Monday May 15th, 2017

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

Updated hrs

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
Global Cyberattack Spreds as Experts Try to Limit Damage
Companies and organizations worked through the weekend to contain WannaCry ransomware
          The cyberattack monitoring team at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul on Monday.

Governments and companies reported Monday more infected computers stemming from a global cyberattack that wreaked havoc through the weekend, as IT departments around the world kicked off a fourth day trying to determine the scope of damage and recover from it.

The cyberattack hit businesses, hospitals and government agencies in at least 150 countries. Early Monday, governments and companies in Asia, including Japanese conglomerate Hitachi Ltd. and a chain of movie-theaters in South Korea, disclosed new infections.
Asian Govts, Businesses Disrupted...
29,000 Chinese Institutions Hit...
MICROSOFT Claims Stolen U.S. Govt Code Fuels Attack...
Putin blames US

Now Democrats have no clear plan on health care

                 Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, displays a letter to Republicans about health care while speaking to the media last week We didn't lay out our exact specific plan," Mr. Schumer told reporters. "We laid out where we want to go." (Associated Press)

For six years, Democrats taunted Republicans for holding dozens of votes to repeal Obamacare without rallying around a legislative alternative, while Republicans saw little need to craft and vote on a plan that President Obama would kill with his veto pen.

Yet now it’s Democrats who enter the debate without a clear plan, left to defend a law that has fallen far short of its goals and was shedding insurers and failing to win over customers even before President Trump took office.

Though they say they will help solve the problems plaguing the law, Democrats have yet to settle on an alternative to the Republicans’ repeal. Some say there is no need to bother right now, while others said it would be nice to try.

Judge pleads guilty in massive Social Security fraud case

An administrative judge involved in one of the biggest Social Security frauds in history pleaded guilty Friday, admitting that he helped scam the federal government out of potentially more than half a billion dollars in bogus disability payments.

David B. Daugherty, a former administrative law judge, approved at least 3,149 disability cases filed by a single lawyer in eastern Kentucky. More than 1,700 of those have been deemed fraudulent by government investigators, obligating the government to pay out more than $550 million in lifetime benefits.

Daugherty pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving illegal gratuities. The charge is similar to bribery, though the payoff is made after the fact, not before.

Putin warns agains 'intimidating' North Korea after latest missile launch

Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned North Korea's latest missile launch as "dangerous" but warned against "intimidating" Pyongyang.

Speaking in China, Putin called for a peaceful solution to the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula, Russia's Sputnik news agency reported.

"I would like to confirm that we are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states, including through the Korean Peninsula," Putin told reporters. "We are against it and consider it counterproductive, damaging, dangerous," he said.

'Blue slips' give Democrats power over Trump's court nominees

President Trump hopes to have the rest of his first slate of federal appeals court judges seated by June, but his advisers increasingly are worried that Democrats may use an obscure tactic to try to block some of them through what is called a “soft filibuster.”

Senators traditionally are given the courtesy of a say in nominees from their states through a practice known as the “blue slip.” An unreturned blue slip can sink a nomination.

Left without the power to block judges via a floor filibuster, Democrats are trying to figure out how far they can push the blue slip process to block at least some of the president’s conservative legal minds.

Supreme Court declines to revive North Carolina's voter ID law

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a case seeking to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law, letting a lower court’s ruling blocking the law remain in place.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts, in an unusual move, issued a statement saying the court’s refusal to hear the case should not be taken as an indication of how the justices felt about the actual merits. Instead, he suggested, it was unclear who the parties were in the case anymore, because of a change in the state’s leadership.

“Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this Court under North Carolina law, it is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘[t]he denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case,’” the chief justice wrote.

Trump aims to tighten ties with Saudi Arabia on his first official stop overseas

President Trump’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia is a clear sign that the White House is allying itself with Riyadh, as regional power plays between the kingdom and Iran continue to polarize the Middle East.

Making Saudi Arabia his first overseas visit as president, Mr. Trump is breaking with recent White House tradition of the inaugural trip being in the Americas or to one of Washington’s European allies. Critics claim the visit is designed to offset anti-Muslim rhetoric that played so heavily into Mr. Trump’s election campaign and fueled two hamstrung efforts to institute a travel ban from several majority-Muslim countries.

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., praised the decision during a speech last week, telling a counterterrorism symposium at the Middle East Policy Council in Washington that it reinforces the solid diplomatic and national security ties between Washington and Riyadh going back decades.

Pentagon brass improperly interfered in Navy SEAL's sexual-assault case, retired admiral claims

           Retired Rear Adm. Patrick Lorge (U.S. Navy)

A retired admiral is accusing the highest levels of the Navy legal corps at the Pentagon of improperly interfering in the case of a decorated Navy SEAL convicted of sexual assault.

Retired Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge charges in a May 5 signed affidavit that the then-judge advocate general of the Navy and her deputy tried to persuade him not to exonerate the sailor because it would be bad public relations for the Navy and hurt Mr. Lorge’s career.

The extraordinary charges from Mr. Lorge go to the very top of the Navy legal system and throw into question whether a sailor can get a fair trial in the politically charged atmosphere of military sex assault cases.

Macron names Edouard Philippe as French Prime Minister

French President Emmanuel Macron has named Edouard Philippe, the 46-year-old Mayor of Le Havre, as his Prime Minister.

Philippe is a member of the center-right Les Républicains party and is close to Alaine Juppé, the former Prime Minister who endorsed Macron after he won the first round of the presidential election.

The choice of Philippe -- widely predicted by political pundits -- indicates Macron's desire to draw support from the conservative opposition and create balance, according to Emmanuelle Schön-Quinlivan, lecturer in European politics at University College, Cork, in Ireland.

'Frustrated' Trump Mulling Staff Shakeup?

President Donald Trump is "irritated," "frustrated, and angry" and considering a "huge reboot" of his White House staff and Cabinet, according to an Axios report.

"He's frustrated, and angry at everyone," a member of Trump's inner circle told Axios.

"Longtime friends and outside advisers" suggest President Trump is venting over a potential shakeup which "could take awhile," per the report.

"The advice he's getting is to go big — that he has nothing to lose," the source told Axious. "The question now is how big and how bold. I'm not sure he knows the answer to that yet."

Peace a la Putin

Russia, Iran and Turkey reorder the Middle East puzzle pieces

Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to be the best example of a nation whose military power is magnified beyond reality by the perceptions it workers deftly to create. Two examples of that deftness were displayed by a massive military parade last week and, the week before that, by Mr. Putin’s proposal to stop the war in Syria.

The Soviet-like Victory Day parade, celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany featured about 10,000 soldiers who paraded before a smiling Mr. Putin, as did reportedly 114 units of military equipment, including ballistic missiles and tanks.

The parade even included an element from the new “Yunarmia,” reportedly an organization of more than 30,000 school children nicknamed “Putin’s Youth Army,” strikingly similar to Komsomol, the Soviet equivalent. It was the sort of display of military might that would turn North Korea’s Kim Jong-un green with envy.

Why Macron's election is unlikely to save the EU

Good looks and passion can’t atone for the union’s disdain for accountability

The victory of France’s President-elect Emmanuel Macron is good news. If he stays true to his agenda, Mr. Macron’s reforms will stimulate hiring, investment and economic growth at home. Abroad, Mr. Macron will support NATO and the U.S.-led international order.

At least, that’s my take.

Others are toasting Mr. Macron’s victory for another reason: the European Union (EU). They believe he is the EU’s savior. The prize that unites western liberal elites, the EU is facing existential crises: debt, nationalism, Brexit. The future seems dark.

"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. 


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.


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 ( acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998 ( ).

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 ( ) 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…