Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* THE WOES OF AN AMERICAN DRONE OPERATOR
By Nicola Abe, Tlaxcala
A soldier sets out to graduate at the top of his class. He succeeds, and he becomes a drone pilot working with a special unit of the United States Air Force in New Mexico. He kills dozens of people. But then, one day, he realizes that he can’t do it anymore.
For more than five years, Brandon Bryant worked in an oblong, windowless container about the size of a trailer, where the air-conditioning was kept at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and, for security reasons, the door couldn’t be opened. Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world.
The container is filled with the humming of computers. It’s the brain of a drone, known as a cockpit in Air Force parlance. But the pilots in the container aren’t flying through the air. They’re just sitting at the controls.
Bryant was one of them, and he remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.
“These moments are like in slow motion,” he says today. Images taken with an infrared camera attached to the drone appeared on his monitor, transmitted by satellite, with a two-to-five-second time delay.
With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.
Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.
“Did we just kill a kid?” he asked the man sitting next to him.
“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replied.
“Was that a kid?” they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.
Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.
They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs? […]
* CHICAGO FACTORY OCCUPIERS FORM WORKER COOPERATIVE
First, they occupied the factory to get their wages from the bosses that owned the machinery. Then, they occupied their factory to keep the second bosses from shutting down their machinery. And, now, they are on their way to owning and running the machinery.
The group of workers who occupied their Chicago factory in 2008 and again in 2012 incorporated a worker-run cooperative on May 30, 2012. The factory window makers will take over was formerly owned by Republic Windows and Doors and then Serious Energy, and will now be run by New Era Windows, LLC.
Their battle to win wages and back pay from Republic Windows and Doors by occupying the factory is often mentioned in the same breath as the occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union bill as a flash point of progressive struggle since the recession took hold.
Armando Robles, president of the United Electrical Workers Local 1110, said that the school of struggle the workers went through with both factory occupations helped them win the confidence to take over their factory.
“We learned how to fight against the bosses and now to negotiate contracts with the owners of Republic and Serious Energy, how to negotiate in contract negotiations and how to make escalating actions before going on strike.”[…]
* PARADIGM SHIFT FOR THE HEALTHCARE EXPENSE MONSTER
Source: Testosterone Pit
A sadly familiar theme in the US—the growing ranks of the working poor—was fleshed out today. But the report, “Low-Income Working Families: The Growing Economic Gap,” did something else: it added graphic details to the conundrum of US healthcare spending. While it ballooned to $2.7 trillion, 17.9% of GDP, or $8,680 per capita, households have lowered their share. And so have businesses. What gives?
Despite improvements in the unemployment rate, 32.1% of all working households “may not have enough money to meet basic needs,” the report found. That was for 2011. In 2007, 28% of all families fell into that category. There are now 47.5 million low-income working families (earning less than 200% of the official poverty rate of $22,811 for a family of four). The report fingers in part the new job market. As people are finding jobs, they’re earning lower wages and have fewer benefits “compared with the middle-class jobs they held before.”
After housing expenses—81% of those below the official poverty level and 62% of low-income working families spent over 33% of their income on housing—and after day-to-day essentials, such as food and energy, little if any money remains for medical expenses.
But there is a parallel phenomenon: high-deductible health insurance plans linked to tax-advantaged IRA-like Health Savings Accounts. While deductibles range from $1,000 to $4,000 or more, the much lower premiums and tax savings can turn this into a bonanza for healthy people—if they keep their medical expenses down. The plans have taken off, much to the lament of healthcare providers. In 2006, only 10% of those with health insurance opted for a high-deductible plan; by 2012, their ranks had swollen to 34%! […]
* TRANSOCEAN SETTLES FOR $1.4 BILLION IN CRIMINAL AND CIVIL CHARGES
By Bryan Dyne, Axis of Logic
|Editor’s Note: British Petroleum’s oil “spill” is the biggest environmental disaster in history and another vile corporate crime against the earth and humanity. Aside from those workers who were killed in the explosion, the total cost of the damages to the Gulf of Mexico and coastal ecosystems, including the destruction of the fishing industry, related businesses, long-term health problems for the population in the region and tourism industries was estimated to be over a trillion dollars in 2010. May the gods damn British Petroleum, their owners and directors, shareholders and the US government for the travesty of justice reported below. – Les Blough, Editor
Transocean Deepwater Inc. has settled for only $1.4 billion towards all criminal and civil claims relating to the company’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in 2010, which leaked 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killed eleven workers. The settlement was announced by the Department of Justice on Thursday.
The settlement, which must still be approved by US District Judge Carl Barbier, precludes other criminal fines that would have arisen if Transocean went to trial in New Orleans over the spill, which was set to begin February 25. Furthermore, the settlement will not require Transocean to plead guilty to any crime relating to the deaths of the eleven workers killed on the oil rig, in contrast to BP, which pleaded guilty to eleven counts of manslaughter.
The deal consists of criminal penalties and fines of $400 million. $150 million of the criminal settlement goes towards restoring the habitats in the Gulf of Mexico that were affected by the spill and a further $150 million will go towards oil spill prevention and response research in the Gulf. The criminal penalties are from a charge of “negligence” against Transocean by the Justice Department. The more serious charge of “gross negligence,” defined as “wanton and reckless conduct,” was not levied.
The civil settlement is $1 billion in civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act. $800 million of that will be directed by the RESTORE Act of 2012 and will be used to fund environmental and economic projects for Gulf states. The civil resolution also reserves the claims for natural resource damages and clean-up costs. […]
* EUROPEAN LEADERS ANNUAL FORUM IN DAVOS
GENEVA (AP) — Promoting measures to get the global economy out of its crisis mode will be the focal point of next week’s annual gathering of world leaders and power brokers in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, organizers said Wednesday.
Four European leaders — Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Premier Mario Monti — will deliver speeches on how to push forward the global economic revival, according to officials from the World Economic Forum.
The global economy has faced a number of hurdles over the past few years, but next week’s meeting in Davos appears to be taking place in a more benign atmosphere than many participants may have thought possible just a few months ago. […]
* GREECE: THE BLAME GAME
By Eirene, A Place Called Space
The attack using Kalashnikoff rifles on the Athens New Democracy offices is part of a package of escalating violence in the capital in the last few days. There was a spate of makeshift bomb attacks against journalists and political figures last week as well as against three regional offices of New Democracy.
What is odd about this situation, is that although all parties immediately condemned the attack, chaos ruled in Parliament on Monday night as each group started attacking the others and apportioning blame.
The blame game is big in Greek politics at the moment. Nothing is happening, nothing is being done, ‘nothing is moving’ as people say to me every day. So, the political elite start blaming others to hide, to camouflage the fact that nothing is going on, that they are unable and unwilling to govern. The so-called Lagarde list is a case in point. The politicians are all blaming each other for the fact that the list, unlike what happened in all other European countries, was kept in a drawer instead of the people who have accounts in Switzerland being investigated and prosecuted if wrong-doing was discovered. They are still not investigating the list. They are just blaming each other. […]
* NATIONALISM SEMANTICS
Source: The Eblana European Democratic Movement
I often get very embarrassed by the rise of nationalism in my home country, Greece. Somehow, a bunch of misguided airheads and the youths that fell for their doctrine of hatred believe that they are true Greeks and they represent Hellenism or protect it from the “corrosion” of immigration.
I feel so ashamed that the Greek nation became synonymous with xenophobia, neo-Nazism and far-right nationalism. In a country that suffered so much by the Nazi occupation and that had experienced mass emigration to Europe, the Americas and Australia, to have now groups of skin-heads beating up any immigrant they find is disappointing.
How can they ever call upon the ancient Greek ancestors of theirs, to justify their brutality and ignorance? If they had ever read the speech of Alexander the Great at Opis, where he famously claimed that he does not classify people according their descendance or race but their virtue, I wonder why then they think they honor his memory by beating immigrants.
Have they ever understood the teachings of many ancient Greek philosophers, especially of the Stoic movement and those of Zeno of Citium? They promoted cosmopolitanism and believed that all people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should live in brotherly love and readily help one another.
So if the Greek mind has in the past given birth to those ideas, how on Earth their descendants believe that with their actions are protecting and promoting Hellenism and “Greekness?” […]