Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Korea bloodbath probe ends; US escapes much blame

In a political about-face, a South Korean commission investigating a century of human rights abuses has ruled that the U.S. military's large-scale killing of refugees during the Korean War, in case after case, arose out of military necessity.

Shutting down the inquiry into South Korea's hidden history, the commission also will leave unexplored scores of suspected mass graves believed to hold remains of tens of thousands of South Korean political detainees summarily executed by their own government early in the 1950-53 war, sometimes as U.S. officers watched.

The four-year-old Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea probed more deeply than any previous inquiry into the country's bloody past. But a shift to conservative national leadership changed the panel's political makeup this year and dampened its investigative zeal.

The families of 1950's victims wanted the work continued.

"The truth about all these past incidents must be revealed, so this national tragedy won't be repeated," said Yang Won-jin, 82, whose father was believed shot and dumped into a mass grave 60 years ago.

But the commission's new president said its work must end.

"Even if we investigated more, there's not much more to be revealed," said Lee Young-jo, a political science professor who took charge last December.

The commission was established in December 2005 under the late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun to "reconcile the past for the sake of national unity." It had a broad mandate to expose human rights abuses from Korea's pre-1945 Japanese colonial period through South Korea's military dictatorships into the 1980s.
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The most shocking disclosures emerged from the war that began when communist North Korea invaded the south on June 25, 1950, to try to reunify the peninsula, divided into U.S.- and Soviet-occupied zones in 1945.

The commission was the first government authority to publicly confirm what long had only been whispered: The U.S.-allied South Korean military and police carried out a vast secretive slaughter of political detainees in mid-1950, to keep southern sympathizers from supporting the northerners. Up to 200,000 were killed, historians believe.

Hundreds of petitions to the commission told another story as well, of more than 200 incidents in which the U.S. military, warned about potential North Korean infiltrators in refugee groups, was said to have indiscriminately killed large numbers of innocent South Korean civilians in 1950-51.

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UK Iraq inquiry: Government ‘intentionally and substantially’ exaggerated WMD threat

Tony Blair's government 'intentionally and substantially' exaggerated the threat from Saddam Hussein ahead of the war in Iraq, a former senior British diplomat has claimed.

Carne Ross, who was First Secretary responsible for the Middle East at the United Nations, accused the former government of issuing “lies” to the public about the dictator's capacity to launch weapons of mass destruction.

He said that it was a "disgrace" that ministers failed to exhaust all peaceful options before going to war against Iraq.

"There was no deliberate discussion of available alternatives to military action in advance of the 2003 invasion," Mr Ross added.

"There is no record of that discussion, no official has referred to it, no minister has talked about it, and that seems to me to be a very egregious absence in this history - that at some point a Government before going to war should stop and ask itself, 'are there available alternatives?"'

Giving evidence before the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, Mr Ross said that “nuanced” intelligence about the threat from Iraq was “massaged” into "more robust and terrifying" messages about Saddam's supposed WMD.

Mr Carne, who served at the UN between 1997 and 2002, claimed that the British and United States governments were fully aware that there was no “substantial threat” from Iraq ahead of the war.

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US to access Europeans' bank data in new deal

Euro MPs have approved a new deal to allow US anti-terror investigators to access Europeans' bank data.

The vote followed tough negotiations with US authorities after a previous agreement was blocked by the European Parliament in February.

EU negotiators say the new deal gives EU officials authority to monitor the US investigators' actions.

The deal gives the US access to bulk data from Swift, a firm that handles millions of bank transactions daily.

Washington says the Swift deal is crucial to fighting terrorism, as part of the US Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme (TFTP) set up after the September 2001 attacks on the US.

Privacy concerns

Top US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lobbied the EU over the data transfer deal.

The agreement was passed with 484 MEPs in favour and 109 against. There were 12 abstentions.

In February Euro MPs rejected an earlier draft agreement, saying the privacy safeguards were inadequate.

The fact that the US was secretly accessing Swift bank data did not come to light until 2006.

Under the new deal, the EU police agency Europol will assess whether specific data requests are necessary for the fight against terrorism before the data is sent to the US, the European Commission says.

The Commission will appoint EU officials to monitor the US investigators' actions.

There is also a requirement that bulk data can never be sent to third countries.

EU citizens who believe their data has been misused will have the right to legal action in the US courts.

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Ken Kesey's Mexico - On the Lam With Ken Kesey

... I said I was doing nothing, but I'm actually trying to summon somebody: Ken Kesey, novelist, psychedelic prophet, leader of the Merry Pranksters, hero of “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” It was here, on this beach, that he took to the waves as I did, back in 1966. He was a hunted man then, on the run from the F.B.I. and Mexican federales, but even he, a man of great aplomb, found time for thoughtful bobbing.

“He's working on his wave theory. This morning for breakfast he brewed and drank enough weed to put a horse in orbit. He's been out there for three hours with his eyes closed ... imagining that he's a piece of kelp or a jellyfish.”

The observer is Mountain Girl, one of several Merry Pranksters who followed Kesey to Manzanillo. She watches from the beach while pondering his oracular musings.

“It isn't by getting out of the world that we become enlightened, but by getting into the world ... by getting so tuned in that we can ride the waves of our existence and never get tossed because we become the waves.”

Manzanillo now is not nearly as metaphysical as that account, from a trippy Kesey volume called “Over the Border,” would suggest. It's a tourist town, a cruise destination, one gem in the resort strand of Mexico's Pacific coast, cousin to Acapulco, Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta. It's a city of strip malls and cineplexes, dive shops and all-inclusive resorts where the help wears uniforms.

But Manzanillo then was jungle outpost, a nowhere port town on a two-lane road from Guadalajara. It was a place where a gringo — even a famous novelist gringo accompanied by family and friends, an abundant supply of drugs and an International Harvester school bus covered in Day-Glo paint and blaring music from a sophisticated loudspeaker system — could reasonably expect to hide out for a while.

You probably know most of the back story. Kesey is a promising writer at Stanford, publishes “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” his first novel, in 1962, and a huge deal is made of it. A circle forms in Palo Alto, bound by Kesey's charisma and brightened by psychoactive chemicals and Day-Glo paint. It moves to the woods of La Honda, Calif., and roams the country in an old school bus. Kesey and the Merry Pranksters stage a journey into life, art, rock-and-roll and experimental drug use that attracts hangers-on, Hell's Angels, Tom Wolfe and, inevitably, cops.

Kesey is busted for marijuana possession once, twice. Now he faces real time: a bad trip he does not want to take. He parks a truck on a coastal bluff, writes a fake suicide note — Ocean, Ocean, I'll beat you in the end — then slips into Mexico in a car trunk. ...

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America’s Secret Prisons

By Niamh Marnell

Communications Management Units (CMUs), nicknamed “Little Gitmo” by the inmates for the resemblance to the Guantanamo Bay prison, are coming under criticism for their controversial policies, constitutionality, and secrecy. Prisoners assigned to these units cover a broad interpretation of the “War on Terror,” from Muslim men thought to have extreme leanings to radical environmental and animal rights activists. 

Opened under the Bush administration, CMUs are designed to severely restrict prisoner communication for inmates. Under the proposed  new rules, which are even more restrictive than those currently in place, prisoners would be limited in communication to: one three-page, double sided letter per week to one recipient; one 15-minute phone call per month to immediate family only; and a single one-hour visit per month with immediate family only which must be non-contact in nature.

Secret Prisons Seek Approval

The American Civil Liberties Union  (ACLU) and the ACLU of Indiana filed a legal complaint June 18, 2009, challenging the secret creation of the housing units within federal prisons in which prisoners are severely isolated from the outside world. The ACLU says that the housing units are intended for prisoners the government labels as terrorists and that their creation violated federal law which requires a period of public comment. A staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project, David Shapiro, said, “The government created CMUs without any opportunity for public comment or oversight in an effort to skirt obligations of accountability and transparency.”

The two CMUs, one at Terre Haute, Indiana, and the other at Marion, Illinois, opened in 2006 and 2007 without any public notice. After a series of legal complaints were filed against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for creating the prisons outside of the required channels and for violating the constitutional rights of inmates, the BOP opened a period of public comment earlier this year, which just recently closed.

On June 2, 2010, the ACLU submitted their comments to the BOP.  Others also submitted comments, including the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), other civil rights and liberties groups, CMU prisoners, family members and friends, legal organizations, former correctional officials, environmental organizations, psychologists, and more.

No Due Process

One of the major complaints voiced in the public comments was the lack of due process at the CMUs. Prisoners are routinely kept ignorant of why they were moved to the CMU or what evidence, if any, was used in the decision to move them. There is also no prison structure in place through which they can challenge their placement at the CMU nor is there any review process through which they could earn their way out.

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Hawks sharpen claws for Iran strike

"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," explained then-White House chief of staff Andrew Card in September 2002, in answer to queries about why the administration of George W Bush had not launched its campaign to rally public opinion behind invading Iraq earlier in the summer.

And while it's only July - and less than a month after the United Nations, the European Union and the US Congress approved new economic sanctions against Iran - a familiar clutch of Iraq war hawks appear to be preparing the ground for a major new campaign to rally public opinion behind military action against the Islamic Republic.

Barring an unexpected breakthrough on the diplomatic front, that campaign, like the one eight years ago, is likely to move into high gear this autumn, beginning shortly after the Labor Day holiday on September 6, that marks the end of the summer vacation.

By the following week, the November mid-term election campaign will be in full swing, and Republican candidates are expected to make the charge that Democrats and President Barack Obama are "soft on Iran" their top foreign policy issue. In any event, veterans of the Bush administration's pre-Iraq invasion propaganda offensive are clearly mobilizing their arguments for a similar effort on Iran, even suggesting that the timetable between campaign launch and possible military action - a mere six months in Iraq's case - could be appropriate.

"By the first quarter of 2011, we will know whether sanctions are proving effective," wrote Bush's former national security adviser Stephen Hadley and Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog in a paper published this month by the Washington Institute for Near Policy (WINEP), a think-tank closely tied to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

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Twilight, Eclipse -- How vampires have become modern day gothic Buddhas

With the third instalment of the wildly successful vampire franchise Twilight, a University of Western Sydney expert says the series and the rise in vampirism highlights the growing phenomenon of new spiritualities based on popular culture.

Associate Professor Adam Possamai is the author of the book "Sociology of Religion for Generation X and Y", and coined the term "hyper-real" religions to describe new faiths that draw on religion, philosophy and popular culture to create their own beliefs.

Associate Professor Possamai says the growing number of "vampires", who drink blood or drain "psychic energy" for sustenance, are an example of how hyper-real religions often have more relevance to the self than traditional mass religions.
"People are becoming inspired by the characteristics of the vampire, and see them as a source of fulfilling their potential and inner abilities," Professor Possamai says.

"The vampire is no longer a monster that needs to be exclusively destroyed, it is now a superman type of character that people aspire to become to realise their full potential."

"Dracula has become a modern day gothic Buddha."

Professor Possamai says popular culture has helped create a host of new spiritualities in the past four decades.

"For example, Star Wars inspired Jediism, and the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft inspired the Church of Satan," he says.

"These hyper-real religions, or spirituality a-la-carte, thrive on the Internet, and demonstrate that popular culture can no longer be seen exclusively as a source of escapism because it's now also a platform for spirituality."

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The Permanent Dehumanizing of Humanity?

By Dr. Judith H. Young [Global Research]

On the day after Thanksgiving, 2008, a holiday season employee died from asphyxiation when he was trampled by some 2,000 bargain hunters smashing through the doors of a Long Island Wal-Mart store on what is traditionally, and in this case quite appropriately, called Black Friday.  A 34-year-old, 6-foot-5, 270-pound giant, Jdimytai Damour had been sent to the vestibule as a crowd control measure because of his size.  The throngs, who had had been standing outside or waiting in their cars for the 5 AM opening, and who were in competition with each other to get to the bargains, crumpled a metal portion of the door frame like an accordion as they fought their way into the store.  Wal-mart employees scurried atop vending machines to avoid the masses, but Damour was knocked down and trampled while he was trying to shield a pregnant shopper. 

 

Other employees were knocked down as they tried to rescue Damour.  Nassau police and paramedics trying to save Damour were also jostled and pushed to the ground.  Police and witnesses said shoppers continued to surge inside, simply stepped over Damour, and kept shopping even as the store announced it was closing because of the death.  Witness Kimberly Cribbs said "all those people who got in went right on shopping after the worker was run over and was seen gasping for air."  Four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant, were injured and treated at hospitals. 

 

In the ensuing debate regarding whether Damour's death was a prosecutable crime, experts were divided.  “In order to prosecute a homicide, you have to establish that someone caused a death," said one lawyer.  "If I stepped on his arm, or chest, or leg, even if you have that on video, how are you going to establish that I caused his death?" [1]  

 

Our moral sense finds this legal argument repugnant, and insists on calling a spade a spade:  a man was unnecessarily killed as a result of obsessive consumerism in which human beings acted less than human.

 

Damour's death is horrific enough in itself as an example of the potential consequences of the  manipulation of human nature into what film maker Adam Curtis terms "the all-consuming self.” [2] But a mind-boggling video interview with a customer after the incident raises the hypothesis of our deterioration into a subhuman species.  A transcript follows, but Footnote 3 gives the link to the You Tube video, which is even more chilling to watch.

Yeah, I was here on Black Friday.  Let me tell you about that guy that died.  About two thousand  of us [were] outside in a...nasty, cold...parking lot -- compressed into a small space....That is not  a humane way to treat 2,000 people; they should have set up something like a tent for us to sit in  and possibly eat pancakes....That is terrible thing to do to people....And on the inside there was a  lot of good deals....He didn't get out of the way.  He opened the door and he stood there.  This was  the one obstacle we had between us and the deal of a lifetime....They said “y'all got to leave.”  Most of us said, "unh, unh” [the man gives the finger at this point].  This is Wal-Mart.  I can do what I  want here.  Always.  You seen the sign outside?  It says I can do what I want here.  Actually, I think  it says "Low Prices Always," but I equate low prices to freedom.  Eagles.  Bald ones. Everywhere.... On this particular day, the most holiest of days, Black Friday, [a Wal-Mart employee is meant to  help people] buy things much cheaper than normal.  And he kept getting in the way....Serves him  right, that's all I have to say.  I bought a whole set of silverware for eight...for $7.00.  If that guy  hadn't been standing in my way, I could have gotten it much faster....I bought a bunch of presents  for my children...[including] a Barbie...and for Susie...just... a bunch of flannel shirts; I'm pretty  sure Susie is going to end up being a lesbian.  She's always doing weird things; she's always sawing  wood up out in the yard....For my wife I got a shotgun in the hunting section and a tent; she might  also be a lesbian, I don't know -- all the girls in my family are fucked up.  If that guy wasn't there I  could have very easily gotten in and gotten out a little quicker.”  [3]

How did we get to this point?  To a juncture in which humans are not only capable of mindless killing in their all-consuming narcissism but are also exhibiting an apparent descent of their very species?  In 2008 I addressed this tragic anomaly in a two-part essay presenting a threefold model of the types of power used by the ruling class to gain ascendancy -- brute force, the power to hurt, and psychological manipulation [http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10493; www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10687 ].The essay emphasized the prospects for solutions that derive from a keen understanding of the problem – from a forensic dissection of the three forms of power and their potency.  In this dissection we need to examine how mind controllers have preyed upon humanity's lowest common denominators in an effort to literally change the substratum of human nature itself.  The group killing cited at the beginning of this article is a pivotal example.

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Hunter S. Thompson fined for drunken driving

Here's a look at the past. Items have been culled from The Chronicle's archives of 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago.

1985

June 13: Hunter S. Thompson, the founder of gonzo journalism, was fined $800 yesterday after pleading no contest to a drunken-driving charge in San Francisco. Municipal Court Judge Lenard Louie also ordered Thompson to pay damages and medical bills for three people who suffered minor injuries when he hit a car while driving drunk. The accident occurred in the northbound lanes of Highway 101 at 3.05 a.m. May 16. Thompson's speech was described as wandering, repetitive and slurred by the CHP, which said he failed several coordination tests at the scene. The alcohol in his blood was 0.16, which is 0.06 above the legal limit. He was also given a six months' suspended sentence, placed on probation for three years and had his license suspended for six months. Thompson, 45, the author of seven books, including "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," and long associated with Rolling Stone magazine, is in San Francisco to research a book to be titled "The Night Manager." He is working as a night manager at the Mitchell Brothers Theater, a Tenderloin porno palace.

~ San Francisco Chronicle ~

Why Human Rights Matter: Confronting Rendition to Torture in North Carolina

By Clare Hanrahan [OpEdNews]

Despite what our leaders may profess, U.S. directed torture continues and efforts to obtain redress for victims and accountability from perpetrators are met with systematic obstruction. We know we cannot rely on government, at any level, to take the initiative for accountability.

But we must not be bystanders.

Six years have passed since the release of the gruesome photos of torture at Abu Ghraib, and it is well past the deadline President Obama set for closing the prison camps at Guantanamo. Yet this Administration has steadfastly refused to seek accountability for U.S.-sponsored torture--the murderous extent of which is still being revealed--and invokes the "state secrets" privilege to obstruct prosecution when torture victims, some released without charge, seek legal redress.

These issues are never easy to confront. They require us to break through our denial, take in the horror, and hold it in awareness while we organize for action.

In a 2006 report, The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) accused the United States of operating a "clandestine "spiderweb' of disappearances, secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers, often encompassing countries notorious for their use of torture. Hundreds of persons have become entrapped in this web--some merely suspected of sympathizing with a presumed terrorist organization."

In North Carolina, a tenacious grassroots coalition of peace and human rights activists, religious groups, and courageous locals has organized as NC Stop Torture Now (NC-STN). According to the group, "Officials of the Bush Administration used North Carolina as a key part of their secret off-shore torture program." The "torture taxi" planes were based in Johnston and Lenoir counties. Their pilots and crews work for Aero Contractors, a CIA linked company headquartered at the Johnston County airport in Smithfield, a town of less than 12,000 persons situated in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina about 30 miles east of Raleigh.

NC Stop Torture Now has been campaigning since 2005 at local, state, and federal levels for an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition to torture and for an investigation of Aero Contractors. They act boldly and deftly to educate the public and state officials. They seek acknowledgment and accountability for the crimes, apology and restitution for torture survivors, and assurance that state and national resources will never again be used to secretly disappear people and torture them, whether they are guilty of crimes or not.

The U.N. Convention against Torture, ratified by the U.S.in 1994, requires in Article III: "No state shall expel, return or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." Failure to prosecute violations is considered a breach of international law. North Carolina law requires anyone in charge of a state agency, such as the Global TransPark where Aero maintained a hangar in Kinston, to report possible criminal violations to the State Bureau of Investigation.

NC-STN was pivotal in organizing a public conference, "Weaving a Net of Accountability: Taking on Extraordinary Rendition at the State and Regional Level," held April 8-9 at Duke University. Speakers came from Ireland, London, New York, Washington, Boston, and from throughout North Carolina.

"It is clear that our public taxpayer-funded airports are systematically being used by the CIA for purposes that may in fact still include extraordinary rendition," said Christina Cowger, a conference organizer and facilitator with NC-STN. Aero Contractors was founded in 1979 in the wake of the dismantling of Air America, the CIA airline that participated heavily in the Indo-China wars, she said.

"It was actually the St. Louis folks who woke us up to the fact that we had this CIA operation in our backyard," Cowger acknowledged. A delegation from St. Louis including longtime human rights activist and war-tax resister Bill Ramsey and his friend, Andrew Wimmer, traveled to North Carolina in November 2005.

The group joined with local members of NC-STN and served a peoples' indictment to Aero Contractors, charging them with multiple counts of violation of U.S. and international laws and treaties banning torture by providing pilots and planes for the CIA's program of extraordinary rendition. The citizen action resulted in 14 arrests--not of the officials who are complicit in rendition to torture, but of the activists who came to seek accountability.

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Infinite War

The American Way of War by Tom Engelhardt

Reviewed by Pepe Escobar

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to
- Bob Dylan, It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

Tom Engelhardt is "a national treasure" - as University of Michigan professor Juan Cole aptly puts it. A treasure of a man, author, crack book editor and master of ceremonies of the essential website TomDispatch.com - a project of the Nation Institute - his latest book is composed of 29 essays originally published online from March 2004 to early 2010, and slightly revamped. What's in a title? In this case, all of it, no holds barred: America as we know it, defined and explained according to its ethos - war.

War, the Vietnam-era 1970 Motown mega-hit written by Whitfield-Strong and sung by Edwin Starr, went like this:
War ... huh ... yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing ... say it again y'all.

But if we're talking about the US industrial-military complex, war means absolutely everything. Like an extended Motown shuffle with some hard-hitting Stax breaks, and never devoid of an all too human sense of humor and pathos, Tom's book takes us for the ride. And though the landscape surveyed is all too familiar for anyone who has followed George "Dubya's" wars, it ain't pretty; and it does lead to a black hole in our collective soul.

Appropriately, this collection of essays is a tribute to Chalmers Johnson and his relentless, ongoing analysis of the US global empire of bases, in books ranging from Blowback to Nemesis. It's all here - the "war-is-peace" American newspeak so cherished by assorted Project for a New American Century neo-con, armchair warriors. But was it always like this? Not really. Right at the start, crack media-shredder machine Tom takes us through the pages of the New York Times a few days before 9/11. And - surprise! - none of the usual suspects are in town.

"Saddam Hussein didn't make it into the paper that week. Kim Jong-il was nowhere in sight. Osama bin Laden barely slipped into print - twice deep into articles - as "the accused terrorist" being hosted by the strange Taliban government. The "axis of evil", of course, did not exist, nor did the global "war on terror", and the potential enemy of the week, pushed by former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld (himself on the defensive over the military budget and arguments with his generals), was "the rising China threat".

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Forcing workers to toil in heat is anti-Islamic: Saudi scholar

A top Saudi cleric has said that forcing labourers to work in the hot summer sun is forbidden in Islam and contradicts the basic objectives of the Sharia law.

Ali bin Abbas Al Hakami, member of the Board of Senior Ulema and member of the Supreme Judicial Council in Saudi Arabia, denounced those who give scant respect to this basic philosophy of Islamic Sharia and force labourers to toil in oppressive heat.

Thousands of foreign workers, including a large number of Indians, work in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries and have been the key component of the construction boom in the region.

Al Hakami said Islam orders everyone to be kind and considerate to labourers who are in the lowest strata of society.

"If a worker is not strong enough to carry out a given task, he should be provided with another worker to help him rather than forcing him to do the work alone," he said in a statement.

According to Al Hakami, the state has issued a regulation banning labourers from being forced to work outdoors in extreme summer temperatures and the law will be implemented next year.

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New evidence suggests second shooter killed RFK



Forty years after Democratic rising star Robert F. Kennedy was killed at a Los Angeles hotel during his presidential run, new evidence suggests the man serving a life sentence for his murder did not fire the shots that killed the charismatic senator.

Intel's Mind-Interface "Reads" 1,000 Words

We've moved a long way from the keyboard-and-mouse only computer interface. Touchscreens, speech, and even typing systems that track eye and muscle movements all aid in interaction. But what if we could literally transmit our thoughts to computer interfaces--without any sort of implanted computer chip? Intel's Human Brain project, a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, is attempting to do just that.

The ambitious project (see our report from last year) uses EEG, fMRI, and magnetoencephalography to deduce what a subject is thinking about based on their pattern of neural activity. The process is still fairly primitive--it only works with concrete nouns within a 1,000-word vocabulary, and it can only tell the difference between two nouns at a time. In other words, the algorithm can't yet deduce on its own if a user is thinking of the word "arm," but it can figure out whether a user is thinking of "arm" or "shirt"(or any number of other nouns). Intel tells us that the algorithm is accurate 9 out of 10 times.

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Countries Throw a Book at Facebook: Sid Harth

Facebook and its controversial privacy policies are teeming with new complications as regulators overseas increasingly start to regard them as a suspicious, Americanising import.

This week, data protection officials in Hamburg, Germany, sent a menacing missive in Facebook's direction, accusing the social network of partaking in illegal activities by retaining data about people who aren't members of the site but whose contact information may have come into its possession through members' email importer tools. Last year, the privacy commissioner in Canada put significant pressure on Facebook to simplify its privacy controls, citing concerns that were pulled back into the spotlight when a Toronto law firm filed suit against Facebook this month, for which it's seeking class-action status.

There will be more incidents like these. Facebook's privacy policies, however maligned by advocacy groups, have thus far held up decently well in the US; a coalition of senators who called attention to the amount of data that Facebook shares with third parties quietened down when the social network made some modifications. But more than three quarters of Facebook's users live outside the US, in countries where laws are different, and where lawmakers are much less likely to agree with the Facebook concept — or even the American concept — of online privacy.

“It's the essence of Facebook that you, as a US resident, are able to reconnect with that transfer student from Paraguay from when you were in sixth grade,” said Paul Bond, an attorney with law firm Reed Smith who specialises in data protection and privacy. “That global operational reality is challenged to the breaking point by the patchwork of privacy laws in different countries. The fact of the matter is, while people on social-media networks want to be able to seamlessly interact with one another, they are citizens of nations. Those nations have their own rules with regard to data privacy protection, and they expect them to follow those rules.”

Facebook representatives were not immediately available to answer a question about how it currently deals with data protection regulations in different countries.

It's not that the Facebook juggernaut is unwelcome overseas. Politicians, candidates and regulators around the world near-universally understand the power of the social network and its connections, with fan pages a crucial part of election efforts geared to young voters and interest groups now virtual home bases for activism. And Facebook has even begun formal collaborations with governments. On Friday, it announced a partnership with the office of the British Prime Minister on “The Spending Challenge”, a project to crowd-source solutions to the country's budget deficit.

But that doesn't mean they're all willing to accept what Facebook's selling them with regard to how it handles user data, from how long it retains information from deleted accounts to how much of a member's profile can be shared with third-party partners. The privacy regulations of a company or a sovereignty are as much reflections of a culture's ethical values as they are fine-print rules. And the strict data protection laws of many European countries, particularly Germany, emerged out of the psychic scars of autocratic governments. This has created complications for many a US tech company: the EU sparred with Microsoft, and it's still not through with Google — particularly its tight-lipped search algorithms and the alleged intrusions of Google Street View. Now, with Facebook's profile ever growing in Europe, it's a bigger priority for regulators.

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Happy 115th, Mr Fuller!

When he was 32, his life seemed hopeless. He was bankrupt and without a job. He was grief stricken over the death of his first child and he had a wife and a newborn to support. Drinking heavily, he contemplated suicide. Instead, he decided decided that his life was not his to throw away: it belonged to the universe. Buckminster Fuller embarked on "an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity." If the architect, author, designer, inventor, and futurist Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller were still alive, he would be 115 years old today. Though he died in 1983, his legacy grows on through recordings of his ideas and the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

Bucky did not arise from nothing on his 32nd birthday, but came from a long line of New England Nonconformists, including his great-aunt Margaret Fuller, an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement, who is credited with writing the first major feminist work in the United States. In 1917 Fuller married Anne Hewlett, daughter of James Monroe Hewlett, an architect who had created a modular compressed fiber-block building material. Fuller himself supervised the erection of several hundred houses, but the construction company encountered financial difficulties in 1927 and Fuller was forced out. With the earlier death of his daughter in 1922, and now faced with caring for his wife and a newborn child, It was then that Buckminster Fuller set a goal of making a difference in the world at large.

Though he had no official degree (he entered Harvard on a legacy, but was expelled twice - the first time for consorting with a dance troupe), Bucky started designing systems to address real-world needs and demands with the minimum amount of resources, often in very unconventional ways. One series of efforts started in 1927, with the design of the Dymaxion house. Dymaxion was a combination of three of Bucky's favorite words: DY (dynamic), MAX (maximum), and ION (tension). The first (and only) model was built until 1946, in Wichita, Kansas. It was supposed to cost about $6,500 in 1946, approximately the cost of a high-end automobile. Though it survived a near-miss with a tornado in 1964, the home was later abandoned. It was taken apart in 1992 and over the next eight years, Henry Ford Museum staff researched the house, and cleaned and restored its 3,000 components. On October 24, 2001, the restoration complete and the Dymaxion House was opened to the public.


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Milton Rogovin’s “Approach”: Photography, Class, and the Aesthetics of Making Space

By Joseph Entin, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

(Note: this paper was delivered at the American Studies Association Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 2008)

In 1977, Susan Sontag published her celebrated book, On Photography, which offered a searing critique of the camera's capacity to objectify and control. "To photograph people is to violate them," Sontag declared, "by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder" (14-15).

Written with her trademark flair and force, Sontag's book inaugurated a wave of criticism, much of it influenced by Foucaultian theory, that underscored the instrumentality and implicit violence of photography, its ability to police and regulate it subjects, especially those lacking social and political power: the poor, presumed "deviants" or "criminals," and workers. As Sontag herself acknowledged, however, photography is not only a predatory means of taking possession, but also a mode of conferring value; it can potentially be put to counter-hegemonic uses, used to see and frame in ways that affirm and legitimate, rather than strictly contain and control, the presence of culturally disenfranchised persons. At the time On Photography1 was released, one such experiment in progressive photography was being undertaken upstate from Sontag, in Buffalo, New York, by a photographer named Milton Rogovin.

Born into a Jewish family in New York City in 1909, Rogovin attended Columbia and trained as an optometrist, graduating in the midst of the Great Depression. Concerned about the plight of the unemployed, he began taking classes at the Communist Party-sponsored Workers School, and became convinced, as he explained later, that "socialism was the path we should take to create a more equitable society" (qtd Herzog, 28). In 1938 he moved to Buffalo and opened an optometric practice; in 1942, he purchased a camera and began experimenting with photography. Rogovin served in the U.S. army in World War II, and then returned to Buffalo, where he continued to be active on the Left. In 1957 he was called before a House Un-American Activities Committee and labeled by the Buffalo Evening News as the city's "Number One Red." The same year, he was invited by a friend, William Tallmadge, a professor at Buffalo State College, to take pictures in local African American churches where Tallmadge was making sound recordings for a Folkways album of gospel music. Tallmadge finished his work in a few months, but Rogovin continue to work in the churches for three years, eventually completing a series that was published in Aperture magazine, with an introduction by W.E.B. DuBois. It was this store front church series that convinced Rogovin that social documentary photography was the kind of photography he wanted to pursue, and over the next several years, working closely with his wife Anne, he undertook a range of projects to document people he refers to as "the forgotten ones": workers, the poor, indigenous peoples, people of color. He has photographed miners in Appalachia, Asia and Europe, the rural poor in Chile, and residents of Buffalo's Lower West Side. In 1978, he closed
2his optometric office in order to do a photo series in Buffalo area manufacturing plants, entitled "Working People," which was completed between 1976 and 1987. Many of the portraits in his "Working People" series were diptychs: pairings of one photograph taken of an individual on the job, and one at home, and it's these diptychs that I'm going to discuss.

The years during which Rogovin completed this series represented a period of great loss and decline for industrial labor in the U.S., especially in traditional manufacturing cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, as the postwar settlement between organized labor and corporate capitalism, which had lifted working-class living standards "to unprecedented heights" (Freeman, JAH 732), was shattered by crucial economic and political transformations, including deindustrialization, the de-regulation of several major industries, and the shift from Fordist modes of production, founded on standardization and labor market stability, to regimes of flexible accumulation (David Harvey), marked by capital mobility, outsourcing, and the movement of manufacturing to the Global South and right-to-work states, which sparked "ruthless downward spirals of wage cutting and deunionization" (Davis, 137). Although, as historian Michael Frisch cautions, the story of Buffalo's economy in the 1970s is not reducible to a pat narrative of industrial demise, the city's core manufacturing base did collapse over the course of the decade, as unemployment rose from just 4 percent in 1968 to over 12 percent in 1975, as several of the city's major steel and automobile plants closed or dramatically reduced their labor forces.1

In the cultural sphere, the political and economic assault on unionized labor was accompanied by a negative turn in the public image of working people. One of the most
3well-circulated pictures of American workers in the 1970s came from the so-called hard-hat riots, when, in 1971, construction laborers violently interrupted an anti-war march in downtown Manhattan, "hitting students with fists, hardhats, and tools and chasing them through the narrow streets of the financial district" (Freeman 237). Over the next two weeks, workers undertook daily lunchtime marches through the canyons of Wall Street, shouting "U.S.A. Alla Way!" "The hardhat demonstrations," historian Joshua Freeman observes, "seemed to confirm a common, middle-class view of manual laborers that held them to be one-dimensional, inarticulate, and intolerant" (Freeman 241).

In the context of the economic and rhetorical attacks on unions and workers that marked the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rogovin's "Working People" series constitutes what Shawn Michelle Smith terms a counter-archive, an alternative array of images that challenges the anti-worker ideology of the emerging neo-liberal regime. If this regime aimed to demean and degrade the public perception of workers—portraying them as resentful, unintelligent, and irrational figures who stood in the way of economic growth and flexibility—Rogovin's images depict them, by contrast, as a diverse group of competent, thoughtful, complex persons. Rather than a monolithic mass of brawny, white proletarians, Rogovin's working people are black and white, men and women, married and single, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. They all work in Buffalo and Lackawanna's industrial plants, but their home pictures indicate a remarkable variety of interests, living contexts, and relationships. In the most basic sense, then, Rogovin's portraits explode the reductive images of working people circulating in much of the period's mass culture.4 But more significant than the image of workers, I think, is what Rogovin's diptychs have to say about the act of looking and the art of photography. In what follows, I want to propose that Rogovin's photography of working people exemplifies a form of democratic social relations founded on collaboration and dialogue.

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Parental biases influence brain

The body's tendency to silence the expression of one parental allele in favor of the other -- a practice known as genomic imprinting -- is much more widespread than scientists have believed, according to a new genome-wide study in mice, published online this week in Science.

The study found that the number of genes in mouse brains with a bias toward either the maternal or paternal allele is thirteen times higher than previously thought.

"Overall, the results tell us that imprinting is a major mode of epigenetic regulation," said study author Catherine Dulac at Harvard University. In addition, she and her colleagues argue that understanding imprinting in the brain may shed light on sex-specific brain diseases.

Genomic imprinting is a type of epigenetic regulation, in which chemical reactions cause changes in gene expression without altering the underlying DNA. Over the last ten years, many researchers have tried brute-force methods like microarrays to determine the number of imprinted genes, said Michael O'Neill, a molecular biologist at the University of Connecticut who was not involved in the research. "This is the best, most comprehensive study I've seen thus far," he said. "They can see very subtle parental biases, which you can't typically see with other methods."

Prior to this study, only around 100 imprinted genes had been identified -- most either stumbled over or found on a case-by-case basis. Of those 100 genes, the majority are involved in embryonic development, but the second most frequent phenotype is brain function.

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Charges for Soldier Accused of Leak

An American soldier in Iraq  who was arrested on charges of leaking a video of a deadly American helicopter attack here in 2007 has also been charged with downloading more than 150,000 highly classified diplomatic cables that could, if made public, reveal the inner workings of American embassies around the world, the military here announced Tuesday.

The full contents of the cables remain unclear, but according to formal charges filed Monday, it appeared that a disgruntled soldier working at a remote base east of Baghdad had gathered some of the most guarded, if not always scandalous, secrets of American diplomacy. He disclosed at least 50 of the cables “to a person not entitled to receive them,” according to the charges.

With the charges, a case that stemmed from the furor over a graphic and fiercely contested video of an attack from an American helicopter that killed 12 people, including a reporter and a driver for Reuters, mushroomed into a far more extensive and potentially embarrassing leak.

The charges cited only one cable by name, “Reykjavik 13,” which appeared to be one made public by WikiLeaks.org, a whistle-blowing Web site devoted to disclosing the secrets of governments and corporations. The Web site decoded and in April made public an edited version of the helicopter attack in a film it called “Collateral Murder.”

In the cable, dated Jan. 13, the American deputy chief of mission, Sam Watson, detailed private discussions he held with Iceland's leaders over a referendum on whether to repay losses from a bank failure, including a frank assessment that Iceland could default in 2011. (The referendum failed, but negotiations continue.)

~ more... ~

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