December 8th, 2010
Fox News / Chad Pergram
December 8, 2010
Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jay Inslee (D-WA) are crafting a letter to share with the House Democratic Caucus that would try to prevent the Speaker from bringing the tax bill to the floor.
They hope to get 60 signatures on their letter (which is still being drafted) and then force a vote in the caucus. DeFazio says he thinks that if a majority of House Democrats are against this compromise, they shouldn't bring it to the floor.
In other words, they are seeking a majority of the majority to move this and a senior House democratic source indicates they don't know if they have a majority of democrats, saying they haven't whipped this yet.
In an interview with Fox, DeFazio criticizes the president and says a majority of the House Democratic Caucus does not support the tax rate compromise. "There does not seem to be a majority of the Democrats who support the deal negotiated by Vice President Biden," DeFazio said. "So we want to have a record vote in the caucus on a resolution that says this resolution should not go to the floor without a majority of Democratic votes."
December 8th, 2010
December 8, 2010
The websites of the international credit card MasterCard and the Swedish prosecution authority are among the latest to be taken offline in the escalating technological battle over WikiLeaks, web censorship and perceived political pressure.
Co-ordinated attacks by online activists who support the site and its founder Julian Assange – who is in UK custody accused of raping two Swedish women – have seen the websites of the alleged victims' Swedish lawyer disabled, while commercial and political targets have also been subject to attack by a loose coalition of global hackers.
The Swedish prosecution authority has confirmed its website was attacked last night and this morning. MasterCard was partially paralysed today in revenge for the payment network's decision to cease taking donations to WikiLeaks.
In an attack referred to as Operation Payback, a group of online activists calling themselves Anonymous appear to have orchestrated a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on the financial site, bringing its service to a halt.
Attempts to access www.mastercard.com have been unsuccessful since shortly after 9.30am.
The site would say only that it was "experiencing heavy traffic on its external corporate website" but insisted this would not interfere with its ability to process transactions.
But one payment service company told the BBC its customers were experiencing "a complete loss of service" on MasterCard SecureCode. The credit card company later confirmed that loss.
MasterCard tonight said in a statement it was "working to restore normal service levels" after "a concentrated effort to flood our corporate web site with traffic and slow access." The company added: "It is important to note that our systems have not been compromised and there is no impact on our cardholders' ability to use their cards for secure transactions globally."
MasterCard announced on Monday that it would no longer process donations to WikiLeaks, which it claimed was engaged in illegal activity.
Visa, Amazon, Swiss bank PostFinance and others have also announced in recent days that they will cease trading with the whistleblowing site.
The moves have led to concerted attempts by hackers to target companies they deem guilty of "censoring" WikiLeaks.
Operation Payback, which has been targeting commercial sites that have cut their ties with WikiLeaks for some days, has also made threats to other organisations including Twitter, which it says is suppressing the site.
"We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal," a statement circulating online, apparently from Operation Payback, said.
"Twitter, you're next for censoring #WikiLeaks discussion. The major shitstorm has begun," it added.
Twitter has issued a statement denying it has censored the hashtag, and saying confusion had arisen over its "trending" facility.
Meanwhile it has also emerged that Visa has today ordered DataCell, an IT firm that helps WikiLeaks collect payments, to suspend all of its transactions – even those involving other payees – a day after it cut off all the firm's donations being made to WikiLeaks.
DataCell, a small Icelandic company that facilitates transfers made by credit cards including Visa and MasterCard, says it will take up "immediate legal actions" and warned that the powerful "duopoly" of Visa and MasterCard could spell "the end of the credit card business worldwide".
Andreas Fink, chief executive of DataCell, said in a statement: "Putting all payments on hold for seven days or more is one thing but rejecting all further attempts to donate is making the donations impossible.
"This does clearly create massive financial losses to WikiLeaks, which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension.
"This is not about the brand of Visa; this is about politics, and Visa should not be involved in this.
"Visa customers are contacting us in masses to confirm that they really donate and they are not happy about Visa rejecting them. It is obvious that Visa is under political pressure to close us down."
Earlier, PayPal, which has also been the subject of technological attack since it suspended payments to WikiLeaks last week, appeared to admit that it had taken the step after an intervention from the US state department.
PayPal's vice-president of platform, Osama Bedier, told an internet conference the site had decided to freeze WikiLeaks' account on 4 December after government representatives said it was engaged in illegal activity.
"[The US] state department told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward," he told the LeWeb conference in Paris, adding: "We ... comply with regulations around the world, making sure that we protect our brand."
Though he later reined back the comments, saying that PayPal had not been contacted directly by the state department but had seen a letter it had sent to WikiLeaks, his remarks will undoubtedly intensify criticism from supporters of WikiLeaks that the site is being targeted for political reasons.
Operation Payback, which refers to itself as "an anonymous, decentralised movement that fights against censorship and copywrong", and has been linked to the influential internet messageboard 4Chan, argues that such steps "are long strides closer to a world where we cannot say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas".
It added: "We cannot let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship.
"This is why we intend to utilise our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy."
The MasterCard action was confirmed on Twitter at 9.39am by user @Anon_Operation, who later tweeted: "We are glad to tell you that http://www.mastercard.com/ is down and it's confirmed! #ddos #WikiLeaks Operation: Payback (is a bitch!) #PAYBACK"
PostFinance was successfully hacked on Monday after it shut down one of WikiLeaks' key bank accounts, accusing Assange of lying. Its service since has been seriously disrupted.
PayPal has also been targeted a number of times, but while its internal blog was paralysed for more than two hours, the payment processing facility has so far been able to withstand the attacks.
Other cyber attacks were mounted yesterday on EveryDNS.net, which suspended dealings on 3 December, while Amazon, which removed WikiLeaks content from its EC2 cloud on 1 December, may also be a possible target.
According to bloggers monitoring the cyber attacks, those involved in the protests have also been targeting the websites of US senator Joe Lieberman, who is an outspoken critic of WikiLeaks, and Sarah Palin, who said Assange should be treated like a terrorist.
Claes Bergstrom, the lawyer of the two women who claim Assange raped or assaulted them, confirmed his website was shut down overnight, as was the site of a lawyer representing Assange in Sweden. This was the first time such an attack had occurred, he said.
DDoS attacks, which often involve flooding the target site with requests so that it cannot cope with legitimate communication, are illegal.
December 8th, 2010
LONDON — It is a Sunday night in London's East End and the self-styled "most hated man in Britain" is holding court, reveling in his vision of a Taliban victory over America and a world under Islamic Shariah law.
The crowd of about 250 listens intently as Anjem Choudary issues a call to arms in the pristine surroundings of the newly refurbished art deco conference center, built to host weddings and business meetings.
"There are many battlefields," he says calmly into a microphone. "There's a battlefield outside 10 Downing Street [home to Britain's prime minister] and in the mountains of the Tora Bora [in Afghanistan]."
Any man who fails to fight, he warns, will face difficulty when the "angel of death" arrives and he is forced to explain to Allah why he did not raise his hand "against the oppressor" out of fear. "Allah will say to him, 'Am I not more worthy to be feared than them?'" Choudary says.
"Allahu Akbar!" the men shout out in unison, as if a war cry, during his speech. "Allahu Akbar." God is great.
- Spanish police arrest 7 linked to al-Qaida
- Belgium: 9 face terror charges in wake of sweeps
- Terror alert shuts part of German parliament
- Germany: Terrorists plan attacks this month
- U.K. to pay millions to ex-Gitmo terror suspects
- French arrest 5 suspects in terror network probe
- U.S. travelers cautioned of terror in Europe
A group of women, all heavily veiled and sitting in a screened-off area, remain quiet throughout.
As former leader of the banned Islamist organizations al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK, Choudary was kept off the bill and appeared as the surprise star speaker at the rally.
His groups may be outlawed but, unlike his female followers, Choudary will not be silenced. His message is one that echoes across Europe, which experts say is home to thousands of people who would wholeheartedly support Choudary's "ultimate objective" — the "domination of the world by Islam." The majority of Muslims are not Islamists, who believe in a society based on Islamic law, and not all of the latter are seeking world domination or are willing to use violence. But fear of another Islamist-inspired atrocity after Madrid in 2004 — 191 dead — and London in 2005 — 53 dead — remains high. (Continue Reading at MSNBC)
His groups may be outlawed but, unlike his female followers, Choudary will not be silenced.
His message is one that echoes across Europe, which experts say is home to thousands of people who would wholeheartedly support Choudary's "ultimate objective" — the "domination of the world by Islam."
The majority of Muslims are not Islamists, who believe in a society based on Islamic law, and not all of the latter are seeking world domination or are willing to use violence.
But fear of another Islamist-inspired atrocity after Madrid in 2004 — 191 dead — and London in 2005 — 53 dead — remains high. (Continue Reading at MSNBC)
December 8th, 2010
Australian FM Kevin Rudd
Australia's foreign minister has said the US is to blame for the release of thousands of diplomatic cables on Wikileaks, not its Australian founder, Julian Assange.
Kevin Rudd said the release raised questions about US security.
Mr Rudd said he did not "give a damn" about criticism of him in the cables.
Mr Assange, arrested in the UK over sex crime allegations in Sweden, has accused the Australian government of "disgraceful pandering" to the US.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard had earlier called Mr Assange's release of the cables "grossly irresponsible".
Over the past two weeks, Wikileaks has released thousands of classified messages from US envoys around the world, from more than 250,000 it has been given.
Washington has called their publication "irresponsible" and an "attack on the international community".
'First class job'
In an interview with Reuters news agency, Mr Rudd said: "Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network. The Americans are responsible for that."
Mr Rudd, the former prime minister who was replaced by Julia Gillard in June, added: "I think there are real questions to be asked about the adequacy of [the US] security systems and the level of access that people have had to that material.
"The core responsibility, and therefore legal liability, goes to those individuals responsible for that initial unauthorised release."
The White House has ordered US government agencies to tighten their handling of classified documents in the wake of the Wikileaks releases.
Mr Rudd was dismissed in one leaked US cable as a "mistake-prone control freak".
In cables published by the Sydney Morning Herald former US ambassador Robert McCallum said Mr Rudd made "snap announcements without consulting other countries or within the Australian government".
The US was also angered at what it called Mr Rudd's "self-serving and inaccurate leaking" of a phone call with then US President George W Bush in which Mr Rudd was reported as saying: "Stunned to hear Bush say, 'What's the G20?'"
Mr Rudd shrugged off the criticism, saying: "I'm sure much worse has been written about me in the past and probably much worse will be written about me in the future but frankly, mate, I don't care.
"My job's just to act in Australia's national interest as Australia's foreign minister. I don't, frankly, give a damn about this sort of thing. You just get on with it."
Ms Gillard defended Mr Rudd, saying: "He's bringing [his] expertise to bear for the Australian nation and doing an absolutely first class job."
Mr Assange has been highly critical of the Australian government's stance on the release of the cables.
In an opinion piece in The Australian on Wednesday, Mr Assange accused the Australian government of "disgraceful pandering" to the Americans and of putting the powers of the government fully at the disposal of the US.
In the piece headlined "Don't shoot the messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths", he says: "Democratic societies need a strong media and Wikileaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest."
He adds: "The Australian attorney-general is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US."
Mr Assange has been refused bail by a court in London but has vowed to fight extradition to Sweden.
He denies sexually assaulting two women in Sweden but was remanded in custody pending a hearing next week.
Mr Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, has claimed the charges are "politically motivated".
On a visit to Serbia on Wednesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said there had been no contact with US authorities about the possible extradition of Mr Assange from Sweden to the US.
The US has begun a criminal investigation and vowed to punish anyone found responsible for illegal leaks.
No-one has been charged with passing the diplomatic files to Wikileaks, but suspicion has fallen on US Army private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak.
December 8th, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 12:28 AM
President Obama on Tuesday faced an uprising among angry Democrats who strongly opposed his deal with Republicans on tax cuts, opening a public rift that could prevent the White House from ending the year with a fresh dose of stimulus for the economy.
The Obama-GOP compromise would extend all the tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31, including for the wealthiest households; continue long-term unemployment benefits through the end of next year; give businesses a major tax break to encourage capital investment; and provide working couples as much as $4,200 in extra cash in 2011 through a one-year payroll-tax holiday.
The far-reaching package - which would add more than $900 billion to the deficit over the next two years, economists said - contains numerous other provisions, including extensions of smaller individual and business tax breaks that had been widely expected to lapse. Democrats expressed astonishment at the plan's scope and price tag, though they reluctantly conceded its potential to create jobs and boost consumer spending.
But they were furious that Obama capitulated to Republicans over the main provisions - an array of individual tax breaks signed by President George W. Bush nearly 10 years ago that have remained controversial.
Vice President Biden, who helped negotiate the accord, received a stony response when he pitched the package to Senate Democrats at a private luncheon Tuesday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) was among those who emerged unconvinced. "I'm just staggered by the enormity of this package," she said.
Others were in full revolt. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) was one of three senators who interrupted Biden's presentation. Afterward, he vowed to "do everything I can to defeat this proposal," including staging a filibuster.
"The president's heart is in the right place," Sanders said. But "I think he has not fully understood that the American people are prepared for a fight. The American people do not want to give tax cuts to billionaires."
Biden will return to the Hill on Wednesday to talk to House Democrats, according to several lawmakers.
The center of the debate
Set to expire on New Year's Eve, the Bush tax cuts are at the heart of a post-election drama: Obama and most Democrats have sought to end benefits for the wealthiest households as a down payment on deficit reduction. But Republicans oppose any form of tax increase and blocked two attempts by Senate Democrats to break up the Bush package and preserve only the provisions that benefit the middle class.
At a news conference Tuesday, Obama said he had weighed the alternative to a GOP deal - allowing all the tax cuts to expire - and concluded the price was too high.
"I understand the desire for a fight. I'm sympathetic to that. I'm as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I've been for years," he said. "But in the meantime, I'm not here to play games with the American people or the health of our economy."
For the first time in his presidency, Obama is pursuing a legislative path that does not cut exclusively through Democratic territory. Republicans, who opposed the president virtually unanimously on all of his major initiatives over the past two years, warmly embraced the tax deal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called the plan "essentially final" and predicted that a "vast majority" of Senate Republicans will back it.