Monday, April 6, 2009

Lidl accused of using Stasi tactics to spy on staff

Germany's cut-price supermarket chain Lidl was accused yesterday of using Stasi methods to spy on its staff and collect intimate details about their personal lives, including their relationships, bank accounts and the frequency of their lavatory breaks.

The allegations were published in Stern magazine, which said it had obtained hundreds of pages of surveillance reports compiled on Lidl staff in Germany and the Czech Republic by private detectives contracted to spy on employees.

Stern said the information was collected with miniature cameras that were set up in stores with the excuse that they were needed to deter shoplifters. The magazine said the style of the surveillance was almost identical to that used by the former East Germany's notorious Stasi secret police. One excerpt read: "Wednesday 14.05. Mrs M, wants to make a mobile phone call during her break, but she receives a message telling her that she has only got 85 cents left on her prepaid phone account. She finally manages to get in touch with a girlfriend with whom she would like to cook supper, but she insists that her pay must have reached her bank account by then otherwise she won't have any shopping money."

Another report from a Lidl store in the Czech Republic revealed that women staff members were banned from using the lavatory during their shifts. The only exception were women who were having their period. According to Stern, they were obliged to wear a headband, "visible from a distance", to denote the fact.

Other surveillance report entries included a comment by a detective who made disparaging remarks about a Lidl cashier's "self-made" tattoos. He suggested that she should be asked to cover them up because elderly customers might assume that she got them in prison.

Lidl did not deny the existence of the reports but insisted that they were intended to expose "possible staff misconduct". A spokesman said, however, that the allegations concerning the store in the Czech Republic were "not known to us in reality".

~ more... ~

Mexican President: Drug money has corrupted U.S. politicians

Thousands flee bomb attacks by US drones

American drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people.

The dead and injured included foreign militants, but women and children were also killed when two missiles hit a house in the village of Data Khel, near the Afghan border, according to local officials.

As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.

Kacha Garhi is one of 11 tented camps across Pakistan's frontier province once used by Afghan refugees and now inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis made homeless in their own land.

So far 546,000 have registered as internally displaced people (IDPs) according to figures provided by Rabia Ali, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Maqbool Shah Roghani, administrator for IDPs at the Commission for Afghan Refugees.

The commissioner's office says there are thousands more unregistered people who have taken refuge with relatives and friends or who are in rented accommodation.

Jamil Amjad, the commissioner in charge of the refugees, says the government is running short of resources to feed and shelter such large numbers. A fortnight ago two refugees were killed and six injured in clashes with police during protests over shortages of water, food and tents.

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Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe

The Open Chemical Physics Journal

Volume 2
ISSN: 1874-4125

pp.7-31 (25) Authors: Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones, Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley, Bradley R. Larsen
doi: 10.2174/1874412500902010007

We have discovered distinctive red/gray chips in all the samples we have studied of the dust produced by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Examination of four of these samples, collected from separate sites, is reported in this paper. These red/gray chips show marked similarities in all four samples. One sample was collected by a Manhattan resident about ten minutes after the collapse of the second WTC Tower, two the next day, and a fourth about a week later. The properties of these chips were analyzed using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The red material contains grains approximately 100 nm across which are largely iron oxide, while aluminum is contained in tiny plate-like structures. Separation of components using methyl ethyl ketone demonstrated that elemental aluminum is present. The iron oxide and aluminum are intimately mixed in the red material. When ignited in a DSC device the chips exhibit large but narrow exotherms occurring at approximately 430 °C, far below the normal ignition temperature for conventional thermite. Numerous iron-rich spheres are clearly observed in the residue following the ignition of these peculiar red/gray chips. The red portion of these chips is found to be an unreacted thermitic material and highly energetic.

Keywords: JScanning electron microscopy, X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy, Differential scanning calorimetry, DSC analysis, World Trade Center, WTC dust, 9/11, Iron-rich microspheres, Thermite, Super-thermite, Energetic nanocomposites, Nano-thermite

Affiliation: Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, DK-2100, Denmark.

~ Bentham Open Access ~

Mystery air raid in Sudan

IN THE PAPERS: The international press propose two completely different stories on the mystery air raid in Sudan that took place last month where a convoy of suspected arms smugglers was targeted. Lots in the press about France’s 'le Pentagone'... France has decided to copy the States with their new defence ministry 'le Pentagone' and will be moving 10,000 civil and military service people to a new site

Details have just emerged of a mystery airstrike by unidentified aircraft in Sudan. The attack, in January, hit a convoy of suspected arms smugglers as it drove through Sudan toward Egypt. Two senior Sudabnese politicians say almost everyone in the convoy was killed.
The politicians, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters the strike took place in a remote area in east Sudan but did not say who carried it out.

Media reports in Egypt and the United States have suggested US or Israeli aircraft may have carried out the strike. Sudan's foreign minister Deng Alor told reporters in Cairo on Wednesday he had no information on any attack.

Any public confirmation of a foreign attack would have a major impact in Sudan, where relations with the West are already tense following the International Criminal Court's decision this month to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of Darfur war crimes.

Egyptian independent newspaper Al-Shorouk quoted "knowledgeable Sudanese sources" this week as saying aircraft from the United States were involved in the strike, which it said killed 39 people.

The US Embassy in Khartoum on Thursday declined to comment. Sudan remains on a US list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the State Department has said that Sudan is cooperating with efforts against militant groups.

US-based CBS News, however, reported on its website on Wednesday that its security correspondent had been briefed that Israeli aircraft had carried out an attack in eastern Sudan, targeting an arms delivery to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.

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'Chiefs, Thieves, and Priests'

Science writer Matt Ridley on the causes of poverty and prosperity

Ronald Bailey writes in Reason Online :

Matt Ridley, an Oxford-educated zoologist, turned to journalism in 1983, when he got a job as The Economist's science reporter. He soon became the magazine's Washington correspondent and eventually served as its American editor. This time in the United States had a profound intellectual effect on Ridley, ultimately leading him to become a self-described classical liberal, a “person who believes in economic freedom and social freedom, too.”

Ridley, 50, has written several superb books that combine clear explanations of complex biology with discussions of the science's implications for human society. In The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation (1997), Ridley showed how natural selection led to human morality, including the development of property rights and our propensity to exchange. At the end he warned that government can subvert our natural tendency to cooperate. “We are not so nasty that we need to be tamed by intrusive government, nor so nice that too much government does not bring out the worst in us,” he concluded. Reviewing the book for reason, the UCLA economist Jack Hirshleifer noted that “Ridley leans in the anarchist direction.”

Written just before researchers announced the completed sequencing of the human genome, Ridley's Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (2000) toured our 23 chromosome pairs to illustrate how genes cause disease, direct the production of proteins, and influence intelligence. While pointing out the differential heritability of many human characteristics, Ridley condemned genetic determinism and eugenics as unscientific. “Many modern accounts of the history of eugenics present it as an example of the dangers of letting science, genetics especially, out of control,” he wrote. “It is much more an example of the danger of letting government out of control.” Ridley further deflated genetic determinism in Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human (2003), which explained how genes change their expression in response to environmental influences.

Ridley is now working on a book about how and why progress happens. During a visit to Blagdon Hall, Ridley's home outside Newcastle upon Tyne, I took advantage of the author's weakened state (he had broken his collarbone falling from a horse) to talk about the new book.

reason: What's the book about?

Matt Ridley: My last three or four books have all argued that there is such a thing as an evolved human nature which is true all over the world and has been true throughout history. But something changes. Clearly, my life is completely different from what it would've been if I was an Ice Age hunter-gatherer. Technology changes. Society changes. Prosperity changes.

What I want to do is turn the question on its head and come at it from the point of view of an evolutionary biologist who looks at this species—man—which has a constant nature but has somehow acquired an ever-changing lifestyle. I want to understand what's driving that change. Let's give it the obvious word, even though it's a very unfashionable one: progress. The book is about where progress came from, how it works, and, most important, how long it can continue in the future.

My major themes are specialization, exchange, technology, energy, and then population. Human beings have progressed in material living standards, on the whole, since the Stone Age, but they've also progressed enormously in terms of the number of people on the planet. That's because we got better at turning the energy available into people, and the denser the population has got, the more things we've been able to invent that we wouldn't have been able to invent with a sparse population. For example, if you're going to smelt metals, you need a fairly dense population of customers before it's worth building kilns.

Population density can also lead to reductions in the standard of living. There must be cases in history where people have tried to live at too a high a density for the resources that were available to them. They've either then suffered one of Malthus' positive checks—war, famine, and disease—or, and this is a slightly more original point, they've reduced their division of labor, i.e., they've returned to self-sufficiency.

If you look at the Bronze Age empires in Mesopotamia or Egypt, or the Roman Empire, or some of the Chinese dynasties, at a certain point the population density gets too high for people to be able to generate a surplus of consumption income to support trade and specialization by others, and you have to go back to being self-sufficient. Essentially that's what happened to every surge in productivity, wealth, and technology up to the one that came around 1800, the Industrial Revolution.

At some point there's something you're relying on that gets more and more expensive. If you look at Mesopotamia, it deforested itself. It has to go further and further for wood, for construction. Maybe it's food.

The English Industrial Revolution had been bubbling along very nicely in the 18th century, with fantastic increases of productivity, particularly with respect to cotton textiles. We saw a quintupling of cotton cloth output in two consecutive decades, in the 1780s and 1790s, none of it based on fossil fuels yet but based on water power.

At some point, you run out of dams. You run out of rivers in Lancashire to dam. At some point England would suffer the fate of Holland, or Venice before that, or of China, Egypt, or Japan. What did England do that others didn't? It started using fossil fuels.

By 1870 Britain is consuming the coal equivalent to 850 million human laborers. It could have done everything it did with coal with trees, with timber, but not from its own land. Timber was bound to get more expensive the more you used of it. Coal didn't get more expensive the more you used of it. It didn't get particularly cheaper either, but it didn't get more expensive, so you don't get diminishing returns the more you use of it.

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Swiss slide into deflation signals next chapter of crisis

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports in The Telegraph :

Swiss consumer prices fell 0.4pc in March (year-on-year). Swiss CPI will be minus 1pc at least by July, nearing the level where spending psychology changes. By the time you have a self-feeding spiral, it is too late.

"This is something that we must prevent at all costs. The current situation is extraordinarily serious," said Philipp Hildebrand, a governor of the Swiss National Bank.

The SNB is not easily spooked. It is the world's benchmark bank, the keeper of the monetary flame. Yet even the SNB's hard men have thrown away the rule book, taking emergency action to force down the exchange rate of the Swiss franc.

Here lies the danger. If other countries try to export deflation by this means, we will face a second phase of the global crisis. Taiwan is already devaluing. Korea, Singapore, and Sweden all seem tempted to follow. Japan is chomping at the bit.

"We don't fully realise in the West what a catastrophic collapse Japan has suffered," says Albert Edwards, global strategist at Société Générale. "The West has dumped a large part of its economic downturn onto Japan by devaluing against the yen."

This is about to go into reverse as Tokyo hits the ping-pong ball back across the net. "As the unfolding collapse in the yen gathers pace, the West will see its green shoots incinerated to dust," he said.

~ more... ~

It is feared bird flu could become more frightening

M. Azis Tunny reports in The Jakarta Post :

There is a need to raise awareness of bird flu because of a real threat: It could turn into something much more frightening than the H5N1 virus.

The frightening thing would be if the virus caused a pandemic if  and when it became able to spread among humans, Coordinator of Surveillance and Monitoring at the National Commission on Bird Flu Control and Awareness on Influenza Pandemic (Komnas FBPI) Heru Setijanto said Friday.

Setijanto said Indonesia was currently ranked highest in the world in the number of deaths from bird flu, and was unprepared as to how to deal with a pandemic. 

“The incubation period of the virus is very fast and deadly when contracted by humans. We are
not ready to face a pandemic if the situation arises,” Setijanto told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a national seminar on a Bird Flu Pandemic Response Simulation in Toraja, South Sulawesi. 

He said Indonesia was ill-equipped to face the bird flu pandemic because training was only provided so far to personnel at government ministries and agencies.

“When it turns into a pandemic, it becomes a multi-sector problem and would involve every sector. We are unprepared as of now, especially for other sectors to [cope with] the epidemic,” he said.

According to Setijanto, the bird flu virus will always mutate and this is a cause for grave concern.
When contracted by humans, the incubation period of the H5N1 virus could cause death rapidly, in as little as  five days.

Indonesia so far remains on top of the world chart with the highest number of deaths from H5N1.

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Police 'assaulted' bystander who died during G20 protests

G20 protests: A street-level view of the peaceful gathering that erupted into violence
Link to this video

The man who died during last week's G20 protests was "assaulted" by riot police shortly before he suffered a heart attack, according to witness statements received by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Investigators are examining a series of corroborative accounts that allege Ian Tomlinson, 47, was a victim of police violence in the moments before he collapsed near the Bank of England in the City of London last Wednesday evening. Three witnesses have told the Observer that Mr Tomlinson was attacked violently as he made his way home from work at a nearby newsagents. One claims he was struck on the head with a baton.

Photographer Anna Branthwaite said: "I can remember seeing Ian Tomlinson. He was rushed from behind by a riot officer with a helmet and shield two or three minutes before he collapsed." Branthwaite, an experienced press photographer, has made a statement to the IPCC.

Another independent statement supports allegations of police violence. Amiri Howe, 24, recalled seeing Mr Tomlinson being hit "near the head" with a police baton. Howe took one of a sequence of photographs that show a clearly dazed Mr Tomlinson being helped by a bystander.

A female protester, who does not want to be named but has given her testimony to the IPCC, said she saw a man she later recognised as Tomlinson being pushed aggressively from behind by officers. "I saw a man violently propelled forward, as though he'd been flung by the arm, and fall forward on his head.

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liberty central's civil liberties villain of the week: The Pentagon's privilege review team

Lawyers for Binyam Mohamed face the incredible prospect of a six-month jail sentence in America after writing a letter to President Obama detailing their client's allegations of torture by US agents.

The privilege review team – officials from the US department of defence who monitor and censor communication between Guantánamo prisoners and their lawyers – have previously been accused of using their powers to suppress evidence of the abuse and mistreatment of detainees.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve, and his colleague Ahmed Ghappour have been summoned to appear before a Washington court on May 11 after a complaint was made by the privilege review team.

Stafford Smith had written to the president after judges in the UK ruled against the release of US evidence detailing Mohamed's alleged torture at Guantánamo. The letter [PDF] asked the president to reconsider the US position and urged him to release the evidence into the public domain. He attached a memo summarising the case because his US security clearance gives him access to the classified material. In order to comply with classification guidelines, the memo did not identify individual officers by name or specify locations of the abuse.

He and Gappour submitted the memo to the privilege team for clearance but the memo was redacted to just the title, leaving the president unable to read it. Stafford Smith included the redacted copy of the memo in his letter to illustrate the extent to which it had been censored. He described it as a "bizarre reality". "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command."

The privilege team argue that by releasing the redacted memo Reprieve has breached the rules that govern Guantánamo lawyers and have made a complaint to the court of "unprofessional conduct".

Stafford Smith described their actions as intimidation, saying the complaint "doesn't even specify the rule supposedly breached".

~ The Guardian, 2 April, 2009 ~

Deep Recession in America: The Crash of 2009, The Collapse of 2010

The real economic collapse could come by the end of this year

by Humayun Gauhar

Global Research, 5 April, 2009

Editor's Note

This article is meant to be provocative. Global Research does not necessarily share its conclusions.

Letter to my son

My dear Muhammad Ali:

I told you that it's a funny world getting funnier. Many American analysts are saying that America's real economic collapse could come by the end of this year. "It will come to be known as 'The Crash of 09', they say. Others, especially a Russian political analyst, are predicting its physical collapse too. There's no doubt that the country is up the dirtiest of imaginable creeks without a paddle. But what's amazing is that America remains mired in stunning denial, continuing to make bad situations worse with useless bailout plans and messing around with the world instead of facing up to the reality that its time as a hyper-power is up, that's its economic system has failed and that its only recourse is to end its adversarial doctrine and get out of its lost wars as painlessly and honourably as possible. There's no point in going on flogging dead horses. The only sensible thing that survival demands is to craft a new moral economic and financial system and a moral foreign policy.

The deep recession verging on depression that we have seen so far was caused by the crash in the US housing market. Since other developed industrialised nations, especially of Europe, were aping the shenanigans of unchecked and poorly regulated American bankers and financiers, the collapse of their markets, banks and economies followed like dominoes. Iceland was the first to officially declare bankruptcy. Its GDP is only about $6.5 billion but its banks had lent something like $65 billion while its regulators were asleep on the wheel. Britain has not declared bankruptcy officially but we all know that it is bankrupt for all intents and purposes and none of its banks and financial institutions has any legs left.

However, this is only the aperitif. Wait for the crash of US commercial real estate, which analysts think will happen by autumn this year.

Shops are closing down and there's no one to rent them. Companies are retrenching and freeing up a lot of office space or closing down entirely and vacating even more precious office space with no one to rent it again. Huge skyscrapers are becoming ghost-scrapers.

All this expensive commercial real estate is mortgaged to the hilt. With no rental income coming in, the loans against them will become difficult to service and there will be fearsome default. There's insurance and re-insurance here also and the amounts involved are mind-boggling. No bailout plan would come even close to coping.

When the commercial real estate collapse comes, all hell will break loose. And if multinationals like General Motors and Ford call it a day, it won't just be thousands upon thousands of people unemployed (though its heartless to use the word 'just' here). Two entire towns will be become ghost towns. That's terrible. If you count the number of people - wives, children and parents - who are dependent on those incomes, it becomes worse than terrible. It becomes absolutely and totally unconscionable, while corrupt and greedy bankers and the likes of Bernie Madoff have made off with billions - perhaps trillions - of dollars and are still doing so because "our contracts say so."

Then there is Professor Igor Nikolavich Panarin whom I came across in a December 2008 article by Andrew Osborne of the Wall Street Journal no less, not some fly-by-night rag. If he has got it right, next year will come to be known as 'The Collapse of 2010' for that is when the USA will disintegrate into six separate entities. Those six entities, says Prof Panarin, are The California Republic, The Central North American Republic, Atlantic America, The Texas Republic, Hawaii and Alaska going back to Russia.

With millions of Chinese living on America's eastern seaboard (The People's Daily's circulation there alone is over five million) The California Republic, Prof Panarin thinks, will either be part of China or come under Chinese influence. The Central North American Republic will be part of Canada or under Canadian influence, Atlantic America may join the European Union, The Texas Republic will be part of Mexico or under Mexican influence and Hawaii will go either to Japan or China.

Prof Panarin is a former KGB analyst and a Russian professor of political science, Dean of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs Diplomatic Academy in Moscow and author of several books on geopolitics. Thus one can hardly call him a fruitcake. Actually, he first made this prediction not after the economic meltdown that started last year but in Linz, Austria, in September 1998 in front of 400 delegates at a conference devoted to information warfare and the use of data to get an edge over a rival. Of course it was received with consternation. "When I pushed the button on my computer and the map of the United States disintegrated, hundreds of people cried out in surprise," he says. Later, many delegates asked him to sign copies of the map. Its like when the French political scientist Emmanuel Todd made his famous forecast in 1976 about the collapse of the Soviet Union 15 years before it actually did and many people laughed. But Todd had the last laugh.

Prof Panarin doesn't say that America's collapse is a forgone conclusion. "There's a 55-45 percent chance right now that disintegration will occur," he says. But if it comes it will be driven by three factors - "mass immigration, economic decline and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar.

Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the US will break into six pieces... He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the US. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the Union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The US will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in." All we Pakistanis thus have to do is hang in there and soon America will not be meddling in our affairs any more, what to talk of General Patraeus's adviser David Kilcullen saying that Pakistan could fall apart in five or six months.

It's not easy to comprehend the collapse of an empire or a superpower. When termites are eating away at their vitals for years one cannot see it. People are too much in thrall of their power, wealth and panoply. Thus when the collapse comes it seems sudden, and takes people by surprise. "I went to sleep last night and when I woke up next morning the Soviet Union was gone." The most powerful war machine ever built couldn't save it. Remember the British Empire on which "the sun would never set"? It set so firmly that only six decades later Britain is not only bankrupt, it has become America's appendage, a third rate power and could itself disintegrate soon with Scotland seceding. The history of the world is replete with the demise of civilisations, empires and superpowers. The graveyards of nations are full of their bones.

That there may be something to what Prof Panarin says is borne out by the fact that the late Bush Administration made contingency plans to impose martial law in case of economic collapse or massive and violent social unrest with blood on the streets.

His predictions seem plausible, even probable, if all the dire scenarios come right, as they have thus far. According to Rand Clifford the US has already made plans to "round up insurgent US citizens" and detain them in what are called "Rex 84" camps. Plus they have made "safe facilities" for members of Congress and their families. A report by the Phoenix Business Journal says: "A new report by the US Army and War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks." The Journal's story quote from the War College report: "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defence establishment to reorient priorities in extremist to defend basic domestic order and human security." It needs saying that the military regularly makes plans for the most dire of situations, however seemingly unlikely.

Let Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and an early supporter of Barack Obama have the last word. The US is "going to have millions and millions of unemployed people really facing dire straits. And we're going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there's public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America...hell there could even be riots."

The writer is a senior political analyst  E-mail:

~ Centre for Research on Globalization ~

Immigrants found living in Rome sewers

ROME, April 4 (UPI) -- Police in Rome say they have found more than 100 people, including 24 children, living in the city's sewers.

The children, who were said to be Afghans ranging in age from 10-15, were taken into custody and were being cared for by the city's social services, the BBC reported Saturday.

Railway police started searching the sewer system after receiving reports of children living near railway stations. The children apparently got into the sewers by removing manhole covers, the British network said.

Police said they believe the children arrived as stowaways on trucks arriving from Turkey and Greece.

A charity organization, Save the Children Italy, says more than 1,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Rome last year from Asia, Africa and Latin America, the BBC reported.

Police also recently found illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and China living 20 or more to a room in the city.

~ UPI ~

Why King was assassinated

The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The FBI vs. Social Justice

Every year, Martin Luther King's contribution to the moral character of the United States becomes clearer and clearer.

What also becomes clearer is the power and ruthlessness of the forces he was opposing.

The probability that King was killed by forces within the US government becomes clearer every day too.

The elite's worst fear is that people will overlook minor racial and social differences and not only understand how they're being screwed but also join together to do something about it.

No one had a clearer voice on this subject than King which is why his life was snuffed out.

Brasscheck TV ~

Between sex and war: A review of Operation Lysistrata

By Judith Mahoney Pasternak
From the 20
March, 2009 issue

NO SEX FOR YOU: Women in Tokyo (top) and New York City (bottom) perform readings of the play Lysistrata in 2003 as a way to protest the attack on Iraq. PHOTOS: AQUAPIOFILMS.COM

Operation Lysistrata
Directed By Michael Patrick Kelly
Aquapio Films
Available on DVD From

A sparrow lies on his back in the middle of the highway. A passing horseman asks what he’s doing, and the sparrow answers, “I heard that the sky was falling, so I’m holding it up.”

“Do you really believe you can hold up the sky with those little legs?” asks the horseman.

“We do what we can,” says the sparrow.

Operation Lysistrata begins with the fable of the sparrow, related by Arab-American actor F. Murray Abraham. It goes on to tell the exuberant story of how, on the eve of war in 2003, two women in New York City organized an unprecedented “world-wide theatrical act of dissent.”

In January 2003, the Bush administration was rattling its sabers and trying to persuade the nation and the world that attacking Iraq was a good thing. On the other side of the political fence, antiwar activists were organizing to demonstrate against the war, and it was from that side that actors Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower imagined a different kind of protest. They decided to stage a call to resist in the form of a reading of Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ hilarious and wildly bawdy account of a sex strike by the women of Greece to force the Greek men to end the Peloponnesian War. Then Blume and Bower wondered if anyone else, anywhere else, wanted to hold another reading, and the Lysistrata Project was born. On March 3, after nearly two months of non-stop international emails, phone calls, and website postings, more than 1,000 performances or readings from Lysistrata took place in 59 countries.

Videos and film from many of those events, along with interviews with Blume, Bower and other wellknown, lesser-known and amateur actors, have been put together to make up Operation Lysistrata, the documentary.

Playwright Tony Kushner and Living Theater co-founder Judith Malina discuss the worldwide significance of the Lysistrata Project. A woman in Singapore describes a reading that neatly evaded a local law banning political gatherings or protests by more than three people. A teenager in the Midwest United States re-enacts the performance he put on in his living room, with his collection of plastic dinosaurs taking all the parts. A group of Chinese actors reading the play are reluctant to reveal their names, or even to say where in China they’re holding the event. Kurdish refugees in a refugee camp in Patras, Greece, hold a reading by candlelight when their electricity fails, and an actor in Havana talks about the importance of theater as protest.

And from across the globe, large and small casts of embrace-evading women and men wearing rubber or plastic or leather phalluses romp across stages, repeating Aristophanes’ descriptions of men making war and women doing what they can to stop it, even if doing what they can consists of reluctantly refusing to participate in “the sweetest thing in all the world.”

~ The Indypendent ~

Icaria, Greece: the last Blue Zone in the world?

From It was a big Blue Zones day :

Students look to participate in Buettner's quest to Icaria, Greece

Albert Lea students will soon have the opportunity to take part in Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner's upcoming quest to Icaria, Greece, as he explores what could possibly be the last Blue Zone in the world.

Throughout the day Thursday, Buettner, a Minnesota-native, visited Albert Lea's schools, inviting at least 1,500 students to participate via the Internet in a live expedition of the quest.

Buettner explained there will be daily content, including videos, written dispatches, photographs and other opportunities online where the students can vote to direct the team's decisions as they unlock longevity's secrets.

His quest begins April 20 and goes through May 1.

During his visit to Southwest Middle School Thursday, Buettner explained he has traveled all over the world and thus far identified four Blue Zones, or areas where people live the longest, most-fulfilling lives. He's learned that all of those people, no matter where they live, all follow certain simple principles that put them on a path to a longer life.

He explained many of the characteristics he's found that the people in each Blue Zone have.

In Sardinia, Italy, the people live in an environment where it's easy to move, he said. They do exercise without thinking of it.

Instead of going home to watch their televisions at night, they build their social circles. They also have a different attitude toward aging, among other reasons, he said.

In Okinawa, Japan, the second Blue Zone, the people have the longest and healthiest life expectancy in the world, Buettner said. There are five times as many centenarians.

How is this so?

The people there live off of a plant-based diet, eating lots of food made of tofu and beans. Before every meal, they say three words — “hari hachi bu” — that reminds them to stop eating when they're 80 percent full.

Also, when Okinawans are 5, their parents match them with a handful of other 5-year-old children, he said. That group meets together often and travels through life together. They are there for the good times and the bad.

He also pointed out that Okinawans believe in knowing what they're good at and sharing those talents.

~ more... ~

The Greek of Bollywood

Greek Hollywood Reporter met and interviewed the director of the Indian Film Festival of Hollywood, Christina Marouda. Yes she is Greek, and specifically from Crete.

I'll have a "draught dodger!"

Canadian Parliament votes again to let U.S. war resisters stay

By Mike Ferner

April 04, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- -For the second time in 10 months, Canada's House of Commons told Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, including Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, to stop deporting U.S. soldiers resisting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vote united the three opposition parties, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party in a close 129-125 vote.

Last week, the War Resisters Support Campaign rallied for former Army soldier, Kimberly Rivera, the first female U.S. soldier to go to Canada. Nearly 100 people filled the chairs and lined the aisles at the Steelworkers hall in Toronto for Rivera, her husband and three children, the youngest born in Canada six months ago.

The morning after the March 25 rally, Rivera was due to be deported back to the U.S. to face an Army court martial, but Federal Judge James Russell agreed with Rivera's argument that resisters who speak out against the war publicly in Canada receive harsher sentences, and granted her a temporary stay.

“This was the fifth time that the court ruled that Iraq war resisters face harsher punishment if they're sent back to the U.S.,” said Michelle Robidoux, spokesperson for the Toronto-based support campaign. “The courts have spoken, Parliament has spoken and Canadians have made their views clear. These conscientious objectors should not be sent back to the United States to face jail time for opposing the Iraq War.”

~ more... ~

Lawsuit filed against Spain's ex-PM over Iraq

Fiona Govan reports for the Telegraph :

A private lawsuit is to be presented at the nation's highest court on Friday accusing the former ally of Tony Blair and George W Bush of responsibility for taking the country to war.

The suit, filed by the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) and a group called "Trial of Aznar" and signed by 22,000 members of the public, also names the previous administration's ministers of defence and foreign affairs, Federico Trillo and Ana Palacio, as those responsible for supporting the intervention in Iraq.

It alleges that the Madrid train bombing on March 11, 2004 by Islamists was a direct result of Spain's decision to send troops to the Middle Eastern country.

It claims that Spain's involvement in the war was "total and absolute", not only militarily but also "politically and logistically", as evidenced by meetings between Mr Aznar, US President George W Bush, and Tony Blair before the March 2003 invasion.

~ more... ~

[ via Information Clearing House ]

Torture: America's brutal prisons

This program shows that abuses like those documented in Abu Ghraib are commonplace in the USAs overcrowded and understaffed prisons. Prisoners are shackled and hooded for their own protection; pepper spray is used as an alternative to physical force, but in sufficient quantities to cause second-degree burns; beatings are frequent and sometimes fatal. The program suggests that the cause is not a few bad apples, but a pervasive culture of dehumanization and brutality.


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