Government blocks US Airways, AA deal

WASHINGTON The Justice Department and several U.S. state attorneys general on Tuesday challenged a proposed $11 billion merger between US Airways Group Inc. and American Airlines' parent company, AMR Corp. The Justice Department says the deal would result in the creation of the world's largest airline and that a combination of the two companies would reduce competition for commercial air travel in local markets and would result in passengers paying higher airfares and receiving less service."Americans spent more than $70 billion flying around the country last year," said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer in announcing the suit. "Increases in the price of airline tickets, checked bags or flight-change fees resulting from this merger would result in hundreds of millions of dollars of harm to American consumers." He added that US Air now "competes vigorously" through price discounting, and said such deals are certain to disappear once the deal is done. "If this merger were to go forward, consumers will lose the benefit of head-to-head competition between US Airways and American on thousands of airline routes across the country -- in cities big and small. They will pay more for less service because the remaining three legacy carriers -- United, Delta and the new American -- will have very little incentive to compete on price." Judge approves American Airlines-US Airways merger American, US Airways execs defend merger 19 states join feds' antitrust review of American-US Airways merger Baer also cited the effects on Washington, DC, flyers. "Across the Potomac River, the merged airline would dominate Washington Reagan National Airport by controlling 69 percent of the take-off and landing slots at DCA," Baer said.The government's action came two days before a bankruptcy judge was to decide whether the deal would be allowed as a way to exit bankruptcy reorganization. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.Rick Seaney, CEO of travel planning website Continue Reading

CBS News Logo Appeals Court: NSA phone surveillance excessive

Last Updated May 7, 2015 11:48 AM EDT NEW YORK --A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that the bulk collection of Americans' phone records by the government exceeds what Congress has allowed.The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued its decision Thursday.In it, a three-judge panel said the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union illustrated the complexity of balancing privacy interests with the nation's security."The text of (Section 215) cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and ... does not authorize the telephone metadata program," the court wrote, according to the Wall Street Journal. It did not weigh in on whether the program infringes on Americans' privacy rights, because the judges found the government's expansive data collection was simply not authorized by the law.A lower court judge had thrown out the case. The appeals court said the lower court had erred in ruling that the phone records collection program was legal.However, the 2nd Circuit declined to block the program, saying it is now up to Congress to decide whether and under what conditions it should continue.It said a debate in Congress could profoundly alter the legal landscape.Secret NSA documents were leaked to journalists in 2013 by contractor Edward Snowden, revealing that the agency was collecting phone records and digital communications of millions of citizens not suspected of crimes and prompting congressional reform.Jesselyn Radack, an attorney who has represented Snowden, tweeted Wednesday that the ruling "demolishes Gov't argument that Congressional reauthorization of the Patriot Act means it is on board with bulk surveillance."Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who published several of Snowden's biggest scoops, tweeted, "This decision is a vehement rejection of the Obama Admin's attempt to interpret Patriot Act for mass surveillance." He later noted that all three judges who ruled the program exceeds its authority "were appointed to Continue Reading

Branding news outlets as foreign agents won’t make them any more transparent

Updated 7:52 AM ET, Thu November 30, 2017 Suzanne Nossel is executive director of PEN America. She was formerly executive director of Amnesty International USA and deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations at the State Department. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. (CNN)RT -- the Kremlin-funded news channel formerly known as "Russia Today," frequently cited as a central gear in Russia's propaganda machine -- is nothing if not colorful. The network is known for declaring the Boston Marathon bombings a government plot, publicly shaming its own journalists if they dare defy the Kremlin line and for featuring American commentators known for conspiracy-mongering. Suzanne Nossel Now RT can add another ignominious label to its long list: foreign agent. Following years of hue and cry over the network's overt pro-Kremlin bias, earlier this month the Department of Justice forced the channel to file under the "Foreign Agents Registration Act," or FARA, a 1938 law that was initially passed to counter pro-Nazi propaganda and subsequently retooled in the 1960s to publicly pinpoint those lobbying on behalf of foreign interests. Forcing RT to register as a foreign agent is justified, but isn't the best way to counter the propaganda the channel -- or any other source of disinformation for that matter -- puts out. While RT has howled its objections, the network may protest too much. Absent a far wider effort to incentivize and enable news consumers to distinguish serious news and analysis from agitprop, FARA registration or not, the influence of RT and other shady news sources may survive intact. China's media enables tyranny and corruption The problem is that while RT's FARA registration may make members of Congress and administration officials feel as though they've landed a blow in the fight against Russian propaganda, RT's filing with the Justice Department may well never register with most Continue Reading

Russian oligarch indicted by Mueller reportedly told Putin before mercenaries in Syria attacked US forces

Alex Lockie, provided by Published 9:42 am, Friday, February 23, 2018 Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool Photo via AP Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch charged last week by the special counsel Robert Mueller's office with playing a role in information warfare against the US, told Kremlin and Syrian officials that Russian mercenaries were going to attack US forces in Syria, The Washington Post reported. Russian mercenaries fighting on behalf of the Syrian government attacked US forces in a massive battle earlier this month. A Reuters report cited sources as saying the purpose of the attack was to test the US's response, which was immediate and overwhelming. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch, reportedly spoke to Kremlin and Syrian officials before a group of Russian mercenaries he's thought to control attacked US forces earlier this month in Syria. Recommended Video: Now Playing: Russian media say an unknown number of private Russian military contractors have been killed by a US strike on a government base in Syria. If confirmed, the news from Tuesday could further inflame tensions between Russia and the US. Russian media also cited unconfirmed claims that overall casualties could be as high as 200, the majority Russians. These claims cannot be verified. What happened? Russian media said the Russian private contractors were part of pro-government forces that advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States. The reports cited activists who said at least four Russian citizens were killed in Syria on Wednesday. Citing Natalya Krylova, a municipal lawmaker in the town of Asbestos in the Urals, the state news agency Tass said local residents Igor Kosoturov and Stanislav Matveyev were killed in the strike. Quoting the Cossack group in the westernmost Kalningrad region, the Interfax agency said a member named Vladimir Loginov was killed in combat in the province of Deir el-Zour. It also quoted Continue Reading

Trump has a long way to go on the road to fixing US-China trade

The U.S. and China leaders agreed at the Beijing summit last week that there were no quick solutions to their structurally unbalanced trade relations. In a remarkable departure from his earlier statements, President Donald Trump also acknowledged that this decades-old problem was mainly caused by America's negligent and inept trade policies. That was not news to the Chinese because those issues have been thoroughly discussed through diplomatic channels much before Trump's "state visit plus." And neither is it newsworthy that China won't be rushed. China, in case some impatient Westerners need to be reminded, will open up in its own time and on its own terms in a tough and excruciatingly difficult negotiating process. That was a hint Chinese Premier Li Keqiang dropped during his meeting with Trump, when he said that "the two countries should open up to each other," inviting the U.S. to increase "high-tech exports to China," an area of trade in "dual-use technologies" Washington keeps off limits. Meanwhile, as a pacifier, Trump was offered a mega "hongbao" — China's traditional gift for special occasions — in the form of hundreds of billions of done and potential deals as a down payment on the long years ahead to reach a more balanced U.S.-China trade relationship. While Beijing was promoting its so-called win-win approach, Washington probably didn't even notice that this was American money China was recycling from its trade surplus accounts. Cleverly, also, the money did not come in the customary red envelope; it came along as part of an apparent American acceptance of a special relationship praised by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who extolled the "head-of-state diplomacy," cooperation as "the only correct choice," and sought to Continue Reading

The US Launched New Airstrikes Against Pro-Assad Forces In Syria

The US military launched airstrikes against pro-Assad forces in southern Syria on Thursday, three US defense officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News.It marked the second time under the Trump administration that the US has struck out against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces with airstrikes and first in the apparent vicinity of US troops operating inside Syria.BuzzFeed News is the first to have reported US confirmation that it launched these new strikes.The strikes were believed to have hit a regime-allied militia mixed with Syrian government forces, US officials said. They hit advancing vehicles outside a base called Tanf, near the Jordanian border. As BuzzFeed News reported last week, US Special Forces are deployed at the base with a unit of Syrian rebels. The Special Forces are training the rebels to fight ISIS — and also accompanying them on combat missions against the militants.But the Syrian regime and its allies — including Iranian forces, Shiite militia, and Hezbollah — are also based some 40 miles outside Tanf, a rebel commander based there told BuzzFeed News last week, allowing them easy access to Tanf via a highway that cuts through the desert.Unlike the US strike against the al-Shayrat air base in March, which the Trump administration ordered in retaliation for a regime chemical weapons attack, Thursday’s strike seemed designed to protect the US forces based at Tanf.One of the defense officials — who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details that the Pentagon had yet to make public — said that the US acted to stop an advance of pro-regime forces toward Tanf. Pro-regime forces had crossed a pre-agreed deconfliction zone and continued to advance despite warning strikes, he added. The strikes destroyed several vehicles. It was unclear if they resulted in any deaths.released from Operation Inherent Resolve, the official name of the US-led coalition against ISIS, said the airstrike came "after Continue Reading

Some Question Why The US Lets Turkey Bully It Over The Incirlik Airbase

WASHINGTON — With relations between Turkey and the United States once again in crisis, some former US military leaders are saying it may be time to reassess just how much the US really needs Turkey's Incirlik Air Base — and whether it’s worth the leverage it gives the increasingly combative government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.Over the weekend, the two countries halted the processing of nonimmigrant visas for citizens of the other after Turkey arrested a US consulate employee and charged him with espionage, the latest in a series of arrests diplomats believe is a campaign of hostage-taking to force the US to extradite an Erdoğan rival who lives in Pennsylvania.As in previous diplomatic standoffs, Incirlik, a strategically located air base just 60 miles from the Syrian border that houses 2,700 American service members, has become a key point of contention, with US officials insisting it remains strategically important. Pro-Erdoğan media outlets trumpeted those statements Tuesday.Incirlik “has been a symbol of our commitment to work with and help defend our ally and strategic partner for decades,” Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michaels told BuzzFeed News, adding that counter-ISIS operations out of the base continue to be closely coordinated with Turkey. “We're fully in this fight and intend to continue to cooperate closely with Turkey.”But some former US military leaders question that position, noting that Incirlik has become a card that trumps all others in disputes with a supposed ally that's seemed less and less of one in recent years.“Turkey needs to know we’re not held hostage by the fact that we need to have this base. We don’t,” retired Gen. Chuck Wald, former deputy commander of the US European Command, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a good place to have a base, but can we do it somewhere else? Absolutely.”Incirlik’s strategic location has long given Turkey Continue Reading

Inside The Real US Ground War On ISIS

ERBIL, Iraq — The Black Hawk helicopter pushed into ISIS territory through the pre-dawn sky. Joshua Wheeler, a veteran master sergeant with US special operations, was taking his men deep behind enemy lines. As the chopper descended on the ISIS stronghold of Hawija in northern Iraq, back in Washington, US president Barack Obama, who had been notified of the mission, waited for word of its fate.Wheeler and his team were at the forefront of the hidden war US special operations troops are waging against ISIS. With him in the chopper were fellow members of the US Army’s elite Delta Force and some of the local commandos they had trained. Decked in desert camouflage and equipped with high-tech automatic weapons and night vision, the US and local soldiers looked almost identical.Their mission, carried out on Oct. 22, was more dangerous than most. It called for the men to infiltrate a guarded compound that ISIS had converted into a prison and rescue dozens of men who, according to intelligence reports, were scheduled to be executed that day.ISIS militants began firing on the helicopter as it lowered toward the compound. Wheeler shot back from the bay, recalled one of the local soldiers who was beside him, a captain with a specialized Kurdish force called the Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU), which is run by the security council of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.Then — as Wheeler often did, his Kurdish partners said — he led the way.Wheeler hit the ground first, said the 29-year-old captain, the ranking CTU officer on the chopper. Gunshots and calls of “Allahu Akbar” rang out as the militants tried to repel the commandos, firing with everything they had. The captain said he and Wheeler advanced together, “fighting side by side.” By the time the operation was over three hours later, around 20 ISIS militants had been killed and 69 prisoners had been saved. And Wheeler was dead, struck down by an ISIS bullet, making Continue Reading

Post-Truth and Its Consequences: What a 25-Year-Old Essay Tells Us About the Current Moment

Last month Oxford Dictionaries designated “post-truth” its 2016 Word of the Year. It defined the word as referring to “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” According to Oxford, it was first used in a January 1992 article in this magazine by the Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich. Tesich sought to describe what he called “the Watergate syndrome,” whereby all the sordid facts revealed by the presidency of Richard Nixon rendered Americans disdainful of uncomfortable truths. The revelations that President Nixon and members of his Cabinet were a bunch of cheap crooks rightly sickened and disgusted the nation. But truth prevailed and a once-again proud nation proudly patted itself on the back; despite the crimes committed in the highest office in our land, our system of government worked. Democracy triumphed. But in the wake of that triumph something totally unforeseen occurred. Either because the Watergate revelations were so wrenching and followed on the heels of the war in Vietnam, which was replete with crimes and revelations of its own, or because Nixon was so quickly pardoned, we began to shy away from the truth. We came to equate truth with bad news and we didn’t want bad news anymore, no matter how true or vital to our health as a nation. We looked to our government to protect us from the truth. The Iran/Contra scandal under the Reagan administration only emphasized the point, Tesich argued: “President Reagan perceived correctly that the public really didn’t want to know the truth. So he lied to us, but he didn’t have to work hard at it. He sensed that we would gladly accept his loss of memory as an alibi. It had simply slipped his mind what form of government we had in our country.” The charade that was the First Gulf War kept the tradition going, as Americans accepted that press censorship was Continue Reading

Breaking News: US to Reopen 18 of 19 Closed Embassies, Consulates

Here's the latest from The State Department announced Friday evening that 18 of the 19 U.S. embassies and consulates closed in the Middle East and Africa due to a terrorist threat will reopen on Sunday. The U.S. embassy in Yemen will remain closed “because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the State Department said in a statement.   The American consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, which closed yesterday due to a separate threat will also remain closed, the government said. Nineteen outposts had been closed to the public since last Sunday. Most American employees at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen were ordered to leave the country on Tuesday because of threat information. An intercepted message on a conference call between Al Qaeda officials about plans for a major terror attack triggered the closures. “We will also continue to evaluate information about these and all of our posts and to take appropriate steps to best protect the safety of our personnel, American citizens traveling overseas, and visitors to our facilities,” the State Department said.   Continue Reading