members of Congress and their staff.
The law, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, explicitly says that members of Congress and their staffs are not exempt from the prohibition of insider trading placed on everyone else.
“We were sent here to serve the American people and look out for their interests—not to look out for our own interests,” Obama said when signing the legislation.
The law mandates that government employees and members of Congress report investment transactions within 45 days of making a trade, instead of the annual basis under the old law. Information in public financial disclosure reports must be made available on agency websites under the law, according to a fact sheet issued by the White House.
Good move. This needed to be done.
Afghanistan War Is Now More Unpopular Than Iraq War
According to a New York Times poll, 69 percent of Americans think the U.S. shouldn’t be waging the Afghanistan war. That reinforces the findings of a recent Pew poll, in which nearly six-in-ten respondentssupported bringing U.S. troops home ASAP. It’s a major hemorrhage of support. Just a few weeks ago, the war was merely unpopular, with 54 percent saying it wasn’t worth fighting.
The new low represents the crossing of a certain psychological and cultural threshold. It means the Afghanistan war is now at least as unpopular as the Iraq war was at the height of public ire. In fact, by some measures, the war to beat the Taliban — the guys who gave safe harbor to the 9/11 terrorists — is now more unpopular than the one to get rid of Saddam and his alleged stockpiles of WMDs.
Take a look at what Pollingreport.com tallies for the Iraq war. During Iraq’s darkest days, in 2006, CNN’s poll registered opposition to the war in the high 50s or low to mid 60s. It took until the week George W. Bush announced the surge, in January 2007, for opposition to reach 67 percent. At no time between 2006 and 2011 did the poll register 69 percent opposition.
“I am confident that the supreme court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said.
The president chided Republicans for making “judicial activism” an election issue, by objecting to rulings ranging from the supreme court’s finding of a right to abortion to the recent striking down by federal judges of a referendum barring gay marriage in California, while pressing the judiciary to overturn the will of Congress.
“I’d just remind conservative commentators that, for years, what we have heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism, or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law,” Obama said. “Well, this is a good example, and I’m pretty confident that this court will recognise that and not take that step.”
While the court is certainly not looking the best today, what with this decision and all, is it really Obama’s spot to say this? Then again, Obama does have a history of criticizing the court when it comes to unpopular cases.
Yes, why not. It doesn’t infringe on the separation of powers to simply criticise the court does it?
Well, I should hope the president has a spot to criticize the Court because presidents have been doing it since the Court’s inception.