624: The Sluggish Cloud

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 56m
June 8th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Don Tomaso Di Toronto, Sir David Foley Grand Duke of the United States, Chris Eve

Associate Executive Producers: LaPan, Ed LeBouthillier, Sir Todd Symmons

Cover Artist: Sir Nussbaum

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Internet spooked as CIA joins Twitter, Facebook - The Margin - MarketWatch
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 22:27
Surprise! The CIA is on Twitter and Facebook.
Wait, you mean the intelligence agency hasn't already been on either? The CIA itself is having a little fun with its first tweet Friday, in apparent anticipation of a little skepticism from the Twitterverse.
Here's how the agency's director explained the decision to join both social networks in a press release:
''By expanding to these platforms, CIA will be able to more directly engage with the public and provide information on CIA's mission, history, and other developments,'' said CIA Director John Brennan. ''We have important insights to share, and we want to make sure that unclassified information about the Agency is more accessible to the American public that we serve, consistent with our national security mission.''
And here's some near-instant reaction. Some people are spooked; others merely amused.
You've got to give the CIA credit for creativity. Here's the FBI's first tweet, from back in 2008.
And the ATF's was as straightforward as they come.
The CIA has tweeted exactly once and had nearly 58,000 followers less than an hour after its first tweet was sent.
'' Robert Schroeder
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US seeks redactions in drone strike memo ruling
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 15:26
NEW YORK (AP) '-- The U.S. government, citing possible "exceptionally grave harm to national security," told a federal appeals court it wants to give the public less information about its legal justification for using drones to kill Americans suspected of terrorism overseas.
The Justice Department, Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency made the request in papers submitted late Thursday to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
The document outlining the justification was sought through a Freedom of Information request by The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union. In April, a three-judge panel of the court ordered the memo released.
Lawyers for the government said they were not appealing the order but instead were demanding additional redactions to protect national security and to prevent damage to the government's ability to engage in confidential deliberations and to seek confidential legal advice.
It asked that the full 2nd Circuit consider the request if the three-judge panel turned it down. It also suggested that the request be sent to the lower court for further review of specific changes the government was requesting.
Lawyers for the Times and ACLU said Friday that the government's continued delays regarding the document are cheating the public of a fully informed and fair debate over the highly classified "targeted-killing" program.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the government's request was inconsistent with the message that President Barack Obama's administration was sending to the Senate and the public when it indicated several weeks ago that it would release the document rather than appeal the ruling.
Without the document, "the public debate is distorted and the public is over-reliant on government's sometimes self-serving characterizations of its policies and their legality," he said.
David E. McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Co., said in an email: "The government raised all these points before and lost. After two and a half years of litigation, it's time for the delays to stop so the American people can fully participate in the debate on this important issue."
The FOIA request was made after two drone strikes killed three U.S. citizens. One, in September 2011 in Yemen, killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who had been born in the United States, and Samir Khan. The other, in October 2011, killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki's teenage son.
Some legal scholars and human rights activists complained that it was illegal for the U.S. to kill American citizens away from the battlefield without a trial.
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Follow Larry Neumeister at http://twitter.com/Lneumeister
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Presidential Proclamation --D-Day National Remembrance Day, 2014
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 04:31
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 05, 2014
D-DAY NATIONAL REMEMBRANCE DAY, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
On June 6, 1944, before dawn broke across the beaches of Normandy, scores of allied service members prepared to fight a battle that would decide the fate of freedom in the 20th century. The odds weighed against them. That year, the Nazis had fortified the Atlantic Wall against a seaborne invasion, lined the coast with mines, and planted sharpened poles to await allied paratroopers. On D-Day, American, British, and Canadian forces advanced through thickets of barbed wire and scaled heavily protected cliffs. They braved gales of bullets and artillery fire, taking heavy losses as they cut through Nazi defenses. Thousands gave their last full measure of devotion, and by the end of the day, the ground on which they died was free once more.
Victory on D-Day dealt a significant blow to an ideology fueled by hatred. It allowed America and our allies to secure a foothold in France, open a path to Berlin, and liberate a continent from the grip of tyranny. It made possible the achievements that followed the end of World War II -- the Marshall Plan, the NATO alliance, and the shared prosperity and security that flowed from each.
Seventy years later, we pay tribute to the service members who secured a beachhead on an unforgiving shore -- the patriots who, through their courage and sacrifice, changed the course of an entire century. Today, as we carry on the struggle for liberty and universal human rights, let us draw strength from a moment when free nations beat back the forces of oppression and gave new hope to the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 6, 2014, as D-Day National Remembrance Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor those who fought and died so men and women they had never met might know what it is to be free.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
BARACK OBAMA
Presidential Proclamation --Flag Day and National Flag Week, 2014
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:54
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 06, 2014
FLAG DAY AND NATIONAL FLAG WEEK, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
Over farmlands and town squares, atop skyscrapers and capitol buildings, the American flag soars. It reminds us of our history -- 13 colonies that rose up against an empire -- and celebrates the spirit of 50 proud States that form our Union today. On Flag Day and during National Flag Week, we pay tribute to the banner that weaves us together and waves above us all.
For more than two centuries, Americans have saluted Old Glory in times of trial and triumph. Generations have looked to it as they steeled their resolve, and an unbroken chain of men and women in uniform has served under our flag. From the banks of Baltimore's Inner Harbor to European trenches and Pacific islands, from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, they have risked their lives so we might live ours. When we lay our veterans to rest, many go draped with the stars and stripes upon them, and their families find solace in the folds of honor held tightly to their chest. Because of their sacrifice, our Nation is stronger, safer, and will always remain a shining beacon of freedom for the rest of the world.
With a familiar design that has evolved along with a growing Nation, our flag stitches the ideals for which America was born to the reality of our times. It reminds us that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges. As we prepare to meet the great tests of our age, let every American draw inspiration from this symbol of our past, our present, and our common dreams.
To commemorate the adoption of our flag, the Congress, by joint resolution approved August 3, 1949, as amended (63 Stat. 492), designated June 14 of each year as "Flag Day" and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation calling for its observance and for the display of the flag of the United States on all Federal Government buildings. The Congress also requested, by joint resolution approved June 9, 1966, as amended (80 Stat. 194), that the President annually issue a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as "National Flag Week" and call upon citizens of the United States to display the flag during that week.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 14, 2014, as Flag Day and the week beginning June 8, 2014, as National Flag Week. I direct the appropriate officials to display the flag on all Federal Government buildings during that week, and I urge all Americans to observe Flag Day and National Flag Week by displaying the flag. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day through Independence Day, also set aside by the Congress (89 Stat. 211), as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
BARACK OBAMA
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to the Federative Republic of Brazil to Attend the Opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:46
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 06, 2014
President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Federative Republic of Brazil to attend the Opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014.
The Honorable Daniel H. Pfeiffer, Senior Advisor to the President, will lead the delegation.
Members of the Presidential Delegation:
The Honorable Liliana Ayalde, United States Ambassador to the Federative Republic of Brazil, Department of State
Ms. Michelle Akers, Retired member of the United States Women's National Soccer Team
Ms. Gabrielle Reece, Former Beach Volleyball World Champion
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to Ukraine to Attend the Inauguration of His Excellency Petro Poroshenko, President-elect of Ukraine
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:22
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 05, 2014
President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Kyiv, Ukraine to attend the Inauguration of His Excellency Petro Poroshenko, President-elect of Ukraine on June 7, 2014.
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Vice President of the United States, will be the head of the delegation.
Members of the Presidential Delegation:
The Honorable Geoffrey R. Pyatt, United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Department of State
The Honorable John McCain, United States Senator, Arizona
The Honorable Ron Johnson, United States Senator, Wisconsin
The Honorable Chris Murphy, United States Senator, Connecticut
The Honorable Marcia ''Marcy'' Kaptur, Member of the United States House of Representatives (OH-9)
The Honorable Daniel B. Baer, United States Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Department of State
The Honorable Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Department of State
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Sending money from the USA - TransferWise - Send Money Abroad
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 18:25
TransferWise is a great way to send money from the USA to any of our other supported countries!
TransferWise can receive deposits via Domestic Federal Wire to our Wells Fargo account in Texas, so it's kept nice and local.
To satisfy US regulatory requirements, when sending money from the USA, TransferWise will need to keep a few extra details on file (TransferWise will prompt for this accordingly):
The recipient's addressThe US State that you (the sender) reside inYour Zip CodeSocial Security Number (the authenticity of this SSN will be checked). If you don't have an SSN, we'll need a copy of your photo ID.Right now, TransferWise cannot accept Federal Wire transfers from bank accounts based in Massachusetts or Washington (state).
Transfer timesTransfers via domestic federal wire, can arrive to TransferWise in about an hour. Do bear in mind though, TransferWise may then need a small period of time to process your transfer, before it becomes visible on the Transfer's status page.
PricingTransfers from USD have a slightly different pricing structure, compared to regular TransferWise payments.
For USD transfers to level 1 currencies (e.g. GBP, EUR, INR), the pricing is as follows.
For transfers up to $1500, our fee is a flat $15.For transfers up to $4999.99, our fee is 1% of the amount sent (so up to $50).Over that and our fee is 0.7%.So, for a $6000 transfer, our fee would be 1% for the first $4999.9. Then for the additional $1000.01, the fee would be 0.7%. This means our entire take would be 57USD (50 + 7). Your money would be exchanged at the mid-market rate.
For USD transfers to level 2 currencies (RON/TRY), the fee is 1% for transfers over $1500. The minimum fee is $15.
For USD transfers to SWIFT currencies (e.g. CAD, JPY), there's a slightly larger minimum fee to take into account SWIFT transfer costs. It's as follows:
The minimum fee is $15 + 1000JPY/10CAD in USD at the current mid-market rate when setting up the transfer.
Then it's as before- for transfers up to $4999.99, our fee is 1% of the amount sent (so up to $50). Over that and our fee is 0.7%.
Feature limitationsTransferWise cannot make payments where a specific amount reaches the recipient, when making transfers from USD.The maximum transfer size is 100,000USD. Note: this is only for transfer from USD.Wire transfer is not an option for Email transfers.For paylinks requesting USD, wire transfer is not an option.Certain banks and services require a "microdeposit" to verify the bank account (e.g. Google Wallet). Unfortunately we're unable to work with such services.
Refunding money originally sent via Domestic Federal Wire.When issuing a refund, TransferWise would refund the money back to your account via ACH transfer (direct deposit) not Federal Wire.
One thing to watch out for, ACH transfers often require a different routing number. TransferWise would need the ABA/ACH check routing number for electronic/paper (check) type transfers to the original sending bank account. More about that here.
Sending from a USD account outside of the USA?TransferWise can receive USD transfers sent via SWIFT to our European USD account. More about SWIFT transfers can be found here.
Details for this account are listed under the "SWIFT Payment" tab at the "Upload Money" stage.
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NUDELMAN-Esoteric Meaning of Planets ~ Astrological Planets
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 00:32
The key to the planets, or the chakras :
Here is a planetary key to personal natal chart interpretation that any beginning astrological student can use with confidence. The natural ordering of the planets that can be seen easily with the naked eye can serve as a key to their interpretation. As we know, the planetary order out from the Sun is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These are the naked-eye planets. Beyond Saturn are the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
We will start with Saturn and work our way in towards the Sun. The key thought necessary in order to use these planets in your own horoscope is this: the inner planet is always the key to the outer. In every case, in order to reveal, open, and use the outer, we go within. In other words, each inner planet is the meaning and key to the planet beyond its orbit. For example, we live on Earth. The next planet inside the orbit of the Earth is Venus. Therefore, Venus will be the key to the Earth experience. If we stop and think about it, Venus (or love) has been held up as the key to life on this Earth throughout the ages. If we have obstacles and problems in our life (Saturn), then studying one's Jupiter will give us the key to the planet Saturn in our natal chart... Mars will be the key to Jupiter, and so on. Let's begin.Astrology: The Esoteric Meaning of The PlanetsSaturn, or law:Almost every astrologer wants to know where Saturn is in the chart because here we are sure to gain insight into some of the major obstacles and challenges of life. Saturn, or Satan (as it is sometimes called), is the prince of time and of the material world. We don't break nature's laws, they break us. The laws of Saturn are much feared, for it is here that we are bound to learn. The laws of Saturn are often seen as standing between us and an easy life. But Saturn also provides the walls that make homes possible. Gravity is an example -- the law that holds things in place. We come across the influence of Saturn every time we break nature's law. We are subjected and tested by these laws until such time as we learn to use them. Saturn is so important in the chart because it shows us where we must be disciplined and where we are bound to learn something; therefore, everyone always wants to know how to come to grips with Saturn in the natal chart. The key to the realm of Saturn in our chart can be found by studying our natal Jupiter.
Jupiter, or life path:If Saturn is our life's test, then Jupiter is the key, guide, and light that sees us through the darkness of time (or Saturn). It is the straight and narrow path by which we pass through Saturn's test. Jupiter is the particular way we go or continue in life -- continuity. It is our "luck" or solution to time's test. In astrology, Jupiter is the great benefic as it shows us how to find our way through Saturn and the tests of time -- how to use Saturn. Jupiter is our key to succession through time, to success. It is the way through or on. Jupiter is the key, or antidote, to Saturn; therefore, Jupiter has to do with how we are to be successful in life in our particular battle against the forces of time (Saturn). Jupiter often describes our vocation or the way we must go through life, since that through which we have to pass (Saturn) dictates the way we must go through life (our vocation). We have mastered our Jupiter when we are a physical success.
Once we have learned to master our Saturn, to be successful, our mind is free to explore our situation. The freedom of Jupiter is eternal vigilance toward the law or rules of Saturn. We go from victory to victory over time, or Saturn, which translates into day-to-day success. We make a living.
Now that we are free within time, or Saturn, our mind begins to wonder what it all means. What's the purpose of all this? We begin to penetrate into the next chakra, that of Mars. The key to our success (Jupiter) will be the planet Mars -- how we feel about our life.
Mars, or the marriage:Mars is the energy that moves us, the way we feel -- our emotions. It is what drives us and the way we are driven. And it is the kind of energy or drive that we have which determines our personal atmosphere or aura: the kind of room or space in which we have to live -- our living room. The kind of room we have determines how we feel about our life, comfortable or cramped. After Jupiter fades to an easy repetition, our mind turns to thoughts of unity, oneness -- marriage.
We are driven to marriage, or yoga, of one kind or another. It is the way the two become one. Everyone chooses a form of yoga, union, or marriage... some way to join or yoke the two opposing parts of ourselves together and to perceive them as one life -- ours.
We master each planet or chakra, maintain it, and move on or penetrate into the next, inner one. The Jupiter chakra is a tremendous war between us and them. Dichotomy. When we seek to understand the secret of "us" and "them," we penetrate into the Mars chakra -- what it all means. Meaning drives us across the Earth until we can see the end of all difference, that it is all one.
We are free at last from the bonds of Saturn (Satan). We have learned what we must do to survive or to succeed in life. Yet the world we live in is not a unity. It is us against them. And still this somehow does not feel right.
Our life becomes a process of gathering meanings and hints of a possible unity between the opposing parties. This is the yoga, union, or marriage that each must negotiate. The entire Mars chakra has to do with dealing with all the motion, emotion, and meanings of life. Following them out, understanding them. Mars, therefore, is the sphere of all things meaningful, everything that moves us: music, poetry, drama, movies -- the works. Anything that gets a rise out of us. We are working with our Mars as long as we have not completed our yoga, or marriage, as long as the two have not become one. As long as we are intrigued and drawn hither and yon, we are working on our Mars. This mysterious person beckons, that piece of music or poem captures our attention, moves us.
Mars is our marriage or union. It is the systematic making friends with everything that is foreign (other than us). At some point in this journey, we get the message. We cease to be blown hither and yon by every passing emotion. We discover that life is its own meaning. We have penetrated to the Earth, or heart chakra.
Earth, or the heart:We ourselves are the meaning. "I AM THAT I AM," and for no other reason. We take refuge in life itself with no referrals. This is it!
"I am in it to the end, and that's all, And the 'ever' it's coming to be. And in me is out, the shadow of doubt, And the 'in' that is 'out', Well, that's me!"
Earth/Sun represent the end of meaning, the heart of it all. The two are one. The marriage is consummated, the child is born. The Earth is us as we are in our oneness.
The Sun is the essence of what it all means.
The planets inside the orbit of the Earth, Venus and Mercury, are very misunderstood in modern astrology. Both are beyond any physical depiction.
Venus, or compassion:Inside Earth. Compassion. Infinite response and attention. Cherishing. How we respond to life. How we find ourselves in response to life. Love, in the sense of responding or attending to.
Mercury, or light:Messenger truth. First out from the Sun. The light of knowing or seeing in our eyes. Communication itself. Essence of communication.
Sun, or system:The Sun is not a planet. The description for the Earth given above is the traditional meaning for the Sun. The true Sun is the whole solar system.
(This is the text from the supplement of terms and concepts included with the Astro*Talk Profile , created from the author, Michael Erlewine.)
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Hema arrives in Britain: A trip to the shop will soon mean going Dutch
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 14:17
Hema's arrival will pose a challenge to the Scandinavian stalwart Ikea and newcomer Tiger of Denmark because the Dutch store offers customers similar bargains and easy-on-the-eye designs.
The group, which has more than 660 outlets across Europe, will open its first UK store on Thursday in London's Victoria, with two more to follow soon in Bromley and Kingston. A website will launch next month as a precursor to opening more stores across the UK.
The advance of these posh Poundlands, to borrow the nickname bestowed upon Tiger, illustrates just how much shoppers have changed habits during the recession, a phenomenon that has hit established retailers such as Tesco and Marks and Spencer hard.
Analysts believe Hema could replace Woolworths, which disappeared from UK high streets at the start of 2009. Patrick O'Brien, at the Verdict retail consultancy, said the group "marries discount and value retailing with an Ikea design aesthetic... it's the kind of retailer Woolworths could have been if it had been invested in properly".
Hema itself claims that it aims to make people's lives more fun, by selling the likes of pink frying pans, which are designed in-house. It's certainly popular in the Netherlands where one in five women wear one of its bras, and one in three boys pull on a pair of Hema pants.
Straightforward Hema style But before potential shoppers get their knickers in a twist over the thought of yet more disposable bargains, Hema pledges to sell sustainable products and is extending its "Naturally Hema" brand. Goodies on its shelves span customised cakes to children's bicycles.
The company was started in the early 1920s by two Jewish entrepreneurs, Arthur Isaac and Leo Meyer, who wanted to offer struggling shoppers some cheaper alternatives. The first store opened on Amsterdam's Kalverstraat in 1926. Today, the group is private-equity backed: Lion Capital acquired the company, which generated sales of ¤1.2bn in 2012, from Dutch retail group Maxeda in 2007. As well as the Netherlands, it has outlets in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Hema aims to make everything about shopping in one of its stores simple, splitting its departments up into Eat, Study and Beauty rooms. Its prices are all in round figures, so £5 instead of £4.99.
And, with more than 43,000 shops now lying empty in the UK, Hema will have its pick of high- street sites when it rolls out stores beyond London.
Mr O'Brien predicted it would do well in the UK where, he said, "discount general retailing has been very successful"; the likes of Poundland, Home Bargains and the family-owned Wilkinsons are all thriving. But he stressed that the sector is becoming more crowded. "They're going up against all the major grocers as well, but I don't think the grocers will lose too much sleep [over Hema's arrival]."
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Cynics 'face far higher risk of Alzheimer's'.
Thu, 29 May 2014 23:11
Cynics could be three times more likely to develop dementia, doctors warnResearchers asked 1,449 people with average age of 71 to take two testsTrait has already been linked to the risk of heart disease and heart attacksBy Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent
Published: 20:00 EST, 28 May 2014 | Updated: 02:51 EST, 29 May 2014
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Cynics could be three times more likely to develop dementia, doctors have warned.
The trait has already been linked to heart disease and heart attacks '' but now a study suggests that those who mistrust others are at far greater risk of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer's.
Scandinavian researchers asked 1,449 people with an average age of 71 to undertake two different tests: one for dementia, and another to measure how cynical they were.
Risk: Those who mistrust others could be three times more likely to develop dementia, doctors have warned
Participants were asked how much they agree with statements such as 'I think most people would lie to get ahead' and 'It is safer to trust nobody', and then tracked for an average of eight years to see if they developed dementia.
Once results were adjusted for other risk factors '' such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, and smoking '' the University of Eastern Finland team found those with high levels of 'cynical distrust' were three times more likely to develop dementia than their least cynical counterparts.
Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'There are likely to be many risk factors for dementia and this study suggests that a person's outlook may also have a role to play.
'However, only a small number of the volunteers studied developed dementia, and we would want to see a larger study conducted before we can be more confident in the proposed link between cynical distrust and dementia.
Trusting: Researchers found those with high levels of 'cynical distrust' were at greater risk of mental illnesses like Alzheimer's than their least cynical counterparts (right, file picture). Dr Simon Ridley (left), from Alzheimer's Research UK, said he would want a larger study conducted to confirm the link between cynicism and dementia
'It is possible that the volunteers who had a high level of cynical distrust were already beginning to develop dementia.
'It can be hard to separate whether cynical distrust could contribute to dementia, or is actually a symptom of disease.'
Nevertheless, the charity's research director stressed that 'any addition to our understanding of what might affect disease development is important.'
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Fisherman's Friend email
As a former fisherman from Dillingham, AK - Bristol bay I was very surprised to hear that there was a Dame from my old stomping grounds. If she wants I am willing to send her a CD of each episode over the summer while she is slaving away out in the bay. Last time I was up in Bristol bay there was only the one am station KDLG operated by the Dillingham high school.
If you would send her my address and this note, I will discuss with her how to get her CDs of the show over the summer. I need to know what boat she will be fishing on and the cannery they will be selling the catch to.
Bill
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Hunger Games salute becomes symbol of Thai resistance
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:09
BANGKOK - Agence France-Presse
Opponents of Thailand's military coup are risking arrest by flashing the three-finger salute from the "Hunger Games" movies to defy a junta that has banned all public protests. The gesture has become the unofficial symbol of resistance against a military regime that has suspended democracy and severely curtailed freedom of expression. AFP Photo
Opponents of Thailand's military coup are risking arrest by flashing the three-finger salute from the "Hunger Games" movies to defy a junta that has banned all public protests. The gesture has become the unofficial symbol of resistance against a military regime that has suspended democracy and severely curtailed freedom of expression. "Showing three fingers has become a symbol to call for basic political rights in a country ruled by one person as if with the most sovereign power, who is General Prayut Chan-O-Cha," Sombat Boonngamanong, a prominent activist wanted by the junta, wrote on Facebook. Critics of the May 22 coup, including the youngest daughter of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have posted photographs of themselves flashing three fingers on Facebook and other social media sites. "Dear #HungerGames. We've taken your sign as our own. Our struggle is non-fiction," wrote one Twitter user. In the "Hunger Games" movies, the residents of a dystopian future North America -- who are forced to compete in a televised death match -- initially use the gesture to mean thanks, admiration and good-bye to someone they love. It later becomes a more general symbol of their uprising against a wealthy, totalitarian regime. In Thailand some protesters say the salute is also a nod to the French revolutionary motto "liberty, equality and fraternity". The military -- which has imposed martial law, controls on the media and a night-time curfew -- has warned that people flashing three fingers could face arrest under its ban on public protests. "If they gather as more than five people and show the symbol of three fingers then it's against the law," army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told reporters. But he suggested that people posting photos on the Internet were unlikely to be detained, saying coup makers were "not paying any attention" to the three-finger salute by Thaksin's daughter. The junta mounted a show of military strength over the weekend to deter small but defiant anti-coup flashmob rallies that popped up outside shopping malls and near train stations in the capital Bangkok. Some people have taken to the streets reading George Orwell's dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four". Six people were arrested, included a woman shoved into a taxi by undercover police apparently disguised as journalists. Security forces, many carrying riot shields, were deployed, backed briefly by an armoured humvee with a soldier manning a mounted machine gun. The army has warned protesters that they -- and even their families -- face punishment under strict martial law, which has imposed sweeping curbs on freedoms. The harsh response "reveals a totalitarian mindset that discounts respect for human rights as a hindrance to exercise of power," said Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "The Bangkok street protesters' three-fingered Hunger Games salute is a symbolic act of peaceful defiance by those who recognise -- like those in the rebellious districts in the movie -- that they face overwhelming odds but decide to bravely raise their voices nonetheless." The coup makers said they were forced to seize power after nearly seven months of anti-government protests which saw 28 people killed and hundreds of others wounded. Prayut, the army chief, has said elections are not expected to be held for at least a year to allow a new constitution to be drawn up in an effort to end a political crisis stretching back almost a decade. Critics accuse the junta of using the violence as a pretext for a long-planned power grab by the military-backed royalist establishment which loathes Thaksin, who was himself ousted in a coup in 2006.
The billionaire tycoon-turned-populist politician lives in self-exile in Dubai to avoid jail for a corruption conviction. Thaksin or his allies have won every election in more than a decade, including in 2011 under his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, helped by strong support among voters in the northern half of the country.
June/03/2014
PHOTO GALLERY
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EUROLand
Who will be the next leader of Europe? Probably a woman.
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 14:16
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark, and Dalia Grybauskaite, the President of Lithuania, who both have experience of Brussels, were being discussed by European officials as consensus candidates for the job of commission president after David Cameron emphasised Britain's fierce opposition to Mr Juncker.
Mr Juncker's camp vigorously denied he was pulling out of the race after the German newspaper Der Spiegel quoted aides to Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, as saying he was expected to withdraw. But his campaign suffered a further setback when The Times reported allegations by former intelligence officials that he had indulged in a drunken, loud-mouthed rant in an official meeting in 2007.
Mr Cameron will travel to Sweden tomorrow to push for an alternative candidate to the former Luxembourg premier, in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The PM has two allies: the Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.
While the largest grouping in the Brussels parliament, the European People's Party, has the right to name its preferred candidate '' Mr Juncker '' the alternative campaign, backed by Britain, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands, will easily block him in a vote. Ms Merkel is in a difficult position, say Brussels officials, because while Mr Juncker is from the same European parliamentary grouping, she is known to be open to a fresher face.
Downing Street declined to say whether Britain had a preferred candidate, stressing that it was "not about individuals but about the characteristics of the person in the job". A source said: "It is important to have a range of candidates '... We are very much trying to avoid personalising this." But Mr Cameron is strenuously opposed to the arch-federalist Mr Juncker.
Meanwhile shadow Europe minister Gareth Thomas has written to Conservative chairman Grant Shapps asking for the Tories to be more open about their new parliamentary bedfellows. The Conservatives' group in the European Parliament is admitting the right-wing Danish People's Party and True Finns, formerly allied to the UK Independence Party.
THE CANDIDATES
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Born and raised Born in 1966 in Rodovre, Denmark, to academic parents and grew up in Copenhagen. After graduating from the University of Copenhagen, she won a scholarship to the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, where she met her future husband, Stephen Kinnock, son of the UK's former Labour leader Neil Kinnock. A Social Democrat MEP and later party leader in Denmark.
Current job Prime Minister of Denmark '' the first woman to hold the post and the embodiment of Borgen's heroine, Birgitte Nyborg.
Awards Last year she accepted the prestigious Gift to the Earth award from the global environment group WWF for her government's target for 100 per cent of Denmark's energy to come from renewable sources by 2050.
Personal drama Parents divorced when she was 10. Once let rip at a fellow Social Democrat who called her 'Gucci Helle' because of her love of designer handbags; has since said the nickname doesn't bother her.
International status Denmark is not in the top flight of G8 nations but is a key member of the EU. Although on the centre-left, she has maintained strong links with David Cameron.
Scandal Admitted to a 'big, sloppy error' when, as leader of the opposition, the Danish tax authorities investigated the discrepancy in her and her husband's tax affairs. The investigation was subsequently dropped.
Friends and enemies Her husband says: 'I think she's the only PM who does all her own washing. I don't know how she does it.' But the New York Times called her a 'Danish tart' after the selfie with Cameron and Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service.
Social media status Not on Twitter, but the selfie-taking was retweeted thousands of times. It has never been made public.
Chances Her background makes her a natural choice and she has one year left of term as PM. Increasingly talked about as a potential candidate for Commission presidency.
Dalia Grybauskaite, the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite
Born and raised Born in March 1956 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Student then lecturer in political sciences; after the country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 worked as an official in the foreign affairs department; later finance minister and EU budget commissioner.
Current job President of Lithuania since 2009, re-elected last month.
Awards Doctorate of letters from Georgetown University, US; named Woman of the Year by Glamour (US) in 2010.
Personal drama A black belt in karate and known as Lithuania's Iron Lady, she vowed to 'take a gun myself to defend the country' against Russian aggression in the wake of the break-up of Ukraine.
International status A staunch supporter of Ukraine's new president, Grybauskaite is respected in Europe and knows Brussels inside out.
Scandal Known for her ability to steer clear of major scandal.
Friends and enemies Close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also grew up under communism.
Social media status Has 13,000 followers on Twitter '' not much for a president but an enthusiastic tweeter. Posted a picture of herself meeting Steve Tyler of the band Aerosmith.
Chances Fair. Despite just being re-elected president, she could emerge as the consensus candidate between Merkel and Cameron.
Jean-Claude Juncker Jean-Claude Juncker
Born and raised Born in 1954 to a steelworker and trade unionist in Luxembourg. Became a member of the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies for the Christian Social People's Party at 29.
Current job Was prime minister for 18 years, by the end of which he was the world's longest serving democratically elected head of government. Resigned last July after exposure of abuses by the secret service.
Awards Ten medals and awards including Greece's highest honour, the Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer.
Personal drama Spent two weeks in a coma in 1989 after a car crash.
International status Owed his position as PM to British stroppiness. In 1994, John Major objected when the Belgian PM, Jean-Luc Deheane, was nominated for the post of EC president, so the previous Luxembourg PM, Jacques Santer, got the job. He was a disaster.
Scandal He is, allegedly, a boozer. Der Spiegel said in February that it was not uncommon to see him knock back 'two gin and tonics and a beer' over lunch. He says he finds it 'offensive' having to deal with such rumours.
Friends and enemies According to one of his aides: 'It is an accepted truth that you could walk across Europe and not find a single ordinary citizen with a bad word to say about him.' But according to former Luxembourg intelligence agent Andr(C) Kemmer: 'Juncker was dead drunk, ordered himself two espressos and '... said "I fuck around where, whom, and when I want, do you understand me?"'
Social media status He has almost 40,000 Twitter followers. On Wednesday, he told them: 'I am more confident than ever that I will be the next European Commission president.'
Chances Until the last few days, they were high. But fresh reports of his behaviour, together with fierce opposition from Cameron and wavering from Merkel, mean they are dwindling by the hour.
I'm not a candidate for EC job, says IMF boss Lagarde.
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:54
6 June 2014Last updated at 12:40 IMF chief Christine Lagarde has said she is not in the race to be the next president of the European Commission.
Ms Lagarde said she intends to see out her five-year term as boss of the world's financial watchdog, adding: "I am not a candidate. I have a job."
The possibility of Ms Lagarde taking the job had reportedly been discussed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
The UK has made clear its opposition to frontrunner Jean-Claude Juncker.
Shortly before joining Ms Lagarde at an IMF press conference in London, Chancellor George Osborne underlined the UK's view that whoever heads the European Commission must understand "the need for change" and not ignore the EU's "weak" economic record and the anger shown by voters in recent polls.
'Desperate' attacksAsked at the press conference if she would consider leading the Commission after current president Jose Manuel Barroso steps down in October, Ms Lagarde said she intended to see out her term at the IMF, which ends in 2016.
Analysis
The BBC's Chris Morris writes: Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker is officially "more confident than ever" that he will get the job, but efforts by his supporters to present victory as a fait accompli have been stopped in their tracks. EU diplomats close to Mr Juncker admit that some countries are sceptical, but they insist that only one - the UK - is openly opposed to their man. He could still win, but it won't be easy.
"On this EU thing, I am not a candidate," said the former French finance minister.
"I have a job, I happen to think it is a rather important job and I intend to complete my term."
Mr Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, has the backing of the German chancellor.
The decision on who will lead the EU's executive body has become increasingly acrimonious, with Mr Juncker accusing the British media of seeking to sabotage his candidacy and making "desperate" attacks on him.
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"I don't give interviews" - Jean-Claude Juncker refused to answer the BBC's questions on Thursday
As the preferred candidate of the European People's Party, the centre-right grouping which won the most seats in last month's European Parliament elections, Mr Juncker is in pole position to take the key job.
Public angerBut several countries, including the UK, Sweden and Hungary, are unwilling to support him, feeling that he is not a dynamic reformer and has an unswerving belief in closer political union between EU member states.
Other candidates in addition to Ms Lagarde have been touted - including ex-WTO boss Pascal Lamy - although opponents of Mr Juncker have not coalesced around a single individual.
Asked about the UK's stance on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Osborne did not mention Mr Juncker by name and said he would not discuss individuals.
But he said: "We need people running these European institutions who clearly understand the need for change. We have just had European elections where, not just in this country but across Europe, people said very clearly they were not happy with how Europe was working.
"Anyone who wants one of these important jobs in Europe and they affect all of our lives, needs to demonstrate, in my view, that they understand people's anger at what has gone wrong in Europe and understand the need for change in Europe."
Mr Osborne said the slow recovery of much of the eurozone from the recession, in contrast with the UK's faster growth, showed the need for new thinking in Brussels.
He added: "Britain is seeking change for Europe's sake, not just Britain's sake... we have got to have a response across Europe to the election results, the weak economic performance, we have got to have change in Europe."
Ms Merkel, who has given Mr Juncker her public backing, discussed the issue with Mr Cameron on the fringes of a meeting of G7 leaders in Brussels on Thursday.
However, he is also said to have indicated his willingness to negotiate.
EU leaders traditionally choose the Commission head on their own, but under new rules have to "take into account" the results of the European elections.
EC presidential frontrunner Jean-Claude Juncker: The face of EU federalism
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:03
At this week's G7 meeting, Mr Cameron said: ''I think it's important that we have people running the institutions of Europe who understand the need for change.'' Mr Juncker, by contrast, understands only the need to keep on keeping on.
The pint-sized fixer, who is increasingly likely to succeed Jose Manuel Barroso as the president of the European Commission, ticks every box. He served for nearly 20 years as the premier of a minuscule state whose prosperity '' where do companies like Starbucks, Google and Amazon choose, for excellent fiscal reasons, to base their businesses? '' is totally bound up with European integration and federalism, and the more of it the merrier. As a reward for being the leader of Luxembourg, the state that likes to protect the interests of the secretive bankers upon whom it relies, he was named in 2008 '' the year of the Great Crash '' ''European Banker of the Year''.
The charge sheet continues. In the early 1990s, he was chair of the key European body, Ecofin, which drew up the Maastricht treaty, and was largely responsible for the design of economic and monetary union which gave birth in the fullness of time to the euro. What a howling success that has been, with the European Central Bank announcing this week that it will now charge for deposits instead of paying interest on them, in a desperate effort to get eurozone wealth up off its fat behind.
He was also one of the main boosters of the doomed European constitution, refusing to recognise that, having been roundly rejected by France and other countries, it was dead in the water. That says a lot about the obduracy of his euro convictions, and his stubborn belief that measures hated right across the union can nonetheless be slipped through by sleight of hand. Of referendums on the constitution he famously remarked: ''If it's a Yes, we will say 'on we go', and if it's a No, we will say 'we continue'.'' When the federalist provisions of the constitution were craftily embedded in the Lisbon treaty, he told then British premier Gordon Brown: ''Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?''
His appointment as the Spitzenkandidat or lead candidate for the next commission president by the centre-right European People's Party group in the European Parliament may appear the crowning glory of a career during which he became the longest-serving elected leader in Europe. But in fact, like so many senior Brussels mandarins before him, his pride was preceded by a fall. After 19 years running Luxembourg, population about 540,000, as his personal fiefdom, he was forced to resign for failing to prevent or crack down on a local comic-opera spy scandal. But he did not have to pad about in the wilderness for long: in the upper reaches of the EU, in the long-ago words of Bob Dylan, ''there's no success like failure''. Defenestrated by his own voters, he will doubtless soon be sauntering insouciantly through the Brussels front door.
Born to a working-class family in the industrial south of Luxembourg in December 1954, Jean-Claude Juncker has been a professional politician all his adult life. His father, who had fought for Germany in the Second World War, was a steelworker and a member of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions. Aged 20, Jean-Claude joined the Christian Social People's Party in which he has spent his career. He obtained a law degree at the University of Strasbourg and was sworn into the Luxembourg Bar Council, but has never practised.
Instead he rose rapidly through the ranks of his party, becoming first Parliamentary Secretary, then gaining election to the Chamber of Deputies in 1984, when he was barely 30. He was immediately favoured by Prime Minister Jacques Santer and made Minister of Labour. His enthusiasm for the European project was quick to emerge when he took chairing roles at the Council of the European Communities.
Elected to parliament for a second time in 1989, he was handed the important finance portfolio in addition to his Labour ministry role. Santer was training him up to fill his own shoes. Once Santer became President of the European Commission, after Britain vetoed the other leading candidate, Juncker became Luxembourg's premier for the first time at the age of 42. He held the job continuously until undone by the spy scandal last year.
As a leading member of the Eurogroup, and its president from 2005, he was one of the main architects of the euro, and as such bore considerable responsibility for the flaws in its design which led to the years of economic stagnation and mass unemployment in which the union is still ensnared. He has never shown any public regret or remorse for these problems, however: he appears convinced like the true believer in some arcane faith that Europe's ''ever-closer integration'' must be driven forward relentlessly, whatever the political, social and economic costs.
Juncker's centrality in the EU's institutions owes much to his patient ability to thrash out one compromise after another until these vastly unwieldy European bodies can be badgered and bullied into consensus. In 1997, during the early stages of monetary union, when Britain under Tony Blair was fighting to stay in the so-called Euro-X club set up to manage the single currency, he drafted 23 separate compromises to try to appease British concerns. Britain shot down each one in turn.
Last month, this insider's insider took his candidacy for the presidency on the road. For the first time, the party groups at the European Parliament, including the European People's Party, will have a decisive role in anointing the candidate, so to burnish his democratic image he took his US-style campaign bus around Europe to tell voters who he was and what he wanted to do. The feedback was not impressive. In Bordeaux, a campaigner handing out pro-European flyers commented: ''People like voting for personalities'... [Socialist candidate Martin] Schulz and Juncker are both intellectually smart and know the EU very well. But emotionally they don't really connect with most people.''
Juncker's abilities as a deal-maker and a master of Byzantine Brussels procedures are beyond doubt. Now, very late in the day, he is also offering himself to Europeans at large as the very model of modern European democrat. But today a very large body of opinion is hostile to his entire project. ''I want to keep Britain in the European Union,'' he said back in April on his campaign bus, ''but if Britain wants to stay'... it has to accept that we cannot kill the basic principles'' of the union. Stay tuned for another dialogue of the deaf.
A life in brief
Born 9 December 1954 in Redange, Luxembourg.
Family His father was a steelworker and a member of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions.
Education Attended Clairefontaine, a Belgian convent school, later returning to Luxembourg to obtain his baccalaureate in the Lyc(C)e Michel Rodange. In 1979, he graduated with a master of law degree.
Career At 20, he joined the Luxembourg Christian Social Party. He never practised as a lawyer, preferring politics.
Greek Tax Authorities Find 40 More Evaders from Lagarde List
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:50
Prosecutors investigating a list of 2,602 Greeks with 1.5 billion euros ($1.95 billion) in secret Swiss bank accounts have reportedly found that 90 percent of them are tax cheats.
The ongoing probe by financial prosecutors, Panagiotis Athanasiou and Galinos Mpris in cooperation with the Deputy Prosecutor Giannis Dragatsis, has uncovered another 80 cases of alleged cheats who owe 39.892 million euros.
They are on the so-called Lagarde List, named for former French finance minister Christine Lagarde who handed it to then Greek finance chief Giorgos Papaconstantinou in 2010.
He said it vanished but a copy on a memory stick was produced by his successor Evangelos Venizelos, now the PASOK Socialist leader and Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister in the coalition government headed by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras.
Papconstantinou is being charged with a number of crimes, which he has denied, after the names of three of his relatives were found to have been erased from the list that came off a stolen CD from the Geneva branch of HSBC.
Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece's international lenders, said the names were part of a larger list and that other countries had used it to vet for tax cheats and prosecute evaders but Greek officials '' including Venizelos, who is not being prosecuted '' set it aside until the names were revealed by investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis.
Among the cases is that of a dentist residing in the southern suburbs of Athens, who, along with his wife, allegedly evaded 13 million euros between 2002 and 2012, some 8,822,758 euros by him and 4,589,281 euros by his wife, who owns a dental implant company.
Investigators are also looking into secret accounts in banks in other countries, including Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria.
The alleged cheats have been asked by officials at the Greek Financial and Economic Crimes Unit (SDOE) to pay what they owe or face criminal charges. It was not reported why they aren't being prosecuted for tax evasion even if they return the money or if they would face additional penalties.
The investigation is proceeding by the financial prosecutors who have been investigating the bank accounts of major businessmen, publishers, ship-owners and industrialists along with their relatives. Some of them had been implicated in major financial scandals the past years.
Greek Sale: ''Athens Riviera'' transferred to Privatization Agency
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:25
Posted by keeptalkinggreece in Very Mix
Thousands of hectares across the ''Athens Riviera'', the Attica coast line from Cape Sounion in the East to Marina Zeas in the West have been transferred to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund '' Greek Privatization Agency (TAIPED) on Tuesday.The transfer of the Attica coastline to TAIPED was signed by eight ministers, including the finance, development, halth and tourism ministers.
This is the first step towards the sale off of Attica's best and most expensive parts to private investors. The Greek state as owner of the land porperties demands nothing in exchange when it transfers to TAIPED.
Among the parts to be offered for sale are:
176 acres of land between the sports complex of Agios Kosmas '' opposite the old Athens airport- and ''Asteria'' in Glyfada.
20 acres of land in Glyfada
383 acres of land in Aspro Lithari area of Sounion
the touristic part of Zeas port
the ski resort in Parnassus mountain.
What is read as plain ''20 acres'' or ''176 acres of land'' are in reality large plots of land across the coastline, with kilometer-long beaches offering leisure and free of charge outdoor sports opportunities to the four million inhabitants of the Greek capital Athens and Piraeus. Not to mention the sport facilities built for Olympic Games 2004, facilities that have been left to rotten as if they did not cost money.
Left: old Athens airport, right: Agios Kosmas area. The whole coastline till the back will be sold to private investors. The end of Athens beaches grrrrrrrrrrrrr!
Full list of transfers to TAIPED in Attica, Chalkidiki and islands here (in Greek)
PS while in a typical Garage Sale the sellers sell goods of not necessarily A Quality, Greece is forced by the Troika to sell its best possessions to pay back the debts piled up by the country's oligarchs and the incapable politicians. Shoo!
EU Said to Decide Next Week on Irish, Dutch Tax-Breaks Probe
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:27
The European Union may open a formal probe as soon as next week into tax breaks that Ireland and the Netherlands use to attract international companies, according to people familiar with the case.
The European Commission is scheduled to discuss the issue at a meeting June 11, said two people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The probe into the Dutch tax breaks would include special treatment given to Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), the world's biggest coffee-shop operator, said the people.
Luxembourg may also face a probe, one of the people said. EU antitrust regulators said in September they were seeking preliminary information on whether the tax deals constituted illegal state aid.
The possible EU investigation comes amid a global crackdown on tax-avoidance as governments struggle to increase revenue and reduce deficits. Lawmakers in the U.S., the U.K., France and Italy have scrutinized companies such as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), Google Inc. (GOOGL), Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) The commission has said tax avoidance and evasion in the EU cost about 1 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion) a year.
''It wasn't the companies that made those laws; it was each member state'' of the European Union, Howard M. Liebman, a tax partner at law firm Jones Day in Brussels, said in a phone interview. ''So if the commission so chooses, it will instead more likely 'name and shame' those countries.''
Irish DefenseIreland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny said yesterday the country will strongly defend its tax system, the Irish Times reported, citing comments made to reporters in California after he met with Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook.
''We believe that our legislation is robust, that the application of that legislation is ethical and we will be prepared to defend that very strongly in the event of any further statement or requirement from the European Commission,'' the Irish Times cited him as saying to reporters at Hewlett-Packard's global head office in Palo Alto.
Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead angered British lawmakers in 2012 by refusing to publicly disclose details of a low tax rate granted by the Netherlands on royalty payments from its U.K. business.
''State-aid investigations are between the European Commission and the relevant member states,'' Seattle-based Starbucks said in an e-mailed statement. ''It would therefore be for the Dutch government to address any state-aid concerns.''
Starbucks TaxesThe company said it supports efforts by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to reform tax policies and ''pays substantial taxes in the various countries in which it operates around the world.''
''Our global corporate effective tax rate has been in excess of 32 percent for the past several years, well above the average paid by other U.S.-based multinational corporations,'' the company said.
Apple spokesman Alan Hely declined to comment on the possible EU probe.
Most forms of government support, including tax breaks, that enable companies to gain an unfair advantage over competitors are illegal under EU rules. Governments can be ordered to claw back unfair aid.
''I think the commission, from a political and pragmatic point of view, would not prefer to do that,'' Liebman said. ''I think what it will do, if it feels it has a good case, is to close down the incentives going forward.''
EU Voting''We have been gathering information on certain tax practices, such as tax rulings and certain intellectual property regime, to check compliance with EU state aid rules,'' Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, told reporters in Brussels today. ''But I don't have anything to add at this stage.''
Dutch, Irish and Luxembourg finance ministry officials also declined to comment on the matter.
After having been ordered in March by the commission to supply details of tax breaks for businesses, Luxembourg last month asked an EU court to overturn the regulator's demands.
The EU gathered information on tax rulings from Belgium and other countries and has quizzed the U.K. and others about tax programs for intellectual property rights such as 'patent boxes' which allow tax reductions on income from patents.
Tax policy is one of the most sensitive political issues in the 28-nation bloc. Changes to EU tax rules require unanimous approval among governments, rendering major changes almost impossible. Even the most enthusiastic members of the EU have clung on to their right to set corporate rates.
Luxembourg, led until last year by European Commission-president candidate Jean-Claude Juncker, has won a reputation as an attractive location for multinational companies.
Juncker's press team declined to comment on the possible EU probe.
To contact the reporters on this story: Gaspard Sebag in Brussels at gsebag@bloomberg.net; Joe Brennan in Dublin at jbrennan29@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net Peter Chapman, Jones Hayden
The Netherlands: Health insurance changes finalised
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:24
Health insurance changes finalisedFriday 06 June 2014
From 2016, health insurers will no longer have to pay towards the cost of treatment at hospitals and providers with which they do not have a contract, under a deal struck between ministers and three opposition parties.
At the moment, health insurers are required by law to cover 80% of the bill for non-contract care. At the same time, a third type of health insurance policy is being introduced which gives patients no choice about where they will receive all but front line medical services.
The changes have been agreed between ministers and three opposition parties: the D66 liberals and two minor Christian parties SGP and CU. Their support will ensure the legislation is passed in the upper house of parliament.
Patients will retain the right to choose their own doctor, dentist, physiotherapist and pharmacy.
Better care
The government believes it can cut healthcare spending by giving insurance companies more power to sign contracts with providers, which it believes will force down prices and improve services. The new agreement will give 'better care for less money,' health minister Edith Schippers said.
There are currently two types of health insurance available.
Patients with a natura policy are only supposed to use healthcare providers who have a contract with their health insurance company. If they use a different provider, they will have to pay part of the bill themselves. The restitution policy gives patients complete freedom of choice and is more expensive.
Four big health insurance companies control 90% of the Dutch market. Under the new system, they will be able to refuse to pay bills they consider too expensive or for care which is not up to scratch. But they will also have to maintain a varied choice for patients, taking religious beliefs and lifestyle into account.
(C) DutchNews.nl
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European Central Bank cuts interest rate below zero
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:08
By Stefan Steinberg6 June 2014The European Central Bank (ECB) slashed one of its interest rates to negative territory and unveiled a '‚¬400bn loan package for Europe's banks in response to the ongoing economic slump and the threat of deflation.
At its meeting in Frankfurt Thursday, the central bank cut its main lending rate to 0.15 percent from its current historic low of 0.25 percent, and its overnight deposit rate from zero to minus 0.10 percent, becoming the largest central bank to lower rates to below zero.
The move is an expression of the fact that, nearly six years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the world economy remains mired in deep crisis, for which the world's central banks have no solution outside of pumping trillions into banks and financial firms. While trillions are handed out to the banks, workers throughout the continent are told that there is ''no money'' to pay for pensions, social programs, and healthcare benefits.
At a press conference following the meeting, ECB President Mario Draghi made clear that the rate cuts could be followed in the near future by additional measures, including additional asset purchases similar to the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (QE) program.
''We think it is a significant package,'' said Draghi. ''Are we finished? The answer is no. If need be, within our mandate, we aren't finished here,'' adding that ''a broad-based asset-purchase program is certainly one of'' the instruments the Central bank has at its disposal.
On Tuesday, the ECB announced that inflation across the Eurozone fell to a rate of 0.5 percent in May, down from 0.7 percent in April, and far below its target of two percent. Inflation is expected to weaken further to 0.3 percent later this year, according to a forecast by Citibank.
The ECB also downgraded its estimate for Eurozone growth this year to 1 percent, down from its forecast of 1.2 percent in March.
Sensing the prospects of a fresh influx of funding, European stock markets reacted to the ECB decision with a rally. European stocks hit a six-and-a-half-year high, led by a surge in banking stocks, before falling back slightly. Noting that the German DAX hit an historic high on Thursday the Financial Times website ran the headline ''DAX hits 10,000 as ECB package delights.''
In the United States, the S&P 500 closed up by 12 points, to 1,940, while the DOW Jones Industrial Average closed up by 98 points, at 16,836.11.
The ECB's rate changes had been demanded for some time by the International Monetary Fund and the financial press. In its World Economic Outlook, issued at the beginning of April, the IMF drew attention to what a number of economists now refer to as the ''new normal'' for capitalism, i.e. stagnating or deflationary economies across the globe. The IMF report noted that real interest rates had been declining since the 1980s and were ''now in slightly negative territory.''
At the same time, the report continued, the readiness of central banks to make massive amounts of cheap money available had failed to boost investment in productive industry. Instead the past period marked by the ''scars'' of the global financial crisis ''have resulted in a sharp and persistent decline in investment in advanced economies.''
The report concluded that investment rates ''in many advanced economies are unlikely to recover to pre-crisis levels in the next five years.''
The gloomy IMF forecast has been confirmed by recent figures from both the US and Europe. Economic activity across the Eurozone, as measured by the Purchasing Managers' Index, fell to a six-month low in May. Meanwhile Europe's jobless rate remains at an all-time high with unemployment expected to increase in the next months in some large economies such as Italy.
Following two years of Quantitative easing, during which time the US Federal Reserve pumped trillions of dollars into the markets, the United States economy remains mired in slump, and shrank at a one percent annualized rate in the first quarter of 2014. Retailers in the country missed their earnings estimates by the largest amount in thirteen years in the first quarter.
The ECB's action is likely to only intensify currency tensions, as central banks pursue conflicting goals. The Federal Reserve is attempting to draw down its Quantitative easing program, while last month the Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned against the overheating of the British economy, and soaring house prices. Home prices in Britain rose by over 11 percent last year, the largest increase since June 2007. Carney is expected to shortly propose measures to restrict mortgage borrowing to rein in the new housing bubble.
As is the case with all the measures introduced by the world's central banks since the crisis, the latest rate cuts by the ECB will do nothing to stimulate genuine economic growth. Instead, as was shown by the stock market rally Thursday, the ECB will only serve to fuel new speculative bubbles while further enriching the biggest banks and the millionaires and billionaires that control them.
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G7 unity shows cracks on Russia sanctions
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:08
By Bill Van Auken6 June 2014Meeting for the first time in two decades without the participation of Russia, members of the Group of Eight'--now Group of Seven, G7'--agreed in Brussels on a joint statement backing the right-wing regime in Kiev and denouncing Moscow for the annexation of Crimea and its alleged ''actions to destabilize'' eastern Ukraine.
While the summit went through the motions of issuing boiler plate statements on issues like the global economy, climate change and energy, Ukraine was the only issue of substance before the assembled heads of state of the US, Germany, Britain, France, Japan, Italy and Canada.
The downsized summit'--which included none of the guests and observers who commonly attend such events'--failed, however, to adopt any concrete plans for the imposition of a new round of sanctions, pushed by the Obama administration. Cracks in the summit's paper unity were apparent over the potentially severe economic impact these measures could have on Western European economies, compared to their relatively innocuous effect upon the United States.
Washington has sought to ratchet up tensions with Russia as much as possible since working together with Germany and other European powers in orchestrating and backing the violent, fascist-spearheaded February coup that ousted Ukraine's elected president, Viktor Yanukovych. It has not only pushed through economic sanctions, but also deployed US warplanes in Poland, dispatched American paratroopers to Poland and the three former Soviet Baltic republics and sent warships into the Black Sea, bringing US military forces to Russia's borders.
It is becoming increasingly clear that US imperialism's strategy is to militarily encircle Russia and lay the groundwork for eliminating it as an obstacle to US hegemony in Eurasia and the Middle East.
The statement on foreign policy drafted by the G7 is remarkable for its cynicism and hypocrisy. It hails the ''successful conduct'' of the May 25 Ukrainian elections'--won by the billionaire ''chocolate king'' Petro Poroshenko'--ignoring the fact that there was no voting by millions of Ukrainians in the east, who were and are under a military siege. Immediately after the section on Ukraine, the statement denounces the election held in Syria a week later, under similar conditions, as a ''sham.''
The statement further ''encourages'' the Kiev regime to ''maintain a measured approach in pursuing operations to restore law and order'' in the east and ''commends'' its ''willingness '... to continue the national dialogue in an inclusive manner.''
As the G7 heads of state were talking in Brussels about ''measured approach'' and ''inclusive dialogue,'' on the ground in eastern Ukraine there is mounting evidence of a savage attack on the civilian population characterized by multiple war crimes.
The Russian government has warned that a humanitarian disaster is taking shape in the region. Moscow reported Thursday that over the previous 24 hours over 8,300 Ukrainian refugees, most of them women and children, had crossed into Russia to escape continuous artillery and aerial bombardment carried out by regime forces.
Weapons outlawed by international conventions are being used widely by the regime, such as cluster-bombs dropped on the Luhansk regional administration building at the beginning of this week, killing eight civilians.
And it has been reported that after heavily shelling the town of Krasnyi Lyman, southeast of Slavyansk in the Donetsk Region, members of the National Guard, a force that has recruited heavily from neo-fascist elements connected to the Right Sector and Svoboda party, overran the local hospital and executed 25 wounded people they found there.
The US and its Western European allies have denied there is any humanitarian crisis in the region, giving a green light to whatever atrocities are required to suppress the local population.
The Kiev regime, meanwhile, has announced its intention to declare martial law in the rebellious regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in order to pave the way for an even more violent crackdown.
While saying nothing about the violent repression in the east or the Kiev regime's reliance on fascist militias to do its dirty work, the statement put the onus on Moscow to force self-defense forces in the region to ''lay down their weapons.''
While the G7 statement ''welcomed'' loan agreements already reached with the International Monetary Fund and other agencies and governments, it proposed no new funding for the Ukrainian economy, which is in free fall. Instead, it demanded that the Kiev regime fulfill its ''commitment to pursue the difficult reforms that will be crucial to support economic stability and unlock private sector-led growth.'' These ''reforms'' spell drastic austerity and increased joblessness for an already impoverished population.
On the issue of sanctions, however, the statement confirmed decisions to impose fairly limited sanctions on individuals and a small number of companies in Russia, while affirming only that the seven heads of state were ''ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.'' It did not specify what ''events'' would trigger such new measures.
There was no mention of the kind of sectoral sanctions, targeting Russia's oil and gas industry for example, that the Obama administration has been pushing.
Divisions between Washington and its European allies emerged most nakedly in the clash between Obama and French President Fran§ois Hollande over the French government's decision to go ahead with 1.2 billion euro ($1.6 billion) sale to Moscow of two advanced Mistral warships that are designed for amphibious invasions. France is set to begin training some 400 Russian sailors in the operation of the warships later this month.
Following the summit meeting, Obama told a press conference in Brussels, ''I think it would have been better to press the pause button'' on the Mistral sale. He added, ''President Hollande so far has made different decisions.''
Hollande dismissed any suggestion of canceling the sale. ''If the contract was interrupted there would be a reimbursement,'' he said. ''There is no reason to enter into that process.'' German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported Hollande's position, arguing that, since the European Union had not approved any broader sanctions, there was no reason for France to cancel the contract.
US-French relations were further soured over Obama's public rebuff of an appeal from Hollande for a ''reasonable'' settlement of a criminal investigation brought by the US Justice Department against the French banking giant BNP Paribas over alleged violations of US sanctions against Sudan, Iran and Cuba. There have been reports that the bank could face a fine of over $10 billion, which Hollande has argued is ''disproportionate'' and could have a severe impact on France's economy.
Obama said he would do nothing to promote a more lenient settlement. ''The tradition of the United States is that the president does not meddle in prosecutions,'' he told reporters in Brussels.
While Obama has failed to seek any meeting with Vladimir Putin, most of the other members of the G7 have organized bilateral talks with the Russian president, who was invited by Hollande to attend a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing during World War II.
Hollande defended the invitation, declaring, ''We know what we owe to the Russian people, the Soviet people of that time. They were heroic of their defense in the face of Nazi divisions and the suffering of the Russian people.'' The French president organized two separate meals Thursday night: the first a dinner at a Paris restaurant with Obama and the second a supper with Putin at the Elysee Palace.
Germany's Merkel'--who told a news conference, ''This is not about threats '...we want dialogue'''--and British Prime Minister David Cameron also organized separate meetings with Putin. And Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Brussels news conference, ''I'm hoping to continue dialogue with President Putin'' and seemed to express regret that Putin wasn't at the summit.
Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser, expressed Washington's hostility to these bilateral meetings. ''We've always said we don't want different countries to be having conversations over the head of the government in Kiev about Ukraine's future,'' he told reporters.
For his part, Putin, who represents the interests of a ruling stratum of billionaire oligarchs with substantial wealth invested in the West, has signaled that he is prepared to reach a compromise on Ukraine. He has ordered Russian forces to withdraw from Ukraine's border and has recognized the May 25 elections. It was announced on Thursday that the Russian ambassador will attend Poroshenko's inauguration on Saturday.
In an interview broadcast on French television Wednesday night he clearly sought to exploit the divisions between Washington and Western Europe, declaring himself ''ready for dialogue,'' while adding, ''it is not a secret that the most aggressive and severe policy is the one of the US.''
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Why the Jihadist Killings in Belgium Are Just the Beginning.
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:39
French police raid a house in Toulouse following shooting at a Jewish school. . Photo: EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO
At around 3:50 pm on Saturday, May 24, a man dressed in a blue sweater and baseball cap walked casually into the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium. Pulling a Kalashnikov rifle from a black bag, he shot and killed four people '' an Israeli couple, a French national waiting to enter the museum, and a Belgian museum volunteer. He then nonchalantly walked away.
By the following Saturday, French authorities in Marseille had arrested 29-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche while performing a routine customs check at the local bus station. Nemmouche, who boarded the bus in Amsterdam, had recently returned to his native France from Syria, where he is believed to have fought alongside the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
The killings bear strong resemblance to a string of murders carried out by French-Algerian Mohammed Merah in Toulouse just two years ago. Nemmouche's calm demeanor after the shooting closely parallels that of Mohammed Bouyeri, the Dutch-Moroccan Muslim who stabbed and shot filmmaker Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street in 2004.
And most notably, Nemmouche allegedly used a Kalashnikov, the weapon of choice among Western Muslims who join Syrian rebel forces. A Kalashnikov, along with another gun, and a video claiming credit for the murders, were found in Nemmouche's luggage at the time of his arrest.
The May 24 murders have brought long-overdue focus to the situation in Belgium, where radical Islam has long been spilling poison on its soil.
And the problem is not just about the strength of Sharia4Belgium, one of the strongest Sharia4 organizations seeking to install Sharia law in European countries; nor is it about the estimated 3,000 European Muslims who have joined the Syrian rebels.
The problems began much earlier and have been growing more incendiary by the year. On the afternoon of 9/11/2001, for instance, controversial activist Dyab Abou Jahjah, a Lebanese-born Belgian with alleged ties to Hezbollah, celebrated the attacks on New York's World Trade Center with friends. Jahjah, who also founded the now nascent Arab-European League (''AEL''), a political group that sought to combine democracy with Sharia in Europe, described the day in his autobiography, writing: ''We sat as if hypnotized by the radio, and heard that another plane was missing, maybe two. And that the Pentagon had been hit. We couldn't hold our joy, and laughed together.''
Jahjah was arrested for inciting riots in 2002; in 2009, AEL protests in Antwerp's Jewish quarter left many Jews afraid to leave their homes. Soon after, he returned to his native Lebanon. This past January Jahjah made his way back to Belgium where he has been actively contributing to the political dialogue, engaging in debates and speeches and penning a column for De Standaard. At the same time, he continues to post veiled anti-Semitic remarks on his Twitter feed (@aboujahjah) and elsewhere.
Yet little of this situation has been noted in the international press, even in discussing the attacks of May 24. No one seems to have noticed, say, the migration of Jews from Brussels' center as Muslim immigrants move in, or '' more significantly '' the increasing number of Jews who have emigrated to Israel, citing anti-Semitism at home. In fact, this development is true elsewhere in Europe as well, where, as the Deutsche Wirtschaftobserved in 2011, ''Particularly when Jews are recognizable, such as by wearing a yarmulke, they cannot show themselves in certain neighborhoods.''
Little attention has been paid, either, to a 2013 European report in which Belgium scored the second highest percentage of anti-Semitic attacks, the majority, though not all, of which were at the hands of Muslims, and in which 88 percent of Belgian Jews said that anti-Semitism had increased greatly in the previous five years.
This could explain why even top Belgian officials were woefully unprepared for what took place last Saturday at the museum; as former Brussels Police Commissioner Raphael Vandenbergh wrote me in an e-mail, ''we never thought such a terrorist attack would be possible in Belgium.''
That the accused is in fact French suggests, too, that the terror threat is in no way limited to Belgian borders '' as the 2011 massacre of children in Toulouse already showed. Indeed, the French have had their share of threats, ranging from the fire-bombing of the offices of Charlie Hebdo in response to a published satirical cartoon, to the bombing of a kosher grocery just outside Paris. One year ago, members of a suspected Chechnyan terror cell were also arrested in various locations surrounding the French capital.
In fact, Nemmouche himself was on the French officials' radar, having been previously arrested for armed robbery, and because he was known to have fought alongside jihadist groups in Syria.
And yet, he still managed to enter Belgium, walk into a Jewish museum with guns, and use them.
There is an even more tragic irony to this story: just two days after the Belgian attacks '' and a day after a similar attack in a town outside of Paris '-- Dutch officials publicized a new report on local and European intelligence, showing that America's controversial PRISM eavesdropping program abroad '' the one that has since been suspended after being leaked by former NSA employee Edward Snowden '' helped foil 26 terrorist attacks across Europe. Very possibly, that same program, were it not for Mr. Snowden, might have prevented the Brussels attack of May 24. And the next one. And the next one, and the next '' whoever may commit them. Wherever they may be.
Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, ofRadical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West(Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.
Europe Faces Green Power Curbs to Stop Grids Overloading - Bloomberg
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:50
Europe's drive toward a power system based on renewable energy has gone so far that output will probably need to be cut within months because of oversupply.
Network operators are likely to curb solar and wind generation at times of low demand to prevent overloading the region's 188,000 miles (302,557 kilometers) of power lines, Entso-e, the grid association in Brussels, said last month. Renewable output is poised to almost double to 18 percent by 2020, according to Energy Brainpool GmbH & Co. KG, a consulting firm in Berlin.
Europe's fivefold surge in green energy in the past decade pushed prices to a nine-year low and wiped out $400 billion in market value of utilities from Germany's RWE AG (RWE) to GDF Suez SA in Paris. There's so much power available on windy and sunny days in Germany and Austria that the number of hours producers had to pay consumers to use it doubled in the first five months of 2014, data from the Epex Spot SE exchange in Paris show.
''The system is costly and we need intelligent answers,'' Johannes Teyssen, chief executive officer of Dusseldorf, Germany-based EON SE, said June 2 in an interview at the Eurelectric conference in London. ''There are some hours where it is inevitable that we will be oversupplied.''
The expansion of renewables is at the center of the European Union's unprecedented effort to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by the end of the decade. Governments in the 28-nation bloc are discussing accelerating reductions to 40 percent by 2030.
German PricesYear-ahead electricity prices in Germany, a European benchmark, closed today at 34.15 euros ($46.58) a megawatt hour, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. The contract fell more than 60 percent from a June 2008 peak as renewables boosted supply and the 18-nation euro region's longest recession cut demand. Forward markets show costs will decline for another four years.
''In some member states we have been too fast'' in expanding renewables, European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said June 3 in an interview at the Eurelectric conference. The region needs better infrastructure to integrate the new power, he said.
Europe's production of renewable energy stretches from reservoirs in Romania to offshore wind parks in the U.K. The European Commission says 200 billion euros is needed to upgrade power and gas grids by 2020.
Summer OutlookEight countries from Germany to Bulgaria will need to export or curtail generation, including renewables, at times of low demand during most of this summer, Entso-e said in its May 22 Summer Outlook. Risks to grid operations will be most acute in Bulgaria, Spain and Romania, where capacity to ship power to neighboring countries is less than what's needed, the 41-member group said.
''It is hard to predict when the grid operator will intervene and for how long and it's a big problem,'' said Burkhard Steinhausen, whose team at Trianel GmbH manages the output of 3,000 megawatts of renewable capacity on behalf of producers. A supply of 1,000 megawatts is enough to power about 2 million European homes.
''If the grid isn't expanded at the same pace as renewables expansion, then it will happen more often,'' he said June 4 by phone from Aachen, Germany.
Demand in Germany, Europe's biggest power market, fluctuated between 78 gigawatts at 11:30 a.m. Berlin time and 40 gigawatts at 2:30 a.m. on June 2, according to a Bloomberg model. The difference is the same as the capacity of about 25 nuclear reactors.
Switching Off''There will be times when wind power will be too much for demand and this will become more common as wind power capacity increases,'' Gary Hornby, an energy analyst at Inenco Group Ltd. in Lytham St. Annes, England, said May 29 by e-mail. Curtailment ''is a byproduct of investing heavily in intermittent technologies such as wind and solar,'' he said.
Rather than switching off or curbing output at coal and nuclear plants that take hours to return to full output, some producers may keep generating, knowing prices may turn negative, which means they'll have to pay users to take the power.
There were 55 hours of negative prices on the German and Austrian intraday and day-ahead markets in the first five months of 2014 compared with 27 hours a year earlier, according to Epex. German solar output surged 83 percent in the first three months, while onshore wind generation gained 21 percent and offshore wind 34 percent, according to the German Association of Energy & Water Industries, a Berlin-based lobby group known as BDEW.
EU SubsidiesThe EU needs to get the quantities of renewable energy being produced ''under control,'' Henri Proglio, chief executive officer of Electricite de France SA, the world's biggest operator of nuclear plants, said June 2 at the Eurelectric conference. ''The more renewables you add in to the system, the more costs you add in subsidies or otherwise.''
European governments handed out $57 billion in 2012 for green energy projects, more than half of the global $101 billion, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris.
Investment in new European projects slowed to $43 billion last year from as much as $80.2 billion in 2012, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London.
The spending came even as EU power demand peaked in 2008 and is poised to slide 0.3 percent this year, according to IHS Inc., a consulting firm based in Englewood, Colorado.
''Demand has been in a declining trend with lower year-on-year consumption making the grid operators worried, as they also have to manage simultaneously a large influx of intermittent generation,'' Paolo Coghe, a senior analyst for European power, coal and carbon at Societe Generale SA, said May 23 by phone from Paris.
Curtailment CompensationRenewable producers typically get compensated to curtail output. Payments by the U.K.'s National Grid Plc (NG/) to wind power generators rose to 47.3 million pounds ($79.5 million) in the 12 months through March from 7.6 million pounds a year earlier, according to the London-based company. Constraint payments to wind farms occur during grid repairs, high winds, low demand or overcapacity on the grid, Rebecca Watson, a company spokeswoman, said May 30 by e-mail.
For Oeystein Loeseth, chief executive officer of Sweden's Vattenfall AB, the market could have been better designed. To pay subsidies to build renewables and then pay to have them stop when demand is low ''is very cost inefficient,'' he said June 2 in London.
To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Morison in London at rmorison@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lars Paulsson at lpaulsson@bloomberg.net Dan Stets
Bo Diddley
Email from Idaho
Hi Adam,
I have been a listener and financial contributor for a few years now and I have felt compelled recently to become a producer by giving you some insight into the history of Bo Bergdahl. I live in the town that Bo grew up in, Hailey Idaho, in the mountains of Idaho. You might be somewhat familiar with the area because one of your hot pocket tours came very close to here but I think a forest fire deterred you from entering the smoke filled mountain valley and you went to straight to Boise.
I never new Bo directly but obviously became aware of him after his capture. Hailey is a small town and Bob Bergdahl drove a UPS truck and my house was on his route. From what I understand, the Bergdahls parents are on the hippie spectrum and they home schooled their children. I wanted to direct you to a story written by Michael Hasting in 2012 (a year before he was killed) about Bo . It is a long but very good article that is impossible for me to summarize. What I gleaned from the article was that Bo was a naive kid that tried and failed to join the French Foreign Legion and joined the army as a backup choice because he wanted to help the Afghan people. After being deployed he quickly became disillusioned with the war and eventually walked away from his station. The article is vastly better than my brief summary.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/americas-last-prisoner-of-war-20120607
I hope you have time to read it. The news cycle in the last week has become pretty disgusting and and a kid who has been a POW for 5 years has been reduced to a bunch of soundbites for the left and right to argue about; another reason I am happy to call myself an idependent. Hailey Idaho has received threats for wanting to celebrate Bo's release from the Taliban and has subsequently cancelled the scheduled celebration. We are aware that he is not a hero and made many bad choices but he is the only son of one of our neighbors and we are happy that he did not end up killed in captivity.
I love the show. I am saving up to contribute again soon.
Please keep me anonymous because I don't want any backlash from not wanting to call Bo a traitor.
I will try to keep you apprised of the happenings in Bo's home town. I wonder when the satellite trucks will leave
Email from another serviceman
Adam:
I am grateful for your and John's coverage of the Bergdahl affair and
the media backlash against the lies propagated by the "official"
channels. However, there are lies and mistruths on both sides of the
story. What particularly irks me are the stories "parading" the loss of
Soldiers' lives during the search for Bergdahl.
SSG Bowen and PFC Walker were NOT killed in the search for Bergdahl. We
(I was in Comanche Company during all of this) were providing "security"
in the remote town of Dila for the Afghan national elections (which were
a farce in their own right: village elders were allowed to cast votes
for an entire village at once in a similar vein to the 3/5 rule of the
slave era -- open and free elections my ass).
SSG Murphrey, also of C CO, was killed by an IED on a convoy route
security overwatch point. Again NOT on a mission in support of the
Bergdahl search and rescue.
LT Andrews, SSG Curtiss, and PVT Martinek were in other companies within
the battalion, so I do not know the details of the missions that led to
their deaths. Still, it's sickening (and lends credence to your thesis
on the Obama Administration being set up to fail) that the circumstances
surrounding the deaths of at least three Soldiers are being distorted to
fit an agenda.
The truth is out there.
Did the Bowe Bergdahl Story Get Michael Hastings Killed? : Freedom Outpost
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:41
There have many credible reports, from those who were in Afghanistan, that stated clearly that fellow soldiers were under orders of silence in reference to the desertion of Bowe Bergdahl. That is somewhat understandable. However'... If a reporter was able to reach out to those same troops, and get them to break that silence, would that be enough to get that reporter killed?
On June 7, 2012 Michael Hastings had a piece published in Rolling Stone titled America's Last Prisoner of War. This was not a fluff piece. It was hard-hitting journalism that was the trademark of Michael Hastings' reporting. Even back in 2012, Hastings was reporting that Bowe was a deserter and a lot of the stories you have been hearing and reading over the last week stemmed from that ground-breaking account. He was ahead of his time and effectively blew the lid off this story long before it was a story. Here is a brief excerpt from the article, although I would encourage you to read it in full.
The next day, American forces had a chance to free Bowe. The battalion operations officer, call sign GERONIMO 3, met with two tribal elders from the nearby village. The elders had been asked by the Taliban to arrange a trade with U.S. forces. The insurgents wanted 15 of their jailed fighters released, along with an unidentified sum of money, in exchange for Bowe. The officer hedged, unwilling or unable to make such a bargain, and no deal was struck. Instead, the Army ordered all units stationed in the eastern half of Afghanistan '' known as RC East, in military jargon '' to join the search for Bowe.
On July 4th, the search effort got a break: Bowe was spotted in a village in Ghazni, about 15 miles across the mountains to the west. He was wearing khaki, with a bag covering his head, and he was being driven in a black Toyota Corolla, escorted by three to five motorcycles. But by the time troops arrived to investigate, it was too late. That was the last time that Bowe would be seen until the first propaganda video, released later that month.
Michael Hastings got Bowe Bergdahl's fellow soldiers to speak upon conditions of anonymity while disobeying the "gag orders" of their superiors.
Many in the alternative media community believe that Michael Hastings did not simply die in a car accident on June 18, 2013. They believe that accident was the result of sabotage. However, the prevalent theory has been that, if he was targeted it must have had something to do with the NSA. Tim Brown reported back in August of 2013:
Ironically, Hastings had sent the following email to close friends just hours before his death:
"Subject: FBI Investigation, re: NSA -Hey (redacted names) '-- the Feds are interviewing my "close friends and associates." Perhaps if the authorities arrive "BuzzFeed GQ," er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news gathering practices or related journalism issues. Also: I'm onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.
Some have speculated that Hastings' car was booby trapped due to the numerous explosions. Former counter-terror czar Richard Clarke reacted to the news by telling the Huffington Post that the fatal crash was "consistent with a car cyber attack."
Even if the FBI was investigating Hastings over his NSA reporting, that was not their only investigation into Michael Hastings. Yesterday Eric Barlow, reporting for wearechange.org, brought to light a scarcely known FBI document that was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request:
At the time of the story's publication, the media had all but forgotten about Bergdahl '-- who was released on Saturday after five years in the hands of the Taliban, in exchange for five Guantanamo prisoners. And, with the exception of some initial chatter, Hastings' piece, which paints a deeply unflattering picture of Bergdahl's unit and its leadership, hardly had the impact of some of his other investigations.
But someone did pay attention to it: the FBI.
That, at least, is what was revealed in a heavily redacted document released by the agency following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request '-- filed on the day of Hastings' death '-- by investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, an MIT doctoral student whom the Justice Department once called the "most prolific" requester of FOIA documents.
For the FBI to launch an investigation into a Rolling Stone article about a military deserter would seem to open up a whole line of potential questions, but it can be simplified with just one.
Why?
These are the things that conspiracy theories are made of. Would this story have been enough to get Michael Hastings silenced permanently? Was it more of a case of Hastings whole body of work?
We will likely never know the answer to these questions and some will say it's a stretch to even ask them. But you do not get to the truth without asking tough questions. My personal opinion is that this would only be enough if there was something larger that the government was trying to hide. For instance, and I am not stating these as facts, maybe Bergdahl worked for the CIA or maybe he really was working with The Taliban.
The original FBI report has been partially unredacted because of legal challenges. If you would like to read the report, you can see it here.
Whether the story of Bowe Bergdahl would have been enough to get Michael Hastings killed is certainly debatable, but you cannot deny that he was way ahead of everyone else on this story as with many other stories.
This is the same guy who ended the career of General Stanley McChrystal.
In the current political climate, I doubt nothing and am surprised by nothing. Could Michael Hastings have been killed by our government to shut him up?
If you don't believe that is possible, then you simply have not been paying attention. Our government doesn't like real investigative reporters who expose the truth. They prefer the lap-dog media that simply follows the "talking points" and narratives they are given.
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Bob Bergdahl remains calm at centre of storm over son released by Taliban | World news | theguardian.com
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 21:30
The Berdaghl family made its home in a remote, wind-whipped Idaho valley to keep the world at a certain distance. But two outside forces '' the Taliban and US politics '' crashed into the idyll.
It says a lot about Bob Bergdahl, 54, and the son he raised that of the two, he appears to have handled the Taliban better.
The former UPS delivery man has intrigued, inspired and infuriated the US public since the release of his son, Bowe, 28, ignited a political firestorm last week.
The ponytail and straggly beard, the phrases in Arabic and Pashto, the refusal to look or sound like a conventional dad, the theories about Bowe's alleged desertion '' all have fuelled the clamour, prompting many to ask: just who are the Bergdahls?
Interviews with friends, neighbours and colleagues in the valley and in Hailey, the nearest town, paint a nuanced portrait of a family that on one hand is sporty, Christian and all-American, fond of horses, hunting, chocolate muffins and Jimmy Fallon; and on the other bookish, private and iconoclastic, carving an individualistic trail in its own private Idaho. That lifestyle bred idealism '' and, arguably, naivety.
''Bob almost reads and thinks too much,'' said Lee Ann Ferris, a neighbour. ''You'd ask him a question and, whoah, what an answer you'd get.''
Susan Martin, a close family friend who employed Bowe at her coffee shop, said he inherited his father's looks and passion for books and going his own way.
''I called Bowe the mystery elf. He was always out doing things, helping people,'' she said. Bowe's father, Martin said, had an ''old hippie soul''.
The story of how father and son came to animate the drama engulfing President Barack Obama '' he has been accused of breaking the law and endangering US lives by trading five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl without giving Congress the 30 days notice required by law '' is rooted in a pioneering, individualistic spirit.
In California in the late 1970s, Bob was a young champion cyclist, tipped for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A US boycott over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended that dream '' an ironic twist given the country's later impact on his life.
Bergdahl moved to Idaho to become a carpenter; he was attracted by the landscape and the opportunity to work outdoors, said friends. He married Jani, a devout Presbyterian who liked horses and biking. Bergdahl, a Catholic, switched to his wife's church, which they attended regularly, and built their wooden bungalow in a rugged strip of alfalfa crops wedged between bare hills.
After the arrival of a daughter, Sky, and then Bowe, Bergdahl took a job delivering parcels for UPS, a job he kept for 28 years.
''He knows more about the people in this town than anyone else,'' smiled Chip Deffe, a bike store owner who hired Bergdahl as a mechanic after he retired from UPS.
Bob Bergdahl speaks at a press conference in Boise, Idaho last Sunday. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty ImagesThe Bergdahls schooled their children at home. There was no TV, but there were many books '' to this day the house is filled with mostly non-fiction volumes including tracts on history, religion, science and athletics, said Alan Beserra, a friend and regular visitor.
When not working the older Bergdahl was out camping, chopping wood or hunting elk and deer with a bow. Bowe was equally active but often did his own thing '' making 30-mile treks and taking up karate, paragliding, fencing and ballet. There are multiple testimonies to his desire to help others: shovelling snow, doing errands, teaching.
''He was a very good dancer, muscular and flexible. The girls trusted him when he was doing lifts,'' said Sherry Horton, his ballet teacher, who shared a house with him at one point.
Bowe had friends and a girlfriend but could be socially awkward, Horton said. ''Girls liked him but he'd miss the cues. He was observant, quiet, but would come out with the best one-liner of the night.''
He abandoned a plan to join the French Foreign Legion because it would mean giving up American citizenship, according to friends, so instead he signed up for the US infantry.
''He wanted to serve and to help people,'' said Horton. ''I thought the army would be a good fit.''
It wasn't. Bergdahl's deployment to Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, as the world now knows, ended in disaster. Instead of helping Afghans, the sensitive bookworm found himself in a flailing counter-insurgency. Former platoon comrades said he was a loner who lost faith in the mission and the US.
In June 2009 Bowe left his base, in circumstances which remain unclear, and fell into Taliban hands.
After recovering from the shock, his father, 7,000 miles away in Idaho, did three things: bought a TV to follow the news; immersed himself in online study of US foreign policy, Afghan culture, negotiation psychology and anything related to the crisis; and started growing a beard.
The study expanded to Arabic and Pashto and the beard '' intended to express solidarity with his son and project the image of a tribal elder '' gradually transformed his appearance.
Marathon sessions on the computer and phone became all-consuming. ''Bob and Jani basically were prisoners too,'' said Ferris. At Jani's prodding Bob resumed biking, ending excursions with apple strudel or chocolate muffins, and he discovered ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. But these were fleeting interludes in his efforts to understand and sway his son's captors.
There were, in fact, some parallels: a former endurance athlete who thrived in Idaho's elemental climate and terrain, Bob Bergdahl could relate to Taliban grit in a similar environment. He also vehemently opposed the US mission in Afghanistan and detentions in Guantnamo Bay.
''I think this is the darkening of the American soul,'' he told the Guardian, in the run-up to Bowe's release.
Whether Bergdahl's outreach to the Taliban helped the negotiations remains unclear. There is little doubt, however, that some of his public relations efforts backfired in the US.
A 2012 Rolling Stone article included emails from Bowe to his father, shortly before his capture, railing at the US and hinting at desertion. Bob had confided in the journalist, Michael Hastings, and almost certainly provided the emails not realising the damage they would inflict, said one family friend.
The stakes were higher last Saturday, when Bergdahl and his wife appeared alongside President Obama for what was supposed to be a triumphant, joyful announcement of Bowe's release.
Any White House worries about their guest's appearance and what he would say were weighed against the emotional power of tearful, grateful parents emerging from a horrific ordeal.
Republicans, however, complained that Congress was not given 30 days notice of the freeing of the Taliban detainees, as required by law, and that the militants could endanger American lives despite a condition of the deal obliging them to remain in Qatar under supervision for a year.
Then some of Bowe's former comrades came forward, accusing him of betrayal, desertion and costing the lives of soldiers who searched for him. They depicted an eccentric, selfish loner.
Jani and Bob Bergdahl with President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/APAmid the brewing storm, in the Rose Garden alongside the president and the next day at another press conference in Boise, stood Bowe's father, with a straggly beard, speaking the enemy's languages, invoking Allah, and saying things like: ''We're so much like Afghanistan.''
Some found his composure and dignity inspiring. Plenty others did not, and the backlash strengthened. Social media erupted in insults, accusations and conspiracy theories. Bill O'Reilly declared on Fox News that Bob Bergdahl ''looked like a Muslim''. Protests and threats prompted Hailey to cancel a welcome home celebration for Bowe, who remains at a base in Germany.
Some senior Democrats swelled the Republican clamour that the administration paid too high a price for a rogue soldier. A Time magazine cover articulated the subtext: ''Was he worth it?''
Obama publicly held firm, saying he had no regrets. But the Pentagon, having initially signalled that Bowe had suffered enough, indicated he may in fact face a court martial after transferring to a military clinic in Texas '' the next stage of his recovery.
Bob and Jani Bergdahl, meanwhile, remain out of sight, apparently hunkered down at home. On Thursday curtains were drawn and several vehicles were parked out front. Horses grazed in the fields. There was no sound except for the wind.
''All this criticism will be water off Bob's back,'' said Chip Deffe, his friend and boss at the bicycle store. ''He's true to himself.''
In a politicised climate obsessed with image, that can be a problem.
The Gitmo detainees swapped for Bergdahl: Who are they? - CNN.com
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 20:59
By CNN Staff
updated 7:55 PM EDT, Sat May 31, 2014
Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, one of five Guantanamo Bay detainees exchanged Saturday for Bowe Bergdahl, may have been directly associated with Osama bin Laden.
(CNN) -- Together with the announcement that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released after nearly five years of captivity came the news that five detainees at Guantanamo Bay were being transferred to Qatar.
A plane carrying the detainees left the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba, after the announcement that Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009, had been exchanged for the five men.
Saturday's transfer was brokered through the Qatari government, a senior Defense official said. According to senior administration officials, Qatar agreed to take custody of the detainees and provide assurances they would not pose a threat to the United States, including a one-year ban from travel out of Qatar.
Two senior administration officials confirmed the names of the five released detainees as Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari.
They were mostly mid- to high-level officials in the Taliban regime and had been detained early in the war in Afghanistan, because of their positions within the Taliban, not because of ties to al Qaeda.
CNN profiled them two years ago, when their names first surfaced as candidates for a transfer as part of talks with the Taliban:
Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa
Khairkhwa was an early member of the Taliban in 1994 and was interior minister during the Taliban's rule. He hails from the same tribe as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and was captured in January 2002. Khairkhwa's most prominent position was as governor of Herat province from 1999 to 2001, and he was alleged to have been "directly associated" with Osama bin Laden. According to a detainee assessment, Khairkhwa also was probably associated with al Qaeda's now-deceased leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. He is described as one of the "major opium drug lords in western Afghanistan" and a "friend" of Karzai. He was arrested in Pakistan and was transferred to Guantanamo in May 2002. During questioning, Khairkhwa denied all knowledge of extremist activities.
Mullah Mohammad Fazl
Fazl commanded the main force fighting the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in 2001, and served as chief of army staff under the Taliban regime. He has been accused of war crimes during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s. Fazl was detained after surrendering to Abdul Rashid Dostam, the leader of Afghanistan's Uzbek community, in November 2001. He was wanted by the United Nations in connection with the massacre of thousands of Afghan Shiites during the Taliban's rule. "When asked about the murders, he did not express any regret," according to the detainee assessment. He was alleged to have been associated with several militant Islamist groups, including al Qaeda. He was transferred into U.S. custody in December 2001 and was one of the first arrivals at Guantanamo, where he was assessed as having high intelligence value.
Mullah Norullah Noori
Noori served as governor of Balkh province in the Taliban regime and played some role in coordinating the fight against the Northern Alliance. Like Fazl, Noori was detained after surrendering to Dostam, the Uzbek leader, in 2001. Noori claimed during interrogation that "he never received any weapons or military training." According to 2008 detainee assessment, Noori "continues to deny his role, importance and level of access to Taliban officials." That same assessment characterized him as high risk and of high intelligence value.
Abdul Haq Wasiq
Wasiq was the deputy chief of the Taliban regime's intelligence service. His cousin was head of the service. An administrative review in 2007 cited a source as saying that Wasiq was also "an al Qaeda intelligence member" and had links with members of another militant Islamist group, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. Wasiq claimed, according to the review, that he was arrested while trying to help the United States locate senior Taliban figures. He denied any links to militant groups.
Mohammad Nabi Omari
Omari was a minor Taliban official in Khost Province. According to the first administrative review in 2004, he was a member of the Taliban and associated with both al Qaeda and another militant group Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. He was the Taliban's chief of communications and helped al Qaeda members escape from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Omari acknowledged during hearings that he had worked for the Taliban but denied connections with militant groups. He also said that he had worked with a U.S. operative named Mark to try to track down Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
CNN's Elise Labott and Erin McPike contributed to this report.
War on Crazy
Nursing student email
Adam,
I am catching up on episode 622 and you are correct that the push to link mental illness with the removal of firearm privileges is very dangerous.
I am a nursing student, and when I did my psych rotation on the County lock-down psych unit I was shocked to find out how the system worked.
If a cop picks you up and puts you on a 5150 evaluation hold - you lose your firearms. Regardless of whether you are eventually found to be mentally ill or not. No court, no judge, just a mental health worker filling out a one page state form and forwarding it to the DOJ. It's considered an "involuntary commitment". And it's automatic.
This is abused by law enforcement all the time. Many, many times people are put on 5150 holds because they are drunk, or have taken drugs and are acting strangely, or even just because they are weird. The cops aren't trained in dealing with mental illness, and do a poor job of dealing with it in the field.
Once you are in this system, you have to go to court after the fact and prove you are NOT crazy to get your gun rights restored. It's the exact OPPOSITE of innocent until proven guilty. It's also an incredible amount of power to give an individual police officer. They can unilaterally put you in psych jail for 72 hours (and the lock down psych unit IS jail, don't kid yourself) and strip you of your gun rights with the stroke of a pen. Essentially, the cops have the authority to put you in jail for three days on their word alone. No judge needed. Not to mention the time and expense to fight to get your gun rights back. It's a very, very poor system and the government wants to expand it.
Thanks for covering it.
Producer R.
This Bipolar Man Knows Gun Laws Are Nuts: He Was Able to Buy One - The Daily Beast
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:29
U.S. News06.06.14
A 33-year-old bipolar man walked into a store, lied about his mental health, and walked out with a deadly weapon.
John Hokanson Jr. is bipolar. The 33-year-old has been involuntarily committed several times, in California and in Arizona, and he has been in court-ordered outpatient treatment. Yet no red flags were raised when he purchased a surplus Army rifle from a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Phoenix.
In fact, the only reason we know this particular mentally ill man purchased firearm is because he's deciding to tell his story, frustrated by what he sees as a ''false dichotomy'' with mass shootings framed as either a mental-health issue only or a gun issue only.
Everyone agrees that guns should be kept out of the hands of the mentally ill, even the National Rifle Association. But taking the steps to make that happen is where agreement ends. The Isla Vista shooter's fragile mental state was known by his parents and the professionals who had treated him since childhood, but police doing a ''wellness check'' on him at the request of his mother failed to even ask about the guns in his possession.
Hokanson thought he needed a gun because he was living in what he describes as a bad neighborhood. This was in 2005-2006, so he was in his mid-twenties. During a depressive episode when he wasn't caring for himself or cleaning his apartment, and was in the hospital awaiting evaluation, his sister took it upon herself to break into his apartment and remove the rifle. She took it to a gun turn-in program. Initially furious with his sister, Hokanson came to see the wisdom in what she did.
''In retrospect, I love her for it,'' he told The Daily Beast. ''I've never had homicidal thoughts, but the thing with the gun'--I would have killed myself with it'--no question.'' He noted that a little more than 50 percent of suicides among men are with firearms, while women are more likely to kill themselves by overdosing on prescription drugs.
Hokanson's bipolar disorder appeared when he was in his late teens and early twenties. In California, he was taken in on a ''5150,'' the code for involuntary commitment when someone is deemed a threat to themselves or others. He remembers being handed a sheet of paper that said he was prohibited from owning a firearm under state and federal law. At the Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Phoenix, he filled out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives's Form 4473, checking ''no'' on question ''11f,'' which asked whether he had ever been ''adjudicated mentally defective'' or committed to a mental institution.
Lying on that ATF form was a felony, ''and if the statute of limitations hasn't expired, I shall gladly take my punishment if it helps prevent future tragedies.''
''I make no excuses for it,'' he says. ''I checked the box that said no and that was a lie.'' That one question should have disqualified him, but he signed the form, handed it to the clerk at the sporting-goods store, ''and he called up wherever he called up, and it came back 'proceed with sale.' I walked out with the rifle in tow after about 20 minutes. Plus a box of ammunition.''
Hokanson's name should have been fed into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System when he was in California. If it had been and the system worked, he should have been flagged in Arizona.
''I *still* don't know if I'm in that f*cking database like I'm supposed to be,'' he posted on Facebook. ''I've been court ordered for treatment plenty of times.'' The way for him to find out would be to try and buy another gun, which he has not attempted to do.
He's stable now, takes his meds, and is living in a somewhat better neighborhood. But if he should decide he wants a gun, Hokanson doesn't have to tempt the federal database'--he can just go around it.
''No more than two miles from me is the state fairground,'' he said. ''I'm sure you've heard of the gun-show loophole. Now even if I'm in that database, I could just go to the state fairgrounds to buy a gun there, too. It doesn't make any sense.''
He recalled an episode of the McLaughlin Group (where I'm a panelist) after the shooting in Tucson that killed six people and gravely wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. The debate centered on the need for background checks to identify people with criminal backgrounds or mental illness.
''I was sitting on my bed and I heard Pat Buchanan say they already do that, and I'm thinking there are enormous holes in that database,'' he said. The gun-show loophole allows sellers to bypass the background check that would identify people with criminal backgrounds or with serious mental illness.
Efforts to close the loophole have failed in Washington, but have gained momentum in the states. Colorado passed a background-check law, and in Washington state this November, voters will vote on competing measures. Initiative 594 would close the gun-show loophole; Initiative 591, backed by the NRA, would ban any statewide gun-safety restrictions unless passed on the federal level.
''I'm not going to take a position on gun control but people who are mentally ill'... and they're out in society, doing treatment as an outpatient, and it's been determined that I'm a danger to myself or others, it's still easy to get a gun,'' says Hokanson.
Lying on that ATF form was a felony, ''and if the statute of limitations hasn't expired, I shall gladly take my punishment if it helps prevent future tragedies,'' he said in a recent Facebook post.
Keeping quiet about what he knows would be the greater transgression.
Cyber!
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SQUIRREL!-Cyber Attack 'To Hit In Next Two Weeks'
Tue, 03 Jun 2014 16:49
Computer users are being urged to protect their machines from malware which allows hackers to steal financial data.
British investigators have been working with the FBI to trace the hackers behind ongoing attacks, and the botnet system used by the targets has been temporarily disrupted.
But the UK's National Crime Agency says people have just two weeks before the system could be functioning again, and urged people to protect their computers from an expected "powerful computer attack".
Bogachev is said to use the online monikers 'lucky12345' and 'slavik'Between 500,000 and one million machines have so far been infected worldwide, according to court documents.
US officials have accused a Russian hacker of masterminding the scam - and prosecutors say those involved have already raked in more than $100m (£60m).
The NCA is urging people to back up important files and make sure their security software and operating system are up to date.
Two pieces of malware software known as GOZeuS and CryptoLocker are responsible for the alert.
They typically infect a computer via attachments or links in emails.
If a user clicks on GOZeuS, it silently monitors activity and tries to capture information such as bank details.
"(The links or attachments) may look like they have been sent by genuine contacts and may purport to carry invoices, voicemail messages, or any file made to look innocuous," the NCA warned.
"These emails are generated by other victims' computers, who do not realise they are infected, and are used to send mass emails creating more victims."
The Cryptolocker malware is activated if the first attack is not profitable enough.
It locks a user from their files and threatens to delete them unless a "ransom" of several hundred pounds is paid.
Some 234,000 machines were hit by Cryptolocker - bringing in $27m (£16m) in payments - in its first two months, the US Justice Department said.
Computers running Windows software are said to be most vulnerableMore than 15,500 computers in the UK are infected and "many more" are at risk, according to the NCA.
Stewart Garrick, a senior investigator with the NCA, told Sky News the threat was mainly against individuals or businesses running Windows-based computers.
Thirty-year-old Russian Evgeniy Bogachev is the alleged leader of the gang behind the attacks, FBI executive assistant director Robert Anderson told a news conference in Washington DC.
US and other agents seized servers around the world this weekend and freed 300,000 computers from the infection.
"They (the FBI) have disrupted the network and taken control of it," said Sky's Tom Cheshire.
"So when the hackers try to speak to the computer that's affected, that line of communication has been cut off.
"You now have a chance to clean up. The first thing you should do is update your operating system - especially if you're on Windows, then look to scan your computer for viruses and it should be able to find it."
For more information visit www.getsafeonline.org/nca.
Global police operation disrupts aggressive Cryptolocker virus | Technology | The Guardian
Tue, 03 Jun 2014 16:55
US authorities named Russian national Evgeniy Bogachev as the face of a malicious software scheme responsible for stealing millions from people around the world, after a successful campaign to disrupt two major computer networks.
Digital police from across the globe announced they had seized control over the weekend of two computer networks that had been used to steal banking information and ransom information locked in files on infected computers. But they warned people with infected computers to take action now to prevent further attacks.
US and European officials announced they had managed to crack the malicious software (malware) known as Gameover Zeus that had been used to divert millions of dollars to bank accounts of criminals. The authorities have also cracked Cryptolocker '' a viral scam that shutout hundreds of thousands of users from their own computers and ransomed the data.
The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) told British victims that they have a two-week window to protect themselves, after working with the FBI, Europol and other law enforcement bodies to temporarily seize control of the global network of infected computers.
The US authorities identified Bogachev, of Anapa in the Russian Federation, as Gameover Zeus's main administrator. At a press conference, deputy attorney general James Cole called him ''a true 21st-century criminal who commits cybercrimes across the globe with the stroke of a key and the click of a mouse '...These crimes have earned Bogachev a place on its list of the world's most-wanted cyber criminals.''
According to the FBI's ''cyber most wanted'' list Bogachev has been using variants of the Zeus malware since 2009 and communicates using the online monikers ''lucky12345'' and ''slavik''. Gameover Zeus (GOZ) started appearing in 2011 and is believed to be ''responsible for more than one million computer infections, resulting in financial losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars''.
"He is known to enjoy boating and may travel to locations along the Black Sea in his boat," according to the FBI.
The Cryptolocker software locked PC users out of their machines, encrypting all their files and demanding payment of one Bitcoin (currently worth around £300, or $650) for decryption.
It's believed Cryptolocker, which the FBI estimated acquired $27m in ransom payments in just the first two months of its life, has infected more than 234,000 machines.
A chief suspect from Russia has been identified, but is still at large, Troels Oerting, head of Europol's European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3) told the Guardian. He said other arrests related to the operation were ''in progress''.
The global effort to stop the spread of the Cryptolocker ransomware has focused on its delivery method, GOZ. The malware connected infected machines by peer-to-peer connections '' in theory making it harder for the authorities to track and stop.
GOZ was designed to steal people's online banking login details, who were usually infected by clicking on attachments or links in emails that looked innocuous. However, it also dropped Cryptolocker on their computers.
"Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs of loved ones to be stolen or held to ransom by criminals," said Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit.
"By making use of this two-week window, huge numbers of people in the UK can stop that from happening to them. Whether you find online security complicated or confusing, or simply haven't thought about keeping your personal or office computers safe for a while, now is the time to take action."
Affected users are being advised to update their operating system software and security software, and also to "think twice before clicking on links or attachments in unsolicited emails".
Not-for-profit body Get Safe Online has worked with the NCA to launch a dedicated section of its website to provide guidance and tools, although at the time of publication the website appeared to be offline.
Behind the scenes, the law enforcement groups have been taking over points of control in GOZ's peer-to-peer network: an action known as "sinkholing" in the security world. By doing this, they have been able to cut off criminal control over the infected computers.
Dismantling peer-to-peer operated malware is difficult, but it has been done before: for example one case of a data-stealing virus called ZeroAccess, which infected as many as 1.9m PCs in 2013.
In that case, security researchers from Symantec managed to send lists of fake peers to infected machines, which meant they could no longer receive commands from the controllers of the malicious network, known as a botnet.
Symantec researchers said today that key nodes in GOZ's network had been disabled, along with a number of the domains used by the attackers.
Oerting told The Guardian the entire GOZ's operations infrastructure had been sinkholed, meaning the malware should ''not reappear for '... considerable time''.
Although arrests have not yet been made, Oerting believes the eventual impact will be ''great''. ''[It will not last] forever, but the infrastructure is gone and the criminals will have to build and distribute from scratch,'' he added.
BBC News - Android Simplelocker ransomware encrypts SD card files
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 19:44
4 June 2014Last updated at 12:57 ET By Leo KelionTechnology desk editorA security firm says it has found the first confirmed case of ransomware that encrypts files held by Android devices.
Eset reports that the Trojan - called Simplelocker - targets SD cards slotted into tablets and handsets, electronically scrambling certain types of files on them before demanding cash to decrypt the data.
The message is in Russian, and payment is requested in Ukrainian currency.
One expert said the threat was noteworthy, but limited at this stage.
"File-encrypting malware has proved to be a lucrative criminal enterprise so it is unsurprising that Android has become a new target," said Dr Steven Murdoch, of the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory.
"Smartphone users should be very cautious of installing software from sources other than the operating system-provided application store, and should pressure their phone supplier to promptly provide security updates to defend against known vulnerabilities."
He noted that networks often lagged or failed altogether to provide Google's security patches for older Android handsets.
Porn alertSlovakia-based Eset said affected device owners were presented with a message saying that their phone was locked because they had viewed and distributed "child pornography , zoophilia and other perversions".
It goes on to instruct the victims to pay 260 hryvnias ($22, £13) via the Ukrainian MoneXy cash transfer system.
"After payment your device will be unlocked within 24 hours. In case of no PAYMENT YOU WILL LOSE ALL DATA ON your device!" it added.
The security firm said that the types of files that could be encrypted included jpeg and gif images, dox and txt text files, and mkv, avi and mp4 media.
It added that information about the infected device would also be uploaded to the server computer used by the cyber-thieves, potentially to help them ensure the right data was decrypted when a payment was received.
This server was hosted on a hidden part of the internet called Tor, Eset added, making the scam hard to trace.
"Our analysis... revealed that we are most likely dealing with a proof-of-concept or a work in progress - for example, the implementation of the encryption doesn't come close to 'the infamous Cryptolocker' on Windows," wrote security researcher Robert Lipovsky.
"Nevertheless, the malware is fully capable of encrypting the user's files, which may be lost if the encryption key is not retrieved.
"While the malware does contain functionality to decrypt the files, we strongly recommend against paying up - not only because that will only motivate other malware authors to continue these kinds of filthy operations, but also because there is no guarantee that the crook will keep their part of the deal and actually decrypt them."
Although this is the first reported instance of Android ransomware encrypting files, there have been other types.
Last month a security researcher known as Kafeine reported about a variant that prevented Android apps from launching, effectively making infected devices useless, unless a $300 payment was made.
Before that, the security firm Symantec reported about an app that caused pop-up warnings to repeatedly appear, which could not easily be closed unless a fee was paid.
Powerful computer virus could start emptying bank accounts in a fortnight unless Britons protect against attack now, National Crime Agency warns
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:34
00m cybercrime mastermindMore than 15,000 in the UK may already be infected by 'Gameover Zeus'The virus could cost the British economy millions, experts warnThe software can also lock computers and demand a ransom to unlockRussian Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev accused of being virus mastermindAlleged gang also consists of British criminals, according to prosecutorsBut he may never be arrested as Russia do not extradite accused criminals to other countriesBy Chris Greenwood
Published: 15:11 EST, 2 June 2014 | Updated: 15:54 EST, 3 June 2014
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The U.S. Justice Department has filed papers accusing Russian Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, pictured, as being the leader of the gang behind the software
He is wanted for being the alleged mastermind in a global multi-million dollar cyber crime which has put thousands of British computer users at risk.
But the Russian man suspected of being behind the so-called Gameover Zeus ransom virus may become a thorn in the FBI's side - in the same way as ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden, who is fighting extradition to the U.S. over claims he leaked secret surveillance documents.
Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev was last night accused of being the head of an international gang behind the software.
But there are already fears that the 30-year-old may never be arrested as Russia does not extradite accused criminals to other countries.
It comes as Computer users were last night warned to take urgent action to protect themselves from a global cyber virus pandemic.
Police across the globe launched an unprecedented attack on high-tech criminals behind software causing misery to millions.
The computers of more than 15,000 people in the UK are already infected with a virus that could cost our economy 'millions', the National Crime Agency (NCA) warned.
But the grip of those behind the so-called 'malware' has been weakened by a counter attack on the servers which control the software.
Prosecutors have pointed the finger at Bogachev who they claimed was the head of a set-up consisting of criminals in the UK as well as in Russia and Ukraine.
Computer experts said computer users must install anti-virus software and update their operating systems to the latest versions to stop it regaining its hold.
Those who fail to do so risk having their valuable data, including precious photographs, music and personal files held to ransom.
The FBI called the alleged ringleader, 30-year-old Evgeniy Bogachev, one of the most prolific cyber criminals in the world and issued a 'Wanted' poster, pictuted, that lists his online monikers and describes him as a boating enthusiast
In the worst cases, victims could lose access to their bank accounts which could be systematically drained by the criminal network.
The software, called Gameover Zeus, has spread worldwide but has been temporarily disabled by the international effort by law enforcement agencies.
Potential victims can protect themselves but have only a short time to do so before the hackers can rebuild their network.
The international effort by forces including the NCA, Interpol and Europol, targeted the 'command and control' servers behind the virus.
Hackers will be able to install new ones, but it is thought that there will be a window of opportunity of at least two weeks for computer users to protect themselves.
Many of those whose computers have already been infected will be contacted by their internet service providers.
The software installs itself on a computer when the victim clicks on a link in an unsolicited email or via a website.
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In the worst cases, victims could lose access to their bank accounts which could be systematically drained
PRIME SUSPECT: THE RUSSIAN BOAT-LOVER WANTED BY THE FBICould Russian Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, pictured, be the behind the global cyber virus pandemic?
He is the man suspected of being behind a gang that has sparked a global cyber virus pandemic.
But the FBI has already spent years looking for Russian Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev who uses the online names 'lucky12345' and 'slavik'.
The 30-year-old is wanted for his alleged involvement in a 'racketeering enterprise' that installed malicious software known as 'Zeus' on victims' computers.
The software was used to capture bank account numbers, passwords, personal identification numbers, and other information needed to log into online banking accounts.
The FBI believes Bogachev knowingly acted in a role as an administrator while others involved in the scheme conspired to distribute spam and phishing emails, which contained links to compromised websites.
Victims who visited these web sites were infected with the malware, which Bogachev and others allegedly used to steal money from the victims' bank accounts.
This online account takeover fraud has been investigated by the FBI since the summer of 2009.
Starting in September 2011, the FBI began investigating a modified version of the Zeus Trojan, known as Gameover Zeus (GOZ).
It is believed GOZ is responsible for more than one million computer infections, resulting in financial losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
On August 22, 2012, Bogachev was indicted under the nickname 'lucky12345' by a federal grand jury in the District of Nebraska on a number of charges including Bank Fraud, Conspiracy to Violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Aggravated Identity Theft.
On May 19, 2014, Bogachev was indicted in his true name by a federal grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania on charges of Conspiracy, Computer Fraud, Wire Fraud, Bank Fraud and Money Laundering.
Then just days ago on May 30, a criminal complaint was issued in the District of Nebraska that ties the previously indicted nickname of 'lucky12345' to Bogachev and charges him with Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud.
He is described as white with brown hair (though his head is usually shaved) and brown eyes. He is 5ft 9ins tall and weighs around 180 pounds (82kg).
Bogachev was last known to live in Anapa, Russia. He is believed to enjoy boating and may travel to locations along the Black Sea in his boat. He also owns property in Krasnodar, Russia.
It then sends out more emails to lure further victims, without the knowledge of the computer users, and spreads quickly across the internet.
The virus lays dormant until it spots an opportunity to steal personal details such as online banking information and passwords.
It then transmits this information back to the criminal network who use it to drain the victim's accounts.
In a further twist, if the user is not a 'viable' victim then the software locks the information on the computer and holds it to ransom.
At the moment the software demands one Bitcoin, an untraceable form of online currency favoured by criminals, which is around £300.
The U.S. Government admitted that at least one police force has been forced to pay this ransom to release sensitive files.
The software can lock the information on a computer and hold it to ransom - one Bitcoin, an untraceable form of online currency favoured by criminals, which is around £300. File picture
Last night, the U.S. Justice Department filed papers accusing a Russian named Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev as being the leader of the gang behind the software.
The complaint claims the software has been responsible for the loss of more than $100m from individuals and a string of major companies.
Bogachev's operation, prosecutors say, consisted of criminals in Russia, Ukraine and the UK who were assigned different roles within the conspiracy.
Andy Archibald, of the NCA, said: 'Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs of loved ones to be stolen or held to ransom by criminals.
'By making use of this two-week window, huge numbers of people in the UK can stop that from happening to them.
'Whether you find online security complicated or confusing, or simply haven't thought about keeping your personal or office computers safe for a while, now is the time to take action.
'Our message is simple: update your operating system and make this a regular occurrence, update your security software and use it and, think twice before clicking on links or attachments in unsolicited emails.'
While Bogachev has not been arrested, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said U.S. authorities were in contact with Russia to try to bring him into custody.
Computer users who fear they could fall victim to the virus are advised to install anti-virus software and ensure their operating system has the latest security updates.
It is thought that the gang first check if a target's keyboard is in Russian and only strike if it is another language.
Eunice Power is one British victim who has been blackmailed by the cyber criminals.
After corrupting files on her computer, the gang offered to fix the problem for several hundred pounds.
US says Russian national committed cyber crimes
HOW USERS CAN PROTECT THEIR COMPUTERS AGAINST MALWARE ZEUSPotential victims can protect themselves but have only a short time to do so before the hackers - whose attempts have been temporarily thwarted - can rebuild their network.
The US Department of Homeland Security urged users to install anti-virus software on their computer and ensure that the latest operating systems were also installed on their computers.
If systems do not offer automatic updates, people should enable it, the department said.
It also advised changing passwords, as original passwords may have been compromised during the infection.
The National Crime Agency advised computer users to consult the Government-backed getsafeonline.org website.
From that website, computer users can download tailored anti-virus software which has been provided for free by eight companies.
Symantec also advised computer users to review all their bank and credit card statements for irregularities.
It also advised being cautious when handling unsolicited or unexpected emails, particularly during the two-week window before hackers rebuild their network.
Experts have also warned users to back-up all valuable data.
Many of those whose computers have already been infected will be contacted by their internet service providers.
Miss Power, a chef who runs a business from home, told Channel 4 News: 'I could actually feel perspiration coming out through me.
'I lost everything: family photographs, recipes, payroll, my accounts package. It was devastating.'
The attack was so complex that an external storage unit that was connected to the computer at the time was targeted by the gang, preventing Miss Power from accessing it.
AEV Ltd, a varnish factory in Birkenhead, was hit with 'utter disaster' when the criminals hacked into the company's bank account to fake two payments costing £100,000.
The criminals created two fake payment pages and tricked an employee of the company into authorising them.
Managing director Jonathan Kemp said: 'It started out as a normal day and ultimately by the afternoon in a period of three minutes we were £100,000 down.'
Although the company was refunded by the bank, Mr Kemp said he spoke to other companies who had been hit by the scam, accumulating their losses at £3.5 million.
Stewart Garrick, from the National Cyber Crime Unit, said that solicitor firms, police stations in America and academic institutions had been targeted.
Charlie McMurdie, former head of the national ecrime unit, described the threat as a 'cyber plague' and warned that it could also be used to target mobile phones.
She said: 'Once one of these plagues is released everybody will pick up on it, adapt it and people around the world will be using these sorts of virus to carry out crime.
'It's not just computers, this kind of malware is now being hitting our mobile phones.'
'It can have a significant impact on individuals and companies.'
She said that the virus 'had been known about for a long period of time' and said that warnings about the virus had been issued over the last few months.
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US disrupts hacking schemes that stole millions
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:01
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Justice Department can continue to intercept information from 350,000 computers worldwide that are known to be infected with a data-stealing virus being spread by an alleged Russian computer hacker and his conspirators, a federal judge said.Justice Department attorneys told U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab the affected computers will remain linked to a government-provided substitute Internet server until the malicious software can be removed. The substitute server lets the government track the Internet addresses of the infected computers and pass them on to Internet service providers or government agencies in countries, so that computer-owners can be alerted to infections.The hackers are allegedly led by a 30-year-old Russian man, Evgeniy Bogachev, who is not in custody. The hackers infected computers with a piece of malicious software that captured bank information used to drain more than $100 million from accounts or another that locked computer files until ransom payments were made.Tuesday's hearing on the preliminary injunction was held in Pittsburgh, where the Justice Department has charged Bogachev with siphoning more than $370,000 from a western Pennsylvania plastics firm using the virus known as Gameover Zeus.The injunction issued Tuesday extends a temporary order the judge issued last week when Justice Department attorneys notified the court of the scam in sealed documents.Since then, the government has moved to seize key computer servers in Canada, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which were used to spread the ransom-demanding virus known as Cryptolocker. Victims included the Swansea, Massachusetts, police department, which paid a $750 ransom using the virtual currency Bitcoin to unlock its computer files.Other businesses, including an eastern Pennsylvania assisted living company and a North Carolina pest control firm, paid $70,000 and $80,000, respectively, to have employees or computer experts fix their Cryptolocker-infected computers.Schwab issued his order based on a 28-page report filed by a Pittsburgh FBI computer expert, Special Agent Elliott Peterson. Among other things, the report says 230,000 computers had been infected by Cryptolocker since mid-2013, including 120,000 in the United States. It's unknown how many of those computer owners paid ransoms to unlock their files, the report said.The Cryptolocker servers have been "dismantled," Justice Department attorney Ethan Arenson told the judge.Additionally, "350,000 infected computers have been liberated from the Gameover Zeus botnet" - an automated network spawned by the data-stealing virus - by connecting them to the government's substitute server, Arenson said.Those computer owners can get help removing the malicious software at a website maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, https://www.us-cert.gov/gameoverzeus .Judge Schwab granted the injunction after no one representing Bogachev or the other alleged hackers appeared in court to contest it. The judge ordered the government attorneys to file a report by July 11 to update the progress being made to fix infected computers.
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Secret Service Software Will 'Detect Sarcasm' in Social Media Users - Nextgov.com
Tue, 03 Jun 2014 23:08
Aliya Sternstein | Nextgov | June 2, 2014 | 0 Comments
Matthew Holst/APThe Secret Service is purchasing software to watch users of social networks in real time, according to contract documents.
In a work order posted on Monday, the agency details information the tool will collect -- ranging from emotions of Internet users to old Twitter messages.
Its capabilities will include ''sentiment analysis,'' "influencer identification," "access to historical Twitter data," ''ability to detect sarcasm," and "heat maps" or graphics showing user trends by color intensity, agency officials said.
The automated technology will "synthesize large sets of social media data" and "identify statistical pattern analysis" among other objectives, officials said.
The tool also will have the "functionality to send notifications to users,'' they said.
A couple of years ago, the Homeland Security Department, the agency's parent, got in trouble with lawmakers and civil liberties groups for a social media program that would work, in part, by having employees create fake usernames and profiles to spy on other users.
A House Homeland Security Committee panel called DHS officials into a hearing after reports the department tasked analysts with collecting data that reflected negatively on the government, such as content about the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to a Michigan jail. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued DHS for more information on the program.
Employees within the Secret Service's Office of Government and Public Affairs will be using the new system, agency officials said.
Here is a full list of the software's required functions:
Real-time stream analysis;Customizable, keyword search features;Sentiment analysis;Trend analysis;Audience segmentation;Geographic segmentation;Qualitative, data visualization representations (heat maps, charts, graphs, etc.);Multiple user access;Functionality to have read-only users;Access to historical twitter data;Influencer identification;Standard web browser access with login credentials;User level permissions;Compatibility with Internet Explorer 8;Section 508 compliant;Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives;Functionality to send notifications to users;Functionality to analyze data over a given period of time;Ability to quantify the agency's social media outreach/footprint;Vendor-provided training and technical/customer support;Ability to create custom reports without involving IT specialists; andAbility to search online content in multiple languages.
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Shut Up Slave!
A Case for Banning the Word 'Plus-Size' - ABC News
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:42
Support is mounting for fashionistas who want to ban the word "plus-size" for good.
The term is offensive and outdated, according to models like Robyn Lawley and Tyra Banks. Their point is that models are models -- no matter what their size.
And the term is less important as more full-figured models get gigs typically reserved for "straight-sized" models.
Melissa McCarthy Says Designers Wouldn't Make Her Oscars Dress
Plus-Size Model Jennie Runk: I Chose to Gain Weight
"You're going to see a lot of crossovers happening where girls with curves are working for mainstream [brands]," Becca Thorpe, a former model and now an agent at Muse Model Management in New York, told ABC News.
"I've seen the transition happen over the past couple decades -- from, 'I'm in the plus division' to just, 'I'm a model.'"
"Real-sized" model Robyn Lawley recently told Clique magazine she hates the term.
"I don't think anyone should be called plus-size," she said. "I think it's derogatory to anyone -- it's a label. I'm a model; I don't think I need 'plus-size' in front of it."
Mike Pont/Getty Images
Tyra Banks, another model who can't stand the word 'plus-size.' Seen here on May 6, 2014 in New York.
Banks has said she prefers to call girls with curves "fiercely real" and Queen Latifah once told Women's Wear Daily that plus-size is "a word that we need to bury."
Body image expert Robyn Silverman said the word on its own isn't a problem, it's how it's perceived.
''On the front side, there's nothing wrong with it,'' she told ABC News. ''However, what's happened is that the term has morphed. Instead of describing clothing size, it's describing a body size with this negative connotation.''
She compares the fight to get rid of the word to similar movements around ''fat'' and ''bossy.''
''People also want to ban bossy! Because bossy is now associated with all these negative terms, but it shouldn't be,'' Silverman said. ''It should just mean 'like a boss.'''
She pointed out that research has linked the word ''fat'' to other characteristics such as laziness and ugliness.
''The term fat is no longer just a descriptor of weight or size, but rather of character,'' Silverman said.
Not everyone has such vitriol for the term "plus-size."
Thorpe said it's still a useful descriptor in the modeling industry to help find clients the type of model they want for a job.
Writer Nicolette Mason pointed out that when it comes to clothes, plus-size remains an important distinction.
"Especially when you're shopping for clothes and need to find your size," said Mason, author of Marie Claire's popular fashion column, "Big Girl in a Skinny World."
"Until plus-sizes are more readily available to satisfy the two thirds of American women who wear a size 14 or higher, there does need to be some terminology."
California Legislators Want to Tell College Kids When to Have Sex - Hit & Run : Reason.com
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:43
Zenon Evans, ReasonThe California state legislature is eagerly jumping into bed with college students but really killing the mood with some unsexy rules.
State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D''Los Angeles) has introduced a bill that would require state universities to set strict parameters on what constitutes consensual sex. According to the text of SB 967, the student initiating sexual contact must establish "affirmative consent," defined as:
an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. Consent is informed, freely given, and voluntary. It is the responsibility of the person initiating the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the consent of the other person to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.
Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
The bill also explicitly lists several circumstances in which the initiator can be convicted of rape even after obtaining consent:
(A) The accused's belief in consent arose from the self-induced intoxication or recklessness of the accused.
(B) The accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.
College administrators must use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard. If they determine that it was 50.0001 percent more likely than not that a sexual encounter violated one of the above conditions, they must find the offender guilty, according to the bill.
The bill also requires that universities provide resources and support to victims of sexual assault. It says nothing, however, about the rights of the accused. Given that many universities already violate due process by depriving accused students of their rights to attorneys, juries of their peers, and opportunities to cross-examine their accusers, it seems unlikely that California universities would interpret this bill as a call to adhere to the requirements of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
In a statement to LA Weekly, de Leon made clear that his bill is a response to the federal government's recent investigation into the sexual assault response practices of universities around the country:
The federal government is currently investigating 55 colleges and universities. Obviously, there is a problem. SB 967 will change the equation so the system is not stacked against survivors by establishing an affirmative consent policy to make it clear that only 'yes' means 'yes.'
Indeed, if SB 967 becomes law, the system will certainly not be stacked against the survivors.
As LA Weekly points out, some of the bill's requirements are already in effect under existing law. In California, it is already illegal to have sex with someone who is asleep or incapacitated. If students think they were the victims of assault, they should contact the police, who will investigate the matter under the same rules that apply to everyone: students and non-students alike.
A student indicted for rape by police authorities enjoys constitutional rights, however. A student indicted for rape by a campus judiciary might as well be facing the Spanish Inquisition.
As an example, consider the fate of Occidental College's John Doe, who was accused of rape even though written evidence firmly established that his accuser had consented to sex. The police cleared him, but campus administrators found him guilty anyway. He was expelled.
Colleges have already demonstrated that they are frequently incapable of fairly investigating these cases. Now that the legislature is pressuring them to put out, they are likely to do even worse.
And society moves one step closer to the kind of thing predicted in this famous Dave Chapelle skit.
Robby Soave is a staff editor at Reason.com.
Albany County cyber-bullying law lands in Court of Appeals - Times Union
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 15:43
Albany
The state's top court heard arguments Thursday on the constitutionality of Albany County's cyber-bullying law, leading its top judge to question why county lawmakers do not just pass a new law.
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman suggested the cyber-bullying law was flawed and asked county attorney Thomas Marcelle if a more narrow version of the law might be the ultimate solution.
"Why are we going through this exercise?" Lippman asked during arguments on the law at the Court of Appeals. "I think you would agree '-- it's not the best statute in the world in anyone's imagination. Why are we doing this? What's the purpose?"
The genesis of the legal battle before the high court is the June 14, 2011 arrest of Marquan Mackey-Meggs who, at the time, was a student at Cohoes High School. The prior December, Mackey-Meggs launched an anonymous Facebook page called the "Cohoes Flame" full of expletive-laced posts about fellow students ages 13 to 16. He mentioned them by name, claiming they had several sexual partners or that, in other cases, were gay.
Mackey-Meggs later pleaded guilty but appealed on constitutional grounds.
Marcelle conceded to Lippman the cyber-bullying law was partly problematic in extending its range to all people, not just children where the issue of bullying '-- and cyber-bullying in particular '-- is now a major public concern. But Marcelle argued the law is a necessary statute to protect children from emotional harm in schools. He said Mackey-Meggs inflicted such emotional harm on his fellow students.
He told Lippman the Court of Appeals could retool the law. The top judge said that was no way to legislate, and he asked Marcelle why the law, in its present form, should be saved.
"Why doesn't the legislature go and pass another statute that's tightly drawn that actually one would look at in a focused way and make it reasonably ascertainable for ruling as to whether it passes constitutional muster?" he asked.
Corey Stoughton, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation representing Mackey-Meggs, contends the law violates the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech.
The law defines cyber-bullying to include "sending hate mail, with no legitimate private, personal, or public purpose, with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person."
Stoughton told the seven-judge panel the law should address "true threats" to children, as opposed to the type of protected speech that is prevalent throughout the Internet. Associate Judge Eugene Pigott suggested to Stoughton that she was opposed to any bullying law, not just one targeting cyber-bullies. Stoughton initially answered that she believes a narrower statute might be appropriate. She noted the state has stalking laws.
Pigott pressed for an answer.
"It would be discreetly certain things '-- assault, harassment, things like that '-- but bullying itself would too vague to be a crime?" Pigott asked. Read Full Article
"I think that's right," Stoughton responded.
Mackey-Meggs was charged with eight counts of violating the county's cyber-bullying law and then failed to get his case dismissed on grounds that his speech was protected by the First Amendment, which prohibits any law curtailing freedom of speech. Cohoes City Court Judge Richard Maguire upheld the law. Mackey-Meggs pleaded guilty to a single count of cyber-bullying, admitting he electronically disseminated false sexual information to inflict emotional harm on a minor. However, he did so on the grounds that the plea deal would not prevent him from appealing the conviction on its constitutionality. Albany County Judge Stephen Herrick upheld the conviction but determined the law should only apply to victims who are minors.
During Thursday's arguments, Associate Judge Robert Smith asked Stoughton if she could truly argue that the law interferes with basic constitutional right of Mackey-Meggs.
"Yes, your honor." Stoughton replied. "The First Amendment obviously is designed to protect public discourse but it's also meant to protect a realm of speech that shouldn't be criminalized or penalized."
Marcelle argued that in 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court, citing the First Amendment, struck down a Virginia state law that prohibited cross burning, but allowed the law to apply if the crosses were burned with the intent to intimidate.
The case is expected to be decided by early July.
rgavin@timesunion.com'518-434-2403'@RobertGavinTU
AP News : Free speech or illegal threats? Justices could say
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 21:46
SAM HANANELPublished: TodayFILE '' This Nov. 10, 2010, file photo shows parents waiting to pick up their children at Lakeside Elementary School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., after authorities lifted a lockdown of all schools in Broward County. The threatening comments of a Florida woman about "Second Amendment gun rights" triggered the lockdown, which affected more than a quarter-million students. The Supreme Court is being asked to clarify the First Amendment rights of people who use violent or threatening language on electronic media where the speaker's intent is not always clear, and could decide as early as Monday, June 9, 2014, whether to hear appeals in two cases where defendants were convicted and sent to jail for making illegal threats, despite claims they meant no harm. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)WASHINGTON (AP) - Messages posted on Facebook and Twitter or sent in emails can be tasteless, vulgar and even disturbing.
But just when do they cross the line from free speech to threats that can be punished as a crime?
As the Internet and social networks allow people to vent their frustrations with the click of a mouse, the Supreme Court is being asked to clarify the First Amendment rights of people who use violent or threatening language on electronic media where the speaker's intent is not always clear.
The justices could decide as early as Monday whether to hear appeals in two cases where defendants were convicted and sent to jail for making illegal threats, despite their claims that they never meant any harm.
In one case, a Pennsylvania man ranted on Facebook in the form of rap lyrics about killing his estranged wife, blowing up an amusement park, slitting the throat of an FBI agent and committing "the most heinous school shooting ever imagined."
The other case involves a Florida woman who emailed a conservative radio talk show host about "second amendment gun rights" and said she was planning "something big" at a Broward County government building or school.
"I'm going to walk in and teach all the government hacks working there what the 2nd Amendment is all about," the email said. Her comments triggered a lockdown affecting more than a quarter-million students.
In both cases, the defendants were prosecuted under a federal statute that makes it crime to transmit a "threat to injure the person of another." Those laws apply only to "true threats" that are not protected by the First Amendment under a doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1969. The high court has said laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech that includes "political hyperbole" or "vehement," ''caustic," or "unpleasantly sharp attacks" that fall shy of true threats.
Most lower courts say determining a true threat depends on how an objective person would understand the message. But lawyers for the defendants, along with some free-speech groups, say it should depend on the speaker's state of mind. They say the rise of new forms of social media and the freedom of political discourse can lead people to misinterpret comments that are colorful political tirades or coarse rap lyrics not meant to threaten harm.
Those who support a subjective standard say the threat law should be governed by the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Virginia v. Black. In that case, the court invalidated Virginia's law against cross-burning because it did not include a crucial component: whether the Ku Klux Klan intended to intimidate someone by burning the cross.
The Obama administration says the cross-burning case does not require a specific intent to threaten. In its brief to the court, Justice Department attorneys say requiring proof of a subjective threat would undermine the law's purpose.
The wife of the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, man, Anthony Elonis, testified at his trial that the postings made her fear for her life. One post about his wife said, "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts."
FBI agents visited Elonis at home after the amusement park that fired him contacted law enforcement officials about his posts. After the agents left, Elonis wrote: "Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the (woman) ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat."
Elonis says he never meant to carry out the threats. He claims he was depressed and made the online posts in the form of rap lyrics as a way to vent his frustration after his wife left him.
Samuel Randall, attorney for Ellisa Martinez in the Florida case, said his client was attempting to make a mocking political point about the dangers of gun violence when she emailed the radio station. He said Martinez, of New Port Richey on Florida's Gulf Coast, never intended to cause such a big problem or harm anyone.
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Follow Sam Hananel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SamHananelAP
SDR
Oath Keepers >> Blog Archive >> Who Is The New Secret Buyer Of U.S. Debt?
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 13:30
This article was written by Brandon Smith and originally published at Alt-Market.com
On the surface, the economic atmosphere of the U.S. has appeared rather calm and uneventful. Stocks are up, employment isn't great but jobs aren't collapsing into the void (at least not openly), and the U.S. dollar seems to be going strong. Peel away the thin veneer, however, and a different financial horror show is revealed.
U.S. stocks have enjoyed unprecedented crash protection due to a steady infusion of fiat money from the Federal Reserve known as quantitative easing. With the advent of the ''taper'', QE is now swiftly coming to a close (as is evident in the overall reduction in treasury market purchases), and is slated to end by this fall, if not sooner.
Employment has been boosted only in statistical presentation, and not in reality. The Labor Department's creative accounting of job numbers omits numerous factors, the most important being the issue of long term unemployed. Millions of people who have been jobless for so long they no longer qualify for benefits are being removed from the rolls. This quiet catastrophe has the side bonus of making it appear as though unemployment is going down.
U.S. Treasury bonds, and by extension the dollar, have also stayed afloat due to the river of stimulus being introduced by the Federal Reserve. That same river, through QE, is now drying up.
In my article The Final Swindle Of Private American Wealth Has Begun, I outline the data which leads me to believe that the Fed taper is a deliberate action in preparation for an impending market collapse. The effectiveness of QE stimulus has a shelf-life, and that shelf life has come to an end. With debt monetization no longer a useful tool in propping up the ailing U.S. economy, central bankers are publicly stepping back. Why? If a collapse occurs while stimulus is in full swing, the Fed immediately takes full blame for the calamity, while being forced to admit that central banking as a concept serves absolutely no meaningful purpose.
My research over many years has led me to conclude that a collapse of the American system is not only expected by international financiers, but is in fact being engineered by them. The Fed is an entity created by globalists for globalists. These people have no loyalties to any one country or culture. Their only loyalties are to themselves and their private organizations.
While many people assume that the stimulus measures of the Fed are driven by a desire to save our economy and currency, I see instead a concerted program of destabilization which is meant to bring about the eventual demise of our nation's fiscal infrastructure. What some might call ''kicking the can down the road,'' I call deliberately stretching the country thin over time, so that any indirect crisis can be used as a trigger event to bring the ceiling crashing down.
In the past several months, the Fed taper of QE and subsequently U.S. bond buying has coincided with steep declines in purchases by China, a dump of one-fifth of holdings by Russia, and an overall decline in new purchases of U.S. dollars for FOREX reserves.
With the Ukraine crisis now escalating to fever pitch, BRIC nations are openly discussing the probability of ''de-dollarization'' in international summits, and the ultimate dumping of the dollar as the world reserve currency.
The U.S. is in desperate need of a benefactor to purchase its ever rising debt and keep the system running. Strangely, a buyer with apparently bottomless pockets has arrived to pick up the slack that the Fed and the BRICS are leaving behind. But, who is this buyer?
At first glance, it appears to be the tiny nation of Belgium.
While foreign investment in the U.S. has sharply declined since March, Belgium has quickly become the third largest buyer of Treasury bonds, just behind China and Japan, purchasing more than $200 billion in securities in the past five months, adding to a total stash of around $340 billion. This development is rather bewildering, primarily because Belgium's GDP as of 2012 was a miniscule $483 billion, meaning, Belgium has spent nearly the entirety of its yearly GDP on our debt.
Clearly, this is impossible, and someone, somewhere, is using Belgium as a proxy in order to prop up the U.S. But who?
Recently, a company based in Belgium called Euroclear has come forward claiming to be the culprit behind the massive purchases of American debt. Euroclear, though, is not a direct buyer. Instead, the bank is a facilitator, using what it calls a ''collateral highway'' to allow central banks and international banks to move vast amounts of securities around the world faster than ever before.
Euroclear claims to be an administrator for more than $24 trillion in worldwide assets and transactions, but these transactions are not initiated by the company itself. Euroclear is a middleman used by our secret buyer to quickly move U.S. Treasuries into various accounts without ever being identified. So the question remains, who is the true buyer?
My investigation into Euroclear found some interesting facts. Euroclear has financial relationships with more than 90 percent of the world's central banks and was once partly owned and run by 120 of the largest financial institutions back when it was called the ''Euroclear System''. The organization was consolidated and operated by none other than JP Morgan Bank in 1972. In 2000, Euroclear was officially incorporated and became its own entity. However, one must remember, once a JP Morgan bank, always a JP Morgan bank.
Another interesting fact '' Euroclear also has a strong relationship with the Russian government and is a primary broker for Russian debt to foreign investors. This once again proves my ongoing point that Russia is tied to the global banking cabal as much as the United States. The East vs. West paradigm is a sham of the highest order.
Euroclear's ties to the banking elite are obvious; however, we are still no closer to discovering the specific groups or institution responsible for buying up U.S. debt. I think that the use of Euroclear and Belgium may be a key in understanding this mystery.
Belgium is the political center of the EU, with more politicians, diplomats and lobbyists than Washington D.C. It is also, despite its size and economic weakness, a member of an exclusive economic club called the ''Group Of Ten'' (G10).
The G10 nations have all agreed to participate in a ''General Arrangement to Borrow'' (GAB) launched in 1962 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The GAB is designed as an ever cycling fund which members pay into. In times of emergency, members can ask the IMF's permission for a release of funds. If the IMF agrees, it then injects capital through Treasury purchases and SDR allocations. Essentially, the IMF takes our money, then gives it back to us in times of desperation (with strings attached). A similar program called 'New Arrangements To Borrow' (NAB) involves 38 member countries. This fund was boosted to approximately 370 billion SDR (or $575 billion dollars U.S.) as the derivatives crisis struck markets in 2008-2009. Without a full and independent audit of the IMF, however, it is impossible to know the exact funds it has at its disposal, or how many SDR's it has created.
It should be noted the Bank of International Settlements is also an overseer of the G10. If you want to learn more about the darker nature of globalist groups like the IMF and the BIS, read my articles, Russia Is Dominated By Global Banks, Too, and False East/West Paradigm Hides The Rise Of Global Currency.
The following article from Harpers titled ''Ruling The World Of Money,'' was published in 1983 and boasts about the secrecy and ''ingenuity'' of the Bank Of International Settlements, an unaccountable body of financiers that dominates the very course of economic life around the world.
It is my belief that Belgium, as a member of the G10 and the GAB/NAB agreements, is being used as a proxy by the BIS and the IMF to purchase U.S. debt, but at a high price. I believe that the banking elite are hiding behind their middleman, Euroclear, because they do not want their purchases of Treasuries revealed too soon. I believe that the IMF in particular is accumulating U.S. debt to be used later as leverage to absorb the dollar and finalize the rise of their SDR currency basket as the world reserve standard.
Imagine what would happen if all foreign creditors abandoned U.S. debt purchases because the dollar was no longer seen as viable as a world reserve currency. Imagine that the Fed's efforts to stimulate through fiat printing became useless in propping up Treasuries, serving only to devalue the domestic buying power of our currency. Imagine that the IMF swoops in as the lender of last resort; the only entity willing to service our debt and keep the system running. Imagine what kind of concessions America would have to make to a global loan shark like the IMF.
Keep in mind, the plan to replace the dollar is not mere ''theory''. In fact, IMF head Christine Lagarde has openly called for a ''global financial system'' to take over in the place of the current dollar based system.
The Bretton Woods System, established in 1944, was used by the United Nations and participating governments to form international rules of economic conduct, including fixed rates for currencies and establishing the dollar as the monetary backbone. The IMF was created during this shift towards globalization as the BIS slithered into the background after its business dealings with the Nazis were exposed. It was the G10, backed by the IMF, that then signed the Smithsonian Agreement in 1971 which ended the Bretton Woods system of fixed currencies, as well as any remnants of the gold standard. This led to the floated currency system we have today, as well as the slow poison of monetary inflation which has now destroyed more than 98 percent of the dollar's purchasing power.
I believe the next and final step in the banker program is to reestablish a new Bretton Woods style system in the wake of an engineered catastrophe. That is to say, we are about to go full circle. Perhaps Ukraine will be the cover event, or tensions in the South China Sea. Just as Bretton Woods was unveiled during World War II, Bretton Woods redux may be unveiled during World War III. In either case, the false East/West paradigm is the most useful ploy the elites have to bring about a controlled decline of the dollar.
The new system will reintroduce the concept of fixed currencies, but this time, all currencies will be fixed or ''pegged'' to the value of the SDR global basket. The IMF holds a global SDR summit every five years, and the next meeting is set for the beginning of 2015.
If the Chinese yuan is brought into the SDR basket next year, if the BRICS enter into a conjured economic war with the West, and if the dollar is toppled as the world reserve, there will be nothing left in terms of fiscal structure in the way of a global currency system. If the public does not remove the globalist edifice by force, the IMF and the BIS will then achieve their dream '' the complete dissolution of economic sovereignty, and the acceptance by the masses of global financial governance. The elites don't want to hide behind the curtain anymore. They want recognition. They want to be worshiped. And, it all begins with the secret buyout of America, the implosion of our debt markets, and the annihilation of our way of life.
*
[Editor's Note: This article emailed to membership June 05 2014.]
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UPDATE 2-Foreign demand for US Treasuries falls but Belgium strong buyer
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 13:31
UPDATE 2-Foreign demand for US Treasuries falls but Belgium strong buyerTop News
UPDATE 2-Foreign demand for US Treasuries falls but Belgium strong buyer
Thu, May 15 12:58 PM EDT
(Adds U.S. Treasury purchasing data, buying of other financial assets)
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - Foreign capital inflow into U.S. Treasuries declined sharply in March, with robust demand coming mainly from Belgium, which extended its recent run of heavy buying of U.S. debt.
Holdings of U.S. Treasuries in Belgium rose a net $40.2 billion in the month. Over the last five months, Belgium's net increase totaled about $201.1 billion.
The euro zone nation is now the third largest holder of U.S. Treasuries with $381.4 billion, after China and Japan.
The purchases from Belgium were mainly in short-term bills from November to March. But over the same period, Belgian institutions sold $6.82 billion in long-term U.S. Treasury notes and bonds, the data showed.
Who is behind the large purchases from Belgium is unclear.
Euroclear, a major clearinghouse in Europe, is based in Belgium and provides cross-border settlement and custodial facilities. Clearing houses hold collateral such as Treasuries.
Meanwhile, the largest seller of U.S. Treasury securities was Russia at $25.8 billion, mainly in bills. Russian selling of U.S. bonds and notes totaled just $141 million.
Overall, U.S. Treasuries posted net inflows of $25.9 billion in March, slumping from $92.5 billion in February.
Foreigners bought $4 billion in long-term U.S. financial assets in March, compared with revised inflows of $90.3 billion the previous month.
Including short-dated assets such as government and non-government bills, overseas investors sold $126.1 billion in March, reversing inflows of $175.9 billion in February.
Offshore investors also sold U.S. stocks for a fifth straight month, according to the data. U.S. stocks showed a net outflow of $14.4 billion, the largest since August last year.
"It's broadly disappointing," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at BNP Paribas in New York. "It suggests that the U.S. dollar is lacking structural support from capital flows." (Additional reporting by Phil Blenkinsop in Brussels Editing by W Simon)
UPDATE 2-Foreign demand for US Treasuries falls but Belgium strong buyerTop News
UPDATE 2-Foreign demand for US Treasuries falls but Belgium strong buyer
Thu, May 15 12:58 PM EDT
(Adds U.S. Treasury purchasing data, buying of other financial assets)
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - Foreign capital inflow into U.S. Treasuries declined sharply in March, with robust demand coming mainly from Belgium, which extended its recent run of heavy buying of U.S. debt.
Holdings of U.S. Treasuries in Belgium rose a net $40.2 billion in the month. Over the last five months, Belgium's net increase totaled about $201.1 billion.
The euro zone nation is now the third largest holder of U.S. Treasuries with $381.4 billion, after China and Japan.
The purchases from Belgium were mainly in short-term bills from November to March. But over the same period, Belgian institutions sold $6.82 billion in long-term U.S. Treasury notes and bonds, the data showed.
Who is behind the large purchases from Belgium is unclear.
Euroclear, a major clearinghouse in Europe, is based in Belgium and provides cross-border settlement and custodial facilities. Clearing houses hold collateral such as Treasuries.
Meanwhile, the largest seller of U.S. Treasury securities was Russia at $25.8 billion, mainly in bills. Russian selling of U.S. bonds and notes totaled just $141 million.
Overall, U.S. Treasuries posted net inflows of $25.9 billion in March, slumping from $92.5 billion in February.
Foreigners bought $4 billion in long-term U.S. financial assets in March, compared with revised inflows of $90.3 billion the previous month.
Including short-dated assets such as government and non-government bills, overseas investors sold $126.1 billion in March, reversing inflows of $175.9 billion in February.
Offshore investors also sold U.S. stocks for a fifth straight month, according to the data. U.S. stocks showed a net outflow of $14.4 billion, the largest since August last year.
"It's broadly disappointing," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at BNP Paribas in New York. "It suggests that the U.S. dollar is lacking structural support from capital flows." (Additional reporting by Phil Blenkinsop in Brussels Editing by W Simon)
IMF ready to help Egypt, Lagarde tells president-elect
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:20
WASHINGTON: International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde has personally congratulated Egypt's President-elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and stressed the global lender remains ready to help the country, the IMF said on Friday.
"IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde spoke to Egyptian President-elect Sisi by phone yesterday to congratulate him on his election," a spokeswoman said in an email to AFP.
"The discussion focused on economic issues, and the managing director reiterated the Fund's continued commitment to help Egypt and its people."
Sisi, who won nearly 97 per cent of the vote in last week's polls, faces a tough task to restore stability and revive a battered economy amid fears of a return to autocracy. He is to be sworn in Sunday.
The IMF had been in talks on a US$4.8 billion bailout package for Egypt, which has been coping with violence and economic woes since the 2011 overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak.
But the discussions broke off last year due to political instability after the military overthrew the country's first freely elected leader, Mohamed Morsi.
On Thursday, an IMF spokesman said the global lender is providing technical assistance on tax issues and other matters to Egypt, and an IMF technical team had been in Cairo from April 27 to May 2.
"Broadly we stand ready to support Egypt and we look forward to engaging in a dialogue with the authorities on the policy actions and wide ranging structural reforms needed to address the challenges ahead," spokesman Gerry Rice said.
The spokesman said that Egyptian authorities and the IMF agreed in April, to hold an IMF review of Egypt's economy, known as an Article IV consultation, after the presidential election.
No mission dates have been scheduled yet for the review, he said.
- AFP/fl
SDR-Beijing-Based IMF? Lagarde Ponders China Gaining on U.S. Economy - Bloomberg
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 23:58
The International Monetary Fund's headquarters may one day shift to Beijing from Washington, aligning with China's growing influence in the world economy, the fund's managing director said.
Christine Lagarde, speaking late today in London, said IMF rules require the main office be located in the country that is the biggest shareholder, which the U.S. has been since the fund was formed 70 years ago.
The IMF founding members ''decided that the institution would be headquartered in the country which had the biggest share of the quota, which chipped in the biggest amount and contributed most. And that is still today the United States,'' she said in response to questions at the London School of Economics.
''But the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if one of these days the IMF was headquartered in Beijing for instance,'' she said. ''It would be the articles of the IMF that would dictate it.''
Lagarde said the IMF has a good relationship with China, the world's second largest economy and she praised the government's commitment to fighting corruption.
She had less kind things to say about the U.S., which remains the ''outlier'' among Group of 20 countries to approve an overhaul of the ownership of the 188-member organization. The plan would give emerging markets more influence and would elevate China to the third-largest member nation.
Lagarde said there is ''frustration by countries like China, like Brazil, like India, with the lack of progress in reforming the IMF by adopting the quota reform that would give emerging-market economies a bigger voice, a bigger vote, a bigger share in the institution and I share that frustration immensely.''
''The credibility of the institution, its relevance in the world in conducting the mission that it was assigned 70 years ago is highly correlated with its good representation of the membership,'' she said. ''We cannot have a good representation of the membership when China has a teeny tiny share of quota, share of voice when it has grown to where it has grown.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington at srastello@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net Brendan Murray, James L Tyson
Greek Tax Authorities Find 40 More Evaders from Lagarde List
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:50
Prosecutors investigating a list of 2,602 Greeks with 1.5 billion euros ($1.95 billion) in secret Swiss bank accounts have reportedly found that 90 percent of them are tax cheats.
The ongoing probe by financial prosecutors, Panagiotis Athanasiou and Galinos Mpris in cooperation with the Deputy Prosecutor Giannis Dragatsis, has uncovered another 80 cases of alleged cheats who owe 39.892 million euros.
They are on the so-called Lagarde List, named for former French finance minister Christine Lagarde who handed it to then Greek finance chief Giorgos Papaconstantinou in 2010.
He said it vanished but a copy on a memory stick was produced by his successor Evangelos Venizelos, now the PASOK Socialist leader and Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister in the coalition government headed by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras.
Papconstantinou is being charged with a number of crimes, which he has denied, after the names of three of his relatives were found to have been erased from the list that came off a stolen CD from the Geneva branch of HSBC.
Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece's international lenders, said the names were part of a larger list and that other countries had used it to vet for tax cheats and prosecute evaders but Greek officials '' including Venizelos, who is not being prosecuted '' set it aside until the names were revealed by investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis.
Among the cases is that of a dentist residing in the southern suburbs of Athens, who, along with his wife, allegedly evaded 13 million euros between 2002 and 2012, some 8,822,758 euros by him and 4,589,281 euros by his wife, who owns a dental implant company.
Investigators are also looking into secret accounts in banks in other countries, including Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria.
The alleged cheats have been asked by officials at the Greek Financial and Economic Crimes Unit (SDOE) to pay what they owe or face criminal charges. It was not reported why they aren't being prosecuted for tax evasion even if they return the money or if they would face additional penalties.
The investigation is proceeding by the financial prosecutors who have been investigating the bank accounts of major businessmen, publishers, ship-owners and industrialists along with their relatives. Some of them had been implicated in major financial scandals the past years.
Agenda 21
What's In A Name? Global Warming vs Climate Change | Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:51
We found that the term "global warming" is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term "climate change."
For example, the term ''global warming'' is associated with:
Greater certainty that the phenomenon is happening, especially among men, Generation X (31-48), and liberals;Greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause among Independents;Greater understanding that there is a scientific consensus about the reality of the phenomenon among Independents and liberals;More intense worry about the issue, especially among men, Generation Y (18-30), Generation X, Democrats, liberals and moderates;A greater sense of personal threat, especially among women, the Greatest Generation (68+), African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, liberals and moderates;Higher issue priority ratings for action by the president and Congress, especially among women, Democrats, liberals and moderates;Greater willingness to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action, especially among men, Generation X, liberals and moderates.Our findings strongly suggest that the terms global warming and climate change are used differently and mean different things in the minds of many Americans. The following graphic shows how the two terms elicit different meanings for Americans.
Further, Americans are four times more likely to say they hear the term global warming in public discourse than climate change. Likewise, Americans are twice as likely to say they personally use the term global warming than climate change in their own conversations.
The report includes an executive summary, a Google Trends analysis, an analysis of the top of mind associations generated by the two terms, and methodological details.
Student and Environmental Activist Wins World Environment Day Video-Blogging Competition
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 04:09
Nairobi, 6 May 2014 - A 21-year-old environmental activist and university student from Canada, Fatin Chowdhury, has won the 2014 World Environment Day (WED) Video-Blogging Competition. As the winner of the competition, Mr. Chowhury will travel to a Small Island Developing State to cover the global celebrations of World Environment Day via video blog on 5 June.Over 70 video-bloggers submitted their entries to this year's competition on WED's 2014 theme - "Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level" - which has spotlighted Small Islands and their unique development challenges and successes.
Mr. Chowdhury's video blog was initially short-listed along with four other entries, before being personally selected by Hollywood Star and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle.
"These young video-bloggers are helping us pave the way to World Environment Day. They are spreading the word that climate change and sea level rise is a threat to all of us, but especially to the people of the small islands," said Mr. Cheadle.
"It was not easy to choose between the top five entries, but Fatin's promotional efforts really caught my attention", he added.
Mr. Chowdhury participated with fellow students from the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, to film his 2-minute video-blog, and created a gallery of images calling on people to participate in World Environment Day. He also used a written blog to further spread the "Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level" message.
"It was quite empowering to see how willing people were to contribute to the project and support my vision," said Mr. Chowdhury, who has acted as a youth representative in the climate justice movement and participated in major environmental conferences, such as Rio+20 and the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP19).
"I am looking forward to celebrating World Environment Day 2014 and highlighting the importance of enabling the voices of Small Islands Developing States to propel action," said Mr. Chowdury.
"As we gear up for the 2015 climate treaty, it is important to contextualize our efforts to ensure we are addressing the needs of these vulnerable populations," he said, stressing the need to bridge the gap between high-level policy discussions and the actual impacts on the ground.
Previous winners of the WED Blogging Competition have reported from Rwanda, India, Brazil and Mongolia.
To view Fatin Chowdhury's winning entry, visit:http://www.unep.org/wed/vlogging-competition/Fatin_Chowdhury.asp
For more information, visit:www.unep.org/wed
Contact: UNEP News Desk, Email: unepnewsdesk@unep.org
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White House Release Report on the Health Impacts of Climate Change on Americans
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:53
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 06, 2014
Today, the White House released a report on the health impacts of climate change on Americans. The report summarizes the ways that climate change will be felt across the Nation.
In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. And extreme weather events are becoming more frequent across the country '' from more rain falling in downpours in many regions, to longer and hotter heat waves in others, to more severe droughts and wildfires in some (notably the West and Southwest).
The effects of climate change impact the most vulnerable Americans '' putting the elderly, kids, and people already suffering from burdensome allergies, asthma and other illnesses at greater risk.
The President believes we have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that's not irrevocably polluted or damaged. While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we must take steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, protect our children's health, and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment. That's why the President put forward the Climate Action Plan last year and earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency released a vital component of that plan '' common-sense carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.
Through common-sense measures to cut carbon pollution we can protect the health of our Nation, while stimulating the economy and helping to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Europe at risk of blackouts, warns IEA
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:46
The IEA said the solution must come from a blitz of spending on solar power, hydro and other renewables, making up 60pc of new investment. The rest depends on better efficiency in cars and fridges and insulation, costing $550bn (£328bn) a year by 2035, up from $130bn today. This is cheaper than trying to extract gas from the Arctic or the mid-Atlantic.
While coal is abundant, it is the dirtiest fuel without carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology yet to flourish. The IEA said failure to wean the world off coal would make it impossible to meet CO2 targets and hold global warming to a rise of two degrees Celsius by 2100.
Current energy policies will push up temperatures by 4C. Some scientists say this level would set off a chain reaction as melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica cause more heat to be absorbed. ''Without carbon capture we can forget about the climate target,'' said Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA's director.
The agency said the coal industry has a survival interest in mastering CCS, otherwise it may find itself sitting on $300bn of ''stranded assets'' as regulators turn tough. The US Environmental Protection Agency fired a warning shot on Monday with new rules clamping down on emissions, intended to cut pollution 30pc from 2005 levels by 2030.
The IEA said it would take a new ''investment landscape'' to hold global warming to 2C, raising the bill to
$53 trillion. Fossil fuels would fall from 82pc of energy to 65pc over 20 years.
''It would require an extra $6 trillion for efficiency. The difference in cost is very small,'' said Dr Birol.
There have been two revolutions in global energy over the past decade: shale fracking in the US and renewables in Europe. While both have led to a surge of supply, Europe has paid three times as much, though this may change as solar costs fall. The IEA's warnings of blackouts in Europe echo comments this week by the EU gas body Cedigaz, which said gas power operators are mothballing plants because they cannot compete with cheap US coal. The risk is that investment in gas plants will dry up.
Yet coal cannot be relied on for long since EU rules will eventually lead to closures of 70 gigawatts of coal-fire plants. Cedigaz said Europe risks losing a third of its power capacity, leaving too little to cover ebbs in wind and solar power. ''The current situation has the potential to unfold into a major structural crisis,'' it said.
The root of Europe's woes lies in a botched trading scheme that has mispriced carbon, as well as bursts of supply from Germany's wind and solar energy that disrupt the grid and cripple utilities. Scientific discoveries in energy storage may conquer the ''intermittency curse'' of renewables over time.
Europe is counting on liquefied natural gas to keep factories running but this comes at a price. The IEA said it costs 10 times as much to ship LNG as it does oil or coal, and retails in Europe at three times US gas prices.
EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger said: ''Unless we can bring down power prices, we are going to lose most chemical and steel industries.''
'Alternate vision' sought on climate
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:53
5 June 2014Last updated at 01:53 ET By Claire MarshallBBC environment correspondentFour hundred legislators from 66 countries are taking part in a summit billed as offering a "new vision for an international climate agreement".
The Globe summit in Mexico City is taking place in parallel to the latest round of United Nations-brokered climate negotiations in Bonn.
The delegates come from nations as diverse as China and Slovenia.
Small island nations suffering the effects of climate change are placing their hopes in the high-level summit.
Islands in the Micronesia region of the Pacific have lost faith in the ability of governments to negotiate an effective global treaty to tackle global warming.
However they believe that the Globe summit in Mexico City may produce more concrete results.
The focus is on helping each member state to pass its own climate change laws. Legislation will be developed and tailored to each country's own national interests.
The aim is to try to get difficulties ironed out ahead of the next UN summit in Paris next year. The mission is to achieve the agreed goal of limiting the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The host country is Mexico, which passed a far-reaching national climate change law in 2012 that put in to legal force commitments on emissions reductions. According to Mexican Senator Alejandro Encinas, Globe legislators were "critical to the passage of the bill".
Their experience is now being shared with Costa Rica, Colombia and Peru. Senator Encinas believes that "Latin America will now see a wave of national climate change laws".
The expertise shared by lawmakers at the conferences have had a far-reaching impact. The vice-chairman of China's powerful economic planning ministry, the National Development and Reform Commission, recently described it as "invaluable to the development of China's legislation on climate change".
Island threatA delegation of three people from Micronesia (the Federated States of Micronesia) is being sent to Mexico. Despite being seriously affected by sea-level rise caused by global warming, the government does not have the resources to send more than a handful of people.
The President of Micronesia told the UN that the "very existence" of his nation depends agreements being reached on climate change. Many of the Micronesia's 600 or so islands are just one or two feet above sea level. Rising sea levels mean that salt water is contaminating drinking water and devastating farming land. Some islands are being abandoned.
However, with this lawmaking information-sharing, now Micronesia is devising plans to build sea walls, raise farmland and form evacuation plans.
Chief legal officer Lam Dang called Globe "game changing". He said: "The traditional way isn't working. For the last 20 years we have been saying the same thing, and the sea levels have been rising and we are sinking. International negotiations have been going nowhere.
"It's what we have been screaming about for years.
"We in Micronesia are a very low emitter. So there's no point in focusing on mitigation. But now we can show what we are doing ourselves to deal with our own problems.
"We go to the executive branch and we say you come up with the policy and we will give you the legal tools. We will make legal obligations and we will set milestones and you report to Congress what you do."
In Mr Dang's view, it is creating a sense of hope and optimism: "The developed countries control the process of climate change. They are the big emitters. But this is existential - we are not taking this passively. If we go down, we go down fighting!"
The chairman of the Micronesian Congress is Senator Figir: "Parliamentarians are much more advanced than governments. They can persuade governments to move forward. I have a lot of hope in Globe.
His view is that the last climate change deals - Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009 - were largely failures.
"For us in Micronesia, we are at the front line of climate change. It's something I am really frustrated with, because the emitters have been dragging their feet in combating climate change," he said.
"I think they should take the lead in saving the earth for our future generations. If they are, they are doing it very slowly. They need to pick up speed. The longer they delay, the more it will affect us.
I find it amazing that people aren't doing more, I don't know how to convince them! People are used to their lifestyle and their luxury and no one wants to give up how they live their lives. We need Globe to influence governments to pass laws."
However the question will be whether the resources and will be present to implement and enforce the legislation.
Global: Sea Surface Temperatures, Global Rate Forever® | USPS Stamps
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:41
In 2014, the U.S. Postal Service introduces Global: Sea Surface Temperatures, a new Forever® international rate stamp.
This round stamp features a visual representation of our planet's sea surface temperatures. It shows the Earth with North America at the center and parts of South America, Asia, and Europe just visible on the edges, surrounded by vivid bands of color throughout the oceans. The image is one frame in a 1,460-frame animation created from the output of a computer model of Earth's climate by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. The full animation shows how the surface temperatures of the oceans vary seasonally and change over time, and how surface ocean currents and eddies transport heat and water around the globe.
This image also combines the depiction of sea-surface temperatures with visible vegetation on the land masses, an element derived from a satellite composite created by NASA. Text repeated twice around the circumference of the stamp reads ''GLOBAL USA FOREVER 2014.''
Art director William J. Gicker designed this stamp.
Issued at the $1.15 rate that goes into effect January 26, 2014, this Global Forever® stamp can be used to mail a one-ounce letter to any country to which First-Class Mail International® service is available. As with all Global Forever® stamps, this stamp will have a postage value equivalent to the price of a single-piece First-Class Mail International® first ounce machinable letter in effect at the time of use.
Climate change scientists fret that doomsday scare stories aren't working on the public - NaturalNews.com
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 18:27
Friday, June 06, 2014 by: J. D. HeyesTags: climate change, scare stories, public opinion(NaturalNews) Climate-change scientists are facing a conundrum of sorts, and they're not really sure what to do about it.
On the one hand, when negative stories surface discounting claims that the earth is "warming" or that climate is "changing" the planet (for the worse), they have only a passing effect -- good news for them.
On the other hand, however, stories promoting the theory of climate change don't move public opinion either, researchers from Princeton University have said in a new study. They write that this dynamic suggests that climate change scientists need to take a new look at how to be more effective in regularly engaging the public.
Overall public interest in the topic has fallen since 2007, researchers said in a report published by the journal Environmental Research Letters, based on an examination of how often people search the Internet for information related to climate change.
However, "the downturn in public interest does not seem tied to any particular negative publicity regarding climate-change science, which is what the researchers primarily wanted to gauge," ScienceDaily.com reported.
William Anderegg, a post-doctoral research associate in the Princeton Environmental Institute who studies communication and climate change, and first author of the study, along with Gregory Goldsmith, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford's Environmental Change Institute, looked specifically into what effect, if any, a pair of widely reported, nearly simultaneous, events had on public interest and opinion.
Searches for 'global warming' and 'climate change'
As reported by the website:
The first involved the November 2009 hacking of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, which has been a preeminent source of data confirming human-driven climate change. Known as "climategate," this event was initially trumpeted as proving that dissenting scientific views related to climate change have been maliciously quashed. Thorough investigations later declared that no misconduct took place.
The second event was the revelation in late 2009 that an error in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- an organization under the auspices of the United Nations that periodically evaluates the science and impacts of climate change -- overestimated how quickly glaciers in the Himalayas would melt.
Both researchers, in order to get a sense of public interest in climate change in general, searched through the Google Trends database for the terms global warming and climate change, then for all related terms searched by people around the world between 2004 and 2013. Google Trends receives more than 80 percent of the world's Internet search activity; it is increasingly used by researchers examining economics, political science and public health.
Internet searches that were related to climate change climbed steadily following the 2006 release of former Vice President Al Gore's video documentary, An Inconvenient Truth (which was found by a British court to have contained a number of false claims); they continued to climb with the release of the IPCC's fourth report, according to researchers.
They specifically looked at searches for climategate between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2009. They found that the search trend had a six-day "half-life," meaning that frequency of searches fell by 50 percent every six days.
After 22 days, they said, the number of searchers for climategate was just 10 percent of its peak. Information about climategate was searched for most in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
'These bursts were short-lived'
Researchers also tracked the popularity of the term global warming hoax to measure the overall negative effect of climategate and the IPCC error on what the public thought and believed about climate change. They discovered that searchers for the term were higher during the year before the events than the year afterward.
"The search volume quickly returns to the same level as before the incident," Goldsmith said. "This suggests no long-term change in the level of climate-change skepticism.
"We found that intense media coverage of an event such as 'climategate' was followed by bursts of public interest, but these bursts were short-lived," he added.
Anderegg said that means that moments of great consternation for climate-change scientists seem to barely register in the public consciousness.
The study goes on to say that independent polling data also indicate that the events had very little effect on U.S. public opinion.
"There's a lot of handwringing among scientists, and a belief that these events permanently damaged public trust. What these results suggest is that that's just not true," Anderegg said.
Sources:
http://www.sciencedaily.com
http://newsbusters.org
http://www.naturalnews.com
http://www.eurekalert.org
http://science.naturalnews.com
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Ministry of Truth
Robert Peston's speech warns of threat to journalism from native ads '' full text | Media | The Guardian
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 13:51
It is a thrill and a privilege for me to be with you tonight, for two reasons.
The first is that no one who works in broadcast news can have been anything but a fan of Charles Wheeler
A journalist of towering reputation, a doyen of foreign correspondents, someone who always commanded attention when speaking
And for me '' and I would guess for Jon Snow too '' what I admire about him is that he remained a working journalist till he died at the age of 85 some six years ago.
Not for Charles Wheeler the siren call of the public relations world, or spurious but well-paid consultancy of various sorts '' which too few of my own peers have been able to resist.
He didn't quite do a Tommy Cooper, by passing away on stage. But he came close. And if I am honest, that is how I would like to go '' pegging out in the middle, perhaps, of a Darby-and-Joan two-way with a 90-year-old Huw Edwards, telling him and the nation how the banks have got us into another fine mess.
As for Jon Snow, how can I not doff my cap to a presenter who told the journalist Charlotte Edwardes in a Standard interview the other day that for him (and I quote) ''sex comes into every evaluation of a woman, there's no doubt about it'' '' and that the possibility of sex only gets ''parked'' once a working relationship has been established?
Hmmm. It is definitely a measure of his unimpeachable journalists' credentials that there has been no apparent damage to perceptions of his judgment: Jon Snow retains his status '' along with [Jeremy] Paxman '' as the most effective news interviewer of his generation.
If there is a Snow issue for Channel 4 News, as there was and is a Paxman issue for Newsnight, it is that the programme is so closely associated with him that it is hard to conceive of it being presented by anyone else.
That said, one of the big facts about any journalist '' and I say this mainly to the students here today '' is that we all think and hope we're irreplaceable, but when we're gone the waters close around us terrifyingly quickly. Which is what should keep us hungry and honest.
Now what I thought I would look at today is a statement made by my brainy and formidable boss, James Harding, the BBC's director of news, in the WT Stead Lecture in January. Harding said he had ''real confidence in the prospects for the news media''.
And he went on to say:
''If you ask me that annoying question, whether I see the glass half-empty or half-full, I'd say it is two-thirds full. In fact, I think this is the most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television''.
Well '... ''The most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television''? Is that right?
Now in one sense I completely understand why James would say that. The pace of change in our industry '' largely driven by technology '' is extraordinary and dizzying. In that sense, the challenges we face are huge '' perhaps unprecedented. And if you like challenge, as I do, then of course it is an incredibly exciting, energizing time.
But James also went on to imply that the employment prospects for journalists of integrity, and the commercial prospects for news operations providing important impartial journalism, are largely positive.
And that is where I would not exactly disagree with him, but where I would say that I am anxious.
For the avoidance of doubt, you are not about to hear the authentic voice of Dr Doom. I know my public reputation is of being gloomy '' of somehow causing the financial crisis with my prognostications of looming financial catastrophe. But, and I would say this of course, that is a terrible canard. Funnily enough, like James, I am someone who is an optimist, someone who '' to use, as he did, that terrible cliche '' tends to see drinking vessels as full rather than lacking.
For example, if anything, right now, I am probably a bit more bullish on the outlook for the British economy than most.
But, and this is the heart of what I want to say today, I do see powerful threats to what I think of as serious journalism, the craft of a Charles Wheeler and a Jon Snow.
Online culture taking overFirst, there is the online culture that is gradually taking over most of the media. This takeover is inevitable. Printed paper newspapers may be with us for many years to come. But they are in decline. All the growth in news readership is on the internet, on mobiles, on tablets. And an important cultural fact about those whose entire careers have been in digital, and have never had inky fingers, is that they don't seem to have a fundamentalist's hatred of news being infected by adverts and commerce.
To be clear, I don't have a rose-tinted view of how it used to be in news. As someone who worked in national newspapers for 20 years, I recall a life of constant battle with marketing and advertising departments '' over the size of adverts, where they could go in relation to relevant stories, and whether we should allow certain companies to sponsor so-called advertorial pieces (dread phrase).
But the rules of engagement, and the battle lines, were clear. As a business editor, I never had any doubt of my right to insist on and enforce a separation between church and state. And I didn't lose one of those disputes.
Today when I talk to my pals on newspapers, they talk of constant pressure '' not to get unique and exciting stories, but to find ways of turning what is now called content, and is regarded by bosses largely as a commodity, into money. It is all about, awful word, monetising news.
Which, of course, in one sense is completely necessary. There will be no jobs for any of us if there is no way to generate profit from news.
But news that is a disguised advert, or has been tainted by commercial interests, is not worth the name.
You might say that it is all very well for me to sit here smugly moaning about this, because I am lucky enough to work for the licence-fee funded colossus that is BBC News. But even we are not immune to a trend I fear is pernicious '' because I saw an interview the other day with an executive of our commercial arm BBC Worldwide who said it was inevitable that we would be running what are known as native ads.
''Native ads'' is a terrible Orwellian Newspeak phrase for ads that look like impartial editorial. They could be articles written by a commercial company, or features written about a commercial company by the journalists of a news organisation but sponsored by that company. Or they may be videos either sponsored by a business or produced by the business. Of course each of these will say something like ''sponsored content'' at the top of the page. But it is very easy to miss this signposting when the article simply pops up in the middle of a run of stories on a website. As a reader, you have to be on your guard to distinguish the native ads from the proper journalism. And many of us may well be in too much of a rush most of the time when online to notice the distinction. Which is, I fear, pernicious.
My concern is that native ads seem to work, in a commercial sense. Take, for example, the new business news online service, Quartz. Much of its editorial is high quality. But what really excites advertising execs and investors is the way that it is able to charge a premium for its native ads, which are '' depending on your point of view '' either very cleverly or very sinisterly seamlessly integrated into its news service. Yes the native ads are always marked. But as a reader you have to enter the website alert to their existence to be swiftly conscious that they are importantly different from the other articles on the site.
Does that matter, if the native ads provide the resources for Quartz also to produce high-quality proper journalism? Well I fear it might, because over time the impression may be created that all editorial is for sale, and none of it to be trusted.
Now I don't want to overstate the dangers, but what I would say is that we saw '' with the phone-hacking scandal '' how prone we are as an industry to cut corners in a hideous way when we face an existential threat, or indeed when there is money to be made. And to reiterate, what I see around the news media scene is the rise of a generation of managers schooled only in the etiquette of the internet, where the idea that editorial staff should be quarantined from marketing and advertising is seen as absurd.
Readers dictating contentWhich brings me to a second related danger, which is that we may be going too far in allowing readers to dictate content '' now that we can see in real time, by page views for certain stories, or comments left on blogs and social media, which tales are massively resonating and exciting the public.
Here I will doubtless be accused of an outdated and patronising paternalism. So let me say immediately that I am not bemoaning the advent of blogs, or Facebook, or Twitter, or of the various forms of user-generated content. Among the biggest and best changes to my working life in three decades have been the launch of my BBC blog in 2006 and my growing use of Twitter over the past few years. And part of what I love about the blog and Twitter is the conversation I have with the readers, viewers and listeners. They spark ideas for stories. They point to fantastically useful sources and research. And they don't hesitate to tell me when I am wrong. They also help me to understand what stories matter to them. All of which has made my journalism '' I think '' better and more relevant.
But routinely I ignore what my readers tell me get their rocks off, and publish and broadcast stuff that probably seems spectacularly dull '' about, for example, the technicalities of global rules for keeping banks safe and strong, which I, in my paternalistic way, feel I need to tell people about, because they are so important to our prosperity, and because they failed so spectacularly.
I obviously hope that I can turn abstruse stories '' that talk about stuff that is beyond most people's direct experience or knowledge of the world '' into riveting resonant broadcasts and articles. And the great thing about the BBC is that it wants and expects me to do journalism that educates at the same time as it informs.
However, in a commercial world where hits mean money, it is legitimate to fear that difficult journalism will increasingly be squeezed out by massively popular stories with headlines like ''Bought my cat a bed in Ikea'' and ''If farts smelt nice, would you ask for the recipe'' (these are real stories by the way). The top story on the BuzzFeed site as I wrote this afternoon was ''Coca Cola has released a range of caps that let you hack the bottle open''. And the second story was a native ad, for VW, headlined ''18 dogs who love the open road''.
By the way, and you would expect me to say this, the ability of the BBC to decide high-handedly which stories matter, is perhaps one of the best justifications for the licence fee. Although there is tension even here. We at the BBC look very closely at which online and broadcast stories are most popular, so that we can't be accused of ignoring what those who fund us want.
But my point, which won't come as a surprise to you '' and makes me shudder as I say it '' is that our job as journalists is periodically to tell our viewers, broadcasters and readers that this difficult story is what they really want and need to know about, even if they are not aware of it.
PR pitfallsMy final worry is that the relentless cycle of cost cutting at the traditional news media, and the very economical staffing of much of the new news media, gives growing and potentially worrying power to the public relations industry.
There are a number of aspects to this. Many news organisations now lack the resources to generate enough of their own high-quality stories to fill their editions. When I worked on the Sunday Telegraph a decade ago, the fax machine was strategically placed above the waste paper basket so that press releases went straight into what we called the round filing cabinet. Now newspapers are filled with reports based on spurious PR generated surveys and polls, simply to save time and money.
More disturbing, perhaps, PRs seems to have become more powerful and effective as gatekeepers and minders of businesses, celebrities and public or semi-public figures. In part, that is because in some news organisations there is a fetishisation of hiring young people, who supposedly understand the digital world and what youth want to read much better than people of my generation. But the problem with many of these younger journos is that they have few proper contacts and inadequate contacts. So if they don't suck up to the PR, they don't get the interview or the story. Which in turn means that unhealthy deals are being done, with the young hacks agreeing not to ask embarrassing questions and to send the copy back to the PR for approval. Also, PRs are routinely feeding questions to inexperienced journalists, and insisting on certain hashtags being used when stories are tweeted. All of this is hideous, and degrading to our trade.
What is more, the socialising between senior PRs and proprietors and senior news-media executives means it is increasingly common for PRs to think it is acceptable to ring their mates at the top of news organisations and ask for stories to be skewed, or '' if already published '' removed from websites. I know of a number of examples were harried executives have conceded.
Now to coin a phrase, some of my best friends are in PR. Which is not a joke by the way. And before anyone accuses me of being a po-faced, sanctimonious git (which well I may be) I have had quite a few great stories from PRs. But the very best came in the 1990s from PRs who were rogues and pirates '' and those stories were usually spectacularly damaging to their clients. In other words, PRs were just sources to be milked like any another source. But today's PR industry has become much more machine-like, controlled '' and in its slightly chilling way '' professional.
The point is that as a journalist I have never been in any doubt that PRs are the enemy. Pretty much my first action when I joined the FT in 1991 as head of financial services was to tell the team that they would be in serious trouble if I heard them talking on the phone to a corporate PR rather than a chief executive or chairman. My view has never changed.
I think the best explanation of why our mission as hacks is always to try to get around the PR, to sideline him or her, was made by Harry Frankfurt in his essay ''On Bullshit'', when he wrote:
''The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides '... is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; '... [The bullshitter] is neither on the side of the true, nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest with getting away with what he says.''
Or to put it another way, many PRs can be seen both as more pernicious than the individual who consciously speaks the truth or the person who consciously lies '' in that the liar knows that he is a liar, but many professional bullshitters have lost the capacity to see the difference between fact and fiction. I should point out that of course PRs aren't the only bullshitters; but if they are not paid to bullshit, to present their clients in the best possible light, what are they being paid to do?
I did recently wonder whether we had reached one kind of high point of PR-driven madness when the Financial Conduct Authority '' which has been bizarrely obsessed for a regulator with its public image '' briefed the Telegraph about its muscular approach to beating up insurance companies, and then had to retract within hours when the article published by the Telegraph caused mayhem on the stock market.
Anyway here perhaps is the best evidence of how news organisations' own ethical lapses in recent years '' and not just phone hacking '' has been devastating to how the public sees us. Which is that PRs who have claimed that they represent the defence of truth and decency against a predatory and defamatory media haven't been seen as utterly ridiculous. God how our own stables have needed cleaning.
So what of the future?But surely it is not all doom and gloom for our trade, since '' according to the Office for National Statistics '' the number of journalists has actually increased since the onset of the recession in 2008, from 67,000 to 70,000. And on the ONS's analysis '' which I can't say I am wholly convinced by '' there are still more journos in the UK than PR execs. All of which seems a bit odd given that we know that thousands have been laid off by local and national newspapers.
So what's going on? Well, the structure of employment has changed pretty fundamentally, such that the number of full-time employees has fallen over those five years, from 39,000 to 37,000. All the growth has come from self employment and part-time employment.
And I assume that much of the growth we've seen has been for trade publications and work that is not a million miles from advertising. That said, the new generation of websites have been hiring. And if they are really investing in high-quality proprietary journalism, that is a good thing. But if most of these journalists are expected, as part of their job descriptions to write commercially sponsored or branded articles, those native ads I mentioned, then these are journalists who are in effect training to be PRs.
My point is not that the days are over of brave, costly serious journalism. It is just that we have yet quite worked out how to make it pay in a way that doesn't taint impartiality or compromise quality.
It is of course possible to generate profits in this brave new world. But the combination of cost cutting and a concentration on popular stories that attract the most page views means that the kind of journalism associated with Charles Wheeler is becoming rarer.
Just as proper staff jobs for foreign correspondents, photographers and cameramen are becoming rarer and freelance rates are being squeezed, so too are these jobs becoming more dangerous, in a turbulent fractious world. News and life are both apparently becoming cheaper
Which is not to say there are not good things going on. James Harding himself has converted a number of BBC foreign stringer jobs into more expensive proper correspondent posts. And he did something similar at the Times.
But that kind of investment is rare in the traditional news media and the new media. Even BBC News is about to embark on some pretty big cost cutting and job shedding, as was confirmed yesterday (4 June).
What I would conclude by saying is that we don't yet have what you might call a stable ecosystem in news. The poll-tax funded BBC is one kind of news-media model. The loss-making Guardian, funded by vast private-equity capital gains, is another. The Daily Mail another still. And Quartz, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed something different again. There is diversity '' which all ecologists would tell you is vital to long-term survival. But there is also pollution, from a dangerous elision between news that pays and news that matters. I am not confident that the Wheelers and Snows of this world aren't an increasingly endangered species.
Feds Collaborate With Wikipedia Editors to Improve 'Wikipedia Entries Related to Government Publications' | The Weekly Standard
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:58
In May, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), part of the National Archives, hosted an "editathon" to "focus on improving Wikipedia entries related to government publications." The event was promoted on the websites of both Wikipedia and the OFR. Two OFR officials attended the meeting (David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, and Charley Barth, director of the Federal Register) along with 10 members of the public who represented various "Wiki" entities such as Wikimedia, Wikisource, and Wikidata. The Washington, D.C. chapter of Wikimedia was a cohost of the event.
The OFR is responsible for several federal publications, such as the Federal Register, U.S. Statutes at Large, and the Public Papers of the Presidents, among others. The agency's collaboration is aimed at helping consumers of information about the business of government better "connect the dots" to "find what they are looking for." Rather than a one-time event, the editathon was intended to be part of an ongoing partnership with weekly Wikipedia staff meetings to include "Wikipedians." The National Archives already has a "Wikipedian in Residence," Dominic McDevitt-Parks.
This inaugural editathon lasted for seven hours, and the National Archives reported several accomplishments:
Some specific accomplishments from the event include a new article for the List of CFR Sections Affected, a new model for future articles about CFR parts..., and updating several more articles related to our work, including Title 35 of the CFR, Administrative Procedure Act, Executive order, and Electoral College.
An "editathon" is actually a Wikipedia concept that is not unique to this OFR collaboration. Wikipedia is crowd-edited by design, so an "editathon" is often held by experienced editors to help provide training to new editors, as well as to accomplish the basic purpose, to "edit and improve a specific topic or type of content."
Although this is a first-of-its-kind event for the National Archives, it is not the first time the Wikipedia community has hooked up with federal employees. In May last year when furloughs were hitting some government workers, the D.C. chapter of Wikimedia held a "Furloughed Feds Workshop", a "training seminar and edit-a-thon for federal employees interested in learning more on how to edit Wikipedia."
Trains Good, Planes Bad (whoo hoo!)
Russia to extend Trans-Eurasian rail project to Korea
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:44
Published time: June 06, 2014 11:57Edited time: June 06, 2014 14:35A South Korean train passes over a cross-border railway bridge near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Paju, north of Seoul on August 21, 2009. (AFP Photo)
Russia will team up with North and South Korea in a railroad construction project that could restore peace between the two neighbors. The link will extend the world's longest railroad, so goods can be shipped between Europe and Korea 3x faster.
Russia's Minister for Far East Development Aleksander Galushka announced the plan to extend the Trans-Siberian Railroad at a meeting in Vladivostok on Thursday.
The expansion would provide a link between the Korean peninsula and Europe's $17 trillion economy, making Russia a major transit route between Europe and Asia. Shipping by rail is nearly 3 times faster than via the Suez Canal, Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Bakunin has said.
''We have agreed to launch trilateral projects between Russia, DPRK and South Korea with a focus on the railroad project. It's important to extend the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Korean peninsula. It will serve to stabilize and improve the situation on the Korean peninsula as a whole,'' Galushka said at the sixth annual Russian-Korean meeting on trade, economic, educational, and scientific cooperation.
Russian Railways has already started a direct rail service between Hamburg, Germany and Zhengzhou, China, a journey that only takes 15 days via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland.
Up until now, North Korea has been very hesitant in letting in foreign partners to develop its aging and decrepit rail system.
In September, Russia re-opened a 54 kilometer railway link that connects Khasan, the last Russian city before North Korea's border to the North Korean port of Rajin.
The extension of the 9,000 kilometer railway to North and South Korea will be a big undertaking, especially in North Korea where enormous repairs are needed to revamp the dilapidated state of the railway. The poor state of roadbeds only allows trains to travel at speeds of 20 miles per hour, or not at all.
It has already been announced that Mechel, Russia's biggest steelmaking company, will supply materials for the first stage of the project.
Another possible partner in the equation would be South Korea's Hyundai Construction, which has already expressed eagerness to participate in any Trans-Eurasian rail projects.
Connecting the major commercial hubs of Moscow and St. Petersburg with industrial cities in Russia's Far East, the Trans-Siberian Railway tracks already stretch across the Ural Mountains, Siberia, to Russia's northern port cities, and connects to routes to Mongolia and China.
Travel by railway between North and South Korea has been completely closed since 1951, and remains closed today. For a brief stint in 2007-2009, a cross-border rail service operated.
Cooperation between the two Koreas on the railway could lead to compromise on a long-delayed plan to build gas pipelines and connect both Koreas with Russian gas.
Since the West has reacted to Russia's actions in Ukraine with economic sanctions, Russia has begun bolstering ties with eastern neighbors like China and North Korea.
In May, Russia's state-run Gazprom signed a 30-year gas deal with China valued at $400 billion.
Russia and North Korea also announced that trade between the two countries will now be settled in rubles.
The two countries have set a goal of reaching $1 billion in trade by 2020. In 2013, trade between the neighbors rose by 64.2 percent to reach $112.7 million, which Galushka said was ''not enough''.
North Korea is largely ostracized by the rest of the international community in a US-led effort to isolate the nation over its development of a nuclear weapon program.
Russia also proposed to invest into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea that employs more than 50,000 North Korea workers in South Korea companies.
In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law an agreement that will write off much of Pyongyang's Soviet-era loans. Russia will forgive 90 percent of North Korea's debt from the Soviet era, leaving $1 billion to be repaid interest free in the next 20-40 years. Russia also recently cancelled $29 billion of Cuba's Soviet era debt.
Galushka said the forgiveness of the debt has paved the way for stronger ties between the two states.
Follow the Pipes
South Stream project threatens to bring down Bulgarian government
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 04:33
A junior coalition partner in the Bulgarian cabinet has called for early elections today (5 June), after publicly opposing the government's policy to continue construction of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project, despite European Commission warnings that it infringes EU rules.
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a liberal party, said it disagreed with its senior coalition partner, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, over plans to continue building South Stream.
Lyutvi Mestan, the leader of DPS, a mainly Turkish ethnic party affiliated with the liberal ALDE group, told parliament that Bulgaria ''shouldn't do anything against Brussels'', saying the country should defend its national interest ''in cooperation, not in confrontation'' with Europe.
Mestan added that the current cabinet, elected last May, could not fulfill its mandate and called for early elections on 30 November or 7 December.
The announcement comes as a shock to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) of Sergei Stanishev, who is also President of the Party of European Socialists (PES). In spite of repeated warnings at the highest EU level, BSP has said that the construction of South Stream would continue according to plans.
>> Read: Bulgaria to build South Steam despite Commission warnings
Bulgaria's relations with the EU executive have deteriorated significantly in recent months over the issue of Gazprom-favoured South Stream gas pipeline.
While Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski was meeting in Brussels with Commission President Jos(C) Manuel Barroso on 27 May, assuring him that his country will abide by EU rules, the authorities in Sofia awarded the construction of the Bulgarian stretch of South Stream to the Russian Stroytransgaz consortium.
A major shareholder (63%) in Stroytransgaz is the Volga Group, which is owned by Gennady Timchenko, who was placed on the US's sanctions list against Russia in mid-March. Timchenko is believed to be the 6th richest man in Russia, according to Forbes, and has close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The pricetag of the Bulgarian section of South Stream is '‚¬3.5 billion, a sum which according to critics is inflated ''Putin-style'', as were the Sochi games installations.
The Commission opened an infringement procedure against Bulgaria on 3 June, and asked the country's authorities halt the construction work.
The Bulgarian weekly news magazine Capital has published the letter of Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier to the Bulgarian authorities, which indeed confirms information previously reported by EurActiv about the many flaws in the Bulgarian-Russian intergovernmental agreement (see background).
Bulgarians voted in the European elections, in what was seen by political commentators as a test for early elections. The winner of the elections was the centre-right party Citizens for a Democratic Development of Bulgaria (GERB) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, with 30.4% of the vote, followed by BSP at 18.5% and DPS at 14.1%.
Two more forces was able to send MEPs to Strasbourg '' a new political party ''Bulgaria without censorship'' of former journalist Nikolai Barekov, which obtained 10.6% and centre-right Reformist Bloc, who got 6.4%.
A new party, which couldn't pass the threshold for obtaining an MEP seat, but met the 4% threshold needed for entering the national parliament, is the Alternative for Bulgarian Renaissance (ABV), which positions itself on the centre-left.
Serbia says has no plan to delay South Stream construction
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:25
Thu Jun 5, 2014 9:26am EDT
BELGRADE, June 5 (Reuters) - Serbia said on Thursday it had no plans to delay the start of construction of its leg of Gazprom's South Stream gas pipeline, scheduled for July, after the European Union this week asked Bulgaria to suspend work on the project.
"There are no plans to delay construction", Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic told Reuters.
"The position of Serbia is not decisive. We will follow developments and decide accordingly. I believe the European Commission and member states will find a solution because this is a European project in the best interests of energy security." (Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Mark Potter)
TAP pipeline will go ahead despite Total and E.ON withdrawal
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:47
The Trans-Adriatic gas pipeline (TAP) is still moving forward, despite the decision from stakeholders Total and E.ON to leave the project. During the Caspian Oil & Gas Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, officials from Azerbaijan's state energy company SOCAR stated that Total and E.ON are planning to withdraw from TAP. Total and E.ON currently hold 10% and 9% shares, respectively, in the project.
According to reports, a spokesperson for the consortium managing the project stated that the project ''remains on track to receive first gas when Shah Deniz II deliveries begin." The 870 km pipeline will bring as much as 700 billion ft3/y of natural gas from the Shah Deniz gas field, which is situated in the South Caspian Sea off the coast of Azerbaijan, as early as 2019. TAP will connect with the Trans Anatolian pipeline (TANAP) near the Turkish-Greek border and run across Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to southern Italy and further to western Europe.
BP, which holds a 20% stake in the project and is managing developments in Azerbaijan in partnership with SOCAR, has recently awarded a number of contracts for the development of the second phase of the gas field. Construction works on the pipeline in Greece and Albania are scheduled to commence in 2016.
Edited from various sources by Rosalie Starling
Turkey and Iraqi Kurd gov't agree to 50-year energy deal
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 04:34
World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government have signed a 50-year deal to export Kurdish oil, the prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq has announced.
Nechirvan Barzani made the announcement on Wednesday during a speech in the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish-dominated region in northern Iraq.
"We have signed an energy deal with Turkey which comprises 50 years and can be extendable if necessary," he said.
Relations between Irbil and Baghdad have been strained by disputes over the sale of northern Iraqi oil through Turkey.
After the Iraqi central government suspended funds from oil income to the KRG, Irbil went on to export oil in late May saying it would serve as compensation for the budget cut.
"We don't have any intention of dividing Iraq, and this agreement is not part of such an agenda either," Barzani said.
'No independence for KRG'The oil exports would not pave way for independence of the KRG, said Barzani, adding that the Kurdish government would continue to exercise its constitutional rights, which grant 17 percent of the budget to the Kurdish region.
He added that the KRG has exported northern Iraqi oil worth $9 billion to date, which was mainly used to pay government workers.
The KRG has said it needs a total of 850 billion Iraqi dinars ($740 million) to meet outstanding payroll costs.
The Kurdish government needs $31 billion for its citizens to have a normal standard of living, said Barzani.
He said: "We need basic services for our citizens including standard infrastructure including schools, highways and bridges. We insist on obtaining our constitutional rights and we will not step back under any circumstances."
The first batch of Kurdish oil to be transported through Turkey took place on 23 May and had an estimated value of around $110 million.
Turkey and KRG have stated that the flow of Kurdish oil to international markets would continue despite Iraq's appeal to international arbitration demanding an immediate halt to sales.
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Turkey to speed process of letting Syrian refugees work
The Turkish government is working on speeding up the process of allowing Syrian refugees in Turkey to work, AK Party officials said.
Istanbul Armenians build first school since 1923
In Istanbul, there are 22 minority schools; five of them belong to the Greek minority while one is Jewish.
Turkic leaders pledge energy, tourism cooperation
Turkish President Abdullah Gul also said tourism is important to those countries along the Silk Road in terms of economy and the humanitarian dimension.
Turkish PM congratulates Abbas on new Palestinian govt
A new Palestinian technocrat government was unveiled in Ramallah on Monday.
PKK releases three kidnapped children-UPDATED
The separatist militant group PKK in south-eastern Turkey has released three children who had been kidnapped from the Lice district of Diyarbakir in late April.
TURKISH PRESS REVIEW on JUN. 05
Thursday's newspapers covered the shock resignation of the head of a top business group and reaction to Syria's presidential election result which has seen a third term from the country's leader, Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish president discusses links with Turkic neighbors
Turkey president Abdullah Gul held talks on energy and transport with his Turkmen, Kyrgyz and Azerbaijani counterparts.
Turkey and Iraqi Kurd gov't agree tto 50-year energy deal
The Kurdish Regional Government of Northern Iraq and Turkey agreed to export Kurdish oil amid ongoing tensions between Irbil and Baghdad.
Turkey, Montenegro sign military cooperation deal
Turkish Chief of Staff Necdet Ozel praised Montenegro's role in maintaining peace in Balkans, expresses hope for its bid to become a NATO member.
Factory in Turkey to build F-35 jet engine parts
Turkish President Abdullah Gul will inaugurate an engine factory which will produce engine parts for U.S. fighter jet F-35.
Turkey sets up fifth container city in Syria
When completed, the new container city near Syria's border with Turkey will provide shelter for 12,000 Syrians.
Head of Turkish business bloc resigns after scandal-UPDATED
Muharrem Yilmaz, the head of one of Turkey's most powerful business blocs, TUSIAD, has resigned from his post after a scandal.
Turkish security forces, Kurds clash in southeast
In the Lice district of Diyarbakir province, dozens of protesters hurled petrol bombs, fireworks and stones in response to the gendarmerie police intervention
Turkey, Qatar, Israel not invited to Sisi inauguration
Egypt's army-installed interim presidency has invited 22 countries, 16 of whom have already confirmed their attendance.
Turkic world considers adopting joint alphabet
The presidents of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan will all be attending the 4th Turkish Council summit in Bodrum, Turkey.
U.S. appoints new ambassador to Turkey
Former Georgia ambassador John Bass will replace Francis Ricciardone in July.
F-Russia / Ukraine / Syria
Assad Wins Syrian Elections by a Landslide - International Observers Claim No Violations - Washington Balks
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 04:28
On June 3rd, the Syrian people went to the polls to choose a president. Voter turnout was very high (over 73% in spite of interference from the U.S. backed rebels). Bashar al-Assad won by a landslide, taking 88.7% of the vote, international observers reported no violations.
Washington and the corporate media have of course dismissed the outcome, demonstrating yet again that when they talk about spreading democracy, what they are really talking about is regime change. The only elections that count are the ones that put cooperative, western puppets in power. The Syrian people have made it clear that they aren't interested in becoming a vassal state like Afghanistan or Iraq.
In Ukraine, where the provisional government was actively bombing the east, and murdering protesters in Odessa, the U.S. gave their stamp of approval on the presidential elections. Ukraine's official voter turnout (63%), which was significantly lower than Syria's, and Poroshenko's share of that turnout was just 55%. By the numbers, the Syrian elections are far more credible, however the numbers don't matter for Washington (nor do human rights for that matter). Washington has doubled military aid to Kiev in spite of its ongoing shelling of residential centers in Lugansk and they have continued to arm and fund the Syrian rebels in spite of the fact that a U.N. investigation found that it was the rebels who were responsible for the sarin gas attacks in 2013.
In the months leading up to Syria's presidential elections the U.S. government and the corporate media were already attempting to discredit the results. Why? Because polls were showing that Assad was on track to win. Unable to influence the electoral outcome, and failing miserably in their attempt to topple the Syrian government through military means the West is left with little more than mudslinging.
Mudslinging, however, is only effective when you have sufficient moral capital and credibility to influence the masses. While we could talk about the decline in the U.S. government's ability to project military force, or their waning economic power, perhaps the most important, and least talked about geopolitical shift of the past decade has been the total collapse of Washington's ability to sway hearts and minds. This shift has been accompanied by (and arguably caused by) a radical decline in both the reach and the perceived credibility of the corporate media.
The internet is eroding the monopoly of belief. With that gone it's only a matter of time until the two other pillars of power, financial hegemony, and military dominance follow.
We know that Washington wants to topple the Syrian government. We also know that they are hesitant to act without public support. In that context it is critical that we short circuit any attempt to demonize or delegitimize the Syrian government early on, and expose Washington's motives for what they are at each step. This is not just war of ideas. The U.S. fully intends to continue arming insurgents in Syria in spite of the elections, and they still hope to bring this crisis to climax that can be used to justify a military intervention.
War begins with rhetoric and ends with shock and awe.
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Russia Gives US Three Months to Station GLONASS on Its Territory
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:49
NOVOSIBIRSK, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow expects Washington to take reciprocal steps toward the deployment of GLONASS navigation stations in the US by August 31, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at the Tekhnoprom forum in Novosibirsk on Friday.
The GLONASS network, which was put into operation in 1993, is considered Russia's answer to GPS. The network provides real-time positioning and speed data for surface, sea and airborne objects.
Rogozin said Russia sees it as necessary to continue cooperating with the US on numerous issues, including navigation. "Since the early 90s we have had 11 GPS stations deployed on Russian territory and we believe we have the right to station a similar navigation system on US territory," the deputy prime minister noted.
"To prevent further politicization, we agreed that beginning June 1, GPS stations in the Russian Federation have been adjusted so that they cannot be used for military purposes," Rogozin stated.
The deputy prime minister noted that Russia has given the US three months, until August 31, for all necessary talks and consultations. "I hope that our proposal has been attended to by the US navigation authorities," Rogozin added.
The US has not yet responded to Russia's proposal to establish GLONASS stations on its territory.
Topless feminist stabs wax Putin in France
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 04:27
The same day President Vladimir Putin was to arrive in France for D-Day anniversary events, radical feminist protest group Femen destroyed the Russian leader's statue in a Paris wax museum.
A topless member of the radical protest group Femen used a metal chisel to stab and bash in the face of Putin's statue in a famed Paris wax museum on Thursday.
The activist, who had 'Kill Putin' written on her bare chest, reportedly screamed "Putin is a dictator" while destroying the figure at the Grevin Wax Museum, French daily Le Parisien reported.
Police arrested the activist shortly after the attack, which happened near statues of US President Barack Obama and recently abdicated Spanish King Juan Carlos, both of which escaped without a scratch.
A Femen activist hacks apart Putin's effigy. (AFP)
Putin is to arrive in France on Thursday to attend the 70th anniversary of D-Day events, which have attracted scores of world leaders to France. Putin arrives under the cloud of the confrontation between western powers and Russia over the annexation of Crimea.
Even before the borders of Ukraine became an international issue, the Paris-based Femen had staged confrontational protests against Putin, as well as high-profile targets in France like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the head of the far-right National Front party Marine Le Pen.
Interview: Femen Mastermind Victor Svyatski on Fleeing Ukraine - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:19
SPIEGEL: Mr. Svyatski, why did you flee Ukraine at the end of last week?
Svyatski: I was twice beaten by unknown assailants. Then at the end of August, the police also planted weapons in the Femen office in Kiev as well as leaflets showing Russian president Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, in crosshairs ... So I went into hiding and decided to request asylum in a western European country.
SPIEGEL: Who is behind the attacks on you and Femen?
Svyatski: I regard it as an act of revenge on the part of the Russian intelligence services. At the Hanover conference in April, female Femen activists rushed up to Putin, half-naked as usual. He let it be known afterwards that he had enjoyed the protest, but actually he was furious about the public humiliation.
SPIEGEL: What does that have to do with Ukraine, which is its own country?
Svyatski: It is an enclave of Putin.
SPIEGEL: How, then, can Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych say that he wants to bring his country closer to Europe, by which he means further away from Russia?
Svyatski: That is only for show. We are a vassal state controlled by the Kremlin, in which the Russian intelligence services operate unhindered.
SPIEGEL: You yourself have been criticized thanks to a documentary film about Femen. You are said to have dominated the feminist group in macho style and as the group's idealogue.
Svyatski: The director Kitty Green came from Australia. Together we planned how we could make her film more interesting. Kitty suggested to me: 'Victor, in the film you are the tyrant, and the girls fear you.' At the end, the girls would then free themselves from me. That's how it was filmed in the end as well. But I am not as bad as in this plot.
SPIEGEL: But you are nonetheless the strongman behind Femen -- until now you picked the women and planned the performances.
Svyatski: I have always done that together with the three Femen founders, in close coordination. They have known me for years from my home town Khmelnytskyi. Femen is a group effort; I am no tyrant.
SPIEGEL: There are other accusations against the group -- you are said to have cooperated with the Ukrainian government. The head of the presidential administration pushed for women from Femen to call in as guests on a talk show to make their point.
Svyatski: The call may have happened, and it can be that the head of the administration liked our protests. There is no accord, however. No one has ever bought us. We use every opportunity to appear in the media. We can't control who invites us onto talk shows and why any more than we can control the weather.
SPIEGEL: Why has Femen never become involved with the imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko?
Svyatski: Why should we? Simply because she is a woman? In her time in office, Tymoshenko was a man wearing a skirt. Most Ukrainians view her as being as bad as the current president, Yanukovych. When she had power, corruption was as rife as it is today. But the West thinks she is a martyr only because she is in prison.
SPIEGEL: Why is Femen less popular in Ukraine than in the West?
Svyatski: Because most people here do not care about politics. We have created a global movement, a new feminism. It's just as important as Nelson Mandela's fight against Apartheid.
SPIEGEL: What do you mean by a new feminism?
Svyatski: The way old feminism worked was that women wore grey jumpers and let their armpit hair grow. Somehow they wanted to be like men in this way. The new feminism says: It is good that women are different from men. The woman is beautiful; her breasts are a symbol of femininity. That's why the women from Femen go topless on the streets. Only through differentiation can we truly reach equality.
SPIEGEL: All of the female founders have in the meantime fled Ukraine -- so how can it continue?
Svyatski: The new headquarters is Paris. From there, Femen girls will be recruited from all over the world. Femen is like the Foreign Legion in that it can strike anywhere. In Ukraine, Femen will send foreign women who will be better protected thanks to their passports.
SPIEGEL: Are you still a part of Femen?
Svyatski: No. I have already done everything in my power. Femen has already shaken off a small patriarchy, namely me. Now the women will fight on against the big patriarchy.
(C) SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013All Rights ReservedReproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH
The Femen scandal shows how muddled we are about men and feminism | Suzanne Moore | Comment is free | The Guardian
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:16
Femen protesters outside the Ukrainian ambassy in Brussels. Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images
If only men ran feminism, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in. We wouldn't have to worry about offending them or arguing among ourselves. We would simply take instruction from consultants on gender struggle. Only the prettiest would be allowed to fight the gender jihad. And we would have to do it topless.
You can't make this stuff up. And I am not. It turns out that that Femen, the Ukrainian feminist group known for semi-naked media stunts, slogan "Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts" was actually founded by a man, Victor Svyatski. It gets weirder. This man hand picked attractive women knowing they would make the front pages '' and they did. Many feminists were disturbed by the imperialist implications,that these stereotypical blondes had no relationship with the culture or ethnicity of those they choose to bare their breasts to. They have caused offence in many ways and indeed have been a disappointment to their great leader. "These girls are weak. They don't have the strength of character '... Instead they show submissiveness, spinelessness, lack of punctuality, and many other factors which prevent them from becoming political activists." Yes, women are so useless we can't even get out tops off in the right way. Who knows how we ever got the vote?
This whole ridiculous tale is symptomatic of the huge muddle around men's relationship to feminism. Obviously men can be feminists, as I often say. They can walk alongside us, just not ahead and take charge of the whole shebang. Increasingly, though, to talk about gender-specific issues invokes cries of "misandry" from the What About The Men brigade. According to some, anyone who mentions breast cancer therefore doesn't care about prostate cancer, anyone who mentions "domestic violence" doesn't care that men are victims of violence too. Female genital mutilation? What about circumcision? And so it goes ludicrously on, as though any woman speaking about these issues does not have sons, fathers, lovers.
To be accused of misandry '' hating all men '' when sometimes one is merely trying to stick up for some women is really tedious. I don't hate all men. Give me time!
Of course men suffer, and men who hit women are likely to hit other men. Women who are violent to men are likely to hit their children. None of this exists in isolation; it's the links that matter. This week, for example, activists who amazingly kept their clothes on were asking whether there is a connection between trolling, online stalking and actual violence against women. Women's Aid workers are reporting that there is. Immediately the What About The Men brigade suggests that somehow this means we don't care when men are killed.
The battering ram of misandry is another attempt to silence debate. It is misguided. It operates from the assumption that we are all on a level playing field. I say tomato. You say to-mate-oh. I say misogyny. You say misandry. What is missing here is any analysis of patriarchy. Or, indeed, global reality.
One may argue that the construction of patriarchy is just "natural" '' women are weaker and have babies '' or that it is cultural, and therefore changes as technology and contraception alters what is purely natural. Either way, it produces a multi-faceted system in which men at the top are the most advantaged. The spectrum of privilege is huge. There is a world of difference between not being able to get a buggy on to a bus and being raped and then stoned to death
Having seen patriarchy described as a "conspiracy theory that blames all men, even decent men, for all women's woes", it is almost possible to believe there is a conspiracy to focus on the problems of a fewwhite middle-class women, in order to strip feminism of its global reach and significance. The cri de coeur remains: "Why bang on about gender?" Just leave it. The problem of inequality must lie elsewhere ... that place where "decent men" do not have to ask too many questions.
Not everything is reducible to gender, but it is a factor whether we are talking about the failure of working-class boys in education or the resurgence of the Taliban. Gender is inextricable in almost every discussion we have about power.
Those strange groups of men who feel so disempowered by any mention of feminism reveal themselves time and time again and indeed some of them really are not doing well at all. You see, patriarchy is a system that also oppresses men at the bottom. Or, according to Jung, keeps men unable to fully mature.
Talk of internalised privilege means nothing to them. They behave as though the country is run by Andrea Dworkin, Gideon has been ousted in favour of Angela Davis and Theresa May has been replaced by Bj¶rk. That radical feminism didn't actually happen and is nowhere near the levers of power seems to have bypassed them.
When we ask for concrete examples of misandry, we are usually given some representations in pop culture that show men as inadequate fathers or rapists and murderers. But I missed that coup when women took over the entire media. Do let me know about it.
Using feminism as a scapegoat fuels the backlash. So does this bandying about of "misandry" every time a women speaks up. Misandry will be equivalent to misogyny only when women are equal to men. There are no blurred lines here.
' This article was amended on 5 September 2013. The word "lay" was used in "must lay elsewhere" where "lie" was meant. This has now been corrected.
Femen let Victor Svyatski take over because we didn't know how to fight it | Inna Shevchenko | Comment is free | theguardian.com
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:15
Inna Shevchenko, left, with Ukraine Is Not a Brothel director, Kitty Green, second left, and two Femen activists at the 70th Venice film festival. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images
This week I have been told that I'm not a feminist, that my fight is not real. I have been told that people don't believe my slogans any more, that my ideas are fake. I have been condemned for fighting male domination in my life, for fighting the patriarchy.
The Australian director Kitty Green spent one year with Femen activists in Ukraine shooting a documentary that is showing at the 70th Venice film festival. The film, Ukraine Is Not a Brothel, is a history of Femen. It shows a crucial paradox of the movement, one that has now become a scandal. It concerns one of the men interviewed in the film, Victor Svyatski, who proclaimed himself the leader of our feminist movement. It has become an unwelcome surprise for our supporters, and, of course, more fodder for those who criticise Femen.
So, after having read many articles written by journalists who have not yet seen the film, I am now making Femen's response, leaving no space for the fantasies of Femen's enemies.
Yes, Svyatski was part of the Femen movement. He is not a founder of Femen, nor a creator of our topless strategy and ideology. But he did lead the movement some time ago. This story is not so much about how the movement was born. It is rather the story of how the struggle began.
Femen was founded by group of young female students in a culture in which men talk and women listen. In which men decide and women accept their decisions. In which men dominate and women accept that domination. And this explains why Svyatski could become Femen's leader. After Femen became a known movement in Ukraine, Svyatski, a supporter, took control of Femen's team. Why and how could he do this? Because he was a man. The story described in the film '' by Svyatski himself '' amounts to nothing other than patriarchy. He is sexism, male domination, and oppression against women personified.
When he presented himself as the father of our new feminism, I was taken aback by such a brave declaration '' one that only a man could make in my country. I was surprised: why have we suddenly acquired a father? Where is the mother? Having been born in a country in which feminism was unknown, in the best traditions of patriarchal society we just accepted the fact of a man taking control of us. We accepted this because we did not know how to resist and fight it. From that moment on, I realised that the patriarchy was not somewhere outside. It was right in front of us, in Femen's office. And our global fight with patriarchy started with the fight in our own private life.
This is when I decided to leave Ukraine for France to build a new Femen. A Femen in which women decide and follow their own ideas, not someone else's demands. One year ago I started from the beginning again with new colleagues from France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Canada, Mexico, Netherlands and Tunisia. The Femen fight still involves men '' those who support us but do not dominate. Unlike Svyatski, from whom we broke free.
The original ideology of Femen remains as we created it, but now we are applying it the way it was originally intended. This change has already paid off: Femen has inspired women all over the world.
We have come to the Venice film festival to tell our story because this is the patriarchal reality that we all live in. Criticising us for our fight against men's domination in our own lives is like criticising the fight against all patriarchy in the world. Today we tell our story hoping that we can inspire women suffering the same oppression in their fight against it tomorrow.
Femen Activists Face Jail Time In Turkey For 'Ban Erdogan' Protest
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:13
Femen activists chant slogans as they protest against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a polling station during local elections in Istanbul on March 30, 2014. Turkish citizens voted Sunday in local elections seen as a referendum on the rule of Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan after turbulent months of mass protests, corruption scandals and Internet blocks. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images) | AFP/Getty Images
Two members of the women's movement Femen are facing jail time in Turkey for a protest against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to local reports.
The topless activists briefly disrupted municipal elections in March when they entered a polling station in Istanbul, where the prime minister was expected to vote. With "Ban Erdogan" written across their breasts, the two women stood on a table and yelled out the slogan to protest the criticized leader's reign.
The Femen members were arrested after the stunt and detained by Turkish police. Annie Assouan, 24, and 26-year-old Elvire Duvelle-Charles -- both reportedly French citizens -- are now facing between one and three years behind bars for the brazen public protest, an indictment reviewed by the Dogan News Agency said.
Inna Shevchenko, a Ukrainian activist and leader of the women's movement, shared the news on Twitter.
One of the activists, Duvelle-Charles, also took to the social network after the indictment was made public.It has been more than a year since protests against Erdogan and the Turkish government broke out across the country. On the one-year anniversary of the nationwide demonstrations Saturday, Turkish police used tear gas on supporters of the opposition who had gathered in Istanbul and Ankara.
Inna Shevchenko FEMEN Founder?
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:13
Turkish revolutionaries! Taksim Square! Femen is calling for your help!
Femen has appealed to the Turkish revolutionaries with a request to protect their Tunisian prisoners Amina (18, from Tunisia), Josephine (19, Germany), Marguerite (23, France) and Pauline (27, France), who face sentences from one to six years in prison....
Syrian Shells Activate Iron Dome in Northern Israel.
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:39
The Iron Dome was activated for the first time in Israel's North after Syrian shells were launched at the Golan Heights. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
JNS.org '' At least two mortar shells were fired from Syria into the Golan Heights in Israel on Wednesday, which activated the Iron Dome missile defense system for the first time in the north of the country.
The Iron Dome fired at least two defense shells, but operators called them back when it became clear that the Syrian shells were going to fall in open fields. The shells caused wildfires that had to be put out by the fire department, reported Yedioth Ahronoth.
Authorities have reported that no injuries were caused by the shells and believe that they were most likely fired by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces while they celebrated his election victory.
US Secretary of Defense Hagel in Romania; announces stronger Black Sea naval presence
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:57
The United States will continue to send warships to the Black Sea to bolster its allies in the area, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said in Romania. Hagel also justified the Taliban-Bergdahl exchange.
Secretary of Defense Hagel said Thursday that a plan by Washington to increase military support for eastern European NATO members will allow for a "stronger presence of US ships in the Black Sea."
US President Barack Obama promised the increase of military support while in Poland earlier this week. It includes a $1 billion (736.2 million euros) fund to support and train the armed forces of NATO states.
Hagel made the remarks from the Romanian port of Constanta where he met with Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa.
Constanta recently hosted US ships on naval exercises and the USS Vella Gulf is currently berthed there.
USS Vella Gulf, a guided missile cruiser, is the fourth US warship deployed in the Black Sea since the Ukrainian crisis erupted in March.
"We will sustain that tempo going forward," Hagel told reporters, referring to the rotating presence of US ships in the Black Sea since the Crimea crisis erupted.
The plan is also to include more US troop rotations for exercises and training in the Black Sea region.
Romania nervous over Moldova future
Bucharest has openly called for an increased US military presence in the Black Sea, and is particularly concerned about Russian intentions in its tiny neighbor Moldova, which used to be part of Romania and contains a Russian-speaking minority.
Since the Ukraine crisis erupted, Romania has also pledged to increase its defense spending. That announcement drew praise from Washington, which has urged other NATO members to follow suit and review how their militaries are trained.
Formerly a communist state, Romania is now a member of both NATO and the European Union. Bucharest has been among the staunchest supporters of Western sanctions against Russia, which has hosted joint military exercises with US forces.
Hagel's tour coincides with a visit by President Obama to Poland this week, to mark the 25th anniversary of Poland's first democratic elections under communism. President Obama also used the visit to Poland to throw his weight behind the new president of Ukraine, amid an intensifying crackdown by Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian rebels.
Bergdahl prisoner swap decision ''unanimous''
While in Romania, Hagel also said the decision to strike a deal with the Taliban for the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was unanimous in the White House as it was believed that the soldier's life was "in peril.''
Bergdahl was handed over to US special operations forces in Afghanistan on Saturday after five years in captivity. He was exchanged for five senior Taliban members from Guantanamo prison.
Hagel told the BBC in Romania on Thursday that the Obama administration had to act quickly and without first consulting Congress which is supposed to be given 30 days notice before transferring detainees from Guantanamo.
"It was our judgment based on the information that we had that his life, his health were in peril," Hagel said.
crh/hc (Reuters, AFP, AP)
'Russian propaganda' blamed for reporting State Department spokesperson's firing - UPI.com
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:04
WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) --U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki fired off a tweet Thursday, accusing "the Russian propaganda machine" of falsely reporting her firing.Using the hashtag #dontbelieveRT, Psaki accused Russia Television of propagating the rumor and insisted "I am still here as is a strong, democratic Ukraine."
Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief, tweeted back to Psaki that she "is under the illusion that RT is scheming all around her" and asserted "We did not write of your firing!," adding "If you in fact had been fired, we couldn't write -- we would weep!"
RT also penned an article pleading "not guilty" in propagating the rumor, and instead blamed a "blog-like, independent media that have nothing to do with the Russian government -- let alone RT."
Several Russian newspapers, including tabloid Komomolskaya Pravda, reported that Psaki had been fired on Thursday.
The rumor was the latest in a series of Russian media attacks aimed at Psaki. Dmitry Kiselyov, appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to head the state-owned international news agency Rossiya Segodnya, promoted the term "Psaking" during a Sunday night television appearance. He defined it as a "new buzzword" used "when someone makes a dogmatic statement about something they don't understand, mixes facts up, and then doesn't apologize."
The State Department told BuzzFeed that the latest jibes are "yet another in a long line of desperate attacks to counter efforts by U.S. officials to speak the truth about Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its ongoing involvement in eastern Ukraine."
NUDELMAN-Esoteric Meaning of Planets ~ Astrological Planets
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 00:32
The key to the planets, or the chakras :
Here is a planetary key to personal natal chart interpretation that any beginning astrological student can use with confidence. The natural ordering of the planets that can be seen easily with the naked eye can serve as a key to their interpretation. As we know, the planetary order out from the Sun is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These are the naked-eye planets. Beyond Saturn are the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
We will start with Saturn and work our way in towards the Sun. The key thought necessary in order to use these planets in your own horoscope is this: the inner planet is always the key to the outer. In every case, in order to reveal, open, and use the outer, we go within. In other words, each inner planet is the meaning and key to the planet beyond its orbit. For example, we live on Earth. The next planet inside the orbit of the Earth is Venus. Therefore, Venus will be the key to the Earth experience. If we stop and think about it, Venus (or love) has been held up as the key to life on this Earth throughout the ages. If we have obstacles and problems in our life (Saturn), then studying one's Jupiter will give us the key to the planet Saturn in our natal chart... Mars will be the key to Jupiter, and so on. Let's begin.Astrology: The Esoteric Meaning of The PlanetsSaturn, or law:Almost every astrologer wants to know where Saturn is in the chart because here we are sure to gain insight into some of the major obstacles and challenges of life. Saturn, or Satan (as it is sometimes called), is the prince of time and of the material world. We don't break nature's laws, they break us. The laws of Saturn are much feared, for it is here that we are bound to learn. The laws of Saturn are often seen as standing between us and an easy life. But Saturn also provides the walls that make homes possible. Gravity is an example -- the law that holds things in place. We come across the influence of Saturn every time we break nature's law. We are subjected and tested by these laws until such time as we learn to use them. Saturn is so important in the chart because it shows us where we must be disciplined and where we are bound to learn something; therefore, everyone always wants to know how to come to grips with Saturn in the natal chart. The key to the realm of Saturn in our chart can be found by studying our natal Jupiter.
Jupiter, or life path:If Saturn is our life's test, then Jupiter is the key, guide, and light that sees us through the darkness of time (or Saturn). It is the straight and narrow path by which we pass through Saturn's test. Jupiter is the particular way we go or continue in life -- continuity. It is our "luck" or solution to time's test. In astrology, Jupiter is the great benefic as it shows us how to find our way through Saturn and the tests of time -- how to use Saturn. Jupiter is our key to succession through time, to success. It is the way through or on. Jupiter is the key, or antidote, to Saturn; therefore, Jupiter has to do with how we are to be successful in life in our particular battle against the forces of time (Saturn). Jupiter often describes our vocation or the way we must go through life, since that through which we have to pass (Saturn) dictates the way we must go through life (our vocation). We have mastered our Jupiter when we are a physical success.
Once we have learned to master our Saturn, to be successful, our mind is free to explore our situation. The freedom of Jupiter is eternal vigilance toward the law or rules of Saturn. We go from victory to victory over time, or Saturn, which translates into day-to-day success. We make a living.
Now that we are free within time, or Saturn, our mind begins to wonder what it all means. What's the purpose of all this? We begin to penetrate into the next chakra, that of Mars. The key to our success (Jupiter) will be the planet Mars -- how we feel about our life.
Mars, or the marriage:Mars is the energy that moves us, the way we feel -- our emotions. It is what drives us and the way we are driven. And it is the kind of energy or drive that we have which determines our personal atmosphere or aura: the kind of room or space in which we have to live -- our living room. The kind of room we have determines how we feel about our life, comfortable or cramped. After Jupiter fades to an easy repetition, our mind turns to thoughts of unity, oneness -- marriage.
We are driven to marriage, or yoga, of one kind or another. It is the way the two become one. Everyone chooses a form of yoga, union, or marriage... some way to join or yoke the two opposing parts of ourselves together and to perceive them as one life -- ours.
We master each planet or chakra, maintain it, and move on or penetrate into the next, inner one. The Jupiter chakra is a tremendous war between us and them. Dichotomy. When we seek to understand the secret of "us" and "them," we penetrate into the Mars chakra -- what it all means. Meaning drives us across the Earth until we can see the end of all difference, that it is all one.
We are free at last from the bonds of Saturn (Satan). We have learned what we must do to survive or to succeed in life. Yet the world we live in is not a unity. It is us against them. And still this somehow does not feel right.
Our life becomes a process of gathering meanings and hints of a possible unity between the opposing parties. This is the yoga, union, or marriage that each must negotiate. The entire Mars chakra has to do with dealing with all the motion, emotion, and meanings of life. Following them out, understanding them. Mars, therefore, is the sphere of all things meaningful, everything that moves us: music, poetry, drama, movies -- the works. Anything that gets a rise out of us. We are working with our Mars as long as we have not completed our yoga, or marriage, as long as the two have not become one. As long as we are intrigued and drawn hither and yon, we are working on our Mars. This mysterious person beckons, that piece of music or poem captures our attention, moves us.
Mars is our marriage or union. It is the systematic making friends with everything that is foreign (other than us). At some point in this journey, we get the message. We cease to be blown hither and yon by every passing emotion. We discover that life is its own meaning. We have penetrated to the Earth, or heart chakra.
Earth, or the heart:We ourselves are the meaning. "I AM THAT I AM," and for no other reason. We take refuge in life itself with no referrals. This is it!
"I am in it to the end, and that's all, And the 'ever' it's coming to be. And in me is out, the shadow of doubt, And the 'in' that is 'out', Well, that's me!"
Earth/Sun represent the end of meaning, the heart of it all. The two are one. The marriage is consummated, the child is born. The Earth is us as we are in our oneness.
The Sun is the essence of what it all means.
The planets inside the orbit of the Earth, Venus and Mercury, are very misunderstood in modern astrology. Both are beyond any physical depiction.
Venus, or compassion:Inside Earth. Compassion. Infinite response and attention. Cherishing. How we respond to life. How we find ourselves in response to life. Love, in the sense of responding or attending to.
Mercury, or light:Messenger truth. First out from the Sun. The light of knowing or seeing in our eyes. Communication itself. Essence of communication.
Sun, or system:The Sun is not a planet. The description for the Earth given above is the traditional meaning for the Sun. The true Sun is the whole solar system.
(This is the text from the supplement of terms and concepts included with the Astro*Talk Profile , created from the author, Michael Erlewine.)
Chiner$
Russia, China inch toward another gas contract
Thu, 05 Jun 2014 23:59
Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-6-5 10:30:37
Russia and China could soon sign another major contract on gas pipeline construction project after they signed a landmark 30-year gas deal in Shanghai during Russian President Vladimir Putin's state visit in May, a senior Russian official said Wednesday."Given the pace of Chinese economic growth ... with an agreement upon the compromise (gas) price formulas having been achieved, it is very likely that a contract could also be signed in the very near future for the construction of a western route ( gas pipeline) that will fully cross the Siberian Federal District, " Russian presidential administration chief Sergei Ivanov told reporters in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.
He said the contract on the western route, also called the Altai natural gas pipeline, might be "less capital-intensive" than that of the eastern one, but "it's no doubt going to cost us tens of billions of US dollars," Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The official said the project, like the eastern one, would create jobs and stimulate many economic industries, which will have "a cumulative effect."
The long-awaited gas deal in Shanghai ended a decade of natural gas supply talks between the two neighbors.
According to the 400-billion-dollar deal, Russia will deliver up to 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to China from 2018 via the eastern route. The gas will come from Russia's Kovyktin and Chayandin gas fields in eastern Siberia and will be piped to China's northeast, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolitan area in the north and the Yangtze river delta in the east.
South Sudan's dwindling oil output forces China to step in with troops to protect its investments from the ongoing rebellion
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:07
The subtle change has been evident in months of faltering peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, where Chinese officials have been in regular contact with Western diplomats to help regional African mediators push for a halt to fighting.
Diplomats say the permanent Chinese presence at the Addis Ababa talks and their frequent lobby chats and closed-door consultations with diplomats from the United States, Britain and Norway '' the main Western backers of newly independent South Sudan '' shows China's more proactive approach.
When a first ceasefire deal was reached on 23 January, a month after fighting erupted, a senior Western diplomat said China's ambassador to Ethiopia, Xie Xiaoyan, joined other envoys by giving a speech at the signing that set the tone for Beijing's involvement. ''What's very striking is that... he was given the floor and did not vary one bit from what everyone else was saying, which was basically [telling the South Sudanese factions to] 'Get your act together','' said the diplomat.
The new line does not mean China plans to abandon its oft stated policy of steering clear of Africa's internal politics, but it is an indication of a gradual shift by Beijing as its stake in Africa's stability grows with expanding investments.
With China now Africa's biggest trading partner, Beijing could face pressure to extend its new approach to other regions of Africa where it has growing economic interests.
''The luxury of being the new guy in town is definitely on the wane now that they have pretty serious assets in these countries and need to protect them,'' said Clare Allenson, Africa analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group.
''They would love to keep the non-interference stance but it doesn't quite work that way.''
For now, South Sudan offers exceptional circumstances to prompt more proactive Chinese diplomacy: 5 per cent of Beijing's oil imports came from South Sudan when it was pumping at full tilt. The state firm China National Petroleum Corp has a 40 per cent stake in a joint venture developing the fields.
Oil accounts for about 98 per cent of South Sudan's revenue, and while the United States, Britain and Norway are the biggest donors, they do not have stakes in South Sudanese crude production.
Washington instead worries about loss of political face over the fighting after it trumpeted secession from Sudan in 2011 as a foreign policy success. It has imposed sanctions on military commanders from both sides to press for a peace deal.
France's Total has exploration concessions in South Sudan but China's commercial interests are far greater than those of Western nations. This has prompted China to push rival factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar to talk.
China's ambassador to South Sudan, Ma Qiang, told James Hoth Mai, then chief of the government SPLA army, that the arms agreement was off shortly after the conflict erupted on 15 December
''[The envoy] said: 'We cannot do anything now people are killing each other. We don't want to contribute to that killing','' former commander Mai, who was replaced in May, recounted in an interview with Reuters.
''China said 'We don't want to escalate this conflict'.''
Senior Western diplomats involved in mediation efforts said they were unaware of a Chinese decision to halt an arms sale but they have no doubt there has been a change. ''The diplomacy of Beijing has clearly stepped up and is more proactive and more responsive now,'' said one of the diplomats, who traces the first sign of a shift to the row between South Sudan and Sudan in 2012, the year after the two nations split.
China's role was seen as crucial to ending the dispute that rumbled on for 15 months, halted South Sudan's oil production and brought the two nations to the brink of war.
South Sudan's oil output is now a third of the level it was at in December before the latest conflict erupted.
That has spurred China on. From the early days of the conflict, China had said it would play an active role. In another unusual move for Beijing, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that China planned to send a battalion of troops to join the mission in Sudan.
UN officials said this would be the first time China had contributed a full infantry battalion of about 850 troops to a UN peacekeeping mission.
A more diplomatically active China could provide a welcome political counterweight for some on the continent, where the West has often been called to act to police the peace.
''Now China is coming in and it means the West cannot use their help to hold us hostage any more,'' said one official in Uganda, which has been criticised by some Western diplomats for sending troops to South Sudan in open support of Kiir's forces.
The South Sudanese Foreign Minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, acknowledged that China was gaining traction on the continent, citing support for Africa on the UN Security Council. ''This has given them the respect in Africa,'' Benjamin said. ''So when they come to us people will actually listen to them.''
Reuters
SDR-Beijing-Based IMF? Lagarde Ponders China Gaining on U.S. Economy - Bloomberg
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 23:58
The International Monetary Fund's headquarters may one day shift to Beijing from Washington, aligning with China's growing influence in the world economy, the fund's managing director said.
Christine Lagarde, speaking late today in London, said IMF rules require the main office be located in the country that is the biggest shareholder, which the U.S. has been since the fund was formed 70 years ago.
The IMF founding members ''decided that the institution would be headquartered in the country which had the biggest share of the quota, which chipped in the biggest amount and contributed most. And that is still today the United States,'' she said in response to questions at the London School of Economics.
''But the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if one of these days the IMF was headquartered in Beijing for instance,'' she said. ''It would be the articles of the IMF that would dictate it.''
Lagarde said the IMF has a good relationship with China, the world's second largest economy and she praised the government's commitment to fighting corruption.
She had less kind things to say about the U.S., which remains the ''outlier'' among Group of 20 countries to approve an overhaul of the ownership of the 188-member organization. The plan would give emerging markets more influence and would elevate China to the third-largest member nation.
Lagarde said there is ''frustration by countries like China, like Brazil, like India, with the lack of progress in reforming the IMF by adopting the quota reform that would give emerging-market economies a bigger voice, a bigger vote, a bigger share in the institution and I share that frustration immensely.''
''The credibility of the institution, its relevance in the world in conducting the mission that it was assigned 70 years ago is highly correlated with its good representation of the membership,'' she said. ''We cannot have a good representation of the membership when China has a teeny tiny share of quota, share of voice when it has grown to where it has grown.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington at srastello@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net Brendan Murray, James L Tyson
Packet Inequality
panoply definition - Google Search
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:37
About 460,000 results
Panoply - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster ...a group or collection that is impressive because it is so big or because it includesso many different kinds of people or things. plural pan·o·plies ...Panoply | Define Panoply at Dictionary.coma wide-ranging and impressive array or display: the dazzling panoply of themaharaja's procession; the panoply of European history. 2. a complete suit ofarmor.panoply - definition of panoply by the Free Online Dictionary ...A splendid or striking array: a panoply of colorful flags. See Synonyms at display.2. Ceremonial attire with all accessories: a portrait of the general in full panoply ...panoply: definition of panoply in Oxford dictionary (American English ...www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american.../panoply- Cached - SimilarDefinition of panoply in American English in Oxford dictionary. Meaning,pronunciation and example sentences. English to English reference content (US).Panoply - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThus "panoply" refers to the full armour of a hoplite or heavy-armed soldier, i.e.the ... As heavy armour is rarely worn in the present age, this latter meaning is the ...panoply noun - definition in the British English Dictionary ...dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/british/panoply- Cached - Similarpanoply noun - definition, audio pronunciation, synonyms and more for panoplynoun: a wide range or collection of different things: : See more in British English ...panoply - definition. American English definition of panoply by ...www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/panoply- Cached - SimilarDefine panoply in American English. What is panoply? panoply meaning andmore by Macmillan Dictionary.Use panoply in a sentence | panoply sentence examples... sentence. Example sentences with the word panoply. panoply examplesentences. ... Definitions ... There was ice everywhere, a panoply of shapes andforms.panoply - Dictionary Definition : Vocabulary.comwww.vocabulary.com/dictionary/panoply- SimilarA panoply is a collection or an assortment of things. You might be eager to showoff your panoply of bobble-head dolls when friends come to your house.Panoply Synonyms, Panoply Antonyms | Thesaurus.comSynonyms for panoply at Thesaurus.com with free online thesaurus, antonyms,and definitions. Dictionary and Word of the Day.Searches related to panoply definition
America's telecommunications companies want fewer data protection rules
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:51
By James RobinsonOn June 5, 2014
On Tuesday, I wrote about the efforts of the 21st Century Privacy Coalition, an alliance of America's largest telecommunications companies, to get out from under FCC control and have the same FTC-administered rules apply to all communications companies.
It wants to be as culpable for the data it gets on you as Google and Facebook, basically. Which is much less culpable.
It is an understandable impulse. Last year Bloomberg estimated that the market for telecommunications companies worldwide in selling your customer data to third parties would climb as high as $9.6 billion in 2016. But as it stands, American companies are under tight FCC guidance and legislative control over what information they can pass on to third parties.
But even under the current level of control, the information your telecommunications provider has on you is being used in surprisingly detailed ways.
People are sensitive about the information Facebook gathers on its users and the standards of privacy it is held to. Your phone, is just like Facebook, except real life. It hoovers up a detailed footprint of your entire physical world. Reading from Verizon's privacy policy it lists that it may collect your name, address, contact information, driver's license number and Social Security Number and payment details, as well as your location, browsing history, phone numbers, streaming details, what apps you use, how much data you consume and what services you subscribe to.
Federal law '-- the Telecommunications Act of 1996 '-- closely regulates what can be done with the most sensitive of this data (called customer proprietary network information), like who you call, who you are, and so on.
But everything else is fair game; your preferences and history 'anonymized' alongside demographic and geographic details about you and on sold to third party marketers.
And you thought it was just Google that was tracking you.
According to Verizon, ''information may be aggregated or anonymized for business and marketing uses by us or by third parties.'' AT&T provides data to third party companies that is anonymous, but still able to be identified to an individual level. Sprint retains the right to use personal information for ''co-branded'' advertising offers. T-Mobile shares customer information, including geographic and demographic information to help advertisers ''better reach'' its customers.
Telecommunications companies are actively exercising these abilities. Verizon has developed its Precision Market Insights offering. Working with with the Phoenix Suns basketball team, tracking customers who downloaded a certain app, it was able to break down for them that their average supporter was a tech-savvy travel enthusiast with a household income greater than $50,000.
At the end of last month, Verizon then launched its own mobile advertising business, PrecisionID, offering its ''very specific data sets'' to companies like Blue Kai, Turn and AdRoll to better target web browsers. Verizon spokesperson Adria Tomaszewski told Pando that this anonymized data was being passed on in aggregate, not on an individual level.
''We have that ability, but we're not sharing on an individual level at the moment,'' Tomaszewski says.
Verizon isn't alone in this. AT&T changed its privacy policy last year to allow it more easily sell customer information and an AT&T spokesperson confirmed to Pando that it had started a trial program in Austin to offer cheaper Internet packages to customers that give ''permission to use their web browsing activity'... to provide them with more relevant offers and advertising in exchange for a lower price.''
It is happening on more than just a provider by provider level, too. For 12 months now, SAP's Consumer Insights program has sought to best phone companies at its own game, taking customer data en masse from 1000 operators from around the world '-- including home location registers, subscription details and call details, says Consumer Insight's Global Business Development Director Jim Brooks.
Brooks repeats the industry line, that when it comes to SAP this information is all anonymized with sub IDs. But the detail to which it can be targeted to is ''granular,'' he says. Someone's browsing behavior or phone activity can be traced to within 30 to 200 meters.
The potential of it all is massive, Brooks thinks. SAP worked with a luxury German car manufacturer to microtarget its outdoor media placement to small, affluent bubbles. Using the data it gets, SAP can work out the demographic breakdown of who is visiting Westfield Mall in London by hour, how far they're traveling and their individual shopping behaviors.
It is a great situation for the phone companies to be in. We get free use of Facebook and it uses our information to sell ads. We pay Verizon, or whomever, and then it also gets to make even more money off us by using our information to sell ads.
The more specific the information, the more valuable it is. And telecommunications companies know a lot of stuff about us. The coverall excuse of anonymization for trading these secrets isn't actually an excuse, either. We're not that protected by this information being anonymous.
ACLU legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese warns that even if it is not identified, this data can be damaging. Granular micro-targeting of neighborhoods and new demographic assumptions can lead to new big data prejudices and stereotyping.
''Just as neighborhoods can serve as a proxy for racial or ethnic identity, there are new worries that big data technologies could be used to 'digitally redline' unwanted groups, either as customers, employees, tenants, or recipients of credit,'' warned a White House report on big data in May.
Additionally, anonymized information from telecommunications can be combined with much creepier and more personal information from unregulated data brokers and unhashed to identify who we are. ''We know that this is happening,'' Calabrese says.
It's not a great situation. But it could be much worse. ''As it stands the the industry has more legal protection than most,'' Calabrese says.
Do we really want to walk back the privacy standards for the one sector we still have some control over?
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]
Cable companies bankroll fake consumer groups to end net neutrality | Ars Technica
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:10
Signs from a net neutrality rally in Washington, DC, on May 15, 2014.
Photo by Joe SIlver
Cable companies that stand to benefit the most from an end to net neutrality have been bankrolling so-called ''consumer advocacy'' groups that aim to kill it.
Such non-profits like Broadband for America and the American Consumer Institute (ACI), both of which claim to be ''independent consumer advocacy groups'' and have been fighting against classifying ISPs as a utility (a move that would make it easier to enact net neutrality rules in the future), have been shown to be heavily funded by the cable industry.
According to a disclosure obtained by Vice from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), an ISP-supported trade group, most of Broadband for America's recent $3.5 million budget comes from a $2 million donation from NCTA. Vice further uncovered that, based on its tax return filings, Broadband for America has retained the DCI Group, an "infamous lobbying firm," that Vice argues specializes in building fake consumer interest groups that actually serve corporate interests.
What's more, Vice found that the American Consumer Institute, which similarly opposes reclassification of ISPs, has been bankrolled by an ISP lobby group called Mywireless.com that has been a consistent financial contributor to ACI since 2010.
"This kind of funding has been very common since the beginning of the net neutrality debate," Tim Karr, director of strategy at the advocacy organization Free Press, told Ars on Friday afternoon.
"ACI has a fairly storied reputation for being a press release factory to drum up industry support,'' Karr continued. ''They are very much in the business of trying to act as a counterweight to the legitimate advocacy groups that have been well organized against cable industry."
What's more, according to Todd O'Boyle, media and democracy program director at Common Cause, such industry-funded groups can be quite effective if not called out for their conflicts of interest. "The problem that we see is that the media will quote these people without identifying those conflicts," O'Boyle told us on Friday afternoon. "They have been very good at infiltrating grassroots causes without properly disclosing sources of funding."
Executives from Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Cox Communication have signed on to a letter from Broadband for America to the FCC regarding net neutrality rules, reports Vice. This campaign seems to be a response to the grassroots actions of Internet users who have been turning out in droves to rallies in support of maintaining net neutrality.
This isn't the cable industry's first attempttocontrol the line of debate over an important telecommunications issue directly affecting their bottom line. For example, in order to make sure the company wouldn't be forced to deploy high-speed wired broadband service to all of New Jersey's 8.9 million residents earlier this year, Verizon led an aggressive astroturf campaign whereby it flooded the state Board of Public Utilities with hundreds of identical e-mails purporting to support Verizon's case.
This despite the fact that some Verizon "supporters" had no idea e-mails were sent on their behalf.
How Cable Companies Are Stopping You From Getting Fiber '-- Even Though It's Already Installed In Many Cities - Yahoo Finance
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 15:24
Joshua Lott/Reuters
Everyone wants a piece of Google's high-speed Fiber network , but the truth is many cities and communities already have their own fiber networks. As Motherboard's Jason Koebler points out, they just can't use them.
As you might guess, the giant telecom companies '-- including Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Comcast '-- are involved here. These are the same companies trying to bully the FCC into creating an ''internet fast lane'' so web-based companies can pay them more for better service.
For the most part, the cable companies have been offering incentives to local governments (mainly just better service) in exchange for noncompete clauses, which disallow those communities from adopting fiber networks that might rival their own services. MuniNetworks, a site that tracks local broadband efforts, said these ''incumbent and monopolistic providers use the term 'level playing field' as code for ensuring communities are unable to build their own networks. They do not actually want a 'level playing field,' they want more advantages for their businesses.''
In a recent study, Harvard University researcher Susan Crawford examined the existing fiber networks in San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In the case of D.C., Comcast in 1999 agreed to provide exclusive fiber for the government in exchange for continued access to D.C. residents, but that agreement was ''conditioned in important ways.''
First, the city agreed not to lease or sell the fiber. Second, the contract required that the city not "engage in any activities or outcomes that would result in business competition between the District and Comcast or that may result in loss of business opportunity for Comcast."
In other words, D.C. is sitting on a robust fiber network, but limitations from its 1999 agreement with Comcast render that network unavailable to residents and businesses. Further, nonprofits that want to use the network are forced to pay significantly more than what they'd pay with ''incumbent products'' from the cable companies.
The agreement between Comcast and D.C. is not uncommon, unfortunately. At least 20 states have laws or regulatory barriers that make it extremely difficult, if not illegal, for cities and communities to offer fiber access to their residents; that list of states includes Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, California and Florida. And even in states without explicit public broadband laws, cable companies often have noncompete agreements with the local governments.
Some cities are pushing back. Wilson, North Carolina, famously erected its own broadband network '-- it boasts the fastest internet speeds in the state '-- and, as a result, has experienced growth in its population and number of businesses forming in the city. Residents in Chattanooga, Tennessee, also get to enjoy gigabit fiber after the city decided to control its own destiny. But that effort cost $330 million, which was paid largely with bond money and some federal stimulus dollars.
The key to bringing fiber networks to these smaller communities is getting companies to back the expensive undertaking required to connect the fiber network to residents' homes. Many cities have consulted local internet service providers (ISPs) to help, but it's unfortunately such a costly endeavor that smaller ISPs and governments would need to charge customers more money just to break even.
It's an uphill battle for these smaller communities. Starting fiber projects from scratch is pricey and telecom companies spend millions of dollars to contest these services from springing up on city ballots every now and then; they're incentivized to fight small broadband efforts like these because cable firms rely on city revenue to fund rural service, and those same cable firms help pay the Universal Service Fund that's used to expand broadband across the country. But as telecom companies continue pushing for an internet fast lane, more communities will find plenty of good reasons to build out and complete their own high-speed networks, even if it costs them a pretty penny. That is, unless Google doesn't get there first.
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More Weasel Words from AT&T | Free Press
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 15:29
Jim Cicconi's new blog post about Net Neutrality accuses open Internet advocates of repeating themselves, all while trotting out the same old AT&T claims we've rebutted countless times before. Jim can make all the tired Groundhog Day jokes he likes, but his weasel words are the only source of confusion and repetition in this discussion.
The post first claims that we've seen no pay-for-play deals, prioritization or self-serving practices that favor the ISPs' own offerings. That's just plain wrong.
AT&T has a consistent record of blocking applications that compete with its own voice and messaging services. That's exactly what AT&T did to Skype, Apple's FaceTime app and Google Voice, right up until the FCC and Free Press started asking questions and drawing up Net Neutrality complaints about these tactics.
When it comes to demands for additional fees, look no further than the new practice of charging video-streaming services like Netflix an extra fee just to get their traffic on to last-mile broadband networks.
Some have suggested that the rules the D.C. Circuit tossed out in January wouldn't have applied squarely to such access fees. But this practice harms broadband customers who've already paid to download and stream whatever they want from Netflix or any other source online '-- and ISPs shouldn't be allowed to hold that content hostage in a traffic jam of their own creation. This practice exists only to extract more cash from edge providers for ISP tolls that bear no relationship to the cost of delivering the content.
Not satisfied with butchering both the history and the present state of affairs, Cicconi next wanders off into false predictions about the future. AT&T suggests that no ISP has any intention of introducing such Internet tolls and fast lanes. But Verizon's lawyers in the D.C. Circuit case made it crystal clear that the company would explore such arrangements if the rules went away. And just last month we heard Comcast VP David Cohen proclaim that whatever a fast lane is, Comcast is allowed to offer it.
AT&T claims that ''the Internet today is totally safe from fast lanes and slow lanes'' thanks to the so-called Section 706 basis of authority that these ISPs favor. But if you actually read the D.C. Circuit's decision, you'll see that Section 706 gives the FCC no power to prevent such schemes. The item voted on at the FCC's May 15 meeting said that Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal would ''allow broadband providers sufficient flexibility to negotiate terms of service individually with edge providers'' and ''permit broadband providers to engage in individualized practices,'' such as selling different delivery speeds to different sites.
In other words, the Section 706 path set out in the court case is a path to rampant discrimination online.
Turning to Title II, the blog post offers an awful reading of the basic protections in our communications laws. Section 202 of the Communications Act makes unreasonable discrimination unlawful, period. That leaves open the possibility that the FCC might declare some kinds of differential treatment reasonable. But it doesn't mean that any and all forms of discrimination must be reasonable.
Title II alone, by simple operation of the statute, wouldn't ban paid prioritization online. But the law gives the FCC the power to make the call and to ban discrimination upon finding that it's unreasonable. And that's why the ISPs don't like Title II.
No one is claiming that each and every bit of telephone regulation and precedent could '-- or should '-- apply to broadband Internet access. But we absolutely must hold on to the FCC's basic ability to preserve common carriage, protect open communications pathways, and prevent ISPs from blocking or discriminating online.
The notion that Title II would make every Internet company a common carrier is wrong, and continues a long ISP tradition of misreading the law and Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in Brand X. And the notion that Title II is what strangled broadband investment is just false. AT&T can make this claim till it's blue in the face, but the data tell a different story. The biggest telephone companies invested more under Title II '-- and less after their broadband services were removed from its jurisdiction in 2005.
As Jim Cicconi might say, let me recap this for everyone: There are no such things as pay-for-play deals today, except when there are. AT&T can't even offer such deals under the FCC's rules, except when it can. And the FCC has all the power it needs to block these kinds of practices, except that it doesn't.
So all we're left with is the promise that AT&T won't try to extract all the money it can from its customers and from edge providers, no matter how many times we've seen Ma Bell do just that. If that promise leaves you with an empty feeling, that's because it should.
Original photo by Flickr user PDXdj
Net Neutrality and Modern Memory | AT&T Public Policy Blog
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 15:33
Posted by: Jim Cicconi on June 6, 2014 at 10:15 am
I saw last month's House Commerce hearing with Chairman Wheeler and was struck once again by the animated discussion revolving around ''paid prioritization,'' ''fast lanes/slow lanes,'' and Section 706 authority versus Title II regulation. The debate feels a bit like the movie Groundhog Day'... we've all been here before. And just as in 2010, there doesn't seem to be a common understanding of ''paid prioritization,'' the FCC's 706 authority, or the scope of Title II regulation.
So, if you don't mind, I'd like to cut through some of the current debate by starting with the common understandings we all reached in 2010 after years of argument. Let's begin with ''paid prioritization.'' According to Free Press, there were three troubling ''discriminatory business models'' that could create fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet:
' ''Pay-for-Play'' '' where an ISP might refuse to carry content unless the content company pays them ''additional fees above normal transit costs.''' ''Pay-for-Priority'' '' where edge providers might pay ISPs for prioritizing traffic on the consumer's broadband Internet access service.' ''Vertical Prioritization'' '' where an ISP might prioritize its own vertical content and services on the user's broadband Internet access service.
In 2010, many of us noted that the net neutrality debate revolved around unlikely hypotheticals, not any actual, pending or contemplated actions. Mind you, not a single ISP then or now has asserted a desire or right to engage in any of these practices to create ''fast lanes and slow lanes.'' AT&T certainly has no plans or intent to change its position on this.
Once we were able to ground the net neutrality debate in facts and a common understanding of the problem we were trying to solve, the result was the 2010 FCC Order, which created rules the Commission asserted would virtually ban such services. AT&T, and nearly every other ISP, supported those rules. In addition, pursuant to a transparency rule '-- which was affirmed by the Verizon court '-- every ISP posted on their websites Statements of Broadband Practices demonstrating their compliance with the FCC rules (ours can be found here). Pursuant to the Verizon opinion, the FCC can enforce those statements and require ISPs to perform their network management consistent with them. More recently, as part of pending mergers, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T reinforced those commitments by promising to continue operating our networks consistent with the 2010 Rules and our current Statements of Broadband Practices, which, again, the FCC can require us to follow.
So, let me re-cap this for everyone. There is no paid prioritization like Free Press identified on the Internet today. No one has any plan or intent to introduce such paid prioritization practices. ISPs have all posted policies that prohibit them. And the FCC can act against anyone who might nonetheless try to do that. In short, the Internet today is totally safe from fast lanes and slow lanes.
How can the FCC assure itself that fast lanes and slow lanes will not be created in the future? I'd highlight again that AT&T and others have incorporated the 2010 rules that barred the practice into fully enforceable Statements of Broadband Practices. That sure seems to be a good start. But it's obviously not enough for some folks.
Some groups have suggested the best path to prevent paid prioritization is Title II. But there's one gigantic problem with this. The plain language of Title II provides no basis to prohibit paid prioritization. Quite the contrary, Title II actually allows and could protect any such practice. By its terms, Section 202(a) of the Communications Act prohibits ''unjust or unreasonable discrimination'', not ''all'' discrimination. Eighty years of FCC precedent and case law make clear that so long as a common carrier offers a service to similarly situated buyers on similar rates, terms and conditions, those practices, including a hypothetical ''paid prioritization'' service, would satisfy Section 202 (a). In fact, the FCC would likely conclude such a practice involved no discrimination whatsoever under Title II. We know, for example, that under Title II a common carrier can provide, among other things, prioritized installation and repair, different quality of service levels, and term and volume discounts. Differentiated terms of service aren't the exception under Title II, they are the norm. That framework, dating back to 1934, sure seems unsuited to protecting the proverbial ''guy in the garage'' inventing a 21st century service. And at least one group campaigning for Title II regulation today agreed with that conclusion back in 2010. When Chairman Genachowski first considered adopting a non-discrimination rule modeled on Section 202(a), that group said ''the standard of 'unjust and unreasonable discrimination' of Section 202(a) of Title II is neither substantively nor procedurally appropriate for Internet access service'...'' If we could agree on this point in 2010, it's puzzling why we can't agree on it again in 2014.
So, to summarize, Title II would not prohibit the creation of fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet '-- that is clear in the plain language of the law, not to mention 80 years of FCC precedent and court decisions. Arguments to the contrary are pure fantasy. At a minimum, Title II supporters have to concede that their argument depends on the bank shot that an appellate court will agree (a) that the FCC can change its mind about how the Internet works after the Supreme Court has validated its prior decision; and (b) the FCC can then ignore the plain language of the statute and 80 years of precedent to determine that the prohibition of ''unjust and unreasonable'' discrimination actually means it can prohibit any discrimination. And think of all the additional proceedings that will be needed to unpack where we draw the lines between information services ''haves'' and telecommunications services ''have nots.'' If that is the road we choose to travel, the investment uncertainty alone will have a massive negative impact on American broadband deployment for years to come.
There's another important argument against Title II '-- invoking it would risk massive collateral damage to many, if not most, U.S. Internet companies. Title II could turn every edge or content company into a common carrier for at least part, if not all, of their services. In the original Internet classification litigation, the Brand X case, the Supreme Court in 2005 affirmed the FCC's decision to lightly regulate Internet access service by looking at the entirety of the service being sold, concluding that if the service involved computer processing '' as all Internet services do '' then Title II regulation should not apply. Proponents of Title II regulation, however, point to Justice Scalia's dissent in Brand X to argue that the majority got it wrong. Scalia stated that ''[w]hen cable company-assembled information enters the cable for delivery to the subscriber, the information service is already complete'... All that remains is for the information in its final, unaltered form to be delivered via telecommunications to the subscriber.'' Rather than look at the entirety of the service being offered, Scalia would conclude that every service sold over the Internet'' be it access or content '' has a Title II transmission component. The implications of that rationale for every Internet company are enormous. It would capture movies purchased from Google Play or iTunes, videos downloaded from YouTube, and OTT subscription services like Netflix and HBO Go. It could also implicate advertising served over the Internet '-- if those companies are providing, at least in part, a Title II transmission service, contribution to USF is mandatory for the revenue associated with the Title II service. That means allocating revenues between the telecommunications service and the information service, filings justifying those allocations, Form 499s'.... you get the drift. Innovators would be paralyzed before they even get off the ground.
And this only scratches the surface of potential harm. Hundreds of other questions would face Internet companies under Title II, scenarios discussed in a recent article by former Clinton Administration official Robert E. Litan of Brookings. Turning up or shutting down services would require FCC permission. State PUCs would also have a fulsome regulatory role over the Internet. Pricing regulation, which is inherent throughout Title II, could intrude into all types of Internet services. Wireless location data would likely be considered CPNI, which means it could no longer be shared with Internet companies for mapping, advertising and other purposes. And once data like IP addresses, URL destinations, browser settings, and location are considered part of a Title II service, FCC privacy rules would surely follow.
More important, Title II regulation would strangle broadband investment just as it did investment in wireline telephony. And it would embolden those overseas who are looking for any excuse to regulate the Internet, and to hobble American companies that dominate Internet commerce globally.
Alternatively, we think Chairman Wheeler has it right.
Section 706, as interpreted by the court and explained by Chairman Wheeler, does provide a path. It's a path AT&T supports. For one, it has already been blessed as a valid source of jurisdiction to address the kinds of concerns articulated by Chairman Wheeler and others throughout the current debate. In upholding Section 706 authority, the Verizon court gave the FCC wide latitude to prohibit conduct that would deter broadband investment. And the approach that Chairman Wheeler has proposed would clearly prevent practices like paid prioritization that we feel would change the fundamental nature of the Internet.
Consumers, edge providers '-- all of us '-- want the Internet to remain as it is today '-- an engine of economic growth, individual empowerment, and infinite possibilities. Our company, AT&T, supported the 2010 rules that preserved those principles. I testified, in a pretty tough hearing, in support of those rules. That's still our position. We oppose the concept of fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet. Our goal '-- and the reason we've invested $100 billion over the last five years '-- is to ensure everyone using the Internet is in the fast lane.
Even after the court's decision in Verizon, we pledged to abide by the 2010 rules. The Open Internet principles on our website haven't been changed. We know they bind us to the pre-Verizon standard. They stand there as a public pledge that we won't engage in the practices some fear. And that we're firmly on the side of the proverbial ''guy in the garage'', building a new idea that could change the world. After all, we were founded by a guy like that (though maybe it wasn't a garage since cars weren't around yet). But the bottom line is the same. We invented lasers, TV, semi-conductors, and the Big Bang theory. We're with the innovators. We're with those who see the Internet as a liberating technology. We're with those who want to challenge the status quo, and those who simply want to entertain. And, importantly, we're with those who use the Internet to bring the accumulated knowledge of mankind to every single person on the planet. We're determined to keep expanding the opportunities the Internet creates. Count on it. So, let's resolve this debate wisely and with goodwill, preserve what we all value, and move on to the next cool thing. Like what's coming from the guy in that garage next door.
Netflix US & Canada Blog: Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 15:30
The Internet is improving lives everywhere '' democratizing access to ideas, services and goods. To ensure the Internet remains humanity's most important platform for progress, net neutrality must be defended and strengthened.The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make. The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient.
This weak net neutrality isn't enough to protect an open, competitive Internet; a stronger form of net neutrality is required. Strong net neutrality additionally prevents ISPs from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers. Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge.
Some major ISPs, like Cablevision, already practice strong net neutrality and for their broadband subscribers, the quality of Netflix and other streaming services is outstanding. But on other big ISPs, due to a lack of sufficient interconnectivity, Netflix performance has been constrained, subjecting consumers who pay a lot of money for high-speed Internet to high buffering rates, long wait times and poor video quality. A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled this degradation using our public data.Once Netflix agrees to pay the ISP interconnection fees, however, sufficient capacity is made available and high quality service for consumers is restored. If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future. Roughly the same arbitrary tax is demanded from the intermediaries such as Cogent and Level 3, who supply millions of websites with connectivity, leading to a poor consumer experience.
Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service. The big ISPs can make these demands -- driving up costs and prices for everyone else -- because of their market position. For any given U.S. household, there is often only one or two choices for getting high-speed Internet* access and that's unlikely to change. Furthermore, Internet access is often bundled with other services making it challenging to switch ISPs. It is this lack of consumer choice that leads to the need for strong net neutrality.
Netflix believes strong net neutrality is critical, but in the near term we will in cases pay the toll to the powerful ISPs to protect our consumer experience. When we do so, we don't pay for priority access against competitors, just for interconnection. A few weeks ago, we agreed to pay Comcast and our members are now getting a good experience again. Comcast has been an industry leader in supporting weak net neutrality, and we hope they'll support strong net neutrality as well.
ISPs sometimes point to data showing that Netflix members account for about 30% of peak residential Internet traffic, so the ISPs want us to share in their costs. But they don't also offer for Netflix or similar services to share in the ISPs revenue, so cost-sharing makes no sense. When an ISP sells a consumer a 10 or 50 megabits-per-second Internet package, the consumer should get that rate, no matter where the data is coming from.
Some ISPs say that Netflix is unilaterally "dumping as much volume" (Verizon CFO) as it wants onto their networks. Netflix isn't "dumping" data; it's satisfying requests made by ISP customers who pay a lot of money for high speed Internet. Netflix doesn't send data unless members request a movie or TV show.
Interestingly, there is one special case where no-fee interconnection is embraced by the big ISPs -- when they are connecting among themselves. They argue this is because roughly the same amount of data comes and goes between their networks. But when we ask them if we too would qualify for no-fee interconnect if we changed our service to upload as much data as we download** -- thus filling their upstream networks and nearly doubling our total traffic -- there is an uncomfortable silence. That's because the ISP argument isn't sensible. Big ISPs aren't paying money to services like online backup that generate more upstream than downstream traffic. Data direction, in other words, has nothing to do with costs.
ISPs around the world are investing in high-speed Internet and most already practice strong net neutrality. With strong net neutrality, new services requiring high-speed Internet can emerge and become popular, spurring even more demand for the lucrative high-speed packages ISPs offer. With strong net neutrality, everyone avoids the kind of brinkmanship over blackouts that plague the cable industry and harms consumers. As the Wall Street Journal chart shows, we're already getting to the brownout stage. Consumers deserve better.
Some big ISPs are extracting a toll because they can -- they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay. Though they have the scale and power to do this, they should realize it is in their long term interest to back strong net neutrality. While in the short term Netflix will in cases reluctantly pay large ISPs to ensure a high quality member experience, we will continue to fight for the Internet the world needs and deserves.
Reed
*Defined as 10 Mbits/sec -- sufficient for a good Skype video, an MLB.tv live game or high quality Netflix streaming. DSL and mobile do not generally offer these speeds.**in other words, moving to peer-to-peer content delivery
SnowJob
Patent troll on the verge of winning 1 percent of iPhone revenue | Ars Technica
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 22:49
Further ReadingHuge penalty could shift the balance of power among smartphone makers.
Further ReadingiPhones, iPads, and Macs infringe VPN patents held by VirnetX, jury rules.
In 2012, Apple won the year's biggest patent verdict'--more than $1 billion against Samsung.The company also lost one of that year's biggest cases when an East Texas jury ordered it to pay $368 million to a company named VirnetX for infringing patents related to FaceTime and VPN On Demand functions used in iPhones, iPads, and Macs. VirnetX is a company some call a "patent troll" because its only business is now patent enforcement. Then, in March, US District Judge Leonard Davis ordered (PDF) an ongoing royalty to be paid to VirnetX. The number was downright stunning: 0.98 percent of revenue from iPhones and iPads sold in the US.
To no one's surprise, Apple is fighting tooth and nail to avoid this outcome. A decision (PDF) published yesterday shows that one creative strategy that Apple tried to use went too far.
The decision puts VirnetX back in the driver's seat, in a stronger position to collect a patent tax of nearly 1 percent on the most popular product produced by the world's richest tech company. One estimate suggests that VirnetX could soon be collecting around $340 million from Apple annually unless VirnetX's patents are vanquished on appeal.
The 0.98 percent royalty was applied to not just the early iPhones and iPads considered during the 2012 trial, but also to newer products like the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, fourth-Generation iPad, and iPad mini. Apple spent tens of millions redesigning how FaceTime works to try to avoid the VirnetX patents, but in the end it was for naught. Davis found that the newer iOS products were "not colorably different from those adjudicated at trial."
The patents (1, 2, 3, 4) originated at a company called Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC; they are now owned by VirnetX.
VirnetX is getting close to a big win at a politically sensitive time, with the tech community and a broad range of companies still stinging from having lost the fight to push through an anti-patent-troll bill in Congress.
The stakes are high enough that Apple can be counted on to keep fighting to the bitter end. VirnetX won't be able to cash in until it crosses the final hurdle of winning its argument at the Federal Circuit. Apple has filed an appeal against the 0.98 percent royalty, and an earlier appeal related to the $368 million verdict has already been argued.
VirnetX wins have held up on appeal before. In 2010, VirnetX scored $200 million settlement out of Microsoft following litigation, and it went ahead and sued the software giant again in 2013. The company has also reached licensing deals with NEC, Siemens, and Avaya, among others.
Yesterday's decision (PDF) comes out of a process called an "inter partes review," which patent insiders sometimes abbreviate to IPR. It's a process created by the 2011 America Invents Act, and it replaces an earlier, more cumbersome process called inter partes reexamination.
The idea of an IPR is to replace a lengthy, expensive court battle with a more compressed time frame for argument, topped off by a one-day trial. It has turned out to be very friendly to those challenging patents. Patent-defense lawyers and other defense-oriented businesses are just waking up to how effective the process can be.
But it wasn't Apple that asked for the IPR in this case. The company was barred from filing an IPR against VirnetX patents because it had already had a chance to make its arguments in court.
Instead, two other mysterious companies came forward seeking to challenge VirnetX's patents. First was a shell company called New Bay Capital, which filed an IPR and then reportedly asked VirnetX for 10 percent of its massive jury award in exchange for backing off. New Bay dropped its case on April 4 without getting any money'--and without revealing who was behind the claim.
Then came RPX, a defensive patent aggregator that has become increasingly well-known, and increasingly profitable, in recent years. RPX works by selling memberships to companies that feel harangued by patent trolls, including Apple and many other tech companies.
RPX basically buys up patents it believes will be used by trolls. By uniting the buying power of many companies, it can get the patents for a bargain price. This lowers the cost of the "troll" problem in many situations, but it doesn't work toward eliminating it. (One could argue it actually perpetuates the problem by ensuring the trolls have a "market" to sell into.)
Cutting patent deals isn't the only thing RPX is up to these days. It's also taken to filing IPRs to invalidate dangerous patents altogether. It's something of a divergence from its main business, but it makes sense. Filing an IPR allows RPX to put patents at serious risk'--even if the endgame is to buy the patent owners out, such a threat could lower the cost.
In this case, filing the IPR has backfired in a big way. The three-judge panel determined that RPX was just a "proxy" for Apple, which is the "real-party-in interest" and thus barred from filing the review request.
The decision goes on to describe how Apple tried, but failed, to create an arms-length approach that would make it look like RPX was acting independently. It describes how Apple paid RPX an additional $500,000 under an "Addendum" agreement, in which it would perform certain activities including filing "request for reexamination... or inter partes review with respect to patents of questionable quality."
And of course, the two parties had already agreed that the VirnetX patents were "of questionable quality."
RPX used the same law firm as Apple, the same expert, and filed a petition that it admitted was "substantially identical" to two other proceedings, including one by Apple.
All those factors led the Patent Trial and Appeal Board judges to realize that Apple was the one really in charge. "[T]he interaction between RPX and Apple show an implicit authorization to challenge the VirnetX patents," write the judges. "A party bound by a judgment may not avoid its preclusive force by relitigating through a proxy."
The issue of who the "real party in interest" is behind IPR petitions could have a very big impact beyond this case. First of all, RPX will have to tighten up its act to file future petitions, and it's not clear it will be able to do so at all. Another defensive patent business, Unified Patents, is based wholly on filing IPRs against patents it deems dangerous.
And finally, one public interest group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed a patent reexamination request against patent troll Personal Audio, which claims to own podcasting. Personal Audio has tried, but has so far failed, to prove that the EFF's crowdfunded petition was nothing more than a sham for deep-pocketed defendants.
German committee wants to question Snowden in Moscow
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:42
Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during an hearing on ''mass surveillance'' at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 8, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Vincent Kessler
Elle Reeve and Jonathan Schwarz Join Matt Taibbi's New Digital Magazine - First Look Media
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 03:58
The new digital magazine to be launched by Matt Taibbi as part of First Look Media today announced that Elspeth ''Elle'' Reeve and Jonathan Schwarz will join in senior positions. As a senior writer Reeve will work with Taibbi and executive editor Alex Pareene to help build the digital magazine. Schwarz will be responsible for helping reporters to conceive, design and produce original content.
Reeve, political editor of the The Wire (formerly known as Atlantic Wire) is known for her wry, offbeat writing style and her entertaining posts on everything from the Olympics to Chris Christie. In addition to her work at the Atlantic's popular sister site, Reeve has worked as a reporter and blogger at a number of outlets including the New Republic, the Daily Beast, and the Center for Public Integrity.
Schwarz joins First Look having most recently served as editor for MichaelMoore.com. He has contributed to the New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic, Mother Jones, Slate, Wall Street Journal, Esquire, Huffington Post, National Public Radio and Saturday Night Live, and is co-author of a humor collection, Our Kampf. Schwarz was a longtime producer for Michael Moore's Dog Eat Dog Films and was Research Producer on Moore's 2009 movie Capitalism: A Love Story. In 2003 Schwarz made and collected on a $1000 bet that Iraq would be found to have no weapons of mass destruction.
''The digital journalists of today must be skilled at engaging audiences in addition to developing sources and writing stories. They need to have a personality and strong opinions as well as the right content,'' said Matt Taibbi, founding editor of First Look Media's new publication focused on financial and political corruption. ''Jonathan and Elle will bring clear voices, great insights and a great sense of humor to our work. We're thrilled that they are both founding members of our team.''
''I'm excited to be joining writers I've long admired on this innovative and inventive new media project,'' said Reeve.
''This is a great team coming together to write some of the most important stories of our time and I'm thrilled to help be building it from the ground up,'' said Schwarz.
Schwarz joined the organization in May and is based in Washington D.C.. Reeve will join in mid-June and will be based in New York City.
The name and launch date of the digital magazine will be announced in the coming months. The project will bring a satirical approach to coverage of American politics and culture. First Look Media's initial online publication, The Intercept, led by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill launched on February 10.
That was epic - Reset the Net
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 22:24
Edward Snowden issued this statement via his attorney in support of Reset the Net:
"One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives '-- no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be.
Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That's why I'm asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. This is the beginning of a moment where we the people begin to protect our universal human rights with the laws of nature rather than the laws of nations.
We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance. That's why I am excited for Reset the Net '-- it will mark the moment when we turn political expression into practical action, and protect ourselves on a large scale.
Join us on June 5th, and don't ask for your privacy. Take it back.''
-Edward Snowden
Vodafone reveals existence of secret wires that allow state surveillance
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:26
Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile phone groups, has revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond.
The company has broken its silence on government surveillance in order to push back against the increasingly widespread use of phone and broadband networks to spy on citizens, and will publish its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report on Friday. At 40,000 words, it is the most comprehensive survey yet of how governments monitor the conversations and whereabouts of their people.
The company said wires had been connected directly to its network and those of other telecoms groups, allowing agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in certain cases, track the whereabouts of a customer. Privacy campaigners said the revelations were a "nightmare scenario" that confirmed their worst fears on the extent of snooping.
In Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey, it is unlawful to disclose any information related to wiretapping or interception of the content of phone calls and messages including whether such capabilities exist.
"For governments to access phone calls at the flick of a switch is unprecedented and terrifying," said the Liberty director, Shami Chakrabarti. "[Edward] Snowden revealed the internet was already treated as fair game. Bluster that all is well is wearing pretty thin '' our analogue laws need a digital overhaul."
In about six of the countries in which Vodafone operates, the law either obliges telecoms operators to install direct access pipes, or allows governments to do so. The company, which owns mobile and fixed broadband networks, including the former Cable & Wireless business, has not named the countries involved because certain regimes could retaliate by imprisoning its staff.
Direct-access systems do not require warrants, and companies have no information about the identity or the number of customers targeted. Mass surveillance can happen on any telecoms network without agencies having to justify their intrusion to the companies involved.
Industry sources say that in some cases, the direct-access wire, or pipe, is essentially equipment in a locked room in a network's central data centre or in one of its local exchanges or "switches".
The staff working in that room can be employed by the telecoms firm, but have state security clearance and are usually unable to discuss any aspect of their work with the rest of the company. Vodafone says it requires all employees to follow its code of conduct, but secrecy means that it cannot always verify that they do so.
Government agencies can also intercept traffic on its way into a data centre, combing through conversations before routing them on to the operator.
"These are the nightmare scenarios that we were imagining," said Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, which has brought legal action against the British government over mass surveillance.
"I never thought the telcos [telecommunications companies] would be so complicit. It's a brave step by Vodafone and hopefully the other telcos will become more brave with disclosure, but what we need is for them to be braver about fighting back against the illegal requests and the laws themselves."
Vodafone's group privacy officer, Stephen Deadman, said: "These pipes exist, the direct access model exists.
"We are making a call to end direct access as a means of government agencies obtaining people's communication data. Without an official warrant, there is no external visibility. If we receive a demand we can push back against the agency. The fact that a government has to issue a piece of paper is an important constraint on how powers are used."
Vodafone is calling for all direct-access pipes to be disconnected, and for the laws that make them legal to be amended. It says governments should "discourage agencies and authorities from seeking direct access to an operator's communications infrastructure without a lawful mandate".
All states should publish annual data on the number of warrants issued, the company argues. There are two types '' those for the content of calls and messages, and those for the metadata, which can cover the location of a target's device, the times and dates of communications, and the people with whom they communicated.
For brevity, the Guardian has also used the term metadata to cover warrants for customer information such as name and address. The information published in our table covers 2013 or the most recent year available. A single warrant can target hundreds of individuals and devices, and several warrants can target just one individual. Governments count warrants in different ways and New Zealand, for example, excludes those concerning national security. While software companies like Apple and Microsoft have jumped to publish the number of warrants they receive since the activities of America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ came to light, telecoms companies, which need government licences to operate, have been slower to respond.
In America, Verizon and AT&T have published data, but only on their domestic operations. Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Telstra in Australia have also broken ground at home. Vodafone is the first to produce a global survey.
It shows that Malta is one of the most spied on nations in Europe. The former British protectorate has a tiny population of 420,000, but last year Vodafone alone processed 3,773 requests for metadata.
In Italy, where the mafia's presence requires a high level of police intrusion, Vodafone received 606,000 metadata requests, more than any other country in which it runs networks. The number of warrants across all operators is potentially many times that number, but the government does not publish a national figure for metadata.
Italy's parliament does disclose content warrants, however, and it issued 141,000 in 2012, compared with just 2,760 in the United Kingdom. In contrast to the UK, terrorism concerns mean Ireland does not allow any information on the number of content warrants to be made public.
Spain, which has suffered terrorist strikes from Islamists and Basque separatists, allowed Vodafone to disclose that it had received over 24,000 content warrants. Agencies in the Czech Republic made nearly 8,000 content requests from the network. After Italy, the Czech Republic is the biggest user of metadata, issuing 196,000 warrants nationally in the most recent year for which information has been published. Tanzania, one of several African countries in which Vodafone operates, made 99,000 metadata requests from the company.
Peter Micek, policy counsel at the campaign group Access, said: "In a sector that has historically been quiet about how it facilitates government access to user data, Vodafone has for the first time shone a bright light on the challenges of a global telecom giant, giving users a greater understanding of the demands governments make of telcos. Vodafone's report also highlights how few governments issue any transparency reports, with little to no information about the number of wiretaps, cell site tower dumps, and other invasive surveillance practices."
On the question of whether the UK uses direct-access pipes, Vodafone's Deadman said such a system would be illegal because Britain did not permit agencies to obtain information without a warrant. The law does, however, allow indiscriminate collection of information on an unidentified number of targets. "We need to debate how we are balancing the needs of law enforcement with the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. The ideal is we get a much more informed debate going, and we do all of that without putting our colleagues in danger."
Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, joined Google, Reddit, Mozilla and other tech firms and privacy groups on Thursday to call for a strengthening of privacy rights online in a "Reset the net" campaign.
Twelve months after revelations about the scale of the US government's surveillance programs were first published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, Snowden said: "One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives '' no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be. Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same."
NA-Tech
Patent troll on the verge of winning 1 percent of iPhone revenue | Ars Technica
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 22:49
Further ReadingHuge penalty could shift the balance of power among smartphone makers.
Further ReadingiPhones, iPads, and Macs infringe VPN patents held by VirnetX, jury rules.
In 2012, Apple won the year's biggest patent verdict'--more than $1 billion against Samsung.The company also lost one of that year's biggest cases when an East Texas jury ordered it to pay $368 million to a company named VirnetX for infringing patents related to FaceTime and VPN On Demand functions used in iPhones, iPads, and Macs. VirnetX is a company some call a "patent troll" because its only business is now patent enforcement. Then, in March, US District Judge Leonard Davis ordered (PDF) an ongoing royalty to be paid to VirnetX. The number was downright stunning: 0.98 percent of revenue from iPhones and iPads sold in the US.
To no one's surprise, Apple is fighting tooth and nail to avoid this outcome. A decision (PDF) published yesterday shows that one creative strategy that Apple tried to use went too far.
The decision puts VirnetX back in the driver's seat, in a stronger position to collect a patent tax of nearly 1 percent on the most popular product produced by the world's richest tech company. One estimate suggests that VirnetX could soon be collecting around $340 million from Apple annually unless VirnetX's patents are vanquished on appeal.
The 0.98 percent royalty was applied to not just the early iPhones and iPads considered during the 2012 trial, but also to newer products like the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, fourth-Generation iPad, and iPad mini. Apple spent tens of millions redesigning how FaceTime works to try to avoid the VirnetX patents, but in the end it was for naught. Davis found that the newer iOS products were "not colorably different from those adjudicated at trial."
The patents (1, 2, 3, 4) originated at a company called Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC; they are now owned by VirnetX.
VirnetX is getting close to a big win at a politically sensitive time, with the tech community and a broad range of companies still stinging from having lost the fight to push through an anti-patent-troll bill in Congress.
The stakes are high enough that Apple can be counted on to keep fighting to the bitter end. VirnetX won't be able to cash in until it crosses the final hurdle of winning its argument at the Federal Circuit. Apple has filed an appeal against the 0.98 percent royalty, and an earlier appeal related to the $368 million verdict has already been argued.
VirnetX wins have held up on appeal before. In 2010, VirnetX scored $200 million settlement out of Microsoft following litigation, and it went ahead and sued the software giant again in 2013. The company has also reached licensing deals with NEC, Siemens, and Avaya, among others.
Yesterday's decision (PDF) comes out of a process called an "inter partes review," which patent insiders sometimes abbreviate to IPR. It's a process created by the 2011 America Invents Act, and it replaces an earlier, more cumbersome process called inter partes reexamination.
The idea of an IPR is to replace a lengthy, expensive court battle with a more compressed time frame for argument, topped off by a one-day trial. It has turned out to be very friendly to those challenging patents. Patent-defense lawyers and other defense-oriented businesses are just waking up to how effective the process can be.
But it wasn't Apple that asked for the IPR in this case. The company was barred from filing an IPR against VirnetX patents because it had already had a chance to make its arguments in court.
Instead, two other mysterious companies came forward seeking to challenge VirnetX's patents. First was a shell company called New Bay Capital, which filed an IPR and then reportedly asked VirnetX for 10 percent of its massive jury award in exchange for backing off. New Bay dropped its case on April 4 without getting any money'--and without revealing who was behind the claim.
Then came RPX, a defensive patent aggregator that has become increasingly well-known, and increasingly profitable, in recent years. RPX works by selling memberships to companies that feel harangued by patent trolls, including Apple and many other tech companies.
RPX basically buys up patents it believes will be used by trolls. By uniting the buying power of many companies, it can get the patents for a bargain price. This lowers the cost of the "troll" problem in many situations, but it doesn't work toward eliminating it. (One could argue it actually perpetuates the problem by ensuring the trolls have a "market" to sell into.)
Cutting patent deals isn't the only thing RPX is up to these days. It's also taken to filing IPRs to invalidate dangerous patents altogether. It's something of a divergence from its main business, but it makes sense. Filing an IPR allows RPX to put patents at serious risk'--even if the endgame is to buy the patent owners out, such a threat could lower the cost.
In this case, filing the IPR has backfired in a big way. The three-judge panel determined that RPX was just a "proxy" for Apple, which is the "real-party-in interest" and thus barred from filing the review request.
The decision goes on to describe how Apple tried, but failed, to create an arms-length approach that would make it look like RPX was acting independently. It describes how Apple paid RPX an additional $500,000 under an "Addendum" agreement, in which it would perform certain activities including filing "request for reexamination... or inter partes review with respect to patents of questionable quality."
And of course, the two parties had already agreed that the VirnetX patents were "of questionable quality."
RPX used the same law firm as Apple, the same expert, and filed a petition that it admitted was "substantially identical" to two other proceedings, including one by Apple.
All those factors led the Patent Trial and Appeal Board judges to realize that Apple was the one really in charge. "[T]he interaction between RPX and Apple show an implicit authorization to challenge the VirnetX patents," write the judges. "A party bound by a judgment may not avoid its preclusive force by relitigating through a proxy."
The issue of who the "real party in interest" is behind IPR petitions could have a very big impact beyond this case. First of all, RPX will have to tighten up its act to file future petitions, and it's not clear it will be able to do so at all. Another defensive patent business, Unified Patents, is based wholly on filing IPRs against patents it deems dangerous.
And finally, one public interest group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, filed a patent reexamination request against patent troll Personal Audio, which claims to own podcasting. Personal Audio has tried, but has so far failed, to prove that the EFF's crowdfunded petition was nothing more than a sham for deep-pocketed defendants.
TWTR: 33.33 -0.56 (-1.65%) : Twitter, Inc. Common Stock - Yahoo! Finance
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 20:44
TWTR: Summary for Twitter, Inc. Common Stock- Yahoo! Finance
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Prev Close:33.89Open:34.19Bid:33.13x 100Ask:52.00x 1001y Target Est:43.73Beta:N/AEarnings Date:Jul 21 - Jul 25 (Est.)Day's Range:33.22 - 34.4152wk Range:29.51 - 74.73Volume:23,353,197Avg Vol (3m):20,826,800Market Cap:19.46BP/E (ttm):N/AEPS (ttm):-2.50Div & Yield:N/A (N/A)Quotes delayed, except where indicated otherwise. Currency in USD.
Headlines
The CIA Gets Twitterat Forbes(Sat 4:40PM EDT)Box Office: 'Fault In Our Stars' Nabs $26M Friday, Tom Cruise's 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Earns $10Mat Forbes(Sat 11:02AM EDT)Winning bidder for Buffett lunch from Singaporeat USA TODAY(Sat 10:07AM EDT)Next Round: Mixing music and beerat USA TODAY(Sat 9:03AM EDT)Twitter Buys Namo MediaZacks(Fri, Jun 6)[video] The Penalty Kick: How Hard Can It Be?at MarketWatch(Fri, Jun 6)Bank Of Grandma Paying For College Billsat Forbes(Fri, Jun 6)Part quesadilla, part burrito: Taco Bell unveils the quesaritoat USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)Why Twitter (TWTR) Stock Is Lower Todayat TheStreet(Fri, Jun 6)Save of the Day: Amazing barbecue bargains!at USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)Twitter Namo Buy Challenges Google and Facebook in Mobile App Adsat TheStreet(Fri, Jun 6)Google, Twitter Partner Once Again to Warn of Disastersat TheStreet(Fri, Jun 6)Tech Five: Angie's List shares surgeat USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)Strategies: Fight isolation of running a small businessat USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)[$$] Twitter Homes In on Driving Revenueat Barrons.com(Fri, Jun 6)
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Key Statistics
Forward P/E (1 yr):133.32P/S (ttm):24.70Ex-Dividend Date:N/AAnalysts
Annual EPS Est (Dec-14) :0.04Quarterly EPS Est (Jun-14) :-0.01Mean Recommendation*:2.9PEG Ratio (5 yr expected):5.47Business Summary
Twitter, Inc. is a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. It provides various products for users, including Twitter that allows users to express themselves and create, distribute, and discover content; Vine, a mo... View MoreYour browser doesn't support canvas95993639
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Prev Close:33.89Open:34.19Bid:33.13x 100Ask:52.00x 1001y Target Est:43.73Beta:N/AEarnings Date:Jul 21 - Jul 25 (Est.)Day's Range:33.22 - 34.4152wk Range:29.51 - 74.73Volume:23,353,197Avg Vol (3m):20,826,800Market Cap:19.46BP/E (ttm):N/AEPS (ttm):-2.50Div & Yield:N/A (N/A)Quotes delayed, except where indicated otherwise. Currency in USD.
Headlines
The CIA Gets Twitterat Forbes(Sat 4:40PM EDT)Box Office: 'Fault In Our Stars' Nabs $26M Friday, Tom Cruise's 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Earns $10Mat Forbes(Sat 11:02AM EDT)Winning bidder for Buffett lunch from Singaporeat USA TODAY(Sat 10:07AM EDT)Next Round: Mixing music and beerat USA TODAY(Sat 9:03AM EDT)Twitter Buys Namo MediaZacks(Fri, Jun 6)[video] The Penalty Kick: How Hard Can It Be?at MarketWatch(Fri, Jun 6)Bank Of Grandma Paying For College Billsat Forbes(Fri, Jun 6)Part quesadilla, part burrito: Taco Bell unveils the quesaritoat USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)Why Twitter (TWTR) Stock Is Lower Todayat TheStreet(Fri, Jun 6)Save of the Day: Amazing barbecue bargains!at USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)Twitter Namo Buy Challenges Google and Facebook in Mobile App Adsat TheStreet(Fri, Jun 6)Google, Twitter Partner Once Again to Warn of Disastersat TheStreet(Fri, Jun 6)Tech Five: Angie's List shares surgeat USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)Strategies: Fight isolation of running a small businessat USA TODAY(Fri, Jun 6)[$$] Twitter Homes In on Driving Revenueat Barrons.com(Fri, Jun 6)
The broker you select will become the default broker for Trade Now
Key Statistics
Forward P/E (1 yr):133.32P/S (ttm):24.70Ex-Dividend Date:N/AAnalysts
Annual EPS Est (Dec-14) :0.04Quarterly EPS Est (Jun-14) :-0.01Mean Recommendation*:2.9PEG Ratio (5 yr expected):5.47Business Summary
Twitter, Inc. is a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. It provides various products for users, including Twitter that allows users to express themselves and create, distribute, and discover content; Vine, a mo...
View MoreYour browser doesn't support canvas
95993639
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The Day The Online Music Died: How Popularity Doomed Streaming Darlings East Village Radio | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 15:51
If you build it, then attract enough users, the money will come.
That's more or less the premise of scores of startups in the digital age--from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat.
But what if that's not always the case? What if monetizing or attracting a buyer--to say nothing of mere survival--is more complicated than that? In late May the online radio station East Village Radio shut down--taking its famous glass-walled street-level studio with it. The station, its renegade founders say, had gotten too popular to survive.
With over 1 million listeners and counting, EVR sure didn't appear to be failing. But in today's complicated Internet radio landscape, larger companies like Pandora--which just said it accounts for over 9% of all U.S. radio listening--and Spotify (with subscription models, unlike EVR) can afford to keep attracting more listeners. With each additional EVR fan, meanwhile, came something harder for a scrappy startup to manage: steeper royalty fees.
Frank Prisinzano and Peter FerraroFor music services on the Internet, the cost of acquiring and maintaining a listener and building an engaged fan base is much higher than in that of consumer tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Music comes with rights attached, and those creating even the best of online experiences have to think--and pay--beyond just investors.
''We knew that no matter the projections, it wasn't going to give us the infrastructure we needed to properly run the station,'' says EVR's erstwhile general manager Peter Ferraro. ''We would need seven figures to operate and compete, and that's a lot of money.''
EVR wasn't your typical Internet radio station. Started in June 2003 by Frank Prisinzano and joined later by Ferraro, both East Village residents, EVR championed up-and-coming artists, fostered collaborations, and pushed record sales hard. Inspired by WLIR, WPLJ, and other OAR stations in Queens and Long Island, Prisinzano and Ferraro, Italian Americans who bonded over their love of bands including Blue Oyster Cult, Talking Heads, The Who, The Ramones, and artists like Marvin Gaye, built EVR to help continue the culture of music discovery they experienced growing up in 1970s and 1980s New York City.
For them, this wasn't just about asserting their cultural and taste-making relevance; it was about helping artists grow and build careers in an industry crumbling all around them. Industry leaders, labels, and fans listened. There were some 50 DJs playing music for more than 16 hours every day. Artists ranging from Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order, to Amy Winehouse, to recent favorites including Disclosure would come for quick interviews, and end up staying for an hour. EVR was like a second home. And it wasn't out of the ordinary to hear that tourists from Japan or Germany would come to shops in the East Village, thanks to hearing about them on EVR.
''We took it seriously,'' said Ferraro. ''We were committed to seven days a week, 24/7. In the beginning, it was about protecting the stream. In the early days, we never had a consistent stream in Internet radio. Throughout the years, three of us had the jobs of 15 people.''
Prisinzano and Ferraro grew the station first with that elusive, intangible talent: taste.
''People knew we played stuff that others didn't, and it was cool,'' says Prisinzano.
Next they leaned on tools that are more quantifiable, relying on social media to spread the station's gospel.
The duo took especially quickly to Twitter, where they admit they sometimes act like two teenagers.
''We never wanted to change the music business,'' Ferraro says. ''We understood that artists create, and that they also need to promote and sell. We were the platform by which they could reach an audience and do just that."
All of which sounds like a recipe for a sustainable business. But here's where things get complicated.
That's partly because royalty calculation makes James Joyce look like Dr. Suess. Take a spin through The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers site, and you'll come across a page with directions for calculating what is owed. A royalty can vary greatly, depending on different values based on type of performance, the licensee's heft (determined by the type of station playing the content), payments to the writers and publishers of said content, and more errata.
''We paid SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and others," says Ferraro. "As for SoundExchange, which terrestrial radio doesn't pay, we were paying 23 cents per every 100 listeners. As we gained more listeners we had to pay more.''
EVR had come smack up against a vexing problem--a paradox of popularity in this industry.
''The current system and SoundExchange royalty agreement punishes success," says Ken Freedman, General Manager for terrestrial and digital independent freeform radio station WFMU in New York. "It's only sustainable if you have a very small audience. In other words, local taste-making has to stay under the radar.''
For its part, WFMU has had to be creative in order to survive.
''Since we became Corporation of Public Broadcasting qualified, we've been able to participate in group-negotiated rates for royalty fees," notes Freedman. "But for 10 years, we collected lots of waivers from record labels and artists, giving us permission to use their music [for free], similar to what Sirius XM has done.''
As it happens, the FCC is currently mulling over a ''wide-ranging proceeding on the current music licensing regime and whether reforms are necessary or appropriate,'' according to the Broadcast Law blog. Holding roundtables in music hotbeds New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville, the FCC is looking to engage those in the industry in order to reimagine the current system. To hear Prisinzano and Ferraro tell it, their lawyer did not think the FCC pendulum would swing in a positive and sustainable direction for Internet broadcasters.
For EVR and its million fans--many of whom often made the trek to First Avenue to gawk at and cheer for DJs live on air--what makes all this even harder to swallow is the fact that the station was projected to do better financially this year than last year.
Since EVR's collapse, music junkies have gone through a few stages of grief. And Prisinzano and Ferraro say they were thrilled to see ''an incredible outpouring of support.''
Now fans are finding positive ways to spin the news. Nico Perez, founder of Mixcloud, the service that allows DJs to get their shows in front of listeners, says he thinks ''the future of music discovery will be mostly through people, but also with some intelligent algorithms."
Perez is doing his part to ensure that while EVR might be dead, it won't be forgotten. His company has offered to host the robust EVR archive at no charge.
"Hopefully there will be a legacy and a chance for future listeners to discover their archive," Perez says. (Ferraro says he isn't sure if any of the DJs will take Perez up on the offer, and some have already found other platforms for their shows.)
For those that haven't discovered the station yet, Spotify users are creating a range of EVR playlists.
''It was a real honor to host at EVR and do my part to share a slice of downtown life with a global audience,'' Daniel Glass, owner of the respected New York music label Glassnote music tells me. ''They attracted great curators and DJs who gave the world a literal window into New York City life.''
Now the question is, will there be life after death for Prisinzano and Ferraro. Prisinzano owns a handful of successful East Village restaurants--which helped fund EVR--will continue innovating in the food industry, while looking for the next big idea.
Ferraro isn't yet talking about his next move, but is certain he won't leave music behind.
One thing is sure for both men: whatever they do next, they want to do it in the East Village. A note on the EVR homepage says: "Coming soon: a blog for the East Village."
And while this particular dream has died, the legacy is secure: when it comes to discovery, algorithms are great, but taste still matters.
ZDI-14-173/CVE-2014-0195 - OpenSSL DTLS Fragment O... - HP Enterprise Business Community
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 12:36
Watching the industry respond to the Heartbleed vulnerability has been fascinating. This bug had widespread impact with thousands of servers left vulnerable, numerous private keys compromised, and companies quick to jump on the bandwagon to gain a marketing advantage. All this activity rekindled the conversation around the security offered by open source projects and the lack of financial support provided to the projects used in critical infrastructure.
While all this is going on, researchers are upping their efforts to review OpenSSL source code to find additional vulnerabilities. This left us wondering: ''What will we find next?'' Well, it didn't take long for another critical OpenSSL vulnerability to show up in the queues at the Zero Day Initiative. J¼ri Aedla is credited for the original discovery of this vulnerability. He recently made news by successfully compromising Mozilla Firefox during this year's Pwn2Own contest. We enjoy analyzing his work and knew immediately it would be an exciting case.
Let's discuss the vulnerability itself:
The issue exists wholly within ssl/d1_both.c and occurs when handling Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) fragments. DTLS has a fragmentation mechanism to break up large messages for UDP. Each fragment contains a 3-byte length field, which should be the same for all fragments in a message. OpenSSL incorrectly assumes that all DTLS fragments specify the same message size. Specifically, it trusts that the message length specified within the header of the first fragment will be invariant across all fragments. Here is an example packet that demonstrates the issue:
Another quick observation is that the Wireshark protocol decoder highlights the mismatch of the length values in the DTLS fragments as a protocol error. Unfortunately, OpenSSL did not recognize this as an error condition.
The relevant source code is below (as of this commit):
1. Read first fragment header.
2. Check if it is a fragment. Fragment Length of 1 < >
3. Allocate space for new message based on length in header, as it's the first fragment.
4. Allocate a 2-byte buffer for the whole message.
5. Read in the 1-byte from the first fragment.
6. Read second fragment header.
7. Check if it is a fragment. Fragment Length of 986 < >
8. Read in the 986-bytes second fragment into a 2-byte buffer.
Just sending this single UDP packet results in the application segfaulting and causing a denial-of-service condition, but more malicious things are possible. As the length field is 3-bytes wide, it is theoretically possible to write up to 2^24 bytes of data to the process using this vulnerability. An attacker could leverage this issue to corrupt adjacent metadata, and possibly execute code in the context of the process using OpenSSL.
The OpenSSL code does some sanity checking on the length fields in the DTLS fragments but, unfortunately, the check occurs too late and could be bypassed. The developers even left a prophetic comment in the code about what would happen if the validation failed.
So, why is this vulnerability interesting beyond just the technical aspects?
According to the commit logs, Robin Seggelmann introduced this vulnerability into the OpenSSL code base four years ago. Yes, Robin Seggelmann is also responsible for introducing the Heartbleed vulnerability. Two big vulnerabilities introduced by the same developer. Seggelmann is not completely to blame, of course. OpenSSL is an open source project. The 'many eyes' that look at this code failed to catch this bug, but a new breed of individuals are looking at this code'...especially at Seggelmann's code. This code is now known for having vulnerabilities. There is blood in the water. For the individuals auditing his code, the Zero Day Initiative will happily handle the work that goes into disclosing those vulnerabilities and reward you for your efforts.
[Note: The team at HP TippingPoint's DVLabs talks about this vuln and their customer protection here. Be sure to check it out!]
World's most delayed software released after 54 years of development | Technology | theguardian.com
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 14:11
When consumers have been promised powerful, life-changing new software, delays and postponed launches can be excruciating.
Mac OS X was first demonstrated under the code-name Rhapsody in 1997, yet version 1 release didn't arrive until a full four years later. Windows Vista was originally planned to ship in 2003, as a minor release between Windows XP and the true follow-up, but that release date slipped by three years.
However, both of those pale in comparison to "Project Xanadu", which was released without fanfare at an event at California's Chapman University in late April. Development on Xanadu began 54 years ago, in 1960, making it the most delayed software in history.
Xanadu's developer Ted Nelson is the man who coined the term "hypertext" to describe the clickable links that were created for his project: the word lives on most prominently as the "ht" in the internet abbreviation "http".
At its simplest, Xanadu lets users build documents that seamlessly embed the sources which they are linking back to, creating, in Nelson's words, "an entire form of literature where links do not break as versions change; where documents may be closely compared side by side and closely annotated; where it is possible to see the origins of every quotation; and in which there is a valid copyright system - a literary, legal and business arrangement - for frictionless, non-negotiated quotation at any time and in any amount."
The version released on the internet, named OpenXanadu, is a simple document created using quoted sections from eight other works, including the King James Bible and the Wikipedia page on Steady State Theory. Users navigate with the spacebar and arrow keys '' the directions warn users "don't touch the mouse!" - and can skip between the original works and the finished document.
Superficially, it resembles the web itself, and that's no coincidence. At one point, Xanadu had potential to beat Tim Berners Lee to the invention of the world wide web. But the project carried on slipping, and the web got there first.
"The web trivialized this original Xanadu model," Nelson argued in 2004, "vastly but incorrectly simplifying these problems to a world of fragile ever-breaking one-way links, with no recognition of change or copyright, and no support for multiple versions or principled re-use."
Having missed the chance to be the web, Nelson now sees Xanadu as a potential replacement for formats that spend too much time trying to be like paper, and not enough time trying to be something new for the digital age.
"We screwed up in the 1980s, and missed our chance to be world wide hypertext (the web got that niche). However, we can still compete with PDF, which simulates paper, by showing text connections."
In 1995 - with the project already 35 years in development - Wired's Gary Wolf profiled Nelson, painting a portrait of a man whose execution never caught up with his ideas. But those ideas themselves went on to become hugely influential.
"Out of Nelson's discombobulation was born one of the most powerful designs of the 20th century," Wolf wrote. "And Xanadu's goals - a universal library, a global information index, and a computerised royalty system - were shared by many of the smartest programmers of the first hacker generation".
' An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web
Project Xanadu®
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 14:10
DIRECTIONS (don't touch the mouse!)
The spacebar is our control key.spacebar + up-arrow or down-arrow: NEXT SEGMENTspacebar + left-arrow or right-arrow:- step onto bridge, see sourcedoc and xanadoc side by side- cross bridge to sourcedoc- cross bridge back to xanadoc
NO LINKS YET
Xanadu has three types of connection--- to original sources (SOURCE TRANSCLUSIONS,NOW SHOWING)- links, connections and relations (XANALINKS-- NOT YET)- shared content between xanadocs (MUTUAL TRANSCLUSION,NOT YET)
ADVANCED DIRECTIONS (mouse OK now)
- scrollwheel: go up and down in xanadoc or sourcedoc- clicking on any page takes you to it- spacebar + shift: step through three views
THE XANADU CONCEPTWe foresaw in 1960 that all document work would migrateto the interactive computer screen, so we could write in new ways--- paper enforces sequence-- we could escape that!- paper documents can't be connected-- we could escape that!- this means a different form of writing- this means a different form of publishing- this means a different document format,to send people and to archive. We screwed up in the 1980s,and missed our chance to be world wide hypertext(the Web got that niche).However, we can still compete with PDF,which simulates paper,by showing text connections.
HOW IT WORKSA xanadoc is assembled from content portionsand xanalinks that can be all over the internet.Our OpenXanadu program, embedded in an HTML page, opens your chosen xanadoc file.The xanadoc file tells what portions to assemble.The OpenXanadu program assembles those portions,and presents their connections interactively.
WHY IN THE WEB BROWSER?The Web browser(Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox...)is a virtual computer that runs inside everybody's real computer.Its bizarre structure was created byarbitrary initiatives of varied peopleand it has a terrible programming language,BUT--- it's free- it's everywhere- it presents OpenXanaduwith no further installation.STRANGE RESTRICTION--because of Web security rules (a complex maze),a web page cannot request pages from elsewhere.So we have to packageall the contents into this first program.
In the next version,OpenXanadu will send for content through a server,so the content can be brought from anywhere.
Meaning you or anyone can publish xanadocs.
(A full Xanadu application, not in the browser,will be able to send forcontent from anywhere by itself.)
THE CURRENT DATA STRUCTURE- Open here the .xanadoc file that generates "Origins",by Moe Juste.Open here the current data definition,explaining the formats forthe .xanadoc file and the xanapointer.- The format for the .xanalink file will be publishedwhen we have it working.
XANADU HISTORYWe'll skip that for now.
SPECIAL CREDITto Nicholas Levin, who programmed OpenXanadu so excellently.
Radio Amateur's Sub-9 kHz VLF Signal Detected Across the Atlantic
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:16
06/06/2014How low can you go? A signal on 8.971 kHz has spanned the Atlantic, from North Carolina to the UK. Running on the order of 150 µW effective radiated power, very low frequency (VLF) experimenter Dex McIntyre, W4DEX, transmitted signals on June 2 and 3 that were detected by Paul Nicholson, an SWL in the UK. Earlier this year, Nicholson detected McIntyre's WH2XBA/4 Experimental Service VLF signal on 29.501 kHz. McIntyre needed no FCC license to transmit on 8.971 kHz, since the Commission has not designated any allocations below 9 kHz '-- dubbed ''the Dreamers' Band.''
''I'll probably make more transmissions on 8.9 kHz when there is no chance of thunderstorms,'' McIntyre told ARRL this week. ''Then, maybe sliding down in frequency to see how low I can go for Paul to detect the signal.''
Right now, McIntyre said his priority is to complete a transverter for the other end of the spectrum '-- 5.7 GHz. He's also working on a second 24 GHz system as a loaner, ''so I'll have someone to work,'' he noted. ''Sure is lonely here above UHF.''
Nicholson used sophisticated digital signal processing (DSP) software to detect McIntyre's transmission. The distance was approximately 6194 km (approximately 3840 mi). Nicholson was able to detect the VLF signal during both daylight and nighttime paths.
On June 1 and into June 2,McIntyre transmitted a steady, GPS-locked carrier at 8.971.000 kHz. Between 0000 and 0600 UTC, Nicholson measured a carrier at that frequency in Todmorden, UK. He combined the electrical and magnetic field receiver outputs to produce a unidirectional antenna response.
''This brought the signal up to a significant level,'' Nicholson reported. ''The signal bearing was roughly west. W4DEX is bearing 285° from here. The S/N is max on a bearing of 315°, which puts the prevailing southwesterly background nearer to the side of the antenna response. This gave the signal a respectable 12.5 dB S/N in a 46 µHz bandwidth.'' Nicholson said McIntyre's carrier also was visible during a daylight path in a 23 µHz bandwidth.
Just to confirm that Nicholson was actually detecting McIntyre's signal, the two experimenters conducted a blind confirmation test. McIntyre changed his transmit frequency slightly, and Nicholson was also able to detect that signal at 8.971.100 kHz at the same strength. An e-mail response from McIntyre confirmed 8.971.1 kHz as the new frequency.
Is a two-way sub-9 kHz contact in the offing? ''A two-way, transatlantic contact would be a hundred times more amazing than just a simple signal detection,'' McIntyre said. ''I seriously doubt I will ever have that receive capability. But not long ago I seriously doubted I would be the first to receive a transatlantic or New Zealand 137 kHz transmission. Going down in frequency has been as much fun as going higher. It's all RF.''
McIntyre expressed his appreciation to Nicholson, ''who was convinced this could be done with so little radiated power and for his continuous prodding to give it a try.'' He also credited Nicholson's ''amazing weak-signal software.
McIntyre's transmitter consisted of a Hewlett Packard HP 3586B selective level meter with tracking generator. The low-level generator output is amplified by a Wandel & Golterman A-160 level regulator, which feeds a Hafler P3000 stereo audio amplifier, which has been bridge connected for mono output. In this configuration, the P3000 is capable of putting out 400 W of audio into an 8 W load. McIntyre said the same generator and amplifier have been used on 137, 74, and 29 kHz experiments.
His antenna is essentially the same one he uses for 160 meters and for other LF experiments. For this experiment, however, it was equipped with a gigantic base-loading coil, which contains nearly a mile of wire. ''The vertical wire is spaced 1.5 meters from the tower, hanging from an insulator 29 meters above ground,'' McIntyre explained. ''Top hat consists of about 170 meters of #18 Copperweld. Most of the top hat wires run about 7 to 20 meters over the top of a combination of oak and pine trees. Total antenna capacitance is close to 1200 pF.''
McIntyre also thanked Jay Rusgrove, W1VD, and John Andrews, W1TAG, for their technical advice, Markus Vester, DF6NM, for technical advice ''and additional prodding,'' Mal Hamilton, G3KEV, for coming up with the term ''Dreamers' Band,'' and Stefan Schaefer, DK7FC, for ''proving dreams can come true.''
He also expressed gratitude to Warren Ziegler, K2ORS, for the opportunity to experiment on 29 and 74 kHz, ''and all the other VLF experimenters who posted their results on the RSGB LF Group and the Yahoo Sub 9kHz Amateur Radio group.
Funding Daily: Big money for free software | VentureBeat | Deals | by Eric Blattberg
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:39
Get all the tech funding news of the day delivered straight to your mailbox! Sign up for Funding Daily and never miss a deal.
There's plenty of cash to be made in the world of open-source software '-- but you'll have to read today's funding news to find out how.
Elasticsearch now measures around 500,000 downloads of its eponymous data search and analytics software each month, according to the company. But because it's all open-source, those downloads don't earn Elasticsearch a single cent.
That didn't stop several big-name VC firms from pouring $70 million into the 18-month-old startup today. New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Benchmark Capital, and Index Ventures dig Elasticsearch's products, which the company monetizes primarily via support subscriptions.
Like so many products today, Elasticsearch's software helps enterprises make sense of their data. There are a lot of moving parts, but the main feature is the search engine, which enables companies to search through all types of data: social data, credit card data, bank trades, product info, and more.
Read more on VentureBeat: Elasticsearch's $70M round proves there's big money in free software
Someone in the data-protection space is having a really good day '-- new funding and an acquisition.
That someone is Infrascale, which announced today that it has raised $16.3 million in a second round of institutional funding. Also, it has acquired Eversync Solutions, a provider of cloud-connected, onsite data protection appliances, for an undisclosed amount.
Infrascale provides backup, disaster recovery, archive, and collaboration with military-grade security, and its platform runs from 11 data centers on five continents. It offers private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid computing environments and will now support more or less any operating system. The combination of Infrascale and Eversync's technologies will mean data protection across mobile devices, workstations, and both physical and virtual servers.
Read more on VentureBeat: Data protection company Infrascale acquires new funding & a new company
The age of tablet gaming has arrived, and Super Evil Megacorp is ready for it. The tablet-gaming startup is announcing a $15 million round and the hiring of Kristian Segerstrale, a former Electronic Arts digital games executive, as its chief operating officer. It is also pulling back the veil on its first game, Vain Glory, a tablet-based multiplayer online battle arena title (MOBA), a type of strategy game.
The funding, which includes a new $11.6 million round, comes from new investors General Catalyst and Raine Ventures. Earlier round investors include Rick Thompson and his team at Signia Venture Partners, Clinton Foy and his team at CrossCut Ventures, Initial Capital, ZhenFund, and other angel investors. The money will enable Super Evil Megacorp to ''relentlessly pursue its vision of a world where tablets are primary devices for core gamers,'' said Bo Daly, the chief executive of the San Mateo, Calif.-based company.
Read more on VentureBeat: Super Evil Megacorp scores $15M and ex-EA exec Kristian Segerstrale as chief operating officer
German mobile game startup Flaregames has raised $12.2 million in venture funding from Accel Partners and T-Venture. This shows that the ante for participating in the fast-growing mobile game sector '-- which could be a $35 billion business by 2017 '-- is going up.
Karlsruhe, Germany-based Flaregames was founded in 2011 by Klaas Kersting, the founder of online game publisher Gameforge. The company is focusing on creating games for mobile devices. Those are so-called ''mid-core'' games whose subject matter or mechanics appeal to hardcore gamers but have shorter playtime cycles than traditional console or PC games.
Read more on VentureBeat: Germany's Flaregames raises $12.2M for free-to-play mobile games
PackLink gets $9M to cut down the time you're spending thinking about shippingShipping is that part of life that no one really looks forward to or wants to spend time thinking about '-- even companies like Shyp have sprung up to save people from even having to touch an item they want to ship.
Spanish company PackLink is getting in on that game, and today it's announcing that it has raised $9 million in a second round of institutional funding. Accel Partners led the round, with additional contribution from current investor Active Venture Partners.
Read more on VentureBeat: PackLink gets $9M to cut down the time you're spending thinking about shipping
Social investment site Wikifolio lands $8.2M roundGerman-based social investment site Wikifolio today announced a '‚¬6 million funding round (approximately $8.19 million) led by early-stage Austrian VC fund Speedinvest.
According to the startup's official release, Wikifolio plans to use the new funds to expand ''in selected countries in the coming months.'' Wikifolio also shares that it broke even in the first quarter of 2014.
Learn more on the Wikifolio site.
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Koch brothers donate $25 million to United Negro College Fund - The Washington Post
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 15:20
By Sean SullivanJune 6 at 3:46 PMThe billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, known best for shepherding big money to conservative causes and candidates, have given a $25 million grant to the United Negro College Fund, the organization announced Friday.
The money will come from Koch Industries Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation, which are headed by the brothers. Most of the money ($18.5 million) will go toward a scholarship program. The other $6.5 million is provided for general support to historically black colleges and universities and the UNCF, $4 million of which will be set aside for loan assistance.
The UNCF is the nation's largest minority education group.
Such a highly-publicized gift is unusual for Charles Koch. His foundation routinely gives away lots of money, but typically with little fanfare.
"Increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus," Charles Koch said in a statement.
UNCF president and chief executive Michael Lomax said, "UNCF is proud to announce this new scholarship program that will help motivated and deserving students not just get to and through school, but to become our next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs We are enormously grateful to Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation for their long-standing support of UNCF and for helping to create new opportunities for earned success and a better future for our students."
The donation comes as Democrats have been actively seeking to vilify Charles and David Koch's influence within the Republican Party in hopes of turning them into midterm electoral bogeymen. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has lambasted them on the Senate floor, while Democratic groups have been running ads casting them in a negative light.
But polling shows most of the public is not very familiar with the brothers, raising questions about whether Democrats can successfully make them into a ballot-box issue in the fall.
As of last week, the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity had spent at least $44 million on 2014 congressional races since August, according to a person familiar with the total.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has mentioned the Koch brothers on the Senate floor more than 130 times, but his own constituents have never heard of the billionaire businessmen. (Jeff Simon / The Washington Post)
Matea Gold contributed
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Rumors Float of Michelle Obama for Senate
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:28
Breitbart reported on May 25 that Michelle Obama was "stepping up her solo political engagement" on several issues she is most interested in. She even waded into criticism of the House of Representatives for threatening to put a crimp on her much-criticized school lunch program and is scheduled to host several conferences and other public policy gatherings this year.
But with this new, more intense level of political engagement comes rumors that Obama is gearing up for a political career of her own. Meanwhile one of Illinois' few elected Republicans, Senator Mark Kirk, is up for re-election in 2016, conveniently at the end of her husband's last term in office.
As a result of all this, a new editorial at Reuters speculates that Obama may be laying the groundwork for a run for the Senate by asking the obvious question: "So what's with the bolder profile?"
One possibility could come up in 2016. Republican Senator Mark Kirk could be vulnerable since his very public stroke in 2012. Many inside the Illinois GOP have wondered if Senator Kirk might retire in 2016 instead of running for re-election. If that happens, Obama could be running for an open seat.
Still, if Kirk does run for re-election in 2016 Michelle Obama might make a tough opponent. She would certainly be able raise money at a quick clip.
Reuters goes on to say, "She would quickly become the most recognizable face in the Senate. Her fame and fundraising ability would command deference in a body that normally operates on seniority."
Such a claim may not be as pat as Reuters might think. After all, it didn't really work that easily for Hillary Clinton, who was also a high-profile wife of a past president and a successful fundraiser. None of that really translated to too much power above her seniority when she became a Senator from New York, though.
One marker of how well Obama might do against Kirk was seen in a 2012 Public Polling Policy survey that had her up 51 percent to Kirk's 40 percent.
Further, by 2016 eldest daughter Malia will be in college while her youngest, Sasha, will already be in high school, so both of Obama's children will be old enough to withstand a political campaign by another one of their parents.
Despite several years' worth of rumors '' some were saying she would run for office in 2012, as well '' both Barack and Michelle have shot down rumors of Michelle's running for office.
President Obama himself denied rumors that his wife was going to run for public office. In an interview for Live with Michael and Kelly, for instance, the President told host Kelly Ripa, "One thing I can promise you is Michelle will not run for office."
In August last year, the First Lady herself tried to quash rumors that she might run for president, saying "absolutely not" to a run for the White House.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.
Is Michelle running for the Senate? | The Great Debate
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:20
First Lady Michelle Obama is everywhere. She's traveling to China. She's raising money for Democrats. She's issuing plaintive tweets seeking the rescue of the kidnapped Nigerian girls.
She's wading uncharacteristically deep into the Washington political mud pit to defend her school lunch program against Republicans, assailing them last Tuesday for opting to ''play politics with our kids' health.'' She struck a similar tone in a New York Timesop-ed two days later, accusing Republicans of trying to ''override science'' and suggesting they join parents and ''put our children's interests first.''
So what's with the bolder profile?
Sure, Obama cares strongly about the things she is doing. That she does care in fact begs another question: Is caring all that's going on here? Does she have political ambitions that would allow her to pursue an agenda while working to cement her husband's legacy?
Speculation about a possible political future for Michelle Obama has naturally centered on the White House. But that's the wrong place '-- at least for now.
Illinois has a Republican senator, Mark Kirk, and he is up for reelection in 2016. He'll be formidable, particularly given his brave recovery from a stroke. But Illinois is a heavily Democratic state, and the race could be close.
No Illinois Democratic candidate would bring the star power and nationwide fundraising capacity that Obama would.
She has proven herself a superb speaker on behalf of her pet projects and is now a veteran campaigner for her husband. She's also remained highly popular '-- even as the president's ratings have plummeted.
She could represent the Democrats' best chance to pick up a desperately needed '-- and winnable '-- seat. A December 2012 Public Policy Polling survey put her ahead of Kirk, 51 percent to 40 percent. Democratic leaders' pressure on her to run might get intense.
But the most acute pressure could come from within. Anyone who has listened to her speeches, particularly on the campaign trail, understands that she is a dedicated liberal, who believes unreservedly in the power of government to transform lives.
Obama views the battle between Republicans and Democrats as a struggle for the soul of the nation.
''Who are we?'' she repeatedly asked while campaigning in 2012. She said the election result would affect the country ''for decades.''
Who we are, in Obama's view, is a nation in which people help each other through the agency of the government. ''Will we honor that fundamental belief,'' she asked, ''that we're all better off when we work together?''
Can someone who views politics as an historic contest of ideas resist a unique chance to seize an available Senate seat?
The seriousness with which she takes her role as Obama's partner in his work was perhaps revealed by a Freudian slip Monday night at a Democratic fundraiser.
''And then there were those of you (who) joined us after the primaries, and you were there when Barack and I first took office '-- or I took office alongside '-- or he took office and I was there,'' she said to appreciative laughter.
The Senate looks like the perfect place for Obama. She could weigh in on any topic without having the executive responsibilities required of a governor or mayor '-- management reputedly not being one of her strong suits.
She would quickly become the most recognizable face in the Senate. Her fame and fundraising ability would command deference in a body that normally operates on seniority.
Whether the recent elevation of her profile suggests a plan to run is unclear, but she will be well positioned should she jump in.
Obama has stepped up her recent fundraising '-- holding two events for Democrats just this week and creating valuable chits she can call in should she run for office.
Unlike the Bill and Hillary Clinton, who did not keep a house in Arkansas when they came to Washington, or George W. and Laura Bush, who maintained a ranch in Texas they visited with great regularity, the Obamas have held onto an expensive home in Chicago '-- where they are almost never in residence.
The home, though, gives them a foothold in the state, where they continue to maintain residency. Both Obamas voted in Illinois in 2012, she by absentee ballot. Despite the first lady's years in Washington, there would be no carpet bagging charges for her.
Obama appears to be maintaining her Illinois ties in other ways.
Last Monday she flew to Rhode Island to speak at the ''keel-laying'' event for the new submarine USS Illinois. She also recently awarded a National Medal for Museum and Library Service to the Chicago Public Library.
The down sides to Obama's candidacy are serious '-- but don't appear insurmountable. Particularly if her devotion to public policy is as strong as it seems.
She would have to be away from her family a lot in 2016 while campaigning in Illinois. But separation from her daughters for campaign duty is not something new for her '-- though it would be at a new level of intensity '-- and the girls go to sleep-away camp in the summer.
By the fall of 2016, Malia will already have flown the coop to college, while Sasha will be a big girl in high school.
Also unclear is whether Obama can take the constant hits dealt out during a political battle. With Kirk having been gravely ill, though, and Obama the sitting first lady, this might be something of a gentleman's/gentlelady's brawl.
Is politics in her future?
The first lady's press office did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
When she was asked in 2012 whether she would run for president, she replied, ''Absolutely not!''
But then she added: ''One of the things you learn about yourself as you get older are what are your strengths and what are your interests. And for me, it's the other stuff that is not being president. So I probably won't run.
Probably?
Keith Koffler is the editor of the website White House Dossier.
PHOTO (TOP): First Lady Michelle Obama arrives for a discussion with school nutrition experts about issues in school food programs at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
PHOTO (INSERT 1): First Lady Michelle Obama unveils proposed updates to nutrition facts labels during remarks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
PHOTO (INSERT 2): First Lady Michelle Obama participates in planting oats during the sixth annual White House Kitchen Garden event in Washington, April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
PHOTO (INSERT 3): First Lady Michelle Obama gestures as she speaks to the spouses of chiefs of state and heads of government during an United Nations General Assembly luncheon at the Studio Museum in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
PHOTO (INSERT 4): First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at a back-to-school event at Orr Elementary School in Washington, September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Michael Moore, Wife Tangle Over Divorce Dollars.
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:11
JUNE 5--With his divorce trial looming, Michael Moore is battling his wife over the valuation of the couple's assets, while branding her a spendthrift who ''unilaterally wasted a large percentage of the marital funds'' building a lakefront mansion that has prompted mocking news stories about the activist filmmaker's wealth.
Moore and Kathleen Glynn are scheduled for trial next month in a Michigan courtroom not far from the sprawling Torch Lake residence that the Hollywood power contends became a money pit that cost five times what his wife claimed she would spend on the home.
Moore, 60, and Glynn, 56, were married nearly 23 years ago and have no children. According to court filings, the couple (seen at right) differs on when they separated. Moore claims it was in August 2010, while Glynn says the pair parted last June, when Moore filed for divorce in a Michigan Circuit Court.
While witness lists submitted to the court are filled with the names of assorted property appraisers, Moore has reported that he intends to call Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel as an ''expert witness.'' The nature of the expected testimony from Emanuel, co-CEO of the William Morris Endeavor agency, is not described in court papers. Moore has also included Morton Janklow, one of the country's top literary agents, on his witness list.
Glynn's witness list includes experts who will testify about the value of Moore's web site as well as the director's ''celebrity status and continued ability to earn an income.'' Glynn produced several of Moore's films, including ''Fahrenheit 9/11,'' the highest grossing documentary ever. Like Moore, Glynn is a Flint, Michigan native.
Included among the nearly 300 items on Moore's trial exhibit list are six stories published in 2011 about the Torch Lake compound. Each of the articles described the luxury residence, while some of the reports noted that the Occupy Wall Street supporter was living like a member of the ''1%.'' One story described the residence as ''Moore's $2M hypocrite house,'' while another article's headline declared that the director's ''Massive Michigan Vacation Mansion Beyond 99 Percent's Wildest Dreams.''
Moore and Glynn jointly own ''multiple substantial residences and multiple companies,'' including Dog Eat Dog Films, the production company behind hit movies like ''Roger & Me'' and ''Bowling for Columbine.'' The couple's real estate holdings include a total of nine properties in Michigan and New York. The duo co-owns a Manhattan condo that was created through the combination of three separate units.
But it is the northern Michigan mansion (seen above) that appears to be the couple's most contentious asset, and bad press about the home has apparently rankled Moore.
Citing ''massive cost overruns'' on the home, which was completed a few years ago, Moore has accused Glynn of causing the pair significant financial setbacks. In fact, he refers to the extravagant residence as ''her Torch Lake home'' in court filings.
In a sworn affidavit, Moore reported that, in 2011, Glynn ''discussed with me problems she was having with the money she was spending (which caused us some serious financial losses).'' As a result of that conversation, Moore added, it was mutually decided that he would be ''responsible for the signing of the checks.'' In opposing a motion by Glynn to divide some of the couple's assets before a formal divorce judgment was entered, Moore claimed that Glynn's request ''suggests that she once again has something to hide.''
While the couple's combined assets are likely worth tens of millions of dollars, court records do not contain specific valuations for their property. Confidential financial documents, tax returns, medical and health records, and other sensitive documents are covered by a protective order signed by a Family Division judge.
In a series of demands for discovery material, Moore has sought a wide variety of documents from Glynn, including a ''list of all vacations/travel from January 1, 2009 include the location, duration and all companions'' and a ''list, with photographs, of all quilts in your possession whether purchased, gifted, loaned or produced by you.'' Glynn is a quilting enthusiast who operates a Facebook page called ''The Daily Stitch.''
Moore has also demanded Glynn to disclose whether, during the course of their marriage, she had ever hired a private investigator to ''follow, record, photograph'' him. Court records do not include Glynn's reply to that query, which has been made more than once.
In another filing, Glynn noted that--in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre--Moore had been offered financing for an anti-gun film. In an e-mail sent three days after the December 2012 shooting, producer Michael Donovan wrote that he was ''personally prepared to finance a film'' by Moore about the Newtown, Connecticut killings.
Donovan and Moore, pictured above, shared the 2002 Academy Award for best documentary feature for ''Bowling for Columbine.'' While Moore acknowledged receiving Donovan's e-mail, court records do not include the director's response to the financing offer. (7 pages)
Haiti
Haiti police break up anti-government march calling for Martelly to step down
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:22
Police in Haiti have fired volleys of tear gas to break up a march by demonstrators calling for President Michel Martelly to step down and new elections to be held.
An estimated 5,000 protesters marched through the city centre of the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Thursday, as some burned tyres and blocked streets.
"First of all, I'm on the streets to give my support, my solidarity for the political prisoners who are in jail today, and also to call for the resignation of President Martelly," said Rony Timothee, an opposition leader.
Protesters held signs calling on Canada, France, and the United States to "help Haitians get rid of the leaders in power".
There were no reports of serious injuries after police dispersed the crowds.
Anti-government protests in Haiti have grown increasingly common in recent months.
Protesters complain of widespread corruption in the government and the failure of Martelly's administration to improve on jobs, schools and health care in the impoverished country.
Martelly, who is midway through a six-year term, has accused his opponents of fomenting instability that discourages foreign investment and blocking legislation that would help the country.
Legislative elections for about 100 members of the Chamber of Deputies, 20 senators and municipal leaders are set to take place on October 26 after multiple delays.
But the various political parties are divided over the makeup of the electoral body, seen as subservient to the executive branch.
The main opposition parties have rejected the deal setting up the polls, brokered by the first Haitian cardinal in the Catholic Church, Chibly Langlois.
Martelly and a dozen senators met for two days to try to defuse the crisis but they failed to reach agreement on potential new leaders at the Provisional Electoral Council.
286
War on Weed
World's first financial system for weed
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:49
DENVER (AP) -- Seeking to move marijuana businesses away from cash-only operations, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation Friday that tries to establish the world's first financial system for the newly legal industry in Colorado.The legislation seeks to form a network of uninsured cooperatives designed to give pot businesses a way to access basic banking services like checking. But approval from the Federal Reserve remains a hurdle.Out of fear of violating federal law, banks don't work with marijuana businesses. That has led to concerns that the burgeoning marijuana industry could be a target for robberies.Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said a member of his organization was robbed a few days ago. The cash-only model has become stressful for businesses and their employees, he said."We don't a need a vault. What we need is checking," he said. "We're looking for a way to take cash out of the businesses."Colorado became the first state to allow recreational pot sales on Jan. 1. Denver Police issued a crime alert Thursday warning of a plot to rob marijuana couriers, those who take dispensary proceeds to pay taxes or bills.The legislation would allow pot businesses to pool money in cooperatives. However, that will only happen with the blessing of the Fed, which has to agree to give the businesses access to payment systems.That has prompted some in Colorado to argue the legislation is merely symbolic.One of the sponsors of the banking bill, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said the legislation is an important step."At minimum, it's a `send a message' bill. Hopefully, it becomes a leverage point to get some attention and get some action on the part of the federal government," he said. "Because they hold the keys on this one. We can't solve this problem at the statehouse in Denver. It's going to require action and participation on the part of federal officials and hopefully this gets us there."He said Friday that he had not heard anything from the federal government.The U.S. Treasury Department said in February that banks could serve the marijuana industry under certain conditions. But a lot of banks have said the guidelines are too onerous.Elliott said that has created a "ridiculous scenario" where pot businesses must pay taxes, but they end up doing so with piles of cash."We would love to pay our taxes with a check," he said.He said he doesn't know yet whether Colorado's banking plan will work. No businesses have yet said they plan to try forming a cooperative."But it's us in Colorado doing everything we can to try to solve this problem," he said.---Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: http://twitter.com/IvanJourno
2TTH
How the king of pop made $1.5billion... over his dead body: Five years on, Michael Jackson's posthumous fortune has broken all records. Now this brilliant report asks, who IS making a mint from his death? | Mail Online
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 12:33
When he died on June 25, 2009, the singer was $500million in debtBut his estate turned its fortunes around, bringing him $1.5bn in the blackSuccess after death has brought with it a host of accusations from friendsHis manager - as well as family members - have cried foul playSPECIAL REPORT By Ian Halperin , MICHAEL JACKSON'S AUTHORITATIVE BIOGRAPHER
Published: 15:21 EST, 7 June 2014 | Updated: 19:05 EST, 7 June 2014
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I still find it hard to believe that it is five years since Michael Jackson, the undisputed King Of Pop, was found dead upon the bed of his $100,000-a-month rented mansion in Los Angeles.
At just 50 years old, the haunted genius, whose music defined a generation, was pronounced dead from an overdose of prescription drugs at the UCLA Medical Center on June 25, 2009.
As his millions of devastated fans mourned, the police investigation into his death unfolded slowly.
Michael Jackson owed $500million when he died - but this has turned into spectacular wealth. He is pictured above at the UCLA Medical Center in 2009, shortly after his death
But if the Jackson family and his worldwide followers hoped that the story would end with the trial of Dr Conrad Murray, Michael's personal physician, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in November 2011, they were disappointed.
Michael was not to be allowed to rest in peace quite so quickly.
I had publicly predicted on December 24, 2008, that Michael would probably die within six months.
Six months and one day later, the King of Pop was indeed dead, leading the New York Post to describe me as a modern-day Nostradamus.
I wasn't proud of my eerily accurate prediction. Originally, I intended it to serve as a wake-up call, in the hope that Michael could get the help he needed.
I urged his minders to get him the proper medical treatment he deserved. Instead, they booked him for 50 shows, a task that would be monumental for even the healthiest 50-year-old rock star to complete, let alone Michael, who was known to have suffered for years from multiple physical ailments.
Now, as the fifth anniversary of his death approaches, I wish I hadn't made that prediction. It has contributed to an ever-growing number of conspiracy theories that mean he cannot rest in peace.
Indeed, such is the lure of these that many close to him refuse to accept the truth about his death.
Michael's closest confidante, Elizabeth Taylor, insisted privately that something was amiss.
She surmised that 'wacko Jacko', as he was in my view unfairly called, was always going to be worth more in a shroud than he ever was moon-walking in a spangled jumpsuit.
Frank Dileo, Michael's cigar-chomping, larger-than-life manager, was also taken in by the bizarre claims. The legendary music mogul '' an affable character who was Michael's life-long companion '' was blunt.
Warnings: Frank Dileo, right, Michael Jackson's manager, believes the singer was victim of 'foul play'
Michael, he believed, was the 'victim of foul play'. Dileo died in 2011, following complications after heart surgery, but gave me his final interview. Teary and emotional, he made a series of wild allegations that have never before been published.
'It's clear Michael was worth more dead than alive,' he told me, choking back tears. But he added: 'I can assure you Conrad Murray is not the only person who should stand trial.'
I dismissed Dileo's allegations as an emotion-driven, somewhat maudlin conspiracy theory.
Another of Michael's long-time friends who bought into the conspiracy theory was television personality Geraldo Rivera. And although I have written off his wilder allegations, one remains intriguing.
Shortly after Michael died, I appeared on Geraldo's show. After the credits had rolled, he ordered one of his staffers to hand me over a pile of receipts for prescription drugs made out to the singer by doctors.
I was stunned.
Prescriptions were made out to Michael for a range of painkillers and sedatives, including Demerol and Lidocaine. Rivera told me he was not surprised Michael was found dead.
'There were a lot of enablers around him,' Rivera said. 'Nobody stepped in to get him the help he needed. His doctors enabled him, his friends enabled him. Michael was addicted to drugs.
Addled: Ian Halperin was shown prescriptions for an array of drugs after appearing on a U.S. talk show
'He needed proper medical attention. I call on the authorities to go after these guys. These are pimps for pills.'
The simple truth is this: the most extraordinary fact about Michael Jackson's death is that it made him the highest-earning corpse in the world.
Before he died, he was $500'‰million in debt. Now his estate's vast fortune, estimated at $1.5'‰billion, eclipses the wealth spawned even by Elvis Presley.
Last year, Forbes magazine revealed that he had regained his number-one spot in the list of top-earning dead celebrities, raking in $160'‰million between October 2012 and October 2013.
(This compares with $125'‰million for Madonna, who's still with us, and easily exceeds Elvis Presley's $55'‰million).
John Branca, co-executor of the Michael Jackson estate, admitted to journalist Robin Leach in June 2013 that Michael was now worth much more than he was when alive.
'He's made more money in the four years since his death than he made during his lifetime,' Branca said.
'Since he died, he's sold 50 million albums and is still the biggest-selling artist on iTunes.'
But the details of this vast wealth are tortuously complex and remain highly controversial.
When his estate released a new album, Xscape, last month, featuring a duet with Justin Timberlake and other material recorded in 2001, it topped the charts both in the US and the UK.
It was panned musically but, more tellingly, critics accused Xscape's producers of exploiting Michael's legacy simply from greed.
One headline, from the popular Daily Beast website, thundered: 'Michael Jackson's posthumous album Xscape is a confused, shameless money-grab.'
The eleventh album released since Michael's death was a cash cow, critics claimed.
Quincy Jones, who produced Thriller, Bad and Off The Wall, went further. In a hard-hitting interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he concluded: 'They're trying to make money and I understand it.
'Money-grab': Xscape, released by Michael Jackson's estate last month, was roundly panned
'It's about the money. The estate, the lawyers you know... it's about the money.'
Frank Dileo insisted that Michael never released certain songs because they were not up to his incredibly high standards.
'Michael was a stickler,' he said. 'Unless it was incredible, he would never consider putting it out. I fear that the people who exploited Michael while he was alive are now conspiring to make as much money [as they can] off him in death. It's not the way Michael would have wanted it.'
It was only weeks after Michael's death that the co-executors of his estate, John Branca and John McClain, made headlines for beginning lucrative major merchandising deals.
There was an extension of the contract with Sony from 2015-2017 (allegedly worth $250'‰million); a documentary, This Is It, which became the highest-grossing documentary or concert movie of all time, with earnings of more than $260'‰million worldwide, and two blockbuster shows with Cirque du Soleil which have grossed $300'‰million since opening in 2012.
All that set the wheels in motion to clear Michael's huge debt. For years, his finances had been under strain. Yet in the first 12 months after his death, Michael sold more than 8.2'‰million albums in the US and a total of 35'‰million worldwide.
Posthumously, three of his albums sold more than any new album.
The result was earnings of around $600'‰'‰million '' easily eclipsing the debt of $500'‰million he had when he died.
But although the debt had been paid off, the gold rush triggered desperate infighting among his family. In July 2012, his sister Janet Jackson and four other siblings '' Rebbie, Jermaine, Tito and Randy '' sent a stern letter to the estate accusing them of misappropriating finances and of abusing the Jackson family matriarch, Katherine Jackson.
The letter didn't mince words. 'We know there is most certainly a conspiracy surrounding our brother's death and now coarse manipulation and fear are being used to cover it up,' they wrote.
'Your heartless pursuit of wealth, fame and power is at the expense of our family, whose deepest desire is to give to the world a gift of hope, love and unity through our music.'
Janet and her siblings also questioned the authenticity of the July 7, 2002, will that Michael signed in Los Angeles. The Jacksons alleged that Michael was actually in New York City that day. In the letter, they referred to the will, saying that 'without question, it's fake, flawed and fraudulent'.
However, it has never been proved that the will was fake, and executors Branca and McClain have been quick to respond to the sensational allegations, vehemently denying any wrongdoing.
(Branca had filed Jackson's will in Los Angeles on July 1, 2009, which was initially contested by Michael's mother Katherine, but she later withdrew her objections.)
As well as alleging that the 2002 will was not valid, the Jackson family said Michael would not have wanted Branca and McClain to be the executors.
Disputed will: Some of the singer's siblings, including Janet Jackson, right with her brother in 2004, claimed his will is fake
But estate spokesman Jim Bates said: 'We are saddened that false and defamatory accusations grounded in stale internet conspiracy theories are now being made by certain members of Michael's family whom he chose to leave out of his will.
'We are especially disheartened that they come at a time when remarkable progress has been made to secure the financial future of his children by turning around the estate's finances as well as during a time when so many of Michael's fans, old and new, are enjoying his artistry through exciting new projects.'
In fact, Katherine receives an annual allowance of $1.3'‰million and has taken out a $6'‰million loan.
Michael's three children are paid a $3'‰million allowance annually. In 2012, the family rented another home for $26,000 a month while their main home was being renovated. Storage and moving fees alone that year were a startling $806,872.52.
Then, in April 2013, Michael's family also sued the concert promoter AEG Live, which had asked him to perform the 50 shows.
They asked for $40'‰billion (£25.8'‰billion) in damages, claiming the group negligently hired Dr Murray as his personal doctor and ignored signs that Michael was in poor health before he died.
A jury in Los Angeles exonerated AEG, finding that they played no part in his death.
But the battles over his value did not stop. As is so often the case when a star dies, nobody really knows which stories about their often enigmatic and mysterious lifestyle to believe.
And of no one has this been more true than Michael.
Eyebrows were raised in February 2014 when the Internal Revenue Service accused his estate of submitting a false tax return, valuing Michael at the time of his death at just $7'‰million. His 'likeness' was valued at just $2,105 and his interest in his music at zero.
Yet through the agreement with Sony, he still owned rights to many of the songs in The Beatles' back catalogue.
Not surprisingly, the IRS had a completely different perspective, valuing Michael's likeness at $434'Šmillion and his percentage interest in the music catalogues at $469'‰million.
Once again, Michael's family and his fans were confused by the conflicting reports. How sad that after so many tough financial years for Michael before he died, the money was pouring in once he had left us.
The intolerable pressure on Michael in the run-up to his death, from his ailing health and his financial woes, is clear from his ramblings to his manager.
Dileo said: 'Just a few weeks before Michael died he told me he thought someone would kill him. I thought he was being overly paranoid.
'He told me there were people out there who wanted him dead. He said he didn't think he would live too long and that if anything happened to him he wanted me to know he loved me.'
Yet who was looking out for him? Here was a guy who was deeply paranoid, severely unwell and under unimaginable financial pressure.
Kenny Ortega, director of the documentary This Is It, described Michael in his final days as 'incoherent', saying: 'My friend wasn't right. There was something going on that was deeply troubling me.'
Brian Oxman, the longstanding attorney to the Jackson family, has admitted to me: 'All I heard during the final weeks of Michael's life was that he was missing rehearsal, he could not rehearse. What you saw in the movie [This Is It] was not an accurate reflection of what was really taking place.'
Michael Jackson was undoubtedly a deeply troubled and tormented man. His final years were riddled with debt and extensive drug abuse. What a desperate irony that his financial managers have performed so much better after his death than before.
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MH370
Flight 370 families start whistle-blower fund
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:00
Sarah Bajc, 48, and her partner, Philip Wood, 50, an IBM executive from Texas. Wood was a passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.(Photo: Sarah Bajc)
BEIJING '-- Relatives of passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are launching a crowd-funding campaign to raise a $3 million reward for a whistle-blower to expose key information about the vanished jetliner, the partner of a missing passenger told USA TODAY.
A $2 million fund for private investigators to follow up on promising leads is also being targeted.
Almost three months after the plane disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, some relatives are frustrated by the failure of the official search to find concrete evidence about what happened and in what manner, and they say they are convinced that authorities are concealing the truth.
"We are taking matters into our own hands," said Sarah Bajc, a U.S. citizen whose partner, Philip Wood, 50, an IBM executive from Texas, was on the flight when it disappeared March 8. "There is no credible evidence" the plane is in the southern Indian Ocean, where planes, boats and a mini-sub have searched in vain for weeks, she said.
"I'm convinced that somebody is concealing something," said Bajc, 48, a business studies teacher in Beijing and former executive with Microsoft.
The head of the Australian joint agency overseeing the search rejected the families' claims. "Nothing important is being concealed in any way," said Angus Houston, a former air chief marshal of Australia. "My approach has always been to be as open as I could possibly be," he told USA TODAY.
"Is every piece of analysis out there? I don't think it is," said Houston, who hopes to announce this month the completion of a comprehensive review of all data pertaining to the search. "But the analysis is still ongoing," he added Friday.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, has said that "requests made by next-of-kin and international media cannot be accommodated 100%."
Called Reward MH370: The Search for the Truth, the campaign by families to raise money will launch Monday on the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. The minimum donation will be $5. The relatives got permission from Indiegogo to raise money for a reward, which the firm has not previously permitted, Bajc said.
Of the $5 million sought, $3 million will be put up to reward a whistle-blower for coming forward. The campaign will hire a professional company licensed to operate in multiple countries. Bajc expects its work to include securing court orders, such as to pull cellphone tower records from underneath the flight path.
The campaign is an initiative of family members from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, France and India, Bajc said, and does not involve relatives of passengers from China or Malaysia, whose citizens formed the majority of those on the flight.
"Granted, $2 million in investigation services won't go very far," Bajc acknowledged. "Clearly, they've already spent $100 million, and they've gotten nothing. But we're not going to approach it with boats in the ocean. We're going to approach it with human intelligence."
Potential donors should understand that "there are no promises here, but we believe we need to try something. If we just sit back on our heels and allow the existing path to continue, I don't think this will ever be solved," she said.
The relatives hope they turn up "a whistle-blower who says, 'I know where to find this' " or a flight controller who can access new data, but they expect they will also encounter "some unethical people," Bajc said. "I don't care. I just want to find the plane."
Malaysian officials have repeatedly insisted that the investigation has been fully transparent and that the raw data surrounding the investigation are complex and difficult to explain.
Australian transportation authorities will hire a specialist company to begin a renewed underwater search in a revised search zone in August. A Chinese ship is conducting underwater mapping of the ocean floor to assist the later search. The U.S. Navy's mini-sub Bluefin-21 is no longer being used.
"If there was any evidence that that plane was wrecked in the water, even a seat cushion, I would be taking a totally different approach," Bajc said. "But there's been nothing."
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Hillary 2016
Hillary Clinton's Goldman Sachs Problem.
Thu, 05 Jun 2014 23:53
A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton delivered a much-touted policy speech at the New America Foundation in Washington, where she talked passionately about the financial plight of Americans who "are still barely getting by, barely holding on, not seeing the rewards that they believe their hard work should have merited." She bemoaned the fact that the slice of the nation's wealth collected by the top 1 percent'--or 0.01 percent'--has "risen sharply over the last generation," and she denounced this "throwback to the Gilded Age of the robber barons." Her speech, in which she cited the various projects of the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation that address economic inequality, was widely compared to the rhetoric of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the unofficial torchbearer of the populist wing of the Democratic Party. Here was Hillary, test-driving a theme for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, sticking up for the little guy and trash-talking the economic elites. She decried the "shadow banking system that operated without accountability" and caused the financial crisis that wiped out millions of jobs and the nest eggs, retirement funds, and college savings of families across the land. Yet at the end of this week, when all three Clintons hold a daylong confab with donors to their foundation, the site for this gathering will be the Manhattan headquarters of Goldman Sachs.
Goldman was a key participant in that "shadow banking system" that precipitated the housing market collapse and the consequent financial debacle that slammed America's middle class. (A system that was unleashed in part due to deregulation supported by the Clinton administration in the 1990s.) This investment house might even be considered one of the robber barons of Wall Street. In its 2011 report, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a congressionally created panel set up to investigate the economic meltdown, approvingly cited a financial expert who concluded that Goldman practices had "multiplied the effects of the collapse in [the] subprime" mortgage market that set off the wider financial implosion that nearly threw the nation into a depression.
Hillary Clinton's shift from declaimer of Big Finance shenanigans to collaborator with Goldman'--the firm has donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation'--prompts an obvious question: Can the former secretary of state cultivate populist cred while hobnobbing with Goldman and pocketing money from it and other Wall Street firms? Last year, she gave two paid speeches to Goldman Sachs audiences. (Her customary fee is $200,000 a speech.)
In recent years, Goldman Sachs has hardly exemplified the values and principles Clinton earnestly hailed in her speech. A few reminders:
In April 2011, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who chairs the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, released a report, based on a two-year investigation, that concluded that Goldman had misled clients and Congress about its investments in securities related to the housing market. Levin called on the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate if Goldman had violated the law by selling complicated securities to customers without informing the buyers that Goldman would pocket profits if these financial products dropped in value. Goldman denied the charge, but the previous year Goldman had paid $550 million in a civil settlement with the SEC regarding its sale of these securities. (When the case was first filed, the SEC maintained that Goldman had committed fraud by creating and peddling a mortgage investment that was secretly designed to fail.)In March 2012, Greg Smith, a top Goldman executive who was resigning, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times slamming the screw-the-client culture that permeated Goldman: "To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money'...I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It's purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them'...It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as 'muppets,' sometimes over internal e-mail." The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's report also described Goldman as a first-class predator: "Despite the first of Goldman's business principles'--that 'our clients' interests always come first''--documents indicate that the firm targeted less-sophisticated customers in its efforts to reduce subprime exposure." In other words, the firm knowingly peddled junk to suckers who trusted it. The report quoted an expert who noted that Goldman's actions were "the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen" and who compared Goldman's wheeling-and-dealing to "buying fire insurance on someone else's house and then committing arson."Last year, the New York Times published a fascinating investigative article that revealed how Goldman Sachs and other financial firms engaged in shrewd maneuvers to drive up the cost of aluminum. This rigging of the market, the paper reported, "ultimately costs consumers billions of dollars." That did not help struggling middle-class families.Given Hillary Clinton's Warrenesque address at the New America Foundation, I asked a spokesmen for the potential 2016 candidate if there was anything incongruous about her association with Goldman, and he forwarded this statement:
The support the Clinton Foundation receives from companies such as Goldman Sachs, organizations and individual donors helps maximize the impact of our philanthropic work. This support is helping enterprise partnerships in South America that are creating jobs; efforts to improve access to early childhood education in the U.S.; development programs that help small holder farmers in Africa; and rebuilding and economic development efforts in Haiti.
Goldman Sachs has been a long time supporter of the Clinton Global Initiative where they have advanced a commitment designed to support 10,000 women across the world through business training and education. We are grateful for their support.
A longtime Hillary Clinton adviser said, "She's not giving any more speeches to Goldman Sachs."
Clinton's relationship with Goldman Sachs is not unique. Bill and Hillary Clinton have always nurtured cozy ties with Wall Street'--in terms of policies and funds-chasing (for their campaigns and the foundation). The chief economic guru of the Clinton administration was Robert Rubin, a former Goldman Sachs chairman, and the financial deregulation and free-trade pacts of the Clinton years have long ticked off their party's populists. In his new book, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recalls visiting Bill Clinton at his Harlem office and asking his advice, as Geithner puts it, on "how to navigate the populist waters" and respond to the American public's anger about bailouts and Wall Street. The former president didn't seem to have much sympathy for these popular sentiments and replied by referring to the CEO of Goldman: "You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the bloodlust would rise again."
If Hillary does decide to seek a return to the White House, can she straddle the line? Assail the excesses of Wall Street piracy and tout the necessity of economic fair play yet still accept the embrace, generosity, and meeting rooms of Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street players? During her speech, she offered a good summation of populism, remarking "working with my husband and daughter at our foundation, our motto is 'We're all in this together,' which we totally believe." Yet her association with Goldman might cause some to wonder how firmly she holds this belief'--and how serious she is about reining in those robber barons.
Hillary inside advisers to New York Times: Back Off.
Thu, 05 Jun 2014 23:51
BY:Alana GoodmanJune 4, 2014 4:48 pm
Some of Hillary Clinton's closest aides blasted the New York Times for what they said was unfair coverage of the former first lady during a recent secret meeting with the paper's Washington bureau, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.
Sources said the meeting included Clinton advisers Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, as well as Times Washington bureau chief Carolyn Ryan and national political reporter Amy Chozick, who has been on the Clinton beat for the paper.
During the closed-door gathering, Clinton aides reportedly griped about the paper's coverage of the potential 2016 candidate, arguing that Clinton has left public office and should not be subjected to harsh scrutiny, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
Neither the Times nor the Clinton camp would discuss on the record specifics. However, sources familiar with the meeting describe it as an attempt to brush back and even intimidate the staff of the Times. The sometimes fraught relationship between Clinton and the press has been well documented.
''We are not going to comment,'' said a Times spokesperson when contacted by the Free Beacon.
Reines and another spokesperson for Clinton did not respond to requests for comment.
Chozick's recent reporting includes a story last month that suggested a family feud was brewing between the Clintons and Marjorie Margolies, Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law.
Margolies lost her Democratic primary bid for U.S. Congress in late May, and the Times reported that Hillary Clinton's conspicuous absence from the campaign had rankled some Margolies allies.
In April, the Times also reported on Clinton's difficulty defining her accomplishments at the State Department.
Clinton's allies have been harshly critical of media coverage of the 2016 presidential frontrunner even as the former secretary of State continues her string of high-profile and highly lucrative speaking appearances and prepares to launch a cross-country book tour next week to promote her new memoir Hard Choices.
Clinton visited Colorado this week to give public speeches and tour local factories, in what the Denver Post reported, ''had all the trappings of a campaign visit.''
A group of close Clinton aides, including Reines and former Obama adviser Tommy Vietor, have joined forces to help navigate the messaging campaign for the memoir, Politicoreported last week.
The former secretary of state will sit down with Diane Sawyer on June 9 for her first TV interview about Hard Choices, kicking off a nationwide excursion that will include stops in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Later this month, Clinton is scheduled to participate in a ''network televised town hall'' moderated by CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Politico reported.
And she is slated to return to Colorado at the end of June for a high-profile conference hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative, which will draw political heavyweights and top Democratic funders.
A group of well-funded pro-Clinton super PACs staffed by some of her closest allies has also started laying the groundwork for a potential 2016 campaign.
The Times, which tossed overboard its first female editor last month, is owned by the Sulzberger family, who some have accused of sexism, and by the Mexican oligarch Carlos Slim.
Ottomania
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Erdogan accuses CNN of acting 'like spies'
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:49
Published time: June 03, 2014 16:48Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)
Turkey's prime minister has accused CNN of behaving like spies in an address to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, after the US channel's reporter was arrested live on air last Saturday during a crackdown on protesters in Istanbul.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan ramped up his rhetoric against the western media Tuesday and blasted Ivan Watson, a correspondent for CNN International who was detained during a live broadcast on the anniversary of the Gezi Park protests on May 31.
This is not the first time Erdogan has criticized the activities of the foreign media in Turkey. Last year he accused them of being biased in their reporting of the Gezi Park protests.
''CNN International made an eight-hour broadcast during last year's Gezi events. Why? To stir up trouble in my country. This year, they have been caught red-handed,'' Erdogan said during a weekly address to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament.
''International media organizations who came to Istanbul for provocative and exaggerated broadcasts were left empty-handed,'' Erdogan added, in an apparent reference to the arrest of Watson.
The embattled Turkish PM, who has limited the freedom of speech in his own country, including slapping a ban on Twitter and YouTube, accused CNN of being spies.
''[CNN] doesn't care about a free, impartial and independent press. They are assigned to work like spies,'' he said.
Demonstrators who were marking a year since nationwide protests against Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule were violently dispersed by police Saturday.
In Istanbul, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon against protesters who had amassed on the city's side streets in order to stop them reaching Taksim Square, the center of last year's uprising. A total of 76 people were detained and 14 were injured in clashes with police, according to Turkey's Human Rights Association (Ä°HD). Istanbul police chief Selami Altinok put the figure of arrests late Saturday at up to 120, the Anadolu news agency reported.
RT's correspondent Sara Firth, who was on the scene in Istanbul, tweeted that there were thousands of police in the area of the city surrounding Taksim. She was caught in the tear gas used by police officers.
The police detained Watson's news team as it was in the middle of a live broadcast on Taksim Square.
''Turkish police released the CNN team after half an hour. Officers apologized for another officer who kneed me while I was being detained,'' Watson said on Twitter.
Erdogan has also denounced Der Spiegel and the BBC's Turkish service over their reporting of the Soma mining disaster last month.
Der Spiegel was forced to withdraw their Turkey reporter Hasnain Kazim after he received death threats following his reporting of the mine disaster.
Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported that Kazim received around 10,000 threats from supporters of Erdogan's AKP Party via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, after he wrote an article with the headline ''Go to hell, Erdogan,'' a direct quote from a miner in Soma who was incensed at the prime minister's remark that mining accidents were natural disasters.
Last year's nationwide protests were initially sparked by plans to uproot trees in Istanbul's iconic Gezi Park next to Taksim Square and build a shopping mall on it.
Demonstrators complained that it was one of the last green spaces in the center of Istanbul, and the police's heavy-handed response caused the protests to mushroom in size and intensity.
Three weeks of violent protests followed, leaving six people killed and thousands injured. Another half a dozen people were killed in the ensuing months as the protests continued to simmer.
Erdogan has previously called the protesters extremists and accused them of trying to derail his government's economic achievements over the past few years.
Many of the protesters at Gezi who were from a variety of political backgrounds and mainly young, accuse Erdogan, who is a religious conservative, of authoritarian rule.
Erdogan also insisted in his Tuesday address that the police were evenhanded in their handling of the Gezi protests and promised to screen footage of police crackdowns in other parts of the world.
''So I don't have the right to defend my police? Can such a thing be possible? Go and do this in the United States. Go and do it in Britain and Spain. Those who continually show our police as a target should see how they act in the world,'' he said.
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Russia and Turkey agree on Gulen
Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:51
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu during their meeting in Moscow, Jan. 25, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)
Author: Vitaly Naumkin Posted June 1, 2014
Relations between Russia and Turkey today remain stable and friendly, despite being severely tested by the Syrian crisis and the deterioration of Russia's ties with the West due to the events in Ukraine.
Summary'Ž Print Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Moscow this week, where he found some common ground with the Russian government on Gulen, while continuing to disagree on Syria.According to Russian Turkey experts Natalia Ulchenko and Pavel Shlykov, "in the current format, relations between Moscow and Ankara have reached their 'growth limits': The current model of mainly economic cooperation has largely exhausted itself, while the potential for collaboration on political issues remains untapped." Thus, the situation around Syria has taken "the trust deficit to a whole new level." So, can Moscow keep up the momentum in its dealings with Ankara, or will existing differences cause significant damage?
One of the main issues on the agenda for the talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, held during the latter's visit to Moscow in late May (just after the presidential elections in Ukraine), was Crimea. Although Turkey has not recognized the legality of Russia's annexation of Crimea, the Turkish foreign minister has pointed to the positive side of this move. Turkey, where nearly 5 million descendants of the Crimean Tatars live, is not indifferent to the fate of their kinsmen in Crimea. As was reported, Davutoglu intended to speak in favor of the fact that they "should benefit from rights of autonomy like when they were under Ukrainian administration." It was still unclear, however, to which rights of autonomy the Turkish foreign minister was referring.
During his visit, Davutoglu emphasized that Turkey considers the Crimean Tatars "the indigenous population of the peninsula," noting its "multi-cultural structure." His statement was therefore significant, that "a revival of Cold War behaviors in the world and specifically in the Black Sea basin would not serve any country's interest." The Turkish foreign minister received, with obvious approval, Lavrov's statement that "for the preservation of the Crimean Tatar culture, centres, schools and theatres will be opened." Lavrov's remarks that both parties should assess the problems in Ukraine and Syria on the basis of mutual understanding imply that while disagreements remain, they are unlikely to spill over into an open polemic.
Incidentally, during the Ukrainian crisis both Turkish and Russian media started discussing Ankara's possible claims on Crimea. Recall that the Crimean Khanate '-- once a vassal of Turkey '-- became independent from the Sublime Porte with the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji in 1774. It then came under the protectorate of the Russian Empire until finally becoming part of it in 1783. With the Treaty of Jassy in 1791, Russia secured the entire Northern Black Sea littoral, including Crimea. In 1954, some Turkish media, despite the thaw in relations between Russia and Turkey (in May 1953, Moscow had announced the withdrawal of territorial claims against Turkey, put forward after the Second World War), considered the February 19 transfer of Crimea by the USSR leadership from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian SSR a violation of the Russian-Turkish agreement reached a century and a half earlier. Turkish authorities did not officially react, however.
In the new reality, as I can tell from the results of the visit, the Crimean problem not only didn't poison Russian-Turkish relations, but has even revealed some new prospects for cooperation, taking into account long-term Turkish interests and concerns. Thus, Russian officials, commenting on the outcome of the talks, paid special attention to the energy cooperation between the two countries. According to Lavrov, Russia and Turkey noted that the implementation of the South Stream pipeline project and the construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu, are progressing well. Russian State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin stated that the laying of this pipeline through Serbia and Bulgaria is on schedule: the pipeline will be built through Serbia during 2014, while the first gas delivery will flow through it in 2016.
Paradoxically, what today promotes the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey is Moscow's extremely negative attitude toward the activities and ideas of Fethullah Gulen. In the past, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) were allied with the leader of this Islamic sect '-- which is taking root in many countries around the world and in which a significant portion of Turkey's population is involved, including prominent officials and, in particular, members of the security structures and the judges '-- Moscow's position acted as an irritant for Ankara. Now, however, with the Cold War flaring up between the leader of the AKP and Gulen, who resides in the United States, Moscow's position creates an interest in joint actions to limit his influence. Recall that all Gulenist schools have been closed in Russia, and in 2012 numerous books by this ideologue were included in the federal list of extremist literature by a Russian court decision.
Yet, in Russian public opinion the attitude toward Gulen as an ideologue is ambiguous. This can be convincingly illustrated, in particular, by the assessments included in a paper by an associate at the influential Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Vasily Ivanov, entitled "Fethullah Gulen's Movement: an extremist organization masquerading as supporters of 'the dialogue of civilizations.'" The author believes that Gulen's sect "glamorizes the idea of armed jihad." He lashes out at those Russian experts who try to "position Gulen as a pacifist and even as a supporter of the idea of 'non-violent resistance to evil.'" Examining the interview '' "distributed by the Gulenists" '-- with Russian expert in Islamic studies and professor at the Higher School of Economics Leonid Syukiyaynen, Ivanov writes that in it the leader of the sect "is disingenuously compared with the Indian philosopher Mahatma Gandhi, and it is deceitfully claimed that 'between Gulen and Gandhi there exists a similarity in rejecting all kinds of violence.'"
It should be noted that, even before the split between his supporters and the AKP, Gulen's rejection was shared by many Western and Turkish authors who raised concerns over the Islamization of Turkey and the prospect of losing the secular nature of the state as inscribed in the constitution. Thus, Rachel Sharon-Krespin from the Middle East Media Research Institute wrote in 2009: "Today, Turkey has over 85,000 active mosques, one for every 350 citizens '-- compared to one hospital for every 60,000 citizens '-- the highest number per capita in the world and, with 90,000 imams, more imams than doctors or teachers." She drew attention to the danger of Gulen's activities for Western societies, citing as an example a television appearance by five former Dutch teachers at Gulenist schools, in which they declared that "the Gulen community was moving step-by-step to topple the secular order."
Russian analysts paid attention to reports that a Turkish court recently issued an arrest warrant for '-- and requested that Interpol detain '-- a group of senior Israeli army personnel involved in the killing of nine Turkish citizens on board the Mavi Marmara ferryboat, which was carrying humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. They are then-Israeli Chief of Staff Gabriel Ashkenazi, navy commander Eliezer Marom, chief of military intelligence Amos Yadlin and air force intelligence chief Avishai Levi. Referring to inside sources, Rasim Ozan Kutahyali '-- a columnist for Al-Monitor '-- claims that the Gulen movement was behind this move, as it strives to spoil Erdogan's game as he has begun the process of normalizing relations with Israel.
What seems to be important for mutual understanding between Russia and Turkey is Ankara's desire to develop relations with Orthodox Serbia, something in which Belgrade is also expressing a clear interest. Turkey has shown solidarity with the people of this country '-- who were subjected, like Bosnia and Herzegovina (and, to a lesser extent, Croatia), to the most destructive floods in history '-- by providing Serbs with financial and other material assistance. A large share of material assistance, as is known, was given by Russia, which also actively participated in the evacuation of those affected.
Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/russia-turkey-davutoglu-syria-crisis-ukraine-tatar.html
The 'managed democracies' of Putin and Erdogan.
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:08
One started his career in the KGB, the other in the IETT (Istanbul Municipality Bus Company). Yet today each stands at the pinnacle of political power in his respective homeland. One breaks "oligarchs" '-- that is, business giants '-- via jail or exile, the other imprisons more journalists than any other politician on the planet. One pockets kickbacks from construction at the Winter Olympics, the other winks at workplace safety violations in his crony's coal mine until a disaster like the recent death of 300 miners forces a wake-up. Both are examples of what has been called "managed democracy," the use and abuse of elections by strongmen who see the institutions of political freedom as nothing more than "streetcar stops" on the road to power, as one of them memorably put it.
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Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are the Bobbsey Twins of the Black Sea. These two leaders of neighboring countries connected by a long history are also the very models of modern authoritarian rule. In principle, Erdoğan and Putin are democratically elected and constitutional leaders. In practice, they are well on their way to dictatorship. As Erdoğan once said, "Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off."Each one flaunts aggressive masculinity. The often bare-chested, horse-riding Putin holds a black belt in judo and his publicists make sure everyone knows it. As for Erdoğan, as a young man he played semi-pro soccer in a rough neighborhood of Istanbul that now houses Erdoğan Stadium. But their real talent was for amassing political power, and they show no signs of letting go.
Putin and Erdoğan each appeals to his nation's affinity for a strongman who brings order and prosperity even at the price of liberty. They each have had dramatic economic success, Putin in making Russia a petrochemical giant, Erdoğan in overseeing the greatest manufacturing, investing and building boom in Turkey's history. Meanwhile, they have persecuted opponents, muscled their way into control of television and increasingly digital media too, broken up demonstrations with brutal force, and funneled wealth and power into the hands of their cronies and supporters. Each dreams of a lost empire '-- Putin, the Soviet Union, and Erdoğan, the Ottoman Empire, and each wants to make his country great and powerful again.
Putin is the more chilling because of his ability to project power abroad. Not that Erdoğan hasn't tried, but he hasn't had much success into turning Turkey back into the arbiter of the Middle East, as it was in Ottoman days. Putin uses Russia's mineral wealth to buy influence in Europe. As Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) put it pungently, "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country." Putin has been frustrated by Ukraine's streak of independence and democracy, but he has simply lashed back with his growing military force. He has gotten away with aggression in Crimea and he is likely to dominate eastern Ukraine if not annex it outright. Worse still, neither he nor Erdoğan is going away any time soon.
Putin has been either prime minister or president of Russia since 1999. His current, six-year term of office ends in 2018 and he is eligible to run for reelection. In 2024, term limits will kick in but Putin, who will be 71 then, could simply switch to prime minister, as he did in 2008, when he had no trouble maintaining his dominance of the state, since the de jure president was his protege Dmitry Medvedev. In short, Putin is well on his way to being president for life. It's hard not to suspect that Erdoğan has a similar ambition.
Erdoğan has been Turkey's prime minister since 2003, but term limits will soon put an end to that. Few doubt but that he will run in August in his country's first direct election for president. Although stymied in his attempt to change the constitution to grant more authority to the president, Erdoğan will surely find other ways to turn the presidency into a power base if he wins. The president holds office for five years and is eligible for a second term, which would bring Erdoğan to 2024 if he succeeds twice, at which point he would be 70.
Why do they Putin and Erdoğan each insist on holding on to power? As Mel Brooks said, "it's good to be the king," especially when the king has an agenda. No doubt each one has unfinished business to carry out, and surely each is convinced '-- or assured by his toadies '-- that he is indispensable. But they may well feel they have no choice. Once a strongman puts down the reins of power, he has to face his enemies' knives, metaphorical or otherwise. A similar logic long ago pushed Julius Caesar across the Rubicon and into war with the Roman Senate rather than give up his command. As Caesar later learned, it is unsafe for a dictator to give up his bodyguard, much less his office.
Strauss is the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies at Cornell University.
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Bank$sters
World's first financial system for weed
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:49
DENVER (AP) -- Seeking to move marijuana businesses away from cash-only operations, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation Friday that tries to establish the world's first financial system for the newly legal industry in Colorado.The legislation seeks to form a network of uninsured cooperatives designed to give pot businesses a way to access basic banking services like checking. But approval from the Federal Reserve remains a hurdle.Out of fear of violating federal law, banks don't work with marijuana businesses. That has led to concerns that the burgeoning marijuana industry could be a target for robberies.Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said a member of his organization was robbed a few days ago. The cash-only model has become stressful for businesses and their employees, he said."We don't a need a vault. What we need is checking," he said. "We're looking for a way to take cash out of the businesses."Colorado became the first state to allow recreational pot sales on Jan. 1. Denver Police issued a crime alert Thursday warning of a plot to rob marijuana couriers, those who take dispensary proceeds to pay taxes or bills.The legislation would allow pot businesses to pool money in cooperatives. However, that will only happen with the blessing of the Fed, which has to agree to give the businesses access to payment systems.That has prompted some in Colorado to argue the legislation is merely symbolic.One of the sponsors of the banking bill, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said the legislation is an important step."At minimum, it's a `send a message' bill. Hopefully, it becomes a leverage point to get some attention and get some action on the part of the federal government," he said. "Because they hold the keys on this one. We can't solve this problem at the statehouse in Denver. It's going to require action and participation on the part of federal officials and hopefully this gets us there."He said Friday that he had not heard anything from the federal government.The U.S. Treasury Department said in February that banks could serve the marijuana industry under certain conditions. But a lot of banks have said the guidelines are too onerous.Elliott said that has created a "ridiculous scenario" where pot businesses must pay taxes, but they end up doing so with piles of cash."We would love to pay our taxes with a check," he said.He said he doesn't know yet whether Colorado's banking plan will work. No businesses have yet said they plan to try forming a cooperative."But it's us in Colorado doing everything we can to try to solve this problem," he said.---Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: http://twitter.com/IvanJourno
This New Libor 'Scandal' Will Cause A Terrifying Financial Crisis - Forbes
Thu, 05 Jun 2014 01:21
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Ex-banker falls 1000ft off cliff in fatal Highlands hiking accident
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 11:51
A former banker has died after plunging 1000ft off a cliff in a hillwalking accident in the Highlands.
Daniel Leaf, 55, from Edinburgh, was involved in the accident while on a walking trip on Saturday.
Members of the group he was with called the emergency services after the fall at The Prow on Ben Alder.
The father-of-one was airlifted to hospital by a Navy rescue helicopter, but died from his injuries shortly afterwards.
Mr Leaf was a senior manager at the Bank of Scotland before moving to investment firm Saracen Fund Managers (SFM) in 2011.
A SFM statement said: "Daniel will be remembered as a talented investor, a dedicated member of our team, a good friend and a fine man.
"We will all miss him dearly and our thoughts are with his wife Sandra and son Sam at this sad time."
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: "We received a report that a man had fallen in the Highlands around 3pm while he was walking with a party of other people.
"It appears that they saw him falling and it quickly became apparent he had suffered serious injury. A helicopter was dispatched and he was airlifted off the mountain.
''Due to the nature of the fall a mountain rescue team was not required."
Last year saw among the highest number of recorded deaths in the hills for decades, with 12 people losing their lives.
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Ex-Deutsche Bank Trader Facing Record $17 Million Fine.
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:41
Britain's markets regulator is seeking to fine former Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) trader Christian Bittar about 10 million pounds ($17 million) for trying to rig benchmark interest rates, its largest ever penalty against an individual, said a person with knowledge of the situation.
The Financial Conduct Authority notified Bittar in recent weeks that it intends to penalize him for attempting to manipulate the euro interbank offered rate, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the notice is confidential.
The penalty would dwarf the $9.6 million imposed on Rameshkumar Goenka, a Dubai-based investor, for manipulating stocks in London, the regulator's biggest to date. The FCA has said it's preparing to fine at least seven other traders it didn't identify for their roles in trying to rig the London interbank offered rate or similar benchmarks. At least two may be fined more than one million pounds each, according to people with knowledge of the talks.
The proposed punishment ''speaks volumes about the regulator's focus on robust deterrence,'' said Simon Hart, a lawyer at London-based RPC LLP who isn't involved in the case. The FCA has had ''a longstanding desire to target more senior individuals within regulated firms.''
Bittar is able to appeal the planned penalty to the Regulatory Decisions Committee, an internal FCA advisory panel made up of industry figures including lawyers and accountants, and could turn to the courts if he loses in that bid.
Appealing FinesThe appeal process can take years to conclude, as seen in the case of Ian Hannam, once a top JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker. Last month, he lost a bid to overturn a 2012 fine by the regulator, though the court agreed to review the size of his 450,000-pound penalty.
Bittar, who is based in Singapore and works for hedge fund Bluecrest Capital Management LLP, declined to comment on the penalty.
Deutsche Bank ''is cooperating in the various regulatory investigations'' in relation to Libor, Kathryn Hanes, a spokeswoman for the bank in London, said. She declined to comment on the fine.
Chris Hamilton, an FCA spokesman, and a representative for Bluecrest in London declined to comment.
Deutsche Bank was one of six to be fined in December by the European Commission for rigging Euribor, the benchmark money-market rate for the euro, and yen Libor, which reflects how much banks charge each other for loans in the Japanese currency. German markets regulator Bafin said last month that it expects to conclude its report into Libor manipulation in the middle of the year.
Interbank RatesBittar, 42, was one of the bank's best-paid traders before he was dismissed in December 2011 after the Frankfurt-based lender claimed he had colluded with a counterpart at Barclays Plc to manipulate rates to boost the value of his trades, people with knowledge of the matter said last year. He lost about 40 million euros in bonuses after he was fired, the people said.
At least nine financial firms including Deutsche Bank and Barclays have been fined more than $6 billion in the last two years for manipulating Euribor or similar benchmarks.
Libor, Euribor and other interbank offered rates gauge banks' estimated cost of borrowing over different periods of time. Libor is the benchmark interest rate for more than $360 trillion of securities ranging from mortgages to student loans.
To contact the reporter on this story: Suzi Ring in London at sring5@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net; Heather Smith at hsmith26@bloomberg.net Heather Smith
77,000 foreign banks to share tax info with IRS
Tue, 03 Jun 2014 21:17
Starting in March 2015, these financial institutions have agreed to supply the IRS with names, account numbers and balances for accounts controlled by U.S. taxpayers.
Under the law, foreign banks that don't agree to share information with the IRS face steep penalties when doing business in the U.S. The law requires American banks to withhold 30 percent of certain payments to foreign banks that don't participate in the program'--a significant price for access to the world's largest economy.
The 2010 law is known as FATCA, which stands for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. It was designed to encourage'--some say force'--foreign financial institutions to share information about U.S. account holders with the IRS, making it more difficult for Americans to use overseas accounts to evade U.S. taxes.
Read MoreCredit Suisse on extent of fallout from guilty plea
"The strong international support for FATCA is clear, and this success will help us in our goal of stopping tax evasion and narrowing the tax gap," said Robert Stack, deputy assistant treasury secretary for international tax affairs.
Under the law, U.S. banks that fail to withhold the tax would be liable for it themselves, a powerful incentive to comply. U.S. banks are scheduled to start withholding 30 percent of interest and dividend payments in July, though recent guidance from the Treasury Department gives U.S. banks some leeway on timing as they gear up their systems.
The withholding applies to stocks and bonds, including U.S. Treasurys. Some previously owned securities would be exempt from the withholding, but in general, previously owned stocks would not.
Read MoreWork in one state? Live in another? This may be big
Private investors who use foreign financial institutions to facilitate trades also face the withholding penalty. Those private investors could later apply to the IRS for refunds, but the inconvenience would be enormous.
Treasury released the list of complying banks on Monday so American financial institutions will know it is OK to send them payments without withholding the tax. Treasury is expected to update the list next month, after another push to complete information-sharing agreements.
"I think having 77,000 on this first list is a pretty big success," said Denise Hintzke of Deloitte. "It appears to me that people are taking it pretty seriously and intend to comply."
Banks in many countries are prevented by local privacy laws from sharing account information with foreign governments. To get around these restrictions, the Treasury Department has been negotiating agreements in which foreign governments will collect the information from their banks and then share it with U.S. authorities. Here's a list of countries with information-sharing agreements.
Read MoreRegulators: Deficiencies in 28% of Deloitte audits
Russia was negotiating one of these agreements when the U.S. broke off talks in March. Nevertheless, 515 Russian financial institutions applied to the IRS directly and have been accepted into the program. More could apply in the coming weeks.
'--AP
RBS could fail due to '£100bn black hole' - with British taxpayers in line to lose their entire £45bn stake
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 04:34
A new study of the disgraced bank, which brought the UK to the brink of financial ruin, reveals RBS still has a £100bn ''black hole'' in its finances due to ''five broad areas of alleged criminality and wrongdoing''.
They include the mis-selling of financial products such as payment protection insurance, the alleged duping of investors who were persuaded to plough more than £12bn into RBS shares just before the banking crash in 2008, further fallout from the Libor scandal, and current criminal investigations into the manipulation of the £3trn-a-day foreign exchange markets.
Shredded: Inside RBS, The Bank That Broke Britain, by the financial journalist Ian Fraser, concludes that the governments led by Gordon Brown and David Cameron have ''let the people of Britain down'' by failing to reform RBS after it received its mammoth bailout under the stewardship of former chief executive Fred ''The Shred'' Goodwin.
''The result has been that, at the time of writing, RBS is probably a worse bank than it was under Fred Goodwin,'' Fraser said. ''If the right moves are now made, RBS could become a great bank again. If they're not, I doubt it will even exist in 10 years' time.
''Whatever happens, it now seems impossible that British taxpayers will ever see a return on their £45.5bn investment in the bank,'' he writes in the book.
RBS is under the spotlight again Fraser analyses the bank's extraordinary largesse under Goodwin, whom, he claims, squandered billions of pounds on overpriced acquisitions, fleets of Mercedes and extravagant buildings and decor.
The book also claims that Goodwin and his wife, Joyce, avoided tens of thousands of pounds in personal tax liabilities over their repeated use of a controversial £20m private jet bought by RBS in 2002.
Fraser says the Goodwins' excessive trips on the Dassault Falcon 900EX executive jet led Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to conclude that it should be taxed as a ''benefit in kind''.
Fraser writes :''To avoid this, ex-insiders claim the bank transferred ownership of the corporate jet from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group to RBS's Lombard Aviation leasing subsidiary. This gave the impression that the Falcon 900EX was not just a personal plaything and dedicated air taxi for the chief executive, but was chartered out to third parties on a regular basis.''
The book claims ''most senior RBS executives dreaded going on the plane with Goodwin because of his lack of social skills''. The plane was configured to include a bedroom for Goodwin, which caused a few problems for his co-passengers on long-distance flights, it is claimed.
''Executives who did travel overnight with Goodwin were obliged to sit up all night while Fred reclined in regal splendour in his bedroom aft,'' Fraser writes. ''The arrangement was a double inconvenience since, once Goodwin had gone to bed, the plane's only toilet became inaccessible, because you had to pass through his private suite to reach it. 'We'd be sitting there cross-legged all night,' said one.''
According to Fraser, former RBS chairman George Mathewson ''almost had to plead'' with Goodwin to have use of the jet, which had a maximum range of more than 5,000 miles, meaning it could comfortably fly non-stop from RBS headquarters in Edinburgh to Beijing and almost anywhere in the United States.
The book claims the RBS lavished vast amounts of its shareholders' money to support the lifestyles of its top executives.
One acquaintance is quoted as saying: ''Fred wanted to live like Aristotle Onassis on other people's money.''
Fraser quotes one former RBS insider who criticised the amount of money the bank spent on sponsorship of motor sport. ''The amounts of money that were wasted on Formula One were shocking,'' he said. ''The bank spent about £28m in the first year of the Williams sponsorship.
''There was no logic to it at all '' it was just a vanity thing for Fred and because he liked motor sport.
Racing last year, a sponsored car in the Grand Prix However, Fraser claims the ''true villains of the piece'' are the ''politicians, central bankers, regulators and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision'' who allowed people like Goodwin believe they could ''get away with virtually anything, whilst defying financial gravity and existing above the law''.
Fraser writes: ''Morality and ethics were thrown out the window and we saw the mis-selling of rip-off products on an epic scale '' including the scandals of payment protection insurance and interest-rate swap agreements sold to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
''The Treasury, the FSA [Financial Services Authority] and the Bank of England all turned a deaf ear to the complaints from the banks' millions of 'victims' and paid scant heed to the overall balance-sheet strength '' capital, liquidity and asset quality '' of British banks.
''And, at various stages between 1988 and 2008, British politicians also outsourced critical aspects of banking regulation and supervision to the private sector body, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which enabled the bankers to write their own rules. That, in itself, was an error easily as bad as any committed by Goodwin. So he is right. We can't just blame it all on him.''
Shredded claims the culture at RBS is still as ''poisonous'' as ever, and quotes one City expert who claims the bank was manipulating its finances in 2012 in order to give the impression it could be returned to private ownership.
Tim Bush, head of governance and financial analysis at corporate governance watchdog Pensions and Investments Research Consultants is reported to have told Fraser: ''My analysis was that RBS was aggressively puffing all the numbers in the hope of a quick and dirty sale.'' Fraser said Bush's view was confirmed in June 2013 when regulator the Prudential Regulation Authority identified a further £13.6bn capital black hole at RBS.
Fraser paints a bleak picture for the future of Britain's biggest bank and, as a result, the UK economy.
He concludes: ''If there is to be one lesson from the RBS catastrophe from an internal company perspective, it is that Britain's much vaunted system of corporate governance is broken and is in need of an urgent overhaul.''
Vaccine$
250 More Former Players Join Drug Abuse Lawsuit Against NFL
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:49
Former NFL star Marcellus Wiley added his name to a lawsuit accusing America's most popular pro sports league of illegally dispensing powerful narcotics and other drugs to keep players on the field without regard for their long-term health.
''The first thing people ask is, knowing what happened, would you do it again?'' said Wiley, an ESPN analyst. ''No. No I wouldn't.''
The lawsuit was originally filed May 20 in U.S. District Court in northern California and amended last week to add 250 more players, bringing the total to 750 plaintiffs. Wiley, who played in Buffalo, San Diego, Dallas and Jacksonville from 1997-2006, is the ninth player identified by name, joining former Chicago Bears Jim McMahon and Richard Dent and others.
Six of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including McMahon, were also parties to the concussion-related class-action lawsuit filed against the NFL less than a year ago. The NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle that case '-- without acknowledging it concealed the risks of concussions from former players. A federal judge has yet to approve the settlement, expressing concern the amount is too small.
The new lawsuit, which is seeking class certification, covers the years 1968-2008. It contends team physicians and trainers across the NFL routinely '-- and often illegally '-- provided powerful narcotics and other controlled substances on game days to mask the pain.
Among them were the painkillers Percodan, Percocet and Vicodin, anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, and sleep aids such as Ambien. Lead attorney Steven Silverman said some teams filled out prescriptions in players' names without their knowledge or consent. He said those drugs were then ''handed out like candy at Halloween'' and often combined in ''cocktails.''
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment.
The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. The players contend those health problems came from drug use but many of the conditions aren't tied to the use of painkillers.
Wiley, 39, was not part of the concussion lawsuit, but decided to join former players in this one after suffering partial renal failure in April, despite no history of kidney problems. Wiley said he took ''multiple injections'' of painkillers over the course of a season to cope with an injury that then-San Diego team physician Dr. David Chao diagnosed as severe groin sprain. After the season, an independent doctor diagnosed a torn abdominal wall that required surgery.
''You can't walk into a doctor's office and say, 'Give me this, give me that, just to get through the day.' Somebody would shut the place down,'' Wiley said in a telephone interview. ''But that's what was going on in the NFL. It's easy to get mesmerized. I won't deny that; there's this 'play through-the-pain, fall-on-the-sword' culture, and somebody in line ready to step up and take your place'...''
Chao stepped down as San Diego's team physician last June, after the NFL Players Association called for him to be replaced and filed a complaint. An independent panel cleared Chao.
In April, as part of a stipulated settlement, Chao was placed on probation by the Medical Board of California. His license was also revoked, but that action was stayed while he remains on probation. He was accused of committing gross negligence, repeated negligent acts and acts of dishonesty or corruption. Chao was also found liable of malpractice in 2012 in a case involving a regular patient, not a Chargers player, with a judgment of nearly $5.2 million. Records also show he has been publicly reprimanded by the board and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.
The lawsuit's main burden is proving cause and effect '-- that use of painkillers in the past caused the chronic problems the players face now. The players also would have to show that they are suffering those problems at a greater rate than other people their age, and that it's not due to other risk factors such as obesity, smoking and family history.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Children Receive 80 Vaccinations Throughout Childhood - New Links to Autism Found - Waking Times
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 18:37
Arjun Walia, Collective-EvolutionWaking Times
A new vaccine study published in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular and Genetic Medicine is bringing more awareness to the connection between the dramatic increase in the quantity of routine childhood vaccines and the correlating increase in inflammation-associated disorders. (1)
''A massive increase in immunization has occurred. In the United States for example since just 1999 children are scheduled to routinely receive over 80 additional vaccines over their childhood. The increase in immunization has been followed by a huge increase in inflammation associated disorders like autism.'' (1)
Think about that for a minute, children are scheduled to routinely receive 80 additional vaccines over the course of their childhood. Forget about autism for a moment, there are a number of studies that show vaccines are not completely safe. Here is a video of one doctor explaining why there has never been a safe vaccine, and why there will never be a safe vaccine.
The study argues that vaccine-induced immune overload is a driving factor in multiple childhood epidemics that continue to accelerate. Not only autism, but type 1 diabetes, asthma, food allergies, many autoimmune diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL) and metabolic disease.
''One major problem with vaccines is the concept of one size fits all. Package inserts of almost all vaccines recommend a dose based on age. In order for a vaccine to be a commercial success it is expected to induce a protective immune response in well over 90% of children. In order for this to happen, a dose, based on age, must stimulate a protective immune response in those with the weakest immune system. In the process of doing this, the other 90% or more of children have their immune system over stimulated. The process of over stimulating the immune system time and time again increases the risk of inflammatory diseases like autoimmune disease, and allergies which cause even more inflammation.'' (1)
A number of studies have linked autism to autoimmune diseases (source).
The proposed link to autism in this study comes from one that the lead author referenced in a study he published last year titled ''Prevalence of Autism is Positively Associated with the Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes, but Negatively Associated with the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, Implication for the Etiology of the Autism Epidemic Molecular and Genetic Medicine.'' In this study he describes research that links the prevalence of type 1 diabetes with autism, which suggests that their aetiologies are related and the role vaccines have in these diseases. (Reference # 33 from reference (1) of this article)
Other Studies Suggesting A Vaccine Autism LinkThere are so many people out there who instantly say no, vaccines have no connection to autism, yet researchers from all around the world in published peer reviewed journals continue to question and consider it. Just because (apparently) a direct link has not been discovered does not mean it doesn't exist, and given all of the information in all of these studies, it's ridiculous to completely rule it out and say no.
Before we get into the peer reviewed published information, it's important to look at some independent research as well. Just because they are not published in a peer reviewed journal does not mean that they should be ignored. For example, Dr. Theresa Deisher, a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Physiology from Stanford University, the first person to discover adult cardiac derived stem cells, determined that residual human fetal DNA fragments in vaccines can be one of the causes of autism in children through vaccination. (8) You can learn more about her and her background here. This is why in depended research that's not sponsored by the vaccine manufacturers themselves is so important to look at. This is one example of many.
A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Translational Neurodegeneration provided epidemiological evidence supporting an association between increasing organic -Hg exposure from Thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines and the risk of an ASD diagnosis.(2)
As most of you know Thimerosal is toxic, and a number of studies have linked autism to a variety of toxins like prescription drugs, environmental pesticides and more. This information also comes from another new study that was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, from researchers at the University of Chicago who revealed that autism and intellectual disability (ID) rates are linked with exposure to harmful environmental factors during congenital development. (3) You can read more about this here.
Multiple researchers that are published in peer-reviewed journals are constantly bringing up a potential link between autism and vaccines, and new studies at that. Another example is a paper published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health titled ''Thimerosal Exposure and the Role of Sulfation Chemistry and Thiol Availability in Autism'' which concluded:
''With the rate of children diagnosed with an ASD in the US now exceeding 1 in 50 children and the rate of children with neurodevelopment/behavioral disorders in the US now exceeding 1 in 6 children, and the preceding evidence showing that there is vulnerability to ' that would not be known without extensive testing, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that ' should be removed from all vaccines'' (4)
To view papers regarding the toxicity of thimerosal, click HERE.
A study published in the Journal Annals of Epidemiology has shown that giving the Hepatitis B vaccine to newborn baby boys could triple the risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder compared to boys who were not vaccinated as neonates. The research was conducted at Stony Brook University Medical Centre, NY.
A study published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry by researchers at the Neural Dynamics Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia determined that Aluminum, a highly neurotoxic metal and the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant may be a significant contributing factor to the rising prevalence of ASD in the Western World. They showed that the correlation between ASD prevalence and the Aluminum adjuvant exposure appears to be the highest at 3-4 months of age. The studies also show that children from countries with the highest ASD appear to have a much higher exposure to Aluminum from vaccines. The study points out that several prominent milestones of brain development coincide with major vaccination periods for infants. These include the onset of synaptogenesis (birth), maximal growth velocity of the hippocampus and the onset of amygdala maturation. Furthermore, major developmental transitions in many bio-behavioural symptoms such as sleep, temperature regulation, respiration and brainwave patterns, all of which are regulated by the neuroendocrine network. Many of these aspects of brain function are known to be impaired in autism, such as sleeping and brainwave patterns.
According to the FDA, vaccines represent a special category of drugs as they are generally given to healthy individuals. Further according to the FDA, ''this places significant emphasis on their vaccine safety.'' While the FDA does set an upper limit for Aluminum in vaccines at no more that 850/mg/dose, it is important to note that this amount was selected empirically from data showing that Aluminum in such amounts enhanced the antigenicity of the vaccine, rather than from existing safety. Given that the scientific evidence appears to indicate that vaccine safety is not as firmly established as often believed, it would seem ill advised to exclude paediatric vaccinations as a possible cause of adverse long-term neurodevelopment outcomes, including those associated with autism.
A study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues by the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of New York shows how researchers suspect one or more environmental triggers are needed to develop autism, regardless of whether individuals have a genetic predisposition or not. They determined that one of those triggers might be the ''battery of vaccinations that young children receive.'' Researchers found a positive and statistically significant relationship between autism and vaccinations. They determined that the higher the proportion of children receiving recommended vaccinations, the higher the prevalence of autism. A 1% increase in vaccination was associated with an additional 680 children having autism. The results suggest that vaccines may be linked to autism and encourages more in-depth study before continually administering these vaccines.
View more studies here.
Controversy and Fraud Surrounding VaccinationsThe lead researcher in a paper mentioned above, Dr. Brian Hooker recently obtained documents that show data on over 400,000 infants born between 1991 and 1997 which was analyzed by the CDC. These documents, according to Hooker, prove that in the year 2000 CDC officials were informed internally of the very high risk of autism, non organic sleep disorder and speech disorder as a result of thimerosal exposure. You can read more about that here.
A congressional record from May 1, 2003 clearly shows information from the CDC's own Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) that there is a very high risk of autism as a result of thimerosal containing vaccines. This congressional record is public, and despite this and Hookers research, the CDC still continues to maintain that there is no relationship.(6)
Hooker also obtained an abstract that reads ''increased risk of developmental neurologic impairment after high exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines in the first month of life.'' (7)
Another fishy finding with regards to vaccinations (as I've mentioned many times before) comes from Lucija Tomljenovic, PhD from the Dept. of Opthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia. She obtained documents that prove health authorities, pharmaceutical companies and vaccine manufactures have known about the dangers associated with multiple vaccines, but withheld them from public knowledge in order to maintain ''herd immunity.'' (5)
As you can see, the vaccine autism link is speculated at the highest level of science, not just by those deemed as ''conspiracy theorists.'' There is evidence to back up the concern. I think it's also noteworthy to mention that Congressman Bill Posey recently called out the CDC, expressing that they should be investigated. You can read more about that here.
Even an FDA document brings up the concern with regards to Autism and vaccines, you can read more about that here.
I'd like to end this article with a video done by the The Canary Party, it goes more into the political side of things when it comes to vaccine related injuries.
Sources:
http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/study-links-vaccine-induced-immune-overload-autism-diabetes-obesity
(1) http://www.vaccines.net/vaccine-induced-immune-overload.pdf
(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24354891
(3)http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1003518
(4)http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/10/8/3771
(5)http://nsnbc.me/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/BSEM-2011.pdf
(6)http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2003-05-21/pdf/CREC-2003-05-21-pt1-PgE1011-3.pdf
(7)http://www.ashotoftruth.org/sites/default/files/exhibit_22_-_verstraeten_et_al_1999_abstract_risks_of_autism.pdf
(8)http://soundchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DNA_Contaminants_in_Vaccines_Can_Integrate_Into_Childrens_Genes.pdf
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Modi
Just as we predicted, India's new leader is about to make Pierre Omidyar a lot richer
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:47
By Mark AmesOn June 4, 2014
Well that was fast. Two weeks ago, we reported that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's top man in India had secretly helped elect controversial ultranationalist Narendra Modi, implicated by Human Rights Watch and others in the gruesome mass killings and cleansing of minority Muslims. As we also revealed, shortly after Omidyar's man publicly joined the Modi campaign in February, Modi suddenly began warming up to the idea of letting global e-commerce companies into the world's third largest economy. Omidyar's eBay, which draws the majority of its revenues from overseas operations, has been champing at the bit to get into India.
Now, just weeks after Modi's election, it seems their prayers have been answered.
Today, Reuters is reporting that Modi is planning to open India up to global e-commerce firms like eBay next month, and that Modi's industry minister has been drawing up the new guidelines with input from top eBay officials, along with their e-commerce counterparts from Google, Amazon, Wal-Mart and others.
Calling the move to allow foreign e-commerce into India ''one of the first tangible signs of economic reform by the business-friendly government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,'' Reuters reports that the sector is expected to quadruple its share of the overall economy by 2020. India's e-commerce industry is growing at 40-50% annually. Those numbers, and Modi's accommodating behavior, is making Pierre Omidyar's underlings salivate:
''Deepa Thomas, spokeswoman for eBay in India, said it was excited about the opportunity and believed in the need for a carefully calibrated approach to opening up the sector.
''The industry ministry that drafts FDI rules recently met officials from companies including Amazon, Google, eBay Inc, Wal-Mart and Indian e-tailer Flipkart to finalise the investment guidelines, the people said.
''Global online retailers like Amazon and eBay are currently banned from selling products they have sourced themselves, and must rely on third-party suppliers. Their platforms, which they own fully, are marketplaces for these outside suppliers.
''The government is likely to end this ban, paving the way for global retailers to bring their formidable supply chain, and cheaper goods, into India, potentially boosting consumption and benefiting small manufacturers and traders.''
As we reported, the longtime managing director and partner for Omidyar Network India Advisors, Jayant Sinha, began working to help elect Modi since at least 2012, while publicly doling out tens of millions of Omidyar's money to for-profits and to non-profits, at least one of which was involved in an anti-corruption campaign that undermined the center-left ruling government, and benefited Modi's far-right BJP party.
Omidyar's top India man also concurrently served as a director in a powerful BJP think tank, the India Foundation, chaired by Modi's hardline National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval '-- ''a giant among spies'' according to the Hindustan Times. After stepping down from Omidyar Network in February of this year, Sinha worked full-time for Modi, the India Foundation, and for his own successful run as a BJP candidate for parliament.
Another NGO that Omidyar invested in, the Institute for Policy Research Studies (IPRS), was accused of illegally trying to lobby India's parliamentarians to vote for opening up India's e-commerce market in late 2012. The IPRS nonprofit ran a program in which their staffers provided India MP staffers with ''nonpartisan'' research. In 2012, India's intelligence bureau accused the IPRS of ''compromising national security'' and described it as ''shrouded in mystery.''
Omidyar Network had pledged $1 million to the IPRS, and the Ford Foundation pledged half a million more '-- but the Indian government rejected the IPRS's application to register as a foreign-funded NGO, deeming it a threat to India's parliamentary integrity, and its national security. Google's corporate philanthropic arm, Google.org, had previously given $880,000 to the same NGO program, under Sheryl Sandberg's watch.
The co-founder of this controversial never-registered NGO, CV Mudhakar, is now, you might not be shocked to learn, Omidyar Network India's director of investments in ''government transparency.''
The previous, center-left Indian government not only nixed the Omidyar-Ford Foundation NGO-slash-e-retailer-lobby front, it also announced last year that it did not plan to allow e-commerce firms like eBay open access into its markets. This despite the fact that the Obama administration was pressuring India's government to let eBay in, according to The Hindu:
''The U.S. Government has been pressing the Indian government to open up the e-commerce sector to foreign investors. U.S. companies such as Amazon and eBay have been lobbying hard for it both in the U.S. and India, and, in the past, have met Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, on the issue a number of times,'' the official said.
The Government had allowed 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail stores in September last year, but categorically stated that foreign investments would not be allowed in e-commerce.
The answer to that business problem, of course, was changing India's government '-- even if that meant installing a brutal figure like Narendra Modi, who spent nearly a decade on the US State Department's visa ban list for his role in the violent persecution of minority Muslims and Christians.
That's terrible and all from a human rights perspective, but when you consider the interests of eBay's shareholders '-- like its number one shareholder, Pierre Omidyar '-- India presents not so much a problem as an opportunity. The majority of eBay's revenues come from its overseas operations, and eBay has made no secret that it sees its future growth coming from India and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China).
Earlier this year, eBay upped its investment into one of India's top e-commerce firms, Snapdeal, investing another $134 million on top of the $50 million invested in 2013. It was yet another sign of how important India is to eBay's future growth.
When eBay upped its investments in February, eBay senior vice president Jay Lee commented:
''Accelerating growth in India and other emerging markets continues to be a core strategy for driving eBay's global e-commerce leadership. eBay is excited about the prospects ahead for both, Snapdeal and the eBay India business.''
Indeed. No one could be happier than eBay's largest shareholder, Pierre Omidyar. His many fans in the media and the liberal-left community who've been singing the billionaire's praises might find this latest development depressing '-- Omidyar profiting off far-right authoritarianism '-- but the upside is, if Modi comes through, there'll soon be more billions for Omidyar to wave before the remains of America's independent journalism community.
(Special thanks to Aditya Velivelli for helping educate me about India's complex politics and social fabric'--M.A.)
Read more of our coverage of Pierre Omidyar's investments in India and Ukraine here, here, and here.
Obama Nation
The Contraction of the U.S. Economy - No, it wasn't the Harsh Winter
Wed, 04 Jun 2014 12:02
Trying to predict the market is going to do is like attempting to predict the weather (though meteorologists arguably have a better track record than economists). It doesn't help when the numbers are cooked beyond recognition.
According to some, 2014 was supposed to be the year that the U.S. economy finally pulled shakes off the last remnants of the recession. A boost in new home construction was going to send a ripple of goodness throughout the economy and inflation was going to remain stable.
So far those predictions have not panned out. Rather than growing, the U.S. economy actually contracted 1% in the first quarter, inflation is rising across the board (to such a degree that even mainstream pundits are forced to acknowledge it), wages are stagnant, and a record number of Americans have completely exited the workforce, yet somehow the stock market keeps hitting new highs, and of course a rebound is just around the corner.
The official explanation for the contraction: an unusually harsh winter. This is just a temporary bump in the road. From here on out we're going up, up, up. No one in the mainstream media dares ask the obvious question: might this have something to do with the fact that the Federal Reserve began to taper down QE3 in that same period?
Of course they won't ask that question. The implications of an honest answer would be far too damaging.
Since 2009 the Federal Reserve has engaged in an unprecedented streak of money creation, which they have affectionately dubbed quantitative easing (or QE). QE3, which began in 2012, differed from previous bailouts or stimulus programs in that it had no defined end date. QE3 would continue until the Federal Reserve saw fit. So for the past two years they have injected roughly 85 billion dollars into the banking system every month.
Early this year the Fed announced that they were going to begin 'tapering' down QE3, and at this point they are only pumping around 40 billion dollars into the system each month. Eventually they say this program will be wound down completely, and interest rates will be allowed to rise. Interest rates have been held artificially at around zero since 2008.
The idea that this massive influx of money can be withdrawn, and interest rates normalized without having any effect on the economy is nonsense. That's like saying that you could remove the sun without having any effect on the earth's temperatures. Of course the effects may take a while to show themselves. The amount of sunlight hitting earth peaks in mid June in the northern hemisphere, but temperatures continue to rise well into August across most of the United States. Likewise, money that was printed months ago is still running its course, that's why we're seeing prices rise across the board, and record highs in the stock market. However for the average Joe, this hasn't translated into an improved standard of living.
By the official numbers, unemployment is down, sitting around 6%, however no one likes to mention the fact that the government arrives at this figure only by omitting those who have given up and are no longer looking for a job. As of May, 2014, 92 million working age Americans have completely left the labor force. That's almost 1/3 of the U.S. population, and they are not being counted! Just by itself, this is an astounding figure, but it is completely in line with several other real world indicators. For example, according to a study by Pew research, more than 1 in 3 millennials (people between the age of 18 and 31) are living with their parents, and the USDA estimates that roughly 101 million Americans are currently receiving food assistance from the federal government. Taken as a whole, the message is clear, at least one third of America's population is struggling financially to some degree.
But don't worry, we're in a recovery. Hey just look at the S&P 500.
This disconnect between the performance of the stock market and the reality on the ground has been growing, and the cause should be obvious to any honest observer. QE3 is just a new spin on trickle down economics, and trickle down economics doesn't work.
If you inject billions of dollars into the banking system, it will boost the stock market, but though most mainstream economist consider this and GDP to be the primary measures of economic health, it's not going to help those who actually work for a living. That should be obvious at this point. Furthermore, this disconnect can't continue forever. The stock market may ride a wave of irrational exuberance to a new set of highs for a while (or the Fed may pull back from the taper), but what goes up, must come down. When it does, they'll have a new excuse ready.
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VIDEO-Oliver North: I Know a Ransom of $5-6 Million Was Paid to Free Bergdahl
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:34
Tuesday on NewsMax TV, former U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North said U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was not a prisoner of war because he was actually being held "hostage" by the Haqqanis, a terrorist group separate from the Taliban and associated heavily with al Qaeda.North said he knew there was at least a $1 million dollar ransom being demanded for Bergdahl some time ago so he estimated the price paid to release the hostage must be close to $5-6 million now.
"Someone paid a ransom," North said. "Whether the Qataries paid it, or some big oil sheik, or somebody used our petrodollars, but there was a ransom paid in cash for each one of them, my guess somewhere in the round numbers of $5 or 6 million to get Bergdahl freed. I know that the offer that was on the table before was close to a million."
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN
VIDEO-IMF boss rules herself out for top European Commission job | euronews, world news
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:21
IMF boss Christine Lagarde has ruled herself out as a potential candidate for the job of European Commission president.
She wants to finish her term in charge of the International Monetary Fund.
''I am not a candidate and the reason I am not a candidate is that I have a job ('...) and which I intend to complete,'' Lagarde said in response to a question at a news conference in London. ''As my young son would have said: 'Mum when you start something you've got to finish the job'.''
Former Luxembourg prime minister Jean Claude Junker is considered the front runner, but Britian's David Cameron has made it clear he opposes him. The leaders of Sweden, Hungary and Italy, among others, have also voiced doubts.
Some analysts even expect Juncker to pull out of the race after support from Germany's Angela Merkel cooled.
Juncker's European People's Party did not win a majority in last month's elections, so to become president he would need support from other political groups.
European leaders have given themselves until late June to reach a deal on the top position.
The eventual nominee must win majority support in the European Parliament to get the job.
VIDEO-Clinton Addresses Concerns Over Her Health, Then Takes Shot at Major GOP Figure | Video | TheBlaze.com
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 03:13
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed concerns over her health and took a jab at GOP strategist Karl Rove, during part of a sit down interview that aired Friday night.
''How is your health?'' Sawyer asked.
''It's very good, thank you,'' responded Clinton, who many suspect will launch a bid for the White House in 2016.
Sawyer followed up, ''How serious was it?''
''It was, you know, it was I think a serious concussion,'' Clinton answered.
''But the clot in addition, if the clot had dislodged,'' Sawyer said.
''Well, can I tell, you that was a scary point,'' Clinton said, noting that ''because of the force of the fall'' she had ''double vision for a short period of time.'' and ''some dizziness.''
The former Secretary of State, who said she'll ''probably'' be on blood thinners for the remainder of her life, then took a jab at Karl Rove, who had raised questions about her health earlier this year.
''What would you like to say to Karl Rove about your Brain?'' Sawyer asked.
''I know he was called Bush's brain in one of the books written about him and I wish him well,'' Clinton said.
The entire interview with Clinton is set to air Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
'--
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
VIDEO-Barack Obama says Scotland should remain part of United Kingdom - Telegraph
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:45
Mr Obama's comments were the most forthright yet by any world leader and represented a major boost to the campaign to save the UK. It also undermined the Nationalists' claim a separate Scotland would be warmly welcomed on the world stage.
Within minutes of the remarks, the pro-UK Better Together campaign had mocked up a pastiche of one of Mr Obama's election posters, changing the slogan from ''Hope'' to ''Nope''.
The President said it is in the US interest that Britain remains ''robust and united''.
Speaking at a joint press conference with David Cameron at the G7 summit in Brussels, he said: ''With respect to the future of the United Kingdom, obviously ultimately this is up to the people of Great Britain.
"In the case of Scotland, there is a referendum process in place and it's up to the people of Scotland.
''But I would to say the United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well."
''We obviously have a deep interest in making sure one of the closest allies we will ever remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner,'' he said.
Prominent unionist politicians argued that he had ''every right'' to explain how independence would affect the Special Relationship with the US and his intervention would help voters realise how well regarded the UK is internationally.
''I welcome this important contribution by President Obama," said Douglas Alexander, the Labour shadow foreign secretary. "His clear statement of support for the UK staying together will resonate with many of us here in Scotland.
''As a global statesman President Obama understands that interdependence is a defining feature of our modern world, and that building bridges, not putting up new barriers, is the challenge of our generation.''
Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "President Obama's remarks allow us to see ourselves as others see us. He clearly values the United Kingdom. Although people here will decide for ourselves, his view is a significant contribution to our discussion about our future."
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Salmond said: ''America had to fight for its independence. We are very fortunate in Scotland that we have a democratic, agreed, consented process by which we can vote for our independence.
''So, in summary, I suppose my message to President Obama is 'yes we can'.''
Furious Nationalists retaliated with a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse directed at the US President on Twitter, with many telling him to butt out of a Scottish decision.
Pete Wishart, a SNP MSP, said Scottish voters do not care what President Obama thinks, while other prominent Nationalist figures argued that the US wants to keep the UK as its ''lapdog''.
International affairs experts had warned the US would be deeply unhappy about Mr Salmond's plans to get rid of Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent, but the extent to which the President was willing to attack separation surprised observers.
Lord Malloch-Brown, a Foreign Office minister in Gordon Brown's Labour government, expressed his "surprise" at Mr Obama's comments. He added: ''I don't think it will be very helpful for anybody."
Genealogists believe they can trace Mr Obama's ancestry to William the Lion, who ruled Scotland from 1165 to 1214. A maternal ancestor of Mr Obama, Edward FitzRandolph, is said to have emigrated from Scotland to America in the 17th century.
The First Minister invited him to attend the 2009 Homecoming Festival but did not receive a reply. The pair have never met.
However, the President led international condemnation in 2009 of the decision by Mr Salmond's administration in Edinburgh to free the Lockerbie bomber and allow him to return to Libya to a hero's welcome.
Experts have also warned that the US would vigorously oppose the First Minister's plan to move Britain's Trident nuclear submarines from the Clyde after independence.
There is widespread concern there is nowhere else suitable for them, meaning Britain would be forced to abandon its nuclear deterrent and Nato part of the ''supreme guarantee'' of its members' security.
Mr Obama reiterated his call for Britain to remain in the European Union, saying Britain needs a ''seat at the table'' in Europe because the UK and US share a ''strategic vision'' on a range of international issues.
''In light of the events that we are going to be commemorating tomorrow, it's important to recall that it was the steadfastness of Great Britain that in part allows us to be here in Brussels in the seat of a unified and extraordinarily prosperous Europe.''
''It's hard for me to image that project going well in the absence of Great Britain, and it's hard for me to imagine it would be advantageous for Great Britain to be excluded from political decisions that have an enormous impact on its economic and political life.''
''I'm sure the people of Britain will make the right decision,'' he said.
Mr Cameron, Mr Salmond and Mr Obama will tomorrow attend a commemoration of the D-Day landings in Normandy.
Mr Obama said: "Whenever our two nations stand together, it can leave a world that is more secure and more prosperous and more just, and we will be reminded of that again tomorrow in Normandy as we mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
"On that day, like so many others, American and British troops stood together and fought valiantly alongside our allies. They didn't just help to win the war, they helped to turn the tide of human history and are the reason that we can stand here today in a free Europe and with the freedoms that our nations enjoy
"Theirs is the legacy that our two nations and our great alliance continue to uphold and I'm grateful to have a fine partner in David in making that happen."
Mr Cameron said: "As we stand together in Europe on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, we should remind the world of the strength and steadfastness of the bond between the United Kingdom and the United States. Seventy years ago, our countries stood like two rocks of freedom and democracy in the face of Nazi tyranny.
"Seventy years ago tonight, thousands of young British and American soldiers, with their Canadian and Free French counterparts, were preparing to cross the Channel in the greatest liberation force that the world has ever known.
"Those young men were united in purpose, to restore democracy and freedom to continental Europe, to free by force of arms ancient European nations, and to allow the nations and peoples of Europe to chart their destiny in the world.
"Thousands of those young men paid the ultimate price and we honour their memory today and tomorrow. Shortly after D-Day my own grandfather was wounded and came home.
"We will never forget what they did and the debt that we owe them for the peace and the freedom that we enjoy on this continent."
VIDEO-Haiti: Anti-government protesters call for President Martelly to quit | euronews, world news
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:41
Haitians have taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince calling for the resignation of president Michel Martelly and fresh elections amid growing political anger in the Caribbean nation.
An estimated 5,000 people marched through the centre of the capital to protest against what they claim is a lack of action by authorities to alleviate hunger and tackle a cholera epidemic.
Despite starting off peacefully, the protest quickly escalated with riot police firing tear gas to disperse the crowd as protesters burned tyres and blocked streets.
Anti-government protests in Haiti have become increasingly common in recent months as discontent grows over perceived government corruption and a lack of change in the impoverished country since a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 which left tens of thousands dead.
President Martelly, who is midway through a six-year term, has accused his opponents of fomenting instability and blocking legislation that would help the country.
Earlier this year, Martelly appointed a nine-member council tasked with organising municipal and legislative elections this year that were supposed to be held more than two years ago.
VIDEO-Netflix responds to Verizon's cease and desist letter
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:36
Verizon Communications on Thursday demanded that Netflix immediately stop displaying messages to customers that place blame on Verizon's broadband service for slow delivery of Netflix TV shows and movies.
In a cease-and-desist letter sent to Netflix, Verizon also asked Netflix to provide a list of customers on the Verizon network to whom Netflix delivered the notices and other information or face legal action.
"Failure to provide this information may lead us to pursue legal remedies,'' Verizon general counsel Randal Milch said in a letter to Netflix general counsel David Hyman.
In mid-May, Netflix started displaying messages on the screen for some customers when a video is buffering that say there is congestion on the network of Verizon or another Internet service providers.
Netflix said on Thursday the messages are meant to provide customers more information about their service, similar to its publication of a speed index that ranks Internet service providers.
"This is about consumers not getting what they paid for from their broadband provider,'' Netflix spokesman Jonathan Friedland said. "We are trying to provide more transparency, just like we do with the ISP Speed Index, and Verizon is trying to shut down that discussion."
VIDEO-Former NSA Director: 'An attack is going to come' '' Amanpour - CNN.com Blogs
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:20
By Mick Krever, CNN
The former director of the U.S.'s National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, warned Thursday that the NSA, mired in controversy over alleged overreach, will inevitably come under another kind of negative scrutiny when the next terrorist attack comes.
''I do think an attack is going to come and hit us or Europe,'' he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview. ''And then people are going to swing this right around.''
''What is it that NSA actually does? Let's get those facts on the table.''
''Put it on the table, look at it, and say is that a reasonable way to do it? And if not, what would you suggest? What would others suggest? Nobody's been able to come up with a better fix.''
Thursday marks one year since the first revelations from leaker Edward Snowden were revealed. General Alexander led the spying organization until earlier this year, and has since founded a cybersecurity company, Ironnet.
''We do need a debate: Where should the line be on civil liberties, privacy, security? And I don't think there's a line; there's a balance. How do we do both?''
Amanpour asked Alexander, ''Do you get that the trust has been broken?''
''Yes,'' he said. ''To be completely candid on this, part of it is we haven't defended ourselves well publicly. You know, we got way behind in the media on this in part because we were concerned that we'd reveal things that would hurt our nation.''
''As a consequence, the media took off with a lot of facts or information that wasn't factually correct.''
Whether it is just a public relations problem, as Alexander says, or whether there are genuine issues with the way the NSA gathers information has been the subject of much global debate.
Germany's chief federal prosecutor announced on Wednesday that he had opened a criminal investigation into NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.
Alexander said he hoped the probe would not harm the countries' intelligence relationship, which since Snowden's revelations has already been quite tumultuous.
''I think that cooperation is absolutely vital, especially for Germany, because the United States provides so much intelligence, especially on the terrorism front, to protect Germany and our other European allies.''
Does the U.S. not, Amanpour asked, also get important intelligence from Europe?
''It goes both ways; but I think on the terrorism front, I think that's where they really look to the United States for help.''
''I think what we have to do is reset what's going on in all this area.''
But lest someone think that means doing away with the NSA's controversial programs, Alexander gave a full-throated endorsement of his former agency's activities.
''I'm not talking about taking the programs off the table. I think what we've done a terrible job in, is explaining what those programs do.''
''It's legal, it's what they're authorized, and it's effective.''
''There are a series of programs; each of those help us build the picture. And if you start taking some of those off the table, the question is, when does it become too difficult for the analysts to conclude what happened? That's how 9/11 occurred.''
AUDIO-'Citizens United' And The Koch Brothers | On Point with Tom Ashbrook
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 22:08
''Citizen Koch.'' A new documentary goes hard on the Koch Brothers and their imprint on American politics.
In this Aug. 30, 2013 file photo, Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla. (AP)
Everyone knows the story of big money blowing up in American politics. It's happening again right now, for mid-term elections and the 2016 vote ahead. Filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin went out to show how it really works, on the ground. Not just big money. Super-sized money. They named their documentary ''Citizen Koch'' '' as in the billionaire Koch brothers. Then things really got hairy. Funding pulled. Kickstarter to the rescue. The push for a constitutional amendment on campaign spending. This hour On Point: giant money in our politics and ''Citizen Koch.''
'' Tom Ashbrook
GuestsCarl Deal, documentary filmmaker. Co-director and co-producer of the new documentary ''Citizen Koch.'' Also director of the Oscar-nominated documentary ''Trouble the Water.''
Tia Lessin, documentary filmmaker. Co-director and co-producer of the new documentary ''Citizen Koch.'' Also director of the Oscar-nominated documentary ''Trouble the Water.''
Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. (@HvonSpakovsky)
Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation. Co-author of ''The Cheating of America'' and ''The Buying of the President 2004.'' (@bill_allison)
From Tom's Reading ListWashington Post: An amazing map of the Koch brothers massive political network '' The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents. The filings show that the network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially outpaced other independent groups on the right and, on its own, matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions that serves as one of the biggest sources of support for Democrats.''
New Yorker: Covert Operations '' ''The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry'--especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers' corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a 'kingpin of climate science denial.'''
The Wall Street Journal: Charles Koch: I'm Fighting to Restore a Free Society '' ''A truly free society is based on a vision of respect for people and what they value. In a truly free society, any business that disrespects its customers will fail, and deserves to do so. The same should be true of any government that disrespects its citizens. The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.''
Watch A Trailer For ''Citizen Koch''
VIDEO-EXCLUSIVE: Bergdahl declared jihad in captivity, secret documents show | Fox News
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 23:44
U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at one point during his captivity converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a "mujahid," or warrior for Islam, according to secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News.
The reports indicate that Bergdahl's relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, "he became much more of an accepted fellow" than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times.
The documents show that Bergdahl at one point escaped his captors for five days and was kept, upon his re-capture, in a metal cage, like an animal. In addition, the reports detail discussions of prisoner swaps and other attempts at a negotiated resolution to the case that appear to have commenced as early as the fall of 2009.
The reports are rich in on-the-ground detail -- including the names and locations of the Haqqani commanders who ran the 200-man rotation used to guard the Idaho native -- and present the most detailed view yet of what Bergdahl's life over the past five years has been like. These real-time dispatches were generated by the Eclipse Group, a shadowy private firm of former intelligence officers and operatives that has subcontracted with the Defense Department and prominent corporations to deliver granular intelligence on terrorist activities and other security-related topics, often from challenging environments in far-flung corners of the globe.
The group is run by Duane R. ("Dewey") Clarridge, a former senior operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s best known for having been indicted for lying to Congress about his role in the tangled set of events that became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. He was pardoned by the first President Bush in December 1992 while on trial.
Clarridge counts a number of achievements in his spy career as well, including a prominent role in the establishment of a national counterrorism center at CIA, a move widely copied around the world by foreign intelligence agencies. A New York Times profile of Clarridge published in January 2011 disclosed the contractual relationship Eclipse had with the Pentagon, through subcontractors, and reported further that Clarridge's activities had included efforts to help find Bergdahl.
Clarridge told Fox News his group enjoyed a subcontract through the assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict from November 2009 through May 31, 2010, and that after the contract was terminated, he invested some $50,000 of his own money to maintain the elaborate network of informants and handlers that had yielded such detailed accounts of Bergdahl's status.
Clarridge further told Fox News that by the end of 2010, he had furnished at least 13 of these detailed SITREPs, or situation reports, that his network generated about Bergdahl to Brig. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr., who in April 2010 was named director of intelligence, at the J-2 level, at U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
Clarridge said Eclipse SITREP # 3023, dated Aug. 23, 2012 -- in which a member of the Haqqani network, said to be close to Bergdahl's captors, reported that the American prisoner had declared himself a "mujahid" -- was among the reports provided to Ashley.
The latter is now commanding general at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, where a message left with the public affairs office was not immediately returned.
The documents obtained by Fox News show that Eclipse developed and transmitted numerous status reports on the whereabouts of the errant American soldier, spanning a period from October 2009, roughly three months after Bergdahl reportedly walked off his base in Afghanistan and fell into custody of the Haqqani network, up through August 2012.
At one point -- in late June 2010, after Bergdahl succeeded in one of his escape attempts -- the Haqqani commanders constructed a special metal cage for him, and confined him to it. At other points, however, Bergdahl was reported to be happily playing soccer with the Haqqani fighters, taking part in AK-47 target practice and being permitted to carry a firearm of his own, laughing frequently and proclaiming "Salaam," the Arabic word for "peace."
Reached by telephone, retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, a 45-year service veteran who served as CENTCOM commander from August 2010 to August 2012, told Fox News he may have received bits and pieces of the intelligence generated by Eclipse, but said Ashley, with whom he maintained a close working relationship, had not forwarded on to him the specific SITREPs cited by Fox News.
Mattis was also adamant that no one at CENTCOM or within the broader U.S. military or intelligence community -- despite intensive investigation of such allegations -- ever learned of anything to suggest Bergdahl had evolved into an active collaborator with the Haqqani network or the Taliban. "We were always looking for actionable intelligence," Mattis said. "It wasn't just the IC [intelligence community]. We had tactical units that were involved in the fight. We had SIGINT. Any collaborators who were on the other side and who came over to our side. We kept an eye on this. ... There was never any evidence of collaboration."
Fox News reported on Monday that Bergdahl was the subject of a "major classified file" prepared by the U.S. intelligence community, and that many members of that community harbored concerns that Bergdahl, during his period of captivity, may have engaged in collaboration with the enemy.
Experts consulted by Fox News said that SITREP # 3023 presents a picture of an American captive who, if not an active collaborator, may have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome -- the dynamic by which hostages can become enamored of their captors and join their cause -- or simply feigned allegiance in order to survive. The report cited a source new to Eclipse -- a member of the Haqqani network said to be close to Mullah Sangeen, the Haqqani commander charged at all points over the last five years with operational custody and control of Bergdahl -- whose trustworthiness had not been fully vetted by the group. However, the report stated, the informant "does have plausible access to the information reported below, and claims to have seen Bergdahl personally in Shawal," in North Waziristan.
"In the early stages Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's captivity," the report states, "he was held at Palasin, Naurak, FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], under the control of Mullah Sangeen and under the direct supervision of Haji Mursaleem, Sangeen's father. Conditions and locality changed after Mursaleem died [in September 2010], and Bergdahl was kept under tight guard after his attempted escape from his new place of detention in Shawal.
"As of August 2012," the report continues, "the person with responsibility for Bergdahl's captivity is Sangeen's brother, who has delegated the actual guarding of Bergdahl to Abubakr Asadkhel, a Burra Khel Wazir loyal to Sangeen, and whose sub-tribe lives in Shawal. Abubakr leads approximately 200 armed men from his tribe and operates from five bases (markaz) in Shawal. ... Abubakr's tribe is one of the prosperous branches of the Wazir and owns lots of trucks. Abubakr circulates his prisoner between schools in the area he controls, and his different insurgent bases."
Conditions for Bergdahl have greatly relaxed since the time of the escape. Bergdahl has converted to Islam and now describes himself as a mujahid. Bergdahl enjoys a modicum of freedom, and engages in target practice with the local mujahedeen, firing AK47s. Bergdahl is even allowed to carry a loaded gun on occasion. Bergdahl plays soccer with his guards and bounds around the pitch like a mad man. He appears to be well and happy, and has a noticeable habit of laughing frequently and saying 'Salaam' repeatedly.
At other points, the SITREPs depict a much nastier relationship between Bergdahl and his captors. In July 2010, Eclipse SITREPs based on confidential talks with Afghan Taliban commanders reported that "the original command structure for the responsibility of holding the captured soldier remains intact."
Overall responsibility for the captive is in the hands of Haqqani commander Sangeen, with Bandiwan, one of his deputies, responsible for making the detailed arrangements. There are two locations where the soldier is kept: one in Degan and the other in Shawal, North Waziristan. When in Degan he is kept in the compound of Eid Wale, a local Dawr who is close to Sangeen and is a chromite dealer. The other location is at Shawal. The [source] confirmed that the soldier had been missing for five days and when he was recovered, he was a little worse from wear (lack of food; a bit slimmer) but otherwise in good health.
But an earlier dispatch stated that after his re-capture, on or about June 22, 2010, Bergdahl was "in ill-health, and has been collapsing."A SITREP dated one week before Bergdahl's ill-fated escape attempt placed him in the Bazaar area of Miramshah, and noted that "he seemed not to be tightly controlled."
The Eclipse reports suggest that negotiations over Bergdahl's fate began within a few months after his capture. An October 2009 SITREP disclosed that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Pashtun warlord controlling the broader network that bears his name, had reached out through Pakistani political contacts to propose a prisoner swap. A July 2010 SITREP stated that two months prior, in late May, "negotiations between the Haqqani and representatives of the missing US soldier collapsed." At that point, the report said, Bergdahl was moved to a more secure location.
The New York Times, in its 2011 profile of Clarridge, described his agents' dispatches as "an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports." The fabled ex-spook made the more than one dozen SITREPs that Eclipse prepared on the Bergdahl case -- all previously unpublished -- available to Fox News because he wanted to demonstrate, as he put it: "We know what we're talking about."
James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show "The Foxhole."
VIDEO-Insurer's Message: Prepare for Climate Change or Get Sued - NBC News.com
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 22:25
To insurance companies, there's no doubt that climate change is here: They are beginning to file lawsuits against small towns and cities who they say haven't prepared for the floods and storms that will cost the companies billions in payments.
Earlier this week, the U.S. arm of a major global insurance company backed away from an unprecedented lawsuit against Chicago and its suburbs for failing to prepare for heavy rains and associated flooding it claimed were fueled by global warming. While legal experts said the case was a longshot, its withdrawal didn't alter the message it contained for governments: prepare now for climate change or pay the price.
After several days of ground-saturating rain last April, an early-morning train of intense storm cells passed over the greater Chicago area and overwhelmed the region's stormwater and sewage systems. Water gushed out of sewer inlets and backed up into basements.
"There was just nowhere for this water to go," Marilyn Sucoe, the stormwater administrator for the Village of Lisle, a ring suburb west of Chicago that was affected by the flooding, told NBC News.
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The village was among about 200 municipalities named in the nine class-action lawsuits filed in March by Farmers Insurance Group.
It was "the first loud shot in what I think will be a long-term set of litigation battles over failure to prepare for climate change," Michael Gerrard, who directs the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University in New York, told NBC News.
The subsidiary of the international firm Zurich Insurance Group argued in its lawsuit that the cities knew climate change had raised the frequency, duration, and intensity of regional rainfall since the 1970s and acknowledged vulnerabilities to increased flooding by adopting a Climate Action Plan in 2008.
More lawsuits to come?
"We hoped that by filing this lawsuit we would encourage cities and counties to take preventative steps to reduce the risk of harm in the future," the company said in a statement issued Tuesday by spokesman Trent Frager. That message, according to the statement, was heard. Going forward, Farmers said it would continue to work with the cities "to build stronger, safer communities."
Although Farmers' dropped its case against Chicago and the surrounding communities, it does little to alter the prospects for similar lawsuits in the coming years, according to Gerrard. This is especially true for private companies that lack legal protections which provide government agencies immunity from liability for discretionary decisions such as delaying infrastructure upgrades due to budget constraints.
"One could easily imagine architects and engineers being accused of professional malpractice for designing structures that don't withstand foreseeable climate-related events," he said.
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Cities could become liable for negligence too if they, for example, decide to ignore new vulnerabilities exposed by a changing climate, according to Sean Hecht, a co-director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California at Los Angeles' law school.
While protecting citizens against damages from the type of storm that occurs once every 10,000 years may be unreasonable, "whether they ought to be building and planning for a 10-year or 50-year or 100-year risk is a different question," Hecht told NBC News.
'Power and influence'
Farmers' decision to pull the case less than two months after filing may signal the insurer has shifted to a "less legalistic approach" to raise awareness among city planners of the need to prepare for climate change, Andrew Logan, who studies the insurance industry for Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit that advocates for a sustainable global economy, told NBC News
"It did seem like the lawsuit from the get-go was a way of raising awareness of the issue among cities," he said. "Clearly, they achieved that very quickly and so, perhaps, they saw no need to go forward."
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Homeowners, too, need to hear this message, noted Sucoe, the stormwater administrator from the Village of Lisle. Stormwater, she explained, can just as easily infiltrate the sewage system from cracked pipes on private property as through the public drainage systems. "So if you are really going to start throwing blame around '... I don't know that you can point to the municipality," she said.
Farmers', noted Logan, may have realized the complications in the case and opted to take a different route to buttress communities for a stormier future. Nevertheless, he added, the lawsuits and the attention they received underscore "the power and influence that insurers have to truly change the calculus with which we all approach climate change."
First published June 4 2014, 2:33 PM
VIDEO-State Dept Complains of Political 'Noise in Washington' Over Bergdahl | Washington Free Beacon
Fri, 06 Jun 2014 04:52
'It just calls into question some of the criticism and the political nature of it.'
BY:Washington Free Beacon StaffJune 5, 2014 3:47 pm
The Obama administration continues to blame everyone but themselves.
''I think that there has been a lot of noise in Washington, much of it political, about this,'' State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Thursday of the Bergdahl scandal, echoing President Obama's earlier dismissal of the controversy.
Harf claimed that ''it's frustrating at times to see '-- look, none of this '-- none of this was new.'' Consequently, she said, ''it just calls into question some of the criticism and the political nature of it. I'm not saying all of it is.''
Harf told Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson, who was questioning her on the issue, that ''People in the rest of the world are focused on other issues,'' and that ''some of them look at some of the things that are being said on Twitter right now, including about people like me, and are shocked by it.''
VIDEO-Europe - 'It's best not to argue with women,' Putin says of Clinton - France 24
Thu, 05 Jun 2014 23:50
RUSSIA
Latest update : 04/06/2014
(C) Screen grab from TF1Article text by FRANCE 24
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that ''it's best not to argue with women'' as he dismissed former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's recent comments comparing Russia's actions in Ukraine to Germany under Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
Putin's disparaging remarks were made during an interview with France's TF1 television and Europe 1 radio, during which he weighed in on a wide range of issues, including tensions over his country's intervention in Ukraine and this Friday's commemorations marking the70th anniversary of D-Day in France.
Clinton drew the parallel between Putin's actions in Ukraine and Hitler's Germany back in March after Russia began distributing passports to Ukrainian citizens.
''Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s,'' she said at a private fundraiser in California, invoking the Nazi leader's protection of ethnic Germans outside the country's borders in the run-up to World War II.
Questioned about Clinton's comments, Putin said that she had never been ''very subtle in her statements,'' according to a translation of the interview on TF1's website.
''When people go beyond certain boundaries of politeness, it demonstrates their weakness, not their strength,'' the Russian president said, adding that ''weakness, for a woman, is not necessarily a fault''.
Putin also took the opportunity to refute Western allegations that Russia was seeking to destabilise Ukraine, instead accusing the United States and Europe of instigating the crisis by backing an ''anti-constitutional armed coup'' against former president Viktor Yanukovich.
He also said that he fully expected France to follow through with the sale of two Mistral warships to Russia '' a contract that the French government has come under pressure to break over the Ukraine crisis.
Despite tensions being at their worst between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War, Putin said that he had no plans to avoid US President Barack Obama when the two attend D-Day commemorations in France later this week. The Russian president also did not rule out the possibility of meeting with Ukraine's new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko.
''There will be other guests, and I'm not going to avoid any of them. I will talk with all of them,'' he said.
Remarks as Delivered by Stephanie O'Sullivan, Principal Deputy...
Sun, 08 Jun 2014 00:47
Open Hearing: USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361)
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Location: 216 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Date: Thursday June 5, 2014 | Time: 2:30 p.m. EDT
Chairman Feinstein, Vice Chairman Chambliss, and distinguished members of the Committee we are very pleased to appear before you to express the Administration's strong support for the USA Freedom Act, H.R. 3361, as recently passed by the House of Representatives. The Deputy Attorney General has provided an in-depth overview of the USA Freedom Act passed by the House last month, but I wanted to touch on a few key points in my remarks.
Over the past year, the nation has been engaged in a robust discussion about how the Intelligence Community uses its authorities to collect critical foreign intelligence in a manner that protects privacy and civil liberties. We take great care to ensure the protection of individual privacy and civil liberties in the conduct of intelligence activities. Nevertheless, we have continued to examine ways to increase the confidence of our fellow citizens that their privacy is being protected while at the same time providing the Intelligence Community with the authorities it needs to fulfil its mission and responsibilities.
To that end, we have increased our transparency efforts, and the Director of National Intelligence has declassified and released thousands of pages of documents about intelligence collection programs including court decisions, and a variety of other documents. We're continuing to do so.
These documents demonstrate the commitment of all three branches of government to ensuring these programs operate within the law and apply vigorous protections for personal privacy. It is important to emphasize that although the information released by the Director of National Intelligence was properly classified originally.
The DNI declassified it because the public interest in declassification outweighed the national security concerns that originally prompted classification. In addition to declassifying documents, we've already taken significant steps to allow the public to understand how we use the authorities in FISA, now and going forward. For example, we are currently working to finalize a transparency report that will outline on an annual basis the total number of orders issued under various FISA authorities and an estimate of the total number of targets affected by those orders.
Moreover, we recognize that it's important for companies to be able to reassure their customers about the limited number of people targeted by orders requiring the companies to provide information to the government. And so we support the provisions of the House bill that allow the companies to report information about the national security legal demands and law enforcement legal demands that they receive each year. We believe that this increased transparency provides the public with relevant information about the use of these legal authorities, while at the same time, protecting important collection capabilities.
Making adjustments to our intelligence activities '' and, as appropriate, our authorities '' is also part of this effort. For several years, the government has sought '' and the FISA Court has issued '' orders under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act allowing the bulk collection of metadata about telephone calls. The President has ordered a transition that will end this bulk collection in a manner that maintains the tools intelligence agencies need for national security. We are committed to following this mandate.
The Intelligence Community believes that the new framework in the USA Freedom Act preserves the capabilities the Intelligence Community needs without the government holding this metadata in bulk. The USA Freedom Act would prohibit all bulk collection of records pursuant to Section 215, the Pen Register Trap and Trace provision of FISA, and National Security Letter statutes going forward. Let me repeat that: The Intelligence Community understands and will adhere to the Bill's prohibitions on all bulk collection under these authorities.
Moreover, the USA Freedom Act makes other important changes by further ensuring that individuals' privacy is appropriately protected without sacrificing operational effectiveness. To that end, we support the USA Freedom Act as an effective means of addressing the concerns that have been raised about the impact of our intelligence collection activities on privacy while preserving the authorities we need for national security.
We urge the Committee to give the House bill serious consideration, as expeditiously as possible, consistent with this Committee's deliberations. And we are ready to work with the Senate to clarify any language in the bill as necessary. We appreciate this committee's leadership and, particularly your support over the past year in considering issues related to our intelligence collection activities, and privacy and civil liberties.
We also appreciate your support for the men and women working throughout the Intelligence Community to include those at NSA who remain dedicated to keeping our nation safe and protecting our privacy, and who have upheld their oath by conducting themselves in accordance with our nation's laws.
We look forward to answering your questions.

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Agenda 21

Alice Hill Senior Adv Homeland Sec-CLimate Change.mp3
Global_Warming_vs_Climate_Change_Report.pdf
UN WED- Raise voice not sea level.mp3

Bo Diddley

OLIVER NORTH- I KNOW A RANSOM OF $5-6 MILLION WAS PAID TO FREE BERGDAHL.mp3

CYBER!

Keizer Alexander-1-lying about programs.mp3
Keizer Alexander-2-Wheel of Fortune.mp3
Keizer Alexander-3 on imminent CYBER attack.mp3
Stupid Wheel of Fortune Answer.mp3

EUROLand

LaGarde doesnt want EU top spot.mp3

Haiti

Haiti-Anti Martelli protests.mp3

JCD Clips

charlie rose and carnie the percentage known.mp3
markey finishes hearing.mp3
mccain takes over conferences goes nutty.mp3
missed clip CNN on stand ins.mp3
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rhode island senator.mp3
sharpton both start with b.mp3
sharpton dealing with facts and precitents.mp3
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sharpton-school lunches.mp3
testimony before congress contempt.mp3
wicker environmental.mp3

Koch Brothers!

PBS Koch brothers.mp3

Packet Inequality

Netflix Verizzon PR STUNT.mp3
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