Tag Archives: military

Harvard’s Chelsea Manning and Michelle Jones debacles reveal the university’s poor judgment.

Michael Morell, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, July 6, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Chelsea Manning is pictured in May 2017. Image: Slate Magazine

Harvard University, whose seal bears the motto “Veritas” (Latin for truth), is having a very bad week.

First, on Wednesday, the New York Times and the Marshall Project revealed the damning story of Michelle Jones, a convicted murderer recently released from prison after “a breathtaking feat of rehabilitation.” Jones, who is black and now 45, spent two decades behind bars in deep study of American history, earning a college degree and, last year, winning the Indiana Historical Society’s award for best research project. She applied to the Harvard history department’s Ph.D. program and was among the 18 students admitted from a pool of more than 300 applicants.

But then the graduate school’s brass—including its president, provost, and dean—took the unusual step of reversing the admission, “out of concern,” the Times reported, “that her background would cause a backlash among rejected applicants, conservative news outlets, or parents of students.”

Then on Friday came the news that Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was revoking a visiting fellowship that it had, only days earlier, granted to Chelsea Manning, the transgender Army private who had served one-fifth of a 35-year sentence for providing secrets to WikiLeaks. (In his final days, President Obama commuted her sentence after seven years in a military prison.

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Trump Wants to Slash All Research Funds—Except for Military

President Donald Trump’s budget would slash nearly one in four dollars spent on science research at federal agencies, affecting study of everything from faster airport screening to protecting people from earthquakes and storms, and investigating new drinking water contaminants.

Trump’s proposal targets every federal department for cuts – except the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs, where research funding would increase substantially.

Overall, Trump’s budget would eliminate more than $30.6 billion, or nearly 21 percent, of research and development funding in fiscal year 2018 compared with 2016, when the Obama administration budgeted $148.3 billion. Adjusted for inflation, those cuts would reach almost 24 percent.

The biggest loser would be the Environmental Protection Agency, which would surrender 46.3 percent, or $239 million, of its research and development funds. Five others also face double-digit blows: the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Interior, Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Details of the potential impacts on the federal government’s scientific and engineering research are outlined in a new Congressional Research Service report that analyzed 12 major federal departments and agencies, and compared them with fiscal year 2016, the latest year available for a governmentwide comparison.

Robert Cowin of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a research and advocacy group, said the report reveals a clear pattern of White House hostility to the government’s role in science on topics as critical as water supplies, space, oceans, renewable energy, diseases, weather and earthquakes.

“That’s troubling, given all the benefits that we’ve enjoyed from that (research),” Cowin said.

For instance, the budget would trim a third of the funding for Department of Homeland Security research into making airport security screening faster and less intrusive for passengers while also being better at spotting terrorists.

The biggest winner in Trump’s research budget, the Defense Department, would account for almost half of all federal research and development spending, according to the report. The $84.4 billion proposal represents an increase of more than 18 percent in the Pentagon’s research, which ranges from medical topics to destroying chemical weapons and disarming roadside bombs in combat zones.

The only other federal agency that would receive a boost is the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the Congressional Research Service. VA research, such as projects related to the treatment and rehabilitation of injured veterans, would increase by 11 percent, or $135 million. Trump’s budget tells the VA to prioritize suicide prevention, pain management and opioid addiction.

Single-digit cuts would be in store for the departments of Commerce (6.8 percent) and Homeland Security (3.1 percent), as well as NASA (3.1 percent). At NASA, money would be stripped from Earth science and climate change research, and the maintenance of an Earth-observing satellite already built and launched with taxpayer dollars.

At the EPA, nearly half of the funds would disappear for researching air pollution, water contaminants, chemical safety, climate change and other areas related to protecting the environment and human health. One target: “Strengthening the science for drinking water and water-quality standards and guidance for new and emerging contaminants that threaten human health and aquatic ecosystems.”

The Energy Department’s investigations into efficiency and renewable energy would take major hits under Trump’s plan to cut its research budget by almost 12 percent.

Research into the health of the oceans, including fisheries and marine mammals, as well as science related to climate change and weather, would be cut at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Facing a 25 percent cut in research funding, the Agriculture Department would see several labs closed, research programs slashed or eliminated, and no funding for several grants to colleges, including its Women and Minorities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program. The Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey would have about 30 percent less money to research earthquakes and land use changes, according to the report.

The report focused on just one Department of Health and Human Services program, the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest biomedical research funder, which would see a 21.5 percent decrease from 2017 under Trump’s budget, according to a report by the nongovernmental American Association for the Advancement of Science or AAAS.

So far, the House has rejected that, moving to increase NIH research money by 3.2 percent, according to the AAAS, signaling just one likely flashpoint in the fight ahead.

HHS Secretary Tom Price, whose department would lose 19 percent or $6.1 billion – the most research and development dollars of any in the government – said in May that Trump’s budget “outlines a clear path toward fiscal responsibility by creating efficiencies that both improve services and save money.” Even before action on the 2018 budget, Price has already eliminated the department’s funding for teen pregnancy prevention research.

Trump didn’t mention research and development or science in his budget message in May, but he said “we must scrutinize every dollar the federal government spends.”

“Just as families decide how to manage limited budgets, we must ensure the federal government spends precious taxpayer dollars only on our highest national priorities, and always in the most efficient, effective manner,” the president said.

For years, a cost-cutting Congress has been backing away from what had been a strong public commitment to innovation in energy, technology, health and the environment. Public investment in non-defense research and development has been essentially flat since 2004, except for a one-off boost from the 2009 stimulus act.

But the cuts in the Trump budget go far deeper than the belt-tightening Republicans in Congress have advocated.

In response, Congress is starting to push back, with House bills that contain more money than the president requested for specific programs, and Senate bills offering more than the House. At the EPA, for example, a House bill would reduce research by 14.4 percent rather than Trump’s 46.3 percent.

With the House and Senate recessed for August, Congress hasn’t agreed on a final budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

The AAAS says the congressional proposals risk violating statutory spending caps. The Budget Control Act of 2011, which President Barack Obama signed into law to resolve a federal debt standoff with Congress, requires annual cuts in discretionary spending through 2021. If cuts aren’t deep enough, that could trigger automatic, across-the-board cuts to all agencies.

To avoid that, Congress would have to reach a temporary deal to waive the caps, as it has done before.

“The bottom line is that much of what Congress has produced is not workable under current law,” Matt Hourihan, the AAAS research and development budget analysis director, wrote in another report on Aug. 1.

Energy research shows how Congress, while seeming generous compared with Trump, still would cut federal support in key areas. For example, Trump wants to reduce research funding for efficiency and renewables by nearly 70 percent from fiscal year 2017 levels, to $636 million, according to the AAAS. Some initiatives would be eliminated. In the House, that research funding would drop by 48 percent, to $1.086 billion. Even the Senate’s much larger figure, $1.937 billion, would be a 7.3 percent cut.

One of the smallest yet effective health research programs eliminated in Trump’s budget: the Fogarty International Center, which for 50 years has funded international health research. All $70 million for the center would disappear. The House, however, wants to keep the center alive, adding $3 million.

Without Fogarty’s support, some ongoing investigations in Peru, Brazil and Mexico into Zika, Chagas and dengue – diseases that are posing increased danger in the United States – would halt. Researchers say Fogarty, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, also has been vital in the fights against HIV and Ebola.

In an interview on the center’s website, Kenyan Dr. Ruth Nduati of the University of Nairobi, a former Fogarty trainee, said many people are alive today because of the U.S. funds.

“Fogarty has changed the face of HIV medicine,” she said.

By Randy Lee Loftis / Reveal

More Guns, Less Medicine: Trump’s Military Spending Binge Would Swamp Savings From Health Care Repeal

THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (CBO) released its analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Monday, finding that the Trump-backed House Republican bill that seeks to repeal and replace Obamacare would save the federal government $337 billion over 10 years — at the cost of throwing 24 million people off of health insurance coverage by 2026.

But those theoretical savings would be more than wiped out by an also theoretical increase in military spending that President Trump wants Congress to pass.

Shortly after the release of the CBO report, House Speaker Paul Ryan put out a statement embracing its findings, claiming among other things that it found that the AHCA would “dramatically reduce the deficit.”

Yet Ryan has offered no objections to Trump’s request for an additional $54 billion in annual military spending in this coming year. The increase alone amounts to 80 percent of Russia’s current military spending; it would make the United States responsible for almost 40 percent of global military expenditures.

Assuming that the Trump administration set the new amount as a baseline going forward, over 10 years it would amount to $540 billion in additional spending. This eclipses the $337 billion that would ostensibly be saved were the AHCA to pass in its current form and remain in place.

And the CBO also finds that the vast majority of savings from the law will come after 2020, when the Medicaid expansion is rolled back. In fact, it wold add $56 billion to the deficit in its first three years:

CBO2-1489445969

Congressional Budget Office

The reason the AHCA doesn’t save more is because it also includes a $600 billion tax cut, most of it aimed at benefiting wealthier taxpayers, by paring back taxes used to support the Affordable Care Act.

AHCA’s impact on the federal budget deficit is hardly the whole picture, of course. The CBO estimates that 14 million people would lose health insurance coverage in its first year. The cost of health insurance premiums would go up for many. The CBO notes, for example, that someone 64 years old earning $26,500 a year would see their net premiums increase from $1,700 annually to $14,600:

CBO-1489441955

Congressional Budget Office

President Trump can offer any number of justifications for hiking military spending while embracing a health care bill that would throw tens of millions off of health insurance. But he just can’t claim to care about the deficit.

By Zaid Jilani/TheIntercept

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Even the ‘most transparent administration in history’ failed to pardon Snowden

In February 2013, President Barack Obama hailed his administration as “the most transparent administration in history.” It was an echo of a 2008 promise, made first on the campaign trail and then enshrined in Presidential memoranda, to share with the world the otherwise opaque dealings of an executive office, to restore trust in public servants. It was a bold promise, and one ultimately hamstrung by the very nature of the office. The Presidency, in charge of a permanent national security apparatus that manages multiple wars and perpetual intelligence operations, is a host of secrets. No well-intentioned transparency from the top-down would ever provide a clear picture of that world.
Transparency would come to the intelligence community from inside. In June 2013, revelations about an NSA mass surveillance program named PRISM appeared first in the Guardian and then in the Washington Post. These stories, which would prove to be the first of dozens, were sourced from secret documents, obtained by a system administrator, working as a contractor for the NSA, named Edward Snowden.
For months, Snowden worked inside the security apparatus, compiling an archive of secrets. This trove is, as it can only be, an incomplete look at the inner workings of America’s intelligence community. After communicating his findings to several journalists, Snowden took leave from his job at the NSA, and then fled from his Hawaii home. First to Hong Kong, and then to Moscow, where he has remained in a state of asylum. While Snowden was in Hong Kong, the United States government charged him under the espionage act, for taking and transmitting secrets to an unauthorized person.
Revelations from the Snowden Files continue regularly, with some coming as recently as December 2016. Almost as long-running as Snowden’s revelations is the debate about what the government should do with Snowden himself. For those who see Snowden’s revelations as spurring needed reforms within the intelligence community, a pardon is the logical next step. The costs of the revelation, from burned assets to compromised missions, are high enough that others see a pardon for Snowden as not only impossible, but dangerous. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers and in so doing revealed to the American public the full scale of the Vietnam war, hailed Snowden and Chelsea Manning as kindred leakers, courageous in their actions.
Chelsea Manning, it’s worth noting, also leaked a trove of government secrets for publication. Unlike Snowden, Manning was arrested and is currently serving time in Fort Leavenworth prison, where she stated her intent to transition and was regularly subjected to long durations of solitary confinement. On Tuesday, Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. Manning’s 35-year sentence was reduced to time served, plus a few months, with Manning’s ultimate release scheduled for May 17, 2017.
From The New York Times:
At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also pardoned James E. Cartwright, the retired Marine general and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters to F.B.I. agents investigating a leak of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.

The two acts of clemency were a remarkable final step for a president whose administration carried out an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration has prosecuted either nine or 10 such cases, more than were charged under all previous presidencies combined.
Despite the many pardons and commutations late in his presidency, it appears that President Obama has made no effort to pardon Edward Snowden, and time has run out for him to do so. Obama entered his office in the middle of two wars, with a national security apparatus fighting a global war on terror on multiple continents. Despite pledges toward transparency and progress on some fronts, the weight of the Obama administration tilts toward secrecy. What the government does in the shadows we may never be privileged to know, until the government itself chooses to declassify it decades later. If Snowden hoped to encourage others to reveal secrets they felt should be public, then Obama’s refusal to pardon Snowden before handing his fate over to a Trump administration could create a chilling effect, discouraging whistleblowers through official or unofficial channels.
It is too early to say how history will judge Edward Snowden. It is, perhaps, fair to say that without Snowden, our version of history would be incomplete.

By Kelsey D. Atherton/PopularScience

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Saddam Hussein’s CIA Interrogator: He Should Have Been Left In Power

Image: Time Magazine

In 2003, I was part of the effort to find Saddam Hussein. I then became the first to debrief him after his capture that December. Prior to his incarceration, I heard over and over from counterparts in the military and the Bush administration that if we caught Saddam we would be able to nip the growing Iraqi insurgency in the bud.

When I interrogated Saddam, he told me: “You are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq.” When I told him I was curious why he felt that way, he replied: “You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.”

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Trump vows to end overseas ‘intervention & chaos,’ rebuild ‘depleted’ US military

Donald Trump has laid out a military policy which he says is aimed at ending “intervention and chaos” overseas. He promised to build up the “depleted” military, but said it would be done with prevention in mind, rather than aggression.
Speaking at the latest stop on his “thank you” tour of swing states, President-elect Donald Trump told a crowd in Fayetteville, North Carolina that he wants to “strengthen old friendships and seek out new friendships,” stressing that the US will “stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.”

“We don’t want to have a depleted military because we’re all over the place fighting in areas that we shouldn’t be fighting in. It’s not going to be depleted any longer,” he said during the Tuesday event.

He spoke of the need to spend money “on ourselves” rather than continuing to run up an extremely costly tab in the Middle East.

“We’ve spent, at last count, $6 trillion in the Middle East, and our roads have potholes all over, our highways are falling apart, our bridges are falling, our tunnels are no good, our airports are horrible like third world countries,” Trump said. “We’re going to start spending on ourselves, but we’ve got to be so strong militarily like we’ve never ever been before.”

Although Trump vowed to build up the “depleted” military, he said it would be done “not as an act of aggression, but as an act of prevention.”

“In short, we seek peace through strength,” he said.

He went on to stress that the focus of the US military should be on defeating terrorism and destroying Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), promising that the goal would be achieved under his administration.

Also on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama took a much different stance during his final national security speech, defending his legacy of fighting IS – despite continuous criticism by Trump.

“Today the results are clear,” Obama said, crediting the US-led coalition of countries battling IS, and claiming that it has lost more than half its territory and faces a dwindling recruitment effort.

Trump has been critical of Obama’s approach towards IS, claiming he is waging a “politically correct” war against the terrorist group, and criticizing his refusal to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” after the Orlando massacre.

The president-elect also accused Obama of being the “founder of ISIS” at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida rally in August.

“In fact, in many respects, you know, they honor President Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS, OK?” he said at the time.

Trump’s Tuesday comments were made during the latest stop of his “thank you” tour of swing states which were vital to his win. He will continue the tour in Iowa and Michigan later this week.

From/RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

House Pushes Ahead With $611 Billion Defense Policy Bill

Image: CBS Dallas

The Republican-led House is pushing ahead with a $611 billion defense policy bill that prohibits closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and forbids the Pentagon from trimming the number of military bases.

The annual policy bill also awards U.S. troops their largest pay raise in six years.

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