Friday, May 21, 2010

Google Street View cams collected private content from WiFi networks

Google's roaming Street View cameras have been doing more than snap pics of your neighborhood; they've also been collecting packets of information sent over private WiFi networks, the company acknowledged Friday.

The company said the collection was “a mistake,” the result of a programming error, and that it has now stopped collecting the data, according to a post on its blog.

But the revelation raises questions about whether the company violated federal wiretapping laws in collecting the information and could draw scrutiny from U.S. regulators.

Last month, regulators with the Data Protection Authority in Germany asked the search giant what information its Street View cameras collected and what it did with that information.

Google disclosed at the time that in addition to taking pictures, its camera system collected certain data about local WiFi networks set up in neighborhoods where the cameras traveled. That data included the SSID (the network's name) and the MAC address (a unique number given to each WiFi router) and was collected to improve the location-based services it offers consumers.

The company asserted, however, that it did not collect or store “payload data” — that is, web surfing data or the content of e-mails, transmitted over WiFi networks.

The DPA asked to examine the WiFi network data Google collected. The request prompted Google to take a closer look at the data itself, whereby the company discovered that it was indeed collecting snippets of information passing over WiFi networks and therefore its previous statement was incorrect.

The company wrote in an update on Friday that “it's now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products.”

~ more ~

Friday, May 14, 2010

Housing as a human right

By Bill Quigley, Counterpunch

May has seen an upsurge in local organizations exercising their human rights to housing.  Most people recognize that international human rights guarantee all humans a right to housing.  With the millions of homeless living in our communities and the millions of empty foreclosed houses all across our communities, groups have decided to put them together.

Organizations across the US are engaging in “housing liberation” and “housing defense” to exercise their human rights to housing.   Here are a few examples.

Madison

In Madison Wisconsin, the grass-roots organization Operation Welcome Home helped Desiree Wilson, 24, a mother with small children to move into a vacant house, hook up utilities and change the locks, according to nbc15.com in Madison.  The home was vacant due to foreclosure.  Bank of America owns the home now.   “It's not against the law, “said Ms. Wilson. “This is above the law.  It's just so much bigger than me.  Housing is a human right.”

Operation Welcome Home held a press conference criticizing the billions of dollars in bailouts to mortgage lenders.  “We're asking them to turn over the property to the community whose tax dollars are funding what they are doing.”  One of the spokespersons for the group, Z!Haukness, reminded people that “housing is a human right, no matter what income, no matter what rental history.”  The group plans more “liberations” of other vacant property.

A local land trust, Madison Area Community Land Trust, says if the activists convince the bank to donate the home the trust can find the resources to turn it into affordable housing.  Taking over the vacant foreclosed property is “a brave move” says Michael Carlson of the Madison trust.  Carlson told the Madison Cap Times “They're compelling the citizens of Dane County to confront the very real contradictions in the way we provide housing – massive surpluses in the market that led to a collapse in credit and simultaneously people without shelter and permanent affordable housing.”

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The Great American Bubble Machine

By  Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.

By now, most of us know the major players. As George Bush's last Treasury secretary, former Goldman CEO Henry Paulson was the architect of the bailout, a suspiciously self-serving plan to funnel trillions of Your Dollars to a handful of his old friends on Wall Street. Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's former Treasury secretary, spent 26 years at Goldman before becoming chairman of Citigroup — which in turn got a $300 billion taxpayer bailout from Paulson. There's John Thain, the asshole chief of Merrill Lynch who bought an $87,000 area rug for his office as his company was imploding; a former Goldman banker, Thain enjoyed a multi-billion-dollar handout from Paulson, who used billions in taxpayer funds to help Bank of America rescue Thain's sorry company. And Robert Steel, the former Goldmanite head of Wachovia, scored himself and his fellow executives $225 million in golden-parachute payments as his bank was self-destructing. There's Joshua Bolten, Bush's chief of staff during the bailout, and Mark Patterson, the current Treasury chief of staff, who was a Goldman lobbyist just a year ago, and Ed Liddy, the former Goldman director whom Paulson put in charge of bailed-out insurance giant AIG, which forked over $13 billion to Goldman after Liddy came on board. The heads of the Canadian and Italian national banks are Goldman alums, as is the head of the World Bank, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, the last two heads of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — which, incidentally, is now in charge of overseeing Goldman — not to mention …

But then, any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

~ more... ~

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mass arrest of NH demonstrators: Some ideas for constructive response



Sponsor: http://FreeKeene.com - Some more thoughts regarding the largest-ever mass arrest of Free Staters...

Safety Dance parody



Very funny 'literal' video subvert of the Men Without Hats song, "The Safety Dance."

Spain judge to face trial over Civil War probe

By Inmaculada Sanz - Reuters

MADRID: Spanish high-profile judge Baltasar Garzon will face trial on charges of exceeding his authority for ordering an investigation into killings committed during the Civil War, court officials said on Wednesday.

Garzon, who won fame for his attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights abuses, stands accused of improperly investigating alleged crimes carried out under the dictatorship of Spain's Francisco Franco.

The decision to put Garzon on trial will lead to the Spanish judges' governing body, the CGPJ, temporarily suspending Garzon from his duties at the high court, the court said. It is still not known when the trial will start.

The proceedings stem from a lawsuit brought against Garzon by the rightist union Manos Limpias, who were later joined by the group Libertad e Identidad and the far-right Falange party, which was powerful during the Civil War but is now marginalised.

Garzon ordered an investigation in October 2008 into the forced disappearance of more than 100,000 people during the 1936-39 civil war and the ensuing dictatorship of Franco, at the request of the victims' families.

Suspects may not be tried in Spain for crimes committed more than 30 years ago. Franco died in 1975, and the crimes under investigation were perpetrated in the 1930s and 1040s.

He later dropped the probe following criticism by state prosecutors, but passed responsibility for exhuming mass graves to regional courts.

This week, the International Criminal Court in The Hague offered Garzon a position as a consultant for seven months to improve its investigative methods. Garzon, who has already assisted the ICC prosecutor in an ongoing preliminary examination in Colombia, had asked for a transfer to work at the ICC, the world's first permanent tribunal set up to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Judge Garzon's extensive experience in investigating massive crimes committed by States and non state organisations will be a great contribution to my office," Moreno-Ocampo said.

Garzon faces two other Spanish Supreme Court enquiries: one for bugging corruption suspects linked to the opposition Popular Party, and another for dropping an investigation into the head of Spain's biggest bank Santander after receiving payments for giving courses sponsored by the bank in New York.

~ Link ~


From Baltasar Garzón's profile on Speak Truth to Power:

...My work is dangerous mostly in matters of terrorism, and also counterterrorism, meaning state terrorism, or death squads, against organized terrorism. I’ve had to order the vice minister of the Interior taken into custody, along with the heads of the antiterrorist police. I’ve also prosecuted cases against the leaders of the antidrug police, of the civil police, because there were many cases of bribery. My work regarding Spanish problems is mostly dedicated to cases of terrorism, political terrorism, pro-independence terrorist acts, Islamic terrorism. But mostly, ETA terrorism, which is the Basque organization from northern Spain.

I have received many death threats, but you get used to it. Threats have never changed my mind. Threats mainly come when I investigate cases of drug trafficking, from Colombia or Turkey, with heroin. One time when I felt a great deal of pressure was when I opened up the cases of counterterrorism, death squads. People broke into my house and left a banana peel on top of my bed. At the time, accusations appeared charging me with misuse of government funds. They had all these receipts, some real, others bogus. Luckily I was able to prove the accusations were false. (Ever since then I keep meticulous records of every single thing I purchase.) But such accusations continued until I went to the Attorney General and asked that he investigate me, so everything would be clear. That’s when the banana appeared. The banana peel was a sign to me that they could do whatever they wanted with my family; a Mafia-style warning. If they had access to the most intimate room in my home, my bedroom, that meant they could go anywhere undetected. On that Saturday, our family was out of the house, but our home is under surveillance by television cameras and a policeman twenty-four hours a day. A week later, a journalist phoned me. Since nothing had happened, nor had I said anything, or denounced anything, somebody had phoned this journalist and told the journalist the story that somebody broke into our home and left a banana peel on the bed. So the journalist phones me and says, "Did you see a banana peel on top of your bed a week ago?" I answered, "No, what are you talking about? I haven’t seen anything." That evening, while having dinner with my wife and kids, I said to my wife, "It’s such nonsense, this journalist pretends a week ago there was a banana peel on our bed." And my wife became pale. I said, "What’s wrong, aren’t you feeling well?" And she said that on that same Saturday, when she and her sister came back from shopping, they found this banana peel on the bed. But they didn’t give any importance to it, because they thought one of the kids had left it. They threw it in the garbage and thought that was it. So we realized it was true, that they had broken in, they had broken the key lock of the house, the cameras were broken, they were not working, and yes, we were frightened.

Despite the pressures, it is very clear to me that I have a job to do. The rest is peripheral. I can’t allow these things to change my life. I am voluntarily where I am. These problems are included in the job description. I’m not cavalier. I take precautions. I’m aware there’s a risk. I do my best to stay at home as much as possible. I don’t go to public places very often. When I go with one of my kids to the cinema, I never follow the same route. So I have measures that are almost ingrained after twelve years and I do my best so that this does not affect me. I’m lucky because my wife has always supported me. And even when I have had doubts about myself, it has been my wife who has stopped me and said, "You can’t have doubts about anything, you can’t be weak, you must go on." We have both talked a lot to the kids about this commitment that we feel, that our life is this way, and that there are risks, but we have to take them. When I abandoned politics as an independent deputy, to return to being a judge, my eldest daughter came and embraced me, saying, "Daddy, I support you and I like you more as a judge." One of the things we’ve made clear to our children—as I was taught as a kid in my family—is that this is a job, that somebody has to do this job, and that I have decided to take this job with total freedom and absolute responsibility. I explain that I could earn much more somewhere else, but money isn’t everything. This job is something that society needs, and I have to do it. For me, social commitment is very important, almost vital.

All my education stressed that in good times or in bad times you always have to face problems, not run away from them. Sometimes you can be wrong, you can make mistakes. But I accept the responsibilities of my actions. Because what you cannot do is what many people do, you cannot pretend that these problems are not your problems. I believe that a judge must live in society, must deal with the problems in society, and must deal directly with the problems of society, must face them. We have good, strong laws both domestic and international. Yet nobody seems to apply them. They say, "Well, this is something that is maybe different from what I’m used to." The world’s problems seem to be only problems that you watch on TV, then you keep on having dinner, and then you go to sleep. This does not mean that I feel I am Mother Teresa—I wish I were! But it does mean that if a case comes to me, I must apply all the laws and extend the application of law to benefit the case. We cannot say that, "I only take account of what happens in my country, and what happens beyond the borders does not affect me." That would be a nineteenth-century approach. The key issue is that the victims, those massacred as a result of those crimes against humanity, need protection...


Thousands rally for Spanish judge Garzon


MADRID — Thousands rallied across 28 Spanish cities Saturday to protest the trial of crusading judge Baltasar Garzon, as a rights group warned targeting him would undermine EU efforts to combat abuses.

Garzon, who ordered the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 under the principle of "universal jurisdiction" which held that grave crimes committed abroad can be tried in Spain, now faces two court cases himself.

Earlier this month he was indicted for exceeding his authority by opening an investigation in 2008 into crimes committed by General Francisco Franco's regime in Spain that were covered by an amnesty.

Garzon also appeared before the Supreme Court in Madrid last week in a suspected bribery case involving payments he allegedly received for seminars in the United States.

Thousands joined an evening rally in Madrid which drew Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar as well as other artists and celebrities.

"Fascists get out of the courts," "Universal justice," and "More judges like Garzon," they cried marching out from the centre of the capital. Some help up black and white photographs of people who had disappeared during the Franco era.

Toni Garcia, one of the organisers, said a 1977 amnesty law should be scrapped as it prevented "investigations into crimes against humanity" during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and Franco's ensuing iron-fisted rule which ended only in 1975.

Hundreds turned out in the Spanish cities of Jaen, Valencia and Las Palmas in the Canary islands to protest at the "impunity of the Franco regime" and at what they said was a bid to turn Garzon into a criminal.

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The Man Who Unearthed 200 Mass Graves in Spain

”The three rights of victims are truth, justice and reparations, and these have not been forthcoming” in the case of the roughly 200,000 victims of murder and forced disappearance during the war and the 1939-1975 dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, Etxeberria said.

”I don't think we'll find them all, it's impossible,” he added.

With the passage of the ”law on historical memory” in 2000 and a lawsuit filed by a son who had lost his father, Etxeberria began to excavate in Priaranza del Bierzo in the northern province of León. The bodies of 13 civilians shot by firing squad at the start of the war were unearthed. It was the first scientific excavation of mass graves carried out in Spain, nearly 70 years after the war began.

With virtually no political or financial support, the team of experts led by the professor of forensic medicine from the University of the Basque Country in northern Spain has included dozens of volunteers from around the world.

According to Etxeberria, the law was an attempt to ”move from truth to reparations, but no one wants to get involved in the justice aspect.” No one, that is, except for Judge Garzón who, based on this investigation, launched an unprecedented legal inquiry in 2008 into the fate of the victims of Franco-era crimes -- a probe that has now landed him in the dock.

The so-called ”superjudge” has been accused by right-wing groups of overreaching his judicial powers by ordering the investigation of the mass graves, which they say violated the amnesty law passed by the Spanish parliament in 1977, two years after Franco's death.

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Spanish judge resumes torture case against six senior Bush lawyers

The Spanish newspaper Público reported exclusively on Saturday that Judge Baltasar Garzón is pressing ahead with a case against six senior Bush administration lawyers for implementing torture at Guantánamo.

Back in March, Judge Garzón announced that he was planning to investigate the six prime architects of the Bush administration’s torture policies — former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; John Yoo, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who played a major role in the preparation of the OLC’s notorious “torture memos”; Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy; William J. Haynes II, the Defense Department’s former general counsel; Jay S. Bybee, Yoo’s superior in the OLC, who signed off on the August 2002 “torture memos”; and David Addington, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff.

In April, on the advice of the Spanish Attorney General Cándido Conde-Pumpido, who believes that an American tribunal should judge the case (or dismiss it) before a Spanish court even thinks about becoming involved, prosecutors recommended that Judge Garzón should drop his investigation. As CNN reported, Mr. Conde-Pumpido told reporters that Judge Garzón’s plans threatened to turn the court “into a toy in the hands of people who are trying to do a political action.”

On Saturday, however, Público reported that Judge Garzón had accepted a lawsuit presented by a number of Spanish organizations — the Asociación Pro Dignidad de los Presos y Presas de España (Organization for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners), Asociación Libre de Abogados (Free Lawyers Association), the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (Association for Human Rights in Spain) and Izquierda Unida (a left-wing political party) — and three former Guantánamo prisoners (the British residents Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes, and Sami El-Laithi, an Egyptian freed in 2005, who was paralyzed during an incident involving guards at Guantánamo).

The newspaper reported that all these groups and individuals would take part in any trial, which is somewhat ironic, as, although Judge Garzón has been involved in high-profile cases that have delighted human rights advocates — his pursuit of General Pinochet, for example — he has been severely criticized for his heavy-handed approach to terrorism-related cases in Spain (as in the cases of Mohammed Farsi and Farid Hilali, amongst others), and, in fact, aggressively pursued an extradition request for both Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes on their return from Guantánamo to the UK in December 2007, in connection with spurious and long-refuted claims about activities related to terrorism, which he was only persuaded to drop in March 2008.

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Who is Baltasar Garzón, and why should we care?

Here comes the Judge...

Spanish Central Criminal High Court Judge, Baltasar Garzón, has always relentlessly pursued the Bad Guy. Even across decades and beyond borders. And without benefit of a nearby phone booth.

In his twenty-two years as one of Spain´s chief criminal magistrates, Garzón has reiteratively received mass media attention for intrepidly going after the largest of quarries -- the heretofore "untouchable" capos, dictators, and corrupt politicians that no one dared to cross-- and has since become something of a living legend -- a crusader -- to be admired or loathed, according to which side of the Law you happen to live on.

In his own country, among many other examples, he has headed mutiple judicial investigations that eventually put an end to two major Spanish drug cartels and insistently pounded, until severely weakening, Basque terrorism by ingenously attacking the root of the problem through systematic shutdowns of businesses and newspapers that nurtured the radicals by direct or indirect financing, or by acting as "ha ha ha freedom of speech" propaganda vehicles for violent nationalist ideologies.

Politically left-wing and an ambitious, committed idealist by nature, he has been a driving force in the uncovering of a huge right-wing corruption case -- the so-called Caso Gürtel -- involving several major office-holding politicians from the conservative Partido Popular last year, but, prior to that, in 1993, and lest someone should cry "partiality", he undertook investigations that would implicate his own correligionaries in PSOE (Spanish Socialist Worker´s Party) by blowing open an eighties government counterterrorism operation, GAL, that had involved, most notoriously, the kidnapping of an innocent French citizen who was held hostage for ten days after being "confused" with a leader of Euskadi Ta Akatasuna (ETA), the Basque terrorist group, and original objective of the government-planned abduction.

His investigations were key to the party´s public humiliation and consequent downfall in the Spanish general elections in 1996 after the media attention generated by the case caused severe indignation and outrage among Spaniards.

But when Garzón made international headlines in October of 1998 for having Chilean former dicatator, Augusto Pinochet, arrested in the UK and nearly extradited to Spain for Crimes Against Humanity, the planet suddenly wasn´t big enough for Garzón and the bad guys both: genocides and dictators everywhere immediately felt a lot less, well, Impune, with a capital I.

Garzón had found a greater scope for his calling and, pistol still smoking after the point made with Pinochet, in 2005, he established a judicial precedent that would ultimately allow for Adolfo Scilingo, a military official during the Argentinian dictatorship, to be condemned to 1,084 years in prison for multiple assasinations in the 1970´s -- some being the result of the infamous "death flights" in which drugged political dissidents were executed by being thrown out of planes in the middle of the ocean.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Musical Innerlube: Brian Eno & Nitin Sawhney - 'Soundbites'



Live collaborative performance from the "Stop The War" benefit concert, organized by Brian Eno.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 13 bankers who control Washington



Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF and James Kwak, a former consultant for Mckinsey & Company, have written a book detailing a number of financial institutions and bankers whom they believe control Washingtons monetary policies. They argue banks should have limited assets and not receive federal bailouts because it encourages the too big to fail mentality. RT Correspondent Anastasia Churkina is live in New York to discuss the book.

~ See also: MIT’s Simon Johnson discusses new book '3 Bankers' ~

Afghanistan's My Lai Massacre

When Charlie Company's Lt. William Calley ordered and encouraged his men to rape, maim and slaughter over 400 men, women and children in My Lai in Vietnam back in 1968, there were at least four heroes who tried to stop him or bring him and higher officers to justice. One was helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson Jr., who evacuated some of the wounded victims, and who set his chopper down between a group of Vietnamese and Calley's men, ordering his door gunner to open fire on the US soldiers if they shot any more people. One was Ron Ridenhour, a soldier who learned of the massacre and began a private investigation, ultimately reporting the crime to the Pentagon and Congress. One was Michael Bernhardt, a soldier in Charlie Company, who witnessed the whole thing and reported it all to Ridenhour. And one was journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the story in the US media.

Today's war in Afghanistan also has its My Lai massacres. It has them almost weekly, as US warplanes bomb wedding parties or homes "suspected" of housing terrorists that turn out to house nothing but civilians. But these My Lais are all conveniently labeled accidents. They get filed away and forgotten as the inevitable "collateral damage" of war. There was, however, a massacre recently that was not a mistake - a massacre, which, while it only involved fewer than a dozen innocent people, bears the same stench as My Lai. It was the execution-style slaying of eight handcuffed students, aged 11-18, and a 12-year-old neighboring shepherd boy who had been visiting the others in Kunar Province on December 26.

Sadly, no principled soldier with a conscience like pilot Thompson tried to save these children. No observer had the guts of a Bernhardt to report what he had seen. No Ridenhour among the other serving US troops in Afghanistan has investigated this atrocity or reported it to Congress. And no American reporter has investigated this war crime the way Hersh investigated My Lai.

There is a Hersh for the Kunar massacre, but he's a Brit. While American reporters, like the anonymous journalistic drones who wrote "CNN's" December 29 report on the incident took the Pentagon's initial cover story - that the dead were part of a secret bomb squad - at face value, Jerome Starkey, a dogged reporter in Afghanistan working for the Times of London and the Scotsman, talked to other sources - the dead boys' headmaster, other townspeople and Afghan government officials - and found out the real truth about a gruesome war crime - the execution of handcuffed children. And while a few news outlets in the US like The New York Times did mention that there were some claims that the dead were children, not bomb makers, none, including CNN, which had bought and run the Pentagon's lies unquestioningly, bothered to print the news update when, on February 24, the US military admitted that in fact the dead were innocent students. Nor has any US corporate news organization mentioned that the dead had been handcuffed when they were shot. Starkey reported the US government's damning admission. Yet still the US media remain silent as the grave.

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Russia and the Central Asian drug trade: The role of Kyrgyztan

By Alexander Barentsev, Global Research

A drug trafficking campaign is being conducted against Russia on a broad scale affecting all spheres of its political, social and economic life. Kyrgyzstan plays an important role in this campaign. There are ten main routes of heroin traffic from Afghanistan (occupied by the US forces) with six of them crossing the Kyrgyz city of Osh, an important hub of Afghan drug traffic.

[ ... ]

Since 2008 the number of Kyrgyz citizens, detained on Russian territory for illegal sales of drugs has increased. In early 2009 alone, almost five tons of drugs were confiscated, including 480 kg of heroin and 2680 kg of hashish. The detainees were mainly Kyrgyz citizens and ethnic Kazakhs who carried Russian passports. According to the Deputy Director of the Agency for Drug Control of Kyrgyzstan Vitali Orozaliev, drug traffic via Kyrgyzstan is constantly growing and in 2009 it doubled on the previous year.

"Drug dealers have huge financial resources, - Orzaliev says, - and they receive detailed information from corrupt law enforcement agency officials about forthcoming operations against them". The average salary of an anti-narcotic agency officer in Kyrgyzstan is $150, and if drug dealers offer them $50,000-100,000 for his cooperation, this deal will be hard to refuse”, Orzoliyev stresses. He adds that drug trafficking is a very profitable business. If in Afghanistan a kilo of heroin is available at $1,200-1,300, in Kyrgyzstan the price rises to $4,000-5,000 per kg, while in Russia it shoots up to $45,000 per kg.

“We are witnessing a merger of the drug business with law enforcement agencies”, - Erik Iriskulbekov, an expert with Kyrgyzstan's NGO Adilet, says. Even if a criminal is caught in the act, they will not necessarily be brought to responsibility. Very often judges or medical experts rule such offenders to be mentally ill, so the latter escape punishment.

And now – attention, please!

On April 1, 2010, during a special operation in the city of Osh to detain a drug suspect, the agents of the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry confiscated more than 160 packages of Afghan hashish (about 107, 8 kg) and 24.4 kg of heroin. That was a serious blow to the drug mafia, so a few days later, on the night of April 6th, the country saw a people's uprising, and a coup. A government of national confidence seized power as a result, pledging Washington to retain the US military base Manas in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan has long since been prominent on the geopolitical agenda of the United States and its allies.

According to the CIA, Kyrgyzstan is a small, poor country in the mountains with an emphasis on agriculture. Cotton, wool, meat are the main agricultural products and exports. But the country also has hydropower resources, deposits of gold and rare-earth metals; local deposits of coal, oil and gas, mercury, lead, zinc, bismuth, nephelite. The CIA points out in a report the circulation of illegal drugs in Kyrgyzstan, local opium poppy and hashish production mainly for the consumption within the country and in the CIS countries. The report also mentions that the government has launched a minor-scale programme to root out the drug crops; the use of Kyrgyzstan as a drug traffic transfer point to ship drugs to Russia and Western Europe from South West Asia.

According to the Western media, people's anger on the night of April 6th of 2010 was sparked off by an increase in gas and water tariffs, arrests of the opposition leaders, corruption and the clan system, and general authoritarianism. But no mention was ever made of the drug business!

~ more... ~

Quantum wonders: Spooky action at a distance

Erwin Schrodinger called it the "defining trait" of quantum theory. Einstein could not bring himself to believe in it at all, thinking it proof that quantum theory was seriously buggy. It is entanglement: the idea that particles can be linked in such a way that changing the quantum state of one instantaneously affects the other, even if they are light years apart.

This "spooky action at a distance", in Einstein's words, is a serious blow to our conception of how the world works. In 1964, physicist John Bell of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, showed just how serious. He calculated a mathematical inequality that encapsulated the maximum correlation between the states of remote particles in experiments in which three "reasonable" conditions hold: that experimenters have free will in setting things up as they want; that the particle properties being measured are real and pre-existing, not just popping up at the time of measurement; and that no influence travels faster than the speed of light, the cosmic speed limit.

~ more... ~

New York Times attack Greek (and EU) co-ops

In Olive Growers' Claims Prompt Investigation, Stephen Castle writes:

The story of the miracle harvest turned up on an application for European agricultural subsidies that surfaced in 2007; officials determined the amount requested was well in excess of what the farmers could conceivably have been entitled to. But something disturbed investigators more than the simple size of the claim: It was filed not by the hard-pressed growers themselves, but by the leaders of their agricultural co-operative — one of thousands of locally powerful, politically connected producers' associations across Europe.

In poor, remote areas of Southern Europe, evidence is emerging that what happened in Crete — where the European Union is demanding a refund of nearly €375,000, or about $540,000, paid to the collective that operates around Vamos — is not a minor aberration but a symptom of a broader problem involving co-ops.

Investigators believe that tens of millions of euros may have been lost in the few cases they have investigated — which they say are just a snapshot of the wider picture. They are currently looking into four new cases, while five have been completed.

Writing in a report about several scams involving two Portuguese banana co-ops two years ago, the European Union's fraud investigative agency, known as OLAF, said it had found “that this pattern of abuse by some producer organizations was a problem throughout” the bloc.

Writing in a report about several scams involving two Portuguese banana co-ops two years ago, the European Union's fraud investigative agency, known as OLAF, said it had found “that this pattern of abuse by some producer organizations was a problem throughout” the bloc.

The story appears accurate enough but, perhaps deliberately, does not mention that private enterprise is guilty of the same fraud as lowly agricultural co-ops (a longtime target of the State Department). As always, we only see the news that fits.

Clinton apologizes to Haiti - calls dumping cheap rice "a mistake"

Nova Scotia activists are expressing surprise that former US president Bill Clinton has apologized for flooding Haiti with cheap American rice beginning in the mid 1990s. During testimony before a US Senate committee last month, Clinton admitted that requiring Haiti to lower its tariffs on rice imports made it impossible for Haitian farmers to compete in their domestic economy. The trade policy forced farmers off land and undercut Haiti's ability to feed itself.

“It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” Clinton—now a UN special envoy to Haiti—told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 10. “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.”

“I would like to believe that Clinton has had a change of heart,” wrote Heidi Verheul of the Halifax Peace Coalition in an e-mail. “But he actually needs to do something to challenge the free market shock doctrine economic policies that are being designed to further subjugate and impoverish Haiti,” she added. “The policies of aid and development in Haiti have continuously served to undermine democracy [and] local economies, and have driven tens of thousands of people from their land, enslaved them in sweatshops, makeshift homes, and absolute grinding, miserable poverty.”

Clinton's apology attracted scant media attention in the US and none in Canada. It was included as part of an Associated Press news agency report that was published March 20 by the Washington Post. The AP report from Haiti's earthquake-ravaged capital, Port au Prince, suggests world leaders are reconsidering trade and aid policies that make poor countries dependent on rich ones. It quotes UN aid official John Holmes as saying that poor countries, like Haiti, need to become more self-sufficient by rebuilding their own food production.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

500 Years Later



Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Owen 'Alik Shahadah award winning film 500 Years Later (www.500yearslater.com), produced by M.K. Asante,Jr.

"To understand the entire Eurocentric discourse on Africa and African people is a vivid exercise in the removal of agency from a people. The almost primary purpose of this study, new and old, is the continuous reassertion of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness ." This is the Eurocentric tradition in anti-African scholarship that provides the moral-academic justification for the slave trade; the most successful commercial venture in the history of humanity. In Europe's bid to protect their trade interest it is clear the marriage between racist academia and the exploitation of Africa were not strangers. The need for the continuation of this tradition is not lost in today's markets which are heavily dependant on sustaining the impoverishment of Africa. "

The Coming Insurrection

Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination, but by resonance, according to this report by Sarah Nardi in Adbusters.

...Officially authored by “The Invisible Committee,” an anonymous group of activists and intellectuals, The Coming Insurrection is a slim manual that predicts the imminent collapse of capitalist culture and outlines a plan for the regeneration of collectivist values. Written in the wake of widespread riots that gripped French suburbs in 2005, the text is interpreted by some as an anarchist manifesto, a situationist-inspired call to arms. The French government sees it as a “manual for terrorism.” The move against Coupat and the rest of the Tarnac 9 was intended as a preemptive strike against the burgeoning anti-capitalist movement in France. While the others were released with relative speed, Coupat was held under “preventative arrest” until May of 2009 and labeled by the government as a “pre-terrorist.”

And there, buried within the idiom of conservative fear – leftist, anarcho, collectivist, commune – is the word that points to the real danger in this story: pre. Preemptive. Preventative. Pre-terrorist. The French government, fearing the societal upheaval that a mass rethink of capitalism would spawn, exercised the principles of preventive medicine as the doctrine of law. It suspected the presence of renegade cells, mutating into malignant tumors of dissent and threatening the health of the entire body politic, so the government acted preemptively by swiftly excising the tissue in question.

The one ray of hope shining down on this brave new world – in which people can be detained for transgressions they have yet to commit – is the massive show of solidarity that has grown around Coupat and the others. Groups have sprung up across France, Spain, the US and Greece. In Moscow, supporters marched in protest outside the French embassy. And in June an unauthorized reading of The Coming Insurrection at a Barnes & Noble in New York City sparked a spontaneous – albeit brief – insurgency that flowed through the streets and nearby shops...

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The coming insurrection - The Invisible Committee

Apparently that text can't wait -- not even during sex

Report Reveals Surprising News About Social Media and Its Grip on Our Lives

Beth Snyder Bulik  reports for AdAge:

Would you answer a text during sex? If you're younger than 25, one in 10 of you would.

How about during a meeting? While you're eating? Or even while, as the Retrevo Gadgetology Report recently asked, when you're "on the john"? Some 22%, 49%, and 24%, respectively, of online under-25-year-olds agreed they "could be interrupted by an electronic message" while doing any of those things.

The older 25-plus age group was only half as tolerant to electronic interruptions -- 6% could be bothered during sex; 17% during a meeting; 27% during a meal; and 12% in the bathroom. But that's still a lot of people of all ages engaging in social media anywhere and anytime.

"Social media is embedded in our lives. It's why people go to a restaurant and check Foursquare before they sit down with their friends, then take a picture of their food before they eat and upload it to Facebook," said Manish Rathi, co-founder and VP-marketing at Retrevo, a consumer electronics shopping and review site. "We've started asking these questions because we wanted to know how social media is contributing to gadget buying and usage."

While not that many people actively engage in social media during sex, they do in bed. Retrevo found that almost half of social-media users check in via phone while lying in bed. About 48% of those polled said they check or update Facebook or Twitter after they've gotten into bed at night and/or before they get out of bed in the morning. That number jumps to 76% for the 25-and-younger set, with a whopping 19% of those millennials saying they also check in whenever they wake up during the night.

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Union of Conscientiously Work-Shy Elements

The Union of Conscientiously Work-Shy Elements (Danish: Sammenslutning af Bevidst Arbejdssky Elementer) was an unusually successful frivolous political party in Denmark. It was founded in Aarhus in 1979 by a comedian, Jacob Haugaard (born 1952), and a few friends. Haugaard stood as a candidate in Aarhus in each parliamentary election, until in September 1994 he was very unexpectedly elected to the Folketing with 23,253 personal votes, thereby winning a "kredsmandat" (1 locally based seat in parliament).

He made the following promises in the 1994 election:

  • Tail winds on all cycle paths
  • Better weather
  • Better Christmas presents
  • Less sex in school staff rooms (withdrawn during the campaign - he said it had been brought to his attention that sex in the staff room was a long-established privilege for teachers and as such could not be abolished)
  • More whales in the fjord of Randers
  • The right to impotency
  • More pieces of Renaissance furniture in IKEA
  • 8 hours of spare time, 8 hours of rest, 8 hours of sleep
  • Nutella in army field rations
  • The placing of a public toilet in the park in Aarhus where he after each election spent his state party funding on serving beer and sausages to his voters.
  • More bread for the ducks in parks

(The last three promises were actually fulfilled during his term in office.)

While the party had been intended as a joke, he found himself often having the deciding vote in a hung parliament, and took his duties seriously until the parliamentary election in March 1998. He was afraid of being in the parliament, and he really respected the parties. He then announced his retirement from politics.

Quotes

* "If work is so healthy, then why not give it to the sick?"

* "Work? We can't be bothered, That's what we have the Germans for." (from a song)

See also


~ Link ~

45 percent of world's wealth destroyed: Blackstone CEO

Private equity company Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman said on Tuesday that up to 45 percent of the world's wealth has been destroyed by the global credit crisis.

"Between 40 and 45 percent of the world's wealth has been destroyed in little less than a year and a half," Schwarzman told an audience at the Japan Society. "This is absolutely unprecedented in our lifetime."

But the U.S. government is committed to the preservation of financial institutions, he said, and will do whatever it takes to restart the economy.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner plans to unfreeze credit markets through a new program that will combine public and private capital in a fund that would buy bank toxic assets of up to $1 trillion.

"In all likelihood, that will have the private sector buy troubled assets to clean the banks out in terms of providing leverage ... so that we can get more money back into the banking system," Schwarzman said.

He expects the private sector to end up making "some good money doing that," but added there were complex issues on how to price toxic assets.

He put part of the blame for the financial crisis to credit rating agencies.

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The story of the Israeli secret service, the Mossad

...Yossi Melman: Under the British mandate the element which is known nowadays as Mossad was doing political espionage, diplomatic espionage, to have a feeling of what the British rulers are up to, trying to maintain contact with Arab leaders in the surrounding countries and also were in charge of smuggling the weapons to the Jewish underground formations, the militias, and also they were in charge of illegal, what the British called illegal immigration of Jews mainly from Europe after the Second World War and the Holocaust, to Palestine, to the pre statehood Israel.

Annabelle Quince: According to Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad, what made the Mossad so effective was the training many of them gained from the British, both in Palestine and later in Scotland.

Gordon Thomas: What made them good and powerful was they had a British officer who trained them. He was a Zionist and he offered his services to them, and the British wanted him to do that, because they were having a handful of trouble with the Arabs. But he had taught the Israelis exactly the tactics of how to fight and defend themselves, and from that, many volunteered to join the British Army during World War II, and they became members of a special operations executive. They were trained in espionage tactics and the Jews who signed on were young, clever, formidable and they were trained in Scotland, then they were dropped into Europe, and they became among the first spies that entered the war in Europe. When they went back to Israel after the war, they were recruited into the Haganah again, and they became part of the formation that would lead to Mossad, and these people had learnt espionage techniques, they'd learnt guerrilla warfare techniques, and they had also learnt some techniques from the Americans in the jungles of Asia, and they combined all these to form themselves into what eventually became known as Mossad. Now Mossad itself, the word just means 'the office' if you like, and they were very small in number. At one stage there were four separate intelligence services who were conflicting with each other, and one by one, the Prime Minister reduced them all and Ben Gurion insisted as Prime Minister that it would be Mossad. He knew the Mossad people from the war, he knew what they'd done, and these were people he wanted to head his intelligence service. And they began in a small office, then they moved to a building in the centre of Tel Aviv, and now they have a certain number of safe houses around Tel Aviv. They've expanded, they expanded like any small company going big if you like. And they're extraordinary, I mean they're out in the Negev Desert, the people who are out there are the most deadly of all, they are the Kidon. Kidon in Hebrew means of course bayonet, and these are the assassins.

Yossi Melman: Its role and mission has changed during the years. The Mossad I would say have had traditionally more or less four or five missions. One, and it's the most important one, is to provide intelligence, information, about the capabilities and the intentions of Israel's enemies and mainly to provide an early warning if these enemies, these states which are considered to be enemy, though declare themselves as enemies, are planning an attack on Israel, this is the ultimate goal of the Mossad, and for that, they are running agents under deep cover. They are told 'Please do nothing, don't risk yourself, only provide us with information which would indicate let's say the Syrian Army or in the past the Egyptian Army are planning an attack against Israel.' This is the main mission. I can give you a very good example which is still engraved in our minds, and this is the days which led to the Yom Kippur War, the 9th October, 1973 war. The Mossad had a very good agent in Egypt. His name was Alsof Mawan, he was the son in-law of the then Egyptian President, Gamal Abdul Nasser, actually he volunteered to provide information; eventually he was paid but he came to Israeli Embassy in London, wanted to work with Israel, he wanted to take revenge on his father in-law and maybe there was some other motive. First he was rejected. After a few weeks he came back again and then he was accepted, and went underwent some tests and eventually was recruited and run as an agent, and he provided Israel, a day before the war of '73, with very precise information that the war is imminent and it's coming that it would happen within a few hours. The information was so important and so shocking, that the head of the Mossad at the time personally flew to London to meet him secretly, to make sure that this agent is accurate and was telling the truth. And he called the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir at the time, and told her, 'Tomorrow there will be a war'. ...

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Nikola Tesla predicted SMS in 1909

Texting may be a boon in today's world, but the concept was visualized more than a century ago.

And, it was a pioneering American physicist who had predicted the portable messaging service, like the SMS, via a handheld device in the Popular Mechanics magazine in 1909, its technology editor Seth Porges has claimed in a report.

Nikola Tesla, the physicist and a mechanical engineer, whose name lives on at the electric car maker Tesla Motors saw wireless energy as the only way to make electricity thrive, according to Porges.

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Eurozone under warfare: Engdahl on Greece crisis

Thursday, May 6, 2010

'Possible' CSIS relied on Afghan intel extracted by torture: official

Canada's spy service says it's "possible" that information received from Afghanistan's notorious secret police may have been extracted by the torture of Canadian-transferred detainees.

But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says it is forbidden from relying on any intelligence it suspects comes from torture or abuse.

Michel Coulombe of CSIS told the special committee on the Afghanistan mission Wednesday the agency shared information with the Afghan National Directorate of Security, or NDS.

There are allegations the NDS and other Afghan authorities abused prisoners in their custody.

Asked whether NDS intelligence could have been beaten out of prisoners in Afghan custody, Coulombe acknowledged: "That is possible."

"We were not aware of the techniques used to obtain the information."

CSIS can go back to its sources and ask how they obtained their information if the spy agency suspects torture is involved, Coulombe said.

"At the end of the day, if a doubt remains the departmental directive is such that we must not rely on that information," he said.

"There is a caveat that is placed on the information that will follow that piece of evidence around, stating that the information must not be used because it may have been obtained by means of torture or mistreatment. So the information is identified to ensure that it is not used."

CSIS also doesn't appear to have qualms about relying on sources that may at times extract their information through torture.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vietnam War still stirs passionate divisions at Kent State May 4 events

Spirited debate about the Vietnam War and its legacy lives on at Kent State University.

War veteran and anti-war activist Country Joe McDonald screened two short documentary-style films about the war's impact at a gathering Sunday.

The reaction to the movies at Kent State -- where the impact of that war may have been felt more than anywhere else -- was divided and passionate.

The first film, "The Vietnam Experience," a 29-minute musical montage directed by McDonald, follows the war from the recruitment and draft of clean-cut kids to the rocky return home of bearded veterans with blank stares. It features music from McDonald's recording of the same name.

The second film, "Welcome Back Vietnam Veterans," documents the 1985 ticker-tape parade for veterans in New York City.

The discussion, sponsored by the May 4th Task Force, was part of events marking the 40th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings on campus. It was meant to paint the mood of the war as the backdrop for student protests at the Portage County university four decades ago.

Ohio National Guard troops fired on a crowd of students that day, killing four and wounding nine others.

Alan Canfora, who was wounded by a National Guard shot on May 4, said the link between the deaths in Vietnam and at Kent State are often overlooked, as are the reasons the students were protesting.

The protests at Kent, and other American campuses, began in earnest after President Richard Nixon announced on April 30, 1970, that U.S. troops were invading neighboring Cambodia.

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Rush Limbaugh blames ‘environmentalist wackos’ for massive oil spill

While there's not yet any indication as to what caused the disasterous explosion that sunk a British Petrolium drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh has come up with a rather coy suggestion: "environmentalist wackos" did it.

Noting that the explosion happened on Earth Day, the man sometimes known as the GOP's de-facto leader spun a web of happenstance in which "the jury" was "still out," but "the regime" will let everyone know what really went down.

Later, on Thursday, HBO's Bill Maher Tweeted, "Every asshole who ever chanted 'Drill baby drill' should have to report to the Gulf coast today for cleanup duty."

President Obama has declared the spill a national disaster and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal initiated a state of emergency, calling for urgent help to prevent fragile wetlands and vital fishing communities along the coast from pollution on a massive scale.

[ ... ]

"The carbon tax bill, cap and trade, that was scheduled to be announced on Earth Day," Limbaugh said, arguing that "hardcore environmentalist wackos" were opposed to its allowances for more nuclear power and more offshore drilling.

"What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig?" he rhetorically asked. "I'm just, I'm just noting the timing here."

"Shares in BP and Swiss-based rig company Transocean Ltd fell by more than 6 percent Thursday as investors feared a significantly higher cleanup cost," Reuters reported. "BP is down more than 10 percent and Transocean is down nearly 14 percent since the rig explosion April 20.

"Oilfield services companies Cameron International Corp and Halliburton Co saw their shares tumble on fears about their ties to the Deepwater Horizon rig. [...] Halliburton said it did a variety of work on the rig and was assisting with the investigation."

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Dead woman who accused Bush of rape

Margie Schoedinger dies as a result of a gunshot wound to the head

Margie Schoedinger, the woman who allegedly filed a lawsuit against George W. Bush in December 2002, claiming that she had been raped, has died of a gunshot wound to the head, registered officially as "suicide".

 The allegations were serious: the law suit apparently filed against George W. Bush in the County Civil Court in Fort Bend County, Texas, on 2nd December 2002, claimed that George Bush, the former Governor or Texas and current President of the United States of America, had committed "individual sex crimes" against her and her husband.

Margie Schoedinger further stated that after the claim, she had been
harassed, that her bank account had been interfered with, that she had been threatened and beaten. She claimed 1 million USD in actual damages plus 49 million USD in punitive damages and emotional stress caused by the alleged incidents.

Court documents filed on December 4th 2002 mention Bush, giving him 20 days to respond or appear in a court in Fort Bend. These papers were initialed by Fort Bend County Deputy Clerk, Becky Kasper. However, due to the ambiguous nature of the claims, which have never been substantiated, it is unclear whether the President of the USA was served with the suit.

Whatever the case, Margie Schoedinger is dead. At 38 years of age, she died on Monday 22nd September 2003. The Harris Country Examiner's Office states "gunshot wound to the head" and "suicide".

John ASHTEAD
PRAVDA.Ru

~ Link ~

Censorship in the AIDS debate









Joan Shenton talks about the Censorship in the AIDS debate the success of stifling, muzzling and a strategy of silence.

Encryption can't stop the wiretapping boom

By Andy Greenberg, Forbes

As encryption technologies have outpaced the mathematical methods of breaking crypto schemes, law enforcement has feared for years that scrambled messages between evildoers (or law-breaking activists) would thwart their snooping. But it seems that either lawbreakers aren't using encryption, or those privacy tools simply don't work.

In an annual report published Friday by the U.S. judicial system on the number of wiretaps it granted over the past year (see full document below), the courts revealed that there were 2,376 wiretaps by law enforcement agencies in 2009, up 26% from 1,891 the year before, and up 76% from 1999. (Those numbers, it should be noted, don't include international wiretaps or those aimed at intelligence purposes rather than law enforcement.)

But in the midst of that wiretapping bonanza, a more surprising figure is the number of cases in which law enforcement encountered encryption as a barrier: one.

According to the courts, only one wiretapping case in the entire country encountered encryption last year, and in that single case, whatever privacy tools were used don't seemed to have posed much of a hurdle to eavedroppers. "In 2009, encryption was encountered during one state wiretap, but did not prevent officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications," reads the report.

Matt Blaze, a crypto-focused computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that the numbers should put to rest the government's decades-old concern that widely available encryption technology would unleash a wave of untrackable criminal conspiracies of cypherpunk mafioso.

"This counters the predictions of almost the entire US government law enforcement and national security crypto debate," says Blaze. "It's been argued that the widespread availability of encryption would cripple law enforcement. None of those predictions have borne fruit."

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House Of Numbers exclusive clip reveals AIDS fraud



This exclusive clip from the House of Numbers documentary (HouseOfNumbers.com) reveals startling quotes from Dr. Joe Sonnabend, co-founder of amfAR, and other important observers (journalists) who describe the P.R. fraud behind the marketing of AIDS.

Iraq: Detainees describe torture in secret jail

Prosecute Officials Involved at All Levels

(Baghdad) - Detainees in a secret Baghdad detention facility were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraq should thoroughly investigate and prosecute all government and security officials responsible, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 of the men in the Al Rusafa Detention Center on April 26, 2010. They were among about 300 detainees transferred from the secret facility in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad to Al Rusafa into a special block of 19 cage-type cells over the past several weeks, after the existence of the secret prison was revealed.

The men's stories were credible and consistent. Most of the 300 displayed fresh scars and injuries they said were a result of routine and systematic torture they had experienced at the hands of interrogators at Muthanna. All were accused of aiding and abetting terrorism, and many said they were forced to sign false confessions.

"The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The government needs to prosecute all of those responsible for this systematic brutality."

The Iraqi authorities should establish an independent and impartial inquiry to investigate what happened at Muthanna, determine who was responsible, and prosecute them, Human Rights Watch said, including anyone in authority who failed to prevent the torture. The government also needs to ensure that courts will not admit any confessions obtained through torture.

The men interviewed said the Iraqi army detained them between September and December 2009 after sweeps in and around Mosul, a stronghold of Sunni Arab militants, including Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. They said torture was most intense during their first week at Muthanna. Several well-informed sources told Human Rights Watch that this secret facility was under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's military office.

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Antisocial networking?

From Hilary Stout's article in The New York Times:

Children used to actually talk to their friends. Those hours spent on the family princess phone or hanging out with pals in the neighborhood after school vanished long ago. But now, even chatting on cellphones or via e-mail (through which you can at least converse in paragraphs) is passé. For today's teenagers and preteens, the give and take of friendship seems to be conducted increasingly in the abbreviated snatches of cellphone texts and instant messages, or through the very public forum of Facebook walls and MySpace bulletins. (Andy Wilson, the 11-year-old boy involved in the banter above, has 418 Facebook friends.)

Last week, the Pew Research Center found that half of American teenagers — defined in the study as ages 12 through 17 — send 50 or more text messages a day and that one third send more than 100 a day. Two thirds of the texters surveyed by the center's Internet and American Life Project said they were more likely to use their cellphones to text friends than to call them. Fifty-four percent said they text their friends once a day, but only 33 percent said they talk to their friends face-to-face on a daily basis. The findings came just a few months after the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 spend on average 7 1/2 hours a day using some sort of electronic device, from smart phones to MP3 players to computers — a number that startled many adults, even those who keep their BlackBerrys within arm's reach during most waking hours.

To date, much of the concern over all this use of technology has been focused on the implications for kids' intellectual development. Worry about the social repercussions has centered on the darker side of online interactions, like cyber-bullying or texting sexually explicit messages. But psychologists and other experts are starting to take a look at a less-sensational but potentially more profound phenomenon: whether technology may be changing the very nature of kids' friendships.

“In general, the worries over cyber-bullying and sexting have overshadowed a look into the really nuanced things about the way technology is affecting the closeness properties of friendship,” said Jeffrey G. Parker, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, who has been studying children's friendships since the 1980s. “We're only beginning to look at those subtle changes.”

The question on researchers' minds is whether all that texting, instant messaging and online social networking allows children to become more connected and supportive of their friends — or whether the quality of their interactions is being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face-to-face time.

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NYU's snuff film

Steven Thrasher reports for The Village Voice:

This week, the film department at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts holds its annual spring showcase for student work, the First Run Film Festival. Beginning Thursday, and over the course of four days, more than a hundred films will be shown.

Near the end of the program, on early Sunday evening, a short film will be shown that's titled Only Criminals. According to the festival's website, the 12-minute film is about a couple of guys who come across a wrecked and abandoned car, search through it, and find a handgun.

Only Criminals was directed by John Hunt Lamensdorf, who was killed last May while working on the set of another NYU student's movie at a shoot in Georgia.

Deaths on movie sets are rare enough for professionals, but the electrocution death of an NYU student—and serious injury to another—seemed particularly tragic, and resulted in news stories both here and in Georgia.

But since those early stories, there's not only been no detailed public account of what happened on the movie set, but students and employees at NYU say there's been an active campaign on campus to clamp down on any discussion of what occurred.

The students who were on the set that day don't want to talk about it. NYU encourages them and anyone else connected to the students not to speak publicly.

Part of the reason for that campaign of silence: Several people with involvement in that day's shooting (and NYU itself) are being sued by Lamensdorf's parents, including Lamensdorf's friend, Andrés Cardona, who not only tried to resuscitate him after he was mortally wounded, but went on to finish his friend's film so it could be shown this Sunday.

Cardona, like the others at NYU, won't talk to the Voice about what happened in Georgia.

One of the people on the scene, however, is talking about what he saw.

Jason Welin is a particularly important eyewitness to what happened. The Atlanta-based filmmaker was at the controls of the aerial lift that made contact with overhead power lines and created a powerful explosion of electrical energy on the set. As Welin explains it, he contributed to the errors that led to Lamensdorf's death, but, almost a year later, he's unhappy that people believe he has "blood" on his hands.

NYU doesn't want this story told, but Welin isn't waiting for the school's permission.

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'Smart dust' aims to monitor everything

In the 1990s, a researcher named Kris Pister dreamed up a wild future in which people would sprinkle the Earth with countless tiny sensors, no larger than grains of rice.

These "smart dust" particles, as he called them, would monitor everything, acting like electronic nerve endings for the planet. Fitted with computing power, sensing equipment, wireless radios and long battery life, the smart dust would make observations and relay mountains of real-time data about people, cities and the natural environment.

Now, a version of Pister's smart dust fantasy is starting to become reality.

"It's exciting. It's been a long time coming," said Pister, a computing professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

"I coined the phrase 14 years ago. So smart dust has taken a while, but it's finally here."

Maybe not exactly how he envisioned it. But there has been progress.

The latest news comes from the computer and printing company Hewlett-Packard, which recently announced it's working on a project it calls the "Central Nervous System for the Earth." In coming years, the company plans to deploy a trillion sensors all over the planet.

The wireless devices would check to see if ecosystems are healthy, detect earthquakes more rapidly, predict traffic patterns and monitor energy use. The idea is that accidents could be prevented and energy could be saved if people knew more about the world in real time, instead of when workers check on these issues only occasionally.

HP will take its first step toward this goal in about two years, said Pete Hartwell, a senior researcher at HP Labs in Palo Alto. The company has made plans with Royal Dutch Shell to install 1 million matchbook-size monitors to aid in oil exploration by measuring rock vibrations and movement, he said. Those sensors, which already have been developed, will cover a 6-square-mile area.

That will be the largest smart dust deployment to date, he said.

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John Perkins: Economic hitman and shaman





Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reading in a digital age

From Sven Birkerts' article in The American Scholar:

...SUDDENLY IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE a world in which many interactions formerly dependent on print on paper happen screen to screen. It's no stretch, no exercise in futurism. You can pretty much extrapolate from the habits and behaviors of kids in their teens and 20s, who navigate their lives with little or no recourse to paper. In class they sit with their laptops open on the table in front of them. I pretend they are taking course-related notes, but would not be surprised to find out they are writing to friends, working on papers for other courses, or just trolling their favorite sites while they listen. Whenever there is a question about anything—a date, a publication, the meaning of a word—they give me the answer before I've finished my sentence. From where they stand, Wenders's library users already have a sepia coloration. I know that I present book information to them with a slight defensiveness; I wrap my pronouncements in a preemptive irony. I could not bear to be earnest about the things that matter to me and find them received with that tolerant bemusement I spoke of, that leeway we extend to the beliefs and passions of our elders.

AOL SLOGAN: “We search the way you think.”

I JUST FINISHED READING an article in Harper's by Gary Greenberg (“A Mind of Its Own”) on the latest books on neuropsychology, the gist of which recognizes an emerging consensus in the field, and maybe, more frighteningly, in the culture at large: that there may not be such a thing as mind apart from brain function. As Eric Kandel, one of the writers discussed, puts it: “Mind is a set of operations carried out by the brain, much as walking is a set of operations carried out by the legs, except dramatically more complex.” It's easy to let the terms and comparisons slide abstractly past, to miss the full weight of implication. But Greenberg is enough of an old humanist to recognize when the great supporting trunk of his worldview is being crosscut just below where he is standing and to realize that everything he deems sacred is under threat. His recognition may not be so different from the one that underlay the emergence of Nietzsche's thought. But if Nietzsche found a place of rescue in man himself, his Superman transcending himself to occupy the void left by the loss—the murder—of God, there is no comparable default now.

Brain functioning cannot stand in for mind, once mind has been unmasked as that, unless we somehow grant that the nature of brain partakes of what we had allowed might be the nature of mind. Which seems logically impossible, as the nature of mind allowed possibilities of connection and fulfillment beyond the strictly material, and the nature of brain is strictly material. It means that what we had imagined to be the something more of experience is created in-house by that three-pound bundle of neurons, and that it is not pointing to a larger definition of reality so much as to a capacity for narrative projection engendered by infinitely complex chemical reactions. No chance of a wizard behind the curtain. The wizard is us, our chemicals mingling.

“And if you still think God made us,” writes Greenberg, “there's a neuro­chemical reason for that too.” He quotes writer David Linden, author of The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God (!): “Our brains have become particularly adapted to creating coherent, gap-free stories. . . . This propensity for narrative creation is part of what predisposes us humans to religious thought.” Of course one can, must, ask whence narration itself. What in us requires story rather than the chaotic pullulation that might more accurately describe what is? ...

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US military escalates its dirty war in Afghanistan

... The Times reported that “more than a dozen military and civilian officials directly involved in the Kandahar offensive” had agreed to speak about the special forces' activities because it would help “scare off insurgents” before the bulk of American troops move into Taliban-held areas of the city. This claim is either patent nonsense or deliberate deception. The Taliban do not require an article in the American media to inform them that “large numbers” of their fighters are being killed or captured.

The real motive for the article is to introduce the audience of the New York Times and broader public opinion to the reality of the dirty war that the Obama administration is presiding over in Afghanistan. Assassination, or alternatively, detention without trial under the harshest conditions, is the preferred method of the US military to suppress resistance to the neo-colonial agenda of US imperialism.

The commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is applying the same tactics that he used during the Bush administration's “surge” in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when he was serving under General David Petraeus as the head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

JSOC units are drawn from the Army's Delta Force and Ranger battalions, the Navy Seals and specialized units of the Air Force. Regular Marine and Army battalions were used during the battles for Karbala, Najaf and Fallujah in 2004. The Iraq “surge” was marked by the use of JSOC, aided by local collaborators, to kill or capture suspected insurgents ahead of the deployment of larger formations into resistance-held areas.

The secretive mass killings and stories of brutal imprisonment generated terror in urban centers like Ramadi, Baqubah, Mosul, Basra, Amarah and the suburbs of Baghdad. It is credited by sections of the US military as playing an equally decisive role in subduing resistance as the parallel policy of bribing insurgents to cease fighting in exchange for amnesty and cash. ...

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Tragic flaw: Graft feeds Greek crisis

Marcus Walker reports for The Wall Street Journal:

Behind the budget crisis roiling Greece lies a riddle: Why does the state spend so lavishly but collect taxes so poorly? Many Greeks say the answer needs only two words: fakelaki and rousfeti.

Fakelaki is the Greek for "little envelopes," the bribes that affect everyone from hospital patients to fishmongers. Rousfeti means expensive political favors, which pervade everything from hiring teachers to property deals with Greek Orthodox monks. Together, these traditions of corruption and cronyism have produced a state that is both bloated and malnourished, and a crisis of confidence that is shaking all of Europe.

A study to be published in coming weeks by the Washington-based Brookings Institution finds that bribery, patronage and other public corruption are major contributors to the country's ballooning debt, depriving the Greek state each year of the equivalent of at least 8% of its gross domestic product, or more than €20 billion (about $27 billion).

[ ... ]

The Brookings study, which examines the correlation between corruption indicators and fiscal deficits across 40 developed or nearly developed economies, highlights how corruption has hurt public finances in parts of Europe, especially in Greece and Italy, and to a lesser extent in Spain and Portugal.

Greece's budget deficit averaged around 6.5% of GDP over the past five years, including a 13% shortfall last year. If Greece's public sector were as clean and transparent as Sweden's or the Netherlands', the country might have posted budget surpluses over the past decade, the study implies.

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The return of the Raj

C. Raja Mohan writes for The American Interest Magazine:

It is not clear what French President Nicolas Sarkozy had in mind when he invited a contingent of 400 Indian troops to march down the Champs-Élysées for the Bastille Day parade in 2009. But Paris might be on to something that Washington has missed, in spite of its more intensive military engagement with India in recent years. Although Paris does not have the power to engineer international structural changes in New Delhi's favor, it has often been ahead of Washington in strategizing about India. In its effort to build a partnership with India, ongoing since the mid-1990s, France has helped India renegotiate its position in the global nuclear order: It provided diplomatic cover when India defied the world with nuclear tests in May 1998, promoted the idea of changing the global non-proliferation rules to facilitate civilian nuclear cooperation with India, and worked with the Bush Administration to get the international community to endorse India's nuclear exceptionalism.

Of course, Sarkozy's motives might have been merely tactical: a move to butter up Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was among the honored guests at the parade, or to raise its share of India's rapidly expanding market for advanced arms. But Paris is capable of more than tactics: It may sense the prospects of a fundamental change in India's defense orientation and its potential to contribute significantly to international security politics in the 21st century. It may see that a rising India, which runs one of the world's major economies and fields a large armed force, will eventually bear some of the military burdens of maintaining the global order.

If so, it would not be the first time that India has done so. Western analysts, some British excepted, seem not to appreciate two historical facts: that the Indian armed forces contributed significantly to Allied efforts in the 20th century's two world wars; and that India's British Raj was the main peacekeeper in the Indian Ocean littoral and beyond. And it is not just the West that is ignorant of the security legacy of the British Raj; India's own post-colonial political class deliberately induced a collective national amnesia about the country's rich pre-independence military traditions. Its foreign policy establishment still pretends that India's engagement with the world began on August 15, 1947.

The image of Indian troops marching in Paris should remind the world that India's military past could be a useful guide to its strategic future. If the United States and India can together rediscover and revive the Indian military's expeditionary tradition, they will have a solid basis for strategic cooperation not only between themselves but also with the rest of the world's democracies. The Bush Administration showed an instinctive sense of this possibility when it committed itself to assisting India's rise and boosting its defense capabilities. President Barack Obama does seem to have a fund of goodwill toward India, which was reflected in his decision to receive Prime Minister Singh in November 2009 as the first state guest at the White House. But it is not clear if the Obama Administration has a larger strategic conception of the prospects for military and security cooperation with India.

In general, the Democratic administrations of recent times have tended to define engagement with India in terms of global issues and multilateralism rather than converging bilateral interests. Rather than frame the relationship with India using such ambitious but unrealizable multilateral goals, or drag Delhi further than it wishes to go into the Af-Pak mess, the Obama Administration needs to elevate the bilateral military engagement with India to a strategic level. While the U.S. debate on military burden-sharing has traditionally taken place in the context of Washington's alliances with Western Europe and Japan, a rising India may well be a more credible and sustainable partner than these two in coping with new international security challenges. If both sides can shake off the remaining historical baggage that has kept them at arm's length for most of the past sixty years, we may see something remotely like the return of the Raj.

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