Shocking New Figures Show How Just Much the US is Fueling the Violence in Yemen

Despite presenting itself as a force for good and peace in the Middle East, the United States sells at least five times as much weaponry to Saudi Arabia than aid it donates to Yemen. The State Department constantly portrays itself as a humanitarian superpower with the welfare of the Yemeni people as its highest priority, yet figures released from the United Nations and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that since the war in Yemen began, the U.S. government has given $2.56 billion in aid to the country, but sold over $13 billion in high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition prosecuting a relentless onslaught against the country.

Figures like these are always debatable. What constitutes legitimate “aid” is a question everyone would answer differently. Furthermore, the $13 billion figure does not include the enormous weapons deal Saudi Arabia signed with Donald Trump in 2017, which will reportedly see the Kingdom purchase $350 billion over ten years.

SIPRI is skeptical of the size of these numbers, but if they prove to be correct, once the orders begin arriving, they will make the paltry aid donations seem like small change by comparison. Sales include all manner of military equipment, from radar and transport systems to F-15 fighter jets, TOW missiles, Abrams tanks, and Paladin howitzers.

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DHS PLANS TO START COLLECTING EYE SCANS AND DNA — WITH THE HELP OF DEFENSE CONTRACTORS

THROUGH A LITTLE-DISCUSSED potential bureaucratic rule change, the Department of Homeland Security is planning to collect unprecedented levels of biometric information from immigration applicants and their sponsors — including U.S. citizens. While some types of applicants have long been required to submit photographs and fingerprints, a rule currently under consideration would require practically everyone applying for any kind of status, or detained by immigration enforcement agents, to provide iris scans, voiceprints and palmprints, and, in some cases, DNA samples. A tangled web of defense and surveillance contractors, which operate with little public oversight, have already begun to build the infrastructure that would be needed to store these records.

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Biden’s Pentagon Transition Team Members Funded by the Arms Industry

On Tuesday, Joe Biden released a list of transition teams for the various departments in his future White House. The Pentagon transition team for Biden consists of 23 people, many of whom hail from hawkish think tanks.

The team is led by Kathleen Hicks, who worked in the Pentagon under the Obama administration. Hicks most recent employer is the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies (CSIS), a think tank that receives contributions from arms makers like Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, to name a few.

CSIS also receives contributions from governments. The think tank’s top government donors are the US, the UAE, Taiwan, and Japan. Two other CSIS employees are on the transition team; Andrew Hunter and Melissa Dalton, who both worked in the Pentagon under the Obama administration.

CSIS employees author policy papers and Op-Eds that generally call for more US involvement around the world. In August, Hicks co-authored an Op-Ed in The Hill titled, “Pentagon Action to Withdraw from Germany Benefits Our Adversaries,” a piece that slammed Trump’s plan to draw down troops from Germany, which Biden could to call off.

Two members of the transition team come from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Susanna Blume, a former Pentagon employee, and Ely Ratner, who served as deputy national security advisor to then-vice president Joe Biden from 2015 to 2017.

CNAS is another think tank that enjoys hefty donations from weapons makers, major corporations, and governments. From 2019 to 2020, CNAS received at least $500,000 from the US State Department and at least $500,000 from Northrop Grumman. Other donors include Google, Facebook, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin.

Three more team members list their latest employer as the RAND Corporation, Stacie Pettyjohn, a wargaming expert, Christine Wormuth, who held a few roles in the Obama administration, and Terri Tanielian, a behavioral scientist.

RAND is another hawkish think tank that receives the bulk of its funding from the US government, including the US Army, Air Force, and Department of Homeland Security. RAND is also funded by the UAE, Qatar, and NATO.

A report from In These Times found at least eight out of the 23 team members come from organizations that receive funding from US weapons makers (not including RAND). Besides the CSIS and CNAS employees listed above, In These Times includes Sharon Burke, who works for New America, Shawn Skel­ly, from CACI International, and Vic­tor Gar­cia, from Rebellion Defense.

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Suspect AI Software Verified Mail-In Ballots With Little Human Oversight in Key Battleground States

Though accusations of election fraud in the 2020 US presidential election have been swirling across social media and some news outlets for much of the past week, few have examined the role of a little known Silicon Valley company whose artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm was used to accept or reject ballots in highly contested states such as Nevada.

That company, Parascript, has long-standing cozy ties to defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and tech giants including Microsoft, in addition to being a contractor to the US Postal Service. In addition, its founder, Stepan Pachikov, better known for cofounding the app Evernote in 2007, is a long-standing and 2020 donor to Democratic presidential candidates.

Parascript’s AI software was used during this election in at least eight states for matching signatures on ballot envelopes with those in government databases in order to “ease the workload of staff enforcing voter signature rules” resulting from the influx of mail-in ballots. Reuters, which reported on the use of the technology, asked the company to provide a list of counties and states using its software for the 2020 election. Parascript, however, declined to supply the list, replying, instead, that their clients “included 20 of the top 100 counties by registered voters.”

Despite not receiving the official list from Parascript, Reuters was able to compile its own partial list, which revealed that several counties in Florida, Colorado, Washington, and Utah, among others, utilized the AI software to determine the validity of ballots. Reuters also reported that Clark County, Nevada, which is one of the hotspots of litigation between the Trump and Biden campaigns and fraud allegations, was one that used the software. Reuters was able to determine how the software was used in some counties, with many counties allowing the software to approve anywhere from 20 to 75 percent of mail-in ballots as acceptable. For several counties included in the Reuters list,staff reviewed 1 percent or less of the AI software’s acceptances. Figures were not available for Clark County, Nevada.

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Raytheon CEO: The Idea That Biden Would Cut Defense Spending is ‘Ridiculous’

Raytheon CEO Gregory Hayes told CNBC on Tuesday that the idea that Joe Biden would cut military spending if he is elected president is “ridiculous.” Hayes was responding to warnings from Republicans about possible cuts to the Pentagon under a Biden administration.

President Trump has presided over a significant increase in the Pentagon budget, bringing it from $700 billion in 2018 to $733 billion in 2020. Despite this record budget, Biden said in an interview with Stars and Stripes that he expects the budget to increase in certain areas.

The Raytheon CEO went on to warn of threats posed to the US by China and Russia that the military needs to compete with. “We have lost our technological edge to the Chinese, and in some cases to the Russians, and we’re going to have to invest more dollars into some of these new technologies if we’re going to be able to compete with these new threats,” Hayes said.

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