Cover for No Agenda Show 658: It's a Glitch!
October 5th, 2014 • 3h 6m

658: It's a Glitch!


Every new episode of No Agenda is accompanied by a comprehensive list of shownotes curated by Adam while preparing for the show. Clips played by the hosts during the show can also be found here.

You read from "Harrison Bergeron," a great story. Did you know it was
recently adapted as a motion picture named "2081" starring James
Cosmo, Julie Hagerty, and Armie Hammer?
Guess who bankrolled the production: The Koch Brothers, more or less.
Notice the Executive Producer credit on the website:
Elizabeth Koch is Charles Koch's daughter.
Adam Mackler
Upper Decker
On Thursdays show you knighted a gentleman as Sir Upper Decker. You and John assumed that he was referring to seating in a stadium. However, it is widely known under a different meaning. An upper Decker is when you remove the lid off the toilet tank and shit inside the tank and replace the lid. Not long after, said Shit becomes putrid and very foul. It's a good prank to pull on someone you're not too fond of.
Smith Mundt Act - A reminder that you are living in a Smith-Mudt Act repealed media landscape
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Propaganda in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:00
Propaganda in the United States is propaganda spread by government and media entities within the United States. Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to influence opinions. Propaganda is not only in advertising; it is also in radio, newspaper, posters, books, and anything else that might be sent out to the widespread public.
Domestic[edit]World War I[edit]The first large-scale use of propaganda by the U.S. government came during World War I. The government enlisted the help of citizens and children to help promote war bonds and stamps to help stimulate the economy. To keep the prices of war supplies down, the U.S. government produced posters that encouraged people to reduce waste and grow their own vegetables in "victory gardens." The public skepticism that was generated by the heavy-handed tactics of the Committee on Public Information would lead the postwar government to officially abandon the use of propaganda.[1]
World War II[edit]During World War II the U.S. officially had no propaganda, but the Roosevelt government used means to circumvent this official line. One such propaganda tool was the publicly owned but government funded Writers' War Board (WWB). The activities of the WWB were so extensive that it has been called the "greatest propaganda machine in history".[1]Why We Fight is a famous series of US government propaganda films made to justify US involvement in World War II.
In 1944 (lasting until 1948) prominent US policy makers launched a domestic propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the U.S. public to agree to a harsh peace for the German people, for example by removing the common view of the German people and the Nazi party as separate entities.[2] The core in this campaign was the Writers' War Board which was closely associated with the Roosevelt administration.[2]
Another means was the United States Office of War Information that Roosevelt established in June 1942, whose mandate was to promote understanding of the war policies under the director Elmer Davies. It dealt with posters, press, movies, exhibitions, and produced often slanted material conforming to US wartime purposes. Other large and influential non-governmental organizations during the war and immediate post war period were the Society for the Prevention of World War III and the Council on Books in Wartime.
Cold War[edit]During the Cold War, the U.S. government produced vast amounts of propaganda against communism and the Soviet bloc. Much of this propaganda was directed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover, who himself wrote the anti-communist tract Masters of Deceit. The FBI's COINTELPRO arm solicited journalists to produce fake news items discrediting communists and affiliated groups, such as H. Bruce Franklin and the Venceremos Organization.
War on Drugs[edit]The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, originally established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988,[3][4] but now conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998,[5] is a domestic propaganda campaign designed to "influence the attitudes of the public and the news media with respect to drug abuse" and for "reducing and preventing drug abuse among young people in the United States".[6][7] The Media Campaign cooperates with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and other government and non-government organizations.[8]
Iraq War[edit]In early 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense launched an information operation, colloquially referred to as the Pentagon military analyst program.[9] The goal of the operation is "to spread the administrations's talking points on Iraq by briefing ... retired commanders for network and cable television appearances," where they have been presented as independent analysts.[10] On 22 May 2008, after this program was revealed in the New York Times, the House passed an amendment that would make permanent a domestic propaganda ban that until now has been enacted annually in the military authorization bill.[11]
The Shared values initiative was a public relations campaign that was intended to sell a "new" America to Muslims around the world by showing that American Muslims were living happily and freely, without persecution, in post-9/11 America.[12] Funded by the United States Department of State, the campaign created a public relations front group known as Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU). The campaign was divided in phases; the first of which consisted of five mini-documentaries for television, radio, and print with shared values messages for key Muslim countries.[13]
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act[edit]The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Ad Council[edit]The Ad Council, an American non-profit organization that distributes public service announcements on behalf of various private and federal government agency sponsors, has been labeled as "little more than a domestic propaganda arm of the federal government" given the Ad Council's historically close collaboration with the President of the United States and the federal government.[17]
International[edit]Through several international broadcasting operations, the US disseminates American cultural information, official positions on international affairs, and daily summaries of international news. These operations fall under the International Broadcasting Bureau, the successor of the United States Information Agency, established in 1953. IBB's operations include Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Alhurra and other programs. They broadcast mainly to countries where the United States finds that information about international events is limited, either due to poor infrastructure or government censorship. The Smith-Mundt Act prohibits the Voice of America from disseminating information to US citizens that was produced specifically for a foreign audience.
During the Cold War the US ran covert propaganda campaigns in countries that appeared likely to become Soviet satellites, such as Italy, Afghanistan, and Chile.
Recently The Pentagon announced the creation of a new unit aimed at spreading propaganda about supposedly "inaccurate" stories being spread about the Iraq War. These "inaccuracies" have been blamed on the enemy trying to decrease support for the war. Donald Rumsfeld has been quoted as saying these stories are something that keeps him up at night.[18]
Psychological operations[edit]The US military defines psychological operations, or PSYOP, as:
planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.[19]
The Smith-Mundt Act, adopted in 1948, explicitly forbids information and psychological operations aimed at the US public.[20][21][22] Nevertheless, the current easy access to news and information from around the globe, makes it difficult to guarantee PSYOP programs do not reach the US public. Or, in the words of Army Col. James A. Treadwell, who commanded the U.S. military psyops unit in Iraq in 2003, in the Washington Post:
There's always going to be a certain amount of bleed-over with the global information environment.[23]
Agence France Presse reported on U.S. propaganda campaigns that:
The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document that the US public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.[24]
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the document referred to, which is titled "Information Operations Roadmap." [22][24] The document acknowledges the Smith-Mundt Act, but fails to offer any way of limiting the effect PSYOP programs have on domestic audiences.[20][21][25]
Several incidents in 2003 were documented by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, which he saw as information-warfare campaigns that were intended for "foreign populations and the American public." Truth from These Podia,[26] as the treatise was called, reported that the way the Iraq war was fought resembled a political campaign, stressing the message instead of the truth.[22]
See also[edit]References[edit]^ abThomas Howell, The Writers' War Board: U.S. Domestic Propaganda in World War II, Historian, Volume 59 Issue 4, Pages 795 - 813^ abSteven Casey, (2005), The Campaign to sell a harsh peace for Germany to the American public, 1944 - 1948, [online]. London: LSE Research Online. [Available online at] Originally published in History, 90 (297). pp. 62-92 (2005) Blackwell Publishing^National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988 of the Anti''Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub.L. 100''690, 102 Stat. 4181, enacted November 18, 1988^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, footnote 6, page 3 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 (Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999), Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, pp. 9''10 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999, Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006, Pub.L. 109''469, 120 Stat. 3501, enacted December 29, 2006, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 1708^Barstow, David (2008-04-20). "Message Machine: Behind Analysts, the Pentagon's Hidden Hand". New York Times. ^Sessions, David (2008-04-20). "Onward T.V. Soldiers: The New York Times exposes a multi-armed Pentagon message machine". Slate. ^Barstow, David (2008-05-24). "2 Inquiries Set on Pentagon Publicity Effort". New York Times. ^Rampton, Sheldon (October 17, 2007). "Shared Values Revisited". Center for Media and Democracy. ^"U.S. Reaches Out to Muslim World with Shared Values Initiative". January 16, 2003.
Presidential Proclamation -- National Manufacturing Day, 2014
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 08:35
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 02, 2014
- - - - - - -
With ingenuity and a determined spirit, hardworking Americans are creating products and unlocking new technologies that will shape our Nation and grow our economy. In uncertain times, our parents and grandparents built a robust manufacturing sector that spurred the world's largest economy and strongest middle class. When our generation faced an economy in free fall and an industry on the brink of collapse, we bet on American resilience and American workers, and today innovative technologies, new wellsprings of manufacturing entrepreneurship, and our country's increasing competitiveness are fueling a revitalization of American manufacturing. On National Manufacturing Day, we celebrate all those who proudly stand behind our goods and services made in America, and we renew our commitment to winning the race for the jobs of tomorrow.
America's manufacturers have created jobs at the fastest pace in decades, adding more than 700,000 new jobs since February 2010. Factories are reopening their doors and businesses are hiring new workers; companies that were shipping jobs overseas are bringing those jobs back to America. As we work to rebuild a foundation of growth and prosperity, we have an opportunity to capitalize on this momentum and accelerate the resurgence of American manufacturing.
Ensuring that America is at the forefront of 21st century manufacturing requires research, investment, and a workforce with high-tech skills. That is why my Administration is investing in regional manufacturing hubs, which bring together private industry, leading universities, and public agencies to solve technology challenges too significant for any one firm. These partnerships will help develop cutting-edge technology and train workers in the skills they need for the next generation of American manufacturing. Across our country, we are creating magnets that attract good, high-tech manufacturing jobs -- they have the potential to lift up our communities, spark technology that jumpstarts new industries, and fundamentally change the way we build things in America.
My Administration continues to encourage manufacturing production and investment because the next revolution in manufacturing should be an American revolution, and our Nation's promise of opportunity should be within the reach of everyone willing to work for it. In response to my call to action and as part of the first-ever White House Maker Faire, more than 90 mayors and local leaders have committed to increase access to manufacturing spaces and equipment in their communities, and to provide the chance for more students and adults to become Makers and manufacturing entrepreneurs. The Federal Government is leading the way by expanding access to more than $5 billion worth of Federal technology. Together, we are building an economy that works for all Americans.
On National Manufacturing Day, more than 1,600 American manufacturers will open their doors and take up the important work of inspiring our young people to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering. Today's science, technology, engineering, and math graduates will power the next chapter of American production and innovation, and harnessing their potential is an economic imperative.
When our manufacturing base is strong, our entire economy is strong. Today, we continue our work to bolster the industry at the heart of our Nation. With grit and resolve, we can create new jobs and widen the circle of opportunity for more Americans.
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 October 3, 2014, as National Manufacturing Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with programs and activities that highlight the contributions of American manufacturers, and I encourage all Americans to visit a manufacturer in their local community.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Presidential Proclamation -- Fire Prevention Week, 2014
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:31
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2014
- - - - - - -
Fires can take lives, devastate communities, and destroy our homes and businesses. They pose a threat to Americans across our Nation, and they cost us billions of dollars each year. As we mark Fire Prevention Week, we emphasize the importance of taking steps to prevent fires, and we recognize the selflessness of those who answer the call to fight these blazes, placing themselves in danger to help others.
All Americans can protect themselves by taking precautions to guard against fires. This week's theme, "Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month," reminds us of the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms in the places we live and work. Powerful and unpredictable, fire spreads rapidly and widely. That is why I encourage every American to develop and practice fire evacuation plans that will allow for swift exits from regularly visited places. It is our responsibility to teach our children about fire prevention and do everything we can to protect our loved ones during these emergencies. To learn more about fire safety, visit
This year, our Nation has suffered tragic losses as wildfires ravage States across our country. As wildfires increase in frequency and intensity in a changing climate, fire prevention and planning only become more urgent. My Administration continues to take action to increase our Nation's preparedness and resiliency, and every person can do his or her part. Americans who live near woodlands should clear flammable vegetation away from homes and buildings, and everyone can be ready by making an emergency kit and discussing evacuation routes and emergency plans with their families.
We owe a great debt to our brave first responders and firefighters who run toward the scene of a disaster to fight fires. They are heroes who demonstrate courage, determination, and professionalism every day as they battle flames and smoke and teach their neighbors how to protect themselves. During Fire Prevention Week, we recognize our duty to be vigilant and take action to avert fires, and we remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives so others might live.
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 October 5 through October 11, 2014, as Fire Prevention Week. On Sunday, October 12, 2014, in accordance with Public Law 107-51, the flag of the United States will be flown at half-staff at all Federal office buildings in honor of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. I call on all Americans to participate in this observance with appropriate programs and activities and by renewing their efforts to prevent fires and their tragic consequences.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Presidential Proclamation -- Child Health Day, 2014
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:31
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2014
- - - - - - -
All children deserve equal opportunities to realize their potential and reach their dreams. Securing this promise for our daughters and sons begins with ensuring their health and well-being. As we pause on Child Health Day to reflect on this profound obligation, let us recommit to fostering a society where there are no limits to what our Nation's young people can achieve.
The Affordable Care Act supports children's health not only by expanding access to quality, affordable health insurance for millions of Americans, but also by guaranteeing that most health plans cover recommended preventive services for children without copays, including immunizations and developmental screenings. Millions of children are already benefiting from this care, and even more will be protected in the years to come. As kids grow, the Affordable Care Act continues to support their health by prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on a parent's health insurance plan until age 26. This builds on the successes of Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, which have significantly reduced the percentage of uninsured children.
When more than one-third of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese, expanding access to nutritious foods and opportunities for physical activity is an urgent health issue. Working with both the public and private sectors, First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative is making it easier for parents and children to make healthy choices that put kids on the path to a bright future during their earliest months and years.
As a Nation, we have an obligation to invest in the health of future generations by protecting our planet and our environment. In the past 30 years, asthma rates have doubled, and as air pollution gets worse, more kids will suffer. Clean air and water are essential to the well-being of our children and grandchildren, and we must work today to secure their tomorrow. My Administration has taken action and will continue to pursue policies that reduce harmful air pollution, improve water quality, and protect communities from toxic chemical exposures.
When young Americans have the opportunity to live healthy and safe lives, they are free to pursue their full measure of happiness. Today, we continue our work to support our children's health and build a Nation where all our daughters and sons can thrive.
The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 18, 1928, as amended (36 U.S.C. 105), has called for the designation of the first Monday in October as Child Health Day and has requested that the President issue a proclamation in observance of this day.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Monday, October 6, 2014, as Child Health Day. I call upon families, educators, child health professionals, faith-based and community organizations, and all levels of government to help ensure America's children are healthy.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Presidential Proclamation -- German-American Day, 2014
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:30
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2014
- - - - - - -
America is and always has been a Nation of immigrants, and from our earliest days, German Americans have contributed to our national identity. Germans were among the first settlers in the original 13 Colonies, bringing their talents and ideas across the ocean to a new and unfamiliar world. And today, with their descendants and all who followed in their path, we continue to perfect our Union together. On German-American Day, we recognize their distinctive identity and the ways they enrich our country.
German Americans helped build our Nation, and every day they contribute to its growth. As they teach in our schools, farm in our heartland, and serve in our Armed Forces, their German roots offer a sense of their place in the American story. From a land of poets and thinkers, they brought passion for music, science, and art, fortifying our culture and broadening our understanding of the world. Our greatest cities and our biggest advances reflect their daring spirit and diverse contributions.
As we consider our German-American history, we are also reminded that the United States and Germany are vital partners. With the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaching, our security and prosperity remain interwoven, and our friendship continues as we work together in pursuit of a more peaceful, stable world. On this occasion, may citizens from both sides of the Atlantic draw strength from the legacy of our Nation's earliest immigrants who boldly pushed forward in unforgiving times. May our shared past continue to inspire us as we face new challenges in our own time.
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 October 6, 2014, as German-American Day. I encourage all Americans to learn more about the history of German Americans and reflect on the many contributions they have made to our Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Drone Knight Posters received
Henning beheading
An "aid worker" and "taxi driver with the heart of gold"....
You'd think that he'd have lost some weight being a hostage for over nine months...
They timed this beheading perfectly with the debate in Parliament beginning on Monday; funny how that happens.
Backgrounder on the 'charities'
BBC’s leading current affairs program, Newsnight recently
broadcast an eight-minute film in which a BBC reporter (Catrin Nye)
accompanied a British “aid convoy” headed to the most dangerous parts of
The Aid for Syria convoy, comprised of half a dozen ambulances,
travelled over three thousand miles through Europe and Turkey before
finally crossing the border into Syria, purportedly to deliver food,
shelter and medical supplies. The journalist Catrin Nye markedly noted
the diverse background of their convoy’s participants, introducing a “a
doctor from Manchester, a pharmacist from Halifax and a restaurant owner
from West Yorkshire.”
During the broadcast, the BBC did not, however, reveal the names of
the charities involved with the convoy. The Aid for Syria Convoy is, in
fact, managed by charities that many might justifiably regard as
“extremist”: One Nation, Al Fatiha Global and Aid4Syria.
These charities regularly organize fundraising events with Islamist
themes, and invite radical preachers as guests. In mid-November, for
instance, the Aid for Syria convoy ran an event named “O’Ummah [Community of Muslims], Wake Up and Rise”, starring as its key speakers, Zahir Mahmood and Moazzam Begg.
Jameel Backgrounder
Jameel, however, apparently forgot to vet his own social media
postings. In a number of them on his Facebook account in the last few
months alone, Jameel has lauded Syrian jihadi “martyrs” and paraphrases the quote by Osama Bin Laden: “Our men love death like your men love life.”
Jameel has further promoted excerpts
from religious commentary on the Quran that justify violence against
Jews; he describes them as “dishonest” and the “enemies of Allah.”
Jameel also claims that Shia Muslims have “defamed the mother of believers.”
Other posts by Jameel have expressed support for the Saudi preacher Mohammad Al-Arifi, who has declared that,
“Devotion to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood,
to smash skulls and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense
of his religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer.”
On November 19, Jameel promoted a group protesting the arrest of an Al Qaeda operative, Abdul Basit. The group supported by Jameel describes the
Muslim woman who informed the authorities of Basit’s connections to
terrorism as an “FBI witch” who will be “sent to her grave.”
Peter Kassig
NGO info
If people want to help SERA, what’s something they can do?
We can accept donations at a temporary account at:
Epworth United Methodist Church
6450 Allisonville Road
Indianapolis, IN 46220
Checks should be made out to Epworth United Methodist Church. In the memo line, people can put either “SERA Relief Effort” or “Peter Kassig Relief Effort.”
It’s not a religious thing, but my hometown neighborhood set this up
for us in the meantime as a transparent and monitored donation
system. SERA is a fully incorporated NGO, but our 501c3 [federal
non-profit tax status] is still pending.
An Army Ranger Helps Syrian Refugees |
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:14
KassigPeter Kassing, U.S. Army Ranger turned humanitarian.
Peter Kassig is a former U.S. Army Ranger who deployed to Iraq in 2007. I met this 24-year-old Indiana native while taking an entry-level Arabic course in Beirut last year. Since then, Peter has gone on to help Syrian refugees in a Lebanese hospital and recently started his own aid group called Special Emergency Response and Assistance '-- SERA.
SERA's main focus right now ''is providing Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Syria with medical assistance, medical supplies, and clothing for refugees, and non-perishable food as well as cooking fuel, cooking stoves,'' and other supplies, according to its Facebook page. It wants to specialize in bringing in critical supplies to people in particularly dicey circumstances, which is an understatement when used to describe the refugee landscape within Syria.
There are estimates that there are over 2.5 million internally displaced persons within the country, and nearly 500,000 who have left.
The group recently finished its first week-and-half-long operation inside Syria.
With just over $2,000 raised from donations, SERA set out to supply Syrian refugees in the north of the country with blankets. But the group soon realized that was not a pressing need when compared to the increasingly dire food situation. So SERA purchased two cooking stoves, 20 45-kilogram propane fuel tanks, a ton of rice and other food, and loaded it all into a truck its members drove across the border into Syria. They delivered it directly to the people in a Syrian refugee camp, according to Kassig's debrief on the operation.
''We learned first-hand through this process just how difficult it is to get supplies into Syria,'' Kassig wrote, expressing frustration with delays. ''Innocent lives were lost in the days we were in the area of Qah Refugee camp attempting to deliver aid.''
While pledging to improve their effectiveness, Kassig wrote that he was inspired by the people in the camp: ''I did not meet a single man woman or child who could not muster a smile and a message of strength and hope that was nothing short of earth-shatteringly humbling.''
I asked Kassig a few questions about SERA and why he came back to the Middle East after his time in the Army.
What drew you to Beirut?
Originally, I came to Beirut on my spring break from [Butler] University last spring. I was interested in what I could learn about the Syrian crisis firsthand and what I could do to help and raise awareness about the crisis amongst my peers back at home in the United States. I was also interested in learning more about the Middle East in general from a civilian perspective. I wanted to better understand my role in the conflict in Iraq and its impact on the Middle East in general from a personal perspective and from the perspective of the Arab world. I hoped to gain insight into potential paths forward with regards to developing a new and improved relationship between my generation in both the Arab world and in the West.
What have you been doing during your time in Lebanon?
I started by travelling as much as possible throughout the country and focusing my efforts on volunteering on a small scale in a Palestinian refugee camp in South Beirut. I wanted to try and understand the full scope of the level of need and what role I could potentially have in meeting that need. I also volunteer in a hospital in Tripoli, Lebanon, offering my services as a trauma medic to Syrian refugees who have been wounded in the fighting in Syria. From these experiences I began the development of my NGO, SERA, which stands for Special Emergency Response and Assistance. I divide by time between my personal volunteer efforts, my organizations relief operations, which include the distribution of aid materials such as medical equipment and children's clothing, as well as food and cooking materials in both Lebanon and Syria.
Tell us about your group, Special Emergency Response and Assistance. What does it do and why did you start it?
I designed Special Emergency Response and Assistance around a belief that there was a lot of room for improvement in terms of how humanitarian organizations interact with and cooperate with the populations that they serve. SERA is focused on the distribution of aid materials to populations with an acute and immediate need. We administer aid in the form of food and cooking materials, medical supplies, and clothing.
The idea is for SERA to supplement the efforts of larger organizations by focusing on delivering aid materials that can do the most good for the most people over the longest period of time possible. I believe that how and why we do what we do is equal in importance to what we do. It's about showing people that we care, that someone is looking out for those who might be overlooked or who have slipped through the cracks in the system for whatever reason.
I started SERA because I felt that we could fill a niche as an organization that had not been filled. There are a lot of other wonderful organizations out there but we feel that by working directly with the people who are in need at a grassroots level allows for us to establish an invaluable personal relationship that not only allows us to effectively distribute material goods but also allows for an opportunity for an increased level of cooperation and an exchange of ideas between people from diverse backgrounds and experiences and that this enhances our ability to accurately meet needs. The personal connection is key.
Does SERA team up with other organizations to help Syrian refugees?
Yes. Part of our operational philosophy and founding principles is that there should be no wasted energy or redundancy in the operations we carry out. I believe in working as closely with the population in need as is possible. This allows for us to maximize our transparency and effectiveness of our operations based on the respect for and appreciation of the fact that people have the best understanding of what they need and many times, simply lack the means to carry out the ideas that they already have.
What would you like to see SERA doing that it isn't already and what do you need to make that happen?
I would like to see SERA responding to a variety of needs throughout the region in as short amount of time as possible. Our aim is to be a rapid response organization that can help to fill gaps in supply chains, or assist those who have fallen through the cracks. I would love it for SERA to be able to impact conditions on the ground in places like Lebanon and Syria in a more comprehensive and efficient way.
To make this a reality we need to make sure we maintain our focus and our drive internally, we also need to make sure we maintain an operational tempo that allows for us to have good visibility on the conditions that the populations we serve are facing. Of course we definitely need more funding. Right now we have very little and so our operational scope is very small. We have the ability to serve much larger populations in a really effective way but we need a stronger budget to be able to conduct these sorts of operations.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
That is a good question. I believe that if you are passionate about something and you put the necessary effort into making it work (such as SERA) that it is ultimately up to you how long you can keep it viable. The work speaks for itself to some extent I think. I certainly plan on continuing to try and serve those who are in need for as long as I live.
The truth is sometimes I really think I would like to do something else, but at the end of the day this work is really the only thing that I have found that gives my life both meaning and direction. In five years, I certainly hope to have seen SERA grow into an international relief organization capable of helping hundreds of thousands of people around the world. I would also like to be able to say that I was able to give something back to everyone who helped along the way.
This work is important for the message that it sends to people back home, that one of the best aspects of the American way of life is our ability to come together in the face of adversity and to stand beside those who might need a helping hand. In five years, if I can look back on all of this and say that our organization is able to truly help people, that I was able so share a little bit of hope and that I never stopped learning then I will know this all stood for something.
If people want to help SERA, what's something they can do?
We can accept donations at a temporary account at:
Epworth United Methodist Church6450 Allisonville RoadIndianapolis, IN 46220
Checks should be made out to Epworth United Methodist Church. In the memo line, people can put either ''SERA Relief Effort'' or ''Peter Kassig Relief Effort.''
It's not a religious thing, but my hometown neighborhood set this up for us in the meantime as a transparent and monitored donation system. SERA is a fully incorporated NGO, but our 501c3 [federal non-profit tax status] is still pending.
SERA International - Home
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:17
Due to the present security situation in Syria, SERA has temporarily ceased its operations.Thank you to all for your continued support.
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Our Story - SERA International
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:18
OverviewSERA (Special Emergency Response and Assistance) is a medically-oriented emergency relief organization that serves refugee populations and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Our efforts, however small, are focused on providing acute logistical support and assistance in areas too difficult for other humanitarian organizations to effectively operate. Typically, this means conflict zones. Our current operational focus is the civil war occurring in Syria.SERA was founded in 2012 by Peter Kassig, a former US Army Ranger who served in the Iraq War.ValuesSERA conforms to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response as outlined by The Sphere Project. We are a neutral and impartial organization. We do not take sides in hostilities, and do not discriminate as to nationality, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.We believe lasting change occurs through local partnerships: both with representatives from the communities in which we work, as well as those organizations committed to civic reconstruction and protection of basic human rights.
OperationsSERA specializes in non-material aid and assistance: medical training, logistical support and coordinating relief for community development as well as individual, high-risk medical cases. Additionally SERA coordinates the delivery of medical aid (e.g. bandages, antibiotics, stretchers, splints and wheelchairs) and supplies for children and civilians (e.g. baby food, formula and clothing, food and cooking supplies) to field clinics, refugee camps and hospitals located in Lebanon and Syria. Each of these material aid operations begins with an on-the-ground needs assessment conducted by our personnel in order to provide specific, targeted solutions to populations in crisis.
The Sphere Project | The Sphere Project office | About Sphere
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:21
Under the direction of the Sphere Project Board, the Sphere Project office works to implement Sphere's vision for improved quality and accountability in humanitarian response. Staff include a project manager and five other positions.
The office helps ensure that support services, materials and training opportunities are made available to all interested parties. It links with regional and national networks and represents the Sphere Project to NGOs, UN agencies, donors, academic institutions and other quality and accountability initiatives. It actively promotes the effective use of Sphere principles and standards and supports the development of the community of Sphere practitioners.
The Sphere Project office is hosted by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) in Geneva, Switzerland.
International Council of Voluntary Agencies
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:22
Welcome to ICVA
ICVA is a global network of non-governmental organisations whose mission is to make humanitarian action more principled and effective by working collectively and independently to influence policy and practice.
"Membership of ICVA allows smaller NGOs to have our voices heard internationally, thus bringing to the fore issues close to the hearts of smaller organisations from the Global South."
Faizal Perdaus, President, MERCY, Malasyia
Become a Member
Epworth United Methodist Church - Our Pastoral Staff
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:28
Rev. Dr. Bill Hoopes, Senior PastorHi, I'm Bill Hoopes, Pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church. Thank you for taking time to browse our website. I hope you find it informative and helpful. I'd be glad to meet you, get acquainted and answer any questions you have about God's leading in your life, the ministries of Epworth UMC, United Methodism or the Church universal. Just call 317-251-1481 and let's set a time to get together.
Professionally, I have been in ordained ministry for over 30 years. I have served United Methodist churches in central Indiana primarily. My faith background and practice is ecumenical. For example, I graduated from a Southern Baptist seminary, received a Doctor of Ministry degree from a Disciples of Christ seminary and graduated from a Roman Catholic center offering training in spiritual direction. I enjoy traveling and have made holy pilgrimages to places such as Taisez and Lourdes, France, Canterbury, England, the Holy Land and parts of the Appalachian Trail! On my bucket list is to complete the El Camino del Santiago in Spain as well as the Chicago Marathon.
My wife, Linda is an avid photographer. She is passionate about God's creation and enjoys capturing the beauty and awe of God's handiwork. Her portfolio can be seen at
Epworth UMC welcomes the opportunity to join you in your journey of faith and discipleship. We stand ready to do whatever may be helpful to you on your journey or your discernment of where God may be leading.
Pat Engel, Diaconal MinisterI have had the privilege of being on Epworth's staff for 20+ years Epworth has become my family. Epworth is a place that's big enough for good programming to take place, big enough to offer several options of study; yet small enough to care about one another'...with prayer, with presence, and in joy.
Worship is a time to give glory to God for all the good things in our world and personal lives' addition, we need to find a small group to do our growing, exploring of our faith, questioning and sharing. Whether it is in a Sunday School class, a weekday Bible Study, an accountability group, or a discussion group, everyone can benefit from sharing their faith with a group of people on the same journey' step at a time.
Epworth is about community. Finding a place that feels safe to explore, to grieve, to express joys, to learn, to grow. My prayer is that more and more people, of all cultures and backgrounds will not only feel comfortable entering the doors but also be willing to share their stories'...that everyone might benefit from one another's experiences. Our founder John Wesley asks us to bring to the faith table four things: Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason. I hope that Epworth is and will continue to be a place we can call on all four of these tenets as we continue our spiritual journey.
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Government of the Netherlands Decision to Authorize Military Force Against ISIL
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:33
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2014
The United States welcomes the decision this week by the Government of the Netherlands to send up to eight F-16 fighters and 250 support personnel to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. In addition, the Netherlands will dispatch up to 130 military personnel to assist with the training of Iraqi Security Forces. This military contribution is in addition to broader actions the Dutch government has already taken, including providing humanitarian assistance and diplomatic support, taking steps to counter the illicit financing of terrorism, and enacting measures to help prevent the movement of foreign fighters. These actions demonstrate the continued commitment and leadership by the Dutch to take action as necessary to counter threats to international peace and stability. The United States is proud of its longstanding friendship and partnership with the Netherlands and its people, and we look forward to working closely with them and other international partners in our comprehensive approach to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.
Statement by the President on the Death of Alan Henning | The White House
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:32
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2014
The United States strongly condemns the brutal murder of United Kingdom citizen Alan Henning by the terrorist group ISIL. Mr. Henning worked to help improve the lives of the Syrian people and his death is a great loss for them, for his family and the people of the United Kingdom. Standing together with our UK friends and allies, we will work to bring the perpetrators of Alan's murder '' as well as the murders of Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines '' to justice. Standing together with a broad coalition of allies and partners, we will continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.
Cancer meme
Every time I hear a person or a group of people compared to cancer I remember studying Mein Kampf in school. One item we looked at was the literary device used to marginalized the Jews by comparing them to cancer or des ease. It dehumanizes the group so when you treat them inhumanely, people don't care. We have been repeatedly hearing Muslims compared to cancer. I doubt we will do concentration camps for Muslims but I think it aids our mission to rubble-ize the areas populated by Muslims. Just a thought.
Average Random Joe
Illiterate Q'ran readers
You asked the question how can illiterate Muslims read the Quran, they use Audible. With the TWIT discount code you can get two free books. I think John should recommend the Quran as an Audible recommendation the next time he is on TWIT.
Thanks for all the great shows,
Ramshackle Army at Odds with Berlin's Global Aspirations - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 17:51
Last week, a single person pushed Germany's air force to the very limits of its capacities: Ursula von der Leyen, the country's defense minister. Von der Leyen requested that two Transall military transport aircraft with missile defense systems be transferred to Amman, the Jordanian capital. The defense minister and a pool of reporters then flew for eight hours on Thursday morning in one of the aircraft to Erbil in Iraq's Kurdish region. Back in Germany, the military had but a single additional Transall at its disposal.
After her arrival in Erbil, von der Leyen proceeded to the palace of the Kurdish regional government's president. Her visit was to be concurrent with the delivery of German weapons, intended to aid the Kurds in their fight against Islamic State jihadists. Unfortunately, the machine guns and bazookas got stuck in Germany and the trainers in Bulgaria because of a dearth of available aircraft. One had been grounded because of a massive fuel leak. What could have been a shining moment for the minister instead turned into an embarrassing failure underscoring the miserable state of many of the Bundeswehr's most important weapons systems.
No other member of the government has been pushing as hard for Germany to increase its role abroad since taking office last year than von der Leyen. From the very start of her term, she has sought to distance herself from the "military reserve" preached by conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and by former Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. It is an approach which most notoriously manifested itself in Germany's abstention during the UN vote to conduct air strikes against Libya in 2011. At the Munich Security Conference in January, von der Leyen even proclaimed that "indifference is not an option for a country like Germany."
In recent weeks, von der Leyen has made it clear that Germany also has an obligation to intervene militarily if the threat of genocide exists somewhere. "Germany is even damned to take accept greater responsibility," she said, alluding to the country's difficult history. Von der Leyen wants to transform the Bundeswehr, the country's armed forces, into an intervention army capable of mastering deployments like those in Kosovo or Afghanistan. But the idea of deterrence based on powerful combat units and heavy weapons has also gained currency as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.
Little to Offer in Berlin
Against that backdrop and pressure from the international community, the ramshackle state of the Bundeswehr is no laughing matter in Berlin. At the moment, if Germany's allies were to ask it to step up its participation in deployments in the Baltic states or Iraq, for example, Chancellor Merkel would likely have to politely pass, creating a highly embarrassing situation for the country. For the moment, though, most pressure related to the Bundeswehr's ailments has been directed at von der Leyen. Her critics argue that she has pursued a foreign and security policy vision that goes beyond the Bundeswehr's actual capabilities. Now she faces additional criticism that she tried to play down the military's problems to members of parliament even though senior officials in her ministry were well aware of major shortcomings in the armed forces.
"Contrary to her own list of needed equipment, she created the impression in parliament that anything that could drive, fly or float was capable of full deployment," said Rainer Arnold, the defense policy spokesman for the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). "But we members of parliament will not be taken for idiots."
The defense minister hasn't exactly been blind-sided by the criticism either -- she's known about the problems since before entering office almost a year ago. On Friday, she summoned the heads of the German army, navy and air force as well as the Inspector General of the Bundeswehr to her office for five hours of questioning, much of it centering on events in parliament last Wednesday.
Major Deficiencies
In a hearing of the defense committee, the Bundeswehr General Inspector and other senior representatives of the military and the defense ministry presented the state of affairs to members of parliament. The committee had sought additional information after SPIEGEL reported in August about major deficiencies in the operational capability of important German weapons systems. On Wednesday, members of the committee reviewed a paper that provided a color-coded green, yellow and red classifications based on an assessment of the operational capability of the 22 main weapons systems used by the army, navy and air force.
It appears that the paper included a considerable amount of misleading information and that the military might even be in worse shape than that presented by the officials.
High-ranking military officials involved had the option of giving a seemingly arbitrary green, yellow or red classification for systems for which their unit had responsibility. Germany's lone deployable submarine (of four) received a yellow rating. Seventy of the country's 180 Boxer armored combat vehicles were deemed unfit for deployment. Defense Ministry sources also told SPIEGEL that Bundeswehr General Inspector Volker Wieker even made last-minute changes to the color codes on some of the systems. Meanwhile, air force chief Karl M¼llner made clear in remarks to members of the committee that, despite green dots signifying equipment was working, his forces were only capable of conducting current missions and did not have the capacity for any new ones. Officials at the ministry stated that the "classification system used is based on a combination of availability for deployment and training as well as consideration for the ability to fulfill the mission."
But some of the criteria seemed arbitrary, with no apparent rules on the time frames used for measuring the weapons systems' operational readiness. A good example is the NH90 helicopter. The report measured the operational capability for these aircraft during the months of April, May and June, a time when most were still flying. A current list from sources close to the manufacturer indicate that all but two of 33 helicopters have since been grounded.
The situation is similar with the navy's Sealynx helicopter, of which only four can apparently fly. In order to improve the aircraft's ranking in the overview, the period used for the averaging was October 2013 through September 2014. However, by the end of June, all of the aircraft had been grounded because of construction defects.
Bundeswehr - Operational Capability of Select Weapons SystemsWeapons SystemTotal NumberAvailableDeployableTiger helicopter31*1010NH90 helicopter33*88Sea King helicopter21153Sea Lynx helicopter22184CH53 helicopter834316Eurofighter fighter jet1097442Tornado fighter jet896638K130 corvette522U212 submarine411Frigates1187Marder tank406280280Boxer tank1807070Total stock = all procured unitsAvailable = in operation, including systems currently out of service because of maintenance or repairDeployable = can be used immediately for missions, exercises or training*includes pre-production modelsSource: Bundeswehr German Armed Forces
The ministry also didn't distinguish between "full" or "conditional" operational capability. But this is an important distinction, because when the German federal parliament votes on whether the Bundeswehr can engage in a foreign deployment, it only allows equipment to be sent that is fully operational. And that's where the deficiencies start to stack up. For example, on the list given to the parliamentarians, 16 CH53 transport helicopters are listed, but a previous air force internal report distributed to the Defense Ministry in August stated that only 7 were "fully" operational. With the Eurofighter fighter jet, Wednesday's official list for parliament stated that 42 aircraft were ready for deployment, but the August air force report stated that only eight were "fully" capable of operation. Despite these discrepancies, the Defense Ministry is still standing behind its official list, with officials claiming it provides a "meaningful overview of the situation."It's an assessment not shared by parliamentarians. "We called on the ministry to tell us how this list came to be and the criteria used to produce it," said Tobias Lindner, a fiscal policy expert with the Green Party.
Under the Gun
The minister herself is also reported to be upset about the report, sentiment she shared with the generals reporting to her last Friday. The inspectors were forced to report directly to von der Leyen about their weapons systems and will now be required to appear before the defense minister once every two weeks. She is also demanding that they explain how they reached their conclusions about the operational capability of the weapons systems in question.
The Bundeswehr's general inspector showed von der Leyen the report for parliament before last Wednesday's hearing, but the condition of weapons systems shouldn't have come as a surprise to senior Defense Ministry officials. Heads of the ministry had been alerted to the many problems in a memo dating August 12 that also included a copy of the internal air force report. Ultimately, those figures were not used in the report given to parliament, and critics argue the Defense Ministry should have provided more differentiated information to the elected officials.
In that August letter, officials in the Defense Ministry blamed the bottlenecks on repair times that had been delayed despite commitments to complete them and on the inability to find replacement parts for outdated weapons systems. One inspector even admitted to parliament's defense committee that he assumed the situation would continue for another "two or three years".
Iraqi army foils Anbar oil pipeline attack | Al-Shorfa
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:38
One gunman was killed and another was arrested in clashes between the army and a group that tried to blow up an oil pipeline north of Haditha in Anbar province, an Iraqi military spokesman said Monday (September 16th).
"Five gunmen tried to plant dynamite sticks around a crude oil pipeline north of Haditha, but a military force based nearby clashed with them, killing one of them and arresting another, while the other three fled the scene," said Iraqi army spokesman in Anbar Lt. Col. Najm al-Dulaimi.
Helicopters are conducting intensive searches to locate the men, who fled towards the western Anbar desert, he told Al-Shorfa, adding that they are probably al-Qaeda elements.
There were no casualties among the security forces or damages in the pipeline, he said.
Iraq-Jordan Pipeline | Iraq Business News
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:38
Posted on 25 August 2014. Tags: Anbar, Iraq, Iraq-Jordan Pipeline, Jordan, Ramadi
By John Lee.
Iraq was once the consumer of some 20% of Jordan's exports, but since the border between the two countries is now all but closed, this trade has dropped off dramatically.
Al Jazeera has reported that the number of trucks crossing the border between the two countries has fallen from an average of 500 per day to just 25 per day.
Jordan borders the Iraqi province of al-Anbar (Trebil border crossing pictured) which has been under partial Iraqi government control since December 2013.
The capital of the province, Ramadi, is still in government hands in part due to pro-government tribal fighters known as Sahwa.Trucks can still make the journey between the two countries, the report noted, but the crisis has turned a two day journey into a two week trek.
Since Jordan has been partly dependent on Iraqi oil supplies and has economic worries of its own, Jordanian business leaders have stressed the severity of the situation.
(Source: Al Jazeera)
Posted in Industry & Trade
Posted on 21 May 2014. Tags: Aqaba, Iraq-Jordan Pipeline, Jordan, pipelines, State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP)
By John Lee.
Iraq's parliament fully supports a project to build an $18 billion pipeline to export crude oil from Basra to Jordan's port city of Aqaba.
Speaking to The Jordan Times, Adnan Al Janabi, chairman of the Iraqi parliament's energy committee said:
''We are very supportive of this strategic project with Jordan, which will greatly help Iraq increase its oil exports across the world.''
The 1,680-kilometre double pipeline will pump one million barrels of oil a day from Basra on the Arabian Gulf to Aqaba Port, and around 258 million cubic feet of gas.
The oil pipeline, which is expected to be operational late in 2017, will provide Jordan with 150,000 barrels of- oil per day, while the rest will be exported through Aqaba, generating an estimated $3 billion a year in revenues for the Kingdom.
Approximately 100 million cubic feet of natural gas will fulfil Jordan's gas requirements and the rest will be used in pumping stations along the double pipeline.
Baghdad has recently shortlisted 12 international companies to build the pipeline, according to Iraqi officials and the State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP) is expected to invite these firms to submit their offers by November or December.
(Source: The Jordan Times)
Posted in Oil & Gas
Posted on 18 February 2014. Tags: Iraq-Jordan Pipeline, Jordan, pipelines
Jordan and Iraq began a coordination meeting with international companies interested in constructing an oil pipeline between the Iraqi city of Basra and the port city of Aqaba in Jordan.
Work on the project will begin soon, and once completed, it will be used to export crude Iraqi oil through the Aqaba port.
The final meeting among Jordan, Iraq and the international companies will be held tomorrow to prepare copies of the tenders from the Iraqi side.
Chief Commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) Kamil Mahadin, who attended the meeting, said it is one of the mega projects that would further enhance economic relations between Jordan and Iraq. ''Iraq will provide Jordan with oil at preferential prices as the pipeline will pass through the Kingdom's territories,'' he added.
The construction of the 1,700 kilometer-long pipeline will cost $18 billion and will allow Iraq to export around one million barrel of crude oil daily.
(Source: Petra)
Posted in Construction & Engineering, Oil & Gas
Posted on 05 February 2014. Tags: Anbar, Iraq-Jordan Pipeline, Jordan, oil exports
By John Lee.
Oil exports from Iraq to Jordan have been halted due to deteriorating security in Anbar province, according to a report from Reuters.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Oil said:
''Due to security developments in Anbar and because the transfer of oil to Jordan is done by truck, which needs safe passage to cross, exports were stopped '... As soon as the reasons are removed exports will resumed.''
The volume in question is said to be between 10,000 and 12,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
Iraq is planning to build an $18-billion pipeline to Jordan to export 1 million barrels bpd of crude, of which 150,000 bpd will supply Jordan's Zarqa refinery.
The remainder would be exported through the Red Sea port of Aqaba, reducing Iraq's reliance on the Strait of Hormuz.
(Source: Reuters)
Posted in Oil & Gas, Security
Posted on 11 January 2014. Tags: Aqaba, Iraq-Jordan Pipeline, Jordan, pipelines
By John Lee.
Jordan and Iraq have agreed on executing an oil pipeline to export Iraqi oil through Jordan.
KUNA reports that the agreement came after a high-ranking joint meeting attended by the energy ministers of the two countries.
The pipeline will pump one million bpd of Iraqi crude to the Red Sea port of Aqaba, while Iraq will provide Jordan with oil at preferential prices.
The two parties have also agreed to study the possibility of setting up an oil refinery and power station.
(Source: KUNA)
Posted in Construction & Engineering, Oil & Gas
Posted on 04 September 2013. Tags: Aqaba, China National Petroleum Corporation, CNPC, Consolidated Contractors Company, Daewoo, Egypt, Fius Capital, Go Gas, Greece, india, Iraq-Jordan Pipeline, Italy, Japan, Jordan, korea, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Marubeni, Mass Global, Mitsui, Orascom, Petrofac, Petrojet, pipelines, Punj Lloyd, Saipem, State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP), Stroygazconsulting (SGC), Toyota Tsusho
By John Lee.
The Wall Street Journal and Reuters report that Iraq has shortlisted 12 international companies to build the new $18-billion oil export pipeline to Jordan, the country's first such pipeline in decades.
Iraq's oil ministry has chosen these companies from a list of more than 80 international firms which submitted their credentials to build a section of the 1,040-mile pipeline from Basra to Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba.
The short-listed companies and consortiums are:
Lukoil (Russia);China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC);Marubeni Corporation (Japan);Mitsui (Japan);Toyota Tsusho (Japan);Punj Lloyd (India) and Mass Global International (Iraq);Saipem (Italy);Daewoo International Corporation (Korea);Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) (Greece);Go Gas (India), Larsen & Toubro (L&T) (India), and Fius Capital (Dubai);Petrofac (UK) and Stroygazconsulting (SGC) (Russia); and,Orascom (Egypt) and Petrojet (Egypt).It is understood that the State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP) will invite the short-listed companies to receive the tender package, and then submit their offers by November or December.
Iraq and Jordan signed a preliminary agreement in April to build the section of the pipeline that would stretch from an Iraqi oil pumping station in Haditha, west of Iraq, to Aqaba. The rest of the pipeline, which is 680 kilometers long, linking a Basra pumping station with the one in Haditha would be built and financed by the Iraqi oil ministry.
Iraq hopes the pipeline will make it less dependent on Persian Gulf export terminals, providing an alternative route if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz.
A third section of the pipeline, running to Syria's Banias port in the Mediterranean, has been postponed because of the conflict in the neighboring country. It would have a capacity of 1.25 million barrels a day.
(Sources: WSJ, Reuters)
Posted in Construction & Engineering, Oil & Gas
Posted on 05 July 2013. Tags: Aqaba, Citigroup, Haditha, Iraq-Jordan Pipeline, Jordan, pipelines, SNC Lavalin
By John Lee.
Forty companies are reported to be bidding for contracts to build and finance the new pipeline from Haditha to Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba (pictured).
Nateq Balasem Khalaf, deputy director general of the state State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP), told Bloomberg that Citibank is among the bidders, adding that other interested banks and companies are from Russia, South Korea, Japan, Italy, China, Egypt, Jordan, and Germany.
The new crude pipeline would carry 1 million barrels a day, including 150,000 barrels a day for Jordan's domestic consumption, and the rest for export, while the gas pipeline would transport 252 million cubic feet a day, of which 100 million cubic feet would be exported to Jordan.
SNC-Lavalin Group (SNC) is advising the government on ways to build new routes to export oil currently shipped via pipeline to Turkey and by sea through the Persian Gulf.
Khalaf said that the government plans to build and finance a separate section of the network itself to Haditha from Basra, for which it will ask for bids from pipeline suppliers by the end of the year.
Citigroup, a U.S. lender scaling back in some emerging markets, plans to open offices and branches in Iraq to benefit from an estimated $1 trillion of infrastructure spending there, Mayank Malik, the bank's chief executive officer for Jordan, Iraq, Syria and the Palestinian territories, said in a June 27 interview.
Iraq will start operating its third offshore export facility for crude by the end of the year and plans to upgrade its two onshore terminals at Basra and Khor al-Amaya, Khalaf said. The government is building 16 crude-storage tanks in the southern port of al-Faw, each with a capacity of 58,000 cubic feet. Four are operational, another four are to be completed by the end of July and the rest by year-end, he said.
Iraq is on track to increase crude exports to 3.5 million barrels a day by the end of 2013, Khalaf said. The country produced 3.15 million barrels a day to 3.2 million barrels a day on average in June, according to an e-mailed Oil Ministry statement on June 29.
(Source: Bloomberg)
Posted in Construction & Engineering, Oil & Gas
basra-aqaba-pipeline.jpg (JPEG Image, 365 — 254 pixels)
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:38
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Is Vice's Documentary on ISIS Illegal? - The Atlantic
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 19:41
The courts have broadly defined what it means to support terrorists.
Vice News/YouTube
By now, you may have already seen Vice News's extraordinary documentary ''The Islamic State.'' (As of this writing, it's been viewed on YouTube more than 3 million times and counting since mid-August.) Vice boasts that ''reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings.'' Dairieh's access is indeed unprecedented, and the product is gripping. He is shown traveling with ISIS fighters, interviewing Muslims who migrated to the caliphate, speaking with prisoners in an ISIS jail who proclaim their repentance and gratitude to the caliphate, and bouncing around the Syrian city of Raqqa in the jeep of the new ''morals police'' (hisba), who are also, in the video at least, met with the profuse gratitude of the locals. It is a journalistic score that would make any ambitious reporter or news organization envious, and a feat now almost impossible for Western journalists after the executions of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
It could also be construed as a federal crime if the U.S. government wanted to prosecute Vice or Dairieh.
The law that the documentary may violate is a prohibition on providing material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), or even just ''terrorists.'' Of course, the U.S. wants to block the flow of money, materiel, and men to groups like ISIS or, say, the ultra-Zionist Kach movement, which, like ISIS, is among the 59 groups on the State Department's FTO list. (Incidentally, this is also the law that prevented the families of Foley and Sotloff from paying ransoms.) But the government's definition of material support goes beyond, well, material, and encompasses ''service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, [and] expert advice or assistance.''
At first glance, there is nothing troubling about this at all. The U.S. wants to block people from giving money to terrorist groups, and so it wants to criminalize the act of advising them on how to hide, launder, or move money. The government also wants to destabilize those groups and prevent them from controlling territory, so it might reasonably want to stop someone from advising them on how to organize a police force, operate a consumer-protection office, or grow food in the desert more productively.
But the government's conception of what it means to deprive terrorist groups of assistance toward their goals goes beyond that. In essence, outlawing ''material support'' extends to the objective of isolating any terrorist group from any kind of cooperation with the outside world, and this goes for all groups on the State Department's FTO list, from al-Qaeda to the Kach group, the Basque ''Fatherland and Liberty'' (ETA) organization and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In the test case that came before the Supreme Court in 2010, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Court held that it was constitutional to prohibit a group of humanitarian legal professionals (including a retired U.S. judge) ''from engaging in certain specified activities, including training PKK members to use international law to resolve disputes peacefully; teaching PKK members to petition the United Nations and other representative bodies for relief; and engaging in political advocacy on behalf of Kurds living in Turkey and Tamils living in Sri Lanka.'' The Court rejected the claim that the statute ''should be interpreted to require proof that a defendant intended to further a foreign terrorist organization's illegal activities.'' Instead it affirmed that the statute prohibits '''knowingly' providing material support'' and that Congress was within its rights to choose ''knowledge about the organization's connection to terrorism, not specific intent to further its terrorist activities, as the necessary mental state for a violation.'' In short, according to the Court: expert advice + coordination with a terrorist group = federal crime.
According to the Court: expert advice + coordination with a terrorist group = federal crime.That decision means, for example, that Jimmy Carter and his Carter Center could be in violation of federal law for giving peacemaking advice to groups on the State Department's FTO list. Any private individual who coordinates with a group on that list, or a group that the individual ought to know engages in terrorism, with the purposes of providing it advice or assistance'--even on how to pursue an end to its campaign of violence'--is guilty of a crime by the logic of the Roberts Court. In the justices' judgment, the government's interest in delegitimizing and weakening any such group easily outweighs constitutional rights to speech and association.
What about journalists like Dairieh and media outlets like Vice? They evidently coordinated with ISIS'--Vice proudly advertises Dairieh's three-week embed with ISIS fighters. But is providing a group with an outlet for its views a kind of service? This question was the subject of another important case, perhaps the most consequential material-support case since Humanitarian Law Project: Tarek Mehanna v. United States.
Saudi King: ISIS Will Reach 'Europe in a Month and America in Another Month'
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:39
Saudi King Abdullah speaks before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his private residence in the Red Sea city of in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, June 27, 2014. Kerry also talked with Syrian opposition leader President Ahmad al-Jarba. It was not immediately clear why al-Jarba, a Sunni, was in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski).Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has a stark warning to America: The Islamic State's terror will visit American shores in one month if it is not confronted in Syria and Iraq.
"If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month," the king said Saturday, Agence France Presse reported. His comments came while he was speaking at ceremony for new ambassadors.
"Terrorism knows no border and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East. [...] It is no secret to you, what they have done and what they have yet to do. I ask you to transmit this message to your leaders: 'Fight terrorism with force, reason and speed.'"
King Abdullah's warning for the western world comes one day after a government watchdog reported that a federal bulletin released to law enforcement agencies has warned that the Islamic State group, also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, has infiltrated Mexico's city of Ciudad Juarez for an imminent attack on America.
"High-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources have confirmed to Judicial Watch that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued," the statement read, Judicial Watch reported Friday.
Earlier in the week, U.S. officials told The Blaze that a "significant increase" in chatter among terrorist groups has been observed in recent weeks.
Sam Harris (author) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 02:03
Samuel B. "Sam" Harris (born April 9, 1967)[2] is an American author, philosopher, and neuroscientist. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Project Reason.[3] He is the author of The End of Faith, which was published in 2004 and appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for 33 weeks. The book also won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction in 2005.[4] In 2006, Harris published the book Letter to a Christian Nation as a response to criticism of The End of Faith. This work was followed by The Moral Landscape, published in 2010, his long-form essay Lying in 2011, the short book Free Will in 2012, and Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion in 2014.
Harris is a contemporary critic of religion and proponent of scientific skepticism and the "New Atheism".[5] He is also an advocate for the separation of church and state, freedom of religion, and the liberty to criticize religion.[6] Harris has written numerous articles for The Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, and the journal Nature. His articles touch upon a diversity of topics including religion, morality, neuroscience, free will, terrorism, and self-defense.[7]
In his 2010 book The Moral Landscape, Harris argues that science can help answer moral problems and can aid the facilitation of human well-being.[6] He regularly gives talks around the United States and Great Britain, which include speeches at the University of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Caltech, Berkeley, Stanford University, and Tufts University, as well as TED, where he outlined the arguments made in his book The Moral Landscape.[8] Harris has also made numerous television appearances, including interviews for Nightline, Real Time with Bill Maher, The O'Reilly Factor, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Last Word, among others. He also appeared in the documentary films The God Who Wasn't There (2005) and The Unbelievers (2013).
Early life and education[edit]Harris grew up in a secular home in Los Angeles, son of actor Berkeley Harris and The Golden Girls creator and TV producer Susan Harris.[9] His parents rarely discussed religion, though it was always a subject which interested him.[10][11] Harris has been reluctant to discuss personal details such as where he now lives, where he grew up, or what his parents did, citing security reasons.[12] In 1986, as a young student at Stanford University, Harris experimented with the drug ecstasy, and has spoken about the powerful insights he felt psychologically.[13][14] Harris was a serious student of the martial arts and taught ninjutsu in college. After more than twenty years, he began practicing two martial arts again,[15] including Brazilian jiu-jitsu.[16]
Harris became interested in spiritual and philosophical questions when he studied at Stanford University. He was fascinated by the idea that he might be able to achieve spiritual insights without the use of drugs.[17] Leaving Stanford in his second year, he went to Asia, where he studied meditation with Hindu and Buddhist religious teachers,[17][18] including Dilgo Khyentse.[19] Eleven years later, in 1997, he returned to Stanford, completing a B.A. degree in philosophy in 2000.[11][20] Harris began writing his first book, The End of Faith, immediately after the September 11 attacks.[11]
He received a Ph.D. degree in cognitive neuroscience in 2009 at the University of California, Los Angeles,[11][21][22] using functional magnetic resonance imaging to conduct research into the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty.[11][22] His thesis was titled "The moral landscape: How science could determine human values", and his advisor was Mark S. Cohen.[23]
Harris married in 2004. He and his wife Annaka are the parents of a daughter.[24] Annaka Harris is co-founder of Project Reason and an editor of nonfiction and scientific books.
Harris's basic message is that the time has come to freely question the idea of religious faith.[25]p. 13''15 Harris consistently criticizes Islam, Christianity, and Judaism[citation needed] which he says tend to be monolithic and ready to harm others only for their religion. He feels that the survival of civilization is in danger because of a taboo against questioning religious beliefs, and that this taboo impedes progress toward more enlightened approaches to spirituality and ethics.
Although an atheist, Harris avoids using the term, arguing that the label is both unnecessary and a liability.[26] His position is that "atheism" is not in itself a worldview or a philosophy. He believes atheists "should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar'--for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, honest people, who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them".[26]
Harris argues that religion is especially rife with bad ideas, calling it "one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised."[27] He compares modern religious beliefs to the myths of the Ancient Greeks, which were once accepted as fact but which are obsolete today. In a January 2007 interview with PBS, Harris said, "We don't have a word for not believing in Zeus, which is to say we are all atheists in respect to Zeus. And we don't have a word for not being an astrologer". He goes on to say that the term will be retired only when "we all just achieve a level of intellectual honesty where we are no longer going to pretend to be certain about things we are not certain about".[28]
He also rejects the claim that the Bible was inspired by an omniscient god. He insists that if that were the case, the book could "make specific, falsifiable predictions about human events". Instead, he notes, the Bible "does not contain a single sentence that could not have been written by a man or woman living in the first century".[29]
In The End of Faith, Harris suggests that religious dogma is flawed in that such beliefs are based on faith rather than on evidence and experience. He maintains that religion allows views that would otherwise be a sign of "madness" to become accepted or, in some cases, revered as "holy", citing as an example the doctrine of transubstantiation. Harris contends that if a lone individual developed this belief, he or she would be considered "mad", and that it is "merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window".[25]p. 72.
Harris says the idea of free will is incoherent. According to Harris, humans are not free and no sense can be given to the concept that they might be.[30]
Religion as failed science[edit]Harris postulates that religion is essentially a failed science. He states that "religion was the discourse we had when all causes in the universe were opaque" such that religion developed as a consequence of humans' "cognitive imperative" to seek explanations coupled with an earlier obliviousness to the natural order of the environment.[31]
''As a cognitive and behavioral imperative, we form descriptions of the world and we try to figure out what's going on. We tell ourselves stories about our origins, about where we are going and about causes in the world. Given our pervasive ignorance and our disposition to see agency in the world, these stories entail relationships with invisible friends and enemies.''Harris believes that religion is "losing the argument" with science, given the escalating popularity of science within the past hundred years on almost all fronts. As an example he states that, given our knowledge of epilepsy, most parents today do not send their epileptic children to exorcists. Harris also predicts that science will one day truly be capable of understanding spirituality and feelings of otherworldliness commonly associated with religion.[31]
Religion and women[edit]Harris cites examples of women and girls abused in the name of various different types of religion. Iraqi Kajal Khidr was tortured and threatened with death after she was suspected of adultery. Perpetrators were released without trial because they allegedly acted in defense of family honor. The UgandanLord's Resistance Army forces girls into marriage and gives their husbands complete control allowing rape and other violence. In Utah Mary Ann Kingston was forced at 16 to marry her uncle. When she ran away her father beat her to the point of unconsciousness.
Harris is strongly critical of the way religion is used to excuse the patriarchy, in the teachings of fundamentalist Christianity and Judaism woman was the last to be created and the first to sin. Harris condemns the religious idea that women should be subservient to men. Harris feels the Bible treats girls and women as the property of men, before marriage girls are the property of their fathers and after marriage women become the property of their husbands.
''From this perspective, rape is a crime that one man commits against the honor of another; the woman is merely Shame's vehicle, and often culpably acquiescent'--being all blandishments and guile and winking treachery. According to God, if the victim of a rape neglects to scream loudly enough, she should be stoned to death as an accessory to her own defilement (Deuteronomy 22:24).[32]''Women and girls are seen as prospective whores who need mastering to prevent evil, Delilah, Jezebel and Salome are given as examples.
''According to God, women have been placed on earth to service men, to bear their children, to keep their homes in order, and above all to not betray them by becoming the object of another man's sexual enjoyment. And so it falls to every man to shield his women from the predations of his rapacious brothers and oblige them, until death or decrepitude, to fulfill their most sacred purpose'--as incubators of sons. If we ever achieve a civilization of true equity, respect, and love between the sexes, it will not be because we paid more attention to our holy books.[32]''Conversational intolerance[edit]Harris states that he advocates a benign, noncoercive, corrective form of intolerance, distinguishing it from historic religious persecution. He promotes a conversational intolerance, in which personal convictions are scaled against evidence, and where intellectual honesty is demanded equally in religious views and non-religious views. He suggests that, just as a person declaring a belief that Elvis is still alive would immediately make his every statement suspect in the eyes of those he was conversing with, asserting a similarly non-evidentiary point on a religious doctrine ought to be met with similar disrespect.[33] He also believes there is a need to counter inhibitions that prevent the open critique of religious ideas, beliefs, and practices under the auspices of "tolerance".[34]
Harris maintains that such conversation and investigation are essential to progress in every other field of knowledge. As one example, he suggests that few would require "respect" for radically differing views on physics or history; instead, he notes, societies expect and demand logical reasons and valid evidence for such claims, while those who fail to provide valid support are quickly marginalized on those topics. Thus, Harris suggests that the routine deference accorded to religious ideologies constitutes a double standard, which, following the events of September 11, 2001 attacks, has become too great a risk.[34]
In the 2007 PBS interview, Harris said,
''The usefulness of religion, the fact that it gives life meaning, that it makes people feel good is not an argument for the truth of any religious doctrine. It's not an argument that it's reasonable to believe that Jesus really was born of a virgin or that the Bible is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. You can only believe those things or you should only be able to believe those things if you think there are good reasons to believe those things.''Religion in the United States[edit]Harris focuses much of his critique on the state of contemporary religious affairs in the United States. Harris worries that many areas of American culture are harmed by beliefs that are driven by religious dogma. For instance, he cites polls showing that 44% of Americans believe it is either "certain" or "probable" that Jesus will return to Earth within the next fifty years, and suggests that the same percentage believe that creationism should be taught in public schools and that God has literally promised the land of Israel to the modern-day Jews.[35][36] Harris often travels with bodyguards because he receives death threats from both Muslims and Christians.[37]
When then-President George W. Bush publicly invoked God in speeches regarding either domestic or foreign affairs, Harris questioned how people might react if the president were to mention Zeus or Apollo in a similar vein.[35]
Islam and Muslims[edit]While Harris is "extremely critical of all religious faiths", he asserts that the doctrines of Islam are uniquely dangerous to civilization,[38] stating that unlike Jainism, Islam "is not even remotely a religion of peace".[6] Harris denounced New York mayor Bloomberg's and President Obama's support of allowing the Park51 Islamic center to be built. In an opinion piece to The Washington Post, Harris claims that allowing the Islamic center to be built would be seen as liberal "cowardice", arguing that "Islam simply is different from other faiths" and should be changed "for the better". In the same piece, Harris states that there is no legal basis for stopping the community center from being built, nor should there be one.[39]
Harris criticizes the general response in the West to terrorist atrocities such as the 9/11 attacks: to Harris the "war on 'terrorism'" is meaningless.[25]p. 31, p. 28. Harris said in 2004: "It is time we admitted that we are not at war with terrorism. We are at war with Islam."[40]
Suggesting that the Qur'an and the hadith incite Muslims to kill or subjugate infidels, and reward such actions with paradise (including 72 virgins), Harris believes Islam is a religion of violence and political subjugation. He asserts that the liberal argument of stating that the phenomenon of religious extremism is a consequence of fundamentalism in and of itself is false, and that many other religions such as Jainism have not experienced the same trends Islam and Christianity have. Harris considers martyrdom as taking the "sting out of death" and a source of peril. He rejects arguments that suggest such behavior is a result of extremist Muslims, not mainstream ones. He argues that the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy erupted not because the cartoons were derogatory but because "most Muslims believe that it is a sacrilege to depict Muhammad at all".[41] Harris maintains that the West is at war with "precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the hadith".[25]pp. 109''110.
Harris acknowledges that religions other than Islam can inspire, and have inspired, atrocities. In The End of Faith, he discusses examples such as the Inquisition and witch hunts. However, Harris believes that Islam is the most evil.[38]
Harris argues there is no such thing as Islamophobia, but criticizes "prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth".[39]
Harris has called upon Muslim communities to criticize their faith, and assist Western governments in incarcerating any religious extremists among them. He demands that Muslims "must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling" in the fight against terrorism.[38]
Harris has stated that Israel holds the "moral high ground" compared to Muslims and Islamist groups in the Palestinian''Israeli conflict:
''For instance, [liberals] ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal. ... Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah.[42]''Judaism[edit]Harris was raised by a secular Jewish mother and a Quaker father, but has publicly stated that his upbringing was entirely secular. Writer and friend Christopher Hitchens once referred to Harris as a "Jewish warrior against theocracy and bigotry of all stripes",[43] though it remains unclear whether Harris approves of such a comment.
In The End of Faith, Harris is critical of the Jewish faith and its followers:
''The gravity of Jewish suffering over the ages, culminating in the Holocaust, makes it almost impossible to entertain any suggestion that Jews might have brought their troubles upon themselves. This is, however, in a rather narrow sense, the truth. [...] the ideology of Judaism remains a lightning rod for intolerance to this day. [...] Jews, insofar as they are religious, believe that they are bearers of a unique covenant with God. As a consequence, they have spent the last two thousand years collaborating with those who see them as different by seeing themselves as irretrievably so. Judaism is as intrinsically divisive, as ridiculous in its literalism, and as at odds with the civilizing insights of modernity as any other religion. Jewish settlers, by exercising their "freedom of belief" on contested land, are now one of the principal obstacles to peace in the Middle East.''Moderation[edit]Though Harris accepts that replacing religious extremism with religious moderation would be a positive step, he criticizes moderate theists. Harris argues that religious moderation gives cover to religious fundamentalism. He suggests that under the banner of moderation, respect and tolerance are sacred, thus preventing credible assaults upon extremism. Harris states:
''To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world'--to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish'--is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it. But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must finally recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.[44]''Furthermore, Harris believes that it is absurd to continue to expect equal respect for all conflicting religious beliefs, as the claim to absolute truth is inherent in nearly all belief systems at some level. Any religion that claims that all other belief systems are false and heretical cannot foster genuine acceptance or tolerance of religious diversity. Harris concludes that religious moderation stands on weak intellectual ground, as well as a poor understanding of theological issues.
Harris also says that moderation is bad theology because the extremists are, in a sense, right: he thinks that, if one reads the texts literally, God wants to put homosexuals to death or destroy infidels. Harris claims that religious moderates appear to be blinded to the reality of what fundamentalists truly believe. Moderates tend to argue that suicide attacks can be attributed to a range of social, political, and economic factors. Harris counters by noting that many suicide bombers come not from poverty but from mainstream Muslim society. He points to the fact that the 9/11 hijackers were "college-educated" and "middle-class" and suffered "no discernible experience of political oppression". Harris thus asserts that religion is a significant cause of terrorism.[45]
''How many more architects and mechanical engineers must hit the wall at 400 miles an hour before we admit to ourselves that jihadist violence is not merely a matter of education, poverty, or politics? The truth, astonishingly enough, is that in the year 2006 a person can have sufficient intellectual and material resources to build a nuclear bomb and still believe that he will get 72 virgins in Paradise. Western secularists, liberals, and moderates have been very slow to understand this. The cause of their confusion is simple: They don't know what it is like to really believe in God.''Harris discounts the idea that Jesus' teachings, and the New Testament in general, serve to moderate the more extreme laws set forth in the Old Testament. He points out that the Old Testament prescribes death as the punishment for'--among other things'--breaking any of the Ten Commandments, including heresy against Yahweh and the act of adultery. He asserts that Jesus and his followers never repudiated such teachings in the New Testament. In Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris cites several quotations in the New Testament attributed to Jesus himself that clearly do uphold adherence to the Old Testament prophets. Speaking at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in 2005, Harris said, "I've got news for you'--I've read the books. God is not a moderate.... There's no place in the books where God says, 'You know, when you get to the New World and you develop your three branches of government and you have a civil society, you can just jettison all the barbarism I recommended in the first books.'"[46]
Morality and ethics[edit]In regard to morality, Harris considers the time long overdue to reclaim the concept for rational secular humanism. Harris describes the supposed link between religious faith and morality as a myth, unsupported by statistical evidence. He notes, for instance, that the highly secular Scandinavian countries are among the most generous in helping the developing world.
Harris goes further and posits that, far from being the source of our moral intuition, religion can yield highly problematic ethical positions. He cites several examples, including the Catholic prohibition against condom use aggravating the global AIDS epidemic, the attempts made by the American religious lobby to impede funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and the punitive nature of the American "war on drugs". He sees in these examples the tendency of religion to decouple moral judgments from focus on real human suffering. Harris also sees the influence of religion in most of America's "vice" laws. He writes that most of the laws outlawing pornography, sodomy, and prostitution are actually intended to combat "sin" rather than "crime".[25](p 158) Harris suggests that morality and ethics can be studied, and improved, without "presupposing anything on insufficient evidence".[47] He states that humans "decide what is good in the Good Books", rather than deriving our moral code from scriptures. He praises the Golden Rule as one moral teaching that is "great, wise and compassionate". He contrasts this with biblical edicts directing that acts such as premarital sex, disobedience of one's parents, and the worship of "other gods" should be punished by death.[25] Harris states that we have evolved in our thinking such that we understand that the Golden Rule is worth following while some commandments in other sections of the Bible are not. He also points out that even the Golden Rule is not unique to any one religion and was taught by such figures as Confucius and the Buddha centuries before the New Testament was written.
More controversially, Harris has put forward an argument questioning the relative morality of collateral damage and judicial torture during war. He reasons that, if we accept collateral damage when bombs are used in warfare, we have no reason to reject the use of torture. Indeed, Harris argues that the former, involving the killing of innocent civilians, should be much more troubling to us than the torture of, for instance, a terrorist suspect. He claims that it is merely a function of our biological intuitions that suffering appears disproportionately unimportant when enacted impersonally. Harris notes that the deaths of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan were both foreseeable and inevitable consequences of bombing those countries. However, the civilian casualties were seen as unfortunate but not so unacceptable as to prevent the attacks. Any suffering caused by the torture of people such as Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Osama bin Laden, Harris argues, should pale in comparison to the deaths and injuries of comparatively innocent citizens. In a response to the controversy caused by this argument, Harris stated, "[I]f you think it is ever justifiable to drop bombs in an attempt to kill a man like Osama bin Laden (and thereby risk killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children), you should think it may sometimes be justifiable to 'water-board' a man like Osama bin Laden."[48] Ultimately, Harris maintains that torture should remain illegal, and that comparing torture with collateral damage does not cause him to see torture as "acceptable". However, he believes that discussion is needed on the coherence of our beliefs regarding the two.[25][page needed][49]
Science of morality[edit]In his third book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, Harris argues that "Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors'--ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics." He contends that humanity has reached a point in time when, thanks to scientific flourishing and inquiry, many sciences can "have an impact on the well-being of others".[50] Harris argues that it is time to promote a scientific approach to normative morality, rejecting the idea that religion determines what is good.[51] He believes that once scientists begin proposing moral norms in papers, supernatural moral systems will join "astrology, witchcraft and Greek mythology on the scrapheap".[51]
Harris's arguments in The Moral Landscape were widely criticized by reviewers.[52][53][54][55][56][57] Soon after the book's release, Harris responded to some of the criticisms in an article for The Huffington Post.[58]
Spirituality[edit]Harris wishes to incorporate spirituality in the domain of human reason. When Harris considered the differences between the philosophies of the East and the West, he wrote:[25]p. 215.
''..the difference is unmistakable: Buddha, Shankara, Padmasambhava, Nagarjuna, Longchenpa, and countless others down to the present have no equivalents in the West. In spiritual terms, we appear to have been standing on the shoulders of dwarfs.''He states that for spirituality he draws inspiration from the practices and philosophies of Eastern religions, as described principally by the teachings of Buddhism (e.g., the Dzogchen teachings of the Vajrayana) and Hinduism (e.g., the teachings of Advaita Vedanta).[25]p. 293. Although he doesn't support the metaphysical claims that people tend to make in those traditions, and on the basis of their spiritual experiences.[59] In the fourth chapter of Waking Up after quoting Ramana Maharshi he describes his views on the philosophy of Advaita as following,[60]
''While the philosophy of Advaita, and Ramana's own words, may tend to support a metaphysical reading of teachings of this kind, their validity is not metaphysical. Rather, it is experiential. The whole of Advaita reduces to a series of very simple and testable assertions: Consciousness is the prior condition of every experience; the self or ego is an illusory appearance within it; look closely for what you are calling ''I,'' and the feeling of being a separate self will disappear; what remains, as a matter of experience, is a field of consciousness'--free, undivided, and intrinsically uncontaminated by its ever-changing contents.''While Harris doesn't consider himself a Buddhist, he considers Buddhism to be almost unique among the world's religions as a repository of contemplative wisdom.[61] His criticism of Buddhism as a faith has been published in an article called "Killing the Buddha".[62] In his 20's, Harris also spent 2 years on meditation retreats, ranging in length from one week to three months.[63]
Despite his anti-religious sentiments, Sam Harris also claims that there is "nothing irrational about seeking the states of mind that lie at the core of many religions. Compassion, awe, devotion and feelings of oneness are surely among the most valuable experiences a person can have."[17]
Support for Geert Wilders' rights[edit]Harris wrote a piece in which he voiced his support for the rights of Dutch politician Geert Wilders to release his movie Fitna which received an outcry from the Muslim world, stating that Wilders has become the latest projectile in "the zero-sum conflict between civil society and traditional Islam".[64]
Organizational affiliations[edit]In 2007 Sam and Annaka Harris founded Project Reason, a charitable foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society.[65] He is also a member of the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America,[66] a national lobbying organization representing the interests of nontheistic Americans.
Neuroscience[edit]Building on his interests in belief and religion, Harris completed a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at UCLA.[18][22] He used fMRI to explore whether the brain responses differ between sentences that subjects judged as true, false, or undecidable, across a wide range of categories including autobiographical, mathematical, geographical, religious, ethical, semantic, and factual statements.[67] Statements that were judged as "true" (belief) led to greater activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex than did statements that were judged as "false" (disbelief) both when examined across all categories, and when examined for mathematical judgments alone and for ethical judgments alone. Conversely, disbelief led to greater activation of left inferior frontal gyrus, right middle frontal gyrus, and bilateral anterior insular cortex.
When certainty (belief and disbelief) was compared against uncertainty, a widespread network of sub-cortical regions, including the head and tail of the caudate were activated. Uncertainty activated anterior cingulate cortex and superior frontal gyrus more than certainty did.
In another study, Harris and colleagues examined the neural basis of religious and non-religious belief using fMRI.[68] Fifteen committed Christians and fifteen nonbelievers were scanned as they evaluated the truth and falsity of religious and nonreligious propositions. For both groups, statements of belief (sentences judged as either true or false) were associated with increased activation of ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in emotional judgment, processing uncertainty, assessing rewards and thinking about oneself.[22] A "comparison of all religious trials to all nonreligious trials produced a wide range of signal differences throughout the brain," and the processing of religious belief and empirical belief differed in significant ways.[68] The regions associated with increased activation in response to religious stimuli included the anterior insula, the ventral striatum, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the posterior medial cortex.
Writings and media appearances[edit]Harris's writing focuses on neuroscience and criticism of religion, for which he is best known. He blogs for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and formerly for Truthdig, and his articles have appeared in such publications as Newsweek, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the British national newspaper The Times.[69]
Harris has made numerous TV and radio appearances, including on The O'Reilly Factor, ABC News, Tucker, Book TV, NPR, Real Time, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show. In 2005, Harris appeared in the documentary film The God Who Wasn't There. Harris was a featured speaker at the 2006 conference Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival. He made two presentations and participated in the ensuing panel discussions. Harris has also appeared a number of times on the Point of Inquiry radio podcast. In April 2011, he debated William Lane Craig on the nature of morality.[70][71]
In September 2011 Harris's essay Lying was published as a Kindle single.[72]
On March 8, 2012, he was the guest on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. The conversation lasted nearly three hours and covered a variety of topics related to Harris's research and personal experiences.
On September 28, 2012, Harris spoke at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Australia.[73] His speech was on the delusion of Free Will,[73] which is also the topic of his book of 2012.[74]
On April 7, 2013, Harris revealed on his blog his forthcoming book, Waking Up: Science, Skepticism, Spirituality, which describes his views on mystical experience.[75]
Criticism[edit]Harris has been criticized by some of his fellow contributors at The Huffington Post. In particular, R. J. Eskow has accused him of fostering an intolerance towards Islam, potentially as damaging as the religious fanaticism that he opposes.[76][77]Margaret Wertheim, herself an atheist, also weighed in, contending that liberals should view Harris's account of religious faith "with considerable skepticism".[78] On the other hand, Harris has received backing from Nina Burleigh[79] and Richard Dawkins.[80]
Journalist Chris Hedges' book When Atheism Becomes Religion (originally published as I Don't Believe in Atheists) targets Harris and Dawkins as its two examples of the worst atheism has to offer. Early in the book,[81] Hedges quotes a statement from Harris's The End of Faith[82] advocating a nuclear first strike as arguably "the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe" in the event of an Islamist regime such as Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability. Harris has responded[83] to Hedges' repeated mentions of the quotation (throughout the book and in subsequent articles and interviews) by reprinting the passage in question with sections highlighted to stress his "personal horror" not only at the likely immediate casualties of a first strike but also at the probable ultimate consequences for Westerners, and his call for Muslim nations to police each other's weapons development so as to prevent the scenario from arising. Hedges' comment has also drawn counter-criticism, as other atheists and even a few theologians have come to Harris' defense, accusing Hedges of taking the quote out of context.[citation needed] As of 2011 both the quote and the criticism continue to influence the public perception of both parties.
Anthropologist Scott Atran has criticized Harris for using what Atran considers to be an unscientific approach towards highlighting the role of belief in the psychology of suicide bombers. In the 2006 conference Beyond Belief, Atran confronted Harris for portraying a "caricature of Islam". Atran later followed up his comments in an online discussion for, in which he criticized Harris and others for using methods of combating religious dogmatism and faith that Atran believes are "scientifically baseless, psychologically uninformed, politically na¯ve, and counterproductive for goals we share".[84] In The National Interest, Atran argued against Harris's thesis in The Moral Landscape that science can determine moral values. Atran adds that abolishing religion will do nothing to rid mankind of its ills.[85]
In January 2007, Harris received criticism from John Gorenfeld, writing for AlterNet.[86] Gorenfeld took Harris to task for defending some of the findings of paranormal investigations into areas such as reincarnation and xenoglossy. He also strongly criticized Harris for his defense of judicial torture. Gorenfeld's critique was subsequently reflected by Robert Todd Carroll, writing in the Skeptic's Dictionary.[87] On his website Harris disputed that he had defended these views to the extent that Gorenfeld suggested.[88] Shortly afterward, Harris engaged in a lengthy debate with Andrew Sullivan on the internet forum Beliefnet.[89] In April 2007, Harris debated with the evangelical pastor Rick Warren for Newsweek magazine.[90]
Madeleine Bunting quotes Harris in saying "some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them", and states this "sounds like exactly the kind of argument put forward by those who ran the Inquisition".[91] Quoting the same passage, theologian Catherine Keller asks, "[c]ould there be a more dangerous proposition than that?" and argues that the "anti-tolerance" it represents would "dismantle" the Jeffersonian wall between church and state.[92] Writer Theodore Dalrymple described the passage as "quite possibly the most disgraceful that I have read in a book by a man posing as a rationalist".[93] Harris repudiated his critics' characterization, stating they "have interpreted the second sentence of this passage to mean that I advocate simply killing religious people for their beliefs. . . . but such a reading remains a frank distortion of my views."[94] Harris goes on to argue that beliefs are only dangerous to the extent that they can influence a person's behavior, and to the extent that the behavior is violent. As Harris explains in the End of Faith, "Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people." He believes that pre-emptively attacking known dangerous fanatics (e.g. Osama Bin Laden) is justified. Harris also claims, however, that "Whenever we can capture and imprison jihadists, we should. But in most cases this is impossible."[94]
After two columns, one in Al Jazeera and one in Salon, accused the New Atheists of expressing irrational anti-Muslim animus under the guise of rational atheism, Glenn Greenwald wrote a column saying he agreed: "The key point is that Harris does far, far more than voice criticisms of Islam as part of a general critique of religion. He has repeatedly made clear that he thinks Islam is uniquely threatening ... Yes, he criticizes Christianity, but he reserves the most intense attacks and superlative condemnations for Islam, as well as unique policy proscriptions of aggression, violence and rights abridgments aimed only at Muslims."[95]
Harris wrote a response to this controversy, which also aired on a debate hosted by The Huffington Post on whether critics of Islam are unfairly labeled as bigots:[96]
''Is it really true that the sins for which I hold Islam accountable are ''committed at least to an equal extent by many other groups, especially [my] own''? ... The freedom to poke fun at Mormonism is guaranteed [not by the First Amendment but] by the fact that Mormons do not dispatch assassins to silence their critics or summon murderous hordes in response to satire. ... Can any reader of this page imagine the staging of a similar play [to The Book of Mormon] about Islam in the United States, or anywhere else, in the year 2013? No you cannot'--unless you also imagine the creators of this play being hunted for the rest of their lives by religious maniacs. Yes, there are crazy people in every faith'--and I often hear from them. But ... At this moment in history, there is only one religion that systematically stifles free expression with credible threats of violence. The truth is, we have already lost our First Amendment rights with respect to Islam'--and because they brand any observation of this fact a symptom of Islamophobia, Muslim apologists like Greenwald are largely to blame.[97]''Commenting on Harris's book Free Will, Daniel Dennett disagrees with Harris' position on compatibilism, saying that Harris directs his arguments against an unreasonably absolute or "perfect freedom" version of compatibilism, which Dennett describes as an incoherent, straw man version.[98]
References[edit]^According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905-1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.^Current Biography; January 2012, Vol. 73 Issue 1, p37^"About Sam Harris". July 5, 2010. Retrieved July 5, 2010. "Mr. Harris is a Co''Founder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He began and eventually received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA." ^PEN American Center (2005). "The PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction." . Retrieved on 2011-12-01.^Harris, Sam (May 7, 2010). "A Science of Morality". The Huffington Post (The Huffington Post Media Group). Retrieved September 8, 2011. ^ abcDon, Katherine (2010). "'The Moral Landscape': Why science should shape morality."Salon (Oct. 17). Retrieved on 2011-12-01.^Harris, Sam (2011). "Sam Harris: Articles." . Retrieved 12-21-2011.^Harris, Sam (2010). "Science can answer moral questions."TED. February 2010.^Anderson, Jon (October 20, 1985). "'Girls' Series is sold gold for Harris". Chicago Tribune TV Week. Retrieved 18 September 2013. ^"Does God Exist?". American Jewish University. November 6, 2007. ^ abcdeSegal, David (October 26, 2006). "Atheist Evangelist". The Washington Post. ^Piccalo, Gina (October 2, 2006). "Oh, dear God'--it's him again". Los Angeles Times. ^"Sam Harris." (2008). The Science Studio. Science Network. October 3, 2008. Transcript.^Harris, Sam (June 28, 2011). "MDMA Caution with Sam Harris". ^Harris, Sam (2012). Free Will. Free Press. ISBN 978-1451683400. ^Wood, Graeme (April 24, 2013). "The Atheist Who Strangled Me". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 11, 2014. ^ abcMiller, Lisa (2010). "Sam Harris Believes in God". Newsweek. ^ abSegal, David. "Atheist Evangelist",The Washington Post, October 26, 2006.^Harris, Sam (November 11, 2012). "Science on the Brink of Death". Retrieved November 14, 2012. ^Rice, Lewis I. "The Iconoclast: Sam Harris wants believers to stop believing". Stanford Magazine. ^Greenberg, Brad A. (April 1, 2008). "Making Belief". UCLA Magazine. Retrieved 2009-10-28. ^ abcdHealy, Melissa (September 30, 2009). "Religion: The heart believes what it will, but the brain behaves the same either way". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 24, 2014. Retrieved 2009-10-17. ^Harris, Sam (2009). "The moral landscape How science could determine human values". ProQuest. Retrieved 5 June 2014. ^Harris, Sam. "". Sam Harris. ^ abcdefghiHarris, Sam (2004). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. W.W. Norton & Company. ^ abHarris, Sam (2007). "The Problem with Atheism." September 28, 2007. Transcript^"The Problem with Atheism". Sam Harris at September 28, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2007. ^Harris, Sam (2005). "Interview: Sam Harris". ^Harris, Sam. "Reply to a Christian". Council for Secular Humanism. ^^ ab"Sam Harris: On Interpreting Scripture". Big Think. Retrieved 28 September 2013. ^ abGod's Hostages^Sam Harris. Does God Exist? A debate between bestselling authors Rabbi David Wolpe and Sam Harris. Jewish Television Network. Event occurs at 1:00:00. Retrieved May 20, 2011. ^ abBrian Flemming & Sam Harris, 2005. The God Who Wasn't There, extended interviews. Beyond Belief Media.^ ab"The Politics of Ignorance". The Huffington Post.^Pew Research Center '' Religion and Politics The Pew Research Center.^Oppenheimer, Mark (October 15, 2010). "Atheists and Humanists Meet in Los Angeles and Debate Future". The New York Times. ^ abc"Sam Harris: Bombing Our Illusions". Huffington Post. October 10, 2005. Retrieved July 5, 2010. ^ abHarris, Sam (August 13, 2010). "What Obama Got Wrong About the Mosque". The Daily Beast. The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC. Retrieved October 13, 2011. ^"Major survey challenges Western perceptions of Islam". Agence France-Presse. February 27, 2008. ^Harris, Sam (February 16, 2006). "Who Are the Moderate Muslims?". The Huffington Post. ^The Rational Response Squad. "Head-in-the-Sand Liberals by Sam Harris | The Rational Response Squad". Retrieved 2012-09-09. ^Tweet . "'Martin Amis is no racist'". Sam Harris. Retrieved 2012-08-05. ^Golson, Blair. "Sam Harris: the Truthdig Interview", Truthdig, April 3, 2006.^"Jewcy's Big Question: Why Are Atheists So Angry?". Sam Harris at The Huffington Post. November 29, 2006. Retrieved December 6, 2007. ^See external links "Lecture at New York Society for Ethical Culture '' November 16, 2005".^"Why Religion Must End." .org.^Sam Harris. "Response to Controversy".^Sam Harris, 2005. "In Defense of Torture." The Huffington Post.^Tweet . "The Moral Landscape". Sam Harris. Retrieved 2012-08-05. ^ ab"Morality: 'We can send religion to the scrap heap' '' opinion '' 20 October 2010". New Scientist. Retrieved 2012-08-05. ^T. Jollimore, Barnes & Noble Review, October 22, 2010.^K.A. Appiah, "Science Knows Best", The New York Times, October 1, 2010^M. Robinson, "What Unitarians Know (and Sam Harris Doesn't)", The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2010^J. Horgan, "Be wary of the righteous rationalist: We should reject Sam Harris's claim that science can be a moral guidepost", Scientific American blog, October 11, 2010.^D. Chopra, "Beyond belief: Sam Harris imagines a 'moral landscape'",, October 18, 2010^P.Foster, "Sam Harris's Brave New World", National Post, October 9, 2010^Harris, Sam (May 25, 2011). "A Response to Critics". Huffington Post. ^, - "my views on Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, etc."^, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion^, - "my views on Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, etc."^^^Harris, Sam (May 5, 2008). "Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2012. ^Project Reason.^"Secular Coalition for America Advisory Board Biography". Retrieved 2012-09-09. ^Harris, S.; Sheth, S. A.; Cohen, M. S. (2008). "Functional neuroimaging of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty". Annals of Neurology63 (2): 141''147. doi:10.1002/ana.21301. PMID 18072236. edit^ abHarris, S.; Kaplan, J. T.; Curiel, A.; Bookheimer, S. Y.; Iacoboni, M.; Cohen, M. S. (2009). "The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief". In Sporns, Olaf. PLoS ONE4 (10): e7272. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007272. edit^"About Sam Harris",^Schneider, Nathan (July 1, 2013). "The New Theist". The Chronicle of Higher Education. ^"The God Debate". Sam Harris '' The Blog. August 15, 2011. ^"Coming in September". Sam Harris '' The Blog. April 14, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2011. ^ ab"Sam Harris at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas". Sydney Opera House. July 26, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2013. ^Menaker, Daniel (July 12, 2013). "Have It Your Way". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2013. ^"My views on Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, etc.", ""^Eskow, R.J. (2005). Blind Faith: "Sam Harris Attacks Islam."The Huffington Post. (Oct. 11). Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Eskow, R. J. (2006). "Reject Arguments For Intolerance''Even From Atheists."The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Wertheim, Margaret (2006). ""The End of Faith?"The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Nina Burleigh, 2005. "Forget About Christ, Get God out of Christmas First."The Huffington Post. (Dec. 8). Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Dawkins, Richard (2005) "Coming Out Against Religious Mania", The Huffington Post (Aug. 4). Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Hedges, Chris (2008). "When Atheism Becomes Religion", Free Press, p. 36^Harris, Sam (2004). "The End of Faith", p. 129^Harris, Sam. "Sam Harris Responds to Chris Hedges' 'Fundamentalism Kills' Column"Truthdig (July 26, 2011) Retrieved March 28, 2012^Atran, Scott (2006). ""An Edge Discussion of Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival."." . Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Atran, Scott (2011). "Sam Harris's Guide to Nearly Everything." (March/April). Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Gorenfeld, John (2007). "Sam Harris's Faith in Eastern Spirituality and Muslim Torture." . Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Carroll, Robert Todd (2007). "Sam Harris: A Man of Faith?"Skeptic's Dictionary. Newsletter 74. Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Harris, Sam (2007). ""Response to Controversy." . Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Harris, Sam and Andrew Sullivan (2007). "Is Religion 'Built Upon Lies'?" . Retrieved January 12, 2011.^Harris, Sam and Rick Warren (2007). "The God Debate.". Newsweek (April 9).^Bunting, Madeleine (2007)."The New Atheists loathe religion far too much to plausibly challenge it."The Guardian (May 7).^Keller, Catherine (2008). On the Mystery: Discerning Divinity in Process. New York: Fortress Press, p. 5. ISBN 978-0-8006-6276-9. Italics in the original.^Theodore Dalrymple (October 7, 2007). "What the New Atheists Don't See". City Journal. Retrieved October 23, 2010. ^ abHarris, Sam (2008). "Response to Controversy." Version 1.7 (July 27, 2008), (accessed January 25, 2009).^Greenwald, Glenn (April 3, 2013). "Sam Harris, the New Atheists, and anti-Muslim animus". London: The Guardian. Retrieved April 4, 2013. ^Islamo-Nonsense^Response to Controversy Version 2.3 (April 7, 2013)^Dennett, Daniel. "Reflections on Free Will". Retrieved March 5, 2014. External links[edit]PersondataNameHarris, SamAlternative namesHarris, Samuel B.Short descriptionAmerican neuroscientist, authorDate of birthApril 9, 1967Place of birthUnited StatesDate of deathPlace of death
Worried about Prez - loose loose for the party at this point. Better to go down in flames?
WOW OPENER-#Obama can be killed off now '' First #BlackPresident can't be such a total failure '' History books can be rewritten | Moral Volcano Daily Press
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 04:15
On the lines of Lincoln or Kennedy. The slaves shouldn't have to realize that that he accomplished nothing of value.
Future generations should be told that he remained wildly popular throughout his presidency but before he could fulfill all the tall promises he was removed from circulation.
If he remains till the end of his term, people are surely gonna take stock of all the things he promised and failed to deliver. Even the doped-up stupid ones will realize that it was all a charade '' just a lot of hot air.
That will be too much for the make-believe artists from the CFR.
He dims the prospects for future multi-racial or multinational or totally foreign-born presidents.
So, bring on the plastic surgery mavens. And a totally brainwashed gun nut. Try to maximize the usefulness of the staged event. Never let a crisis go to waste!
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
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Secret Service setups?
Another Secret Service SNAFU: Fake congressman sneaks backstage at Obama event '-- RT USA
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:21
Published time: October 03, 2014 23:07US President Barack Obama speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
In what is just the latest example of a Secret Service ''situation normal, all f**ked up'' presidential security breach, a man pretending to be a congressman snuck into a secure backstage area at an event where President Barack Obama was speaking.
On Saturday, just days before the head of the US Secret Service resigned over a series of scandals, the impostor gained access to the backstage area where several members of Congress were gathered. The incident occurred during or just after Obama gave a speech at a Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) event at the District of Columbia's convention center on Saturday, Bloomberg reported.
The CBC members were preparing to take pictures with the president, an official told the news organization. The unidentified man told agents he was Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ). A member of the White House staff realized the impostor wasn't Payne, and a second staffer asked him to leave, which he did without incident. He was not detained, the official noted.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said the agency did its job, as everyone who attended the dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was screened.
''This guy went through security, fully screened,'' he told Bloomberg.
Including Saturday's incident, there have now been at least four presidential security breaches in less than a month. Now there are ''pervasive but unsubstantiated fears in the black community that President Obama's protection is worse because of his race,''New York Magazine reported.
''It is something that is widespread in black circles,'' said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Missouri), an African-American who told the New York Times he has been approached repeatedly by voters expressing such a concern. ''I've been hearing this for some time: 'Well, the Secret Service, they're trying to expose the president.' You hear a lot of that from African-Americans in particular.''
The agency denies that the security lapses are related to the color of the president's skin, his political party, or anything else.
''The Secret Service is committed to protecting the first family and the president at all costs,'' said Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the agency. ''We recognize that protecting the president is a sacred trust we have with the American public and that they place in us. It's never mattered to the service who the president is because we recognize that trust.''
But that trust is quickly waning. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson took intense criticism for her agency's responses '' or lack thereof '' during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday. She admitted that there have been 16 fence-jumpers in the past five years, including six just this year. Along with the four September breaches, details of previous protection lapses have also made their way into the news.
On September 11, Jeffrey Grossman, a 26-year-old New York man with mental disabilities, was detained for trespassing after he climbed over the White House fence. Just five days later, an armed man who has been convicted of assault and battery three times was somehow able to slip past the Secret Service and ride in an elevator with Obama at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. The unidentified private security contractor took photos and videos of the president, and did not listen to Secret Service agents' orders to stop.
On September 19, knife-wielding Omar Gonzalez '' a 42-year-old decorated Iraq war veteran '' scaled the fence around the White House, made it across the expansive grounds to the North Portico entrance, and entered the executive mansion. The Secret Service initially said that the man, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was quickly apprehended and arrested. On Monday night, however, the Washington Post reported that Gonzalez made it much further into the White House than previously believed, overpowering at least one agent and ending up all the way in the historic East Room before being caught.
On Monday, the Post also revealed new details of a November 2011 incident in which a gunman named Oscar R. Ortega-Hernandez parked his car directly south of the White House and fired a semi-automatic gun at the building. At least seven bullets struck the mansion's upstairs residence, 700 yards away. Although Secret Service agents initially rushed to respond, they quickly received a radio order: ''No shots have been fired'... Stand down.'' There was no immediate investigation, and it wasn't until four days later that the agency realized the building had been hit, after a housekeeper noticed the damage. Neither Obama nor First Lady Michelle Obama were informed until after the bulletholes were discovered.
Pierson resigned on Wednesday, and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson appointed Joseph Clancy '' a former Secret Service agent in charge of the presidential protective division '' as interim director of the agency.
Smith Mundt
HOLY CRAP!-Smith-Mundt - BBG
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 02:34
Facts About Smith-Mundt ModernizationThe Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the media organizations that it supports can now make their content available in broadcast quality upon request within the United States. This is due to a law that went into effect on July 2, 2013, amending the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, known as the Smith-Mundt Act. Amending Smith-Mundt for this purpose was part of the strategic plan adopted in 2011 by the governing board overseeing the BBG.
Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), co-sponsored the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, which was introduced in 2010 and made part of a larger piece of legislation in 2012.
The new law will let people across America see and hear the valuable news reported by the BBG's accomplished journalists. It takes into account modern content platforms that are not restricted by national boundaries, such as the Internet, mobile delivery and satellite broadcasting.
The modernization of Smith-Mundt will facilitate global connectivity and audience engagement and will provide greater transparency into publicly-funded broadcasting.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the new law.
Q. Can the BBG now focus its broadcasting on the United States?
A. No. There has been no change to the BBG's enabling statute, the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994, which authorizes the agency to create programs for foreign audiences. The BBG is not authorized to begin broadcasting or to create programming for audiences in the United States. We do not seek to change that. The BBG continues to focus on overseas audiences.
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Q. So what does the new law allow that wasn't allowed before?
A. The new legislation eases Smith-Mundt restrictions and allows the agency and its broadcasters to respond positively to requests from within the United States for their content. Much, but not all, of this programming is now available online. Additionally, the BBG can consider domestic requests for ongoing subscriptions if doing so falls within the agency's mission and other statutory authorities.
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Q. How can these materials be requested?
A: Requests for use of program content should be made through individual broadcasters. Please see this fact sheet for detailed instructions.
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Q. Wasn't this content already available in the United States via the Internet or other means, and isn't it still available without having to be requested?
A. It is true that some, but not all, of our broadcasters' content has been and will continue to be accessible on the Internet, via shortwave radio (depending on signal quality and availability) or on TV outlets where the international footprint for our programs is accessible in this country. However, that makes up only a fraction of the content created by our broadcasters each year. Now our broadcasters can make this material available upon request in broadcast quality. Requesters are obliged to secure U.S. broadcast rights and permissions for any third-party copyrighted content that may be contained in BBG programming.
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Q. Do you intend to target your programming to (C)migr(C) communities in this country?
A. No. Existing law does not allow the BBG to create programs for audiences in the United States, nor do we seek to do that. But the new law does allow interested U.S. residents to access BBG content, upon request. Historically, organizations operating internationally and representatives of (C)migr(C) communities '' some from areas in conflict '-- have sought out this reliable news of their home countries and in their native languages.
The modernization of Smith-Mundt will facilitate global connectivity and audience engagement and will provide greater transparency into publicly-funded broadcasting.
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Q. Is this an attempt to influence or propagandize US citizens?
A. No. Our journalists must abide by legally mandated broadcasting standards and principles to present accurate and objective news and information. They do so in 61 languages for audiences in more than 100 countries where it is often difficult or impossible to receive locally-produced, uncensored or unbiased programs. They provide responsible discussion and open debate in places where it is rare in the media. To call these efforts ''propaganda'' is an affront to those journalists, many of whom work in some of the roughest spots in the world, putting themselves and their loved ones at great risk.
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Q. But won't the Defense Department now be at liberty to spread propaganda in the United States thanks to this new legislation?
A. No. The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 does not apply to the Defense Department, and neither do the subsequent amendments.
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Q. What guarantees that content from the BBG is balanced and accurate?
A. BBG broadcasters are legally mandated to present accurate and objective news and information. The mission statements of our broadcasters reinforce the commitment to high-quality journalism and serving as a model of free press. All of the BBG broadcasters'' Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio/TV Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV & Radio Sawa) '' are considered vital, objective news sources and are frequently cited by major media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and CNN, for their high-quality reporting on topics ranging from the tragic self-immolations in Tibet to human rights issues in Iran. This is testament to the quality and range of reporting that our journalists produce.
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BBG - Broadcasting Board of Governors
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 07:55
WASHINGTON, D.C.'--After being silent about it for more than ten years, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the most well-known political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is once again talking Russian politics. He ended his silence this week in Washington, where he was the keynote speaker at a ['...]
BBG Names Andy Lack CEO
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 07:57
Photo credit: Bloomberg
Respected Executive to Lead U.S. International Media
WASHINGTON '' The Broadcasting Board of Governors announced today that it intends to hire respected journalist and media executive Andrew Lack as Chief Executive Officer of the federal agency that oversees the five networks and broadcasting operations of U.S. international media. Those networks include Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Mart­, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.
''Andy Lack has an unmatched record as a journalist and media executive, and he has successfully steered large organizations through changes in competitive media environments,'' BBG Chair Jeff Shell said. ''We are incredibly excited that Andy has decided to serve his country and lead the BBG as it fulfills its critical mission in this ever-changing and more complicated world.''
Once his appointment is finalized, Lack will serve as the first-ever CEO of U.S. international media. Creating the position of a CEO has been a key objective of the agency's governing board and the Administration.
Lack's selection follows an extensive search process launched in October 2013, when the Board formed a special committee on the creation of a CEO. Earlier this year, the agency engaged an executive search firm to identify candidates.
''Andy is a great leader, a great communicator, and a great journalist,'' said Richard Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, who serves as the delegate to the Board for Secretary of State John Kerry. ''He is the perfect person '' and I really mean the perfect person '' to be this organization's first CEO in the 21st century. We are lucky to have him, and we at State look forward to working with him.''
Chairman of the Bloomberg Media Group for the past year, Lack joined Bloomberg in October 2008 as CEO of its Global Media Group. In this position, he was responsible for expanding television, radio, magazine, conference and digital businesses. Under his leadership, Bloomberg LP has enhanced the quality of its media properties, expanded internationally, and built out services to bring information to more people, in more places, on more platforms than ever before.
Prior to joining Bloomberg, Lack was Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, where he led the company's roster of prominent international artists and vast catalog of recorded music from around the world. Before joining Sony Music Entertainment, he was president and chief operating officer of NBC, where he oversaw entertainment, news (including MSNBC and CNBC), NBC stations, sales and broadcast and network operations. He was responsible for expanding the Today show to three hours and creating the show's street-side studio in New York's Rockefeller Center.
From 1993 to 2001, Lack was president of NBC News, which he transformed into America's most-watched news organization through NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, Today and Dateline NBC.
Before going to NBC, Lack spent much of his television career at CBS News. After joining in 1976, within a year, he became a prominent producer for 60 Minutes and subsequently, senior executive producer of CBS Reports. Lack's broadcasts at CBS earned numerous honors, including 16 Emmy Awards and 4 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Journalism Awards.
Lack received a bachelor's degree from the College of Fine Arts at Boston University, where he is currently a trustee.
He lives in Bronxville, NY with his wife, Betsy, and their two sons.
FREE CONTENT!!-Content Requests - BBG
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 02:49
Effective July 2, 2013, the Broadcasting Board of Governors may make its program materials available domestically, upon request, whenever doing so is consistent with all statutory authorities, prohibitions, principles, and standards.
Domestic BBG Content Request FAQs
How can I get access to BBG programming for personal use?
BBG makes program materials available within the U.S. through the same news and information websites that BBG uses to communicate with foreign audiences. To access currently-available program materials, please visit and
The homepages of these websites display a portion of the agency's most recent news reporting. Additional program materials are available through the websites' search functions.
Please note that links to VOA's many websites in multiple languages. Click the 'Sites by Language' tab at the top of the page to see the full range of languages available. Many programs and news stories are only available on the site for the language service which broadcast those materials abroad.
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What sort of programming is available on and
Most VOA radio and television programs that BBG broadcasts on or after July 2nd, 2013 are available at Similarly, Radio Marti and TV Marti programs are available at
Voice of America and Marti websites and programs may contain third party copyright protected material, which cannot be copied, redistributed, sold, or published without the express permission of the copyright owner. Requestors should contact VOA or OCB in order to learn if a particular program contains copyrighted material.
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How can the media or organizations get access to broadcast-quality copies of BBG programming for a one-time use?
Requests for broadcast-quality copies of BBG program materials should be directed to: for broadcast-quality copies of Voice of America program materials; and for broadcast-quality copies of Radio or TV Marti program materials.
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Does the BBG make its programming available to the media or other organization on an ongoing subscription basis?
BBG evaluates ongoing subscription requests based on the Broadcasting principles and standards found in The U.S. International Broadcasting Act. For more information on the criteria used to determine whether BBG fulfills an ongoing subscription request, see BBG's policy linked here from the Broadcasting Administrative Manual.
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How can the media or other organizations get ongoing access to BBG programming for professional use?
Media entities, or other organizations, may request ongoing subscriptions by filling out an application form found on the Direct System, the BBG's professional distribution system. Expect that a representative from BBG to contact you about your application.
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Will I be charged for accessing BBG's programming through the Direct System?
BBG may collect a fee for reimbursement of the reasonable costs incurred to fulfill a request for program materials, including ongoing subscriptions for the media and one-time requests for broadcast-quality copies of BBG's program materials. Any fees will be outlined in an agreement between the media entity, or other organization, and BBG.
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Are there special terms of use for accessing the BBG's programming on its websites?
By accessing agency websites, requestors agree to the respective Terms of Use available at:,, or
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I can't find an older episode on BBG's websites. What happened to it?
From time to time, BBG may have to remove content from its website. For instance, BBG removes program materials from its news websites when required by licensing agreements with third-party copyright holders. Once materials have been removed from one of BBG's websites, they are no longer available from BBG.
When BBG takes materials off of its website, materials designated as permanent under the BBG's records schedule will be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Programs designated as temporary under the BBG's records schedule will be destroyed once they are removed from BBG's websites, and are no longer available. BBG's records schedule is published in the Federal Register and is available at NARA's website, through this link. See Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart F for information on how to request BBG program materials that have been transferred to NARA.
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For more information
Regulation on Domestic Requests for Broadcasting Board of Governors Material [pdf]
Broadcasting Administrative Manual: Policy on Domestic Distribution of Program Material [pdf]
BBG Research Series - BBG
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 02:50
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is partnering with Gallup to present the BBG Research Series. These research briefings provide leaders, policy makers and academics with data on how people use radio, television and digital media in key developing countries. Members of the public are invited to attend '' subscribe here to receive updates and registration information on future briefings.
Please click on the country marker, or list below, to find reports, presentations and videos from the events.
Women and Media: Africa in Focus '' Coming September 23. RSVP today!
(This briefing will include research from Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Niger, Mali, and Cote d'Ivoire.)
Previous briefings include:
Jeffrey Shell - BBG
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 02:50
Jeffrey Shell is chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment.
He previously served as chairman of NBC Universal International from 2011-2013 and as president of Comcast Programming Group from 2005 to 2011. Prior to joining Comcast, Shell held a number of positions, including CEO of Gemstar TV Guide International and President of the FOX Cable Networks Group. As president of the FOX Cable Networks, he oversaw the operations of FOX's entertainment and sports cable programming businesses. He currently serves on the board of the National Constitution Center. Shell earned a B.S. in Economics and Applied Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.B.A. from Harvard University.
Shell is the chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and chairs the BBG's Advisory Committee and Special Committee on the Creation of a Chief Executive Officer. He also chairs the boards of directors for the BBG's grantee networks.
He was confirmed as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors on August 1, 2013.
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BRAIN SHIT CBC STORY LIZARD BRAINS-Ideas from the Trenches - Too Dumb for Democracy | Ideas with Paul Kennedy | CBC Radio
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 03:46
There are 50,000 PhD candidates in Canada, toiling away in relative obscurity on things their friends and families often don't understand. This is the fourth episode in our series attempting to turn a young scholar's PhD work into an hour of radio. Producers Tom Howell and Nicola Luksic meet University of British Columbia student David Moscrop. He argues that modern democracy just isn't built right for our brains... and so it dooms us into dumb thinking. He's got an idea for fixing that.
We're motivated by our so-called 'lizard brains'.... You change the structure and the way things operate are going to change. But at the moment the incentives are all there to do things at a base level."
UBC PhD Candidate David MoscropGuests in the program (in order of appearance):Tanya Chartrand - Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University.Tali Mendelberg - Professor of Politics at Princeton University and author of The Race Card: Campaign messages, Implicit Messages, and the Norm of Equality and The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation and Institutions.
Joseph Heath - Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Author of Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy and Our Lives.
David Moscrop is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of British Columbia.
David Moscrop holding fort as high school prime minister back in 2002.
PhD candidate David Moscrop being interviewed by Tom Howell outside the student council door at St. Peter's Secondary School in Peterborough, Ontario -- his alma matter.
From WHO - Chan
Then the official WHO Ebola Fact Sheet dated September, 2014, states,
“It can be difficult to distinguish EVD from other infectious diseases
such as malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis.”
GLITCH-Ebola Case in U.S. Draws Calls for Calm From Officials - WSJ
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 17:56
Top federal health officials, seeking to calm a nervous public, ruled out Friday the possibility of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., as Texas officials moved to contain the first case of the deadly virus diagnosed in America.
Texas officials narrowed the list of people they are tracking for risk of contracting Ebola to 50 from 100, after a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, was found to have the disease in Dallas on Tuesday.
Only 10 of the 50 people have been identified as being at high risk for Ebola, and all are doing well, said David Lakey, commissioner of Texas Department of State Health Services.
''There's no additional individuals that have any symptoms that would be consistent with Ebola at this time,'' Dr. Lakey told reporters.
Senior U.S. officials in Washington sought to tamp down fears that the virus could spread through the U.S., saying the public should be confident in the American health-care system.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said that while Ebola has spread rapidly in Africa, the U.S. is better equipped to treat and isolate victims, and trace those who have come into contact with them.
''There were things that did not go the way they should have in Dallas,'' he said, but added that the U.S. health-care infrastructure should ''stop Ebola in its tracks.''
Dr. Fauci also said that an early study of an Ebola vaccine has been under way for more than a month, and that it could be tested in West African patients by early next year. The vaccine, he has said, would give officials a potent weapon to protect health-care workers and combat Ebola in areas where the disease is spreading.
White House officials said they weren't considering a travel ban as part of a broader effort to contain Ebola, which has killed more than 3,000 people so far this year in West Africa. Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said such steps would impede the response, slowing down the ability of U.S. and international partners to get expertise and equipment to affected areas.
''Every Ebola outbreak over the past 40 years has been stopped,'' she said. ''We know how to do this, and we will do it again.''
Although Mr. Duncan is the first person to become ill with Ebola in the U.S. this year, four other patients have been evacuated from West Africa and treated for the disease in the U.S. in recent months. On Friday, a fifth man, Ashoka Mukpo, an American freelance journalist diagnosed with Ebola, was set to be transported to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for treatment on Sunday, said his father, Mitchell Levy. Two people have also been treated for Ebola in Germany, including a doctor who was working for a nongovernmental organization in West Africa and arrived in the country for treatment Friday.
U.S. and Texas officials admitted Friday that other Ebola cases could surface in Dallas, where officials were initially slow to diagnose Mr. Duncan's case, contain several people who were exposed to him and remove potentially infected materials from the apartment where he was staying.
''There certainly is a possibility that some of the people who have already been in very close contact with this patient might develop Ebola,'' said Beth Bell, director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas said it has determined that it failed to detain Mr. Duncan when he initially sought care there on the night of Sept. 25 because his travel history wasn't relayed to doctors due to a records glitch.
Mr. Duncan told nurses he had been in Africa. But doctors didn't receive that information because it wasn't included in the portion of the electronic records they rely on. They prescribed Mr. Duncan antibiotics and told him to go home.
He was eventually admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian on Sunday, after returning to the hospital by ambulance when his symptoms worsened, and was diagnosed with Ebola on Tuesday. He remains at the hospital in an isolation ward and is in serious condition.
Five children who were in contact with Mr. Duncan attended public schools Monday and Tuesday, after he was admitted to the hospital with Ebola symptoms.
The students were advised to stay home. But on Friday, Dallas school officials said that one of the students failed to heed the advice on Wednesday and returned to Sam Tasby Middle School.
''We're not sure why the Tasby student showed up for school on Wednesday, but once he was identified, he was asked to go to the nurse's office so that a parent could be contacted,'' said Jon Dahlander, a spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District.
At the Dallas apartment where Mr. Duncan was staying, his dirty sheets and clothes were lying in sealed bags Friday morning as a result of a lack of a state permit to transport hazardous materials on Texas roads.
Judge Clay Jenkins, the highest-ranking elected official in Dallas County, said Friday evening that a hazmat team was cleaning out the apartment and a vendor with the permit would move the materials in sealed containers to a final destination.
''This is a paperwork nightmare,'' said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
Four people who had been ordered to stay inside the apartment because they had come into close contact with Mr. Duncan were moved to a house at an undisclosed Dallas location that officials secured through a faith-based group.
Judge Jenkins said he personally drove with the people to the home and ''apologized to them'' for their inconvenience, adding that he didn't consider them a threat. ''They were very glad to be gone,'' he said.
Before leaving Liberia, Mr. Duncan said in a questionnaire filled out by all departing passengers that he hadn't been in contact with any Ebola victims, the Associated Press reported.
That appears to contradict accounts from a neighbor in Liberia that before traveling to Texas via Belgium, Mr. Duncan had escorted a woman to a treatment ward in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, where she was turned away and died of the virus within hours.
Since August, Liberia's airport has screened more than 10,000 passengers for Ebola's hallmark symptom, a fever, said Information Minister Lewis Brown. Security guards at the gate, the ticketing lobby and then the security checkpoint press an infrared thermometer inches from the temples of passengers, waving through ones who show a temperature less than 37.5 degrees Celsius. Feverish passengers are held back for further study, he said, though he couldn't say how often that had occurred.
The process, medical experts say, can easily identify people who are already feeling the symptoms from Ebola. Liberian officials put the process in place too late to stop a Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who flew while violently ill to Nigeria, where he infected the staff of a major hospital. Since then, there have been no reports of symptomatic and contagious individuals boarding international flights in West Africa.
Still, a temperature check can't figure out who has Ebola lying dormant in their bloodstream. Even a blood test wouldn't confirm the presence of the virus until several days after its symptoms flared up. By then, a simple thermometer could separate potential Ebola victims from the healthy.
So airports in West Africa, Liberia's included, are reduced to using questionnaires to determine which passengers might pose a risk to their final destination. Airlines have tried to play their part, too. On West Africa's Asky Airlines, flight attendants have begun reading a new line during their safety demonstration: ''We invite all passengers suffering from headaches, nausea, vomiting, having diarrhea or abnormal bleeding, to let the crew know,'' they say in English, then in French, according to a script provided by the airline.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new advisory for U.S. health-care workers to ''increase vigilance'' when questioning patients with fever or other Ebola-related symptoms who have traveled recently to West Africa. Anyone who has recently traveled to West Africa and is exhibiting symptoms should be isolated and state and local health officials should be contacted immediately, the CDC recommended Thursday.
However, the U.S. has no plans to change the way people traveling from Ebola-infected countries are screened before entering the U.S., a CDC spokesman said Friday.
U.S. airlines said they follow the protocols on dealing with diseases from the CDC, which has issued a lengthy memo titled ''Ebola Guidance for Airlines'' that covers items including infection-control precautions for sick travelers on board, cleaning the plane and disposing of potentially tainted material in the cabin.
Airlines are accustomed to dealing with contagious diseases, including the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in 2003, and the more recent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a virus first diagnosed in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
''We have processes and procedures well defined by the CDC, with whom we are in close contact,'' said a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group of U.S. carriers.
Michael VanRooyen, vice chairman of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School, said CDC officials haven't been clear enough in their messaging to health-care workers about what to do if someone who has recently traveled to West Africa comes to their hospital or clinic with Ebola-like symptoms.
But he said that closing off air travel from West Africa would be the wrong approach.
''We have excellent resources here,'' he said. ''There is no reason for us to freak out.''
'--Drew Hinshaw, Susan Carey, Jon Ostrower, Thomas M. Burtonand Cameron McWhirter contributed to this article.
Write to Ana Campoy at, Nathan Koppel at and Cameron McWhirter at
Dallas Producer email-risk management
My accountant friends in dallas tell me their friends in Deloitte- risk mgmt have on their books an Ebola vaccine. Obviously they're sitting on it until the time is right.
EBOLA-FORT DETRICK-National Center for Medical Intelligence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:55
The National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) at Fort Detrick, Maryland, USA '-- formerly the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center (AFMIC) '-- is an agency within the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the United States Department of Defense (DoD);[1] its mission is to track and assess the full range of global health issues for the DoD, specifically monitoring and analyzing health events that could negatively impact the health of U.S. military and civilian populations.[2]
Mission[edit]NCMI's mission, always critical to protecting the health of deployed forces, has grown even more important recently with support to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terrorism.[3] At the same time, the center is increasing its use of new technologies to transform its delivery of timely, forward-leaning, customer-focused medical intelligence.
As part of the DIA, this tri-service organization produces finished, all-source medical intelligence assessments, forecasts and databases on foreign military and civilian health care capabilities and trends, worldwide infectious disease risks, global environmental health risks, and militarily significant life science issues, to include biotechnology and nuclear, biological and chemical medical defense advancements.
NCMI is the only organization in the world with this comprehensive medical intelligence mission. As such, it has a diverse customer base, from operational and tactical commanders, preventive medicine personnel, and medical planners and researchers to the policymakers in the DoD, the White House staff and other federal agencies.
Until 2013, the director was United States Air Force Colonel Anthony Rizzo.
History[edit]The NCMI traces its origins to the organization of a medical intelligence section in the Office the Surgeon General of the United States Army during World War II. Prior to entry into the war, the Surgeon General established medical intelligence to support planning for the administration of military governments in U.S. Army occupied territories occupied by providing detailed guides for civil public health and sanitation conditions. As the prospect of United States entry into the war increased, the need for a full-time staff of medical intelligence analysts became apparent. During the war, medical intelligence products were part of formal war planning with the incorporation of health and sanitary data into War Department Strategic Surveys.
In 1963, the DIA absorbed medical intelligence as a division in its production branch. During the later Cold War era, the medical intelligence division underwent several evolutions in size, structure and specific function. In the early 1970s, the division became victim of DoD downsizing initiatives in the post-Vietnam era. Recognizing its importance, the Army Surgeon General again took sole responsibility for the medical intelligence function in the form of the United States Army Medical Intelligence and Information Agency (USAMIIA). USAMIIA transferred to Fort Detrick in 1979 and was renamed as AFMIC in 1982 when it became a tri-service organization.[4] Congress mandated the permanent transfer of AFMIC to DIA in 1992 under the DoD Authorization Act.[5] As of January 1992, AFMIC became a DIA field production activity.
On July 2, 2008, AFMIC was formally redesignated as the NCMI in a ceremony at Ft. Detrick.[6] In 2010, the center received a facility expansion that added workspaces, conference and training rooms, and additional parking.[7]
Organization[edit]The NCMI is organized into a support division and two substantive divisions'--the Epidemiology and Environmental Health Division and the Medical Capabilities Division. Each substantive division is made up of two teams, the duties of which include:
Environmental Health
Identify and assess environmental risks that can degrade force health or effectiveness including chemical and microbial contamination of the environment, toxic industrial, chemical and radiation accidents, and environmental terrorism/warfare.Assess the impact of foreign environmental health issues and trends on environmental security and national policy.Epidemiology
Identify, assess, and report on infectious disease risks that can degrade mission effectiveness of deployed forces and/or cause long-term health implications.Alert operational and policy customers to foreign disease outbreaks that have implications for national security and policy formulation, including homeland defense and deliberately introduced versus naturally occurring disease outbreaks.Life Sciences and Biotechnology
Assess foreign basic and applied biomedical and biotechnological developments of military medical importance.Assess foreign civilian and military pharmaceutical industry capabilities.Assess foreign scientific and technological medical advances for defense against nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.Prevent technological surprise.Prevent proliferation of dual-use equipment and knowledge.Medical Capabilities
Assess foreign military and civilian medical capabilities, including treatment facilities, medical personnel, emergency and disaster response, logistics, and medical/pharmaceutical industries.Maintain and update an integrated data base on all medical treatment, training, pharmaceutical, and research and production facilities.See also[edit]References[edit]^DoD Instruction 6420.01, "National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI)", March 20, 2009,^Matthew Watson: "DIA Establishes National Center for Medical Intelligence",, July 11, 2008.^Megan Eckstein: "Detrick soldiers steadily being sent to Middle East", Frederick News-Post, originally published January 17, 2010,^Robert L. Bolin: Army Technical Intelligence Chronology, Chapter 4: Official Documents, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Neb., 2000, online at, Version 7.05; Revised, March 22, 2005.^Jeffrey T. Richelson: The U.S. Intelligence Community, Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999, p. 62.^Colonel Anthony M. Rizzo, Director, National Center for Medical Intelligence: "Meeting Emerging and Constantly Changing Health Threats with a Central Point of Information and Intelligence", Military Medical/CBRN Technology, 2008 Volume: 12 Issue: 5 (August),^Megan Eckstein, News-Post Staff: "Medical Intelligence group adds much-needed office space at Fort Detrick", Frederick News-Post,, Posted Nov 10, 2010.External links[edit]
'In 1976 I discovered Ebola, now I fear an unimaginable tragedy'.
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 12:32
Professor Piot, as a young scientist in Antwerp, you were part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976. How did it happen?
I still remember exactly. One day in September, a pilot from Sabena Airlines brought us a shiny blue Thermos and a letter from a doctor in Kinshasa in what was then Zaire. In the Thermos, he wrote, there was a blood sample from a Belgian nun who had recently fallen ill from a mysterious sickness in Yambuku, a remote village in the northern part of the country. He asked us to test the sample for yellow fever.
These days, Ebola may only be researched in high-security laboratories. How did you protect yourself back then?
We had no idea how dangerous the virus was. And there were no high-security labs in Belgium. We just wore our white lab coats and protective gloves. When we opened the Thermos, the ice inside had largely melted and one of the vials had broken. Blood and glass shards were floating in the ice water. We fished the other, intact, test tube out of the slop and began examining the blood for pathogens, using the methods that were standard at the time.
But the yellow fever virus apparently had nothing to do with the nun's illness.
No. And the tests for Lassa fever and typhoid were also negative. What, then, could it be? Our hopes were dependent on being able to isolate the virus from the sample. To do so, we injected it into mice and other lab animals. At first nothing happened for several days. We thought that perhaps the pathogen had been damaged from insufficient refrigeration in the Thermos. But then one animal after the next began to die. We began to realise that the sample contained something quite deadly.
But you continued?
Other samples from the nun, who had since died, arrived from Kinshasa. When we were just about able to begin examining the virus under an electron microscope, the World Health Organisation instructed us to send all of our samples to a high-security lab in England. But my boss at the time wanted to bring our work to conclusion no matter what. He grabbed a vial containing virus material to examine it, but his hand was shaking and he dropped it on a colleague's foot. The vial shattered. My only thought was: "Oh, shit!" We immediately disinfected everything, and luckily our colleague was wearing thick leather shoes. Nothing happened to any of us.
In the end, you were finally able to create an image of the virus using the electron microscope.
Yes, and our first thought was: "What the hell is that?" The virus that we had spent so much time searching for was very big, very long and worm-like. It had no similarities with yellow fever. Rather, it looked like the extremely dangerous Marburg virus which, like ebola, causes a haemorrhagic fever. In the 1960s the virus killed several laboratory workers in Marburg, Germany.
Were you afraid at that point?
I knew almost nothing about the Marburg virus at the time. When I tell my students about it today, they think I must come from the stone age. But I actually had to go the library and look it up in an atlas of virology. It was the American Centres for Disease Control which determined a short time later that it wasn't the Marburg virus, but a related, unknown virus. We had also learned in the meantime that hundreds of people had already succumbed to the virus in Yambuku and the area around it.
A few days later, you became one of the first scientists to fly to Zaire.
Yes. The nun who had died and her fellow sisters were all from Belgium. In Yambuku, which had been part of the Belgian Congo, they operated a small mission hospital. When the Belgian government decided to send someone, I volunteered immediately. I was 27 and felt a bit like my childhood hero, Tintin. And, I have to admit, I was intoxicated by the chance to track down something totally new.
A girl is led to an ambulance after showing signs of Ebola infection in the village of Freeman Reserve, 30 miles north of the Liberian capital, Monrovia. Photograph: Jerome Delay/APWas there any room for fear, or at least worry?
Of course it was clear to us that we were dealing with one of the deadliest infectious diseases the world had ever seen '' and we had no idea that it was transmitted via bodily fluids! It could also have been mosquitoes. We wore protective suits and latex gloves and I even borrowed a pair of motorcycle goggles to cover my eyes. But in the jungle heat it was impossible to use the gas masks that we bought in Kinshasa. Even so, the Ebola patients I treated were probably just as shocked by my appearance as they were about their intense suffering. I took blood from around 10 of these patients. I was most worried about accidentally poking myself with the needle and infecting myself that way.
But you apparently managed to avoid becoming infected.
Well, at some point I did actually develop a high fever, a headache and diarrhoea '...
... similar to Ebola symptoms?
Exactly. I immediately thought: "Damn, this is it!" But then I tried to keep my cool. I knew the symptoms I had could be from something completely different and harmless. And it really would have been stupid to spend two weeks in the horrible isolation tent that had been set up for us scientists for the worst case. So I just stayed alone in my room and waited. Of course, I didn't get a wink of sleep, but luckily I began feeling better by the next day. It was just a gastrointestinal infection. Actually, that is the best thing that can happen in your life: you look death in the eye but survive. It changed my whole approach, my whole outlook on life at the time.
You were also the one who gave the virus its name. Why Ebola?
On that day our team sat together late into the night '' we had also had a couple of drinks '' discussing the question. We definitely didn't want to name the new pathogen "Yambuku virus", because that would have stigmatised the place forever. There was a map hanging on the wall and our American team leader suggested looking for the nearest river and giving the virus its name. It was the Ebola river. So by around three or four in the morning we had found a name. But the map was small and inexact. We only learned later that the nearest river was actually a different one. But Ebola is a nice name, isn't it?
In the end, you discovered that the Belgian nuns had unwittingly spread the virus. How did that happen?
In their hospital they regularly gave pregnant women vitamin injections using unsterilised needles. By doing so, they infected many young women in Yambuku with the virus. We told the nuns about the terrible mistake they had made, but looking back I would say that we were much too careful in our choice of words. Clinics that failed to observe this and other rules of hygiene functioned as catalysts in all additional Ebola outbreaks. They drastically sped up the spread of the virus or made the spread possible in the first place. Even in the current Ebola outbreak in west Africa, hospitals unfortunately played this ignominious role in the beginning.
After Yambuku, you spent the next 30 years of your professional life devoted to combating Aids. But now Ebola has caught up to you again. American scientists fear that hundreds of thousands of people could ultimately become infected. Was such an epidemic to be expected?
No, not at all. On the contrary, I always thought that Ebola, in comparison to Aids or malaria, didn't present much of a problem because the outbreaks were always brief and local. Around June it became clear to me that there was something fundamentally different about this outbreak. At about the same time, the aid organisation M(C)decins Sans Fronti¨res sounded the alarm. We Flemish tend to be rather unemotional, but it was at that point that I began to get really worried.
Why did WHO react so late?
On the one hand, it was because their African regional office isn't staffed with the most capable people but with political appointees. And the headquarters in Geneva suffered large budget cuts that had been agreed to by member states. The department for haemorrhagic fever and the one responsible for the management of epidemic emergencies were hit hard. But since August WHO has regained a leadership role.
There is actually a well-established procedure for curtailing Ebola outbreaks: isolating those infected and closely monitoring those who had contact with them. How could a catastrophe such as the one we are now seeing even happen?
I think it is what people call a perfect storm: when every individual circumstance is a bit worse than normal and they then combine to create a disaster. And with this epidemic there were many factors that were disadvantageous from the very beginning. Some of the countries involved were just emerging from terrible civil wars, many of their doctors had fled and their healthcare systems had collapsed. In all of Liberia, for example, there were only 51 doctors in 2010, and many of them have since died of Ebola.
The fact that the outbreak began in the densely populated border region between Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia ...
'... also contributed to the catastrophe. Because the people there are extremely mobile, it was much more difficult than usual to track down those who had had contact with the infected people. Because the dead in this region are traditionally buried in the towns and villages they were born in, there were highly contagious Ebola corpses travelling back and forth across the borders in pickups and taxis. The result was that the epidemic kept flaring up in different places.
For the first time in its history, the virus also reached metropolises such as Monrovia and Freetown. Is that the worst thing that can happen?
In large cities '' particularly in chaotic slums '' it is virtually impossible to find those who had contact with patients, no matter how great the effort. That is why I am so worried about Nigeria as well. The country is home to mega-cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt, and if the Ebola virus lodges there and begins to spread, it would be an unimaginable catastrophe.
Have we completely lost control of the epidemic?
I have always been an optimist and I think that we now have no other choice than to try everything, really everything. It's good that the United States and some other countries are finally beginning to help. But Germany or even Belgium, for example, must do a lot more. And it should be clear to all of us: This isn't just an epidemic any more. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. We don't just need care personnel, but also logistics experts, trucks, jeeps and foodstuffs. Such an epidemic can destabilise entire regions. I can only hope that we will be able to get it under control. I really never thought that it could get this bad.
What can really be done in a situation when anyone can become infected on the streets and, like in Monrovia, even the taxis are contaminated?
We urgently need to come up with new strategies. Currently, helpers are no longer able to care for all the patients in treatment centres. So caregivers need to teach family members who are providing care to patients how to protect themselves from infection to the extent possible. This on-site educational work is currently the greatest challenge. Sierra Leone experimented with a three-day curfew in an attempt to at least flatten out the infection curve a bit. At first I thought: "That is totally crazy." But now I wonder, "why not?" At least, as long as these measures aren't imposed with military power.
A three-day curfew sounds a bit desperate.
Yes, it is rather medieval. But what can you do? Even in 2014, we hardly have any way to combat this virus.
Do you think we might be facing the beginnings of a pandemic?
There will certainly be Ebola patients from Africa who come to us in the hopes of receiving treatment. And they might even infect a few people here who may then die. But an outbreak in Europe or North America would quickly be brought under control. I am more worried about the many people from India who work in trade or industry in west Africa. It would only take one of them to become infected, travel to India to visit relatives during the virus's incubation period, and then, once he becomes sick, go to a public hospital there. Doctors and nurses in India, too, often don't wear protective gloves. They would immediately become infected and spread the virus.
The virus is continually changing its genetic makeup. The more people who become infected, the greater the chance becomes that it will mutate ...
... which might speed its spread. Yes, that really is the apocalyptic scenario. Humans are actually just an accidental host for the virus, and not a good one. From the perspective of a virus, it isn't desirable for its host, within which the pathogen hopes to multiply, to die so quickly. It would be much better for the virus to allow us to stay alive longer.
Could the virus suddenly change itself such that it could be spread through the air?
Like measles, you mean? Luckily that is extremely unlikely. But a mutation that would allow Ebola patients to live a couple of weeks longer is certainly possible and would be advantageous for the virus. But that would allow Ebola patients to infect many, many more people than is currently the case.
But that is just speculation, isn't it?
Certainly. But it is just one of many possible ways the virus could change to spread itself more easily. And it is clear that the virus is mutating.
You and two colleagues wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal supporting the testing of experimental drugs. Do you think that could be the solution?
Patients could probably be treated most quickly with blood serum from Ebola survivors, even if that would likely be extremely difficult given the chaotic local conditions. We need to find out now if these methods, or if experimental drugs like ZMapp, really help. But we should definitely not rely entirely on new treatments. For most people, they will come too late in this epidemic. But if they help, they should be made available for the next outbreak.
Testing of two vaccines is also beginning. It will take a while, of course, but could it be that only a vaccine can stop the epidemic?
I hope that's not the case. But who knows? Maybe.
In Zaire during that first outbreak, a hospital with poor hygiene was responsible for spreading the illness. Today almost the same thing is happening. Was Louis Pasteur right when he said: "It is the microbes who will have the last word"?
Of course, we are a long way away from declaring victory over bacteria and viruses. HIV is still here; in London alone, five gay men become infected daily. An increasing number of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. And I can still see the Ebola patients in Yambuku, how they died in their shacks and we couldn't do anything except let them die. In principle, it's still the same today. That is very depressing. But it also provides me with a strong motivation to do something. I love life. That is why I am doing everything I can to convince the powerful in this world to finally send sufficient help to west Africa. Now!
Der Spiegel
#NTB: ISIS Plans On Sending Muslims Infected WIth Ebola Into America To Infect And Kill Americans!
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:06
Allegedly, ISISwill try to send Muslims infected with Ebola into America to infect and kill Americans. ISIS threatened the United States, and its allies to spread the Ebola virus, within those states, if they continue to wage war on the Islamic State's growing caliphate inside Syria and Iraq.ShoebatISIS threatened the United States, and the allies to spread the Ebola virus, within those states, if continues to wage war on the organization inside Syria and Iraq.
ISIS explained that among the viruses that its members can ''synthesize and produce'' are ''Ebola and Corona''. ISIS also said,
Followers and soldiers of the Islamic State are mostly suicide bombers and all of them are ready not only to carry Ebola, but to drink Ebola if they were asked to carry and spread it in the United States. This is not difficult but we need a decision from the leaders jihadist.
Ebola could easily be transmitted through bodily fluids, including sweat, tears, saliva, blood, urine, semen, etc., including objects that have come in contact with bodily fluids (such as bed sheets, clothing, and needles) and corpses.
It is said that ''this disease will go airborne, and there are many other mechanisms through which mutation might make it much more transmissible.''
The statement from ISIS said that the process of spreading disease is not difficult, it is easily transported in a bottle in your bag and take them from Africa to America and open in a air-conditioning duct or put it in the public drinking water by elevator doors
The statement from ISIS also said:
The process of cultivating bacteria can be done by any student in the Faculty of Science or Department of Biology. They do not need complex laboratories and even a makeshift laboratory can be made in a small apartment in which we can farm millions of germs and viruses
However, Jack Chow, service professor of global health at Carnegie Mellon University, says that by the time a would be martyr came to America, the symptoms of ebola would be conspicuously displayed on his person, and he would be too sick to get passed customs. More
Farrakhan claims Ebola invented to kill off blacks | Fox News
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 03:00
Published October 02, 2014Firebrand Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's latest racially-charged claim is that Ebola '' the deadly disease ravaging parts of Africa and now diagnosed on American soil '' was designed by white scientists specifically to kill off blacks.
The 81-year-old leveled the charge in his organization's newspaper, The Final Call, insisting the disease is man-made and cooked up in a laboratory as a means of population control. He underscored the claim on his Twitter page, which has 308,000 followers.
''There is a weapon that can be put in a room where there are black and white people, and it will kill only the black and spare the white, because it is a genotype weapon that is designed for your genes, for your race, for your kind,'' Farrakhan wrote.
Farrakhan has previously made similar claims about AIDS. This time, he cited a 2000 research paper by the now-defunct think tank Project for the New American Century which predicted ''advanced forms of biological warfare that can target specific genotypes, may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.''
The first known case of Ebola dates back to 1976, but outbreaks have occurred, mostly in Africa, in the decades since. The current outbreak began in Guinea last December and spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal and is now responsible for more than 3,300 deaths. The disease, which has a mortality rate of between 50 and 90 percent, is spread by contact with body fluids and no credible medical authority believes it affects races differently.
The first diagnosis on U.S. soil associated with the current outbreak came on Wednesday and involved a Sierra Leone man who flew to Dallas.
But Farrakhan is not alone in his suspicions about Ebola. Villagers in remote areas of Africa have alleged the disease is a Western plot and has even killed aid workers. And in the U.S., Delaware State University agriculture professor Cyril Broderick wrote a letter to a Liberian newspaper charging Ebola was created by the U.S. military and pharmaceutical companies who are intentionally spreading the deadly disease in Africa.
''The U. S., Canada, France, and the U.K. are all implicated in the detestable and devilish deeds that these Ebola tests are,'' wrote Broderick.
For Farrakhan, the wacky theory is just the latest example of him peddling a conspiracy. Last year, he claimed that Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state in the Nixon administration, had concocted a plan in which ''2 to 3 billion people on our planet would have to be [killed].''
Most suspected Ebola cases in the US have been false alarms - Vox
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 23:56
On Friday, a hospital in Washington DC announcedthat they were evaluating a patientwho had recently traveled to Nigeria '-- to see if the person hadEbola. Panicked headlines ensued.
Ebola can be difficult to diagnose early on because its symptoms look like the flu
But it turned out to be a false alarm. By Saturday,testing confirmedthat the DC patient didn't actually have Ebola.This followed similar cases in Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, Maryland, and other states where people were initially "suspected" to have Ebola but didn't.
That's something to keep in mind when reading these headlines. So far, there have been dozens of suspected Ebola cases around the United States, and the vast majority have turned out to be false alarms.
There's a good reason why false alarms are so common: Ebola can be difficult to diagnose early on, because its initial symptoms are nonspecific things like fever and headache. It can look a lot like the flu '-- or like many other diseases that people might pick up in West Africa, such as malaria.
Hospitals need about a day to get test results back from CDC laboratories to see whether the person actually has Ebola or just the flu or some other disease. So, just to be on the safe side, health workers will usually isolate patients with these symptoms in the meantime '--particularly if the person has been traveling in an Ebola-stricken country or has had close contact with an Ebola patient.
The vast majority of those Ebola tests have been turning out negative. "We've already'... tested 14 other individuals who have been negative so far,"saidCDC director Tom Friedenin apress conferenceon October 2. (On top of that, there have been many hospital reports of possible Ebola cases that never even make it far enough for testing at the CDC. In August, the CDCreportedthat the US had had 68 "suspected" Ebola cases across 27 states '-- none panned out.)
As of October 3, there have only been a handful of genuine Ebola cases in the United States. One person was diagnosed in the US and iscurrently being treatedin Texas. And three other Americans were diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia and were flown back to the US for treatment.Another personin West Africa is also expected to be flown to the US for treatment soon.
"It is not impossible that we will have other individuals come into the country and be diagnosed with Ebola," Friedan said. "That's why we have 12 laboratories throughout the country that are ready to test. "
Now that we're about to enter flu season, we may see a lot of headlines about suspected cases of Ebola in the United States. These cases will usually involve people who have been traveling to West Africa and now have a fever. But a suspected case is not a confirmed case. And, at least so far, most suspected cases have been false alarms.
And Now, Ladies an' Gentlemen: Obama's 'War on Ebola''... | New Eastern Outlook
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 22:04
For a Nobel Peace Prize President, Barack Obama seems destined to go down in history books as the President who presided over one of the most aggressive series of wars ever waged by a bellicose Washington Administration. Not even George Bush and Dick Cheney came close.
First, before the ink was even dry on his Nobel Prize certificate, Obama announced the Afghanistan ''surge'', pouring another 30,000 US military into that destroyed part of the world. Then came Obama's war against Libya's Qaddafi, followed rapidly by his war to try to topple Syria's Bashar al Assad. Soon after came Obama's ''war for democracy in Ukraine,'' otherwise better called Obama's attempt to provoke Russia into a new war confrontation with NATO by backing a gaggle of Ukrainian oligarchs, criminals and outright neo-nazis in Kiev. In July of this year, Obama's Administration was pushing the President to launch a second try at bombing Syria back to the Stone Age, allegedly to destroy ISIS, a looney Jihadist Sunni sect that was said to be a joint venture of the CIA and Israeli intelligence.
Now Obama's advisers, no doubt led by the blood-thirsty National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, have come up with a new war. This is the War Against Ebola. On September 16, President Obama solemnly declared the war. He announced, to the surprise of most sane citizens, that he had ordered 3,000 American troops, the so-called ''boots on the ground'' that the Pentagon refuses to agree to in Syria, to wage a war against'....a virus?
In a carefully stage-managed appearance at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Obama read a bone-chilling speech. He called the alleged Ebola outbreaks in west Africa, ''a global threat, and it demands a truly global response. This is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security. It's a potential threat to global security, if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic,'' Obama continued, conjuring images that would have made Andromeda Strain novelist Michael Chrichton drool with envy. Obama added, ''That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease. This outbreak is already spiraling out of control.''
With that hair-raising introduction, the President of the world's greatest Superpower announced his response. In his role as Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America announced he has ordered 3,000 US troops to west Africa in what he called, ''the largest international response in the history of the CDC.'' He didn't make clear if their job would be to shoot the virus wherever it reared its ugly head, or to shoot any poor hapless African suspected of having Ebola. Little does it matter that the US military doesn't have anywhere near 3,000 troops with the slightest training in public health.
Before we all panic and line up to receive the millions of doses of untested and reportedly highly dangerous ''Ebola vaccines'' the major drug-makers are preparing to dump on the market, some peculiarities of this Ebola outbreak in Africa are worth noting.
The World Health Organization, under the Director, Dr Margaret Chan, in a press conference on September 13, sounded the alarm, warning that Ebola in west Africa was surging out of control. ''In the three hardest hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the number of new patients is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them,'' Chan claimed. WHO claims that almost half of 301 health-care workers dealing with alleged Ebola patients have themselves died, and that 2,400 people out of 4,784 cases in Africa have died of Ebola. On August 8, Chan declared the African Ebola situation a ''Public Health Emergency of International Concern,'' whatever that is supposed to mean.
A major problem for Chan and her backers, however, is that her Ebola statistics are very, very dubious. For those whose memory is short, this is the same Dr Margaret Chan at WHO in Geneva who was guilty in 2009 of trying to panic the world into taking unproven vaccines for ''Swine Flu'' influenza, by declaring a Global Pandemic with statistics calling every case of symptoms that of the common cold to be ''Swine Flu,'' whether it was runny nose, coughing, sneezing, sore throat. That changed WHO definition of Swine Flu allowed the statistics of the disease to be declared Pandemic. It was an utter fraud, a criminal fraud Chan carried out, wittingly or unwittingly (she could be simply stupid but evidence suggests otherwise), on behalf of the major US and EU pharmaceutical cartel.
In a recent Washington Post article it was admitted that sixty-nine percent of all the Ebola cases in Liberia registered by WHO have not been laboratory confirmed through blood tests. Liberia is the epicenter of the Ebola alarm in west Africa. More than half of the alleged Ebola deaths, 1,224, and nearly half of all cases, 2,046, have been in Liberia says WHO. And the US FDA diagnostic test used for the lab confirmation of Ebola is so flawed that the FDA has prohibited anyone from claiming they are safe or effective. That means, a significant proportion of the remaining 31 % of the Ebola cases lab confirmed through blood tests could be false cases.
In short, no one knows what 1,224 Liberians in recent weeks have died from. But WHO claims it to be Ebola. Note that the countries affected by the Ebola alarm are among the poorest and most war-torn regions in the world. Wars over blood diamonds and colonial genocidal tribal wars have left a devastated, mal-nourished population in its wake.
WHO's official fact sheet on Ebola, which now they renamed EVD for Ebola Virus Disease, claims, ''The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas'...'' WHO further notes that, ''It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.''
Then the official WHO Ebola Fact Sheet dated September, 2014, states, ''It can be difficult to distinguish EVD from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis.''
Excuse me, Dr Margaret Chan, can you say that slowly? It can be difficult to distinguish EVD from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis? And you admit that 69% of the declared cases have never been adequately tested? And you state that the Ebola symptoms include ''sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding''?
In short it is all the most vague and unsubstantiated basis that lies behind President Obama's new War on Ebola.
War on Ebola or War for Oil?
One striking aspect of this new concern of the US President for the situation in Liberia and other west African states where alleged surges of Ebola are being claimed is the presence of oil, huge volumes of untapped oil.
The offshore coast of Liberia and east African 'Ebola zones' conveniently map with the presence of vast untapped oil and gas resources shown here
The issue of oil in west Africa, notably in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea have become increasingly strategic both to China who is roaming the world in search of future secure oil import sources, and the United States, whose oil geo-politics was summed up in a quip by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970's: 'If you control the oil, you control entire nations.'
Obama Administration and Pentagon policy has continued that of George W. Bush who in 2008 created the US military Africa Command or AFRICOM, to battle the rapidly-growing Chinese economic presence in Africa's potential oil-rich countries. West Africa is a rapidly-emerging oil treasure, barely tapped to date. A US Department of Energy study projected that African oil production would rise 91 percent between 2002 and 2025, much from the region of the present Ebola alarm.
Chinese oil companies are all over Africa and increasingly active in west Africa, especially Angola, Sudan and Guinea, the later in the epicenter of Obama's new War on Ebola troop deployment.
If the US President were genuine about his concern to contain a public health emergency, he could look at the example of that US-declared pariah Caribbean nation, Cuba. Reuters reports that the Cuban government, a small financially distressed, economically sanctioned island nation of 11 million people, with a national budget of $50 billion, Gross Domestic Product of 121 billion and per capita GDP of just over $10,000, is dispatching 165 medical personnel to Africa to regions where there are Ebola outbreaks. Washington sends 3,000 combat troops. Something smells very rotten around the entire Ebola scare.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine ''New Eastern Outlook''
POLIO-BELGIUM-News - Monitoring current threats: ECDC Communicable...
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:27
'‹The ECDC Communicable Disease Threats Report is a weekly bulletin intended for epidemiologists and health professionals in the area of communicable disease prevention and control. This issue covers the period 7''13 September 2014 and includes updates on:
The accidental release of 45 litres of concentrated live polio virus solution into the environment - Belgium
As reported to ECDC by Belgian authorities, on 2 September 2014, following a human error, 45 litres of concentrated live polio virus solution were released into the environment by the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in Rixensart city, Belgium. The liquid was conducted directly to a water-treatment plant (Rosieres) and released after treatment in river Lasne affluent of river Dyle which is affluent of the Escaut/Scheldt river. Belgium's High Council of Public Health conducted a risk assessment that concluded that the risk of infection for the population exposed to the contaminated water is extremely low due to the high level of dilution and the high vaccination coverage (95%) in Belgium.
ECDC's assessment is that the accidental release in the environment of large amounts of live polio virus represents a risk to public health if susceptible populations, such as areas with low polio vaccine coverage, are exposed to contaminated waters or mud. Particularly since the Lasne and Dyle rivers are joining the Escaut/Scheldt river which flows in the southwestern part of the Netherlands where various orthodox protestant communities present a lower polio vaccination coverage, before reaching the North Sea.
Outbreak of Enterovirus D68 - USA
Between 19 and 23 August, Kansas city (Missouri) and Chicago (Illinois) authorities notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of 30 laboratory confirmed Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) infections. The age of cases ranges from six weeks to 16 years. Since 19 August, 82 confirmed cases have been notified to CDC in six States in United States. All patients presented with respiratory symptoms and hypoxemia; most were admitted in paediatric intensive care units. No fatalities have been reported for these cases.
This year, the magnitude of the outbreak in United States is higher than previous years. The identification of the virus and risk of potential extension outside this country, including EU, remains possible.
Ebola virus disease '' West Africa
An outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) has been ongoing in West Africa since December 2013, affecting Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The overall situation of the Ebola outbreak in the affected countries remains critical. As of 6 September 2014, 4 291 cases including 2 296 deaths have been reported from the affected countries. To date, no cases have been found to be positive outside Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria or Sierra Leone with the exception of one case in Senegal in a Guinean national.
Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak - the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Between 28 July and 4 September 2014, 72 cases of EVD, including 48 deaths, have been identified. The outbreak in DRC is unrelated to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. The epidemiological features of this outbreak are consistent with previous outbreaks of EVD involving Za¯re ebolavirus.
West Nile virus '' Multistate - Monitoring season 2014
During the past week, 17 new human cases have been reported by EU Member States: Italy (7), Romania (8) and Greece (2). Seven new cases were reported by Italy from six newly affected provinces in the current transmission season. In neighbouring countries, Russia reported 17 new cases from five newly affected oblasts in the current transmission season.
Dogs EATING corpses of Ebola victims in Liberia after health teams pile bodies into shallow grave | Daily Mail Online
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:31
Officials hurriedly buried bodies in middle of night so locals would not knowResidents in Johnsonville Township had refused permission for gravesExperts say dogs will not get sick but could transmit to humans by bitingComes as Ebola spreads to Senegal after infected man arrives from Guinea WHO says Ebola cases are rising at highest rate since outbreak beganBy Matthew Blake for MailOnline
Published: 08:04 EST, 29 August 2014 | Updated: 16:22 EST, 29 August 2014
Dogs are digging up the corpses of Ebola victims buried in shallow graves in Liberia and eating them in the street, villagers have claimed.
Furious residents of Johnsonville Township, outside capital Monrovia, raised the alarm after packs of wild dogs were spotted digging up corpses from a specially-designated 'Ebola graveyard', dragging them into the open and feeding on their flesh.
It is the latest development in the epidemic, which was today confirmed to have reached Senegal.
The grisly scenes in Liberia came three weeks after government health officials - desperate to stem the country's rising infection rate - hurriedly buried the bodies despite a heated standoff with villagers who refused to give their permission to use the land.
But rather than resolve the dispute, Liberia's Ministry of Health burial team dug the graves at night to avoid further confrontation, making the infected bodies easy targets for scavengers, villagers say.
Scroll down for video
Dead in the street: People gather around a man suspected of dying from Ebola in Monrovia
Now fears are mounting that the dogs - which cannot grow sick from the strain of Ebola running rampant through West Africa but can carry it - will be able to pass it on to humans through licking or biting.
'We are very disappointed in the Health Ministry, especially the government that took an oath to defend and protect us,' Alfred Wiah told The New Dawn. 'To see them act in such manner is unacceptable and we'll never allow the government come to bury any longer.'
He added: 'They will be resisted by us because I think the government has failed to protect us. Why bring Ebola bodies and not bury them well?'
While the dogs are unlikely to grow sick from the virus, there is a strong chance they could still pass it on to humans, Dr. Stephen Korsman of the University of Cape Town's medical virology division told News 24.
Liberia President: We must beat the 'demon' of Ebola
Death toll rising: A Liberian health worker sprays disinfectant outside a house before entering and removing the body of a man that they believe died from the Ebola virus in Monrovia
High death rate: So far Ebola has killed more than 1,500 of the 3,000 people it has sickened in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to an official count
Grisly task: Two nurses in protective suits enter a Liberian village to search for locals who have fallen ill
Infected: They escort an infected villager away, watched by a crowd of concerned locals
'[The dogs'] infections appear to be asymptomatic,' he said. 'This means that dogs won't get sick, but they still could carry a potential risk through licking or biting.'
The news comes as it was revealed the killer disease has reached Senegal, making it the fifth West African country to be affected by the outbreak.
The country's Ministry of Health said a man infected with Ebola traveled to Senegal, bringing the disease to that country for the first time in an outbreak that has hit four other West African nations and killed more than 1,500 people.
Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck told reporters that the infected person, a university student from Guinea, sought treatment at a hospital in Senegal's capital, Dakar, on Tuesday but gave no indication he might have Ebola.
The next day, an epidemiological surveillance team in Guinea alerted Senegalese authorities that they had lost track of a person who had had contact with sick people. The team said that the person disappeared three weeks ago and may have come to Senegal.
Spreading: Senegal's Health Minister, Awa Marie Coll Seck (pictured), revealed today that Ebola had reached Senegalese capital Dakar after a university student from Guinea checked into hospital there on Tuesday
Fears: The news comes as scientists claimed the Ebola virus disease is rapidly and continually mutating, making it harder to diagnose and treat
The student was tracked to the hospital in Dakar that same day and was immediately quarantined, Seck said.
A test has confirmed that he has Ebola, and the World Health Organization has been alerted.
HOW THE EBOLA VIRUS SPREADS Ebola emerged in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are several strains which vary in how dangerous they are to humans, but death rates have reached as high as 90 per cent.
In the current outbreak it is just over 50 per cent. The virus is introduced into humans through direct contact with the blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals including fruit bats, which are eaten as a delicacy, and possibly now dogs.
The virus then spreads between humans through direct contact with blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people.
Symptoms include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
People are infectious as long as their blood and bodily fluids contain the virus and the incubation period can range between two and 21 days.
Although the disease has no cure, modern medical treatment and quick isolation help hugely to bring the death toll down.
Source: World Health Organisation
And in a further blow to the fight against the outbreak, scientists today claimed the Ebola virus disease is rapidly and continually mutating, making it harder to diagnose and treat.
A study of the initial patients diagnosed with the virus in Sierra Leone revealed almost 400 genetic modifications.
And it could be detrimental not only to current treatments, but also to future vaccines that are in the works.
The team of researchers, led by the Broad Institute in Massachusetts and Harvard University, analysed more than 99 Ebola virus genomes.
Also today, the World Health Organization revealed that the past week has seen the highest increase of Ebola cases since the outbreak in West Africa began.
The U.N. health agency warned yesterday that the outbreak in West Africa is accelerating and could eventually infect as many as 20,000 people.
So far it has killed more than 1,500 of the 3,000 people it has sickened in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to an official count.
The U.N. health agency said yesterday it assumes that in many hard-hit areas, the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than is currently reported.
In a detailed report on the outbreak published today, the WHO said more than 500 cases were recorded over the past week, by far the worst toll of any week so far.
The vast majority of the cases were in Liberia, but the agency said it was also the highest number of cases in one week for Guinea and Sierra Leone. Nigeria has also recorded a small number of cases.
Ebola victims' bodies collected from the streets in Liberia
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F-RUSSIA TAX-Presidential Proclamation -- To Modify the List of Beneficiary Developing Countries Under the Trade Act of 1974 | The White House
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:20
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2014
- - - - - - -
1. Sections 501(1) and (4) of the Trade Act of 1974 (the "1974 Act") (19 U.S.C. 2461(1) and (4)), provide that, in determining whether duty-free treatment would be appropriate under the Generalized System of Preferences, the President shall have due regard for, among other factors, the effect such action would have on furthering the economic development of a beneficiary developing country through the expansion of its exports and the extent that the beneficiary developing country would be competitive with respect to eligible articles. Section 502(c) of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2462(c)), provides that, in determining whether to designate any country as a beneficiary developing country, the President shall take into account various factors, including the country's level of economic development, the country's per capita gross national product, the living standards of its inhabitants, and any other economic factors he deems appropriate. Section 502(d)(1) of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2462(d)(1)), authorizes the President to withdraw or suspend the designation of any country as a beneficiary developing country after considering the factors set forth in sections 501 and 502(c) of the 1974 Act. Section 502(f)(2) of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2462(f)(2)), requires the President to notify the Congress and the affected country, at least 60 days before termination, of the President's intention to terminate the affected country's designation as a beneficiary developing country.
2. Consistent with section 502(d) of the 1974 Act, and having considered the factors set forth in sections 501 and 502(c), I have determined that Russia is sufficiently advanced in economic development and improved in trade competitiveness that it is appropriate to terminate the designation of Russia as a beneficiary developing country effective October 3, 2014. I notified the Congress and Russia on May 7, 2014, of my intent to terminate Russia's designation. In order to reflect the termination of Russia's designation as a beneficiary developing country, I have determined that it is appropriate to modify general notes 4(a) and 4(d) and pertinent subheadings of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS).
3. Section 604 of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2483), authorizes the President to embody in the HTS the substance of the relevant provisions of that Act, and of other Acts affecting import treatment, and actions thereunder, including removal, modification, continuance, or imposition of any rate of duty or other import restriction.
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, including but not limited to title V and section 604 of the 1974 Act, do proclaim that:
(1) The designation of Russia as a beneficiary developing country is terminated, effective on October 3, 2014.
(2) In order to reflect the termination of Russia's designation as a beneficiary developing country, general notes 4(a) and 4(d) and pertinent subheadings of the HTS are modified as set forth in the Annex to this proclamation.
(3) Any provisions of previous proclamations and Executive Orders that are inconsistent with the actions taken in this proclamation are superseded to the extent of such inconsistency.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
Merkel: EU May Have to Rethink Its Energy Partnership With Russia | Business | The Moscow Times
Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:43
Thomas Peter / ReutersGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Sept. 24, 2014.
BERLIN '-- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has there are good reasons to continue the European Union's energy partnership with Russia for the time being but that might change if Moscow continues to violate basic principles.
Merkel, speaking Monday at a news conference in Berlin with Finland's Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, said that in the medium- to long-term it might be necessary to reconsider that energy partnership with Russia.
"There are good reasons to continue the energy partnership with Russia," she said and noted that within the European Union different countries had different levels of dependency on supplies of Russian natural gas.
"It's not our goal to completely sever our dependency," she said, noting that cooperation in the energy sector was in the mutual interest of the EU and Russia.
"Nevertheless we have naturally to think about what we might have to change in the medium- to long-term as far as energy policies go if there is a continued violation of basic principles," she said, referring to respecting national sovereignty.
She added that it was important to keep the pressure on Russia, and that Germany and Finland were in agreement on that. She added that she saw no scope to relax the economic sanctions against Russia, imposed over Moscow's policies on Ukraine.
"We are unfortunately far away from that," she said.
A rift between Russia and the West since the Ukraine conflict has prompted European countries to look at ways to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Russia provides around a third of the EU's oil and gas, and 40 percent of the gas is shipped through Ukraine.
Hungary breaks ranks with Europe, cutting reverse gas flow to Ukraine | Euro Asia News
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:19
Gas disruption by Hungary to Ukraine breaks European solidarity and worries European officials.
Hungary's decision to cut the flow of natural gas to Ukraine is worrisome and has broken European solidarity on the issue, a top European official said Wednesday.
Due to the crisis between Ukraine and Russia over the price of gas, Ukraine is currently without direct supplies from Russia, its major source of gas. Thus, Ukraine began supplying its natural gas through reverse flow from Hungary.
But last week, Hungary cut its flow of gas to Ukraine, claiming it was due to a technical problem.
However, an official with a group that coordinates European energy policy was critical of the move.
''The principle of solidarity, the cornerstone of the Energy Community, would have required a coordination with the Ukrainian side at least,'' Dirk Buschle, Energy Community Deputy Director, told Anadolu Agency. ''The situation in Ukraine is critical, and we have to work jointly to help them coming through the winter.''
The Energy Community, a group established between the EU and a number of other countries, seeks to import EU energy policy into non-EU countries. The Energy Community Treaty, signed in 2005, binds the parties '-- EU members and a number neighboring countries '' to implement a harmonious policy towards common problems. Ukraine signed the treaty in 2011.
Hungary joined the EU in 2004 and is therefore also a party to the treaty.
Hungary has sent 6.1 billion cubic meters of gas per year '-- 16.8 million per day '-- to Ukraine since March 2013. The decision to cut the gas flow to Ukraine seems to create a serious threat for Kiev just before the winter.
The Energy Community has sent a questionnaire to the Hungarian gas transmission system operator to find out if there is a contractual justification for this disruption, but has not yet received a reply, said Buschle.
''The community is very worried about the latest disruption of gas flows from Hungary to Ukraine. Both countries are part of an internal market for gas, the Energy Community. Under our treaty, maintaining the free flow for gas is mandatory also for Hungary,'' Buschle said.
- A commercial precaution
''Hungary was affected by previous supply crises and it is reasonable to exercise a degree of caution, for example by filling up its underground storage facilities,'' said Anastasios Giamouridis, a senior consultant at Poyry Management Consulting Ltd., based in UK.
Hungarian stores are currently 63 percent full and contain approximately 3.9 billion cubic meters of gas, which is one of the lowest capacities in Europe and poses an unfavorable situation for Hungary compared to its neighboring countries, Giamouridis said.
He said that the current storage is still lower compared to the 76 percent '' roughly 4.7 bcm'' which Hungary had injected to its storages by the end of September, 2010, in the aftermath of the last serious supply cuts to Europe due to a Russia-Ukraine dispute.
Hungary consumed 9.6 bcm of gas last year.
FGSZ, Hungary's state-run gas pipeline network operator said Thursday they had halted the gas flow to Ukraine because of technical problems.
Nuran Erkul, AA
European Commission says it expects Hungary to facilitate reverse gas flow to Ukraine |
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:18
European Commission Vice President Guenther Oettinger said the suspension of Hungary's gas deliveries to Ukraine was not a ''blockade'', speaking after a round of Russian-Ukrainian talks in Berlin on Friday.
Hungarian pipeline operator FGSZ suspended reverse gas flows to Ukraine on Thursday in order to top up domestic reserves.
''The Hungarians told Ukraine a few hours ago that reverse flow gas deliveries would not be technically possible until the end of the month,'' Oettinger said.
''Member states want to fill up their own reserves, they want to ensure their own security of supply,'' he said.
''I think this is not about a blockade,'' he added.
Earlier on Friday, a European Commission spokesperson suggested that the EC expects Hungary to facilitate reverse gas flow to Ukraine. Helen Kearns said the Commission's message on the issue was ''very clear''.
''We expect all member states to facilitate reverse flows as agreed by the European Council in the interest of shared energy security,'' she said.
''There is nothing preventing EU companies to dispose freely of gas they have purchased from Gazprom, and this includes selling this gas to customers both within the EU as well as to third countries such as Ukraine,'' she added.
In a radio interview broadcast early Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the filling of Hungary's gas stores would be accelerated, noting an agreement with large-scale deliveries from Gazprom had been reached.
Orban said Hungary had to be prepared for the possibility of a shutdown of the pipeline on its border with Ukraine through which it gets deliveries of Russian gas.
Hungary's gas stores contained 3.697 billion cubic metres on September 24, the state-owned Hungarian Electricity Works (MVM) said on Friday. Levels are up about 30 percent over last year's highest point, MVM said.
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Former Coast Guard Commandant: U.S. and Russia Working Together In Arctic - USNI News
Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:51
Former Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Robert Papp, in front of a map of Barrow, Alaska. US Coast Guard Photo
The former commandant of the Coast Guard said that while ''we work with Russia now'' on fisheries agreements and more, ''we really need them for the [Arctic Council] to be effective'' in ensuring safe economic development, mitigating climate change, and assisting those living in the region.Speaking at a Tuesday forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Robert Papp Jr. said the Arctic ''is a region of shared responsibility,'' particularly to Russia, the United States, and the other six nations that make up the council.
Papp, who unveiled the Coast Guard's strategy for the region in 2013, has been named the United States' special representative for the Arctic and soon will take over the council's chairmanship. He said he will unveil more detailed initiatives for his tenure next month.
But he did say he saw the council being, ''more forward-leaning in addressing Arctic issues.''
Noting that ''we tend to be a little separated from our interests in the Arctic,'' he asked: ''What is the national imperative'' to raise concerns of residents in states other than Alaska about the region?
Papp said historically interest in the rest of the United States has risen in response to national security threats'--such as the building of the Alaska Canada Highway in World War II and the Distant Early Warning radar line during the Cold War. ''They were both born of crises.''
Today he views it as ''a moral obligation'' to ''preserve the wonderful asset we have.'' While the Acrtic remains a ''relative pristine'' maritime environment, the region is feeling the effects of coastal erosion, endangered fresh water supplies, loss of game and depleted fisheries, carbon and methane pollution, increasing shipping, and mineral exploration.
Papp recalled being an ensign 34 years ago on Adak Island and crossing the Bering Strait, then solid ice. Recently ''I saw no ice'' when making the same crossing. The Arctic Ocean ''is changing to a growing open sea'' where new challenges, such as safe shipping, are growing concerns.
''Really great nations will protect'' the environment of the sea, he said. The Arctic, with its ''amazing diverse ecosystems,'' is undergoing rapid changes that ''jeopardize this delicate balance'' and threaten the livelihood of the 50,000 Americans who live there.
Citing President John F. Kennedy's pledge to send an American to the moon, ''we need to go to the Arctic'' and address the challenges it faces.
TASS: World - US to continue anti-terrorism, space exploration cooperation with Russia
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 16:03
WASHINGTON, October 01. /TASS/. The United States intends to continue cooperation with Russia in those spheres where the two countries have mutual interests despite the current situation in Ukraine, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said at a meeting of the US Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.
The US intends to continue joint work with Russia in spheres of mutual interest, he said. The deputy secretary of defense named a joint space program as the main example of this activity.
The US sought to work with Russia in anti-terrorism efforts as closely as possible, Robert Work said. Work recalled about President Barack Obama's position that terrorism was a global problem and needed a global response. Press Secretary of the White House Josh Earnest said earlier at a regular news briefing that the US did not rule out possible interaction with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State extremist grouping.
Regime Change & FREEDOM!
Umberella revolution
US State Dept Funding and Occupy Central, the Ties that Bind
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:12
We Fully Support A People's Movement In Hong Kong. As we explain further details about 'Occupy Central', it is the intention of this article to help the students and Hong Kongese people who are fighting for the future of Hong Kong make informed decisions on who they join in coalitions with and choose for Chief Executive when they achieve True Universal Sufferage.
Occupy Centrals Benny Tai, consciousness overwhelmed after students attacked. Sept. 28th
Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, with the promise of eventual universal suffrage. Until now, its chief executives '-- the top leadership post in Hong Kong '-- have been chosen by a largely pro-Beijing committee. A group of 689 people voted for Hong Kong's current leader, CY Leung.
China's communist leaders have said in the past that it will 'allow' Hong Kong's residents to vote for the chief executive beginning in 2017, but in a ''white paper'' issued in June, Chinese leaders made clear that Beijing would retain control and allow only ''Chinese patriots'' to be nominated for the election.
Recently we have witnessed what on the surface appears to be a popular student uprising in Hong Kong demanding the right to long promised universal suffrage from Chinese rule. We saw over 500,000 people take the streets on July 1st, just weeks after China's communist leaders issued a ''white paper'' making it clear that Beijing would retain control and allow only ''Chinese patriots'' to be nominated for the Hong Kong Chief Executive election. The massive rally was held near the end of a 10 day unofficial referendum organized by 'Occupy Central'. This referendum project we find out was directly funded and implement by the far reaching arms of the US State Department, but more on that later. With more than 780,000 voting '-- over a fifth of Hong Kong voters '-- the referendum was declared a success by the Pro-Democracy movement and State department monitors.
In the middle of August we saw a group of around 1000 mostly lawyers and university students dressed in black and carrying large sheets of black cloth, march silently from one of Hong Kong's most crowded commercial districts to the city's financial center, the main site of protests today and where the Occupy Central organization had been planning to stage a sit-in protest in early October.
Leading up to the student sit-in outside the Central Government offices, that we still see today, was this march of students on the 24th of September.(below)
The above march would lead to a group of students climbing over the fence of the Central Government Offices Complex where they remained, facing arrest the entire time, unsupported by the elder's of 'Occupy Central' for the next 2 days.
We repeatedly asked the 'Occupy Central' twitter account to shed some light on why they were not there to support the students for the first few days. Here was our correspondence where they claim that all of the pro-democracy groups are a coalition. We asked in response, if there was a coalition, then why so much discontent among students when 'Occupy Central' showed up on the 27th and declared the action part of their scheduled 'occupation' on July 1st at the same location. A level of discontent that should be noted, directly caused the majority of the students to leave in disgust who were surrounding the small group's sit-in inside the Central Gov Offices grounds essentially keeping them safe. An exodus from the scene that not only led student organizers to actually cry and beg people to stay to help defend the sit-in, it also made Benny Tai repeatedly denounce his previous statement of OC's occupation, declaring at that point, that OC was just there to support students, not lead or co-opt the student movement by pitching the idea of horizontal leadership be adopted.
As we watched the events unfold on the live stream it seemed from our experience like the end of this protest was near. It wasn't until the remaining students began to be arrested and brutalized by police that the mass of students returned to save them.
We have tried to make this point especially clear, for two reasons. The first being, because this essentially all transpired before the international media spotlight was focused on the events in Hong Kong. Secondly, because after we explain further details about 'Occupy Central' it is the intention of this article to help the students whom we consider the future of Hong Kong, make informed decisions on who they join coalitions with and should they be successful in their struggle for true universal suffrage, to support a Chief Executive candidate without history or direct involvement with United States interests.
Hope for Hong Kong: a message from the Hong Kong Federation of Students
To All Hong Kong Citizens: A Vow Of Civil Disobedience '' It is upon the sweat, blood and tears of our predecessors our bright avenue today is built. It is upon the sacrifice and vigor of our forerunners the civil disobedience movement is launched. The result of their unrelenting struggle is the freedom of expression we enjoy today. Throughout the class boycott last week, we Hong Kong people have demonstrated our pursuit for autonomy. We have witnessed an awakening among the local community, commoners, outside and within the system nurtured by precursors. The veterans of social movements have been most familiar with protestations of civil disobedience. Today, we bear the torch and continue the struggles for genuine democracy.
Students have paid a huge price for this honorable cause. In February, almost 15,000 students voted for the proposal firmly supporting civil nomination in the Chief Executive election. In 22 June Civil Referendum, amid ungrounded accusations from pro-Beijing camp, we rallied over 700,000 citizens in support for civil nomination. Soon in 1 July March, we initiated the sit-in at Chater Road, thus the first wave of civil disobedience movement. Thousands of participants successfully occupied the heart of Central District until the dawn among whom 511 were arrested.
Nevertheless, none of these could alter the totalitarian nature of the government. On 31 August, the National People's Congress (NPC) resolved the following decisions on the political reform.1) The composition of the nominating committee remains the same as the election committee, composed of the 1200 privileged class from four sectors.2) Each candidate has to gain the support of at least half the nominating committee which means the minority of the nominating committee loses their right to nominate. Under such mechanism, none of the previous pan-democratic candidates Alan Leong and Albert Ho would qualify.
With such a decision NPC give a total disregard to our plea for democracy and rules out a genuine universal suffrage. Hong Kong's 30-year long dream for democracy has been completely shattered. Yet, students will never, ever give in. On Monday, over 13,000 students attended the student strike; Thursday, 4,000 citizens joined the unauthorised rally to the Government House, the civil disobedience movement of the largest scale after the handover; Friday, despite pressures from school, family and the society, 1,500 secondary pupils joined in the strike. That night, in our Recapture Civic Square action, thousands of citizens surrounded the Central Government Offices to demand the rightful access to our public space.
From deliberation, referendum, then protests and rally, to disobedience and occupation, students have kindled the era for revolution. Yet, students boycotting classes can hardly interrupt the unjust authorities rule. Only the power of students cannot pull down the hard, high wall. We already initiated the boycott to stimulate non-cooperative movements from all sectors of the society. Our ONLY hope is that all Hongkongers now stand out, join in civil disobedience and force the rulers to bow. Let's reclaim our Hong Kong.
And thus we reach out to all living souls: join the battle, and bear the responsibility of this era. Simply chanting slogans of 'Support the Students' and 'Protect our Children' is no longer enough. Fight your OWN battle for the place you love, where you belong! Support each other by you stepping into the battlefield! This movement requires participation from you all. Hope rests with the people, change starts with struggle. Whether we stand or fall depends on each of our participation. Now it is high time for each and every one in society to join hands and pull down the wall! '' HKFS @HKFS1958
Occupy Central '' Follow the Money
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a U.S. non-profit soft power organization that was founded in 1983 to 'promote' democracy around the world. It is funded primarily through an annual allocation from the U.S. Congress, within the budget of USAID, the U.S. agency for development assistance, which is part of the U.S. State Department. Although administered as a private organization, its funding mostly comes from a governmental appropriation by Congress but was created by The Democracy Program as a bipartisan, private, non-profit corporation. Quote from the NED website.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, with funding from the US Congress, NED supports more than 1,000 projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.
USAID Hong Kong budget for 2012 was 754,552, in 2010 it was 1,591,547. Annual budgets for USAID projects in Hong Kong from 2008 to 2012 are available on the USAID website.
In a Wikileaks Plus-D cable release dated September 4, 2008 from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the Secretary of State offices of then Condelezza Rice, we find not only a glimpse into the constant monitoring of the Hong Kong population's political views, but also another very significant arm of this State Department funded project, The Hong Kong Transition Project.
In a HKTP report from January 2014
When they say regularly in the statement above they mean every 3 months at minimum.
To document where the USAID Hong Kong fund is distributed we go to the NED website for annual reports. Among other funded projects we find in the 2009 report the $272,140 in funding for the National Democratic Institute and in the 2012 report another $460,000 for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
Funds were stated to be for advancing the dialogue between citizens and political actors on constitutional reforms.
''Through sponsoring public forums and a political participation website ( NDI will support local civil society organizations to analyze and provide recommendations on the government's proposal for constitutional reform.''
The website project directly funded by the US State Department through USAID grants to NED and NDI Is described on the NED website as ''The Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL) at the University of Hong Kong, with support from NDI, is working to amplify citizens' voices in that consultation process by creating Design Democracy Hong Kong (, a unique and neutral website that gives citizens a place to discuss the future of Hong Kong's electoral system.''
Benny Tai the leader of the group 'Occupy Central' is on the board for CCPL and a member of the academic staff on Hong Kong University.
A quick click on the ( website has Benny Tai and a slew of other public figures of the Pro-Democracy movement, which at a glance appears to encompass all of them, including Joshua Wong of Scholarism.
To what extent is the US State Department directly involved.
In another Wikileaks Plus-D cable we find China Program Director of NDI Christine Chung reports directly to the US State Department. In part two of a cable dated May 4th 2006 from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the Offices of the Secretary of State, Christine Chung reports the following.
Another classified WikiLeaks Plus-D cable dated July 2, 2009 from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the offices of the Secretary of State titled HONG KONG JULY 1 MARCH: HEAT HALVES HOPED-FOR HUNDRED THOUSAND. We see how the discussion is about the turn out of a demonstration and the how's and why's of what caused a lower than expected turn out and Intel on how to attain, from their perspective a more successful event in the future.
In another classified WikiLeaks Cable dated Mon, 4 Jan 2010 from the American Consulate in Hong Kong to the offices of the Secretary of State titled Hong Kong January 1 Democracy Demonstration: One March, Four Causes they describe how they feel the focus of the march was to broad to be effective for their interests and how to counter that in the future. Many more examples like these are available on the WikiLeaks site.
One of the above mentioned groups, Civic Exchange, received $45,000 from NED in 2005.
What is the Hong Kong Transition Project doing? A better question would be, what are they not doing?
The Hong Kong Transition project has been actively monitoring the political attitude of voting and non voting citizens of Hong Kong in every way they can think of it seems since 1997. The well prepared reports on their website encompass everything from every three month, demographically targeted Hong Kongese voter phone polling campaigns to the in-depth study on the various age ranges of Hong Kongese psychological attitudes on all aspects of current political topics, with the obvious goal of delivering the gathered intelligence to US State Dept for the basis of strategizing future endeavors.
Reports ranging from Protest & Post-80s Youth 2010
Occupy Central Briefing Jan 2014.pdf Jan 2014
In our search for information regarding the Scholarism group and Joshua Wong we found that NDI has been monitoring Schlorism Founder and Student Movement leader Joshua Wong's activities at least since he was 15.
There is also ''student leader'' Joshua Wong, who was arrested amid the protests. Wong has had his career tracked by the NDI's ''NDItech'' project since as early as 2012. In a post titled, ''In Hong Kong, Does ''Change Begin with a Single Step''?,'' NDI reports:
Scholarism founder Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 15, has become an icon of the movement, and his skillful interactions with media have been memorialized and disseminated on Youtube. Through this page, Hong Kong youth have coalesced around common messages and images '' for example, equating MNE with ''brainwashing'' and echoing themes reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.
Wong's work serves to challenge attempts by Beijing to reestablish Chinese institutions on the island, preserving Western-style (and co-opted) institutions including the education system
For anyone deeply involved in the Umbrella Movement and journalists the world over we highly urge you to use this article as a stepping stone to finding more information, because despite the depth of the material we gathered above, we have barely even scratched the surface on bringing the entire situation into the light. The US involvement in Hong Kong's political atmosphere is a decades long project and Hong Kong is most certainly not the only 'hot spot' we stumbled upon.
How Hong Kong Protesters Are Connecting, Without Cell Or Wi-Fi Networks : All Tech Considered : NPR
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 04:48
People check their phones at a pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong on Monday. Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Imageshide caption
itoggle caption Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty ImagesPeople check their phones at a pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong on Monday.
Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty ImagesAs throngs of pro-democracy protesters continue to organize in Hong Kong's central business district, many of them are messaging one another through a network that doesn't require cell towers or Wi-Fi nodes. They're using an app called FireChat that launched in March and is underpinned by mesh networking, which lets phones unite to form a temporary Internet.
So far, mesh networks have proven themselves quite effective and quickly adopted during times of disaster or political unrest, as they don't rely on existing cable and wireless networks. In Iraq, tens of thousands of people have downloaded FireChat as the government limits connectivity in an effort to curb ISIS communications. Protesters in Taiwan this spring turned to FireChat when cell signals were too weak and at times nonexistent.
And FireChat's popularity is surging in Hong Kong. About 100,000 users downloaded the free FireChat app between Sunday morning and Monday morning, according toThe Wall Street Journal. While there are no reports of cell-network outages so far, student leaders are recommending FireChat for fear authorities may shut off communications.
Gizmodo explains why mesh networks can be critical during tense showdowns with governments:
"Mesh networks are an especially resilient tool because there's no easy way for a government to shut them down. They can't just block cell reception or a site address. Mesh networks are like Voldemort after he split his soul into horcruxes (only not evil). Destroying one part won't kill it unless you destroy each point of access; someone would have to turn off Bluetooth on every phone using FireChat to completely break the connection. This hard-to-break connection isn't super important for casual chats, but during tense political showdowns, it could be a lifeline."
And as we have previously reported, Open Garden, the company that made FireChat and an Android mesh networking app also called Open Garden, has bigger ambitions for mesh networking:
"Once you build a mesh network ... now you have a network that is resilient, self-healing, cannot be controlled by any central organization, cannot be shut down and is always working," Christophe Daligault, Open Garden's vice president for sales and marketing says. "I think that solves many other drawbacks or challenges of the mobile broadband Internet today."
He says none of this would be possible without the rapid spread of smartphones, because that means no extra hardware is needed.
"Each [phone] becomes a router and in a sense you're growing the Internet '-- everyone who joins the mesh network creates an extension of the Internet," Daligault says. "In a year or two from now, I think people won't even remember that you had to be on Wi-Fi or get a cell signal to be able to communicate."
if hong kong can have a march, why can't we?
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 17:15
Written by John QueallyWHO WE ARE-As riot police faced off with protesters holding umbrellas in Hong Kong on Saturday, a demonstrator between them held a placard reading "Occupy Central." (Photo: Vincent Yu/Associated Press)On Wednesday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, DC and made headlines for more or less telling the U.S. government not to interfere in matters concerning the pro-democracy movement that has engulfed the Chinese-administered territory of Hong Kong.
''The Chinese government has very firmly and clearly stated its position," stated Wang Yi as he stood beside Kerry outside the State Department building. "I believe for any country, for any society, no one would allow those illegal acts that violate public order. That's the situation in the United States and that's the same situation in Hong Kong."
"In America, we have accepted [democracy corrupted by big money] as as American as apple pie." '--Lawrence Lessig. For his part, Kerry offered the Obama administration's message that it objects to aspects of China's anti-democratic policies in Hong Kong, specifically their refusal for universal suffrage, and said he hopes "that the Hong Kong authorities will exercise restraint and respect the protestors' right to express their views peacefully.''
And though it's a well-worn talking point'--articulated here by the Guardian'-- that the US has "always walked a delicate tightrope in its relations with China, eager to improve trade and economic ties with the world's second largest economy while also pressing for greater human rights"'--Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, in an op-ed on Wednesday, argues that what's most striking dynamic about the situation in Hong Kong is not how leaders like Wang Yi and Kerry are delicatedly skirting the realities of their own self-interest, but why voters in the U.S. don't recognize how much they have in common with the tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents who have recognized how corrupt and nonexistence their democratic has become.
In Lessig's opinion, when it comes to calling for democratic reforms and amassing in large numbers in the streets, U.S. voters "should be protesting, too."
Invoking the legacy of William "Boss" Tweedy, known for masterminding New York and national politics on behalf of his fellow elites in 19th century America, Lessig writes that contemporary voters in the United States have become as disempowered by the role of big money in electoral politics (he calls it the "green primary") as have Hong Kong citizens under mainland China's one-party rule.
"I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating," Tweed famously said. And for Lessig, that is the mindset that draws a straight line between China's Communist Party leaders and the corporate and wealthy elites in the United States who have so radically captured American democracy in recent decades.
Lessig writes:
Of course, we don't have a democracy "dominated by a pro-Beijing business and political elite." But as a massive empirical study by Princeton's Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page published just last month shows, remove the word "pro-Beijing," and the charge translates pretty well.
America's government is demonstrably responsive to the "economic elite and organized business interests," Gilens and Page found, while "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." Boss Tweed would have been impressed.
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The "green primary" isn't a formal bar to election. But it is certainly an effective bar. There isn't a single political analyst in America today who doesn't look first to whether a candidate for Congress has the necessary financial support of the relevant funders. That money isn't enough, and it certainly doesn't guarantee victory. (Only 94 percent of candidates with more money win.) But no candidate ignores the money, or is ignorant of the views of the tiny fraction of the 1 percent that provides it.
That's not perfect control, but it turns out to be control enough to weaken the ability of ordinary Americans to have something other than a "non-significant impact upon public policy."
The surprise in the Hong Kong plan is not that it fits Boss Tweed's mold. The surprise is the reaction of her students, and now people. To imagine a proportionate number of Americans -- 5 million -- striking against our own version of Tweedism is to imagine the first steps of a revolution. But in America, we don't protest our "democracy with Chinese characteristics." In America, we have accepted it as as American as apple pie.
(Jon Queally is staff writer at the excellent '... where this perspective was first posted.)
Vol 12 Issue 80
Pub: Oct 3, 2014
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Violence Erupts As Hong Kong's Leader Threatens To Use "All Necessary Measures To Restore Social Order" | Zero Hedge
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:49
Having tried (unsuccessfully) to break up the pro-democracy protesters in the heart of Hong Kong using local triad gangs (as opposed to the optics of actual police), it appears the Chinese government is rolling back from its "wait-and-see" approach and becoming more aggressive once again. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, as DPA reports, demanded protesters end their blockade of major roads by Monday, or the government will take "all necessary measures to restore social order." Tensions continue to rise, with clashes breaking out sporadically, as the protesters have broken off talks with the government. As fears of another Tiananmen square debacle loom, former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten noted, "I cannot believe it would be so stupid as to do anything like send in the army."
At least 37 people were injured yesterday in the violence, taking the number of those hurt throughout the protests to 131, health officials said.
Theseare not the images the world has come to think of with regard to Hong Kong...
Following yesterday's non-police triad-based pro-government gangs attacks...
Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok Saturday said 19 people were arrested on Friday when clashes broke out between Occupy Central protestors and anti-Occupy people.
Clashes happened in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, two major commercial areas of Hong Kong, from Friday afternoon to early Saturday morning, leaving some citizens and police officers injured.
In regard to queries that the police were not capable of handling the clashes in time, Lai explained that as the crowd grew bigger in Mong Kok, fights scattered in different locations, making it more difficult for the police to deal with them.
Of the 19 people arrested, eight of them are suspected to have triad backgrounds, according to Lai.
"We do not approve any of this violence. Hong Kong is a lawful society. Every citizen in Hong Kong should abide by the law. Nobody wishes to see what has happened yesterday," he said, adding that the police would faithfully and truthfully enforce the law with patience.
Which led to dialogue with the government to cease...
''The government and police have allowed triads and thugs to use violence to attack peaceful protesters, cutting off the road to any conversation, and should be responsible for any fallout that results,'' the Hong Kong Federation of Students said in the posting on its Facebook page titled ''Road to Dialogue Must be Shelved.''
It appears the government is firming its position once again... (as DPA reports,)
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying calls on pro-democracy protesters to end their blockade of major roads by Monday, adding that the government will take "all necessary measures to restore social order."
In a video message, he says access roads to government headquarters must be opened by Monday to allow civil servants to return to work, and that roads on Hong Kong Island must be cleared so that schools can re-open.
* * *
''I am indeed very concerned about the clashes we have seen in Mong Kok,'' Carrie Lam, the city's second-highest ranking official, told reporters yesterday. ''These protests on the streets have great vulnerability to turn into critical violence between the protesters and the anti-protesters.''
The last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, has some strong opinions on the way ahead for Hong Kong,
It is not wholly true to say that the eyes of the entire world are on Hong Kong. They would be, of course, if people in mainland China were allowed to know what is happening in their country's most successful city. But China's government has tried to block any news about the Hong Kong democracy demonstrations from reaching the rest of the country '' not exactly a sign of confidence on the part of China's rulers in their system of authoritarian government.
Before suggesting a way forward for Hong Kong's ham-fisted authorities, three things need to be made clear. First, it is a slur on the integrity and principles of Hong Kong's citizens to assert, as the Chinese government's propaganda machine does, that they are being manipulated by outside forces. What motivates Hong Kong's tens of thousands of demonstrators is a passionate belief that they should be able to run their affairs as they were promised, choosing those who govern them in free and fair elections.
Second, others outside of Hong Kong have a legitimate interest in what happens in the city. Hong Kong is a great international center, whose freedoms and autonomy were guaranteed in a treaty registered at the United Nations. In particular, the United Kingdom, the other party to this Sino-British Joint Declaration, sought and received guarantees that the survival of Hong Kong's autonomy and liberties would be guaranteed for 50 years.
So it is ridiculous to suggest that British ministers and parliamentarians should keep their noses out of Hong Kong's affairs. In fact, they have a right and a moral obligation to continue to check on whether China is keeping its side of the bargain '' as, to be fair, it has mostly done so far.
But, third, the biggest problems have arisen because of a dispute about where Hong Kong's promised path to democracy should take it, and when. No one told Hong Kongers when they were assured of universal suffrage that it would not mean being able to choose for whom they could vote. No one said that Iran was the democratic model that China's Communist bureaucracy had in mind, with the Chinese government authorized to exercise an effective veto over candidates.
In fact, that is not what China had in mind. As early as 1993, China's chief negotiator on Hong Kong, Lu Ping, told the newspaper People's Daily, ''The [method of universal suffrage] should be reported to [China's Parliament] for the record, whereas the central government's agreement is not necessary. How Hong Kong develops its democracy in the future is completely within the sphere of the autonomy of Hong Kong. The central government will not interfere.'' The following year, China's foreign ministry confirmed this.
The British Parliament summarized what had been said and promised in a report on Hong Kong in 2000. ''The Chinese government has therefore formally accepted that it is for the Hong Kong government to determine the extent and nature of democracy in Hong Kong.''
So, what next?
The peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong, with their umbrellas and refuse-collection bags, will not themselves be swept off the streets like garbage or bullied into submission by tear gas and pepper spray. Any attempt to do so would present a terrible and damaging picture of Hong Kong and China to the world, and would be an affront to all that China should aspire to be.
The Hong Kong authorities have gravely miscalculated the views of their citizens. Like the bad courtiers against whom Confucius warned, they went to Beijing and told the emperor what they thought he wanted to hear, not what the situation really was in the city. They must think again.
Under the existing plans, there is supposed to be a second phase of consultations on democratic development to follow what turned out to be a counterfeit start to the process. Hong Kong's government should now offer its people a proper second round of consultation, one that is open and honest. Dialogue is the only sensible way forward. Hong Kong's citizens are not irresponsible or unreasonable. A decent compromise that allows for elections that people can recognize as fair, not fixed, is surely available.
The demonstrators in Hong Kong, young and old, represent the city's future. Their hopes are for a peaceful and prosperous life in which they can enjoy the freedoms and rule of law that they were promised. That is not only in the interest of their city; it is in China's interest, too. Hong Kong's future is the main issue; but so, too, is China's honor and its standing in the world.
* * *
For some context - this is the scale of the protests...
h/t @WilliamsJon
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Why Democracy in Hong Kong Matters | National Endowment for Democracy
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 02:32
Apr 2, 2014Sponsor: NED>> The National Endowment for Democracy cordially invites you to a briefing
FeaturingMartin Lee, Democratic Party of Hong KongAnson Chan, former Chief Secretary of Hong KongLouisa Greve, V.P. for Asia, Middle East & Africa at the NEDWhen and Where: Wednesday, April 2, 201412:30 - 2 p.m.Register here on Eventbrite
About the EventBeijing's recent pronouncements that only ''patriotic'' Hong Kong people can stand for chief executive coupled with violent attacks on the media have raised concerns about basic rights and freedoms in the territory of 7 million people. With the 2017 and 2020 elections on the horizon, Chinese leaders are making increasingly clear they intend to install politicians they can control, an ominous sign for Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms---not to mention the economy, which relies on transparency and the rule of law. Martin Lee and Anson Chan, two veteran political leaders known and respected for their decades of service in Hong Kong's legislature and government, will outline the growing threats to democracy in Hong Kong and what can be done to defend rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.
About the SpeakersMartin Lee is a top barrister, longtime democracy advocate, and the founding chairman of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, who served in the Legislative Council from 1985-2008. Lee has been among the highest profile defenders of Hong Kong's freedoms, rule of law and way of life, arguing that without a democratic system to underpin the rule of law, Hong Kong will not continue as a free society and as a model for China's future development. In a recent New York Times op-ed titled ''Hong Kong's Shaky Democratic Future,'' he warned that ''our autonomy and the rule of law it buttresses are under threat from the mainland central government,'' and called on Beijing to end the dangerous escalation of press threats in Hong Kong. Martin Lee was a 1997 recipient of the National Endowment for Democracy's Democracy Award.
Anson Chan was Hong Kong's Chief Secretary, the head of the civil service under British rule, and after the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 held the post under Chinese rule. The first ethnic Chinese to hold the second-highest governmental position in Hong Kong, Chan has often been described as Hong Kong's "Iron Lady," and is regarded as one of the most powerful women in Asia. Elected to the Legislative Council from 2007-2008, in 2013, she helped launch the Hong Kong 2020 campaign, which advocates for constitutional changes in order to achieve ''full universal suffrage for election of the Chief Executive in 2017 and all members of the Legislative Council by 2020.''
Louisa Greve is Vice President for Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Global Programs at the National Endowment for Democracy, where she previously served as Director for East Asia, Senior Program Officer, and Program Officer. She has studied, worked, and travelled in Asia since 1980 and has testified before Congressional committees on human rights in China and democracy promotion in Asia. She was a member of the AEI/Armitage International Taiwan Policy Working Group (2007) and the Council on Foreign Relations Term Member Roundtable on U.S. National Security - New Threats in a Changing World (2002).
Venezuelan Socialist Party Legislator Robert Serra Assassinated
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 08:32
Merida, 2nd October 2014 ( '' Robert Serra (27), a legislator of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and the National Assembly's (AN) youngest parliamentarian, was found dead in his Caracas home yesterday.
Authorities confirmed last night that Serra and his partner Maria Herrera had been murdered in their residence. According to daily newspaper Ultimas Noticias, unofficial reports say that Serra's body showed signs of torture before he was killed.
The minister of interior affairs, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, informed state television VTV last night that an investigation had been launched into the murders.
''They were horribly assassinated in their house'...a motive still hasn't been determined, what we can assure is that there is a specialised team at the site to investigate who is responsible for this act,'' he stated, while asking PSUV members to ''remain calm''.
Serra was a rising figure within Chavismo, and had been a prominent student leader in the PSUV. Originally from the western city of Maracaibo, the law graduate and criminologist also spearheaded initiatives to tackle violent crime in Venezuela. He was elected to the AN for the PSUV in 2010.
Tributes to Serra from members of the government and PSUV came pouring in upon the news of his murder. President Nicolas Maduro first reacted to the news on Twitter, writing, ''We will continue your example Robert, loyal and firm in the path of the revolution that you always defended with passion''.
National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello told VTV that he felt ''immense pain'' at the ''horrendous crime'' and loss of ''one of the PSUV's new, best generation''.
Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles recognised Serra's death on Twitter, however attempted to tie the killing to high crime rates in Venezuela, for which the opposition blames the government.
''The death of any Venezuelan deserves our most energetic rejection, there is a national clamour for violence to be ended, peace to the soul of Dep. Robert Serra,'' he wrote, continuing, ''Don't forget that in our mistreated homeland 50 Venezuelans are killed every day''.
Several commentators from within Chavismo argued that Serra's murder was part of an alleged strategy of targeted assassinations and an ''economic war'' to undermine the Bolivarian government.
Writing on popular pro-government community forum Aporrea, political science professor Jesus Silva wrote of the event, ''It's not a myth, it's a reality: there is a national plan for the targeted assassination of mid-level socialist political leaders''.
He continued, ''300 NGOs are being financed by governments and companies in and outside of the country to implement political terrorism in Venezuela''.
History of assassinations
Robert Serra's murder joins the list of other assassinations of government figures. In April, PSUV local councilor and former intelligence chief Eliecer Otaiza was murdered in Caracas. Serra's bodyguard, detective Alexis Barreto, was also assassinated two years ago.
Alleged assassination plots and attempts have also been reported against top government officials. Last October, then price control enforcer Eduardo Saman survived a suspicious armed assault that he said was an assassination attempt.
The cases recall the car bomb assassination of state lawyer Danilo Anderson in 2004, who at the time was responsible for prosecuting several anti-government figures suspected of participating in the 2002 coup against the administration of Hugo Chavez.
A wake for Robert Serra and Maria Herrera is being held today.
Published on Oct 2nd 2014 at 11.14am
Venezuelan Government Reports Evidence that Serra's Assassination Tied to Right-Wing Terrorist Plot |
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:57
Caracas, 3rd October 2014 ( - The murder of Robert Serra, a young legislator of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), who was killed in his home along with his companion Maria Herrera late Wednesday night, is tied to a right-wing terrorist plot, government officials stated yesterday. Thousands filled the streets of Caracas yesterday and late last night to honor Serra's memory. President Maduro vowed to take ''swift action'' against ''terrorist acts.''
In response to opposition claims that Serra's death was a result of an isolated or common crime, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Minister of Interior Relations, stated that, ''We're not dealing with unfortunate events committed by a common criminal. We are dealing with an intentional murder, planned and executed with great precision...According to the evidence obtained everything points to a planned , organized and detailed [assassination] technique. ''
Venezuela's scientific investigation police (CICPC) are studying video carama footage from Serra's home and have collected forensic evidence. It has been reported that Serra and Herrera were killed by stab wounds. Herrera received 6 - 7, while Serra was gagged and handcuffed and received up to 40 stab wounds before he was murdered. The act is thought to have taken 15 - 20 minutes.
The assassinations are thought to have been carried out by a group of six men, who were armed, and gained entry into Serra's house through some kind of guise. No evidence of forced entry was found.
The secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), former Colombian president Ernesto Samper, appeared to agree with the Venezuelan government's hypothesis as to the nature of the assassination. He responded to the news yesterday via twitter by writing, ''The assassination of the young legislator Robert Serra in Venezuela is a worrying sign of the infiltration of Colombian paramilitarism.''
Government officials are claiming that the extreme Venezuelan right-wing, with links to international terrorist groups in Colombia and Miami, are behind Serra's death, and the murder of his companion Herrera.
In a recently released video, right-wing Venezuelan activist Lorent Saleh outlined his links to former Colombian President Alvro Uribe, and the acquisition of over $8000 USD worth of explosives to use in a ''social cleansing.'' Referring to this video, academic Steve Ellner wrote yesterday, ''In the conversation Saleh makes reference to sophisticated Remington arms for sharpshooters with a list of twenty targets.'' Robert Serra, the young Chavista legislator and avid defender of the Bolivarian Project, was named one of the targets of Saleh's hit list.
Ellner went on to criticize the United States' allegations of human rights violations in Venezuela ''when they know full well that the type of terrorism carried out in that nation would never be tolerated in the U.S.'' He also warned that ''the situation resembles the prelude to the overthrow of Salvador Allende'' in Chile in 1973, when the Chilean opposition did not distance themselves from violent actions including the assassination of a Chilean general.
President Nicols Maduro paid his respects to Robert Serra and Maria Herrera yesterday and stated to the National Assembly that ''criminal evidence and clues will soon make it possible to identify the material and intellectual authors of the crime.''
Thousands of Venezuelans descended upon central Caracas yesterday to pay honor to the life of Robert Serra and Maria Herrera, and to condemn the acts of violence. A motorcade of cars and motorcycles filled the shut down traffic late yesterday afternoon, and thousands of people stood in lines - even through a heavy downpour - to offer their condolences.
Robert Serra, a law graduate and criminologist, was elected in December 2010 as a member of the 2nd constituency of Caracas. He was the one of the country's youngest elected officials and he had strong ties with grassroots movements. President Maduro called on the Venezuelan people to maintain ''consciousness and fortitude" in the face of this ''vile assault on the revolutionary process.''
Published on Oct 3rd 2014 at 11.58am
US could topple my government and kill me: Argentina president Cristina Kirchner
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 19:38
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner addresses supporters at Government House in Buenos Aires on September 30, 2014 (AFP Photo/Juan Mabromata)
Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner charged in an emotional address that domestic and US interests were pushing to topple her government, and could even kill her.
Domestic business interests ''are trying to bring down the government, with international (US) help,'' she said.
Kirchner said that on her recent visit to Pope Francis '-- a fellow Argentine whose help she has sought in Argentina's ongoing debt default row '-- police warned her about supposed plots against her by Islamic State activists.
''So, if something happens to me, don't look to the Mideast, look north'' to the United States, Kirchner said at Government House.
- Don't believe US: Kirchner -
Just hours after the US embassy here warned its citizens to take extra safety precautions in Argentina, an aggravated Kirchner said ''when you see what has been coming out of diplomatic offices, they had better not come in here and try to sell some tall tale about ISIS trying to track me down so they can kill me.''
The president said local soybean producers unhappy with prices, other exporters and car company executives, all were involved since they would benefit from a devaluation of the peso, which is being pushed lower by her government's selective default.
''Exporters who have lost money have Argentina in a vise .. so do the car company executives who tell consumers they have no inventory when they do '.... What they are all waiting for is a devaluation.''
Argentina exited recession with 0.9-percent economic growth in the second quarter, national statistics institute INDEC said Wednesday, a rare bit of good news amid the country's new debt default.
But with inflation estimated at more than 30 percent and the value of the peso tumbling, Latin America's third-largest economy is still mired in a slowdown after averaging 7.8-percent annual growth from 2003 to 2011.
Argentina is still struggling with the aftermath of a default on nearly $100 billion in debt in 2001, with the two hedge funds it labels vultures battling the country in US courts.
But it has been blocked by US federal judge Thomas Griesa, who has ordered the country to first repay two hedge funds demanding the full $1.3 billion face value of their bonds.
Griesa ruled Monday that Argentina was in contempt of court after it passed a law allowing the government to repay creditors in Buenos Aires or Paris '-- skirting the New York judge's freeze on the bank accounts it previously used to service its debt.
Argentina has been locked out of international financial markets since its 2001 default.
More than 92 percent of its creditors agreed to take losses of up to 70 percent on the face value of their bonds in 2005 and 2010 to get the struggling country's debt repayments back on track.
But the two hedge funds, US billionaire Paul Singer's NML Capital and US-based Aurelius Capital Management, which had bought up defaulted Argentine bonds for pennies on the dollar, refused to accept the write-down and took the country to court.
The strategy, which stands to make them profits of up to 1,600 percent, has earned them the label ''vulture funds'' from Buenos Aires.
Blocked from paying its restructured debt, Argentina missed a $539 million interest payment and entered default again on July 30.
It is now trying to buy time until the end of the year, the expiration date for a clause in the restructuring deals that entitles all bondholders to equal treatment.
Argentina is meanwhile lobbying to create a UN convention to prevent a minority of bondholders from scuppering struggling countries' debt restructuring plans.
A resolution to negotiate such a framework passed the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month.
- Tough outlook -
Economic analysts are forecasting the economy will shrink two percent this year, though the government is forecasting a return to economic growth of 2.8 percent in 2015.
The end of the boom has revived the ghost of Argentina's 2001 economic crisis, when it defaulted on $100 billion in debt and deadly riots erupted.
That violence, in which at least 26 people were killed, led to the resignation of president Fernando de la Rua, who was replaced by Adolfo Rodriguez Saa. He resigned a week after taking office amid more unrest.
Turkey: Seven G¼len-Linked Police Officers Arrested In Wiretapping Operation
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:43
ISTANBUL '-- Seven police officers who allegedly have ties to the controversial G¼len Movement were arrested by the Antalya prosecutor's office under the scope of an unlawful wiretapping investigation on Wednesday.14 officers were detained earlier this week, while seven of the officers were released and the other seven officers were transferred to the court on duty with the demand to take them under custody.
The G¼len Movement is a transnational movement led by the controversial U.S.-based imam Fethullah G¼len who lives in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania is accused of wiretapping thousands of people including Turkish government officials and encrypted phones. It has over 140 private schools throughout the world including the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa. It has been accused of infiltrating into state institutions in Turkey and overthrowing the government.
Turkish government officials have continuously expressed their determination to continue to lawfully fight against the G¼len Movement, whose followers are accused of infiltrating state institutions to gain control of state mechanisms, and illegal wiretapping, forgery of official documents and spying.
Obama Nation
Furgeson VOTE
Voter registration in Ferguson surges after Brown killing
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 14:08
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles speaks with resident Juanita Stone after a town hall meeting with local government officials and residents on Tuesday, at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Mo.(Photo: Whitney Curtis, Getty Images)
More than 3,000 people have registered to vote in Ferguson, Mo., since the death of Michael Brown '-- a surge in interest that may mean the city of 21,000 people is ready for a change.
Since a white police officer shot the unarmed black 18-year-old on Aug. 9, voter registration booths and cards have popped up alongside protests in the city and surrounding neighborhoods. The result: 4,839 people in St. Louis County have registered to vote since the shooting; 3,287 of them live in Ferguson.
The city's population is two-thirds African American but five of its six city council members are white, as is its mayor.
The St. Louis County Election Board does not record the races of eligible voters, but many believe the increase is a sign that Brown's death has spurred renewed interest in politics and might mean more blacks will vote in the upcoming election.
"It's a great move when people come out and register in mass like that," said Anthony Bell, St. Louis 3rd Ward committeeman. "They are sending a signal that we want a change. It doesn't give justice to the Michael Brown family but it will in the future give justice to how the administration is run in a local municipality like Ferguson."
Bell began registering people two days after Brown was shot. He was at Canfield Green Apartments shortly after the teen was killed and watched as his body lay in the street for hours. The experience motivated him to lead a protest the next day and start registering people. He started with a clipboard and later set up a booth a few blocks from the shooting scene.
Rita Days, St. Louis County director of elections, said her office has been fielding calls from individuals and groups asking how to register people to vote. The NAACP, League of Women Voters, sororities and fraternities have taken classes. Others have picked up handfuls of registration cards to encourage people to mail in their registrations.
Registering more than 3,000 people in a month and a half is a significant accomplishment, Days said. She added that the real test will be how many people show up to the polls.
Jonathan Clarke, a writer and columnist for Politics in Color and a longtime St. Louis resident, agrees. "This represents a wake up call," he said. "The problem so far, hasn't been, as far as I understand, registration so much as it has been turnout."
Days said her office, as well as interested organizations, have long stressed the importance of voting to community members. Despite many efforts though, there has been little interest in past elections. During local elections in April, just 1,484 of the 12,096 registered voters in Ferguson cast ballots.
"The apathy regarding voters is rampant in this county," she said. "I mean if we get 10 or 15 (percent of registered voters to vote) that's good."
This time, demonstrators are vowing it will be different.
Community leaders plan to mobilize voters during the upcoming election and ensure that people make it to the polls, said Anthony Shahid, one of the most visible activists who has been protesting in Ferguson since Brown's death. He is also hoping volunteers from different cities will come to help the push.
"We want to have a big rally," Shahid said. "You have to get people excited."
Anthony Gray, an attorney for Michael Brown's family, said supporters of Michael Brown have the power to make Ferguson's political leaders more diverse and to force officials to take into account the concerns of black residents.
"It could completely change the political landscape, the power structure, (and) the decision making," Gray said. "The service to the African American community would almost quadruple because they would be viewed as a credible and legitimate voting block."
To vote in the upcoming Nov. 4 election, people must register by Oct. 8.
For Eric Davis, Brown's cousin, the dates are important ones that could lead to much needed change in local government.
"There is little to no representation of African Americans," Davis said. "It's basically a government that is Caucasian that is ruling over a class of African Americans. It's almost as if it's apartheid in some ways."
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Department of Homeland Security official took bribes in cash and egg rolls - Los Angeles Homeland Security |
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 04:21
A U.S. immigration officer was sentenced on October 3, 2014 to two and a half years in federal prison, for accepting bribes in the form of cash and egg rolls from applicants seeking citizenship and green cards.
Mai Nhu Nguyen, 48, served with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Santa Ana for eight years. She pleaded guilty to receiving bribes as a public official between July 2011 and May 2013. As an immigration service officer, Nguyen had the authority to approve or deny immigration applications.
In one of the instances of bribery, Nguyen called a vendor to order 300 egg rolls. She then told an immigration applicant to pay for the $150 food order and deliver it to her workplace. Once the task was performed, Nguyen proceeded to approve the immigrant's paperwork.
Unfortunately, bribery is very common within the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent James Dominguez admitted guilt for his role in a bribery scheme that illegally funneled confidential DHS records to a Los Angeles immigration lawyer, Kwang Man "John" Lee (a former U.S. immigration official), doctored information in secret government databases and sanctioned sham marriages involving foreign nationals. The plea deal offered to Dominguez was a bargain, since it allowed him to be held accountable only for making false statements. This will undoubtedly minimize the punishment for this elaborate scheme that spanned nearly two decades and involved tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.
Corruption within the Department of Homeland Security is able to flourish because it involves the very officials tasked with extinguishing criminal wrongdoing. For example, former Supervisor of the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) Eugenio Pedraza was found guilty of conspiracy and falsifying government documents. He conspired with other ICE Special Agents (Rolando Gomez, Marco Rodriguez and Edwin Castillo) to falsify investigative reports pertaining to bribery, drug and alien smuggling, forge deportation documents, and destroy falsified supervisory case reviews.
Rolando Gomez, Marco Rodriguez and Edwin Castillo were placed on paid administrative leave and reached non-prosecutorial agreements with the government. All charges were dropped against them with prejudice, which means they can't be prosecuted for the offenses at issue ever again.
There is an unfortunate pattern in the prosecutions of culpable Department of Homeland Security personnel. High-ranking officials are more likely to escape accountability with minimum punishment, while low-level offenders face the harshest penalties.
For example, Frank Johnston, former Assistant Special Agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for obstruction of justice, giving false information to a federal prosecutor and a federal judge in Florida, and devising a scheme to have his wife paid nearly $600,000 by the agency.
Former ICE Agent Richard Cramer is one of the highest-ranking immigration agents arrested on corruption charges. He provided drug traffickers with confidential law-enforcement background checks that helped smugglers avoid capture. Cramer was charged with multiple counts of drug smuggling and faced as many as 20 years in prison. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) manager Bryant Jermaine Livingston was running a prostitution ring out of a Crowne Plaza Hotel in Maryland. He pleaded guilty, received no prison time and was ordered to pay a $500 dollar fine.
CBP Officer Manuel Salazar allowed drug smugglers to transport 1,700 pounds of marijuana through his inspection lane in exchange for a bribe of $10,000 dollars. He was sentenced to 24 months of probation.
Daphiney Caganap, the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) intelligence unit and anti-smuggling operations at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, covered up an illegal alien and drug smuggling operation. In exchange for bribes, Caganap allowed the smuggling to continue for years. When questioned by the FBI, she lied under oath. Even after the government became aware of Caganap's bribery, she continued to receive promotions and was appointed as the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Port Director at the Metro Detroit Airport. Once criminally charged, Caganap was facing 36 years in prison. She was sentenced to 3 years of probation and a fine of $3,000. She was allowed to keep all of the bribes she received in the commission of her crimes, as no restitution was ordered.
DHS Deputy Press Secretary Brian Doyle was using the Internet to solicit a minor for sexual acts. Doyle sent pornographic materials to a person he believed to be an underage girl, who was really a Florida law enforcement officer. He tried to entice the minor by transmitting photos of his DHS credentials and his genitals. Before being hired by the Department of Homeland Security, while working at Time Magazine's Washington bureau, Doyle was caught looking at pornography on a receptionist's computer late at night. He admitted to the incident, was reprimanded, and had to issue a formal apology to staffers. Apparently, the DHS had no problem with this history in conducting their Deputy Press Secretary's background check. Brian Doyle was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
The beleaguered Department of Homeland Security is not the only one to blame for inadequate punishment of its officials for serious crimes. The Department of Justice demonstrates unjustified leniency towards high-ranking government offenders, while crushing average Americans with disproportionately harsh sentences for minor offences. Unless our federal government is forced to rethink its priorities, rampant corruption, bribery and abuse of federal office under the color of law will continue to endanger the sovereignty of our nation.
Executive Order -- Conversion Authority for Criminal Investigators (Special Agents) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives | The White House
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:12
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2014
- - - - - - -
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 3301 and 3302 of title 5, United States Code, and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Providing Conversion Authority. I find that conditions of good administration (specifically, the need to make the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Department of Justice (ATF), competitive in recruiting high quality special agents by giving the ATF an authority held by other Federal law enforcement agencies) make necessary an exception to the competitive examination rules for appointment to certain positions in the Federal civil service.
Criminal Investigators of the ATF, who have been appointed under Schedule B, and who have completed 3 years of fully satisfactory service, may be converted non-competitively to career appointments if they meet qualifications and other requirements established by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.
Sec. 2. Implementation. The Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to implement this order.
Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
5 CFR 315.702 - Employees serving without competitive examination in rare cases. | LII / Legal Information Institute
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:13
Title 5 published on 2014-01-01
The following are only the Rules published in the Federal Register after the published date of Title 5.
For a complete list of all Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices view the Rulemaking tab.
2014-07-29; vol. 79 # 145 - Tuesday, July 29, 201479 FR 43919 - Nondiscrimination ProvisionsGPO FDSys XML | TextAdditional DocumentsOFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENTFinal rule.This final rule is effective July 29, 2014.5 CFR Parts 300, 315, 335, 410, 537, and 900SummaryThe Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is issuing a final rule to update various nondiscrimination provisions to provide greater consistency and reflect current law.
This is a list of United States Code sections, Statutes at Large, Public Laws, and Presidential Documents, which provide rulemaking authority for this CFR Part.
This list is taken from the Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules provided by GPO [Government Printing Office].
It is not guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date, though we do refresh the database weekly. More limitations on accuracy are described at the GPO site.
United States CodeU.S. Code: Title 5 - GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION AND EMPLOYEESU.S. Code: Title 22 - FOREIGN RELATIONS AND INTERCOURSEPresidential DocumentsExecutive Order ... 10577
Executive Order ... 11219
Executive Order ... 12034
Executive Order ... 12107
Executive Order ... 12596
Executive Order ... 12721
Executive Order ... 13473
Executive Order ... 13562
Title 5 published on 2014-01-01
The following are ALL rules, proposed rules, and notices (chronologically) published in the Federal Register relating to 5 CFR 315after this date.
2014-07-29; vol. 79 # 145 - Tuesday, July 29, 201479 FR 43919 - Nondiscrimination ProvisionsGPO FDSys XML | TextAdditional DocumentsOFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENTFinal rule.This final rule is effective July 29, 2014.5 CFR Parts 300, 315, 335, 410, 537, and 900SummaryThe Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is issuing a final rule to update various nondiscrimination provisions to provide greater consistency and reflect current law.
2014-01-06; vol. 79 # 3 - Monday, January 6, 201479 FR 610 - Career and Career-Conditional EmploymentGPO FDSys XML | TextAdditional DocumentsOFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENTProposed rule.We will consider comments received on or before March 7, 2014.5 CFR Part 315SummaryThe U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is proposing to change the regulations on creditable service for career tenure. The proposed regulation removes the requirement for creditable service to be substantially continuous. This change will assist individuals who leave Federal service before meeting the requirement and subsequently return to a qualifying appointment.
Competitive Hiring
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:17
This section contains regulatory guidance for hiring job applicants under the competitive examining and hiring process.
BackgroundThe Federal Government consists of three types of services, the Competitive Service, the Excepted Service, and the Senior Executive Service. The competitive service consists of all civil service positions in the executive branch of the Federal Government with some exceptions. The exceptions are defined in section 2102 of title 5, United States Code (5 U.S.C. 2102)
In the competitive service, individual must go through a competitive process (i.e. competitive examining) which is open to all applicants. This process may consist of a written test, an evaluation of the individual's education and experience, and/or an evaluation of other attributes necessary for successful performance in the position to be filled.
Appointments to the Excepted Service are civil service appointments within the Federal Government that do not confer competitive status. There are a number of ways to be appointed to the excepted service such as appointed under an authority defined by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as excepted (e.g. Veterans Recruitment Appointment) or being appointed to a position defined by OPM as excepted (e.g. Attorneys) More information can be found about the excepted service in 5 U.S.C. 2103 and parts 213 and 302 of title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Types of Appointment (Status)The Federal Government employs permanent and temporary employees. Permanent employees are generally hired under a career-conditional appointment (Permanent - Career-Conditional Appointment). Normally this is the first career-type of appointment and the appointee must complete a 1-year probationary period and a total of 3 years continuous creditable service to attain a career appointment (Permanent - Career Appointment).
Temporary appointments are defined as appointments expected to last for a specified period not to exceed 1 year (Temporary Appointment - Time limited not to exceed 1 year but could be less) or a specified period of time that is at least more than 1-year but not to exceed 4 years (Term Appointment - Time limited more than one year but not more than 4 years). Neither type of appointment is a permanent one, so they do not give the employee competitive/permanent status.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides the following list of the primary appointing authorities agencies may use to make career and career-conditional appointments. OPM prepared this list to assist Federal human resources specialists. The list includes citations to applicable law. It also provides the conditions for appointments made under interchange agreements entered into between an agency and OPM. OPM also provides a partial list of statutory appointing authorities outside of title 5, United States Code (5 U.S.C.). OPM does not regulate appointment authorities outside of title 5. For a description of non-title 5 authorities, agencies should consult the cited laws.
Appointments under the authorities listed below may be subject to additional eligibility requirements, such as citizenship, which are not included in this information.
OPM reminds agencies they must report all vacancies to OPM and must give selection priority in hiring as required by the Career Transition Assistance Program for Surplus and Displaced Employees. See title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (5 CFR) Part 330, Subparts F and G.
Direct-Hire AuthoritiesAuthorities: 5 U.S.C. Section 3304 and 5 CFR Part 337, Subpart B
Using OPM-approved governmentwide or agency specific direct-hire authorities, agencies may appoint candidates to positions without regard to the requirements in title 5 U.S.C. 3309 through 3318. In order for an agency to use direct hire, OPM must determine that there is either a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need for a position or group of positions.
When using the direct-hire authority, agencies must adhere to the public notice requirements in 5 U.S.C. 3327 and 3330, and the displaced employee procedures in 5 CFR part 330, subparts B, F, and G. When documenting appointments using a direct-hire authority, an agency must use two authority codes. The first code is "AYM" and will automatically fill in with "Reg. 337.201." The second authority code will be the individual one associated with the specific direct-hire authority. These codes are listed below along with the information about each direct-hire authority.
Governmentwide Direct-Hire AuthoritiesMedical Occupations - All grade levels at all locations for the following occupations (GW001, issued June 20, 2003), Second authority code BAB:
Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist, GS-0647Medical Officer, GS-0602Nurse, GS-0610, GS-0620Pharmacist, GS-0660Information Technology Management (Information Security), GS-2210, GS-9 and above at all locations (GW002, issued June 20, 2003), Second authority Code: BAC
Positions involved in Iraqi Reconstruction Efforts that require fluency in Arabic or other related Middle Eastern languages at all WG levels, single-grade interval occupations in the General Schedule (GS), and two-grade interval GS occupations at GS-9 and above. Agencies may appoint U.S. citizens to positions at all locations. (GW003, issued July 1, 2003), Second authority Code: BAD
GW-004, Effective September 30, 2012 is extended by Sec. 1103 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Federal Acquisition positions covered under title 41, United States Code 433(g)(1)(A). This authority is based on a severe-shortage of candidates. Prior to using this authority, the department and agency heads (other than the Secretary of Defense) must determine whether a shortage of highly qualified individuals exists. When determining the existence of a shortage of highly qualified individuals, agencies are required to use the supporting evidence prescribed in 5 CFR 337.204(b). The supporting evidence must be kept in a file for documentation and reporting purposes. In accordance with 5 CFR 337.206(c), OPM may request information from agencies on their use and implementation of this direct-hire authority. This authority expires on September 30, 2017. Agencies may not appoint any individual to a position of employment using this authority after September 30, 2017. The legal authority code for SF-50 item 5-E is ''BAE.''
GW-006 (VMO) Issued on February 12, 2009 for Veterinary Medical Officer positions at the GS-11 through GS-15 grade levels (or equivalent) nationwide to include overseas territories and commonwealths including Puerto Rico, Guam, and Virgin Islands, may be used indefinitely or until OPM terminates this authority. This authority is based on a severe shortage of candidates. In accordance with 5 CFR 337.206(c), OPM may request information from agencies on their use and implementation of this direct-hire authority. On a periodic basis OPM will determine if continued use is supportable. The legal authority code for SF-50 item 5-E is "BAG."
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Competitive ExaminingAuthorities: 5 U.S.C. Chapter 33; 5 CFR Part 332; 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart C; 5 CFR Part 337
Competitive examining is the traditional method for making appointments to competitive service positions and requires adherence to title 5's competitive examining requirements. OPM may delegate authority, by agreement, to an agency to examine for all of its competitive service positions (except administrative law judges). Vacancies filled through the competitive examining process are open to the public.
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Current and Former Competitive Service EmployeesAuthorities:5 CFR Part 315, Subparts D and E
Agencies may appoint current career and career-conditional employees by transfer (Subpart E).
Agencies may appoint former career and career-conditional employees by reinstatement, but certain time limits may apply (Subpart D).
Employees appointed by transfer or reinstatement may be required to compete under the agency's merit promotion program. See 5 CFR Part 335.
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Noncompetitive ConversionSeveral Governmentwide appointing authorities, listed below, permit or require agencies to noncompetitively convert employees to career or career-conditional appointments from excepted service or temporary appointments. In addition, some agencies may have their own conversion authority(ies) based on specific provisions of law.
Veterans Recruitment AppointmentAuthorities: 38 U.S.C. 4214; 5 CFR Part 307; 5 CFR 315.705
Disabled VeteransAuthorities:5 U.S.C. 3112; 5 CFR 316.402(b)(4); 5 CFR 315.707
Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Severe Physical Disabilities, or Psychiatric DisabilitiesAuthorities: Executive Orders 12125, and 13124; 5 CFR 3.1(b); 5 CFR 213.3102(u); 5 CFR 315.709
Student Career Experience Program Authorities: Executive Order 12015; 5 CFR 213.3202(b)
Presidential Management Fellows ProgramAuthorities: Executive Order 12364; 5 CFR 213.3102(ii); 5 CFR Part 362; 5 CFR 315.708
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Interchange Agreements With Other Merit SystemsAuthorities: Civil Service Rule 6.7 (5 CFR 6.7)
Current AgreementsUnder Rule 6.7, OPM and an agency having an established merit system in the excepted service may enter into an agreement prescribing conditions under which employees may be moved from the agency's system to the competivice service. OPM has agreements with:
Tennessee Valley AuthorityCovers employees in salary policy positions (trades and labor positions are not covered). Agreement effective 10/16/57; extended indefinitely.
Nuclear Regulatory CommissionAgreement effective 10/1/75; extended indefinitely.
Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans AffairsCovers employees who occupy medical or medical-related positions and were appointed under 38 U.S.C. 7401(1) or (3) [formerly 38 U.S.C. 4104(1) and (3)]. Agreements effective 10/31/79 and 5/12/87; extended indefinitely.
Nonappropriated Fund (NAF) employees of the Department of DefenseAgreement effective 9/20/91; extended indefinitely. Also see the paragraph on the portability of benefits for nonappropriated fund employees.
Federal Aviation AdministrationAgreement effective 11/6/97; expires 12/31/15.
Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security AdministrationAgreement effective 01/31/13; expires 01/31/18.
Corporation for National and Community ServiceAgreement effective 03/04/13; expires 02/11/16.
This agreement includes employees assigned to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
Appointment ConditionsAn agency may noncompetitively appoint an employee covered by an interchange agreement to a career or career-conditional appointment subject to the conditions listed below. Each interchange agreement specifies these conditions. The conditions do not appear in the Code of Federal Regulations. Individuals who do not meet the requirements for appointment under the interchange agreement may apply for a position under competitive examining or other appointment procedures, provided the individual satisfies all applicable eligibility requirements.
Qualifying for appointment in other merit systemsTo be eligible for career or career-conditional appointment, a person must:
Be currently serving under an appointment without time limit in the other merit system or have been involuntarily separated from such appointment without personal cause within the preceding year; AND
Be currently serving in or have been involuntarily separated from a position covered by an interchange agreement (some agreements do not cover all positions of the other merit system); AND
Have served continuously for at least 1 year in the other merit system prior to appointment under the interchange agreement
A person who previously met this requirement, separated, and later returned to an appointment without time limit, is considered as having met this requirement, regardless of length of service under the current appointment. (See paragraph on type of appointment received when appointed to a competitive service position.)
Eligible employees under appointment without time limit in the Department of Defense Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities (NAFI) system may include flexible employees, who work the equivalent of a part-time, intermittent, or on-call schedule. To determine their creditable service, apply the rules in 5 CFR 315.201(b)(4)
Appointment requirementsA person must be appointed to the competitive service without a break in service of 1 workday, except that a person may be appointed within 1 year after being involuntarily separated from the other merit system. The qualification standards (including internal placement provisions, subject to 5 CFR Part 335) and requirements, appointing documents, and determinations for these appointees are the same as for transfer of employees within the competitive service.
SelectionEligible persons may be considered for appointment to positions in the same manner that other individuals are considered for noncompetitive appointment. The appointments are not subject to the merit promotion provisions of 5 CFR Part 335 unless required by agency policy.
Type of appointmentPersons appointed to competitive positions under the interchange agreements will receive career or career-conditional appointments, depending on whether they meet the 3-year service requirement for career tenure or are exempt from it under 5 CFR 315.201(c). Service that begins with a person's current permanent appointment in the other merit system counts toward the 3-year service requirement for career tenure. Interchange agreements do not authorize temporary or term appointments.
Probation and statusPersons appointed under these agreements are not subject to probation under 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart H, but acquire civil service status on appointment. Appointees are subject to the supervisory or managerial probationary period in 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart I, but appropriate service in the other merit system may be considered in determining the applicability of the probationary period and creditable service toward completion of probation.
Appointment in other merit systemsInterchange agreements provide for two-way movement. This means that career and career-conditional employees are eligible for employment in the other merit systems with which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has agreements under conditions similar to those described in the preceding section. A career or career-conditional employee who is not eligible for appointment under an interchange agreement may be eligible for appointment consideration under other appointment procedures of the other merit system.
Portability of Benefits for Nonappropriated Fund EmployeesThe Portability of Benefits for Nonappropriated Fund Employees Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-508) permits service with a nonappropriated fund instrumentality (NAFI) to be considered when establishing pay and benefits of a Department of Defense (DOD) NAFI employee who moves to a civil service appointment within DOD and of a Coast Guard NAFI employee who moves to a civil service appointment within the Coast Guard on or after January 1, 1987--but only if the employee moves between the two appointments without a break in service of more than 3 days. Also, Public Law 104-106 (February 10, 1996) amended the Portability Act to allow certain retirement benefits with a break in service of not more than 1 year. To be covered by these provisions, an appointment may be based on the interchange agreement or any other valid appointing authority.
The following lists some of the more common actions and where instructions can be found on giving credit for NAFI benefits and service. These provisions apply to any agency subject to a particular law. For example, an agency subject to the reduction in force provisions of chapter 35 of title 5, United States Code, would apply the instructions below relating to service credit for reduction in force purposes.
Setting basic pay. See 5 CFR 531.216. Also, a Department of Defense (DOD) Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentality (NAFI) employee moving within DOD and a Coast Guard NAFI employee moving within the Coast Guard, without a break in service of more than 3 days, are NOT eligible for a superior qualifications appointment under 5 CFR 531.212. A NAFI employee moving to civil service employment under any other circumstance (and with a break of at least 90 days since his or her last period of Federal or certain District of Columbia employment) may be considered for a superior qualifications appointment.
Creditable service for a within grade increase. See 5 CFR 531.406(b)(4).
Creditable service for time-in-grade purposes. See 5 CFR 300.605.
Eligibility for grade and pay retention. See 5 CFR Part 536 Subparts B and C, respectively.
Eligibility for severance pay. See 5 CFR 550.705 and 550.708.
Credit for leave accrued in NAFI leave system. See 5 U.S.C. 6308(b).
Service credit for leave purposes. See the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Operating Manual, The Guide to Processing Personnel Actions, Chapter 6, section 1-7c.
Service credit for reduction in force purposes. Public Law 104-106 (February 10, 1996) gives service credit for reduction-in-force (RIF) purposes to employees of Nonappropriated Fund (NAF) instrumentalities who moved, on or after January 1, 1966, without a break in service of more than 3 days, from a position in a NAF instrumentality of the Department of Defense or the Coast Guard to a non-NAF instrumentality position in the Department of Defense or the Coast Guard, respectively.
Retirement coverage. Public Law 104-106 (February 10, 1996) amended the Portability Act to allow certain retirement benefits with a break in service of not more than 1 year. See the implementing regulations published in the Federal Register (FR) on August 9, 1996 (61 FR 41713-41728). This publication amended various provisions of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulation (5 CFR) and added a new 5 CFR Part 847, Elections of Retirement Coverage by Current and Former Employees of Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities.
Thrift Savings Plan Coverage. See 5 CFR Part 1620, Subpart G, published by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board in the Federal Register on August 9, 1996 (61 FR 41485-41488).
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Appointment of Foreign Service EmployeesAuthorities: Executive Order 11219 (5/6/65); Executive Order 12292 (2/23/81); 5 CFR 315.606
Current AgreementsAgencies may noncompetitively appoint to career or career-conditional appointments current and former Foreign Service employees who meet the criteria under appointment conditions below.
Appointment ConditionsNote: These appointment conditions do not appear in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Qualifying appointmentTo be eligible for a career or career-conditional appointment, a current or former Foreign Service employee must:
(a) Have served in the Foreign Service under an unlimited, career-type appointment;
(b) Immediately before separation from that appointment, have completed at least 1 year of continuous service without a break of a workday under one or more nontemporary Foreign Service appointments, which may include the service that made the employee eligible for career-type appointment;
(c) Meet the qualification standard and other requirements governing appointment to the competitive service, except the individual is not required to compete in a competitive examination, or under internal merit staffing procedures unless an agency's policies require the individual to do so; and
(d) Be appointed to the competitive service within 3 years of separation from a Foreign Service career-type appointment, but the time limit does not apply to an individual entitled to veterans' preference or one who has completed 3 years of substantially continuous service under one or more nontemporary Foreign Service appointments immediately before separation from an unlimited, career-type appointment. [To compute the 3 years of service, apply the rules on breaks in service and leave without pay contained in 5 CFR 315.201(b).]
Nontemporary Foreign Service appointment means (i) an appointment without condition or limitation or, (ii) a limited appointment that made the employee eligible for an unlimited, career-type appointment without a break in service of a workday between the two appointments.
Substantially continuous service means creditable service without a single break of more than 30 calendar days; except for breaks or other employment specifically defined in 5 CFR 315.201(b)(3).
Type of appointmentA career appointment is given to a person who has completed 3 years of substantially continuous service immediately before separation from an unlimited, career-type Foreign Service appointment or who meets a requirement of 5 CFR 315.201(c) for career tenure.
Others appointed under this authority receive a career-conditional appointment. Service that begins with a nontemporary Foreign Service appointment counts toward the 3-year service requirement for career tenure only if the person is appointed under this authority within 30 days after separation from the career-type appointment in the Foreign Service.
Probation and statusAppointees are not subject to a probationary period but acquire civil service status on appointment.
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Miscellaneous Authorities Regulated by the U.S. Office of Personnel ManagementCareer or Career-Conditional Appointment Under Special AuthoritiesAuthority: 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart F
This subpart contains noncompetitive appointing authorities covering a variety of situations and individuals, such as Peace Corps volunteers, former overseas employees, and incumbents of positions brought into the competitive service.
Conversion to Career or Career-Conditional Employment From Other Types of EmploymentAuthority: 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart G
This subpart contains authorities to noncompetitively convert certain current employees from nonpermanent to permanent employment, such as employees formerly appointed via competitive examining and appointments leading to noncompetitive conversion.
Employment in Senior-Level (SL) and Scientific and Professional (ST) PositionsAuthority: 5 CFR Part 319
This subpart covers appointments to competitive service positions above the GS-15 level that are subject to SL and ST salary rates. (See 5 CFR Part 317 for appointments to Senior Executive Service (SES) positions.)
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Miscellaneous Authorities Not Regulated by U.S. Office of Personnel Management.What follows is a partial list of appointing authorities authorized by statutes outside of title 5 U.S.C. Because OPM does not regulate these authorities, they do not appear in 5 CFR. For a description of these authorities, agencies should consult the cited statutes.
Using these authorities, an agency may appoint an eligible individual to any position for which the person meets the qualification standard and other requirements governing appointment to the competitive service, except the individual is not required to compete in a competitive examination. Nor is the individual required to compete with career and career-conditional employees under internal merit staffing procedures unless an agency's policies require the individual to do so. The agency must verify applicant eligibility. To determine whether an appointee must serve probation, see 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart H. To determine when an appointee acquires career tenure, see 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart B.
Postal Career Service EmployeesAuthorities: (39 U.S.C. 1006)
Postal Rate Commission EmployeesAuthorities: (39 U.S.C. 3604(e))
Government Accountability Office (GAO) EmployeesAuthorities: (31 U.S.C. 732(g))
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts EmployeesAuthorities: (28 U.S.C. 602, Public Law 101-474)
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Progressive in the classroom email
Not sure if this is Common Core related, but definitely STEM related.
I picked up my 9 year old son today from his charter school and he says, "You'll never guess what happened in my math class today."
Turns out not one, not two, but 10 representatives from Progressive Insurance came to his 4th grade math class to teach the students about using math in the Insurance business. They wore the dopey blue aprons and handed out little Progressive branded toys for the kids to take home.
Curious I consulted the book of knowledge and bam, this is what I found.
"Our first lesson involved math skills and explained the insurance concepts of risk and probability to third, fourth and fifth graders. Students played a driving board game where they collected data and plotted results on a graph. Under the guidance of their Progressive guest teachers, they worked on STEM skills as they looked for specific risk-related trends that could affect insurance rates."
When my son asked why I was so flabbergasted, I asked him which insurance company he will always remember that came to his class to teach him? He was smart enough to put two and two together, thanks to STEM.
Progressive brings real world scenarios into the classroom - @Progressive Magazine
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:37
By: Mark Nedved
Roaming Progressive's offices and corridors are thousands of dedicated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM ) experts. And chances are, if you ask any one of them, they can tell you about a teacher who helped ignite their passion for STEM subjects. Now, a handful of those STEM experts are taking the opportunity to return the favor by giving back in the classroom.
Beginning in 2011, Progressive employees started volunteering in local schools to share their STEM expertise by demonstrating their real-world uses.
Our first lesson involved math skills and explained the insurance concepts of risk and probability to third, fourth and fifth graders. Students played a driving board game where they collected data and plotted results on a graph. Under the guidance of their Progressive guest teachers, they worked on STEM skills as they looked for specific risk-related trends that could affect insurance rates.
And while that may sound too difficult for elementary students, they proved up to the challenge. But don't take our word for it'-- Hannah Paxton, a teacher at Kensington Intermediate School in Rocky River, Ohio told us, "I loved that the game embedded the math standards that students should learn in third grade. I loved that students were having fun playing the game and were learning at the same time."
Looks like everyone passed the first test, and now we're looking forward to more classroom assignments. Our goal is to inspire future STEM leaders just like certain teachers inspired us, and we're currently developing new lessons to get even more kids hooked on STEM subjects.
If you're interested in learning more about Progressive's community efforts, just visit
Inside the Koch Brothers' Toxic Empire | Rolling Stone
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 04:41
Together, Charles and David Koch control one of the world's largest fortunes, which they are using to buy up our political system. But what they don't want you to know is how they made all that moneyThe enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they've cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today's GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
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What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers' fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America's second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company's stock response to inquiries from reporters: "We are privately held and don't disclose this information."
But Koch Industries is not entirely opaque. The company's troubled legal history '' including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions '' augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle­-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.
Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch's pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.
The volume of Koch Industries' toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America's air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation's waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch's climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.
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For Koch, this license to pollute amounts to a perverse, hidden subsidy. The cost is borne by communities in cities like Port Arthur, Texas, where a Koch-owned facility produces as much as 2 billion pounds of petrochemicals every year. In March, Koch signed a consent decree with the Department of Justice requiring it to spend more than $40 million to bring this plant into compliance with the Clean Air Act.
The toxic history of Koch Industries is not limited to physical pollution. It also extends to the company's business practices, which have been the target of numerous federal investigations, resulting in several indictments and convictions, as well as a whole host of fines and penalties.
And in one of the great ironies of the Obama years, the president's financial-regulatory reform seems to benefit Koch Industries. The company is expanding its high-flying trading empire precisely as Wall Street banks '' facing tough new restrictions, which Koch has largely escaped '' are backing away from commodities speculation.
It is often said that the Koch brothers are in the oil business. That's true as far as it goes '' but Koch Industries is not a major oil producer. Instead, the company has woven itself into every nook of the vast industrial web that transforms raw fossil fuels into usable goods. Koch-owned businesses trade, transport, refine and process fossil fuels, moving them across the world and up the value chain until they become things we forgot began with hydrocarbons: fertilizers, Lycra, the innards of our smartphones.
The company controls at least four oil refineries, six ethanol plants, a natural-gas-fired power plant and 4,000 miles of pipeline. Until recently, Koch refined roughly five percent of the oil burned in America (that percentage is down after it shuttered its 85,000-barrel-per-day refinery in North Pole, Alaska, owing, in part, to the discovery that a toxic solvent had leaked from the facility, fouling the town's groundwater). From the fossil fuels it refines, Koch also produces billions of pounds of petrochemicals, which, in turn, become the feedstock for other Koch businesses. In a journey across Koch Industries, what enters as a barrel of West Texas Intermediate can exit as a Stainmaster carpet.
Koch's hunger for growth is insatiable: Since 1960, the company brags, the value of Koch Industries has grown 4,200-fold, outpacing the Standard & Poor's index by nearly 30 times. On average, Koch projects to double its revenue every six years. Koch is now a key player in the fracking boom that's vaulting the United States past Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer, even as it's endangering America's groundwater. In 2012, a Koch subsidiary opened a pipeline capable of carrying 250,000 barrels a day of fracked crude from South Texas to Corpus Christi, where the company owns a refinery complex, and it has announced plans to further expand its Texas pipeline operations. In a recent acquisition, Koch bought Frac-Chem, a top provider of hydraulic fracturing chemicals to drillers. Thanks to the Bush administration's anti-regulatory­ agenda '' which Koch Industries helped craft '' Frac-Chem's chemical cocktails, injected deep under the nation's aquifers, are almost entirely exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
A 1996 explosion of a Koch-owned pipeline in Texas killed two teens. (Photo: National Transportation Safety Board)
Koch is also long on the richest '' but also the dirtiest and most carbon-polluting '' oil deposits in North America: the tar sands of Alberta. The company's Pine Bend refinery, near St. Paul, Minnesota, processes nearly a quarter of the Canadian bitumen exported to the United States '' which, in turn, has created for Koch Industries a lucrative sideline in petcoke exports. Denser, dirtier and cheaper than coal, petcoke is the dregs of tar-sands refining. U.S. coal plants are largely forbidden from burning petcoke, but it can be profitably shipped to countries with lax pollution laws like Mexico and China. One of the firm's subsidiaries, Koch Carbon, is expanding its Chicago terminal operations to receive up to 11 million tons of petcoke for global export. In June, the EPA noted the facility had violated the Clean Air Act with petcoke particulates that endanger the health of South Side residents. "We dispute that the two elevated readings" behind the EPA notice of violation "are violations of anything," Koch's top lawyer, Mark Holden, told Rolling Stone, insisting that Koch Carbon is a good neighbor.
Over the past dozen years, the company has quietly acquired leases for 1.1 million acres of Alberta oil fields, an area larger than Rhode Island. By some estimates, Koch's direct holdings nearly double ExxonMobil's and nearly triple Shell's. In May, Koch Oil Sands Operating LLC of Calgary, Alberta, sought permits to embark on a multi-billion­dollar tar-sands-extraction operation. This one site is projected to produce 22 million barrels a year '' more than a full day's supply of U.S. oil.
Charles Koch, the 78-year-old CEO and chairman of the board of Koch Industries, is inarguably a business savant. He presents himself as a man of moral clarity and high integrity. "The role of business is to produce products and services in a way that makes people's lives better," he said recently. "It cannot do so if it is injuring people and harming the environment in the process."
The Koch family's lucrative blend of pollution, speculation, law-bending and self-righteousness stretches back to the early 20th century, when Charles' father first entered the oil business. Fred C. Koch was born in 1900 in Quanah, Texas '' a sunbaked patch of prairie across the Red River from Oklahoma. Fred was the second son of Hotze "Harry" Koch, a Dutch immigrant who '' as recalled in Koch literature '' ran "a modest newspaper business" amid the dusty poverty of Quanah. In the family legend, Fred Koch emerged from the nothing of the Texas range to found an empire. But like many stories the company likes to tell about itself, this piece of Koch­lore takes liberties with the truth. Fred was not a simple country boy, and his father was not just a small-town publisher. Harry Koch was also a local railroad baron who used his newspaper to promote the Quanah, Acme & Pacific railways. A director and founding shareholder of the company, Harry sought to build a rail line across Texas to El Paso. He hoped to turn Quanah into "the most important railroad center in northwest Texas and a metropolitan city of first rank." He may not have fulfilled those ambitions, but Harry did build up what one friend called "a handsome pile of dinero."
Harry was not just the financial springboard for the Koch dynasty, he was also its wellspring of far-right politics. Harry editorialized against fiat money, demanded hangings for "habitual criminals" and blasted Social Security as inviting sloth. At the depths of the Depression, he demanded that elected officials in Washington should stop trying to fix the economy: "Business," he wrote, "has always found a way to overcome various recessions."
In the company's telling, young Fred was an innovator whose inventions helped revolutionize the oil industry. But there is much more to this story. In its early days, refining oil was a dirty and wasteful practice. But around 1920, Universal Oil Products introduced a clean and hugely profitable way to "crack" heavy crude, breaking it down under heat and heavy pressure to boost gasoline yields. In 1925, Fred, who earned a degree in chemical engineering from MIT, partnered with a former Universal engineer named Lewis Winkler and designed a near carbon copy of the Universal cracking apparatus '' making only tiny, unpatentable tweaks. Relying on family connections, Fred soon landed his first client '' an Oklahoma refinery owned by his maternal uncle L.B. Simmons. In a flash, Winkler-Koch Engineering Co. had contracts to install its knockoff cracking equipment all over the heartland, undercutting Universal by charging a one-time fee rather than ongoing royalties.
It was a boom business. That is, until Universal sued in 1929, accusing Winkler­Koch of stealing its intellectual property. With his domestic business tied up in court, Fred started looking for partners abroad and was soon doing business in the Soviet Union, where leader Joseph Stalin had just launched his first Five Year Plan. Stalin sought to fund his country's industrialization by selling oil into the lucrative European export market. But the Soviet Union's reserves were notoriously hard to refine. The USSR needed cracking technology, and the Oil Directorate of the Supreme Council of the National Economy took a shining to Winkler-Koch '' primarily because Koch's oil-industry competitors were reluctant to do business with totalitarian Communists.
Outside its London offices, protesters gather. (Photo: P.Wolmuth/REPORT DIGITAL-REA/Re)
Between 1929 and 1931, Winkler-Koch built 15 cracking units for the Soviets. Although Stalin's evil was no secret, it wasn't until Fred visited the Soviet Union, that these dealings seemed to affect his conscience. "I went to the USSR in 1930 and found it a land of hunger, misery and terror," he would later write. Even so, he agreed to give the Soviets the engineering know-how they would need to keep building more.
Back home, Fred was busy building a life of baronial splendor. He met his wife, Mary, the Wellesley-educated daughter of a Kansas City surgeon, on a polo field and soon bought 160 acres across from the Wichita Country Club, where they built a Tudor­style mansion. As chronicled in Sons of Wichita, Daniel Schulman's investigation of the Koch dynasty, the compound was quickly bursting with princes: Frederick arrived in 1933, followed by Charles in 1935 and twins David and Bill in 1940. Fred Koch lorded over his domain. "My mother was afraid of my father," said Bill, as were the four boys, especially first-born Frederick, an artistic kid with a talent for the theater. "Father wanted to make all his boys into men, and Freddie couldn't relate to that regime," Charles recalled. Frederick got shipped East to boarding school and was all but disappeared from Wichita.
With Frederick gone, Charles forged a deep alliance with David, the more athletic and assertive of the young twins. "I was closer with David because he was better at everything," Charles has said.
Fred Koch's legal battle with Universal would drag on for nearly a quarter-century. In 1934, a lower court ruled that Winkler-Koch had infringed on Universal's technology. But that judgment would be vacated, after it came out in 1943 that Universal had bought off one of the judges­ handling the appeal. A year later, the Supreme Court decided that Fred's cracker, by virtue of small technical differences, did not violate the Universal patent. Fred countersued on antitrust grounds, arguing that Universal had wielded patents anti-competitively. He'd win a $1.5 million settlement in 1952.
Around that time, Fred had built a domestic oil empire under a new company eventually called Rock Island Oil & Refining, transporting crude from wellheads to refineries by truck or by pipe. In those later years, Fred also became a major benefactor and board member of the John Birch Society, the rabidly anti-communist organization founded in 1958 by candy magnate and virulent racist Robert Welch. Bircher publications warned that the Red endgame was the creation of the "Negro Soviet­ Republic" in the Deep South. In his own writing, Fred described integration as a Red plot to "enslave both the white and black man."
Like his father, Charles Koch attended MIT. After he graduated in 1959 with two master's degrees in engineering, his father issued an ultimatum: Come back to Wichita or I'll sell the business. "Papa laid it on the line," recalled David. So Charles returned home, immersing himself in his father's world '' not simply joining the John Birch Society, but also opening a Bircher bookstore. The Birchers had high hopes for young Charles. As Koch family friend Robert Love wrote in a letter to Welch: "Charles Koch can, if he desires, finance a large operation, however, he must continually be brought along."
But Charles was already falling under the sway of a charismatic radio personality named Robert LeFevre, founder of the Freedom School, a whites-only­ libertarian boot camp in the foothills above Colorado Springs, Colorado. LeFevre preached a form of anarchic capitalism in which the individual should be freed from almost all government power. Charles soon had to make a choice. While the Birchers supported the Vietnam War, his new guru was a pacifist who equated militarism with out-of-control state power. LeFevre's stark influence on Koch's thinking is crystallized in a manifesto Charles wrote for the Libertarian Review in the 1970s, recently unearthed by Schulman, titled "The Business Community: Resisting Regulation." Charles lays out principles that gird today's Tea Party movement. Referring to regulation as "totalitarian," the 41-year-old Charles claimed business leaders had been "hoodwinked" by the notion that regulation is "in the public interest." He advocated the "barest possible obedience" to regulation and implored, "Do not cooperate voluntarily, instead, resist whenever and to whatever extent you legally can in the name of justice."
After his father died in 1967, Charles, now in command of the family business, renamed it Koch Industries. It had grown into one of the 10 largest privately owned firms in the country, buying and selling some 80 million barrels of oil a year and operating 3,000 miles of pipeline. A black-diamond skier and white-water kayaker, Charles ran the business with an adrenaline junkie's aggressiveness. The company would build pipelines to promising oil fields without a contract from the producers and park tanker trucks beside wildcatters' wells, waiting for the first drops of crude to flow. "Our willingness to move quickly, absorb more risk," Charles would write, "enabled us to become the leading crude-oil­gathering company."
Charles also reconnected with one of his father's earliest insights: There's big money in dirty oil. In the late 1950s, Fred Koch had bought a minority stake in a Minnesota refinery that processed heavy Canadian crude. "We could run the lousiest crude in the world," said his business partner J. Howard Marshall II '' the future Mr. Anna Nicole Smith. Sensing an opportunity for huge profits, Charles struck a deal to convert Marshall's ownership stake in the refinery into stock in Koch Industries. Suddenly the majority owner, the company soon bought the rest of the refinery outright.
Almost from the beginning, Koch Industries' risk-taking crossed over into recklessness. The OPEC oil embargo hit the company hard. Koch had made a deal giving the company the right to buy a large share of Qatar's export crude. At the time, Koch owned five supertankers and had chartered many others. When the embargo hit, Koch had upward of half a billion dollars in exposure to tankers and couldn't deliver OPEC oil to the U.S. market, creating what Charles has called "large losses." Soon, Koch Industries was caught overcharging American customers. The Ford administration in the summer of 1974 compelled Koch to pay out more than $20 million in rebates and future price reductions.
Koch Industries' manipulations were about to get more audacious. In the late 1970s, the federal government parceled out exploration tracts, using a lottery in which anyone could score a 10-year lease at just $1 an acre '' a game of chance that gave wildcat prospectors the same shot as the biggest players. Koch didn't like these odds, so it enlisted scores of frontmen to bid on its behalf. In the event they won the lottery, they would turn over their leases to the company. In 1980, Koch Industries pleaded guilty to five felonies in federal court, including conspiracy to commit fraud.
The Koch family, mid-1950s. (Photo: Wichita State University Libraries)
With Republicans and Democrats united in regulating the oil business, Charles had begun throwing his wealth behind the upstart Libertarian Party, seeking to transform it into a viable third party. Over the years, he would spend millions propping up a league of affiliated think tanks and front groups '' a network of Libertarians that became known as the "Kochtopus."
Charles even convinced David to stand as the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate in 1980 '' a clever maneuver that allowed David to lavish unlimited money on his own ticket. The Koch-funded 1980 platform was nakedly in the brothers' self-interest '' slashing federal regulatory agencies, offering a 50 percent tax break to top earners, ending the "cruel and unfair" estate tax and abolishing a $16 billion "windfall profits" tax on the oil industry. The words of Libertarian presidential candidate Ed Clark's convention speech in Los Angeles ring across the decades: "We're sick of taxes," he declared. "We're ready to have a very big tea party." In a very real sense, the modern Republican Party was on the ballot that year '' and it was running against Ronald Reagan.
Charles' management style and infatuation with far-right politics were endangering his grip on the company. Bill believed his brothers' political spending was bad for business. "Pretty soon, we would get the reputation that the company and the Kochs were crazy," he said.
In late 1980, with Frederick's backing, Bill launched an unsuccessful battle for control of Koch Industries, aiming to take the company public. Three years later, Charles and David bought out their brothers for $1.1 billion. But the speed with which Koch Industries paid off the buyout debt left Bill convinced, but never quite able to prove, he'd been defrauded. He would spend the next 18 years suing his brothers, calling them "the biggest crooks in the oil industry."
Bill also shared these concerns with the federal government. Thanks in part to his efforts, in 1989 a Senate committee investigating Koch business with Native Americans would describe Koch Oil tactics as "grand larceny." In the late 1980s, Koch was the largest purchaser of oil from American tribes. Senate investigators suspected the company was making off with more crude from tribal oil fields than it measured and paid for. They set up a sting, sending an FBI agent to coordinate stakeouts of eight remote leases. Six of them were Koch operations, and the agents reported "oil theft" at all of them.
One of Koch's gaugers would refer to this as "volume enhancement." But in sworn testimony before a Texas jury, Phillip Dubose, a former Koch pipeline manager, offered a more succinct definition: "stealing." The Senate committee concluded that over the course of three years Koch "pilfered" $31 million in Native oil; in 1988, the value of that stolen oil accounted for nearly a quarter of the company's crude-oil profits. "I don't know how the company could have figures like that," the FBI agent testified, "and not have top management know that theft was going on." In his own testimony, Charles offered that taking oil readings "is a very uncertain art" and that his employees "aren't rocket scientists." Koch's top lawyer would later paint the company as a victim of Senate "McCarthyism."
By this time, the Kochs had soured on the Libertarian Party, concluding that control of a small party would never give them the muscle they sought in the nation's capital. Now they would spend millions in efforts to influence '' and ultimately take over '' the GOP. The work began close to home; the Kochs had become dedicated patrons of Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who ran interference for Koch Industries in Washington. On the Senate floor in March 1990, Dole gloatingly cautioned against a "rush to judgment" against Koch, citing "very real concerns about some of the evidence on which the special committee was basing its findings." A grand jury investigated the claims but disbanded in 1992, without issuing indictments.
Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini was "surprised and disappointed" at the decision to drop the case. "Our investigation was some of the finest work the Senate has ever done," he said. "There was an overwhelming case against Koch." But Koch did not avoid all punishment. Under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government, Bill sued the company, accusing it of defrauding the feds of royalty income on its "volume­enhanced" purchases of Native oil. A jury concluded Koch had submitted more than 24,000 false claims, exposing Koch to some $214 million in penalties. Koch later settled, paying $25 million.
Self­interest continued to define Koch Industries' adventures in public policy. In the early 1990s, in a high-profile initiative of the first-term Clinton White House, the administration was pushing for a levy on the heat content of fuels. Known as the BTU tax, it was the earliest attempt by the federal government to recoup damages from climate polluters. But Koch Industries could not stand losing its most valuable subsidy: the public policy that allowed it to treat the atmosphere as an open sewer. Richard Fink, head of Koch Company's Public Sector and the longtime mastermind of the Koch brothers' political empire, confessed to The Wichita Eagle in 1994 that Koch could not compete if it actually had to pay for the damage it did to the environment: "Our belief is that the tax, over time, may have destroyed our business."
To fight this threat, the Kochs funded a "grassroots" uprising '' one that foreshadowed the emergence, decades later, of the Tea Party. The effort was run through Citizens for a Sound Economy, to which the brothers had spent a decade giving nearly $8 million to create what David Koch called "a sales force" to communicate the brothers' political agenda through town hall meetings and anti-tax rallies designed to look like spontaneous demonstrations. In 1994, David Koch bragged that CSE's campaign "played a key role in defeating the administration's plans for a huge and cumbersome BTU tax."
Despite the company's increasingly sophisticated political and public-relations operations, Charles' philosophy of regulatory resistance was about to bite Koch Industries '' in the form of record civil and criminal financial penalties imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Koch entered the 1990s on a pipeline-buying spree. By 1994, its network measured 37,000 miles. According to sworn testimony from former Koch employees, the company operated its pipelines with almost complete disregard for maintenance. As Koch employees understood it, this was in keeping with their CEO's trademarked business philosophy, Market­Based Management.
For Charles, MBM '' first communicated to employees in 1991 '' was an attempt to distill the business practices that had grown Koch into one of the largest oil businesses in the world. To incentivize workers, Koch gives employees bonuses that correlate to the value they create for the company. "Salary is viewed only as an advance on compensation for value," Koch wrote, "and compensation has an unlimited upside."
To prevent the stagnation that can often bog down big enterprises, Koch was also determined to incentivize risk-taking. Under MBM, Koch Industries books opportunity costs '' "profits foregone from a missed opportunity" '' as though they were actual losses on the balance sheet. Koch employees who play it safe, in other words, can't strike it rich.
On paper, MBM sounds innovative and exciting. But in Koch's hyperaggressive corporate culture, it contributed to a series of environmental disasters. Applying MBM to pipeline maintenance, Koch employees calculated that the opportunity cost of shutting down equipment to ensure its safety was greater than the profit potential of pushing aging pipe to its limits.
The fact that preventive pipeline maintenance is required by law didn't always seem to register. Dubose, a 26-year Koch veteran who oversaw pipeline areas in Louisiana, would testify about the company's lax attitude toward maintenance. "It was a question of money. It would take away from our profit margin." The testimony of another pipeline manager would echo that of Dubose: "Basically, the philosophy was 'If it ain't broke, don't work on it.'"
When small spills occurred, Dubose testified, the company would cover them up. He recalled incidents in which the company would use the churn of a tugboat's engine to break up waterborne spills and "just kind of wash that thing on down, down the river." On land, Dubose said, "They might pump it [the leaked oil] off into a drum, then take a shovel and just turn the earth over." When larger spills were reported to authorities, the volume of the discharges was habitually low-balled, according to Dubose.
Managers pressured employees to falsify pipeline-maintenance records filed with federal authorities; in a sworn affidavit, pipeline worker Bobby Conner recalled arguments with his manager over Conner's refusal to file false reports: "He would always respond with anger," Conner said, "and tell me that I did not know how to be a Koch employee." Conner was fired and later settled a wrongful-termination suit with Koch Gateway Pipeline. Dubose testified that Charles was not in the dark about the company's operations. "He was in complete control," Dubose said. "He was the one that was line-driving this Market-Based Management at meetings."
Before the worst spill from this time, Koch employees had raised concerns about the integrity of a 1940s-era pipeline in South Texas. But the company not only kept the line in service, it increased the pressure to move more volume. When a valve snapped shut in 1994, the brittle pipeline exploded. More than 90,000 gallons of crude spewed into Gum Hollow Creek, fouling surrounding marshlands and both Nueces and Corpus Christi bays with a 12-mile oil slick.
By 1995, the EPA had seen enough. It sued Koch for gross violations of the Clean Water Act. From 1988 through 1996, the company's pipelines spilled 11.6 million gallons of crude and petroleum products. Internal Koch records showed that its pipelines were in such poor condition that it would require $98 million in repairs to bring them up to industry standard.
Ultimately, state and federal agencies forced Koch to pay a $30 million civil penalty '' then the largest in the history of U.S. environmental law '' for 312 spills across six states. Carol Browner, the former EPA administrator, said of Koch, "They simply did not believe the law applied to them." This was not just partisan rancor. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, the future Republican senator, had joined the EPA in bringing suit against Koch. "This settlement and penalty warn polluters that they cannot treat oil spills simply as the cost of doing business," Cornyn said. (The Kochs seem to have no hard feelings toward their one-time tormentor; a lobbyist for Koch was the number-two bundler for Cornyn's primary campaign this year.)
Koch wasn't just cutting corners on its pipelines. It was also violating federal environmental law in other corners of the empire. Through much of the 1990s at its Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota, Koch spilled up to 600,000 gallons of jet fuel into wetlands near the Mississippi River. Indeed, the company was treating the Mississippi as a sewer, illegally dumping ammonia-laced wastewater into the river '' even increasing its discharges on weekends when it knew it wasn't being monitored. Koch Petroleum Group eventually pleaded guilty to "negligent discharge of a harmful quantity of oil" and "negligent violation of the Clean Water Act," was ordered to pay a $6 million fine and $2 million in remediation costs, and received three years' probation. This facility had already been declared a Superfund site in 1984.
In 2000, Koch was hit with a 97-count indictment over claims it violated the Clean Air Act by venting massive quantities of benzene at a refinery in Corpus Christi '' and then attempted to cover it up. According to the indictment, Koch filed documents with Texas regulators indicating releases of just 0.61 metric tons of benzene for 1995 '' one-tenth of what was allowed under the law. But the government alleged that Koch had been informed its true emissions that year measured 91 metric tons, or 15 times the legal limit.
Charles Koch (Photo: Larry W. Smith / Polaris)
By the time the case came to trial, however, George W. Bush was in office and the indictment had been significantly pared down '' Koch faced charges on only seven counts. The Justice Department settled in what many perceived to be a sweetheart deal, and Koch pleaded guilty to a single felony count for covering up the fact that it had disconnected a key pollution-control device and did not measure the resulting benzene emissions '' receiving five years' probation. Despite skirting stiffer criminal prosecution, Koch was handed $20 million in fines and reparations '' another historic judgment.
On the day before Danielle Smalley was to leave for college, she and her friend Jason Stone were hanging out in her family's mobile home. Seventeen years old, with long chestnut hair, Danielle began to feel nauseated. "Dad," she said, "we smell gas." It was 3:45 in the afternoon on August 24th, 1996, near Lively, Texas, some 50 miles southeast of Dallas. The Smalleys were too poor to own a telephone. So the teens jumped into her dad's 1964 Chevy pickup to alert the authorities. As they drove away, the truck stalled where the driveway crossed a dry creek bed. Danielle cranked the ignition, and a fireball engulfed the truck. "You see two children burned to death in front of you '' you never forget that," Danielle's father, Danny, would later tell reporters.
Unknown to the Smalleys, a decrepit Koch pipeline carrying liquid butane '' literally, lighter fluid '' ran through their subdivision. It had ruptured, filling the creek bed with vapor, and the spark from the pickup's ignition had set off a bomb. Federal investigators documented both "severe corrosion" and "mechanical damage" in the pipeline. A National Transportation Safety Board report would cite the "failure of Koch Pipeline Company LP to adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion."
Installed in the early Eighties, the pipeline had been out of commission for three years. When Koch decided to start it up again in 1995, a water-pressure test had blown the pipe open. An inspection of just a few dozen miles of pipe near the Smal­ley home found 538 corrosion defects. The industry's term of art for a pipeline in this condition is Swiss cheese, according to the testimony of an expert witness '' "essentially the pipeline is gone."
Koch repaired only 80 of the defects '' enough to allow the pipeline to withstand another pressure check '' and began running explosive fluid down the line at high pressure in January 1996. A month later, employees discovered that a key anti­corrosion system had malfunctioned, but it was never fixed. Charles Koch had made it clear to managers that they were expected to slash costs and boost profits. In a sternly worded memo that April, Charles had ordered his top managers to cut expenditures by 10 percent "through the elimination of waste (I'm sure there is much more waste than that)" in order to increase pre-tax earnings by $550 million a year.
The Smalley trial underscored something Bill Koch had said about the way his brothers ran the company: "Koch Industries has a philosophy that profits are above everything else." A former Koch manager, Kenoth Whitstine, testified to incidents in which Koch Industries placed profits over public safety. As one supervisor had told him, regulatory fines "usually didn't amount to much" and, besides, the company had "a stable full of lawyers in Wichita that handled those situations." When Whitstine told another manager he was concerned that unsafe pipelines could cause a deadly accident, this manager said that it was more profitable for the company to risk litigation than to repair faulty equipment. The company could "pay off a lawsuit from an incident and still be money ahead," he said, describing the principles of MBM to a T.
At trial, Danny Smalley asked for a judgment large enough to make the billionaires feel pain: "Let Koch take their child out there and put their children on the pipeline, open it up and let one of them die," he told the jury. "And then tell me what that's worth." The jury was emphatic, awarding Smalley $296 million '' then the largest wrongful-death judgment in American legal history. He later settled with Koch for an undisclosed sum and now runs a pipeline-safety foundation in his daughter's name. He declined to comment for this story. "It upsets him too much," says an associate.
The official Koch line is that scandals that caused the company millions in fines, judgments and penalties prompted a change in Charles' attitude of regulatory resistance. In his 2007 book, The Science of Success, he begrudgingly acknowledges his company's recklessness. "While business was becoming increasingly regulated," he reflects, "we kept thinking and acting as if we lived in a pure market economy. The reality was far different."
Charles has since committed Koch Industries to obeying federal regulations. "Even when faced with laws we think are counterproductive," he writes, "we must first comply." Underscoring just how out of bounds Koch had ventured in its corporate culture, Charles admits that "it required a monumental undertaking to integrate compliance into every aspect of the company." In 2000, Koch Petroleum Group entered into an agreement with the EPA and the Justice Department to spend $80 million at three refineries to bring them into compliance with the Clean Air Act. After hitting Koch with a $4.5 million penalty, the EPA granted the company a "clean slate" for certain past violations.
Then George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001, his campaign fattened with Koch money. Charles Koch may decry cronyism as "nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful," but he put his company to work, hand in glove, with the Bush White House. Correspondence, contacts and visits among Koch Industries representatives and the Bush White House generated nearly 20,000 pages of records, according to a Rolling Stone FOIA request of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. In 2007, the administration installed a fiercely anti-regulatory academic, Susan Dudley, who hailed from the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, as its top regulatory official.
Today, Koch points to awards it has won for safety and environmental excellence. "Koch companies have a strong record of compliance," Holden, Koch's top lawyer, tells Rolling Stone. "In the distant past, when we failed to meet these standards, we took steps to ensure that we were building a culture of 10,000 percent compliance, with 100 percent of our employees complying 100 percent." To reduce its liability, Koch has also unwound its pipeline business, from 37,000 miles in the late 1990s to about 4,000 miles. Of the much smaller operation, he adds, "Koch's pipeline practice and operations today are the best in the industry."
But even as compliance began to improve among its industrial operations, the company aggressively expanded its trading activities into the Wild West frontier of risky financial instruments. In 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act had exempted many of these products from regulation, and Koch Industries was among the key players shaping that law. Koch joined up with Enron, BP, Mobil and J. Aron '' a division of Goldman Sachs then run by Lloyd Blankfein '' in a collaboration called the Energy Group. This corporate alliance fought to prohibit the federal government from policing oil and gas derivatives. "The importance of derivatives for the Energy Group companies'‰.'‰.'‰.'‰cannot be overestimated," the group's lawyer wrote to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1998. "The success of this business can be completely undermined by'‰.'‰.'‰.'‰a costly regulatory regime that has no place in the energy industry."
Koch had long specialized in "over-the-counter" or OTC trades '' private, unregulated contracts not disclosed on any centralized exchange. In its own letter to the CFTC, Koch identified itself as "a major participant in the OTC derivatives market," adding that the company not only offered "risk-management tools for its customers" but also traded "for its own account." Making the case for what would be known as the Enron Loophole, Koch argued that any big firm's desire to "maintain a good reputation" would prevent "widespread abuses in the OTC derivatives market," a darkly hilarious claim, given what would become not only of Enron, but also Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG.
The Enron Loophole became law in December 2000 '' pushed along by Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, giving the Energy Group exactly what it wanted. "It completely exempted energy futures from regulation," says Michael Greenberger, a former director of trading and markets at the CFTC. "It wasn't a matter of regulators not enforcing manipulation or excessive speculation limits '' this market wasn't covered at all. By law."
Before its spectacular collapse, Enron would use this loophole in 2001 to help engineer an energy crisis in California, artificially constraining the supply of natural gas and power generation, causing price spikes and rolling blackouts. This blatant and criminal market manipulation has become part of the legend of Enron. But Koch was caught up in the debacle. The CFTC would charge that a partnership between Koch and the utility Entergy had, at the height of the California crisis, reported fake natural-gas trades to reporting firms and also "knowingly reported false prices and/or volumes" on real trades.
One of 10 companies punished for such schemes, Entergy-Koch avoided prosecution by paying a $3 million fine as part of a 2004 settlement with the CFTC, in which it did not admit guilt to the commission's charges but is barred from maintaining its innocence.
David Koch (Photo: Alexis C. Glenn /Landov)
Trading, which had long been peripheral to the company's core businesses, soon took center stage. In 2002, the company launched a subsidiary, Koch Supply & Trading. KS&T got off to a rocky start. "A series of bad trades," writes a Koch insider, "boiled over in early 2004 when a large 'sure bet' crude-oil trade went south, resulting in a quick, multimillion loss." But Koch traders quickly adjusted to the reality that energy markets were no longer ruled just by supply and demand '' but by rich speculators trying to game the market. Revamping its strategy, Koch Industries soon began bragging of record profits. From 2003 to 2012, KS&T trading volumes exploded '' up 450 percent. By 2009, KS&T ranked among the world's top-five oil traders, and by 2011, the company billed itself as "one of the leading quantitative traders" '' though Holden now says it's no longer in this business.
Since Koch Industries aggressively expanded into high finance, the net worth of each brother has also exploded '' from roughly $4 billion in 2002 to more than $40 billion today. In that period, the company embarked on a corporate buying spree that has taken it well beyond petroleum. In 2005, Koch purchased Georgia Pacific for $21 billion, giving the company a familiar, expansive grip on the industrial web that transforms Southern pine into consumer goods '' from plywood sold at Home Depot to brand-name products like Dixie Cups and Angel Soft toilet paper. In 2013, Koch leapt into high technology with the $7 billion acquisition of Molex, a manufacturer of more than 100,000 electronics components and a top supplier to smartphone makers, including Apple.
Koch Supply & Trading makes money both from physical trades that move oil and commodities across oceans as well as in "paper" trades involving nothing more than high-stakes bets and cash. In paper trading, Koch's products extend far beyond simple oil futures. Koch pioneered, for sale to hedge funds, "volatility swaps," in which the actual price of crude is irrelevant and what matters is only the "magnitude of daily fluctuations in prices." Steve Mawer, until recently the president of KS&T, described parts of his trading operation as "black-box stuff."
Like a casino that bets at its own craps table, Koch engages in "proprietary trading" '' speculating for the company's own bottom line. "We're like a hedge fund and a dealer at the same time," bragged Ilia Bouchouev, head of Koch's derivatives trading in 2004. "We can both make markets and speculate." The company's many tentacles in the physical oil business give Koch rich insight into market conditions and disruptions that can inform its speculative bets. When oil prices spiked to record heights in 2008, Koch was a major player in the speculative markets, according to documents leaked by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with trading volumes rivaling Wall Street giants like Citibank. Koch rode a trader-driven frenzy '' detached from actual supply and demand '' that drove prices above $147 a barrel in July 2008, battering a global economy about to enter a free fall.
Only Koch knows how much money Koch reaped during this price spike. But, as a proxy, consider the $20 million Koch and its subsidiaries spent lobbying Congress in 2008 '' before then, its biggest annual lobbying expense had been $5 million '' seeking to derail a raft of consumer-protection bills, including the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act, the Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008, the Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices Act of 2008 and the Close the Enron Loophole Act.
In comments to the Federal Trade Commission, Koch lobbyists defended the company's right to rack up fantastic profits at the expense of American consumers. "A mere attempt to maximize profits cannot constitute market manipulation," they wrote, adding baldly, "Excessive profits in the face of shortages are desirable."
When the global economy crashed in 2008, so did oil prices. By December, crude was trading more than $100 lower per barrel than it had just months earlier '' around $30. At the same time, oil traders anticipated that prices would eventually rebound. Futures contracts for delivery of oil in December 2009 were trading at nearly $55 per barrel. When future delivery is more valuable than present inventory, the market is said to be "in contango." Koch exploited the contango market to the hilt. The company leased nine supertankers and filled them with cut-rate crude and parked them quietly offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, banking virtually risk-free profits by selling contracts for future delivery.
All in, Koch took about 20 million barrels of oil off the market, putting itself in a position to bet on price disruptions the company itself was creating. Thanks to these kinds of trading efforts, Koch could boast in a 2009 review that "the performance of Koch Supply & Trading actually grew stronger last year as the global economy worsened." The cost for those risk-free profits was paid by consumers at the pump. Estimates pegged the cost of the contango trade by Koch and others at up to 40 cents a gallon.
Artificially constraining oil supplies is not the only source of dark, unregulated profit for Koch Industries. In the years after George W. Bush branded Iran a member of the "Axis of Evil," the Koch brothers profited from trade with the state sponsor of terror and reckless would-be nuclear power. For decades, U.S. companies have been forbidden from doing business with the Ayatollahs, but Koch Industries exploited a loophole in 1996 sanctions that made it possible for foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do some business in Iran.
In the ensuing years, according to Bloomberg Markets, the German and Italian arms of Koch-Glitsch, a Koch subsidiary that makes equipment for oil fields and refineries, won lucrative contracts to supply Iran's Zagros plant, the largest methanol plant in the world. And thanks in part to Koch, methanol is now one of Iran's leading non-oil exports. "Every single chance they had to do business with Iran, or anyone else, they did," said Koch whistle-blower George Bentu. Having signed on to work for a company that lists "integrity" as its top value, Bentu added, "You feel totally betrayed. Everything Koch stood for was a lie."
Koch reportedly kept trading with Tehran until 2007 '' after the regime was exposed for supplying IEDs to Iraqi insurgents killing U.S. troops. According to lawyer Holden, Koch has since "decided that none of its subsidiaries would engage in trade involving Iran, even where such trade is permissible under U.S. law."
These days, Koch's most disquieting foreign dealings are in Canada, where the company has massive investments in dirty tar sands. The company's 1.1 million acres of leases in northern Alberta contain reserves of economically recoverable oil numbering in the billions of barrels. With these massive leaseholdings, Koch is poised to continue profiting from Canadian crude whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline gains approval, says Andrew Leach, an energy and environmental economist at the business school of the University of Alberta.
Counterintuitively, approval of Keystone XL could actually harm one of Koch's most profitable businesses '' its Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota. Because tar-sands crude presently has no easy outlet to the global market, there's a glut of Canadian oil in the midcontinent, and Koch's refinery is a beneficiary of this oversupply; the resulting discount can exceed $20 a barrel compared to conventional crude. If it is ever built, the Keystone XL pipeline will provide a link to Gulf Coast refineries '' and thus the global export market, which would erase much of that discount and eat into company profit margins.
Leach says Koch Industries' tar-sands leaseholdings have them hedged against the potential approval of Keystone XL. The pipeline would increase the value of Canadian tar-sands deposits overnight. Koch could then profit handsomely by flipping its leases to more established producers. "Optimizing asset value through trading," Koch literature says of these and other holdings, is a "key" company strategy.
The one truly bad outcome for Koch would be if Keystone XL were to be defeated, as many environmentalists believe it must be. "If the signal that sends is that no new pipelines will be built across the U.S. border for carrying oil-sands product," Leach says, "that's going to have an impact not just on Koch leases, but on everybody's asset value in oil sands." Ironically, what's best for Koch's tar-sands interests is what the Obama administration is currently delivering: "They're actually ahead if Keystone XL gets delayed a while but hangs around as something that still might happen," Leach says.
The Dodd-Frank bill was supposed to put an end to economy­endangering speculation in the $700 trillion global derivatives market. But Koch has managed to defend '' and even expand '' its turf, trading in largely unregulated derivatives, once dubbed "financial weapons of mass destruction" by billionaire Warren Buffett.
In theory, the Enron Loophole is no longer open '' the government now has the power to police manipulation in the market for energy derivatives. But the Obama administration has not yet been able to come up with new rules that actually do so. In 2011, the CFTC mandated "position limits" on derivative trades of oil and other commodities. These would have blocked any single speculator from owning futures contracts representing more than a quarter of the physical market '' reducing the danger of manipulation. As part of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, which also reps many Wall Street giants including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, Koch fought these new restrictions. ISDA sued to block the position limits '' and won in court in September 2012. Two years later, CFTC is still spinning its wheels on a replacement. Industry traders like Koch are, Greenberger says, "essentially able to operate as though the Enron Loophole were still in effect."
Koch is also reaping the benefits from Dodd-Frank's impacts on Wall Street. The so-called Volcker Rule, implemented at the end of last year, bans investment banks from "proprietary trading" '' investing on their own behalf in securities and derivatives. As a result, many Wall Street banks are unloading their commodities-trading units. But Volcker does not apply to nonbank traders like Koch. They're now able to pick up clients who might previously have traded with JPMorgan. In its marketing materials for its trading operations, Koch boasts to potential clients that it can provide "physical and financial market liquidity at times when others pull back." Koch also likely benefits from loopholes that exempt the company from posting collateral for derivatives trades and allow it to continue trading swaps without posting the transactions to a transparent electronic exchange. Though competitors like BP and Cargill have registered with the CFTC as swaps dealers '' subjecting their trades to tightened regulation '' Koch conspicuously has not. "Koch is compliant with all CFTC regulations, including those relating to swaps dealers," says Holden, the Koch lawyer.
That a massive company with such a troubling record as Koch Industries remains unfettered by financial regulation should strike fear in the heart of anyone with a stake in the health of the American economy. Though Koch has cultivated a reputation as an economically conservative company, it has long flirted with danger. And that it has not suffered a catastrophic loss in the past 15 years would seem to be as much about luck as about skillful management.
The Kochs have brushed up against some of the major debacles of the crisis years. In 2007, as the economy began to teeter, Koch was gearing up to plunge into the market for credit default swaps, even creating an affiliate, Koch Financial Products, for that express purpose. KFP secured a AAA rating from Moody's and reportedly sought to buy up toxic assets at the center of the financial crisis at up to 50-times leverage. Ultimately, Koch Industries survived the experiment without losing its shirt.
More recently, Koch was exposed to the fiasco at MF Global, the disgraced brokerage firm run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine that improperly dipped into customer accounts to finance reckless bets on European debt. Koch, one of MF Global's top clients, reportedly told trading partners it was switching accounts about a month before the brokerage declared bankruptcy '' then the eighth-largest in U.S. history. Koch says the decision to pull its funds from MF Global was made more than a year before. While MF's small-fry clients had to pick at the carcass of Corzine's company to recoup their assets, Koch was already swimming free and clear.
Because it's private, no one outside of Koch Industries knows how much risk Koch is taking '' or whether it could conceivably create systemic risk, a concern raised in 2013 by the head of the Futures Industry Association. But this much is for certain: Because of the loopholes in financial-regulatory reform, the next company to put the American economy at risk may not be a Wall Street bank but a trading giant like Koch. In 2012, Gary Gensler, then CFTC chair, railed against the very loopholes Koch appears to be exploiting, raising the specter of AIG. "[AIG] had this massive risk built up in its derivatives just because it called itself an insurance company rather than a bank," Gensler said. When Congress adopted Dodd-Frank, Gensler added, it never intended to exempt financial heavy hitters just because "somebody calls themselves an insurance
In "the science of success," Charles Koch highlights the problems created when property owners "don't benefit from all the value they create and don't bear the full cost from whatever value they destroy." He is particularly concerned about the "tragedy of the commons," in which shared resources are abused because there's no individual accountability. "The biggest problems in society," he writes, "have occurred in those areas thought to be best controlled in common: the atmosphere, bodies of water, air.'‰.'‰.'‰."
But in the real world, Koch Industries has used its political might to beat back the very market-based mechanisms '' including a cap-and-trade market for carbon pollution '' needed to create the ownership rights for pollution that Charles says would improve the functioning of capitalism.
In fact, it appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market. Koch has profited precisely by dumping billions of pounds of pollutants into our waters and skies '' essentially for free. It racks up enormous profits from speculative trades lacking economic value that drive up costs for consumers and create risks for our economy.
The Koch brothers get richer as the costs of what Koch destroys are foisted on the rest of us '' in the form of ill health, foul water and a climate crisis that threatens life as we know it on this planet. Now nearing 80 '' owning a large chunk of the Alberta tar sands and using his billions to transform the modern Republican Party into a protection racket for Koch Industries' profits '' Charles Koch is not about to see the light. Nor does the CEO of one of America's most toxic firms have any notion of slowing down. He has made it clear that he has no retirement plans: "I'm going to ride my bicycle till I fall off."
UPDATE: Koch Industries Responds to Rolling Stone '-- And We Answer Back
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No Obamacare Bailout Without Congressional Approval: GAO |
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:50
The Obama administration does not have the legal authority to bail out health insurance companies that are losing money from providing Obamcare-compliant plans without the OK of Congress, a legal opinion from the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama and Health and Human Service Secretary Sylvia Burwell. (AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN MANDEL)
The GAO opinion says Congress must appropriate funds for the Department of Health and Human Services to pay federal dollars to prop up the losses of insurance companies for fiscal year 2015.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, asked the GAO for the opinion.
''Following the law matters. We had serious concerns with the legality of the Obama administration's plan from the get go, and the government's watchdog confirms we were right,'' Upton said in a statement. ''Today's report sounds the alarm once again on the administration's efforts to unlawfully subsidize its health care law with taxpayer dollars. American taxpayers are already on the hook for a still-incomplete health exchange with a price tag that exceeds $2 billion.''
The risk corridor program is a part of the Affordable Care Act that limits the profits or losses that an Obamacare-participating insurer can accrue. Participating insurers that make bigger profits must remit a portion of that profit to the government. Those funds are deposited into an account to reimburse insurers that suffer excessive losses.
Critics of Obamacare, such as conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, have likened the risk corridor program to a government bailout.
President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal year 2015 budget includes a provision to allow the HHS to disburse the money without oversight from Congress. The GAO, the government's watchdog agency, said that's not the case.
''GAO has confirmed beyond dispute that the Department of Health and Human Services has no legal authority to disburse risk corridor payments under Obamacare absent a congressional appropriation'' Sessions in a statement. ''I hope this nips in the bud any ideas this overreaching Administration might have of paying out money not appropriated by Congress. Such expenditures would violate bedrock separation of powers principles in the Constitution.''
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a report in July that said taxpayers could be on the hook for $1 billion to bailout insurance companies taking a loss from providing Obamacare-approved health plans.
Shut Up Slave!
TSA on to no arms raised - try a sling!
Hi Adam,
Just came thru Oakland airport and was subjected to a patdown after I reported I was unable to lift my arm. I asked the tsa "Agent" if this was a change in procedure and he said that I didn't look too messed up and it's up to them if they frisk medical disqualifies. He then said a lot of people were saying they can't lift their arms to avoid the naked body scanners. Since only no agenda shares this type of air travel tip, it's proof you have a substantial audience. Guess I have to do pre check or buy a sling before my next flight.
Sir Lawrence Froncek
Lost wages nevada
Dutch IRS Police State
Vergeet de politiestaat. Welkom in de belastingstaat
Tue, 30 Sep 2014 04:58
In de herfst van 2012 start een afdeling van de Nederlandse overheid een geheim onderzoek naar een wokrestaurant. Gedurende drie maanden houden medewerkers het all you can eat-etablissement intensief in de gaten. Er staan auto's voor de deur met medewerkers die turven hoeveel mensen er binnengaan. De overheidsfunctionarissen bezoeken het restaurant geregeld om incognito een hapje te eten en de boel te monitoren.
Uit verslagen blijkt dat die etentjes zeer nauwkeurig worden vastgelegd. Hoelaat de ambtenaren het restaurant bezochten, met hoeveel personen, de hoeveelheid aanwezige kinderen, wat er is besteld, wat er is afgerekend en wat er aan fooi is betaald. 'Een drietal dames die rond 17.30 uur ieder alleen naar binnen gingen zijn niet in deze telling meegenomen,' staat in een verslag. 'Deze dames waren duidelijk als personeel te herkennen. Een aantal keren liepen er personen van binnen naar buiten en andersom om te roken of de parkeermeter te vullen.'
De undercover dinergangers nemen geen halve maatregelen. De ene keer gaan zij met zeven personen uit eten, de andere keer met vier. Soms komen ze op dezelfde avond in twee shifts, waarbij het ene koppel vroeg in de avond arriveert en het andere een paar uur later. De ambtenaren bestellen meestal het all you can eat-menu en drinken soms een exotische cocktail.
Als je de verslagen leest, denk je documenten in te zien over een anti-terreuroperatie van de AIVD of een langdurig crimineel onderzoek door de Nationale Recherche.
Maar niet is minder waar: de ambtenaren werken voor de Belastingdienst. Niet voor de FIOD, de opsporingsdienst van de fiscus, maar gewoon voor de afdeling die belastingaangiften controleert.
Het wokrestaurant sjoemelde mogelijk met de administratie.
De grootste informatiefabriek van NederlandDe Belastingdienst vormt de economische smeerolie van de Nederlandse samenleving. Hij heft verzekeringspremies en controleert belastingaangiften van burgers en bedrijven. Hij int belastingen, keert toeslagen uit en controleert of burgers daar recht op hebben. Hij houdt toezicht en bestrijdt belastingfraude. Met ruim 30.000 werknemers is de Belastingdienst een van de grootste werkgevers van Nederland.
Om al die taken uit te kunnen voeren, beschikt de fiscus over enorme hoeveelheden gegevens over Nederlandse burgers. Ga maar na: om alleen al te kunnen controleren of iemand recht heeft op huurtoeslag, moet de Belastingdienst de huurprijs kennen en weten wat iemand verdient, maar ook wat zijn medehuurder verdient, of de persoon wel staat ingeschreven op het opgegeven adres, wie daar nog meer staat ingeschreven, of de persoon eigen vermogen heeft en of de persoon niet ergens anders een koophuis heeft.
De fiscus houdt zelf bij over welke informatie over burgers en bedrijven het kan beschikken. In dat document staan naast persoonlijke gegevens als naam, en geboortedatum en 'persoonsrelatie met een andere geregistreerde en de aard van die relatie,' ook bijvoorbeeld het 'reizigersgedrag' en het 'verplaatsingsgedrag' van de auto.
Om die gegevens te verzamelen, heeft de fiscus een scala aan bevoegdheden. Belastingbetalers dienen de fiscus 'gegevens en inlichtingen' te geven als die daarom vraagt. De fiscus mag ook buiten belastingbetalers om informatie over hen verzamelen. Bij andere overheidsdiensten en bij 'administratieplichtigen,' zoals bedrijven, waar het onder meer de boekhouding en gegevens over klanten kan opvragen.
Daarnaast wisselt de Belastingdienst intensief gegevens uit met andere partijen. Voor deze samenwerkingen worden de afspraken vastgelegd in een zogeheten convenant. De Belastingdienst heeft honderden van zulke convenanten gesloten, bijvoorbeeld met het Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau (CJIB) dat de Belastingdienst data geeft over boetes.
Ook is de Belastingdienst bij tientallen samenwerkingen aangesloten waar gegevens worden uitgewisseld die van nut kunnen zijn voor opsporingsonderzoek of fraude-aanpak, zoals het Financieel Expertise Centrum (een samenwerkingsverband met onder andere het Openbaar Ministerie, de politie en de AFM).
Geen beperkingen aan de informatieverzamelingAlles bij elkaar opgeteld, is de fiscus de grootste informatiefabriek van Nederland, waar gegevens worden verwerkt tot belangrijke conclusies en besluiten. Broodnodig, want zonder een verdeling van de middelen valt de samenleving uit elkaar. Bovendien is fraude is een maatschappelijk en economisch probleem dat bestreden moet worden.
Ook blijkt dat de AIVD, MIVD en het Openbaar Minister toegang kunnen krijgen tot de goudmijn aan gegevens die bij de Belastingdienst ligt opgeslagen
Maar een aantal recente voorvallen laat zien dat de Belastingdienst soms wel erg ver gaat in het bevredigen van de eigen informatiebehoefte. Waar een overheidsdienst als de politie aan zeer strenge regels is gebonden, kent de fiscus nauwelijks beperkingen in het verzamelen van informatie over burgers. Daarbij zoekt de Belastingdienst bovendien de grenzen van de wet op, of gaat daar zelfs overheen.
Uit onderzoek van De Correspondent blijkt daarnaast dat andere overheidsinstanties, zoals de AIVD,MIVD en het Openbaar Ministerie, toegang kunnen krijgen tot de goudmijn aan gegevens die bij de Belastingdienst ligt opgeslagen. Dat kan, zo blijkt uit ons onderzoek, via een wettelijke 'achterdeur', die hen in staat stelt om gegevens op te vragen die ze niet zelf mogen vorderen of minder lang mogen bewaren.
Het gaat daarbij niet alleen maar om de persoonsgegevens van miljoenen Nederlanders over werk-, loon- en banktransacties, maar ook over informatie over kentekens, beelden van kentekenregistraties, parkeergedrag en het OV-reizigersgedrag.
'Deze achterdeur staat wagenwijd open', zegt emeritus hoogleraar strafrecht Theo de Roos verbaasd wanneer ik hem de bevindingen voorleg. 'Dit is heel bedenkelijk en een open uitnodiging voor andere overheidsinstanties. Een officier van justitie die niet meer dan een verdenking heeft van een strafbaar feit, kan al gegevens opvragen.'
'Dat gaat inderdaad extreem ver,' bevestigt ook Guido de Bont, hoogleraar Belastingrecht. 'De politie heeft veel wettelijke beperkingen, maar het ligt gewoon allemaal bij de fiscus en geen haan die naar kraait. We hebben een monster gecreerd.'
Wat kan de Belastingdienst niet?In 1998 promoveerde Gerrit-Jan Zwenne op de vraag welke informatie de Belastingdienst over burgers kon verzamelen. 'Ik kwam al vrij snel tot de conclusie dat je die vraag eigenlijk om zou moeten draaien: wat kan de Belastingdienst niet? Sindsdien is de wetgeving alleen maar verruimd,' zegt Zwenne, nu hoogleraar recht in de informatiemaatschappij aan de Universiteit Leiden en advocaat bij Bird & Bird in Den Haag.
'Een belastinginspecteur mag volgens de wet gegevens opvragen als die 'fiscaal relevant' zijn, maar we hebben in Nederland ongeveer alles fiscaal relevant gemaakt'
De conclusie van Zwennes proefschrift is nog steeds relevant: de informatiehonger van de Belastingdienst is de fiscus niet te verwijten. 'Een belastinginspecteur mag volgens de wet gegevens opvragen als die 'fiscaal relevant' zijn, maar we hebben in Nederland ongeveer alles fiscaal relevant gemaakt. Onze belastingwetgeving is zo uitgebreid, ingewikkeld en genuanceerd, dat de Belastingdienst wel heel gedetailleerd moet gaan kijken naar de persoonlijke omstandigheden van de belastingbetaler. Een haast onvermijdelijk gevolg is dat de Belastingdienst grote sleepnetten uit moet zetten om informatie binnen te halen.'
Eind 2013 kwam een van die sleepnetten aan het licht. Toen bleek dat de Belastingdienst bij SMS-Parking, een bedrijf waar automobilisten met hun mobiele telefoon voor een parkeerplaats kunnen betalen, alle transacties van alle klanten had opgevraagd. Zo kon de fiscus bijvoorbeeld zien waar en wanneer lease-autorijders hun auto parkeerden en of zij zich wel aan de toegestane priv(C)kilometers hielden. Maar de fiscus zou die gegevens ook voor andere doeleinden gebruiken. De eigenaar van het bedrijf weigerde dat, waarop de fiscus naar de rechter stapte.
Die rechter kwam eind november vorig jaar met een opmerkelijke uitspraak: de Belastingdienst was te ver gegaan en het verzoek schendde het recht op privacy, zoals beschreven in het Europees Verdrag voor de Rechten van de Mens. De rechter sprak over een 'fishing expedition' van de Belastingdienst, een uitgezet sleepnet in de hoop dat er iets interessants tussen zat. Dat botste volgens de rechter met het uitgangspunt van een gezonde verhouding tussen burger en overheid. De rechter: 'Het dagelijks doen en laten van de burgers gaat de overheid niets aan.'
Opmerkelijk, omdat het een breuk met de trend van m(C)(C)r bevoegdheden en gegevens zou betekenen, zegt Gerrit-Jan Zwenne. 'Als de bevoegdheden van de Belastingdienst zouden zijn ingeperkt, zou dat revolutionair zijn geweest.'
Maar de Belastingdienst ging in hoger beroep en kreeg gelijk: SMS-Parking moest de gegevens toch afstaan. De hogerberoepsrechter maakte korte metten met de woorden van zijn collega. Ook het argument dat de Belastingdienst een specifiekere aanvraag bij SMS-Parking had kunnen doen, door bijvoorbeeld een aantal reeds verdachte kentekens op te vragen, werd van tafel geveegd.
We hebben geen idee wat de Belastingdienst precies weetVan een andere dataverzameling is het maar de vraag of het is toegestaan. Volgens hoogleraar belastingrecht Guido de Bont is het zelfs 'regelrecht in strijd met de wet.' De Bont, tevens advocaat in Amsterdam, voerde vorig jaar samen met zijn collega Annabel Vissers een proefprocedure tegen de Belastingdienst. Hun clint kreeg een naheffing en een boete omdat ze niet kon bewijzen dat ze jaarlijks niet meer dan 500 kilometer voor priv(C)gebruik in de auto van de zaak had gereden, zoals wettelijk is toegestaan. De fiscus concludeerde na eigen onderzoek dat dit niet het geval was.
De vraag was: hoe kwam de Belastingdienst aan die informatie?
'De gegevens mogen zo lang bewaard worden als fiscaal relevant is'
Via een Wob-verzoek kregen de Bont en Vissers antwoord: in een convenant was vastgelegd dat de Belastingdienst iedere vrijdag een kopie van het KLPD (Korps landelijke politiediensten, nu de Nationale Politie) kreeg met daarop alle kenteken-registraties die de ruim tweehonderd mobiele en vaste politiecamera's op de Nederlandse hoofdverkeersaders maakte. Dat betekent: foto's van alle auto's die op de Nederlandse snelwegen rijden.
De politie moet die registraties direct verwijderen, behalve als een van de kentekens een zogenoemde hit geeft en op naam staat van een persoon die door de politie wordt gezocht of een boete open heeft staan. Maar de Belastingdienst, zo bleek uit het convenant, ontving alle kentekenregistraties van een hele week, ook de no-hits, op een 'beveiligde disc' die door een 'gecertificeerd koeriersbedrijf' werd gebracht.
Een kenteken is zeer persoonlijke informatie. De registraties van kentekens op de Nederlandse autowegen, geven een gedetailleerd beeld van het gedrag van miljoenen Nederlanders, waarvan het grootste deel onschuldig is. Dat is exact de reden dat de politie die gegevens maar een dag mag bewaren.
In de woorden van CBP -voorzitter Jacob Kohnstamm: 'De politie is de geweldsmonopolist en moet secuur omgaan met de bevoegdheden die het heeft. Het opslaan van kentekens van allerlei onschuldige mensen is in strijd met de wet. Die moeten direct worden verwijderd.'
Op de vraag aan de Belastingdienst of het convenant nog steeds van kracht is, antwoordt een woordvoerder: 'Ja, er is met de Nationale Politie onlangs een nieuw convenant gesloten met in essentie dezelfde inhoud. De gegevens mogen zo lang bewaard worden als fiscaal relevant is.'
Dat betekent: alle kentekenregistraties van alle auto's op de Nederlandse snelwegen worden door de fiscus vijf tot zeven jaar bewaard.
Wat verzamelt de dienst over mij?Als De Bont en Vissers geen Wob-verzoek hadden gedaan, was de afspraak tussen het KLPD en de Belastingdienst misschien nooit openbaar geworden. Dat is om een aantal redenen zorgwekkend.
Ten eerste roept het de vraag op met welke organisaties de Belastingdienst nog meer niet-openbare afspraken heeft over uitwisseling van persoonsgegevens. En ten tweede, daarmee samenhangend, dat de Nederlandse burger geen flauw benul heeft dat de kentekenregistraties in handen zijn van de fiscus. Volgens de privacywetgeving moeten burgers kunnen weten welke gegevens door wie worden verwerkt.
Een van de manieren waarop instellingen dat kunnen doen, is door nauwkeurig bij te houden in een openbaar document welke gegevens zij verwerken. Saillant detail: op het document dat de fiscus tijdens de proefprocedure liet zien, stond alleen 'kentekens' vermeld. In de laatste update van het document, dat in augustus 2013 is aangepast, kort na de proefprocedure, staan nu ook 'kenteken waarneming,' 'Datum en tijdstip waarneming in de gewenste opmaak,' 'verplaatsingsgedrag,' et cetera.
Met andere woorden: autogebruikers konden voor de proefprocedure niet weten hun rijgedrag werd bijgehouden door de fiscus, terwijl die wel het geval was.
In het convenant tussen het KLPD en de Belastingdienst staat nog iets interessants, namelijk dat de Belastingdienst 'medegebruiker' is van de ANPR-camera's van de politie. Dat betekent, beargumenteren De Bont en Vissers, dat de fiscus niet meer een verzoek doet aan een andere organisatie, maar dat het zelf de kentekens scant. En daarvoor ontbreekt een wettelijke grondslag.
'Dit is gewoon spionage en een grove inbreuk op de privacy', aldus hoogleraar belastingrecht De Bont
De Bont: 'In het Europees Verdrag voor de Rechten van de mens staat dat de privacy geschonden mag worden voor het economisch welzijn van een land. Maar dan moet er wel een stevige wettelijke basis voor zijn. En die heeft de Belastingdienst niet.'
Datzelfde geldt volgens de hoogleraar voor de eigen scanauto's van de Belastingdienst die rondrijden en kentekens scannen. Denk aan: op een zondag bij de IKEA om na te gaan of er lease-auto's op de parkeerplek staan. 'Daarvoor vind je geen enkele bevoegdheid in de belastingwet. Er staat echt nergens dat de fiscus zelf mag scannen en observeren. Dat is zeker "fiscaal relevant," maar dat zijn iemands telefoongesprekken misschien ook wel. Gaat de Belastingdienst dan ook afluisteren?'
De heimelijke dinertjes in het wokrestaurant uit het begin van het artikel, passen volgens De Bont ook in de trend van de fiscus die zichzelf steeds meer toestaat. De fiscus mag veel om toezicht te houden, zoals waarnemingen ter plaatse (met legitimatering) en boekenonderzoek, maar dit gaat volgens de hoogleraar veel verder. 'Dit is gewoon spionage en een grove inbreuk op de privacy.'
Intelligence en Big Data is ook nog de toekomstNog geen twee weken geleden stuurde staatssecretaris van Financin Eric Wiebes zijn voorstel voor een nieuw belastingstelsel naar de Tweede Kamer. In de voorgenomen beleidsplannen valt het woord privacy geen enkele keer.
Wel kondigt Wiebes een forse uitbreiding van 'het handhavingsproces' aan. De staatssecretaris wil investeringen 'in de verdere kwantitatieve ontwikkeling van het gebruik van intelligence in de handhaving. Analyse van data en andere gegevens wordt ingezet om te komen tot risicoselectie van belastingplichtigen en daarmee tot voorspellingen van gedrag. Het doel is om met intelligence aan groep belastingplichtigen 'die behandeling te geven die ze verdienen.' Ook belooft Wiebes de samenwerking met 'andere handhavers' uit te breiden.
'Straks moet je gaan bewijzen dat er niet drie Bulgaren op je zolder wonen omdat de energierekening zo hoog is. Die profielen zijn eng'
'Draconische maatregelen,' zegt Margriet Overkleeft-Verburgt, emeritus hoogleraar staats- en bestuursrecht. Ze spreekt van het 'haasje-over-effect:' de afgelopen jaren is bij de fiscus alles gedigitaliseerd, onder het mom van efficiency en bezuinigingen. Maar die digitalisering brengt nieuwe frauderisico's met zich mee. Als gevolg daarvan wordt er weer verder gedigitaliseerd en ge¯nvesteerd in nieuwe 'surveillancetechnieken, risicoprofilering en externe koppeling.'
Overkleeft-Verburgt verwijst naar een recente wetswijziging om fraude aan te pakken. Die wetswijziging regelt dat verschillende overheidsdiensten, waaronder de Belastingdienst en de politie, intensief gegevens kunnen uitwisselen om fraude te 'voorkomen en terugdringen.'
De Raad van State kwam recent met een vernietigend oordeel over de nieuwe wet. De Raad: 'Er [is] nauwelijks een persoonsgegeven te bedenken dat niet voor verwerking in aanmerking komt. De opsomming lijkt niet bedoeld om in te perken, maar om zoveel mogelijk armslag te hebben.' Het kabinet legde dit advies naast zich neer.
Een van de kernpunten van de wetswijziging is risicoprofilering: iedere burger wordt getoetst op de mogelijkheid dat hij fraude gaat plegen. Het kabinet geeft als voorbeeld dat een laag waterverbruik kan duiden op fraude, omdat het huis dan misschien niet bewoond is. Ergens gaat er dan een lampje branden en de betrokken persoon wordt gemarkeerd. 'Alle burgers worden onderworpen aan een integretiteitstoets,' zegt Overkleeft-Verburg. 'In feite krijgt iedere burger een rapportcijfer.'
Die nadruk op risicoprofielen in de plannen van het kabinet, raakt aan fundamentele rechten, zegt ook Gerrit-Jan Zwenne. 'Bijvoorbeeld aan de onschuldspresumptie. Straks moet je gaan bewijzen dat er niet drie Bulgaren op je zolder wonen omdat de energierekening zo hoog is. Die profielen zijn eng.'
Daar komt nog eens bij dat de tijden zijn veranderd, zegt hoogleraar Zwenne. Een belangrijke deel van de uitgebreide bevoegdheden om gegevens te verzamelen stamt uit een tijd dat de technologie daar nog niet zoveel mee kon. Belastinginspecteurs moesten vroeger al die gegevens op papier doorploegen om conclusies te trekken. Nu kan dat allemaal geautomatiseerd worden en detecteert softwarepatronen en correlaties. 'Die beperking die er altijd was om gegevens massaal te analyseren, valt weg. En technische beperkingen vormen ook altijd waarborgen.'
Nu is het moment de privacy aan de kaak te stellenHet is volgens Zwenne daarom zaak dat de Tweede Kamer in de discussies over de toekomst van de Belastingdienst ook meeneemt welke informatiebehoefte daarmee gecreerd wordt en wat dit betekent voor de privacy van burgers. De huidige discussie over het nieuwe belastingstelsel lijkt daar een uitgelezen moment voor.
De Belastingdienst is een positie gekomen dat het haast een blanco volmacht heeft gekregen om informatie op te vragen en te verzamelen
Zwenne: 'Als burger mag je in beginsel alles, tenzij het is verboden. Als overheid mag je in beginsel niets, tenzij het is toegestaan. De Belastingdienst is een positie gekomen dat het haast een blanco volmacht heeft gekregen om informatie op te vragen en te verzamelen. En blanco volmachten moeten we niet hebben.'
Hoe veilig zijn onze gegevens eigenlijk bij de Belastingdienst?Een aantal onderzoeksrapporten en gesprekken met ex-medewerkers schetsen een niet erg hoopgevend beeld.
Lees hier meer
Politie en inlichtingendiensten kunnen via een achterdeur bij gegevens van de BelastingdienstOverheidsinstanties als de AIVD, MIVD en het Openbaar Ministerie hebben toegang tot veel meer intieme gegevens over burgers dan volgens hun eigen regels is toegestaan. Die toegang krijgen ze via een achterdeur in de belastingwet.
Lees hier het artikel
Als stagiair opzoeken wat de baas verdient: bij de gemeente kan hetAls stagiair even opzoeken wat de baas verdient of hoeveel het huis van Gordon kostte: dat kan gewoon bij de gemeente. Het gegevensnetwerk Suwinet heeft grote beveiligingslekken, die niemand lijkt te kunnen dichten. Samen met Anne Schepers onderzocht ik de beerputten en belangen die ervoor zorgen dat de privacy van burgers bij de gemeenten niet gewaarborgd is.
Lees hier het artikel
Mijn dank gaat uit naar collega Dimitri Tokmetzis, die mij hielp bij de research voor dit artikel.
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Zoekresultaten: convenant
Tue, 30 Sep 2014 04:58
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Asscher: Gegevens worden niet zomaar gekoppeld - BNR Nieuwsradio
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 00:09
Meer hieroverVoorspellen met big data is big business
'Nieuwe wet tegen adresfraude weinig effectief'
Het nieuwe Systeem Risico Indicatie (SyRI) maakt gebruik van technieken die ook door inlichtingendiensten worden ingezet. Zodoende hoopt het kabinet te kunnen voorspellen welke belastingbetaler in de gaten moet worden gehouden voor mogelijke fraude.
Het bericht in de Volkskrant leidde tot de nodige commotie. "Dit gaat veel te ver", reageerde onderzoeksjournalist Brenno de Winter vanochtend op BNR.
SyRI moet het voor gemeenten en overheidsinstanties makkelijker maken fraudeurs tijdig op te sporen. Daarvoor worden de boetes, huisvestingsgegevens, fiscale gegevens, toeslagen - en subsidiegegevens en zo nog een hele trits aan elkaar gekoppeld.
Function creepHet is een bekend verschijnsel, zegt De Winter. "Ze noemen het ook wel function creep. Je zet een middel in voor (C)(C)n doel en heel langzaam laat je het migreren naar een veel lichter doel. Dit gaat diep in het persoonlijke leven van mensen. Jouw gedrag wordt tot in detail in de gaten gehouden op basis waarvan ze een profiel maken. Wat dat profiel is, dat mag je zelf niet weten."
SyRI is onderdeel van de vernieuwde Wet Structuur Uitvoeringsorganisatie Werk en Inkomen, die vorig jaar zonder debat of stemming door de Tweede Kamer is aangenomen. Zowel het College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens (CBP) als de Raad van State hebben negatief geadviseerd over het systeem.
Volgens Jacob Kohnstamm, voorzitter van het CBP, wordt er met het nieuwe systeem 'onvoldoende gericht informatie van allerlei mensen aan elkaar gekoppeld'. "Dat is over het algemeen in strijd met de internationale wet- en regelgeving." De voorzitter noemt de inzet van SyRI dan ook disproportioneel en bovendien 'gevaarwekkend'.
ControlestaatHet ministerie durfde hier niet publiekelijk over naar buiten durft te treden, zegt De Winter. "Dat het zo heimelijk is doorgevoerd laat wel zien dat men ook wel weet dat men behoorlijk fout zit met het massaal analyseren van dit soort gegevens."
Dat er in de Tweede Kamer bovendien geen debat heeft plaatsgevonden ("er is niet eens fatsoenlijk over gesproken"), noemen zowel De Winter als Kohnstamm 'zorgelijk'. "Dat betekent namelijk dat de Kamers op dit soort punten niet eens het debat durven aan te gaan over hoe ver je kunt gaan met fraudebestrijding", zegt de CBP-voorzitter. "Dat vind ik te gek voor woorden."
De Winter: "Ik denk dat we langzamerhand in de fase zijn aangekomen zijn dat we moeten accepteren dat we leven in een controlestaat waarin de overheid zich op elk moment tegen ons kan keren." In het ergste geval wegens vergrijpen die achteraf wellicht geen vergrijpen blijken te zijn. "Je moet dus maar hopen dat je niet tussen de radars van zo'n machine wordt verpletterd."
OvertrokkenSP-Kamerlid Paul Ulenbelt noemt de reactie van De Winter overtrokken. "In het Staatsblad staat uitvoerig toegelicht wat de bedoeling is. Ja, natuurlijk, er is altijd het risico dat je kunt afglijden. Maar ik zie er allerlei waarborgen in waardoor dat wat de heer De Winter verwacht, dat dat zoals het nu is opgezet, niet zal gebeuren."
Het gaat volgens het SP-Kamerlid niet om "datamining" en het "standaard koppelen van bestanden". "Ze gebruiken alleen de gegevens die al bij de verschillende diensten afzonderlijk bekend zijn. Voordat die worden uitgewisseld, moeten ze dat eerst voorleggen aan de minister. En dan gaan ze er daarna mee aan de slag om fraude op te sporen. Dat lijkt mij een goede zaak."
HofToch is het nog maar de vraag of deze werkwijze conform Europese richtlijnen is. Zo verwijst CBP-voorzitter Jacob Kohnstamm naar een recente uitspraak van het Europese Hof van Justitie. "Daarin is het vrij ongericht verzamelen en opslaan van verkeersgegevens, zoals internet- en telefoniegegevens, onrechtmatig bevonden."
In de Eerste Kamer heeft onlangs een discussie plaatsgevonden over wat deze uitspraak betekent voor de bewaarplicht verkeersgegevens in Nederland. Eigenlijk zou die ingetrokken moeten worden, zegt Kohnstamm. Net zoals SyRi niet ingezet zou mogen worden. "Dit is ook weer zo'n ongerichte, niet proportionele koppeling van gegevens."
Reactie AsscherMinister Asscher weerspreekt dat het kabinet kritische adviezen van de Raad van State en het CBP over SyRI naast zich heeft neergelegd. Volgens de minister hebben die juist geleid tot 'een groot aantal ook majeure wijzigingen'.
"Bij dit soort gevoelige onderwerpen is het extra belangrijk de feiten juist te presenteren'', reageert Asscher. "Gegevens worden niet zomaar gekoppeld, maar in het kader van de aanpak van fraude onder strikte voorwaarden en onder toezicht van de Inspectie SZW gedeeld. Er zijn strenge voorschriften over het tijdig vernietigen van data.''
Volgende artikel
Column Bernard Hammelburg | Niet winnen is verliezen
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Voorspellen met big data is big business
BNR Gezond | Het nieuwe goud: patintgegevens
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Honderdste geboortedag grondlegger moderne computer
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Wetenschappers: Een grens is overschreden
Weer kritiek op PvdA-leider Samsom
Giften partijen voor het eerst openbaar
Sprintertrein nog jaren zonder wc
'Ze dachten: dat is een gek met een paraplu'
Britse kandidaat: ik zit hier voor Europa
Monstertruck staat in vergunningaanvraag
'Geen toestemming Syri voor luchtaanvallen'
Mansveld wil weten wat wanprestatie NS is
'Koper nieuwbouwwoning vist achter het net'
Minister wil DNB en AFM boetes niet afnemen
Agenda 21
Scientists to 'fast-track' evidence linking global warming to wild weather - Climate Change - Environment - The Independent
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:07
It typically takes about a year to determine whether human-induced global warming played a role in a drought, storm, torrential downpour or heatwave '' and how big a role it played.
This allows climate sceptics to dismiss any given extreme event as part of the ''natural weather variation'' in the immediate aftermath, while campaigners automatically blame it on global warming.
By the time the truth comes out most people have lost interest in the event, the Oxford University scientists involved in the project say.
They are developing a new scientific model that will shrink to as little as three days the time it takes to establish or rule out a link to climate change, in large part by using highly accurate estimates of sea surface temperatures rather than waiting for the actual readings to be published '' a process that can often take months.
''We want to clear up the huge amounts of confusion around how climate change is influencing the weather, in both directions. For example, the typhoon in the Philippines that dominated the UN climate change talks in Warsaw last November and that many people put down to climate change '' it turned out it had no detectable evidence. And the same goes for Hurricane Sandy,'' Dr Friederike Otto, of Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute, told The Independent.
But there are plenty of other cases where climate change is likely to have been involved, she said. Examples include last year's record heatwave in Australia '' the severity of which an eminent scientist concluded this week ''was virtually impossible without climate change'' '' and the flooding in the UK at the start of the year, which Dr Otto's department has just established was made 25 per cent more likely by global warming.
''It's very much like the kinds of risks we see in the health sector, with different levels of confidence in the role played by climate change depending on the situation.
''It's like a weather autopsy. We know from rigorous scientific testing that smoking increases the likelihood of cancer and work out the conditional probability accordingly,'' said Dr Heidi Cullen, chief scientist with Climate Central, an organisation in Princeton, New Jersey, that is also working on the project.
Read more:The group aims to have the new model up and running by the end of next year. In some weather events it may establish that there is no link, in others the connection may be weak or uncertain and in others it could be very strong, or almost definite, the group says.
''We hope to inject truth into the link between extreme weather and climate change at the point when it is top-of-mind, using a transparent and peer-reviewed methodology,'' said Dr Cullen.
So far, scientists have found it easier to establish climate change links with natural hazards directly driven by temperature and rising seas, such as heatwaves or storm surges. But with floods and droughts, which are driven by rainfall, it is more difficult to establish a link, Dr Cullen said.
Research published this week, for example, could not come to a unanimous decision on whether the drought afflicting California had been exacerbated by human activity. However, it did conclude that regardless of the causes, the effects of the drought had been worsened by global warming. This is because whatever rain does fall in California tends to evaporate faster in the hotter climate, leading to drier conditions.
We've Lost So Much Antarctic Ice It's Causing A Dip In Earth's Gravity
Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:56
An ESA satellite has spotted something unusual happening in the Antarctic: As the ice has dwindled there over the last five years, they're also seeing a change in the Earth's gravity.
The GOCE satellite was launched in 2009 to undertake a detailed mapping of Earth's gravity, along with any fluctuations in strength. As researchers recently began analyzing the data they'd received, they noticed something curious: the variations in gravity they were seeing in the Antarctic were mirrored by the changes in ice as the collapse of the ice sheet there accelerated.
You can watch the dip in gravity occurring between 2009-2012 in West Antarctica in this visualization ESA put together:
Of course, the fluctuation is noticeable only via satellite, not on the ground. Still, it's one more way to note just how terrific the amount of ice that we're losing each year is. Now we can measure the ice we're rapidly losing in a variety of ways: By volume, bychanges in our maps, by landmass, and even by changes in the Earth's gravity.
Visualization: ESA.
Top image: ravas51
The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week for Climate Change News | Re/code
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 05:03
And all a huge load of garbage, as it's been PROVEN that "Climate Change" - which used to be called Global Warming until it was PROVEN that it's getting COLDER - so this is a meaningless, colossal waste of time and space.
It amazes me how more and more people understand this huge money-grab/scam for what it is and yet, people like James here, fail to go against their uber-leftist, anti-America/American Democrat Party handlers for fear of being "left out" of whatever it is they feel the need to be a part of, and/or being labeled - again by said Democrat Party - as "mean-spirited" or "racist" or "homophobic" and whatever other words they screech at you when logic and facts prove them wrong.
I'm just sayin'...
"Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play." -- Joseph Goebbels - Minister of Propaganda/Socialist Nazi Party; 1938
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- - National Science Foundation (NSF) News - Cause of California drought linked to climate change - US National Science Foundation (NSF)
Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:08
Press Release 14-129Cause of California drought linked to climate change
Extreme atmospheric conditions responsible for drought more likely to occur in current global warming
September 29, 2014
The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought in California are very likely linked to human-caused climate change, researchers report.
Climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University and colleagues used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure over the Pacific Ocean--one that diverted storms away from California--was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.
The result, published today in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the link between climate change and California's ongoing drought.
"Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region--which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California--is much more likely to occur today than prior to the emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s," says Diffenbaugh.
The exceptional drought crippling California is by some measures the worst in state history.
Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state.
The water shortage could result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone.
Such effects have prompted a drought emergency in the state; the federal government has designated all 58 California counties as natural disaster areas.
"In the face of severe drought, decision-makers are facing tough choices about the allocation of water resources for urban, agricultural and other crucial needs," says Anjuli Bamzai, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.
"This study places the current drought in historical perspective and provides valuable scientific information for dealing with this grave situation. "
Scientists agree that the immediate cause of the drought is a particularly tenacious "blocking ridge" over the northeastern Pacific--popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or "Triple R"--that prevented winter storms from reaching California during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons.
Blocking ridges are regions of high atmospheric pressure that disrupt typical wind patterns in the atmosphere.
"Winds respond to the spatial distribution of atmospheric pressure," says Daniel Swain of Stanford, lead author of the paper.
"We have seen this amazingly persistent region of high pressure over the northeastern Pacific for many months, which has substantially altered atmospheric flow and kept California largely dry."
The Triple R was exceptional for both its size and longevity.
While it dissipated briefly during the summer months of 2013, it returned by fall 2013 and persisted through much of the winter, California's wet season.
"At its peak in January 2014, the Triple R extended from the subtropical Pacific between California and Hawaii to the coast of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska," says Swain, who coined the term "ridiculously resilient ridge" to highlight the persistent nature of the blocking ridge.
Like a large boulder that has tumbled into a narrow stream, the Triple R diverted the flow of high-speed air currents known as the jet stream far to the north, causing Pacific storms to bypass not only California, but also Oregon and Washington.
As a result, rain and snow that would normally fall on the West Coast were instead re-routed to Alaska and as far north as the Arctic Circle.
An important question for scientists and decision-makers has been whether human-caused climate change has influenced the conditions responsible for California's drought.
Given the important role of the Triple R, Diffenbaugh and colleagues set out to measure the probability of such extreme ridging events.
The team first assessed the rarity of the Triple R in the context of the 20th century historical record.
Analyzing the period since 1948, for which comprehensive atmospheric data are available, the researchers found that the persistence and intensity of the Triple R in 2013 were unrivaled by any previous event.
To more directly address the question of whether climate change played a role in the probability of the 2013 event, the team collaborated with scientist Bala Rajaratnam, also of Stanford.
Rajaratnam applied advanced statistical techniques to a large suite of climate model simulations.
Using the Triple R as a benchmark, Rajaratnam compared geopotential heights--an atmospheric property related to pressure--between two sets of climate model experiments.
One set mirrored the present climate, in which the atmosphere is growing increasingly warmer due to human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
In the other set of experiments, greenhouse gases were kept at a level similar to those that existed just prior to the Industrial Revolution.
The researchers found that the extreme heights of the Triple R in 2013 were at least three times as likely to occur in the present climate as in the preindustrial climate.
They also found that such extreme values are consistently tied to unusually low precipitation in California, and to the formation of atmospheric ridges over the northeastern Pacific.
"We've demonstrated with high statistical confidence that large-scale atmospheric conditions similar to those of the Triple R are far more likely to occur now than in the climate before we emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases," Rajaratnam says.
"In using these advanced statistical techniques to combine climate observations with model simulations, we've been able to better understand the ongoing drought in California," Diffenbaugh adds.
"This isn't a projection of 100 years in the future. This is an event that is more extreme than any in the observed record, and our research suggests that global warming is playing a role right now."
The research was also supported by the National Institutes of Health. Rajaratnam was also supported in part by DARPA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the UPS fund.
Media Contacts Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, cdybas@nsf.govKer Than, Stanford University, (650) 723-9820,
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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How Climate Change Helped ISIS | Charles B. Strozier
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 04:54
As the Obama administration undertakes a highly public, multilateral campaign to degrade and destroy the militant jihadists known as ISIS, ISIL and the Islamic State, many in the West remain unaware that climate played a significant role in the rise of Syria's extremists. A historic drought afflicted the country from 2006 through 2010, setting off a dire humanitarian crisis for millions of Syrians. Yet the four-year drought evoked little response from Bashar al-Assad's government. Rage at the regime's callousness boiled over in 2011, helping to fuel the popular uprising. In the ensuing chaos, ISIS stole onto the scene, proclaimed a caliphate in late June and accelerated its rampage of atrocities including the recent beheadings of three Western civilians.
While ISIS threatens brutal violence against all who dissent from its harsh ideology, climate change menaces communities (less maliciously) with increasingly extreme weather. Most of us perceive these threats as unrelated. We recycle water bottles and buy local produce to keep the earth livable for our children -- not to ward off terrorists. Yet environmental stressors and political violence are connected in surprising ways, sparking questions about collective behavior. If more Americans knew how glacial melt contributes to catastrophic weather in Afghanistan -- potentially strengthening the Taliban and imperiling Afghan girls who want to attend school -- would we drive more hybrids and use millions fewer plastic bags? How would elections and legislation be influenced?
The drought that preceded the current conflict in Syria fits into a pattern of increased dryness in the Mediterranean and Middle East, for which scientists hold climate change partly responsible. Affecting 60 percent of Syria's land, drought ravaged the country's northeastern breadbasket region; devastated the livelihoods of 800,000 farmers and herders; and knocked two to three million people into extreme poverty. Many became climate refugees, abandoning their homes and migrating to already overcrowded cities. They forged temporary settlements on the outskirts of areas like Aleppo, Damascus, Hama and Homs. Some of the displaced settled in Daraa, where protests in early 2011 fanned out and eventually ignited a full-fledged war.
Drought did not singlehandedly spawn the Syrian uprising, but it stoked simmering anger at Assad's dictatorship. This frustration further destabilized Syria and carved out a space in which ISIS would thrive.
The connection between climate change and conflict continues to evade mainstream recognition, despite reports by think tanks, academics and even military experts. A leading panel of retired generals and admirals, the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board, recently labeled the impacts of climate change "catalysts for conflict" in vulnerable regions. The Pentagon concluded similarly in this year's Quadrennial Defense Review that the effects of climate change are "threat multipliers," enabling terrorism and other violence by aggravating underlying societal problems.
There is no shortage of nations whose political stability and climate are both vulnerable.
Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people that lies just above sea level, is perhaps the nation most threatened by climate change. In the coming decades, Bangladesh stands to lose up to 17 percent of its land to flooding, displacing 18 million people to overcrowded cities and neighboring states in a region that has seen a recent upsurge in Islamist militarism. One major typhoon could lead to political chaos in the subcontinent, which bristles with nuclear weapons. The Bhola Cyclone of 1970, which killed up to half a million people and led to Bangladesh's war of independence against Pakistan, exemplifies the complex chain of events through which climate may spark regional conflict.
Images of black-clad ISIS fighters brandishing weapons from atop tanks are easy to recognize, but the link between Syria's drought and its current conflict seems generally unknown or forgotten. Our own weather calamity, Superstorm Sandy, fades to memory after two years and costs approximating $65 billion. Calls to reduce our carbon footprint have heralded modest improvements in daily routines. We recycle containers and reuse shopping bags -- perhaps we even compost -- while shifting collectively toward energy efficiency. We approve when businesses, schools and cities "go green." But our understanding of big picture issues like international carbon emissions and diverse energy sources remains clouded in a political quagmire of competing claims.
Toting a metal water bottle is good, but it's time for ordinary people to consider the bigger picture. When we fail to get the facts right about greenhouse gas emissions, we may unwittingly enable ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and other extremist groups to flourish. As we consider our personal positions on climate change, it is important to understand all that is at stake in our interconnected world.
Remnibi to join SDR magic circle
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:43
The stage is set for the Chinese renminbi potentially to develop further as a world currency by entering the 45-year-old Special Drawing Right, the International Monetary Fund's composite currency unit used in official financial transactions and reserves.
No decision has been made. But measures already taken by the Chinese authorities to internationalise the renminbi, and a big increase in financial market interest in the currency, increasingly point towards a broadening of the SDR's composition from January 2016. This is in spite of the renminbi's formal inconvertibility, reflecting Beijing's restrictions on capital account transactions that are highly unlikely to be completely scrapped in the foreseeable future.
An additional factor building momentum towards revitalising the SDR is China's own action to galvanise major emerging market economies towards the reform of world monetary arrangements. This includes the five nation Brics group's decision to set up the New Development Bank in Shanghai, partly as a challenge to the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF and the World Bank.
Inclusion of the renminbi in the SDR basket, although ostensibly a technical step, would confer upon the Chinese unit the de facto standing of a reserve currency, a highly important symbolic development and the first time that an emerging market currency would attain this status.
Chinese entry into the 'magic circle' of reserve currencies in the SDR, along with the other components (the dollar, euro, yen and sterling), has already been advanced by a ground-breaking decision announced this month by the UK Treasury. The British government will issue renminbi-denominated bonds, the first sovereign government to take such a step (apart from the Canadian province of British Columbia), and allow the proceeds to be held in the UK reserves managed by the Bank of England, breaking two long-held taboos for the UK authorities.
The IMF will undertake a technical criteria-based review of the options for widening the SDR in a review next year, with most of the work to be conducted from mid-year onwards and any changes taking effect in January 2016. The main conditions are that a currency in the SDR should be widely used in trade invoicing and should be 'freely usable' in international payments and asset management.
Other possible indicators include use of currencies in international debt securities and bank liabilities, and foreign exchange spot market turnover. In all these areas the renminbi, although affected by residual capital account restrictions, has made impressive strides in the last two years.
Next year's planned review, five years after the last IMF analysis of the SDR's composition, may touch too on the opportunity for the currency basket to play a greater role in financial markets, for example in denominating bond issues or certificates of deposit.
In view of worldwide interest in the renminbi, repositioning and redynamising the SDR by including a leading emerging market currency could encourage greater interest in SDR-denominated instruments by banks, corporations, asset managers and other institutions around the world. SDR bond issues, which made an entrance in the early 1980s, have never achieved much support on financial markets.
The IMF created the SDR in 1969 as an additional reserve asset (in addition to the main official assets, the dollar and gold, which were then regarded as in short supply) to support the post-war fixed exchange rate system that collapsed only a few years later, in 1971-73. The SDR's value was initially defined as equivalent to 0.888671 grams of fine gold '' which, at the time, was $1. After the collapse of the Bretton Woods system the SDR was redefined as a basket of currencies. Today it consists of the four main reserve currencies.
The SDR's aim was to create a potential claim on the freely usable currencies of IMF members through voluntary exchanges between members. Countries with strong external accounts were empowered to purchase SDRs from members with weak external positions. However, from the early 1970s onwards, flows of private capital rose progressively, and the SDR's importance gradually declined.
As a result of developments over the next 12 months, it may be able to make a comeback.
OMFIF - Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:44
The departure of Scotland from the United Kingdom would make European and international politics and economics less predictable, more volatile and less secure.
David Marsh, Lord (Meghnad) Desai, Sir Andrew Large, John Nug(C)e, John Plender and Jack Wigglesworth outline 10 negative consequences of independence.
Gulfs have widened between regions. Asia looks scornfully at the EU's problems, recalling the very different medicine it was prescribed after its 1997-98 financial crisis. Among emerging markets, Argentina's debt tussle with the US judiciary is whetting appetite for change in world financial governance. China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa have set up the New Development Bank '' but already there are signs of institutional fragmentation.
'Europe is stuck in a really difficult place', David Marsh told CNBC 'World Exchange'. 'Germany is hit on two sides.' Uncertainties in the east with sanctions are compounded by lower growth in Germany's traditional No.1 trading partner France. 'It is heading for a crunch.' Marsh says Germany is considering tax cuts and spending increases in an effort to stoke domestic demand.
Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:45
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Vodacom gets US $4.8 Million to Expand M-Pesa Services | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:58
Press RoomPress Releases and StatementsBack
PrintDAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania--Vodacom Tanzania is to receive a 4.8 million US dollars grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to augment financial inclusion in Tanzania through increased usage of its mobile money service, Vodafone M-PESA.
Vodacom Managing Director, Dietlof Mare, said that the grant aims to and will improve the lives of Tanzanians as Vodacom believes that financial inclusion is possible through the use of Vodafone M-PESA.
To read the full press release, visit the Vodacom web site.
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BOSTON UPDATE: FBI War on Marathon Bombing Witnesses Continues | WhoWhatWhy
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 04:51
By James Henry on Oct 2, 2014The FBI's apparent message to Tsarnaev's defense team
The Boston Marathon bombing is much more important than has been acknowledged, principally because it is the major domestic national security event since 9-11 and has played a major role in expanding the power of the security state. For that reason, WhoWhatWhy is continuing to investigate troubling aspects of this story and the establishment media treatment of it. So even as it slips from the headlines, we will be exploring new elements of the story regularly as the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev approaches.
Since the Boston Marathon bombing a year and a half ago, the FBI appears to be intimidating, harassing, and silencing friends and acquaintances of the Tsarnaev brothers. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers have noticed it too'--they're having trouble getting anyone to talk to them, recent court papers reveal.
In what WhoWhatWhy previously described as the FBI's ''war on witnesses'', the Bureau seems to be employing a scorched earth strategy of destroying anything that might be of use to the ''enemy.''
On August 29, Tsarnaev's lawyers filed a motion requesting a continuance for more time to prepare their defense, noting the fact that they were given only half the median preparation time that federal courts have allowed over the past decade for defendants on trial for their lives. (The judge did grant a two-month delay while refusing the defense request to move the trial out of Boston.)
The lawyers cited ''outpaced requirements'' in building a proper defense for their client: (1) the international nature of the investigation'--including language and geographic barriers, (2) the large amount of evidence that has to be scrutinized, and most tellingly, (3) the climate of intimidation and fear created by the FBI's investigative efforts since the bombing. They write:
Domestic defense mitigation investigation has been conducted amid a growing atmosphere of anxiety and agitation generated by highly-publicized arrests, indictments, prosecutions, deportations (and, in one instance, the FBI killing) of members of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev's peer groups.
Most news reports brush over that last part. As if shooting to death an unarmed man involved in this case'--as an FBI agent did to Tamerlan's friend Ibragim Todashev'--is not relevant to the difficulties the defense team has had in getting witnesses to talk to them. But even less extreme events are enough to silence potential witnesses, such as the mysterious closing of their bank accounts.
The father of Ibragim Todashev displays end result of FBI interview.
Prosecutors resisted this and an earlier attempt to have the trial delayed. The victims have a right to see justice done'--swiftly, the thinking goes.
The victims and their families certainly deserve justice for this horrible atrocity. True justice should include a full accounting'--something a hurried, one-sided investigation is not likely to produce. And of course Boston and the American public deserve, and need, the truth, whatever it may be.
Yet a close read of the motion document reveals FBI activities that seem more of an effort to conceal than to illuminate.
The FBI's March to the Sea
Tsarnaev's defense team makes reference to the most troubling'--and most anxiety-producing'--action by the FBI since the bombing: the shooting to death of Tamerlan's friend, Todashev. (See our earlier story on the head-scratching circumstances surrounding that shooting, including the questionable history of the agent who pulled the trigger.)
Some of the FBI's aggressive tactics described in the defense document look like outright intimidation. For instance, individuals ''with lawful immigration status have been detained for hours and required to surrender their electronic devices upon re-entry to the United States.''
And take a look at this excerpt:
''The investigation has been further hampered by aggressive FBI follow-up tracking and questioning of potential witnesses, as well as by the unrelenting attention of the news media.''
It is one thing to be aggressively tracking and questioning individuals suspected of committing crimes, but to be doing this to presumably innocent witnesses reeks of intimidation. Witness intimidation is a tactic ordinarily associated with mafia or drug cartel defendants.
Notably, this ''tracking'' must have been brought to the attention of defense lawyers by witnesses themselves, indicating overt surveillance: ''We're watching you.''
Then, farther down in the document:
''These difficult circumstances are compounded by a continuing pattern of aggressive FBI re-interviewing of potential witnesses '-- on occasion within hours of an attempted contact by defense investigator [emphasis added].''
Within hours of an attempted contact by defense investigator? Is the defense team being watched too? (We reached out to Tsarnaev's defense team hoping they could expand on that, but have not yet had a response.)
It wouldn't be the first time the FBI was caught spying on defense lawyers in a high-profile terrorism case. Lawyers for accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed allege that the FBI has been surveilling them.
Whether legal counsel are being watched directly or simply getting caught up in the surveillance of Tsarnaev's acquaintances, the effect is the same: the feds know who is talking to whom, and when.
That's a Nice Immigration Status You Got There'...
Witnesses who are not U.S. citizens'--which describes the majority of Tsarnaev's friends, family, and many in the local Muslim community'--are particularly vulnerable to law enforcement manipulation. The threat of deportation is a clear and present danger to these individuals, ''regardless of whether criminal charges are ever brought or proven against them,'' Tsarnaev's lawyers wrote.
Indeed, a handful of people loosely connected to the Tsarnaevs have already been deported, or had deportation proceedings initiated against them, despite having nothing to do with the Boston Marathon bombing. These include:
- KonstantinMorozov: friend of Tamerlan, arrested and jailed pending deportation reportedly after refusing to wear a wire for the FBI as the Bureau sought information on one of Tamerlan's Chechen friends.
- Tatiana Gruzdeva: girlfriend of Ibragim Todashev, deported after speaking with Boston Magazine about the circumstances surrounding her boyfriend's death.
- Ashurmamad Miraliev: friend of Ibragim Todashev, was reportedly denied a request for an attorney while interrogated by FBI for over six hours, and transferred to an immigration detention center where deportation proceedings were initiated.
Ashurmamad Miraliev
- Khusen Taramov: friend of Ibragim Todashev, denied reentry to the United States after visiting Chechnya, despite having a Green Card.
Khusen Taramov
Why hasn't Boston's ''liberal'' media made more noise about this? Arguably, the most newsworthy portion of Tsarnaev's motion for continuance'--potential witness intimidation'--has been glossed over or ignored in most mainstream media accounts.
The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reached out to the media and the public to expose the intimidation and harassment of Todashev's friends and associates'--and got a fair amount press coverage by their local media. The same cannot be said for the Boston area press.
Have they, albeit indirectly, been intimidated, too? The Boston media has historically had a close relationship with law enforcement, and when it ever so slightly challenged the police, found its usual (and needed) sources shut down.
However, if ever there was a moment for the local press to do the right thing, this is surely it.
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AP News : Marriott fined $600,000 for jamming guests' Wi-Fi
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 07:45
By SCOTT MAYEROWITZPublished: YesterdayNEW YORK (AP) - Marriott International will pay a $600,000 fine for jamming conference attendees' own Wi-Fi networks at its Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, forcing them to pay hefty prices to use the hotel's own connection.
Frequent travelers often carry personal Wi-Fi hotspots - tiny devices that can connect to the Internet via cell phone towers. For $50 a month, they can connect to the Internet on the move, often avoiding hefty fees charged by hotels, airports and conference facilities. Some people upgrade their wireless data plans to make their smartphones into hotspots.
Last year, a conference attendee at the Opryland hotel in Nashville, Tennessee - which is managed by Marriott - found that the hotel was jamming devices in its ballrooms and complained to the Federal Communications Commission. In the complaint, the guest noted that the same thing happened previously at another Gaylord property. The block didn't affect Wi-Fi access in guest rooms.
While jamming personal Wi-Fi connections, Marriott was charging conference organizers and exhibitors between $250 and $1,000, per access point, to use the Gaylord's Wi-Fi connection. The FCC declined to release the initial guest complaint except if requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a process that can often take weeks.
Marriott agreed to the fine and has instructed its hotels not to use the jamming technology in the way it was used at Opryland, according to the FCC. But the company on Friday defended the blocking of guests' own Wi-Fi networks in the interest of network security. The company said it is legal to use FCC-approved technology to protect its Wi-Fi service against "rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft," adding that hospitals and universities employee similar jamming practices.
At the four Gaylord hotels in the U.S., Marriott today monitors for hotspots causing interference but does not automatically block such connections, said Harvey Kellman, a lawyer for the hotel company. Only a handful of Marriott's 4,000 other hotels worldwide currently screen for hotspot interference.
Marriott said it encourages the FCC to change its rules "to eliminate the ongoing confusion" and "to assess the merits of its underlying policy."
The government said people who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal connection will be blocked.
"It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel's own Wi-Fi network," Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC's enforcement bureau said in a statement. "This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether."
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at
Satellite Sun Outages | Optimum
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 21:11
Twice a year, during the spring and fall, you may experience some degree of television interference due to a phenomenon known as "sun outages." This Q&A will help you understand what they are and how it will affect you.
What is a sun outage?A sun outage is an interruption in satellite signals caused by interference from solar radiation. The interference is caused when the sun is in direct line with a communication satellite and the sun's radiation overwhelms the satellite signal.
How long do they last?Interruption in TV service due to sun outages can last up to several minutes a day.
How do they affect watching TV?During this time, you may experience interference with picture quality and sound when watching television. Sun outages do not affect internet or phone service.
When do they occur?This fall, sun outages are expected to occur between October 4 and October 12, 2014 during the following times:
Saturday, October 4, 20144:29 PM5:23 PMSunday, October 5, 20149:14 AM5:25 PMMonday, October 6, 20149:12 AM5:26 PMTuesday, October 7, 20149:11 AM5:26 PMWednesday, October 8, 20149:10 AM5:25 PMThursday, October 9, 20149:10 AM5:25 PMFriday, October 10, 20149:11 AM5:24 PMSaturday, October 11, 20149:11 AM5:22 PMSunday, October 12, 20149:13 AM4:03 PMSee a full schedule of sun outages by date, time and network.
SnoopWall >> Meet the Team
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 21:54
The Management Team
Corporate Counsel and Patent Counsel
Board Members & Advisors
The Management Team
Gary Miliefsky, CEO
Gary is the Founder of SnoopWall and the sole inventor of the company's new technology. He has been extremely active in the INFOSEC arena, most recently as the Editor of Cyber Defense Magazine and the cover story author and regular contributor to Hakin9 Magazine. He also founded NetClarity, Inc., an internal intrusion defense company, based on a patented technology he invented. He is a member of, CISSP® and Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Crime at Norwich University.He also advised the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) which operates within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in their development of The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace.Miliefsky is a Founding Member of the US Department of Homeland Security (, serves on the advisory board of MITRE on the CVE Program ( and is a founding Board member of the National Information Security Group ( Email him at: [email protected]
Mark Laich, Vice President of Sales
Mark joins Snoopwall with a 29 year track record of successful sales in the high-tech industry, generating over a half of billion dollars in revenues. His expertise includes successful customer and market development in the mobile, CE, and telecommunications market sectors. He has a long track record of leading successful sales campaigns and developing business at major accounts like Samsung, Microsoft, Philips, Canon, Nikon, Thomson, Cisco, Alcatel, Siemens, and Compaq.
He most recently served as VP of Sales and Business Development at Qualtre, a developer of next-generation sensor technology for the mobile/consumer, automotive and industrial markets. Under his leadership, the company developed strategic partnerships to bring the technology to the automotive and industrial markets. He also kept the company on the course of developing a differentiated sensor to meet the needs of emerging mobile applications.
Prior to Qualtre, he served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at MEMSIC, a leading provider of sensors for the mobile/consumer, automotive and industrial markets. Under his leadership, MEMSIC became one of the fastest growing semiconductor companies from 2009-2011. He drove this sales growth by penetrating top tier mobile handset customers like Samsung Mobile.
Scott Toothaker, CFO
Scott is a Certified Public Accountant with rich experience including working in both private industry and public accounting. Scott received his Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy and a Masters degree in Taxation from Bentley College and has an MBA with a concentration in Finance from the University of Maine. Scott is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Maine and New Hampshire Society's of Certified Public Accountants.
Nancy Senich, Vice President of Marketing
Ofer Nave, Vice President of Engineering
Scott Flegal, Esq., Outside Corporate Counsel
Scott is the outside Corporate Counsel for SnoopWall. He grew up in Clifton Park, New York, a small town just south of Saratoga Springs, New York. He earned a B.A. from Amherst College in Amherst, MA in 1982, and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, IL in 1985. Scott has been practicing law in Nashua, NH since 1985. He spent the first 9 years of his career at Sullivan & Gregg, P.A., and left to open his own firm in 1994. He married Sheelu, who is the residential director at Nashua Children's Home. Scott has a daughter Jane, who will be a senior at Mt. Holyoke College, a son Calvin who will be a sophomore at the Berklee College of Music, and his youngest daughter Mia. Scott served by appointment of the New Hampshire Supreme Court on the New Hampshire Board of Bar Examiners from 1991-2001, writing and grading the bar exam. He was appointed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court to serve as a member of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Dispute Resolution Committee in 2007. He is also currently the clerk for the Alternative Dispute Resolution section of the New Hampshire Bar Association. He is a member of the board of directors of the New England chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution (''NEACR''), and served as President of that chapter in 2007-08.
Aliki Collins, Ph.D., Outside Patent Counsel
Dr. Aliki K. Collins is the Principal of AKC Patents. Dr. Collins has expertise in intellectual property law, magnetic materials and devices, optical materials and devices, semiconductors, ceramic materials, chemical vapor deposition process and equipment, rapid solidification of metals, business quantitative methods, statistical process improvement methods and radiation oncology physics. She has extensive experience in patent prosecution, new product development, team leadership, project and program management and teaching. She has worked at ipCapitalGroup, AlliedSignal, Morton International, MIT, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, and Fish & Richardson where she held positions as Director, Sr. Scientist, Principal Scientist, Instructor, and Technology Specialist. At AlliedSignal she developed and commercialized new amorphous magnetic alloys and devices. For the past nine years, after having passed the patent bar, Dr. Collins has been practicing patent law and Intellectual Property Portfolio development at Fish&Richardson (a national IP Law firm), ipCapitalGroup (an international IP consulting start-up company) and at AKC Patents. She has successfully prosecuted a large number of patents in the materials, electrical, mechanical, medical, financial, software, business methods and computer arts. Dr. Collins holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT and a M.S. in Physics (Diplom Physiker) from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany. She is registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). She has published several scientific papers, coedited a book and authored several theses. She is an inventor and holds two issued and several pending patents. She is fluent in German and Greek.
The Board
Marian Sabety, Director
Wayne Presby, Chairman
Frank Ferguson, Director, Member
Frank is the Chairman of Curriculum Associates, a member of the Angel Breakfast Club, Walnut Ventures and Northeast Angels. He was most recently President of Curriculum Associates for a period of over 30 years, leading the company to consistent growth as one of the leading suppliers of educational materials to schools throughout America. He was the President of BOSE Corporation from 1969-76 leading it into the market leader position for acoustic products and ongoing growth. Frank is an active investor, advisor, director and supporter of numerous early stage companies ranging from SnoopWall to Roam Data, Vigix, NetClarity and many more. Frank has a BS in Science Journalism and an MBA from MIT Sloan School. Frank may be reached directly at
David Steadman, Director, Lead
David has been the President of Atlantic Management Associates Inc., a management services firm, since September 1988. Mr. Steadman is an Engineer with considerable experience as Chief Executive Officer and as a Director of Public and Private companies. From July 1990 to March 1994, Mr. Steadman served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Integra, a Hotel and Restaurant Company and from 1987 to July 1990 as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of GCA Corporation, a manufacturer of automated semiconductor capital equipment. From 1980 to 1987 and also from 1975 to 1978, Mr. Steadman was Vice President of Raytheon Company, a defense electronics manufacturer, and served in various management positions, as President of its venture capital division. Mr. Steadman served as a Director of Kurzweil Applied Intelligence Inc. since 1995. Mr. Steadman is a Visiting Lecturer in Business Administration at the Darden School of the University of Virginia.
Allan Cowen, Channel Strategy Advisor
Allan is an INFOSEC distribution expert with over 25 years of experience developing and putting into practice unique sales and marketing strategies to help take new product introductions to successful mainstream market acceptance. He frequently speaks at various conferences and events to drive Channel and End-User technology innovation awareness. Allan helped NetScreen make their early entry into the Canadian market, growing their in country sales prior to their acquisition by Juniper Networks (NASDAQ: JNPR). He also helped RSA, now a division of EMC (NASDAQ: EMC), with their SecurID ''Authenticator'' introductions and continues to be a leading Canadian partner serving some of the largest Banks and Enterprises. He is the founder and Managing Director of Solantus, Inc., a non-traditional distributor headquartered in Canada but offering product distribution services throughout North America and International markets. On a mission to ''Advance the Distribution Model'' to build the ''Channel of Competency'' To learn more about Allan, visit him online at:
Rick Catino, Business Advisor
Rick is the founder and managing partner of Clear Point Partners, LLC, a Supply Chain and Procurement Consulting company since 2004. Previously, Rick served as the Senior Director of Procurement for Hewlett Packard managing a large and geographically dispersed organization of Supply Chain professionals. In a consulting role, Rick has worked with several Fortune 100 companies in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, medical products, information technology, petrochemical and apparel sectors. Rick also is a director of ExpressPoint Technologies Corporation. Rick brings to the Board broad business skills and experience, executive leadership expertise, organizational and operational management skills, merger and acquisition experience, and knowledge of complex global business matters. He may be reached directly at
The Investors
SnoopWall is privately held and funded by the Angel Breakfast Club. For more information, send an email to [email protected]
Universal Music Group in ad deal for music videos with MirriAd
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 08:40
Robert Cookson 09/29/14
Universal Music Group is set to enable advertisers to superimpose brands into music videos after they have been made, in a move that will allow product placements to be targeted at specific audiences.
The world's largest record company will announce on Monday that it has struck a deal with MirriAd, a UK technology start-up that has developed a way to insert different brands into video footage even after filming has taken place.
The technology allows product placement to take place on a bigger scale than was previously possible. For example, MirriAd can insert different brands into the same video to suit the target audience or region. Someone watching one of Universal's music videos in China might see different product placements to a viewer watching the same video in the UK.
Universal and MirriAd are working with Havas, the French advertising group whose clients including LVMH, LG, and Coca-Cola.
While product placement has existed for decades, traditionally it took place during production. As a result deals could take months or years to negotiate as advertisers and media companies quibbled over how the video should look.
One of the first results of the deal with Universal will be to insert Grand Marnier, the liqueur brand, into a video by Avicii, the Swedish dance music producer. Once the Grand Marnier campaign is finished, Universal will be able to open up the video to other brands '' something that was impossible with traditional product placement techniques.
Advertisers spent an estimated $8.25bn on product placement worldwide in 2012, according to PQ Media, a research group. The vast majority of paid placements take place in TV and film, but they are increasingly finding their way into online video and video games.
People have become increasingly accustomed to skipping or ignoring online advertising, so advertisers have sought new ways to embed themselves within popular content.
''Being inside content is more valuable than being outside content,'' said Mark Popkiewicz, Mirriad's chief executive.
The music industry is no stranger to product placement, though it has traditionally been built into videos from the start.
Lady Gaga's video ''Telephone'' features 10 different brands, including Virgin Mobile and Diet Coke. Though the video has attracted criticism for being so commercial, it has nonetheless attracted more than 200m views on YouTube.
MirriAd has developed an online platform that gives artists oversight over how, why and where a brand would feature in their music video.
Lucian Grainge, chief executive of Universal, said that the company would ''ensure that artists' and brands' interests are aligned''.
Advertising has become an increasingly important source of revenues for the music industry, as recorded music sales have halved since 2000. Digital music streaming services such as YouTube, Pandora and Spotify derive much of their revenues from advertising.
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Tags: Mirriadd, music videos, Product Placement, Universal Music
This entry was posted on October 3, 2014 at 10:07 am and is filed under Advertising, video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
US military can learn from game marketing, says ex-Call Of Duty director |
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 19:15
Dave Anthony believes unpopular national security solutions can be pushed just like new game features
When it comes to introducing unpalatable ideas to the American public, the US government could learn a thing or two from the marketing strategies of AAA games.
That's what former Call of Duty director Dave Anthony told a think-tank forum in Washington this week. According to a report from Businessweek, Anthony's talk explored potentially controversial solutions to national security problems in America, and he had an intriguing take on how those solutions could be sold to the public.
"When we have a new product that has elements that we're not sure how people will respond to, what do we do as a corporation?" he asked, referring to his time as writer and game director on Call of Duty: Black Ops and Black Ops 2.
"We market it, and we market it as much as we can - so that whether people like it or not, we do all the things we can to essentially brainwash people into liking it before it actually comes out."
The forum was organised by the Atlantic Council, a think-tank where Anthony is a fellow in international security. He warned the crowd of the threat of "invasion" from within America's borders, most likely by an Islamic terrorist group, and illustrated the concept with a video that depicted, among other things, a US drone hacked by forces working from Iran and a massacre at a Las Vegas hotel.
"We do all the things we can to essentially brainwash people into liking it before it actually comes out"
Anthony's plea that policy-makers should learn from marketing and promotion in creative industries was linked to what he saw as a potential solution to the issue: stationing undercover US soldiers in schools, much like air marshalls on aeroplanes.
"The public won't like it, they'll think it's a police state," he said, then added, "All of these are solvable problems."
"I look at the US military and government, ironically, as having some of the very same problems as what the Call of Duty franchise has," Anthony continued. "We are both on top of our game. We are both the best in the world at what we do. We both have enemies who are trying to take us down at any possible opportunity. But the difference is, we know how to react to that."
The hugely successful Call of Duty franchise has strong ties to the real-world US military. That includes significant charitable donations, but also more divisive relationships, like working with Oliver North on Black Ops 2, a former lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. whose military career was tarnished by the Iran Contra scandal. North appeared as a character in the game, but he was also involved in its marketing, as a talking head in a documentary about the future of warfare.
Indeed, those decisions have come back to haunt Activision recently, in the form of a lawsuit brought by Manuel Noriega, the disgraced Panamanian dictator who also appeared as a character in Black Ops 2. Noriega has asserted that his depiction in the game is unflattering and unauthorised. Activision has dismissed Noriega's claims as, "absurd."
2014 MLB postseason -- Army veteran Brian Keaton throws first pitch before Game 2 of NLDS - ESPN
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:26
Updated: October 4, 2014, 8:55 PM ET
Associated PressWASHINGTON -- An Army veteran wounded in Iraq made a unique ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the NL Division Series, crawling toward the mound and then lobbing the baseball as if it were a grenade.
Retired vet Brian Keaton walked onto the grass before getting on his stomach and crawling several feet at Nationals Park on Saturday. He threw the ball with his left hand from behind the mound and the toss bounced home.
The crowd cheered loudly before San Francisco played Washington.
According to the Nationals, Keaton was wounded in a bomb explosion. The team said he spent 3½ years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center recovering from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Keaton walked into right field for a bear hug with Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon before the toss. As he left the field, Keaton embraced Nationals manager Matt Williams, pitcher Doug Fister and shortstop Ian Desmond.
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
Hillary 2016
Lindsey Graham Mulling White House Run | The Daily Caller
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 03:01
The hawkish Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says he is thinking about running for president in 2016.
In an interview with Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, the senator, running for re-election to the Senate this year, said: ''If I get through my general election, if nobody steps up in the presidential mix, if nobody's out there talking '-- me and McCain have been talking '-- I may just jump in to get to make these arguments,'' Graham said.
Graham, 59, also dismissed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 43, as a presidential candidate, saying he is too young. ''He's a good guy, but after doing immigration with him '-- we don't need another young guy not quite ready,'' Graham told the outlet. ''He's no Obama by any means, but he's so afraid of the right, and I've let that go.''
Graham's sidekick, former presidential nominee John McCain, is nudging him to get into the race.
''I've strongly encouraged him to give it a look,'' McCain said. ''I think Lindsey has vast and deep experience on these issues that very few others have. I happen to like a lot of these guys '-- I like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie. Ted Cruz has gone out of his way to tell people how much he agrees with me on national security.''
Asked about Rubio, McCain said ''he's probably as articulate as anyone in our party'' but ''doesn't have the background that Lindsey does.''
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Greece Will Be In Default Within 15 Months, S&P Warns
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 03:25
Remember Greece: the country that in 2010 launched Europe's sovereign solvency crisis and the ECB's own helpless attempts at intervention, which later was "saved", only to default shortly thereafter (but without triggering CDS as that would end the Eurozone's amusing monetary experiment and collapse the Deutsche Bank $100 trillion house of derivative cards), which later was again "saved" when every single global central bank made sure Greek bonds became the only yield-generating securities in the world? Well, the country which at last count was doing ok, is about to not be ok. Because according to none other than S&P, at some point over the next 15 months, Greek debt is about to be in default when the country is no longer able to cover its financing needs. In other words, back to square one.
As Bloomberg reports, citing Real News, S&P analyst Marie-France Raynaud said Greece can't cover its own financing needs.
How is that possible? Isn't Europe so fixed, it no longer has anything to worry about except deflation, pardon, inflation?
Guesst not. According to Bloomberg, S&P estimates Greek financing needs for the next 15 months to be at EU43 billion.
This is a problem because even if Greece sells bonds this year and next, sales won't be enough to cover net financing needs. So maybe Greece will sell more bonds? Well, the problem with that is that the second the LIFO paradigm of bond investing no longer works, and the last guy in may be stuck holding the bag, nobody will want to buy 1 penny in debt issued by Greece.
The specifics: S&P estimates Greece will draw EU5 billion from intl bond sales, EU20 billion from internal mkt, EU12 billion from official lenders inluding the IMF in next 15 mos. S&P also forecasts Greece will repay EU3 billion in bonds held by investors who refused to participate in 2012 debt writedown, and if it doesn't then Greece will following Argentina in being held in "contempt to court" fo cramming down foreign law covenants. Just kidding: that would mean the global legal system actually works instead of serves merely to make the rich richer.
As for Greece, it appears that suddenly the idyllic image of its recovery is about to be torn to shreds and the Syntagma riotcam will have to come out of hibernation.
Or maybe it won't. In a case of populist pandering that Obama himself would be proud, at the same time as the S&P report hit, the Greek premier Antonis Samaras said in a Kathimerini op-ed that if political stability isn't threatened, Greece won't need emergency loans in few months, and will achieve final settlement on public debt. He added that liquidity in Greece will be restored after ECB stress tests on country's lenders and that in stark contrast to what S&P just said, Greece doesn't need new bailout agreement, no new loans.
Actually, it will. The backdoor left open by Samaras is that "achievements will be endangered in case of political instability, and if parliament has to elect president" adding tbat the "government will not allow those who want country to commit suicide to have it their way."
In other words, Greece will default the second the people start protesting the crushing, and very simple math, and they decide they have had enough of the technocrat and appoint another president. Because, you see, it is not that Greece implemented zero reform, and rooted out the pervasive cooruption that saw billions in foreign "aid" end up in offshore bank accounts of the political oligarchy, or the simple math of sources and uses of funds: it is the danger of the Greek people returning to what they did best in those days of 2010 and 2011 when every other day saw a riot in the center of Athens, that will be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back.
And thus we go back to square one, as we always said we would, when only timing was a matter of debate. Well, we now know the timing: T minus 15 months and counting to yet another Eurozone collapse.
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World leaders call for end of United Nations veto power: ''The world is bigger than five,'' says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 03:25
NEW YORK '' World leaders demanded Security Council reform during their addresses to the UN General Assembly over the past few days, calling for the addition of more permanent and non-permanent seats on the council and the elimination of the veto.
''The world is bigger than five,'' Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his speech during the General Debate, referencing the five countries with veto power '' the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia.
Heads of state from across the globe echoed his call for immediate reform.
The status quo has made the governing body inefficient, Peru's President Ollanta Humala Tasso said. He asked for the addition of more permanent and non-permanent members, which, he said, should result in a more democratic process.
''The Security Council's capacity to respond to the different crises in different parts of the world reflects the need for reforming its work methodology,'' he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pleaded his case for Japan's acceptance as a permanent member of the Security Council. Since joining the UN in 1956, he said, Japan has worked tirelessly to advance the causes of the UN.
''It is my wish... [that] countries sharing the same aims all work together to finally resolve a long-standing issue to reform the UN in a way that reflects the realities of the 21st century,'' he said.
Discussions about council reform have been ongoing for years. France's foreign minister first floated the idea of a ''code of conduct'' for the veto in 2001.
During his speech last year to the General Assembly, French President Fran§ois Hollande called on the five powers to agree on a set of scenarios in which the veto should not be used, notably when resolutions address mass atrocities.
Former General Assembly president John Ashe, whose term just ended with the conclusion of the assembly's 68th session, made Security Council reform a priority on his agenda.
He called for a permanent seat on the council for an African delegate.
Regional representation and the veto are key issues for reform.
''Our United Nations is '' and must remain '' a place where we reach compromise, a place of accommodation. The essence of the process of negotiations is compromise,'' Ashe said last year.
By the end of Ashe's tenure, however, the UN had made no progress on the matter.
In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the US has vowed to always use its veto to help protect the people of Israel.
In August, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said she couldn't envision a scenario in which the US wouldn't veto an action within the Security Council to take Israel to the International Criminal Court.
While the US's veto might prove beneficial to Israel, overall it deadlocks the Security Council, critics say, making any real, meaningful action impossible.
As a further example, action within the council on the crisis in Ukraine has been limited in part because Russia has veto power, and it would surely veto any action condemning or holding it accountable. China and Russia both blocked early efforts by the US to take action on Syria against President Bashar Assad.
K Word
Just Kale Burgers to be Served at Amazing Kale Burger's New Eatery - Rogers Park - Chicago
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 12:13
Brandon Byxbe, 32, plans to open the Amazing Kale Burger restaurant on the Evanston-Rogers Park border. View Full CaptionDNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard
ROGERS PARK '-- The Amazing Kale Burger has found a home on the Rogers Park-Evanston border.
Owner Brandon Byxbe, 32, said he plans to bring his creation '-- a nutrition-packed veggie burger that's only sold at farmers markets and some neighborhood eateries '-- to his very own lunch counter.
He said his new restaurant, on the Evanston side of Howard Street, should open in November.
"Everyone eats like s--- right now, and I don't like it," the 32-year-old said about why he decided to expand the Amazing Kale Burger brand.
Byxbe said he first started making the 156-calorie burgers for himself before deciding to partner with Green Spirit Kitchen on Ridge Avenue and serve them at farmers markets.
Since then, they've been served at Howard Street's Peckish Pig, Jarvis Square's R Public House and Towbar, Morse Avenue's Act One Pub and The Dog Joint in Lincoln Park.
Over the summer he was using 100 bunches of kale to make 500 burgers a week.
The new storefront, at 461 W. Howard St., "was totally disgusting" when he first got the keys last month, he said.
But, he said, "I've been working my butt off" to clean it up.
When open, the only thing on the menu, except for toppings and a side or two, will be the eatery's namesake, the Amazing Kale Burger.
Byxbe is also raising money with a Kickstarter campaign for a 40-gallon steam kettle and a commercial oven.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here:
Former Haiti dictator 'Baby Doc' Duvalier dies
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 12:27
The former ruler of Haiti Jean-Claude Duvalier, otherwise known as ''Baby Doc'', has died of a heart attack '' leaving many questions unanswered over alleged human rights abuses.
Following his return from exile three years ago, a court ruled that he could be charged with crimes against humanity under international law '' and held responsible for abuses by the military under his rule.
Duvalier fled into exile in 1986 during a popular uprising which ended nearly three decades of a family dynasty.
Fifteen years earlier Duvalier had come to power following the death of his father ''Papa Doc'', inheriting the title of ''president-for-life''.
His time in power was marked by repression. Ordinary Haitians remained poor while he and his entourage lived in luxury.
''Baby Doc'' consistently denied any responsibility for abuses committed while he was in office.
Jean-Claude Duvalier, former Haitian dictator, dies aged 63.
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 12:33
The former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as Baby Doc, has died of a heart attack aged 63.
The ex-president's lawyer, Reynold Georges, said he died at home in Port-au-Prince of a heart attack on Saturday.
After inheriting power from his father in 1971 when aged 19, Duvalier fled into exile in 1986 after a popular uprising.
After 25 years in exile in France, Duvalier returned to his Caribbean homeland in January 2011 and was briefly detained on charges of corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds.
A Haitian court ruled in February that Duvalier could be charged with crimes against humanity under international law, and that he could also be held responsible for abuses committed by the army and paramilitary forces under his rule.
Duvlier consistently denied any responsibility for abuses committed while he was in office.
It was a ''shame'' Duvalier died before he could be put on trial, said Reed Brody of New York-based Human Rights Watch, who helped Duvalier's victims build the criminal case.
''Duvalier's death deprives Haitians of what could have been the most important human rights trial in the country's history,'' he added.
Under Duvalier, ''hundreds of political prisoners held in a network of prisons died from mistreatment or were victims of extrajudicial killings'', said Brody.
''Duvalier's government repeatedly closed independent newspapers and radio stations. Journalists were beaten, in some cases tortured, jailed, and forced to leave the country.''
The dictator, who called himself ''president for life'', was notorious for failing to address the poverty and illiteracy of Haitians, while he and his friends indulged in a luxurious lifestyle.
An introvert who shunned public appearances, Duvalier relied on terror in the style of his father, Fran§ois ''Papa Doc'' Duvalier, a former country doctor who employed paramilitary secret police agents and exploited popular superstitions surrounding the native voodoo religion.
Duvalier, born on 3 July 1951, lived at the centre of power from the age of five, when his father won national elections in the former French slave colony and first independent black state in the Americas.
In May 1980 he married Michelle Bennett, a young divorcee, in a union seen as improving Duvalier's relations with the Creole middle class disaffected by Papa Doc's heavy hand and sinister ways.
The younger Duvalier suppressed all effective opposition during his 15-year term until his overthrow.
As his problems grew he sought to improve his international image by relaxing his iron fist, but opponents continued to be arrested, often ending up in exile.
Bennett became a lightning rod for criticism due to her regular shopping expeditions to the most expensive shops in Europe, seemingly contemptuous of the poverty outside the iron gates of Haiti's imposing presidential palace in central Port-au-Prince.
In 1983 Duvalier welcomed Pope John Paul II to the island, although the pontiff declared that Haitians lacked ''everything that permits a truly human existence''.
His dramatic fall from power came after two months of widespread demonstrations and the withdrawal of support for his regime by the US, which helped him escape.
He sought refuge in France, leaving behind jubilant Haitians dancing in the street.
Soon after he returned to Haiti in 2011, taking up residence in a villa in an affluent suburb in the hills above Port-au-Prince, Duvalier issued a brief apology to victims of his government.
The corruption and human rights charges he faced after his return from exile were closely watched by international observers who considered it an important test of Haiti's weak justice system after decades of dictatorship, military rule and economic mayhem.
Duvalier was alleged by his victims to have had a hand in at least a dozen of the most notorious cases involving extrajudicial killings and detention of political prisoners.
He was also alleged to have fled Haiti with more than $100m (£60m) stashed in European bank accounts in 1986.
VIDEO - Aid convoy leader 'distraught' at Alan Henning's death
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 03:20
Kasim Jameel, who led the aid convoy to Syria on which Alan Henning was kidnapped, has said he is "distraught" at the news of the death Mr Henning.
Mr Jameel spent almost two months searching for his close friend after the 47-year-old taxi driver was captured in Syria.
"I'm absolutely heartbroken. I lost someone that was closer than my own brother to me," he said in an emotional interview.
A video showing the killing of Mr Henning, who was from Eccles in Salford, was released by Islamic State (IS) on Friday.
Mr Jameel spoke to the BBC's Catrin Nye.
VIDEO-Shows 'Ebola Victim' Wake Up In Body Bag
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 01:04
ABC News journalists in Liberia captured a horrifying scene from the frontline of the Ebola outbreak on Thursday while filming a burial team picking up bodies.
The footage shows ABC correspondent Dr. Richard Besser observing health workers while they douse the body of a suspected Ebola patient lying on the streets of the Liberian capital Monrovia with bleach, a regular precaution while removing bodies to prevent the spread of the disease. The workers place the suspected victim in a body bag. Then, his hand moves.
"He's not dead!" Besser exclaims, to the cheers of a crowd of Liberians.
Residents told Besser they had spent days unsuccessfully seeking help for the man as he lay suffering on the road. The burial team, however, arrived within an hour of the victim's reported death. "They only come when you die," one community leader told the news crew.
One of three countries battling Ebola in West Africa, Liberia has been hardest hit by the outbreak, with nearly 2,000 recorded deaths from the virus. The country's beleaguered health system has been overwhelmed by the crisis. Liberia has a dire shortage of hospital beds and international efforts to help have struggled keep pace with Ebola's spread.
Richard Besser, who is ABC's chief health and medical editor, was the first journalist permitted to film inside Liberia's Ebola Isolation Unit, ELWA2. He told The Huffington Post earlier that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the most devastating he's ever seen anywhere in the world.
VIDEO-Heavy fighting rages in Iraq's Anbar province - Middle East - Al Jazeera English
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:41
Fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Sunni militias is raging in the west of Iraq's Anbar province, with a fierce battle taking place for control of the strategic town of Heet.
ISIL had reportedly seized control of most of the town on Thursday, but Sunni militias, fighting on behalf of Iraq's government, swiftly denied the claim saying the battle was ongoing.
State television said the armed group had occupied the mayor's office and police station but were locked in fighting with the local Sunni Albu Nimr tribe.
Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from the capital Baghdad, said the town had yet to fall - with ISIL fighters unable to move in and out freely.
"ISIL does control huge chunks of Anbar province... but we're seeing a renewed push by the Iraqi army and those Sunni militia groups," he said.
Khan added that the fighting appeared to have sparked again over the past three days, prompted by US and French air strikes on an ISIL base-camp last week.
"That seems to have weakened them significantly, allowing these ground troops to go in and try and start clearing areas within Anbar province," Khan said.
Heet is a walled market town 30km from Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi, and lies close to the Ain al-Asad military base, one of Iraq's largest defense facilities.
Anbar Province, which borders Syria, has been a major stronghold for ISIL and continues to be largely controlled by the group.
ISIL have captured vast swathes of western and northern Iraq including the north's biggest city Mosul, as well as large areas of the east and north of neighbouring Syria.
VIDEO-Sick passenger removed from United flight by medical personnel in hazmat suits | Fox News
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:30
Published October 04, 2014At least one passenger exhibiting flu-like symptoms and believed to be from Liberia was removed Saturday from a United Airlines plane at New Jersey's Newark International Airport by medical personnel in hazmat suits.
Passengers and crew on board Flight 998 were instructed to remain inside the plane while the sick passenger, a 35-year-old man, and a young girl were removed, Port Authority officials told Fox News.
Passengers were questioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while than man and the girl were taken to a local hospital.. United Airlines said it is working with authorities to accommodate its passengers.
"The crew reported that a person was vomiting, and that Liberians were aboard the plane," a law enforcement source told The New York Post. "The person throwing up is believed to be Liberian."
Details about the number of ill passengers were not immediately clear, but the issue raised fears since the symptoms described are commonly associated with Ebola.
Authorities said the plane's crew and its roughly 250 remaining passengers stayed onboard for about 90 minutes before being allowed to leave allowed to leave.
United Airlines said in a statement the ill passenger was taken to a hospital.
The Associated Press and Fox News' Bryan Llenas contributed to this report.
VIDEO-CBS Medical Contributor Wildly Blames Climate Change For Viral Outbreaks | MRCTV
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:18
[More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.]
On 29 September 2014, Dr. David Agus injected the media's regular hype about climate change into CBS This Morning's coverage of the outbreak of Enterovirus D68 in the U.S. and the Ebola crisis in Africa. The morning show brought on Dr. Agus to discuss the polio-like virus that has afflicted children across the country. Near the end of the segment, anchor Charlie Rose wondered, "So we have Ebola virus in Africa, and we now have this virus [Enterovirus D68]. What's going on?"
The CBS medical contributor admitted that science didn't have any answers at this point, but that didn't stop him from wildly speculating:
DR. DAVID AGUS, USC PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE: Well, the world is flat '' is that, you know, right now, anybody can get on a plane, and end up anywhere in this country and spread these viruses. And we have to be aware of it. We don't know exactly why there was a dramatic spread this year, but something is happening now. We have multiple viruses. And together with global climate change, things are changing in the virus world, and we have to pay attention.
VIDEO-CNN's Cuomo on Biden After Latest Gaffe: 'I Still Love Biden For What He Is...His Candor Is Refreshing' | MRCTV
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 00:11
More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.
At the conclusion of the 6:30 a.m. news briefing during Friday's New Day on CNN, substitute news reader John Berman played video of Vice President Joe Biden jokingly asking Harvard University's student body vice president if he finds his job ''a b****'' after the student introduced himself to ask a question.
Following the video and Berman iterating that Biden later clarified that he does indeed like his job and ''the guy that he works for,'' New Day host Chris Cuomo gushed how he ''still love[s] Biden for what he is'' and that ''I think his candor is refreshing.''
VIDEO-A Cybersecurity Threat That Could Be Lurking On Your Phone | Special Report | Bret Baier | Fox News Channel
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 21:53
Gary Miliefsky, SnoopWall CEO, and founding member of the US Department of Homeland Security announces a privacy breach posed by smartphone flashlight apps. Miliefsky has advised two White House Administrations on Cybersecurity.
He was scheduled to join us on set for Special Report, but we had to make room for breaking news. We know you were all excited to hear this story and so we brought Gary in just for The Daily Bret. Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @BretBaier or here on the blog-- after hearing this story will you delete your flashlight app?
VIDEO-Bill Gates: Bitcoin Is 'Better Than Currency'
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 21:01
After long remaining mostly mum on Bitcoin, Microsoft's legendary co-founder Bill Gates has spoken. At the Sibos 2014 financial-services industry conference in Boston, America's richest man just threw his weight behind the controversial cryptocash. Well, at least as a low-cost payments solution.
At the event, when asked about Bitcoin's potential to ease the cost of payment transactions for moving money from one place to another Gates waxed mostly positively about the virtual money.
''Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be,'' he told Erik Schatzker during a Bloomberg TV's Smart Street show interview yesterday. ''Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don't have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient.''
Related: The 7 Most Fascinating Things Bill Gates Said in His Reddit Chat
Gates again reiterated his stance on cryptocurrencies when he delivered the event's closing keynote address, in which he stated that, in the future, financial transactions will eventually ''be digital, universal and almost free.''
While he seems relatively bullish on how inexpensive transacting in Bitcoin can be, Gates isn't singing the praises of its anonymity. The billionaire alluded in an oblique, somewhat rambling fashion to some of the more nefarious anonymous uses associated with Bitcoin.
''The customers we're talking about aren't trying to be anonymous,'' he told Schatzker. ''They're willing to be known, so Bitcoin technology is key and you can add to it or you could build a similar technology where there's enough attribution where people feel comfortable that this is nothing to do with terrorism or any type of money laundering.''
Related: Three Lessons a Serial Tech Entrepreneur Learned from Bill Gates
To see the portion of the interview in which Gates directly addresses Bitcoin, watch the video below:
The last time Gates publicly commented on Bitcoin was last February, the day Bitcoin currency conversions debuted on Microsoft's Bing search engine, when he skirted questions about Microsoft's stance on the cryptocurrency and subsequent others during a lively Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session.
Instead of answering Bitcoin-related queries head on, Gates shifted the focus to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-backed Vodaphone M-pesa, a mobile phone-based money transfer and microfinancing service in Kenya. Gates said that his organization is ''involved in digital money, but unlike Bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money.'' He went on to predict that ''digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot'' over the next five years.
Related: Billionaire Entrepreneur Mark Cuban: 'Bitcoin Has 'No Shot as a Long-Term Digital Currency'
Now that Gates is officially Microsoft's technical advisor, perhaps he'll make a push for Microsoft to accept Bitcoin (or another virtual money) as a form of payment and/or weave cryptocurrency into the company's nascent ''Zero-Effort'' mobile payments initiative. Only time will tell.
Hmmm. We wonder what fellow billionaire Mark Cuban thinks of Bitcoin now.
Related: What Do Snoop Dogg, Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel Have in Common? Reddit, Y'all.
VIDEO-Obama Tells GM His Healthcare Costs Are Rising Because He's Not 'Shopping' Correctly | Washington Free Beacon
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:38
BY:Washington Free Beacon StaffOctober 3, 2014 4:45 pm
President Obama said healthcare costs are rising for Indiana steel workers because employers are not ''shopping'' correctly for insurance plans during an event at Millennium Steel Service in Princeton, Ind., on Friday.
''We are seeing almost a double-digit increase in health-care costs every year,'' General Manager Mihir Paranjape said. ''Do you think that trend is going to go down, and what can we do to control that trend?''
''That's really interesting, you're gonna have to talk to Henry,'' Obama said, referring to the company's CEO, Henry Jackson. ''The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough.''
Obama said healthcare premiums were rising at the slowest rate in 50 years and that the higher-ups at Millennium Steel were simply not aware of the options they have in the healthcare market to ensure they are getting the best deal.
Obama switched subjects fairly quickly to brag about reducing the federal deficit and express his overall confidence in Obamacare.
''The Affordable Care Act, by the way, is also known as 'Obamacare,''' Obama said. ''For a while, everybody was sort of using that as kind of an insult. I'm feeling pretty good about it being called 'Obamacare.' I suspect that about 5 years from now, when everybody agrees that it's working, then they won't call it 'Obamacare' anymore '... that's okay.''
Obama admitted that the website was ''really bad for the first three months'' but said it is now ''in really good shape.''
VIDEO- - ISIS onthoofdt Brit Alan Henning | ThePostOnline
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:13
ISIS (of IS, voor 'Islamitische Staat') heeft deze avond een video getoond waarop de onthoofding van de Britse hulpverlener Alan Henning te zien is. Henning was vorige maand te zien in een video van de jihadistische beweging waarop de onthoofding van een andere Britse hulpverlener, David Haines, werd getoond. Daarna is een andere gijzelaar te zien: de Amerikaan Peter Edward Kassig. Kassig is een oud-militair die hulpverlener werd.
De gepubliceerde video ''Another Message to America and Its Allies'' is hieronder te zien:
Henning werd in december in Syri ontvoerd. Vorige maand stuurde hij zijn familie een audioboodschap waarin hij om zijn leven smeekte. Ook diverse andere organisaties pleitten voor zijn vrijlating.
Eerder werden de Amerikaanse fotograaf James Foley, de Amerikaanse journalist Steven Sotloff en de Britse beveiliger David Haines onthoofd. Het is niet bekend hoeveel gijzelaars IS in handen heeft. Eind september kwam een video naar buiten met de Britse journalist John Cantlie, die al sinds eind 2012 in handen van de extremistische groep zou zijn.
VIDEO-Nick The Rat- ISIS beheading Alan Henning UNCUT - YouTube
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:02
VIDEO- "This is who we resent" - YouTube
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:01
VIDEO-Biden Overstates Deaths in Joplin, Missouri Tornado By 160,839 | The Weekly Standard
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 07:02
Speaking today in Joplin, Missouri, VIce President Joe Biden overstated the deaths there in the 2011 tornado by 160,839:
"161,000 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents lost," said the vice president.
But as Reuters reported in 2011, the death toll was in fact 161:
The death toll from the May 22 tornado in Joplin, Missouri has been revised down to 161 with the discovery that one assumed victim died of other causes.
The city said in a statement that Kenneth J. Henson, a resident of Ottawa County, Oklahoma, did not die in the tornado. Jasper County Coroner Rob Chappel discovered the error while he was helping other officials compile a list of tornado victims for a six-month memorial service, the city said.
"Through this recent review, we are confident that the current list of 161 is accurate," the city said. The city gave no explanation for the Henson mix-up, and Chappel could not be immediately reached for comment Saturday.

Clips & Documents

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Charlie and CBS douche-Ebola=Climate Change!.mp3
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Amos Hochstein State Dep energy envoy-2-historic-reverse flows-SENERGY UNION.mp3
Amos Hochstein State Dep energy envoy-3-Israel Jordan gas deal.mp3
Amos Hochstein State Dep energy envoy-4-Its about CORPS running the REGION.mp3
Harrison Bergeron
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Hillary 2016
Joe @ harvard VP is a bitch.mp3
OBiden 161 thousand dead Joplin Missouri gaffe.mp3
JCD Clips
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AMerican is screwed clip.mp3
fred KAGAN.mp3
odd fire story.mp3
parents of kidnapped kid coacjed.mp3
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wtf mexico.mp3
Obama Nation
Jobs Day WH email.pdf
Obama on expensive healthcare NOT SHOPPING RIGHT.mp3
Shut Up Slave!
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Smith Mundt
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CBC-Prof David Moscrop on Manipulation of WILL.mp3
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