Jul 052012
 


* WASHINGTON’S ROAD TO IRAN GOES THROUGH SYRIA

By Veronika Krasheninnikova, StopNATO

[…] The results of the Geneva talks on Syria depend on whom you ask.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists that the principle of “mutual consent” on which a “transitional government” in Syria would be based means President Assad has to go. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on the contrary, insists the formation of a “transitional government” will be made on an inclusive basis.

Before discussing what it means, let’s stop for a second to grasp the sheer fact: five foreign powers gathered to decide the fate of a country, in the absence of its leader and its people, who never asked them to do anything of the kind, let alone gave any mandate. This is an outrageous breach of international law. And what is even more outrageous is that nobody is concerned or even talking about it. […]

READ @ http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/washingtons-road-to-iran-goes-through-syria/

—————————————————————–

* ROZOFF: US TARGETING INDEPENDENT GOVERNMENTS

Source: PressTV

READ / VIDEO @ http://www.presstv.com/detail/2012/07/01/248876/us-targeting-independent-principled-governments/

—————————————————————–

* WHY IS NOBODY FREAKING OUT ABOUT THE LIBOR BANKING SCANDAL

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

The LIBOR manipulation story has exploded into a major scandal overseas. The CEO of Barclays, Bob Diamond, has resigned in disgrace; his was the first of what will undoubtedly be many major banks to walk the regulatory plank for fixing the interbank exchange rate. The Labor party is demanding a sweeping criminal investigation. Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, responded the way a real public official should (i.e. not like Ben Bernanke), blasting the banks:

It is time to do something about the banking system…Many people in the banking industry are hardworking and feel badly let down by some of their colleagues and leaders. It goes to the culture and the structure of banks: the excessive compensation, the shoddy treatment of customers, the deceitful manipulation of a key interest rate, and today, news of yet another mis-selling scandal.

The furor is over revelations that Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and other banks were monkeying with at least $10 trillion in loans (The Wall Street Journal is calculating that that LIBOR affects $800 trillion worth of contracts). […]

READ / VIDEO @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-is-nobody-freaking-out-about-the-libor-banking-scandal-20120703#ixzz1zaRMtMNl

—————————————————————–

* AND NOW THE FED GETS DRAGGED INTO LiEborgate

By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge

As was first reported two days ago, and confirmed today, Barclays’ natural response to allegations it single-handedly manipulated the interest rate complex for up to $500 trillion notional in IR-sensitive swaps and other products (it didn’t – everyone else did it too), was to drag everyone into the scandal, starting off with the Bank of England (and about to drag Whitehall into it too), and specifically the man who was next in line for governorship of the English Central Bank: Paul Tucker. What does this mean? Well, as we suggested also two days ago, now that the natural succession path at the BOE has been terminally derailed, it brings up those two other gentlemen already brought up previously as potential future heads of the BOE, both of whom just happened to work, or still do, at… Goldman Sachs:  Canada’s Mark Carney or Goldman’s Jim O’Neil. Granted both have denied press speculation they will replace Mervyn King, but it’s not like it would be the first time a banker lied to anyone now, would it (and makes one wonder if this whole affair was not merely orchestrated by the Squid from the get go… but no, that would be a ‘conspiracy theory’.) Yet the fact that Goldman is hell bent on global domination by stretching its tentacles into every monetary policy administration is no secret: it is only a matter of time before GS also runs the English CTRL-P macros. More interesting is that in addition to the BOE, Barclays today also dragged America’s very own Federal Reserve into the fray.

From MarketWatch:

Barclays also said in the document that the lender believed other banks were making Libor submissions that were too low during the credit crunch. “The evidence shows that the intent was to protect Barclays from the unfounded negative perceptions by bringing Barclays Libor quotes closer to the pack but not to affect the ultimate rate,” the bank said.

Barclays also cited subsequent research by the New York Federal Reserve staff members that, according to the lender, concluded that banks’ Libor quotes were systematically below their borrowing rates by 39 basis points after the Lehman bankruptcy. “Barclays own submissions for tenors of 1 month to 1 year Libor were higher than actual Barclays trades on 97% of the occasions when Barclays had actual trades during the financial crisis,” the lender said.

Translating the bolded: the Fed knew all along that Barclays self-reported levels were impossible. And did nothing. Which of course was not an issue until 2 days ago. Now that heads are rolling, it is. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/and-now-fed-gets-dragged-lieborgate

—————————————————————–

* JP MORGAN, BARCLAYS, OTHER BANKSTERS INVESTIGATED FOR MANIPULATED ELECTRICITY MARKETS

By Scarecrow, Firedoglake

The Financial Times reported yesterday that the Staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FECR) was investigating a number of electric power marketing affiliates owned by major banks — including JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, Deutsche Bank AG, and others, on charges of manipulating electricity prices.  Immediately, reporters starting wondering whether this is like Enron’s antics back in the early 2000s, which ripped off California consumers and decimated California’s flawed electricity markets.  I don’t think it’s the same kind of schemes, but we need more information.

FERC is the federal regulator for electricity markets in the US, with jurisdiction over interstate transmission and the grid operations that include the regional power markets.  The information is sketchy now, but the Staff alleges that the banks’ power traders were manipulating bids and possible generator operations to increase prices in at least two regional US electricity markets, California and the Midwest ISO region.  Reuters, Bloomberg, HuffPo and others then picked up on the story without adding anything on how the alleged manipulation worked, so it’s still unclear exactly what they’re alleged to have done.

The question is, what were these bank-affiliated power traders doing?  I’ll get to that in a minute, and it looks like the San Francisco Chronicle picked up a clue, perhaps without knowing it. […]

READ @ http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/07/04/jp-morgan-barclays-other-banksters-investigated-for-manipulating-electricity-markets/

—————————————————————–

* IT’S NOT ME ANYMORE, IT’S US NOW 

Source: youtube

The Solidarity, Disobedience and Resistance movement take a practical approach to the problems people are facing. They close down motorway tolls, block ticket machines for public transport and reconnect electricity where it has been cut as punishment for not paying taxes.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JVPRi8rFOw&feature=player_embedded#!

Jun 262012
 

 

* TPP IS TREASON. WAKE UP! GLOBALIZATION GOES FOR CHECK-MATE

By Brett Redmyne-Titley, OpEdNews

[…] Pres. Barack Obama is traitor. This underhanded legislation / treaty secretly sells- out the American people’s legal rights in favor of his corporate puppet masters. The concept, inception, and mechanism of the TPP treaty comes, solely, from the Obama administration. In doing so, our one time constitutional scholar president attempts to create a new, world-wide, corporate dynasty. TPP gives up legal sovereignty and jurisdiction of the United States, and its laws, to a foreign power. This is the very definition of treason.

If Americans don’t stop TPP corporations will, literally, be able to circumvent the existing laws of the EPA, FDA, unions, collective bargaining agreements, patent protections and access, banking regulations and many other American regulations and rights. All will be negated solely by the arbitrary diktats of corporations being currently, and secretly, included in the language of the TPP treaty. Should state, local, or federal governmental agencies attempt to enforce American laws in favor of their citizens a separate corporate court will have supreme jurisdiction over that American governmental agency. This “Tribunal” has the power to override existing American regulation. Federal agencies, State Gov’ts, City authority, citizen’s property, and competing American corporate interests will be considered as the Defendant before the court. These defendants will have been charged, by the plaintiff corporation, with the new crime of a “Technical Barrier to Trade.”

Should the defendant chose not to comply with the Tribunal’s diktat, or refuse to pay Tribunal ordered financial compensation, the judgment will be enforced by our federal gov’t against American interests.

Making matters even worse American based corporations will not have access to the authoritarian controls and manipulations of the TPP treaty. These luxuries are only available to the big multi-national corporations. Smaller American corporations will be subservient to the whims of TPP. […]

[…] So, your state decides to place a health tax on cigarettes of one dollar a pack, as compensation for increased healthcare costs of smokers to the state. (California’s Prop 29 attempted to do this in the last primary election.) The voters approve it. Seems pretty fair so far. Au contraire.

R.J. Reynolds doesn’t like this portion of democracy, considering it bad for business and profits. Healthcare and designed addiction be damned, big corporations, at least the ones with real power, don’t worry about the trifles of mere democracy. They just turn to the “Investor/State Dispute Resolution Tribunal.” Not to a state court, not the federal court, nor the Supreme Court of the United States. A Corporation run court. For this TPP has adopted the more ominous description of, “Tribunal.”

This corporate sponsored, congressional, science fiction continues with the makeup of the Tribunal and its members. Composed of just three corporate lawyers (remember what Shakespeare said?) the three will be divided into; one with experience with the defendant’s issues, one for the plaintiff corporation, and a third who is, somehow, neutral. The Tribunal will meet in closed session away from cameras and reporters when adjudicating disputes between sovereign American federal, state, and local laws and the wishes of the corporations whose countries’ governments have, maliciously, ratified the TPP treaty.

With the likelihood of your state prevailing being nil, the tribunal rules against the cigarette tax. The tax is ordered to be repealed and, as punishment to the state for the crime of state-sponsored health interests, is next assessed a corporate monetary penalty due to the tax being a, “technical barrier to trade”. This term is the mantra of TPP and translates directly into, “your (healthcare) law is restricting our profits.”

The tribunal then issues an order for compensation of, hypothetically, one hundred million dollars due to the loss of profits to R.J. Reynolds tobacco sales. Your state’s attorney general says, “over my dead body”, and heads for the Appeals court, perhaps the Supreme Court. Au contraire.

Here lies the treason of the TPP. It grants, once congress ratifies it, the complete nullification of the jurisdiction of all US courts regarding matters before the tribunal. So your state loses. Automatically.

Well, now your state treasurer says, “we’ll never pay.” That won’t work either. Thanks to TPP, and a majority of treasonous Congressman, the federal government, which has authority over the states, must enforce the monetary judgment. Your states treasurer wakes up one morning to a call from the bank. It’s something about a $100 million withdrawal. Uncle Sam just stole your states $100 million and gave it to R.J. Reynolds. And there wasn’t a damn thing your state could do to stop it. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=152087

—————————————————————–

* NATO WAR COUNCIL TO TARGET SYRIA

By Rick Rozoff, StopNATO

On Tuesday, June 26 Belgium time the North Atlantic Council, the highest governing body of the U.S.-dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organization military bloc, will take up the issue of Syria under provisions of its founding document that in the past ten and a half years have resulted in military deployments preparatory to and the subsequent waging of full-scale wars.

The ambassadors of the alliance’s 28 member states constitute the council, nations whose collective population is 900 million. Its founding members include three nuclear powers – the U.S., Britain and France – the first the self-proclaimed world’s sole military superpower. […]

[…] Syria’s population now is much the same as Iraq’s was then and Turkey is now a nation almost three times as large. Syria is isolated and its military forces are small compared to its neighbor Turkey’s. The latter can count on the support of 27 allies, including most of the world’s major military powers. The U.S. has an estimated 90 B61 tactical nuclear weapons stationed at the Incirlik Air Base 35 miles from Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

Activating the Article 5 mutual military assistance – in effect war – clause has been mentioned by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at least twice since April, on the first occasion over two months before the downing of the Turkish warplane last week.

On June 25 Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc announced that his nation “has made necessary applications with NATO regarding Article 4 and Article 5.” […]

READ @ http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/nato-war-council-to-target-syria/

—————————————————————–

* TURKISH JET WAS IN SYRIAN TERRITORY – FLYING VERY LOW – WHEN SHOT DOWN

Source: Washington’s Blog

The world is already in Cold War 2.0 in Syria.  Now we are edging closer to a hot war.

Self-defense has been a recognized legal right for thousands of years.

But when empires wish to go to war against a country, self-defense is seen as a criminal causus belli.  For example, Turkey admits that its fighter jet was in Syrian territory when it was shot down.

Indeed, the Turkish fighter jet was flying very low and very close to the Syrian shoreline:

“The plane disappeared and then reappeared in Syrian airspace, flying at 100 meters altitude and about 1-2kms (0.6-1.2 miles) from the Syrian coast,” Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a Damascus news conference.

“We had to react immediately, even if the plane was Syrian we would have shot it down,” he said. “The Syrian response was an act of defense of our sovereignty carried out by anti-aircraft machinegun which has a maximum range of 2.5 km.”

And yet Turkey is calling Syria the aggressor:

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Turkey condemned the “hostile act by the Syrian authorities against Turkey’s national security”, saying it posed “a serious threat to peace and security in the region”. […]

READ / VIDEO @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/06/turkish-jet-was-in-syrian-territory-flying-very-low-when-shot-down.html

—————————————————————–

* THOUSANDS OCCUPY TEL AVIV, POLICE RESPOND WITH BRUTAL FORCE

By Allison Kikenny, The Nation

Police arrested eighty-nine protesters after more than 6,500 people flooded Tel Aviv’s Habima Square Saturday night to protest the arrest of Daphni Leef, the leader of last summer’s mass protests against inequality and the high cost of housing in Israel.

Tel Aviv District Commander Aharon Eksel told Haaretz, “Protesters crossed the line. They set out to clash with the police.”

Police also say the protest was illegal, and that protesters attacked inspectors and police by spitting and throwing objects.

In rhetoric that should sound familiar to any American protester, demonstrator Khen Tsubery told the Jerusalem Post that the lack of a permit was intentional because permits are difficult to obtain. […]

READ / VIDEOS @ http://www.thenation.com/blog/168561/thousands-occupy-tel-aviv-police-respond-brutal-force#

—————————————————————–

* NETANYAHU HAS DECIDED TO ATTACK IRAN BEFORE THE ELECTIONS IN NOVEMBER

By Michael Carmichael, Information Clearing House

Senior Israeli officials now confirm that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has, “decided to attack Iran before the U.S. elections in November.”

Netanyahu’s agenda is much broader than knocking out Iranian nuclear installations for his aim is to reshape the political landscape in the USA and Israel shifting everything to the far, far right in order to create a new comfort zone for religious fundamentalists.

Netanyahu’s major backer, Sheldon Adelson, is now firmly behind Mitt Romney, and they are known to believe that an Israeli attack on Iran in September or October will displace Obama and many dovish Democrats in Congress and establish a hawkish regime in Washington.

Israel has agreed to restrain any attack on Iran until after the current round of five talks between Iran and the P5+1 that will come to an end in either late July or August:

“U.S., Israel continue preparations for strike on Iran nuclear facilities.

The website cites U.S. defense contracts and Israel’s new military preparations, suggesting that ‘all sides are getting ready for whatever may come.’

Israel and the U.S. are pushing forward with preparations to jointly strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, the U.S. blog Business Insider reported on Saturday.

“U.S. defense contracts, an Iranian F-16 acquisition, and Israel’s new military preparations suggest that all sides are getting ready for whatever may come,” the report says. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31695.htm

—————————————————————–

* DEFENSE BILL LEGALIZES U.S. PROPAGANDA

A new feature in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act would legalize U.S. government propaganda directed at the American people, with the belief that successful wars require domestic acceptance

By Lawrence Davidson

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is misnamed, since it has less to do with defense than offense. The offensive it wages is not just against a growing list of alleged enemies of the United States but also, from a constitutional perspective, against the rights of American citizens and residents.

Major parts of the legislation are based on the assumption that key legal protections for individuals are incompatible with the requirements of national security. The result is that Americans are now caught between “the terrorists” and the authoritarian propensities of their own government.

The NDAA – specifically Section 1021(b)(2) – has already institutionalized the U.S. military’s ability to indefinitely detain, without charge or trial, citizens and non-citizens alike. This is a serious abuse of power. The monarchical authority our Founders sought to escape practiced such a “disappearance” of people. So have the contemporary dictatorships that Washington has so consistently supported. […]

READ @ http://consortiumnews.com/2012/06/11/defense-bill-legalizes-us-propaganda/

—————————————————————–

* LAWMAKERS REWORKED FINANCIAL PORTFOLIOS AFTER TALKS WITH FED, TREASURY OFFICIALS

By Kimberly Kindy / Scott Higham, Washington Post

[…] On Jan. 23, Boehner (R-Ohio) met Paulson for breakfast. Boehner would later report the rearrangement of a portion of his own financial portfolio made on that same day. He sold between $50,000 and $100,000 from a more aggressive mutual fund and moved money into a safer investment.

The next day, the White House unveiled the stimulus package.

Boehner is one of 34 members of Congress who took steps to recast their financial portfolios during the financial crisis after phone calls or meetings with Paulson; his successor, Timothy F. Geithner; or Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, according to a Washington Post examination of appointment calendars and congressional disclosure forms.

The lawmakers, many of whom held leadership positions and committee chairmanships in the House and Senate, changed portions of their portfolios a total of 166 times within two business days of speaking or meeting with the administration officials. The party affiliation of the lawmakers was about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, 19 to 15. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/lawmakers-reworked-financial-portfolios-after-talks-with-fed-treasury-officials/2012/06/24/gJQAnQPg0V_story.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

—————————————————————–

* THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO CAPITALISM: SPANISH CITY MONDRAGON SHOWS THE WAY

By Richard D. Wolff, Truthout

[…] Capitalism thus entails and reproduces a highly undemocratic organization of production inside enterprises. Tina believers insist that no alternatives to such capitalist organizations of production exist or could work nearly so well, in terms of outputs, efficiency, and labor processes. The falsity of that claim is easily shown. Indeed, I was shown it a few weeks ago and would like to sketch it for you here.

In May 2012, I had occasion to visit the city of Arrasate-Mondragon, in the Basque region of Spain. It is the headquarters of the Mondragon Corporation (MC), a stunningly successful alternative to the capitalist organization of production.

MC is composed of many co-operative enterprises grouped into four areas: industry, finance, retail and knowledge. In each enterprise, the co-op members (averaging 80-85% of all workers per enterprise) collectively own and direct the enterprise. Through an annual general assembly the workers choose and employ a managing director and retain the power to make all the basic decisions of the enterprise (what, how and where to produce and what to do with the profits). […]

READ @ http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/9968-there-is-an-alternative-to-capitalism-spanish-city-mondragon-shows-the-way

Apr 042012
 

 

* GREECE PLANS TO DETAIN SOME MIGRANTS ‘INDEFINITELY’

Amnesty attacks plan to base detention of illegal migrants and asylum-seekers on public health risk

Source: AP in Athens

[…] Last week the government launched police roundups of illegal immigrants in Athens, with hundreds of people being subjected daily to street stops by police.

Authorities are also planning to convert 30 former military sites to serve as detention centres, each housing 1,000 people.

“Under the proposed amendments, the law will foresee the right to detain non-nationals – whether they have applied for political asylum or not – if they pose a risk to public health,” the authors of the bill submitted late on Monday wrote. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/03/greece-detain-migrants-indefinitely

—————————————————————–

* BRITAIN’S POLICE ARE AT WAR WITH THE PEOPLE

Police officers are increasingly trained to see the community as the enemy. They’ve forgotten that they are there to serve us

By David Gilbertson, Guardian UK

[…] Confrontational – yet frightened and defensive – officers are nowadays trained to see the public as a threat to their very existence. Preventive patrolling has been abandoned – notwithstanding the soothing and wholly false spin of the Met, which continually we still have “bobbies on the beat”. Few such officers have been deployed for at least 10 years, and their barely visible replacement – comprised largely of police community support officers, are but a pale imitation of what people expect and deserve.

From Stephen Lawrence to Mark Duggan; from the kettling of peaceful protesters, to the riots of last year; from the manifest incompetence of the first phone-hacking inquiry to allegations of corruption at the Leveson inquiry – a path has been beaten towards the edge of a precipice, and it is time for those concerned about the vital role of policing to challenge what is happening. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/01/britains-police-at-war-with-people?newsfeed=true

—————————————————————–

* OBAMA GIVES GREEN LIGHT FOR PUNISHING SANCTIONS ON IRAN 

By Bill Van Auken, Information Clearing House

President Barack Obama has issued the green light for punishing new US economic sanctions directed at forcing the Iranian government to submit to Western pressure over its nuclear program by starving the country of oil revenues.

These new sanctions, which go into effect on June 28, aim to impose a warlike blockade of the Iranian economy by penalizing any government or private entity that carries out financial transactions with the country’s central bank.

Western Europe is preparing its own new sanctions, which are to include a European embargo on Iranian oil purchases, beginning in July.

The official memorandum authorizing the US sanctions affirmed, as required by the legislation creating them, that given existing oil supplies internationally, “the market can continue to accommodate” the cutting off of petroleum from Iran. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30971.htm

—————————————————————–

* ‘WE WILL MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD’: CHICAGO WAR REGISTER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST NATO

By Sarah Lazare and David Van Dam, CommonDreams

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from across the country will march in protest against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit meeting in Chicago on Sunday, May 20th and attempt to return their Global War on Terror military medals to NATO’s generals. A call to action released by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) declares, “We were awarded these medals for serving in the Global War on Terror, a war based on lies and failed polices.” Veterans say they will march to ”demand that NATO immediately end the occupation of Afghanistan and relating economic and social injustices, bring U.S. war dollars home to fund our communities, and acknowledge the rights and humanity of all who are affected by these wars.” […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/03-0

—————————————————————–

* RAHM EMANUEL HAS A PROBLEM WITH DEMOCRACY

By Rice Perlstein, Rolling Stone

Rahm Emanuel insists it’s no biggie. Yes, when it was announced last summer that Chicago would host unprecedented back-to-back summits in May of 2012 of the G8 and NATO, the new mayor raved about his “opportunity to showcase what is great about the greatest city in the greatest country.” And yes, when President Obama abruptly announced last month that the G8 would instead take place at Camp David, after the city had already committed millions of dollars for preparations, he gave his chief of staff one hour’s notice. But Rahm generously said he took “at face value” his former boss’s explanation that the presidential retreat in rustic Maryland would provide a more “intimate” setting for the leaders of the world’s eight largest economies. No embarrassment at all.

Here in Chicago, of course, no one believes a word of it. Cartoonist Jack Higgins of the Sun-Times nailed the prevailing view with not one but two burlesques of Rahm’s humiliation: In the first, a tall jug-eared black man hands a paper reading “No G8 in Chicago” to a little man run over by a presidential limousine: “Sorry I didn’t run into you sooner, Rahm,” the caption reads; in the other, a runtish Rahm is handed a note reading “Sorry Rahm no G8.” It’s tied to a giant screw rammed straight through him from behind – a merciless reference to the White House’s frequent avowals, when Emanuel decamped to Chicago, that they would “have Rahm’s back.”

So: Poor Rahm? Not so much. I’d argue that his humbling has been good for the city, and not just because the event would have been a riotous disaster. It’s also good because it’s been clarifying, having flushed out for the public something that reporters covering City Hall have known all along: Rahm Emanuel is no friend of democracy. […]

READhttp://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/why-rahm-emanuel-hates-democracy-20120403

—————————————————————–

* SUPREME COURT RULING ALLOWS STRIP-SEARCH FOR ANY OFFENSE

By Adam Liptak, NYTimes

[…] Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip-searches the majority allowed were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so.

Justice Breyer said that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip-searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband.

[…]

According to opinions in the lower courts, people may be strip-searched after arrests for violating a leash law, driving without a license and failing to pay child support. Citing examples from briefs submitted to the Supreme Court, Justice Breyer wrote that people have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip-search” after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell.

A nun was strip-searched, he wrote, after an arrest for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/us/justices-approve-strip-searches-for-any-offense.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all%3Fsrc%3Dtp&smid=fb-share

—————————————————————–

* FORGET SOPA, YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT THIS CYBER SECURITY BILL 

By Mike Masnick, TechDirt

While most folks are looking elsewhere, it appears that Congress is trying to see if it can sneak an absolutely awful “cybersecurity” bill through Congress. We’ve discussed how there’s been some fighting on the Senate side concerning which cybersecurity bill to support, but there’s a similar battle going on in the House, and it appears that the Rogers-Ruppersberger bill, known as CISPA (for Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) or HR 3523 is winning out, with a planned attempt to move it through Congress later this month. The bill is awful — and yet has somehow already gained over 100 sponsors. In an attempt to pretend that this isn’t a “SOPA-like” problem, the supporters of this bill are highlighting the fact that Facebook, Microsoft and TechAmerica are supporting this bill.

[…]

As CDT warned when this bill first came out, it’s way too broad and overreaching:

However, the bill goes much further, permitting ISPs to funnel private communications and related information back to the government without adequate privacy protections and controls. The bill does not specify which agencies ISPs could disclose customer data to, but the structure and incentives in the bill raise a very real possibility that the National Security Agency or the DOD’s Cybercommand would be the primary recipient.

READ @ http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120402/04425118325/forget-sopa-you-should-be-worried-about-this-cybersecurity-bill.shtml

—————————————————————–

* THE STUDENT LOAN CRISIS – FROM CRADLE TO GRAVE

By Michael Winship, Bill Moyers

Our eyes widened last week when we saw this headline on the website SmartMoney.com: “Student Loans on Rise – for Kindergarten.”

Annamaria Andriotis wrote, “It used to be that families first signed up for education loans when their child enrolled in college, but a growing number of parents are seeking tuition assistance as soon as kindergarten.”

“Though data is scarce, private school experts and the small number of lenders who provide loans for kindergarten through 12th grade say pre-college loans are becoming more popular. Your Tuition Solution, one of the largest lenders in this space, says demand for the upcoming year is already up: This month, the total dollar amount of loans families requested rose 10% compared to a year ago; at that pace, the company expects its total funding to rise to $20 million for 2012-13. Separately, First Marblehead, which exited the market in 2008, reentered last year as demand for loans began to rise.” […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=148245

—————————————————————–

* UNDERSTANDING THE SLAVE MENTALITY

By Brandon Smith, Alt-Market

In the initial stages of nearly every recorded tyranny, the saucer eyed dumbstruck masses exhibit astonishing and masterful skill when denying reality.  The facts behind their dire circumstances and of their antagonistic government become a source of cynical psychological gameplay rather than a source of legitimate concern.  Their desperate need to maintain their normalcy bias creates a memory and observation vacuum in which all that runs counter to their false assumptions and preconceptions disappears forever.  It is as if they truly cannot see the color of the sky, or the boot on their face.  The concrete world of truth becomes a dream, an illusion that can be heeded or completely ignored depending on one’s mood.  For them, life is a constant struggle of dissociation, where the tangible is NOT welcome…

This is the problem that we in the Liberty Movement deal with most often in our writings and films.  Our confrontation with willful ignorance has been epic, even by far reaching historical standards.  The gains in social awareness have been substantial, and yet the obstacles are incredible.  Unprecedented.  As an activist trend, we have an almost obsessive drive to draw back the curtain so that the public has at least the opportunity to see what is on the other side.  Unfortunately, there is another danger that must be taken into account…

It is one thing to bear witness to the rejection of truth in our time and the oblivious attitudes of many towards the growth of totalitarianism.  Eventually, though, a second phase in the development of oligarchy arises.  I am speaking of the point at which tyranny becomes so blatant that the skeptics have to acknowledge its existence, but after doing so, they choose to rationalize it as necessary.  Yes, there are many in this world that will laugh at the prospect of the Orwellian nightmare only to happily embrace it when it arrives in full color. […]

READ @ http://www.alt-market.com/articles/670-understanding-the-slave-mentality

Feb 072012
 

 

* JEFFERY TUCKER MAKES THE CASE AGAINST THE FEDERAL RESERVE

Source: youtube.com

In the video below, Austrian economist, Jeffrey Tucker, founder of Laissez Faire books, talks with RT’s Lauren Lyster.  Several free-market related topics are discussed, including: central banks, minimum wages, and interest rates. Worth watching:

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Uc-7G95hZzw

———————————————————————–

* FEDERAL RESERVE CONTINUES SHADOW BAILOUT OF BANKING INDUSTRY – $947 BILLION OF OVERPAID AND LOW DEMAND MORTGAGE BACKED SECURITIES SIT ON THE MASSIVE $2.8 TRILLION FED BALANCE SHEET. THE PRICE OF THIS HIDDEN BAILOUT WILL HIT ALL AMERICANS

Source: MyBudget360.com

The Federal Reserve continues a secretive bailout of the banking system by purchasing more and more questionable mortgage backed securities.  You would think that $1 trillion would catch the attention of the media but they seemed focus on other trivial items.  The Fed balance sheet is still at record levels above $2.8 trillion to be exact, but the more troubling aspect of all of this is the amount of mortgage backed securities they have purchased.  They continue to hoard toxic commercial real estate loans and a massive amount of residential mortgage backed securities.  How much?  The Fed now holds over $947 billion in mortgage backed securities.  Keep in mind that prior to this financial crisis the Fed rarely held anything else except quality paper on its balance sheet.  Yet this is the cost of the shadow financial bailout. […]

READ and CHARTS @ http://www.mybudget360.com/federal-reserve-continues-shadow-bailout-of-banking-industry-947-billion-mbs-hidden/

———————————————————————–

* OLD MORTGAGES RISE FROM THE DEAD, HAUNT HOMEOWNERS

By Michelle Conlin, Rueters

[…] Diane Thompson, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, says she has defended hundreds of foreclosure cases, and in nearly all of them, the homeowner was not in default. “The record-keeping on the part of the mortgage servicers is not to be trusted.”

The problems grew from a lot of sloppy recordkeeping that began during the housing boom, when Wall Street built a quick-and-dirty back-office operation to process mortgages quickly so lenders could sell as many loans as possible. As the loans were later sold to investors, and then resold around the world, the back office system sidestepped crucial legal procedures.

Now it’s becoming clear just how dysfunctional and, according to several state attorneys general, how fraudulent the whole system was.

Depositions from “affidavit slaves” depict a surreal, assembly-line world in which the banks and their partner firms hired hair stylists, fast-food kids and Wal-Mart floor workers, paying them $10 an hour, to pose as bank vice presidents, assistant secretaries and corporate attorneys.

These “robosigners” became a national sensation in the fall of 2010 when it was revealed that they faked titles, forged documents and backdated affidavits so they could make up for the bypassed procedures and foreclose on properties.

They passed around notary stamps as if they were salt. They did all of this, they testified, without verifying a single word in any of the documents – as is required by law.

And it was all done, they say, to foreclose on as many homeowners as fast as possible. […]

READ @ http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/26/us-usa-housing-mortgage-reincarnation-idUSTRE80P0SJ20120126

———————————————————————–

* WHO KILLED THE MONEY PRINTER?

Source: TheAutomaticEarth.org

Friday’s NFP number brought us some altogether unprecedented BS from the BLS. Much has already been said about the filthy stench emanating from these “data points”, so I will just review the most important points here. First thing to note is that squeezing a record 1.2 million people out of the “labor force”(people who don’t waste time looking for jobs that don’t exist) is apparently a sure fire way to get the headline unemployment rate down to only 8.3%  […]

READ and CHARTS @ http://theautomaticearth.org/Finance/who-killed-the-money-printer.html

———————————————————————–

* THERE ARE NO JOBS IN CHICAGO – VIDEO

Source: youtube.com

People standing outside for hours in 10 degree weather in hopes of getting a job …

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_UTGh5iMXtc#!

———————————————————————–

* COMMUTERS CAN’T MISS THE MILLIONAIRES TAX OF 2012!

Source: www.millionairestaxca.com

Freeway blogging! This morning at 8 freeway overpass locations all over California volunteers held giant signs touting the Millionaires Tax of 2012. This included Richmond (seen below) through which hundreds of thousands of commuters pass on their way into San Francisco.

Media from all over the state, including ABC News, have covered the banners and the powerful message behind them: Our tax code needs to reflect the interests of middle-class Californians, not the special interests of corporate CEOs and their lobbyists. Now is the time to revamp our tax code here in California so it’s fair to the 99% of us who play by the rules, not just the 1% who lobby hard and re-write the rules. […]

READ @ http://www.millionairestaxca.com/index.php

———————————————————————–

* THE GREAT DIVERGENCE 

By Timothy Noah, Slate

Part One: Introducing the Great Divergence

In 1915, a statistician at the University of Wisconsin named Willford I. King published The Wealth and Income of the People of the United States, the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. The United States was displacing Great Britain as the world’s wealthiest nation, but detailed information about its economy was not yet readily available; the federal government wouldn’t start collecting such data in any systematic way until the 1930s. One of King’s purposes was to reassure the public that all Americans were sharing in the country’s newfound wealth.

King was somewhat troubled to find that the richest 1 percent possessed about 15 percent of the nation’s income. (A more authoritative subsequent calculation puts the figure slightly higher, at about 18 percent.1)

This was the era in which the accumulated wealth of America’s richest families—the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies—helped prompt creation of the modern income tax, lest disparities in wealth turn the United States into a European-style aristocracy. The socialist movement was at its historic peak, a wave of anarchist bombings was terrorizing the nation’s industrialists, and President Woodrow Wilson’s attorney general, Alexander Palmer, would soon stage brutal raids on radicals of every stripe. In American history, there has never been a time when class warfare seemed more imminent.

That was when the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation’s income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s income. What caused this to happen? […]

READ @ http://img.slate.com/media/3/100914_NoahT_GreatDivergence.pdf

———————————————————————–

* INDEPENDENT REPORT CONTRADICTS WESTERN PORTRAIT OF SYRIA

Source: Washington’s Blog

ARAB LEAGUE REPORT SHOWS THAT SYRIA HAS BEEN MISCHARACTERIZED

[…] Perhaps most importantly, the report notes that the Syrian people do not want foreign intervention:

However, the citizens believe the crisis should be resolved peacefully through Arab mediation alone, without international intervention. Doing so would allow them to live in peace and complete the reform process and bring about the change they desire.

The report condemns violence by both sides, but stresses that much of the violence has been perpetrated by the rebels against government forces:

In Homs and Dera‘a, the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.

In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

***

Recently, there have been incidents that could widen the gap and increase bitterness between the parties. These incidents can have grave consequences and lead to the loss of life and property. Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free
Syrian Army [the main opposition group] and some by other armed opposition groups. [...]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/02/independent-report-shows-that-syrian-government-violence-has-been-exaggerated.html

———————————————————————–

* EXPOSED: THE ARAB AGENDA IN SYRIA

By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

[…] The Arab League’s Ministerial Committee had approved the report, with four votes in favor (Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and GCC member Oman) and only one against; guess who, Qatar – which is now presiding the Arab League because the emirate bought their (rotating) turn from the Palestinian Authority.

So the report was either ignored (by Western corporate media) or mercilessly destroyed – by Arab media, virtually all of it financed by either the House of Saud or Qatar. It was not even discussed – because it was prevented by the GCC from being translated from Arabic into English and published in the Arab League’s website.Until it was leaked. Here it is, in full.The report is adamant. There was no organized, lethal repression by the Syrian government against peaceful protesters. Instead, the report points to shady armed gangs as responsible for hundreds of deaths among Syrian civilians, and over one thousand among the Syrian army, using lethal tactics such as bombing of civilian buses, bombing of trains carrying diesel oil, bombing of police buses and bombing of bridges and pipelines.Once again, the official NATOGCC version of Syria is of a popular uprising smashed by bullets and tanks. Instead, BRICS members Russia and China, and large swathes of the developing world see it as the Syrian government fighting heavily armed foreign mercenaries. The report largely confirms these suspicions.

The Syrian National Council is essentially a Muslim Brotherhood outfit affiliated with both the House of Saud and Qatar – with an uneasy Israel quietly supporting it in the background. Legitimacy is not exactly its cup of green tea. As for the Free Syrian Army, it does have its defectors, and well-meaning opponents of the Assad regime, but most of all is infested with these foreign mercenaries weaponized by the GCC, especially Salafist gangs.

Still NATOGCC, blocked from applying in Syria its one-size-fits-all model of promoting “democracy” by bombing a country and getting rid of the proverbial evil dictator, won’t be deterred. GCC leaders House of Saud and Qatar bluntly dismissed their own report and went straight to the meat of the matter; impose a NATOGCC regime change via the UN Security Council. […]

READ @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NB04Ak01.html

———————————————————————–

* LEBANON: ISRAELI ARMS TO SYRIAN REBELS, U.S. DRONE BASE TO FOLLOW?

Source: StopNATO

[…] We hear from retired Lebanese general Amin Khteit.

“The opening of the airport is officially motivated by economic reasons as well as by the needs of the tourist industry and local residents. But it seems that other reasons are behind it. For example, Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council, ordered a special plane with medicaments to Beirut, as it was reported, for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“But there is no need for Syrians in Lebanon to order medicaments aboard. In fact there are proven reports that that plane delivered Israeli weapons which later were sent to the insurgents in Syria. That is why there are grounds to assume that the airport in the north of Lebanon will become a transshipment base to supply weapons to Syrian insurgents. I suppose there is also an agreement with Lebanese officials on the establishment of a US military base in this district.”

If the US settles down in the Kleyate district there will be many variants in using the airport. One of the most probable variants is that it will become a base for US drones, the chief editor of the military review journal Independent Viktor Litovkin says:

“Such an airdrome is quite suitable to become a base for drones. Of course, there are different types of drones and some of them don’t even require any special conditions. In this particular case everything will depend on the tasks set for the flying vehicles.” […]

READ @ http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/lebanon-israeli-arms-to-syrian-rebels-u-s-drone-base-to-follow/

———————————————————————–

* IRAN: A MANUFACTURED THREAT

By Stephen Lendman

Iran attacked no other country in over 200 years. It threatens none now. It’s neighbors know it. So do Washington and Israel.

Nonetheless, saber rattling warnings continue. At issue is making an independent state a client one. It’s why Washington orchestrated Syria’s insurgency and continues anti-Iranian propaganda.

Tehran won’t tolerate losing its sovereignty, nor should it. It suffered a generation of repression under Washington’s installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi after the CIA’s first ever coup ousted democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh.

It also knows how America and Israel reign terror throughout the region. As a result, it’s prepared to defend itself if attacked.

America’s business is war, permanent war for unchallenged global dominance. Post-9/11, multiple ones raged and continue. Ordinary people want them stopped.

On February 4, dozens of anti-war organizations held a “Day of Mass Action to Stop a US War on Iran.” Among others, The World Can’t Wait announced it headlining, “NO war! NO sanctions! No intervention! No Assassinations.” […]

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

———————————————————————–

* U.S. IRAN POLICY IN ‘LOCKSTEP’ WITH ISRAEL? PRESIDENT OBAMA RISKS BECOMING A MAJOR-LEAGUE WAR CRIMINAL

By Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening

It’s a relief to know that President Obama’s “preferred” solution to dealing with disagreements with Iran is diplomacy, as he said yesterday in an interview on NBC TV, but at the same time, it’s profoundly disturbing that he is simultaneously saying that, as an AP report on the interview put it: he would “not take options off the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

Equally disturbing are the president’s mutually contradictory statements that, on the one hand, he feels that “Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us,” and that on the other, he will “make sure that we work in lockstep” with Israel in dealing with Iran and its nuclear program.

Lockstep? With Israel? […]

READ @ http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1050

———————————————————————–

* TOP OFFICIAL: DRONE CRITICS ARE AL QAEDA ENABLERS

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

The New York Times‘ Scott Shane reported this morning on the Bureau of Investigative Journalism study I wrote about yesterday, detailing that the U.S. drone program, as the NYT put it, “repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of a strike, as well as mourners at subsequent funerals.” Shane’s article contains this paragraph:

A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report’s findings, saying “targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.” The official added: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.”

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/02/06/top_official_drone_critics_are_al_qaeda_enablers/singleton/

Feb 062012
 

 

* HEADING FOR WAR ON SYRIA

By Stephen Lendman

Washington’s longstanding policy is regime change in Iran and Syria. At issue is replacing independent regimes with client ones and securing unchallenged control of valued Middle East resources.

On February 4, Russia and China vetoed a largely one-sided anti-Assad resolution. A previous article called him more victim than villain. Yet he’s falsely blamed for months of externally generated violence.

In fact, he confronted a Western-backed armed insurgency replicating the Libya model. By so doing he acted responsibly against a heavily armed insurrection. […]

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

———————————————————————–

* SYRIA VOTE : US ‘APPROPRIATED’ UN POWER – VIDEO

Source: RT

While officials in Washington tirelessly admonish Russia and China for blocking another resolution on Syria, Rick Rozoff of the Stop NATO group tells RT that the UN has been hijacked by the US and NATO.

­On Saturday, the United Nations voted on a resolution on Syria, drafted by Morocco. In the end of the day, the document was vetoed by Moscow and Beijing. This move provoked a wave of anger from the West, with most harsh rhetoric heard from the US; American Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Washington was “disgusted” by the veto, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote a “travesty.”‎

But Rozoff says the US is going overboard in its pursuit for international democracy.

“The very name of the international community has been appropriated by the US and its NATO allies – now including the Arab world,” Rozoff told RT.

Syrian opposition groups operate with complete impunity inside Turkey – which is a NATO member – with a green light from the Turkish government. Without arms and sponsorship from outside Syria, the opposition would never dare to take up arms against the Syrian army, Rozoff concludes.

Thus, Damascus is stripped of its natural right to protect itself from foreign assault.

“Were armed groups to invade the territory of the United States from Mexico or Canada, I can assure you Washington’s response would not be limited to a domestic one,” Rozoff said. […]

Watch RT’s full interview with Rick Rozoff

Watch RT’s full interview with Jason Ditz

READ and VIDEOS @ http://rt.com/news/syria-us-vote-russia-547/

———————————————————————–

* US CLOSES EMBASSY IN SYRIA

Source: Aljazeera

The US has closed down its embassy in Syria and pulled all of its employees out of the country, amid reports that the Syrian military is intensifying its assault on the central city of Homs.The UK also announced on Monday it would recall its ambassador to Syria for what it called consultations.

Activists and witnesses said the Syrian army had stepped up its attacks on opposition fighters in Homs, after a UN Security Council resolution, aimed at ending the bloodshed in the country, was blocked by Russia and China on Saturday.

Abu Abdo Alhomsy, an activist of a revolutionary council in Homs, described to Al Jazeera an attack on Monday on the city as live pictures showed smoke billowing into the sky.

“It is horrible right here,” Alhomsy said. “Rockets are falling. There are massive explosions that shook buildings. We don’t know really what to do. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/02/201226144614367905.html

———————————————————————–

* THE GROWING IRANIAN MILITARY BEHEMOTH

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

The tranquility of my Saturday morning was disrupted — and that’s putting it mildly — when I read on Glenn Reynolds’ popular right-wing “Instapundit” blog that we can learn important “Lessons About Iran From Hitler.” To know that we have yet another New Hitler in our midst is alarming indeed. Reynolds’ link takes one to an even more jarring warning about the Persian menace, by David Goldman, that extensively compares the fallen Nazi leader to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and argues that because both figures are maniacal monsters presiding over a dying nation, only a full-scale military attack can stop them. ”However much it costs in Iranian blood and well-being, it’s still worth it,” Goldman casually decrees.

Sociopathic calls for aggressive attacks on other nations and cheap invocations of Hitler are not worth commenting on: neocons churn those out reflexively. But what is worth noting is the event Goldman is flagging as proof of Iran’s aggressive intentions: “Iran is planning to double its defense budget even though its currency is collapsing,” he warns. A doubling of its defense budget! Who among us can remain calm in the face of such naked militarism?

That Ahmadinejad claims that Iran will increase its military budget for next year by 127% was widely reported this week. For a variety of reasons relating to Iran’s economic difficulties, that plan is quite infeasible — typical Ahmadinejad blustering — but let’s assume for the moment that it will actually happen. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database, Iran’s total annual military spending is $7 billion; an increase of 127% would take it to $15.8 billion — also known as: less than 2% of total U.S. military spending (which was $698 billion for fiscal year 2010). […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/02/04/the_growing_iranian_military_behemoth/singleton/

———————————————————————–

* ANNIVERSARIES FROM “UNHISTORY”

By Noam Chomsky, Truthout

[…] Right now we are failing to commemorate an event of great human significance: the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s decision to launch the direct invasion of South Vietnam, soon to become the most extreme crime of aggression since World War II.

Kennedy ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb South Vietnam (by February 1962, hundreds of missions had flown); authorized chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to starve the rebellious population into submission; and set in motion the programs that ultimately drove millions of villagers into urban slums and virtual concentration camps, or “Strategic Hamlets.” There the villagers would be “protected” from the indigenous guerrillas whom, as the administration knew, they were willingly supporting.

Official efforts at justifying the attacks were slim, and mostly fantasy. Typical was the president’s impassioned address to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961, where he warned that “we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence.” At the United Nations on Sept. 25, 1961, Kennedy said that if this conspiracy achieved its ends in Laos and Vietnam, “the gates will be opened wide.” […]

READ @ http://www.truthout.org/anniversaries-unhistory/1328369965

———————————————————————–

* NATO, G8 IN CHICAGO: SECURITY GROUPS RAMPING UP IN PREPARATION FOR EXPECTED PROTESTS – VIDEO

Source: HuffPo

Just more than three months out from the start of the concurrent NATO and G8 summits in Chicago, both private and public security are ramping up their training in preparation for what could be massive protests in the heart of the city’s downtown area.

Tony Grano of Controlled Force, a group that trains Marines, police and private security groups alike, explained to Fox Chicago what some of those preparations are likely entailing.

Grano told Fox that the protesters will “need to be handled with kid gloves, but there’s a job that still needs to be done, and that is to maintain order.” Grano explained that officers are being trained to take arrestees down to the ground to handcuff them and remove them from the scene — without the use of a weapon. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/04/nato-g8-chicago-security_n_1254381.html

———————————————————————–

* MEET GOV. SCOTT WALKER’S NEW POLITICAL HIT WOMEN

The embattled Wisconsin governor hires two young Republicans who are veterans of no-holds-barred campaigns and propaganda efforts.

By Brendan Fischer, AlterNet

As Wisconsin’s recall elections approach, Republican Governor Scott Walker has enlisted an eyebrow-raising pair of well-connected, out-of-state political operators to sell his administration’s policies and promote his reelection. Of the two young women, one cut her teeth with Karl Rove and the other promoting anti-abortion causes and working with Tea Party favorite Sharon Angle.

Late last year, the governor’s office announced it had hired 28-year-old Jocelyn Webster to serve as communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA). The department manages the state buildings where most of the anti-Walker protests have been held, and its duties include setting rules for protests. Webster started her career with Rove’s notorious Office of Political Affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

A congressional investigation of the activities of that office yielded allegations — including specific allegations against Webster – that Rove’s team was involved in partisan campaigning on the public dime, a claim also leveled at aides of her newest boss during his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive.

As activists gathered signatures to recall the governor in late 2011, Walker also hired new campaign staff, including Ciara Matthews as campaign communication director. Matthews, a 20-something Nevada native, has worked as spokesperson for an anti-abortion group as well as Angle’s 2010 senate campaign, where she defended Angle’s racially tinged ads and banned reporters from a candidate event for asking questions without permission. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/story/153979/meet_gov._scott_walker’s_new_political_hit_women/

———————————————————————–

* AT LEAST WE KNOW WE’RE FREE (WELL SOMETIMES) 

By Digby, Hullabaloo

[…] In a stunning break with First Amendment policy, House Republicans directed Capitol Hill police to detain a highly regarded documentary crew that was attempting to film a Wednesday hearing on a controversial natural gas procurement practice. Initial reports from sources suggested that an ABC News camera was also prevented from taping the hearing; ABC has since denied that they sent a crew to the hearing.

Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Gasland” was taken into custody by Capitol Hill police this morning, along with his crew, after Republicans objected to their presence, according to Democratic sources present at the hearing. The meeting of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment had been taking place in room 2318 of the Rayburn building. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/at-least-we-know-were-free-except-for.html

———————————————————————–

* “GASLAND” DIRECTOR JOSH FOX ARRESTED AT CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON NATURAL GAS FRACKING – VIDEO

Source: Democracy Now!

The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox was handcuffed and arrested Wednesday as he attempted to film a Congressional hearing on the controversial natural gas drilling technique, known as fracking, which the Environmental Protection Agency recently reported caused water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. Fox directed the award-winning film, “Gasland,” which documents the impact of fracking to communities across the United States, and is now working on a sequel. Fox says he was arrested after Republicans refused to allow him to film because he did not have the proper credentials. “We wanted to report on what happened [at the hearing]. I was not interested in disrupting. It was not a protest action,” says Fox. “I was simply trying to do my job as a journalist and go in there and show to the American people what was transpiring in that hearing, so that down the line — as we know there will be a lot of challenges mounted to that [Pavillion, Wyoming] EPA report, and frankly to the people in Pavillion who have been sticking up for themselves and demanding an investigation into the groundwater contamination — to make sure that people could view that in a larger forum than usually happens.” […]

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnDs1wozj4g

———————————————————————–

* ‘GASLAND’ JOURNALIST ARRESTED AT FRACKING HEARING – VIDEO

Source: TheYoungTurks

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tLys0MvDxuo

———————————————————————–

* WHY THE AG’s MUST NOT SETTLE: ROBO-SIGNING IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

By Ellen Brown, OpEdNews

A foreclosure settlement between five major banks guilty of “robo-signing” and the attorneys general of the 50 states is pending for Monday, February 6 th ; but it is still not clear if all the AGs will sign.

::::::::

A foreclosure settlement between five major banks guilty of “robo-signing” and the attorneys general of the 50 states is pending for Monday, February 6 th ; but it is still not clear if all the AGs will sign.   California was to get over half of the $25 billion in settlement money, and California AG Kamala Harris has withstood pressure to settle.

That is good.  She and the other AGs should not sign until a thorough investigation has been conducted.  The evidence to date suggests that “robo-signing” was not a mere technical default or sloppy business practice but was part and parcel of a much larger fraud, the fraud that brought down the whole economy in 2008.  It is not just distressed homeowners but the entire economy that has paid the price, resulting in massive unemployment and a shrunken tax base, throwing state and local governments into insolvency and forcing austerity measures and cutbacks in government services across the nation.

The details of the robo-signing scam were spelled out in my last article, here.  The robo-signing fraud and its implications are expanded on below. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=145099

———————————————————————–

* CYBERGATE: WAS THE WHITE HOUSE STOLEN BY CYBERFRAUD?

By Simon Worrall, Kindle Store

[…] I am on my way to see a woman called Heather Connell. She is the recently widowed wife of Michael Connell, a prodigiously gifted computer expert who worked for Karl Rove and both George Bush Sr. and Jr. A month earlier, his Piper Saratoga plane had crashed at Akron airport on the way back from a trip to Washington, DC, killing Connell instantly.

I am on assignment for the London Sunday Times Magazine to investigate not just Connell’s death: but allegations that he may have been involved in the theft by cyber fraud of the Ohio, 2004 election, which put George Bush, not John Kerry, into the White House. If true it would be a bigger crime against American democracy than Watergate: a premeditated plot to hack the vote of tens of thousands of voters, which altered the course of American, and world, history. At the centre of that alleged plot may be the man whose plane fell from the sky.

My own journey began in December 2008, when my partner sent me a link to a news story about Michael Connell’s plane crash. I am a storyteller by profession. And the story of Connell’s fiery death in a Piper Saratoga, not long after he had given a deposition in a lawsuit that implicated Karl Rove in the conspiracy, struck a chord.

Not just a political chord. A human one. The image of his distraught widow waiting for a plane that never arrived captured my imagination. Who was Michael Connell? How did he die? Was it an accident? Or had he been murdered to keep him from saying what he knew about the hacking of the Ohio 04 election: and possibly others?

Like most people outside the Beltway, I had never heard of Michael Connell. But it didn’t take me long to discover that his name was all over the Web long before his plane crashed. In several websites, he was openly referred to as Karl Rove’s “vote rigger.” A YouTube video I downloaded showed an internationally respected cyber security expert named Stephen Spoonamore describing, in forensic detail, how in the middle of election night in 2004, IP addresses from the Secretary of State’s office in Ohio were rerouted to a server farm located in the basement of a former bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee, allegedly controlled by Karl Rove.

My first reaction was skepticism. I have an innate belief in American democracy. Surely, I thought, this could not happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave? In Burma or Iran, yes. But in the most open and democratic country in the world? It must be another crazy conspiracy theory by a bunch of tin foil hatters. Like Roswell. Or the theory that the moon landings were filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood. After all, if these right-wing cyber thieves were so good at stealing elections why hadn’t they fixed it so that McCain beat Obama in 2008?

But, despite my skepticism, something about Connell’s plane crash seemed suspicious. Connell was an experienced pilot, the weather was not especially bad, yet he had inexplicably lost his way on his approach to Akron airport and crashed. Is that what really happened? Or had the plane been sabotaged? Certainly, as Karl Rove’s trusted cyber lieutenant, Connell posed a potential threat to many powerful people. He had deep inside information about Karl Rove and the Bush family. If Connell really were the invisible hand behind the theft of the Ohio 2004 election, he would be the most important witness in any criminal case against Rove. […]

READ / PURCHASE @ http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0074NQ5UK?ie=UTF8&tag=thedustbin-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B0074NQ5UK

———————————————————————–

* WHY DID KARL ROVE AND HIS GOP THUGS TARGET DON SIEGELMAN IN ALABAMA?

By Legal Schnauzer

As we set sail on 2012, a year in which political news will be dominated by the build up toward a presidential election, the mind drifts back to events that led us to this peculiar moment in American history. Our first black president is seeking re-election–and should be a shoo-in, even though he has disappointed huge numbers of his progressive base. The Republican Party counters with perhaps the weakest field of candidates any major party ever has put forth.

Why so much disarray and disgust on both sides of the political fence in an election year? I would propose that it’s because the nation still has not recovered from eight years of the disastrous George W. Bush administration. Obama has been hamstrung for four years by the economic, financial, and international messes he inherited from Bush. Republicans cannot hammer too hard on the nation’s woes without coming awfully close to admitting that one of their own caused them.

Here in Alabama, all of this has me thinking about one of the great political mysteries of the past generation. It’s a mystery that began to unfold before Bush ever took office, but it did not gain national attention until Dubya and his acolytes were in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice. […]

READ @ http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-did-karl-rove-and-his-gop-thugs.html

———————————————————————–

 * JPM BUYS GREECE FOR $2.

By Peter Tchir, TF Market Advisors

[…] What I find interesting, is that finally some Greek citizens and even minor politicians seem to be getting the joke that the “bailouts” aren’t for Greece, it is for the people that lent Greece money.  I do not think a Greek default is an economic disaster (stocks would sell off, probably 5% or more over a week or two, but that is not an economic disaster).  A Greek default would be good for Greece.  Greece wouldn’t owe the money. We all know the old saying about if you borrow a little and can’t pay it back, you have a problem, but if you borrow a lot and can’t pay it back, the lender has a problem.  The Greek case is even stronger – they have borrowed a lot, and can’t pay it back, but the lenders have almost no way to enforce even the limited rights they have.  The longer the negotiations drag on, the more people in Greece that will finally figure this out.  When everyone was scrambling from desperate “plan” to desperate “plan” no one seemed to spend the time thinking about what a default would mean.  The “Default” card would be played any time actual critical thinking reared its ugly head and with some gnashing of the teeth and wringing of the hands, new plans would be created.  Now, more and more sensible people seem to be reaching the same conclusion – default would not be end of the world (heck, not even the end of the banking system) and might provide the best framework for future growth. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/jpm-buys-greece-2

———————————————————————–

* TENSIONS BUILDING, AS THE PIGS AT THE TROUGH START TO SQUEAL

By Greek Correspondence

This has been a period of relative calm since the New Year as negotiations over the PSI (private sector involvement) grind on. This is a phony war as no-one really understands the discussions and what is involved, and do not see why they are relevant to everyday life. This discussions are about  a deal between some banks and other banks, and central banks, and hedge-funds, investors etc. If the Greek government gets as much a write off of the national debt as possible then all is OK.  No one can blame ordinary Greeks if these negotiations go wrong. Rather, ordinary people can find someone else to blame for the predicament Greece finds itself in. It has to be said ordinary Greeks are generally very tired of having to take the blame on behalf of their country, even though they remain committed to defend it. These PSI discussions have basically bored people into thinking things are moving in the right direction without realising that crunch time is upon us again.

The next few weeks will decide whether Greece will default completely or not, and whether the EU remains intact in its current form. The Troika has demanded more austerity measures before advancing the next tranche of the bailout, but the three leaders of the main political parties here will not agree to them. What’s on the table? The Troika want the minimum wage dropped by 25%, the abolition of the 13th and 14th salaries in the private sector (don’t ask), and a further cull of government jobs. The point of contention for the three political leaders? Losing more government  jobs. That this is the stumbling block provides a unique insight into the rotten political culture and cronyism of the Greek State. The political class has so far been happy to reduce pensions and increase taxes for those honest enough to declare them, so this their objections are not for economic, pro-growth, reasons. However they have been reluctant to chase down tax evaders and have proved very adept at avoiding cutting the overall public sector payroll. Why is this? For the same old reasons – bribery, corruption and clientism. […]

READ @ http://greekcorrespondence.wordpress.com/

———————————————————————–

* EUROPE-DEVELOPMENT: MAPPING OUT THE EU’s HARMFUL PROJECTS

Dozens of European Union-funded projects across several countries are ‘environmentally or socially unsound’, according to a map created by a joint effort between CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe.

By Bari Bates, Global Issues

Released Feb. 2, the map counted 33 ventures backed by the EU’s cohesion policy funds – either projects already funded or under consideration for funding – totalling 16 billion euros.

The map highlighted projects in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland and Slovakia, which have been found to be particularly damaging to local biodiversity, to the future possibility of sustainable efforts and to human communities.

Twelve of the 33 projects studied were found in the Czech Republic, the highest number of harmful projects in any country.

These included plans for an incinerator in the East, where air pollution levels are already among the highest in Europe, which would ‘undermine EU targets for a 50 percent recycling ratio,’ as well as undercut efforts to reduce municipal waste as a whole.

Other projects, including several expressways, would infringe on Natura 2000 sites – areas across Europe that have been deemed by the EU to be ‘valuable’ by virtue of their wildlife and protected species’ habitats. […]

READ @ http://www.globalissues.org/news/2012/02/05/12625

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)

———————————————————————-

* 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

———————————————————————-

* 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/

———————————————————————-

* 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/

———————————————————————-

* 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

———————————————————————-

* 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

———————————————————————–

* 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

———————————————————————–

* 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

———————————————————————–

* 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/

———————————————————————–

* 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

———————————————————————–

* 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

———————————————————————–

* 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

———————————————————————–

* FALSE FLAG USS ENTERPRISE – VIDEO

Source: youtube.com

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

———————————————————————–

* 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 172012
 

 

* 13 QUOTES FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE CRUSADER MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. 

By Stephen D. Foster, Addicting Information

Martin Luther King was a social justice crusader whose life was cut short. Had he lived, our country would have been a much better place to live for everyone. King didn’t just fight for social justice for African-Americans. He fought on behalf of all Americans who were struggling to get by in an economy that favors the wealthy and powerful. He also fought for civil rights, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Two landmark pieces of legislation that stand as a monument to his legacy. However, it is his words that stand brighter and are longer lasting than any sculpture or legislation. Here are 13 of my favorite Martin Luther King quotes.

1. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

2. “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

3. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

[…]

READ @ http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/01/16/13-quotes-from-social-justice-crusader-martin-luther-king/

———————————————————————–

* DEFENDING HUMAN RIGHTS: THE HAVEL EXAMPLE

By Aurel Braun and David Matas, OpEdNews

Those who defend human rights victims in repressive states run the risk of becoming victims themselves.   One reason we should stand up in Canada for human rights abroad is that we are safe in doing this.   Human rights defenders in repressive states are not.

In spite of those risks, there are people of extraordinary courage and unrelenting commitment even in the most repressive states who at great personal risk to themselves and their families, respect human rights, call for others to do so and decry violations.   These human rights defenders give us yet another reason to raise our voices.   If they can risk so much, we who have nothing to lose should do our part.

Nelson Mandela in the days of apartheid South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma and Gao Zhisheng in China are shining examples to all of us.   So was Vaclav Havel.

Havel, who passed away on December 18 th , was one of the world’s most inspiring and effective dissidents. He never gave up, even in the bleakest and most dangerous moments; through his courage and insight, he came to symbolize the nobility of the struggle for human rights. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=144181

———————————————————————–

* AYN RAND OR MLK: PICK ONE

By David Atkins, Hullabaloo

MLK:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Ayn Rand:

If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.

[…]

READ @ http://www.digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/ayn-rand-or-mlk-pick-one-by.html

———————————————————————–

* WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF CIVIL LIBERTIES ASSAULTS AND ENDLESS WAR?

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

In The Washington Post yesterday, Law Professor Jonathan Turley has an Op-Ed in which he identifies ten major, ongoing assaults on core civil liberties in the U.S. Many of these abuses were accelerated during the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11, but all have been vigorously continued and/or expanded by President Obama.  Turley points out that these powers have long been deemed (by the U.S.) as the hallmark of tyranny, and argues that their seizure by the U.S. Government has seriously called into question America’s status as a free nation: “They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian.” All ten of these powers are ones very familiar to readers here: Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

I’ve written volumes on all of those powers over the last several years, but — especially today — I want to focus on one narrow but vital question: who are generally the victims of these civil liberties assaults? The answer is the same as the one for this related question: who are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals). And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War (all civil liberties abuses in fact endanger all citizens, as they inevitably spread beyond their original targets, but they generally become institutionalized precisely because those outside the originally targeted minority groups react with indifference).

To see how central a role this sort of selfish provincialism plays in shaping political priorities, just compare (a) the general indifference to Endless War and the massive civil liberties assaults described by Turley (ones largely confined to Muslims)  to (b) the intense outrage and media orgy generated when a much milder form of invasiveness — TSA searches — affected Americans of all backgrounds. The success of Endless War and civil liberties attacks depends on ensuring that the prime victims, at least in the first instance, are marginalized and easily demonizable minorities. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/01/16/who_are_the_victims_of_civil_liberties_assaults_and_endless_war/singleton/

———————————————————————–

* U.S. RANKS 27th IN SOCIAL JUSTICE

By Jim Hightower, Truthout

Being at the bottom of the heap in terms of social justice confirms the reality of both economic and political inequality that the Occupy movement is protesting.

“USA: We’re No. 1!”

Oh, wait — Iceland is No. 1. But we did beat out Poland and Slovakia, right? Uh…no. But go on down the rankings and there we are! No. 27, fifth from the bottom. So our new national chant is, “USA: At Least We’re Not Last!”

A foundation in Germany has analyzed the social justice records of all 31 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ranking each nation in such categories as health care, income inequality, pre-school education, and child poverty. The overall performance by the United States — which boasts of being an egalitarian society — outranks only Greece, Chile, Mexico, and Turkey. Actually, three of those countries performed better than ours in the education of pre-schoolers, and Greece did better than the United States on the prevention of poverty. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/us-ranks-27th-social-justice/1326737822#.TxVmw2QVWId.facebook

———————————————————————–

* FLEXING MUSCLE, BAGHDAD DETAINS U.S. CONTRACTORS

By Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, NYTimes

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, industry officials say, including many Americans who work for the United States Embassy, in one of the first major signs of the Iraqi government’s asserting its sovereignty after the American troop withdrawal last month.

The detentions have occurred largely at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about the contractors’ documents, including visas, weapons permits and authorizations to drive certain routes. Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks.

The crackdown comes amid other moves by the Iraqi government to take over functions that had been performed by the United States military and to claim areas of the country it had controlled. In the final weeks of the military withdrawal, the son of Iraq’s prime minister began evicting Western companies and contractors from the heavily fortified Green Zone, which had been the heart of the United States military operation for much of the war. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/16/world/middleeast/asserting-its-sovereignty-iraq-detains-american-contractors.html

———————————————————————–

* INSIDE MOSSAD’S WAR ON TEHRAN

By Marie Colvin and Uzi Mahnaimi, Sunday Times

EARLY in Tehran’s grey wintry morning last Wednesday, Mustafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young scientist in Iran’s controversial nuclear program, got dressed at his home in the northern suburbs. The events of this last hour of his life could have come out of a spy film.
Small groups of Israeli agents were watching key points in the Iranian capital. Their target was Roshan. They would be dead themselves if they were caught.

For Israel it was a classic assassination mission. “What is seen in espionage films as a simple operation is a result of hard work, many months of intelligence gathering and a well trained team,” said a source who released details, impossible to verify, to The Sunday Times.

“There is zero tolerance for mistakes. By nature, every failure not only risks the neck of the agents but also risks turning into an international scandal.”

Since its foundation in 1948, Israel has used assassination as a national weapon, striking targets abroad ranging from Palestinians who killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, to enemies on the streets of Amman and a Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel room in 2010. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30254.htm

———————————————————————–

* U.S., NOT IRAN, IS TO BLAME

As America escalates tension with Iran, the world should stand by Tehran and the UN must cease to behave like the handmaiden of the West.

By Sandhya Jain, The Pioneer

The Government of India has moved with commendable alacrity to clarify that it has not asked oil firms to reduce crude imports from Tehran. Iran remains this country’s second largest crude oil supplier despite India twice voting that the International Atomic Energy Commission refer Iran’s nuclear issue to the US Security Council in February 2006 and November 2009. Both times India could have abstained; the mindless quest for a strategic partnership with America nearly compromised our national interest.

The need for caution has doubled. As Washington, DC escalates tension with Tehran, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta admitted on CBS’s Face the Nation programme on January 8 that despite the rhetoric, America is aware that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons but is only pursuing “a nuclear capability”.

Yet the Obama Administration last December enacted a law under which the US can impose sanctions on any financial institution dealing with Iran’s central bank, its main clearing house for oil payments. This could jeopardise India’s oil payment system which is currently routed through Turkey’s Halkbank; a delegation to Tehran is expected to take up the matter.

The Washington-Tehran face-off is causing unease in world capitals as the Iranian resistance is likely to be superior to what America and its allies faced in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan. In all these theatres, the Western allies bludgeoned the states with brute military force, but had no strategy to hold the ground thereafter. Hence America ran from Iraq and is trying to quit Afghanistan; the Libya story has yet to unfold. […]

READ @ http://mail.dailypioneer.com/columnists/item/50881-us-not-iran-is-to-blame.html

———————————————————————–

* WAR PLAN IRAN: DISPELLING THE LIES, TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT WESTERN AGGRESSION IN THE PERSIAN GULF

By Finian Cunningham and Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research

The year 2012 may become known as a watershed for humanity – the year when mankind was precipitated into a global conflagration involving nuclear weapons. The signs are indeed grimly ominous as formidable military forces converge on the Persian Gulf in the long-running stand-off between the United States and Iran.

On side with the US are its European allies in NATO, primarily Britain, Washington’s Middle East client states: Israel and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf – all bristling with weapons of mass destruction. Recent naval exercises by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz have also displayed a fierce arsenal of missiles and military capability, and Iran has strategic alliances with Russia and China, both of whom will not stand idly by if their Persian partner is attacked.

As we have consistently analysed on Global Research, the conflict between the US-led powers and Iran has wider ramifications. It is part and parcel of Washington’s bid to engineer the social and political upheavals across the Arab World in order to redraw the region in its strategic interests. It is no coincidence that fresh from NATO’s conquest of and regime change in Libya, the focus has quickly shifted to Syria – a key regional ally of Iran. As Michel Chossudovsky has pointed out “the road to Tehran goes through to Damascus”. Regime change in Syria would serve to isolate Iran. Subjugating Iran and returning it to Western tutelage is the prize that Washington and its allies have been seeking for the past 33 years ever since their client the Shah, Mohammad Rezā Pahlavi, was deposed by the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Iran is an energy-rich colossus, with oil and, more importantly, natural gas reserves that put it, with approximately 10% of global reserves, in the world’s top three oil economies alongside Washington’s client states of Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  In sharp contrast, the US has less than  2% of global oil reserves.

The conquest of Iran’s oil riches is the driving force behind America’s military agenda. […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28675

———————————————————————–

* U.S. CORPORATIONS: CLOSELY ALLIED WITH CHINA, SELLING OUT AMERICA

By Michael Payne, OpEdNews

U.S. Corporations, supposedly the bedrock of America’s system of capitalism, have decided that their best bet for the future is to closely ally themselves with China, its manufacturing industry and cheap labor to maximize their profits. In doing so, they have sold out America, its manufacturing sector and its workers. These economic predators have sold themselves to the highest bidder and have now proven, without any doubt, that they have no loyalty to the nation they call their home.

Their policies and actions have been a major contributing cause of this country’s ongoing economic problems over this past decade. Since the beginning of this new century more than 42,000 U.S. plants have been closed and 15 million American workers have lost their jobs. This has greatly reduced the purchasing power of consumers and has dealt a huge blow to this nation’s faltering economy.

What a terrific partnership this has been for these corporations and China; it’s like a marriage made in heaven. Those very clever Chinese, with the help of their U.S. corporate facilitators, have been given the ability to directly tap into the massive American consumer economy. These two partners have been able to pull off an economic coup and now the largest portions of the U.S. retail sector, as well as the American people, are hooked on imported Chinese products.

Yes, this is a perfect partnership. China provides the cheap slave labor to manufacture the products that are then exported to the world’s largest market, one that Corporate America controls. What a great arrangement! U.S. corporations’ profits soar, CEO incomes and bonuses skyrocket, Chinese corporations, their workers and the Chinese economy all benefit greatly. Of course, when we speak of this transfer of economic wealth, while China is the primary beneficiary, Japan, India, Taiwan, South Korea, and others are also major recipients. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/articles/U-S-Corporations-Closely-by-michael-payne-120116-375.html

———————————————————————–

* SO IS SOPA DEAD? NOT EXACTLY 

By Paul Tassi, Forbes

[…] So is it dead? Did we win? No, and here’s why:

- In that same statement, the White House also said “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response…” followed later by ““That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders.” They still want to pass anti-piracy legislation this year.

- SOPA is not dead, it’s been “shelved” and won’t return “until a consensus is reached.”

- Protect IP (PIPA), the Senate version of the House bill, is still very much alive, and has not even been shelved, much less killed. It is equally as bad of an idea as SOPA, even if most protests are being directed at SOPA recently.

So what does this mean? Though the battle is won, the war is not. SOPA could easily make a resurgence if it sculpts itself to whatever the White House’s unspecified specifications are, and PIPA could also pass, as even with recent changes to it (courts can’t force ISPs to block websites), it’s still harmful. […]

READ @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/01/16/so-is-sopa-dead-not-exactly/

———————————————————————–

* INTERNET ACCESS FOR ALL: 3 WAYS THE FCC IS TRYING TO CLOSE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

Here are a few of the FCC’s efforts to deal with the digital divide—the good and the bad of each.

By Jamilah King, AlterNet

The Federal Communications Commission doesn’t always communicate very well. This much became obvious earlier this week when Chair Julius Genachowski announced important changes to the country’s Lifeline program, a service that’s historically offered low-cost phone service to poor and working class households.

The underlying principle of the Lifeline program is that phone service is a necessity, and that the government should ensure that everyone has access to it. Genachowski said on Monday that the same principle should apply to broadband Internet, since about 40 percent of the country remains without it, mostly because it’s too expensive. That doesn’t change the fact that important parts of broadband Internet are still not classified as essential communication services—which makes it hard for the FCC to fully regulate it. Still, the FCC is launching a new pilot programs to offer low-cost service, help teach people about the Internet and connect them to it. That’s big.

Funny thing is, though, this new pilot program isn’t the first time the FCC has tried to offer low-cost alternatives to help bridge the digital divide. A handful of programs already exist and have had varying amounts of success. And it’s very likely that you’ve never heard of them. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/story/153785/internet_access_for_all%3A_3_ways_the_fcc_is_trying_to_close_the_digital_divide/

———————————————————————–

* WISCONSIN DEMOCRATS SUBMITTING RECALL-WALKER PETITIONS TODAY

By Eric Kleefeld, TPM

It’s the big day in Wisconsin: After two months of collecting petitions, state Democrats will officially turn in a vast number of signatures collected in order to trigger a recall election against Gov. Scott Walker.

In December, the Democrats announced that they had collected over 507,000 signatures in 30 days, getting very close to the legal threshold of just over 540,000 signatures in 60 days. (The party also told TPM at the time that this 507,000 figure takes into account also own efforts to weed out bad signatures.) They also said that they were working towards an even greater goal of 720,000 total, in order to have an absolute buffer against disqualifications.

State Democratic party spokesman Graeme Zielinski told TPM on Monday: “We’re confident that we will hit that mark.” […]

READ @ http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/01/wisconsin-democrats-turning-in-recall-walker-petitions.php?ref=fpnewsfeed

———————————————————————–

* MORE OPPOSITION TO EMANUEL PROTEST ORDINANCE

Source: Progress Illinois

It’s not just Occupy protesters against Rahm Emanuel’s proposed ordinance that imposes harsher fines and rules for protests and demonstrations. This week’s edition of Crain’s Chicago Business editorializes against the ordinance as it, “reinforces the very stereotypes that Chicago is trying to shed.” Crain’s argues that increased fines for resisting arrest are “driven by fear of reliving” the violent 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Crain’s critical focus is actually on a less reported part of Emanuel’s plan: The mayor has the power to hand out no-bid contracts for summit-related matters … like the $16 million no-bid deal already provided to Motorola,allowing the company can provide emergency radios for the May summits.

Emanuel said last week that the city will rely on private companies to provide both security and services – and for private donors to raise up to $60 million to supplement security costs. Henry Bayer, head of AFSCME-Local 31, is upset by this request: Bayer wonders why these same private donors couldn’t also give to other causes, such as money to keep Chicago’s libraries open on Mondays. […]

READ @ http://progressillinois.com/news/content/2012/01/16/business-pub-opposes-emanuel-protest-ordinance

———————————————————————–

* OCCUPY CONGRESS TUESDAY JANUARY 17: DETAILS FOR ATTENDEES

By Brett, Redmayne-Titley, OpEdNews

New tents are popping up in the nation’s capital and there is talk of expanding to a new park.

The two Washington, D.C. Occupation camps – at McPherson Park and Freedom Plaza – are calling to action all Occupy camps and persons interested in making their opinions heard by Congress, to gather on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

This call has gone out nationally and is being answered.

More than a dozen occupiers have just arrived from San Diego, and another 8 or 9 from Chattanooga.

Occupiers representing camps from Los Angeles, Dallas, Winston-Salem N.C., Greenville S.C., Wall Street, and Pittsburgh have already arrived. Other camps have already announced their planned arrivals. Throughout the past week many people passing through the camps have said that they will be at the protest as well. Expectations are high. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=144189

———————————————————————–

* OCCUPY MOVEMENT TURNS ATTENTION TO CONGRESS

By Ambreen Ali, Roll Call

For many in the Occupy movement, Wall Street was so last year.

Congress is the new target as Occupy activists try to channel the populist energy of “the 99 percent” into tangible results.

More than 30 Occupy groups and 10,000 Facebook users are backing Tuesday’s Occupy Congress rally outside the Capitol, and they represent a growing faction within the liberal movement that says the path to reining in Wall Street runs through Capitol Hill.

“Congress is the place that we should focus,” said Natalia Abrams, a California-based activist. “I don’t think we’re ever going to get Wall Street to control its greed, but maybe we can get Congress to control their greed for them.” […]

READ @ http://www.rollcall.com/news/occupy_movement_turns_attention_to_congress-211484-1.html?pos=hbtxt

Jan 082012
 

Source: GRTV

As the US and Iranian governments escalate tensions in the already volatile Straits of Hormuz, and China and Russia begin openly questioning Washington’s interference in their internal politics, the world remains on a knife-edge of military tension. Far from being a dispassionate observer of these developments, however, the media has in fact been central to increasing those tensions and preparing the public to expect a military confrontation. But as the online media rises to displace the traditional forms by which the public forms its understanding of the world, many are now beginning to see first hand how the media lies the public into war.

Learn more about the media manipulations behind the beginning of war in this week’s GRTV backgrounder.

SOURCES AND TRANSCRIPT: http://www.corbettreport.com/?p=3588

As the drums of war begin to beat once again in Iran, Syria, the South China Sea, and other potential hotspots and flashpoints around the globe, concerned citizens are asking how a world so sick of bloodshed and a population so tired of conflict could be led to this spot once again.

To understand this seeming paradox, we must first understand the centuries-long history of how media has been used to whip the nation into wartime frenzy, dehumanize the supposed enemies, and even to manipulate the public into believing in causes for war that, decades later, were admitted to be completely fictitious.

The term “yellow journalism” was coined to describe the type of sensationalistic, scandal-driven, and often erroneous style of reporting popularized by newspapers like William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. In one of the most egregious examples of this phenomenon, Hearst’s papers widely trumpeted the sinking of the Maine as the work of the Spanish. Whipped into an anti-Spanish frenzy by a daily torrent of stories depicting Spanish forces’ alleged torture and rape of Cubans, and pushed over the edge by the Maine incident, the public welcomed the beginning of the US-Spanish war. Although it is now widely believed that the explosion on the Maine was due to a fire in one of its coal bunkers, the initial lurid reports of Spanish involvement stuck and the nation was led into war.

In many ways, the phrase infamously attributed to Hearst in reply to his illustrator “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war,” apocryphal as the story may be, nevertheless perfectly encodes the method by which the public would be led to war time and again through the decades.

The US was drawn into World War I by the sinking of the Lusitania, a British ocean liner carrying American passengers that was torpedoed by German U-boats off the coast of Ireland, killing over 1,000 of its passengers. What the public was not informed about at the time, of course, was that just one week before the incident, then-First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had written to the President of the Board of Trade that it was “most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hopes especially of embroiling the United States with Germany.” Nor did reports of the attack announce that the ship was carrying rifle ammunition and other military supplies. Instead, reports once again emphasized that the attack was an out-of-the-blue strike by a maniacal enemy, and the public was led into the war.

The US involvement in World War II was likewise the result of deliberate disinformation. Although the Honolulu Advertiser had even predicted the attack on Pearl Harbor days in advance, the Japanese Naval codes had already been deciphered by that time, and that even Henry Stimson, the US Secretary of War, had noted in his diary the week before that he had discussed in a meeting with Roosevelt “how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves,” the public were still led to believe that the Pearl Harbor attack had been completely unforeseen. Just last month, a newly-declassified memo emerged showing that FDR had been warned of an impending Japanese attack on Hawaii just three days before the events at Pearl Harbor, yet the history books still portray Pearl Harbor as an example of a surprise attack.

In August 1964, the public was told that the North Vietnamese had attacked a US Destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin on two separate occasions. The attacks were portrayed as a clear example of “communist aggression” and a resolution was soon passed in Congress authorizing President Johnson to begin deploying US forces in Vietnam. In 2005, an internal NSA study was released concluding that the second attack in fact never took place. In effect, 60000 American servicemen and as many as three million Vietnamese, let alone as many as 500,000 Cambodians and Laotians, lost their lives because of an incident that did not occur anywhere but in the imagination of the Johnson administration and the pages of the American media.

In 1991, the world was introduced to the emotional story of Nayirah, a Kuwaiti girl who testified about the atrocities committed by Iraqi forces in Kuwait.

What the world was never told was that the incident had in fact been the work of a public relations firm, Hill and Knowltown, and the girl had actually been the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Once again, the public was whipped into a frenzy of hatred for the Hussein regime, not for the documented atrocities that it had actually committed on segments of its own population with weapons supplied to them by the United States itself, but on the basis of an imaginary story told to the public via their televisions, orchestrated by a pr firm.

In the lead-up to the war on Iraq, the American media infamously took the lead in framing the debate about the Iraqi government’s weapons of mass destruction NOT as a question of whether or not they even existed, but as a question of where they had been hidden and what should be done to disarm them. The New York Times led the way with Judith Miller‘s now infamous reporting on the Iraqi WMD story, now known to have been based on false information from untrustworthy sources, but the rest of the media fell into line with the NBC Nightly News asking “what precise threat Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction pose to America”, and Time debating whether Hussein was “making a good-faith effort to disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Reports about chemical weapons stashes were reported on before they were confirmed, although headlines boldly asserted their existence as indisputable fact. We now know that in fact the stockpiles did not exist, and the administration premeditatedly lied the country into yet another war, but the most intense opposition the Bush administration ever received over this documented war crime was some polite correction on the Sunday political talk show circuit.

Remarkably, the public at large has seemingly learned nothing from all of these documented historical manipulations. If anything, the media has become even bolder in its attempts to manipulate the public’s perceptions, perhaps emboldened by the fact that so few in the audience seem willing to question the picture that is being painted for them on the evening news.

Later that year, CNN aired footage of a bombed out Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, falsely labeling it as footage of Gori, which they said had been attacked by the Russians.

In 2009, the BBC showed a cropped image of a rally in Iran which they claimed was a crowd of protesters who assembled to show their opposition to the Iranian government. An uncropped version of the same photograph displayed on the LA Times’ website, however, revealed that the photo in fact came from a rally in support of Ahmedinejad.

In August of 2011, the BBC ran footage of what they claimed was a celebration in Tripoli’s Green Square. When sharp-eyed viewers noticed that the flags in the footage were in fact Indian flags, the BBC was forced to admit that they had “accidentally” broadcast footage from India instead of Tripoli.

Also that month, CNN reported on a story from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claiming that eight infants in incubators had died in a hospital in Hama when Syrian authorities cut off power in the area. Some news sites even carried pictures of the infants. The images were later admitted to have been taken in Egypt and no evidence has ever emerged to back up the accusations.

As breathtaking as all of these lies, manipulations and so-called “mistakes” are, they in and of themselves don’t represent the only functions of the media for the war machine. Now, the US government is taking the lead in becoming more and more directly involved with the shaping of the media message on war propaganda, and the general public is becoming even more ensnared in a false picture of the world through the Pentagon’s own lens.

In 2005, the Bush White House admitted to producing videos that were designed to look like news reports from legitimate independent journalists, and then feeding those reports to media outlets as prepackaged material ready to air on the evening news. When the Government Accountability Office ruled that these fake news reports in fact constituted illegal covert propaganda, the White House simply issued a memo declaring the practice to be legal.

In April 2008, the New York Times revealed a secret US Department of Defense program that was launched in 2002 and involved using retired military officers to implant Pentagon talking points in the media. The officers were presented as “independent analysts” on talk shows and news programs, although they had been specially briefed beforehand by the Pentagon. In December of 2011, the DoD’s own Inspector General released a report concluding that the program was in perfect compliance with government policies and regulations.

Earlier this year, it was revealed the the US government had contracted with HBGary Federal to develop software that create fake social media accounts in order to steer public opinion and promote propaganda on popular websites. The federal contract for the software sourced back to the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

As the vehicle through which information from the outside world is captured, sorted, edited and transmitted into our homes, the mass media has the huge responsibility of shaping and informing our understanding of events to which we don’t have first-hand access. This is an awesome responsibility in even the most ideal conditions, with diligent reporters guided by trustworthy editors doing their level best to report the most important news in the most straightforward way.

But in a media landscape where a handful of companies own virtually all of the print, radio and television media in each nation, the only recourse the public has is to turn away from the mainstream media altogether. And that is precisely what is happening.

As study after study and report after report has shown, the death of the old media has accelerated in recent years, with more and more people abandoning newspapers and now even television as their main source of news. Instead, the public is increasingly turning toward online sources for their news and information, something that is necessarily worrying for the war machine itself, a system that can only truly flourish when the propaganda arm is held under monopolistic control.

But as citizens turn away from the New York Times and toward independent websites, many run and maintained by citizen journalists and amateur editors, the system that has consolidated its control over the minds of the public for generations seems to finally be showing signs that it may not be invincible.

Surely this is not to say that online media is impervious to the defects that have made the traditional media so unreliable. Quite the contrary. But the difference is that online, there is still for the time being relative freedom of choice at the individual level. While internet freedom exists, individual readers and viewers don’t have to take the word of any website or pundit or commentator on any issue. They can check the source documentation themselves, except, perhaps not coincidentally, on the websites of the traditional media bastions, which tend not to link source material and documentation in their articles.

Hence the SOPA Act, Protect IP, the US government’s attempts to seize websites at the domain name level, and all of the other concerted attacks we have seen on internet freedoms in recent years.

Because ultimately, an informed and engaged public is far less likely to go along with wars waged for power and profit. And as the public becomes better informed about the very issues that the media has tried to lie to them about for so long, they realize that the answer to all of the mainstream media’s war cheerleading and blatant manipulation is perhaps simpler than we ever suspected: All we have to do is turn them off.

READ and VIDEOhttp://tv.globalresearch.ca/2012/01/faking-it-how-media-manipulates-world-war

Jan 032012
 

 

* URGENT CALL TO ACTION AGAINST THE NDAA

Source: New York City General Assembly

Call To Action Against the NDAA

A call has been put out to let our government know the people will not tolerate any more attacks on our rights!

January 3rd will be a spontaneous show of people power in reaction to Obama’s treasonous signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. Not only does this act violate our first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth amendments, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but this Act was signed quietly this past New Years Eve violating what little trust remained between the people and their established government. We see what’s happening here, and we will not stand for it.

Tentative Schedule for Day of Action

7:30 am and all day – OWS solidarity with the New York State Nurses Association Strike at St. Lukes and Roosevelt Hospital at 1111 Amsterdam Ave and 112th Street and 1000 10th Ave and 59th Street, respectively
12 pm – Press Conference at NYPL at Bryant Park
2 pm – Office Demonstration at Senator Gillibrand’s office at 780 3rd Ave.
3 pm – Office Demonstration at Senator Schumer’s office at 757 3rd Ave.
4 pm – Rally up at Rockefeller Plaza
5 pm – Flash check about NDAA in Grand Central for commuters
After that we plan to march up 5th ave to do a demo tour of 1 percent homes

**above subject to change at on short notice, stay tuned!

Please Help Spread the Word and Please Help Fight Back.

Participate in the Media Bomb As Well:

http://www.facebook.com/events/226230330786031/

#J3 #occupyjustice #opblackout

For help adding these events to your Google Calendar for easy viewing, saving, and printing, check out the step-by-step guide here. [...]

READ @ http://www.nycga.net/events/event/j3-urgent-call-to-action-against-the-ndaa/

———————————————————————–

* FINAL CURTAIN: OBAMA SIGNS INDEFINITE DETENTION OF CITIZENS INTO LAW AS FINAL ACT OF 2011

By Jonathan Turley

[…] Obama insisted that he signed the bill simply to keep funding for the troops. It was a continuation of the dishonest treatment of the issue by the White House since the law first came to light. As discussed earlier, the White House told citizens that the President would not sign the NDAA because of the provision. That spin ended after sponsor Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) went to the floor and disclosed that it was the White House and insisted that there be no exception for citizens in the indefinite detention provision.

The latest claim is even more insulting. You do not “support our troops” by denying the principles for which they are fighting. They are not fighting to consolidate authoritarian powers in the President. The “American way of life” is defined by our Constitution and specifically the Bill of Rights. Moreover, the insistence that you do not intend to use authoritarian powers does not alter the fact that you just signed an authoritarian measure. It is not the use but the right to use such powers that defines authoritarian systems.

The almost complete failure of the mainstream media to cover this issue is shocking. Many reporters have bought into the spin of the Obama Administration as they did the spin over torture by the Bush Administration. Even today reporters refuse to call waterboarding torture despite the long line of cases and experts defining waterboarding as torture for decades. On the NDAA, reporters continue to mouth the claim that this law only codifies what is already the law. That is not true. The Administration has fought any challenges to indefinite detention to prevent a true court review. Moreover, most experts agree that such indefinite detention of citizens violates the Constitution.

There are also those who continue the long-standing effort to excuse Obama’s horrific record on civil liberties by either blaming others or the times. One successful myth is that there is an exception for citizens. The White House is saying that changes to the law made it unnecessary to veto the legislation. That spin is facially ridiculous. The changes were the inclusion of some meaningless rhetoric after key amendments protecting citizens were defeated. The provision merely states that nothing in the provisions could be construed to alter Americans’ legal rights. Since the Senate clearly views citizens are not just subject to indefinite detention but even execution without a trial, the change offers nothing but rhetoric to hide the harsh reality.

[…]

Obama could have refused to sign the bill and the Congress would have rushed to fund the troops. Instead, as confirmed by Sen. Levin, the White House conducted a misinformation campaign to secure this power while portraying Obama as some type of reluctant absolute ruler, or as Obama maintains a reluctant president with dictatorial powers.

Most Democratic members joined their Republican colleagues in voting for this unAmerican measure.

[…]

For civil libertarians, the NDAA is our Mayan moment. 2012 is when the nation embraced authoritarian powers with little more than a pause between rounds of drinks. […]

READ @ http://jonathanturley.org/2012/01/02/final-curtain-obama-signs-indefinite-detention-of-citizens-into-law-as-final-act-of-2011/

———————————————————————–

* FROM NOW ON … OUR BIGGEST MISTAKE IS BELIEVING WE ARE FREE

By Bob Alexander, OpEdNews

By signing this perversion, Constitutional professor Barack Obama has put himself above the Constitution. From now on the President of the United States is a king. We have to depend upon his noblesse oblige to keep us out of the gulag.

::::::::

On December 17, 2007 Senator Christopher Dodd spoke on the Senate floor against George W. Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping and telecom company amnesty compromise …

“Clear, first-hand whistleblower documentary evidence [states] that for year on end every e-mail, every text message, and every phone call … hundreds of millions of private, domestic communications … have been copied in their entirety by AT&T and knowingly diverted wholesale … into a secret room controlled exclusively by the NSA.”

Then Senator Barack Obama announced he supported the amnesty “compromise” saying …

“So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives — and the liberty — of the American people.”

I didn’t want George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or any future president of the United States to “carefully monitor the program.” I wanted a president who would stop the wiretapping program, restore the Fourth Amendment, and protect the Constitution of the United States. That’s his goddamned job. But that’s not the president I got for Christmas in 2008. The eavesdropping on every call, text, fax or email hasn’t stopped. It’s just being “carefully monitored.”

Fast forward to December 31, 2011 when Reader Supported News editor Marc Ash wrote…

“President Obama today signed the highly controversial Defense Spending Bill. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with its so-called Homeland Battlefield provisions, allows, according to many legal scholars, the indefinite detention of US citizens by the US military. What is most striking is a lengthy signing statement by Obama, in which he maintains his reservations about the Homeland Battlefield provisions, saying, ‘I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.’ His defense of civil liberties in the signing statement was passionate. Nonetheless, at the same moment, he signed the bill into law.”

So as of now … anyone … anywhere … can be detained indefinitely by order of the President of the United States. Obama said. “I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.” But what he just signed says he can. We just have to trust him … and all future presidents from now on. Florida Democratic representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she’ll be working with other Democrats to repeal the Homeland Battlefield provisions as soon as Congress reconvenes. Good luck with that one. What are the chances a Republican-controlled house will repeal provisions it had already passed in a 283 to 136 vote?
If the provisions are not repealed, or if the president changes his mind and decides to use the law he signed … then any of us could end up like Al-Jazeera journalist Sami Al-Hajj. He was arrested in Pakistan on December 15, 2001 and detained at Guantánamo for over six years. According to documents published by Wikileaks, the government wanted Al-Hajj “to provide information on the al-Jazeera News Network’s training program, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations.” He was beaten, sexually assaulted … and released without charge on May 1, 2008.

We are all now officially … small prey animals. We have the same rights a field mouse has against a hawk. Prey animals can’t get a lawyer or a trial. Prey animals get eaten.

So let’s kick off The New Year with what we know about The Late Great United States.

War criminals are immune from prosecution.

The president can declare martial law by declaring a public emergency and this public emergency can be anything he says it is.

The president can scoop up U.S. citizens and detain them forever if he wants to because Habeas Corpus is now a memory.

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=143591

———————————————————————–

* WHY DO CONSERVATIVES HATE AMERICANS?

By David Atkins, Hullabaloo

Given the Right’s recent lurch toward Ayn Rand-style Objectivism, it seems that an intelligent journalist would put the following facts together:

  • The new mainstream in conservatism maintains that the poor are only poor because of laziness and lack of initiative.

It’s not exactly a leap in logic to point out that mainstream conservatism now maintains that 80% of Americans are simply ungrateful, lazy bastards who need tough love to do better.

In that context, trying to get rid of Social Security and Medicare makes sense for them. But shouldn’t someone start asking, then, why conservatives have such contempt for the vast majority of Americans, and their work ethic? It’s not a hard question to ask. The politics of it may be controversial, but the logic isn’t.

READ @ http://www.digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-do-conservatives-hate-americans-by.html

———————————————————————–

* IRAN AND HISTORICAL FORGETTING

By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening

[…] History also suggests that if Iran were to design and manufacture a nuclear weapon, there is no evidence they would be crazy enough to use one preemptively in a world full of nations with vastly superior nuclear arsenals and delivery systems. The fact the Iranian President may spout hatred of the United States and Israel is not evidence; just listen to the identical hatred spouted here in the US and in Israel about the Iranians. Iran would seem to have a lot to live for; suicide is not a trait they exhibit.

This has certainly been the case with North Korea, another regime we pillory with charges of insanity. It has a number of nuclear weapons it could deliver to South Korea easily. Why aren’t we threatening North Korea with bombings? Why are we instead offering them shipments of food?

Because the real reason Iran is in the sights of the United States and, especially, Israel is clear. As a tax-paying American citizen who did his small part to make the unnecessary historic debacle known as the Vietnam War what it was, I submit the problem is that both the United States and Israel operate on mythic fuel that deludes their citizens into believing they are exceptional and the chosen people, respectfully. They have been hoodwinked by politicos and holy men with inadequate and distorted historical thinking into believing Iran is the devil inherent intent on menacing the poor, innocent West.

This irrational, mythic bunk is how we tend to see the rest of the world, and it has gotten so out of hand these days that instead of questioning the utility of these myths our political and cultural leaders actually nurture and reinforce them, making the situation even worse. And since the mainstream media and both political parties are complicit, the smart American voter who might on his or her own see the utility of breaking this doomed cycle is presented with no political choice at all.

Sure, one of the candidates will be better than the other on something (for this reason, I always vote), but when it comes to the really big issues of Militarism and the growth of Police State Tyranny, there’s no choice at all. The American citizen is stuck on a runaway train.

Because he doesn’t play by this book, former Member of British Parliament George Galloway has the temerity to ask, “What has Iran ever done to us?” On a recent radio show Galloway debated a caller who gave the middle-brow line about the need to attack Iran. Galloway pointed out that Iranians are very capable and sophisticated and that they will take a strategic bombing campaign as a declaration of war and act accordingly by retaliating against us with bombs wherever and whenever they can.

People who think a strategic bombing attack on Iran will be like the Israeli attack on Saddam’s plant back in the 1980s or the Israeli attack on a Syrian plant a couple years ago are delusional. Galloway says it clearly: “If we bomb Iran, Iran will bomb us back.” The listener absurdly responds by saying that’s why we need to bomb them. Galloway throws up his hands: “There are people listening to this who will not know whether to laugh or cry.” The listener doesn’t grasp any of the history and is operating purely on fear and the delusion that somehow bombing Iran will lessen the danger that nation poses to the United States, Israel and the West. It’s like never having heard of the concepts of overconfidence and unforeseen consequences. I’m a member of Veterans For Peace and we like to say, “Wars are easy to start but very difficult to stop.” So the idea is to not start them and to work out problems another way. […]

READ @ http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/986

———————————————————————–

* AS US-IRAN THREAT EXCHANGE CONTINUES, PAKISTAN DETAINS THREE IRANIAN BORDER GUARDS

By Jim White, emptywheel

Iran and the US continued to exchange threats over the long holiday weekend. On Saturday night, Barack Obama signed the NDAA, which put into place the ability to enact strong sanctions on banking institutions involved in the sale of Iranian oil. Substantial flexibility is built into the legislation to allow the US to exempt various players in the oil market, so it is still quite uncertain how the sanctions will be implemented. As the video here shows, Iran also test-fired two types of missiles over the weekend prior to the ending of the ten days of naval war games. However, the threats have not ceased, as Iran has now issued a vague warning to the US not to bring the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, which exited the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, back into the Gulf.

With all of these events taking place, it would be easy to overlook a strange incident on the Iran-Pakistan border on Sunday. Both Iran and Pakistan now say that Pakistan has detained three Iranian border guards who crossed into Pakistan. The guards shot two men who were in a car they were chasing, and one of the men died. The shooting victims are Pakistani nationals.

One of the most detailed accounts appears in the Washington Post via AP:

Pakistani authorities have yet to decide what to do with three Iranian border guards who they say crossed into southwestern Pakistan while chasing after smugglers and killed one them, a government official said Monday.

The incident occurred Sunday in the Mazah Sar area of Baluchistan province, a desolate, unpopulated region where the border is not clearly marked.

Aalam Farez, a senior government official in Washuk district, where Mazah Sar is located, said the Iranians admitted to inadvertently crossing into Pakistan. But, he said, they claimed the two people they shot — one of whom died — were bystanders and that the people they were chasing escaped.

After the shooting, Pakistani border personnel chased the Iranians back across the border and detained them, Pakistani officials have said. They also seized the surviving gunshot victim and determined both of those who had been shot were petty smugglers.

The Express Tribune (via AFP) adds significant background on the region where this event took place:

The Iranians reached Mazan Sar Mashkail, in Washuk district, three kilometres (1.8miles) inside Pakistan where they opened fire on a vehicle they were chasing, according to officials in Balochistan.

“All three personnel of Iranian border security force were taken into custody for their penetration inside Pakistan and killing a Pakistani national on our soil”, Saeed Ahmad Jamali, Deputy Commissioner of Washuk district told AFP.

[…]

Mazan Sar Mashkail is around 600 kilometres southwest of Quetta, the main town of insurgency hit Baluchistan province, which borders Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Iranian embassy officials in Islamabad were unavailable for comment late Sunday but Iran in the past has blamed a Sunni extremist group, called Jundallah, for launching attacks inside Pakistan [sic] from Sistan-Balochistan.

Jundallah says it is fighting Tehran’s Shiite rule to secure rights for Sunni Balochis who form a significant population in Sistan-Balochistan, which borders both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Significantly, this AFP article makes no mention of smuggling, so the smuggling characterization appears only in the AP article, which Mehr News cites in its confirmation of the event. And despite the AP article not mentioning Jundallah, it is possible that both stories are correct, since in addition to its terrorism role, Jundallah also has been accused of drug smuggling. (It seems likely that the AFP article meant to say that Iran has blamed Jundallah for attacks inside Iran rather than Pakistan. Jundallah has claimed responsibility for several attacks, see below.)

The potential involvement of Jundallah is highly significant, as evidence has been presented that the Bush administration provided training and financial support. From ABC in 2007:

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.  It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

The article went on to describe the group’s leader (who was subsequently caught and executed by Iran) as “part drug smuggler.

Seymour Hersh added more in 2008:

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.emptywheel.net/2012/01/03/as-us-iran-threat-exchange-continues-pakistan-detains-three-iranian-border-guards/

———————————————————————–

* FAKING IT: HOW THE MEDIA MANIPULATES THE WORLD INTO WAR

Source: youtube.com

SOURCES AND TRANSCRIPT: http://www.corbettreport.com/?p=3588

As the drums of war begin to beat once again in Iran, Syria, the South China Sea, and other potential hotspots and flashpoints around the globe, concerned citizens are asking how a world so sick of bloodshed and a population so tired of conflict could be led to this spot once again.

To understand this seeming paradox, we must first understand the centuries-long history of how media has been used to whip the nation into wartime frenzy, dehumanize the supposed enemies, and even to manipulate the public into believing in causes for war that, decades later, were admitted to be completely fictitious.

The term “yellow journalism” was coined to describe the type of sensationalistic, scandal-driven, and often erroneous style of reporting popularized by newspapers like William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. In one of the most egregious examples of this phenomenon, Hearst’s papers widely trumpeted the sinking of the Maine as the work of the Spanish. Whipped into an anti-Spanish frenzy by a daily torrent of stories depicting Spanish forces’ alleged torture and rape of Cubans, and pushed over the edge by the Maine incident, the public welcomed the beginning of the US-Spanish war. Although it is now widely believed that the explosion on the Maine was due to a fire in one of its coal bunkers, the initial lurid reports of Spanish involvement stuck and the nation was led into war.

In many ways, the phrase infamously attributed to Hearst in reply to his illustrator “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war,” apocryphal as the story may be, nevertheless perfectly encodes the method by which the public would be led to war time and again through the decades.

The US was drawn into World War I by the sinking of the Lusitania, a British ocean liner carrying American passengers that was torpedoed by German U-boats off the coast of Ireland, killing over 1,000 of its passengers. What the public was not informed about at the time, of course, was that just one week before the incident, then-First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had written to the President of the Board of Trade that it was “most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hopes especially of embroiling the United States with Germany.” Nor did reports of the attack announce that the ship was carrying rifle ammunition and other military supplies. Instead, reports once again emphasized that the attack was an out-of-the-blue strike by a maniacal enemy, and the public was led into the war.

The US involvement in World War II was likewise the result of deliberate disinformation. Although the Honolulu Advertiser had even predicted the attack on Pearl Harbor days in advance, the Japanese Naval codes had already been deciphered by that time, and that even Henry Stimson, the US Secretary of War, had noted in his diary the week before that he had discussed in a meeting with Roosevelt “how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves,” the public were still led to believe that the Pearl Harbor attack had been completely unforeseen. Just last month, a newly-declassified memo emerged showing that FDR had been warned of an impending Japanese attack on Hawaii just three days before the events at Pearl Harbor, yet the history books still portray Pearl Harbor as an example of a surprise attack.

In August 1964, the public was told that the North Vietnamese had attacked a US Destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin on two separate occasions. The attacks were portrayed as a clear example of “communist aggression” and a resolution was soon passed in Congress authorizing President Johnson to begin deploying US forces in Vietnam. In 2005, an internal NSA study was released concluding that the second attack in fact never took place. In effect, 60000 American servicemen and as many as three million Vietnamese, let alone as many as 500,000 Cambodians and Laotians, lost their lives because of an incident that did not occur anywhere but in the imagination of the Johnson administration and the pages of the American media.

In 1991, the world was introduced to the emotional story of Nayirah, a Kuwaiti girl who testified about the atrocities committed by Iraqi forces in Kuwait.

What the world was never told was that the incident had in fact been the work of a public relations firm, Hill and Knowltown, and the girl had actually been the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Once again, the public was whipped into a frenzy of hatred for the Hussein regime, not for the documented atrocities that it had actually committed on segments of its own population with weapons supplied to them by the United States itself, but on the basis of an imaginary story told to the public via their televisions, orchestrated by a pr firm.

In the lead-up to the war on Iraq, the American media infamously took the lead in framing the debate about the Iraqi government’s weapons of mass destruction NOT as a question of whether or not they even existed, but as a question of where they had been hidden and what should be done to disarm them. The New York Times led the way with Judith Miller‘s now infamous reporting on the Iraqi WMD story, now known to have been based on false information from untrustworthy sources, but the rest of the media fell into line with the NBC Nightly News asking “what precise threat Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction pose to America”, and Time debating whether Hussein was “making a good-faith effort to disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Reports about chemical weapons stashes were reported on before they were confirmed, although headlines boldly asserted their existence as indisputable fact. We now know that in fact the stockpiles did not exist, and the administration premeditatedly lied the country into yet another war, but the most intense opposition the Bush administration ever received over this documented war crime was some polite correction on the Sunday political talk show circuit.

Remarkably, the public at large has seemingly learned nothing from all of these documented historical manipulations. If anything, the media has become even bolder in its attempts to manipulate the public’s perceptions, perhaps emboldened by the fact that so few in the audience seem willing to question the picture that is being painted for them on the evening news.

Later that year, CNN aired footage of a bombed out Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, falsely labeling it as footage of Gori, which they said had been attacked by the Russians.

In 2009, the BBC showed a cropped image of a rally in Iran which they claimed was a crowd of protesters who assembled to show their opposition to the Iranian government. An uncropped version of the same photograph displayed on the LA Times’ website, however, revealed that the photo in fact came from a rally in support of Ahmedinejad.

In August of 2011, the BBC ran footage of what they claimed was a celebration in Tripoli’s Green Square. When sharp-eyed viewers noticed that the flags in the footage were in fact Indian flags, the BBC was forced to admit that they had “accidentally” broadcast footage from India instead of Tripoli.

Also that month, CNN reported on a story from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claiming that eight infants in incubators had died in a hospital in Hama when Syrian authorities cut off power in the area. Some news sites even carried pictures of the infants. The images were later admitted to have been taken in Egypt and no evidence has ever emerged to back up the accusations.

As breathtaking as all of these lies, manipulations and so-called “mistakes” are, they in and of themselves don’t represent the only functions of the media for the war machine. Now, the US government is taking the lead in becoming more and more directly involved with the shaping of the media message on war propaganda, and the general public is becoming even more ensnared in a false picture of the world through the Pentagon’s own lens.

In 2005, the Bush White House admitted to producing videos that were designed to look like news reports from legitimate independent journalists, and then feeding those reports to media outlets as prepackaged material ready to air on the evening news. When the Government Accountability Office ruled that these fake news reports in fact constituted illegal covert propaganda, the White House simply issued a memo declaring the practice to be legal.

In April 2008, the New York Times revealed a secret US Department of Defense program that was launched in 2002 and involved using retired military officers to implant Pentagon talking points in the media. The officers were presented as “independent analysts” on talk shows and news programs, although they had been specially briefed beforehand by the Pentagon. In December of 2011, the DoD’s own Inspector General released a report concluding that the program was in perfect compliance with government policies and regulations.

Earlier this year, it was revealed the the US government had contracted with HBGary Federal to develop software that create fake social media accounts in order to steer public opinion and promote propaganda on popular websites. The federal contract for the software sourced back to the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

As the vehicle through which information from the outside world is captured, sorted, edited and transmitted into our homes, the mass media has the huge responsibility of shaping and informing our understanding of events to which we don’t have first-hand access. This is an awesome responsibility in even the most ideal conditions, with diligent reporters guided by trustworthy editors doing their level best to report the most important news in the most straightforward way.

But in a media landscape where a handful of companies own virtually all of the print, radio and television media in each nation, the only recourse the public has is to turn away from the mainstream media altogether. And that is precisely what is happening.

As study after study and report after report has shown, the death of the old media has accelerated in recent years, with more and more people abandoning newspapers and now even television as their main source of news. Instead, the public is increasingly turning toward online sources for their news and information, something that is necessarily worrying for the war machine itself, a system that can only truly flourish when the propaganda arm is held under monopolistic control.

But as citizens turn away from the New York Times and toward independent websites, many run and maintained by citizen journalists and amateur editors, the system that has consolidated its control over the minds of the public for generations seems to finally be showing signs that it may not be invincible.

Surely this is not to say that online media is impervious to the defects that have made the traditional media so unreliable. Quite the contrary. But the difference is that online, there is still for the time being relative freedom of choice at the individual level. While internet freedom exists, individual readers and viewers don’t have to take the word of any website or pundit or commentator on any issue. They can check the source documentation themselves, except, perhaps not coincidentally, on the websites of the traditional media bastions, which tend not to link source material and documentation in their articles.

Hence the SOPA Act, Protect IP, the US government’s attempts to seize websites at the domain name level, and all of the other concerted attacks we have seen on internet freedoms in recent years.

Because ultimately, an informed and engaged public is far less likely to go along with wars waged for power and profit. And as the public becomes better informed about the very issues that the media has tried to lie to them about for so long, they realize that the answer to all of the mainstream media’s war cheerleading and blatant manipulation is perhaps simpler than we ever suspected: All we have to do is turn them off.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4P2O8UjQeU&feature=player_embedded

———————————————————————–

* HAITI AFTER THE QUAKE

By Bill Quigley and Amber Ramanauskas, CounterPunch

Haiti, a close neighbor of the US with over nine million people, was devastated by earthquake on January 12, 2010.  Hundreds of thousands were killed and many more wounded.

The UN estimated international donors gave Haiti over $1.6 billion in relief aid since the earthquake (about $155 per Haitian) and over $2 billion in recovery aid (about $173 per Haitian) over the last two years.

Yet Haiti looks like the earthquake happened two months ago, not two years. Over half a million people remain homeless in hundreds of informal camps, most of the tons of debris from destroyed buildings still lays where it fell, and cholera, a preventable disease, was introduced into the country and is now an epidemic killing thousands and sickening hundreds of thousands more.

It turns out that almost none of the money that the general public thought was going to Haiti actually went directly to Haiti.  The international community chose to bypass the Haitian people, Haitian non-governmental organizations and the government of Haiti.  Funds were instead diverted to other governments, international NGOs, and private companies.

Despite this near total lack of control of the money by Haitians, if history is an indication, it is quite likely that the failures will ultimately be blamed on the Haitians themselves in a “blame the victim” reaction.

Haitians ask the same question as many around the world “Where did the money go?”

Here are seven places where the earthquake money did and did not go.

One.  The largest single recipient of US earthquake money was the US government.  The same holds true for donations by other countries.  

Right after the earthquake, the US allocated $379 million in aid and sent in 5000 troops. The Associated Press discovered that of the $379 million in initial US money promised for Haiti, most was not really money going directly, or in some cases even indirectly, to Haiti.  They documented in January 2010 that thirty three cents of each of these US dollars for Haiti was actually given directly back to the US to reimburse ourselves for sending in our military.  Forty two cents of each dollar went to private and public non-governmental organizations like Save the Children, the UN World Food Program and the Pan American Health Organization.  Hardly any went directly to Haitians or their government.

The overall $1.6 billion allocated for relief by the US was spent much the same way according to an August 2010 report by the US Congressional Research Office: $655 million was reimbursed to the Department of Defense; $220 million to Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to individual US states to cover services for Haitian evacuees; $350 million to USAID disaster assistance; $150 million to the US Department of Agriculture for emergency food assistance; $15 million to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration fees, and so on.

International assistance followed the same pattern.  The UN Special Envoy for Haiti reported that of the $2.4 billion in humanitarian funding, 34 percent was provided back to the donor’s own civil and military entities for disaster response, 28 percent was given to UN agencies and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) for specific UN projects, 26 percent was given to private contractors and other NGOs, 6 percent was provided as in-kind services to recipients, 5 percent to the international and national Red Cross societies, 1 percent was provided to the government of Haiti, four tenths of one percent of the funds went to Haitian NGOs.

Two.  Only 1 percent of the money went to the Haitian government.   

Less than a penny of each dollar of US aid went to the government of Haiti, according to the Associated Press.   The same is true with other international donors.  The Haitian government was completely bypassed in the relief effort by the US and the international community. […]

READ @ http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/03/haiti-after-the-quake/

———————————————————————–

* BofA INITIATES NEW LOAN SHARKING PROGRAM – EXCUSE ME, RATE HIKES – FOR SMALL BUSINESS

By Susie Madrak, Crooks and Liars

Remember when we floated banks all that money so they could lend to small businesses, and instead they used it to pay bonuses and shore up their profits? Ah, good times! Now Bank of America has decided to jack up small business owners by boosting their interest rates to payday-loan-type levels in order to build their “core” business:

Bank of America Corp., under pressure to raise capital and cut risks, is severing lines of credit to some small-business owners who have used them to stay afloat.

The Charlotte, N.C., bank is demanding that these customers pay off their credit line balances all at once instead of making monthly payments. If they can’t pay in full, they are being offered new repayment plans for as long as five years, but with far higher interest rates than their original credit lines had.

Business owners complain that BofA’s credit squeeze is abrupt and could strain their small companies and even put them out of business. The credit cutoff is coming at a time when the California economy can’t seem to catch a break, and bucks what the financial industry says is a new trend of easing standards on business loans.

One such customer, Babak Zahabizadeh, was told in a letter that the $96,000 debt carried by his Burbank messenger service must be repaid Jan. 25. A loan officer offered multiple alternatives over the phone that Zahabizadeh called unaffordable, including paying off the debt at 12% interest over two years. That’s about $4,500 a month, nearly 10 times his current interest-only payment.

Zahabizadeh, known as Bobby Zahabi to his customers, said he has cut the staff of his Messengers & Distribution Inc. to 80 from 200 to nurse his business through tough times.

“I was like, ‘Dude, you’re calling a guy who’s barely surviving!’ ” he said. “My final word was that I can double my payment — but not triple or quadruple it. I told them if they apply too much pressure they’re going to push me into bankruptcy.”

The capped credit lines stem from a corporate overhaul launched by Brian Moynihan, who became Bank of America’s chief executive in 2010. He promised to address losses caused by loose lending and rapid expansion by reining in risks and shedding investments deemed non-core.

BofA spokesman Jefferson George said a “very small percentage” of small-business customers have been affected by the changes. He would not provide exact numbers except to say it wasn’t in the hundreds of thousands. Some of the affected businesses had been customers of other banks that Bank of America acquired, but most were BofA customers from the start, George said.

“These changes were explained in letters to customers, and they were necessary for Bank of America to continue prudent lending to viable businesses across the U.S.,” he said.

READ @ http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/bank-america-initiated-new-loan-shark

Dec 232011
 

 

* ONE YEAR AFTER FBI SUBPOENA, CIVIL LIBERTIES PROTECTIONS IN US FRIGHTENINGLY ERODED EVEN FURTHER

By maureen, Electronic Intifada

A year ago yesterday, I got the dreaded house call from the FBI. I was at home working when two agents rang my buzzer and asked to speak with me.

I had been expecting such a visit; on 24 September 2010 the FBI raided the homes of prominent anti-war and international solidarity organizers I have worked with over the years in Chicago, as well as the homes of activists in the Twin Cities and the office of the Anti War Committee there. In the weeks that followed, more Palestine solidarity organizers and Palestinian Americans in Chicago were delivered subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago as part of an investigation into violations of the laws banning material support for foreign terrorist organizations.

I declined to speak with the two agents who visited me; they then gave me a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury on 25 January 2011. I spent last Christmas and New Year convinced that I would soon be in federal prison for civil contempt of court. Even though it meant we risked being jailed, all 23 of us who have been subpoenaed as part of this grand jury fishing expedition have refused to testify. We have asserted that our first amendment rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, protecting free speech and freedom of association, are being trampled on.

A first amendment issue

The grand jury — essentially a secret court in which you’re not allowed to have a lawyer, and there is not even a judge presiding over the proceedings — has been long abused as a tool of inquisition into domestic political movements. Indeed, no specific crime has been identified related to our case.

The FBI’s operations manual for the September raids, discovered last April to have been accidentally left amongst a raided activist’s files, make it clear that they wanted to question activists about associational information — who activists know and work with in the US, Colombia and Palestine, and how activists organize and what they believe. They wanted people to name everyone they know who has ever traveled to the Middle East or South America.

It is also obvious the FBI put up the LA County Sheriff to raid the home of veteran Chicano liberation activist Carlos Montes last May; he faces trumped-up technical firearms violation charges and serious prison time. The FBI was on hand during the raid to question Montes about his political associations (an organizer of the 2008 Republican National Convention protests, he was named in the search warrant used to raid the Anti War Committee office) and took material from his home related to his long history of political organizing. They even took a kuffiyeh — the traditional checkered Palestinian scarf — only one example of many demonstrating how federal agents so arbitrarily confiscated property from activists’ homes.

And while the threat of indictments looms, I am not spending Christmas and new year’s in federal prison for civil contempt of court. This is, I believe, thanks to the vocal protest that countless people around the US and around the world have made in support of the 24 of us and in support of civil liberties. This is a huge victory. But at the same time, civil liberties and constitutional protections have further eroded even in the last year. More protest must be shown before the situation gets even worse. […]

READ @ http://electronicintifada.net/blog/maureen/one-year-after-fbi-subpoena-civil-liberties-protections-us-frighteningly-eroded-even

———————————————————————–

* IT’S TIME TO FREE BRADLEY MANNING

By The Young Turks

http://current.com/shows/the-young-turks/videos/its-time-to-free-bradley-manning

Nineteen months after U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was first arrested, the first pre-trial hearings have finally begun. Manning faces 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy” and the unauthorized release of half a million reports and cables — even though, according to the American government, no one has been proved hurt by Wikileaks publishing the cables, and none were classified as top secret. “He did our soldiers a world of good,” Cenk says. “Time served is plenty enough time. Scooter Libby served no time and he betrayed a CIA agent. That caused real harm. Dick Cheney — no time. Karl Rove — no time. It’s time to free Bradley Manning.”

READ AND VIDEO @ http://mydd.com/users/theyoungturks/posts/its-time-to-free-bradley-manning

———————————————————————–

* 99% PLAN NEW TAX WAR ON SUPER RICH IN 2012

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

[…] War rises from a black hole in the souls of our enraged youth

Listen to Kalle and White describing the energy driving OWS movement. It comes from deep within the collective soul of a new generation of young Americans who have been disenfranchised by clueless politicians who are trapped deep inside a corrupt two-party political system no longer capable of changing. And our youth are enraged. Listen:

“This primal cry for democracy sprang from young people who could no longer ignore the angst in their gut — the premonition that their future does not compute, that their entire lives will be lived in the apocalyptic shadow of climate-change tipping points, species die-offs, a deadening commercialized culture, a political system perverted by money, precarious employment, a struggle to pay off crippling student loans, and no chance of ever owning a home or living in comfort like their parents. Glimpsing this black hole of ecological, political, financial and spiritual crisis, the youth and the millions of Americans who joined them instinctively knew that unless they stood up and fought nonviolently for a different kind of future, they would have no future at all.”

Yes, America’s youth are the voice of the 99%, Americans inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions. American youth are fueling “the greatest social-justice movement to emerge in the United States since the civil rights era.”

But never lose sight of the real war here. Yes, there’s a war between the richest 1% of Americans who have seen their income grow 265% the past generation while the incomes of the other 99% have stagnated or fallen. Yes, the wealth gap is bigger now than it was in 1929 just before the market crashed.

Super Rich vs. America’s future

But to truly understand how this class war is predicting what lies ahead, know that class war is not just between the Super Rich and the 99%. It is more a generational war between America’s youth and a wealthy entrenched establishment. The young helped elect the president. Expected “change we can believe in.” Unfortunately it got worse, and they’re mad as hell.

Investors especially better watch out: This pent-up energy in America’s youth is building to a critical mass (as happened in Europe and the Arab world, and now in China and Russia), and it will explode across the economic and political landscape in 2012.

In the final analysis, however, you sense that in spite of their accelerating rage against the establishment, America’s youth, our next great generation, also had a sudden epiphany and learned a crucial lesson. Oh yes. Because their enemies didn’t just give them a great gift, but also inadvertently trained them in using a more aggressive special-ops, guerilla, quick-strike strategy. Listen and you’ll see what they learned in one night raid against them:

“Why can’t the American power elite engage with the nation’s young? Instead, they stayed aloof, ignored us and wished us away,” then “attacked us in Zuccotti Park in the dead of the night. Bloomberg’s raid was carried out with military precision. The surprise attack began at 1 a.m. with a media blackout. The encampment was surrounded by riot police, credentialed mainstream journalists who tried to enter were pushed back or arrested, and the airspace was closed to news helicopters. What happened next was a blur of tear gas; a bulldozer; confiscation or destruction of everything in the park, including 5,000 books; upward of 150 arrests; and the deployment of a Long Range Acoustic Device, the infamous ‘sound cannon’ best known for its military use in Iraq. … This kind of military mind-set and violent response to nonviolent protesters makes no sense. It did not work in the Middle East, and it’s not going to work in America either. This is the bottom line: You cannot attack your young and get away with it.”

Repeat that “bottom line: You cannot attack your young and get away with it” And yet, that’s exactly what Wall Street, America’s Super Rich, their lobbyists, and all their bought politicians are doing: “Attacking our young.” Attacking our next generation. Attacking America’s future.

Our leaders are ideologically blind to the need to invest and invest big in jobs before this accelerating rage reaches a critical mass and ignites, triggering another American Revolution and the Second Great Depression.

READ @ http://www.marketwatch.com/Story/story/print?guid=901AE114-2A5C-11E1-B371-002128040CF6

———————————————————————–

* UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD, TOOTHLESS WATCHDOGS

By Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture 

“Why there hasn’t been more robust prosecution is a mystery.

-Raymond Brescia, visiting professor, Yale Law School

Reuters has an outrageous article detailing the absurdity of the lack of prosecution of financial crimes in modern America. It is a shocking to watch the United States, a nation that once followed the Rule of Law, slip into a banana republic.

“Four years after the banking system nearly collapsed from reckless mortgage lending, federal prosecutors have stayed on the sidelines, even as judges around the country are pointing fingers at possible wrongdoing.

The federal government, as has been widely noted, has pressed few criminal cases against major lenders or senior executives for the events that led to the meltdown of 2007. Finding hard evidence has proved difficult, the Justice Department has said.

The government also hasn’t brought any prosecutions for dubious foreclosure practices deployed since 2007 by big banks and other mortgage-servicing companies.

But this part of the financial system, a Reuters examination shows, is filled with potential leads.

Foreclosure-related case files in just one New York federal bankruptcy court, for example, hold at least a dozen mortgage documents known as promissory notes bearing evidence of recently forged signatures and illegal alterations, according to a judge’s rulings and records reviewed by Reuters. Similarly altered notes have appeared in courts around the country.

And it gets much worse.

• Despite laws against it, banks have foreclosed on active-duty U.S. soldiers who are legally eligible to have foreclosures halted. Attorneys representing service members estimate banks have foreclosed on up to 30,000 ACTIVE military personnel, mostly while they were in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• There has been — literally — “tens of thousands of fraudulent documents filed in tens of thousands of cases.” Sworn affidavits have been filed containing false information. This is easily prosecuted perjury.

• The size and scope of the fraud on the U.S. court system is unprecedented in U.S. history

• NY State court judge Arthur Schack, ruled in 2010 that pleadings by the Baum Law — who handle 40% of NY foreclosures — were “so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authorized by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.“  There has been no fraud prosecution to date.

• Banks have routinely filed falsified mortgage promissory notes — in some cases, six different documents have been filed, all claimed to be the original. At the least 5 must be forgeries — an easy felony to prosecute.

Read the entire article if you want to be outraged and send your blood pressure skyrocketing. […]

READ @ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/unprecedented-fraud-toothless-watchdogs/

———————————————————————–

* REP. JOHN YARMUTH: “MONEY IS SPEECH” WAS TRAGIC FOR THIS COUNTRY

By msnbc

[…] Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) has proposed a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United along with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).  His proposed amendment declares that spending on elections does not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment.  It would also give Congress the authority to create a public financing system as the sole source of funding for federal elections and designates a national holiday for the purpose of voting.

“Corporate money equals influence, not free speech,” Rep. Yarmuth said on The Dylan Ratigan Show. “The last thing Congress needs is more corporate candidates who don’t answer to the American people. Until we get big money out of politics, we will never be able to responsibly address the major issues facing American families – and that starts by ensuring our elections and elected officials cannot be bought by the well-off and well-connected.”

[…]

Yarmuth said that this is at the heart of the Citizens United decision:

It doesn’t really matter whether corporations are considered people or not if you consider campaign expenditures as free speech. Because then it doesn’t matter who has access to that right. When you deal with just the corporate side of it, you’re still allowing people like the Koch brothers on the right, or even George Soros on the left, to spend millions and millions of dollars in an anonymous way to influence the system. So you need to get at the core of it and “say money spent on elections is not speech.” Therefore the Congress can regulate how much you can spend, if you can spend anything, and who can spend it. If you don’t get at that fundamental question, Congress really can’t regulate.

The second part of his amendment states that “Congress shall have the power to enact a mandatory public financing system to provide funds to qualified candidates in elections for Federal office, which shall be the sole source of funds raised or spent with respect to Federal elections.”

But why not just mandating that Congress must do this?  As Rep. Yarmuth explained, “we would have liked to have done it that way. most of the advice that we got that it would be — that you really can’t tell the Congress to enact a certain policy.”

Section three states “Congress shall set forth a legal public holiday for the purposes of voting in regularly scheduled general elections for Federal office.”  Rep. Yarmuth explained, “we need to have a national commitment to voting and to get out the vote, to make it easier for people to do it. The idea that people have to negotiate work and child care and all of these other logistical things to cast a vote for the most important thing they’ll do as a citizen is nonsense. ”

Rep. Yarmuth said that the Founding Fathers never could have anticipated the millions that would be spent in elections.  ”They wanted the right of the individual to go to the town square and say whatever he or she wanted to say. Everybody still has that right. This whole idea of money is speech is something that be fabricated by those who want to buy influence on the system. And people like my senator, Mitch McConnell, have been pounding this home for 25 years now, and he finally got it institutionalized in a Supreme Court decision. It was very, very tragic for the country,” said Rep. Yarmuth. […]

READ AND VIDEO @ http://www.dylanratigan.com/2011/12/21/rep-john-yarmuth-money-is-speech-was-tragic-for-this-country/

———————————————————————–

* PRIVATIZING MONEY

By Alan Grayson, Daily Kos

Yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it will hand out $645,000,000,000 in three-year loans to European banks. Which the ECB printed out of thin air, like Monopoly money! The interest rate will be one percent per year.

The ECB will not be lending this money to the Government of Greece, even though that government is running a budget deficit of just under 10% of GDP – and the Greek GDP dropped by 5% this year.  The Government of Greece is now paying 37% per year on its ten-year bonds, when it can borrow anything at all.

The ECB will not be lending this money to the people of Spain, even though official unemployment in Spain is now at 23%.  Spain’s Economy Minister said recently that “Spain faces its deepest recession in half a century.”  Tough luck; their Christmas tree has nothing under it.

And when the European banks get this $645 billion, to whom will the banks be lending?  Anybody, or nobody.  No strings attached.  They can borrow from the ECB at 1%, lend it back to the German Government at 2%, lock in that profit, and take the next three years off.

I just have one question.

Why?

The world continues to face the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Unemployment throughout Europe is over ten percent.  Entire national governments are on the verge of going broke.  Why would anyone think that THE THING THAT WE HAVE TO DO RIGHT NOW is to hand out $645 billion in more funny money to the banks?  In Europe or anywhere else?

The ECB is a public institution.  How can it possibly justify yet another bailout for selfish private interests, while the public is sent straight to hell?

If a Martian were to land in Paris today, and just read the headlines of the newspapers today, he could reach only one conclusion.  That there has been a coup in Europe, the banks are now in charge, and they’re grabbing everything that they can get their hands on.

Mark my words:  at some point, people are just not going to take it anymore.

Courage,

Alan Grayson

READ @ http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/22/1048077/-Privatizing-Money?via=siderec

———————————————————————–

* IN PORTUGAL, ALL-OUT PRIVATIZATION GETS UNDERWAY

 By Mario Querioz, Common Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

A demonstrator holds a banner reading “Do not steal the future” in front of the Finance Ministry during a protest against the government’s austerity measures in Lisbon December 15, 2011. Besides selling off the state’s remaining shares in EDP, a company that brings in major profits, the government must privatise the highly lucrative national airport authority – Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA) – and is to complete the sale of Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) – the national airline – by the end of 2012. (REUTERS/Rafael Marchante)

The most far-reaching programme of privatisation of state enterprises in the history of Portugal kicked off Thursday with the sale of almost all of the state’s shares in the Energias de Portugal (EDP) utility to China’s Three Gorges Corp.

The Chinese company paid 3.5 billion dollars for a 21 percent stake, beating out Germany’s E.ON and Brazil’s Eletrobras and Cemeg, and making it the largest shareholder. The state was left with less than four percent of the shares in the power company.

Three Gorges’ victory in the bidding for EDP will open Portugal’s doors to Chinese financial institutions, making more credit available in Portugal, as the giant Chinese corporation promised Lisbon.

The privatisation of public enterprises is one of the conditions Portugal agreed to under the 110 billion dollar bailout agreed in May.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has thus begun to sell off state assets under the austerity programme agreed with the “troika” of international creditors: the EU, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Besides the massive privatisation plan, the bailout package signed by the government of then socialist prime minister José Socrates and the right, which took power a month later, was conditional on austerity measures like a more flexible labour market making it cheaper and easier to fire workers, major spending cuts, a freeze on wages and pensions, tax hikes, cuts in unemployment benefits and income tax benefits and deductions, and an increase in the value-added tax.

Besides selling off the state’s remaining shares in EDP, a company that brings in major profits, the government must privatise the highly lucrative national airport authority – Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA) – and is to complete the sale of Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) – the national airline – by the end of 2012. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/12/23-0

———————————————————————–

* “NUCLEAR CAN BE SAFE OR IT CAN BE CHEAP … BUT IT CAN’T BE BOTH”

By Washington’s Blog

Nuclear Power Is Unsafe Because the Operators are Pinching Pennies and Cutting Corners

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen was said in a recent interview that nuclear power can be made safe, but not at a competitive price:

[Interviewer] With air transport, it’s incredibly safe. Could nuclear power ever reach that level of safety?

[Gundersen] I have a friend who says that nuclear can be safe or it can be cheap, but it can’t be both.

***

It boils down to money. If you want to make nuclear safe, it gets to the point where it’s so costly you don’t want to build the power plant anyway … especially now with plummeting renewable costs.

So can you make a nuclear reactor safe? Yes. Can it also at the same time compete with renewables, which are, of course, higher [priced] than natural gas? And the answer is no.

Wall Street is demanding federal loan guarantees for this and of course we already subsidized Price-Anderson insurance. So Wall Street won’t spend the money to build it, and won’t insure it.

Gundersen is right.

As I noted in April:

Apologists for the nuclear power industry pretend there are no better alternatives, so we just have to suck it up and suffer through the Japanese nuclear crisis.

But this is wholly illogical. The truth is that we can store spent fuel rods in dry cask storage, which is much safer than the spent fuel rod pools used in Fukushima and many American reactors.

As the Nation pointed out:

Short of closing plants, there is a fairly reliable solution to the problem of spent fuel rods. It is called “dry cask storage.”

***

But there is a problem with dry cask storage: it costs money….

We could build a new, safer generation of nuclear power plants which have inherently safer designs, such as low-temperature reactors and thorium reactors.

But the owners of the nuclear plants can make more money with the ridiculous designs and cost-cutting measures used at Fukushima and elsewhere.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes:

*** Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev, who as director of the Soviet Spetsatom clean-up agency helped in the efforts 25 years ago to clean up Chernobyl … said the sequence of events at Japan’s Fukushima I suggested that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), may have put profit before safety. The fire that broke out Tuesday in reactor No. 4s fuel storage pond may have been caused by a desire to conserve space and money, he suggested.

“The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin,” Andreev told Reuters….

And this is not limited to Tepco. 

***

The nuclear accident was largely caused because of Tepco’s penny-pinching, just as the Gulf oil spill was caused by the fact that BP cut every corner in the book ( see this, this, this, this, and this). […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/nuclear-can-be-safe-or-it-can-be-cheap-but-it-cant-be-both.html

———————————————————————–

* IRAN AND SYRIA IN IMPERIAL CROSSHAIRS

By Iftekhar A. Khan, Information Clearing House

[…] While the western powers are proceeding against Syria overtly, they’re moving against Iran covertly. Unfortunately, the 22-member Arab League is playing a leading role in the hostilities orchestrated by the West against the two Muslim states. When the Saudi King said Assad’s removal was in Saudi Arabia’s interest, the Arab League quickly revoked Syria’s membership and asked Assad to step down. How can the Arab League, consisting of repressive monarchies and dynastic emirates, pronounce one of its member countries in the region tyrannical? SNC and Free Syrian Army are set up under Turkey tutelage. Henceforth Turkey will likely play a dominant role of a proxy in the imperial plan of regime-change in Syria. Turkey has a bit of identity problem. It has always aspired to be recognised as a modern westernised state part of Europe but the Europeans have been reluctant to accept it.

Saudi Arabia not only wants an end to Assad’s rule in Syria, it equally detests President Ahmadinjad’s government in Iran. The imperial powers are successfully using the sectarian card by playing upon religious prejudices of one sect against the other. If Saudi Arabia didn’t consider Iran its archrival, why would it buy 60 billion dollars worth of US military hardware? To add to the suspicion between the two, a treacherous plot to kill Saudi Ambassador in the US was hatched in which an Iranian citizen, a used car dealer, was to hire Mexican hit men to assassinate the Saudi envoy in Washington. The plot was so incredulous that not even the American public, which is generally considered gullible, bought it.

However, it’s confounding why the Muslim rulers allow the West to use them against their own kin. Is there any precedent of Christian nations aggressing against each other at present? None. Why does Saudi Arabia want to isolate Iran and bring down President Ahmedinejad’s government, while undercurrents of public discontent run deep in the kingdom itself? If the CIA has so far failed to instigate an uprising in Iran, despite having poured in millions, why should Saudi Arabia abet in the same against a brother Muslim country is for the House of Saud to answer.

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30053.htm

———————————————————————–

* ONE NATION UNDER THE DRONE: THE RISING NUMBER OF UAVs IN AMERICAN SKIES

By Jillian Rayfield, TPMMuckraker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A secret air show in Houston. An unmanned blimp in Utah. A sovereign citizen arrested in North Dakota.

Each of these is just one small part of the bigger story of the proliferation of unmanned aircraft use within the U.S., and each is likely to become smaller still if the FAA goes through with plans to loosen regulations governing domestic use of drones.

News reports about Predator attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are common if not always complete, but what’s gotten much less attention is the increase in unarmed drones that are buzzing around within the U.S. itself. Primarily, unarmed Predator B drones are only used by government agents to patrol the borders for illegal immigrants, but there are a (very large) handful of other agencies and companies that use smaller, unarmed drones for a slew of other purposes. And that number is only expected to grow.

The FAA says that as of September 13, 2011, there were 285 active Certificates of Authorization (COA) for 85 different users, covering 82 different unmanned unarmed aircraft types.

Though the exact breakdown of the organizations who have authorization is unclear — and the FAA would not elaborate for “privacy” and “security” reasons — in January the Washington Post reported that as of December 1, 2010, 35% of the permissions were held by the Department of Defense, 11% by NASA, and 5% by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI and law enforcement agencies also hold some, as do manufacturers and even academic institutions.

Between pressure from trade groups (like the drone manufacturers group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), proposed legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to expand the number of drone testing sites in the U.S., and petitioning from states like Oklahoma for an approved 80-mile air corridor reserved exclusively for drone development and testing, there is great potential for drone use to expand within the U.S. in the next few years.

Les Dorr, a spokesman for the FAA, says that there are currently two types of authorizations — one for public operations, as in state and local governments, and one for private entities. In each case, the application process involves telling the FAA what type and where and when aircraft will be flown, so the agency can determine if it can ensure the safety of other aircraft. Dorr said that next month the FAA hopes to propose new, looser rules for use of small unarmed Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) because “that’s where the demand is.”

He told TPM that they’re hoping to publish the new regulations in January, which will be followed by a comment period for industry and other interested parties. That usually lasts 60 days, at which point the FAA will take the comments into consideration when drafting the final language of the rule.

So who would use these small drones?

Kevin Lauscher, a Grant Assistance Specialist for the Canada-based manufacturers of the Draganfly drones, couldn’t say how many they’ve sold in the U.S. so far. But he said that aside from law enforcement agencies, they’ve sold drones to companies in real estate, manufacturing, academic institutions and even resorts. He described how some construction companies use drones for safety reasons, in place of a person on top of a crane or scaffolding.

But, the FAA said in a press release in October, though “interest is growing in civil (non-government) uses” for drones, “one of the most promising potential uses for sUAS is in law enforcement.”

“The FAA is working with urban police departments in major metropolitan areas and national public safety organizations on test programs involving unmanned aircraft,” the release says, also noting that members of law enforcement agencies participated in the committee that is drafting the new sUAS rule.

So far, there is a handful of law enforcement agencies that already have authorization to use drones, like sheriff’s departments in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland and Lane County, Oregon and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Police in Arlington, Texas have a drone they acquired to help with security during the February, 2011 Superbowl. The Mayor of Ogden, Utah is working to get an “unmanned blimp” that would fly over the city and serve as “a deterrent to crime.”

But there are some cases that are particularly concerning for civil liberties advocates. In North Dakota, a family of “sovereign citizens” was arrested with the help of a Predator B drone, borrowed from border patrol agents by the local sheriff in an effort to avoid a standoff over missing cows. In the first reported case of a drone being used to aid in the arrest of a U.S. citizen, the drone was able to detect when the family was carrying weapons so officials could move in without fear of a firefight.

There’s also the Houston Police Department, which scrapped a plan to bring on a drone shortly after KPRC-TV filmed local officials participating in a secret air show for drones, about 70 miles outside of the city. The police chief mentioned in a press conference that the drones could be used for issuing traffic tickets, and the backlash was such that the Mayor put the kibosh on the program. But, according to KPRC-TV, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office near Houston still used $300,000 in federal grant money from the DHS to buy a ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter. […]

READ @ http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/12/one_nation_under_the_drone.php?ref=fpa

———————————————————————–

* CZECHS BID FAREWELL TO VACLAV HAVEL

By Karel Janicek, Independent UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Czechs and world leaders paid emotional tribute to Vaclav Havel today at a pomp-filled funeral ceremony, ending a week of public grief and nostalgia over the death of the dissident playwright who led the 1989 revolution that toppled four decades of communist rule.

Bells tolled from churches while a wailing siren brought the country to a standstill in a minute of silence for the nation’s first democratically-elected president after the nonviolent “Velvet Revolution.”

Havel’s wife Dagmar, family members, friends and leaders from dozens of countries gathered Friday at the towering, gothic St. Vitus Cathedral which overlooks Prague. Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and  were among some 1,000 mourners who bowed their heads in front of the coffin draped in the Czech colours.

In a message read at the funeral by the Vatican’s former diplomatic representative in Prague, Pope Benedict XVI praised Havel. “Remembering how courageously Mr Havel defended human rights at a time when these were systematically denied to the people of your country, and paying tribute to his visionary leadership in forging a new democratic polity after the fall of the previous regime, I give thanks to God for the freedom that the people of the Czech Republic now enjoy,” he said.

At the end of the ceremony, Havel’s coffin was to be carried through the cathedral’s Golden Gate to Prague’s Strasnice crematorium for a private family funeral. The urn with Havel’s ashes will be buried at his family’s plot at the city’s Vinohrady cemetery alongside his first wife, Olga, who died in 1996.

Havel, whose final term in office ended in 2003, died Sunday morning in his sleep at his weekend home in the country’s north. The 75-year-old former chain-smoker had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his time in prison.

Since his death, Czechs have gathered spontaneously to lay flowers and light candles at key historic sites such as the monument to the 1989 Velvet Revolution in downtown Prague, and at Wenceslas Square, where Havel once spoke before hundreds of thousands of people to express outrage at the repressive communist regime.

Similar scenes of remembrance played out across the country — in a show of emotion not seen since the 1937 funeral of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s first president after the nation was founded in 1918.

“Europe owes Vaclav Havel a profound debt,” Cameron said before departing from London. “Havel led the Czech people out of tyranny … and he helped bring freedom and democracy to our entire continent.”

Czechs packed a nearby courtyard at Prague Castle and an adjacent square to watch the funeral ceremony on giant screens.

“He was our star, he gave us democracy,” said Iva Buckova, 51, who had travelled from the western city of Plzen. “He led us through revolution. We came to see him for the last time.”  […]

READ @ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/a/europe/czechs-bid-farewell-to-vaclav-havel-6280952.html

———————————————————————–

* HAVEL’S MORAL AUTHORITY “IS A THING OF THE PAST”

By Renat Kuenzi, swissinfo.ch

Former Czech dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel, whose funeral takes place on Friday, was held in high regard around the world for his courage and moral strength.

Author Helena Kanyar-Becker, who came to Switzerland in 1969 after the repression of the Prague Spring, is among those who admired Havel. But she says his moral authority had begun to diminish during his years as president.

Havel, who played a key role in the democracy movement in communist Czechoslovakia, was elected president at the end of 1989, following the Velvet Revolution. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia, he served as president of the Czech Republic until 2003.

Havel died on December 18 at the age of 75.

swissinfo.ch: You met Vaclav Havel when you were a young student in Prague. What impression did he make on you?

Helena Kanyar-Becker: In the 1960s I regularly visited the Theatre on the Balustrade [in Prague], which was a mecca for us young students. I saw all Vaclav Havel’s plays there. Including “The Garden Party”, an absurd play about functionaries that had a huge impact. I don’t remember how many times I saw it.

swissinfo.ch: Describe the atmosphere at these productions.

H.K-B.: It was a very intimate atmosphere. Just getting hold of a ticket required creativity. The foyer was always full of young people smoking, and Havel stood on the stairs, also smoking, and waved to us. His wife Olga, a beautiful, slim woman, was in charge of the cloakroom. She also smoked constantly.

The theatre, which had about 250 seats was always packed, and there was a real understanding between the actors and the public. We laughed a lot.

“The Garden Party” wasn’t just absurd and full of humour, it was also philosophical. Hugo, the conforming ‘hero’, delivers the line: ‘Conformity is the healthy philosophy of the middle classes, without which there is no future.’ Havel was taking a swipe at people who conform. It was exactly what we wanted to hear and see.

swissinfo.ch: After the performances, did you go to a restaurant to discuss the pieces with Havel?

H.K-B.: No, there was a kind of divide between Havel and us. We only ever saw him smiling and smoking. We didn’t dare address him; we were too young. He was a kind of saint to us, who we really admired… [...]

READ @ http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/culture/Havel_s_moral_authority_is_a_thing_of_the_past.html?cid=31817664