Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Unbelievable - What Are the Odds of This Happening?

Amazing coincidences. Check them out here.

How Writing Changed the World

" ... Humans had been speaking for a couple hundred thousand years before they got the inspiration or nerve to mark their ideas down for posterity.

But when a Mesopotamian people called the Sumerians finally did scratch out a few bookkeeping symbols on clay tablets 5,000 years ago, they unknowingly started a whole new era in history we call, well … history.

The presence of written sources denotes the technical dividing line between what scholars classify as prehistory versus what they call history, which starts at different times depending on what part of the world you're studying.

In most places, writing started about the same time ancient civilizations emerged from hunter-gatherer communities, probably as a way to keep track of the new concept of "property," such as animals, grain supplies or land.

By 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), and then soon after in Egypt, and by 1500 B.C. in China, people were scribbling, sketching and telling their world about their culture in a very permanent way. ... "

~ Read on... ~

[ via ]

Senior Military, Intelligence, and Government,Officials Question 9/11 Commission Report

Over 50 senior military, intelligence, and government officials are now on record questioning 9/11. Read media statements from members of congress, a former director of the FBI, a former chief economist of President George W. Bush, an assistant secretary of the Treasury under President Reagan, the former head of advanced space programs for the Department of Defense under Reagan, a British cabinet minister under Prime Minister Tony Blair, and more. In reports on respected websites (links provided), each of these prominent leaders now claims that there are serious problems with the official government story of 9/11. To see also over 100 respected and distinguished professors claiming a 9/11 cover-up, click here.

Senior Military, Intelligence, and Government Officials Question 9/11 Commission Report

Geldof gives Ceasar his due

" ... Bob Geldof has parachuted into the White House travel pool here in Rwanda, and will join us on the flight from Air Force One to Ghana tonight.

He's going to interview President Bush for Time magazine and several European outlets, such as Liberacion, about aid to Africa for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and business development.

[ ... ]

Mr. Geldof praised Mr. Bush for his work in delivering billions to fight disease and poverty in Africa, and blasted the U.S. press for ignoring the achievement.

Mr. Bush, said Mr. Geldof, "has done more than any other president so far."

"This is the triumph of American policy really," he said. "It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion."

"What's in it for [Mr. Bush]? Absolutely nothing," Mr. Geldof said.

Mr. Geldof said that the president has failed "to articulate this to Americans" but said he is also "pissed off" at the press for their failure to report on this good news story.

"You guys didn't pay attention," Geldof said to a group of reporters from all the major newspapers. ... "

~ From Bob Geldof in Rwanda gives Bush his props ~

Today's Must Read

From Talking Points Memo:

Latest line on the destruction of CIA torture tapes: not a cover-up, just the result of deep institutional dysfunction.

So it's all good.

Rainbow Warriors

Native American Prophecy

Elders Speak - part 1

Elders Speak - part 2

Surveilance of an entire email network - by mistake

The FBI on Friday revealed that human error led to surveillance of an entire email network back in 2006, rather than the single email address approved by the secretive court which approves domestic wiretaps and other forms of e-surveillance.

Although the alleged mistake came to light in an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Freedom of Information Act (FIA) lawsuit, the internet service provider involved remains unpublished, due to the classified nature of the work involved.

Back doors were built into the nation's telecommunications infrastructure back in the mid-nineties which allow for almost immediate real-time surveillance of phone conversations - cellular or otherwise - emails, and other forms of electronic communications that pass through the networks of the telecommunications industry.

The ISP involved allegedly misinterpreted a warrant for one email address to be a warrant for - ahem - the entire network. This kind of mass negligence is really only the flip-side of a surveillance system that allows for almost immediate mass surveillance by the government and its cronies in the telecommunications industry...

~ From FBI screwed up, spied on entire email network ~

"I don't want to kill monks"

Major Hla Win, a former senior Military Intelligence officer in the Burmese army, has just been granted political asylum in Norway. He fled to Thailand with his teenage son after refusing orders to attack Buddhist monks during last September's anti-junta protests.

Major Win, 42, and his 17-year-old son fled to Thailand. Father and son then applied for political asylum in Norway, where many Burmese opposition supporters live in exile. "I am a Buddhist," he told the Norwegian broadcaster TV2 Norway after his escape, "I don't want to kill monks." Win stated that many more people had been killed than previously reported by Western media. He claimed that "several thousand" protesters were killed in last September's crackdown, with the bodies of executed monks dumped in the jungle to avoid detection. Major Win is the most senior officer to defect from the Burmese military to date.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962. In 1988 a pro-democracy uprising was crushed, killing an estimated 3,000 protesters.

~ From Burma: Intel Officer Granted Asylum in Norway ~

Peace Sign Turns Fifty

Thanks to my colleague Scott Klein for telling me that the Peace Sign, one of the most widely known symbols in the world, turns fifty this week. It was first displayed on home-made banners and badges in London on February 21, 1958, to mark the launching of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

The sign was later appropriated by scores of disparate protest movements, the US counter culture (which made it truly famous) and, because the designer has refused to copyright the symbol, by scores of marketers and advertisers. For reasons unknown the peace sign has resonated like no other and it's now, at fifty, one of the most widely recognized symbols in the world.

Ironically the symbol itself is a mix of the military semaphore signals N -- representing nuclear -- and D -- representing disarmament (semaphore alphabet). However, Gerald Holtom, a professional artist and conscientious objector during the Second World War who designed the symbol, subverted this use of semaphores by placing the D over the N, the "upside down logo" signifying his anti-military principles...

~ Read on... ~

Barclays director lands £14.8m bonus

Bob Diamond, the US-born banker who is on the board of Barclays, is to receive a £14.8m bonus this year even though the investment banking division he runs has forced the group to take a £1.6bn hit from the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US.

Diamond is receiving the payout because of a three-year bonus scheme that ran its course at the end of 2007. Profits for the bank published yesterday show that he has achieved the terms of the deal although confirmation will not come until the annual report later this year.

Barclays shares jumped 17p to 477p on relief that its write-down on investments related to the sub-prime crisis has not risen much above the £1.3bn flagged late last year and the confidence displayed by the bank's management through a 10% rise in the dividend to 34p. Pre-tax profits for 2007 were £7.08bn, down on the £7.14bn of 2006 but a little higher than forecasts.

Diamond, who is steering Barclays Capital on an expansion course in the US, said the pay deal kicked in if he and other unnamed members of the scheme managed to "grow profits from £1bn to £2bn in under four years. We did it in three."

[ ... ]

About 1,400 jobs have gone in the UK bank this year but Frits Seegers, head of the global retail and commercial banking arm, said that an "incredible amount of jobs" will be created this year when the bank plans to roll out a new range of products aimed at the "mass affluent" in the UK...

~ Full article ~

A system of "earned citizenship" for new migrants to Britain

A system of "earned citizenship" for new migrants to Britain, which may include periods of community and voluntary work, is to be outlined today by Gordon Brown and the home secretary, Jacqui Smith. A Home Office green paper proposing a new "pathway to citizenship" - designed to enhance the integration of individual migrants into British society - will also be published.

The immigration minister, Liam Byrne, signalled the change this month when he said the results of a three-month consultation around the country had shown that Britain was not "a nation of Alf Garnetts". But he said people wanted newcomers to "speak the language, obey the law and pay their taxes like the rest of us".

The scheme is thought to include proposals to make more rigorous the five-year probationary period that most migrants must go through before they can apply for a British passport. Those who come to join a spouse must wait three years before they can apply for citizenship. The proposed earned citizenship will include a system of rewarding those who integrate quickly through work or voluntary effort and penalise those who commit serious crime during the five-year period.

Potential immigrants will pay higher application fees if they are more liable to use public services. The levy, likely to raise an extra £15m, is being dubbed a "British Trust fund" by ministers.

"Money for the British Trust Fund will be raised through increases to certain fees for immigration applications, with migrants who tend to consume more in public services - such as children and elderly relatives - paying more than others," the document states.

Ministers believe the extra money can help fund councils forced to increase public services, such as housing and education, due to an influx of immigrants. Local authorities have been complaining for two years that the government does not take enough account of immigrant demands.

Ministers are believed to have ruled out a plan for a fast track to citizenship for high earners or people with special skills. Instead, they have opted for a level playing field...

~ From Migrants must earn citizenship, says Brown ~

Name the psycho - Drilling holes in heads and electrocuting for depression

Doctors long have struggled over what to do with severely depressed patients who don't respond to treatment. Give them more medications that haven't worked so far? Recommend more talk therapy or another round of shock treatment?

Here's a new idea: open up a depressed head, find the brain parts that aren't working, and fix them with electricity. It's not all that far-fetched. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration gave a medical device manufacturer the green light to recruit patients for a large-scale clinical trial of an electrode implanted deep inside the brain to alleviate severe depression. As invasive and Frankenstein-ish as it may seem, deep brain stimulation, as the method is called, may offer real hope for the 20 percent of depressed Americans whom Prozac can't help.

Anti-depressant drugs carpet-bomb the entire body. Electroconvulsive therapy jolts the whole brain. Deep brain stimulation aims to pinpoint the malady. Neurosurgeons drill through a patient's skull, place the DBS electrode's eight contact points directly on the trouble spots and connect them to an electrical current from a pacemaker embedded in the chest. This allows doctors to rev up sluggish areas or calm overactive regions...

~ Read on... ~

Seeking Protection for Whistleblowers That's Worth Its Salt

The case of Pierre Meneton is fueling demands for legal protections for whistleblowers in France. Meneton is a researcher for the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research. He [was] going to court on January 31, 2008, to face charges of defamation. Several industrial salt producers are suing Meneton for a comment he made during an interview in March 2006. "The lobbying of salt producers and agribusiness is very active. It misinforms health professionals and the media." While the negative effects of salt on health are no secret, it was not until Meneton went public with claims of unethical practices in the research analysis of the French Authority for Food Safety and of the consistent meddling of the salt industry that it was widely publicized. Environmental health researcher Andre Cicolella says that while Meneton may not be a whistleblower by all definitions, his case would benefit from the same types of protections that are lacking for those that do qualify. For instance, Veronique Lapides is a resident of the Paris suburb of Vincennes. She raised the alert about a high rate of childhood cancer in the area and pushed for environmental clean up. Now she is being sued for defamation by the mayor of Vincennes. Cicolella said that this case shows "absent laws to prtect whistleblowers, this type of pressure can be exerted not only on scientists, but on citizens as well." In the U.S., the Senate just passed a bill to reinforce whistleblower protections for U.S. government workers, but it needs to be reconciled with a stronger bill passed by the House in March 2007.

~ Link ~

Olympics Sponsors Counseled to "Keep Quiet" on Darfur

Corporate sponsors of this summer's Beijing Olympics Games are increasingly nervous. Steven Spielberg recently "withdrew as an artistic adviser for the Beijing Games' opening and closing ceremonies, citing China's ties to the Sudan government." Even athletes are getting in the act, with more than 50 joining "Team Darfur, an organization of past and present Olympians who have pledged to use the Games to highlight what they see as genocide in Darfur." An unnamed "major public relations firm was busy yesterday providing advice to Olympic sponsors and advertisers," reports the Wall Street Journal. "While the firm was telling marketers to 'keep quiet' on the issue if at all possible, it was also advising them to develop a position on Darfur. One executive at the firm says he is likely to tell marketers to also pay attention to internal dynamics at their companies, including employee opinions." Major Olympics sponsors include Coca-Cola, McDonald's, General Motors and Eastman Kodak.

~ Link ~

Voices united light up York cathedral


A specially commissioned project for Illuminating York 2007 in northern England, Evoke is a massive animated projection, that lights up the facade of York Minster, brought to life by members of the public, who use their own voices to "evoke" colourful light patterns that emerge at the building's foundations and soar up towards the sky.

Gamma waves and meditation

Depending on what we are thinking, how hard we are concentrating, our brain chemistry, environment, and a number of other factors, our brains have a certain electromagnetic signature, a wave frequency, which we can measure with available technology, namely electroencephalographs (EEG). Traditionally, these continuous rhythmic sinusoidal EEG waves were classified into four types: delta, theta, alpha and beta waves. Delta had a frequency range up to 4 Hz, associated with infants and children. Theta ranged from 4-8 Hz, and was linked with adolescence, trance and the preconscious state just before waking. Alpha (Berger's) waves, 8-12 HZ, were tied to relaxed, alert consciousness. While, Beta waves, 12 Hz and above, were related to anxious thinking and active concentration. However, as increasing evidence for higher frequency brain activity came to light, Gamma waves lay claim the 26-80 Hz range, known euphemistically as “coherent 40 Hz oscillations.” These waves seem to go together with higher mental processes, perception and consciousness, making them the brain waves you probably want to have.

Gamma waves do not result from axonal-dendritic synapses, but rather from dentro-dendritic gap junctions that form after a synapse activation that links neurons together. Neurons connected by gap junctions have one common membrane, fire simultaneously and generally behave like a single giant neuron. These mega-neurons have membranes that depolarize coherently and can spread across different parts of the cortex (potentially allowing for brain-wide states). Normally, these networks are transient, as gap junctions form and dissolve constantly. But, recent research showing that practiced meditators like Tibetan monks can muscle 25-42 Hz easy, with some pushing 80-120 Hz, suggests that it is possible to keep the gap junctions open longer.

The relation between meditation and high wave frequency is not surprising, since the middle frequency (12-16 Hz), the sensorimotor rhythm, goes together with physical stillness. Just sitting still for a while is already half-way to Gamma. From there on, it almost seems it is just a matter of how much of your brain you have under control. Heightened consciousness, known as Samadhi in the meditation traditions, is an experience unclouded by cognitive contents. One usually arrives at it gradually, after years of practice, disciplining the mind that delights in distraction, learning how to focus all attention on a single thing. To focus completely on a single thing means to be able to let go of everything else. So, once you can do that, you can rid yourself from all undesired cognitive contents and enjoy a pure unmediated experience of reality. Now, if the Gamma wave frequency goes up as more of the brain is connected through gap junctions, it seems that advanced practitioners are simply able to network more of their brains, having trained to concentrate their minds. The benefits of meditation do not all wear off, advanced practitioners have a higher baseline gamma synchrony, suggesting a higher general awareness, concentration and consciousness. Other research has shown that meditation also thickens grey matter in parts of the cortex where it normally gets thinner with age. 

Breakthrough study on EEG of meditation, Stuart Hameroff MD, Director, Center for Consciousness Studies, U. of Arizona-Tucson

~ Link ~

Why sterling is the next dollar

Will sterling follow the US dollar? As Willem Buiter pointed out last week (The silver lining in sterling's decline, January 4), this is highly likely. Movements in exchange rates are, to put it mildly, unpredictable. But this one ought to happen. It should also be welcomed. This possibility was, indeed, why the UK had to keep out of the eurozone.

Like the US, the UK has had buoyant credit growth, huge rises in house prices, low private and national savings and a sizeable current account deficit. Like the US, it also absorbed the surplus savings of much of the rest of the world in the 2000s. It is, in short, one of the canonical "Anglo-Saxon" economies.

Yet, in many respects, the UK position is worse than that of the US. The run-up in UK house prices, for example, was much bigger than in the US. On almost any measure, housing valuations and household indebtedness are still more extreme. To take one example, at the end of 2006, household mortgage debt was 126 per cent of disposable income, against a mere 104 per cent in the US.

Moreover, the UK's current account deficit, at 5.7 per cent of GDP in the third quarter of 2007, was bigger than that of the US. Indeed, it was bigger even than it seems. As Andrew Smithers of London-based research company Smithers & Co argues, the deficit is significantly understated by current statistical conventions. Retained earnings of direct investment are included in data on investment income, but this is not the case for portfolio investment. Since a high proportion of UK-based multinationals are owned by foreign portfolio investors, this exaggerates the UK's net investment income. The UK's true current account deficit may have been close to 7 per cent of GDP...

~ Read on... ~

Dead Woman's Corneas Stolen in Hospital

A woman who died of injuries sustained in a traffic accident had her corneas removed without permission while in a Fujian hospital mortuary.

When the family of accident victim Zhang Rizhu claimed her body, they found that someone had removed her corneas. Fujian police investigators confirm that Zhang's corneas were indeed removed form her corpse, but as yet have no suspects...

~ Read on... ~

UK: '£10 licence to smoke' proposed

Smokers could be forced to pay £10 for a permit to buy tobacco if a government health advisory body gets its way.

No one would be able to buy cigarettes without the permit, under the idea proposed by Health England.

Its chairman, Professor Julian Le Grand, told BBC Radio 5 Live the scheme would make a big difference to the number of people giving up smoking.

But smokers' rights group Forest described the idea as "outrageous", given how much tax smokers already pay.

Professor Le Grand, a former adviser to ex-PM Tony Blair, said cash raised by the proposed scheme would go to the NHS...

~ Full article ~

Iran: Football coach refuses new post based in Tehran

The former coach of the Spanish national football team, Javier Clemente, will not take up his position as coach of Iran's national team, after disagreements on the clause of his contract that would have required him to live in Iran.

Clemente said he was prepared to travel to Tehran to coach the team but didn't want to live there. He said he would arrive a week or two before he was due to train the national team.

"We do not want a coach that will train our team by remote control," said the president of the Iranian football federation, Ali Kafashian.

"I do not intend to change my lifestyle," replied Clemente from Madrid.

Instead there was speculation that football legend, Diego Armando Maradona, would be considered as an alternative coach for the national team.

In the past, Maradona has shown his admiration for Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said that he would like to meet him.

Last December Maradona handed Iranian officials an autographed football shirt.

"With all my love for the Iranians," was the dedication that Maradona wrote on the T-shirt...

~ Full article ~

John Moore: poet, professor, primitivist

Anarchy and Ecstacy: Visions of Halcyon Days  
The best of the present culture - a culture in the pathological sense only - points beyond itself toward the recovery of primate lifeways. This sequence of speculative and analytical essays constitutes a body of visionary insights -- uncovering beyond ideology a field of infinite potentialities. Anarchy and Ecstasy examines vital issues on the interface between 'fact' and 'fiction', history and myth, and proposes the development of a culture of anarchy: a culture aware of its roots in a genuinely halcyon society -- and confident of its future in a renewed earthly paradise.

~ More links... ~

Yoohoo! EU Commission! Are you watching?

Here's some repulsive news from Microsoft, in an article on Yahoo! News titled, "Microsoft pledges cash for IT in developing world" but which I would more accurately, I think, call, "Microsoft Finds New Way To Be Anticompetitive":

Microsoft will spend $235.5 million in schools worldwide over the next five years, part of a plan to triple the number of students and teachers trained in its software programs to up to 270 million by 2013....

The company's educational funding comes with a hitch: "Of course, that includes the fact they [the schools] use Windows," Ayala said....

Microsoft is still working through some of the "technical limitations" that remain in putting XP on the XO, the green PC from the One Laptop Per Child project, Ayala said.

So, to compete with Microsoft, Linux needs to be able to spend 235 million to buy a market? There are also some interesting details on deals being made in Russia, Mexico and Libya...

~ Read on... ~

The Big Pharma Muzzle

Lilly Tries to Squelch Zyprexa Docs

December 30, 2006

Sender Information:
Eli Lilly
Sent by: [Private]
Pepper Hamlton LLP
Philadelphia, PA, 19103, USA

Recipient Information:

Sent via: email
Re: Zyprexa Documents

[Private] - You are facilitating the violation of a Federal Court order. Please immediately remove the link to the file "ZyprexaKills.tar.gz" (or its mirror), including all cached materials, or we will take further legal action against your website.

Attorney at Law
Pepper Hamilton LLP
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2799
[private] - Direct
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This email is for the use of the intended recipient(s) only. If you have received this email in error, please notify the sender immediately and then delete it. If you are not the intended recipient, you must not keep, use, disclose, copy or distribute this email without the author's prior permission. We have taken precautions to minimize the risk of transmitting software viruses, but we advise you to carry out your own virus checks on any attachment to this message. We cannot accept liability for any loss or damage caused by software viruses. The information contained in this communication may be confidential and may be subject to the attorney-client privilege. If you are the intended recipient and you do not wish to receive similar electronic messages from us in future then please respond to the sender to this effect.

FAQ: Questions and Answers

Question: Who can be bound by a court-ordered injunction?

Answer: Rule 65(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

Every order granting an injunction and every restraining order…is binding only upon the parties to the action, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and upon those persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of the order by personal service or otherwise.

This means people cannot be held to the terms of a court order they weren't a party to and do not know about. Even if they learn of an unrelated order, they are not bound unless they are working with one of the parties.

Question: What is a preliminary injunction?

Answer: An order by the court requiring the defendant to do or refrain from doing some action pending a full trial on the merits of the lawsuit. Sometimes in intellectual property litigation, the property owner, soon after filing the complaint, will make a motion for a preliminary injunction requiring the defendant to stop doing those things the plaintiff alleges are infringing the plaintiff's intellectual property rights.

Question: What is a temporary restraining order?

Answer: A temporary restraining order (TRO) is an emergency order stopping a party from acting before the court can hold a full hearing. Generally, the TRO lasts only a short time before the other party must seek a preliminary or permanent injunction.

Topic maintained by Santa Clara University School of Law High Tech Law Institute

Hot air on climate change


United Nations leaders would work diligently to map out an agreement by the end of 2009 to limit global greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the impact of climate change and provide the money and technology necessary to do so, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly today during its high-level debate entitled "Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work"...

Change is in the air for a low-carbon economy

As environment ministers from some 100 countries meet here Feb. 20-22 for the U.N. Environment Program's Governing Council and Environmental Forum, talks will focus on environmentally friendly "green growth" and ways by which the world can achieve a low-carbon economy.

The employment and development potential of combating climate change is only now being understood as a part of this effort. UNEP has invited the International Labor Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation to contribute to these discussions.

Changes underway are a result of the Kyoto Protocol, but they are also partly being made in anticipation of deeper emission cuts to come. Equally important, the perception of organized labor and industry concerning environmental issues is changing dramatically. Environmental regulation was sometimes viewed with suspicion and concern for business and labor. Now, business sees profits and unions see jobs.

Consider these facts:

A Washington-based consulting firm estimates that the U.S. environmental industry generated more than $340 billion in sales and almost $50 billion in tax revenues in 2005. The 5.3 million workers in the environmental industry outnumber pharmaceutical workers 10 to one.

A British company specializing in improving the energy efficiency of homes was floated on the London Stock Exchange last June and now employs 4,000 people who once worked in nearby, now closed, coal mines.

A study prepared for the German Ministry of Environment estimates that employment in the German environmental technology industries will surpass employment in the automobile industry by 2020.

China has some 1,000 solar thermal energy firms, generating sales of $2.5 billion and employing 600,000 workers in manufacturing and installation.

The Indian city of Delhi is introducing new eco-friendly compressed natural-gas buses, which will create 18,000 new jobs.

These trends seem set to continue. The UNEP's Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative estimates that investment in renewable energy has reached $100 billion worldwide, or 18 percent of new investment in the power sector. The initiative, which involves some 170 financial institutions, also estimates that market financing for clean and renewable energies could reach $1.9 trillion by 2020.

International efforts are now beginning to bear fruit. The Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol could channel $100 billion in funds for investment in carbon offsetting projects such as renewable energy schemes and tree planting. The Bali conference last year agreed to include avoided deforestation in tropical countries into a new climate regime, which could generate new employment opportunities in sustainable management, conservation, and tourism. Several countries, including Costa Rica, Norway, and New Zealand, have pledged carbon neutrality, which in turn will require investment and employment in carbon-friendly sectors...


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