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TODAY
Monday March 27th, 2017

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metctalf

Updated hrs PT           
              


World & National 
"The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people."
-- Justice Hugo L. Black
(1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice
Kushner tapped to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas
            

President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.
Kushner offers to meet with Senate Intel Committee


Obamacare remains the law of the land.

But it is still vulnerable


House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) decision to pull legislation to reconfigure the nation’s health-care system is a major setback to President Trump and the GOP. For seven years, Republicans promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. Their failure to deliver on this promise exposes intraparty divisions that will not be easily healed.

But there is more to the story than just the GOP’s prospects as a governing majority. The failure of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) has three broader lessons as well.



Pressure on health secretary after ditched vote on Obamacare repeal

Price can only make small plan changes
                 After a loss in his bid to overturn Obamacare, President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price are hoping to move on to a second phase, stripping a provision requiring insurers to pay for mental health and maternity care. (Associated Press)

With health care stalled on Capitol Hill, the pressure now shifts to President Trump and new Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price, who will have to manage a law Republicans say is failing on its own — without giving Democrats more ammunition to say it was the GOP that killed it.

Rather than face a roll call they were going to lose, House GOP leaders called off a vote Friday that was supposed to be phase one of a three-pronged plan to repeal and replace Obamacare’s heavy mandates with free market reforms.

Without the repeal, however, phase two — a series of executive actions designed to chip away at Obamacare’s expansive reach — is much more difficult, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters just minutes after the GOP bill collapsed Friday.



Trump moves ahead with plans for tax cuts

Democrats to dig in against massive code rewrite

President Trump is leaving behind the failed health care bill and forging ahead with plans for massive tax cuts, but the same forces that doomed the repeal of Obamacare — united opposition from Democrats and divided Republicans — threaten the rest of his ambitious agenda.

Doubts about Mr. Trump’s ability to cut political deals and whether he has willing partners on either side of the aisle have clouded the outlook for not just tax cuts but also his plans for a massive infrastructure program, trade deals and financial reform.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer signaled Sunday that Democrats would dig in against Mr. Trump’s plans for the biggest rewrite of the tax code in a generation if, as expected, the across-the-board rate cuts include the wealthy.  “They don’t need another tax break,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”



Sergeant faces discharge over bin Laden raid intel that Obama made public in 2011

Obama publicly touted bin Laden raid squad
              Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch was punished for emailing his superiors about a possible leak.

The Army is booting out a 13-year public affairs sergeant for including in an unclassified government email the same information about a special operations unit and Osama bin Laden found on Army.mil web pages.

The irony in the narrative of Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch is that his motive was to keep classified material away from public view.

His disclosure in a private Army email is also the same information as told by his commander in chief, Barack Obama, in May 2011 when the president visited Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to personally thank the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), or “Night Stalkers,” for its critical role in killing al Qaeda leader Osamabin Laden.

And the transgression of Sgt. Branch, 34, is on its face far less serious than that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who faced no punishment for keeping classified data on her personal unsecured server.



Gorsuch nomination 'almost certainly' will require GOP 'nuclear' option


Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware predicted Monday that Republicans will “almost certainly” have to resort to the “nuclear” option to approve the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held four days of hearings on the Gorsuch nomination, doesn’t envision Democrats crossing party lines to vote in favor of President Trump’s nominee.

Mr. Coons said lingering divisions between the two parties have poisoned the debate over Judge Gorsuch.



Ted Poe, Freedom Caucus defector

We can't keep saying 'no'


Rep. Ted Poe said Monday the reluctance of the House Freedom Caucus to agree to a compromise on a health care bill convinced him it was time to sever ties with the group, arguing they are getting in the way of progress.

The Texas Republican said members of the very conservative group refused to support the health care overhaul that President Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan failed to push through the House because it was not the “perfect pure bill that they wanted.”

“If they had that, then they would have lost other members of the Republican Party,” Mr. Poe said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “So compromise is something you’ve got to do when you are in power.”



Pentagon enjoying greater leeway under Trump

The Pentagon under President Donald Trump is enjoying greater freedom to run its wars the way it wants -- and not constantly seek White House approval on important decisions.

Many in the military appreciate this increased autonomy, but critics charge it is raising civilian death rates, puts the lives of US troops at greater risk and leads to a lack of oversight of America's conflicts.

Nowhere has the shift been more visible than in the fight against the Islamic State group in northern Syria, where under Barack Obama even minor tweaks to US plans underwent exhaustive White House scrutiny.



McCain: Warns New World Order Under Enormous Strain

The world "cries out for American and European leadership" through the EU and Nato, US senator John McCain said on Friday (24 March).

In a "new world order under enormous strain" and in "the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can't stand by and lament, we've got to be involved," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who is now chairman of the armed services committee in the US Senate.

Speaking at the Brussels Forum, a conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, he said that the EU and the US needed to develop "more cooperation, more connectivity".

"I trust the EU," he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK "was so smart in getting out" of the EU and that Nato was "obsolete".



Conservatives set sights on Ryan after failure to repeal Obamacare

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is taking most of the heat for the failure of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill last week, with several conservative voices calling for him to resign for the good of President Trump’s agenda.

And, in a bizarre twist, Mr. Trump himself may have inadvertently fanned the anti-Ryan voices when he urged viewers to tune in to Fox News’ “Justice With Judge Jeanine” program Saturday. Jeanine Pirro then kicked off her program with a fierce monologue demanding that Mr. Ryan quit.

Ms. Pirro insisted Mr. Trump didn’t know she was going to do that, but White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday that Mr. Trump wasn’t sending any signals and retains full confidence in Mr. Ryan.

“He doesn’t blame Paul Ryan. In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard. He enjoys his relationship with Paul Ryan, thinks that Paul Ryan is a great speaker of the House,” Mr. Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.”



The North Korean war scare
The United States must not dismiss Kim Jong-un’s threats as mere bluster

In 2015 the Intelligence Community declassified The 1983 Soviet “War Scare” — the definitive report by the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board on how and why the USSR nearly launched a preemptive nuclear strike during the NATO theater nuclear exercise ABLE ARCHER-83, held in November 1983.

For months prior to ABLE ARCHER-83, Moscow warned vociferously that deploying U.S. missiles to European NATO would result in World War III.

Washington dismissed Soviet threats as “bluster” to frighten NATO into non-deployment of these first theater nuclear missiles with range to reach Moscow. After all, Soviet SS-20 missiles posed a far greater threat to NATO.



Resetting U.S.-Saudi relations

The Saudi prince’s White House visit underscored the nations’ strong alliance

Saudi Arabia is looking forward to a resumption of strong and friendly relations with the U.S. following the recent visit of Saudi Deputy Crown Prince bin Salman with President Trump at the White House.

Relations between the two nations — whose economies are closely linked — have cooled over the past eight years. This period has coincided with the rise of Iran-backed terror in the Middle East and Gulf regions, even as Washington has worked to normalize relations with the brutal Tehran regime.

Now, it appears once again that the interests of the two countries align, as they have for much of our shared history.


"It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright


Medal of Honor
Army Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

Citation

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.



3/14/20017

We Have Met the Enemy…

      
Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
              
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
              
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even the New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/opinion/the-truth-about-the-wikileaks-cia-cache.html?_r=0) acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998 (http://www.wnd.com/1998/04/6108/ ).

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA treaty (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukusa/ ) signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional ‘Patriot Act’.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…


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