Digital ‘Fair Use’ Bill Introduced In Congress

Today, Reps. Rich Boucher (D-Va.) and John Dolittle (R-Calif.) introduced what they call the “Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship” (or FAIR USE) Act they say will make it easier for digital media consumers to use the content they buy.

The lawmakers seek to amend the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which content-makers, such as movie studios and record labels, fought to pass to protect their wares from getting stolen and pirated.

But that law goes too far, the lawmakers say.

“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act dramatically tilted the copyright balance toward complete copyright protection at the expense of the public’s right to fair use,” Boucher said in a statement. “Without a change in the law, individuals will be less willing to purchase digital media if their use of the media within the home is severely circumscribed and the manufacturers of equipment and software that enables circumvention for legitimate purposes will be reluctant to introduce the products into the market.”

[WashingtonPost]

US intelligence on Iran does not stand up, say Vienna sources

“Much of the intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by American spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded, according to diplomatic sources in Vienna.

The claims, reminiscent of the intelligence fiasco surrounding the Iraq war, coincided with a sharp increase in international tension as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was defying a UN security council ultimatum to freeze its nuclear programme.

That report, delivered to the security council by the IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, sets the stage for a fierce international debate on the imposition of stricter sanctions on Iran, and raises the possibility that the US might resort to military action against Iranian nuclear sites.”

[The Guardian (UK)]

Arab States, Wary of Iran, Add to Their Arsenals but Still Lean on the U.S.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 22 — As fears grow over the escalating confrontation between Iran and the West, Arab states across the Persian Gulf have begun a rare show of muscle flexing, publicly advertising a shopping spree for new weapons and openly discussing their security concerns.

Typically secretive, the gulf nations have long planned upgrades to their armed forces, but now are speaking openly about them. American military officials say the countries, normally prone to squabbling, have also increased their military cooperation and opened lines of communication to the American military here.

Patriot missile batteries capable of striking down ballistic missiles have been readied in several gulf countries, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, analysts say, and increasingly, the states have sought to emphasize their unanimity against Iran’s nuclear ambitions…

As tensions with Iran rise, many gulf countries have come to see themselves as the likely first targets of an Iranian attack. Some have grown more concerned that the United States may be overstretched militarily, many analysts say, while almost all the monarchies, flush with cash as a result of high oil prices, have sought to build a military deterrent of their own.

“The message is first, ‘U.S., stay involved here,’ and second, ‘Iran, we will maintain a technological edge no matter what,’ ” said Emile el-Hokayem, research fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a research center based in Washington. “They are trying to reinforce the credibility of the threat of force.”

[NYTimes]

U.S. Used Base in Ethiopia To Hunt Al Qaeda in Africa

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 — The American military quietly waged a campaign from Ethiopia last month to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa, including the use of an airstrip in eastern Ethiopia to mount airstrikes against Islamic militants in neighboring Somalia, according to American officials.

The close and largely clandestine relationship with Ethiopia also included significant sharing of intelligence on the Islamic militants’ positions and information from American spy satellites with the Ethiopian military. Members of a secret American Special Operations unit, Task Force 88, were deployed in Ethiopia and Kenya, and ventured into Somalia, the officials said.

The counterterrorism effort was described by American officials as a qualified success that disrupted terrorist networks in Somalia, led to the death or capture of several Islamic militants and involved a collaborative relationship with Ethiopia that had been developing for years.

[NYTimes]

THE PEOPLE V. RICHARD CHENEY

Only two conditions must be met. First, a majority of the House of Representatives must agree on a set of charges; then, two-thirds of the Senate must agree to convict. After that, there is no legal wrangling, no appeal to a higher authority, no reversal on technical grounds. There is not even a limit on what the charges may be. As the Constitution describes it, the cause may be “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but even these were left deliberately vague; as Gerald Ford once pointed out while still serving in the House of Representatives, the only real definition of an “impeachable offense” is “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

Over the past six years, as the country has spiraled into military misadventure, fiscal madness, and environmental meltdown, the vice president has not merely been wrong about the issues; he has been duplicitous, deceitful, and deliberately destructive to the American democracy. These things can no longer be denied by rational minds:

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Maybe We Deserve to Be Ripped Off By Bush’s Billionaires


Britney Spears was an idiot last Thursday, an idiot on Friday, and an idiot on both Saturday and Sunday. She was, shockingly, also an idiot on Monday. It will be news when she stops being an idiot, and we’ll know when that happens, because she’ll have shot herself for the good of the planet. Britney Spears cutting her hair off is the least-worthy front page news story in the history of humanity.

Apparently, from now on, every time a jackass sticks a pencil in his own eye, we’ll have to wait an extra ten minutes to hear what happened on the battlefield or in Congress or any other place that actually matters.

On the same day that Britney was shaving her head, a guy I know who works in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders sent me an email. He was trying very hard to get news organizations interested in some research his office had done about George Bush’s proposed 2008 budget, which was unveiled two weeks ago and received relatively little press, mainly because of the controversy over the Iraq war resolution. All the same, the Bush budget is an amazing document. It would be hard to imagine a document that more clearly articulates the priorities of our current political elite.

Not only does it make many of Bush’s tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about $442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what’s interesting about these cuts are how Bush plans to pay for them.

Sanders’s office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family — the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune — would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

[AlterNet]

Anti-Terror case data inflated, flawed

WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors counted immigration violations, marriage fraud and drug trafficking among anti-terror cases in the four years after 9/11 even though no evidence linked them to terror activity, a Justice Department audit said Tuesday.

Overall, nearly all of the terrorism-related statistics on investigations, referrals and cases examined by department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine were either diminished or inflated. Only two of 26 sets of department data reported between 2001 and 2005 were accurate, the audit found.

Responding, a Justice spokesman pointed to figures showing that prosecutors in the department’s headquarters for the most part either accurately or underreported their data — underscoring what he called efforts to avoid pumping up federal terror statistics.

[RawStory/Yahoo!]

N. Korea Agrees to Nuclear Disarmament

BEIJING (AP) – North Korea agreed Tuesday after arduous talks to shut down its main nuclear reactor and eventually dismantle its atomic weapons program, just four months after the communist state shocked the world by testing a nuclear bomb.

The deal marks the first concrete plan for disarmament in more than three years of six-nation negotiations. The plan also could potentially herald a new era of cooperation in the region with the North’s longtime foes – the United States and Japan – also agreeing to discuss normalizing relations.

“Obviously we have a long way to go, but we’re very pleased with this agreement,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters. “It’s a very solid step forward.”

Making sure North Korea declares all its nuclear facilities and shuts them down is likely to prove difficult, nuclear experts have said.

The country has sidestepped previous agreements, allegedly running a uranium-based weapons program even as it froze a plutonium-based one – sparking the latest nuclear crisis in late 2002. There are believed to be countless mountainside tunnels in which to hide projects.

[Guardian (UK)]

Iran on course for nuclear bomb, EU told


Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded.

In an admission of the international community’s failure to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the document – compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief – says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. “Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,” it states.

The downbeat conclusions of the “reflection paper” – seen by the Financial Times – are certain to be seized on by advocates of military action, who fear that Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a bomb over the next two to three years. Tehran insists its purposes are purely peaceful.

“At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme,” says the paper, dated February 7 and circulated to the EU’s 27 national governments ahead of a foreign ministers meeting yesterday.

[Financial Times]

Related:
Iran president ‘ready for talks’

Bills filed in Austin to shoot first, retreat later in self-defense

AUSTIN — Castle Doctrine sounds like a medieval warning to invaders: Cross this moat and suffer the consequences.

A pair of Republican state lawmakers now want to use it to revise Texas’ modern-day self-defense laws.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio and Rep. Joe Driver of Garland have sponsored bills to have Texas join more than a dozen states with the so-called “Castle Doctrine,” a sort of shoot-first, retreat-later approach to defending hearth, home, truck and business.

[RawStory]

Related: Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Bill

Blowup? America’s Hidden War With Iran


‘They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,’” says Hillary Mann, the administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs U.S. officials insist they have no intention of provoking or otherwise starting a war with Iran, and they were also quick to deny any link to Sharafi’s kidnapping.

But the fact remains that the longstanding war of words between Washington and Tehran is edging toward something more dangerous.

A second Navy carrier group is steaming toward the Persian Gulf, and NEWSWEEK has learned that a third carrier will likely follow. Iran shot off a few missiles in those same tense waters last week, in a highly publicized test. With Americans and Iranians jousting on the chaotic battleground of Iraq, the chances of a small incident’s spiraling into a crisis are higher than they’ve been in years.

[Newsweek via RawStory]

McCain Taps Cash He Sought To Limit

Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million, saying it was trying to “evade and violate” new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.

As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars as co-chairman of the Arizona Republican’s national finance committee.

In his early efforts to secure the support of the Republican establishment he has frequently bucked, McCain has embraced some of the same political-money figures, forces and tactics he pilloried during a 15-year crusade to reduce the influence of big donors, fundraisers and lobbyists in elections. That includes enlisting the support of Washington lobbyists as well as key players in the fundraising machine that helped President Bush defeat McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries.

[WashingtonPost]

BBC to air documentary on the “9/11 Truth Movement”

The Conspiracy Files investigates the growing number of conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks.

Incredibly some believe the American Government allowed or actively helped the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Those who question the official version believe the World Trade Centre buildings were actually demolished by explosives; others ask why there was so little damage to the Pentagon’s outer wall if a plane really had hit it.

And why was America so unprepared when terror attack warnings had been received?

The Conspiracy Files travels across the United States to investigate, speaking to eye witnesses and tries to separate fact from fiction.

[BBC News]

Israeli missile test ‘successful’

Israel has carried out a successful test of its Arrow missile, the defence ministry has said.

The test took place as Iran celebrated the 28th anniversary of its Islamic revolution.

Israeli public television called the test a “message to Iran”.

The anti-ballistic missile system was developed jointly with the United States after Israel came under attack by Iraqi Scud missiles during the first Gulf War.

[BBC News]

Putin in landmark visit to Saudi Arabia


Russian President Vladimir Putin kicks off a Middle East tour, seeking to enhance ties with traditional US allies in the region after launching a scathing attack on Washington’s foreign policy.

On the eve of his departure, the Russian leader attacked the United States as a reckless “unipolar” power that has made the world more dangerous by pursuing policies that have led to war, ruin and insecurity.

“The United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres — economic, political and humanitarian and has imposed itself on other states,” Putin said at a conference on security policy in Munich.

Such a situation “is extremely dangerous. No one feels secure because no one can hide behind international law,” Putin said. US dominance, he said, was “ruinous”.

“Local and regional wars didn’t get fewer. The number of people who died didn’t get less, but increased… We see no kind of restraint, a hyper-inflated use of force.”

The United States, he said, had gone “from one conflict to another without achieving a fully-fledged solution to any of them.”

…Decades of Saudi suspicion about Moscow’s intentions in the Middle East have given way to warming relations, with the two sides recently discussing the sale of Russian T-90 battle tanks and Mi-17 military helicopters — the sorts of arms Riyadh has traditionally bought from the United States.

[RawStory/AFP]