Saturday, June 28, 2008

The ghost of CBS correspondent George Polk

60 years later, his murder is still an official secret
26 May 2008
George Polk broadcasting for CBS. Polk questioned the competency and honesty of the Greek government, which was fighting Communism with the backing of the United States, and belief still abounds he was killed because of that

The ghost of American CBS radio Middle East Bureau Chief George Polk lays uneasily at First Cemetery in Athens, Greece, 60 years after he was murdered in Salonika, found floating in the bay one week later and buried in late May 1948. Greece was then in the final round of a vicious civil war that pitted right wing Royalist forces – a British-backed king, the Greek army, and security, police, gendarmerie and extremist organisations – against the Greek Communist Party and its Democratic Army (DA) guerilla bands in the mountains. At that time, the government controlled virtually all of the major cities and towns in the country and the Communists held the rest, with safe haven and supplies available in Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. Albeit, the USSR lent little help to the insurgency, however, as Stalin had agreed at Yalta that Greece would remain within the British sphere of influence.

There was popular support for the DA based on its patriotic wartime fight against German and Italian occupiers; just as there was disaffection on the part of Greeks who saw their war-weary and devastated country under the thumb of the same discredited politicians who ushered in the Metaxas dictatorship of the 1930s. Letting the chips fall where they may, Polk's hard-hitting reports not only made him unpopular with the Greek government, but also with an American mission bent on all out support to Athens under the new Truman Doctrine of 1947 – a policy that had drawn a line against the Communists in order to prevent Greece from falling behind the Iron Curtain. Polk, a decorated US navy combat pilot in WWII whose work was looked on very favorably by Edward R. Murrow at CBS, was about to return to the US to accept a Nieman fellowship for a year at Harvard University.

His disappearance and death caused the doyen of American newsmen, Walter Lippmann, and others to mount an investigation into his murder: a US news reporter killed while doing his job. They chose prominent attorney William ("Wild Bill") Donovan and the legendary wartime head of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) flew to Athens with his hand picked investigator James Kellis, a Greek- American who had served with the Greek resistance. The facts were these: Polk had disappeared from his hotel room on the late evening of Saturday, May 8. He was fished out of the water not far from his hotel on Sunday morning May 16. He was clothed, hands and feet loosely bound, and blindfolded. He had been shot at close range in the back of his head and drowned. Hours before his death, he had eaten lobster and peas.

In the weeks before General Donovan's June 10 arrival in Athens, Polk's murder had been splashed daily across the front pages of the Greek press and had been reported on extensively by prominent commentators and newsmen in the US. The former was sensationalist and the latter angry, but guarded. His war correspondent's identity card and a Pan-Am airline pocket calendar had been mailed to Salonika's third police station on May 10 in a crudely- addressed envelope. Talk was rife that Polk had been murdered while trying to meet the DA's communist military commander "Markos" – for he'd asked almost everyone how he could get to "the other side" after he arrived Friday May 7 on a Greek military transport. Greek journalists somehow learned that Polk and his strikingly beautiful Greek wife Rea had a "lovers tiff" on the evening before he left Athens and turned his death into a crime passionale' involving an unknown third person. Others said Polk had committed suicide.

By then, however, the Greek side of the investigation had been turned over to Nicholas Mouscoundis, the tough head of Salonika's security police under the close supervision of the British Police and Prisons Mission to Greece. He had once broken the back of a Communist terrorist organisation in Salonika by threatening to roast a captured member on a spit while he was still alive. With the British taking the lead, in official circles the line was beginning to harden that Polk had likely been killed by the Communists. Donovan plunged into the investigation energetically and quickly let it be known that he and Washington wanted results. No doubt, Greek Minister of Public Order Constantine Rendis felt the pressure – knowing his country was surviving on massive US military and material assistance – even basic food.

Donovan met repeatedly with top officials and was assured that hundreds of police and security men were combing northern Greece searching for clues. Sir Charles Wickham, a tall, hardy, graduate of Harrow and Sandhurst, who had served in Siberia, Ulster, and elsewhere, and headed the police mission, told Donovan that they had information that a senior communist leading a team of 10 assassins and saboteurs were to have hit Salonika just about the time of Polk's disappearance. Not emphasised was the fact that the city was quiet that weekend and Polk's disappearance was the only incident of note. Kellis met frequently with Mouscoundis and several of Wickham's people who guided the investigation, specifically Colonels Martin and Stacy.

Kellis also located several old OSS agents and convinced them to help him conduct a unilateral investigation on the side. It took Kellis only weeks to become convinced that the Greeks were only going through the motions of a sham investigation. Mouscoundis told Kellis to back off and said that there were issues of Greek national importance at stake. By the end of June, Donovan was back in New York and Kellis was having difficulty convincing American charge d' affairs Karl Rankin and FBI special investigator Frederick Ayer (assigned by Secretary of State George Marshall) to press Greek authorities to broaden the investigation to include the political right.

Ayer insisted that Rea be interrogated as well as Polk's assistant Costas Hadjiargyris (the stepson of Prime Minister Themistocles Sophoulis) and a journalist for the US paper the Christian Science Monitor. He claimed that Rea had been a Greek Communist Party (KKE) courier when a stewardess for Greece's airline and Hadjiargyris was secretly a Communist.

A fledgling CIA Station under Robert Driscoll and Christian Freer had only begun to get its feet on the ground and were unable to match the reach and influence of the British. They too were inclined to go along with the theory of Communist guilt despite the fact that Kellis' sources were beginning to develop leads in other directions. Possibly out of respect for his wartime commander, Kellis seemed oblivious to Donovan's lack of interest into possible connections of the Greek right to the murder. He accepted Kellis's reports and filed them away. As Kellis's unilateral efforts were just beginning to bear fruit, on his next trip to Greece Donovan only warmed to a list of 10 names that Kellis had thought might possibly have connections with the murder.

For reasons that are unclear, he had even underlined the name of Gregory Staktopoulos – a young Salonika journalist for Macedonia and a Reuters stringer who had briefly met Polk on the first evening Polk was in town and had subsequently inquired about him to another journalist friend.

Before returning again to the states, Donovan passed the list to Mouscoundis and bore down on him with the instruction, "An arrest is desired!" But as summer wore on, it's also clear that Kellis and Donovan had become aware of the startling news that by August 24 was the subject of a classified telegram from the US embassy in Athens to the department: that the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Constantine Tsaldaris was concealing an illegal account at the Chase Bank in New York City that contained USD 25,000 – a very large sum in 1948 (Further information through embassy source indicates a lump deposit of USD 25,000 made to Chase Bank a relatively short time before Polk's murder.

This info previously was sent to the department in a personal letter to Baxter. Attempting to obtain information on (name is blanked out) financial status.) Tsaldaris, an ex-Prime Minister and head of the Populist Party (pro-Royalist) with a power base in the port of Piraeus, and ties to the right wing extremist "X" organisation was perhaps the most powerful man in Greece.

An undated message sent by the State Department to the FBI released to author Kati Marton in 1988 states: (Greek Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Populist Party who presented Greek case to the UN Security Council is reported to have a large sum of money on deposit in one or more banks in New York City.

George Polk is rumored to have had knowledge of these deposits. Will the Bureau please endeavor to verify this and inform the department.) According to Rea Polk, in April her husband had received an unsolicited letter from an employee at the Chase Bank in New York with the above information. He confided this information to only a few close friends, a Mr. M. Johnson of the CARE agency and Dr. Homer Davis, the head of the American College in Athens. She also relates how on May 3, a Monday, Polk confronted Tsaldaris at his foreign ministry office and told the outraged minister that when he returned to the states he (Polk) was going to expose him, that Tsaldaris' reputation would be finished, and then walked out of his office. Rea said that George's painful war wounds, his occasional bouts of malaria, the pressures of his CBS radio schedule that often required that he broadcast at one a.m. to be heard live at seven p.m. on the east coast had worn on him – and the ongoing violence, government inefficiency and corruption of the civil war had set him on edge. She said she was surprised that he lived for three more days after his fight with Tsaldaris. The following day, his long-awaited request to travel north was approved.

Upon arrival, he was told that he had been booked into the Astoria Hotel, a nondescript establishment favored by Greek military personnel. After a day in town, he sent several telegrams to Rea asking her to join him. She quickly agreed. When she arrived in Salonika at the hotel, he was gone of course, not seen since Saturday. His pajamas were missing, but not his shaving kit. Rea found an unfinished letter to George's mother in his portable typewriter and a letter to CBS's Murrow close by. She inquired as to his whereabouts at the nearby American Consulate and hid her concern and worry by agreeing with acquaintances that he was likely working on a big story and would soon show up. The discovery of his body the following Sunday began a nightmare of loss, innuendo and events that the 20 year-old bride of only nine months found unbearable. She refused to make statements for the police and the press that she believed that Communists had killed her husband.

And, following his request that he be buried in Greece if something happened to him, she planned a private burial at her family tomb. What happened instead was an elaborate Greek government and American embassy arranged affair of limousines, ministers and officials in dark suits, wreaths of flowers, and carefullycalculated speeches of how George Polk would be deeply missed. Following the funeral, events and persons closed in around Rea Polk. Greek journalist Mary Barber, a stringer for Time magazine, was now constantly by her side.

She seemed full of compassion and offered to help Rea in any way possible. Barber and her British husband Steve were close to Nigel Clive, an MI-6 man in Athens, and Sir Wickham. She offered to help a distraught Rea get her personal papers in order upon Rea's unexpected, but firm decision to leave Greece for America. There were forms to fill at the embassy. The day before, Barber went through George Polk's office files; the Greek police had arrived and had inventoried Polk's papers. Shortly after Barber's visit, Rea discovered that George's CBS files for March, April, and May were missing, including the all-important letter from the Chase Bank employee. Upset, Rea asked Hadjiargyris if he had taken them.

Costas adamantly denied it and said he considered George's office off-limits. The incident was soon submerged beneath the questioning of Greek authorities, probing by American officials, threats by FBI agent Ayer that he would prevent Rea from going to America, and constant visits by journalists looking for a story.

~ New Europe ~


Other material:

Who Killed George Polk?, by Elias Vlanton with Zak Mettger. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996. (322 pages, no price listed)

This is the third book that appeared in English since 1989 on the 1948 murder of George Polk. The first book was by Princeton University professor Edmund Keeley, The Salonica Bay Murder: Cold War Politics and the Polk Affair (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). Keeley's book was followed by that of Kati Marton in the fall of 1990. Her book, The Polk Conspiracy (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990), received wide press coverage. CBS's "60 Minutes" devoted a segment to Marton's theory on the Polk assassination in November 1990. Vlanton's book presents a new theory about this mysterious assassination which is based on his extensive research in Greek and American archives.

[ ... ]

Vlanton convincingly shows that the governments of Greece and the United States allowed an innocent man to be framed for Polk's murder and that some of the most respected names in American journalism "stood by and let it happen." At the height of the Cold War, the murder investigation was "tailored from the outset to fit political exigencies," while the American press became an instrument of American Cold War policy. Those journalists who disagreed and failed to cooperate destroyed their careers.

Vlanton's book is meticulously documented. Detailed notes make up a third of the manuscript. The book also contains an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources, as well as lists of interviews and correspondence conducted by the author.

Keeley's book makes a convincing case that Staktopoulos was framed and that the murder was not committed either by the communists or by the British as some have claimed. Available evidence suggests that the Greek right wing was responsible for the murder. Keeley, however, is unable to identify who might have been responsible for the actual murder. Kati Marton, in turn, takes her story one step further. While she agrees with the essentials of Keeley's explanation, she concludes that right-wing extremists, acting on orders by Constantine Tsaldaris, killed Polk. The motive, according to Marton, was to prevent disclosure that Tsaldaris had violated Greek currency regulations by diverting a small amount of U.S. currency to a New York bank account.


The George Polk Case
CIA Has Lost Records on CBS Reporter Murdered in Greece in 1948,
And Destroyed FOIA File on Case

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 226
Edited by William Burr

Posted - August 10, 2007

Washington D.C., August 10, 2007 - The Central Intelligence Agency has lost documents concerning its investigation of the mysterious 1948 murder of CBS reporter George Polk, and destroyed its file on FOIA requests for Polk documents, according to a letter from Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein. In June 2006, the Archive asked the CIA and the National Archives to investigate the possibility that the CIA had lost or destroyed records on the Polk case.

Polk, a CBS reporter based in Greece at the height of its left-right civil war, was murdered by unknown assailants in 1948. At the request of members of the Polk family, the National Security Archive had asked the CIA to re-review CIA documents on the Polk case that had been released during the 1990s. The CIA found a number of documents for re-review but in December 2005 informed the Archive that nine of the documents, including memoranda to the Agency's director, had been destroyed. According to CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator Scott Koch's letter, "The original documents had been destroyed in accordance with approved National Archives and Records Administration records schedules." It was the CIA's response that prompted National Security Archive director Thomas S. Blanton to write letters to the Archivist of the United States and the Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency asking them to investigate the destruction of documents on the Polk case.

Last week, Dr. Weinstein informed the National Security Archive that the CIA is "unable to locate the original documents or information about their disposition." As the letter explains, the CIA FOIA case file had been destroyed in accordance with the records schedule; what has gone missing are the original file copies of the Polk-related documents (and whatever collection to which they belonged). That the CIA has determined that the documents cannot be found (and may well have been destroyed) raises troubling questions about CIA's historical records preservation policies. Why is the CIA losing what should have been permanent records? If the Polk documents were part of a larger system of records that was destroyed, what other historically significant records no longer exist? That the FOIA file which contained copies of the now-missing documents had also been destroyed also raises questions about this standard practice at federal agencies.

The National Security Archive won the George Polk Award in April 2000 for "piercing the self-serving veils of government secrecy."


Democracy in Iraq: Notes on a Greek tragedy

According to journalists for mainstream US and British newspapers in the mid-1940s, the Greek government routinely used mass arrests, torture, and the forced expulsion of political undesirables-in fact, the government's foreign minister had resigned in disgust in early 1946 because of rampant "terrorism by state organs." US reporters who pursued these stories were often pressured by US government officials and their editors to examine their "unpatriotic" views.

One CBS correspondent* who had been particularly outspoken in his criticism of the Truman government's unqualified support for the rightist authoritarian regime in Greece was tortured, murdered, and dumped into Salonika Bay. In the late 1970s, the story emerged as to how AMAG authorities helped the Greek police frame two young communists for his death.

Numerous paramilitary and parastate organizations with memberships drawn from the criminal underworld were created for dirty work and became a lasting feature of the Greek government for the next thirty years. Working in conjunction with US and British intelligence agents, Greek security services accumulated files on 80 to 90 percent of the population; in the US, the FBI spied on Greek-American communities and compiled reports on possible subversive sympathies. The permanent CIA station established in Athens after 1947 became one of the preeminent US intelligence outposts in Europe for the next forty years.

By November 1947, a joint US-Greek army staff was established, and the government's US masters demanded that freedom of the press, freedom-of assembly, and the right to strike against one's employer all be outlawed. Martial law was declared by the US proxies in the Greek government, meaning the incarceration of thousands of people as threats to national security, as well as the immediate execution of dozens of soldiers in the National Army "who showed negligence or faintheartedness" in the opinion of the commanding officer.


Greek forum thread with photos


Guide to the Newsmen's Commission to Investigate the Murder of George Polk Records
(Bulk 1946-1950)


Guide to the John Poulos & Constantine Poulos Papers : Greek and Greek-American radicalism collection
ca. 1921-1978
(Bulk 1940-1950)


From the Wikipedia entry

George Polk (17 October 1913, Fort Worth, Texas - May 1948) was an American journalist for CBS who disappeared in Greece and was found dead a few days later on Sunday May 16, 1948, shot at point-blank range in the back of the head, and with hands and feet tied. Polk was covering the civil war in Greece between the right wing government and communists and had been critical of both sides. He alleged that a few officials in the Greek government had embezzled up to $250,000 in aid (or $2.2 million in 2007 dollars) from the Truman Administration, a charge that was never proved.

He had been particularly outspoken in his criticism of the Truman government's unqualified support for the rightist authoritarian regime in Greece. In the late 1970s, the story emerged as to how AMAG (American Mission for Aid to Greece) authorities helped the Greek police frame two young communists for his death.[citation needed]

A communist journalist, Gregorios Staκtopoulos, was tried and convicted of helping Vaggelis Vasvanas and Adam Mouzenidis, members of the illegal communist army, commit the murder. Staktopoulos himself maintained that the confession that led to his conviction was obtained through torture, and in fact it was later revealed that Adam Mouzenidis arrived at Salonica, where he was allegedly introduced to Polk, two days after Polk's murder, and Vasvanas was not in Greece at the time.[citation needed] An investigation by James G.M. Kellis (also known as Killis), a former OSS officer with knowledge of Greek political circles and power brokers, concluded that Greek communist circles lacked the power and influence to commit the murder and cover it up. Kellis worked on contract for the Wall Street law firm of William 'Wild Bill' Donovan, the former head of OSS, who was hired by journalist Walter Lippman to investigate the case. Following Kellis' conclusion that it was more likely Polk had been murdered by right-wing groups within or affiliated to the Greek government, the investigation was halted and Kellis recalled to Washington. At the time the US government was financially supporting the Greek government mainly to prevent a communist take-over of the country. The Greek government had been supported by the British Government throughout 1941-1945 but this became an impossibility after the war.

According to journalists for mainstream US and British newspapers in the mid-1940s, the US-installed Fascist Greek government routinely used mass arrests, torture, and the forced expulsion and "re-education" of political undesirables.[citation needed]

In fact, the government's foreign minister had resigned in disgust in early 1946 because of rampant "terrorism by state organs."

US reporters who pursued these stories were often pressured by US government officials and their editors to examine their "unpatriotic" views. People sent for "re-education" had to endure abhorrent conditions of lack of water and lack of hygienic conditions.[citation needed]

This Truman Doctrine policy became a cornerstone of Cold War neo-colonialism; as Truman explained it, the US government and military would brazenly intervene in the internal affairs of any nation that did not comply with the global political and economic objectives of the US.[citation needed]

Polk had married Rea (also known as Rhea) Coccins, a Greek national and ex-stewardess, seven months prior to his death. They had no children. After being allegedly harassed and threatened by the Greek government, Rea fled to the U.S. where she was debriefed by Donovan's law firm. She became friendly with Barbara Colby, the wife of William Colby, a former OSS officer attached to Donovan's firm, who later would become director of the CIA.

Reporters in New York city started a fundraising project to send an independent investigation committee to Greece, and from this effort the newsmen's commission was formed. Members included Ernest Hemingway, William Polk (Polk's brother), William Price (his cousin) and Homer Bigart. This was soon however eclipsed in media coverage by the Lippman Committee, comprised mostly of Washington journalists with Walter Lippman as chairman and James Reston of the New York Times.

Within months of his death, a group of American journalists instigated the George Polk Awards for outstanding radio or television journalism. These awards were modeled after the Pulitzer Prize which is awarded for outstanding print journalism in newspapers.

The roles of the US government, William Donovan's law firm (at the time already a front for some CIA operations), and the Lippman committee in rubberstamping and acknowledging the Greek government's whitewash and show-trial are strongly criticized.[citation needed]

In February 2007, Polk's "status as a symbol of journalistic integrity" was called into question by historian Richard Frank, who provided evidence that Polk made false claims about his service record in World War II. In particular, Frank draws "the inescapable conclusion is that George Polk did not simply verbally recount false tales of his wartime exploits to his family and to his journalist colleagues, he actually forged documents to buttress his stories."

George Polk's brother, William, replied to this attack, which he called slanderous, in a letter to the Guardian Monday March 19, 2007.,,2036930,00.html He pointed out that Frank did not discuss a single article Polk ever wrote and that his military record is amply substantiated in a range of military documents, including a picture of Polk being decorated by Vice-Admiral John McCain on November 30, 1943, on behalf of the "Airplane Cruiser Detachment for their heroic role during the Battle for the Solomons." A more detailed reply can be found at

In April 2007, Frank responded to William Polk's letters and to what he considered a baffling silence from journalists that greeted his charges:

On October 5, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that it would honor five journalists of the 20th century times with first-class rate postage stamps, to be issued on Tuesday, April 22, 2008: Martha Gellhorn, John Hersey, George Polk, Ruben Salazar, and Eric Sevareid.[1] Postmaster General Jack Potter announced the stamp series at the Associated Press Managing Editors Meeting in Washington.

George Polk grew up in Fort Worth, Texas.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hidden Flow

The rising tide of European e-waste in West Africa

e-waste: West Africa continues to drown in the rich world's obsolete electronics

  • Half a million PCs arrive in Lagos every month, only 1 in 4 work

  • Millions of tons of e-waste dumped on developing world despite ban

  • Monitoring of export process called in to question

This investigative report was undertaken by DanWatch, with help from the Danish Consumer Council

Download the report

Despite new European regulations to prevent electronic waste from being dumped in Africa and Asia, a hidden flow of end-of-life electronics is threatening to drown West Africa.

Consumers International (CI) is calling for tighter government monitoring and greater corporate responsibility to prevent the effective dumping of toxic electronics on the developing world.

The call comes after investigations indicate around half a million second-hand computers are dumped on Nigeria every month.

Although the exporting of used-electronics is legal, local experts say 75 per cent of PCs that arrive are obsolete and quickly end up on toxic dumps around Lagos.

This is just the tip of the 6.6 millions tons of unaccounted-for e-waste that leaves EU countries each year.

6.6 million tons of e-waste is missing

Every month, hundreds of tons of obsolete computers, televisions and other household consumer electronics are arriving at ports in Ghana and Nigeria. From here, the second-hand electronics are distributed via local networks of dealers throughout the country.

According to local Ghanaian and Nigerian sources interviewed by CI's partner organisation, DanWatch, as few as one in four of the imports are working, while the remaining electronic waste, also known as e-waste, often ends up on dumpsite fires.

"Ghana is increasingly becoming a dumping ground for waste from Europe and the US. We are talking about several tons of obsolete discarded computers, monitors etc. We don't have the mechanism or the system in place in this country to recycle these wastes. Some of these items come in under the guise of donations, but when you examine the items they don't work," said Mike Anane, Director of the League of Environmental Journalists in Ghana.

The arrival of flat-screen televisions and TFT-monitors on consumer markets in the USA and in Europe has set off a flood of old CRT-television sets spilling into Africa. Burning e-waste, Ghana. Image by DanWatch

In the port cities of Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria, the change in European consumer habits is clearly visible as old-fashioned CRT-television sets are lined up along the streets by their thousands.

Each year, European consumers are producing 8.7 million tons of e-waste. Despite the Basel Ban Amendment under the Basel Convention, which forbids the export of e-waste from developed to developing countries, only 25 per cent of this e-waste is recycled. Approximately 6,6 million tons is unaccounted for and a significant part of this is dumped in countries outside the rich world.

Local experts, politicians and campaigners fear the enormous influx of obsolete electronics is posing a serious long term threat to the environment and to human health.

In West Africa, refuse is often disposed of in fires. It is not unusual that waste collectors will destroy the cathode ray tubes, and burn the wires and circuit boards inside, to get to the copper wires and other metals, which can be resold.

However, the costs to the environment and to human health are too high, says Professor Oladele Osibanjo, Director at the Basel Convention Regional Co-ordinating Centre for Africa.

"We have about half a million computers, used computers, coming into the Lagos port every month, and only 25 per cent of these are working. 75 per cent is junk. The volume is so large, that the people who trade it, just burn it like ordinary refuse. Our studies have shown that the levels of metals in this waste are far beyond the threshold limits set by Europe."

Unwitting contributors

As part of investigations in West Africa, DanWatch visited dumpsites, where computers from institutions such as Westminster City Council and The World Bank were piled up together with computers from numerous European, American and Asian companies in literally mountains of e-waste.

At one site on the outskirts of Accra, clouds of black smoke rose from several fires, as boys, some as young as ten years old, ignored the toxic fumes to get to the precious metal scraps beneath the melting e-waste:

"The lead, the mercury and all the other toxins bio-accumulate. That is to say, they stay in the food chain. The people that break open these CRT-monitors tell me that they suffer from nausea, headaches and chest- and respiratory problems. As a result of breaking these things and burning the wires they inhale a lot of fumes. Sometimes you even find children breaking these cathode ray tubes apart just to get the wires and other metals to sell," said Mike Anane.

Exporters are able to ship e-waste by exploiting a loophole in European legislation which allows 'end-of-life' electronic goods to be exported as working products. Even NGOs are sometimes unwillingly involved in the trade, when large quantities of mobile phones and computers are donated to help schools and institutions. Monitor Mountain in Ghana. Image from DanWatch

In one case, a UK-based organisation offered to donate 10,000 computers to a Nigerian NGO. However, only 2,000 of the computers proved to be functioning: "This is why we believe there is a need for tighter regulation in the EU and USA," said Professor Oladele Osibanjo of the Basel Regional Centre.

"The adverse effects override the potential gain. We are being made a dumping ground for electronic waste under the guise of bridging the divide and trying to make the poor have access to ICT," he said.

Professor Osibanjo at the Basel Convention Regional Co-ordinating Centre for Africa calls for urgent measures to stem the tide of obsolete electronics flowing into Africa: "I think that countries within the EU and other developed countries have to put in place a mechanism whereby only tested and certified computers that can actually offer some useful life are allowed to come in here."

The hidden flow of e-waste from Europe to Africa mounts by the day. Unless EU countries enforce regulations that are set aside in the Basel Convention, the environmental pollution from toxic dump sites in Ghana and Nigeria will simply continue to grow.

What can be done?

Toxic electronic dumping on the developing world is outlawed in countries signed up to the Basel Ban. As a first step Consumers International calls on non-signatories such as Australia, Canada and the US to ratify the Basel convention and implement it in national legislation.

However, the 6.6 million tons of e-waste from the EU that cannot be accounted for appears to be ending up in places like Ghana and Nigeria. Much of this waste is coming in to these countries under the guise of legitimate used-computer donations, which bypasses the Basel Ban.

It is clear that exporting countries need tougher monitoring to ensure donated electronic goods are in meaningful working order. Obsolete electrical equipment should be disposed or recycled in the country of origin using environmentally sustainable methods.

Electronic manufacturers and retailers also have a responsibility to stop using hazardous material in the production of electronic equipment. In many cases, safer alternatives currently exist and these should be actively sourced.

Furthermore, consumers should not be expected to bear the cost of recycling old electrical goods. Manufacturers should take full life cycle responsibility for their products and, once they reach the end of their useful life, take their goods back for re-use, safe recycling or disposal.

Consumers should be able to trust manufactures and government legislation to ensure that, when they do the right thing and hand in used electronic equipment, it is not dumped in the developing world.

Reseach and fieldwork for this report was carried out by DanWatch. DanWatch is a corporate watchdog working to document the exploitation of labour, environment and natural resources in developing nations hosting western workplaces, investments, trade and production. The organisation is co-founded and co-funded by the Danish Consumer Council.

~ Consumers International ~

No ice at the North Pole

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally icefreeNorth Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by hugeswathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during thesummer months and satellite data coming in over recent weeksshows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when therewas an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.

"The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the NorthPole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I'd say it's even-odds whether the North Pole melts out," said Dr Serreze.

Each summer the sea ice melts before reforming again during the long Arctic winter but the loss of sea ice last year was so extensive that much of the Arctic Ocean became open water, with the water-ice boundary coming just 700 miles away from the North Pole.

This meant that about 70 per cent of the sea ice present this spring was single-year ice formed over last winter. Scientists predict that at least 70 per cent of this single-year ice – and perhaps all of it – will melt completely this summer, Dr Serreze said.

~ read on... ~


Gov't says FBI agents can't testify about 9/11

Government lawyers say the ongoing investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks could be compromised if the airline industry is allowed to seek more information from the FBI to defend itself against lawsuits brought by terrorism victims.

In papers filed late Tuesday, the government urged a judge to block aviation companies from interviewing five FBI employees who the companies say will help them prove the government withheld key information before the 2001 attacks.

The lawyers said it would be impossible to interview the employees without disclosing classified or privileged material that could "cause serious damage to national security and interfere with pending law enforcement proceedings."

"The harm described is not hypothetical and cannot be lightly dismissed," according to the court papers submitted by the office of U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia. "Investigators continue to seek out those parties responsible for the 9/11 attacks who remain at large."

The largest investigation in FBI history has resulted in 167,000 interviews and more than 155,000 pieces of evidence and involved the pursuit of 500,000 investigative leads, the lawyers wrote.

They said the aviation lawyers were unrealistic to think the investigation would not be compromised if they speak to the FBI employees.

"In fact, it is not possible to disentangle the classified from the unclassified information in the context of a deposition, where open-ended inquiries may elicit responses in which classified or privileged material is intertwined," they wrote.

~ read on... ~


Federal prosecutors agree to release some Rosenberg grand jury records

Responding to a petition filed in January by the National Security Archive and several leading U.S. historical associations for the release of grand jury records from the 1951 indictment of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, federal prosecutors in New York conceded that a substantial portion of the grand jury materials could be made public after more than 55 years.

In a court filing this week, the government said it would not oppose the release of transcripts and other materials for 35 of the 45 witnesses who testified before the grand jury that in 1951 indicted the Rosenbergs, who were accused of running an espionage ring that passed American atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, convicted of spying, and executed in 1953. The 35 witnesses are either deceased or consented to the disclosure. In its filing, the government agreed that the Rosenberg case is of "significant historical importance" and therefore the materials are covered by a special exception to the longstanding rule that grand jury records must remain secret indefinitely.

"The government's decision to open the bulk of the Rosenberg transcripts marks an important historic turning point," said Archive director Tom Blanton. "In every prior case, the government has steadfastly resisted release of any grand jury records, regardless of their importance."

The government challenges the release of materials related to the other 10 witnesses, who could not be located or said they opposed disclosure. Among those who did not consent is David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg's brother, who allegedly passed nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos research facility to the Rosenbergs. The government also opposes the requested release of grand jury materials from the related Cold War spy case of Abraham Brothman and Miriam Moskowitz, asserting that the historical interest in that case is not significant enough to justify disclosure.

According to David C. Vladeck, lawyer for the petitioners, "While petitioners appreciate the government's decision not to object to releasing many of the grand jury transcripts, we do not believe that the government has gone far enough. Most, if not all, of the transcripts the government claims should remain secret also should be made public." For example, David Greenglass has already told his story to Sam Roberts, who published Greenglass' account in his book, The Brother. Similarly, there is no reason why the Brothman/Moskowitz grand jury testimony should not be made public; historians have long called it a 'rehearsal' for the Rosenberg trial, involving the same charges, the same witnesses, the same judge, and the same prosecutors.

The petitioners include the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, and New York Times reporter Sam Roberts.

~ The National Security Archive ~


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thirteen proves lucky for smart


How many people can you fit into a diminutive smart fortwo? The amazing answer is 13 following a car cram staged to help celebrate smart's 10th anniversary. Owners and visitors to the annual smart Destination Brooklands event held at Mercedes-Benz World, the UK's leading automotive brand experience centre at Weybridge, were invited to take up the smart-packing challenge.

With the drivers and passengers of 1,200 smarts attending the event there was no shortage of potential participants but the winners proved to be the aptly-named 'smart car-tortionists', a group of body-bending specialists chosen for their gymnastic feats. They included Iona Luvsandorj, semi-finalist in this year's Britain's Got Talent TV series.

With remarkable flexibility, a total of 13 contortionists managed to climb aboard the micro smart which measures just 2.7 metres long by 1.6 metres wide, proving that the fortwo is small on the outside and big on the inside.
Said Iona afterwards: The interior of the smart is tardis-like and I think we exceeded the crowd's expectations of how many people we could fit inside it."

Bangalore: Kalam backs nuclear deal with US

The former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Wednesday said the nuclear deal with the U.S. will prove beneficial to India.

"Until the time that our scientists produce thorium-based nuclear reactors from our thorium deposits which are second largest in the world, we will require uranium to sustain our energy requirements for which the deal will be important to us," he said.

Mr. Kalam was speaking here at the monthly alumni meet of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB).

~ more... ~


Media told to avoid becoming weapon for conflicting countries

The media should avoid becoming weapons of war for conflicting countries and provide balanced news coverage amid the polarization represented by the interests of the West and Muslims, a peace forum here heard Wednesday.

Lawrence Pintak, director of Kamal Adham Center for Journalism at American University in Cairo, told the second World Peace Forum the media have become polarizing as the result of single-perspective reports, a situation that worsened to a large extent after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

In the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, some critics say, many in the media took sides with the West. Condemnation of terrorists generalized the whole Arab world as the "axis of evil".

Pintak said while the media held a huge responsibility to promote peace, they had become trapped inside a circle of demonizing certain figures.

"All at the expense of misleading readers ... creating a tragic rift between the Muslim world and the West," he said.

He said imbalance and recklessness in presenting facts had also dragged reporters into the wars they covered.

"A brutal backlash against the journalists is to be found in the Arab world. Journalists are the victims of both the government and the insurgent groups there," Pintak said.

~ more... ~


Retaliation suspected against whistleblower

A senior Republican senator and two Democratic congressmen want the FBI to investigate suspected retaliation against an agent who told a House subcommittee that a third of the leadership positions in an elite FBI division that tracks al Qaeda terrorists are vacant.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee; Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Robert C. Scott of Virginia told FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in a letter that the bureau "wasted no time in taking action against" Agent Bassem Youssef following his May 21 testimony before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security.

Mr. Scott, who serves as subcommittee chairman, said the prospect that the FBI took retaliatory action against Mr. Youssef for being a whistleblower "is disturbing, but the prospects that it did so as a response to the 'whistleblower' testifying before Congress is more than disturbing - if true, it is criminal."

"Youssef courageously provided information to the subcommittee about deficiencies in the FBI´s counterterrorism programs, despite his awareness of the FBI´s tendency to retaliate against those who speak out about problems in the FBI," the lawmakers said in the letter to Mr. Mueller.

"Just two days after the subcommittee´s hearing, we understand that Agent Youssef was informed by his supervisor that unknown accusers had claimed he violated various FBI rules and regulations," they said. "In particular, one anonymous claim was that he traveled to London on official business without having obtained the required 'country clearance.'"

The lawmakers said given the timing, "the allegations appear to be motivated by a desire to harass, intimidate and retaliate against" the agent for providing information to Congress.

"The FBI has a history of retaliation against its agents. So, unfortunately, these actions don´t surprise me," Mr. Grassley said in a statement.

~ more... ~


Intelligence agencies agree: Climate change can lead to war

Whether the rest of the government is willing to admit to the dangers of climate change is anybodies guess, but the intelligence community has issued a 58 page report saying that climate change is dangerous.  The rest of the world says: "Finally!"

The U. S. intelligence community has completed a study on the implications of climate change and world stability and arrived at the same conclusion as Environmental groups.  Climate change could indeed lead to world unrest, government instability and wars.

Two prominent government security experts will be testifying today about the report before Congress.  National Intelligence Council chairman Dr. Thomas Fingar and Energy Department intelligence chief Rolf Mowatt-Larsen  will be testifying on the 58 page report entitled, "The National Security Implications of Global Climate Change Through 2030."

The results of this study is guaranteed to give government officials heartburn.  Finally, the intelligence community has decided to live up to its name and issue a report based on fact rather than White House policy.  Maybe it is because these are "spies" and not EPA officials, their full findings can make the headlines-sort of.  The actual contents of the report are being classified because of the "detail" and "specifics" discussed, but the majority of the report is expected to be revealed during the course of Congressional testimony.

Basically, climate changes multiply the tensions that already exist and are the catalyst for  conflicts.  Examples can be found in the fights for water taking place in Africa and the Middle East, as well as, the increased tensions in Asia after the tsunamis and Hurricanes.

When basic resources needed to live or make a living become scarce, people look elsewhere to find them leading to tensions, prejudice, and wars.  Simply look at the history of the water wars  in western U. S. to gain some idea of what dangers shifting climates and resources can have on tempers and growth.

~ read on... ~


Beijing enlists army of toilet trained staff

Beijing has dispatched 8,000 toilet maintenance staff, each responsible for a specific public restroom in the city and trained in hygiene standards and techniques, Olympic knowledge and practical English expressions, Xinhua said Friday.

There will be selective inspections every week and the results will be posted on the website of the Municipal Utilities Administration Commission, said the news agency.

The city was also struggling with which style of commode would be best, noting Westerners prefer seated toilets, which are more comfortable and convenient for the elderly or infirm.

The squat toilets widely used in Chinese public facilities are considered more hygienic as there is no direct contact with body, it said.

At more than 30 test events held by the Games organizers, the squat versions drew frequent complaints from foreigners, said Xinhua.

"Not all of the toilets will be changed, but those for journalists, athletes, and VIPs will be," Xinhua quoted Yao Hui, the deputy director of venue management, as saying.

~ Reuters ~


Tony Platt on American Eugenics

By Tony Platt

The 1942 U.S. Supreme Court case of Skinner v. Oklahoma is remembered for protecting "the right to have offspring," and by implication the right not to have offspring. Skinner, according to Victoria Nourse, the author of an important new book on American eugenics, typically "sits in the shadow of the abortion and gay marriage debates."

"In Reckless Hands: Skinner v. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics" demonstrates that Skinner also opens a window into a little-known chapter of American eugenics: how prisoners at a hardscrabble prison in Oklahoma in the aftermath of the Depression led a sophisticated struggle to limit the practice of compulsory sterilization in the United States. 

Much has been written about the history of eugenics, but until publication of this book we knew little about how eugenic sterilization was used in prisons and against men, and even less about the views of its targeted victims. It's a lively tale, well told, until the author, a law professor at Emory University, tries her hand at historical generalizations.

At the core of eugenics was a belief in a central role of heredity in both determining and explaining social inequality. Influenced by 19th-century developments in genetics, medicine and public health, eugenics was not a crank science. At the height of its influence, support came from some unlikely ideological bedfellows. It was endorsed by Fabian socialists in England and racial scientists in Germany; linked to birth control and progressive economic reforms in Denmark, and to racial policies against itinerant gypsies in Sweden; an expression of Fascist ideology in Germany and Argentina, and of cultural hybridity in Mexico; and closely associated with the sterilization of those defined as "feebleminded" in Germany, the United States, Sweden and Denmark.

In the 1930s, Nazi Germany made eugenics an official state policy, first openly sterilizing hundreds of thousands of women, then secretly murdering many of its disabled and mentally ill patients judged leading "lives unworthy of life." Until the onset of World War II, when selective murder turned into organized butchery, Nazi racial scientists were appreciated around the world, especially in the United States, where eugenics was dominated by right-wing hard-liners.

American eugenicists boosted "Anglo-Saxon" and "Nordic" types as the engine of modern society and promoted policies of apartheid to protect the "well born" from contamination by impoverished and mentally ill "degenerates." Believing that social failure and success could be traced to "racial temperament," its leaders advocated "positive eugenics" to increase the birthrate of privileged, white families, and "negative eugenics" to reduce the birthrate of groups considered a burden on civilization.

In addition to promoting utopian visions of a brave new world and exploiting cultural anxieties about racial degeneracy, eugenic scientists were hands-on activists, campaigning against "miscegenation," and in favor of welfare and immigration restrictions. Their greatest success in the United States during the first half of the 20th century was lobbying for the compulsory sterilization of 60,000 mostly poor women, considered "feebleminded" or "socially inadequate."

Until recently, the conventional scholarly wisdom claimed that Hitler's reign of terror ended scientific infatuation with eugenics. Writing in 1963, Mark Heller argued that by the time of World War II, racism ceased to have scientific respectability and "as a result, American eugenics and racism faced a parting of the ways." In 1985, Daniel Kevles, the distinguished historian of science, similarly made the case that "the Nazi horrors discredited eugenics as a social program."

But spurred by interest in the relationship between the new genetics and old eugenics, and by concerns about the misuses of science and medicine, a new generation of scholars is revising how we understand the timeline and scope of eugenics. They have drawn attention to the ties between biological theories of race and nation building; to the rebranding of pre-World War II eugenics as population control in the 1950s; and to contemporary uses of hereditarian arguments to bolster anti-feminism and justify racial inequality.

"In Reckless Hands" focuses on the use of sterilization against poor white men in Oklahoma during the 1930s and 1940s and adds a new dimension to our understanding of class prejudices within the American eugenics movement.

In 1931, Oklahoma followed the lead of many states by passing a law authorizing sterilization of persons in institutions "afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity," as well as "idiocy, imbecility, feeblemindedness, or epilepsy." The state Legislature added two more grounds for sterilization in 1933: If the patient was "likely to be a public or partial public charge" or was a "habitual criminal," defined as "any person convicted of a felony three times."

Two years later, in an atmosphere of moral panic about crime, Oklahoma passed the Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act, which made prisoners convicted of two felonies involving "moral turpitude" subject to sterilization. The state Senate made sure that politicians and their cronies would preserve their right to have offspring by exempting "offenses arising out of violations of the prohibitory laws, revenue acts, embezzlement or political offenses."

By 1934, Warden Sam Brown of McAlester prison was under political pressure to prepare a list of prisoners suitable for sterilization. He was reluctant to comply, worrying that "if Oklahoma tried to sterilize McAlester inmates, there would be violence at the prison. Riots or worse." Most of the prisoners were drifters, day laborers and sharecroppers who for the most part had committed economic crimes of desperation. As Brown himself admitted, the Depression had turned "honest laborers to crime."

Conditions inside McAlester were rough for the 2,000 incarcerated men. Hard labor in a brick-making factory was routine, with infractions punished by beatings, time in the hole, and humiliation, such as being forced to wear pink panties and dresses. Breakouts and violence were common, but there was little organized resistance until prisoners formed a committee in 1934 to protest the sterilization policy.

The odds were heavily stacked against the prisoners. In the infamous Supreme Court decision of 1927, Buck v. Bell, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes had justified the sterilization of 17-year-old Carrie Buck on the grounds that "three generations of imbeciles [were] enough." During the 1930s, public opinion overwhelmingly favored sterilization of "habitual criminals." And professional and academic opinion backed up public prejudices. In Oklahoma, Dr. Louis Henry Ritzhaupt, a Democratic senator and eugenics crusader, campaigned for the 1933 sterilization law as the best way "to stop production of potential inmates." At Harvard, leading criminologists Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck advocated similar measures to "reduce the reproduction" of criminals. 

At the heart of this book is a fascinating account of an eight-year struggle, led by prisoners, to get the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Oklahoma's Habitual Criminal Act. The original leaders of the campaign were Francis Hyde, a lawyer in prison for attempted murder, forgery and bank robbery; Ralph Bainum, a lifer in for murder; and J.J. Kelly, a "master thief" with training in law. With the moral support of the ACLU and national figures such as Clarence Darrow, and sympathetic coverage by the local media, the prisoners of McAlester involved themselves in the daily tasks of a long-term political campaign. 

A prisoners' committee raised $1,000 from McAlester's canteen fund and hired well-connected lawyers: Fay Lester, a former chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and Claud Briggs, a populist leader in the Senate who had made his reputation fighting for the "masses against the classes." The prisoners held media-savvy demonstrations inside the prison—with placards proclaiming "Save Your Manhood" and "Contribute here to the Sterilization Campaign"—and lobbied the Tulsa Daily World to publish "A 'Life Termer' Denounces Sterilization," a smart essay written by "Convict No. 18051."

After a prisoner targeted for sterilization escaped in 1936, the state settled on a candidate who would pass judicial scrutiny. Jack Skinner was a short, skinny three-time loser with a limp, who had done time for chicken stealing and armed robberies. His first sterilization trial lasted less than a day. The appeal process took almost five years, until 1941, when Oklahoma's Supreme Court in a split decision affirmed the decision to sterilize McAlester's test case, even though by then Skinner had been paroled, had married and had moved to California.

In 1942, with a couple of small-town, inexperienced trial lawyers added to Skinner's team, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Skinner v. Oklahoma. In a unanimous decision, the court decided for Skinner: "The power to sterilize, if exercised, may have subtle, far reaching and devastating effects. In evil or reckless hands it can cause races or types which are inimical to the dominant group to wither and disappear." In the lead opinion, Justice William O. Douglas exposed the double standard of a law that punished "a person who enters a chicken coop and steals chickens," while exempting the white-collar criminal who "appropriates over $20 from his employer's till."

It was an extraordinary victory—greeted "with jubilation in the cells and trusty buildings"—for an improbable campaign begun in McAlester prison eight years earlier. While the Skinner case did not provide protection for women in institutions or on welfare, "at a minimum," notes Victoria Nourse, "legislative expansion of compulsory sterilization was suspect."

When the author sticks close to the details of this compelling story, "In Reckless Hands" is a fascinating tale. But when she ventures into historical analysis, the book loses traction. For it is then that the author tends to sacrifice complexity for pithiness, and to make too many sweeping, and sometimes inaccurate, generalizations. It's facile, for example, to reduce the successes of Nazism to the conclusion that "the German public embraced Hitler as the last chance for a bit of order." Or to suggest, without evidence, that the rise of Nazism was responsible for transforming the American "public's understanding of racism from a matter of science into one of politics"— a point which Nourse herself contradicts in the epilogue: "It became obvious [in the 1940s] that the racism of eugenics would not die." (The book's subtitle adds to this confusion.)

Also, the author doesn't need to inflate the importance of her book by suggesting that it is somehow groundbreaking to do research "in local archives where most fear to tread," or ingenuously arguing that the history of eugenics "has largely been forgotten"—I have at least 15 books on my shelf written on this topic since the mid-1980s.

Nevertheless, "In Reckless Hands" is well worth reading because it gets us to think in new ways about the scope of eugenics. Moreover, by bringing us face to face with some of the typically anonymous victims of forced sterilization, Victoria Nourse teaches the important lesson that the masses can take on the classes.

Tony Platt, professor emeritus at Sacramento State University, is the author, with Cecilia O'Leary, of "Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler's Nuremberg Laws, From Patton's Trophy to Public Memorial."

History of Eugenics: a Select Bibliography

Black, Edwin. "War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race." New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003.

Briggs, Laura. "Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U. S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico." Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Broberg, Gunnar and Nils, Roll-Hanjsen (eds.). "Eugenics and the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland." Michigan State University Press, 1996.

Carlson, Elof Axel. "The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea." Cold Springs Harbor, N.Y.: Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory Press, 2001.

Davis, Angela Y. "Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights," in "Women, Race & Class." New York: Random House, 1981.

"Facing History and Ourselves. Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement." Brookline, Mass: Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, 2002.

Ley, Astrid and Morsch, Günter. "Medical Care and Crime: The Infirmary at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, 1936-1945." Berlin: Metropol Verlag, 2007.

Gordon, Linda. "The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America." Chicago: University of Illinois Press 2002.

Haller, Mark. "Eugenics: Hereditarian Attitudes in American Thought." New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1963.

Kevles, Daniel. "In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity." Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985, 1995.

Kline, Wendy. "Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom." Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Kühl, Stefan. "The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism." New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Kuntz, Dieter and Bachrach, Susan (eds). "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race." Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2004.

LaPan, Amy and Platt, Tony " 'To Stem the Tide of Degeneracy': The Eugenic Impulse in Social Work," in Stuart A. Kirk (ed.), "Mental Disorders in the Social Environment: Critical Perspective." New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Molina, Natalia. "Fit to Be Citizens? Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939." Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

Nourse, Victoria F. "In Reckless Hands: Skinner v. Oklahoma and the Near Triumph of American Eugenics." New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.

Ordover, Nancy. "American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism." Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).

Platt, Tony (with Cecilia O'Leary). "Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler's Nuremberg Laws, From Patton's Trophy to Public Memorial." Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2006.

Platt, Tony. Reviews of books on eugenics: "The Great White Hope," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2002; "Breeding Only the Best," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 7, 2003; "In and Out of the Shadow of the Holocaust," Social Justice, April 2006.

Quine, Maria Sophia. "Italy's Social Revolution: Charity and Welfare From Liberalism to Fascism." Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002.

Quine, Maria Sophia. "Population Politics in Twentieth-Century Europe: Fascist Dictatorships and Liberal Democracies." London: Routledge, 1996.

Stepan, Nancy Leys. " 'The Hour of Eugenics': Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America." Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Stern, Alexandra Minna. "Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America." Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

Turda, Marius and Weindling, Paul J. "Blood and Homeland: Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940." Budapest: Central European University Press, 2007. 

~ Truthdig ~


The hidden agenda of genetic manipulation

 The hidden agenda of genetic manipulation

By Arun Shrivastava

Genetically Modified (GM) food is definitely not what it appears to be.

Following is a review of F. William Engdahl's new book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation:

The last three or four years have seen a number of books, documentaries and articles on the dangers of Genetically Modified (GM) seeds. Majority has focused on adverse health and environmental impact; almost none on the geo-politics of GM seeds, and particularly seeds as a weapon of mass destruction. Engdahl has addressed this issue but the crop seed is one of the many "Seeds of Destruction" in this book.

Engdahl carefully documents how the intellectual foundations of 'eugenics,' mass culling of the sick, colored, and otherwise disposable races, were actually first established, and even legally approved, in the United States. Eugenics research was financially supported by the Rockefeller and other elite families and first tested on Jews under Nazi Germany.

It is purely by chance that world's poorest nations also happen to be best endowed with natural resources. These regions are also the ones with growing population. The fear among European ruling families, increasingly, integrating with economic and military might of the United States, was that if the poor nations became developed, the abundant natural resources, especially oil, gas, and strategic minerals and metals, may become scarcer for the white population. That situation was unacceptable to the white ruling elite.

The central question that dominated the minds of the ruling clique was population reduction in resource rich countries but the question was how to engineer mass culling all over the world without generating powerful backlash as it was bound to happen. When the U.S. oil reserves peaked in 1972 and it became a net oil importer, the situation became alarming and the agenda took the centre stage. Kissinger, one of the key strategists of Nixon, nurtured by the Rockefellers, prepared what is known as National Security Study Memo (NSSM#200), in which he elaborated his plan for population reduction. In this Memo he specifically targets thirteen countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The weapon to be used was food; even if there was a famine food would be used to leverage population reduction. Kissinger is on record for stating, "Control oil, you control nations; control food and you control the people." How a small group of key people transformed the elitist philosophy, of controlling food to control people, into realistic operational possibility within a short time is the backdrop of Engdahl's book, the central theme running from the beginning till the end with the Rockefellers and Kissinger, among others, as the key dramatis personae.

He describes how the Rockefellers guided the U.S. agriculture policy, used their powerful tax-free foundations worldwide to train an army of bright young scientists in hitherto unknown field of microbiology. He traces how the field of Eugenics was renamed "genetics" to make it more acceptable and also to hide the real purpose. Through incremental strategic adjustments within a handful of chemical, food and seed corporations, ably supported by the key persons in key departments of the U.S. Government, behemoths were created that could re-write the regulatory framework in nearly every country. And these seeds of destruction of carefully constructed regulatory framework -- to protect the environment and human health -- were sown back in the 1920s.

Pause to think: a normal healthy person can at the most go without food for perhaps seven days but it takes a full season, say around four months, for a seed to grow into food crop. Just five agri-biz corporations, all U.S. based (Cargill, Bunge, Archer Daniels, et al), control global grain trade, and just five control global trade in seeds. Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont, and Dow Chemicals control genetically engineered seeds. While these powerful oligopolies were being knocked into place, anti-trust laws were diluted to exempt these firms. Engdahl writes, "It was not surprising that the Pentagon's National Defense University, on the eve of the 2003 Iraq War, issued a paper declaring: 'Agribiz is to the United States what oil is to the Middle East.' Agribusiness had become a strategic weapon in the arsenal of the world's only superpower." (page 143)

The "Green Revolution" was part of the Rockefeller agenda to destroy seed diversity and push oil and gas based agriculture inputs in which Rockefeller's had main interest. Destruction of seed diversity and dependence on proprietary hybrids was the first step in food control. (See my notes, Box 1)

It is true that initially Green Revolution technologies led to spurt in farm productivity but at a huge cost of destruction of farmlands, bio-diversity, poisoned aquifers and progressively poor health of the people and was the true agenda of 'the proponents of Green Revolution.'

The real impetus came with the technological possibility of gene splicing and insertion of specific traits into unrelated species. Life forms could be altered. But until 1979, the U.S. Government had steadfastly refused to grant patent on life form. That was changed

[my comment: helped much by a favorable judgment in the U.S. Supreme Court granting patent protection to oil eating bacteria developed by Dr Ananda Chakraborty]. Life forms could now be patented. To ensure that the world surrendered to the patent regime of the seeds corporations, the World Trade Organization was knocked into shape. How it conducted business was nobody's business, but it forced the world to accept intellectual property right of these corporations. There is opposition but these firms are too determined as Engdahl describes.

"The clear strategy of Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and the Washington Government backing them was to introduce the GMO seeds in every corner of the globe, with priority on defenseless. African and developing countries," write Engdahl (page 270). However, Engdahl also describes how U.S. and Canadian farmlands came under GMOs. It was suspected that GMO could pose serious threat to human and animal health and the environment, yet efforts at independent biosafety assessment were discontinued. Scientists carrying out honest studies were vilified. Reputed scientific establishments were silenced or made to toe the line that was supportive of the Rockefeller's food control and mass culling agenda. The destruction of the credibility of scientific institution is yet another seed of destruction in Engdahl's book.

Engdahl cites the example of a German farmer Gottfried Glockner's experience with GM corn. Glockner planted Bt176 event of Syngenta essentially as feed for his cows. Being a scientist, he started with 10% GM feed and gradually increased the proportion, carefully noting milk yield and any side effects. Nothing much happened in the first three years but when he increased the feed to 100% GM feed, his animals "were having gluey-white feaces and violent diarrhea" and "milk contained blood." Eventually all his seventy cows died. Prof Angelika Hilbeck of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found from Glockner's Bt 176 corn samples Bt toxins were present "in active form and extremely stable." The cows died of high dose of toxins. Not if, but when human food is 100% contaminated should be a sobering thought.

In the U.S. unlabelled GM foods were introduced in 1993 and that 70% of the supermarket foods contain GMOs in varying proportions in what should rightly be called world's largest biological experiment on humans. While Engdahl has clearly stated that the thrust of U.S. Government and the agi-biz is control over food especially in the third world, he has left it to the readers to deduce that American and European citizens are also target of that grand agenda. And there are more lethal weapons in the arsenal: Terminator seeds, Traitor seeds, and the ability to destroy small independent farmers at will in any part of the world, and these are powerfully presented in the book. Engdahl provides hard evidences for these seeds of final destruction and utter decimation of world civilizations as we have known.

It is a complex but highly readable book. It is divided into five parts, each containing two to four short chapters. The first part deals with the political maneuverings to ensure support to Seed and Agri-biz firms, the second deals with what should be widely known as 'The Rockefeller Plan', the third deals with how vertically integrated giants were readied for Washington's silent wars on planet earth, the fourth part deals with how GM seeds were unleashed on unsuspecting farmers, and the final part deals with how the elites is going on destroying food, farmers that would eventually cause mass culling of population. He does not offer any solution; he can't because it is up to the rest of the world, including Europeans and Americans, to wake up and take on these criminals head on. An essential read for anyone who eats and thinks.

The coming population bust

Thomas Malthus has been dead for 170 years, but the Malthusian fallacy - the dread conviction that the growth of human population leads to hunger, shortages, and a ravaged environment - is unfortunately alive and well:

America's congested highways are caused by "population growth wildly out of control," the group Californians for Population Stabilization laments in an ad.

In a new documentary, Britain's Prince Philip blames the rising price of food on overpopulation. "Everyone thinks it's to do with not enough food," Queen Elizabeth II's husband declares, "but it's really that demand is too great - too many people."

Overpopulation is "very serious - very, very serious," the Dalai Lama tells a crowd of 50,000 in Seattle. Somewhat inconsistently, he also proclaims that "children are the basis of our hope," and that "our future depends on them."

Like other prejudices, the belief that more humanity means more misery resists compelling evidence to the contrary. In the past two centuries, the number of people living on earth has nearly septupled, climbing from 980 million to 6.5 billion. Yet human beings today are on the whole healthier, wealthier, longer-lived, better-fed, and better-educated than ever before.

The catastrophes foretold by Malthus and his epigones - some of them in bestsellers like "The Population Bomb," which predicted that "hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now" - have never come to pass.

That is because people are not our greatest liability. They are our greatest asset - the wellspring of every quality on which human advancement depends: ambition, intuition, perseverance, ingenuity, imagination, leadership, love.

True, fewer human beings would mean fewer mouths to feed. It would also mean fewer entrepreneurs, fewer pioneers, fewer problem-solvers. Which is why it is not an increase but the coming decrease in human population that should engender foreboding.

For as Phillip Longman, a scholar of demographics and economics at the New America Foundation, observes: "Never in history have we had economic prosperity accompanied by depopulation."

And depopulation, like it or not, is just around the corner. That is the central message of a compelling new documentary, "Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family." Longman is one of numerous experts interviewed in the film, which explores the causes and effects of one of what may be the most ominous reality of 21st-century life: the fall in human birth rates almost everywhere in the world.

Human fertility has been dropping for years and is now below replacement levels - the minimum required to prevent depopulation - in scores of countries, including China, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Turkey and all of Europe.

The world's population is still rising, largely because of longer life spans - more people live to old age than in the past. But with far fewer children being born today, there will be far fewer adults bearing children tomorrow. In some countries, the collapse has already begun. Russia, for example, is now losing 700,000 people a year.

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Bishop says anyone who ignores global warming is as bad as Josef Fritzl

The Right Rev Gordon Mursell, Bishop of Stafford has said in a newsletter to parishes that anyone who does not take action to help prevent global warming is as bad as Josef Fritzl, the Austrian who kept his daughter locked in a cellar for 24 years, repeatedly raped her and had seven children by her.

Such people were, he said "in effect locking our children and grandchildren into a world with no future and throwing away the key". He added: "Josef Fritzl represents merely the most extreme form of a very common philosophy of life. I will do what makes me happy, and if that causes others to suffer, hard luck."

~ read on... ~


Bilderberger confab in United States goes unreported … again

The ultra-elite Bilderberg Group held its annual secret meeting at the sealed-off Westfields Marriott Hotel in Chantilly, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., June 5-8. Attendees at Bilderberger gatherings comprise the A-list of global power brokers from the worlds of politics, business, central banking, finance, and media. They also represent the top levels of membership of globalist, one-world organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the Trilateral Commission, the World Economic Forum, and the Bohemian Grove.

As usual, the entire proceedings were held behind closed doors and cordons of armed personnel, including the U.S. Secret Service, local police, and private security guards. A brief press release issued by the group on June 5, stated: "The Conference will deal mainly with a nuclear free world, cyber terrorism, Africa, Russia, finance, protectionism, US-EU relations, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islam and Iran. Approximately 140 participants will attend, of whom about two-thirds come from Europe and the balance from North America. About one-third is from government and politics, and two-thirds are from finance, industry, labor, education and communications. The meeting is private in order to encourage frank and open discussion."

Government officials participating in this year's secret event included General Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency; Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve System; Timothy F. Geithner, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina; and Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas. Corporate executives included representatives of Microsoft, Google, Royal Dutch Shell, Royal Bank of Scotland, Merrill Lynch & Co., Lazard Freres & Co., and Perseus LLC.

Topping the Bilderberg list was 93-year-old eminence griese David Rockefeller, reputedly the only attendee to have been at the founding 1954 meeting (at the Bilderberg Hotel in Holland, from whence the group takes its name) and all meetings since. Other longtime veterans at this year's event included former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.

Media representatives included Paul Gigot (Wall Street Journal), Donald Graham (Washington Post), Charlie Rose (PBS), and Vendeline von Bredow and Adrian Wooldridge (both from The Economist). In keeping with the vow of secrecy (known as the Chatham House rule), none of these kept "journalists" has revealed to their public audiences what transpired at the Chantilly conclave of the high and mighty.

~ The New American ~


Pictures of Insect Men: A Retrospective Analysis of the “Mimic” Trilogy

While "Mimic" has often been compared to Big Bug movies such as "Them!" and the "Alien"series (where the title creatures have many insect-like traits, such as exoskeletons, a parasitic reproductive cycle, and a hive social structure), they actually have more in common with the "The Fly" (1958) — along with its 1986 remake and their various sequels — when it comes to the narrative and visual themes of insect and human worlds suddenly fusing together in haphazard, disfigured arrangements that are horrifying, preposterous and tragic in equal measures.

For example, the title monster of the original "Fly" movie is somewhat like the Judas Breed, in the sense that both are genetically-spliced, underground-dwelling, human-sized monsters who hide their insect identities behind awkward, makeshift masks. There are parallels between the classic scene in "The Fly," when Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) pulls the hood away from her husband's head only to see the enlarged face of a housefly, and in "Mimic," when Dr. Tyler suddenly sees a full-sized Judas Breed insect unwrap itself out of its human disguise for the first time.

The "Fly"/"Mimic" connection is more evident in "Mimic 2," which is basically "The Fly" in reverse: Instead of a man becoming more like an insect, "Mimic 2″ features an insect slowly becoming more like a man. The ending of "Mimic 2," when Remi's Judas Breed admirer shows up at her front door to "date" her, is likewise very similar to the freakish imagery in "The Fly" movies.

Insect Irony

If the "Mimic" movies have anything in ample supply, it's irony — most obviously in the creation and development of the Judas Breed themselves. Created as bugs that could "fool" real cockroaches for the purpose of killing them, they then mutated into something that can "fool" people for a similar predatory purpose. Likewise, with their original intent as a solution to Strickler's Disease, the Judas Breed put a new ironic spin on the term "superbug," a term coined to describe an infectious bacterium that is antibiotic-resistant.

In each "Mimic" film, there is an ironic yet parallel connection between the human protagonists and the Judas Breed:

  • In "Mimic," even though Dr. Tyler saved countless children through her research and her scientific offspring of genetically modified insects have become much more fertile than she intended, she herself is unable to conceive a child with her husband, Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam).
  • In "Mimic 2," Remi cannot find a boyfriend who understands her but nevertheless cannot shake the sexual designs of a male Judas Breed insect — a suitor that Remi understands better than her human suitors because of her background in entomology. This plot of cross-species attraction is an extension of both the Judas Breed's transgenic creation and the fertility/infertility theme from the first movie. Remi's habit of taking photos of her own face when she is dumped is also paralleled in the lone Judas Breed's ability to attach the faces of its victims — the same people who dumped Remi — to its exoskeleton for better mimicry of people.
  • In "Mimic 3," Marvin survives Strickler's Disease only to become an asthmatic bubble boy stuck in his room, while the very things that ended the Stricker's epidemic are freely roaming the streets and systematically slaughtering Marvin's neighbors[4].

Another recurring irony in the "Mimic" movies (which echoes the aforementioned Darpa cyborg insect surveillance technology project) is photography. The films' protagonists use photography to identify the presence of the Judas Breed menace. This theme complements the Judas Breed's capability for deception, that the human eye cannot be trusted to identify such well-hidden threats. However, the characters' reliance on photography to find the monsters also indicates that technology is more adept at noticing environmental problems than humans. In other words, humans are so far removed from the natural world that we need technology to identify when our technology wreaks havoc with nature.

Plot details aside, the pervasive ironies in the "Mimic" series allows for commentary on several real issues:

Genetic Modification: While the "Mimic" monsters in reviews and plot summaries are referred to as "giant cockroaches," the Judas Breed are a hybrid of cockroaches, preying mantises and termites; to use real-world terminology, the Judas Breed are genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly one of a transgenic variety. The plot device of elaborate, inter-species genetic splicing is supposed to give plausibility to the Judas Breed's later changes in size and shape, as if to say that humanity's tampering with the genetic code of several insect breeds somehow (to use firearms terminology) took the safety off of nature's mandated order of gradual mutation and evolution.

The notion that genetic tampering could result in uncontrollable dangers is further emphasized in the first "Mimic" film when it is mentioned that the Judas Breed were supposed to self-terminate shortly after they fulfilled their purpose — thus limiting their environmental impact to only the cockroaches that served as a vector for the propagation of Strickler's Disease — but instead propagated out of control.

In the real world, the methodology of creating self-terminating GMOs is known as terminator technology, or Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT). This method was devised for genetically modified plants, which causes second generation seeds to be sterile. GURT is used to ensure that genetically modified plants do not mix their genes with other plants, which could threaten the biodiversity of local ecosystems and cause complications between food and non-food crops.

However, where the "Mimic" films represent incompetent genetic science in the form of giant, predatory insects, concerns over genetically modified plants suggest horrors of a different sort. Critics of agricultural GMOs fear that genetically modified plants could share their terminating genes with local plant life, thus endangering the local ecosystems and other farms with infertile plant life.

Furthermore, the widespread usage of infertile, genetically modified plants and patenting them as intellectual property has infringed upon the food autonomy of smaller farms, indigenous peoples, and entire rural communities, thus making them subservient and exclusively dependent upon agro-industry for new seed.

Another twist on the relationship between the "Mimic" films and real genetic research is in the area of fertility. According to the films, when the terminator technology failed in the transgenic Judas Breed GMOs, they started reproducing at a rate so rapid that they evolved into giant, predatory horrors during the short span of three years. In contrast, for as much as genetically modified crops have been promoted as being capable producing higher yields than non-genetically modified crops, research has indicated that the opposite is true.

International Environmental Issues: In the sequels, unidentified foreign characters seek to acquire Judas Breed eggs or larvae for nefarious yet unspecified purposes. In contrast, the U.S. government is portrayed as being ready to spring into action to exterminate Judas Breed infestations whenever one is identified. This dichotomy is an ironic reflection of modern politics, where America is one of the largest polluters in the world and has a record (particularly under the current Bush administration) of under-funding or directly hindering the EPA, the NIH, the FDA, NASA, the USDA, and the CPSC in dealing with environmental and consumer safety issues such as food poisoning, bioterrorism, and global warming. The relocation of the Judas Breed to foreign countries also hints at the environmental issue of invasive species, where foreign species are brought into new environments by humans and thus ruining indigenous ecosystems.

Anti-Vaccination Fears: By intertwining the creation and existence of the Judas Breed with Strickler's Disease — as well as making children frequent victims of the giant insects in all three films — bears symbolic similarities to recent efforts by the anti-vaccination movement. In other words, scientific solutions designed to protect children from disease that in turn endangers them is the underlying premise of the both "Mimic" trilogy and anti-vaccination paranoia. In a peculiar twist, the MMR (mumps-measles-rubella) vaccine has been accused of promoting autism, while the only child who survives a close encounter with the Judas Breed in the first "Mimic" film is obviously autistic.

On a deeper level of irony, director Guillermo del Toro uses Christian imagery throughout the first film to argue that scientists "shouldn't play God" in spite of their efforts to fight a child-killing disease[5] (as if the term "Judas Breed," a name given to monsters that specialize in lethal deception, weren't enough of a hint); in contrast, some people actually use religion as a reason to either exempt their children from vaccinations or to justify denying them medical treatment.

Unfortunately, just as Del Toro does not specify in his film when science actually should intervene in the natural order to save lives (you'd think he'd be more sympathetic to the Dr. Tyler character for all of the lives she saved as the result of her work[6]), parents who refuse to immunize or give proper medical care to their children for religious reasons have not offered any remedies to when children die as the result of such beliefs.

Urbanization and Species Displacement: While the underclass are usually the victims of the urban-dwelling Judas Breed monsters, many animals have been reported raiding dumpsters in large cities. Some animals normally thought of as wild (such as raccoons and monkeys in India) have become "urban wildlife," animals that are extremely adept at adjusting their behavior to exist in large cities — essentially, the real-world Judas Breeds.

The supreme irony that permeates the "Mimic" trilogy is that the genetically-engineered bugs are much better suited to survive and thrive in filthy, disease-ridden urban environments than the people who built and live in them. In a biological sense, New York City is more of a home to the Judas Breed than its human inhabitants, suggesting that it is humanity that will be displaced from the world of its own making.

~ more... ~



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