Friday, February 28, 2014

NSA robots are 'collecting' your data, too, and they're getting away with it

Yahoo webcam users are the latest victims of agency eavesdropping – and whether it’s done by human or algorithm, it’s still eavesdropping
• Revealed: UK spy agency intercepted Yahoo webcam images
nsa computer 01

NSA assisted the UK spy agency GCHQ in collecting millions of images from Yahoo webcams. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters
Increasingly, we are watched not by people but by algorithms. Amazon and Netflix track the books we buy and the movies we stream, and suggest other books and movies based on our habits. Google and Facebook watch what we do and what we say, and show us advertisements based on our behavior. Google even modifies our web search results based on our previous behavior. Smartphone navigation apps watch us as we drive, and update suggested route information based on traffic congestion. And the National Security Agency, of course, monitors our phone calls, emails and locations, then uses that information to try to identify terrorists.

Documents provided by Edwards Snowden and revealed by the Guardian today show that the UK spy agency GHCQ, with help from the NSA, has been collecting millions of webcam images from innocent Yahoo users. And that speaks to a key distinction in the age of algorithmic surveillance: is it really okay for a computer to monitor you online, and for that data collection and analysis only to count as a potential privacy invasion when a person sees it? I say it’s not, and the latest Snowden leaks only make more clear how important this distinction is.

The robots-vs-spies divide is especially important as we decide what to do about NSA and GCHQ surveillance. The spy community and the Justice Department have reported back early on President Obama’s request for changing how the NSA “collects” your data, but the potential reforms - FBI monitoring, holding on to your phone records and more - still largely depend on what the meaning of “collects” is.

Indeed, ever since Snowden provided reporters with a trove of top secret documents, we’ve been subjected to all sorts of NSA word games. And the word “collect” has a very special definition, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). A 1982 procedures manual (pdf; page 15) says: “information shall be considered as ‘collected’ only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties.” And “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form”.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper likened the NSA’s accumulation of data to a library. All those books are stored on the shelves, but very few are actually read. “So the task for us in the interest of preserving security and preserving civil liberties and privacy,” says Clapper, “is to be as precise as we possibly can be when we go in that library and look for the books that we need to open up and actually read.” Only when an individual book is read does it count as “collection”, in government parlance.

So, think of that friend of yours who has thousands of books in his house. According to the NSA, he’s not actually “collecting” books. He’s doing something else with them, and the only books he can claim to have “collected” are the ones he’s actually read.

This is why Clapper claims – to this day – that he didn’t lie in a Senate hearing when he replied “no” to this question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

If the NSA collects - I’m using the everyday definition of the word here – all of the contents of everyone’s e-mail, it doesn’t count it as being collected in NSA terms until someone reads it. And if it collects – I’m sorry, but that’s really the correct word - everyone’s phone records or location information and stores it in an enormous database, that doesn’t count as being collected – NSA definition – until someone looks at it. If the agency uses computers to search those emails for keywords, or correlates that location information for relationships between people, it doesn’t count as collection, either. Only when those computers spit out a particular person has the data – in NSA terms – actually been collected.

If the modern spy dictionary has you confused, maybe dogs can help us understand why this legal workaround, by big tech companies and the government alike, is still a serious invasion of privacy.

Back when Gmail was introduced, this was Google’s defense, too, about its context-sensitive advertising. Googles computers examine each individual email and insert an advertisement nearby, related to the contents of your email. But no person at Google reads any Gmail messages; only a computer does. In the words of one Google executive: “Worrying about a computer reading your email is like worrying about your dog seeing you naked”.

But now that we have an example of a spy agency seeing people naked – there are a surprising number of sexually explicit images in the newly revealed Yahoo image collection – we can more viscerally understand the difference.

To wit: when you’re watched by a dog, you know that what you’re doing will go no further than the dog. The dog can’t remember the details of what you’ve done. The dog can’t tell anyone else. When you’re watched by a computer, that’s not true. You might be told that the computer isn’t saving a copy of the video, but you have no assurance that that’s true. You might be told that the computer won’t alert a person if it perceives something of interest, but you can’t know if that’s true. You do know that the computer is making decisions based on what it receives, and you have no way of confirming that no human being will access that decision.

When a computer stores your data, there’s always a risk of exposure. There’s the risk of accidental exposure, when some hacker or criminal breaks in and steals the data. There’s the risk of purposeful exposure, when the organization that has your data uses it in some manner. And there’s the risk that another organization will demand access to the data. The FBI can serve a National Security Letter on Google, demanding details on your email and browsing habits. There isn’t a court order in the world that can get that information out of your dog.

Of course, any time we’re judged by algorithms, there’s the potential for false positives. You are already familiar with this; just think of all the irrelevant advertisements you’ve been shown on the Internet, based on some algorithm misinterpreting your interests. In advertising, that’s okay. It’s annoying, but there’s little actual harm, and you were busy reading your email anyway, right? But that harm increases as the accompanying judgments become more important: our credit ratings depend on algorithms; how were treated at airport security does, too. And most alarming of all, drone targeting is partly based on algorithmic surveillance.

The primary difference between a computer and a dog is that the computer interacts with other people in the real world, and the dog does not. If someone could isolate the computer in the same way a dog is isolated, we wouldn’t have any reason to worry about algorithms crawling around in our data. But we can’t. Computer algorithms are intimately tied to people. And when we think of computer algorithms surveilling us or analyzing our personal data, we need to think about the people behind those algorithms. Whether or not anyone actually looks at our data, the very fact that they even could is what makes it surveillance.

This is why Yahoo called GCHQ’s webcam-image collection “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”. This is why we’re not mollified by attempts from the UK equivalent of the NSA to apply facial recognition algorithms to the data, or to limit how many people viewed the sexually explicit images. This is why Google’s eavesdropping is different than a dog’s eavesdropping, and why the NSA’s definition of “collect” makes no sense whatsoever.

British intelligence controlled UK Nazi network to obtain top secret data

MI5 controlled a UK-based Nazi organization aimed at undermining Britain’s war efforts. Nazi sympathizers thought that they were working in favor of Nazi Germany, though provided British Security Service with information. Documents published by the National Archive show that a vast network of traitor and "fifth columnists", who worked in favor of Germany, was secretly controlled by MI5. The Security Service also wanted to provide the organization with special badges that had to be worn during an emergency case.

The traitors considered these badges as a differential sign in case of German invasion. In fact, the badges helped the police to identify the members of the network. MI5 also wanted to use replica Iron Cross to prove the traitors that they were working for Nazi Germany.
The central figure of the MI5 operation was an agent, known as "Jack King". Initially, his mission was to penetrate Siemens Schuckert (GB) Lts, the British branch of the German industrial giant. The company was suspected of espionage in favor of Nazi Germany. Then, his mission changed after he met Marita Perigoe in 1942.
"She was found to be so violently anti-British and so anxious to do anything in her power to help the enemy that it was felt that special attention should be paid to her," MI5 said.
Marita Perigoe wasn’t a feminine and neurotic type, quite the contrary, she was somewhat masculine and masterful. Jack King succeeded in convincing her that he was a representative of Gestapo, loyal to the fatherland. He offered invisible ink to the network for secret communications.
Though the members of the organization were described as "semi-lunatic", the Security Service figured out that they could be dangerous.Thus, for example, Hilda Leech, who was described as "unstable and neurotic", was passing on reports, concerning highly secret research to develop a jet aircraft. Another member with similar description, Edgar Whitehead, was passing on information about secret trials on a new amphibious tank.
Released documents showed that MI5 tried to extend King’s network.
"It is proposed at a later stage to provide all members of the organization with badges, which will probably take the form of some innocuous object like the Union Jack, which they will be instructed to hide until orders are given from headquarters. From then onwards they will wear them. The object of this plan is to enable the police easily to identify members of this fifth column organization in time of emergency," a report says.
After the end of the war, the Security Service was shocked by the number of people, involved in the Nazi underground organizations in the UK. Some facts, written in the reports and the vivid light which they threw on the disloyal outlook of so many British subjects created doubts in some quarters as to the validity of the information or at least some of it.
However, it’s clear that a big part of this information can be relied on as substantially accurate. MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5) is the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS; also known as MI6) focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and Defense (DI).
Voice of Russia,

FBI Had Direct Link to Bin Laden—in 1993

Posted By Russ Baker On February 28, 2014 @ 1:45 pm In Fresh Takes,Security,Terrorism,World | 2 Comments
Capture [1]The FBI had a human source in direct contact with Osama bin Laden in 1993 and discovered that he was eager to finance terror attacks on the United States, according to little-noticed testimony in a court case several years back.
The testimony, just reported by the Washington Times [2], underlines how poorly we understand the degree to which the federal government was interacting with Osama bin Laden and monitoring the activities of a network that came to be widely known as Al Qaeda.
The information, which emerged during an obscure employment dispute case filed by an agent, was provided by Edward J. Curran, who had been a top official in the Bureau’s Los Angeles office. “It was the only source I know in the bureau where we had a source right in al Qaeda [3], directly involved,” Curran told a nearly empty courtroom in 2010.
The source was credible enough that the Bureau was able to use his information to prevent an attack on a Los Angeles Masonic temple at the time.
Several former lawmakers involved with 9/11 reviews told the newspaper they were unaware of the FBI-Al Qaeda connection.
“I think it raises a lot of questions about why that information didn’t become public and why the 9/11 Commission or the congressional intelligence committees weren’t told about it,” said former Rep. Peter Hoekstra [4] (R-MI), who chaired the House Permanent Select Committee [5] on Intelligence in the aftermath of the 9/11 report.
The Commission’s former executive director, Philip Zelikow, now a history professor at the University of Virginia, characterized the panel’s limited appetite for a long view of the events culminating on September 11, 2001. Of the 1993 time frame when the FBI apparently had its source into bin Laden’s outfit, he said,  “We did not delve as deeply in this period because it was so distant from the plotting that led directly to the 9/11 attack.”
The notion that what was happening in 1993 had little to do with the 2001 attacks, however, is questionable. It was in 1993 that plotters who had been trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan detonated a truck bomb beneath the North Tower of the World Trade Center in a plot that failed to bring the towers down. The alleged financier of that early attack, Khaled Sheikh Mohamed, is credited with coming up with the subsequent idea of crashing a plane [6] into CIA headquarters and later conceptualizing the 9/11 attacks for Al Qaeda. Furthermore, an FBI informant, Emad Salem [7], was deeply involved with the 1993 plotters while apprising his Bureau handlers.
FBI Hotline to Osama
According to Curran’s testimony, the agent developed a source who was connected to Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheik” credited with the 1993 Trade Center bombing. Even more significantly, the source went overseas and personally met with bin Laden. He was described as “very in tight, close,” to bin Laden’s leadership team.
While with bin Laden, the source learned that the Saudi had picked out a target for a bombing in the LA area—which is believed to have been a Masonic lodge. The FBI supervisor said the source also knew all about California-based cells.
The general thrust of Curran’s testimony was borne out by documents.
In a particularly revealing moment, Curran explained how the Al Qaeda source was pressured to cooperate, including by working with the source’s wife from an arranged marriage to first deport the source and then let him come back in return for betraying his comrades.
FBI Defaults to Not Remembering
The FBI, which has not in memory admitted to having withheld information from elected officials, predictably told The Washington Times that it could not document whether or not it had briefed the 9/11 Commission about the 1993 asset or plot. One question might be: Why not? Does it not keep records on briefings to government officials? The Times does not appear to have asked this of the Bureau, but did note its standard, highly qualified disclaimer, quoting Assistant Director Michael P. Kortan:
“The FBI [8] made all relevant information available to the 9/11 Commission and the joint intelligence community inquiry. Throughout both of these reviews, the FBI [8] shared pertinent documents and knowledgeable personnel in order to present all known information to commission and inquiry personnel.”
Of course, as Zelikow’s analysis underlines, words like “relevant” and “pertinent” are highly subjective and can be used to exclude crucial evidence that would fundamentally alter our understanding of major events.
In fact, the FBI clearly withheld the information about its Al Qaeda asset. Stephen Kohn, attorney for the FBI agent who filed the discrimination suit, Bassem Yousef, and who has represented numerous important FBI whistleblowers, said the information might never have come out through normal channels. Even his client did not reveal the Al Qaeda angle because it was classified—it only emerged in the legal proceedings.
“I was shocked when it came out, and I was frustrated because the FBI [8] had censored that information clearly to hide it from the public,” said Kohn, who has represented some of the FBI [8]’s most famous whistleblowers over the years.
“There was absolutely no reason for that to be kept secret,” he told The Washington Times. “In some respects, it was kind of demeaning for the FBI [8] because they had kept secret one of the most significant triumphs in the war on terror all so they wouldn’t have to give credit to Bassem [9] for the work he had done. As a result, none of the bureau got the credit it was due for what was a spectacular counterterrorism triumph.”
What Kohn seems to have missed—or perhaps could not say as it is not in his narrow purview as an attorney representing clients, is that it is hardly likely that the FBI withheld information about a source in Osama bin Laden’s inner circle and had to keep its successes quiet just to best one agent in a job dispute.
Indeed, had the FBI revealed what has only emerged now, everything would be different. For one thing, the 9/11 commission would not have been able to pooh-pooh notions that the 2001 attack had domestic roots going back years.
Growing Questions about the FBI
This is hardly the first instance in which the FBI has been involved in controversial or unexplained interactions with terrorists, alleged terrorists, or potential witnesses—and failed to properly brief elected officials with purported responsibility for providing oversight of security matters on behalf of the public. In addition to the harassment and shooting of potential Boston bombing case witnesses [10], there is the suppression of information about an FBI investigation into Saudi-9/11 ties [11] out of Florida, and of information concerning the targeting of Occupy movement leaders by snipers [12].
Former Congressman Hoekstra, clearly alarmed by the latest revelation, nonetheless resorted to pro forma, cautious language and failed to raise larger questions about the FBI and who is in control of the powerful agency. “This is just one more of these examples that will go into the conspiracy theorists’ notebooks, who say the authorities are not telling us everything,”  Hoekstra [4] told The Times. “That’s bad for the intelligence community. It’s bad for law enforcement and it’s bad for government.”
To be sure, though, it is difficult in this matter, as in others involving the Bureau, to sort out willfulness from incompetence.  Bassem’s discrimination case stemmed from the FBI blocking Bassem from his job as a top anti-terrorism officer because superiors worried that he was a Muslim of dubious loyalties. In fact, Bassem was and is Christian.
If the FBI truly did not know that, then it deserves a whole other level of scrutiny.

Article printed from WhoWhatWhy:
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[1] Image:
[2] Washington Times:
[3] al Qaeda:
[4] Rep. Peter Hoekstra:
[5] House Permanent Select Committee:
[6] crashing a plane:
[7] Emad Salem:
[8] FBI:
[9] Bassem:
[10] Boston bombing case witnesses:
[11] Saudi-9/11 ties:
[12] by snipers:

Monsanto’s Roundup Found in 75% of Air and Rain Samples


In recent years, Roundup was found to be even more toxic than it was when first approved for agricultural use, though that discovery has not led to any changes in regulation of the pesticide. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
A new U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that pesticides can be found in, well, just about anything.
Roundup herbicide, Monsanto’s flagship weed killer, was present in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples, according to the study, which focused on Mississippi’s highly fertile Delta agricultural region.
GreenMedInfo reports new research, soon to be published by Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry journal, discovered the traces over a 12-year span from 1995-2007.
In recent years, Roundup was found to be even more toxic than it was when first approved for agricultural use, though that discovery has not led to any changes in regulation of the pesticide. Moreover, Roundup’s overuse has enabled weeds and insects to build an immunity to its harsh toxins.
To deal with the immunity issue, Monsanto’s solution has been to spray more and stronger pesticides to eliminate the problem.
The health effects of Roundup are also hard to ignore as research has linked exposure to the pesticide to Parkinson’s disease and various cancers.
For instance, children in Argentina, where Roundup is used in high concentrations, struggle with health problems, with 80 percent showing signs of the toxins in their bloodstreams.
However, Roundup isn’t the only widespread threat to public health. The U.S. Geological Survey, along with others, have identified additional pesticides in the air and water that become more toxic as they mix and come in contact with people.
Spraying Roundup may have short-term economic benefits for Monsanto, but the potential long-term risks could present significant challenges to people in affected regions of the country.

The Federal Reserve’s Transcripts: The Greatest Propaganda Coup of Our Time?

The New York Times and the Fed's Transcripts


There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false.
The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category. The transcripts (1,865 pages) reveal the details of 14 emergency meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in 2008, when the financial crisis was at its peak and the Fed braintrust was deliberating on how best to prevent a full-blown meltdown. But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized.
What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time. They take advantage of the fact that people simply forget a lot of what happened during the crisis and, as a result, absolve the Fed of any accountability for what is likely the crime of the century. It’s an accomplishment that PR-pioneer Edward Bernays would have applauded. After all, it was Bernays who argued that the sheeple need to be constantly bamboozled to keep them in line. Here’s a clip from his magnum opus “Propaganda”:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
Sound familiar? My guess is that Bernays’ maxim probably features prominently in editors offices across the country where “manufacturing consent” is Job 1 and where no story so trivial that it can’t be spun in a way that serves the financial interests of the MSM’s constituents. (Should I say “clients”?) The Fed’s transcripts are just a particularly egregious example. Just look at the coverage in the New York Times and judge for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from an article titled “Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”:
“The hundreds of pages of transcripts, based on recordings made at the time, reveal the ignorance of Fed officials about economic conditions during the climactic months of the financial crisis. Officials repeatedly fretted about overstimulating the economy, only to realize time and again that they needed to redouble efforts to contain the crisis.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)
This quote is so misleading on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin.
First of all, the New York Times is the ideological wellspring of elite propaganda in the US. They set the tone and the others follow. That’s the way the system works. So it always pays to go to the source and try to figure out what really lies behind the words, that is, the motive behind the smokescreen of half-truths, distortions, and lies. How is the Times trying to bend perceptions and steer the public in their corporate-friendly direction, that’s the question. In this case, the Times wants its readers to believe that the Fed members “misread the crisis”; that they were ‘behind the curve’ and stressed-out, but–dad-gum-it–they were trying their level-best to make things work out for everybody.
How believable is that? Not very believable at all.
Keep in mind, the crisis had been going on for a full year before the discussions in these transcripts took place, so it’s not like the members were plopped in a room the day before Lehman blew up and had to decide what to do. No. They had plenty of time to figure out the lay of the land, get their bearings and do what was in the best interests of the country. Here’s more from the Times:
 ”My initial takeaway from these voluminous transcripts is that they paint a disturbing picture of a central bank that was in the dark about each looming disaster throughout 2008. That meant that the nation’s top bank regulators were unprepared to deal with the consequences of each new event.”
Have you ever read such nonsense in your life? Of course, the Fed knew what was going on. How could they NOT know? Their buddies on Wall Street were taking it in the stern sheets every time their dingy asset pile was downgraded which was every damn day. It was costing them a bundle which means they were probably on the phone 24-7 to (Treasury Secretary) Henry Paulson whining for help. “You gotta give us a hand here, Hank. The whole Street is going toes-up. Please.”
Here’s more from the NYT:
“Some Fed officials have argued that the Fed was blind in 2008 because it relied, like everyone else, on a standard set of economic indicators. As late as August 2008, “there were no clear signs that many financial firms were about to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Bullard said in a November presentation in Arkansas that the St. Louis Fed recirculated on Friday. “There was a reasonable case that the U.S. could continue to ‘muddle through.’ (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)
There’s that same refrain again, “Blind”, “In the dark”, “Behind the curve”, “Misread the crisis”.
Notice how the Times only invokes terminology that implies the Fed is blameless. But it’s all baloney. Everyone knew what was going on. Check out this excerpt from a post by Nouriel Roubini that was written nearly a full year before Lehman failed:
“The United States has now effectively entered into a serious and painful recession. The debate is not anymore on whether the economy will experience a soft landing or a hard landing; it is rather on how hard the hard landing recession will be. The factors that make the recession inevitable include the nation’s worst-ever housing recession, which is still getting worse; a severe liquidity and credit crunch in financial markets that is getting worse than when it started last summer; high oil and gasoline prices; falling capital spending by the corporate sector; a slackening labor market where few jobs are being created and the unemployment rate is sharply up; and shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened American consumers who — thanks to falling home prices — can no longer use their homes as ATM machines to allow them to spend more than their income. As private consumption in the US is over 70% of GDP the US consumer now retrenching and cutting spending ensures that a recession is now underway.
On top of this recession there are now serious risks of a systemic financial crisis in the US as the financial losses are spreading from subprime to near prime and prime mortgages, consumer debt (credit cards, auto loans, student loans), commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans and postponed/restructured/canceled LBO and, soon enough, sharply rising default rates on corporate bonds that will lead to a second round of large losses in credit default swaps. The total of all of these financial losses could be above $1 trillion thus triggering a massive credit crunch and a systemic financial sector crisis.” ( Nouriel Roubini Global EconoMonitor)
Roubini didn’t have some secret source for data that wasn’t available to the Fed. The financial system was collapsing and it had been collapsing for a full year. Everyone who followed the markets knew it. Hell, the Fed had already opened its Discount Window and the Term Auction Facility (TAF) in 2007 to prop up the ailing banks–something they’d never done before– so they certainly knew the system was cratering. So, why’s the Times prattling this silly fairytale that “the Fed was in the dark” in 2008?
I’ll tell you why: It’s because this whole transcript business is a big, freaking whitewash to absolve the shysters at the Fed of any legal accountability, that’s why. That’s why they’re stitching together this comical fable that the Fed was simply an innocent victim of circumstances beyond its control. And that’s why they want to focus attention on the members of the FOMC quibbling over meaningless technicalities –like non-existent inflation or interest rates–so people think they’re just kind-hearted buffoons who bumbled-along as best as they could. It’s all designed to deflect blame.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these conversations didn’t happen. They did, at least I think they did. I just think that the revisionist media is being employed to spin the facts in a way that minimizes the culpability of the central bank in its dodgy, collaborationist engineering of the bailouts. (You don’t hear the Times talking about Hank Paulson’s 50 or 60 phone calls to G-Sax headquarters in the week before Lehman kicked the bucket, do you? But, that’s where a real reporter would look for the truth.)
The purpose of the NYT article is to create plausible deniability for the perpetrators of the biggest ripoff in world history, a ripoff which continues to this very day since the same policies are in place, the same thieving fraudsters are being protected from prosecution, and the same boundless chasm of private debt is being concealed through accounting flim-flam to prevent losses to the insatiable bondholders who have the country by the balls and who set policy on everything from capital requirements on complex derivatives to toppling democratically-elected governments in Ukraine. These are the big money guys behind the vacillating-hologram poseurs like Obama and Bernanke, who are nothing more than kowtowing sock puppets who jump whenever they’re told. Here’s more bunkum from the Gray Lady:
 ”By early March, the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.
Financial firms, particularly in the mortgage business, were beginning to fail because they could not borrow money. Investors had lost confidence in their ability to predict which loans would be repaid. Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, sold itself for a relative pittance to Bank of America. Bear Stearns, one of the largest packagers and sellers of mortgage-backed securities, was teetering toward collapse.
On March 7, the Fed offered companies up to $200 billion in funding. Three days later, Mr. Bernanke secured the Fed policy-making committee’s approval to double that amount to $400 billion, telling his colleagues, “We live in a very special time.”
Finally, on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)
This part deserves a little more explanation. The author says “the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.” Uh, yeah; because the whole flimsy house of cards came crashing down when investors figured out Wall Street was peddling toxic assets. So the money dried up. No one buys crap assets after they find out they’re crap; it’s a simple fact of life. The Times makes this sound like this was some kind of unavoidable natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tornado. It wasn’t. It was a crime, a crime for which no one has been indicted or sent to prison. That might have been worth mentioning, don’t you think?
More from the NYT: “…on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.”
Yipee! Free money for all the crooks who blew up the financial system and plunged the economy into recession. The Fed assumed blatantly-illegal powers it was never provided under its charter and used them to reward the people who were responsible for the crash, namely, the Fed’s moneybags constituents on Wall Street. It was a straightforward transfer of wealth to the Bank Mafia. Don’t you think the author should have mentioned something about that, just for the sake of context, maybe?
Again, the Times wants us to believe that the men who made these extraordinary decisions were just ordinary guys like you and me trying to muddle through a rough patch doing the best they could.
Right. I mean, c’mon, this is some pretty impressive propaganda, don’t you think? It takes a real talent to come up with this stuff, which is why most of these NYT guys probably got their sheepskin at Harvard or Yale, the establishment’s petri-dish for serial liars.
By September 2008, Bernanke and Paulson knew the game was over. The crisis had been raging for more than a year and the nation’s biggest banks were broke. (Bernanke even admitted as much in testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2011 when he said “only one ….out of maybe the 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States…was not at serious risk of failure within a period of a week or two.” He knew the banks were busted, and so did Paulson.) Their only chance to save their buddies was a Hail Mary pass in the form of Lehman Brothers. In other words, they had to create a “Financial 9-11″, a big enough crisis to blackmail congress into $700 no-strings-attached bailout called the TARP. And it worked too. They pushed Lehman to its death, scared the bejesus out of congress, and walked away with 700 billion smackers for their shifty gangster friends on Wall Street. Chalk up one for Hank and Bennie.
The only good thing to emerge from the Fed’s transcripts is that it proves that the people who’ve been saying all along that Lehman was deliberately snuffed-out in order to swindle money out of congress were right. Here’s how economist Dean Baker summed it up the other day on his blog:
“Gretchen Morgensen (NYT financial reporter) picks up an important point in the Fed transcripts from 2008. The discussion around the decision to allow Lehman to go bankrupt makes it very clear that it was a decision. In other words the Fed did not rescue Lehman because it chose not to.
This is important because the key regulators involved in this decision, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, have been allowed to rewrite history and claim that they didn’t rescue Lehman because they lacked the legal authority to rescue it. This is transparent tripe, which should be evident to any knowledgeable observer.” (“The Decision to Let Lehman Fail”, Dean Baker, CEPR)
Here’s the quote from Morgenson’s piece to which Baker is alluding:
“In public statements since that time, the Fed has maintained that the government didn’t have the tools to save Lehman. These documents appear to tell a different story. Some comments made at the Sept. 16 meeting, directly after Lehman filed for bankruptcy, indicate that letting Lehman fail was more of a policy decision than a passive one.” (“A New Light on Regulators in the Dark”, Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times)
Ah ha! So it was a planned demolition after all. At least that’s settled.
Here’s something else you’ll want to know: It was always within Bernanke’s power to stop the bank run and end to the panic, but if he relieved the pressure in the markets too soon (he figured), then Congress wouldn’t cave in to his demands and approve the TARP. Because, at the time, a solid majority of Republicans and Democrats in congress were adamantly opposed to the TARP and even voted it down on the first ballot. Here’s a clip from a speech by, Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in September 2008 which sums up the grassroots opposition to the bailouts:
“The $700 bailout bill is being driven by fear not fact. This is too much money, in too short of time, going to too few people, while too many questions remain unanswered. Why aren’t we having hearings…Why aren’t we considering any other alternatives other than giving $700 billion to Wall Street? Why aren’t we passing new laws to stop the speculation which triggered this? Why aren’t we putting up new regulatory structures to protect the investors? Why aren’t we directly helping homeowners with their debt burdens? Why aren’t we helping American families faced with bankruptcy? Isn’t time for fundamental change to our debt-based monetary system so we can free ourselves from the manipulation of the Federal Reserve and the banks? Is this the US Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”
But despite overwhelming public resistance, the TARP was pushed through and Wall Street prevailed. mainly by sabotaging the democratic process the way they always do when it doesn’t suit their objectives.)
Of course, as we said earlier, Bernanke never really needed the money from TARP to stop the panic anyway. (Not one penny of the $700 bil was used to shore up the money markets or commercial paper markets where the bank run took place.) All Bernanke needed to do was to provide backstops for those two markets and, Voila, the problem was solved. Here’s Dean Baker with the details:
“Bernanke deliberately misled Congress to help pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He told them that the commercial paper market was shutting down, raising the prospect that most of corporate America would be unable to get the short-term credit needed to meet its payroll and pay other bills. Bernanke neglected to mention that he could singlehandedly keep the commercial paper market operating by setting up a special Fed lending facility for this purpose. He announced the establishment of a lending facility to buy commercial paper the weekend after Congress approved TARP.” (“Ben Bernanke; Wall Street’s Servant”, Dean Baker, Guardian)
So, there you have it. The American people were fleeced in broad daylight by the same dissembling cutthroats the NYT is now trying to characterize as well-meaning bunglers who were just trying to save the country from another Great Depression.
I could be wrong, but I think we’ve reached Peak Propaganda on this one.
(Note: By “good” propaganda, I mean “effective” propaganda. From an ethical point of view, propaganda can never be good because its objective is to intentionally mislead people…..which is bad.)

The Queen of England Deals Extensively in $17 Trillion Depleted Uranium Trade

get a job ...bum

Christina Sarich
Published: Friday 28 February 2014
The truth of the matter is that the Queen is sitting on enough money to end world hunger, fuel the world’s energy needs with non-nuclear, clean sources and definitely stop the poverty in her own country.
Article image

Many people are wondering what really caused Fukushima. While we can look into the geologic studies that were taken prior to the Daiichi event, outlining the active 200 meter fault line that Honshu Island rests right on top off, we are obliged as citizens to look even deeper, more so with the admission of an anonymous U.S. government nuclear official that radiation leaking from the plant just 100 meters away is "astronomical."
Uranium can be mined for some medical purposes and to make electricity, but its main purpose was and is to fuel nuclear warfare against the world. Just six mines provide 85 percent of the world’s uranium and guess who owns the mineral rights to that land?
It may be surprising to realize it is none other than the Queen of England.
She is not alone in her fear-mongering. Our own government has helped to perpetrate warfare using this substance well before Fukushima. U.S. government officials still insist that the use of depleted uranium in missiles, shells, bullets and armor plating did not contribute to Gulf War Syndrome. And the Rand Corporation helped to promote that lie.
The truth of the matter is that the Queen is sitting on $17 trillion pounds of uranium investments—enough money to end world hunger, fuel the world’s energy needs with non-nuclear, clean sources and definitely stop the poverty in her own country. Draconian laws have been passed both in the U.K. and in the U.S. to protect nuclear energy.

In the U.S., we are subject to the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, which was put forth by nuclear energy companies and supported by theNuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy. There is an extensive list of laws governed by regulatory and institutional agencies that uphold nuclear energy in the U.K. as well.
Since the presidency of George W. Bush and prior, utilizing United Nations weapons inspectors, we have engaged in the fleecing of Middle Eastern and African countries for their uranium deposits. Africa, specifically, has been raped by the warmongering Monarchy.
Nuclear radiation expert Jay M. Gould told the world the about the extent of this combative totalitarianism in his book, “The Enemy Within: the High Cost of Living Near Nuclear Reactors” that the British royal family, especially the Queen herself. She privately owns investments in uranium through Rio Tinto Zinc., the mining company, originally named Rio Tinto Mines. Ronald Walter Rowland, the Queen’s “buccaneer,”allegedly created this entity for the British Royal family in the late 1950s.
Furthermore, without the book “Royal Fortune,” which led to royal palace scrutiny, nobody would have known about the Queen's Civil List “surplus.” The £35 million would have followed centuries of Civil List surpluses into the royals Swiss accounts. This is where she hid her uranium investments and the spoils of her ultranationalist, perhaps anti-human agenda.
For example, here is a break down for just one of the world’s biggest uranium mines:
Canada’s MacArthur River Mine—the world's largest high-grade uranium mine, producing 7654 tonnes of uranium (tU), or 14 percent of global production, in 2010. Ore grades at the underground mine average more than 10 percent uranium content, making them one hundred times the global average for uranium mines. Cameco operates the mine and controls 70 percent ownership, while Areva owns 30 percent. Canada was a colony of England, gaining its independence eventually, but still recognizes the Queen as a de facto authority and pays fees to the monarchy for its uranium resources.
The fact is that depleted Uranium is one of the most toxic substances on the planet. Uranium occurs naturally and artisans used it as a natural yellow oxide to color ceramics at one time, but once it is transformed into war-toys, or used in nuclear power plants, it is “as malicious as Syrian chemical weapons.”
report from Harvard University's website details the fallout of depleted uranium contamination in Iraq, which is arguably as pertinent, if not as immediately worthy of the comparison between Chernobyl and Fukushima. Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi wrote:
"Depleted Uranium (DU) weaponry has been used against Iraq for the first time in the history of recent wars. The magnitude of the complications and damage related to the use of such radioactive and toxic weapons on the environment and the human population mostly results from the intended concealment, denial and misleading information released by the Pentagon about the quantities, characteristics and the area's in Iraq, in which these weapons have been used."
The concealment of the use of uranium in nuclear reactors is no different. In the case of the Daiichi plant, no final disposal solution for any of the radioactive waste from the site has been found, although some of it is being disposed of in the form of depleted uranium munitions and with disastrous humanitarian consequences.
Wars are waged around the globe, from the Soviet Union to the Middle East, Syria, and Afghanistan—and now Japan, through an “accident,” which many say was a false flag event—but the real purveyor of this nasty radioactive chemical is the Queen herself.
Operation Wigwam, Operation HARDTACK I  and II and Operation Crossroads are prime examples of how easy it is to detonate tsunami-making bombs from deep under the ocean’s surface. There is no need for nuclear power, let alone nuclear weapons. In trying to amass the world’s wealth, the elite class will poison their own nests.  Your well-being is just collateral damage in a world gone mad.

Obama paid $5 million to seal his records

nawww no shit :o douche bag
Marv Dumon
A few days before the 2012 presidential elections, businessman Donald Trump implored Barack Obama to release his college transcripts and passport records.
Obama paid $5 million to seal his records
On Saturday, Dr. Orly Taitz – who has filed several birther lawsuits against Obama – posted on her website that the president has paid more than $5 million in legal fees to national law firm Perkins Coie to keep his personal, and possibly professional, records hidden from the public. The $5 million figure, which was previously thought to be less than $3 million, does not include fees paid to other parties and law firms acting on behalf of Obama.
In addition, Obama appointed a partner at Perkins Coie, Robert Bauer, as White House Counsel ten months after taking office in 2009. Bauer also served as general counsel for the Democratic National Committee and “Obama for America” presidential campaign.
For opponents, the president’s secrecy provides political ammunition given that, in 2008, then-candidate Obama accused his colleagues at the U.S. senate, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, of a lack of transparency for not releasing more IRS tax returns.
“Senator [Hillary] Clinton can’t claim to be vetted until she allows the public the opportunity to see her finances,” Obama campaign spokesperson Robert Gibbs said during the election season.
In 2008, Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera used the issue of disclosure in attacking Republican nominee John McCain. “John McCain’s idea of being a different kind of Republican means disrespecting the voters by denying them the right to examine the links between his political career and . . . business ventures.”
In 1980, Barack Obama was identified as Barry Soetoro in his mother’s divorce papers. Ann Dunham underwent divorce proceedings with Barack’s/Barry’s adopted father, Lolo Soetoro. However, the president has not provided a clear explanation regarding the name change to “Barack Obama”.
During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush released his college records, and would later be the target of mockery from the mainstream media and Hollywood for earning “C” grades at Yale.
In August 2012, Wayne Allen Root – a former classmate of Obama at Columbia University – alleged that the real scandal can be found in the president’s college records. In his column, Root (who as a political science major does not recall ever meeting Obama) said:
My bet is that Obama will never unseal his records because they contain information that could destroy his chances for re-election . . . . Why are the college records, of a 51-year-old President of the United States, so important to keep secret? . . . If you could unseal Obama’s Columbia University records I believe you’d find that:
A) He rarely ever attended class.
B) His grades were not those typical of what we understand it takes to get into Harvard Law School.
C) He attended Columbia as a foreign exchange student.
D) He paid little for either undergraduate college or Harvard Law School because of foreign aid and scholarships given to a poor foreign students like this kid Barry Soetoro from Indonesia.
Some birthers have become suspicious of the administration’s handling of Obama’s personal records. After 2010, the White House was taking heat after the president’s “short form” Hawaii birth certificate was shown to have several digital manipulations and errors. The suspicions prompted Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio to form a team of forensic experts who, on July 2012, would conclude that the “short form” document was “definitely fradulent”.
By then, Obama’s lawyers had moved to submit a different (“long form”) version posted it on the White House website. In April 2011, Perkins Coie law partner Judith Corley sent a letter to Hawaii’s Department of Health and stated that the agency only submits a “short form” certificate. Corley requested a waiver of the department’s policy and obtained two copies of the “long form” birth certificate.
After calling Barack Obama the “least transparent” president in U.S. history, Trump said in November 2012 that “[Obama] has spent millions of dollars in legal fees to make sure that it stays that way.” The real estate mogul made the allegations amid a highly contentious presidential campaign in which Obama’s Super Pacs accused Republican challenger Mitt Romney of not releasing enough tax returns.
In a separate statement, Donald Trump said:
You know, Obama spent over $4 million in legal fees to keep these things quiet, and then he stands up and says ‘I want to see [Mitt Romney's] tax returns.’ He’s given tax returns. And if they give more – and I understand what Mitt’s saying, they’re very, very complex and 100 percent straight, 100 percent legal – but they look at little nitpicking things, and then you have another month of debate. Now if Obama gives some of his sealed records where all of this money has been spent to keep them sealed, I would certainly make that trade. I think that’s a great trade. … I think you would find some things that are very, very interesting and very shocking.
On his YouTube channel, Trump also said:
Obviously [Barack Obama] wasn’t born in this country or, if he was, he said he wasn’t in order to receive financial aid and in order to have a clear and very easy path into a college or university. Only a very stupid person would believe otherwise. There can be no other reason that so much money would not be so easily and routinely collected for charity.


This one comes courtesy of my friend and colleague Henrik Palmgran at Red Ice Creations, and you have to read it to believe it. Who says the Nazis didn’t win World War Two?    
US Gov Mulling Whether Murdering Citizens with Drones is ’Doable’, or Too Much Bad Press  
2014 02 10

Red Ice Creations

Forget the ’slippery slope’. The U.S. government already kills citizens without due process or any trial by peers. This can easily be demonstrated in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki and his 17 year old son, among others.

The moment for imaginary ’debate’ has long since expired. This is what’s happening RIGHT NOW, and will undoubtedly continue so long as the government, the CIA, and the Pentagon pretend they’re ’suffering and conflicted’ over the morality of their actions, and behave as if they’re worried about preserving the word or the intent of the U.S. constitution.

There is no conflict - they are simply doing anything they possibly can to make it easy to kill whomever they choose. Full stop.

US suspect possibly targeted for drone attack
By Kimberly Dozier | Associated Press

An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.

The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he’s a U.S. citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn’t completed.

Four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him. And President Barack Obama’s new policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum for the White House.

Two of the officials described the man as an al-Qaida facilitator who has been directly responsible for deadly attacks against U.S. citizens overseas and who continues to plan attacks against them that would use improvised explosive devices.

But one U.S. official said the Defense Department was divided over whether the man is dangerous enough to merit the potential domestic fallout of killing an American without charging him with a crime or trying him, and the potential international fallout of such an operation in a country that has been resistant to U.S. action.

Another of the U.S. officials said the Pentagon did ultimately decide to recommend lethal action.

The officials said the suspected terrorist is well-guarded and in a fairly remote location, so any unilateral attempt by U.S. troops to capture him would be risky and even more politically explosive than a U.S. missile strike.

Under new guidelines Obama addressed in a speech last year to calm anger overseas at the extent of the U.S. drone campaign, lethal force must only be used "to prevent or stop attacks against U.S. persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively." The target must also pose "a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons" — the legal definition of catching someone in the act of plotting a lethal attack.

The Associated Press has agreed to the government’s request to withhold the name of the country where the suspected terrorist is believed to be because officials said publishing it could interrupt ongoing counterterror operations.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the classified drone targeting program publicly.

House Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., complained last week that a number of terrorist suspects were all but out of reach under the administration’s new rules that limit drone strikes based on the target’s nationality or location. Two of the U.S. officials said the Justice Department review of the American suspected terrorist started last fall.

The senior administration official confirmed that the Justice Department was working to build a case for the president to review and decide the man’s fate.


Ms. P.H. and others of you who are regular readers here, and who know of our continuing interest in covering the collateralization and commercialization of space, shared the following article with me, which is now almost three weeks old.
At first, I must admit, I was not going to blog about this, because I think I was missing what most of you who shared it were probably seeing. In this case, it took me a couple of times reading through the article, to “get” what may be going on:
NASA bets on private companies to exploit moon’s resources
There are a number of statements in this article which, coming as it does from a highly reputable source such as, tends to make me think we are possibly looking at a kind of “semi-official disclosure” of that the long term game plan of NASA and America’s space policy is. We have, of course, the now familiar meme of the commercialization and private development of space resources, a process that in my opinion was initiated secretly after World War Two with the establishment of a large hidden system of finance to fund covert and secret development of UFO-emulative technologies(among other things). To gain the participation of large prime banks in this activity, I have also hypothesized that space was collateralized, i.e., that their participation was gained by granting them a stake in whatever exploitable resources or other things (for example, knowledge and technologies) might be found in space.
“In its latest initiative, unveiled in late January, the US space agency is proposing private companies take advantage of NASA’s extensive know-how, its engineers and access to its installations to help design and build lunar robots.
“But unlike NASA’s contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to deliver cargo to the ISS, the moon proposal—dubbed CATALYST (Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown)—would get no US government economic help.
“Recent missions in the moon’s orbit have revealed evidence of water and other interesting substances on the moon, explained Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s advanced exploration systems.
“‘But to understand the extent and accessibility of these resources, we need to reach the surface and explore up close.’
“‘Commercial lunar landing capabilities could help prospect for and utilize these resources,’ permitting both commercial and research activities, he said.”
In 2013 NASA reached an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to develop commercial sector involvement with the space agency, especially focused on plans to build a lunar base.
Founded by US billionaire Robert Bigelow, the company offers inflatable space modules.
Big money on the moon
These partnerships work “very well in lower orbit,” said Bigelow’s Michael Gold, referring to the re-supply contracts at the International Space Station.
“There is no reason it won’t work just as well on the moon,” he told AFP.
“Additionally, in this austere (budget) environment, it only makes sense to leverage private sector investments and capabilities,” he said.
In other words, Stage one: use robots to commercially develop the Moon and to construct a lunar base. I’ve already blogged about the possibilities of 3D printing for the construction of such a base, provided the robots can be brought to the Moon to mine and process materials for such construction.
And here is stage two:
“NASA chief Charles Bolden said last year his agency would not take the lead on a manned lunar mission, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility of participating in one led by a private company or another country.”
In other words, NASA now fulfills the function of “the state arsenal” in Venice: supplying the expertise, while the private sector supplies the capital, personnel, and assumes the risks and reaps the rewards. Why am I bothering to point out the obvious? Because, if space was collateralized at the very early postwar period, then this approach was the inevitable goal all along, and thus, if one wishes to look for secret space programs, it is not only in the black budget world, but also in the corporate world of the big defense contractors, and with venture capitalists with lots of money to risk…. this mercantilist-Venetian approach once transformed Europe to such an extent that the model inevitably spread. If one wanted to compete, one had to adopt the model. That means one must now begin to watch the maneuverings of the familiar corporations – Lockheed-Martin, Northrup, British Aerospace, Dassault, Messerschmitt-Belkow-Blohm, Mitsubishi et al., – very carefully and closely.

GCHQ identified Kinect as possible snooping tool; Microsoft denies all knowledge

hey man ! billy's just doing gods works ?    which 1 is the 1 that ..spy's    ...again      AH  oh yea  ! the motherfucker wit the fork & tail    ... Oops billy  birds of a feather  i didn't "know" that it was "spy~in" on ya ,folks  :o  no really ...i , i  I just wanna do gods ...will 
GCHQ identified Kinect as possible snooping tool; Microsoft denies all knowledge Xbox 360’s Kinect camera was identified by British spy agency GCHQ as a possible tool for snooping on the public.
As part of new documents revealing that webcam images of Yahoo users have been captured by governments, The Guardian also reveals that one of GCHQ’s presentations “discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360's Kinect camera, saying it generated ‘fairly normal webcam traffic’ and was being evaluated as part of a wider program”.
The plans were part of a surveillance program entitled Optic Nerve that worked to capture imagery of internet users via in-built hardware camera tech.
It is not yet known whether GCHQ actually recorded and stored images captured via Kinect
The revelation is a nightmare for Microsoft, which has already had to fight against the security backlash that erupted when it transpired that Xbox One would ship with a new always-on Kinect camera.
“Microsoft has never heard of this program," a spokesperson told MCV. “However, we’re concerned about any reports of governments surreptitiously collecting private customer data. That’s why in December we initiated a broad effort to expand encryption across our services and are advocating for legal reforms.”

This map helps put Russia’s military moves near Ukraine in perspective

Source: WashPost
This map helps put Russia’s military moves near Ukraine in perspective
The surprise announcement that the Russian military would begin large-scale drills so soon after Ukraine ousted Kremlin-ally Viktor Yanukovych may well seem ominous. In the recent past, Russia has shown itself willing to intervene in situations along its borders: It was less than six years ago that Russia and Georgia went to war over the fate of the separatist region of South Ossetia, for example.
So, should we be spooked? The map below provides some context.
Russia military map Crimea
Okay, so according to Ria Novosti, more than 150,000 troops are due to take part in the drills, as well as 90 planes and more than 120 helicopters. While we don’t knowprecisely where the troops will be, Moscow has said the drills would happen in the Western and Central military districts.
As you can see, while the Western district does border Ukraine, it also covers a huge amount of other land, too. It is possible that some of the troops in this district may be relatively close to Ukraine: According to the Wall Street Journal, the 20th Army, based about 200 miles from the border, is listed to be involved in ”operational and tactical exercises.”
On the other hand, the military district in the South is the only one that borders Crimea, and Russia says it is not the part of the drill at all. Crimea is a place to watch, and with good reason. The peninsula is a part of Ukraine but has its own legislature and constitution. Until 1954, it was part of Russia, and it’s population is still about 60 percent ethnic Russian. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in Crimea, and Russia also announced vague measures to tighten security at its headquarters today, but did not mention much else.
There have been some reports that Russia might step in to protect these ethnic Russians should Ukraine disintegrate, and a vocal separatist movement in Crimea would no doubt support that. However, the regions involved in the drill suggest that Crimea is not an immediate priority. Russia is, of course, denying that the timing of the drills had anything to do with Ukraine, and RIA Novosti reports that six similar drills were held last year.
That said, Russian military intervention is still a scenario that many people are taking seriously:  Secretary of State John Kerry today warned Russia that sending troops to Ukraine would be a “grave mistake.” In this instance, it’s hopefully just bluster.