674: Non-linear War

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 43m
November 30th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Sir Frank Ajzensztat Baron of Stonnington, Sir Jason Keefer, Hendrick Smit, Sir Todd Moss

Associate Executive Producers: Dave Da Douche, Carrie Radomski, David K

Cover Artist: Baron_Nussbaum


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We officially start retrospective and year end lists season
Jack Downey, RIP
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:09
Jack Downey, RIPWhen one of the great trees in the forest falls, something needs to be said in remembrance.Jack Downey was one of the tallest among us, in stature and in strength of spirit. I was one of his classmates, not at Yale, but at the Infantry School in Fort Benning , where in 1951 as young CIA officers under alias, we went through jump school, and special courses on sabotage and escape and evasion. We were all drawn to him, because of his athletic record, his sense of humor, and his quiet strength. In one exercise we were paired off by size, and told to carry each other on our backs for as far as we could go. I got about 50 feet with Jack aboard, while he carried me effortlessly until told to stop. ''I certainly hope I don't have to rely on you to get me off the field if I'm wounded,'' he said with a grin as he dumped me gently on the ground.We both wound up in Asia in 1952, Jack in Japan , and I on Saipan , a large CIA training base. I happened to be in Japan on the night before he took off on his ill-fated, and ill-conceived mission, designed to drop supplies to an agent team (already captured by the Chinese) and to ''air-snatch'' an agent off the ground and into the supply plane. Lucius Horiuchi and I had dinner with Jack at a colorful Japanese restaurant, and Lucius and I recall it as a festive occasion, as Jack was excited about getting into action. The food was good, the Japanese waitresses were pretty, and we all felt that we would live forever.Jack's plane was shot down. He, Dick Fecteau, and a few others survived the crash, and Jack was sentenced by the Chinese to life imprisonment. He spent twenty years and four months in prison, trapped like a fly in amber, while my life, and Lucius's, progressed normally, into marriage and fatherhood. I thought often of Jack during those years and wondered how he was holding up. It was most reassuring to hear his first words as he left prison, entered Hong Kong , and was asked how it felt to be free. He said ''I don't mean to sound chauvinistic, but I can't help noticing that skirts are a lot shorter today than when I went to prison.'' Once a Yalie, always a Yalie.Shortly after his return home, Jack and I had a chance to talk about his time in captivity. The first two years had been by far the hardest. He said he had not been tortured, but that the interrogations had been endless and severe. As Jack put it ''they never forgot anything I said, and I could not keep my lies straight, so in the end I told them what I knew.'' Things then gradually eased, and he could, as he put it, ''focus on keeping myself alive.''Jack and I stayed in close touch over the intervening years. It was a joy to see his life resume and develop magnificently, through marriage, fatherhood and a distinguished legal career. CIA has gone out of its way to honor Jack. It has made a movie about him and Fecteau, to be used as a training film, and last year Jack was given CIA's highest honor, awarded only for valor. He and Fecteau were cheered to the echo by large crowd at CIA headquarters when the director spoke of his heroism, and of the role that he now plays in CIA's history.My high point with Jack took place at Yale Law School a few years ago, when Dean Harold Koh invited me to speak to a class on CIA and the legal issues it was tangled up in. I invited Jack to attend the class. He quietly slipped into the room and sat down. When I introduced him, the law students were literally bug-eyed with surprise and appreciation. One of the many things I loved about Jack was his sense of wry amusement about the fact that Yale Law School had turned him down, and that he had gone to Harvard. His acceptance of life as it came at him was astonishing. No complaining, no bitterness, only enduring strength, and a spark of humor that endured more than 7,000 days and nights of imprisonment.We shall not see his like again.US Ambassador to Korea 1989-93Pacific Century Institute
Poke n Pin doesn't work the same.
Presidential Proclamation -- World AIDS Day, 2014
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 06:56
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 29, 2014
In communities across our Nation and around the world, we have made extraordinary progress in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Just over three decades ago, when we knew only the devastation HIV inflicted, those living with it had to fight just to be treated with dignity and compassion, and since the first cases of AIDS were reported, tens of millions of vibrant men and women have lost their lives to this deadly virus. Today, we have transformed what it means to live with HIV/AIDS. More effective prevention, treatment, and care now save millions of lives while awareness has soared and research has surged. This World AIDS Day, we come together to honor all those who have been touched by HIV/AIDS and celebrate the promising public health and scientific advances that have brought us closer to our goal of an AIDS-free generation.
Since I took office, more people who are infected with HIV have learned of their status, allowing them to access the essential care that can improve their health, extend their lives, and prevent transmission of the virus to others. My Administration has made strides to limit new infections and reduce HIV-related disparities and health inequalities, and we have nearly eliminated the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. For many, with testing and access to the right treatment, a disease that was once a death sentence now offers a good chance for a healthy and productive life.
Despite these gains, too many with HIV/AIDS, especially young Americans, still do not know they are infected; too many communities, including gay and bisexual men, African Americans, and Hispanics remain disproportionately impacted; and too many individuals continue to bear the burden of discrimination and stigma. There is more work to do, and my Administration remains steadfast in our commitment to defeating this disease. Guided by our National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we are working to build a society where every person has access to life-extending care, regardless of who they are or whom they love. The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition, such as HIV/AIDS, and requires that most health plans cover HIV screenings without copays for everyone ages 15 to 65 and others at increased risk. We have expanded opportunities for groundbreaking research, and we continue to invest in innovation to develop a vaccine and find a cure. And this summer, my Administration held a series of listening sessions across the country to better understand the successes and challenges of those fighting HIV at the local and State level.
In the face of a disease that extends far beyond our borders, the United States remains committed to leading the world in the fight against HIV/AIDS and ensuring no one is left behind. Hundreds of thousands of adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV every year, and we are working to reach and assist them and every community in need. As part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, over 7 million people with HIV around the globe are receiving antiretroviral treatment, a four-fold increase since the start of my Administration. In countries throughout the world, our initiatives are improving the lives of women and girls, accelerating life-saving treatment for children, and supporting healthy, robust communities.
As a Nation, we have made an unwavering commitment to bend the curve of the HIV epidemic, and the progress we have seen is the result of countless people who have shared their stories, lent their strength, and led the fight to spare others the anguish of this disease. Today, we remember all those who lost their battle with HIV/AIDS, and we recognize those who agitated and organized in their memory. On this day, let us rededicate ourselves to continuing our work until we reach the day we know is possible -- when no child has to know the pain of HIV/AIDS and no life is limited by this virus.
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 December 1, 2014, as World AIDS Day. I urge the Governors of the States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join me in appropriate activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and comfort to those living with this disease.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of November, 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.
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Presidential Proclamation -- National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, 2014
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 06:56
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 29, 2014
All Americans deserve to live long and full lives, and every child should have the chance to seize his or her future. But throughout our Nation, too many lives are tragically cut short in traffic crashes involving drunk, drugged, or distracted driving. Impaired driving not only puts the driver at risk -- it threatens the lives of passengers and all others who share the road, and every year it causes the deaths of thousands of loved ones. This month, and especially during the holiday season, we dedicate ourselves to driving safely and responsibly, and to promoting these behaviors among our family and friends.
Alcohol and drugs can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory -- the skills critical for safe and responsible driving. And as mobile technology becomes ubiquitous, the distractions of texting and cell phone use continue to pose grave dangers on our roadways. Deaths caused by impaired driving are preventable and unacceptable, and my Administration is taking action to reduce and eliminate them. We continue to support the law enforcement officers who work to keep us safe and decrease impaired driving. To help save lives, States and local communities across our Nation will participate in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign from December 12 to January 1, reminding all Americans of their important responsibility.
My Administration is striving to increase awareness of the dangers and devastating consequences of impaired driving in all its forms, especially the growing, but often overlooked, problem of drugged driving. Illegal drugs, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications, can be just as deadly on the road as alcohol, and preventing drugged driving is a public health imperative. As part of our 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, we are working to support the data collection that underlies evidence-based policy making, strengthening the protections that keep drugged drivers off the road, and helping bolster law enforcement officials' ability to identify drug-impaired drivers.
Reducing impaired driving and keeping our roadways safe is everyone's responsibility. Parents and other caring adults can play an important role in educating young Americans about the dangers of impaired driving; adults can model good practices while driving and can help new drivers develop safe habits. This holiday season, all Americans can drive responsibly and encourage their loved ones to do the same, including by designating a sober driver or making alternative transportation arrangements. For more information, please visit www.NHTSA.gov/DriveSober, www.WhiteHouse.gov/ONDCP/DruggedDriving, and www.Distraction.gov.
During National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, let us resolve to do our part to keep our streets and highways safe. Together, our actions can save lives.
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 December 2014 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. I urge all Americans to make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of November, 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.
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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 http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/archive/00000736] 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". America.gov. January 16, 2003.
The Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act enjoys broad bipartisan support and has received little public examination. Not much will be said about it on Monday either. The bill will be considered under suspension of the rules, meaning it cannot be amended and will be subject to limited debate, though to pass the House it will need to attract a two-thirds vote.
Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2014 (H.R. 5421) - GovTrack.us
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 16:38
GovTrack's Bill SummaryWe don't have a summary available yet.
Library of Congress SummaryThe summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.
Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2014 - Amends federal bankruptcy law with respect to a "covered financial corporation" incorporated or organized under any federal or state law (other than a stockbroker, a commodity broker, or a domestic or foreign insurance company or financial institution meeting certain criteria) that is:
(1) a bank holding company; or
(2) a corporation that exists for the primary purpose of owning, controlling, and financing its subsidiaries, has total consolidated assets of $50 billion or greater, and whose annual gross revenues or consolidated assets meet specified tests.
Adds "Subchapter V - Liquidation, Reorganization, or Recapitalization of a Covered Financial Corporation," setting forth requirements and prohibitions regarding:
(1) commencement of a case concerning a covered financial corporation;
(2) a special trustee and bridge company;
(3) special transfer of the property of the estate in bankruptcy;
(4) treatment of qualified financial contracts and affiliate contracts;
(5) licenses, permits, and registrations;
(6) exemption from securities laws; and
(7) inapplicability of certain avoiding powers.
Allows conversion to chapter 7 (Liquidation) of a case under subchapter V if certain conditions are met.
Amends the Judicial Code to require the Chief Justice of the United States to designate: (1) at least three district judges in at least four circuits to serve on an appellate panel available to hear appeals in a bankruptcy case concerning a covered financial corporation, and (2) a panel of at least 10 bankruptcy judges.
Prescribes requirements for the assignment of bankruptcy judges to subchapter V cases.
House Republican Conference SummaryThe summary below was written by the House Republican Conference, which is the caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives.
No summary available.
House Democratic Caucus SummaryThe House Democratic Caucus does not provide summaries of bills.
So, yes, we display the House Republican Conference's summaries when available even if we do not have a Democratic summary available. That's because we feel it is better to give you as much information as possible, even if we cannot provide every viewpoint.
We'll be looking for a source of summaries from the other side in the meanwhile.
H.R. 5421, Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2014 | Congressional Budget Office
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 16:35
As ordered reported by the House Committee on the Judiciary on September 10, 2014
H.R. 5421 would modify the bankruptcy process for certain large financial institutions. Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting the legislation would lower the probability that such an institution would be liquidated by the federal government upon failure, potentially having a small effect on direct spending and revenues. However, CBO expects that failures handled through the bankruptcy code under the bill would not affect the net cash flows of the federal government under current law. Thus, we estimate that H.R. 5421 would have no significant effect on the budget, including discretionary spending, over the next 10 years.
Under current law, the federal government may place certain large and interconnected financial institutions, upon failure, into receivership of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Similar to its historical role as receiver of commercial banks and thrifts, the FDIC may sell the failed institution's assets, merge it with a healthy institution, continue operations through a bridge company, or some combination thereof. Most likely, the receivership will require short-term (and in some cases long-term) financing to quell the liquidity and insolvency concerns that result in the institution's failure. Under current law, such funding is available through the Treasury. While this borrowing must be repaid in full, CBO believes that repayment generally will occur over multiple years. As such, CBO estimates that this authority (also known as Orderly Liquidation Authority, or OLA) will have no net budget effect over time, but will increase deficits in some years. CBO's most recent baseline projects that use of OLA will increase deficits by about $19 billion over the 2015-2024 period. (This projection assumes a low probability that OLA will be triggered in each year. Actual cash flows will be zero in most years and much higher in years when OLA is used.)
Removing The Shackles: List of banker deaths: might be a good time to get out of the finance industry!
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 04:15
This list was published on Jim Stone's website on November 26th, 2014. As you know, Jim doesn't list articles separately, so they must be saved in their entirety if you wish to refer to them in the future. I am publishing this list for the purpose of exposing the repetitions of how many, if not most, of these financial people have died.D
ps: might be a bad time to be a banker!
If you had any doubts about the dead banker meme, take a look at this list and how these people died. Simply stunning . . . . .Though this list is not sourced to anything other than Anonymous, (and therefore could be a spoof) it looks convincing and could be easily cross checked. I have not done that because in this case "easy" would take several hours to cross confirm out with a list this big and there is something big going on today that is eating my time. There is a thread about this on the Forum and perhaps someone there has the time to dig this list. 1. Nov - Shawn Miller, 42, banker found dead in bathtub with throat slashed.2. Oct - Edmund Reilly, 47, a trader at Midtown's Vertical Group, threw himself in front of a speeding Long Island Rail Road commuter train.3. July - Julian Knott, 45, JPMorgan Executive Director,Global Tier 3 Network Operations, SELF-INFLICTED GUNSHOT WOUND4. June - Richard Gravino, 49, Application Team Lead, JP Morgan, SUDDEN DEATH cause unknown/pending5. June - James McDonald - President & CEO of Rockefeller & Co - apparently self-inflicted, GUNSHOT WOUND6. May - Thomas Schenkman, 42, Managing Director of Global Infrastructure, JP Morgan, SUDDEN DEATH, cause unknown/pending7. May - Naseem Mubeen - Assistant Vice President ZBTL Bank, Islamabad, SUICIDE jumped8. May - Daniel Leaf - senior manager at the Bank of Scotland/Saracen Fund Managers, FELL OFF A CLIFF9. May - Nigel Sharvin - Senior Relationship Manager Ulster Bank manage portfolio of distressed businesses, ACCIDENTAL DROWNING10. April - Lydia (no surname given) 52, France's Bred-Banque-Populaire, SUICIDE jumped11. April - Li Jianhua, 49, Non-bank Financial Institutions Supervision Department of the regulator, HEART ATTACK12. April - Benedict Philippens, Director/Manager Bank Ans-Saint-Nicolas, SHOT13. April - Tanji Dewberry - Assistant Vice President, Credit Suisse, HOUSE FIRE14. April - Amir Kess, co-founder and managing director Markstone Capital Group private equity fund, CYCLIST HIT BY CAR15. April - Juergen Frick, Bank Frick & Co. AG, SHOT16. April - Jan Peter Schmittmann - former CEO of Dutch Bank ABN Amro, (Possibly suicide, SHOT)17. April - Andrew Jarzyk - Assistant Vice President, Commercial Banking at PNC Financial Services Group, MISSING/DEAD18. March - Mohamed Hamwi - System Analyst at Trepp, a financial data and analytics firm, SHOT19. March - Joseph Giampapa - JP Morgan lawyer, CYCLIST HIT BY MINIVAN20. March - Kenneth Bellandro, former JP Morgan, SUICIDE jumped21. Feb = John Ruiz '‚¬'' Morgan Stanley Municipal Debt Analyst, died suddenly, NO CAUSE GIVEN22. Feb - Jason Alan Salais, 34, Information Technology specialist at JPMorgan, FOUND DEAD outside a Walgreens pharmacy23. Feb - Autumn Radtke, CEO of First Meta, a cyber-currency exchange firm, SUICIDE24. Feb - James Stuart Jr, Former National Bank of Commerce CEO, FOUND DEAD25. Feb - Edmund (Eddie) Reilly, trader at Midtown'‚¬'s Vertical Group, SUICIDE26. Feb - Li Junjie, JP Morgan, SUICIDE27. Feb - Ryan Henry Crane, SUDDEN DEATH cause unknown28. Feb - Richard Talley, UNKNOWN CAUSE29. Jan - Gabriel Magee, SUICIDE30. Jan - William 'Bill' Broeksmit, HUNG/POSSIBLE SUICIDE31. Jan - Mike Dueker, SUDDEN DEATH cause unknown32. Jan - Carl Slym, SUICIDE33. Jan - Tim Dickenson, SUDDEN DEATH cause unknown34. Dec 2013 - Robert Wilson, a retired hedge fund founder, apparent SUICIDE leaped to his death from his 16th floor residence35. Dec 2013 - Joseph . Ambrosio, age 34, Financial Analyst for J.P. Morgan, died suddenly from Acute Respiratory Syndrome36. Dec 2013 - Benjamin Idim, CAR ACCIDENT37. Dec 2013 - Susan Hewitt - Deutsche Bank, DROWNING38. Nov 2013 - Patrick Sheehan, CAR ACCIDENT39. Nov 2013 - Michael Anthony Turner, Career Banker, CAUSE UNKOWN40. Nov 2013 - Venera Minakhmetova Former Financial Analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, CYCLIST HIT41. Oct 2013 - Michael Burdin, SUICIDE42. Oct 2013 - Ezdehar Husainat - former JP Morgan banker, killed in FREAK ACCIDENT when her SUV crushed her to death43. Sept 2013 - Guy Ratovondrahona -Madagascar central bank, Sudden death '‚¬'' cause not confirmed44. Aug 2013 - Pierre Wauthier, SUICIDE45. Aug 2013 - Moritz Erhardt, SUICIDE46. July 2013 Hussain Najadi CEO of merchant bank AIAK Group, SHOT47. July 2013 Carsten Schloter, SUICIDE48. July 2013 Sascha Schornstein - RBS in its commodity finance, MISSING49. April 2013 David William Waygood, SUICIDE50. Mar 2013 - David Rossi - communications director of troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), SUICIDE51. Fang Fang - JP Morgan, China, DISGRACED52. Nick Bagnall - Director at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, son accidentally killed himself while trying to re-enact a Tudor hanging53. Robin Clark - RP Martin -Wolf of Shenfield City banker shot, SURVIVED54. Kevin Bespolka - Citi Capital Advisors, Dresdner Bank, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, Seriously injured and son dead55. Robert Wheeler, 49, a Deutsche Bank financial advisor, DISGRACED56. Chris Latham - Bank of America, ON TRIAL, Murder for Hire57. Igor Artamonov - West Siberian Bank of Sberbank, Daughter found dead (POSSIBLE SUICIDE)58. Hector Sants, Barclays - resigned due to stress and exhaustion, after being told he risked more serious consequences to his health if he continued to work - a remarkable turnaround as the Church reportedly approached him two months later and was told he had made a full recovery,59. April 21st Bruce A. Schaal, 63, died suddenly Banker in Twin Lakes for 35 years60. April 20th Keith Barnish 58, Died Suddenly (Still working as Senior Managing Director at Doral Financial Corporation. Previously Bear Stearns, Bank of America Senior Vice President61. March 12th Jeffrey Corzine, 31, son of MF Global CEO and Chairman Jon Corzine involved in major banking crime was found dead in an apparent suicide.62. Keiran Toman, 39, former banker who believed he was being stalked by a reality TV crew starved to death in a hotel room, an inquest heard today.63. An inquest was opened after his death in July 2010 but his family asked for a second hearing as they were not informed. Police found all of Mr Toman'‚¬'s possessions in the room, but despite documents mentioning his family, failed to tell them he had died.64. Nicholas Austin, 49, A former bank manager from Hersden died after drinking antifreeze in an effort to "get high". was found in a coma by his wife Lynn at their home in Blackthorne Road on October 5. He died the same day.I took special note of the last one - he died drinking antifreeze in an attempt to "get high"! Funny one that is, as if a banker would be stupid enough to try that. The list is shocking, I never saw so many suicides and car accidents. No gall bladder stones, cancer deaths, strokes, or simply falling ill, it is just a littany of action. That pretty much says it all.Discuss this on the Forum
Big Banks fear Swiss citizens will vote to reback their money with gold
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:11
The big banks and governments don't want the Swiss people to reback their money 20% with gold. What does that tell you?
Gold is real money. Paper is not. Gold doesn't rise and fall in price. (Generally) Paper becomes more or less valuable relative to gold. This concept is lost on the general public. It is not lost on the bankers and the folks in government.
The establishment fears gold money. It reins in their power. Thus the reason they fight gold so ardently and why they are fighting it online and in newspapers today.
(From The AP)
In a test of their sense of financial security, the Swiss are being asked to vote on a proposal to make the central bank hold a fifth of its reserves in gold within five years. That would mean buying about 1,500 metric tons, or 1,650 short tons, of gold worth more than $60 billion.
If the initiative wins the backing of a majority of voters this Sunday, the Swiss National Bank would also be prohibited from spending any of the treasure, which would have to be locked away in vaults entirely on Swiss soil. The prospect risks causing a spike in gold prices globally.
Not so much a ''spike'' in gold prices, more an erosion of paper value.
Number Of Russian Asylum Seekers To U.S. Spikes In Wake Of 'Antigay' Law
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 00:34
WASHINGTON -- U.S. asylum applications from Russian nationals have jumped 15 percent for the second straight year, a rise that asylum seekers and attorneys attribute to Russians fleeing their homeland due to fears of persecution and antigay violence.
The United States received 969 new asylum applications from Russian nationals in the 2014 fiscal year ending September 30, up from 837 the previous year and a 34 percent increase compared to 2012, according U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics obtained by RFE/RL.
The U.S. government does not disclose the basis of the petitioners' asylum claims. But applicants and immigration attorneys said the rise is almost certainly linked to an exodus of Russian gays following President Vladimir Putin's signing of a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" last year and violent guerrilla attacks by antigay groups in Russia.
The loosely worded law was portrayed by Putin and other Russian officials as aimed at protecting children and encouraging Russia's birthrate, while Western governments and rights groups decried it as discriminatory toward gays.
Gay people in Russia ''are already getting impatient, and they see that there's no future for them there. And they leave,'' says Anatoly Kazakov, a 24-year-old gay Russian who was granted asylum in the United States earlier this month.
The issue sparked another rift in U.S.-Russian relations this month when a Russian teenager remained in the United States after completing a U.S.-Russian exchange program and subsequently applied for political asylum. The boy, 17, cited fears of persecution in Russia because of his sexual orientation.
The Russian government cited the case in its decision to cancel its participation in the decades-old program, known as the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX).
Immigration Equality, a New York-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights advocacy group, has seen the number of inquiries it receives from Russians seeking U.S. asylum based on sexual orientation ''skyrocket'' since January 2012, when it fielded just three such queries, spokesman Diego Ortiz says.
Ortiz says his group fielded 25 inquiries in August 2013 after Putin signed the ''propaganda'' law, and that the average monthly figure has remained in the ''mid-teens'' ever since, with spikes earlier this year around the time of the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.
The prospective asylum-seekers can be placed in two categories, says Aaron Morris, legal director at Immigration Equality. The first, smaller group consists of LGBT families who ''actively felt that the Russian government was going to come and take their children away,'' he says.
Most of the inquiries, however, come from gay Russians under the age of 30, many of whom fear physical attacks and humiliation by violent antigay groups that in recent years have abducted and beaten gays and posted videos of the assaults on the Internet, he says.
''For that population, it really does tend to be more a fear of vigilante groups or skinheads, community members that the government won't stop or even condones in their attack of gay people,'' Morris says.
Antigay youths kick a gay-rights activist during a protest against Russia's homosexual "propaganda" law in Moscow in June 2013.Immigration Equality is currently representing six Russian petitioners seeking asylum based on fears of persecution due to their sexual orientation, and it has placed 37 other cases with outside counsel through the organization's "Pro Bono Network" program, Morris says.
Larry Poltavtsev, president of the Virginia-based advocacy group Spectrum Human Rights, says the number of queries received by his organization from Russia's LGBT community has ''doubled'' since last year. The group is currently handling five cases, he said.
''We cannot possibly serve as many people as are calling,'' he says.
'Bolotnaya' Cases
While antigay sentiment and legislation in Russia has been a key driver in the rise of Russian asylum seekers in the United States, Russians are also leaving the country due to fears of political persecution, says New York-based immigration attorney Alena Shautsova.
Shautsova says that she represented two clients this year who were granted U.S. asylum because they feared prosecution in Russia due to their participation in a May 2012 protest on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square.
More than 400 people were arrested after violence erupted at the protest against Putin's return to the Kremlin after he served four years as prime minister. Dozens have been prosecuted and several sentenced to prison, including prominent opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov.
The U.S. State Department criticized the prosecution of the protesters as ''politically motivated.'' Shautsova says her clients were granted asylum based on their interview with U.S. immigration officials and did not have their cases referred to the courts.
''It means that the official United States policy [is] to treat these people like they are legitimate refugees,'' she says.
'Danger' On The Streets of Russia
Kazakov says he expects members of Russia's LGBT community -- including many of his friends -- to continue seeking refuge in the United States.
''A year ago they thought, 'Why should we leave when we have jobs here, and in America we'll be doing low-level work?' Now they say, 'No. It doesn't matter. We have to leave,''' says Kazakov, a native of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk who applied for asylum in April.
One of the gay Russian asylum-seekers for fiscal year 2015 is Artem Gorbunov, 27, who submitted his application earlier this month.
Gorbunov says that he had considered leaving Russia earlier due to widespread antipathy toward gays but that he made up his mind for good in January. The ''propaganda'' law signed by Putin was the last straw, says Gorbunov, who arrived in the United States in July.
''Maybe tomorrow I'll be walking down the street dressed in such a way that someone considers it propaganda,'' Gorbunov says. ''How can I know what that is? If I put on a rainbow-colored button, that could already be dangerous for me to walk on the streets in Russia.''
Scores of Russian gays are seeking asylum in US
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 00:34
NEW YORK (AP) -- Had he stayed in Russia, Andrew Mironov would be settling in to a stable job with an oil company, likely with a newly awarded doctoral degree in electrical engineering.Instead, he faces an uncertain future in New York City as one of scores of Russian gays seeking asylum in the United States because of hostility and harassment in their homeland."In Russia, I would have gotten my Ph.D. this fall, had a job and health insurance," said Mironov, 25. "Now, here, I'm nobody."Yet the sacrifices have been worth it, Mironov says, given the fears that lingered after he was severely beaten by several assailants in the lobby of a gay bar in his home city of Samara."Which is more important, happiness or success?" he asked over coffee in midtown Manhattan. "I would say happiness. I feel no fear here."There are no firm statistics on the number of gay Russian asylum seekers; U.S. government agencies that handle applications do not report such details. However, the Department of Homeland Security's latest figures show that overall applications for asylum by Russians totaled 969 in the 2014 fiscal year, up 34 percent from 2012.The increase is due in part to the worsening anti-gay climate in Russia, according to Immigration Equality, a New York-based organization which provides legal services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants.The organization says the number of inquiries it received from gay Russians seeking U.S. asylum has risen from 68 in 2012 to 127 in 2013 and 161 through Oct. 30 of this year. During that period, gay-rights gatherings in Russia were frequently targeted by assailants, and the parliament passed a law targeting "gay propaganda" that was widely viewed as a means of deterring gay activism.Said Mironov of that law, "It helped homophobic people feel the government is on their side."To get an application approved, an asylum seeker must present a convincing case that he or she has a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their home country. Russia's anti-gay policies and its record of anti-gay violence are factors that could strengthen an individual's case.Aaron Morris, Immigration Equality's legal director, said most of the recent asylum inquiries came from gay men in their 20s and 30s who had been targeted by anti-gay attacks, while only a handful have come from gays or lesbians raising children."If you have kids, it can be really hard to leave everything behind," Morris said.In several U.S. cities, programs have been launched to assist gay asylum seekers from Russia and elsewhere as they await processing of their applications, which can take six months or more. For the first five months, the asylum seekers are barred from taking paying jobs, so they often struggle to support themselves, even with resumes illustrating professional success in Russia.In Washington, D.C., housing is among the major challenges, according to Matthew Corso, who has helped the DC Center for the LGBT Community create a program to assist people who are seeking asylum."We have no trouble finding them legal representation, but trying to find someone willing to give part of their home or money for food or transportation is not easy," Corso said.Another group aiding gay Russian asylum-seekers in the Washington area is the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance, founded in 2011 by Russian immigrant Larry Poltavtsev.Poltavtsev, who studied chemistry at the University of North Carolina in the 1990s, is frustrated by the rules that bar asylum-seekers from working. "It makes no sense because most of our arrivals have advanced degrees and speak good English," he said. "They're capable of being productive, paying taxes, but we are not letting them do those things while they're waiting."Soon to join the queue of applicants are Andrew Nasonov and Igor Bazilevsky, longtime partners from the Russian city of Voronezh who wearied of threats, harassment and beatings and came to the United States in July. They're now assembling the paperwork for their case and getting Russian documents translated into English."Of course we are worried, but we hope for the best," Nasonov said.Nasonov, 25, was a journalist and human-rights activist in Russia; Bazilevsky, 32, was a graphic designer. They hope to pursue those careers in the U.S. if their asylum applications are approved.Meanwhile, they've been provided with lodging by a gay couple in a Washington suburb and took a step in October that would have been impossible in Russia - they got married."We were finally able to say that we are a real family - there are not enough words to describe how wonderful these feelings are," Nasonov wrote in an email."But of course, we are still faced with a lot of difficulties," he added. "It was hard to leave our relatives, friends, and parents behind in Russia. ... We have nothing here, and in many ways are completely dependent on the assistance of the people who surround us."In New York City, many asylum seekers have received advice and support from Masha Gessen, a Moscow-born journalist and activist whose family moved to the U.S. in 1981 and who holds U.S. and Russian citizenship.She said her family, as Soviet Jews, had group refugee status, allowing for an immigration process far easier than that faced by today's asylum seekers who must prove their individual case."There's no worse way to immigrate to the U.S. than the way these people are doing it," Gessen said. "You have nothing, and you have no right to work or public assistance. We've seen people end up on the streets."She and her allies have lobbied the State Department to extend refugee status to LGBT people from Russia, but thus far to no avail. So for now, asylum seekers arrive unsure of their long-term prospects."After your tourist visa runs out, you're basically undocumented," Gessen said. "It can be hard to rent an apartment or get a cellphone. You have problems navigating everyday life."The United States is among several countries favored as havens by LGBT Russians who emigrate from there. Canada, Finland and Israel are among the others. Gessen said the U.S. is more receptive than many Western European countries, and Aaron Morris, the Immigration Equality lawyer, said his legal team had been able to win approval for most of the Russian asylum cases that it has handled.Morris commended the Department of Homeland Security for asking Immigration Equality to train its asylum officers on distinctive aspects of LGBT asylum cases. "They understand our community is a little different," Morris said.Among the many pending cases is Andrew Mironov's asylum application, buttressed by photographs showing the injuries he sustained in Russia that required a hospital stay. He's not sure when he'll be called for an in-person interview but says his lawyer believes the case is a strong one.Mironov has been in the U.S. since November 2013, spending his first night in a homeless shelter run by the Metropolitan Community Church of New York. He now lives in Brooklyn but continues to attend the church, which serves the LGBT community.The past 12 months have been challenging. One obstacle, he said, is a chilly reception from many non-gay Russian immigrants in New York."Americans don't care if you're gay, but the Russians here, they still have a problem with it," he said.Mironov worked for several months as a bartender at a restaurant in Manhattan but said his manager often mistreated him, calculating that he wouldn't complain because of his uncertain legal status. Now he's trying to establish a photography business, called Strekoza - Russian for "dragonfly.""It's hard to not be sure about your future," he said. "In Russia, I'd planned my whole life out."---Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP
VIDEO-U.S. Journalist Kicked Off Russian TV For Discussing Antigay Laws
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 00:53
The Kremlin-funded network RT abruptly pulled an American journalist off the air for talking about the Russian government's antigay laws instead of the topic at hand.The drama unfolded as James Kirchick, a gay journalist who has written for "The New Republic" and "The Washington Post," among other publications (including RFE/RL), was being interviewed from Stockholm by the Moscow-based television station for a panel discussion about U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning.
When the host turned to Kirchick for his thoughts, he pulled on a pair of rainbow-colored suspenders and quoted the American playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein as saying, "Being silent in the face of evil is something we can't do."
"You know, being here on a Kremlin-funded propaganda network, I'm going to wear my gay-pride suspenders and I'm going to speak out against the horrific antigay legislation that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has signed into law, that was passed unanimously by the Russian Duma, that criminalizes homosexual propaganda, that effectively makes it illegal for people to talk about homosexuality in public," Kirchick says.
The puzzled RT host responds, "Yes..?" and Kirchick continues, saying, "We've seen a spate of violent attacks on gay people..." before the host jumps in again to suggest they get back to the discussion about Manning.
"I'm not really interested in talking about Bradley Manning. I'm interested in talking about the horrific environment of homophobia in Russia right now," Kirchick says. "And to let the Russian gay people know that they have friends and allies and solidarity from people all over the world, and that we're not going to be silent in the face of this horrific repression that is perpetrated by your paymasters, by Vladimir Putin. That's what I'm here to talk about."
WATCH: James Kirchick appears on RT
A Russian law aimed at blocking "homosexual propaganda" that went into effect last month "bars the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear it."For more than two minutes, Kirchick dominated the live broadcast, at one point telling the sputtering anchorwoman, "You have 24 hours a day to lie about America, I am going to tell the truth with my two minutes."
He also got in a swipe at the hostile media environment in Russia, saying he doesn't know how employees of RT can sleep at night, "knowing how journalists in Russia are routinely harassed, tortured, and in some cases, killed by the Russian government."
Reached afterward by RFE/RL at the Stockholm airport where he was about to board a plane to Tallinn, Kirchick said he normally didn't agree to appear on networks like RT, which he called "propaganda channels of dictatorial governments."
"But I thought, because of what's going on in Russia right now, that this would be a really good way to draw attention to this cause," he explained.
No More Taxi Ride
Kirchick said that after RT producers in Moscow abruptly cut off his audio feed, he headed to the airport in a prearranged taxi that the station agreed to pay for as part of his appearance agreement.
"So about halfway down the highway on the way to the airport, my driver gets a phone call from his boss saying that the car ride has been canceled and that he'll have to drop me off on the side of the road," Kirchick said.
"And I told him that I would pick up the tab. But at the end, actually, at the airport, he said that the ride was free, so maybe we have some anti-Putin activists in the Swedish taxi company."
He said RT didn't explain their actions but did call him to tell him his ride was being canceled. Kirchick said he used "adult language and told them where to put it."
RT bureaus in Moscow and Washington did not respond to RFE/RL's e-mailed requests for comment but sent this statement a day after our story came out:
"Mr. Kirchick was invited to appear on RT's panel as author of article 'Bradley Manning gets off easy,' in order to contribute to RT's discussion of the Bradley Manning verdict -- obviously the major international news event. Mr. Kirchick decided to instead use this time to express his opinion on LGBT rights, a matter which, while important, was entirely unrelated to the subject of the panel. Regretfully, RT had no other recourse but to continue the discussion without him."
Kirchick said he planned to keep speaking out against Russia's antigay law, and added that he would "encourage anyone who goes on RT to hijack the forum" and do the same.
James Kirchick | Foreign Policy Initiative
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 00:54
James Kirchick is a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative. A journalist and foreign correspondent now based in Washington, he has reported from Southern and North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and the Caucasus.
For over three years, Kirchick worked at The New Republic, covering domestic politics, lobbying, intelligence, and American foreign policy. Following The New Republic, he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty based in Prague, writing about the politics and cultures of the 21 countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region. Among the stories he covered were the fraudulent 2010 presidential election in Belarus, ethnic cleansing in Kyrgyzstan, and the Libyan Civil War.
Kirchick's writing has appeared in The Weekly Standard, The American Interest, The Virginia Quarterly Review, World Affairs, Commentary, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times, among many other publications. He is a Daily Beast correspondent, a columnist for Ha'aretz and the New York Daily News, and writes the "Continental Drift" column on Europe for Tablet. His writing has also been published in Britain's Prospect and Spectator, Canada's National Post, the Czech Republic's Lidove Noviny and The Australian.
Kirchick has previously worked for The New York Sun, the New York Daily News, and The Hill. A leading voice on American gay politics and international gay rights, he is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year Award. He was a 2012-2013 Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Berlin, and has previously been a Hoover Institution Media Fellow and Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow.
Kirchick was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated from Yale College in 2006.
4 Russian Journalists, Activist Seek Asylum in West, Citing Anti-LGBT Abuse | News | The Moscow Times
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 00:58
Three journalists and an LGBT activist have fled Russia in recent days, seeking asylum in Germany and the U.S. on the basis of alleged homophobic abuse, a series of recent news reports revealed.
Lauding the move, St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov told the Russian News Service on Tuesday that now it is the best time for Russia's gays to leave their country.
"It is clear that St. Petersburg 'homos' felt that they were needed [by the West]. This is the right time to leave Russia, in a state of political humiliation. This situation even gives these people the possibility to claim social benefits [in the West]," said Milonov, who is well known for his anti-gay sentiments.
Television news correspondent Artur Akhmetgaliyev and graphic designer Alexander Izmailov left St. Petersburg for Germany after the former allegedly received threats for reporting on LGBT activities, their former employer TV 100 said Monday.
Akhmetgaliyev and Izmailov are currently staying in a refugee camp in the German town of Giessen, the television station said. They have applied for political asylum.
Another journalist fled Russia for the United States last week citing homophobic harassment. Oleg Potapenko, head of the Amurburg news website in Khabarovsk, plans to seek asylum in the U.S., Radio Liberty reported on Tuesday.
Potapenko claims to have been harassed by Russian law enforcement officials, who he says tore away pages from his passport and detained him at the Khabarovsk airport before he finally managed to leave Russia via Vladivostok.
The local edition of Metro newspaper reported Tuesday that prominent St. Petersburg LGBT activist Kirill Lagutin also sought asylum in Germany.
Last year Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the Netherlands would consider political asylum requests from Russians who claim to have been persecuted under the so-called anti-gay propaganda law, which forbids any sort of promotion of non-traditional relationships around children.
Contact the author at i.nechepurenko@imedia.ru
Lavrov accuses West of seeking 'regime change' in Russia | Reuters
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 01:11
By Polina Devitt
MOSCOWSat Nov 22, 2014 2:09pm EST
TweetShare thisEmailPrintRussia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Saud al-Faisal in Moscow, November 21, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West on Saturday of trying to use sanctions imposed on Moscow in the Ukraine crisis to seek "regime change" in Russia.
His comments stepped up Moscow's war of words with the United States and the European Union in their worst diplomatic standoff since the Cold War ended.
"As for the concept behind to the use of coercive measures, the West is making clear it does not want to force Russia to change policy but wants to secure regime change," Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as telling a meeting of the advisory Foreign and Defense Policy Council in Moscow.
He said that when international sanctions had been used against other countries such as Iran and North Korea, they had been designed not to harm the national economy.
"Now public figures in Western countries say there is a need to impose sanctions that will destroy the economy and cause public protests," Lavrov said.
His comments followed remarks on Thursday in which President Vladimir Putin said Moscow must guard against a "color revolution" in Russia, referring to protests that toppled leaders in other former Soviet republics.
Western sanctions have limited access to foreign capital for some of Russia's largest companies and banks, hit the defense and energy industries, and imposed asset freezes and travel bans on some of Putin's allies.
The measures have aggravated an economic downturn, which has also been worsened by a fall in global oil prices and has helped cause a nearly 30 percent slide in the rouble against the dollar since the start of the year.
Putin's popularity has soared in Russia since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March.
He says Western powers were behind the overthrow of a Moscow-backed president in Ukraine in February after months of street protests, but the West blames Moscow for the crisis.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Kiev on Friday termed Russia's behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable". He said Moscow must abide by a Sept. 5 ceasefire deal, which has failed to end a conflict that has killed more than 4,300 people since mid-April.
Biden urged Moscow to pull soldiers out of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting government forces, though Moscow denies supporting the rebels with troops and weapons.
(Editing by Timothy Heritage and Jane Baird)
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America may be plotting to ensure regime change in Russia | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 01:03
The West's sanctions against Russia, post the downing of MH17, reveal plans of regime change
In a throwback to the Cold War years, the US and Russia are shadow-boxing over Ukraine. Moscow had won the first round with the holding of the referendum and the annexation of Crimea. The unfortunate downing of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, with 283 innocent civilians on board, by Russia-armed Ukrainian rebels mistaking it for a Ukraine military carrier made president Vladimir Putin almost an international pariah. Washington has decidedly won the second round.
The severe sanctions slapped on Russia by the US following the incident will severely impact the Russian economy in the longer term. Washington's obvious plan is to get troublesome Putin out of the way. The expectation is that once Russians feel the crunch they will turn against the president. Much depends on how Putin plays his cards and how effectively the anti-Putin lobby in Russia can turn this into a ''people's movement''.
Since the crisis in Ukraine, Putin's popularity has soared domestically. A majority of ordinary Russians believe that a strong man like Putin is what the country needs in its hour of crisis, a leader who can act decisively and perhaps regain some bit of the country's lost glory, at a time when it is almost encircled by the West in its own backyard.
Putin, once the chief of the KGB, Russia's spy agency, is not a man to back down easily. In a show of strength, he has ordered the Russian army to the border areas adjoining Ukraine. Hitting back at the sanctions imposed by the West, Russia, in turn, has slapped sanctions on several Western imports, especially food products. But these sanctions are unlikely to affect the West. Australia is now threatening to stop selling uranium to Russia. How long Putin will be able to stand up against the crippling Western sanctions is not clear. Neither side is willing to back off and begin to talk '-- the West because it thinks Putin is in a spot; and the Russian president because he believes he cannot have the Western forces in what he considers his backyard. The fact that the eastern rebels are now talking of ceasefire with Ukraine, is an indication that Russia may be backing off.
Much will also depend on China and whether Beijing is willing to play ball with the US against Russia. China and Russia had signed a mega $400 billion gas deal earlier this year. However, this will take some time to get operational. The Ukrainian crisis has forced Russia to urgently seek an alternative to Europe, Moscow's main energy market. Putin may just sack some of his hardline advisers, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and get back former finance minister Alexei Kudris, who is reforms-friendly and acceptable to the West. He has been critical of those who want to go back to State-controlled economy. Putin will have to rebuild links with sections of the business elite opposed to him. His new Prime Minister will have to negotiate a final accommodation with Ukraine.
The attempt to demonise Putin has been on for quite some time in the West. The break up of the former Soviet Union had led to euphoria across the world that Communism was dead and peace in Europe would no longer be a dream. The chaos in Russia with weak leaders like Boris Yeltsin led Western powers to have a more benign view of the former super power. When Putin came centre stage in 2000, the US and its allies were uneasy. The former KGB chief was keen to restore some of Russia's past glory. The US and the EU had launched a relentless drive to box Russia into a corner with pro-Western governments encircling the former superpower. Georgia and Ukraine were the natural targets.
While Moscow played its cards right in Crimea, things did not go according to the script in other eastern hot spots in Ukraine. Kiev has sent in its army to retake the region.
Putin's luck ran out when the rebels mistakenly gunned for a civilian passenger airline. The tragic incident helped to strengthen the hands of Ukraine, the US and its allies. Russia has been chastised, hectored and lectured and some have even called him a terrorist for arming the thugs who brought down the civilian aircraft.
Yet a similar mistake was made by the US in 1988, when a civilian passenger plane Iran Flight 655 was shot down by a US missile over the Strait of Hormuz. The captain in command of an Aegis class cruiser, Vincennes, thought it was an enemy aircraft. Everyone acknowledged it was a horrendous mistake, and nobody called the captain a terrorist. The US had paid damages and that was the end of the story.
The downing of the Malaysian plane was exactly the excuse the US was looking for to hit Putin for arming the pro-Russian rebels of Ukraine. But the self-righteous indignation is at best ironic, at worse hyprocritical, considering the US plays this game all the time all over the world. Most recently, the initial arming of the rebels who now form the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was done by the US and its allies, as well as by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. All this was to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a friend of both Iran and Russia. The Sunni nations funded and armed the ragtag bunch of radical jihadis, which also had al-Qaeda in their midst. In their haste to get Russian ally Assad out, the Western powers had created the Sunni monster army, which many believe is more dangerous than the al-Qaeda. Regime change has become the latest buzzword against rulers the West dislikes. It was Iraq's Saddam Hussain at one time, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi at another time and now it is Russia's Putin. The Russian leader may not be an easy prey.
The author is a senior journalist
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Lavrov warns over Russia 'regime change' - BBC.comwww.bbc.com/.../world-europe-301589...British Broadcasting Corporation
Nov 22, 2014 - Ukraine crisis: Lavrov warns over Russia 'regime change' goal ... On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin said Moscow must guard against a ...Regime Change in the Russian Federation? Why ...www.globalresearch.ca/regime-change-in-the-russian...putin/28571Jan 10, 2012 - Why Washington Wants 'Finito' with Vladimir Putin ... That being said, what Washington is doing to interfere with that regime change is more ...Regime change in Russia | European Council on Foreign ...www.ecfr.eu/.../regime_change_i...European Council on Foreign Relations
May 31, 2013 - Although Vladimir Putin is back in the Kremlin, the era of ''managed ... A new ECFR memo - ''Regime change in Russia'' by Kadri Liik - explains ...If Putin 'Mans Up,' His Regime Will Crumble - Forbeswww.forbes.com/sites/.../if-putin-mans-up-his-regime-will-crumbl...Jul 21, 2014 -Putin's is a case of a criminal regime where the crime is so bad that the ... the young Vietnamese girl burned naked by napalm '-- can change ...
Ukraine crisis: West's sanctions target Putin, not policy, Russia insists - CSMonitor.com
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 01:01
Moscow '--Russia sees no connection between sanctions imposed against it by the United States and the European Union and the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Instead it views them merely as a "destabilizing" effort to inflict damage, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists Friday.
"Specific facts have been stated that signal that the unilateral sanctions introduced against us are illegitimate and undermine stability of the global economy and have nothing in common with the goal of de-escalating the Ukrainian crisis," the official Tass agency quoted Mr. Lavrov as saying.
Some analysts warn that this view of the sanctions, which is becoming increasingly ingrained, makes Russia less likely to compromise with the West over Ukraine.
In a speech last week, Lavrov argued even more explicitly that sanctions were part of a US-led campaign to oust Russian President Vladimir Putin rather than an effort to find peace in Ukraine.
"Western leaders publicly state that the sanctions must hurt [Russia's] economy and stir up public protests," he said. "The West doesn't want to change Russia's policies. They want a regime change. Practically nobody denies that."
Lavrov appears to be confirming a view many Kremlin-connected experts have been expressing for some time: that Washington has had it in for Russia ever since Mr. Putin returned to power in 2012 and began strongly asserting Russia's national interests, including by opposing US policies around the world.
Russia-US relations have sharply deteriorated ever since. Pro-Putin analysts argue that even if the Ukraine crisis had not erupted, something else would have triggered the sanctions war against Russia.
"Many people [in official circles] believe that the sanctions package was prepared well in advance, and Ukraine was the pretext for launching it," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow foreign policy journal.
"There is evidence to support the view that the US has decided that Russia under Putin is a revisionist power, bent on challenging US positions, and that it should be firmly dealt with now. People in Moscow have come to believe that US sanctions will not be lifted for a long time, regardless of whether peace breaks out in Ukraine tomorrow, and we should dig in for the long haul. It's about containment," he says, referring to the cold war policy that contributed to the eventual collapse of the USSR.
By imposing a credit squeeze and tough curbs on technology imports, the sanctions have visibly hurt Russia's economy, including a plunge in the ruble and a spike in inflation. But they've also had unforeseen impacts, such as bolstering domestic political support for Putin and accelerating Russia's drift toward an economic alliance with China.
Another consequence of the Kremlin's hardening view might be to make Russia far less likely to compromise with the West or Kiev as Ukraine's own internal crisis deepens.
"Since Russia doesn't believe the sanctions are connected with Ukraine, there is no feeling of pressure to do something about it," says Mr. Lukyanov. "It's a very convenient pre-emptive explanation."
Putin report from Finland
This accompanies my USD 100 donation on 28 November.
We have two yellow press newspapers in Finland.
I'm just exaggerating a little bit when I tell you that Mr Putin has been on every front page at least for a month now.
Now, the man on the street will of course not realize that Putin is there, NOT because of something he has actually done – but that his face is used only to sell more newspapers.
Funnily enough, it used to be that lightly dressed women did the best job of selling those rags - so times have really changed.
If you depart with your money for that trash, and actually read the stories, they don't amount to much. Basically just regurgitating old stories of the military modernization he started years ago – or having some self-proclaimed expert doing wild speculations about his psyche.
It's funny to watch for a NA listener, but so called normal people are really freaking out on Facebook and other social media. Some actually think we should prepare for war.
Keep up!
Rabbe Sandelin
Helsinki, Finland
Total and Rosneft draw closer together over refinery deal
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 04:59
Total and Rosneft have signed a term sheet that envisages the main terms and conditions of the purchase of a 16.67 per cent share in a refinery located in Schwedt, Germany (PCK Raffinerie GmbH)
''This agreement is reflective of the level of trust, long-term commitment and mutual benefit in the relationships between Total and Rosneft,'' said Sechin.
The document was signed in Sochi by the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin and chief executive officer of Total Patrick Pouyanne.
''It proves the effectiveness of the European-Russian energy partnership in that it delivers added value to all companies and countries involved,'' added Sechin.
''As for Rosneft, this deal means a strengthening of its position in one of Europe's most efficient and effective refineries and an opportunity to serve the end-customers in its most important market. Once the deal is closed, Rosneft together with ROG will manage close to 55% of the refinery's ownership.''
The deal represents a deepening of the energy partnership between Russia and Europe based on the effectiveness of supplying a refinery located along the Druzhba pipeline.
Total and Rosneft are further agreeing on an off-take agreement to supply Total's retail and wholesale customers securing stable supply to the premium Berlin and surrounding areas, markets and customers supplied by pipeline from the refinery.
Der Spiegel Tones Down Anti-Putin Hysteria
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 05:01
Exclusive: The mainstream U.S. news media continues to spew out a steady flow of anti-Russian propaganda over the Ukraine crisis, but the prominent German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has begun to temper its belligerent tone, finally reflecting the more nuanced reality, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Last summer, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel was swept up in the Western hysteria over Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine crisis, even running a bellicose cover demanding ''Stop Putin Now'' and blaming him for the 298 deaths in the July 17 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
''Vladimir Putin has shown his true face. Once seen as a statesman, the Russian president has exposed himself as a pariah of the international community. The MH17 dead are also his; he is partially responsible for the shooting down of the flight,'' a Der Spiegel editorial declared on July 28. ''Nobody in the West continues to harbor serious doubts that the plane was shot down with a Buk surface-to-air missile system '-- one that was almost certainly provided to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine by Russia.''
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. (Israeli government photo)
Actually, by then, a number of people in the West, including U.S. intelligence analysts, were doubting the blame-Putin narrative because they could find no evidence that the Russians had supplied the ethnic Russian rebels with a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system that could bring down a commercial plane flying at 33,000 feet.
At the time, I was being told by a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts that the emerging scenario pointed more toward an extremist group associated with the Ukrainian government although not under the control of Kiev's senior leadership. But the major media in the U.S. and Europe refused to rethink the early ''conventional wisdom.''
However, in October, Der Spiegel quietly reversed itself regarding Moscow supposedly supplying the Buk missiles, reporting that the German foreign intelligence agency, the BND, had concluded that Russia did not supply the battery suspected of bringing down the plane, saying the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian military missile captured by the rebels from a Ukrainian military base (although I was later told by a European official that the BND's conclusion was less definitive than Der Spiegel reported).
Creating a Crisis
In another reversal of sorts, this leading German-language newsmagazine has acknowledged that the European Union and German leaders were guilty of miscalculations that contributed to the Ukraine crisis, particularly by under-appreciating the enormous financial costs to Ukraine if it broke its historic ties to Russia in favor of a new association with the EU.
In November 2013, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych learned from experts at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine that the total cost to the country's economy from severing its business connections to Russia would be around $160 billion, 50 times the $3 billion figure that the EU had estimated, Der Spiegel reported. The figure stunned Yanukovych, who pleaded for financial help that the EU couldn't provide, the magazine said.
Western loans would have to come from the International Monetary Fund, which was demanding painful ''reforms'' of Ukraine's economy, structural changes that would make the hard lives of average Ukrainians even harder, including raising the price of natural gas by 40 percent and devaluing Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, by 25 percent.
With Putin offering a more generous aid package of $15 billion, Yanukovych backed out of the EU agreement but told the EU's Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Nov. 28, 2013, that he was willing to continue negotiating.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with ''a sentence dripping with disapproval and cool sarcasm aimed directly at the Ukrainian president. 'I feel like I'm at a wedding where the groom has suddenly issued new, last minute stipulations,'' according to Der Spiegel's chronology of the crisis.
That was when the U.S. neocons stepped up their strategy of using the popular disappointment in western Ukraine over the failed EU agreement to topple Yanukovych, the constitutionally elected president.
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a prominent neocon holdover who advised Vice President Dick Cheney, passed out cookies to anti-Yanukovych demonstrators at the Maidan Square in Kiev and reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their ''European aspirations.''
Meanwhile, neocon Sen. John McCain joined Ukrainian rightists onstage at the Maidan urging on the protests, and the U.S.-funded, neocon-led National Endowment for Democracy deployed scores of its Ukrainian political/media operatives in support of the disruptions. Even earlier, NED President Carl Gershman, a leading neocon, had identified Ukraine as ''the biggest prize'' and an important step toward toppling Putin in Russia. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''Neocons' Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.'']
By early February, Nuland was telling U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt ''fuck the EU'' and discussing how to ''glue this thing'' as she handpicked who the new leaders of Ukraine would be; ''Yats is the guy,'' she said about Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
As violent disorders at the Maidan spun out of control, the State Department and U.S. news media blamed Yanukovych, setting the stage for his removal. On Feb. 22, a putsch, spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias from the Maidan protests, forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives.
A Nasty Civil War
Nuland's ''guy'' Yatsenyuk became the new prime minister and pushed through both the IMF ''reforms'' and the EU association agreement. But the price was high, with Ukraine descending into a brutal civil war with ethnic Russians of eastern and southern Ukraine resisting the imposition of the new order in Kiev.
The voters of Crimea overwhelmingly passed a secession referendum and rejoined Russia with the help of Russian troops stationed in Crimea at the naval base at Sebastopol. Two areas of eastern Ukraine also voted to secede but were not accepted by Moscow, though it provided military and non-lethal assistance when the Kiev regime launched an ''anti-terrorism operation'' that incorporated some of the neo-Nazi storm troopers into ''volunteer militias.''
The Ukrainian civil war not only has claimed thousands of lives but revived the specter of a new Cold War. The U.S. State Department pressed the EU to join in economic sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea, a plan that Merkel and the EU adopted after the July 17 shoot-down of MH17, which was hastily blamed on Putin.
Tit-for-tat economic sanctions also pushed the EU toward its third recession since the 2008 financial crisis. They also have contributed to economic pain in Russia. But the worst victims are the Ukrainians who are facing a cold winter with scant supplies of fuel, little money and widespread joblessness.
''In one of the most important questions facing European foreign policy, Germany had failed,'' Der Spiegel admitted in its review of how the crisis evolved from the botched negotiations a year ago. The magazine cited a speech last December by the new Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, saying: ''We should ask ourselves '... whether we have overlooked the fact that it is too much for this country to have to choose between Europe and Russia.''
Der Spiegel also quoted a key figure in the Ukraine talks, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan F¼le, as conceding that the EU confronted Ukraine with an impossible choice. ''We were actually telling Ukraine '...: 'You know guys, sorry for your geographic location, but you cannot go east and you cannot go west,''' F¼le said.
''More than anything, though, the Europeans underestimated Moscow and its determination to prevent a clear bond between Ukraine and the West,'' Der Spiegel wrote. ''They either failed to take Russian concerns and Ukrainian warnings seriously or they ignored them altogether because they didn't fit into their own worldview.''
This more tempered assessment by Der Spiegel '' though a marked improvement from the hysteria of last summer '' still falls far short of the highest standards of journalistic objectivity. But it suggests that perhaps a more rational attitude toward the Ukraine crisis is finally taking hold in Europe.
U.S. Media Hysteria
That does not appear to be the case in the United States where major news outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, continue to be little more than propaganda megaphones for the hawks in the State Department and the ever-influential neoconservatives.
For instance, on Wednesday, the Post's neocon editors published a lead editorial aimed at both Putin and President Barack Obama with what you might call neocon trash-talking. In the Post's print edition, the sneering headline was ''The 'invincible' Mr. Putin. With no new pressure from the West, the Kremlin acts as if it has nothing to fear.'' The online title was even more direct: ''Prove to Mr. Putin that he is not 'invincible.'''
The editorial continued the year-long campaign to demonize Putin and agitate Obama into taking more aggressive action toward destabilizing Russia.
The Post, which has become the neocon flagship publication, was following the neocon strategy of destroying what had been constructive behind-the-scenes cooperation between Putin and Obama on issues such as reaching a political settlement in Syria and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran.
If that Putin-Obama relationship were not obliterated, it carried grave dangers for the overriding neocon strategy of ''regime change'' across the Middle East, to eliminate nations and movements regarded as threats to Israel.
But the biggest risk to the neocons from Putin and Obama working together would be the possibility that the two leaders could join forces to pressure Israel into a peace agreement with the Palestinians, rather than continue Israel's inexorable seizure of Palestinian land.
In demanding that Obama ratchet up the confrontation with Putin, the Post's editors wrote that the current anti-Russian sanctions are ''not enough, apparently to deter Mr. Putin from sending more troops to Ukraine, tightening his hold on Abkhazia or declaring himself 'invincible.''
By the way, what Putin actually said was: ''When a Russian feels he is right, he is invincible.'' However, by twisting the rather innocuous observation, the Post's editors could present Putin as delusional while simultaneously baiting Obama into escalating the personal feud between the two leaders, all the better to poison future hopes of cooperation on conflict resolution.
Yet, while the major U.S. media has become one continuous conveyor belt of anti-Russian propaganda, Der Spiegel finally seems to have slowed down the assembly-line manufacturing of lies and exaggerations by offering its readers a bit of honesty about how this crisis began.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
Report of Russian warship manoeuvres in English Channel highlights growing war danger
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 08:23
By Chris Marsden29 November 2014The Russian state news agency RAI Novosti reported yesterday that Russian naval vessels had staged a drill in the English Channel. The report said the Northern Fleet squadron had passed through the Straits of Dover following exercises in the North Sea that began November 20.
A naval destroyer, the anti-submarine ship Severomorsk, together with a landing craft, a rescue tugboat and a tank ship, had anchored in the Bay of the Seine, off France. RIA quoted a statement from the Russian Northern Fleet that its vessels were in international waters in the Seine Bay to wait for a storm to pass, but added, ''While it is anchored, the crew are undertaking a series of exercises on how to tackle'... infiltrating submarine forces, and are training on survival techniques in the case of flooding or fire.''
Press reports said the Russian Navy could not be reached for comment and the Defence Ministry declined to speak about the report.
Britain and France issued statements denying the RAI claim that the ships were carrying out military manoeuvres. The UK said the ships had been observed by the British patrol ship HMS Tyne and had complied with all orders and stayed clear of British territorial waters.
''We are aware that four Russian naval ships have passed through the Dover Strait from the North Sea into the English Channel, which all ships have the right to do under international law,'' the Ministry of Defence said.
France's naval information service confirmed the location of the Russian ships and said, ''They are not holding exercises. They're just waiting in a zone where they can be several times a year.''
Lieutenant-Colonel Jay Janzen, NATO's military spokesman, said, ''Our information indicates that the ships are transiting and have been delayed by weather conditions. They are not exercising in the Channel, as some Russian headlines would have us believe.''
Such statements notwithstanding, the RAI Novosti report suggests that at least elements of the Russian state were seeking to make a political point. Moreover, the swift dissemination across all media outlets of the report highlights the escalating tensions between Russia and the NATO powers. The conflict centres on Ukraine and involves a policy of NATO expansion to Russia's borders, coupled with sanctions designed to cripple the Russian economy.
This is not the first potential spark for a military exchange between Russia and the UK resulting from the aggressive stance of the US and its allies. In May, a Russian aircraft carrier task group sailing into the Channel was placed under escort by the Royal Navy's HMS Drago and shadowed as it headed back to Russia.
The heavy carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the nuclear-powered Kirov class cruiser Peter the Great, and several support ships were returning from a five-month mission in the Mediterranean, during which the Kuznetsov's Sukhoi Su-33 fighters and Kamov Ka-27 helicopters were reported to have carried out more than 350 practice sorties.
The stationing of the Russian task force in the Seine Bay off northern France occurred just days after President Francois Hollande reneged on a '‚¬1.2 billion deal to supply two helicopter carriers to the Russian Navy, after coming under sustained pressure from Washington. A Russian crew was already aboard the first of the two French-made ships, named Vladivostok, ready for despatch in Saint-Nazaire. The second, named after the Crimean port city of Sevastopol annexed by Russia in March, is still under construction.
Last week, NATO issued its latest report of increased Russian military activity, particularly involving air encounters. The report stated that its planes have been scrambled 400 times this year in response to a 50 percent rise in Russian military air activity around Europe. NATO said Russia was using its military in a ''much more assertive manner.''
The largest military manoeuvres presently being staged are by NATO, in Poland, under the Readiness Action Plan agreed at the NATO summit in Wales. They involve the British Army's ''lead armoured battle group'' of 1,350 British troops and 500 armoured vehicles. In December, NATO will discuss the formation of a new rapid response force for Eastern Europe, under German leadership, to be ready for deployment as early as 2015.
Just four days before the incident in the Channel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded to a treaty signed between the Georgian region of Abkhazia and Russia with a pledge to uphold ''the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders.''
On November 20, at the start of a trip to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Stoltenberg said, ''NATO's greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our Allies. And NATO is here to protect and defend Estonia.''
He described NATO's new Readiness Action Plan as ''the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.'' The presence of NATO jets and troops in Poland from many nations demonstrated ''the resolve of all Allies to stand with the Baltic nations.''
Stoltenberg went on to note that, ''our Baltic air police mission has conducted over 100 intercepts this year'--three times more than last year'... So NATO remains vigilant. We are here. And we are ready to defend all Allies against any threat.''
On November 24, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army in Europe, told the Baltic News Service during a trip to Lithuania that hundreds of troops currently in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (all NATO member states) would stay there for the next year. US forces would ''be here for as long as necessary to assure all of our allies and to deter Russian aggression,'' he said.
Two days later, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the supreme allied commander in Europe, during a visit to Kiev pledged, ''We are going to help Ukraine's military to increase its capacities and capabilities through interaction with US and European command'' and ''make them ever more interoperable with our forces.''
Taking his cue from Washington, on Thursday Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, urged the Ukrainian parliament to repeal a 2010 law that codified the country's non-aligned status in order to pursue NATO membership. ''Today it is clear that the nonalignment status of Ukraine proclaimed in 2010 couldn't guarantee our security and territorial integrity,'' he said. ''That's why we've decided to return to the course of NATO integration.''
Poroshenko spoke of ''an intense plan for the next six years, so that the country meets the criteria to join the EU and to join NATO.''
Stoltenberg welcomed the announcement, saying, ''the door is still open'' to Ukraine's membership. Earlier, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius jointly said Russia would not be allowed to dictate that Ukraine stay out NATO.
In addition to Ukraine, Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia, is discussing possible NATO membership.
Russia has repeatedly denounced NATO expansion. Last Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, ''We believe, and we've been talking about it since the very beginning of the current historical period, that the reckless, endless expansion of NATO is a mistake that undermines Europe's stability.''
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It was Rice that kicked out Hagel
Hagel blasts White House Syria strategy in memo to Susan Rice - Washington Times
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:15
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks at the sixth annual ''Washington Ideas Forum'' in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Hagel has approved a recommendation by military leaders that all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response missions in West Africa be kept ... more >Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a highly detailed memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice in early October that blasted the White House's strategy in Syria.
A senior U.S. official told CNN Thursday that Mr. Hagel wrote a blunt assessment of U.S. policy in the region ''expressing concern about overall Syria strategy,'' the network reported. The interview corroborates initial reporting on the existence of the memo by The New York Times.
Mr. Hagel's memo conveyed to Ms. Rice that the U.S. needs ''to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime,'' CNN reported.
U.S. and coalition forces have concentrated efforts to destroy the Islamic State group in recent weeks on the Syrian border town of Kobani. U.S. Central Command said last week it has conducted 135 airstrikes in the area.
''Combined with continued resistance to ISIL on the ground, indications are that these strikes have slowed ISIL advances into the city, killed hundreds of their fighters and destroyed or damaged scores of pieces of ISIL combat equipment and fighting positions,'' Central Command said in a statement released Oct. 23.
On Thursday, a batch of Iraqi peshmerga fighters entered Kobani by crossing through Turkey to assist local Kurds battling Islamic State, The Associated Press reported. Roughly 150 Kurdish troops are expected to join the fight.
Flournoy withdraws from consideration as U.S. defense secretary: sources
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:11
Flournoy withdraws from consideration as U.S. defense secretary: sourcesTop News
Flournoy withdraws from consideration as U.S. defense secretary: sources
Tue, Nov 25 20:21 PM EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Michele Flournoy, a former top U.S. Department of Defense official widely tipped as a possible replacement for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, has taken herself out of consideration for the job, according to multiple sources familiar with the circumstances.
Flournoy, co-founder and chief executive of the Center for a New American Security, wrote to the think tank's board of directors saying she would remain in her post and had asked President Barack Obama to remove her from consideration to head the Pentagon, the sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
One of the sources said Flournoy, whose youngest child is 13, had cited family reasons for her decision.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, Flournoy, who left the Pentagon in 2012, expressed some concern about the way the Obama administration centralized decision-making.
"There's a real choke point," Flournoy said. "There's only so much bandwidth and there's only so much they can handle at one time. So, things start to slow down."
Flournoy would have been the first woman to head the Defense Department if she had been nominated and confirmed in the post. Her decision to drop out of the running was first reported earlier on Tuesday by Foreign Policy magazine.
Hagel announced his resignation on Monday.
Flournoy's decision leaves Ashton Carter, former deputy defense secretary, and the current deputy, Robert Work, as the top potential candidates for the job. Spokespeople for both Carter and Work declined to comment.
Foreign Policy said the White House could also look to Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, to fill the post.
Smith's office declined comment.
Obama is not expected to announce his choice this week.
"The president is considering a number of well qualified candidates however, I don't have any personnel announcements at this time," said a senior admininstration official.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, David Storey, Phil Stewart, Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jim Loney, Peter Cooney and Diane Craft)
Flournoy withdraws from consideration as U.S. defense secretary: sourcesTop News
Flournoy withdraws from consideration as U.S. defense secretary: sources
Tue, Nov 25 20:21 PM EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Michele Flournoy, a former top U.S. Department of Defense official widely tipped as a possible replacement for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, has taken herself out of consideration for the job, according to multiple sources familiar with the circumstances.
Flournoy, co-founder and chief executive of the Center for a New American Security, wrote to the think tank's board of directors saying she would remain in her post and had asked President Barack Obama to remove her from consideration to head the Pentagon, the sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
One of the sources said Flournoy, whose youngest child is 13, had cited family reasons for her decision.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, Flournoy, who left the Pentagon in 2012, expressed some concern about the way the Obama administration centralized decision-making.
"There's a real choke point," Flournoy said. "There's only so much bandwidth and there's only so much they can handle at one time. So, things start to slow down."
Flournoy would have been the first woman to head the Defense Department if she had been nominated and confirmed in the post. Her decision to drop out of the running was first reported earlier on Tuesday by Foreign Policy magazine.
Hagel announced his resignation on Monday.
Flournoy's decision leaves Ashton Carter, former deputy defense secretary, and the current deputy, Robert Work, as the top potential candidates for the job. Spokespeople for both Carter and Work declined to comment.
Foreign Policy said the White House could also look to Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, to fill the post.
Smith's office declined comment.
Obama is not expected to announce his choice this week.
"The president is considering a number of well qualified candidates however, I don't have any personnel announcements at this time," said a senior admininstration official.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, David Storey, Phil Stewart, Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jim Loney, Peter Cooney and Diane Craft)
Hon. Mich¨le Flournoy | Center for a New American Security
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:09
Mich¨le Flournoy is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
She served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. She was the principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations. She led the development of DoD's 2012 Strategic Guidance and represented the Department in dozens of foreign engagements, in the media and before Congress.
Prior to confirmation, Ms. Flournoy co-led President Obama's transition team at DoD.
In January 2007, Ms. Flournoy co-founded CNAS, a non-partisan think tank dedicated to developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security policies. She served as CNAS' President until 2009.
Previously, she was senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for several years and, prior to that, a distinguished research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (NDU).
In the mid-1990s, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy. She has received several awards from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Ms. Flournoy is a member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, the Defense Policy Board, the DCIA's External Advisory Board, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Aspen Strategy Group, and a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She serves on the boards of The Mitre Corporation, Rolls Royce North America, Amida Technology Solutions, The Mission Continues, and CARE, and is a Senior Advisor at the Boston Consulting Group.
Ms. Flournoy earned a bachelor's degree in social studies from Harvard University and a master's degree in international relations from Balliol College, Oxford University, where she was a Newton-Tatum scholar.
Mich¨le Flournoy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:08
Early life and educationEditClinton administrationEditFlournoy served as a political appointee under the Clinton administration in the U.S. Department of Defense, where she was dual-hatted as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy. In that capacity, she was responsible for three policy offices in the Office of the Secretary of Defense:
Flournoy was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 1996, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service in 1998 and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 2000.[6]
Public policy researchEditShe then joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (NDU) as a distinguished research professor, founding and leading NDU's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) working group, which had been chartered by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop intellectual capital in preparation for the Defense Department's upcoming QDR in 2001.
She then moved to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she was a Senior Advisor working on a range of defense policy and international security issues before co-founding the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), to which she was named President, in 2007 with Kurt M. Campbell.[2] Flournoy and CNAS co-founder Kurt Campbell wrote a policy paper called "The Inheritance and the Way Forward" that advocated for a U.S. foreign policy "grounded in a common-sense pragmatism rather than ideology".[2][7]
Obama administrationEditAfter the 2008 presidential election, she was selected as one of the Review Team Leads for the Obama transition at the Department of Defense. On January 8, 2009, President-elect Obama announced that he was nominating her as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, to serve under Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.[8] In his memoirs, Secretary Gates wrote that he had "developed high respect for" Flourney, whom he characterized as "clear-thinking and strong".[9]
On December 12, 2011, Flournoy announced that she would step down in February 2012 to return to private life and contribute to President Barack Obama's re-election bid.[10]
AffiliationsEditShe currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group's Washington, D.C.-based public sector practice, where she advises the consultancy on government projects,[3] and as a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.[4] She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the Atlantic Council,[11] and Women in International Security. She is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the CIA's External Advisory Board.
She is a former member of the guiding coalition of the Project on National Security Reform, the Defense Policy Board, and the Defense Science Board Task Force on Transformation.[12]
Personal lifeEditPublicationsEditIn addition to several edited volumes and reports, Flournoy has authored many articles on international security issues:
"The Inheritance and the Way Forward", with Kurt M. Campbell (Washington, DC: CNAS, June 2007)[2]"Beyond Goldwater-Nichols Phase III Report: The Future of the National Guard and Reserves", with Christine Wormuth, Clark A. Murdock, and Patrick Henry (Washington, DC: CSIS Press, July 2006)"European Defense Integration: Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Capabilities", with David R. Scruggs, Guy Ben-Ari, and Julianne Smith (Washington DC: CSIS Press, October 2005)"Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: Phase II Report", with Clark A. Murdock, Pierre Chao, Anne A. Witkowsky, and Christine E. Wormuth, (Washington, DC: CSIS Press, July 2005)"Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: Defense Reform for a New Strategic Era: Phase I Report", with Clark Murdock, Christopher Williams, and Kurt Campbell, (Washington, DC: CSIS Press, March 2004)Nuclear Weapons After the Cold War: Guidelines for U.S. Policy. Harpercollins College Div. August 1992. p. 314. ISBN 978-0065011289. External linksEditReferencesEdit^"Nominations Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, First Session, 111th Congress"^ abcdefEmily Wax (6 November 2011), "Michele Flournoy, Pentagon's highest-ranking woman, is making her mark on foreign policy", Washington Post, retrieved 8 November 2011 ^ ab"ormer DoD Under Secretary Michele Flournoy Joins BCG as Senior Advisor". Boston Consulting Group. 16 July 2012. ^ ab"Experts: Mich¨le Flournoy". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved 23 March 2014. ^http://fortune.com/2014/11/24/michele-flournoy/^"DefenseLink Biography: Mich¨le Flournoy". U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 2009-07-02. ^Horowitz, Jason (15 August 2007). "Hot Policy Wonks For The Democrats: The New Realists". New York Observer. ^Scott, Ann (December 2, 2008). "Gate's Top Deputies May Leave Tyson". Washington Post. Retrieved December 2, 2008. ^Robert Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. Alfred A. Knopf; (January 14, 2014). ISBN 978-0307959478, Kindle edition location 5150^"Pentagon's Michele Flournoy To Step Down". Washington Post. 2011-12-12. Retrieved 2011-12-17. ^"Board of Directors (last updated March 21, 2014)". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 23 March 2014. ^"SheSource: Mich¨le Flournoy". Women's Media Center. Retrieved 23 March 2014. ^Vogel, Kenneth P. (June 15, 2009). "15 Obama administration power couples". Politico.com. Retrieved 2009-07-02. ^Skelton, Ike (January 15, 2009). "Confirmation Hearing on the Expected Nominations of Ms. Michele Flournoy" (PDF). U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. p. 7. Retrieved 2009-07-02. ^"Michele Flournoy Political Campaign Contributions 2008 Election Cycle". campaignmoney.com. Retrieved December 28, 2012. PersondataNameFlournoy, MicheleAlternative namesShort descriptionAmerican governemnt officialDate of birthDecember 14, 1960Place of birthLos Angeles, CaliforniaDate of deathPlace of death
People | Center for a New American Security
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:19
Gen. John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.)Department of DefenseGen. John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.) Department of DefenseGeneral John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.) is a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Middle East Security. Previously, he commanded the International Security Assistance Force '' Afghanistan and United States Forces '' Afghanistan from July 18, 2011...
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Read MoreHon. Kurt M. CampbellCNAS/The Asia GroupHon. Kurt M. Campbell CNAS/The Asia GroupKurt M. Campbell is Co-Founder and former CEO of the Center for a New American Security and currently serves as Chairman of its Board of Directors. Kurt M. Campbell is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Asia Group, LLC, a strategic...
Read MoreHon. Richard J. DanzigThe RAND CorporationHon. Richard J. Danzig The RAND CorporationRichard Danzig is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of The RAND Corporation, a member of the Defense Policy Board and The President's Intelligence Advisory Board, a Trustee of Reed College, a Director of the Center for a New American Security and...
Read MoreNathaniel C. FickEndgame, Inc.Nathaniel C. Fick Endgame, Inc.Nathaniel C. Fick is the CEO of Endgame, Inc., a venture-backed security intelligence software company. He was CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) from June 2009 to November 2012, Chief Operating Officer of CNAS in 2008-2009 and a...
Read MoreHon. Mich¨le FlournoyChief Executive Officer, CNASHon. Mich¨le Flournoy Chief Executive Officer, CNASMich¨le Flournoy is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). She served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. She was the principal adviser...
Read MoreDavid J. HoganMannheim LLCDavid J. Hogan Mannheim LLCDavid J. Hogan is the non-executive Chairman of Mannheim LLC, a private, international investment company based in New York. Previously, he was the Senior Managing Director of the firm since 2001. Prior to joining Mannheim LLC in 2001, Mr. Hogan had...
Read MoreLinda HudsonThe Cardea GroupLinda Hudson The Cardea GroupLinda Parker Hudson is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of The Cardea Group, a consultancy specializing in C-Suite transitions, organizational transformations and adaptive strategies. She retired as president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc. on January 31...
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Read MoreSenator Joseph I. LiebermanKasowitz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman, LLPSenator Joseph I. Lieberman Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman, LLPNow Senior Counsel at the law firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman in New York, Joseph I. Lieberman was for 24 years a member of the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. At the end of his service in January 2013, he was Chairman of the Homeland...
Read MoreHon. Leo S. Mackay Jr.Lockheed Martin CorporationHon. Leo S. Mackay Jr. Lockheed Martin CorporationLeo Mackay is vice president, and an elected corporate officer, of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Currently, he leads the Office of Ethics and Sustainability, reporting directly to the Chairman and CEO, and to the Ethics & Corporate...
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How General Allen Got Entangled In The Petraeus Scandal
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:25
Nov. 14, 2012, 1:05 PM4,757General John Allen has told associates he became entangled in Petraeus' scandal a few months ago, The Wall Street Journal reports.
He received an anonymous email from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer and mistress, regarding Jill Kelley, the woman who ended up reporting Broadwell's anonymous emails to the FBI, starting the investigation that revealed the Petraeus adultery scandal.
The email to Gen. Allen was later traced to Broadwell by the FBI investigation.
It was written under the pseudonym "KelleyPatrol," and called Kelley a "seductress," warning Gen. Allen against getting involved in a relationship with her, according to a WSJ source.
Gen. Allen then told Kelley that he had received the note about her, and that's the email that investigators are focusing on, according to CBS News.
Gen. Allen is now under investigation for up to 30,000 pages of "potentially inappropriate" emails with Kelley. He is currently the commander in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan, and he denies that he had an inappropriate relationship with Kelley, or that he shared any confidential information.
SEE ALSO: In Her First Anonymous Email, Paula Broadwell Told Jill Kelley To Stop Socializing With Other Generals >
Gen. John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.) | Center for a New American Security
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:16
General John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.) is a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Middle East Security. Previously, he commanded the International Security Assistance Force '' Afghanistan and United States Forces '' Afghanistan from July 18, 2011, to Feb. 10, 2013.
During a 38 year career in the Marine Corps, General Allen served in a variety of command and staff positions in the Marine Corps and the Joint Force. Prior to assuming command of the NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, General Allen commanded at every level in the Marine Corps through Marine Expeditionary Brigade. He served as the G-3 Operations Officer of the 2d Marine Division. He was the Aide de Camp and Military Secretary to the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Contingency and combat operations include Operation Sea Signal during Caribbean contingency operations in 1994, Operation Joint Endeavor during contingency operations in the Balkans in 1995-1996; Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq from 2007-2008, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013.
Beyond his operational credentials, General Allen has also led a number of professional military educational programs including service as the Director, Marine Infantry Officer Program; Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Basic School; and Commandant of Midshipmen, United States Naval Academy.
He has served as the Marine Corps Fellow to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellow, and was the first Marine officer to serve as a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
General Allen's first tour as a general officer was as the Principal Director, Asian and Pacific Affairs, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a position he occupied for nearly three years. From 2006-2008, General Allen served as Deputy Commanding General, II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and Commanding General, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, deploying to combat operations in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006-2008, and serving as the Deputy Commanding General of Multinational Force - West (MNF-W) and II MEF (Forward) in the Al Anbar Province. General Allen served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. Central Command, a position he held from July 2008 - June 2011.
General Allen's command of the 150,000 US and NATO forces in Afghanistan occurred at a particularly critical period in the war. During his command, General Allen recovered the 33,000 U.S. surge forces, moved the Afghan National Security Forces into the lead for combat operations, and pivoted NATO forces from being a conventional combat force into an advisory command. Further, he established the division size Special Operations Joint Task Force. In the process, his forces closed or realigned over 500 bases and facilities. All of these activities were conducted in contact with the enemy and during active combat operations.
Following retirement, and among other activities, General Allen has become a Distinguished Fellow at Brookings, is a member of the Board of Advisors with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is on the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Council. He is a permanent and active member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
General Allen graduated with military honors from the Naval Academy with the class of 1976, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in operations analysis. He is a 1998 distinguished graduate of the National War College. He holds a Master of Arts degree in national security studies from Georgetown University, a Master of Science degree in strategic intelligence from the Defense Intelligence College, and a Master of Science degree in national security strategy from the National War College. He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Strategic Intelligence degree from the National Intelligence University.
Personal decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of his second award; the Defense Superior Service Medal; and the Legion of Merit with three Gold Stars in lieu of four awards.
Foreign awards include the NATO Meritorious Service Medal; the Ghazi Mir Bacha Khan Medal of Afghanistan; the French Legion of Honour; the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic; the Polish Afghanistan Star Award; the Mongolian Meritorious Service Medal, First Class; the Gold Medal of the Polish Armed Forces; and the Taiwan Order of the Resplendent Banner with Special Cravat.
Allen ensnared in Petraeus scandal - POLITICO.com Print View
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:28
Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan, exchanged thousands of ''potentially inappropriate'' emails with Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who claimed to have been harassed by the ex-mistress of former CIA Director DavidPetraeus, a senior defense official told POLITICO early Tuesday.
Allen, 58 and married, was nominated in October by President Barack Obama to be Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of the U.S. European Command. That nomination is now on hold, but Allen will remain commander of U.S. forces and the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the official said.
(PHOTOS: Who's who in the Petraeus scandal)
The FBI notified the Defense Department on Sunday of ''potentially inappropriate communications'' between Allen and Kelley, and turned over to Pentagon lawyers 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails exchanged by the two from 2010 to 2012.
The email web has now ensnared two of the biggest stars of the U.S. national-security establishment, and two of the commanders in America's longest war. Allen succeeded Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan in July 2011. Before that, Allen had been based in Tampa as deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command.
(Also on POLITICO: 10 facts about Jill Kelley)
From late 2008 until mid-2010, Allen was deputy commander at CENTCOM while Petraeus was commander.
Kelley, 37, who had complained of threatening emails from Petraeus biographer PaulaBroadwell, has been described as a Tampa socialite and friend of Petraeus who was viewed by Broadwell as a potential romantic rival.
(PHOTOS: General David Petraeus's career)
Kelley's complaint to an FBI agent about the emails touched off the investigation that led to the resignation of Petraeus, 60, on Friday.
Allen holds one of the highest profile and most sensitive positions in the military, consulting with President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the U.S. prepares to transition control of the country's security to Afghans. The U.S. has about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, and the total NATO force numbers about 100,000.
(Also on POLITICO: Petraeus could lose security clearance)
Panetta, now on an Asia-Pacific swing, was flying from Hawaii on Sunday when the FBI contacted his general counsel, who was aboard the plane, about the emails at about 5 p.m. ET Sunday. The secretary's senior advisers immediately told him of the call, and the White House was also notified, the official said.
''Preliminary review of the documents raised enough concerns about inappropriate communications that the prudent step was to initiate an investigation,'' the official said. ''General Allen has disputed any wrongdoing in this matter. The department's very strong intention is that he receive a fair hearing. He will remain commander of ISAF while we look at this matter further.''
Panetta asked that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, be notified, and Pentagon lawyers began reviewing the emails provided by the FBI. Around noon Monday, the matter was referred to the department's inspector general, and a delay was sought in the nomination.
(Also on POLITICO: Ret. Gen.: Allen's 'bizarre' behavior)
Allen's confirmation hearing for Supreme Allied Commander had been set for Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Allen, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1976, is based in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, but is currently in Washington, where he was preparing for the hearing, the official said.
The department disclosed the investigation to the press as Panetta flew from Honolulu to Perth, Australia, for a defense summit.
(Also on POLITICO: Petraeus affair timeline of events)
Officials expect that Allen will return to lead the fight, the official told POLITICO.
''Just because there are allegations out there doesn't mean you pull a commander,'' the official said. ''The picture hasn't been filled in. We believe that it's prudent for the war effort to maintain his leadership while this matter is being reviewed. If we learn new information that causes us to adjust course, we will.''
(Also on POLITICO: Petraeus, Broadwell's email secret)
On Monday evening, the Pentagon disclosed the investigation to Senate Armed Service Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and other members of the committee, and the House Armed Services Committee, with the Senate calls complete by 10:15 p.m. and the House calls complete by 11 p.m.
When Allen was nominated in October, Obama said in a written statement: ''I have personally relied on his counsel and am grateful for his devotion to our national security and to the safety of the men and women with whom he serves. Under General Allen's command, we have made important progress towards our core goal of defeating Al Qaeda and ensuring they can never return to a sovereign Afghanistan.''
(See also: Complete coverage of David Petraeus)
At the same time, Gen. Joseph Dunford was nominated to succeed Allen as ISAF commander. Dunford is currently the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. His confirmation hearing was set for the same time as Allen's '-- Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Allen, who has been commander in Afghanistan since July 2011, was to replace Adm. Jim Stavridis in the spring.
General Allen Involved with Woman Who Was Considered a Love Rival by Ex-Mistress of General Petraeus? | National Review Online
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:38
Bizarre. The plot thickens. From Mike Allen on Politico:
Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan, exchanged thousands of ''potentially inappropriate'' emails with Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who claimed to have been harassed by the ex-mistress of former CIA Director David Petraeus, a senior defense official told POLITICO early Tuesday.
Allen, 58 and married, was nominated in October by President Barack Obama to be Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of the U.S. European Command. That nomination is now on hold, but Allen will remain commander of U.S. forces and the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, the official said.
The FBI notified the Defense Department on Sunday of ''potentially inappropriate communications'' between Allen and Kelley, and turned over to Pentagon lawyers 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails exchanged by the two from 2010 to 2012.
The email web has now ensnared two of the biggest stars of the U.S. national-security establishment, and two of the commanders in America's longest war. Allen succeeded Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan in July 2011. Before that, Allen had been based in Tampa as deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command.
From late 2008 until mid-2010, Allen was deputy commander at CENTCOM while Petraeus was commander.
Kelley, 37, who had complained of threatening emails from Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell, has been described as a Tampa socialite and friend of Petraeus who was viewed by Broadwell as a potential romantic rival.
Kelley's complaint to an FBI agent about the emails touched off the investigation that led to the resignation of Petraeus, 60, on Friday.
Islamists Exploit Ferguson Riots to Promote 'Resistance' in U.S. | Clarion Project
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 00:19
While CAIR officials encourage 'resistance,' ISIS is urging rioters to murder and behead police and political figures.
The Islamic State (known by the acronyms of IS, ISIS or ISIL) is exploiting the ongoingviolence in Ferguson, Missouri over a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer for shooting and killing an 18-year old African-American.
The Islamic State members are taking to social media to encourage encouraging rioters to murder and behead police and political figures. One high-profile Islamic State operative said the group would send fighters to Ferguson if the rioters pledge allegiance to its caliph. In a hand-written note, the operative said:
''We hear you and we will help you if you accept Islam and reject corrupt man-made laws like democracy and pledge your allegiance to Caliph Abu Bakr'... and then we will shed our blood for you, and send you soldiers that don't sleep, whose drink is blood and their play is carnage!''
Many of the tweets by the Islamic State supporters and members describe the shooting death of Michael Brown as a terrorist attack and equate the police officers to U.S. and Israeli military forces. The objective is to make the rioters identify with jihadists as if their struggles are one in spite of religious differences.
The Islamic State is aggressively using hashtags related to the Ferguson crisis and arguing that the instability is proof that the U.S. and democracies overall are inherently oppressive. Sharia governance is advertised as a superior system where blacks will not be victimized by racism.
The Islamic State is also trying to reach this audience by citing instances of anti-Muslim and anti-black bigotry and responding with bigotry of their own against whites. The KKK's involvement and approval of violence in Ferguson, for example, plays right into the hands of the Islamic State.
Below are some of the tweets:
One tweet about Ferguson mocked the U.S. proposal to arm moderate Syrian rebels against the Islamic State:
One even featured Mr. Burns from ''The Simpsons'' cartoon television show:
American Islamists Incorporate Ferguson Into Their Narrative
Other Islamist groups are also exploiting the mayhem in Ferguson to advance their adversarial views of the U.S. government and police.
Most frighteningly, he reportedly told African-Americans to rise up against the U.S. government as the Palestinians have risen up against Israel. In August, he justified the terrorism of Hamas against Israel and compared it to the struggle of blacks in America.
In front of 2,000 attendees in Maryland, Farrakhan happily proclaimed, ''They know an explosion is going to come.'' The reaction was not shock or a worried silence. It was cheers.
Islamists with softer tones like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are also using the Ferguson situation to increase their influence.
CAIR was recently designated as a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. Justice Department listed it as an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee; a secret body established to support Hamas. In addition, CAIR was labeled an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity, the Holy Land Foundation, for financing Hamas. It was the largest terror-funding trial in U.S. history.
Zahra Billoo, the director of CAIR's San Francisco Bay Area chapter, is citing the grand jury's decision against indicting Officer Darren Wilson as part of a ''tyranny'' that must be challenged with ''resistance.''
One of Billoo's messages is that American police raids against criminal suspects are equivalent to U.S. military raids on overseas terrorists; both being equally deplorable.
The Ferguson crisis must be understood as the product of a mindset that views the U.S. government and law enforcement as so predatory that violence or even revolution is justifiable. Islamist activism contributes to this destructive view.
The Islamists create an environment of exaggerated victimhood where it is believed that innocent Muslims are being systematically targeted by a U.S. government ''war on Islam.''
Shibly is leading CAIR's campaign to stop FBI meetings with mosque leaders to ask for counter-terrorism information, claiming that the FBI has nefarious intentions. The FBI says it is part of ''normal outreach'' done with various communities.
Islamic extremism doesn't just promote Islamic violence and hostile views. Its anti-American themes can do the same among non-Muslims too.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.
Where has Micky been, exactly, and for whom is she making pancakes?Pancakes for jihadists: ISIS shares new online cooking tips
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 05:03
Published time: November 29, 2014 01:27Edited time: November 29, 2014 03:57Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
An Islamic State-run campaign targeting women has released its second recipe online, explaining how to keep jihadists happy and fulfilled by making pancakes after a day of fighting.
Al-Zawra is an online propaganda campaign that was launched in October. It aims to convert women to the cause of the Islamic State (IS, ISIS) by defining their role in day-to-day jihadist life.
The campaign embraces various media platforms '' including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube '' to get its message across.
ISIS is presenting the campaign as an institute for women, designed to ''prepare sisters for the battlefields for jihad'' and to support Islamic State fighters, Vocativ cited the group's mission statement as saying.
The latest update from Al-Zawra published a step-by-step method of preparing jihadist-style pancakes. The precise instructions are accompanied by pictures.
The ingredients include: one egg, four tablespoons of sugar, one tablespoon of oil, 4 teaspoons of salt, one cup of milk, and one cup of flour.
The recipe is quite strict in terms of how to serve the dish, specifying that it goes with honey and can be eaten for breakfast or dinner.
Earlier in November, Al-Zawra published its first ever recipe for women attending to jihadist men who are fighting in Syria and Iraq: ''balls of date mush.''
Aside from publishing recipes, the campaign teaches women how to sew and stay fit. It also urges the importance of cooking. ''You are going to cook for Allah's soldiers,'' Al-Zawra said.
The campaign has proved somewhat successful. In October, the FBI confirmed that three American teenage girls had allegedly attempted to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State. They were discovered in Frankfurt, Germany after their parents reported them missing.
''FBI Denver Division is aware of the situation and assisted with bringing the individuals back to Denver,'' the International Business Times quoted a spokeswoman for the FBI, Suzie Payne, as saying. ''The juveniles are safe and reunited with their families.''
ISIS Launches Attack On Syria's Kobani From Turkey: Activists
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 01:14
Turkish soldiers are seen at the Turkey - Syria borderline in the Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey as smoke rises in Kobani (Ayn Al-Arab) city of Syria during clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and armed troops on November 29, 2014. (Orhan Cicek/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
BEIRUT (AP) '-- The Islamic State group launched an attack Saturday on the Syrian border town of Kobani from Turkey, a Kurdish official and activists said, although Turkey denied that the fighters had used its territory for the raid.
The assault began when a suicide bomber driving an armored vehicle detonated his explosives on the border crossing between Kobani and Turkey, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria's powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party.
The Islamic State group "used to attack the town from three sides," Khalil said. "Today, they are attacking from four sides."
Turkey, while previously backing the Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad in that country's civil war, has been hesitant to aid them in Kobani because it fears that could stoke Kurdish ambitions for an independent state.
A Turkish government statement on Saturday confirmed that one of the suicide attacks involved a bomb-loaded vehicle that detonated on the Syrian side of the border. But it denied that the vehicle had crossed into Kobani through Turkey, which would be a first for the extremist fighters.
"Claims that the vehicle reached the border gate by crossing through Turkish soil are a lie," read the statement released from the government press office at the border town of Suruc. "Contrary to certain claims, no Turkish official has made any statement claiming that the bomb-loaded vehicle had crossed in from Turkey."
"The security forces who are on alert in the border region have ... taken all necessary measures," the statement continued.
Associated Press journalists saw thick black smoke rise over Kobani during the attack. The sound of heavy gunfire echoed through the surrounding hills as armored vehicles took up positions on the border. The Observatory said heavy fighting also took place southwest of the town where the Islamic State group brought in tanks to reinforce their fighters.
Video from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights purporting to show ISIS militants firing from inside Turkish territory:
Mustafa Bali, a Kobani-based activist, said by telephone that Islamic State group fighters have taken positions in the grain silos on the Turkish side of the border and from there are launching attacks toward the border crossing point. He added that the U.S.-led coalition launched an airstrike Saturday morning on the eastern side of the town.
"It is now clear that Turkey is openly cooperating with Daesh," Bali said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. Later in the day, he said the situation was relatively calm on the border after a day of heavy clashes.
The Islamic State group claimed three suicide attacks in Kobani's border crossing point, the SITE Intelligence Group reported. The group, quoting Twitter accounts linked to the militants, said the suicide attacks were carried out by a Saudi and a Turkmen, adding that one of them was driving a Humvee.
The Islamic State group began its Kobani offensive in mid-September, capturing parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages. The town later became the focus of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition against the militants.
Kurdish fighters slowly have been advancing in Kobani since late October, when dozens of well-armed Iraqi peshmerga fighters joined fellow Syrian Kurds in the battles. The fighting has killed hundreds of fighters on both sides over the past two months.
The Observatory said Saturday the latest fighting killed at least eight Kurdish fighters and 17 jihadis.
Syria's Foreign Minister said in a television interview aired Friday night that the U.S.-led coalition's weeks of airstrikes against militants in Syria had not weakened the Islamic State group. Washington and the U.N. Security Council "should force Turkey to tighten control" of its border in order to help defeat militants, he added.
"Is Daesh today, after two months of coalition airstrikes, weaker? All indications show that it is not weaker," al-Moallem told Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV.
The Islamic State group has declared a self-styled Islamic caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, governing it according to its violent interpretation of Shariah law. The group has carried out mass killings targeting government security forces, ethnic minorities and others against it.Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey.
2014 FPI Forum |-KIRKUK AGAIN- Foreign Policy Initiative
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 04:12
Presented by
Wednesday, December 3rd
9:00 AM - 5:00 PMThe Newseum555 Pennsylvania Avenue, NWWashington, D.C. 20001
The 2014 Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) Forum will be held at the Newseum in Washington, DC on Wednesday, December 3rd. This year's conference, "A World In Crisis: The Need for American Leadership," will make the case for robust U.S. engagement in response to a range of foreign policy crises. The conference agenda with confirmed speakers is below.
To join the conversation on Twitter, use #FPIForum and follow @ForeignPolicyI.
Conference Agenda
8:00 AM Breakfast and Registration
9:00 AM "Stopping Iran's Nuclear Ambitions"
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Incoming Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Fred Hiatt, Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Post (Moderator)
9:30 AM "National Security Leadership in a New Congress"
Senator-Elect Tom Cotton (R-AR), Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Dr. William Kristol, Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative (Moderator)
10:30 AM "Providing for the Common Defense"
Ambassador Eric S. Edelman, Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative
Representative Jim Marshall (D-GA), Member, National Defense Panel
11:45 AM "Restoring American Leadership"
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Incoming Chair, Senate Armed Services Committee
Dr. Robert Kagan, Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative (Moderator)
12:30 PM Lunch
1:00 PM "The Middle East in Chaos"
Ambassador Robert S. Ford, Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria
Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
Dr. Kimberly Kagan, President, Institute for the Study of War
2:00 PM "Putin's Challenge to the West"
Myroslava Gongadze, TV Anchor and Journalist, Voice of America Ukrainian Service
David J. Kramer, Senior Director for Human Rights and Human Freedom, McCain Institute
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3:00 PM "America in a Changing World"
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4:00 PM "Rebuilding the American Defense Consensus"
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Agenda 21
Planet Already on 'Unavoidable Course to Warming': World Bank Report - PRN.fm - PRN.fm
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 16:44
''Even very ambitious mitigation'' can't change the fact that the world has already ''locked in'' mid-century warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, a new report from the World Bank Group finds.
This warming brings increased threats to food and water security and jeopardizes poverty-reduction efforts, the study states.
It ''confirms what scientists have been saying'--past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the world's poorest and most vulnerable people the most,'' stated Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.
Titled Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal (pdf), the report looks at how the regions of Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa will be impacted by more frequent weather extremes including heatwaves and drought. These extremes will be the ''new climate normal,'' the report states.
It marks the third in a series of reports commissioned by the World Bank Group from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics.
The findings of the new report, the World Bank writes in its foreword, ''are alarming.''
With a 2°C rise'--which the planet is on track to hit by mid-century'--Brazil's soybean yield could decrease up to 70 percent, while melting glaciers will threaten cities in the region. Melting glaciers threaten Central Asia with torrential flooding as well. Thawing of permafrost in northern Russia threatens to unleash stored methane, contributing to a climate feedback loop. In the Middle East and North Africa, increased overall temperatures and more frequent heatwaves threaten already scarce water resources, a fact that could contribute to further conflict.
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Tags: Balkans, Central Asia, Climate Analytics, global warming, Greenhouse gas, Jim Yong Kim, MENA, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, World Bank, World Bank GroupComments are closed.
Organization '-- PIK Research Portal
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 17:32
Please click on the chart
PIK was founded in 1992 and is a non-profit organization. The constitutional organs are the General Meeting, the Board of Trustees, the Management Board and the Scientific Advisory Board. PIK currently has around 330 employees.
PIK is a member of the Leibniz Association and is funded to a roughly equal extent by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal State of Brandenburg. In 2013, the institute received around 14.6 million euros in institutional funding. Additional project funding from external sources amounted to around 13.2 million euros.
Research at PIK is organized in four interdisciplinary Research Domains. The Executive Staff, Administration and IT-Services support the scientific activities.
Research Domains:
Earth System AnalysisClimate Impacts & VulnerabilitiesSustainable SolutionsTransdisciplinary Concepts & Methods
I quit: Miseries of an Uber driver - Salon.com
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:28
Uber just lost a really good driver.
As a mom who had stopped working to raise my child, I decided to try driving for Uber part-time, for flexibility and some extra cash. I am a native English speaker who grew up in my major metropolitan area (San Francisco Bay Area), and these are two big advantages for a driver. Having actually lived and worked from San Jose to Marin, I know how to get from point A to point B without maps or a GPS, and I do not have to use Uber's incredibly bad and misleading GPS, which comes with its driver app. I also have a brand-new Prius and don't mind keeping it clean.
It took Uber two months to complete my required background check and to ''process'' my driver's license, proof of insurance and a $20 car inspection. It took many weeks for Uber to mail me its iPhone 4 (loaded with its app). I could not begin driving without it '-- or possibly, I could have used my own iPhone 5, but they didn't mention that, because they wanted to charge me $10 per week for their iPhone 4. The minute I found out I could be using my own phone, I sent theirs back, but not before they had deducted $30 for ''phone rental.''
As a former software developer, I was interested to see how the apps work together to get the closest driver to the rider as fast as possible. The first thing I found out was that Uber's software sometimes wildly underestimates the number of minutes it takes to reach a rider. The driver has 10 seconds (and sometimes less) to accept a request, which shows the number of minutes to reach the rider. If you accept the request, you see the address of the rider. About half the time, the number of minutes estimated is substantially less than the real time it will take.
Let me give you an example. I received a request indicating it would take ''three minutes'' to reach a rider. I was in downtown Oakland and the rider was north of the Berkeley campus. With stoplights and traffic I knew it would take 15-20 minutes to reach the rider. As I began driving, I phoned the rider and gave him my ETA. He canceled to try again for a closer driver '' and I don't blame him.
This happened to me over and over again that night. At one point, I was on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, and I kept getting ride requests ''three minutes'' away '' that is, three minutes away from Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley. Could it be possible that Uber's GPS software does not use map coordinates to calculate distance? It certainly seemed to be true, considering that this same error happened all night, until I finally logged off in order not to get ''dinged'' for too many cancellations.
Having accepted a rider, the driver has no idea of the destination. The rider(s) get in, and tell you where they're going. I often had four riders at a time. Many times, I drove two miles to pick up four college kids and drive them six blocks to a different pub. This was a typical experience in my college town. That's a money-losing ride.
If you accept each ride request sent to you, you will end up a long way from home. You must then go ''offline'' and drive home. This is standard taxi driving '' but for less money.
I didn't want to do this job full-time. Hourly rate is what mattered to me. Uber kept me very busy, but the software malfunctioned at least 50 percent of the time, leading to cancellations when I let the rider know the real ETA. Uber has lots of hidden charges and fees. However, since I was driving during ''surge'' hours, with back-to-back riders, my hourly rate should reflect the best hourly rate one can earn, driving for Uber. Bottom line: After subtracting all their charges and fees '-- plus Uber's 20 percent '-- driving for Uber during surge pricing, with a constant flow of riders, pays less than $10 per hour. Then you must deduct insurance, fuel, maintenance and taxes. At least for me, driving for Uber is not worth it. And that's a shame. Because I know the area, speak English and communicate professionally with riders. But I also demand closer to $15 per hour.
Also, considering the company's huge profits, Uber owes it to the little guys doing their driving to provide much better software, real-time accurate time estimates, and a usable GPS for drivers who don't have one in their car. To initiate a call to the rider, you now have to dial a number. This should not be necessary. The driver app should have a button for ''call rider.'' Drivers should not have the option to text a rider while driving! They have one now.
It's physically painful to read about Uber's ridiculously high earnings. They charge less than taxis for the same service, then deduct their 20 percent before paying their drivers. The driver assumes the expense of insurance, fuel and maintenance. I can only assume the other drivers have not done the math. This business model could work, and the quality of drivers would be much better, if Uber reduced its percentage of the take to 10 percent. That will only happen when enough drivers do as I have done '-- and quit.
I only tried using Uber as a rider once. I had to get to a local hospital for minor eye surgery, but I was not supposed to drive myself home. My first Uber request resulted in an estimated ''nine minute'' wait. After waiting 20 minutes, I called the driver, who did not speak any version of English I am familiar with. He claimed to be relatively near my house but was unable to tell me how he was going to get there. I canceled and tried again. This time I got a young woman who also apparently didn't speak English well. After waiting, again, I called her too. Asking where she was, I was given two wildly different answers, in quick succession. Nonetheless, I asked her if, from her current location, she knew how to reach my address. She admitted she had no idea. Her lack of ability to understand me made it impossible to give directions. Neither of these drivers called to let me know they weren't coming, or to ask how to get to my location. I drove myself.
The Crowdsourcing Scam - The Baffler
Thu, 27 Nov 2014 12:00
In 1968 a Norwegian science fiction writer named Tor …ge Bringsv...rd published a peculiar short story called ''Codemus.'' The story has achieved the kind of retrospectively prophetic quality that makes sci-fi such a useful imaginative map for navigating our relationship with technology. (It also happens to be a good story, clever and light on its feet in its portrayal of a looming techno-fascism.) Bringsv...rd's tale is about a thirty-eight-year-old man named Codemus who lives in a thoroughly automated society. ''In the efficient society everything goes as planned,'' goes one of the story's mantras. ''In the efficient society everything goes the way it should.''
''Codemus'' is set sometime in the fifth decade of the twenty-first century, and its manically efficient society displays the kind of sterilized exactitude that we might associate with sci-fi's New Wave period, when writers were less focused on space travel and ray guns than on questions of politics and personal freedom. A worldwide computer network, much like the Internet, provides information freely, although people have access only to end-user terminals (here Bringsv...rd seems to have envisioned a version of the cloud). Everyone has been equipped with a ''little brother'''--a digital assistant that we might recognize as a smartphone, right down to its sinister double-duty as a tracking device. Little brothers wake their owners up, tell them when to go to work, guide them on their commutes, and bring them home. They are at once companions, fonts of information, communication tools (everyone talks on them while walking in public), and draconian taskmasters hiding behind the scrim of technological sophistication and awesome computing power. To disobey one's little brother is to violate a central directive of this efficient society.
Codemus always follows his little brother's commands, but one day, the gadget decides to rebel. Little Brother (Codemus refers to his affectionately, affording him the dignity of capital letters) fails to wake up Codemus for work. Little Brother later decides to take Codemus, who is still under the spell of his machine, out to the park. Not much happens; they bask in the sun and try to start up a conversation with a park employee, who is immediately spooked. This mild encounter represents a grave offense on a day when park visits aren't scheduled. Soon Codemus is a fugitive, pursued by police and bloodhounds through the city's monorail system. Shadowed by the authorities at every stop, Little Brother demands that Codemus leave him behind. ''They've got a fix on me, naturally,'' Little Brother says, presaging an era when communication and surveillance would become synchronized processes. ''I'm leaving a regular wake of radio waves behind us.''
Codemus doesn't want to abandon his gadget-cum-companion, but eventually he acquiesces and dumps Little Brother. Soon fear, confusion, and emptiness take hold. Codemus has no idea who he is or what he's supposed to do. ''A human is a social entity,'' goes another of the story's aphoristic mantras, and Codemus is now alone. He is utterly, metaphysically lost. He decides to give himself up and falls into the arms of his pursuers. The story ends with Codemus ''led back to the flock,'' given a new little brother, and returned to the cool embrace of the efficient society. His purpose, such as it is, is restored.
We may not live in the dystopian society forecast by Bringsv...rd, but many of its elements are recognizable in ours. The smartphone has become the universal prosthetic. Its widespread adoption has helped create a surveillance climate in which everyone is his own little brother and everyone may be tracked at all times. Indeed, Codemus's world resembles nothing so much as the handiwork of the visionary engineers at Google. There's the same trademark ethos of all-consuming paternalism, the same seamless use of cloud computing and data collection as a bastion of social order, the same embrace of efficiency as a supreme value. There's even the same promotion of automated transport free of human interference. Little Brother is like a hopped-up version of Google Now, the search giant's personal assistant that spends all day rifling through your data, reminding you when you have meetings, when you should leave for your next appointment, how you should get there, what news might interest you, and so on ad infinitum.
Let's step back for a moment'--or rather, float upward a bit, and imagine a bird's-eye view of this society, one in which harried workers are sent to and fro by way of commands conveyed to them through personal computing devices. They don't know why they are doing these things, nor what sort of calculus informs all their data-charged activity. But still they follow the commands, which come with the computer's imprimatur of mathematical precision and authority. They move between tasks with all the attention and care of worker bees; accomplishing the job without hesitation is all that matters. They live and work in conditions of closely choreographed banality.
From this vantage, the efficient society that terrorizes and comforts Codemus, and enfolds him in the straitjacket of a diffused, technologized fascism, resembles the experience of many workers today. Increasing numbers of people receive their instructions from, and report back to, software and smartphones. Whether operating a bin selector in an Amazon warehouse or freelancing from a coffee shop, many Americans work long days without having contact with other human beings'--neither coworkers nor supervisors. (There are no subordinates for this class of workers.) Everything they do is tracked, because efficiency is the sine qua non. Some of them work for online labor markets like Elance, oDesk, and Amazon's Mechanical Turk, which offer micro-jobs that can be done remotely, with little to no training. They complete surveys, tag photos, and transcribe interviews, for pay of a few dollars per hour or at a piecework rate of little more than a few cents per task. Occasionally, a job requires someone to go out into the physical world to confirm that a restaurant is still open or to photograph a store display so that the multinational company paying for it knows that it (and thousands of other displays like it, scattered around the country or the world) is set up properly.
The greatest deception of crowdsourcing is the notion that there is a crowd at all.
These labor markets depend on a kind of internalized offshoring. By fine-tuning an increasingly unstable employment regime'--part of a countrywide ''jobless recovery'''--companies can focus on retaining and fairly compensating highly skilled (and highly sought after) employees, such as engineers, lawyers, programmers, doctors, and scientists. Meanwhile, less complicated work can be either farmed out to low-wage freelance and temporary workers or subdivided into smaller and smaller units of work, which are then widely distributed through a cloud-based labor market. The result is an extreme form of Taylorism: in boom conditions, workers have more tiny tasks than they can say yes to, but they acquire no skills, they learn nothing about the product or service to which they are contributing, they have no contact with other workers, and they have no chance to advance or unionize. They simply do the task offered to them, for a very low fee, and move on as quickly as possible. Imagine a factory in which each employee wears blinders and can see only the thing in front of him on the conveyor belt. An algorithm acts as the overseer, and this boss doesn't miss a thing. (If you work for Gigwalk, for example, and don't respond to a message within thirty minutes, the app may lower your rating in its system, decreasing your chances of getting more work.)
The software facilitating this transaction acts as the ultimate mediator; the employee and the employer never have to deal with one another directly. Payment can be unreliable and is wholly contingent on the employer accepting the laborer's product. If the former doesn't like what he receives, he can simply reject it and not pay the worker for his time. Contract employees have no chance, in this setup, to appeal or to revise their work.
Silicon Valley calls this arrangement ''crowdsourcing,'' a label that's been extended to include contests, online volunteerism, fundraising, and more. Crowdsourced work is supposed to be a new, more casual, and more liberating form of work, but it is anything but. When companies use the word ''crowdsourcing'''--a coinage that suggests voluntary democratic participation'--they are performing a neat ideological inversion. The kind of tentative employment that we might have scoffed at a decade or two ago, in which individuals provide intellectual labor to a corporation for free or for sub-market wages, has been gussied up with the trappings of technological sophistication, populist appeal, and, in rare cases, the possibility of viral fame. But in reality, this labor regime is just another variation on the age-old practice of exploiting ordinary workers and restructuring industrial relations to benefit large corporations and owners of the platforms serving them. The lies and rhetorical obfuscations of crowdsourcing have helped tech companies devalue work, and a long-term, reasonably secure, decently paying job has increasingly become a MacGuffin'--something we ardently chase after but will likely never capture, since it's there only to distract us from the main action of the script.
Brother, Can You Spare a Cycle?
No bad big idea achieves its full cultural potential without first being sacralized by Wired magazine. Crowdsourcing is no different. In June 2006 the tech industry's bible ran a story called ''The Rise of Crowdsourcing'' (the cover headline was more typically hyperbolic: ''A Billion Amateurs Want Your Job''). ''The new pool of cheap labor,'' the article's writer, Jeff Howe, explained, is ''everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R&D.''
The casual characterization of human beings as something like modular computer components, complete with their ''spare cycles,'' was a revealing tic, one that has gone on to mark much of the subsequent popular literature on crowdsourcing. In this field, humans are required only so long as they complete the minimum amount of work that cannot be done by software. Even if they are replacing highly paid and skilled human beings, they are still treated like vestigial parts of a machine. As a driver for UberX'--a vast, imperious experiment in crowdsourcing amateur drivers to replace cabbies, with their thorny regulations and job security'--told Re/code as part of a complaint about Uber's company policies, ''We have become the functional end of the app.''
And that's the ugly, dystopian truth at the heart of the networked digital economy: crowdsourced workers are expected to work seamlessly with software, following its commands. Software has replaced corporate bureaucracy as the inscrutable taskmaster. It's become practically a legal entity unto itself. Millions of dollars in potential tort awards now depend on if and how Uber drivers are interacting with the app when they get into traffic accidents, run over pedestrians, or assault passengers. In March Uber announced new limited insurance coverage for UberX drivers, but the company continues to downplay its liabilities. After all, it's not even a transportation or taxi firm but a ''transportation network company'' or, as it's also been referred to, a ''peer-to-peer ride-sharing service.'' Uber engineers just make the app; what happens to people using it is of little concern to them.
This combination of treating humans like machines and recasting work as something different'--something casual, informal, and frivolously fun'--is a perennial selling point for the digital world's army of crowdsourcing consultants. At the same time, it's an all-too-obvious horror show for anyone still clinging to any critical detachment from the booster-mad tech scene. ''Distributed labor networks are using the Internet to exploit the spare processing power of millions of human brains,'' Howe explained, as if people are just waiting for corporations to call up and ask if they have any extra neurons available. The corollary is that people shouldn't expect much for donating these spare cycles, but corporations can profit tremendously.
What emerges from Howe's article'--which, perhaps inevitably, resulted in a book-length treatment, Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business'--is the sense that crowdsourcing is indeed a good way to extract labor from masses of people at very low cost. Whether that labor will be done ethically or produce good work are other matters. ''Crowdsourcing sites are not communities from which good ideas and products spring,'' scholar Daren C. Brabham wrote in a study of iStockphoto, the micropayment platform that decimated the market for many professional photographers by offering up user-submitted stock photography at bottom-of-the-barrel rates. This is likely true, but companies that turn to crowdsourcing benefit from high margins'--TV shows that make use of clips submitted by viewers, from America's Funniest Home Videos to more recent programs on VH1 and Comedy Central, are incredibly cheap to produce'--and highly advantageous economies of scale. If thousands of people are submitting ideas to you for free, some of them are bound to be good, or at the very least useful. And it's much cheaper to have a couple of interns sorting through submissions for T-shirt ideas than it is to pay professional artists to do the design.
That's why corporate America has also used crowdsourcing for more rarified work. Take InnoCentive, a platform on which companies like Eli Lilly and DuPont post complex problems for the public to solve'--how to improve art restoration, say, or to inject fluoride into toothpaste tubes. Winning solutions may earn tens of thousands of dollars in rewards'--a hefty amount, sure, but pennies compared to what these companies usually spend on research and development. In the process, a few garage tinkerers might make off pretty well, while Boeing or Procter & Gamble can slash its R&D department and harvest ideas from people who will never be in a position to sue them for infringement of intellectual property rights or to go work for a competitor.
These benefits haven't been lost on the Fortune 500, which has taken to crowdsourcing and similar efforts in the same way it has to social media. Both technological platforms allow companies to interact directly with customers and to offer the impression that they are something other than impersonal, profit-driven monoliths beholden only to their shareholders. By running contests soliciting ads for major media events, brands like Doritos and Dove can save on their advertising budgets while also earning good press for appearing to be open to contributions from the public. The winning entries then are cast as meritocratic victories of amateur creativity rather than low-cost replacements for the professional ad campaigns for which agencies (their questionable taste aside) charge millions.
One might, in jaundiced fashion, nonetheless regard the crowdsourced life as yet another flourish of self-inflicted market idolatry on the part of the digerati'--if not a natural-selection mechanism for the guileless amateurs who would have rolled over in similar fashion if they'd been graced with a cubicle in a Silicon Valley coding farm. But that's just the problem: crowdsourcing has burrowed its way into all realms of life, most notably into government, philanthropy, higher education, and other sectors from which one might, in more confident chapters in our political economy's development, expect some countervailing force against the land rush for free labor and opportunistic pseudo-populism. Instead, throughout the public sector as well as in the corporatized sanctums of the market, workers are urged to collaborate in their own systematic casualization and deskilling, all in the name of libertarian emancipation.
Uber Alles
A confluence of conditions has allowed crowdsourcing to thrive: the advent of highly distributed, mobile computing; the steadily blurring distinctions between work and play; an efficiency fetish in which all possible work must be captured and put towards productive ends; and a sense that technology is inherently empowering and beneficent.
The field also couldn't exist without a generalized sense that liberal institutions are either in disarray or not up to tackling twenty-first century problems. In the crowdsourcing world, these challenges are inevitably cast as confusing, complicated, and amenable to technological fixes that politics or social movements can't provide. And yet every crowdsourced appeal on GoFundMe or GiveForward for someone's medical care'--whether an impoverished artist or a victim of a mass shooting'--is itself an outrage. These appeals are much more than the online equivalent of a charity bake sale. Spontaneous and virtuous outbursts of public generosity, for all the genuine good they can achieve for individual petitioners, are nonetheless powerful indictments of the public's myopia, for no one should ever have to start a fundraiser to afford medical care. We're willing to click ''donate'' to give $20 to someone in a time of dramatized suffering'--it makes us feel good; we can share our involvement on social media; we feel a genuine longing to help someone in need'--but are unable to mount the kind of sustained campaign needed to procure healthcare for everyone. And with every heartwarming story of a crowdfunding goal achieved (complete with the platform taking its cut), the case for systemic reform suffers.[*]
From healthcare to defense, the call for the private sector to usurp the responsibilities of government always beckons. Take the example of the increasingly militarized United States''Mexico border. After pouring a billion dollars into SBInet, the so-called ''virtual'' border fence designed by Boeing, the Department of Homeland Security abandoned the project in 2011. Steve Smith, a member of the Arizona State Legislature, shepherded into law a bill to crowdfund the fence, along with a state-sanctioned website, buildtheborderfence.com. Three years later Smith's project was dead, having raised only $264,000'--far less than the federal government's $2.8 million estimated price tag for one mile of fencing. Even with Smith's plan to use convict labor, the $264k haul was not enough to do anything, and the funds, which were reportedly solicited from corporations and private citizens alike, remain stuck in a state account. The irony of this debacle is practically recursive: here was a failed campaign to make up for the failure of the government to build a fence that, even if it had worked, represented a solution to a nonproblem'--that of dangerous illegals taking away American jobs and bringing drugs and terrorism in their wake.
An app's terms of service agreement is the closest thing we have to an employment contract.
Yet the libertarian excitement for crowdsourcing endures, founded in the misguided belief that once power is arrogated away from doddering governmental institutions, it will somehow find itself in the hands of ordinary people. In one typical effusion of libertarian magical thinking, William D. Eggers, writing earlier this year in Reason, marveled over the casual poaching of work via the miracle of software. He began by praising Luis von Ahn, who has made a career out of crafting fiendishly inventive technologies that manage to extract labor out of web users without their knowledge. Von Ahn's breakthrough project was reCAPTCHA, a version of the now-ubiquitous online tests used to verify that a person is not a spambot. This program, bought up by Google in 2009, shows two words, barely legible and contorted into loopy shapes, to a user, who types them in a box. When she types them correctly, she verifies that she's a human being, but in the process, she also transcribes a word or two from Google's massive book-scanning project'--and she provides a service that the company's optical character recognition software can't. If one accepts the legitimacy of CAPTCHAs and similar verification schemes, then the harvesting of the user's labor is incidental'--which is precisely what makes it so ethically confounding.
Eggers also lauds another von Ahn invention: Duolingo, which, the writer explains, ''allows people to learn a foreign language while simultaneously translating huge chunks of the Internet.'' These pieces of the Internet'--which fortunately remain (for now anyway) comparatively small'--are mostly for-profit websites with which Duolingo partners. Companies like BuzzFeed and CNN submit articles to Duolingo, which duly parcels them out to its online battery of students, who work through them as translation exercises. A fully translated article is then aggregated from various students' contributions, and voil : a major media organization has a complete translation of its material, without the expense of hiring a professional translator or a local journalist to re-report the story.
One might counter that the students use Duolingo for free and that this is a way of repaying that debt. But most students participate in this arrangement unwittingly. What's more, and far more troubling, Duolingo users are contributing to the erosion of the societal and market value of once-expert skills like translation. (They're also translating for some pretty crummy media organizations.) One is left with a tough bargain: Do we accept Duolingo, for all of its subterfuges, as part of the inevitable drift of digitization within the working world'--and as a lesser evil than, say, Google's translation service, which has automated the process of translation and cut out human beings entirely?
Another option is to overlook these issues altogether, which is what Eggers chooses. He does say that ''the genius of reCAPTCHA and Duolingo is that they divide labor into small increments, performed for free, often by people who are unaware of the project they're helping to complete.'' It's disturbing that this arrangement excites him without reservation. Then again, that is the market worshipper's creed: greater entanglement within the matrices of capitalist exchange is always, by sheer dogmatic definition, freedom. Thus, Eggers observes, ridesharing companies like Uber let us form ''de facto taxi service[s]'' and build ''two-sided markets'''--albeit ones in which, Eggers neglects to say, we are always buying and selling the basic components of our lives.
Unruffled, Eggers hops from glory to glory, next citing that other wellspring of techno-utopian pabulum: TED. In a TED Talk titled ''Massive-Scale Online Collaboration,'' von Ahn enthuses about ''humanity's large-scale achievements.'' The most impressive of these, such as building the pyramids and the Panama Canal or landing on the moon, involved about one hundred thousand people. ''The reason for that,'' he says, is that ''before the Internet, coordinating more than one hundred thousand people, let alone paying them, was essentially impossible.'' Now, with the Internet, everything is different, because everything is always different with the Internet.
What von Ahn and his proxy, Eggers, neglect to note is that the pyramids were built with slave labor; that tens of thousands of workers died building the Panama Canal; that landing on the moon was one of this country's shining achievements but also a specific product of a decades-long Cold War that gave birth to a military-industrial complex that continues to chew through our treasury and civil liberties alike. In the same register of uncritical and ahistorical gadget-enthrallment, they likewise fail to stipulate that the CAPTCHA-driven digitization of human knowledge they celebrate is merely a scaffolding on which Google can hang more ads (having begun the project without bothering to consult any of the authors or publishers who owned the original work).[**]
Workers are urged to collaborate in their own deskilling, all in the name of libertarian emancipation.
Small wonder, then, that the apostles of the crowdsourcing gospel casually annex the traditional functions of the public sector into their grand digital bargain. Despite their diehard libertarian animus against the public sector, they hew to the cartoonishly technocratic faith that government can wipe away most stubborn social complexities'--provided that it does so with suitably robust measures of crowdsourcing. ''Volunteers'' will walk through Kenyan slums and use GPS units to tag landmarks. Finland's national library is ''perpetually short of funds'''--it shouldn't be, but no one bothers to consider that'--so it will crowdsource volunteers to digitize documents. Health, online education, and work will be gamified and our data turned over to the owners of the platforms that will parse it for us, allowing us to live better. (These benevolent market actors surely won't sell our precious data elsewhere'--or if they do, they will at least once more fail to notify the originators of all this content that it's been strategically repurposed.) Citizens will comment on laws directly, perhaps even writing them. We might sign up for a U.S. Patent Office trial program ''in which each patent application runs past the eyes of several citizens, often with science backgrounds, rather than distracting a lone bureaucrat.'' Often with science backgrounds, you say! And yes, a moment of thought for the lone bureaucrat, who is now, like the rest of us, an artisan creating folk art in his spare time; he too turns to crowdsourcing, but only when he needs to fill up the tip jar.
In this idealized type of digital exchange, the impermanence of these relationships, the ad hoc nature of it all, is a recipe for stability, not anxiety and disorder. Here there are no technological or economic divides. Everyone can afford the same gadgets and is able to put in time performing services, tracking personal data, and making suggestions that others'--paid, professional, competent people'--would have once made instead. The participants are diverse'--contrary to academic studies showing that crowdsourcing projects tend to be white, male, and prosperous'--and so the data is, too. Power accrues'--though never to excess'--to those with the right blend of moxie and good ideas. ''The burden of basic services gets shifted from credentialed professionals to individuals empowered with technology,'' Eggers says. Of course, in failing to exercise even the most basic critical faculties in this Pollyannaish account of the crowdsourced knowledge economy, Eggers is showcasing the colossal market failure of citizen journalism. A longtime consultant on government reform, he churns out online PR boilerplate that virtually doubles as an infomercial for the kind of services provided by his current employer, the neoliberal consultancy colossus Deloitte.
We Live as We Dream, Alone
The greatest deception of crowdsourcing is the notion that there is a crowd at all. Sure, there may be thousands of people participating in the T-shirt design contest, driving cars for Lyft, filling out paid surveys, or helping a police force identify looters in CCTV footage, but they are not assembled as a crowd. They are not in communication with one another, much less occupying one physical space. Each submission is handled individually, likely by a piece of software; as far as the system is concerned, each submitter is a data profile. There is no group of people organizing, conferring with one another, leveraging their power as a group, and finally submitting their work to someone else. This is a crowd only in name.
In Crowds and Power, his landmark study of crowds and the political and social forces surrounding them, Elias Canetti emphasizes that the crowd is a place of unification. There, distinctions are thrown off: ''Only together can men free themselves from their burdens of distance; and this, precisely, is what happens in a crowd. During the discharge distinctions are thrown off and all feel equal.'' This equality matters but is also ''based on an illusion,'' Canetti explains. Once the crowd disperses, its members return to their atomized lives as individuals in their own homes, with their own families and concerns; they don't abandon these relationships for the sake of the crowd. But for at least a moment, they close that distance and unify for a common cause. Another word for this phenomenon might be politics.
The contemporary practice of crowdsourcing employs this illusion'--that everyone is equal, united in a shared goal'--while combining it with another popular deceit, that of meritocracy. Under the regime of crowdsourcing, everyone is actually competing with one another, ostensibly under protocols that are impartial and fair. But in reality, those contributing to a crowdsourced project control nothing about the terms of their participation. Sure, it may be up to them whether they want to participate at all, but under the clever labor-extracting end runs and subterfuges of many crowdsourced projects, contributors are commonly denied that most basic of democratic rights: consent of the governed (or in this case, the subcontracted). At its most manipulative, crowdsourcing produces projects along the lines of Twitch, an Android app that takes over your phone's lock screen and, rather than having you enter an unlock code or pattern, asks you to answer a quick question or rate photos'--microwork that benefits whichever patron may pay to place a task there. While apps like these aren't yet the default, the next step is dismally clear'--participation in crowdsourced work could soon be the condition of unlocking the devices we need to perform all our other crowdsourced tasks.
When they do have a choice, users don't typically crowdsource their labor for the sheer giddy pleasure of selfless amateur participation. They tend, rather, to do it under false pretenses or simply because they have few other options for earning money or for gaining the attention of the sort of people who, they hope, might one day hire them for genuine wage labor.
In this way, crowdsourcing depoliticizes the crowd. It prevents crowd members from communicating with one another and from organizing. Those activities, after all, might upset whoever is running the design contest or controlling the transportation app that nominally employs them. Uber, for example, has responded to drivers protesting mass firings by claiming that these drivers received poor ratings through the app and that their accounts were merely ''deactivated.'' On Mechanical Turk forums, workers vociferously oppose unions, often claiming that MTurk work is individualistic and that a union would get between a worker and the person offering him a few cents or dollars to complete a menial task. (On the other hand, it's rarely suggested in such forums that Mechanical Turk itself is getting between workers and those assigning tasks, or that workers might require some protections and would benefit from organizing.)
Constantly rated and assessed, these workers appear to have internalized the sense of competition imposed on them from above. They know that the communitarian rhetoric surrounding crowdsourcing is but a pretense and that fellow workers represent competitors for the few decently paying jobs available. And yet if crowdsourced laborers were able to come together and organize, they might find that their lot would improve in the long run. It is at the very moment that workers strike, as Canetti says, that their ''fictitious equality . . . has suddenly become a real equality'':
As long as they were working they had very varied things to do, and everything they did was prescribed. But, when they stop work, they all do the same thing. . . . Stopping work makes the workers equals. Their concrete demands are actually of less importance than the effect of this moment.
In the harried, covertly competitive environment of crowdsourcing, this kind of stoppage seems impossible. There is no strength to be won from these weak ties. But it's only through some kind of strike or organization that crowdsourced laborers could improve their working conditions. Unfortunately, the process by which that might be achieved is unclear. Whereas workers once hoped to unite to fight the edicts of management, crowdsourced workers would have to transcend algorithmic barriers and the dictates of software. How do you picket'--much less launch a work stoppage'--against a faceless app?
You can see where all this is going, pulled toward the death spiral of diminishing expectations. As governments continue to practice austerity, making lifetime employment and pension benefits a thing of the past, American corporations, despite a booming stock market and record cash reserves, follow suit. Stable employment, benefits, and retirement funds become anachronistic perks of a pre-digital workforce. Companies begin to think in terms of short-term spending rather than long-term investment, as borrowing and hiring both atrophy. More and more of us are forced to be contingent laborers, freelancers, crowdsourced volunteers, or ''permalancers'' always on the lookout for more opportunities, always advertising ourselves through social media and public networks, knowing'--with a sense of generalized suspicion'--that our public utterances on social media may influence our future job prospects. Risk assessment algorithms may already be parsing our social media profiles, pooling information to be used in a future background check. Obliged to work constantly to pay off household debt or school loans, we don't have the time to learn the skills that would, we are told, allow us to succeed in the knowledge economy.
Large corporations, meanwhile, start to realize that they can not only build on existing outsourcing'--which has seen human resources, IT, customer service, and a range of other support staff shunted overseas'--but also practice a pro tem outsourcing at home, summoning pliable, cheap workers whenever they're needed. Managers get plaudits for being technologically progressive and nimble'--and of course, for cutting budgets in the process. Stock markets reward companies operating on high margins, so more employees are fired from already profitable companies. More power is granted to software engineers, executives, high-level managers, and those controlling the algorithms and the networks; these men (and they are mostly men) are plied with spectacular working conditions and stock options to keep them happy and supportive of the status quo.
Workers, in turn, have more mobility and a semblance of greater control over their working lives. But is any of it worth it when we can't afford health insurance or don't know how much the next gig might pay, or when it might come? When an app's terms of service agreement is the closest thing we have to an employment contract? When work orders come through a smartphone and we know that if we don't respond immediately, we might not get such an opportunity again? When we can't even talk to another human being about the task at hand and we must work nonstop just to make minimum wage?
Here is where Tor …ge Bringsv...rd's story deviates from reality. Yes, Codemus lived in a fully administered society where surveillance technology, automation, and the iron god of efficiency had coalesced into something irreproachable and frightening. But there was one aspect of his life that today seems too strange for fiction: he had a job that provided for all of his needs.
Big, bad tech: how America's digital capitalists are taking us all for a ride | John Naughton | Comment is free | The Guardian
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 05:59
San Franciscos's Uber company has disrupted the taxi trade in cities throughout the world. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
One useful side-effect of the revelations that a senior executive of the cyber-minicab outfit Uber was caught musing about the attractions of hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on journalists who are critical of the company is that it has lifted the veil on what we might call digital capitalism.
Uber, you may recall, is a lavishly-funded San Francisco startup whose mission is to disrupt taxi services in cities worldwide. It has already sparked protests and demonstrations in its targeted cities, including London, and begun to attract the attention of regulators and municipalities everywhere.
Although Uber's activities have attracted a good deal of media attention, much of it has been strangely uncritical, admiring, even. It has been portrayed as a standard bearer for Clayton Christensen's cliched idea of ''disruptive innovation''. Existing taxi businesses and franchises are seen as lazy, cosy, sometimes corrupt municipal monopolies that gouge customers (many of whom are, of course, journalists).
Uber, in contrast, is cool, modern (it works via a smartphone app, so it must be cool), a worthy surfer on the wave of creative destruction that is capitalism's way of renewing itself. And if Uber's executives are, er, a mite aggressive, well then so are the incumbents whom the company threatens. Did not London cabbies bring the capital to a standstill in a protest a while back?
The problem with this is that Uber is no more a tech company than is UPS or M&S. It's a company that uses technology in order to intervene/operate in the offline world. It has, however, borrowed two ideas from the pure internet operators. First, it takes the standard tech business model of being a ''platform'' (translation: intermediary) '' putting buyers in touch with sellers, taking a cut, harvesting the data and taking no responsibility for anything.
Second, it is an obsessive user of metrics to keep its self-employed contractors up to scratch. After each ride, customers are invited to ''rate'' their experience on a scale from one to five stars. ''Mentally,'' an Uber driver who used to do contract limo work told a reporter from business magazine Quartz last week, ''these rating systems affect us a lot'... If I am driving somebody who doesn't live in New York, and they complain that I took the wrong route, how would they know the route that I should have taken?''
He went on to note that in 20 years of working with corporate employees, he hadn't a single customer complaining. Now he feels he's living in fear of losing his job: ''I have a 4.8 average [out of a possible top average mark of 5]. I can still get fired though, if I go below a 4.6.''
Then there's the data-harvesting side of the business. An intriguing insight into this could be found in a post that appeared on the company blog on 26 March 2012 under the title ''Rides of Glory''. ''Recently,'' wrote the author, ''I have come to understand that some of you may have on occasion found love that you might immediately regret upon waking up the morning after. In times of yore you would have woken up in a panic, scrambling in the dark, trying to find your fur coat or velvet smoking jacket. Then that long walk home. But that was then. One of the neat things we can do with our data is discover rider patterns: are there weekend riders that only use Uber post-party? It was while playing around with this idea of (blind!) rider segmentation that we came up with the Ride of Glory (RoG). A RoGer is anyone who took a ride between 10pm and 4am on a Friday or Saturday night, and then took a second ride from within 1/10th of a mile of the previous night's drop-off point 4-6 hours later (enough for a quick night's sleep).''
As Monty Python used to say: ''Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know wot I mean squire?''
Interestingly, the post disappeared from the web sometime last week, so now if you go to http://blog.uber.com/ridesofglory you'll find only the ''Error 404'' notice: nothing interesting here. The PR crisis-management team has obviously been combing through the company files, weeding out embarrassing or creepy material that yields insights into how its employees view their customers. (Memo to aspiring journalists: when you find something interesting, scrape the page just in case it gets ''disappeared''.)
The real lesson of the Uber expos(C), though, is that it's time to discard the rose-tinted spectacles with which we have hitherto viewed these Silicon Valley outfits. For too long, they have been allowed to trade fraudulently on the afterglow of the hippie libertarianism that supposedly infected the early days of the personal computer industry. The billionaire geeks who currently run the giant internet companies may look and talk like a new species of entrepreneur but it would be more prudent to view them as John D Rockefellers in hoodies.
And the economic philosophy that's embedded in this new digital capitalism is neoliberalism red in tooth and claw, which is why they minimise the number of ''ordinary'' (ie non-geek) workers on their payrolls, outsource everything they can, despise trade unions, view regulators as barriers to ''innovation'' and are outraged by the temerity of European institutions that seek to curb their freedoms of action.
There's a geopolitical angle to this too. In the wake of the Snowden revelations, the internet companies have been behaving like scandalised maiden aunts up whose skirts the naughty NSA has been putting a hand or two. But what's really bothering them is that their, er, complicated relationship with US government agencies might eventually lead to their users going elsewhere. They're already experiencing that in, for example, the way in which US-based cloud computing services are viewed with increasing suspicion by European consumers and companies, and if this were to gather momentum, who knows where it might lead?
So an illusion is being energetically fostered '' that it's the poor companies and their hapless users (that's you and me) versus the overbearing national security state. This is pure baloney: the bottom line is that all the major technology companies outside of China are American. And as the global influence of the US begins to wane, companies such as Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco '' and Uber '' have metamorphosed into manifestations of what Joe Nye famously christened ''soft power''. They know whose side they're on and it isn't ours.
ExxonMobil committed to Liberia offshore plans despite Ebola crisis | Oil and Gas Technology
Fri, 28 Nov 2014 07:55
Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (COPL), along with its partner ExxonMobil, remains committed to completing its work programme and obligations under the LB 13 amended and restated Production Sharing Contract (PSC) dated March 31, 2013 when the situation in Liberia improves
NOCAL, the National Oil Company of Liberia, and ExxonMobil, the operator, continue to meet regularly to discuss CSR activities and the fulfilment of the LB 13 work programme.
As part of that interaction process, the government of Liberia has provided its assurances that it will act under the terms of the PSC to provide NOCAL and ExxonMobil sufficient time to complete its work programme, extending the current exploration period if necessary.
COPL will provide further information as future events may require.
"We are deeply concerned for the people of Liberia as they work to overcome Ebola with the help of the international community,'' said Arthur Millholland, COPL president and CEO.
''LB-13 is a foundation asset for the company and we look forward to returning to Liberia soon to complete exciting work already begun. The delays we are experiencing should not be considered a reflection on the prospectivity of LB-13, nor the desire of those involved to complete the drilling of the exploration well required under this phase of the PSC."
COPL is an international oil and gas exploration and development company focused in the offshore West Africa. The company holds a 17 per cent working interest in Block LB-13, offshore Liberia, with ExxonMobil the operator holding an 83 per cent working interest. COPL is actively evaluating opportunities in Nigeria as part of its strategy to generate stable cash flow from secure offshore assets.
Six Week Cycle
Alleged plot included bombing Arch, killing St. Louis County prosecutor, Ferguson chief : News
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 05:18
ST. LOUIS ' Two men indicted last week on federal weapons charges allegedly had plans to bomb the Gateway Arch '-- and to kill St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson '-- the Post-Dispatch has learned.
Sources close to the investigation were uncertain whether the men had the capability to carry out the plans, although the two allegedly did buy what they thought was a pipe bomb in an undercover law enforcement sting.
The men wanted to acquire two more bombs, the sources said, but could not afford to do it until one suspect's girlfriend's Electronic Benefit Transfer card was replenished.
An indictment, with no mention of bombs or killings, was returned in federal court here Nov. 19 and unsealed Friday upon the arrest of Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Ali Davis. Their addresses and Baldwin's age were not available; Davis is 22.
The arrest came three days before McCulloch revealed that a grand jury would not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the controversial killing of Michael Brown. The announcement triggered looting and multiple arsons in Ferguson.
The charges say that between Nov. 1 and Nov. 13, at the Cabela's store in Hazelwood, Baldwin claimed to be buying two Hi-Point .45-caliber pistols for himself when they were really for another person. Brandon also is known as Brandon Muhammad, according to court documents, and Davis now goes by the last name Ali, his attorney said. Each faces a charge of aiding and abetting the making of a false written statement made in connection with a firearms purchase.
The sources said additional charges, reflecting the plot, were expected to be filed. They said Davis was considered the leader of the plot, which police documented on hidden video.
The firearm charges and arrests were reported by the Post-Dispatch on Friday night. Some national news outlets reported, with no detail, that there had been a bomb plot.
One of the defendants' plans, the sources said, included planting a bomb inside the observation deck at the top of the Arch. It was not clear how they could have gotten a bomb past airport-style security screening for rides up.
It also wasn't clear, the sources said, whether the men intended to use bombs as the means to kill McCulloch and Jackson. Both officials became targets of national criticism and protests after Brown's killing.
Local and federal authorities have served search warrants at two buildings, one in the 2500 block of Hampton Avenue in St. Louis and the other in the 1500 block of Reale Avenue in north St. Louis County, but the associated documents were sealed.
Baldwin and Davis pleaded not guilty in a hearing Tuesday. At a second hearing, prosecutors were prepared to argue that both should be held in jail until trial. An FBI agent was present, and photographic or video evidence was ready to play. But both defendants waived their right to make a case for bail, so the hearing did not proceed.
Bill Woods, special agent in charge of the FBI office in St. Louis, peeked into court at one point, but there were no available seats. The room was full with family and supporters of Davis and Baldwin.
After the hearing, prosecutors referred a reporter to U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan, who referred questions to Marc Raimondi, spokesman for the Justice Department's National Security Division. Raimondi declined to comment on ''anything beyond what was in the public document available through the court.''
Asked for comment after the hearing, a female relative of Davis, who refused to give her name, said the case consisted of ''Lies, lies and more lies.''
Davis' attorney, John Lynch, said that he had waived the detention hearing because, ''This particular case involves serious issues, especially in light of the Ferguson matter. My client is entitled to a patient analysis and due process like anybody else, and he looks forward to a vigorous defense.''
Lynch said that Davis was ''particularly bright'' and had been associated with the Young Artists for Justice and Peace, which works to take back streets from drug dealers. He said prosecutors were accusing Davis of a ''pretty serious'' gun charge, ''with other charges potentially looming in the distance.''
Davis and his wife were expecting a child Dec. 5, but the child was born over the weekend, after she fainted at another court appearance Friday.
Baldwin's public defender declined to comment, as did relatives of Baldwin contacted by a reporter. He appeared in court in a neck brace, reportedly because of a car accident.
Law enforcement sources and neighbors of McCulloch and Jackson said police had been closely guarding both their homes.
Davis spoke at a New Black Panther rally at Greater St. Mark Family Church in Ferguson last month about the police shooting of Brown, and was identified there as the Missouri chapter's ''minister of law.''
''This is not the first Mike Brown, and it won't be the last, if we do not unite,'' Davis told the crowd then. ''Divided, we lose brothers and sisters. If you do not unite, put aside your difference and unite, you can expect no changes in the future. We must change our minds, our systems and ourselves.''
The New Black Panthers has issued a statement calling the allegations regarding bombing and killing ''totally unfounded'' and ''trumped up and baseless.''
The statement also says that the New Black Panthers do ''not teach, endorse, or allow its members to commit acts of violence against anyone regardless to the circumstance, unless in imminent danger according to the rules of Self-Defense.''
Davis also is a self-proclaimed ''Moorish-American,'' and in a YouTube video posted last year invited viewers to learn how to avoid taxes and unconstitutional laws.
He also said in the video that he was hit with a Taser and arrested by St. Louis police in 2013 after he tried to make a purchase without paying taxes at a St. Louis gas station. He said the clerk ''denied me of my right not to be taxed as a Moorish national'' and refused to accept his identification.
In July 2010, the Post-Dispatch photographed Davis as a recipient of an Access MO award letter for $1,510 to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he was planning to study economics. The story noted how budget cuts had threatened to slash the amount of financial aid students across Missouri receive. At the time, Davis told the newspaper that he would be the first member of his family to attend college.
Valerie Schremp Hahn of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
Shut Up Slave!
My city (Vancouver, Canada) is signed into UNAgenda21, and starting January 1st we can no longer throw food or any organics in the garbage : UNAgenda21
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 08:15
It's a formal ban. No food scraps whatsoever. Not even your chicken bones! No coffee grounds or tea bags either. Currently we have "blue boxes" for our recyclables and soon we get "green boxes" to dispose of our organics. This is for residents and businesses city wide in the greater Vancouver region, approximately 2.5 million people affected in their homes and businesses.
I'm used to recycling. I have no problem recycling my plastic bottles and newspapers, but this is absurd in my opinion. Here's why:
It's biodegradable material.
It's a pain in the ass to separate your organics from other garbage.
What am I suppose to do? Keep my fucking food scraps in a sealed container (so it doesn't stink) before I take it to the "green box"?
Once again the UN is trying to make us conform in small ways as part of their larger plan for one world government. How soon before they knock on my door to discuss my "high meat consumption" or "water use"? How long before these assholes come for my firearms?
I'm not getting on board. Nope.
Internet Freedom
NYTimes: ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Should Apply Worldwide, E.U. Panel Says
Pope Francis says 'old infertile granny' Europe should stop treating people as 'cogs in machine' '-- RT News
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 06:55
Published time: November 25, 2014 17:10Edited time: November 26, 2014 06:30This handout photo released by the Council of Europe on November 25, 2014 shows Pope Francis adressing the assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, eastern France, on November 25, 2014 (AFP Photo / HO)
Addressing the European Parliament for the first time, Pope Francis has alluded to a general impression of ''ageing and weariness'' in Europe and said a new spirit should be built, where humans are treated not as programmable objects.
''In many quarters, we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a 'grandmother', no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions,'' the Pope said.
The pontiff said there are many situations in which human beings are treated ''as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age."
He warned, however, against misunderstanding the concept of human rights and from its misuse, saying there is a "tendency to claim ever broader individual rights these days."
"In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence," Pope Francis has warned.
Francis said Europe should create jobs, noting that technical and economic questions are currently dominating political debate, much "to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.""Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that '' as is so tragically apparent '' whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb."
Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Argentine pope said the challenge is to shape a Europe "which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values."
Francis said among Europe's top priorities were "finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers," as well as "favoring a suitable social context geared not to the exploitation of persons, but to ensuring, precisely through labor, their ability to create a family and educate their children."
Speaking just several days after 600 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean between Sicily and North Africa, Pope Francis couldn't help mentioning Europe's immigration crisis.
"There needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery," he said."The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance. The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labor and continuing social tensions," he added.
Is This The End of Europe? | The XX Committee
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 06:54
Today, Pope Francis is in Istanbul celebrating a rare moment of Catholic-Orthodox unity with a visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (whose authority over his flock is considerably less than the pope's over Catholics worldwide), with whom the Vatican has been in schism for almost a thousand years. But the big news from Francis this week was his jaw-dropping speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The pontiff's sharp public criticism of Europe's troubled political culture received much comment in the secular media, which noted how strongly Francis castigated the European Union and its ''bureaucratic technicalities,'' adding: ''In recent years, as the EU has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful.''
Were this not coming from the Pope of Rome, it would be close to boilerplate, given the widespread discontent across the EU about its troubled and sclerotic institutions. Yet Francis's speech included more acid comments, including that Europe is increasingly out of step with the rest of the world, but nothing got more attention than his description of ''a Europe which is now a 'grandmother,' no longer fertile and vibrant.'' It's not everyday the head of the Catholic Church refers to Europe, which has been the headquarters of the faith since the late Roman Empire, as ''elderly and haggard.''
That said, it's difficult to say that Francis is wrong about any of this. Virtually no European countries are replacing their populations through natural means, achieving a birth rate of 2.1 live children per woman to even maintain their populations, while several EU members are near the 1.2 rate signalling ''death spiral,'' i.e. the birth rate at which the population cannot recover. The reasons for this are many and varied '-- birth rates among native-born Americans are hardly better than in the EU, while the lowest rates on earth are found in East Asia, especially Singapore, Japan, and South Korea, indicating that there's more than a European problem here '-- but it can be safely said that the Catholic Church's ban on birth control is being widely ignored in countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal, which have among the fewest babies in Europe, per capita, yet which a generation or two ago were still strongly Catholic and impressively fecund.
While Francis's analysis of Europe's population problem, which is really a deep crisis of civilizational pride, identity and meaning, manifesting in a lack of will to even reproduce, is difficult to refute, it was his proposed remedy that received the most comments. The pope has previously spoken of his deep sympathy for migrants headed to Europe, but in Strasbourg he put his cards fully on the table, urging Europe to welcome migrants with open arms, adding, ''We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery.'' Getting to Italy via boat is hazardous, and it's estimated that 3,200 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far in 2014 while trying to make their way to EU territory.
While no one to the left of Attila the Hun is presumably in favor of people drowning on the high seas, the pope's words caused many comments, not all of them friendly, across a Europe that is increasingly questioning the economic, political, and social wisdom of having something like open borders to their south. Decades ago, Milton Friedman noted that you can have open borders or you can have an advanced welfare state, but you cannot have both (in any fiscally sustainable way, he perhaps ought to have added), a position that many overtaxed Europeans are finding sympathy for these days.
The Catholic Church's enthusiasm for open borders is not new, including its categorization, like Francis this week, of migration foremost as a human rights issue, and has been in evidence for some time in the United States, where Catholic bishops have loudly campaigned for amnesty, including support for Barack Obama's recent executive action on immigration enforcement. All the same, it's not hard to see, beyond humanitarianism, why Catholic bishops might welcome millions of newcomers from the south, many of them co-religionists, to bolster the declining numbers (and enthusiasm) of native-born U.S. Catholics. It is rather more mysterious why the Vatican would press for the arrival of millions of migrants from Africa and the Middle East, most of whom are Muslims, a group whose assimilation into Europe to date charitably can be called incomplete, even troubled.
While there can be no doubt that Europe needs more people to sustain their economies and costly welfare states, one ought to question whether simply having an open door to Africa and the Middle East represents any sort of coherent immigration policy (the same can be said of America's decision to not have much of a border with Mexico). It certainly does not seem to be a good way to attract the skills needed by advanced, information-age economies. Canada and Australia, for instance, which have more thought-out immigration policies than the United States, may offer a model for Europe on how to attract educated, talented, and economically desirable immigrants, rather than merely those who get in boats and hope for the best.
Nevertheless, Australia too now has a migration crisis, caused by its own kindness to refugees, with migrants drowning in significant numbers while trying to make their way to that affluent country. ''Why aren't hundreds of asylum seekers drowning trying to get to Japan?'' asked one analyst, pointedly, a year ago. After all, Japan is a very nice country with a most advanced economy and a desperate shortage of people. But refugees don't try to reach the coast of Japan. For the simple reason they know they will be turned away. Preferring to preserve its native population, Japan turns away virtually all refugee claimants, while Australia lets many of them in, with generous benefits to boot. South Korea, like Japan, is not open to more than few refugees despite a serious birth dearth, so few come. In 2014, any developed country that pursues a permissive policy towards refugees is going to get more of them, perhaps many more.
In this sense, Pope Francis may prove to be out of touch with much of his flock, at least in Europe. While the pontiff did not say anything as flat-out odd as President Obama's remark this week that ''the only people who have the right'' to question immigration to the United States are ''some native Americans,'' which ranks as one of the stranger comments to fall from any president's lips in public lately, the pope's sympathy for migrants is clear. His prescription to open Europe to boats '-- how many, exactly? '-- of Africans and Asians does not seem to be in synch with where many Europeans are politically of late. At best, it's a recipe for more troubles with difficult-to-assimilate, and not always very economically productive, immigrants, some of whom will collect generous EU welfare benefits while fighting to destroy Europe; at worst, it sounds like a path to the dystopia predicted by the notorious 1973 French novel The Camp of the Saints.
In France, where immigration and assimilation are very hot-button issues, Marine Le Pen has led her right-wing National Front to unparalleled heights of power and popularity, leading to speculation that she may be the republic's next president. In Britain, the UK Independence Party has risen fast in the polls on a mixture of Euro-skepticism and anti-immigration sentiment, with its leader Nigel Farage questioning what Americans term ''anchor babies''; while the British establishment has pooh-poohed UKIP as racists and yahoos, the fear of mainstream parties is mounting quickly before a possible UKIP avalanche, and its deep appeal to Britain's white working class is undeniable. Even in Germany, where a phobia about the far-right lingers from 1945, the recently established Alternative for Germany (AfD) is making impressive political hay with a rather UKIP-like mix of Euro-skepticism and anti-immigration sentiments, all without any Nazi taint.
The reasons for this political shift are not difficult to determine. In addition to rising frustrations about the under-performing EU economy, there's the troubling matter that quite a few European governments have promised reforms to ailing immigration and assimilation policies, without doing much of anything. Four years ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel raised eyebrows by stating that Germany's multi''decade experiment in multiculturalism had ''utterly failed.'' While Merkel proclaimed ''multi-kulti'' to be ''dead'' in late 2010, it is still there in any real sense. Similarly, Britain's David Cameron in early 2011 stated that ''multiculturalism'' had ''failed'' '-- and proceeded to do nothing about it, leading to the rise of UKIP. British voters, aware of the ''fool me once'...'' paradigm, are likely to be skeptical of Cameron's public counterattack on UKIP this week, at last promising real reforms to a broken immigration system.
Yet Cameron's instincts are the right ones, however flawed a messenger ''Dave the Chameleon'' may be. If the European center-right does not make haste to address essential issues of immigration and national identity, in a way that is plausible and free of cant and condescension, they will surrender this huge issue to the far-right, which now is increasingly allied with Putin's Russia on this and many other matters.
While the Kremlin's outreach to the EU's right-wing fringe has existed for years, the mainstream media is starting to notice what I was writing aboutmonths ago, and no longer are Russian intelligence payoffs getting to just the quasi-Nazi fringe. This week it was revealed that Le Pen's National Front has secured a 40 million Euro loan from a Kremlin-linked bank, while Hans-Christian Strache, head of Austria's right-wing Freedom Party (FP–), was in Moscow this week to discuss ''overcoming the crisis in Europe,'' amid rumors that the FP–, too, is taking Kremlin cash. Germany's AfD likewise has suspicious financial ties to Moscow, while the Russian position was made clear in a recent strategy paper published by a Kremlin-linked think-tank titled: ''Putin: The Leader of International Conservatism.''
As I explained months ago, Putin and his worldview are in direct opposition to the post-modern West's ''WEIRD'' demographic, which provides our elites. The Kremlin strongman is making no effort to hide his views, rather the contrary. In last year's Valdai Club speech, Putin employed enough muscular faith-and-family language to warm the heart of any European traditionalist:
Another serious challenge to Russia's identity is linked to events taking place in the world. Here there are both foreign policy and moral aspects. We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.
The excesses of political correctness have reached the point where people are seriously talking about registering political parties whose aim is to promote pedophilia. People in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation. And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis.
It cannot be missed that Putin considers the post-modern West to be a civilization in profound crisis, too bored with affluenza and so mired in the loss of faith that it has even lost interest in reproduction, one of the most basic of human desires. It is no exaggeration to observe that Putin sees his mission as saving Russia from that fate.
Although it has long been fashionable to note that Russia, too, has a terrible demographic problem, not helped by rampant alcoholism, there are signs that the corner has been turned. New evidence shows that Russia actually has one of the higher birth rates in Europe, thanks in part to Putin's pro-natalism policies. As with many old-fashioned Kremlin efforts, Westerners have chuckled at things like ''go home and have sex day,'' but they seem to be working. (It bears noting that the only country in the former Soviet Union that has really kicked its birth rate up high is Georgia, a devoutly Orthodox as well as anti-Russian country, thanks to the offer by the country's Patriarch to personally baptize all third-and-more children born to Orthodox families.)
There should be no illusions here. Putin sees the European right, by no means just the far-right, as his friends and allies on a wide range of political and social issues. Many right-leaning Europeans have greeted Putin's defense of traditionalism warmly, seeing it as far more important than anything involving Ukraine, and have accepted Kremlin funding in an increasingly overt manner. Even UKIP's Nigel Farage, the most moderate of the Kremlin's EU friends, at the height of Russia's Special War on Ukraine in the spring, stated that he considered Putin the world leader he most admired.
While there is little chance of full Putinism, which is a distinctly Russian and post-Soviet phenomenon, taking hold in the EU, there is ample room for politicians to exploit opposition to immigration and multiculturalism, as well as support for traditional family values, in a distinctly Kremlinesque fashion. What that might look like can be gleaned by looking at Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbn is leading his country towards a sort of Putinism-lite on the Danube, allowing democracy in form if not always in content. His increasingly authoritarian ways are much noted in the Western media, more than might be expected from a small country of ten million people. But Orbn is a gadfly, and he holds a commanding majority in Hungary's parliament, where under him the once center-right Fidesz party has ditched the center and has headed towards unapologetic traditionalism and nationalism '-- xenophobia to his detractors.
Yet it should be noted that, excepting occasional bone-headed missteps of the sort Putin made in his early years in Moscow too, Orbn remains popular with most Hungarians, who view the post-Communist period as one of corruption and incompetence, against which Fidesz has defined itself, plus the only plausible alternative is the more or less neo-Nazi Jobbik, which holds one-fifth of the seats in Budapest's parliament, and compared to whom Orbn looks like a sensitivity trainer.
Orbn, like Putin, does not hide his program, which seems designed to make the WEIRD demographic's heads explode. He has unabashedly extolled Hungary's Christian values (he is not a Catholic, like a plurality of Hungarians, rather a member of the country's politically influential Calvinist minority) while hailing Europe's Christian Democratic leaders of the 1950's, comparing them harshly with the post-modern liberal political, economic, and social values that reign in the EU today. Needless to add, such comments have not endeared Orbn to the Brussels smart-set, which is embarrassed to have such a caveman leading an EU country, but as long as Fidesz and its leader remain popular with Hungarians, there's not much the EU can do about its Orbn problem.
Unsurprisingly, Orbn has spoken warmly of Putin, while pursuing close economic relations with Moscow, which has the oil and natural gas that Budapest needs. Adding fuel to the fire, Orbn has toyed with historical revisionism, noting the injustice of the post-Great War Treaty of Trianon, which took away two-thirds of Hungary, which is a sure-fire way to aggravate fellow EU and NATO neighbors Romania and Slovakia, which have appreciable ethnic Hungarian minorities. Just as bad, from the EU's viewpoint, were Orbn's comments this summer on immigration.
He more or less strapped on a flamethrower, stating, ''The goal is to cease immigration whatsoever,'' he said: ''I think the current liberal immigration policy, which is considered obvious and morally based, is hypocritical.'' When later asked about how this went down with fellow EU leaders, Orbn added fire: ''There were two types of reactions: some envied me because they mustn't say things like that although they'd very much like to. The others disagreed because they've failed to turn around demographic trends with family politics; have kept social tension at bay by subsidizing the jobless; and aren't fazed if the ethnic basis of a nation state is broken.''
Not content to stop there, Hungary's prime minister noted that his mission was to keep his country, which is far from wealthy, ethnically Hungarian and Christian. While this was met with horror by postmodern Europeans, there was less outcry in Hungary. To secure the country's future, Orbn is implementing natalist policies including cash incentives, three years off work with pay for new mothers, and encouragement from Budapest to newlyweds to produce more Hungarians the old fashioned way. ''If your love for one another becomes the source of a new life, that's the greatest gift to your family. A child is a blessing, and the pledge of survival of the family and our nation,'' says the congratulations card sent by the government to new brides and grooms.
Will this work in raising Hungary's birth rate? That remains to be seen, though the cases of Georgia and Russia of late demonstrate that it can be done. What is certain is that the future belongs to those who show up for it and, at current birth rates, in fewer decades than anybody wants to imagine, much of Europe will be aged and infirm, and in severe financial crisis for no reason other than a lack of Europeans.
During the Cold War, clever anti-Communists were careful to deprive the militant Left of much of its program by increasing pay and benefits for workers, and generally treating the working class fairly, thereby nullify the appeal of Bolshevism. In the United States, Washington, DC's embrace of civil rights had more than a little to do with a desire to take away from Moscow a powerful propaganda point about how badly America, the supposed land of freedom, treated African Americans. In a similar vein, Europeans who want to blunt the rising appeal, and influence, of Putinism and its fellow travelers would be wise to wage a political counterattack, soon.
Mainstream EU political figures must acknowledge that grass-roots concerns about immigration and assimilation are not simply due to racism and related unfashionable views. Native, working class Europeans have valid reasons, not about hate, to question these policies. Moreover, in no EU country did any government ever ask the population if they wanted these currently controversial policies that have opened the door to Africa and Asia. If mainstream European political parties do not make a sincere effort to address these concerns, they will be exploited by friends of Putin whose commitment to democracy is weak, at best. And it will happen sooner than you think.
Time will tell if Pope Francis's Strasbourg speech is as out of step with as much of European opinion as it seems to be. It is, however, safe to say that an era has ended, one of huge historical significance. Only ninety years ago, the Anglo-French Catholic layman Hillaire Belloc (in)famously pronounced, ''Europe is the faith and the faith is Europe.'' And he was right. As of this week, this is no longer the case.
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De Zwitser stemt vandaag over 2 miljard aan Nederlands goud
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 07:52
Wat heeft Nederland daarmee te maken? In Zwitserse kluizen ligt ruim 73 duizend kilo goud dat de facto van Nederland is. Het kabinet heeft in 2000 pogingen opgegeven om dat goud, ter waarde van nu circa 2 miljard euro, terug te halen. Maar oppositiepartij CDA ziet nog volop juridische mogelijkheden. Die lopen echter op niets uit als de Zwitsers zondag 'ja' zeggen tegen het redden van het Zwitserse goud.
Het Nederlandse goud ligt er sinds de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Toen roofden de nazi's bijna 150 duizend kilo uit de kluis van De Nederlandsche Bank en verkochten het aan de Zwitsers om hun oorlogsmachinerie te financieren.
Met tegenzin gaf Zwitserland de helft van het goud in etappes terug, in 1998 voor het laatst. Twee jaar later adviseerde een commissie het tweede paarse kabinet van de rest van de claim af te zien. Want hij was 'juridisch/volkenrechtelijk niet meer staande te houden'.
Maar in een bijlage van dat advies riep volkenrechtprofessor Frits Kalshoven het kabinet op een moreel appel te doen op de Zwitsers. Dat ze willens en wetens roofgoud kochten van de 'flagrant onrechtmatige' Duitse agressor was 'immoreel'. Wat de Zwitsers hadden teruggegeven, stond in geen verhouding tot het voordeel dat ze van al dat goud hadden, vond Kalshoven.
Toenmalig minister van Financin Zalm negeerde die opvatting en liet de tonnen goud lopen. Alleen, hij verzuimde dat de Tweede Kamer te melden. Dat bleek toen het CDA dit jaar vragen ging stellen aan het kabinet naar aanleiding van een boek van financieel journalist Roel Janssen over de goudroof, 'Fout goud'.
Grootafnemer van roofgoudMet het Zwitsers referendum als stok achter de deur wil CDA-Kamerlid Pieter Omtzigt dat de huidige minister van Financin Dijsselbloem 'vooraanstaande juristen' laat onderzoeken of niet alsnog met Zwitserland onderhandeld kan worden en druk worden gezet.
Per slot, zo stelt Omtzigt, bezweken de Zwitsers ook pas in 2000 voor de druk van de claims van joodse nabestaanden. Bovendien 2 miljard, dat is de moeite. Omtzigt, ook lid van de Raad van Europa in Straatsburg, wil de druk opvoeren door Zwitserland in dat gezelschap weg te zetten als de grootafnemer van het roofgoud van de nazi's.
De regeringspartijen VVD en PvdA zien niets in de pogingen van het CDA om het roofgoud binnen te hengelen. 'Hoe onrechtvaardig ook, dat goud krijgen we niet meer terug', stelt VVD-Kamerlid Harbers. Zwitsers referendum of geen referendum. De peilingen daarover wijzen overigens vooralsnog op een 'nee'. Daarmee blijft de claim op 2 miljard aan goud in leven voor ambitieuze oppositiepartijen.
Moldovans vote, election may slow moves to integration with Europe
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 07:49
By Alexander Tanas and Richard Balmforth
CHISINAUSun Nov 30, 2014 2:03am EST
1 of 2. People walk near a pre-election poster for the Party of Socialists, with a picture of party members meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Chisinau November 29, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
CHISINAU (Reuters) - Ex-Soviet Moldova voted on Sunday in an election whose outcome might slow, though not halt, its moves to join the European mainstream in defiance of Russia, which has banned its wines and other prime exports, hitting its economy hard.
On the eve of the vote, a fresh irritant with Russia emerged when a high court excluded a party, led by a millionaire Russian businessman, on the grounds it was partially funded from abroad.
Moscow said the expulsion of Renato Usatii's Patria (Motherland) party raised "serious doubts" about the election.
Surveys show that public opinion in one of Europe's smallest and poorest countries is divided over whether to stick to the pro-Europe path pursued by a ruling centre-right coalition or reverse course and join the Russia-led economic bloc.
With a far-reaching political and trade agreement with the European Union ratified and with Moldovans now enjoying visa-free travel to Western Europe, commentators say it is difficult to imagine any new leadership gaining popular support for a U-turn back towards Moscow.
Russia, the main supplier of energy, has shown its displeasure by banning imports of wines, fruit, vegetables and meat products from the landlocked country of 3.5 million that borders by Ukraine and EU member Romania and whose economy is heavily dependent on agricultural exports.
But despite having a springboard in Moldova in the shape of the breakaway pro-Russian enclave of Transdniestria, Russia has shown no readiness to intervene as it has done in Ukraine, which also pursued a pro-Europe agenda unacceptable to Moscow.
February's toppling by mass protests of a pro-Russian Ukrainian president led to Russia annexing Crimea and throwing support behind separatist rebellions in a conflict that has killed more than 4,300 people.
Parties need to gain at least 6 percent of the vote to win seats in the 101-seat parliament. A simple majority is required to form a government.
Prime Minister Iurie Leanca's Liberal Democrats, one of the ruling coalition parties, wants full membership of the EU by 2020.
Opinion polls show that the opposition communists may now take advantage of the three-party coalition's record of discord and infighting despite it keeping Moldova on track for European integration.
Led by Vladimir Voronin, a former long-serving president who many of the older generation identify with past stability, they are seen as the front-runner at 24 percent.
Though the communists call for good relations with Moscow and seek to revise the trade part of the EU agreement to better protect domestic producers, they remain in support of European integration. Voronin has few direct links with Moscow since breaking with the Kremlin over Transdniestria a decade ago.
Viorel Sitnic, a 36-year-old computer programmer, said his vote would go to Voronin's communists. "I want a European future for myself though I know it's hard. I'll vote for a party capable of integrating Moldova into the European Union taking into account the economic development of the country."
Opinion polls give the three pro-European parties between 38 and 43 percent of the vote. But the alliance they once had is torn by rivalry, particularly between former prime minister Vlad Filat, who heads the Liberal Democratic Party, and the right-wing liberals of former acting president Mihai Ghimpu.
What could complicate Moldova's pro-Europe drive is a strong showing by the socialists who are harshly anti-EU and favour membership of a Russia-led customs union.
They are forecast to garner 6 to 8 percent in the polls and may yet muscle their way into some coalition - particularly if they pick up the vote of those unable to cast ballots for Usatii's Patria party.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. (12 a.m. ET) and were to close at 9 p.m. (4 p.m. ET). No exit polls are planned but early results are expected around midnight local time.
(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Richard Borsuk)
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Price of oven gloves and marigolds to rise because of 'bonkers' EU - Telegraph
Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:09
Matthew Hancock, the Conservative business minister, is expected to fail in his bid to block the proposals because of opposition from Germany and the Netherlands.
He described the proposals as ''completely bonkers'' and ''over-zealous'' and said that he would continue to fight over-regulation from the EU.
''This EU power grab for our kitchen sinks is completely bonkers,'' Mr Hancock said. It would place a huge weight on businesses who are trying to serve their customers.
''These over-zealous proposals underscore the need for EU reform and why we must fight Brussels over-regulation to get the best deal for Britain. Only the Conservatives can deliver the reform we need in Europe .''
A spokesman for the European Commission said: ''Of course every jurisdiction anywhere in the developed world has product safety and quality standards covering pretty much all products to avoid people being injured.
''Sub-standard oven gloves could for example obviously lead to severe burns '' and people conned out of money for products that don't work.''
The spokesman said that any changes to EU rules are ''always subject to extensive consultation with industry and impact assessment''.
It came after the EU earlier this year banned the sale of powerful vacuum cleaners to tackle climate change.
The new law banning vacuum cleaners rated above 1,600 watts came into effect on September 1.
RBS admits to data error in European stress test
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:54
Getty Images
Royal Bank of Scotland admitted on Friday it submitted erroneous data for European bank stress tests in October and had in fact only just scraped through, calling into question whether it can pass a tougher British test.
The revised result means that RBS, which is 80 percent-owned by the British government, was the worst performing UK bank in the European stress test, which assessed whether banks have enough capital to weather another economic crash.
The revelation is another embarrassment for the bank, which has been fined in the past two weeks for failing to stop its traders attempting to manipulate foreign exchange rates and for a computer systems failure two years ago which locked millions of customers out of their bank accounts.
RBS said on Friday it held core capital under full Basel III rules of 5.7 percent after the adverse scenarios, scraping past the minimum 5.5 percent required. It had initially appeared to pass the test comfortably, holding core capital of 6.7 percent.
"We are examining how this mistake was made, and will be working with our regulators as we do so," RBS said.
Rival state-backed lender Lloyds Banking Group was initially understood to be the worst performing British lender, with core capital of 6.2 percent under the adverse scenarios.
The Bank of England's test will measure the resilience of Britain's banks if house prices fell by 35 percent and interest rates rose to 6 percent. The results will be published on December 16.
Britain's regulator told banks just a week before the test that they needed to use a stricter measure to assess their capital than they had initially anticipated.
The stress test by European regulators was based on banks' capital position at the end of 2013 while the BoE's test will take into accounts improvements made since.
RBS has strengthened its capital this year through a stock market listing of its U.S. business Citizens and other measures. It held core capital of 10.8 percent at the end of September compared with 8.6 percent at the end of 2013.
The bank said on Friday that the stress test error did not impact its latest reported capital position or its target to hold core capital of 12 percent by the end of 2016.
Germany to introduce legal quotas for women on company boards
Wed, 26 Nov 2014 06:46
Germany to introduce legal quotas for women on company boardsTop News
Germany to introduce legal quotas for women on company boards
Tue, Nov 25 18:10 PM EST
BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition parties agreed on Tuesday to a draft law that would force Germany's leading listed companies to allocate 30 percent of the seats on non-executive boards to women from 2016 onward.
Although Europe's biggest economy has a female leader and roughly 40 percent of the cabinet is female, women still are under-represented in business life.
Among the 30 largest companies on Germany's blue-chip DAX index, women occupied only 7 percent of executive board seats and barely 25 percent of supervisory board seats by the end of June, according to the DIW economic think-tank.
The draft law agreed late on Tuesday by senior members of Merkel's three-party "grand coalition" would apply to listed companies which have employee representation on their supervisory boards, affecting more than 100 firms.
A further 3,500 medium-sized companies would have to determine their own quota for executive and supervisory board seats, party officials said. The cabinet is expected to pass the gender law next month.
Although the issue is divisive among conservative voters, Merkel, who has in the past resisted legal quotas, now backs the idea that was pushed by the Social Democrats, her junior partner.
The move has sparked criticism not only from right-wing conservative circles, but also the leading BDI industry association. "We absolutely do not need any kind of legal quotas," BDI head Ulrich Grillo said.
In 2003, Norway became the first country in the world to impose a gender quota requiring at least 40 percent of public limited company board members to be women.
Other countries, including France, Spain and the Netherlands, have followed with similar requirements.
In Sweden, the new government wants to introduce quotas to bring more women onto company boards if businesses don't act themselves during the next two years.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Diane Craft)
Germany to introduce legal quotas for women on company boardsTop News
Germany to introduce legal quotas for women on company boards
Tue, Nov 25 18:10 PM EST
BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition parties agreed on Tuesday to a draft law that would force Germany's leading listed companies to allocate 30 percent of the seats on non-executive boards to women from 2016 onward.
Although Europe's biggest economy has a female leader and roughly 40 percent of the cabinet is female, women still are under-represented in business life.
Among the 30 largest companies on Germany's blue-chip DAX index, women occupied only 7 percent of executive board seats and barely 25 percent of supervisory board seats by the end of June, according to the DIW economic think-tank.
The draft law agreed late on Tuesday by senior members of Merkel's three-party "grand coalition" would apply to listed companies which have employee representation on their supervisory boards, affecting more than 100 firms.
A further 3,500 medium-sized companies would have to determine their own quota for executive and supervisory board seats, party officials said. The cabinet is expected to pass the gender law next month.
Although the issue is divisive among conservative voters, Merkel, who has in the past resisted legal quotas, now backs the idea that was pushed by the Social Democrats, her junior partner.
The move has sparked criticism not only from right-wing conservative circles, but also the leading BDI industry association. "We absolutely do not need any kind of legal quotas," BDI head Ulrich Grillo said.
In 2003, Norway became the first country in the world to impose a gender quota requiring at least 40 percent of public limited company board members to be women.
Other countries, including France, Spain and the Netherlands, have followed with similar requirements.
In Sweden, the new government wants to introduce quotas to bring more women onto company boards if businesses don't act themselves during the next two years.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Diane Craft)
European Parliament Rejects Notion of Abortion as 'Human Right' | Daily News | NCRegister.com
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:27
European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France
'' Wikicommons
STRASBOURG, France '-- Members of the European Parliament have rejected a report which suggested that abortion be defined as a ''human rights and public-health concern.''
The rejection of the report affirms the ability of the individual nations in the European Union to promote their own approach to sexual education and abortion policies.
''The formulation and implementation of policies on sexual and reproductive health and rights and on sex education in schools is a competence of the member states,'' stated the European People's Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, two groups within the European Parliament that presented an alternative report that passed by a vote of 334 to 327, with 35 members abstaining from the vote.
The rejected report, "Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights," had been submitted by Edite Estrela, a European parliamentarian from Portugal, and was intended to establish abortion ''as a human rights and public-health concern'' in the E.U.
As a result of this view of abortion as a right, the report sought to expand abortion in all countries of the E.U. and restrict ''obstacles to the access of appropriate services,'' such as conscientious objection, waiting periods, pro-life counseling and religious hospitals' ability to refuse to perform certain ''sexual health'' procedures like abortion.
Estrela's report also called for the provision of ''sufficient funding for the broad [sexual and reproductive health and rights] agenda in all appropriate instruments'' throughout the European Union.
Currently, while 20 out of the 27 countries in the European Union already permit abortion on demand up to a certain gestational limit, seven have some restrictions on abortion, and three '-- Ireland, Poland and Malta '-- allow abortion only within limited circumstances.
The report also called for ''compulsory'' standards of sexual education to be taught to school-aged children, regardless of parental objection.
This is the second time the report has been rejected by the European Parliament. In October, the bill was tabled and sent back to the Women's Rights Committee for revisions. The Dec. 10 resolution was the result of those revisions.
The Estrela report was presented even though the European Union has no ability to determine laws on abortion, as such matters concerning abortion are left up to individual countries in the European Union.
The alternative report submitted by members of the European People's Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group affirmed this currently standing policy.
Recently, a citizen-led initiative called ''One of Us'' received 1.8 million signatures on a petition to reinforce the E.U.'s inability to determine abortion policies by preventing the funding of abortion and embryo destruction by the European governing body.
John Smeaton, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, called the Estrela report ''one of the most concerted recent attempts to get the European Parliament to exceed its competence and try to impose abortion on European Union member states,'' and he celebrated the alternative proposal adopted by the legislature.
''Today's rejection of the Estrela report proves that peaceful and prayerful grassroots lobbying by pro-lifers can have a real positive impact in the political arena,'' Smeaton said, thanking pro-life ''supporters at home and our colleagues in Europe for saving lives today.''
Common Core
VIDEO-Common Core Co-Author Admits He Wrote Curriculum to End ''White Privilege'' - Freedom Outpost
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:04
According to Onan Coca, "Dr. David Pook is a professor at Granite State College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He's also the chair of the History Department and one of the authors of the Common Core standards. He was a guest at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics when he opened up on his reasons for participating in the creation of the Common Core standards."
So what were his reasons? You are about to learn the motivation behind Common Core through one of its authors.
The truth is, not surprisingly to some, that Common Core is very racist and very political.
According to Dr. Pook, he helped write it to balance the scales because he, and many others, are benefiting from some mythical 'white privilege' that was not earned.
No, it's not about uniform and effective educational standards that benefit our children.
This is about a leftist agenda and yet another shining example of the trainwreck called political correctness.
Dr. Pook's startling admission is contained within the video below:
"The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society I am given a lot of privilege that I didn't earn."
Jason Dewitt of Top Right News notes:
Pook's role is documented at the pro-Common Core website, AchieveTheCore.com, which confirms that he "worked closely with Susan Pimentel and the Council of Chief State Officers in drafting the Core Standards for English Language Arts, and currently has several projects underway with Student Achievement Partners on work aligned with the CCSS."
Ironically, as Campus Reform notes, the Derryfield School where Pook works does not use the Common Core State Standards and has a student body that is 91 percent white.
Common Core is not only about irrational and bizarre math problems as some might think. Make no mistake, this program is about indoctrinating our children into a leftist way of thinking which includes destructive ideas such as the embracing of Islam and normalizing sexual promiscuity.
Is it any wonder that states are rejecting and suing the federal government over Common Core?
Common Core is just another weapon in the leftist war on our children.
Achievethecore.org :: Author 11 David Pook
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:06
Dr. David Pook completed his undergraduate work at Penn with honors and went on to earn teaching and research awards in graduate school at Indiana University. His studies included the fields of cognitive science and art history leading to a Master's and PhD in philosophy. Prior to his move to The Derryfield School, where he teaches courses in the humanities and chairs the History department, he taught at St. Paul's School and The Berkshire School. He has been recognized with numerous teaching accolades, including a National Presidential Scholars Commendation.
As an educational consultant he worked closely with Susan Pimentel and the Council of Chief State Officers in drafting the Core Standards for English Language Arts, and currently has several projects underway with Student Achievement Partners on work aligned with the CCSS. On his own and in partnership with consulting organizations like Achieve, The Aspen Institute, and EdFirst, he has helped evaluate and design English and History standards, curriculum, and courses for numerous states, districts, and charter schools. With Achieve, David helped design the PARCC Model Content Frameworks and provided analysis regarding their college-readiness materials for the American Diploma Project. He is currently working with CCSSO on the design of the English Language Development Proficiency Framework and assists AFT on creating close reading exemplars for EL students. His consulting work takes him to Boston, Chicago, Hillsborough (Tampa), and Memphis to work with those districts on the implementation of the Common Core. David also teaches art history and philosophy classes at Granite State College and lectures regularly at Colby-Sawyer's Adventures In Learning program and the Concord Music School.
Common Core...stealth jihad directed at America's children -
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:13
While we're all focused on the Middle East right now, especially on Syria, a form of stealth jihad is sneaking into our country'...a form of which affects all states'...all schools'...and all our children'...and it's name is Common Core.
Forced on the states by the Obama administration'...enabled by Obama's federal stimulus law'...Common Core will be implemented this school year in the 46 states that have adopted it, thus eliminating local control over the kindergarten through12th grade curriculum in those states. The adoption of Common Core means that teaching becomes a one-size-fits-all affair that will NOT address the needs of the 'special needs child''...neither the gifted child nor the slow learner'...because NO deviation from the standard norm in teaching is allowed.
And there will be NO escaping Common Core as its curriculum and teaching methods will also apply to private schools and the home schooled. In fact, many Catholic and other private schools are adopting Common Core in preparation for college-entrance exams'...exams that will be based on Common Core criteria.
Simply put'...the truth about Common Core is that it will revamp America's public educational system and NOT for the better as Common Core also allows for a rewriting of American history, with the new curriculum and accompanying textbooks showing a definite slant and bias towards islam, while at the same time mocking or ignoring America's Judeo-Christian roots and values.
And with one of its most in-your-face leftist agenda aspects, the Common Core curriculum has, for example, replaced the world's great literary works with what's called 'informational texts''...another name for government propaganda. Shakespeare, Hemingway, and the other literary giants will be replaced by 'informational texts' extolling the virtues of same-sex marriage, abortion, drug use, and the all-important acceptance of all things islam. Students in the lower grades will now divide their time between literature and these leftist writings until high school, when literary works will make up a mere 30% of English/Language Arts instruction.
And the teaching of math under Common Core guidelines means getting the right answer just does NOT matter anymore as long as the student can explain the faulty reasoning they used to get to that wrong answer. 2 + 2 = 5 is OK'...just explain how you got that answer. And Common Core puts many students mathematically two years behind those of many high-achieving countries. For example, Algebra 1 would be taught in 9th grade NOT 8th grade as previously taught, making calculus inaccessible to them in high school, and this would affect top-tier college entrance requirements.
Also, contrary to the traditional American belief that justice is based on individual rights, Common Core teaches 'Social Justice' meaning teachers must teach that America is an unjust and oppressive society that should be changed.
And the most unbelievable of all is that Common Core is using our public schools, Catholic schools, and private schools to indoctrinate our children into islam. 'The Five Pillars of Islam' are an integral part of Common Core teaching beginning in pre-k and lasting through the12th grade. For example, students have muslim beliefs lessons where they must watch videos, research pre-selected web sites, complete worksheets, and create posters about the duties of muslims.
I wonder if that includes a muslim's duty to wage jihad'...as written in the qur'an.
And even with all this, Common Core still self-promotes itself as a fair and just universal set of educational standards that will unite all students under a common learning system'...under common leftist political beliefs'...with a curriculum in place that proponents say is designed so that every student graduating from high school is prepared to either enter college or the workforce. But what proponents do NOT tell you is that Common Core actually lowers school standards negating the very thing they promote themselves as doing.
And Common Core is far from the educational panacea that most dissatisfied with our public system of education hoped for as Common Core remains'...NO matter how it's packaged and sold'...a one size fits all form of education that ignores the fact that each child is unique'...each child's learning skills or lack thereof is unique'...and each state's educational guidelines are unique.
In fact, Common Core is actually 'dumbed-down' education with less teacher responsibility than ever before as there is NO incentive to reach for higher standards, as all states will be judged by the same mediocre national benchmark enforced by the federal government'...the Obama federal government.
So while Common Core proponents are in total support of the already 'too much in control' federal government setting even more educational standards than they already do, they fail to accept the fact that the federal government should NOT be involved in public education at all nor should they be setting any educational standards as public schools should be under state, county, and local auspices with standards set within each school district to meet the needs of the students going to school in said district.
And when you add in the specific negatives in how Common Core was implemented 'red flags' should be waving in the faces of every parent with school age children'...'red flags' waving because Common Core was pushed through state legislatures by unelected bureaucrats who created the Common Core 'standards' using monies garnered from special interests groups'...meaning there was NO legislative vote by elected officials reflecting the will of the people or the will of the parents.
And in addition to all the educational negatives, schools that have implemented Common Core have government permission to collect private data on each student including religion, medical, and psychological info, and to do so WITHOUT parental consent. WITHOUT parental consent'... meaning once again the federal government is butting into our personal lives and doing so without a warrant or just cause'...doing so simply because they can.
Also, Common Core does NOTHING to address how teachers actually teach for even with Common Core standards in place teachers will still be teaching to the test'...maybe NOT the same tests that are now in effect'...but standardized tests nevertheless'...with the end result being that parents and teachers will have even less control over their child's education than they do now.
So with a curriculum so deviated from the much needed basics'...reading, writing, and arithmetic'... with a curriculum that reeks of the leftist liberal political agenda'...and with a curriculum that smells of Agenda 21 indoctrination'....Common Core should be rejected by all school districts for the sake of our children'...for Common Core is rotten to its very core.
Diane Sori is the Editor of The Patriot Factor and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.
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Hillary 2016
Why the Supreme Court should be the biggest issue of the 2016 campaign - The Washington Post
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 17:29
By Paul WaldmanNovember 28Supreme Court justice and pop culture icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the hospital yesterday after having a heart stent implanted and expects to be back at work Monday. Despite various health issues over the years, Ginsburg insists that she is still of sound body at age 81 (her mind isn't in question) and has no plans to retire before the end of President Obama's term to ensure a Democratic replacement. If she keeps to that pledge, and presuming there are no other retirements in the next two years, the makeup of the Supreme Court could be a bigger campaign issue in 2016 than ever before. It certainly ought to be.
Ordinarily, the Supreme Court is brought up almost as an afterthought in presidential campaigns. The potential for a swing in the court is used to motivate activists to volunteer and work hard, and the candidates usually have to answer a debate question or two about it, which they do in utterly predictable ways (''I'm just going to look for the best person for the job''). We don't usually spend a great deal of time talking about what a change in the court is likely to mean. But the next president is highly likely to have the chance to engineer a swing in the court. The consequences for Americans' lives will probably be more consequential and far-reaching than any other issue the candidates will be arguing about.
As much as we've debated Supreme Court cases in recent years, we haven't given much attention to the idea of a shift in the court's ideology because for so long the court has been essentially the same: divided 5-4, with conservatives having the advantage yet liberals winning the occasional significant victory when a swing justice moves to their side. And though a couple of recent confirmations have sparked controversy (Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor were both the target of failed attempts to derail their nominations), all of the retirements in the last three presidencies were of justices from the same general ideology as the sitting president. The last time a new justice was radically different from the outgoing one was when Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall '-- 23 years ago.
Whether a Democrat or a Republican wins in 2016, he or she may well have the chance to shift the court's ideological balance. Ginsburg is the oldest justice at 81; Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 78, and Stephen Breyer is 76. If the right person is elected and the right justice retires, it could be an earthquake.
Consider this scenario: Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2017, and sometime later one of the conservative justices retires. Now there would be a liberal majority on the court, a complete transformation in its balance. A court that now consistently favors those with power, whether corporations or the government, would become much more likely to rule in favor of workers, criminal defendants and those with civil rights claims. Or alternately: The Republican nominee wins, and one of the liberal justices retires. With conservatives in control not by 5-4 but 6-3, there would be a cascade of even more conservative decisions. The overturning of Roe v. Wade would be just the beginning.
Look at what the Supreme Court has done recently. It gutted the Voting Rights Act, said that corporations could have religious beliefs, simultaneously upheld and hobbled the Affordable Care Act, struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and moved toward legalizing same-sex marriage, all but outlawed affirmative action, gave corporations and wealthy individuals the ability to dominate elections and created an individual right to own guns '-- and that's just in the last few years.
Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, there is probably no single issue you ought to be more concerned about in the 2016 campaign than what the court will look like after the next president gets the opportunity to make an appointment or two. The implications are enormous. It's not too early to start considering them.
Obama Nation
Keep people sick and kee them working to pay for their 'care'
Oil Trains vs Pipes
China, Nigeria Sign $12B Bullet Train Agreement
Wed, 26 Nov 2014 05:04
A state-owned Chinese company has signed a $12 billion agreement with the federal government to build a railway along Nigeria's coast that is billed as China's single largest overseas contract, the state media said on Thursday.
China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd. (CRCC) signed the official construction contract with the Nigerian government on Wednesday in Abuja, the Xinhua news agency said.
The Nigerian railway will stretch for 1,402 kilometres (871 miles) along the coast, linking Lagos, the financial capital of Africa's largest economy and leading oil producer, and Calabar in the east, according to the report.
The $11.97 billion deal marks China's largest single overseas contract project so far, it said, citing CRCC.
The news came two weeks after Mexico cancelled a $3.75 billion bullet train deal only days after it was signed with a Chinese-led consortium headed by CRCC '-- the sole bidder '-- reportedly due to concerns about transparency.
CRCC Chairman Meng Fengchao said the Nigeria project would adopt Chinese technological standards and lead to $4 billion-worth of Chinese exports of construction machinery, trains, steel products and other equipment, Xinhua said.
It will create up to 200,000 local jobs during the construction and a further 30,000 positions once the line is operational, he said.
''It is a mutually beneficial project,'' Meng was quoted by Xinhua as saying. Trains will travel at a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour on the link, the report added.
China has dramatically stepped up its presence on the African continent in recent decades as it seeks more resources and new markets for its economy. Trade between China and Nigeria totalled $13.6 billion last year.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang promised more investment and more Chinese technical expertise during a visit to Nigeria in May this year.
Source: allafrica.com
Development Details of Calabar Port Complex | Nigerian Ports Authority
Wed, 26 Nov 2014 05:09
Historically, Calabar port served as an important focus of trade with the outside world for the Eastern States and a natural harbour for the Northern States of Nigeria right from the pre-colonial and colonial times.
The Old Port was privately administered and operated by various shipping companies until December 1969 when the Federal Government took over the inadequate Calabar Port facilities from the erstwhile operators and vested it on the Nigerian Port Authority.
The development, modernization and expansion of the Calabar port was embarked upon under the 3rd National Development Plan of 1975''1980 in order to upgrade the port facility to cope with the ever increasing demand of our economy. The new port complex was commissioned on 9th June, 1979 and lies 45 nautical mile (about84km) upstream from Fairway Buoy.
Today, Calabar Port Complex comprises the following: the Old Port, the New Port and the Dockyard; and has jurisdiction over Crude Oil Terminals at Antan, Odudu, Yoho, QuaIboe; and other jetties at NIWA, McIver, NNPC, ALSCON, Dozzy, Northwest. The three Terminals of Calabar Port are operated by world class Terminal Operators; namely: ECM Terminal Ltd, INTELS Nigeria Ltd and Shoreline Logistics Nigeria Limited.
Calabar port's profile in the oil and gas industry is fast gaining prominences as increasing number of Petroleum importers are finding it convenient to use the port due to the safe, serene and stress-free environment. Moreover, the presence of Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ) within the Port offers unique advantage to investors in terms of duty waivers and other incentives. Besides, over 160 hectares of virgin land have been set aside for new port development investors
We look forward to a fruitful business relationship with you. Contact us today.
Engr. Musa Wada
Port Manager, Calabar Port Complex
Wed, 26 Nov 2014 05:12
Gridlock, says Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) director of operations Niyi Ali, characterises the Apapa area in Lagos together with Tin-Can Island, which between them ''host the two largest seaports in the country''. A major contributory reason for the traffic problem has been that almost everything moves by road. Some oil marketing companies have transferred automotive gas oil (AGO) consignments to the railway, but petroleum products are still handled by road hauliers.
According to Ali, rail links to the tank farms are almost complete and it is hoped to begin transport of oil products from the harbour area by train during October. ''We moved 12 wagons of AGO from Lagos to Kano,'' Ali says. Moving the 528,000 litres of AGO by rail didn't pose serious safety considerations. ''Transloading from road tankers to railway tankcars is not a problem,'' he added.
Yemen tribesmen blow up oil export pipeline
Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:55
SANAA: Armed tribesmen blew up Yemen's main oil pipeline Wednesday, halting the flow to the export terminal on the Red Sea coast, tribal sources and an industry official said.
The 435-kilometer pipeline, which links the Safir oil fields, in Marib province, east of the capital, to the Ras Isa terminal, near the port of Hodeida, has been a repeated target of sabotage.
The latest attack hit a section of pipeline in the Sarwah district of Marib, tribal sources told AFP.
It brought the flow to a "complete halt," an industry official said.
The motive for the latest sabotage was not immediately clear.
But Yemen's heavily armed tribes frequently target oil and other infrastructure in a bid to extract concessions from the central government.
Yemen is a minor producer but relies on oil and gas exports for 90 percent of its foreign currency earnings.
Attacks on infrastructure cost the impoverished country $4.75 billion over the two years from March 2011 to March 2013, according to government figures.
Reports from Inside First Look Media Suggest That Maybe Silicon Valley Shouldn't Manage Journalists - In These Times
Fri, 28 Nov 2014 00:30
Feverish speculation surrounds First Look's recent troubles. But perhaps the most obvious culprit is its reliance on truckloads of tech money.
In a revealing account of Taibbi's departure, a team of First Look journalists candidly noted that the start-up was hobbled at the outset by a ''highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment'' riddled with ''management-speak'' and ''a confounding array of rules, structures and systems imposed by Omidyar and other First Look managers.''
Journalists on the Left have always had problems with institutions. I'm not referring here to these scribes' honorable muckraking pedigrees, or their principled distrust of the national security state and the corporate boardroom. Rather, they have trouble building and sustaining viable media institutions of their own in the broader marketplace of ideas.
Hence, for example, the well documented struggles of cable producers at MSNBC, dating back to the second Bush administration, to build a robust answer to Fox News' successful monopoly on right-wing news talk. MSNBC was turning out sluggish coverage and suffering declining ratings even before the debacle of the 2014 midterms showed how faintly any progressive message was getting through to the public.
And Air America'--the kindred bid to launch a progressive brand in the heavily right-wing medium of talk radio'--went bankrupt in 2010, just as an enormous financial crisis and a Democratic sweep of Congress and the White House should have made left-leaning political journalism more relevant than ever.
It's hard, however, to top the recent travails of First Look Media, the fervidly hyped web publishing empire funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Pierre Omidyar, as a case study in how not to launch a progressive media enterprise.
A potential suitor to purchase the Washington Post, Omidyar instead decided to spend $250 million to launch his own ring of websites and aggressively sought top reporting, blogging and editing talent, all of it decidedly left of center. Chief among his early recruits were Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the team that had collaborated with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to reveal the true extent of the surveillance state's spread. Omidyar also brought on former Rolling Stone investigative reporter Matt Taibbi, who has sharply chronicled the corrupt nexus between Wall Street and the American political establishment, to run his own property under the First Look brand'--a site called Racket devoted to muckraking and mischievous satire.
But before Taibbi's project got off the ground, he left Omidyar's start-up this October amid hotly debated (and shakily verified) charges and countercharges, ranging from a purported ideological muzzling campaign mounted by Omidyar to allegations that Taibbi may have been charged with sex discrimination in the Racket workplace. Today, First Look's managers announced that they would no longer pursue Racket without Taibbi and all of the employees he had brought on would be let go.
However, for all the feverish speculation surrounding First Look's troubles, the most obvious culprit is hiding in plain sight: the reliance on truckloads of money from Silicon Valley.
There's a reason that the term ''burn rate'' was coined to describe the brief half-lives of tech start-ups'--these frenetically overmanaged operations function more as monuments to the hubris of the innovation economy than as proven models of productivity. Compounding this, the First Look fiasco clearly shows that a tech industry conditioned for so long to scorn the outmoded folkways of ''print culture'' and ''legacy media'' (as the argot of Silicon Valley has it) is largely clueless about supervising the basic work of journalism.
In a revealing account of Taibbi's departure, a team of First Look journalists candidly noted that the start-up was hobbled at the outset by a ''highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment'' riddled with ''management-speak'' and ''a confounding array of rules, structures and systems imposed by Omidyar and other First Look managers.''
As any veteran of the terminally self-infatuated tech world can testify, a start-up ethos usually means a very long string of conference calls and navel-gazing managerial monologues. And a number of First Lookers told me that the media side of things endured a sustained bout of neglect as management talk metastasized.
At First Look, ''strategy meetings are always more important than actually producing things,'' says one of the journalists still hoping to weather the storm at the company. These confabs tend to perpetuate themselves in all bureaucratic work environments, but at an ostensible journalistic endeavor'--which is, after all, tasked with nimbly breaking news and moving just as quickly on to the next big story'--they can become lethally counterproductive. Another source at the company says the disconnect goes much deeper than a simple aversion to productive activity. Company managers ''are afraid of us, they don't like us, they gravitate toward the people who can engage in their weird management-speak.''
Omidyar himself exerted heavy-breathing oversight of everything from the rollout schedules and social-media strategies of First Look sites to individual reporters' travel expense statements. Taibbi and John Cook, his counterpart at First Look's daily site The Intercept, ''chafed at what they regarded as onerous intrusions into their hiring authority,'' the First Look team noted. Cook later made his displeasure all too clear by leaving First Look in November and returning to his former home of Gawker Media (though in a post for First Look and several tweets, Cook said that working at First Look ''was incredibly satisfying professionally'').
Indeed, in the company's barely year-long existence, several editorial leaders have fallen in and out of favor with Omidyar, each trying his best to carry out the founder's gnomic dictates. The newest bearer of Omidyar's good graces is John Temple, who ran an early journalism start-up for him in Hawaii.
On conference calls, staffers would ''bet among ourselves how soon it would be until Pierre described himself as a 'technologist,' '' another First Look employee reports. ''It was always less than three minutes.''
But ''the thing is, Pierre became a billionaire in 1997-98,'' the same employee says. ''He's ensconced in a Web 1.0 bubble. He hasn't heard any of the stuff we've been discussing all that time. '... So he'll look up at us at a meeting and say something like 'Hey, have you guys heard of Vice Media?' ''
The odd thing about the First Look management team, though, is that they aren't really all that tech-savvy, sources say.
One employee recounts a glitch that was extremely damaging for worker morale, which happened on ''on our horrible [intranet] thing Asana, which is named after a yoga pose, that we all have to use because Pierre declared that email is over. It's a Facebook wall, basically, and they posted all our salaries on it for three hours. So we all know how much everyone makes.'' Not surprisingly, some of the most lavishly rewarded managers on the list were also some of the least revered company officials.
With the realities of company power laid so embarrassingly bare, the company's seemingly incurable addiction to meeting-speak took on an increasingly hollow ring, sources say. ''For all their talk about 'iterating,' 'blue sky,' and the rest, they're not interested in any of the difficult stuff of leadership. They're into the most petty, shitty transactional issues'--like Kevin Spacey in a Glengarry Glen Ross way,'' an employee says.
When this conflict-averse crew of managers does pick a fight, the stakes are unbelievably low, sources say. ''We get dumb, lengthy fights over whether or not we need phones. In Silicon Valley, workers use their cell phones to perform all work that necessitates phone use, so why can't we?'' one First Looker reports. (Anyone with the faintest acquaintance with the actual work of journalism knows that landlines are far and away the best means of reliably recording interviews with sources, even in our miraculous digital age.)
And once more, the source reports, the contrast with the company's actually existing journalistic needs was terrifyingly vivid: ''We start barreling toward launch without the company having actually hired anyone to do visual and graphic work besides our one poor photo editor with no illustration experience.''
Even on the rare occasion when the company's leaders try to break form, the quotient of off-putting self-dramatization is so high, employees say, that the overtures are empty.
''At one of these 'all hands' gatherings we had'--these company-wide meetings where the five skulls who run the place talk at us, [one senior figure] gets up at the end and says, 'Is there anyone who's not a white man who would like to talk?' '' This employee'--one of the handful of non-dude company hires'--describes her quite rational stunned silence: ''I'm like, 'Well, I don't want to now'--you've pretty much taken that space, haven't you?' ''
To put things mildly, these are not the kinds of practices and institutional routines that make for fearless independent journalism. Editors and reporters can't gleefully target the corporate titans of the American scene, as Taibbi and Cook were charged to do, with one of them perched over their shoulders, insisting on voguish patterns of telephone usage and cross-tabulating what they've spent on taxis and meals with sources.
Taibbi's first big expos(C) reported during his First Look tenure bears eloquent testimony to this point. He scored a blockbuster interview with JP Morgan Chase whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann, whose potential to give damning testimony against the bank in federal court was being used by the Justice Department in settlement negotiations.
But First Look's procedural inanity left Racket in limbo for months and, eventually short-circuited Taibbi's future at the company. (He placed the story at Rolling Stone.)
The more the Omidyar saga unspools, the less surprising it all looks. Decades into the information age, the culture of Silicon Valley and the traditions of investigative reporting still make for an awkward fit. The tech industry's obsessions with digital gadgetry and vacuous innovation-speak are notoriously resistant to basic journalistic values such as skeptical inquiry. One need only witness the geyser of hosannahs that attends a new iPhone release (no matter how buggy it turns out to be), or the insular witlessness of your average TED talk to realize that the tech industry prefers its media coverage without critical thinking or independent judgment.
And the core tensions involved in the clash of these two cultures are by no means confined to First Look: After an executive of the ballyhooed ride-sharing start-up Uber oafishly indicated that he wouldn't mind initiating private surveillance campaigns against critical reporters, a former colleague of his just as oafishly took to the Huffington Post to declare the whole thing an overblown non-issue. The problem, she explained, was that the offending reporter who'd dared to question Uber's leadership class, BuzzFeed's Ben Smith, had regrettably elected to ''change the tenor of an otherwise enjoyable dinner.'' One could almost hear the contemptuous sniff of an aggrieved Hapsburg monarch.
It's clear, against this harshly polarized cultural backdrop, that the recent spate of dramatic exits from First Look was a long time coming'--just as it seems like that there will be more to come. The First Look team is sadly coming to realize that the company's work environment is far more likely to conjure the final reel of The Caine Mutiny than All the President's Men.
''Eventually First Look Media will just be Pierre's Second Life avatar wandering around an open-space office plan,'' one employee says. For all the evident data-hewing genius of figures such as Omidyar, the wizards at the helm of First Look have evidently overlooked one of the earliest credos of the personal computing revolution: Garbage in, garbage out.
Jesdylyn Radack film Silenced
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 23:28
JUAN GONZLEZ: How far would you go to tell the truth? That's the question posed by a remarkable new documentary called Silenced, which just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. It follows three national security whistleblowers who fight to reveal the darkest corners of America's war on terror, challenging a government that is increasingly determined to maintain secrecy as it expands its powers. They are former Justice Department lawyer Jesselyn Radack, former senior NSA official Thomas Drake, and the former CIA officer John Kiriakou. The film depicts the extraordinary lengths the government traversed to wreak havoc on their personal lives through a sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment. This is the trailer for Silenced.
THOMASDRAKE: Part of the purpose of doing what they've been doing for the last several years is to destroy you.
JOHNKIRIAKOU: I never thought of myself as a whistleblower. Sometimes I go back and forth in my mind, where I wish I had kept my mouth shut, and other times I wish that I had shouted it from the rooftops.
JESSELYNRADACK: There is information that the public, in a functioning democracy, has a right to know.
PETERVANBUREN: Thomas Jefferson said that an informed citizenry is the crucial part of the democracy.
THOMASDRAKE: I had took an oath. I had to deal with a government who was in violation of the oath, and I couldn't remain silent.
JESSELYNRADACK: I could not live with myself knowing that another human being could be put to death because I kept my mouth shut.
BRIANROSS: Would you call it torture?
JOHNKIRIAKOU: Waterboarding is probably something that we shouldn't be in the business of doing.
I was the first CIA officer to confirm the use of torture techniques against al-Qaeda prisoners.
JESSELYNRADACK: Our country had instituted a torture policy, and we ran head into that.
PETERVANBUREN: You're supposed to accept these things as normal, because to the people who have been there, it is completely normal.
THOMASDRAKE:NSA would now instrument of the United States of America for the purposes of dragnet, blanket electronic surveillance on a vast scale.
JESSELYNRADACK: I explained the facts of my case to my lawyer. He said, "Wow! You meet the classic textbook definition of a whistleblower."
PETERVANBUREN: We're people who joined the government for all the good reasons, worked for a number of years and then confront something that just stops us.
THOMASDRAKE: White House has approved it. It's all legal. As soon as he said it's all legal, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
JOHNKIRIAKOU: They began asking me questions. Well, I've spent my entire adult life working with the FBI. So the FBI needs my help? I'm happy to help.
JESSELYNRADACK: He looked at the file and said very matter-of-factly, "This file has been purged."
THOMASDRAKE: They're now engaged in an active cover-up at the highest levels.
JOHNKIRIAKOU: It wasn't until I was about an hour into this interview that I realized, wait a minute, they're investigating me.
THOMASDRAKE: The apparatus of the U.S. government was turned against me. Every phone call you've ever made, emails you've ever sent, your bank statements, tax records.
JESSELYNRADACK: I was trying to be honest and obey the law, and yet I'm the one who ends up having to hire a team of lawyers.
THOMASDRAKE: They set the target. They put the bullseye on me and said, "We're going to make an example of him."
JOHNKIRIAKOU: I have to try to protect my children from being exposed to it. I've got the FBI surveilling me on and off for the last seven months.
THOMASDRAKE: You have to mortgage your house. You have to empty your bank account.
JOHNKIRIAKOU: I've applied for every job I can think of. Haven't gotten even an email or a call back.
PETERVANBUREN: The people that you used to work with have turned against you. Your neighbors are at least suspicious, because it's not every day that government investigators are knocking on their doors.
HEATHERKIRIAKOU: What has now happened to my family, it's a very tormented existence.
JOHNKIRIAKOU: You're not loyal. You're not a good American. You're a terrorist sympathizer.
JESSELYNRADACK: That secrecy regime, despite President Obama's pledges of transparency and openness, has only continued to expand.
JOHNKIRIAKOU: I'm not the pushover that these guys think I am. I'm as tough as they are. And I'm going to fight.
AMYGOODMAN: That trailer for the new documentary Silenced, just premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. We're joined by the film's director, James Spione. His previous documentary, Incident in New Baghdad, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about why you chose these three people'--Tom Drake, Jesselyn Radack, as well as John Kiriakou.
JAMESSPIONE: Thank you for having me, by the way.
Well, I really'--making my previous film, Incident in New Baghdad, it was already'--this was on my radar. Of course, that film was made possible because of that footage released by WikiLeaks, and we now know it was Chelsea Manning who released this footage of an Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad. And so, that got me to thinking about this whole'--you know, who controls the information; who's allowed to release it, who's not; what is the American public allowed to see, and what aren't they allowed to see; and who are the people who kind of have the courage to step up and say, "Wait a minute"'--when the whole bureaucracy is going another direction, they say, "Well, I'm not sure about this," you know, and dissenting against what's the common practice. So I thought, well, these are kind of rare individuals, and I want to learn more about them. And that's when I started researching the people in my film.
JUAN GONZLEZ: Well, let's go to a clip from Silenced. Here, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou talks with Jesselyn Radack about the implications of his silence.
JESSELYNRADACK: This is why they want you to bargain on this count. They know that they are weak. They know that IIPA is written so narrowly that it's virtually impossible to prove.
JOHNKIRIAKOU: We talked about this all night long. That's why I come home, I take the kids to school, I come back, and I sleep on the couch for an hour, because I've been up all night long. She doesn't make enough money to support our household. We can borrow enough for two years to keep her going, probably without filing for bankruptcy. But if I'--if I were to be found guilty and got more than two years, I mean'--we think we're ruined now? We'd be ruined permanently after that.
Tom Drake thinks I should fight it. And, you know, in my gut, I want to fight it. But I have kids. And I just can't risk them losing me for six to 12 years.
JUAN GONZLEZ: That was CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. The importance of his actions and his case?
JAMESSPIONE: Well, certainly, torture is back in the news right now, this whole program that we created. We're still not sure what exactly it was. And the CIA is wrestling with the Senate right now to try and limit what we can know about it. But John Kiriakou was the first, of course, to publicly acknowledge'--the first government official, or former CIA official, to publicly acknowledge that waterboarding was indeed a program, not just some rogue event, but an actually government-sanctioned policy that came from the top. And that got him in hot water, and investigations started behind the scenes.
And he did a number of things over the ensuing years that kind of irritated those in charge, and became a more vocal critic of these policies during that time and then, finally, ended up being charged in 2012 with releasing the name of a covert agent to a member of the press, in connection with'--you know, it was sort of, from what I understand, a routine sort of inquiry, like, "Hey, is this guy someone I can talk to about this?"'--the kind of thing that goes on all the time behind the scenes in Washington. You know, a lot of the stories you read are, you know, "Washington sources," "inside sources say," and a lot of this material that's released is perhaps classified'--
AMYGOODMAN: And the reporter didn't use the name.
JAMESSPIONE: No, no, he did not. And, in fact, he didn't even write about it. But the fact is, it's'--you know, whether you release classified information or not depends on whether it makes the government look good or bad. And if it makes the government look bad, then you get in hot water. And John certainly got in hot water.
AMYGOODMAN: He's in prison now.
JAMESSPIONE: He is in prison. And this scene you just saw is a pretty good illustration of the kinds of pressures that are applied to people in these situations. And, you know, one of the things that my film'--that I set out to do was to get behind the sort of sound bites that we're used to seeing and the sort of media meme of "hero or traitor," and just let's look at who these people are as real-life human beings, with families and jobs. And, you know, they're not heroes or traitors; they're kind of like regular people who were kind of thrust into these extraordinary situations.
AMYGOODMAN: He was sentenced to?
JAMESSPIONE: Thirty months.
AMYGOODMAN: He has five children.
JAMESSPIONE: Yes, he has'--yes, two older children from a previous marriage, and he has three young children at home. And all three of the people in my film were very gracious in allowing me into their private lives, and so I spent a lot of time with John and his wife and his children, seeing how this process of going through this Espionage Act charge against him really affected the whole family. And you see that in all three of the cases that I look at in my film.
JUAN GONZLEZ: And we've talked often on this show about the Obama administration prosecuting more whistleblowers than all other previous administrations in history. Your sense of the time in which we are in now and this anomaly of this liberal Democratic president being the one who's prosecuting all of these whistleblowers?
JAMESSPIONE: Yes, well, it's certainly been an education. I think one of the things the last few years have taught me, and especially making this film, is I think we need to get beyond the partisan blinders a little bit, to see'--to look at the institutions we have and the laws we have and the government we have. And no matter who's in charge, it's been going in one direction in this one area. In this'--in terms of national security, the policies between the Bush administration and the Obama administration have been pretty seamless. You know, as Jesselyn Radack puts it in my film, after 9/11, the pendulum swung in one direction, but then it just kept swinging, and it never came back. And so, yeah, there's been this concerted effort under the Obama administration. It's really been a coordinated effort to crack down on dissent, really. And that's a very troubling notion, that'--you know, that you're not allowed to criticize government policy in certain areas. And they've kind of normalized that. The Espionage Act is this incredibly draconian, harsh charge that you really'--very hard to prove against anyone, and never really gets proven against any of these people, because they'--as happened with John Kiriakou and some other people, you sort of crack under that pressure and will plead to something else, because you're looking at many, many years under an Espionage Act charge, which carries with it, you know, all sorts of other associations like traitors and so forth.
AMYGOODMAN: Let's go to Jesselyn Radack, the former Justice Department spokesperson, in your film, Silenced.
JESSELYNRADACK: I'm fighting to have my September 10th country back. It's a very, very dangerous direction. The pendulum swung after 9/11, and instead of swinging back to some kind of equipoise, it just swung even further in the direction of secrecy. And that includes overclassification. That includes a crackdown on whistleblowers. That includes secret signing statements. It includes shutting down lawsuits with the state secrets privilege. I mean, there is a whole bevy of secrecy tactics that the government uses. Every time you bring up civil liberties that have deteriorated or been tossed out completely in the name of national security, people think somehow you're siding with the terrorists. "Oh, you want our country to suffer." Quite the opposite: People want our country to continue to live up to the ideals on which it was founded.
AMYGOODMAN: Former Justice Department attorney Jesselyn Radack, who got ultimately pushed out because she said John Walker Lindh should have an attorney, and now is'--works with whistleblowers like Tom Drake and John Kiriakou, who you feature in this film.
JAMESSPIONE: Right. All three of them'--Jesselyn, Tom and John'--sort of share this same, similar kind of story of believing in their job, being patriotic public servants, really, and then coming up against something that they feel like'--that tweaked their conscience, in a way, and that kind of flew in the face of what they understood their constitutional obligations were, you know, to uphold the Constitution. And that's the central conflict, really, right now, in a way, of our age, in this kind of unending war on terror. Even in your previous segments, you were kind of talking about the same thing, like what are individuals' recourse, what are civil rights that we can rely on, our constitutional rights, in this time we're'--
AMYGOODMAN: James, we're going to have to leave it there. James Spione, director, producer of the documentary Silenced. Congratulations on your film.
That does it for the show. I'll be speaking at the Green Festival Saturday at 3:00 at 54th Street in New York at Pier 94. Juan will be speaking in the Congressional Building on Tuesday 5:30 after a showing of the film Harvest of Empire. And I'll be at Dartmouth College the following Friday night.
The Oahu CryptoParty - and Who Was in Touch with the Organizer Cincinnatus, or Snowden - Wired State
Thu, 27 Nov 2014 10:19
In May, when Glenn Greenwald's book No Place to Hide came out on the 13th, within four days, a blogger named Aegis (K.M. Gallagher) discovered that "Cincinnatus" -- a pseudonym that Edward Snowden used to contact Greenwald -- was someone who was tied to Runa Sandvik (@runasand), then a staff member at Tor Project. It turned out that Cincinnatus -- of all people! -- had organized a Crypto Party in Oahu, Hawaii, and had invited Runa as a speaker.
That let us know that Runa had been in touch with Snowden before he joined Booz, Allen, Hamilton, and before he stole the bulk of his NSA documents.
It had always been my hypothesis that people within the hackers' movement, at Tor or EFF or WikiLeaks or all three or somewhere, were indeed in touch with Snowden long before the journalists Glenn Greenwald and Bart Gelman, and had prompted Snowden with a wishlist of what he should steal, and that he took the job at BHA specifically to steal more, because what he had had access to before that wasn't good enough.
When the revelation that Cinncinatus was Snowden came out, Runa Sandvik spun the story mightily, first in Wired, then in her own column in Forbes. The gullible geek public bought the carefully-constructed narrative -- that Sandvik didn't know much about the guy, that she didn't think much of it, that she was going on vacation anyway, and so on -- and gosh, wasn't Snowden just so awesome, teaching his fellow human beings crypto.
It seems an awfully funny coincidence that Runa just happened to be going on vacation then -- and got there on December 7 for the December 11 Crypto Party and then stayed some undetermined time after that. And then in June 2013, got to take a vacation again from her generous bosses.
So those two tweets on the 7th and 8th and then -- silence for 9 days -- no tweets -- well, she's on vacation. Then on vacation *again* just six months later -- generous bosses!
How did Snowden pick out Sandvik?
In her Forbes piece, Sandvik says that Snowden found her via a Reddit thread.
Reddit? Really, Edward? This was an AMA thread with five Tor people speaking -- Karen Reilly, the outreach person is mentioned first in the list, then Runa, then others: "People currently answering questions, in addition to Karen and myself, are Roger Dingledine (arma-tor), Nick Mathewson (nickm_tor), Jacob Appelbaum (ioerror), and Erinn Clark (sakhalin)."
So we're to believe that Snowden, a typical arrogant male geek, went to the second woman in the list, and not to Roger Dingledine, who is the most famous in this group, who was in the Navy and was one of the original developers of Tor. That would mean he was roughly Snowden's peer, once having worked in the military -- Snowden may have been discharged from the military after breaking both legs while in army training, but he was in the NSA, with signals intelligence, which has always been closely associated with the Navy. Then there was Appelbaum, in age and hacker cred also a peer of Snowden's -- why didn't he go to him? Why did he pick out Runa from this list?
Snowden would have read about Tor and would know exactly who did what. Why Runa, the "outreach and support" person?
There must have been some other reason he contacted her, or picked her out. Perhaps he read her Forbes articles? Or this is entirely made up?
I pointed out that Runa's trip to Moscow in April 2014, before Greenwald's book came out, may have been induced by a need to line up the story with him. She arrived April 29, 2014. She tore off the RFIDs on her Norwegian passport so she couldn't be tracked.
How did she know what was in Greenwald's book, which hadn't come out yet? Well, it was supposed to come out in April, I remember distinctly the announcement on Amazon.com and the pre-orders. It got shifted. Likely some early copies got out for reviews. Likely someone in the chain somehow leaked some things in it and she heard about it. Somehow, it happened.
Maybe that wasnt her reason for going to Moscow, but we're really going to believe that after meeting Snowden in Honolulu in December 2012 and never telling us until it is exposed accidently, she's going to tell us the truth about what she did in Moscow in April?
It was also a funny coincidence, but it wasn't her first contact with Moscow -- she had been in an online conference on November 27, 2012 shortly before her meeting with Snowden in Honolulu, that was a sort of Crypto Party, although more like a panel discussion, organized by Andrei Soldatov at the Sakharov Center in Moscow.
It's my belief that Sandvik nevertheless contacted Snowden during the April trip to accomplish something that had to be accomplished in person -- perhaps exchanging new keys in person so that no trail would show up. Or perhaps discussing the "narrative" to explain away the Crypto Party.
When everyone began looking for the Oahu Crypto Party at the time, the trail was deleted -- the entire Crypt Party web site was "down". That seemed more than coincidental. And nothing much could be found about it, anyway.
There was a mirror site, but it showed only Cincinnatus as a speaker, and Runa Sandvik, and all the other topics were left blank as to speakers. Funny, no other speakers listed then, or later! Twenty people came, but we have no idea who the other 17 were, other than Snowden, his girlfriend, and Sandvik.
Lindsay Mills, Snowden's girlfriend, was said to take a video, but Runa said in her interview with Wired that the audio turned out to be bad, and it wasn't used. If Lindsay ever put it on her blog, it's gone now. In fact, her blog post for that day is missing from Archive.org. And there's nothing in September that sounds like any CryptoParty.
I've never doubted for a moment that the geeks at Archive.org have had Snowden's back, and they make sure that Lindsay's diary, and the Crypto Party website, and other things, just don't show any Snowden trial anymore, even if there was a snapshot that day. They are not trustworthy stewards of the Internet, as they protect their own from scrutiny.
If you dig around, however, you can find the ubiquitous Pipermail chat from the group, and find that interestingly, Snowden/Cinncinnatus had a message -- some words of advice - to someone who reported that the entire Crypto Party was under attack. That attack was in May 2013, and Snowden, though he was getting ready to finish pulling off his heist and flee to Hong Kong and then Moscow, found time on May 13, 2013 -- just four days before his last day at BHA, and four-five days before his flight to Hong Kong -- to give advice about recaptcha.
Of course, the "Oahu CryptoParty" might have been someone other than Snowden, but I don't think so. That's because no one other than Snowden is ever mentioned -- and now it is defunct, since he fled.
You can find on the mirror site that there were a grand total of two meetings shown on the Oahu CryptoParty list for 2012, which isn't under "North America" in case you were looking there, but under "Oceania" because Hawaii is in the Pacific Ocean. So there was a CryptoParty on September 30, 2012, and December 11, 2012. Then there was one scheduled for February 23, 2013 -- although nothing has been turned up about it.
The person who ran it September 30, 2012 may simply have been a different person. In fact, likely it was, as Snowden acted as if this was his first Crypto Party. Asher Wolf sent him advice as it if were, and the taped "benedictions" from other Crypto Party celebrities. But maybe it was Snowden.
There's reference to both the Japanese CryptoParty in Nagoya and the Oahu Crypto Party being formed at the same time. As Snowden was in Tokyo in 2012 before coming to Hawaii in April 2012, maybe he founded both? Or knew both members in each place?
@CryptoNagoya still exists, although hasn't posted since January 2013.
Did Snowden start a CryptoParty while in Tokyo? His time there is sketchy -- he was studying at a computer school once affiliated with Johnson Hopkins, "a private, for-profit entity called Advanced Career Technologies, which operated under the name Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins."
There was once an @OahuCryptoParty Twitter account -- but it is now "suspended" -- meaning it could be suspended for violation of the rules -- or suspended if Twitter managers suspect it has been hacked or compromised -- or again, because Twitter geeks have Snowden's back, they might suspend an account that might tell something about him -- especially if the feds came looking for it.
I believe @OahuCryptoParty *is* Snowden, and it's awfully interesting to see who talks to this account, when you look through the Twitter feed -- the whole gang:
o Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror - who was brought in by Laura Poitras to help with the comms of the Snowden heist, but who seems to have been elbowed aside by Greenwald, who used Micah Lee to help him learn Tails and Tor -- Micah was the one who sent the package to Greenwald May 11, not Jacob, as I and others once thought (Micah Lee later described all this in a strange tell-all article -- strange, as there was no need to tell all -- but I will return to this in another post.)
So there's Appelbaum, talking to Snowden, @OahuCryptoParty, in January 2013.
o Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing.net and founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation
Probably what that was about was @OahuCryptoParty saying something like "I loved your book Little Brother" -- Homeland was the sequel.
o Parker Higgins (@xor) of Electronic Frontier Foundation -- who made a point in a Twit discussion with me to assure me that he never went to Oahu then in December 2012, and implied that he wasn't at the Spring Break of Code, and therefore wasn't the one to give Snowden the sticker.
His blog about CryptoParties was used by Snowden/Cincinnatus in his invitation, and they had an exchange about it on Twitter back in December 2012:
Yet when I asked him on Twitter whether he was there, he claimed that "the first he heard of it" was from Cryptome's blog in May 2014.
But he's not telling the truth, because in fact Parker Higgins communicated with @OahuCryptoParty on December 10, 2012, a day before the CryptoParty in Oahu, as we can see in this tweet also shown above.
That tweet even sounds as if a biography of him was sought because he was going to be a speaker -- the link in the tweet is to his biography.
So what if he went earlier? There was an earlier CryptoParty in September -- did he go to that one and give Snowden the sticker there?
"Back in Oahu"? Then he was there, already. When? Did he meet Snowden?
Was he booked then to speak in February? Did he meet Snowden?
o Griffin Boyce (@abitidum) an associate of Appelbaum in Tor involved in the hacker movement.
What joke was Griffin snickering at?
That BlueCoat equipment is found in Syria? And...like that's the main reason Assad is slaughtering people, this Western company?! (It's a particular geek affectation to fuss about Western companies dealing with tyrants instead of the tyrants themselves.) It wouldn't have anything to do with Putin proving Assad with $1 billion in armaments and political backing, now would it?
Plus some other people:
A Russian with pro-Putin views against Ukraine, constantly tweeting about Assange, WikiLeaks, anti-American conspiracy theories like implying "the US created Bin Ladn" which things like this old 1993 article by Robert Fisk on Bin Ladn that if anything, indicates Saudi backing. Hilariously, BinLadn is quoted as saying "'Personally neither I nor my brothers saw evidence of American help."
This Russian woman is married to a man named Alexander Senko, and they both moved to London. They're artists. Why is @OahuCryptoParty in her tweet cc's, and who is she disparaging, Assange or Morozov?
Funny, then this whole cast of characters shows up on a "privacy geek tour" in August 2014.
They go and make a pilgrimage to Snowden's old house:
Um, hilarity ensues.
So some/all of these people know more than they are saying about "Oahu CryptoParty" but interestingly, Snowden -- if that was who ran it -- had a message on the chat only a few days before he bolted for Hong Kong, on May 13, 2013. (His last day at BHA was May 17, he flew out May 18 and arrived May 19, from all accounts.)
Here it is in case it gets deleted:
Interesting that Snowden/Cincinnatus was still at his CryptoParty post at that late date. That suggests, well, more involvement than just some one-time CryptoParty. Some people think the Oahu CryptoParty didn't even exist, but was made up as a cover for Runa Sandvik and Snowden to meet in real life, perhaps to plan dark nets to hide all that stolen NSA loot, perhaps to exchange keys, so that no trail would be left anywhere. Or, whatever.
Runa was so defensive when asked about Hawaii, back in February. Remember this amazing thread? Edward Lucas and I were denounced for writing that perhaps Jacob Appelbaum had met Snowden in Hawaii. He denied it then later but we don't know if in fact some other comrade of his met with Snowden -- and it turns out that Runa Sandvik had in December! And certainly Appelbaum -- and the other Spring Breakers -- overlapped for a time. There was an enormous back and forth on this with Appelbaum accusing Lucas of not fact-checking his book and merely because he linked to Streetwise Professor's blog -- which in fact was speculative. Appelbaum accused us falsely of libel.
Streetwise's theory was that Snowden in fact went to Appelbaum first, as a coder. And we've just seen that Sandwik -- who actually was the very first to be in contact with Snowden out of all the Snowdenistas, in person -- claims that Snowden bypassed Appelbaum in the Reddit thread and headed for her. Of course, we don't know that in fact they didn't meet years earlier...
So, it was more than fine to speculate about any Snowden liaisons during the Spring Break of Code, it was hardly the crazy and libelous thing Appelbaum implied -- at a time that we didn't know yet about Runa's meeting! -- and truly, it didn't matter if this was on another island as they could hop to the other one.
And what's operative about all this is that drilling on the SBOC, we got hostile responses by people *who knew there was a CryptoParty run by Snowden in December 2012*. Who know Runa had already met with Snowden by then (!). And yet they pretended we were libelous liars.
And these are all people who talked to @OahuCryptoParty -- likely Snowden, too -- in January 2013.
Just too many coincidences here.
Oh, and this:
Perhaps this fellow was at the Oahu CryptoParty and might know something:
He never mentioned it again and I don't think he went. He has not responded to an inquiry.
This guy asked when Cincinnatus might be on Maui -- which Lindsay writes about them visiting on her diary/blog:
And was Snowden indicating he'd come back to Japan for the Nagoya CryptoParty? (Nagoya is about 4 hours from Tokyo, and I don't know how common it is for people to move between both.)
And he continued to discuss the details with whomever was running the @OahuCryptoParty account:
The reality is, @OahuCryptoParty continued past December 2012 and the famous meet-up with Runa Sandvik, into at least February 2013:
The Hi-Capacity people might know something about this. Although for some reason, the CryptoParty isn't mentioned on their Calendar for December 2012. Finally, it's interesting to see what pictures on Twitter that @OahuCryptoParty had, which are gone from Twitter but still preserved here. They include an add for the Berlin CryptoParty
-- a child drawing a picture of a Nyan cat, and a picture of the dead body of Kareem Fakhrawi tortured to death with no mercy, in Bahrain, not visible there but visible at the link (warning: graphic).
The cause of human rights in Bahrain is one that leftists/progressives/anarchists often pick up because they can use it to bash the US, since the US can be shown to be hypocritical by propping up this oppressive government.
Then there's Jason Axelson -- that was who I thought was behind Cincinnatus in the first place, although it turned out he wasn't, although involved in Hi Capacity.
Jason, who is @bostonvaulter on Twitter is a Hawaii-based Software developer. Jason, like Austen, strikes me as one of those coders who works all day intensively, and doesn't blab and politik the way @ioerror and some of the others do. At any rate, he isn't talking about whatever he knows about Snowden. He's never once mentioned him, or crypto, on his Twitter feed. He cared to retweet the event about the 3D Christmas ornaments, and upcoming events about HiCap, but not the CryptoParty.
Here's a meeting at Box Jelly in February 2013, the space behind Fishcake where the CryptoParty was held, but no Snowden. I somehow concluded awhile ago after canvassing the Maker parties in Tokyo that Snowden wasn't part of the Maker/Hackerspace set although naturally he fit in with the CryptoParty crowd. Happy to be corrected.
Finally, there's a reason Parker goes to Hawaii a lot. His wealthy parents own an estate there, he mentions it on Instagram:
And then it turns out his parents have been in the papers regarding Obama's stay at this very estate. They are large donors to the Democratic Party and also support various liberal and leftist causes; his mother is on the board of the Natural Resources Defence Council.
Parker went on vacation to this home at least twice in the last year, and perhaps invited his posse of friends over when they all went to see Snowden's former home, which is like visiting Elvis' ranch for them.
He said he would be "back" to @OahuCryptoParty as if he had already met him and already been there to see him. Again, was he at the September 30, 2012 CryptoParty? Did he befriend Snowden there or in some other way, perhaps there were mutual acquaintances?
One Sandvik met Snowden, did they stay in touch with him and were they involved in his plot to take down the NSA?
Parker has nothing but scorn for the NSA; see his stunt flying a blimp over the NSA facility in Utah
He is an avid fan of CryptoParties and has run the one in San Franisco himself. Is it possible that he helped with the Oaha one?
I've always wondere if there was some hideaway, some helper, some secret place that Snowden and Lindsay could have gone to when they moved out of their house on May 1, or earlier, but before they went to the new house - of which we don't have a single picture -- and the picture of Lindsay and Snowden "carpet-dancing" is in fact taken in their old home, as I will prove in my next post.
And maybe that was Parker's family's estate. It might even be that he had friends over there or let them stay there, and the parents were none the wiser as they were based in California and only there some times during the year, evidently.
Once again I marvel at someone who is so wealthy and privileged, who is busy trying to take livelihoods away from artists with his ferocious battle against copyright. He never shuts up about it, purveying numerous falsehoods all day and all week claiming that piracy actually helps artists "get the word out."
The encryption that could have served to protect digital content on line is sneered at and derided by Parker and EFF -- such strong encryption can only exist for their privacy -- even as they spend their lives spilling their details out on social media.
NA-Tech News
NYTimes: European Legislator Urging the Breakup of Google Has Ties to a Law Firm
Stitcher Radio told to ''stop stealing our shows'' by claimed rights owner Podcast One | 9to5Mac
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:47
The popular podcast app Stitcher Radio has been accused of stealing content from Podcast One, which claims to have the exclusive rights to some of the content streamed by the app. Podcast One has cited a long list of shows it says Stitcher has no right to use, including Adam Carolla, Clark Howard, Dan Patrick, Carcast, The Dr. Drew Podcast, Rich Eisen and Yahoo! Sports Radio '...
Podcast One CEO Norm Pattiz said that Stitcher had ignored requests to cease streaming its content.
''You can't just steal content without permission. Podcasting is breaking through big time, not only with consumers but with advertisers as well. I see new players coming into the market, all touting technology that will allow them to grab podcasts for their subscribers. Let this be a message '' make sure you have secured the rights from content suppliers before you distribute programing you don't have the rights to.''
Podcast One says that it is also urging consumers to use its own app for the podcasts it owns, and is calling on advertisers not to support Stitcher Radio.
We've reached out to both Stitcher and Adam Carolla, one of the top artists cited, and will update with any response.
The Stitcher Radio app was updated last month to add CarPlay support after being acquired by music streaming company Deezer.
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Twitter to track users' installed apps for ad targeting | Circa News
Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:00
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Portland Police arrest 35 in Black Friday vegan strip club riot - That Oregon Life
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:44
While millions of shoppers throughout the United States were fighting cold weather and crowds for the best deals, hundreds of people in Portland, Ore. overwhelmed a vegan strip club in the early morning hours of Black Friday.
Casa Diablo, billed as the world's first vegan strip club, held its first ever Black Friday sale Nov. 28, and was clearly unprepared for the onslaught of excited customers who braved the rain for hours for the club's 5 a.m. opening.
Patrons of the Northwest Portland establishment got into a brawl over 59 a minute lap dances, despite the club's attempt to be prepared by having 24 dancers available that morning.
''We were utterly blown away by the amount of customers who showed up this morning,'' said Cruelty-free Cleopatra, who is one of the club's most popular dancers.
The melee started when a patron, later identified as Atticus Sanford, 42, was in line for a dance from Broqolee, and noticed the patron ahead of him had gone over the 10-minute limit instituted by the club to ensure they could accommodate all the customers who showed up.
Rioters at a Portland, Ore. vegan strip club on Black Friday 2014.Sanford allegedly struck the customer with a small pick axe with an old growth Douglas Fir handle, and everything went downhill from there.
''We don't normally have much trouble here at Casa Diablo,'' said club manager Renewable Rhonda. ''I mean, the biggest incident we've had since we opened was a patron who had a little too much to drink, and demanded a refund on his lap dance when he realized Wendy Wheatgrass wasn't wearing a fair-trade garter. But this, this is just crazy!''
Police ended up arresting 35 patrons, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct and fourth-degree assault. Three people were treated for minor injuries at the scene, and the only known damage reported was by a man who reported the heel fell apart on one of his Birkenstocks. They were able to subdue the rioters with GMO-free tear gas and solar powered Tasers.
Casa Diablo promotional reusable shopping bagThe party went on however, as Casa Diablo gave away all 500 promotional reusable shopping bags, and patrons were enjoying the ladies' attention with Lil Jon's ''Turn Down For What'' in the background.
''We just want to thank Portland for their rising support of the vegan club scene,'' said Spinvironmentally Friendly, the club DJ. ''We're just out to show that it is possible to have a fun time, and show some love for Mother Earth, you feel me?''
VIDEO-Police kill man after suspected political attack in Austin - Chicago Tribune
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 05:34
A man apparently upset about U.S. immigration policy was fatally shot on Friday after firing more than 100 rounds of ammunition at buildings including the Mexican consulate, a U.S. courthouse and police headquarters in the Texas capital, police said.
Police identified the gunman as Larry McQuilliams, 49, an Austin resident with a criminal history.
Police said they were investigating whether McQuilliams died of a self-inflicted wound or from a shot fired by a mounted officer who was bringing horses into a stable near police headquarters. No one else was injured in the incident, police said.
"The sergeant was right there getting ready to put the horses away for the night," said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. "As he held two horses with one hand, he discharged at least one round with a single-handed shot."
McQuilliams also tried to set fire to the Mexican consulate, police said.
In a statement, the Mexican Foreign Ministry expressed its "deep concern and condemnation of the incident."
Acevedo said the targets indicated the attack may have been over U.S. immigration policy.
"When you look at the national debate right now about immigration, that ... comes to mind. Sometimes our political discourse becomes very heated and sometimes very angry," Acevedo told reporters.
President Barack Obama this month imposed the most sweeping U.S. immigration changes in a generation, easing the threat of deportation for some 4.7 million illegal immigrants.
Police said they received a call at 2:22 a.m. about shots being fired in downtown Austin. No bombs were found on the suspect or in his vehicle, Acevedo said. Police examined McQuilliams' home in north Austin and said "the residence has been secured and is safe."
In a statement, the Mexican Foreign Ministry expressed "its deep concern and condemnation of the incident."
Once the suspect was shot, officer noticed what appeared to be an improvised explosive device inside his vehicle and possibly another one in a vest he was wearing.
Police declared a "critical incident" and closed a major highway and blocked traffic through the downtown area. All roadways were later reopened.
Officers were examining the man's home in north Austin.
Copyright (C) 2014, Chicago Tribune
VIDEO-UC Davis Economics Professor: There Is No American Dream CBS Sacramento
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 05:21
DAVIS (CBS13) '-- A UC Davis economics professor has determined there is no American Dream.
Gregory Clark is sharing his research as a hard truth with no hope'--whether or not you can get ahead in America is as predictable as any formula.
In fact, he says, the formulas for social mobility in the United States show there's nothing to dream about.
''America has no higher rate of social mobility than medieval England, Or pre-industrial Sweden,'' he said. ''That's the most difficult part of talking about social mobility is because it is shattering people s dreams.''
Clark crunched the numbers in the U.S. from the past 100 years. His data shows the so-called American Dream'--where hard work leads to more opportunities'--is an illusion in the United States, and that social mobility here is no different than in the rest of the world.
''The status of your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren your great-great grandchildren will be quite closely related to your average status now,'' he said.
UC Davis students CBS13 spoke to dismissed the findings.
''The parents' wealth has an effect on ones life but it's not the ultimate deciding factor,'' Andy Kim said.
Clark has heard the naysayers before.
''My students always argue with me, but I think the thing they find very hard to accept, is the idea that much of their lives can be predicted from their lineage and their ancestry,'' he said.
Stuck in a social status is no American Dream'--Clark says it's the American reality.
''The good news is that this is coming from an economist, because economists are used to being unpopular, and so we are the right people to bear this message that the world is a limiting place,'' he said.
There's one caveat to the study, and that is for any one of us, there is always an exception to the rule.
Clarks' study was published by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Related stories:
VIDEO- How Internet Works - The Good Warriors of the Net - IP for Peace - YouTube
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 04:35
VIDEO-Denver Police seize tablet, delete video of brutal arrest
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 04:29
Denver Police have come under fire for this shocking assault was caught on camera and further claims they tried to delete the evidence. Courtesy FOX News Denver
Hospitalised ... David Flores in the back of an ambulance after his arrest on suspicion of drug dealing by Denver police. Source: FOX 31Source: Supplied
THE Denver cops punched a man in the face and bounced his head off the pavement. They tripped his pregnant wife '-- and then saw they were being filmed. What happened next has the ''land of the free'' in uproar.
Late in August, Levi Frasier saw a violent scene unfolding on the street before him. So he decided to use his tablet to record it.
As plain-clothed men repeatedly punch a Latino man in the face, they can be heard shouting: ''Spit the drugs out! Spit the drugs out!''
In the background, a woman is screaming ''stop'' in Spanish. Two uniformed officers rush up and help restrain the man '-- and knock the feet out from beneath the visibly pregnant 25-year-old. She lands on her stomach and face.
Some 55 seconds later, someone shouted ''camera''.
A police officer stormed up to the witness, who was white, snatching his device from his hands and threatens him with arrest.
The officers' victims lay writhing on the ground behind them.
Drugs suspects ... The two latino's tackled by Denver police in August. Source: FOX 31Source: Supplied
Strong arm of the law''When he took it, I said, 'Hey! You can't do that. You need a warrant for that!' and he said, 'What program did you take the video with? Where is that?''' Frasier later told Fox 31 News.
The police officer proceeded to search through his files.
Frasier says he filled out a witness statement '-- which didn't mention the excessive violence or his tablet '-- ''under duress''.
''The first officer that comes up to ask me about my witness statement brings me to the police car and says we could do this the easy way or we could do this the hard way,'' Fraser said. ''It was taken as 'You can either cooperate and give us what we want or we're going to incarcerate you.'
RELATED: Cop's split-second call cost boy his life
''It was survival mode. It was like, 'Okay, I'm going to make it out of here. Not going to go to jail today for something I didn't have anything to do with,''' Frasier said.
When police eventually returned his tablet, the video evidence was gone.
''I couldn't believe it. My heart dropped,'' Frasier said. ''I know I just shot that video, like it's not on there now?''
Recovered footage ... Levi Frasier with his tablet and footage of the arrest. Source: FOX 31Source: Supplied
Technological triumphFrasier had forgot he'd set his tablet to automatically upload files to the ''cloud'', external storage services fed by mobile communications devices such as 4G phone and Wi-Fi links.
The video file had jumped to safety over the airwaves before the police officer found it '-- ready to be accessed anywhere at any time.
Frasier only synchronised his tablet with his electronic ''cloud'' storage when he got home. The video file reappeared.
In light of recent nationwide protests over police brutality and lack of accountability, Frasier took the footage to the local TV station early this week.
The story of its seizure (not the assault) has evoked national outrage.
On camera ... Levi Frasier recorded video that he said shows a Denver Police officer using excessive force against Latino suspects. Source: FOX 31Source: Supplied
A case of two talesDenver Police deny having seen the footage days after it was offered to them for comment.
They're saying they won't take any action until Frasier presents himself at a police station to file a formal complaint.
The police version of the story is this:
A pair of plain-clothed police officers spotted a suspected drug dealer stick a white sock in his mouth when he noticed them approaching.
The officers then ''assisted'' the suspect '-- David Flores '-- out of his car before they ''fell to the ground''. Two further officers, this time uniformed, arrived as backup.
The four officers then say they punched Flores up to six times in the face ''in order to keep him from choking''. He was taken to hospital for his injuries.
His pregnant wife '-- Mayra '-- had to be tripped because officers were convinced she was about to kick them, their report states.
The seizure of the video footage? Not mentioned.
Frasier still has to present himself before police before they will address that one.
''We would love to talk with him (Frasier) if he has further information,'' Denver commander Matt Murray told Fox 31. ''We are not covering anything up. There is no cover up whatsoever, so let me just put that to rest. That's irresponsible and baseless.''
VIDEO- Polar Vortex Created in Four Steps, on 11 24 14 - YouTube
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 19:34
VIDEO-WaPo editor defends 'fact check' on SNL skit | WashingtonExaminer.com
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 17:51
A Washington Post editor on Monday defended his review of a recent Saturday Night Live comedy sketch, telling the Washington Examiner that his article was meant only to explore ''interesting questions.''
''I was simply using the SNL skit, which many people viewed online and on TV, as a launching-off point for a discussion about President Obama's immigration action,'' Washington Post policy editor Zachary Goldfarb told the Washington Examiner.
On Nov. 23, the Post published Goldfarb's article, titled ''SNL skit suggests Obama's immigration executive action is unconstitutional,'' which examines a Saturday Night Live ''cold open'' modeled after the classic ''Schoolhouse Rock'' educational cartoons.
''The post was conceived along the lines of, 'Hey, there's a funny skit on SNL. It actually raises interesting questions about President Obama's immigration action. Let's discuss them,' " Goldfarb said.
The sketch shows Obama throwing a character named ''Bill,'' who likes to explain how laws are passed in Congress, down the stairs of Capitol Hill and calling on his friend, ''Executive Order,'' to help him work around Congress to get his way on immigration reform.
Goldfarb wrote of the SNL routine: ''This skit got a couple of things right, and a couple of things wrong. For starters, Obama didn't sign an executive order. He is taking executive action, in particular by directing the Department of Homeland Security to expand programs that defer deportation for classes of undocumented immigrants '-- parents of U.S. citizens or permanent-resident children, as well as undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.''
He added: ''As to whether the executive action is unconstitutional? That's a matter of debate, of course. Some House Republicans think so and may add a complaint to a suit they are planning to file challenging Obama's executive actions on his health-care law.''
Goldfarb's review noted that the president's immigration move is unprecedented.
''Obama's measure still goes far beyond his predecessors, who shielded anywhere from 100,000 to 1.5 million people from deportations. If there is a court challenge, it would, in any event, go on for years, perhaps into the next president's term,'' he wrote.
''And so what matters most for Obama's action is public opinion, and what his successor does. The SNL skit, in that sense, doesn't help him,'' he added.
The Washington Post article has since been met with a measure of mockery and derision on social and other media.
''Only thing funnier than SNL's Obama amnesty power grab sketch is [the Washington Post] actually doing a 'fact check,' '' businessman and one-time Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said in a tweet.
The conservative news and commentary site Breitbart declared in a headline: ''WaPo Fact Check: MSM Again Protects Obama From 'SNL' Skit.''
The American Spectator, another online conservative publication, said in its own headline: ''WaPo Feels Compulsive Need to Fact Check SNL Skit on Executive Action.''
Goldfarb's article appears on the Washington Post's Wonkblog, which explores and discusses several topics, including politics, economics, healthcare and sports. The Washington Post's Fact Checker, which is managed by Glenn Kessler, did not publish the news group's review of the SNL routine.
''It wasn't an attempt at a fact check; SNL is a comedy show,'' Goldfarb told the Washington Examiner.
VIDEO- Italy Bans FLUAD Flu Shot - 9 Dead
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 17:46
By Experimental VaccinesThe Novartis flu vaccine, Fluad, has sickened and killed many people in Italy. Health authorities have now suspended the vaccine pending further investigation. Kenny Valenzuela breaks down the information in the video below.
Research links posted below:
Novartis flu vaccine suspended in Italy after deathsFlu Shot Causing Brain Damage Court Awards MillionsItaly Suspends Batches of Novartis Flu Vaccine After 3 Deaths
Flu Shot Kills Healthy TeenagerAlleged flu vaccine-related deaths spark fears in ItalyFlu Shot Causing Fetal DeathsFluad Novartis google news feedClinical Trials Fluad 23 Studies found99% Vaccinated Involved in Navy Flu OutbreakFluad MF59 Adjuvanted Influenza Vaccine Fact Sheet NovartisFluad Influenza vaccine Fact Sheet USA HealthCVS Flu Shot Kills 23 SeniorsVaccine Exemption Forms You can see more of Kenny Valenzuela's informative videos at his site ExperimentalVaccines.org
If you enjoy our work, please donate to keep our website going.
VIDEO-Swiss set for gold vote amid '6,000-year bubble' warning
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 15:08
Campaigners for a "yes" vote believe that this currency peg is allowing Swiss economics to be dictated by the euro zone and have warned that a weaker currency could lead to a weaker economy.
Former U.S. Republican congressman Ron Paul, a well-known gold fan, has come out in favor of the "yes" vote, saying that it would be a "slap in the face" to the country's elites. "The Swiss people appreciate the work their forefathers put into building up large gold reserves, a respected currency, and a strong, independent banking system. They do not want to see centuries of struggle squandered by a central bank," he said in an opinion piece published on his website.
Read MoreGold extends losses to third day as oil slumps
Gold advocate Peter Schiff, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, has also weighed in on the debate, saying that it would be the "first major counterattack against the forces of fiat currencies and unlimited global QE (quantitative easing)."
The 1999 vote narrowly passed but Sunday's vote doesn't look to be as close. An opinion poll last week by Swiss media outlet 20 Minuten said 58 percent of respondents would definitely vote "no", while just 23 percent would definitely vote "yes". Meanwhile, gold prices have continued to extend a slump this week, trading at $1,187.8 per ounce on Friday morning, with an oil slump indicating that inflationary pressures are almost non-existent. The precious metal is traditionally seen as a hedge against inflation.
VIDEO-GSK hails Ebola vaccine breakthrough - BBC News
Sat, 29 Nov 2014 08:13
The devastation of the Ebola outbreak in parts of West Africa has been one of the most shocking and distressing stories of the year.
Tonight there is a glimmer of hope - the first evidence that a vaccine could be available for health workers and others battling to bring the virus under control.
Ultimately, it could mean a vaccine for everyone in areas at risk.
Sir Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GSK, told the BBC that new clinical data published tonight was "very encouraging" and that a viable vaccine could be available in the second half of next year - If these early trials continue to provide positive results.
'Very encouraging'The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in America has just released the first trial data for the vaccine that GSK is working on in its laboratories in Italy and Belgium.
Twenty adults were tested and an immune response to Ebola was prompted in each of them. The vaccine was also "well tolerated" by each of the people tested.
"It's a very encouraging first signal," Sir Andrew told me.
"Whether it's a breakthrough depends on making sure that all the rest of data over the next few weeks and months is in line. But this certainly gives us very significant cause for optimism.
"We've been looking at a potential Ebola vaccine, we've been looking at its basic safety and whether or not it can generate an immune response in healthy volunteers - and the data is very encouraging.
"But we need to put it into context - this is a very accelerated development programme and this is the first bit of data.
"It's the first piece of what will be a jigsaw of information that we are going to gather over the next five or six weeks before we move to the next stage."
Further trialsWe are busy working out how we scale up manufacturing capacity, so that as we move into the second half of next year we would be in a position to manufacture very large quantitiesSir Andrew Witty, GSK bossOf course, as Sir Andrew says, any developments must be kept in perspective and there are a number of other trials still to report this year.
Any of those could throw up major problems in the vaccine's progress.
Artwork of Ebola virus particle The NIH is certainly encouraged by these initial findings.
"The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines, which may play a role in bringing this epidemic to an end and undoubtedly will be critically important in preventing future large outbreaks," said Anthony Fauci, of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"Based on these positive results from the first human trial of this candidate vaccine, we are continuing our accelerated plan for larger trials to determine if the vaccine is efficacious in preventing Ebola infection."
Licence?Sir Andrew said if the next series of smaller trials are similarly successful, then a major clinical trial of thousands of health workers in Sierra Leone and Liberia will take place early next year.
"If all goes well, the large scale clinical trial will be largely with healthcare workers, burial workers and people who are in close proximity to people with Ebola," Sir Andrew said.
"If the vaccine works, it will of course be a significant advantage to those workers.
"If overall that trial is successful, all things being equal, [that] should move us to a rapid licence for that vaccine.
"We are busy working out how we scale up manufacturing capacity, so that as we move into the second half of next year we would be in a position to manufacture very large quantities - that means millions of doses of the vaccine [being] available if governments and health authorities felt it necessary to go further than vaccinating health care workers."
RiskThat means a vaccine could be made available to resident populations in the affected countries.
As well as GSK, Johnson & Johnson and Merck are also proceeding with trials.
In this emergency situation, the pharmaceutical sector as a whole has been asked by G20 governments and the World Health Organisation to take on a considerable degree of financial and legal risk through this accelerated programme.
For example, the programme is not going through all the usual stages of a vaccine's development - which would normally take many years.
If something does go wrong in the future, the pharmaceutical sector does not want to be the only part of the process exposed to, for example, legal action.
To tackle that, Sir Andrew said that GSK is in discussions with governments of the G20, including America and the UK, about an indemnification agreement.
"We are not waiting for that to be settled [but] it is obvious there are some risks that companies should not be expected to carry on their own," Sir Andrew said.
"This is a very special circumstance.
"There is a risk [in the] development - and it is important to know that organisations like the NIH in America and the European Union are helping to support some of these trial costs - so that is an important contribution and shows good solidarity.
"In terms of the indemnity risk, those conversations go on - we have a good precedent for this with the pandemic influenza case of three of four years ago."
'Right thing'Whether we are a big company or not, we are still humans. We are talking about people's lives here, every day counts, we get thatSir Andrew Witty, GSK bossOn that occasion governments agreed to offer GSK indemnities in return for supplies of its flu vaccine.
Sir Andrew said that the indemnity issue was not holding back development of the Ebola vaccine.
"We take our responsibilities very seriously to make sure that there is good access to our vaccines, even in countries which can't pay very much for it," he said.
"It sounds trite but in a situation like this you have to do the right thing. It turns out that on this project we are the leader in terms of time - the right thing to do was for us to commit all our energies to make this thing happen.
"We are doing that - we are taking risks, we are taking financial risks. We have taken decisions without being asked.
"We've taken decisions without the guarantee of compensation. I think that's the right human response to this crisis.
"Whether we are a big company or not, we are still humans.
"We are talking about people's lives here, every day counts, we get that, our employees get that. Our scientists are working 24/7 to deliver for those people in those camps."
Today's break-through is another important step on the journey to finding a vaccine against Ebola.
VIDEO-U.S. Journalist Kicked Off Russian TV For Discussing Antigay Laws
Sun, 30 Nov 2014 00:53
The Kremlin-funded network RT abruptly pulled an American journalist off the air for talking about the Russian government's antigay laws instead of the topic at hand.The drama unfolded as James Kirchick, a gay journalist who has written for "The New Republic" and "The Washington Post," among other publications (including RFE/RL), was being interviewed from Stockholm by the Moscow-based television station for a panel discussion about U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning.
When the host turned to Kirchick for his thoughts, he pulled on a pair of rainbow-colored suspenders and quoted the American playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein as saying, "Being silent in the face of evil is something we can't do."
"You know, being here on a Kremlin-funded propaganda network, I'm going to wear my gay-pride suspenders and I'm going to speak out against the horrific antigay legislation that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has signed into law, that was passed unanimously by the Russian Duma, that criminalizes homosexual propaganda, that effectively makes it illegal for people to talk about homosexuality in public," Kirchick says.
The puzzled RT host responds, "Yes..?" and Kirchick continues, saying, "We've seen a spate of violent attacks on gay people..." before the host jumps in again to suggest they get back to the discussion about Manning.
"I'm not really interested in talking about Bradley Manning. I'm interested in talking about the horrific environment of homophobia in Russia right now," Kirchick says. "And to let the Russian gay people know that they have friends and allies and solidarity from people all over the world, and that we're not going to be silent in the face of this horrific repression that is perpetrated by your paymasters, by Vladimir Putin. That's what I'm here to talk about."
WATCH: James Kirchick appears on RT
A Russian law aimed at blocking "homosexual propaganda" that went into effect last month "bars the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear it."For more than two minutes, Kirchick dominated the live broadcast, at one point telling the sputtering anchorwoman, "You have 24 hours a day to lie about America, I am going to tell the truth with my two minutes."
He also got in a swipe at the hostile media environment in Russia, saying he doesn't know how employees of RT can sleep at night, "knowing how journalists in Russia are routinely harassed, tortured, and in some cases, killed by the Russian government."
Reached afterward by RFE/RL at the Stockholm airport where he was about to board a plane to Tallinn, Kirchick said he normally didn't agree to appear on networks like RT, which he called "propaganda channels of dictatorial governments."
"But I thought, because of what's going on in Russia right now, that this would be a really good way to draw attention to this cause," he explained.
No More Taxi Ride
Kirchick said that after RT producers in Moscow abruptly cut off his audio feed, he headed to the airport in a prearranged taxi that the station agreed to pay for as part of his appearance agreement.
"So about halfway down the highway on the way to the airport, my driver gets a phone call from his boss saying that the car ride has been canceled and that he'll have to drop me off on the side of the road," Kirchick said.
"And I told him that I would pick up the tab. But at the end, actually, at the airport, he said that the ride was free, so maybe we have some anti-Putin activists in the Swedish taxi company."
He said RT didn't explain their actions but did call him to tell him his ride was being canceled. Kirchick said he used "adult language and told them where to put it."
RT bureaus in Moscow and Washington did not respond to RFE/RL's e-mailed requests for comment but sent this statement a day after our story came out:
"Mr. Kirchick was invited to appear on RT's panel as author of article 'Bradley Manning gets off easy,' in order to contribute to RT's discussion of the Bradley Manning verdict -- obviously the major international news event. Mr. Kirchick decided to instead use this time to express his opinion on LGBT rights, a matter which, while important, was entirely unrelated to the subject of the panel. Regretfully, RT had no other recourse but to continue the discussion without him."
Kirchick said he planned to keep speaking out against Russia's antigay law, and added that he would "encourage anyone who goes on RT to hijack the forum" and do the same.


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