Sunday, February 17, 2008

To save the world we may have to waste it

“The only thing worse than peak oil now is peak oil in 20 years time.”

I first heard this comment in 2004 not long after finding out about the imminent peak in the world’s oil production rate (“peak oil”). Now in 2008 it seems we passed the peak of conventionally-mined oil more than a year ago. When I start to feel depressed about the implications of the decline in world oil production this comment helps me to deal with it. Let me explain:

Nothing happens without energy and oil is the master facilitating resource of our civilisation. Oil provides the majority of the world’s energy, and almost all of its transport energy - in a highly concentrated form that is easy to store and carry. It is also the source of plastics that are part of almost every aspect of modern life.

With oil driving the Green Revolution we have increased our population to nearly seven billion and our current consumption patterns are destroying the world’s ecosystems - our life support mechanism.

The ecological foot print of the human race is currently 1.25 planet Earths and rising. The abundant energy of oil allows us to exceed the sustainable carrying capacity of our world for a short period but with irreparable environmental consequences. The longer we continue on this path the more damage we do and the more severe the ultimate ecological penalty to be payed.

Declining rates of oil extraction mean a compulsory and unavoidable reduction in energy use. With declining energy availability comes a decreased ability to impact on our environment. Our weight of numbers is great and our impact will remain considerable for some time - but if we are unsustainable now just imaging how desperately worse off we would be if our oil supply allowed another 20 years of population and consumption growth!

Fortunately our energy reserves are far more limited than many believe. Even the most damaging fossil fuel - coal - will probably show peak production before 2030. Once coal goes into decline it’s game over for industrial civilisation. There is simply no other concentrated source of energy to fall back on. (Nuclear energy resources are too limited.) Our industrial activity must decrease because “energy” is defined as “the capacity to do work” so less energy means less work done.

The current, suicidal path of our civilisation was understood decades, if not centuries ago. With this knowledge the only sane course of action has been to turn back, reduce our energy use, reduce our consumption, stabilise our population and try to find ecological balance.

But humans are not sane. We are short-sighted and think mainly of ourselves. We fight, we breed and we die - just like any other mindless species on this planet. That is how nature works.

I am one of those “pessimists” that has great faith in the ignorance and short-sighted self-interest of human society. If you forced me to wager money on whether the world’s billions of human inhabitants will unite in self-imposed austerity to overcome climate change or, instead, will ignore their own children’s long term best interests and continue to consume and pollute then I would bet on the latter.

The moment declining fossil fuel reserves threaten economic growth we will see all talk of reducing carbon emissions thrown out the window as we desperately look for something (anything!) to burn to keep the lights on.

If the short-sighted greed and self-interest of our species threatens our survival then what is the “sanest” course of action for an individual to take? The answer is not obvious. If I choose voluntarily to reduce my consumption, then all I do is leave unused resource capacity that allows more human mouths to be born. If some of us adopt frugality but the rest do not stop population growth then our species will reach its resource limits with many more mouths to feed than if we all consumed as wastefully as possible.

Faced with the inevitability of resource limits the best scenario is to hit these limits with as small a human population as possible. Our waste and inefficiency then becomes a buffer of unused capacity. As resources decline we can reduce our consumption but still have enough to support life (maybe - if our supporting ecosystems have not collapsed completely).

In contrast, if we hit our resource limits with maximal numbers of humans each living very frugally, then we have no spare capacity to fall back on and we will all perish.

I hope that you now understand that, as a member of an insane, short-sighted, self-interested and broadly unco-operative species the most sane course of action for an individual to take is to consume as wastefully as possible - to save the world we may have to waste it! There are a number of corollaries to this idea:

  1. The wealthiest nations on this Earth are doing the world a favour by consuming as fast and as wastefully as possible. Australians are particularly meritorious in this regard. We even exceed the carbon dioxide output of our commendable American cousins.
  2. The poor, overpopulated nations of this world are the true enemies of human survival. To compensate for their ignorant frugality the developed nations must try to consume ever more and to do it faster. It is only right that we should consume the resources of the poor nations in doing this (so that their damaging populations will meet local resource constraints sooner).
  3. We need to encourage behaviours and living arrangements that increase the use of resources. Activities that increase the efficient use of resources, such as public transport, libraries, organic agriculture and the like need to be recognised for the anti-social activities that they are. People that drive newly manufactured, large, heavy, high-tech vehicles, that live in enormous, poorly insulated, air-conditioned houses, and eat pre-packaged meat-rich meals should be granted the respect that they so evidently deserve.
  4. Interest rates must be kept low to allow increased consumption purchased by cheap loans. An individual’s income should not limit their purchasing power! The words “loan” and “own” sound almost the same so just ignore the difference.
  5. Recycling greatly extends available resources and so MUST be banned until it is needed after the effects of resource limitations become evident.
  6. Increased consumption can be encouraged by the invention of additional excuses to do so. An excellent example is holidays tied to the expectation of gifts - we already have Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day so why not Neighbours’ Day or Workmates’ Day or whatever? With the help of intensive advertising existing traditional holidays can also be usurped for increased consumption. Christmas shopping now begins in late October but why not September or even August?

There are many more strategies for increased consumption than those listed above - and our entrepreneurial youth operating in a stridently free market are just the ones to invent and exploit them! So show your kids your love by showering them with cheap plastic amusements mass-produced in coal-driven Chinese factories - you will be helping us all to reach those resource limits even sooner.

Merry Christmas! (After all, it’s only 10 months away.)

P.S. The world as a whole may be insane but maybe, with your help, your little corner of it can take a different path. (However, it’s a pity that we all breathe the same atmosphere!)

~ Link ~


Iraq Veterans Attempt 'Winter Soldier' Reenactment

Lost in the shuffle of national politics, snuggled in the underbelly of the anti-war movement, a small group of disgruntled Iraq war veterans -- who may or may not really be veterans -- is attempting to recreate John Kerry’s most despicable betrayal of the Vietnam generation.

The group, Iraq Veterans Against the War, is imitating Kerry’s discredited Vietnam Veterans Against the War by planning a “Winter Soldier inquiry” in March, using a format that is similar to Kerry’s phony Winter Soldier inquiry a generation ago.

In the original Winter Soldier “investigation” on January 31, 1971, members of VVAW met in a Detroit hotel where, during the next three days, more than 100 people who claimed they were Vietnam combat veterans, “testified” to routinely, under orders and as a matter of policy, committing or witnessing atrocities in South Vietnam.

Partly as a result of media coverage of that travesty, Kerry’s group was successful (for a time) in branding Americans who served in Vietnam as war criminals, and tarnishing the image of the American military.

The imitation IVAW Winter Soldier event will be held March 13, 2008, at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. This time however, the generic allegations of murder and other atrocities will not go challenged.

Veterans, both from the Vietnam and current eras, are understandably outraged that once again the American left is working to discredit the honorable service of our military with phony claims of atrocities willingly committed by troops who apparently are either mentally unstable or intellectually unable to differentiate between right and wrong.

Among the organizations working to oppose the IVAW is Eagles Up, headed by Col. Harry Riley, US Army (ret.), a decorated Vietnam veteran and organizer of the highly successful Gathering of Eagles counter-demonstration that opposed Cindy Sheehan and the ANSWER coalition in D.C., on March 17, 2007. Riley is now sponsoring Eagles Muster.

Riley states on his website “No one stood up when John Kerry and his lying malcontents dishonored America and our troops and we know what happened ... lying Winter Soldiers and gutless politicians sold out America and millions in South East Asia.”

Yet, despite the anger of those who support the troops and plan to make a showing in Washington next month, Kerry’s spawn may be doing America a huge favor.

It was years after the false testimony alleging widespread war crimes in Vietnam before Americans learned the truth. By then, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia had fallen to the communists with whom the VVAW was allied. Only after the damage had been done did the truth leak out, that the overwhelming majority of Kerry’s “winter soldiers” had either not been in the service, not in Vietnam or not in the capacity they claimed.

But this time, the truth will probably be proved and published immediately. Kerry’s clones are publicizing their efforts widely, and even providing the names of troops who say they committed war crimes while in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Suppose America takes their stories at face value? If we do, we have first-hand evidence of criminals who have infiltrated our military, committed crimes against the populaces of Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of America, and thus should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and international law.

Even before that, we need complete identity packages on all who testify. IVAW organizers say they are hoping 100 such criminals will participate. Rather than follow the John Kerry model of alleging very specific and horrific crimes, committed by vague individuals in uncertain times and places, this time there should be specifics.

We must demand that each “witness” who testifies to war crimes be identified by their full name, instant electronic fingerprint checks to corroborate identities, dates of service including time in Iraq or Afghanistan, the job they were assigned while in the military, their chain of command, including immediate supervisors both enlisted and officers, and the time, date, and location of the alleged atrocity.

Some material distributed by the IVAW or its supporting organizations says that lower ranking enlisted men and officers should not be identified to encourage them to testify. We cannot allow them to get away with that. This format flies in the face of each American’s constitutional right to face his or her accusers.

In this case, the IVAW is claiming President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other members of their administration also are war criminals. Thus members of the administration retain their basic constitutional right to face those who are making such claims, just as their accusers have an obligation to be very specific about their allegations.

In addition, the Nuremberg trials against Nazis who murdered millions in World War II established that “I was only following orders” is not an excuse for committing war crimes.

The Nuremberg Principles state in Principle IV, "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." This also nullifies the claim that war crime participants are innocent because they view the Iraq War as an illegal War of Aggression, also defined in the principles.

America maintains volunteer armed forces, thus everyone has a moral choice to serve or not.

If the IVAW wants any credibility in this venture, it must specifically identify the people who are claiming they participated in war crimes. Those claiming they witnessed war crimes, and did nothing to stop these heinous crimes, should be prosecuted as accessories.

America cannot allow another generation of its honorable warriors to be falsely accused, nor for a small minority who may have committed crimes while on duty in the war zones to go unpunished. If they are posers they should be exposed under the Stolen Valor Act, and if they participated in crimes against humanity they should be prosecuted.

Winter Solider participants who testify to committing crimes against the civilian populace in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere should be referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be charged with war crimes for their actions. In fact, since Kerry is their model and mentor, and he is such a strong proponent of International Law superseding American laws, it is feasible that members of this generation’s Winter Soldier investigation could opt to be referred to The Hague for prosecution.

Of course, in that case it would only appropriate to read such participants their rights under the Slobodan Milosevic Doctrine.


Ronald Winter is the author of "Masters of the Art, A Fighting Marine's Memoir of Vietnam." (Random House) As a Marine helicopter machine gunner in Vietnam he flew 300 missions and was awarded 15 Air Medals among other decorations. He is a professor of communications at the University of Hartford, and a political strategy and media relations specialist at the Michael J. London & Associates public relations firm in Trumbull, Connecticut

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India refuses to help Tibetan genocide probe

A Spanish lawyer fighting an unprecedented battle against the Chinese authorities for genocide in Tibet is touring India to encourage Tibetans living here to testify before a Madrid court. The lawyer, Dr Jose Elias Esteve, decided to make the journey after India refused to set up a Rogatory Commission that would have allowed the Tibetans to testify here. The Interpol had informed India of the Spanish court’s order to collaborate in the questioning, through a Rogatory Commission, of victims and witnesses.

India, which is home to over one lakh Tibetan refugees, is the only country with a sizeable Tibetan population not to cooperate with the Spanish investigation. The United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands have agreed to assist in the case. "The reply from the Indian government was devastating, as it concludes by saying that India does not recognise the principle of universal jurisdiction. It argued that the apparent crimes had not been committed on Spanish soil, so Spanish courts were not competent to try them," Dr Jose told this newspaper.

"The reply violates the most basic rules of international law and is utterly inappropriate for a democratic country like India," he added.

Dr Jose, who is visiting India with his associate Alan Cantos, Director of Tibet Support Group (Comite de Apoyo al Tibet in Spanish), said that the Spanish court has held that it is competent to judge cases of crimes against the Tibetans. (The case was admitted on January 10, 2006.) There is also a legal precedent of a Spanish court pronouncing the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet guilty, they said.

According to Dr Jose and Mr Alan, their lawsuit is the first case seeking to define the Chinese State’s treatment of the Tibetan people, where it is estimated that over one million Tibetans were murdered or died at the hands of Chinese officials, and over 90 per cent of the religious and cultural institutions destroyed...

Transcript in JFK-related discovery will fuel conspiracy chatter

Conspiracy theorists will love the latest find related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

A highly suspect transcript discussing a plot to kill the president is part of some JFK-related memorabilia discovered by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.

The Dallas Morning News reported exclusively Sunday that the items were found in an old safe on the 10th floor of the county courthouse.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said the discovery includes letters to and from former DA Henry Wade, the prosecutor in the Jack Ruby trial. Ruby shot and killed Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald two days after the president's death.

There are also letters to Ruby, records from his trial, a gun holster and clothing that probably belonged to Ruby and Oswald, said Watkins, who planned to discuss the find at a news conference tomorrow.

But the transcript figures to get most of the attention. The conversation is between Ruby and Oswald. They supposedly met at Ruby's nightclub on October 4th, 1963, less than two months before the assassination.

In it, they talked of killing the president because the mafia wanted to get rid of his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Gary Mack is the curator of the Sixth Floor Museum near where the president was shot. He hasn't seen the transcript but doubts it's real. So does Terri Moore, the top assistant to Watkins.

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'Europe: Divorce the US Military'

" ... As welcome as recent developments in France and Poland are to the neocons, what the serial warmongers require most is to have control of the EU itself. Which is where a certain former British Prime Minister comes in.

The appointment of Tony Blair as President of the European Council, with extended powers in the sphere of defense and trade would be the culmination of the neocon dream: to fully neuter Europe as alternative source of global power. While the election of Sarkozy has already neutered France, traditionally the main European source of opposition to Pax Americana; the appointment of Blair as EU President would be the final piece of the jigsaw. But while Blair's appointment would be a dream come true for the Empire builders of the Project for the New American Century, for the rest of the world, it would be a nightmare, making European involvement in US illegal wars of aggression far more likely.

Will the neocons succeed in their aims?

Whether they do or not depends on us, the people of Europe. Already a pan-European petition has been launched to stop Blair from being EU President, it can be signed at the Stop Blair website. Of course, signing petitions on its own won't be enough. The people of Europe need to wake up to what's going on and withdraw their support from any leaders or political parties who favor closer military ties with Washington. ... "

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Pakistan: Sale of weapons registers 1,500 per cent increase

Amidst the prevailing socio-political uncertainty that has characterized the period leading up to the general elections 2008, the regulated sale of weapons has registered an increase of almost 1,500 per cent.

Citizens themselves are feeling insecure with regards to the potential – both perceived and actual – for trouble during the run up to the elections, in particular polling day itself and the fallout of the election results.

As a consequence of this uncertainty, the sale of legal weapons in the city witnessed an enormous increase in January this year.

In the backdrop of this trend, the city had seen severely deteriorated and out-of-control law and order situations on several occasions last year, the most recent of which was the lawlessness that reigned in the city for many days following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27.

Now, with trouble on the cards, the arms’ dealers in the city say that the adverse law and order situation, a poignant manifestation of which was observed on May 12 and December 27, has forced the citizens to start thinking about taking their security into their own hands. As widely reported in media on these two occasions, law-enforcing agencies failed to provide security to common citizens.

A survey of the arms’ market in Saddar revealed that there had been at least a 1,500 per cent increase in the sale of legal arms in the city.

A dealer of arms, Khan Qaseem Ahmed, speaking to The News said that the citizens of Karachi are feeling unsecured, which has therefore resulted in the increase in the legal sale of arms to such a great extent.

Continuing, he said: “Say an arms’ dealer used to sell one gun to one person in one day previously. The same dealer is now selling guns to 15 persons in the current circumstances.” Interestingly, this increase in the sale of guns comes while there is a ban on the issuance of gun licenses currently in place in the province.

“The general public has learnt that law-breakers have an open field to do whatever they like. They have a variety of modern guns to harass the citizens who are unarmed,” said Ahmed.

He added that the arms’ dealers have two types of customers these days. “One category is that of those customers who have concerns about their individual security and the other consists of those who want protection for their business places,” he said.

According to him, people prefer to purchase repeaters and TTs these days...


"Is this true visionary finally about to join the giants of American fiction?"

Rebirth of a dark genius

John Updike and Philip Roth we know - but the great forgotten novelist of 20th-century America is Richard Yates. His debut, Revolutionary Road, was a critical success in 1961, but over the decades his books were neglected and Yates sank into alcoholism and nervous collapse. Now, with his work being reissued and a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet imminent, is this true visionary finally about to join the giants of American fiction?

[ ... ]

According to David Hare: 'Yates belongs with Fitzgerald and Hemingway as the three unarguably great American novelists of the 20th century. The highest compliment I can pay him is to say that he writes like a screenwriter, not like a novelist. He wants you to see everything he describes. Dramatic writers find novels unbearable because novelists mostly junk word on word, incident on incident... Yates describes everything with deadly precision, then goes on cutting everything closer and closer to the bone. He has a genuinely tragic sense, which comes out of an intense romanticism about the sensual things of life - cigarettes, drink, the opposite sex.' I agree with all of this except the sensuality. Can any Wasp writer truly be called sensual?

We all agree, however, that Yates's hour has come. A Yates revival is currently under way and some sort of commercial recognition appears imminent. His seven novels are being reissued. Later this year, a film of Revolutionary Road (part-financed by the BBC), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and directed by Sam Mendes, will be released in America (and in January 2009 in the UK)...


Country Joe and the Fish

"In 1965, it was 30 people in coffee houses," McDonald recalls. "In 1966, it was 300 people at the Avalon. In 1967, it was a 1,000 people at the Fillmore.

"And, in 1969, it was half a million people at Woodstock."

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Concentration Camps in America: The Consequences of 40 Years of Fear

If you type the phrase "concentration camps" into your Internet search engine, you will find page after page of references to martial law and the construction of concentration camps in the United States on behalf of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

A close examination reveals that many of these references lack sufficient facts to support their conclusions; however, taken as a whole, there is an abundance of factual information showing an alarming trend in the deployment of federal and military forces to restrain and detain American citizens.

Among the Internet sites are those listing between 600 and 800 locations in the United States where the government is establishing "concentration camps." Many of these are former or active military bases; however, several provide detailed information about their location and improvements, including maps, utube videos, and satellite photographs:

A former Amtrak facility located in Beech Grove, Indiana, is featured in a widely-viewed video on utube. From the audio description and video images, it is easy to imagine that the site could be used as a detention facility; however, a telephone call to the desk officer of the Beech Grove Police Department reveals that much of the evidence, including helicopter landing facilities and radio towers, actually belong to the police department that is located adjacent to the now largely abandoned facility. The desk officer, who also happens to be a local city councilman, was unaware of any federal involvement at the location. "It’s a straight facility," he said.

There are a number of photographs depicting a site in northern Michigan with a double row of chainlink fencing topped with barb wire and elevated guard towers. The area is part of Camp Grayling, the largest installation of the Michigan National Guard, which deploys several military police commands and trains more than 100 law enforcement agencies from Northern Michigan. The photographs clearly show an outdoor detention facility, and recent comments by an undercover observer confirm that it is currently maintained. However, there is an e-mail on the Internet dated January 20, 1999 from a base Deputy Public Affairs Officer who said: "The ‘camps’ you are referring to are used by our Military Police for training. One of their war-time missions is to process and care for prisoners of war (POWs). The photos you saw are of that training site."

Perhaps the most disturbing images show a Department of Homeland facility known as Swift Luck Green located in Central Wyoming. The five satellite photographs are labeled as having been taken on January 23 and March 24, 2006 by DigitalGlobe and are annotated as "DHS Facility (SLG)." Labels include: prisoner housing, restaurant for DHS personnel; 3-story dormitory for prisoners; guard towers; and prison cells. Various blogs further identify the location as a closed coal mine near Hanna, Wyoming in Carbon County.

There is nothing comparable to the photographs visible on GoogleEarth at the listed coordinates, and desk officers at the local sheriff’s office and the police department are unaware of any local DHS or FEMA facilities. An e-mail to DigitalGlobe’s media relations contact about the photographs received this reply: "they were in a report called ‘the hidden gulag,’ a report on secret nk [North Korean] prison camps." The report and original photographs can be viewed at the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea’s website,

This is what fear has wrought. First, our own government has done everything in its power to make us fearful so we will support its illegal and unconstitutional activities, and then in our fear, we have come to distrust everything our government says and does – for good reason. These facts are undisputed:

Commencing in the late Sixties, following urban riots in Los Angeles, Detroit, Newark, Cleveland, Seattle, Cincinnati and Milwaukee, and in response to a recommendation of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the U.S. military initiated plans to assist local and state civil authorities during urban unrest. Collectively, the response was known as "Operation Garden Plot," and each military branch established its own plans, which have evolved over the years.

In 1984, a military "Disturbance Plan" defined its targets as "disruptive elements, extremists or dissidents perpetrating civil disorder," which in turn is defined as "riot, acts of violence, insurrections, unlawful obstructions or assemblages, or other disorders prejudicial to public law and order." It concludes, "spontaneous civil disturbances which involve large numbers of persons and/or which continue for a considerable period of time, may exceed the capacity of local civil law enforcement agencies to suppress. Although this type of activity can arise without warning as a result of sudden, unanticipated popular may result from more prolonged dissidence.... This would most likely be the outgrowth of serious social, political or economic issues which divide segments of the American population. Such factionalism could manifest itself through repeated demonstrations, protest marches and other forms of legitimate opposition but which would have the potential for erupting into spontaneous violence with little or no warning."

Dated November 1985, a United States Army field manual entitled, "Civil Disturbances," says "if there are more detainees than civil detention facilities can handle, civil authorities may ask the [military] control forces to set up and operate temporary facilities.... These temporary facilities are set up on the nearest military installation or on suitable property under federal control...supervised and controlled by MP officers and NCOs trained and experienced in Army correctional operations."

At the same time as these plans and manuals were being developed and issued, President Reagan authorized a secret program for the imposition of martial law and massive detentions. First revealed by Oliver North during his congressional testimony, the plan was known as Readiness Exercise 1984, or REX 84. The program was originally intended to confront a "mass exodus" of illegal aliens across the Mexican-U.S. border, and to provide confinement facilities where they could be locked up by FEMA.

Otherwise known as a continuity of government plan, REX 84 involved an actual civil readiness exercise in April 1984 by FEMA in association with 34 other federal agencies. In a combined exercise with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Night Train 84 involved multi-emergency scenarios at play inside and outside the U.S. Confronted with civil disturbances, major demonstrations and labor strikes that would affect continuity of government and/or resource mobilization, and to fight subversive activities, the military was authorized to arrest as many as 400,000 people and to move them to military facilities for confinement.

In 1985, FEMA’s director was Louis Giuffrida, who in 1970 had called for the imposition of martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. He envisioned "assembly centers or relocation camps" for at least 21 million "American Negroes." Regarding martial law, he later wrote, "No constitution, no statute or ordinance can authorize Marital Rule.... The significance of Martial Rule in civil disorders is that it shifts control from civilians and to the military completely and without the necessity of a declaration, proclamation or other form of public manifestation.... Martial Rule is limited only by the principle of necessary force."

As reported by the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, "These camps are to be operated by FEMA should martial law need to be implemented in the United States and all it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the attorney general’s signature on a warrant to which a list of names is attached."

The Defense Department has developed a "Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support" against terrorism that pledges to "transform US military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the...US homeland." The Pentagon is presently collecting files on antiwar protesters and is prepared to maximize "threat awareness" and to seize "the initiative from those who would harm us." The Pentagon’s National Counterterrorism Center’s central repository now includes the names of 325,000 "terrorist" suspects...

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Help, my name's Lolita

Woolworths got into trouble for calling something Lolita, but what's it like to be lumbered with a name with troubling undertones?

What's in a name? Quite a lot actually, if your name is Lolita.

This is no longer simply a female given name of Spanish origin, a diminutive form of the more popular, better-established name Dolores, Spanish for "suffering".

Thanks to Vladimir Nabokov's still notorious novel Lolita, first published in 1955, and the two films based on his book - Stanley Kubrick's classic of 1962 and Adrian Lyne's updated version in 1997 - the name Lolita has become synonymous with a sexualised view of young girls.

[ ... ]

And Lolitas are not the only ones who have name troubles.

"Names come in and out of favour," says Pamela Redmond Satran, a naming expert and author of eight books on baby names, including The Brilliant Book of Baby Names and Cool Names for Babies.

"Monica is a good example in the US. The name had been inching up and was at number 79 in 1997. The Monica character in Friends helped make it popular. But in 1998, after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, the name slipped to 105 and went down even further the next year, never to recover.

"It was just too linked to odious qualities: abuse of power, sexual degradation... lots of things you wouldn't want connected with your innocent newborn daughter."

The name Katrina has also declined in popularity in the US following Hurricane Katrina.

In Britain, the name Myra declined in popularity following the Moors Murders. And names such as Adolf and Judas are now extremely rare. One man who has struggled more than most with his moniker is Lucifer Howse, a 33-year-old alternative medicine practitioner in Brighton.

Mr Howse only discovered his true first name in his late teens - prior to that, his family called him Luke for short. "I had a real crisis when I found out my name was Lucifer. I went off the rails," he says...


And a follow-up article from the BBC: A boy called Primrose

Following our piece on real people lumbered with undertone-laden names like Lolita and Lucifer, here is a selection of your unusual or difficult names.

Tia Maria Lancaster, Maidstone, Kent
"Good job your mum didn't like Guinness" is the usual comment I get when people see my name.

Rupert Bearne, Market Drayton
My unusual name Rupert Bear(ne) has brought me nothing but joy. Once seen never forgotten. Once caused me a bit of bother with a policeman who thought I was making it up...

Fighting Internet censorship worldwide

Free speech is a misnomer in many countries, and in many of those places Internet censorship is on the rise. By last count, said Professor Ron Deibert, director of U of T’s Citizen Lab, 26 countries worldwide engaged in Internet censorship, blocking sites created by political opponents, human rights groups and international news. China, Iran, Syria, Uzbekistan and Burma are among the countries practising the most pervasive forms of Internet censorship. Citizens found accessing banned sites can be subject to fines, imprisonment and even death.
It’s an alarming trend, but Deibert is developing software to subvert these oppressive laws. One tool he helped create is psiphon, an Internet censorship evading software application. People with friends and family in censored countries download the application onto their home computers and forward the unique connection to those living in the restricted areas, allowing them to surf sites over an encrypted channel. The system is virtually undetectable by authorities.

More than 130,00 unique copies of psiphon have been downloaded. To keep users safe, the program keeps no record of their location.

A political scientist by training, Deibert counts Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis as his inspirations. In 2001 a grant from the Ford Foundation presented a new opportunity for Deibert who “felt I had to get my hands dirty.” He began to explore the areas of the Internet, global security and human rights. Today at Citizen Lab, Deibert is surrounded by like-minded programmers, social scientists, artists and activists all committed to keeping the Internet free.

It’s not only countries with oppressive regimes that are blocking their citizenry’s access to the web.

“Internet censorship is growing in all nations,” said Deibert. “Even in developed countries, governments are turning to filtering content to solve social and political problems.”

While the psiphon software is free and open source, Deibert and the developers at Citizen Lab recently launched a start-up company, Psiphon Inc., in conjunction with U of T to assist organizations that face challenges communicating across an increasingly fragmented Internet. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing offers Psiphon Inc. a unique opportunity.

“There will be thousands of journalists in a country with the most pervasive form of censorship,” said Deibert. The company is working with a number of major media outlets to provide reliable access to the web. Revenues from the company will feed back into the research and development activities of the Citizen Lab.

What’s now keeping Deibert awake at night is an aggressive form of Internet censorship called “information warfare.” Rather than blocking sites through filtering, some countries employ extreme measures such as taking down websites, disabling text messaging service or even shutting the entire Internet, as the Burmese military government did in September 2007 after a violent crackdown on protesters.

“Cyberspace has become a new arena for geopolitical contestation with states and non-state actors battling over the global communications environment. Our role is to bring to light the often hidden practices that are taking place, whether filtering, surveillance or information war. The Internet is the world’s communication medium and we are working hard to keep it open and accessible to citizens worldwide.”

Link ~

"In a couple of hundred thousand years we might get somewhere"

Morally ambiguous? Intellectually dubious? Realistically utopian? Colman McCarthy’s cause célèbre — peace, of the absolute, change-the-world kind — is natural fodder for derision, but he doesn’t mind. A one-time Trappist monk, McCarthy became a columnist at the Washington Post in 1969, where he covered the civil rights movement and interviewed, among others, Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, and Mother Theresa. In 1997 he left the Post and dedicated himself full-time to bringing young people into the orbit of, as he likes to put it, the “vast literature of peace.” Now an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law School, he runs the Center for Peace in Washington (which he founded in 1985), teaches courses on nonviolent reconciliation at a number of D.C.-area high schools, and lectures on peace around the country. On Friday, February 15, McCarthy will speak at Santa Barbara City College. I spoke to him by phone recently.

I would imagine it’s not a very good career move in Washington to be for peace and love.

Every member of Congress was in first grade someplace. Maybe if we taught them a little bit about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, [etc.] the first day, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.

Of course, if you’re going to teach kids about Gandhi, you’ll have to teach them about the Partition [of India] too. Ridding the world of war and violence seems about as likely as abolishing hunger and disease.

Sam, you’re obviously in desperate need of some information. War is not inevitable. Violence is a learned behavior. We have this extraordinary faith in violence, and at the same time this extraordinary skepticism about nonviolence. All I’m trying to do, when I teach peace studies courses in school, is to give people another choice on how to solve their conflicts, whether at home across the living room or across the ocean with another nation. It’s not magic. It’s not foolproof. Violence has failed, but so has nonviolence, so pick which one you want to put your trust in.

But what does nonviolence mean? What motivates someone to commit child abuse is not the same as what motivates someone to fight in a war.

That’s right. There are many types of nonviolence. There are many types of ice cream, but it’s still ice cream. No matter whether nonviolence is organized strikes, boycotts, noncooperation, or just persuasion — nonviolence is not monolithic — any more than violence is. It takes many different forms, and those forms are teachable. To say that violence is inevitable is like saying ignorance is inevitable.

But given that violence occurs, can’t it be morally necessary to meet violence with violence? Take the Civil War. It was a horrific slaughter, but at the same time, it was also noble.

What was noble about the Civil War?

It helped bring about the end of slavery.

No, that wasn’t the intention of the Civil War. Lincoln’s intention was to keep the Union together. That was an unnecessary war, as all wars are unnecessary. That’s the pacifist argument, which I agree with.

Okay, forget the Civil War. What about World War II? There’s a war where there was a horrific genocide occurring, and it was stopped.

Hitler could have been waited out. He might have been overthrown by his own government. Who knows? To have 50 million people killed … Hitler would have died within 10 years no matter what he did. That’s an argument you rarely hear.

I’ll say.

The time to stop Hitler was in 1926, when he first ran for office. And we ended up bombing civilians at Dresden, Pembroke, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. … Hannah Arendt, the great Jewish philosopher, once said, “Violence, like all action, changes the world. But the most probable change is toward a more violent world.”

Part of the vast literature of peace.


Do you ever get discouraged?

In this country we have about 32,000 high schools, about 78,000 elementary schools, and about 3,500 colleges and universities. If all of those would take on the study of peace, the study of conflict resolution and mediation, I do believe that in a couple of hundred thousand years we might get somewhere. So it’s a long shot, and people keep telling me, “Oh, you’re not getting anywhere, you’re just another old ’60s lefty dreamer coming back for another round.” I hear that all the time. I don’t mind what people say. But I have seen students’ lives changed. We’re not helpless.

German Government Gives Bank Billion-Euro Bailout

The German government is to bail out the troubled IKB bank to the tune of 1 billion euros. It is the second cash injection for IKB, one of the many German casualties of the US subprime crisis.

The list of casualties from the US subprime crisis is long and keeps getting longer. Financial institutions around the world have announced massive write-offs due to the credit crunch, with German banks such as WestLB and Sachsen LB being particularly hard hit by their exposure to obscure subprime-related investment vehicles.

Now the German government has stepped in to help out one particularly troubled bank. German Economy Minister Michael Glos announced Wednesday that the government, via the state-owned KfW banking group, will bail out the beleagured IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG to the tune of 1 billion euros ($1.46 billion).

Glos said that the Dusseldorf-based bank needs a total of 1.5 billion euros as a result of losses resulting from the subprime crisis. Other banks and investors will have to come up with the remaining money, he said, adding that it was still not clear "who will be taking part and for how much."

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück warned that allowing IKB to go bankrupt would raise the risk of "a significant loss of confidence in Germany's entire financial sector."


Also from Der Spiegel:

The Liechtenstein Connection

With one bigwig already toppled for tax evasion and hundreds more likely waiting their turn, all roads lead to the tiny principality of Liechtenstein. According to SPIEGEL sources, Germany's largest post-war economic scandal started with a single intelligence source.

It is rapidly becoming one of the largest economic scandals ever in Germany's post-World War II history. As many as 900 wealthy Germans -- many of them well-known -- might be involved. Berlin may have been shorted up to 4 billion euros in taxes. And the accusatory finger is pointing increasingly at what many feel is rampant greed among of many of Germany's top earners -- and at a handful of banks and foundations in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein that help the affluent hide their assets...


EU Seeks Deal with Cuba

The European Union and Cuba are strengthening their diplomatic ties. Now a German-led delegation in Cuba is exploring the dictatorship's willingness to make concessions to the EU, in the form of allowing a non-government organization to open its doors in Havana.

[ ... ]

It is Monday, Feb. 4, and Martin Schulz, the German head of the center-left Social Democrat faction in the European Parliament, has come to Havana in an effort to improve relations between Europe and Cuba.

To that end, he is sitting in front of Carlos Lage, a balding, deeply tanned man. Lage, 56, is the executive secretary of the Council of Ministers and one of the key members of the Cuban government. Photos of Fidel Castro, and revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara hang in the reception area outside his office. Che is long dead and Fidel is seriously ill. Those who follow the country closely believe that Lage will soon be a more important man than he already is.

Schulz, 52, is here to explore whether the European Union can set aside its protracted diplomatic conflict with the Caribbean dictatorship. The meeting with Lage is the high point of his four-day visit, but it starts off on a sour note.

Cuba to Europe: You're America's Lackeys

Despite the fact that the European Union's sanctions against Cuba are currently suspended, Lage complains that the fact they exist in the first place is an outrage. He tells Schulz that Cuba is not prepared to offer anything in exchange for the permanent removal of the sanctions. The Europeans, he says, are nothing but America's lackeys.

It takes Schulz a few minutes to recover from the attack, but then he shoots back: "Let me tell you how your country is viewed in Europe. You impose the death penalty. You torture and lock up political prisoners. Cuba is a dictatorship." The meeting doesn't appear to be heading in the direction of mutual understanding.

The two men spend the next hour and a half arguing. "It was a killer meeting," Schulz says on the steps of the palace after emerging from Lage's office. "We gave each other a run for our money."

Nevertheless, the verbal sparring could mark a milestone. Schulz proposed to the Cuban government that if the communists offered a sign of their willingness to open up, the EU would slacken its rigid position.

It is an attempt that goes beyond Cuba. At issue is the question of whether a policy of mutual understanding can convince dictatorships to make concessions. Views on this question vary widely within Germany's grand coalition government...


CIA's ambitious post-9/11 spy plan crumbles

The CIA set up a network of front companies in Europe and elsewhere after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a constellation of "black stations" for a new generation of spies, according to current and former agency officials.

But after spending hundreds of millions of dollars setting up as many as 12 of the companies, the agency shut down all but two after concluding they were ill-conceived and poorly positioned for gathering intelligence on the CIA's principal targets: terrorist groups and unconventional weapons proliferation networks.

The closures were a blow to two of the CIA's most pressing priorities after the 2001 terrorist attacks: expanding its overseas presence and changing the way it deploys spies.

The companies were the centerpiece of an ambitious plan to increase the number of case officers sent overseas under what is known as "nonofficial cover," meaning they would pose as employees of investment banks, consulting firms or other fictitious enterprises with no apparent ties to the U.S. government.

But the plan became the source of significant dispute within the agency and was plagued with problems, officials said. The bogus companies were located far from Muslim enclaves in Europe and other targets. Their size raised concerns that one mistake would blow the cover of many agents. And because business travelers don't ordinarily come into contact with Al Qaeda or other high-priority adversaries, officials said, the cover didn't work.

Summing up what many considered the fatal flaw of the program, one former high-ranking CIA official said, "They were built on the theory of the 'Field of Dreams': Build them and the targets will come."

Officials said the experience reflected an ongoing struggle at the CIA to adapt to a new environment in espionage. The agency has sought to regroup by designing covers that would provide pretexts for spies to get close to radical Muslim groups, nuclear equipment manufacturers and other high-priority targets.

But current and former officials say progress has been painfully slow, and that the agency's efforts to alter its use of personal and corporate disguises have yet to produce a significant penetration of a terrorist or weapons proliferation network...

'Credit default swaps, like subprime mortgages, may become a household term'

Those of us who have an eye for trouble have been nattering about the credit default swaps market from time to time. This $46 trillion unregulated market has suddenly captured the imagination after AIG reported in an 8-K filing that it had certain weaknesses in its internal controls and that the value of its credit defaults swaps had fallen in October and November by $4.88 billion, and oh, by the way, they still haven't figured out December. Their previously reported loss estimate on CDS was a mere $1 billion.

Now AIG has a big balance sheet, so even though this is painful and embarrassing, they'll be able to absorb the damage (unless December turns out to have been a black hole). But if a company heretofore regarded as savvy could get it that wrong, who else might be in trouble?

This article by Gretchen Morgenson in the New York Times, "Arcane Market Is Next to Face Big Credit Test," gives a reasonably good overview of the credit default swaps market, although we quibble with some of its emphasis and views.

One assumption that undergirds the piece is that the event that will test this market is increased corporate defaults. We disagree. Counterparty risk will emerge as a problem long before we see a rise in companies in financial extremis.

CDS are only as good as the party the wrote the guarantee. Monoline insurers, followed by hedge funds, were the big protection writers. Yet the role of the bond insurers is not mentioned once in this article (the article cited data on the activity of banks, who are only one of many types of participants in this market). Merrill Lynch has already taken $3.1 billion in writedowns due to financial guarantor counterparty risk on CDS.

Now what makes this situation really hairy is that the amount of CDS outstanding is a very big multiple of the underlying credits on which they are written (I've seen estimates as high as 12 times; the Morgenson article suggests a level more like 8 times). Aside from speculation, one of the reasons the CDS volume is so high is that some of the CDS are entered into to hedge other CDS positions.

Now follow the bouncing ball: a financial player that has written guarantees gets into serious trouble. Suddenly everyone realized any CDS written by that institution are probably not worth much. That means positions they thought were hedged aren't.

That will lead to a cascading series of events...

22,000 died amid delayed Bayer drug recall: doctor

The lives of 22,000 patients could have been saved if U.S. regulators had been quicker to remove a Bayer AG drug used to stem bleeding during open heart surgery, according to a medical researcher interviewed by CBS Television's 60 Minutes program.

The drug Trasylol was withdrawn in November at the request of the FDA after an observational study linked the medicine to kidney failure requiring dialysis and increased death of those patients.

It had been given to as many as a third of all heart bypass patients in the United States at the height of its use over a period of many years, according to the report.

Dr. Dennis Mangano, the study's researcher, said during the program that 22,000 lives could have been saved if Trasylol had been taken off the market when he first published his study in January 2006, according to a CBS News report on its Web site ahead of a broadcast slated for next Sunday.

He said in the broadcast that Bayer failed to disclose to the FDA during an FDA advisory panel meeting in September 2006 -- at which Mangano's negative findings were discussed -- that the German drugmaker had conducted its own research which confirmed the same dangers established by his study.

The chairman of the FDA advisory panel, Dr. William Hiatt, told 60 Minutes he would have voted to remove Trasylol from the market had he been informed about Bayer's study, according to the CBS report.

Bayer spokeswoman Meredith Fischer said she could not comment about the broadcast until it is aired, including allegations that the drugmaker had failed to protect patients.

She said Bayer is facing a number of product-liability lawsuits filed by patients who had taken the medicine or their families, but said she not know how many lawsuits were filed.

~ Reuters ~

~ Source: What Really Happened.Com ~


Dollar Sales by Japanese Investors Reach Record High

Dollar sales by Japanese individual investors on the Tokyo Financial Exchange Inc. rose to a record high on speculation the U.S. economy will suffer a recession.

Housewives, pensioners and businessmen accelerated sales of the U.S. currency this week, taking advantage of its rally to a one-month high against the yen. The exchanges share of so-called margin trading, borrowing money to buy and sell currencies, was 8.6 percent in 2007 based on figures from the Financial Futures Association of Japan.

``They do not seem to believe in the U.S. economic recovery later this year at all,'' said Yuji Kameoka, a senior economist and currency analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research, a unit of Japan's second-largest brokerage. ``They are expecting the dollar will head south.''

The U.S. currency traded at 107.84 yen as of 2 p.m. in Tokyo from 107.87 yen in New York yesterday. It rose to 108.60 yen on Feb. 14, the highest since Jan. 14. The currency has fallen 13 percent since June 22, when it reached a 4 1/2-year high of 124.13 yen.

Short positions held by individual investors on the dollar against the yen, wagers the U.S. currency will fall, reached 20,589 contracts on Feb. 13, the most since July 2006 when Japan's largest financial futures market started collecting data. The contracts are denominated in 10,000 units of the foreign currency.

Japanese investors have 1,536 trillion yen ($14.2 trillion) in financial assets, according to figures from the Bank of Japan released on Dec. 17...

~ Read on... ~


'Dodgy dossier' was 'wrong', its author says

The government official who wrote the first draft of the "dodgy dossier" that helped propel Britain into war in Iraq today admits, "We were wrong."

John Williams, a former Foreign Office aide, said last night that publication of his document would expose how members of Tony Blair's team were locked in a mindset that made military action inevitable.

On Wednesday, ministers will hit a deadline for publishing the 2002 document, after years of resistance.

The Williams draft was written in September 2002, only days after Mr Blair, then Prime Minister, announced that the Government would publish a dossier of intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein threatened the world with his weapons.

The draft was not disclosed at the Hutton inquiry into the death in 2003 of the former Iraq arms inspector David Kelly. The scientist had suggested the dossier was exaggerated to justify the UK joining the 2003 invasion.

Mr Williams, press secretary to three foreign secretaries, said that the dossier would show how wrong the Blair team was about Saddam's alleged possession of WMD. Mr Williams said: "The argument was that here was someone who had been known to possess illegal weapons. We regarded him as a threat." He added: "The document will show the mindset that everyone had. It was wrong and we know that now."

The Government has yet to decide whether to publish the draft dossier, in line with an information tribunal judgment last month.

Ministers have insisted that the dossier was entirely the work of intelligence agencies, but Mr Williams's role remains unclear. Mr Williams denies that he came up with the claim that Saddam could have launched a WMD strike within 45 minutes.

He said: "I was a member of the team looking at it.... I used the available information to write it, but [intelligence chief] John Scarlett was then commissioned to write it instead."

Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, said it was time the British people were told the truth: "The issue is how much the decision was based on intelligence, and how much [it was] a product of manipulation in Downing Street."

~ Link ~


British woman: 'Sharia law has worked fine here'

WHAT ugliness we've seen this week as Britain, in the grip of gross misunderstanding, has turned on the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Aided and abetted by the irresponsible, the nation has demanded he be sacked. And why? Because he pondered on whether a few aspects of sharia law could be gainfully incorporated into our British legal system.

From that innocuous thought was fashioned the belief that Dr Williams was advocating the practices of limb-lopping for thieves, stonings for adulterers and the whole grizzly gamut of uncivilised punishments dealt in some Islamic countries.

But the Archbishop is a man of peace. Only fools - a multitude of whom seemed up in arms this week - could interpret that suggestion as a return to medieval punishments. The outcry following his words, whipped up by idiots who hadn't listened, was interesting. It showed how Britain is eager to think the worst of all Muslims: it showed how quickly the empty-headed can spread despair. Millions reading not the Archbishop's words but the mass media's interpretation of them, believed this nation was heading towards complete sharia law.

What was clear was that the most vociferous knew beggar all of what's been happening under their noses for years.

Sharia courts have been settling property disputes, quarrels and divorces for many years. The same applies to the Beth Din, the courts held under Judaic law. They've been cantering along quite happily for centuries in Britain, working hand-in-hand with our legal system.

Already there is a Muslim banking service in Britain that works round the Islamic injunction that outlaws interest - the main plank in British banking. These are all up and running. And have you ever heard a word of complaint against them? No, neither have I.

That the Archbishop was unwise to mention any slight adoption of sharia law is now clear. But he's a charitable man, well versed in academic circles. He could never have guessed how the rude plebs could twist and add to his words.

He should have known, of course. Yet morally earnest and good men are often a trifle naive: they forget there are mischief makers. His sole sin was in over-estimating his listeners.

We have all heard this week that three drunken yobs have been sentenced to a total of 44 years for battering to death Garry Newlove, who ran from his home, barefoot, in an attempt to stop them vandalising his wife's car. Were that to have happened in areas where the gentlest tenets of sharia is established in Britain, the criminals would still have faced British law.

But their families, prouder and more aware of honour, would have gone to a Muslim court to offer compensation to the bereaved family. Thus, it is believed, the family name would not be besmirched forever. That is the system the Archbishop advocated could be grafted on to our British legal system. He went no further. He didn't mention physical punishment.

There have been times this week when I've thought that those making the greatest noise must be educationally sub-normal to have got the wrong end of the stick so hugely.

Were they under the impression that our Dr Naseem would be overseeing limb-loss and stonings outside the Central Mosque at Friday prayer time? It seems this notion was growing among those who have never both-ered to learn of Islam, have no social contact with Muslims and no idea of what's happening in Muslim communities. Muslims seeing this row were dismayed. The uncivilised punishments advocated in some interpretations of sharia law dismay them as much as they dismay us. Nothing could be further from the truth than that the average Muslim wants that here.

That there are dyed-in-the-wool Muslim bigots is true. So are there ignorant Alf Garnett types. We've got to ignore these fools.

~ Sharia law has worked fine here for many years by Maureen Messent ~

Asian arms race gathers speed

...Despite all this talk of peace, something else, quite momentous and hardly noticed, is underway in the region. The real money in Northeast Asia is going elsewhere. While in the news sunshine prevails, in the shadows an already massive regional arms race is threatening to shift into overdrive.

Since the dawn of the 21st century, five of the six countries involved in the six-party talks have increased their military spending by 50% or more. The sixth, Japan, has maintained a steady, if sizeable military budget while nonetheless aspiring to keep pace. Every country in the region is now eagerly investing staggering amounts of money in new weapons systems and new offensive capabilities.

The arms race in Northeast Asia undercuts all talk of peace in the region. It also sustains a growing global military-industrial complex. Northeast Asia is where four of the world's largest militaries - those of the United States, China, Russia, and Japan - confront each other. Together, the countries participating in the six-party talks account for approximately 65% of world military expenditures, with the US responsible for roughly half the global total.

Here is the real news that should hit the front pages of papers today: wars grip Iraq, Afghanistan and large swathes of Africa, but the heart of the global military-industrial complex lies in Northeast Asia. Any attempt to drive a stake through this potentially destabilizing monster must start with the militaries that face one another there...

India: Online Organ Trade

 ...Social networking sites are openly being used as a source for procuring kidneys in contravention to the established laws.

A number of communities on these sites are dedicated to people interested in selling and buying kidneys.

From Aslam, a 20-year-old college student to Kulkarni, a software professional, many are logging onto the net to get into the online kidney market.

The popularity of such specialised communities can be gauged from the huge number of members that these communities have attracted.

A social networking site said it has reviewed the content as per its policies and those in violations have been effectively removed...

~ Read on... ~

Separatists Damper EU Support for Independent Kosovo

European backing for Kosovo's independence has been held back by worries in some EU capitals that it could inspire separatists in their own countries. Some leaders want the UN to rule on Kosovo's status.

While Britain, France, Germany and Italy, along with the United States, were expected to recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia, several other EU nations have said they will not be sending ambassadors to Pristina soon.


Great Britain said it regarded Kosovo's declaration of independence on Sunday, Feb. 17, as "an important development," but it will wait until a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday to make a formal statement, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.


German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on "all parties" to exercise moderation. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he wished Kosovo "good luck" following its vote for independence.


Russia strongly opposed to independence


While thousands of Kosovars danced in the streets of Pristina waving US, British, French, German, Italian flags in tribute to countries that supported the break Kosovo made from Serbia.


"This is the happiest day ever in my life. I'm proud of our nation, which should be thankful eternally to the US, and to the EU too," Gazmend Halimi, 22, told the DPA news agency.


But not all the EU is behind Kosovo's decision.


Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain oppose recognizing Kosovo. Others, including Malta and Portugal, want Kosovo's future be decided at the UN Security Council. With veto-wielding Russia opposed to Kosovo's independence, there is no chance of a UN Security Council resolution formalizing the Pristina parliament's decision.


Some EU members -- as well as Russia -- see Kosovo as potentially setting a dangerous precedent for other separatist movements, despite reassurances from Brussels that Kosovo is a unique case.


Cyprus is already split, and Spain has long been confronted with Basque and Catalan nationalists.


"We do not support a unilateral declaration of independence," Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said on local radio Saturday. "We think that ... it should have been in agreement with the various parties, which is not the case, or in line with international standards, that is to say with a (UN) Security Council resolution." ...


Read on... ~


Chomsky on the Rise of the South

" ... Actually what's happening in Bolivia is a striking example. The mostly white, Europeanized elite, which is a minority, happens to be sitting on most of the hydrocarbon reserves. And for the first time Bolivia is becoming democratic. So it's therefore bitterly hated by the West, which despises democracy, because it's much too dangerous. But when the indigenous majority actually took political power for the first time, in a very democratic election of the kind we can't imagine here, the reaction in the West was quite hostile. I recall, for example, an article - I think it was the Financial Times - condemning Morales as moving towards dictatorship because he was calling for nationalization of oil. They omitted to mention, with the support of about 90% of the population. But that's tyranny. Tyranny means you don't do what the United States says. Just like moderation means that you're like Saudi Arabia and you do do what we say.

There are now moves toward autonomy in the elite-dominated sectors in Bolivia, maybe secession, which will probably be backed by the United States to try and undercut the development of a democratic system in which the majority, which happens to be indigenous, will play their proper role, namely, cultural rights, control over resources, political and economic policy, and so on. That's happening elsewhere but strikingly in Bolivia.

The Bank of the South is a step towards integration of the countries. Could it weaken the IFIs, yes it can, in fact they're being weakened already. The IMF has been mostly thrown out of South America. Argentina quite explicitly said, "Okay, we're ridding ourselves of the IMF." And for pretty good reasons. They had been the poster child of the IMF. They had followed its policies rigorously and it led to terrible economic collapse. They did pull out of the collapse, namely by flatly rejecting the advice of the IMF. And it succeeded. They were able to pay off their debts, restructure their debts and pay them off with the help of Venezuela which picked up a substantial part of the debt. Brazil in its own way paid off its debt and rid itself of the IMF. Bolivia is moving in the same direction.

The IMF is in trouble now because it is losing its reserves. It was functioning on debt collection and if countries either restructured their debt or refused to pay it, they're in trouble. Incidentally the countries could legitimately refuse to pay much of the debt, because, in my opinion at least, it was illegal in the first place. For example, if I lend you money, and I know you're a bad risk, so I get high interest payments, and then you tell me at one point, sorry I can't pay anymore, I can't call on my neighbors to force you to pay me. Or I can't call on your neighbors to pay it off. But that's the way the IMF works. You lend money to a dictatorship and an elite, the population has nothing to do with it, you get very high interest because it's obviously risky, they say they can't pay it off, you say okay your neighbors will pay for it. It's called structural adjustment. And my neighbors will pay me off. That's the IMF as a creditors' cartel. You get higher taxes from the north.

[ ... ]

...they have to face the fact that the West will not allow it to happen. If you go back to 1974, that was the first move toward oil independence by the oil-rich countries. Just read what American journalists and commentators were writing. They were saying they have no right to the oil. The more moderate writers were saying the oil should be internationalized for the benefit of the world. American agricultural wealth shouldn't be internationalized for the benefit of the world, but the oil of Saudi Arabia should be because they're not following what we tell them to do anymore.

The more extreme people, I guess it was Irving Kristol, said insignificant nations like insignificant people sometimes gain illusions about their own significance. So therefore the age of gunboat diplomacy is never over, we'll just take it from them by force. Robert Tucker, a serious international relations specialist who is considered pretty moderate, said it's just a scandal that we're letting them get away with running their own resources. Why are we sitting here, we've got the military force to take them. Go back to somebody like George Kennan, who's considered a great humanist. When he was in the planning sector, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he said harsh measures may be necessary for "protection of our resources" -- which happen to be in some other country. That's just an accident of geography. They're our resources and we have to protect them by harsh measures, including police states and so on.

Take Bill Clinton. He had a doctrine too, every president has a doctrine. He was less brazen about it than Bush, didn't get criticized a lot, but his doctrine was more extreme than the Bush doctrine if taken literally. The official Clinton doctrine presented to Congress was that the United States has the unilateral right to use military force to protect markets and resources. The Bush doctrine said we've got to have a pretext, like we've got to claim they're a threat. Clinton doctrine didn't even go that far, we don't need any pretext. With markets and resources, we have a right to make sure that we control them, which is logical on the principle that we own the world anyway so of course we have that right.

You're going to have to look far in the political spectrum to find any deviation from this. So if the oil-rich countries were to try to really take independent control of the resources, there would be a very harsh reaction. The United States, by now, has a military system; more is spent on the military system than the rest of the world put together. There's a reason for that. That's not to defend the borders. ... "

~ From Michael Shank, "Chomsky on the Rise of the South" (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, January 30, 2008) ~

Valentine's Massacre (Again) In Illinois

On Valentine's Day, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois, five members of George 'Bugs' Moran's gang, a gang "follower", and a mechanic who happened to be at the scene were lined up against the rear inside wall of the garage of the SMC Cartage Company in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago's North Side. They were then shot and killed by four members of Al Capone's gang (two of them dressed as police officers). (“Saint Valentine's Day massacre,” Wikipedia, Feb. 15, 2008). Seventy-nine years later, again on St. Valentine's Day, again in Illinois, a massacre occurred at Northern Illinois University (NIU).

[ ... ]
But for now, it is “time to grieve,” reports Dan Stone in the student newspaper, “The Northern Star.” NIU president John Peters advises students to “remain calm and seek counseling and other support services that are being offered...” (“Officials stress now is the time to grieve,” Northern Star, Feb. 14, 2008)
The Valentine's Massacre Repeat at NIU takes place amidst ominous developments reported upon last week where a new trend in zombie eruptions -- multiple zombies appearing in multiple places – was noticed.
(“Release The Zombies,”
Loren Coleman also noticed a change in pattern. “Change is in the air. And danger,” he wrote on Feb. 9, 2008. There have been “shifts in rampage shootings.” And, warned Coleman, “Look for major surprises in school shootings and similar mass rampages for this spring, unfortunately. Look again, too, to the months of March and April, with the red zone of the ten days from April 16 through April 26, 2008, as especially dangerous.”
(“Shootings Shatter Gender Barrier,” by Loren Coleman.
Coleman's “Red Zone” of ten days between April 16 and April 26 coincides with the April 19 special marker. On that day, in 1993, the Waco Massacre final event occurred. Also on April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City Bombings traumatized the nation. Latest news now surfacing is that Hillary Clinton (not Janet Reno) bears ultimate responsibility for the Waco disaster.
(“Hillary Clinton Ordered The Final Massacre At Waco,”
At this time there are “[c]onflicting reports and rumors” as to what happened yesterday at NIU. (“Students get rides home from parents, friends,” by Lee Blank. Northern Star, Feb. 14, 2008). Earlier, on Dec. 10, 2007, the school had been shut down following threats. The alleged shooter is described as a white male wearing a black shirt and with tattoos on his forearms. He also reportedly wore a black hat and dark glasses. (“Students describe aftermath of shooting,” by Katie Trusk. Northern Star, Feb. 14, 2008).
Seven people died in the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Preliminary reports have five as the number of slain students in DeKalb, Illinois. However the local NPR affiliate has just upped that number to six students slain. If the alleged gunman is added to the total, that would equal seven dead – the same number killed in the earlier St. Valentine's Day Massacre...
~ Link ~

Open Source Intelligence: Private Sector Capabilities

Defense Daily Network Special Report, posted 5 May 1998 at . Dissemination of this paper, with full credit to DDN and OSS, is encouraged.

Open Source Intelligence: Private Sector Capabilities to Support DoD Policy, Acquisitions, and Operations

Executive Summary

DoD policy, acquisitions, and operations can be greatly enhanced and advanced through the use of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). Several aspects of post-Cold War politico-military issues lend themselves to an increased use of OSINT to assist DoD policy-makers, acquisition program managers, and operational commanders:

(1) Contingencies tend to arise in lower Tier nations (per PDD-35) where U.S. classified capabilities are least applicable or largely unavailable.

(2) Warning of these crises has not required classified collection.

(3) These issues have required increased reliance on international organizations and non-traditional allies with whom information must be shared, which is difficult if not impossible with classified sources.

(4) The "information explosion" has increased the amount of available information, while also creating a new "intelligence gap" between what needs to be known, and what can be processed and exploited.

OSINT, like all other intelligence sources, is more than information. It represents a careful sifting, selecting, analyzing and presenting of open source material on a timely basis. OSINT should be a valuable contributor to "all source" intelligence, although it continually gets short shrift throughout the intelligence and policy communities.

Properly developed and implemented, the OSINT support process for DoD should include SI/TK buffers and full security assurances, proper attention to copyright compliance, access to all foreign language sources as well as automated translation technologies, very strong emphasis on source validation, and full access to supporting materials by DoD analysts and action officers.

OSINT can help DoD in two ways: (1) crisis support; and (2) support to on-going operations, bringing to bear in both cases the best and most relevant open sources to respond to established DoD needs with OSINT rather than just information. OSINT includes global geospatial data and global logistics information.

Bureaucratic misperceptions notwithstanding, OSINT is not free to current users and is not being supplied by the Intelligence Community to DoD in any significant way. However, a modest investment by DoD elements in OSINT can significantly multiply the effectiveness of current classified intelligence capabilities while simultaneously improving general intelligence support to DoD policy makers, acquisition managers, and warfighters.

Open Source Intelligence: Private Sector Capabilities to Support DoD Policy, Acquisitions, and Operations(1)

By Mr. Robert D. Steele(2) President, OSS Inc., and

Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal(3) , President OSS USA

"…the concept of UN intelligence promises to turn traditional principles on their heads. Intelligence will have to be based in information that is collected primarily by overt means, that is by methods that do not threaten the target state or group and do not compromise the integrity or impartiality of the UN."(4)

"If it is 85% accurate, on time, and I can share it, this is a lot more useful to me than a compendium of Top Secret Codeword materials that are too much, too late, and require a safe and three security officers to move around the battlefield." (5)

Introduction: DoD and Open Source Intelligence. Faced with ever-increasing requirements for intelligence support--particularly in Tier III and Tier IV countries where classified capabilities have not been focused and operational funds have not been pre-programmed--the U.S. military has discovered the unique value of commercial imagery and developed EAGLE VISION and JOINT VISION. Commercial imagery is one small portion of the remarkable range of open sources that can support DoD policy-makers, acquisition program managers, and operational commanders. This paper proposes that DoD develop a concept of operations for providing open source intelligence (OSINT) to all elements of DoD, in both CONUS and OCONUS.

OSINT is uniquely suited for support to DoD operations because OSINT relies exclusively on information and expertise obtained through legal and ethical means. This gives OSINT greater utility and flexibility in working with Congress, with foreign coalition partners, and with civilian agencies not routinely cleared for classified information. There are three primary reasons for this:

First, contingencies have tended to arise in lower Tier countries (as defined by PDD-35)--such as Haiti or Somalia--where the United States is paying much less attention overall and where national collection resources are least likely to provide much useful information, especially at the outset of a crisis. These are also areas where analytical expertise has been cut back into order to meet demands within the top Tiers and the Hard Targets. As DCI Tenet himself has observed, the Intelligence Community cannot now cover the hard targets and also provide global coverage.

Second, the lead-ups to these issues have not relied on highly classified intelligence as was often the case during the Cold War. Many of these situations -- physical conditions in Somalia, the existence of a junta in Haiti, Milosevic's early statements of his intentions re Bosnia, refugee flows into Goma, Zaire -- have been evident from unclassified sources.

Third, these issues have emphasized recourse to international organizations and broad diplomatic and military coalitions beyond the bounds of the United States' traditional allies and intelligence partners. These are not instances in which much classified intelligence can be easily used, given the increasing need to share information across a broad spectrum of partners.

Fourth, The "information explosion" has increased the amount of available information, while also creating a new "intelligence gap" between what needs to be known, and what can be processed and exploited. Both producers and consumers of intelligence are being flooded with information of mixed value, and both lack the expertise and tools to filter, distill, summarize, visualize, and digest the "nuggets".

OSINT has the advantages of providing a great deal of the intelligence that DoD would find useful as soon as the crisis breaks; of being available to DoD independently and without waiting for the DCI and CIA to sort out their own priorities and needs; and of being more easily used within DoD in terms of sharing it with politico-military partners or coalition forces not cleared for classified.

The Characteristics of OSINT -- Intelligence, Not Information. OSINT, also known as unclassified intelligence or, in the business community, as "decision support" or "business intelligence", must be carefully distinguished from open source information (OSIF), which is acquired in support of both the OSINT process carried out by the private sector, and the all-source process carried out by the U.S. Intelligence Community. OSIF consists of volumes of multi-media and multi-lingual information gathered for further processing and consideration. OSINT, in sharp contrast, integrates world-class human expertise with an integrated human-technical process to produce only "just enough, just in time" intelligence--information tailored to support a specific decision...

~ Read full report ~


Year of the Disinformation Specialist

" ... Alex Beam wrote a column yesterday that shows the poverty of knowledge in the anti-conspiracy press. He's discussing that propaganda coup "Oswald's Ghost," a masterfully presented, if wildly underinformed special on the Kennedy Assassination.

Beam, who obviously knows little about the case, finds the special persuasive. It doesn't occur to him that the special was a deliberately one-sided presentation designed to try to persuade conspiracy believers that there was no conspiracy.
[ ... ]
John Newman, himself a former intelligence analyst, to write Oswald and the CIA, a lengthy book in which he carefully, if perhaps too subtly, lays out the case that the CIA was controlling Oswald and moving him around like a pawn on a chessboard. In The Assassinations, I and others discuss many specific pieces of information that make a strong case for the CIA's involvement in the crime. None of this information, as Jim DiEugenio points out in his review of "Oswald's Ghost", is debunked, because none of it is even mentioned. Stone frames the case by keeping it locked prior to the release of the information that much more clearly makes the case for conspiracy.

Is the special persuasive? Sure, to the uninformed. But consider this. Would you be comfortable serving on a jury where the prosecutor was allowed to present both his case and the defendant's case? Absolutely not. But curiously, some, like Alex Beam, have no problem accepting it when the media does it.

I warned the readers of this blog that we were entering a year of disinformation on the assassinations because we're in a 'big' year, the 40th anniversary of the MLK and RFK assassinations, and the 45th year of the JFK case. "Oswald's Ghost" is only the opening salvo. Much worse is coming. ... "

'Spy' Request Violated Long-Standing U.S. Policy

Exclusive: Peace Corps, Fulbright Scholar Asked to 'Spy' on Cubans, Venezuelans
In an apparent violation of U.S. policy, Peace Corps volunteers and a Fulbright scholar were asked by a U.S. Embassy official in Bolivia "to basically spy" on Cubans and Venezuelans in the country, according to Peace Corps personnel and the Fulbright scholar involved.

"I was told to provide the names, addresses and activities of any Venezuelan or Cuban doctors or field workers I come across during my time here," Fulbright scholar John Alexander van Schaick told in an interview in La Paz.

Van Schaick's account matches that of Peace Corps members and staff who claim that last July their entire group of new volunteers was instructed by the same U.S. Embassy official in Bolivia to report on Cuban and Venezuelan nationals.

The State Department says any such request was "in error" and a violation of long-standing U.S. policy which prohibits the use of Peace Corps personnel or Fulbright scholars for intelligence purposes.

"We take this very seriously and want to stress this is not in any way our policy," a senior State Department official told

The Fulbright scholar van Schaick, a 2006 Rutgers University graduate, says the request came at a mandatory orientation and security briefing meeting with Assistant Regional Security Officer Vincent Cooper at the embassy on the morning of Nov. 5, 2007.

According to van Schaick, the request for information gathering "surfaced casually" halfway through Cooper's 30-minute, one-on-one briefing, which initially dealt with helpful tips about life and security concerns in Bolivia...

~

Read the Peace Corps' full statement.


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