Jan 312012
 

 

* MOYERS JOURNAL: HOW DID THE BIG BANKS GET SO POWERFUL? – VIDEO

Source: Bill Moyers / vimeo

Bill Moyers talks with former Citigroup Chairman John Reed to explore a momentous instance: how the mid-90’s merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group, and a friendly Presidential pen, brought down the Glass-Steagall Act, a crucial firewall between banks and investment firms which had protected consumers from financial calamity since the aftermath of the Great Depression. In effect, says Moyers, they put the watchdog to sleep.

VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/35736113

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* FREDERIC BASTIAT: HOW TO IDENTIFY LEGAL PLUNDER

By Adam Sharp, bearishnews.com

In the passage below Frédéric Bastiat comments on a few of the problems experienced in crony capitalistic societies such as ours:

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law — which may be an isolated case — is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.

The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.

Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.

Connecting the dots from 1850, when Bastiat wrote this, to today, hardly seems necessary. 162 years later, and Bastiat’s The Law is fresh as a daisy.

READ @ http://www.bearishnews.com/post/4786

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* ANSCHLUSS ECONOMICS – THE GERMANS LAUNCH A BLITZKREIG ON THE GREEK DEBT NEGOTIATIONS

By Marshall Auerback, NakedCapitalism

News stories continue to suggest that Greece once again appears on the verge of reaching a deal with its private sector creditors on how much of a loss they would be willing to accept on their bond holdings. The latest numbers suggest a 70% write-down. A pretty striking comedown for what is supposed to be a “voluntary default” and, hence, not subject to the triggers of a credit default swap on Greek debt.

Naturally, the spin surrounding the proposed agreement is that this is a “one-off” and that other troubled periphery nations shouldn’t even begin to think of securing a comparable deal. But the inherent tension between securing a write-down on Greek debt which more closely mirrors the disaster which is now the Greek economy, and the desire to minimise the potential contagion effect is rearing its ugly head already, and may help to explain some of Germany’s recent machinations.

Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times published the German government’s proposal for Greece’s “improvement of compliance” with the terms of the bailout, and all of a sudden Greek PSI positively pales in comparison. According to Germany’s proposal, whatever the result of the PSI deal, Greece would need to “legally commit itself to giving absolute priority to future debt service” and “accept shifting budgetary sovereignty to the European level”. If the Greek government is not willing to do this, the troika would presumably turn off the taps of bailout money and Greece would default. With no access to market or official financing, Greece would be forced to exit the eurozone. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/marshall-auerback-anschluss-economics-the-germans-launch-a-blitzkrieg-on-the-greek-debt-negotiations.html

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* ARE COMPANIES MORE POWERFUL THAN COUNTRIES?

By Rana Foroohar, The Curious Capitalist

In 2008, after Lehman Brothers fell and the financial crisis and global recession began, the conventional wisdom was that we were entering an era in which government would take back power from business. In fact, just the opposite has happened.

The high profile political figures here at Davos disappointed — Merkel was angry and depressed by turns, and Geithner was defensive. Europe remains a mess, the U.S. vulnerable, and emerging markets — the only bright spot in the last three years — are slowing down. Politicians have few solutions to the huge problems of the day — labor bifurcation, debt, and inequality. Markets want answers, but leaders can’t give them — in part because for them, nearly any sort of action poses political risk.

Meanwhile, the top companies seem to exist in a world apart — they are booming, and their executives are prospering. If there is a meta theme to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, it is that the world’s largest companies are moving on and moving ahead of governments and countries that they perceive to be inept and anemic. They are flying above them, operating in a space that is increasingly disconnected from local concerns, and the problems of their home markets. And if the conversations here are any indication, they may soon take over much of what government itself does. […]

READ @ http://business.time.com/2012/01/27/are-companies-more-powerful-than-countries/

NOTE: Make sure you read Pioro’s comment

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* MONSANTO’S NEW SEEDS COULD BE A TECH DEAD END

By Tom Laskawy, Grist

When I wrote recently about the next generation of genetically engineered seeds, I was in truth referring to the next next generation. The fact is that the next actual generation of seeds is already out of the lab and poised for approval by the USDA.

And I’m not talking about Monsanto’s recently approved “drought-tolerant” seeds, which the USDA itself has observed are no more drought-tolerant than existing conventional hybrids.

No, the “exciting” new seeds are simply resistant to more than one kind of pesticide. Rather than resisting Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup alone, they will now also be resistant to Dow AgroScience’s pesticide 2,4-D . […]

READ @ http://grist.org/industrial-agriculture/monsantos-new-seeds-could-be-a-tech-dead-end/

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* MONSANTO DECLARED WORST COMPANY OF 2011

By Anthony Gucciardi & Mike Barrett, naturalsociety.com

Biotech giant Monsanto has been declared the Worst Company of 2011 by NaturalSociety for threatening both human health and the environment. The leader in genetically modified seeds and crops, Monsanto is currently responsible for 90 percent of the genetically engineered seed on the United States market. Outside of GM seeds, Monsanto is also the creator of the best-selling herbicide Roundup, which has spawned over 120 million hectacres of herbicide-resistant superweeds while damaging much of the soil. Despite hard evidence warning against the amplified usage of genetically modified crops, biopesticides, and herbicides, Monsanto continues to disregard all warning signs.

In a powerful review of 19 studies analyzing the dangers of GMO crops such as corn and soybeans, researchers revealed some shocking information regarding the safety of these popular food staples. Researchers found that consumption of GMO corn or soybeans may lead to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice – particularly in the liver and kidneys. This is particularly concerning due to the fact that 93 percent of U.S. soybeans are known to be genetically modified. Ignoring this evidence, Monsanto continues to expand their genetic manipulation. […]

READ @ http://naturalsociety.com/monsanto-declared-worst-company-of-2011/

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* OWS STANDS WITH FARMERS, SAY ENOUGH! TO MONSANTO

Movement is calling for protests to support 60 family farmers, small seed businesses, organizations challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed

By Common Dreams Staff

The Occupy Wall Street movement has highlighted the tremendous corporate greed and power that has benefited the 1%.

One company helping the 1% is Monsanto. Food Democracy Now! writes that:

Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.

Monsanto’s genetically modified seed can contaminate non-gmo fields allowing the company to sue for seed theft. Food Democracy Now! continues:

In many cases farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

Today, the Occupy movement is seizing the moment to highlight this corporate power. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/01/31-0

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* SUNDERING THE SOCIAL CONTRACT

By Danny Schechter, OpEdNews

In political philosophy, the idea of a social contract is that the individual surrenders some rights for the benefits of living in a civilized society that has reasonable rules for all. However, in recent decades, the greedy rich have torn up that contract.

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The conflict between property rights and human rights has entered a new chapter. It is a debate that goes back to the challenge by landowners and merchants behind the American Revolution’s war on British control over the colonial economy.

Only today, as those speaking in the name of the 99 percent challenge the super wealthy of the 1 percent (actually the .001 percent), there is a new battleground in what’s known as the housing market with as many as 14 million Americans in or facing foreclosure.

The defense of property rights is the holy of the holies for the propertied classes with a whole industry set up to enforce their claims of ownership.

We have seen how this plays out with the courts, run by often bought-off and complicit judges rubber-stamping claims by banks and realty interests even when laws are disregarded amidst fraudulent filings, biased contracts, and phony robot signings.

They control the marshals who seize your property and they constantly denigrate the real victims as “irresponsible.” It’s not surprising any more to read about banks foreclosing on properties they don’t even own. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=144759

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* BUYING CONGRESS IN 2012

By Tom Engelhardt, Economy in Crisis

Startling numbers of Americans are “underwater” — homeowners and students alike — and so, for that matter, is Congress, even if in quite a different way.  In these last years, it’s been flooded with money.  Millionaires, including at least 10 centimillionaires, now make up nearly half of our representatives there, and as a group, they have been growing ever richer as Americans grow ever poorer.  Bad times?  Never heard of them.  Congress’s median net worth rose by 15% between 2004 and 2010 — and this news, in a recent front-page New York Times piece, hardly caused a stir.

Of course, everything is relative.  Compared to the giant energy companies, ours is a Congress of paupers.  After all, the Big Five oil outfits (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell) announced a combined $36 billion in profits in the second quarter of 2011.  Exxon alone pulled in $10.7 billion (and spent more than half of those profits simply to buy back its own stock).  In the third quarter, the same five companies returned for an encore.  They made another $32.6 billion in profits, with Exxon at $10.3 billion (about half of which it again spent on stock buybacks). […]

READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/buying-congress-in-2012

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* CONGRESSMEN BATTLE OVER KOCH BROTHERS KEYSTONE PIPELINE – VIDEO

Source: TheYoungTurks, youtube

Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman got an angry response from Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield over the idea that the right wing billionaire Koch brothers should be subpoenaed over their financial interest in the Keystone XL Pipeline. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian break it down.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Y-wFXLMvzHw

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* SAVING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

By Bernie Sanders, Economy in Crisis

I have recently introduced a constitutional amendment, the Saving American Democracy Act, to undo the damage being caused by the disastrous 5-4 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

In my view, this Supreme Court decision is one of the worst in the history of our country. Together, we have got to do everything we can to repeal it. A good place to start would be signing the petition and becoming a citizen co-sponsor of this resolution.Let me be very clear. Despite what five members of the U.S. Supreme Court may believe, a corporation is not a person. A corporation does not have First Amendment rights to spend as much money as it wants, without disclosure, on a political campaign. Corporations should not be able to go into their treasuries and withdraw unlimited sums of money in order to buy elections. That’s not what American democracy is supposed to be about.This horrendous Supreme Court ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of power in our country towards the rich and the powerful and against the needs of the middle class and working families.

Today, when corporations have more than $2 trillion in cash in their bank accounts and are making record-breaking profits, the American people are outraged when the Supreme Court says that these corporations have a constitutionally-protected right to spend shareholders’ money to dominate an election.  If we do not reverse this decision, there will be no end to the impact that corporate interests can have on our campaigns and our democracy. […]

READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/saving-american-democracy

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* OCCUPY DC PROTESTERS STAY PUT AMID EVICTION THREATS

By Charundi Panagoda, Global Issues

Two days after some 400 people were arrested during a protest organised by Occupy Oakland on the U.S. west coast, members of Occupy DC say they have no plans to leave despite the threat of police action.

Gathered at McPherson Square in Washington, most were unfazed by the National Park Service’s intention to enforce a ‘no camping’ rule starting at noon on Monday. The occupiers gathered under a ‘Tent of Dreams’, a blue tarp over a statue, to showcase solidarity and waved slogans that read ‘Eviction? Bring it!’

‘We are going to take a stand and stay as long as possible,’ Carla Boccella, a registered nurse, told IPS. […]

READ @ http://www.globalissues.org/news/2012/01/30/12574

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* OCCUPY OAKLAND: OVER 400 ARRESTED AS POLICE FIRE TEAR GAS, FLASH GRENADES AT PROTESTERS

Source: Democracy Now! / Amy Goodman

TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO @ http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/30/occupy_oakland_over_400_arrested_as#.TybAbGqyPLc.facebook

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* JOURNALISTS – MYSELF INCLUDED – SWEPT UP IN MASS ARREST AT OCCUPY OAKLAND

By Gavin Aronsen, MotherJones

On Saturday, Occupy Oakland re-entered the national spotlight during a day-long effort to take over an empty building and transform it into a social center. Oakland police thwarted the efforts, arresting more than 400 people in the process, primarily during a mass nighttime arrest outside a downtown YMCA. That number included at least six journalists, myself included, in direct violation of OPD media relations policy that states “media shall never be targeted for dispersal or enforcement action because of their status.”

After an unsuccessful afternoon effort to occupy a former convention center, the more than 1,000 protesters elected to return to the site of their former encampment outside City Hall. On the way, they clashed with officers, advancing down a street with makeshift shields of corrugated metal and throwing objects at a police line. Officers responded with smoke grenades, tear gas, and bean bag projectiles. After protesters regrouped, they marched through downtown as police pursued and eventually contained a few hundred of them in an enclosed space outside a YMCA. Some entered the gym and were arrested inside.

As soon as it became clear that I would be kettled with the protesters, I displayed my press credentials to a line of officers and asked where to stand to avoid arrest. In past protests, the technique always proved successful. But this time, no officer said a word. One pointed back in the direction of the protesters, refusing to let me leave. Another issued a notice that everyone in the area was under arrest. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=144792

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* LATEST INDICTMENTS LOOK BAD FOR SCOTT WALKER

By Ruth Conniff, The Progressive

The criminal complaints raise serious questions about what Walker knew and when he knew it.

The secret John Doe investigation of Governor Scott Walker’s associates by the Milwaukee County District Attorney, with help from the FBI, keeps turning up new dirt.

The worst, so far, are the allegations that Walker staffers Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh stole money that was supposed to go to Wisconsin veterans and vendors at a Milwaukee County Zoo veterans’ event, as well as the widows and children of Wisconsin’s war dead–and used it to pay for cruises, restaurant meals, and a Walker-for-governor campaign web site.

Russell and Kavanaugh are pleading not guilty.

Russell’s partner, Brian Pierick, was also dragged into court to face child enticement charges because investigators found records on computers and iPhones of a sexual relationship with an underaged boy, and visits to Internet porn sites using the handle “Walker04”. […]

READ @ http://www.progressive.org/latest_indictments_look_bad_for_scott_walker.html

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* THE CRISIS OF EDUCATION IN AMERICA: “HOW TO BECOME A SERF”

A society in which people exist for the sake of companies is a society enslaved

By John Kozy, Global Research

How to Become a Serf

Man is a pathetic creature; a brute trying to be god but traveling in the wrong direction.

Educational systems now train workers to fulfill the needs of companies. A society in which people exist for the sake of companies is a society enslaved. But there’s a deep problem with the notion that education should equal vocational training. To paraphrase a very famous and renowned person, man does not live by work alone. Indeed, the knowledge and skills needed to earn a living in a capitalist industrial economy are of little use in human relationships, and human relationships are the core of everyone’s life. Schools devoted to vocational training provide no venue for teaching cultural differences, for trying to understand the person who lives next door or in another country. Value systems are never evaluated; alternatives are never considered. As a result, although we all live on the same planet, we do not live together. At best, we only live side by side. At worst, we live to kill each other. Education as vocational training reduces everything to ideology, our devotion to which causes us to reject the stark reality that stares us in the face, because our ideologies color the realities we see and people never get wiser than those of previous generations. People have become nothing but the monkeys of hurdy gurdy grinders, tethered to grinders’ organs with tin cups in hands to be filled for the benefit of the grinders. And this is the species we refer to as sapient. What a delusion!

For many years, I have been troubled by what I saw as the results of what passes for education in America and perhaps elsewhere too. Why is it, do you suppose, that one generation does not seem to get any smarter than the previous one? Oh, it may know more of this or that, but what it “knows” does not translate into smarts. In other words, why don’t people ever seem to get wiser? Why do they repeat the same mistakes over and over?

For centuries, an education was thought to be comprised of considerably more than one providing the skills and requirements needed to carry on a trade or profession. For instance, consider this passage:

 “Education is not the same as training. Plato made the distinction between techne (skill) and episteme (knowledge). Becoming an educated person goes beyond the acquisition of a technical skill. It requires an understanding of one’s place in the world—cultural as well as natural—in pursuit of a productive and meaningful life. And it requires historical perspective so that one does not just live, as Edmund Burke said, like ‘the flies of a summer,’ born one day and gone the next, but as part of that ‘social contract’ that binds our generation to those who have come before and to those who are yet to be born.

An education that achieves those goals must include the study of what Matthew Arnold called ‘the best that has been known and said.’ It must comprehend the whole—the human world and its history, our own culture and those very different from ours. . . .” […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=144742

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* EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT LEARNING IS WRONG

By Garth Sundem, Wired

Taking notes during class? Topic-focused study? A consistent learning environment? All are exactly opposite of the best strategies for learning.

I recently had the good fortune to interview Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, a distinguished professor of psychology, and a massively renowned expert on packing things in your brain in a way that keeps them from leaking out.

It turns out that everything I thought I knew about learning is wrong.

First, he told me, think about how you attack a pile of study material. […]

READ @ http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/01/everything-about-learning/

Jan 302012
 

 

* OCCUPY CHICAGO – MAY 1

Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=w0qXp3kz_PY

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* OAKLAND POLICE BATTLE OCCUPY PROTESTERS

By David R. Baker, SFGate

Oakland police on Saturday fired tear gas and flash grenades at hundreds of Occupy supporters who tried to seize the long-closed Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center as their movement’s new home. More than 100 people were arrested.

Skirmishes between police in riot gear and demonstrators throwing paint cans and bottles erupted after a peaceful march that brought more than a thousand of the young movement’s supporters to downtown Oakland. The situation remained fluid well after dark, with police and demonstrators facing off on the downtown’s otherwise empty streets.

By early evening, arrests were continuing and three officers had suffered minor injuries. One woman was shot in the back at point-blank range with a beanbag gun and was hurried away by fellow demonstrators, her condition unknown. Oakland police called for reinforcements from nearby law enforcement agencies, with San Francisco’s police department sending an undisclosed number of officers. […]

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/20073032

READ @ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/28/BASI1N00ER.DTL

VIDEO @ http://news.yahoo.com/video/sanfranciscocbs5-15751300/oakland-occupy-protest-turns-violent-28067510.html

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* PARK POLICE TASE OCCUPY DC

Source: youtube

The National Park Service previously stated:

“We don’t have any issues with these folks” and “The core of their First Amendment activity is that they occupy the site.”

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jHlYMgeQ5kU#!

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* L.A. POLICE DEPARTMENT CONDUCTS JOINT EXERCISES WITH MILITARY

By Dan Bacher, Truthout

[…] Members of the Occupy movement were outraged by the joint exercises by the LA police and military, in light of the unprecedented campaign by the US government and local police agencies against the First Amendment, Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

“Open to the public?” the Occupy LA Morning Report blog responded. “You mean the deployment of military assets in an urban area is supposed to be inconspicuous? The video of these ‘exercises’ would be something to behold, probably much like what we saw in Iron-Curtain Eastern Europe and Tiananmen Square. But since the NDAA 2012 was passed nothing seems surprising any more.”

“It appears America is preparing for war against its own citizens. I don’t know how else to put it. If someone can make a suggestion for another way of interpreting this, please do,” the blog stated.

Joint military exercises have also been conducted over Boston, Massachusetts and Little Rock, Arkansas over the past six months. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/la-police-department-conducts-joint-exercises-military/1327767532

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* RON PAUL AND THE LIBERTY OF BULLIES

By Paul Rosenberg, Aljazeera

On January 12, a great blow was struck against freedom, if you subscribe to the philosophy of Ron Paul. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission voted 4-0to uphold its earlier finding that a Cincinnati landlord, Jamie Hein, had discriminated against a ten-year-old biracial girl by posting a “White Only” sign in June 2011, aimed at keeping her out of a swimming pool. According to Paul’s worldview, this was a grave and terrible blow to the white landlord’s liberty.The girl’s white father, however, sees things a bit differently.”My initial reaction to seeing the sign was of shock, disgust and outrage,” the girl’s father, Michael Gunn, said in brief comments the day the final decision was announced. The family quickly moved away, in order to protect their daughter from exposure to such humiliating bigotry – but they also filed the lawsuit.

According to Ron Paul’s view of “liberty”, they were right to move, but wrong to sue. Both Ron Paul and his son, Rand, oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act, because it outlaws private acts of discrimination. This is an “infringement of liberty”, they argue. And they’re right: just like laws against murder, it infringes the liberty of bullies. And that’s precisely what justice is: the triumph of right over might. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/201211810446786665.html

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* BYRON DORGAN ON MAKING BANKS PLAY BY THE RULES – VIDEO

By Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers talks with former Senator Byron Dorgan about making sure big banks play by rules that protect consumers from financial calamity, and how those big banks use power and influence to avoid responsibility while maximizing profits.

VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/35733157

READ TRANSCRIPT @ http://www.truth-out.org/byron-dorgan-making-banks-play-rules/1327783200

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* WHY IS A MONSANTO LOBBYIST SERVING AS THE FDA’s FOOD SAFETY CZAR? – PETITION

Source: CREDO ACTION

Why is a former Monsanto lobbyist currently serving as the FDA’s food safety czar waging war on small dairy farms that produce fresh milk?

While factory farm operators are getting away with serious food safety violations, raw milk dairy farmers and distributors across the country have been subjected to armed raids and hauled away in handcuffs.

The Food and Drug Administration is running sting operations followed by “guns-drawn raids usually reserved for terrorists and drug lords” as part of a crackdown on unpasteurized milk.1 Meanwhile, the FDA is letting the highly consolidated industrial meat and factory farm industry off the hook despite growing problems.

Not surprisingly, the person responsible for prioritizing armed raids on small dairies over holding agribusiness accountable is a former Monsanto attorney and chief super lobbyist. Monsanto’s Michael Taylor is the second highest-ranking official at the FDA, and as Food Safety Czar is responsible for implementing the day-to-day policies that govern the food safety laws for the U.S. 2

Tell President Obama to fire Monsanto’s Michael Taylor from his job as Food Czar at the FDA. […]

READ and PETITION @ http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/fire_michael_taylor/?rc=fb_share1

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* THE SELF-ATTRIBUTION FALLACY

Intelligence? Talent? No, the ultra-rich got to where they are through luck and brutality.

By George Monibot, monibot.com

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren’t responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.

The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves(1). He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers, across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. “The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill.” Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.

Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers across Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out they blanked him. “The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture.” […]

READ @ http://www.monbiot.com/2011/11/07/the-self-attribution-fallacy/

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* FOUR PSYCHOLOGISTS AT THE GATES OF HELL: A FABLE FOR OUR TIME

By Roy Eidelson, Truthout

[…] Postscript. In 2005, despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive and torturous interrogations of national security detainees, an American Psychological Association (APA) Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping such interrogations “safe, legal, ethical and effective.”

With this stance, the APA, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, became the sole major professional health care organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged. The PENS Report continues to be highly influential in psychological and national security settings today.

The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology is leading a petition campaign calling for annulment of the APA’s PENS Report. (Full disclosure: The author is a member of the coalition.) Readers interested in learning more about the annulment initiative can read the petition materials and review the current list of organizational and individual signers, as well as the form to submit an online signature, at www.ethicalpsychology.org/pens.

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/four-psychologists-gates-hell/1326912829

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* MASKED GUNMEN RULE IN DAMASCUS – VIDEO

Source: RT / Information Clearing House

Syrian Free Army fighters have managed to capture the Damascus suburb of Saqba, some 60 kilometers from the center of the city. RT’s Sara Firth traveled to the rebel-controlled area to explore how they managed to overcome the superior forces.

Clashes between Assad’s armed forces and the Free Syrian Army continue in many parts of the country including the capital. At least two people have been killed in the suburb of Saqba on Friday.

RT’s Sara Firth travelled to this area with other members of the press, while the Arab League observers, who initially led the group, decided to circle around the central part of Damascus. […]

MORE VIDEO @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30365.htm

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30365.htm

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* WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND IN IRAQ

By William Fisher, OpEdNews

We pulled out of Iraq not because we wanted to but because the Iraqi government wanted us to. Today, it is arguable whether what we left there is better or worse than what we found there.

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Human Rights Watch is charging that, despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy, the reality is that it left behind a “budding police state” —  cracking down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating, and detaining activists, demonstrators, and journalists.

The organization’s Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson, warns that “Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism as its security forces abuse protesters, harass journalists, and torture detainees.”

Its World Report 2012 attributes the downward trajectory to the security services of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki” and armed gangs. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=144753

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* IRAQIS VOICE OUTRAGE AS HADITHA MASSACRE TRIAL ENDS IN NO JAIL TIME FOR ACCUSED U.S. MARINES

Source: Democracy Now!

TRANSCRIPTS and VIDEO @ http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/26/iraqis_voice_outrage_as_us_massacre

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* U.S. PLANS FOR PERPETUAL WAR

By Renee Parsons, CommonDreams

As an attack on Iran remains temporarily on the back burner and Syria, home to US-identified terrorist group Hamas, moves up the queue as the next target for military intervention, both are part of a larger strategy proposed to newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.

The “Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” suggested a “new approach to peace’ premised on a ‘clean break’ from the Oslo peace process of the 1990’s. Oslo would have withdrawn Israeli troops from the occupied territories while affirming Palestine’s right of self-determination. Rather than pursuing a ‘comprehensive peace’ with the Arab world, Clean Break advocated an aggressive pre-emptive military strategy to destabilize Iraq and eliminate Saddam Hussein. In addition, Clean Break retained the ‘right of hot pursuit’ anywhere within the occupied territories and encouraged ‘seizing the initiative’ by “engaging” Hezbollah, Syria and Iran to trigger ultimate regime change.

The key authors of that document, American neo-cons Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Douglas Feith (who Gen. Tommy Franks called the ‘f… stupidest guy on the face of the earth” i.e. Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, pg 281), soon found themselves influential national security positions within a receptive Bush Administration from which to proselytize their recommendations. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/28-6

Jan 282012
 

 

* TWITTER ENABLES CENSORSHIP, BOYOTT BEGINS

Source: Common Dreams Staff 

Published on Friday, January 27, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

Social media website Twitter announced Thursday that it will begin blocking certain messages (tweets) on a country-to-country basis. Twitter has been known as a vehicle for free speech as well as a source for social and political organizing — notably during the protests in 2011 from the Egyptian uprising to Occupy Wall Street. Governments will now request Twitter to take down certain ‘illegal’ tweets, which will be blocked from its citizens but may still be visible by users outside of the censored country. Many have now raised concerns that this will open the door for repressive governmental censorship, in some ways defeating the benefits of Twitter all together.

This is a sudden reverse in policy for Twitter who has previously boasted its capacity for free speech.

Users across the world are beginning the protest and a Twitter boycott has been planned for tomorrow. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/01/27-4

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* FORGET SOPA AND PIPA. OBAMA SIGNED ACTA, RESCUING AND WEAKENING CONGRESS AGAIN

By Rob Kall, OpEdNews

[…] Last fall, after President Obama signed the US on to the act, Senator Ron Wyden  wrote a letter protesting the signing. The letter said …

Asking why the administration believes the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) does not require Congress’s formal approval.  According to legal experts, cited by Wyden, if the USTR ratifies ACTA without Congress’ consent it may be circumventing Congress’s Constitutional authority to regulate international commerce and protect intellectual property and would therefore represent a significant expansion of the executive branch’s authority over international agreements.

“It may be possible for the U.S. to implement ACTA or any other trade agreement, once validly entered, without legislation if the agreement requires no change in U.S. law,” Wyden writes.“But regardless of whether the agreement requires changes in U.S. law”the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter a binding international agreement covering issues delegated by the Constitution to Congress’ authority, absent congressional approval.”

ACTA makes SOPA and PIPA look like small problems. It allows the most repressive nations to demand that internet service providers (ISPs) remove content or even whole websites on demand. Picture China demanding removal of a website criticizing some policy or action. Google was just about  shut down in China in response to Chinese demands. Imagine if China could have the same chilling effect in the US and the rest of the world. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/articles/Forget-SOPA-and-PIPA-Obam-by-Rob-Kall-120127-788.html

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* ACTA EXPLAINED (VIDEO)

By Anonymous, youtube

READ @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xoW26CwhcR8

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* KNOWLEDGE IS A UNIVERSAL NATURAL RESOURCE — AND LOCKING IT UP HURTS EVERYONE

By Mike Masnick, TechDirt

from the time-to-face-facts dept

One of the more important points in understanding some of the fights over the ridiculousness of today’s copyright and patent laws is to recognize how knowledge (information) is a natural resource. It is the input that makes other great things. Economist Paul Romer’s famous research really showed how knowledge and information as a resource is what creates economic growth. Once you recognize that fact, you begin to run into problems when you think about locking up that natural resource. Think of other natural resources. Do we think the world is better off if there’s a greater supply of each of those? An abundance? If we have an abundance of wheat, that’s a good thing. If we have an abundance of energy, that’s a good thing. There may be side effects of such abundances, but the overall abundance is something worth cherishing.

The problem, however, comes when you have a new abundance where once there was scarcity. And that’s because anywhere there’s a scarcity, someone has built a business model based on that very scarcity. But that is a business model issue. Years ago, most economies rejected the idea of mercantilism, where governments would purposely build up monopolies and artificial scarcities, because of the realization that, in the long run, everyone was better off with a competitive market. The guy who had the sugar monopoly may have hated it — but everyone else was much, much better off.

And, so, we go back to knowledge and information. Unlike most other resources, knowledge is not just abundant… it is infinite. As Thomas Jefferson once famously wrote:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. 

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. […]

READ @ http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120127/09521517567/knowledge-is-universal-natural-resource-locking-it-up-hurts-everyone.shtml

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* THE SILENT ANSCHLUSS: GERMANY FORMALLY REQUESTS THAT GREECE HAND OVER ITS FISCAL INDEPENDENCE

By Tyler Durden, zerohedge

Update 2: the first local headlines are coming in now, from Spiegel: Griechenland soll Kontrolle über Haushalt abgeben (loosely Greece must give up domestic control), and Kathimerini: Germany proposes Greece relinquish some fiscal powers, sources say

Update: Formal Greek annexation order attached.

It was tried previously (several times) under “slightly different” circumstances, and failed. Yet when it comes to taking over a country without spilling even one drop of blood, and converting its citizens into debt slaves, Germany’s Merkel may have just succeeded where so many of her predecessors failed. According to a Reuters exclusive, “Germany is pushing for Greece to relinquish control over its budget policy to European institutions [ZH: read ze Germans] as part of discussions over a second rescue package, a European source told Reuters on Friday.” Reuters add: “There are internal discussions within the Euro group and proposals, one of which comes from Germany, on how to constructively treat country aid programs that are continuously off track, whether this can simply be ignored or whether we say that’s enough,” the source said.’ So while the great distraction that is the Charles Dallara “negotiation” with Hedge Funds continues (as its outcome is irrelevant: a Greece default is assured at this point), the real development once again was behind the scenes where Germany was cleanly and clinically taking over Greece. Because while today it is the fiscal apparatus, tomorrow it is the legislative. As for the executive: who cares. At that point Goldman will merely appoint one of its retired partners as Greek president and Greece will become the first 21st century German, pardon, European colony. But at least it will have its precious euro. We can’t wait until Greek citizens find out about this quiet coup.

More from Reuters:

The source added that under the proposals European institutions already operating in Greece should be given “certain decision-making powers” over fiscal policy.

“This could be carried out even more stringently through external expertise,” the source said.

The German demands for greater control over Greek budget policy comes amid intense talks to finalize a second 130-billion euro rescue package for Greece, which has repeatedly failed to meet the fiscal targets set out for it by its international lenders.

It is likely to spark a strong reaction in Athens ahead of elections expected to take place in April. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/silent-anschluss-germany-formally-requests-greece-hand-over-its-fiscal-independence

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* THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT OF GLOBAL OUTRAGE 

Source: SHARE THE WORLD’S RESOURCES – STWR

The International Context of Global Outrage      
The future of the Arab spring and the Indignados and Occupy Wall Street movements is very difficult to foresee, but one thing is certain: the fight to break the infernal cycle of debt is a vital one. If it is not energetically pursued, there is little chance of overcoming the next neo-liberal offensive, writes Éric Toussaint.

Part 1: Looking back on the movements that preceded the Arab Spring, the Indignados, and Occupy Wall Street

In 2011, social and political rebellion has re-emerged in the streets and on squares all over the world. It has appeared in new forms and been given new names: the Arab Spring, the Indignados, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. The main regions affected are North Africa and the Middle East (including Israel), Europe and North America. Not all countries in those areas have been equally affected by this new wave of mobilizations and new forms of organization, but everybody has heard about the movement. In the countries in which it has not been massive, active minorities have attempted to give it wider legitimacy with varying results |1|. In the Southern hemisphere, only Chile has experienced a movement that can be compared to that of the Indignados in 2011 |2|.

If we try to sum up what has been achieved by the alterglobalist movement over the past two decades, we can distinguish between different phases related to the overall developments in the world.

From 1999 to 2005, in response to a heightening of the neoliberal offensive in Northern countries, large-scale mobilizations occurred against the WTO (Seattle in November 1999), the World Bank, the IMF, and the G8 (Washington in April 2000, Prague in September 2000, Genoa in July 2001). The World Social Forum emerged in that context in Porto Alegre in January 2001. Over the following years the movement spread to several continents (Latin America, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and North America). New international networks were created: Jubilee South (on the issue of debt), ATTAC (against the dictatorship of financial markets), the World March of Women, Our World Is Not for Sale, and others. Older networks (dating back to the first half of the 1990s) such as Via Campesina, CADTM (North/South network that focuses on the debt, the WB and the IMF) were strengthened. The antiglobalization movement developed in these years, mainly within the context of the WSF. […]

READ @ http://www.stwr.org/aid-debt-development/the-international-context-of-global-outrage.html

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* THOMAS FRIEDMAN WANTS TO TAKE AWAY THE WEEKEND

By Mark Engler, Dissent

The labor movement brought you the weekend. Thomas Friedman wants to take it away.

Even as he serves as a leading champion of corporate globalization, the New York Times columnist and flat-world author has a way of highlighting how ordinary people hardly have reason to be thrilled by what transnational capitalism has on offer. Case in point: in his most recent column, Friedman argues that “Average is Over.” Those with merely par-for-the-course skills and education, he tells us, are bound to find their jobs replaced by foreign workers or by new technology.

Friedman writes:

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation, and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra—their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

We should have seen this coming, especially since Friedman used the same title for a chapter in his latest book (That Used to Be Us, with Michael Mandelbaum). But the column still irks.

Many people (Marie Burns at the NYTimes Examiner being just one) have already beaten me to the inevitable Lake Wobegon reference. Others, such as Dean Baker, have taken on some of the economic misconceptions in the column—about productivity, for instance. (In a well-aimed parting shot, Baker remarks that “average” is apparently not over among high-paid professionals; “Thomas Friedman does a good enough job of demonstrating this directly twice a week in the NYT.”) […]

READ @ http://dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=663

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* CLOUDED TITLE: THE GROSS ILLEGALITY OF MERS

By Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture

“What’s happened is that, almost overnight, we’ve switched from democracy in real-property recording to oligarchy in real-property recording. There was no court case behind this, no statute from Congress or the state legislatures. It was accomplished in a private corporate decision. The banks just did it.

— Christopher Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah, on the “wholesale transfer of mortgages to a privatized database” and why it’s no coincidence more Americans are being foreclosed upon than any time since the Great Depression.

[…]

What makes the article so remarkable is it has one of the most powerful anti-MERS arguments I have ever read in the mainstream media. In addition to the quote above, there is this:

At the heart of the clouded-title problem is a Virginia-based company, recently much in the national news, called Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. MERS was created in 1995 as a privately held venture of the major mortgage-finance operators, chief among them the government-sponsored mortgaging entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Its stated purpose was to manage a confidential electronic registry for the tracking of the sale of mortgage loans between lenders, which could now place loans under MERS’s name to avoid filing the paperwork normally required whenever mortgage assignments changed hands. No longer would the traffickers in mortgages have to document their transactions with county clerks, nor would they have to pay the many and varied courthouse fees for such transactions. Instead, MERS was listed in local recording offices as the “mortgagee of record,” the in-name-only owner, a so-called nominee for the lender, so that MERS would effectively “own” the loan where the public record was concerned, while the lenders traded it back and forth.

This centralized database facilitated the buying and selling of mortgage debt at great speed and greatly reduced cost. It was a key innovation in expediting the packaging of mortgage-backed securities. Soon after the registry launched, in 1999, the Wall Street ratings agencies pronounced the system sound. “The legal mechanism set up to put creditors on notice of a mortgage is valid,” as was “the ability to foreclose,” assured Moody’s. That same year, Lehman Brothers issued the first AAA-rated mortgage-backed security built out of MERS mortgages. By the end of 2002, MERS was registering itself as the owner of 21,000 loans every day. Five years later, at the peak of the housing bubble, MERS registered some two thirds of all home loans in the United States.

Without the efficiencies of MERS there probably would never have been a mortgage-finance bubble.

After the housing market collapsed, however, MERS found itself under attack in courts across the country. MERS had singlehandedly unraveled centuries of precedent in property titling and mortgage recordation, and judges in state appellate and federal bankruptcy courts in more than a dozen jurisdictions—the primary venues where real estate cases are decided— determined that the company did not have the right to foreclose on the mortgages it held.

In 2009, Kansas became one of the first states to have its supreme court rule against MERS. In Landmark National Bank v. Boyd A. Kesler, the court concluded that MERS failed to follow Kansas statute: the company had not publicly recorded the chain of title with the relevant registers of deeds in counties across the state. A mortgage contract, the justices wrote, consists of two documents: the deed of trust, which secures the house as collateral on a loan, and the promissory note, which indebts the borrower to the lender. The two documents were sometimes literally inseparable: under the rules of the paper recording system at county court-houses, they were tied together with a ribbon or seal to be undone only once the note had been paid off. “In the event that a mortgage loan somehow separates interests of the note and the deed of trust, with the deed of trust lying with some independent entity,” said the Kansas court, “the mortgage may become unenforceable.”

MERS purported to be the independent entity holding the deed of trust. The note of indebtedness, however, was sold within the MERS system, or “assigned” among various lenders. This was in keeping with MERS’s policy: it was not a bank, made no loans, had no money to lend, and did not collect loan payments. It had no interest in the loan, only in the deed of trust. The company—along with the lenders that had used it to assign ownership of notes—had thus entered into a vexing legal bind. “There is no evidence of record that establishes that MERS either held the promissory note or was given the authority [to] assign the note,” the Kansas court found, quoting a decision from a district court in California. Not only did MERS fail to legally assign the notes, the company presented “no evidence as to who owns the note.”

Similar cases were brought before courts in Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Utah, and other states. “It appears that every MERS mortgage,” a New York State Supreme Court judge recently told me, “is defective, a piece of crap.” The language in the judgments against MERS became increasingly denunciatory. MERS’s arguments for standing in foreclosure were described as “absurd,” forcing courts to move through “a syntactical fog into an impassable swamp.” (emphasis added) […]

READ @ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/clouded-title-the-gross-illegality-of-mers/

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* DESPITE SALARY CAPS, TREASURY APPROVED LUCRATIVE EXEC PAYOUTS FOR DOZENS OF BAILED-OUT FIRMS (VIDEO)

Source: Democracy Now!

New York Daily News columnist and Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez reports the Treasury Department has approved payouts exceeding $5 million for 49 executives at firms that most benefited from the Wall Street bailout. The executives’ pay came despite the $500,000 salary cap established under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

To watch the complete daily, independent news hour, read the transcript, download the podcast, and for the additional reports, visit http://www.democracynow.org.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WodYXKbBPp8&feature=youtu.be

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* LANNY BREUER, TASK FORCE LEADER, DOESN’T BOTHER SHOWING UP FOR MORTGAGE FRAUD PRESS CONFERENCE

By Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism

Eric Holder has come out with details on the task force.  But first, let’s look at a smoke signal.  At this press conference announcing the task force, Holder had to apologize for Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, one of the key leaders of the investigative unit. Breuer, you see, couldn’t make it to the press conference because he was traveling.  That’s how important this task force is to Breuer, so important that his travel schedule couldn’t brook interference.  Such a bureaucratic snub has been no doubt noticed by the various underlings at the DOJ and the US Attorney offices.

Ok, let’s go to the substance.

I am pleased to report that this Working Group has considerable Department resources behind it as it builds on activities that have been underway through the broader Task Force.  Currently, 15 attorneys, investigators, and analysts – here at Main Justice and throughout our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices – are supporting the investigative efforts that this Working Group will be focusing on going forward.  And the FBI has assigned 10 agents and analysts to work with the group immediately.  In the coming weeks, another 30 attorneys, investigators, and support staff from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices will join the Group’s work.

So that’s a total of 55 people, 10 of whom are FBI agents.  Let’s do a few comparisons.  During the Savings and Loan crisis, Bill Black reminds us that there were about a thousand FBI agents working on the various cases.  That’s one hundred times the number of people working on a scandal that is about forty times larger and far more complex. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/lanny-breuer-task-force-leader-doesnt-bother-showing-up-for-mortgage-fraud-press-conference.html

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* ALEC BILL BEHIND PUSH TO REQUIRE CLIMATE DENIAL INSTRUCTION IN SCHOOLS

By Stephen Horn, desmogblog.com

On January 16, the Los Angeles Times revealed that anti-science bills have been popping up over the past several years in statehouses across the U.S., mandating the teaching of climate change denial or “skepticism” as a credible “theoretical alternative” to human caused climate change came.

The L.A. Times’ Neela Banerjee explained:

“Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.”

What the excellent Times coverage missed is that key language in these anti-science bills all eminated from a single source: the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

ALEC Exposed: No, Not Alec Baldwin* 

In summer 2011, “ALEC Exposed,” a project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)**, taught those alarmed about the power that corporations wield in the American political sphere an important lesson: when bills with a similar DNA pop up in various statehouses nationwide, it’s no coincidence.

Explaining the nature and origins of the project, CMD wrote, “[CMD] unveiled a trove of over 800 ‘model’ bills and resolutions secretly voted on by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These bills reveal the corporate collaboration reshaping our democracy, state by state.”

CMD continued, “Before our publication of this trove of bills, it has been difficult to trace the numerous controversial and extreme provisions popping up in legislatures across the country directly to ALEC and its corporate underwriters.”

CMD explained that ALEC conducts its operations in the most shadowy of manners (emphases mine):

“Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve ‘model’ billsCorporations fund almost all of ALEC‘s operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.”

So, what is the name of the “model bill” this time around? […]

READ @ http://www.desmogblog.com/alec-model-bill-behind-push-require-climate-denial-instruction-schools

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* FIGHTING BACK AGAINST CORPORATE PERSONHOOD

By Bill Moyers, Truthout

Rarely have so few imposed such damage on so many. When five conservative members of the Supreme Court handed for-profit corporations the right to secretly flood political campaigns with tidal waves of cash on the eve of an election, they moved America closer to outright plutocracy, where political power derived from wealth is devoted to the protection of wealth. It is now official: Just as they have adorned our athletic stadiums and multiple places of public assembly with their logos, corporations can officially put their brand on the government of the United States as well as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the fifty states.

The decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission giving “artificial entities” the same rights of “free speech” as living, breathing human beings will likely prove as infamous as the Dred Scott ruling of 1857 that opened the unsettled territories of the United States to slavery whether future inhabitants wanted it or not. It took a civil war and another hundred years of enforced segregation and deprivation before the effects of that ruling were finally exorcised from our laws. God spare us civil strife over the pernicious consequences of Citizens United, but unless citizens stand their ground, America will divide even more swiftly into winners and losers with little pity for the latter.

Citizens United is but the latest battle in the class war waged for thirty years from the top down by the corporate and political right. Instead of creating a fair and level playing field for all, government would become the agent of the powerful and privileged. Public institutions, laws, and regulations, as well as the ideas, norms, and beliefs that aimed to protect the common good and helped create America’s iconic middle class, would become increasingly vulnerable. The Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow succinctly summed up results: “The redistribution of wealth in favor of the wealthy and of power in favor of the powerful.” In the wake of Citizens United, popular resistance is all that can prevent the richest economic interests in the country from buying the democratic process lock, stock, and barrel. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/bill-moyers-fighting-back/1327630978

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* INVERTED TOTALITARIANISM

By Sheldon Wolin, The Nation

The war on Iraq has so monopolized public attention as to obscure the regime change taking place in the Homeland. We may have invaded Iraq to bring in democracy and bring down a totalitarian regime, but in the process our own system may be moving closer to the latter and further weakening the former. The change has been intimated by the sudden popularity of two political terms rarely applied earlier to the American political system. “Empire” and “superpower” both suggest that a new system of power, concentrated and expansive, has come into existence and supplanted the old terms. “Empire” and “superpower” accurately symbolize the projection of American power abroad, but for that reason they obscure the internal consequences. Consider how odd it would sound if we were to refer to “the Constitution of the American Empire” or “superpower democracy.” The reason they ring false is that “constitution” signifies limitations on power, while “democracy” commonly refers to the active involvement of citizens with their government and the responsiveness of government to its citizens. For their part, “empire” and “superpower” stand for the surpassing of limits and the dwarfing of the citizenry.

The increasing power of the state and the declining power of institutions intended to control it has been in the making for some time. The party system is a notorious example. The Republicans have emerged as a unique phenomenon in American history of a fervently doctrinal party, zealous, ruthless, antidemocratic and boasting a near majority. As Republicans have become more ideologically intolerant, the Democrats have shrugged off the liberal label and their critical reform-minded constituencies to embrace centrism and footnote the end of ideology. In ceasing to be a genuine opposition party the Democrats have smoothed the road to power of a party more than eager to use it to promote empire abroad and corporate power at home. Bear in mind that a ruthless, ideologically driven party with a mass base was a crucial element in all of the twentieth-century regimes seeking total power.

Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media. Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic. […]

READ @ http://www.thenation.com/article/inverted-totalitarianism

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* WHETHER OF NOT THE U.S. IS DECLINING IS THE WRONG QUESTION

By Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy

[…] The United States remains very powerful — especially when compared with some putative opponents like Iran — but its capacity to lead security and economic orders in every corner of the world has been diminished by failures in Iraq (and eventually, Afghanistan), by the burden of debt accumulated over the past decade, by the economic melt-down in 2007-2008, and by the emergence of somewhat stronger and independent actors in Brazil, Turkey, India, and elsewhere. One might also point to eroding national infrastructure and an educational system that impresses hardly anyone. Moreover, five decades of misguided policies have badly tarnished America’s image in many parts of the world, and especially in the Middle East and Central Asia. The erosion of authoritarian rule in the Arab world will force new governments to pay more attention to popular sentiment — which is generally hostile to the broad thrust of U.S. policy in the region — and the United States will be less able to rely on close relations with tame monarchs or military dictators henceforth. If it the United States remains far and away the world’s strongest state, its ability to get its way in world affairs is declining. […]

READ @ http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/01/26/asking_the_wrong_question_about_the_us_and_china

Jan 272012
 

 

* ADBUSTERS CALLS FOR 50,000 PROTESTERS TO MEET AT CHICAGO’S G8

By Allison Kilkenny, InTheseTimes

Adbusters, the group credited with inspiring the Occupy Wall Street movement, has once again put out a call for tens of thousands of protesters to flock to Chicago in early May and “set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month,” according to the official statement.

And this time around we’re not going to put up with the kind of police repression that happened during the Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, 1968 … nor will we abide by any phony restrictions the City of Chicago may want to impose on our first amendment rights. We’ll go there with our heads held high and assemble for a month-long people’s summit … we’ll march and chant and sing and shout and exercise our right to tell our elected representatives what we want … the constitution will be our guide.

And when the G8 and NATO meet behind closed doors on May 19, we’ll be ready with our demands: a Robin Hood Tax … a ban on high frequency ‘flash’ trading … a binding climate change accord … a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals … an all out initiative for a nuclear-free Middle East … whatever we decide in our general assemblies and in our global internet brainstorm – we the people will set the agenda for the next few years and demand our leaders carry it out. […]

READ @ http://inthesetimes.com/uprising/entry/12624/adbusters_calls_for_50000_protesters_to_meet_at_chicagos_g8/

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* CHICAGO G8/NATO – VIDEO

Source: Chicago Tonight

VIDEO @ http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2012/01/25/chicago-g8nato

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* MAYOR 1%’s NEW RULES TRY TO THWART PROTEST WHILE GROUNDSWELL OF DISSENT GROWS

By Kevin Gosztola, FireDogLake.com

[…] To help folks separate spin from fact, we’ve put together this analysis to help you understand how local rules have changed in ways that undercut protest and political speech. While these revisions will not deter us from speaking out and protesting, they do change the excuses the police may use to try to prevent us from protesting.

It’s also important that we understand these changes so we can educate our friends and neighbors – and fight for meaningful change that puts people’s rights and the greater good ahead of the fear-mongering and greed that drove Mayor 1%’s push for these changes.

City Hall made only token changes to “improve” these revisions, and the worst of Mayor 1%’s proposed revisions remain. While the old protest ordinance was pretty terrible in its own right, the changes approved this week make it even worse. How? Because the revisions give the police more excuses to target protesters they don’t like and speech they oppose with greater fines and penalties. The revisions also give police more excuses to try and censor the tools we use to speak out – sound equipment, signs, banners and whatnot. […]

READ @ http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/01/22/mayor-1s-new-rules-try-to-thwart-protest-while-groundswell-of-dissent-grows/

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* FIDEL CASTRO CALLS REPUBLICAN RACE ‘COMPETITION OF IDIOCY AND IGNORANCE’

By Paul Haven, HuffPo

HAVANA — Fidel Castro lambasted the Republican presidential race as the greatest competition of “idiocy and ignorance” the world has ever seen in a column published Wednesday, and also took shots at the news media and foreign governments for seizing on the death of a Cuban prisoner to demand greater respect for human rights.

Castro’s comments came in a long opinion piece carried by official media two days after Republican presidential hopefuls at a debate in Florida presented mostly hard-line stances on what to do about the Communist-run island, and even speculated as to what would happen to the 85-year-old revolutionary leader’s soul when he dies.

Cuba has become an important issue as the candidates court Florida’s influential Cuban-American community in an effort to win the biggest electoral prize so far in the primary season.

Castro said he always assumed the candidates would try to outdo each other on the issue of Cuba, but that he was nonetheless appalled by the level of debate.

“The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is – and I mean this seriously – the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been,” said the retired Cuban leader, who has dueled with 11 U.S. administrations since his 1959 revolution. […]

READ @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/25/fidel-castro-republican-race_n_1230930.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=280686,b=facebook

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* IS OBAMA’S ‘ECONOMIC POPULISM’ FOR REAL?

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

There is a lot to digest in a recent series of events on the Prosecuting Wall Street front – the two biggest being Barack Obama’s decision to make New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the co-chair of a committee to investigate mortgage and securitization fraud, and the numerous rumors and leaks about an impending close to the foreclosure settlement saga.

There is already a great debate afoot about the meaning of these two news stories, which surely are related in some form or another. Some observers worry that Schneiderman, who over the summer was building a rep as the Eliot Ness of the Wall Street fraud era, has sold out and is abandoning his hard-line stance on foreclosure in return for a splashy federal posting.

Others looked at his appointment in conjunction with other recent developments – like the news that Tim Geithner won’t be kept on and Obama’s comments about a millionaire’s tax – and concluded that Barack Obama had finally gotten religion and decided to go after our corruption problem in earnest. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/is-obamas-economic-populism-for-real-20120126

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* OBAMA’S FAUX POPULISM SOUNDS LIKE BILL CLINTON

By Robert Scheer, CommonDreams

[…] if Obama meant what he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about holding the financial industry responsible for its scams, why did he appoint the old Clinton crowd that had legalized those scams to the top economic posts in his administration? Why did he hire Timothy Geithner, who has turned the Treasury Department into a concierge service for Wall Street tycoons?

Why hasn’t he pushed for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, which Clinton’s deregulation reversed? Does the president really believe that the Dodd-Frank slap-on-the-wrist sellout represents “new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again”? Can he name one single too-big-to-fail banking monstrosity that has been reduced in size on his watch instead of encouraged to grow ever larger by Treasury and Fed bailouts and interest-free money?

When Obama declared Tuesday evening “no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas,” wasn’t he aware that Jeffrey Immelt, the man he appointed to head his jobs council, is the most egregious offender? Immelt, the CEO of GE, heads a company with most of its workers employed in foreign countries, a corporation that makes 82 percent of its profit abroad and has paid no U.S. taxes in the past three years. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/26

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* “HE SAYS ONE THING AND DOES ANOTHER” RALPH NADER RESPONDS TO OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS – VIDEO

Source: Democracy Now!

VIDEO @ http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/25/he_says_one_thing_and_does

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* HOW SWEDES AND NORWEGIANS BROKE THE POWER AXIS OF THE ‘1 PERCENT’

By George Lakey, CommonDreams

While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it’s worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice. Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle. They “fired” the top 1 percent of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something different.

Both countries had a history of horrendous poverty. When the 1 percent was in charge, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to avoid starvation. Under the leadership of the working class, however, both countries built robust and successful economies that nearly eliminated poverty, expanded free university education, abolished slums, provided excellent health care available to all as a matter of right and created a system of full employment. Unlike the Norwegians, the Swedes didn’t find oil, but that didn’t stop them from building what the latest CIA World Factbook calls “an enviable standard of living.” […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/26-3

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* DOW AND MONSANTO TEAM UP ON THE MOTHER OF ALL HERBICIDE MARKETING PLANS

By Tom Philpott, MotherJones

During the late-December media lull, the USDA didn’t satisfy itself with green lighting Monsanto’s useless, PR-centric “drought-tolerant” corn. It also prepped the way for approving a product from Monsanto’s rival Dow Agrosciences—one that industrial-scale corn farmers will likely find all-too useful.

Dow has engineered a corn strain that withstands lashings of its herbicide, 2,4-D. The company’s pitch to farmers is simple: Your fields are becoming choked with weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. As soon as the USDA okays our product, all your problems will be solved.

At risk of sounding overly dramatic, the product seems to me to bring mainstream US agriculture to a crossroads. If Dow’s new corn makes it past the USDA and into farm fields, it will mark the beginning of at least another decade of ramped-up chemical-intensive farming of a few chosen crops (corn, soy, cotton), beholden to a handful of large agrichemical firms working in cahoots to sell ever-larger quantities of poisons, environment be damned. If it and other new herbicide-tolerant crops can somehow be stopped, farming in the US heartland can be pushed toward a model based on biodiversity over monocropping, farmer skill in place of brute chemicals, and healthy food instead of industrial commodities.

[…]

The USDA, for its part, is buying what Dow is selling. Its Draft Environmental Assessment (PDF) offers no critique of Dow’s claims, and recommends that the product be deregulated. The agency is currently seeking public comment on the matter; the comment period ends Feb. 27. Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me that when the USDA brings a GMO product to the comment stage after having recommended deregulation, it “almost always” greenlights the product. “The only times I’ve seen the USDA hold off at this stage is when there’s a lot of public pushback,” Gurian-Sherman says. […]

READ @ http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/01/dows-new-gmo-seed-puts-us-agriculture-crossroads

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* WHAT MONSANTO DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW – VIDEO 

Source: youtube.com

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szvX9abGkOM

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* USDA IGNORES PESTICIDE RAVAGING BEE POPULATION, THREATENING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT

By Mike Barrett, Truthout

It has recently been reported that certain research was suppressed concerning the bee decline which has been occurring over the past few years. It seems that the large sum of money raked in by Bayer, a maker of pesticides, was enough to kick research under the carpet that linked the company’s pesticide to the massive bee decline.

USDA Ignores Pesticide Ravaging Bee Population

There has been a great deal of cover up and secrecy regarding the ongoing bee deaths, enraging environmentalists and activists alike. About one year ago I reported on how the USDA and EPA knew why a series of ‘mysterious’ downfalls were occurring with crops, birds, and bees. Although technological products like cell phone towers and cell phones are hurting the bee population, it was actually the pesticide brought to you by Bayer which was causing the damage, and the USDA knew of it all along. In my article, I reported:

Just as many potential explanations arose over the mysterious bird deaths, many different theories have been proposed to explain the bee decline. Electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate have all taken the heat of critics looking for answers. Recently, however, a document was leaked revealing that a bee-killing pesticide put in use by the EPA may be to blame. Adding to the controversy, more records have emerged showing that the USDA was fully aware of the pesticide’s threat to not only bees, but humans…Neonicotinoids, the particular type of pesticides used, are absorbed systemically into plants, including the pollen and nectar. Once the bees begin to pollinate, they also absorb the insecticide, and die. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/usda-ignores-pesticide-ravaging-bee-population-threatening-global-environment/1327507123

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* FUKUSHIMA: A NUCLEAR WAR WITHOUT A WAR. THE UNSPOKEN CRISIS OF WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR RADIATION 

By Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research

INTRODUCTION

The World is at a critical crossroads. The Fukushima disaster in Japan has brought to the forefront the dangers of Worldwide nuclear radiation.

The crisis in Japan has been described as “a nuclear war without a war”. In the words of renowned novelist Haruki Murakami:

“This time no one dropped a bomb on us … We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives.”

Nuclear radiation –which threatens life on planet earth– is not front page news in comparison to the most insignificant issues of public concern, including the local level crime scene or the tabloid gossip reports on Hollywood celebrities.

While the long-term repercussions of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster are yet to be fully assessed, they are far more serious than those pertaining to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine, which resulted in almost one million deaths (New Book Concludes – Chernobyl death toll: 985,000, mostly from cancer Global Research, September 10, 2010, See also Matthew Penney and Mark Selden  The Severity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster: Comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima, Global Research, May 25, 2011)

Moreover, while all eyes were riveted on the Fukushima Daiichi plant, news coverage both in Japan and internationally failed to fully acknowledge the impacts of a second catastrophe at TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Co  Inc) Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

The shaky political consensus both in Japan, the U.S. and Western Europe is that the crisis at Fukushima has been contained.

The realties, however, are otherwise. Fukushima 3 was leaking unconfirmed amounts of plutonium. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, “One millionth of a gram of plutonium ingested causes cancer”.

An opinion poll in May 2011 confirmed that more than 80 per cent of the Japanese population do not believe the government’s information regarding the nuclear crisis. (quoted in Sherwood Ross, Fukushima: Japan’s Second Nuclear Disaster, Global Research, November 10, 2011) […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28870

AUTHOR’S NOTE: 

The Online Interactive I-Book Reader on Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War

In view of the official cover-up and media disinformation campaign, the contents of the articles and video reports in this Online Interactive Reader have not trickled down to to the broader public. (See Table of contents below)

This Online Interactive Reader on Fukushima contains a combination of analytical and scientific articles, video reports as well as shorter news reports and corroborating data.

Part I focusses on The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: How it Happened? Part II  pertains to The Devastating Health and Social Impacts in Japan. Part III  centers on the “Hidden Nuclear Catastrophe”, namely the cover-up by the Japanese government and the corporate media. Part IV focusses on the issue of  Worlwide Nuclear Radiation and Part V reviews the Implications of the Fukushima disaster for the Global Nuclear Energy Industry.

In the face of ceaseless media disinformation, this Global Research Online I-Book on the dangers of global nuclear radiation is intended to break the media vacuum and raise public awareness, while also pointing to the complicity of  the governments, the media and the nuclear industry.

We call upon our readers to spread the word.

We invite university, college and high school teachers to make this Interactive Reader on Fukushima available to their students.

Michel Chossudovsky, January 25, 2012

To consult our Online Interactive I-Book Reader Series, click here

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* HOUSE DEMOCRATS SPELL KEYSTONE ‘K-O-C-H’

By Andrew Restuccia, The Hill

House Democrats are using the billionaire Koch brothers to score political points in their fight against the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) suggested at a hearing Wednesday that Koch Industries — the Kansas-based conglomerate helmed by David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch — could benefit financially from approval of the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline.

By linking the Keystone XL pipeline to the Koch brothers, who have supported a slew of conservative causes, Democrats are hoping to raise questions about Republicans’ motives in supporting the project.

It’s the latest tactic in Democrats’ campaign against the pipeline, which they say would increase greenhouse gas emissions, expose the country to higher risks of oil spills and do little to improve the economy. […]

READ @ http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/206467-house-democrats-spell-keystone-k-o-c-h

RELATED ARTICLE:

* DEMS WANT KOCH REPS TO TESTIFY ON KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/01/23-3

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* EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT OFFICIAL IN CHARGE OF ACTA QUITS, AND DENOUNCES THE ‘MASQUERADE’ BEHIND ACTA

By Mike Masnick, TechDirt

This is interesting. Kader Arif, the “rapporteur” for ACTA, has quit that role in disgust over the process behind getting the EU to sign onto ACTA. A rapporteur is a person “appointed by a deliberative body to investigate an issue.” However, it appears his investigation of ACTA didn’t make him very pleased:

I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly. 

As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens’ legitimate demands.” 

Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications. 

This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade. […]

READ @ http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120126/11014317553/european-parliament-official-charge-acta-quits-denounces-masquerade-behind-acta.shtml

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* AT DINNER WITH THE HOMELESS IN ATHENS, GREECE

By Diana Farr Louis, HuffPo

[…] Here we’re all volunteers. We rely on donations but they are never enough. One of our big problems is that there is no formal recognition of the homeless status. We need to know who they are in order to provide the right help. And now we are dealing with a new category — “normal” people who up to recently had an organized way of life. They had no psychological problems, they were not illegal.

The new homeless are between 30 and 40 years-old or just below retirement age. They were construction workers, shop owners, people involved in the tourism business. Often they have families, but they’re ashamed to reveal their situation and they don’t want to be a burden. Greeks are nothing if not proud. Or their relatives, too, may barely be able to make ends meet.

We have multiple missions. The first is keeping people in their own homes. Second, we try to restore them to normal life as fast as possible. We’d like to run our hostel on the American model, as a base where you can spend the night safely, have a shower and go out in the morning and face the world, look for a job. And finally, of course, we have to care for those who are permanently homeless. […]

READhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-farr-louis/greece-homeless-story_b_1228744.html

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* THIS IS AMERICA TODAY, PART I

By Gonzalo Lira, gonzalolira.com

A true story: A fifty-ish woman I know was diagnosed with breast cancer. Dutifully, she and her husband contacted their insurance company to start the process of paying for her medical bills.

But lo and behold, the insurance company started dragging its feet—then tried to claim the woman’s breast cancer was a “pre-existing condition”.

That she had breasts in fact was a “pre-existing condition”—a “pre-existing condition” she had had since she was fourteen.

But the cancer? That was brand new.

The woman and her husband started the usual, insurance company-designated complaint process—which they quickly realized was a deliberate rigamarole, designed to get them spinning their wheels without receiving any money from the insurance company. […]

READ @ http://gonzalolira.blogspot.com/2012/01/this-is-america-today-part-i.html

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* THIS IS AMERICA TODAY, PART II

By Gonzalo Lira, gonzalolira.com

These facts are from the CIA—and they are undisputed:

• Infant mortality rate in the United States: 6.06 per 1,000 live births.

• Infant mortality rate in France: 3.29 per 1,000 live births.

• Average life expectancy in the United States: 78.37 years (75.92 for men, 80.93 for women).

• Average life expectancy in France: 81.19 years (78.20 for men, 84.54 for women).

• Total expenditure on health care in the United States: 16.2% of GDP (2009).

• Total expenditure on health care in France: 3.5% of GDP (2009).

• Expenditure on health care in the United States per capita: $7,517 per year (2009).

• Expenditure on health care in France per capita: $1,148 per year (2009).

So . . . to make it clear: France has a Socialist-Commie health care system, while the United States has “the best health care system in the world”— […]

READ @ http://gonzalolira.blogspot.com/2012/01/this-is-america-today-part-ii.html

Jan 262012
 

 

* IS SCHNEIDERMAN SELLING OUT? JOINS FEDERAL COMMITTEE THAT LOOKS DESIGNED TO UNDERMINE AGs AGAINST MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT DEAL

By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism

[…] A lot of soi-disant liberal groups have fallen in line with Obama messaging, which was the plan (I already have the predictable congratulatory Move On e-mail in my inbox). Let’s get real. The wee problem is that this committee looks like yet another bit of theater for the Administration to pretend, yet again, that it is Doing Something, while scoring a twofer by getting Schneiderman, who has been a pretty effective opponent, hobbled.

If you wanted a real investigation, you get a real independent investigator, with a real budget and staffing, and turn him loose. We had the FCIC which had a lot of hearings and produced a readable book that said everyone was responsible for the mortgage crisis, which was tantamount to saying no one was responsible. We even had an eleven-regulator Foreclosure Task Force that looked at 2800 loan files (and a mere 100 foreclosures) and found nothing very much wrong.

Now we have a committee full of people who have made numerous statements in the media and to Congressional committee minimizing the severity of the mortgage mess. Are were to believe they all had a conversion experience on the eve of the State of the Union address? But apparently the members of what passes for the left are prepared to take “investigation” at face value since it would be unpleasant to consider the possibility that they are being snookered again.

And it seems awfully plausible that the aim of getting Schneiderman on board with an Administration “investigation” is to undermine the effort by 15 Democrat attorneys general to devise their own strategy for dealing with mortgage abuses. We’ve heard reports privately that some of the defecting AGs are in a panic. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/is-schneiderman-selling-out-signs-up-to-co-chair-committee-designed-to-undermine-defectors-to-mortgage-settlement-deal.html

MORE HERE: 

• The Schneiderman Gambit: Financial Fraud Unit Appears Designed to Fail, and Grease Skids for Foreclosure Fraud Settlement (Firedoglake)

• Obama To Announce Mortgage Crisis Unit Chaired By New York Attorney General Schneiderman (HuffPo)

• California calls $25-billion mortgage settlement ‘inadequate’ (L.A. Times)

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* MORE CAUTION AND SKEPTICISM ABOUT FEDERAL MORTGAGE “INVESTIGATION”

By Yves Smith, NakedCapitalism

While a large number of “liberal” groups, ranging from the official Democratic party outlets (the Center for American Progress) to ones that sometimes cross swords with the Administration (MoveOn, the Working Families Party) praised the Tuesday evening announcement of mortgage “investigations” with Schneiderman co-chairing the effort, others who have been watching the mortgage legal fight closely were far more ambivalent about the creation of a new unit in an initiative …which has done pretty much nothing since its creation in 2009 (boldface mine):

Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairwoman Mary Schapiro today announced that President Barack Obama has established by Executive Order an interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to strengthen efforts to combat financial crime. The Department of Justice will lead the task force and the Department of Treasury, HUD and the SEC will serve on the steering committee. The task force’s leadership, along with representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities and inspectors general, will work with state and local partners to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, address discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims.

The task force, which replaces the Corporate Fraud Task Force established in 2002, will build upon efforts already underway to combat mortgage, securities and corporate fraud by increasing coordination and fully utilizing the resources and expertise of the government’s law enforcement and regulatory apparatus. The attorney general will convene the first meeting of the Task Force in the next 30 days. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/more-caution-and-skepticism-about-federal-mortgage-investigation.html

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* CONGRESS DOESN’T WANT TO GIVE UP ITS INSIDER TRADING PRIVILEGES

By John Hudson, The Atlantic Wire

President Obama’s plea to ban Congressional insider trading may poll well and have bipartisan support, but it’s already facing stiff resistance from lawmakers the morning after his State of the Union address.

On Tuesday night, the president spoke in no uncertain terms: “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow,” he said. “Let’s limit any elected official from owning stock in industries they impact.” The remarks were cause for celebration for Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, who authored a 2011 book exposing Congressional insider trading, and 60 Minutes, which ran a widely-viewed segment based on his book (CBS quickly uploaded the portion of the speech last night). But early reactions from Congress (Republicans and Democrats) shouldn’t encourage much optimism.

“Easier said than done is my reaction,” Democratic Rep. Jim Moran tells Politico‘s Manu Raju on the subject of restricting officials from owning stock they could impact. “Unless you are fairly precise about it, you can conceivably influence almost any corporation.” […]

READ @ http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/01/congress-doesnt-want-give-its-insider-trading-privileges/47836/

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* OBAMA’S FAILED STATE OF THE UNION

Obama and those around him should be in prison, not the White House

By Stephen Lendman, SteveLendmanBlog

It was typical Obama, taking credit for what should be condemned. He’s a fraud, a crime boss, a war criminal multiple times over, a moral coward, and serial liar.

His State of the Union address was beginning-to-end doublespeak, duplicity, coverup, and denial of failed policies complicit with Wall Street crooks, war profiteers, and other corporate favorites while popular needs go begging.

Not according to fawning New York Times writers, however. Suppressing truth and full disclosure, Helene Cooper headlined, Obama Speech Makes Pitch for Economic Fairness,” saying:

Obama “pledged on Tuesday night to use government power to balance the scale between America’s rich and the rest of the public….toward an economy ‘built to last’ and what he called irresponsible policies of the past that caused economic collapse.”

Fact check

Throughout his tenure, Obama transferred trillions of dollars to Wall Street, other corporate favorites, and America’s rich already with too much. In the process, he deepened a Main Street Depression. As a result, half of US households are impoverished or bordering on it. Hunger and homelessness grow. Nothing’s done to help. Unaddressed human need is incalculable.

Over 25 million remain unemployed. Job creation is nil except for low wage/no benefit temp or part-time ones. Inequality in America is unprecedented. Obama supports austerity when massive stimulus is needed. Rich elites never had it so good at the expense of ordinary people left out.

Obama’s Failed State isn’t fit to live in for growing millions. […]

READ @ http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/

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* SENATOR SANDERS REACTS TO PRES. OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=82NMkSxm6L4

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* WHITE HOUSE PRESSURED SCIENTISTS TO UNDERESTIMATE BP SPILL SIZE

By Kate Sheppard, MotherJones

Back at the height of the massive Gulf oil spill in 2010, there was quite a bit of controversy about just how much crude was blasting out of the well. According to new documents that a watchdog group released on Monday, there was heated debate among the scientists who evaluated the flow rate as well.

For the first few weeks after the spill began in April 2010, BP misled the public about how big it was, and the government repeated BP’s estimate without question. And when the government released its own estimate in late May of up to 25,000 barrels per day, that too was controversial—and proved to be far lower than the actual size, which was more like 53,000 barrels of oil per day.

Now, an email released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) traces efforts to downplay the spill size in the initial weeks back to the White House. The group released a May 29, 2010 email from Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the US Geologic Survey and head of the government’s Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG), that was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The email came after scientists on the flow-rate team complained to McNutt about how the spill figures were conveyed to the press, and in response she cited pressure from the White House as the reason the numbers were low-balled. […]

READ @ http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/01/report-white-house-pressured-scientists-underestimate-bp-spill-size

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* APPLE DRIVING WORKERS TO THREATEN MASS SUICIDE? THE PATHOLOGIES OF THE MODERN CORPORATION

By Robert Cruickshank, AlterNet

[…] In the last year or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the way Apple makes its products is deeply flawed. Working conditions at the factory which makes most of their products – Foxconn in Shenzhen, China – are so appalling that workers engaged in a rash of suicides in 2010 to ameliorate their own suffering. Earlier this year workers threatened mass suicide over pay and working conditions. And of course, there’s the fact that Apple makes these products overseas rather than in the United States, where unemployment remains at some of the highest levels we’ve seen since the Great Depression.

Here in the 21st century, it should be clear to us that better technology is not sufficient to build the kind of better lives and society that we want. If it were, we wouldn’t be in a position of mass unemployment, widespread suffering, and a democracy in decay. Social institutions, including workplaces and corporations, have to be full partners in building a democratic, empowered, and equal society.

Most corporations, however, don’t see themselves that way – including Apple. Today’s New York Times took a look at Apple, America And A Squeezed Middle Class, curious to see why Apple no longer manufactures its products in the US and what the impact is on our prosperity. They found that Apple builds in China in large part because they have a narrow focus on their products and their profits, and disdain wider concerns for the good of society. When an unnamed Apple executive was asked about their role in addressing America’s economic problems, their response was revealing:

They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

That quote is perhaps the best encapsulation of the pathologies of the modern American corporation. In fact, Apple does have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Everyone who lives in this country has that obligation. And corporations have that obligation too. If they don’t want to help make things better, then they shouldn’t exist. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153873

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* MONSANTO HIRED MERCENARY BLACKWATER TO INFILTRATE ANTI-GMO GROUPS

By Stephanie Dearing, Digital Journal

Documents reveal that Blackwater has been busy expanding its corporate reach by providing intelligence services for agencies such as the Canadian Military, Netherlands Police and corporations like Monsanto.

Blackwater is a private, mercenary army. They’ve been called the ‘shadow army,’ and most notoriously worked for the United States in Iraq, where the company courted controversy. Journalist Jeremy Scahill, who wrote a book about Blackwater, wrote an exclusive for The Nation, revealing general details of the extent of the Blackwater business operations. Scahill managed to obtain documents that, according to Scahill, show:

“… entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation.”

[…]

The news that Monsanto hired a Blackwater company for intelligence reports is rocketing around the world via anti-GMO activists. Blogger Rady Ananda summed up the relationship between Monsanto and Blackwater as:

“… A death-tech firm weds a hit squad.”

[…]

READ @ http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/297701#ixzz1jNunca98

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* HUMAN CARCINOGEN FOUND IN DRINKING WATER NEAR GAS DRILLING OPS

Source: EcoWatch

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) detection of arsenic, a known human carcinogen, barium and other contaminants in the well water of homes near natural gas drilling operations in Dimock Township, Pa., should prompt a nationwide investigation of drilling-linked water pollution.

“EPA and other officials must move quickly to ensure these families have an adequate source of clean water,” said Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel with Environmental Working Group (EWG). “This finding confirms what Dimock residents have said for months—that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should have never allowed Cabot to end deliveries of clean water.”

Last month, EWG published a report called Gas Drilling Doublespeak that found that Dimock residents, among other people in gas-rich areas, were not warned of risks to their water supplies when they were approached to lease their land for drilling. […]

READ @ http://ecowatch.org/2012/human-carcinogen-found-in-drinking-water-near-gas-drilling-ops/

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* INDEPENDENT FACT-FINDING LIBYAN MISSION

By Stephen Lendman, OpEdNews

Joint report exposed NATO crimes but still fell far short.

A joint report was released by the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC).

Their mission investigated alleged widespread international law violations since mid-February 2011. Its mandate included investigating those committed by:

  • the former government;
  • NATO; and
  • insurgents.

It also sought to identify human rights issues, requiring Lybian and international attention.

Investigators included “leading international jurists and lawyers with expertise in international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law, transitional justice, and the development of legal systems in post-conflict environments.”

Information obtained from witnesses, victims, and other parties were kept confidential unless already revealed and available.

Investigations weren’t meant to be comprehensive. Rather, the mission tried “to convey the considered observations of its members, in order to facilitate, and prompt, the work of other bodies and authorities.”

[…]

From November 15 – 22, investigations and interviews were conducted in Western Libya alone, in and around Tripoli, Zawiya, Sibrata, Khoms, Zliten, Misrata, Tawergha, and Sirte. Significantly, Benghazi was omitted, an area plagued by insurgent crimes.

Findings revealed “significant” international law violations. However, imposed constraints prevented investigators from reaching “definitive legal conclusions regarding individual incidents.” Nonetheless, they believe crimes of war and against humanity were committed.

Evidence suggests NATO classified civilian sites as military ones for attacks, including homes, schools, colleges, food distribution centers, hospitals, mosques, and others. In addition, civilians were targeted, notably in Sirte.

In fact, one incident there killed 47 or more non-combatants. This and other incidents raise “significant questions,” requiring further inquiry and disclosure.

Insurgents also violated international law, including civilian killings; torture and other abuses; wrongful detentions; mistreatment of foreign workers, and forced “displacement of suspected enemies of the Revolution.” […]

READhttp://www.opednews.com/articles/Independent-Fact-Finding-L-by-Stephen-Lendman-120126-184.html

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* THE HUMAN RIGHTS “SUCCESS” IN LIBYA

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

It quickly became ossified conventional wisdom that NATO’s war in Libya to aid rebel factions in overthrowing Moammar Gaddafi was a clear human rights victory. But the reality in post-Gaddafi Libya has long been in tension with that claim, and that’s true today more so than ever:

Doctors Without Borders is halting work in detention centers in the Libyan city of Misrata because detainees are “tortured and denied urgent medical care,” the international aid agency said Thursday.

The agency known by its French acronym MSF said it has treated 115 people with torture-related wounds from interrogation sessions.

Some of the patients treated were tortured again after they were returned to detention centers, according to the agency.

“Some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct MSF’s medical work,” said Christopher Stokes, the agency general director.

“Patients were brought to us for medical care between interrogation sessions, so that they would be fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions”. . . .

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, voiced similar concerns about torture in Libya. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/01/26/the_human_rights_success_in_libya/singleton

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* PUPS ON PARADE: EU OBEDIENTLY PUSHES TOWARD WAR WITH IRAN

By Chris Floyd, Information Clearing House

This week, the warlords of the West took yet another step toward their long-desired war against Iran. (Open war, that is; their covert war has been going on for decades — via subversion, terrorism, and proxies like Saddam Hussein.) On Monday, the European Union obediently followed the dictates of its Washington masters by agreeing to impose an embargo on Iranian oil.

The embargo bans all new oil contracts with Iran, and cuts off all existing deals after July. The embargo is accompanied by a freeze on all European assets of the Iranian central bank. In imposing these draconian measures on a country which is not at war with any nation, which has not invaded or attacked another nation in centuries, and which is developing a nuclear energy program that is not only entirely legal under international law but is also subject to the most stringent international inspection regime ever seen, the EU is “targeting the economic lifeline of the regime,” as one of its diplomats put it, with admirable candor.

The embargo will have serious, perhaps disastrous effects on many of Europe’s sinking economies, which are heavy users of Iranian oil. This is particularly true in Greece, the poster boy for our modern “Shock Doctrine über alles” global economic system. For even as Greece writhes beneath the blows of European bankers determined to bleed the country dry to avoid the consequences of their own knowingly corrupt loan policies, the Iranians have been giving the Greeks substantial discounts on oil, which has helped ease — at least in some measure — the economic ruin being imposed on the “birthplace of democracy.” […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30353.htm

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* FALSE FLAG USS ENTERPRISE – VIDEO

Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5Uf-6HrH_fE#!

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* DEADLY BLASTS HIT SHIITE NEIGHBORHOODS IN BAGHDAD

By Yasir Ghazi and Duraid Adnan, NYTimes

BAGHDAD — A series of explosions in Shiite neighborhoods here killed nine people and wounded dozens more on Tuesday, the latest in a wave of sectarian attacks.

No group claimed responsibility, but the bombings bore the hallmarks of others by the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which says it has shifted its attention to Shiites and sources of Iranian influence since the withdrawal of the American military.

The group says Iran has destroyed Iraq over the past several years by “killing the best families, the elite, the educated.” […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/world/middleeast/deadly-explosions-rattle-baghdad.html?hp

Jan 252012
 

 

* DROWNING IN HYPOCRISY

By Paul Craig Roberts, OpEdNews

There is no question that Bush/Cheney/Obama have trashed the US Constitution, US statutory law, and international law. But Washington, having overthrown justice, has established that might is right. No foreign government is going to send its forces into the US to drag the war criminals out and place them on trial.

The US government is so full of self-righteousness that it has become a caricature of hypocrisy. Leon Panetta, a former congressman who Obama appointed CIA director and now head of the Pentagon, just told the sailors on the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier, that the US is maintaining a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers in order to project sea power against Iran and to convince Iran that “it’s better for them to try to deal with us through diplomacy.”

If it requires 11 aircraft carriers to deal with Iran, how many will Panetta need to project power against Russia and China? But to get on with the main point, Iran has been trying “to deal with us through diplomacy.” The response from Washington has been belligerent threats of military attack, unfounded and irresponsible accusations that Iran is making a nuclear weapon, sanctions and an oil embargo. Washington’s accusations echo Israel’s and are contradicted by Washington’s own intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Why doesn’t Washington respond to Iran in a civilized manner with diplomacy? Really, which of the two countries is the greatest threat to peace? […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=144600

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* IRAN IS NOT BUILDING A NUCLEAR BOMB

Source: Washington’s Blog

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said:

Are they [the Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed in a Senate hearing – following the release of the classified National Intelligence Estimate in 2011 – that he has a “high level of confidence” that Iran “has not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program.”

Mohamed ElBaradei – who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA – said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing the bomb.

Six former ambassadors to Iran within the last decade say that there is no evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons, and that Iran is complying with international law. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/contrary-to-widespread-claims-there-is-no-evidence-that-iran-is-building-a-nuclear-weapon.html

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* UNITED NATIONS: U.S. OPERATION OF GITMO IS ‘CLEAR BREACH OF INTERNATIONAL LAW’

Source: ThinkProgress

The United States’ continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba is a “clear breach of international law,” United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said today, Reuters reports. Only six trials have been completed in 10 years, while eight detainees have died at the prison. “While fully recognizing the right and duty of states to protect their people and territory from terrorist acts, I remind all branches of the U.S. government of their obligation under international human rights law to ensure that individuals deprived of their liberty can have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed before a court,” Pillay said. “Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted. Otherwise, they must be released.” […]

READ @ http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/01/23/409541/united-nations-us-operation-of-gitmo-is-clear-breach-of-international-law/

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* THE ABU GHRAIB OF LOS ANGELES?

ACLU lawsuit cites a “sick culture of deputy-on-inmate violence” in LA County jails.

By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, MotherJones

On Wednesday, citing “a sick culture of deputy-on-inmate hyper-violence [that] has been flourishing for decades in the darkness of the L.A. County Jails,” the ACLU sued the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department seeking better training for deputies, and better oversight, investigation, and discipline in cases involving prisoner mistreatment. With 15,000 inmates—a majority of them awaiting trial, yet to be convicted of a crime—LA county hosts the nation’s largest jail system. In recent years, its guards have become known for a level of brutality that exceeds that of most maximum-security prisons—and sometimes crosses the line into torture.

The suit draws on information published in a report released last September by the ACLU’s National Prison Project and Southern California branch. The report showed a pattern of brutal abuses carried out by what the report calls a “savage gang” of deputies who oversee the prisoners. “Like members of street gangs, these deputies sport tattoos to signal their gang membership,” the lawsuit alleges. “They beat up inmates to gain prestige among their peers, and ‘earn their ink’ by breaking inmates’ bones.” The suit claims that Sheriff Lee Baca and his top brass are well aware of the system’s “culture of violence” but have done little to change it.

According to eyewitnesses, deputies have punched, kicked, and beaten prisoners to the point that they required surgery or hospitalization; humiliated them with sexual and racial epithets; thrown them in solitary confinement for no reason; and set them up for assault and rape by other prisoners. The report begins as follows:

To be an inmate in the Los Angeles County jails is to fear deputy attacks. In the past year, deputies have assaulted scores of non-resisting inmates, according to reports from jail chaplains, civilians, and inmates. Deputies have attacked inmates for complaining about property missing from their cells. They have beaten inmates for asking for medical treatment, for the nature of their alleged offenses, and for the color of their skin. They have beaten inmates in wheelchairs. They have beaten an inmate, paraded him naked down a jail module, and placed him in a cell to be sexually assaulted. Many attacks are unprovoked. Nearly all go unpunished: these acts of violence are covered up by a department that refuses to acknowledge the pervasiveness of deputy violence in the jail system. […]

READ @ http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/abu-ghraib-los-angeles-county-jail-abuses

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* THE EVER-REVOLVING REVOLVING DOOR

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, ConsortiumNews

We’ve already made our choice for the best headline of the year, so far: “Citigroup Replaces JPMorgan as White House Chief of Staff.”

When we saw it on the website Gawker.comwe had to smile — but the smile didn’t last long. There’s simply too much truth in that headline; it says a lot about how Wall Street and Washington have colluded to create the winner-take-all economy that rewards the very few at the expense of everyone else.

The story behind it is that Jack Lew is President Obama’s new chief of staff — arguably the most powerful office in the White House that isn’t shaped like an oval. He used to work for the giant banking conglomerate Citigroup. His predecessor as chief of staff is Bill Daley, who used to work at the giant banking conglomerate JPMorgan Chase, where he was maestro of the bank’s global lobbying and chief liaison to the White House.

Daley replaced Obama’s first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who once worked  as a rainmaker for the investment bank now known as Wasserstein & Company, where in less than three years he was paid a reported $18.5 million. […]

READ @ http://consortiumnews.com/2012/01/24/the-ever-revolving-revolving-door/

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* WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER JIMMY WALES: MPAA CHAIRMAN CHRISTOPHER DODD SHOULD BE FIRED

By Jennifer Van Grove, Mediabeat

[…] “Candidly, those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake,” Dodd said to Fox News recently. “Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.”

Wales argued that these transparent statements make the MPAA out to be a corrupt, Congress-buying organization. He also challenged Dodd’s assertion that Wikipedia’s decision to blackout its site in protest of SOPA, an effort Wales said was a “massive success,” constituted an abuse of power.

10 million people contacted Congress, Wales said. “That’s not an abuse of power, that’s democracy,” he said. “[Dodd] had best get used to it.” […]

READ @ http://venturebeat.com/2012/01/24/wales-versus-dodd/

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* CONSUMER GROUP ACCUSES HOLLYWOOD OF ‘THREATENING POLITICIANS’

By Brendan Sasso, The Hill

Consumer group Public Knowledge on Friday accused the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its head, former Sen. Chris Dodd, of trying to intimidate lawmakers into supporting a pair of controversial anti-piracy bills.

In recent days, Dodd and other top Hollywood figures have threatened to cut off campaign donations to politicians who do not support their effort to crackdown on online copyright infringement.

“Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake,” Dodd said on Fox News on Thursday. […]

READ @ http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/205491-consumer-group-accuses-hollywood-of-threatening-politicians

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* BLOWING THE WHISTLE ON BIG PHARMA – INTERVIEW

By Mark Karlin, Truthout

Mark Karlin: “Blood Feud” has been lauded both for what it exposes and for how it compellingly unravels a complicated Big Pharma case of ill-begotten profits; patient deaths; lapsed oversight; intrigue; and the arrival of the attorney featured in the Oscar-nominated film, “A Civil Action,” Jan Schlichtmann. But let’s start with the most shocking revelation: an untold number of patients using the drug in question (marketed under the names Epogen, Aranesp and Procrit) died as a result of its side effects.

Since Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Amgen (partners in developing the drug) have been marketing it for years, how did the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fail?

Kathleen Sharp: It was a combination of mistakes and toothless power. This blood booster was approved during the biotech rush of the 1980s, when the science was new. The FDA’s blood division approved the drug, but then the drug division took it over. Regulators repeatedly asked the two companies to perform safety trials, but the firms never quite got around to it. Some 15 years later, independent research showed that the drug not only killed people, it multiplied tumor cells. It’s quite a shock to realize that if our government regulators had had the authority to penalize these companies, some loved ones might still be alive today. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/blood-feud-blowing-whistle-big-pharma/1327417550

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* BLOCKING THE VOTE: A LOOK AT WHO IS BEHIND REPUBLICAN EFFORTS TO ERECT VOTING BARRIERS IN AMERICA

By Elaine Magliaro, jonathanturley.org

Last December, the NAACP released a report titled Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America. The report reveals “direct connections between the trend of increasing, unprecedented African American and Latino voter turnout and an onslaught of restrictive measures across the country designed to stem electoral strength among communities of color.”

Benjamin Jealous, NAACP President and CEO, said, “It’s been more than a century since we’ve seen such a tidal wave of assaults on the right to vote. Historically, when voting rights are attacked, it’s done to facilitate attacks on other rights. It is no mistake that the groups who are behind this are simultaneously attacking very basic women’s rights, environmental protections, labor rights, and educational access for working people and minorities.” He added, “Voting rights attacks are the flip side of buying a democracy. First you buy all the leaders you can, and then you suppress as many votes as possible of the people who might object.”

I should add that African American and Latino voters aren’t the only people who are being targeted by the “block the vote” effort. Young people and the elderly in some states may also face hurdles if they hope to exercise their right to vote in the November elections. […]

READ @ http://jonathanturley.org/2012/01/21/blocking-the-vote-a-look-at-who-is-behind-republican-efforts-to-erect-voting-barriers-in-america/

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* FACT CHECKING THE 2012 STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH

By Glenn Kessler, WaPo

A State of the Union address is often difficult to fact check, no matter who is president. The speech is a product of many hands and is carefully vetted, so major errors of fact are so relatively rare that they sometimes can become big news (think of George W. Bush’s “sixteen little words” about Iraq seeking uranium in Niger). At the same time, State of the Union addresses are very political speeches, an argument for the president’s policies, so context (or the perspective of opponents) is often missing.

Here is a guide through some of President Obama’s more fact-challenged claims, in the order in which he made them. As is our practice with live events, we do not award Pinocchio rankings, which are reserved for complete columns.

“For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”

The killing of bin Laden, which Obama used to open and close his speech, is an achievement that few partisans would quibble with. But the story about Iraq and Afghanistan is much more muddled. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/fact-checking-the-2012-state-of-the-union-speech/2012/01/25/gIQAa5CTPQ_blog.html?hpid=z2

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* THE REAL STORY OF AMERICA’S UNEMPLOYED

By Salon Staff

Before “We are the 99 percent” emerged as a rally cry from Zuccotti Park to the Port of Oakland, another group identified with this number — but for a very different reason. A handful of New Yorkers whose 99 weeks of unemployment benefits had expired were frustrated that political leaders seemed resigned to a future of austerity instead of figuring out how to put Americans back to work. These “99ers” realized that if they wanted to change things, they would need to get organized and fight back.

In “F**ked: The United States of Unemployment” — a new Salon series that will chronicle this important yet largely untold story — Academy Award-nominated director Immy Humes traces the birth and evolution of the 99ers movement. Over the course of the series, Humes will explore her personal struggle with long-term unemployment, the struggles of her fellow 99ers, and confront the stigma of what it’s like to be jobless in America today. […]

READ @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aEDoHNzKTZ0

Jan 252012
 

 

INSIDE THE FUKUSHIMA I NUCLEAR PLANT REACTOR 2 CONTAINMENT VESSEL 1/19/12

Source: youtube.com/enenews.com

TEPCO conducted an endoscopy of the Containment Vessel of Reactor 2 to see the inside. In a recent press conference, TEPCO’s spokesman, Matsumoto, said that the white specs in the video are from gamma rays and the white streaks across the screen are water droplets.

The endoscope is made by Olympus. Drilling the hole on the Containment Vessel was done on January 17, requiring 40 workers in 10 teams. The endoscopy operation on January 19 took 34 workers, one hour, working right next to the Containment Vessel.

For more about this operation:

http://bit.ly/xQC8Eo
http://bit.ly/zeAG56

For more Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident and radiation contamination in Japan:

www.exskf.com (English)
www.exskf-jp.com (Japanese)

READ @ http://enenews.com/sitting-down-actual-gamma-rays-fukushima-footage-appearing-focus-streaks-flashes-video

Jan 242012
 

 

* YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT — A KNOW YOUR RIGHTS GUIDE FOR LAW ENFORCEMNT ENCOUNTERS

Source: National Lawyers Guild

What Rights Do I Have?

Whether or not you’re a citizen, you have rights under the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment gives every person the right to remain silent: not to answer questions asked by a police officer or government agent. The Fourth Amendment restricts the government’s power to enter and search your home or workplace, although there are many exceptions and new laws have expanded the govern- ment’s power to conduct surveillance. The First Amendment protects your right to speak freely and to advocate for social change. However, if you are a non-citizen, the Department of Homeland Security may target you based on your political activities. […]

READ PDF @ http://www.nlg.org/wp-content/files_flutter/1290534630final.pdf

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* CAMPUS COPS BRUTALIZE PEACEFUL STUDENTS PROTESTING TUITION HIKES AT UC RIVERSIDE

By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, AlterNet

Students at UC Riverside worried about past and future fee hikes attended a Regents meeting last Thursday to voice their concerns. However, despite the rights of attendees to a democratic, open-to-the-public meeting, students say they were summarily silenced—and that protesters outside the meeting were brutally attacked by police with batons and shot with non-lethal bullets—a point that went unmentioned in most reports, but one clearly backed up by video. Marc Lombardo, one of the student protesters in attendance, told AlterNet:

What events led up to shots being fired? As video documentation clearly shows, police were hitting protestors with batons without any clear tactical purpose. They were protecting no one. There was nowhere they needed to go. They simply started hitting the people peacefully assembled in front of them. Only at that point did protestors attempt to bring a barricade to the police line in order to protect those being assaulted by law enforcement. That’s when the police opened fire. These events can be seen here: […]

The day after the UC Regents Meeting at UCR:

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/newsandviews/765980

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* THE CORPORATE STATE WILL BE BROKEN

By Chris Hedges, Truthout

I spent Friday morning sitting on a wooden bench in a fourth-floor courtroom in the New York Criminal Court in Manhattan. I was waiting to be sentenced for “disturbing the peace” and “refusing to obey a lawful order” during an Occupy demonstration in front of Goldman Sachs in November.

Those sentenced before me constituted the usual fare of the court. They were poor people of color accused of mostly petty crimes—drug possession, thefts, shoplifting, trespassing because they were homeless and needed a place to sleep, inappropriate touching, grand larceny and violation of probation. They were escorted out of a backroom by a police officer, stood meekly before the judge with their hands cuffed behind them, were hastily defended by a lawyer clutching a few folders, and were sentenced. Ten days in jail. Sixty days in jail. Six months in jail. A steady stream of convictions.  My sentence, by comparison, was slight. I was given an ACD, or “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” which means that if I am not arrested in the next six months my case is dismissed. If I am arrested during this period of informal probation the old charge will be added to the new one before I am sentenced.

The country’s most egregious criminals, the ones who had stripped some of those being sentenced of their homes, their right to a decent education and health care, their jobs, their dignity and their hope, those wallowing in tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, those who had gamed the system to enrich themselves at our expense, were doing the dirty business of speculation in the tall office towers a few blocks away. They were making money. A few of these wealthy plutocrats were with the president, who was in New York that day to attend four fundraisers that took in an estimated $3 million. For $15,000 you could have joined Barack Obama at Daniel, an exclusive Upper East Side restaurant. For $35,000 you could have been at a gathering hosted by movie director Spike Lee. Most of those sentenced in that courtroom do not make that much in a year. It was a good day in New York for Barack Obama. It was a bad day for us. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/chris-hedges-corporate-state-will-be-broken/1327331237

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* THE THOM HARTMANN SHOW — BRUNCH WITH BERNIE – JANUARY 20, 2012

Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wgDB2jLqthQ

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* RULES OF AMERICAN JUSTICE: A TALE OF THREE CASES

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Developments in three legal cases, just from the last 24 hours, potently illuminate the Rules of American Justice. First, the Justice Department yesterday charged a former CIA agent, John Kirakou, with four felony counts for having allegedly disclosed classified information to reporters about the CIA’s interrogation program. Included among those charges are two counts under the Espionage Act of 1917, based on the allegation that he disclosed information which he “had reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Kirakou made news in 2007 when he told ABC News that he led the team that captured accused Terrorist Abu Zubaydah and that the techniques to which Zubaydah was subjected, including waterboarding, clearly constituted “torture,” though he claimed they were effective and arguably justifiable. He’s also accused of being the source for a 2008 New York Times article that disclosed the name of one of Zubaydah’s CIA interrogators.

What’s most notable here is that this is now the sixth prosecution by the Obama administration of an accused leaker, and all six have been charged under the draconian, World-War-I era Espionage Act. As EFF’s Trevor Timm put it yesterday: this is the “6th time under Obama someone is charged with Espionage for leaking to a journalist. Before Obama: only 3 cases in history.” This is all accomplished by characterizing disclosures in American newspapers about America’s wrongdoing as “aiding the enemy” (the alleged enemy being informed is Al Qaeda, but the actual concern is that the American people learn what their government is doing). As The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage wrote this morning, Obama has brought “more such cases than all previous presidents combined,” and by doing so, has won the admiration of the CIA and other intelligence agencies which, above all else, loathe transparency (which happens to be the value that Obama vowed to provide more of than any President in history). […]

READ @ http://politics.salon.com/2012/01/24/rules_of_american_justice_a_tale_of_three_cases/singleton/

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* THE CAGING OF AMERICA

Why do we lock up so many people?

By Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

A prison is a trap for catching time. Good reporting appears often about the inner life of the American prison, but the catch is that American prison life is mostly undramatic—the reported stories fail to grab us, because, for the most part, nothing happens. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades. It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates. The inmates on death row in Texas are called men in “timeless time,” because they alone aren’t serving time: they aren’t waiting out five years or a decade or a lifetime. The basic reality of American prisons is not that of the lock and key but that of the lock and clock.

That’s why no one who has been inside a prison, if only for a day, can ever forget the feeling. Time stops. A note of attenuated panic, of watchful paranoia—anxiety and boredom and fear mixed into a kind of enveloping fog, covering the guards as much as the guarded. “Sometimes I think this whole world is one big prison yard, / Some of us are prisoners, some of us are guards,” Dylan sings, and while it isn’t strictly true—just ask the prisoners—it contains a truth: the guards are doing time, too. As a smart man once wrote after being locked up, the thing about jail is that there are bars on the windows and they won’t let you out. This simple truth governs all the others. What prisoners try to convey to the free is how the presence of time as something being done to you, instead of something you do things with, alters the mind at every moment. For American prisoners, huge numbers of whom are serving sentences much longer than those given for similar crimes anywhere else in the civilized world—Texas alone has sentenced more than four hundred teen-agers to life imprisonment—time becomes in every sense this thing you serve.

For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States. […]

READ @ http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/01/30/120130crat_atlarge_gopnik#ixzz1kIcuz6Z9

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* US MARINES KILLS WOMEN AND CHILDREN GETS 3 MONTHS — MARINE REACHES PLEA IN HADITHA MASSACRE

Source: CBS / AP

A Marine accused of killing unarmed Iraqi women and children pleaded guilty Monday to dereliction of duty in a deal that will mean a maximum of three months confinement and end the largest and longest-running criminal case against U.S. troops to emerge from the Iraq War.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich of Meriden, Conn., led the Marine squad in 2005 that killed 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha after a roadside bomb exploded near a Marine convoy, killing one Marine and wounding two others.

It was a stunning and muted end to a case once described as the Iraq War’s version of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

Watch Wuterich’s interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” in 2007 http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=2582353n 

[…]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30339.htm

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* U.S. MEDIA IRAQ REPORTING: SEE NO EVIL

By Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening

The Iraq war may be over, at least for US troops, but the cover-up of the atrocities committed there by American forces goes on, even in retrospectives about the war. A prime example is reporting on the destroyed city of Fallujah, where some of the heaviest fighting of the war took place.

On March 31, 2004, four armed mercenaries working for the firm then known as Blackwater (now Xe), were captured in Fallujah, Iraq’s third largest city and a hotbed of insurgent strength located in Anbar Province about 40 miles west of Baghdad. Reportedly killed in their vehicle, which was then torched, their charred bodies were strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River.

Pictures and videos of Fallujah residents mocking the bodies, which, unlike the images of burned and mutilated Iraqi victims of American forces, were broadcast on American television and displayed on the front pages of American newspapers, created a wave of indignation and outrage in the U.S., and led the Bush/Cheney administration and the Pentagon to decide they needed to punish the city of over 300,000. […]

READhttp://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1019

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* OBAMA TO USE PENSION FUNDS OF ORDINARY AMERICANS TO PAY FOR BANK MORTGAGE “SETTLEMENT”

By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Obama’s latest housing market chicanery should come as no surprise. As we discuss below, he will use the State of the Union address to announce a mortgage “settlement” by Federal regulators, and at least some state attorneys general. It’s yet another gambit designed to generate a campaign talking point while making the underlying problem worse.

The president seems to labor under the misapprehension that crimes by members of the elite must be swept under the rug because prosecuting them would destablize the system. What he misses is that we are well past the point where coverups will work, and they may even blow up before the November elections. If nothing else, his settlement pact has a non-trivial Constitutional problem which the Republicans, if they are smart, will use to undermine the deal and discredit the Administration.

To add insult to injury, Obama is apparently going to present his belated Christmas present to the banking industry as a boon to ordinary citizens. He refused to appoint a real middle class advocate, Elizabeth Warren, to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but he’s not above stealing her talking points. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/obama-to-give-banks-mortgage-get-out-of-jail-almost-free-card-pressures-state-attorneys-generals-to-capitulate.html

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* WORLD UPRISING — THE ANTIDOTE TO THE NEW WORLD ORDER (VIDEO)

Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/embed/F9T-hiAZakI

Jan 232012
 

 

* POST-WAR CONSTITUTIONS: PRIVATIZATION AND EMPIRE BUILDING

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research

The following is a 2011 article by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya for the Italian journal Eurasia about the manipulation of national constitutions as a neo-colonial means of modern empire-building. The article presents an important overview of the U.S. empire-building process. The original print version was published in the Italian language and translated by Pietro Longo.

ABSTRACT: The U.S.A. has re-written the constitution of vanquished nations since the Second World War. In the last two decades, however, Washington has managed to totally restructure vanquished states economically and politically by de-centralizing them and legalizing foreign tutelage over their political structure and their national economies. From the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Iraq, this process has gone hand-in-hand with war and both an immediate and extended foreign military presence. In this regard the new national constitutions of these countries have been central to the process and opened the door for the integration of these states into Washington’s empire-building project.

The geography of a nation is also fixed in its national constitution, such as the state’s definitions of its own national and internal borders. Taking this observation one step further, it has to be said that constitutions can also be utilized and redefined to meet specific geo-political objectives. This is where an important and very relevant modern geo-political issue comes into the forefront of analysis when looking at countries that have been at war with the United States of America and its allies. Looking back at the Second World War, the constitutions of Japan and Germany were re-written after their defeats either directly by Washington or under Allied supervision. The Pentagon also erected military bases in both Germany and Japan that began to alarm Soviet leaders. The reconfigured of both Germany and Japan served Washington’s geo-political interests. This is evident when studying the Japanese Constitution, which was written by the U.S. military. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces Japan’s sovereign right to declare war or to maintain a standing navy, air force, and army.[1] Japan was effectively neutralized by its new national constitution as a potential military rival or threat in East Asia and the Pacific. The last two decades have seen an even more profound interplay between new national constitutions and the geo-political and strategic objectives of Washington.

Nation-Building and Nation-Breaking: A Vital Ingredient for Empire

Roughly speaking within the last two decades the U.S.A. and its allies have been engaged in the practice of what can be called “nation-building.” National constitutions have been re-written within the dynamics of this so-called “nation-building” process in the countries that are “re-built” under the political and military supervision of Washington. This “nation-building” process is not some benign process, but part of a strategy to direct the countries that are being “re-built” to serve global empire and the process of modern-day empire building. In this regard constitutions are re-written to: (1) subordinate countries into vassals or colonial territories; (2) create a niche for these vassal states in the global imperial system of modern empire; and (3) fit Washington’s geo-political objectives of empire-building or expansion. […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28662

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* TERRORISTS CONTROL THE WHITE HOUSE

Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYTvDNg4iic&feature=share

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* CREEPING AUTHORITARIANISM ON CAPITOL HILL

What we can learn from one congressman’s convoluted defense of the NDAA

By John Knefel, Salon

On the day Occupy Congress came to Washington, I tagged along with seven Bard College students who went to talk to their representative, first-term Republican Chris Gibson from the 20th Congressional District of New York.  Listening to Gibson defend his vote for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which President Obama signed on New Year’s Eve and which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens, I had a rare glimpse into the contemporary authoritarian mind-set in all its banality. It illustrated how the slow erosion of civil liberties manifests itself in the halls of power in Washington.

Gibson is a retired Army colonel, and it shows. From the Airborne division name plate on his desk, to the photographs of camouflaged soldiers that adorn his walls, to the “Beat Navy” button on his desk, his military background is on display. He spoke about serving in the military to defend American’s rights – rights that he claims to take very seriously. To his credit, Gibson joined 26 other House Republicans in voting against the extension of the Patriot Act in February 2011. But his written record, and his NDAA vote, indicate he is a politician more concerned with waging war than preserving liberty.

He believes “the West” faces an existential threat from al-Qaida. On Page 4 of his book ”Securing the State,” published in 2008,  he wrote:

The US is engaged in a difficult struggle against a determined enemy who publicly declares his strategic aim the establishment of a caliphate in the Middle East and the ultimate destruction of the West. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/01/20/creeping_authoritarianism_on_capitol_hill/?source=newsletter

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* KENTUCKY GOVERNOR CUTS EDUCATION FUNDING WHILE PRESERVING TAX BREAKS FOR BIBLICALLY-THEMED AMUSEMENT PARK

By Travis Waldron, Think Progress

When Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) proposed his 2012-2013 budget this week, he admitted that it was “inadequate for the needs” of the state’s people. “We should be making substantial investments in our physical and intellectual infrastructure to bring transformational change to our state,” Beshear said. “This budget does not allow us to do enough of that.”

Beshear’s assessment of his own budget is, unfortunately, correct. The budget makes $286 million in cuts, including a 6.4 percent cut to a higher education system that has been plagued by funding cuts and rising tuition for years. And though it attempts to preserve K-12 education funding, it will result in less spending on Kentucky’s students and schools, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports:

Although the main funding formula for K-12 schools wouldn’t be cut, population growth means spending per student would decline. Also, education officials say the current year’s population estimate was low, resulting in a cut of more than $50 million to that funding formula.

READ @ http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/01/20/407580/kentucky-gov-cuts-education-funding-while-preserving-tax-breaks-for-biblically-themed-amusement-park/

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* MOYERS AND COMPANY SHOW 102 CRONY CAPITALISM

By Bill Moyers,vimeo

VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/35372114

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* CHRIS HEDGES OCCUPY THE COURTS NYC JANUARY 20, 2012

Source: youtube

Filmed January 20, 2012. Chris Hedges, Lawrence Lessig, Virginia Rasmussen on the eve of the 2nd Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision “Citizens United v. F.E.C.”. The video begins with a march from Liberty Plaza aka Zuccotti Park to the rally point at Foley Square across the street from Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at 40 Centre St. The Rude Mechanical Orchestra plays their “Smash a Bank Polka” followed by Chris Hedges giving an update to his lawsuit against Barack Obama and Leon Panetta. Virginia Rasmussen offers a historic perspective on the Citizens United decision. Laurence Lessig gives an inspirational speech on restoring democracy. Other speakers: Alexis from Occupy Wall Street, Camille Rivera, and Amy Muldoon. The video ends with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra finishing of their song.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QSzIUVlowU&amp

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* COULD ECUADOR BE THE MOST RADICAL AND EXCITING PLACE ON EARTH?

By Jayati Ghosh, CommonDreams.com

Ecuador must be one of the most exciting places on Earth right now, in terms of working towards a new development paradigm. It shows how much can be achieved with political will, even in uncertain economic times.

Just 10 years ago, Ecuador was more or less a basket case, a quintessential “banana republic” (it happens to be the world’s largest exporter of bananas), characterised by political instability, inequality, a poorly-performing economy, and the ever-looming impact of the US on its domestic politics.

In 2000, in response to hyperinflation and balance of payments problems, the government dollarised the economy, replacing the sucre with the US currency as legal tender. This subdued inflation, but it did nothing to address the core economic problems, and further constrained the domestic policy space.

A major turning point came with the election of the economist Rafael Correa as president. After taking over in January 2007, his government ushered in a series of changes, based on a new constitution (the country’s 20th, approved in 2008) that was itself mandated by a popular referendum. A hallmark of the changes that have occurred since then is that major policies have first been put through the referendum process. This has given the government the political ability to take on major vested interests and powerful lobbies. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/21-0

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* THE WOMAN BEHIND THE RECALL OF WISCONSIN SENATE MAJORITY LEADER SCOTT FITZGERALD

By Rebecca Kemble, The Progressive

Yesterday afternoon’s announcement in front of the Government Accountability Board by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin that more than one million signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker had been gathered eclipsed a smaller, yet very significant event that took place hours earlier at the same location.

Lori Compas and her band of a couple dozen volunteers delivered three boxes full of petitions to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald into the Government Accountability Board just before noon. The boxes were emblazoned with red hearts inked around the tops, and each bore one word: “We” “Love” “Wisconsin.” Compas’s announcement consisted of one sentence: “These boxes contain our hopes, our hard work, and 20,600 signatures!” That’s 3,858 more than the number required to trigger a recall election.

After the announcement, she fumbled around in one of the boxes amidst cheering, tears, and embraces of the sixty well-wishers who gathered in the snow and finally came up with what she was looking for: a trophy. The election “trigger” award was given to Sam Cooper, an organizer with We Are Wisconsin who, unsolicited, showed up to help for the final push in the beginning of January. […]

READ @ http://www.progressive.org/woman_behind_recall_of_wis_sen_scott_fitzgerald.html

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* RICK FALKVINGE: THE SWEDISH RADICAL LEADING THE FIGHT OVER WEB FREEDOMS

The tech entrepreneur launched the Pirate party to fight online censorship. Now, it is Europe’s fastest growing political group

By Carole Cadwalladr, Guardian UK

With his polished shoes, and formal three-piece pinstriped suit, Rick Falkvinge looks like the kind of man you might meet to discuss your tax affairs, or the finer points of your investment portfolio.

Not radical politics. Or illegal file-sharing. Or revolutionary e-currencies that may destroy the global banking system. Because, although sipping a soy latte in the Stockholm cafe that he calls his office, Falkvinge has the air of a successful corporate lawyer, he’s actually the founder and chief ideologue of Europe‘s youngest, boldest, and fastest growing political movement: the Pirate party.

The Pirates are a political force that have come out of nowhere. Dreamed up by Falkvinge in 2006, they’re an offshoot of the underground computer activist scene and champion digital transparency, freedom and access for all. In three years, they gained their first seat in the European parliament (they now have two) and became the largest party in Sweden for voters under 30. Since then they’ve gained political representation in Germany and swept large parts of Europe.

What they’ve done is to use technology in new ways to harness political power. Falkvinge describes how “we’re online 24/7”, how they operate in what he calls “the swarm” – nobody is in charge, and nobody can tell anybody else what to do – and how, essentially, they are the political embodiment of online activist culture.

The Pirates are geekdom gone mainstream and Falkvinge is the Julian Assange-style figurehead. A leading player in a fight for digital freedom that last week came to a dramatic head when the US Congress prepared to vote on the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa), and Wikipedia, supported by the likes of Google, led a 24-hour blackout of the internet.

The controversial legislation has, temporarily at least, been shelved, but Falkvinge is unequivocal about the gravity of the threat. The law would have given American courts the right to crack down on internet sites anywhere in the world and to monitor anybody’s private communications. It is, he claims, nothing less than an attack on fundamental human rights.

“We’re at an incredible crossroads right now. They’re demanding the right to wiretap the entire population. It’s unprecedented. This is a technology that can be used to give everybody a voice. But it can also be used to build a Big Brother society so dystopian that if someone had written a book about it in the 1950s, it would have been discarded as unrealistic.” […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/22/rick-falkvinge-swedish-radical-web-freedoms

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* SAY NO TO ACTA

Source: youtube.com

Learn more and take action about ACTA @ http://lqdn.fr/ACTA

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=citzRjwk-sQ