Report: Interior Office Meddled With Endangered Species Act

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Political meddling at the Department of Interior into the designation of imperiled species and habitats was more widespread than previously thought, investigators found, according to a lengthy inspector general’s report (PDF) released today.

The report focused on 20 questionable decisions made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, finding that Julie A. MacDonald, former deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, had a hand in at least 13 of them. But the report also found that MacDonald, a senior Bush political appointee, had help from others at the agency who “enabled her behavior” and “aided and abetted” her.

MacDonald resigned under pressure in May 2007 after investigators found that she had tampered with scientific evidence, improperly removed species and habitats from the endangered-species list, and gave internal documents to oil industry lobbyists and property rights groups.


Report on Nuclear Security Urges Prompt Global Action

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When armed men attacked South Africa’s most closely guarded nuclear facility a year ago, they penetrated the detection systems at the perimeter, cut through an electrified fence and broke into the emergency control center, shooting one worker there in the chest before escaping.

The Pelindaba facility holds hundreds of pounds of weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium. Although the attackers last November did not steal any of it, the assault highlights what a new report describes as the increasingly global challenge of keeping nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The South African facility was better protected than dozens of other sites around the world that hold bomb-grade nuclear materials. Yet a team of four armed men made it into the control room and out without being caught.

Germany stockpiled hundreds of atomic weapons: report

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Germany stockpiled around 700 atomic bombs which the US had provided to Germany, the online site of the Munich-based weekly Focus news magazine quoted German historian Detlef Bald as saying Sunday.

The Germans could have detonated the nuclear bombs at any time, if they had chosen to do so, according to Bald who cited various archives and documents.

“The atomic bombs were supposed to be ignited in case of a military attack on Germany. They were planned for a nuclear first-strike,” he added

Report: ES&S Voting Machines Can Be Maliciously Calibrated to Favor Specific Candidates

Report: ES&S Voting Machines Can Be Maliciously Calibrated to Favor Specific Candidates

By Kim Zetter EmailNovember 03, 2008 | 3:51:06 PMCategories: E-Voting, Election ’08

Touchscreen voting machines at the center of recent vote-flipping reports can be easily and maliciously recalibrated in the field to favor one candidate in a race, according to a report prepared by computer scientists for the state of Ohio.

Peb_emulation_on_ess_machine At issue are touchscreen machines manufactured by ES&S, 97,000 of which are in use in 20 states, including counties in the crucial swing states of Ohio and Colorado. The process for calibrating the touchscreens allows poll workers or someone else to manipulate specific regions of the screen, so that a touch in one region is registered in another. Someone attempting to rig an election could thus arrange for votes for one candidate to be mapped to the opponent.

“If one candidate has a check box in one place and a different candidate has it in a different place, you can set it up so that if you press on one candidate it gets recorded for another candidate,” said Matt Blaze, a computer scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who led one of three teams that co-wrote the report (.pdf) last year. “But if you press on the other candidate, it gets recorded correctly for that candidate. You can make it work perfectly normally in most of the screen, but have it behave the way you want in small parts of it.”

The report illustrates a shocking vulnerability in a charged race that’s already seen voter-fraud allegations on both sides, and an ugly spate of voter suppression tactics targeting Democratic voters in several states. The behavior described is also eerily similar to problems already observed in early voting on ES&S machines and during a 2006 race in Sarasota, Florida.

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Iran speed boats lethal to US navy: report

Iran speed boats lethal to US navy: report
Thu, 18 Sep 2008 08:10:00 GMT

Iran’s fleet has the capacity to inflict crippling damages on any US vessels in the Persian Gulf, a French newspaper reports.

In an article in Le Figaro published on Wednesday, George Malbrunot has written that Iran has a tactical defense scheme in the Persian Gulf to implement against any possible US attack.

Malbrunot noted that the Islamic Republic has mass-produced a large number of speed boats with rocket launchers and other sophisticated military equipment which are able to strike a heavy blow on any foreign warship if the country comes under attack.

Malbrunot said that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is ready to deploy its submarines and battle boats to intercept vessels at the Straight of Hormuz.

He also referred to IRGC’s Qaem submarine which is capable of launching high-speed torpedoes with significant destructive powers.

The IRGC has recently developed long-range anti-ship missiles that can strike targets within 300 kilometers and its new unmanned reconnaissance planes have caused worries in Washington, Le Figaro reported.

Major General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, former commander of the IRGC and the current military advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, had earlier declared that the responsibility of Persian Gulf defense had been handed over to the IRGC and it will seal the strategic Straight of Hormuz in case the US launches any attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.

Russian units raid Georgian airfields for use in Israeli strike against Iran – report

Russian units raid Georgian airfields for use in Israeli strike against Iran – report

DEBKAfile Special Report

September 5, 2008, 12:58 PM (GMT+02:00)

Israeli long-range unmanned aerial vehicle

Israeli long-range unmanned aerial vehicle

The raids were disclosed by UPI chief editor Arnaud de Borchgrave, who is also on the Washington Times staff, and picked up by the Iranian Fars news agency. The Russian raids of two Georgian airfields, which Tbilisi had allowed Israel to use for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, followed the Georgian offensive against South Ossetia on Aug. 7.

Under the secret agreement with Georgia, the airfields had been earmarked for use by Israeli fighter-bombers taking off to strike Iran in return for training and arms supplies.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that flying from S. Georgia over the Caspian Sea to Iran would sharply trim the distance to be spanned by Israeli fighter-bombers, reducing flying time to 3.5 hours.

Northern Iran and the Tehran region, where most of the nuclear facilities are concentrated, would be within range, with no need to request US permission to pass through Iraq air space.

Russian Special Forces also raided other Israeli facilities in southern Georgia and captured Israeli spy drones, says the report.

Israel was said to have used the two airfields to “conduct recon flights over southern Russia as well as into nearby Iran.” The US intelligence sources quoted by UPI reported that the Russian force also carried home other Israeli military equipment captured at the air bases.

Our sources say that if the Russians got hold of an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle complete with sophisticated electronic reconnaissance equipment, they will have secured some of the IDF’s most secret devices for spying on Iran and Syria.

When this happened before, Russian military engineers quickly dismantled the equipment, studied it and passed the technology on to Tehran and Damascus.

Russia warns Australia against scrapping uranium deal: report

Russia warns Australia against scrapping uranium deal: report

SYDNEY (AFP) — Any decision by Australia to scrap a deal to sell uranium to Russia to protest its action in Georgia would be “politically biased” and economically harmful, Moscow’s envoy to Canberra has reportedly warned.

Fairfax newspapers on Tuesday quoted Ambassador Alexander Blokhin, as issuing the caution a day after Australia’s foreign minister said Canberra was reconsidering whether to ratify a 2007 pact to sell yellowcake to Moscow following its military foray into Georgia.

“We do not see any connection between the events in the Caucasus region and the uranium deal,” Blokhin told Fairfax through an interpreter.

“These are completely separate things. The agreement on uranium is actually an agreement about the use of atomic energy only for peaceful civilian aims.

“If this agreement is not ratified, in that case we could regard that as an obversely political biased decision, which could harm the economic interests of Australia as well,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.

Blokhin could not immediately be reached for comment by AFP on Tuesday.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was then president, and former Australian prime minister John Howard signed the deal a year ago allowing sales of uranium to Moscow for civilian nuclear power use.

The pact, which broadens the scope of uranium sales from a 1990 agreement that remains in force, stipulates that the material not be used to make nuclear weapons or be sold to any other country.

But Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Monday that Australia would take into account Russia’s push into Georgian territory last month as well as Canberra’s ties with Moscow when deciding whether or not to ratify the deal.

“When considering ratification, the government will take into account not just the merits of the agreement but recent and ongoing events in Georgia and the state of Australia’s bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation,” Smith said.

Smith also ordered his ministry to convey the news to Blokhin, whom Smith had summoned last week to urge Moscow to pull its troops in Georgia back to the positions they held before the conflict began on August 8.

He also criticised Russia’s decision to recognise the independence of the Georgian rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as unhelpful.

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