Saturday, March 14, 2009

A peacemaker's passing

From Linda LeTendre's Waging Peace blog :

Peter DeMott was one of the waging-peace type of people I promised to write about when I started this blog. Unfortunately, the first thing I have to tell you about him is that he died on Feb. 19 during emergency surgery after suffering an accident.

He fell out of a tree while trimming it.

He was one of my heroes and I had the great honor and blessing of witnessing with him a couple of times.

Peter was one of the “St. Patrick's Day Four” and even The Daily Gazette mentioned this group.

On March 17, 2003 (two days before the illegal U.S invasion of Iraq) four peace witnesses from the Magnificat Catholic Worker in Ithaca entered a local recruiting station and poured small amounts of their blood around the vestibule of the building as a symbolic protest to the imminent invasion of Iraq and as a portent of the death and destruction to come. They were alone and prevented no one from entering or leaving the center.

They were all arrested and charged with criminal mischief and trespassing. A trial in county court, where the defendants argued that their actions were consistent with international law and the Nuremberg Principles, ended in a hung jury with nine of the 12 jurors favoring acquittal.

The Nuremberg Principles of international law is one of those civic lessons that is conveniently overlooked in our public education system. They state that individuals have international rights and duties to prevent crimes against humanity which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.

I attended the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School system (which touts itself as one of the finest in the nation) from K-12 and I never heard of the Nuremberg Principles until this past year when I got involved with the national Campaign for nonviolent Resistance last year. I would like to note that my esteemed alma mater did, however, have recruiters a aplenty in the school. Sadly, BH-BL is an all too typical school in this regard.

Anyway, after losing the trail, the district attorney decided it was too expensive and time consuming to retry the four defendants.

That's when the Federal Government (translation: Bush Administration) stepped in.

Bush & Co. pressed federal conspiracy charges, as well as criminal damage to property and two counts of trespass against the four Christian witnesses; marking the first time they had done this against civilians who were protesting the Iraq war. The felony charge carried punishment of up to a $250,000 fine and six years in jail, with the other charges punishable by two additional years in jail.

Bill Quigely, a public interest lawyer and law professor, who acted as legal advisor to the defendants, said at the time, “Federal intervention in this case represents a blatant act of government intimidation and will have a chilling effect on expression of the first amendment rights of any citizen to protest or speak out against their government.”

Which of course was the whole idea.

The four were found guilty of the charges and the U.S. attorney demanded that they be sentenced at the conclusion of the trial. The presiding judge would have none of that and set a sentencing date so that the four could put their affairs in order.

I believe they spent six months in jail.

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Should George W. Bush be arrested in Calgary, Alberta, to be tried for international crimes?

This text by Anthony J. Hall, Professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge was presented at the annual distinguished lecture sponsored by the Sociology Department of the University of Winnipeg, 6 March, 2009

Serious allegations of criminality are swirling around ex-US President George W. Bush and current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In late February of 2009 it was reported that the Hague-based International Criminal Court was preparing to issue a warrant for al-Bashir alleging his culpability for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As the documents were being prepared against Sudan's head of state, ex-President Bush was preparing to initiate a series of high-paying speaking engagements beginning in Calgary Alberta on March 17. Bush's visit to Alberta's oil capital tests the consistency and authenticity of the Canadian government's "unequivocal" position that "Canada is not and will not become a safe haven for persons involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity or other reprehensible acts."

The contrast between the treatment afforded Bush and al-Bashir was inadvertently highlighted by Geoffrey York, a colleague with whom I conferred frequently when we were both reporting regularly in The Globe and Mail about two decades ago on the surprising twists that repeatedly made Aboriginal Affairs in Manitoba a major source of national news. York introduced his story on the charges against al-Bashir by writing, "For the first time in history, an international criminal court is set to issue an arrest warrant for the leader of a country, accusing him of orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture and rape." The reporter anticipated that the ICC's initiative "will be hailed by many as a sign that nobody is above the law."

The striking contrast between the treatment of al-Bashir and Bush serves to clarify the division of the world's criminals and suspected criminals into two major categories, one inhabited by a small elite that is essentially above the law and the other populated by figures not rich or influential enough to gain exemptions from the law's coercive force. It is not without a sense of irony that I arrive at this conclusion. On the one hand the ICC's decision to press charges against al-Bashir, as well as to initiate in January of 2009 a full-fledged trial against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, signals a major transformation in the career of the ICC. It indicates that the court is no longer a mere vehicle for the empty expression of lofty idealism but rather a site of real engagement aimed at subjugating the rule of murder, mayhem and intimidation to the higher authority of law.

On the other hand by pointing its initial surge of juridical activism at the local criminality of individuals in those afflicted regions of Africa where resource cartels and their client regimes often dominate, the ICC has called attention to the West's hypocrisy in shielding its own war lords and war profiteers in the military-industrial complex from any legal accountability for the violent acts its operatives, many of them in the so-called private sector, regularly plan, instigate, finance, arm, facilitate, commit and exploit. Indeed, the double standard promoted by the ICC in the choice of its targets for prosecution replicates in the international arena much of the duplicity of the criminal justice system in the United States.

As starkly demonstrated by the scandalously high and inequitable proportion of Blacks warehoused in the failing superpower's privatized jails, law-enforcement officials there obviously shower a disproportionately high amount of their energy on criminalizing poor African-Americans leaving those predominately fair-skinned inhabitants of suburbia and the more rarified enclaves of extreme wealth outside the orbit of their most concerted attention. Will the new global enforcers of international law limit themselves to prosecuting gang leaders in the continental ghetto of Africa while conveniently looking the other way when it comes to more comprehensive global networks of cartelized criminality headquartered in North America, Europe, Israel, and, increasingly, China, India and Russia as well.

While Omar al-Bashir is far from a household name, George Bush is one of the most well known people in the world. Indeed, throughout the eight years of his disastrous presidency, Bush managed to make himself into one of the most reviled individuals on the planet. He is widely disliked for his policies as well as for the assorted war hawks, corporate privateers, lying propagandists, evangelical zealots, loan sharks, torture freaks, and psycho cops and generals who formed the ex-president's inner circle. A significant component of global public opinion sees this discredited man as the embodiment of something far worse than terrible leadership. They see the forty-third US head of state as an abusive lawbreaker. Indeed, many rightfully see Bush as a pathological deviant who harboured the delusional fantasy that the power of his office gave him unlimited global power to authorize his national forces, proxy armies and mercenary operatives to commit the most grave onslaughts of mass murder, disappearances and torture on a genocidal scale.

This widespread belief is informed by the large and growing body of legal scholarship using evidence already on the public sphere to make the case that George Bush and his underlings have violated many domestic and international laws, including the Geneva Conventions and UN instruments prohibiting torture. Philippe Sands, Francis Boyle and Osgood Hall Law School Professor Michael Mandel have been prominent among the international jurists who have developed the legal case that George Bush and his war cabinet have transgressed the law of nations on many, many counts. Indeed, the line up is long of jurists seeking to bring the ex-US president to justice. With his recent book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Vincent Bugliosi, the former prosecutor of Charles Manson, adds his voice to a crowded field.

Given the depth and extent of the documentation already assembled to indict Bush and many of his top lieutenants for domestic and international crimes, the ex-president's ability to cross international borders and address audiences in places like Calgary stands as an indicator of the juridical malaise of our law-enforcement agencies. Is the role of these agencies primarily to protect the property and prestige of the rich from the incursions of the marginalized and dispossessed? Isn't law a mere fiction if it can't restrain the exploitative application of violence to entrench privilege and intimidate dissent? Will officials of the Crown in Canada or public prosecutors in other countries rise to a higher standard in order to demonstrate their respect for the power of law as a force of equalization applying uniformly to president and pauper, native and settler, white and black? How can we transcend the mean and frequently racist codes contained in the rhetoric of law and order in order to rise to the high standards required by adherence to the rule of law?

Will truth ever be given its day in court in trials calling not only Bush, but also Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condollezza Rice and others to account for their decisions and actions in supervising aggressive wars. As key strategists, lobbyists, and propagandists for the oil, armaments and mercenary industries, most of these figures helped to plan through the Project for the New American Century the our current privatized terror economy and the pseudo-justifications for so-called "preemptive wars." It was PNAC that announced a year before 9/11 the need for "a new Pearl Harbor" in order to produce the necessary climate of public hysteria to achieve its sponsors' objectives. The most ambitious of these was to create a pretext in order to seize control of oil resources in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

Imagining the Rule of Law Internationally and Globally

For several generations the principle has been developing that all the world's peoples and governments must recognize our shared interest in expressing forms of universal jurisdiction when it comes to dealing with the highest order of criminality. On his return from Africa in 1890 George Washington Williams, a Black missionary from the United States, helped point subsequent legal thought in this direction. As Williams reached for words evocative enough to describe the appalling scope of the violations of human rights he had just witnessed in King Leopold's so-called Congo Free State, the commentator came up with the expression "crimes against humanity." In 1944 a Polish Jew who had escaped the Nazi horror in Europe drew on his experience and scholarship to enhance the vocabulary of international crime. Raphael Lemkin invented the word, "genocide," to advance the project of trying to deal with crimes so severe that they undermine the wellbeing of the entire human family. In the world Lemkin sought to bring about there could be no immunity, no safe refuge, for those involved in the elimination of religious, ethnic and racial groups through industrialized murder and also through the assimilative machinery of cultural genocide. Lemkin was instrumental in helping the delegations at the United Nations to entrench in 1948 the Convention on the Prevention and Prohibition of the Crime of Genocide. This basic pillar of international law was not adopted by the United States until 1989.

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Open extraterrestrial (UFO) contact will occur during Obama years says time acceleration researcher

Alfred Webre, Seattle Exopolitics Examiner

in Examiner :

Part VI of a series of investigative articles on the Obama administration, the United Nations, and unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and extraterrestrial life

On February 24, 2009, Pres. Barack Obama delivered what media outlets are calling his “Luke Skywalker” speech to a joint session of the U.S. congress with all trappings of a state of the union address.  Luke Skywalker is reference to a Jedi knight in the Star Wars series who leads the rebellion against the empire beholden to the dark force.  By casting Obama in the role of Luke Skywalker, media outlets like Mother Jones are seeking to imbue Obama's political agenda and persona with the revolutionary aura of a Jedi Knight, rescuing America and the world from war, crime, disease and poverty.

Other researchers contend that insiders from the Trilateral Commission have covertly trained Obama since his early 20s at Columbia University for his present role as leading implementer of a global “friendly fascism.”  The Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller and Obama's mentor Zbigniew Brzezinski, is considered by some analysts to be a front organization, promoting the depopulation policies of an international war crimes racketeering organization.

2011-12 & passage through the plane of the galactic center black hole

The Luke Skywalker reference overlooks one major gap in Barack Obama's congressional address – any reference to our populated, organized solar system, galaxy, and universe.  One agenda item that Obama conspicuously left out of his speech is probably the most certain and impactful event and outcome to occur during his presidency – the impending passage of our solar system through the plane of the massive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.   In the run-up to alignment of our earth to the plane of the galactic black hole in 2011-12, there exists a virtual certainty of open extraterrestrial contact with our human society.

Barack Obama's first term as U.S. president (ending January 20, 2013) includes the expected passage of earth through the galactic plane sometime between October 28, 2011 and December 21, 2012, according to researchers Carl Johan Calleman and Barbara Hand Clow. If Obama is elected for a second term he will serve through January 20, 2017.

Obama's omission of the impending passage of the earth through the plane of the galactic black hole in 2011-12 is all the more surprising because of the vocal emphasis that Obama has placed on science in his administration.

With the approach of the year 2000, there were worldwide preparations for a “Y2K” problem that were based upon a possible planetary emergency.  

Where are the similar preparations for 2011-12 by the U.S. government, with respect to the likelihood of open planetary contact with an extraterrestrial civilization as we approach these coming years of 2011-12?

There is accumulating evidence that open planetary contact with an extraterrestrial civilization will occur between now and 2011-12, and thus far the Obama White House and U.S. government agencies under Barack Obama such as NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Administration) and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency continue to cover-up an extraterrestrial presence they have fully documented and in some cases liaison with rather than acclimating the public to the extraterrestrial presence.

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Report: Major banks supporting corrupt regimes

 WASHINGTON, Mar 13 ( - Some of the world's biggest banks are doing business with corrupt regimes, facilitating state looting and human rights abuses and keeping the world's poorest poor, according to a new report.

*  "The same lax regulation that created the credit crunch has let some of the world's biggest banks facilitate the looting of natural resource wealth from poor countries," said Gavin Hayman of the British human rights group Global Witness, which published the report, "Undue Diligence," Wednesday.

*  "Undue Diligence" names Citibank, Barclays, and HSBC among the major banks that have done business with corrupt regimes. "By accepting these customers, banks are assisting those who are using state assets to enrich themselves or brutalize their own people. This corruption denies the world's poorest people the chance to lift themselves out of poverty and leaves them dependent on aid," the rights group noted, offering a series of suggestions for governments, regulators, and banks to begin tackling the problem.

*  The U.S. bank Riggs folded in 2004 after it was discovered that it had dealings with the rulers of Equatorial Guinea that breached U.S. money laundering laws. Since 1979, Equatorial Guinea has been ruled by President Teodoro Obiang, a dictator who has "systematically plundered, robbed, and assassinated to inconceivable extremes, amassing a fortune that makes him one of the world's richest men in one of Africa's poorest countries," notes author Fernando Gamboa in the African newsletter Pambazuka News, describing the massive corruption he discoverd when researching a novel set in the country. According to Global Witness' report, however, the son of the dictator was still doing business with Barclays in Paris as of 2007.

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Riots break out in Kenyan capital

Riots have broken out in Kenya's capital Nairobi at a rally involving hundreds of students against alleged extra-judicial killings by police.

Police used tear gas to disperse university protesters who were hurling stones and looting shops.

The rally was held to protest against last week's killing of a student by police and also alleged shootings of two human rights activists.

Police deny any involvement in the killings of the two activists.

Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulo were shot dead in their car in central Nairobi last Thursday.

They were attacked just hours after a government spokesman accused their group of aiding the Mungiki criminal gang.

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From Kenyan rights body says activist killings part of pattern

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya's top human rights group charged Friday that the slaying of two activists who investigated extrajudicial killings was part of a pattern of assassinations of people who made allegations about police death squads.

Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu were shot at close range Thursday night while their car was stuck in traffic near the University of Nairobi.

Kingara was the head of the Oscar Foundation, which had released a report on extrajudicial killings and the disappearance of thousands of Kenyans in police custody. Oulu was the foundation's communications and advocacy director. The two activists had met last month with Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and provided him with testimony on police killings in Nairobi and Central Province.

They were on their way to meet with a senior member of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights when they were attacked, Alston said, calling for an independent probe into the killing.

A former police driver was shot dead last year after he told the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights he had witnessed over 50 suspects being executed by police. And in January, a Kenyan journalist who said he had been threatened by officers after writing about police malpractice was found decapitated in a forest.

No suspects have been charged.

"It is obvious that there is a pattern," said Florence Simbiri-Jaoko, chairwoman of the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The victims "are linked by the fact that they were doing work on extrajudicial killings."

From Kenya: Human rights activists murdered

Days after a senior UN official severely indicted the Kenyan police for killing innocent people, two human rights activists belonging to a vocal organization were executed on Thursday in mysterious circumstances.

Oscar Kamau King'ara, the Executive Director of Oscar Foundation, and John Paul Oulu were driving to meet Kamanda Mucheke of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights at his office when three men caught up with them and shot them at point blank. A University of Nairobi student was also shot dead in riots that ensued after the killing of the two.

The killings happened only hours after the Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua accused the Oscar Foundation of being a civil society front for the banned ultra-traditionalist Mungiki sect. Mungiki, accused of bizarre killings and extortion, had called nationwide protests that paralyzed Kenya's public transport to push for the implementation of the UN officials.

Local and international civil society organizations have reacted angrily to the killing of the activists.

“We know that the Foundation recently met the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings and presented their report on the same,” KNHRC said in a statement. “We believe that statements attributed to the Government Spokesman must be taken very seriously and therefore we demand that an independent inquiry on what he knows about the death.”

Oscar Foundation is a registered charitable organization that offers free legal services to the poor. Some of its major projects include organizing caravans to offer free legal aid to the poor around the country.

KNCHR said the foundation has a strong track record researching corruption in the police force, the prisons, and police brutality against the urban poor. The latest activity was researching and documenting cases of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

Musical Innerlube: Pink Floyd - 'Pigs'

'Welcome to the machine'

Miniskirts and Molotov cocktails

Molotov Mini Skirt Red Plaid Skirt

Cake - 'Short skirt, long jacket'

Global financial reform - The new financiers

By Hazel Henderson

A venture capitalist friend of mine asked me in a recent discussion about the financial meltdown, “who will be the new financiers?” I answered immediately, “the new financiers will be the high-level information and knowledge brokers – and they will aggregate the new research on global change processes and lead in structuring the deals now creating the growing green economy.” Today information and media drive markets.

These new financiers are already operating unseen by traditional Wall Streeters and asset managers. They are largely invisible to current financial players and governments because information is their prime currency; rather than money. The new deal-makers value the role of honest, well-managed currencies that remain dependable stores of value and mediums of exchange.

Money is a special kind of information, not a commodity in itself, but rather a brilliant invention of the human mind. When backed by real-world goods and service, as well as strong contracts, money can accurately track and score human ingenuity, productivity and transactions interacting with the natural wealth of resources of our home: Planet Earth.

The problem with money is keeping it honest and keeping its “promise to pay” firm. From the goldsmiths who over-lent against their piles of gold held in storage for their customers, to the kings who shaved of the edges of coins and today's bankers who create our money out of thin air, we humans have found many ways to debase our currencies.

Human activities grew from traditional barter, mutual aid and gifting to the invention of money back around 3,000 BC. Our money evolved from clay tablets, shells and cows to metal tokens, gold, silver, today's paper money and electronic currencies that are blips on millions of financial trading screens.

As we expanded worldwide with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe 300 years ago, our need to trade and exchange grew exponentially. This required expanding our money systems of exchange. Gold, which backed most currencies in growing international trade, became too constricting – there just wasn't enough of if. Many traders turned to silver and other precious metals. Soon, the lack of gold led governments to issue paper “fiat” currencies backed only by promises and a fraction of actual gold. Some countries shut their “gold windows,” including the USA in 1971, and restricted their citizens from owning gold.

Our current financial crises go beyond those earlier contractions, panics and recessions caused by the lack of gold or sufficient supplies of credible paper money. Central bankers have learned the lessons of the Great Depression. The money supply must keep up with, not surpass, the expansion of production and trading as a country grows and its real economy progresses. Today, the interlinking of all countries' economies due to the globalization of finance and technology caused money-creation to go wild, leading to a credit bubble and mountains of debt.

Computerization of finance and markets speeded up trading to seconds; satellite inter-linkage of round-the-clock stock and commodity exchanges led to the explosion of derivatives contracts, ever more exotic “securitization” of packages of mortgages, student loans and credit card debts. Risk-analysis was relegated to ivory-tower mathematicians' algorithms which ignored real-world conditions. All this multiplied the creation of money and credit exponentially.

Reckless, poorly regulated financial firms on Wall Street sold their dubious, toxic “securities” to gullible investors and pension funds (which should have known better) around the world. For example, the bets on who might default, called credit default swaps, grew unregulated to now comprise $683 trillion of contracts (Bank for International Settlements December 2008) – while real global production measures only the $62 trillion of global GDP (IMF October 2008).

The resulting crises were predicted by me and others over the past decades. All that money and debt creation led to illusory gains and today's inevitable losses and “de-leveraging.” The bubble in finance and money itself has popped. Central bankers and financiers, schooled in the world's leading business schools and economics departments focus on money and global monetary circuitry. They were rarely taught that money was simply one form of information – now deeply devalued as all the new forms of money-creation went wild.

Today, we see central bankers printing money on TV. No amount of ink and paper can print enough new money to close the hole between that $683 trillion of false promises and the world's real GDP of $62 trillion. The only issue is who will take the hit. Up to now, the political influence of financial sectors has forced taxpayers to bail out financiers. The blatant unfairness and stupidity of this has caused huge outcries from outraged citizens. Those billions given to irresponsible bankers could have financed universal healthcare and college education. This is the end of finance based only on money and fiat currencies. We now know it's about priorities and values.

Enter the new financiers: those high-level information and knowledge brokers who understand our Information Age and the great transition from the fossil-fueled Industrial Age to our new Solar Age. Overloaded money-circuits have broken down and the huge new volume of transactions in the past decade have migrated to the internet. Pure information-based exchange and sharing has led to the new hybrid economic model described by experts, including Lawrence Lessig's Remix (2008), Yoichi Benkler's The Wealth of Networks (2007), Don Tapscott's Wikinomics (2008), Verna Allee's Knowledge Evolution (1997) and my own work (

This hybrid economy is half the old money-based competition and half information-based sharing, cooperation and exchange. From electronic stock exchanges, Instinet, Archipelago, NASDAQ, Knight and Entrex to Google, e-Bay, Craigslist, Amazon, Facebook and Wikipedia, we are seeing how money-obsessed financiers are trailing behind. The new financiers: those high-level information brokers go beyond economics to understanding whole systems and the human family on planet Earth.

Money may return to its honest base, reflecting real world values of Main Street productivity, but may never again be the dominant medium of exchange. Just as gold remains valuable but can no longer support the new volume of human transactions. Money will be superseded by all the new digital currencies already circulating from local exchange trading systems (LETS) and complementary currencies like “Berkshares” and “Wirs” in Switzerland to Freecycle and many other barter sites, cell phone networks and radio shows.

Incumbent money-circuit players will try to get regulators to shut down these upstart, disruptive technologies and competitors. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for example, shut down the website which boomed by facilitating local residents and businesses in lending to each other.

The new financiers are operating these new digital trading platforms in many countries. Many designs for global digital currencies are on the way. They will complement the IMF's Special Drawing Rights, another pure information-based currency for international development which is still conceptually tied to gold. The new financiers will show why the old financiers and central bankers can no longer have a monopoly on money and its creation. Information-based currencies and trading platforms will operate wherever necessary for evolving human communities so as to match needs with resources and create jobs – from local and regional to national and international exchange.

Today's financial “crisis” is facilitating the evolutionary jump to the next stage of human development – shifting from faulty, money-measured GDP growth to the cleaner, greener, sustainable economies. Governments are realizing that they must now also correct those money-based indicators and GDP national accounts to adopt the new Quality of Life Indicators. Pension funds have realized their errors in chasing only short-term money returns and are demanding that companies report their performance beyond the old single bottom line of money to the triple bottom line, including progress on social, environmental and governance performance. Welcome to the Information Age.

Hazel Henderson is also author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (2006), co-created the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, updated regularly at, and co-organized the BEYOND GDP conference in the European Parliament, Nov. 2007. For more, Google: US Geothermal, Nevada Power, World Water & Solar, Western Wind and pre-IPO companies, including Solaria, EnVision Solar, and Stirling Energy Systems. The above article is taken from The entire Ethical Markets website is filled with fascinating and inspiring information.

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Leftists poised to win presidency in El Salvador

From Toward Freedom - 9 Mar, 2009 :

After 17 years since the end of El Salvador's civil war, the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) is poised to accomplish what its guerrilla predecessors never did: take over the national government. Reliable polls unanimously project that FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes will win the March 15 presidential elections. What all this means for El Salvador -- and Latin America -- is the subject of the new, in-depth report, "The 2009 El Salvador Elections: Between Crisis and Change."

A victory by Funes would break 20 years of one-party rule by the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), opening a new progressive chapter in the country's long, violent history of war and dictatorships. "The historical importance of the FMLN taking power cannot be overstated for this small Central American country," says Teo Ballvé, a contributor to the report and member of the North American Congress on Latin America.

If the FMLN wins, El Salvador will be joining an ever-growing group of left-leaning governments in Latin America. The arrival of Barack Obama's administration augurs well for the FMLN's aspirations. "In the past, El Salvador has been squarely under Washington's thumb," says Ballvé. "But with Obama in the White House, the country has a better chance of charting a truly independent path."

Although a majority of Salvadorans have high hopes for meaningful social change, a Funes administration will also face tremendous challenges: economic turmoil, grinding poverty, a virulent opposition party, rampant violence, and others. Funes has promised a "people-centered" government to tackle these problems. According to Ballvé, "It won't be easy or quick, but the FMLN has an incredibly strong grassroots movement in its corner to help it fight against the entrenched interests that have blocked reforms in the past."

Topics in the report range from the campaigns and the economy, to militarization and the diplomatic front, and much more. These sections are, in turn, divided into more specific issues, such as free trade, water privatization, Plan Mexico, regional integration, and potential relations with the new Obama administration. This timely report seeks to reflect on El Salvador's current situation as well as the possibilities and challenges ahead at this pivotal moment for the nation's future.

The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), and Upside Down World collectively edited the report.

Scientists able to read people's minds

Steve Connor reports for The Independent :

"It's also a small step toward the idea of mind reading, because just by looking at neural activity, we are able to say what someone is thinking," said Demis Hassabis of University College London.

It may one day be possible to do the same with other types of memories and thoughts, although the possibility of using a mind-reading machine to solve crimes or to fight terrorism is still a distant prospect, Dr Hassabis said.

"It's at least 10 years, probably more, from getting anywhere near that kind of technology, where you could literally read someone's thoughts in a single short session when they don't want you to," he said. "We might be about 10 years away from doing that, so it might be useful to start having those ethical discussions in the near future in preparation for that – but we're still a long way from doing anything practical," Dr Hassabis said.

The study was led by UCL's Professor Eleanor Maguire who had already shown that a small area of the brain behind a region called the hippocampus is enlarged in male taxi drivers who had done "The Knowledge" – memorising the maze of London streets. Professor Maguire trained a different set of male volunteers to navigate themselves through a virtual maze on a computer while their brains were being scanned by a functional MRI machine. "We know that the hippocampus underpins our ability to navigate, to form and recollect memories and how to imagine the future. But how the activity across millions of hippocampal neurons supports the functions is a fundamental question in neuroscience," Professor Maguire said.

The scientists found that certain nerve cells in the brain's hippocampus, called "place cells", became stimulated in definite patterns of activity that the researchers could analyse to guess where in the maze each man imagined himself to be.

"Remarkably, using this technique we found that we could accurately predict the position of an individual within this virtual environment solely from the pattern of activity within their hippocampus," she said.

In contrast, previous research on animals suggested that there were no particular patterns of activity within the nerve cells of the hippocampus that could be used to predict spatial memory. "Our technique, which looks at the picture over many thousands of neurons, shows this cannot be the whole story," Professor Maguire said. "If we're able to predict spatial memories from brain activity, this means there must be a structure to how it is coded in the neurons."

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