Saturday, October 4, 2008

'Is it ethical to use deception in order to control these people?'


Bob's First Rule of Power

We live on a planet with 6 billion humans, and most of them are uninformed and ignorant. Here in the United States, despite high standards of living and abundant material wealth, the situation is no different. In 2006, during coverage of the manufactured debate over "Intelligent Design," Newsweek conducted a national poll about scientific literacy. All of the participants were adult residents of the United States. The results were astonishing:

Fewer than a third of those polled know that DNA is the molecule of heredity

Only 10 percent know what radiation is

20 percent think the Sun revolves around Earth.

But of course, that was from 2006, and Bush's educational reform program has probably improved things considerably since then. I truly hope so, since that same year an even more disturbing poll was conducted by the Washington Post:

While the country is preparing to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives and shocked the world, 95 percent of Americans questioned in the poll were able to remember the month and the day of the attacks, according to Wednesday's edition of the newspaper.

But when asked what year, 30 percent could not give a correct answer. Of that group, six percent gave an earlier year, eight percent gave a later year, and 16 percent admitted they had no idea whatsoever.

This memory black hole is essentially the problem of the older crowd: 48 percent of those who did not know were between the ages of 55 and 64, and 47 percent were older than 65, according to the poll.

The Post telephone survey was carried out July 21-24 among 1,002 randomly selected adults. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

I'm Not Pointing Fingers and Laughing

Don't mistake this for crowing about how dumb people are. This is a serious and intractable problem. The vast majority of voters in the United States are dangerously ignorant and easily manipulated.

Syria signals it will stop U.N. nuclear inspectors

Syria suggested that it won't give United Nations weapons inspectors further access to its military installations, undercutting a U.S.-led campaign to uncover an alleged secret nuclear program run by Damascus.

The lack of access, and the assassination of a Syrian general who was a key contact on the nuclear issue, raise doubts that inspectors will be able to learn the exact nature of a facility Israel bombed last year. The Bush administration has said the site was a nuclear reactor being developed by Damascus in cooperation with North Korea.

Ibrahim Othman, director-general of Syria's Atomic Energy Commission, said on Friday that his country is cooperating with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. "However, this cooperation will not in any way come at the expense of exposing our military sites or causing a threat to our national security," he said at the IAEA's headquarters in Vienna.

The Bush administration wants the IAEA to push more aggressively for access to suspected nuclear facilities inside Syria.

"We still have serious concerns. The Syrians have not cooperated with the IAEA," John Rood, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said in an interview on Thursday. "The IAEA has been to only one place" inside Syria.

Syrian officials said the bombed facility was a non-nuclear military site. They allege that the U.S. is hyping charges of Syrian nuclear activity.

"After destroying this target, you go to the nuclear agency and say this is a nuclear target. You should do it before," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in a recent interview.

The IAEA acknowledged that it was facing difficulties in its Syria investigation during its quarterly Board of Governors meeting in Vienna last week.

Israel has never publicly detailed its reasons for the September 2007 Syria bombing. This April, the Bush administration briefed Congress and the media on the intelligence they had gathered on the site, known as Al Kibar, near the Euphrates River in eastern Syria. It shared with the IAEA photographs and slides, made before the bombing, of a facility under construction that appeared to be the same size and configuration as North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

The U.S. also provided what it said was evidence of repeated visits by North Korea nuclear officials to Syria over more then a decade.

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'The finishing touches on this globalist super-state'

From: Flashback: CFR "Gamed" Economic Implosion in 2000

The CFR's eight hour "war-game simulation of the simultaneous breakdown of major financial markets around the world" foresaw what we are now experiencing up close and personal. The CFR's game closely paralleled what is going on now. Freeman writes:

What had been simulated, was a policy of pumping huge amounts of liquidity by the Federal Reserve, both through public sources and also through secret channels, to "keep the main markets open." The simulation was conducted such that "all the public would see, is that the Fed volume of loans to banks had gone up." Further, and darkly revealing, the CFR, according to its own testimony, the simulation began with a coup against the President of the United States.

As for the latter, we have experienced something somewhat different — a coup not by forces outside the presidency but already ensconced within, a coup launched against Congress, the Constitution, and the American people by a coterie of insiders firmly in control of the executive. The CFR enlisted like-minded current, former, and future insiders, described below, to game the meltdown simulation:

For the simulation, the CFR conscripted 75 people, including bankers, former Treasury Secretaries, and former State Department officials. Participants were divided into four teams, sent into four rooms, with the ability to communicate with each other and with a command headquarters through the computers. The four teams covered 1) monetary-financial, which dealt with the functions of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors; 2) economic and trade, which dealt with the functions of the U.S. Treasury Department; 3) regulatory matters; and 4) national security — nut case and former CIA director James Woolsey played the role of Secretary of Defense.

Indeed, Woolsey is a "nut case" – more accurately, a psychopath — and a dangerous one associated with the neocons and the Project for the New American Century, the Likudnik dominated JINSA, Frank Gaffney's neocon infested Center for Security Policy, and the American Foreign Policy Council. Let's say he represented the neocon branch of the CFR, not yet in power when the game commenced on Manhattan. However, it would not be long before the neocons were in control of the White House and began to implement their "new Pearl Harbor" and orchestrate the unitary dictatorship of the executive, resulting in numerous martial law pieces of legislation now hanging over us ominously like a legal Sword of Damocles.

The game-players were hit with breakdowns in several markets, which increased in severity, and in some ways interacted, during the simulation. The market assumptions included: the Dow Jones Average Industrial Average falling by stages, from 10,000 to 7,100; the price of oil shooting up to $36 per barrel; the dollar plummeting against both the euro and the yen; the affiliate of a large British insurance company that was a big player in the equity derivatives market getting into trouble, causing panic in the derivatives market…

"The potential for financial breakdown was often accurately presented at the conference, but no solution was even remotely discussed," Freeeman concludes. In other words, the purpose of the CFR "war game" was not to prevent or ameliorate such a crash, but obviously how to best manage it after the markets began a precipitous and catastrophic decline, as they are now in the process of doing at the behest of the CFR and the international banksters.

Startle response linked to politics

People who startle easily in response to threatening images or loud sounds seem to have a biological predisposition to adopt conservative political positions on many hot-button issues, according to unusual new research published yesterday.

The finding suggests that people who are particularly sensitive to signals of visual or auditory threats also tend to adopt a more defensive stance on political issues, such as immigration, gun control, defense spending and patriotism. People who are less sensitive to potential threats, by contrast, seem predisposed to hold more liberal positions on those issues.

The study takes the research a step beyond psychology by suggesting that innate physiological differences among people may help shape their startle responses and their political inclinations.

The study is part of a growing research effort to uncover the often hidden factors in people's political makeup. In recent years, a variety of studies have shown, for example, that voters are subtly biased in favor of attractive political candidates. Other research has probed how subconscious attitudes among undecided voters can predict whom they will eventually support, and how the speed with which voters answer poll questions can predict the depth of their commitment to one candidate or another.

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'It takes two justices, it turns out, to screw up a light bulb joke'

Justice Antonin Scalia's wit is widely admired, and now it has been quantified. He is, a new study concludes, 19 times as funny as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Transcripts of oral arguments at the United States Supreme Court have long featured the notation "[laughter]" after a successful quip from a justice or lawyer. But until October 2004, justices were not identified by name, making it impossible to construct a reliable index of judicial wit.

That has now changed, and Jay D. Wexler, a law professor at Boston University, was quick to exploit the new data to analyze the relative funniness of the justices. His study, which covers the nine-month term that began that October, has just been published in a law journal called The Green Bag.

Justice Scalia was the funniest justice, at 77 "laughing episodes." On average, he was good for slightly more than one laugh - 1.027, to be precise - per argument.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer was next, at 45 laughs. Justice Ginsburg produced but four laughs. Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely speaks during arguments, gave rise to no laughter at all.

Of course, what passes for humor at the Supreme Court would probably not kill at the local comedy club. Consider, for instance, the golden opportunity on Halloween this year when a light bulb in the courtroom's ceiling exploded during an argument.

It takes two justices, it turns out, to screw up a light bulb joke.

"It's a trick they play on new chief justices all the time," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who joined the court that month, said of the explosion.

"[Laughter.]"

"Happy Halloween," Justice Scalia retorted.

"[Laughter.]"

And then, the kicker. "We're even more in the dark now than before," Chief Justice Roberts said.

[...]

In the current term, the Times analysis found, there has also been movement in the funniness-of-individual-justices department. Justice Breyer has taken the lead, at 28 laughs, edging out Justice Scalia, with 25. They also tied in the largest-number-of-jokes-in-a-single-argument category, each squeezing five into a single hour.

Chief Justice Roberts made a strong early showing, coming in third, with 13.

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Adam Smith responds to Bank Bailout!

From: Casino Crash

David Sogge writes:

Many know the Adam Smith remark (1776): "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public…"     But Smith wrote other things that Wall Street types would choke on, including some remarks pertinent to the bailout plan  railroaded at high speed through the US Congress at their behest.

Here are last two sentences of Book I of Smith's Wealth of Nations:

"The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order [profit takers], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

Source:  http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2008/10/creed-of-greed.html

Rights org: Eight years of intifada, international failure

On Sunday, 28 September 2008, the second intifada (uprising) entered its ninth year in the midst of the Israeli Occupation Forces' (IOF) gross violations of international humanitarian law and the international community's failure to intervene.

Monitoring and documenting work of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) shows that the IOF continue to kill civilians and demolish civilian property especially homes. This is in addition to arbitrary arrests and degrading treatment of civilians that IOF carry out during military incursions and at checkpoints.

Tight siege and blockade were the most remarkable practices over the last year of the intifada. The IOF tightened their siege on the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. They deprived the Strip's population from freedom of movement and travel. They imposed a trade blockade on the Strip by severely reducing, and sometimes banning, imports and exports. The IOF continued to close the Rafah Terminal, the Strip's sole outlet to the outside world. Exceptional openings of this terminal did not help change the closure's negative impacts on a large number of human rights, including the right to education, health, work and family life.

Moreover, humanitarian and economic conditions and the standard of living continue to deteriorate. For instance, in spite of the partial openings of crossings and allowing a number of goods and commodities into the Strip, the agricultural and manufacturing sectors still suffer from the same crisis due to shortage of raw materials, fertilizers and medicines. At the same time, exports are still blocked. Furthermore, the crisis of internal transportation and movement still exists, resulting in the rise of fares, given that transport vehicles are available for one area or another. Both the agricultural and manufacturing sectors are disrupted. Agricultural production remains unchanged from their previous levels, which led to price increases for some of them. Therefore, products became above the purchasing power of the public. In addition, trade, construction and tourism are still paralyzed and air and sea pollution levels are still high.

Al Mezan Center's information on victims, killed either by the IOF or during confrontations with it, as well as material damages of the Strip's civilians during the intifada shows that the death toll amounts to 3,143, including 611 children, 113 women and 22 disabled persons. It also shows that there are 7,650 demolished homes, including 3,014 pulled down. Furthermore, 33,948 dunums (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters) were bulldozed, including 9,684 dunams that were bulldozed more than once. The IOF destroyed 378 public facilities, 647 vehicles of different types and 899 manufacturing and commercial facilities.

The IOF continue to construct the Apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank in defiance of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall by the IOF on the OPT. The IOF accomplished the construction of approximately 57 percent of the wall's final route. It is noteworthy that 329 kilometers of the wall are built in the occupied West Bank.

It is also important to note that the construction of the separation wall by the IOF not only changes the status quo of the OPT, but also inflicts gross damages to the civilian residents and their properties. Upon the completion of this Wall, the IOF would confiscate 50 percent of the West Bank. The Wall divides the West Bank, turning it into ghettos where villages are separated from their agricultural land and other cities. The Wall affects 875,000 Palestinians in addition to confiscating water resources and denying access of tens of thousands of Palestinians to medical centers, hospitals, universities and schools. Based on the resources of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, only 20 percent of farmers who used to cultivate their lands in those areas prior to the construction of the Wall were granted permits to cross through the Wall's gates to reach their farms. Moreover, the number of stationary military checkpoints, built by the IOF on the roads inside and between the West Bank's cities and villages, amounts to 630 checkpoints mainly used to humiliate and punish the Palestinians.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the IOF's continuous, grave breaches of the principles of international humanitarian law and standards of human rights, which are tantamount to war crimes. The Center calls on the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take immediate action to bring an end to the IOF's crimes and particularly the continuous collective punishment of the Gaza Strip that violates all human rights. Therefore, based on the repeated evidence proving that the IOF deliberately commit war crimes and that the Israeli judiciary overlooks them and fails to prosecute those responsible, Al Mezan Center calls on the international community to consider the establishment of war crimes tribunals for Israel and cease from politicizing the issue of human rights in the OPT and treating it as subject to political and economic interests of the international parties.

This press release was edited for clarity.
 
 

Gaping security hole found in RFID chips

Data on radio chips can be cloned and modified without detection, according to a security researcher, raising question marks over the use of so-called e-passports that use RFID chips.
 
Upwards of 50 countries are rolling out passports with embedded RFID (radio frequency identification) chips containing biometric and personal data. The move is intended to cut down on fraudulent passports and strengthen border screenings, but security experts say the systems have several weaknesses.

Dutch researcher Jeroen van Beek has released a software toolkit that can be used to encode RFID chips with false information. In a demonstration video, van Beek shows how a scanner at Amsterdam's airport reads a passport chip he encoded with Elvis Presley's information and photograph.

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Skype's China spying sparks anger, despair

Savvy Internet users in China began avoiding the version of Skype offered by its Chinese partner two years ago, but news it filtered and recorded text messages has sparked new worries about the global firm's commitment to privacy.

The U.S.-owned Web communications firm faces a backlash at home and in China for apparently allowing core principles to be compromised in order to meet the demands of Chinese censors, analysts warned.

"We may never know whether some of those people whose conversations were logged have gone to jail or have had their lives ruined in various ways as a result of this," said Rebecca MacKinnon, an Internet expert at Hong Kong University.

"This is a big blow to Skype's credibility, despite the fact that Skype executives are downplaying it as not such a big deal."

Skype, with its promises of total security and privacy, has long been popular with Chinese looking to keep their conversations away from the prying eyes of government censors.

But the eBay-owned firm had to apologise on Thursday after a report revealed that its Chinese service not only monitors text chats with sensitive keywords, which it had earlier admitted, but also stores them along with millions of personal user records on computers that could easily be accessed by anybody.

Skype added however that only messaging conversations where one or more people were using the Chinese software were affected.
 
 

Michael Moore movie suffers legal crackdown over file sharing

Any time Hollywood invites movie viewers to share a free movie, the situation could end up dicey for both sides.

Michael Moore had good intentions when he offered his latest movie, Slacker Uprising, free of charge on the Internet, but his initial plan has backfired.

Slacker Uprising was released last month for free to North American viewers, with a letter from Moore inviting them to share the video.  Movie viewers listened, deciding to begin offering the film through peer-to-peer networks and torrent trackers across the country. 

After signing up to download the movie, users are sent an e-mail with the following opening sentence:

"Thanks for signing up to download Slacker Uprising.  It is available for free as a gift from me to all of you.  And you have my permission to share it or show it in any way you see fit."

The film studio does not find offense to users sharing it through BitTorrent, but because of licensing issues, it's supposed to be a North American only offer.  Sharing the film through torrents means international users now have access to the film.

A few different torrent web sites have received cease-and-desist letters from the company that owns Slacker Uprising's copyrights.

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'Till everything be made common'

 
The bridge over the River Ravensbourne at Deptford bridge has seen three major rebellions pass over it: The first of which was the Poll tax revolt in 1381, when Wat Tyler, the radical priest John Ball and Jack Straw led 60,000 of people down from Blackheath Hill across the bridge at Deptford Broadway and up the Old Kent Road into London in 1381.13 Ball is described by Christopher Hampton in A Radical Reader as a "poor priest", who was preaching "his revolutionary creed of equality" for at least 25 years before the rebellion in 1381. In 1366, for example, he was brought before Archbishop Langham of Canterbury and forbidden to preach; that in 1376, an order was made for his arrest as an excommunicated priest, and that he was imprisoned several times. At the time of the uprising in 1381, he was in prison in Maidstone, Kent. He was one of the earliest liberation theologians, advocating justice for the poor. At this time, the people of England were nothing more than serfs bonded to the land. The Poor Laws at the time were noted for their harshness as they divided the people into "study beggars" and the "undeserving poor". This was the time of Norman feudalism when England was little than a theocracy ruled by Kings who believed they ruled by divine right of God. One of John Ball's sermons was recorded in Froissart, Chronicles 1, pp640-641, which is reproduced in A Radical Reader:

'TILL EVERYTHING BE MADE COMMON'
There was a custom in England, still kept in divers countries, that the noblemen hath great licence over the commons, and keepeth them in bondage: that. is to say, their tenants were forced to labour the lord's lands, to gather and bring home their corn, some to thresh and to fan and . . . to make their hay, and to hew their wood and bring it home; all these things they owe as services. And there are more of these people in England than in any other realm: thus the noblemen and prelates are served by them, and especially in the county of Brendpest [Kent and Essex], Sussetter [Sussex], and Bedford. These unhappy people from the above countries began to stir against their masters, because they said they were kept in great bondage. And at the beginning of the world, they said, there were no bondmen. Therefore they maintained that no one ought to be bound unless he had committed treason, as Lucifer did against God. But they said they had done no such thing, for they were neither angels nor spirits, but men formed in the likeness of their lords, and asked why they should be so kept under like beasts, which they said they would no longer suffer, but would all be equal; and if they laboured or did anything for their lords, they would have wages for it. And of this opinion was a foolish priest in the county of Kent, called John Ball, who for his rash words had been three times in the Bishop of Canterbury's prison. For this priest used often on Sundays after mass, when the people were coming out of the church, to go into the cloister and preach, and assembling the people about him, would say this:
'My good people, things cannot go well in England, nor ever shall, till everything be made common, and there are neither villeins nor gentlemen, but we shall all be united together, and the lords shall be no greater masters than ourselves. What have we deserved that we should be kept thus enslaved? We are all descended from one father and mother, Adam and Eve. What reasons can they give to show that they are greater lords than we, save by making us toil and labour, so that they can spend? They are clothed in velvet and soft leather furred with ermine, while we wear coarse cloth; they have their wines, spices and good bread, while we have the drawings of the chaff, and drink water. They have handsome houses and manors, and we the pain and travail, the rain and wind, in the fields. And it is from our labour that they get the means to maintain their estates. We are called their slaves, and if we do not serve them readily, we are beaten. And we have no sovereign to whom we may complain, or who will hear us, or do us justice. Let us go to the King, he is young, and tell him of our slavery; and tell him we shall have it otherwise, or else we will provide a remedy ourselves. And if we go together, all manner of people that are now in bondage will follow us, with the intent to be made free. And when the King sees us, we shall have some remedy, either by justice or otherwise.'
 
 

How the Zionists are able to listen in on any phone conversation in America

How Israeli Backdoor Technology Penetrated the U.S. Telecom System and Compromised National Security

Since the late 1990s, federal agents have reported systemic communications security breaches at the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, the State Department, and the White House. Several of the alleged breaches, these agents say, can be traced to two hi-tech communications companies, Verint Inc. (formerly Comverse Infosys), and Amdocs Ltd., that respectively provide major wiretap and phone billing/record-keeping software contracts for the U.S. government. Together, Verint and Amdocs form part of the backbone of the government's domestic intelligence surveillance technology. Both companies are based in Israel – having arisen to prominence from that country's cornering of the information technology market – and are heavily funded by the Israeli government, with connections to the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence (both companies have a long history of board memberships dominated by current and former Israeli military and intelligence officers). Verint is considered the world leader in "electronic interception" and hence an ideal private sector candidate for wiretap outsourcing. Amdocs is the world's largest billing service for telecommunications, with some $2.8 billion in revenues in 2007, offices worldwide, and clients that include the top 25 phone companies in the United States that together handle 90 percent of all call traffic among U.S. residents. The companies' operations, sources suggest, have been infiltrated by freelance spies exploiting encrypted trapdoors in Verint/Amdocs technology and gathering data on Americans for transfer to Israeli intelligence and other willing customers (particularly organized crime). "The fact of the vulnerability of our telecom backbone is indisputable," says a high level U.S. intelligence officer who has monitored the fears among federal agents. "How it came to pass, why nothing has been done, who has done what – these are the incendiary questions." If the allegations are true, the electronic communications gathered up by the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies might be falling into the hands of a foreign government. Reviewing the available evidence, Robert David Steele, a former CIA case officer and today one of the foremost international proponents for "public intelligence in the public interest," tells me that "Israeli penetration of the entire US telecommunications system means that NSA's warrantless wiretapping actually means Israeli warrantless wiretapping."

As early as 1999, the National Security Agency issued a warning that records of U.S. government telephone calls were ending up in foreign hands – Israel's, in particular. In 2002, assistant U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Diegelman issued an eyes only memo on the matter to the chief information technology (IT) officers at the Department of Justice. IT officers oversee everything from the kind of cell phones agents carry to the wiretap equipment they use in the field; their defining purpose is secure communications. Diegelman's memo was a reiteration, with overtones of reprimand, of a new IT policy instituted a year earlier, in July 2001, in an internal Justice order titled "2640.2D Information Technology Security." Order 2640.2D stated that "Foreign Nationals shall not be authorized to access or assist in the development, operation, management or maintenance of Department IT systems." This might not seem much to blink at in the post-9/11 intel and security overhaul. Yet 2640.2D was issued a full two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. What group or groups of foreign nationals had close access to IT systems at the Department of Justice? Israelis, according to officials in law enforcement. One former Justice Department computer crimes prosecutor tells me, speaking on background, "I've heard that the Israelis can listen in to our calls."

Retired CIA counterterrorism and counterintelligence officer Philip Giraldi says this is par for the course in the history of Israeli penetrations in the U.S. He notes that Israel always features prominently in the annual FBI report called "Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage" – Israel is second only to China in stealing U.S. business secrets. The 2005 FBI report states, for example, "Israel has an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States. These collection activities are primarily directed at obtaining information on military systems and advanced computing applications that can be used in Israel's sizable armaments industry." A key Israeli method, warns the FBI report, is computer intrusion.

In the big picture of U.S. government spying on Americans, the story ties into 1994 legislation called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, which effected a sea-change in methods of electronic surveillance. Gone are the days when wiretaps were conducted through on-site tinkering with copper switches. CALEA mandated sweeping new powers of surveillance for the digital age, by linking remote computers into the routers and hubs of telecom firms – a spyware apparatus linked in real-time, all the time, to American telephones and modems. CALEA made spy equipment an inextricable ligature in our telephonic life. Top officials at the FBI pushed for the legislation, claiming it would improve security, but many field agents have spoken up to complain that CALEA has done exactly the opposite. The data-mining techniques employed by NSA in its wiretapping exploits could not have succeeded without the technology mandated by CALEA. It could be argued that CALEA is the hidden heart of the NSA wiretap scandal.

THE VERINT CONNECTION

According to former CIA officer Giraldi and other US intelligence sources, software manufactured and maintained by Verint, Inc. handles most of American law enforcement's wiretaps. Says Giraldi: "Phone calls are intercepted, recorded, and transmitted to U.S. investigators by Verint, which claims that it has to be 'hands on' with its equipment to maintain the system." Giraldi also notes Verint is reimbursed for up to 50 percent of its R&D costs by the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade. According to Giraldi, the extent of the use of Verint technology "is considered classified," but sources have spoken out and told Giraldi they are worried about the security of Verint wiretap systems. The key concern, says Giraldi, is the issue of a "trojan" embedded in the software.
 
 

Fluoride in tap water is hazardous to health, research shows

In 2006 the National Research Council (NRC) came out with its groundbreaking fluoride report produced by a panel of experts who reviewed hundreds of fluoride toxicological studies revealing that consuming even small amounts of fluoride from tap water can be hazardous to your health.

While dental groups and individual dentists claim this report has nothing to do with fluoridation, the following has occurred because the NRC report has everything to do with fluoridation (the addition of fluoride chemicals into public water supplies attempting to reduce tooth decay).

Both the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cited the NRC report when they advised that fluoridated water should not be used to make infant formula.

The National Kidney Foundation, citing the NRC report, withdrew its support of fluoridation and replaced it with this warning:"Individuals with CKD [Chronic Kidney Disease] should be notified of the potential risk of fluoride exposure."

A January 2008 Scientific American article reported that after 3 years of scrutinizing hundreds of studies, the NRC expert panel "concluded that fluoride can subtly alter endocrine function, especially in the thyroid - the gland that produces hormones regulating growth and metabolism," reports its author Dan Fagin.

Fagin quotes John Doull, professor emeritus of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who chaired the NRC expert panel: "The thyroid changes do worry me."

"Many Americans are exposed to fluoride in the ranges associated with thyroid effects, especially for people with iodine deficiency,"- said Kathleen Thiessen, PhD, co-author of the government-sponsored NRC report. "The recent decline in iodine intake in the U.S could contribute to increased toxicity of fluoride for some individuals,"- says Thiessen. She and at least two other panel members publicly call for an end to water fluoridation.

"A low level of thyroid hormone can increase the risk of cardiac disease, high cholesterol, depression and, in pregnant woman, decreased intelligence of offspring,"- said Thiessen.

A meta-analysis of fluoride/IQ studies e-published 8/10/08 "found a consistent and strong association between the exposure to fluoride and low IQ ( published in Biological Trace Element Research el al.).

An Institute for Children's Environmental Health report published February 2008 and revised July 2008 said "The primary question remains as to whether exposures to fluoride via multiple routes of exposure, from drinking water, food and dental-care products, may result in a high enough cumulative exposure to contribute to developmental effects"-emerging science suggests we need to further study the dose at which fluoridation may increase risks of neurodevelopment disorders, cancer and skeletal or dental fluorosis, particularly for sensitive individuals."

Over 1,800 professionals signed a statement urging Congress to stop water fluoridation until Congressional hearings are conducted.

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The Cambodian Tribunal's trials

Cambodia's new government was sworn in last week, and Prime Minister Hun Sen wasted no time announcing his intention to target corruption and improve the rule of law during his next five years in office. A place to start is with a full investigation of corruption complaints at the Khmer Rouge War Crimes tribunal.

The United Nations Office of International Oversight Services in New York presented the Cambodian government with a letter last month describing complaints of corruption at the tribunal from multiple staffers. But instead of investigating the allegations, Phnom Penh demanded that the original complaints be given directly to "the competent authorities" in Cambodia. It's unclear whether the complainants' identities will be protected.

Since allegations of corruption were publicized in these pages last year, the U.N. has taken steps to clean things up at the tribunal. The Cambodian government has also made a few efforts to shore up its anticorruption credibility -- appointing two new ethics monitors in August and creating a formal mechanism for complaints, albeit one that increases secrecy. The court spokeswoman, who is also one of the monitors, told us one complaint is currently under investigation.

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Former soldier questions US effort on terrorism

As a Muslim chaplain ministering to Islamic detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Yee interacted with suspected terrorists on a daily basis. That proximity led to allegations that he had improperly taken papers related to the prison off the base. He was imprisoned for 76 days, but in 2004 the Pentagon dropped his case without explanation. In 2005, Yee was honorably discharged.

News reports at the time quoted Pentagon sources saying charges against Yee were dropped to avoid compromising classified information. A Washington state resident who is active politically - he was a delegate for Barack Obama at the recent Democratic National Convention - Yee said he was unfairly targeted as a Muslim at a time when hysteria about his religion was rife. "The response to 9/11 was a huge overreaction," he said. "There was a lot of displaced emotions that led to huge roundups of Muslims across the country."

Yee said his lecture would discuss how the war on terror has resulted in America losing touch with its tradition of upholding civil rights. He argues that Guantanamo Bay detainees should have better access to legal support, as outlined in the Geneva Convention, for example.

"The Geneva Convention is something that really establishes a sense of humanity, justice, and human rights," said Yee. "For us to ignore it because of what happened on 9/11 points right to the fact that the response by our government has been over-emotional."

Hand-in-hand with ignoring the Convention is a new militarism that has taken hold of the country, he added.

"When you see these people waving the flag and wanting to bomb, these are just ridiculous ideas and attitudes that certainly do not reflect American values," he said. "The consequences of war and what it means to apply military force get lost. Military force is not something we should cheer on."

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Sen argues for theory of comparative justice

Professor [Amartya] Sen began by outlining two approaches that Enlightenment thinkers had adopted towards understanding justice. The first approach, which he called "Transcendental Justice," adopted by classical writers like Hobbes and Rousseau and developed by contemporary thinkers like Rawls, Nozick and Dworkin, focuses on distinguishing between the just and the unjust and creating institutions that would ensure a just society. The second approach, which he characterized as a comparative approach to justice, espoused by thinkers as diverse as Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Condorcet, Mary Wollstonecraft and Karl Marx focuses on the actual realization of justice in society by evaluating social injustices in a comparative setting. The primary concern of the "transcendentalists" is the creation of institutions that would ensure a perfectly just society, whereas that of the "comparativists" is to ensure improvements in society by removing specific injustices. For the comparativists, the idea of justice is not about achieving a perfectly just society, but to produce as just a society as is possible given the circumstances. Noting the strong bias in contemporary political philosophy towards "transcendental justice," Sen said that his book attempts to develop the idea of comparative justice.

Borrowing from an ancient Sanskrit text, Sen explained the contrast between the two approaches to justice as the difference between "niti" and "nyaya." "Niti," translated as "organizational propriety and correctness," refers to the institutions that should be created in order to have a just society. "Nyaya" on the other hand, translated as "a comprehensive idea of realized justice," is inescapably linked to the world and the lives of the people. Sen stated that the idea of justice in Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I's claim that justice ought to be done even though the world may perish, is that of "niti." However, justice done at the expense of a catastrophe in which the world may perish does not result in "nyaya."

Sen stressed that his idea of justice is not merely consequentialist. In fact, his idea of justice encompasses a comprehensive way of looking at both processes and outcomes. He illustrated this by referencing the famous debate between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagvad Gita, a holy Hindu text. Arjuna, a renowned warrior, hesitates on the brink of battle even though he is on the side of good and justice because he does not want to kill his cousins who are on the other side. Krishna encourages Arjuna to do his duty regardless of the consequences. This debate is often characterized as a debate between the deontological and consequentialist positions with Krishna representing the former and Arjuna the latter. However, Sen argued that Arjuna is not a mere consequentialist, in that he is not just concerned about the fact that many people will be killed in the battle that he is hesitating to engage in but also that he will be killing people for whom he has some affection.

Shifting focus to theories of global justice, Sen stated that the kind of comparative approach that he was articulating for achieving global justice would fail to interest Hobbesian institutionalists who believe that we need a sovereign global state before we can talk about issues of global justice. Transcendental justice philosophers like Thomas Nagel and John Rawls would respond to such a claim by saying that even in the absence of a sovereign global state we can nonetheless still talk about what global justice will involve.

But the content of such an idea of global justice would be limited to general principles of humanitarian behavior or the institutions necessary for the creation of a perfectly just society. However, Sen argued that when people across the world agitate for global justice, they are neither clamoring for minimal humanitarianism nor for a perfectly just society. They are seeking the removal of some outrageously unjust facts or rules in the national or global society. For instance, those seeking reform of patent laws to make drugs easily available to the poor and the needy are targeting the injustice of people dying for want of necessary medications while drug companies make huge profits. Their action is calibrated to achieve a narrow goal. It is not anticipated that the removal of this injustice will result in the creation of a perfectly just society.

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Thirteen years to the day...

...after being acquitted of killing his wife and her friend in Los Angeles, O.J. Simpson was found guilty of robbing two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room. The 61-year-old former football star was convicted of all 12 counts late Friday after jurors deliberated for more than 13 hours. He released a heavy sigh as the charges were read and was immediately taken into custody.
 
 

Sex Pistols squat reopens

The apartment block once inhabited by SEX PISTOLS stars JOHN LYDON and SID VICIOUS has reopened following a $9.25 million (GBP5 million) make-over.

The rockers illegally stayed at the North London building in the late 1970s.
The apartment had no running water or electricity and was declared unfit for habitation by the local Hampstead council.
But now the block has been given a multi-million dollar facelift and reopened for public sale.
New tenants will still be able to see the legacy of the music legends, as Vicious etched his name into one of the blocks on the outside of the building.
The carving has been left in place to preserve the history of the block.
 
 

Chomsky: "If the U.S. carries out terrorism, it did not happen"

Part Two of Subrata Ghoshroy's exclusive interview with Noam Chomksy takes on the United State's capacity for revisionist history and propaganda, from Ronald Reagan's supposed commitment to free markets, to American terrorist actions in Latin America in the 1980s, to the bankrupt rationale for Clinton's intervention in Bosnia. Chomsky also elaborates on MIT's role in developing computer technology in the service of the military industrial complex -- which he discussed in Part One. Finally, he puts the current financial crisis into global context -- and weighs in on the presidential election, explaining why, like any other race in which two pro-business parties dominate everything-- is "not a serious election."

(Read Part One here.

NC: The New York Times had an article by its economic correspondent in its magazine section a couple weeks ago about Obama's economic programs. He talked about Reagan as the model of passionate commitment to free markets and reduction of the role of the state, and so on … Where are these people? Reagan was the most protectionist president in post-war American history. In fact, more protectionist than all others combined. He virtually doubled protective barriers. He brought in the Pentagon to develop the "factory of the future" to teach backward American management how to catch up on the Japanese lead in production. SEMATECH ("Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology") was formed. If it weren't for Reagan's protectionism and calling in of state power, we would not have a steel industry, or an automobile industry, or a semi-conductor industry or whatever they protected. They reindustrialized America by protectionism and state intervention. All of this is washed away by propaganda as though it never happened.

[ ... ]

There is a very serious decline in the ability of the U.S. to undermine and overthrow governments. South America, for the first time since the European conquest 500 years ago, is moving, uneasily, but noticeably, in the direction of independence and gaining sovereignty. The U.S. is unable to do much about it. One of the main military bases for the United States until recently was Paraguay. The U.S. just lost Paraguay, with the recent election of a liberation theology priest. That was one of the few remaining U.S. military bases in South America.

In Central America, which was devastated by Reaganite terrorist wars, nevertheless, there are beginnings of a recovery. In Honduras, which was the center of the whole U.S. terrorist apparatus, President Zelaya has been moving towards alliances with Venezuela. There is not much that the U.S. can do about it. It's trying -- the training of Latin American officers has risen very sharply.

… In fact, if you look at U.S. aid to Latin America, the percentage of military aid, as compared to economic aid, is far higher now than at the peak of the Cold War. I think that the U.S. is trying to rebuild some kind of military capacity to deal with its loss of control over Latin America. It used to be able to overthrow governments easily or destroy a country back in the l980's, but now it is harder.

SG: [Daniel] Ortega was the second government leader to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I don't know if it was a good thing to do.

NC: Ortega is not one of my favorite characters. But it is a symbolic indication of the degree of independence. What is happening in Honduras is more significant. Honduras was a classic banana republic run by the U.S. during Reagan's terrorist wars in Central America. Honduras was the main base, not only for the Contra war, for support for the terrorist wars in El Salvador and Guatemala and so on. It was a regional war, remember.

SG: Isn't that where Negroponte was?

NC: That is where Negroponte was; he was the chief terrorist commander of the l980's. Literally, he was running the Contra war from Honduran bases, but also lying steadily about atrocities inside Honduras to make sure that congressional money flowed to Honduras for various wars in the region. John Negroponte, one of leading terrorist commanders of the modern period, was soon appointed the counterterrorism czar, with nobody raising an eyebrow.

The imperial mentality is something wondrous to behold. Here is one of the leading contemporary terrorists being appointed to be in charge of counterterrorism. Try to find a comment about it. If the U.S. carries out terrorism, it did not happen. But the point is, the U.S.'s capacity to carry out these activities has declined. So when Honduras is straying from its subservient role, that is pretty striking.

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Top psychiatric researcher Dr. Biederman caught lying about $1.6 million in drug money; performed medical experiments on children

Failing to disclose such large sums of money in conflict-of-interest forms is a violation of federal law, and if the National Institutes of Health (NIH) applies existing rules and regulations in responding to these charges, it could deny all future grants to the organization that provided additional funding to Dr. Biederman: Massachusetts General Hospital, which administered $287 million in grants in 2005. The NIH requires researchers to report earnings over $10,000 per year on conflict-of-interest forms.

But rather than being arrested for criminal behavior, Dr. Biederman and another colleague caught in the same financial scandal have been "referred to a university conflict committee for review," reports the New York Times. In other words, their punishment might consist of nothing more than sitting on a couch in a room with other corrupt psychiatric industry leaders who will discuss the issue and do nothing in response. (Dr. Biederman will likely not even be fired from his job...)

What this latest scandal reveals is just how corrupt and dishonest today's psychiatric industry has become. When top researchers are largely funded by drug companies -- and they consistently lie about their financial ties to those companies -- it is clear that integrity and honesty have been abandoned in favor of disease mongering, drug pushing and corporate profits.

The psychiatric industry, in particular, has repeatedly relied on scientific fraud, financial corruption and grave intellectual dishonesty to ensnare a nation of children with dangerous prescription medications that have turned out to cause diabetes, weight gain, suicides and violent behavior. Even though these drugs are harming children, psychiatric researchers like Dr. Biederman continue pushing fictitious diseases like "bipolar disorder" and "ADHD" in an effort to engineer demand for Big Pharma's high-profit pills. In return, Big Pharma pays money to Dr. Biederman and other corrupt, intellectually dishonest researchers who keep beating the drum for more pills, increasingly labeling every living human being as suffering from mental health disorders that demand chemical "treatment."

As part of his drug-pushing efforts, Dr. Biederman has openly advocated non-approved uses of mind-altering drugs on children, encouraging doctors to prescribe pills for various so-called "disorders" even though no FDA approval has ever been granted for using those mind-altering medicines on children. This didn't stop Dr. Biederman, though, from openly pushing for the widespread prescribing of drugs for such "off-label" conditions, including their use on infants and very young children. Thanks in large part to Dr. Biederman's apparently financially-motivated efforts, sales of drugs used to treat "bipolar disorder" doubled from 2003 to 2006.

Recruiting Four-Year Olds for Medical Experiments

Dr. Biederman isn't merely on the take from drug companies, he's also actively engaged in using children as young as four years old for medical experiments. His current recruitment efforts attempt to round up four- to six-year olds and dose them with Astrazeneca's Seroquel drug to see what might happen to their brains.

This kind of testing of powerful psychotropic drugs on four-year olds is being pursued, of course, to try to convince doctors that young children need mind-altering drugs just like adults, thereby creating new, lucrative markets for the drug companies that sell such drugs. But rather than proving that four-year olds suffer from "brain chemistry disorders" that need chemical treatment, what Dr. Biederman has really demonstrated is that psychiatric researchers suffer from their own form of madness -- a kind of mental disorder that allows them to perform chemical experiments on very young children, all while accepting millions of dollars from drug companies as payment for their disease mongering efforts.
 
 

Britain: Forty percent of children live in poverty

More than 40 percent of children in the United Kingdom are living in poverty, according to the latest research. That is some 5.5 million children.

Whilst official measures of child poverty are based on a national survey of family income, the new research published by the Campaign to End Child Poverty was compiled using tax credit data. This gives the percentage of children on low incomes in local authorities and constituencies across the UK, as well as at the more local ward level in England and Wales and in local zones in Scotland.

There are two groups of children whose families receive the maximum Child Tax Credit because they have low incomes. Some 2,895,000 children are in families claiming Child Tax Credit, plus a Working Tax Credit entitlement related to their earnings. Another 2,664,000 children live in families claiming tax credits that also depend on benefits, because no one in the family is employed.

In 174 of the 646 parliamentary constituencies across the UK, more than 50 percent of children fall into these categories. Naturally there is a wide discrepancy between affluent and poorer constituencies.

Whilst the constituencies with the lowest levels of families in poverty are Buckingham and the prosperous constituency of Sheffield Hallam, both with 17 percent, the parliamentary constituency with the highest number is in Birmingham Ladywood, with 81 percent or 28,420 children living in poverty.

Other areas with high child poverty are Bethnal Green and Bow in London, with 79 percent (23,450), Bradford West with 75 percent (24,900) and Nottingham East with 68 percent (12,360).

At more localised levels, the poverty rate is even higher. For example, in the London electoral wards of Tower Hamlets, Bethnal Green South and St. Dunstan's and Stepney Green there are very high levels of child poverty, with 87 percent. When broken down still further, the concentration is even greater. For example, in the two zones selected by the Campaign to End Child Poverty in parts of Glasgow Baillieston—Central Easterhouse and North Barlarnark and Easterhouse South—98 percent of children are living in poverty.

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A crisis made in the Oval Office

This is the first time in the history of the United States that the president has sought to provoke a financial panic to get legislation passed through Congress. While this has proven to be a successful political strategy - after the House of Representatives finally passed the bank bail-out plan today - it marks yet another low point in American politics.

It was incredibly irresponsible for George Bush to tell the American people on national television that the country could be facing another Great Depression. By contrast, when we actually were in the Great Depression, President Roosevelt said: "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

It was even more irresponsible for President Bush to seize on the decline in the stock market five days later as evidence that his bailout was needed for the economy. President Bush must surely understand, as all economists know, that the daily swings in the stock market are driven by mass psychology and have almost nothing to do with the underlying strength in the economy.

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'A gigantic ponzi scheme that couldn't possibly last'

The financial crisis gripping the U.S. isn't an anomaly. We just have short memories
27 Sep., 2008

What's happening now on Wall Street is seen as a new story. It is not. It is a very old one.

Karl Marx wrote about it; so did John Maynard Keynes. More recently, tycoon George Soros has pronounced on it, as has the redoubtable Economist, a decidedly pro-free market financial magazine.

This old story is quite simple: Capitalism is unstable. It is an economic system that can be ruthlessly productive. But is also one of wheels within wheels – internal contradictions Marx called them – that can, and regularly do, spin out of control.

Marx, a German philosopher suffering from boils, saw these contradictions as opportunities; he figured that capitalism's self-destruction would lead to a better world.

Keynes, a British economist who liked to speculate in foreign currency over his morning tea and toast, saw them as problems that could destroy a world he rather liked. The welfare state edifice that bears his name was designed in the post-1945 period to, literally, save capitalism from itself.

Banks would be regulated to keep financiers from scamming the economy into the ground. Labour unions would be encouraged, in order to give workers a stake in the status quo and inoculate them against radical politics.

The rich would agree to government tax-and-spend policies, knowing that – in the end – it's always better to feed the poor than have them slit your throat.

It was a giant, unspoken bargain – forced by the Depression of the `30s, tempered by war and hammered into shape under the threat of Communism.

For a long time, it worked.

But the great bargain could never resolve those inconsistencies inherent in the world economy. Over time, new forces came into play.

The very foreign investment that allowed U.S.-based firms to prosper in the post-1945 world encouraged rivals to develop: first West Germany and Japan, latterly China and the European Union.

Throughout the industrial West, unionized workers cushioned by the full-employment policies of the welfare state demanded and won pay hikes that exceeded their productivity gains. Which is why, in the `70s, inflation took off.

Meanwhile, the collapse of Communism and the discrediting of revolutionary politics removed pressure from employers. Why bother forging a great bargain with your workers if they don't pose a threat?

And so came phase one of the retrenchment – the destruction of the welfare state. In England, it began as Thatcherism, in the U.S. Reaganomics. Both leaders set out to limit trade union power in their respective countries. Both did so, Thatcher by facing down the miners, Reagan by firing unionized air controllers.

Their aim was not traditional fiscal conservatism. Indeed, under Reagan, U.S. federal finances spiralled into deficit.

Rather it was to alter the balance of forces within society. Reagan's tax cuts were designed to help the rich; Thatcher's monetarism focused on squeezing wages.

In Canada, we had Paul Martin and Mike Harris – similar policies but on a different scale.

As a result, the income gap widened throughout much of the industrial world. The rich got richer; the middling classes lagged; the poor got poorer.

Phase two involved the dismantling of the very financial safeguards erected after the debacle of the `30s. The specifics varied from country to country, but the aim was the same: Deregulate financial industries so they would centralize and focus their tremendous resources into new, more profitable areas.

In the U.S., financial deregulation involved scrapping laws that had protected small depositors – which led in the late `80s to the collapse of so-called savings and loans banks.

This in turn caused the U.S. government to engineer its first big post-1945 bailout.

In Canada, deregulation led to the scrapping of a system that had kept various portions of the financial industry isolated from one another. Under the new regime, insurers, trust companies and investment dealers merged and melded. Lending restrictions were eased.

Phase three was sparked, ironically, by the industrial world's very success in fighting inflation. As inflation went down so did returns offered through standard investment channels. Investors seeking higher returns began to search out riskier – and better-paying – options.

And so came the fascination with so-called new financial instruments. Many households were satisfied with nothing more exotic than mutual funds. But for well-heeled individuals and firms, the new frontier was far more exotic: derivatives, hedge funds, index funds, collateralized debt obligations.

All worked on the venerable principle of leverage: Putting in a little in order to earn a lot. Alas, as we should have remembered from the `30s, leverage only works when the economy is going up. When things start to falter, a leveraged asset can become an intolerable millstone.

In the end, the private equity companies and sub-prime mortgage buyers were doing much the same thing: borrowing money they couldn't afford to repay, in the hope that whatever assets they purchased would keep rising in value.

It was a gigantic ponzi scheme that couldn't possibly last. And it didn't.

So, now we're back at square one. The system is near collapse. U.S. Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke may remember his history (he's an authority on the depression of the `30s). But few others do.

On television, a baffled U.S. President George W. Bush resembles the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Here in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists that this country's fundamentals are fine, a sentiment that, while true, is largely irrelevant in the context of a potential world collapse.

American taxpayers are understandably miffed at being asked to bail out the entire global capitalist system. Right now, their ire is aimed at Wall Street tycoons. But in their hearts, they recognize that this isn't much of a deal.

The $700-billion (U.S.) bailout may save the financial system. But after ordinary people have anted up the cash, will their reward be nothing more than a return to the way things were? Even politicians are beginning to recognize that any lasting solution must deal with more than the barebones economics of the crisis.

Ironically, what they are groping for is the kind of solution that we've spent the past 40 years dismantling. It's time for another grand bargain – not necessarily the one that gave us the post-war welfare state, but one that delivers a similar quid pro quo. And it will go something like this: We'll save your damned old capitalism; we'll let you have the big houses and big salaries (although not necessarily quite as big as they were). But in return, you'll have to give us something back – on jobs, on wages, on the things that we need to live a civilized life. Nor will we let you destroy everything we hold dear just so you can make a buck.

And don't give us all that free-market guff. Because we know, just as you know, that at times of great stress, the free market doesn't work. This crisis has reminded us of that.

Thomas Walkom writes on political economy.
 
 

Get your dollars out now! FAST!!!

The events of the last two weeks have clearly revealed that the global financial, monetary and banking system imposed on the world by the power structures promoting "globalization" is fundamentally flawed, unviable and immoral in its effects upon the most all of Mankind. After allowing a small cabal of shady characters to illegitimately accumulate vast amounts of wealth and power over markets, corporations, industries, media, armed forces and entire nations, like the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, this entire System is now in free-fall, collapsing into itself in one massive implosion.

This loathsome and unjust Global Power System was designed and implemented over the past seven decades by the geopolitical and geoeconomic strategic planners serving the New World Order power structures, most notably its network of discrete, low-profile but highly powerful private think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR, founded in New York in 1919), The Trilateral Commission (founded in 1973), The Bilderberg Conference (formed in Holland in 1954), and others like the Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the notorious Neo-con Project for a New American Century (PNAC) (1).

Considering the enormous complexity of the process that is taking place right now; the vast amounts of information we are bombarded with every minute of the day, and the apparent difficulty in foreseeing just how this global crisis will finally be resolved, we would summarize certain important aspects and key data which we believe will help us put together this veritable jig-saw puzzle, so that we may begin to fathom what the true face of this horrendous creature euphemistically called "globalization", is really like. As Argentine citizens, we have a huge advantage over other peoples including US citizens when it comes to understanding and coping with this kind of crisis. I say this because in our own lifetimes we have suffered in Argentina all of what is now happening globally - albeit on a much smaller scale in our case. We've seen this movie... We've been there, and done that... We've been pushed and dragged through the entire hysterical hocus-pocus of inflation, hyperinflation, systemic banking collapses, currency changes, Debt Bond Swaps, Mega-Debt Bond Swaps, financial "armouring", banking holidays, freezing of bank accounts, etc., etc... And we have also suffered the end-results: bank bail-outs paid for by taxpayers (or through inflation, or through the confiscation of savings), disappearance of pension funds, destruction of job posts and overall impoverishment of the population.

So, take a clue from our thirty years' experience in "financial meltdowns": GO GET YOUR DOLLARS OUT FROM YOUR BANK NOW, AND DO IT FAST!!!!

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A dream denied: The criminalization of homelessness in U.S. cities

Executive Summary

The housing and homelessness crisis in the United States has worsened in 2005, with many cities reporting an increase in demands for emergency shelter.  In 2005, 71 percent of the 24 cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported a 6 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter.   Even while the requests for emergency shelter have increased, cities do not have adequate shelter space to meet the need.  In the 24 cities surveyed in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Homelessness Survey for 2005, an average of 14 percent of overall
emergency shelter requests went unmet, with 32 percent of shelter requests by homeless families unmet.  The lack of available shelter space – a situation made worse by the Gulf Coast hurricanes - leaves many homeless persons with no choice but to struggle to survive on the streets of our cities.

Over the course of the year, 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness.   The number of people living on the streets threatens to grow as thousands of people are now homeless as a result of Hurricane Katrina.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as of late November, approximately 50,000 hurricane evacuees remained in hotels and motels awaiting alternative housing options.

An unfortunate trend in cities around the country over the past 25 years has been to turn to the criminal justice system to respond to people living in public spaces.  This trend includes measures that target homeless persons by making it illegal to perform life-sustaining activities in public.  These measures prohibit activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and begging in public spaces, usually including criminal penalties for violation of these laws. 

This report is the National Coalition for the Homeless' (NCH) fourth report on the criminalization of homelessness and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty's (NLCHP) eighth report on the topic.   The report documents the top 20 worst offenders of 2005, as well as initiatives in some cities that are more constructive approaches to the issue of people living in public spaces.  The report includes the results of a survey of laws and practices in 224 cities around the country, as well as a survey of lawsuits from various jurisdictions in which those measures have been challenged.

Types of Criminalization Measures

The criminalization of homelessness takes many forms, including:

  • Legislation that makes it illegal to sleep, sit, or store personal belongings in public spaces in cities where people are forced to live in public spaces;
  • Selective enforcement of more neutral laws, such as loitering or open container laws, against homeless persons;
  • Sweeps of city areas where homeless persons are living to drive them out of the area, frequently resulting in the destruction of those persons' personal property, including important personal documents and medication; and
  • Laws that punish people for begging or panhandling to move poor or homeless persons out of a city or downtown area.

Criminalization Measures Have Increased

City ordinances frequently serve as a prominent tool to criminalize homelessness.  Of the 224 cities surveyed for our report:

  • 28% prohibit "camping" in particular public places in the city and 16% had city-wide prohibitions on "camping."
  • 27% prohibit sitting/lying in certain public places.
  • 39% prohibit loitering in particular public areas and 16% prohibit loitering city-wide.
  • 43% prohibit begging in particular public places; 45% prohibit aggressive panhandling and 21% have city-wide prohibitions on begging.

The trend of criminalizing homelessness appears to be growing.  Of the 67 cities surveyed in both NCH and NLCHP's last joint report in 2002 and in this report:

  • There is a 12% increase laws prohibiting begging in certain public places and an 18% increase in laws that prohibit aggressive panhandling.
  • There is a 14% increase in laws prohibiting sitting or lying in certain public spaces.
  • There is a 3% increase in laws prohibiting loitering, loafing, or vagrancy laws.

Another trend documented in the report is increased city efforts to target homeless persons indirectly by placing restrictions on providers serving food to poor and homeless persons in public spaces.

While cities are cracking down on homeless persons living in public spaces, according to the latest U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness report, cities do not have adequate shelter to meet the need:

  • 71% of the 24 cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported a 6% increase in requests for emergency shelter.
  • 16% of overall emergency shelter requests went unmet and 32% of emergency shelter requests by homeless families went unmet in cities surveyed.

The Meanest Cities

Although some of the report's top 20 meanest cities have made some efforts to address homelessness in their communities, the punitive practices highlighted in the report impede progress in solving the problem.  The top 20 meanest cities were chosen based on the number of anti-homeless laws in the city, the enforcement of those laws and severities of penalties, the general political climate toward homeless people in the city, local advocate support for the meanest designation, the city's history of criminalization measures, and the existence of pending or recently enacted criminalization legislation in the city.  Over the past year, the practices in the following top 5 meanest cities stand out as some of the worst examples of inhumane city treatment of homeless and poor people:

#1 Sarasota, FL.  After two successive Sarasota anti-lodging laws were overturned as unconstitutional by state courts, Sarasota passed a third law banning lodging outdoors.  This latest version appears to be explicitly aimed at homeless persons.  One of the elements necessary for arrest under the law is that the person "has no other place to live."

#2 Lawrence, KS.  After a group of downtown Lawrence business leaders urged the city to cut social services and pass ordinances to target homeless persons, the city passed three "civility" ordinances, including an aggressive panhandling law, a law prohibiting trespass on rooftops, and a law limiting sleeping or sitting on city sidewalks.

#3 Little Rock, AR.   Homeless persons have reported being kicked out of bus stations in Little Rock, even when they had valid bus tickets.  Two homeless men reported that officers of the Little Rock Police Department, in separate incidents, had kicked them out of the Little Rock Bus Station, even after showing the police their tickets.  In other instances, homeless persons have been told that they could not wait at the bus station "because you are homeless."

#4  Atlanta, GA.  Amid waves of public protest and testimony opposing the Mayor's proposed comprehensive ban on panhandling, the City Council passed the anti-panhandling ordinance in August 2005.  In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Atlanta stood firm in its resolve to criminalize panhandlers.  A Katrina evacuee who was sleeping in his car with his family after seeking refuge in Atlanta was arrested for panhandling at a mall in the affluent Buckhead neighborhood, even after he showed the police his Louisiana driver's license, car tag, and registration as proof that he was a Katrina evacuee.  In addition, during the first week in December, the Atlanta Zoning Review Board approved a ban on supportive housing inside the city limits.

#5  Las Vegas, NV.  Even as the city shelters are overcrowded and the city's Crisis Intervention Center recently closed due to lack of funding, the city continues to target homeless persons living outside.  The police conduct habitual sweeps of encampments which lead to extended jail time for repeat misdemeanor offenders. In order to keep homeless individuals out of future parks, the city considered privatizing the parks, enabling owners to kick out unwanted people.  Mayor Oscar Goodman fervently supported the idea, saying, "I don't want them there.  They're not going to be there.  I'm not going to let it happen.  They think I'm mean now; wait until the homeless try to go over there."

Criminalization Measures Are Bad Policy and Violate Constitutional Rights

These practices that criminalize homelessness do nothing to address the underlying causes of homelessness.  Instead, they exacerbate the problem.  They frequently move people away from services.  When homeless persons are arrested and charged under these measures, they develop a criminal record, making it more difficult to obtain employment or housing.  Further, criminalization measures are not cost efficient.  In a nine-city survey of supportive housing and jail costs, jail costs were on average two to three times the cost of supportive housing.  

Criminalization measures also raise constitutional questions and many of them violate the civil rights of homeless persons.  Courts have found certain criminalization measures unconstitutional:

  • For example, when a city passes a law that places too many restrictions on begging, free speech concerns are raised as courts have found begging to be protected speech under the First Amendment.
  • When a city destroys homeless persons' belongings or conducts unreasonable searches or seizures of homeless persons, courts have found such actions violate the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • Courts have found that a law that is applied to criminally punish a homeless person for necessary life activities in public, like sleeping, violates that person's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment if the person has nowhere else to perform the activity.
  • Laws that do not give people sufficient notice of prohibited conduct or allow for arbitrary enforcement by law enforcement officials can be unconstitutionally vague.  Courts have found loitering and vagrancy laws unconstitutionally vague.

In addition to violating U.S. law, criminalization measures can violate international human rights law.  The United States has signed international human rights agreements, many of which prohibit actions that target homeless people living in public spaces.

Constructive Alternatives to Criminalization

While many cities engage in practices that exacerbate the problem of homelessness by pursuing criminalization measures, more constructive approaches do exist in some cities around the country.  The following examples can serve as more constructive approaches to homelessness:

  • Broward County, FL.  The Taskforce for Ending Homelessness, Inc., a not-for-profit agency that provides outreach, education, and advocacy services for the homeless population in Broward County, has partnered with the Ft. Lauderdale police department to create an outreach team made up of police officers and a civilian outreach worker who is formerly homeless.  In its five years of operation, the Homeless Outreach Team has had over 23,000 contacts with homeless individuals and has placed 11,384 people in shelters.  Estimates suggest that there are at least 2,400 fewer arrests each year as a result of the Homeless Outreach Team.
  • Pasadena, CA.  The Pasadena Police Department and the Los Angeles Department of Health have partnered to form the Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation (HOPE) Team.  The program created three teams of mental health and law enforcement officials to provide compassionate assistance to persons in need of mental health assessment and services.
  • Ohio.  In Ohio, the three largest cities, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, fund teams of trained workers to go out under the bridges and visit the encampments near the rivers to assist those outside the service system.  The critical component to the success of these programs is that they do not put a lot of restrictions on the assistance that they are offering and offer help at non-traditional hours when other services are closed, providing a vital link between mainstream services and a population that resists congregate living.
  • Washington, DC.  The downtown business community in Washington, D.C., created a day center for homeless people who may not have anywhere to go during the day when shelters are closed.  Through the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District, business owners fund this day center that can serve up to 260 people per day, with indoor seating, laundry, showers, and a morning meal. 
  • San Diego, CA.  In 1989, a public defender from San Diego created the nation's first Homeless Court Program, which is a special monthly Superior Court session held at local shelters for homeless defendants to resolve outstanding misdemeanor criminal cases.  Homeless courts expand access to the judicial system and assist homeless defendants by addressing outstanding warrants and criminal offenses to remove barriers to benefits, treatment, housing, and employment.

Recommendations

Instead of criminalizing homelessness, city governments, business groups, and law enforcement officials should work with homeless people, providers, and advocates for solutions to prevent and end homelessness.

Cities should dedicate more resources to more affordable housing, shelters, and homeless services.  To address street homelessness, cities should adopt or dedicate more resources to outreach programs, such as the ones highlighted in this report.  Further, cities and states can set up programs to help homeless individuals apply for federal benefits to which they are entitled but may not be receiving, such as Supplemental Security Income benefits for disabled individuals, food stamps, or the earned income tax credit.

Business groups can play a positive role in helping to address the issue of homelessness.  Instead of advocating for criminalization measures, business groups can put resources to solutions to homelessness, such as the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District's day center. 

The federal government can also play a role in encouraging cities to pursue more constructive approaches to homelessness.  Federal funding for homeless and poverty programs should be conditioned on local government agreement not to punish homeless persons for conduct related to their status.

As criminalization measures move people away from services, make it more difficult for people to move out of homelessness, and cost more due to incarceration and law enforcement costs than more constructive approaches, cities would be wise to seek constructive alternatives to criminalization.  When cities work with homeless persons and advocates toward solutions to homelessness, instead of punishing those who are homeless or poor, everyone can benefit.

~ full report ~

 

Report implicates White House

In 18 months of searching, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility chief H. Marshall Jarrett have uncovered new e-mail messages hinting at heightened involvement of White House lawyers and political aides in the firings of nine federal prosecutors two years ago.

But they could not probe much deeper because key officials declined to be interviewed and a critical timeline drafted by the White House was so heavily redacted that it was "virtually worthless as an investigative tool," the authorities said.

"We were unable to fully develop the facts regarding the removal of [David C.] Iglesias and several other U.S. Attorneys because of the refusal by certain key witnesses to be interviewed by us, as well as the White House's decision not to provide . . . internal documents to us," the investigators concluded in their report.

The standoff is a central reason that Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey on Monday named a veteran public-corruption prosecutor, Nora R. Dannehy, to continue the investigation, directing her to give him a preliminary report on the status of the case in 60 days.

But lawmakers who helped expose irregularities in the ouster of the prosecutors say they are concerned about more delays.

Yesterday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote Mukasey a letter asking whether Dannehy would have the authority to compel documents from the White House and testimony from former presidential aide Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers, who rejected invitations to meet voluntarily with the inspector general.

He also expressed concern that any information Dannehy may obtain would be kept under wraps because of grand jury secrecy rules, leaving members of the public in the dark. "There are a lot of questions that need to be answered," Whitehouse said.

~ more... ~

 

Bush Doctrine enters American vocabulary

According to international law as generally understood since the creation of the United Nations, a pre-emptive attack is legal only if a country has certain knowledge that an attack on it is imminent - too imminent for the matter to be taken to the U.N. Security Council.

Pre-emptive war is different from preventive war, in which a country, fearing that another country may become strong enough to threaten it at some time in the future, attacks it to prevent this possibility. Preventive wars are illegal under international law.

This distinction, however, creates a terminological problem: Although preventive war is worse than pre-emptive war, to most ears preemption sounds worse. Many people, therefore, speak of pre-emptive war when they mean preventive war. To avoid confusion, we can use the term pre-emptive-preventive war.

Neoconservatives, the most powerful of whom is Vice President Dick Cheney, had long disliked the idea that America's use of military power could be constrained by the prohibition against preemptive-preventive war. In 1992, his last year as secretary of defense, Cheney produced a draft of the Defense Planning Guidance that said the United States should use force to "pre-empt" and "preclude threats." In 1998, the Project for the New American Century, a neocon think tank, urged President Bill Clinton to "undertake military action" to eliminate "the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction."

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the neocons were able to turn their wish into U.S. policy. In "The New American Militarism," Andrew Bacevich wrote: "The events of 9/11 provided the tailor-made opportunity to break free of the fetters restricting the exercise of American power."

The right to launch pre-emptive-preventive attacks, which came to be known as the Bush Doctrine, was suggested in the president's address at West Point in June 2002, when the administration began preparing citizens for the attack on Iraq. Having stated that deterrence "means nothing" in relation to "new threats," Bush declared: "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long."

This new doctrine was then fully articulated that September in "The National Security Strategy of the United States." Speaking of "our enemies' efforts to acquire dangerous technologies," this document declared that America will "act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed."

~ more... ~

 

First British human-animal hybrid embryos created by scientists

Britain's first human-animal hybrid embryos have been created, forming a crucial first step, scientists believe, towards a supply of stem cells that could be used to investigate debilitating and so far untreatable conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease.

Lyle Armstrong, who led the work, gained permission in January from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to create the embryos, known as "cytoplasmic hybrids".

His team at Newcastle University produced the embryos by inserting human DNA from a skin cell into a hollowed-out cow egg. An electric shock then induced the hybrid embryo to grow. The embryo, 99.9% human and 0.1% other animal, grew for three days, until it had 32 cells.

Eventually, scientists hope to grow such embryos for six days, and then extract stem cells from them. The researchers insisted the embryos would never be implanted into a woman and that the only reason they used cow eggs was due to the scarcity of human eggs.

The team's success comes days after Gordon Brown was forced to give MPs a free vote on the human fertilisation and embryology bill, which has faced condemnation from Catholic bishops. Cardinal Keith O'Brien used his Easter sermon to denounce what he called experiments of "Frankenstein proportion" and called the bill a "monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life".

Catholics object to the idea of putting human and animal DNA in the same entity and to the notion of creating what they regard as a life for the purposes of research, a life that will then be destroyed.

John Burn, head of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, said the embryos had been created purely for research. He told the BBC's Six O'Clock News last night: "If you look down the microscope it looks like semolina and it stays like that. It's never going to be anything other than a pile of cells. What it does is give us the tools to find out the simple questions: how can we better understand the disease processes by working with those cells in the body?"

~ more... ~

 

Let's play 'Wall Street Bailout'

The rules are...



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