Politics and Legislation

Supreme Court divided over striking down entire healthcare law

By Sam Baker

The nine Supreme Court justices were divided Wednesday over whether to strike down all of President Obama’s healthcare law if they find that its individual mandate is unconstitutional.

The court’s conservative members, including possible swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, leaned toward invalidating the whole law, while the liberal justices said the court should leave it to Congress to determine how much of the law depends on the mandate.

Chief Justice John Roberts, another possible swing vote, pressed the attorneys on both sides of the issue about equally.

Arguments about the issue of “severability” come a day after the court engaged in two hours of intense debate Tuesday over whether the insurance mandate violates the constitution. Five justices appeared skeptical that the mandate met constitutional muster on Tuesday, meaning the debate over whether the rest of the law must also be tossed could come into play.

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0-414 vote: House clobbers budget proposal based on Obama’s 2013 plan

By Pete Kasperowicz

The House on Wednesday night unanimously rejected an alternative budget proposal based on President Obama’s 2013 budget plan, dispatching it in a 0-414 rout.

The vote came just hours after the White House cast the pending vote as a political “gimmick,” an apparent attempt to downplay what many expected to be an ugly-looking vote for the White House…….

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Pentagon to seek additional Iron Dome funding, U.S. official says

Statement by Department of Defense spokesperson comes after U.S. officials initiate Iron Dome Support Act meant to allow purchase of additional anti-missile systems.

By Natasha Mozgovaya

The Pentagon will approach Congress to enlarge the amount aid the United States awards Israel toward the production of the Iron Dome anti-missile systems, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Last week, Rep. Howard L. Berman introduced the Iron Dome Support Act (IDSA) authorizing U.S. President Barack Obama to provide assistance if requested by the Israeli government to procure additional Iron Dome systems.

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One state – one vote: Rethinking an Israeli Spring

There is no denying that settlement construction, Palestinian disunity, and other factors are fast rendering the two-state concept impracticable.

By Bradley Burston

A beleaguered Democratic president, beset by an unpopular war overseas and raging polarization at home, clamps heavy pressure on Israel to make a dramatic gesture over the future of the West Bank.

Israel’s cabinet convenes to discuss the White House initiative. A minister-without-portfolio, less than three months in his first cabinet post, asks for the floor. He has a proposal regarding the Palestinians of the West Bank: Offer them citizenship and the right to vote.

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Economy

Martin Armstrong On The Sovereign Debt Crisis

The Hera Research Newsletter is pleased to present a fascinating interview with Martin A. Armstrong, founder and former Head of Princeton Economics, Ltd. In the 1980s, Princeton Economics became the leading multinational corporate advisor with offices in Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney and in 1983 Armstrong was named by the Wall Street Journal as the highest paid advisor in the world.

As a top currency analyst and frequent contributor to academic journals, Armstrong’s views on financial markets remain in high demand. Armstrong was requested by the Presidential Task Force (Brady Commission) investigating the 1987 U.S. stock market crash and, in 1997, Armstrong was invited to advise the People’s Bank of China during the Asian Currency Crisis.

Based on a study of historical gold prices and financial panics, Armstrong developed a cyclical theory of commodity prices, which lead to the pi-cycle economic confidence model (ECM), used to make long term forecasts. Using the ECM, Armstrong predicted both the high-water mark of the Nikkei in 1989, months ahead of time, and the July 20, 1998 high in the U.S. equities market, as well as a major top in financial markets on February 27, 2007. The ECM was called “The Secret Cycle” by the New Yorker Magazine and Justin Fox wrote in Time Magazine that
model “made several eerily on-the-mark calls using a formula based on the mathematical constant pi.” (Pg 30; Nov. 30, 2009).

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Wars and Rumors of War

Iran’s centrifuge ‘workshops’ complicate raid planning

Iran’s “workshops” for making nuclear centrifuges and components for the devices are widely dispersed and hidden, adding to the difficulties of a potential military strike by Israel, according to a new report by US congressional researchers. A senior official surmised that Iran could recover from a military strike on its centrifuge facilities within six months.

Neither Israel nor the US is certain of the locations of all such facilities, analysts for the Congressional Research Service wrote in the report obtained Wednesday. The analysts cited interviews with current and former US government officials familiar with the issue who weren’t identified.

Israel’s capability to halt or set back Iran’s nuclear program through a military strike has been central to the debate over whether Israel should undertake such a mission alone. While US President Barack Obama has urged more time for economic sanctions to work, Israeli officials led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak say it may soon be too late to prevent Iran from developing the capability to develop a nuclear weapon.

The likelihood of dispersed facilities complicates any assessment of a potential raid’s success, making it “unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be on the likelihood of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons,” the report found.

A US official said in April 2011 that there “could be lots of workshops’ in Iran,” the authors said. Last month, a former US government official with “direct experience” in the issue told the researchers that “Iran’s centrifuge production is widely distributed and that the number of workshops has probably multiplied ‘many times’ since 2005 because of an increase in Iranian contractors and subcontractors working on the program.”

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Double Speak from Benjamin Netanyahu

By Philip Giraldi

The Passionate Attachment

The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem on March 20th described Israeli government rage at a comment made by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton relating to the killing of three Jewish children in Toulouse France on the previous day. Ashton decried the killing but then tied it in to equally unfortunate deaths of children in other places, including Gaza. Her comment caused Netanyahu to explode, saying he was “infuriated” by the “comparison between a deliberate massacre of children and the defensive, surgical actions” of the Israeli Defense Forces hitting “…terrorists who use children as a human shield.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman quickly joined in, saying that Ashton should instead be thinking about the “children of southern Israel who live in constant fear of rocket attacks from Gaza.”

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Syrian Rebels Caught Embellishing on Tape

It’s through people like Omar Tellawi that scenes of the bloodshed in Syria have reached the rest of the world.

Tellawi is part of a small, tightly knit group of Syrian video activists who have embedded themselves inside Homs, the center of a brutal crackdown by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Foreign journalists are barred from the city—and if they manage to sneak in, they can become targets, as happened when photographer Rémi Ochlik and legendary war correspondent Marie Colvin were killed recently.

Tellawi and his fellow activists document the regime’s atrocities with low-tech video dispatches, often reporting via Anderson Cooper–like stand-up reports. They post their work on YouTube, and it spreads globally via social media and the international press. Some of the so-called vee-jays—such as 23-year-old Danny Abdul Dayem, whom the Western press has dubbed the “voice of Homs”— feature regularly on networks such as Al-Jazeera and CNN and have become unlikely media stars in the course of the conflict.

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http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

Russia not to attend 2nd Friends of Syria conference

Russia has announced that it will not attend the second “Friends of Syria” conference which will be held in Turkey on April 1.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow that the conference does not seek a settlement in Syria and is setting the stage for intervention.

“Its participants are not looking for dialogue that could put an end to the conflict, on the contrary, it may pave the way for external interference,” Lukashevich said.

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Germany official: Meeting with Israel’s Barak left me ‘more concerned’ of war with Iran

Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere says feels some Israeli cabinet members do not give enough thought to the negative consequences that could develop in wake of a strike of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Germany’s defense minister Thomas de Maiziere said that a recent meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak left him “more concerned” as to the possibility of war with Iran, an interview published on Tuesday indicated.

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Attacking Iran: Did US just torpedo Israeli deal for a base in Azerbaijan?

Israel is developing a ‘secret staging ground’ in Azerbaijan for a possible attack on Iran, reports Foreign Policy magazine. US officials aren’t happy with that, and may have leaked the story.

The three-way tension between the United States, Israel, and Iran became tenser this week with a widely cited report that Israel is developing a “secret staging ground” in Iran’s neighbor to the north – Azerbaijan – for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Quoting unnamed senior US diplomats and military intelligence officials, a lengthy article in Foreign Policy magazine asserts that “Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border.”

“The Israelis have bought an airfield,” a senior administration official is quoted as saying, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”

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Army chief cancels IDF-wide Passover vacation

For first time in many years, all IDF units to be on full alert during Passover holiday; army officials insist decision not related to any planned military operations

Yossi Yehoshua

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has ordered all IDFunits to cancel their traditional Passover breaks so that they can operate in full capacity over the upcoming holdiay, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday.

The implication of the decision is that for the first time in many years, all IDF units will maintain their regular operations and remain on full alert throughout the holiday.

As result of the unexpected decision, thousands of soldiers at various IDF headquarters and bases will have to report for duty as usual in order to allow their units to operate with no interruption.

IDF officials dismissed suggestions that the decision is related to operational circumstances or preparations for military maneuvers. The army said Chief of Staff Gantz made the call after asserting that he does not accept the notion of an army-wide Passover vacation.

However, IDF soldiers who received the news Tuesday could not be convinced that the timing of the decision was arbitrary.

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Environmental / Radiation

Reactor 2 radiation too high for access
73 sieverts laid to low water; dose too high even for robots

By MINORU MATSUTANI
Staff writer

Radiation inside the reactor 2 containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has reached a lethal 73 sieverts per hour and any attempt to send robots in will require them to have greater resistance than currently available, experts said Wednesday.

Exposure to 73 sieverts for a minute would cause nausea and seven minutes would cause death within a month , Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

The experts said the high radiation level is due to the shallow level of coolant water — 60 cm — in the containment vessel, which Tepco said in January was believed to be 4 meters deep. Tepco has only peeked inside the reactor 2 containment vessel. It has few clues as to the status of reactors 1 and 3, which also suffered meltdowns, because there is no access to their insides.

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Fukushima’s Radioactivity Found in California Kelp

Marla Cone
Environmental Health News

 

Kelp off Southern California was contaminated with short-lived radioisotopes a month after Japan’s Fukushima accident, a sign that the spilled radiation reached the state’s coastline, according to a new scientific study. Scientists tested giant kelp from the ocean off Orange County and other locations after the March, 2011 accident and detected radioactive iodine at peak concentrations 250-fold higher than levels found in West Coast kelp before the nuclear accident. “Basically we saw it in all the California kelp blades we sampled,” said biology professor Steven Manley of California State University, Long Beach. The radioactivity had no known effects on the giant kelp, or on fish and other marine life, and it was undetectable when the kelp was tested again a month later. Iodine 131 “has an eight-day half life so it’s pretty much all gone,” Manley said. “But this shows what happens half a world away does effect what happens here. I don’t think these levels are harmful but it’s better if we don’t have it at all.”

Kelp off Southern California was contaminated with short-lived radioisotopes a month after Japan’s Fukushima accident, a sign that the spilled radiation reached the state’s urban coastline, according to a new scientific study.

Scientists from California State University, Long Beach tested giant kelp collected in the ocean off Orange County and other locations after the March, 2011 accident, and detected radioactive iodine, which was released from the damaged nuclear reactor.

The largest concentration was about 250-fold higher than levels found in kelp before the accident.

“Basically we saw it in all the California kelp blades we sampled,” said Steven Manley, a Cal State Long Beach biology professor who specializes in kelp.

The radioactivity had no known effects on the giant kelp, or on fish and other marine life, and it was undetectable a month later.

Iodine 131 “has an eight-day half life so it’s pretty much all gone,” Manley said. “But this shows what happens half a world away does effect what happens here. I don’t think these levels are harmful but it’s better if we don’t have it at all.”

A year ago, Manley watched coverage of the tsunami and Fukushima accident and wondered what impact it might have on California’s marine life, particularly his favorite subject matter – kelp.

 

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Cyber Space

A News Corporation subsidiary company used a computer hacker to sabotage Sky TV’s biggest rival, BBC Panorama has reported.

NDS is accused of leaking information from On Digital which could be used to create counterfeit smart cards, giving people free access to paid for TV.

The Carlton and Granada owned company folded in 2002 following rebranding which saw it renamed ITV Digital.

An NDS statement denied the claims, calling them “simply not true”.

ITV Digital was first launched as On Digital and was set up as a rival to News Corporation’s Sky TV in 1998.

But the widespread availability of secret codes to reproduce the cards needed to access the service meant ITV Digital’s services could be accessed for free by pirates.

NDS response to BBC Panorama:

NDS is a global leader in the fight against pay-TV piracy, having repeatedly and successfully assisted law enforcement in that important effort.

Like most companies in the conditional access industry – and many law enforcement agencies – NDS uses industry contacts to track and catch both hackers and pirates. This is neither illegal nor unethical. And, to ensure that all activity remains completely within legal bounds, NDS staff and their contacts operate under a clear code of conduct for operating undercover.

These allegations were the subject of a long-running court case in the United States. This concluded with NDS being totally vindicated and its accuser having to pay almost $19m in costs.

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Dominican judge sends 4 suspected Anonymous hackers to jail for 3 months; no charges filed

By Associated Press,

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A judge in the Dominican Republic has ordered four suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement held in jail for three months during an investigation of their activities.

No charges have been filed, but the Dominican legal system allows for preventive detention.

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Hacker declared fit to stand trial in US court

Gary McKinnon is almost certain to be extradited to the US after a psychiatrist declared him fit to be sent abroad, despite the same doctor having said three years ago that the computer hacker was too great a suicide risk to be handed to American authorities.

A report into Mr McKinnon’s health, ordered by the Home Secretary Theresa May to aid her decision on whether to allow the extradition to go ahead, has classed Mr McKinnon as merely a “moderate” threat to his own life, according to Channel 4 News.

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MasterCard, Visa confirm credit card data theft described as ‘massive’

By Bob Sullivan

Law enforcement officials are investigating what appears to be a massive theft of U.S. consumers’ credit card data, MasterCard and Visa confirmed Friday. The computer security expert who first reported the theft said it might involve as many as 10 million accounts, making it one of the largest known credit card heists.

“MasterCard is currently investigating a potential account data compromise event of a U.S.-based entity and, as a result, we have alerted payment card issuers regarding certain MasterCard accounts that are potentially at risk,” that association said in a statement. “Law enforcement has been notified of this matter and the incident is currently the subject of an ongoing forensic review by an independent data security organization.”

Payment processor Global Payments said late Friday it was the target of the hack.

In a statement, the firm said it “identified and self-reported unauthorized access into a portion of its processing system.” Earlier Friday, trading in Global Payments stock had been halted.

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Articles of Interest

UK queen accused of drug trafficking

Britain’s financial regulator has fined the British queen’s bank for money laundering failures as a French presidential candidate has said part of the queen’s fortune “comes from drug trafficking.”

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined the British queen’s bank, Coutts Bank, 8.75 million pounds for failing to carry out correct checks on “politically exposed persons” and prevent money laundering.

“The failings at Coutts were serious, systemic and were allowed to persist for almost three years. They resulted in an unacceptable risk of Coutts handling the proceeds of crime,” the FSA said in a statement posted on its official website.

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The Department Of Homeland Security Is Buying 450 Million New Bullets

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office is getting an “indefinite delivery” of an “indefinite quantity” of .40 caliber ammunition from defense contractor ATK.

U.S. agents will receive a maximum of 450 million rounds over five years, according to a press release on the deal.

The high performance HST bullets are designed for law enforcement and ATK says they offer “optimum penetration for terminal performance.”

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