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TODAY
Tuesday January 28th, 2020

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf
 Providing an on line Triage of the news since 1997
World & Nation
Team Trump puts Hunter Biden, Obama on trial
              In this image from video, Eric Herschmann, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

President Trump’s defense team put Hunter Biden and former President Barack Obama on trial on Monday during the impeachment case in the Senate, questioning why Democrats weren’t outraged about Mr. Biden’s $3 million sweetheart deal with a Ukrainian gas company or Mr. Obama’s “caving” to Russia on missile defense.

Brushing past Democrats‘ renewed calls for former White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton to testify, the president’s attorneys essentially put Hunter Biden in the witness chair to show that Mr. Trump had plenty of reasons to urge Ukraine’s president to open a corruption probe of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son.



DOJ Refutes Bolton's Barr Claim: 'Grossly' Inaccurate

 
The Department of Justice said an alleged claim by former national security adviser John Bolton that Attorney General William Barr was concerned about "personal favors" President Donald Trump did for certain world leaders "grossly mischaracterizes" the situation.

Kerri Kupec, the DOJ's director of communications and public affairs, posted an official statement late Monday night that refuted what Bolton reportedly wrote in a manuscript for his book. The New York Times spoke with several people who have seen the draft and reported that Barr told Bolton last year he was worried about what Trump was doing for the leaders of Turkey and China.

"While the Department of Justice has not reviewed Mr. Bolton's transcript, The New York Times' account of this conversation grossly mischaracterizes what Attorney General Barr and Mr. Bolton discussed," the statement reads.




China silent amid growing doubts over coronavirus origins

            In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, center, speaks with medical workers at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. China on Monday expanded its sweeping efforts to contain a deadly virus, extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection. (Li Tao/Xinhua via AP)

China’s government stood silent Monday in the face of growing scientific reports that the source of the deadly Wuhan virus outbreak did not originate solely from a seafood market in the city.

President Xi Jinping faced mounting criticism on Chinese social media sites for failing to travel to the affected city in Hubei province. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang instead arrived in Wuhan on Monday and is heading efforts to confront the epidemic.

Wuhan’s mayor and the Communist Party secretary for the city of 11 million offered to resign amid criticism of their regional government’s mishandling of the deadly outbreak.



Supreme Court gives Trump go-ahead to deny immigrants who use welfare

              In this June 17, 2019, photo, The Supreme Court in Washington. A divided Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to put in place a policy connecting the use of public benefits with whether immigrants could become permanent residents. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) **FILE**

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Trump administration can move ahead with its “public charge” regulation that could block immigrants who wind up on the public dole from earning a pathway to citizenship.

It marks another significant victory for President Trump, giving him a tentative go-ahead on one of his key policies aimed at putting Americans’ needs first in the immigration system.

The 5-4 decision stays a lower court injunction, allowing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to move ahead with examining would-be immigrants’ history of access to public programs such as food stamps, many forms of Medicaid, public housing assistance, welfare cash payments and Supplemental Security Income benefits.



Sanders allies in new uproar over DNC convention appointments


Some Democratic National Committee (DNC) members and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are venting frustration at DNC Chairman Tom Perez over his initial appointments to the committees that will oversee the rules and party platform at the nominating convention in Milwaukee later this year.

Sanders’s allies are incensed by two names in particular: former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who will co-chair the rules committee, and Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman John Podesta, who will have a seat on that committee.

The Sanders campaign unsuccessfully sought to have Frank removed from the rules committee in 2016, describing him as an “aggressive attack surrogate for the Clinton campaign.”

And Podesta, a longtime Washington political consultant and Clinton confidant, is viewed with contempt by some on the left.



Pentagon Expands Hypersonic Missiles Program


The Pentagon plans a "very aggressive" expansion of its hypersonic weapons efforts this year, with at least four initial flight tests of prototypes for glide bombs that can fly five times the speed of sound and maneuver en route, officials said.

A new Hypersonics Transition Office that Congress funded this year will also bankroll a university consortium to conduct advanced research into the weapons and develop a workforce for the new technology, the officials said.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that the next Pentagon budget proposal will increase funding beyond the $5 billion provided in this year's five-year budget plan for the technology that he called a key part of the "great-power competition" with China.



Kobe Chopper Had Fog OK but Was Too Low to Monitor

 
The pilot of Kobe Bryant's ill-fated helicopter was flying too low to be monitored in fog, audio records of conversations with air traffic controllers show.

The fog, and how the pilot and air traffic controllers reacted to it, came under scrutiny on Monday, as fans, friends and family of the NBA superstar confronted the reality that the charismatic 41-year-old and his 13-year-old daughter were among the nine people on board who died.

The Sikorsky S-76 chopper slammed into a steep hillside outside the town of Calabasas, California, about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, igniting a brush fire and spreading debris over a quarter-acre (1,000 square meters) of grassy terrain.
Bryant, who won five NBA championships in his 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, was known since his playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los Angeles area's glacial traffic.



Think Bolton is bad? Beware of Graham and Pompeo


Former Trump National Security Adviser John R. Bolton is stabbing the president and the presidency itself in the back by publishing a tell-all book before the November elections.

As much for personal and ideological revenge as for making piles of money, Mr. Bolton chose to relay what he claims President Trump said in what Mr. Trump meant to be completely private conversations with his national security adviser.

A president who can’t trust his national security adviser is vulnerable to deception.

A national security adviser who can’t be trusted is a threat to the republic. Mr. Bolton’s deed brings no dignity to himself or to the republic.



U.S. election campaigns resemble endless wars


I love Ireland for its natural beauty, its people, its food (some of it), its music, its writers and especially its elections, which are shorter, less costly and designed to engage citizens and boost voter turnout.

On Jan. 14, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called a general election for Feb. 8. That means a campaign of slightly more than three weeks. In the process, the Irish Parliament was dissolved. What a delightful thought. If only the U.S. Congress could be at least occasionally dissolved. It could use some dissolving, or at least disinfecting, after the toxic impeachment and trial of President Trump.

Unlike Irish politics, U.S. election campaigns increasingly resemble endless wars. Like those wars, campaigns cost too much and never seem to resolve the conflict.


" 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.


From the Archives

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 ll target information from the Eurv opean 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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